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Is it possible to see Marxism and Capitalism as a kind of ideological schism, in the same way, say we have a schism between Protestatism & Catholicism in Christianity, and between Sunni & Shiism in Islam; has anyone found this a useful way to look at these two modes of political & economic thought?

  • I would rather think that marxism is a theory on capitalism in the first place. In fact, the theory that when capitalism has finally overcome itself (which, according to marxism, it has to), communism is the (only) alternative option left to be stable. – Philip Klöcking Jul 29 '16 at 16:12
  • @klocking: sure, Hegel called trade becoming world-historical; I was referring to Marxism as a political/economic formation as in the the ex-Soviet Union and communist China; I suppose I should have made it explicit in the question. – Mozibur Ullah Jul 29 '16 at 16:39
  • Perhaps it would be better to call it 'Political Socialism (as in SU and China)' or something like that then. Liberalism would still be a better counterpart talking of a schism, don't you think? Because political economics never made it out of Capitalism, despite regimes claiming otherwise. – Philip Klöcking Jul 29 '16 at 17:02
  • @Klocking: good points, I was using the terms 'Marxism' & 'Capitalism' as demotic terms, but it would be better, I guess, to use more appropriate terms. I'll drop them in once when I get a chance to rethink what I was driving at with this question. – Mozibur Ullah Jul 29 '16 at 17:26
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Two thoughts:

  • In the case of schisms like the Sunni/Shia or Catholic/Protestant, both sides claimed to have been holders of the original unadulterated truth - as a continuation of the original pure form of the ideology, while the other camp had somehow corrupted or lost its connection with the true doctrine. In the case of Marxism vs Capitalism, at least in the original formulation of Marx, Marxism has to come after Capitalism, it is not some reversion to an earlier purer stage in human social evolution, but a new stage which is going to be better than all other past stages. (On a fun note, can you imagine a Sunni thinker claiming that society has to go through a primitive Shia phase before it moves on to a more evolved Sunni phase?)
  • Ideally movements like Capitalism and Marxism shouldn't consider themselves to be dogmatic the way religions do (although in practice adherents of those movements do behave dogmatically), so the the schism analogy doesn't work here either in the sense that one can either be Sunni or Shia, the positions are mutually exclusive, whereas for theories like Marxism and Capitalism, the most successful governments are those that adopt a little bit of both, instead of sticking dogmatically to one position or the other. One could take this idea deeper and see that taking a religious position on a specific denomination is usually driven by deontic considerations, while taken a position on Marxism vs Capitalism should be done on a consequentialist/utilitarian considerations.

In so far as they can be considered Schisms, they could be considered divergent schools of thought stemming from the Enlightenment, as well as being different takes on materialism.

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Marxism might itself be described as a kind of critical philosophy of social schisms (history is the history of class struggle...)

Capitalist ideology consists, from the Marxist perspective, in varying degrees of "false consciousness" or bad faith. (Surely the first industrial capitalists could not help but know their activity was exploitative...)

Possibly a "diagonal" reading could be constructive here: what becomes of social schism (class struggle) under late capitalism...? Neoliberalism attempts to veil itself as proffering "neutral" (technocratic) ideological positions, when in fact this assumption of possessing a "non-ideological" position is itself a kind of epitome of ideology.

In passing, Zizek is particularly lucid in his working through of some of these paradoxes -- perhaps Absolute Recoil would be a good text to start thinking with these problems...?

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