Book Update: Intro

Here’s the rough draft of the intro. Any constructive feedback would be appreciated.

MARX BOOK

  1. General Introduction

What is this and why should I read it?

This guide’s purpose is to show how we got here. While the various society-destroying notions of our Social Justice Warriors seem to be the random ravings of emotionally-incontinent lunatics, there’s actually a slim thread of intellectual argument connecting them. This thread is “Marxism,” as elaborated over the course of 150 years by some very smart, very evil people.

Please note that understanding this awful ideology isn’t going to do a Dissident much good in his day-to-day battle with the loonies. For SJWs, as we all know too well, history begins anew each dawn; though they may be making “arguments” straight out of Marcuse or Mao or Marx himself, they’ve barely heard of any of those guys, let alone studied their actual ideas.

The point of reading this guide, then, isn’t for intellectual ammunition – as we all know, you can’t reason someone out of a notion xzhey’ve never been reasoned into, and avoiding the hard work of thinking about the world, and how it came to be that way, was one of the main reasons your average SJW got into “Social Justice” in the first place. It’s our side who seek coherent explanations for things, who want to know the roots. These are they. The first and main purpose of this guide, then, is simply to fill in some backstory.

This is far from the only reason to get up to speed on this stuff, though. Understanding “Marxism” (see below for the quotation marks) can have predictive value. Second-wave feminism, for instance – the bra-burning “women’s lib” stuff of the late 1960s – could’ve been foreseen by anyone who read Engels’s 1884 book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State[1]. Lenin called this “one of the fundamental works of modern socialism,” and it’s easy to see why.

Engels argues that women’s household work is crucial to the modern economy, but unpaid; therefore:

  • it’s capitalist exploitation; hence,
  • the family must be broken up in The Revolution; hence,
  • all the horrors of modern “Gender Studies,” starting with no-fault divorce, through abortion on demand, and ending with “transgender” activists at the top of major government departments in the United States.

Finally, understanding this stuff might help unlock the psychology of a very prominent, increasingly powerful type of person. As anyone who has met a programmer knows, there’s a type of person to whom huge, bloodless, all-encompassing abstractions are irresistible. As anyone who has met a lawyer knows, there’s a type of person who prizes verbal dexterity above all things. Finally, as anyone who’s ever met a human being knows, envy and self-righteousness are the two most addictive narcotics.

“Marxism” appeals equally to all of them. As early as the dawn of the 20th century, Russian intellectuals (no slouches themselves in the “abstraction addiction” and “self-righteousness” departments) were commenting disdainfully on the signature Bolshevik “argument” style – at one moment bloodless, scientific, and oh-so-sweetly reasonable; then flipping instantly, effortlessly, to sneering, sanctimonious, and sarcastic. (Imagine a Twitter “debate” carried on at 19th century Russian length, in Hegelian metaphysical jargon, and you’ll get the flavor of it).

So why the quotation marks around “Marxism”?

Because brevity is the soul of wit. Given what we’ve said above about Marxism’s broad appeal, there are about as many kinds of “Marxism” as there are Marxists. Worse, as we’ve also noted, while it’s all but certain that whatever your SJW is going on about derives directly from the “main currents of Marxism,[2]” it’s a thousand to one xzhey have never heard of the thinkers xzhey are so blithely parroting. Worst, xzhey probably haven’t even heard of the modern school of “thought” that most closely matches xzheir position. So while it might mean something to the professional academic to be able to label a certain argument “Post-structuralist Feminist,” neither you nor the SJW shouting at you would benefit from knowing that. Along the same lines, while most of the stuff SJWs go on about can fairly easily be traced back to either the Frankfurt School or Antonio Gramsci, calling this stuff “Cultural Marxism” often raises more issues than it solves, and again, see above – xzhey don’t know it’s from the Frankfurt School, and wouldn’t care if xzhey did, so it’s useless in interactions.

Just calling it “Marxism” keeps the focus, I hope, on the essential coherence of the doctrine without encouraging too many fruitless chases down too many ponderous, polysyllabic, rabbinical rabbit holes.

On orthography; or, what’s the deal with the footnotes and weird spelling?

Again, I’m aiming for concision and accessibility. I’m not a Marxist; my specialty isn’t intellectual history; and I’m certainly not a philosopher. I’m giving you my understanding of this stuff, which is an autodidact’s – albeit an autodidact with a Humanities PhD who spent a lot of time hanging out in the “theory” departments. I could provide you with the whole scholarly “apparatus,” as it’s called – the footnotes and bibliography of where I got this stuff – and I encourage anyone genuinely interested to go back and check my work, but for the casual reader, see the stuff about “rabbit holes” from the previous paragraph. It’s very easy to get sucked into one of those Politburo-style debates, about A’s misunderstanding of B’s revision of C’s deviation of D’s theoretical reframing of E’s…

…you get the point. If you enjoy that kind of thing, an exciting career in the ivory tower awaits (provided you’re a transgendered disabled Inuit lesbian Of Color, which is the only way you’ll get hired), but the rest of us will keep it simple, thanks. I’ll occasionally refer those interested to important books, or make a suggestion for further study, in a footnote, but that’s about it.

Same deal with the spelling. Referring to SJWs as “xzhem” and “xzhey” isn’t just mockery of their pretensions. For one thing, it’s actually somewhat useful. I refuse to use the hideous, clunky “him or her-self” construction the “style” manuals insist on, but the alternative – using the generic masculine – can cause confusion out in the real world. Because as we all know, chicks of both sexes and all 57+ genders make up the vast majority of SJWs and if you’re arguing about this stuff, it’s a hundred to one that your opponent is either biologically female or, thanks to a social media addiction and an all-soy diet, acts exactly like it.

For another, it highlights just how new and bizarre this stuff is, and how personal it is. Say what you will about the old-school Marxists, they had rigorous university educations back when that really meant something. A properly trained cadre from as late as the mid-Sixties could run rings around all of us combined, philosophy-wise. They had completely coherent, highly formidable body of doctrine back then, and they knew it cold. Today’s SJW, by contrast, has little more than a few cherrypicked buzzwords and a bad attitude. The old-school cadre would try to put everything on the abstract intellectual plane, where he had canned answers to every possible objection. Today’s SJW is viciously anti-intellectual; there are no abstractions for xzhem, because everything is, was, and always will be entirely personal.

How to use this book

I’ve tried to make each section as self-contained as possible. Each section builds on the last, and the section on the fundamentals is important for a complete novice, but hopefully those who know the basics will be able to follow individual sections without reference to the whole. I’ve also tried to indicate, insofar as I can, when we’re going “into the weeds” of the philosophical stuff, such that you can skim or skip it if you want. For instance, that “quantity-becomes-quality” stuff which so fascinated Hegel, and through him, Marx. It’s interesting if you’re into that kind of thing, but if not, just read the capsule summary of “dialectical materialism” and move on.

I’ve tried to keep it simple. That means no scholarly apparatus, of course, but also plain language and the occasional (at least attempted) joke. My hope is that you’ll find it interesting, quick, and useful; ideally you’ll be able to snip sections and send them to interested parties.

I’m always interested in constructive feedback – comment at the blog, or send me an email. Enjoy!

[1] Like almost everything written by a major 19th century Marxist thinker, available for free online at Marxists.org.

[2] The title of Leszek Kolakowski’s magisterial study of this stuff; I’d recommend it, but the three volumes run to more than 1200 pages of close type. Moreover, Kolakowski is not just a professional philosopher, but a former Marxist himself, and while he writes clear, accessible prose, it’s still professional philosophy by an ex-Marxist. I’ve browsed around in it, which is the most I recommend for anyone not getting paid to do it.

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9 thoughts on “Book Update: Intro

  1. toastedposts

    To what extent is the human mind really programmable by ideology, and to what extent is the ideology just a rationalization for things people would instinctively do anyway?

    Were these SJWs *really* influenced by Marx or Marcuse, or any of the old philosophers they’ve never heard about? Or do they arrive at these same stupid ideas anyway, and would they be parroting some incoherent gibberish amounting to “give me your stuff” if they were raised in a tank by martian zoologists? Maybe Marx was just motivated to rationalize the same instincts and had more time to bang on a typewriter?

    Same question about a lot of human behavior. Witch trials, oriental grovelling to the god-king, the deification of authority, etc.

    1. Severian Post author

      The honest scholars of Marxism (there are a few) have said the same thing. Robert V. Daniels summed it up in The Rise and Fall of Communism in Russia (quoting from memory): “Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin et al didn’t become revolutionaries because they were Marxists; they became Marxists because they were revolutionaries.” If you prefer, you can call it the Hoffer Thesis — True Believers do what True Believers do, so there’s only One True Belief, and the content of the Belief is irrelevant. Goebbels himself bragged he could turn a Red (communist) into a Brown (Nazi) in three weeks, and you get the point.

      That said, the specific historical form the One True Belief takes is important, because it’s predictive. Take it out of the political realm for a moment. You can easily reduce Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism to the same basic set of postulates — they’re self-abnegating, world-denying creeds. If you take away the ritual, and just focus on how he interacts with the world in his day-to-day, you wouldn’t be able to tell exactly which religion a sincere believer follows…

      …. but throw the ritual back in, and what a difference! A guy like Thomas Merton would’ve been “a monk” no matter where he was born — indeed, at the end of his life he was trying to reconcile Catholicism and Zen Buddhism — but the entire direction of his life, and of the culture he was born into, was determined by the fact that he was born Catholic in France, not Buddhist in Thailand. A radical Christian looks very different from a radical Buddhist, who is very different from a radical Marxist, though the end goal of all of them — immanentizing the eschaton — is exactly the same.

  2. toastedposts

    Are you aware of Eliezer Yudkoswsky and the LessWrong crowd? (I’m not advocating their worldview. Nor am I really panning it, (at least, not in this brief post)) What strikes me about their crowd (and others have made the personality cult accusation already) was how little the ostensible content of their ideology mattered or influenced the way the group dynamics played out.
    Yudkowsky did what a particular type of person does. His followers did what followers do.

    1. Severian Post author

      I’m not, but a quick google skim makes it look like they’re your basic Libertarian / Enlightenment crew — everything would be so much nicer if everything was so much nicer, so why not carry on “rationally”? David Hume is laughing from the afterlife he didn’t believe in.

      If you haven’t, please do read Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer. It’s the most important book of the 20th century. The greatest human problem is freedom. Our race spent most of its brief span trying desperately to solve freedom’s sub-problems — how to get enough food and physical security to really use our freedom. We finally got those, and now we have to confront the problem of freedom itself. It’s not going well — the “huge, organized forms of self-righteousness” that historian Herbert Butterfield said were the curse of modern life are all just attempts to give our freedom back, to plug back into the Matrix, to merge our personality back into some all-encompassing Whole; to give up our self-consciousness….

      (after Hoffer, check out Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom, of which the above paragraph is a loose summary. He thought he was diagnosing the mentality of the typical Nazi. It’s actually a perfect psychological portrait of the typical Frankfurt School Marxist, meaning it’s the pscyho-autobiography of Erich Fromm. You’d think that the failure of a professional psychotherapist to see such an obvious dodge would be disqualifying… but then again, not least of Marxism’s many appeals is that you never have to admit you were wrong, because if you view the question dialectically, comrade…)

  3. Clown World

    It is written in a very good way. I don’t like the use of xzhey, xzhrr, whatever etc, not a big deal

    “Say what you will about the old-school Marxists, they had rigorous university educations back when that really meant something.”

    I can’t find the quote online but from memory it’s from an Australian poet many years ago, he said something like: Stalinists (in australia) were at least solid men, they had families, if they were teachers they taught their subjects properly, they were not too far gone at all on women’s lib and homosexualism, etc, but NOW, these days (the 70’s) BOY…..

    so it’s an interesting thing to look into what happened there

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