Two new pieces on Political Theology Today

The first is called ‘Stalin, Affirmative Action and the Pentecost of Language‘, and the second, ‘Why a Marxist Entrepreneur is not a Contradiction in China‘.

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6 thoughts on “Two new pieces on Political Theology Today

  1. I find the Chinese ‘contradiction’ very interesting. When I visited Beijing, I met a woman who was head of an advertising company. Her main client was Audi, the German car company. They were building luxury cars in China, and she was employed to advertise them to the burgeoning monetary upper classes there. I asked her if she did not feel uncomfortable about this, as most people in the city had to manage with a bicycle.
    She looked at me as if I was crazy. She replied that it was progress, and that one day, they would all have a car. For me, the jury is still out.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Lessons learnt show that the road to Communism is indeed difficult. For Karl Marx the concept of Communism was based on witnessing the exploitation of the labour class under capitalist conditions. So if you are on this road and embrace capitalism then how does this work out for the working class? Because if the level of exploitation remains high/the same then the question rises: what is it good for?

    Any thoughts on this?

    Kind Regards, Ben

  3. I really don’t think capitalism of itself generates productive forces. It’s technology that does that. The key thing to Marxist socialism is to take machine-based production out of capitalism into common ownership, thereby unleashing both machine and worker in order to foster the kind of development that will allow for communism.

    This worked very well in the USSR, except that all the production had to be geared towards the armed forces and basic development of the country. Yet any materialist can recognise that there are limits even to the power of good ideas.

    Using capitalism to build communism, though, is not such a good idea. It’s not clear at all how capitalist organisation actually helps to create the conditions for workers and machines to achieve breakthroughs. I would guess it doesn’t. Even so, there are state-led developments in China that are very significant. Also, I think capitalism has lifted the task of creating consumer goods from the government. This probably deflects discontent.

    I think it’s really important not to conflate capitalism as a way to organise an economy and the machine-based production of modernity. They are related historically (as in occurring together), but not necessarily logically.

    1. Of the three arguments I outline in the ‘Marxist Entrepreneur’ piece (economic strength, using capitalism to build socialism, and the simultaneity of non-simultaneity), I like the third most. However, I would now add a fourth. In response to a paper I gave on Thursday, called ‘Socialism with National Characteristics’, the discussion turned to the many modes of production embodied within capitalism. This builds on a comment from Ken Surin a year or so ago: instead of seeing modes of production as succeeding one another, via contradictions and revolutions, each new mode of production incorporates the former ones within it. Thus, capitalism can embrace forms of feudalism, slavery, hunter-gatherer existence and so on, each now recalibrated. So also can global capitalism incorporate socialist places, since they produce for a capitalist market. But now it gets interesting, for is it then not possible for socialism or communism to include – in new forms – all of the modes of production that have yet been known? The contradictions are still there, adding even more to the complexity of socialism. If that is so, then we can readily imagine a situation in which socialism is the dominant mode of production (in a country – I believe Stalin was correct here – or globally), in which capitalism at least can be found, if not other forms. No one said socialism is easy or without its own contradictions, so much so that it sublates all former contradictions within a new situation. Two final points: this follows from the simultaneity of non-simultaneity, which is exacerbated under socialism; it makes sense of clear desire by Lenin, Stalin, and others to make use of certain practices from capitalist approaches to industry – such as Taylorisation, accounting, the ‘sound and simple habits of American productive life’ (Stalin).

      1. Yes, I guess if you look at it that way it makes more sense to use capitalism. After all, using capitalism has enabled China to tap into world trade in a way the Soviet Union never was able to do. I guess the simultaneity of non-simultaneity makes it possible to nuance the idea of stages of development. I guess this should be seen as a way to bring ‘ideal types’ more closely into the contradictions of history?

        I think this idea might also hold for the pre-industrial world, such as the role of large-scale exchange in the Roman Mediterranean alongside the predominant peasant economies. Something to ponder further for me.

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