10. Marx’s Theory of Historical Materialism (1)


Prof: Well I would like
to get started. Good morning.
In the discussion section I
realized I sort of screwed my last lecture.
It didn’t come quite clearly
through; either Hegel or Marx’s theory
of alienation. So I would like to come back to
the theory of alienation and how Marx gets to The Paris
Manuscripts, before we get into historical
materialism. And let me just make two
introductory comments about this.
One important point I tried to
make is you have to be– I think one purpose of my
lectures in Marx is to alert you that there were two Marx’s,
not just one, and you are likely to know only
about one Marx. Right?
This is Marx,
who had the theory of class struggle and the theory of
exploitation–right?–and who was a theorist of Communism.
But you may know very little
about Marx, the idealist, the Hegelian,
the humanist, whose central idea was the
notion of alienation. Right?
Whose major concern was about
the human conditions under modernity and wanted to overcome
it. And, you know,
these two very different Marx’s appeal to very different
audiences. In fact, the first Marx–the
humanist, the Hegelian,
the idealist–was almost forgotten for a very long time,
and was rediscovered by the 1960s onwards,
generally. So it’s very important to see
that most likely that what you heard about Marx–
and I suppose most of you have never read any text from Marx–
is a biased view. You only know one Marx and not
both. And my point is to try to
introduce you to the complexity, that you meet both Karl Marx.
Right?
The second point is that–what
I found frustrating in the discussion section yesterday,
which was one of the worst I did in the last couple of
years– not ever in my life I did even
worse discussion sections, but this was real bad–that,
you know, the importance and the
significance of Marx’s theory of alienation did not come through.
And I obviously did a very bad
job, because there are very few
texts, written in the seventeenth,
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
which are so powerful and so influential,
and so broadly influential, on theories of the twentieth
century, than exactly this text on
alienation. You can think about
literature–right?–and you can see the extraordinary impact of
the idea of alienation in literature.
Some of you may have read
Albert Camus, the French novelist–The
Stranger. This is right out of the theory
of alienation. You may be familiar with Franz
Kafka, right? There you go.
That’s the sense of alienation.
You may have watched ever the
play, wonderful play, of Henrik Ibsen,
Peer Gynt. That’s about alienation. Right?
So in the twentieth century
literature, we are full with the senses of alienation.
And so is twentieth century
social theory. There is no twentieth century
social theory without the theory of alienation.
By the way, it’s interesting,
because The Paris Manuscript,
for the first time, was published only in 1931.
Nevertheless,
the idea was already beginning to creep in earlier.
Smart people read the theory of
alienation in Marx earlier; Georg Lukács,
for instance. And then the Frankfurt School.
There is no Adorno,
there is no Horkheimer, there is no Marcuse,
without the theory of alienation.
And I can go even further.
There is no cultural theory
without the theory of alienation.
There is no Bauman,
there is no Kolakowski, without the theory of
alienation. This is a very important idea.
So I have to come back to this
and to try to show you how he arrives at this point,
and why he abandons it–why the second Marx is emerging.
And then we get,
starting with the second Marx, the first step towards the
second Marx is the “Theses on Feuerbach,” what
I want to talk about today. And I’ll try to economize with
my time, right? Right?
I have to learn from Adam
Smith–right?–to be more utilitarian and to make sure
that means and ends do match with each other.
Okay, let’s come back to Hegel
and Hegel’s theory of alienation.
Because I don’t think–from the
discussion section my sense was I did not make it clear enough,
what Hegel’s theory is. And well let me try to labor on
this. As I said, you know,
he was an idealist, and I hope I explained it to
the extent it is necessary. I will come back to this when I
will be talking about the “Theses on Feuerbach”
and The German Ideology. But he really thought that
somehow consciousness precedes material existence,
and that’s what made him into an idealist.
How religious he was I actually
don’t know. This is not a religious,
not a theological proposition. Right?
The idea is that before the
physical world existed, there has been an absolute
spirit. Right?
At the origin of the world,
there is an absolute spirit existing, and that exists in the
material world as such. And then his central idea is
that you can describe the history of the universe as a
problem of alienation, as a problem of gradual
separation, as I said, from subject and
object. This is a very important idea,
and we will have to deal with this in Marx.
And even if you are dealing
with twentieth century theories, critical theory,
this is a central notion of, you know, subject and object.
Let me try to labor on this a
minute. And I have to do it on the
blackboard. So Hegel’s fundamental idea is
that when you have the absolute spirit–right?–and this is not
a personal God but just the idea.
Here this is a situation of
totality. The absolute spirit is at the
same time subject and object, united in itself.
Right?
And that’s what Hegel calls
totality. And there’s the term totality
being used later on in critical theory.
And we are saying we are
searching for totality, we are searching for the unity
of subject and object. Well in Hegel’s,
the second stage is that subject and object are divided
from each other.>There is the material world
without consciousness, and consciousness becomes
absolute consciousness because it’s kind of projected the
material world out of itself. Right?
And this is the–this is the
situation of alienation. Object becomes separate.
Then, as human beings emerge,
subject and object beginning to merge.
Right?
Consciousness emerges. Right?
Consciousness–right?
These are subject–this is
you–and object are the conditions of your life.
Right?
Another person you are
interacting with is an object of your interaction.
Or the conditions of your life.
Right?
The objective conditions.
This room.
At Yale University the
construction which is going out there–right?–is our objective
conditions. Right?
And you are the subject who are
reflecting on it. But because you are gaining
some consciousness, you are beginning to conquer
the objective conditions of your life.
And what he’s suggesting,
that alienation will overcome when your subject will be able
to control the objective conditions of your life.
Right?
Where your consciousness is
adequate to your existence. Right?
When you are the master of your
life, you are a master of your conditions.
It is not the conditions which
rule you, but you are the master of the conditions.
Right?
That is the key idea in Hegel.
And Marx is very much following
this idea. I mean, he of course eliminates
the whole idea of absolute spirit.
Right?
He doesn’t want to deal with
the idea of absolute spirit. For him this is too speculative.
He’s also bothered by the idea
that you can overcome the problem of alienation simply by
thought. Right?
Marx’s project is to bring this
whole idea of alienation down to earth,
to everyday experience, to your experience and your
experience of, I would use the term,
modernity, until 1944. Marx does not have a concept of
capitalism or capitalist mode of production.
Right?
He even just vaguely thinks
about private ownership. He’s really trying to
conceptualize modernity, modern industrial urban life,
as distinct from earlier communal life–
the life what we had in more intimate communities,
peasants of the villages or whatever.
Right?
He tries to conceptualize this.
He sees this as a progress,
modernity as a progress. But we have to pay a heavy
price for it, and the price what we pay for
this modernity is the separation of subject and object.
Right?
The peasant in a village was
not separated from the objective conditions of his existence.
It was united with the
objective conditions. It was bound to the earth.
Right?
Even the slaves were not
separated from the objective conditions of their existence.
They were treated as objects.
Right?
There was no subject separated
from the object. So the unique–this is Marx,
this is not Hegel anymore– the unique feature of
alienation, that you have this separation from subject and
object, in modern conditions. Right?
And I think this is why Marx’s
theory of alienation survived Marx’s theory of exploitation.
That the young Marx survived
the old Marx; the first Marx survived the
second Marx. Because we can all relate more
if you have a good lecturer, and who brings more effectively
to you what he’s getting at. You can relate more,
you can say much more, “Oh yeah,
I feel alienated in this class.” Right?
“That makes no sense to
me.” Right? “This doesn’t make any
sense to my life, and I have to sit there because
I’m a sociology major and I have to take this bloody class.”
Right?
Then you are alienated. Right?
And this is when you
will–that’s what you will say. Right?
“I am alienated because I
have to do this nonsense because they force me to do so.”
Then you are alienated.
This is exactly what Marx is
getting at. Right?
Well in a way it is your
choice. Right?
You declared a sociology major.
Right?
But then you are forced to do
stuff what you don’t really want to do.
So it doesn’t mean that you are
not free. You are free,
but within your freedom you are alienated because you don’t
control your conditions, and it looks like that within
your freedom, within your free choice,
you are forced to do stuff. Right?
This is what Marx is trying to
get at. You think you are free,
you think you are equal with others, and you are really not
free. Because the objective
conditions, what you created for yourself–right?
You got into trouble. Right?
Who forced you to be a
sociology major? Nobody.
And then you are in the trouble
that you have to do– take certain hurdles.
But you feel alienated and you
don’t feel that your whole personality is being developed.
Right?
To put it with John Stuart
Mill, you don’t feel self-development.
Then you are alienated,
unduly so. Right?
Is that a bit coming closer to
it? Makes more sense?
All right.
Now let me therefore also show
you how Marx gets to it. I think this is very important.
And I skipped all of this stuff
because I was trying to get very quickly–I was trying to get too
quickly–to the notion, Marx’s theory of alienation.
And now I would like to correct
this. And I already foreshadowed in
my last lecture that these are formidable years for Marx,
1843 and 1844. In two years his intellectual
development is quite extraordinary.
Let me follow you through of
these intellectual developments. In the summer of 1843,
he writes this book, Contributions to a Critique
of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right; or Hegel’s Philosophy of
Law. Well Hegel has gone through a
long development intellectually. He started out as a radical,
an admirer of the French Revolution,
and as he was getting older he was becoming more and more
conservative and was becoming concerned about the consequences
of the French Revolution. And as he became,
you know, more conservative, he was–he said,
“Well what is happening with the French after the French
Revolution is not really what I wanted.
Because now the French
Revolution is actually splitting the society in two classes,
capital and labor.” It’s not exactly the
terminology what he means, but that’s what Hegel is
getting at in The Philosophy of Right.
“And who can tell who is
right and who is wrong? They are in conflict with each
other. The employers or the owners
want something, and the workers want something
else. They both represent
particularistic interests. But where is the universalistic
interests?” So asked Hegel.
There must be some universal
justice. To put it in the terminology we
used in this course before, there must be something like
common good, which brings capital and labor together.
Where will this common good
come from? And in The Philosophy of
Right he offers an interesting theory.
He said it will come from the
government, it comes from the state.
The state should represent the
universal instance. And then he said, “Well,
you know, the society, modern bourgeois society which
emerged as a result of the French Revolution,
is divided into these particularistic classes.
But we need a universal agent,
a universal class, which represents the common
good, and this must be the government,
this must be the class of civil servants.”
And in the book,
Philosophy of Right– which is his kind of last major
book, writes it not long before he
dies–he argues these are the civil servants who constitute
the universal class. Now this is not a silly idea.
We do think about it this way.
And yes, I mean,
he builds in many respects, in a more sophisticated way,
on Locke and Rousseau and the idea of general will,
particularly in Rousseau. Right? And this is the state which
should represent the general will.
Right?
And we also occasionally think
about it this way. Right?
There are all these conflicts
around this country, and we expect the government to
express the universal interest, to innervate the general will.
We expect occasionally the
federal government to do that, and the federal government
occasionally does it. You have read about the Civil
Rights Movement. I mean, who was the agency
which made sure that the states actually obey the laws and
integrates the schools? It was the federal government.
Right?
It was Bobby Kennedy who went
down and made sure that the southern states do follow the
rules. Right?
We expected the government to
express the universal interest. Right?
So it’s not silly.
But Marx, in a way,
said, “Well, that’s not that simple.
Hegel is naïve about the
government.” And he said,
“Well the government is not that non-partial as we would
like it to be.” Right?
If you are rich,
you have more influence on what the government does,
rather when you are poor. Right?
There are lobbyists in
Washington DC, and you probably have very
little leverage on these lobbyists.
Big business has a lot of
leverage on these lobbyists. Right?
And they, of course,
have a great deal of pressure on what the legislature will do.
Just follow what is happening
with the healthcare legislation. Well you can call your
congressman and you can send emails, you know,
and can send letters, and ask them to do something.
But believe me,
when the pharmaceutical industry spends a lot of money
and tells a senator, you know, “Unless you vote
this way or that way, we probably may not be able to
support your next electoral campaign”–
right?–then it will make more impact than your individual
email. Right?
Not that you should not send
individual emails. Send it. Right?
Be involved.
But be aware that the
government is sent to be more responsible for big business.
“So”,
he said, “How can it be universal class?”
That’s really the point what
he’s making in The Philosophy of Right.
Right?
The state is not universal.
It pretends to be universal.
It has to pretend to be
universal in order to be legitimate, but really it is not
universal. And the civil servants are,
of course, not a universal class.
Occasionally they are quite
corrupt. Right?
Not in the United States,
of course, but in some countries I can think of civil
servants are corrupt. Right?
You know, and then they are
offered, you know, a free seat,
you know, on a private jet, they accept it.
And then they accepted it,
they do something for the owner of that private jet.
Right?
So there are some civil
servants who are not all that innocent–right?–and they can
be influenced. So it is not all that universal
class. They are–not all civil
servants are angels. Right?
Some of them are,
some of them are not. In fact, he concludes the
unfinished book, “that really the problem
is that we don’t have universal suffrage”;
writes he in 1843. And he said,
“Let’s have universal suffrage,
and then if we in free elections universally elect the
representatives, the problem will be gone.”
As we know, he was not quite
right. Right?
We have all equal vote but we
do not have all equal voice. Right?
I think that’s–but Marx here
is still a bourgeois liberal; as of the summer of 1843
believes the problem will be solved.
Now let me rush through and
show you the kind of intellectual development–and I
briefly pointed out to this. These are the three important
steps which follows this abandoned manuscript.
He now enters the road of
radicalization, moves away from Hegel,
and tries to carve out his own intellectual and political
project. And he writes the paper
“On the Jewish Question”
in which he says, “Well Hegel is right.
We need something universal.
We should not allow society
just to be the struggle of particularistic interests.”
Right?
This is in a way against Adam
Smith’s utilitarianism. It’s not enough that
individuals fight each others’ interests out,
and that will end up to a universal good.
We need some universal good to
be achieved, and it will not simply achieved by
particularistic interests followed.
That is Marx’s point.
But then he writes an
introduction to the Critique–
Contributions to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of
Right. And in this introduction he
said, “Well, we need something;
universal emancipation. But who will bring universal
emancipation to humankind?” Right?
He’s looking for an agent who
can carry this out. And in the introduction,
he said, “This will be the proletariat.”
Well you may say now he’s
entering the wrong road– right?–and he’s entering a
very–he’s basically painting himself in the corner,
where he will be for the rest of his life,
trying to show that indeed the proletariat will emancipate us
all, and will create a good society
as such. But people, when they are
reading the introduction–and I will give you a few citations
from it because it’s a beautiful piece of work.
In many ways it is wonderful
poetry. He has some extraordinary
framing of the problem. But then, you know,
his critics said, “What a nonsense.”
You know?
“Why on earth the
proletariat? As we all know,
the workers are dumb. I mean, you are saying that we,
the critical philosophers, we cannot emancipate humankind?
But you think that these
ordinary workers, with alienated consciousness,
they will bring us an unalienated world?
How comes?
What nonsense is this?”
So that’s when he writes The
Paris Manuscripts, and tries to now bring the
whole idea of alienation down to earth,
to fill it with some economic content.
That’s why now he tries to
relate it to commodity production,
and make the claim that though in modern society everybody’s
alienated, but they are only the workers
who are fully alienated, and their interest is to
overcome the alienation. That’s what–this is why he
tries to argue that alienation will bring the working class to
emancipate humankind; that is the project.
Of course, he never publishes
the book, because after he wrote it down,
he said, “Well”– I suppose he
said, “Well, this is quite nicely written.
I have a couple of good ideas.
But nobody will believe
me.” Right? “The working class will
not go on the barricades and die because I am telling them that
they are alienated.” Right?
“They don’t care about
alienation. I have to come up some– some
better reason, you know, why the working class
will revolt.” And that’s the end of the young
Marx. And now he’s beginning to read
Adam Smith and Ricardo and political economy.
Right?
And he’s beginning to develop
his theory of exploitation. This is the young or mature
Marx, and we will talk about him very briefly.
Now just a couple of ideas
here. Right?
What about “On the Jewish
Question”, what is at stake?
Bruno Bauer wrote a paper on
the origins of anti-Semitism, and he said,
“We have anti-Semitism in Germany because the state is
Christian, and as long as the state is
Christian it will discriminate against the Jews.
So the solution is to separate
the state and the church, to have political emancipation.
Right?
And if we have political
emancipation, we abolish anti-Semitism.”
Now Marx takes his point here
and he said, “Look, this guy is completely wrong.
Look at the United States,
the church and the state are separated,
and in the nineteenth century there was quite a bit of
anti-Semitism in the United States.”
Not only in the nineteenth
century. In this very institution,
in the 1920s and ’30s, there was a lot of
anti-Semitism. There’s a wonderful
sociologist, Jeremy Karabel, who wrote a great book about
admission policies of Ivy League universities in the 1920s,
and he was able to prove that Ivy League universities,
including Yale, actually applied a quota.
They never admitted more Jews
to Yale than the average Jewish population in the United States.
Believe it or not.
It was never official policy
but it was practiced all the time.
So, I mean, there was
anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism can exist if the
state and church are separated, if the state is supposed to be
secular. And Marx said,
“Where does come like racism come from?”
He said it comes from,
what he said, civil society.
He doesn’t have the notion of
capitalism. He said this is rooted in
people’s everyday experience and interest.
Right?
Anti-Semitism comes from civil
society because some people feel threatened by the Jews.
Why is there,
you know, anti-African American feelings?
Because some people feel
threatened by African Americans. Right?
And this is why there is racism.
So you have to fix the problems
in civil society. The problem is in civil
society, not in the state. Therefore what you need is
universal emancipation. That’s the bottom line of
“On the Jewish Question.”
Is that reasonably clear?
Okay, then let’s go further.
And this is the Introduction.
Well there are some wonderful
stuff in this. It’s more poetry than–it is
certainly not social science. I would say more poetry,
but very forcefully done. Well he said,
“What we have to do is to move beyond Feuerbach,
who simply sort of contemplated on the situations.”
And he said,
“Once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been
unmasked”–that’s what Feuerbach did.
Right?
He did show that alienation is
our–we’re projecting our alienation by creating God.
Right?
He said, “Now the task is
to unmask self-estrangement or alienation in its unholy
form.” Right? In the everyday life–in your
everyday experience–especially in your economic activities.
That is the point what he tries
to make. Then he goes further and he
says, “Well the Young Hegelians said ‘Be a critical
critic; criticize the Hegelian
theory’.” And I think this is a fantastic
sentence; again, it’s beautiful poetry.
Very dangerous and let a lot of
trouble in history. In a way I wish he would not
have written it down. But I love that he did write it
down, because it’s a beautiful sentence.
“The weapon of criticism
cannot replace the criticism by weapons.”
Right?
Well it’s not enough to be
critical in thought. You have to be critical in
action. Right?
You have to act on it.
Just do not just talk.
Do something about it.
That’s what it says.
Well I think this is,
you know, one of the strongest sentences I have read in social
science literature. Right?
“The weapon of criticism
cannot replace the criticism by weapons.”
Well this is also a great
sentence. “Theory becomes a material
force as soon as it has grabbed the masses–gripped the masses.
Theory is capable of gripping
the masses as soon as it demonstrates ad hominem.”
Woo.
That’s quite something. Right?
What he–right?
He said, “Well the
question is what is a good theory, what will help you
emancipate yourself? Good, the essence of good
theory, that it grabs you, it grips you.”
Right?
When you say,
“Uh-huh, it did hit me.”
This is theory. Right?
But it can only be when it is
ad hominem, when it addresses your problems.
Right?
A theory, what you are lost,
you don’t know why it is relevant for your life,
is no good. I would even go as far,
the theory which is boring is bad theory.
What you need is fascinating
theory. You have to be fascinated.
You have to be shocked. Right?
You have to say,
“Yes, now I will live differently after I–this theory
I understood.” Right?
It has to move you.
That’s the good theory.
I think that’s a wonderful
point, and very powerfully done. And then he said,
“Well, what–well we say that the theory has to grab the
masses, but what kind of masses? Whom?
Who is our audience?”
Well, and he says,
“In order to carry out a revolutionary change.”
It’s not enough to have a
theory, not enough to have ideas.
“You may need”,
he said–it’s very problematic but very crucial to understand
the downside, the bad side of
Marxism–“a passive element,
a material base.” Right? As you see, no matter how much
Marx glorifies the working class, he thinks about them as a
passive element. Right?
Simply as a material base.
And that is–who is that?
The proletariat.
And why?
“Because it has nothing to
lose but its chains. It has a universal character,
and this is why it is a universal class.”
And, you know,
in 1843, it may have been quite right.
The working class probably had
little else to lose but its chains.
Certainly in 2009 it’s usually
not true. The working class has much more
to lose than its chains. Right?
It has probably its own nice
suburban house. They probably own two cars.
They probably even have some
pension fund, on the stock exchange.
Even ordinary workers check out
what the Dow Jones did yesterday, because it affects
the impact. But in his times it was
probably true. So this is how he gets to the
problem. It is the proletariat which
will be the universal class. And now you are already
familiar with The Paris Manuscript,
and I will not talk about this. That’s why he wants to show
that the proletariat is the most alienated.
And that makes–follows
logically. I think it damages,
to some extent, the theory of alienation,
because it narrows it too much down.
The focus is too much down on
the working class, and in a way too much down on
working class, working on industrial
production in firms. But really, the message of
alienation is much broader. It tries to convey you some
general experience of modern life where we do not feel at
home. This is the big framing of the
problem in the early twentieth century.
Homelessness, the homeless mind;
that we feel homeless in this world, searching for a home.
That’s the sense of alienation.
That’s what Marx tried to
capture here; in a way, unfortunately,
mis-specified. Too much emphasis on workers,
just because he’s beginning to have this political project and
wants to find a revolutionary class.
And, you know, he abandons it.
“This is ridiculous,
you know. I have to put my show
together.” And then he does;
beginning to develop what he calls historical materialism.
So let’s get into that one.
And I have ten minutes to do
it, and that’s all right. If necessary I will come back
to this. So Marx is developing what he
calls historical materialism. And I will suggest it is
making–it is done in two steps. First, he’s emphasizing
dialectics in his criticism of Feuerbach.
Feuerbach is a materialist all
right, but he’s a mechanical materialist, and Marx wants to
bring dynamics in his materialism.
And he will argue that this has
to–he historically specified material force.
And this is what he will do in
The German Ideology. But what is dialectical?
I don’t want to waste time on
this. I want to get straight into
“The Theses on Feuerbach”,
which is a very short text, but very deep.
So here are the eleven Theses
of Feuerbach, on “Theses on
Feuerbach.” He tries to carve out what his
new approach will be. And these are the eleven
pieces–very short. He said Feuerbach’s materialism
was simply reflective. It actually meant subject and
object remained separated, and the subject reflected on
the object outside of the subject,
dominating the actions of the subject.
But it is assumed that there
are objective conditions irrespective from the subject,
and you only reflect on the subjective conditions.
And he said,
“Well in the new materialism truth is a practical
question.” And I will talk about this in a
minute. It means you have to bring,
by human practice, subject and object together.
You have to change the
objective conditions of your life.
That’s, you know,
not a passive agent, not over-determination.
Marx is always read as a
determinist. No.
As I will say,
Marx’s philosophy is a philosophy of praxis;
praxis, practical activity is a key of Marx’s theory.
Man- man changes circumstances.
And how?
We will elaborate on this.
But, you know,
we get–you know, we were born in certain
conditions, but we can change it.
Right?
Then, but in order to change
really the–we can’t act alone. We have to cooperate.
That’s thesis four.
He said that Hegel,
he thought it can be done in thinking.
No.
Feuerbach thought we can do it
in contemplation. Marx said, “No,
it can be only done by social practices.”
V, VI.
Well old materialism was
looking at the individual. Right?
Now I will look at the
collective, social relations–relational,
what I’m suggesting is relational.
Well religion is also a social
product; this is a kind of by the way.
Social life is practical,
follows from what we have said. Well contemplation implies
isolated individuals in society. Well we offer a view of
socialized humanity, that we all act together and
there’s collective action, which brings change.
And then the most controversial
and most important one. So far the philosophers have
interpreted the world. Now the point is to change it.
Right?
Good theory is not just
describes, it gives you a prescription what to do about
your life. That’s the kind of theory what
we want. That’s the “Theses on
Feuerbach.” Just eleven sentences basically.
Great sentences.
Sort of all materialism is
reflective. Right?
“The chief defect of
Feuerbach is that things”, he said–the German term is
Gegenstand– “is reality,
sensuousness”– feeling through our senses,
right?– “is considered only in the
form of the object”; that we sense the objects
outside of our contemplation. But sensuousness is not
perceived as human action, activity.
Right?
We simply feel the stuff but we
don’t do anything about that. He said, “Sensuous
activity is what I emphasize.”
Well new materialism.
This is, you know,
one of the most important sentences Marx wrote down.
“Well the question whether
objective truths can be attributed to human thinking is
not a question of theory, but it is a practical question.
Man must prove truth that this
worldliness of his thinking in practice.”
Right?
It’s not a speculative thing,
whether a question of truth. “The test of the pudding
is in the eating”; he says elsewhere.
The Italian Marxist
philosopher, Antonio Gramsci, who died in the prison of
Mussolini, called Marxism “the
philosophy of praxis.” That’s the essence of Marxism,
that the truth is not the subject reflecting on the
object, but the interaction of the subject between the object.
Right?
That the subject changes the
object in order to meet the need of the subject.
That’s the major point–the
separation of subject and object.
The assumption that there are
objective conditions which are outside of our possible action,
is what later Marxists will call positivism.
Marxism is not positivist.
It believes that we can change
the world, rather than just to accept the world.
Right?
Well I don’t have to talk–
don’t have enough time to talk about Gramsci.
Just one word:
in fact he called Marxism as a philosophy of praxis,
because he was writing his major work in the prison of
Mussolini, and was smuggling this book out
they called The Prison Notebooks.
It was smuggled out before he
died. And he knew that,
you know, the prison guards will read it.
So he did not want to write
down the term Marxism. When he meant Marxism,
he wrote it ‘the philosophy of praxis’.
And of course the stupid
Fascist guards did not know what on earth philosophy of praxis
is. So they did not know he was
writing about Marxism. But I think he got a very
important point. This is indeed an important
feature of Marxism. Well man changes circumstances.
Well circumstances are changed
by man. And this is again an important
sentence. “The educator must himself
be educated.” And those of you in my
discussion section yesterday, this is what you did:
you educated the educator. I realized I did not get,
you know, the theory of alienation through quite
effectively. So I went back and corrected my
course. Right?
“The educators must be
educated.” Right?
I think it’s a great sentence.
Well, and one needs to discover
the role of the masses. Now that’s very much Marx’s
political project, coming in.
But an important project. Right?
That you cannot do by yourself.
Right?
If you want to achieve
something, you have to cooperate.
You know?
You need cooperation with
others. Right?
Otherwise nothing can be
achieved. Well Hegel’s starting point was
abstract thinking. Feuerbach, he’s a materialist,
he thinks what is real is what we can grasp with our senses.
Marx said, “No.
This is sensuous practical
activity.” It has to be sensuous,
but it has to be practical. This is something what
Jürgen Habermas loved, the German philosopher.
He said, “This is the real
Marx, who sees the essence of all sensuous human activity
being the core.” Later Marx is a reductionist,
because he reduces sensuous activity to economic activity.
Here Marx perceives all
sensuous activity, including human interaction
between us, including sexual interaction among us,
as a sensuous activity. Right?
As a material reality.
There is not so much conflict
between Marx and Freud as it appears.
Now let me go further.
VI.
Old materialism looks at the
individual. Right?
And this is Marx’s big
obsession. The problem with modernity is
the isolated bourgeois individual,
and we have to overcome this isolated individual,
and we have to engage each other in human interaction.
He is a communitarian, right?
He is a communist, right?
He does not want to have
isolated individuals, right?
He wants human interaction.
Well I’ll skip this one:
religion is also a social product.
Social life is practical;
this is again quite obvious, and I can probably skip this
one. And here again,
you know, the isolated individual;
that’s the problem, that you do not see that really
what we can achieve is always interacting with each other,
building on each other. A single individual will not
change anything. Well, and therefore we stand
for socialized humanity. The standpoint of old
materialism is civil society, and the isolated bourgeois
individual in civil society, and we are talking about a
human society, where we are brothers and
sisters, where we have solidarity,
where we act in concert and in solidarity.
And now comes the most
controversial pieces, what I hate and what I love.
I love because again I think it
is wonderfully done, hate because it’s desperately
wrong. Right?
Philosophers have only
interpreted the world in various ways.
The point is to change it.
In some ways,
this follows from the earlier ideas, namely praxis.
Truth is a practical question.
Philosophy only makes sense if
it changes your life. If you just read the philosophy
text, or the theoretical text,
for Foundations of Modern Social Thought,
to make sure that we will fall asleep,
then the text did something wrong, and I did something
wrong. Right?
If the texts are right,
and if my lectures are right, if you start reading “The
Theses on Feuerbach”, you cannot fall asleep. Right?
You may have to take a sleeping
pill to quiet down and to sleep because the idea disturbs you,
because you feel now you have to change the world rather than
to accept it. All right.
Thank you.

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