A moderated panel discussion hosted by the Platypus Affiliated Society on the interrelation of capital, history and ecology, held at York University on January 15, 2014.
The Dutch atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen recently characterized the period marked by the start of the industrial revolution in the 18th Century to the present as a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. This periodization is meant to capture a change in the history of the planet, namely that for the first time in history its course will be determined by the question of what humanity will become.
This event will focus on different interpretations of why the Left has failed to deal with the deepening crisis of the Anthropocene through the 19th and 20th Centuries and how and if this problem is interrelated with the growing problems associated with ecological systems across the earth. While Karl Marx would note that the problem of freedom shifted with the industrial revolution and the emergence of the working class - the crisis of bourgeois society that Marx would term capital - the idea of freedom seemed not to survive the collapse of Marxist politics in the 20th Century. We seem to live in a world in which the fate of ecological systems seem foreclosed, where attempts at eco-modernization seem to emerge many steps behind the rate of ecological degradation. For many, degradation of the environment appears a permanent feature of modern society, something which can only be resisted but never transformed.
This panel will consider the relationship between the history of capital and the Left—and thus the issue of history and freedom - and how it may be linked to our present inability to render environmental threats and degradation visible and comprehensible, and by extension, subject to its conscious and free overcoming by society.
Join our "Does Marxism really matter?" on our Facebook event page.
With Pac Pobric, assistant editor of the Platypus Review, contributing editor, 491, contributor, On-
Thursday, September 20
// 7:00 pm
NYU Kimmel Student Center, Room 907
// 60 Washington Square South
There will be free food.
In the mid-19th century, Marx and Engels famously observed in the Communist Manifesto that a ‘specter’ was haunting Europe — the specter of Communism. 160 years later, it is ‘Marxism’ itself that haunts us.
In the 21st century, it seems that the Left abandoned Marxism as a path to freedom. But Marx critically intervened in his own moment and emboldened leftists to challenge society; is the Left not tasked with this today? Has the Left resolved the problems posed by Marx, and thus moved on?
Audio from our last teach-in:
A presentation by Platypus member Chris Cutrone on August 16th, 2011, at Communist University, which took place from August 17th to August 20th, 2011, at Goldsmiths, University of London. Video Credit: Communist Party of Great Britain.
What is progress if not the absolute elaboration of humanity’s creative dispositions . . . unmeasured by any previously established yardstick[,] an end in itself . . . the absolute movement of becoming?
* * *[T]he ancient conception, in which man always appears (in however narrowly national, religious, or political a definition) as the aim of production, seems very much more exalted than the modern world, in which production is the aim of man and wealth the aim of production. In fact, however, when the narrow bourgeois form has been peeled away, what is wealth, if not the universality of needs,
capacities, enjoyments, productive powers etc., of individuals, produced in universal exchange? What, if not the full development of human control over the forces of nature — those of his own nature as well as those of so-called “nature"? What, if not the absolute elaboration of his creative dispositions, without any preconditions other than antecedent historical evolution which make the totality of this evolution — i.e., the evolution of all human powers as such, unmeasured by any previously established yardstick —
an end in itself? What is this, if not a situation where man does not reproduce in any determined form, but produces his totality? Where he does not seek to remain something formed by the past, but is in the absolute movement of becoming? In bourgeois political economy — and in the epoch of production to which it corresponds — this complete elaboration of what lies within man, appears as the total alienation, and the destruction of all fixed, one-sided purposes as the sacrifice of the end in itself to a wholly external compulsion. Hence in one way the childlike world of the ancients appears to be superior; and this is so, insofar as we seek for closed shape, form and established limitation. The ancients provide a narrow satisfaction, whereas the modern world leaves us unsatisfied, or, where it appears to be satisfied, with itself, is vulgar and mean.
— Marx, "Pre-capitalist economic formations," Grundrisse (1857-58)
Recommended background readings:
Cutrone, "Capital in history" (2008)
Cutrone, "The Marxist hypothesis" (2010)
Red Channels and the Platypus Affiliated Society present:
The Poverty of Student Life, a film screening and discussion
Monday, November 23, 7:30 pm - 10:30 pm @ The Brecht Forum, 451 West Street
San Francisco State: On Strike - Newsreel, 1969, 25 minutes
Community Control - Newsreel, 1969, 50 minutes
TOTAL RUNNING TIME: 75 minutes | Digital Projection
Pam C. Nogales C. of the Platypus Affiliated Society
Luz Schreiber of the Committee in Defense of the Children's Learning Center at Hunter College, and Ollin Imagination
Jitu Weusi - teacher, principal, member of the African American Teachers Association, co-founder of The East (1969-1985)
* * *