File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-29.113, message 20

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 15:22:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: M-I: Andrew Wayne Austin


Actually, I think Ingo Wotschek implied that praxis *was* what was central
to Marxism. He even raises the question as to whether Marxian thought can
even be conceived of as a theory if its purpose is to provide guidelines
for praxis. I disagree with your characterization of praxis as "shit." I
think praxis is central to social production and revolution. As for the
question regarding Kant and the transcendental subject, I apologize; it
was unclear to me that you sought an immediate response on Kant. I was
trying the keep the debate on topic (or at least what I thought was the
topic). I will study your question and the text and fashion a response. 

Thank you.

On Mon, 27 Jan 1997, MA&NG Jones wrote:

> Andrew:
>  Wotschek did not specifically say praxis is shit, but I will. Praxis is
> shit.
> Sorry to bang on old lad, but you have not responded to my earlier posts
> (a) excerpting Alfred Sohn-Rethel and (b) my post, copied below.
> Instead of flannelling on, please answer the spceific question: is S-R's
> indentification of the Kantian Transcendental Subject with the
> exchange-abtsraction inherent in commodity-exchange, correct OR NOT?
> -- 
> Regards,
> Mark Jones
> from my post of:  
>          Sun, 26 Jan 1997 12:53:31 +0000
>          " In a post this morning it was suggested that there existed a
> transcendental subject. It was also admitted that Marx did not 
> believe
> this. I agree with Marx. There is no Abolute Idea. "
> Wayne, I also agree with Marx (for what it is worth) and so did Sohn-
> Rethel: his whole point was that Kant's 'Transcendental Subject' was 
> fetishistic, was a product of the fantastic, reality-inverting world of 
> commodity-fetishism. Pity if you throw out the baby with the bath-
> water.
> If you don't accept the point of S-R's critique of epistemology - that 
> you cannot explain the results or categories of Newtonian science 
> from direct observation, because these results/categories are ipso 
> facto transcendental, then how DO you explain the immanentism of 
> Newtonian science? By recourse to positivism? The Diamat? What?
> I hate to make this sound like a viva, but if you do not grasp this 
> point then you are still trapped a sociological conception of marxism 
> and an idealistic conception not only of science but its subject.
> BTW, we can surely forget Althusser who admitted at the end that he 
> had never actually read Capital himself.
> Wayne says: Note that even if the dialectic we hold subjectively is a 
> reflection of an
> objective dialectic inherent in nature, we would still behold this
> dialectic subjectively.
> Who, in the endless iteration of beholding subjects this suggests, 
> is the ultimate "we" doing the ultimate "beholding"?
> Bourgeois philosophy is a leaking 
> ship: transcendentalism seeps in everywhere. Also in your 
> formulations of the matter here and throughout your piece. 
> That is why we need to acknolwedge the old bastard, the kantian TS,
>  and give him a home at last, instead of letting him wander around
> like Hamlet's ghost (the proper home being the commodity-form and the 
> fetishised forms of thought arising from it).
> Wayne said: Humans humanize their world through the labor process. The
> material life-process is social practice at its most foundational level.
> The labor process in interaction with nature materializes the known and
> knowable world. [you immediately ad: "Marx regarded it irrelevant to 
> speak of nature independent of humans, because one cannot stand 
> outside their humanity, even as the most extreme points of
> self-alienation." 
> but infortunately this is what you do most of the time].
> This takes talk of 'humanizing the world ' and 'material life-process'
>  us straight back to Engels, the human hand, origins of 
> labour etc; again it is to anthropomorphise labour, the very thing you 
> are supposed to be warning us off. Where, actually, is commodity-
> exchange, the commodity-form and the exchange-abstraction in all 
> this? If, as you seem to say, Marixsm unites method and result -- that 
> he (Marx) eschews a priori laws and therefore methods of research: then 
> how is it even possible to talk about 'the dialectic' without talking 
> about Marx's specific investigation of the commodity-form? 
> You surely cannot say, as yoiu go on to do, 
> "The labor process in interaction with nature materializes the known 
> and knowable world. "
>  without negating the very thing you are trying to prove: namely that 
> *for us* nature is not a priori, ie, we only *see* and more to the
> point, 
> *construct* nature *socially*; once again, the fantasised *abstract-
> universal* of nature creeps into your thinking, and why? Because 
> you have not purged it of its fantasised Transcendental Subject.
>  You next quote Marx: "Man makes his life-activity itself the object 
> of his will and his consciousness." 
> Exactly that is the pooint: Marx never even allows 
> some fantasised Nature into his discourse: it is not, for KM, "The 
> labor process in interaction with nature [that] materializes the known 
> and knowable world." but 'Man's life-activity [which is] itself the 
> object'.  Marx himself has been accused of  anthropologising labour 
> for exactly this kind of remark, but it seems clear to me anyway that 
> Marx discriminates only methodologicaly between a domain which 
> is knowable to us directly, ie objectively (the social world of labour) 
> and a domain which is not thus knowable, which is therefore only 
> knowable (in class-based, commodity producing, dualistic societies, 
> which his was and ours still is) in a reified, fetishised, fantastic
> form, 
> and which THEREFORE, for this (methodological) reason only, he 
> excludes ab initio from his investigation.
> This is why Marx on society is (proletarian) science whereas Engels 
> (and Marx) on nature  is not, in my opinion. Engels and Marx may 
> both have written about nature and natural science thinmgs
> that may often have been right, insightful and even profound,  as 
> well as often worng or irrelevant, but in any case what they wrote
>  was NOT science, proletarian or otherwise.
> Since the whole purpose and object of Marx's critique of political 
> economy was to show how the social world has been constructed 
> historically out of the natural world (over disucssion of which his
> Trappist vow 
> held), it follows that for Karl Marx all of natural science - 
> physics, chemistry, biology - is radically fetishistic and will not
> exist 
> under Communism BECAUSE under communism, society itself, qua 
> reified labour and the social division of alienated labour, will also 
> not exist. No TS. Therefore no immanent object.
> No society. Therefore no Nature.
> Marx's implied (but never more than sketched) critique of (bourgeois)
> natural 
> science is therefore wholly destructive of all its pretensions, as 
> Engels's was not and could not have been. Which is no insult to 
> Engels.
> Your quotes are the best there are, but I'm not sure about how you use
> them! 
> For instance: Marx:
> "The object of labor is, therefore, the objectification of man's species
> life [ie, the object of labour is NOT, according to KM, "interaction 
> with nature [which] materializes the known and knowable world" as 
> you have said only moments before, but the 'objectification of 
> mankind's species life,', alone: this is either a cumbersome 
> and convoluted way for Marx to say 'Nature' or is Marx exactly not 
> saying 'Nature' but speaking instead only of knowledge of 
> 'man's species life']: for he duplicates himself not only, 
> as in consciousness, intellectually, but also actively, in reality. 
> and therefore he contemplates himself in a world he created. 
> In tearing away from man the object of his production, therefore, 
> estranged labor tears from him his species life, his real species 
> objectivity." Marx could not have been clearer (I can't think of a 
> clearer way to put it, anyhow): labour, which is always social (as 
> KM's criticisms of Robinson Crusoe-ades shows), ie, labour which 
> produces society as its object THEREBY denies humankind its own 
> objectivity, denies it the possibility of  self-knowledge (those who 
> make a political and theoretical fetish of 'labour', usually 
> because of a glorifying of the industrial working class not merely as 
> the gravedigger of capitalism but as the subsequent Builder of 
> Communism, have not followed Marx's argument but instead make 
> the mistake of absolutising this century's glorious, but failed, 
> experiments in the construction of socialism, rather than learning the 
> lessons of this failure).
>  Your way of thinking reproduces this, IMO, erroneous view of 
> Marxism line by line: "First, Marx is arguing that human beings say, 
> imagine, and conceive laws, truth, facts, etc.. Laws, truth, and facts 
> are not self-objectifying. [good, I agree, this is truly what Marx 
> thinks]. They have a conceptual foundation that emerges from 
> the real material life process of human beings [but that is exactly 
> what KM *does not* think -- not real material life but real social life,
>  etc -- you elide the distinction Marx made in the process of
> explicating it]."
> I do not propose to comment on your thoughts about Engels's alleged 
> racism etc.
> You quote Avineri. Unfortunately or not I have lost my copy of this 
> book. I know I had one, in the days when I used to subscribe to Verso
> book club.
> But as is already clear both from your own preceding 
> analysis and from what I have just opined, Marx was not guilty of the 
> pop-sociological philistinism Avineri attributes to him. [you cite]: 
> "According to Marx, nature cannot be discussed as if it were severed 
> from human action, for nature as a potential object for human 
> cognition has already been affected by previous human action or 
> contact. Hence nature is never an opaque datum. The phrases 
> 'humanized nature' and 'humanism equals naturalism' recur in Marx's 
> writings, and 'naturalism' in his sense is virtually the opposite of 
> what is generally implied by this term in traditional philosophical 
> discussion. "
> I think this is all bullshit, frankly. The succeeding quotes from 
> Avineri are less senseless but they surely belong in an outdated Marx 
> primer, not here. Your own discussion of the issues is far better!
> I omit my comments on the rest of your argy-bargy with co-respondents, 
> which mostly is just spleen venting and does not advance matters much.
> In the end Austin repeats what he has already made us familiar with 
> as his view. 
> Austin says: "Do I believe nature is a social construction? No. I 
> believe that nature exists mind-independently. I believe that nature is 
> prior to human being. I believe in physical reality."
> This is mere catechism. I defy anyone to find a similar set of 
> unforced (and philosophically idealist) statements anywhere in 
> Marx's writings.
>      --- from list ---

     --- from list ---


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