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RE: [Sartre] Re: Existentialism and Marxism

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  • Tommy Beavitt
    Ian, Great to hear from you as always. One of these days we will lock philosophical horns in a CONCRETE! Port O Leith, rather than this virtual one! Thanks for
    Message 1 of 10 , Jul 23 3:58 AM
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      Ian,

      Great to hear from you as always. One of these days we will lock
      philosophical horns in a CONCRETE! Port O Leith, rather than this
      virtual one!

      Thanks for the long Sartre quote. This is great! There is no way that
      I will get around to properly examining his later work at this time
      in life! I thought the quote was particularly apposite to our recent
      discussions.

      I don't think that all battles with capitalism are automatically
      lost. But I do think that any anti-capitalist conflict that uses
      facts as weapons is doomed to failure. I worked for years as an
      abstracter of articles and papers in Management and Marketing, read
      and summarised over 3000 pieces before I had enough. Being just a
      tiny contributor to the overall repository of "facts" (reified
      concepts) in the capitalists' armoury, it would have made little
      difference if I had chosen not to. My 500,000 words and metadata were
      a drop in the ocean. There is no limit to the resources available to
      Capital in its search for factual evidence to bolster its ideology.

      I can see from your quote and your argument which accompanies it that
      Sartre was highly attuned to nuances within this debate, so I have a
      lot more difficulty in writing off his later work as a wrong turning.
      I begin to see how Marxism could form the basis for an exploration
      into post-existentialist ethics.

      Your point about the lack of ethical substance contained within
      capitalism is an interesting one. The movement towards Corporate
      Social Responsibility is an ostensible attempt to answer this
      criticism, but the central role of PR in this movement appears to
      some to run counter to the search for ethical "substance".

      However, this objection could be seen to be rooted in the scientistic
      obsession with facts ("substance") as against ideology. Actually, the
      world in which we are with others, is intermediated through ideas
      rather than facts, so if PR has us believe that eg. BP ("Beyond
      Petroleum") is a responsible corporate citizen, then a responsible
      corporate citizen BP is. Where are the facts that would tell us
      otherwise? Their corollary has already been reified by the army of
      "fact"-finders in Capital's employ.

      What can be done? My view is that one can step behind or outside the
      manipulation of the reality of being-with-others using philosophy. In
      particular, existentialism allows us to resolve such questions with
      recourse to our own being (nothingness), and that of others.

      This is not the same thing as trying to create a social utopia. It is
      accepted that the responsibility and freedom for the being of Other
      lies with Other and not with Self.

      I refer once again to the case of David Kelly. He successfully
      resolved the question of conflict between belief systems by referring
      to his own being (nothingness). And while I would not normally
      advocate suicide as a remedy to the ills of the world, it does remain
      an option of last resort. By abandoning the survivalist assumption
      contained within mainstream ethics, we allow ourselves to step
      outside the reality manipulation exercise being conducted by the
      Powers that rule the world.

      I fail to see how "being in the world with others is [...] a
      terrifyingly arid and insufficient concept of society". What other
      starting point could there possibly be? Surely society is nothing
      more than the highly complex,abstracted totality of interactions
      between beings-in-the-world-with-others?

      Tommy


      >Tommy,
      >We again have to lock philosophical horns in this woefully inadequate
      >virtual 'Port o' Leith. Perhaps we can sit down over a few jars there and
      >jaw it out some time.
      >
      > I think I understand your aversion to facts - in laymans terms, they take
      >the fun out of philosophy. But within the Marxist dialectic, they have a
      >different function from that of science.
      >
      >You say
      >
      >I return to this theme of the concrete in Marxism, the world of
      >facts, totalisation.
      >
      >I think you'll find that totalisation in Sartrean terms is the opposite of
      >reliance the world of isolated facts . Sartre remained an opponent of
      >empiricism; and in its modern form - positivism (which I think you mean when
      >you say scientism) even in his later years.
      >In the Critique (and Search for a method,) Sartre attacked the tendency to
      >rely on facts: I quote
      >
      >"Particular facts do not signify anything; they are neither true nor false
      >so long as they are not related, through the mediation of various partial
      >totalities, to the totalisation in process."
      >
      >He defines the relation of 'living Marxism' (as opposed to Stalinism in the
      >following manner. And what he desribes is an important dialectical
      >relationship between facts and living totalities ( I apologise for the long
      >quote, but I think we need to read Sartre here.
      > ( Now there can be no doubt that the fruitfulness of living Marxism stemmed
      >in part from its way of approaching experience. Marx was convinced that
      >facts are never isolated appearances, that if they come into being together,
      >it is always within the higher unity of a whole, that they are bound to each
      >other by internal relations, and that the presence of one profoundly
      >modifies the nature of the other. Consequently, Marx approached the study of
      >the revolution of February 1848 or Louis Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'état
      >with a synthetic intent; he saw in these events totalities produced and at
      >the same time split apart by their internal contradiction. Of course, the
      >physicist's hypothesis, before it has been confirmed by experimentation, is
      >also an interpretation of experience; it rejects empiricism simply because
      >it is mute. But the constitutive schema of this hypothesis is
      >universalising, not totalising. It determines a relation, a function, and
      >not a concrete totality. The Marxist approaches the historical process with
      >universalising and totalising schemata. Naturally the totalisation was not
      >made by chance. The theory had determined the choice of perspective and the
      >order of the conditioning factors; it studied each particular process within
      >the framework of a general system in evolution. But in no case, in Marx's
      >own work, does this putting in perspective claim to prevent or to render
      >useless the appreciation of the process as a unique totality. When, for
      >example, he studies the brief and tragic history of the Republic of 1848, he
      >does not limit himself-as would be done today-to stating that the republican
      >petite bourgeoisie betrayed its ally, the Proletariat. On the contrary, he
      >tries to account for this tragedy in its detail and in the aggregate. If he
      >subordinates anecdotal facts to the totality (of a movement, of an
      >attitude), he also seeks to discover the totality by means of the facts. In
      >other words, he gives to each event, in addition to its particular
      >signification, the role of being revealing. Since the ruling principle of
      >the inquiry is the search for the synthetic ensemble, each fact, once
      >established, is questioned and interpreted as part of a whole. It is on the
      >basis of the fact, through the study of its lacks and its
      >“oversignifications,” that one determines, by virtue of a hypothesis, the
      >totality at the heart of which the fact will recover its truth. Thus living
      >Marxism is heuristic; its principles and its prior knowledge appear as
      >regulative in relation to its concrete research. In the work of Marx we
      >never find entities. Totalities, e.g., “the petite bourgeoisie” of the 18th
      >Brumaire) are living; they furnish their own definitions within the
      >framework of the research. Otherwise we could not understand the importance
      >which Marxists attach (even today) to “the analysis” of a situation. It goes
      >without saying that this analysis is not enough and that it is but the first
      >moment in an effort at synthetic reconstruction. But it is apparent also
      >that the analysis is indispensable to the later reconstruction of the total
      >structures. ) (search for a method - Ch1: Marxism and Existentialism)
      >
      >As Sartre indicates here, what he is describing is the regressive moment in
      >his progressive-regressive method. This is 'not enough' however and has to
      >be relativised in the progressive movement of the analysis.
      >
      >
      >
      > Could it be argued that this methodology was a
      >blind alley not only in Sartre's later thinking but also in Marxism
      >generally? If Marxism is concerned with the class struggle, with
      >ownership of the means of production, are there not better ways to
      >achieve this than by fighting a losing battle with capitalists in
      >which both sides are attempting to achieve a more complete
      >totalisation of concrete facts?
      >
      >I don't think that in the longer term Marxism is fighting a losing battle
      >with the capitalists. Although I don't agree with the statement made by a
      >communist trade unionist I know - "comrades we know we are betting on the
      >winning horse, we just don't know the length of the race." ;) - this is a
      >belief in economic determinism - I do have some hope that socialism, as a
      >potentially vastly superior humanistic system to capitalism (although not of
      >course in it's soviet/eastern European manifestation) will be able to win
      >the hearts and mind of men. Moreover - to get back to these damn facts - the
      >heyday of capitalism stopped around 1973 and in economic terms the trend has
      >been towards systemic down turn over the last thirty years. This does not
      >mean that cpitalism is finished. But it's ideological power is rooted in its
      >ability to 'deliver the goods' consistently. Ethically it has no justifiable
      >substance.
      >
      >I respectfully submit that Marxism could inject itself with a new
      >vigour if it abandoned the scientistic basis on which its Victorian
      >progenitor founded it, and started concerning itself more with the
      >existential implications of being in the world with others.
      >
      >Along with sartre, I do not agree that Marxism - in its living form, and in
      >the form developed by its Victorian progenitor - has a scientist basis. I
      >do, however, agree that it needs to absorb the theoretical implications
      >posed by the individual being in the world (although being in the world with
      >others is for me a terrifyingly arid and insufficient concept of society) -
      >it is only by ignoring this that the stalin period could view a whole
      >generation as dispensible in pushing forward the rapid industrialisation of
      >the country.
      >
      >
      >
      >
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      --
      Join us at Communicationalism, the attempt to find a basis for ethics
      in communication rather than survival
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    • Matthew Del Nevo
      Thanks to Ian, This went a long way to answering my inquiry about what marxism means - what it is and thinks - today. Matthew
      Message 2 of 10 , Jul 23 4:03 PM
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        Thanks to Ian, This went a long way to answering my inquiry about what
        'marxism' means - what it is and thinks - today.

        Matthew

        At 00:48 23/07/03 +0100, you wrote:
        >
        > Tommy,
        > We again have to lock philosophical horns in this woefully inadequate
        > and
        > jaw it out some time.
        >
        > I think I understand your aversion to facts - in laymans terms, they take
        > dialectic, they have a
        > different function from that of science.
        >
        > You say
        >
        > I return to this theme of the concrete in Marxism, the world of
        > facts, totalisation.
        >
        > I think you'll find that totalisation in Sartrean terms is the opposite of
        > reliance the world of isolated facts . Sartre remained an opponent of
        > empiricism; and in its modern form - positivism (which I think you mean when
        > you say scientism) even in his later years.
        > In the Critique (and Search for a method,) Sartre attacked the tendency to
        > rely on facts: I quote
        >
        >"Particular facts do not signify anything; they are neither true nor false
        > so long as they are not related, through the mediation of various partial
        >"
        >
        > defines the relation of 'living Marxism' (as opposed to Stalinism in the
        > following manner. And what he desribes is an important dialectical
        > relationship between facts and living totalities ( I apologise for the long
        > quote, but I think we need to read Sartre here.
        > ( Now there can be no doubt that the fruitfulness of living Marxism stemmed
        > in part from its way of approaching experience. Marx was convinced that
        > facts are never isolated appearances, that if they come into being together,
        > it is always within the higher unity of a whole, that they are bound to each
        > other by internal relations, and that the presence of one profoundly
        > modifies the nature of the other. Consequently, Marx approached the study of
        > the revolution of February 1848 or Louis Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'état
        > with a synthetic intent; he saw in these events totalities produced and at
        > the same time split apart by their internal contradiction. Of course, the
        > physicist's hypothesis, before it has been confirmed by experimentation, is
        > also an interpretation of experience; it rejects empiricism simply because
        > it is mute. But the constitutive schema of this hypothesis is
        > universalising, not totalising. It determines a relation, a function, and
        > not a concrete totality. The Marxist approaches the historical process with
        > universalising and totalising schemata. Naturally the totalisation was not
        > made by chance. The theory had determined the choice of perspective and the
        > order of the conditioning factors; it studied each particular process within
        > the framework of a general system in evolution. But in no case, in Marx's
        > own work, does this putting in perspective claim to prevent or to render
        > useless the appreciation of the process as a unique totality. When, for
        > example, he studies the brief and tragic history of the Republic of 1848, he
        > does not limit himself-as would be done today-to stating that the republican
        > petite bourgeoisie betrayed its ally, the Proletariat. On the contrary, he
        > tries to account for this tragedy in its detail and in the aggregate. If he
        > subordinates anecdotal facts to the totality (of a movement, of an
        > attitude), he also seeks to discover the totality by means of the facts. In
        > other words, he gives to each event, in addition to its particular
        > signification, the role of being revealing. Since the ruling principle of
        > the inquiry is the search for the synthetic ensemble, each fact, once
        > established, is questioned and interpreted as part of a whole. It is on the
        > basis of the fact, through the study of its lacks and its
        > “oversignifications,” that one determines, by virtue of a hypothesis, the
        > totality at the heart of which the fact will recover its truth. Thus living
        > Marxism is heuristic; its principles and its prior knowledge appear as
        > regulative in relation to its concrete research. In the work of Marx we
        > never find entities. Totalities, e.g., “the petite bourgeoisie” of the 18th
        > Brumaire) are living; they furnish their own definitions within the
        > framework of the research. Otherwise we could not understand the importance
        > which Marxists attach (even today) to “the analysis” of a situation. It goes
        > without saying that this analysis is not enough and that it is but the first
        > moment in an effort at synthetic reconstruction. But it is apparent also
        > that the analysis is indispensable to the later reconstruction of the total
        > structures. ) (search for a method - Ch1: Marxism and Existentialism)
        >
        > As Sartre indicates here, what he is describing is the regressive moment in
        > his progressive-regressive method. This is 'not enough' however and has to
        > be relativised in the progressive movement of the analysis.
        >
        >
        >
        > Could it be argued that this methodology was a
        > blind alley not only in Sartre's later thinking but also in Marxism
        > generally? If Marxism is concerned with the class struggle, with
        > ownership of the means of production, are there not better ways to
        > achieve this than by fighting a losing battle with capitalists in
        > which both sides are attempting to achieve a more complete
        > totalisation of concrete facts?
        >
        > I don't think that in the longer term Marxism is fighting a losing battle
        > with the capitalists. Although I don't agree with the statement made by a
        > " the
        >" ;) - this is a
        > I do have some hope that socialism, as a
        > potentially vastly superior humanistic system to capitalism (although not of
        > course in it's soviet/eastern European manifestation) will be able to win
        > the hearts and mind of men. Moreover - to get back to these damn facts - the
        > heyday of capitalism stopped around 1973 and in economic terms the trend has
        > been towards systemic down turn over the last thirty years. This does not
        > mean that cpitalism is finished. But it's ideological power is rooted in its
        > ability to 'deliver the goods' consistently. Ethically it has no justifiable
        > substance.
        >
        > I respectfully submit that Marxism could inject itself with a new
        > vigour if it abandoned the scientistic basis on which its Victorian
        > progenitor founded it, and started concerning itself more with the
        > existential implications of being in the world with others.
        >
        > Along with sartre, I do not agree that Marxism - in its living form, and in
        > the form developed by its Victorian progenitor - has a scientist basis. I
        > do, however, agree that it needs to absorb the theoretical implications
        > posed by the individual being in the world (although being in the world with
        > others is for me a terrifyingly arid and insufficient concept of society) -
        > it is only by ignoring this that the stalin period could view a whole
        > generation as dispensible in pushing forward the rapid industrialisation of
        > the country.
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Sponsor
        > ADVERTISEMENT
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > To unsubscribe, e-mail: Sartre-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
        >
        > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
        >
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        >
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Sponsor ADVERTISEMENT
        >
        > To unsubscribe, e-mail: Sartre-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
        >
        > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
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