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3/2018

KARL MARX. ON THE OCCASION OF THE BICENTENARY OF HIS BIRTH

 

DIALOGUE AND UNIVERSALISM EDITOR’S NOTE

   The year 2018, the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth, is a special occasion to reflect on his thought, his heirs, and his contribution to the history of humanity. This Dialogue and Universalism project entitled KARL MARX. ON THE OCCASION OF THE BICENTENARY OF HIS BIRTH is—among others undertaken in 2018 all around the world—a tribute to Marx’s work.

   For many, Karl Marx gave humankind invaluable ideas on how to build a more just human world: how to remove social inequality, liberate people, relegate oppression, enslavement, poverty and exploitation. He created a tre-mendous, almost utopian social-economical vision, a dream, and at the same time a quite concrete project of realizing it. Marx belongs to a not-too-large group of intellectuals whose influence on the fate and form of the world over long years is undeniable. Marx’s conceptions still carry hopes, continue to be valid and current—both in their original forms and in their many different modi-fications and collages.

   For Dialogue and Universalism—whose mission is to improve, by means of philosophy, the fate of humanity, and to struggle against, among other things, enslavement and oppression—Marx’s work is of special attention. In this age of absolutely dominating and omnipresent capitalism, it is important to understand Marx’s work even more deeply and extensively than it has been in the past, also more purely than it was in the official ideologies of the so-called communist states, in which Marx’s original ideas were frequently warped by immense po-litical pressure, mixed with alien ideas, and in effect often became shallowed or deformed. Of course, this does matter a lot for philosophy and the history of ideas, but it is also essential for real political life—because today’s leftist movements seem to suffer from a deficiency of great ideas which could be the foundation of their activity. Marxian inspirations or returns to Marx’s origi-nal conceptions, however located in today’s social-economical contexts, could be helpful to their social-political awareness.

   The Dialogue and Universalism editorial team expresses its deep gratitude for Jean-Francois Gava, the guest editor of the Marxian issue.

Małgorzata Czarnocka
Dialogue and Universalism editor-in-chief

 

EDITORIAL

 

KARL MARX. ON THE OCCASION OF THE BICENTENARY OF HIS BIRTH

   Fair enough for Karl Marx, 2018 immediately will give him a new chance to be remembered, for this year marks the bicentenary of his birth. In 2017 indeed, most of Marxists were only able to celebrate the secular impulse given by the bolshevik coup inside the then ongoing social revolution for massive West-ern/industrial/isation of Russia, instead of the 150th birthday of his Capital’s publication. “The only thing I know is that I’m not a Marxist,” said Marx, and we definitely should understand why by now. Does Marx’s one of the most quoted sentences still weigh, or has overquotation entirely depleted its subver-sive consequences? In 2018, near-term extinction or at least near-term collapse of the human species (not to talk about other ones) because of capitalism— capitalism indeed is the explicit content of geological neologism “anthropo-cene”—has become a Pulcinella’s secret. Another one is that Marxism has done little or better said nothing to resist it, and very much more to contribute to Westernize the rest of the world under the ruinous banner of human emancipa-tion. It has done so all along the 20th century, as if it had been, according to Lévi-Strauss’ pervasive insight, the ultimate trickery of modernisation: main-stream and thus dominant Marxism brutally displayed a frank and open admira-tion for the industrialisation process and for the generalisation of its corollary, waged slavery as the normal mode of production, i.e. as normal relations of production.

   Now it could be a matter of honour, if not of political relevance, so to say a gallant last stand, in the occasion of this bicentenary of Marx’s birth, to ad-dress again the thought of the great anatomist of the capitalist power machinery under the light of the Savage, rather than under that of the Civilized, say that of the mere though brilliant and leftist apologist of the bourgeoisie’s achieve-ments—namely Manifesto’s Marx. “Address again:” because it has been done so many times inside heterodox Marxism (the Frankfurt School, Operaism, etc.), but so many times undone and silenced by the overcoming and now, once the job is done, disappearing police inside the workers’ movement, its official organizations with their progessive religion. The Marxist comedy of Modernism turned into tragedy again, leaving full room to capitalist exterminism and pav-ing the way to biocide, better known as the sixth mass extinction. Now the bad joke has been unmasked. To us, value critique, the core of Marx’s true genius, is the point of view of the Savage par excellence in Marx’s work.

   The current issue provides a rich bunch of often erudite contributions which most of the time suit with this concern of digging up, through value critique, as weird as it might sound, a “reactionary” Marx against the traditional, orthodox progressive bearded bard of modern times. Let us not made ourself misunder-stood. There is no contradiction between our anti-modernist hypothesis about Marx and communist revolution. On the contrary, this hypothesis proposes again, after Walter Benjamin describing Klee’s angelus novus as turning its back on the turmoils, torments and ruins of History, that communism is the actual social movement abolishing the current state of affairs, according to Marx’s own famous word—no matter whether he thought or not of capitalism, at the time he wrote it, as an instrument to that end: our current hypothesis is that it is not, of course, as Marx himself stated in his just as much famous though never sent letter to Vera Zasulich of … 1881, long after Capital’s first volume was published—and whose unilaterally progressive character has still besides to be proven. If one must admit that this mass conscience has flowed back to the inconscious where it comes from, one might also more modestly consider the persistent matter of communism as the thud of resistance to the great encampment (if we put it like Michel Foucault) of the industrial era and its poisonings. What resists is of course not merely the past as such, like in the right wing scenario à la Evola of reactionary thought (generally mistaken for the latter), but what of the past deserves not to trespass for it is cleared from all forms of social relations of domination. By the way, it’s not the least merit of Mario Tronti for instance to have made possible again (after and simultaneously to the Adornian-Benjaminian wing of the Frankfurt Schule), from the sixties onward, the dialogue bewteen Marxian thought and what he called the great reactionary culture.

   In some way, if this view gains support, it complicates the Marxian fight be-cause it radicalises it: there is nothing in the institutions of modernity that might be taken for granted as the solid rock on which to elaborate further what previ-ous dominant classes have been supposedly and unconsciously forging for us. The only way left is to trick with History with a big Jacques Rancière in his Philosophe et ses pauvres puts it straight: no more bourgeois hero to pave the way for a communist play in which proletariat stands as the gravedigger walk-on. If proletariat has nothing to lose but its chains, it should be now obvious, contrary to all Marxist (-Leninist) preaching, that it will not lose them. So the traditional question of what to do? always left bitterly without an answer after any Marxist (or Marxian) congress stays all the more unsolved, for even the academic way of raising the problem relies on the presupposition that a separate activity of knowledge is still legitimate from an emancipatory standpoint. But that is what the very critique of the realm of real abstractions puts into question. If democratic instruction turns to be unveiled as mass conditioning for disci-pline, according for instance to an Enzensberger, then it is highly dubious that emancipatory intelligence has not to be found at least also among the vast array of popular skills, abilities and capacities.

   But soon comes the reversal: where have these skills gone? Melted into thin air, like Shakespeare’s characters and sceneries after The Tempest. It might now sound dazing that the unexepected actors of mass instruction against modern dispossession can precisely be intellectuals and even scholars. Rudi Dutschke claimed that Lenin be put back on his feet; let us add: not to teach “backward” skilled workers to rejoyce abandoning their qualities—or rather their Musilian Eigenschaften, their properties—in order to embrace the socialist management of mechanization, bourgeoisie’s sumptuary gift, but to tell completely dispos-sessed proletarians what was stolen to their skilled ancestors in order to gain it back and against the so-called onward march of History.

Jean-François Gava, guest-editor
Université Libre de Bruxelles

 

 

 

ABSTRACTS

 

Robert Elliott Allinson

MAO’S CONTRIBUTIONS TO MARXISM AND DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM

   This article raises the question of whether the thought of Mao Zedong is simply de-rivative from Marxist thought, whether it represents a deviation from Marxist thought, or whether it contains any original contribution to Marxist thought. It discusses such topics as Mao’s concepts of the principal and the non-principal aspect of the contradic-tion, Mao’s concept of permanent revolution, Mao’s replacement of the industrial prole-tariat with the peasant farmer class, Mao’s inversion of the classical Marxist position of the base determining the superstructure, Mao’s concept of the complementarity of oppo-sites, Mao’s concept of antagonistic and non-antagonistic contradictions, Mao’s reduc-tion of all laws of dialectic to one law.

Keywords: Mao Zedong, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, proletariat, dialectical materialism, the Yijing or The Book of Changes, base, superstructure, permanent revolution; complementarity of opposites; theory and practice.

Affiliation: Soka University of America, Gandhi Hall 404, 1 University Drive, Aliso Viejo, California 92656, USA.

E-mail: rallinson@soka.edu

 

 

 

Werner Bonefeld

WEALTH AND SUFFERING: ON CAPITAL
CHAPTER I

   Karl Marx’s Capital is critique of the capitalistically organised social relations of reproduction. It recognises economic categories as perverted social categories and asks about the manner in which human social practice manifests itself in the form of inde-pendent economic categories and laws that unfold as if governed by invisible principles. He says, the capitalist relations are beyond human control and he argues that the indi-viduals act under economic compulsion and are controlled by the products of their own labour. His critique says, in the capitalist social relations the individuals act as personi-fication of economic categories. The immense wealth of capitalist society is abstract, it appears in the form of money as more money. In these wealth-relations, time is money, the satisfaction of human needs a mere sideshow. Yet, the economic categories are purely social forms. Critique of political economy is social critique of economic inver-sion, it is about the sheer unrest of live as the hidden misery of economic things.

Keywords: Marx’s Capital; capitalism, labour economy.

Affiliation: University of York, Department of Politics, York YO10 5 DD, UK.

E-mail: wb3@york.ac.uk

 

 

 

Kevin M. Brien

KARL MARX: PRAXIS, PROCESS, AND METHOD

   In Karl Marx’s “Preface” to the second edition of Capital, Volume 1, he famously wrote that with Hegel dialectical thinking is “standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.”1 Unfortunately, across a wide spectrum of interpretations of Marxism, there continues to be a great deal of confusion about what Marx means by the “rational kernel” that he discerns within the Hegelian “mystical shell.” But not just a great deal of confusion, but real mystification and distortion of what Marx himself means by dialectical thinking, and especially what a dialectical mode of explanation involves. The concern of this brief paper is to offer some considerations that might open up a clearer conceptual horizon for understanding Marx’s method of dialectical explanation, and the fundamental can-ons of interpretation that are associated with it.

Keywords: concrete universal, dialectic of explanation, dialectic of inquiry, Hegel, historical materialism, internal relations, Marx, method of moving from abstract to concrete, praxis, yin-yang thinking.

Affiliation: Washington College, Chestertown, MD 21620, USA.

E-mail: dogenlight@gmail.com

 

 

 

Jean A. Campbell

KARL MARX—METAPHOR FOR SELF-EMPOWERMENT AND LIBERATION

   This essay presents what is enduring and still powerful in Marx’s analysis of capital, viewed synthetically as the resulting moral imperative to fairness in the social relationships of production.

Keywords: capital, socio-economic formation.

Affiliation: an independent scholar.

E-mail: Jean.Campbell@Shearman.com

 

 

 

Harry Cleaver

RUPTURING THE DIALECTIC: THE STRUGGLE AGAINST WORK, FINANCIAL CRISIS AND BEYOND

   In a period in which capital has been on the offensive for many years, using debt and financial crises as rationales for wielding austerity to hammer down wages and social services and terrorism as an excuse for attacking civil liberties, it is important to realize that the origins of this long period of crisis lay in the struggles of people to free their lives from the endless subordination to work within a society organized as a gigantic social factory. In both the self-proclaimed capitalist West and socialist East the manag-ers of that subordination, whether in private enterprise or the state, repeatedly found their plans undermined by people who refused to play by their rules and who elaborated activities and social relationships that escaped their control. The refusal of their rules meant crisis for the managers; the elaboration of other ways of being—whether charac-terized as the crafting of civil society or as autonomous self-valorization—meant crisis for and freedom from society-as-work-machine. As always, the capitalist response has involved instrumentalization and repression; basically its managers have sought to har-ness what they could and eliminate what they could not. For a long time instrumentali-zation was most obvious in the West and repression was most obvious in the East, yet both were always at play everywhere, and everywhere those responses were resisted and often escaped. It was that resistance and those escapes that led to the unleashing of the monetary weapons of financialization and their current employment to convert crisis-for-capital into crisis-for-us. It is in past and present resistance and escapes that we must discover both our weaknesses and our strengths in order to overcome capital’s current offensive and to elaborate new worlds. It is the overall thesis of this paper that Marx’s labor theory of value still provides vital aid in helping us understand these historical developments.

Keywords: financial crisis, capital, Karl Marx’s labor theory of value.

Affiliation: 1 University Station C1200, Austin, Texas 78712 USA.

E-mail: hmcleave@austin.utexas.edu

 

 

 

Jean-François Gava

SUBJECTION AT THE VERY CORE OF THE PRODUCTION PROCESS.
A RADICAL REAPPRAISAL OF MARXIAN VALUE THEORY

   This paper takes place inside the theoretical frame restored after that the false secu-lar Bortkiewicz-debate around the transformation problem (Marx’s Capital III) has been solved in the years 1990 and whose flaw had not been identified for ages by most of Marxist economists, accepting its double accountancy of prices’ in money prices and workhours “prices” (“values”). Beyond the re-identification of finite values and prices, this paper aims at showing that, going back to a concept of value as an infinite working process which unifies money, time and work, machinery not only devoids every particu-lar work of any peculiarity, but also its time, reduced to the mechanical clock move-ment. Once such spatialization of time occurs, succession dominates duration instead of the other way round. Time is not the time of any living movement any longer, but mere-ly corresponds to locomotion. Hence, money as a mathematical real, is not neither quan-tity of anything, but pure number (€ is not any use value). Money and clock time made identical as empty numbers identify into value with devoiced work, reduced to mere, or pure, unqualified effort. Abstract work becomes real abstraction by making the real still more adequate to itself, i.e., work still simpler abstract work induces simple work.

Keywords: Marxian value theory, critique of political economy.

Affiliation: Université Libre de Bruxelles, Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 50, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium.

E-mail: jeangava@ulb.ac.be

 

 

 

Paul Guillibert, Frédéric Monferrand

ECOLOGY/ONTOLOGY A CONTRIBUTION TO HISTORICAL NATURALISM

   Contemporary debates in political ecology tend more and more to be held on the on-tological level, where they are recomposed around the following alternative: should one conceive of nature as the order of reality that transcends society and that should be pro-tected from the excesses of the latter? Or should one renounce the very partitioning of nature and society itself in order to imagine new, more sustainable, ecological arrange-ments? Examining both Bruno Latour’s and Jason Moore’s takes on this alternative we argue that it should be overcome in favor of a naturalist and historical ontology of socie-ty inspired by the young Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. In this historico-naturalist perspective, social relations indeed appear as both determined by their environmental conditions as well as determining the uses of a collective make of its environment. The interest in this approach is to allow one to conceive of social alienation and environmental destruction as two sides of a same process which should therefore be conjointly addressed.

Keywords: political ecology, social ontology, alienation, capitalism, Karl Marx, Bruno Latour, Jason W. Moore.

Affiliation:

Paul Guillibert — Nanterre University/Sophiapol, 92000 Nanterre, France.
E-mail: paulguillibert@gmail.com

Frédéric Monferrand — Nanterre University/ Sophiapol, 92000 Nanterre, France.
E-mail: fmonferrand@gmail.com

 

 

 

John Holloway

MARX, CIVILISED OR SAVAGE?

   Capitalist civilisation is based on abstract labour. Mainstream Marxism has devel-oped within a movement based on the defence of abstract labour and this has shaped its understanding. Savage Marxism starts from the first, not the second, sentence of Capital and moves against abstract labour through an underworld of categories usually neglect-ed. Hope lies latent in this underworld.

Keywords: Marx, Capital, abstract labour, proletariat, existence, constitution, revolution.

Affiliation: Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico.
E-mail: johnholloway@prodigy.net.mx

 

 

 

Renzo Llorente

MARXISM, SOCIALISM AND DEMOCRACY

   Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels believed that their political project involved a com-mitment to democracy, and many subsequent Marxists have claimed that Marxism’s conception of socialism and communism represents a supremely democratic social arrangement. Many of Marxism’s critics, however, reject this belief, holding that the Marxist conception of socialism and communism entails anti-democratic policies, prac-tices and institutions. While the position of Marxism’s critics is, without question, the predominant view today, it turns out that the arguments used to support this position are highly problematic, insofar as they proceed from certain liberal-democratic assumptions about democracy that Marxists can reasonably reject.

Keywords: Marxism, democracy, democratic socialism, rights.

Affiliation: State University of New York at Stony Brook.

E-mail: renzo.llorente@slu.edu

 

 

 

Andrey I. Matsyna, Anatoly B. Nevelev

THE PROBLEM OF OVERCOMING IN THE CREATIVE LEGACY OF KARL MARX

   The authors consider the phenomenon of overcoming and examines the culture of overcoming in Marxist dialectics. As the core thread for dealing with this issue in the writings of Karl Marx, the authors follows the research on the socio-biological problem carried out by Vladimir I. Plotnikov, a Russian representative of the Marxist dialectics. Examining Marx’s standpoint on the subject, Plotnikov provides an outline of the issue of overcoming. This issue is described as the issue of mankind overcoming its species’ boundaries and divided into the problems of the first and second overcoming. The first overcoming is defined as breaking out beyond the boundaries of instinctual activity, while the second—as the problem of removing the self-restrictions by an alienated person.

Keywords: Karl Marx, Vladimir I. Plotnikov, overcoming man, phenomenon of overcoming, culture of overcoming, the first overcoming, the second overcoming, noth-ing of instinct, nothing of inanimate thingness, the problem of the beginning, elemen-tary social connection, alienation.

Affiliation:

Anatoly Borisovich Nevelev — Department of the Faculty of Eurasia and the East of Chelyabinsk State University, 129 Bratiev Kashirinykh st., 454001 Chelyabinsk, the Russian Federation.
E-mail: nabob1@mail.ru

Andrey Ivanovich Matsyna — Department of the Faculty of Eurasia and the East of Chelyabinsk State University, 129 Bratiev Kashirinykh st., 454001 Chelyabinsk, the Russian Federation.
E-mail: matsyna@inbox.ru

 

 

 

Omer Moussaly

THE POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS OF MARX’S LABOUR THEORY OF VALUE

   In economic history value theory is simply one paradigm amongst others. It refers to an ensemble of economic ideas developed by classical political economists such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo. In the works of Karl Marx, however, value theory takes on a new meaning. It is charged with political significance and relates directly to class struggles in modern society. In this paper we will explore some aspects of Marx’s critique of capitalism as interpreted by Harry Cleaver, Isaak Illich Rubin, Roman Ro-dolsky and several other scholars.

Keywords: Karl Marx, value theory, politics, capitalism, labour, social class.

Affiliation: C.P. 8888, succ. Centre-ville, Montréal (Québec), H3C 3P8, Canada.

E-mail: moussaly.omer@uqam.ca

 

 

 

Tommaso Redolfi Riva

SAMUEL BAILEY AND DAVID RICARDO IN KARL MARX’S DIALECTIC OF THE FORM OF VALUE

   While Marx’s critique of David Ricardo is frequently debated, Marx’s critique of Samuel Bailey has, for far too long, remained in the shade. I try to show that Ricardo and Bailey represent two fundamental “moments” of Marx’s Darstellung. The word “moment” is here used in a non-generic sense: Ricardo’s and Bailey’s theories of value represent two opposite and contradictory sides of value’s category as presented in Marx’s critique of political economy. Building on the work of Hans Georg Backhaus, who claims that the first chapter of Volume one of the Capital can be understood only as a metacritique of Bailey’s critique of Ricardo, this topic is developed in order to further clarify the connection of critique and presentation in Marx’s theory.

Keywords: Marx, critique of political economy, method, Samuel Bailey, David Ricardo, theory of value, fetishism.

Affiliation: an independent researcher.

E-mail: redolfiriva77@yahoo.it

 

 

 

Adolfo Rodríguez-Herrera

NEEDS: VALUE IN COMMAND

   This paper reviews one of the mechanisms with which capital weaves a new type of subjection of the human being, the production of needs. Unlike other living beings, whose needs are determined by their biology, the human beings are the fruit of the so-cial relations that they establish within their culture. Humans need objects, but their needs arise through the objects called to satisfy them, objects that in capitalist society are capital—value in the process of valorisation. In this way, need is itself a product of capital, and capital thus appears as a force that imposes itself on the human being from within, not only in the labour process but in the very constitution of the human needing being. The article discusses the triple human condition that gives rise to this phenome-non—the objective being (the need for the object), the being of desire (the need beyond the object) and the object’s being (the need as product of object). The paper concludes that capitalist market, that civilizing force that gives rise to the modern, autonomous individual, reduces freedom to a simple means of capital valorisation.

Keywords: Marx, subjection, need, fetishism, object, freedom, wealth, capitalism, capital.

Affiliation: School of Economics, University of Costa Rica, San José, San Pedro.

E-mail: adolfo.rodriguezherrera@ucr.ac.cr

 

 

 

Halina Walentowicz

THE MARXIAN HERITAGE

   This paper focuses on some specific aspects of the theory developed by Karl Marx, who as a philosopher distanced himself from philosophy because he questioned its tra-ditional forms. Marx postulated tying philosophical cognition to scientific study (today known as inter-disciplinary research), he also strongly emphasised the importance of complementarity between social theory and social praxis. Marxism brought a break-through which paved the way for the philosophies of the 20th-century. The author de-votes particular attention to Marxism’s forecasts, and concludes that, although Marx can be counted among the pioneers of globalisation having foreseen capitalism’s global expansion, today’s social trends appear to be steering away from the kingdom of free-dom he envisioned.

Keywords: historical materialism, social existence, historicity, labour, emancipa-tion, individualism, globalisation, administrated world, totalitarianism.

Affiliation: University of Warsaw; Institute of Philosophy, Krakowskie Przedmieście 3, 00–927 Warsaw, Poland.

E-mail: halinawalentowicz@uw.edu.pl

 

 

 

Boyan Znepolski

MARX’S CONCEPT OF IDEOLOGY AND ITS SUCCESSORS

   The article aims at revealing the historical reinterpretations of one of social sciences’ key concepts, namely that of ideology. Referring to the analyses of Étienne Balibar and Jacques Derrida, it tries, firstly, to clarify the main moments of the Marxian concept of ideology. In Karl Marx’s view ideology is an expression of the social deformations of consciousness in class divided bourgeois society, while in the works of his disciples, among others Louis Althusser, the ideological phenomenon is generalized and con-ceived of as a basic principle of all human practice and as a necessary condition for the social integration of individuals. Moving still further form Marx, Pierre Bourdieu deep-ens Louis Althusser’s line of interpretation and abandons the very concept of ideology substituting for it the concepts of “doxa,” which does not bind human sociality to con-sciousness, but to corporeal dispositions. Unlike ideology, doxa is not just an effect of an already constituted social reality, but rather a principle of its constitution, and, there-fore, a principle of constitution of social domination as well.

Keywords: ideology, universality, particularity, ghost, spectre, doxa, common sense.

Affiliation: Department of Sociology, University of Sofia “St. Kliment Ohridski,” 15 Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd, 1504 Sofia, Bulgaria.

E-mail: boyanzep@gmail.com


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