[OPE-L:8351] Re: Michael Eldred's law of inertia of quotidian social life

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Thu Jan 16 2003 - 16:52:17 EST

Cologne 16-Jan-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8349]

gerald_a_levy schrieb Thu, 16 Jan 2003 08:32:41 -0500:

> Re Michael E's [8345]:
> I will pass over your comments on welfare and unions -- which I found
> surprisingly conservative.

With all due respect, I really have to laugh, living as I do in an almost
totally ossified society in which the trade unions are the most conservative
political forces of all -- which are interested _only_ in the preservation of
the status quo -- not because the German working class profits from it, but
primarily because the trade union functionaries and the workers in certain
industries do.

Apart from that I regard Marxism as metaphysically very impoverished.

> Re "the law of inertia of quotidian social life" which you claim discovery
> of "until proven otherwise":
> > With such a law of inertia of human living I am aiming at an _ontological_
> > level, i.e. at the habitual nature of human existence. Aristotle long ago
> > made  the connection between _ethos_ (habit) and _aethos_ (ethic),
> > which is a hint at  the conservative nature of how we regard 'proper'
> > living.  The inertia of  habit  weighs like lead on all social practices,
> > above all on  the social practice of  thinking. We enjoy and are in love
> > with our habits  and resist changing them,  especially our habits in
> > thinking.
> I agree that different societies have hitherto had different customs,
> practices and taboos which have helped to perpetuate the existing
> understandings. So, yes,  we have habits which are hard to break free
> from -- even if we want to.  But,  I reject the comparison to equilibrium
> in the natural sciences that you seemed to be making in [8324] where
> you suggested that an "external"  social force was required to disturb
> the inertia and lead to a dynamic,  changing situation.  No "external
> force" is required for the prevailing "inertia" to change -- we do not
> live in a vacuum and the concept of equilibrium as understood in physics
> can not be transplanted to the study of social subjects without doing an
> injustice to the comprehension of the latter subjects.

I agree that the notion of equilibrium in physics cannot be transferred to the
social dimension. Rather, my conjecture is that this notion of equilibrium in
physics derives in a subterranean way from the experience of habituality in
social life itself.

By an "external force" I mean only a force (_dynamis_) external to the lived
customs and habits, this force being ultimately the ability (_dynamis_) of
individual human beings to question what is accepted as the status quo.

The habituality of social life has to be thought through in its own right.

> Change can and
> _does_ happen within all social formations during all historical periods
> -- even if the rate of change is very incremental and perhaps
> unobservable to the naked eye (like grass growing in a lawn from
> minute-to-minute).
> > The time span for fundamental
> > changes in thinking must be measured in centuries and millennia.
> Or years. Or weeks. Or days. Or minutes.
> Consider the impact of the womens' movement on popular thought.
> Within just a few years in the early 1970's some very long-held beliefs
> were eroded, subverted, and replaced in a number of social formations.

The impact of the women's movement in Western societies in the seventies was
indeed a sudden and welcome change. But this change had its preparatory
antecedents in philosophical thinking of previous centuries and millennia. The
"woman question" surfaced in the nineteenth century and was prepared, in turn,
by the Cartesian casting of human being in the seventeenth century as an
(individual) subject, which in turn cast off the medieval casting of human being
as a creation of the Christian God.

The questioning of being-as-woman is an achievement of philosophy, which goes
back to Plato, whose thoughts on the equality of women are clearly enunciated in
his Politeia (Republic). Only through questioning is social change possible at
all, even though such questioning may remain submerged and without effect for

For there to be individual freedom in a society, there has to be individuals.
The being of an individual socially is tied essentially to relations of free
exchange (intercourse in the broadest sense, including the exchange of views and
also the abstract relations of commodity exchange). Marxism is antithetical to
such individualism insofar as, on the basis of the LTV, it pronounces all
exchange of labour for wages to be _essentially_ unjust, the injustice
purportedly residing in the fact that the worker creates surplus-value for the
other party (the capitalist), who appropriates the surplus without giving
anything in return. This is one aspect of what I mean by Marxism being
metaphysically impoverished. In ascribing value-creation to labour, which turns
out to be wage labour, it makes all else worthless, literally non-productive.
Value-creation is pronounced to be a function of labour-time expended, from
which a claim to a portion of the product is derived. This is the kind of
thinking worthy only of planning bureaucrats.

Perversely, and motivated unconsciously by resentment and envy, Marxism declares
individual differences in material wealth in themselves to be socially unjust.
Genuine justice, which "avoids" all the "Missstaende" (unacceptable states of
affairs) accepted as just in bourgeois conceptions of justice, is proclaimed to
be "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."
(Kritik des Gothaer Programms MEW19:21) Here is where Marx's impoverished
metaphysics of human being becomes visible, since, in truth, needs only arise
from the usages of how each of us lives, not conversely. Marx himself points to
this: "One worker is married, the other is not; one worker has more children
than the other, etc. etc." (MEW19:21) In this "etc. etc." is hidden the entire
gamut of possibilities of individual ways of living.

Since these usages, i.e. these customary ways of living _from_ which needs
arise, are to serve as the measure for a just claim on the social product, a
communist society would also have to prescribe _how individuals live_. Otherwise
"need" would be a function of 'bourgeois' individual caprice and arbitrariness.
Whether I could become a philosopher or an artist would have to be decided by
some committee somewhere, not by my individual resolve to cast my life in a
particular direction and scrape toegether the material means for doing so by all
sorts of circuitous routes. The committee (which hasn't a clue about philosophy
or art) may decide that philosophy is socially superfluous/dangerous and that I
should establish a family instead because of the demographic "needs" of society.
I would then have to bribe some committee member or other, etc.

In a socialist society, individual freedom is necessarily illegitimate. It
suffers repression and has to go underground (which is precisely what happened
in the historical experiments in socialism). Conformism and 'average
understanding' reign in socialist societies, much more so than in capitalist
societies, because they have political power which they wield tyrannically. I
don't know about you, but I would surely end up in a labour camp for
're-educating' my mind.

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
http://www.webcom.com/artefact/ _-_-_-_-artefact@webcom.com _-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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