Re: new interpretations of marx (a reply)

Daniel, and others,

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

Daniel, thank you for your generous response...
i only have a few quibbles with your quibbles...

> 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
> the US, and it were more feasible for this book to do real cultural work,
> la A&B's);

first, i do not know balibar's reading of capital, but i can say that while
althusser's reading certainly was influential, i do not regard it
highly--since its popularity, i believe, is simply due to althusser's
"positivism"... more on this later...

> 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
> words).

i could not agree more--in fact, i am suspicious of his interpretation on a
number of levels--but my point is that whether or not his interpretation of
marx is _really what marx meant_ is beside the point--that is, even if it
is only what marx should have said (in light of knowledge today)--it still
is of great importance... not only that but it may be even of greater

> If there is anyone at these crossroads, it is most likely Adorno. His
> vision of "the ruling disorder," the "admistered society," of the "open
> prison" our world is becoming, seems more than merely proto-Foucauldian
> proto-Derridian, as he is often labeled). There is no transcendental
> viewpoint in Adorno (et al), and his work is more than "simply" Weberian.

yes, adorno (the giant that he is) walks atop the mountains that separates
modernity with post-modernity. but the mountain tops are no place to
live... even giants must fear the falling... and so with adorno we have a
fearfully depressed man--who having rejected modernity finds himself nearly
alone trying to find his way to the other side... but he never really gets
there does he? this is postone's critique of the early frankfurters--and i
think that it is right on--that their philosophy of despair was a result of
their retaining the traditional (marxist) notion of the transcendental
proletariat (a critique of capitalism from the standpoint of labor)--this
rendered the world one-dimensional--since they (adorno et al) were aware
enough to recognize the "dark side" of the enlightenment, and realize that
this meant that there was no (or very little) hope for a proletarian

but with postone and foucault we clearly reach the safety of the other
side... the rational economic man (the laborer as well as the capitalist)
were inventions of the modern age... and with the coming of the next
neither will remain in place... for each presupposes the other... the
capitalist's and the market's functions are just taken over by the state
(in the traditional interpretation) leading to a new type of fascism--the
state-capitalist society of the soviet union, china, etc... it is the
commodity itself that will vanish in a communistic society... not just the
capitalist class....

> I agree the route is Nietzche, whom Adorno was never afraid of using,
> despite N's reception in late Weimar.

the irony is thick here, if postone is correct, since both N and M would
have been mistaken as fascists for most of the twentieth century... N in
thought and M in praxis... when in fact it is the culmination of the
modernist perspective that ends in fascism...

> 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
> the division of labor itself produces of division of knowledge.

i do not agree with you at all here, this is althusser's achilles heel, his
positivism--there is no dividing science and philosophy--these divisions of
knowledge are merely historical reflections of our current society and its
god: the division of labor... ie, only in capitalism are their distinct
knowledges such as religion, science, and philosophy...

> Lukacs
> aside, Marxism cannot be made into good philosophy. It lacks an
> "existential" dimension (as in the late Foucault) and is premised upon
> materialist critique of philosophy.

again i disagree, the "early" marx (to use althusser's dubious distinction)
is "existential" to a fault (perhaps)... and marx is especially good
philosophy if postone's interpretation is correct, but even if it isn't....
marx is certainly more than a minor post-ricardian political economist!!!

> 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.

euphemize if you must, but the dangerous beast of "historical relativism"
does not frighten me.

> For the Marx of the Capitals, at
> least, there is no Trans. standpoint. Thus Capital is written to, and
> and from the standpoint of the proletariat.

this is exactly the kind of contradiction that postone criticized
horkheimer and adorno for... your second sentence here does state a
transcendental standpoint: labor and the proletariat...

> Excuse the long response. Looking forward to discussing Postone,

no apologies necessary. it has been a most fruitful discussion...

i look forward to furthering this discussion as well....


David J. Wiltsee
Dept. of Economics
University of Utah

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