Daily Archives: June 8, 2012
History is the object of a construction whose place is formed not in homogenous and empty time, but in that which is fulfilled by the here-and-now [Jetztzeit]. For Robespierre, Roman antiquity was a past charged with the here-and-now, which he exploded out of the continuum of history. The French revolution thought of itself as a latterday Rome. It cited ancient Rome exactly the way fashion cites a past costume. Fashion has an eye for what is up-to-date, wherever it moves in the jungle [Dickicht: maze, thicket] of what was. It is the tiger’s leap into that which has gone before. Only it takes place in an arena in which the ruling classes are in control. The same leap into the open sky of history is the dialectical one, as Marx conceptualized the revolution. – Walter Benjamin, Theses on History.
That the way historical materialism is defined, we see this in Marx:
“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms — with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic — in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. - K. Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
“The class struggle, which is always present to a historian influenced by Marx, is a fight for the crude and material things without which no refined and spiritual things could exist. Nevertheless, it is not in the form of the spoils which fall to the victor that the latter make their presence felt in the class struggle. They manifest themselves in this struggle as courage, humor, cunning, and fortitude. They have retroactive force and will constantly call in question every victory, past and present, of the rules. As flowers turn toward the sun, by dint of a secret heliotropism the past strives to turn toward that sun which is rising in the sky of history. A historical materialist must be aware of this most inconspicuous of all transformations” (Theses on the Idea of History)
“(…) If Russia is tending to become a capitalist nation after the example of the Western European countries, and during the last years she has been taking a lot of trouble in this direction – she will not succeed without having first transformed a good part of her peasants into proletarians; and after that, once taken to the bosom of the capitalist regime, she will experience its pitiless laws like other profane peoples. That is all. But that is not enough for my critic. He feels himself obliged to metamorphose my historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into an historico-philosophic theory of the marche generale imposed by fate upon every people, whatever the historic circumstances in which it finds itself, in order that it may ultimately arrive at the form of economy which will ensure, together with the greatest expansion of the productive powers of social labour, the most complete development of man. But I beg his pardon. (He is both honouring and shaming me too much.)” – K. Marx, A letter to the editor of the Russian paper Otetchestvennye Zapisky
“…there is only one other point lacking, which, however, Marx and I always failed to stress enough in our writings and in regard to which we are all equally guilty. That is to say, we all laid, and were bound to lay, the main emphasis, in the first place, on the derivation of political, juridical and other ideological notions, and of actions arising through the medium of these notions, from basic economic facts. But in so doing we neglected the formal side — the ways and means by which these notions, etc., come about — for the sake of the content. This has given our adversaries a welcome opportunity for misunderstandings, of which Paul Barth is a striking example.”
“Hanging together with this too is the fatuous notion of the ideologists that because we deny an independent historical development to the various ideological spheres which play a part in history we also deny them any effect upon history. The basis of this is the common undialectical conception of cause and effect as rigidly opposite poles, the total disregarding of interaction; these gentlemen often almost deliberately forget that once an historic element has been brought into the world by other elements, ultimately by economic facts, it also reacts in its turn and may react on its environment and even on its own causes.”
Another critique related to the Harman interview.
Originally posted on AGENT SWARM:
Alexander Galloway published a very interesting response to a recent interview by GrahamHharman here. Unfortunately the discussion went off in all directions and the central theme of Galloway’s paper was buried under a mass of comments, many of which were very interesting in their own right. As in my blog I have an ongoing series of posts analysing Harman’s OOO I chose to intervene in the discussion rather on what I thought to be an important point: the nature of philosophy and the possible contribution of non-professional thinkers to philosophical debate. I named no names and criticised noone personally. Suddenly Adam Kotsko declared the discussion “boring” and closed the comments on this post. I have been deprived of any responses to my commentary, which is something I deeply regret. As I waited 4 days before commenting, this was a product of mature reflection and not some epidermic reflex response. For memory, I reproduce my comment here in the hope that I can have some sort of response:
Philosophy is a way of life which includes amongst other things a passion for concepts and arguments. All the rest is just a Game of Thrones. A philosophy professor can be a philosopher in this sense, but needn’t be. It was free to go to Deleuze’s and Lyotard’s and Foucault’s and Michel Serres’ seminars, and if you had the nerve to ask a question you got an answer, usually a very good one. So the argument that a professor from a big bucks university should not be expected to respond, when he publishes a blog and gives his opinion on anything and everything is a little strange. Philosophy is not about opinions, but is one of the ways of individuating ourselves in a world vaster and more creative than the world of opinion. If Trevor Owen Jones individuates by means of philosophy without being a card-carrying philosophy professor this all the more to his credit, as life is short and material and affective means are scarce. If a philosophy professor shows he is more interested in the academic Game of Thrones than in pursuing the argument wherever it can lead us, that is his shame. Money is no argument. Nor is “superior” scholarship. I have known many professors with superior scholarship that was dry as dust and dead as zombies, little pawns put in place while better people were discouraged into fleeing into other fields. The sad thing is that on the internet you do not find a utopia, but the same castes and classes and cliques, the same social stratifications as in the rest of the world. Many are glad to read and cite Bourdieu, or some other sociologist, without applying it to themselves and their milieu. The personal has lots of social in it, and “social” means power relations. So no Trevor you are not paranoid nor are you intellectually mediocre and insignificant if you are not a philosophy professor. As Leon says keep at it because individuation trumps the Game of Thrones any day, for lots of people. I hope you find them (or more of them)!