Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What is Immunism (not Communism)

It is a great film - "Communism" (youtube about 50 min long) - narrating roughly the marxist theory and its current, and forced, application to our world - about 150 years after the "Communist Manifesto". It has a surprising conclusion about which in a moment.

Much of the film are interviews with lesser and better known intellectuals and luminaries of the world of business. They all can take positions with respect to the merits and demerits of the capitalist system with its centrality of the profit motive. Other significant concepts are those of money and commodity. Money is what makes it all possible and as kind of commodity that enables fluid exchange - one of the speakers admits - it allows for mostly peaceful exchange on a massive scale. Economists refer us to psychology saying that the reason that we wish to acquire things is some spiritual intangible value in them. That is aligned with Marx's insight from long ago that the transformation of an object of nature into commodity, that is for a product that is for sale, imbues it with some quality that is not its own but is imagined by the consumer. From a bag of potatoes to an elegant suit the consumer attaches a "spiritual" value - to a degree so - to his purchase. Marx originates here the idea of fetish. For Marx consumer is a fetishist.

Another challenge posed in the film is the metaphor of the blue and red pill - from the Matrix. Marx, in a cartoon character actually, is offered the choice either of seeing the capitalist system clumsily forge along (the blue pill choice) or the choice of seeing the consequences and true motives of the capitalist system destroy it and usher into an era of communism (the red pill). As we know the communist systems collapsed - almost all of them - and the capitalist system manages to reinvent itself.

The modern advocate of the Marxist condemnation of the capital and the free market is in a difficult situation. I would say he or she does not know how to restate the "Communist Manifesto" in a contemporary form. It is harder and harder to condemn the markets and the system of money for the prosperity it appears to facilitate.

Toward the end there are interesting voices brought into the conversation. First is Slavoj Zizek who says the the production of knowledge became nowadays more important than the production of material goods. But then he says that "knowledge is the antithesis of commodity", because "... when it is shared it even gets bigger." (minute 45) If this is the case then we are leaving the land of scarcity and are happily on a path to abundance - not that it does not bring new yet unknown problems. Still the situation changes drastically and Marxist assumptions are to be abandoned.

Another interesting voice is that of Peter Sloterdijk (minute 47 or so). He talks for "immunism," which he defines as finding basic solidarity against common destruction.
He says that people need to "forge alliance against the lethal." They "... must provide mutual security and offer each other communities of solidarity, even on planetary scale ... because for the first time collective self-destruction is possible". Then, "...before we say communism we must understand the principle of immunism". "...or the principle of our mutual insurance, which is the most profound motive of solidarity."

I have not heard of Peter Sloterdijk before but his observation resounds quite profoundly with me because it is minimalist. That is in the solidarity against destruction of value (i.e. against evil) we seek the most universally common aspects of value to protect - with force and vigor and possibly authority of government. That means that such things will be few. Also the solidarity means that the protection against evil could be offered in individual and community arrangements - entered into and dissolved by free agreement. The current alternatives to Marxist Communism seem to be maximalist - we will take all your freedom and offer you all the goods. I think we ought to strive for a world where we pursue our own goods individually and share with others the pursuit of such goods when we are really really sure they are shared.