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RE: [Sartre] Re: Existentialism and Marxism

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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 1 of 10 , Jul 23, 2003
      Thanks to Ian, This went a long way to answering my inquiry about what
      'marxism' means - what it is and thinks - today.


      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.
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