Reconciling Progress & Tradition
This essay is a contribution from our symposium Toward a Just Political Economy. To receive a print copy and read the other essays, order here.
In The Open Society and its Enemies, Karl Popper infamously traced the lineage of modern totalitarianism back to the ancient philosophy of Plato. Marxism in particular, at first sight the diametric opposite of the perennial philosophy, was the translation of Plato’s totalitarianism into the language and praxis of historical materialism. For Popper, Plato as much as Marx or Hegel was to be blamed for the illiberal regimes of the 20th century which threatened to undermine the Western liberal order.1
In an era when the liberal order seems to be suffocating beneath the weight of its own decadence, post-liberals may take a cue from Popper’s unorthodox linkage of Marx to Plato. Such a combination will produce an approach to history that rejects neither the eternal principles that transcend human history, nor the laws and trajectories of history itself which give these principles expression. Such a philosophy is animated by a holistic vision of politics in the liberal era, acknowledging the limits of politics within the existing (economic) conditions of the liberal-capitalist order while also aspiring to principles and ends that absolutely transcend the peculiar limitations of that order.
For post-liberalism, Plato represents the perennial philosophy, a truly archaic philosophy, standing athwart modernity’s reckless abandonment of the eternal archai in favor of the vicissitudes of progress and libidinal freedom. At the same time, Marx stands as a warning that there is no “turning back the clock” to a premodern age, and that the only way out of our current predicament is through it. Marxism is a markedly futuristic worldview. Post-liberalism may thus avoid being naively reactionary, on the one hand, and at the same time avoid the profane extremes of revolutionary progressivism, on the other hand. It will be an archeofuturist2 post-liberalism, that truly reconciles tradition with historical progress. It will thus be everything that Popper despised.
The Economics of Progress
Marx’s analysis of progress under capitalism is closely linked, unsurprisingly, with the role of technology. Marx’s key discovery relates to certain processes internal to capitalism itself, by which it simultaneously preserves and undermines itself. Even apart from socialist struggle, capitalism is a revolutionary and contradictory force that sows the seeds of a coming post-capitalist or communist order. “The development of the productive forces of social labour is capital’s historic mission and justification. For that very reason, it unwittingly creates the material conditions for a higher form of production.”3 The identification of these tendencies is what allows Marx to predict, with an impressive degree of accuracy, the possible futures of capitalism. The task of socialists is not merely to agitate class struggle, but to harness the productive forces of capitalism itself and accelerate their development, with the eventual goal of freeing them from their capitalist shell.
In the capitalist mode of production, technological innovation supports the process of deriving surplus value from production, to be realized through the market as profit. Since surplus value or profit is derived only from surplus labor time, whereas necessary labor time constitutes merely the cost of labor, the capitalist can only increase his profits by increasing surplus labor time. But given a set length of the working day, the capitalist is constrained by arithmetic: surplus labor time can only be increased if necessary time is shortened. The shorter the necessary time, the more the commodities that may be produced in a given working day: and thus the more of that day which constitutes surplus time.
The reduction of necessary labor time by increasing productivity may happen in at least two ways: a) greater division and collectivization of labor; and b) the introduction of machinery or productive technology. These methods “speed up” the production process, making it possible to produce a greater quantity in a given amount of time. Of these two methods, it is the latter which is less costly for the capitalist in the long run: given a sufficient advancement of scientific knowledge, it is less costly to maintain productive machinery than to pay the wages of a greater number of workers. Technological progress is therefore an essential component of the history of capitalism. With each step in real progress, the costs of necessary labor are reduced to a minimum, so that surplus labor can be expanded for maximum profit.
The distinction between necessary and surplus labor time is central to Marx’s system. Necessary and surplus labor are historical constants, common to all modes of production, yet they take on a certain shape and configuration in each mode of production. Necessary labor time reflects that amount of time which is necessary to produce the bare minimum of the worker’s means of subsistence. Hence, in capitalism, its value is (theoretically) equal to the wage. Surplus labor time is any time spent over and above what is minimally necessary for subsistence. In capitalism, its value (surplus value) is equal to the profit which the capitalist derives from production. Surplus labor is performed by the worker not for himself but for the capitalist—this is the basis of the famed alienation of labor.4
Under communism, according to Marx, surplus labor time remains, in a technical sense, but it takes on a different form: disposable time or free time With the means of subsistence provided by technologically enhanced necessary labor, whose use value is guaranteed by an agreed-upon “social plan,”5 the associated worker is now free to act for himself: he appropriates his own surplus labor:
[Capital’s] tendency [is] always, on the one side, to create disposable time, on the other, to convert it into surplus labour. If it succeeds too well at the first, then it suffers from surplus production, and then necessary labour is interrupted, because no surplus labour can be realized by capital. The more this contradiction develops, the more does it become evident that the growth of the forces of production can no longer be bound up with the appropriation of alien labour, but that the mass of workers must themselves appropriate their own surplus labour.6
This is the end of alienation. From the standpoint of free time, the communist worker thus shares an interest with the capitalist: they are both interested in reducing necessary labor time to a minimum, by means of technology. “[The] realm of freedom really begins only where labour determined by necessity and external expediency ends.”7
Thus it is precisely by those methods which capitalism uses to uphold itself and maximize surplus value that it also lays the groundwork for a future communism. The collectivization and the mechanization of labor allow for the reduction of necessary labor to a minimum, so that the necessities of life may be supplied in abundance—freeing the worker to spend his time laboring either for the capitalist or for himself. Indeed, by pursuing the collectivization and mechanization of production, capital may succeed so well at maximizing production, pushing itself over the edge into overproduction, that it bursts from its capitalistic shell, too vast to realize itself as profit on the market, and thus becoming effectively socialized. Capital becomes something autonomous, divorced from the individual capitalist, assuming the form of a social or communal power, thus laying the conditions for a social or communal mode of production.8
Marx’s vision is decidedly forward-looking or futuristic. Granted, he does not spend much time imagining what a future communist society might look like. Yet he spends a great deal of time imagining the possible futures of capitalism, including its potential explosive demise through overproduction. Communism can only be imagined and realized through capitalism. It is for this reason that Marx’s injunction to the proletariat, in the Communist Manifesto, includes the “extension of factories and instruments of production.” Lenin likewise understood that “socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science.”9 Only on the basis of a fully developed productive capacity, by which “the realm of necessity” is administered, can the working man enter into “the realm of freedom,” reunited to his own labor, no longer alienated from it. As Marx writes in Capital Vol. III, “The true realm of freedom, the development of human powers as an end in itself, begins beyond [the realm of necessity], though it can only flourish with this realm of necessity as its basis. The reduction of the working day is the basic prerequisite.”10
The Politics of Progress
In the background of Marx’s analysis is the dimension of politics. At any given stage, capitalist society is faced with a choice of two alternatives: progress or regress, forward or backward. The decision to advance forward is a political decision, whether made by a central agent of power (e.g., the state), a single class (the bourgeoisie or proletariat), or a decentralized network of dispersed actors. Naturally, these decisions must “ride the wave” of the automatic tendencies within the capitalist form, but they remain fundamentally human and political decisions, which bear directly upon the future of capitalist society.11
It is this political dimension to which Marx appeals in the Communist Manifesto, when he exhorts the working man to take up arms against the bourgeoisie, seize the means of production, centralize them in the hands of a socialist state, accelerate their development, and bring capitalism to its natural consummation in communism. Notably, technological progress is an essential component of Marx’s political injunction to the working class. The human agents of change are burdened with the task of accelerating the productive forces of capital, with the limit-goal of reducing necessary human labor to an absolute minimum by technology or machinery.
Once this process is completed, and the means of production are fully functioning and fully socialized, Marx leaves the description of communism relatively unspecified. We know, of course that communism refers to a world of great material abundance and immense productive powers inherited from capitalism. Marx has assigned politics the role of overseeing production and transferring it to the hands of the associated workers: the realm of necessity has been taken care of. But beyond this, both Marx and Engels insist that the political function of the state will “die away,”12 leaving behind an association of free workers who may now appropriate for themselves their own free time, while the process of production continues naturally and indefinitely.
It is at this point in Marx’s analysis that a pre-modern, non-materialist, archaic philosophy must reinsert itself. In leaving the realm of freedom under communism undetermined, Marx over-determinately predicts the “withering away” of politics. He relegates politics to the realm of necessity and, in keeping with the liberal tradition of which he is (despite himself) the heir, precludes politics from the realm of freedom. Such a relegation presupposes a metaphysics of freedom that itself deserves to be called into question, even while Marx’s analysis of the material processes of capitalism may be accepted and vindicated. In this sense, there is room for a fruitful dialogue between Marx’s material-economic analysis of modernity and a pre-modern, idealist, and archaic metaphysics of freedom. Such a dialogue can open up a space within the future of modernity for the recovery of a truly archaic and traditionalist politics.
The Politics of Archè
The archaic philosophy of Plato, not to mention his disciple Aristotle (whom I take to be fundamentally in continuity with his master), does not relegate politics to the realm of necessity, but also accords it the role of defining and directing human freedom itself. Plato and Aristotle recognize the function of communal production in securing the necessities of life, so as to make time for leisure, for as many people as possible.13 But there is a teleological dimension to this relationship between necessary and freedom that is not present in Marx, a dimension which makes the Platonic philosophy truly archaic: leisure time is the condition for the philosophic way of life, a life ordered to the contemplation of the highest archai or metaphysical principles of things—in other words, a truly meaningful life.
The Platonic archè is a metaphysical center which organizes all thought, being, and life around itself. The structure of the cosmos, the entire universe of beings, is described by Plato multiple times with reference to this primordial center, the principle of all things. The Timaeus and the Phaedo describe the generation and existence of all things from a primordial Intellect, in which the archetypes, or Forms, of all things are known and preconceived before time. The Parmenides likewise resolves all multiplicity back to the ineffable unity of the One. In the Republic, all knowledge is resolved to the Good through the mediation of Forms. All of being is centered on this first principle.
Such a metaphysics naturally has ethical and political implications: the virtues of the individual are modeled after eternal principles of reason and justice; and likewise the good society is modeled after an eternal archetype of cosmo-political order, which Plato describes in the Republic as the Good. Political life consists in the administration of social life according to the ruler’s knowledge of the Good. For Plato, this explicitly means that the ruler must himself be a philosopher. All spheres of human life are thus within the purview of political rule; for political rule is a kind of wisdom—and it belongs to wisdom, says Aristotle, to know the universal.14 Thus, there is no part of human life, in theory, to which politics does not extend: it encompasses not only the material conditions of human life but also the interior or spiritual dimension.
Pierre Hadot famously described ancient philosophy as a whole way of life, rather than as the insular scholastic exercise which it has become in the modern academy.15 It would not be inaccurate to describe the goal of politics in the Platonic and Aristotelian conception to be a common philosophic life, in which the community shares in a life ordered by and towards the highest archè, the Good. The allegory of the cave illustrates that the living of a fully human life extends into the realm of pure thought, untrammeled by purely material limitations and considerations that dominate the non-philosophic life within the cave.16 The passage from darkness into light may thus be described as a kind of passage from material necessity into the realm of freedom.
Certain material conditions must be met, however, for this life to be possible: there must be an adequate supply and distribution of the material goods necessary for basic sustenance and the life of leisure. Leisure in particular is recognized by both Plato and Aristotle as a condition for the noblest exercise of the philosophic faculties. For Plato, the leisure of philosophy is matched by the philosopher’s incompetence in securing the necessities of life:
There is the one who has been brought up in true freedom and leisure, the man you call a philosopher; a man to whom it is no disgrace to appear simple and good-for-nothing when he is confronted with menial tasks, when, for instance, he doesn’t know how to make a bed, or how to sweeten a sauce or a flattering speech.17
Likewise, according to Aristotle, leisure is the condition for the highest happiness, which consists in philosophic contemplation: “Happiness, moreover, is held to reside in leisure.”18 Yet leisure is not possible without the prior procurement of the necessities of life. Thus, “a wise person, a just person, and all the others are in need of the necessities of life.”19 “For it was when almost all the necessities of life and the things that make for comfort and recreation had been secured, that such knowledge began to be sought.”20 As Josef Pieper writes, it is leisure and not labor that is the basis of culture—where culture means, above all, cult: the contemplation of the divine.21
Plato and Aristotle both ascribe to the state (or to the rulers of the city) the responsibility of providing for the material necessities of life, so that enough leisure may be afforded for contemplation. Plato’s account of the coming-to-be of the city thus begins with the procurement of man’s physical necessities, which can only be accomplished in a communal setting: no man is perfectly self-sufficient.22 Likewise, in the Politics, Aristotle makes leisure the concern of both the state and the individual:
Since the end of individuals and of states is the same, the end of the best man and of the best constitution must also be the same; it is therefore evident that there ought to exist in both of them the virtues of leisure; for peace, as has been often repeated, is the end of war, and leisure of toil. But leisure and cultivation may be promoted, not only by those virtues which are practiced in leisure, but also by some of those which are useful to business. For many necessaries of life have to be supplied before we can have leisure.23
The necessities of life are supplied by toil, the labor of production. For both Plato and Aristotle, no man can procure for himself all the goods of life by his toil alone, much less if he is to have leisure to any degree. This is precisely why men enter into political community: production must be communal, with an adequate division of labor, so that every man is able to possess the necessities of life and, in accord with his station, enjoy the properly philosophic goods that come with the life of leisure: the life beyond necessity, or the life of freedom. These further goods are likewise provided only in a political context: it is the philosopher-king who leads his citizens from the cave towards the light of wisdom, the vision of the Good. Likewise, Aristotle spends much time at the end of the Politics detailing how the state must educate its citizens: with a view towards their participation in contemplative life. The function of the political is to order the whole of human life, from the lowest rungs of material necessity to the highest levels of human freedom, to the contemplation of the archai, and especially the contemplation of the Good itself.
The reader cannot have missed the parallel between the Platonic-Aristotelian account of the city and the Marxian account of communism. Central to this parallel is the distinction between necessity and freedom. In Marx, this distinction is distorted by capitalism in the distinction between necessary and surplus labor time, where the freedom of the worker (his surplus time) has been appropriated by the capitalist. For Marx, just as for Plato and Aristotle, surplus or free time is properly the time for those activities which a man pursues for their own sake, “the true realm of freedom, the development of human powers as an end in itself.”24 This realm presupposes an abundance of the necessaries of life, supplied by “necessary labor,” which is reduced to a minimum by collectivization and, for Marx, by technological progress.
Yet there is a crucial difference between Marx’s communism and Plato’s polis, pertaining to how freedom is defined in each. The archaic philosophy situates freedom within a larger teleological and metaphysical whole: freedom, or leisure, is only freedom for the Good as a metaphysical first principle. Man only discovers himself, lives truly in accord with his intellectual nature, when he encounters the ultimate principle from which his very being proceeds. This is, so to speak, the Platonic resolution of human alienation, which can only be defined as alienation from the Good; and therefore, its resolution is necessarily in contemplation of the Good, the philosophic life. Only in such a life does a man finally live truly for himself: he is free.
Accordingly, a Platonist must reinterpret the Marxian account of the passage from necessity into freedom in the light of the Platonic journey from the cave into the realm of pure and divinizing thought. The liberation from necessary labor is precisely for the sake of divinizing thought. In the words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “every pair of hands freed means a brain freed for thought. . . granted the increase in technical resources, the available energy will rise and be directed towards the focus of consciousness.”25
Marx was familiar with these concepts in their Hegelian form. Unquestionably, Marx’s own concept of free activity as something pursued “for its own sake” is received through Hegel from the Platonic-Aristotelian tradition. Similarly, Marx’s concept of alienation as a condition of unfreedom and unconsciousness stems from the Platonic-Aristotelian (and Hegelian) notion of the free man as the wise man, i.e., one who knows himself, is possessed of self-consciousness—for Plato, man knows himself best in returning to his origin, the One, or the Good.26
Yet these concepts undergo a transformation with Marx’s rejection of Hegel’s idealism and his turn to materialism: alienation becomes alienation from the product of one’s labor, and freedom is the freedom to appropriate that product for oneself. At the heart of this transformation is a metaphysical assumption: that man is more a cause than an effect, and thus, that he is more to be identified with his own effects, the products of his own labor, than with his cause. This underlying metaphysics is but the culmination of a long trend in the modern history of philosophy, itself the reflection of the history of industrialization and the rise of capitalism: the shift from the contemplative intelligence to the practical intelligence, from understanding the world to changing the world.27 Man can only relate to his own cause, the principle of his being, through silent contemplation. But he relates to the work of his own hands only through the practical activity of production.
The archaic philosophy of Plato and Aristotle is rooted in the opposite metaphysical presupposition: man is more to be identified with his cause than with his effects. For Plato, man discovers himself by returning to his origin: the heavenly sphere from which his soul descended into matter at the dawn of time, the immaterial realm of the gods, the archai with which the soul shares a natural kinship. In the Phaedrus, the image of the lover stands for the man in search of his primordial identity, his kinship with the eternal forms of Beauty, Knowledge, etc.28 Only by contemplating these eternal forms does a man truly overcome his alienation. Man overcomes his alienation only through divinization, assimilation to the gods. Thus, in the Theaetetus, Socrates explains that a man can only escape from evil by escaping from earth to heaven (from necessity to freedom!): “[Evil] must inevitably haunt human life, and prowl about this earth. That is why a man should make all haste to escape from earth to heaven; and escape means becoming as like God as possible; and a man becomes like God when he becomes just and pious, with understanding.”29
Divinization is the goal of all politics, according to the Republic: the philosopher-king is obliged “not just to mould himself but to arrange the dispositions of others at the level of both the individual and city” according to the model of divine and unchanging things.30 But the activity by which man undergoes such divinization (e.g., philosophic study, rites of initiation, &c.) depends on the material abundance which Marx identifies as the realm of necessity, and on which Marx’s apolitical realm of freedom likewise depends. It is precisely here, in the futuristic realm of freedom, that the archaic political project of Platonism reasserts itself—not in order to arrest human freedom and bind it back in chains after it has been released from the grip of capital, but to truly fulfill it and direct it to its true self. From the Platonic point of view, Marx’s analysis of labor time illustrates not so much how capital arrests the development of human freedom understood in the materialist sense (still a fundamentally liberal freedom), but how it arrests the development of man’s freedom for divinization, through which a man rediscovers himself in the archaic principle of his being. Accordingly, where Marx falls short is in failing to recognize that human freedom remains in need of political guidance, if it is to attain its true fulfillment in divinization. As Pope Benedict XVI writes in Spe Salvi, Marx’s error was that “[he] forgot that freedom always remains also freedom for evil. He thought that once the economy had been put right, everything would automatically be put right. His real error is materialism: man, in fact, is not merely the product of economic conditions, and it is not possible to redeem him purely from the outside by creating a favorable economic environment.”31
On the other hand, a Platonic archaism, aware of the urgency of coming to grips with capitalist development, must accompany Marx in pursuing a future free of the chains of necessity, characterized by what Aristotle called “self-sufficiency.”32 Following Marx, political Platonism must acknowledge that the way out of capitalism is only “through it”—allowing for variations in this development according to distinct local contexts. The tools and materials with which any politics must work are given by history. Human agency, while it remains human and free, is nonetheless limited by its historical conditions. At the same time, the historical conditions of the present inevitably bear the mark of the past. Thus, even Marx acknowledges that past ideals sometimes reassert themselves in the present in unexpected ways. Hence, he wrote:
Man makes his own history, but he does not make it out of the whole cloth; he does not make it out of conditions chosen by himself, but out of such as he finds close at hand. The tradition of all past generations weighs like an alp upon the brain of the living. At the very time when men appear engaged in revolutionizing things and themselves, in bringing about what never was before, at such very epochs of revolutionary crisis do they anxiously conjure up into their service the spirits of the past, assume their names, their battle cries, their costumes to enact a new historic scene in such time-honored disguise and with such borrowed language.33
While material conditions certainly shape the limits of political change, it is also true that ideal conditions, metaphysical commitments, ideologies, and teleologies shape the material workings of society, while harnessing them for independent ends. The future trajectories of the means of production will be partly determined by the ends toward which political and social decisions direct them. Marx partly recognizes this whenever he acknowledges the role of a “social plan” in determining the use-value of certain products for society. But he leaves little room for discussion of the merits of an archaic social plan, one which rests on ideal metaphysical principles whose truth-value is independent of materialist praxis, as opposed to any social plan which emerges merely from the material conditions of the productive community.
Later Marxists, such as Antonio Gramsci, would return to the Hegelian and humanistic roots of Marxism and reconfigure the relationship of base to superstructures as a relationship of mutual co-determination or reciprocity, “a reciprocity which is nothing other than the real dialectical process,”34 rather than a one-sided relation in which the material base determines the ideal superstructure. The Marxian passage from necessity into freedom was interpreted by Gramsci in a Hegelian-idealist sense, as the passage from purely material considerations into the realm of pure thought, unhampered by material considerations.35 Similarly, Marxists of the “Frankfurt School,” such as Adorno and Horkheimer, re-introduced the question of culture into Marxist analysis, investigating how the accepted æsthetic (and metaphysical?) ideals of a given social system govern and direct the concrete (material) workings of society. In returning to Hegelianism, later Marxists also inched back towards Platonism, re-opening up the possibility of bringing an independent metaphysical and moral—and even, as John Hughes has argued, theological—perspective to bear upon the question of political economy.36
Furthermore, certain strands of Hegelian-Marxist commentary on the Soviet Union explicitly drew upon archeo-Platonic traditions of thought, in order to suggest that the Soviet Union was the very embodiment of the Platonic philosophic state, with Stalin as its philosopher-king. Hegel’s vision of the State as “the march of God on earth” was applied to the U.S.S.R. Alexandre Kojève, inspired by the Russian Orthodox integralism of Vladimir Solovyov, was the principal exponent of this controversial position.37 More recently, Boris Groys has proposed a similar interpretation.38 The Soviet Union was more than the administration of production: it was the philosophic state, whose citizens were led by their philosopher-king to the possession of true Wisdom.
Once again, with these modifications of Marxism, we are at the very threshold of an archeofuturistic political theology, though one whose content we may find backwards, totalitarian, and even diabolical. Yet it demonstrates the range of radical possibilities for the appropriation, not simply of Marxist science, but of the material realities which Marx analyzed—namely the technologies of capitalist progress—for purposes that radically transcend material production. Moreover, as Teilhard de Chardin has written, “Monstrous as it is, is not modern totalitarianism really the distortion of something magnificent, and thus quite near to the truth? There can be no doubt of it: the great human machine is designed to work and must work-by producing a super-abundance of mind. If it does not work, or rather if it produces only matter, this means that it has gone into reverse”39 Corruptio optimi pessima est.
In the words of a leading intellectual of the “New Right,” Guilliaume Faye, “the return to archaic values should not be understood as a cyclical return to the past. . . but rather as the re-emergence of archaic social configurations in a new context.”40 History does not move in either a linear or a cyclical fashion, but in a spiral, in which ancient forms of knowledge and praxis emerge in the very spaces of freedom created by technological progress. An archeofuturistic perspective opens up a range of possibilities for statecraft previously unimagined by the inhabitants of the liberal world order. The Platonic-archaic perspective opens up an ideal realm unimaginable to those chained in the darkness of materialism. Likewise, the futuristic perspective opens up the possibility of a world of material abundance that is unthinkable to the proletarian masses of the global capitalist order. Together they represent the possibility of a world where people are freed from a totalizing and totalitarian preoccupation with material needs, and are invited to participate in a common life of philosophic divinization, which is true freedom.
1. See Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. I: The Spell of Plato. (Routledge and Sons: London, 1945).
2. The concept of “archeofuturism” is primarily associated with Guillaume Faye, an intellectual of the French “New Right” (Nouvelle Droite). Notwithstanding Faye’s unfortunate proclivity for an anti-Islamic flavor of White-supremacism and Eurocentrism, the theoretical content of his exposition of archeofuturism is worthy of wider attention. See Faye, Archeofuturism: European Visions of the Post-Catastrophic Age. (Arktos Media, 2010).
3. Karl Marx, Capital Vol. III. (Penguin Books: London, 1991), 368.
4. Cf. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Ed. Struik. (International Publishers: New York), 1964. 106-119.
5. Karl Marx, Capital Vol. I. (Penguin Books: London, 1990), 172-173.
6. Karl Marx, Grundrisse. (Penguin Books: London, 1993), 708.
7. Capital Vol. III, 958-959.
8. Cf. Grundrisse, 708; Capital Vol. III, 368-373.
9. Vladimir Lenin, “‘Left-Wing’ Childishness,” Collected Works, Volume 27. (Progress Publishers: Moscow, 1972), 339.
10. Capital Vol. III, 959.
11. There is an ambivalence in Marx about the human-political character of this process. On the one hand, the Communist Manifesto is a rousing call to action, predicated upon the possibility of voluntary human action. On the other hand, the third volume of Capital, and smaller works like the Critique of the Gotha Program, display a radical skepticism of the possibility of resistance to capitalism, since the latter follows an unstoppable course of de-humanization. The capitalist process, as it expands, becomes ever more divorced from human voluntariness and ever more automatic. Thus, regarding Ricardo, Marx writes in chapter 15 of Vol III: “What other people reproach him for, i.e., that he is unconcerned with ‘human beings’ and concentrates exclusively on the development of the productive forces when considering capitalist production—whatever sacrifices of human beings and capital values this is bought with—is precisely his significant contribution. The development of the productive forces of social labour is capital's historic mission and justification. For that very reason, it unwittingly creates the material conditions for a higher form of production.”
12. Cf. Marx, Communist Manifesto. (International Publishers: New York, 1948), 31; Engels, “Anti-Duhring,” The Collected Works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Vol.25. (International Publishers: New York, 1987), 268.
13. Cf. Plato, Republic, II, 369b-373a; Aristotle, Politics, 1252a24-1253a40.
14. Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, 982a21-25.
15. See Pierre Hadot, Philosophy as a Way of Life. (Blackwell Publishers, 1996).
16. Cf. Republic, 514a-521b. Republic, Trans. Christopher Rowe. (Penguin Books: London, 2012).
17. Theaetetus, 175e. All works by Plato, except for the Republic, are cited from Complete Works, Ed. John Cooper. (Hackett Publishing Company: Indianapolis and Cambridge, 1997).
18. Nicomachean Ethics, X.7, 1177b4. Trans. Bartlett and Collins. (The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, 2011).
19. Ibid, 1177a29.
20. Metaphysics, 982b22-24.
21. Cf. Pieper, Josef. Leisure the Basis of Culture. St. Augustine Press, South Bend, 1998.22.
22. Cf. Republic, II, 369b-373a.
23. Politics, VII.15, 1334a12-19. Trans. Carnes Lord. (The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London), 2013.
24. Capital Vol. III. 959.
25. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. “The Place of Technology in a General Biology of Mankind,” Activation of Energy. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1972), 160.26. Cf. Symposium 205e-206a.
27. Perhaps, rather dubiously, I have merged a stadialist account of history, such as that recounted by Carl Schmitt in The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations, with Marx’s pithy statement in “Theses on Feuerbach”: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” Cf. Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, (The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, 2006); Marx, The German Ideology, (International Publishers: New York, 1970).
28. Cf. Phaedrus, 247c-248c
29. Theaetetus, 176b.
30. Republic, 500c-d.
31. Benedict XVI, Spe salvi, ¶21.
32. Nicomachean Ethics, X.7, 1177a35, 1177b25-30.
33. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. (Charles H. Kerr and Co.: Chicago, 191), 9-10.
34. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks. (International Publishers: New York, 1971), 366.
35. Cf. Ibid. Gramsci’s word for this passage from necessity to freedom is catharsis.
36. Cf. John Hughes, The End of Work. (Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 137-157.
37. Cf. Vladimir Solovyov, Russia and the Universal Church; Boris Groys, “Romantic Bureaucracy: The Post-historical Wisdom of Alexandre Kojève,” Radical Philosophy, 196 (March/April 2016). 29-38. Groys refers to an unpublished manuscript by Kojève for this interpretation of Stalin, entitled Sophia, Philosophy and Phenomenology.
38. Cf. Boris Groys, The Communist Postscript. (Verso Books: London and New York, 2009).
39. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man. (Harper Perennial Modern Classics), 2008. 257.
40. Faye, Archeofuturism, p.74. Emphasis my own.
Featured image: The Workers of the Voykov Kerch Metal Factory painting (1930) by Aristarkh Lentulov via Wikimedia Commons.
Jonathan Culbreath is an alumnus of Thomas Aquinas College and has done graduate studies at the University of Leuven in Belgium. He is an assistant editor at The Josias. He lives with his wife and son in Southern California, where he teaches Latin at a small Catholic high school. He invites you to follow him on Twitter.