Marxing your card, Lig!

Is Trueman a Marxist?  Well, as that nice, loyal Mr Lieberman might say, `That's a good question!'  And, as it now appears that it is not seeing class struggle but rather belief in graduated income tax that defines a Marxist, I guess I do stand in that long line of Marxists which -- ahem -- includes those radical reds, Ronald Reagan and Mrs Thatcher.  But, enough of this -- taking swipes at an American media that clearly can't distinguish Groucho from Karl (Karl?  Wasn't he the mute one with the top hat and the trumpet...???) is just too easy, even at this time in the morning.

On Hunter, various things come to mind: his thesis (as summarised by John Seel) is, ironically, reminiscent of the kind of thinking one finds in certain strands of Marxism, say, the Frankfurt School and the writings of the late Edward Said (though I'm not sure I class ES as a Marxist; rather one who appropriated certain strands of Marxism).  The feeling one gets reading this is the impotence of the individual, trapped within a framework determined and controlled by these `elites' who, presumably, conceptually delimit the range of choices, actions and thus change which any individual can accomplish.   I think this is too deterministic and cannot provide a sufficient basis for explaining cultural change.  Of course, any change can be rationalised, a posteriori, as `what the elites wanted or determined' but that renders the whole thing as basically unfalsifiable -- a sociological conspiracy theory, where any counter-evidence is merely seen as further proof of the sophistication of the conspiracy.  That was Karl Popper's devastating criticism of Marxism, and it might well apply here as well.

Second, am I alone in being sick to death of all the trendy talk about `culture'?   A biblical approach to reality seems to involve, first and foremost, a commitment to the notion of essences.  Culture is very real but, as a social construct it is not the ultimate reality; nor is it, therefore, the ultimate reality.   This seems to me the problem with much postmodernism: it's obsession with culture at the expense of essence has created moral chaos.  For example, how can one have inalienable human rights when there is no inalienable human nature?  Hence the silliness on the left these days where -- surely to Marx's horror! -- moral equivalence arguments are made between feudal genocide, as in Saddam's Iraq, and poverty in post-feudal democracies.  Any Marxist knows that capitalist democracy, for all its faults, is superior to feudalism in every way.  Christians should take a leaf from the books of the palaeo-Marxists and return to talking about nature and essence, not culture.

Apply the idea of nature or essence to Hunter's thesis, and I think you end up with a situation where culture doesn't trump all but is itself subject to the constraints of nature -- for the Christian, a nature determined by God (a linguistic construct, for sure -- see Genesis 1 -- but the one who speaks it is God, not the human individual or community).  That may not place the individual back at the centre of cultural change and overthrow the top down model he proposes but it does highlight the fact that culture itself is not an irresistible god, or Big Brother -- a boot, as Orwell might say, stamping on the human face for all eternity.

It also reminds the church, I think, that cultural change is not her primary task.  But that's another story.