Friday, November 27, 2009

thought of the day - marx on the relationship between state and society (with some kafka thrown in for good measure)

Not only what it says in the title, but an interesting perspective on American Exceptionalism as it applies to the lack of a strong socialist presence here after 1886 as well! I mean, what a potent paragraph.

From R. Miliband, State in Capitalist Society pp. 180-1:

The obvious question this suggests is why this has been so; why the anti-socialist parties have so regularly been legitimated by popular support in elections; why the dominant classes in these societes have been able, in conditions of open political competition, to ensure the continuance of the kind of economic and political predominance which has been outlined in the previous chapters....

The answer which Marx gave to that question was, in a famous formulation, that 'the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas' and that the reason for this was that 'the class, which is the ruling material force in society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it'.

Much has happened in the world of capitalism since this was written in 1845, and it was not even then a sufficient answer to the question. But it remains, as will be seen in the following pages, the basic element of an answer to it.

And Franz Kafka in The Problem of Our Laws:

The law is what the nobles do.

A worthwhile paper or research project (which I am sure has been explored already and I'm just unable to recall examples) would be to go back to primary documents of the late 18th century U.S. (or other countries at the time of their capitalist origin) such as newspapers and other popular media, and school/university curricula and see expressions of Marx's thesis/Gramsci's "political socialization".

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