‘A Historical Political Economy of Capitalism: After Metaphysics’ reviewed by Lewis Hodder


A Historical Political Economy of Capitalism: After Metaphysics

Routledge, London and New York, 2016. 211pp., £123.49 hb
ISBN 9781138193734

Reviewed by Lewis Hodder

About the reviewer

Lewis Hodder is an independent scholar and graduate of Falmouth University who recently presented …

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Andrea Micocci’s A Historical Political Economy of Capitalism: After Metaphysics is an ambitious text that attempts to grasp, at its root, the possibility of the existence and perpetuation of capitalism. Since it is a system that depends on a violent antagonism between classes, which actively limits the very possibility of consciousness and logic, Micocci aims to interrogate the consequences of this limitation. ‘Instead of a world where real oppositions cause occasional revolutions’, Micocci writes, ‘we get a world in which only dialectical contradictions operate, and are mistaken for change and even revolution’ (48). In order to overcome this limitation of the capitalist imagination, Micocci writes that A Historical Political Economy of Capitalism is based on a ‘completely different logic’ to those current political and economic critiques, emphasising one aspect in particular, namely metaphysics. Aiming to arrive at a true understanding of the individual and its relationship to the society around them by a ‘continuous sceptical doubt of its material reality’, the core of Micocci’s argument is that the intellectual construction as it currently exists as a ‘social glue’ is at once a problem of metaphysics (1).

In other words, in capitalism, the main hindrance to a solid understanding of the empirical … is the individual society connection … The more we are incapable of knowing reality, for this is substituted by metaphysics. That means the challenging notion that we may not know anything about reality itself, not even its material existence (6).

Whereas the question of the perpetuation of capitalism has been dealt with in the past by Louis Althusser, Antonio Gramsci, and Georg Lukács, with questions of hegemony, ideology, and false consciousness respectively, Micocci is determined to separate themselves from this tradition. Even with the strand of Marxism that found its beginning in 1960s France that seeks to remove Hegel from the influence of Marx, standing against any conception of totality or teleology, and with Althusser as its biggest and most notable figure and proponent, with A Historical Political Economy of Capitalism we see this separation of Hegel and Marx taken to its nth degree. Althusser is able to neatly distinguish between the method of the young Marx who wrote on metaphysics with the influence of Hegel, and the older, more mature Marx of political economy, who no longer relied on the metaphysics of Hegel. However, Micocci goes further, by writing and depending on ‘Marx the anarchist’. This Marx is not simply anti-Hegelian, which would be too Hegelian in itself as a realisation of the negation of Hegel, but who is entirely non-Hegelian. However, in removing this Hegelian element from Marx, Micocci paints a picture of Marx that has no conception of history, and that is not able to recognise that history becomes possible through the antagonism of class. Hegel simply becomes the metaphysical element in Marx as a stand-in for the history of metaphysics against ‘Marx the anarchist’ (7). In staying in the philosophical tradition, however, Marx’s lineage is traced past Hegel, back to Epicurus.

The highly inspiring view Epicurus introduced into Western philosophy, that material reality might have no better explanation than a type of chance whose logic escapes human understanding, certainly is one ideal influence behind what is being proposed here. … We shall also see that it lies behind Marx’s work (5).

Crucially, the text refuses to conceive of metaphysics in its own terms, or to engage with its history, development, or content, and so any speculative element essential to Hegel’s philosophy is exterminated through the actuality of what merely exists. Metaphysics instead becomes ‘the general intellectual discourse’ (144), which – explicitly and unequivocally – is not the case. In eagerly seeking to ascertain this additional element that other texts on political economy have overlooked and forgotten, Micocci turns to a crude materialism that reduces metaphysics to ideology in order to dismiss it outright. Considered after this, dialectics itself becomes a feature of capitalism. Rather than a tool with which to dissect it and fight against it, as Marx, Lenin, and Lukács had, it instead becomes a method of its perpetuation.

Without the tension and antagonism of history essential to Marx, ‘Marx the anarchist’ begins to lose any sense of practice or its relationship to thought. This eagerness to move against Hegelian Marxists, in order to assert the author’s own radical Marxism, turns into a contempt for workers themselves. Micocci continues:

A world without private property and the slavery of work is as urgent as the emancipation from the metaphysics of capitalism and cannot be trusted, as progressive intellectuals do, to class struggle, for this last, as Smith and Marx knew well, is one of the tools that are necessary to preserve capitalism. With this, we are back to the need for radical thinking (193, my emphasis).

This image of radical thought must then change drastically if the workers are unable to resolve the class struggle that makes them workers, and even people hitherto considered radical thinkers are implicated by this metaphysics. ‘If the metaphysics of capitalism is what we have described so far, those who are inside it are not even capable of recognising radical thought’ (193). Thought itself must become radically separated from any ‘capitalist metaphysics’.

Lenin, Guevara and Castro can easily replace Epicurus and Marx, as long as a ritual, cold-hearted moral distance is kept, not from natural violence, but from metaphysical, language-expressed “violence”. The high moral ground is ritual in capitalism. That is why it is so needed. It serves as Aristotelian catharsis. What we need, to stop this hypocrisy and its materially unbearable consequences, are logically sound radical arguments (100).

Intellectuals, progressive, Marxist, or otherwise, do not become instrumental to workers and to class struggle, but instead, also perpetuate capitalism. ‘The reader can pick his/her favourite example of an intellectual hero of the capitalist time’ (192). By virtue of existing in capitalism and by extension its ‘capitalist metaphysics’, they are without exception susceptible to the pitfalls of not thinking radically. ‘To survive, in other words, the intellectual must work at a level of analytical depth that does not challenge the prevailing metaphysics.’ (192)

Whereas Althusser and Balibar approach Marx by prefacing, ‘we were all philosophers’, ‘we did not read Capital as economists, as historians or as philologists’ (1968, 14), Micocci reduces Marx and metaphysics itself plainly to an abstract political economy and crude materialism. Althusser had written against the concept of totality that Marx receives from Hegel in order to move away from what he saw was a disingenuous and overdetermined totality that reduced all phenomena to single principle, that effaced any sense of the particular and reduced it to the general. This overdetermination removes any content as the form is prioritised over it. Opening the concluding chapter, Micocci falls into Althusser’s critique of overdetermination. Stating that the most common reaction to their own text is a refusal to follow its reasoning, they go on:

As a matter of fact, there is little else one can do against an argument that explains human behaviour in general with the tools of political economy – for this is what has been done in this book. If you recognise what has been described as realistic, you thereby admit that all it takes to sketch human understanding in capitalism as we know it is political economy. The implication is that all other subjects (psychology, anthropology, linguistics, sociology, etc.) say the very same things as political economy, which they are supposed not to do. The possibility that this may be true terrifies the less bold reader: who is right, the present author, with his radical method, past thinkers and unusual Marx, or present-day analyses that do not acknowledge such radical questions?’(191).

Metaphysics, psychology, anthropology, linguistics, and sociology, as well as any other discipline, becomes reducible to what simply exists – to an abstracted political economy. Micocci extends this line of thought to such a degree that Marx is not able to stand up against Hegel’s rigour of thought and its scientificity, and in the text’s abstracted intuition Micocci is unable to complete the task it had set itself in interrogating this hitherto irreducible element.

Ultimately, A Historical Political Economy of Capitalism demands a nuance from its readers that it is unprepared to give its subject matter. If we are to seriously engage with metaphysics on its own terms, if we are to engage in discussions of metaphysics and how it remains relevant or irrelevant, or even harmful, as Micocci insists, it cannot be viewed as ideology. Metaphysics is not simply an other world of concepts, as we read in Plato, that can then be discarded as existing outside of materialism, but it is the inevitability of living among these concepts and the contradiction that follows it. Micocci instead writes of metaphysics as a certainty that is devoid of this tension, devoid of life, one that is not mediated by actual historical events or the actual existence of workers. The tension of thought against what exists in its materiality is not present anywhere in the text, and as such neither is the tension between theory and practice.

We read of a Marx who is entirely disjointed from history, and workers who are entirely devoid of any concrete existence. Marx’s work, more than any, recognised the relationship of the individual to society, and in turn complicated the question of metaphysics, developing and confronting the form and content of Hegel’s dialectic. Marx is able to transform world history and recognise the proletariat as its driving force, yet mediate this with the relationship of surplus-value to its modes of production, with the everyday life of the worker and their fantasies, of their exhaustion after a 15 hour workday in a pottery factory, or a humble morning spent fishing with the end of the division of labour. In Micocci’s text these aspects of Marx are diminished in their entirety, and reduced to abstraction. The antagonism and resistance that capitalism creates is dismissed outright. Eager to condemn both intellectuals and workers, Micocci becomes a Marxian parody of Descartes’ hyperbolic doubt, and its critique becomes devoid of any content.

23 January 2017

References

  • Althusser, Louis, & Balibar, Étienne 1968 Reading Capital trans. Ben Brewster (Verso, London)

10 comments

  1. I am the author of the book reviewed. While I thank very much Lewis Hodder for his kindness in reviewing my work, it is my duty to point out some unfortunate mistakes Hodder makes, which lead to a needless, basic misunderstanding of what I say in the book.
    1. First and fundamental, Hodder says “Micocci paints a picture of Marx that has no conception of history”. I thought it was a slip of the pen, but Hodder builds the rest of the argument on this absurdity. If I had said that, not only would I be a perfect fool, incompetent on Marx and out of my mind, but so would be all those who published my work in the book and journal form, all those who gave me the jobs of teaching (among other things Marx), all those who gave me work in general, and all those I collaborated with and have read my present and past work. As an unneeded answer to those who after hearing this do not want to read my book any longer, I suggest they just look at the book’s title: “A Historical Political Economy of Capitalism”. Historical political economy is what I am doing, or I would call it An Economics of Capitalism, because it comes from Marx, as I repeatedly say in the book.
    2. In the same sentence Hodder says that my Marx is not aware that “history becomes possible through the antagonism of class”. Nothing wronger can be said: class antagonism as the motor of capitalist life was identified by Adam Smith many decades before Marx, which Marx says and acknowledges and on which like others) he builds his work (this is in my book, so I leave the quotations aside). If class antagonism keeps capitalism going, it cannot be the engine of revolution, which Marx (quotations in my book) says, with Smith. It is not my fault that the “Marxists” built a monumental work on some of Marx’s words which, being Hegelian, are not Marx’s own (as we all know), or at least are not of most periods of Marx. It is not my fault that Marxists read the Marxists rather than Marx. It is sufficient to read the Classics, which I advise to everybody, or secondarily look at my book for a summary.
    3. Metaphysics is a term that is explained in the book under review and in the Metaphysics of Capitalism volume that came out years ago. On this I build. Here I might be obscure. If so, I apologize for it. Nonetheless, the meaning is banal and simple enough for readers to know without me.
    4. A “crude materialism”, Hodder says. Yes, indeed, and I call it revolution, which Hodder omits to say, and I claim that it comes without violence, which Hodder avoids to say, and it comes through an intellectual revolution called Silence (chapter 5), which Hodder does not say anywhere, jumping a most important chapter in the book.
    5. But I am guilty, Hodder says, of attacking intellectuals and workers alike. Yes, that is what I do, and is consequential to what I say. If class struggle is the engine of capitalism as Smith and Marx say (again, read them), then I can only say that those who preached revolution through class struggle are guilty of spreading violence, of seeing their conquests destroyed by Neoliberals (but this is unimportant, unfortunately), and, above all, of falsely saying revolution when they mean conservation. If this hurts the “orthodox” marxists, then it means that they plead guilty. Unfortunately the lessons of history have been of no use to them, for they keep preaching the same Hegelian mantra while exerting censorship on everybody else. Attacking the orthodoxy, however and as important, is no fault: it makes history progress. Unless the orthodox ones think that I can attack only their enemy.
    6. Thus, I accuse the others of overdetermination, if such Althusserian term applies (I do this to come towards Hodder), and not the contrary, as Hodder says in his review. I do not defend Hegel, but this should be evident from my past work. Metaphysics, but I have already said that, is not ideology, or I would use that term and be much more successful.
    I, in conclusion, separate Hegel from Marx, as perceptively Hodder says. There is a simple cure for that, which I proposed in various international congresses, to no avail: let us have a public reading marathon of Marx, any place in Europe, and see who is right. Unless, as I am starting to suspect, the orthodox Marxists are scared and do not accept the challenge. If I am alive, I am ready, any time, anywhere, to do it.

  2. Two views exist about how capitalism will end and give way to the next phase of history, the ‘realm of freedom’. One holds that capitalism will be pushed into an irredeemable impasse and collapse under the weight of its own structural contradictions; the other regards class struggle as the necessary means to its end. When Marx says that, ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past…’, he seems to combine the two views. I would say that to endorse class struggle as a necessary means of emancipation is not to endorse violence, but to end a system based on violence to nature and humankind.

  3. Dear Andrea Micocci,

    Likewise, thank you for taking the time to read the review and for responding to it.

    I’d first of all like to add that, unfortunately, there are misunderstandings of your own reading of my review. Regarding Marx’s view on the antagonism of class producing history, I do not mean to say that Marx himself misunderstood this. As I have written elsewhere, Marx’s dialectic is the model of history and it is something to be studied in its form and content with utmost urgency. Instead, the picture of ‘Marx the anarchist’ you create in the book depends on this lack of antagonism throughout history.

    In your reply you go on to write that ‘If class antagonism keeps capitalism going, it cannot be the engine of revolution, which Marx … says, with Smith’, and this is correct, as Lukács in particular has noted in History and Class Consciousness in which he also outlines ‘Orthodox Marxism’. But unfortunately your statements do not ‘hurt’ Orthodox Marxists in the slightest, as they intend to.

    You go on to repeat a point of contention between us: that your text is ahistorical. While you say that ‘unfortunately the lessons of history have been of no use to them’, I would instead accuse your text of this. While the word Historical is in fact in the text’s title, throughout the book it is used entirely indeterminately and it remains devoid of any historical content, of any historical conditions, or even historical social movements. Not a single revolution is discussed; Guevara and Lenin are included only in name in order to dismiss them outright. There is never serious engagement with either of them, their writing, or the historical revolutions they were involved in. And how can the ‘lessons of history’ be learnt when history itself is reduced to something that has no content? Isn’t this vapid use of history what we are working against when the British Empire is reduced to nothing but a pastime, or when Trump can claim he will heal the squeezed middle class? Instead we look to Marx’s model of historical materialism to counter this indeterminacy and go from there.

    But in recalling Marx I must add that whether one reads Marx or Marxists, I frankly deem this irrelevant. As I have stated above, Marx was invaluable but even he wasn’t able to foresee questions of Fascism and the extent of Imperialism as Adorno and Lenin did respectively. These conditions simply did not exist in the forms that these later writers experienced and were able to articulate. Lukács, too, makes invaluable contributions of his own and rearticulates them within the sphere in which Marx wrote. It remains essential to develop theory and to regard its place in the dialectic of theory and practice in history, as Marx had throughout his life – even updating The Communist Manifesto after the events of the Paris Commune.

    While Lukács does rely on a traditional Hegelian form to instead posit revolution as an inevitable end to capitalism, the negation of capitalism cannot be thought of in terms of pure consciousness or metaphysics. And this is what Lukács explicitly outlines and what is so valuable in his writing: it is the negation of the very conditions which makes the working class in fact working class. Revolution is seizing the means of production, and to claim that revolution instead means conversation is absurd.

    Here I agree with Sarban above when writing that any violent revolution dwindles in comparison to the violence of Imperialism and Fascism. If simply attacking orthodoxy were to achieve this revolution, and throughout the text and in your comment you equate Orthodox Marxism with the orthodoxy of the bourgeoisie itself, this would have been solved with Benjamin, Adorno, and Althusser. We could even add Derrida and Deleuze into this mix, but unfortunately this is immaterial in both senses of the word. It remains devoid of any historical content and fails to acknowledge the antagonism of class.

    So, ‘intellectuals’ ultimately are able to develop writing historically and do move beyond Hegelianism. While they do rely on this existent antagonism to produce their own writings on class, even if it is simply due to the fact that class can only exist within and due to this antagonism, to imply that they then will this class antagonism to continue in its current state – for their own sake – is nothing but disingenuous.

    Finally, the question of ‘who is right’ seems incredibly shortsighted. Against the rise of Fascism across the US and Europe, and the past decade that has rushed headlong towards it, I would readily encourage any ‘marathon’ of reading Marx’s writing. But to do so in the name of correctness against Orthodox Marxists seems to me to be nothing but vanity.

    I look forward to your reply.

    
Kind regards,
    Lewis Hodder

  4. REJOINDER BY ANDREA MICOCCI
    I take this opportunity to thank again Lewis Hodder for replying to me first, and second for inviting me to answer yet again. He claims he has been misread, and we should believe him regardless of what we believe ourselves. He reproposes, however, the same thing. I reply here with a few points which, I hope, capture all of Hodder’s comments. If I forget any, it is my own fault.
    1. In the first place Hodder’s reply seems to agree with me (“…and this is correct…” he says) on the basic issue that class antagonism keeps capitalism going. He agrees, however, for the wrong reason, which I had pointed out in my first reply: he endorses Marx for agreeing, in this specific case, with Lukacs. My invitation to read Marx for what he himself says is again disattended. In any case, if Marx, like Hodder himself points out, agrees that class struggle leads nowhere in terms of anti-capitalist revolutions, I could end here my reply.
    2. If the above holds, also, my paper is historical; only, it is a different thing from what Hodder, and a great many with him, call historical. In fact to the vast majority of Marxists (call them orthodox or not) history is, like Hodder says, the history of class struggle. This is fine, but it does not mean all history: it means the history of capitalism, where a process (class struggle) is trasformed into an engine of history, or the division of labour would be more troubled than it is (Marx himself has been incoherent on this issue. By the way, what I do in all my work past and present is to free Marx from externally imposed coherence. He was human like us). There is a revolutionary history, for the instance of my book (there are many more, obviously), that does not imply it however, and that, as said in point 1, fights capitalism. It is still history. It is funny that Hodder acknowledges that I am right, to then revert to the same old gospel. He should be more consistent, and watch points 1 and 2.
    3. Hodder, therefore, wrongly accuses me of not mentioning revolutions. Which, where, when? I know of not a single one, or capitalism would be gone. But I do know of failed revolutions, especially the Italian 1977-78, when even old ladies thought revolution was coming because creativity replaced marxism-leninism. Then came the marxist-leninist again, committed murder, were dutifully arrested, were thus forgiven by the state, and today occupy important positions and re-write history their own marxist-leninist way. I signal some in my work here reviewed, although this is not my main purpose and still hurts me to even talk about it. This disposes of Sarban’s comment too (thanks to him for bothering): you do not reply to violence with violence. Anyway, you do it without me. That is why I cannot stand intellectuals, and it is not for intellectual moral fraudulence (Hodder’s term “disingenuous”, I take, should mean that). Intellectuals keep talking on our behalf (not for me, but they do not know, and this is the point) to then betray us, giving us the marxists instead of Marx. It is time that we normal people say no to them, and take our lives in our own hands.
    4. One more, and last, piece of terminology. Hodder claims that to me “revolution means conversation”. This is bizarre. I call it silence, not conversation, and I claim, Hodder perceptively notices, that it is anti-Hegelian. I am not alone here, which I argued in the book, for I enjoy the company non only of Marx but also (to quote but two, I discuss many more in the book) of Hume and Berkeley, which Hodder omits to say in his review, by the way. A true philosopher, Hume would say, does not take simple, and wrong, cause-effect relationships. That is for common people to do in order to survive, i.e., may I add, to do for instance class struggle (which is needed, Marx 1865 would say to the workers, to survive in capitalism, not to make revolution. The point is to abolish the wage system, Marx would continue. I agree with both statements). That in our days Neoliberalism wins is just an episode in the vaster, dynamic history of class struggle, which makes capitalism, to me and to Marx the anarchist, a never ending nightmare.
    5. I called it Marx the anarchist in the book to avoid polemics, but it was to no avail. I should have said just Marx, and for this I apologize. But that would imply that we should read it. The invitation to join me in a public reading is still open: if I am alive, anywhere and anytime in Europe.

  5. It is for Hodder to answer Andrea. I just want to say that in my understanding class struggle does not necessarily imply or entail violence. This is one lesson one can derive from Mahatma Gandhi.
    Civilisation, according to him, consists in how you resolve conflicts, including class conflicts, through truth and nonviolence or satyagraha. It is unfortunate that the West refuses to learn from him. I invite all to have a look at a very recent work ‘Gandhi in Political Theory’ by Anuradha Veeravalli (Ashgate,2014).

  6. As a former activist of Ghandian non-violence and also noting that I had learnt from a son of Mohandras Ghandi, I must say that Sarban is quite wrong on both counts. Class struggle necessarily involves violent struggle, not by choice of the workers and peasants, but by the choice of the capitalist class. The capitalist has never surrendered to superior force, and all the indications are that they never will.
    Secondly, Ghandian non-violence was tried unsuccessfully in South Africa for 35 years, before the national liberation movements realised that it would never work. It is simply a ploy. It is a capitalist attempt to undermine the cohesion of the working class.

  7. Dear Sydney, I am sorry: for once I cannot accept your view, although I’d refrain from saying that you are wrong on both counts.

    The essentially non-violent Indian independence movement against the Raj succeeded, although it failed to achieve the ideal social order – he called it Swaraj – Gandhi had conceived, much like the violent October Revolution, inter alia because he was killed soon after Independence.

    You do not seem to have studied Gandhi, his lexis or praxis, adequately enough or you wouldn’t question the immense value of satyagraha involving mass mobilisation, non-cooperation and civil disobedience. You claim to have been a Gandhian activist, but you cannot even spell his name correctly.

    I won’t remind you of the non-violent revolutions in human history – of a Buddha or a Christ – but invite your attention to the possibility of peaceful transition to socialism envisaged by both Marx and Engels. To pick up a quote at random, Harvey Klehr writes: ‘ Marx and Engels had allowed for the possibility that the path of socialism in some countries may not require a violent revolution. The United States, they suggested, was one of those countries that might be able to institute socialism peacefully.’ This is from his book “The Communist Experience in America: A Political and Social History” .

    The ultimate test of truth, Gandhi said, is practice or what he labelled as ‘experiments with truth’. I firmly believe that a non-violent mass movement has the capacity to overthrow capitalism. And if it fails, which it will not, then people will have a tested a theory and learnt their lessons.

    What is needed is a concrete and compelling vision of a post-capitalist society for which people are willing to die (rather than kill).

  8. Dear Andrea Micocci,

    
Thank you for responding to my comment.

    Regarding the claims of being misread, I was simply responding to your comment where you thought that I had said you were equating conversation and revolution. I was instead writing about your claim that Orthodox Marxists ‘falsely [said] revolution when they mean conservation.’ These ‘claims’ of being misread are simple misunderstandings that don’t bear comment beyond correction. To imply otherwise, and to imply that they are accusations, I fear is detrimental to your own argument. This also then addresses your penultimate point.

    But there are points at which we are talking past one another. Clear examples of this are when I agree with a small section included in your comment and you take this to mean that I agree with your whole argument and the conclusions you presuppose in them (and by extension that I am inconsistent), or when you insist that Orthodox Marxists wish for the class struggle to continue as it is. The point remains: to resolve class struggle.

    While I would almost expect this talking past one another, as someone for whom Hegel’s work has a vital importance – not simply for its place in the history of philosophy, but in writing about the fundamental place of experience and history as mediated by one another – I do question how valuable a discussion is between us. The marker would be a mass reading of Marx, which you are seemingly insistent upon but ultimately remain defeatist. I am more than happy to oblige in this but, as I said in my previous comment, I am to happy to do this in aid of class consciousness rather than through any need to be right.

    Unfortunately I lack the very real material resources to accomplish this. Although, since you mentioned ‘all those who published my work in the book and journal form, all those who gave me the jobs of teaching (among other things Marx), all those who gave me work in general, and all those I collaborated with and have read my present and past work’ in your previous comment – perhaps they are willing to help.

    To return to your text and your responses, there still remains zero engagement with Hegel. This is odd, because his name and system are mentioned throughout the entire text (arguably more than history!). Yet, Hegelian dialectics is paraded through the text as a given that it is a system that is not simply longer relevant, but that it is actively dangerous. There is a certain arrogance to how this is carried out. I would point to Adorno as someone who has demonstrated the limits of Hegel’s philosophy and its implications impeccably. But instead, in this text, Hegelian dialectics is placed in the very nature and fabric of capitalism itself. Rather than to identify the concrete and metaphysical contradictions of capitalism, to repeat the old phrase, the baby is thrown out with the bathwater. Dialectics is not something that can exist either materially or innately (or even metaphysically!), instead it is exclusive to Spirit to elucidate and identify contradictions. This was one aspect of Lukács’ criticism of Engels. Dialectics as a method is not innate in any system, whether capitalism or communist or simply in nature. Contradictions, however, are.

    While you do indeed include Hume, Berkeley, and others in your text, unfortunately I did not find this significant enough to include in the review. First and foremost because they are not spoken of in their own terms or in terms of the history of philosophy; they are reduced to anecdotes that simply fit into your system of philosophy. As you have demonstrated above, Hume is reduced to nothing but paternal advice on causality. Whether Hume or anyone else remains a ‘true philosopher’, I again deem this irrelevant.

    There is one statement that you do make that is patently false and naïve. And that a Marxist is able to make this mistake is indicative of a poor conception of history itself (in both its form and content). You write, ‘history is […] the history of class struggle. This is fine, but it does not mean all history: it means the history of capitalism’. It does mean all of history. History progresses through the antagonism of class. This does rely on a conception of history that cannot rely on positivist definitions of the past, however, but this is the same conception that both Hegel and Marx uses. As Marx writes in the opening pages of the Communist Manifesto, ‘In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs.’

    Capitalism is only a single manifestation of many other possible systems that structure antagonisms between classes. Feudalism and caste systems are others, for example. In Europe, the antagonisms of capitalism grew out of those of feudalism. Once again, a serious engagement with history itself is necessary to recognise this – and Marx was able to do so impeccably throughout his work. Class and class struggle do not create and automatically presuppose capitalism, class struggle simply denotes an antagonism between classes; capitalism is not the advent of class struggle or class, it is the structure that organises the means of production and the antagonism between the working class and the bourgeoisie.

    And here any claims that I am not reading Marx either himself or ‘correctly’ fall apart. But again, I want to stress how irrelevant this is. We don’t look to Marx because he is Marx, because he was right and we want to be right too, but because his work allows us to study class antagonisms in all of their manifestations. If we do not move beyond Marx to study history and our own time then Marx becomes worthless. More than anything, along with engaging with history or the content of any philosophers’ work, Micocci appears to struggle with this.

    Other than a facetious attempt to define revolution as a successful worldwide revolution and to dismiss outright the rest, and as another opportunity to rail against intellectuals, I find that your comment does little to engage with my comment or review. One failed revolution cannot stand in for every communist revolution in history – whether successful or not. But I would add: to what extent are you yourself, as someone who publishes journal articles, books, teaches philosophers to students, an intellectual? Usually asking someone that highlights the futility of that particular line of thought…

    Thanks again,
    
Lewis

  9. Firstly, thanks to Lewis Hodder for his detailed responses to Andrea Micocci’s title which provoked me to buy a copy and study it further because of the issues it wrestles with.

    Speaking of wrestling, I’d like to offer some thin observations on the back and forth between Hodder and Micocci here.

    1) There is a certain futility in the structure of communication when one party wishes to excise Hegel from Marx and the other cannot but see Hegel in Marx. This is a sharp opposition between two dogmatic positions. Any collaborative learning, significant communication, swapping of positions to gain the enrichment of the ‘other’, or positing the truth as ‘in-between’ or equally necessary and valid at different times and contexts, are unlikely to happen here. This is one of the tragedies of the Left – it’s spectacular capacity for internecine conflict. Micocci, hurt by Hegelian inflected ‘Marxists’, with Hodder standing by Hegel-in-Marx, makes for an ugly spectacle. Is this necessary? Is it possible to ‘hear’ a reading of Marx (as Micocci attempts) without Hegel since we have had no end of Hegel in Marx?

    2) From the perspective of ‘critique’, where both positions can hold equal validity (due to the aberrations of Reason which require opposite arguments to check and balance one-sided truth claims), the attempt of each party to create a hegemony around key words does not greatly align with best practice in philosophical method. Yet this is where they battle and miss what the ‘other’ is saying because of the dogmatic lock-in described above.

    3) Thus the term ‘history’ can quite rightly be described by Micocci as a ‘process’ (leading to multiple materialist, rather than metaphysical, descriptors of what that looks like) in contrast to the Hegelian ‘dialectic’. Hodder’s Hegelian insistence that ‘It does mean all of history’ is an unhelpful grandiosity that blocks any learning that we could gain from the ground Micocci is apparently trying to clear – a ground he references as ‘reading Marx again’ and therefore looking at ‘history’ outside the Hegelian dialectic.

    4) The terms ‘capital’ and ‘capitalism’, ‘revolution’ and ‘revolutionaries’, and ‘class conflict’ are likewise torn apart between two dogmatic positions refusing to loosen their grip on linguistic meanings of these contestable terms. Without Hegel, Micocci may need considerable elaboration on what these terms mean, as these have become the unquestioned and unquestionable jargon of Marxists, as he points out. However, Micocci’s suggested readings of the terms here are compelling. Seeing ‘class conflict’ as keeping ‘capitalism’ in place, if not the driving engine of its perpetuation, goes a long way to explain why this term contains no resolution, but merely describes a status quo. If ‘revolution’ is Marx’s solution to the conflict, then Micocci is correct in noting that no ‘revolution’ has yet occurred since, whether Leninist, Maoist, or Cuban, capitalism and its structures of exploitation, alienation, elitism, oligarchies, kleptocracy are alive and well. This is not to devalue or dismiss the valiant attempts of those who have sacrificed lives to overthrow capitalist regimes. But capitalism has merely expanded its grip on human activity worldwide. Revolution (as Marx’s solution) has not.

    5) This leads to a final point which fuels much irritation in Micocci: the blunt fact, truth, reality, is that the Left has blatantly and overwhelmingly NOT succeeded in solving class conflicts or achieving meaningful revolution. There seems to be no answer to a world that produces Trump with his flagrantly capitalist executive orders and inflammatory rhetoric, Putin and the oligarchies of Russia, the rise of nationalism in Europe, the cultural repression in the carefully controlled Chinese entry into the world of Kapital, Erdogan’s attempts at dictatorship in Turkey, or the psychopathic regimes of extremist Islam and the Israeli Defence Force. This is not just impotence and inadequacy, but a profound and deep inferiority before world events, HISTORY, in which the Left has barely made a dent. Can Micocci’s rage at intellectuals and Hegelian Marxists be understood in this light? Is he justified in his wish for a public re-reading of Marx, seeking salvation in a text without Hegel, to find a ‘revolution’ that has yet to happen?

    It may be no meaningful consolation, but there are reading groups based on just that, taking place in small numbers in the UK. But when confronting gigantic forces such as ‘history’ and ‘capital’ with the several layers of meaning and power they contain, it may be worth reflecting on The Fool’s description of King Lear before being thrown out into the storm – ‘in his little world of man/trying to outdo the elements.’

  10. Sarban, do you really think that the rising of Christianity in Europe was a "peaceful revolution" ? Do you know how many Christians were killed when Rome was officially pagan? And after that, how many pagans, agnostics or atheists, were killed after Christianity was Rome's official religion? "To pick up a quote at random, Harvey Klehr writes: ' Marx and Engels had allowed for the possibility that the path of socialism in some countries may not require a violent revolution. " Yes, but this is due to naif optimism towards the American political context, which they didn't know as well as the European. There are so much more quotations from Marx and Engels themselves acknowledging that such a radical transformation of capitalist society to a socialist one would be very difficult without the use of violence, since the violence for the conservation of capitalism is almost certain. In the Introduction to the Critique of the Philosophy of Right (1844) (so, very early in Marxist writtings): "The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force (…)"

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