Marxian Philosophy

From Karl Polanyi
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The Text

I. M[arxism] an essentially revolutionary philosophy

This implying:
a/ that it is undogmatic in its application; it is progressive also in the sense that it regards all knowledge that can acquire of society to-day a limited to our epoch; beyond the present society new insights will become possible;
b/ that it is, therefore, more of a method than a system; i.e. it tells us in what manner we can acquire true and relevant knowledge, rather than being a collection of items of such knowledge.

II. What is about?

A method to understand the nature of society and to understand the nature of Socialism i.e. the future form of society.
a/ What is society? Institutions, customs, laws?

No. It consists of human beings, it is a definite relatedness of human beings to one another. A relatedness of human beings.

b/ What is socialism? It is a condition of things under which, in an industrial production, the relationship of human beings is direct, unmediated, personal i.e. human. “A human society”. Thesis on Feuerbach, 1845.

Commentary: Socialism means a/ economic system
b/ a type of society
Socialist economics needed in order to achieve a soc[ialist] society.
Capitalist society defined as an industrial society in which
a/ private owernsh[ip] of humans of production prev[ales]
b/ human relationships are imper[sonal] (objectified)
The connection between the two definitions (of Socialism and society).
The true nature of man the key to man’s history. Man in self-alienation. The Fetish theory of commodity value. (Self-estrangement).
Freedom the knowledge of necessity; but that necessity itself is, in human history, an act of self-realisation i.e. of freedom.

III. The materialist interpretation of history

No society can exist without production of goods. It is in the interest of the whole of society that the best use should be made of the means of production.
A society is such as the relatedness of the persons in their every day life is. That is determined by the manner of production.
a/ Production{:} the determining factor, not distribution.
b/ The property system originally in the interest of the whole of society (Capitalism explained, and historically, justified. It was not always immoral. It has become so, only since a different system of property has become practicable as a consequence of the development of the means of production).
c/ The role of the classes, is to achieve the new property system in their own interest, serving by these means the interest of society as whole (apart from the minority whose vested interests bind them to the old state of things). This is the reason why the oppressed class wins: it becomes the leader of all other classes who are not interested in the upholding of the obtaining system. Not class interest but that of society the determining factor. Class interest successful only insofar it is able to become the leader of the whole (which may entail sacrifices).
d/ production determ[ines] relationship of individu[uals]; this determ[ines] ideologies.

IV. Economics

Marxian “sociology” is only an application of its views of the nature of man to actual forms of life. Economics only a description of a definite society. e.g. Capitalist society.

Nature and man. (Land and labour) Not Capital as an “original (Eternal) factor of production” allowed.

Natural and historical categories (or main terms). Natural historical.

means: given by man-nature relationship.
means: transitional.

Examples of “natural” / “eternal” and “transitional” categories.

The two meanings of Capital. The parity of Labour and “Capital”.

Functional equality and common human equality.

Capital as tools and as income funds.

V. Dialectical materialism

More Engels than Marx. – No system in existe{nce}.

In its reference to nature obscure. As a law of physics or chemistry, or astronomy most dubious.

But obviously true and most important in its reference to human mind and society.
a/ Movement of human mind in negations. (Man being able to deny his own nature.)
b/ Suddenness of change. The evil as the turning point.
c/ The depen{den}ce of human life on material facts, not materialistic view. The sharing of the goods is the non-material aspect of life.
d/ The identity of theory and practice in the action of social classes. Mass theory not theory anymore. The role of consciousness, as the central fact in history. Class consciousness of a mission and task. The reference to the whole retained in the class consciousness.

Text Informations

Original Lecture: delivered at L.B.C. Enfield, 1934-1935
KPA: 15/01
Other Languages:

Lge Name
FR « La philosophie marxienne »