“Ethics, in other words, is a subset of politics. “If you want to be good, you need a good society,” Eagleton writes; “nobody can thrive when they are starving, miserable or oppressed.” A true ethics is thus a materialist one, a morality not of feeling but of acting: feeding the hungry, comforting the sick.”
“All fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned …”
Leszek Kolakowski on the culture of logical empiricism [logical positivism] and the cultural context of philosophy.
In one respect, however, the positivist program has a value that can hardly
be questioned. Although the expectation that it can serve as an effective antidote
to social dangers stemming from the most various ideological conflicts seems
utopian, we are today in a better position than ever before, thanks to more
exact definitions of the scientific attitude and the scientific admissibility
of assertions, to counteract the ideological misuse of science. In other words,
ability to give a relatively good definition of the boundaries of scientific
validity—an ability developed largely thanks to the positivists—is
of great importance when we must criticize the claims of doctrinaires who invoke
the authority of science in support of their slogans. The most glaring example
is the attempts that have been made to justify racism on the basis of anthropology.
The possibility of demonstrating the hopelessness of such undertakings is not
without importance, although it is clear that it cannot decisively influence
the outcome of social conflicts. The sheer rigor of the positivist rules has
awakened intellectuals to their own responsibilities, and in my opinion have
been of practical aid in counteracting attempts to blur the boundaries between
the position of the scientist and the obligations of the believer. Precisely
because they add up to a kind of scientific ethics, these rules have never lost
Polish Stalinism was toppled in October, and Modzelewski initially supported the new party leader Wladyslaw Gomulka. But when Gomulka dismantled the workers’ councils and reestablished bureaucratic dictatorship, Modzelewski and his comrade Jacek Kuron — the history student who he met at Warsaw University in 1962 — delved into all the Marxist oppositionist works they could find, and produced the pathbreaking “Open Letter.”
To say this text was an inspiration to anti-Stalinist leftists worldwide would be an understatement. In the thirty-five years since Trotsky’s deportation from the Soviet Union, no systematic radical left manifesto against Soviet-style socialism had been published, coming from within. There had been plenty of criticisms and complaints, and in 1955 Milovan Djilas made a big stir with The New Class, attacking the system for betraying true socialist principles. But instead of just lamenting the betrayal of socialism, Modzelewski and Kuron offered a Marxist, essentially Trotskyist, diagnosis, and called for a new workers’ revolution to sweep away the statist bureaucracy and introduce genuine socialism based on workers’ power and participation.
“Unlike earlier dystopian narratives, cyberpunk invites us not only to accept the current socioeconomic order but to derive pleasure from what Jameson now diagnoses as an empty, lawless social space emerging out of the displacement of civil society – here conceptualized as the space between bourgeois privacy and state rule by the hegemonic sway of corporate logic”