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The Ghost of a Flea2/25/2020 3:31:25 pm PST

re: #188 Love-Child of Cassandra and Sisyphus

One of the great failures of marxism in my lifetime has been a lack of really addressing the 21st century, instead trying to relive the battles of the 19th century.

Today we must deal with a world that is highly interconnected, and this brings about a complexity that is lost on so many ideologues.

Okay, so one of the things that makes me insane is that no capitalist ideology addresses the reality of the 20th century or the 21st century, yet it’s the framework we’re supposed to accept when delivering critique, but Marxism’s prescriptive failures are used to invalidate his descriptive work. “Capitalism versus Marxism” is a false comparison, since the latter is bounded by being by one guy who wrote several books*, while “capitalism” is a vague cloud of ideas and theorems such that it can never be wrong because one can just sift the cloud for another interpretation. Specific capitalist theorems, like supply-side, are conceptual geckos: when caught failing, they just shed a part, escape, and re-grow the same damn appendage.

And…again, prejudiced by growing up in the developing world…capitalism also has an aggressively revisionist narrative not just in the USA, but worldwide. The denial that mercantilism and colonialism created the capital holdings that permitted the transition to a “free market,” the obvious coordination between “free trade” capital and political institutions in the post-colonial era to create a different kind of power-imbalanced trade, the direct military and espionage involvement in creating international trade by suppressing local resistance, the outright theft. The idea of “capitalism” of whatever stripe creating freedom is sustained entirely by erasing how comfortably and easily wealthy individuals and wealth-pooling institutions like banks and corporations are with tyrannies.

The irony of the modern interconnected world is that people in the developed world are shocked and disillusioned because they’re suffering, and their suffering is being excused by the exact same rhetoric that previously excused the suffering of people in far off places. There’s not a thing happening in the US labor market that wasn’t tested on poor people in the developed world first. And it’s happening because the cloud of capitalism isn’t questioned, and it’s history is so carefully curated that people unthinkingly attribute freedoms won through resisting capital…labor rights, even civil rights, union contracts…as triumphs of capitalism itself.

The concept endures not because it is solid, but because it is empty.

Which is why Marxism is a comparative failure: it is solid. It says specific things about a specific time, making claims that can be tested and propositions that can fail. It failed in application for dissectable, understandable reasons. I’m not up on them, but there’s a ton of Neo-Marxists who try to address those flaws. Post-modernists, too.

* eta: I changed “one book” to several books. While I was thinking of the Communist Manifesto, Capital and his other works addressed the same subject. My bad.