I wrote this text in reply to the article Agriculture: villain or boon companion? by leavergirl on the blog Leaving Babylon:
The question we should be asking is this: what brought about surplus-oriented intensification that began to do away with the sensible and durable lifestyle of our forager/tender ancestors and led an escalating chain of evils up to the present time?"
What most people ignore, is that it is far from being an issue that philosophy ignored. Actually, the most important philosophers of the western world did talk about this, very explicitly.
Marx and Engels, drawing from the heritage of the Presocratics (who should really be called the Antesocratics, because they happened before Socrates and were in no way his “idealogical predecessors”), almost gave their lives to this fundamental question: why History?
These philosophers (esp. Marx of course), being the most well known, also became the most misknown. Nobody actually read Marx or Engels, and everybody think of them as oriented political writers, who they never were. They accomplished the Hegellian historical dialectic, they drew the whole picture of the historical process of Man, and it’s a movement which can be summed up as follows: « Man is Nature becoming conscious of itself. » (quote from Élisée Reclus)
The vision of history they drew is being taken back, more than one century later, by some notably well-known French writers, like Francis Cousin, in some of the darkest political spheres of the French internet. To explain the situation quickly, in France we have a big “shadow web” which consists of more or less radically anti-Establishment sites and authors, who never ever appears in the mainstream media and all gather under the banner of the “Dissidence”. The most popular political site “Égalité et Réconciliation” (equality and reconciliation) is the crossing roads of all these various tendencies. These authors have forever changed the way of thinking of a whole generation of young people and young adults, who now see the forthcoming economical, ecological, social, (in one word:) human disaster civilization is driving us towards. Unified by a common extremely well-develop critic of the modern world (a few authors: Alain Soral (by far the most well-known, a central figure of this shadow movement whose last book Comprendre l’Empire [Understand the Empire] is a best-seller), Michel Drac, Alain de Benoist, Emmanuel Ratier, Pierre Hilard, …), then emerged different points of view regarding the causes. And that’s where Marx and Engels’ Hegellian vision takes all its meaning.
The writings are clear enough, and history has countless times already stated that, just like Heidegger realized in the start of his academic life, “everything has already been written”.
Dialectic is both a conservation and a “going beyond”. Historical dialectic thus is the coming from local communism, to global capitalism towards global communism. History, just like every modern social artefacts, emerged after or during the Neolithic Revolution: writing, religion, the state, art, etc. Culture, in all the depth of its meaning, succeeded to Nature. We can only affirm this because of the countless testimonies which remind us who we forgot we were and still are: Amerindian communities, Dayak people, Inuits, Bushmen, etc. you name it: one century ago, there still existed thousands of these little ethnic group which knew not how to write, no God, no state and no social alienation in the enjoyment of the constant radiance of their cosmic being: in one word like in a hundred, they were Nature itself, and they were this direct relationship towards the cosmos. What the Neolithic brought wasn’t a new historic fact, or a massive change of organization: it was the birth of a new social relationship between beings, which took its root in the object of the commodity, which is the objectification of parts of the universe by its valorization; in other words, Value created the agricultural life, and the modern life, but it only emerged because it didn’t and couldn’t exist inside the community. Indeed, these ancestral communities (who probably more or less all died out by now, expect for one community in the Indian ocean, on the island of North Sentinel) were only local, so when a Pawnee met a Sioux, they fought quite mercilessly – and what happened next was only the prolongation of this evolved behaviour. Value gradually reified the world for the sake of exchange, which needs work, which in turns can only come from human. Thus human exploitation (by work) is the logical result of this evolution, which ultimately towards the “upside-down” world so many, including Marx, talk about: the Nature is objectified, and the objects are naturalized. The Neolithic emerged for exchange, changing the purpose of things from their actual usability (utility value) to their value (exchange value). People become facebook profiles, sex becomes objectification of inert (non-)beings, nature becomes an economic resource, tastes become your identity, your work is your life, you sell yourself like an object to the market, etc. This ultimately leads to the world of indistinction we today now: everything being potentially tradable (including humans), quality no longer exist anymore, and we live in the thriving infinite market of quantity, a borderless, limitless, empty world of commodities. We have become commodities against each other, and we made the world just a bunch of commodity. Nothing is sacred anymore, and the Capital is, in the 21st century, the integrity of our lives. We went from being to having, and that is perfectly materialized when you compared an old Sioux community to people living in a modern city.
This is described in clear words throughout all of Marx and Engels’ work, and was prolonged by many radical groups nobody heard about, Socialisme et Barbarie, revolutionary groups in Hungary, Spain, France, Germany, etc. notable french author Guy Debord (which described The Society of Spectacle: “In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation”) and today Francis Cousin, among others. Understanding the logic behind it can be summed up to the subtitle of The Capital: Critique of Political Economy; indeed, Marx didn’t wish another politics or another economy, he pointed out the essence of the historical process is that of the political economy (for the politics always serve the economy) by describing its fuel, its beginning and, in the third book, its destination. And the conclusion of this historical process is both its end and its end: its termination and its objective, its conservation and its “going beyond”, from local community through global capitalism to global community. Marx wrote the necrology of the Capital and how the fuel which drives it will in the end inevitably kill it; that’s when the “social revolution” happens, and that’s what we’re beginning to see today, throughout the entire world: it’s not just a want for regime change, it’s a deep, human desire for another world (while it’s mostly expressed through imperfect means, it is certainly there).
Today, especially in the USA (for historical reasons), Marx has become the perfect tool of the counter-revolution there, for nobody read him and everybody made him say things and he never uttered: Marx was never a feminist, nor pro-EU, nor pro-immigration, nor did he established any dogma of any sort. He only showed us why these social categories would emerge and what they mean in regards to class struggle; he tells us, for example, that immigration is the need to create a “reserve army” to drive down wages, put pressure on workers, cut production costs and neutralizes potential insurrections from unions. All the people who read Marx’s gigantic work (which takes years) in order and in its whole are unanimous. A revolution, as Marx and Engels state it in the communist manifesto, is always an economic recomposition by the capitalists, whereas the social Revolution of tomorrow will be the conclusion of the historical movement, which also happens to accomplish the true meaning of the word itself: it will be a return to the origins, a “meeting back” with our profound beings; in the same way science is discovering again what we always knew but never needed to intellectualized, it is a return to the self: Man, meeting Man, meeting Nature, again.
I hope I haven’t been too long or obscure. It is indeed quite impossible to talk of a part without evoking the whole, for it is a paradigm-shift, a coherent, self-actualizing whole. Pardon my grammar mistakes if I made some.
If you want further references, feel free to ask.