[Marxism] Rosa Lichtenstein versus JB on dialectical contradictions
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Sat Oct 3 15:12:57 MDT 2009
I don’t have much time to comment on this, but I just wanted to make a point. It’s understandable that after the asinine vulgarities of dialectical materialism, some people, like Rosa here, should feel aversion for anything dialectical. But for all intents and purposes, Rosa, the Wittgenstenian-Trotskyist-Marxist, who is pretty avid at the quote-mongering game as long as the quotes ‘sound’ to her as something she (?) would agree with, wants to resuscitate a debate which Marx had already put in ash-heap of history in his twenties. The question for Rosa is ‘what is dialectical contradiction?’, she is looking for a higher rationality than that of formal contradiction, of course, leaving the whole presupposed metaphysic of formal logic totally unquestioned. A good critique of this blindness can be found in the Hegelian philosopher Errol Harris, surely that has all the caveats of him being a defender of some liberalized version of Hegel, with a bag-full of Spinozism on the side, but still, a pretty clear reference (see his ‘Formal, Transcendental and Dialectical Thinking’) if Hegel’s obscure style throws you off…the cliff.
The question is not whether dialectical logic is more ‘rational’ than formal logic, the essence of the matter is in that both are LOGICS, they are a manifestation of alienated consciousness, which as external (‘out-there’) modes of thinking fail miserably in grasping the internal, truly historical (history being a process), dynamic of the human species’ appropriation of Nature. In this sense, as Alfred Sohn-Rethel (whose work, ‘Intellectual and Manual Labor’, I highly recommend,) puts it, that “social being determines consciousness” is something that a Marxist, beyond any –isms, should understand in its full literal sense.
Why? Because the real question is: ‘what is the dialectic for?’ And, as crass as this may sound in this format, the dialectic is a method (and there is a whole lot to say about this obviously, though if I can recommend one more thing, the book by Jindrich Zeleny, ‘The Logic of Marx’, despite its tasteless title and that it’s more of a summary, has some good pearls on the methodological issue, as regards the analytical and synthetical stages, etc.) to ascertain the objectivity of the real process of subsumption of labor under capital, and it is superior to the formalized scientific method, in that it goes beyond any appearance by not hypostasizing the external immediacy of sense-data (itself a result of the fetishism of the commodity form), by, that is, penetrating the object which one is trying to appropriate consciously until one attains the objective knowledge of this object so as to fully deploy the necessity of one’s action.
It is a method then to provide Marxists a scientific critique of science, science being ‘the’ modality of production of relative surplus-value, that is, the production of a scientific consciousness, wherein lies the revolutionary subjectivity of the working class.
I’m not a big fan of Adorno -the fact that I haven’t read him enough might have something to do with that- but this quote of his rings very true to me: ‘If the Hegelian synthesis did work out, it would only be the wrong one.’
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