5 August 2009

Barbarism and Civilization

[CU for Friday, 7 August 2009]

We have been running a series based on the Communist University’s long-standing Basic Communism Internet set. Yesterday we featured Lenin’s lecture on The State; and the State is a particularly relevant and necessary point of study for the conjuncture in which South Africa finds itself.

For that reason, we are going to extend the series with two more items on the State. The first is today’s excerpt, Chapter 9 from Frederick Engels’ “Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” (see the link below for today’s extract).

Please read on through and skip things you don’t understand. It is not necessary for you to understand everything about gens, gentes, gentiles and phratrys. The chosen chapter is a great read, with or without this knowledge. A few more general remarks may help:

Engels wrote this book soon after Karl Marx’s death, after reading notes that Marx had left about a book by Henry Morgan [pictured], called “Ancient Society”. Independently of Marx and Engels, Morgan had shown by studies of living cultures as well the written record, that all ancient human society had gone through similar stages of development, and that this could be seen in contemporary societies that were still living in the old way (as some still are living in Africa, even up to today).

Engels’ Chapter 9 is a sweeping summary, not only of Morgan’s theories, combined with “Marx's Capital”, but of the entire historic period from “barbarism” (i.e. before writing) up until the age of capitalism.

Not only does this show with great clarity exactly what the State is and how it came into being, but it also shows how the fall of the women happened at the same time as the idea of property became a reality. This book of Engels’ is as ruthlessly feminist, or more so, than any 20th- or 21st-Century work of feminism.

State, property, and the condition of women in society are all illuminated by Engels' thrilling narrative, because all are connected and all are part of the same whole.

In the next excerpt we will see how the theory of the State connects to the reality of class, and to the study of class relations in society, known as Political Economy.

The concept of the State is like a keystone that binds many parts of political theory together. Without a strong grasp of the theory of the State, it is very easy to go wrong.

Click on this link:

Origin of Family, Private Property and State, Chapter 9, Engels, 1884 (8306 words)


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