Marx, and the myth of his ‘Materialism’

MAY 2022 Forums General discussion Marx, and the myth of his ‘Materialism’

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 306 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #84472
    LBird
    Participant

    From Kline, G. The Myth of Marx’ Materialism

     

    Kline, pp. 168-9, wrote:
    Although Marx did not initiate the misuse of materiell to mean 'economic', he uncritically continued it, and thus caused untold hermeneutical confusion. He appears to have been oblivious to the fact that there is nothing peculiarly material… about economic activities and institutions, even that economic institution upon which he focussed his theoretical attention, namely, the mid-nineteenth-century steam-powered, partially automated factory or mill. A factory or mill- or a bank, insurance company, or stock-exchange (to mention three other peculiarly economic institutions)- is no more and no less 'physical' or involved with the 'biological/physiological' or 'sensuous/sensual' than any other social or cultural institution. Institutions whose primary function is non-economic -universities, churches, professional societies, museums, symphony orchestras – also require buildings and artifacts, including furniture, tools, and instruments, and, of course, human beings, in order to function. In this respect a factory (or a bank, insurance company, or stock-exchange) is no different. All such institutions are social; all are established and maintained by concerted human purpose, intelligence, inventiveness, and conscientiousness (all of which, needless to say, may be present in more or less adequate forms). There is nothing peculiarly material (physical) – or material (biological) or material (sensuous/sensual) – about any of this.

     

    link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2F978-94-009-4031-4_4.pdf

     

    Perhaps it’s even clearer to argue that by ‘material/economic’ Marx meant ‘human production’ (as opposed to the ‘god’s production’ of the Idealists), that is, social activities which require ‘theory and practice’ (ie., ideas and labour), which is thus ‘ideal-material’, not merely ‘material’.

    Hence, as I’ve shown before by quotes from Marx and Engels themselves, Marx was an Idealist-Materialist, and it was Engels who was the Materialist.

    Engels’ took Marx’s term ‘material’ to mean ‘material’ (as any non-philosopher like Engels probably would, he assumes it meant ‘matter’); whereas I think Marx used the term ‘material’ as a contrast with ‘ideal’, to contrast human creativity with divine creativity. This battle between the human and the divine was the context of the philosophy of his times. Marx thought he had united ‘creativity’ (taken from the idealists’ god, the ‘active side’ of the Theses on Feuerbach) with ‘human material existence’ (taken from the materialists’ focus on humanity rather than god), to give him a philosophy of ‘theory and practice’, which implies human creativity and activity upon our ‘material’ world, to change it. This, of course, requires ideas and labour, parts of both idealism and materialism, and a rejection of parts of both idealism and materialism, that is, the former’s divineness and the latter’s passivity.

    Whilst socialists look to Engels’ ‘materialism’, the proletariat have no philosophy and method to change their world. Materialism implies human passivity in the face of 'matter'.

    #115768
    Dave B
    Participant

    L bird makes a good point that it is always worth, historically, going back to look at what someone was arguing against. Karl was arguing against ‘Hegelianism’ which was putting forward the idea that (the development of) ideas or more specifically perhaps human intelligence and intellect, including of course ‘philosophy’, changed reality or the world we live in. That is a pretty good idea on the face of it as the world we live in ie the screen you are looking at, has changed as a result of the development of ‘scientific ideas’. However there was perhaps a potential ‘elephant in the room’ problem with this; called causality or ‘Descartes’. Which is that everything remains; ……..in the same state and is never changed, unless by external causes……….  Now you could legitimately argue that ideas change reality and new realities affect ideas and so on in a ‘mindless’ iterative process and leave it at that. And there is nothing wrong with that and you can pull up at this point and end with a full stop and underline. Unless you believe that you perceive a historical pattern or direction- and that is the crucial predicate on which everything else rests. Thus to pick a modern example you might have a lot of ever changing weather and the flap of butterfly wings in Norfolk causing typhoons in the Philippines etc. And the global climate maybe in an overall ‘steady state’ of a dynamic equilibrium. However if you believe you see a pattern or direction of change then one is tempted to logically designate that, and that alone, as an effect and look for a cause. Hegel in the ideas/reality duality designated ideas, or human thought if you like, as the restive element dragging reality along in its wake. And there was an external force or 'urge' and thus cause pushing or pulling it along depending on how you prefer to look at it, in a particular direction.  There is a modern ‘scientific’ version of this Hegelianism  eg; "the basis of invention is science, and science is almost wholly the outgrowth of pleasurable intellectual curiosity."and in contrast to the old proverb "Necessity is the mother of futile dodges" is much nearer to the truth   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necessity_is_the_mother_of_invention  %5BThus “intellectual curiosity” isn’t that far removed from the Hegelian model apart from Hegel would have broadened the scope to the universe following a Buddhist like path of self awareness and revelation through the agency of humanity, or something. However “intellectual curiosity” and capacity is more likely to be a ‘Darwinian’ evolutionary acquired trait or instinct of humanity and in and of itself materialistic. In as much the 'urge' for  finding better or more economical ways of hunting deer than leaping out of bushes and clubbing them over the head. You could still argue alternatively I suppose that “intellectual curiosity”and capacity is a kind of ‘mustard seed’ improving thing planted by a Hegelian Demiurge]  Karl would have  argued I think, without having to drag in “intellectual curiosity” and capacity, that the evolutionary driving force and direction was pushed or pulled by more efficient or ‘fitter’ ways to dominate and control nature. The ‘rewards’ or consequences maybe somewhat questionable and other societies could choose alternative paths of survival; until the gunboats turn up.  And that non material ‘social institutions’ or ‘superstructure’, or ‘ideology’, are forced to adapt to ‘fitter’, or necessary, underlying ways of economic behaviour. That doesn’t mean that the new ‘social institutions’ or ‘superstructure’, or ‘ideology’ aren’t dogs dinners and have to look particularly clever and well constructed. The weakness of evolutionary systems is the inability or difficulty to reverse engineer stuff. Thus Christianity clearly evolved out of a communistic movement of the oppressed and it was still prattling along with that kind of stuff 300 years later; and thus not exactly the ideal kind of material for the Divine Right of Kings and capitalist to work with.  Marxism to Stalinism probably holds the world record (at 20 years, 1906-1926?) on that kind of thing.

    #115769
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant
    Kline wrote:
    All such institutions are social; all are established and maintained by concerted human purpose, intelligence, inventiveness, and conscientiousness (all of which, needless to say, may be present in more or less adequate forms). There is nothing peculiarly material (physical) – or material (biological) or material (sensuous/sensual) – about any of this.

    Except the activity of humans, the fact that humans require material equipment to thinhk and communicate, and all humans exist in the physical world.

    Lbird wrote:
    Perhaps it’s even clearer to argue that by ‘material/economic’ Marx meant ‘human production’ (as opposed to the ‘god’s production’ of the Idealists), that is, social activities which require ‘theory and practice’ (ie., ideas and labour), which is thus ‘ideal-material’, not merely ‘material’.

    Yes, Marx was distinguishing against idealism, the notion that nothing exists except ideas.  He also notes, that to even have ideas, humans have to eat, first, and that their minds come with bodies attached.

    #115770
    LBird
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    Yes, Marx was distinguishing against idealism, the notion that nothing exists except ideas.  He also notes, that to even have ideas, humans have to eat, first, and that their minds come with bodies attached.

    Ho, hum.Religious Materialism, once more.I can but try, to encourage reading and critical thinking.For humans, they have to think first, what to eat. They produce their food, even by hunting and gathering, for the social band.The RM-ers would have us believe that the active pies thrust themselves into our passive mouths… after they've consulted with the active rocks first, of course…Marx was an Idealist-Materialist.

    #115771
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    LBird wrote:
    Ho, hum.Religious Materialism, once more.I can but try, to encourage reading and critical thinking.For humans, they have to think first, what to eat. They produce their food, even by hunting and gathering, for the social band.The RM-ers would have us believe that the active pies thrust themselves into our passive mouths… after they've consulted with the active rocks first, of course…Marx was an Idealist-Materialist.

    Nothing in your last post contributes in anyway to the discussionYou have started early. All your discussions end up with you labelling an opponent (religious materialist), setting up a strawman then attacking it.You are also attacking the rest of the forum members as 'religious materialists' in order t elicite a response from themIt's pathetic 

    #115772
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    duplicate

    #115773
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    triplicate 

    #115774
    Dave B
    Participant

    You have lost me now L Bird; are you saying leafcutter ants are idealist materialist because “They produce their food”?   Leafcutter antsfeed exclusively on a fungusthat grows only within their colonies. They continually collect leaves which are taken to the colony, cut into tiny pieces and placed in fungal gardens. Workers specialise in related tasks according to their sizes. The largest ants cut stalks, smaller workers chew the leaves and the smallest tend the fungus. Leafcutter ants are sensitive enough to recognise the reaction of the fungus to different plant material, apparently detecting chemical signals from the fungus. If a particular type of leaf is found to be toxic to the fungus, the colony will no longer collect it. The ants feed on structures produced by the fungi called gongylidia. Symbiotic bacteria on the exterior surface of the ants produce antibiotics that kill bacteria introduced into the nest that may harm the fungi.

    #115775
    rodshaw
    Participant

    Damn! How wrong could Madonna be? All together now…'cause we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.

    #115776
    LBird
    Participant
    Vin wrote:
    Nothing in your last post contributes in anyway to the discussionYou have started early. All your discussions end up with you labelling an opponent (religious materialist), setting up a strawman then attacking it.You are also attacking the rest of the forum members as 'religious materialists' in order t elicite a response from themIt's pathetic 

    Perhaps pathetic, Vin, but true, too.You'll notice that no-one will attempt to actually read Kline's article, to which I've given a pdf link, and discuss the meaning of Marx's use of 'material'.

    #115777
    LBird
    Participant
    Dave B wrote:
    You have lost me now L Bird; are you saying leafcutter ants are idealist materialist because “They produce their food”? 

    Have you never heard of 'theory and practice', Dave?Marx's idealism-materialism requires humans to creatively change their environment. That is, they plan and implement. They consciously produce their conditions of life.How you read Marx to be saying that 'leafcutter ants' do this, is quite baffling.

    Marx, Capital, Chapter 7, The Labour Process, wrote:
    Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature’s productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway. We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal. An immeasurable interval of time separates the state of things in which a man brings his labour-power to market for sale as a commodity, from that state in which human labour was still in its first instinctive stage. We pre-suppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement. He not only effects a change of form in the material on which he works, but he also realises a purpose of his own that gives the law to his modus operandi, and to which he must subordinate his will. And this subordination is no mere momentary act. Besides the exertion of the bodily organs, the process demands that, during the whole operation, the workman’s will be steadily in consonance with his purpose.

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch07.htmLeafcutter ants are not mentioned, Dave, only some other insects, which clearly do not use 'idealism-materialism', theory and practice.

    #115778
    northern light
    Participant

    LBird,regarding the pfd link you mention in #10, it will not open for my computer.

    #115779
    moderator1
    Participant
    northern light wrote:
    LBird,regarding the pfd link you mention in #10, it will not open for my computer.

    Try highlighting 'springer ……..' In your search engine.

    #115780
    LBird
    Participant
    northern light wrote:
    LBird,regarding the pfd link you mention in #10, it will not open for my computer.

    If you do a google search with the terms "Kline" and "Although Marx did not initiate" (ie. the initial phrase from the text I quoted), you should get only two hits, the Kline article, and now this thread.Hope that works for you, nl.

    #115781
    Dave B
    Participant

    So what you are saying is if you consciously plan and implement something you are not a materialist; you are an idealist-materialist. Feuerbach the first self described anti idealist and materialist wouldn’t like that much I suspect. And thus conscious human beings (a tautology for most of us perhaps) can’t be materialists as they are mutually exclusive; unless they have no idea what they are doing or why they are doing it. Not quite sure what that would look like apart from alienated labour or sex; its been a long time.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 306 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.