Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Marx and Philosophy

Okay, so if you were me, and you had been invited to give a talk to the Marx and Philosophy Society conference in June, what would you talk about? There are a couple bits from the thesis I would consider developing, and the inertia from the thesis may well win out, but I was curious whether anyone might have any suggestions that could stir my thoughts out of the thesis rut a little bit…

9 responses to “Marx and Philosophy

  1. roger February 23, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Well, your thesis is wildly suggestive and you should talk it up as much as possible!

    However, my suggestion, from my own stock of obsessions, perhaps, is Marx and universal history. Or history as the making of universals. That a universal can be constructed, can come into being – there are hints (and countering evidence) for this in Marx. Your thesis touches on this at numerous points. I figure it would make an interesting talk.

  2. N Pepperell February 23, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Yes, this is a very nice issue, isn’t it?:

    Or history as the making of universals. That a universal can be constructed, can come into being

    My very first published piece was on this (or, more accurately, on the issue that this is often not considered as an option by many social theorists) – but I haven’t gone back to it in any systematic way although, as you say, it peeks through the thesis in places…

    I’ll have a think about it (and apologies you were caught in moderation – shouldn’t happen the next time you comment…)

  3. N Pepperell February 23, 2009 at 5:41 am

    (P.S. Also meant to say thanks for the kind words on the thesis. I’m so close to the thing at this point that it’s dissolving into pointillistic chaos… 😉 I expect to be able to remember what it argues again in another month or so… 😉 )

  4. Nate March 1, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I’d really like to hear/read you writing a metaphilosophical piece on pairings like Marx and Philosophy, including alternative second terms, and when and why to treat select what terms. Sorry that’s oblique, I’m really tired. Sorry as well that I’ve not gotten you comments on thesis stuff in so long.
    take care,

  5. N Pepperell March 8, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Hey Nate – Sorry to take so long to respond – within the last week, I had this completion seminar, and then the opening sessions of the courses I’m teaching – so I haven’t had a minute to breathe… The complex thing, of course, is that it’s on one level perfectly reasonable to pair Marx and philosophy – due to the heavy lifting Marx does with Hegel in particular – such that Marx becomes quite difficult to read without a fair amount of staring at him through “philosophical” lenses. And yet. Once people do this, there’s a tendency to emphasise the philosophical dimensions, and to bracket out what Marx was repurposing the philosophical terms to achieve – the social and economic objects of his analysis. Some interpretations square this circle better than others…

    Please don’t worry about comments – aside from preparing for the seminar, I’ve had to set the thesis largely aside for the past couple of weeks in order to get my teaching together. I’ll turn back to it this week, but it will still be percolating away for a bit… 🙂

    Take care…

  6. lisa March 31, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Ooooh. Nice question. How about, Marx and human nature? Just because it’s an interest of mine!

    I reckon we need to move beyond the ‘Marx was right about the economy’ stuff because I’m finding it all a bit stale and boring, and ‘yeah OK, so what?’. Plus, there is more to the economy than the economy. For example, Neoliberalism has screwed with our entire way of thinking. We now think neoliberally (is that a word?).

    Or, why the economy matters for philosophy for reasons beyond the economy. Or, a materialist conception of human nature.


    PS. Love your description of ‘pointillistic chaos’. It sounds like something to look forward to (and that you might need a helmet for).

  7. N Pepperell April 1, 2009 at 7:41 am

    Hey Lisa – To be honest, I wish I had thought of talking about Marx and human nature 🙂 – I proposed something ultimately on Marx’s notion of how we build new history through the selective appropriation of the history we have lying around us. Now I’ll have to look for a place to write something on his notion of human nature as well ;-P

    But this is lovely:

    Plus, there is more to the economy than the economy.

    Yes – exactly.

    Sorry, by the way, to have left a mail from you hanging – I’ve been in this sort of brutal schedule this week, where I finish what I have to do, and just sort of stare at the wall for entertainment… 🙂 I think I’ve crashed through and am out of the other side of the worst of it, but have left some things hanging in the process…

  8. lisa April 2, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks NP. Hey please don’t apologise, no need. I was just giving you a heads up.

    For what it’s worth, I still like the sound of your paper. It reminds me of a discussion I had with Jorge Jorquera after his report on Venezuala at the Hegel Summer School. I’m intrigued by the idea that we’ve forgotten the pre-revolutionary part of revolutionary politics. That is, Venezuala is demonstrating radical and even revolutionary change from the ground up.

    For me the question then becomes, at what point will this climax and the revolutionary movement will need to go either way: re-privatisation and a stamp on all democracy; or the winning of state power and further democratisation of the economy. The bizarre thing about Venezuala is that it looks like the army might side with ‘the people’ and the police be the defenders of the capitalist state (then, maybe that’s not so bizarre actually).

    Anyway, it struck me that in all the debates within Marxism, socialism, anarchism and various radical politics, particularly about the question of the state and to what uses it can or cannot be put, we’ve almost completely forgotten that there is a whole period which leads to this moment. Sure, smash the state, but how do we even get to the point where this is even an option?

    There’s a rather extreme, but not uncommon example on this website: G20 Meltdown

    Of course, it is anarchist leaning, but I don’t think socialists get off easily either. Any trip to a Socialist Alternative stall or meeting would provide you with a not dissimilar line, like ‘fight war, fight capitalism’. It’s kinda like, OK I agree, but now what?

    A smart-arse BBC journalist put it this way:

    G20 Meltdown ‘has these three goals:
    “1. Participate in a carnival party at the Bank of England
    2. Support all events demonstrating against the G20 during the meltdown period (from March 28th onwards)
    3. Overthrow Capitalism”
    There is no timetable, I notice, for that last goal.’

    [Ref: BBC Technology Blog: G20: the social media battle]

    Yes. No timetable, no plan. But still, maybe they are, tentatively, un-strategically, trying to ‘build the new society within the womb of the old’ (to paraphrase Marx). Kind of.

    My concern is that, not only is it not strategic, not thoroughly conscious, nor planned, but that many even reject organsiation in favour of ‘spontaneity’. As if they’re counterposed.

    The socialist ‘alternative’ to this anarchistic rejection is not a lot a better – it’s the classic minimum-maximum divide of ‘defend jobs, join the socialists’ – a statement that leaves most people more than a little perplexed because putting two things in the same slogan does not at all connect them; neither in theory, nor practice.

    So we get back to that ‘old’ question… how to build the new from the old? And how to connect to the two more than linguistically :-p

    OK… now I need to stop procrastinating and think more strategically about my own work. I look forward to your paper. Ciao!

  9. N Pepperell April 6, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Hey Lisa – Sorry again for the long delay in commenting – and I’ll also have to punt on a proper reply now, but I do want to give one at a later point – just: no room in brain right now. Will wedge room into brain again soon – promise 🙂

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