Sunday, October 18, 2009

Town and Country
(from the German Ideology, Karl Marx)

"""The greatest division of material and mental labour is the separation of town and country. The antagonism between town and country begins with the transition from barbarism to civilisation, from tribe to State, from locality to nation, and runs through the whole history of civilisation to the present day (the Anti-Corn Law League).

The existence of the town implies, at the same time, the necessity of administration, police, taxes, etc.; in short, of the municipality, and thus of politics in general. Here first became manifest the division of the population into two great classes, which is directly based on the division of labour and on the instruments of production. The town already is in actual fact the concentration of the population, of the instruments of production, of capital, of pleasures, of needs, while the country demonstrates just the opposite fact, isolation and separation. The antagonism between town and country can only exist within the framework of private property. It is the most crass expression of the subjection of the individual under the division of labour, under a definite activity forced upon him — a subjection which makes one man into a restricted town-animal, the other into a restricted country-animal, and daily creates anew the conflict between their interests. Labour is here again the chief thing, power over individuals, and as long as the latter exists, private property must exist. The abolition of the antagonism between town and country is one of the first conditions of communal life, a condition which again depends on a mass of material premises and which cannot be fulfilled by the mere will, as anyone can see at the first glance. (These conditions have still to be enumerated.) The separation of town and country can also be understood as the separation of capital and landed property, as the beginning of the existence and development of capital independent of landed property — the beginning of property having its basis only in labour and exchange.


There ain't no Jesus gonna come from the sky
Now that I found out I know I can cry
(verstehen zee, Hossronius? NO Brigham Dung, or Muhammed, or Moses either)

In the towns which, in the Middle Ages, did not derive ready-made from an earlier period but were formed anew by the serfs who had become free, each man's own particular labour was his only property apart from the small capital he brought with him, consisting almost solely of the most necessary tools of his craft. The competition of serfs constantly escaping into the town, the constant war of the country against the towns and thus the necessity of an organised municipal military force, the bond of common ownership in a particular kind of labour, the necessity of common buildings for the sale of their wares at a time when craftsmen were also traders, and the consequent exclusion of the unauthorised from these buildings, the conflict among the interests of the various crafts, the necessity of protecting their laboriously acquired skill, and the feudal organisation of the whole of the country: these were the causes of the union of the workers of each craft in guilds. We have not at this point to go further into the manifold modifications of the guild-system, which arise through later historical developments. The flight of the serfs into the towns went on without interruption right through the Middle Ages. These serfs, persecuted by their lords in the country, came separately into the towns, where they found an organised community, against which they were powerless and in which they had to subject themselves to the station assigned to them by the demand for their labour and the interest of their organised urban competitors. These workers, entering separately, were never able to attain to any power, since, if their labour was of the guild type which had to be learned, the guild-masters bent them to their will and organised them according to their interest; or if their labour was not such as had to be learned, and therefore not of the guild type, they became day-labourers and never managed to organise, remaining an unorganised rabble. The need for day-labourers in the towns created the rabble."""

Division of labor, property, the landed gentry, class divisions, history of agriculture vs urban, the power of capital: Marx's German Ideology presents leftist economic critique in a nutshell. The usual consumer-narcissist may not care for that sort of stark realism, but Marx does present an accurate, fact-based description of exploitation ranging over centuries. Marx may not sufficiently quantify the exploitation here (and may be guilty of overgeneralizing at times), but does describe it in great detail, and Marx and Engels often make use of data, regarding wages, rents, incomes, finance. Marx opposes metaphysics, yet has the conceptual knowledge that philosophy provides (from Hegel, but also due to his reading of empiricists and classical economists) which allows him to point out relations that a Charlie Dickens or the usual liberal moralist cannot. Rousseau and the encyclopedists also played a part in that as well. One might wax Nietzschean for a few nano-seconds (no one is ordering you to believe Marx as you do Jeezuss)--who cares about rabble, about the slave morality of socialism. Marx anticipated that sort of romantic rogue-philosopher--or Aynnie Rand like morons-- as he wrote: whether you care or not, the rabble, the chandala, les miserables plot against you 24/7. (and no "object petit a" needed).


iODyne said...

The Repeal Of the Corn Laws is one thing I remember from studying British History as a unit in senior high school 1964, but I dare not comment in case bribriBrat tracks me here and flames me as a know-it-all.
Watch your back.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were all transported to serve their sentences in Tasmania, and when completed, unlike most other Transprtees, they all returned to England.

J said...

It's a rather complex issue--since corn/wheat, etc from USA was getting cheaper in early 19th century, tariffs protected the Brit. farmers, but at cost to the poor. Cutting the tariffs might have helped the poor, but since that meant less profits for the farmers/owners, the entire economy was at risk. Marx was not entirely supportive of the Chartists (looking over some material on marxists, and McWiki)--he thought Cobden sort of a well-meaning fool.

The chartists said workers wages would rise too with the repeal, and that did not exactly happen (though all a bit vague) --since getting rid of tariffs meant the brit-farmers had to compete by lowering prices, and ALSO lowering wages.....Isn't economics fun?? However the chartists did sort of start the socialist ball rolling--for better or worse.

(I am new to you and chained's entire ring of 60s new wave cinema/rock/noir scene. I now moderate here, unfortunately--but bri-bri won't get through unless she (?) writes something really special)

CharleyCarp said...

whether you care or not, the rabble, the chandala, les miserables plot against you 24/7

I'm sure Marx somewhere dealt with the whole bread and circus thing, distraction as old as human civilization itself. It seems that there's a lot more plotting about how to get on to a reality TV show (or Jerry Springer!), than how to overthrow the ruling class.

J said...

Yes, escapism of various sorts might be said to form part of bourgeois consciousness, or at least middle-class 'Merica.

I am not a Marxist per se but his writing still serves to elucidate historical and economic matters--as with the point on the Corn Laws. Protectionism and trade wars remain an issue, as with Wally mart. I detest Wally Mart, but since they are so massive, they undersell (usually) everyone else. Doesn't that help the working class? It would seem so. Yet they're not unionist, so most D-crats oppose them, at least officially. The unions still wield power, at least in CA (and say auto workers).

iODyne said...

Here in Australia we have equivalents of Wallysmart. They can underprice all the small people, but the cost of that is jobs in this country.

Most bargain-priced, no ALL bargain priced goods on sale here were made in China. Chinese unions? I wouldn't think so.
The biggest local manufacturers of shirts and of overalls, iconic brands have moved their production to Fiji where there is a large Indian workforce.
It is very hard to be a Thinking Consumer here.
Australian-grown rice is exported because it is high quality, and my supermarkets have only rice from Pakistan.
fer chrissakes.

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