From: Ian Wright (iwright@GMAIL.COM)
Date: Sat Feb 12 2005 - 13:26:55 EST
Hi Rakesh Not quite sure of the point you are making, so apologies in advance if I have misread. >Jerry, perhaps first you (and hopefully others) can provide an >interpretation of Engels here: > >...the equality and equal status of all human labour, because and in >so far as it is human labour, found its unconscious but clearest >expression in the law of value of modern bourgeois political economy, >according to which the value of a commodity is measured by the >socially necessary labour embodied in it. Engels and Marx wrote before the emergence of postmodernism and related relativisms. For them, the existence of an objective world independent of our ideas of it, was not a problem. The equality of the causal powers of people was, for them, a natural fact. That's why bourgeois market relations, with the legal ideal of equal commodity owners, represented progress over feudal relations. The new social organization better reflected the objective reality (just like a new scientific theory can be considered better than another). I got a feeling that your comparison between Christianity and Hinduism could be read as relativizing the concept of "abstract labour", which I take to ultimately refer to the causal powers of human agency, and includes things like having an opposeable thumb, the ability to use language and symbolic models, the ability to learn, and so on. All humans share these causal powers, and are therefore objectively equal. The fact that such simple and obvious statements such as the latter are often contested by relativists is an unfortunate sign of the times, even when there is overwhelming scientific evidence for it, and despite there being many failed attempts to demonstrate otherwise (e.g., 19th century racial theories). Whether this natural fact is reflected in our economic or social organization is a secondary matter: it most often isn't. Generalized commodity exchange, at least in the abstract, does better reflect our objective equality. This is one of the reasons why Marx and Engels I guess thought that the transition from feudal economic relations to capitalist economic relations was progressive: the new relations better reflected a fundamental aspect of reality, that is the equality of people. Hierarchy and caste is irrational because it systematically prevents (good) real possibilities (e.g., meritocratic transitions in social status, freer choices of individuals to specialise within the division of labour and so on) for no (good) reason. So from this point of view, Christianity is a more progressive religion than Hinduism, just as it could be argued that Sikhism is more progressive than both. I don't really want to argue for any particular ordering, because these ideologies do not interest me and I have not studied them, but I am saying that sets of ideas better reflect reality or not, including religious ones. >Marx's point was not that struggle over group status simply >disappeared in bourgeois society but that any apologia of >group-based status hierarchy becomes normatively suspect insofar >as it runs counter to said bourgeois ideology that every man is an >embodiment of humanity at large and thus equal to every other man >and free. But if we drop the "and free" consequence from the latter, then it is not bourgeois ideology, but a scientific fact partially recognized by bourgeois ideology. The founding principles of the USA were very progressive in this respect. Caste-based societies are irrational and unnecessary and should be abolished, just like we should abolish terrible diseases such as aids, TB, and so forth, or unnecessary poverty etc. I am thinking that you probably agree with most of this. -Ian.
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