[lit-ideas] Re: how true dr Wager

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 4 Nov 2011 08:06:48 -0700

I didn’t respond at the time of Dr. Wager’s note because he moved the 
discussion from “Utopianism,” which Communism as well as Postmillennialism 
portended, to happiness and social improvement.  These are worth discussing, 
but they aren’t what we had been discussing.  Marx did describe a historical 
mechanism that would inevitably move us all toward socialism and then a 
withering away of the State.  After that we would have our Utopia which would 
embody a nearly-perfect social arrangement.  Like Bellamy described in his 
Looking Backward, 2000-1887, we would have such natures that we would all give 
to society whatever our abilities equipped us to provide and take only what we 
needed.  We would almost all do this.  There would be almost no cheating.  The 
miniscule number who cheated would stand out like sore thumbs and be shipped 
off to the hospital to have their “sickness” cured.  


Postmillennialism describes a time when the Holy Spirit will have changed the 
bulk of mankind so that they “won’t cheat,” but what in a materialist sense is 
there to effect such a change?  I don’t believe there is anything.   And if 
there isn’t there is no reason to believe that the men who live in this and 
future societies “won’t cheat.”  


Now as to Social improvement and an enabling of greater happiness, he did 
propose social improvements like a shorter work week but we obviously didn’t 
need Socialism for that.  What did he propose that was peculiar to Socialism?   
I haven’t the impression that Marx had a very good grasp of that or what would 
produce happiness. Once a group attempted to carry out his doctrine in a 
practical sense, the human nature we all have asserted itself and everyone* 
cheated. The result was the tyrannies we saw in Russian and Eastern Europe.  


The cleverness of Liberal Democracy is that it assumes that everyone cheats and 
sets up checks and balances accordingly.  The President cheats so he is 
countered by the House and Senate.  Congressmen and Senators cheat so they are 
countered by the Supreme Court.  People on the Supreme Court cheat as well so 
the cheaters of one side try to get their people in to counter the Justices 
appointed by the other side. It assumes that everyone will break the law unless 
they are threatened with punishment . . . although this cleverness has been 
severely weakened by Utopian Socialist and the like who think that the human 
nature of criminals can be improved through education.  The threat of 
punishment has been replaced by the threat of rehabilitation.  


*Disclaimer:  When I say “everyone cheats” I have Bellamy and Marx (after the 
withering away of the state) in mind.  One can leave one’s door unlocked, leave 
valuables in plain sight; walk safely in lonely places at night without fear.  
Today that isn’t possible, not because everyone will take advantage of you, but 
someone will.  The number who will is so large that it is safest to assume that 
“everyone cheats.”  I was watching P. D. James Devices and Desires last night.  
Dalgliesh discovered one of the murder victims so the Chief Inspector who knew 
Dalgliesh perfectly well and respected him, questioned him as though he might 
have “cheated.”  We do not have societies in which we can safely assume that a 
Dalgliesh will not commit a murder.  Dalgliesh in turn was not offended by the 




From Adriano Palma
Sent: Friday, November 04, 2011 6:11 AM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] how true dr Wager

>>> John Wager <jwager@xxxxxxxxxx> 11/2/2011 5:50 PM >>>
Lawrence Helm wrote: 

. . . .Postmillennialism envisions this improvement in human nature to be 
accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit.  Marxism envisions this 
improvement to be accomplished by Socialism.  Atheists will argue that there is 
no Holy Spirit to improve man by changing him in such a way that he more 
closely approximates the image of Jesus Christ.  Very well, I would ask the 
Socialistic atheist, what in a material system is to effect this change?  Marx 
wasn’t specific, but Socialists have had a long time since his death to think 
about it  We have seen Socialism at work in many forms and stages.  Has anyone 
at any time in any place seen the sort of human improvement here alluded to?    

Marx's early work was in part on Aristotle. There is still a lot of Aristotle 
in later Marx, but pretty well buried. The whole idea of "alienated labor" is 
based on a somewhat Aristotelian notion that humans have a natural creativity 
and natural desire to be happy, and they are happiest when they are most human. 
The problem with "labor" under capitalism is that it becomes less and less 
human, more and more a brutal struggle for animal survival.  
(I would recommend the Marx essay on alienated labor, not for its solutions to 
the problem, but for a pretty decent description of contemporary society for a 
growing number of people.)
Anyway, what is "buried" in Marx is that human proclivity to seek happiness and 
human fulfillment, and that desire is probably the driving factor in why he 
says "revolution" will happen. (I happen to think that we will probably muddle 
through, patching up the current model with enough sops to satisfy enough 
people to avoid anything so drastic as to require all of us to start off all 
over again, equally lacking of anything made in the last 500 years.) This does 
not require a change in human nature, just a chance for it to reassert itself.  
It is quite possible to be either a believer OR an atheist and see human nature 
as the foundation for positive social change, without positing either 
millenarianism OR socialism. 
Of course where Marx parts company with Aristotle is Marx's insistence on 
strict material causality in all things, including social change. As a 
materialist and determinist, Marx saw human nature as "inevitably" revolting 
against increasing dehumanization. I think Aristotle would have been more 
uncertain: maybe we will all turn into less than human cretins, maybe we will 
make things better.

Other related posts: