Productive and Satisfying

England, as Marx was keen on highlighting, is where class ideology and class mentality is and has always been most rigid and stubborn, and in turn the class ideology and class mentality in England has rubbed off on America and other parts of Western Europe to a certain extent. But Marx also admitted that the concept or notion of a “class struggle” was not something he came up with. Rather, it was a concept and notion that long predated his work, but it was nevertheless a concept and notion that he built up and improved. As Marx wrote in a letter: 

“And now as to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove 1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, 2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” 

And if the state is to play any useful role in what are for the most part the economic functions of society given that society is largely an economic unit more than anything else, it is to “moderate” capital’s relations with the rest of society, as Emile Durkheim wrote. As things stand, labor has been rendered dependent on capital, and in turn, the role of the state from a socialist standpoint is to reduce this dependency somehow. As long as this dependency exists, the people – or the “proletariat” – will be repressed and oppressed and in turn can never be free or truly productive. As Noam Chomsky said: “I’ve never seen a child who didn’t want to build something out of blocks, or learn something new, or try the next task. And the only reason why adults aren’t like that is, I suppose, that they have been sent to school and other oppressive institutions, which have driven that out of them.” 

Chomsky added: “Now if that’s the case, then the proletariat, or whatever you want to call it, can really be universal, that is, it can be all those human beings who are impelled by what I believe to be the fundamental human need to be yourself, which means to be creative, to be exploratory, to be inquisitive, to do useful things, you know.” What the capitalist class has done is to bind large swaths of people to work and to occupations which are not “productive and satisfying” and in turn have diverted the energy and resources of society towards tasks and occupations which are largely exploitative and oppressive. And this is where the intelligentsia and media come in, namely, to divert the energy and resources of the society towards tasks and occupations which are productive and satisfying and are beneficial and useful for society as a whole rather than for a small circle or class of profit seekers. As Chomsky said: 

“It’s very important to ask whether [the intelligentsia] are going to identify themselves as social managers, whether they are going to be technocrats, or servants of either the state or private power, or, alternatively, whether they are going to identify themselves as part of the work force, who happen to be doing intellectual labor.”

Chomsky added: “If the latter, then they can and should play a decent role in a progressive social revolution. If the former, then they’re part of the class of oppressors.” As Richard Rorty argued: “The whole point of America was that it was going to be the world’s first classless society. It was going to be a place where janitors, executives, professors, nurses, and salesclerks would look each other in the eye, and respect each other as fellow citizens. It was going to be a place where their kids all went to the same schools, and where they got the same treatment from the police and the courts.” Realizing a “classless society” in America is “the goal which matters most” as Rorty contended. And it matters for a number of reasons, given that the consequences and costs of falling short of such a goal are consequences and costs which many people are not conscious of or aware of until the consequences and costs manifest themselves over the long run. In other words, and for the most part, the repression and the oppression takes place in subtle and unconscious ways.

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