Marxist Theological Stability Theory

Marxism implies a revolution, but does not give a credible reason for why there would be one.

The Marxist view of history appears to be

The Revolution will be televised… someday…. maybe

But why? What is the miracle? Especially considering Marx’s apparently constructivist nature, it seems likely that capitalism could be “stuck” in a permanent burgeious state. Indeed. It is easy to see how one can take Marxism to imply that this must happen, and that Religious Capitalism is the highest form of any existence.

Marx believed all politics to be derived from economics, but he was not an economic-determinist. Marx believed that ideas matter, and that one could change behavior with ideas. This is how he could say that religion is the opiate of the people — the people’s behavior is changed by the “drug” of religion.

A rational capitalist class would use this to their advantage. Accepting the Marxist notion that change is dialectic, the elite would steer this dynamic away from material redistribution (where they could be harmed) to ideology (so it would work to reinforce a capitalist system). So at a certain stage the capitalsits would establish a nonmaterial cultural hegemony that would divert change away from them while simultaneously reducing alienation.

In one word: religion

Future dialectical change would be ideological, with capitalism constantly producing enough wealth to buy off its enemies. That Marxism predicts the boom-bust cycle hardly matters: Shumpater‘s creative destruction predicts similar things, and capitalism is hardly the weaker for it. One could say that this Marxist-Gramscian Religious Hegemony is a horizontal diversion from the vertical march of history.

Changing Infrastructure, Changing Superstructure

Indeed, it might even be likely. A transition from capitalism to final communism is odd, because in Marxist thought it would be the first time in history a more productive economic regime is replaced by a less productive one. One could view this Marxist Theological Pacifism as a progression of both productivity and time, with no revolution ever.

A Marxist-Capitalist Theocratic Regime?

The problem is compounded by assuming that the capitalist population will be affected by evolution: capitalists who run their zones of controls in a manner that provokes revolution will be “weeded out,” leaving only those who are better at hegemonic manipulation.

However, all is not lost for the Marxist Revolution. If religion is the opiate of the masses — is faith also the opiate of the rich? Marx’s constructivism might allow “irrational” acts by classes, because all of their goals are constructed. Certainly it’s possible in Marxist thought for the rich to be so deluded they ignore material concerns at the same time that the poor are seized by them.

A problem with Marxism in general is its ignorance of linear algebra. The whole concept of dialectical struggle seems ignorant of multivariate optimization theory.

Marxism may be no more retro than Christianity… but such is a post for another time….

2 thoughts on “Marxist Theological Stability Theory”

  1. Yea, graphs are a lot easier to understand than the notes 😉

    To make sure I understand you properly, would you say that the New Deal programs in the US's depression was a move from one 'Capitalism pseudeo-ideology' box to another one?

  2. Adam,

    Thank you for the kind words on the charts. Today was definitely my weakest effort, so I apologize for the lack of quality.

    I used the term “pseudo-ideology” because this post is an abridged form of an in-class discussion today… basically, I was wondering if (in Marxist thought) one could divert dialectic progress into “false dialectics,” so history would still proceed but in non-material ways. Hence the term pseudo-ideology, contrasting with the “real” ideologies of early communism, feudalism, etc.

    So the New Deal and Social Democracy aren't pseudo-ideologies, because they represent natural, material progressions of capitalism. They effected real things on the ground. In Marxist thought, they were attempts to “buy off” the workers by transfering wealth to them. This fits well with Orthodox Marxism, because it plays into the diminishing returns of the capitalist class and leads to the Crisis — the “miracle” that sparks the Revolution.

    The pseudo-ideologies represent something far trickier. They are attempts to change the people's valuation of symbols, so the people struggle, are bribed, etc, with non-material things.

    An example of this is the European system of Orders, like the Order of the Golden Fleece, etc. Before this Kings would reward followers by giving them land — something materially valuable. But the system tuned up, and the rulers realized that symbols could motivate men just as well (and much cheaper!).

    An example of Capitalism progressing under Marxist Theological Stability — Pseudo-Ideologies — would be cultural issues. Since the 50s the ruling class has gone from liberal-secular (Earl Warren, etc), which provoked a conservative-religious backlash (George Wallace, etc), and has seemingly synthesized into some weird religious-deregulated (Carter/Reagan/Clinton/Bush) fusion. So history still “moves forward” in a narrative of struggle — but just in a way which preserves the capitalist system without fundemental economic changes.

    (Indeed, that American economic growth has sped up under the synthesized leadership might imply that this is truly dialectical historical progress, because it is increasing economic efficiency, but in a way which keeps conflict safely away from class.)

    A final thought is that if you plot Final Communism on the (time,efficiency) chart, you see that it represents the first progress “backwards” on the efficiency axis… But that is a post for another time…

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