Friday, August 27, 2010
Beyond Capitalism & Marxism
All this is proof of the true pathology of our civilization. The economic factor exercises a hypnosis and a tyranny over modern man. And, as often occurs in hypnosis, what the mind focuses on eventually becomes real. Modern man is making possible what every normal and complete civilization has always regarded as an aberration or as a bad joke—namely, that the economy and the social problem in terms of the economy are his destiny.
Thus, in order to posit a new principle, what is needed is not to oppose one economic formula with another, but instead to radically change attitudes, to reject without compromise the materialistic premises from which the economic factor has been perceived as absolute.
What must be questioned is not the value of this or that economic system, but the value of the economy itself. Thus, despite the fact that the antithesis between capitalism and Marxism dominates the background of recent times, it must be regarded as a pseudo-antithesis. In free-market economies, as well as in Marxist societies, the myth of production and its corollaries (e.g., standardization, monopolies, cartels, technocracy) are subject to the "hegemony" of the economy, becoming the primary factor on which the material conditions of existence are based. Both systems regard as "backward" or as "underdeveloped" those civilizations that do not amount to "civilizations based on labor and production"—namely, those civilizations that, luckily for themselves, have not yet been caught up in the feverish industrial exploitation of every natural resource, the social and productive enslavement of all human possibilities, and the exaltation of technical and industrial standards; in other words, those civilizations that still enjoy a certain space and a relative freedom. Thus, the true antithesis is not between capitalism and Marxism, but between a system in which the economy rules supreme (no matter in what form) and a system in which the economy is subordinated to extra-economic factors, within a wider and more complete order, such as to bestow a deep meaning upon human life and foster the development of its highest possibilities. This is the premise for a true restorative reaction, beyond "Left" and "Right," beyond capitalism's abuses and Marxist subversion. The necessary conditions are an inner detoxification, a becoming "normal" again ("normal" in the higher meaning of the term), and a renewed capability to differentiate between base and noble interests. No intervention from the outside can help; any external action at best might accompany this process.
In order to resolve the problem, it is necessary, first of all, to reject the "neutral" interpretation of the economic phenomenon proper to a deviated sociology. The very economic life has a body and soul of its own, and inner moral factors have always determined its meaning and spirit. Such spirit, as Sombart has clearly shown, should be distinguished from the various forms of production, distribution, and organization of economic goods; it may vary depending on individual instances and it bestows a very different scope and meaning on the economic factor. The pure homo oeconomicus is a fiction or the by-product of an evidently degenerated specialization. Thus, in every normal civilization a purely economic man—that is, the one who sees the economy not as an order of means but rather as an order of ends to which he dedicates his main activities—was always rightly regarded as a man of lower social extraction: lower in a spiritual sense, and furthermore in a social or political one. In essence, it is necessary to return to normalcy, to restore the natural dependency of the economic factor on inner, moral factors and to act upon them.
Once this is acknowledged, it will be easy to recognize the inner causes in the actual world (which have the economy as their common denominator) that preclude any solution that does not translate into a steeper fall to a lower level. I have previously suggested that the uprising of the masses has mainly been caused by the fact that every social difference has been reduced to those that exist between mere economic classes and by the fact that under the aegis of antitraditional liberalism, property and wealth, once free from any bond or higher value, have become the only criteria of social differences. However, beyond the strict limitations that were established within the overall hierarchical system prior to the ascent of the economy, the superiority and the right of a class as a merely economic class may rightly be contested in the name of elementary human values. And it was precisely here that the subversive ideology introduced itself, by making an anomalous and degenerative situation into an absolute one and acting as if nothing else had previously existed or could exist outside economic classes, or besides external and unfair social conditions that are determined by wealth alone. However, all this is false, since such conditions could develop only within a truncated society: only in such a society may the concepts of "capitalist" and "proletarian" be defined. These terms lack any foundation in a normal civilization, because in such a civilization the counterpart constituted by extra-economic values portrays the corresponding human types as something radically different from what today is categorized as "capitalist" or "proletarian." Even in the domain of the economy, a normal civilization provides specific justification for certain differences in condition, dignity, and function.
Moreover, in the contemporary chaos it is also necessary to acknowledge what is caused by an ideological infection. It is not entirely correct to say that Marxism arose and took hold because there was a real social question that needed to be addressed (at best this may have been the case during the early stages of the industrial revolution); the opposite is true—to wit, that for the most part the social question gains precedence in today's world only as a result of the presence of Marxism. The social question artificially arises through the concerted effort of agitators, those who are engaged in "rekindling class consciousness." Lenin did not assign to the Communist Party only the task of supporting "workers' movements" where they arose spontaneously, but rather the task of creating and organizing them everywhere and by every means. Marxism gives rise to the proletarian and class mentality where it previously did not exist, stirring excitement and creating resentment and dissatisfaction in those societies where the individuals still lived in the station allotted to them by life. In those societies an individual contained his need and aspirations within natural limits; he did not yearn to become different from what he was, and thus he was innocent of that Entfremdung ("alienation") decried by Marxism. Incidentally, we should recall that Marxism proposes to overcome this alienation through something worse—namely, the "integration (or, we should say, disintegration) of the person into a collective entity (i.e., the 'people,' or 'the party')."
I am not espousing an "obscurantism" for the benefit of the "ruling classes"; as I have stated previously, I dispute the superiority and the rights of a merely economic class living in a materialistic fashion. Nevertheless, we need to side against the idea or myth of so-called social progress, which is another of the many pathological fixations of the economic era in general, and not the legacy of leftist movements alone. To this effect, the eschatological views of Marxism do not differ very much from the "Western" views of prosperity: both Weltanschauungen [worldviews] essentially coincide, as do their practical applications. In both Marxism and free-market economies we find the same materialistic, antipolitical, and social view detaching the social order and people from any higher order and higher goal, positing what is "useful" as the only purpose (understood in a physical, vegetative, and earthly sense); by turning the "useful" into a criterion of progress, the values proper to every traditional structure are inverted. In fact, we should not forget that the law, meaning, and sufficient reason for these structures have always consisted in references for man to something beyond himself and beyond the economy, wealth, or material poverty, all these things having only a secondary importance. Thus, it can legitimately be claimed that the so-called improvement of social conditions should be regarded not as good but as evil, when its price consists of the enslavement of the single individual to the productive mechanism and to the social conglomerate; or in the degradation of the State to the "State based on work," and the degradation of society to "consumer society"; or in the elimination of every qualitative hierarchy; or in the atrophy of every spiritual sensibility and every "heroic" attitude. Hegel wrote, "Happiness is not to be found in the history of the world [in the sense of material comfort and social prosperity]; even the few happy periods found here and there are like white pages." But even at an individual level, the qualities that matter the most in a man and make him who he is often arise in harsh circumstances and even in conditions of indigence and injustice, since they represent a challenge to him, testing his spirit; what a sad contrast it is when the human animal is granted a maximum of comfort, an equal share in a mindless and "bovine" happiness, an easy and comfortable life filled with gadgets, radio and TV programs, planes, Hollywood, sports arenas, and popular culture at the level of Reader's Digest.
Again, spiritual values and the higher degrees of human perfection have nothing to do with either the presence or the absence of socioeconomic prosperity. The notion that indigence is always a source of abjection and vice—and that "advanced" social conditions represent its opposite—is the fairy tale told by materialistic ideologies, which contradict themselves when they uphold the other myth, according to which the "good guys" are on the side of the people and the oppressed workers and all the "bad guys" are to be found on the side of the wealthy classes, which are corrupt and exploitative. Both of these are fairy tales. In reality, true values bear no necessary relation to better or worse socioeconomic conditions; only when these values are put at the forefront is it possible to approximate an order of effective justice, even on the material plane. Among these values are: being oneself; the style of an active impersonality; love of discipline; and a generally heroic attitude toward life. Against all forms of resentment and social competition, every person should acknowledge and love his station in life, which best corresponds to his own nature, thus acknowledging the limits within which he can develop his potential; and should give an organic sense to his life and achieve its perfection, since an artisan who perfectly fulfills his function is certainly superior to a king who does not live up to his dignity. Only when such considerations have weight will this or that reform carried out on the socioeconomic plane be conceived and implemented without any negative consequence, according to true justice, without mistaking the essential for the accessory. Unless an ideological detoxification and a rectification of attitudes are carried out, every reform will be only superficial and fail to tackle the deeper roots of the crisis of contemporary society, to the advantage of subversive forces.
Tyranny of the Economy
& Pseudo-Antithesis between Capitalism & Marxism
(from "Men Among the Ruins")