Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Paul Johnson on Karl Marx

The chapter from Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals (1990) criticising Karl Marx can be read here (warning: I’m afraid it’s been reprinted on some idiotic and crazy far right site).

But Johnson’s chapter on Marx makes interesting reading.

Johnson, Paul. 1990. Intellectuals. Harper & Row, New York.


  1. Wow, LK. NICE site you've linked, there.

    Swastikas all over the place, Confederate Navyjack flag as its "language" icon. Links on the right-hand sidebar to the neo-nazi Daily Stormer and, as well as white-supremacist translations of the Bible (the White Man's Bible, the nazi Die Botschaft Gottes), holocaust denial links under the header "Hoaxacre™." Real classy stuff. Only stands to reason they'd also have some right-wing anti-Marx screed that you'd gobble (or perhaps goebbel) right up.

    Hey, ever wonder why anticommunist ideology invariably puts you in a room with these sorts of people? Hint: There's nothing coincidental about it.

    (But then, whereas you voiced your preference for fascists over communists quite unequivocally that one time, maybe you're fine with it. I can't claim to know your mind. But I have a strong suspicion that, as with the admission above, you'll be deleting this soon.)

    1. (1) Nice idiot ad hominem comment, Comrade Hedcase.

      But, yes, there are stupid and hateful links on that site all of which I reject. And actually I didn't see any of these things because I only read the chapter on Marx.

      However, none of this refutes *anything* Johnson says about Marx, which is the issue here, say as, say, his citation of J. R. Tanner and F. S. Carey's well known demonstration of Marx's shoddy and dishonest quotations from the Blue Books (see J. R. Tanner and F. S. Carey. 1885. Comments on the use of the Blue Books made by Karl Marx in Chapter XV of Capital. Cambridge Economic Club, May Term 1885).

      However, if you can find another site on the net where Johnson's chapter appears I'll happily change the link.

      (2) "But then, whereas you voiced your preference for fascists over communists quite unequivocally that one time, maybe you're fine with it. "

      Oh, here we go, so now -- after screaming that you would never call anyone bad names -- you're got the gall to throw some pathetic lie and call me a fascist, huh?

      Well, kindly f*ck off back to your Marxist insane asylum where you can fantasise about a dictatorship of the proletariat and the mass murder of millions.

    2. Have added trigger warming just for you.

    3. No, Hedlund, bottom line: I am not going to be slandered by some p*ssant Marxist on my own blog. Time for you to sod off.

    4. Thanks for linking this, LK. The stuff about Marx's aversion to empirical research and misuse of source material was particularly illuminating. In that sense, he was a an true role model for the Marxists that followed him!

      I wonder what Bob Rowthorn would say to this? The interview you linked suggests he still admires Marx's insights, while disagreeing with his prescriptions.

    5. Yes, Bob Rowthorn now self-identifies an ex-Marxist.

  2. You'll like this LK...

    Please try to resist the attempt to pin this on Foucault or something though (I know... you will).

    1. That's the result of obsessive identity politics, which comes to a great extent out of Postmodernism. It's absurd to deny it.

    2. A simplistic explanation. You'd be much better trying to understand the interesting history that has generated this weird degeneration of culture.

      Anyway, these new laws are a HUGE turning point. They're very odd laws. I'm not sure that anything like them have ever existed. They set some very odd precedents and I think people should be extremely worried about them.

    3. On the contrary, I am **very** interested in the sources of this horrible deformation of the left, and terrible worried by it.

      E.g., a new post that has an interview on this very subject:

      Also, I warned you in the past that the attack on free speech from the left has been ongoing for years now is a terrible, terrible threat.

      However, what did you do? You laughed at me and accused me of getting my opinions from Fox News. I suppose its too much to expect an apology.

    4. The left has always been averse to free speech. See: communism. But this stuff is entirely different.

      Anyway, if you're interested in the history go back to the sources. I've already pointed to Lasch's 'The New Radicalism' which shows that these trends were emerging on the left in the early 20th century, decades before 'postmodernism' emerged.

      But you can go far further back. Read some early modern era literature on 'free-thinkers'. Alcyphron by George Berkeley is a prime document. Again, you see many of the same trends. But guess what? They appeal to ENLIGHTENMENT as the source of their ideas! Shocking!

      You can go further back again. Maybe to the Gnostic sects...

      Yeah, this stuff has a very long history indeed. Foucault and Derrida did not invent it. Not at all.

    5. (1) I see. No apology.

      (2) "The left has always been averse to free speech."

      Oh, come on. No, **parts** of the left are. But Classical liberalism -- which was **the** left-wing ideology of the 19th century -- is where we get our best defences of free speech, and the Classical liberal defenders of it appealed to the best traditions of the Enlightenment.

      Your problem is you want to make the Enlightenment monolithic. Yes, there are bad and deleterious things about the Enlightenment. A lot of very good stuff too. Also, people fail to distinguish the irrationalism of the early counter-Enlightenment and rationalist Enlightenment traditions.

    6. Framing this in terms of free speech is misleading - and free speech is a chimera for the most part anyway. Threatening speech is actionable under law at all times... so you just change what is 'threatening' and Bob's your uncle; instant oppression. 'Free speech' is a largely meaningless buzzword. Oppression operates in an entirely different way.

      What is at issue here is what early critics of Enlightenment always made clear: since Enlightenment tries to reason from first principles it has little room for historically contingent social norms. Yet without such norms society begins to disintegrate and fracture. And when that happens oppression tends to creep in the back door.

      That is what is happening today. It has very little to do with 'the left' or 'postmodernism' or 'free speech'. It has much more to do with a culture that is quite literally eating itself because it is subjecting itself to custom and law based on first principles - and that idea was handed to us by Enlightenment.

      It's all there in Alciphron. The 'free thinkers' are identical to the people pushing these bizarre relativistic laws.

    7. (1) "Threatening speech is actionable under law at all times"

      Geez, speech that is direct incitement to violence or crime has NEVER been part of the Classical liberal free speech tradition.

      (2) "What is at issue here is what early critics of Enlightenment always made clear: since Enlightenment tries to reason from first principles it has little room for historically contingent social norms."

      That is a description of *Rationalism* as a philosophical movement (the logical outcome of which is something Mises' praxeology). This was always rejected by the empiricists, certainly the Enlightenment empiricist wing.

    8. In empiricism, we do not reason from imagined necessarily true axioms and then deduce theories divorced from reality. That is the **very opposite** of the empiricism method.

      If you want to criticise empiricism, at least criticise something properly. E.g., a major problem with the modern left is the vehement rejection of a core human nature as a real biologically-determined thing.

      Now we could certainly criticise empiricism for pushing the blank-state view of humans from which this comes, but modern moderate empiricists now understand the mistake.

      E.g., even a liberal American like Steven Pinker has shown the blank slate has been refuted by science, in The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Penguin Books, London, 2003.

    9. (1) Agree. Which is why 'free speech' is a chimera. Speech is always regulated by law, custom, psychiatry etc. It is never 'free'. What matters is how it is regulated.

      (2) No. Empiricism suffers even worse. The critical impulse in Enlightenment to subject contingent historical custom to [i] empirical evidence and [ii] argument from first principles is what has given way to cultural relativism. This is now giving way to extreme cultural relativism. And that typically ends either in tyranny or a major backlash. We shall see which.

    10. (1) It is not a chimera. Free speech -- at its core -- means freedom to discuss social, political, economic, scientific, religious etc. subjects without being persecuted by the state or violent persecution from private institutions like churches. That is a clear and vitally important concept -- vital to any healthy and successful modern human society.

      (2) No, the core empiricist epistemology isn't reasoning from "first principles" and deucing truths divorced from reality.

      You do have a point about cultural relativism, however. That partly stems from the empiricist blank slate myth, but the people you are defending -- e.g., Foucault -- are extremist blank slate social constructivist fanatics.

    11. (1) If my conception of religion has me at the heart of it as the son of God I will be diagnosed as psychotic and locked in a mental institution. Speech is never 'free'. The fact that anyone think that it can be simply has not thought it through.

      (2) You read them that way. I do not. I think that they are following in the tradition of anti-Enlightenment authors like Vico and Berkeley. That is why it is entirely unsurprising that in the 1980s they started examining the Judeo-Christian religious and moral traditions.

    12. E.g., you want to see results of the extremist Postmodernist blank slate social constructivist fanaticism?

      (1) transracialism

      (1) Trans-speciesism

      This is full blown insanity.

    13. Yes, those people are probably schizophrenic. I think that a lot of this stuff is just mental illness. But I also know that mental illness is a social construct with no proven biological basis. And that it is used to constrain the 'speech' of those that are mentally ill. Just as Foucault said.

      Speech is never free. It is always regulated. Everywhere and always. From the correctness of grammar to an insistence that statements conform to 'reality' (lest you be locked up or medicated).

    14. "Speech is never 'free'. The fact that anyone think that it can be simply has not thought it through."

      That is just a straw man. Not even the Classical liberals defended "free speech" as the freedom to directly incite violence and rightly so. Your problem is you just set up a straw man definition of "free speech: that no sensible defender has EVER defended.

    15. If I start telling my friends and family that I am Jesus Christ and I have the mental capacity to read other peoples' minds what do you think would happen to me, LK? Would I be 'free' to engage in such speech?

    16. "But I also know that mental illness is a social construct with no proven biological basis."

      Oh, geez. You say this even though modern science has proven the physiological basis of many mental illnesses in the physical dysfunction of the brain:

      But I know what you're next response is: you are a Berkeleian idealist and think no external material reality exists.

    17. Alzheimers is not a mental illness. It's a neurological condition. If you are not familiar with basic medical terminology I suggest not using it.

      But please do answer my question above...

    18. Of course Alzheimer's is a brain disease causing mental and personality changes that are a type of mental illness. You've been reading extreme PC nonsense that wants us to shun the term "mental illness" just because it offends people.


      "Alzheimer’s disease is formally recognized as a mental illness. The disease and its symptoms are outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), which is the main tool used to diagnose mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia and Borderline Personality Disorder. However, there is danger in viewing Alzheimer’s disease as a mental illness in regards to societal stigma and treatment approaches."

    19. Lots of physical illnesses lead to mental illnesses. Depression and anxiety are rife in cancers that have no impact on the brain, for example. So much so that the NHS now provides psychiatric counselling as standard for many serious conditions.

      You're out of your depth here, LK. If you haven't engaged with the literature don't comment.

    20. "Lots of physical illnesses lead to mental illnesses. "

      Wait, that just conceded what I just told you.

      As for depression, which is really a word for a range of disorders, the physiological basis of these conditions has pretty solid evidence in its favour:

      Many cancers may not directly impact the brain, but they do so indirectly through the stress of being told you have cancer and may die, the effects of cancer drugs or treatments, your genetic predisposition to depression, etc.

    21. "Many cancers may not directly impact the brain, but they do so indirectly through the stress of being told you have cancer and may die..."

      No... really!?


  3. "If I start telling my friends and family that I am Jesus Christ and I have the mental capacity to read other peoples' minds what do you think would happen to me, LK? Would I be 'free' to engage in such speech? "

    Good lord, Illusionist, if some person said that were Jesus and could constantly and reliably read people's minds or perform what appear to be miracles, then he'd cause a sensation and probably be hailed by millions of Christians around the world and invited everywhere. lol

    1. They'd invite you to hospitals everywhere to heal the sick so we could save billions in government expenditures. lol.

    2. Really? You sure they wouldn't have their 'free speech' curbed? There have been experiments you know...

    3. Oh, for christ's sake, that link doesn't prove anything about the hypothetical situation you posed above, which is: what if a man claimed to be Jesus and could read minds.

      What actually happened in the Rosenhan experiment:

      "The first part involved the use of healthy associates or "pseudopatients" (three women and five men, including Rosenhan himself) who briefly feigned auditory hallucinations in an attempt to gain admission to 12 different psychiatric hospitals in five different states in various locations in the United States"

      No people claiming to be Jesus. No evidence they claimed to or could actually read minds.

      So what the hell do you expect if people **lie and pretend** that they are suffering bad hallucinations?

      Once they have convinced doctors by lying that they are probably very sick with hallucinations, yes, it would be grossly irresponsible to just let them go.

      And, wait for it, "The average time that the patients spent in the hospital was 19 days." They were then released with "a diagnosis of schizophrenia in remission" -- hardly surprising if they lied about having bad aural hallucinations, which many schizophrenic people do suffer from.

      As for the claim supposedly shown by the late study that "it is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals", this is refuted here:

      Spitzer, Robert L. "On pseudoscience in science, logic in remission, and psychiatric diagnosis: A critique of Rosenhan's "On being sane in insane places," Journal of Abnormal Psychology 84.5 (1975) 442-452.

    4. Do you think they report on schizophrenics self-reporting hallucinations, LK?

      Actually, step back: do you have any grounding in psychiatry at all? Because if you don't I see little reason in continuing this discussion as I find you often appeal to science as an authority and do not actually understand many of the fields you cite.

    5. "Do you think they report on schizophrenics self-reporting hallucinations, LK?"

      No, they were people who were toldby David Rosenhan to LIE and report a classic symptom of schizophrenia:

      This experiment was done in 1973 before the widespread use of PET scans and fMRI, which apparently can now be used to detect the "consistent increase in activity of the thalamic and strietal subcortical nuclei, hypothalamus, and paralimbic regions" and other physiologically abnormal states of the brain that are correlated with aural hallucinations.

  4. "But I also know that mental illness is a social construct with no proven biological basis. "

    This is one of those ideas so utterly ridiculous it takes real imagination to believe them. Fevers cause hallucinations! LSD causes hallucinations!

  5. "Alzheimers is not a mental illness. It's a neurological condition."

    Oh FFS. You calim mental illness is a social construction with no physical basis in brain dysfunction. When presented with a mental incapacity you deny it counts against you *because it has its basis in an underlying brain dysfunction.* No true Scotsman.

  6. Your blog has become flypaper for idiots again LK. Irksome, but evidence you are pissing off the right people.