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Marx, Marxism, and Philosophy, Today — Summary for 4th class, Saturday, October 20:

The pas­sage from Spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy to Phi­los­o­phy of Prax­is needs to be reit­er­at­ed. We nev­er ful­ly tran­scend or go beyond the ele­ments of Spon­ta­neous Phi­los­o­phy, but through mate­r­i­al self-con­scious­ness are able to place our­selves firm­ly in the com­mon sense of the day and attempt to win both for our­selves and build a ‘moral’ his­tor­i­cal bloc towards a “high­er con­cep­tion of life”. The Kamft­platz (place of strug­gle and war of posi­tion) is found in com­mon sense. On page 366, Gram­sci speaks to the term, cathar­sis. In a high­ly orig­i­nal and cre­ative way. Cathar­sis is not an expur­ga­tion of fear and pity in the tra­di­tion­al Aris­totelian sense, but an indi­ca­tion of the pas­sage from the pure­ly eco­nom­ic (ego­is­tic) to the ethico-polit­i­cal moment, a nec­es­sary elab­o­ra­tion of objec­tive into sub­jec­tive, a pas­sage from the realm of neces­si­ty into the realm of free­dom (cf. the mature Marx in Capi­tal). This could be con­sid­ered for Gram­sci, the Machi­avel­lian moment in which pas­siv­i­ty and accep­tance is trans­formed into a new source of ini­tia­tives, an active” ‘man in the mass.” The cathar­tic moment becomes the start­ing point for a phi­los­o­phy of prax­is and although there is some back­slid­ing into spon­ta­neous phi­los­o­phy (reformism is one exam­ple), on the whole there is new­ly found source and prac­tice of trans­for­ma­tion: in oth­er words, a new dialec­ti­cal ten­sion, a new com­bi­na­tion of syn­the­ses that open grounds for new crit­i­cal elab­o­ra­tion of objec­tive forces, and a grasp of the Kant­ian noue­mal realm hith­er­to unknown. Through­out this sec­tion, we see Gramsci’s Hegelian mate­ri­al­ism play­ing out against the Kant­ian “thing in itself.”

We will return to the Kant­ian noue­ma when read­ing Lukacs on reifi­ca­tion- and as, we move more into Marx’s Paris Man­u­scripts of 1844, the con­cept of estrange­ment is with­in this expe­ri­en­tial realm of com­mon sense and as a start­ing point for cathar­tic activ­i­ty.

Marx’s man­u­scripts of 1844 (26 years old at the time) are con­sid­ered part of the human­is­tic phase of his work. There is a philo­soph­i­cal anthro­pol­o­gy at work here, full of anthro­po­mor­phic metaphors and signs and this has led one ten­den­cy in Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy to con­sid­er this work as part of the ear­ly and some­what tra­di­tion­al prac­tice of Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy, one still deeply indebt­ed to and embed­ded in Hegelian terms. This is true to a degree yet some­thing very open to debate – we again will see this in the work of Luck­acs, and his main antag­o­nist in Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy on the notion of total­i­ty, Althuss­er. Of course, we can add Adorno here in his famous state­ment, “The whole is the false.”

For now, we will focus on the cri­tique of the Hegelian dialec­tic from the ear­ly Marx and why Hegel is con­sid­ered the first thinker of polit­i­cal econ­o­my and what that means for our read­ing of Cap­i­tal today.

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