Thursday, December 30, 2010

Marx And Historical Materialism

I've never seriously reckoned with Marx before. I hear so much about Marx. My dad told me recently that he just sort of wrote him off. I think many people do. It can be easy to write off Marxism, communism, socialism as crazy ideas that don't matter.

This is America, god dammit. We won the Cold War and we don't need to talk to nobody about no god damn Marxism.

But right now I'm reading The German Ideology. I'm about 100 pages in, half way through. Now I see why Marx needs to be taken seriously.

Recently I was really struggling with Theodor Adorno's Minima Moralia. I was reading him, knowing that he was working with Marx, but didn't know what to make of him. I was curious, and am curious, about Walter Benjamin, but know that I would be ill equipped to deal with him.

These people are working with Marx, collaborating with Marx. I need to begin collaborating with these ideas.

This will be a log foray, I suspect.

Just as my entire foray into philosophy will be long. Duh. If I really can do it, if I can really succeed in that world, it will never end. Duh.

But right now I can say there is one thing that is striking me: Marx's notion of historical materialism is meant to combat what he saw as a German tendency to write history as simply the history of thought. That German philosophers spoke of 'man' as a universal thing that didn't change throughout society. He seems to think that German philosophers weren't taking the physical reality of society seriously. That they believed that if you could analyze thought, and change thought, then you would change someone's world.

This is hard for me because I read so much Collingwood, who was very adamant that all history is the history of thought.

But Marx is so adamant that history must be about our physical, material, existence: our struggle for food, for shelter, for a means to subsistence.

Both points make sense to me. But how to reconcile them?

I'm not quite sure yet, of course.

But I'm very pleased to begin taking Marx seriously.

I'm very pleased to be understanding what his views on history were.

It really challenges my idea of 'intellectual insurrection'. Because that idea is founded on the idea that I can change my world by changing the way that I think about it.

But Marx is saying 'You Germans (of the 18th century) don't understand; the world is structured by your physical and material existence; not by your thoughts."

This is why a political revolution is necessary, why physical violence is necessary. Just because we change our thoughts doesn't mean shit. There is a physical world that is structuring us.

How to reconcile these things? Marx and Collingwood? Where do you two come together? How can I squeak between you two?

I am pleased to have this level of richness added to my thoughts.

Just in time for Parts III, IV, and V of 'Art, Zen, and Insurrection'.

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