COLLETTI'S ANTI-HEGELIANISM

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Tue Mar 7 02:17:21 MST 1995


LUCIO COLLETTI'S ANTI-HEGELIANISM

Many commentators have discredited Colletti as a poor reader of
Hegel.  One convincing treatment is Tony Smith's "Hegelianism and
Marx: A reply to Lucio Colletti" in Smith's DIALECTICAL SOCIAL
THEORY AND ITS CRITICS.  I am not going to defend Colletti,
especially since I have not read his MARXISM AND HEGEL.  But I do
want to make some remarks on Colletti's essay "From Hegel to
Marcuse" in FROM ROUSSEAU TO LENIN.

I certainly cannot accept Colletti's naive partisanship for what
he calls the Kant-Hume tradition over the Spinoza-Hegel one,
especially his equation of the former with science and
materialism.  Regardless of my misgivings, however, I have an
enormous emotional fondness for Colletti's essay.  How could this
be?  I think it is because Colletti is a vociferous defender of
science and exhibits a visceral revulsion toward idealism.

Colletti hates Hegel because he sees his philosophy as manifesting
three primary noxious tendencies:

(1) For Hegel philosophy is always idealism;

(2) the task of philosophy is to realize the principle of
idealism;

(3) idealism realizes implies "the destruction of the finite and
the annihilation of the world".

This third principle is roundly refuted by Tony Smith.
Nonetheless, I retain a sympathy for Colletti also here.  It may
not be true that Hegel conceptually annihilates the world, but
when what considers what idealism does to the materiality of
reality, one could reasonably see this as a form of annihilation.

Going back to the epoch of the Young Hegelians, Colletti roots out
the long-established notion that divides Hegel's method from his
system and declares the former revolutionary and the latter
conservative.  Engels himself took this path.  So did Lukacs and
Marcuse.

Colletti trashes Marcuse with an enthusiasm I find quite
inspiring.  Colletti sees Marcuse as an exemplification of a
romantic idealist reaction against science and takes down
Horkheimer, Adorno, and Lukacs in the process of criticizing this
romantic idealism.  With unbridled scorn towards Lukacs and then
Marcuse, Colletti states:

"The old repugnance of philosophical spiritualism towards
production, technology, and science, in a word, the horror of
machines, was now cloaked by the fascination of the critique of
modern bourgeois society.  The kernal of Marcuse's philosophy is
precisely here.  Oppression is science.  'Reification' is to
recognize that things exist outside ourselves." [p. 134]

In a final rant against Marcuse's ONE-DIMENSIONAL MAN, Colletti
dismisses Marcuse as an anti-Marxist liberal.

Colletti's scorn is delicious!

I would agree that Colletti's criticism is somewhat
one-dimensional and one-sided, yet I loved every minute of it.
Why?  Besides it resonates with my initial reactions against huge
chunks of Western, Hegelian Marxism.  I am beginning to study this
whole area now after ignoring it for years.  So disgusted was my
initial reaction to the anti-scientific, idealistic and
oh-so-German-German-German snobbery of the Frankfurters I couldn't
bring myself to study them.  I thought Habermas' early KNOWLEDGE
AND HUMAN INTERESTS was such a piece of shit I never read another
word he wrote, though I will concede he has one or two things of
minor import to say.  Only recently did I realize how much I had
missed out on by not seriously studying the Frankfurters.
(Recently I cracked Marcuse's REASON AND REVOLUTION for the first
time.)  But Colletti reminds me of why: the cheap anti-scientific,
idealistic snobbery of the refined European humanistic
intellectual.  Now I am keenly interested in the whole Hegelian
tradition.  But Colletti reminded me of my roots.


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