Chris Cutrone with Doug Lain on art and capitalism (video and audio recordings)

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Chris Cutrone of the Platypus Affiliated Society joins Douglas Lain of Diet Soap/Sublation Media to discuss Clement Greenberg’s 1939 essay “Avant-Garde and Kitsch.” This is a follow up to the 2/3/22 Critical Cuts video “Are NFTs Revolutionary?,” but Cutrone also offers a defense of Greenberg, discusses the limits of the SI, and wonders if it’s time for the Left and the working class to “realize the Spectacle.” Cutrone stays past the hour to discuss his art career and how it ended ezpdf reader 3.0 다운로드. Are all Marxists secretly would-be artists? Are all artists secretly would-be Marxists?

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Chris Cutrone

Chris Cutrone is a college educator, writer, and media artist, committed to critical thinking and artistic practice and the politics of social emancipation. ( . . . )

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Chris Cutrone and Conrad Hamilton debate 20th century regression from socialism (video and audio recordings)


Chris Cutrone and Conrad Hamilton with Doug Lain of Diet Soap Media debate 20th century regression from the struggle for socialism, addressing the 1930s Old Left and 1960s New Left and the Russian and Chinese Revolutions and feminism. 

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Paths to Marxism

Chris Cutrone

Platypus Review 142 | December 2021/January 2022

MY PRINCIPAL TEACHERS IN MARXISM were the Spartacist League, Adolph Reed and Moishe Postone — Theodor Adorno was also a crucial teacher, through his writings, which Reed had pointed me towards when we met up in Chicago after I graduated from college. The title of this essay is an homage to Adolph’s own “Paths to Critical Theory,” which narrates his political and theoretical coming to consciousness. I first met Reed when I was in college at Hampshire, in the same entering class as his son Touré, and when I was already a member of the Spartacus Youth Club, the youth group of the orthodox Trotskyist Spartacist League.

High school

I had previously considered myself to be a “Marxist” after having read the Communist Manifesto and other random, miscellaneous writings by Marx (also Ernest Mandel’s Revolutionary Marxism Today) in high school. I had been equivocal about the Russian Revolution and Lenin, but felt predisposed towards respecting Trotsky as a dissident figure — I had been taught not only George Orwell’s 1984 but Animal Farm as well: Emmanuel Goldstein and Snowball were sympathetic if tragic figures. But it was really Marx who got me.

I was a “Leftist” activist in high school during the 1980s, protesting against local anti-black racism (housing discrimination) and in solidarity with Central American movements and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. I was surrounded by Catholic Worker, Quaker (American Friends Service Committee) and Secular Humanist adult activists on Long Island, but I occasionally encountered “Marxist” Leftist organizations at demonstrations in New York City. My family was apolitical or otherwise conservative. Of all my friends, only one had any “Leftist” background of any kind: his parents were Irish immigrants of the Catholic Worker Liberation Theology variety and his older sister supplied us with “Left” literature as well as music listening recommendations (Depeche Mode, New Order, et al).

In my solidarity work on Central America and South Africa, I met émigré refugee militants who told me melancholically that “socialism is impossible” because “American workers voted for Ronald Reagan.”


By the time I was applying to college, my high school boyfriend discovered Hampshire College, to which we both applied and attended together Download iTunes 64-bit. It was during our first year that we met the Spartacist League at the nearby University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Actually, a mutual friend had first met them and asked us to attend a meeting between them and her, because as “Marxists” we could help her evaluate them: Were they for real? She was unmoved but we were interested and became contacts.

The Spartacist League provided my first real education in Marxism. One of the first things I read by them was their Lenin and the Vanguard Party pamphlet from 1978, which greatly impressed me. (My first serious college course paper was on Rosa Luxemburg’s critique of Lenin, rebutting the usual anti-Lenin misreadings of Luxemburg.) Soon after, they had me read Cliff Slaughter’s 1960 essay “What is revolutionary leadership?,” whose oblique reference to Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness I filed for a later date — I had already read Gramsci by that point in college and was intrigued but not exactly convinced by his arguments. Adolph said that the problem with Gramsci was that “he means all things to all people.” The Spartacists said simply that Gramsci was a Stalinist.

At this time the Fall of the Berlin Wall and uprisings in Eastern Europe and the USSR were taking place — the Soviet dissident Boris Kagarlitsky was an invited guest speaker at Hampshire College, who I distinctly recall telling me point-blank that there was no point to Marxism which was an outdated ideology of industrialization (when I asked him about this almost 30 years later, he denied ever saying such a thing, he claimed because he never believed it — perhaps it was someone else?).

With the Spartacist League I attended speeches with Q&A discussions by Noam Chomsky and Michael Harrington, with whom I was otherwise not acquainted. The Spartacists’ provocative questions from the audience prompted Chomsky and Harrington to articulate their anti-Leninism — their anti-Marxism: Chomsky rehearsed his condemnation of the Bolsheviks for allegedly hijacking and dominating the Russian Revolution; Harrington sarcastically confessed that, yes, he “killed Rosa Luxemburg,” with a cynicism that turned me off completely. I later came to respect Harrington more through his writings, and, if not Chomsky himself, at least anarchism to some degree, mostly through the classical writings — I had met Murray Bookchin in high school at New York City’s anarchist book store, when he came storming out of the back office to scold me after hearing me ask if they had any books by Lenin: I swear he yelled at me, “Listen, Marxist!”

The Spartacists introduced me to various different social and political realities, through activity in their locals on the East Coast. They had me do various manual labors as proof of my “proletarian” affinities, in addition to selling their newspaper Workers Vanguard weekly. For instance, I was required to do my bit cleaning the bathrooms and scrubbing the floors of their fortified international headquarters in New York’s financial district, as well as paying regular dues and contributing to various fundraising efforts Longman pre-download. They resented my need as a working class student to work in the summer as well as work-study jobs to help pay my tuition and other expenses at Hampshire, asking, “Couldn’t your parents just give you the money?” (No, they couldn’t.) We attended a strike at the New York Daily News newspaper, where a union shop steward carried a pistol openly in his hip holster to defend against scabs, while across the street a police sniper was set up on the roof overlooking the picket line. At a demonstration against something or other in Manhattan, the Borough President Ruth Messinger showed up — the Spartacists pointed her out as a prominent member of the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America): I saw a villain.

The big issues of the day were things like the Crown Heights anti-Semitic riots over a black child struck and killed accidentally by a Hasidic Jewish motorcade, and City College of New York’s Professor Leonard Jeffries teaching students that whites were “ice people” and blacks “sun people.” A Latino gay Spartacist member with whom I was acquainted was stabbed while selling WV on the campus of Howard University by a Nation of Islam supporter, because the Spartacists pointed out that Louis Farrakhan had called for Malcolm X’s death after Malcolm had broken with Elijah Muhammad. My friends and I had read Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as well as Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice) and watched all the Roots series on television. Public Enemy and NWA kept the memory alive.

Chris Hani of the South African Communist Party spoke at UMass and said that the “wind of democracy blowing through Eastern Europe should come to South Africa” — upon his return to South Africa a Polish immigrant gunned him down outside his suburban home. I was shocked and appalled by both his speech and his murder. — Later, I would meet Nelson Mandela of the ANC (African National Congress), Jay Naidoo of COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) and other famous anti-Apartheid political figures, when I visited South Africa for their first Gay and Lesbian Film Festival with a delegation of American and British filmmakers, including Isaac Julien, Barbara Hammer and others, in 1994. At a reception dinner, I got Mandela to inform my fellow travelers, who were otherwise drunk on rhetoric, that the end of Apartheid in South Africa was “not a revolution,” which anyhow would only provoke a civil war and U.S. invasion. At the time, Mandela’s ANC was engaged in fierce bloody street battles against Chief Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party of Zulu nationalists. I was critical but sympathetic to Mandela: at least he didn’t lie.

I met Adolph Reed when he visited Hampshire, as back then he was not so far away in New Haven at Yale Windows 7 oem. I had written to him in response to an op-ed in Long Island’s Newsday I read on the problem of black student activists’ demands on campus — at first, I had no idea he was a Marxist, though the Spartacists informed me that he was and spoke admiringly of his work. Adolph wrote back and said we could meet when he next came up to Hampshire.

I had read Horkheimer and Adorno’s “The Culture Industry” chapter of Dialectic of Enlightenment in a Media Studies course at Hampshire, but it didn’t leave much impression on me — I was much more influenced by Stuart Hall and Raymond Williams in that context. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I started reading the Frankfurt School in earnest, and not until I was a graduate art student in Chicago that I read Adorno’s writings with any seriousness — in order for Adorno to help defend my Marxism against the postmodernism I was encountering for the first time: my Hampshire professor Margaret Cerullo, a friend of Adolph Reed and editor of the legacy SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) journal Radical America, had said to me discouragingly that, while her education was in Marxism (she later told me when applying for graduate study that “the Frankfurt School is like a second skin” to her, but no one was interested anymore, so why would I want to pursue such things?), perhaps now Foucault was more relevant; and anyway weren’t the Spartacists an FBI COINTELPRO operation?

Adolph Reed spoke on campus and made a special visit to my class taught by Margaret Cerullo and Carollee Bengelsdorf. The following week after Adolph spoke, some (white) students in class complained about him as an “African-American who was interested in an obscure 19th century Jewish philosopher (Marx).” When my professors failed to challenge this, saying, “That’s a good question,” I stood up to defend both Adolph and Marx, shouting, “No, it’s not!”

The anti-war movement around the Gulf War U.S. intervention against the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait was a key moment for me. The utter futility of the protests, which were met by counter-protesters with lurid signage against “Sodom Insane” (Iraqi Baathist leader Saddam Hussein) charging anti-war marchers with American flagpoles wielded as weapons, seemingly permitted to pass through police lines to do so, left me dejected as President George H.W. Bush declared, unhindered, the “New World Order.”

By the time I graduated from Hampshire in 1993, I was done with the “Left” — but not with Marxism. Events of my final year in 1992 — the “Left” protesting of the quint-centenary of the Columbian Discovery, the Los Angeles riots against the acquittal of the police who beat Rodney King that the “Left” called a “rebellion,” and the election of William Jefferson Clinton after 12 years of Republican Presidents, which was met with jubilation by my fellow “Left” students as well as by our “Leftist” professors at Hampshire — convinced me that my moment was not apt for Marxism or socialism. I was depressed that the world seemed forever frozen and stuck in a dead-end 1960s New Left framework that I could not abide. During the Rodney King protests, I witnessed black students take over an administration building at Hampshire, but proceed to kick out first the white students, then the non-black students of color and finally the black women for supposedly not sharing the plight of black men’s abuse by police. When soon afterwards the Spartacists decided to try to “break” me with accusations of “petit bourgeois intellectualism,” I had had enough.

Richard Rubin, an acquaintance from the Hampshire Spartacus Youth Club chapter, and I kept alive the idea of trying to carry on the Spartacists’ outlook without their organizational insularity and paranoia: we toyed with the idea of starting a “Leviné League,” named after the martyr of the 1919 Bavarian Workers Republic, Eugen Leviné, but it amounted to nothing 유튜브 구입한 동영상. All the former Hampshire Spartacus Youth members I had recruited except me and Richard scattered to the wind. We maintained our subscriptions to Workers Vanguard. I dutifully checked in with the Chicago local — and reunited with Richard, who had always kept his distance from the Spartacists as an avowed heterodox “Menshevik Centrist” — when I moved there. But I settled depoliticized into the 1990s Clinton regime, struggling to make my way in the world as a young adult.


I became a video artist and publicly continued to avow and promulgate my Marxism — mostly through quotations from Adorno’s cultural-critical writings in artist statements — but this made me into more of a curiosity than a militant ideologue in the art world. I met the poet Reginald Shepherd, who was the first to recommend Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (as well as his Notes to Literature) to me — Adolph had recommended Negative Dialectics, Minima Moralia and Prisms. Reginald told me that Adorno would cure me of my Marxism, but ended up only confirming it — and deepening it. I became convinced I had to read everything by Adorno — eventually, I realized I must write a dissertation on Adorno, on his Marxism.

Eventually, I earned first my Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and my Masters and PhD from the University of Chicago, launching my teaching career, first as a graduate student, and then thereafter, up to the present.

At SAIC, I studied in the Video Department, which was staffed with avowedly “Marxist” professors, one of whom had made a documentary on Mumia Abu-Jamal that the Spartacists used to promote Mumia’s case. — I recall vividly attending with the Spartacists a “Free Mumia!” rally in Philadelphia, which was denounced by the local Fraternal Order of Police head, who said on TV that we protesters should be put on an “electric couch” to join in Mumia’s execution. But my art work was accused of being “too aesthetic” by my professors and fellow students at SAIC. The separate Film Department was also staffed by “Marxist” filmmakers but was regarded by the Video Department as being too interested in art as opposed to “politics.” But I knew the difference between politics and art 원펀맨 1기.

During this time of the mid-1990s, I met and became friends with the up-and-coming “New / Post-Black Black Artists” such as Isaac Julien, Glenn Ligon and others, as well as meeting the faculty at the new Harvard University department organized by Henry Louis Gates Jr., such as Cornel West, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Paul Gilroy, Homi Bhabha and others — including meeting Stuart Hall on a visit — when Isaac Julien was teaching there (in New York, Isaac introduced me to bell hooks, who objected to my existence). As an artist, I spoke individually and on panels about — dissenting against — racial and sexual identity, at film festivals, art museums and galleries, and colleges and universities around the world.

Many conversations about Marxism were had: the consensus was that it was finished.

Back in Chicago, I was living through the brunt of neoliberal capitalism. I participated marginally in Adolph’s anti-Clintonite Labor Party USA organizing, meeting his local colleagues in the venture (mostly Maoist labor union activists). I made my skepticism about the Labor Party clearly known to Adolph, and suggested that we should be working towards a socialist party instead. He said that I sounded like the “Trotskyite sectarians” he was struggling against in the Labor Party — the ISO (International Socialist Organization), Solidarity, and others — and accused me of being “too abstractly theoretical” in my politics. The Labor Party USA project seemed to me to be just Democrats dissenting against Clintonism. He was opposed to running Labor Party candidates against Democrats — he didn’t want to be a spoiler. Nonetheless, he called for voting for the Green Party’s Ralph Nader against Al Gore for President in 2000 — and regretted it ever since. Adolph amused me driving around Chicago: just missing an open parking space, he would exclaim, “Racist yuppies!” He introduced me through the Labor Party activities in Chicago to his then-girlfriend, Stephanie Karamitsos, a PhD student at Northwestern University, with whom I bonded as a fellow artist, reading and discussing Adorno widely and at great length.

Adolph is a follower of the later “council communist” Karl Korsch and of thinkers who were students of the later Lukács such as Istvan Meszaros and others such as Karel Kosik, whose book Dialectics of the Concrete Adolph opposed to the alleged bad “idealism” of the Frankfurt School. Both the later Korsch and Lukács had turned away from their Hegelian Marxism circa 1917 towards “materialism.” In Korsch’s case this meant turning against Lenin and ultimately against Marxism as a whole — including Marx — because of their alleged “bourgeois elitism and vanguardism” contra the working class. Adolph disliked Trotskyism on this basis. He worked out a very elaborate argument concerning this issue in his book on W.E.B. Du Bois on which he was working when I was in my period of closest contact with him.

Adolph ascribed my resistance to his Labor Party USA project to my supposed “abstract idealism” that he attributed to my Trotskyism and strong affinity for Adorno. It was precisely Adorno who, in his Negative Dialectics, had helped me sort out the vexed issue of “materialism vs. idealism” in Marxism, which he taught me to see as a historical symptom of the defeat of the revolution rather than a matter of ahistorical principle as Adolph and others did. There was no need to raise the failure of Lenin and Trotsky to achieve socialism through the Russian Revolution to a matter of principle; indeed, Adorno taught me that it was important to remember them and Marxism against the grain of subsequent history, as an important attempt not easily explained away.

In addition to working various odd jobs — for instance at Kinko’s photocopy shop, where I met a couple of young Zapatista militants visiting Chicago who came in with literature to print, and including as support staff for engineers at the local Shure Electronics factory, drafting assembly-line instructions for workers (mostly Mexican women) there as well as at their sister location across the border in Juarez — I taught film and video production to aspiring workers in the media industry at Columbia College in Chicago.

Meanwhile, local “Leftist” activists were protesting against “big box stores” such as Borders Books and Walmart, Target, et al, trying to defend local businesses from them — I saw them rather as opportunities for organizing — and shopping — for the working class. Adolph said of mom-and-pop stores that “exploitation begins at home.” Cynical city aldermen would hire insta-crowds to picket the stores. I encountered race-baiting at the NGO level with local arts and media “Left” organizations descended from the 1970s–80s post-New Left cultural activist scene, which lost their government funding and, seeking private foundation support, were attacked for being too “white” — and promptly confessed their guilt and disappeared, leaving a void artistically, culturally and politically. It was the end of an era.

At the time of the O.J. Simpson trial, Adolph pointed out that single cases never serve well as rallying-points politically because the facts are always complicated and reality is not symbolic or allegorical, though the capitalist politicians and news media try to make it so. About Simpson himself, Adolph observed that “even a guilty man can be framed” and the police frame people, innocent or guilty, routinely. O.J. was found not guilty, though he was not innocent. I learned later as a victim of crime that the trial court, if not the criminal justice system as a whole, exists — at least ostensibly — for the benefit of the accused defendant against the state — as it should be. The police are there not to protect society against crime but to enforce the law; and prosecutors try to win cases, not achieve justice — which cannot be found in court anyway, especially not in capitalism. A bitter truth, but true nonetheless. — Life is not a morality play.

Graduate school

At the University of Chicago, I again met my Irish-American high school friend, who was then finishing his PhD in Musicology, writing a dissertation on Weimar Republic popular music, and who told me that a German professor had said that unless one is a native German language speaker one can never truly understand Adorno. He studied German, found a German boyfriend and relocated there, claiming his Irish citizenship in the EU. Before parting, he warned me against studying with Moishe Postone because Postone didn’t tolerate any dissent from his students — I ignored his advice and became Moishe’s student anyway. Adolph warned me archly that Moishe was perhaps too “tribal” — a veiled reference to Moishe’s (famous, but as-yet unknown to me) criticisms of Palestinian solidarity and “anti-Zionist Leftism.” For his part, Moishe said that, while he appreciated Adolph’s work a great deal, he found it too “angular:” Moishe couldn’t countenance Adolph’s fierce criticisms of black Democrat politicians.

Before studying with Moishe, I first took Adolph’s friend Kenneth Warren’s courses in African-American literary history and theory at the University of Chicago, and Ken became one of my advisors, eventually serving as my dissertation chair. My dissertation was on Adorno, and when a professor, editor of a prestigious critical theory journal, heard my subject of study, he exclaimed, incredulously, “I didn’t know Adorno was gay!,” to which I replied that as far as I knew he wasn’t — I certainly hoped he wasn’t. Who knows what he thought of Ken chairing my committee?

I started out as an Art History — Media Studies — student, and earned the ire of the department chair when I corrected a fellow student’s misreading of Walter Benjamin’s essay on “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” as a culturally conservative rejection of modern mass media rather than a dialectical critique, which the chair blamed me for the student, the one black member of our cohort, eventually dropping out — he cut me from the program as punishment. Or perhaps it was for another reason: when discussing my Masters thesis on Benjamin, the chair chastised me that Lenin and Trotsky relished “killing the innocent as well as the guilty” — I learned later that he was an ex-Marxist.

At Univ. Chicago, I took courses with the Hegel scholar Robert Pippin, who had been a member of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) in the 1960s and became an acolyte of Marcuse when he taught at University of California at San Diego. We conversed in and out of class on issues of German Idealism and Marxism, with Adorno and Benjamin figuring prominently. The question regarding Hegel and Marx was the philosophy of freedom.

The Marxist literary critic Fredric Jameson once replied to a question I posed at a Univ. Chicago event about his account of Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary — that perhaps it was about freedom and not merely happiness — that “freedom is a Right-wing concept.” Adolph responded to my question in a graduate student colloquium he co-taught with Ken on the history of anti-black racism in the U.S., regarding the issue with the Taft-Hartley Act of official government-recognized labor unions as a historical gain or setback for workers, that “freedom is in the eye of the beholder,” a version of the usual Leftist “freedom for who?” dismissal of the question of social freedom — the freedom of society as a whole, over which Marxists such as Lenin and Adorno considered capitalism to be dominating as an impersonal force, affecting all of its members.

As Postone did later, Pippin confessed that he felt he “couldn’t really understand” Benjamin and Adorno, which made sense to me as ignorance of the Marxism at the core of their work. Pippin highlighted a sentence in one of my course papers on Marxism about the philosophical difficulty of “recognizing oneself as a subject of change from within the process of self-transformation.”

Postone’s courses — which I attended with Stephanie and sometimes Richard as outside auditors — on Marx and the Frankfurt School as well as on the post-1960s “Left” criticisms of capitalism, were a welcome respite from the otherwise unrelenting anti-Marxism of postmodernist academia — if however, as I soon came to realize, they were their own form of anti-Marxism. Moishe would say that, while Marx himself was politically a “traditional Marxist,” his theoretical work pointed beyond this. When teaching Adorno’s work, Moishe confessed that he wasn’t sure he really understood it: I replied simply that Adorno was a Marxist; and maybe Marxist politics was more and other than what Moishe thought.

In Moishe’s classes, I met a new friend, Spencer Leonard, with whom I immediately engaged on issues of Lenin, Trotsky, the Russian Revolution and historical Marxism more generally. Spencer, Stephanie and I formed a close friendship circle; we were joined by fellow graduate student friends Atiya Khan, Sunit Singh and James Vaughn.

I appreciated the pedagogy in Marx and the Frankfurt School we were receiving from Postone, but felt it all made sense only if one took certain things about Marxism for granted, politically, which Moishe did not and indeed opposed. Still, I was a little shocked when Moishe told me point-blank, angrily, that I was inappropriately trying to reconcile his work with what it was designed precisely against, Marxism — more specifically, Lenin. But it was clear to me that Marx and Lenin wanted to overcome labor as a social relation and not hypostatize it politically, as Postone alleged. James’s old Trotskyist professor Robert Brenner (and member of Solidarity) said that Moishe’s insights into Marx were nothing new to actual Marxists, and his political apprehensions were misplaced. But I knew that most “Marxists” were exactly what Moishe said they were, not really followers of Marx at all: they were the socialists and communists that Marx himself had critiqued in his day. Marxists had always complained of the constant degeneration into “vulgar” and pseudo-“Marxism” and relapse into pre-Marxian socialism, for instance Luxemburg’s critique of reformist Revisionism of Marxism.

Moishe objected to what he called my characterization of “Luxemburg and Lenin as bosom buddies walking arm-in-arm,” and was incensed when I produced evidence that Luxemburg spoke and wrote fondly of Lenin and that they were indeed good friends who spent many an evening together, walking arm-in-arm, to which he responded dismissively that, “Of course Luxemburg was a traditional Marxist anyway.” Moishe ended up protesting stridently during my dissertation defense on Adorno’s Marxism, but relented when I talked him down, admitting, “Perhaps everything ended in 1919, but we’re still thinking,” to which I replied, “But are we really thinking, Moishe?” Meeting for coffee several weeks later, he said, “You know, Chris, you might have a point about Lenin, but you need to support it better.” I thought Lenin supported it best himself.

In any case, I remained independent from Postone in ways that always irritated him and made him distrustful of me. He told others that while he admired that I am “always thinking,” he thought that I was, problematically, “once a Spartacist, always a Spartacist.” — Here Moishe agreed with Adolph. Nonetheless, Moishe hired me in the College Core Curriculum of the Social Sciences, teaching undergraduates courses on Marx, Weber, Durkheim and Freud for the next decade and a half — until, after Moishe’s death, his students were purged from the staff.

When I began teaching Adorno and the Frankfurt School at SAIC, 9/11 had happened and the War on Terror was already underway, and Iraq had been invaded, but the U.S. occupation was facing difficulties, and the anti-war movement was regaining ground. My students attended protests and encountered the “Left” and its “Marxist” organizations, and the effects of this filtered back into my classes, raising many questions.

My students at SAIC and Univ. Chicago asked me to start an extra-curricular reading group in early 2006, wanting me to inform them more explicitly of the political implications of the Marxism I was teaching, outside the academic classroom. I warned them that this would become very intense and very political very quickly. Among the first writings we read together was something recommended to me by Adolph Reed more than a decade earlier, Korsch’s 1923 essay on “Marxism and Philosophy.” We attended “Left” events as a group, including the first national conference of the new Students for a Democratic Society, held at the University of Chicago in summer 2006. These activities soon led to founding an organization, the Platypus Affiliated Society, in 2007.

The rest is history. | P

December 1, 2021 | Posted in: Essays | Comments Closed

Ends of philosophy

Chris Cutrone

Platypus Review 108 | July-August 2018

Prepared opening remarks for an internal discussion by members of Platypus on “Marxism and philosophy” to be held on August 11, 2018.* An audio recording of the event can be found at: <>.

Video recording at: <>.


MARXISM CONSIDERED PHILOSOPHY as “bourgeois ideology.” This meant, first and foremost, radical bourgeois philosophy, the modern philosophy of bourgeois emancipation, the thought of the revolt of the Third Estate. But pre-bourgeois philosophy, traditional philosophy, was also addressed as bourgeois ideology, as ideology. But ideology is a modern phenomenon. There’s little point in calling either Aristotle or Augustine “ideology.” It is when philosophy is invoked in bourgeois society that it becomes ideological. (Religion, too!)

So what is meant by philosophy as “ideology”?

This goes to the issue of Marxist “ideology-critique.” What did Marxism mean by ideology as “false consciousness”? “False” in what way? For if bourgeois ideology were considered the ideology of the sociological group of the bourgeoisie — capitalists — then there would be nothing “false” about it: it would be the consciousness adequate to the social being of the ruling class; it would be the true consciousness of the bourgeoisie. So it must be false not for the bourgeoisie but rather for others — for the “proletariat.” This kind of “class analysis” of ideology would be concerned that the workers not fall for the ideology of the ruling class. It would be a warning against the workers adopting the idealism of the bourgeoisie that would blind them to their real social condition in capitalism. The idea here is that somehow the workers would remain ignorant of their exploitation by the capitalists if they remained mired in bourgeois ideology.

Of course Marxism was originally no such “material analysis” — debunking — of wrong thinking. No.

Rather, the original Marxist ideology-critique — Marx and Engels’s ideology-critique of bourgeois society — was the immanent dialectical critique of the way society in capitalism necessarily appears to its members, bourgeois and proletarian — capitalists and workers — alike. It was the critique of the true consciousness of the workers as well as of the capitalists.

Now, that formulation just lost me 99% of ostensible “Marxists” as well as all of the rest of the “Left,” whether socialist or liberal, who do indeed think that the poor benighted workers and other subaltern need us intellectuals to tell them what their true social interests are.

This is not what Marxism — Marx and Engels — originally thought, however.

Marxism began with the critique of socialism, specifically with the critique of the most prominent socialist thinker of Marx and Engels’s formative moment in the 1840s, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon 팀뷰어9. Proudhon — who coined the term “anarchism” — claimed that he respected only three authorities, intellectually, Adam Smith, Hegel and the Bible!

Marxism is usually thought of as the synthesis of German Idealist philosophy, British political-economy, and French socialist politics. But what Marxism actually was was the immanent dialectical critique of these three phenomena, which Marx and Engels considered three different forms of appearance of the same thing: the most advanced bourgeois ideology of their time, of the early–mid 19th century. They were all true expressions of their historical moment, of the Industrial Revolution. But as such, they were also all false.

Proudhon wrote of the “philosophy of misery,” attacking the heirs of Adam Smith in Utilitarianism — James Mill and Jeremy Bentham — and other contemporary British political economists such as Malthus and David Ricardo and their French counterparts. Marx wrote his first major work on political economy and the class struggle in industrial capitalism as a critique of Proudhon, cleverly inverting its title, The Poverty [Misery] of Philosophy.

I was deeply impressed by this work — and especially by its title — when I first read it as an aspiring young “Marxist” in college. It signified to me a basic truth, which is that the problem of capitalism and its potential overcoming in socialism was not a matter of “philosophy,” not a problem of thinking. Reading further, in Marx’s 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, I read and deeply internalized Marx’s injunction that “communism is a dogmatic abstraction” which was “one-sided,” expressing the same thing as its opposite, private property, and, like bourgeois society itself, was internally divided, for instance, between collectivism and individualism, and so could not be considered a vision of an emancipated future society, but only a negation of the present. I had read in Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto their critique of “reactionary socialism,” and their observation that everything of which communism stood accused was actually the “specter” of what capitalism itself was already doing — “abolishing private property,” among other things.

This all told me that, for Marx and Engels at least, the problem of bourgeois ideology was not a matter that could be addressed let alone rectified by proper methodology — by a kind of right-thinking opposed to it.

In short, I recognized early on that Marxism was not some better philosophy.

Marxism was not a philosophical critique of philosophy, but rather something else entirely. For instance, Marx and Engels’s critique of the Young Hegelians was not as philosophers, but in their philosophical claims for politics. This was also true of Lenin’s critique of the Machians among the Bolsheviks (in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, 1908). The critique was of the relation between philosophy and politics. It was thus also not a political critique of philosophy.


I have titled my talk here, “Ends of philosophy,” after the title for the week in our Platypus primary Marxist reading group syllabus when we read Karl Korsch’s 1923 essay on “Marxism and philosophy,” the recommended background reading for today’s discussion. In the syllabus week title as well as here, I intend to play on the multiple meanings of the word “ends.” What are the ends of philosophy, according to Marxism, in terms of its telos, its goals, its purposes, and its satisfaction; what would it take to attain and thus overcome the aspirations of philosophy?

Specifically, what would it take to satisfy bourgeois — that is to say, modern — philosophy? What would make philosophy superfluous?

This is posed in the same way that Marxism sought to make labor as social value superfluous 유튜브 차단 된 동영상. How does labor seek to abolish itself in capitalism? The same could be said of philosophy.

What would it take to bring philosophy to an end — to its own end? Not by denying the need for philosophy, but by satisfying it.

But there have been other moments, before (and after) Marxism, which sought to overcome philosophy through its satisfaction, through satisfying the need for philosophy.

The need for — the necessity of — philosophy in the modern world is different from its need previously — fundamentally different. The need to account for freedom in bourgeois emancipation was new and different; this did not motivate and inform traditional philosophy. But it fundamentally tasked modern philosophy — at least the philosophy that mattered most to Marxism, the Enlightenment and German Idealism at its culmination. But the need for philosophy in capitalism is also different from its need in the bourgeois revolution.

Please allow me to address several different historical moments of the end of philosophy. I use this concept of moments of the “end of philosophy” instead of alternative approaches, such as varieties of “anti-philosophy,” because I think that trying to address Marxism as an anti-philosophy is misleading. It is also misleading in addressing other such supposed “anti-philosophies,” such as those of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Existentialism, Heidegger, etc., as well as other traditions entirely, such as the Enlightenment philosophes contra “philosophy,” or Empiricism and Analytic Philosophy contra “metaphysics.” (For instance, Heidegger sought the potential end to “thousands of years of Western metaphysics,” going all the way back to Plato.) Yet all these various phenomena express to my mind a common issue, namely the problem of “philosophy” per se in the modern era, both in the era of bourgeois emancipation and subsequently in capitalism.

What is “philosophy,” such that it can experience an end? It is not merely its etymological meaning, the love of knowledge, or wisdom, or the love of thinking. Philosophers are not merely smart or sage — not merely sophists, clever thinkers: philosophy cannot be considered merely the mastery of logic or of semantics. If that were true, then most lawyers would be better philosophers than most avowed “philosophers.”

The end of philosophy cannot be considered an end to sophistry, finally putting the clever fellows down. It cannot be considered an analogue to Shakespeare’s “First, we kill all the lawyers.” It is not meant to be the triumph of Philistinism. Although you might think so from a lot of “Marxist” deprecation of philosophy, especially as “bourgeois ideology.” Such “Marxists” want to put a stop to all mystification by putting a stop to the mystifiers of bourgeois society, the lackeys — the paid liars — of the capitalist bourgeoisie. They want to stop the “philosophers” from pulling the wool down over the eyes of the exploited and oppressed. This is not my meaning. — This was not even Socrates’s (Plato’s) meaning in taking down the Sophists.


Philosophy cannot be considered, either negatively or positively, as the arrogation of all thinking: it is not some Queen of the Sciences that is to make proper sense of and superintend any and all human thought in every domain Download The Farewell to Gilgu Bong-gu. It is not the King of Reason; not the thought-police. Marxism did not seek to replace philosophy in such a role. No. Yet this seems to be precisely what everyone wants from philosophy — or from anti-philosophy. They want their thinking dictated to them.

Korsch addresses this as “Bonapartism in philosophy:” we seem to want to be told how and what to think by philosophers — or by anti-philosophers. It is an authoritarian impulse. But one that is an authentic expression of our time: capitalism brings forth its own Philosopher Kings.

This is not at all what the immediate predecessors for Marxist thought in philosophy, Kant and Hegel, considered as their task: Kant, in “beginning” philosophy (anew), and Hegel in “completing” this, did not seek to replace the thinking of others. No. Precisely the opposite: they sought to free philosophy, to make it “worldly.” They thought that they could do so precisely because they found that the world had already become “philosophical.”

After them, they thought there would no longer be a need to further develop Philosophy as such, but only the need for philosophical reflection in the various different diverse domains of human activity. Our modern academic institutions reflect this: one receives the PhD, Doctor of Philosophy, in Chemistry, meaning one is qualified to “doctor,” to minister and correct, to treat the methods and attendant thinking — the “philosophy” — of the science of chemistry, without however necessarily becoming an expert specialist “philosopher of science,” or studying the specialized discipline Philosophy of Science per se. According to Lukács, such specialized knowledge as found in academia as well as in the various technical vocations — such as law, journalism, art, etc. — exhibited “reification” in capitalism, a disintegrated particularization of atomized consciousness, in which losing the forest for the trees was the very predicate of experience and knowledge. But this was the opposite of what Kant and Hegel had expected. They expected not disintegration but the organic, living and changing relations of diverse multiplicity.

Marx found a very different world from Kant and Hegel’s, after the Industrial Revolution. It was not a philosophical world in capitalism — not an “enlightened” realm of “sober senses,” to which bourgeois philosophy had aspired, but something much darker. It was a “phantasmagoria” of “commodity fetishism,” full of beguiling “metaphysical subtleties,” for which one needed to refer to the “mist-enveloped regions of religion” for proper models. In capitalism, bourgeois society was sunk in a kind of animism: a world of objects exhibiting “theological niceties.”

There was a need for a new Enlightenment, a Second Enlightenment specific to the needs of the 19th century, that is, specific to the new needs of industrial capitalism, for which the prior thinking of bourgeois emancipation, even at its best, for instance by Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant and Hegel, was not equipped to adequately address. It needed a new recognition of the relation between social being and consciousness.

But for Marx and Engels, this new task of enlightenment was something that could not be accomplished philosophically — could not be brought to fruition in thinking — but only in actual political struggle and the transformation of society.


This was because, unlike the emancipation of bourgeois society, which took several centuries and came to consciousness of itself as such only late, no longer cloaking itself in the religious garb of Christianity — the Protestant Reformation as some return to true Christianity of the original Apostles, freed from the corruptions of the Church — and arrived at self-consciousness only at the end of its process of transformation, in the 18th century Download onedrive videos. As Hegel put it, “The Owl of Minerva [that is, knowledge] flies at dusk:” proper consciousness comes only “post-festum,” after the fact of change.

But Marx and Engels found the task of socialism in capitalism to be motivated by a new need. The proletarianization of the bourgeois social relations of labor — the society of cooperative production in crisis with the Industrial Revolution — required a new consciousness of contradiction, a “dialectical” and “historical” “materialism,” to properly recognize its tasks. As Marx put it, the social revolution of the 19th century — in contradistinction to the bourgeois revolution — could not take its poetry from the past, but needed to take its poetry from the future. This was quite a paradoxical formulation, especially since Marx and Engels explicitly abjured “utopian socialism,” finding it a realm of images of capitalism, and not of a world beyond it.

This was because they found the workers’ struggles against the capitalists to be motivated by bourgeois consciousness, the consciousness of the bourgeois revolution. Socialism was born in the Jacobinism of the French Revolution, for instance, in the former Jacobin Babeuf’s Conspiracy of Equals, still motivated by the aspirations of “liberty, equality and fraternity.” Proudhon, for example, was motivated in his anarchist socialism, avowedly, by Adam Smith and Hegel (and the Bible) — animated, unabashedly, by bourgeois political economy and philosophy.

Marx and Engels didn’t think that this was wrong, but only inadequate. They didn’t offer an alternative to Proudhon — to Smith and Hegel (or the Bible!) — but only a critique of how bourgeois thought mystified the crisis and task of capitalism. The world necessarily appeared in bourgeois terms — there were no other terms. There was no other form of consciousness. There was no other philosophy. Nor was there a need for a new philosophy.

Bourgeois philosophy, for Marx and Engels, had successfully summed up and appropriated all prior philosophical enlightenment. They agreed with Kant and Hegel. Bourgeois social thought had successfully summed up and completed all prior thinking about society. Marx and Engels neither disputed nor sought to replace it. They were concerned only with its self-contradiction in capitalism. Not its hypocrisy, but its authentic antinomies, which both drove it on and left it stuck. The bourgeois “end of history” turned out to be the opposite of what it intended: not a final stage of freedom, but rather a final stage of unfreedom; the crossroads of “socialism or barbarism.”


This affected the status of philosophy. Bourgeois philosophy no longer described freedom but rather unfreedom. Or, more dialectically, it described both: the reproduction of unfreedom in the struggle for freedom 나이프 다운로드. As a result, the task of freedom was no longer expressed by the need for all human activity to achieve an adequate — Hegelian — philosophically reflective self-consciousness, but rather to realize in practice and thus recognize in consciousness the limits of such self-consciousness, of such philosophical reflection. There was a crisis in radical bourgeois philosophy. The crisis and decay of Hegelianism was an authentic historical phenomenon, not a mistake.

Like liberal democracy, philosophy in capitalism was no longer itself, and was no longer tasked with becoming itself, attaining its aspirations, but rather was tasked with overcoming itself, superseding its achievements. The achievements of bourgeois emancipation seemed ruined in the 19th century.

Indeed, capitalism already accomplished such self-overcoming of bourgeois society, but perversely, negating itself without satisfying itself. In so doing, it constantly re-posed the task of achieving itself, as an impossible necessity. Bourgeois philosophy became the opposite of what it was, utopian. Not worldly philosophy, but an ideal, a mere notion, mocked by the real, ugly and anything-but-philosophical world.

Because of this — precisely because of this — bourgeois philosophy did not end but constantly reinvented itself, however on an increasingly impoverished basis. It radically revolutionized itself, but also, in so doing, radically undermined itself.

Philosophy remained necessary but proved impossible. It disintegrated, into epistemology, ontology and ethics. They went their separate ways. But they also drove themselves into blind alleys — dead-ends. This actually indicates the task of philosophy to overcome itself, however in perverted form.


So, what is philosophy? One straightforward way of answering this is, simply, metaphysics. Kant, following Rousseau, had overcome the division and opposition between Rationalism and Empiricism by finding a new foundation for metaphysics. This was the Kantian “Copernican Turn” and “revolution” in philosophy. But it was not simply a new metaphysics, but rather a new account of metaphysics — of philosophy — itself. Moreover, it was revolutionary in an additional sense: it was not only a revolution, but also accounted for itself as revolutionary. This is because it was a metaphysics of change, and not merely change but radical qualitative transformation: it was a revolutionary account of the fundamental transformability of the substance of philosophy itself. In short, it was a philosophy of freedom. It was the self-reflection of practical freedom in society — that society made human life’s transcendence of nature possible, at all, but in so doing created new problems to be worked through and overcome.

It is precisely this metaphysics of freedom, however, that has gone into crisis and disintegrated in capitalism. This has been the expression of the crisis and disintegration — the decay — of bourgeois society.

The goal of philosophy in overcoming itself is to free thinking from an overarching and underlying metaphysics at all. Kant and Hegel thought that they had done so already, but capitalism — in its crisis of the metaphysics of bourgeois society — revealed that there was indeed an underlying and overarching metaphysics still to be overcome, that of social practice — society — itself 더블 드래곤 어드밴스. The self-production and self-overcoming of the subject in its socially and practically objective activity — labor — needed to be overcome.

The end of philosophy — the end of a singular metaphysics, or of metaphysics per se — aims at the freeing of both action and thinking from any unitary framework. It is the freeing of an ever-expanding and limitless — without end — diverse multiplicity of new and different forms of acting, being and knowing.

Postmodernism was, as Moishe Postone put it, “premature post-capitalism.” It aimed at the freeing of the “small-s subjects from the big-S Subject.” It also aimed at freedom from capital-H History. It meant overcoming Hegel’s philosophy of history.

We already live in such freedom in bourgeois society, however perverted by capitalism. Diverse activities already inhabit different realms of being and call forth different kinds of ethical judgments. Doctors and lawyers practice activities that define being — define the “rights of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — in different ways, and are hence ethically bound in different ways. Doctors discipline themselves ethically differently from scientists. Among scientists, Biology has a different epistemology from Physics: there are different methods because there are different objects. There is no “philosophy” in the sense of a metaphysical logic that encompasses them all. Lawyers, for example, practice differential ethics: prosecutors and defense attorneys in criminal law are bound by different rules of behavior; the practice of civil law is ethically distinct from criminal law; the rules of evidence are different. We do not seek to bind society to one form of knowledge, one code of conduct, or one way of life. There is no “philosophy” that could or should encompass them all. It would be arrogant to claim that there is one singular logic that can be mastered by anyone for governing everything.

Bourgeois society has already established well the reasonable limits to philosophy and its competence.

In Ancient civilization there were differentiated realms of being, knowing and acting. There was a caste system, in which there were different laws for peasants; for merchants; for artisans (and for different kinds of artisans, for different arts and different sciences); and for the nobility; and for the clergy. But they were unified in a Divine Order of the Great Chain of Being. There was heterogeneity, but all with a single origin in God: all of God’s creatures in all of God’s Creation. That mystery was to remain unknown to Man — known only to God. There was a reason for everything, but only God could know it. There was not philosophy but theology, and theology was not to arrogate to itself the place of the Mind of God, but only ponder Man’s place in and relationship to it. Theology established the limits to man’s knowledge of God: we knew only what God had revealed to us, through his Covenant. We all heard the Word of God; but God told His different creatures different things Download Toik Boca. In overcoming theology, philosophy did not seek to replace it. It sought to explore the mind of man, not to relate to and limit itself with respect to the Mind of God. It was not concerned with Divine or Natural limits, but with freedom.

There is no possible one single or once-and-for-all account of freedom, for then freedom would not be free. There is no possible account of “being” free, but only of becoming free. And there is only one such account, that of bourgeois emancipation from traditional civilization. It was to set free all the diverse and multiple activities of mankind, in relation to other humans, to Nature, and to ourselves.


Marx was both a Hegelian and departed from Hegel, with a historical and not a philosophical difference. As Marx put it, for Hegel himself the Hegelian system was not ready-made and finished as it was for those who came after. As Marx observed, Hegelianism went into crisis for real historical reasons, not due to misunderstanding by his followers; but rather the crisis came from Hegelian philosophy’s actual contact with the world, and that world had become as internally contradictory in capitalism as Hegelianism became in contact with it. The Hegelian dialectic is both appropriate and inappropriate to the problem of capitalism. The crisis and disintegration of Hegelianism was a crisis of metaphysics — of philosophy — at a higher and deeper and not a lower or more superficial level from Hegelianism. Hegelianism was falsified not in itself but by history. But Hegelianism was also borne out by history as the last word in philosophy — in metaphysics. Marxism cannot be purged of its Hegelianism without becoming incoherent; Marxism remains Hegelian, albeit with what Lukács called an “additional twist” in the “pure historicization of the dialectic.”

If society in capitalism remains bourgeois in its ideals, with the goal of providing opportunities for social labor, materially, it has become its opposite: as capitalist, it prioritizes not labor but capital, and at the expense of labor. This means society is tasked with the material challenge of overcoming its ideals. But, as Marx recognized, this can only be done on the basis of this society’s own ideals, in and through their self-contradiction. In philosophy, this means the task expressed by the self-contradiction of Hegelianism.

Capitalism is the model of the Marxist-Hegelian procedure of immanent dialectical critique: this is how capitalism itself moves, how it reproduces itself through self-contradiction. Capitalism is its own practical critique, reproducing itself by constantly overcoming itself. As Marx put it, the only limit to capital is capital itself; but capital is the transgression of any and all limits. It is the way capitalism overcomes itself, its dynamic process of change, which is its unfreedom, its self-limitation. The Marxian horizon of freedom beyond capitalism is freedom beyond the Hegelian dialectic, beyond the bourgeois dialectic of transformation — beyond labor as a process of self-overcoming through production.

There thus remains a unitary metaphysics binding all social practices, dominating, constraining and distorting their further development in freedom under capitalism: the bourgeois right of labor 영화 영주. The form of total freedom in bourgeois emancipation — self-production in society — has become in capitalism the form of total unfreedom. The social condition for labor has become that of the self-destruction of labor in capital. The goal of labor in capital is to abolish itself; but it can do so only by realizing itself — as self-contradiction. Hegel’s “negative labor of the concept” must be completed; short of that, it dominates us.

Overcoming this will mean overcoming metaphysics — overcoming philosophy. At least overcoming philosophy in any way known — or knowable — hitherto. | P

Further reading


Chris Cutrone, “Book review: Karl Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy (2008),” Platypus Review 15 (September 2009), available online at: <>.

Cutrone, “Rejoinder on Korsch,” PR 20 (February 2010), available online at: <>.

Cutrone, “Book review: Gillian Rose, Hegel Contra Sociology (1981, 1995 and 2009): Gillian Rose’s ‘Hegelian’ critique of Marxism,” PR 21 (March 2010), available online at: <>.

Cutrone, “Revolution without Marx? Rousseau, Kant and Hegel,” PR 61 (November 2013), available online at: <>.

Cutrone, “Why still read Lukács? The place of ‘philosophical’ questions in Marxism,” PR 63 (February 2014), available online at: <>.

Cutrone, “Book review: Andrew Feenberg, The Philosophy of Praxis (2014),” Marxism & Philosophy Review of Books (February 14, 2015), available online at: <>.

Cutrone, “Back to Herbert Spencer! Industrial vs. militant society.” PR 82 (December 2015 – January 2016), available online at: <>.


Karl Korsch, “Marxism and philosophy” (1923), in Marxism and Philosophy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970 and 2008), available online at: <> [PDF].

Korsch, “The Marxist dialectic” (1923), available online at: <>.

Korsch, “On materialist dialectic” (1924), available online at: <> Unify hymn ppt.

Introductory remarks on the topic of “Marxism and philosophy”*

Chris Cutrone

August 11, 2018

An audio recording of the internal discussion by members of Platypus on “Marxism and philosophy” can be found at: <>.

Video recording at: <>.

Earlier this summer, I visited Athens and made a pilgrimage to Aristotle’s Lyceum. I was struck by the idea that perhaps what I am doing in Platypus is essentially the same as what Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were doing back in Ancient Greece. Spencer and I were recently discussing the recurrent trope of Aristotle and Marx, apropos of today’s discussion of Marxism and philosophy, and he recalled his feeling nauseous when reading Castoriadis’s famous essay on Aristotle and Marx, published in the same issue of the journal Social Research alongside Moishe Postone’s seminal essay, “Necessity, Labor and Time.” Spencer said he had felt sick at the thought that nothing had changed since Aristotle’s time.

I recalled how Frantz Fanon wrote, in Black Skin, White Masks, that he would be happy to learn that an African philosopher had corresponded with Plato, but this wouldn’t make a difference for 8 year-olds in Haiti and the Dominican Republic forced to cut sugar cane for a living. This compares well to the former Black Panther Assata Shakur, who, writing from her exile in Cuba on Black Lives Matter, referred to black Americans as “Africans lost in America.” But are blacks any less lost in Africa today? Am I an Italian or Irish lost in America, too? I often feel that way, that my peasant ancestors were dragged into bourgeois society to ill effect, to my present misery. What would it mean not to be lost? Was I returning home, in a sense, when, as an intellectual, I returned to Aristotle’s school in Athens? Was I any less lost in Athens?

Adorno wrote, in his inaugural lecture on “The idea of natural history,” that “I submit myself, so to speak, to the materialist dialectic.” What he meant of course was that he could only speak misleadingly of submitting himself to the materialist dialectic, as if he would not already be dominated by it, whether he was conscious of his submission or not. This reminds us of Trotsky’s statement to his recalcitrant followers who rejected Hegelianism that, “You may not be interested in the dialectic, but the dialectic is interested in you.”

Why should we be interested in “philosophy,” then? Adorno did not mean that he was submitting himself to Marxism as the “materialist dialectic” in the sense of submitting to Marx’s thought. No. He meant, as we must mean in Platypus, that he accepted the challenge of Marx’s thought as thinking which registered a greater reality, as a challenge and call to task for Adorno’s own thinking.

Foucault wrote about his chagrin that just when one thinks one has overcome Hegel, Hegel is still there smiling back at you. This rather paranoid claim by Foucault as a mental phenomenon has a real meaning, however, which is that Hegel still speaks in some unavoidable way to our real condition Download The Walking Dead Season 6. What is meant by “Hegel” here, of course, is the entirety of the alleged “Master Narrative” of the Western philosophical tradition culminating in bourgeois modernity.

Engaging philosophy then, is not being told how to think, but allowing one’s thinking to be challenged and tasked in a specific way. It is a microcosm of how society challenges and tasks our thinking, whether we are inclined to it or not.

Historical philosophers are not some “dead white males” the authority of whose thinking threatens to dominate our own; we do not, or at least ought not, to read philosophy in order to be told how to think. No. The philosophy that comes down to us from history is not the dead weight of the past, but it is part of that past. And the past is not dead or even really past, since past actions still act upon us in the present, whether we like it or not. Marx reminds us that, “Man makes history, but not according to conditions of his own choosing.”

We cannot avoid the past, but we are concerned with the symptomatic attempts to free ourselves from the past by trying to avoid it. Especially on the “Left,” and especially by ostensible “Marxists.”

As Korsch reminds us, among other ways, this can take the form of trying to avoid the “philosophical” aspects of Marxism.

We might recall that Korsch’s essay on “Marxism and philosophy,” the background reading for today, was the very first text we read in the Platypus reading group. This was before it was called Platypus, of course, but it was still our first collective discussion of a reading as a group. Our reading was predicated on opening up, not philosophy, but rather the political foundations for Adorno’s thinking. It was meant to help lead my academic students of Adorno, not from Marxism to philosophy, but rather from philosophy to Marxism.

This is the intention of today’s event as well: we come full circle. Perhaps indeed nothing has changed. | P

The Sandernistas: P.P.S. on Trump and the crisis of the Republican Party

Chris Cutrone, June 22, 2016

Further amendment to “The Sandernistas: The final triumph of the 1980s” (Platypus Review 82, December 2015 – January 2016) and “Postscript on the March 15 primaries” (Platypus Review 85, April 2016), after the end of the primary elections Corel Draw 2018.

Trump is no “fascist,” nor even really a “populist,” (( See Tad Tietze, “The Trump paradox: A rough guide for the Left,” Left Flank (January 25, 2016) mssql 다운로드. Available on-line at <> 성가대 악보. )) but is precisely what the Republicans accuse him of being: a New York-style Democrat — like the socially and economically liberal but blowhard “law-and-order” conservative former 1980s New York City Mayor Ed Koch 19 단송 다운로드. Trump challenges Hillary precisely because they occupy such similar moderate Centrist positions on the U.S. political spectrum, whatever their various differences on policy 컷위자드. Trump more than Sanders represents something new and different in this election season: a potential post- and not pre-neoliberal form of capitalist politics, regarding changes in policies that have continued from Reagan through Obama, driven by discontents of those alienated from both Parties 데몬 툴. Trump has successfully run against and seeks to overthrow the established Republican 1980s-era “Reagan Revolution” coalition of neoliberals, neoconservatives, Strict Construction Constitutionalist conservatives and evangelical Christian fundamentalists — against their (always uneasy) alliance as well as against all of its component parts Download this. Established Republicans recoil at undoing the Reagan Coalition they have mobilized since the 1980s. Marco Rubio as well as Ted Cruz — both of whom were adolescents in the 1980s — denounced Trump not only for his “New York values” but also and indicatively as a “socialist.” Glenn Beck said that Trump meant that the America of “statism” of the Progressives Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson had won over the America of “freedom” of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson Download Rocket Dog Skin. Of course that is ideological and leaves aside the problem of capitalism, which Trump seeks to reform. Sanders could have potentially bested Trump as a candidate for reform, perhaps, but only on the basis of a much greater and more substantial mobilization for a different politics than it is evidently possible to muster through the Democrats, whose nostalgia for the New Deal, Great Society and New Left does not provide the necessary resources Download Minecraft 1.8.

Trump has succeeded precisely where Sanders has failed in marshaling the discontents with neoliberalism and demand for change. Sanders has collapsed into the Democratic Party Download Hunterx Hunter. To succeed, Sanders would have needed to run against the Democrats the way Trump has run against the Republicans. This would have meant challenging the ruling Democratic neoliberal combination of capitalist austerity with New Left identity politics of “race, gender and sexuality” that is the corporate status quo. The results of Trump’s contesting of Reaganite and Clintonian and Obama-era neoliberalism remain to be seen. The biggest “party” remains those who don’t vote. Trump will win if he mobilizes more of them than Clinton. Clinton is the conservative in this election; Trump is the candidate for change. The Republicans have been in crisis in ways the Democrats are not, and this is the political opportunity expressed by Trump. He is seeking to lead the yahoos to the Center as well as meeting their genuine discontents in neoliberalism. Of course the change Trump represents is insufficient and perhaps unworkable, but it is nonetheless necessary. Things must change; they will change. As Marx said, “All that is solid melts into air.” The future of any potential struggle for socialism in the U.S. will be on a basis among not only those who have voted for Sanders but also those who have and will vote for Trump. | §


Back to Herbert Spencer

Marx and Spencer’s facing graves (photograph by Christian Fuchs)

Chris Cutrone argues that the libertarian liberalism of the late 19th century still has relevance today

Originally published in Weekly Worker 1088 (January 7, 2016). [PDF] Also published in The Platypus Review #82 (December 2015 – January 2016). Re-published by Bitácora (Uruguay).

Audio recording

Herbert Spencer’s grave faces Marx’s at Highgate Cemetery in London Daeyoung Young. At his memorial, Spencer was honoured for his anti-imperialism by Indian national liberation advocate and anti-colonialist Shyamji Krishnavarma, who funded a [lectureship] at Oxford in Spencer’s name.

What would the 19th century liberal, utilitarian and social Darwinist, Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), who was perhaps the most prominent, widely read and popular philosopher in the world during his lifetime – that is, in Marx’s lifetime – have to say to Marxists or more generally to the left, when such liberalism earned not only Marx’s own scorn but also Nietzsche’s criticism? Nietzsche referred to Spencer and his broad appeal as the modern enigma of “the English psychologists.” Nietzsche critiqued what he took to be Spencer’s assumption of a historically linear-evolutionary development and improvement of human morality leading to a 19th century epitome; where Nietzsche found the successive “transvaluations of values” through profound reversals of “self-overcoming” (On the genealogy of morals: a polemic, 1887). Nietzsche regarded modern liberal morality not as a perfection but rather as a challenge and task to achieve an “over-man,” that, failing, threatened to result in a nihilistic dead-end of “the last man” instead 스타 이즈 본 ost. Marx regarded Spencerian liberalism as an example of the decrepitude of bourgeois-revolutionary thought in decadence. Marx’s son-in-law, the French socialist Paul Lafargue, wrote, just after Marx’s death, against Spencer’s “bourgeois pessimism”, to which he offered a Marxist optimism.1 Such Marxism fulfilled Nietzsche’s “pessimism of the strong.” By the late 19th century, Marxists could be confident about transcending bourgeois society. Not so today.

Spencer’s distinction of “militant” vs “industrial” society (The principles of sociology Vol 2, 1879-98) – that is to say, the distinction of traditional civilization vs bourgeois society – is still, unfortunately, quite pertinent today, and illuminates a key current blind-spot on the ostensible ‘left’, especially regarding the phenomenon of war. Spencer followed the earlier classical liberal Benjamin Constant’s observation (‘The liberty of the ancients as compared with that of the moderns’ 1816) that moderns get through commerce what the ancients got through war; and that for moderns war is always regrettable and indeed largely unjustifiably criminal, whereas for ancients war was virtuous – among the very highest virtues pandora 다운로드. Do we moderns sacrifice ourselves for the preservation and glory of our specific “culture,” as “militants” do, or rather dedicate ourselves to social activity that facilitates universal freedom – a value unknown to the ancients? Does the future belong to the constant warfare of particular cultural differences, or to human society? Marx thought the latter.

The question is whether we think that we will fight or, rather, exchange and produce our way to freedom. Is freedom to be achieved through “militant” or rather “industrial” society? Marx assumed the latter.

When we seek to extol our political leaders today, we do not depict them driving a tank but waking at 5 o’clock and staying up past midnight to do society’s business. We do not speak of their scars earned in combat but their grey hairs accumulated in office. Not enjoying the spoils of war on a dais but getting in their daily morning jog to remain fit for work Windows 7 iso genuine. We judge them not as cunning warriors but as diligent workers – and responsible negotiators. In our society, it is not the matter of a battle to win but a job to do. Carl Schmitt thought that this has led to our dehumanization. But few would agree.

What would have appeared commonplace to Spencer’s contemporary critics, such as Nietzsche and Marx, must strike us today, rather, as profoundly insightful and indeed critical of our society. This is due to the historical regression of politics and society since Marx’s time, and, moreover, to the liquidation of Marxism. What Marx would have regarded as fatally one-sided and undialectical in Spencer, would today seem adequate to the prevailing condition, in the absence of the Marxist-Hegelian dialectic. The Marxist critique of liberalism has been rendered moot, not in the sense of liberalism’s actual social supersession but by historical regression lol 북미서버 다운로드. Society has fallen below the historical threshold of not only socialism but of classical liberalism – of bourgeois emancipation itself. Not only have we fallen below the criteria of Kant and Hegel that surpassed 18th century empiricism, we have fallen below its 19th century successor, positivism, as well. The question is the status today of liberalism as ideology. It is utopian. As Adorno put it, it is both promise and sham.

Militant and industrial tendencies confront each other today not as different societies, but as opposed aspects of the same society, however contradictorily and antagonistically, in capitalism. Similarly, the phases of “religious,” “metaphysical” and “positive” forms do not succeed one another sequentially in a linear development but rather interact in a dynamic of social history. What Spencer regarded as regressive “metaphysics” remains valid in capitalism, as “ideology” calling for dialectical critique. We cannot now claim to address problems in the clear air of enlightenment 아이폰 소프트웨어.

If Adorno, for instance, critiqued sociological “positivism,” this was not as a romantic anti-positivist such as Max Weber, but rather as a critique of positive sociology as ideology in capitalism. For Adorno, positivism and Heideggerian ontology, as well as Weberian “cultural sociology,” opposed each other in an antinomy of capitalism that would be overcome not in one principle triumphing over another, but rather in the antinomy itself being succeeded dialectically in freedom. Weber denied freedom; whereas Spencer assumed it. Both avoided the specific problem of capitalism. To take a condition of unfreedom for freedom is the most salient phenomenon of ideology. This is what falsified positivism as liberal enlightenment, its false sense of freedom as already achieved that still actually tasked society. Freedom is not to be taken as an achieved state but a goal of struggle acoustic café.

An emancipated society would be “positivist” – enlightened and liberal – in ways that under capitalism can only be ideologically false and misleading. Positivism should therefore be understood as a desirable goal beyond rather than a possibility under capitalism. The problem with Herbert Spencer is that he took capitalism – grasped partially and inadequately as bourgeois emancipation – to be a condition of freedom that would need yet to be really achieved. If “metaphysics,” contra positivism, remains valid in capitalism, then this is as a condition to be overcome. Capitalist metaphysics is a real symptom of unfreedom. Positivism treats this as merely an issue of mistaken thinking, or to be worked out through “scientific” methodology, whereas it is actually a problem of society requiring political struggle Oasis. The antinomy of positivism vs metaphysics is not partisan but social. As Adorno observed, the same individual could and would be scientifically positivist and philosophically ontological-existentialist.

Spencer’s opposition to “socialism” in the 19th century was in its undeniable retrograde illiberal aspect, what Marx called “reactionary socialism.” But Marx offered a perspective on potentially transcending socialism’s one-sidedness in capitalism. Spencer was entirely unaware of this Marxian dialectic. Marx agreed with Spencer on the conservative-reactionary and regressive character of socialism. Marx offered a dialectic of socialism and liberalism presented by their symptomatic and diagnostic antinomy in capitalism that pointed beyond itself. 18th century liberalism’s insufficiency to the 19th century problem of capitalism necessitated socialist opposition; but liberalism still offered a critique of socialism that would need to be fulfilled to be transcended, and not dismissed let alone defeated as such 시 놀로지.

Only in overcoming capitalism through socialism could, as Marx put it, humanity face its condition “with sober senses.” This side of emancipation from capital, humanity remains trapped in a “phantasmagoria” of bourgeois social relations become self-contradictory and self-destructive in capital. This phantasmagoria was both collective and individual – socialist and liberal – in character. Spencer naturalized this antinomy. His libertarian anti-statism and its broad, popular political appeal down through the 20th century was the necessary result of the continuation of capitalism and its discontents.

Spencer regarded the problem as a historical holdover of traditional civilization to be left behind rather than as the new condition of bourgeois society in capitalist crisis that Marx recognised needed to be, but could not be, overcome in Spencer’s liberal terms. Marx agreed with Spencer on the goal, but differed, crucially, over the nature of the obstacle and, hence, how to get there from here. Not only Spencer’s later followers (more egregiously than Spencer himself), but Marx’s own, have falsified this task 타임 키퍼. It has been neglected and abandoned. We cannot assume as Marx did that we are already past Spencer’s classical liberalism, but are driven back to it, ineluctably, whether we realize it or not. Only by returning to the assumptions of classical liberalism can we understand Marx’s critique of it. The glare of Marx’s tomb at Highgate stares down upon a very determinate object. If one disappears, they both do. | §




Chris Cutrone

(Thomas Rowlandson, political satire with phantasmagoria show [c 유튜브 노래. 1810])

Letter in Weekly Worker 1075 (September 24, 2015) cuteftp 다운로드. [PDF] Rex Dunn replied in Weekly Worker 1076 on (October 1, 2015) Kwon's invincible. [PDF]

Rex Dunn (‘No to “Marxist art”,’ September 17) replies to my letter on ‘Marxism and art’ (September 3) to invoke Adorno, but only partially and critically 윈도우7 캡쳐도구. And undialectically.

I think it is a mistake to try to adjudicate Marxism on the basis of postmodernist categories, such as ‘essentialism’ versus ‘anti-essentialism’ and ‘structuralism’ or ‘post-structuralism’ Download KorailTalk. Marxism is none of these. They are too beholden to the New Left’s concerns, and neglect the older, deeper history. Such antinomies of postmodernism are nonetheless potentially related to what Marx called the “phantasmagoria” of capitalism, in which cause and effect and means and ends become confused and reversed Fish KakaoTalk.

As Adorno wrote to Benjamin about capitalism, “The fetish character of the commodity is not a fact of consciousness; rather it is dialectical, in the eminent sense that it produces consciousness … perfection of the commodity character in a Hegelian self-consciousness inaugurates the explosion of its phantasmagoria.”

While this may seem terribly abstract, it does say something about art and capitalism, as well as the struggle for socialism java 워드 다운로드. Socialism is a symptom of capitalism, as is modern art. It is capitalism’s unrealised potential, necessarily distorted as it is constrained. But to regard that potential properly means returning to the bourgeois-emancipatory character of art in the modern world Far East Broadcast ing. It will appear ‘inhuman’.

While humans may have always made art, they did not always make art as an ‘end in itself’. Like production for its own sake, art for art’s sake is a bourgeois value, but one perverted by capitalism netty 파일 다운로드. Its ideal remains – as Dunn himself acknowledges with his vision of a socialist homo aestheticus.

So this is why it becomes necessary to follow modern art, as Adorno did, in an “immanently dialectical” method of “critique” vr 콘텐츠 다운로드. Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory seems general and unsatisfactory because it remains a meta-theoretical statement that should have been unnecessary from the standpoint of his concrete critical essays on art and literature. Yet it was still necessary for him (to try) to write. Why?

Adorno’s concrete essays have apparently sometimes given the mistaken impression that he was a partisan for some art over others. Dialectical critique was mistaken for polemic. That’s why Adorno also sometimes appears to equivocate: the dialectic is lost.

That is the problem with the apparent oppositions of postmodernism that actually share something in common that is unacknowledged: that the antinomies of society in capitalism point beyond themselves. So does art.

Socialism will not mean returning to pre-bourgeois ‘art’, but fulfilling the freedom of art, announced, but betrayed and mocked, by bourgeois society in capitalism. That will mean going beyond art in capitalism, but in ways neither Aristotle nor Adorno nor Kant nor Hegel nor Marx himself – nor we ourselves – would quite recognise.

Adorno, like Trotsky, whose Literature and Revolution (1924) and other writings on art and culture were profoundly inspirational for him, did not prescribe what a true – free – ‘human culture’ would be, but recognised the need to struggle in, through and beyond capitalism – beyond art – on the basis of capitalism, to make it possible. | §

Marxism and art

Chris Cutrone

Letter in Weekly Worker 1072 (September 3, 2015) 기방도령 다운로드. [PDF] Rex Dunn responded in Weekly Worker 1074 (September 17, 2015) Tia portal v14 Korean language pack. [PDF]

Marxism cannot definitively judge, let alone prescribe, and also cannot tie down art to its (supposed) context of production Jump to Python 2019 pdf. But Marxism can raise consciousness of history and historical potential for social change – in all domains.

Clement Greenberg defined ‘avant-garde’ art as having a “superior consciousness of [the] history [of art]”, where ‘kitsch’ elides that Download spam characters. But the necessity of such consciousness is a symptom of the need to overcome capitalism. We may need avant-garde art now, but its criteria didn’t apply before capitalism and so won’t apply (in the same way) after capitalism wavepad 다운로드.

This is what Howard Phillips shies away from in condemning “transcendence” – even while also writing that good art should “point beyond” its context (‘Dylan and the dead’, August 13) Download youth songs. As Adorno wrote, art is the attempt to make something without knowing what it is. In other words, art goes beyond theoretical understanding or analysis through concepts, and so must be experienced aesthetically adobe creative cloud. That aesthetic experience can either affirm society as it is or point beyond it. Often it does both. Art is dialectical – as anything under capitalism Download the Korean Bible.

Certainly one can essay at what makes art good or bad. But the art itself cannot be reduced to such theoretical essaying. As Walter Benjamin put it, art that doesn’t teach artists teaches no-one autocad lt 다운로드.

Specialisation is necessary: critics are not artists; artists are not politicians. There are important interrelations among art, criticism and politics, but they are not the same thing 윈도우 무비메이커. Marx’s Capital was not a work of economics or even of political economy, but rather a (political) critique of political economy. Such critique pointing beyond existing social conditions, with consciousness of potential historical change (ie, beyond the law of the value of labour) could indeed be attempted in any domain (eg, in the physical sciences), but would remain speculative, provisional and disputable. The dialectic is unfinished.

The question is whether Marxist theoretical critique helps potential possibilities – both within and pointing beyond capitalism – become better realised in practice. That effect will always be indirect or oblique. Critical theory is not prescriptive or programmatic, but it is critical. Good critical theory can have some – however indirect and weak, but still productive – effect on the practices of art: on its production and consumption.

But, above all, we need not Marxist art or theory, but Marxist politics. Without that there is only pseudo-theory (pseudo-critique), pseudo-art (ie, kitsch: art without historical consciousness), and pseudo-politics.

The problem with Stalinism, in art as in all other domains, was not in its authoritarianism, but in its opportunist adaptation to the status quo (which required authoritarian enforcement), at the expense of more radical possibilities for changing society. | §



Letter in Weekly Worker 1031 (October 23, 2014) Download the microsoft office 2010 trial.

In writing this letter on Chris Cutrone’s critique of Mike Macnair’s book Revolutionary strategy (‘Democratic revolution and the contradiction of capital’, October 16), I am fully aware that: (a) Mike is probably considering a reply himself; (b) comparing a full-length book with a two-page article is potentially inherently unfair to the latter; and (c) that I am perhaps not the best qualified person to enter the debate, having only recently come to a serious engagement with issues of Marxist political strategy Download The Undressed Phantom World. Nevertheless, I thought it might be worth sharing how a comparison of the two has impressionistically struck a ‘general reader’.

Macnair’s approach has the following virtues that appear lacking in Cutrone’s account: (a) it is relatively comprehensible; (b) it appears rooted in a close reading of concrete historical events (aka ‘the materialist conception of history’), whereas Cutrone appears to wander off-piste into free-floating philosophising, bordering on the worst of post-modernism; (c) Macnair offers concrete proposals as to what the Marxist left should be doing in the here and now, whereas Cutrone appears to be promoting a deeply depressing view of the proletariat as still primarily the passive victim of history jquery-1.11.1.min.js 다운로드.

Sean Thurlough

Revolutionary politics and thought (forum transcript)

Chris Cutrone, Samir Gandesha, Nikos Malliaris, Dimitrios Roussopoulos, Joseph Schwartz

Platypus Review 69 | September 2014

“No coarser insult, no baser defamation, can be thrown against the workers than the remark, ‘Theoretical controversies are for the intellectuals’“
— Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution? (1900)

“Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement the only choice is—either bourgeois or socialist ideology… This does not mean, of course, that the workers have no part in creating such an ideology. They take part, however, not as workers, but as socialist theoreticians, as Proudhons and Weitlings; in other words, they take part only when they are able, and to the extent that they are able, more or less, to acquire the knowledge of their age and develop that knowledge.“
— Vladimir Lenin, What is to be Done? (1902)

“The liquidation of theory by dogmatization and thought taboos contributed to the bad practice.”
— Adorno, Negative Dialectics (1966)

In the 1840s Karl Marx wrote that social revolution would involve “carrying out the thoughts of the past,” in which “humanity begins no new work but consciously completes the old work”. The role of revolutionary thought for Marx, in other words, involved drawing attention to how past revolutionary tasks were failing to be worked through in present political practice; of understanding the reasons why theory and practice had changed and, in turn, how this understanding could be advanced towards the (present) completion of the (old) revolution.

Later, for Lenin and Luxemburg, political disputes in the Second International revolved around the failings of revolutionary practice. Luxemburg and Lenin seemed optimistic about revolutionary thought being carried out by the practices of mass political movements for socialism. They assumed that workers could act as “socialist theoreticians” while participating in revolutionary politics.

In the 1960s, figures like C. Wright Mills retrospectively assessed the emergence of the intelligentsia as “distinct and historically specific,” locating the political role of figures such as Lenin and Luxemburg as a phenomenon of the development of modern society. But Mills was wistful: he recognized that political-intellectual figures like Luxemburg and Lenin were missing in his time. What does the current role of intellectuals say about the historical disappearance of the kind of political possibilities Mills had in mind?

While the separation of revolutionary thinking and politics might seem more distinct in the present, with “theory” being relegated to universities, and “practice” to social movements, it seems increasingly common for academic work motivated from the Left to blur the boundary between theory and social movements. While this state of affairs may seem to approach the sentiment articulated by Luxemburg, that there be nothing separating theoretical issues from the people struggling to overcome their condition, it does so without the emergence of corresponding political practices that would transcend the present. Alternatively, other currents of theory, among both independent intellectuals and organized political tendencies, seem completely severed from everyday social practice and so harmless as subcultural activities. Theory today seems to either assert the primacy of practice, leaving no recourse but to take up practical discontents as inalienable in thinking, or is so entirely cut off from practical concerns that it seems sustainable only in the academy. Revolutionary thinking, no less than revolutionary practice, seems hard to locate in the present.

This discussion will reflect on the relationship between revolutionary politics and thinking in the past and present and ask why has it become increasingly difficult to render political life intellectual and intellectual life political today? Panelists will consider the historical role of revolutionary theory as a moment of revolutionary politics, and the ways in which thinking can be held responsible for politics, and politics held responsible for thinking.

On April 5th, 2014, at the Sixth Annual Platypus International Convention at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Platypus hosted a panel discussion with Chris Cutrone (Platypus), Samir Gandesha (Simon Fraser University), Nikos Malliaris (Lieux Communs), Dimitrios Roussopoulos (Transnational Institute of Social Ecology), and Joseph Schwartz (Temple University). This discussion reflected on the relationship between revolutionary politics and thinking in the past and present, and asked why has it become increasingly difficult to render political life intellectual and intellectual life political today. The event’s description as well as the questions to the panelists can be found here. What follows is an edited transcript of the discussion.

Opening remarks

Nikos Malliaris: In my opinion, the major political issue of our times, that which constitutes at the same time the goal of all emancipatory or revolutionary politics, is the following: How can we exit consumer society? How can we exit this type of society that is based on productivism and technophilia, with cultural liberalism as its official ideology? It is precisely this type of society that forms the culmination of capitalism, and more broadly, of western modernity itself.

I am deliberately using the term “exit,” instead of a more classical term such as “overthrow,” because I believe that this type of understanding and analyzing contemporary social conditions and political priorities determines the way we conceive of revolutionary politics today. Moreover, a radical critique of contemporary society should be at the same time political and cultural, since the problem is not simply socio-economic, but deeply anthropological. In other words, it affects the very way people interiorize and invest in institutions and social representation, the very way contemporary societies are being formed and reproduced. For the first time in the history of emancipatory and revolutionary movements, what we face as a political task is not any more just the overthrowing of an exploitative or oppressive society, but the very reinvention of Society as such, with a capital “S.” We have to deal with something more than the problem of exploitation or oppression: the vaster and deeper problem of social and cultural decadence. Not only natural ecosystems have suffered terrible degradation after 200 years of industrial and technological progress, and economic growth. Both society itself, as a form of meaningful human coexistence, as well as the human being as a creative and imaginative creature, have been degraded at such a scale that the contemporary world seems to be an endless process of dislocation and disintegration on all levels.

People cannot find any meaning other than ferocious consumption, whether of merchandise, services, or experiences. Society seems less and less capable of imposing minor forms of limitations to these excesses of the contemporary individual. Nor can it set any to the frenetic course of technology and economy, both of which have become separated from society, raising their expansion to an end in itself. What we need is an unprecedented social transformation, which will by far exceed the simple redistribution of wealth and its concomitant modification of modes of production Download google chart. Without a profound transformation of human values, social representations, and collective beliefs, no real progress can be made in the direction of an egalitarian and democratic society. This is the case because the major social evolution of the 20th century, and especially of its postwar period, was the gradual proselytizing and conversion of exploited classes to the consumer ethos. People actively want and cherish consumption, since what they dream of is a selfish improvement of their position in the social hierarchy. Long gone is the glorious epoch of social movements opposed the existing society, fighting for the creation of a more democratic and humane one. The labor movement slowly transformed itself into a big lobby that wanted nothing more than the amelioration of workers material conditions. Radical artistic and intellectual movements degenerated into a playful ornament of consumer society, celebrating the pseudo-liberty of the contemporary individual by elevating cultural relativism and political nihilism to ultimate philosophical principles.

As they intermingle with the mounting ecological crisis, the anthropological consequences of such social and cultural decline call for a total reinterpretation of our collective and individual needs. There can be no serious or coherent anti-capitalist engagement today that does not see itself as part of a far greater opposition, one to what Karl Polanyi called “the Great Transformation.” This is the elevation of the economy to an autonomous sphere that dominates society, imposing its norms and values on every other region and domain of social life. Consumer society is just the degenerate form of this economism and its concomitant technophilia.

As far as Marx’s ideas on the duty of revolutionary theory and politics to consciously complete the old work, I would say things are no longer so simple. In many ways, present day necessities force us to criticize and even reject a great part of what the labor movement, the modernist artistic and cultural avant-garde, and the student movements of the 60’s said and did. And it goes without saying that such a change of anthropological paradigm necessitates a profound unity of theory and praxis, together with our fight against the neoliberal counterattack from the ruling oligarchies, as well as the mounting far-right movements. We have to rethink traditional revolutionary values and ways of thinking, as well as reflect on the form that a democratic and egalitarian society could take in this unprecedented context. As Castoriadis used to say, “Revolutionary politics can only have meaning as a thoughtful doing.”

Political currents such as the French “de-growth” movement offer a vivid example of the difficulties such an enterprise would face. One of the most eminent is the academicization of intellectual life, part of the profound technicalization of social life that characterizes contemporary Western societies. Thinking becomes a separated domain, a realm reserved for a certain category of experts, usually state or corporate nourished, living enclosed behind the gates of their university ghetto. Unfortunately, this eminently oligarchic tendency hasn’t spurred the Left at all. Its Leninist and technophilic heritage gave birth in the 50s to an army of professional would-be prophets, who wanted to teach revolutionary politics without having ever participated in the least political activity. This is a tendency dominant in France, for example. Judging from this point of view, the Althusserian distinction between romantic and scientific parts of Marxism is really useful for us—even if Althusser proposed it in a completely different context, and in a schematic and simplistic manner. As an orthodox Marxist and Stalinist, and also part of the upper and most oligarchic strata of the French academic complex, Althusser wanted to transform Marxism into a rigorous science. He wanted to transform a revolutionary theory that called for the surpassing of itself as pure theory, into a pseudo-science of social evolution. By doing so he only showed how immersed he was in the dominant bourgeois and rationalistic worldview. But what is more important, he showed us that this goes not only for Marx, but also for anarchism. See for example the fondness of Bakunin for August Comte’s positivism.

I believe that we have to openly oppose this stratum of pseudo-revolutionary academics, people like Alain Badiou, Judith Butler, and Edward Said, who are considered as the major thinkers of the Left nowadays. This stratum does nothing more than spread confusionist ideologies and destroy the activity of radical thinking by presenting it as a cascade of incomprehensible and unreadable rhetorical tricks. We have to echo Lyotard and attack the separation of intellectual from manual labor as the very basis of bourgeois and even aristocratic social edifices. Thinking should be reintegrated into social life, as it was in older times. I dare to say that we need something like, as William Morris might say, an artisan or craft ethos, which denies any distinction between intellectual and manual. This would both insinuate the intellectual into the material and the concrete, and raise the manual to a creative and thoughtful activity.

Dimitrios Roussopolous: The word “revolution” or “revolutionary” in the context of this conference is problematic for a number of reasons. One is that we do not have the time to really define this word. I would like to put it aside, and substitute the word “radical” instead, as in “radical politics.” The definition of “politics” that I will use is one that suggests that the radical or fundamental transformation of society by a decentralization of political and economic power, and its widest dispersal throughout society. What I will say draws from two theoretical streams. One is the anarchist and libertarian stream that draws on the works and reflections of Patrick Geddes, Lewis Mumford, Paul Goodman, and Murray Bookchin. The second is the Marxist stream that draws from the works of Henri Lefebvre, Margit Meyer, Peter Marcuse, and David Harvey. This leads me to the core of the radical project in theory and practice, as I understand it. What I believe is seriously missing in the reconstruction of a radical Left is a geopolitical understanding and analysis of what is possible. This means we must examine our world as strategically as possible, and take a number of fundamental facts into serious consideration, and bring it into the center of our reflection 건버드2 다운로드.

One of the United Nations agencies is called, as you know, UN-Habitat. UN-Habitat has identified a number of cities as global cities—about 47 of them. These cities are determined as concentrated nodules of corporate capitalism. It is these global cities that the major multinational corporations work out of, make their decisions, and dominate the world economy. To the extent that this is true, we then have to introduce another factor into our analysis. We all know that in 2003, one of the most important historic shifts has taken place with regard to human civilization. For the first time in history, the majority of human beings that inhabit this planet are now living in cities and towns. Grasping this reality has very serious political and social consequences for any radical project, any project that pretends to want to reorganize daily life. And so, unless we take that perspective seriously, and look at what can be done in the face of massive urbanization—which will reach a critical point by 2025—and unless we grasp what that means for the daily life of the people who live in these cities and towns, and unless we have an understanding of what kind of radical politics can arise from this understanding, so that we can shift power in a significant way, I think we are misleading ourselves.

As an intellectual if one never seriously undertakes work on the ground— work in neighborhoods, communities, and cities, with ordinary people, dealing with the politics of everyday life—we will never be able to crystallize a social force that will confront the existing power structure in significant ways. Let me give you just one example: In 1968, in the city that I live in, Montreal, a developer announced that they were going to destroy a six-block area of downtown in order to create the city of the 21st century. The funding for that project came from the Rockefeller Foundation, the pension fund of British postal workers, and a huge international insurance company. We undertook a major struggle that took eleven years for us to win. And we won. We not only saved the neighborhood—which is inhabited by approximately 1,500 working poor and déclassé people—but created the largest non-profit cooperative housing project in North America. Even more significantly, within that six-block area, we abolished private property. I repeat: we abolished private property through a land trust. If you can possibly imagine this, there can be no buying and selling of property in a six-block downtown area of a major city in Canada. This is what I am trying to suggest. By taking into serious consideration a geopolitical perspective, and asking how power can shift at the base of society, we can zero in on strategies that not only affect the daily lives of people, but mobilize them to go even further in their demands for participation in decision-making processes in the urban milieux where power is concentrated.

Try to imagine, therefore, what radical politics spin off from that. Emerging out of this particular people’s victory, and subsequent people’s victories in other parts of the city, we began a process to fundamentally redefine political power in the city of Montreal. We introduced a number of radical political institutions, which involved public consultation, the advocacy of citizen rights, and a new definition of urban citizenship. We have done this in conjunction with allies and contacts in other cities both in Canada and internationally. There is a whole reconfiguration of grassroots politics that is taking place that we have to be aware of. This is what I want to bring to your attention.

Samir Gandesha: I’d like to preface my remarks by referring to something that Dimitrios said in a previous panel, which is that we should wipe the slate clean and talk about how to bring about radical, direct democracy. This panel has been framed with signal figures of the revolutionary tradition like Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, and Adorno. But it could benefit from counter-readings of the tradition by Italian autonomist writers like Paolo Virno, Antonio Negri, and Michael Hardt, and also the fragment on the machine in the Grundrisse. They frame the question somewhat differently. I’m not saying I agree with this tradition: It fails quite abjectly in registering the extent to which the Left is in crisis, and therefore it can’t really address the prospects in store for a reversal of this situation. The emphasis on immaterial labor fails curiously to account for what one social critic once called the “falling rate of intelligence,” which seems only to be getting worse. It may seem easy to dismiss, e.g., Hardt & Negri’s ideas as stemming exclusively from the “university ghetto.” But this is difficult to say even for Negri, given his own militant past and the organic relation between the Italian Autonomists and actual workers’ struggles.

In order for this discussion to be meaningful, it must engage with debates taking place today; not just wrestle with the ghosts of 1848, 1917, and 1968—important as those dates, and figures like Lenin, Trotsky, and Adorno may be. One reason for this is that the nature of capitalism has been fundamentally altered by techno-science: both qua productive force, and as the basis for countering labor militancy through forced redundancy, de-skilling, and redoubled forms of surveillance. This has in a contradictory way opened up new avenues for communication and organization, ones Marx was already praising the bourgeoisie for in the Communist Manifesto. His emphasis on communications in particular was really important, and has an actuality that needs to be grasped. We see the extent to which new communications technologies made possible opposition movements like in Iran with the Green Movement in 2009, and the Arab Spring in 2011.

I wish I could agree in a straightforward way that revolutionary theory and practice would primarily be about consciously completing the old work of social emancipation. I take this to be what Marx is suggesting in his letter to Ruge. ((<>.)) He writes of redeeming a reason that has “always existed, but not always in a rational form,” and that this “reform of consciousness consists only in making the world aware of its own consciousness, in awakening it out of its dream about itself, in explaining to it the meaning of its own actions.” In other words, Marx held that the revolution was to be understood as the completion of the bourgeois project, which had only realized itself in a one-sided political way. The rational form of reason must be defined by its ability to arrest and reverse the chaos of unbridled market forces, which threaten life on this planet as we know it. For Marx, a rational form of reason entailed a de-mystification and de-alienation of social relations, by way of a negation of every instance of immediacy Download Wicked 720p. Quintessentially, this immediacy was that of the commodity form, and bourgeois conceptions of freedom and equality. The two come together at the very end of Chapter 6 of Capital, marking the transition from the moment of exchange of commodities to that of production. What Marx had in mind was an immanent critique of bourgeois social relations. It was through what he called making petrified relations “dance by singing their own tune to them” ((<>.)) that the promises inherent within capitalism could be realized, i.e., the actual realization of a principle of justice, understood as “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” ((<>.))

But during the crisis of the early decades of the 20th century, the social contradiction between capital and wage labor failed to generate a revolutionary transformation of capitalist societies. The key reason for such a failure, which Lukacs had already recognized in the aftermath of the German and Hungarian revolutions, was the phenomenon of reification. Mystification could not simply be overcome via transformation of the scene of exchange, because the fetishistic logic of capitalism had penetrated deeply into every nook and cranny of life. This especially included philosophical concepts, which lead to seemingly insoluble antinomies and oppositions. When these antinomies were overcome, it was only in thought, and not in practice. According to Lukács, this would only happen in the revolutionary activity of the proletariat, which would finally, in the words of Marx, “make the world philosophical.”iv However, rather than making the real abstraction of the commodity form concrete, through the grasping of itself as the identical subject-object of history, what happened instead one could call a “false” concretion of the abstract logic of capital. The stranger, the other, emphatically not capital, became understood as the alien power dominating the life-worlds of European societies in the midst of an unprecedented economic and social crisis, leading to the radical particularism of fascism. We see the ghosts of fascism currently haunting Europe, particularly in Lukács’ native Hungary in the form of the rabidly anti-semitic Jobbik party.

Adorno implicitly invokes this scenario in the opening sentence of Negative Dialectics, where he says: “Philosophy, which once seemed obsolete, lives on because the moment to realize it was missed.” ((Marx, ‘The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophies of Nature’, (1839-41). Quoted in The Marx-Engels Reader, Robert C. Tucker ed., Norton 1978 (p. 10). )) Given that its subject and object were already mediated, or related to one another, theoretical reflection—particularly that which sought to locate the limits of theory, what Adorno called “thinking conceptually beyond the concept”—was itself a form of praxis. ((Negative Dialectics, Trans. E.B. Ashton, Continuum, 1973 (p. 3). )) This he made clear in his “Idea of Natural History,” which, in my view, must form at least part of the starting-point for the discussion of the relation of thought and action. It gains renewed importance in light of the ecological crisis, which is not only fast approaching, but already here. Adorno articulated a vision of the relation between nature on the one side, and history on the other, which inverted the typical understanding of the relation between the two terms. Nature at its most natural became historical, while history at its most historical reverted into a kind of “second nature.” Nature, typically understood as the unchanging, became the site of the new. History, supposedly the site of novelty, and epoch-making events like the French Revolution, became the realm of the always-the-same, as capitalism is able to come to grips with its own crisis tendencies. It is possible to see in the idea of natural history a new geological epoch following the Holocene, called the “Anthropocene.” This acknowledges the massive impact of human activity, which already does and continues to have an impact on the earth and its transformations. This transformation of natural ecology is itself premised on a history that has been flattened and reified by capitalist social relations. As has recently been suggested by Frederic Jameson, “It is easier to imagine the end of the world”—that is, the new—“than to imagine the end of capitalism”—that is, the always-the-same. ((‘Future City’, New Left Review 21, May-June 2003. URL=<>.))

How this plays itself out concretely can be understood through the recently released IPCC report. It suggests that the first real manifestation of global climate change will be in the area of water and food security, which will of course hit the poorest nations first. I was talking to Tarek Shalaby about Egypt, where we see tremendous sensitivity by the Egyptian people to the grinding poverty that afflicts their everyday life. Reductions, for example, in bread, oil, and fuel subsidies, played a key role in political mobilization in the run-up to the revolution in 2011. Ongoing desertification of the Nile valley brought about by global climate change will no doubt exacerbate an already precarious situation.

Given the urgency of the IPCC report, we do well to go back to Rosa Luxemburg slogan of “socialism or barbarism.” ((<>)) This does not indicate simply a transition to socialism, as the productive forces burst asunder increasingly antiquated production relations. It also contains a critique of historical progress as we see in Benjamin and Adorno, whereby the only progress that is imaginable is a shattering of the very logic of progress. The expanded development of the productive forces eventuates in a self-preservation run wild, a logic that ultimately undermines itself insofar as it fails to secure a key condition of capitalism, the reproduction not just of labor-power, but of sensuous nature itself. It is for this reason that Adorno calls for a ‘second Copernican revolution’, one that leads away from the primacy of the subject qua Kant, Hegel, and also Marx, towards the primacy of the object. Based on such assumptions, I will conclude with the following: Emancipation would entail the freedom not only of the subject, but also of the object. It would reject productivist versions of Marxism, favoring what Adorno calls a “communication” between subject and object, and a condition of peace between the two.

Joseph Schwartz: I probably will be a bit more explicitly political and policy-oriented than the previous speakers. One of the weaknesses in a lot of social theory today, particularly in its post-structuralist forms, is that we really don’t think seriously about political economy Download the Library of Congress papers. We don’t use the analytic and normative tools of social theory to look at the actual dynamics of a society, both its barriers to emancipation and also its possibilities. In that spirit, I would suggest that, in a certain sense, Marxism as a theory has always been in crisis. I take very seriously the implicit ethical import of Marx, in the sense that anyone who is a democrat has to be against exploitation and domination in the workplace, or any intersubjective human relations. We believe there should be democratic control over the social surplus, and the labor process—as Michael Burawoy always says, “who gets what” and “who does what.” The democratic vision is really that there should not be a divide in society between those who define its tasks, and those who carry them out. We do still have a very rigid division of labor in many arenas of social life, between those who set the tasks, and those who are dominated and forced to carry them out.

Marxism is an incredibly seductive social theory because it promises a theory of history, social structure, and agency that culminates in a teleological revolution. The Marxist insight—which I think is partly true, but it has never been fully fulfilled—is that because labor under capitalism is an interdependent social process, but one governed a-socially or hierarchically, democratizing that control over production would be the goal of the proletariat, as it became conscious of itself not only as a class in production (in itself), but as a conscious revolutionary class (for-itself). The only problem is that in its most powerful forms, in the types of bourgeois-democratic capitalist societies that Marx thought would give rise to revolution, to the extent to which the labor movement or the socialist movement had a mass impact up through the 60’s-70’s, it was much more reformist than revolutionary. I think we have to take seriously the arguments made as early as the 1920’s by e.g. Selig Perlman, that in a certain sense, workers have more than their chains to lose, and therefore are often more reformist when engaged in social struggle than revolutionary. Where workers have been more revolutionary is in those countries subjected to imperial domination, and the rapid industrialization of a predominantly peasant society—say, workers in Shanghai in the 1920’s, or workers in Petrograd and Moscow at the turn of the 20th century. However, these lacked the mass industrial base that Marx had said was a prerequisite for the transition to socialism.

One thing we have to deal with is that whatever Lenin or Trotsky said about the revolution, Marxist-Leninist parties have mostly governed as engines of state-led primitive accumulation. If you think this is a joke, I grew up with a mother who still thinks the Soviet Union was a great society until this guy Gorbachöv came along. She would always say that Stalinism was like American slavery: “Where are you going to get a surplus from unless you exploit people? We had to do it.” That’s the traditional defense: read Sartre, or Merleau-Ponty in his earlier formation. The justification for Stalinist rule was that you had to extract surplus from Kulaks, and even from workers, by starving them and working them hard. Otherwise you couldn’t industrialize. The Marxist view is that the proletariat, increasingly interdependent in production, would also become increasingly consciously revolutionary in subjective activity. But the objective and the subjective dynamics of Marxism never fully met.

In a certain sense that’s kind of what Gramsci struggles with; I think Gramsci is the 1,000 lb. gorilla that we aren’t talking about. Not just his concept of consent, or his view that the common sense of working people was not revolutionary, but not totally false. Take a common-sense view like: “If you do better in school, or you work harder on average, your life will be better.” Obviously this profoundly ignores the forms of class and cultural reproduction that go on in education, or in the labor-force. But on the other hand, there is a certain partial degree of truth in it. From a Gramscian analysis, there is even a partial degree of truth, again masking a profound falsehood, in what we have been dealing with. The mass support for neoliberalism has been from the ability to hive off a certain sector (mostly non-unionized) of the white working class, based on some common sense views. First, that taxes are too high. They’re not too high on corporations or the affluent. But because of a flat-rate Social Security tax, the regressive nature of property taxes, and a generally not very progressive tax structure, working-class people do pay too much in taxes.

The right wildly exaggerates the amount of funds that went to means-tested anti-poverty programs. We all know that. Not just white working-class people, but e.g., African-American or Latino families that were above the poverty line, resented the fact that we don’t have universal childcare, and we still don’t have universal healthcare. People below the poverty line got Medicaid. If they got aid to families with dependent children (it is almost impossible to get temporary aid for needy families) it was well below the means of subsistence. The dirty little secret is that people on AFDC always took in other people’s children, worked off the books, etc.. But again, we have to understand that the consciousness of the resentment, the means-tested welfare state, wasn’t totally crazy. We don’t analyze enough the relationship between common sense, and what we would call a more radical or revolutionary, “good” sense. I think there’s a lot of insight we can get from Marx, say about the present crisis, which one of overproduction and overconsumption. It is a crisis of financialization, which is what Marx predicted would occur if the rate of profit fell. But the revolutionary project that comes out of that is problematized in the current period of the weakness of the entire Left. The reason why we get these flash insurgencies in the most squeezed countries—e.g., in parts of Latin America and southern Europe, or in the U.S.—is that there is a tremendous realization that basic human needs aren’t being met, and that people’s lives are being decimated by austerity and neoliberalism. But there is no real faith in an alternative.

What are the governing models of the Marxist, socialist, tradition? On the one hand, there is top-down industrialization in developing countries 앱짱가디언. On the other hand, there is social democracy, which did not ultimately yield a strong enough, radical enough labor movement. Once profits got squeezed in the early 70’s, they couldn’t face the neoliberal attack on the institutions of labor, democratic forms of state environmental and financial regulations, etc. These attacks were successful, and obviously for politically pragmatic but ultimately disastrous reasons, the leadership of social democracy certainly moved to the right and becomes neoliberalized—including in the Democratic party leadership in America. They claim to understand now that you can’t have restrictions on labor markets as you used to, or on freedom of capital. It’s not clear: We have an alternative—democratic control over social surplus, extensive de-commodification of basic human needs, curtailment of the working life, and some form of a guaranteed income—but we don’t have a party or a vehicle to establish it.

Capitalism is incredibly productive, so why are we working longer, and talking about extending the working life? Today in the United States, 300,000 auto-workers make as many cars as 1.8 million did in 1970. That’s how much productivity has increased with robotization, etc.. Why aren’t we benefitting from that? Why aren’t we working less? This obviously has to do with the fact that capitalists control the accumulation process.

In theorizing reformist practice, if you don’t think its revolutionary enough, I don’t really care. In some ways I have Trotsky’s view, wherever there is fascism, socialists fight for the rights of slaves. I don’t think there is fascism now, and I’m not saying we have slavery, but we have a low wage near enslaved labor. We have student debt-peonage. We have immigrants who do a major amount of care work, and who ought to have immediate citizenship for themselves and their children. We have a public education system that is totally shot through by class and racial inequalities, and is being privatized in the city as we speak. There are plenty of struggles that socialists have to be involved in, because I think we have to be involved in any struggle for the rights of the demos against the rights of the oligarchs.

Chris Cutrone: The last 20th century was characterized as one of wars and revolutions. I would like to re-characterize it slightly, to a century of war and revolution, singular. The 20th century was the century of the crisis of capitalism, and that crisis was expressed through war and revolution. Hannah Arendt’s 1962 book On Revolution begins its discussion of politics with an introduction on “War and Revolution,” offering that these were the two paramount political issues of the day, after all ideological justifications handed down from the 19th century, such as nationalism, capitalism and socialism or communism, had faded.

Arendt began her discussion, properly, with Lenin: Lenin, who called for turning the “world war” among national states into a global “civil war” between the workers and the capitalists—it almost happened. Lenin represented to Arendt the opposition of revolution to war. It is said that a Nazi diplomat once quipped that the only beneficiary of WWII would be Trotsky. For most of the 20th century, this is what was assumed, that war was the failure of politics, and that the political failure of the ruling class in war would lead to social revolution. This was once a reasonable assumption that we cannot however share today, for the political issues of the revolution, while not going away, have been driven underground, no longer manifesting as politics. Arendt’s fears have been confirmed: It was her rather hopeful and optimistic prognosis that modern history was the history of revolution, and war merely the revolution’s epiphenomenon. Today that is hard for us to perceive.
Arendt predicted that due to “mutual assured nuclear destruction” in the Cold War, the 20th century would cease to be characterized as a century of war but would remain a century of revolution. But the opposite has taken place after the end of the Cold War. It is not that war has been eclipsed by revolution—as Lenin would have hoped—but rather the opposite, that war has eclipsed revolution. Arendt dismissed De Maistre’s statement that, “Counterrevolution is not the revolution in reverse but the opposite of revolution.” But De Maistre was correct and Arendt mistaken: the 20th century became a century of war not revolution because it was a century of counterrevolution.

To recognize, with von Clausewitz, that “war is politics by other means,” does not mean the reverse, that “politics is war by other means.” In other words, while the early 19th century liberal Benjamin Constant pointed out that moderns achieve by social commerce and peaceful politics what was once achieved by the Ancients through war, this does not mean that politics is reducible to war. If war is politics by other means, then we must add that war is not the best and might indeed be the worst means for achieving political ends. Revolution might be the alternative to war, but that does not mean that war is an acceptable alternative to revolution. It is important as well to note that Arendt recognized that while wars were a timeless, perennial feature of civilization, revolution was quintessentially modern. So, what we might say is that it appears that the 20th century became in retrospect a century of wars rather than revolutions the degree to which revolutionary modernity was rolled back successfully by the counterrevolution.

Arendt discusses “freedom” in an ancient rather than specifically modern sense à la Benjamin Constant, when she points out that for the Ancients wars were fought not for freedom but for gain; and that for moderns revolution is inseparable from freedom: that a particular danger lies in the concept of wars for freedom, precisely because it conflates war and revolution, at the expense of proper political considerations, drowning the separate issues of each in the phenomenon of violence, to which she thought neither revolution nor war could be reduced. However, it would appear that today not only war and revolution are reduced to violence, but also politics and society. Politics seems reduced to “war by other means,” indeed to violence by other means. That politics and social power have been reduced to violence is the surest sign of the “success,” so to speak, of the counterrevolution. This is what it means for the Left to say that, but for the Right, the revolution would be peaceful, without violence—political force is not violence.

Arendt, like von Clausewitz, sought to preserve the political content of war. But Benjamin Constant, like other liberals, considered war to be, not merely the failure of politics, but a crime. Unlike for the Ancients who celebrated war, indeed as among the highest of values, after every modern war people search for who was criminally culpable for the regrettable catastrophe 19 Bear Ted. Carl Schmitt thought that this pointed to the dehumanization inherent in liberalism, its attempt to suppress the war of politics through its criminalization of war, reducing to his mind society to mere “commerce and entertainment.” It should not be for the Left to define politics, like Schmitt, in terms of war. Rather, the issue is the pursuit of freedom without war. If the liberal ideal of bourgeois society as the replacement of war by commerce—by not only peaceful competition but indeed cooperative competition for the benefit of all—has failed, then we must interrogate the nature of that failure and not naturalize it. The liberal ideal may also remain that of socialism.

This raises the issue of war in our particular moment, today, the time of an apparently quickly fading neoconservatism and a continuing if chastened neoliberalism. What are these ideologies with respect to revolution? We might say that there is an antinomy of neoconservatism versus neoliberalism, that neoliberalism prefers to seek to achieve through the market what neoconservatism is content to seek through war, and that this antinomy points to the form of the revolution in our time, that is, capitalism, and its political antinomies. For capitalism is the revolution, however it is also the counterrevolution. Both the neoliberals and neoconservatives seek to further the revolution—capitalism—but do so through what Marxists must consider the counterrevolution.

Modern politics, in this sense, can be considered the war, so to speak, within the revolution: the political counterrevolution within the revolutionizing of society in capitalism, and the yet still ongoing irrepressible revolution of capitalism within the politics of the counterrevolution. Modern politics is concerned with the values of the massive changes occurring within capitalism — the values and direction of the revolution. Once we recognize that modern history does not consist of occasional revolutions but rather of the revolution, one single process and trajectory of revolution, which has been more or less poorly manifested, recognized and fought-out, we can better situate the stakes of politics.

The counterrevolution, as the war within the revolution, is the reaction against the failure of the revolution: the degeneration of the revolution into war expressed through the counterrevolution. So what is the revolution? The modern era is one of revolution, that is, the overthrow of traditional civilization. The past few hundred years have been characterized by the most far-reaching and deepest ever transformation of the world. More has changed and has changed more rapidly than at any other moment of history. The predominant way in which this change has taken place is through avowed bourgeois social relations, which are essentially the relations of the exchange of labor as a commodity, what Adorno called the “law of labor.” This has been recognized clearly by bourgeois protagonists as well as by their adversaries. Both revolutionaries and reactionaries have characterized this process in bourgeois terms, the terms of the modern city.

The American revolutionary Thomas Jefferson offered a clear characterization of the stakes of this revolution of which he was an important advocate and political agent. Jefferson, in his letter of January 3, 1793 to U.S. Ambassador to France William Short about the Jacobins, wrote:

The tone of your letters had for some time given me pain, on account of the extreme warmth with which they censured the proceedings of the Jacobins of France…. In the struggle which was necessary, many guilty persons fell without the forms of trial, and with them some innocent. These I deplore as much as any body, and shall deplore some of them to the day of my death. But I deplore them as I should have done had they fallen in battle. It was necessary to use the arm of the people, a machine not quite so blind as balls and bombs, but blind to a certain degree. A few of their cordial friends met at their hands, the fate of enemies. But time and truth will rescue and embalm their memories, while their posterity will be enjoying that very liberty for which they would never have hesitated to offer up their lives. The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood? My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it now is.

In 1793, the Jacobins had restarted the calendar, retrospectively beginning with year one of the Republic in 1792. The French Revolution also introduced the metric system of measurements, which has since become the universal standard. A new epoch was to have dawned. That the revolution has since then come to seem not the overthrow but rather the continuation of traditional civilization is only an effect of the need and failure to advance the revolution.

Politics since then has been concerned with the direction of this revolution. Only very isolated extreme figures and only for relatively brief historical intervals have rejected the politics of the bourgeois revolution. For instance, several years ago, in an open letter to President George W. Bush, President of the Islamic Republic in Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wrote that the project of liberal democratic capitalism had clearly failed and that therefore it was time to return to the values of traditional civilization in religion, to Islam and Christianity, respectively.

Since the 1970s, there have been two extremely active movements more or less proximate to the centers of political power at a global scale that have sought to further the bourgeois revolution. They have not been of the Left. Neoconservatism and neoliberalism have taken up the mantle abandoned by the Left in promoting the revolution of bourgeois society, promising the world freedom. In many ways the neoliberals have done so more radically than the neoconservatives. Still, even the neocons must be reckoned as bourgeois revolutionaries—which their traditionalist paleoconservative rivals, let alone the religious fundamentalists, have clearly recognized. The strange bedfellows of Christian conservatives and neoconservatives have fought the properly political battle of what Lenin called the “who-whom” question: Have the Christians used the neocons, or the neocons used the Christians? I think it is clear that the neocons, though now ideologically discredited on certain policy questions (after the Iraq war in particular), won that battle: they used the Christians to attain political power. But the neoliberals have, despite the recent global economic crisis of the past several years, really triumphed. Neoliberalism is the “new normal” throughout the world; Margaret Thatcher was right, “There is no alternative.” Furthermore, it is under neoliberal leadership that the world is currently being revolutionized Download Solomon's Perjury. We might say that the neoliberals have fought in the vanguard, and the neoconservatives in the rearguard, of the continuing bourgeois revolution over the course of the past generation, the last 40 years.

Where does this leave the avowed “Left,” today? There has been a great deal of confusion in the past generation in particular, but also more broadly since the early 20th century, about the direction and stakes of the revolution from the point of view of the “Left.” Arendt, for instance, pointed out how it was remarkable that freedom had dropped out of the vocabulary of revolutionaries. What would have been obvious to Marx and Engels, or to Lenin or Trotsky as Marxists, that the struggle for socialism was to further and complete, and ultimately transcend the bourgeois revolution in freedom, has become an obscure issue today.

Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto parsed out the issue of socialism in the 19th century in terms of conservative-reactionary versus progressive-emancipatory varieties, deeming only “proletarian socialism” a reliable agent of overcoming the problem of capitalism in the emancipatory direction of freedom. Other varieties were deemed “petit-bourgeois,” that is, reproductive of the problem of capitalism and obscuring its essential contradictions. The original socialist critique of capitalism was that the capitalists were unreliable revolutionaries, too opportunistically conservative to confidently promote the revolution of which they had been however the beneficiaries historically. Rather, that task of fulfilling the revolution in modern society had fallen to the working class.

In the 20th century, this became muddled, in that “new revolutionary subjects” were sought to promote the revolution after the apparent failure of the working class in the advanced capitalist countries to further the revolutionary advance to socialism. But today these purported new social-revolutionary classes and social groups have also clearly failed. Neither peasants nor anti-colonialists nor oppressed ethno-cultural minorities nor women nor sexual deviants have furthered the advance of socialism. If anything, such politics have only confounded the issue even more. We are left with the problem of the results of incomplete revolution—capitalism—but without any apparent revolutionary subjects to address and overcome this problem. The best on offer seems an indeterminate “democracy,” but that has a storied and problematic history as well, going back to the Jacobins themselves if not earlier. Moreover, since the mid-19th century, the democratic revolution has been an engine for the reproduction of capitalism.

What the revolution has given us since Marx’s time is not socialism but more extensive and deeper capitalism. Moreover, Marx’s recognition of the revolutionary character of capitalism has been lost. The reproduction of capitalism has taken largely conservative-reactionary forms. This is because the issue of capitalism itself has become obscured. This has had a profound effect on politics itself. The ostensible “Left” has allowed itself to become defensive, and to thus imagine that the principal task has been, rather, the “resistance” to capitalism. A one-sided and confused “anti-capitalism” has replaced the struggle for socialism. Worse, the “Left” has internalized not only cynicism about the bourgeois revolution, but even the conservative-reactionary rejection of the revolution itself. Marx has gone from being a revolutionary to becoming a “master of suspicion,” and has been profoundly misread as skeptical or even cynical regarding modern, bourgeois society and its revolutionary potential. The “Left” has thus become a new Right. It has not only compromised itself but actively contributes to the confounding and obscuring of the revolution that still tasks the world.

This means that only opportunists—the Right—have allowed themselves to be politically active, but have been compromised in their activity precisely by such opportunism. Neoliberalism and neoconservativism are clear examples of this, but so is political religious fundamentalism. But before them so was Stalinism. As Trotsky put it, Stalinism was the “great organizer of defeat,” meaning the political “leadership” of the organized accommodation of defeat. As such, Stalinism was also, ideologically, the apologetics for defeat. This was done through calling defeat victory, or, the affirming of the course of the revolution through opportunistic grief. Thus, the 20th century was called “progress” when there was none. No wonder that postmodernism’s opposition to Marxism—really to Stalinism—was first and foremost an opposition to ideas of historical progress and of history—that is, universal history itself.

What characterizes the last two hundred years is the relative lack of consciousness, and unfortunately increasingly so, of the on-going bourgeois revolution. To date, Marxism has offered not merely the best but really the only way out of this deficiency of consciousness. Specifically, Marxism offered the diagnosis of the necessary if symptomatic character of that lack of consciousness. The bourgeois revolution without consciousness is what Marx called “capitalism;” it was the rendering of the revolution “objective”—an object of mere contemplation, an unfolding catastrophe rather than a process of freedom—abdicating the task of consciousness, which alone could offer the possibility of the continuation of the revolution as a matter of freedom.

If we experience the return, the repetition of the bourgeois revolution, then this is as the reproduction of capitalism. But the repetition is an opportunity for advancing the revolution, if however its self-contradiction, the war of the counterrevolution within the failure of the revolution, still dominates us. The task of revolutionary thinking, therefore, would be the recognition of the repetition and of the contradiction.


NM: I don’t think that neoliberals could be viewed as the vanguard of bourgeois revolutions today; I would say that it is the contrary. Neoliberalism is the vanguard of the destruction of the last remnants of bourgeois culture. The bourgeoisie was a class that died some decades ago. I think contemporary oligarchies have little to do with the classical bourgeoisie, as it was only ever interested in seeking profits and exploiting society. The classical bourgeoisie wanted to create a viable form of society. Today, oligarchies want only to loot, as David Harvey said in response to the London suburban riots in 2011. The lower class is following this ideology of the ruling neoliberal oligarchy, which is just slash-and-burn.

DR: My democratic sensibilities will allow me to make one comment, and give my two minutes to the people Naver blog music. I have heard a lot on this panel about thought, but not much about politics. How do we proceed? What is to be done?

SG: I wonder what Chris would make of the celebration of the Communist Manifesto’s 150th anniversary in 1998. You had an almost universal laudation from the Wall Street Journal, to the Economist, to the New York Times. It seems to mean that capitalism has recognized the way in which Marx is really praising the bourgeoisie in that text. He didn’t come to bury the bourgeoisie, but to praise it to high heavens. I’m wondering how that fits in terms of what you’re suggesting. Isn’t that the pre-history of a certain kind of appropriation, not only of the shallow conception of freedom you get in neoliberalism?

JS: To Nikos: Financialization of capitalism may or may not be a new period or form. It is not clear anymore that there is a national bourgeoisie, held responsible to its people, and any notion of a patrician bourgeoisie is certainly out the window. The search for short-term profit certainly is striking. What is to be done? There are limits ecologically, but even in our society there are huge deprivations of material needs that are generating forms of resistance. I don’t think you should come out of here without talking about the insurgency around raising the minimum wage, and immigrant rights. I think the new working class will be immigrant-led. Whatever you say about globalization, a lot of stuff in this country can’t move without workers. Healthcare, construction, restaurants, retail—basically 10% of the country works at Wal-Mart. They’re all going to suffer huge cuts in their living standards. Many of you have connections to the academy. The neoliberalization of the academy is part of the reason for the crisis of intellectuals: Everything is about niche production, adding new lines to your CV, and there’s no solidarity. There’s been an incredible proletarianization of academic labor. A hint at the dominance of neoliberal ideology is that few people know that the real source of the crisis is that per capita funding from the state—per person and per university—is down 40% from the mid-70s. The abandonment by the state of the education of its own citizens is part of the crisis. I’ll conclude by saying that our job should be to render relatively transparent the opaque forms of domination and subordination of capitalist ideology. A lot of my colleagues render the transparent opaque.

CC: About the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto: This is just rank ideology. The 90s were a boom period; what followed was a bust. To get to Nikos’ point of the bourgeoisie destroying bourgeois society, we have to be careful with the categories of “the bourgeoisie” and “the capitalist.” Is this the entrepreneur? The finance rentier class (Lenin’s coupon-clippers from Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism)? My focus is on the politics and political actors—not the ruling class understood as the moneybags, rich people. Take Jeffrey Sachs, a neoliberal bourgeois revolutionary of our time. He was honest enough to realize that his program for revolution didn’t work, and now he is an apostate neoliberal who has taken the other track. He is clear on his political vision, and has changed the means to the end. First, it was “shock therapy” and free-market reforms; now, it is transnational organizations, charity, and reinvestment. I try to keep my remarks constrained to politics, which is why I brought up the neocons and the neoliberals as the political actors of the last generation. The Left has to aspire to outdo these people, to outdo them as revolutionaries. To do this we have to be clear on the revolution, but I think the Left has joined the counterrevolution. Resistance to capitalism is a non-starter, politically—trying to transform capitalism, to get beyond capitalism, that’s something else. But resistance to capitalism? Hopeless.


I feel that when we reach for catastrophe as an explanation of our current situation, its motivated by a compelling desire to make the mundane profound. The IPCC report apparently tells us that we’re past the turning point. I’m old enough to remember the Club of Rome, which also said we’d passed a turning point, and that by 1970 all human life would be impossible. It’s a common theme of Marxism to say that the rate of profit is past that point at which the only future is barbarism, socialism or barbarism. Well, where’s the barbarism? I see civilization, a forward march in life expectancy, literacy, health. The carrying capacity of the Earth has been increased to six billion over an amazingly short period of time. What a fantastic success! If you wanted to dramatize telling the story of human history, wouldn’t you begin with the remarkable potential of this point of human civilization?

JS: Even if what you say is true, you must admit that there is an ecological crisis, one that will have to be dealt with by a change of social and political power relations. Sea levels are rising: it’s an empirical reality. But I’m enough of a modernist to think that—if we have the right politics and transformations in politics and policy—there are technological solutions to the problems that technology creates. In that sense there’s a dialectic of the Enlightenment that has both positive and negative aspects. Reason can solve the problems that it poses, but it can also create a lot of serious problems.

DR: Human beings are in a constant state of denial, as Freud wrote about at the turn of the 20th century. I don’t think we understand reality better by sounding like a happy journalist on CNN Download eclipse 32-bit. To make a comparison between the IPCC and the Club of Rome is, quite frankly, specious. Who was the Club of Rome? The IPCC is a conglomerate of almost 3,000 scientists who review scientific evidence, already published and adjudicated. How can we deny that? How can we deny the scientific basis of that analysis? We have to see what the political implications are of that evidence.

SG: It was only around six or seven years ago that the CIA released a report of its projections for deepening climate and civic crises throughout the world, and they were planning accordingly. There is a sense today that crime is on the decline, but there is a militarization of the police. One has to ask why this is. Perhaps this is a kind of preparation for the coming crises—‘barbarism’, in a sense, on the horizon. What this question articulated would be received quite sympathetically by our current government—an absolutely reactionary, authoritarian government that is not doing anything it can to forestall climate change. It is doing everything to deepen and further the coming economic crisis. I find it quite amazing that you suggested what you did.

NM: “Barbarism” should not always be imagined as a pile of corpses, or stuff like that. I will refer to Oswald Spengler, who described the barbarism to come as more and more inhuman situations within a highly civilized environment. This describes very accurately what’s going on today.

CC: I agree with the formulation Nikos just provided, of increasingly inhuman situations being produced within a nonetheless civilized society. But I would turn the question of barbarism to that of political responsibility: In other words, the decline of political responsibility could be an index of increasing barbarism. What we are talking about with revolutionary thought and politics is the ability to take responsibility for the massive changes the world is undergoing, and will continue to undergo. I take the question’s point not to be denial of a problem, but rather confidence in the potential ability to address that problem. I would like to echo Joseph’s point that reason is the solution to its own problems, and that technology can solve the problems created by technology. This comes with the proviso that technology is a human doing, but in alienated form. It is thus about what we are doing: whether we can take responsibility for it, and what form that might take.

NM: Technology is not at all instrumental or natural—it is materialized ideology. One of the most important dimensions of a social transformation would be the transformation of technology. But technology is not neutral; it is an expression of the dominant worldview of that society. Every form of society has its own technical system, and so if we critique capitalism, we must critique its technical system as well. Take Taylorism, for example. Lenin wanted to use Taylorism for the cause of socialism. But Taylorism is an inherently oppressive and alienating system, which springs from capitalist ideology. I can’t imagine a socialist society with Taylorist forms of working.

We shouldn’t indulge in catastrophism or crisis-mongering. Catastrophism is not lucidly reflecting on what is going to come; it always believes that there is no solution, and no possible exit. The greatest catastrophists were always those who took techno-science to be omnipotent. That’s why Heidegger, for example, when he demonized technology, counterpoised to it Gelassenheit—serenity. But when people indulge in catastrophic thinking, I think this is valid because it at least expresses a kind of vigilance. Techno-optimism expresses a lack of responsibility towards what’s going on in society.

DR: I consider myself a public intellectual, but also an activist. Though I forecast a dark future in actuality, it doesn’t hold me back for a second in doing what I have to do, want to do, and enjoy doing, as a political activist. I want to share with you a historical experience. In the 1950’s, the two superpowers, the USSR and the US, were testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. The effects of that pollution of the environment are well-known. There was a great deal of panic at the time about what this was headed towards—namely, WWIII. A massive movement arose in response to this, the nuclear disarmament movement, which was unprecedented in terms of its size and organization. Now we didn’t get nuclear disarmament, but what we did get was the nuclear test ban treaty. So, as a result of that mass movement clouded by fear, we brought us back from the precipice. That may or may not happen with the ecological crisis.

SG: I certainly don’t think I’m advocating catastrophism. I think it is necessary to think through possible alternative understandings of both reason and freedom, in such a way as to address what Horkheimer and Adorno called the Dialectic of Enlightenment which was envisioned in terms of a mindfulness of nature. Capitalism has a decreasing capacity to reproduce the natural conditions that would enable its continuation. I don’t think that’s terribly controversial. My conclusion would be that only the hand that wields the sword can heal the wound. A dialectical conception of reason is absolutely vital. Then we could recognize that technology is not some mystical thing, but is a form of reason. In order for a critique of that form to be carried out, another conception needs to be itself worked out. That is in part the project of the relationship between revolutionary thought and practice.

JS: I do think the ecological crisis does open the possibility for left critique and action. But whatever you want to call it, we aren’t going to get an emancipatory politics of the city without accomplishing much greater public control over social investment 추상화. I don’t think the corporate world is going to provide the changes in the way we produce and consume that are needed if we’re going to sustain human life on Earth. There are flash eruptions against neoliberalism occurring across the world. I think there is a role for Marxism or socialism, as a form of political organization, to help cohere this social unrest and protest into some kind of governing emancipatory project. We are in a period of crisis, where a lot of people do know that something’s profoundly wrong, and that human well-being is threatened. But what to do with these openings is what we have to sort out by actually doing politics.

CC: I want to make a closing plea for the plausibility, even if somewhat politically distant, of Marxism as still in the present. It is present to the degree to which we can call the contradiction of society at a global scale as being that between wage labor and capital. Do we still live in a society that reproduces the conditions for wage labor? Do we still live in a society that is dominated by the need to valorize capital? I think both of these are still in effect. This is not just a description of an objective state of the economy, but is also a description of a circumstance for potential politics. Marx was not only a philosopher of modern history, or an analyst of the capitalist economy, but also a political strategist. His orientation to the wage-laboring class was a strategic estimation of politics. In that respect, what we lack, unlike previous historical phases of capitalism, is an adequate political mediation of the problem of capitalism. In other words, capitalism doesn’t manifest at the level of politics, where the contradiction between capital and wage labor is fought out. Perhaps it won’t manifest in the future in the way it did in the past, but it seems to me that the alternative to that attempt to politicize the capital and wage-labor relationship will be further barbarism: The decline of potential political responsibility, and the locking-up of politics among a small group of ideologues and technocrats. | §

Originally published in The Platypus Review #69 (September 2014).