[Marxism] Fwd: Ed George's Question

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Thu Feb 7 12:38:15 MST 2013

Shane Mage

It is a profound methodological mistake to believe that the historical 
origins of a system automatically help to explain current behavior 
within the system. The origins are (in the case of capitalism) thousands 
of years old and--more important--totally outside the consciousness of 
the actors whose behavior is to be explained (an originating event can 
remain within the active collective unconscious of a people for a long 
time--as in the historical cosmic catastrophes whose cultural echoes 
among the meso- American peoples survived for millennia in the religious 
practice of mass human sacrifice--but explanation of current religious 
practices among the descendants of the Olmec, Maya, Toltec and Aztec 
peoples can scarcely be helped by invocation of those catastrophes). 
There must be some clear way in which the origins of a practice survive 
in the collective unconscious of a people (as in the ritualistic words 
with which Jews unconsciously reinforce the memory of such a catastrophe 
as experienced in the time of Moses) before they can explain anything at 
all about people's current behavior.


The explanation I see does not at all rely on the existence of a 
"collective consciousness" or "collective unconscious" concerning 
origins. It is a historical materialist explanation, it is Marx's 
explanation, the evolution of a new, preemptive, predominating mode of 
producing species sustenance which, initially through force, as in the 
time of Henry VIII and the rounding up of the vagabonds, and then 
through the gradual construction of a complex organic system adapting 
prevailing relevant cultural constructs and novel nodes of social 
invention/convention to ensure production and reproduction in a way 
which was unique, at least as a predominating social system. The fact 
that accumulation of capital had existed for thousands of years in 
various limited forms does not take anything from the fact that it now 
became, for the first time, a predominant form of providing sustenance 
which had never before existed as a complex, systemic means of ensuring 
not only production but relatively stable reproduction of accumulation 
through a dynamic system compelling social actors to follow its dictates 
on pain of penury. Not only the wage worker but the capitalist 
personifications were compelled to act in accordance with the 
requirements of this evolving, increasingly interconnected organic 
complex. I am much indebted to Istvan Meszaros's elaboration of Marx's 
thought for my understanding of this.

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