File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0106, message 21

Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 10:46:42 GMT
Subject: Re: BHA: Bhaskar, Marx and self-consciousness

Hi to all, 

Many thanks to Mervyn for pointing this out:  

> I've been re-reading the early Marx, and it's striking that many of
> the themes of *From East to West* are already there... 

It doesn't come as a surprise that some of the early Marx's 'non-
Marxist' work should share themes and language with the later 
Bhaskar, but it is good to have the details pointed out. 

As Alan Norrie and myself have pointed out (see the article in 
Alethia, 'Do you like Soul Music'), Bhaskar's "From East to West" 
marks a serious regression in the development of Dialectical Critical 
Realism.  "Dialectic" is constituted by two strands: one developing 
realism; the other sustaining an irrealist humanism and irrealism in 
ethics. FEW ends up by creating a synthesis of the two which 
sublates Bhaskar's realist dialectic within the irrealist one, marking 
a return to a systematic irrealist idealism reminiscent of Hegel's and 

Before Marx pushed through his rounded critique of political 
economy he too was operating on the irreal terrain of Hegel and 
Kant. Of course, his stance was always critical, but he had not 
developed his critique must beyond the stages of immanent critique 
and the identification of needs within theory itself. It was only as this 
process of critique issued in a positive alternative to idealist 
irrealism that Marx developed the epistemic break with irrealism. In 
so doing Marx pushed through the first sustained attempt to develop 
a dialectical critical realism. Just as some of Roy's work has the 
potential to push our understanding onto clearly new, solidly realist, 
terrain, so Marx's personal dialectic took him further and further 
away from the irrealism of his youth.  

>From his own later perspective, Marx's early work, regardless of its 
critical stance and its ultimate orientation towards realism, is 
necessarily suffused by idealism and an irrealist humanism; his own 
early humanist impulses were themselves shrouded in quasi-
mystical language. The tragedy of FEW, which Mervyn so clearly 
illustrates, is that Bhaskar's own new irrealist humanism is a return 
to precisely the mode of thought that Marx sought to leave behind.

Roy's work developing realism in philosophy paves the way for a 
genuinely realist socialist humanism, allowing us to take up and 
develop Marx's critique of capitalist modernity in the 21st century. 
Now, in the face of a growing global crisis, when the utmost clarity 
is vital, the very last thing we need is to turn away from the the 
possibility of seeing the world unshrouded by mysticism. 

Keep it up Mervyn, 


Nick Hostettler,
Department of Political Studies,
SOAS (University of London),
Thornaugh Street,
Russell Square,
London WC1H 0XG

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