Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Hunting for the Bourgeois

First let us admit that it is no use hunting for the bourgeois.  For we are all more or less bourgeois and our civilization is bourgeois from top to bottom.  Hence there can be no question of treating the bourgeois in the orthodox communist fashion as a gang of antisocial reptiles who can be exterminated summarily by the revolutionary proletariat; for in order to “liquidate” the bourgeoisie modern society would have to “liquidate” itself.

This is where Marx went wrong. His theory of increasing misery led him to suppose that the line of class division would become sharper and more strongly defined, until the rising tide of popular misery broke the dykes and swept away the closed world of privileged bourgeois society. Instead of this we have seen the bourgeois culture, the bourgeois mind, even the bourgeois standards of life advancing and expanding until they became diffused throughout the whole social organism and dominated the whole spirit of modern civilization.

Marx's objection to the materialists of his time is somewhat different from that of many of his followers today.  The latter criticize the old materialism as too mechanical in it conceptions, and in a sense as too materialistic.  Marx, on the other hand, criticized them on account of their residual idealism, i.e. because they were not materialistic enough. It was no use disproving the metaphysical truth of Christianity if you still remained in bondage to its moral ideals.

Thus in Marx, the cult of equality and social Justice led to the sacrifice of human freedom and spiritual creativeness to an inhuman economic whole.  He condemned the whole humanistic morality and culture as bourgeois, and accepted the machine, not only as the basis of economic activity, but as the explanation of the mystery of life itself.  The mechanical processes of economic life are the ultimate realities of history and human life.

All other things - religion, art, philosophy, spiritual life - stand on a lower plane of reality; they are a dream world of shadows cast on the sleeping mind by the physical processes of the real world of matter and mechanism.

Hence Marxism may be seen as the culminating point of the modern tendency to explain that which is specifically human in terms of something else.  For the Marxian interpretation of history is in fact nothing but an explaining away of history.