Is Progress Real?

Written By: - Date published: 2:41 pm, December 31st, 2020 - 65 comments
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It’s hard to overstate the extraordinary merging of events in Europe that led to the Industrial Revolution exploding in the mid-1800’s. There was of course at least 200 years of prior scene setting, across the sciences, philosophy and political arena’s. In say the year 1600 the so-called Renaissance was really the project of barely a few hundred elite individuals, located in a handful of European cities. (The fact of individuals like Leibniz were inventing to core of modern calculus, or Kepler determining the nature of orbital mechanics, while literally their next door neighbours still lived in a world of superstition, violence and often shocking cruelty is something that always intrigued me, and stands as an object lesson in humility.)

But such intellectual flowerings had occurred before, the Classical era being the most obvious instance, and similar events can be found scattered across the pages of history, but none went on to dominate the entire planet, and the reasons are not especially obvious.

Even why it was initially located in Europe and not say India, China or Africa are still the subject of considerable debate. Personally I still think Jared Diamond’s attempt in Guns, Germs and Steel remains one of the more coherent efforts, but he isn’t without his critics either. Diamond argues that it was essentially due to an accident of geography, biology and climate. But regardless of it’s narrow origins, the remarkable outcome has been an almost inexorable extension of human development and social progress across the entire planet.

Yet at every step in this process there has been vociferous resistance, a repeated versioning of apocalyptic alarums. Early in the process we had Malthus telling us that we would collapse because of population, Marx because capitalism, and numerous Victorian authors writing of the ‘infernal engines’ of industrialisation, culminating in the hugely popular works of Tolkien. And indeed the first crude manifestations of the Victorian era industrialisation were intolerably dangerous, inefficient and ugly. Yet despite the obvious deficiencies progress incomes were slowly rising, housing and public health improved, consumer goods became available to mass markets, railways and reliable ships made travel possible, literacy slowly became universal, professions such as nursing, teaching, engineering, medicine and law started to flourish. Police forces were established to reduce crime and violence, and political systems became more adept at policy and regulation. Nothing was of course perfect, but ordinary people could sense their lives were improving … and this more than anything else was sufficient to overcome the naysayers, even through two catastrophic world wars.

Post WW2 saw an enormous acceleration of the process. The US-led world trade order meant virtually all nations this side of the Iron Curtain could participate in trade and development. The collapse of the colonial empires signaled a new era in nation building, and the prospect of a global order. Oil became cheap and abundant, wartime technologies rapidly found new applications in civilian life. The abject failure of the marxist projects in Russia and China demoralised the anti-capitalists, NASA put humans on the moon, and for around three decades until the late 60’s the capitalist/industrialist paradigm was an unchallengeable success. So much so that it forgot to examine the fault lines in it’s assumptions. Vietnam and the US race riots, the counter culture revolution, second wave feminism were all symptoms of a culture with very shallow, materialist roots.

And within corners of academia the apocalyptic Malthusian thinkers adapted. Unable to challenge the economic order directly they chose to morph their ideas into post-modernism and environmentalism. Both had important things to say; post-modernism challenged the unexamined self righteousness of a dominating Euro-centric cultural order, while environmentalism rightly pointed to industrialisation’s failure to account for it externalities.

The environmental argument first revisited Malthusian population arguments, yet by 1968 demographers knew that human population growth had already peaked and was destined to decline. Then they argued for different limits, that we would exhaust mineral and oil resources, or that we would run out of environmental ‘sinks’ for our waste streams. The most important of these ideas was of course the limits on CO2 in the atmosphere.

The post-modernists started more quietly, making the valid point that reality does not privilege any one cultural narrative over any other. That because our limited human intellects have no direct access to absolute truth, therefore all narratives are limited, selective and ultimately self-serving. That in essence all culture is a construct intended to serve the interests, privileges and powers of the people who promote it. And thus the entire edifice of ‘progress’ has been built on nothing but a castle of deceptions and exploitation; an argument intended to delegitimise the notion of progress itself. Hence the title of this essay.

And since the 1970’s there has been a strong counter current movement built on these two ideas that has insisted either this progress has been achieved at a price to the planet we cannot afford to pay, or that what we have purchased was nothing but shoddy self-delusion. Both asked legitimate questions, both applied an entirely justified scrutiny to the dominant social and economic order, both posited apocalyptic outcomes if they were ignored, yet neither offered any solution beyond a poorly qualified demand that if ‘progress’ had such bad outcomes, it must therefore be dismantled. Or alternatively after passing through a crisis, some utopian reshaping of the disorganised rubble would become possible. (That both strands of apocalyptic thinking have degenerated into multiple camps of extremists is not very surprising, neither ever had any satisfiable end-point to their demands.)

Yet for all of it’s manifest shortcomings the great beast lumbered on, seemingly impervious to the increasingly shrill cries of those insisting that it was trudging toward an abyss. And this past year has in retrospect given us glimpses of what that precipice might look like, the great fossil fueled evolution of humanity, with all that it has brought us for good and ill, may well have finally reached it’s innate limits. We enter into a wholly unprecedented demographic inversion with ageing populations, game changing technical innovation slowed or stalled, and politically we’ve tried marxism, fascism and neo-liberalism … and none of them have proven useful either.

My thesis so far is that reaching back into the past, to try and solve the new problems of our present, while not always unreasonable, fails when confronted with the novel and unknown.

65 comments on “Is Progress Real? ”

  1. mickysavage 1

    Thanks RL most of the way through your post I wanted to disagree with it but I got to the end and agreed with it whole heartedly. Good post.

    Now explain how we change things so that current political processes get us through the next thirty years …


  2. Incognito 2

    I presume this Post is one in a series and I don’t want to pre-empt the next one(s) by writing a long counter argument or even a counter-post.

    The answer to the title question is ‘it depends’ and ‘yes and no’.

    Let me just say that in my view we must reach back into the past to understand how we got here and why, not how, we are facing the problems of our present. Without proper understanding, we will do the same/similar things when confronted again with the novel and unknown with similar consequences and outcomes. I will also add that I think that many if not all our present problems should be viewed more as a symptom/consequence than as a cause/phenomenon an sich.

    Happy New Year.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Feel free to expand if you wish. I'm acutely aware that the post is an excessively condensed attempt at outlining 200 years of intellectual history; the mere attempt is probably a folly. But at least the comment thread can expand on the numerous points I've glossed over.

      Yes this is a series and I do have a plan, yet good comments can prompt worthwhile diversions … yes

      • Incognito 2.1.1

        I’m in two minds and I have not yet fully decided how I will fill in New Year’s Eve.

        Is our intellectual history equivalent to our technological/scientific history, in your view?

        Condensing anything related to human history into 200 or so words comes with serious drawbacks 😉

  3. Robert Guyton 3

    The "Progress" you describe is an illusion but may be useful in serving as a model for mankind of what not to do. It had to be done, evidenced by the vigour with which it was pursued, but is/was clearly pathological; we can learn from this realisation. We really are clever rascals, but failed to maintain our balance due to the headiness of our cleverness. There are encouraging signs that we recognise this now, or at least, a significant number of us do. There's no need to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" however; we won't squander the learning nor the technologies we've developed, but will/must apply those and the thinking that led to them, to restoring an equilibrium of sorts, to the environment we inhabit; city, farm, wherever. I've been reading Stephen Harrod Buhner's "Plant intelligence and the Imaginal realm" and in it he talks of Barbarians, bearded, long-haired and un-civilized and the need for more of them/us 🙂 "Barb", he explains, means "beard" and the wearing of those signifies membership in the Barbarian clan and the un-civilized/un-civilizing thinking and behaviour that goes with it. In part, reconnecting with other-than-human life, listening to the advice it offers (ceaselessly, freely) and adjusting our path accordingly. Our progress will be, not back to the future, but in to the imaginal realms, that turn out to be, surprise, surprise, where it's really at 🙂

    • RedLogix 3.1

      It had to be done, evidenced by the vigour with which it was pursued, but is/was clearly pathological; we can learn from this realisation.

      I'm not sure humanity's long march into modernity is best described as 'pathological'. Perhaps a better metaphor for the passage we have gone through is childhood …

      • Robert Guyton 3.1.1

        "Old Growth" societies say our own is pathological and I agree with them. Pathologies have to be recognised and managed, not eliminated, according to "natural laws" – this happens with organisms in the soil and also applies to ideas, corporations being a striking example. They will appear, we must restrict their influence, protect ourselves from them in order to…progress.

  4. McFlock 4

    Leibniz and Kepler made significant steps that we have altered with time, just as Malthus and Marx did.

    Malthus was a move away from the idea that the world is our infinite domain that we can exploit without cost. He wasn't wrong. His specific predictions misjudged the point where doom finally overtakes technology (doom only has to pass once, tech needs to stay ahead all the time).

    Marx moved away from the idea that individual responsibilities and choices and God's judgement were responsible for individual cases of poverty. He documented, thoroughly, that poverty and exploitation were inherent systemic features. His prediction was more hand-wavey, which makes lots of folks think it'll happen tomorrow, and gives them excuses for when today's attempt fails dismally.

    But then neither Leibniz nor Kepler were the final words in their fields, were they?

    Here's the thing: at the moment we're in a race between consumption (and the negative externalities like climate change or resource depletion that consumption causes) and the technological innovation to identify and fix our problems. And recent experience suggests a solid third of any given population are morons who could kill everyone through stupidity if given the chance.

    I have a sense of unease about this situation.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      What all of these historic figures have in common is an ability to diagnose at least part of the problem fairly well. I've revisited them partly because much of what they had to say was important at the time.

      On the other hand in all cases their solutions in the social/political domain were pants. Why this should be is one of themes being explored in this series. At least one reason is that it's the job of the future to be dangerous; predictions are notoriously unreliable critters. But there are deeper reasons why; and I'd like to have a go at exploring this.

      Your unease is entirely justified; I may be a pragmatic optimist, but I’m aware the odds of a happy outcome here are not especially good.

      • Robert Guyton 4.1.1

        A happy outcome? Are we happy now? There is much that is wondrous in the world, but much too has been lost; is the experience of walking through native forest that is bereft of huia a less happy one that it might have been had we ensured their survival? I think it is. It might be that we'll have to settle for "determined" rather than "happy" as our best-bet state of mind in the times ahead.

        • RedLogix

          Are we happy now?

          Well if I lean on the old but reliable Maslow hierarchy of needs for a moment, 'happiness' (as opposed to abject misery) sits firmly on a foundation of meeting physical needs. In that respect this past decade has been quite remarkable.

          Extreme poverty has been dramatically reduced, from 18 percent of the global population to just 8.6 percent. More than 158,000 people climbed out of extreme poverty every day for 10 years.

          The child mortality rate was reduced by a third, saving the lives of more than 2.1 million children. Average global life expectancy grew from 69.5 years to 72.6 years. The death rate from indoor air pollution decreased by 19 percent, while deaths from climate-related natural disasters decreased by a third, to just 0.35 per 100,000 persons. The proportion of the population with access to electricity, meanwhile, jumped by over 10 percent, from 79.9 percent in 2010 to 90 percent in 2020.

          These are building blocks essential to eliminating poverty; the left cannot argue against them without betraying it's very purpose. Of course Maslow also informs us that neither material prosperity, nor mere 'happiness' are sufficient by themselves, which is the domain I'm certain you're alluding to.

          • Robert Guyton

            So, it's a numbers thing? If more people are happy, all is well? I guess though, with the human population being what it is, there are also more unhappy people on the planet than at any other time in history – yes?

            • RedLogix

              I hear you, I'd suggest the numbers are necessary but are not sufficient in themselves to achieve what we're thinking of.

              I must ask about the "Old Growth" societies you spoke of … it's my sense they would all be very low population density societies; similar to most pre-Industrial hunter gatherers. For much of our pre-agricultural evolution there were barely 10m humans on earth. Sometimes much less.

              Such societies work to quite different constraints to the ones we're facing, and while they may have wisdom and insights well worth discussing; I'm not sure we can model our future on their past.

              • Pat

                Is progress real?…first off you need to define 'progress'

                Id suggest that although Malthus made the mistake of being definitive he will ultimately be proved correct….to argue otherwise is to suggest the bounty of the earth is limitless ….which it obviously is not.

                • Robert Guyton

                  Hi Pat – I'm going to disagree 🙂

                  I suspect the Universe is, by it's very nature, endlessly and limitlessly, generous and bounteous. I think presently, we are prising the eyes out of the stone statue we think is our due, but in fact, we're bedazzled by trinkets. The true "wealth" is inexhaustible, but we can barely glimpse it through our clouded lenses. Or something… 🙂

                  • Pat

                    The universe may be….are you suggesting we import from other galaxies?…mot only is that currently impossible , it will likely always be impractical…..meanwhile?

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Import? We always have: "space dust", meteors, meteorites, sunlight, starlight and waves of all manner and sorts. These "things" add to our wealth, constantly. It's interesting to speculate about what else might have alighted here following a lengthy voyage from afar – microbes comfortably survive deep space travel – our own probes are potentially infecting faraway places even as we discuss the possibility of life cruising the galaxies. Tardigrades do just fine in the challenging conditions of space; who knows what else is winging its way earthward? 🙂

                  • Pat

                    We consider the world through substantially different prisms i fear Robert, which makes for problematic discussion.

                    We either have a world of limited resource or we do not…imagination doth butter no parsnips

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Some resources are limited, others are not; perhaps we should be exploring the adoption of those that are limitless?

                      That's my argument.

                    • Pat

                      Then I pose the same question to you that I posed to Red…what do you consider is the sustainable (human) stocking rate of this planet?

                    • Robert Guyton

                      I imagine that's a fluid figure, dependent upon a number of constraints/resources/circumstances. The planet seems to have developed systems for modulating/governing populations of all other organisms living here and I expect it's applying it's experience to us. Given our "wild-card" factor; our big-brain intelligence and desire to confound the boundaries, it's probably impossible to put a figure to your question. There are bound to be limits to growth, but those are no longer what they might have seemed a century ago, imo. Food seems to be a limiting factor, and present methods of growing/raising it are disturbingly threatening to the health of the biosphere, but if a simple vat-produced, protein-based goop was made readily available, that constraint would be changed significantly (to be replaced by the restraint of the damaging effects of human waste, but if that was mastered and humanure became a valuable resource, then the situation might be different again. It could be argued that we are already way over capacity, but curiously enough, the planet hasn't collapsed as a result.

                  • Pat

                    I would suggest that nature did exactly that…pre industrial revolution , and the capacity was below 1 billion.

                    We may take some premium from our "intellect"which I would suggest at best may allow perhaps a doubling, so 2 billion….for as you note there is waste and room for other species to consider, not just calories…for without the 'others' (species) we cannot exist, as much as we may tell ourselves we can

                    • Robert Guyton

                      I don't think the industrial revolution altered the way nature operates; She's still following the same patterns She always has. I do think though, that we're cruising' for a bruising', though if we were to take advice from species that have been here a lot longer than us, we might learn something to our (mutual) advantage.

                    • Pat

                      The industrial revolution may not have altered the way 'nature operates' but it certainly altered the way we interact with the natural environment

                    • RedLogix

                      but it certainly altered the way we interact with the natural environment

                      Actually that's a very good point and one well worth expanding on.

                      Modern urban humans certainly have an outsized impact in terms of CO2 and mineral resource use, yet in terms of land area they're far less intensive than their rural subsistence farming cousins. And people who rely on firewood and dung for fuel may have no CO2 footprint, but their impact on natural environments in terms of deforestation and habitat loss is very significant.

                • RedLogix

                  Malthus was proven wrong on both sides of his argument; it turns out that neither human population was going to grow without limit, nor is our ability to innovate and discover new resources obviously limited either.

                  And even in his own time this should have been obvious; but apocalyptic thinking has a long track record of seducing otherwise sensible people.

                  • Pat

                    Then you misread Malthus….suggest you revisit

                  • Pat

                    What do you consider the (human) carrying capacity of the planet ?

                    • RedLogix

                      At present we produce around 25% more food than we can eat. (Much of the surplus going rather pointlessly into bio-fuels.) So that isn't the constraint.

                      CO2 is the other urgent limit, but then dealing to this is just a matter of technical choices.

                      Various mineral resources and environmental sinks, along with land use and oceanic pollution and threatened bio-diversity are also probable limits. Yet each of these do have technically feasible solutions.

                      Or another way to look at this; pre-agricultural humans seemed to have a carrying capacity of maybe 100m (although life was so precarious they never got past 10m), pre-industrial humans around 1b, and fossil fuels have gotten us comfortably to around 10b … each a carrying capacity increase of 10 fold. On what basis are you going to rule out the possibility us repeating the same astonishing feat?

                    • Pat

                      "…And with not too many immediate concerns about what tomorrow will bring."

                      Id suggest that is a egocentric view not shared by by the majority of the worlds inhabitants and increasingly even those in first world nations

                    • RedLogix

                      Id suggest that is a egocentric view not shared by by the majority of the worlds inhabitants

                      Compared to what? All the data I've repeatedly presented shows that the large majority of people living now have far fewer immediate concerns than did their ancestors who lived 200 years ago. This doesn't mean the world is trouble free, far from it, but if you are over the age of 40, consider yourself fortunate to be alive and well enough in this modern era to have the luxury of worrying about climate change.

                  • Pat

                    "… and fossil fuels have gotten us comfortably to around 10b …"

                    Comfortably?…we are destroying our only home.

                    The industrial revolution began a mere 10 or so generations ago, a blink of an eye and in that short time we have bought the planet to the brink of uninhabitability for our species…as Malthus predicted we have grown our population to the point of collapse…and collapse it will.

                    Or you can make the case for how 10 plus billion humans will inhabit this planet without destroying it…and unknowns and unprovens are not an option because human beings dont survive more than a few weeks without food.

                  • Pat

                    Apparently it is,,,and has been for 50 years .

                    Blind optimism in 'human capacity' is our biggest handicap and is downright dangerous…emphasis on the'blind'

                    • RedLogix

                      Blind optimism in 'human capacity' is our biggest handicap and is downright dangerous.

                      Yet this same 'dangerous' capacity has enabled you write this out in a magical typing machine, from the comfort of a warm dry home with a full stomach. And with not too many immediate concerns about what tomorrow will bring.

                      Maybe that's the problem; our ancient psyche needs something to worry about.

              • Robert Guyton

                What constraints are we working to?

                Hasn't it always been, self-restraint?

                • RedLogix

                  I do believe we have reached somewhere close to the innovation limits of fossil fuels. While the atmospheric CO2 limit is real and urgent, perhaps it's not the most important. There is a good argument that the very pace of technology itself has in many ways slowed down, that two hundred years of dramatic innovation has finally flattened out in the past decade.

                  There is of course an immense amount of research and many promising ideas being pursued, but there is a real sense of diminishing returns about it all. Fossil fuels have been wonderful, but quite inexorably their EROI is diminishing. This makes sense when you think of technology as essentially 'applied energy'; viewed like this limits on energy inevitably become limits on technology.

                  (The counter idea that we could develop a high tech, low energy density society is an intriguing, appealing idea, but sadly one with no obvious precedent. On reflection I think I may explore this in a future post.)

                  • Robert Guyton

                    I think it's our imaginations that are constrained and we are feeling the pinch.

                    • RedLogix

                      Yes; more than anything else modernism has been an intensely materialistic enterprise. And the very definition of materialism is the inability to imagine the invisible realities.

                    • Robert Guyton

                      Indeed. There is, however, an awful lot of imagining invisible realities going on now – at least, along the paths I stumble 🙂

                      "Old Growth" societies do not view imagination in the way we do – as something frivolous and inconsequential. Rather, they see it as a powerful thinking "implement" that brings tangible results and is to be regarded most highly. Einstein, Fukuoka and others commented similarly.

  5. Stuart Munro 5

    The abject failure of the marxist projects in Russia and China demoralised the anti-capitalists,

    Not really, no. Neither of those totalitarian regimes pursued a left agenda with any particular rigour. It's fair to say that the Okhrana had more influence on either state than Marx, for all that his prescription was full of inconsistencies. It sure demoralized the NZ Labour Party though – their great leap into vapid far-right bullshit coinciding with the last gasp of soviet despotism – almost as if their late-Stalinist God had just failed them too.

    As for progress, it happens, but not neatly, and certainly not by measures as crude as GDP growth. Consider the laser – the dreamt of future blasting weapon of the 1950s gradually migrated into crude industrial cutters, eventually becoming part of the ubiquitous storage and retrieval of contemporary computers. It takes half a century or more for each technology to begin to find a place, much less a sustainable or benign place, in an evolving society, and often the potential of such technologies is subverted by monied interests.

    Post-Modernism only really muddied the waters, it was hardly news that reigning narratives enjoyed no monopoly on truth. But pomos stymy the arrival of the long overdue new synthesis. Hutcheson (and Kant) reckoned that things like truth or justice were determinable by humans, and that is was important to try. The pomos take that game off the table. The triumph of neo-liberalism is a pomo outcome – ceasing to strive for truth and justice, our political leaders, like the corrupt Roman elites before them, only care about their investment portfolios. Thus our culture has lost its way, and worse, considers that no way is possible. It is not a belief conducive to progress.

    • RedLogix 5.1

      In 2001 I had the remarkable privilege of visiting not only the location where the Czar and his family were first imprisoned and then shot, but also more intriguingly the location inside Russia where the first Communists met to plot their revolution. It's a small rocky hill maybe 120m high with a natural amphitheatre (like a volcanic crater but it's not) at the summit. It was in those times far enough from the city and naturally private so that it was a good place for Sverdlovsk and his comrades to conspire. And we know he was in direct contact with Marx and Engels … the people who ran the October Revolution knew exactly whose ideas they were following.

      We also know from Solzhenitsyn that the internal purges and political authoritarianism was baked in from the very start. Stalin merely expanded on the precedent. The Terror was not of course what Marx had intended, he assumed that once the working class had obtained power that all social antagonisms and exploitation would magically end; and in this he was proven dramatically wrong. The very revolution necessary to implement his social order ensured the most ruthless and cruel would obtain all political power. Every single time.

      I do agree on your point about the necessary maturing process for technology; inevitably it's easier to find destructive purposes for new energy forms than constructive ones. But as you say time tends to favour the latter.

      And also I agree on your take on neo-liberalism … one of what I'm going to class as the three great extremist materialist mistakes of the 20th century, marxism, fascism and neo-liberalism.

      • arkie 5.1.1

        Sverdlovsk and his comrades to conspire. And we know he was in direct contact with Marx and Engels

        I assume you mean Yakov Sverdlov. Seeing as he was born the 2 years after Marx's death and was only 10 when Engels died I'm not sure how we know of this 'direct contact'.

        • RedLogix

          I was relying on a 20yr old remembered conversation with the person who took me to the spot. Obviously Sverdlov was not in direct personal contact, but the evidence is that he was a very close student of Marx and all the pre-revolutionary intellectuals.

          Given his very prominent role in the Revolution and that he's regarded perhaps the first head of the Soviet state, his role and connection to Marx really can't be discounted.

          • arkie

            he was a very close student of Marx

            And Lenin.

            Who was far more salient influence on the development of the Soviet states seeing as he was a direct participant in both the revolution and the leadership of the USSR.

      • solkta 5.1.2

        And we know he was in direct contact with Marx and Engels

        Marx died in 1883. [RL: Deleted. No more warnings.]

        • RedLogix

          Ah crap memory. Sverdlov did indeed live after Marx, but is absolutely on record as being a direct disciple of Marx.

          Sverdlov became a major activist and speaker in Nizhny Novgorod. In 1906, Sverdlov was arrested and held in the Yekaterinburg prison until his release. During his time in prison, Sverdlov continued to educate himself and others, reading Lenin, Marx, Kautsky, Heine, and more. Sverdlov attempted to live by the motto: "I put books to the test of life, and life to the test of books."

          He's also the instigator of the infamous kulak policy that later directly led to the Ukrainian famine.

          • arkie

            One would think the outcomes of the October revolution and the Soviet state were more attributable to Lenin's (and later Stalin's) ideas than Sverdlov being 'direct disciple of Marx'.

          • solkta

            [RL: Take a break from this thread. You’ve had your warning.]

      • McFlock 5.1.3

        The Terror was not of course what Marx had intended, he assumed that once the working class had obtained power that all social antagonisms and exploitation would magically end;


        When looking at the specifics of a transition from capitalism to communism, Marx included that there would be a transition period (dictatorship of the proletariat) but that the transition might not succeed the first time and the DoP would slide back into a capitalist or feudal power structure – same exploitation, new people up top.

        So in a way he predicted exactly what would happen, but it's also the fudge that makes his predictions irrefutable. Like every messiah is the second coming until it turns out no, that guy was a fraud, this new guy is actually the second coming. There's a boolean outcome with no context to assess how the prediction is coming along (although messiahs need to conform with prophecies that are canon – that's why Luke has Jesus being born back in Bethlehem, cynics suggest).

        • RedLogix

          Some time back I outlined the four fundamental premises of Marxist thinking:

          1. The idea that the elites would always oppress the working masses

          2. The false consciousness which ensured anyone who benefited from this exploitation would find a way to justify perpetuating the system

          3. The dictatorship of the proletariat, which if you read the link you provided clearly anticipates the need to violently overthrow the existing order

          4. And once this had been done ruthlessly and frequently enough, somehow quite magically all class antagonisms would disappear and a new utopian workers paradise would make all the prior suffering justified.

          OK so that's a big simplification, but it more or less covers the process off.

          • arkie

            May I suggest some holiday reading? has works by a wide variety of writers available to read online, 720 writers in fact! In 62 languages! All for free товарищ!

            • RedLogix

              Again if you have a point to make, make it here. Don't demand I go away and do your homework for you.

              I'm perfectly aware the above four points are a simplification and there many dusty tomes of marxist thinking they leave untouched. Yet in many ways the essence of the ideology is quite simple.

              Or as the first toast of the evening almost always was: К свободе

              • arkie

                I am not demanding anything. Nor do I have 'homework' that requires your assistance. Seeing as you seem to be relying on misremembered 20 year old conversations I was pointing out a place where one could read the actual writings of Marx and other thinkers instead of your particular interpretation and simplification.

              • McFlock

                3 ignores the allowances Marx made that violent revolution might not always be required. From the reference 22 of the comment to that effect in the wiki link I provided:

                "You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries – such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland – where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means. This being the case, we must also recognise the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must some day appeal to erect the rule of labour." La Liberté Speech delivered by Karl Marx on 8 September 1872, in Amsterdam

                4 is just a stupid misrepresentation. There's enough woo in his predictions (and outright hypocrisy in his character) to oppose Marx without making shit up.

                And I'm not sure how often Marx made toasts in Russian.

                • RedLogix

                  Like arkie you've every right to object to my very simplified marxist schema, but what you haven't done is demonstrate where it is wrong. The first two points may be crudely drawn, but seem accurate enough.

                  The third was really confirmed by your own reference, and while a 'peaceful marxist' revolution may be theoretically possible, no such thing ever spontaneously occurred in practice.

                  And yes my description of the end goal of 'glorious revolution' may be pointed and somewhat sarcastic; but then the gap between the proposed ideal of communism and the stack of corpses it managed to pile up in the 20th century does rather invite it don't you think?

                  • arkie

                    but what you haven't done is demonstrate where it is wrong

                    Now Red, wouldn't that be 'doing your homework for you'?

                    Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand class relations and social conflict as well as a dialectical perspective to view social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. As Marxism has developed over time into various branches and schools of thought, there is currently no single definitive Marxist theory.


                    • RedLogix

                      If you want a constructive response then address a point in the OP or comment thread directly. Lazy open-ended requests to go away and read entire tomes from prior centuries that few people read, or some unspecified selection from 720 writers on a website will be treated with the chilly response they deserve.

                      Yes your quoted para above is fancy way to describe marxism, but I'm not sure how it addresses the simple four point schema I outlined above. Does Marx not talk about 'the oppression of the workers', 'false consciousness', and the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'? Did he not advocate for the elimination of private property and the state ownership of 'the means of production'? As far as I'm aware these are all well understood features of communism.

                      Pretending they aren't 'real marxism' and that I have to spend months reading up on 'what Marx really meant' seems to me an evasive shifting of the goalposts to say the least.

                    • arkie

                      Marx said a lot of things, some contradicted others. Famously remarking 'what is certain is that I myself am not a Marxist'.

                      I'm not pretending, evading, or shifting goalposts, I offered you as a way to actually read Marx and see the huge variety of Marxist-aligned thinking. I quoted the first para of the Marxism wiki page to show how relevant to the OP the work of Marx and Engels actually is. Your hostility to engaging with the actual work and over-simplification nay misrepresentation of it betrays a bias that prevents productive discussion.

                    • RedLogix

                      Yes I am entirely biased against marxism. And equally so against neo-liberalism and fascism.

                      The reason is relatively simple; all three represent an otherwise legitimate political idea, that unmoored by materialism from ethical constraint, go too damn far.

                    • arkie

                      Then we shall leave it at that, seeing as you are so determined to maintain your fallacious opinions.

                  • McFlock

                    1 is blatantly true: elites always oppress those underneath them.

                    2 is to some degree represented by you believing your phrasing of 4 is at all realistic.

                    My link clearly showed that Marx did not believe violent revolution would be needed in every country. So 3 is (at best) misleadingly imprecise.

                    And as for "don't you think", no, I don't think that. For the basic reason that many of the "communist" movements in the 20C had as much to do with Marx as the crusades had to do with Jesus.

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