Self-abolition of historical materialism

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Tue Jan 11 14:05:26 PST 2000

>>> Carrol Cox <cbcox at> 01/11/00 04:01PM >>>

Charles Brown wrote:

> The goal is not the end of the development of human society. New contradictions will drive that development. Contradiction and change are eternal.

Just a couple of footnotes to this. "Eternal" is best relegated to the realm of theology: what it suggests or names is a timeless present.


CB: "Eternal" in theology refers to God. But God is permanent and unchanging ( a "rock of ages"). So, I like to use the self-contradictory sentence "change is eternal" or " the only constant is change". It's like saying "Anti-God is God". Dialectics is the apothesis of change.


"Development" is also a tricky word/concept. Note that its current use tends to be "growth" or improvement. But while change and reality are synonyms, change for either better or worse is contingent. There was not much change in the first 100,000 years of human history -- might that state of relative stagnation be something humans (once in control of their own social relations) will strive for? Again, just a caution against writing recipes for the cookshops of the future. Such recipes tend to (implicitly) posit some constant in human history which in fact dissolves history. Hegel's idea. Christian salvation. Pseudo-marxist contradiction of relations of production with forces of production (productivism) as in Cohen.


CB: Humans are a species, and so could go extinct due to some contradictions. That would be a change too, a development. Whether it would be for the better or worse depends on what one thinks of humans.

Before we go extinct ( if we do) but after the end of class society, there are likely to develop new contradictions generating change of human society. For example, the sun will eventually burn out , so this contradiction will probably give rise to all kinds of changes in human society as we try to get to another solar system for a new home. However, in that era we may have perfectly harmonious and unchanging internal relations with respect to our traditional earthbound productive activities , as in the olden days before classes ( to which you refer as relatively "stagnant", I'd say "stable")

So, as I say, human society will continue to change, one way or another, although hopefully the contradiction generating the change will no longer be the class struggle.

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