Tuesday, January 13, 2009

But 'Socialism' was not a Marxist Invention!

I would like to thank those who have spurred these musings on socialism and capitalism into a series of sorts. I only hope I can stay engaged. The title of this post is a rip-off from a chapter in Michel Foucault's Remarks on Marx, "But Structuralism was not a French Invention." Also, the point I would like to make here is indebted to certain questions posed by readers and I hope there are many more to come (questions, that is). Answers seems so entirely far fetched at this point of bloggery. Now, on to the my point(s).

Historically, socialism is a (if not the) reaction against capitalism. And, we are usually led to believe, it is the thing that began in the frustrations of Marx and Engels, that climaxed in their seminal writings. This caricature of socialism portrays it as something 'invented' by the Marxist reaction against capitalism. As I wrote previously, I think this interpretation leads to a smelly, too-strong kind of socialism that is too easily ignored or attacked (and for good reason, I think).

However, recognizing that the weak, intuitive sense of 'socialism' was not a Marxist invention, then, we begin to understand what I have argued is the earliest -- and most serious -- meaning of 'socialism'. What I mean by this is that a weak sense of socialism is not intuitive only because it makes sense historically, empirically, or what have you, pure and simple. Socialism, in the weak sense I outlined earlier, is a another word for the human struggle for justice, freedom, and love. It only becomes something situated in particular situations that, to us here and now, are political and economic after the fact. After the weak sense has been raped of its meaning and turned into an ideology. That is to say, that the economics, politics, or what have you, of this weak socialism is not the usual, modern polemic. At the same time, it is addressing a distinctly modern problem.

I choose the word 'addressing' instead of 'fixing' for good reason, I think. The hubris of strong socialism is that it is teleologically identical to modern capitalism. It offers an alternative all-to-similar to the completeness of its predecessor. Socialism as a weak, intuitive thing only says what it can say. In other words, it addresses capitalism as a something different, but not newer than the vices it displays in history. So, we find that socialism, in the weak sense, is something that precedes and exceeds its supposedly Marxist invention.

Now, I should be held accountable to reducing socialism to nothing (in the critical view of some unforseen objectors). I think that will be my next task.

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