A really excellent online free resources for a better understanding of Post-Modernism is the following six hour/six lectures series available on youtube.com at-
The lecture series is presented by the academic philosopher Stephen R.C. Hicks about whom more can be learned from the following two resources-
There is enough data from these two websites to get some idea as to who Stephen R.C. Hicks is as an academic philosopher if readers are interested in such. The best approach to understanding Dr. Hicks’s personal philosophical orientation and prejudices is to listen to the six part lecture series and his studious attempt to define Post-Modernism in a manner consistent with his personal ideas and/or perhaps his particular political orientation that is decidedly anti-Marxist and therefore anti-communist/socialist. I am including another highly worthwhile online resource for a better understanding of what Post-Modernism is all about that is taken from the website of the World Socialist Website that can be access at-
I am including the list of articles from the World Socialist Website that deal with Post-Modernism because they present an entirely different picture of the Post-Modernist debate than is presented by Dr. Stephen Hicks. I am not going to personally endorse either viewpoint in regard to this highly contentious subject other than to say that I am a daily reader of the World Socialist Website that I think is one if not the best alternative news site for people seeking a better and more complete narrative to the news of the day than that which is provided by the unofficial ministry of truth and the infotainment industry that has now taken the place of whatever real news was available to the public via the major corporate media institutions.
I do think that Dr. Hicks’s lecture series is a worthwhile listening experience if one takes into account that when he approaches the topic of Marx and Marxism be begins to examine things from the wrong end of the microscope making the always fatal mistake (for propaganda purposes or to suit one’s worldview?) that Marx was a philosopher rather than a social scientist who laid bare the key critical workings of Capitalism in a way that deeply offended the various ruling classes of the Western world because it revealed things about the nature of the capitalist system that they could not countenance. In other words the world public had no right to know that social science via the study of political economy had revealed the parasitic role of these various ruling classes who made up what Marx called the national bourgeoisie of these often competing Western nations hell bent on using war to seize and expand markets for their goods overseas regardless of the costs to the working class. It was Marx’s contention that workers throughout the world no matter in what capacity they were employed created all values in any given society that the owners of capital bought and sold to the public as commodities and finished goods in the very selfsame manner that they bought and sold the labor power of the workers as a commodity.
Trying to erroneously define Marx as a “philosopher” rather that the economist that he was enabled any discussion of his value to take place along completely different lines than it would take if one were to recognize and accept the fact that Marx was above and beyond all else a social scientist who made the first really scientific scholarly research into the inner workings of the economic system of his day that he labeled “Capitalism.” Marx spoke with a new voice of authority in the field of political economy in the same way that Charles Darwin spoke with equal authority regarding the origins of all the species of animal and plant life that populated the Earth. The same could be said for Freud; the same could be said for Einstein. In a very real sense all four of these great thinkers, scholars, and scientists were revolutionaries who overturned the old established way of looking at things and put their respective sciences on a whole new foundation.
This might have been acceptable in some areas of life but when it came to the key critical question of how the world’s resources were used and who profited the most and why; such knowledge was incendiary and therefore had to be suppressed in an effort to maintain the “social stability” of the times that benefited the few who owned and controlled capital at the expense of the many who had only their own labor power to sell in an effort to survive.
A third of Prof. Hicks’s lecture series (the last two hours) is taken up with his highly detailed and arcane scholastic attempt to malign Marx as a philosopher as opposed to a social category that people everywhere truly respect, i.e. a social scientist. In terms of the last two hours of Prof. Hicks’s worthwhile lecture series being taken up with one particular effort that aims at defining post-modernism as Marxism’s attempt to regain the moral high ground in its supposed blood feud with liberal democratic capitalism, I am reminded of the quote from one of Shakespeare’s memorable characters when he says- “Me thinks that thou protesteth too much!” The meaning of which is abundantly clear and Freudian to the core. Such is how the defense mechanisms of the mind and spirit operate when inwardly at war with an obvious truth that such a mind and spirit refuses to accept or acknowledge for often the most puerile or jejune of reasons.
So it is with Marx the so called “philosopher” which in essence really acts as the all to obvious social indicator of the fact that philosophy as such is seen by the public as a mere disputatious world game played by the socially isolated practitioners/gamesmen in this field that has no relationship to what is real.
Forty-five minutes to an hour of the last two lectures dealing with Marxism seem to be taken up with discussing the importance of the Frankfurt School that Hicks labels as Marxist but is really about the degeneration of Marxism into the Social Democratic Party of Germany that still exists as an anti-revolutionary party similar to the Democratic Party in the US that is both anti-communist and anti-Marxist to the core. If the Frankfort School that existed between the world wars had actually remained true to its roots and a revolutionary Marxist party of the working class it could have prevented a world war. Nevertheless a lot of good work came out of this German social democratic forum that was indeed influenced by post-modernism that it contributed to as well. Hicks’s lecture material on the Frankfort School is both interesting and illustrative of how the principle Marxist party in Europe, i.e. the German Social Democratic Party morphed into what it is today. It was this part of the critical narrative that Hicks left out. In doing so he attempted to blame everything from cultural relativism to feminism on Marx. Such a critique can not be taken seriously unless it is placed in its proper context regarding such things.
With all its faults however, Hicks’s six part/six hour lecture series does much to explain the nature of post-modernist thinking to anyone so interested in getting a better grasp of the subject. I would recommend it to anyone with the addendum that they also read the material on post-modernism available on the World Socialist Website for a complete and well balanced view of the topic.
Hicks spends most of his energy during his anti-Marxist/anti-communist diatribe denouncing the Soviet Union and making the outrageous and bigoted statement that the USSR was responsible for countless millions of deaths of its own citizens more than the 20 million he credits the Nazi regime with murdering. He goes on to make a similar claim regarding China without ever divulging the fact that both the USSR and China were the victims of the same kinds on sanctions and economic warfare carried out against such smaller nations in our own time as Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and other small nations. It was this economic warfare conducted by the West against the new born USSR and China that was the cause of these millions of death due to food shortages, lack of medical supplies, and other such items. In our own time half a million Iraqi children perished as a result of the US imposed sanctions, i.e. economic warfare carried out against it by both the Bush(41) and Clinton regimes.
No mention either by Hicks that China has this year (2015) surpassed the US as the world’s largest economy but perhaps this has less to do with the inconvenient nature of this fact for the US power structure than the fact that the lecture series was done prior to 2015. This however is not about the illusory triumph of communism but rather the triumph of capitalism in all its varied forms that has within it to paraphrase Marx the ability to surmount any crisis and defy all predictions of its eventual demise. As a social scientist who made the most detailed and thorough scientific/scholarly analysis of the capitalist system in his day, capitalism and its inner workings is the only thing Marx was capable of critiquing. Marx had no crystal ball and never claimed to be either a prophet or a psychic. The task of either trying to reform capitalism or working to overthrow it had to be left to other generations. Germany was Marx’s home country and as such the leadership of the Social Democratic Party founded by Marx and his associates as the revolutionary party of socialism was assumed to be the mother party of all socialist parties throughout the world that spoke the language of revolution and made the overthrow and abolishment of the capitalist system its goal.
It was the Great War to end all wars better know as World War One that put paid to any illusions the German Social Democratic Party and its myriad sister parties throughout Europe had of actually being revolutionary parties as they jostled with each other in the run up to the Great War to demonstrate their loyalty to King and Keiser in support of the war. Such was the end of an era and any of the grand ambitions that the revolutionary leadership class had to bring about the hoped for revolution in Germany or anywhere else in Europe. The founding of the Frankfort School began a period of rapprochement with the gods of capital as the German Social Democratic Party and all such formerly Marxist parties in Europe set their sights on trying to reform capitalism and bring about a measure of fairness for all people in spite of the fact that the very internal logic of capitalism was to create ever greater disparities of wealth and opportunity for all concerned. The way that this new “realistic” reformist approach took was to foster the kind of identity politics that we America in particular are all too familiar with today. According to Hicks’s account this was the real beginning of the post-modernist movement. This movement shared many particulars with the so called Romantic Movement in the area of arts and culture that overtook European music, literature, and visual arts from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century. It was the ultimate defeat of the progressive Napoleonic Code that worked to modernize Europe in the early 19th century that led to this quietist movement in the arts amongst those artists and thinkers who had placed such high hopes in the possibilities for the needed change in Europe that the French Revolution and Bonaparte seemed to represent.
I think that Hicks is generally correct in the way that he has characterized post-modernism although I think that the post-modernist movement actually has roots that go back much further in time. I would begin the tick-tock on the post-modernist movement with the work of Arthur Schopenhauer and add that positivism as the dominant force in European and American thought collapsed amidst the wholesale horrors to World War One and gave way whole heartedly to the general tone of disappointment and reappraisal of the human condition that constitutes the essence of post-modernist thinking and its stance toward life more generally. I guess in the final analysis that is a matter of definition as to the starting date but the war of words that Hicks makes reference to in regard to these new reformist tendencies and outlooks that can be pretty much confined to the small but shrill tent of identity politics as we know it today did originate with what the Trotskyists would call the move away from Marxism that characterized the Frankfurt School and its many followers in Europe and America. The area of disagreement that I and the Trotskyists have with such a narrative and formulation as Hicks puts forward is that the Frankfurt School and everything associated with it was a betrayal of Marxism not the bona fida true Marxism that Hicks would infer that it was and continues to be.
Although this might seem like a highly arcane and even esoteric argument much of the history of the 20th century and in particular the latter half was influenced and determined by the kind of post-modernist thinking that was the product of the Frankfurt School. Indeed it has been the petty self-centered politics of personal identity that has dominated the political and social scene in America since the end of World War Two. The tactics of the would be reformers has done little more than declare a war of each against all and all against each other in a struggle for a slice of the ever smaller pie that the ruling class and its governing political class makes available to the working class. One has to give the devil his due in regard to this mad pathetic spectacle no matter how diabolical in fact it may really be. The fact that it has worked for over fifty years to keep the working class off of the back of the capitalist class is all the more reason why from the perspective of the capitalists is has inestimable value. In my opinion however the exploitation of identity politics to further the ruling class agenda has reached the point of ever diminishing returns. In a lot of ways this political and social phenomenon is analogous to the falling rate of profit in the economic sphere that forms the basis for business behavior today with its need to scale down labor costs by locating production overseas and the need for ever vaster sums required for investment in technology.
Finally the point must be made and Hicks does indeed make it in his lecture series that philosophy is not science but rather an attempt to explain science. Philosophy in the West has gone into decline because it has become more and more just an academic exercise is wordsmithing with little relevance to the lives of ordinary people. It has chosen to become overly obsessed with copying and aping the hyper-reductionist methods of contemporary science rather than putting all these little things that make up science into a large comprehensive picture or narrative that can give meaning to life in a way that formerly was the exclusive domain of religion. One can only hope that this trend toward an ever smaller view of the world that yields ever diminishing returns can be somehow reversed and that somehow a larger systems based holistic type approach to explaining science and the world we live in will take hold and flourish.
Hicks claims Emmanuel Kant as the first major theorizer in what grew to become post modernism because he raised in his principle life’s work A Critique of Pure Reason certain epistemological questions about reason being the only source for human knowledge about the world. Certainly the depth psychology of C.G. Jung would be in agreement with the idea that reason is all too often overwhelmed by the sheer emotional force of the unconscious mind with all its irrationality. Such a mind is really the mind of nature that is in us all and that has 120 billion years of evolution on its side. That should be reason enough to give it the respect that it deserves! On the other hand reason and logic and the parts of the human brain charged with carrying out these operations constitutes the flowering and fruit of the unconscious mind of nature within us all. It’s the social force of reason that produces and constitutes culture which is the off loaded data that no one human mind itself is capable of holding within its small grasp. The evolving world culture may be the noosphere spoken of by Teilhard de Chardin. AI (artificial intelligence) may be the evolving nervous system of this vast off loaded and stored pool of human intelligence that is moving us all toward some sort of much theorized singularity.
The metaphysics of such a notable as Martin Heidegger are only briefly made mention of in Hicks’s six part lecture series and maybe that is all for the best. Disputes about the kinds of questions that metaphysics raises play no part and should be given no opportunity to enter the philosophical fray in discussing the origins and history of post-modernism as it is today as some would have it. My own personal take on this thorny topic is that metaphysical speculation does sometimes represent something real in that it is the outward projection of the unconscious mind or some inner psychic state that can be analyzed and looked at from that perspective. All myth both religious and or otherwise have value in that they are part of the larger archetypes that Jung speculated as being part and parcel to those hidden irrational forces that determine human behavior both in the group and as individuals. It’s not anti-scientific to examine metaphysics from such a perspective using the empirical methods that are available. The fact that reason alone is not sufficient to determine human behavior individually or in the group means that all such methods as can be used and applied to the study of the irrational need to be seized upon and exploited to the full. It’s more than probable that through such methods as these that form the basis for analytical psychology that age old questions about God will be answered in a way that satisfies none of the particular partisans in the war of words regarding such discussions. These questions actually in my opinion have already been answered but owing to the overwhelming weight of academic prejudice in regard to the mere consideration of such questions the code talkers of academic philosophy have effectively boycotted any real admission of this data into the academic field that they claim ownership over.
Note-This piece was originally posted to Open Salon on 03-03-2015
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