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.