Correction: The politics of sex revisited - reply to Les Schaffer

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Tue Aug 19 23:31:36 MDT 2003


Les,

In this posts, which I wrote very hastily, a number of typo's occurred and a
slight problem of formulation, I will just correct the main things:

(1) I wrote:

Prostitution is one of the most primitive forms of exchange between men and
women (the "oldest profession" - this is strictly speaking inaccurate,
because in order to be born at all, without defects, people must have enough
to eat and drink, and be healthy; infant mortality rates are a very
sensitive indicator of material progress, or lack thereof, quite apart from
the criterion of labour productivity specified by Marx) which becomes a
source of capital accumulation.

Whereas I think my sarky comment that  "infant mortality rates are a very
sensitive indicator of material progress" is true, some people might object
that this is an inhuman way of looking at it, prioritising the accumulation
of material wealth over human life.
I had in mind that economic adversity creates an increase in infant
mortality, other things remaining equal, but did not formulate it well.
Moreover, if Marx's text is closely studied, we can find quite a number of
criteria of historical progress, human progress and material progress, not
just the criterion of labour productivity which Kautsky happens to
concentrate upon. Marx's conception of "progress" in history is of course
incomplete and, to some extent, necessarily open-ended, insofar as it is
impossible for a human being to grasp the past and the future in a
completely determinate way; human action in the present can affect both the
understanding of the past and the understanding, or outcome, in the future.
Postmodernist denials of the impossibility of objective criteria for human
progress are barbaric, decadent, and banale relativistic nonsense, and ought
to be utterly rejected. What we can say, that it is not easy to specify
those criteria in the sense of being "the truth, the whole truth and nothing
but the truth" and to some extent are affected by visions of an optimal
human life and the good society (cf. for example Trotsky's utopist vision of
every person having the possibility of becoming "an Aristotle, a Goethe, a
Marx" etc. - I think the quote is in "Problems of Everyday Life", Pathfinder
edition, not quite sure though). In our own time, when we know more, we
would need to devise some sort of array of criteria for human progress. This
is part of the foundational work for the theory of society society and
economy. Unfortunately, in my view, not a lot of socialist discussion is
devoted explicitly, objectively and thoroughly in a scientific sense to the
basic question of "what does, or would constitute progress in such-and-such
an area of human endeavour, or for humanity as a whole" - this is
understandable however in view of the impact of morality, ideology and class
struggles on scientific activity. In addition, the argument is frequently
made that such a question inescapably makes reference to values and
therefore can never be answered objectively. Ernest Mandel has a reply to
that with some splendid rhetoric (see ""Why I am a Marxist", in Gilbert
Achcar (ed). The legacy of Ernest Mandel, p. 243-244, but even if that
argument is rejected, then I could quite happily live with the idea that
Marxists are biased people who are vitally concerned with the gauging of
human progress, and accelerating human progress).

(2) I wrote:

Leon Trotsky expressed very well, what it is all about in the end: the
reduction and abolition of the oppression by people over other people; and
the reduction of the domination of people by "blind" forces of nature,
including animals (Their Morals and Ours).

That should be, of course, "the oppression of people by other people".

Regards

Jurriaan





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