Carlyleanism vs Marxism Watch

Cato the Elder
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#1
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Carlylean discourse holds that superior individuals change the course of history, through the force of their personality and their heroic qualities.

Marxists hold that individuals do not matter, but it is rather socio-economic factors that affect the course of history.

Which side do you support?

I'm with Carlyleanism. I believe that heroic, superior individuals have guided humanity to where it is now. I believe that dynamic men such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar, Francis Bacon, Machiavelli, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, Cecil Rhodes, Louis XIV, Charles V, etc etc have helped to shape the way the modern world is, and their minds and their vision are more powerful than "socio-economic factors".
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Torquemada
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It's a degree of both in my opinion. Carlyle is much more correct than Marx on most matters but the Great Men of history depiction is false just as historical materialism is false.
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That Bearded Man
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It's both. Napoleon didn't develop because of his class.

For the majority I back Marx, some people can adapt or change because of who they are, but class is a big factor of who you are.

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Flibib
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When you talk of individuals who have guided humanity...why did Marx not make the cut?

Forgive my assumption man, but from most of your contributions I've noticed you seem avowedly anti-marxist, but IMO it would be churlish in the extreme to suggest that Marx is anything less than one of the most important thinkers of humanity.

I am biased, naturally, because I find his arguments compelling and interesting (to a much lesser extent, the same is true of Hegel and feuerbach for me), but there is no doubting the incredible impact he has had on humanity, and this is no less evident as when people try to extrapolate assumed thought from his work.

Prime example: this thread. I'm very, very familiar with Marx's work and there isn't a single time in which he has directly addressed the topic of human agency in the way that, say, Durkheim or Weber did. There are a multitude of thinkers who theorise on agency - Marx is not one of them. Yes, you could potentially assume his opinions based on his account of the human experience and the theory of historical materialism. Yes, you could maybe guess that he might've been something of a determinist. But why? Of allllll the philosophers you've chosen to be on the other side of Carlyle, you've chosen someone who's theories don't fully fit.

IMO William James would've been a better choice given that he wrote extensively on 'soft' determinism.

Marx wasn't an absolutist; as much as the crux of much of his work was that everything is class-dependent and socio-economics inform our perception of reality, there is no point in which he completely diminishes the impact individuals can have. In fact, he wrote (that I personally am aware of) on Mill, Cromwell, Napoleon and Bakunin. If he believed that individuals were completely irrelevant in shaping the course of history, I don't think he'd have bothered.
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thehistorybore
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(Original post by Cato the Elder)
Carlylean discourse holds that superior individuals change the course of history, through the force of their personality and their heroic qualities.

Marxists hold that individuals do not matter, but it is rather socio-economic factors that affect the course of history.

Which side do you support?

I'm with Carlyleanism. I believe that heroic, superior individuals have guided humanity to where it is now. I believe that dynamic men such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Julius Caesar, Francis Bacon, Machiavelli, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, Cecil Rhodes, Louis XIV, Charles V, etc etc have helped to shape the way the modern world is, and their minds and their vision are more powerful than "socio-economic factors".
I'm of the opinion that it's a combination of the two; socio-economic factors can be influenced by people and vice versa. The result, the creation of history, is invariably the outcome.
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scjman
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(Original post by thehistorybore)
I'm of the opinion that it's a combination of the two; socio-economic factors can be influenced by people and vice versa. The result, the creation of history, is invariably the outcome.
This
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Observatory
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I read Carlyle. He is rather an English Marx: convoluted, obscurantist, probably confused, but unlike the real thing at least engaging and readable. He can do bombastic hyperbole with a tongue in his cheek, which makes it work, whereas Marx is frighteningly Germanic about it and completely off-putting.

On his theory, he's closer to the truth than Marx, but goes too far for the sake of hyperbole. Just as there is only a small fraction of people who can make contributions to theoretical physics - the best people - there is only a small fraction of people who can make contributions to the government of countries. In reality a small group rules, that group is largely permanent and hereditary. Although constrained by reality and to some extent by the actions of those they govern, they have a lot of freedom of action. History does not run on materialist rails. That doesn't mean that single individuals have any great influence most of the time; one man in a political class of 10,000 counts much more than some random man, but the collective opinions of that class are not strongly shaped by him.

The main problem with Marx's philosophy is that he assumed classes came out of the aether and people joined and remained in classes because of luck and conspiracy. As Darwin would show, people aren't equal, and it's more likely that social stratification represents to a great extent real differences in ability. Members of the permanent political class, and their children and grandchildren, are just more effective at taking and keeping control of governments than others. At that point Marx's philosophy of man and history rather disintegrates.
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