WORKING CLASS SUBJECTIVITY, RICHARD WRIGHT, CLR JAMES (fwd)

Santiago Colas scolas at umich.edu
Thu Feb 8 10:38:18 MST 1996



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Santiago Colas					e-mail:	scolas at umich.edu
Asst. Professor					phone:	(313) 763-4352
Latin American and Comparative Literature	fax:	(313) 764-8163
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI  48109-1275
USA

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 23:52:08 -0500 (EST)
From: Santiago Colas <scolas at umich.edu>
To: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Cc: marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
Subject: Re: WORKING CLASS SUBJECTIVITY, RICHARD WRIGHT, CLR JAMES

Dead-on Ralph, except for the Negri part (I think).  Particularly the bit
about the Hegelian tradition, that's why I suggested (prompted a post of
LIsa's) to look again at how Marx criticizes Hegel's mystified
construction of subjectivity, but in a much less snooty (or anxiously
defensive) manner than in the German Ideology.  Marx draft ms. for a
critique of Hegel's Doctrine of the State in fact reminds me of James'
own Notes on Dialectics.  Extremely close explications of long passages
from Hegel, offered with an impassioned mixture of astonishment at his
brilliance and amazement at how he could make so fundamental an error.
They also both play with the obscurity of Hegel's style (terming, for
instance, their readings "translations.")  There's much, here, I think,
that current Marxists, not quite so burdened with Althusserian
epistemological-break anxiety, might work with.  Best, sc



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Santiago Colas					e-mail:	scolas at umich.edu
Asst. Professor					phone:	(313) 763-4352
Latin American and Comparative Literature	fax:	(313) 764-8163
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI  48109-1275
USA

On Mon, 5 Feb 1996, Ralph Dumain wrote:

> The response to Jerry's call for the discussion of working class
> subjectivity has in short order already become so voluminous that
> my echo of encouragement is hardly needed at this point.  Many of
> us have discussed this matter privately and now we have something
> constructive to discuss publicly.  I have little to say now but
> shall follow this discussion enthusiastically.  For now I'll just
> toss in a few stray remarks.
>
> 1.  The characterization of Negri's views here only increases my
> distrust and aversion.  Please keep explaining Negri so that I
> need not waste my time reading him.
>
> 2.  The question of subjectivity is one question to which we owe
> an enormous debt to the Hegelian tradition.  My own aversion to
> idealism kept me from exploring this tradition for the longest
> time, but there is no reason that materialists can't profit from
> and incorporate this tradition.  Marx himself did this, and also
> acknowledged the role of subjectivity, beginning with cognition,
> when he recognized that the idealist tradition dealt insightfully
> with the problem of cognition in ways the materialist tradition
> did not.
>
> 3.  The problem of subjectivity is not just a matter for fussy
> intellectual snobs, though it is not hard to understand why they
> would make this terrain their own.  The question of subjectivity
> is at the heart of the ideological struggle against Stalinism,
> i.e. against knuckle-dragging knuckleheads like Shawgi Tell.  My
> model for the recognition of subjectivity is not Sartre but
> Richard Wright.  Wright was not a theorist in exactly the same
> sense as his buddies Sartre or C.L.R. James, but in his own
> empirical American way he was grappling with the same issues, with
> an even greater sense of urgency.  Wright also remarks in his
> novel THE OUTSIDER (1953) that he is out to preserve and protect
> the notion of subjectivity and thus fight Stalinism.  Needless to
> say, such conception of subjectivity is not a subjectivist one,
> floating in idealist air.  I think one will generally learn more
> about this issue by reading novelists than philosophers anyway,
> but still it is the task of philosophy to transcend specific
> contexts and formulate the problem in terms of abstract systematic
> concepts.
>
> 4.  For those who don't know, Phil Romano and the Facing Reality
> group pertain to the work of C.L.R. James, labelled "Johnsonism"
> and the "Johnson-Forest Tendency" in the 1940s.  This group
> covered everything, from Hegel to the study of shopfloor
> activity.
>
>
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>



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