Barry these are just a couple of random points which I'd like to bring to your attention, not substantial enough to warrant one post each.
First of all, on the subject of whether morals, values, and ideas are inexytricably tied and limited by the social and economic envioronment in which they incarnate. Obviously, this is true TO AN EXTENT. Values ,ideologies, and morality is socially and economically INFLUENCED. That explains why anti-slavery sentiment was more common in the industrial North (although slave labor in an industrial/factory context is not self-evidently impossible, it happened in Nazi Germany and in modern Pakistan and Brazil). While religion was certainly the driving force behind slavery, material greed in the south was so strong that (in this case) it overrided the dictates of Christ, and made teh southern Baptist denomination twist their biblical interpretations to jsuytify slavery. So your statement of historical determinism and the idea that morality is an epiphenomenon of economics has SOME truth. But I don't be;lieve a whole lot.
I agree that in some times and places, absolute morality ahs capitulated to a relative morality based on economic realities. But not everywhere, by any means. More typically, economics influences the circumstances and specific rules by which universal and absolute moral laws and rights incarnate. It doesn't DETERMINE them, and certainly doesn't DETERMINE morality itself. Remember again how great empires at the height of tehir power were brought down by the power of an idea. The Roman Empire by Christianity, the Gupta Empire by Buddhism, the British empire by the simple idea of freedom.
Religious truths, ideas, human rights, morality....these things, in their highest frms, TRANSCEND economics and society. An economic system must tailor itself to these rules, not vice versa, to be considered moral. This is why I consider (present day American) capitalism wrong, and socialism right- in an ABSOLUTE sense.
As an example, consider teh novelist Dostoyevsky. You may despise him, as the Soviets did, and with good reason- he was an anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic, anti-socialist reactionary bigot, who treated his servant horribly, and was called by his friend 'the most inhuman Christian i ever met'. However, this does not really affect the value of what he wrote (any mroe than Marx's personal flaws reduce teh value of his writing), and especially not what he wrote in the famous chapter 'The Grand Inquisitor'. There are ideas in this chapter that give it relevance under ANY economic system, and serve as a critique of capitalism as much as of (Stalinist) socialism, or of the Catholicism that Dostoyevsky, teh anti-catholic, was originally aiming for. While he may have been pointing his finger at X, in the hindsight of hiustory we can see that his critique is even more relevant to Y or Z/ The chapter has been quoted by figrues varying from Noam Chomsky, on the left, to our well-known Doc Cruel on the right. In it teh Grand Inquistor of Seville and Jesus Christ discuss the question of freedom, and the Inquistor taunts Christ for refusing the devil's temptation, saying "But you would not deprive men of freedom, and refused, thinking, of what value is that freedom if obedience can be bought with bread?" That bowled me over when I read it.
Now what does that mean to you? To me it resonates deeply with capitalist reality. It means that when people give allegiance to teh capitalist system, or participate in it, their allegiance or consent is worthless, because it is being 'bought with bread.' It means that freedom in a capitalist society acnnot really exist, because people do what they have to to survive, not what they really want to do. It means that a system which allots food based on wealth is fundamentally immoral and opposed to freedom. The chapter then, ahs a relevance that vastly transcends its historical context, and speaks to me- and to Chomsky- a hundred years later and in utterly different contexts.
My other question. Do you, barry, believe in the 'heartland' theory that my (Marxist) aunt once propounded, that no revolution anywhere in teh world can succeed unless it is accompamnied by a revolution in America, the heartland of capitalism.