Put out More Flags (Waugh)

Waugh, Evelyn. Put out More Flags.

Basil Seal is a rogue and a scoundrel.  He grew up with too much money.  Unlike the modern American rich kids who are simply wastrels, Basil is not lazy.  In fact, he is probably too industrious. He comes up with numerous rackets that capitalize on the confusion in the early days of World War II.

Like in all of Waugh’s novels, we get a perfect glimpse into the decayed social structure of the pseudo-intellectuals (i.e., Marxists) in Britain.  The novel is not necessarily happy, few of Waugh’s are, but its wit is razor sharp.  For reasons one can’t fathom, Basil is often in the company of the avant-garde Marxists.  He tells one surrealist painter who is frightened by the war, “You know I should have thought an air raid was just the thing for a surrealiste; it ought to give you plenty of compositions–limbs and things lying about in odd places you know” (Waugh 32).

On a Marxist Heaven

“[Basil] is a man for whom there will be no place in the coming workers’ state; and yet, thought Ambrose, I hunger for his company.  It is a curious thing, he thought, that every creed promises a paradise which will be absolutely uninhabitable for anyone of civilised taste. Nanny told me of a Heaven that was full of angels playing harps; the communists tell me of an earth full of leisure and contented factory hands. I don’t see Basil getting past the gate of either” (69-70).

As in all of Waugh’s novels, we see beyond the brutal satire and occasionally glimpse that beautiful world that was old England.

The Portable Karl Marx

Marx, Karl. The Portable Karl Marx. ed. Eugene Kamenka. New York: Penguin Books, 1983.

Even though Marx was completely demonized, this is a lucid volume and well organized, though that probably speaks more of the editor than of Marx. This book is like one of God’s spies stole Satan’s battle plan and now we get to read it.

Marx’s style is often criticized. Kapital has the reputation of being one of the worst books ever written.  Actually, his transitional writings are usually quite lucid and forceful.  His journalistic writings are mostly bombastic nonsense–much like journalism today.  They can be safely ignored.

TRANSITIONAL WRITINGS

“1844 Manuscripts.”  By not owning the means of production, the worker is alienated from his labor.  He only has an external relationship to it; hence, he is alienated from it.  This labor is “self-sacrifice” (Marx 136).  This alien labor now becomes an alien power that confronts me.

Theses on Feuerbach

Marx is aware of the limitations in earlier materialism.  If we’re just atoms bumping around, then we really can’t speak about much.  Marx takes it a step further: materialism is now defined as praxis (155).  While he takes the standard line that truth = power, he draws a different conclusion.  If truth is power, then it can only be demonstrated in praxis.

With ominous portents to come, he defines man as the aggregate of social relations (thesis VI).

Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

Social relations determine man’s consciousness (160). It’s at this point that Marx rejects Hegel.  For Hegel, essence determines existence.  For Marx, it’s the other way around.

German Ideology

Marx gives a relatively accurate account of the division of labor (almost certainly copying from Adam Smith).  There isn’t much to disagree with here. The division of labor is a necessary development. Unfortunately, it cleaves man’s relation in two. Marx sees this as alienation.  What he doesn’t see is that it allows man to produce more food and not starve to death.

He pauses his analysis to talk about consciousness again. Our “mental intercourse” is “the direct efflux of [our] material behavior” (169).  Consciousness is just conscious existence.  It is a “social product” (174).  I could be wrong, but I don’t think Marx completely rejects (at least here) the idea of a nonphysical consciousness.  He could be simply saying that consciousness supervenes on the physical.  That’s still wrong, but it is a bit more sophisticated.

Division of labor now becomes “an alien force existing outside them” (177).  Alienation, as a result, renders men propertyless.

On History: history develops by opposing forces clashing into each other, which generates a new contradiction.  Specifically, it is a contradiction between productive forces and social community (192).  This provides the sharpest contrast with Christianity:  the Church sees society held together by the bonds of love (Augustine, Book 19, City of God).  Marx sees society’s essence as the clash of forces and contradiction.

Grundrisse

Here is Marx’s famous (and debunked) labor theory of value.   Value is “proportional quantities in which it is exchanged for other quantities” (Marx 401).  If I want to exchange wheat for iron, I must refer both to some third term which is neither (cf. 439).  For Marx this is labor. When I produce a commodity, a certain amount of labor goes into it.  This crystallization of social labor is a commodity’s value.  Indeed, it is a “social substance contained in it” (396).

A profit, therefore, is a surplus to my labor.  This profit doesn’t come back to me, though. Boss Man, according to Marx, has literally taken my substance.

It is not necessary to continue this discussion.  This is the heart of his system.  If this is false, then everything he says is flawed.

Das Kapital

Famous discussion of labor’s being the 3rd term in exchange value.  The quantity A being exchanged for B must be equal to labor, C.

Human labor is a substance which is embodied in production (441). Marx then abstracts labor-value from use-value.  Upon further abstractions, the human person is eclipsed altogether.  Marx sees a “homogenous mass of labor power” (442).  This isn’t all that different from the grim and chilling term “human resources.”

I’m not overanalyzing Marx.  He reifies labor, calling “commodities congealed labor-time.” Labor is almost a physical substance, whereas the human person, for Marx, is simply the result of social forces.

Then it gets weird.  Marx gives labor and value an almost magical creating-power.  He writes, “It is value, rather, that converts every product into a social hieroglyphic” (449).  And: “The character of having value, when once impressed upon the products, obtains fixity only by reason of their acting and re-acting upon each other as quantities of value” (450).  This sounds very similar to medieval and alchemical grimoires, instead of lead we have humans, and instead of the sulphur we have the re-acting agent of value.  What he has completely missed is that it is humans who act, not abstract concepts.

Places where Marx almost gets it right

Marx sees a world-market existing with propertyless workers (179).  These workers are cut off from capital.

Criticisms

Labor theory:  while sociologists and journalists might praise the labor theory of value, few economists take it seriously.  First, as Bohm-Bawerk notes, Marx rests upon Aristotle’s theory of equality in exchange.  Aristotle said that goods of equal value are traded in an exchange.  Marx agrees but puts labor as one of the terms.  But if that’s true, then there is no reason to even exchange anything.  Nothing would disturb the equilibrium (Bohm-Bawerk 2007:70).

Further, Bohm-Bawerk continues, some goods that are exchanged do not involve any labor time: such as the soil, wood in trees, water power, coal beds, stone quarries, petroleum reserves, mineral waters, gold mines, etc.” 

Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen v. 2007. Karl Marx and the Close of His System. Auburn: Mises Institute.

Evaluation

Given the attacks on liberty today, understanding Marx is essential.  The reader should familiarize himself with the philosophical writings.  That is where the attack is coming from.  Class consciousness is being weaponized.  True, socialism is on the rise, but it is more of a “gimme free stuff” than it is a serious analysis alienation and labor.

Zizek: Living in the End Times

Zizek organizes each chapter along the famous psychological responses to a crisis: denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, and depression. In between each chapter is an interlude which applies the current insights to numerous cultural phenomena. This review won’t analyze each chapter if only because it is hard to follow Zizek’s argument at times: he has some excellent thoughts which he is incapable of extending for more than a few pages. Secondly, I don’t understand what he is saying in a lot of places.

Denial

Premise: the global capitalist system* is about to fall because, in good Hegelian fashion, it is predicated on the contradiction(s) of Liberalism. There is a contradiction between market liberalism and political liberalism. The market liberals of today want family values, less government, and maintain the traditions of society (at least in America’s case). However, we must face the cultural contradiction of capitalism: the progress of capitalism, which necessitates a consumer culture, undermines the values which render capitalism possible (pp. 35-37).

Second contradiction: there is in liberalism a tension between private freedoms and the public mechanisms which control society. This is more obvious in the case of left-wing democrats. They want a society that allows individual freedoms, yet end up encroaching on individual freedoms in the name of tolerance, multiculturalism, etc.

The contradictions of liberalism demonstrate why Hegel was such a brilliant observer of the problems of modernity (even if we demur with his conclusions). Zizek writes,

traditionally, each form of liberalism necessarily appears as the opposite of the other: liberal multiculturalist advocates of tolerance as a rule resist economic liberalism and try to protect the individual from unencumbered market forces, while market liberals as a rule advocate family values, and so on. We thus get the double paradox of the traditional Rightist supporting the market economy while rejecting the culture and mores that economy engenders, and his counterpoint, the Leftist, resisting the market while enthusiastically supporting the culture it engenders (p. 37).

This is Hegelian deconstruction of a false ideology at its best: demonstrate something is false by exposing the contradiction upon which it is built. However, like Hegel, Zizek shows that the advocate of liberalism cannot escape his plight because one Liberal cannot fully reject the “other” liberal. I suppose this is what Hegel meant in the “identify of identity and difference.”

Of course, I temper my praise somewhat. Most of Zizek’s theological conclusions, as well as morality, are suspect elsewhere.

If the First Act demonstrated the failure of capitalism and liberal democracy (praise be to thee, O Christ!),Act Three evaluates the problems in the many forms of Marxism. Ultimately, he examines the value-theory debate from many different Hegelian perspectives, offering an interesting take of Substance as that which is already lost but in whose loss reconciliation is possible.

His take on the Hegelian “Substance” as loss-in-giving reminds the Christian reader of the long-neglected doctrine of Kenosis. Following, he offers his own way out of the socialist-capitalist dilemma: a basic income society which gives away everything except the capitalist machine (236). This is interesting, but it doesn’t fully get away from the problem of the welfare mom staying home to watch Oprah while still getting full benefits. I am not convinced Zizek has gotten away from the standard market rebuttal: you get more of what you subsidize (laziness).

Acceptance

Zizek analyzes a lot of moments in the past fifty years that outwardly look like triumphs for socialism and Leftism (’68, the Obama presidency, etc.), but ended up strengthening the liberal-capitalist status quo. Zizek’s question in this chapter is how to overthrow the current system in a way that utilizes all of the anger of the “proletariat” without resorting to the violence that is so common to Leftism.

Similar to his critique of social liberalism in the first chapter, he is aware of potential problems in his analysis: does not Leftism negate many (all?) of our freedoms? Zizek mentions Sarah Palin’s “death-panel” objections to Obamacare. While I demur at Palin as much as the next person, Zizek mentioned but never answered Palin’s challenge: given limited resources (and hyper-incompetency) by the State that will necessarily follow Obamacare, which means that there will be limitations to these benefits, the government then will have to decide. Leftists might not like this reductio, but they still have to answer it.

The larger point is that Zizek makes a distinction between formal freedoms and actual freedoms: formal freedom is the freedom to choose within a set of coordinates while actual freedom is freedom on the more normal sense of the word (358). Zizek wants to negate the latter. We have freedom to choose between various sets of government-sponsored solutions. He does have a response to Palin: Obamacare can work because look at Scandinavia. Here’s why that is an inappropriate analogy: Scandinavian countries have good diets, a highly-literate populace, a homogenous population, and a strong work-force—qualities that are severely lacking in America.

Will it Work?

Will Zizek’s appeal to embrace a modified form of Communism that seeks to utilizes the passions of the Left without the violence of the Left? True, Occupy Wall-Street has since taken place, but the police and security have had little trouble dealing with the unwashed hippies who are just standing around. It does not seem like Zizek’s Leftism can be accomplished without violence. At this point, obviously, I am in full disagreement with Zizek.

Conclusion

The book is quite interesting and we should welcome is penetrating analysis of liberalism and capitalism. The book does suffer from a wandering argument and the conclusion either doesn’t go far enough or it goes too far.

*I’m willing to entertain the idea what we call capitalism today is not what Adam Smith had in mind

Dugin notes, 4th Political Theory

I have my questions about his larger project, but his analyses of modernity and postmodernism are simply too good to ignore.

Birth of a Concept

  1. Three Ideologies
    1. Liberalism: the individual is the normative subject (this includes both free market capitalism and the Democratic Party.  I am using “liberal” in a non-perjorative sense).
    2. Fascism: race or nation is normative subject
    3. Communism: Class
      The second and third options failed, leaving liberalism in charge.  Without any alternatives, liberalism is the norm.
    4. 4th political theory: Dasein is the acting subject.  We will explain more on this later.
  2. Postmodernism
    1. Global Market Society
      1. Globalism
      2. Technology
    2. Kingdom of Antichrist
  3. Heidegger and the Event
    1. The ancient greeks confused the nuances between pure being (Seyn) and a being (Seinende).
    2. Nihilism and the event
      1. The “Nothing” is the flip side of being and paradoxically reminds one of Being’s existence.
      2. Event: the sudden return of being.

Dasein as Actor

  1. What is the nature of freedom?
    1. Classical Liberals defined freedom as “freedom from.”  There should be no ties on an individual’s will.  
      1. It is these individuals, acting alone but taken as a whole, who form the circle of liberal action.
      2. Lacking a telos by definition, liberalism is hard-pressed to explain what we have freedom for.
    2. All political theories have an acting subject.
  2. Dasein as subject.
    1. Dasein is a way to overcome the subject-object duality.  It is inzwichen, the “between.”
  3. Hidden Racisms
    1. Is “progress” racist? Maybe.  Progressive societies have an implicit judgment that other societies, who do not hold such views, are inferior.
    2. The only true human rights are those enshrined by global capitalism, democracy, individualism.
  4. Ethnos: A community of language
    1. Racist societies, whether Nazis or American neo-liberals, reduce society to a concept like race, blood, market.
    2. A better reduction, if reduction it is, is language.
      1. Language allows for an “accommodating landscape” (Gumilev).  It is the matrix of a “Life-world” (Husserl).
      2. Ethnicities generate the criteria by which they are judged (Dugin 48).
    3. The village-state is an alternative to the metropolis.

Critique of the Monotonic Process

Liberal ideology is necessarily evolutionary.  The concept of progress takes one from barbarism to technologism and the more refined way of life of the markets.

Monotonic process: the idea of constant growth, accumulation, steady progress by only one specific indicator (60).  In other words, in a system only one value (x) grows.  Only one thing (or a small group of things) accumulates.  Applied to either machines or biological life, this is death.  

The Gift

In traditional societies surplus was always sacrificed or given away. Thus, festivals.

Nietzsche: if there is growth in life, the movement towards logos, then the balance of the nocturnal Dionysian world exists as well (65). 

Modern political options have all seen progress and time in a linear fashion.  Even more so, because of time there must naturally be progress. By contrast, Dugin suggests that

T1: Time is a social phenomenon with its structures arising from social paradigms (68).

By this he wants to safeguard the idea that there can be “interruptions” and reversals in the flow of time.  History does not simply teach the march of capitalism upon earth (borrowing and adapting Hegel’s phrase).

Nevertheless, and perhaps unaware, Dugin remains close to the linear view.  He does note that time is “historical” (70) and from that draws a very important, Heideggerian conclusion:  it cannot be objective.

Why not? The acting subject, the historical observer (whom we will call “Dasein,” but this is true also of the individual in liberalism) is finite.  He doesn’t have a god’s-eye view on history.

Of course, that’s not to say it can’t be real or reliable per the observer, but we don’t have the Enlightenment’s dream of a god’s-eye application of reason to reality.

Global Transition and its enemies

  1. What is the New World Order?
    1. It is a “universalism of free market economics, political democracy, and the ideology of human rights” (71).
    2. From the American point of view: a strong imperial core with the periphery divided and fragmented.
      1. Creation of multilateral unipolarity.
      2. Promotion of accelerated globalism and swift de-sovereignisation of nation states in favor of a global United States.
    3. Global democracy is a self-generating virus (Stephen Mann).
  2. The World Order from a non-American point of view

Conservatism and Postmodernity

Paradoxes of Freedom

  1. Liberal freedom in action is the freedom to choose TV stations.
    1. If I am “free,” am I free to say no?  Can I say “no” to freedom?
    2. Liberalism cannot allow this, which means there is no alternative to it.
  2. Df. conservatism = repudiation of the logic of history.  True conservatism means that history isn’t necessarily moving towards a moment of universal global markets.
    1. Fundamental Conservatism: Traditionalism (86ff).
      1. Opposes “time.”  Specifically, it does not accept the argument that progress is necessarily good.
    2. Status quo conservatism: liberal conservatism.
      1. It is liberal in that it says yes to modernity, “but at each stage it attempts to step on the breaks” (91).
    3. Left Wing Conservatism (Social Conservatism)
    4. Eurasianism: an umbrella of subordinate conservatisms
      1. There is no single historical process.  
      2. Every nation has its own historical model and moves in its own rhythm. 

Transformation of the Left in the twenty first century

  1. The Leftist Philosophy in Crisis: three varieties
    1. Old Left: 
      1. Orthodox Marxists.
        1. Stuck in concepts anchored in the Industrial Revolution.  Really couldn’t adapt to hyper-technological ages.
        2. Fundamentally wrong about historical dialectic.
      2. Social Democracy: 
        1. Income tax, government in the private sector, free medicine; traditional “liberal” mores.
        2. Social Justice + Market expansion
    2. Left Nationalists
    3. New Left: anti-globalism, postmodern, post-human
      1. Utilized Marxist analysis of ideology as “false consciousness” to explain society, philosophy, economy.
      2. Bourgeois society is a result of superstructures.

Ontology of the Future

  1. Three ecstasies of time (Heidegger).  Normally, we would say that the future “lacks the most being.”
    1. Immediacy (there is/there is not)
    2. Documentary (there was/there was not)
    3. Probabilistic (there will be/there will be not)
  2. Perception and Being: Kant denied that by mere perception we have access to the thing-in-itself.
    1. Therefore, if the being of the present is put in doubt, then all three moments become ontologically unproveable.
    2. From the perspective of pure reason, the future is the phenomenon, and hence, it is (157). 
    3. Kant puts time nearer to the subject and space nearer to the object.
      1. Therefore, time is subject-ive.  
      2. It is the transcendental subject that installs time in the perception of the object.
    4. Time is like music (Husserl); the resonance lingers.
      1. The future is continuous in the present.
      2. The future is the tail-end of the present.
    5. Consciousness
      1. That which is beneath the level that the nature of time is perceived.
      2. In the present consciousness perceives itself and nothing else.
    6. Short circuit:  perception of pure being as the presence of the subjectivity of consciousness. Transcendental subjectivity (158).
      1. Causes all kinds of dualities to be born.
      2. The creation of time stops this trauma.
      3. “Intentionality and logical judgments are all rooted in this evasion of the perception of pain of the void whereby consciousness becomes aware of itself” (158).
        1. Pure presence of the same is unbearable.
        2. Time constitutes consciousness running from the unbearable confrontation with itself.
    7. Initial Conclusions
      1. Time precedes the object.
      2. The world is created by time (or time through God)
        1. Time’s manifestation is as self-aware subjectivity.
        2. The future is predefined by the structure of the subject.
      3. Organizing time: circular, traditional, material.
    8. Society and Time
      1. Every society is a separate act of consciousness in temporal and rational horizons.
        1. Every society has its own history.
        2. Thus, time is rooted in geography.
        3. Thus, globalization, in canceling out traditional differences, erases time.
          1. Therefore, with no time, the “short circuit would grow exponentially without the possibility of being dissipated.
          2. Cataclysm.

In the First Circle (Solzhentisyn)

Image result for in the first circle

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr. In the First Circle. New York: Harper Perennial, 2009.

In 1968 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn published an edited version of In the First Circle, titled simply First Circle.  He knew the full novel would never pass Soviet censors.  This is the full novel. This book is the triumph of the human spirit and the expose that scientific and state socialism is pure evil. 

The key event is not the phone call to the US attache about the atomic bomb.  Rather, it was when Gleb decides not to join the mathematicians’ “inner ring” in prison.  Truth be told, it really isn’t even that important a decision. However, it is a decision big enough to let him find his humanity.

Each chapter or collection of chapters is about a key character.  In this Solzhenitsyn also describes his historical methodology (i.e., “nodal points”). As Sologdin says, “Think like a mathematician.  Apply the nodal points method….Get an overall view of Lenin’s life, spot the main breaks in gradualness, the sharp changes in direction, and read only what relates to them.  How did he behave at those moments? And there you have the whole man” (181).

One of the key themes in this book is the resistance to reducing everything to material and economic factors. In his intra-novel novella on Stalin, Solzhenitsyn notes Stalin’s problem with language: is language part of “base” or “superstructure?”  In Marxist theology (and it is a theology), the economy is the base. The social phenomena is the superstructure. Language isn’t a mode of production, so it can’t be the base. However, it’s not clear how language functions as a superstructure, since language is more foundational than that. Superstructures change and can be discarded.  Language may adapt, but it never disappears.

Continuing this critique of Marxism, and the Marxist dictum that being (seen as economic forces) determines consciousness, the protagonist Gleb, not yet converted is rebuked: “If that were true, life wouldn’t be worthwhile….why do lovers remain faithful to each other when they are parted?  ‘Being’ demands they be unfaithful! And why do people in exactly the same circumstances, in the same camp even, behave so differently” (333)? The interlocutor goes on to note that we all have an inner essence.

Is Marxism even a science?  Rubin and some other guy have a fun conversation (483). Marxism claims its whole doctrine is derived from the nuclear concept of commodity and stems from the three laws of dialectic.

a) transformation of quality into quantity
b) interpenetration of opposites
c) negation of the negation

A scientific law must give direction and coordinates.  Revolutionary progress does not do this. Key problem: does the Marxist “negation of the negation” always take place in the course of development (489)? How do we know when to expect it?  We don’t. Even the Marxist Rubin admits that you can’t move from “the dialectic themselves to concrete analysis of phenomena.”

Here is the obvious problem with these three laws: there is no evidence they apply in the social realm.  The fact that water changes to steam has nothing to do with the bourgeoisie changing into the proletariat.  Nonetheless, the Marxist lecturer gives a good overview of Marxist metaphysics (and it is a metaphysics). “Matter alone is ultimate” (646-648).

Gleb comes to a different realization.  No ideology can change society. Progress doesn’t mean material progress.  Something else is needed. He comes on the truth almost by accident. He tells his friend Gerasimovich that they need to get the information out.  Ger. counters, “I thought you didn’t believe in radio or progress.”
Gleb: “No. They can jam it.  I’m saying that maybe….a new means will be discovered for the Word to shatter concrete.”
“But that completely contradicts the laws of resistance to materials.”
Gleb: “Not to mention dialectical materialism. So what? Remember ‘In the Beginning was the Word. So the word is more ancient than concrete. The Word is not to be taken lightly” (672).

On Prison Camp Names

“….Ozerlag, Luglag, Steplag, Kamyshlav…:”
“Makes you think there’s some unrecognized poet sitting in the ministry of State Security. He hasn’t got the stamina for whole poems, can’t get it together, so he thinks up poetic names for prison camps” (10).

One of the more moving climaxes of the book is when Gleb Nerzhin realizes that “the People” is an abstraction created by the Party elites.  Only your soul, not Party leadership, not Revolutionary dogma, can admit you to humanity (496).

Another fun development is when Gleb speaks with the half-blind Spiridon.   Gleb wants to see the real people, and not a socialist abstraction. He gets Spiridon, and what a joy Spiridon is. Spiridon’s criteria for morality is fairly simple: “He spoke ill of no one. He never bore false witness. He killed only when at war. He wouldn’t steal a crumb from any person, but he robbed the state whenever opportunity afforded, with a cool conviction that it was right” (505).

Hegel and Modern Society (Charles Taylor)

Taylor claims this isn’t merely a summation of his earlier tome on Hegel. That’s not really true. A number of pages are lifted but I think he succeeds in succinctly tying Hegel’s ontology to Hegel’s politics and showing the latter’s relevance for the modern age.

Hegel’s Ontology

Hegel sought to synthesize the Romantic desire for freedom and expression with the Rationalist desire for Reason. The Romantics saw Enlightenment science severing man’s unity. Man can only be self-conscious when he abstracts himself from the world. But when he does that, he severs himself from the organic unity of life. Reason and Life are thus opposites. But they are opposites which can’t exist without the other.

This leads us to Geist (God, sort of) as the Embodied Subject. A rational subject must be embodied because their must be an opposite pole in which it may flourish. Hegel rejects both Christian theism (God independent of the world) and naturalism (God as not absolute). Self-positing: God eternally creates the conditions of his existence. Hegel is not so much arguing for an existent reality, but for the conditions that Geist be.

What is the Dialectic?

we start with the most elementary notion of what consciousness is, “to show that this cannot stand up, that it is riven with inner contradiction and must give way to a higher one, which is also in turn shown to be contradictory” (55).

Politics as Alienation Overcome

Modern society has seen the proliferation of Romantic views of life along with the rationalization and bureaucratization of collective structures and an exploitive stance toward nature (71). The adequate form of Spirit (remember, Spirit must be embodied) is social. Man has to be part of something larger than himself, since man cannot exist by himself.

alienation: this happens whenever the public existence no longer has meaning for me: e.g., the perceived futility of voting; nominal religious belief in Church-States. Individuals then strike out on their own to define their individuality. They then (ironically) come together as a new social unit.

Negative freedom would require that the whole outcome be decided by me. Yet, the whole outcome is a social one, so it cannot be decided by me alone. Thus, negative freedom is impossible.

The Modern Dilemma

Here is why modern liberal society is doomed: radical participation in civic structures is only possible if there is a ground of agreement, or underlying common purpose (Augustine’s common objects of love). Democracy and participation cannot create this; they merely presuppose it. The demand for absolute freedom by itself is empty.
Modern ideology and equality leads to homogenization [Taylor isn’t always clear on what he means by homogenization] of society. It is an acid drip on traditional structures, yet it cannot replace them.

Hegel and Marx

This is where Charles Taylor, using Hegel’s analysis, cuts Marxism to the bone. The Soviet view sees the proletarian party as “engineers of building in conformity with the laws of history…[combining] two opposed pictures of the human predicament. It shows us man, on one hand, imposing his will on the course of history…On the other hand dialectical materialism sets out the laws which govern man and history with an iron necessity” (151). “The laws of history cannot be the basis of social engineering and reveal the inevitable trend of events” (152).

Analysis and Conclusion

A Christian cannot accept Hegel’s ontology. It echoes pantheism and is openly process theology. Hegel’s analysis of epistemology on lower levels is sometimes interesting. Hegel’s insights on politics (if not his conclusions!) are occasionally brilliant.

The concepts of social alienation are more pronounced today than ever before. Hegel was spot on. His critique of Negative Freedom of the French Revolution applies equally to Marxism (and its body count) and the Cultural Leninism of today’s America

Review: Martin Heidegger: Philosophy of Another Beginning

Heidegger was the most powerful non-analytic philosopher of the 20th century.  His language is both poetic and at times indecipherable. It takes a powerful thinker to interpret him and Aleksandr Dugin is such a man.  I am not endorsing Dugin’s larger project (though it is obviously superior to Western liberalism). Rather, Dugin more than anyone else understood Heidegger’s own Dasein.

Thesis: Heidegger is the transition point between the last of the old philosophy (Greece to Germany) and the new way of thinking (Dugin 18). Heidegger’s narrative: something was, something began, something ended (31).  Europe is the evening land (Abendland): it is time to put “Being” to sleep (37).

What makes Dugin helpful is that he clearly outlines Heidegger’s “code.” The root of his thought is ontological differentiation (41).

Seiende: beings. 

Sein: Being

Noema: does not correspond to beings themselves, but to thoughts about beings.

These two form a dyad.  The formation of the verb is always related to its inflection, its linkage to something (elastic bending, 42).  Sein in its pure form is abstract. It doesn’t “bend” to anything. Man already implicitly assumes that beings (Seiende) are. If we reflect upon this, we ask “What is the being (Sein) of beings (Seiende)?  What is common to all beings that makes them beings?

Heidegger reads Heraclitus and Aristotle as saying that Logos = Being = Unity (49).  Heidegger wants to challenge the idea that Being is the foundation of beings. The Tradition, which Heidegger will ultimately attack, says “Being” is the common property of “beings.”

Fundamental Ontology

Ousia is a particular way to conceive of Being–share quality of all beings (54). If we say that Being is the essence of beings, we establish two parallel levels: the level of beings and the level of essence (ousia).

Main argument: if we differentiate Being and beings through essence, we overlook the difference between Being and beings (54).  Thus, Being is not beings. This logically leads to nihilism.

Ontics

Ontic dimension: that which is present to thought.  Thinking about the world. This is the topography of Phusis: the sphere of beings.  This is a collected concept.

Ontology

The distance that arises as ontics reflects upon itself.  Ontology identifies the Being of beings with the essence (ousia: shared class of) of beings.  It attributes Being as an attribute of beings, but also exalts Being to a higher level.  This is what Dugin calls the “double topography” (58).  Greek thought abstracted Being from beings when it should have leapt into the primordial foundation of beings.

Seyn: the kind of Being that eludes ontology and is not grasped by abstracting it from other beings, but rather penetrating to the Nothingness (59). Argument: in the doubled topography logos was severed from beings (63). When we say we  need to explore the nothing, we are not modern nihilists. We are going to beings’ primordial source (63). This is what generates beings but is not beings.

The Beginning and End of Western European Philosophy

The Greek take on Being leads to the oblivion of Being.

Being–beings-as-a-whole–is replaced by the notion (Vorstellung) of it.  This notion then becomes more disconnected and mechanical (92)

The Pre-Socratics took the obvious claim that “beings” are, but they then sought to find what was the “Being” of beings, and they interpreted this as phusis (99).  This means that Being now is. Now Being (Sein) precedes beings and is different from them.

Plato

Being is now an Idea. It is that which is placed before man (106).  That’s Dugin’s language and I don’t think it is the clearest. This is one of those times where German could be clear.  Ideas function in a gegenstand relationship with Man. That’s not all, though. Not only does man stand before Ideas, but Ideas stand before things of the world (107).

Maybe we can say it this way:  Ideas are always across from man.  There is a “gap.” Man is always “before” (across) the ideas.  Thus Heidegger’s conclusion: man (being) is no longer in the world, but across from it.  Man is pre-sented before the world, which means Ideas have to be re-presented to him. Truth is now correspondence between Idea and Object.

dugin_1_fot_yt-746x280

I’ll skip Heidegger’s section on Christianity.  For all of his genius, he is utterly incompetent on this point.  If all he had to say was that Thomas Aquinas helped with the oblivion of being, then fine.  But he didn’t understand Semitic thought, nor did he want to. Thus when Yahweh says “I am that I am,” Heidegger just thinks it means Being qua Being.

Descartes

Descartes adapted but never left Plato.  In Modernity instead of Plato’s Idea we have new “representations: the subject, apperception, energy, reality, the monad, etc.” (114). Descartes starts with the Subject.  This subject either is or inside the human mind.

Everything is is re-presented before the Subject.  Descartes calls these beings objects (115). A subject must have an object to stand before it. Modernity will then use Scientism to function as the subject.  This means that Scientism now controls the objects before it, which could be anything from plants to animals to humans.

IMG_0574

The chart doesn’t make it clear, but the actual topography stops at Marxism.  I wrote “break” in the margin. Everything below the break is what pertains to the New Beginning.  What I’m interested in is the topography itself.  He shows how Western Philosophy took “Being” and made it into Ideas, Will, reason, Power, and finally techne, the reign of machine over man.

Metapolitics,

Heidegger’s true genius is his opening of political space. I don’t think his attack on “Being-Sein” will hold out, although he does make some valid criticisms of Marxism and Liberalism.

Heidegger uses “Planetarism” for what we call “globalism” (161).  He identifies this with America, or rather an extreme individualism and consumerism. For Heidegger Planetarism is nihilistic because it expresses only one thing: the triumph of techne, which obliterates Being.  Dugin argues that “Liberalism equates the Cartesian subject with the individual and pragmatic calculations in the area of countable tangible and intangible objects” (162).

Communism and Machenschaft

Marx stays true to the metaphysical topography. He has a subject (society, class) and an object (matter, product, thing).  Marx correctly noted that Machenschaft created alienation. His solution is to use techne (objects) to overcome the alienation.  He overcomes the alienation by means of what brought alienation (166)!

This explains why Heidegger identified with National Socialism.  He saw Being at its historical end. Liberalism and Communism were the last manifestation of the history of Being.  National Socialism, so he thought, was the only thing resisting these two. Therefore, the New Beginning would come.  Except it didn;t.

This next section is difficult, even from a Heideggerian perspective.  Heidegger’s argument is that Western metaphysics reached its nihilistic end.  I suppose that’s true. A new metaphysics is needed and this one must focus on Seyn-being (good being).  The only way to do this is what Heidegger calls “Das Geviert,” the four-fold. The only way to reach Geviert is through the Ereignis (the event) which calls for a radical decision, a leap into the abyss.

That’s the summary, anyway.  Let’s unpack it. When we experience Seyn, that is, when we choose to let beings spring up rather than abstracting them into an artificial genus, then we will see everything in a four-fold way: Sky (world), Earth, gods, and men.

Sky: this normally corresponds to Welt or world (totality). It is what cosmos was for the Greeks.  It is the principle of harmony. Heidegger strangely says these principles will be at war with each other, which is odd since sky is supposed to represent harmony.  I think by war he really means risk, the element of uncertainty. Sky is not an object. It is the world in its openness (200). It is an orientation.

Heidegger insists that world/sky is always connected with a Volk, a people.

Earth: the earth leads to presence. It makes sky real.

Gods: He doesn’t mean what we mean by gods.  He means something like the numinous. They can’t be gods like we think because that would put them back into the Platonic metaphysics of being.  The “gods” can’t have being. Well, what are they? I’m not sure. I’m not sure that Heidegger is sure, either. The only close parallel I can think of is “sacramental presence,” which of course Heidegger doesn’t accept.

Men: They are neither subjects of being nor objects, but only a dimension of being.

geviert

The four-fold forms a St Andrews Cross.  Seyn-being lives in between (Inzwischen).  Since Heidegger rejects the old metaphysics, it can’t be located in a place, but only between places (but isn’t this also a place?).  Another name for this “in-betweeness” is “Ereignis, the event. This is the single moment where Seyn is manifest. At the risk of sounding like the old metaphysics, let’s take what they call an object but which we will call the Thing (das Ding).  It is being in presence. The sky makes it what it is. The earth makes it present. The gods give it the holy. Man speaks it through language (231). Applied to objects in general this is incoherent. Applied to the Lord’s Supper it makes sense.

ereignis

I’m not so sure this works as a whole metaphysics.  On the other hand, though, it does function as a cipher to view the current metaphysical chaos, which appears to lead to transhumanism.

Misplacing Geviert

The old metaphysics took the dimension of Sky and place the “Ideas” in it.  The Ideas then replaced sky (235). The earth has now been turned to matter. It is hule.  Man is now a rational animal. He no longer names things through poetry but rather mass produces them in a factory.

After Descartes man is now a subject who transforms everything else into an object (254). Everything, even God, is now an object.   This god “lost the attributes of a subject and became a mental abstraction,” which was soon discarded (255).

Gestell

Gestell is Heidegger’s word for the artificial framing of an object. It is “the essence of the world’s inauthentic concepts” (258).  Applied to the Sky-dimension, we no longer have ideas but satellites (261).

Simulacrum

This is an interesting postmodern concept. It is a copy without an original (see the idiocy of a Rorschach test).  On one hand it is meaningless and empty. On the other hand it represents an endless will to power (268).

The New Dasein

Dasein is not a what but a how. It is the “shock” you experience when you are awakened to a new idea (293). Heidegger wants Dasein to function as a way to overcome the subject-object duality.

Conclusion and Analysis

It’s easy to see why Amazon banned this book.  Dugin is too powerful a thinker for them to deal with.  That’s a shame, too, since this is one of the better books on Heidegger.  Aside from a few typos, this edition is quite nice.  It is well-bound and has a fine finish on the cover.

I question Heidegger’s larger project.  He wants a god who can never be. Literally.  His god that passes by does absolutely nothing.  To his credit I think he realized this.  He saw that National Socialism couldn’t bring about Geviert.

Here is the problem with his take on Christianity:  We do not say that God is a being among beings.  We say that God is beyond being.  Hyper-ousia.

The Dominion Covenant (North)

North, Gary.

This is his commentary on Genesis. It’s not a textual commentary.  It’s more of worldview analysis.

Cosmic Personalism: our universe is created and governed by a speaking God.

Purpose, Order, and Sovereignty

Gen. 1:14-18 is more offensive than Gen. 1:1 simply because it can’t be allegorized and it ruins any attempt to harmonize creation with evolution.

The Dominion Covenant

Man is God’s image bearer and so has limited sovereignty over creation (North 29).

Economic Value: Objective and Subjective

“The doctrine of imputation lies at the heart of creation” (37). It is objectively good because it conforms to God’s decree.  It is subjectively good because God, the speaking subject, announced it as good.

Marginalist revolution in economics:  acting men impute value to scarce economic resources. See diamond-water paradox.  We never buy “water in general” or “diamonds in general.” Men do not trade indeterminate aggregates (North 40).

The value of the marginal unit determines the exchange value.  However, marginal utility cannot be applied among two or more individuals.

Subordination and Fulfillment

Man and nature–thesis:  dominion requires a division of labor (85).  Adam receives a helpmeet.

God-designed Harmony of interests

Thesis: the heart of man’s being is not his sexuality, but his calling before God (90). The marriage-sexual covenant is subordinate to the dominion covenant. If Eve is a help-meet, then we already see a division of labor.

Contra Marx, on class warfare.  The history of all societies is not class warfare, but ethical warfare against a sovereign God (98).

Costs, Choices, and Tests

Value is subjective because man is a personal  being. God, also, is a personal being. He imputes value to His creation.  Man imputes value to creation within a hierarchy of values (101). Is it worth giving up x to get y?  Choice requires preference, and preference requires standards, and standards require an authority structure.

Scarcity: Curse and Blessing

Common Grace, Common Curse

Linear growth overcomes cyclical stagnation.  Because the ground is cursed, men must allocate resources and divide their labor.

The Burden of Time

The meaning of life forces us to consider the meaning of time (118-119). Time is the god of paganism and chance is its throne.  Time is “dead necessity.” For biblical man time is opportunity (120).

Godly Deception

Everyone gives Rahab trouble for her lie (even though James says she was justified for that very act).  But as North points out, her lie is irrelevant, analytically speaking. She committed high treason and no one bats an eye at that (184-185).

Jael lies, too.  In fact, she violated her husband’s international treaty with Sisera.  She lied to him and drove a spike through his head. Rather than anguishing over the “Nazis at the door question,” the Holy Spirit, speaking through Deborah, says “Most blessed of women is Jael” (Judg. 5.24).

Towards a review

Do not approach this book as an exegetical commentary.  It’s nothing of the kind. North begins with the presupposition that all ancient (and modern gnostic) cosmologies die upon the rock of the speaking, self-contained God.  From there he shows that such disciplines as economics can’t consistently exist in a random universe which worships the chaos gods.

Nuggets

*Any serious claim to godhead must maintain the unity of the Godhead. Since man is god, he must be made to unite.  We see this with covenant-breaking man and the United Nations. Man, collective man with the scientific elite at the top, must be unified.

* Pagan cosmology, both ancient and modern, is committed to the chain of being. God is part of this chain.

*Evolution requires several leaps in being.  One, to get the process of life started. And another leap to develop consciousness distinct from the atoms bumping into each other.

*Cyclical views of time are connected with ancient chaos rituals.  In doing so, the participants engage in a drama of the creation of the world from the unformed (and hence chaotic) hyle.  It is a demonic power from below.

Some notes on social Marxism

I am going to call it social marxism rather than Cultural Marxism, and for a few reasons.  Cultural Marxism is a specific subset of Critical Theory that draws from Marcuse and Fromm.  Most of the hucksters today aren’t actually peddling that, and certainly not in the churches.

Social Marxism is simply a social application of some of Marx’s concepts, like alienation and Hegel’s slave-master dialectic.

Here is Marx’s sociological ideas in a nutshell. It is a universal acid-drip. If you are using language like “alienation” or similar rot, you are a sociological Marxist. This is what the Radical Orthodox guys call an ontology of violence.

Thesis: Hegel cannot escape an alienation that exists between the people and the state.

Hegel’s logic: the Idea becomes a subject; other concepts, like political sentiment, become predicates of the Idea (Marx 65). Marx will take this and de-essentialize it. The substance now is only a Subject.

As demoniac Herbert Marcuse noted,

The distinction between reason (Vernunft) and understanding (Verstand) is the distinction between common sense and speculative thinking (44).

True thought is a triad (Triplizitat). A dynamic unity of opposites.

S is P.

To know what a thing really is we have to get past its immediately given state (S is S). S is S doesn’t tell us much. If we follow out the process S becomes something else, P, but still retains its own identity.

The earlier Hegelian analyses saw society as one of “ever repeated antagonisms in which all progress is but a temporary unification of opposites” (60-61). Only a universal revolution can overcome the universal negativity.

The alienation of labor creates a society split into opposing classes (289).

Division of labor: the process of separating various economic activities into specialized and delimited fields (290).

Key argument: Since the individual, on either Hegelian or Marxian lines, is a “Universal,” then the proletariat can only exist “world-historically;” therefore, the communist revolution is necessarily a world-revolution (292).

Summary: as long as we are milking perceived grievances and positing alienation between power structures (or more particularly, a structure of violence between Rich Capitalist CIS male and Woke PCA Blogger), then we are engaged in Cultural Marxism.

Review: Mises, Theory and History

While there is much good in this volume, I have some reservations (which I will list in my conclusion). Still, it is very lucid.

Values are subjective, but not relative.  Subject simply means “from the knowing subject.”  Thus Mises can write that “any scientific treatment of the problems of value judgements must take into full account the fact that these judgments are subjective and changing” (von Mises 24).

Mises holds to a utilitarian version of natural law.  By itself it isn’t that bad, but it is utilitarian to the extent that he knows he really can’t give a justification for it.  This is evident in his treatment of justice: “the ultimate yardstick of justice is conduciveness to the preservation of social cooperation….Social utility is the only standard of justice. It is the sole guide to legislation” (36).  Strong words, indeed.

Mises’s section on determinism is misleading.  He is seeking the Christian doctrine of providence and the self-contained God who is the concrete universal, for he wants to deny pure randomness.  Mises wants to uphold determinism but reject materialism (52).

Dismantling Marx

Marx had said that “material, productive forces” is the agent of change in society.  However, as von Mises points out, he never told us what these are (73). How do you get technical knowledge from a material superstructure?  Mises lists three problems with this idea:

1) a technological invention is not merely material; it is the product of a mental process.
2) a mere designing of a technological invention is not sufficient to produce it.
3) the utilization of machines presupposes the social cooperation under the division of labor.

Is Wealth Really Concentrated in the hands of a few?

To a certain extent, maybe. But this ignores the most obvious fact about corporations: the bigger the corporation the more widely its stock shares are distributed (79).

Criticisms

He had an awful section on medieval Christianity.  He tried to engage in exegesis and was clearly out of his league (29-30). Further, this is probably a Mises volume that you could skip and not miss anything. If you are the type who is interested in Mises, then you will probably read *Human Action,* anyway. Or at least *Socialism.* You get the same destruction of Marxism there without the extra material where he fights forgotten early 20th century fellow humanists.