The motivation of this article is first to highlight Marx preoccupation for seeking the unity of theory and practice. The second is to reframe the Marxist unity in the context of mediation as a method dealing with divergent views.
Theory and practice
Marx declared in his paper Theses on Feuerbach that: Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point however is to change it. This is the peculiarity of Marxist materialism which seeks to combine a theoretical outlook with the practical. To what extent the nature of mediation as a pragmatic conflict resolution method may combine theory and practice?
Karl Heinrich Marx (1819-83) studied jurisprudence at Bonn and later he learned philosophy in Berlin. In his book The German Ideology, Marx developed his materialist conception of history in which human activity, rather than thought, plays the crucial role. In December 1847 Marx attended a meeting of the Communist League in London. At the meeting it was decided that the aims of the organization was:
The overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the domination of the proletariat, the abolition of the old bourgeois society based on class antagonisms, and the establishment of a new society without classes and without private property.
When Marx returned to Brussels he wrote The Communist Manifesto (1848). It starts with the following proclamation: The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles (The Manifesto uses 23 times the word struggle and 10 times the word fight).
During the first half of the 1850s the Marx family lived in poverty and constant fear of creditors in a three room flat in London. Marx and Jenny had seven children, only three survived to adulthood. In 1881 Marx and his wife were both very ill, Jenny died in December. Marx was also devastated by the death of his eldest daughter in January 1883 from cancer of the bladder. Karl Marx died a stateless person two months later.
A theory of history
Marx proposed a model of history in which economic and political conditions determine social conditions. Their theories are formulated to analyze how society functions in a state of upheaval and constant change.
Interpreting Hegel’s theory of dialectic (thesis-antithesis-synthesis paradigm), Marx posits a materialist account of history that focuses upon the struggles and tensions within society. In the materialistic conception human’s spiritual life — what a human thinks, whishes or fells — is a reflex of the material respect, for the Hegelian the material world is a reflex of the spirit. In both the theory is the conception of movement, development, evolution, progress; and in both the movement is contrived necessarily to take place by the method of conflict or struggle. The struggle which constitutes the method of movement or evolution is in the Hegelian system the struggle of the spirit for self-realization by the process of the three-phase dialectic. In the materialistic conception of history this dialectical movement becomes the class struggle. The class struggle is conceived to be material, but the term material is in this connection used in a metaphorical sense. It does not mean mechanical or physical but economic.
The present organization of society, Marx wrote, must be destroyed, even through violent revolution, if necessary, because only through such destruction can a better political, economic, and social organization be achieved. To establish this new format of society, working men (the proletariat) must be organized and take up the struggle against the capitalists who defraud them. The Manifesto ends with the following exhortation:
The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!
Thus Marx thought that peaceful negotiation of class conflicts was impracticable, and that a massive well-organized violent revolution would be required, because the ruling class would not give up power without struggle.
Marxist theory/practice revisited More than 160 years have elapsed since appeared The Manifesto. The development of the world economy doesn’t look like as Marx theories projected. Neither the class struggle has developed as he envisioned.
As far as the applicability of the class struggle model, new economic protagonists, unconceivable short time ago, have been created by the dynamics of new technology, changes of economic power and growing population. Workers have grown heterogeneous, divided and subdivided into numerous different skill groups. Joint stock companies forming most of the industrial sector are now almost wholly operated by non-capital-owning managers. National and international policies have focused with increasing emphasis on social justice. The severest manifestation of conflict between workers and capitalist–the strike–has been institutionalized through collective bargaining legislation and the legalization of strikes.
As far as the romantic and optimistic Marx, world social complex problems proliferate and seem today without alleviation. Even worse, the global economic and financial turmoil is a new uncertain social milieu. Parties affected include people, families, corporations, communities, and governments, at national and international levels. Marx would be flabbergasted and confused, to say the least, if he was alive today, at watching the world chaotic disorder.
What was wrong with Marx and his followers, the theory or the practice? For the purpose of this article this is a wrong question. The pertinent issue is to ponder the viaduct between the theory and the practice. Theory and practice reframed
The theory is the historical materialism and the practice is the realization of natural rights ideals. What seems clear is that the use of fight and force, and even court litigation, do not seem adequate means to reach such ideals, because those means are too rigid and respond to principles, rules and generalizations which ignore specific people and situations.
A right question is whether it makes sense to bring about mediation for the solution of the method of conflict or struggle.
Mediation used in the context of the paradigm thesis-antithesis-synthesis could be perceived as the synthesis of the dialectic between theory (thesis) and its practice (antithesis). Mediation would serve as a communication bridge between the theorists and the executers of the theories, independently of the content of the theory and its practice.
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