Marxism and peripheral peoples

Louis Proyect does us a service posting from Stanley Diamond. I haven't read the book, but it's very much of a piece with a large literature on Marx, Rousseau, the nature of progressivism and our valuation of the contribution of bourgeois society, the relation between primitive communalism and post-capitalist communism, the role of the division of labour, and the fate and social destiny of the metropolitan proletariats.

I think that these and related questions to which Diamond refers are properly part of our conspectus of concerns and I have only tended to avoid them because they tend to get captured by academic marxism, with its general sterility and futile tail-chasing. But marxism-space is getting cleaned-up, so maybe it's time to address these matters at last, the more especially because there is a good political reason for doing it, several in fact. And this means we can avoid the aridity of professorial marxism. The reasons are (a) the coming together environmental and indigenist struggles with more conventional/traditional labour movement/marxist foci and (b) the clear signs of (in historical terms) dramatic new political and economic crises which seem to herald tectonic change and which may usher in an epoch of open revolutionary struggle and capitalist retreat. Since the convulsive nature of these changes is bound to assume a catastrophically contradictory form, we are right to speculate on what in any case no amount of empirical prediction (by definition) can prepare humankind for. Speculation is the only means we have.

We are witnessing two seemingly unstoppable but opposed processes: the runaway technologies of late capitalism conjure up a lifeworld which will have outgrown the division of labour which is an outgrowth of commodity production, and will thereby throw into terminal crisis capitalist commodity production itself.

This brings to an end the era which began only in the present interglacial, when widescale flooding and risen oceans put an end to truly nomadic human society and imposed settlement and agriculture as a condition of survival, at the same time that contemporary global warming made crop development and rotation possible. The interconnectedness of settled societies was from the beginning based on something quite different from the unity achieved by pre-settled, primitive-communal hunter-gatherer society. It is true that there was extensive long-distance trade even in neolithic times, and French flint was exchanged for Mediterranean metalwares, etc. And there must have been war. However, these processes were essentially marginal to the human lifeworld. With settlement, war for plunder, slavery and the invention of coinage, writing and the emergence of the state, these processes became central, the human lifeworld became inverted, patriarchal and deistic, for the loss of nature entailed the consolatory creation of god(s). These changes resulted in the creation of economies based on divisions of labour and the apportionment of human activity b