[KB] Burke & the Division of Labor

Jim Moore jimmijcat at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 13 01:14:29 EDT 2016

There's a lot about division of labor in RM near the indexed portion "man

under communism."

"Dialectically, the Marxist analysis would apparently begin with a principle of

division where idealism begins with a principle of merger.  And, as regards the

purposes of rhetoric, it admonishes us to look for its 'mystification' at any

point where the social divisiveness caused by property and the division of

labor is obscured by unitary terms (as with terms whereby a state, designed

to protect a certain structure of ownership, is made to seem equally

representative of both propertied and propertyless classes).  Indeed, we

find the stress upon private property as a rhetorical motive so convincing,

that we question whether communism is possible under the conditions

of extreme specialization (division of labor) required by modern industry.

_The German Ideology_ explicitly pictures man under communism, shifting

from job to job like a Jack-of-all-trades, as the mood strikes him (hunting in

the morning, fishing in the afternoon, rearing cattle in the evening, and

criticizing after dinner, "without ever becoming hunter, fisherman shepherd

or critic").  Given the highly specialized nature of modern technology, which

requires of its operators an almost Puritanic severity of application, if so

dilettantelike a way of life as Marx describes is the sign of a true communist

society, then every step in the evolution of Soviet Russian industry would

seem likely to take it farther from a world free of the cleavage that arises

with the division of labor (and with the separation of property that goes

with it, and the disparate states of consciousness that go with that)."

A Rhetoric of Motives p. 108-109


From: KB <kb-bounces at kbjournal.org> on behalf of David Erland Isaksen <daviderland at gmail.com>
Sent: September 12, 2016 9:46:11 PM
To: wessr at oregonstate.edu
Cc: kb at kbjournal.org
Subject: Re: [KB] Burke & the Division of Labor

He does state though, as Cox mentioned, that there will always be some division of labor. Even in a Communist utopia. That quote is from A Rhetoric of Motives.

On Sep 13, 2016 3:17 AM, <wessr at oregonstate.edu<mailto:wessr at oregonstate.edu>> wrote:
I don't think Burke ever "rejected" Marxism. Instead, I think he tended to see himself incorporating Marxism into his own system (Marxists would no doubt object to the incorporation but that is a different story).

At the end of his response to Jameson, for example, Burke insists on starting with symbol-using rather than class struggle, but adds that the study of the symbol-using animal "can welcome the topic of class struggle as a notable contribution" (Critical Inquiry 5.2 [1978]: 416).

An example would be the argument in Rhetoric of Motives that symbol-using animals are "classifying" animals before they are "class" animals (282-83). "Class" in the Marxist sense is one mode of classifying but not the only one. "Classifying" is prior.

The things he took from Marx were things he thought could be applied to a critique of the current state of things. I don't think he limited Marx to a prediction about the future.

That being said, he did see the Marxist narrative of history as a particularly good example of how an "ultimate" terminology works as persuasion (RM 189-97). The Marxist "ultimate" terminology turns a mere worker into the proletariat, an agent of history. He is not defending this narrative in this section, but he is using it as a model.


Quoting Carrol Cox <cbcox at ilstu.edu<mailto:cbcox at ilstu.edu>>:

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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