03 September 2011

I love it when people agree with us

I've been an admirer of Terry Eagleton's work for ages, but this is... wow.
In the European world bus drivers, florists and dental assistants are not usually expected to hold complex ideas about the origins of the world, the purpose of life, or what it means to live a rich, fulfilled, fully human existence. They are simply expected to get on with their everyday lives and leave these more fundamental questions to scholars and clerics. This is not so in the case of Islam. [...] Antonio Gramsci maintained that all ordinary people were at a certain level philosophers, but this is a lot more obvious in the Islamic world than it is elsewhere. Islamists are also natural-born internationalists. [...] Western societies deal with belief primarily by reducing it to a private affair. It becomes a kind of hobby or personal eccentricity, rather like collecting Javanese parrots or engaging in sado-masochistic pursuits [...] It is not a force for the transformation of reality but a refuge from it, like Madonna's Kabbalah or Tom Cruise's Scientology. [...] The capitalist West's problem is that it can neither kick belief nor get along with it. It can do neither with it nor without it. It needs some show of faith, not least in times of political crisis, to declare to the world what it stands for. In reality, however, capitalism is an inherently faithless system. As long as you roll into work, pay your taxes and refrain from beating up police officers, you can believe more or less what you like. Too much conviction smacks of fanaticism, and is bad for business. [...] Socialists may not agree with the content of Islamic faith, but they are well acquainted by their own history with the idea of millions of ordinary men and women living lives of conviction rather than of pragmatic self-interest. In this, at least, we share a precious tradition with those hounded by the Islamophobes.
Chaos Marxism stands 4-square behind the democratisation of philosophy; of the necessity of faith to break out of the utilitarian/entropic straitjacket of bourgeois ideology; for mystics and dialectical materialists to take each other seriously. Such ideas - as well as ecosocialism, and the understanding of the pivotal role of information workers in the senile capitalist countries (aka "the West") - have to be at the centre of any new International.


  1. That's a great essay. To paraphrase Morris Berman's criticism of the US, when your whole value system is based around the accumulation of capital, you no longer have a value system.

    The idea that somebody, somewhere, sincerely stands for something (and doesn't simply pose ironically) is deeply unsettling to a postmodern capitalist society.

    By the way, would a Chaos Marxist International be called the Infinite International?

  2. I certainly think Infinite International would be a great name for a webforum or blog. But unlike Trotsky, I am not of the opinion that "if there are only five of us in the world, the first step is to start the International". The first step is to start work where we are.