Perhaps the key dialectical concept, and at the same time the most controversial part, of Marx’s philosophy was revolution. His understanding of revolution, violent and messy as it always is, as a constructive and progressive force in history has been largely misunderstood because of the blood and grime involved in many communist revolutions and Marx’s personal involvement in and advocacy of them. However, Marx’s concept of revolution is broader than just the revolution by the proletarian laborers; it arises from his Hegelian-type dialectics where the tension from growing imbalances in power in society lead to violent resolutions through revolution. This principle is valid and continues to hold explanatory power for modern societies. At the same time, and more interestingly, it holds potential for our understanding of intra-societal tensions and conflictual movements which lead to a transition of power in society away from well legitimized models to new structures of social domination. Such domineering social tendencies abound in Western societies, and range from totalitarian feminism to extreme liberalism. The result of all of them is the victimization of the vulnerable, whether they are members of a particular sex, the poor, or those who do not share the dominant ideas of prosperity and progress. The domineering policies lead to totalitarian societies, which have public elections, but which are anything but free, nor do people feel free in them. This is where Marxism comes back into the picture in Europe at least.
What can Marxism contribute to social policy today?
First, the perspective brought on by Marxism is capable of elucidating the specific exploitative aspect of domineering tendencies in modern society. Consider feminism: the drive behind the modern feminist policies to exploit the institutions and the social capital of trust that is typically extended to emancipatory movements in order to cement a structure of benefit-seeking behavior. Look at the ‘Me too’ movement. The fundamental aspect of the movement is exploitation of the successful men, because the initial disgracing of such men through the media leads on to civil suits worth millions of dollars in damages. Once the movement has gained momentum, it has become politically correct to assume that everybody accused should be found guilty. Some men have even been persuaded to ‘admit guilt’ and ‘publicly apologize’ with a hope of avoiding the looming financial and family ruin through the law suits.
The exploitation of children through family law, which uncritically and totally disproportionately results in courts’ granting custody to women, is one of the most shocking and inhumane aspects of modern feminism. In this context, children are seen as instruments of female power, rather than as persons in themselves with their autonomous value. They are seen as ‘belonging to women’, largely regardless of what kind of persons these women actually are.
Consider the protestant values increasingly adopted in European societies which identify one’s human and social value with one’s productivity and work. This has led to mass alienation of people from their own families and lives and the collective introjection of values and models of thinking which associate constant work with one’s legitimacy to even exist in society. Those who disagree, who have higher spiritual needs or wish to preserve their free time, enjoy their holidays without answering emails and phone calls, or spend their after hours time with their families, are structurally victimized and marginalized. This has led to a silent social discontent which has turn inward: people dwell on what is wrong with their lives, their values and their personalities, where in fact they have little liberty to choose their values, as they are imposed on them by the dominant social requirements.
Consider the dictatorial norms of ‘political correctness’, which cut deep into people’s privacy and enforce on them specific ways in which they must and must not rear their children, what they can and what they can’t say to them, what kind of statements in public they may or may not make. Consider the violent rape of language, which is bent and twisted so as to provide ‘gender neutrality’. Consider the expulsion of concepts of organic life from such language: to say ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ today is considered suspect, to say the least. The expected term is ‘partners’. To comment that people should preferably have children is forbidden: it is deemed as violence against those who choose not to have kids. Liberties are increasingly narrowed down by corporatized group interests. This typically works so that an interest group becomes organized, receives considerable funding from whatever sources, and then starts exerting pressure against governments to impose changes on the way people act, speak and live. Language is an undeniable witness of this process, but it happens much more extensively on a lateral level, through social suggestion and implicit legal threats.
All of the described tendencies lead to an increasing sense of disempowerment of ordinary people, which is structurally similar to the disempowerment of the then majority working class which motivated Marx’s social theorizing in the first place. His philosophy is one of a transfer of power. The fundamental dynamic concept in Marxism is the flow of social and political power, where disempowerment breeds discontent, and discontent, when sufficiently widespread and organized, leads to effective revolution.
One of the problems in conceptualizing a Marxist revolution today is that the technologies of domination are fairly advanced and they seek to disperse the sources of social discontent. This strategy of dispersion and division may cause a large majority of the disempowered to remain unaware that they are a majority for quite a long time, and this leads to a cementing of structures of institutional domination which make it additionally difficult to change the distribution of power in society once the revolution is set off.
Despite all of the advanced technologies of domination, from feminism to political correctness to violence against the language and free expression, it is likely that a new institutional revolution looms in the West. This revolution will not be a class revolution in the industrial meaning of the word, but it will bear all the key features of a Marxian class revolution in terms of the attributes of the revolting class. These attributes are that the class is subject to totalitarian domination and systemic discrimination, that it is deprived of its creative potential through repressive and constant interruption in the pursuit of their social projects, and that it is fundamentally economically exploited. People who are disempowered through domineering ideologies of today are automatically economically exploited, because as tax payers and members of their communities they contribute something to society and they do not receive the recognition and appreciation from that society. This further threatens their human dignity and turns them into modern proletarians. In fact intellectuals and people with organic values in their lives play the same historical role today as did workers without means of production in their ownership at the time Marx was building his political economy. The same political economy today applies to the oppressed classes in Western societies: men, the poor, the politically incorrect, those whose way of life and concepts of life suffer violence by interest groups married to corrupt governments.
The transfer of wealth, both in terms of property, liquid cash and social capital, away from the politically incorrect citizens to the corporatized structures consisting of NGOs, government departments and international brokers of political correctness and social change is systematic and obvious. Being outside the violent domineering policies of the Western world today means having to generate considerable ‘surplus value’ in one’s work, qualifications or other type of contribution to society to earn a decent place in that society. This surplus value compensates for the absence of a value system which those who domineer hold and advocate. The very concept of surplus value is the root of exploitation in Marian theory. Initially it was the surplus value generated by workers in the process of industrial production, and today it is the surplus value in whatever one does or earns and is able to contribute to society, its functioning, its reputation, its self-perception, etc. Those who are domineered over must provide and earn more to earn respect and equality with those who domineer, and who typically have little to contribute other than the structures and ideas of domination themselves. If one is a feminist today, one need generate no surplus value: one simply claims jobs, social prestige and rights and entitlements on the basis of one’s being a woman or being a feminist. Those who are not feminists, if they wish to compete, even to defend themselves against direct victimization (such as that through the ‘Me too” movement, must be far better candidates for jobs, far better parents, far better citizens, far more exemplary social figures, to achieve equal treatment, just because they do not share the right ideology or the right sex (or ‘gender’). The same is the case with religious people in secular societies; with those who own small farms and do not wish to merge into large agricultural enterprises; with those in ‘less applied’ professions, such as the arts, literature or philosophy. All of them must ‘pay’ the considerable surplus value to the domineering society to earn their place. A writer in the domineering ‘applied’ society must be a top level writer to even compete with an average plumber or IT professional; a musician must be a virtuoso to even compete for a similar lifestyle with a ‘civil society activist’; philosophy as the art of overall reflection on the human life is being exiled from schools and universities and relegated to an optional subject at the margins of Western education.
A fundamental facet of Marxian dialectics today is that domination yields revolution. This simple principle which explains much of the dynamic content of philosophical and sociological Marxism has remained the over-arching principle that governs social change. The problem is that revolution tends to breed dictatorship. For Marx, it was a temporary dictatorship of the proletariat. However, history has shown that dictatorships resent being described as temporary and do everything in their power to make themselves permanent. It is this tendency that breeds new revolutions. Thus institutional and collective violence, if not physical, then ideological and institutional, is a constant force in history. The faces of totalitarianism change, but their behavior does not. The value of Marxist explanations of history and social dynamics lies in that it focuses on the logic of totalitarian domination and the backlash it causes among the dominated class, rather than on the particular nature and characteristics of the changing totalitarian ideology. Thus in the Marxian schemata of history certain variables can be filled interchangeably with ‘capitalism’, ‘Stalinism’, ‘racism’, ‘ethno-nationalism’, ‘’fascism’ or ‘feminism (or, equally, masculinism)’, without influencing the validity of Marxian principles of revolutionary social change.