[Marxism] Marx at 193

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 29 08:28:36 MDT 2012

Marx at 193
John Lanchester

In trying to think what Marx would have made of the world today, 
we have to begin by stressing that he was not an empiricist. He 
didn’t think that you could gain access to the truth by gleaning 
bits of data from experience, ‘data points’ as scientists call 
them, and then assembling a picture of reality from the fragments 
you’ve accumulated. Since this is what most of us think we’re 
doing most of the time it marks a fundamental break between Marx 
and what we call common sense, a notion that was greatly disliked 
by Marx, who saw it as the way a particular political and class 
order turns its construction of reality into an apparently neutral 
set of ideas which are then taken as givens of the natural order. 
Empiricism, because it takes its evidence from the existing order 
of things, is inherently prone to accepting as realities things 
that are merely evidence of underlying biases and ideological 
pressures. Empiricism, for Marx, will always confirm the status 
quo. He would have particularly disliked the modern tendency to 
argue from ‘facts’, as if those facts were neutral chunks of 
reality, free of the watermarks of history and interpretation and 
ideological bias and of the circumstances of their own production.


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