Leftists will get impatient or roll their eyes when they hear someone like Jordan Peterson describe postmodernist “critical theory,” critical race theory, or any aspect of identity politics (especially the phenomenon of “gender fluidity”) as “cultural Marxism.” And yet. . .
Michael Anton drew my attention to a passage in the transcript of Leo Strauss’s seminar on Marx that he taught at the University of Chicago in 1960 (emphasis added):
Partly basing himself on Adam Smith, Marx makes this suggestion: the inequality of capacities which is empirically undeniable is the effect rather than the cause of the division of labor. So the inequality of capacities, in other words, is a social product, not a natural datum. Great inequality of capacities is certainly the effect of the division of labor. The division of labor in its turn leads rather to the impoverishment of the activities of the individual. All this would seem to lead to the conclusion that with the abolition of the division of labor, eventually there will be equality of capacities. But does not the inequality have natural roots? Yet what is the historical process except the conquest of nature, and therefore also to some extent of human nature? But to what extent is the historical process a conquest of human nature and therefore a conquest also of natural inequality? Marx is unable to give a principle here, and that is a revenge for his contempt about the question of the essence of man; because if the essence of man remains so wholly indeterminate, how can you then have any principle here?
Comment: this preceding paragraph expresses exactly the premises behind what Kamala Harris’s recent statement that demonstrates the Marxist roots of her seeming incoherence: “So equity, as a concept, says: Recognize that everyone has the same capacity, but in order for them to have equal opportunity to reach that capacity, we must pay attention to this issue of equity if we are to expect and allow people to compete on equal footing.”
To continue with Strauss:
Let us read the clearest passage of Marx on the natural root of the division of labor: “With the development of property the division of labor develops. The division of labor was originally nothing except the division of labor in the sexual act.”Period. In other words—that is of course an absolutely fantastic assertion, because if you want to be realistic you would have to say that this division of labor is not limited to the sexual act; it has to do with procreation as a whole. You know that men do not become pregnant but women do. But this wholly unreasonable limitation to the sexual act instead of taking the whole, procreation, is characteristic of the whole procedure. Now if you think this through, what is the conclusion? If the division of labor is rooted ultimately in the bisexuality of man—that is the primary form—and the division of labor is to be overcome, let’s get rid of the bisexuality. Yet don’t laugh. I mean, it is silly but it is a very serious problem, and there is of course—and you know, I’m not speaking of Mr. or Mrs. Jorgensen* in particular [laughter], but I’m concerned with the—people have given some thought throughout the ages to the question of producing human beings in test tubes. You know, the homunculus problem.Well, that is a practically absurd suggestion; that is clear. But we are concerned now—what is the principle which allows us to say that is absurd and not merely some vague knowledge of what we can do and cannot do?
* NB, from the footnotes: “Christine Jorgenson underwent sex-reassignment surgery in 1951. Jorgenson, previously known as George William Jorgenson, Jr., became a celebrity after a front-page story in the (New York) Daily News in December 1952 told her story (“Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty”).
On other words, Strauss more than 60 years ago anticipates one way in which the wholesale madness of Marxism would go retail in our time, and why sooner or later it had to express itself through direct hostility toward the essentially differences between men and women.