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|CynicAbstracted96||Posted: Feb 17, 2017 - 17:01|
This is from a different blog post that mention the topic I am currently working on. There is some problems with it, but overall, the writer makes some decent points. In fact I might used as a source later on, but nevertheless here is the blog-post in question.
The link to the blog itself can be found here:
A Philosophical Conspiracy: A Measured Response
[Following Post is Rushed and Contains many grammatical errors]
Recent events have lead me to write a short piece on Western Marxist Philosophy and it's relevance to today's culture wars as the ideological upbringing of the Left Wing Mainstream's continual tactics of surprising Right Wing opinions from popular discourse and the rise of a vulgar form of Identity Politic. In light of such events, a fellow YouTuber knowing that I do have some background in this field of thought asked me if I could compile a quick response on the topic. The following Paper is an attempt at a characterization of Marxian Philosophy Post-WW2 and it's implications towards shaping mainstream thought and it's own characterization by certain critics.
Lukacs and Gramsci: A Quick Rejoinder With Marx:
Before understanding the basics of critical theory, I must first attempt to portray the criticism railed at early Western Marxists like Korsch, Lukacs and Gramsci. As William S. Lind writes:
"Cultural Marxism is a branch of western Marxism, different from the Marxism-Leninism of the old Soviet Union. It is commonly known as "multiculturalism" or, less formally, Political Correctness. From its beginning, the promoters of cultural Marxism have known they could be more effective if they concealed the Marxist nature of their work, hence the use of terms such as "multiculturalism."
Cultural Marxism began not in the 1960s but in 1919, immediately after World War I. Marxist theory had predicted that in the event of a big European war, the working class all over Europe would rise up to overthrow capitalism and create communism. But when war came in 1914, that did not happen. When it finally did happen in Russia in 1917, workers in other European countries did not support it. What had gone wrong?
Independently, two Marxist theorists, Antonio Gramsci in Italy and Georg Lukacs in Hungary, came to the same answer: Western culture and the Christian religion had so blinded the working class to its true, Marxist class interest that Communism was impossible in the West until both could be destroyed. In 1919, Lukacs asked, "Who will save us from Western civilization?" That same year, when he became Deputy Commissar for Culture in the short-lived Bolshevik Bela Kun government in Hungary, one of Lukacs's first acts was to introduce sex education into Hungary's public schools. He knew that if he could destroy the West's traditional sexual morals, he would have taken a giant step toward destroying Western culture itself.
In 1923, inspired in part by Lukacs, a group of German Marxists established a think tank at Frankfurt University in Germany called the Institute for Social Research. This institute, soon known simply as the Frankfurt School, would become the creator of cultural Marxism."
This is an interesting interpretation of the Western Marxist tradition coming from Lind, claiming that Gramsci and Lukacs were harbingers of a form of Marxism which attempted to both rid of the material and social relations of the West as we knew it to slowly bring about a communist future from the shell of the old society. Although there are certainly relations between Marx's theory of Ideology as presented in his book "the German Ideology" with Lukacs and Gramsci, it is important to understand that there isn't necessarily a clear link in their writings on the relation between a false western consciousness and a communist one which could be broken down through "Multiculturalism or Political Correctness". In fact it is pretty clear both Gramsci and Lukacs were following from the original methods used by Marx to recast a theory of political economy to create a foundation of method in diagnosing sociological issues in the status quo in a similar light. Thus to Understand both Lukacs and Gramsci one cannot simply say that both wanted to change cultural institutions to create a communist utopia, but must thoroughly understand the economic context of both thinker's writings.
Paul M. Sweezy, a disciple of Lukacs and a famous American Marxist economist who pioneered the Simultaneous Dual System Interpretation of Marx's economic system, outlines the central theme in Lukacs' work as extending Marx's realization of the historical nature of certain aspects of the present and it's vulgarization as existing forever under the frameworks of modern thought. Lukacs announces that this is fundamentally Marx's contribution to method which can be traced back to his earlier theory of Alienation in the 1844 Manuscripts, but also latter on in Capital. In attempting to understand however what Alienation means, one must actually turn to Marx's actual texts.
Just as Milton Friedman said that, "Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon". Marx's texts show that alienation of labor is always and everywhere a capitalist phenomena. To understand this phenomena in it's official sense, one must turn to the first chapter of Capital Vol 1. Here Marx attempts to explain the nature of the commodity. For Marx, a commodity is anything that is made to be exchanged. A commodity always has a use value which is the value of the actual utility of a commodity to it's owner given in use. Commodities also has an exchange value which is equal to the quantitative equivalence of how much labor was put into the actual production of the commodity in an exchange. This meant that all commodities owned labor value, as labor is what created the commodity in the first place, but not just any labor, socially useful labor. To Marx then, the nature of commodity production did not always exist in this sequence of use values and exchange values. In fact, Lukacs explains the historical evolution of commodities as originally just items with use values, then the transformation of use values into exchange values in the age of barter (as an example, a hunter killing a deer which took an hour to kill in exchange for two rabbits which took thirty minutes each to kill) to a capitalist system where commodities are fetishized and labor value is completely abstracted from the day to day exchange values of commodities leading to the creation of extraction of surplus value, profits and loss and other elements of capitalism. He writes:
"Marx lays great stress on the essentially episodic appearance of the commodity form in primitive societies: "Direct barter, the original natural form of exchange, represents rather the beginning of the transformation of use-values into commodities, than that of commodities into money. Exchange value has as yet no form of its own, but is still directly bound up with use-value. This is manifested in two ways. Production, in its entire organisation, aims at the creation of use-values and not of exchange values, and it is only when their supply exceeds the measure of consumption that use-values cease to be use-values, and become means of exchange, i.e. commodities. At the same time, they become commodities only within the limits of being direct use-values distributed at opposite poles, so that the commodities to be exchanged by their possessors must be use-values to both - each commodity to its non-possessor. As a matter of fact, the exchange of commodities originates not within the primitive communities, but where they end, on their borders at the few points where they come in contact with other communities. That is where barter begins, and from here it strikes back into the interior of the community, decomposing it."  We note that the observation about the disintegrating effect of a commodity exchange directed in upon itself clearly shows the qualitative change engendered by the dominance of commodities."
However, even when commodities have this impact on the internal structure of a society, this does not suffice to make them constitutive of that society. To achieve that it would be necessary - as we emphasised above - for the commodity structure to penetrate society in all its aspects and to remould it in its own image. It is not enough merely to establish an external link with independent processes concerned with the production of exchange values. The qualitative difference between the commodity as one form among many regulating the metabolism of human society and the commodity as the universal structuring principle has effects over and above the fact that the commodity relation as ail isolate phenomenon exerts a negative influence at best on the structure and organisation of society. The distinction also has repercussions upon the nature and validity of the category itself. Where the commodity is universal it manifests itself differently from the commodity as a particular, isolated, non-dominant phenomenon.
The fact that the boundaries lack sharp definition must not be allowed to blur the qualitative nature of the decisive distinction. The situation where commodity exchange is not dominant has been defined by Marx as follows: "The quantitative ratio in which products are exchanged is at first quite arbitrary. They assume the form of commodities inasmuch as they are exchangeable s, i.e. expressions of one and the same third. Continued exchange and more regular reproduction for exchange reduces this arbitrariness more and more. But at first not for the producer and consumer, but for their go-between, the merchant, who compares money-prices and pockets the difference. It is through his own movements that he establishes equivalence. Merchant's capital is originally merely the intervening movement between extremes which it does not control and between premises which it does not create."
And this development of the commodity to the point where it becomes the dominant form in society did not take place until the advent of modern capitalism. Hence it is not to be wondered at that the personal nature of economic relations was still understood clearly on occasion at the start of capitalist development, but that as the process advanced and forms became more complex and less direct, it became increasingly difficult and rare to find anyone penetrating the veil of rectification. Marx sees the matter in this way: "In preceding forms of society this economic mystification arose principally with respect to money and interest-bearing capital. In the nature of things it is excluded, in the first place, where production for the use-value, for immediate personal requirements, predominates; and secondly, where slavery or serfdom form the broad foundation of social production, as in antiquity and during the Middle Ages. Here, the domination of the producers by the conditions of production is concealed by the relations of dominion and servitude which appear and are evident as the direct motive power of the process of production."
Thus Lukacs's notion of Reification was created as a method of analyzing the forms of alienation in society which did not always exist as historical law. The point of Lukacs' philosophy was not some sort of rabid advocacy of sex ed to destroy western culture because of the impious of communism (which is quite a feat considering the Hungarian Soviet Republic under Bela Kun lasted from March 23rd to August 6th, 1919), but rather a starting point to gauge the continual individuation and degradation of social unity as social structures change over time. A famous example is of reification is shown in Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle in where images and slogans by the creation of the culture industry have affected not just labor, but consumption in where people no longer consumed their own individual subjective wants, but followed objectivized trends created by media in the creation of advertisement and etc.
So what about Gramsci? Was he truly one to simply advocate for the destruction of values through a blind grasp of progressive culture and critique of oppressive power relations? While one can argue such nonsense, understanding Gramsci's arguments need context. Gramsci's concept of cultural hegemony took inspiration from many different theorists in his time and were hardly just the simple accusation that non-socialist minded peoples were products of ideological brainwashing no matter the dogma, Gramsci's writings were on cultural hegemony were simply a model to understand that society was always controlled by power which could suppress workers movements through the top down. This is not a very new claim, and many of the sociological concepts used by Gramsci borrowed from Non-Marxist thinkers such as George Sorel, syndicalist and inspiration for fascist movements. There is also a very vague sense in where people can say such anti-pluralism as an end into itself can become a form of social constructivism, but this mistakes the concept of cultural hegemony as an epistemic position on the existence of the best political system and not an ontological one. In fact in the realm of the philosophy of science, Alexandre Koyré a Russian/French philosopher of science in his book From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe attempted to defend a theory of theoretical wholes of interpretation of empirical facts in the science (the battle between Copernicus and the Ptolemyans) coming to contradiction of a theory of truth represents a similar idea of passing historical blocs of cultural hegemony which are replaced by differing rival factions with differing beliefs.
Adorno and Horkheimer: Antirational and Antiauthenic? Or Cranks?
Building off of some of the ideas from the earlier Marxist thinkers, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer attempted to use the methods of analysis in historical and dialectical materialism as a base to launch a culture of critique in the 1950s-70s. These two are usually considered by vulgar right wing critics as the transmission of European Marxist thought to the realm of the US due to their relocation in the 40s during the war to escape Nazi Germany brought a form of social thought which was supposedly used to create the ideological basis of weakening American values into a state of decay. However, I find most of these accusations to be unfounded, and I consider both Horkheimer and Adorno to be practically moderate in their views of culture. Surprisingly enough even Richard Spencer, White Nationalist and one of the figure heads of the Alt Right would agree with me. As he said in an interview on the Frankfurt school:
"Right. You know, this is all quite interesting and at the risk of pushing this Adorno as conservative idea too far, actually recently there was a book of his music criticism. I guess not too recent. It was a book of translations and probably published in 2004 or so. I remember reading it, and he had an interesting essay where he in some ways rethought Wagner and had many positive things to say about Wagner. Believe it or not, he actually had positive things to say about Houston Stewart Chamberlain in the sense that Houston Stewart Chamberlain was a racialist thinker, a god of the far Right, racialist Right, and he said that he saw that one of his reactions against the culture of England and his Romantic embrace of Germany was a kind of reaction against the tyranny of industrialization and that he imagined a more unalienated, authentic world in Germany and that almost these Right-wing strivings were that reaction against capitalism or something. So, again, there is a lot of complexity to all these people and they're not easily pigeon-holed."
So some of the common criticisms are positioned against both Adorno and Horkheimer are their hate for rationality and authenticity leading to an advocacy of nihilism/relativism. To reference these claims, I will be working off Horkheimer's Eclipse of Reason and Adorno's Jargon of Authenticity. In Horkheimer's Eclipse of Reason, Horkheimer attempts to criticize the importance of cultural clashes and the battle of mostly subjective preferences in the zeitgeist of the political sphere. He believes such fetishes of reason in such petty circumstances leads to the unquestionable ability to only bow down to law. Thus he concludes these forms of reason can lead to the atrocities that permeated World War Two. Horkheimer was by no means a relativist however and supported the use of reason in sciences and pragmatic decisions, in fact he was one of the few people in his niche that eventually ended up supporting the War in Vietnam to suppress the spread of communism. On the other hand Adorno's book on Authenticity attempts to criticize the German philosopher Martin Heidegger for his emphasis of the feelings of authenticity on a similar grounds, arguing that cultural fetishism of authentic roots can often be essentialist and lead to stupid decisions.
It is also noted that Adorno and Horkheimer were relatively enamored with aristocratic values. For instance, Adorno praises philosopher and National Socialist Spengler in his essay Spengler after the Decline. He credits the critique of "liberalism as progress" as solidifying the pre modernist idea of Machievelli's notion of the revival of Republican Party politics in The Discourses as being utopian modernism. For Adorno, party politics based on freedom and autonomy, attempt to build pluralistic notions of society based on existential notions of autonomy which only give the illusion of freedom due to the neoliberal structure of state and market who commodify values of the party into oppression. He then makes the jump to say Spengler's critique is not just some basic historicism but a pragmatic answer to the issues of modernist liberalism comparing his works to a form of positivism which merely trades particularized history in the future as an empirical framework of progress, to a framework of empirical analysis which sees decline in the universals of cyclical civilization. Finally Adorno critique's Spengler's naive critique of political economy and his appeal to totalitarianism due to his focus on civilization. Another Note could be his paper the Perennial Fashion - Jazz which was incredibly conservative and at times could be considered culturally inconsiderate calling the genre a mere profit making scheme to dumb down music to the masses by making it devoid of form.
Many critics also consider Adorno's F-Scale test the origins of attempting to diagnose fascist tendencies deep in the psyche of normal people, however long before the Frankfurt School's program was to be subsidized by the Rockefellers to engage in such studies, many psychologists and Freudians were fast at work writing dissertations of these ideas during the war time period. It should also be noted that Adorno did not really care too much for the administration of the test and mostly created it for the educational community who assigned them to complete a diagnostic test. In fact, the F-Scale also measured how much of an idealist one was too as opposed to having an authoritarian personality which showed the test was merely a tool to diagnose not just against the far right but also the far left.
Another criticism of these two can be found in Horkheimer's paper The Future of Marriage which was supposedly a criticism against the western family, but this takes the paper out of context which is really in fact a criticism of the state and social interferences in building a family. Horkheimer exclusively says the modern version of the atomic family was not wholly voluntary but a result of the individuation of the family unit (I assume from the Post World War 2 boom and the celebration of the industrial era). Horkheimer also criticizes communist China's propagandic encouragement of birth control and Abortion. In fact contrary to a vulgar right wing claim he even criticizes the free love movement, writing:
"To reject the development is too simplistic a response. For it is not only by reference to the new deity, the collectivity, that marriage is changing its meaning; even in countries where liberal principles still prevail in large measure, the nineteenth century ideal of marriage is proving to be no longer adequate. I am thinking here of the Scandinavian countries, and especially Sweden. Yes de Saint-Agnes speaks of a "sexual revolution" occurring there.11 Premarital sexual relations and their consequences are not regarded as immoral in Sweden; moreover, marriage is becoming difficult for material reasons (for example, the housing shortage). Even the majority of people in the Church there has come to terms with free love as it has with many other contemporary phenomena. The child of unwed parents is not regarded as illegitimate but as natural, and before the law enjoys full equality with the offspring of a marriage. Schoolbooks tell children that there are families with a married couple at the head, and other families consisting only of mother and child. The social worker and other functionaries of the welfare state to a large extent relieve the woman, and even the normal family, of care for the child. Promiscuity among the young keeps step with the propaganda for contraception and has become widespread, though not more so than venereal disease. Freedom has reached the point where someone advertising for a liaison partner need not pretend to be interested in marriage or even in what would elsewhere be regarded as a natural kind of association. I know of no empirical inquiry into the influence of this kind of progress on the human relationship as such; I suspect, however, that the new liberalism, like collectivism, is not favorable to such a relationship. For, in both developments, we find the ephemeral, the unique, the transitory, stripped of all its magical charm."
Marcuse and the Radical Left
The closest that the vulgar right has attempted in criticizing the Frankfurt school is by framing Herbert Marcuse's radical leftism as a definitive proof that Western Marxism was the cause for some sort of modern cultural degeneration. However Marcuse was not really the foundation of any of the advances in critical race studies or radical feminist theory at the time. Most of these works were done separately in Italy and France under the banner of Structuralist and Post Structuralist thought which was variably removed for the most part (with some exceptions such as Althusser) from any faithful form of Marxism. Marcuse's main works were tying Marx and Freud to analyze a popular sociological model of the welfare warfare state and the industrial military complex. While Marcuse had many attachments to New Left Activism such as being part of the Sit In against Ronald Reagan's march and attempt to defund the University of California San Diego's philosophy department, as it was shown in Herbert's Hippopotamus: Marcuse and Revolution in Paradise, a documentary about Marcuse, shows he was not very appreciative of violent action. In general Marcuse wanted to be against capitalism and communism often praising libertarian socialism, he befriended many activists such as Angela Davis and made lasting impressions through his books and teachings. However, in an interview with Bryan Magee he notes that many younger radicals often misread him and that he himself was not tied to the creation of the movements of the 60s and 70s.
Shantiq. "Herbert's Hippopotamus: Marcuse and Revolution in Paradise." YouTube. YouTube, 04 Mar. 2011. Web. 09 Feb. 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbzhmMDFcFQ>.
Mehranshargh. "Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School (1977)." YouTube. YouTube, 07 Nov. 2015. Web. 09 Feb. 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vm3euZS5nLo>.
"Jonathan Bowden, "Frankfurt School Revisionism"." Counter-Currents Publishing. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017. <http://www.counter-currents.com/2016/06/frankfurt-school-revisionism/>.
"Cultural Marxism-William S. Lind." Cultural Marxism-William S. Lind. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Feb. 2017. <http://www.marylandthursdaymeeting.com/Archives/SpecialWebDocuments/Cultural.Marxism.htm>.
Adorno, Theodor W., Samuel Weber, and Shierry Weber Nicholsen. Prisms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981. Print.
Adorno, Theodor W., Samuel Weber, and Shierry Weber Nicholsen. Prisms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981. Print.
Horkheimer, Max. Eclipse of reason. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. Print.
Horkheimer, Max. Critique of instrumental reason; lectures and essays since the end of World War II. New York: Seabury Press, 1974. Print.
Lukács, György. History and class consciousness: studies in Marxist dialectics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1971. Print.
Sweezy, Paul M. The theory of capitalist development; principles of Marxian political economy. New York: Oxford U Press, 1942. Print.
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