Welcome to Red Butterfly Effect!

Red Butterfly Effect is an outlet for me to ramble and rant about politics and/or pop culture.  There will also be frequent musings about “life”, the universe, as well as things that give me joy, annoy me or anything else that  I would like to write about that may take my fancy! And though its tempting to say the answer to “life, the universe and everything” is indeed Forty-Two as Douglas Adams decreed, sometimes it is more interesting to explore, dissect and discuss the politics of geek, pop culture, music, revolution, socialism, capitalism and everyday life and so much more!

The name Red Butterfly Effect has been chosen for this endeavour because if reflects the intersection between politics and pop culture. Within the field of Chaos theory (and no I’m not a scientist), the butterfly effect refers to how a small change in one place can impact and effect later, in a transformative and non-linear way, something else. The term “butterfly effect” stems from the work of mathematician and meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, who argued that theoretically a massive storm or tornado might have its roots in the faraway flappings of butterfly’s wings. The idea behinds Lorenz theoretical example was that although the butterfly’s actions may have seemed isolated and innocuous at the time, it could quantitatively contribute in a non-linear way to qualitative transformative development.

Within pop culture, the butterfly effect is a common trope, particularly in relation to tales about time travel. Within pop culture – whether in fiction novels, television dramas, movies or even songs, the most minor of things can and do result in significant transformations and changes to an outcome that may not have occurred if that minor event did not happen in the first place.

People may be surprised to learn that Fredrick Engels, one of the founding fathers of dialectical materialism gave the example of butterflies as one way of explaining one of the laws of dialectics. In 1877, Engels discusses dialectics and butterflies in Chapter 13 of his polemic against Eugen Dühring, a German philosopher who was an opponent of Marx’s work and what would become known as “Marxism”. In Anti-Dühring, Engels discusses dialectics, in particular, “the negation of the negation” by drawing on the life cycle of plants and insects, including butterflies. In explaining how “the negation of the negation” occurs, Engels argues that it is a “law of development”, which is general and has widespread application, including in relation to the animal and plant kingdoms, geology, mathematics, history and philosophy.

In his 1883 work, Dialectics of Nature, Engels describes the “negation of the negation” as the third law of dialectics. The first two laws being: (1) the law of transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa or how critical points of quantitative change leads to qualitative change and vice versa and; (2) the law of the interpenetration of opposites or more simply the law of unity of contradictions. Engels notes that all three of these laws were developed by Hegel, but that the were developed in an idealistic way as “mere laws of thought”, which are “foisted on nature and history as laws of thought, and not deduced from them”. Engels went onto point out according to Hegel: “the universe, willy-nilly, is made out to be arranged in accordance with a system of thought which itself is only the product of a definite stage of evolution of human thought”. Dialectical materialism, however, turn this on its head and takes dialectics out of the realm of thought and places it in the concrete realm of the material.

Thus dialectical materialism, as advocated by both Engels and Marx and other revolutionary socialists holds that small incremental quantitative changes can lead to sudden and/or dramatic qualitative changes. Dialectical materialism holds that the direction of human development is not linear and is marked by transformation. This transformation, however, is marked by a continuity of development and a unity in progress, which sees both an emergence of the new but often includes a recurrence and in corporation of some of the old elements through a unity of opposites (this formulation is usually described as: thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis).

While the butterfly effect theory, as commonly understood in pop culture, can be used to illustrate in very basic terms one aspect of dialectics, the other reason for calling this blog, Red Butterfly Effect,  is because the intersection between pop culture and Marxism lies within the materialist understanding of cultural production.

Creative works which fall within the realm of pop culture, whether they be songs, music clips, fiction novels, television shows, movies, video games or anything else, are not devoid of ideology. Like all creative works created and produced under capitalism they are influenced by the material conditions and social relations that exist within broader society. As Marx noted: “The mode of production of material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness” (“Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” 1859).

While some works of popular culture reinforce and normalise these social relations, other works of popular culture actively challenge them. It is also true that many pop cultural products also contain within them manifestations of both of these things – that on some levels it may reinforce and normalise social relations under capitalism, while at the same time it may include include elements which challenge it.

While pop culture can not bring about a revolution in and of itself, pop culture which challenges rather than normalises such social relations can contribute to help bring about a transformative impact. So while Red Butterfly Effect, will include ramblings, musings and rants about politics, pop culture and other things I find interesting, these ramblings and musing (and rants) will be informed by a materialist and dialectical understanding of the society we live in. Some posts will offer a more substantial political analysis about current political happenings, social phenomenon, pop culture or whatever else takes my interest, however, other posts will not be as substantial and might just be about taking the piss, having a laugh and sharing things I love and enjoy, warts and all.


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