Subject-Object Dualism

Mon Jun 12 17:47:58 MDT 1995

I did not get the same results from my reading of Marx as Leo did, so
I don't think Marx needs the help that Leo offers (parts of his post
appended below).

I read Marx as compatible with my thought that Capitalism treats
workers as objects (as patriarchy treats women as objects) but that
never made it entirely so.  Workers resist, slaves resist, women
resist, sabotage and scissors have their day.  The more I learn of
history, the more I see continual resistance, which is one of the
things that offers some hope of the possibility of change.

It may seem contradictory, but it seems to me inseparable that we are

1. products of our environments, taught, conditioned, indoctrinated
2. autonomous beings that can keep resistance alive inside no matter
how much we are forced to bow and scrape, and continue to fight back
and assert our own wills.

This is my view of all living things: each one is surrounded by
conditions over which one has partial control at best, constrained to
a few possibilities, with costs and benefits attached to each
(vital/material/social/economic c/b)
each one still has an active autonomous spark that moves and seeks -
something, something of its own doing (including its own life,
survival, reproduction, etc.) actively responding to the
circumstances in which one finds itself.


Leo:Marxism as a tradition is especially ill-equipped to deal with
problems of subject-object dualism, since its philosophical outlook
and heritage is firmly rooted in its version of subject-object
dualism. These notions comes straight out of Hegel, .... Marx picks
up this same theme in his early writings where the proletariat is
conceptualized as complete and utter objectification (the negation
and alienation of all that is human), and thus the historical force
which will become the true unfettered human subject (the negation of
the negation of all that is human and the return to the human
essence). In the mature writings, such as Capital, these themes are
-- individuals, especially workers, are nothing but trager, bearers
of social relations, because capitalism reduces them to such, but as
a class the working class can create a new communist feature of
transparent human freedom. The transition from complete and utter
individual objectification to complete and absolute class
subjectivity is never explicated in any detail in

The only way I have found out of this dualism, with all of its
attendant myopia of social analysis, is to engage in a fundamental
critique of this aspect of Marxism, and to reconceptualize
individuals as subject-object dualities,  that is, as simultaneously
shaped and determined by social and historical processes (object) and
as actors shaping and determining those same social and historical
processes (subject). Thus, Marx's formula in the
Eighteenth Brumaire -- men (sic) make history, but they do not make
it as they please; they make it under conditions inherited from the
past -- is much closer to the point then his philosophical cum
political formulations.

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