Saturday, March 29, 2014

Materialism and the philosophy of life part 1

Of a series of blog entries.

If there's one thing that my experience on the West Coast has taught me, it's not to take anything for granted. For instance, the notion that people on the Left would necessarily be concerned with learning as a whole, or with culture in the sense of literature, music, art. All of these things, that make a person culturally literate in our society, don't necessarily follow from being concerned with a particular political position. At its worst here, and I'm speaking about a few people I personally knew, are folks who have no interests whatsoever or understanding of life beyond a kind of economic materialism that makes ignorance of anything abstract a virtue...because it's not 'real enough'. More common, and equally surprising, was the discovery that there were folks out here for whose interest in progressive and leftist politics was about the only interesting feature of their lives. Otherwise, they had little interest in the world...books they've read or were interested in, fairly normal, music the same, art, not much of an interest, really....thinking about the meaning of life, where we're all headed, living intentionally, well that was a little bit more nuanced since that's still what everyone who is younger and interested in progressive or left politics is implicitly supposed to be doing. However, even though people may have thought about these issues, there was certainly a lack of ability to articulate a position about them.

I think that while the residual concern for living intentionally that comes from the hippy movement and the '60s is still present today, to some degree, in reality there's no reason why this should naturally come as a package with left politics. Neither should a concern for learning, cultural literacy, or intellectual curiosity, for that matter.

There's a danger, if people start taking the classical Marxist interpretation of society to heart, whether the people who have it consider themselves Marxists or not, that we could see a reductionism in the concerns about life to pure economics. This would be a shame, and I think that there should be two parallel tracks going at the same time: the economic and the cultural, so that neither get ignored.

 Folks on the left tend to see arguments about reductionism as cover for excusing class privilege. Okay, well, then let's keep the criticism of class and also add more existential concerns to them, making the whole deal less of a push and pull between false dichotomies.


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