Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Marxism, Postmodernism, When There's No More Revolution

"Reshaping life! People who can say that have never understood a thing about life—they have never felt its breath, its heartbeat—however much they have seen or done. They look on it as a lump of raw material that needs to be processed by them, to be ennobled by their touch. But life is never a material, a substance to be molded. If you want to know, life is the principle of self-renewal, it is constantly renewing and remaking and changing and transfiguring itself, it is infinitely beyond your or my obtuse theories about it."Boris Pasternak, Doctor Zhivago

At first in 1917, then in 1993. Two major events -- related to the "reshape life" agenda -- have changed the world's surface like two odd seismic waves, because there were destroyed after it, and there was formed.

The first was a revolution in the name of Marxism, which took place as the "ten days that shook the world", as described by John Reid about the October Revolution that began at St. Petersburg, Russia. The second was a change that was also rocking, although almost no burst of rifle: Russia (and to a certain extent was also China) canceling a lot of things on the Marxism agenda, something which actually began in 1989, when the Berlin Wall torn down by the crowd.

Two changes, two major shocks:  Marxism is the hope and important belief for about a century and a half, something so clear, unequivocal, riveting and transmit inspiration. But Marxism in its form which tested in a social transformation turns out quickly fragile. Over the past few years it has been widely discredited, and almost all over the world it's not heard any more about the Marxist plan to "change the world". What remains is "to explain the world", especially in journals and seminars thinking, when the left-wing political declines or change themselves in various directions.

So, what the hell we face and can be done? This question is important. Not my intention to talk about the "end of history" now, but it seems a clear trend, especially near us: after Marxism knocked out and defeated, what replaces (in Russia , Eastern Europe, in China) is a kind of pragmatic attitude, a working that does not prioritize the issue properly or not according to a doctrine or principle, good or not according to the teachings. Its legitimacy criteria is almost entirely associated with the outcome or performativity.

In its various variations, actually what is happening now is a sort of world embourgoisement : a process that reveals the characteristics of modernity which known in the history books when the European bourgeoisie took the role and changed the surface of the earth "in accordance with its image", to borrow the words of the Communist Manifesto. In other words, it becomes more and more involvement of rationality, in the sense of freedom from illusion and superstition, and the widespread desecration of social and natural environment, as well as the rise of the ethos of scientific objectivity.

But of course not everything is alluring, freeing : rationality that arises in the process such as what is mainly referred to by Weber as Zweckrational , "the instrumental action", kind of rationality that applies when we choose the most efficient way towards the appointed destination. Rationality in this sense is found in the economic and administrative efficiency improvements. Rationality can also cover a larger area : the enactment of a coherent and systematic order above the bustle and the manifold of beliefs, motives, circumstances, and experiences. With this rationality, the formal laws enacted, the rules imposed to anyone and at any time is also applied. Thus, modern bureaucracies are born, also the ideas and the ability to control and planning. Also: demolition over individual impulses, over the imagination and symbolic life that sometimes bubbling everywhere like shrubbery.

Pessimism, or skepticism, or defense to the rationalization process is not only belong to Weber, of course. In the West, a number of thinkers and poets repeatedly play the grief and disappointment when -- in the words of Walter Benjamin -- "talk about progress, to the world which is sinking to the rigidity of death".

In a simple, it can be said that "the instrumental action", as formulated by Habermas in the Theory of Communicative Action, associated with the "paradigm of consciousness philosophy", associated with the conception of  "undialogic subjectivity" which is the core in Western thought since Descartes: This world presented to the subject is a path to the desired destination by the subject. Reason, thus, growing in relations framework of means and ends, formed by the subject's urge to master an environment which in essence is beyond himsel/herself. Thought means also cornprendre or begriefen, to catch, to grasp, to master, to "tame".

The indication about it of course not only by Habermas and also not a new thing. In this century we have heard it from Heidegger and then -- since the last few decades -- from the thinkers who were classified into the "poststructuralist", and even from Marxist thinkers, especially from the two leading representatives of the Frankfurt School, Adorno and Horkheimer.

I must add the word "even" because while Marxism is a major criticisms of the current modernity since two centuries ago, it is generally not a sad voice, ala Weber, in observing the ongoing "modernism project" since the Enlightenment. Even although now many voices of Marxists, or " Marxisan "will blast embourgoisement world", Marx himself (when he was talking about in 1853 as a result of colonial rule in India) showed a tendency to see the penetration of capitalism, which was brought by European colonialists in the "Asiatic mode of production" had a progressive role, because changing the mode of production and introduce technology.

Why? In my opinion it will be more clear if we follow the endless contention, until now, among Marxist thinkers and various types of "postmodern thought". In other words, can we now talk about fixing or "reshape life" while still feeling "breath" and "heart" of life, while still realizing that life is "out of reach of my incompeten theory and your incompeten theory" as indicated by Yuri Zhivago in Pasternak's famous novel?


We know what happens to Marxism, a theory that by Zhivago regarded as "incompetent". What happens to Marxism is its failure to address the paradox of modernity as Weber stated, that the "rationalization" or the rise of rationality in life -- which in the Enlightenment seen as "progress" -- at the same time also gives birth to what Marx called the "reification" (Verdinglichung), one case of repressive alienation and alienate the human.

Marxism also is an expression of "the loss of world's charm", and there is an intention of tremendous human emancipation. This understanding has optimism in his head. For Marx, we know, a classless society will be born after the collapse of capitalism and  human freed from state when belonging, relationships and human action turns into belonging, relationships and actions of the things produced by humans who become independent of humans, even organizing human life. In other words, the liberation of reification. This description of reification is then developed by Lukacs in History and Class Consciousness. He considered it as a widespread alienation occured in a capitalist society and developed market economy.

The same thing also expressed by two Marxist thinkers of the Frankfurt School, Adorno and Horkheimer, although in writing Dialectic of Enlightenment Adorno and Horkheimer performed with different conclusions and arguments, fundamentally. They, while revising Marx, seeing that the logic of capitalism modernization was in itself not be heading toward collapse or Verelendung, but (as said by Weber) the emergence of a system of instrumental rationality and closed administrative.

Way out of it, as shown in Adorno's thought -- and in this case he tried to bring Marxist optimism -- is removing the liberating potential of human civilization which has been hidden by changing the society, which for Adorno means to smuggle the instrumental rational under rational aesthetic, and thus to make the aesthetic as a paradigm of the thought process.

The idea of  "true reason" --  which does not constrict human, which is a "confirmation" --  for Adorno is actually not just a fantasy.

But when Marx and Lukacs then see the victory of "instrumental action" as a consequence of various circumstances associated with the stage of history, Adorno and Horkheimer removing the concept of reification of specific historical contexts. Adorno and Horkheimer see the "instrumental action" problem as something that crosses the history. "They," in Habermas word, "plunge the mechanism that leads to the reification of consciousness into the anthropological basis of living things history", ie, to the fact that there is a need or necessity of living things to reproduce themselves through the nature. This grows a tendency which is not related to time and place, the tendency to dominate humans and nature, which finds its culmination when capitalism reaches its advanced stage.

It can be said, that the authors of Dialectic of Enlightenment, especially for Adorno, the way of thinking gives birth to the concept which is the root of a rationalization process that will inevitably end up with a fully rationalized system to power and the end of the autonomous subject.

But how Marxism can liberate humans from that? Adorno and Horkheimer offer a transformation of society, a revolution that gives birth to true reason and assertive in life. I myself do not understand how it will happen. We have heard enough about the failure of old Marxist utopia, and we also worthy to doubt the new Marxist utopia. Adorno and Horkheimer, Marcuse as well, with their Frankfurt School, appeared in the late 1920s, after the disappointment over communist revolution in Germany in the year 1920-21. The revolution failed, although Germany was an industrial society. So they tried to overcome the bottleneck of Marxism. But I remember what was said by Sartre in the Critique of dialectical About Reason, about the bottleneck.

Because Marxism wants to change the world , then there's a rift, separation between theory and practice. Marxism -- a philosophical interpretation of man and history-- inevitably must reflect an unwavering commitment to the plan. The result -- according to Sartre -- is the "idealistic violence over existing facts".

"Many years", Sartre said, "Marxist intellectuals believe that they serve the party by way of distorting the experience, regardless of the details that make awkward, with greatly simplify the data and above all by conceptualizing an event even before studying it."

In other words, Marxism is ultimately an affirmation for instrumental action, and in turn, tends to pour out everything using the mechanism, because in the name of revolution, which is absolute, it is inevitable.  Revolution does require self absolutization, sucks everything under and around it, but that's its weaknesses. As said by Marleau-Ponty about 40 years ago in Adventures of the Dialectic, the soleness on revolution is "Believes that it is absolute, and because of the belief then it becomes unabsolute".

Such inherent contradiction which then causes Marxism gives birth to a kind of reification process when it develops as an ideology and as an essential part of the power system. Vaclac Havel actually described the situation when he said that the mask of ideology "offered to human the illusion of identity and morality, while making them easier to break away from these things."

Especially when seen from the view of those who live in the "Third World". The root of all is ploretariat idealization. It started when Marxism put ploretariat in a universal position. For Marx, the proletariat is as he stated in A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1844), "A class that abolishes all class, a society which has a universal character because its sufferings are universal".

But it is not very easy to explore the universality argument over the proletariat. In Marx's later writings, after the German Ideology (written 1845-46) and the Communist Manifesto (1848), Marx's explanation is that proletarian revolution will not be the work of a minority. Because the workers do not have anything "other than the chains which bind them", then when they are in power they will not give birth to the new oppressed class.

But the ultimate and universal position of the proletariat becomes problematic since the end of last century. At the end of the 19th century, German socialist leader Eduard Bernstein no longer see the possibility of the working class to be the class which ended the history. He said, "Farmers do not sink, the middle class is not disappearing, the crisis is not evolving into larger." Bernstein will no longer see the real proletarian revolution. In the second half of the 20th century even Marxist thinkers including Frankfurt School began to put the expectations of social change was no longer by the proletariat, and when the student protest movement in France and Germany occurred in the late 1960s, the position of the universal proletariat was not even mentioned anymore.

In the other camp, Lenin displayed his argument that ultimately it was the transformation of "working class" notion, also when the prospect of "working class revolution" was not readily apparent to the eye. Lenin departed from the will to bring about a revolution in Russia, a society that had not had enough of the proletariat. In Lenin's argument, Russia needed a "two-stage revolution" and the argument was then guiding the principal theory of Communists in the "Third World". According to Lenin, as he put it in Two Tactics of Social Democracy (written in Geneva 1905), in a society such as Russia, what was better borne by the working class was not capitalism, but the "insufficient development of capitalism". Hence in Russia, what should take place first is stage of "Bourgeois Democratic" revolution, and then followed by the stage of   "Socialistic Proletariat" revolution.

In the first phase, what is to be destroyed is "all remnants of the old order that prevents the development of capitalism broad, free and fast". In those days the working class unite with the bourgeois class, but the "proletariat" should not "let the revolution's leadership in the hands of the bourgeoisie". In this case Lenin did not quite explain, how the working class, which was the minority, could assume themselves as entitled to lead the democratic revolution. In my opinion, here begins to appears what's happening with the notion of "the proletariat". It has experienced the "idealization".

Lenin's What Is To Be Done? (1901) have shown that the proletariat experience was eventually replaced by the proletarian class consciousness. The role of theory became central.

"Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement", Lenin said. And as a consequence, the theoreticians, intellectuals became decisive. "There will be no Social-Democratic consciousness among the workers. Awareness should be brought to them from outside", Lenin said, like Kautsky. At the same time, revolution organization "should consist principally and first of all by those who consider their revolutionary activities as a profession". In the end we know, "the proletariat" as a concrete reality has been replaced by a concept.

This "idealization" in turn evolved into "Idolization", or proletariat idolatry, one thing that causes even in Mao Zhedong analysis of Chinese society and the Chinese revolution -- a staple grip for general program of the Communist Party of China -- still calls the necessity of "proletarian leadership" in the second stage of the revolution.

So what was said by Lyotard is understandable, in a debate in London in 1985: " No one has ever seen the proletariat". In Lyotard's argument, the question of the proletariat is a question of knowing whether these words should be understood in terms of the Hegelian dialectic, while hoping to find something in the experience that fits with the concept, or the term "proletariat" is the name of Ideas of Reason, the name of a subject that should be released? "If what is meant by" the proletariat "is the last", Lyotard said, "We must let go of the pretension that we can bring something in the experience that fits the term."

Here it seems we are entering an epistemological problem that will ultimately related to the emancipation agenda, with the desire to "Reshape life", to use the words of Yuri Zhivago. One part of Lyotard's reaction to the latest book Christopher Norris, The Truth about Postmodernism (1993) states that our problems around post-structuralism is because it dismissed the important and relevant description. Post structuralism, in the Norris word, "Trying to block any reference to knowledge and real-world experience", whereas people talking with the notion of "class", for example, because based on "political ethics" and "cognitive", in an attempt to "record the various discriminatory measures."

The question then is, how do we look at and talk about other people. On the one hand, it is not easy for us to free ourselves from rationality which generating the concept, we even need it. On the other hand, we have witnessed an "idealization" of a concept, and as generally idolatry, what happens is alienation. We have witnessed the concept identification over the object which led to "bitter sacrifice over qualitative diversity of experience".
***
[CZ-lacalifusa050714]
Some romantic quotations I like of Pasternak's book

■ "All customs and traditions, all our way of life, everything to do with home and order, has crumbled into dust in the general upheaval and reorganization of society. The whole human way of life has been destroyed and ruined." — p:421 (Lara)

■ "The war is to blame for everything, for all the misfortunes that followed and that hound our generation to this day." — p:422 (Lara).

■ "It was a clear, frosty autumn night. Thin sheets of ice crumbled under his steps. The sky, shining with stars, threw a pale blue flicker like the flame of burning alcohol over the black earth with its clumps of frozen mud." — p:113.

■ "In the foreshortened view from the bunk it looked as if the train were actually gliding on the water. Only here and there was its smoothness broken by streaks of a metallic blue, but over all the rest of its surface the hot morning sun was chasing glassy patches of light as smooth and oily as melted butter that a cook brushes with a feather on a pie crust." — p:246.

■ "Although victory had not brought the relief and freedom that were expected at the end of the war, nevertheless the portents of freedom filled the air throughout the postwar period, and they alone defined its historical significance." — p:544.

video


With a gentle strains of this music, I want to tell you, dahling, "In the end, war and revolution always produce suffering, but, nonetheless, both are needed in order to build something better in the future: freedom."

And please, do not kiss me with your erotic style when we're dancing a waltz with this song, because it makes me want to laugh out loud when I see your facial expressions. You do not inherit the Russian masculinity at all, you know? ehheheh ... and I want to step on your feet, ugly! ahahha ...


Always love yah, mwah!



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CZ

"Thank you for your perception! I like your romantic side, even if I do not always comment and I'm glad that you're in my circle of friends."
(Courtesies by: Wolfgang A. Gerhardt)

Wolfgang A.Gerhardt : May be you like this Sunday collage

Cisca Zarmansyah : Before today, there never was a person doing this to me. You create a simple matter to look special. This is a special thing for me.

Cisca Zarmansyah : Thank you. I love it. I love you, my friend.

CieL- FreYa Ceastle : Hmm, he's so nice...















"I am me.
In all the world,
there is no one else exactly like me.
Everything that comes out of me
is authentically mine,
because I alone chose it --
I own everything about me:
my body,
my feelings,
my mouth,
my voice,
all my actions,
whether they be to others or myself.
I own my fantasies,
my dreams,
my hopes,
my fears.
I own my triumphs and successes,
all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me,
I can become intimately acquainted with me.
By so doing,
I can love me
and be friendly with all my parts.
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me,
and other aspects that I do not know
-- but as long as I am friendly
and loving to myself,
I can courageously and hopefully
look for solutions
to the puzzles and ways
to find out more about me.
However I look and sound,
whatever I say and do,
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time
is authentically me.
If later some parts of how I looked,
sounded,
thought,
and felt
turn out to be unfitting,
I can discard that which is unfitting,
keep the rest,
and invent something new
for that which I discarded.
I can see,
hear,
feel,
think,
say, and do.
I have the tools to survive,
to be close to others,
to be productive,
and to make sense
and order out of the world of people
and things outside of me.
I own me,
and therefore,
I can engineer me.
I am me,
and I am okay."

VIRGINIA SATIR
(American Phychologist and Educator, 1916-1988)