And leaves me very confused:
This is a constant and universal process but revolution can only come to the fore, let alone be successful, when both the objective material conditions and the subjective political conditions are ripe for it. This, then, was how Marx saw his theory of history as scientific, driven as it was by the material and political conditions of production and not by the working out of abstract ideas and spirits.
My confusion comes from the fact that as a market, or classical, liberal I\’m just fine with signing up to that. Things\’ll change when conditions are right for things to change.
For example, what we might regard as the greatest change of the 20th century, the economic emancipation of women. Sure, we can tell the story as one of brave pioneers fighting against the oppressive patriarchy. Even willing to agree that that contributed to what happened.
But it wouldn\’t have succeeded without being in fertile soil. A society like 1900, when it really did take two people working full time to keep a household on the road…..one working full time and more inside the household, one working full time outside it for money…..and that full time for money work relying a great deal on the heavier male musculature….simply couldn\’t have supported that economic emancipation.
By the 50s, 60s, the society is in huge ferment. Domestic labour saving gadetry (the stove, washing machine instead of mangle, vacuums instead of brooms, etc, etc) plus the rise of the service part of the economy, overshadowing manufacturing, led to the conditions where this emancipation was possible.
Yes, of course this is a pencil sketch, not a detailed thesis. But I\’m quite sure that if the Betty Friedans, Andrea Dworkins and all had been saying the same things they did in 1910 they\’d have got nowhere. And that the Pankhursts campaigning in 1960 would have got a lot further than they did.
So, yes, I\’m agreeing with Marx that the great societal changes will only come when the objective material conditions allow them to be successful.
And then here\’s my confusion: how do we know, how can we know, when such is true? I suppose we could rely upon committed revolutionaries to tell us when and force into doing something about it: the Leninist solution. But an entirely different reading is possible.
We let people try their own thing. If that own thing turns out to be successful then more people will do it and the societal change will come. If it doesn\’t, oh well, back to the drawing board. Similarly, success shows that the objective material conditions existed for said success, failure that they did not.
And what do we call a world, a society, in which one can do one\’s own thing? One possible description is of a classically liberal one. You can do what you like as long as it doesn\’t harm others or derail the attempts of others to do as they wish.
And what do we call a system in which various different ideas compete for success unaided? That\’s a reasonably good description of a market actually, a market in ideas, a market in ways to live.
Which is what so confuses me. If a classically liberal market based socio-economic system is the very way in which we can find out whether the objective conditions exist for societal change, how come Marxists are so against the classically liberal market based socio-economic system which will tell us whether the objective conditions exist for the societal changes they desire?