The Recognition of Necessity

June 12, 2018

I don’t want to insult anyone’s  intelligence but I thought I perhaps needed to explain further what I meant by the division between recognised and unrecognised recognition of necessity. This is taken from Hegel of course and was taken up by Marx and Engels as well as other post-Hegelian thinkers. What it essentially alludes to is that, in order to function properly within society, and indeed — perhaps this amounts to the same thing — to have a properly functioning society it is necessary for the members of that society to have an insight into the necessity of certain things to do with that society. We recognise, for example, the necessity of paying taxes (well, at least the vast majority of us do) in order to be able to pay for the basic necessities – there’s that word again – of social cohesion. Ayn Randian opposition to the role of the state in collecting these taxes in order to spend them on the collective remains, by and large, a marginal view. Certainly, it is more prevalent in the United States than it is in Europe. In Europe there, still, seems to be a recognition that the interwar period and the political disaster that led to fascism was largely a product of a non-functioning capitalist order. The social-liberal order that emerged after 1945 in Europe was largely based on the recognition of the necessity of collective action in order to stave off social dislocation and disintegration. In the UK this carried the name of Butskellism  (a portmanteau word containing both the Tory leader RA Butler and the Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell — between whom there was a great deal of consensus on basic socio-economic categories for action) and the French call the period 1945 to 1975 the Glorious 30, again based on the idea of social cohesion. In the United States the tradition is far more individualistic but at the same time far more nationalistic and the political culture of the United States is a constant cultural tension between a more European social-liberal coastal consensus and a middle American individualistic nationalism. President Trump is the outcome of that tension with Randian individualistic nationalism triumphing. In the right wing Hegelian tradition of national cohesion in the form of American Patriotism, individual freedom is seen as subordinate only to the American nation and to God. Otherwise a muscular individualism means that the Recognition of the Necessity of a state is strictly limited. In that sense the recognition of the necessity to accept a restriction on individual freedom in order to be collectively free is that is constantly recognised and fought over. This is the recognised recognition of necessity. In effect it is a daily plebiscite in a very real sense and is one that can be rescinded extremely quickly if the centralised state is seen as intervening too much into the affairs of the individual and their locality.

In Europe, by contrast, the recognition of necessity is qualitatively different. Here, the state is seen not as a necessary evil, but as a social institution which can guarantee individual freedom within a collective framework. This has happened to such an extent that it becomes simply “the way things are”. This integration of social and political culture into individual consciousness is, of course, a definition of ideology. In other words it is an unrecognised recognition of necessity. What both Trump and Brexit have done is to raise the question once again of the role of the central state. In many ways the tension between the “Brussels bureaucracy” and the individual member states of the European Union as a replication of the tension between Washington and the rest of the United States. It is very easy to mobilise populist appeals against the centralising bureaucracy in the name of state and individual freedom.

The point of ideology, however, is that the recognition of necessity become so inculcated into individual and collective consciousness that it is no longer seen as ideology. It becomes unconscious in that sense. As long as there remain tensions within any society or group of societies between whatever subgroups there may be then it cannot be said that that society has reached a level of unrecognised recognition of necessity. The logical consequence of this is that fully unconscious, unrecognised recognised necessity becomes almost impossible to achieve in a society in which there are fundamental contradictions. Ideology, therefore, can only be seen as successfully developed, once it disappears.

It is for this reason that Ernst Bloch said that the idea of the withering away of the state can only be successful once the totality of society – globally – had accepted the Christian message of the love of neighbour.


The Recognition of Necessity

June 10, 2018

The Recognition of Necessity has two phases: 1. The recognised recognition of necessity and 2. The unrecognised recognition of necessity.

Anticipatory Consciousness

June 10, 2018

For thousands of years we have dreamt of flight. Icarus and Daedelus found to their cost that attempting it without the correct technological base or scientific knowledge was doomed to failure. We have even dreamt of flying to the moon in a sledge pulled by a flock of swans. Anticipatory consciousness is the constant companion of human desire and ambition but it must be married with the ability to actually do these things. To put it in Blochian terms, the warm stream of human desire must be underpinned by the cold stream of human capacity.

Socialism, whatever you take that to mean, is similar. All attempts so far to achieve socialism/communism have failed because they have essentially been attempts to fly to the moon in a sledge pulled by flocks of swans. It is a beautiful dream but we are nowhere near being able to realise it. Only now are we starting to see, through the development of technology and automation, the rise of the material base necessary for socialism. It still remains imperative to overcome the social limits of capitalist development and we must maintain the dream but for now we remain grounded in reality.

Build that wall!

June 6, 2018

I think Justin Trudeau should build a wall between Canada and the US and make the US pay for it.

Trump and the NRA

May 5, 2018

Of course Trump supports the NRA 100% because they are the future brownshirts and fascisti that he will need for his march on Washington when he is impeached or otherwise removed from office. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Trump the Chump

May 5, 2018

“Your second amendment rights are under siege but they will never ever be under siege as long as I’m your president,”

It is  contradictory statements such as this that make you realise just how stupid Trump is.

UKIP and the Black Death

May 4, 2018

On the one hand, listening to the radio this morning one couldn’t help but laugh out loud when the general secretary of UKIP described the party as akin to the Black Death in that it lies dormant for a long time and then comes back to life when you are least expecting it. He will hopefully open them to ridicule and do damage to the party in the short term. What he actually meant was that the Black Death was a positive development in that it freed people up from the necessity of staying in their village in the long term and led, some have argued, to the development of modernity and the end of feudalism. Be that it is it may, it was a pretty stupid thing to say.

However, it was not necessarily wrong and as welcome as it is to see the party  reduced the point where it has only a few councillors left in the country, it would not be a good idea to disagree with Paul Oakley’s basic point that what UKIP represents is indeed a dormant force. Xenophobic populism morphing into outright fascism is always a real and present danger in any liberal democracy. When the conditions are right then populist and simplistic answers to specific and complex questions are always sought.

It is the vagaries of the United Kingdom’s electoral system of First Past The Post that has prevented the far right from ever attaining more than marginal success in electoral terms. This does not mean, however, that there is no potential for its development. Although I am in favour of electoral reform (along German/Scottish lines) we should also be under no illusion that a party like UKIP would not do well under that system. We only have to look at the rise of the AfD in Germany – now the official opposition in Parliament — to see that danger. However, it is perverse to argue that we should cleave to an undemocratic electoral system (as perverse as it is to cling to the hope that the unelected House of Lords will save us from Brexit) rather than build alliances against the hard right.

Unfortunately, the traditional hard left seems also to be going on this sort of anti-elitist binge which smacks increasingly of national Bolshevism.

Now is not the time to be attacking liberal democracy as some sort of elitist plot, in the hope that coat tailing xenophobia and populism will lead to a socialist revolution. This was tried once before when significant parts of the German left reacted to the rise of fascism in the 1930s by trying to steal their clothes on the spurious grounds that after fascism it would be their turn. This mad Stalinist policy was counter-productive then and is certainly counter-productive now. For all their faults the EU and the Democratic party in the US are the only realistic games in town against the rise of Russian and Trumpian xenophobic nationalism.