A Primer on Marxism

Browsing over at Commentary, I found an amusing bit on Marxism. A snippet:

2. Marxist writing is impossible to understand. The second thing you must learn about Marxism is that Marxists write in their own language because they consider normal English beneath them. This is an example of what Marxist academic writing sounds like:

We must here return to one such “distortion”, the most important one for the understanding of the interaction between the African modelity and the international arena, i. e. the “inverted” societal structures with the resulting importance of superstructural factors. “The assumption... is not that there are specific socio-economic preconditions that have to be met before democracy becomes possible”, wrote the American political scientist, Marina Ottaway, “but that there are conditions that facilitate a democratic transition. If those conditions do not exist — and they do not in Africa — then democracy has to be attained purely through politics: political action by small democratic groups has to provide the leverage for change that has not been provided by social or economic transformation. Democratisation, in other words, takes a curious Leninist twist, becoming a process where political organising must make up for the unfavourable underlying socio-economic conditions”.*

"Help," you're thinking. "I don't know what this means." It doesn't matter, nobody else does either. Thus, any interpretation you make up is de facto the right answer. Just make sure you include lots of references to capital, the proletariat, etc. (See Point #1)

Heh. :beatnik:

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I didn't have much trouble

I didn't have much trouble understanding the passage.

- Josh

this is why many college

this is why many college students are facinated by retards like Noam Chomsky. they developed the amazing skill of being able to prattle on in a manner that 'sounds like' they know what they're talking about. it is a skill that's useful to impress small minds, thats all.

It's a problem I often find

It's a problem I often find among sociologists--perhaps because so much of the field was inspired by Marx. I often wonder if I would be able to make some better sense out of their arguments if I actually spoke the language.

I wonder if we sound similar to the unlearned, when we speak of economics. I imagine we do.

I get it. But in academic

I get it. But in academic writing there's a rule about never using one word when ten will do.

It's unfair to attribute

It's unfair to attribute this sort of jibberish solely to marxist writing. It's pretty much the same for almost all branches of sociology and philosophy, and a fair chunk of poli sci.

Then again, I find most economics writing to be fairly lucid.

"Amen to that. Of course

"Amen to that. Of course there’s also the little matter of his misogyny and anti-semitism… but damn the man could write a good flame!"

I can't believe I'm getting nostalgic for old Arthur. Maybe if I get some time I'll crack open the World as Will and Representation.

Amen to that. Of course

Amen to that. Of course there's also the little matter of his misogyny and anti-semitism... but damn the man could write a good flame!

"I dunno Scott, I find ol’

"I dunno Scott, I find ol’ Schopie to be much more readable than Hegel or Kant, at least in terms of style. His ideas, however, were mostly nonsense."

I really can't speak to comparisons, since I've only read ol' Schopie, and not Hegel or Kant.

I remember being very fond of Schopie back when I was a miserably depressed teenager. Nowadays, I'd probably be less entertained.

I dunno Scott, I find ol'

I dunno Scott, I find ol' Schopie to be much more readable than Hegel or Kant, at least in terms of style. His ideas, however, were mostly nonsense.

thats my point Matt. some

thats my point Matt. some moron level grade school teacher gets touted by the media as a brilliant 'thinker' because in today's illiterate world he can string 14 'big words' together and they swallow it, hook line and sinker. even better, if you can get your gibberish published, woohoo,your the king of the psuedo-intellectual wasteland called 'the university of socialism'. one's ability to prattle on about linguistics or almost any other 'sophistimicated' subject qualifies you as a human rights advocate etc etc etc. think David Suzuki.

qwest, while Chomsky may not

qwest, while Chomsky may not know his asshole from a hole in the ground when it comes to politics/economics/history he has done a lot of really good work in lingustics. He writes as densely as any academic, but he's certainly no retard. He just needs a translator (i.e. Steven Pinker) to make his ideas intelligible to the layman.

Barry is right that this is not strictly a Marxist thing. In fact, Marx wrote reasonably lucidly. It's been around at least since Hegel (who elevated bullshitting to an art form), and arguably got started by Kant. At least Kant had some reasonably interesting ideas underneath all of the jargon, though. Hegel and most of his intellectual descendents don't even have that much.

Two relevent quotations come to mind:

"... these monstrous accumulations of words that annul and contradict one another drive the mind into tormenting itself with vain attempts to think anything whatever in connection with them, until finally it collapses from sheer exhaustion. Thus any ability to think is so thoroughly destroyed that the young man will ultimately mistake empty and hollow verbiage for real thought."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer on Hegel, but it could be quite broadly applied

"A new world of astonishingly subtle and vast abstractions opens itself before the reader; abstractions on an extremely high and difficult level. Thoughts and arguments are put before his mind which sometimes are not only hard to understand, but which seem to him irrelevant because he cannot find out what they may be relevant to. Yet the student knows that these are the great philosophers, that this is the way of philosophy. Thus he will make an effort to adjust his mind to what he believes (mistakenly, as we shall see) to be their way of thinking. He will attempt to speak their queer language, to match the torturous spirals of their argumentation, and perhaps even tie himself up in their curious knots. Some may learn these tricks in a superficial way, others may begin to become genuinely fascinated addicts. Yet I feel that we ought to respect the man who having made his effort comes ultimately to what may be described as Wittgenstein's conclusion: 'I have learned the jargon as well as anybody. It is very clever and captivating. In fact, it is dangerously captivating; for the simple truth about the matter is that it is much ado about nothing -- just a lot of nonsense.'"
-- Sir Karl Raimund Popper, "The Nature of Philosophical Problems"

"“… these monstrous

"“… these monstrous accumulations of words that annul and contradict one another drive the mind into tormenting itself with vain attempts to think anything whatever in connection with them, until finally it collapses from sheer exhaustion. Thus any ability to think is so thoroughly destroyed that the young man will ultimately mistake empty and hollow verbiage for real thought.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer on Hegel, but it could be quite broadly applied"

It's been awhile, but I don't remember Schopenhauer as being much more accessible.