Saturday, December 3, 2011

Where Marx Failed To Critique

Marx's critical analysis of society was quite comprehensive. Hardly anything escaped his cynical gaze, and no institution was sacred: he critiqued everything from the state to philosophy to the family. But "hardly anything" is not "nothing." Two things, in particular, slipped through the cracks of Marx's solid framework.

Science and technology
Marx did not believe that capitalism was necessarily bad; he believed it was a necessary step in the evolution of society because it allowed for the scale and type of technological innovation which Marx believed could finally free humans from demeaning labor. In fact, he believed the communist revolution would occur only after a certain level of technological development worldwide had been attained. Technology is necessary for sustaining the sort of communist utopia that he envisioned.

Related to this evaluation of technology, Marx relied on evolutionary models in his thinking and unhesitatingly championed science. For some reason, science seemed to be the one realm that Marx could not conceive of being permeated and structured by bourgeois interests. Of course, I have already spent a considerable amount of time in this blog making up for that lapse, so I don't think I need to go into more detail.

Marx actually did attack many liberal/secular doctrines: for example, the sanctity of the individual, the importance of private ownership and competition, and the meaning of "democracy" in practice. He still, however, maintained some notion of "the human potential," which a life freed of meaningless labor was supposed to help one attain. I do not think this is a terribly large omission; for my part, I still cling onto ideas of individual equality and "toleration" of differences that spring from the same source. It is hard to frame one's values in a language that is completely outside of the dominant (in this case liberal, secular) ideology. But a little awareness that one is doing so does not hurt either.

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