While neither eighteenth century’s Adam Smith nor nineteenth century’s Karl Marx invented capitalism or socialism, neither capitalism nor socialism were clearly expressed prior to their attempts to express and build on these observed trends in varied societies. Feudalism had been the primary economic system for centuries, and capitalism and socialism grew “only after feudalism’s demise” (Blomberg 2012).
Twentieth century Liberal Philosopher John Rawls now identifies five types of social order: “laissez‐faire capitalism [individual, natural liberty], welfare‐state capitalism, state socialism with a centrally controlled economy, property‐owning democracy, and liberal (or democratic) socialism” (Pogge & Kosch, 2007, p. 133). We will discuss the relationship between Socialism, Marxism, and Critical Theory.
Key Ideas of Socialism
Socialists claim their key ideals include “principles of equality, democracy, individual freedom, self-realization, and community or solidarity” (Pablo Gilabert 2019). Despite the necessity of individual determination for each these noble objectives, socialists call for strong government legislation to control and enforce the exercise of them. According to Mises, “… a paternal authority, as a guardian for everybody,” is required by socialism (Mises, 2006).
Key Ideas of Marxism
Marxism originated in the mid-1800’s. Introduced by German Philosopher Karl Marx, it is a political theory involving “dialectical materialism,” a resultant “labor theory of value,” and “transition from past to future” (Strauss and Cropsey 1987, 803). Marx viewed capitalism’s law and order as just a facade hiding a struggle between two main classes: “Capitalists, who own the productive resources, and the workers or proletariat, who must work in order to survive” (Olman 2004). Marx endeavored to analyze the relationship between them. His analysis involved three theories: “the theory of alienation, the labor theory of value, and the materialist conception of history” (2004). According to Marxism, the ruling class can control the “ideological outlook” of the working classes through production of materials that the working-class desire. “As long as the workers agree with the ideology that they are subject to, they will acquiesce to their place in the structure of society” (Formby 2015).
The result, according to Marx, of a “natural progression” that societies undergo as they and their economic systems are born, progress and either die off or reach a new level, is Marxism. Socialism is the “unrealized potential inherent” within the wealth and organization of Capitalism itself, which allows for “a more just and democratic society in which everyone can develop his/her distinctively human qualities” (Olman 2004). Capitalism matures to Socialism, which in turn progresses to Communism/Marxism, which Marx described as a utopia that will no longer need politics or religion. (Strauss and Cropsey 1987, 826).
Marx drew his ideas from “German philosophy, English political economy, and French utopian socialism” (Olman 2004). One of those was Jeremy Bentham, an English philosopher and social reformer. He had taught in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s that there needed to be a separation of “law as it is from law as it ought to be” (Hart, 1958). Calling this “Legal Positivism,” he pushed the detachment of statements of fact from statements of value and therefore, a detachment of law from morality and God’s Word. Instead of basing law on Scripture or a moral goal to be attained, he wanted law to be viewed only in terms of how it was written. The decision as to how it should be written should be based on his “fundamental axiom” that law should reflect whatever brings “the greatest happiness” to the greatest number of people (Daniels 2012). Popular opinion would be the definition of right and wrong. His ideas formed a basis for welfarism (Hart, 1958).
While socialism and communism deny the reality of a morality defined by God, many adherents recognize the difficulty of selling these social theories to the general public. Marxism comes out of naturalism and leads to an emphasis on “economic and political solutions,” including behavior modification of the population and redistribution of wealth (Fischer, 2013). Knowing that behavior modification is not something most people would embrace, Utopian socialists advocated use of “universal ideas of truth and justice” to appeal to the “moral sensibilities” of men. They asserted this is the only way to bring about necessary change to society (Wolff 2017). However, Marx disagreed and distanced himself from utopian thought. He asserted that the way to bring about his vision of “human emancipation” was to study and explain the “historical and social forces” that he believed had shaped the world to this point. Appeal to ‘morality’ was, in his mind, regressive (2017).
With morality unnecessary, justice, as Bentham suggested, was solely the decision of men. Marx either considered communism to be justice, or that the entire concept of justice does not apply because “communism would transcend justice” (Wolff 2017). He described communism as “a society in which each person should contribute according to their ability and receive according to their need” (2017). While some believe this is a theory of justice, it is also possible that Marx is explaining how and why communism transcends justice. If ‘justice’ is nothing more than a method of resolving disputes, then “a society without disputes would have no need or place for justice” (2017). Hume had argued that if society had complete acceptance of all human beings and enough abundance for everyone to have “whatever they wanted without invading another’s share,” then there would be no need for rules of justice. There would be no conflict. Marx had claimed that communism would bring abundance to everyone.
Whether or not world-wide brotherly love and abundantly available material possessions is even possible, the concept put forward was that “communism transcends justice” (Wolff 2017). The sin nature of men, including greed, lust, laziness and selfishness, is ignored because if there is no God, there is no sin-nature. Everything is controllable on a physical level (Fischer, 2013). And therein lies the reason for behavior modification and redistribution of wealth.
Key Ideas of Critical Theory
Originating in Germany in 1931, Critical Theory was a child of its time and birth. Like most other modernists, postmodernists and naturalists, Critical Theorists inherently believe evolution includes a hierarchy of humans. With that, they imagine that if allowed opportunity, society’s best and brightest intellectuals and progressives – by their standards – can “rationally solve all problems” and should govern everyone else (Fischer, 2013).
According to these “German philosophers and social theorists in the Western European Marxist tradition,” a ‘critical’ theory is set apart from ‘traditional’ theory to the extent it is a “liberating … influence,” pursuing human “emancipation from slavery,” and functions to “create a world which satisfies the needs and powers” of human beings (Horkheimer 1972, 246). There is a growing number of elite intellectuals who believe critical theory provides descriptive and “normative” grounds for “social inquiry” and is valid science for decreasing domination and increasing freedom” in any form they deem to deconstruct (Bohman, Flynn and Celikates 2019 ).
By their definition, Critical Theory considers “social facts as problematic situations from the point of view of variously situated agents” (Bohman, Flynn and Celikates 2019 ). The philosophical approach of Critical Theory “extends to ethics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of history.” Because they view this as a “normative task,” they believe it “cannot be accomplished apart from the interplay between philosophy and social science through interdisciplinary empirical social research” (2019 ). Because Critical Theory should bring “explanation and revolution” to all “dimensions of the domination of human beings in modern societies” and “circumstances that enslave human beings,” social inquiry should combine philosophy and the social sciences. Intellectual feel to the sciences needs to be suppressed (2019 ).
So, whereas traditional theory would verify empirically whether a stated fact has occurred or not, Critical Theory considers knowledge to be a fetish that infers “truth and falsehood presupposes an objective structure of the world” (Corradetti 2020)and is “rather functional to ideology critique and social emancipation” (2020). Social criticism, therefore, is true knowledge and the vehicle for social action that transforms reality (2020). In other words, by irrefutable judgement of these scattered theorists, any social standard considered normal and beyond question for the entirety of human history is now a “problematic situation” if any one person views it as such.
Critical Theory addresses all methods in which power is used through words or customs (Fischer, 2013). Using “Bounded and Satisficing Rationality,” a person can reach a “satisfactory solution rather than an optimal one” (English 2016), and “design strategic tools” for making decisions, setting standards and creating environments in which the tools become “ecologically rational” (Gigerenzer 2011).
With this in mind, “…any philosophical approach with similar practical aims could be called a ‘critical theory,’ including feminism, critical race theory, and some forms of post-colonial criticism” (Bohman, Flynn and Celikates 2019 ). Fischer notes Queer Theory and criticism of current prison systems are also included (Fischer, 2013).
Opening the door to allow for every type of human complaint enlarges the size and power of the political movement. However, the more voices in the tent, the more disagreement over policy and criticism of fellow “Critical Theorists.” Dr. William Scheuerman notes some concern that “contemporary critical theory is succumbing to legalist or juridical preoccupations that distort the nature of social reality” (Scheuerman 2016), and Dr. Amy Allen’s primary concern is the Frankfurt School’s critical theory “remains wedded to problematically Eurocentric and/or foundationalist strategies for grounding normativity” (Allen 2015, xii). She wants to “decolonize Frankfurt School critical theory” and open it up “to the aims and concerns of post- and decolonial thought” (2015, xii).
Antonio Vazquez-Arroyo, reviewing Dr. Allen’s work, notes her distaste for “robust claims to progress as ahistorical fact,” made by projects that claim to be critical, and “backward-looking conceptions of progress that understand history as a learning process that has led up to ‘us’ (p. 98)” (Vazquez-Arroyo 2018, S227). He comments, “…a different warning goes unheeded. Paraphrasing her formulation, any theory that purports to be critical should be extremely wary of thought forms whose sediments and de-differentiations, along with neo-nativist gestures and inane ideas of decolonization, undermine genuine critique” (2018, S227).
According to Dr. Rasmussen, “the great challenge to critical theory that has to deal with the rise of religion, on the one hand, and globalization, on the other, will be whether or not it can keep a critical perspective alive or whether in the future we will look back at critical theory as just another theory of modernity” (2012).
Socialism, Marxism and Critical Theory
All three, Socialism, Marxism and Critical Theory, profess to be a pathway to Utopia – a society where all laws, government, and social conditions are ideal. Fischer explains that Marxism and socialism are both a derivative of a naturalistic worldview and assume there is only a physical universe, not a spiritual one, and at the same time, free will is an illusion. They believe that our choices are constrained by and are a product of our physical environment. Therefore, social and economic justice are entirely achievable, as they are entirely physical constructs and “can and should be manipulated” (2018).
Critical theory views the universe the same way, as noted by Gigerenzer, who said that ‘unbounded rationality’ is the illusion there is “an ‘omniscient being,’ omnipotent – knows everything – can compute all the consequences…a Laplacian demon, or maybe – God” (Gigerenzer 2011).
All three disciplines view people groups as monolithic. They expect individuals of similar backgrounds to maintain the same views – ignoring individual thought and experience because such things make calculation and projections much more difficult. Anyone who had not reached the same conclusions they had were either lying or deluded.
Dr. Satnam Virdee recalled how in the early twentieth century, England’s Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF) “repeatedly emphasized how working-class racism was ‘part of the imperialist rationale to stress the inherent backwardness of African peoples.” and (Virdee 2017). Socialists denied that classism, rather than racism, could be the real problem because they had already decided that racism was the issue. At the same time, in Germany, socialists stressed class was the issue, while the Nazi’s stressed race. German socialists touted that “abolition of class exploitation” would liberate everyone, “including the racially oppressed” (2017). Virdee surmised that “socialist political practice” will have to become more ‘intersectional’ if solidarity between the “ethnically diverse proletariat in the imperialist core” is to be achieved (2017). Further, economic tenets would need to change, as attempts to practice Marxist socialism have “had to reintroduce elements of private ownership in the means of production in order to overcome or prevent manifest bankruptcy” (Hoppe 1988 ).
Impact of Socialism, Marxism and Critical Theory
The reason the United States has been “by and large, richer than Western Europe, and West Germany much richer than East Germany” is a direct result of less socialism” (Hoppe 1988 , 11). The difference between Switzerland and Austria, as well as England in the nineteenth century and England today, is also a reflection of socialism (1988 , 11). It appears socialism has had little success in anything other than stirring up rage within propaganda instilled college students.
In late fifties, many in the United States began to see the separation of law and morals as intellectually misleading and superficial, blinding men “to the true nature of law and its roots in social life.” Others asserted that the separation was corrupting society, bringing disrespect to the law, and giving way to “state tyranny or absolutism” (Hart, 1958). The term “Legal Positivism,” took on a negative context. One of them “was the sin” of Bentham insistence on the separation of “law as it is and law as it ought to be” (1958).
In the sixties, the New Left, a political movement that consisted of anti-war groups, libertarians, democrats, and Marxists, picked up the utopian idea of camouflaging socialism and Marxism in “morality-speak” and campaigned together on issues involving class, race, gender, ideology and culture. In doing this, they brought “revision and diversification” to Marxism (Alexander 2018). In the 21st century, ‘Prefigurative politics’ is a new buzz word purported to represent “ethos of unity between means and ends,” as the New Left draws from its ‘60’s’ past with anarchist rioting as a means to bring about “revolutionary social transformation” (Gordon 2018). That is an aspect that has had a large impact on American politicians, if not necessarily the general public. In fact, Alexander reports that his Marxist passion waned after realizing the people he was attempting to liberate had no desire to be liberated. Alexander related:
We formed a sociology collective and did our part during street demonstrations, the rousing performances that unfolded inside tear gas clouds. But holding back from the window breaking and systematic “trashing,” we felt increasingly alienated from the hardened members of the revolutionary vanguard. Ground down by its own internal dynamics and hounded by the triumph of backlash politics and Richard Nixon, the new left had come to resemble the old. It became increasingly polluted by Stalinism and sectarianism, by desperate militancy and acts of revolutionary terrorism. Watching this transformation with horror and fear, I looked for a different way to do radical politics, helping to lead more traditional organizing projects. Our sociology collective traveled to Los Angeles to stand beside workers striking the Goodyear Tire plant. We confronted their conservative trade union leadership and produced a wall poster that provided an alternative intellectual framework for their struggle.
We did not find any converts, and the first doubts about the appropriateness of radical criticism began to form in my mind. …For three months we canvassed this working-class community of General Motors employees, seeking to organize them against the Vietnam war, demonstrating the connection between such imperialist violence and capitalism, whose exploitation we believed such workers would be naturally against. But, if only an hour’s drive from Berkeley, Fremont was actually a universe away. The manifest satisfaction of Freemont residents with the American way of life mystified but also deeply impressed me. Was commodification as alienating as the good books had said? Had capitalist culture really brainwashed these workers in a hegemonic way? (Alexander 2018)
The Progressivism in America today is a post-modern version of Marxism. Marxism pitted the rich against the poor. Progressivism pits white males – ostensibly rich white males – against everyone else (Fischer, 2013). In a debate between Trotsky and U.S. socialist C.L.R. James, James recognized the “revolutionary potential of African Americans.” He believed that because of the history of slavery and then Jim Crow, “African Americans were not ‘deceived by democracy,’” and would never support capitalism (Virdee 2017). He was correct concerning some who have black heritage, but not all. In fact, the Marxist socialists are not united in every aspect of their projects. New communists often push the left to pay “increasing attention to feminism, anti-racism and sexual politics” and believe failure to do so nullifies their radicalism and effectiveness. To others, engaging with “non-class forms of politics” is what causes loss to their “radicalism and efficacy” (Dean 2015). Neither camp has yet to come to terms with the possibility that free peoples, when given a choice, reject socialism, let alone communism.
Biblical principles of statesmanship and government
Neither pure capitalism nor socialism were economic systems at the time of Jesus Christ (Blomberg 2012). Nevertheless, historians who study the Biblical economy and patterns of social interaction generally agree that Biblical communities, which measured wealth by the amount of land and number of animals a man owned, operated within the theory of “limited good.” Most people believed wealth was measured and finite, and only a small portion was accessible to persons such as themselves (2012).
While persons of whom the Bible was written may have had some belief similar to that of Marx, Karl Marx and others of his circle had no belief in them. Nineteenth century philosopher Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach claimed that human beings had invented God in their own image and argued that worshipping God “diverted human beings from enjoying their own human powers.” Feuerbach believed this happened to men by innocent “intellectual error.” They merely needed to have truth explained to them for them to pull out of it. Marx appreciated the book but criticized Feuerbach for failing to understand the reason so many fall prey to religion. If one doesn’t understand the genesis of it, one can’t understand the solution. Marx’s view was that “religion is a response to alienation in material life,” and therefore, “cannot be removed” until the person is set financially and materially free. Once that happens, “religion will wither away” (Wolff 2017). In the introduction of his work, ‘Contribution to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,’ Karl Marx remarked that religion is the ‘opiate of the people.’ It is in this section that he also discusses the question of “how revolution might be achieved in Germany,” and describes the “role of the proletariat” in making that happen (2017).
Naturalists, socialists, and Marxists do not believe a metaphysical component exists in the world. God and any form of spirituality are myths created to comfort distressed and oppressed “masses” of people. Therefore, they believe all change must come through the physical tools and institutions available to men. It is up to government to guide, teach, sustain and protect people (Fisher 2018).
However, it was witnessed and documented that Jesus rose from the dead. Unexplainable miracles have occurred throughout history and continue to this day, giving direct evidence of a spiritual component to the world. God is personal, intelligent, and the timeless creator. While it is true that injustice exists in the world, Jesus urged his followers to give to the poor, but did not demand government take money from citizens to give to the poor. Helping one’s neighbor is an individual responsibility. “Each of you should give whatever you have decided. You shouldn’t be sorry you gave or feel forced to give, since God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
America’s founding fathers did not want federal government to have the power to demand more money from the public than necessary because they had been abused in that way by the British government (Vaughan 1997). Governments are constituted of men, and men are inherently sinful and selfish. Many seek pleasure and power at the expense of others and even at times take perverse pleasure in it. Tyrants and despots exist.
This is also why justice cannot be arbitrary. There needs to be uncompromising, enduring justice. Bentham assumed people would naturally seek ‘good’ and pleasure over pain, but neither Marx nor Bentham appeared to accept the genuine nature of man and man’s need for intervention from the Holy Spirit (Daniels 2012). Men cannot depend on a government structure. Men can only depend on God. Without Jesus, society devolves. “The social ethic of the secular is so narrow…they give up on trying to defend principal”…“But Christians can’t give up” (2012).
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