[Marxism] "Reality 101" and Marx

Brian McKenna mckennab at umich.edu
Wed May 2 11:05:13 MDT 2018

Thank you for this Hans.  Hope you are well.


On Wed, May 2, 2018 at 9:14 AM, Hans G Ehrbar via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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> Perhaps Nate Hagens is familiar to many of you, but I just
> discovered him by watching this:
> http://www.postcarbon.org/energy-money-and-technology-
> from-the-lens-of-the-superorganism/
> This 1-hour lecture with 20 minutes Q&A shows the big picture
> humanity is facing regarding the economy and natural resources.
> It is a summary of his one-semester course "Reality 101" at the
> University of Minnesota.  It is realistic without exuding
> disaster-porn.  It has better advice than most books or
> lectures about this subject regarding what to do about
> it (starting at minute 51:50).  It is the kind of class I tried
> to teach in my last semesters before retirement, but much better
> in terms of putting the info together with slides.  I think it is
> the best one can expect from a non-Marxist.
> It has many implicitly Marxist ideas.  He calls human society a
> superorganism, echoing Marx's insight that the forces driving
> capitalism are forces emanating from our social structure rather
> than individual choices.
> He has a theory of surplus-value based on the fact the the price
> of energy is much lower than the value created by energy, just as
> Marx says that the price of labor-power exceeds than the value
> created by it.  Where Marx talks about rate of exploitation he
> talks about the ratio of energy retrieved versus energy expended.
> He even shares Marx's assessment that mainstream economics
> has an ideological function, when he says that the economic
> analyses in the IPCC reports are unreliable.
> The circumstance of this lecture is amazing and exciting: it was
> given at a univesity in Saudi-Arabia!  And in the Q&A, one of the
> Saudi Students posed the most profound critical question:
> "Do you think capitalism and its focus on growth, profit, and moving
> all human activity to the market is responsible for the kind of
> super-organism we are today, and that we could have had a different
> reality if we had a different social system?"
> The lecturer's reaction shows that the student has hit a raw
> nerve.  Hagens is trying to reverse the causality: in
> contrast to Marx's thesis that capitalism forces humans to
> act as if they were greedy, Hagens says that humans created
> capitalism because they are greedy.
> With such a strong basis of capitalism in human nature,
> revolution of of course an unrealistic dream.  The thought that
> our social relations are beyond our control but imposed on us by
> our psychology is in Marx's eyes a form of commodity fetishism.
> Hans G Ehrbar
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Brian McKenna, Ph.D.
Department of Behavioral Sciences
CASL 4025
University of Michigan-Dearborn
Dearborn, Michigan

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