Peter Pogany on the New Historical Materialism

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Peter Pogany:

Rethinking the World, page 3:

"The 'old' (Marxist) historical materialism cannot fill the need, not only because it flunked history (and economics), but also because its 'materialism' became superannuated. Its 'matter' vanished into warps of space-time; gutless assemblages of shuffling, trembling particles that behave like waves if they so please; probability clouds caught up in a cosmic sequel to the Big Bang. Nineteenth century science believed that matter was knowable through the accumulation of experimental knowledge. There was Darwin, organic chemistry, the never ceasing succession of miracles produced by the emerging technical civilization. "Poor Aristotle," the scientists of the era thought, with his intertwined form and substance; earth, air, water, and fire. (Excuse me?) And now there is "poor Marx" with his querulous and, in retrospect, pathetic berating of Hegel, who dared to consider "the life processes of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking" the central issue of historical evolution, when it should have been clear to anyone with an iota of modern analytical common sense that thoughts were external to the objective reality of matter. Contemporary "brain science" could not disagree more. Thoughts and emotions, and hence, convictions, have become perceivable in terms of biology, chemistry, and physics...

We shall demonstrate that the emerging conflict between the expanding human empire - a hyper-cyborg Leviathan-and the Earth's material limitations may yet lead to a new beginning on a higher plateau. The socioeconomic evolution of the past two centuries revealed steady direction and the ability to reorganize on the global scale. The genes, the physical carriers of biological heredity, evidently have emergent properties. They have proven to be capable of going through stages of supra-individual, planet-wide arrangements, while preserving the germ of the next, more complex one. If the species' self-organization succeeds in renewing itself in a superior edition, the generations living in those times might look back at the currently expiring age of petroleum and self-hypnosis about the possibility of infinite growth in a closed space with dismayed comprehension....

In new historical materialism, a theory that we shall introduce in the ensuing pages, only the new remains unchanged. Rethinking the world and its future is a recurring necessity, fraught as it may be with inadvertent subjectivity or manipulative bias. Humanity's impending violent argument with itself is of momentous concern. If the race has further significant evolutionary potential, it will have to equip itself with a shared mega-perspective on its past and future that is physically relevant and has a high moral content. For that, the global society will have to absorb the postmodern era's lessons on pluralism and equality, but will also have to abandon its epistemic defeatism and its craving for the acid bath of nihilistic disunity.

...Could the mind's keen awareness and huge information-processing capability - the individual's virtually unlimited reservoir of behavioral alternatives - make a difference? Could it reduce the extent and duration of the suffering? There is no clear answer. The observer is entangled with the observed, putting a limit on the externality and independence of the observation. This means some rancor or enthusiasm here and there, according to the context. Our solace for theis unavoidable shortcoming is that these biases are neurophysiological entities. They are alive in many with the potential to survive and evolve into pro-active convictions."