Thursday, March 06, 2014


I've said basically the same thing before, but here it goes again in a new context. First of all, although I respect Marx a great deal, I view him as a philosopher, a social scientist, and an economist, not as the founder of an 'ism'. Others might view him that way, and I once did, but at this point describing someone as an adherent of Marx-ism is sort of like saying that a fan of Max Weber is an adherent of Weber-ism. Marx had many great analyses, but like anyone else wasn't perfect in his ideas, nor should he have been.

I believe that the economy structures society to a great extent, but that the cultural sphere, although influenced by the economic structure of society, retains some autonomy, and has its own timeline and ways of doing things. Everything is contextualized within the society in which we live, but this doesn't mean that there's any sort of a one to one correlation between economics and culture in the sense of a base-superstructure relationship. The truth is more complex, and in any case naked economics itself is rarely directly translated into culture, the indirect route being much more common.

Because of the relative autonomy of the cultural sphere, different ideas and explanations apply there, and culture comes to include some of the more abstract aspects of life, as opposed to the concrete, things which are psychologically important to people, that even influence ideas of alienation or social integration, but that aren't directly tie-able to any particular economic feature.

A while ago, actually almost ten years ago....sometime in the summer of  2004, I summed this up by saying that economic prosperity deals with the material while the cultural integration or disintegration deals with the psychological, with the more personal sense of alienation or functioning, that complements whether or not someone has physical needs, or is being fairly compensated in a monetary fashion for their work. Both spheres need to function properly for a person to really be healthy.

Without healthy functioning on the more abstract cultural level, a person has enough to eat but experiences profound personal distress, and the opposite is just a joke....having plenty of social integration while in reality starving.

*on edit: it's interesting to note that the very things that Marx, at least in his later writings, ignored, have become staples of sociology, with alienation being treated by Durkheim extensively, as well as by Weber and others. 

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