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Marx, Marxism and Philosophy, Today — Seminar Outline

A seminar sponsored by the Left Academy with Michael Pelias, co-founder of the Institute for the Radical Imagination, Philosopher, teacher of Philosophy and Union activist

Ded­i­ca­tion of this seminar:

For Mar­i­anne Trudel, a remark­able French pianist, com­pos­er, arranger, and teacher, and for whom my affec­tion, respect and love know no lim­it. She has inspired this work and has made me a bet­ter and clos­er lis­ten­er to the sounds of silence, the voic­es of the oth­er, and the com­mu­nion we sore­ly lack with the nat­ur­al world. For all this, I am eter­nal­ly grate­ful and hope this open­ing into the rig­ors and joys of philo­soph­i­cal inves­ti­ga­tion and spec­u­la­tion gifts the next gen­er­a­tion with the strength of intel­lect and feel­ing to move the plan­et to a sus­tain­able and mean­ing­ful future. May Marx’s dream of the full and new per­son be realized!

The 1st Week:

This sem­i­nar will attempt to sit­u­ate Marx as a human­ist philoso­pher in his youth through ref­er­ence to his dis­ser­ta­tion on “The Dif­fer­ence between the Dem­ocritean and Epi­cure­an The­o­ries of Nature”, writ­ten in 1841 and a close read­ing of the Paris Man­u­scripts of 1844 (the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­i­cal Man­u­scripts, dis­cov­ered and made pub­lic in 1932 in the Sovi­et Union). Marx’s ear­ly rela­tion­ship to Hegel will be empha­sized as well as the the­mat­ic of Alien­ation (Ent­fre­mu­ng) and what rela­tion­ship does this vocab­u­lary play in con­tem­po­rary labor struggles?

The first full read­ing will be Anto­nio Gramsci’s “The Study of Phi­los­o­phy “from the Prison Note­books (begun in 1929 by Gram­sci while in the Turi prison in Italy). The first engage­ment will be with the notion of spon­ta­neous phi­los­o­phy and its ele­ments of Lan­guage as a total­i­ty of deter­mined notions and con­cepts, com­mon sense as a site of strug­gle (both ide­o­log­i­cal and mate­r­i­al) and folk­lore, of which reli­gion as frac­tured com­mon sense is the most promi­nent. The tran­si­tion from spon­ta­neous phi­los­o­phy and its spa­tio-tem­po­ral com­plex to that of the Phi­los­o­phy of Prax­is will be empha­sized and along­side the organ­ic intel­lec­tu­al and the war of posi­tion will demon­strate some of the time­li­ness of Gramsci’s thought.

The trajectory of the seminar:

Fol­low­ing Gramsci’s inter­ven­tion on the neces­si­ty of teach­ing phi­los­o­phy, we will begin a close read­ing of the “human­ist “Marx through the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­i­cal Man­u­scripts (1844). The the­ses on Feuer­bach will be con­sid­ered as both an advance into sen­su­ous mate­ri­al­ism and a con­tin­u­a­tion of the ear­ly Marx’s labor anthro­pol­o­gy and empha­sis. From there the human­ist tra­di­tion will be reflect­ed in the clas­sic essay, “Reifi­ca­tion” in the 1923 His­to­ry and Class Con­scious­ness authored by Georg Lukacs.We will try to trace the Hegelian Marx­ism oper­a­tive in this essay and make some par­al­lels to Karl Korsch’s Marx­ism and Phi­los­o­phy, par­tic­u­lar­ly the notion of his­tor­i­cal speci­fici­ty. These engage­ments should take us through the first four weeks of the sem­i­nar. In a nut­shell, engag­ing the left Hegelian­ism oper­a­tive in these works of Marx­ist Phi­los­o­phy and in Marx himself.

After engag­ing the ear­ly attempts to make a Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy in the 1920’s and ’30’s, we will look at the post WW II hori­zon in Italy. The two best known “Marx­ist “philoso­phers were Gal­vano Del­la Volpe and Lucio Col­let­ti. With a Kant­ian-Marx­ism in the back­ground, Del­la Volpe ‘s engage­ment with Ital­ian Hegelian­ism will be encoun­tered through a cri­tique of right Hegelian­ism (Gen­tile) and lib­er­al Hegelian­ism (Croce). Col­let­ti will offer us a cri­tique of the entire West­ern Marx­ist Hegelian­ism. What role does a return to Kant play in Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy and this is some­thing very preva­lent in post-mod­ern thought, espe­cial­ly in Lyotard.

Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly in the post WW II hori­zon, Sartre’s Exis­ten­tial Marx­ism and Lefebvre’s Meta phi­los­o­phy play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the fram­ing of the sub­jec­tiv­i­ty so lack­ing in Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy and for some, in Marx him­self. We will engage the the­o­ry of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and look at exis­ten­tial psy­cho­analy­sis as a poten­tial pre­sup­po­si­tion for a mate­ri­al­ist psy­chol­o­gy and what Meta phi­los­o­phy does to the end of phi­los­o­phy and the task of thinking.

Althusser­ian struc­tur­al Marx­ism and Negri’s notion of the mul­ti­tude will hope­ful­ly round out the read­ings in the sense of the tasks for Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy today and its rela­tion­ship to the labor ques­tion and the increas­ing pre­car­i­ty of every­day existence.

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