File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1997/bhaskar.9708, message 103

Date: Thu, 28 Aug 1997 11:59:58 -0700 (PDT)
To: bhaskar-AT-jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: Re: BHA: Bhaskar on Adorno 

At 02:18 PM 8/28/97 -0400, wrote:
>Perhaps Marx was wrong to still characterise his position as "dialectical
>materialism" despite his incisive critique of
>reductionist/vulgar/undialectical versions of materialism. Adorno, however,
>makes the point that one cannot avoid considering the specific ideological
>constellation at play when such decisions are taken, and that we have to
>recall that in marx's period the predominant ideological forces took a
>somewhat theological/spiritual and metaphysical kind, against which the
>secular and materialist aspect of positive science made good sense as
>ideology critique and inversion. Under consumer capitalism being a
>"materialist" has taken on quite different, even somewhat conformist
>connotations; whilst we have rather been given rather more reasons to be
>cautious about linear evolutionary and causal models of historical progress
>driven by iron laws of history by ideologically-neutral forces of technology
>and productive economic forces, i.e., from spear to Mutually Assured
>Destruction. The ideological abuse to which Marx's work was subjected to at
>the hands of the undoubted "materialisms" of undialectical marxist-leninists
>would perhaps have given a hypothetical "borne again marx" some retrospective
>reason to regret not have formulated some other phrase, such as
>straightforward "dialectician".

This is all nonsense.

1.  The very phrase "dialectical materialism" was unknown to Marx.  I can't
be sure offhand who coined it, may have been Plekhanov.  The label itself
doesn't matter all that much, though, but as you make a big deal out of it,
you should be accurate.  Yes, of course Engels went in a direction that Marx
himself did not, but then even he could not predict what the Russians would
do with him. Finally, even though the Soviets were real shits, they did make
an attempt to work on the philosophy of the natural sciences, mathematics,
and logic, something that the Frankfurt high-culture snobs wouldn't touch
with a ten-foot pole.

2.  Your whining about the bad connotations of materialism and positive
science (which you must know is not the "positivism" all the critical
theorists caterwauled about but knew nothing of, being the anti-scientific
snobs they were) is most unconvincing.  Also this crap about linear progress
has nothing to do with Marx.  All this whining about evil technology is also
the snobbery of the comfortable.

3.  Marx's attack on theology-metaphysics was not a simple rejection.
According to Georges Labica in MARXISM AND THE STATUS OF PHILOSOPHY, Engels
was ready to throw in the towel on German philosophy long before Marx.  But
Marx was still interested in the German "dream-history", precisely because
it was an ideological inversion of real history and a highly-structured
product of analyzable causes, and not random or merely extrinsic falsehood.

4.  "Materialism", whatever it meant in the late 19th century, is
still/now/again a scandal, as nobody wants to be associated with it.  The
postivists wanted to neutralize the materialism-idealism distinction along
with all "metaphysics".  Empiricism always teeters on the brink of
subjective idealism.  Nobody wants to name himself a "materialist" nowadays.
It takes guts even to be a "realist", but a "materialist"?  Only dirty
commies want to be materialists.

5.  It seems to me you have been reading too much idealist crap, and need to
read some real Marx for a change.  You're beginning to work my last nerve.

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