File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0104, message 4

Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2001 07:46:38 -0600
Subject: The Desire Named Marx is a Hydra


Yes, I agree with you.  Marx today definitely has an image problem. 
Perhaps he should hire the same firm that does those cool "Target" ads
and commercials.  If the public relations and advertising companies can
convince the American public that toxic sludge is good for you and that
Bush is fit to be our president, then rehabilitating Marx should be a
fairly easy task.

In your last post, when you raise questions about plutocracy and the
concentration of power, I believe you are already situating yourself in
a Marxian orbit, whether you want to call it this or not.

Certainly, I don't think it is really possible to evaluate Lyotard
either unless you take into account his relationship with Marx. Whether
this is the early political writings on Algeria, his involvement with
the Socialisme ou Barbarie group, his chapter in "The Libidinal Economy"
entitled "The Desire Named Marx", the last chapter of "The Differend"
entitled "The Sign of History" his essay "Kant after Marx", his
autobiographical remarks in "Pereginations" entitled "A Memorial of
Marxism". I believe it is impossible to understand Lyotard unless you
are willing to consider his work, at least in part, as a continuing
meditation on Marxism.

I agree that for the most part, this meditation is a critical one, but
what is the version of Marx Lyotard is critiquing?  In "A Memorial of
Marxism" it is clear, at least to me, that it is primarily the
"objective" form of Marxist-Leninism which superimposes a philosophy of
dialectical materialism on history which it views teleologically as
leading to a dictatorship of the proletariat which will retrospectively
give a final meaning to history.

Needless to say, this is not the version of Marx, I am arguing for. 
Instead, if you read any of the autonomist interpretations of Marx such
as those given by Harry Cleaver or Antonio Negri, to name just two,
there is more subjective understanding of conflict and struggle by
autonomous agents that shares much in common with the argument Lyotard
made in "The Differend". Namely, that "it is a case of conflict, between
(at least) two parties, that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a
rule of judgment applicable to both arguments."

In fact, I would say that the autonomists extend Lyotard's argument in
new directions, since the way Lyotard frames it tends at times to be
overly passive and presumes too much hegemony in the relationship of

The public relations industry wants us to think that history offers us
only two choices - capitalism or socialism, and since the Soviet
experiment has failed, capitalism wins by default - the end of history.

There is also some weak-kneed babbling about a "third way" which is
basically nothing more than a leaner, meaner, down-sized welfare state.

I would say that autonomist Marxism, Lyotard, Negri, Castoriadis,
Deleuze and Guattari offer us a fourth way, if that was not too limiting
a way to speak of it.  For what these philosophies really offer is an
emergence into multiplicities, autonomy and self-valorization by agents
whose perspective is no longer contained within the scope of a dominated
job economy.

Consider the fact that Lyotard and Castoriadis were both involved in the
Socialisme ou Barbarie group; that Negri and Guattari co-authored a book
together ("Communists Like Us"); that Deleuze published a statement
urging Negri be pardoned; that in many respects,  "The Libidinal
Economy" is a book writtened in response to "Anti-Oedipus".

What you have here is maybe not a movement, but certainly an extended
family of shared, intertwined intellectual relationships in relation to
which Marx stands proud as a kind of godless Godfather.

I am not attempting to argue with you here, Hugh.  I have known you long
enough as a member of this group to recognize that we probably share
more in common politically than what divides us.  I would simply
encourage you to start making linkages yourself with these various
philosophies and to uncover more of their political implications.  There
is a convergence going on here.  One we all need to understand and

Don't listen to the advertising and public relation firms too much.  The
stuff they are selling you is junk anyway.


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