Why Leftism – All the Way to Anarchism – is the Last Colonial Project

Marx's greatest achievement

External obstacles are now only technological, and only internal rivalries remain. A world market extends to the ends of the earth before passing into the galaxy: even the skies become horizontal. This is not a result of the [Ancient] Greek endeavor but a resumption, in another form and with other means, on a scale hitherto unknown, which nonetheless relaunches the combination for which the Greeks took the initiative – democratic imperialism, colonizing democracy.

The European can, therefore, regard himself [sic], as the Greek did, as not one psychosocial type among others but Man par excellence, and with much more expansive force and missionary zeal than the Greek.

-Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, 1991

Western culture – which is effectively global - is a culture of materialism and scientific rationality - grounded, of course, in the capitalism that guides and shapes our daily lives. To be more specific, Western culture is Spinozian – for Spinoza successfully concluded that the mind and matter were the same substance, thereby presciently defeating (think neurons and neurotransmitters) the mind/body dualism of Descartes which was the last defense of the ‘immortal soul’ of organized religion – and Marxian – for Marx transformed the philosophic dialectics of Hegel into an empirical sociological system that reflected what was happening in the sciences around him.

Both Spinoza and Marx were expressing the logical, radical endpoints of the Western Enlightenment that was generated by the arrival of capitalism – Spinoza, described by Jonathan Israel as “the first major figure of the Radical Enlightenment,” and Marx as its last.

In 1674 Baruch Spinoza wrote:

“Men [sic] are deceived in thinking themselves free, a belief that consists only in this: that they are conscious of their actions and ignorant of the causes by which they are determined. Therefore, the idea of their freedom is simply the ignorance of the cause of their actions. As to their saying that human actions depend on the will, these are mere words without any corresponding idea. For none of them knows what the will is and how it moves the body, and those who do boast otherwise and make up stories of dwelling places and habitations of the soul provoke either ridicule or disgust.” (Take that, Descartes!)
Spinoza believed that true wisdom lay in the aligning of one’s intelligence with the immutable truth of the material universe by understanding mathematical proofs. As Israel writes:
“He gives the example of the earth’s rotundity. Only science can prove the earth is round. One may well not believe it is round until shown the proofs. But it is impossible for someone who grasps the proofs to doubt or oppose them sincerely… Hence Spinoza’s conception of truth, and the criterion for judging what is true, is ‘mathematical logic,’ and mathematical rationality universally applied provides, from Spinoza to Marx, the essential link between the Scientific Revolution and the tradition of radical thought.”

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Peter Harrison wrote ‘The Freedom of Things: An Ethnology of Control,’ and co-authored ‘Nihilist Communism: A Critique of Optimism in the Far Left.’ For work Harrison drives a bus.  Email: contrahistorical@gmail.com 

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