Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What I Can't Believe

I believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. But there are a lot of things in which I simply cannot bring myself to believe.

I wonder at the credulousness of people today. As literacy and critical thinking skills decline due to "progressive education" it seems to me that most people are more gullible and less inclined to reject that which is incoherent and implausible. There is more of a herd mentality and the most astonishing things are taken for granted by the "in crowd" of new class knowledge professionals that form the core of the modern bureaucratic state.

Here are some things relating to Marxism that I find silly, dumb, unworthy of serious intellectual consideration by thinking people and, yet, which many people apparently endorse with a straight face. It is just about impossible to take seriously anyone who believes, or acts as if he believes, in the things on this list.

1. The myth of primitive communism.
2. The "iron laws of history."
3. Marx's failed predictions about the collapse of capitalism.
4. The labor theory of value.
5. The Marxist concept of ideology.
6. The withering away of the state.
7. The oppressiveness of the traditional family.
8. The coming classless society.
9. That the state is evil.
10. That private property is morally wrong.
11. That private property protects the rich more than it protects the poor.
12. The ideal of income equality.
13. The existence of rigidly fixed classes.
14. The human nature of socialism.
15. The benign intentions of socialist agitators.
16. That communism has never really been tried yet.
17. That the state can be trusted as the overwhelmingly dominant power center in society.
18. That capitalism is an immoral system.
19. That religion keeps people down and prevents progress.
20. that the Party can be trusted to act in our best interests.
21. The perfectibility of man.
22. The humane nature of socialism.
23. The moral imperative of rewarding sloth.
24. That the welfare state is good for poor people in good health.
25. That there is enough money in the world for government to use to replace the family.

My two questions to any actual Marxists who might happen to read this list are:

(1) Which of the items on this list would you care to defend and how on earth would you do it?

(2) If we can't believe in the items on this list, what is left of Marxism and other forms of socialism? Why not adopt a free market, limited government, liberal political economy?

I'm just wondering - seriously.


DanO said...


Can you offer a definition of "ideology"?

In our previous conversation, I offered this definition:

[I]deology is "a set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system."

You seem to think that this is a "Marxist" definition of ideology, and you list that as one things you can't believe (although in this post you change the language from "definition" to "conception").

But I'm confused. I pulled my definition from the American Heritage Dictionary -- it is a standard dictionary definition -- and, as far as I know, the American Heritage Dictionary isn't a Marxist rag. Look of "ideology" in any other dictionary and you should see the same thing.

As far as I know, the most basic definition of "ideology," the one that I offered, is accepted by pretty much everybody in pretty much every discipline from pretty much every political background (Conservative, Liberal, radical, whatever).

So, if you are defining "ideology" in some other way, it would be helpful for you to explain what you mean by that term. I'm genuinely curious.

Thanks in advance,


Craig Carter said...

Good heavens, man. You need to get out more and brush up on Marxist theory, especially if you are going to spout such rhetoric.

I haven't much time tonight, but here is a quote for Wikipedia that gets it pretty much right.

"In the Marxist economic base and superstructure model of society, base denotes the relations of production, and superstructure denotes the dominant ideology (religious, legal, political systems). The economic base of production determines the political superstructure of a society. Ruling class-interests determine the superstructure and the nature of the justifying ideology—actions feasible because the ruling class control the means of production. For example, in a feudal mode of production, religious ideology is the most prominent aspect of the superstructure, while in capitalist formations, ideologies such as liberalism and social democracy dominate. Hence the great importance of the ideology justifying a society; it politically confuses the alienated groups of society via false consciousness, such as in the case of commodity fetishism—the belief that value is inherent to a commodity, rather than external, added to it via labor.

The ruling class affect their social reproduction by the dominant ideology's representing—to every social-economic class—that the economic interests of the ruling class are the economic interests of the entire society. Some explanations have been presented. György Lukács proposes ideology as a projection of the class consciousness of the ruling class. Antonio Gramsci uses cultural hegemony to explain why the working-class have a false ideological conception of what are their best interests."


Beliefs like liberalism, limited government, free enterprise, marriage, private property etc. are just (1) epiphenomena of the material conditions of society and (2) manipulated by us "evil capitalists" to keep the masses enslaved in false consciousness.

This is the kind of rot that causes Betty Frieden & her 60s groupies to declare that marriage oppresses women (because men earn the money, see?)

It also turns religion into an instrument of oppression. (Except for Marxist faith, of course.)

This use of the term "ideology" is totally dependent on a materialistic worldview in which there is no God, soul, heaven or hell and an touchingly naive belief that next to economic class all other features of human life are merely ornamental.

But I believe you already understand all this and are just playing dumb. Here is a quote from Marx's "The German Ideology":

"The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. – real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process."

Where did I access this quote? I got it from a link listed on your website.

DanO said...

Hi Craig,

Glad you're exploring the links on my blog. There's some pretty interesting stuff to be found there. Not so sure about using Wikipedia as a source but, hey, every institution has its own academic standards.

Of course, that I link to Marxists doesn't mean I am a Marxist, anymore than linking to a gay blogger makes me a gay blogger... or linking to your blog makes me insane! ;) (Sorry, bit of humour there, figured you wouldn't given all the rhetoric you've thrown my way!)

Anyway, you still haven't offered a definition of "ideology."

While your tangent on Marxism is interesting -- and while it demonstrates that even Marxists recognize the basic agreed upon definition of "ideology" that I offered, even if they push it in different directions depending on the theorist (and your tangent also demonstrates that I might not be a Marxist since that's not the definition of "ideology" I proposed) -- you still don't offer a definition of your own.

Apparently you think the definition used by myself (and pretty much everybody else, Marxist or non-Marxist or anti-Marxist -- including wikipedia on its main page regarding ideology) is "totally dependent on a materialistic worldview" -- which is odd given that I believe in all the things you go on to say that my definition denies -- but that still isn't enough for me to know how you define "ideology."

Could you do so? Or, if you can't or won't, can you tell me why?

(Also, could you stop telling me that I define things in a way that I didn't define them and then arguing against that definition of things? Maybe that's convenient for you because you don't actually have to think when you write, but it doesn't do much for this conversation, or for others who are genuinely curious about this exchange of ideas. Deal?)

Still your brother in Christ (even though I'm not an Evangelical -- well, maybe more in the German sense of that word I am -- or an Anglican, or a member of the United Church),


Craig Carter said...

You can define "ideology" any way you want. If you want to use the general, dictionary definition, rather than the Marxist one,feel free.

So are you actually denying you are a Marxist? You are being coy, I think. If you claim not to be a Marxist do you deny all 25 things on my list? Some? A few? I'm actually curious; but I think our strategy is to avoid being pinned down. It seems to me you want to affirm many of these Marxist beliefs while not calling yourself a Marxist.

You have hidden behind the label "anarchist" before. But all Marxists are anarchists in the sense that they want to bring down the social order through revolution. Being coy about what comes after the revolution is no comfort to those of us defending the social order against revolution.

You can be a Marxist or a Nihilist as to what comes after - but either way you are working to destroy capitalism and introduce anarchy. You will understand why a conservative opposes both positions equally.

Craig Carter said...

In the previous comment, I meant to say of course "I think your strategy is to avoid. . . "

DanO said...

Hi Craig,

That's a pretty amusing typo since you've avoided answering my question! How do you define "ideology"?

As for my own political proclivities, I feel most closely aligned with anarchism (not hiding behind that at all, naming it and claiming it, baby!), because that approach seems to most closely fit with the Way of Jesus Christ (it was reading the writings of Kropotkin that first made this light bulb go off in my head -- have you read any of his essays?).

But you're way off if you think all anarchists are Marxists or vice versa -- after all, one of the most famous splits in the Left was the split between the anarchists and the Marxists that occurred in the First International when Marx and Bakunin (i.e. the authoritarians and the anti-authoritarians) went their separate ways.

Of course, that's not to say that there is not worth appreciating in or learning from the Marxist and post-Marxist traditions. If you think that one can't appreciate some things from Marxism while not being a Marxist, just think of all the people who appreciate Jesus without being Christians!

(Sorry, I seem to like using exclamation marks today... and parenthetical remarks! I guess I'm in a good mood because I just got a job as a director of a local homeless shelter -- gotta do some fund-raising of my own though, so if you and your crowd want to support me financially, just let me know.)

I find my affection for you only grows,