RE: [xmca] V: ":There Are No Coincidences"

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Thu Feb 28 2008 - 15:36:00 PST

Firstly, words like "barbarism", "primitive", as well as"idiocy" etc
*become* words of denigration and abuse because IMHO, in the course of
their social-historical concretisation, they accrue connotations which
reflect their later usage. So what is bad about them in the first place may
be not their "original" meaning but the acquired connotations which were
beyond the control of the "original" coiner or user of the word. EG.
Americans now call "Indians" "First Nation people", but "primitive" comes
from "prime" = "first", but doesn't it sound different!! Famously, every
word coined to refer to a denigrated group of people eventually takes on
the denigrating connotation.

But secondly, Marx and Engels did appropriate Morgan's terminology more or
less totally, though they read very widely on anthropology and I guess that
their terminology would simply be typical of the time. SFAIK, they did not
invent or coin any words here. In relation to "primitive communism" they
were quite conscious of Rousseauesque idealisation of the "state of nature"
and so on and SPAIK would have been well-aware of the level of mastery of
one's environment entailed in precivilised life. "Civilisation" by the way,
they use as an entirely technical term for class society. The connotations
of refinement and acquired wisdom were absent for them,

But finally, I think Marx had a kind of ironic acceptance of imperial
prejudices in relation to indigenous cultures. His comments about the
French Revolution, where he mocks "liberty, equality, fraternity" in terms
of what they actually brought to the lives of French people - slavery,
destitution, atomisation, reflect his general attitude to "social
progress." Nevertheless, one finds lots of examples in Marx/Engels
correspondence which are shocking to the modern, liberal eye, in terms of
racism, homophobia etc, reflecting dominant social attitudes of the time.

That's how I read it, anyway.

At 11:27 AM 28/02/2008 -0500, you wrote:
>... First I wonder if he uses primitive in the sense of primitive
>communism (early hunters and gatherers) from Marx and Engels. Don't know
>much about this, maybe Andy does. All the same, it still seems to come
>from Morgan, and still to some degree must represent the connotations of
>primitive that Boas and those that followed him rejected. ...

xmca mailing list
Received on Thu Feb 28 15:37 PST 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Mar 06 2008 - 10:37:02 PST