Issues with Decadence Theory

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LBird
Religious denunciation?

slothjabber wrote:

Decadence is based on the belief that capitalism is more negative than positive for humanity in this period.

 

If you disagree with it, do you think capitalism is mostly good?

Which 'period'? Since 1825? 1848? 1871? 1914? 1917? 1936? 1945? 1971? 1990?

Capitalism, Marx argued, is both 'negative and positive', so what does 'more' mean?

I agree with Marx, that capitalism is 'mostly good' in some 'periods', and 'mostly bad' in others.

Why not just ask me if I denounce 'evil'?

slothjabber
Half-way there

LBird wrote:

slothjabber wrote:

Decadence is based on the belief that capitalism is more negative than positive for humanity in this period.

 

If you disagree with it, do you think capitalism is mostly good?

Which 'period'? Since 1825? 1848? 1871? 1914? 1917? 1936? 1945? 1971? 1990?...

 

Any you like, though as I've consistently said 'since the early C20th' I guess that's what I mean. I'll pick 1895 if you insist on a year to hinge things on (picking an exact year is something anti-decadentists seem obsessed with), though I think there were signs of the way things were going certainly from the time of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War I'd say.

 

LBird wrote:
...

Capitalism, Marx argued, is both 'negative and positive'...

 

And I agree.

 

LBird wrote:
...

so what does 'more' mean?...

 

It doesn't seem hard to me. If capitalism is both 'negative and positive', as Marx and I agree is the case, it shouldn't be too difficult to work out the positives, work out the negatives, work out which dominates in any given period and come to an overall assessment as to whether capitalism in that period is 'more' positive or 'more' negative. Why do you think that's hard?

 

LBird wrote:
...

I agree with Marx, that capitalism is 'mostly good' in some 'periods', and 'mostly bad' in others...

 

OK. Do these periods have any sort of order to them, or are they all just random?

LBird wrote:
...Why not just ask me if I denounce 'evil'?

 

Because there wouldn't be any point to it obviously.

LBird
Headway, at last?

Everyone keeps telling you that the actual year doesn't matter.

'1914' or '1895' is merely representative of your 'late 19th/early 20th century'.

The point is 'why' 1895/1914, late 19th/early 20th?

Your blaming of those asking what 'decadence' is as being fixated on 'dates', seems to be a tactic to avoid telling us 'the theory'.

Listing supposed 'negatives and positives' is precisely what those wanting to know what 'decadence' is, have been asking you to do.

Why not simply list the 'negatives and positives', according to the 'theory of decadence'? And tell us what various 'periods' they apply to?

Then, we can all critically engage, and question 'decadence theory' as to its concepts of 'periodisation', the actual 'periods' chosen, 'negatives', 'positives' (are they economic, social, political, cultural, scientific, ideas?). There are lots more questions.

 

baboon
Decadence and class consciousness

In post 70 above, L. Bird writes this regarding capitalism's "good times"..."during which the proletariat still has further time to muse, educate itself, think critically and develop the necesssary class consciousness has less appeal to those who want action now, and who believe that they themselves already have the consciousness required".

Those that defend the idea of decadence, he says, want "immediate action now", "so join the party".

Let's be absolutely clear; this is a deliberate travesty of the ICC's position not only from its position on decazdence but any sort of position that it holds - and others defend - at all. Where, anywhere, does the ICC say "we want immediate action, so join the party". L. Bird has never read anything like this in any defence of the ICC's p;osition and he's making it up. In relation to the quote above, left communists don't believe "that they themsleves already have the consciousness required" (whatever "required" means here) but they do have something of a political framework of an analysis of the class struggle that puts them as an avant-garde of their class.

 

The relationship and weaknesses of L. Bird's positions on class consciousness and the rejection of decadence are taking shape (no doubt that shape will shift): the working class develolps its consciousness not through its avant-garde and practical struggle but in capitalism's mythical "good times" where it can relax, put its feet up, "muse" and develop. How consciousness develops here is a mystery.  It is in the struggle, from the daily struggles just to hang on to what it's got to the mass strike that the class develops its consciousness and not in some moments of relatively blissful contemplation.

LBird
Misty theory leads to foggy guesswork

baboon wrote:

Those that defend the idea of decadence, he says, want "immediate action now", "so join the party".

Let's be absolutely clear; this is a deliberate travesty of the ICC's position not only from its position on decazdence but any sort of position that it holds - and others defend - at all. Where, anywhere, does the ICC say "we want immediate action, so join the party". L. Bird has never read anything like this in any defence of the ICC's p;osition and he's making it up.

I freely admit that I'm 'making it up'.

I'm trying to find out why it's so important to the proponents of 'decadence theory' to insist that capitalism is in a 'downward trajectory' (and it has been for over 100 years, allegedly).

One unspoken assumption could be that it is believed that 'the end is nigh', that capitalism is 'on its last legs', and cannot provide any more 'progress' for the proletariat. If so, this would provide a reason to argue 'act now, before it's too late!'.

I can't get a straight answer, so I'm forced to speculate.

The proponents of 'decadence' are asking for this to happen, as long as they refuse to give clear answers.

baboon
I think that there's been

I think that there's been plenty of clear answers and, coupled with actual postions in text, are therefore able to provide a clear framework for discussion that's not based on speculation.

 

I think that the idea that "sky is going to fall in tomorrow", or "the end is nigh", as L. Bird puts it, is an assumption that many make of the "decadence theory" without actually reading it. I think that the ICC has steered an adroit course avoiding such interpretations, clarifying and deepening the theory of decadence over time. But the danger to revolutionary forces from the idea that "the end is nigh" sort of assumption is very real and can lead to or feed expressions of immediatism over different areas that can be detrimental to revolutionary forces and organisation.

LBird
Need for fresh input

baboon wrote:

I think that there's been plenty of clear answers ... able to provide a clear framework for discussion that's not based on speculation.

I'm afraid I can't agree with your assessment of the discussion so far, baboon.

Perhaps if I drop out for now, and leave it for others to ask some more questions, then things will become clearer. Sometimes, fresh input helps to move things forward again.

I'll keep reading though, in hope!

MH
China and decadence

Not surprisingly the issue of China keeps coming up in discussions about decadence; how do we explan the appearance of such dramatic growth in capitalism’s epoch of decay? I’ve only just been pointed to a lengthy ICC text on this very subject, dating from 2008, which lies hidden on this website. It starts here:

https://en.internationalism.org/ir/133/china

This is a personal contribution, and refers to differences in the ICC which also relate to the internal debate at that time on the causes of the ‘post-war boom’. But it poses the whole question of growth in China and India within a global and historical context, and puts the debate on a much more informed basis. As a taster here are the concluding paragraphs:

The origin, the core and the dynamic of the crisis lies in the central countries. The slow down in growth, unemployment, the decline in working conditions are phenomena that greatly pre-date the development in East Asia. It was precisely the consequences of the crisis in the developed countries that restricted international accumulation and so enabled Asia to become the workshop of the world. This new constriction in its turn contributes to the economic trajectory towards depression in the central countries because it increases over-production world-wide (supply) and depresses the soluble markets (demand) by lowering the wage mass internationally (an essential economic factor) and by destroying a large number of the less competitive economies in the Third World (a factor that is marginal at an economic level but tragic at a human one).

The re-emergence of the historic crisis of capitalism from the end of the 1960s, its intensification throughout the 1970s, together with the failure of the neo-Keynesianism palliatives in operation at the time, cleared the way for unregulated state capitalism. This, in its turn, produced the deformed globalisation of the 1990s and certain countries have been able to play the role of workshops offering low wages. This is the basis of the spectacular growth in East Asia which, together with the crisis of the Stalinist and nationalist model of autarchic development, enabled it to infiltrate the new cycle of international accumulation at the right moment.”

Any thoughts?

Draba
Aufheben did confused with criticism of decadence

Unfortunately, most of those who are critical to the theory of decadence have not understood the theory or have a mechanical conception of class society's development. One of these was, Aufheben, with confused criticism of decadence and idealist understanding of the development of the society. Aufheben criticized the theory of decadence (Decadence: The Theory of Decline or the Decline of Theory?). I just want to point out some points:
1.The theory of decadence of capitalism is not a product of the ICC without the ICC contributed to development of the theory of decadence.
2.The theory of decadence of capitalism is not equal to crisis mechanism of the decadence
3.There are many crisis mechanism theories including profit rates, Market mechanism and etc
4.An attack on the theory of decadence is an attack on Marxism

LBird
Thoughts aplenty, but they're always 'wrong'

MH wrote:
Any thoughts?

Just a note to say that I'm still reading passively, in the hope of reading an outline of what 'decadence' is.

Without that first, it seems to be pointless to read long articles, which often leave unsaid what the 'organising theory' behind the text is, and so the reader either gets lost in a mass of detail, or has to construct their own understanding of the hidden theory (and is then castigated for 'making it up').

Link
Ignoring the usual

Ignoring the usual distraction, I think the quote MH picked out is useful for understanding the crisis process and how capitalism has been able to maintain itself in the recent decades.  The response of capitalism to the constrictions in the economies of the ‘core countries’ has been to transfer less high tech production to the low wage countries thereby countering the globally falling ROP and increasing markets.  I would add certain changes in the means of production that facilitated this development at this point on time – not just cheap labour but also the reduction in transportation costs and the improvements in communication and control systems 

 

The cheap labour is an interesting factor I have tried to raise before – global population has doubled since the 50s so there is lots of cheap labour to access.  How and why seem odd questions to ask but I think it would be useful even if the answer shows they are the wrong questions.  The countries of Asia that have been expanded are capitalist countries with large populations and significantly underdeveloped economies.  Clearly capitalist countries but does that they had pre-capitalism internal economies which have been growing?   Has capitalism caused this pop growth or was it a loss of control?   Surely we cant be saying that the extra capitalist markets in these countries have been growing?  I don’t know how to analyse this issue and I have seen no discussion of the issue anywhere so I leave it that and see if  anybody else wishes to take it up – or put me right.

 

I am inclined to think that the concept of decadence was explained in rather a crude way in the early days of the ICC.  Some of the terms like permanent crisis were interpreted in the rather black and white way.  No criticisms there it could only be interpreted within existing conditions,  but it is clear now that we cannot expect decadence to be a period of overt decay and impoverisation everywhere and at all times, there have been also be periods of growth, improved living standards technological improvements and so on, the point is to explain the process.   It’s a period of wars and revolutions but our interpretation of that idea does not lead us to see  a permanent war or permanent revolution in our faces at all times.

 

I would emphasise Draba’s item 2  that decadence is not the same as crisis theory.  Ascendancy and Decadence are interpretations of periods within capitalism

LBird
Ignorance is the real distraction from a discussion

Link wrote:
Ignoring the usual distraction...

Translation: 'Our so-called 'theory' of decadence can't be explained, so we'll ignore those asking reasonable questions about it...'

Why keep bluffing, Link?

What have you got to hide?

Why, to you, are theoretical questions to be 'ignored'?

Why can't you tell us when decadence starts, what its essential features are, how it helps us to understand the development of capitalism, and why it's so hard for workers to understand?

Alf
when does it start?

that's certainly a question. What is your perception of the ICC's answer to this question?

Alf
welcome

Draba, welcome to the forum. As you probably know, we have published two articles on Aufheben's critcism of decadence

 

https://en.internationalism.org/wr/168_polemic_with_aufheben

 

https://en.internationalism.org/internationalreview/201206/4981/decadenc...

LBird
Answers? What answers?

Alf wrote:

that's certainly a question. What is your perception of the ICC's answer to this question?

I don't know what the ICC's answer is, to the questions that I've posed.

This is odd, that the ICC won't give an answer, because the notion that, around 1914, there was a sea-change capitalist society, is one that many Communists are attracted to.

The 'Belle Epoque' was slowly disintegrating. 1905 Einstein publishes his Special Theory of Relativity. 1907 Picasso paints Demoiselles d'Avignon. Pensions and Labour Exchanges in the UK. Constant imperial tensions between the European powers. Ottoman Empire on the brink. Obviously, The Great War, which leads to three empires collapsing, and the revolutionary wave across Russia and Germany. Duchamp's 'readymades' to scandalise decent bourgeois society (Fountain, 1917).

That's just off the top of my head. Science, art and society in turmoil.

But... what tendencies/events/appearances/etc. of capitalism fundamentally altered?

Why a simple list of the features of the 'theory of decadence' can't be provided for discussion, beats me.

It's as if the ICC doesn't want workers to criticise its ideas...

Alf
1914

Are you saying that you've never read an ICC text saying that 1914 marked the definitive entry of capitalism into its epoch of decadence? It makes me wonder what ICC texts you have read. 

Similarly for the features of decadence. put very crudely, here are a few that will not surprise anyone who has read any articles written by the ICC:  

ascendance: capitalism is still in the process of becoming a world system; decadence, capitalism has basically conquered the globe even if it has not finished expanding

ascendance: business cycle of short crises followed by increased growth; decadence, long drawn out chronic economic crises which push the system towards war

ascendance: short-lived wars that often led to the formation of new nation states; decadence, world wars and/or semi-permanent regional conflicts threatening the very survival of humanity

ascendance: laisser faire attitude of state to economy; decadence, increasingly totalitarian state capitalism.

ascendance: permanent workers organisations like unions and parties engaged in struggle for reforms; decadence: recuepration of these forms of organisation. New forms of organisation like councils which can't exist outside periods of open struggle. 

Etc. 

LBird
Missed points and belated answers

Alf wrote:

Are you saying that you've never read an ICC text saying that 1914 marked the definitive entry of capitalism into its epoch of decadence? It makes me wonder what ICC texts you have read. 

I sometimes wonder if the ICC gets the problem, at all.

Everyone knows that the ICC claims that '1914 marked the definitive entry into decadence'.

What everyone wants to know is 'why 1914?'.

Everyone has asked, here and elsewhere, for a list of characteristics of 'decadence', so that those characteristics of supposed 'decadent capitalism' can be compared with both your version of 'ascendent capitalism' and with other definitions of '20th century capitalism'.

God, it's like drawing teeth from a reluctant patient, rather than a political discussion between workers and an organisation that claims to have some valuable insights into capitalism, from which workers can learn.

Anyway, I'll have a look at the 'crude' list that's been belatedly provided. Thanks.

 

LBird
'Basics'?

Alf wrote:

Similarly for the features of decadence. put very crudely, here are a few that will not surprise anyone who has read any articles written by the ICC:  

ascendance: capitalism is still in the process of becoming a world system; decadence, capitalism has basically conquered the globe even if it has not finished expanding 

I'm not sure what 'basically conquered' means, when compared with 'not finished'.

It would suggest 'overwhelmingly completed, with only minor bits outstanding'.

Is this a fair assessment of capitalism in 1914?

That compared with, say, 1950, that very little changed, as compared with, say, 1850?

That is, that 1914 is 'basically' the same as 1950 (and, implied, as 2014) but very different to 1850?

I'm inclined to think that capitalism in 1914 was a point in an expansionary period that continued from 1850 (and before) up until, perhaps, 1980, or even now, before it had 'basically conquered the globe'.

This doesn't invalidate the ICC's 'theory of decadence', but it does question the periodisation.

 

Alf
 I'm inclined to think that

Little Bird, you said:

I'm inclined to think that capitalism in 1914 was a point in an expansionary period that continued from 1850 (and before) up until, perhaps, 1980, or even now, before it had 'basically conquered the globe'.

1914-18, an expansionary period? Aren't you forgetting something?

In the 1920s, the USA boomed, but Europe did not really recover from the war. Then came the crash, depression, and another war. 

I can understand why you might see 1945-73 as a period of expansion, but ever since then we have been stuck in the same chronic crisis. 

There was a reason why the world war broke out in 1914, according to all those who developed the theory of imperialism - Lenin, Luxemburg, Bukharin, etc. The capitalist powers had beaten down the resistance of all other civilisations and on the military and political level the world was henceforward divided up among them. Germany was the 'aggressor' because it had come late to the feeding frenzy. 

This does not mean that all pre-capitalist social relations had disappeared. On the contrary, Luxemburg for example argued that in terms of both geography and economy, capitalism on the eve of the war was fully ensconced only in a relatively limited area of the world. There would still be considerable possibilities for the transformation and exploitation of this broad extra-capitalist zone, just as it had before it many possibilities of intensifying what some call its 'real domination' in the classically capitalist nations, with the penetration of the commodity into all the most intimate regions of our lives. But from now on, imperialist powers could only expand if they were prepared to confront their rivals directly - they could only expand at their expense. This is mainly why capitalism has been permanently at war since 1914,

LBird
Years of methodical accounting

Alf wrote:

Little Bird, you said:

I'm inclined to think that capitalism in 1914 was a point in an expansionary period that continued from 1850 (and before) up until, perhaps, 1980, or even now, before it had 'basically conquered the globe'.

1914-18, an expansionary period? Aren't you forgetting something?

If you're going to pick short periods (which 'disprove' the longer) to support your 'decadence' argument, then your opponents can use the same method.

Alf wrote:

In the 1920s, the USA boomed, but Europe did not really recover from the war. Then came , and another war. 

I can understand why you might see 1945-73 as a period of expansion, but ever since then we have been stuck in the same chronic crisis.  

So, we need to add up those years which support and oppose 'decadence'.

So far, we have your 4 and 6 years which support 'decadence'.

But we have 'the 1920s' and 1945-73, which gives perhaps 35 years 'non-decadence'.

That's (by just your post) 35 versus 10.

Of course we need to examine and classify all the other years between 1914 and 2014, but 'non-decadence' already has a big headstart, according to your method.

 

Alf
This isnt a good method. But

This isnt a good method. But even on a purely quantitative level:

1914-45: two world wars and world depression

1945-75: the '30 glorious years' which were not really thirty and not so glorious (austerity in Europe till early 50s, beginnings of new crisis in late 60s, starvation and constant wars in the 'peripheries', threat of World War Three).

1975-2015: 40 years of crisis. 

LBird
Just 'down', or still 'ups and downs'?

Alf wrote:

1975-2015: 40 years of crisis. 

I can't agree with your estimation, Alf.

In the UK most workers from 1975 are better off, now (though the youth are in a worse position), never mind China, Korea, etc.

But even if we characterise 50% of the years since 1914 as each good and bad, it still doesn't amount to 'decadence'.

Just seems like good ole' capitalist booms 'n' slumps, to me.

Fred
Are we better off?

Most workers since 1975 are better off, says LBird. What does "better off" mean. An extra couple of pounds in the wage packet? Hardly to be compared to the riches the bourgeoisie accrue. And what about the under-  and unemployed, and the youth "who are in a worse position" as LBird  says?  And what about the Health Service and Education, both deteriorating rapidly?  This is in contrast to the 19th. century when Health and Education were things the bourgeoisie was able  to newly provide for workers out of their hugely increasing profits, and  improved and developed right up to the First World War, in a positive manner for the good of society as a whole. Now they are begrudgingly kept going by a cash-strapped bourgeoisie which sees little point in persevering with them. 

Things  were not marvellous for the working class  in the 19th. Century of course  but then the class had only just been invented so to speak to serve the needs of the developing system, and was itself part of the on-going growth. Dickens, George Eliot and Henry James, bear witness in their remarkable literary outpourings to the variety of exciting new prospects opening up for society, and even for workers, though it is the rich civilising prospects on offer to the ruling class that grabs their attention as money and leisure open up new and exciting vistas for the ruling class.

 And their are new inventions in the 19th. Century like the railway, steam ships, libraries, art galleries, immunisation and photography that serve to open the minds and broaden the scope of intelligence not just for the prosperous bourgeoisie feeling happy and pleased with itself and its economic success, but provide crumbs available for the exploited and down-trodden too. It seemed then, in the time of the 2nd International, that good times would never cease and everything would just go on getting better and better for ever. Nowhere was this good feeling better embodied than in music, the novel and painting. 

Compare this to our situation now. There's nothing to compare to Beethoven and Brahms, to Flaubert and Dostoyevsky, or to Turner and Van Gogh.  Improvements in medicine still happen but the benefits are restricted by cost. Science and the extension of knowledge have generally become restricted to the elite and restricted in scope. The ruling class teeters on but has long since lost its adventurous and positive spirit and no longer  seems to look to the future with joy. Could this be because they know deep down there is no future for them? They know deep inside that their wondrous system that looked like it would change and improve the world for ever has hit the rocks of decomposition, and that a hopefully polite decadence is all that's left for them. 

 

Unfortunately however,  for the rest of us the comfort of elegant decadence is not available. For the bourgeoisie has become war-crazed as it increasingly and desperately seeks solutions  for its insoluble money problems and all the other horrors that capitalism has generated through its need to exploit to stay alive and its iron determination to hang on at all costs. 

Some comrades may see nothing new in all this. For them capitalism has always been a total horror, has never achieved much that is good, and always had its ups and downs and booms and slumps. This is true. But since 1914 the slumps appear to have ruled unchallenged even during the so-called booms which haven't done anything for workers in general because a boom now just means more money for the rich and the perpetuation of capitalist imprisonment for everybody else. The perpetuation of isolation, cruelty, war and misery. In short: decadence. 

Capitalism once offered the world a great hope for an improved future for humanity.  But that was just a dream and a false hope. Capitalism could never satisfy the needs of humanity even if it found a way to avoid crises, which it can't, and it has passed its sell-by date. It is decadent and decomposing, has produced its own grave digger in the working class, and can only look forward now to a fairly swift ending to its awful agony. 

LBird
Better or worse? For whom?

Fred wrote:
Most workers since 1975 are better off, says LBird. What does "better off" mean...?

As a necessarily brief internet response to...

Alf wrote:
1975-2015: 40 years of crisis.

...it means that, compared to our parents in 1975, we're immeasurably better off in 2015.

Better working conditions (my father worked in noisy, dirty, dangerous factories, mother at home; like most of their peers) where men and women work mostly in quiet, clean, safe offices, many in complete equality of wages, terms and conditions.

Better culture (sexism, racism and homophobia were rife, even on TV) where all kinds get on with all kinds.

Better education (my peers have mostly received a free, grant-funded, education) where often workers are better educated than their bosses, and run rings around them.

So, ask any worker who was young in 1975 whether they prefer 'then' to 'now'.

Have some good things been lost? Of course.

Are younger workers now in danger of seeing many of those benefits disappear in the future? Yes, indeed.

But... to call '1975-2015' a period of 'crisis'? No. It wasn't. It was capitalism, with ups and downs.

Will '2015-2055' be a period of 'crisis'? It's entirely possible. It might be all 'downs', and then we'll be in period of 'decadence'.

  

Fred
LBird wrote: So, ask any

LBird wrote:
 So, ask any worker who was young in 1975 whether they prefer 'then' to 'now'.

I was young in 1975 and much preferred the atmosphere and conditions of life even in England as they were then to the way they are now.

 

LBird
Details

Fred wrote:

LBird wrote:
 So, ask any worker who was young in 1975 whether they prefer 'then' to 'now'.

I was young in 1975 and much preferred the atmosphere and conditions of life even in England as they were then to the way they are now.

I'd suggest that you are being very selective, Fred. Perhaps, even conservative!

Have a think about the unspoken details behind what I wrote earlier.

And, remember the Sundays!

jaycee
First of all LBird the move

double post

jaycee
First of all LBird the move

First of all LBird the move to what you say is 'clean', 'safe' offices is like the whole of your post amazingly uncritical. Is capitalist decadence not at all evident in the fact that where as in the past jobs/industries despite making lots of useless rubbish at least made something- now how much of jobs/industries that produce these jobs you see as being ‘progress’ are producing literally nothing but more capital, i.e they have zero human use or purpose outside of reproducing capitalism; alienation seems to me to increase at every step. That is not to mention the fact that so many of these jobs offer no where near the security that the older generation could at least rely on to some extent. Also wages have pretty much stagnated since the 70's in most of the 'developed world' while the amount of people around the world living in slums has sky-rocketed.

From Wiki: "Using the 60% of median income after housing costs poverty line, the percentage of the British population living in poverty rose to 25.3% in 1996/97, compared with 13.7% in 1979. From 1997/98 to 2004/05 (using the same 60% of median income after housing costs measurement), the percentage of the population living in poverty fell from 24.4% to 20.5%."


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_United_Kingdom#Historical_measurements_of_poverty

Inequality has grown exponentially. Picketty is good on this.

Better culture? really? fucking hell, I must have missed that.

I get that racism, sexism, homophobia etc is less a part of the mainstream bourgeois ideology than it was. This is in part a result of struggles (especially those of the 60's/early 70's) but also the result of a restructuring of capitalism and capitalist ideology since then which has more and more moved towards an ideology of individualism. You could say the decrease in these prejudices is the positive side to this largely negative trend, i.e the increasing break down of even the most elementary form of community (even that of the family unit itself). Also these developments in ideology are just that-ideology. Racism is a perfect example; it has been covered up with political correctness and may have changed forms but I’m not sure its really decreased by all that much even if the detested groups might have changed, now muslims and immigrants are yesterdays jews and blacks for example. I suggest watching/reading some Zizek on this.

Overall I see more and more dumbing down of culture, I see everything becoming more and more controlled by money and business interests from music, film even to something like football. I see the ‘bourgeois’ spirit of individualism, utilitarianism and bureaucratic banality becoming more and more entrenched in all facets and aspects of life. Football and music I think offer good opportunities for analogies and for me to play at being a social critique. Football for example is a great example of ‘progress’ in the bourgeois mode these days- Football hooliganism is down which on one level is certainly a good thing but I think it speaks slightly of a general lack of ‘fight’ and passion in the working class today- almost as if that passion and fight no longer even has to be perverted by capitalism- its just been ‘blanded’ out of existence (actually police repression and out-pricing of tickets for most working class people is the cause of this reduction) Also in terms of the football itself we see what the bourgeoisie sees as progress- footballers are all fitter, faster and the style of play more efficient now but the playing style itself is more and more boring, no more mavericks are allowed on the pitch, everything is sacrificed for winning and its all got very ‘serious’ and corporate.

Music is the same; although you can criticise the tendency of the second half of the 20th century to produce new ‘genres’ and scenes every 10 years or so as a bourgeois ideology of ‘newness’ it has to be said that nothing new has been created in this sense since the 90’s- there has literally been no new trends/genres since then. Music has as I said before become controlled by a few companies who unlike music companies in the past who while always being at base money grabbing killers and corrupters of human expression at least were often interested in music are now only interested in money and music is completely incidental.

Of course this could all be the ramblings of a failed musician and a failed footballer (I am both) but I think these trends are real and express a lot about general cultural trends in many areas of life- the money men have been winning for the last 30 or so years afterall.

LBird
Amazingly unfocussed

jaycee wrote:

First of all LBird the move to what you say is 'clean', 'safe' offices is like the whole of your post amazingly uncritical.

Given that my post was entirely critical of Alf's thesis of '40 years of crisis between 1975 and 2015', and that is the context in which it has to be read, as part of an exchange, your post is 'amazingly beside the point'.

Why not put my post regarding 'clean and safe offices' now, in the historical and social context of 'dirty and dangerous factories' then?

LBird
1975 and working class culture

jaycee wrote:

Better culture? really? fucking hell, I must have missed that.

I get that racism, sexism, homophobia etc is less a part of the mainstream bourgeois ideology than it was.

Yes, you have 'missed' it, jaycee.

Then, 'Paki-bashing' was a common term and activity in working class areas.

So was the common joke-telling about 'niggers', 'coons', etc. in schools and workplaces.

So was the police routinely accusing raped women of 'asking for it', and juries agreeing.

As for 'poofs', 'queers' and 'shirt-lifters', they got it from Asians, Blacks, Women and the Police.

You haven't got a clue.

jaycee
how was my post beside the

how was my post beside the point?

first of all, you argued that working conditions have improved for most worlkers since the 70s and that this disproves decadence I made the point that the move towards these 'office' jobs etc was actually an expression of decadence. On the one hand because it displays the increased irrationality and pointlessness of capitalist social relations and production- creating huge swathes of industries that as I said earlier have zero human usefulness. On the other hand what I should have also mentioned was that the move towards these industries was on the back of the inability of traditional industries to be productive in the centres of capitalism; do these ideas not in your mind point towards a real issue with capitalist societies functioning?

You didn't respond to the most relevent point about stagnating wages and growing inequality either.

I agreed with you that the prejudices you describe are less part of mainstream bourgeois culture, i disagree that this can uncritically be seen as a simple matter of 'progress' because I am unconvinced that alot of this is any more than appearence and a cloaking of the real issues. That is not to underestimate the subjective experience of those living through these issues but It certainly does not in itself offer any evidence that capitalism is not decadent or that the last 30 or so years have been 'progressive'. I would argue that a great deal of it has been purely ideological (in the Marxist sense of the term) in that it reflects a restructuring of bourgeois ideology and economy. It has not lead to greater unity or consciousness among the proletariat and therefore in itself is neither evidence of capitalisms health or necessarily a sign of 'progress'. 

The real issue is the role ideology plays; even better (i.e. nicer)bourgeois ideology is just as much a mystification as the most openly reactionary (nasty) ideology. This is why i called your post amazingly uncritical I think you were viewing things too much from a 'liberal' position in which if the ideology changes in ways that fit your own beliefs then there has been progress- this is an idealist position. Even the most exalted ideology (of which Liberalism is not an example) has to be seen in context- i.e is it in the hands of the enemy or not- the history of communism must surely be evidence of this.

 

Fred
Ethics not modernism

Jaycee is right and LBird is missing the point. 

As Jaycee says "the real issue is the role ideology plays" and he goes on to compare "nice"ideologies with "nasty" ones. The bourgeoisie in the UK (but not in parts of Africa) are now very nice and very permissive about queers, niggers, pakis and women who ask for it and the like because the sanitisation of society has become the progressive bourgeois concern  of the day.  Beneath the outward clean-up however, nothing has actually changed.  The poor remain poor and the rich get richer. Exploitation is even more savage than before. Hatred, fear and resentment of queers, niggers, the unemployed, migrants  and women who don't ask for it is plastered over with cosmetics and thus sanitised while the hatred fear and resentment persist unofficially and underground  and are definitely  not to be  discussed or brought up publicly. What is continually discussed are the awful goings-on and all the child abuse that took place 40 years ago, as if such awful doings no longer happen.

The bourgeoisie in the West is now  so wonderfully moral and cleansed that butter doesn't melt in their mouths. This is one of the great benefits of "modernism". Sanitize and dress everything up in clean modern dress and the uncritical and camp followers of the ultra-modern bourgeois style  will fall for it hook, line and sinker.

Look at the City of London. A clean and gleaming space station of spanking  new architecture to take your breath away. And all just for money making! This sleazy gambling casino is now sanitised and dressed up to look like some scientific fairy land or like the Eden Centre in Cornwall.  This gives it poise and respectability and even suggests it's moral impeccability. And this is what advanced capitalist societies in modernist garb perpetually seek: veneers of bright clean sanitised moral respectability, bright clean and sanitised like health service hospitals would be if only the boogies would pay up. In addition let's not forget that the bright clean shining jewel-like exteriors of the world's financial centre's also serve to disguise the creeping bankruptcy beneath. It's all Houdini. 

 

In his post 97 above LBird suggested I was conservative - this could be because I had  been defending 19th century artistic production in various fields as being a clear indication of capitalism in its ascendant phase.  I've been thinking this over and concluded that "conservative" in this context is the opposite of "modernist" of which I regard LBird as being an example.  I therefore feel the need to reject the charge of being conservative. But what can I replace it with? I thought of moralist. After all the people I defend in my post - Beethoven, Turner, Dostoyevsky and I should have included Marx and Darwin - might all stand accused of being serious moralists with a great commitment to society and its betterment. But "moralist" is a dubious word tainted by bourgeois misuse. Nothing is more moral than a hypocritical bourgeois politico spouting words of consolation to those whose blood he sucks.

 

So what does that leave us with.  What word then might best describe the efforts of Jaycee above and other posters on this forum to elaborate their point of view and their politics, not forgetting comrade members of the ICC itself and their pursuit of communism, what word does it? I can only come up with "ethics": and conclude that attempts to elaborate what is the proletarian view on any issue, especially that of decadence and decomposition, must inevitably engage however basically with what is known as ethics. That is to say ethics as these relate to the human essence.

The pursuit of communism is finally an ethical not a modernist endeavour. 

jk1921
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I don’t know guys. Social values have changed tremendously on a number of issues just in the last decade. Nowhere, is this more evident than in social acceptance of homosexuality and the attendant extension of formal political rights to homosexuals that they were previously denied by the state. If you would have told me in 2004 in the aftermath of W’s reelection, something made possible in large measure because of Karl Rove’s ability to plant anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment referendums on the ballot in key states—that gay marriage would be legal in the United States in ten years—before pot was fully legalized and before the death penalty was abolished—I wouldn’t have believed you for a second. On this issue at least, it looks like the kind of “political emancipation” that the young Marx supported as a step towards full “human emancipation” might still be happening. This of course does not mean that there is no hatred or discrimination against homosexuals. On the contrary, given the speed and breadth of the changes taking place, the backlash could be quite harsh at times--but that hardly seems to matter. History is on the side of gay emancipation right now (at least in the West).

What does this have to do with decadence? It seems that given these facts that if you still want to defend decadence, you have a couple options: Argue that some forms of political emancipation can still happen in decadence or deny that what appears to be happening is really what is happening. Jaycee seems to go in for the latter—it is all an ideological shift from “nasty” ideology to “nice” ideology to accomplish some capitalist goal. Of course, the question is then begged whether this goal is in some way material (necessary given the state of the economy and society) or whether it is just an ideological ploy or distraction—a purely political game? If it is the former, then this might be problematic for decadence, because then we would seemingly have to admit that the material forces of production are still capable of conjuring up progressive emancipatory outcomes of some kind or another.

This then would seem to leave us with an empirical questions of attempting to understand just what is happening with issues like gay emancipation—to what extent is it tangible and real and to what extent is it illusory? (Remember though that in the context of the young Marx “real” and “tangible” need not mean “complete” or “total”) Certainly, situated next to things like the migrant crisis that is driven by the complete collapse of states and societies in the so-called Third World, gay emancipation seems like weak tea in the grand scope of things. However, when understood in the context of the massive change in social values taking place (at least in the West) driven by emerging  generations that appear to care little about things like race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. then it seems much more difficult to write it all off as mere ideological bluster.

 

LBird
Ideological bluster, or 'real' advances?

I'm inclined to think that the posters on this thread will eventually split into two groups, along the scientific lines that I've outlined many times before:

a) those that are 'materialists' (after Engels, and empiricist and positivist 'practice and theory'), who regard 'real' as meaning 'physical' or 'tangible'; and

b) those that are 'idealist-materialists' (after Marx, and unity of method using 'theory and practice'), who regard 'real' as meaning 'physical' and 'ideas' or 'tangible' and 'intangible'.

jk1921's post seems to be in the latter philosophical camp, as am I, which gives equal weight to both material and ideal advances in society.

I'll leave it at that observation, because I don't want to step on any other comrades beliefs, which has caused much grief in past debates. I just feel compelled to mention it as a factor, so that other posters are aware of it. They can then ignore it, if they wish.

MH
social developments as decay?

If we argue that the productive forces do not come to a halt in decadence; that there are still for example sometimes dazzling scientific developments, then why should we not also expect to see social developments? By the same logic these are increasingly, as Marx described, ‘development as decay’; limited, contradicted, undermined, especially today, by the realities of capitalism’s accelerating decomposition…


LBird
'Realities' must be defined

MH wrote:

If we argue that the productive forces do not come to a halt in decadence; that there are still for example sometimes dazzling scientific developments, then why should we not also expect to see social developments? By the same logic these are increasingly, as Marx described, ‘development as decay’; limited, contradicted, undermined, especially today, by the realities of capitalism’s accelerating decomposition…

[my bold]

But... 'dazzling scientific developments' and 'social developments' are 'realities'.

From Marx's 'idealist-materialist' perspective, all you are saying (from Engels' 'materialism') is that there are 'ups and downs' in capitalism's development - sometimes 'productive forces' (including ideal factors, like science) develop ahead of workers' consciousness, sometimes 'superstructural' factors (including material factors, like educational buildings) develop ahead of productive forces.

Why this entirely usual capitalist uneven development of both material and ideal factors should count as 'decadence' since 1914, I don't understand.

Link
reforms and reformism

Reforms

 

I think the discussion has taken an interesting turn here. If I may say  If I may say I think the difficulties in this discussion have been created by the rather  simplistic formulations of the past.  One of the problems with the discussion on libcom particularly has been the tendency to argue that decadence means everything always gets worse and to try to twist examples to back up the argument (do I remember somebody trying to argue that cars are now worse than they used to be!!)   ‘It seems to me this stems from the phrase ‘no reforms are possible’

At root, reform just means change or perhaps change for the better.  Its just not on to try to argue that there have been no changes since 1914 or that (some) things haven’t got better.  Do this and people point immediately to cars televisions, internet, phones washing machines, housing, airlines and so on an so forth.  As left communists we need to posing the questions like how, why and at what cost - and not denying reality.  Its reformism that is not possible not reforms.

Ascendance was about emerging capitalism sweeping away the old constraints of feudal society and workers made real gains from that but only in as much as capitalism expanded and allowed them to take part in the more dynamic and productive systems it was creating.    In decadence, capitalism has only the working class left to fight and control.  It has global control now and, in the context of restrictions to the  expansion of markets and to the rate of profit, changes and changes for the better still take place but only in as much as they benefit capitalism.  Reforms take place but only when they benefit the ruling class (and in that sense nothing has changed)

So as MH says we really should expecting to see improvements in economic and social life not arguing for absolute permanent decay.  The events of the last 50 years should now be leading us to view decadence more clearly than these early formulations.

Lbird starting of this part of the discussion and is right, as others have agreed, that we can see social changes in the post ww2 period that demonstrate significant improvements for (sectors of) society.  Correctly he points to social improvements but I disagree this disproves the idea of decadence.  The question for me is why has this been happening over the past few decades.  Why when there have been such major economic problems, has the UK and other countries been so concerned to enforce this type of legislation?   I would point out that there has been much more going on that just changes attitudes and laws relating to the treatment of  ‘minorities’ The equal opportunities and pc policies have been an accompaniment to  major changes in business organization and in  employment practice.  This appears to me to be key area of change which is addressed very little.  TQM systems particularly encompass pretty much all areas of business and manufacturing organization including waste control, stock cost reductions, Health and Safety, workers decision making as well as traditional quality checking and management. 

In this context equal opportunities policies appear as an extention of policies designed to increase the efficiency of exploitation ie of increasing exploitation clearly to help capitalism counteract it economic difficulties that it has been facing in the period of decadence.

The discussion at the MDF meeting yesterday interestingly got into areas of how social life has deteriorated in the post WW2 period eg increasing atomisation, isolation, depression and terrorism, state authoritarianism to name but a few.  It is worth holding these factors up in contrast to the changes in social practice that can correctly be seen as improvements. 

LBird
What is the point of 'contrast'?

Link wrote:

The discussion at the MDF meeting yesterday interestingly got into areas of how social life has deteriorated in the post WW2 period eg increasing atomisation, isolation, depression and terrorism, state authoritarianism to name but a few.  It is worth holding these factors up in contrast to the changes in social practice that can correctly be seen as improvements

[my bold]

Once again, 'deteriorations' are 'contrasted' with 'improvements'.

This is the normal mode of capitalism. And yesterday's areas of 'deterioration' become today's areas of 'improvement', and vice versa.

The 'contrast' of the 'unevenness' of capitalism.

But why should 20th century uneven capitalism be regarded as fundamentally different to 19th century uneven capitalism?

What is newly 'decadent' in an unevenness that is a constant?

 

Link
Lbird, i think you have just

Lbird, i think you have just repeated pretty much what i said  and i reckon i explained why is say 19th and 20th century capitalisms as different.

Over and above that i understand you dont accept the idea of decadence, fair enough, Im used to it.  i think your disagreement with historical materialism is much more fundamental

MH
reforms and 'improvements'

Link wrote:

In this context equal opportunities policies appear as an extention of policies designed to increase the efficiency of exploitation ie. of increasing exploitation clearly to help capitalism counteract it economic difficulties that it has been facing in the period of decadence.

I think that’s a really interesting point; this puts ‘emancipatory’ legislation, equal opportunities, etc., in the context of capitalist restructuring and the re-composition of the working class.

Which is not to say there isn’t also social pressure for change from below but we need to put all of these developments in the wider context of crisis and decomposition.

But I disagree with Link that we somehow have a ‘problem’ with explaining ‘improvements’ in decadence and I disagree with the statement that  “reform just means change or perhaps change for the better”. ‘Reforms’ aren’t ‘just’ wage increases or plasma tellys or even legalising gay marriage.

Let’s just remind ourselves that reforms in the 19th century meant fighting for the right to organise in mass permanent organisations like trade unions; the right to strike; the right to vote; a shorter working day so that workers could educate themselves as a class – ie. measures so that the working class could organise itself and prepare to overthrow capitalism. Once capitalism announces the end of its progressive period of expansion with WW1 this strategy is no longer possible.

If we take the example of the so-called reforms instituted after WW2 – the welfare state and the rest –  we've always seen these (a) in the context of the death toll and mass destruction of the war itself; (b) as part of a conscious counter-revolutionary strategy by the bourgeoisie to avoid a repeat of the post-WW1 revolutionary wave, and (c) paid for by the working class through increased exploitation, higher productivity, increased alienation…

So I think we’re able to explain ‘improvements’ in decadence. As far as the libcom discussion goes, the real problem is that we are ‘debating’ there with people who simply deny the reality of decadence and are hostile to any idea that capitalism has qualitatively changed since c1914 – there’s a tendency to bend the stick the other way, perhaps, but I don’t see this as indicative of a deeper problem.

(And as far as cars are concerned, surely the point is not whether they are technically more advanced, but why in the 21st century capitalist society is so dependent on such a wasteful, outmoded, inefficient, envronmentally destructive mode of transport…)  

Link
reforms and improvements

MH,  whilst you say you disgree with what I said about reforms or improvements, you are in what you say actually agreeing that reforms or improvements have taken place during what we see as decadence.  That’s my main point.  I was pointing to a general problem in the discussion about simplistic explanations of decadence rather than accusing any specific person of something..  Hence the issues about cars – they were a product of technological developments that took place in ascendancy, during decadence they have become much more efficient, relatively cheaper, much more reliable, much faster, but they are still basically the same thing,  an engine driving a 4 wheel cart carrying a few seats.  I do therefore agree with you that in decadence cap has been unable to develop anything better.  We could expect a new society to be able to make big leaps across all industry leap in technological terms as well as in social terms.

 

In terms of the examples you provide of workers fighting for rights to organize strike, shorter working day education etc.  These were also supported by the  more far sighted bourgeousie.   Nevetheless, within decadence there are still disputes on these topics and basically working hours, rights to strike, rights to organize come and go.  Yet we argue that they are not benefits for workers.  Why is this – because they are primarily what the TUs tend to inflict  on struggles as their goals rather than a product of the self activity of the working class.  So they are not progressive goals anymore.  So the interpretation is surely also such ‘reforms’ can take place within decadence but they do not fit in with our interpretation of what the goals for the working class struggle can be.

 

Your point about the restructuring  of capital and recomposition of the working class is correct way to look at it. Gglobal capitalism has responded to the crisis of the 70/80s with a variety of strategy to counter the effects of crisis.  Industrial reorganization & enhanced exploitation, more efficient communication and control systems leading to the so-called post-fordist firm structures, globalised firms, regional specialization and workers moving onto on restricted contracts, part time hours, longer working years and flexible working  practices in general.  Even worker involvement in decision making has been integrated into the process. (eg the car industry again wherethe reduced number of production line workers gained improved wages for exchange for taking responsibilities in quality control and managing the production systems themselves).  Hence I would put for example  improved H&S rules as part of  more efficient  production systems not a concern for the workers’ health.

Alf
definition of reform

I agree with MH that a reform is something fought for by the working class, through independent struggle,not simply a measure imposed from above by the bourgeoisie. The fight for reforms in the past was part of the process through which the working class became aware of its distinct position in capitalist society and thus reinforced its class identity and the possibility of developing a perspective for the future. Already in the Communist Manifesto the emphasis was less on what the workers gained materially through their struggles than the gains in consciousness and unity. Contrast this with the introduction of the NHS which has served to tie the working class to the capitalist state, to strengthen the idea that the capitalist state can really be the protector of our interests. This trick would not work if it did not bring some material benefits. 

Link
You know i never knew that

You know i never knew that the term reform had a specific definition.  I understand the value of differentiating between independent class struggle and I am usually quite happy to accept definitions of terms becuase of historical use etc but i am really not sure of the value of this definition.  It seems to complicate the issue rather than clarify things.  I presume it is just an ICC definition anyway and not used generally in the workers movement but I would think it also includes the idea of ascendancy in there too.  A reform is:  something fought for independently by the working class during the ascendant period of capitalitism.  Doesnt this exclude for example the abolition of slavery or the creation of the school system?  This also means that we cant use erms like liberal reform, state reform educational reform and FIFA reform cant be used.  

In the end not only do you have to persuade people about ascendancy and decadence but you have to change the way others use the term reform?  Now im ok with doing that on basic terms like communism but i am just not sure about that for term like reform which as i suggested before basically just means change or improvement thro change.

Fred
about homosexuality and the bourgeoisie

If the definition of reform offered by MH and Alf is correct then the reform of the homosexuality laws isn't a reform at all, and hardly a victory for the working class.  The 'sixties in the UK was a time of  changes to certain laws  that benefitted the bourgeoisie. The Lady Chatterly Trial allowed the publication of four letter words and graphic descriptions of the sex-act in ruling class literature;  and the homosexual reform bill allowed the ruling class to go on doing officially what they'd already been doing for many  years on the quiet anyway, and had generally picked up as a habit in their exclusive all-male public schools. I am referring to sexual practices between males. And the trials of upper class prostitutes like Christine Keeler,  who serviced not just cabinet ministers but aristocratic members of the House of Lords,  gave an unneeded boost to her particularly lucrative  industry and turned Mandy Rice Davies, Christine's fellow worker and  mate and also on trial, into a public heroine for treating the court trying her with an amused disrespect  verging on contempt. (Perhaps she had clients on the bench?)  But why the sudden outburst of all this sexual liberty?

The first thing to note is that it didn't cost anything - not like a wage rise - served mainly ruling class interests and painted a marvellous picture of a freedom loving and liberalising ruling class.  But there was nothing new here. The ruling class had always indulged it's sexual and pornographic  appetites without fear of being put on trial or imprisoned if found out and it was generally accepted that this was so. 

An exception however, was the trial conviction and imprisonment in the 'fifties of one Lord Montague who was castigated for months in lower class newspapers as an evil man bent on corrupting the country's youth. His arrest came later to be seen as the act of an over zealous police force and may well have contributed to emerging desires for changes in the law.  After all, it was well known at the time, that police officers keen to be seen as effective in their jobs often cruised in "The Gents"  ie public lavatories for men, as these places were popular places of rendezvous for a particular possibly desperate type of homosexual  and had a certain panache among sectors of the queer community, not just among the police.

Recently we've seen in the UK and starting now in the USA a passion for the well-being of homosexuals that beggars  belief. For homosexuals, far from being continually  hounded in public lavatories, can now enjoy public marriage ceremonies!   Such generosity, such love and affection by the ruling class  for what it had previously regarded as dangerous sexual criminals worthy only of  contempt and jail sentences, for these were men  who were sexual criminals of the most depraved kind, surely needs an explanation.

Has the bourgeoisie seen the light so to speak, turned liberal, permissive, and loving of the gay community in an unexpectedly positive manner? Or is it just that they've realised that people's sexual activities have little effect on the economy - in fact the development of gay marriage and the accompanying out burst of interior decoration of gay love cottages and homesteads may serve if only a little to boost the economy - and that trying to enforce more or less unforcible sexual laws is a waste of time and money? Like prosecuting folk for smoking cannabis. 

So I for one don't see the necessity to search for deep and underlying changes in the political makeup of the bourgeoisie regarding homosexuality  as the ruling class are losing  control in what after all is the system's decay. But instead have been wondering what was it about the Oscar Wilde affair, in the age of capitalism's Belle Époque, that drove the British bourgeoisie to extremes of passionate hate for the love that dare not even mention it's name as Oscar put it, and especially Oscar Wilde himself?  

 

Was as it that he consorted with working class male prostitutes? Was it that his incredible success as a West End playwright, even at the time of his arrest, was through his ability  to mock and satirise the ruling classes in unprecedented ways that brought audiences in flocking and guffawing? Was he seen as politically suspect? ("The Soul of Man under Socialism" hardly sounds like something you'd want the servants or your wife to read though it's banal enough.) Was it that in being so unashamedly flamboyant and gay himself, so fond of publicity, so given to showing  disregard  for the petty morality expressed in the dominant sexual ideology of the-holy-family-heterosexually-bound-together-eternally - though he was himself married with children - and his consorting publicly with the aristocratically gay  son of the Marquess of Queensbury that proved the final straw for a ruling class then at its peak of success  and keen to exercise firm disciplinary control?

I don't know. Looking back it seems a strange business.  As if the ruling class lost its self control. But now that we have finally attained the long-yearned for homosexual liberation somehow it hardly appears worth the effort.  After all the working class is still in chains and the bourgeoisie still dominate. 

jaycee
the only thing i would

the only thing i would disagree with Fred in his last post was where you say that "I for one don't see the necessity to search for deep and underlying changes in the political makeup of the bourgeoisie regarding homosexuality " I don't disagree with the point completely but with homosexuality and also with racism, sexism etc the decrease in the power and use of these prejudices as a part of bourgeois ideology does I think reflect important changes in capitalism.

These changes are rightly looked at as a legacy of the restructuring of capitalism both materially and ideologically since the 60's. This restructuring was in part forced on the bourgeoisie through the struggles of this period; however this is not the whole story. The documentary 'the Century of Self' shows brilliantly how capitalism after this period needed a new form of control and a new ideology to maintain this control.

This was also connected to a change from 'frugal', 'prudish' morality of a capitalism based on 'spending within your means', and knowing 'your place' etc to a consumer morality of hedonistic individualism. Neither one is necessarily better or worse than the other and neither one offres liberation. Zizek sums this up well I think when he relates a report of a psychoanalyst friend of his telling him about how the 'super ego' of their patients had changed in form over the years- the older patients would feel guilty about being too selfish, about being too self-indulgent whereas the modern patients complain about feeling guilty about not 'living to the full' enough, as long as they feel guilty the bourgoisie can rest easy.

The traditional bourgeois morals (including racism, sexism, homophobia etc) had collapsed after 2 world wars and the relative prosperity brought about from the reconstruction years and also were no longer quite fitting to the new model of capitalism which was being engineered. my original objection to LBIrds post (perhaps I went too far in some-ways) was simply this; that he was taking things too readily at face value as a simple matter of 'progress' without considering the whole picture or the contradictions involved.

Fred
thanks jaycee

Thank you for your thoughtful reply jaycee which I much appreciate and take your points on board. Your paragraph about "knowing your place" being ousted by "hedonistic individualism" hits home and I was surprised to see your reference to Zizek and the "super ego" as I thought that Freud and psychologising was all frowned upon and almost haram on this web site. (Only joking, though I'm not really.) I must try and find out who Zizek is. Fred.

LBird
'Context of posts', not 'individual post'

jaycee wrote:

my original objection to LBIrds post (perhaps I went too far in some-ways) was simply this; that he was taking things too readily at face value as a simple matter of 'progress' without considering the whole picture or the contradictions involved.

jaycee, I'm not "taking things too readily at face value as a simple matter of 'progress' ".

I was replying to Alf's characteristion of 1975-2015 as a period of crisis.

I've given examples of how many things have got better, in some aspects.

If Alf had said that the period was one of 'progress', I would have given examples of how they have got worse, in some aspects

THE POINT IS ...

... the period of 1975-2015 is neither one of 'progress' nor of 'crisis', but of capitalism's unevenness, just like the period 1875-1915.

So, the thesis of 'decadence' (at least, the thesis of 'decadence since 1914') falls down.

Please put my posts in their 'context of debate', and refrain from 'individualising' them.

ernie
The question of decadence

The question of decadence cannot be reduced to some very crude argument about the economic crisis as Lbird tends to do in some of his replies. We are discussing he decadence of a whole social system in all its dimensions. Jaycee does a very good job of trying to bring this out and Lbird has not really answered this aspect of the discussion.

I may not have followed this thread closely enough, but the whole question of the bloody 20th century and its two world wars, numerous other conflcts, the growth of terrorism, the conscious targetting of civilians etc has not really be taken into consideration. Ascendent capitalism certainly emerged dripping blood  as its crushed pre-capitalist social system after pre-capitalist social system, enchained millions in slavery etc but, and this is the big but, this process was part of the development of the world market and the conditions for communism. In decadence these conditons exist and are threatend with destruction by the continuation of capitalism. The two world wars sowed levels of destruction across the globe that underlined the barbarism of the system, and this was followed by the still existing threat of the anihilation of the whole of humanity in nuclear war or through global warming and the destruction of the environment. This is very different to the 19th century.

There is also another aspect that has not really been developed: the engulfing of society by the totalitarian state. In the 19th century the state certainly played a role in society, but as Marx underlined it had not engulfed the whole of civil society. With decadence this is not the case the State has extended its tenticles into every aspect of social life. The capitalist state boast of cradle to the grave welfare is an expression of its power over society not some benefit for the working class. Since WW2 the vast appartus of the capitalist state has had to expand to enable the ruling class to try and contain all of the social contradictions of a society dominated by the war economy.

For the Leftists the State's strangulation of social life is some form of benefit whereas for communist it is an expression of the increasing domination of the capitalist class and the decadence of its social system.

The above points show that Lbird's comment

".. the period of 1975-2015 is neither one of 'progress' nor of 'crisis', but of capitalism's unevenness, just like the period 1875-1915. So, the thesis of 'decadence' (at least, the thesis of 'decadence since 1914') falls down"

Does not stand up when placed in the context of the totality of capitalist relations under decadent capitalism

baboon
i agree with the above and,

i agree with the above and, whatever the weaknesses, decadence defenders did very much put forward the idea of the totalitarian state in the discussion on dedadence on libcom.

The period of 1975 to 2015 has all the hallmarks of decadence and those towards decomposition mass unemployment; recessions and greater recourse to debt; austerity and the developments of each for themselves, terrorism and imperialist war.

In relation to China, I think that the rise and fall of the Chinese economy in a compressed period, i/e., within a relatively short period,  doesn't at ll call the analysis into question but expresses the dynamics of capitalist decadence overall.

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