Thursday, January 23, 2020
Utopia for the Twentieth Century :: Philosophy Marxism Essays
Utopia for the Twentieth Century There are many utopias. No one has ever seen them except in imagination, and yet they are real enough, for they have influenced our destiny over the centuries. ----- Alain Martineau The socio-political philosophy of Marx and Engels emphasizes both the capacity as well as the inevitability of oppressed peoples to take up arms in a desperate effort to do away with conditions which do not correspond to their true material and psychological needs. This is the process by which the fulfillment of Marx's species-being may eventually become a reality --- a struggle which will annihilate those circumstances which produce a great deal of misery, ending them through conflict. As one of the most successful political theories of the twentieth century in terms of the widespread influence it has had for over a hundred years now, Marxist doctrines translated into political practices have themselves contributed toward a considerable amount of human suffering, as the examples of the Bolshevik and Khmer Rouge revolutions demonstrate. While there is a great deal of justified criticism against labeling these revolutions as being authentically Marxist, the fact remains that to a larg e extent, many of the violent tactical formulas which were considered justifiable by Marx and Engels have been translated and adopted by twentieth century political movements, quite often with the result that an oppressive order is exchanged for another order which in turn becomes equally oppressive. This may be due, in part, to the fact that the tactics which Marx believed were necessary to liberate humanity and usher in utopian conditions were prescribed for the framework and social conditions of the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution in western Europe. Undoubtedly, the transition from the previous century to the present has brought with it unprecedented changes in levels of technology, economic and social conditions, political structures, environmental crises --- as well as a transformation within our individual and social consciousness themselves --- which have never before been witnessed by humanity. If Marxism is to continue to hold promise for our effort to liberate ourselves from undesirable social conditions, there is a need to adapt it so that it may address the peculiarities of the twentieth century, those which Marx himself could not have seen. Additionally, the humanist and utopian ideals of Marx and Engels, such as freedom from bondage as well as social harmon y, ought to be preserved and promoted. The contributions of twentieth-century Marxists are invaluable to us for this reason.