Monday, June 5, 2017

Karl Marx and the Presumption of a "Right Side" to History

Richard Ebeling emails:

Karl Marx, the first commie
Dear Bob,

I have a new article on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation on, "Karl Marx and the Presumption of a ‘Right Side’ to History."

Typical of many on “the left” is to frequently argue that a person or a government policy is or is not on the “right side of history.” Those on the “right side” of history are supporters of “progressive” policies, and their opponents on the political “right” are on the “wrong side” of history.

Like many of the beliefs, attitudes, and policy perspectives held by those on the political left, it usually begins with Karl Marx, and that is where this notion of
a “right side of history” originates, as well.

Marx had imbibed the historicist philosophy of Georg Hegel as a student at the University of Berlin, and believed that “history” followed a preordained trajectory through stages of social development leading to a higher and more perfect state of human existence. Marx’s twist to the Hegelian “dialectic” of historical evolution was to assert that the driving force was transformation of technological methods of production, as if they have a life or purpose of their own to which human beings in their attitudes, beliefs and institutions adapt and adjust through time so higher and higher stages of technological productive potentials may emerge and bring mankind to a final post-scarcity utopia – communism.

All through this, a morality play is played out of conflicting “social classes” of oppressed and oppressor, with the “capitalist” stage of this process being the one Marx was living through and condemned as based on private ownership of the means of production but which – by historical evolutionary inevitability and independent of the likes and dislikes of people – would be overthrown and replaced by socialism with collective ownership and planning of production when the productive technological potentials could not longer be confined within the straightjacket of the capitalist institutional restraints of self-interested profit-making.

Every step on the road to socialism and away from capitalism, therefore, represents a “progressive” advance on the way to the better, more just, and less unequal society. Support and activism for policies moving society further in that direction is, by definition, to be on the “right side” of history. And to oppose them defines a person as being on the “wrong side” of history.

But is this true; is this the reality of the human circumstance? Is this the path that society has had to follow, determined and dictated by forces beyond human control or desire? Are the assumptions, logic and conclusions of this notion of inescapable human evolution in any way valid? These are the questions that must be answered next time.


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