Intellectual Origins Of America-Bashing Part 2 Marx's political realism
Introduction see Intellectual Origins Of America-Bashing
From Part 1: The Intellectual Origins Of America-Bashing The importance of these questions should be obvious to anyone familiar with the thought of Marx. Marx's uniqueness as a thinker of the left is his absolute commitment to the principles of political realism.
This is the view that any political energy that is put into what is clearly a hopeless cause is a waste. Utopianism is not only impractical; it is an obstacle to obtaining socialism's true objective, since it diverts badly needed resources away from the pursuit of viable goals, wasting them instead on the pursuit of political fantasies.
The concept of fantasy as a political category assumed its central place in Marxist thought in The Communist Manifesto, where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels used it as the distinguishing mark of their own brand of socialism: It was this that condemned all previous forms of socialism to the realm of vague dreams and good intentions, and which gave Marxism the claim to be a "scientific" form of socialism.
Marx's use of the term "scientific" in this text has often been criticized. But, in his defense, it should be remembered that the German Wissenschaft describes a far wider category than the English "science." It means what we know as opposed to what we merely opine, or feel, or imagine; the objective as opposed to the subjective; realistic thinking as opposed to impractical daydreaming. And it is in this last sense that Marx and Engels use it: For the opposite of the scientific is none other than the utopian.
This is the basis of Marx's condemnation of all forms of utopian socialism, the essence of which is the enormous gap between the "fantastic pictures of future society" the utopian socialist dreams of achieving, on one hand, and any realistic assessment of the objective conditions of the actual social order on the other.
This concept of fantasy as "fantastic pictures" inside the head of impractical daydreamers is a classic theme of German Romantic literature and is perhaps most closely identified with the characters of E.T.A. Hoffman's stories, such as Kapellmeister Kreisler. The fantasist, in this literature, is a character type: He lives in his own dream world and can manage only the most tenuous relationship to the real world around him. But, unlike the character type of the absent-minded professor, the Romantic fantasist is not content to putter around in his own world.
Instead, he is forever insisting that his world is the real one, and in the process of doing this, he reduces the real world around him, and the people in it, to an elaborate stage setting for the enactment of his own private fantasies. Go to Part 3: Immiserization.
- Introduction: The Intellectual Origins Of America-Bashing
- The Intellectual Origins Of America-Bashing
- Part 2: Marx's political realism
- Part 3: Immiserization
- Part 4: Immiserization goes global
- Part 5: America as "root cause"
- Part 6: 9-11 calling
- Part 7: The temptation of fantasy ideology
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