[Marxism] Islam and the Enlightenment

James Daly james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Thu Mar 16 11:34:10 MST 2006

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>; <PEN-L at SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 2:21 PM
Subject: [Marxism] Islam and the Enlightenment

----- Original Message ----- 

From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com <mailto:lnp3 at panix.com>>

To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu 
<mailto:marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>>; <PEN-L at SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU 

Sent: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 2:21 PM

Subject: [Marxism] Islam and the Enlightenment

>From "Islam and the Enlightenment"

Feature by Neil Davidson, Socialist Review , March 2006

"It is also true that both the Islamic world and Muslims in the West 
have suffered and continue to suffer from imperialism and racism. But 
this is not the fault of the Enlightenment as such. Rather, it is an 
outcome of the failure of Enlightenment ideals to find their 
realisation in socialism, and the way they have been harnessed instead 
to the needs of capitalist expansion. In the hands of a resurgent 
movement of the working class and the oppressed, these ideas can be 
turned against the warmongers and Islamophobes who falsely claim them 
as their own."

This is very disputable. I think "the" Enlightenment (with a capital 
E.) not only has from the beginning been bourgeois, catering to the 
needs of capitalist expansion, but will remain so. It began with the 
scepticism about an earlier idea of enlightenment as spiritual, 
nowadays usually associated with Eastern thought, especially Buddhism, 
but which had been found in Europe and the Middle East in the 
Judaeo -Christian -Islamic tradition of Platonic/ Aristotelian 
interpretation of science and religion. With this scepticism went 
relativism, the reduction of values and ideals to the preferences of 
possessive individualistic Hobbesian /Lockean /Benthamite "man", whose 
model of rationality was the striking of deals.

This mechanistic model of rationality was anathema to Marx (see the 
first thesis on Feuerbach). His thought was basically 
(pre-Enlightenment) Aristotelian (see Scott Meikle's work), seeing the 
human as "a universal, therefore free being", and the proletariat as 
"the universal class", the only class which could make loving and 
caring the basis of communal relationships of production. This, which 
is what Marx meant by humanist thought -- not atheism) was distorted 
out of recognition by Kautsky and Plekhanov. Seeing Marx as the 
culmination of the (bourgeois) Enlightenment, they imposed on the 
movement abstract mechanistic stageism and Neo-Darwinian progressism. 
That is why the imperialised people of the world, including indigenous 
Americans, African-Americans, the Irish and Middle Eastern people, 
have found little comfort or help from the proponents of actually 
existing Marxism's accommodation to bourgeois enlightenment.

See Hartwig, Mervyn. 'Paradigms of Enlightenment'. Review of Deals and 
Ideals: Two Concepts of Enlightenment, by James Daly. Journal of 
Critical Realism (incorporating Alethia) 4.2 (November 2001): 49-54.

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