Marx’s “Theses on Feurerbach” #11
Posted by jleavittpearl
“Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”
Marx’s final thesis on Feurerbach constitute one of the most quoted portions of his oeuvre (along with the opening words of the manifest and his, generally misunderstood, “opiate” assertion). In his eleventh, Marx builds upon the distinction laid out in the tenth thesis. Yet, here his distinction between traditional materialism and his “new” materialism has been broadened; it is no longer merely Feuerbach who is the recipient of his critique, but philosophy in its totality.
But, what is the essence of this critique? simple quietism? Is it merely the passivity of philosophy? Perhaps. But let us consider the historical situation of Marx. Having been brought up under the shadow of Hegel’s dialectical philosophy, Marx abandoned Hegel for Feuerbach. Yet, following this detour into “traditional” materialism, Marx became disenfranchized with the couter-idealistic (i.e. post-Hegelian) movement of his contemporaries. Citing the reification of abstract concepts and similar critiques, Marx similarly abandoned this group, setting out to establish his own “dialectical materialism.”
Yet, contrary to those who misinterpret his rejection of Feuerbach as a return to Hegel, Marx did not fully abandon this post-Hegelian culture. Instead, his critique of philosophy’s tendency to describe–its failure to change reality–may be seen as a direct critique of Hegelian conservativism.
Although leftist readings of Hegel’s philosophy have been popularized since the beginning, an honest reading of Hegel cannot fail to recognize a deep Prussian conservativism. In Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, the state is presented as the objectified manifestation of the Absolute Spirit (i.e. God). Such an assertion smacks of the radically conservative “divine right” political theories of the early enlightenment.
Against this Marx posits a new philosophical possibility: philosophy as a radically progressive movement. Philosophy must not merely record reality, implicitly condoning its structure, but much seek to rearrange this structure through its own activity. Philosophy itself must become a force of revolutionary reconstruction. In this way, Marx completes the work begun in his tenth thesis and fully unites his philosophical and political projects under a single banner of revolutionary, social, living, sensuous, practical, reality.
(Thank you to those who followed me through this short project. I ♥ my wordpress followers.)