[Marxism] Solidification of a false semblance, with examples

ehrbar ehrbar at lists.econ.utah.edu
Mon Jul 19 16:24:09 MDT 2010

Money is a good example of the "solidification of a false semblance"
(Befestigung eines falschen Scheins) or, in modern lingo, an illusion
becoming fact.

What is the illusion regarding money? The illusion is that money is
active and powerful, it moves commodities around, it is the king of
commodities.  Why is this an illusion?  Because in reality money is
passive.  The commodities are the active pole in the money-commodity
relation.  Commodities have labor in them, and their producer will not
benefit from this labor and therefore will not rest and will leave no
stone unturned until this labor has become socially validated through
the sale of the commodity.  Every commodity in the grocery store could
therefore be considered sitting on hot coals; it is ready to jump into
your grocery cart as you are passing by.  But you don't perceive that.
To you it seems as if your money pulled the reluctant commodities off
the shelves.

In the Simple equivalent form of value, this false semblance exists
already but it is not yet solidified.  (See first edition of
*Capital*, MEGA II/5 p. 34).  If the linen weaver offers 20 yards of
linen in exchange for a coat, then the coat may think he is wonderful
but it is obvious that he has the power to acquire linen only in the
relationship which the linen weaver initiated, not outside this
relationship.  But once gold has become the money commodity then it is
entirely forgotten that it has received this power only from the
commodities.  Gold (or money, the dollar) not only seems to have the
power in itself, but does have the power in itself. A false semblance
has become a social fact, it has become solidified.

The lesson to draw from this is: if someone has an illusion, then you
would think that sooner or later the experience of this person will
set him or her straight, sooner or later it will be revealed that this
is an illusion.  This is not so with science in general: reality has
not entered a contract with humans that it has to reveal itself to
them.  Often it gives up its secret only after protracted struggles
lasting centuries, and we don't know how much of reality will for ever
be unknowable to humans.  And in particular, the thesis that every
illusion will be corrected by reality is not true with capitalist
relations of production.  Marx stressed again and agan that these
relations of production generate illusions, and the practical
experiences of the economic agents fortify these illusions instead of
uncovering them.

Another one of these illusions, the mother of all illusions in
capitalism, is that the working class does not see that their labor
creates all profits.  Capital seems dynamic and productive, but the
truth behind this is that all this dynamism comes from the labor
performed by the workers.  The workers don't see this.  They can't
believe that their ignorance and their crippled labor power can be so
productive.  They don't see their individual crippling as another sign
that they are being robbed as a class, that their skills are
systematically sucked out of them and incorporated in the machines.
They think instead that the capitalist lets them partake a little bit
in the productivity of his capital.  If capital is in crisis, then
this illusion is fortified because the working class suffers first and
suffers most.

I became politically conscious and active in the late 60s.  This was
the apex of the imperialist system paying off their workers.  Since
the 1970s capitalism in the US (and also West Germany where I grew up)
had to offer less and less to the workers.  My politics always
consisted in the expectation that sooner or later the masses will wake
up, they will realize that they are being screwed.  I thought I had
read What is To Be Done.  Lenin says that left to their own devices
the proletariat will only develop a trade unionistic consciousness.
It needs science, and this science can only come from intellectuals,
to develop socialist consciousness.  I didn't want to be too uppity
and think of myself as too important as an intellectual.  For many
years I worked on the assembly line.

Now I am making the same error with the environmental movement.  I am
saying we need a mass movement, and since it will become more and more
obvious that the environment is being mismanaged, this mass movement
is going to come.  In my mind there has never been a doubt that there
will be a powerful environmental mass movement, although I sometimes
thought it might come much too late.

This morning I read a disturbing News article.  It is enclosed at the
end of this email.  It says that the population in oil-drenched
Lousiana wants less regulation of industry instead of more regulation,
because they are afraid for their jobs.  After this I happened to
re-read the Marx passage about solidification of false semblances.  I
am not yet sure what to make of it.  I have always been sympathetic to
the Lucacsian view that only the proletariat has the archimedean point
of view from which the truth of capitalism can be seen.  But they
can't see it with their bare eyes.  They need scientific insights to
help them see through the solidified illusions which hide the truth
about capitalism.  With the internet, the publication of MEGA (Marx-Engels
complete works), and the development of modern philosophy we have
a chance that these insights can become part of common consciousness.



Nere is the News item:


July 15, 2010

The Oil-Soaked Are Least Likely to Favor Regulation

Fear of unemployment leads places blighted by oil or coal to hold on
all the tighter to those industries.

By Emily Badger

One of the big oddities to come out of the Gulf oil spill has been
this quirk of public-opinion polling: Residents along the coast
overwhelmingly say their communities have been hurt by the disaster,
but they're also among the least likely people in the country to
support a moratorium on offshore drilling.

An ABC News-Washington Post poll this week reiterated the theme on the
heels of President Obama's second attempt to impose a moratorium. It
found that 79 percent of people in the most affected counties along
the coast labeled the spill a "major disaster," with 75 percent saying
it has hurt their local economies. (33 percent even find themselves,
as a result, feeling "depressed.")

But in Louisiana, 72 percent of people are against Obama's six-month
ban on offshore drilling. That's compared to 39 percent among the
U.S. population at-large.

So why are all of these people most affected by the spill still
opposed to regulation of the practice that caused it?

New research published in the latest issue of Rural Sociology may help
us understand. The study, "Place Effects on Environmental Views," was
conducted before the BP spill and in rural areas throughout the
country, but it hints at one place-specific factor relevant to the
Gulf Coast and similar coal-country communities resistant to
environmental regulation.

The factor? Unemployment.

Most research and public-opinion data on attitudes toward
environmental regulation has focused on more common considerations
like political affiliation, gender and age. The authors of this study
propose that where you live is important, too, as a reflection of key
factors like local unemployment, population growth and decline, and
available resources.

"We show that even if you adjust for 10 different individual factors,
still place matters," said University of New Hampshire sociologist
Lawrence Hamilton, the study's lead author.

Some places -- and not just political parties or age cohorts -- are more
likely than others to disapprove of environmental regulation. This
includes rural communities with high unemployment, particularly where
conservation has been framed as the enemy of jobs -- and where, in
other words, the polluters are largely the employers. (Conversely,
Hamilton points out that conservation creates the jobs in
tourism-heavy regions like the western slopes of Colorado.)

In Louisiana, that impulse to protect employment may be outweighing
even the damage of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The
researchers are next planning a Gulf-specific study to test the idea.

"This is really what we want to study," Hamilton said. "My hypothesis
going in is that you have very different attitudes in communities in
Louisiana that have a high investment in the oil industry, compared
with communities in Florida where people have moved there largely for
the beaches, the water, the lifestyle, the outdoors -- so that people
in those two different places would see both economic and other kinds
of values very differently."

The notion that place matters is not surprising. But it hasn't been
thoroughly studied before, in part because designing placespecific
research (wherein the differences between the places, and not just the
people, can be measured) is more complex than simply conducting a
national survey.

The basic idea also gives way to more complex questions. For one: Are
some communities so concerned about unemployment that no spill is
large enough, or no mine pollution costly enough, to warrant new
environmental rules?

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