In honor of my current project working through Piketty’s tome, here is an interesting critique of the work by the prominent Marxian economist, David Harvey. Harvey, with greater vigor than I have mustered, challenges the work from the position of Marx’s Capital, and accuses it off failing to offer a coherent notion of capital, and thus, a coherent account of the underlying reality which generates the “law” r>g.
[ Edit: if the above link doesn’t work, here is the full address: http://inthesetimes.com/article/16722/taking_on_capital_without_marx ]
Today marks the first birthday of “The Space Beyond Being.” I know it is a cliche, but it seems like just yesterday I was searching for a creative outlet for my summertime boredom (if only I had the time to be bored this year…). In celebration of this momentous occasion, I give you this link to my very first post, a review of Michel Henry’s Marx: a Philosophy of Reality; a fortuitous first post, given the prominent role that both phenomenology and Marxism have played in the last year of blogging.
Also, here are some fun stats:
- Most popular post: Marx’s “Theses on Feuerbach” #7
- Total “views”: 6,840
- Most popular search term (leading people here): “summary of Feuerbach”
- Visitors from over 100 nations
Thank you to all of my readers and commentors for a great first year. Here is my Gif(t) to you:
Today marks two noteworth philosophical birthdays:
The first is one of the founders of existential philosophy, the Danish Philosopher and Theologian Søren Kierkegaard, who turns 200 today.
“Be cautious with an abstract thinker who not only wants to remain in abstraction’s pure being but wants this to be the highest for a human being, and wants such thinking, which results in the ignoring of the ethical and a misunderstanding of the religious, to be the highest human thinking.” –Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments
The Second is the philosopher, economic theorist, and political revolutionary, Karl Marx, who turns 195 today.
Celebrate these two groundbreaking and revolutionary thinkers today.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Boston, we wish to make clear that the revolutionary socialist workers movement – of which we are a part – is now and has always been opposed to the philosophy of terrorism as a means of revolutionary change. This early essay by the great Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky is an excellent outline of the revolutionary Marxist attitude towards terrorism.
Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism
Originally published in German in Der Kampf, November 1911.
Originally transcribed for the Philisophy/History Archive, which is now the Philosophy Section of the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Einde O’Callaghan, November 2006.
Our class enemies are in the habit of complaining about our terrorism. What they mean by this is rather unclear. They would like to label all the activities of the proletariat directed against the class enemy’s interests as terrorism. The…
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“The highest point reached by contemplative materialism, that is, materialism which does not comprehend sensuousness as practical activity, is the contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.”
Marx’s ninth “thesis on Feuerbach” functions as a bridge, simultaneously summarizing many of the critical points of the previous theses and pointing forward to the essential eleventh. In order to understand this brief text, it must first be recalled that, in his first thesis, Marx established a category of materialism, “contemplative materialism,” primarily identified with Feuerbach. Relying upon a dichotomy between sensuousness (practical activity) and contemplation (i.e. praxis and theoria), Marx rejects contemplative materialism for its reductionism, that is, its emphasis upon the purely rational character of human experience.
In the current thesis, Marx critiques this contemplative standpoint as the
“contemplation of single individuals and of civil society.” Yet, is the contemplation of “single individuals” and “civil societies” not the precise intention of Marx’s own philosophical, historical, political, and economic work? This seems undeniable. In what way, therefore, must this critique be read, if it is not to collapse upon itself, if it is not to function equally as a refutation of Marx’s own project? Here, “contemplation” must instead be read as “mere contemplation.” In this sense, Marx’s rejection of contemplative materialism is essentially politically driven; it is an accusation of quietism. For Marx, one must not merely “comprehend” individuals and society, philosophy itself must be “practical activity,” “sensuousness,” it must effect or affect individuals and society, it must make an actual difference to the experience of real human life.
“All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.”
Alas, after his foray into Feuerbach’s critique of religion, Marx has once again returned to (what may be) the principle question of his theses, practice. If we might return to the intuitions of the first couple theses, it should be recognized that “practice” designated more than mere activity, but instead an entire region being: the subjective, sensuous realm of human activity, the realm of truth. Returning to this realm, this region of Being, Marx’s eighth thesis identifies two important aspects of practice.
First, Marx resolves all social relations into practice. Were practice misunderstood as mere activity, such an assertion would be decidedly banal. Yet, recognizing Marx’s complex notion of practice, as nothing other than the subjective sensuality of human life, the placement of social relation within practice becomes a meaningful analysis. Understood in this way, social relations are abstracted from the theoretical, economical, and political realms which remain fundamentally secondary to living praxis. Instead of being mediated through these structures, sociality is recognized as a direct human connection, a piece of true human life and reality: prior to economics, prior to politics.
Second, Marx identifies this reality, practice, as the means by which the aporias of rational contemplation might be overcome. In his critique of “mysticism,” Marx does not intend a particular religious disposition, but instead employs this term in reference to the philosophical movement beyond human sensuality, the excess of intellectual contemplation. Instead of a radicalized intellectualism (e.g. Hegel, or even Feuerbach’s “contemplative materialism”), Marx proposes the sensuous activity of human life as the single adequate response to the “mysteries” of intellectualism. Instead of pursing the ultimate philosophical questions (freedom, ethics, etc.) into successively more remote abstractions, Marx simply proposes a reliance upon non-contemplative methodology; Marx proposes a solution in the “comprehension of this practice,” that is, in a phenomenology of practical life.