unity/identity of subject and object in Marx

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 14, 2007

Hi all:

OK, as we all know, Hegel tells us that the material is the expression of the Idea, and Marx says nope, that's daft, our ideas are the expression of our material circumstances. But what happens to the identity of identity and difference between subject and object as a result of this 'inversion'?

Rees (in The Algebra of Revolution) claims that where Hegel talked about an identity between subject and object, Marx talks about a unity of opposition. Where for Hegel they are, at root, essentially the same thing (both are conceptual in structure), for Marx they're not - the mind is distinct from matter, but is engaged in a dialectical interaction with it. Because there is no fundamental identity striving towards its resolution Marx's dialectic is thus without the embarressing teleology of Hegel's.

Seems fair enough. But is this really the case? I'd certainly like to think so, but I'd like to be a little more convinced. For example, Engels (and yes I know they're different people, and that this text was written after Marx's death - but they were in close collaboration for years, and established their reworking of Hegelian philosophy together) writes in the Dialectics of Nature that:

"...at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly...
...In particular, after the mighty advances made by the natural sciences in the present century, we are more than ever in a position to realise, and hence to control, also the more remote natural consequences of at least our day-to-day production activities. But the more this progresses the more will men not only feel but also know their oneness with nature, and the more impossible will become the senseless and unnatural idea of a contrast between mind and matter, man and nature, soul and body, such as arose after the decline of classical antiquity in Europe and obtained its highest elaboration in Christianity."

Now, Engels is making an essentially ecological argument at this point, and in this respect the unity between human beings and nature is obviously important. And yet he talks of 'the unnatural idea of a contrast between mind and matter."
...so what's that all about then? If Engels is claiming that mind is part of nature, all well and good - but the statement that there is no contrast between mind and matter is a little suspect.

Elsewhere in the text he writes:

"Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature, and so-called subjective dialectics, dialectical thought, is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and. their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature."

Thus our dialectical thought process is a reflection of a material dialectic; we are able to grasp and undertand nature because we are able to understand its essential processes. This is horribly close to Hegel's claim that the root of all being is the Concept, and that we are able to understand the world because it is, at its base, rational.

Now, if he's saying that the mind mirrors the world that's one thing, as the distinction between mind and matter is preserved. But in relation to the quote above it seems that he's in fact saying that we can grasp the world because we think dialectically, and because the world is itself dialectical. There is therefore an identity between the two, rather than an opposition.

This would seem to convict him of idealism, of replicating the same errors previously identified in Hegel: namely, the transposition of human agency onto some kind of cosmic force.

Does anyone have any comments about this - and can anyone offer some reasonably authorative statements as to how this relates to Marx's own thought?

mikus

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by mikus on January 14, 2007

I just wrote a rather big response to this, as this topic has been my main interest as of late, but my computer crashed moments before finishing. So I will summarize with the following:

I think Rees (or at least Rees as you have presented him) is absolutely correct here. There is an absolute irreducability of mind and matter in Marx. Monism does not start to develop until after Marx dies, first with Engels and then with the rest of the orthodox Marxists. Marx was absolutely correct on this matter, and I think you're worries about Engels' idealism is absolutely well-founded. Marx's critique of Hegel, beginning in 1843 with his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, through the 1844 Manuscripts and The German Ideology, to the General Introduction to the Grundrisse, and finally to the Postface to the Second German Edition of Capital, is remarkably constant. His point is always that Hegel confuses conceptual development with real development, and this leads him to mysticism, sophistry (a word Marx uses in his 1843 Critique) and positivism (something Marx accuses Hegel of both in 1843 and again in 1873 with his Postface). While Marx obviously was not aware of "dialectical materialism" it is clear that his own relationship to Hegel was entirely different from the one claimed by Engels and the dialectical materialists as well as by Hegelian Marxists.

I do not think you should at all place Marx and Engels on the same side on this point. Certainly they were good friends and new each other's theories quite well. But there is no reason to think that Marx accepted the dialectic of nature. Terrell Carver has made this point quite well, using a mass of evidence, in Marx and Engels: The Intellectual Relationship. In all extant letters of Marx and Engels on the dialectic of nature, Marx invariably refers to it as "your" (i.e. Engels') project, and Marx is always rather agnostic about the whole thing. It's clear that building a grand Weltanschuaang was not Marx's interest.

For the best treatment of this issue, I'd recommend the following works by Lucio Colletti:

From Rousseau to Lenin, particularly the essays "Marxism as a Sociology" and "From Hegel to Marcuse" (the latter essay is available here).

Marxism and Hegel. This also has a very interesting analysis of what is rational in Hegel, or what Marx meant when he referred to the rational side of the dialectic.

Marxism and the Dialectic, which is an old New Left Review article. I can send you this as a pdf, as well as an interview of Colletti with Perry Anderson, if you private message me your e-mail address (the interview addresses some of these issues as well).

I actually disagree with Colletti in his NLR article and interview (and it is certainly a nuanced but giant change from his earlier work), but he nevertheless clarifies the issues at stake in an extremely clear way, such that even his mistake is far above most theorist's insights.

Galvano Della Volpe also wrote an interesting book called Logic as a Positive Science, in which he analyzes particularly Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and argues that Marx did for the moral (human) world what Galileo did for the natural world, by repudiating the subsumption of reality into forms of thought prevalent in philosophers such as Hegel and Plato. I'm reading this one right now and it's quite difficult but definitely rewarding.

Mike

RedHughs

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on January 16, 2007

I would be curious about the implications of this line of reasoning.

One example of a process that might be seen as "dialectical" is the development of wage labor. Through the development of productive forces, society reaches a point where labor can measured in an entirely quantitative manner - this occurs along with the development of capital - congeal labor or money that reproduces itself. Then the quantitative expansion of wage labor results in a qualitatively different world, the world of capitalism.

So is this reasoning alien to what Marx was really saying since it involves contradictions playing off each other. Is it too simplistic?

Also, I would say that if thoughts are human brain waves, then they are as much a material reality as physical things. The main difference between thoughts and, shoes is that thoughts have a relation of reflection (or representation) to other things in the material world (obviously not perfect reflection). How does this relate to the "absolute irreducability of mind and matter in Marx"?

Best Wishes,

Red

lem

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lem on January 16, 2007

Well, from my reading of the Thesese (sp?) on Feuerbach (I haven't read much Marx, any Hegel, I just really pleased with myself, so bear with me), well some people use these as an example of dualism, apparently. Seems like non-sense to me! I would imagine that the irreducibility of mind and matter are not too important to him, rather that what is real (what is dialectical in itself), is human activity (this from the thesese and some Korsch). I'm not sure how that is relevent... but if so then the epistemological / ontological questions should be posed in these terms, not as an explanation of nature / mind duality. Indeed, is this really a contradiction (my view, is start thinking dialectically about social practices and philosophies, I mean)

I think a mirror is the standard explanation.

for what its worth, I guess, one would have to understand Hegel to reply to your post :)

lol

lem

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lem on January 16, 2007

Colletti: A bit crude apparently. I can believe that, if he completely rejects Hegel.

wangwei

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by wangwei on January 17, 2007

But what happens to the identity of identity and difference between subject and object as a result of this 'inversion'?

Identity is of the subject is part of the dialectical relation of the subject his objective social conditions. Identity is a contradiction of the self and the predetermined social constructs particular to a society.

Hegel talked about an identity between subject and object, Marx talks about a unity of opposition.

The synthesis of thesis and antithesis helps to understand what Marx is discussing when he using the "Unity of Opposites". He avoids teleology by maintaining the dialectic at all levels of approach between mind and matter. The thesis of mind is a synthesis of its own contradictions and a contradiction with material reality's social structures.

Now, Engels is making an essentially ecological argument at this point,

No, Engels is making a dialectical argument and using nature as his example. This is a perfect example of dialectical contradiction through the agent of ecology, one by the way, that was decades ahead of his time.

This is horribly close to Hegel's claim that the root of all being is the Concept, and that we are able to understand the world because it is, at its base, rational.

Yeah, about as close as Adam's finger to God's in Michelango's famous painting. Hegel's dialectic was quite close to Marxist dialectic's but several absolutes occured within his dialectic that allowed a sollipsism to occur where the mind became the deity of the world. This deification of mind was also an aspect of Kant's Neumenon by the way.

There is therefore an identity between the two, rather than an opposition.

No, there is both. The contradiction occurs at both levels here. The synthesis combines the opposite thesis and antithesis and illustrates both in contrast.

This would seem to convict him of idealism, of replicating the same errors previously identified in Hegel: namely, the transposition of human agency onto some kind of cosmic force.

Nope. Marx was very clear on the fact that because man can think, he can grasp science and change the world (Thesis of Faurbach). Marxist dialectical materialism isn't just rooted in the material world, though many orthodox Marxists do do just that when they end up in vulgar economism.

Does anyone have any comments about this - and can anyone offer some reasonably authorative statements as to how this relates to Marx's own thought?

I would say, and with all respect, that you do not have a good grasp of the Marxist dialectic. Having said that, I commend you for starting this discussion to learn more about it.

Marx's own thought was very dialectical, though it can be read in a determinist way, that's not a reflection of Marx's own thought. Marx was much more organic with his understanding and expression of the dialectic than a lot of his followers are with their analysis.

Step one to understanding the Marxist dialectic is to always look for the contradictions. Once you find the contradiction, determine which is the thesis of what, and what each's own internal contradiction is. It's rather simple once you get used to it.

syndicalistcat

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on January 17, 2007

Marx has a holistic approach that looks at systems that have conflicting tendencies within them, and these are a basis of change in those systems. This is similar to Aristotle's conception of the physical and biological world.

But "dialectic" traditionally referred to a social process, a debate, where there are interlocators. One interolocutor puts forward some thesis, and another interlocutor attacks it, offers counter-arguments, puts forward a different thesis (an antithesis), and the debate proceeds, and perhaps the original proponent is forced to modify his thesis to take account of the criticisms of his opponent (synthesis).

But i don't know what "dialectics" has to do with the issue of the separation between subject and object. These terms also get their meaning from human consciousness. If you perceive a tree, you are the subject of that state, it is happening to you, but it is direct at, it is "of", a tree, which is thus the "object" of that perception. For an idealist the physical world exists only "in" conscious states, and thus there is no physical cosmos independent of perceives, and hence no separation between subject and object.

t.
But it is merely a vague and confusing metaphor to try to apply this notion to the physical world, as Engels tries to do. Engels' attempts to formulate it in "Dialectics of Nature" are so vague it is impossible to be sure you've ever applied it right.

t.

redtwister

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redtwister on January 17, 2007

A lot of questions are raised in this.

The relation of subject and object in Marx is not simple as people are Subjects and things are objects. In this society, capital becomes the subject and people are reduced to object status, not merely as an illusion, but in reality. There is an inversion, which is why Marx refers to the value-form, the commodity form, etc. as perverse, meaning both insane and displaced.

Rees’ comment is insubstantial, IMO. I am not familiar with any absolute identity of subject and object in Hegel. Adorno rightly refers to dialectic as the consistent sense of non-identity, which is closer. Hegel uses the term ‘identity’ in a speculative fashion, that is identity always contains the moment of non-identity within it, and vice versa. Unity of opposition, identity of opposites, etc. is in essence no different. As such, Hegel’s teleologism is both overstated and misunderstood. Where there is consciousness, there is teleology, but it need not be of an over-arching teleology. One could argue that Hegel, as a theist, necessarily tends in this direction, but the notion of teleology in his work is also situated in relation to freedom, which is ultimately of major concern to Hegel. A strictly teleological perspective must negate freedom, but arguably a notion of freedom utterly without purpose is merely chaotic. As such, to ascribe to Hegel or Marx a complete rejection of teleology is as nonsensical as to associate a strict determinism or anti-determinism (clearly determination is present in large doses in both Hegel and Marx, though general in the form of negative determination rather than that of abstract determination.) Similarly with the concept of progress. Neither of them are rank promoters of progress, but neither one simply rejects progress. We can leave this kind of abstract non-sense for scientism on one side and irrationalist lebensphilosophy on the other.

What is clear to me in Marx is that he is not concerned per se with the objects of natural science. Neither he nor Hegel ever held from anything I have seen to a notion of nature as dialectical, for the simple reason that nature cannot be a subject, only an object. Human beings, as consciously acting, purposive beings (purpose being determined by the human beings in question, not by some meta-entity like History or even Society.) this is why Marx takes us on a little trip in the first three paragraphs of chapter 7 of Volume of Capital, which contains the discussion of the bee and the architect. This is a very succinct and powerful paragraph, and for someone to claim that Marx simply treats mind as brain would do well to pay attention to the importance of the ideality, conceptuality and abstraction in Marx’s work.

Hegel however certainly rejects Cartesian dualism between mind and matter, as does Marx. Hegel resolves it differently, but he does not reduce matter to mind. This would be subjective idealism, not Hegel’s absolute idealism. Hegel is essentially a realist. However, Hegel grasps human practice only in terms of conceptual activity, conceptual practice. Marx is concerned with practice as the practice of sensuous beings, as practical-theoretical activity. This is no dualism either. However, one cannot simply posit the simple or absolute identity of mind and being, concept and thing. Their relation is mediated by the social activity of human beings, it is constituted and it is this process of constitution of concept and object that is of interest to both Marx and Hegel.

Engels, especially in his later work, goes down a different path than Marx. There is no dialectics of nature, for the main reason I noted above. At best, one could say that there is a dialectical relation between human beings and nature in the movement between human beings and nature as the exteriority of human beings, that is, their acting on and within the world creates the world as nature, as an object for human beings. However, this would still indicate that there is no dialectic in nature sans human beings. It would also still indicate that objective here refers to a world that is extra-human, not merely extra-mental. Society and social relations are objective in the latter, but not the former sense. To the extent that society appears as extra-human is the degree to which we have an ideological notion of society. This is why one of the key aspects of ideology is its ability and need to naturalize social relations, to eternalize them. This is the importance of the concept of history in Marx as a critical concept is that it is only in history that we can show the non-naturalness, the finiteness, the human-ness of all social relations. Scientism which would have us argue that social relations exist which are natural are both reactionary and unable to properly cognize their object.

In large part, therefore, I agree with Mike on Marx, but not on Hegel. IMO, the fact that Della Volpe and Colletti got their Hegel from Croce is a severely distorting factor, not to mention that the Hegelianism of the official PCI philosophers has the same effect as it did in France, though I am comfortable with Mike’s argument that Colletti is a far more interesting thinker than Althusser and that conflating the two is to devalue and mis-represent Colletti’s work.

In a lot of this I am informed by my reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Marx’s works, and for third party sources especially the work of Hans-Georg Backhaus, Slavoj Zizek and Helmut Reichelt, and to lesser degrees by Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin, Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Lukacs, CLR James, Marxist-Humanism and Guy Debord, if you want references.

On other comments

I don’t see the development of the productive forces, if one uses it in the sense of ‘means of production’ as determining the transition to wage-labor, value and capital. It is not that labor reaches a point where it can be measured quantitatively. Rather, with the development of generalized exchange relations, with the development of Value and Capital, that is, which do not exist prior to ‘capitalist society’, labor is treated itself as an exchange-value, as something quantifiable, only because generalized exchange and money relations allow the abstracting from all concrete qualities and the reduction of all objects of exchange to quantities.

The development and generalization of exchange relations and money and even capital precede generalized wage-labor and drive the reduction of all labor to wage-labor, that is, it drives the separation of the producers from the means of production and the mean of consumption except through exchange. That labor later becomes the predicate of the full development of capital, that is, that is switches from result to predicate, is Imo a better example of a dialectical movement, of a kind of inversion of relations that is determinate.

On the idea of subject-object in relation to capital-labor relation, labor is the subject in the sense that capital is the alienated objectivity of the laborer dominating the laborer. That is, capital becomes a subject. But in this we should not confuse capital with physical materials, any more than the commodity is primarily a physical thing, any more than Value is physical property. These are abstractions, ideal: onto-theological objects who exist only in and through specific social relations between human beings. The object which the subject creates most importantly is the capital-labor relation, but it is capital which appears to act, to direct, to decide, to play the role of Subject. Capital is, within the confines of this society, the true subject and the proletariat is a subject in the mode of being denied, only a subject as the negation of capital, but not within the circuit of capital. There labor is merely an object alongside raw materials and machinery, the v that is variable capital.

As far as synthesis goes, it is not this but rupture, split, contradiction, non-identity which are central to both Hegel and Marx. Unity is a form of violence in Hegel. Identity can obscure. The hobby horse of thesis-antithesis-synthesis is a bowdlerization of dialectic which has retained far too much weight as a commonplace of academic (mis-)treatment of Hegel.

I also cannot stress how much the reduction of Marx to such a “method” is wrong. His dialectic is in what he repeatedly and for decades refers to as the genetic exposition, the genetic method of exposition, the dialectical method of exposition, etc. This method of exposition qua critique takes up the names and concepts used (in Marx’s case esp. in political economy), and re-arranges them in a way that illuminates them and throws light on them in a way that is non-trivial, that is, in a way which tries to show the ‘social sciences’ exactly what they seem incapable of finding: their object. Marx is certainly following Hegel, Proudhon, Fourier and others in critiquing metaphysics, morality, politics and economics as the precarious or false sciences, as sciences which cannot determine their object, in contrast to the natural sciences.

Marx’s genetic method of exposition does not simply engage in abstract negation, that is, standing from another set of principles to show that X is wrong according to Y. Rather, he shows from within X how X is false. This is not so much an empirical operation, as any theoretical matter which can be proved empirically can also be disproved by the same empirical material. Rather, this genetic method of exposition re-arranges and illuminates categories in such a way as to give us, and this is the most contentious claim, non-empirical knowledge. This is why Marx’s critique of political economy begins with his appropriation of Feuerbach’s critique of metaphysics and theology because for Marx political economy is itself an onto-theological/social-metaphysical construction.

This genetic method also allows us to then grasp how the object of critique is constituted. This issue of constitution is huge, though treated in completely different ways, to both Hegel and Marx. Marx never presupposes his object and his principles, and it is exactly in this way that Marx takes political economy to task: It never asks why this activity takes that form. It is why I insist that Marx’s work is about form and critique, about the constitution of relations, not about value as a given object, but as a form of relations that is constituted and re-constituted every day.

As such, I cannot see any truth in the idea that Marx’s work is about a theory of “change in systems” “that have conflicting tendencies within them”, as that would exactly presuppose what must be shown: the constitution of a system (and not of a natural system, but of human ‘systems’), of the contradictions, as forms of human relations. That would be to reduce Marx to a sociologist (I do not employ the term ‘bourgeois sociologist’ because it would be redundant.) Nor is Marx a holist, anymore than Hegel. Totality has a very different meaning to them than the organicist fantasies of most of what passes as holism. Not to mention that no conceptual approach as indebted to non-identity, split, rupture, separation, etc. can be seriously thought of as holistic.

I hope this next does not seem mean, it is not my intent, but I do mean to be a bit sharp. Reducing dialectic to merely its original Greek meaning is most certainly the worst kind of historicism and scholasticism. While Aristotle is always a major interlocutor in Hegel’s work, and certainly to some degree in Marx’s as well, the dialectic that comes out of 18th-19th century German philosophy does not look very much the same. Statements like this should be avoided for their failure to say anything of substance if nothing else. I hope one would not reduce classical political economy to being Greek ‘economics’ because of the philological origins of the term. It would be sad indeed to treat political economy in the sense of the oikos, though no small number of vulgar economists do so in their treatment of the household as the central unit of ‘economics’.

Chris

syndicalistcat

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on January 17, 2007

I think it is the worst sort of scholasticism to take for granted as Holy Writ what Marx, Hegel or anyone else says, and concern yourself only with exegesis, as if the question of its verification in reality, its practical utility in explanation, are never to be considered.

If their ideas are to be of use, and worth acceptance, this has to be shown in terms of explaining our actual experience, what we actually know about the unfolding world. If Marx's hypotheses are acceptable, they are so because they are the best explanation for the series of events, the various facts that it ostensibly seeks to explain, and this also has to be judged in terms of how well it fits with our other explanatory hypotheses about the various other spheres of existence (such as evolutionary biology).

The term "dialectical" as used in modern philosophy does in fact derive from its ancient Greek sense. if a person puts forth some argument for a conclusion, and someone responds to that with counterarguments, and the original proponent does not respond effectively to the criticisms, the proponent's overall performance is said to be "dialectically deficient", that is, deficient in terms of the cogency of his/her position.

I don't profess to understand Hegel...and i find his terminology obtuse...There were in fact numerous followers of Hegel in the 19th century, like Bradley in England and others, and who were advocates of "Absolute Idealism." But there idealism did in fact deny any independent physical realm apart from human consciousness. That means they weren't realists.

Aristotle was not a holist in the sense in which Hegel is. For Aristotle there are distinct facts, this thing has this property. If each fact contains the rest of world within it implicitly -- this is what "Absolute Idealism" is historically taken to immply -- then it's hard to see how we can account for human knowledge since we learn about the world fact by fact, bit by bit. Our cognitive equipment is based on picking up discrete bits of information.

There is also contingency in the world...this event might not have happened. But Hegel seems to have held...and certainly his "Absolute Idealist" followers did hold...that everything is internally related to everything else. This implies that there is no contingency in the world, no accidents of history.

chris writes: "As such, I cannot see any truth in the idea that Marx’s work is about a theory of “change in systems” “that have conflicting tendencies within them”, as that would exactly presuppose what must be shown: the constitution of a system (and not of a natural system, but of human ‘systems’), of the contradictions, as forms of human relations."

I don't really understand your argument. Any theory about what capitalism is will presuppose that it exists, and thus has been "constituted" as a system. That it is constituted by human relations doesn't change the fact that any theory of it presupposes that it exists and is thus constituted.

I'm personally not a "marxist" so I'm not terribly preoccupied with interpreting the writings of the Old Man. I find some of M.'s ideas useful, others not useful.

t.

RedHughs

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on January 18, 2007

Hmm,

My impression is that there is a divide between those who take Marx's thought as Hegel slightly corrected and those who take Marx's thought as a rationalism or scientism that was polluted by Hegel initially and then recovered to become almost completely independent.

I would tend to reject both these positions but the only way to make such rejection concrete is to formulate the most crucial "dialectics" of Marx in a way that is neither dependent on Hegel nor a simple (Kantian?) scientism. That's what I see "modern communist" writers like Gilles Dauve, The Situationist International and other post-Situationist writers doing.

Best,

Red

mikus

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by mikus on January 18, 2007

RedHughs

My impression is that there is a divide between those who take Marx's thought as Hegel slightly corrected and those who take Marx's thought as a rationalism or scientism that was polluted by Hegel initially and then recovered to become almost completely independent.

This doesn't include everyone, for example Lucio Colletti (and I would argue Marx). At best this describes Hegelian Marxists on the one side and Althusser on the other. Both positions are very weak.

I would tend to reject both these positions but the only way to make such rejection concrete is to formulate the most crucial "dialectics" of Marx in a way that is neither dependent on Hegel nor a simple (Kantian?) scientism. That's what I see "modern communist" writers like Gilles Dauve, The Situationist International and other post-Situationist writers doing.

Debord's "dialectic" is entirely in line with "dialectical materialism" (and a little bit of Korsch thrown in when it comes to historically situating Hegel). Dauve has said almost nothing on these questions. Needless to say I have no sympathy for either approach and I don't think they've achieved what you think they have.

I'll write more on this later.

Mike

mikus

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by mikus on January 18, 2007

RedHughs

One example of a process that might be seen as "dialectical" is the development of wage labor. Through the development of productive forces, society reaches a point where labor can measured in an entirely quantitative manner - this occurs along with the development of capital - congeal labor or money that reproduces itself. Then the quantitative expansion of wage labor results in a qualitatively different world, the world of capitalism.

So is this reasoning alien to what Marx was really saying since it involves contradictions playing off each other. Is it too simplistic?

I don't know if I'd say it's "too simplistic" but I don't see what it has to do with history, which after all is what one is trying to explain when one speaks of the genesis of capitalism. The development of capitalism did not occur through the piecemeal accumulation of propertyless workers but through the dispossession of the peasantry, which from the start marked a new epoch in social production.

I also disagree with the idea that this development had anything to do with the possibility of labor being measured "in an entirely quantitative manner." The determinants of value (human labor and labor-time) were certainly present before capitalism. The specificity of value lies in the fact that these properties become objective properties of the commodity, creating an inversion of subject and predicate. In addition, for practical purposes the labor-time that produces value is generally measured in money (note: this does not mean that I think this is the only measure of labor-time, but it is the one used in practice). So the possibility of measuring labor-time purely quantitatively in a technical sense isn't really relevant here. Besides, to my knowledge this didn't happen until the development of Taylorism and capitalism certainly existed long before Taylorism.

Also, I would say that if thoughts are human brain waves, then they are as much a material reality as physical things. The main difference between thoughts and, shoes is that thoughts have a relation of reflection (or representation) to other things in the material world (obviously not perfect reflection). How does this relate to the "absolute irreducability of mind and matter in Marx"?

I don't think anyone would deny that the basis of thought is physical. The human after all is a physical-natural being and not a ghost inside a machine. But thought is able to transcend the laws of nature. For example, it can imagine things which don't exist, and it can even imagine things whose existence is entirely impossible. None of this can be reduced to the material basis of knowledge, which is the physical world and the existence of humanity as a species.

mikus

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by mikus on January 18, 2007

A few general comments on Chris Wright's post, since I don't have time to get into a detailed debate about this (admittedly very interesting) topic:

Firstly, you keep grouping Marx and Hegel in together (for example you say that "it is this process of constitution of concept and object that is of interest to both Marx and Hegel"). Nowhere do you differentiate Marx and Hegel. I would be the last person to say that you have to give your complete view of everything on an online messageboard, but this certainly leaves one wanting. Taking your post on its own, it would be absolutely impossible to understand Marx's brutal critique of Hegel in the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, or even the 1844 Manuscripts. The "process of constitution of concept and object", which according to you "is of interest to both Marx and Hegel," is described in completely different and absolutely opposed ways in the two theorists, which you unfortunately do not so much as mention. Why (and how) is the theory entirely different, even opposed, in Marx and Hegel? Are you a proponent of the idea that there is a contradiction between Hegel's "method" (dialectic) and his "system" (the political theory)? Or is it something deeper, something within Hegel's dialectic itself? Marx of course thought that the Hegel's dialectic itself was mystified (see the Postface to Capital), and he also treated Hegel's political theory as a necessary outgrowth of his dialectic. But perhaps you disagree with Marx. But if this is in fact the case, then you need to explain why Marx didn't understand his own relation to Hegel.

(That Marx didn't understand his own relation to Hegel isn't impossible. As an example of such a mistaken judgement by Marx of his own intellectual ancestry, see the interesting case made about Marx and Rousseau in Galvano Della Volpe's "The Marxist Critique of Rousseau", New Left Review 59.)

Secondly, you say: "Unity of opposition, identity of opposites, etc. is in essence no different."

I wouldn't be so quick to say this. Colletti brings up in "Marxism and the Dialectic" that in Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Marx criticizes Hegel for imputing the form of logical contradiction to reality. In other words, Hegel takes the opposition in reality to be the form of "A, not-A" (i.e. dialectical contradiction) rather than "A, B" (or "real opposition"). Marx essentially says that in reality the two poles of the extremes are not mediated, they do not belong to each other but express absolute hostility. In other words, Marx upholds the (in)famous law of non-contradiction against Hegel.

It is true that Marx describes many aspects of the capitalist mode of production as contradictory in the dialectical sense (A, not-A), such as the contradiction between purchase and sale, capital and wage-labor, and the relative and equivalent form of value, just to name a few that I'm aware of at the moment (I'd be willing to bet there are more).

But it would be a stretch (to say the least!) to make this out to be the same thing as Hegel, or as a verification of Hegel. The contradictory aspects of capitalism are located, for Marx, precisely in capital's insane relations of production. It is not as if all reality, qua reality, is contradictory for Marx (contra the dialectical materialists). The meaning and location of dialectical contradictions has completely changed from Hegel to Marx. For the former, dialectical contradiction is the source of all movement. For the latter, dialectical contradiction is the source of movement only in a society whose form of social life is topsy-turvy and upside-down.

And lastly, I ask you to back up this statement: ..."the fact that Della Volpe and Colletti got their Hegel from Croce is a severely distorting factor."

How do you know this? Are you inferring this from the simple fact that Della Volpe and Colletti were both Italian, and Croce was a major figure in Italian intellectual culture? Can you cite statements from either thinker which support your view that they subsume Hegel under Croce's form of idealism?

Unless I'm missing something, I think you're simply wrong on this. Colletti never assimilates Hegel to Croce. Della Volpe was supposedy a Crocean at one point (supposedly! I'm getting this from Ralph Dumain's website but there is other misinformation on Colletti on the same page, so I'm hesitant to attach any significance to this). But in Logic as a Positive Science his critique of Hegel and his critique of Croce are distinct (albeit related).

I also find your claim to be strangely bold coming from someone who has never read Croce (as you mentioned in the "Marcuse and false consciousness" thread). So forgive me if I feel that those statements, at least at first glance, seem rather wild.

Mike

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 18, 2007

mikus

I just wrote a rather big response to this, as this topic has been my main interest as of late, but my computer crashed moments before finishing. So I will summarize with the following:
I think Rees (or at least Rees as you have presented him) is absolutely correct here. There is an absolute irreducability of mind and matter in Marx.

Thought so - but it's not the case that Marx simply adopts the dialectic as a critical tool, is it? It seems that he really does think reality itself to be dialectical, and that the efficacy of dialectics as such a tool stems from that fact. I think.

I think you're worries about Engels' idealism is absolutely well-founded.

Ta; I've only skim read his dialectics of nature, but it did seem to replicate some of the Hegelian problems.

Marx's critique of Hegel, beginning in 1843 with his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, through the 1844 Manuscripts and The German Ideology, to the General Introduction to the Grundrisse, and finally to the Postface to the Second German Edition of Capital, is remarkably constant.

Yes, agreed

His point is always that Hegel confuses conceptual development with real development, and this leads him to mysticism, sophistry (a word Marx uses in his 1843 Critique) and positivism (something Marx accuses Hegel of both in 1843 and again in 1873 with his Postface).

Absolutely. The real movement of human beings through history is presented as the movement of the Idea - instead of real history, and real development, we have its image: Hegel dissolves the world into abstraction, and then returns from the abstract to the real, claiming that this movement to be the truth of the concrete. Marx starts off with abstract concepts that define a particular historical moment, and develops them back into the real concrete so as to understand the way in which it changes and develops. Hegel moves from the concrete to the abstract, Marx from the abstract to the concrete...Hegel presents the movement of human history as the movement of the Idea; Marx points out that human beings make their own history...which means that we can neither simply glorify the world that exists, nor sit back and let the 'cunning of reason' order things for us.

...but none of this really deals with the relationship between mind and matter. For example, if the 'inversion' was taken at face value: rather than the Idea developing and realising itself through the agency of human beings, the 'Material' could be doing the same. This is of course completely incorrect, but you get the point.

Marx's comments address the fact that Hegel's dialectic presents the philosophical image of human action and concerns. But they don't really deal with the identity between subject and object; we're left to puzzle that out from his comments on base superstructure relations, and from othehr such passages - and in this respect the fact that he considers reality to be dialectical (?) and the fact that he employs dialectics to understand that reality is kind of interesting.

I think Rees is on the right track re the unity of opposition; the comments on labour as human becoming throughout Marx's works imply an open ended dialectic in which 'Man' and nature are in constant opposition, and are constantly changing each other (I act on the world, I change the world, I am changed, I act differently on the basis of these new circumstances, etc.) But having said that, I'd like to see or be pointed towareds some more textual evidence in Marx to that end.

it is clear that his own relationship to Hegel was entirely different from the one claimed by Engels and the dialectical materialists as well as by Hegelian Marxists.

OK, but it is surprising, don't you think, that Engels could get it so wrong - particularly after having worked with him for so long, and so closely?

Terrell Carver has made this point quite well, using a mass of evidence, in Marx and Engels: The Intellectual Relationship. In all extant letters of Marx and Engels on the dialectic of nature, Marx invariably refers to it as "your" (i.e. Engels') project, and Marx is always rather agnostic about the whole thing. It's clear that building a grand Weltanschuaang was not Marx's interest.

Thanks, I'll check that out

For the best treatment of this issue, I'd recommend the following works by Lucio Colletti:
From Rousseau to Lenin, particularly the essays "Marxism as a Sociology" and "From Hegel to Marcuse" (the latter essay is available here).
Marxism and Hegel. This also has a very interesting analysis of what is rational in Hegel, or what Marx meant when he referred to the rational side of the dialectic.
Marxism and the Dialectic, which is an old New Left Review article. I can send you this as a pdf, as well as an interview of Colletti with Perry Anderson, if you private message me your e-mail address (the interview addresses some of these issues as well).
I actually disagree with Colletti in his NLR article and interview (and it is certainly a nuanced but giant change from his earlier work), but he nevertheless clarifies the issues at stake in an extremely clear way, such that even his mistake is far above most theorist's insights.
Galvano Della Volpe also wrote an interesting book called Logic as a Positive Science, in which he analyzes particularly Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and argues that Marx did for the moral (human) world what Galileo did for the natural world, by repudiating the subsumption of reality into forms of thought prevalent in philosophers such as Hegel and Plato. I'm reading this one right now and it's quite difficult but definitely rewarding.

Thanks for the references; I'll have a look through them, and I'll certainly PM you my address.

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 18, 2007

edited - screwed up this post

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 18, 2007

revol68

you ever going to go back to the excahnge value and use value discussion?

No, I got bored very quickly.

I'm doing volume 3 now, so the clouds are due to part any time soon. rest assured, I'll keep you posted

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 18, 2007

wangwei

Identity is of the subject is part of the dialectical relation of the subject his objective social conditions.

Can you rephrase that? It doesn't read as a proper sentence

Identity is a contradiction of the self and the predetermined social constructs particular to a society.

The identity that I was referring to was that between subject and object at the end of Hegel's dialectic (or rather the 'identity of identity and difference') - not the third stage of the dialectic of the Notion (the universal, the particular, the individual). If that's what you're referring to. Or are you doing the Will stuff from the Philosophy of Right? What are you doing? It sounds great, though

The synthesis of thesis and antithesis helps to understand what Marx is discussing when he using the "Unity of Opposites". He avoids teleology by maintaining the dialectic at all levels of approach between mind and matter. The thesis of mind is a synthesis of its own contradictions and a contradiction with material reality's social structures.

This is rather a tired cliche, but Hegel doesn't talk about thesis-antithesis-synthesis, although that's certainly the way in which his dialectic is often presented; he praises Kant's 'triadic structure' in the preface to the Phenomenology, and does introduce the dialectic in relation to Kant's antinomies in The Difference..., but other than that it's the wrong way to think about what he's doing.
Anyway, the passage above simply seems to replicate the unity of opposition thing in Marx, suggested above, albeit in a rather more convoluted manner, so I'll take it that's what you're trying to say...?

No, Engels is making a dialectical argument and using nature as his example. This is a perfect example of dialectical contradiction through the agent of ecology, one by the way, that was decades ahead of his time.

That's a little petty, isn't it? The passage I quoted was from a section towards the end of the book in which he is making an explicitly ecological argument. Yes, he's also talking dialectics - but as the whole book is about the 'dialectics of nature,' that's not much of a surprise.

Yeah, about as close as Adam's finger to God's in Michelango's famous painting. Hegel's dialectic was quite close to Marxist dialectic's but several absolutes occured within his dialectic that allowed a sollipsism to occur where the mind became the deity of the world. This deification of mind was also an aspect of Kant's Neumenon by the way.

Where are the 'solipsims' in Hegel? Consciousness' perspectic is limited by its stage in the dialectic, but at the end all such limitations are overcome.
...and Kant's noumenon is not a deification of the mind; it marks the boundaries of possible knowledge, and constitutes part of what Hegel was trying to overcome

There is therefore an identity between the two, rather than an opposition.
No, there is both. The contradiction occurs at both levels here. The synthesis combines the opposite thesis and antithesis and illustrates both in contrast.

I think you're missing the point; yes, Hege's identity of difference involves an opposition. However, Marx's unity of opposition, as is being presented here, does not involve any such absolute identity.

Marx was very clear on the fact that because man can think, he can grasp science and change the world (Thesis of Faurbach).

So was Hegel

Marxist dialectical materialism isn't just rooted in the material world, though many orthodox Marxists do do just that when they end up in vulgar economism.

Yup

I would say, and with all respect, that you do not have a good grasp of the Marxist dialectic. Having said that, I commend you for starting this discussion to learn more about it.

And I would say that you're a little too eager to sound patronising, and that considering your spelling mistakes and empty statements it's probably a bad idea for you to do so. But cheers anyway

Marx's own thought was very dialectical,

no shit

though it can be read in a determinist way,

It's not determinist at all

Step one to understanding the Marxist dialectic is to always look for the contradictions. Once you find the contradiction, determine which is the thesis of what, and what each's own internal contradiction is. It's rather simple once you get used to it.

Cheers for the tip, I'm sure it'll come in handy

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 18, 2007

ballsed up another post

lem

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lem on January 18, 2007

It seems that he really does think reality itself to be dialectical,

I haven't read much, and I haven't some across any Marx that DOES explain the difference between mind and matter. But I would definetly say that Marx thinks that reality itself is dialectical, but that reality is not some mind independent object, but human activity.

The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism - that of Feuerbach included - is that the thing [Gegenstand], reality, sensuousness is conceived only in the form of the object or of comptemplation [Anschauung], but not as human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in contradistinction to materialsim, was developed by idealism - but only abstractly since, of course, idealsim does not know real sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensusous objects differentiatedfrom the thoght objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective [gegenstandliche] activity. Hence in the Essence of Christianity he regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty-judaical form of appearance. Hence he does not grasp the significance of 'revolutionary' or 'practical-critical' activity

:confused:

fruitloop

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fruitloop on January 18, 2007

What kind of reality could be dialectical? If be reality you mean the Real then I think it makes no sense to talk about its being dialectical.

It seems to me that whilst you cannot know the Real directly, nevertheless you can interact with it.

lem

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lem on January 18, 2007

dialectical nature of our subjectivity.

Wouldn't that put too much emphasis on the theorectical attituyde, rather than human activity - unless that is what you mean by subjectivity.

:)

fruitloop

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fruitloop on January 18, 2007

How so? Surely if I smash something with a hammer then its objective existence is altered, whatever that objective existence might be.

fruitloop

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by fruitloop on January 18, 2007

OK, so reality in that sense is my subjective relationship with the Real. I think I got it.

lem

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lem on January 18, 2007

Not sure I understodd that, but it could be said that subjectivity is an active synthesis of motor proceses - and in this respect at least was is real (different to the Real?) is human activity. I mean, it doesn't sound incredible that a 19th century "philospher" thought that all subjectivity is active - though I have no seen this in anything I read. Shrug.

So, that would mean that we can understand subjectivity as that point in which an automatic relfex becomes under control. In psychology modules I was taught that even imaganing a square involves barin areas involved in gross motor processes. Can;t remember which.

ernie

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by ernie on January 18, 2007

Satanismycopilote, you may find that Joseph Dietzgen's The nature of human brain work, helps to give some answers to your point

...but none of this really deals with the relationship between mind and matter. For example, if the 'inversion' was taken at face value: rather than the Idea developing and realising itself through the agency of human beings, the 'Material' could be doing the same. This is of course completely incorrect, but you get the point.

This work is a very interesting exploration of the question and a very real contribution to the workers' movement.
The discussion has been very interesting, especially the discussion of Marx and Engel's understanding of the question. However, the lack of reference to the discussion of this question within the wider workers' movement has tended at times to concentrate on the work of modern academic marxists, rather than the contribution of the workers' movement.

syndicalistcat

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on January 18, 2007

Kant thought that subjectivity was active in that it imposed categories of thought on the world so that we don't know "the thing in itself." But Kant was trapped in Descartes' problem, and saw the physical world as hidden behind a veil of perception. Nowadays no psychologist or philosopher of any repute believes in this "veil of perception" stuff.

Thought is active but perception is also active in the sense that we always interpret what we perceive, and actively explore the world. But thought and belief and perception, as cognitive interpretation, are also social in their nature as well. Because sociality is between human organisms, it is in that sense part of the material world.

t.

lem

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lem on January 18, 2007

revol68

I don't know why you are interpreting subjectivity to be just thought, it's discursive.

tbh i'm not sure what this means?

lem

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lem on January 18, 2007

Yes, I should have said a movement to and fro between reflex and sentiment.

redtwister

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redtwister on January 19, 2007

Hegel however certainly rejects Cartesian dualism between mind and matter, as does Marx. Hegel resolves it differently, but he does not reduce matter to mind. This would be subjective idealism, not Hegel’s absolute idealism. Hegel is essentially a realist. However, Hegel grasps human practice only in terms of conceptual activity, conceptual practice. Marx is concerned with practice as the practice of sensuous beings, as practical-theoretical activity. This is no dualism either. However, one cannot simply posit the simple or absolute identity of mind and being, concept and thing. Their relation is mediated by the social activity of human beings, it is constituted and it is this process of constitution of concept and object that is of interest to both Marx and Hegel.

This genetic method also allows us to then grasp how the object of critique is constituted. This issue of constitution is huge, though treated in completely different ways, to both Hegel and Marx.

I think both of these adequately state, for the point I was making, that while at times Marx a Hegel share much, their objects, their answers and therefore their dialectics are completely different. Therefore I find a lot of Mike’s objections based on one fact, that for the purposes of this intervention, I have emphasized what Marx inherits, however critically, from Hegel. I am prepared to back this up at the same time as I am fully willing to agree with the idea that Marx’s dialectic is the opposite of Hegel’s. Its opposition is however not rejection of dialectic, and any dialectic will necessarily share certain conceptions of the correct way to approach a matter, such as the critique of ideas which cannot critically grasp their own presuppositions and the importance of a subject-object dialectic. Marx and Hegel both work out a subject-object dialectic, but the actual nature of this dialectic is completely opposed.

[mike] The "process of constitution of concept and object", which according to you "is of interest to both Marx and Hegel," is described in completely different and absolutely opposed ways in the two theorists, which you unfortunately do not so much as mention.

My above quotes show that Mike is simply making a completely incorrect claim.

Also, Mike, if you are going to make reference to obscure comments, please try and cite the reference so I can look it up without having to re-read a long text. That is your responsibility. I have looked for a while and I have not found what Colletti refers to, though in the article he seems to refer to Marx’s comments re: Hegel’s acritical idealism. I could not find a substantive citation I could refer to the English translation with.

However, what I find utterly shocking is the way you ignore the conclusion Colletti himself draws. Science of reality knows no contradictions. There are only oppositions, no dialectical contradictions. And yet in point 2 he clearly states that when it comes to capital, Marx defends the existence of dialectical contradictions. Colletti feels at this point that Marx’s work lies between science and philosophy, and this is indeed almost verbatim the title of Backhaus’ excellent article on subject-object in Marx: Between Philosophy and Science. Like Backhaus, and many others, this dialectical contradiction is possible because capital is, as you say, insane (verruckt, verruckheit, etc. though I may be off on the spelling.) He is quite correct that the perverse nature of capital is the source of its contradictions. Colletti has the courage to admit that this leaves him perplexed as to whether or not society can ever be treated scientifically, i.e. in the vein of empirical, natural science. You should be so decent as to admit that Colletti and I agree, but that this troubles him in away in which it does not trouble me.

IMO, you have no way to grasp Colletti’s point, so quick are you to rush to the expulsion of Hegel without looking at Colletti’s sincere and self-effacing struggle. He and I and Backhus agree on one further point: there is no “dialectical materialism” or Diamat in the sense of a natural philosophy. It is nonsense. Since Colletti, you, Backhaus and I do not per se disagree on the conclusions one draws (though as Colletti states in this article, he did in fact reject this conclusion in his earlier work where he simply tried to deny the existence of dialectical contradiction in Marx p. 25 para 2.)

Since I am not proposing the existence of dialectics in nature, I find your whole argument singularly pointless.

As for Croce and Colletti, I am not claiming a direct relationship of the sort that Della Volpe had, but the importance of Croce and also the influence of this upon Della Volpe, alongside the particular treatment of Hegel in the PCI, is sufficient to suggest a correlation. I would have to go back, but it was actually argued in materials I looked through for the Marcuse discussion, from wikipedia to Perry Anderson, though my sources may indeed be wrong, but also based on the importance of Croce for bringing Hegel to Italy as Bradley is the ass responsible for butchering Hegel in England. If that is wrong, please show me that it is so. I have offered a conjecture based on some reading and if it is factually wrong, then it is. What exactly would it change, except sine it is meant to argue nothing more than the possible source of Colletti’s erroneous reading of Hegel?

Chris

redtwister

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redtwister on January 19, 2007

Syndicalistcat:
It seems to me that you want to defend yourself by first claiming that I am engaging in mere exegesis with no respect for its 1) verification in reality, (empirical verification?) and 2) its practical utility in explanation. Further, you ascribe loosely to Hegel what Bradley had to say, but I admit I don’t find Bradley worth a fig.

On the first two points, I think that a correct exposition of someone’s ideas in a discussion of ideas is rather important, unless you think that playing fast and loose is acceptable? In which case, there is no discussion to be had. However, were I to treat your ideas in like fashion I suspect you might start by trying to correct first deficiencies I had in grasping your terms, their usage, and in general your philosophical points. Otherwise, your concepts would be mere window-dressing, a perspectivalism akin to Nietzsche (at least young Nietzsche and I would argue Nietzsche overall.)

Second, I explicitly made the argument that for Marx and Hegel, not all matters can be settled empirically. That is, while this can be done in reference to nature, society is not natural. As Mike raised quite correctly, Marx’s dialectic refers to a society that is inverted, mad, insane, or as I stated, perverse. Deciding based on empirical verification leaves intact the presuppositions of the philosophy which makes the analysis. A realist attempt to understand capital, the state, etc. will only end up taking its empirical objects for granted.

Hegel certainly is a realist, at least insofar as his system is concerned. I might follow Frederic Jameson in Marxism and Form, in his discussion of Croce (ah, coincidence) that Marx is not a realist. That is, he is engaged not in the formulation of a positive system, but in the critique of such formulations, most famously political economy. Marx is not concerned with the ‘adequation of the concept to external reality, its mechanical and “objective” distinction between subject and object” (Jameson, p. 366) exactly because in the discussion of society we have an inversion and interplay between subject and object because the object is constituted by the subject and vice versa. Marx appropriates the aspects of Hegel which are a critique of analytical, anti-dialectical thought, while rejecting Hegel’s on tendency to realism vis-s-vis his idealism.

The novelty of Jameson’s analysis is that he see empirical realism as far more reactionary than Hegelian idealism.

No doubt, this is present IMO in your interventions on practical, political issues. While I appreciated he clarity of example your brought to the discussion of racism, the element that was unsatisfying becomes clearer in the thread In Reply to Wayne Price, where you treat the idea of class unity as one of an alliance between discrete populations. This is a fundamentally incorrect view of the matter and of class unity, and it is practically disastrous in taking racial division as practically given rather than is something constituted through the weakness of our class, its failure to become a class.

On the matter of holism, it assumes a certain kind of static state of affairs where each thing is merely related to another. What you talk about as Holism simply has nothing to do with Hegel or Marx. I could attempt to address in detail what totality is in Marx, if I must. I see no point however in taking seriously your accusation of holism towards Hegel unless you can provide some actual basis for it. And it has to be more than saying “Well, some of his followers said it.” Some of Marx’s “followers” said that there was socialism in one country and some of Bakunin’s followers engaged in assassination, but I find it silly to blame them for that.

As for dialectic, this is certainly better, but it is still inadequate. Dialectic is in fact based on critique, not on proposing its own system, but on the critique of another system. To that extent, the historical reference is not wrong, but it simply lacks substance taken in this limited fashion. It doesn’t tell us much, which was my complaint before. It is less than exegesis, it is the pretense that a historical reference to what dialectic was for the Greeks is adequate to an understanding of what it is for Hegel or Marx.

On constitution, I agree that you do not understand my point. The object of Marx’s critique is political economy and capital, not capitalism. A critique of capitalism can only register the problems with capitalism: inequality, injustice, poverty, violence, war, etc. The critique of capital is a critique of the way in which capital as a social relation is constituted as inverse, perverse, irrational, etc.

So no, we cannot merely assume capitalism as objective. That is the path to sociology, economics, political science and other reactionary nonsense. Capital is constituted everyday by us, by our alienated subjectivity. The objectivity of capital is nothing, nothing, but our alienated subjectivity. For your realism, I expect this is incomprehensible, but for me it is the ultimate basis of why the working class is revolutionary.

Btw, IMO this discussion fully informs our disagreements on NEFAC’s Workplace Position Paper, and so I will argue that I do very much respect the practical implications of the differences.

Chris

syndicalistcat

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on January 19, 2007

Redtwister, maybe you are using "realist" in some strange way. I use it as it is normally used in philosophy. I don't really care about what Hegel said, frankly, because I never found his insights worth the trouble of his, to my mind, unnecessarily obscure terminology. Your terminlogy I also find unnecessarily obscure.

While I appreciated he clarity of example your brought to the discussion of racism, the element that was unsatisfying becomes clearer in the thread In Reply to Wayne Price, where you treat the idea of class unity as one of an alliance between discrete populations. This is a fundamentally incorrect view of the matter and of class unity, and it is practically disastrous in taking racial division as practically given rather than is something constituted through the weakness of our class, its failure to become a class.

Let's see if i can understand you here. There are certain material advantages to being white and male, in things like getting jobs, better paying jobs, and so on. But these are minor compared to the great gains that could come from unity within the working class. But white workers may lack a faith in the possibility of getting people together to mount the major sorts of collective action needed to make those greater gains, they may not even think of it at all because it is so absent from their experience. In that sense, if the class had developed greater cohesion, greater movements of solidarity, racism might be less entrenched because the value of the greater solidrity would be clearer. Is this what you mean?

That's true. But the issue facing us now is how to develop greater cohesion, how to develop and encourage collective actions that embody large scale solidarity. How can you do this without navigating the distrust and division that exists in some way? Greater unity doesn't happen automatically. My housing organization has gradually developed credibility with, and is now working with, groups, including tenant associations, in communities of color, and this wouldn't have happened, since the original organizing committee was mainly white, were it not for our making a conscious effort to talk to them, listen to their concerns, to their perspectives, which may be different than other people, or white activists.

So no, we cannot merely assume capitalism as objective. That is the path to sociology, economics, political science and other reactionary nonsense. Capital is constituted everyday by us, by our alienated subjectivity. The objectivity of capital is nothing, nothing, but our alienated subjectivity.

Here you take "subjectivity" entirely for granted. But in reality, what is it? You assume there is some way the world appears to you, that you have thoughts about things around you, and that this is your "subjectivity". But how do you get those concepts through which you think and perceive? You get them through communicative interaction with other humans. Children when they are in their first five years suck down a gigantic number of concepts, as they learn to use the language. You don't run your own language. The language you use is social, its semantic content is socially determined. The thing that the phenomenologists, Brentano and Husserl and their followers, regarded as the distinctive trait of the mental, its "ofness" or "intentionality", i think can be explained without assuming some mysterious "subjectivity", can be explained in terms of social relations, and concepts derived from evolutionary biology. The "objects" of consciousness are not "subjectively" constituted or determined, but are socially constituted.

What is "objective"? We develop ideas about the way the world is, ideas that account for what we experience. We posit various hypotheses, which make up our theory of the world. They are worthy of continuing to hold on to them only if they aren't contradicted by things we encounter, if they don't fail us in practice. And a key part of this is discussion and debate with others. Others may challenge how we see things. Can we respond effectively? Or are we forced to change our ideas because others have pointed out flaws? Ideas about the way things are acquire a certain social "objectivity" only thru this inter-personal process, this dialectical process. "Objectivity" is an epistemological notion. But realism is not an epistemological notion. Realism is about what is.

I think your distinction between Marx's work being about capital versus being about capitalism is a dinstinction without a difference -- pedantic in fact. As I said before, Marx's ideas are of value only if they hold up to practical test, and the process of communication with others is part of that, because the debate about ideas is part of the practical test. There is no reason why anyone should pay any attention to Marx's ideas if they do not provide a set of hypotheses about how the social world of our experience works, that is the best explanation of the things we observe in the social world that it purports to explain, and is consistent with what we know about the world. To the degree those ideas are shown to not hold up, then we need to modify them, or find other ideas. To not take this view is to reduce Marxism to a religon.

Marx's work contains some useful insights but it also contains mistakes. This is why Marxism needs to be transcended.

t.

syndicalistcat

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on January 19, 2007

I consulted Paul Redding's article on Hegel at:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hegel/

What Redding points out is that there are roughly two schools of interpretation of Hegel. The older view of Hegel was influenced by 19th century idealist followers who focused mainly on Hegel's later writings like the "Science of Logic" and ignored earlier writings like "The Phenomenology of Sprit." They interpreted Hegel as a metaphysician of idealism. This is the view of Hegel that has been common until the last few decades, and is the impression I've generally had of him. Hegel, on that interpretation, seemed to hold that "thoughts" had "contents" that existed objectively as eternally existing abstract entities, in the Platonist vein.

However, Redding points out that in more recent years there has been a re-interpretation of Hegel, looking more at his earlier writings. On this view, Hegel is regarded as an extender of Kant's "transcendental idealism," extending it to the social realm, with Hegel's emphasis upon the way that a culture and social practices condition the thought of a period. Even so, to the extent that Hegel remains trapped in Kant's categories, he also remains a prisoner of Descartes' problem.

t.

wangwei

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by wangwei on January 19, 2007

Neither he nor Hegel ever held from anything I have seen to a notion of nature as dialectical, for the simple reason that nature cannot be a subject, only an object.

I don't agree with you here. Nature, in material reality, is full of dialectical contradictions between subject and object. The Sun to the Earth, Sun to Solar system, and Galaxy to Sun. The Object and Subject of each of these aspects of nature shift within the objective conditions of the relation. Nature can be a subject for objective evaluation, and can also be subject to various industrial enterprises.

For Aristotle there are distinct facts, this thing has this property.

This would be a case of Aristotle not employing the dialectic and being idealist. Materialists take the understanding of the absolute and relative being aspects of each other. The absolute general objective that we are relatively subject to.

But Hegel seems to have held...and certainly his "Absolute Idealist" followers did hold...that everything is internally related to everything else. This implies that there is no contingency in the world, no accidents of history.

Accidental in philosophical terms isn't exactly the colloquial meaning. Accidental would be like a hole in a pot, a part of something but not something that affects that thing. Now if the hole was on the bottom of the pot, then the pot becomes accidental and the hole becomes the object. So, in Hegellian terms the object and subject can turn into its opposite based upon accidental phenomenon becoming primary -- the dialectical category of this would be "contingency and necessity".

I would tend to reject both these positions but the only way to make such rejection concrete is to formulate the most crucial "dialectics" of Marx in a way that is neither dependent on Hegel nor a simple (Kantian?) scientism.

Well, I'm not sure how much I agree with this. I think a lot of the problem with Marxists is that they're mired in orthodox interpretations of Marx. I think an analysis of Marx that understand his thought as part of a whole, sans the politics of what one's supposed to believe, clearly illustrates his brilliant use of the dialectic.

I wonder if Marx ever read much of the Toa Te Ching and other Toaist philosophies that use the Toa. Anyone know?

Marx of course thought that the Hegel's dialectic itself was mystified (see the Postface to Capital), and he also treated Hegel's political theory as a necessary outgrowth of his dialectic.

I thought Marx was very clear that his break with Hegel was over inversions and idealism, but that otherwise, he employed the dialectic. I think of it as Marx "cleaning up" the dialectic.

For the latter, dialectical contradiction is the source of movement only in a society whose form of social life is topsy-turvy and upside-down.

I don't see how you can attribute this to Marx. The dialectic will be employed in a communist world. In fact the dialectic will be crucial in determining the course of a communist society.

It seems that he really does think reality itself to be dialectical

Yes. You are correct here. The dialectic exists within reality. Think of the dialectic as looking for the order in Chaos, and not trying to conform chaos to what you believe order to be.

Can you rephrase that? It doesn't read as a proper sentence

Sure: Identity is of the subject, and is part of the dialectical relation of the subject to his objective social conditions.

or rather the 'identity of identity and difference'

TA Jackson does a great discussion of this in his work on called "Dialectics". He basically summarizes it by illustrating it with "unbeing and being are alike." He illustrates that Hegel meant that all that a thing is is just as important to a thing as all that a thing isn't is. All that is ~x is just as important to x as what constitutes x.

What are you doing?

I'm trying to illustrate that one aspect of the dialectic has all aspects of the dialectic. In other words, each aspect of the dialectic is a whole and contains negation, contradiction, quantity into quality, and the wholeness of the dialectic.

This is rather a tired cliche, but Hegel doesn't talk about thesis-antithesis-synthesis, although that's certainly the way in which his dialectic is often presented

You're right, but I habitually move to the Hegellian "shorthand" of Synthesis Thesis and Antithesis. The philisophical trappings that come with the rest of Hegel can occlude a good understanding of the dialectic, whereas, focussing on the dialectical contradictions and establishing the poles of existence within an object that allow that object to exist is expressed through the unity of opposites and other shorthands.

Where are the 'solipsims' in Hegel?

The inversion of reality to the ideal creates a deity and class allows for the solipsism of the individual apart from reality to be justified.

noumenon is not a deification of the mind; it marks the boundaries of possible knowledge, and constitutes part of what Hegel was trying to overcome

Yes, that's true, but it also allowed for aspects that are "uknowable" to be introduced into reality. These unkowable aspects eventually allowed for him to subject reality to an ideal. That would be deification of the mind.

Marx's unity of opposition, as is being presented here, does not involve any such absolute identity.

Yeah, but wouldn't Marx's use of the general of a thing, the thesis of it, be the absolute identity of it as that general would be a relative absolute to the identity of that thing?

And I would say that you're a little too eager to sound patronising, and that considering your spelling mistakes and empty statements it's probably a bad idea for you to do so.

Yeah, I should probably proof my posts before I post 'em.

syndicalistcat

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by syndicalistcat on January 19, 2007

The subject/object distinction derives from Aristotle. A thing which you can predicate a property of is a subject. A subject is a thing that has properties, in other words. An "object" is a target of a cognitive state such as perception, thought, belief. If you see a tree, the tree is an "object of" the perception. If you think that Jack is bald, then Jack's being bald is the "object" of that thought.

The modern terminology "subjective", "objective" sort of reverses this meaning.

re: Aristotle saying we can know facts one at a time, this urn is white, e.g.

wangwei: "This would be a case of Aristotle not employing the dialectic and being idealist. Materialists take the understanding of the absolute and relative being aspects of each other. The absolute general objective that we are relatively subject to."

Your second and third sentence above i find completely obscure. As I've pointed out before, "dialectic" for Aristotle is argument, as in a debate. What *you* mean by "dialectic" i have no idea.

wangwei: "Accidental in philosophical terms isn't exactly the colloquial meaning. Accidental would be like a hole in a pot, a part of something but not something that affects that thing. Now if the hole was on the bottom of the pot, then the pot becomes accidental and the hole becomes the object. So, in Hegellian terms the object and subject can turn into its opposite based upon accidental phenomenon becoming primary -- the dialectical category of this would be "contingency and necessity"."

You're confusing accidental -- a modal status -- with being an "accident". An "accident", for Aristotle is a particularized property -- this shade of white -- that a thing has contingently. Accidental, in philosoophical usage, is the same as contingent.

What it means to say a property of a thing "doesn't affect that thing" i have no idea. I also have no idea what it might mean to say "the pot becomes accidental and the hole becomes the object." For Aristotle a pot is an accidental unity because it has no nature. in other words, its a material aggregate, a bunch of stuff fashioned in a certain way by art. Contingency and necessity are what philosophers call modality. They can apply eithere to a state of affairs, proposition, or to a thing's having a property, or to a thing's existence. Modality derives from the middle ages when it referred to a proposition's "mode of truth". Some propositions are contingently true, others are necessarily true.

t.

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 20, 2007

wangwei

Sure: Identity is of the subject, and is part of the dialectical relation of the subject to his objective social conditions.

...and? Throughout his writings Marx describes a dialectical interaction between subject an object; I become through objecting myself through action into the world, I change the world, I am changed as a result, etc. etc. We know this. You could turn this into a rather more substantial point by arguing whether this process is a unity of opposition (which is what i think it to be), or an identity of difference - i.e. human and nature are, in essence, one and the same thing.

All that is ~x is just as important to x as what constitutes x.

yup

I'm trying to illustrate that one aspect of the dialectic has all aspects of the dialectic.

yup

You're right, but I habitually move to the Hegellian "shorthand" of Synthesis Thesis and Antithesis. The philisophical trappings that come with the rest of Hegel can occlude a good understanding of the dialectic,

No they don't; they serve as the basis of the conversation that you're taking part in, i.e. the distinction between a unity of opposites and an identity of difference. T

he thesis-antithesis-syntheis is at best dogmatic: see Hegel for a critique of dogmnatism, and hence for a critique of crappy Marxist Leninist types who use the dialectic as a ready made and ready structured tool to be brough along to any circumstance and imposed on any subject matter. Dialectics is a attempt to let the subject matter itself speak.

Applying a painting-by-numbers version of the dialectic reproduces the errors that Hegel identifies in Kant.

The inversion of reality to the ideal creates a deity and class allows for the solipsism of the individual apart from reality to be justified.

There is no solipsim in Hegel. If you feel that class consciousness can be seen as a solipsism then good for you, but that's Marx (or Lukacs), not Hegel.

Yes, that's true, but it also allowed for aspects that are "uknowable" to be introduced into reality. These unkowable aspects eventually allowed for him to subject reality to an ideal. That would be deification of the mind.

Kant claims reality can only be understood through the categories and in no other way. he is therefore not subjecting reality to an ideal, as we can't know what reality is in-itself, or what such an ideal might be. We can only know our reason and what we percieve through it. This does not constitute a deification of the mind; if it did, the mind would constitute or at the very least apprehend all reality.

Yeah, but wouldn't Marx's use of the general of a thing, the thesis of it, be the absolute identity of it as that general would be a relative absolute to the identity of that thing?

I have no idea what that means

marxfan69

17 years 3 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by marxfan69 on January 21, 2007

You say revolt:
you ever going to go back to the excahnge value and use value discussion?

I thought that everyone was over it. I can go another round and hopfully donate a bit more insight of my own while trying rekindle the flame of what I felt was at points a meaningful endevor. I feel that although my position hasn't fundamentally changed, there is still more to be illuminated as long as we don't get trapped in the same argument, about me venting on poststructuralism wherever I detect a mild hint of it, or you don't use the "well I don't care what marx said anyway" approach, because the opposition between use and exchange value is something we can't talk about without simulaneously speaking with marx.

That said, are there any particular points of departure you would like to take, or specific quotes which are in some way emblematic of the entire crux of the debate? I personally am interested in the idea of a transhistorical use value which can in some way address the idea of a transhistorical concept of labor in the abstract, that is, activity as such-- and the way in which perhaps this flight from "essential" notion, creates the problems we have in this tread, and informs our understanding of praxis and revolution, if they are still calling it that these days.

wangwei

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by wangwei on January 22, 2007

As I've pointed out before, "dialectic" for Aristotle is argument, as in a debate. What *you* mean by "dialectic" i have no idea.

What I'm making a distinction between would be "idealism" and "materialism" particular to the dialectic.

What it means to say a property of a thing "doesn't affect that thing" i have no idea. I also have no idea what it might mean to say "the pot becomes accidental and the hole becomes the object."

Well, what I'm saying is that the pot was formerly a tool with a use value. The use value of the tool was negated, and it became a hole surrounded by a pot instead of a pot (still a tool with use value) with a hole. I'm trying to say that it loses its "potness" when the hole negates its use value.

Contingency and necessity are what philosophers call modality.

I agree with your use of contingency, which is why I illustrated this as the dialectical category of contingency and necessity. But in dialectics this is a relationship that is mutually dependent and interdependent upon itself for identity. Identity, modality, or Thesis is determined by use or action -- hence the thesis of pot is the use value of a "tool".

We know this. You could turn this into a rather more substantial point by arguing whether this process is a unity of opposition (which is what i think it to be), or an identity of difference - i.e. human and nature are, in essence, one and the same thing.

I would say that it is both a unity of opposition and the same thing. Huaminity is nature, a part of it in a dialectical relationship, and there is an opposition that occurs within it that distinguishes us as human -- "the unbeing and being of a thing are alike." Hegel

No they don't; they serve as the basis of the conversation that you're taking part in, i.e. the distinction between a unity of opposites and an identity of difference.

Oh, I agree. I'm just obliquely sideswiping the semanticists who get all caught up in the jargon and take a very mechanical view of Marx and Hegel's philosophy.

Dialectics is a attempt to let the subject matter itself speak.

Applying a painting-by-numbers version of the dialectic reproduces the errors that Hegel identifies in Kant.

I agree. But, the need to learn dialectical materialism is fundamental to getting past the orthodox paint by number application of many Marxists. The dialectic is difficult to grasp, but once grasped, deepens itself through application.

If you feel that class consciousness can be seen as a solipsism then good for you, but that's Marx (or Lukacs), not Hegel.

Only when the "class" becomes a romanticized notion of what should be, as opposed to what is. Class consciousness isn't what I was reffering to. I was referring to Hegel's inversion of the idea, and then the idea creating solipsism by alienating the individual from reality.

This does not constitute a deification of the mind; if it did, the mind would constitute or at the very least apprehend all reality.

No, what I'm saying is it's a deification of the unknowable, which then allows for a deity to exist. Since no deity can exist, this is an idealist construct, therefore the deification of the mind's ideal. I should use less philosophical shorthand. Thanks for pointing out my inconsistencies.

RedHughs

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by RedHughs on January 23, 2007

you ever going to go back to the excahnge value and use value discussion? I thought that everyone was over it.

The exchange value/use value debate has lost all its use value but I think Mike promised a reply to my discussion/debunking of the claim that Marx said the rate of profit would drop even if capitalist paid the workers nothing. Perhaps there was a reply I missed but I haven't seen it and I monitor the thread regularly.

Red

mu

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by mu on January 24, 2007

Like Backhaus, and many others, this dialectical contradiction is possible because capital is, as you say, insane (verruckt, verruckheit, etc. though I may be off on the spelling.) He is quite correct that the perverse nature of capital is the source of its contradictions.

Chris

I am not familiar with Backhaus or his writings, so I am not fully clear on the line of argument which asserts that capital is "insane" or "perverse".

Perhaps you could elaborate?

mikus

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by mikus on January 24, 2007

I apologize for not responding to Chris Wright sooner.

Firstly, I should have phrased different my claim that Chris Wright did not mention the difference between Hegel and Marx. But I still feel justified in saying that in Chris Wright's post, this essential difference exists as a mere side-note to the essential similarity. Even in the quotes Chris provided of his own earlier post, the difference between Marx and Hegel is noted, but the explanation is basically tangential to the main line of argument. All that is given in this regard is a paraphrase of Marx's well-known claim in the 1844 Manuscripts that Hegel conceives of labor only as abstractly mental labor. But this statement needs to be explained, since people have gone in many different directions with this statement (just think of the different interpretations of the Marx-Hegel relation given by Marcuse and Colletti!). I just find it rather strange that in a thread whose topic is a question of the difference of the dialectic in the hands of Hegel, Marx, and Engels, the views of Marx and Hegel are more often than not assimilated rather than differentiated.

(And before this claim is denied, just think of the following sentences given by Chris Wright in his first post to this thread:
"...to ascribe to Hegel or Marx a complete rejection of teleology is as nonsensical as to associate a strict determinism or anti-determinism (clearly determination is present in large doses in both Hegel and Marx, though general in the form of negative determination rather than that of abstract determination.) Similarly with the concept of progress. Neither of them are rank promoters of progress, but neither one simply rejects progress."

"Neither he nor Hegel ever held from anything I have seen to a notion of nature as dialectical, for the simple reason that nature cannot be a subject, only an object." (Not only do Marx and Hegel share reject the same notion of dialectic of nature, but for the same reasons! Not a word about Hegel's idealization of the finite...)

Chris Wright went on to chastize me for failing to provide citations. I didn't have time to search through the texts last time. So here they are:

For Marx's criticism of Hegel's acritical idealism and glorification of what exists, see the whole first 50 pages of the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. (It actually gets somewhat repetitive.) But here are some of the more explicit examples. Citations are given from the Joseph O'Malley translation.

pg. 39, after paragraph 286, under the subheading "Resume of Hegel's development of the Crown or the Idea of State Sovereignty." Marx first deals with the inversion of subject and predicate in Hegel (the transformation of the particular into form of appearance of the universal logic, a logic that was already previously developed in The Science of Logic), and then makes a claim that the result of this inversion is the following:

"In this way the impression of something mystical and profound is also created. That man has been born is quite vulgar, so too that this existence established through physical birth comes to be social man, etc., and citizen; man becomes everything that he becomes through his birth. But it is very profound and striking that the idea of the state is directly born, that it has brought itself forth into empirical existence in the birth of the sovereign. In this way no content is gained, only the form of the old content is altered. It has received a philosophical form, a philosophical certification."

(An interesting thing to note here is that the second sentence is clearly related to Marx's frequent exaltation of a "profane history of men" in The Poverty of Philosophy (pg. 85 of the Progress Publishers edition).

Marx says in the following sentence, continuing this train of thought: "Another consequence of this mystical speculation is that a particular empirical existent, a single empirical existent in distinction from the others is conceived to be the existence of the Idea. It makes once again a deep mystical impression to see a particular empirical existent established by the Idea, and hence to encounter at all levels an incarnation of God." (Note Marx's claim of the specifically Christian character of Hegel's theory, contra the atheistic picture of Hegel painted by Marcuse!)

Or again, pg. 42, comment to paragraph 289: "Just as the universal as such is rendered independent it is immediately mixed in with what empirically exists, and then this limited existent is immediately and uncritically taken for the expression of the Idea."

For Marx's statement which Colletti, on pg. 6 of Marxism and the Dialectic, takes as a prime example of the principle of non-contradiction, see pg. 88, comment on paragraph 304:
"Actual extremes cannot be mediated with each other precisely because they are actual extremes. But neither are they in need of mediation, because they are opposed in essence. They have nothing in common with one another; they neither need nor complement one another. The one does not carry in its womb the yearning, the need, the anticipation of the other."

Marx goes on to discuss this issue further in the following paragraphs. Marx admits a dialectical contradiction within the state. But this is a critique from the standpoint of the principle of non-contradiction, i.e. a critique of the state precisely because its existence is contradictory!

Perhaps I'm unclear on your position in this regard. In the Heidegger thread I thought you had supported Hegel's attack on the principle of non-contradiction. But looking at it again, you merely noted that Hegel disagreed with it. So I may as well ask you explicitly: do you generally support this principle or not? Do real existents ("actual extremes") simultaneously exist and not exist?

The reason I find your take on the Marx-Hegel relation so strange is that you make statements like the one in your final sentence of your last post, where you refer to "Colletti's erroneous reading of Hegel". What is Colletti's error? Seeing Hegel as an idealist? As a speculative philosopher whose goal was the idealization of the finite (through the dialectic)? As acritical? As a Christian? While you don't explain your critique, thus making it hard to respond to you, your statement certainly seems to imply that some or all of those aspects of Colletti's reading of Hegel are wrong (since those are really the main issues Colletti deals with). Colletti has not said anything here that Marx didn't in 1843 in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and once again in the 1844 Manuscripts (and these statements themselves are echoed at points both in the general Introduction to the Grundrisse and in the Postface to Capital. You can find every single one of those claims in Marx. So if Colletti is known as an extreme anti-Hegelian perhaps Marx should be as well. (For the record I think this characterization misses the point, both with Colletti and Marx.)

Your criticism of Colletti is, perhaps, warranted, if you take into account only Marxism and the Dialectic. In Marxism and Hegel (pg. 137) and in "The Theory of the Crash" in Towards a New Marxism (pg. 179) Colletti seems to support Marx's analysis of dialectical contradiction (particularly in the latter). I have discussed this issue with someone who was a student of Colletti in Rome back in the late 1960's and early 1970's in and he agrees with my assessment that Colletti did in fact understand the contradictory (in the dialectical sense) nature of the capitalist mode of production, prior to Marxism and the Dialectic. (This is different from Colletti's own account of his intellectual development in Marxism and the Dialectic, pg. 23, in which he claims that he never understood "until yesterday" that Marx's account of capitalism was based on dialectical contradiction.)

In any case, it would be wrong to say that I am "quick" "to rush to the expulsion of Hegel". I am quick only to point out that Hegel's importance for Marx is not as precursor but as opponent, and as a theorist whose illogic mirrors the illogic of capital and the state. Marx is not upholding Hegel as social theorist but criticizing him and thus simultaneously arriving at a critique of capital and the state.

And finally, your apparent defense of your claim that Colletti and Della Volpe got their Hegel through Croce is in fact no defense at all. All you've said in your response is that Croce was a brought Hegel to Italy. So what? You statement would have had just as much validity if you had said that because Sweezy brought Capital to the United States, and I am from the United States, I got my understanding of Capital from Sweezy (i.e. zero validity). You act as if I need to refute the dominant position of Croce in Italian intellectual culture for some reason. ("If that is wrong, please show me that it is so.") But there is no need for me to refute this, precisely because it has absolutely nothing to do with your claim that Colletti and Della Volpe actually got their understanding of Hegel from Croce. The fact of the matter is that you made this claim without a shred of evidence and you are unable to back this up with anything other than the vague idea that because Colletti and Della Volpe were Italians, they must have got their Hegel from Croce.

And to turn your criticism back on you, please provide citations from Perry Anderson (or whoever else) if you're going to make such a bold claim without having read the originals. The least you can do is refer me to someone who does use evidence when they make such bold claims!

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 24, 2007

redtwister

The relation of subject and object in Marx is not simple as people are Subjects and things are objects. In this society, capital becomes the subject and people are reduced to object status, not merely as an illusion, but in reality. There is an inversion, which is why Marx refers to the value-form, the commodity form, etc. as perverse, meaning both insane and displaced.

I'm reading a lot into this paragraph, but:
So the famous inversion of idealism into materialism has a parallel with the inversion of subjects into objects. This lays the foundation (were one so inclined) for suggesting that Marx's dialectical methodology was chosen for its specificity to its time, i.e. the extent to which it is able to articulate the concerns of its period (and thereby affect change). The dialectic therefore becomes a socially and historically specific critical tool, rather than a claim as to the nature of reality and of truth.

...but problems arise from this, in that this also means that other conceptual methodologies would be required in other eras; it does away with a dialectical view of history (perhaps history today is 'rhizomatic', god help us); and, rather more happily, it also dismisses any kind of absolute ultimate Hegelian identity for Marx between mind and matter.

As I said, I'm reading a lot into your paragraph. But do you imply that there is a parallel between the ideal/material inversion and the subject/object inversion - so could you expand on that?

Rees’ comment is insubstantial, IMO. I am not familiar with any absolute identity of subject and object in Hegel.

Hegel talks about the identity of identity and difference. Subject and object are different...but they are also the same within this difference. You say the same thing in your post, but I'm repeating it so as to distinguish this from Rees' claims about Matrx, as you couldn't see the difference between the two. For Hegel mind and matter share the same conceptual structure. They're not two halves of a whole, like some kind of Yin Yang thing; each is within the other and simultaneously distinct from it. This is different from Rees' account of Marx's 'unity of opposition', which is a kind of Yin Yang thing.

Hegel’s teleologism is both overstated and misunderstood. Where there is consciousness, there is teleology, but it need not be of an over-arching teleology.

When you write 'teleology' do you mean 'intention'? Teleology refers to an inevitable end, a purpose inherent within the object in question. Do you really think that consciousness can be characterised like that?

A strictly teleological perspective must negate freedom, but arguably a notion of freedom utterly without purpose is merely chaotic.

yeah, which is Hegel's position

As such, to ascribe to Hegel or Marx a complete rejection of teleology is as nonsensical as to associate a strict determinism or anti-determinism (clearly determination is present in large doses in both Hegel and Marx, though general in the form of negative determination rather than that of abstract determination.) Similarly with the concept of progress. Neither of them are rank promoters of progress, but neither one simply rejects progress. We can leave this kind of abstract non-sense for scientism on one side and irrationalist lebensphilosophy on the other.

Hegel certainly doesn't reject teleology. But aside from the polemics in the manifesto, can Marx really be described as teleological? Granted, we can identify a fixed point that we need to work towards as a goal - but that doesn't imply the inevitability of reaching it.

...and what do you mean by 'negative determination'? Hegel has a positive conception of freedom, not a negative one; I'm not sure I'm following you

What is clear to me in Marx is that he is not concerned per se with the objects of natural science. Neither he nor Hegel ever held from anything I have seen to a notion of nature as dialectical, for the simple reason that nature cannot be a subject, only an object.

No, Hegel does think nature to be dialectical. Dialectictics is the truth of the universe, the movement of the Notion/Concept is the 'soul of all that exists'. It's not just confined to mind like some kind of distinct sphere away from the material; everything that exists has its Notion, which is its truth and its purpose (and everything that exists is itself part of the Notion of the universe itself, whose purpose is to understand itself).

This is why I raised the question regarding the dialectical nature of reality for Marx. Assuming reality to be dialectical in itself, and assuming dialectics to be a way of uncovering the truth of that reality for us means positing an identity (of identity and difference...) between subject and object. This then would mean that Marx replicates the errors that he identifies in Hegel. I don;t think that is what he's doing - the man knew a thing or two - but its an issue worth identifying, I think.

wangwei

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by wangwei on January 24, 2007

"Actual extremes cannot be mediated with each other precisely because they are actual extremes. But neither are they in need of mediation, because they are opposed in essence. They have nothing in common with one another; they neither need nor complement one another. The one does not carry in its womb the yearning, the need, the anticipation of the other."

Marx goes on to discuss this issue further in the following paragraphs. Marx admits a dialectical contradiction within the state. But this is a critique from the standpoint of the principle of non-contradiction, i.e. a critique of the state precisely because its existence is contradictory!

The state's existence is contradictory because it brings together two things that "have nothing in common with one another, and that neither need nor complement one another. The one does not carry in its womb the yearning, the need, the anticipaiton of the other." as you quoted. The state should not exist, as the bourgeoisie should not exist, and the only reason that the bourgeoisie and the state exists is because of the mass illusion that the bourgeoisie creates by the inversion of the idea to reality -- buy creating "idealism". This is not a principle of non-contradiction in any sense, but a principle of illustrating the contradiction of contradiction. The contradiction exists, but it should not, and only does exist due to state power resting within the hands of the bougeoisie as they create the world in their interests. Marx is clear in Capital in the chapter on Primitive Accumulation about the fact that "the state is the organized force of society." and its existence is particular to the concentration of privelege and power concentrated within the hands of an ever-shrinking minority. It should not exist, but only exists due to the historical situation that exists today.

So I may as well ask you explicitly: do you generally support this principle or not? Do real existents ("actual extremes") simultaneously exist and not exist?

Of course real actual extremes simultaneously exist. That's the epistemological foundation of the dialectic. The unity of opposites and all that.

So if Colletti is known as an extreme anti-Hegelian perhaps Marx should be as well.

Quite astute! I would agree, as Marx was a negation of Hegel. He advanced the dialectic through negation, so he would be "un-Hegal" or ~Hegel, so in effect, anti-Hegel, as Marx's dialectic negated and was opposed to Hegel's dialectic.

uncovering the truth of that reality for us means positing an identity (of identity and difference...) between subject and object. This then would mean that Marx replicates the errors that he identifies in Hegel. I don;t think that is what he's doing - the man knew a thing or two - but its an issue worth identifying, I think

If we posit an identity, then we are subjecting an object to that identity that we posit it with. There must be something within that object that is not that object, the antithesis of that object, as everything is in contradiction. So, at one time the identity that we give may be the opposite of what that object is and therefore subject it to our own objective needs, or romantic ideals as to what that thing should be, thus causing the object to subject itself to our objective.

Marx evaluated identity based upon what was the being and the unbeing of that thing in relation to the identity of that thing predicated upon its function. e.g. a human being that is of the female gender is expected to conform to social norms particular to that human beings culture, time, etc. There is a contradiction between identity woman and female human being, as two fully distinct poles occur within the identiy of the object (female human) and the subject (woman) as well as a converse of subject (woman) and oject (female human) within our society. The subjection of the potential latent within a female human to the objective identity of woman is due to the idea being primary over material reality, as opposed to conforming to it.

Basically, identity must be fluid and allow for the contradictions packaged within it, as things eventually have a qualititative change that initiates a negation into its opposite. Marx does not replicate the error due to the fact that he maintains the two poles of subject and object simultaneousely and roots them in the material existence, apart from the romanticized existence, of that thing.

gatorojinegro

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gatorojinegro on January 24, 2007

someone: "So I may as well ask you explicitly: do you generally support this principle or not? Do real existents ("actual extremes") simultaneously exist and not exist?"

wangwei: "Of course real actual extremes simultaneously exist. That's the epistemological foundation of the dialectic. The unity of opposites and all that."

The use of the Hegelian language of "contradictions" can be confusing, tho. That's because the conflicting tendencies in a real unity need not violate the law of non-contradiction. Consider the "contradiction" in the state between its function of protecting the interests of the dominant class -- capital accumulation under capitalism -- versus its need to sustain some semblance of legitimacy in order to govern, to maintain social peace. In periods of popular insurgency this may lead to the state being the basis of concessions to classes antagonistic to the dominant class, as in the development of the "social wage." But there is, strictly speaking, no violation of the law of non-contradiction in the co-existence of these conflicting tendencies in the state.

Similarly, to take a biological case, living things have homeostatic mechanisms that tend to sustain their life -- such as the mechanisms that maintain a constant body temperature in mammals. To sustain themselves cells are replaced, using the DNA copying process, to rebuild according to the initial design plan. But a counter tendency is the tendency of DNA to be degraded over time thus leading to imperfect copies, which is the basis of the aging process, and eventually leads to the organism's death. But the co-existence of these tendencies at one and the same time in one and the same organism does not violate the law of non-contradiction.

The tendency of the DNA copying process to degrade life-sustaining structure over time is not inconsistent with the existence of tendencies to sustain life, even tho in the long run the first tendency may reach a point in its development where a new property emerges (a breakdown or crisis) that is inconsistent with continued life for that organism.

t.

redtwister

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redtwister on January 25, 2007

Mike,

I believe I put in the text that I was explicitly unable to find my copy of Anderson's Western Marxism, so that my memory could be mistaken. More on substantive issues later.

Chris

redtwister

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redtwister on January 25, 2007

SatanIsMyCoPilot

redtwister

The relation of subject and object in Marx is not simple as people are Subjects and things are objects. In this society, capital becomes the subject and people are reduced to object status, not merely as an illusion, but in reality. There is an inversion, which is why Marx refers to the value-form, the commodity form, etc. as perverse, meaning both insane and displaced.

I'm reading a lot into this paragraph, but:
So the famous inversion of idealism into materialism has a parallel with the inversion of subjects into objects. This lays the foundation (were one so inclined) for suggesting that Marx's dialectical methodology was chosen for its specificity to its time, i.e. the extent to which it is able to articulate the concerns of its period (and thereby affect change). The dialectic therefore becomes a socially and historically specific critical tool, rather than a claim as to the nature of reality and of truth.

...but problems arise from this, in that this also means that other conceptual methodologies would be required in other eras; it does away with a dialectical view of history (perhaps history today is 'rhizomatic', god help us); and, rather more happily, it also dismisses any kind of absolute ultimate Hegelian identity for Marx between mind and matter.

The other thing that came to mind here was Marx's comment regarding the anatomy of Man being the key to the anatomy of the ape. One might think about Marx's treatment of capital in this light, and that capital and his critique of it holds the keys to the 'anatomy' of previous class societies.

As I said, I'm reading a lot into your paragraph. But do you imply that there is a parallel between the ideal/material inversion and the subject/object inversion - so could you expand on that?

I think this is essentially correct except that the dialectical view of history would more be dependent on the separation of subject and object. I agree with Mike that the subject/object problem goes at least back to Aristotle, and so the idea of a dialectic of history is not per se destroyed. What is at issue is the idea of an a priori, trans-historical dialectic. that is, to be meaningful, the dialectic must be concretized in relation to a given set of social relations and is not a methodology or framework that can be applied instrumentally.

I'm not sure I can develop that idea of a parallel between material/ideal and subject/object here, but it is an interesting point probably worth looking at.

Hegel’s teleologism is both overstated and misunderstood. Where there is consciousness, there is teleology, but it need not be of an over-arching teleology.

When you write 'teleology' do you mean 'intention'? Teleology refers to an inevitable end, a purpose inherent within the object in question. Do you really think that consciousness can be characterised like that?

Well, I think in Hegel it can, and possibly in Marx as well. I am thinking of Marx's discussion of the architect and the bee, that the architect constructs the building ideally, mentally, and then engages in the construction to realize that ideal. The purpose in that limited sense is inherent in the object. However, with Hegel one always has to bear in mind his Christianity and theism.

Hegel certainly doesn't reject teleology. But aside from the polemics in the manifesto, can Marx really be described as teleological? Granted, we can identify a fixed point that we need to work towards as a goal - but that doesn't imply the inevitability of reaching it.

...and what do you mean by 'negative determination'? Hegel has a positive conception of freedom, not a negative one; I'm not sure I'm following you

Determination in Hegel is always negative, even his positive conceptions. Hence his notion that the positive is the negation of the negation. Marx rejects, in his 1844 Manuscripts (I will try and find the citation, but I am at work), Hegel's use of negation of the negation because it has the character of being certain or simply being taken for granted, which IMO does not imply Marx's rejection of negation, negative determination or even negation of the negation, but it must be shown and not assumed in advance that a negation will be negated in a way that gives rise to a new positive or that it will be negated at all. This is part of Adorno's issue in Negative Dialectics.

No, Hegel does think nature to be dialectical. Dialectictics is the truth of the universe, the movement of the Notion/Concept is the 'soul of all that exists'. It's not just confined to mind like some kind of distinct sphere away from the material; everything that exists has its Notion, which is its truth and its purpose (and everything that exists is itself part of the Notion of the universe itself, whose purpose is to understand itself).

Well, certainly as a theist, for Hegel God created the universe and nature, but God only comes to his Notion completely through another consciousness grasping the Absolute. So even here, it is consciousness that is dialectical, not nature per se. That is, nature may be the necessary medium of Life, but it is not capable of self-consciousness.

IMO, this is contained in the section of the Phenomenology of Spirit on Force and the Understanding and the rather ignored and equally misunderstood section on Observing Reason, which deals with organic being and life, esp part a and the first few paragraphs of part b.

Chris

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 29, 2007

Does anyone have any comments on Norman Levine's Dialogue Within the Dialectic (a follow up to his earlier The Tragic Deception - Marx Contra Engels)? I've only just started it and am pretty impressed so far, but I was wondering if anyone had any particularly strong oppinions on this theme of Engels' departure from Marx's account of dialectic. There must be masses of literature about this, so I'm guessing some of you are sufficiently well versed in it to feel able to/obliged to offer a perspective

redtwister

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redtwister on January 29, 2007

Redtwister, maybe you are using "realist" in some strange way. I use it as it is normally used in philosophy. I don't really care about what Hegel said, frankly, because I never found his insights worth the trouble of his, to my mind, unnecessarily obscure terminology. Your terminlogy I also find unnecessarily obscure.

What does “realist” mean in normal use? To me, this uncritical treatment of the term does not engage with the presuppositions of realism.

Do you mean something like:
“Belief that universals exist independently of the particulars that instantiate them. Realists hold that each general term signifies a real feature or quality, which is numerically the same in all the things to which that term applies. Thus, opposed to nominalism.”

While I appreciated he clarity of example your brought to the discussion of racism, the element that was unsatisfying becomes clearer in the thread In Reply to Wayne Price, where you treat the idea of class unity as one of an alliance between discrete populations. This is a fundamentally incorrect view of the matter and of class unity, and it is practically disastrous in taking racial division as practically given rather than is something constituted through the weakness of our class, its failure to become a class.

Let's see if i can understand you here. There are certain material advantages to being white and male, in things like getting jobs, better paying jobs, and so on. But these are minor compared to the great gains that could come from unity within the working class. But white workers may lack a faith in the possibility of getting people together to mount the major sorts of collective action needed to make those greater gains, they may not even think of it at all because it is so absent from their experience. In that sense, if the class had developed greater cohesion, greater movements of solidarity, racism might be less entrenched because the value of the greater solidrity would be clearer. Is this what you mean?

That's true. But the issue facing us now is how to develop greater cohesion, how to develop and encourage collective actions that embody large scale solidarity. How can you do this without navigating the distrust and division that exists in some way? Greater unity doesn't happen automatically. My housing organization has gradually developed credibility with, and is now working with, groups, including tenant associations, in communities of color, and this wouldn't have happened, since the original organizing committee was mainly white, were it not for our making a conscious effort to talk to them, listen to their concerns, to their perspectives, which may be different than other people, or white activists.

On your first point, not exactly. I am talking about the interplay between racialization as a way that class is expressed, not in a direct way, but in concrete, historical ways, in forms that appear to have nothing to do with class, that is, as identities.

I am not against addressing differences with groups because even though these differences are the way class appears, from my point of view, appearance is the mode of existence of a relation, that is, appearances are not merely illusions, they are real and you only get to the class root by going through them. Class heterogeneity (asymmetrical power relations within the class, as well as asymmetrical power relations across classes) is not the abnormal state, it is the normal state of the class, just as being labor for-capital is the normal state of the class. Class homogeneity, that is, unity based on class antagonism, is also based on the class becoming revolutionary, becoming a class which overthrows all classes, including itself. Revolution is the abolition of the working class as much as it is the abolition of the capitalist class and all other classes. So it is the state of affairs that class unity in struggle happens not through an a priori claim about what class unity is in this society, but only from the point of view of communism, of the abolition of classes. This unity, this universality of our class, is expressed only through the recognition of the particularity of interests as possibly expressing the universal nature of the class.

That is why struggles which attack racism, which attack wage differentials, which attack sexism, etc. are revolutionary as attacks on that which divides our class. As such, any claim about ‘class politics’ versus ‘identity politics’ is nonsense because the old kind of class politics which refused to recognize the particular oppressions of race, sex, nationality, etc. did not in fact support the universality of the class and was itself an identity politics: class identity, which was always in the background racialized, gendered, sexualized, national, etc. They undermined the concrete universality of the class, as against-capital, by asserting an abstract universality of working class interests for-capital, that is, as if the working class as a class in this society had universal interests. The only universal interest of the proletariat is communism, that is, it is a negative interest, the abolition of capital.

Most of the folks here defend, without I think realizing it, working class as an identity, as something which can be a positive unity and universality in this society. The only thing all workers have in common is the need to abolish capital. Everything else is as a class for this society, and in that, we must deal with the particularity of all of the divisions. In that mess, we have to reject universalism that reduces class problems to wages, benefits, and working conditions, that is, to a merely economic problem. IMO, that negative, concrete universal element is in fact present far more in, say, black workers’ struggles against racism than approaches which try to reject particularity in the name of “universal” class interests. The universal is in the particular, and vice-versa.

To my mind, that is of course anti-realist.

So no, we cannot merely assume capitalism as objective. That is the path to sociology, economics, political science and other reactionary nonsense. Capital is constituted everyday by us, by our alienated subjectivity. The objectivity of capital is nothing, nothing, but our alienated subjectivity.

Here you take "subjectivity" entirely for granted. But in reality, what is it? You assume there is some way the world appears to you, that you have thoughts about things around you, and that this is your "subjectivity". But how do you get those concepts through which you think and perceive? You get them through communicative interaction with other humans. Children when they are in their first five years suck down a gigantic number of concepts, as they learn to use the language. You don't run your own language. The language you use is social, its semantic content is socially determined. The thing that the phenomenologists, Brentano and Husserl and their followers, regarded as the distinctive trait of the mental, its "ofness" or "intentionality", i think can be explained without assuming some mysterious "subjectivity", can be explained in terms of social relations, and concepts derived from evolutionary biology.

The "objects" of consciousness are not "subjectively" constituted or determined, but are socially constituted.
What is "objective"? We develop ideas about the way the world is, ideas that account for what we experience. We posit various hypotheses, which make up our theory of the world. They are worthy of continuing to hold on to them only if they aren't contradicted by things we encounter, if they don't fail us in practice. And a key part of this is discussion and debate with others. Others may challenge how we see things. Can we respond effectively? Or are we forced to change our ideas because others have pointed out flaws? Ideas about the way things are acquire a certain social "objectivity" only thru this inter-personal process, this dialectical process. "Objectivity" is an epistemological notion. But realism is not an epistemological notion. Realism is about what is.

I am not assuming a subject, in the sense that I am not here using subject in a single sense. I am certainly not using it as an individual. That is the a(nti)-social subject of capital and the market. Rather, the subjectivity I speak about exists only in the mode of being denied. It is capital that appears to be the subject, and it is exactly through this denial that we come to realize that capital is constituted as a subject only based on the alienation of subjectivity of labor. To say that language is social and that we learn our concepts from society is simply to beg the question of where society and social relations come from. What is the social? If it is not the sociality of human beings, then is it the sociality of a deity, whether we call it God or Society or Nature?

Before we get into the problem of what constitutes the “objects of consciousness”, there is this problem of the object. You say realism is about what is. IMO, dialectic is as much as about what is not or is not-yet as it is about what is. The realism fixation on “what is” ignores that what is exists on the basis of what is denied, what is suppressed, what is not. The true is a moment of the false. Capital “is”, but what is it? Realism IMO has no answer for that. It resorts to merely empirical treatment, which is adequate in a situation where the object really does exist independently of us, as in nature, but it does not work in a situation where the object is wholly constituted by a subject, esp. where the subject is erased. Your move simply approves of the erasure of the subject. Society is rendered an object completely independent of human beings.

As such, when we talk about objectivity, we have to grapple with extra-mental objects, which society and social relations and such are, and extra-human objects, which society and social relations are not, but which trees, lava, iron, etc. are.

IMO, you confuse objects with their conceptualization. Concepts, laws, ideality, are mental processes which we do not simply draw from the object, as if the object contained the concept or laws. They are indeed also social, that is, concepts do not merely pop out of individual heads.

However, this does not mean that we do not reflect back upon and transform language. Human beings change language all the time. That we are not born into a world of our own making does not change the fact that we are not simply the product of that world. Were this not the case, were we not possibly excessive or beyond, then revolution would be a fantasy because we would be shaped in advance. Where is the way out? Lenin posited the way out through a vanguard outside the class, which begged the question of who educates the educator. Social democracy opted for a crude historical determinist evolutionism and gradualism. Those are the choices your objectivism leaves us with: voluntarism or fatalism.

I actually do not see what the concepts of evolutionary biology have to do with this. Human beings may certainly be grounded in their biology, but what that means and what that has to do with society is one of the hottest points of conflict in biology.

I think your distinction between Marx's work being about capital versus being about capitalism is a dinstinction without a difference -- pedantic in fact. As I said before, Marx's ideas are of value only if they hold up to practical test, and the process of communication with others is part of that, because the debate about ideas is part of the practical test. There is no reason why anyone should pay any attention to Marx's ideas if they do not provide a set of hypotheses about how the social world of our experience works, that is the best explanation of the things we observe in the social world that it purports to explain, and is consistent with what we know about the world. To the degree those ideas are shown to not hold up, then we need to modify them, or find other ideas. To not take this view is to reduce Marxism to a religon.

It is a distinction with a difference on obvious and simple grounds. For example,
- capital is a social relation qua capital-labor relation,
- but it is also dead labor or constant capital, and
- it is a form or mode of existence of alienated labor in both cases, and
- then again it is the general conditions of the existence of labor and
- it is living labor qua variable capital.

Not one of these is “capitalism”, except possibly capital qua capital-labor relation. Capital is not society and capitalism is clearly another way of talking about capitalist society. Capitalism is also the totality of relations and forms. A critique of capital is exactly the exposure of the contradictions of capital and the showing of the way in which capital is explicitly not merely what it appears to be and how it is that labor takes the form of capital. A critique of capitalism is what? The empirical distinctions of class inequality? Poverty? War? Imperialism?

The critique of capital in Capital is part of a critique of political economy, a critique of a mystified consciousness, of how it not merely misunderstands or mis-apprehends its object, but exactly how it cannot even accurately grasp its object.

We cannot agree on the value of Marx because you want to read Marx through analytical and realist terms, as if society were an object in the same way as a rock. Marx’s materialism is certainly not the materialism of natural science, but it is also not the ontologically naïve and conservative view of taking “what is” for granted that realism seemingly is.

Marx's project simply is not yours: to make a series of empirically verifiable hypotheses about the world that matches our experience. All of that assumes a) that we can in advance define the object of our analysis (which you do in assuming society), b) that we can empirically verify our hypotheses, but sadly social life cannot be reproduced in an experiment, not merely the minutae of everyday life but great events happen once, c) social relations in class society are anything but transparent, as things appear to us upside-down and inside-out, perverted and de-ranged. To treat such an insane world as rational is itself ultimately an ideological approach.

Chris

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 29, 2007

redtwister

What is at issue is the idea of an a priori, trans-historical dialectic. that is, to be meaningful, the dialectic must be concretized in relation to a given set of social relations and is not a methodology or framework that can be applied instrumentally.

The question is as to whether it is a tool specific to and existing solely within consciousness that can be brought to the natural world - or whether it's usefulness is defined by the fact that the natural world is dialectical in-itself (Engel's position, which I question in the first post in this thread). I'm bnot entirely sure which position you're opting for here; are you talking about the importance of the latter position, or are you talking about the error of using the dialectic as a paint-by-numbers formula that can be applied to any circumstace (aka soviet 'diamat')?

Hegel’s teleologism is both overstated and misunderstood. Where there is consciousness, there is teleology, but it need not be of an over-arching teleology.

When you write 'teleology' do you mean 'intention'? Teleology refers to an inevitable end, a purpose inherent within the object in question. Do you really think that consciousness can be characterised like that?

Well, I think in Hegel it can, and possibly in Marx as well. I am thinking of Marx's discussion of the architect and the bee, that the architect constructs the building ideally, mentally, and then engages in the construction to realize that ideal. The purpose in that limited sense is inherent in the object. However, with Hegel one always has to bear in mind his Christianity and theism.

yeah, but there's a difference between my intention to achieve something tomorrow and the innate necessity of the universe to arrive at a certain formation. One is contingent, the other inevitable. I tend to understand teleology in the latter sense rather than as an intention, or aim.

Determination in Hegel is always negative, even his positive conceptions. Hence his notion that the positive is the negation of the negation. Marx rejects, in his 1844 Manuscripts (I will try and find the citation, but I am at work), Hegel's use of negation of the negation because it has the character of being certain or simply being taken for granted, which IMO does not imply Marx's rejection of negation, negative determination or even negation of the negation, but it must be shown and not assumed in advance that a negation will be negated in a way that gives rise to a new positive or that it will be negated at all. This is part of Adorno's issue in Negative Dialectics.

I'd thought that your talk of 'negative determination' related to freedom (i.e. positive versions of freedom: I am free in this particular set of circumstances; or negative versions of freedom: I am free to absolutely anytthing in any circumstance).
As regardsMarx's talk of negation of the negation in the manuscripts, he certainly doesn't dismiss negation per se - what he criticises is the way in which Hegel's negation of the negation becomes the transubstantiation, the glorification of the world as it currently exists. e.g. The bread and the wine are just bread and wine...

Well, certainly as a theist, for Hegel God created the universe and nature, but God only comes to his Notion completely through another consciousness grasping the Absolute.

No, for Hegel there is no God - religion is a picture-thought, a vorstellung of the concept. He likes Christianity so much because he thinks it to be as close as you can get to the real nature of things in terms of metaphors and images (God/concept, son/material world, holy ghost/actualisation of reason). It's only philosophy that gets to the real nature of things. Further, whether we're talking about the concept or God, neither can exist before and independently of their 'creation'. ...and as you say, in philsophy we don't come to know the mind of God - we are the mind of God, as the goal and true nature of existence (being) is self conscious reason.

IMO, this is contained in the section of the Phenomenology of Spirit on Force and the Understanding and the rather ignored and equally misunderstood section on Observing Reason, which deals with organic being and life, esp part a and the first few paragraphs of part b.

I sweated blood over the Force and the Understanding chapter - please don't make me read it again. I really can't face it. As far as the observing reason chapter goes, is it not the case that in observing the natural world we begin to see the interconnection and contradiction of objects and organisms, the relation between organisms and environment, and also the 'ends' and goals of events and animals (i.e. we begin to pick up on teleology)? The chapter ends with consciousness, having failed to identify consciousness explicitly at work in the natural world, feeling its skull for bumps as Hegel slates phrenology. The chapter describes dialectics at work in nature, but concludes with consciousness recognising that consciousness is not explicitly there - and as such passes into the next section on morality.
Or would you disagree? It's been a while since I read it

redtwister

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by redtwister on January 29, 2007

SIMCP,

I have to say, I really do think Hegel is a theist. An odd one, but really one. Religion is not God, btw. Religion is picture-thinking about God. But that argument might take us rather off topic.

On Observing Reason, I need to think about how I would describe the chapter as a whole. It has a logical structure not unlike Force and Understanding, except here Hegel is dealing with Reason and organic nature instead of Understanding and inorganic nature. I even find the preceding chapters to play a role somewhat akin to sense-certainty and perception.

On teleology, I think there is a strong and a weak teleology. The strong version you state is absolutely rejected by Marx as it assumes a purpose for human beings outside of human beings (and historically specific, concrete human beings), but the weak version is not, IMO.

However, many, like Werner Bonefeld, would agree completely with you on this. For me, it is rather something I am still exploring.

Chris

lem

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lem on January 30, 2007

Intentionality is a "metaphysical teleological" interpretation of consciousness - apparently.

It seems clear to me that teleogical processes do exist. If my sources are correct, then recursiveness (-iirc) is fairly ordinary in nature. Whatever, it would certainly seem that I have goals and that I act toward these.

Probably a derail.

gatorojinegro

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gatorojinegro on January 30, 2007

redtwister: in re: realism: "Do you mean something like:
“Belief that universals exist independently of the particulars that instantiate them. Realists hold that each general term signifies a real feature or quality, which is numerically the same in all the things to which that term applies. Thus, opposed to nominalism.”

in philosophy realism is always realism about X. There are different realisms depending on what X is. your quote above is realism about features as shared properties of mulitple things. And i think the realism you here quote is a naive statement of it. I don't think that different general terms necessarily denote different features. it's necessary to look at the function performed by the term in human communication. nominalism is the view that either predicates denote mental entities ("concepts") or else that there is no reality they represent apart from some similarity among a set of things that we apply the term to.

there is also realism about the physical/spatio-temperal world presented to us in sensory perception.

and there is realism about truth, the view that (descriptive) sentences, beliefs, thoughts have a function of representing a way the world is, and are true if there is a real state of affairs they denote, not true otherwise.

now, i'm a realist in all three ways.

redtwister: I am not against addressing differences with groups because even though these differences are the way class appears, from my point of view, appearance is the mode of existence of a relation, that is, appearances are not merely illusions, they are real and you only get to the class root by going through them. Class heterogeneity (asymmetrical power relations within the class, as well as asymmetrical power relations across classes) is not the abnormal state, it is the normal state of the class, just as being labor for-capital is the normal state of the class.

it is class-reductionist to say that the real advantages of white working class people in comparison to black working class people is merely an "appearance" of class.

structural racism is, on the contrary, a distinct patterning of relative advantage and disadvantage, not reducible to the class relation. it is true that the logic of capitalism favors the development and maintenance of hierarchical divisions within the working class, as these enhance the power of the dominating/exploiting class. but it doesn't follow that the structural racist pattern is the class relation. "each thing is what it is and not another thing" to quote Butler.

Revolution is the abolition of the working class as much as it is the abolition of the capitalist class and all other classes. So it is the state of affairs that class unity in struggle happens not through an a priori claim about what class unity is in this society, but only from the point of view of communism, of the abolition of classes.

whether communism is the stable condition of classlessness is, i think, an open question.

I use the word "revolution" diffferently. i see any change in the mode of production, a change in the basic class structure, as a "revolution." Thus there was a revolution when feudalism was replaced by capitalism, and a revolution when the Soviet coordinatorist mode of production replaced the semi-feudal/semi-capitalist scheme of things in Russia. you're talking about a class liberatory revolution, a revolution that liberates the working class from subordination to any other class. in doing so that process, by getting rid of the class system altogether (not replacing it with a new class system), eliminates the proletarian condition. i think class unity occurs in reality to varying degrees. this seems obvious. there is a certain degree of unity that must be reached for the class to have the power to liberate itself. but that is a protracted, socially interactive process, because it has to be negotiated, and the exact path cannot be inferred teleologically from looking at communism or any other end state.

As such, any claim about ‘class politics’ versus ‘identity politics’ is nonsense because the old kind of class politics which refused to recognize the
particular oppressions of race, sex, nationality, etc. did not in fact support the universality of the class and was itself an identity politics

i see your point but don't agree with you. a class politics that fails to address the race and gender internal hierarchies within the working class, and attack them, probably does so because it implicitly is infected by white supremacy, which is, as you say, a kind of "identity politics." but that doesn't make whatever actual level of unity that was achieved, or the actual struggle of workers, not a form of class politics. i think it is useful to not "reduce" the two influences on
these struggles to one. i think you can't account for the actual degree of unity and struggle without looking at the class reality of the people involved, and that's why it isn't sufficient to reduce it to a "white identity politics".

redtwister: "In that mess, we have to reject universalism that reduces class problems to wages, benefits, and working conditions, that is, to a merely economic problem."

of course it's not just an economic problem. a class system rears up an entire social edifice of institutions and ideologies to protect it. the working class has to deal with all the aspects of life and pose a total systemic alternative to the existing system.

To say that language is social and that we learn our concepts from society is simply to beg the question of where society and social relations come from.

i don't really understand all that stuff about capital being a "subject." What does "subject" mean there?

to answer the above question about sociality, i'd say it has a biological ground. it derives from our human nature, as a certain animal species. language ability is actually innate in humans. and language is a crucial base of our sociality.

The realism fixation on “what is” ignores that what is exists on the basis of what is denied, what is suppressed, what is not. The true is a moment of the
false. Capital “is”, but what is it? Realism IMO has no answer for that. It resorts to merely empirical treatment, which is adequate in a situation where the object really does exist independently of us, as in nature, but it does not work in a situation where the object is wholly constituted by a subject, esp. where the subject is erased. Your move simply approves of the erasure of the subject. Society is rendered an object completely independent of human beings.

Frankly, i think this is just gibberish. no thesis is worth considering if it can't be cashed out in ordinary language. that's because it is thru group interaction
that terms get latched to properties and particular things, including physical and social systems. words have no meaning apart from that. if a thesis can be explicated into ordinary English, then any English speaker who is interested in the subject can evaluate it -- try to refute it, look for supporting evidence or evidence contrary to it, see how it compares to competing explanations, and so on.

redtwister: "IMO, you confuse objects with their conceptualization. Concepts, laws, ideality, are mental processes which we do not simply draw from the object, as if the object contained the concept or laws. They are indeed also social, that is, concepts do not merely pop out of individual heads."

Nope. I obviously do not "confuse objects with their conceptualization." What i have pointed out is that the word "object" has a dual meaning in philosophy historically. in the older meaning, an "object" is something that a mental state is directed upon or "of". If jack believes that melissa is cheating on him, then melissa's cheating (which may not exist) is the "object" of Jack's belief. That is the older meaning. the more modern, 20th century meaning is that an "object" is a thing, a particular of some sort, like this hammer, something that has a reality independent of being an "object" of consciousness in the older sense of the word.

Where is the way out? Lenin posited the way out through a vanguard outside the class, which begged the question of who educates the educator. Social
democracy opted for a crude historical determinist evolutionism and gradualism. Those are the choices your objectivism leaves us with: voluntarism or fatalism.

This is an obvious false dichotomy.

You are right that we can make a distinction between the whole of capitalist society, on the one hand, and capital. Capital i think is a power relation, and I think this is how Marx understood it. i think it doesn't give quite the complete story about capitalist society that Marx thought.

redtwister: "We cannot agree on the value of Marx because you want to read Marx through analytical and realist terms, as if society were an object in the same way as a rock. Marx’s materialism is certainly not the materialism of natural science, but it is also not the ontologically naïve and conservative view of taking “what is” for granted that realism seemingly is."

easy to say, not so easy to prove.

Marx's project simply is not yours: to make a series of empirically verifiable hypotheses about the world that matches our experience. All of that assumes a) that we can in advance define the object of our analysis (which you do in assuming society), b) that we can empirically verify our hypotheses, but sadly social life cannot be reproduced in an experiment, not merely the minutae of everyday life but great events happen once, c) social relations in class society are anything but transparent, as things appear to us upside-down and inside-out, perverted and de-ranged. To treat such an insane world as rational is itself ultimately an ideological approach.

From the fact that social life cannot be "reproduced in an experiment" it doesn't follow that the criteria of adequacy of a set of hypotheses (a "theory") don't apply. That proves too much since then it isn't possible to give a reason for supporting one theory against any other. That's always the problem with irrationalism.

Anyway, developing a social theory, a set of hypotheses to help explain social history, was not the totality of "Marx's project." He was a revoluitionary. His intent was not "merely to undertsand the world" but to change it.

t.

Alf

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Alf on January 30, 2007

I thought I would throw this into the pot. It's (another) extract from our series on communism (IR 85, 'The transformation of social relations'). It argues against the view that Engels was at odds with Marx in discerning a dialectic in nature. This idea seems to create a false separation, not just between Marx and Engels, but above all between nature and society.

In previous chapters we have already showed how Marx viewed the question, both in his early and his more mature work... In the dialectical view, man is a part of nature, not some ‘being squatting outside the world’. Nature, as Marx put it, was man’s body and he could as well live without it as a head without a body. But man was not ‘just’ another animal, a passive product of nature. He was a uniquely active, creative being who alone among the animals was capable of transforming the world around him in accordance with his needs and desires.

It is true that the dialectical view was not always clearly understood by Marx’s followers, and that as various bourgeois ideologies infested the parties of the Second International, these viruses also expressed themselves on the ‘philosophical’ terrain. In a period in which the bourgeoisie was marching triumphantly forward, the notion that science and technology, in themselves, contained the answer to all of humanity’s problems became an adjunct to the development of reformist and revisionist theories within the movement. But even the more ‘orthodox’ marxists were not immune: some of Kautsky’s work, for example, tends to reduce human history to a purely natural scientific process in which the victory of socialism becomes virtually automatic. Similarly, Pannekoek has shown that some of Lenin’s philosophical conceptions reflected the mechanical materialism of the bourgeoisie. But, as the comrades of the Gauche Communiste de France pointed out in their series on Pannekoek’s Lenin as Philosopher, even if Pannekoek made some pertinent criticisms of Lenin’s ideas about the relationship between human consciousness and the natural world, his basic method was flawed, because he himself made a mechanical link between Lenin’s philosophical errors and the class nature of Bolshevism. The same applies to the Second International in general. Those who argue that it was a bourgeois movement because it was influenced by the dominant ideology have no understanding of the workers’ movement in general, of its unceasing combat against the penetration of the ideas of the ruling class within its ranks, nor the particular conditions in which the parties of the Second International themselves waged this struggle. The social democratic parties were proletarian in spite of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois influences which affected them to a greater or lesser extent at different moments in their history.

We have already shown, in the previous chapter, that Engels was certainly the foremost exponent and defender of the proletarian vision of socialism during the early years of social democracy, and that this vision was defended by other comrades against the deviations that evolved later on in this period. The same applies to the more abstract question of man’s relationship to nature. From the early 1870s to the end of his life Engels was working on The Dialectics of Nature, in which he tried to encapsulate the marxist approach to this question. The essential thesis in this wide ranging, but incomplete work, is that both the natural world and the world of human thought follow a dialectical movement. Far from placing humanity outside or above nature, Engels affirms that:

at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like something standing outside nature –but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.”

However, for a whole strand of academic ‘marxists’ (the so-called Western Marxists, who are the real mentors of Aufheben and the like), The Dialectics of Nature is the theoretical source of all evil, the scientific justification for the mechanical materialism and reformism of the Second International. In chapter eleven we already gave some elements of a response to these charges; that of reformism in particular was dealt with at more length in the article on the centenary of Engel’s death in International Review 83. But restricting ourselves to the terrain of ‘philosophy’, it is worth noting that for ‘Western Marxists’ like Alfred Schmidt, Engels’ argument that the ‘cosmic’ and the ‘human’ dialectic are at root one and the same is a species not merely of mechanical materialism but even of ‘pantheism’ and ‘mysticism’. Schmidt here was following the example of Lukacs, who also argued that the dialectic was restricted to the “realms of history and society” and criticised the fact that “Engels - following Hegel’s mistaken lead - extended the method to apply also to nature.”

In fact this charge of ‘mysticism’ is groundless. It is true, and Engels himself recognises this in The Dialectics of Nature, that some pre-scientific world outlooks, such as Buddhism, had developed genuine insights into the dialectical movement both in nature and in the human psyche. Hegel himself had been strongly influenced by such approaches. But while all these systems remained mystical in the sense that they could not go beyond a passive vision of the unity between man and nature. Engels’ view, the view of the proletariat, is active and creative. Man is a product of the cosmic movement, but, as the above passage from The part played by labour... emphasises, he has the capacity - and this moreover as a species and not merely as an illuminated individual - to master the laws of this movement and so to use them to change and direct it.

At this level, Lukacs and the ‘Western Marxists’ are wrong to counterpoise Engels to Marx, since both agreed with Hegel that the dialectical principle “holds good alike in history and natural science.”(1) The inconsistency of Lukacs’ criticism can, moreover, be seen in the fact that in this same work he approvingly cites two of Hegel’s key sayings (from Phenomenology of Mind): that “truth must be understood and expressed not merely as substance, but also as subject”, and that “truth is not to treat objects as alien.” What Lukacs fails to see is that these sayings clarify the real relationship between man and nature. Whereas both pantheistic mysticism and mechanical materialism tend to see human consciousness as the passive reflection of the natural world, Marx and Engels grasped that it is in fact - above all, in its realised form as the self-awareness of social humanity - the dynamic subject of the natural movement. Such a viewpoint presages the communist future where man will no longer treat either the natural or the social world as a series of alien, hostile objects. We can only add that the developments of the natural sciences since Engels’ day particularly in the field of quantum physics - have added considerable weight to the notion of a dialectic of nature.

(1) An article by the CWO (Revolutionary Perspectives, Vol 3, number 1), which makes a good argument against the so-called split between Marx and Engels, says that this line is from a letter by Marx to Engels. "Hegel's discovery - the law of merely quantitative changes turning into qualitative changes - holds good alike in history and natural science". Unfortunatley the CWO don't give a date and I haven't been able to find the letter yet.

lem

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by lem on January 30, 2007

I personally, very much feel that 2the dialectic" is a real part of social relations. I would then take the above comment by Marx, as a slip into sociology as natural science.

:)

gatorojinegro

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gatorojinegro on January 30, 2007

i said: "there is a certain degree of unity that must be reached for the class to have the power to liberate itself. but that is a protracted, socially interactive process, because it has to be negotiated, and the exact path cannot be inferred teleologically from looking at communism or any other end state."

I want to amend this. i think we can understand the necessary conditions that need to be satisfied for the elimination of the class system to take place. we can also see how these conditions need to be prefigured in developments in the working class, in the emergence of movements of a certain kind, in order for those conditions to be met. but that isn't sufficient to know the details of the path, as that is determined by a socially interactive process, processes of struggle, dialogue, negotiation, alliance, etc.

t.

gatorojinegro

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by gatorojinegro on January 30, 2007

redtwister: "To say that language is social and that we learn our concepts from society is simply to beg the question of where society and social relations come from."

and where do you think society and social relations come from?

t.

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 31, 2007

Alf

(1) An article by the CWO (Revolutionary Perspectives, Vol 3, number 1), which makes a good argument against the so-called split between Marx and Engels, says that this line is from a letter by Marx to Engels. "Hegel's discovery - the law of merely quantitative changes turning into qualitative changes - holds good alike in history and natural science". Unfortunatley the CWO don't give a date and I haven't been able to find the letter yet.

Cheers for that; if you do find the letter let me know (i've just looked for it myself and couldn't find it).

SatanIsMyCoPilot

17 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by SatanIsMyCoPilot on January 31, 2007

[quote]redtwister

SIMCP,

Religion is not God, btw. Religion is picture-thinking about God.

Yeah...I thought I'd said that? The christian religion represents the concept, whereas philosophy is able to see it clearly.

On teleology, I think there is a strong and a weak teleology. The strong version you state is absolutely rejected by Marx as it assumes a purpose for human beings outside of human beings (and historically specific, concrete human beings), but the weak version is not, IMO.

Yup, I'd go along with that. ...which gives the lie to the daft mechanical interpretation of an inevitable and automatic revolution

westartfromhere

1 month 1 week ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on March 7, 2024

redtwister wrote:

Class homogeneity, that is, unity based on class antagonism, is also based on the class becoming revolutionary, becoming a class which overthrows all classes, including itself.

Our class homogenenity is derived from its community of struggle, its common struggle for survival. Bourgeois class homogeneity is based on the war of all against all, its antagonism.

The proletariat, not delimited as the modern industrial working class, has existed from time immemorial, i.e. from the time that society arose divided between a class of expropriated and expropriator. From its birth the proletariat has been revolutionary. The revolutionary arc is from beginning to end of class society. The millennialist conception that at some point the proletariat becomes revolutionary is the biggest bar on the social-democratic mindset preventing its upliftment, freeing the shackles from the mind.