Re: new interpretations of marx

Three cheers for David's terrific post on Postone et al.
I've just a few comments, mostly quibbles, on his remarx.

At 03:50 PM 10/15/97 -0500, you wrote:

>my point (i guess) being that if postone is successful in redefining what
>it is to be a marxist in this way, that i will certainly reconsider this
>label... and this is my question to the list: do you think that it would
>have also changed foucault's mind? is postone "silently waiting" at the
>corner of foucault and marx? (i say "silently" only because aside from my
>friend's recommendation, i have heard nothing about this radical new
>marxist vision despite its being published four years ago...)

I think to posit Postone as waiting at the crossroads, would to over-value
what is, as he calls it, a rereading of the Old Moor himself-- that "all
that" is fully implicit in Marx's writings, albeit not taken up in the
practical history of marxism. Having said this, two things: Postone's
reinterpretation stands out from most, all down the years, and I think
ranks with Althusser and Balibar's Reading Capital (would that this weren't
the US, and it were more feasible for this book to do real cultural work, a
la A&B's); and two, "all that" ain't actually possible to see with Marx's
texts in themselves (its not that P's is the right, true reading, in other

If there is anyone at these crossroads, it is most likely Adorno. His
vision of "the ruling disorder," the "admistered society," of the "open air
prison" our world is becoming, seems more than merely proto-Foucauldian (or
proto-Derridian, as he is often labeled). There is no transcendental
viewpoint in Adorno (et al), and his work is more than "simply" Weberian.
Its about the enchantment of the world more than disenchantment (and this
he shares with Marx, and perhaps Foucault if we attend to the role of
affect in subjectivation), and certainly there is a fine=grained analysis
of both a foundationalist, cause-and-effect type of analysis, and of the
dispersal of "power."
I agree the route is Nietzche, whom Adorno was never afraid of using,
despite N's reception in late Weimar.

> in this interpretation, postone has marx stealing much of nietzsche's
thunder... and this would mean that the second half of foucault's _the
order of things_ would have to be radically rewritten. this would make
much of the debate between marxists about whether marx was an hegelian or a
kantian entirely moot, in that both presuppose a standpoint from which to
view (or critique) the world that does not exist (the modernistic "view
from nowhere"), whereas postone has marx taking up foucault's position (which
>was also nietzsche's--see his critique of kant's idea of the
"thing-in-itself") which is a position of "historical relativism"--that
historical periods are characterized by completely different
epistemes(foucault's term), "collective representations" (durkheim's term), or
>"mediations" (postone's term).

I'm in basic agreement with you here. I too find the debate b/w the
properly Heglian or Kantian Marx moot, and often winds up smugging a
transcendent Marx back into the equation, by eliding the fact --
established by Althusser, Balibar, Spivak, perhaps Adorno -- that Marx is
not quite either, let alone a philosopher. We best find him in between
philosophy and science (economics, sociology), as a constant reminder that
the division of labor itself produces of division of knowledge. Lukacs
aside, Marxism cannot be made into good philosophy. It lacks an
"existential" dimension (as in the late Foucault) and is premised upon the
materialist critique of philosophy. This, as some of us know, can produce
a certain anti-intellectualism in some who fancy themselves marxist (Karl
Korsch is great on this, for one). But the point, really, is to make
philosophy worldly and, moreover, to make the world philosophical (to use
Cornel West's phrases).

Rather than calling Marx, or Foucault, a "historical relativist" (and I
note your own quotes here), I think its more accurate to call him -- them
-- radical historicists, and so, antifoundational: truth claims are
specific to partcicular groups, classes, or "communities" and their
institutional or non-discursive milieux. For the Marx of the Capitals, at
least, there is no Trans. standpoint. Thus Capital is written to, and for,
and from the standpoint of the proletariat. He or she is the addressee of
Marx's exhortations to use critical, political reason to
combat that spectre of reason which makes it seem -- which makes it true --
that social relations are governed by things, etc. For all of Marx and
Engels's teleological moments -- and they are there in the final
paragraphs of the Order of Things, too, and at the end of many of Derrida's
early essays, like Structure, Sign and Play --
the call to historicity is equally strong. Always and everywhere, Marx and
Hegelian Marxism are about mediations, not about a totality being the
simple sum of its parts (which is more Hegel, or bad Hegel). Foucault, of
course, is different here, as you note. And not just via "epistemes": in
many ways, his is an attempt to "do theory" or critique without Hegel,
dialectics and mediations. I thik he does do so, brilliantly, but not
without what Adorno would call "baleful enhancements": a lack, in my view,
of synechdocal or relational thinking. Though I'd be happy if someone
could clarify how this is not so. And yeah, those pages in TOT in re Marx
and Ricardo need rewritten; as if Foucalut himself were not in a C19
problematic called Nietzche. Cheap shot, to me.

Excuse the long response. Looking forward to discussing Postone,


>David J. Wiltsee
>Dept. of Economics
>University of Utah
Daniel Vukovich
English; Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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