Bhaskar on Objectification & Alienation (Before He Found God)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sat Dec 23 02:24:09 MST 2000

At 6:40 PM +1000 12/23/00, Gary MacLennan wrote:
>I simply do not agree that the debate objective idealism and
>historical materialism has been settled, and the value of Bhaskar's
>book is that it reopens the old debate which DIAMAT, often at the
>point of a gun, had sought to close off.

All right, then, let us reopen the debate, with comradeship &
politeness (& yes, with subtlety and yet without scholasticism).
BTW, I don't endorse DIAMAT.  I rather think that the pre-spiritual
Bhaskar had a very good critique of DIAMAT (and many other problems
besides) -- see below.

At 10:53 PM +1000 12/19/00, Gary MacLennan wrote:
>This is linked to the most fundamental level of beauty in the book.
>This is the attempt to enunciate a human essence and thereby restore
>teleology or meaning to being. The books argues that despite all the
>evidence that humanity will learn that somehow somewhere the splits
>and divisions that have produced the awful happenings that we see
>all around us will be brought to an end.  Humanity will learn
>non-attachment and will be reconciled with the Divine.

And at 8:30 AM +1000 12/22/00, Gary MacLennan wrote:
>I am especially interested in your comments about the achievement of
>subject-object identity and the resultant fall into silence.  There
>is nothing to say when one has encountered the absolute.  It
>reminded me forcibly about Thomas Aquinas's refusal to continue his
>work after her had achieved a mystical experience.  There was
>nothing for him to say.

I'm afraid that since Bhaskar found God, he has forgotten his own
excellent reminder of the distinction between objectification and
alienation, which he advanced contra Hegel:

*****   It was Lukacs who first pointed out that the crux of Marx's
critique of Hegel's phenomenology was the absence of the distinction
between objectification and alienation.  For in identifying the two,
Hegel had rationalized the present geo-historically specific forms of
human objectification as the self-alienation of an absolute subject,
thereby pre-empting the possibility of a more truly human,
non-alienated mode of objectification.  More generally, Marx insists
that labour not only presupposes 'a material substratum...furnished
without the help of man', but also entails at once (a) irreducible
loss and finitude yet also (b) the possibility of genuine novelty and
change, that is, of transformative non-preservative negation.   (Roy
Bhaskar, _Plato Etc.: The Problems of Philosophy and Their
Resolution_, London: Verso, 1994, p. 129)   *****

Nostalgia for what never existed -- subject-object identity, united
in the absolute subject of the Spirit -- is an understandable
ideological response to alienation.  However, the Marxist dialectic,
unlike the Hegelian one, rejects a teleological understanding of
history as the movement from unity to split to unity.  There never
was unity, so there can be no return to the absolute which never

Accept the fact of irreducible "loss & finitude,"+ that is,
_necessary objectification_ that human labour entails; or else you
will lose "the possibility of _genuine novelty and change_."

What we need is revolution, not restoration.


+  For those who do not think that "everything has a purpose,"
finitude does not appear to be "loss."  It's simply a matter of fact.

P.S.  I hope that Gary & I are not boring the list!

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