Tuesday, September 14, 2004

This free...

Norm has a series of posts on the Marxcian concept of a stateless society. Trailer, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4. Read them all, and in that order.

I have to admit to being disappointed. Norm could have saved a lot of time, as well as the lives of countless electrons, by simply saying " Hobbes was right y'all."

To quickly reply.

Geras notes but then ignores a central feature of the Marxian definition of the state as being its class basis. Pace Hobbes, Marxists do not consider the state to be the natural combination of individuals from a state of nature for mutual protection, but, rather, the interloping interest of a class within a society combined to dominate the rest of the community. Without this recognition, Norm's articles are directed more at anarchists than they are at Marxists, who have always acknowledged the need for authority up to an including some element of force within socialism.

So far as Marxists are concerned at the minute, the state is not a force for mutual protection, except in as much as the Mafia is - a protection racket. So long as the state is owned and controled by a section in society, so much is it used to dominate and subordinate the rest of society. At present the capitalist class collectively own the state through a combination of the national debt, funding of political parties and their common ownership of the means of communication through advertising funding.

Just as there is, of course, a difference between a mafia protection racket and an insurance firm, or between the former and a neighbourhood watch, so too is there between state enforced laws and community enforcement. The principle of exclusivity needs to be lost, i.e. enforcement of rules/decisions is not the exclusive privilege of a special body of people but of the people in a community generally.

At present police have powers of arrest far and above that enjoyed by the rest of us under common law, and there is no need for that, a sufficiently rigorous concept of arrest could allow police to use the same as the person on the street, in the same way as I have as much right to bake bread as a baker, but I leave it to them generally because that is their chosen vocation.

I would generally expect an outcome like Geras's (2/3)topia, with sporadic and infrequent infraction of rules (the evidence is clear that change in social conditions would radically cut the number of crimes outright). Such crimes in a society where the population generally works a ten hour week could easily be accomodated into ad hoc democratic practises of the local community for dealing with, leaving no need for a full-time police or judiciary. This would even be beneficial, given Condorcet's jury theorum which suggests that the more people involved in deciding a case the more likely the correct outcome is going to be obtained. Given we have now about one murder per parliamentary constituency per year, we can hardly expect to be overwhelmed.

Further, I would suggest that our emphasis would be on eliminating the causes of crime. Norm is right, Marxists are good at spotting the venality of humans, but we don't, I don't think, attribute that to external cause, but, rather, look at it in terms of opportunity (what is the rational way to behave? what is the most effective way to prosper?) and see how that links in with social structures. We would seek to harness selfishness, lust, greed, etc. by making co-operation the rational choice, the most cost effective choice. We would aim for (1)topia, by using scientific knowledge of the way society actually is when undistorted by class divisions.

Where liberalism sees the existential hero as free as they are unhindered or encountered by society, socialism sees freedom in people being able to define themselves through society. The understanding that life is a collaborative effort.

Certainly, Marxists seek some of the promises of liberalism. IIRC C.L.R. James talked of early America, where the Americans were doing the democracy - elected Sheriffs and the like - that Europeans only talked of. Liberalism has failed to deliver on that promise, only the abolition of class will enable us to take democratic authority into the hands of the community as a whole, and out of the hands of the state.

Ah thangyow...


Blogger J said...

While I am just another, (mm, lemme pick the right class category), semi-educated dilletante bourgeois liberal-leftist hypocrite, I agree with your assessment of norm's rant--he starts with sort of a social contract idea regarding "free choice" and just expounds on that.

But my point, perhaps too broad and not very PC, is this--shouldn't we still approach Marx economically? IS the labor theory of value still tenable? (was it ever) Can Marx's critique apply to present economic situations, free markets, so forth. Shouldn't marxists be discussing the absurdity of the free market, speculation, etc, instead of aesthetics or social contracts rights ? I think they should.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Hi J,

well, I think it's always important for socialists to dicsuss where we actually think we're going, as well as where we are now.

Of course, LTV is, I would argue, still relevent, asd is Marxism generally, but Marx didn't spring from a vaccuum and so should not be hermetically sealed off from debate...

8:05 AM  

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