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  December
29, 2013
Crisis+me+ME: Crisis + Dear Budeier - Notes on social philosophy (1/2) 
They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone.
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton


















Sections
Introduction
1. Here's how data thieves have captured our lives on the
     internet
2. Dear Budeier - Notes on social philosophy (1/2)
About ME/CFS

Introduction

This file is not about the crisis, except for the first item.

The second item is another reproduction from my Norwegian years, this time from August 1976, in the form of a letter of 13 typed pages to two budeier (= milkmaids, especially at a farm or mountainous pasture (seter)), whom I had talked to for several hours, and who had identified themselves also as marxist and feminist students to me (or as "marxist" and "feminist": see below).

I have copied today all of the first seven pages, and a small part of page 8. The rest has to follow later, probably tomorrow.

I think that this ought to be rather interesting, because it is a good and informed discussion of Marxism.

1. Here's how data thieves have captured our lives on the internet

To start with, here is an article by John Naughton in the Guardian:
This starts as follows (and Naughton is professor of the public understanding of technology, at the Open University):
Whatever else 2013 will be remembered for, it will be known as the year in which a courageous whistleblower brought home to us the extent to which the most liberating communications technology since printing has been captured.

Although Edward Snowden's revelations initially seemed only to document the extent to which the state had exploited internet technology to create a surveillance system of unimaginable comprehensiveness, as the leaks flowed it gradually dawned on us that our naive lust for "free" stuff online had also enabled commercial interests effectively to capture the internet for their own purposes.

And, as if that realisation wasn't traumatic enough, Snowden's revelations demonstrated the extent to which the corporate sector – the Googles, Facebooks, Yahoos and Microsofts of this world – have been, knowingly or unknowingly, complicit in spying on us.

What it boils down to is this: we now know for sure that nothing that you do online is immune to surveillance, and the only people who retain any hope of secure communications are geeks who understand cryptography and use open-source software.

There is a lot more, and this is a good article that I recommend you read all: The writer understands the issues he is addressing, and he writes clearly.

2. Dear Budeier - Notes on social philosophy (1/2)
 

The text that follows between the two lines was written in August of 1976, after talking for several hours with two "milkmaids" - for this is the translation from the Norwegian "budeier", although in fact they were two Norwegian university students, who worked in the summer as Agnethe and I had done in the summer of 1975, and who also had identified themselves, in 1976, as marxists and feminists to me.

It so happens that my parents were marxists nearly all of their adult lives, and had raised me as a marxist, and that I had left it in 1970, but knew a lot about it.

Also, being a marxist, a feminist or a hippie was quite common in the 1970ies for students, and indeed the first two were rather de rigueur in universities, while most students also were at least hippie-ish in their clothing, hair styles, musical tastes and general values.

I had several times tried to outline my own position on marxism between 1971 and 1976, and had written at least two long essays on it, in English, for an English friend, and while the essays were not bad, they were rather technical, and I did not fully succeed to convey in them what I wanted to convey.

The present letter is probably the best effort I made in the 1970ies to outline my differences from marxism, and is so in part because I avoid most technicalities, although I do refer to quite a number of - in part - quite technical books.

Unfortunately, I never got any reply, and my Norwegian girlfriend also thought that I was too interested in the milkmaids, in which she was quite mistaken, apart from my interest in discussing Marx, marxism and related themes.

Then again, I probably did not get any reply because I was really serious and really qualified, while nearly all marxist students I met, both in Norway and later in Holland, were not really marxists, but were for the most part merely being fashionable, and while they mostly succeeded in making a - mostly false - serious impression, almost none of them took any serious interest in the things they were verbal proponents of, and indeed may have acted for. (As I have meanwhile learned: it is the same elsewhere, in everything of intellectual interest. Very few people - considerably less than 1 in 100 - are intelligent enough to take a serious and enduring interest in most difficult things, but everybody knows how to pretend.)

What follows is the first two thirds of my letter, with only a few small typing mistakes corrected. Also, since the letter is originally typed, I  reproduce it literally, but I added today the links - to my Philosophical Dictionary and to  Wikipedia - and the page numbers.

Finally, the last third follows later, probably tomorrow.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                              - 1 -
                                                                         August '76

Dear Budeier,

I have to address you anonymously (for I still don't know your names -
I don't even remember whether they were mentioned). I hope the machine
finally did work as it should, and that you didn't finish too ridiculously
late. Anyway, I think reasonable demands can be made and met in
a reasonable spirit (and it helps to realize that you don't cost them
an ore, for they are paid under the jordbruksavtale, so one might there-
fore reasonably require that they help you in more respects (such as with
free weekends and good equipment) than they would be inclined to if they
had to pay you from their own pockets. - I merely suggest.)

As to marxism. Of course I don't intend to discuss the Collected Works
of Marx + Engels in 40-odd volumes. In fact, what I will do is to make
some more or less specific observations under the headings "social phi-
losophy", "economics" and "general". Evidently, I believe that the points
I will make are relevant, but it is just as well to declare that I do
not state (here) a complete and/or a fool-proof argument concerning "marx-
ism". And I am assuming that you do understand English without any real
difficulties (this I assume because you have Orwell, who wrote a good
but far from easy English prose).

social philosophy:In discussing marxist social phiolosophy I will assume
each of us knows more or less what is intended. This is not very ob-
vious an assumption to make, but I don't feel like summarizing. At any
rate, it is possible (I did it) to state a long, precise and rather
boring argument which shows that marxist social philosophy tacitly
assumes a number of premisses which cannot be defended. This argument
I will not state, but I will state three of its most important argument-
steps.

(i) The first one is this. It is reasonable to assume that every society
can be analysed into "orders". By an "order" of a society a substantial
number of interrelated men engaged in a particular activity is meant.
Or, putting the assumption otherwise: Every society can be analyzed
into several kinds of activities or functions men (in the plural) have
in it. Such an 'analysis into orders', as I will call it, is the most
general analysis of a society. It is a reasonable assumption because
it simply amounts to a classification of the kinds of activities which
take place in a society. A good analysis into orders is the one proposed
by Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills in "Character and Social Structure"
(a brilliant book). They propose five orders:
(1) the political order - men who acquire, wield or influence the dis-
     tribution of power and authority
(2) the economic order - men who organize labour, resources and equip-
     ment un irder to produce and distribute goods and services
(3) the military order - men who organize legitimate violence and
     supervise its use (this also refers to the police)
(4) the kinship order - men who are concerned with the facilitation
     of sexual intercourse, procreation and the education of children
(5) the religious order - men who organize and supervise collective
     worship (of deities).
Of course, these are not precise definitions but indications. It appears
reasonable to assume that every society contains something like these
five orders - which is the reason Gerth+Mills propose it. Of course,
orders may be very simple as well as complex and be part of another
order.

                                        - 2 -

(ii) The second argument is this. Itis likely that these (or any other)
orders influence one another - indeed, it is virtually impossible that
they don't. One or several orders may be influential enough to determine
the others, or neither may be influential enough to determine any or all
of the others. Also, orders may depend on one another in different ways,
a.s.o. In such a situation - orders which influence, determine,
depend on another in many different ways - it does not stand to reason
to claim that "economy determines (or conditions) 'the rest of society'"
as Marx does (paraphrased). The very least one may require is that this
claim is proved for every society or (to give it a shade of credibility)
for some. This Marx never did.

I don't believe that such a proof is possible, but it is certainly not
possible in standard marxism, because this does not provide in an anal-
ysis into orders. Indeed, it is often suggested that this is not nec-
essary since 'everything depends on economics anyway' - which is of cour-
se begging the question (for, even if it did, what is "everything"?:
You can't say "every x depends on economics" if you don't tell what x
can be and how it is or may be related to economics).

One cannot blame Marx for this serious lack, but one can blame the marx-
ists. The reason why one cannot blame Marx ios interesting in itself:
Marx did not work out any of his ideas - he only prepared the first of
the four planned books of
Capital for the printers; never wrote a plan-
ned work on dialectics, nor a planned work on anthropology, and never
stated a systematic social philosophy. This is an interesting, for
widely disregarded, point.

(iii) The third argument is this. In fact, there is 'something' which
is fundamental for any society. Decisions. A decision is a choice out
of alternatives. If someone has several alternatives (as everyone always
has, for 'to suicide or not to suicide', as Hamlet meant to say) whatever
he does (to choose or not to choose) is a decision. Some decisions are
of extreme social importance (the extremest is the power to decide
whether or not the world be blown to pieces by A-bombs) and some are
hardly of any importance (whether I wipe my ass twice with
the same or a different piece of toilet-paper). Somebody who is in a
position to make important decisions has power. Power is not limited to
politics (though politics is limited to power and authority) but is the
framework which structures the orders. As follows. Every order consists
essentially of a set of sub-orders with a concrete power-structure,
that is, of men commanding men. Such a sub-order is an institution.
The typical ones are: politically - the state and the parties; economic-
ally - firms; military - the army and the police; kinship - the family;
religious - churches. Thus, every (sub-)order, and therefore society at
large, is upheld by its power-structure (which consists of the outline
of who decides what concerning whom (and all people decide something
which concerns someone: some people decide some things which concerns
everyone, and there are also some people who decide many things con-
cerning everyone.)) Finally, everybody takes decisions by reference
to an ideology. An ideology is a conception of 'what the world is like' +
a set of value-judgments.

                                        - 3 -                 

If the above is true it follows that to get a grasp of any society one
needs to have: (A) an analysis into orders, which can be confirmed emp-
irically; (B) a geographical, historical, ecological - in short factual
framework within which society functions; (C) empirical information
concerning the society's institutions and (D) empirical information
concerning which ideologies prevail in which institutions.
(Of course, this is a sketch, an outline. (Apply it to your own family (=
a small society) to see whether 'it works'). A slogan: power + ideology
are the key to any society.)
Marx almost completely disregarded power.

Let us see what arte the basic assumptions underlying the above and
whether they can be made plausible. First, we can eliminate some terms
since they are defined in other terms: 'power' is defined in terms of
'decision'; 'institution' in terms of 'order' and 'power'. Next, the
above four points (A to D)  are empirical and contain no extra assumptions.
So what is left is 'decisions' and 'ideology'. I think it is highly
sensible to choose these as basic concepts, since every individual
social act is a choice out of several possibilities. That most people
in most situations feel as if they have no choice is not logically
true, for the (singular) choice they feel they must make is a product
of their ideology, to which I turn now. It is evident that people
choose in terms of (a) what they think the world is and (b) what they
think the world should be (to them). And it is just this couple I
refer to as '
ideology'. It should be observed that the above does not
mean that decisions are made consciously or rationally, nor that they
are precize (definite). It is also not intended as asserting that
ideologies are clear, definite or consciously held. Neither of these
is necessary.

Let me provide an example. In 1781 Watt built his first useful steam-
machine. It smoked and stank enormously and made a frightful noise, but
it worked: For the first time enough energy could be concentrated to
start industry. And indeed, Watt's invention, together with a few others
made in the same time (such as the spinning loom) did start the Industr-
ial Revolution. But not 'automatically': people had to decide to apply
these inventions for that purpose (and in the way they did it). And to
decide this they needed an ideology which was profit-oriented, didn't
care much for the environment and didn't care much for other people.
Each of these points was (and still is) involved: industrial production
obviously promised great profits; everyone considered working in an
industry horrific and quite inhuman and the noise and stink and environ-
mental destruction was painfully obvious. And each of these points was
made and attacked in the early years of the Industrial Revolution by
many people. It is interesting to note that that the high Middle Ages had
the reverse ideology: against profit, against exploitation and bad work-
ing conditions and against natural and urban destruction.
One may conclude that if the rich at the time of the Industrial Revolu-
tion had had a somewhat different ideology they would have made dif-
ferent decisions (and history would have been otherwise. Possibly more
friendly, who can tell?)

These were the three arguments. Next, I have three remarks.

on classes and class-struggle:A "class" is not so clear a conception
as many may think, and Marx never really made clear what he meant by it -
the third volume of Capital finished just in the beginning of the
chapter explaining this. Otherwise, Marx appears to have thought that

                                        - 4 -                 

classes are essentially determined by (non-)ownership of the means of
production (= land, money and equipment = capital). This notion of
"class" is quite problematic, for reasons I will not enter into (it
is not only problematic from a non-marxist p.o.v. but also from a
marxist p.o.v.)

But the notion "class-struggle" is an implausible assumption.
First, consider that the concept "class" is problematic (are farmers
in a different class from workers? Workers another class than white
collar workers?
White collar workers another class than intellectuals?
Each of these in a different class than negroes or foreign workers or
working women? Note that the mean incomes and statuses of these groups
differ considerably and that Marx's property-criterion is not much help
in a society where most capital is owned and controlled by institutions.)
Classes are said to struggle because they have opposed interests. It
follows that (a) the majority or most important part of any class must
know his class-interest and (b) act accordingly.


A marxist, while not attaching as much importance to the concepts
'decision' and 'ideology' as I do, will grant that people make decisions
by reference to their ideologies. But obviously, the concepts "class"
and its derivatives may or may not be a part of an ideology, and may
have different meanings (apparently, most people associate "class"
with status and/or income). This makes (a) empirical and unlikely, for
(a) requires that not only must the most important part of any class
know its class-interest, but it must also be quite similar, at least.
It is evident that people's decisions are normally guided by self-inte-
rest, or what they hold for it. The interest of a group and of an indi-
vidual will rarely coincide - a group, at best, represents a partial
interest of an individual. Moreover, it is evident that people rarely
act consistently over any extended period of time. This makes (b) an
empirical question and unlikely. Summing up: the notion "class" is vague
and understood differently by different people: people may or may not
agree what they mean by it; finally, if they have it in their ideo-
logy they may or may not (or both, at different times) act according to
it. This makes "class-strugge" ("the motor of history" according to
Marx) an implausible assumption and this is indeed born out by the facts
- a very small minority of workers, in sum, has actively participat-
ed in "class-struggles" (and note that strikes etc. by no means need
coincide with "class-struggle").

historical necessity: A typical marxist thesis is the necessity of the
course of history - typical in the sense that it is not shared by socia-
lists
and anarchists. History is programmed and the program is economic,
it may be stated. And (but implicitly, though clearly) everything turns
from bad to better. Putting it otherwise, one can say that the marxist
thesis is that history runs a determined course and that Marx thought
he had found the laws that govern this course.

He borrowed the idea of a determined history from (19th century) physics
which believed in a deterministic uiniverse. At present, physicists be-
lieve to have very good reasons to believe in an indeterministic uni-
verse but though this reduces the plausibility of Marx's thesis it does
not disprove it. And it may well be that either thesis (determinism/in-
determinism of nature/history) is neither provable nor disprovable. So
one has to inquire into the grounds for its plausibility. Determinism
looked plausible in the 19th century because the physics of that time
essentially consists of some enormous generalizations concerning all-
pervading phenomena - time, mass, force, movement. These, and some
others, constitute(d) the big 'regularities of nature' to which every-
thing is subject. Because everything is subject to these regularities
and because these regularities are very regular (precize, non-changing)
it was plausible to assume determinism. Contemporary physics has found

                                        - 5 -                 

that sub-atomic processes (also all-pervading) appear essentially ir-
regular (unpredictable), so it is plausible to assume indeterminism.

But there is another problem. Every 'thing' above the level of sub-atomic
particles appears to be a unit which can be said to be a tiny universe
within the universe. Though it is dependent for its existence on a
number of general conditions (regularities) it contains (consists of)
processes which are typical for it. Furthermore, it acts on its environ-
ment by processes and due to processes originating 'in itself', and

is purposive in the sense that its sections are such as to perpetuate
its existence in ways proper to it. In other words, they transform
their (immediate) environments (if they can) so as to suit their cha-
racteristics. This image of a universe with tiny universes, which
depend for their existence of certain of its features but otherwise
act more or less independently and which can adapt to their environment
and adapt their environment to some extent to them takes away the
plausibility of determinism, while leaving the need for sets of
regularities. (Of course, it does not disprove determinism.)

A final reason is this: Experience (as distinct from speculation)
teaches that many things are possible and few necessary and that the
more different things enter into something (as is the case
with e.g.
the course of history) the less likely and necessary it is, at any
moment. (Or equivalently: The probability of a composite thing is
usually the product of the probabilities of the things it is composed of.
If this probability tends to a limit it tends to zero and is quasi-
monotonically decreasing.)

Other, more empirically oriented arguments one can adduce are:
(a) Marx does not appeal to 'the necessity of history' if he can prove
his point otherwise;
(b) what constitutes 'historical development' is a matter of opinion,
not of agreement;
(c) most people would agree that history shows many ups and downs and/or
cannot be assigned a (comprehensive) direction
(d) there have been quite a few rather stationary civilizations,
which did not change fundamentally for long times until they were inter-
fered with (Hindu, Chinese, Japanese, Balinese, Eskimo and Amer-indian).

politics: There is no agreement about what 'marxist politics' should be,
but for the outline, which is as follows: the working class should be
organized politically (in a party) and economically (in trade unions)
and fight for its rights. If the inevitable economic crisis comes it
should make revolution and built up socialism. Well.
Underlying this are the class-struggle doctrine; the economical found-
ation docrrine; the historical necessity doctrine and marxist economics
(which 'proves' i.a. the necessity of the economic crisis). Except for
the last, to which I will turn on the next page, I think I've shown
all these doctrines to be quite questionable at least.

An additional problem, which Marx never discussed and which is rather
taboo among 'real marxists' is this: Parties and trade unions, like

                                        - 6 -                 

every other institution, tend to become independent entities and ends
in themselves - they become semi-religious communities whose main
purpose is to give its members a sense of identity and a feeling of
social and individual importance. And very soon they are not so much
concerned with fighting capitalism as with perpetuating their existence,
especially by boosting the feelings of identity and importance which
keep them alive through fighting other, somewhat different, marxist
groups. (You have The Golden Notebook - it contains a quite accurate
description.)

Economics: I will asume that ou've read Mandel or the like, so you
know more or less what I am talking about. The first thing I'll do is
to show what constitutes

the transformation-problem: In the first volume of Capital marxist
economics is essentially very simple. It has two basic concepts,
value and labour, which are interconnected by two basic postulates:
A. Everything which is produced by labour-power (and for which there
    is a demand) has value:
B. The value of a commodity equals the number of units of labour-power
    necessary for its production,
The units are certain amounts of time, say hours. Because commodities
have a price Marx also assumes
C. Value = Price (which he formulates as "Every commodity is bought
    against its proper value", with one exception (see below)).
The theory can now be stated wuth the help of some very simple algebra.
A capitalist owns constant capital, abbreviated as C, which can be
identified with equipment, buildings, land etc. all of which has value
to begin with by postulate B. In addition he has variable capital,
abbreviated by V, which consists of money or commodities to pay the
workers with. Of course, this also has value.
The workers don't own anything, except for their labour-power.

Now, abbreviating value by Va we can say: the value Va of any commodity
equals the values of the things necessary for its production. That
is, a bit of C plus the necessary labour-power, abbreviated by L:
(1)    Va = C + L
Va and C are given to begin with and the workers are paid by a bit
of V in return of L. Now, capitalists sell their products. The prices
of C and V are set from the beginning and by postulate C Va=P. But
a capitalist has profit, abbreviated by Pr also, Therefore:
(2)     P = C + V + Pr
Because Va=P and C=Cm it follows that L = V+Pr  - the price of
labour is the wages plus the capitalist's profit. But the workers
get paid only V. So, they produce a surplus-value S which the capitalist
pockets. Or, in terms of value:
(3)    Va = C + V + S
This is the core of marxist economics as it appears in Capital volume
one.

                                        - 7 -                 

In volume 3 of
Capital Marx denied postulate C. There are several
reasons for this, the main one of which is that prices are partially
dependent on demand which itself is not concerned with value. So
(4)    ~(P = Va)
But this immediately poses a problem: It is now impossible to derive
(3) from (2) or (2) from (3) - they cannot be transformed in one
another. This is the transformation problem. It is extremely serious
for it makes the concept of value, around which everything turns,
completely senseless, and thereby postulates A and B.

Marx did not solve and probably did not see this problem. He
did see a transformation-problem (how to transform prices into
values) and solved it by showing that the prices must fluctuate around
an average. But of course there is no reason to assume that this
average is the or a value at all.

On economics: The peculiarity of marxist economics is that it explains
economics "from the supply-side" - its most basic concept, value,
is essentially defined in productive terms (units of invested labour-
power). Later economics ("bourgeois economics") explains economics
"from the demand-side". These are simplificatioms, but they hold.

The first to approach economics again from the supply-side
was an extremely brilliant mathematician, John von Neumann, who in
1947 stated a very general model of economic production,
and the next was a very brilliant economist, Piero Sraffa, who in 1960
stated the outline of a general economical theory with the help
of the kind of mathematics Von Neumann used (matrix algebra) and
based on the theories of Ricardo, from whom Marx had taken most of
his ideas. (Sraffa's book is "Producing Commodities by Means of Com-
modities
".) The final step, in so far as marxist economics was concerned
was taken by a Japanese, Morishima (in "Marx's Economics"). What he
showed was the following:
(1) that Marx had ideas very similar to Von Neumann, but that he
     did not have the mathematical apparatus, so he had to put it
     in words;
(2) that Marx's economical system can be translated into mathematics
     using the ideas of Von Neumann and Sraffa;
(3) that the transformation-problem, within this mathematics, can be
     solved (another Japanese, Okito, was the first to show this)
BUT:
(4) that postulate B is invalid: the "labour theory of value" as it
     is known, which is postulate B, is not valid and must be replaced
     (by somethingwhich defines value as "units of productive time" or,
     better, by something quite complex. This also makes changes in
     postulate A necessary.)
It is obvious that postulate B is crucial for the whole of marxist theory,
for it shows (within that theory), so to say, the moral right of the
workers. But if you accept anyway that Marx's social philosophy is
invalid this is not important.

                                        - 8 -                 

Another thing is that Morishima has shown that Marx was an extremely
brilliant economist and that much of his system is still of great
importance: It is eminently reasonable to explain economics "from
the supply-side" and with "value" as a basic concept and many of Marx's
ideas and theses are valid. (The only textbook of economics which
teaches economy along these lines is by Robinson and Eatwell, "A modern introduction to Economics". It is very good, not easy, but does
not contain much nor difficult mathematics, except for some inessential
appendices.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The above is the first two thirds (approximately) of my letter of 1976. I'll probably produce the rest tomorrow. The notes and links are new and are all made today.

And the above also is an outcome of my two years and more than seven months of living in Norway, that I very unwisely left in 1977.



Note

[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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