- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Materialist Dialectics for Beginners

Posted by: Barry Stoller on November 01, 1999 at 10:27:02:

In Reply to: The 'Freedom to, freedom from' issue posted by David on October 31, 1999 at 18:00:09:

: To begin with, I will dissect the two phrases into their meanings and roles: The freedom to do something (build a house, cook some food) is being at liberty, either by sanction or default, to perform an action. The freedom from something (being killed, bonked on the head with a copy of Das Kapital) is being exempt or liberated from an action or the consequence of an action.

: Were we living in a vacuum, I would agree that these two statements could be contradictory in some instances.

We certainly do not live in a vacuum. We (all) live in an era, a specific mode of production---and each mode of production creates specific social relations. These relations are class relations. Individuals live in classes. There is more than one class.

: My position is that "freedom to" and "freedom from" are compatible if those freedoms are based on the concept of individual rights...

: ...celebrated American author and philosopher (thunderclap, drumroll), Ayn Rand.

: [Who states]'Rights' are a moral concept...

Rights, like morals, are not ahistorical.

Rights, like morals, do not exist outside epochs. Rights, like morals, do not exist outside specific modes of production (and their corresponding social relations). And rights, like morals, do not exist outside class interests.

They are created by epochs, by modes of production, and by class interests of the dominating class.

Bourgeois right has never been based on 'natural law.' It came to fruition through struggle---the struggle of the bourgeois with the feudal nobility who, in its own historical era, possessed its own morality and its own corresponding set of rights (and its own claim on historical invulnerability and inevitability). The same will be the case for the proletariat when they decide to sweep away the bourgeois.

When Ayn Rand states that 'rights are a moral concept,' I agree.

As I put in my essay:

[T]he left has relinquished its superior moral ground, the simple confidence to proclaim one set of values as being more valid than another. 'That's a value judgement' has become a pejorative statement. It has been a long time since any credible figure of the left has asserted, as Lenin did, that 'There is no such thing as abstract truth. Truth is always concrete.' Yet the ability to assert a value simply and strongly, I believe, is exactly what this new era of monopoly imperialism demands!

Where I disagree with Rand is on the meretricious claim that there is only ONE STANDARD of rights and morals.

She simply called the morality of the bourgeois epoch---and its corresponding social relations---the only morality that there is---or could ever be.

That denied dialectics---which was her business.

But to deny history as blatantly as she did was transparently untenable.

A little Hegel would do you no harm.

I appreciate the thoughtful post.

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