This is a split from the Blood Relations thread, which we want to avoid being cluttered with discussion on wider epistemological questions which started from post #10.
From post #28 by Fred:
The question of who is or isn't an authority is vital to the bourgeois limited grasp of human life. Much of their personal security seems pinned on this issue. Theresa May has suddenly become an authority by virtue of being PM. The BBC presents itself as an authority and thus those who get to pontificate on it in scientific programmes become authoritative courtesy of the BBC and not to be questioned.
For myself, I like and approve Socrates who was an authority on nothing and never claimed great expertise in any field. He just questioned everything and everybody in an effort to expose their basic assumptions specially those implicitly held. In this way he helped their learning processes and his own and thus contributed to the improvement of society by this educational process.
This Socratic method is like Marxism. Questioning everything. Socrates wasn't a proletarian but he thought like one, and of course finally paid for his proletarian-like subversiveness with his life.
It's true, of course, that Marxism has often been characterised as critique. However, Marxism - or proletarian consciousness, if one can distinguish between the two - can never limit itself to merely criticising what is. Marx discusses this here: "The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses."
Critique is not the end of Marxist thought, but the beginning. The proletariat doesn't simply limit itself to critiquing the existing order but attempts to not only overthrow it but build something new: communism. It is the only social force that can do this; you might say the proletariat is the expert on communism ...
In practical terms, the soviets in Russia weren't simply a questioning of the authority of bourgeois institutions, they were the negation of bourgeois authority and the establishment of a new proletarian authority. They were the means through which the proletariat imposed its will on wider society. However, the soviets weren't monolithic - they contained wide diversity of opinion and these opinions were settled by discussion and majority voting. The minority submitted to the will, the authority, of the majority.
Authority, then, is not simply a bourgeois pre-occupation, but one that the proletariat has to come to terms with as well. The question is what differences are there between the authority of the exploiter and the property owner, and the authority of a revolutionary class?
Coming back to the question of experts and their authority, I think that the hostility towards this conception is bound up with all sorts of other questions. In this society, intellectual authority (of the sort I described on the other thread) is often bound up with political authority. In Marx's famous aphorism, those who control the material means of production also control the intellectual means of production. The bourgeoisie also justifies its exploitation by its "expertise" in managing society's economic and political apparatus. It's natural then to associate "expert" with "bourgeois".
This fact shouldn't fool the proletariat, however. At present, "work" is also inextricably linked with "toil", that is the exploitation of labour. However, work - even hard work - is not inevitably linked with exploitation. Being a revolutionary is hard work, after all.
It's worth considering the origin of experts and specialisms for a moment.
Exchange is founded on specialisation and also encourages its development. It first appears historically when, by accident of environment, one particular group found itself near a particular use-value: fertile lands, copper deposits, whatever. Blessed with an abundance of one use-value but a dearth of others, the groups began to exchange their respective surpluses. Over time, communities began to specialise in particular products made solely for exchange.
In capitalism, what began as irrational accident becomes systematically applied to the whole of society. Everything is specialised as commodity production becomes progressively more dominant. More and more, the labour process itself is fragmented into different parts, each more specialised and precise, forcing the worker to adapt himself to the labour process rather than the other way around. We are forced to develop a particular set of talents and characteristics, to the exclusion of all others - progressively isolated and rationalised by capital, they become divorced from the whole human being, and become major factors in the disintegration of each worker's invidivual personality. Every attribute developed in this way becomes alien to us. This is why, for most of us, the skills we use in working life are not the skills we like to focus on in our "spare time". In a desperate attempt to recover humanity, we try to be something different in our non-working life. Today, a theoretical physicist that wants to produce art, cannot do so without creating the great risk that he will damage his career. The time he must dedicate to art, reduces the time he spends discovering new particles and he risks falling behind in his chosen field of work. And, unless he is especially talented, he cannot produce art to "make a living". Our actual productive talents, which should be a source of joy, become a source of misery in the workplace and the yearning of unfulfilled longing outside of it.
However, at the same time as it creates more and more specialisation, more and more "experts", capitalism also does the exact opposite: progressively establishing the the equivalence of labour for exchange purposes. As labour becomes more specialised, it also becomes more identical, its qualitative differences being submerged in the purely quantitative. The commodity of labour thus expresses the same contradiction between use-value and exchange-value that all commodities express within capitalism.
But specialisation is also a requirement of the development of the forces of production. As I said on the other thread, as human knowledge and technical applications expand continuously, it becomes progressively impossible for any single human being (barring hypothetical artificial means that I referred to somewhat facetiously on the other thread) to master all the different "trades". Even before the domination of commodity production, specialisms had long emerged in the form of artisanry.
If communism is based on a a further development of the forces of production - the alternative being, I suppose a return to a form of primitive communism - this seems to imply that specialisms and expertise will not simply disappear. So there is a fundamental question about the connection between specialisation, commodity production and exploitation. In capitalism, all three appear as inextricably interlinked. Marx once described the commodity as the cell form of capitalism - this is why Marx rejected Proudhonism, which sought to maintain the commodity form while abolishing exploitation. Is specialisation the cell form of the commodity? Should we work to abolish it as well? And what does that mean, then, for the forces of production?
I don't think this is, in fact, a problem. Cells in living organisms perform specialised tasks - brain cells cannot form a protective integument like skin cells can, just as skin cells can't perform cognitive functions. Yet they function in a unity, allowing the organism to exist. More importantly, that unity creates something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Communism will allow the full flowering of individuality and the widest possible exploration of human knowledge. All the disparate talents of human beings will work in unison, with no particular talent seen as more important as another, and no particular privilege arising from them. Of course, humans are more complex than cells. And while, outside of very particular circumstances, most cells perform the same function for all of their existence, humans in a communist society would not need to be so specialised as that. Instead, development of skills and talents must be a process in harmony with each individual's totality. We'd be free to explore all of our individual talents, try different things and recreate ourselves. Our theoretical physicist need no longer fear penury if he wants to create art. The economic imperative no longer applies.
Another crucial point to remember is that humans beings are not all the same. It is the bourgeois left, having internalised the reification of capitalist exchange relations, that succumbs to this idea. For them, it is "poverty" that stands as a barrier to "aspiration" and "achievement". Eliminate poverty and everyone is not only "the same" in economic terms, but also "the same" in human terms, a sort of featureless raw material that can be shaped into anything. This is a reflection of the contempt that bourgeois rationalisation has for each individual's idiosyncracies which "appear increasingly as mere sources of error when contrasted with these abstract special laws functioning according to rational predictions".
Different humans beings will display different aptitudes, different interests, and will gravitate towards them without being enslaved by them. The specialisms of living cells are determined by a chemical process beyond their control - in the metabolism of communism, each "cell" will choose freely his or her place in the wider body. Specialism becomes a means to advance both the individual and the whole, and no longer a form of, or excuse for, exploitation.