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A reply to OPE-L 3231.
Paul Zarembka's reply discusses one aspect of my OPE-L 3223, but not the
bulk of it, which was concerned with the attitude of the Stalinists
toward the Hegelian-Marxian concept of the negation of the negation. In
the post to which I was replying and elsewhere, Paul's remarks have tried
to link Hegel's dialectic to Stalinism. The main thrust of my post was
to show that Stalinism has in fact been hostile to the negation of the
negation, and to argue that this is because the import of the concept is
that the movement of history and ideas is ceaseless.
The Stalinist negation of classical capitalism is abstract, a first
negation infected with its opposite, in other words the flip side of the
same coin (state-capitalism). The Stalinists wished, in theory, and
terrorized, in practice, for theit social formation to be the "end of
history," but it is not. Coming from below is the impulse to transcend,
to win real freedom, and this carries forward the dialectical movement,
toward a concrete, positive result, a new foundation for humanity,
beginning from itself.
As for Marx, I cannot take seriously Paul's suggestion that, with his
embrace of the negation of the negation, "Marx was having a bit of fun
with words." A diehard, lifelong "professional" revolutionary, the head
of the movement, reaches the culmination of his most important
theoretical work, on which he has labored for 31 years; reaches the main
point of his entire life's work, the transcendence of capitalism; and
decides to joke around. Let's be real.
That negation of the negation was no joke to the "mature" Marx can also
be seen from the fact that, in his mathematical manuscripts, he analyzes
the differential operation as one of negation of the negation. He says
differentiation differs from the positing of a difference (delta X) and
then removing it, and thus, "as in the *negation of the negation*
generally ... leads to real results" (p. 3 of the English ed).
As for Paul's word-counting, we've been through that already. I find it
not surprising at all that the negation of the negation appears in
_Capital_ at the appropriate point, the transcendence of capital, and
only at the appropriate point. As far as I know, "The expropriators are
expropriated" appears only once as well.
Paul also suggests that Marx perhaps embraced negation of the negation as
a "metaphor." What could this mean? Negation of the negation is a
logical form, an abstraction of real processes. A real process that has
this form is an *instance* of the negation of the negation. That the
abstract form is not identical with the real process is in no way
remarkable. That is true of all concepts.
Putting it another way, in a metaphor, one particular *stands in* for
another particular. What we have with Marx's characterization of the
expropriation of the expropriators is something different: the
particular is an *instance* of the universal.
Is it true that Marx's understanding of the significance of the negation
of the negation differed from Hegel's? Certainly. Marx criticized
Hegel's dehumanization of the movement of the Idea, arguing in 1844 that
negation of the negation is "only the *abstract, logical, speculative*
expression for the movement of history."
Paul then suggests that perhaps Marx's embrace of the negation of the
negation "was a Hegelian 'residual'." If one wants to call the
culmination of Marx's greatest theoretical work a Hegelian residual,
that's fine with me. The question is whether one can get rid of it
without distorting and truncating Marx's Marxism. It's not a matter of
getting rid of a phrase, but of getting rid of the idea of human
self-determination and self-development, of the transcendence of
Paul then suggests that Marx may have indeed been serious about the
negation of the negation, but if so he "was subjectively offering a
guarantee to the working class and an unfortunate one." Subjective? How
does subjective offering differ from objective offering?
In any case, this presupposes what in fact needs to be proved, that
Althusser's interpretation of Hegel's negation of negation is correct
(and, moreover, that negation of the negation *as employed by Marx* holds
out a guarantee). I just don't see it. To recognize the impulse to
transcend, the drive toward freedom, as a source of forward movement, is
not to promise victory. It does not negate the fact that external
circumstances can thwart the forward movement. Nor does it negate the
fact that self-contradictions can thwart the forward movement and indeed
lead to retrogression. Hegel's _Phenomenology" is full of "forms of
consciousness" that are unable to resolve their self-contradictoriness.
And in the discussion of the attitudes of thought to objectivity in his
_Encyclopedia_, he argues that after Kant, philosophy did not move
forward, but retrogressed with Jacobi and his intuitionalism.
Hegel says we *can* know the real, in opposition to Kant's a priori
denial of that. "Can know" doesn't imply "will know."
There's a yawning gulf between all this and the Stalinist dogma that
history is pre-ordained, and so the Party is always "objectively" right.
Paul says that "Any one [of the above possibilities] leads to the same
result -- don't base Marxism on that quote."
No one, especially I, is trying to turn you into a Hegelian. I don't buy
into the notion that what's needed is to exclude differences, or
establish a common denominator, in order to forge a unitary "Marxism."
What's wrong with people thinking differently? So base *your* kind of
Marxism on whatever you want. But let Marx have *his* own Marxism, too.
I haven't been discussing what "Marxism" is.
No have I been discussing the *significance* of Marx's body of ideas.
I've been discussing its *meaning*. In the discussion of "critique," you
conflated significance and meaning. In OPE-L 2604, you wrote "who decide
which themes in Marx are important"? And you repeated the question in
OPE-L 2625. I got too tied up in other things to answer immediately, but
I'll do so now:
Each of us decides for her/himself what, if anything, in Marx is
important. But when I argued that the concept of fetishism was integral
to _Capital_, and when I showed that Marx held that the rule of the
capitalist over the worker is NOTHING BUT the rule of dead labor over
living, I simply was NOT discussing what is significant or important. I
have no desire to persuade you or anyone. I was discussing the MEANING
of _Capital_, not its SIGNIFICANCE. Whereas significance is subjective,
meaning is objective.
For instance, you are entitled to reject the notion that the rule of the
capitalist over the worker is nothing but the rule of dead labor over
living labor. You are entitled to say it isn't an important idea. You
are entitled to create a brand of Marxism in which it is absent. BUT if
you want to claim that _Capital_ -- objectively -- is "principally about"
class exploitation INSTEAD OF the domination of workers by the products
of their hands, you have to come to grips with a lot of textual evidence
to the contrary, including this passage, a passage that indicates the
author of the work rejected your opposition between the two concepts.
Paul continues: "You and Raya Dunayevskaya offer:
4) Marx had a "break" in his thinking in 1844 and he never left that
I don't think there was a break and I don't think that was Dunayevskaya's
argument either. She argues instead that the 1844 manuscripts,
specifically Marx's grounding of the dialectic of negativity in real
human becoming, was the crucial "philosophic moment" of his later
development. But her metaphor is that of Prometheus bring fire to earth
and, before he could do so, he first had to have the fire. Marx got his
Promethean vision from Hegel prior to 1844 and prior to 1843 when he
became an exponent of proletarian revolution. In short, she argues for a
continuity of Marx's Marxism from 1841 (his dissertation) through 1883.
Paul: "I disagree ... so much (although not all) of the Hegelian
intepretation is based on words written on paper which Marx himself
decided either NOT to print or were never intended for publication."
If I wanted to be witty, I'd say that Althusser's interpretation is based
on reading into Marx words that he never wrote or intended to write. But
seriously, I just don't buy the method of playing one text against
another. It *presupposes* precisely what it needs to *prove*, namely
that there is no coherent whole, but a bunch of ruptures that have left
only discordant fragments in their wake. If instead there exists an
interpretation that is able to comprehend the whole as a whole, as
something coherent, it is a better interpretation (as an interpretation)
than one that can't.
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