Rhea Myers

The Poverty Of Historicism

Popper followed up “The Open Society And Its Enemies” with a critique of Marxism called “The Poverty Of Historicism”. The Historicism of the title is Marxism’s Hegelian spirit of history.

Impersonal, super-human forces such as history or the spirit of the age are bullshit. But at least they are unfalsifiable and incomprehensible bullshit. Markets have no such defence. Their claims are falsifiable, and they are historically tractable.

Markets are bullshit. They are painted as Conway’s Life with pennies but they are fractal smoke-filled rooms. And, oh, the sweetness of the air as we hear about market forces, the logic of the market, the market, the market, the fucking market. The market this, the market that, the market ate my homework. But the market is a human construct.

The poverty of historicism, of Marxism, of Leninism, of Stalinism, of, Gods of all denominations help us, Mao Tse Tsung thought, is the poverty of Marketism. The faithful of the market, marketarians, are the Party Members of carefully constructed legal fictions where the comforting fantasy of the paradise of the invisible hand has been replaced with the comforting fantasy of the unavoidable screwing over of Prisoner’s Dilemma.

That markets appear to work for those they serve is no more here nor there than the benefits of party membership. The smug useful idiocy of the wannabe market rich, of economic libertarians and other hilarious self-flaggelants, is even less to the point.

Markets work in the same way that party membership worked. You cannot blame those whose heads you stand on for not standing on your head anywhere outside of an Escher etching. People need to wake up from the fantasy of markets and soon.

Smithian Hegelism, marketism, is the historicism of The End Of History. The poverty of historicism hasn’t changed, only the trance-words have.