[OPE-L:8428] Re: Re: Socialism for Idiots

From: Paul Adler (padler@usc.edu)
Date: Tue Feb 04 2003 - 10:48:46 EST

Draper argues that the reference is to the Greek, denoting isolated, asocial.
In The Poverty of Philosophy, Marx attacks Proudhon for celebrating 
"craft idiocy".
I assume Marx meant the pun  -- it works in German too.

Gerald's celebration of idiocy is tempting...but not very satisfying. 
I think it's a much more compelling reading to take these attacks to 
be the flip side of Marx's celebration of capitalism's civilizing 
mission to draw people out of local and other forms of isolation into 
a broader fabric of real relations of interdependence, thus making 
real and immediate humanity's true nature ("species being").

At first, under market conditions, this interconnection happens thru 
market relations, with correspondingly mixed results, such as we see 
today in the globalization process  -- "history advances through its 
bad side".


At 9:11 AM -0500 2/4/03, gerald_a_levy wrote:
>Re Chris's [8425]:
>>  The change was relatively recent. Marx (in the CM?) refers to rural
>>  idiocy.  There was a discussion once about this (Draper? Carver?)
>>  when it was argued
>>  Marx had in mind not stupidity but the separation of those in rural
>>  isolation from what was going on in the world. I assume the city dwellers
>>  introduced the prejudicial use.
>Thanks for the reply.
>Comments in reverse order of importance --
>1) Whether Marx (and Engels and contemporary socialists) used
>'idiot' in the classical sense rather than the 'modern' pejorative sense
>is not clear to me.  A search at www.marxists.org under "idiot" of
>the works of M&E is not conclusive but does seem to suggest that
>'idiot' was used -- at least in part -- as a pejorative.
>2) It is still unclear to me when, where, and under what circumstances this
>inversion in meaning of 'idiot' took place.   'Idiot'  has clearly been used
>in a negative connotation for a considerable period of time: e.g.
>"Why on earth should a man, because he is a Marxist, be a driveling
>idiot?"  from Boris Pasternak's _Doctor Zhivago_
>3) Returning to the topic of 'socialism':
>a) Revolutionaries are typically (and one might add, intrinsically)
>critical,  independent,  individuals who think for themselves. In other
>words,  they are 'idiots' in the classical sense.
>Yet, in a Bonapartist reaction, 'idiots' represent a threat to the new
>order.   Hence, repression.   [The purges under Stalin might be seen as a
>'cleansing'  of 'idiots' from the Bolshevik party.] This raises a larger
>question: how can a Bonapartist reaction be averted?  It seems to me that
>the culture of  'idiocy' (exemplified by critical, independent thought) must
>be extended  into the entire working class movement as a safeguard
>against a conservative post-revolutionary reaction.  Yet, this is no small
>b) one might also argue that for a socialist democracy and workers' control
>to really work presumes that workers themselves are 'idiots' in the
>classical sense.  Yet, bourgeois culture and institutions have stressed
>conformism and respect for authoritarian structures, including 'leaders',
>as a virtue.  So, how is this historical transition then brought about
>whereby workers develop into 'idiots' who are essentially critical and
>independent  individuals who have the confidence to make the decisions
>themselves about future society and thereby overcome the indoctrination
>of bourgeois culture rather than simply follow the leadership of others --
>no matter how 'revolutionary' those 'leaders' claim to be?
>Solidarity, Jerry

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Prof. Paul S. Adler,
Management and Organization Dept,
Marshall School of Business, 
University of Southern California,
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0808
USC office tel: (213) 740-0748 
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Email: padler@usc.edu
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