Friday, March 27, 2020

Liberal Dialectic: Marx to Krapotkin

 Marx to Krapotkin - Freud to Marcuse
Libertarian Centrism - Actual Policy

Before beginning, while I am a centrist thinker, I am unambiguously a capitalist: I own property and seek more.  Nevertheless, as a writer, my focus remains on how to build a society that balances the state and the market and simultaneously does not condemn the individual economically, psychologically, and spiritually.  To that end, socialists and anarchists help 1) interpret capitalism* and 2) consider intelligent policy innovations.  I also most admit I neglect the intellectual developments from Smith to more contemporary Liberal conservatives.  I am actually not certain so much new thought has surfaced.  The ideas of Locke and Smith remain quite new. 

The Great Overcompensation

Democracy is the road to socialism.
        Marx (disputed quote)

Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.  The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

Before Marx was a communist, he was an intellectual of great capacity and a committed student political economist Adam Smith and philosopher Hegel.  Marx founded sociology along with Weber and Durkheim and redefined the concept of ideology.  Laypeople often dismiss Marx as a failed theorist.  I would say he failed in his policy prescriptions.  He was actually a truly impressive theorist and valuable yet imperfect forecaster of history.**

Marx and Engels (1848) redefined the state in (administrative) socialist terms as an inevitable response to the market and its capitalist nature and within their historical context.  Whereas Locke and Hobbes put too much faith in the liberal civil society, Marx and Engels put too much faith in the anti-liberal state - in particular the administrative conception of the anti-liberal state.  Herein we see the great over compensation that lasted from 1917 to 1991 (if we ignore China and Cuba).  In Hegelian terms, overcompensations are natural and even necessary to root out various contradictions.  

But they can be terribly painful.  Consider the democidal regimes of Stalin, Castro, and Pol Pot.  To make matters worse, with the first industrial revolution and innovations in everything from banking, medicine, and bureaucratic method, the state had developed profound new powers over the individual.  Despite China's profound innovations and successes, they represent a destructive and aggressive opponent to the self and its development.  Look at the persecution of Falun Gong and Tibet.  With the rise of contemporary of technology, some visions of the future approach the absurd.

The greatest failure of Marx IMO was to turn to the state too much for answers that lie in the hearts of women and men.  The contradictions in capitalism are real.  But they originate in the within us.  Their solutions lie their too.

Libertarian Left / Anarcho-Syndicalism

[A] federated, decentralised system of free associations, incorporating economic as well as other social institutions, would be what I refer to as anarcho-syndicalism; and it seems to me that this is the appropriate form of social organization for an advanced technological society in which human beings do not have to be forced into the position of tools, of cogs in the machine.  There is no longer any social necessity for human beings to be treated as mechanical elements in the productive process...we must overcome it to be a society of freedom and free association, in which the creative urge that I consider intrinsic to human nature will in fact be able to realize itself in whatever way it will.

It is the general idea put forward by Proudhon in 1840 that unites him with the later anarchists, with Bakunin and Kropotkin, and also with certain earlier and later thinkers, such as Godwin, Stirner, and Tolstoy, who evolved anti-governmental systems without accepting the name of anarchy; and it is in this sense that I shall treat anarchism, despite its many variations: as a system of social thought, aiming at fundamental changes in the structure of society and particularly - for this is the common element uniting all its forms - at the replacement of the authoritarian state by some form of non-governmental cooperation between free individuals.

        George Woodcock, Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements

No theory, no ready-made system, no book that has ever been written will save the world.  I cleave to no system.  I am a true seeker.

Most people overlook the libertarian Left.  Few have heard the term anarcho-syndicalism.  For nowI conflate anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-socialism, libertarian socialism, and the libertarian Left.***  I sometimes focus on the term 'anarcho-syndicalism' because I like Chomsky's working definition, as it focuses on the question of 'free association'.  In line with my rising consciousness thesis, I believe people must freely associate in new and different way along side existing capitalist structures in order to build a new healthy society that balance the needs and benefits of the state, the market, and the self as each has developed in the last 800 or 900 years.

The libertarian Left acknowledges wage slavery and other negative aspects of mainstream capitalist culture - including its stratification and exploitation of labor, unsustainable exploitation of the environment, manipulation of face value politics, the failure to observe adult sexual freedom, and the failure to consider Schumpeterian instability - to name a few important themes.  Anarcho-syndicalism also acknowledges benefits of social solidarity, direct action, mutual aid, cooperation, distributive justice, and the universal basic income.

All of these ideas are fundamentally new.  A minority of thinkers have been writing and speaking on these matters since the middle of the 1800s.  However, today only a minority of academic philosophy, activists, and alternative journalists have much knowledge of these ideas.  And these ideas have certainly not made their way into mainstream journalism, economics, policy studies, or policymaking.  

The libertarian left is not a panacea.  Nothing is.  Ideas from the libertarian left allows us to reconsider socialist thought without the baggage of administrative socialism.

I am not analyzing capitalism here.  If you don't have a developing suspicion that our current stage of highly destructive and prejudiced Western capitalism needs innovation, you probably never will.

** This subject deserves more attention than I can commit at this time.  I will note that many Western thinkers have no sobriety with regard to socialism and socialist thinkers.  Again, if you don't have a developing sense of this matter yet, you probably never will.

*** One can delve much deeper into libertarian Left theory.  I am also all too aware that I am glossing over the work of a few key contemporary philosophers for the purposes of brevity.  I do wish to recognize philosopher Joseph Déjacque as the first to coin the term libertarian.  To this day, these ideas haven't really even permeated economics, IMO.  

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Liberal Dialectic: Machiavelli to Adam Smith

 Marx to Krapotkin - Freud and Marcuse
Libertarian Centrism - Actual Policy

I still believe in the thesis I shared in 2017 - namely that centrism is a historical necessity stemming from a dialectic between the Left and the Right; and that centrism is intimately related to the spiritual-psychological-emotional growth of people and even God in the context of early modern to contemporary life.  

In the intervening years, I have reaffirmed my emphasis on Rousseau and the idea the synthesis of the liberal dialectic will occur in the the self and its development in conjunction with my rising consciousness thesis.  As I argued in 2017, it may take a great deal of time - possibly 100s of years.

(Early) Modernity and Thesis

[M]odernity was associated with individual subjectivity, scientific explanation and rationalization, a decline in emphasis on religious worldviews, the emergence of bureaucracy, rapid urbanization, the rise of nation-states, and accelerated financial exchange and communication.  There is little consensus as to when modernity began.  Histories of Western Europe suggest that a modern era arrived at the end of colonial invasion and global expansion, which date to the 18th and early 19th centuries.  In general, modernity was exemplified by the period subsequent to the onset of modern warfare, typified by two world wars and succeeded by postmodernism.

        Encyclopedia Britannica

When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always 20 years behind the times.

        Mark Twain

The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. . . . This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature.


The rule of King John of England and the Magna Carta (1215) constitute my proposed thesis point with regard to the liberal dialectic.  The following early political scientists or political philosophers buttress these key events.  Machiavelli (1513) envisions a new modern state, which in so many ways at the time was an extension and complication of the monarchy.  The concept of civil society, as theorized most by Hobbes (1651) and Locke (1690), fleshes out the modern state with fundamentally new ideas.  (When I say civil society, I am referring to political innovation beyond the state of nature and not 'third sector' conception of the idea - though they are interrelated.)  Civil society, under my current formulation, is a false antithesis to the liberal dialectic.  It fails to consider the human folly, abusiveness, and corruption of the modern state.  Rousseau obviously points to these very issues.

Modernity and Antithesis

Every man having been born free and master of himself, no one else may under any pretext whatever subject him without his consent.  To assert that the son of a slave is born a slave is to assert that he is not born a man.

In truth, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing; from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all possess something and none has too much.

Man’s first law is to watch over his own preservation; his first care he owes to himself; and as soon as he reaches the age of reason, he becomes the only judge of the best means to preserve himself; he becomes his own master.

        Rousseau (three separate quotes), The Social Contract

The work of Rousseau (1754) is my proposed antithesis of the liberal dialectic and perhaps the key theorist in 800 years between King John and contemporary life.  He complicates our understanding of civil society and affronts monarchial power as never before.  He is the first modern Western thinker to formally consider  the self as a sovereign.  Be assured: we are still fighting this fight today, as I discussed in part 2 - probably in both the physical realm and the metaphysical.*  As such, we have Locke as the father of liberalism and Rousseau the father of anti-liberalism.**  Once these two forces achieve synthesis, the liberal dialectic will complete itself.  As I have argued and will further refine, this synthesis will depend on the evolution of the self and the question of a rising consciousness.

Double Movement 

Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite.
        John Kenneth Galbraith

The social history of our time is the result of a double movement: The one is the principle of economic liberalism, aiming at the establishment of a self-regulating market; the other is the principle of social protection aiming at the conservation of man and nature as well as productive organization.


Enter political economy, which is a natural extension of early political philosophy.  Smith (1776) and Ricardo (1817) conceptualize the market.***  As with civil society, the market is another false antithesis to the liberal dialectic because again it fails to consider the human folly, abusiveness, and corruption of - in this case - the market.  Both the market and the state are corollaries to the monarch in that people can leverage the market and the state to become petty monarchs, which effectively constitute the oligarchic system we have today.  

In this sense, we see the birth of the progressive liberal and conservative liberal, as discussed in part 2.  One looks to the state for answers and fails to see corruption there.  The other does the opposite.  Both are needed, as argued in 2017, and prone to their own abuses.  Although Polanyi (1944) came much later, his analysis focused on the late 1700's and earlier 1800's.

Now matters get especially messy.

* In 2019, I further committed myself to greater intellectual freedom.  As an interdisciplinary researcher, I am no longer shying away from metaphysics and its implications on policy and visa-versa.

** I would not attribute the notion of an administrative or bureaucratic anti-liberal state to Rousseau.  The earliest notions of an administrative state come later with the Napoleonic code (1804), which is itself an early date to mark the administrative or bureaucratic state, which is a subject of importance later.

*** In the hindsight of Polanyi (1944), we will now see the market and the state intimately co-develop with the state via his 'double movement' idea. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Liberal Dialectic: 2020 Revisions

 Marx to Krapotkin - Freud and Marcuse
Libertarian Centrism - Actual Policy

It's 2020.  I have not posted in 2 and half years.  The primary reason I revisited this blog series is that I began to conceptualize a podcast interview series on history, the liberal dialectic, and centrismIn preparation for those interviews, I wanted further to articulate my formulation with all its strengths and weaknesses.  Below are some small but important refinements and observations to my 2017 formulation.  The casual reader may want to advance to part 5 where I un-package my formulation of the liberal dialectic yet more clearly.  

The Primacy of the Individual

To Friedman, a free society is a more moral society, because it respects the moral primacy of the individual.  It is only through their own free choices that people express their values, and therefore their individuality and their humanity.  Without that freedom, we count no more than sheep.  To be truly human, we must be free, and responsible for our own actions.  The majority may not approve of what we choose, or may think they know what is best for us; but that gives them no right to dictate what we may drink or inject, nor to force us into military service, nor to steal our property and income for their own purposes.
        Eamonn Butler

One major failure in my 2017 statement of the liberal dialectic is that I did not sufficiently regard the primacy of the individual.  When I wrote the words "the primary issue that distinguishes a liberal conservative from a liberal progressive is their disposition towards state intervention and intrusion in the economy" I should have said "...state intervention and intrusion in the economy and the freedom of the individual."

The liberal progressive often risks the primacy of the individual for the greater good.  Meanwhile, I still find many Republicans and contemporary liberal conservatives to exhibit deep fraudulence and insincerity in their policy views.  They will claim they are defending the primacy of the individual when they are really simply defending the financial benefits of friends and business partners - who often already enjoy profound private and social benefits in life as it is.  However, as a good liberal conservative which I am to some extent, I should have focused on this question of the individual.  So I correct it now.

Social Conservatism, Tradition, and Authority

Social conservatism is the belief that society is built upon a fragile network of relationships which need to be upheld through duty, traditional values and established institutions... Social conservatism is generally sceptical of social change, and believes in maintaining the status quo concerning social issues such as family life, sexual relations, and patriotism.

Being spiritual has nothing to do with what you believe and everything to do with your state of consciousness.
        Eckhart Tolle

I approach the question of liberalism with a somewhat one-dimensional view: how much should the state intrude in the life of the economy and the individual.  Under this guise, the progressive liberal supports more aggressive intrusion, the liberal conservative less.  However, my one-dimensional view fails to consider the nuance of social conservatism in that the social conservative is actually willing to intrude and to intervene aggressively in the life the individual.  This issue complicates my model and concept of liberalism.

In 2017, I did note the liberal conservatives "more closely represent an older order where kings and queens prevented people from making choices and taking risks independently."  I didn't, however, address this matter in direct discussion with social conservatism.

Some conservatives cling so strongly to the past that we cannot really call them liberal conservatives.  They don't really want to see the classical liberal order evolve.  These people believe the institutions of monarchial rule - however sublimated into contemporary terms - and church influence deserve profound continued roles in policymaking.  They are flatly wrong.  They have a right to be wrong.  They can contribute bad ideas in a democratic society.  They can help elect people who are behind the times.  But we also have the right to ignore them and vote them out.  

I already went into great detail on the need to eliminate the English monarchy from this planet in part 2.  To take the question further, I personally believe people will continue to turn away from dogmatic religious institutions and further search for real spiritual answers and true spiritual healing thru many practices such a meditation, mindfulness, intentional communities, indigenous ceremony, and more.

Inner Dialectic Dialectics, False Antitheses, and Isms

This was a sometimes attractive and sometimes frustrating wrinkle of the dialectic, she’d found: everything turned out to be the superstructure of some other thing.
        Garth Risk Hallberg

I am not expert in Hegel, Marx, Fichte, or dialectics.  But I strong believer in the basic notion of dialectic thinking, as further evidenced by Gurdjieff's similar model.  You likely don't know George Gurdjieff.  But if you read my work across time, you certainly will.  I only note this question here to make a few observations.  

Dialectics are obviously ordered hierarchically.  Isms, movements, and philosophical periods almost certainly always react to the past or extend the past.  I also want to offer the notion of a false antithesis and a false synthesis for that matter.  I imagine I am not the first to offer these notions.  I will rely on these minor points moving forward.