Alvin Gouldner: Notes & Commentary

Bibliography of Major Works

(Volumes as editor excluded; one non-book monograph included)

Studies in Leadership: Leadership and Democratic Action, edited by Alvin W. Gouldner. New York: Harper, 1950. (Reprint: New York: Garland, 1987)

Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1954.

Wildcat Strike. Yellow Springs, OH: Antioch Press, 1954.

Notes on Technology and the Moral Order, by Alvin W. Gouldner and Richard A. Peterson, with a foreword by Walter R. Goldschmidt, and a methodological note by L. Keith Miller. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1962.

Modern Sociology: An Introduction to the Study of Human Interaction, by Alvin W. Gouldner and Helen P. Gouldner with Joseph R. Gusfield and the assistance of Kathleen Archibald. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1963.

Enter Plato: Classical Greece and the Origins of Social Theory. New York: Basic Books, 1965.

The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology. New York, Basic Books, 1970.

For Sociology: Renewal and Critique in Sociology Today. New York: Basic Books, 1973.

The Dark Side of the Dialectic: Toward a New Objectivity. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute, 1975. (Geary Lecture; 7th; 1974)

The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology: The Origins, Grammar, and Future of Ideology. New York: Seabury Press, 1976. (The Dark Side of the Dialectic; v. 1) See front matter with links to individual chapters or sections.

The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class: A Frame of Reference, Theses, Conjectures, Arguments, and an Historical Perspective on the Role of Intellectuals and Intelligentsia in the International Class Contest of the Modern Era. New York: Seabury Press, 1979. 121 p. (The Dark Side of the Dialectic; v. 2.)

The Two Marxisms: Contradictions and Anomalies in the Development of Theory. New York: Seabury Press, 1980. (The Dark Side of the Dialectic; v. 3.) (Click here for online text of book.)

Against Fragmentation: The Origins of Marxism and the Sociology of Intellectuals. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Selected Journal Articles

"Prologue to a Theory of Revolutionary Intellectuals," Telos, no. 26, Winter 1975-76, pp. 3-36.

"Stalinism: A Study of Internal Colonialism," Telos #34, Winter 1977-78, pp. 5-48.

Works on Alvin Gouldner & His Ideas

Chriss, James J. Alvin W. Gouldner: Sociologist and Outlaw Marxist. Aldershot, Hants, England; Brookfield, Vt., USA: Ashgate, 1999.

Disco, Cornelis. "Critical Theory as Ideology of the New Class: Rereading Jurgen Habermas," Theory and Society, vol. 8, no. 2 (Sept. 1979) 159-214.


Notes & Commentaries on Works by Gouldner

Note: My practical interest in Goulder begins with Enter Plato. I have not yet been able to obtain or read The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology. I don't recall having thoroughly read The Two Marxisms. I have notes on Enter Plato, The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, and the pamphlet The Dark Side of the Dialectic, not yet typed up. See reviews of individual works below. New web pages may be created for additional commentaries on Gouldner's perspective. (27 June 2005)

The front matter and selections from The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology can now be found on this site. (3 June 2008)


Gouldner, Alvin W. For Sociology: Renewal and Critique in Sociology Today. New York: Basic Books, 1973.

CONTENTS:
Part One Critiques of sociology
1 Anti-minotaur: The myth of a value-free sociology 3

This essay reaches back to the architect of value-free sociology, Max Weber, and more recently to the ideology of professionalization among American sociologists. There is also another anti-professionalist strain that reaches into the lower depths of society. "Two of the leading exponents of this style are Howard S. Becker, and Erving Goffman who may become the William Blake of sociology." [17] Gouldner in the end deems Weber's dualistic attempt to preserve both classic and romantic approaches is a moral failure.

2 The sociologist as partisan: Sociology and the welfare state 27

This essay marks a perceptible shift in the tenor of American sociology from its value-free days towards a romantic tendency to take up partisanship for those marked as the deviants of society. While Gouldner agrees that the underdog's point of view merits consideration, he is rather suspicious of the tacit romantic ideology underlying the rejection of middle-class respectability, and launches into an analysis of its essential presuppositions, i.e. slumming and exoticism. [37] The romanticism of the underdog is paradoxically predicated on complacent assumptions. Tellingly, the political deviant who fights back consciously is excluded from purview, while the social deviant who merely copes is embraced. [39] There is also a problem of determining who in the hierarchy should be the target of sympathy, as anyone conceivably has someone above or below to contend with. There is also a ironic observation to be made: "underdogs see themselves from the standpoint of respectable society." [40] What else is the perspective of the sociologist than that of managerial liberalism? A lengthy analysis of Becker and the sociology of the professional middleman ensues. Gouldner makes another interesting observation: American reformism was once local, but the urban reforms sought by the new middle class involve large-scale, national social policies, and the relationship of professional reformers to their target constituencies is more impersonal and remote. [47] Becker then represents a new establishment sociology.

Gouldner also addresses the question of objectivity and standpoint. A superficial confession of one's standpoint does not solve the problem of objectivity. [54] Nor even do replicability and empirical generalization. [61] Sociologists are much less conscious of the problem now that was Weber. (There is also a curious criticism of the Warren Commission here. [64])

3 Remembrance and renewal in sociology 69

More on value-free sociology, specifically Talcott Parsons.

I know this stuff is old, but sometimes examining the intellectual products of a bygone era can help give us perspective. I kind of miss liberalism, given what we are up against now. Also, the critique of liberalism was a big deal in those days. What did I do with my old Fredy Perlman tracts?

4 The politics of the mind 82

A defense of Gouldner's The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology against criticism by Zeitlin and Touraine, who assume a lefter-than-thou, more scientific-than-thou, attitude. At issue are objectivism (an ideology of objectivity) vs. reflexivity, sociology as scientific or ideological, the relation between theory and practice, and the question of the theorist's infrastructure and the development of critical theoretical collectivities. Among other things, there is the ticklish problem of the trade-off between the necessity of community and the unbridled search for truth (99). (There is some Habermas mixed in here.) The quest is the liberation of reason, and the difficult position of man as both subject and object. Hermeneutics is necessary but cannot substitute for science. [103] Then there is the question of the relationship between sociology and the Movement. (How quaint.) Should the sociologist be a technician or clinician of the movement? The latter is more important than the former, but the latter function cannot be allowed to degenerate into giving orders to the movement, any more than to merely taking orders. [107-8] Gouldner opposes the position of someone named Flacks. Reflexivity is not navel-gazing. Not only is sociology customarily non-reflexive, but its notion of theory is impoverished [110] and is crippled by the division of labor he accepts [111]. "But methodology is only the bad conscience of sociology. It is a token concession to thought." [112] Specialization does not serve the understanding of the concrete social totality.

Theory is the antidote to ideology, providing extraordinary languages with which to induce awareness of the ideological usages of ordinary languages. [115-6] A sad phenomenon in the history of the communist movement is the degeneration of partisanship. Marx and Engels maintained their critical edge because their party participation was relatively peripheral. They were essentially consultants and not full-time leaders of mass organizations. [117] For this they would be denounced today as professorial intellectuals. The Frankfurt School was an antidote to the presumptions of the Leninist tradition.

One of the most common sources of false consciousness in all modern radical movements is the distortion of the actual relations they have with theorists and intellectuals. On the one hand, activists often tend to deprecate the worth of the intellectual's performance and the authenticity of his political practice, and they seek to expose his intellectual work to the ideologization of organizational interest. In other words, to what they call 'discipline'. While some activists may deprecate the importance of theoretical work—in contrast to really `practical' contributions—at the same time they seek to bring theory under control, thus contradicting that very deprecation. Much of the critique of theory and of intellectuals in such movements essentially consists of a critique of open intellectuals by covert intellectuals who play the role of party leaders and organizational functionaries. In other words, it is often to be understood as a conflict among different kinds of intellectuals. In particular, it is an attack on those intellectuals who have a political and intellectual base in some segment of the larger intellectual world, and who are therefore less controllable by those lacking this outside base. One recurrent technique for the control of the outside intellectual by the functionary is the latter's call for the 'unity of theory and praxis', which may sometimes only mean the subordination of theory to praxis, and of the theorist to the functionary.

Most falsified of all is the relation between intellectuals and the larger social strata they claim to represent. It is precisely because of the self-hatred and suspicion—partly pathological, partly realistic and justified—directed toward intellectuals, by themselves and by others, and partly because they are not supposed to be acting on their own behalf but only on behalf of some larger social stratum, that it becomes enormously difficult for anyone to see the role that intellectuals actually do play. In some part, intellectuals are involved in a radical politics not only—and sometimes, not primarily—because they want to further the interests of some other social strata, but, also, because intellectuals need a 'client-group' in order to further their own special interests. [119]

Common-sense—I could have written this—but for that reason it cannot be repeated often enough. I think I will put pp. 119-123 on my web site (or maybe begin as far back as p. 116).

The final section is called "The critique of 'navel-gazing' as a defence of false consciousness", addressed to the current preoccupations of the radical political movements. Gouldner stresses the need for self-understanding as a necessary part of self-transformation, as a necessary dimension of social transformation.

5 For sociology 128

This is another article on the continuing controversy surrounding The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology, this time focusing on the attacks on the book in a special issue (July 1972) of the American Journal of Sociology. A number of individuals, beginning with Seymour Lipset and Everett Ladd, took offense to Gouldner's charge that American sociology, esp. Talcott Parsons' functionalism, was essentially conservative, Lipset's insistence on Parsons' youthful "socialism" notwithstanding. The article is basically a refutation of Lipset's falsehoods and misrepresentations. Gouldner also challenges Lipset's objections based on the claim that American sociologists are characteristically liberals.

Boy, if you're old enough to remember when the liberals were the enemy, that really dates you.

Gouldner also addresses the criticism by Howard Becker and Irving Horowitz that criticism of sociologists rather than of society is navel-gazing and the only intellectual issue is which causes you take up.

Gouldner returns to defend himself against Lipset's charge that he is one-sidedly condemning sociology. He then defends himself against some Prof. Rhoades, and emphasizes the paradigm shift that is hitting sociology. There is contention over the middle-class origins of sociology and Gouldner refutes distortions of his views.

I feel like an antiquarian summarizing this stuff.

Part Two Backgrounds to sociology
6 Some observations on systematic theory, 1945-55 173

On Parsons and others. Is there anything more boring than American sociology?

7 Reciprocity and autonomy in functional theory 190

Boring. There is a section on the interesting issue of system vs. factor theories.

8 The norm of reciprocity 226

Not interested.

9 The importance of something for nothing 260

Reciprocity, justice, beneficence, affluence, moral absolutism, meaninglessness. Not interested.

10 Personal reality, social theory and the tragic dimension in science 300

On Gunnar Bolt's sociology of social research. Also on the errors of taking one's personal reality as paradigmatic. You're not in Sweden anymore, Gunnar.

11 Romanticism and Classicism: Deep structures in social science 323

Gouldner begins by covering the familiar ground of German backwardness, describing Romanticism as a movement for cultural revitalization. It was not merely retrogressive; it substituted culture and aesthetics for politics and social revolution. The demand for artistic freedom took the place of the demand for political freedom. "Romanticism was the revolt of an intellectual and an artistic elite against its own internal subculture." It was free enterprise, laissez faire, in the realm of art and literature. [327] The idiosyncratic and grotesque came first, systematization came later. Contrary to Mannheim and the later Lukacs, Gouldner does not view Romanticism as exclusively backward-looking and conservative. It is emancipatory in the respect that it emphasizes subjective freedom.

While I know something of German and English Romanticism, I know next to nothing about the French situation, hence the next section comes as a surprise to me. French sociology in its gestation is seen to be Romantic. St. Simon is its left wing and Comte its right. [332] The positivist fusion of religion and science was a compromise between the old and the new, a Romantic position, with a constituency of new professions (technical intelligentsia, it seems) rather than artists. Positivism and Romanticism should not be seen as antagonists. The Romantic and religious elements were not to endure as the technocratic did.

German social science moved in an opposite direction, away form the natural science model. The geisteswissenschaften are still with us in critical theory. Gadamer calls Habermas a Romantic, as to others refer to the Frankfurt School as a whole. [336]

Marx is seen at attempting to transcend the Classical-Romantic dichotomy and ultimately synthesizing the two perspectives, pace Marx's sparse references to Romanticism, all negative. [338-9] Marx rejects the feminine aspect of Romanticism, according to Gouldner. I find this all rather dubious.

Max Weber was no bloodless positivist, but had a Romantic view of the German scholar and the German nation. There is a section on anthropological romanticism, another on the romanticism of Mead and the Chicago School.

Interestingly, Gouldner credits Romanticism with the democratization of the concept of data. [351]

C. Wright Mills is seen as a Romanticist. Paul Lazarsfeld is a Romantic. Even computer simulation can be Romantic. Finally, Gouldner summarizes the characteristics of Classic and Romantic sociology. Both are necessary; neither is self-sufficient. Given the dominance of "Classical" thinking, countercultural Romanticism, even with its weaknesses, is a temporary corrective. [361]

Part Three Marxisms and sociology
12 Émile Durkheim and the critique of socialism 369

Durkheim on St. Simon, Comte, the division of labor; and affinities with Marx.

13 Sociology and Marxism 392

On Martin Shaw's critique of Gouldner and Hegelian opposition to sociology. Gouldner refutes the charge that positivism was wholly reactionary. Even today's Marxists look to positivism positively. Althusser regards Comte as the only interesting French philosopher in 130 years. [394] Even the anti-marxist tenor of sociology was in opposition specifically to Second International Marxism. Weber criticized bureaucracy where Kautsky ignored it. [395] Even some liberal sociologists were aware of America's racial problem before the eruptions of the 1960s. Sociology was more aware of the nature of youth rebellion than Marxism. Even the false consciousness of value-free sociology may foster an anomie among sociologists that distance them from society's conventional values. There is still a rational core to sociology with all of its limitations.

14 The Red Guard 403

Gouldner co-authored this article with Irving L. Horowitz. The article begins with Mao contemplating his mortality. The question is, why would Mao unleash the Red Guard against the existing institutions of the state and party? As background, the Russian and Chinese revolutions are contrasted with respect to their relationship to the West, the former using it as a model to be imported, the latter hostile. There is fear of the weakening of revolutionary fervor. The shift from determinism to voluntarism is even more pronounced in the Chinese case. The historical roots of the Sino-Soviet split are revisited. The primacy of will and ideological commitment over objective circumstances is an orientation confirmed by the entire history of the Chinese revolutionary struggle. The aging Chinese political elite does not trust its own institutions or the younger leaders among them. They are trying to bypass the middle generation influenced by the Russians and reach the young who have no history. The question is whether the Chinese leadership can pull this off and bypass the path that Stalinism took, or whether they will create an even worse disaster.

Another time I will give Gouldner a posthumous ass-kicking for his unacceptable indulgence of Maoism in his various writings.

15 Comments on History and Class Consciousness 414

This was written not long after this work was published in English by MIT Press, hence all this information was fresh to American readers at the time. According to Gouldner, Lukacs did not merely capitulate to Stalinism, but began with a bureaucratic-administrative conception of socialism that was already predisposed in that direction. [419] The Hegelian emphasis on consciousness promotes the desire to control everything, nature and man. [420] Hegelian Marxism is also vulnerable to anti-intellectualism. The unity of theory and practice becomes a rise by which to subordinate theory to practice. [421] Hegelian Marxism begins with a respect for mind and freedom and graduates to elitist revolutionary adventurism. The reduction of Marxism to method deprecates the empirical. [423]

16 The two Marxisms 425

This essay outlines Gouldner's project of the Marxist analysis of Marxism. As usual, he gives Mao more credit than he deserves [426]. Marxist critique is ambivalent toward science.

Gouldner provides a long list of thinkers on the critical theory (vs. the scientific side) of Marxism. The list includes the News & Letters group, without naming Dunayevskaya (also no mention of C.L.R. James) [130]. The scientific camp includes Della Volpe, Althusser, Godelier, Poulantzas, Therborn, Robin Blackburn, and others. They divide on their attitude towards Hegel.

Gouldner puts much store in the work of Joachim Israel [432], Alienation, From Marx to Modern Sociology (Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1971).

(In a footnote Gouldner praises the work of Lichtheim, Lobkowicz, Brazill, Meszaros, Ollman, and others.)

The role of alienation in Marx's theory and the Althusser controversy are reviewed (now ancient history), and Althusser's failure is diagnosed [434]. While Althusser is for science, he is rather vague about its nature, as well as the relation between natural and social science [436].

The arguments here are presented in Gouldner's other works, so at this point I am only interested in reviewing specific notes I took.

The Soviets had a contradictory position regarding the Second International, only partly rejecting it. They did not fully realize their own revision of Marxism, and retreated from Hegelianism to scientism. [441-2] Cuban and Chinese Marxism are more Hegelian (and voluntarist, egalitarian, and peasant-based) than scientific. Gouldner places Maoism with critical Marxism and gives it the distinction of its emphasis on contradiction. Gouldner deserves to be exhumed and horsewhipped for the following:

To that extent Maoism represents a new and distinct stage in the world development of Marxism because it has achieved a reflexivity superior to that of Western Marxisms . . . [449]

I've seen less shit piled up in the elephant house in the zoo.

Maoism is not a product of Western or Christian culture, hence it is relentlessly secular and down-to-earth. [450] It prepares its most radical step: the elimination of the academic intelligentsia. It echoes in the west in the lumpenization and self-hatred of intellectuals. Even Sartre has been influenced, calling for the elimination of the intellectual [450-1]. Here too Maoism separates itself from Soviet Marxism.

Now comes the one place where Gouldner departs from his usual naive line: he claims that Maoism does not reject all elitism, but actually intends to forge a new elite that has broken with western models of development. [455] The base is in the massive peasantry. This is the root of Maoist anti-intellectualism. [456] Gouldner, tellingly, has more to say here about egalitarianism than the nature of this new elite, about which he says little else. Gouldner attributes a profound understanding to Mao's vision. Maoism is the most self-conscious stage of Marxism; it is aware of Marxism's own ideology and its contradictions. Sartre is aware of Maoism's awareness. The advance of the revolution means the death of Marxism itself. [457-9]

This huge load of shit stinks of the dead end that Gouldner has got himself into with this line of reasoning. The same fatal flaws will be revealed in the balance of his work, which I will review if I can find time. His lapses of logic here are almost unaccountable, given his affirmation of the principle of intellectual independence in the rest of his work. To identify the most debased variant of Marxism in all of its history as reflexive defies understanding. He is as wrong about this as he was dead wrong in 1979 about the passing away of the old monied class. What a shame that all of Gouldner's brilliance came to this.

Remember that most of this stuff is old hat now, but the whole western marxism shebang was still novel stuff when Gouldner was writing in the thick of its revival in the USA. It is still important to review how Gouldner assimilates and deploys this material as the rest of his arsenal of the history of social thought. This will be rewarding. But what remains troublesome and must be analyzed is where Gouldner went wrong.

31 May 2004 - 2 June 2004

—> bibliography


Gouldner, Alvin W. The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class: A Frame of Reference, Theses, Conjectures, Arguments, and an Historical Perspective on the Role of Intellectuals and Intelligentsia in the International Class Contest of the Modern Era. New York: Seabury Press, 1979. 121 p. (The Dark Side of the Dialectic; v. 2.)

Gouldner elaborates on this theme in all of his books published in the 1970s and posthumously in the 1980s, but this is the most succinct summary—summa even—of his views. After briefly summarizing the origins of the new class, Gouldner outlines several conceptions of it:

(1) new class as benign technocrats
(2) new class as master class
(3) new class as old class ally
(4) new class as servants of power
(5) new class as flawed universal class

Gouldner calls himself a left Hegelian sociologist and adheres to the view that the new class is a flawed universal class, elitist, self-seeking, powerful, and possibly the best hope we have. [7]

The book is presented as a series of theses:

CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION 1
Thesis 1: Defects of the Marxist Scenario 9
Thesis 2: Peasants and Vanguards 10
Thesis 3: New Class, Visible and Invisible 11
Thesis 4: Arenas of Contest 16
Thesis 5: The New Class as a Cultural Bourgeoisie is
Thesis 6: The New Class as a Speech Community 28
Thesis 7: Education and the Reproduction of the New Class 43
Thesis 8: Intelligentsia and Intellectuals 48
Thesis 9: Old Line Bureaucrats, New Staff Intelligentsia 49
Thesis 10: Revolutionary Intellectuals 53
Thesis 11: The Alienation of Intellectuals and Intelligentsia 57
Thesis 12: The Family in the Reproduction of Alienation 73
Thesis 13: Dilemmas of Marxism and the Vanguard Organization 75
Thesis 14: The Flawed Universal Class 83
Thesis 15: The Political Context 85
Thesis 16: Consolations for a Dying Class 89
EPILOGUE 93
BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE 94
NOTES 102
INDEX 117

Among the defects of the Marxist scenario are its (1) neglect of the peasantry, (2) inability to account for revolutionary intellectuals.

Thesis 3: the question is raised as to the new class's relation and ambitions in relation to the old. Gouldner claims that the new class accepts a subordinate role in advanced economies. However, there is a class war going on between ownership and management. He presents Zeitlin's evidence. But if the New Class is on its way to become the future ruling class, why is it taking so long? [15] As a point of comparison, Gouldner poses the question, how long did it take the bourgeoisie to come into power? He presents a statistical table to illustrate the take-off of the new class in the USA between 1900 and 1930.

Ecology and women's liberation are interests of the New Class, as is the ideology of professionalism.

The New Class bases its claims on its cultural capital. Comte was the progenitor of this orientation. [25]

Thesis 6 presents Gouldner's views on the Culture of Critical Discourse. Sure enough, one of his inspirations was Basil Bernstein [32]. Edward Shils from a conservative point of view sees intellectuals as an oppositional culture. [32-3] Autonomy (self-groundedness, rule-governed norms rather than ascribed status of individuals) and scientism express the class interests of the new class. The 19th century Positivist movement expressed a vision for society based on a vision of scientificity. [35] Romanticism was a revolt against repressive and external rules.

Marxism is not recycled ancient millenarianism, pace Shils. It is a fusion of Romanticism and Positivism [36]. A section of the alienated New Class seeks a power base in the proletariat.

Habermas most basically represents the internal struggle within the New Class, a struggle of an older humanistic elite against the newer technocratic elites . . . [38-9]

In greater detail:

In its emphasis on the importance of a revitalized morality as the basis for "critique" and practical discourse, Jurgen Habermas' critical theory is surprisingly convergent with the deep structure of Talcott Parsons' sociology. Unlike Parsons, however, Habermas has no sentimental attachments to the old moneyed class. He emphasizes, however, that the dangers of societal domination will not be removed simply by "socializing" the means of production. Habermas is critically alive to the New Class's elite proclivities, which he sees as undermining popular decision-making prerogatives.

Habermas most basically represents the internal struggle within the New Class, a struggle of an older humanistic elite against the newer technocratic elites, and especially focusses on the anomie-producing, de-moralizing effects of the technical intelligentsia's stress on instrumental efficiency. He seeks a new institutional framework—the "ideal speech situation"—within which not only technical means might be chosen, but which would also revitalize morality, and which would select the very goals to which technology would be applied. Habermas' aim, then, is to control the technical elite and facilitate popular participation in effective decision-making, by establishing the institutional requisites of a social system that could subordinate technicians to the requirements of a rational morality and practical reason, but which must also subordinate them to the Guardians of this morality and reason. Habermas' Critical Theory is a critique of the technical intelligentsia and the bureaucratic politics of "scientific" socialism, of both intelligentsia and bureaucracy, from the standpoint of an older humanistic elite. In his view, the old class is tacitly considered as historically obsolescent; the future is seen as divided between political and technical strata, both having strong elements of irrationality and elitism that need to be subjected to effective public controls and public goal-setting.

The Critical theorist is, in this view, the new Guardian of the moral grounding of social action, enabling the larger populace to play a more effective role in the practical discourse of public life, and subjecting the irrationalities and limits of technical and political elites to a transcending critique. Habermas' "apoliticism" represents the assumption that the transformations in consciousness he seeks can be achieved not by political revolution but by a cultural reformation. Such a critical theory, then, is the ideology of a morally concerned sector of the New Class which asserts the priority of its own cultural concerns over the purely technical and bureaucratic. It is thus the evolutionary, Fabian ideology of a kind of secular priesthood, primarily therapeutic and morally revitalizing in its basic intentions, rather than political.

The other end of the spectrum is represented by Noam Chomsky, who views the new class as entirely subservient to the old. [39-42] But Chomsky ignores the dynamics of the contradiction between subservience and aspiration to power. Chomsky is himself an elitist, a moralist who demands higher standards of its elite, a member of the New Class with a longer-range vision. Even their opposition is feigned and conceals base motives—practical calculation rather than morality—and capitulation to the system. Gouldner thinks this is contrary to fact.

I don't find this analysis of Chomsky convincing on its own terms. An examination of the contradictions in Chomsky's position may well be in order (his abstract libertarian idealism vs. his own academic position and behavior in the field of linguistics, perhaps), but Gouldner has little to offer here.

(Note reference to Randall Collins, 108-9)

Thesis 7 is about educational institutions and social control. Universities reproduce and subvert the social order.

Thesis 8 defines the fundamental fault lines of the New Class, split between (1) intelligentsia (technical specialists), (2) intellectuals (cultural, critical, hermeneutic).

Here is another instance of the way Gouldner stumbles over Maoism:

Maoism was essentially an effort to avoid the resurgence of the old line bureaucratic officials and of the technical intelligentsia of the New Class. But the intelligentsia is the more rational elite, increasing both social productivity and social understanding, and now China is liquidating the "cultural revolution" and opting for the New Class. Distilled to essentials, Maoism was an effort to strengthen the bargaining position of the working class (including the peasantry) in its inescapable, forthcoming negotiations with the New Class. For its part, and unlike Maoism, Stalinism was a profoundly regressive force because it sought to subordinate the technical intelligentsia to the most archaic sector, the old bureaucratic officialdom.[53]

Here Gouldner fails to specify what he acknowledges in an earlier essay on what kind of elite the Maoists represent if not these factions. Gouldner is curiously schizophrenic on Maoism.

The Culture of Critical Discourse is radicalizing. [59] Trotsky is representative of the CCD's tendency never to rest on one's laurels. [60]

The New Class depends on free access to communication. [64]

Several sources of alienation of the New Class are detailed. The fourth source of alienation of the N.C. is its commitment to totality [65-6].

Student rebels are the product of N.C. parents [70].

The family dimension of alienation is also mentioned [74], i.e. it is not so that only are the children alienated, but one family member may carry the rest of the family into rebellion, or otherwise the family may evolve a project or tradition of rebellion.

Thesis 13: Dilemmas of Marxism and the Vanguard Organization

Marxism has led a double life, promoting theory while denigrating theorists. This conceals the elite origin of the theory, under cover of the ideology of the unity of theory and practice. "Marxism is the false consciousness of cultural bourgeoisie who have been radicalized." [75] "Marxism has always been suspicious of the native culture of the proletariat—for their lack of a CCD." [76] The vanguard organization came in to being to manage the primacy of theory and distrust of theorists. The vanguard party mediates between the New Class and the working class (and/or peasantry). The vanguard mobilizes and educates the working class, protects itself not only from its enemies but from its working class allies and from the tendencies toward opportunism or sectarianism, and radicalizes and transforms part of the New Class, exchanging its protections for the ensuing dangers confronting its converts. [77-8] There is then an inherent ambivalence toward intellectuals: the vanguard party inculcates obedience and discipline, which means limiting the discourse that makes intellectuals who they are. [78] The vanguard solves the problem of extracting intellectuals from the control of mainstream institutions, subjecting them not to the control of the proletariat but to the control of other resocialized intellectuals. 'The Vanguard Party has certain churchly qualities, and C.L.R. James once called them "proletarian Jesuits."' [p. 79]

The vanguard is divided into two elites, first and second class. The full time functionaries are the first class. The vanguard enters a precarious position once it has captures state power, as Russia and China demonstrate. The dynamic at work involves New Class, vanguard, and state. Each strives to maintain some autonomy, but they are embroiled in contradictions. The state tends to swallow the first and then the second. [79-80] The Leninist vanguard is tied to the politics of underdeveloped countries. The vanguard in the developed countries is Gramscian. [80]

Given the contradiction between the New Class' devotion to the Culture of Critical Discourse (CCD) and the vanguard, why would its members join the vanguard? First, there is a tradeoff; second, the New Class is contradictory; third, many intellectuals do not see any sacrifice of autonomy in joining the vanguard, until they have learned the hard way. [81-2] (Eurocommunism is a minimax solution to the contradiction.)

Thesis 14: The Flawed Universal Class

The New Class is the most progressive force in modern society and is a center of whatever human emancipation is possible in the foreseeable future." [83] The various features of its progressive outlook are outlined. However, the New Class does not mark the end of domination, but a new stage. Their theoretical attitude biases them towards rule-governed procedure and its rationale, i.e. ritualism and sectarianism. [84] The self-editing nature of its discourse bears negative tendencies as well as positive: "Unhealthy self-consciousness . . . stilted convoluted speech, an inhibition of play, imagination and passion, and continual pressure for expressible discipline"—generating a new source of alienation. The New Class is both emancipatory and elitist.

The New Class pretends to embody rationality and justice, power and goodness, generating both instrumental reason and Jacobin moralism. The New Class' political skills are weak because of its CCD. The solution to this weakness is Marxism, under the banner of the unity of theory and practice. "If in some respects Marxism goes beyond CCD, in others, it falls short of it. Marxism is critical discourse retained as a sword against the status quo, against the old class." [86] But in abandoning the CCD and gaining power, it loses the capacity for self-understanding.

The monied class is inherently unstable. It has lost all legitimacy and is bolstered only by its productivity, consumerism being the only legitimating factor. [87-8]

Thesis 16: Consolations for a Dying Class

Gouldner makes the now-startling claim: "The old moneyed class is dying." [89] And: "The old class in the United States is without doubt the most powerful old class in the world;' yet it is dying." [90] Several statistics are adduced, including the flow of foreign capital into the USA.

The old class is also dying in the Soviet bloc. The political basis of detente is the alliance between the centrist Brezhnevists and the New Class, against the Stalinists. [91]

Now read this:

From the American side, detente was grounded in the split within the Republican Party. This split was made public at its 1976 convention, where the most politically backward and less educated sections of the old class rallied to the standard of Ronald Reagan. His appeal was most especially to die-hard, anti-communist small businessmen, farmers, ranchers, who are most hostile to the "long hairs" and "theorists" of the New Class. Gerald Ford's victory against Reagan spelled the final defeat of Cold War Communism in the Republican Party by those sectors of the old class in large-scale late-capitalism most allied with the New Class, as well as by many in the New Class itself." [92]

Keep in mind that this book was published in 1979, a quarter-century ago, in the midst of deep national pessimism, the year before the election of Ronald Reagan, the Roosevelt of fascism. If things looked like this (at least to Gouldner) in 1979, yet the historical outcome proved to be so different, what does this tell us about the forces at work and what had to be done to keep the system going?

Ding dong, the witch is dead!

Postscript: The bibliographical note (an essay) at the end of the book naturally lists the sources Gouldner draws upon, which additionally gives some picture of the evolution of the concept, with more commentary by Gouldner. Marx is characterized as the last of the utopian socialists. The progenitors of the concept are Bakunin and Saint-Simon. (94) Weber, Veblen, Galbraith, and Bell contributed to the analysis. Maurice Zeitlin is skeptical of the tradition. (95) James Burnham is of course cited as well as George Orwell's contempt for him. (96) More contemporary figures are Andre Gorz and Harry Braverman. Of course, the existence of the USSR was a turning point in analysis as well as history. I am not familiar with one of the earliest critics, Waclaw Machajski (99). Bukharin was concerned about the problem. Trotsky marks another turning point. Tony Cliff's theory of state capitalism is referenced. Also Peter Meyer, Adam Kaufman, Milovan Djilas of course, and many others. Althusser is judged to have got it wrong. [99] Others of interest: Lewis Corey, Bourdieu, Alain Touraine, Castoriadis, Lefort, Benda, Naville. Helmut Schelsky and Irving Kristol thinks intellectuals are evil and powerful, Kristol because of their opposition to the free market. [101]

_________________

"The goal of Stalinism is to make yourself anonymous."
    — R. Dumain to Jim Murray, 6/28/03

5-6 June 2004

—> bibliography


Gouldner, Alvin W. Against Fragmentation: The Origins of Marxism and the Sociology of Intellectuals. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

It's a shame I lacked patience for this book circa a decade and a half ago. I suppose I still lacked the intellectual experience at the time to follow through, having gotten irritated at the beginning at what I presumed the book to be about. Thumbing through it now, I see that I would still analyze some of the tensions Gouldner sees differently (e.g. the struggle between Bakunin and Marx, the alleged contradictions in Marx's views). However, as this sort of analysis was still relatively novel in the 1970s (when this work was written), and given what Gouldner was trying to do, which was not hackneyed as I presumed it to be, I should be forgiving. And little did I suspect that the very last paragraph would be so in tune with my preoccupations of the last decade.

This book belongs to an argument which died with the '70s. Gouldner himself died in 1980, the year of Ronald Reagan's election, and did not live to see the falsification of his predictions. This book repeats many of the preoccupations of his trilogy "The Dark Side of the Dialectic" , but with varied themes and a rich body of diverse material to think about. Parts of the book are infuriating and wrong-headed, others are disturbing, others are more easily acceptable. Never a dull moment, though.

The final paragraph of the book stunningly resonates with my own concerns. But it is also contradicted by other arguments in the book. The Achilles heel of the book is Gouldner's peculiar apologia for Maoism. Anyone who would excuse Maoism deserves a good beating, but it is Maoism's nihilistic rampage against culture which Gouldner sees as a radical assault against the new class, reflecting an unprecedented reflexivity for Marxism, inaugurating a stage beyond Marxism, which Gouldner argues throughout the book is the false consciousness of a flawed universal class, the "new class" of technical and humanistic intelligentsia seeking liberation from the rule of the monied class.

Now I think I'm remembering why I was infuriated with Gouldner over a decade ago, when I first read the book. Gouldner does not limit his attribution of the new class to third world Marxism, the Third International, or even the Second International, but takes it all the way back to Marx himself (following in the footsteps of Saint Simon). Gouldner analyzes Marx's own political practice, beginning with his confrontation with Weitling, to prove that Marx himself was a prisoner of new class ideology. Gouldner goes so far even to validate Bakunin as the first critic of the new class and essentially the first Maoist. As obnoxious as this is, the unflattering portrait he paints of Marx should not be ignored.

Gouldner's generalizations about Marxism reads like a caricature at times; perhaps it is intended as such. Marxism is through and through the elitism of the new class which aims at its own rule even when preaching the self-emancipation of the working class. I can't help but thinking that Gouldner here is reflecting his age and a limited conception of Marxism, filtered through his experience of both the Old and New Left. One cannot deny that most of what passes for Marxism historically really does reflect the mentality of the New Class; however, Gouldner's schematic presentation, however sharply it drives home its analytical framework, is not entirely convincing, and fails to dig deeply enough into Marxism beyond the ideological veneer Gouldner seeks to demystify. There is an unaccountable gullibility in a person who would see through so much yet be snowed by the likes of Bakunin and Mao.

Gouldner also shows the other side of Marx, as a consultant to the revolutionary movement, one who far preferred to spend his time in the British Museum working on his studies and most of the time avoided like the plague any entrapment in a leadership role in political organizations. (The fight against Bakunin was an exception to Marx's general practice.)

Marx and Engels should have understood from their own German experience the revolutionary potential of the educated classes. Part of their misunderstanding was due, argues Gouldner, to the shift from Germany to England as a base of operations and analysis. Intellectuals dominated the revolutionary movement in Germany, but in England during the time of the Chartist movement, the educated were backward and the relatively uneducated forward-looking. And as England became the model for the expected socialist revolution to grow out of the advance industrial capitalism, before subsequent developments complicated the situation, Gouldner suggests that Marx and Engels were the last of the utopian socialists—like the latter, the former came too early. Marx's materialist assumption, that being determines consciousness, and his rebellion against idealism and the naive Enlightenment concept of the autonomy of consciousness, also blinded him and served to obscure the role of theorists in Marxism. (10-12)

Marxism also required that the proletariat submit itself to the "tutelage of theory", but how to make that possible without advocating submission to the authority of theorists? Marxism develops a double ambivalence, towards intellectuals on one hand, the working class on the other, hence a suspicion not only of traditional intellectuals but of working class intellectuals and autodidacts. Marx betrays his assumptions in his critique of Hegel when he says that philosophy was to be the head of the revolution, the proletariat its heart. (12-14)

Gouldner addresses the need of intellectuals for a power base, and suggests that when a selected historical agent fails to fulfill its role, then they may go shopping around for a new historical agent. In our time that could be blacks, migrant workers, students, just as in the past the proletariat replaced enlightened despots, the volk, the industriels or the intelligentsia itself as the historical agent (23-4). Shopping for historical agents goes back to Plato and Aristotle (24-5). Gouldner suggests that when the "heart"—the intellectual's historical agent—gives out, the intellectual may go in search of a heart transplant.

This is one example of how Gouldner places Marx and Engels in the lineage of the New Class, ideologically as well as materially. These are all considerations worth making, and perhaps seemed revelatory to Gouldner in the late '60s and throughout the '70s, when Marxism awoke from decades of Stalinist stagnation but also had to confront new manifestations of radicalism such as the New Left, new social movements, Maoism, and third world anti(neo)colonial revolution. Still, Gouldner abstracts out of Marx, as presumably Marx's successors did, just those aspects of Marx most conducive to the New Class perspective, ignoring the bulk of his theoretical structure and political practice in the process. Hence, while these alleged blind spots of Marx and Engels are worth considering, I am wholly unconvinced that they can be shoehorned into Gouldner's New Class argument. I think that Gouldner is largely correct about what Marxism became and what is left of it today. However, Gouldner's zeal in addressing the lack of self-consciousness in Marxism, which theoretically at least should hardly be scandalous, is too hasty in generalizing about Marxism, which also has a history of self-criticism, however marginalized much of that may have been.

Gouldner summarizes the culture of critical discourse (CCD) (30-3).

German idealist criticism of alienation is based on the Subject's frustration in attempting to control the Object world. The critique of alienation presumes the subject's right to control the universe. It is, according to Gouldner, "humanistic imperialism" (34) This is not an ideology of the poor and starving, but of the new class. (34)

Marxism the ideology of the technical intelligentsia, liberating the forces of production from their constrained relations. It is also a critique of the neoclassicism of the old intellectuals and the bounds of its metaphysics. Culture, morality, and consciousness are now seen as derivative. Man is now seen as a creature of action and struggle. (39) Also, the old conceptions of hierarchy and division of labor were attacked, which means the old culture of intellectuals, by the newer ideologies of scientism and romanticism.

Marxism incorporated both elements. Its synthesis expresses a cultural framework for the social unification of both wings of the New Class, its new scientific and technical intelligentsia, on the one side, and of its older humanistic elite, on the other, providing an ideological basis for overcoming their emerging division.

The scientistic and the romantic elements both contained a critique of the new bourgeois elites. Romanticism regarded the bourgeoisie as philistines, while scientism regarded the technical intelligentsia as uniquely possessing the culture appropriate to industrial society. Indeed, in both cases—if for different reasons—the advocates of scientism and romanticism each looked upon themselves as the very incarnation of modernity. If the attack on intellectuals' old culture undermined their integration into society and the old class system, both scientism and romanticism fostered distance from even the new bourgeois elites, expressing intellectuals' sense of their superiority, and their conviction that the future belonged to them. Insofar as Marxism is a synthesis of romanticism and scientism, it is a synthesis of the vanguard ideologies of intellectuals and technical intelligentsia, facilitating their political unity. [40-1]

Leninism in power was all about increased productivity and the utilization of the technical intelligentsia [44]. Statistics support Gouldner's contention that after destroying the autonomy of the intelligentsia in the purges, Stalin brought them back in and discouraged any disparagement of the new Soviet intelligentsia. [45]

We again return to Gouldner's ambivalent take on Maoism:

Marxism's ambivalent grounding in the status interests of intellectuals came into pointed conflict with Mao's cultural revolutions. Indeed, these cultural revolutions are to be understood as in part a confrontation with the New Class as it emerges under Marxist hegemony. Unlike any other Marxism in power, Maoism determined to bring intellectuals under control and subject them to a radical egalitarianism. In the process, however, the contradictions of rationality itself—which Marxism shares with Western culture—were also acutely intensified and fearfully exhibited. Maoism provided a weird glimpse of the potentialities if not the prospect of that rationality. In short, rather than being an altogether Asian eccentricity, we may think of Maoism as having explored the limits of our own rationality.[46]

Gouldner immediately explains the ambivalence:

The rationality in which the permanent revolution of our time is grounded is a self-contradictory, self-confounding structure. Its voice is the voice of universal equality, but its hands are the hands of a new elitism. Insofar as a Marxist socialism embodies this rationality it also partakes of these contradictions. It is both constrained and obligated to affirm equality: constrained by the need for the political mobilization of masses and for its own legitimacy, obligated by reason of its own rationality. It is also constrained and obligated to affirm at least certain forms of rationality as not altogether identical with equality: constrained by the exigencies of creating a technologically productive and administratively efficient new society, obligated by its own commitment to rationality to recognize and reward intellectual worth, thus generating new social hierarchies.

It is precisely as this tension-filled ambivalence in Marxist socialism mounts that a socialist intelligentsia at last begins to become problematic to itself and becomes aware of its own social situation. The problem of socialist alternatives becomes sharply posed at the concrete level: either Scientific Marxism, a bureaucratized and prudent social system that acknowledges and differentially rewards differences in competence, thus undermining the promise of equality; or, Critical Marxism, an uncompromising commitment to a full equality of rewards, comforts, and daily life styles for all, thus threatening administrative efficiency, economic productivity, and political survival. At this point, there is a mounting temptation to sever the ancient Western fusion of power and knowledge—of a governance grounded in knowledge. Here, a limit is reached that cannot be transcended without contemplating the abolition of the very social stratum that has historically reproduced that norm, the Western intelligentsia, and the academic institutions and dialectic that reproduce them.[46]

Gouldner believes neither in taking Marxists at their own self-evaluation nor in being cynical about their motives. A third alternative is deepening Marxists' self-understanding and hence their potential for rationality. [48]

Moreover, the New Class is not just another exploitative master. The essence of the radical intelligentsia's political mission is the removal of obstacles to societal irrationality. Their ideal interest is rationality, in comparison with which economism and consumerism are vulgar. [48-9]

. . . . And yet, there remains the New Class's own elitism and insistence on privilege, legitimated under the principle, From each according to his ability, to each according to his work. Resting on a commitment to productivity, Marxism accommodates to the New Class's rejection of equality. More than other Marxisms, Maoism had an eye for the dangers to the revolution arising within Marxism itself, and recognized that these had a social infrastructure in Marxism's alliance with the New Class.

As we have seen, then, the successive waves of Mao's cultural revolutions were an offensive mounted less against the old bourgeoisie than against the Communist Party and its fusion with the New Class, against the traditional privileges of the intelligentsia, and against the educational institutions through which the New Class routinely reproduces itself. Much of the point of Mao's cultural revolutions, then, was directed against the new cultural bourgeoisie whose economic grounding was not in money but in human or cultural capital, education, involving the private enclosure of the culture commons, and whose emergence Mao sought to block. Although at this time the story is far from ended, it now seems that Mao has lost, that his cultural revolutions and their changes have been liquidated, and that Chinese Marxism, too, has allied itself with a resurgent New Class.

Marxism, then, lives on two levels: at one, it is a revolutionary materialism suspicious of theory and intellectuals, and opposed to the old capitalist order on behalf of the working class's self-emancipation. At another increasingly visible level, however, Marxism is committed both to the power of ideas to change the world and to the pursuit of productivity. Both these latter commitments open Marxism to intellectuals and intelligentsia, to a rationality that premises all speakers are equal, but which also demands that those who are intellectually superior—in their contributions to truth or to productivity—deserve superior rewards. In this, in all of it—in the goals and in the privileges offered those achieving them—Marxism converges with its sworn enemy and has secreted within itself part of its adversary's culture. Even "permanent revolution" was begun by the bourgeoisie. The ultimate meaning of the revolution en permanence was, however, interpreted by the Maoists as requiring a critique of the Communist Party itself and brought Maoism to the brink of transcending even Marxism. Maoism, then, was that Marxism on the verge of liquidating itself on behalf of an uncompromising equality.[49-50]

At this point, Gouldner's caricature loses credibility, once again in his treatment of Maoism. He fails to account for the motives of the Maoists, or for that matter of the anarchists, in their nihilistic leveling. Furthermore, as we shall see, he tacitly accepts this brand of egalitarianism. He continues with an anecdote about a white professor who takes a black child bewitched by science to laboratories in Cambridge, whose mother can barely contain her hatred of scientists. This is what Gouldner takes to be the egalitarian proclivities of the underprivileged. I don't believe it. But here is what he writes before and after this anecdote:

Unlike the New Class, Maoism was eager to say with Gracchus Babeuf: "Let all the arts perish if need be, if only we have true equality." Yet only those who have not paid close attention will fail to notice that the surfacing of the near hysteria against culture on behalf of equality is today by no means a uniquely Chinese or even a Marxist peculiarity. The public defacements of great art in recent years in Amsterdam, Rome, and the Philippines tell their own story. The Bakuninist project of the liquidation of culture is currently reborn and legitimated by the quest for equality." [50]

Signals grow clearer that a period of the moyenne durée (which began with the industrial revolution) may be ending; that a new culture of material scarcities will require a redefinition of all previous conflicts, that strains will intensify irrationalities, and that the support for material welfare once joined with support of culture, may have been but a temporary alliance. The Marxist pursuit of socialism was never intended as the achievement of material welfare alone. Although it premised that the latter was necessary, Marxism was also ultimately grounded in the Enlightenment's project, and the human emancipation it sought fused both material welfare and enlightenment or culture. The signals now being received, however, may well forecast an end to the infinite economic progress Marxism more than tacitly premised; this then spurs the growth of irrational hostilities to culture, so that both pillars of the Marxist project of emancipation are in peril. [51]

This perspective is completely unconvincing to me, but it does remind me of Jimmy Carter's stagflation era and the entropic sense of social collapse that possessed the nation and I think much of the world at the end of the 1970s. The aura of austerity hangs over this argument. The hostility to culture that actually mushroomed in the 1980s was not coupled with any sort of leveling, but just the opposite, more like the hostility of Hitler and Mussolini. I don't believe for two seconds in the slightest affinity of cultural nihilism and egalitarianism.

Furthermore, though Gouldner has a novel take on the relationship between scientism and romanticism, I think he misses something about the dialectic of rationalism and irrationalism in the modern world. He fails to account for the irrationality of elites whichever pole they swing towards. (C.L.R. James had a great argument, which I can't readily locate.) Like Nazi Germany, the USA's ruling elite is in the grip of reactionary modernism, a commitment to technological and economic growth combined with an irrational metaphysical perspective. Here as with scientism, the technocratic organization of means is coupled with the irrationality of ends. The difference lies in the direction of the master ideology. Is Rumsfeld more irrational than Macnamara? I think this is undeniably so, even though the latter, now chastened, was irrational as well in his prime. There has been a complete collapse of rational accountability and regard for consequences. Others I've spoken to among Washington bureaucrats have confirmed my suspicions. This is a ruling class in an extremely decadent phase.

In the mid-19th century, the German ruling class discovered that the welfare state could serve as a means of social control and adjunct to the warfare state. This went along with the ideology realpolitik and "blood and iron", forming a popular materialism. Marx's materialism was grounded in this popular materialism widespread among the middle classes. Lorenz von Stein also recognized class conflict and came up with his own conservative version of popular materialism. (64)

Gouldner also sees the relation between the conception of "interests" and materialism as a source of false consciousness. There is a sense of the pre-givenness of interests, but this also conflicts with the norms of rational discourse. Hence the opposition between sections of an intelligentsia committed to rational discourse against the dominance of bourgeois material interests. But even the proletariat's interest in immediate material benefits may distract it from its long-range historical mission. Hence Kautsky and Lenin are committed to a higher rationality. Marxism accepts popular materialism, but only as a starting point. Marxism uses popular materialism against sentimentality, but only as a way station to a higher perspective, reinterpreting through the perspective of new class intellectuals, ultimately transcending both popular materialism and the CCD. (64-7)

This is very clever, but I believe a rather serious misunderstanding of Marx, if not of his successors. There is both insight and caricature in Gouldner's portrait of Marx(ism). Do you get a sense of this as well? Let's continue.

Gouldner further explores the relations between everyday materialism and Marxian materialism, centering around the relationship between the tacit and the articulate. Marx's drift must be understood technically not only in relation to the evolving materialism within the Left Hegelian tradition (e.g. Feuerbach), but also with respect to everyday vulgar materialism. Marx's irritation with the temper of idealism can be seen in his earliest manuscripts, e.g. his 1835 reflections on choosing an occupation, wherein he acknowledges both ideal and material demands and the conflict between them. (67-9) This is part of the paleosymbolism that Gouldner will later analyze.

My feeling about this is that while it is very clever to look for such social undercurrents underlying theoretical commitments and shifts, this analysis betrays a vulgar sociologism in Gouldner characteristic of his profession. I think he's got it wrong about Marx, though he addresses one aspect of Marx's disillusionment with philosophy towards the end of his Young Hegelian period. Yet Marx's disgust with idealist delusion, expressed in his graphic analogy philosophy/reality = masturbation / sexual intercourse, was a rather minor aspect of his thinking. It is a stage which Feuerbach, on the other hand, never grew out of, even coining in the 1850s the famous phrase "man is what he eats."

Gouldner sees a positivistic orientation in the 1844 manuscripts, part of Marx's paleosymbolism, the articulation of a need not so much proved as felt. "Articulate theory or ideology is a liberation of a structure of belief and symbolism alienated within the theorist; in short, theory-making is in part a recovery and a liberation of the theorist's suppressed self." (70) This is a fruitful idea for further application, but frankly, I think its application to Marx is contrived. Gouldner caricatures Marx as if he were just another Marxist, but I don't think Gouldner really gets him.

Marx splits popular materialism into two parts, dividing its positive from its negative aspects. There are paleosymbolic as well as explicit elements, associated with the positive (industrialism) and negative (capitalism), which also include the symbolic resonances of masculine vs feminine and gentile vs. Jewish. Marx refines materialism by spiritualizing it. (73) Marx is quite selective about his portrayal of the role of Jews in modern capitalism. Marx equates Jews completely with the sphere of commercial circulation, i.e. hucksterism, and downplays the role of the capitalist in the rational organization of modern industry. (78) But Marx also sees the commercial corruption of the system not only within the sphere of circulation, but within the sphere of production itself. This is the Marx of 1844. But Gouldner suggests this tendency did not disappear in Capital (79ff). Marx's animosity towards the capitalist system is in its money-making aspect; Marx's animus against commerce is an irrationally motivated component of his system associated with anti-Semitism (83).

Again, this is an interesting theme to pursue with respect to the early Marx, who is immersed in the struggle as an idealistically inclined individual grappling for the first time with very non-idealistic material realities. This is what Gouldner is getting at in his analysis of popular materialism. Yet it is highly unconvincing that such a trope could govern the construction of Marx's evolved theory, which is anything but an expression of romantic anti-capitalism.

Gouldner analyzes the capitalist separation via wage labor of public and private spheres, which enhances efficiency but also results in a loss of control over spheres of social reproduction unless the system adapts including via expansion in a totalitarian direction. Marx sees a conflict between efficiency and profitability (84-5). For Marxism the liberation of the forces of production and efficiency become dominant, and private property alone becomes the enemy. However, private property is only one aspect of capitalism. The exclusive focus on private greed and huckstering ignores the other side of the insatiable lust for capital accumulation and productive efficiency. The removal of private profit may only accelerate the despotic, exploitative tendencies of capital accumulation, as can be seen in state socialism. (87) Without exactly using the term, Gouldner is here talking about state capitalism. It is the Soviet system and all of its clones. But Marx attributes this way of thinking to Marx himself. He fails to give any real evidence for this attribution, however.

Intellectuals vs artisans & standpoint epistemology

Chapter 5 is "Artisans and Intellectuals: Socialism and the Revolution of 1848". This is about the relationship between theorists and the organizations they seek to use as their instruments. Gouldner, however, has a more complex view of theorists and organizations. Each has a life of its own, and each depends on the other. So it is not the case that the organization serves merely as a vehicle for the theory. [90] Marx's relationship to the organizations he created or influenced is the story of this chapter. Gouldner finds Marx's behavior in relation to people and organizations revealing of his class position. The first case is the struggle between Weitling, who distrusted intellectuals, and Marx, who humiliated Weitling for his theoretical inadequacy. Gouldner also describes the leading role that artisans (as opposed to the industrial proletariat) played in the 1848 revolution. Marx stigmatized artisans yet his view of the revolutionary proletariat was grounded primarily in his experience with artisans [105]. Intellectuals also played a leading role in the German revolution. Together the two groups took the lead, but were inimical to one another. Artisan organizations also had their brand of exclusionary politics. The theoretical character of Marxism can be partially explained by the defensive position in which intellectuals were placed. [115] There are several citations of Marx's hostility toward artisans and the petty bourgeoisie, which suggests to Gouldner not the power of these groups but their competitive position in the sphere in which intellectuals operated. [118] (Freddy Demuth, Marx's out-of-wedlock son, himself became an artisan.) Marx and Engels developed exclusionary tactics against competing intellectuals in the name of proletarian self-emancipation. Examples of competitors to emerge include Dühring and Wagner. Engels had similar concerns with groups of intellectuals in a radical political party in 1890.

The second example is the Communist League in the 1848 revolution, in which Marx attempted to forge a coalition between workers and artisans on the one hand and the middle classes on the other. The middle classes would have their interests handled first, then the working class would have its revolution. This was revolution-in-permanence. It was an ambiguous compromise. New competitors arose out of the Communist League, Andreas Gottschalk and August von Willich. Marx replaced the secret society form of organization with his newspaper as its new center, which he ran like a dictator. [123]

There ensues an interesting treatment of the controversy between Marx and Gottschalk in which Marx argues for the priority of the bourgeois revolution and the necessity of coalition politics, and Gottschalk accuses Marx of indifference to proletarian suffering and poses the question why should it sacrifice itself for the bourgeoisie. [125]

A glance at the footnotes (e.g. p. 309 #76, where Gouldner casts doubt on Draper) reveals concern over the spin that Marx biographers put on Marx's actions.

Gouldner sees the "permanent revolution" as an historic compromise. While Marx argues generally for the material preconditions of socialism, but in dealing with the German revolution in March 1850, Marx injects a note of voluntarism while maintaining the priority of the bourgeois revolution [131]. Gouldner analyzes in some detail the theoretical and practical dynamics of Marx's conception of revolution. This, I think, is far more interesting than Gouldner's usual engagement with Marx's theory and shows off Gouldner as a sociologist in the analysis of Marx's political practice.

In sum, the priority of theory and the scientific conception of socialism is bound up in the rivalry between intellectuals and artisans, where theory privileges the outsiders, e.g. the intellectuals (138). This is a counter-claim to the artisans' claim of insider privilege: it takes one to know one. Gouldner's concern is not with the intellectual validity of purported epistemological privilege, but on the social function of such claims. [139] Marx objectively recognized his position and ended up basically as a consultant to the workers' movement.

Gunnin' for Bakunin

Chapter 6: Marx's final battle: Bakunin and the First International

Marx resolutely declined leadership positions and remained immersed in his studies for 14 years, before getting involved with the I.W.A. [142], which brought to the fore once again a two-pronged battle against artisans and rival intellectuals. Bakunin was a revolutionary intellectual who provided the theoretical justification for the exclusionary attitude of the artisans (144).

Bakunin did not limit his opposition to the proprietary class but included also the intelligentsia who would wield their intellectual and cultural capital as the basis of a new abuse of power. [148] Bakunin was not simply an anarchist. Bakunin lauded Comtean positivism [149], rejected however Comtean's priestly scientific elite [150]. Gouldner sees Bakunin an as underappreciated original thinker. Bakunin is seen as combining the elements of Hegelian dialectic and the master-bondsman struggle, Marxism, Darwinism, and Nietzscheanism [151].

Bakunin, prefiguring Mao, proposed the liquidation of bourgeois culture and civilization, hostile toward scientists though friendly towards music (e.g. Wagner) [155] . This is redolent of the doctrine of Babeuf, who was also obsessed with the privileges of cultural capital and allied himself with artisans [156]. Bakunin's cultural nihilism contrasts remarkably with Marx's relishing of high culture. Miraculously, Gouldner finds an affinity between Bakunin and the Frankfurt School including Habermas [158].

Bakunin's materialism is voluntarist, though Bakunin rejects free will [160].

Paul Thomas is seen to perpetuate Bakunin's reputation as advocate of the revolutionary nature of the lumpenproletariat. Bakunin recognized the historic role of the peasantry as well as the proletariat [163].

Bakunin is the advocate of revolution by destruction, the precursor of Western critical Marxism (Lukacs, Gramsci, council communism). [168]

Chapter 7: Marx vs Bakunin: Paradoxes of Socialist Politics

Bakunin was defining for Marxism. Gouldner spells out the Marxian conception of politics, differentiating Marx's strategic engagement with parliamentarism vs. Bakunin's ultra-revolutionism. Gouldner codifies 16 rules of Marxist politics [178-9]. Contra Bakunin's liquidationism, science and technology are protected from ideology critique in Marx, thus leaving room for the role of intellectuals and intelligentsia [183]. As discussed elsewhere, the Leninist conception of professional revolutionaries facilitates the transition for intellectuals from their old role to new [184].

Gouldner summarizes the alleged positive contributions of Bakunin [186]. Marxism and Bakuninism are not simple adversaries, but mutually interpenetrating [187-8].

Enter once again Maoism:

Both Castroism and Maoism are more uninhibited movements in the direction of a voluntaristic socialism. They also go much farther than Leninism in their correspondingly greater reliance upon the peasantry. This is especially the case with Maoism and its repeated "cultural revolutions" which sharply accelerate Marxism's convergence with Bakuninism. This increasing world drift of Marxism toward a less economistic and more voluntaristic theory has more usually been called a "Critical" Marxism, when found in Western Europe. Critical Marxism has, therefore, seemed to some, such as Merleau-Ponty or Perry Anderson, a distinctively "Western Marxism." This, however, misses the point of the greater political success of Critical Marxism in the Third World. In these less industrially advanced countries, Critical Marxism's reliance upon the peasantry has been even greater and its convergence with Bakuninism even more obvious. In Asia—including Czarist Russia—and other less-developed regions, Scientific Marxism's insistence upon a prior industrialization made it seem irrelevant and generated apathy and passivity among revolutionaries who did not want to spend their lives making a bourgeois revolution. To use the resources they did—i.e., to rely on the peasantry and countryside rather than the city—to pursue a program of revolutionary militance at once, revolutionaries in the Third World moved toward a Critical and away from a Scientific Marxism. This shift suggests that there was a potential mutual transformability of Marxism into Bakuninism. Each might, under certain conditions, become the other. [187]

To identify Bakuninism, Maoism or third world revolution with Critical Marxism would be criminal, were it not so ludicrous.

Part III: back to theory

Part III marks a return to theoretical issues. Gouldner spots what is for him a fatal contradiction in Marx: the creation of Marxist theory by a non-proletarian contradicts the Marxian formula 'being determines consciousness'. This is quite a stupid assertion and illustrates Gouldner's tendency to fall into caricature.

Althusser began in an effort to work his way out of this impasse. [193] There is a tendency, manifest in Therborn, to repress questions of the social explanation of Marxism's origin among the intelligentsia. Althusser's view of the epistemological break is essentially a romantic voluntarist view of science. Furthermore, it doesn't square with the facts. Lenin had a more accurate view, esp. in recognizing the multiplicity of Marx's sources. [197]

Marx's originality

Gouldner has an interesting take on Marx's originality:

But Marx does not make this concept [productive forces] "his own" simply by relating it to other technical concepts already developed within English political economy. Indeed, had that been his direction, he would have been assimilated indistinguishably into political economy. Rather, and as Goran Therborn notes, Marx develops the concept of the forces of production uniquely because he moves outside of political economy and links it with his critique of German philosophical idealism: "It [forces of production] plays a part in a polemic against idealist theories that see society as constituted by a certain 'spirit' or culture." The forces (and relations) of production become the materialist alternative to the Geist, as the driving force of evolution. They serve as an accounting for consciousness, or Geist itself, which is now seen to rest (as Marx and Engels remark in The German Ideology) "on the productive potency of men conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these. . . ."

Put another way, Marx's opposition to German idealism centered on the autonomy it bad imputed to the self-developing Idea. At the purely philosophical level, Marx often proceeds by inverting idealism, holding that it is not consciousness that determines social being, but social being that determines consciousness. But on this purely philosophical level, "social being" is an empty, formal abstraction; it is given substance only when "interpreted" in the framework of political economy, where it becomes the forces and relations of production—the "infrastructure." In thus linking philosophy and political economy, Marx is enabled to use each to contextualize the other, and it is precisely this new contextualization that uniquely transforms each of them. The forces and the relations of production then become the basis of an interpretation and critique of the dualistic sociology—centered on the civil society/state relationship—in Hegel's philosophy. The philosophical context situates the forces of production so that it is not only significant for the "wealth of nations" but is now also critical for their system of ideas, consciousness, or culture.

The "forces of production" are thus not only newly interpreted by their new conjuncture with consciousness or ideas; they are also recontextualized by a new conjuncture with the relations of production, most especially with property institutions, of central concern to the Saint-Simonians. (The Saint-Simonian influence on Marx had begun as early as his acquaintance in Trier with the Baron von Westphalen, later to become his father-in-law; with the Trier teacher Ludwig Gall, a Saint-Simonian publicist; and with Eduard Gans, Hegel's successor at the University of Berlin whose lectures Marx attended.)" [198]

Like I always said: historical materialism against geist.

The key transitional role of the Saint-Simonians is also spelled out. And back to Marx's originality:

(1) Marx's creativity is indeed grounded in his mastery of several established, highly developed, intellectual traditions; one cannot imagine Marxism without them. (2) This mastery, however, did not simply entail a knowledge of their technical details but a critical assimilation of them; this, in its turn, is based partly on Marx's capacity to see each of the three from the standpoint of the other two. Each tradition provided a perspective that enabled him to be "outside" of the other two, to see their limits or boundaries, and to see certain potential values in them not readily visible to ordinary participants normally submerged in each specialized tradition. (3) By reason of his simultaneous command of these multiple traditions, Marx is not captured and not limited by the paradigm of scholarship "normal" to each tradition; he can therefore adopt a critical position with respect to the basic paradigms of each of the traditions. (4) Central to Marx's creativity, then, is his unconventional relationship to three established intellectual traditions, his sheer possession of multiple intellectual traditions and their simultaneous conjunction within his own outlook. Marx, then, does not "become Marx," simply by virtue—as Althusser seems to think—of his movement from philosophy to political economy, but only because, in moving to the latter, he does not surrender but takes his philosophical perspective with him. (5) The simultaneous presence of multiple intellectual traditions now constituted a new symbolic context, a re-contextualization, of each of the constituent traditions, endowing each with a changed interpretation and novel meaning. The mystery of Marx's genius, thus, is dissolved by an analysis of (a) the well-developed intellectual traditions which he assimilated critically and commanded in technical detail, (b) by noting their multiple simultaneity and the (c) resultant mutually recontextualizing effect on each component part, and (d) the partial syntheses that had preceded Marx. Note that all this is possible only because these traditions are not "decentered" but are centered within and by Marx. (6) It is especially noteworthy that the process of establishing a new conjuncture of intellectual elements, a new symbolic system, does not begin with Marx confronting atomized elements. Rather, he already has available to him partial syntheses—prefabricated links—so that his own system is a larger synthesis of smaller syntheses: for example, of the Saint-Simonians' synthesis of property with the new technology or forces of production; or the partial synthesis of Saint-Simonian concerns with the Hegelian philosophy formulated by Eduard Gans, a favorite of the young men of Marx's Doktorsklub.

Marxism, then, scarcely comes into being simply with one coupure, or with the singular leap of a great genius. It comprised a synthesis of smaller prefabricated syntheses, rather than of uninterpreted raw materials or intellectual traditions. There was, in short, an ongoing vector of syntheses in which Marx's work was totally immersed, with which it was fully continuous, without which it would have been impossible, of which it was a culmination.

I am now in a better position to formulate my own theoretical position concerning some of the sources of Marx's creativity and, in particular to explain how it (or similar intellectual coupures, leaps, or novelties) comes about. We are now able to de-mystify the notion of the coupure epistemologique, to specify certain of the conditions under which it can occur, which be it noted, is not the same as denying all discontinuity. It is not our intent to denigrate Marx's own great creativity, but to account for it; the object here is not to deny "genius," but to contribute to a sociology of genius. [202-203]

Gouldner goes on to develop a boundary-transgression theory of creativity [204-7]. He also explains why philosophy is so central to theoretical innovation [207]. Gouldner then delves into the deep structure of Marxism [208-12]. The chapter has an appendix on the nature of creativity.

Metaphoricality?

Chapter 9: Enslavement: the metaphoricality of Marxism

This is the most obscure and most dodgy of Gouldner's chapters. He delves into what he calls the paleosymbolism of Marxism. A key to Marxism's adaptability to different environments lies in its metaphoricality. [222] There are iconic, conceptual, and functional bases of metaphoricality at work [224]. The metaphor of enslavement is central, and plays itself out via Hegel's master-bondsman dialectic and subject/object. Gouldner sees Marxism functioning on different levels and develops a paleosymbolic theory of discourse. I don't believe in any of this.

Gouldner mentions Basil Bernstein's theory of restricted and elaborated codes [238].

Recovery

Chapter 10: Recovery: The rationality of Marxism, I

Gouldner analyzes Marx's epistemology and ideology critique. False consciousness involves one's relationship with the whole, whose real character is hidden. He delves again in to the relationship of property to technology by way of Saint-Simonism and the issue of inherited privilege. [250] Intellectuals are the ones socially positioned to resent the blockage of productive potential by the system of property. [252] Marxism appeals to both the humanistic and scientific wings of the New Class [253]. I made a note of historical necessity and sacrifice, but that's all I've got. There are positivist latencies in Hegel and Marx, as well as progressive tendencies within positivism, among other things, undermining the cognitive authority of privilege (metaphysics). Positivism accepts the authority of reality but not of persons within it. Positivism was anti-dogmatic and anti-authoritarian, living in a transitional world until its progressive character broke down in alliance with the strong against the weak. Marxism took the opposite tack. [258-60] Marxism's breakdown was implicated in the dialectic between necessity and (unnecessary) suffering. The recognition of necessity sets a limit to sympathy.

Chapter 11: The rationality of Marxism, II

In Marxism, rationality becomes subordinate to emancipation. [264] Marxism involves a fusion of positivism and Romanticism. [268-271] Again the vehicle is French Saint-Simonism, where the two blended. French and German Romanticism were then different, because the Germans responded differently to the experience of fragmentation given their state of affairs. Hegel's master-bondsman dialectic echoes Greek classicism, but adds to it. The achievement of labor is the consolation for defeat in battle. Marx changes the equation by prioritizing struggle over labor. [273]

Gouldner then offers a very important section on holism and epistemology. Hegel's whole is unified culturally by the Geist [what Althusser would call expressive totality—not mentioned here]. For Marx, it is material forces and relations of production. However, as Gouldner rightly points out, Marx does not exalt the economic as a factor Marxism is not a factor model; it is a holistic model with the holism interpretable in different ways. The factorial model is vulgar sociology and economistic Marxism. If philosophy is lost, Marxism becomes just another specialized social science. [274-8]

Gouldner then discusses system vs. totality [279-81]. System tends toward the mechanical metaphor, totality the organic. System-thinking tends toward the isolation of factors and strategic action; holism impedes praxis. The former tends toward rationalism, the latter towards mysticism.

The next intriguing section is on intellectuals as functionaries of the totality [281-3]. System works on integration by way of the special sciences, even creating new special sciences who specialize in integration. This belongs to the technical intelligentsia, whereas totality analysis belongs to boundary-transgressing humanistic
intellectuals. The search for totality is an historical process: "The process is the outcome of the secularization of German philosophy's evolution from God to Geist and from Geist to 'totality.' [282[ This is the hidden place of the sacred in secular society.

Chapter 12: Dialectic of recovery and holism

Gouldner begins with a discussion of Parsons and Weber. Weber is seen as post-Marxist, recovering what was lost in system thinking, recognition of the moral factor without losing sight of reality. [286]

There is a danger of discontinuity and amnesia: don't forget the superstructure, y'all. [289]

On the other hand, there are dangers to holism, [290] the outcome which may be a paranoiac state apparatus. It was naive of Marxism to assume that selfishness could be eliminated by eliminating scarcity [291]. The problem was never definable as selfishness and Marxism failed to recognize that the ideology of the absolutism of class interest is that of the New Class. [292]

Some of this is irritating, but for those whom the shoe of caricature fits, they should wear it. I'm still not sure what is meant by the dialectic of holism and recovery.

Finally, Gouldner outlines a program for a rational social theory, with attention to avoiding the pitfalls lying in wait:

(1) centering on hostile information
(2) the critique of normalization
(3) the critique of establishment-credited definitions of reality
(4) the social situation of the community of theorists (a) capacity to achieve consensus on internal relations, (b) ability to maintain distance and tension with respect to society at large & especially its hegemonic elites. (This is the situation of both political vanguards and universities.)

And I end where I began, with the final paragraph of the book.

There remains so much to say about this book. There are so many annoying aspects to it, which must also be analyzed on a deeper level; however, there is also a richness of content not to be found in too many other places. I'll return to this analysis another time. For the moment I must call it quits.

5 April, 11 April, 13-14 June, 20-22 June 2004

—> bibliography


Notes & Commentaries on Works About Gouldner & His Ideas

Note: Here I detail selected literature of particular interest on Gouldner himself or work inspired by his ideas. (27 June 2005)


Disco, Cornelis. "Critical Theory as Ideology of the New Class: Rereading Jurgen Habermas," Theory and Society, vol. 8, no. 2 (Sept. 1979) 159-214.

I have never met a person interested in Gramsci I didn't despise. Gramsci himself might not be at fault here, as the real issue might be the ideological use he is put to when transplanted to a very different historical context. But I've always been suspicious of the obsession with organic intellectuals. The author reviews Gramsci's view of intellectuals and critically focuses on Gramsci's take on traditional intellectuals. A class seeking power has to assimilate and conquer the traditional intellectuals, which it can accomplish more easily through detachments of its own organic intellectuals. Traditional intellectuals might have been organic in a previous stage of history. They have ties to the past as well as ties (covert or overt) to forces in the present.

Now if this tie is at all substantial, is there any difference between the organic intellectuals of a class and the traditional intellectuals who are thus 'tied' to it? In what way does their relationship to the class differ? How are they related to each other? In what way . . . do these intellectuals have a life apart from that class? [162]

The author suggests that Gramsci's view is distorted by his revolutionary priority to figure out how to subvert the ideological monopoly of traditional intellectuals and subordinate theory to practice. [163] He then goes on to analyze the class position of traditional intellectuals, their place in the division of labor and their possible relations to class struggle, including the ramifications of the need to secure their pacification. Organic intellectuals, though, are primarily functionaries:

. . . they apply theory. Traditional intellectuals are ideologists and creators of world-views; they make theory. [164]

I once made an attempt to get a clarification on this possible distinction to a Gramsci scholar, who stared back at me blank-faced . . . in keeping with just the kind of person he is. All Gramscians carry the soul of Stalinism within them. There are no exceptions.

While Gramsci is admittedly sensitive to the nature of class alliances, he neglects the need for independence of the traditional intellectuals.

it is just this independence which accounts for Gramsci himself and which allows one to distinguish the organic intellectuals of a class from the traditional intellectuals allied with it for a longer or shorter period. [165]

Disco affirms what I long suspected about Gramsci but couldn't get a straight answer about: Gramsci's view implies the abolition of an independent intelligentsia, which is only an obstacle to the formation of an intelligentsia organic to the revolutionary proletariat. [165-6] Disco calls this a bourgeois synthesis. He also questions how an emancipatory organic intelligentsia of the revolutionary proletariat could come about. How did the bourgeoisie manage to produce its synthesis of organic and traditional intelligentsia? Herein Disco, borrowing from Alvin Gouldner's conception of the culture of critical discourse, finds the foundations of the New Class.

Continuing:

The original zenith of the New Class occurs when technology, as a derivative of experimental natural science, is integrated into capitalist production. Preceding that phase is a rather long gestation period which begins in the Enlightenment. During this time, the internal connection between scientific experiment and routine technological control is explored and applications to, e.g., gear design, bridge building, chemical industry, and armaments are tentatively explored. All this, however, is fully dependent on the original project of the Enlightenment, i.e., the scientizing of theory, the substitution of natural law for religious law.

Theory and the Culture of Critical Discourse. The Enlightenment was an effort of the western traditional intelligentsia to liberate itself from religious domination and to establish control over its own speech. It was also, from the point of view of the bourgeoisie, the "pacification" of a traditional intelligentsia to the end of achieving political power and cultural hegemony in the many remaining bastions of the ancien regime. Both intelligentsia and bourgeoisie had a world to win. The terms of "pacification" were the development of "value free" scientific theory and a doctrine of natural rights elaborated into bourgeois political economy. In return, the intelligentsia could look forward to freedom from censorship, a developing public for which to write books and articles, and an enlarged labor market in teaching, science, and the state. I am not, of course, suggesting that an exchange of vows took place with any great degree of consciousness or that either natural philosophy or the political ambitions of the bourgeoisie were a product of the Enlightenment alone. The latter period may be characterized, rather, by an almost fortuitous conjunction of these two processes, a conjunction in which science became political and politics scientific. Both intellectuals and bourgeoisie came to see each other as means to their own ends, a mutual admiration only crudely captured by the term "pacification."

Nonetheless, the term is apposite insofar as it expresses a kind of "censorship" or "containment" of critical energy. The sort of censorship at issue here is not of a political or religious kind; it is not that censorship whose willful breach has cost numerous heroes of free discourse their fortunes or their lives. This kind of censorship results at best in repression of intellectuals, not in their engagement for a cause, not in "pacification." The latter requires the transformation of linguistic practices and may be understood as "epistemological self-censorship." To be sure, the abrogation of political and religious censorship is absolutely essential to any healthy and functioning intelligentsia, and is therefore a primary goal of enlightenment itself. Yet freedom from censorship guarantees only free criticism; it says nothing about the dominant "modes of reasoning" and styles of theory grounded in them. The latters' specific form also limits discourse and binds theory to a given social formation and to the fates of specific classes. [pp. 167-8]

This is how I see the rise of empiricism: a pacification of the revolutionary potential of the scientific revolution.

Disco goes on to discuss the peculiar norms of theoretical production and communication. I don't think his invocation of Wittgenstein's language games adds much to his discussion of the culture of critical discourse, but there it is. A lengthy discussion ensues, capped by the observation that "large-scale and public critique of a 'mode of reasoning' cannot be contained within the sphere of theory." Ultimately, the epistemological question may be settled by violence. [171]

I want to reproduce the next two sections on "philosophy and science" and "danger":

Philosophy and Science. The Enlightenment proper did not yet exhibit the critique of "metaphysics" that emerged with industrialism. The tenor of the times is captured by Kant, known chiefly as epistemologist and philosopher of ethics, though himself reportedly most enamoured of his earlier work in "natural philosophy." The latter discipline was regarded merely as that branch of critical discourse—closely tied to observation and experiment to be sure— whereby Nature might be known; just as philosophy, the exercise of critical reason in general, illuminated a human world in the long shadows of religious dogma. But there could be no mistake: Kant's laborious argument for the existence of the synthetic a priori was intended to establish the primacy of critique over any specific "mode of reasoning." And critique, conceived as the settling of boundary disputes between diverse "modes of reasoning" was felt to be the proper task of philosophy alone. It was therefore around the banner of philosophy, which proclaimed the dominion of critical reasoning over all belief and practice, that the Enlightenment intelligentsia consolidated itself. It wanted to be, and almost thought it had become, a freischwebende Intelligenz. Natural philosophy had its rightful piece of the action, and was no doubt even then fraught with possibility; but only that and nothing more. The Enlightenment philosopher, a gentleman of refinement, artistic sensibility, and classical learning, also engaged in "scientific discoveries" as a matter of course — as it were, to complete his knowledge of the world.

Insofar as philosophy, therefore, assumed a critique of religion, it could be supported by the bourgeoisie as an attack on the hegemony of the ancien regime. The intellectuals, on the other hand, could certainly support any class combatting the feudal order, under whose ideological repression they had already suffered much. Moreover, the bourgeoisie's accession seemed to promise individual liberty of conscience and freedom from public censorship, not to speak of equality and fraternity. But victory is the death of the united front, and the bourgeoisie's sometimes spectacular, sometimes gradual, achievement of political power by virtue of its control of capital enabled it, in the end, to explore its very basic differences with philosophy, and philosophy its differences with capital.

The critique of philosophy as "metaphysics" entails the true "pacification" of the intellectuals at the hands of the bourgeoisie and marks the beginning of the contradictory existence of the New Class. Though its history has yet to be written, the latter's initial emergence is shaped by the bourgeoisie's increasing domination of all labor markets and its increasing ability and willingness to subsidize the curricula of schools and universities according to its own lights.

Two aspects of philosophy are displeasing to the bourgeois mind: 1) It is dangerous; it has no sense of decency, and is at once critical and capable of mobilizing publics around alternative utopias (philosophy produces ideologies like socialism and Marxism). 2) It is useless; it does not contribute to productivity and certainly does not improve returns on capital. But that part of philosophy which had subjected itself to the peculiar discipline of observation and experiment seemed to kill both these birds with one stone: it was both immanent, wanted "Just the facts, ma'am," and it promised a handle on Nature's mysteries, a growing need as capital became increasingly dependent on manipulating nature, rather than merely buying it, selling it, and moving it around. Natural philosophy thus became one of the horses to which the bourgeoisie hitched its golden wagon.

Danger. The "mode of reasoning" of natural philosophy, which later becomes codified as "the scientific method" by philosophy itself, rests on restricting telling statements in the language game of "defending and criticizing theory" to a very small field of observational discourse. Scientific theory, whatever the interests underlying its formation, must allow criticism based on matters of public observational fact ("public" here, of course, referring only to duly credentialled practitioners). On the other hand, scientific discourse censors all statements which do not have, or do not point to, such a basis. Even the increasingly abstract concepts of twentieth century microphysics, such as Quarks possessed of "charm" and "flavor," are either based in a solid matrix of observational proof or else predict a class of observations from which their truth may be deduced. At least, this sort of thing passes for "truth" in natural science. Some of these chains of reasoning may be long and obscure, but their existence is nonetheless essential to maintain the thin line between science and metaphysics. Theoretical discourse which cannot, in principle, be constituted from such empirical reasoning is ultimately censored. Observation and experiment are thus necessary and sufficient to justifying scientific theory.

Science is therefore immanent theory; it describes and explains what is (and perhaps how it got that way, and what might happen on the basis of previous experience in the future) but it absolutely censors normative or aesthetic statements which suggest how things should go in order to be more ethical or beautiful. The language game of "defending and criticizing scientific theory" therefore promotes a new censorship of critical discourse parallel to the religious censorship which preceded it. This particular censorship, which rejects all talk of "the good" and "the beautiful" thus appears to side with philosophy against religion, but in reality puts forward its own program to restrict critical discourse anew, this time to matters of fact instead of the Pope or Holy Scripture. Clearly, such a program seeks to disable philosophy's potential for moral and aesthetic criticism by suggesting that the only true theory is immanent theory and that politics and ideology belong to a nether realm of "metaphysics"— on a plane with rabble-rousing, rhetoric, and eristics.

This program, which would recensor the critical potential of the Enlightenment under the aegis of enlightenment itself, is the essence of the bourgeois "pacification" of traditional intellectuals. It is a project amplified by the internal connections of scientific theory to what has become known as technology. [171-4]

This is just how I see empiricism.

Observation by itself, however, exhibits only what Nature haphazardly displays, surrounded by a lot of "noise"; hence the method of controlled experiment was introduced and science developed the potential to feed technology and industry. The reigning conceit science was fueled by careful observation and experiment alone was discombobulated by Thomas Kuhn. Disco ties this into the culture of critical discourse [175]. The integration of theory and practice and via the integration of science, technology, and production matures only in the late 19th century, but there lies the bridge between material production and the culture of critical discourse. [176] Science forms the bridge between the bourgeoisie and traditional as well as organic intellectuals. Scientists and technocrats become pacified, at least to the extent of going along.

But in addition to the technical intelligentsia, there are the cultural intellectuals, who form the other wing of the New Class. Their home is the educational system, particularly the university, where "dangerous" and "useless" knowledge may persist, and unpacified traditional intellectuals may rear their heads.

Disco finds Marx's and Engels' view of the role of intellectuals as ideologists deficient. [179] Marx and Engels allegedly repress the independent contribution of theory to revolutionary consciousness thereby masking their own central contribution. (This is reminiscent of Gouldner's view.) Disco prefers to view "classical ideologists as cultural intellectuals committed to a specific historical class because they define it as an agent of rationality. " [180] Hence they keep one foot in the hegemony of the chosen class and on in the culture of critical discourse. Hence ideology is the ideology of the championed class plus the ideology of a partly autonomous intellectual stratum. This is straight out of Gouldner.

St. Simon vivifies the "scientism slumbering in classical ideology." St. Simon gives rise to Auguste Comte. Neither they nor their latter-day equivalents such as Daniel Bell and John Galbraith are technological intellectuals themselves; they are traditional intellectuals. [182] Scientism rejects speculative philosophy, but it also rejects politics. Philosophy and politics are replaced by science and social technology; the ideology of the organic intelligentsia is formulated by traditional intellectuals. Disco accounts for the discrepancy between France and Germany in familiar terms. The purveyors of the "German ideology" are traditional intellectuals advocating rationality itself as a progressive historical agent. But Marx and Engels see the necessity for a concrete historical agent for rationality and hence a politics and not merely a "science." Hence the illusions of the intellectuals have to be punctured by Marx and later Gramsci. [183] But Disco sees things somewhat differently:

But the politics of idealism may also be stated in a positive fashion as an adumbration of the culture of critical discourse as a public adjudicator of truth and morality. It is therefore a more radical ideology of the intelligentsia than scientism because it does not limit itself to the instrumental rationality of the technical intelligentsia, that is, technocracy. Idealism's claim is that rational discourse is prior to science, that one must first get his ideas straight before being able to evaluate empirical knowledge about the world. Significantly, also, idealism always defends the relative autonomy of the moral and normative realm against the claims of science, and so places ethical and aesthetic discourse on an independent and, again, prior footing. This is as true for Kant as for his Hegelian Aufhebung.

If this is an ideology of the traditional intellectuals and presages their utopia, it also reflects their fundamental alienation from material history. German idealism reflects the power of a New Class devoid of social allies or a technological wing; it is the power of pure critique. Such as it is, it is limited to the constitution of new theoretical totalities and the construction of the world as a rational world. . . . [183-4]

Relegated to inaction due to German backwardness, German idealism is the last holdout of traditional theory, to resurface in the next century under drastically different conditions as the Frankfurt School. Critic theory's program is essentially, though not explicitly, an ideology of the traditional intellectuals. [185]

Habermas qualifies the pessimism of the preceding generation, exposes its philosophical anthropology, and strips away its mystification:

The program [of Habermas], grounded in critical discourse and prescientific theory, is nothing less than an elaborated ideology of the traditional intellectuals.

This is a program to extend the hegemony of the New Class as a whole over not only the technical dimension of bourgeois society, but over its normative dimension as well. The completion of the latter project, of course, in which the traditional intellectuals specify ethical ends as the industrial organic intelligentsia have specified technical means, would mark the transcendence of capitalist society as such and the institution of the hegemony of a transformed New Class. This class, liberated from its deforming alliance with the bourgeoisie, is now whole again. Here the Hegelian unity of subject and object is achieved as the traditional intellectuals become at once the subject and the object of human emancipation. With the aufhebung of the bourgeois form of knowledge, the contradiction between practical and instrumental reason is also overcome: discursively established ethical ends now guide the application of equally ethical instrumental means. [186-7]

Whatever the merits of this anthropology, its purpose is clear enough: to wrest the suffocated remains of moral-normative interaction from the grip of a procrustean materialism which compresses it into the "mode of production" and which sees the normative superstructure as determined (in the last instance) by the 'organization of social labor. But the anthropological exercise only provides ammunition for the major attack, which reconstitutes a theory of social evolution in which neither labor nor technical knowledge is determinant, but which requires the growth of practical knowledge to establish a new social formation on the crisis-ridden ruins of the old. Instead of "mode of production" as the key concept of such a theory, Habermas advocates the notion of "organizational principle."

Continuing:

Habermas sees historical development as fundamentally dependent on a collective learning process (i.e. historical development in the sense of evolution, not merely social change); this has implications for his epistemology as well. His earlier development of the categorical Kantian separation of practical and instrumental reason (adapted also from Marcuse) obviously fits into the anthropology and theory of social evolution Habermas is advocating. By thus integrating his basic epistemology with an anthropological analysis of "human nature," which then gives rise to a theory of social evolution, Habermas creates the illusion that his a priori determination concerning the autonomy of practical reason is only an empirical generalization from the historical and anthropological evidence. In fact, of course, what energizes these moves is Critical Theory's a priori interest in human emancipation. What is not immediately evident, however, is the complicity of this emancipatory interest with the history and future of the traditional intellectuals, specifically its tendency to factor out previous "agents of rationality" such as the proletariat and the technical intelligentsia. [p. 188]

The historical agent of the learning process in question can only be, argues Disco, traditional intellectuals. [190]

But Habermas' demystification of the proletariat as a universal class an sich is also a mysterious demystification. He lifts the lid on Marx's own ideologized faith in the proletariat (through which Marx hides his own participation in the project) by implying that some extra knowledge must come from somewhere else, but slams it down again when an image of the New Class threatens to materialize. In order to constitute the emancipatory knowledge interest as humanism, that is as a truly universal interest, Habermas must take care not to associate it with the special interest of any specific social stratum. We may say that the ideological kernel of Habermas' formulation of social evolution is the abstraction of knowledge from the concrete social conditions of its production. This constitutes the deep level of his continuation of the idealist project. [191]

Habermas' view of science and technology derives from Marcuse, Adorno, and Horkheimer. Rather than concocting some new, liberating science and technology a la Marcuse, Habermas accepts scientific/technical knowledge within its own proper sphere. "Habermas' predictable solution is a critique of the violation of boundaries, a critique of the extension of instrumental reason to the domination of humans and the consequent repression of practical reason." [192] The technocratic ideology becomes the normative principle of state regulated capitalism. Disco gives a fuller discussion of this theme and references Legitimation Crisis. In 1968 Habermas is looking toward the students as uniquely placed to serve as agents of emancipatory interest. There are several more pages on this and Habermas' critique of Marxism and attempt to specify the relationship between economic base and superstructure. In state regulated technocratic capitalism, it becomes "possible for economic crisis to emerge as a rationality crisis." [199]

From the system perspective, that is, from the viewpoint of the technocrats burdened with steering the economic substructure, the legitimation and sociocultural systems appear as limits to technical rationality. Habermas theorizes this by specifying meaning as a necessary, but scarce resource; meaning is created in socialization in the life-world and is the infrastructure of system-sustaining motivations which allow and move persons to contribute to the system. The problem with meaning is that it is not only scarce, but administratively nonproducible. "There is no administrative production of meaning," says Habermas. [199]

Technocrats do not influence the normative realm.

But who, then, does have such influence? The answer to this question ought to project the outlines of a new historical dialectic in which one of the protagonists, at least, is the organic intelligentsia, the locus of system "consciousness." The other protagonist, to o'erleap the argument, turns out to be the cultural intellectuals - now devoid of all displacements and masks, appearing in a disembodied form as the culture of critical discourse itself. Habermas' new historical dialectic, his reformulation of the forces - relations of production dialectic if you will—is a struggle between the two major sections of the New Class: the organic versus the non-"pacified" traditional intellectuals. The reason that Habermas ought to be the enemy of "true" Marxists is now abundantly clear: in place of the class struggle he has substituted the internal dialectics of the New Class.

But this is a hidden ideological substitution because cast in terms of system and life-world and not in terms of the polarization of the intelligentsia or social strata specific to the rule of capital. The structure of the life-world is depicted only as a linguistic form. The traditional intellectuals appear here only in terms of the speech culture they share, that is, the culture of critical discourse founded in the logic of justification and critique. (Correspondingly the organic intellectuals appear in the social system only in terms of the logic of instrumental crisis management). A brief discussion of Habermas' theory of the discursive redemption of validity claims ought to show the homology between it and the culture of critical discourse in which all intellectuals are ultimately grounded, but over which contemporary cultural intellectuals claim a fiduciary guardianship pro tempore. [Pp. 199-200]

More on this, then the ideal speech situation, the transcendental norms of ordinary language, and moral argumentation.

In this way, Habermas has framed the normative world in a rhetoric of justification which parallels the frame in which natural science has organized the world of nature. In Legitimation Crisis we are shown a normative science, and the rules of its "mode of reasoning," through which a late capitalist society may adjudge and adjust its normative structure on the basis of the expression of generalizable interests; or obversely, criticize it for the degree to which it normalizes the pursuit of narrow partial interests and prevents communicative generalization. This project is striking for the degree to which it repeats the theme of the previous sections, namely the insertion of practical reason into the dialectic of history.

And who now (and not in some ideal future) participates in "moral argumentation" at the societal level? Who now is communicatively competent (mundig), supplied with sufficient information and decoding skills to carry on the practical Diskurs? Who now has the means, mental and material, to engage in the establishment of discursively justified behavioral norms? In the terms of the argument presented here, the answer can only be non-"pacified" traditional intellectuals. As a pithy reviewer of Legitimation Crisis remarks: "The good society appears here as a professorial nightmare, a babel of deliberative gobbledygook." [203]

More of this, then a description of Habermas' critique of the ideology of compromise as suppression of "potentially generalizable interests." [205-6]

Habermas advocates a politics of the New Class, but of a New Class which has overcome the self-alienation of reason consequent on its gestation "within the womb of the old society." The division of intellectual labor which the requirements of capital acquisition originally force on the intelligentsia (and under which terms it achieves its initial, though blemished, class formation) must be repudiated in order for it to achieve anything like its Reformation. And if I am correct, Habermas offers himself as that class' Luther, while traditional intellectuals are to become a synod of the morally astute, seeking to reestablish the balance of Reason in favor of "Old European Thought." They thus concretely stand in opposition to organic intellectuals and scientists insofar as the latter seek to maintain the equilibrium of a system which militates against discursively established norms of behavior based on generalized interests.

The new historical dialectic has thus become that between the two wings of the New Class, sundered and placed in opposition by the class interests of the bourgeoisie. It is the historical task of the traditional intellectuals—if I interpret Habermas correctly—to desuppress at least the generalizable interests of the intelligentsia and to make whole what capital has rent asunder. As a prophet of reason-to-be-restored-to-itself, Habermas girds himself for the coming struggle around the new organizational principle, in which the New Class develops a moral sense and a practice at last adequate to its technical mastery of nature, man, and politics. Such a hegemonic New Class, in Habermas' vision, can only establish the normative structure of its society on the basis of a true consensus, that is, a truly rational politics based on practical discourse; a politics which will suit the technical action to the ethical word. [206-7]

All ideologies conceal their interest structure from view and hence from rational discursive justification. Critical theory as the universal cure for all ideology, must show itself to be above suspicion. Habermas does this by creating in neo-Platonic fashion a theory of universal pragmatics.

Having now coupled "human nature" to his program for achieving "positive freedom" and the critique of ideology, Habermas seems to have scaled the heights of Teutonic philosophical untouchability, at least to his own satisfaction. For good measure, he covers his rear by asserting that his is a "tentative structure of general hypothesis" which must be empirically substantiated. Yet how can the "universal presuppositions of human interaction" possibly be empirically substantiated? Or tentatively advanced? Habermas oddly dissimulates his theoretical hubris by kowtowing before the shrine of empirical science! Nonetheless, he speaks with great weight and certainty of "transcendental" speech ethics and "universal" pragmatics. How is this more than mere idealist tinsel on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Austin and Searle are surely no warrant for universal truth, nor does the logic of Habermas' investigation impose any kind of Kantian analytic (thus tautological) conclusions.

The truth of the matter reveals itself by the remarkable convergence between what Habermas identifies as the universal basis of human interaction (the presupposition of discursive justifiability of validity claims) and the ideal interests one would assign to a stratum of traditional intellectuals (the uncensored deployment of the Culture of Critical Discourse). The particular, in the manner of Habermas' forebears, is once again generalized, only Habermas now claims linguistic instead of logical universality. There is, therefore, no serious basis on which Habermas can claim to have transcended ideology.

At a deeper level, Habermas' critique of distorted communication and his claim to stand beyond any suspicion thereof, rests only on an almost medieval quest for purity. He is the last of the knights-errant seeking the Holy Grail of heavenly discourse among its sullied earthly keepers. . . . [209]

Disco's conclusion:

But Habermas only uses Marxism to establish the primacy of the interactive sphere, and then goes on to argue that today's agenda cannot possibly include anything like struggle, politics, or even ideology in general. Hewing to Marxism as a formal scheme, Habermas utterly rejects its practical or political dimension. Habermas' "humanist Marxism," which has really thrown out the baby with the bath water, also seems more credible by virtue of the anti-capitalist and anti-state tenor of his theory of Legitimation Crisis and his critiques of scientism and of politics. But this connection misses the fact that Habermas rejects Marxism (as an ideology) for precisely the same reasons he rejects the emancipatory potential of parliamentary politics or state reform: namely, they do not transcend the distorted communication inherent in ideological or instrumental justification of normative structures.

By playing all these critical cards, however, Habermas has succeeded in gathering in a wide range of "alienated intellectuals" behind a quasi-Marxist, quasi-radical, program to reestablish critical discourse as the final arbiter of human differences and dispositions. All ideologies are suspect, which means that all class "pacifications" which sully the purity of intellectual discourse must be rejected. Pure critique must go it alone and resist dissolution in communicatively distorted politics or in projects to seize an always suspect state power. [210]

Disco discloses in a footnote that this article was very much influenced by his reading of Gouldner's The Future of Intellectuals and the Rise of the New Class, which he saw in manuscript and was published in 1979. A quarter-century has passed. In the interim, Habermas' key works on communicative action and other topics appeared in English and the Habermas industry has advanced considerably. Gouldner never lived to see his fantasy that the New Class would displace the old monied class shattered by the Reagan counterrevolution. (Gouldner claimed that the 1976 presidential election was Reagan's last gasp.) I do not know, however, what kind of influence Gouldner has now, nor do I know whether anyone ever paid attention to Disco's view of Habermas and the New Class. Anyone who has engaged a Habermasian for more than 60 seconds must realize that they are New Class to the bone and instinctively exclusionary of all who don't fit the profile. However, such an observation cannot pass as a critique of Habermas' philosophy itself. I think the New Class schema helps to explain a lot of what goes on in the intellectual world and in the left, and especially in both combined (which is worse than each separately), so I think the idea should be followed up on.

30-31 May 2004

—> bibliography


Alvin Gouldner on the New Class & the Culture of Critical Discourse

"Theory and Ideology" by Alvin Gouldner

Alvin Gouldner on Intellectuals & the Social Totality

Romanticism and Classicism: Deep Structures in Social Science by Alvin Gouldner

The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology: The Origins, Grammar, and Future of Ideology by Alvin Gouldner

"Prologue to a Theory of Revolutionary Intellectuals" by Alvin W. Gouldner

"Stalinism: A Study of Internal Colonialism" by Alvin W. Gouldner

Jeff Schmidt on Ideology and Professionals

Ideology Study Guide

The Philosophy of Theory and Practice: Selected Bibliography

Positivism vs Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) Study Guide

Philosophy and the Division of Labor: Selected Bibliography

Reflexivity & Situatedness Study Guide

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

Off-site:

The Two Marxisms by Alvin Gouldner

Slow Thoughts for Fast Times: Why Mills and Not Gouldner by Charles Lemert
(Fast Capitalism, 1.2, 2005)

Disciplined Minds


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