File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0106, message 53


Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2001 13:43:38 +0100
Subject: Re: BHA: Re: Marx, Bhaskar and self-consciousness


Hi Sean,

Thanks for this stimulating contribution. I agree with much, but have
reservations on a number of important points.

Since you raise the issue, let me say what my motives in posting the
quote from Marx's letter to Ruge were. I had (have) agreed to review
James Daly's new book *Deals and Ideals: Two Concepts of Enlightenment*
Greenwich Exchange, London 2000 for JCR(Alethia). Here is a summary of
the argument of the book in a promo James sent to me (presumably
authored by himself) (I think it very relevant to this thread).

********************
*Deals and Ideals* criticizes the belief in a unique and uniquely modern
"Enlightenment" whose political and ecomomic deal-making concept of
rationality can be found in Hobbes, Hume and Bentham; it argues that
this is a return to the convention theory of the Sophists. It advocates
the antithetical tradition of enlightenment, which is based on the
idea(l)s of a scientific but spiritual rationality, which they rejected
and which is now thought to belong only to "the East". The basic
principles of this enlightenment are found in the dialectical natural
law tradition deriving from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and found in
the Stoics and the Scholastics, especially  Thomas Aquinas. (The author
is critical of their social application in ancient slavery and feudal
serfdom). The book argues that the German Idealist criticism of the
Anglo-French Enlightenment  was compromised by an accommodation to a
Hobbesian concept of human nature, with its justification of private
property in the means of production on the basis of the bourgeois
ideology of a pre-social, a-social and anti-social abstract universal
"Man". It argues that this defect was overcome by Marx's Aristotelian
and Feuerbachian humanist dialectic, which is today being recovered from
the many misunderstandings and distortions of Marx's thought, often
traceable to (Lukacs's) "bourgeois (Cartesian) antinomies". Marx's
concern, for instance, with the humanist need to integrate the economic
and the political was reduced by his followers to an alienated amoral
economic and technological base/superstructure determinism. This
mechanistic social engineering approach is connected to empiricism,
whereas Marx's philosophy of science was the realist one (found today in
Roy Bhaskar) of the discovery of essences behind appearances. Deals and
Ideals includes original, comprehensive and detailed treatments of  the
concepts of rationality, relativism, nature, freedom, justice, and
progress. 
***************

On this view, Marx, though an atheist (for whom however atheism would be
superseded in communism and history proper), had a fundamentally
religious sensibility and, as the inheritor of German Idealism, belongs
essentially within the older rationalist and idealist tradition of
dialectical enlightenment. In short, and stated very bluntly, the
interpretation of Marx has been hi-jacked by the bourgeois
enlightenment, and James wants to restore him to his rightful tradition,
where his values can be seen to be 

"ontological values: that is what he [Marx] means when he calls them
'naturalism and humanism', 'the total redemption of humanity' and 'the
true resurrection of nature'. They are the realisation in nature,
through human nature and spirit, of the absolutely good and beautiful
(the noble, the fine, the generous); the totality of the fully natural
and rational, the total self-realisation of nature in the community of
all humankind, in the infinity of the shared 'I-thou' relationship which
... Levinas calls justice and the thought of which he says is 'first
philosophy'." [MJD, 41]

James locates Bhaskar, including the later Bhaskar, similarly - see his
review of FEW in the last Alethia. His argument about Marx is made at
much greater length in his *Marx, Justice and Dialectic* Greenwich
Exchange 1996. I think he makes a powerful case, and it might be that
the work of Ellis on essentialism (which I haven't read) will strengthen
it.

To prepare myself for the review, I decided inter alia to re-read the
young Marx together with key later Marx texts. Re-reading the passage I
cited from the letter to Ruge I recalled that Bhaskar cites it
approvingly somewhere, but couldn't find where - so I asked the List
(alas, without result to date!).

I had been struck by the similarities between the young Marx and the
later Bhaskar and said so, but didn't spell them out. I was *not*
intending

>to show that early Marx (in common with late 
>Bhaskar) holds the view that human emancipation can be achieved simply 
>through self-knowledge of self-alienation,

I don't think this is a view that either Marx held, at any rate for
long, or Bhaskar holds. If the youthful Marx flirted with it
momentarily, he'd certainly dropped it by 1844. While the Bhaskar of FEW
sometimes seems to espouse it, he is very explict that TDCR presupposes
and is a development of DCR, so that a fair interpretation seems to be
that the details of the structural 'dialectics of action' elaborated in
DPF must be supplied by the reader, rather than assumed to have been
displaced (they are certainly invoked in FEW in their generality).

I had in mind rather some of the other things you mention:

>commitment to the concept of a society in which 'the free development of
>each is the condition of the free development of all.' 

>'the 
>Eden/Fall/ Eudaimonia dialectic' 


>'class society and capitalism alienate our essential human communality, and 
>are historically necessary for us to achieve it in full self-consciousness.' 

I would add (but don't claim exhaustiveness):

* the human being is essentially (by nature) free but in demi-
reality/class society everywhere in chains
* Bhaskar's concept of 'demi-reality' as a distinct zone of being could
well have its origins in Marx's 'realm of estrangement'
* a dialectic of self-realization issuing in recovery of essential
selves/ communal destiny
* the notion of shedding - of ideology, ignorance and alienating and
oppressive strutures 
* the concept of the 'rich man' of communism/eudaimonia.
* the indispensability of pervasive love and trust in communism/
eudaimonia
* emphasis on being, not having

You say re the early Marx:
>In substance, there 
>is nothing remotely idealist about this humanism,

James argues plausibly that Marx 'did not reject idealism in the sense
of defining things critically, like Socrates in terms of their ideal',
but 'only in a sense peculiar to Hegel, whose aim in philosophy was,
Marx thought, the *exact opposite* of ... Socrates [i.e.] to *idealise
existing* reality.' [MJD 39] 

The young Marx himself said that his 'consistent naturalism or humanism
differs both from idealism and materialism and is at the same time their
unifying truth'. (EPMS)

The three-part Schillerian dialectic, which you accept Marx espoused,
hails from the older tradition of dialectical enlightenment, which James
plausibly argues is 'essentially a religious response to reality' (MJD,
32), and it seems to me that Marx's version retains some fundamental
affinities. Thus communism is the true realization of the yearnings and
aspirations which find alienated expression in religion. It's made
necessary and possible by the Fall into private property and capitalism: 

'Private property has made us so stupid and one-sided that an object is
only ours when we *have* it...*all* the physical and intellectual senses
have been replaced by the simple *estrangement* of all these senses -
the sense of *having*. So that it might give birth to its inner wealth,
human nature had to be reduced to this abolute poverty.'

In FEW, Bhaskar casts what seems to me an essentially similar idea in
more philosophical terms: humanity fell into alienation and having
because this is a transcendentally necessary condition of possibility
for us "to become self-consciously aware of the true nature of
ourselves" (150) - "there could be no enlightenment without avidya and .
. .  if we are already enlightened, no recognition or realisation of it
without a prior forgetting (or fall)". 

What is the Bhaskarian 'true nature of ourselves'? - if you leave out
the notion that we are emergent forms of God, it of course bears many
simliaritities with Marx's: essentially one or united as a species
(Marx's species-being); essentially creative; oriented to being, not
having; enlightened, not ignorant; and, above all, free.

I don't want to say of course that there can't be a secular Schillerian
dialectic. The transition from pre-class to class societies is after all
a world-historical fact, and it is precisely this that is widely
registered in myths of a Fall and of a Golden Age. Further, I think one
could draw on Hegel to make a powerful argument that class society was
necessary for the achievement of a fuller self- and species-
consciousness than could obtain in hunger-gatherer society.

Re pervasive love and trust - I reckon it's a condition of possibility
of a society in which 'the free development of each [is] a condition of
the free development of all'. It's not the case that there's no explicit
textual evidence in Marx. James is fond of quoting *Excerpts from James
Mill's Elements of Political Economy 1844* in which unalienated labour
is viewed as the free expression of human nature, based on love and
mutual affirmation: 

'Let us suppose we had produced as human beings [in a fully human
manner]. Each of us would have *doubly affirmed* himself and his
neighbour in his production.... I would ... know myself to be confirmed
both in your thoughts and your love. In the individual expression of my
own life I would have brought about the immediate expression of your
life, and so in my individual activity I would have directly *confirmed*
and *realized* my authentic  nature, my *human, communal* nature. Our
productions would be as many mirrors from which our nature would shine
forth.'

As James points out, this positive view of unalienated production is
'presupposed by the longer and negative section on alienated labour in
EPMS'. Such a view should not of course surprise on the part of one who
had cut his philosophical teeth on Hegel:

"The younger Hegel had been explicit that *desire*, in love, includes
the *desire to be desired*, and loved, and that this drive incorporates
the desire to be united with the loved one - a paramorph for the desire
for *de-alienation*, that is, for the restoration, perhaps in a much
more complex and differentiated totality, of the unity between the agent
and everything essential to her nature (i.e. from the standpoint of
totality, a part of herself)." (Bhaskar, DPF: 243)


Also, Sean, in the following you seem to concede the case about love:

>Our self-conscious capacity to 'put 
>ourselves in the place of our fellows is mediated by our sociality and 
>rationality, and this translates into the deep seated human desire 'to do 
>good to all known others', to treat others as we would ourselves like to be 
>treated.

The Golden Rule *means* 'love thy neighbour as thyself'.

Love, Mervyn






Sean Creaven <seancreaven-AT-hotmail.com> writes
>Hi everyone,
>
>I would like to make a few comments on the recent absorbing posts on 
>irrealism and realism in Marx and Bhaskar.
>
>The issue of the 'epistemological break separating 'realist' mature Marx 
>from 'irrealist' immature Marx seems to be a slant on the more traditional 
>view which conceives this in terms of an absolute dichotomy between 
>'scientific Marx' (the structuralist) and 'ideological Marx' (the humanist).
>
>Either way, I agree with Ruth. I do not think this is a particularly
>illuminating way of addressing the question of Marxs philosophical
>trajectory.
>
>Nick writes:
>
>'Before Marx pushed through his rounded critiqiue of political economy he 
>too was operating on the irreal terrain of Hegel and Kant... 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 It was only 
>as this process of critique issued in a positive alternative to idealist 
>irrealism that Marx developed the epistemic break with irrealism.'
>
>Now immature Marx did indeed tend to wrap his thoughts in mystical Hegelian 
>language, though this tendency was not altogether absent from old Marx. 
>Marx's early writings (see especially the 'Paris
>Manuscripts') were clearly influenced in terms of their rhetorical form by 
>Hegel's teleological philosophy of history. Thus Marx did famously declare 
>that 'communism is the riddle of history solved', and he did refer to 
>socialism as the 'destiny' of humankind, and to dialectic as the
>'unconscious tool of history' in bringing about socialist revolution (Marx, 
>1959: 101).
>
>But admitting this much does not establish that 'young Marx' was
>fundamentally irrealist in his philosophy (from 1843 onwards). Certainly,
>there is no real evidence (other than the occasional mystical turn of
>phrase) that the humanism of Marx's early writings is grasped as a unity of 
>spirit or that he sees the unfolding of human consciousness as driving 
>history towards its rational telos in the secular utopia. In fact, Marx's 
>humanism is informed by a particular materialist understanding of humanity's 
>species-being. This is human nature as an aspect of natural history, as 
>absolutely dependent on the organic and inorganic worlds (Marx, 1959: 67), 
>and as the bearer of distinctive causal powers  including labour, 
>sociality, rationality, language and self.
>
>This understanding of species-being as essentially rational, sociable and
>co-operative was the basis of Marx's critique of alienation in the
>'Manuscripts', from which there is no evidence of departure in his later
>works postdating 'The German Ideology'. Here Marx argues that the
>estrangement of species-life from social life (the essentially co-operative 
>sociality of human nature) is manifested in the 'Robinsonades' of classical 
>liberal theory, and in the social relationships of commodity production. 
>These 'alienate species-life and individual life  turning the latter as an 
>abstraction into the purpose of the former  incorporating private property 
>into the very essence of man' (Marx, 1964:  127,148).
>
>For Marx, then, it is the frustration of the needs and tendencies of 
>socialised humanity in class-divided societies that ensure that communism is 
>historically necessary, the 'riddle of history solved.' In substance, there 
>is nothing remotely idealist about this humanism, even if the Hegelian form 
>of the language deployed sometimes obscures this fact. Marx does not base 
>his anthropology on any transcendent principle, such as 'universal 
>unconditional love.'
>
>Nor is Marxs humanist philosophy essentially teleological, in the way often 
>attributed to it. Young Marx does not claim that human history inevitably or 
>necessarily terminates in communism, despite his claim that communism is the 
>goal of history. On the contrary, in the Manuscripts, Marx explicitly 
>disavows this interpretation, arguing that communism is historically 
>necessary only in the sense of being the necessary precondition for a 
>disalienated human existence:
>
>'Communism is  hence the "actual" phase necessary for the next stage of 
>human development in the process of human emancipation  but communism as 
>such is not the goal of human development' (Marx, 1959: 101).
>
>The only passage in the totality of Marx's writings where he claims 
>unambiguously that socialism is historically inevitable is to be found in 
>the Manifesto (i.e. the famous 'gravediggers' slogan). But it has always 
>seemed to me that attributing teleologism to young Marx, on the basis of a 
>slice of political rhetoric in an essentially propagandist pamphlet, is 
>stretching it a wee tad!
>
>I conclude from my own reading of Marx (young and old) that substantive
>evidence linking him to irrealist humanism or idealist historical closure
>(Hegel's closed totalities) is rather scant. Of course, this does not mean 
>that young Marx was a critical realist or historical materialist or 
>accomplished critic of capitalism. He did not manage the difficult trick of 
>formulating Marxism before Marxism. But it does suggest that the young Marx 
> old Marx relation is better understood in terms of continuity and 
>development than in terms of a radical break. I have argued at length 
>elsewhere that Marx's naturalistic humanism (young Marx) and structural 
>sociology (mature Marx) are not incompatible elements of his philosophy and 
>social theory, but constitute a unified theoretical and analytical whole 
>that is broadly consistent with critical realism (Creaven, 2000).
>
>All of this, I think, sheds a little light on Mervyns contribution to the 
>debate. Mervyn argues:
>
>'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.'
>
>Mervyn's point is that 'early Marx' and 'late Bhaskar' share a common
>commitment to the concept of a society in which 'the free development of
>each is the condition of the free development of all.' I think he is right 
>to argue this. He is also right to say that mature Marx never abandoned 'the 
>Eden/Fall/ Eudaimonia dialectic' of his youth. Again, I think he is 
>(uncontroversially) right to argue this. For Marx, in common with Bhaskar, 
>'class society and capitalism alienate our essential human communality, and 
>are historically necessary for us to achieve it in full self-consciousness.' 
>So far so good.
>
>But this is where the unity of young Marx and Bhaskar's 'From East to West' 
>terminates. Marx's anthropology does not commit him to the view that 
>communist society entails/depends on 'unconditional love' ('that people 
>pervasively love and trust each other'). Instead it is rooted in the concept 
>of species-being as bearer of core properties and powers (sociality, 
>co-operation, self-consciousness, rationality). It is these properties which 
>support the craving for egalitarianism, communalism and distributive justice 
>that has energised social struggles against those power structures which 
>frustrate them throughout human history. Our self-conscious capacity to 'put 
>ourselves in the place of our fellows is mediated by our sociality and 
>rationality, and this translates into the deep seated human desire 'to do 
>good to all known others', to treat others as we would ourselves like to be 
>treated. Further, because we are rationally self-conscious, we know that the 
>emancipation of each of us is dependent on the emancipation of all, since 
>reconstructed class societies always subordinate the many to the few.
>
>What evidence is there that Marx bases his concept of communism on the
>potential inherent in humanity for unconditional love? None at all, that I 
>can see. But what of Mervyn's view that young Marx's dialectic of freedom is 
>a secularised version of the religious idea of the Fall and eventual 
>preordained reunification of humanity and God as spirit? (Mervyn, I hope 
>this a fair interpretation of your view). Of course, Marx is for human 
>emancipation, but this does not automatically gift his thought religious 
>sensibilities or affiliations, despite his borrowing of the odd concept or 
>metaphor from the religious sphere (such as notions of 'confession' and 
>'forgiveness' and 'sin'). Nor does it commit him to historical teleology of 
>the kinds characteristic of religious thought. If Mervyn's purpose in citing 
>Marx's letter to Ruge is to show that early Marx (in common with late 
>Bhaskar) holds the view that human emancipation can be achieved simply 
>through self-knowledge of self-alienation, this strategy is not really 
>successful.
>
>Here Marx argues that the reform of consciousness depends on the rational
>critique of mysticism in all its forms. This is an abiding theme of young 
>Marx. But its meaning is ambiguous. Is Marx arguing that simply acquiring 
>self-knowledge of alienation will liberate humanity, or is he saying that 
>acquiring self-knowledge is the key to overcoming alienation because 'all 
>else follows' once emancipatory philosophy has gripped the people. I would 
>say that the latter interpretation is more plausible. Thus in 1843 Marx 
>argued that 'the emancipation of the human being' will be accomplished by an 
>alliance whose 'head  is philosophy, its heart  the proletariat', a 'class 
>with radical chains' (Marx and Engels, 1975: 187).
>
>This position is not Marxist. It is replete with elitism and dualism. But, 
>nonetheless, even young Marx did not see human freedom as simply 'reform of 
>consciousness' by means of demystifying alienation. Ideas had to be 
>materialised in practical agency to become real in their social and cultural 
>effects, and these ideas were themelves anchored in the material world to 
>start with. Alienation was a material not spiritual phenomenon, rooted in 
>the social relations of commodity production. The role of philosophy was not 
>to legislate for worldly struggles. Already the gap between philosophy and 
>the world is narrow:
>
>'We do not confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle:
>Here is the truth, kneel down before it! We develop new principles for the 
>world out of the worlds own principles. We do not say to the world: Cease 
>your struggles, they are foolish; we will give you the true slogans of 
>struggle. We merely show the world what it is really fighting for' 
>(Marx,1975, letter to Ruge, CW 3: 144).
>
>Regards
>
>Sean
>
>_________________________________________________________________________
>Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com.
>
>
>
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-- 
Mervyn Hartwig
13 Spenser Road
Herne Hill
London SE24 ONS
United Kingdom
Tel: 020 7 737 2892
Email: mh-AT-jaspere.demon.co.uk


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