Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A COMMENT ON A COMMENT

Magpie [these webnames!] offered the following comment to my brief post about hitting the 500,000 mark in visits to this blog:

"To give you something exciting to read:

BBC's Paul Mason on Prof. Manuel Castells From networked protest to 'non-capitalism'
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-19932562 "

I followed the link and found a conversation about groups of people around the world who are not waiting for "the Revolution" but instead are opting out of capitalism, working in cooperatives, offering one another interest free loans, and so forth.  I always have mixed feelings about stories like this.  On the one hand, I am cheered by the evidence that sensible progressive people are taking matters into their own hands and are trying to build communities that are guided by something other than the dictates of The Market.  On the other hand, I know that such experiments, some of them quite elaborate, have been a constant accompaniment of the implacable advance of capitalism, in the nineteenth as well as the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and have not measurably softened the blows of capitalism nor altered its direction of evolution.  Marx spoke contemptuously of the theorists of such experiments as "Utopian Socialists," to which he contrasted his own "scientific socialism."  If I may invoke a botanical image, these small communities are like exotic flowers growing in the shade and underbrush of forests dominated by huge trees.  They are pleasant to look at, and do indeed sustain little communities of butterflies, but they are virtually invisible from the sky and make very little impact on the forests.  [This is just a feeble attempt at a metaphor -- don't go all E. O. Wilson on me and tell me about the central important of ants to the ecology of the forest!]

There have been two effective counterweapons to the depredations of capitalism in America -- labor unions and Federal legislation to enforce progressive tax rates, regulatory controls, and the like -- and not surprisingly, they have been the prime targets of right-wing reactionaries.  Neither union organizing nor legislation has stopped the evolution of international capitalism, nor can they, I believe, but both have made life for those living in capitalist America better, more humane, more adequately protected.  I have tried to write about this systematically in my essay, "The Future of Socialism," and as readers of that essay will testify, I am not optimistic.

4 comments:

Don Schneier said...

"Scientific socialism' can do with a 'socialist theory of science'. Aside from a relatively obscure work by Engels, on 'natural' science, I'm not sure if I've ever seen such a thing.

Magpie said...

I think you are right.

It's just that I hear so many bad news, all the time, one after the other, that anything that sounds moderately positive makes for a big contrast.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Absolutely. At least they are not making things worse, unlike too many people in the world!

By the way, along these lines, I strongly recommend an early book by David Schweickart called CAPITALISM OR WORKER CONTROL.

Marinus Ferreira said...

Kropotkin, a favourite of mine, wrote a pamphlet which may be relevant to this discussion, about the value and prospects of projects where people 'drop out' of society and try to live outside of the capitalist system. He was discussing utopian communities, but the point is more general, I believe.
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/kropotkin-peter/1895/settlement.htm

Kropotkin thought such projects had the cards so heavily stacked against them (working not only to create a different form of societal organisation, but having to build the trappings of society from the ground up, and in relative isolation from everyone else) that they were almost always doomed to fail. And even if they did succeed, they would leave such strange communities, cut off from the wider world in a very real way, that their relevance to the real world would be limited. His suggestion is that if you were to 'drop out' of the mainstream, the best place would be in the middle of a major city (he names London), and to be a part of wider society, having what influence you can.