Marxist Literary/Critical Theory

Marxist Literary/Critical Theory



so this part is going to be about Marxist literary and critical theory Marxist with her in critical theory off from now on versus sickness that will simply refer to as critical theory it derives itself from Marxist political economy or his notion of economics I should say before we get started that Marxian economic theory has somewhat been discredited now because mainstream economic thought in the late twentieth twenty-first century has basically blown into it by empirical means showing that the value of goods and services does not derive from some kind of material qualities mark suggests but from a psychological equilibrium where supply meets demand so just to get out the way but nevertheless from a cultural standpoint the arts and the humanities and the social sciences still a very big on Marx they they use Marx a great deal as a means of cultural critique and even though I have my reservations about Marx from a kind of theological standpoint from a logical protocol standpoint Marxist critical theory is extremely insightful it's extremely effective mechanism for dissecting and analyzing a society for offering incisive critique so where does all start it starts with Hegel it starts with the philosopher Hegel from whom Marx borrowed many of his fundamental ideas yet changed them he kind of inverted them in a sense so for Hegel we start off with the idea which is the thesis we could say an idea or an ideology or a time frame that generally it is all included in the first movement the thesis this first movement is followed by an antithesis the antithesis which is something which emerges from the first movement but which contradicts it or which tries to put an end to it but nevertheless the fundamental structure of the thesis is contained within the antithesis but is updated upgraded some more and then from the antithesis emerges the synthesis which is somewhat of the antithesis to the antithesis so when we reach the point of the synthesis the initial structure which was found in the thesis is no longer present anymore that is being completely dissolved it's been sublimated within the process and now we have something totally new so when we start off with a thesis and original idea let's give birth to the antithesis but then finally the synthesis which comes historically from the thesis but now contains kind of no remnant of the thesis in it marks like this idea helix Society of sublimation of dialectics as it's called or but he goes dialectics is a spiritual form of dialectics I said it's based on the notion that ideas form reality for marx reality forms ideas so it's kind of the opposite way around or rather than seeing reality Marx prefers the term materialism materials and so sometimes refer to as dialectical materials and other times historical materialism is both the same from Marx this idea of thesis antithesis and synthesis plays up historically insofar as it is mimicked in the transition from feudalism to capitalism and then on to socialism so feudalism we could regard as the thesis in feudalism we have a social system with a hierarchy there is no there's no competition because everything is established or pre established by the hierarchy we have the the Kingdom and the lords and the knights and the peasants everything is established already no competition here everything's demarcated into everyone's pre allotted pre assigned roles but this is relatively inefficient from the point of view of production from economic production not the most efficient system the antithesis to this would be capitalism so capitalism is the antithesis it contains some of the fundamental features of feudalism such as hierarchy more of a Plutarch II in capitalism and we have some competition where as feudalism had no competition so it's a little different in the antithesis has upgraded the original idea somewhat and there's some efficiency there's a competition and a degree of efficiency but still you have monopolies emerging you have kind of a crony capitalism you know bribery things like this it is corruption so capitalism is still not reached full efficiency yet and then Marxist final idea is the synthesis whether or not this is true but his idea is that from the antithesis of capitalism we achieve the synthesis of socialism which is the the kind of final goal so we have the hierarchy which was present and the original idea fuels and completely now destroyed everyone has been equalized competition has now been destroyed everyone is now equal in terms of competition but the efficiency which the competition or the competitive nature of capitals and built up the material wealth which was established first by capitalism and now enables a form of equal or a Galit purely totally a gala terian efficiency in the sense that everybody from each according to his ability as to each according to his needs as Marx would put it so we have these three systems one emerges from the other one is an improvement of the other and there is a final end point to history or a final tell offs or goal which is out of socialism so there are some key differences between what we could regard as traditional or Orthodox mark Marxism and neo Marxism or cultural Marxism made famous by the Frankfurt School people like Walter Benjamin Theodor Adorno and others so in Orthodox Marxism classical Marxism Marx postulates that we have capitalism and then followed by a period of revolution and then followed by socialism so to move from capitalism we have to have a revolution and then we have socialism so across the docks Marxism strictly speaking and doctrinally speaking would not really agree with country like you know the USSR people like Lenin also a Mao Zedong in China establishing socialism before it's ready because they've they've missed out a whole phase of history they've gone directly from few dozen to socialism they've missed out on the capitalism although China now quite interestingly if we just want to kind of diverge for a second is doing something quite interesting they have Chinese state capitalism so they kind of jumped all the way from feudalism feudalism to socialism and they're kind of recursively filling in the gaps through a kind of the instantiation of an advanced artificial intelligence Technic recei which they're trying to build up now which is filling in the gaps of what the the capitalist phase that they missed failed to address so this is quite interesting so that's that's classical Marxism we have a revolution and then socialism after capitalism for cultural Marxism Western Marxism they don't necessarily agree to this idea of revolution they believe that culture itself is sufficient to give us a smooth transition from capitalism all the way to socialism so the revolution part is unnecessary we can have something of a more cohesive transition so why in some cultures did we have feudalism and we and then we had capitalism but we failed to achieve socials and this is one of Marx's key questions well and this is also one of the key components and the foundation to the critical thinking of Western Marxism the the question of why we were unable to move from capitals and we got somewhat stuck in this kind of never-ending cycle of capitals and why could we not move to socialism well the idea is that explained by something called false consciousness so false consciousness we can ascribe as the the negative and pervasive effects of capitalism in in a sense a test the strength of the cap just ideology and not just the capitalist economic machine but also the ideology in the culture which that machine generates it's so strong and so pervasive into the human way of thinking that we get trapped in it we get stuck in this desire this craving for money this chasing after money and we kind of lose track of the ultimate goal of politics so this would be false consciousness so how does Marx critique this what's his idea well he says that in nature we own our labor ok and nature labor is owned by us the individual but under capitalism our labor has been stolen from us so if you think think about this in this way we are given money in exchange for labor but money is a form of cheating since money is not real the money is a representation of something real that again is another deep deep hole of academic debate but we'll just say it's a representation of something it's not the thing in itself and labor Israel or this is Marx's argument at least which as I said at the beginning is kind of a discredited now but nevertheless this forms the basis of what's known as his labor theory of value which goes on to form the economic base the psychological foundation of his later critique of the superstructure which is society culture and everything else so as an effect there's a consequence of this labor theory of value it's argued that money takes away people's humanity and makes people objects of value this is known as commodification and so for this reason even though capitalism is an improvement it's an upgrade on feudalism it's nevertheless evil in Marx's eyes because our humanity has been lost it's been sublimated within the money system on a positive note what Marx it does recognize and what the neo-marxists also recognized as that despite the maybe the spirit inefficiencies of capitals and there are certain material efficiencies such as mass production which is very useful so if we take the music industry for example many modern pop songs they all kind of sound very similar I think that's getting more and more true as the years go by you know the pop music that the kids are listening to note since just each song sounds just like the like the one before it there's no kind of originality or difference there's no pop music maybe 30 40 years ago each song was more unique and more of a distinct flavor to it things are not original they're just a copy of a copy in the sense that mass production is a copy of a copy so not only does mass production have a physical or material aspect to it also has a psychological and cultural aspect to also Hollywood movies they're all a copy of each other even if the movie itself is different in some small aspects or some superficial aspects the plotline is the same you know horror stories romance stories they're all fundamentally the same some explosions you know spent a few million dollars blowing things up and then everything else you have all these kind of Marvel comic book movies now as well I mean they're all just the same in the music industry we have say for example Michael Jackson and then we have Justin Timberlake who was like I kind of he replicates some of the style of Michael Jackson a little bit but he's a little different and then we have Justin Bieber who replicates some dostala' Justin Timberlake but he's considerably worse than what Michael Jackson was so again we have copying copying and it loses its quality every time how can we understand this process of copying of mass production of cultural mass production in a kind of more epochal or civilizational sense not just in the small time frame of fetal history the capitalist history to to socialism but how can we understand this on the wider scale of civilization itself and did an aesthetic philosophy well Aristotle may be a good place to start for our stott oh good art shows itself to be false so I'll say that again good art shows itself to be false so think about it's kind of counterintuitive and it does so through a process called mimesis which is Greek for copying basically copying or imitation imitating that which is obvious so good art is trying to imitate things which are obvious but interestingly things that were often obvious in everyday life we kind of miss we overlook precisely because they're so obvious but for our stuff we'll the purpose and function of art is to extricate this from reality the things that we gloss over by imitating it and kind of ridiculing it through the falseness of the imitation itself so if we think about this idea in terms of a comparison between classical tragedy classical ancient Greek tragedy versus modern television culture or Hollywood culture in a classical tragedy we had these kind of fantastic mythological depictions of men fighting against of gods on the stage nude the chorus singing and but then there was a distance from the stage and there's the theater and where everybody sat in the auditorium and people would sit down and they would view this spectacle clearly the actual artwork itself the theater was different from reality it was you know somewhat of a an accentuation of real life because we were dealing with the gods and we're dealing with you know tragic events and things that wouldn't ordinarily happen in everyday life so in this sense there was a distance between the person watching the spectator and the art itself okay nevertheless there were real human beings with the real human concerns in the tragedy and the tragedy always had a human sentiment or a moral message to it so for Aristotle this made it good because there was a distance with everyday life there was an ability for the people-watching to recognize this is not real but nevertheless there was also a degree of closeness insofar as there was enough distance for the person to sit back and not take anything personally or not get sucked into the story but nevertheless still enough closeness for the person to identify with the story to maybe learn something from that compared us now with modern television culture where we have things like reality TV reality TV these singing shows where if the winner if the singer wins it changes their whole life for these sports sports shows or sports competitions where for some people is their life for some people there is no differentiation between their favorite sports team winning and then being happy in real life so Aristotle he'd be very critical of this because from his point of view this is not teaching us anything if anything this is just increasing our delusion because there is no critical distance like there is in the classical tragedy where we can critique and evaluate our own society and our social problems and the causes of such we're just drawn further into them because all we have is reality TV so Aristotle is writing thousands of years before Marx but it nevertheless is this symbiosis between the aesthetic theory of Aristotle and the kind of political theory of Karl Marx from which the Western Marxist the neo-marxist the Frankfurt School in particular derive their our cultural theory in particular we have people such as Walter Benjamin a Theodor Adorno who speak in favor of the modernist movement Adorno is more of a post modernist I should add but they're speaking in favor of certain literary and cinematic accomplishments of modernist art and cinema insofar as modernist art and cinema manages to re-establish this critical distance between the spectator of the art and the person the actor represents in the art itself in order to allow us to critique and politically evaluate the society itself so there's just enough similarity in the art for us you draw an identification with it but there also a certain critical distance maintained in order to let us think critically not become too emotionally involved in the heart work so one example this would be metafiction matter fiction is a good modernist strategy and literature or techniques include things like fragmentation absurdity is all forced the reader or the viewer into stopping experiencing something of a shock and the shock kind of shocks us out of our everyday habitual pattern of thinking and forces us to think a little harder so in this sense art can act as philosophy it can wear philosophy maybe we're numb to it maybe we're not used to reading it art through kind of a actual gesture as Brecht would predict or through a process of conditioned or actual behavioral learning can actually teach us things that maybe we're not even aware that we we realize it can in the sense that you can teach a kid just by showing them their gestures without actually explaining to the kid or what the kid actually understanding why he knows what he knows you can teach people or maybe shock people out of their kind of cultural stupor into reevaluating social principles through these modernist techniques of literature and cinema the opposite of this of course would be s television and Adorno in particular is a highly pessimistic he thinks that low culture that is TV radio will defeat high culture that's the postmodern artistic movement by subsuming all culture within this kind of a lot low cultural narrative because it's easier to generate a profit from it so in a sense this is where the the economic machine of capitalism kind of eats up the cultural machine in the beginning there may have been some possibility of escape without revolution however now as the as the the beasts become stronger and stronger as the the capitalist economic machine really starts turning up and accelerating its modes of mass production it becomes harder and harder with every passing year for people to escape this kind of mass-produced advertising culture because not only does it take over the way that things goods and services are produced but it takes over the way in which culture itself is produced until culture itself is no longer culture culture itself is now a function of the economic machine rather than that critique of it some practical examples of this could be things like a university which to be fair to the university system has in some senses tried to fight back against it but in many respects higher education is now no longer about thinking critical thinking teaching above copying and memorizing even insofar as critical thinking itself is people are trying to bring it back to force kids into thinking whatever the actual teaching off critical thinking paradoxically prevents critical thinking because critical thinking by its very definition ought to be something original unique and not enforced on upon by ideology our preconditioned institutions but we have things like in England for example a level critical thinking whatever that is as one of the exams that the kids can can now take it's teaching them how to think critically I couldn't think it'd be more patronizing than that also so everyone now is kind of mathematically minded but there's no actual kind of aesthetic philosophy in the in in people's thinking even philosophy itself or postmodern posted post-industrial philosophy has now kind of become a branch of science or linguistics there's no kind of political philosophy in the sense of Plato Aristotle and Marx even political he has been subsumed now as a branch of economics or political economy so for a Adorno like I say he's very pessimistic this lake capitalism is the beginning of the end the end of human creativity enslavement becomes more and more encroaching on us psychologically and the end of independent thinking so the future will be nothing more than computers robots and copying and I think his social analysis could be never more true than today in the 21st century where now we also have things like artificial intelligence internet things blockchain these technologies are simply going to add to to the problems our lives become more convenient but they lack they lack meaning so the price of convenience we lose the actual meaning and the sentence of life itself this is a short introduction to Marxist critical and literary theory you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *