Marxian Polylogism And Postmodernism

Near the beginning of Ludwig von Mises’ magnum opus, Human Action, he addresses the Marxist doctrine of polylogism. Below is a brief quotation from the lengthy chapter in which he discusses this issue directly:

The great upheaval was born out of the historical situation existing in the middle of the nineteenth century. The economists had entirely demolished the fantastic delusions of the socialist utopians. The deficiencies of the classical system prevented them from comprehending why every socialist plan must be unrealizable; but they knew enough to demonstrate the futility of all socialist schemes produced up to their time. The communist ideas were done for. The socialists were absolutely unable to raise any objection to the devastating criticism of their schcmes and to advance any argument in their favor. It seemed as if socialism was dead forever.

Only one way could lead the socialists out of this impasse. They could attack logic and reason and substitute mystical intuition for ratiocination. It was the historical role of Karl Marx to propose this solution.

Based on Hegel’s dialectic mysticism he blithely arrogated to himself the ability to predict the future. Hegel pretended to know that Geist, in creating the universe, wanted to bring about the Prussian monarchy of Frederick William. But Marx was better informed about Geist’s plans. He knew that the final cause of historical evolution was the establishment of the socialist millennium. Socialism is bound to come “with the inexorability of a law of nature.” And as, according to Hegel, every later stage of history is a higher and better stage, there cannot be any doubt that socialism, the final and ultimate stage of mankind’s evolution, will be perfect from any point of view. It is consequently useless to discuss the details of the operation of a socialist commonwealth. History, in due time, will arrange everything for the best. It does not need the advice of mortal men.

There was still the main obstacle to overcome: the devastating criticism of the economists. Marx had a solution at hand. Human reason, he asserted, is constitutionally unfitted to find truth. The logical structure of mind is different with various social classes. There is no such thing as a universally valid logic. What mind produces can never be anything but “ideology,” that is in the Marxian terminology, a set of ideas disguising the selfish interests of the thinker’s own social class. Hence, the “bourgeois” mind of the economists is utterly incapable of producing more than an apology for capitalism. The teachings of “bourgeois” science, an offshoot of “bourgeois” logic, are of no avail for the proletarians, the rising class destined to abolish all classes and to convert the earth into a Garden of Eden.

Bur, of course, the logic of the proletarians is not merely a class logic. “The ideas of proletariain logic are not party ideas, but emanations of logic pure and simple.” Moreover, by virtue of a special privilege, the logic of certain elect bourgeois is not tainted with the original sin of being bourgeois. Karl Marx, the son of a well-to-do lawyer, married to the daughter of a Prussian Junker, and his collaborator Frederick Engels, a wealthy textile manufacturer, never doubted that they themselves were above the law and, notwithstanding their bourgeois background, were endowed with the power to discover absolute truth.

I’d be interested in discussing any aspect of this point, but actually the reason I posted it is because it is making me wonder what the historical connection is between Marxism and postmodernism. Anyone have any sources on that? Obviously Marxism was not the only system of thought to put the rationality of humanity into question; the other masters of suspicion, Freud and Nietzsche, also did so in different ways, along with their granddaddy, Hume. Thus, I’m not sure how the genealogy flows. But I’d be interested to know.