Skip to main content

Human Consciousness

The following, from a piece entitled Canadian Persepectives 2009: The Failure of Capitalism and the Need for a Socialist Alternative written by the Canadian section of the IMT, is a wonderful description of the dialectal nature of human consciousness. Understanding this is key to understanding how societies change, and this excerpt is some of the best writing on the subject I've ever read. (Click here to read the whole piece.)

The most revolutionary observation about human consciousness is that it is inherently conservative. People do not expect or welcome change. The empirical philosophy of "what you see is what you get" is how most people live their lives. For most of their lives, this philosophy is a close enough approximation of reality that it does not cause people too much distress. However, during times of great change and crisis such as the period we are currently passing through, the philosophy of empiricism is woefully inadequate. Capitalism has failed, and yet the psychology of the mass of the population is more reflective of the past than the present. If psychology faithfully kept track with objective reality, we would have been living in a socialist society for at least 100 years.

The relationship between reality and psychology, the objective and the subjective, is not linear. However, there is obviously still a relationship. This relationship is contradictory and dialectical - in other words, after doing everything possible to resist change (taking on increased overtime, a 2nd or 3rd job, sacrificing health and family, etc.) a limit is reached where there are no more "individual" solutions. It is impossible to determine exactly when this limit will be reached; people are willing to endure more in some periods than others. But eventually, people start looking for collective, systemic explanations and solutions to the change going on around them. They reject the old justifications (and those who peddled them) and look for ideas that explain reality. Consciousness does not catch up to reality in a gradual, linear, reformist manner; it catches up in a convulsive, sudden, and revolutionary way. A conservative consciousness leads to revolutionary conclusions - dialectical philosophy calls this phenomenon the unity and inter-penetration of opposites.

The "old" discredited idea of socialism is coming back with a vengeance. Newsweek magazine even declared, "We Are All Socialists Now." Those who extolled the virtue of small government and free markets are now spending billions of dollars of taxpayers' money to intervene in the economy. They are even nationalizing banks. The captains of industry, the best and the brightest with their multi-million dollar bonuses, have driven the largest banks, corporations, and the entire economy into the ground. In this environment the ideas of genuine socialism can again get the ear of the masses. When every other "solution" has failed, when the so-called experts have failed, and when workers are faced with the prospect of unemployment and homelessness, the idea of occupying your factory to save your job no longer seems so outlandish. People ask themselves, "Why should the bosses receive billions while there is no money to help workers facing foreclosure and bankruptcy? Why couldn't we use that money to nationalize industry to save jobs? What purpose do these bosses play anyway?" Marxists have long explained that it is not revolutionaries that cause revolutions. It is capitalism that creates the conditions that lead workers to revolutionary conclusions.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Hanging from a cliff

The day after Obama won his second term the markets took a bit of a tumble. The Dow dipped below 13,000 for the first time in a few months. US Congressional gridlock and the ongoing crisis in Europe are mostly to blame. What is more interesting, even if it's unsurprising, is the rush to bonds- US government bonds to be exact. Indeed, the yield on ten-year treasury notes dipped as low as it has since May. Even with our ratings downgrade (which no one now cares about in the slightest) and huge debt, it is cheaper than ever for us to borrow money. We are still the safest piggy bank out there. 

With the "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts looming, the spirit of compromise is being sprayed into the air like a bottle of Glade mountain berry. Democrats are fond of saying we need a "balanced" approach to reducing the deficit. Nominally this means some tax increases along with spending cuts. Republicans are now, apparently, open to some sort…

The Earth is not Fragile

I found myself cringing the other day listening to a well intentioned, yet completely ridiculous, city slicking environmentalist tell a room full of us how fragile the earth is. I wanted to scream "it is not!" but decorum got the better of me and I stayed quiet. It isn't fragile, not in any real sense of the word. The earth would just as soon wash us all away in a flood than conjure up a gorgeous sunset.
One of the most punk rock things you can do these days, particularly at dinner parties in liberal enclaves like where I live, is say you're skeptic when it comes to what people view as scientific consensus. Usually people think climate change, and are immediately offended by the idea that someone may disagree with what they've been told is humanity's most desperate and urgent threat. This is not to say I don't believe the earth is getting warmer, I surely do, or that I believe humans haven't had an effect on the environment, we certainly have. It'…

Austerity Ecology and The Collapse-Porn Addicts

I just finished Leigh Phillip’s left defense of humanity, “Austerity Ecology And The Collapse-Porn Addicts.” I think it’s important to frame it that way, as one of the main point he makes (and I fully agree) is that the earth doesn’t need us to survive. What we should focus on is our species. And not just surviving, but prospering, even conquering (I know people don’t like that word, but we ought not be scared of power). Phillips goes through every argument that I grew up with, from green austerity to that overpopulation nonsense, and convincingly does away with them. (I read Derrick Jensen was I was younger and had completely spaced out how truly terrible his arguments are. Embarrassingly bad. When I tried John Bellamy Foster I luckily found him too dense to get through. Just like George Ciccariello-Maher is a caricature of your “edgy” left wing professor, Foster is a caricature of what a Marxist is, tough to understand but you should know what he’s saying is super important!) 

Phill…