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Marx, Marxism, and Philosophy, Today — Resume from Saturday, November 3, 2018

We began with a short sum­ma­ry of Marx’s use of tech­ni­cal vocab­u­lary in the Paris man­u­scripts. The use of the term, Ent­frem­den, lit­er­al­ly to estrange (akin to the French estrange­ment), a feel­ing some­what sim­i­lar to the uncan­ny in Freud, unheim­lich. This estrange­ment is what is expe­ri­enced, although not always con­scious­ly, by the labor­er in the pro­duc­tion process and in his/her life.

The sec­ond term is Entaussern, to alien­ate in the legal sense, to trans­fer prop­er­ty, use in the com­mer­cial sense. Marx, for the most part, does not apply this term direct­ly in the legal­is­tic mean­ing in the Paris Ms. (but sug­gests it as an equiv­a­lent in the legal –com­mer­cial sense). but does use it to deep­en the mean­ing of what the work­er expe­ri­ences and is sub­ject to in the sense of dis­tant from nature, from the prod­ucts of one’s labor, from the world spir­it (Hegel), and from oth­er species-beings in the sense of social rela­tions.

Alien­ation is first used active­ly by Grotius and is made a con­di­tion of relin­quish­ment before enter­ing the social con­tract by Rousseau by which process the indi­vid­ual is made more secure and free by the col­lec­tive (see The Social Con­tract, 1761). We will return to this with the think­ing of Del­la Volpe of the Ital­ian post-WW II for­ma­tion. Marx, of course, trans­forms this term into a deep­er and more dialec­ti­cal con­cept- both ana­lyt­i­cal­ly and crit­i­cal­ly.

The third term is Wesen, which is very dif­fi­cult to trans­late into Eng­lish. First, it is the oppo­site of the sol­id core of some­thing: it is not fixed nor pet­ri­fied, ossi­fied but a liv­ing process, a becom­ing that demon­strates the very being of some­thing, its “essen­tial nature”, not what in Eng­lish we refer to something’s essence or the over­all ten­den­cy towards essen­tial­ist think­ing. Wesen can also be used to denote an aggre­gate or a group, an ensem­ble of social rela­tions.

Anoth­er prob­lem­at­ic term for us is Aufhe­bung. It refers to the key lever in Hegel’s dialec­ti­cal method and is trans­lat­ed as: To raise up, to put into relief, to can­cel and pre­serve, incor­po­rate the truth and lift to a high­er plane (the syn­thet­ic activ­i­ty of the mind), to sub­late, to sup­press and lift to a high­er plane. Its move­ment relies upon a dou­ble nega­tion. In a fig­ur­al sense (per­haps a gestalt) the aufhe­bung in move­ment acts like a spi­ral and in Hegel’s terms, the result is in the begin­ning. We will return to this when encoun­ter­ing oth­er philoso­phers in the Marx­ist tra­di­tion but it is very clear that Marx is tak­en with the Hegelian method in his youth and tries with Engels to locate the “ratio­nal ker­nel in the mys­ti­cal shell.” One ques­tion we can keep open is whether the Marx of Das Kap­i­tal remains with­in and retains Hegelian terms- is the Aufhe­bung still active in the work­ing out of Kap­i­tal?

We could make an almost seam­less tran­si­tion to Lukacs’ sem­i­nal work in the Marx­ist philo­soph­i­cal tra­di­tion. Lukacs con­sid­ered him­self the most sig­nif­i­cant Marx­ist philoso­pher of the 20th cen­tu­ry and he claim could be made if he was not the most sig­nif­i­cant, he cer­tain­ly was the first seri­ous Hegelian – Marx­ist philoso­pher, one who rig­or­ous­ly used and deep­ened philo­soph­i­cal con­cepts such as reifi­ca­tion, alien­ation, and objec­ti­fi­ca­tion in a mate­ri­al­ist way. When read­ing the essay in His­to­ry and Class Con­scious­ness, we can see the engage­ment of the Hegelian dialec­tic in polemics with the Kant­ian antin­o­mies and an attempt­ed res­o­lu­tion through the most engaged and imag­i­na­tive use of the dialec­ti­cal con­cept of total­i­ty. For a def­i­n­i­tion of total­i­ty, see pages 10–15, “What is Ortho­dox Marx­ism?” in His­to­ry and Class Con­scious­ness. We will cer­tain­ly revis­it this con­cept when read­ing Althuss­er, who dis­tin­guish­es between the expres­sive total­i­ty (Hegelian and Lukac­sian) and the struc­tur­al total­i­ty (Spin­oza).

We can also detect a great deal of influ­ence of Marx’s Paris Man­u­scripts through a ret­ro­spec­tive read­ing. Although Lukacs wrote most of “The Phe­nom­e­non of Reifi­ca­tion” in 1922 and it was pub­lished in 1923 in His­to­ry and Class Con­scious­ness, much of the Marx­ist human­ist tra­di­tion is found in Lukacs’ work as well as a philo­soph­i­cal anthro­pol­o­gy before the dis­cov­ery and pub­li­ca­tion of the 1844 man­u­scripts in 1931–32 in Moscow. Also, there is a post­ing of the pro­le­tari­at as the agent of his­to­ry, as the sub­ject of his­to­ry, exter­mi­nat­ing angel of Cap­i­tal­ism in the spir­it of the head of the Rev­o­lu­tion is Phi­los­o­phy and the heart is the Pro­le­tari­at.

Pre­lim­i­nar­i­ly, we should dis­cuss the Kant­ian dis­tinc­tion between the Phe­nom­e­nal and Noume­nal realms in rela­tion to know­ing objects. One should be direct­ed to Kant’s first cri­tique, chap­ter III of Book II of Part II, the Tran­scen­den­tal Log­ic, pages 303–322 in the Wern­er Pluhar trans­la­tion (Hack­ett edi­tion), sub­ti­tled, on the basis of the dis­tinc­tion of all objects –as such into phe­nom­e­na and noume­na. The Phe­nom­e­nal realm is the world of appear­ances, the things as they appear in the for­mal cat­e­gories of Space and Time – how we per­ceive objects – this is all we can cog­nize and know. Anoth­er realm is the noume­nal , which are the things in them­selves, that exist inde­pen­dent­ly of us, the unknown X. This com­ing week, we will attempt to show how Lukas takes this up in “The Phe­nom­e­non of Reifi­ca­tion” and engage the con­cept of expe­ri­ence (Er-fahrung and Er-lieb­nis) from Kant to Hegel. Fram­ing this moment in the his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy as the “sub­jec­tive turn” may do a dis­ser­vice to the Kant­ian quest and strug­gle for the objec­tive nature of knowl­edge. This remains an open ques­tion for us.

I plan to intro­duce Korsch’s sum­ma­ry of Marx­ism and Phi­los­o­phy and time per­mit­ting speak to Adorno’s ‘’ Why Still Phi­los­o­phy”, a ques­tion that Adorno rais­es since he is (as am I) not sure of the answer.

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