60 Comments
Jan 3, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Brilliant.

The Nazi hates the banker because he is a Jew, The communist hates the Jew because he is a banker.

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Jan 3, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Haven't read the whole thing yet but must comment first, because this is The Internet.

This cycle of essays is such a good idea. Thank you Helen and Lorenzo.

Now back to my duty to read.

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author

Conversations across the Internet have already started!

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Jan 3, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Was just reading last night about Jacobinising of Italian nationalism into Fascism, so that struck a chord of recognition.

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Jan 3, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

"A politics of anger attracts the angry. Especially frustrated lower-tier members of elites who are willing to burn down what exists to displace those above them. To displace the currently successful. A social pattern that Marx also exemplifies. This is very much social justice as moralised social strategy."

The nub of all of it.

This explains why many people are attracted to Marxist-Progressive politics. It certainly explains why I was, for a long time.

One is taught that Other People (rich people, straight people, capitalist people, have-more-stuff-and-friends people) are the reason for one's problems.

Those of us vulnerable to this kind of thinking take it and run with it.

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And it feeds right in to our (fallen) tendency to have scapegoats.

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Jan 3, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Thanks for this re-look at our friend Marx. Had not thought how the Industrial Revolution caused a real shift in power dynamics. Commerce became much more important and merchants many more trade goods. Made a fairly simple society much more complex.

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Jan 4, 2023Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

I think the love concept can be captured in three questions:

1. Do you love your spouse?

2. Do you you think your spouse is superior to all other spouses?

3. Are you a paranoid violent lunatic who sees shadows around every corner and murders everyone from people who totally definitely looked at your spouse funny to your spouse's own friends?

If you answer "yes", "no", "no", you understand civic nationalism. If you answer "yes", "yes", "yes", you understand fascism. If you answer "no", "yes", "yes", you understand Marxism.

One interesting aspect of Marxism is that while Marx believed that the working class was vital to socialism, he also believed that it would be the failed petit bourgeoise who actually lead the revolution, since according to Marx the working class was not sufficiently learned in his perfect scientific theory. I do not think he loved the working class.

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This strikes me as a really useful insight.

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Jan 16Liked by Lorenzo Warby

Marxists everywhere hate the working class. This explains US Democrats.

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Jan 4, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

Marxism is intelligent design for atheists -- a disastrously simplified misapprehension of the messy glory of evolution and human lives.

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You've undermined an otherwise excellent article by claiming that "The Nazi regime mostly mass slaughtered outside its heartland. " The Nazis settled for chasing the Jews out while they were weak, but the goal was always extermination. Going by U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum figures, German Jews were 3 times as likely to be murdered as French Jews (simply because the Nazis had *longer* to wreak evil in their homeland). The goal was 100%.

Higher death figures in Eastern Europe, yes - but not because it was outside the heartland, but because a higher proportion of the population was "untermenschen"

It is disturbing - and accurate - that compared to Marxism, even Fascism starts to look good; but let's not overplay that. Functionally they are part of the same movement. Hitler recruited largely from the Marxists; he boasts in Mein Kampf about Marxists sent to disrupt his rallies instead signing up as Nazis.

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But they were killed outside Germany. Even the German Jews who were killed were overwhelmingly killed outside Germany. It is literally true that they mostly mass slaughtered outside it heartland: indeed, they overwhelmingly did so. Judenfrei was certainly the aim but there was flexibility about how to do that. See the case of Denmark.

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Thanks for this. I was hoping to get an explicit answer to your title question. You've given a good enough takedown of Marxism, that we need an explanation for it's popularity.

Is your thesis that exists a class that looks to benefit from "vanguard captial" and is therefore a natural sucker?

(P.S. Vanguard Captial is a confusing term: https://investor.vanguard.com/corporate-portal/)

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The reference to revolutionary vanguard, and vanguard Party, was there and I ran with it.

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Yes, the reference makes sense and you are right to show Lenin's big idea is instantiated on many other movements.

But for anyone who owns shares in a Vanguard ETF, it's still confusing to see it juxtaposed with the word "Capital".

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Fair.

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The reasons for the appeal of Marxism is explored in later essays.

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"What marks the modern world is the mass application of energy to transport, communication and production."

I wonder is it not more accurate to say that what marks the modern world is the availability of an unusual store of heritage (fossil) energy that CAN be mass applied to transport, communication and production?

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Well, in starting off the Great Enrichment, which begins with the application of steam power to land and sea transport from the 1820s onwards, coal was clearly central. Coal and then oil became even more dominant. We are now in a situation where energy sources are broadening (and if there was not such activism against nuclear energy, they would be broader still). So, while the source obviously matters in telling the detailed story, it is the application of energy in any usable form that matters.

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Apr 17, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

That is a fair answer, although I have firm doubts that energy sources are broadening. Every type of industrial energy in use - including nuclear, wind, solar, etc - is only possible because it is subsidised by fossil fuels. It does not seem that nuclear power plants can build new nuclear power plants. Nor do wind turbines build new wind turbines. All of these sources require intensive mining activity, and this, too, is not easily powered without fossil fuel use. People have always applied available energy to accomplishment of their uses. But they have not always had available a legacy store hundreds of thousands of years in the making to apply to the uses of a few decades or centuries.

Still, I do think you are quite right to place availability of cheap energy at the heart of the current story of what you are calling the Great Enrichment. Because that *is* what distinguishes the modern world from those which preceded it - and likely also, from those which will succeed it.

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Apr 17, 2023·edited Apr 17, 2023Author

How much of a quantity constraint there is with oil and coal is indicated by prices. While obviously currently disrupted by the Russo-Ukraine conflict, it appears that recent trends are more a matter of refining capacity than source constraints.

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Apr 16, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

Apologies, because my last comment should have thanked you for a pair (so far) of interesting, and also challenging essays. You have written interestingly and engagingly, and also laid out many bones with which to pick.

I hope you will not find my bone picking too nitpicking, but rather, a bid to take part in the conversation you are clearly hoping to get going. :)

In any case there is this distinction you have introduced, that I am finding both interesting, and troublesome - in that one of the things is not like the other.

"As we have already noted, humans have three forms of status: dominance (status through fear), prestige (status through competence) and propriety (status through norm adherence)."

Adding prestige and propriety to dominance as ways to gain status is new to me, and thought provoking. On the other hand, the trouble that dominance presents to us (as, for example, in the ethnographies surveyed by Christopher Boehm, in one of the footnotes to your previous essay), is not about status, instead it is a bid to exert a controlling interest in the behaviour of another person.

It seems to me that you are actually setting up an argument to the effect that *dominance* (a controlling interest in the behaviour of others) can be exerted through prestige and/or propriety as well as through fear. However, a person's competence and/or a person's love of norms is not *of itself* a bid to exert control over others, whereas inducing fear in others has no other purpose (that I can think of).

Anyway, thank you for provoking thought.

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Biologists typically do see dominance as status. Prestige and propriety are distinctively human paths to status. While there has been considerable scholarship on prestige, it was reading Will Storr that made the prestige/propriety status paths clear to me: a distinction Storr himself is strangely modest about, obscuring that it is his realisation. He seems to think that, as a (gifted) populariser, he is not supposed to make genuine intellectual advances.

But you raise an excellent point about the difference between access to resources through dominance (so control) and access to resources through prestige or propriety. Propriety can shade into dominance, or at least control, if it induces shaming and shunning behaviour. I will have to think more on this, thank you.

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Apr 17, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

I do think that when studying ways to achieve status (ie standing in the eyes of others) adding prestige and propriety to dominance is very useful. I will be thinking more on this myself.

I suppose it is fair to say where I am coming from. I am very familiar with the ethnographic work cited by Christopher Boehme, and also (for example, James C Scott in "The Art of Not Being Governed.") Boehme has gone down a bit of a rabbit-hole naming his subject "egalitarian" societies, but acquitted himself fairly well speaking of his power-restraining behaviours as political choices. Political choices made by political actors who refuse to be subservient. Who refuse to grant to any other person a controlling interest in their behaviour.

The point about dominance is that it is a relational act that requires a partner to accept a subservient role. Dominance fails if its target partner refuses to be subservient - by, for example, refusing to be commanded, or walking away. Whereas competence only fails if there is a shortage of skilled tasks to perform. Competence is a relationship with a task, not with a person.

Anyway, I shall be continuing to read these essays, and will now withhold further comment until reading a few more.

Be well, stay free. :)

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Apr 17, 2023·edited Apr 17, 2023Author

Yes, competence is relationship to a task, but prestige is also about willingness to take risks (especially pulling it off). Prestige and propriety are both currencies of cooperation. Especially in a highly imitative species.

A good discussion of dominance versus prestige is here.

https://meltingasphalt.com/social-status-down-the-rabbit-hole/

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Apr 29, 2023·edited Apr 29, 2023

The expression 'capitalism' or 'Kapitalismus' is never employed in the corpus of Marx. This is a convenient test of ignorance of the theory, in terms of which most of the would-be critical sentences above cannot even be reformulated. No one who has read 20 pages of the corpus could possibly use this expression. There has by the way never been so poetic a Pindar of the capitalistic mode of production as Marx; the praise of this form you outline above is basically copy pasted from him.

That the Kremlin, a gruesome police apparatus ruling over a gigantic peasant society, was a disaster before and after it was cleverly taken over by a peculiar band of bank robbers and political gangsters run by Lenin from abroad, and is still a disaster today, is not surprising and has nothing to do with either 'capitalism' or 'Marxism'. The topics could not be more remote from one another, though wildly diverse interested parties are in a heated agreement on the immediate connection.

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Apart from in the title to Volume III. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_Kapital,_Volume_III. Or the capitalist mode of production (Produktionsweise). Or in English translations of ‘Value, Price and Profit’. https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1865/value-price-profit/ch01.htm#c1.

The social experiment of attempting to implement Marxist theory has been attempted again and again. There is no need to run the experiment again and every reason not to. The notion that the form of Marxism in people’s heads is somehow insulated from the experience of implemented Marxism is, at best, unimpressive and unpersuasive.

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Apr 29, 2023·edited Apr 29, 2023

The expression we are looking for is "capitalism". You have not found it, because you have not read any of the text. The principal implementation of Marxist theory so far attempted is German Social Democracy.

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Apr 29, 2023·edited Apr 29, 2023

"Value Price and Profit" is not a translation by the way. It was "Read to the Central Council on Tuesday, (20th June 1865)." as it says at the top of the handwritten page, in English - of course, since it was London.

It no where includes the word "capitalism". It speaks of 'capital', of course, and also of its 'personification' the 'capitalist'.

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I have actually read the text. Indeed, it was reading it and thinking “Good lord, this is such nonsense. Why he is writing such nonsense?” that led me to write what became this series of essays.

You are right, of course, it was written in English. (I sometimes comment quite early in the morning, in bed, shortly after waking up: this is not always wise.)

It does not matter much whether Marx used the term ‘capitalism’ at any given point, he is obviously describing bourgeois society and its mode of production.

As for “X Marxist Revolution went bad because Bad People Did It”, they are precisely the people who end up on top in every Marxist Revolution and will always end on top in such. The whole approach is an unfixable disaster because it is based on series of false, or worse, claims about the world and humans.

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Dec 31, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

😆You are literally using the narrative Lorenzo Warby mentioned a Marxist like yourself would use: “That’s not real Marxism.” An argument with no validity, but can be used ad nauseum in lieu of an actual argument. Give up and ask yourself why you want so desperately to believe in something so horrifically true. Maybe if more people would be introspective, fewer would be willing to commit atrocities. 😔

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Jan 20Liked by Lorenzo Warby

The fact is that in 1848 the term “capitalism” did not was not yet in use. After the writing of Marx's books and articles on economics and the use of the term "capital", the terms "capital" and "capitalist" emerged as a result of debates and correspondence.

Before this, Marx used the terms "bourgeois" and "bourgeoisie" which mean "capitalist" and "capitalism".

In an 1888 note to the Communist Manifesto, Engels explains that the two terms are equivalent.

Therefore, further, those who developed and continued the Marxist idea used the word “capitalism”. There is no fundamental mistake here.

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Aug 5, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

Astonished and delighted by your recognition of the importance of commerce, which I (and very few other economists) share. On its importance in understanding communism, see my talk on youtube "Why There is No Such Thing as Capitalism (or Communism)"

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It is almost as if you are a voice crying in the wilderness …. 😉

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Not a bad description!

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Aug 5, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

There are a few economists who have recognized the importance of commerce--most notably Peter Bauer and John Hicks.

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Or, as one might say: Vox clamantis in deserto.

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You might like my take on vassalage as franchised government and fiefs as the warrior franchise. https://www.lorenzofromoz.net/p/beware-of-greeks-telling-tales

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Aug 5, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

I don't use the same language, but I very much describe it in that way. It had its origin in the dominate, when the emperor 'paid' is barbarian mercenaries by granting them control of a province from which they could collect tribute. The chiefs then 'paid' their vassals by subdividing.

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Though such (mainly Germanic) barbarians were using patterns that went back centuries on the steppes and on the Iranian plateau.

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Also my take on what the shift to the Dominate represented. In your terms, a shift away from commercialisation back towards a tribute economy. https://www.lorenzofromoz.net/p/downward-resilience

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Aug 5, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

Exactly! The shift happened because of the fiscal and monetary collapse of the Principate, which destroyed the commercial economy and left the government no choice but to collect tribute in kind (or to assign it directly to their armies in payment). Please email me at mkohn@dartmouth.edu so that I can send you my chapters on the political evolution of preindustrial Europe.

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Mar 11Liked by Lorenzo Warby

Yikes, dont tell me there is someone sensible at Dartmouth! 👍

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Nov 2, 2023Liked by Lorenzo Warby

Marxists offer their followers utopia at the end of a difficult struggle. Postmodern critical theorists don’t even offer that. They claim that the world is a Manichean battle between oppressors and oppressed, but, when you read the fine print, they really see life as an endless war between oppressors and would be oppressors.

In their view, any constraints, even those imposed by nature, are oppressive. Any status quo will necessarily come with a set of formal and informal rules - that is, with constraints. Critical theorists argue that the rich and powerful who benefit from the status quo structure the rules to increase their wealth and power and to cement themselves in place. But any revolution will necessarily replace the existing status quo with a new one.

Once in power, the new oppressors are unlikely to allow a second revolution that would replace them with yet another set of oppressors. To that end, they will act to eliminate Critical Theory and all its corollaries because such ideas exist only to destroy what is. Some critical theorists understand the game; those who don't – the true believers, the useful idiots – will also be eliminated.

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And the history of Marxist regimes show they are much ruthless in suppressing disruptors.

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Jan 1Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Marxism and its variants are basically cults of affirmation for the evil, idle, and inept

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And innumerate.

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Jan 15Liked by Helen Dale, Lorenzo Warby

Great article. I will definitely read everything the author has on this topic.

More than forty years ago I studied Marxism. Even then it was possible to see that this was a failed theory.

But the fact is that even in Marx’s time this theory was outdated and primitive, as his contemporaries pointed out.

Once every ten years I look at the new Marxists and try to guess when they will end.

Never.

Marxism is a scam with three cups and a ball.

The crowd of spectators and tourists never ends. Even after they were deceived. Even after they realized that they had been deceived.

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