I have often considered those who choose academic lives (myself included) to be in someway cowards. Academia seemed a way to avoid taking action in the “real” world. That is the realm outside of theory. The further I explore dialectics the more I realize how wrong this assumption was on my part. The realm of theory often does not visibly connect to “real” outcomes but it is far from insignificant. Real outcomes and theory cannot exist without each other.
I will not swing to the opposite side and become a theoretical essentialist, claiming that without theories events could not happen, but I will claim that I am now confident in the lack of a reality distinct from theory.
Academics may not often fight with our hands, and the pen may not be mightier than the sword in ending an individual life in a moment of passion, but the pen is a necessary condition of the decision to wield the sword.
18 November 2008
We as Marxists provide a condition of existence of modern capitalism. It is not as simple as thesis / antithesis, that is, capitalism not being able to exist without its opposite. Marxism is far more of a critique of capitalism than an alternative (in its current form). What strikes me is that the actions of previous and current Marxists have forced the supporters of the capitalist system (that is most of the academic world) to refine their arguments, to become better at defending what we supposedly want to be free of. Can there be a revolution without theory? I am inclined to say no and am in good company in this opinion. Do our theories shape those of our adversaries? Without question (as theirs shape ours)! Does the mere existence of Marxism make capitalism stronger? No? It certainly forces a refining of theories used for capitalist justification. If we can not succeed without a (well developed) theory than certainly they cannot either.