17 January 2010

Marx and Darwin - Brilliant Essay (or talk) by Christie Malry

As promised, a little late due to hard drive issues, here's the talk I gave just before xmas.


Welcome to tonight's talk on Marx and Darwin. I thought it would be interesting to do a piece on Marx and Darwin, partly to tie in with the 150th anniversary of Origin of Species (and the 200th of Darwin's birth) and partly because there are a lot of ways in which evolution was revolutionary and impacted on political ideas. The problem with this is that it is such a huge subject it was hard to know how to focus on it or an SWP meeting. Should I focus on its revolutionary character for religion, or for the way biologists thought about the natural world? Should I look at how Marx related the idea?


What I've tried to argue is that evolution is a powerful explanatory device, and that it can help Marxists in presenting a materialist conception of natural history, in showing that we don not need to appeal to a supernatural explanation for our origins and that we can't rely on any such intervention for justice on our behalf – we have to do it for ourselves.

However, it is important to avoid naïve readings of evolution. We should not be worried by our lack of a special, favoured status, but equally we cannot make evolution either a moral compass or a source of deterministic writing-off of our problems. We need to recognise that social constructions play a huge role in our perceptions of the world around us and focus on the concrete situations in front of us that Marxist analysis can provide.

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