Revolution and Mental Conceptions


Today in bioethics we talked about Desert Solitaire, , where the author argues that we need to keep wilderness open in case of a totalitarian government, so we can escape to an environment where we can provide for ourselves. In this discussion my class seemed to think that if we had a totalitarian government it would be a Communist one.


If we had a totalitarian government it would most definitely be fascist in nature, since you couldn’t get the American people to rally around the ideal of collectivism. It’s against American individualism.

while your point about American individualism isn’t exactly wrong, it is important to recognize how quickly mental conceptions change when there’s a rapid shift in the material conditions of society. Marx identified 6 elements or moments in society that are dialectically related: relation to nature, modes of production, reproduction of daily life, mental conceptions of the world, social relations, and technology.

From David Harvey’s Companion to Marx’s Capital:

The six elements constitute distinctive moments in the overall process of human evolution understood as a totality. No one moment prevails over the others, even as there exists within each moment the possibility for autonomous development (nature independently mutates and evolves, as do ideas, social relations, forms of daily life, etc.) All these elements coevolve and are subject to perpetual renewal and transformation as dynamic moments within the totality. But it is not a Hegelian totality in which each moment tightly internalizes all the others. It is more like an ecological totality, what Lefebvre refers to as an “ensemble” or Deleuze as an “assemblage,” of moments coevolving in an open, dialectical manner. uneven development between and among the elements produces contingency in human evolution (in much the same way that unpredictable mutations produce contingency in Darwinian theory).

The danger for social theory is to see one of the elements as determined of all the others. Technological determinism is as wrongheaded as environmental determinism (nature dictates), class-struggle determinism, idealism (mental conceptions are in the vanguard), labor-process determinism or determinism arising out of (cultural) shifts in everyday life (this is the political position taken by Paul Hawken in his influential text Blessed Unrest). Major transformations, such as the movement from feudalism (or some other precapitalist configuration) to capitalism, occur through a dialectic of transformations across all the moments.


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