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Seminar V — November 3, 2018 Reading List

The Frankfurt School and the paradoxical idea of progress: Thinking beyond Critical Theory with Stanley Aronowitz

Mar­cuse, Her­bert. Eros and Civ­i­liza­tion: A Philo­soph­i­cal Inquiry into Freud, Part II pp. 129 — 274. (Bea­con paper­back, 1974).

In Freud’s the­o­ry, the men­tal forces opposed to the real­i­ty prin­ci­ple appear chiefly as rel­e­gat­ed to and oper­at­ing from the uncon­scious. The rule of the “unmod­i­fied” plea­sure prin­ci­ple obtains only over the deep­est and most “archa­ic” uncon­scious process­es: they can pro­vide no stan­dards for the con­struc­tion of the non-repres­sive men­tal­i­ty, nor for the truth val­ue of such a con­struc­tion. But Freud sin­gles out phan­ta­sy as one men­tal activ­i­ty that retains a high degree of free­dom from the real­i­ty prin­ci­ple even in the sphere of the devel­oped con­scious­ness. We recall his descrip­tion in the “Two Prin­ci­ples of Men­tal Func­tion­ing.” With the intro­duc­tion of the real­i­ty prin­ci­ple one mode of thought-activ­i­ty was split off: it was kept free from real­i­ty-test­ing and remained sub­or­di­nat­ed to the plea­sure prin­ci­ple alone. This is the act of phan­ta­sy-mak­ing (das Phan­tasieren), which begins already with the game of chil­dren, and lat­er, con­tin­ued as day­drem­ing, aban­dons its depen­dence on real objects. Phan­ta­sy plays a most deci­sive func­tion in the total men­tal struc­ture: it links the deep­est lay­ers of the uncon­scious with the high­est prod­ucts of con­scious­ness (art), the dream with the real­i­ty; it pre­serves the arche­types of the genus, the per­pet­u­al but repressed ideas of the col­lec­tive and indi­vid­ual mem­o­ry, the tabooed images of free­dom. Freud estab­lish­es a twofold con­nec­tion, “between the sex­u­al instincts and phan­ta­sy” on the one side, and “between the ego instincts and the activ­i­ties of con­scious­ness” on the oth­er. This dichoto­my is unten­able, not only in view of the lat­er for­mu­la­tion of the instinct the­o­ry (which aban­dons the inde­pen­dent ego instincts) but also because of the incor­po­ra­tion of phan­ta­sy into artis­tic (and even nor­mal) con­scious­ness. How­ev­er, the affin­i­ty between phan­ta­sy and sex­u­al­i­ty remains deci­sive for the func­tion of the former.

Marx, Marxism and Philosophy Today with Michael Pelias

Lukacs, Georg. “The Phe­nom­e­non of Reifi­ca­tion” in His­to­ry and Class Con­scious­ness, pp. 83–110. (MIT Press, 1970).

The essence of com­mod­i­ty-struc­ture has often been point­ed out. Its basis is that a rela­tion between peo­ple takes on the char­ac­ter of a thing and thus acquires a ‘phan­tom objec­tiv­i­ty’, an auton­o­my that seems so strict­ly ratio­nal and all-embrac­ing as to con­ceal every trace of its fun­da­men­tal nature: the rela­tion between peo­ple. It is beyond the scope of this essay to dis­cuss the cen­tral impor­tance of this prob­lem for eco­nom­ics itself. Nor shall we con­sid­er its impli­ca­tions for the eco­nom­ic doc­trines of the vul­gar Marx­ists which fol­low from their aban­don­ment of this starting-point.

Democracy and Marxism with Peter Bratsis

Anton Pan­nekoek, Work­ers Coun­cils, (Chap­ter 1, “The Task”, and 2, “The Fight”).

Con­tem­po­raries across the spec­trum of Left thought, from Anto­nio Negri to Noam Chom­sky, are falling over each oth­er to claim the man­tle of Left Com­mu­nism. Left Com­mu­nism is the the­o­ry and prac­tice of work­er con­trol and self-orga­ni­za­tion whose adher­ents pro­vid­ed the main oppo­si­tion to the Bol­she­viks. Rarely print­ed, often cit­ed, Pannekoek’s Work­ers’ Coun­cils is the Das Kap­i­tal of Left Com­mu­nism. This updat­ed edi­tion includes a sub­stan­tial intro­duc­tion from Noam Chom­sky, illu­mi­nat­ing the con­tin­u­ing rel­e­vance of this clas­sic text. “An urgent mes­sage to the future— are we listening?—from the most bril­liant the­o­reti­cian of lib­er­tar­i­an com-munism.”—Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz Anton Pan­nekoek was a Dutch work­er, Social­ist, and astronomer. He wrote Work­ers’ Coun­cils amidst Nazi occu­pa­tion of Holland.