[KB] Burke & the Division of Labor

Jim Moore jimmijcat at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 12 20:44:18 EDT 2016

I'm not an expert, but I was taught that Burke rejected

"scientific" socialism, especially in the context of the presence of

atomic weapons in the two-superpowers era.  The _Rhetoric of

Motives_ has a relevant section called "Dual Possibilities of Science"

(32-35), which examines the slipperiness of the concept of "ownership"

with regard to research into atomic energy post-1945:  "Thus the

_socialist_ delegate [Gromyko] was arguing for the _restriction_ of ownership

to national boundaries, while the world's greatest _capitalist_

country argued for ownership by a _universal_ body.  _On its face_,

the capitalist proposal seems much nearer to the ideal socialist

solution than the position of the Soviet Union is.'

"However, the history of corporate management in the United States,

and of political parties everywhere, gives ample evidence of all

the devices whereby _actual control_ of a property differs from

_nominal ownership_ of it."  (page 33 in RM--all emphases belong to Burke).


From: KB <kb-bounces at kbjournal.org> on behalf of Carrol Cox <cbcox at ilstu.edu>
Sent: September 10, 2016 5:33:02 PM
To: kb at kbjournal.org
Subject: [KB] Burke & the Division of Labor

It's been over 50 years since I did most of my intensive study of Burke,
though I continued frequently to browse in the Grammar & the ...Literary
Form until my eyes failed me nearly 10 years ago. I also read carefully his
exchange in CI with Jameson at the time of its publication.

If I remember correctly, the core of Burke's rejection of Marx was his
(Burke's) belief of the inevitability of the division of labor. If that is
so, his objection to Marx was grounded in his premise that "Marxism" was
essentially a recipe for a future society rather than a critique of
contemporary society. Again, if I remember correctly, Burke in the Grammar
did speculate on making a worker the _owner_ of his job. That had to be
premised on the permanence of capitalist social relations, combined with at
least a speculative belief that either (a) wage workers could achieve the
political and social power to seize possession of their jobs (permanent
tenure for all employees, public & private) _or_ (b) that capitalists could
be persuaded (through a correct rhetoric) to grant wage workers such tenure
voluntarily. His use of the trope "the human barnyard" might point to the
latter hope.


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