Rick Salutin heaps a bunch of praise on Saint Noam

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ikosmos ikosmos's picture
Rick Salutin heaps a bunch of praise on Saint Noam

From politics to science, Chomsky motivates us to make the world more livable

... and a little critique to follow. From a dull, plodding orthodox Marxist.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

http://rabble.ca/columnists/2016/03/politics-to-science-chomsky-motivate...

Rick Salutin recently wrote a piece praising "Saint" Noam Chomsky.

Hey, I'm a big fan of Chomsky's efforts in showing how public brainwashing goes on with the manufacture of consent, his analysis of MSM in the Empire, speaking truth to power, and so on. I think Chomsky is the most quoted public intellectual in the world. Which is pretty interesting, given the virtual media blackout of him in the MSM in the US. There is also a famous story of Canadian censorship of Chomsky involving Peter Czoski. Look it up. 

But, C'mon. Just because you like someone doesn't mean that their philosophical views are correct. Even Noam would point that out.

First of all, mind body is no false dilemna. It took a very long history to fight for scientific approaches to the understanding of ourselves. And this is in biology and social science as well. Given the large path that religious fundamentalism still cuts in today's world, I would say as well that that struggle is far from over. Ignorance is now deliberately cultivated.

Yes, it's true that early materialism was mechanical. That's just the state of scientific understanding was at the time. Materialism has moved on. But some are happy to use that as a caricature of present-day materialism, in the same way an adult is mocked for their conduct as a child.

Materialism now is far from the mechanistic, physicalism that Salutin tries to caricature. It was scientists, like socialist Albert Einstein, who showed the infinite variety of forms that matter could take, its transformation , etc..

Quote:
Let me digress to politics for a moment. It seems to me that early leftists, especially Marxists, made a dreadful mistake by embracing "historical materialism," which they saw on the model of Newtonian physics. If you could identify the "laws" of history you could get on its right side and never go wrong -- excusing some hideous excesses in the 20th century. They felt inspired by the natural sciences but it was Newton himself who'd collapsed that very model. As for Chomsky, he's always been a leftist but never that kind of leftist.

This is just flat wrong. Historical materialism was a brilliant attempt to bring some order in the chaos of thinking about social life. In fact, one could say that Marxists were really the founders of social science, based on that. Of course, formulaic and simplistic understandings of social change deserve the criticism they get; a poor Marxist can be as much a blockhead about social life as anyone else. But so too can a bad scientist.

It's certainly not part of the memory of anyone living today. But the state of scientific development in the time of Marx  was that there was no real science when it came to society. The kind of models were "the great leader" theories - men (and it was always men) who incarnated the nation and led the whole society, carrying everyone on their backs. Or, with the more advanced thinking in France, but they were not able to disentangle the riddle: opinions govern the world but social life also determines our thinking. Actually, GV Plekhanov's work, The Development of the Monist View of History outlines all this very well. What the Marxist brought to bear was bringing philosophical materialism to bear on understanding social life, together with the dialectics methodology that they had learned from Hegel, in a radically new synthesis. And the world really hasn't been the same since.

The understanding of society, and of social change, still has a long way to go. And the Marxists, or at least those who call themselves that, have as much to learn as everyone else. But they got the ball rolling and they deserve credit for that. Marxism is now common sense - and to prove that all you need to do is to look at something like the Turner-Mulroney debate over free trade from the 1980's; Turner challenged Mulroney that handing over the economic levers of a country would mean handing over the political levels of power as well. No one doubts that truth. But that's Marxism. We just don't call it that anymore.

So, yeah, good on Saint Noam. But good on the boring historical materialists as well. Hell yeah.  

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

What does your post have to do with Chomsky? So your using him as a loss leader to get people to read your Marxist analysis? weird

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

kropotkin1951 wrote:
What does your post have to do with Chomsky? So your using him as a loss leader to get people to read your Marxist analysis? weird

 

Nah, it's not so much an ideological sales pitch as a critique of Salutin's "drive by" criticism of historical materialism. That's why I put Salutin's name first.

Salutin as a loss leader is a nice touch. I would never have thought of that.

In any case, if there's anything on rabble of interest to me, then I sometimes post a link here on babble and say my two bits about it. Others are welcome to chime in, of course. 

Chomsky seems a bit of a philosophical Platonist to me. I'm more on the other side, Democritus, etc.

It's fascinating how some aspects of philosophical debate endure through the ages, however. The most enduring IMHO is, precisely, philosophical materialism versus philosophical idealism. It's like two creatures tranforming themselves into one thing or another through the ages. When, and if, we finally solve the riddle of humanity then we'll probably solve the philosophical questions as well.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

The only reason I answered your post was because, as I am sure you understand perfectly, calling Chomsky "Saint Noam" is a deliberate slight against him not Salutin. So when people google Noam Chomsky they can see that in this chat room he is a person to be slighted. Thanks for that it reminds me of the thread that is entitled, "Site C: Lets get on with it and build it!"  I cringe every time I see it because it is just so wrong on so many levels.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

Maybe he thought nobody would know who "Saint Rick" was supposed to be.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

kropotkin1951 wrote:
The only reason I answered your post was because, as I am sure you understand perfectly, calling Chomsky "Saint Noam" is a deliberate slight against him not Salutin.

Actually, it's more of a slight against those who idolize anyone. In fact, I probably have more of Chomsky's books that you do.

There's an interesting introduction to Marxist ideas over at TeleSur. For those interested, see Richard Wolff and why Marx has stood the test of time.

 

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
Actually, it's more of a slight against those who idolize anyone. In fact, I probably have more of Chomsky's books that you do.

And more of these than anyone else on eBay.

[IMG]http://i67.tinypic.com/2ag6o1l.jpg[/IMG]

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

ikosmos wrote:

kropotkin1951 wrote:

The only reason I answered your post was because, as I am sure you understand perfectly, calling Chomsky "Saint Noam" is a deliberate slight against him not Salutin.

Actually, it's more of a slight against those who idolize anyone. In fact, I probably have more of Chomsky's books that you do.

So you admit it is a slight just not the worst slight possible. Strange that you would read so much of someones writing that you hold in contempt enough to slight on a progressive website, for apparently no reason at all.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

It's pretty obvious that any critique of Chomsky - even an oblique one criticizing Salutin's drive-by against Marxists - is blasphemy for some. Hence the term, Saint Noam.

How such critiques get translated into "contempt" is interesting.

Slumberjack

Seems to me that a solution to the mind/body problem hardly gets advanced by believing that human nature contains innate, transcendental properties, as Chomsky suggests.  Unless he has disavowed past statements to that effect and has gone after a more scientific view of the problem.

It also seems to me that Marxism or other left leaning derivatives could not exist without an ongoing and thorough engagement with the practicalities of historical materialism, or in other words, in the effects that materialism gives rise to, as opposed to purely studying the problem from a Marxist lens.  In the struggle between the market driven forces of Capital and whatever project there is that entices workers to assume control over the means of production, the only thing that changes in the shift from a capitalist political project to a Marxist one is the relationship to production, and even that is a dubious proposition when the division of labour is necessarily maintained, and an already existing bureaucracy is empowered and populated with a new set of managers.  In any event, the need for production and the workers relationship with material is maintained.  This would only change if the workers ultimate project is to abolish themselves as both workers and consumers, or render themselves irrelevant as China's government is doing with vast zombie sectors of the economy having arisen in recent years, which are chock full of workers producing material and infrastructure with no destination or purpose, if for no other reason than to keep everyone busy as a way of deferring civil unrest.

NDPP

Hey SJ good to see you back. Salutin on Chomsky is probably about as useful as Salutin on the current White House monster Obama: 'I think Obama has been admirable in many ways.' * Canadian left-liberal commentary is increasingly a curiously bland but toxic brew indeed...

* Ghosts of Politics Past and Present Haunt Trudeau's White House Visit

http://rabble.ca/columnists/2016/03/ghosts-politics-past-and-present-hau...

Slumberjack

Thank you NDPP.

ikosmos ikosmos's picture

NDPP wrote:
Salutin on Chomsky is probably about as useful as Salutin on the current White House monster Obama: 'I think Obama has been admirable in many ways.' * Canadian left-liberal commentary is increasingly a curiously bland but toxic brew indeed.

Lots of people get sucked into the "we have to support the Democrats because the Republicans are so bad" argument. Edward Snowden has shown, very clearly, that being a Democrat doesn't stop their Presidents from being just as much murderers, war criminals and police state proponents as their Republican rivals.

Obama is now the first POTUS since 1928 to visit Cuba. His visit is an admission of a failed policy of hate towards liberated and socialist Cuba. I'm very glad that Fidel has lived to see this day. It is a complete vindication of his lifelong politics.

Of course, the US has not given back Guantanamo (their torture camp in Cuba) nor have they ended their embargo/blockade. Yet there is progress compared to the frothing unrelenting hatred of previous administrations. The door is open a crack.