[OPE-L:3226] Re: Spinoza

From: John Holloway (104164.2012@compuserve.com)
Date: Tue May 16 2000 - 08:13:45 EDT

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Dear Paul,

        Thank you, that's very helpful.

        I agree completely about the importance of abandoning the notion
that there is some guarantee of a happy ending. That is precisely what
gives urgency to the struggle. It's just that, for me, the Hegelian
tradition is not about the final Synthesis but about seeing the world in
terms of the the movement of negation, the constant struggle to negate the
horrors of capitalism. That is made very explicit in Adorno's Negative
Dialectics: after Auschwitz, it is an abomination to think that there can
be a guaranteed happy ending, we must think rather of the dialectic as
constant negative movement, a constant process of negation. For me the
importance of the Marxist-Hegelian tradition is is in helping us to think

        What worries me about the Spinozist tradition is whether there is
not a throwing out of the baby with the bathwater. By that I mean that
there has always been a tension between a right-wing (reconciliationist)
interpretation and a left-wing (negationist) interpretation of Hegel. I
wonder whether, in the justified efforts to throw out the dirty CP
bathwater with its reconcilationist Hegel, Althusser/Negri/you have not
unnecessarily thrown out the negationist Hegel as well.

        On the question of definition: capitalism defines social relations:
it rigidifies them and presents them as positive and immutable. Marx's
method, it seems to me, is to recognise those definitions, but always in
the perspective of transcending them. Thus, for example, capital defines
people's doing as labour, and their capacity to do as labour power. It is
important, I agree, to understand that process of definition. But that's
what it is - a process of definition which denies that which is defined:
people's capacity to do is denied in its definition as labour power. If we
stay at the level of definition, without trying to understand the tension
(suppression) which any definition implies, then we turn Marxism into a
science of the reproduction of capitalism, rather than a
science-against-capitalism. That wouldn't matter, perhaps, if we had a
guaranteed happy ending at the end of the day, but, as we don't, it matters
a great deal.

        I am really very interested indeed in the question of why people
turn to Spinoza, and anything you can tell me to help me understand would
be very welcome indeed.


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