ETIENNE BALIBAR - Cesar Mangolin BALIBAR Translated by ... famous of these is 'dialectical materialism', ... (sec Henri Lefebvre, Dialectical Materialism

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    "Succinct and informative"Fredric Jameson

    "A trenchant and exciting analysis of the philosophy of Marx"Immanuel Wallerstein

  • The Philosophy of Marx


    Translated by Chris Turner


    ,,,ton. N"w Yor"

  • This book has bWl publisNd wiJh fimmci4lslIpport from tN Frmch Ministry of Fo"ign Affairs -

    Sous-Dirtxtion tk Ia Politiqur du Livrr

    First published in English by Verso 1995 This edition published by Vel'so 2007 Vel'so 1995, 2007

    Translation Chris Turner i 995, 2007 Firs! published as LA philosophie tk Marx La Decouverte, collection 'tepem;' 1993

    All rights reserved

    The moral rights of che author and transl.tor have been asserted


    Vena UK: 6 Mean! Smct, London WI F OEG

    USA: 180 Vorick Street, New York, NY 10014-4606

    VetsO is the imprint of New Left Books

    ISBN-13: 978-1-84467-187-8

    Bria.h Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for chis book is available from the British Library

    Library of Congress CataJosing-in-Public:ation Data A catalog record for this book is available from che Library of Congress

    Printed in the USA by Courier Stoughton Inc.

  • Contents

    1 Marxist Philosophy or Marx's Philosophy? 1

    Philosophy and non-philosophy A break and ruptures

    2 Changing the World: From Praxis to Production 13

    The Theses on Feuerbach Revolution against philosophy Praxis and class struggle The two sides of idealism The subject is practice The reality of the 'human essence' An ontology of relations Stirner's objection (The) German Ideology The revolutionary overturning of history The unity of practice

    3 Ideology or Fetishism: Power and Subjection 42

    Theory and practice The autonomy and limits of consciousness ] n tellectu a I difference The aporia of ideology 'Commodity fetishism' The necessity of appearances Marx and idealism (reprise) 'Reification' Exchange and obligation: the symbolic in Marx


    The question of 'human rights' From the idol to the fetish

    4 Time and Progress: Another Philosophy of History? 80

    The negation of the negation The Marxist ideologies of progress The wholeness of history A schema of causality (dialectic I) The instance of the class struggle The 'bad side' of history Real contradiction (dialectic II) The truth of economism (dialectic III)

    5 Science and Revolution

    Three philosophical pathways Incomplete works For and against Marx

    Notes Bibliograpbical Guide


    123 132

  • 1

    Marxist Philosophy or Marx's


    The general idea of this little book is to understand and explain why Marx will still be read in the twenty-first century, not only as a monument of the past, but as a contemporary author - contemporary both because of the questions he poses for philosophy and because of the concepts he offers it. Limiting myself to what seem to me the essentials, I would like to give readers a means of finding their bearings in Marx's writings and introduce them to the debates which they have prompted. I would also like to defend a somewhat paradoxical thesis: whatever may have been thought in the past, there is no Marxist philosophy and there never will be; on the other hand, Marx is more important for philosophy than ever before.

    We have first to come to some understanding on the meaning of 'Marxist philosophy' This expression might refer to two quite different things, though the tradition of orthodox Marxism, which developed at the end of the nineteenth century and was institutionalized by the Communist state-parties after 1931 and 1945, considered them indissociable: the 'world-view' of the socialist movement, based on the idea of the historic role of the working class, and the system attributed to Marx. Let us note right away that neither of these ideas is strictly connected with the other. Various terms have been invented to express the philosophical content common to Marx's work and to the political and social movement which acted in his name: the most famous of these is 'dialectical materialism', a relatively late term and one inspired by the use Engels had made of various of Marx's


    formulations. Others have contended that, strictly speaking, Marxist philosophy is not to be found in Marx's writings, but emerged retrospectively, as a more general and more abstract reflection on the meaning, principles and universal significance of his work; or, indeed, that it still remains to be constituted or formulated in systematic fashion. J Conversely, there has never been any shortage of philologists or critical thinkers to emphasize the distance between the content of Marx's texts and their later 'Marxist' fate, and to show that the existence of a philosophy in Marx in no way implies the subsequent existence of a Marxist philosophy.

    This debate may be settled in a manner as simple as it is radical. The events which marked the end of the great cycle during which Marxism functioned as an organizational doctrine (1890-1990), have added nothing new to the discussion itself, but have swept away the interests which oppo!ted its being opened up. There is, in reality, no Marxist philosophy, either as the world-view of a social movement, or as the doctrine or system of an author called Marx. Paradoxically, however, this negative conclusion, far from nullifying or diminishing the importance of Marx for philosophy, greatly increases it. Freed from an illusion and an imposture, we gain a theoretical universe.

    Philosophy and non-philosophy

    A new difficulty awaits us here. Marx's theoretical thinking presented itself, at various points, not as a philosophy, but as an alternative to philosophy, a non-philosophy or even an anti-philosophy. And it has perhaps been the greatest anti-philosophy of the modern age. For Marx, philosophy as he had learnt it, from the tradition which ran from Plato to Hegel, including more or less dissident materialists like Epicurus or Feuerbach, was in fact merely an individual undertaking aimed at interpreting the world. At best this led to leaving the world as it was; at worst, to transfiguring it.

    However, opposed as he was to the traditional form and usages of philosophical discourse, there can be little doubt that he did himself interlace his historico-social analyses and proposals for political action with philosophical statements. He has been


    Dialectical materialism

    This term was used to refer to philosophy in the official doctrine of the Communist parries, and it has also been employed by a number of critics of that docttine (sec Henri Lefebvre, Dialectical Materialism (1940) trans. John Sturrock, Cape, london, 1968. It was not used by either Marx {who spoke of his 'dialectical method'~ or Engels (who uses the expression 'materialist dialectic'), but seems to have been invented in 1887 by Joseph Dietzgen, a socialist worker who corresponded with Marx. It was, however, on the basis of Engels's work that Lenin developed this theory (in Materialism a/ld Empirio-criticism, 1908) around three guiding themcs: the 'materialist inversion' of the Hegelian dialectic; the historicity of ethical principles in their relarion to the class struggle; and the convergence of the 'laws of evolution' in physics (Helmholtz), biology (Darwin) and political economy (Marx). Lenin thus takes lip a position hetween a historicist Marxism (Labriola) and a determinist Marxism, akin to 'Social Darwinism' (Kalltsky). After the Russian Revolution, Soviet philosophy was divided between the 'dialecticians' (Deborin) and the 'mechanists' (Illlkharin). The debate was settled by General Secretary Stalin who, in 1931, issued a decree identifying dialectical materialism with Marxism-Leninism (d. Rene Zapata, Luttes philosophiques en URSS 1922-31, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1983). Seven years later, in the pamphlet Dialectical and Historical Materialism (1938), he codified its content, enumerating the laws of the dialectic - the foundation of the individual disciplines and of the science of history in particular, as well as the a pT/ori guarantee of their conformity to the 'proletarian world-view' This system, known as diamat for short, was to be imposed on the whole of intellectual life in the socialist countries and, with varying degrees of resistance, on Western Communist parties. It was to serve to cement the ideology of the party-State and control the activity of scientists (d. the Lysenko affair, studied by Dominique Lecourt in Proletarian Science? The Case of Lysenko. trans. Ben Brewster, New Left Books, London, 1977). However, we should add two correctives to this monolithic picture. Firstly, as early as 1937, with his essay 'On Contradiction' (in Four Essays 0'/ Philosophy, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1966), Mao Tse-Tung had proposed an alternative conception, rejecting the idea of the 'laws of the dialectic' and stressing the complexity of contradiction (Althusser would later draw on this in his 'Contradiction and Overdctcrmination', in For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster, Penguin, l-Iarmondsworth, 1969; first French edition, 1965~. Secondly, at least one school of thought - that led by Geymonat in Italy - made dialectical materialism the starting-point for a historical epistemology that is not without its merits (d. Andre Tosel, 'Ludovico Geymonat ou la lutte pour un matcrialisme dialectique nouveau', in Praxis. Vers une refondation en philusophie marxiste, MessidortEditions Sociales, Paris, 1984~.


    sufficiently criticized by positivism for doing this. What we need to establish, then, is w