[OPE-L] Marx and progress under capitalism: a comment from Michael Hoover

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Thu Aug 24 2006 - 14:26:00 EDT

A useful corrective by Michael Hoover, on Marxmail:

Those who suppose that Marx emphasized only the negative features of
capitalism such as alienation, crisis, and exploitation are mistaken.
Indeed, throughout his intellectual career - in his philosophical,
journalistic, historical, and economic writings - Marx consistently
stressed the creative and progressive features of capitalism. His
social theory makes no sense unless this essential duality is

For Marx, capitalism is creative and progressive with respect to the
past (pre-capitalist societies), the present (capitalism itself), and
the future (post-capitalist society). First, capitalism has
"revolutionizing properties" in transforming all past social,
economic, and political relations, thus creating conditions for the
consolidation and universal development of capitalism. Marx regarded
this revolutionary abolition of the past, which he ascribed directly
to the bourgeoisie, to be a more protracted, violent, and difficult
process than would be the transformation of capitalism into socialism.

Second, capitalism has "universalizing properties". That is, commodity
production promotes the internal (intensive) and external (extensive)
development of capitalist relations of production through space and
time, drawing all people into a web of economically-based social
contacts and dependencies. Universalization thus implies a constant
revolutionizing of the present as capital strives to overcome all
obstacles to its general development.

Third, capitalism has "industrializing properties". The logic of
accumulation initiates and sustains an industrial revolution that
constantly develops the forces of production, thus radically enhancing
the power of social labor.

Fourth, capitalism is said to have "liberating properties" in that the
revolutionizing, universalizing, and industrializing tendencies
establish the oberjective and subjective conditions for the transition
to socialism. Development of the productive powers of the economy
provides the material abundance that without which socialism would
necessarily remain a "struggle for necessities". Moreover, the
tendency of the system to maximize surplus labor time relative to
necessary labor time holds out the promise of the appropriation of
that surplus time as leisure or free time for the producing classes,
thus allowing for the universal extension of civilization, and the
development of humanity as a rich individuality.

Most importantly for Marx, capitalist development generated the
proletariat as a universal class, universal in the sense that in
pursuit of its particular class interests (abolition of oppression and
poverty) it promotes the general interest (abolition of private
property, hence, of capitalism). In addition, capitalist industry
socially organizes this class in production, the basis for the
realization of class consciousness as praxis (i.e., the revolutionary
transformation of capitalism).

Finally, in connection with its liberating potential, Marx held that
capitalism demystified, rationalized, and secularized human culture
and action, freeing the human mind from that "smallest compass" of
superstition, idolatry, religious and political illusions, and,
through its development of science and materialism, extended human
mastery over nature and developed arts, faculties, and achievements in
a world- historic sense.   Michael Hoover

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