crass materialism11 Nov 2005
You might be surprised who wrote this biting criticism of state bureaucracy:
The bureaucracy is the imaginary state alongside the real state – the spiritualism of the state. Each thing has therefore a double meaning, a real and bureaucratic. The really existing, however, is treated in the light of its bureaucratic nature, its other-worldly, spiritual essence. The bureaucracy has the state, the spiritual essence of society, in its possession, as its private property. The general spirit of the bureaucracy is the secret, the mystery, preserved within itself by the hierarchy and against the outside world by being a closed corporation. Avowed political spirit, as also political-mindedness, therefore appear to the bureaucracy as treason against its mystery. Hence, authority is the basis of its knowledge, and the deification of authority is its conviction. Within the bureaucracy itself, however, spiritualism becomes crass materialism, the materialism of passive obedience, of faith in authority, of the mechanism of fixed and formalistic behaviour, and of fixed principles, views and traditions. In the case of the individual bureaucrat, the state objective turns into his private objective, into a chasing after higher posts, the making of a career. In the first place, he looks on actual life as something material, for the spirit of this life has its distinctly separate existence in the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy must therefore proceed to make life as material as possible. Secondly, the actual life is material for the bureaucrat himself, i.e., so far as it becomes an object of bureaucratic manipulation; for his spirit is prescribed for him, his aim lies beyond him, and his existence is the existence of the department. The state only continues to exist as various fixed bureaucratic minds, bound together in subordination and passive obedience. Actual knowledge seems devoid of content, just as actual life seems dead; for this imaginary knowledge and this imaginary life are taken for the real thing. The bureaucrat must therefore deal with the actual state jesuitically, whether this jesuitry is conscious or unconscious. However, once its antithesis is knowledge, this jesuitry is likewise bound to achieve self-consciousness and then become deliberate jesuitry.
Whilst the bureaucracy is on the one hand this crass materialism, it manifests its crass spiritualism in the fact that it wants to do everything, i.e., by making the will the causa prima. For it is purely an active form of existence and receives its content from without and can prove its existence, therefore, only by shaping and restricting this content. For the bureaucrat the world is a mere object to be manipulated by him.
Is this the work of a high-brow libertarian railing on the US government? An Orwellian diatribe against the looming threat of Fascism? A scathing critique of the authoritarian Chinese communist bureaucracy?
Actually, it was written by this dude, in a critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.
I find myself wondering how the communist authorities in China could possibly read this without their head exploding. Actually, come to think of it, I find myself wondering if this would even make it past the censors into Chinese hands.