Forwarded from Anthony (follow-up to Sid)
vrosado at ic.sunysb.edu
Fri Dec 7 22:16:39 MST 2001
on 12/7/01 5:44 PM, Louis Proyect at lnp3 at panix.com wrote:
> Regarding social and individual consicousness, Marxist 'laws' and more.
> Reply to Sid.
To anyone in general:
For the issue of laws/tendencies read Roy Bhaskar's work "A Realist Theory
of Science". For the debate on the difference between Science and Social
Sciences read Bhaskar's "The Possibility of Naturalism." The Critical
Realist concepts of irreducibility, emergence, stratification, vertical and
horizontal causality help clear up the philosophic debates that often
confuse Marxists by offering us powerful analytical tools.
I would argue (and put my reputation on the line, whatever that means..)
that Sean Creaven's "Marxism and Realism: A Materialistic Application of
Realism in the Social Sciences" is the best theoretical Marxist book written
in the last 50 years. He deals with all the debates that plague us (he
deals with Darwin too!)... agency/structure, species being/social being,
consciousness/social consciousness, human nature debate, mind/body, a
critique of mechanical materialism, etc.
If you don't read this book, then we will be debating the same stuff for the
next hundred years. If our opponents don't engage in reading these works
when they launch vulgar criticisms against Marxists, then they cannot be
taken seriously when they attack us and accuse us of the same crap (that we
are reductionists, etc.).
> In modern 21st century imperialist socieity,
> wage workers frequently are not conscious that they are members of
> something we call 'the working class'. Their consciousness is mediated by
> all sorts of historic, cultural, and experiential factors - the collapse of
> the Soviet Union for example. The same is true for all classes, and all
> individual classes in society.
THE IDEOLOGICAL UNCONSCIOUS
I'd argue that more important than social consciousness is the Althusserian
conception of the "ideological unconscious". This is the element that is
most at play when we speak of ideology and is a fundamental mechanism which
helps maintain the status quo, although the ideological unconscious is
ultimately the matrix secreted, "determined", or vertically caused by social
J.C. Rodriguez has done interesting work in the fields of literature and
philosophy by tracing the history of the ideological unconscious from
feudalism to capitalism, something Althusser never did (Althusser viewed the
history of ideology through the lens of the category of the bourgeois
"Subject." Rodriguez is critical of Althusser; feudalism thrived, but it
did not have "Free Subjects.")
The ideological matrix of the feudal era is the Lord/servant dialectic. The
the infrastructure of the ideas, social consciousness, etc. manifested in
the art, religion, philosophy, architecture, etc. of that time is the
Lord/servant dialect. Feudal relations thrived, but without "Free
The kicker is this: independent of whether or not one is conscious of the
relations Lord/servant, the dynamic of the ideological matrix is still at
play in the lit., art, religion, etc. of that time!! Thus, this proves that
we are largely unconscious of these dynamics... rarely are we conscious.
Capitalism, for instance, thrives mostly not because we have the IDEA
(consciousness) that the Soviet Union collapsed etc., but capital thrives
and thrived for hundreds of years due in large part to the fact that the
majority of us are UN-CONSCIOUS that we are not really "Free Subjects."
The goal must be to turn UNCONSCIOUSNESS into CONSCIOUSNESS. It is more
difficult for the working class to do this because they don't have the time
to step away slightly from the chaos of the market and analyze the dynamics
of capital... thus their is a tendency for most Marxist intellectuals to
come from the middle classes (as Lou Pro pointed out).
Revolutionaries and workers both need each other in order to make real
change. Yes a vanguard is necessary. But a vanguard is not sufficient for
change. The power and agency of the mass of workers is crucial to the
overthrow of capital. The working class must emancipate itself, but the
prior intellectual and political 'dirty' work of revolutionaries not from
the working classes (Marx, Engels, etc.) is crucial.
TURNING UNCONSCIOUSNESS INTO CONSCIOUSNESS
Converting unconsciousness into consciousness must happen before we can
transform radically the social relations of capitalism. Thus, as Marx
pointed out, we must realize (i.e.- become conscious) that we are not really
"Free", that we are really wages slaves in the long run, especially in the
level of production.
Capitalism in its final days will find it more and more difficult to say
that we are "Free."
The people and works I mentioned are largely ignored by the academy and
intellectuals. That is why a lot of work that is produced in the academy is
not terribly interesting.
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