Bould’s introduction reads Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and The Matrix as more or less substantially identical texts through the perspective of the world market. The protagonist of the latter is said to have “achieved the impossible, gaining perfect knowledge of the system while situated inside it” (16), a reference to Godel’s incompleteness or Mannheim’s paradox or whatever. Although not tendered as definition, this is likely a decent enough description of the genre.
Beaumont: excellent paper that reads the genre through Holbein’s Ambassadors, regarding the distinction between anamorphosis (secondary world setting, say) and the anamorph (realistic setting with the intrusion of some weird), which function to decompose compositions, to defamiliarize & radicalize. These items constitute an “immanent critique of perspective” (34), which is kinda Marxism from the ground floor. Overall, a great essay.
Freedman: reads science fiction film through the binary of inflationary/deflationary, as contrasted with the conventions of film noir. Construes Marxism itself as possessing, dialectically, both deflationary and inflationary bits: “The deflationary dimension is represented by the attempt to destroy all illusions necessary or useful to the preservation of class society” (72). However, “Marxism ultimately aims at the positive project of human liberation and self-realization, rather than only at the negative task of destroying capitalism and other forms of class (and other) oppression” (id.). Considers Blade Runner, Dark City, 2001, Metropolis, and The Day the Earth Stood Still in detail. (Has a soft spot for Shelley’s Frankenstein, so difficult not to get aboard.) Principle is that science fiction is by definition inflationary, whereas noir is essentially deflationary.
Rieder: a consideration of Until the End of the World, but also some other films.
Shaviro: interpretation, with mockery, of ‘singularity’ theory, plus detailed critique of Kurzweil as cappy ideologue (singularity means everything is different now, man, and that we can't understand it before it happens--but the theory strangely keeps capitalist relations in place despite passage through the singularity--very 'end-of-history' a la Fukuyama!), but also in-depth consideration of Stross’ Accelerando. Very cool.
Vint: reading of inter alia Cordwainer Smith on the issue of humanity/animality—very interesting stuff here, which wants to theorize “animals as alienated labour-power” (130).
Wegner: reading MacLeod’s ‘Fall Revolution’ series via Lukacs. Kinda kickass, though I think Lukacs’ augenblick doctrine is philistine.
Luppa: very intensely localized reading of Weimar film criticism from a Marxist perspective on science fiction films—which makes it the most historically rigorous essay in the anthology. Focuses on two films: Metropolis (no surprise) and Frau in Mond. References Herf’s Reactionary Modernism, so that’s cool.
Latham: reading the New Wave via the perspective of Harvey on urbanity, with attention to Thomas Disch, Silverberg, Delany.
Jorgensen: impressive essay on Althusser, which makes use of Dick, Simak, and Leguin. Affirms that “revolution is, within itself, an absolute difference” (207). Science fiction “is not so much a Suvinian cognitive estrangement as an identification with revolutionary possibility, producing the consciousness of the absolute difference that creates it” (208). Ok. I just got a little aroused over that.
Milner: a critique of Suvin’s definition of ‘science fiction.’ Works with Bloch, Williams, Brecht.
Mieville: a critique of the sundering of ‘science fiction’ from ‘fantasy’ by Suvin and others. Works either as Marxist immanent critique of doctrine or as derridean deconstruction. Either way, very slick. Best line: “To the extent that SF claims to be based on ‘science,’ and indeed on what is deemed ‘rationality,’ it is based on capitalist modernity’s ideologically projected self-justification: not some abstract/ideal ‘science,’ but capitalist science’s bullshit about itself. This is not, of course, to argue in favour of some (perhaps lumpen-postmodernist) irrationalism, but that the ‘rationalism’ that capitalism has traditionally had on offer is highly partial and ideological” (240-41) (emphasis added – how awesome is that? Are postmodernists just lumpenized greasers?).
Focus here however is on how transformations in the material base determine superstructures such as ‘postmodern’ practices and doctrines. The breakdown of fordist-keynesian relations of production is the key for Harvey, who finds a compression in time and space associated with the new ‘flexible accumulation’ model ushered in to save the cappies from the late 20th century crisis. The postmodern is the inexorable ideological douchiness that follows the underlying economic douchitude.
No need to get into the particulars too much. Consideration of history, political theory, aesthetics, economics. Relevant, cool, &c. overall.
Title is of course a chiasmus of Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition; dunno if that's some kind of subtle joke, but the inversion of and riposte against the argument herein is manifest. ...more
Lengthy meditation on ‘authority and the family,’ which is reminiscent of Marcuse’s similar offeringCollection of Frankfurt essays, fairly standard.
Lengthy meditation on ‘authority and the family,’ which is reminiscent of Marcuse’s similar offering on the one hand and later Althusser's ‘family’ ISA. Critiques otherwise of positivism, pragmatism, lebensphilosophie.
Key bit is ‘Traditional and Critical Theory,’ laying out a series of distinctions between them. The former is involved with “the establishment of a connection between those elements of an event which are significant for historical continuity and particular determinative happenings” (193). It proceeds through “a, b, c, and d’,” “then event q must be expected; if d is lacking, event r; if g is added, event s” (id.). Ergo, “theory in the traditional sense is actually elaborated” (id.).
By contrast, “there is human activity which has society itself for its object” (206), “suspicious of the very categories of better, useful, appropriate, productive, and valuable” (207). It “refuses to take them as nonscientific presuppositions” (id.). Critical theory aims at a “dialectical character of self-interpretation” (208). To differentiate further: “The subject is no mathematical point like the ego of bourgeois philosophy” (211); “acceptance of an essential unchangeableness between subject, theory, and object thus distinguishes the Cartesian conception from every kind of dialectical logic” (id.).
“If critical theory consisted essentially in formulations of the feelings and ideas of one class at any given moment, it would not be structurally different from the special branches of sciences [!]” (214). “Critical theory has no material accomplishments to show for itself. The change it seeks to bring about is not effected gradually, so that success even if slow might be steady. […] The first consequence of the theory that urges a transformation of society as a whole is only an intensification of the struggle with which the theory is connected” (219).
Traditional theory defines “universal concepts under which all facts in the field in question are to be subsumed” (224); “subject and object are kept strictly apart” (229). Critical on the other hand is “incompatible with the idealist belief that any theory is independent of men” (240).
Anyway, good times to be had by all.
Recommended for those with a ghostlike and distorted picture of the world, readers who retain their selves only by accident, and persons who glorify the rebellion of eros....more
Frankfurt School’s rockstar in the US lays out interpretation of Freud, in five movements.
Opens with a justification of his political purpose: that FrFrankfurt School’s rockstar in the US lays out interpretation of Freud, in five movements.
Opens with a justification of his political purpose: that Freudian theory is “fundamentally social and historical” and that “psychology today is an essential part of political science,” that is, “psychology in its inner structure must reveal itself to be political” (1).
Opening problem is that “society has fallen prey to and become identified with domination,” “in effect wherever the individual’s goals and purposes and the means of striving for and attaining them are prescribed to him and performed by him as something prescribed” (id.). Assuming this to be the case generally, “freedom becomes an impossible concept, for there is nothing that is not prescribed for the individual in some way or other,” and “freedom can be defined only within the framework of domination,” even “freedom is a form of domination” (2).
The argument unfolds in terms of traditional Freudian categories, noting early that the transformation of “the overcoming of the pleasure principle through the reality principle” (5) “leaves an unhealable wound” in people, thereby making “them fit for society” (6). (Very RSB, making trauma the basis for consciousness!) Reality principle “signifies ‘reason’ as reality itself” (7). The renunciation of the pleasure principle, “the pathos of labor,” is social legislation that “becomes the individual’s own legislation” (NB: what Bakhtin means by the transformation of chuzhoi into svoi), “the necessary unfreedom appears as an act of his autonomy and thus as freedom” (10). Domination is accordingly “the internal logic of the development of civilization” (11).
After some working through the Freudian categories, author draws out the “fatal dialectic of civilization”--that “Freud’s revolutionary insight” regarding the reality of repression and the almost equally real possibility of doing away with repression--is insoluble, that as “emancipation of Eros can be more and more clearly envisaged as social wealth increases, its repression becomes harsher and harsher,” and repression weakens Eros, “it also release destructive energy from its bonds and frees aggression” (18).
Marcuse’s way out of the insoluble problem is to note that Freud’s “Eternal struggle between Eros and the death instinct” is itself based on “an internal contradiction in Freudian theory,“ which has its own solution, a solution that psychology itself has repressed: that Eros is simultaneously original and timeless but also historical eruptive (19).
Lest this become tedious, suffice it to state that the argument develops from there into a discussion of Freud’s ideas on progress and authority, and thence to utopia and violence, with some interview components. Basic argument is that the transhistorical categories of Freudian analysis must be historicized and that we can delimit their horizons within the scope of dialectical critique. Echoes Adorno’s comment that everything in psychoanalysis is false except the exaggerations with “The truth of psychoanalysis lies in its loyalty to its most provocative hypotheses” (61).
Anyway, I don’t go in for Freud very much, and this author has otherwise worked up similar ideas in the Eros and Civilization.
Recommended for individuals bound into masses by libidinal relationships, those who herald a total break with the dominant needs of repressive society, and readers who would undertake a decisive correction of Freudian theory. ...more
I - decent restatement of historical materialism as a doctrine, just after the assimilation of Marx’s then-neCollection of essays on various subjects.
I - decent restatement of historical materialism as a doctrine, just after the assimilation of Marx’s then-newly published economic & philosophic papers. Marketing copy on the book purports that this reading is an important 20th century contribution, though it seems to me to be fairly standard now, looking back.
II - centerpiece of the text, a “study on authority,” beginning with Luther & Calvin, passing through Kant, Hegel, the counter-revolutionary theorists (Burke, Stahl, et al.), Marx himself, and ending with Sorel & Pareto, of all things, as the dialectic develops into totalitarianism. Reminiscent of a very similar outline presented in Neumann’s Behemoth none of the external touches the soul, either to make free or captive” (57). The importance here is that if the external of the world can attack the internal of the soul, then “the freedom or unfreedom of man is decided on earth itself,” and is accordingly “free from God” (63). Essay traces this topos through Calvin, Kant, et al. Quite a bit here, very useful, hard to overstate.
III - a critique of Sartre. Whereas Camus embraces absurdity and rejects explanations (which “falsify its reality” (160), Sartre seeks to “elaborate the structure of ‘being in an absurd world’” (id.). Regards Sartre as simply a “reinterpretation of Descartes’ Cogito” but according to a “restatement of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind and Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit“ (162). Works through Sartrean positions, finds them “closer to Stirner’s Einziger und sein Eigentum than to Descartes’ Cogito“ (175). Sartre adopts a “dialectical style” but his concepts are “decidedly undialectical” (176), and ultimately “tries to rescue his idea of freedom from Historical Materialism” (183). Sartre’s idea is that he “accepts the revolution as the only way to liberation of mankind, but he insists that the revolutionary solution presupposes man’s freedom to seize this solution, in other words, that man must be free ‘prior’ to his liberation” (id.).
IV - a critique of Popper. situates Popper’s critique of historicism in the debate regarding how “the application of wholesale violence is explained in terms of a specific philosophy of history” (193), with the object of associating fascism and communism in some sort of communion of evil historicism. Marcuse suggests that “there is no philosophy of history which may not lend itself to the systematic use of violence” (194). Notes that Popper’s position is based on a “fundamental distinction between legal and extra-legal mass extermination,” rooted in how “the indictment of mass extermination is not from the beginning restricted and made to conform with the standards and criteria of the society from whose position the indictment is leveled” (195). Distinguishes fascist from Stalinist terror insofar as the former deploys philosophy of history (in the form of ‘race destiny’) as “the most transparent rationalization,” an ideology) whereas the latter crushed the historicist discussion in the purges of party members (196). Ridicules Popper for his ‘analysis’ (is that some kind of disease of the anus, here?) of historicism, in which, according to Herr Popper, “I have not hesitated to construct arguments in its support which have never, to my knowledge, been brought forward by historicists themselves” (197), a total strawperson. Notes that “Hayek looms large in the supporting footnotes, and the critique of historicism is largely a justification of liberalism against totalitarianism” (204). So, yeah.
V - a fairly forgettable meditation on ‘freedom.’ I love these guys, and consider myself a reformed anarcho-marxist of the Frankfurt school, but godsbedamned they need to get off the ‘freedom’ stuff.
Recommended to those for whom possession has become peremptory, self-subordinates to general coercion, and readers with the tendency to revile the genetic view that the state originates from the material interests and needs of individuals as being destructive of authority....more
Cursory summation of classical Marxism and the revisions of the Second International, then detailed examinations of doctrine in Leninist, Stalinist, aCursory summation of classical Marxism and the revisions of the Second International, then detailed examinations of doctrine in Leninist, Stalinist, and Khrushchev periods.
Opens with “the formation of Soviet Marxist theory proceeds on the basis of Lenin’s interpretation of Marxism, without going back to original Marxian theory” (25). The characteristic feature of this revision is “the shift in the revolutionary agent from the class-conscious proletariat to the centralized party as the avant garde of the proletariat and the emphasis on the role of the peasantry as ally of the proletariat, developed under the impact of the sustained strength of capitalism at the ‘imperialist stage’” (id.). In the initial period of 1917, the Bolsheviks had an “almost desperate orientation toward Germany” (30). When the German left was destroyed and its revolution a failure, the Leninists were forced to re-evaluate doctrine to co-exist with the stronger capitalist world, which appeared to be stabilizing, as well as fostering “the developing revolutionary movement in the colonial and semi colonial countries as more than a mere ‘reserve’ for the revolutionary army” (id.).
The Leninist geopolitical dialectic apprehended two contradictions: intracapitalist and capitalist v. socialist; the former is what would grant the soviets some reprieve in the latter, which was made manifest in the cappy intervention into the civil war, an event that soured the soviets basically forever on western liberalism (irrespective of whether MacMillan is correct in Paris 1919 that the cappies just kind of blundered into intervention).
Basic principles of soviet Marxism that remained constant: total industrialization, progressive collectivization, general mechanization, gradual rise in standard of living, construction of work morale, preservation of the state, and transition to the meeting of individual needs after the first five principles are satisfied (63-64).
After reaching advanced industrialism, the “transition to communism” might begin, involving some nifty dialectical reasoning (64-65).
Marcuse describes SM’s “pragmatic directives for action”: SM “is built around a small number of constantly recurring and rigidly canonized statements to the effect that Soviet society is a socialist society without exploitation, a full democracy in which the constitutional rights of all citizens are guaranteed and enforced; or, on the other side, that present-day capitalism exists in a state of sharpening class struggle, depressed living standards, unemployment, and so forth. Thus formulated and taken by themselves, these statements are obviously false--according to Marxian and as well as non-Marxian criteria. But within the context in which they appear, their falsity does not invalidate them, for, to Soviet Marxism, their verification is not in the given facts, but in ‘tendencies,’ in a historical process in which the commanded political practice will bring about the desired facts” (71).
Will not belabor the transformations in the later periods any further, except to point out that the internal is typically in dialectical relation with the external, which, after WWII, means vis-à-vis the actions of the United States. Plenty of aesthetic and ethics commentary, as well as author’s well known interest in Freud. This review is pathetic; the book kicks ass.
Recommended for those with an almost desperate orientation toward Germany, persons with an interest in the ideology that becomes the last refuge for opposition, and readers who understand that Antigone is right against Creon as Creon is right against Antigone. ...more
A quiet little text, but probably one of the more significant foundational documents of the Frankfurt School, here by the most frankfurty of the bunchA quiet little text, but probably one of the more significant foundational documents of the Frankfurt School, here by the most frankfurty of the bunch. (Marcuse, Fromm, and Adorno are all more famous, but this guy captures the Frankfurt principle best, I think.)
Five essays. First is an argument regarding subjective and objective reason. The former is “the force that ultimately makes reasonable actions possible,” “the faculty of classification, inference, and deduction, no matter what the specific content” (3). (We might think of it as ‘formal rationality,’ maybe, were we lawyerly about it.) “It is essentially concerned with means and end, with the adequacy of procedures for purposes more or less taken for granted and supposedly self-explanatory.” (Id.). This form of reason does not concern itself with analysis of the content or ends, but rather assumes that the ends are for the benefit of actor of the means. Author regards this as “naïve or superficial,” of course (4).
Subjective reason had replaced an older objective concept of reason, wherein reason was “a force not only in the individual mind but also in the objective world” (id.), a “principle inherent in reality” (5). (We might consider this to be substantive rationality, perhaps.) Both concepts are ancient, but they are not merely opposed; “the predominance of the former over the latter was achieved in the course of a long process” (6). The task of this essay is to lay out that process, wherein reason is subjectivized and formalized. it becomes mere “coordination of means and ends” (5) rather than “an instrument for understanding the ends, for determining them” (10). Process starts with classical Athens, goes through Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment--good stuff, standard Frankfurt long view.
One way point in this development is “the neutralization of religion,” “reduced to the status of one cultural good among others,” which “contradicted its ‘total’ claim” to objectivity &c. (17). However, author intones, “the history of reason or enlightenment from its beginnings in Greece down to the present has led to a state of affairs in which even the word reason is suspected of connoting some mythological entity” (18). The enlightenment critique of religion was too thorough, and all systems of objective rationality were displaced in favor of liberalism’s ‘tolerance’ for all species. All that’s left is the subjective component: “Having given up autonomy, reason has become an instrument” (21). The empire of liberalism’s tolerant relativism transforms subjective reason (with its core of self-interest) into a “magic entity that is accepted rather than intellectually experienced” (23). And the greater the critique brought against it, “the more easily it lends itself to ideological manipulation and to propagation of even the most blatant lies”(24). (To readers of Dialectic of Enlightenment, the trajectory should be very familiar here.) “Subjective reason conforms to anything” (25), exemplified by chattel slavery in the US.
During subjective reason’s course, “the concept of the nation became a guiding principle,” tending “to displace religion as the ultimate supra-individual motive in human life” (19). Nation draws “its authority from reason rather than revelation” (id.). But: “the idea of the national community (Volsgemeinschaft), first set up as an idol [cf. Nietzsche], can eventually be maintained only by terror” (20). We see therefore that “the founding of modern democracy” was grounded in “speculative assumptions” such as “the same spiritual substance or moral consciousness is present in each human being” (26-27). “In other words, respect for the majority was based on a conviction that did not itself depend on the resolutions of the majority” (27). And if the foundations of objective reason erode? “Deprived of its rational foundation, the democratic principle becomes exclusively dependent upon the so-called interests of the people, and these are functions of blind or all too conscious economic forces” (28). Not a problem if we are all happy enlightenment liberals; but if industrialists “find it useful to set up a dictatorship and abolish majority rule, no objection founded on reason can be opposed to their action” (28-29).
With the rational foundations gone, the idea of the majority has “assumed a completely irrational aspect” (30). Any idea might “become the nucleus of a new mythology, and this is one of the reasons why the advance of enlightenment tends at certain points to revert to superstition and paranoia” (cf. Dialectic of Enlightenment) (30). In the end, “No wonder that whole nations--and Germany is not alone in this--seem to have awakened one morning only to discover that their most cherished ideals are merely bubbles” (34). As though it were not already plain: “The reduction of reason to mere instrument finally affects even its character as an instrument. The anti-philosophical spirit that is inseparable from the subjective concept of reason, and that in Europe culminated in the totalitarian persecution of intellectuals, whether or not they were its pioneers, is symptomatic of the abasement of reason” (54).
Anyway, that’s great stuff. Other essays are interesting, but not nearly as tidy; they include critiques of positivism, pragmatism, Thomism, scientism. Slick essay on ‘individualism’ as a doctrine, which essay is fairly useful, and ends with: “Fascism used terrorist methods in the effort to reduce conscious human beings to social atoms [cf. Neumann], because it feared that ever-increasing disillusionment [cf. Mannheim] as regards all ideologies might pave the way for men to realize their own and society’s deepest potentialities; and indeed in some cases social pressure and political terror have tempered the profoundly human resistance to irrationality--a resistance that is always the core of true individuality. The real individuals of our time are the martyrs [!] who have gone through infernos of suffering and degradation in their resistance to conquest and oppression […] The anonymous martyrs of the concentration camps are the symbols of the humanity that is striving to be born. The task of philosophy is to translate what they have done into language that will be heard, even though their finite voices have been silenced by tyranny” (101).
Recommended for those who would attack general concepts, including the concept of the general concept, readers who express resistance to the threatening relapse into mythology and madness, and consummate supermen, against whom no one has warned more anxiously than Nietzsche himself.
Corollary to Lemkin’s Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Like Lemkin, Neumann is European attorney in exile in the United States during WW2, writing aboutCorollary to Lemkin’s Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. Like Lemkin, Neumann is European attorney in exile in the United States during WW2, writing about German legal developments. Whereas Lemkin focused on the fascist periphery vis-à-vis occupation statutes, Neumann is intent on the imperial center of the Third Reich, which of necessity includes some items regarding periphery. It is overall very well accomplished. Lacks Lemkin’s rigor in presentation of actual statutes and decrees (Lemkin achieved this through a separate appendix to his argument, which renders the argument manifestly substantial), though features much legal commentary & constitutional analysis. Draws as much from journalist reports as from published legal texts.
Very much a text of the Frankfurt school. Broken into four parts (not counting lukewarm intro by scholar Peter Hayes, which attempts to throw the Marxist components of the text under the bus, and not counting Neumann‘s own introduction, which works up a tidy narrative of the ruin of the Weimar Republic): part one is ideological ingredients of the NSDAP; part two concerns “totalitarian monopolistic economy”; part three is a survey of the society that results; part four is an appendix that updates the other parts from 1942 to 1944.
A thick text, I’ll simply hit the highlights, as it’s packed full of specificities.
Polycracy is the rule, rather than the exception, in the era of interventionist monopoly capitalism, wherein polycracy is “the conjunct body of independent public agencies (social insurance institutions, control boards, publicly owned corporations, and so forth), subject to no parliamentary supervision” (44)--reminds one of the APA in the US, incidentally.
Notes that “the idea of the totalitarian state grew out of the demand that all power be concentrated in the hands of the president” (47). This was intentionally anti-liberal in the NSDAP lawyer’s arguments, because “an identity between the ruler and the ruled,” i.e., in democratic representation, “undermined the necessary authority of leadership” (48). The totalitarian state was not mere coercive absolutism, but rather “a form of life of the racial Volk” (id.). NSDAP lawyers flipped out over this stuff, but nevertheless totalitarian “glorification of the state was abandoned a short time later” (49). Contrary to post-war critics of totalitarianism (typically from the rightwing end of liberalism), Schmitt theorized Romanic v. Germanic totalitarian doctrine; the former “regimented all spheres of life,” whereas the latter “left economic activities unrestricted” (49). The enabling act of 24 March 1933 is the enthronement of this doctrine.
Though the reality is totalitarian, the ideology remained very much party-oriented: the NSDAP wanted “not the establishment of the state’s totality, but of the totality of the National Socialist movement” (63). The text has much discussion of parallel state and party organs, ultimately electing the view that the Third Reich is Hobbes’ eponymous behemoth, an anarchy, stateless, wherein the party, the army, the bureaucrats, and the cartels had overlapping and conflicting jurisdiction. One such parallel party organization is the SS (i.e., it is a private organization, though its head, Himmler, also has state appointments) (69).
Fuhrerprinzip is introduced with some discussion of Luther and Calvin (no shit), which is generally kickass (85-92). Long sections on race doctrine and the doctrine of greater German empire. We see in the latter the normal attack on liberalism from the right, i.e., a frontal assault on egalitarian doctrine.
Part II: disagrees that the Third Reich is state capitalism or bureaucratic collectivism (221-225). Text really shines in its presentation of the economic organizations, which is quickly bewildering, in its cartels (horizontal organization), trusts (vertical organizations), groups (am still not sure exactly what a group is), and combines (apparently mega-firms that span many industries, whereas cartels, trusts, and groups are local to the steel industry, or the coal industry, or the salt industry, or whatever). This type of organization is to be considered autonomous to industry, i.e., self- regulation--though of course there is plenty of public regulation, also, typically concerning procurement for the war.
Useful discussion of Germanic law of property & contract (255-261). Cartelization became compulsory by statute in July 1933 (265). So the inference to draw from this is: anti-liberalism (i.e., no competition of capitals under the aegis of antitrust law) but also anti-socialist (i.e., private property is maintained). Much like the economic statutes in Lemkin, the regulation on display here (very detailed minutiae!) involves the fixation of industry at its current state--an attempt to forestall the revolutionization of the means of production, to stay the invisible hand, and so on.
NSDAP “will not nationalize industry because National Socialism believes in a ‘spiritual’ and not a ‘materialistic’ nationalization of economy” (270). This means that Aryanization and Germanization of capital may involve expropriation, but not socialization, as properties taken from Jewish owners and enemies of the Reich were distributed to monopolists (or to the Party)--not the public or the state.
Despite the self-organization of capitalism in the Third Reich (a process that was proceeding pre-WWI, NB), there is also the command economy which handles: “1) direct economic activities of the state, 2) of the party, 3) the control of prices, 4) of investment and profits, 5) of foreign trade, and 6) of labor” (293). Neumann sets these areas of inquiry up as antitheses to his thesis regarding totalitarian monopoly capitalism, and then produces the synthesis, which involves tracking these command economy elements through four stages (initial power, the Schacht plan, the Four Year Plan, and the war planning). Much very specific analysis of capital accounts, joint stock holdings, and other indicators. As to state activity, it is small compared to the whole. Regarding party activity, it is presented as US gangsterism, wherein the criminal conspiracy attempts to become legitimate through investment of criminal proceeds into real industry (229 ff). Price controls is reeled in by noting that this by no means abolished the market, and acts as a means of destroying small firms to the benefit of the cartels (312 ff). Denies that profit control exists (316), noting that NSDAP likes “productive capital,” as opposed to “predatory” or “parasitical” capital. (“Whenever the outcry against the sovereignty of banking capital is injected into a popular movement, it is the surest sign that fascism is on its way” (322).) As for foreign trade, presents the nifty idea that NSDAP is not autarkic by doctrine, but merely as a preparation for war (329 ff). Great discussion of contract law historically regarding the control of labor (contract challenged as liberal, &c)--which makes for a return to corvee levies and chattel slavery (337 ff). In the end, “the profit motive holds the machinery together” (354).
Ends with the “contribution of the National Socialist party to the success of the war economy is nil. It has not furnished any man of outstanding merit, nor has it contributed any single ideology or organizational idea that was not fully developed under the Weimar Republic” (351).
Part III lays out NSDAP production of a ruling class, ruled classes, and the ultimate result. Contrary to the Lederer thesis that the Third Reich is classless (365), the goal is rather atomization: a social policy that “consists in the acceptance and strengthening of the prevailing class character of German society, in the attempted consolidation of its ruling class, in the atomization of the subordinate strata through the destruction of every autonomous group mediating between them and the state, in the creation of a system of autocratic bureaucracies interfering in all human relations” (366). The four competing groups (army, party, bureaucracy, industry) participate in this process. Clarifies: “Nothing could be more erroneous than to call National Socialism a feudal system, for the essence of feudalism, sociologically speaking, is the directness of human relations expressed without mediation by a market. Bureaucratization of the economy entails the complete depersonalization of all property relations. Even the traditional market economy leaves a large number of direct human relations in existence” (386). (This all brushes against the grain of Dimitrov and Dutt, incidentally--but that's to be expected, as this is Frankfurt marxism.)
NB: “By the Hereditary Estate Act, in force since 1 October 1933, the peasant (only if racially a pure Aryan, of course) was tied to the land” (394). (Perhaps a bit inconsistent with the commentary on feudalism, supra, though!). NB also: “the peasant elite is being created without de-feudalizing or even dividing the entailed Junker estates” (395). Nonetheless, many such estates, referenced as latifundia at times by author, were subject to some sort of sequestration, as described in detail by Lemkin for the occupied territories (396 ff).
Punchline of much of this is that the “various strata are not held together by a common loyalty. To whom could they give it, after all? Not to the state, for it has been abolished ideologically and even to a certain extent in reality” (397). (This thesis builds on the discussion of international law in the Third Reich, which argued against the Third Reich being a state proper (151 ff).) All four of the parallel ruling groups “is sovereign and authoritarian; each is equipped with legislative, administrative, and judicial power” (398).
Regarding the ruled classes, NSDAP objective is to “create a uniformly sado-masochistic character” (402)--cf. Adorno! Thorough presentation herein of the labor movement from Weimar to the Third Reich, all damned interesting. “Wage differentiation is the very essence of National Socialist wage policy” (433), i.e., performance bonuses and piece work compensation, rather than wages based on incremental time. Extremely strong section on the transformation of the legal system into a system of individualistic arbitrariness (440-58).
Concludes with a discussion of the hobbesian Behemoth. Denies that the Third Reich is a hobbesian Leviathan (459), but is rather “a non-state, a situation characterized by complete lawlessness” (id..) Denies that there is a coherent political ideology, but merely opportunistic pragmatism, cynical and nihilism (463).
Denies that the Third Reich is a state: “We are not concerned with the sophistry of this new theory of transubstantiation implied by the identification of the Leader and the people” (469). Rather, “advanced National Socialist constitutional theory, although attacked by Carl Shmitt, clearly admits that it is not a state which unifies political power but that there are three (in our view, four) co-existent political powers, the unification of which is not institutionalized but only personalized” (id.).
Part IIII: updates all sections extremely concretely through 1944 (521-634).
Very effective. Attempts a wittgensteinian, as opposed to a platonist, definition of fascism, drawing its operative principles from the laboratory ofVery effective. Attempts a wittgensteinian, as opposed to a platonist, definition of fascism, drawing its operative principles from the laboratory of history, rather than penciling out starry-eyed presuppositions ab initio.
Definition seeks to analyze five stages of a fascist organization: movement formation, obtaining legitimacy, obtaining state power, exercising same, and terminal radicalization. Analysis is well presented and sharp, looking at the available historical samples under these respective lenses. It is therefore not an anatomy in Northrop Frye’s meaning (though that’d be a cool misreading).
Suffers from two hiccoughs: a) wants very much to distinguish itself from determinist arguments: “Having assembled a catalogue of preconditions, intellectual roots, and longer-term structural preconditions, we might be tempted to believe we can foresee exactly where fascism is likely to appear, grow, and take power. But that would mean falling into a determinist trap. There remains the element of human choice” (86). The “human choice” refrain reiterates on several occasions (e.g., “it ignored human choice” (207)), and it is woefully untheorized at all instances, suggesting that there is some inexplicable, causeless will behind these events.
Second hiccough is rooted in one of the strengths of the argument: the definition has both formal and substantial components. The substantial components are the normal roll call of policy preferences that fascists have: contempt for liberalism, contempt for socialism, contempt for internationalism, pro-racism, pro-nationalism, pro-mysticism, and so on (he lists them out specifically (218-19)). The book really shines in laying out the formal components of the definition: fascism arises out of crisis, after liberalism has been installed and failed, but where such failure occurred after successful mobilization of mass politics, and where one facet of the crisis is the threat of bolshevism, and wherein fascists only achieve power with the assistance of non-fascist rightwing groups, and so on. It’s very slick. But it has the side effect of cutting a lot of movements out of the definition. Lengthy chapter on other rightwing movements effectively removes the Franco and Salazar regimes, for instance, from consideration, even though they are affirmed as nasty rightwingers (in the language of Hearts of Iron, they are paternal autocrat regimes, which seek to demobilize public opinion and rule through traditional channels of power, such as church, army, bureaucracy). Ultimately, the number of bona fide fascist movements that exercise state power is very limited in this conception. Overall it’s good, but there are some conceptual difficulties.
Much thoughtful commentary on the significance of parallel state and party apparatuses. Cool to know that there were Icelandic Greyshirts, Irish Blueshirts, French Greenshirts. Very much identifies fascism as a movement of the far right, and notes that despite its claims about being revolutionary, it does not upset property or state in the manner that the French Revolution thought of revolutions. My marginalia are full of “cf. teabaggers” notes, which indicates that, while the historical trivia are great, it has continuing relevance.
Very effective collection of Mannheim’s writings. Lengthy introduction by editor. Intro covers the Ideology and Utopia, but volume collects no part ofVery effective collection of Mannheim’s writings. Lengthy introduction by editor. Intro covers the Ideology and Utopia, but volume collects no part of it, recommending instead just reading the whole thing.
Mannheim might be generally familiar for what Cliff Geetrz identified as Mannheim’s Paradox--the problem that how one identifies something as “ideology” (in the marxist sense) is itself an ideological determination--or: how can one critique ideology when one’s critique is saturated therewith? It’s good stuff for marxist epistemology, though Mannheim is not really a marxist himself.
Individual essays that I found useful:
“The Problem of a Sociology of Knowledge” - starts of with a nice history of the idea of “constellation” as drawn from astrology and “incorporated in the new context of Weltanshauung“ (59). Sociology of knowledge as a problematic is found within the constellation of a) “self-transcendence and self-relativization” (62), b) the “unmasking turn of mind” (65), c) the “emergence of […] the social sphere, in respect to which thought could be conceived of as relative” (69), and d) “the aspiration to make this relativization total” (id.). Goes on to discuss the relation of this schema to positivism, neo-Kantianism, Hegel, Marx, phenomenology.
“The Ideological and the Sociological Interpretation of Intellectual Phenomena” - opens with a tidy note that “to experience an idea as ideology differs from negating or doubting it” (118). Develops a typology of interpretation, divided between intrinsic and extrinsic, rising from subjectively-intended, through objective interpretation to genetic, and so on. Perhaps a bit schematic, but it is a schema.
“Conservative Thought” - one of the keystones of the volume. Wants to place conservative thought in a typology of “styles of thought” (132) (cf. Foucault’s “figures of thought”). It is the assumption that “individuals do not create the patterns of thought in terms of which they conceive the world, but take it over from their groups” (133). Credits German conservatism to the scorecard of Burke, as the German rightwing adopted Britain’s reaction to the French Revolution (140). Kant is the philosopher of the French Revolution “not primarily because he was in full sympathy with its political aims, but because the form of his thought belief (as reflected for example in his concept of the ratio, in his belief in gradual progress, in his general optimism, and so on), is of the same brand as that which was a dynamic force behind the activities of the French revolutionaries” (142), as against the reactionaries, who are not rational Kantians. Shows its Weberian influence in “the characteristic quality of capitalist bourgeois consciousness is that it knows no bounds in the process of rationalization” (143). Notes that capitalist order drives irrationality to its periphery--that “the representatives of the new social order, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, which more and more immersed in the new modes of life and thought, and it is only at the periphery of the new society--among the nobility, the peasantry, and the petit bourgeois--that the old traditions are kept alive” (146). Romanticism is “the historical opponent of the intellectual tendencies of the Enlightenment,” “against the philosophical exponents of bourgeois capitalism,” developed from the Enlightenment as antithesis to thesis” (147). Romanticism was the “rescuing” of traditional ideas under the march of capitalism (147-48), representing the first criticism of capitalism, originating on the right, and eventually taken over by the left (148). This oddity is explained as part of the synthetic nature of proletarian thought (149 ff.). Thereafter, traditionalism (fear of the new) is distinguished from conservatism proper (153), which is defined more specifically in relation to specific policy preferences of the Enlightenment and French Revolution, which the essay elaborates for many pages. Suffice to say that romantic-conservatism reaches “back towards this feudal conservative concept of property” (162). A slick summation is made (175): German conservatism opposed the doctrines of the state of nature, the social contract, popular sovereignty, and inalienable rights, and refused the methodologies of rationalism, deductive reasoning, egalitarian universal validity of citizens, universal applicability of law, abstract collective persons, and static thinking. It really is incredibly good, and one might see spectres of fascism and teabaggers all over it.
“Competition as a Cultural Phenomenon” - all that is solid melts into air: “the process of atomistic competition among concrete groups, which resulted in an increasingly radical rejection of an externally given ordo (as recognized by the monopolistic type of thought), and in the aspiration to base thinking upon rational assumptions exclusively--this process in the end has led to the following results, which have only just become clearly visible to us, after being denied by many: once this genuinely modern stage is reached, there exists a) no universally accepted set of axioms, b) no universally recognized hierarchy of values, and c) nothing but radically different ontologies and epistemologies” (239). Discusses thereafter the polarization process in the competition of ideas, how, for example, “different types of ‘irrationalism’ merged and established a common front against ‘rationalism’” (id.). Revolutions of 1789, 1830, 1848 all are descended from polarization processes (241). Thoughtful analysis in these terms of how the German conservative party formed (my marginalia have a number of references to the teabaggers). Marxism, incidentally, has its own polarization process, as against Bakunin. Plenty of references to Sombart carries us plainly into fascism.
“The Democratization of Culture” - The second keystone. Useful commentary on the relation of dictatorship & democracy, preparatory to discussion of democratization of the arts. Basic principles of democracy are described as a) essential & ontological equality of human persons (not incidental & actual equality, which is the strawperson that the rightwing hangs on this doctrine) (276), b) the autonomy of the individual (277), and c) novel elite selection & management procedures (280). It’s all slick, and he works through it methodically in applying the schema to culture and the arts. Key concept in the analysis is distantiation, as “distance” and other spatial metaphors become the means by which elitism is produced and maintained (307). “Democratization means essentially a reduction of vertical distance, a de-distantiation” (310). Other points: “democratization entails a shift from the morphological to the analytical outlook” (314); “Democratization, in fact, means disillusionment” (316). And so on.
Written in part as an elegy upon Lenin's decease, and in part as insurance against author's own impending liquidation--for his magnum opus, History anWritten in part as an elegy upon Lenin's decease, and in part as insurance against author's own impending liquidation--for his magnum opus, History and Class Consciousness, had been "condemned by Soviet authorities in 1924 at the fifth World Congress of the Comintern" (Jay, Marxism & Totality, at 103)--this book is a funny little thing.
Jay avers that even Lukacs' enemies recognized the HCC as "the first book in which philosophical Marxism ceases to be a cosmological romance and thus a surrogate 'religion' for the lower classes" (loc. cit. at 102). According to Kolakowski, no friend of marxism, the HCC "criticized Engels' idea of the dialectic of nature" and "disputed the theory of 'reflection' which Lenin had declared to be the essence of Marxist epistemology" (Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism: The Breakdown, at 260). In jolly commie land, that means your ass.
It is unlikely that this slim volume can be properly understood without reference to the HCC; I'm not going to make that reading here--it's too hard. But one should rest assured that all of the generic hegelocommietalk herein actually signifies something.
In this context, Lukacs publishes this study of Lenin. It begins poorly with a bizarre declaration that "historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution" (9). Um, yeah? We can measure "the stature of a proletarian thinker" with reference to "the extent to which he is able accurately to detect beneath the appearances of bourgeois society those tendencies towards proletarian revolution which work themselves in and through it to their effective being and distinct consciousness" (id.). In what can only be considered a very limited or backhanded compliment, Lukacs submits that "by these criteria Lenin is the greatest thinker to have been produced by the revolutionary working-class movement since Marx" (id.). The remainder of the book works through standard marxist categories of analysis in evidencing this thesis.
The key concern is that the "actuality of the revolution" is the "core of Lenin's thought" (11). This means that theory is transformed into praxis by the dialectical revolutionist. So, against the Mensheviks and Bernstein/Kautsky types, Lenin did not accept that the backward Russian empire was unsuitable for socialism for lack of successful bourgeois revolution in economics or politics; rather, "the bourgeoisie had ceased to be a revolutionary class" having allied with the "old ruling powers," a "compromise which springs from mutual fear of a greater evil and not a class alliance based on common interests" (20). This sleight of mind allows the bolsheviks to seize the state, despite the prior dispositions of marxist theory to the contrary.
Lenin is presented as inferior to Hilferding in economics and to Luxemburg on the issue of imperialism--but Lenin trumps because of "his concrete articulation of the economic theory of imperialism with every political problem of the present epoch" (41). In the penultimate chapoter, Lenin is presented as a compromiser, practitioner of realpolitik, contrary to the posturing of Herr Pipes in his sophomoric histories.
1967 coda backs off the primary text in some ways, suggesting that Lenin's theory of imperialism is invalid after all (91). Some odd references to Shakespeare in the postscript, and a surreal fundamentalist bit about "human salvation" early in the primary essay (11).
Jay presents this volume as one in which "virtually all residues of his ultra-leftist sectarianism were purged from the argument" (loc. cit. at 120). Kolakowski, for his part, correctly summarizes this text as using "the notion of Totalitat to describe the core of Lenin's doctrine," but then goes way off the rails into disingenuous fantasy by suggesting Lukacs' position is that Lenin "discerned the revolutionary trend of the age independently of particular facts and events, or rather in the facts themselves, and united all current issues" (loc. cit. at 267).
Anyway, recommended for western marxists and rabid but bored anti-communists....more
Highly readable snapshot of 1840s neo-hegelian German philosophy, as carried out by sniping in the radical press.
Originally written in the 1930s whenHighly readable snapshot of 1840s neo-hegelian German philosophy, as carried out by sniping in the radical press.
Originally written in the 1930s when Hook was some kind of marxist, this edition from the period of High McCarthyism includes a "new introduction" that does not throw the book under the bus, but rather distinguishes it from the Soviet Empire, finding unlikely "the contention that socialism spells the abolition of human self-alienation" (7) and that we "may be more alienated in a highly planned socialized economy in which political democracy is absent" (8). He turns Marx against the Soviets, suggesting that "any economy in which free trade unions are lacking, the legal right to opposition non-existent, and the right to strike taboo is an economy of forced labor" (id.). Ultimately, he reasseses that "it is not the mode of economic production but the mode of political decision which is of decisve importance" (9), which is a break with marxist theory.
The principal text is great: a decent essay on Marx's debt to and critique of Hegel, and then a development of Marx's polemics with Strauss, Bauer, Stirner, Ruge, Hess, and Feuerbach, ending with a detailed reading of the theses on Feuerbach. This means that though the Manifesto is mentioned, the intellectual biography does not get there. This one concerns the maturation of historical materialist theory.
The opening essay addresses how Marx arises out of Hegel, who has "ostensibly the most conservative system of philosophy in western European tradition" (15). The analysis includes both what Marx preserves of Hegel and what gets thrown out. Hook cites to Peirce for the proposition that Hegel's dialectics "is the logic of natural continuity" (68), which is apt (and which makes sense of Foucault's later remark that his studies of discontinuity assume the truth of marxism but don't bother belaboring it). The text is otherwise content to disregard the schematic thesis-antithesis-synthesis heuristic.
Strauss is presented as an idealist (89) whose higher criticism of scripture showed that it "had no more justification than the superstitions of the Hottentots" (82), a positive development, but nevertheless "irretrievably bankrupted the Hegelian stock in the German market" (86).
Bauer is the "high-water mark of higher biblical criticism" (89) who "denied the historicity of Christ" (91), but was nonetheless destroyed by Marx as an idealist (116).
Ruge is described as "the central figure of the Young Hegelians" who presented "the political aspirations of the rising bourgeoisie in Germany" (126). Ruge started off the Hallische Jahrbucher as a Protestant rag, and then attacked the Prussian state for not being sufficiently pious (128). But it was all bullshit; his letters reveal that he was faking rightwing ideas in order to beat the censor (id.). It all came crumbling down when he dared attack romanticism. Ruge is therefore the 1840s Stephen Colbert. First as tragedy, second as farce, no?
Stirner is presented as a hyper-individualist, and I suspect that there is nothing in Ayn Rand that Stirner did not originate. Hess, on the other hand, is a "true socialist," which the Manifesto repudiates as feudal nostalgia. I have long suspected that "true socialist" theory is one part of fascism. The detailed discussion and critique of Feuerbach that concludes the volume is well done. Feuerbach is revealed by turns as very slick and very stupid.
Overall, very much a philosopher's contribution, concerned with traditional ontological and epistemological categories; politics and ethics are marginal. We should keep in mind that author eventually ended up in a subliterate rightwing thinktank during the Reagan years, becoming an unreconstructed cold warrior in his frail dotage--but this one's worthwhile.
Marxist historian brings this late cold war polemic against the linguistic turn in the writing of history, bringing his critique to bear specificallyMarxist historian brings this late cold war polemic against the linguistic turn in the writing of history, bringing his critique to bear specifically on post-structuralist developments.
Opening section gives a whirlwind tour of the linguistic turn itself, beginning with the nietzschean prototype, moving through Saussure, the Bakhtin circle, and the Prague circle before getting hot under the collar for Levi-Strauss, Barthes, Althusser, Foucault, Lacan, and Derrida, then ending with a critique of de Man's wartime conduct. It's all very fast, and readers unacquainted with the writers in question may have a hard time keeping up. It's accordingly not a beginner's volume, but it's flattering that the writer gives his interlocutors the intellectual credit of writing this kind of introduction. (Seriously, don't approach this one until reading at least Derrida for Dummies or Introducing Saussure or whatever.)
The argument proper breaks out into sections on marxism, politics, class, and gender, with a concluding statement thereafter. Each section takes on specific writers in the discipline of history, attempting to expose how they have been influenced by the linguistic turn, and how this affects both the writing of history in general and dismantles old left class-based politics, even though the writers under examination likely can't be designated as rightwingers.
One reviewer grouses that the author is an "unreformed marxist," which a) rudely suggests that marxism is something to be cured, and b) is manifestly erroneous in any event, as Palmer declares his sympathy for E.P. Thompson and Ray Williams on several occasions--marxists of a sort, sure, but no one will accuse them of being dogmatic adherents to the second international or dim-witted stalinists. (Nor, as the same reviewer suggested, is the author a disciple of Trotsky, though same is quoted several times.) As the author otherwise notes: "I am not, of course, suggesting an unthinking return to mechanical Marxism" (211).
Admits in the conclusion that the linguistic turn has some value--"historians do need to deal with and assimilate some of what discourse theory has been claiming" (216)--but history writing should not be simply an aesthetic endeavor that seeks to eschew class analysis in favor of ludic interrogation of events....more
Similar to Mao's treatise on guerrilla warfare, this one provides more pragmatic considerations than something like Sun Tzu (but, then again, there'sSimilar to Mao's treatise on guerrilla warfare, this one provides more pragmatic considerations than something like Sun Tzu (but, then again, there's nothing quite like Master Sun).
This text includes a somewhat sympathetic introductory essay by a guy who advances a lukewarm critique of Guevara's foco theory of warfare, which is discredited by the mere fact of Guevara's death while enacting same in Bolivia. Fair enough.
The text itself of the *Guerrilla Warfare* is likewise accompanied by two essays, not of doctrinal, but of historical value, "Guerrilla Warfare: A Method" and "Message to the Tricontinental."
The main essay extracts three basic propositions from the Cuban Revolution and seeks to generalize them: guerrillas can defeat regular militaries; the guerrillas can create marxism's objective revolutionary conditions; and rural areas are the principal theatre of armed operations, all enunciated on page one, and developed thereafter with some rigor.
The text carries out polemics, mostly sub rosa to the non-leftist, with various schools of leftwing thought, including both ultraleftists and proto-reformist liberal types.
Douchebags like to accuse Guevara of being a murderer. Maybe so--but not on the basis of this text, which intones: "Where a government has come into power through some form of popular vote, fraudulent or not, and maintains at least an appearance of constitutional legality, the guerrilla outbreak cannot be promoted, since the possibilities of peaceful struggle have not yet been exhausted." My own position is that fraudulent elections authorize a violent response by the electorate against the state (or the authors of the fraud, anyway, if distinct from the state), but I suppose Mr. Guevara is a pacifist in comparison to reckless losers like me.
There is little concern with Clauswitzian analysis here--no center of gravity; rather, the guerrilla objective is to completely destroy the state's military power. The end goal is always the assumption of political power on behalf of the working peoples (here, the rural proletariat and the peasants, who are the principal audience of Guevara's ideas).
For topical interest only, there's a nice set of distinctions regarding sabotage & terrorism; the former is unequivocally valuable when the target is correct ("ridiculous to carry out sabotage against a soft drink factory"--which, incidentally, some maoists actually did a few years back in Nepal--WTF? YOU DIDNT NOT REDES GAVARA!!!), whereas the latter is valueless in its indiscriminate forms, and possesses value only to the extent that "it is used to put to death some noted leader of the oppressing forces well known for his cruelty, his efficiency in repression, or some other quality." I one-up Mr. Guevara by noting that his sole example of approved "terrorism" is actually assassination, which is quite a bit diffierent.
There's a more conceptually, plus much detailed discussion of being part of a guerrilla group. I liked the "suburban warfare" section, and it's nice to see his cutesy diagrams of how to make a molotov cocktain gun.
Recommended highly for leftists, peasants, and college students suffering from ennui....more