By Derek Sayer
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Extra resources for The Violence of Abstraction: The Analytic Foundations of Historical Materialism
This conclusion was based on the assumption that there was, indeed, an uncorrupted marxist tradition waiting in the wings once stalinism was dead, but Trotsky’s descendants were too late. As it was, the significance of 1968 was to prove far more important at the cultural level, that domain for so long dismissed by most marxists as a ‘superstructure’ at the mercy of the all-important economic base (see Chapter 6). It was the tradition of Gramsci which would provide the hinge between the old and the new marxisms.
Subsequent thinkers in the classic marxist tradition could not fail to engage with the question of society’s relation to nature. Karl Kautsky, in his somewhat Darwinian development of marxism, argued that human history derived from natural history and that its laws of motion were reflections of biological laws. The history of humanity became an aspect of the laws of nature. Lukács, on the other hand, engaged in the binary opposite, arguing that: ‘Nature is a societal category … nature’s form, its content, its range and its objectivity are all socially conditioned’ (1971: 234).
If this is the old, the new is ecology, a perspective Gorz sees as incompatible with the rationality of capitalism and authoritarian socialism alike. However, he argues that ecology is compatible with a libertarian or democratic socialism of the type he espouses. This ecosocialism which Gorz advances leans quite heavily on the work of Ivan Illich, in particular the notion of socially necessary labour which could be seen as ecologically benign. This postindustrial utopia is, somewhat contradictorily, associated with a benign view of automation and computerization and a view of the state as neutral technical administrator.
The Violence of Abstraction: The Analytic Foundations of Historical Materialism by Derek Sayer