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.