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W F WHITEHOUSE - A REALISTIC CONCEPTION OF HISTORY 1982 Aquila Publications.

 

Critical pamphlet taking a highly analytical look at Marxist theories of history. Man is seen as being shaped by his society and not the other way round. That is the Marxist attitude. For Whitehead, human ingenuity, creativity, will and choice are not given sufficient account by Marx. We are just pawns in the ebb and flow of industrial and economic forces.

 

To show creativity, wit or inventiveness is to set oneself apart or even above the lot of common mankind as individualism can give you bourgeoisie aspirations, habits and tendencies. For Whitehead, the Marxist approach to history stifles everyone in a dictatorship of the proletariat, leaving no freedom of mind and expression.

 

Whitehead advocates a more realistic concept of history in which creativity and free expression of ideas are made compatible with Marxism rather than counter-ideological. He accepts that most human activity depends on the economy and employment market. We are all subjected to peer group pressure, job needs, educational demands, financial restraints and incentives, etc. We canít usually do that which we cannot afford to do. Whitehead sees the problem Ė Marxism lacks a democratic level of individual choice and outlets for creative experimentation.The trouble is that in recognising the problem clearly enough, Whitehead fails to offer a solution Ė he does not give any examples of how Marxists should become tolerant to the creative individuals in countries ruled by Marxist ideas. Itís like seeing starving people, and knowing that they need food, but not showing how to provide the food they need. Individualism can be a blessing or a curse, leading to a Picasso or a Hitler, or indeed, a Marx, able to present a theory of political history that can change the future for better or worse.

 

Nor does Whitehead show the dangers of rampant capitalism, or how any social order can collapse into totalitarianism under a strong, creative and charismatic leader.

 

This is an interesting, if over-academic pamphlet, but it fails to say half enough.

 

 

© Copyright. Arthur Chappell

 

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