Saturday, October 01, 2005

Critique of Habermas' Idea on the Theory of Knowledge as a Social Theory

The essay of Habemas on the Theory of Knowledge as a Social Theory elicits the sense of reading a Marxist thinker on the side of Postmodernism. He has a concrete grasp of Marxist social and economic theories, alternating with Hegelian concepts of dialectics.

The existence of the relationship between the knowledge of nature and man’s harnessing power over it should be recognized. The mastery of science will only remain in the books if it is not transformed into usable technology by the workingman. The steam engine and all other innovations and inventions which the world enjoys at present were created by the input of labor by the workingman on the knowledge generated from harnessing nature.

On the other hand, the theory of relativity by Einstein will only remain up in the air if it were not tested by the discovery of nuclear fusion and fission, which in turn created nuclear reactors for electricity and its evil counterpart – the nuclear bombs of every kind and size threatening the world with annihilation. This then verifies Habermas’ assertions on control of the natural processes being an instrument of control of social life processes. For the longest time since the Atom Bomb, the world has been shrieking in fear at the thought of a nuclear war between superpowers, especially during the Cold War. This nuclear blackmail is being foisted upon rogue nations such as Cuba, Iran, and North Korea etc. to compel them to kowtow to the might power of the lone superpower in the world. It is also this irony of the control of technology which creates further contradictions between US imperialism and the world’s peoples. Aside from nuclear weapons, US imperialism has consistently patented products, goods, inventions and discoveries which will hold the world at its mercy in terms of international trade. It is using technology as a carrot stick to continue the subservience of its neo-colonies, even to the extent of exploiting even the resources and discoveries of its neo-colonies for its own technological advancements.

While Habermas affirmed the need for revolutionary activity as a result of the continued existence of social classes, class antagonisms in society, he erred in his utter dependence on technology as a motive force in the emancipation of the proletariat. There is such a thing as an uneven development of societies and technical knowledge differs greatly from one society to another. Does this mean then that emancipation can only come to advanced capitalist states in the sense that the evolution of the capitalist mode of production will necessarily lead to a heightened stage in the class war between the bourgeois and the proletariat? He will then be no different from the German Social-Democrats who insisted on parliamentary forms of struggle in the hope who thought that the development of the economy of Germany would lead to a crisis of overproduction. But as Althusser quipped, it did lead to a crisis of overproduction which led to the imperialist wars for territory but revolutionary rupture was never there, if at all, only for a few weeks or months, after which the fascists and Nazis grabbed power away in the Reichstag.

Shall the same be said of countries which up to now are beset by rabid imperialism, in the wake of a global crisis triggering the need for a supranational economic organization to manage peacefully the surplus goods to these nations? Countries like such have stunted economic growths and collapsed domestic economies with little technical know-how than its industrialized counterparts. But the contradictions in these countries are great, if not greater than the contradictions present in states using technical knowledge to advance its ends. This confirms, however, his assertions that capitalism uses masks, pretending emancipation due to the transfer of necessary labor to machinery. What he has to realize, though, is that it is this technical knowledge which precisely alienates the worker from his work, and more often than not, is the reason for his retrenchment. It should be remembered that this technology diffusion from the hands of the laborer to the machine is not a bridge towards emancipation, but a factor that determines the struggle for emancipation.

He asserts that the materialist spell will never be broken unless it is broken technologically. It is a direct revision of Marxist concepts regarding the economy being the base of all superstructures in society. The emancipation of necessary labor and transfer to technical processes is not a surefire guarantee that the materialist spell will be broken as natural processes and the corresponding technological advancements is a mere part of the mode of production and not the entirety of the mode of production. Althusser was better in deviating form classical Marxism by asserting the independence of superstructures in the determination and resolution of contradictions. To answer that contradictions in society will be resolved because of technology is not only erroneous but does not hold theoretical grounding.

Class-consciousness and the need to wage revolution are present in the minds of the productive forces even during the backward stages of development of the economy. The generalization in this matter should never be Eurocentric, involving only advanced capitalist states with a broad industrial base and the majority of population comprising of workers. The conditions in every state where there are class contradictions are different and should not be pigeonholed into a catch-all framework of class consciousness. Doing so would invalidate the dialectics of social classes. There will be class-consciousness as long as class contradictions in societies exist, though the magnitude of such consciousness may be limited to an advanced group of class-conscious individuals at an earlier stage of the class contradictions. There are gradations, yes, in the ability of the working-class for example, to comprehend their situation and consolidate themselves to wage revolution. This is brought about by cyclical economic contradictions in a society such as crises in overproduction. But the working-class is not waiting for an advanced stage of capitalism to push forward in order for them to gain class-consciousness. From the most backward stage of capitalism to the most advanced stage, there will be class contradictions and such premise is enough to create the conditions of class-consciousness.

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