Wednesday, November 10, 2010

day 11 : marks marx left on me

Do we like the punny titles? I do.

It is once again a late night post, and a time when I should be strongly considering my priorities. Lot yet to do and an early start tomorrow, I should be in bed. But here I am. Reflecting, at least, on something I'll have to address in a paper for my Self, Culture, and Society class. It's somewhat productive, right?

So we started the quarter with a work by E.P. Thompson on the development of time, not only in the concrete but also in the abstract. In the concrete, he gave a rundown of the history of clocks and clock-making, the invention of the wristwatch, and its implications of the possession of such objects. Abstractly, he sketched conceptions of labor time and leisure time and the role that time played in instilling a sense of work-discipline - of "time is money."

We blasted through Smith and Rousseau - traveled through the period of early manufacture and the breath (yes, breath) of time that separated it from the spark of Modern Industry. I personally experienced Smith as a primitive analysis of our life and times and saw man and society, tragically, from the eyes of Rousseau. Man is interdependent. Man wants. Man cannot conceive of himself without the Other. All fanciful pictures, painted with the intellectual's brush, looking backward, making guesses, imagining a space to justify human nature and the human condition.

And then Marx.

The Communist Manifesto, the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Grundrisse, and Capital. Intense analysis focused on historical fact and based practically on man as embodied in his activity and his consciousness of such. In a cogent treatise, in a philosophical discourse, in streams of consciousness, in an omnibus of empirical definitions - all capturing a passionate and unorthodox viewpoint couched in the inchoate grammar of a righteously indignant man.

Capitalism is the perpetuation of want. When the end goal is wealth and the intermediary desire is to minimize necessary labor time - when wealth wants value and more and more surplus value - how can the end be achieved? Marx says capitalism creates the conditions of possibility for its own destruction, but decades have passed since the time of his prediction. Capitalism as we know it is still thriving.

But things have changed. The world doesn't look so bleak as it did when Marx lived, at least not in this country. In places that aren't here, things probably look worse. The labor serves the wants of those thousands of miles away, and the conditions of possibility are worth nothing when those kind of obstacles must be overcome. When will the whole world hop on the capitalist bandwagon, and when will the market finally be saturated to the point where the communist revolution might occur?

What bothers me is that I don't think the communist revolution is ever going to come, and even if it did, it seems an impractical thing. Why should we only produce what we need? What would be the "capacity for experience of the men who have this undirected time to live"? The idea to me is inconceivable - a dream of a passionate man driven by the suffering around him. Communism simply cannot be achieved in this capitalist world. We move forward more and more quickly, and the gap between the richest and the poorest is one that becomes more monstrous every day. There's no way everyone can be accommodated to his need and more. No flippin' way. We're already at carrying capacity - probably beyond, even.

As beautiful as it sounds, there's just no place for communism in this world, and despite what Marx seems to think, there never will be.

1 comment:

yifan said...

Communism is one of those things that would be awesome if it can actually happen, but sadly it can't.