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Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) by Friedrich Engels

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ALB
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LBird wrote:

ALB wrote:
Marx wrote:
...I use... the term "historical materialism", to designate that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all important historic events in the economic development of society, in the changes in the modes of production ...
[my bold]

The key word is 'production', not 'materialism'.

That is, for Marx, 'historical materialism' means 'human production' and its 'changes'.

For Engels, this is not the case. Engels talks of a 'nature' outside of human production.

But this is a quote from Engels not Marx !

And I never said it was from Marx. It's from Engels's introduction to the English edition of the pamphlet.

I think you've just shot yourself in the foot.

ALB
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LBird wrote:
And to 'understand' (if we have any pretensions to 'science'), we have to declare our 'position', prior to the attempt to understand.

This is basic science method. Including physics, since Einstein. You've read Carr, ALB, so I don't know how you think an 'objective' approach to Engels is possible.

Put simply, whether one 'understands Engels' from either a 'Marxist' position or an 'Engelsian' position, will determine 'what' one 'understands'.

Since we are trying to work out what Engels's position is, I think this is what is called begging the question.

LBird
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ALB wrote:

LBird wrote:

ALB wrote:
Marx wrote:
...I use... the term "historical materialism", to designate that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all important historic events in the economic development of society, in the changes in the modes of production ...
[my bold]

The key word is 'production', not 'materialism'.

That is, for Marx, 'historical materialism' means 'human production' and its 'changes'.

For Engels, this is not the case. Engels talks of a 'nature' outside of human production.

But this is a quote from Engels not Marx !

And I never said it was from Marx. It's from Engels's introduction to the English edition of the pamphlet.

I think you've just shot yourself in the foot.

Don't you wish!wink

All it proves is that I assumed you were quoting Marx, and couldn't be arsed to check. And the blame lies in your failure to attribute your quotes, something I don't fail to do.

If it is Engels, then it just proves my case, lock stock and barrel!

If Engels said this, that 'the ultimate cause is human production', then that in itself show his confusion, and his unreliability in these matters. Since I've read Engels, I already know that he does this confusing jumping about. One can easily find support for both the 'materialist' position and the 'idealist-materialist' position; the latter, as you yourself have shown, above.

Why Engels would embrace 'idealism-materialism' at one point, and then contradictorily embrace old-fashioned 'materialism' at another, only our analysis can decide.

After much reading, I'm inclined to support the argument that Engels was out of his depth in issues of philosophy.

One thing is clear: simply 'reading' Engels's text, without any awareness of these difficult issues, is pointless.


DJP
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Perhaps we should read this book instead:

http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/

ALB
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LBird wrote:
Since I've read Engels, I already know that he does this confusing jumping about. One can easily find support for both the 'materialist' position and the 'idealist-materialist' position;
Are you sure that this doesn't apply to Marx too?

LBird
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ALB wrote:

LBird wrote:
Since I've read Engels, I already know that he does this confusing jumping about. One can easily find support for both the 'materialist' position and the 'idealist-materialist' position;
Are you sure that this doesn't apply to Marx too?

Yes, I think that you're right here, ALB.

Marx is, if anything, often more confusing than Engels!

But, on balance, Marx mostly stresses 'production' when he mentions 'materialism', whereas, Engels much more often veers into 'nature', to the exclusion of human consciousness.

As I've said before, anyone determined to 'prove' either position can find 'evidence' in both Marx's and Engels' work to support both positions.

I think we'd get further, though, by discussing what they must mean, given the context of their politics, which we share.

Personally, I don't see Engels as a proto-Leninist, and I think Engels, if pushed, would reject 'materialism' as it was (and is) interpreted by the Second International (he did in a number of letters, and complained of his ideas being distorted by the SPD), but because of his amateur status in philosophy, he didn't realise just where he ideas could go (or, be taken).

On the whole, though, I do blame Marx. Not for his 'materialism' (as I say, he wasn't a 'materialist', which is why there is always a need to prefix the term with something which recognises this: 'dialectical', 'historical, 'idealist'; they all play the same role, of re-introducing 'ideas' into mechanical 'materialism'), but for his shit writing. Typical bloody academic!

In my opinion, the task of modern socialists is to translate, clarify and explain the useful bits from Marx. I believe that workers must be able to handle issues of epistemology (for example), and I think that it's the role of socialists to help in this social task. I've done this on this site, with my attempts at explanations about Critical Realism (rocks, value, cars, walls, etc.) and epistemology (blank sheet, numbered do-to-dot, un-numbered dots). We have to explain in terms most workers already understand. Surely the basics of education? 

Telling comrades to simply 'read' Socialism: Utopian and Scientific won't do this job, I think. They must read it critically. The answers to its issues and problems lie in us, not in the text.


ALB
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LBird wrote:

ALB wrote:

LBird wrote:
Since I've read Engels, I already know that he does this confusing jumping about. One can easily find support for both the 'materialist' position and the 'idealist-materialist' position;
Are you sure that this doesn't apply to Marx too?

Yes, I think that you're right here, ALB.

Marx is, if anything, often more confusing than Engels!

But, on balance, Marx mostly stresses 'production' when he mentions 'materialism', whereas, Engels much more often veers into 'nature', to the exclusion of human consciousness.

As I've said before, anyone determined to 'prove' either position can find 'evidence' in both Marx's and Engels' work to support both positions.

That's rather honest of you. So, no more talk of us being "Englesists" rather than "Marxists"? Or perhaps you can accuse us of being both and jumping from position to position like them. smiley

LBird wrote:
I think we'd get further, though, by discussing what they must mean, given the context of their politics, which we share.
What they "must" mean? I don't see much point in that. Too much like the textual analyses of the mediaevel Scholastics and Talmudists.

The truth is that neither Marx nor Engels seem to have been particularly interested in espistemology or ontology. They were "historical materialists", i.e more interested in the sociology of knowledge. When it came to "philosophy" they seem to have been just common or garden materialists, i.e. non-religious. Like us in the SPGB, come to think of it !

LBird
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ALB wrote:
That's rather honest of you. So, no more talk of us being "Englesists" rather than "Marxists"? Or perhaps you can accuse us of being both and jumping from position to position like them. smiley

Yeah, I'd go with the latter!smiley

But, as I've said, Marx is the more consistent, with his usual emphasis being on 'production' rather than simply 'material' (as for Engels, heavily influenced by the tremendous advances by 19th century science).

I think one way of clarifying this is to insert the word 'production' wherever Marx writes 'material' (and doesn't himself add 'production', which he mostly does), and see if this insertion changes Marx's meaning. I don't think it does.

Whereas, if one does the same with Engels, and inserts 'production' where he uses 'material', then it doesn't make sense, because often Engels is talking about 'nature' outside of human consciousness, and the addition of 'production' inserts consciousness, and so does change the meaning.

This is all before we get to the issue of 'unified method', because I think some party members would accept much of what I say about Marx's 'idealism-material', if applied to society, but don't accept that this can be used to understand the 'material' world. So, I regard this, too, as 'jumping from position to position'.smiley

ALB wrote:
What they "must" mean? I don't see much point in that. Too much like the textual analyses of the mediaevel Scholastics and Talmudists.

By 'must', I simply mean we should read Marx and Engels from the position of the 21st century and what we know now, and openly declare our position, rather than pretend, as did the 19th century positivists, to be simply 'reading the texts' and 'dealing with the facts'. Our politics and theirs are inescapably involved in our reading.

ALB wrote:
The truth is that neither Marx nor Engels seem to have been particularly interested in espistemology or ontology. They were "historical materialists", i.e more interested in the sociology of knowledge. When it came to "philosophy" they seem to have been just common or garden materialists, i.e. non-religious. Like us in the SPGB, come to think of it!

But, the sociology of knowledge necessarily involves 'epistemology and ontology', so whether or not your claim is correct about them not being 'particularly interested', is neither here nor there. Personally, I think that you're wrong, and that Marx's Theses on Feuerbach (for example) are related to e. and o.

As for your claim about 'materialism' (of Marx's kind) being equated  to being 'non-religious', that is simply untrue, and a return to the Young Hegelian fascination with criticising 'religion'. If this is the belief of the SPGB (rather than just your opinion), then I think that I'd categorise the party as 'materialist' in the pre-Theses sense, and more concerned with combatting religion, than with a unified understanding of the world by humans. This 'anti-religious' focus often comes across on this site, to be honest.

FWIW, Lenin too was still in this mode, when he wrote Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, which is concerned with refuting 'religious' thinkers, like Mach, and employed a 'copy theory of knowledge', just like the 19th century positivists.

Finally, I've said this before, and no doubt I'll be forced to say it again: if the SPGB holds to 'materialism', its politics will be based upon the same philosophy as Lenin's and the positivists. If it adds any term prior to 'materialism', it is in effect recognising 'idealism-materialism' as the real basis of Marx's critical views. Criticism involves ideas, and this is not 'idealism', as Engels seemed to think.

If the SPGB gets anywhere near positions of 'power', the 'elitist' strain in this philosophy will start to emerge, and those who claim to have access to a neutral scientific method which produces a copy of reality, and thus 'The Truth', will transfer this 'expert method' from philosophy and science into politics. In fact, reading some contributions on this site, which argue against my view that everything produced by humans, including scientific knowledge, should be under our democratic control, it's clear that this elitist, expert 'we know better than the workers' viewpoint is already in evidence.

To me, clarification of these philosophical (ontological, epistemological and methodological) issues is of supreme political importance. Whilst the 'struggle first, think later' method of 'practice and theory' (ie. induction) is employed, workers will remain unconscious of their activities, and will remain in thrall to a 'scientific elite'. That is, the Bolsheviks.sad


ALB
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Joined: 22/06/2011

I know this is veering off topic a bit, but you keep on saying that a particular theory of knowledge leads to Leninism. But it wouldn't have to. Lenin got his idea that socialist ideas had originated outside the working class and so had to brought to them from outside from Kautsky and Kautsky was no Leninist but a Social Democratic reformist. This is still "elitism" but where the elite is not a vanguard party but the reformist party's MPs. Leninism is the theory that the elite is the vanguard party.

So how prevent Socialist MPs becoming an elite? By having a lively, functioning participatory democracy, i.e by having a theory and practice of democracy (rather than a particular theory of knowledge).

LBird
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Joined: 21/07/2013

ALB wrote:
So how prevent Socialist MPs becoming an elite? By having a lively, functioning participatory democracy, i.e by having a theory and practice of democracy...

Yeah, and in the same vein, I'd also say:

Quote:
So how prevent Scientists becoming an elite? By having a lively, functioning participatory democracy, i.e by having a theory and practice of democracy...

Thus, the 'truth' of the 'material' becomes a matter of 'voting'.

The 'material' doesn't tell us 'what it is', any more than 'MPs' can tell us 'what's best for us'.

ALB wrote:
...rather than a particular theory of knowledge...

Either one espouses a democratic theory of knowledge, or one doesn't.

Positivist scientists, physicalists, 'materialists', Leninists, do not.

If the SPGB doesn't, either, it'll join that list of people who claim that workers shouldn't be allowed to interfere in their activities, and certainly they'll deny that the final say on anything relating to their activities should be subjected to a vote.

Engels, by his transfer of Marx's activist epistemology (which Marx got from the idealists) into 'nature' outside of human consciousness, made a democratic theory of knowledge impossible.

For those why follow Engels, either 'reality' is 'true' or the alternative is 'idealism'.

This is nothing to do with Marx, and I hope that any comrades who go on to read Engels book bear these criticisms in mind.


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