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Marx, Marxism and Philosophy, Today with Michael Pelias — Second Week Summary

Marx, Marx­ism and Phi­los­o­phy, Today with Michael Pelias @ People’s Forum

Sec­ond week sum­ma­ry:

First, I want to thank Arto Artin­ian for host­ing the class, Sat­ur­day, Octo­ber 13th. He will empha­size the polit­i­cal move­ment of Gramsci’s thought in a con­tem­po­rary approach to the war of posi­tion and war of manoeu­vre through both a his­tor­i­cal­ly spe­cif­ic analy­sis of these terms and a broad­en­ing of the con­cepts mate­ri­al­ly by Deleuze and Guat­tari in their sem­i­nal analy­sis of the “War Machine.”  I am cer­tain that Arto will speak to hege­mo­ny and counter-hege­mo­ny in his pre­sen­ta­tion and the ensu­ing dis­cus­sion.

On Octo­ber 20th, we will fur­ther engage these con­cepts and fin­ish the note­book entries on “The Study of Phi­los­o­phy.” I want to deep­en the con­cept of com­mon sense and the ongo­ing tran­si­tion from spon­ta­neous phi­los­o­phy to the phi­los­o­phy of prax­is. I will also look at an under­de­vel­oped con­cept of cathar­sis (pp. 366–67), Gramsci’s admi­ra­tion and crit­i­cism of Prag­ma­tism (pace George Novak), the con­cept of ide­ol­o­gy as super­struc­ture, and how we can artic­u­late the con­cep­tion of a high­er life for our time with­out laps­ing into the bureau­cra­cies and cat­e­gories of the old think­ing and lud­dite approach­es to dig­i­tal­ized every­day life.

On Octo­ber 6th, I tried to sit­u­ate Gramsci’s writ­ings into 3 basic divi­sions:

1. Polit­i­cal writ­ings (1919–1926)

L’Ordine Nuo­vo jour­nal (1919–1920)

L’Ordine Nuo­vo (1921–1922), pri­mar­i­ly focused on analy­sis of Fas­cism and Social­ism

Build­ing the Com­mu­nist Par­ty (1923–1926 – the time of Gramsci’s arrest, Novem­ber 8th 1926 

2. Let­ters from Prison (goal is to: “to think and study under the most dif­fi­cult con­di­tions.”), on Decem­ber 19th, 1926, he begins with a let­ter to his sis­ter-in-law, Tatiana.

There are 434 extant let­ters, most notable are those to Tatiana who was often a go-between to Pietro Sraf­fa.

3. Prison Note­books: These 33 note­books com­prise near­ly 2,900 pages of text that broad­ly span mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines and demon­strate the inter­con­nect­ed­ness of Gramsci’s think­ing.

We, in this sem­i­nar, are only read­ing 54 pages of these, his notes on the Study of Phi­los­o­phy and His­tor­i­cal Mate­ri­al­ism.

We pro­ceed­ed to map the move­ment once again from spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy to the Phi­los­o­phy of Prax­is (I.e. Marx­ism) from the frag­ment­ed, episod­ic, mechan­i­cal, emp­ty and ahis­tor­i­cal spon­ta­neous phi­los­o­phy to that of the Lever of tran­si­tion, crit­i­cal aware­ness of one’s sit­u­at­ed­ness in His­to­ry and an under­stand­ing of the infin­i­ty of traces one must begin to encounter in order to see and engage com­mon sense at work in every­day life. Once this pas­sage occurs, one can move onto good sense, begins to under­stand com­mon sense in terms of ide­ol­o­gy and more com­plex­ly as Pol­i­tics. Phi­los­o­phy is cru­cial in this regard for it prac­tices intel­lec­tu­al order ver­sus the sprawl of the reli­gious spir­it (a frag­men­ta­tion of com­mon sense) and the cor­po­rate-econ­o­mistic ten­den­cy of com­mon sense.

Marx­ism offers a high­er con­cep­tion of life and we, in this sem­i­nar, must artic­u­late what this may be in terms of the old Kant­ian the­sis on Being:” Pos­si­bil­i­ty is High­er than Actu­al­i­ty. “The Marx­ist atti­tude must be open, vibrant and nev­er dog­mat­ic. Gram­sci also is empha­siz­ing the relent­less crit­i­cism of all that exists which we shall return to in rela­tion to doing Phi­los­o­phy in a Marx­ist way. Again, we can­not sep­a­rate Phi­los­o­phy from its His­toric­i­ty and can­not announce its end until we work through the con­cepts and cat­e­gories in a rad­i­cal fash­ion, i.e. re-root them and under­stand their imma­nence and begin to tran­scend them with a new and fresh imag­i­na­tion that pro­duces a new log­ic of under­stand­ing and engage­ment. In oth­er words, we need to rig­or­ous­ly sit­u­ate our­selves in the dom­i­nant (hege­mon­ic) com­mon sense as a nucle­us of thought that demands to be bro­ken in a dialec­tic of imma­nence and tran­scen­dence.

We will con­tin­ue with some of these ideas on Sat­ur­day, Octo­ber 20th and begin with the ‘human­ist Marx” through read­ing “Cri­tique of the Hegelian Dialec­tic and Phi­los­o­phy as a Whole” , pages 170–193 “Estranged Labor” , pages 106–119 in The Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­i­cal Man­u­scripts of 1844 . Take it slow.

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