[Marxism] Critique of critique of communism?

Haines Brown brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Sun Aug 5 06:34:52 MDT 2007

Original statement:

    "Communism, defined as maximum self-realization for all
    individuals, is in itself a contradictory notion since my
    self-realization may prevent you from realizing your creative
    abilities. For example, my self-realization may depend upon the
    recognition of others. But such recognition is by its nature a
    positional good in the sense that not everybody can be equally

> On 8/2/07, Haines Brown <brownh at hartford-hwp.com> wrote:
> > To be honest, I'm not quite sure I understand the quoted passage
> > (such as its "positional good"?),

> " ... Frank calls "positional goods" things like housing and cars,
> in which differences in quality and size are readily visible."
>  -- <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/05/books/review/Gross-t.html?ref=review>

Ah, so "positional goods" is Frank's private terminology. No wonder I
wasn't sure what it meant.
The cited quote seems only to make sense in the context of the cited
article, which roughly is about how social norms in the US are
affected by the growing income gap, and how those norms give rise to a
sense of relative deprivation. Based on the cited review. it seems
that Frank does not explore the political implications of growing
relative deprivation, which would be very interesting indeed. For
example, a common sociological view of revolution is that it is kicked
off by a widening gap between expectations and actual experience. If
this is correct, Frank is in effect predicting revolution around the
corner, although he apparently does not intend to do that.

I'd like to see Frank as providing an argument that revolution is at
hand, but I'm not persuaded. The argument in the review seems to fit
the white suburban middle class more than most of the people I
know. But I don't want to get into a discussion of this side issue.

How does consumerism tie in with a definition of communism? If we
reject consumerism's implied social atomism and optimal decision
theory, does the definition of communism you offered then not
collapse? Surely you are not trying to define communism in terms of a
conceptual system that is diametrically opposed to it.

       Haines Brown, KB1GRM


More information about the Marxism mailing list