The article discusses different but related figures of trans-generational heritage in the writings of Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Heinrich Heine, and Sigmund Freud. The common ground of these German-Jewish authors is an interpretative pattern within the theory of history/memory based in the idea of a strong bond of subsequent generations and their interrelation, which refers back to the biblical origins of the idea of ‘heritage’. Both Heine and Benjamin hypothesize a secret agreement between the generations, which might be read as (...) the origin of the idea of solidarity. In Freud’s psychoanalysis we find a complementary concept in the figure of ‘archaic heritage’ elaborated in Monotheism, namely a trans-generational trans- feral of repressed memories of the ancestors to their offspring. While Freud, not coincidentally after the First World War and during the rise of Nazism, discovers the unconscious transfer of guilt, Arendt seeks – after the Second World War – to regain, in the space between human beings, action as the space of the political. By emphasizing ‘natality’ as a basic human condition she invests policy in the acting of men in history with the condition of the possibility of a new beginning. The future, according to the insight of these authors, will not be created in abstract images or produced by means of a program, but will come into being by the treatment of the past and the heritage of those who lived before us and by the way in which we act in the present. (shrink)
THE WORK OF ART AS COUNTER-VALUE: ASGER JORN'S CRITIQUE OF MARX'S ECONOMISK VALUE-THINKING IN CAPITALAs one of the rather significant and influential Modernist and Avant-garde artists of the 20th century Asger Jorn is internationally well-known and admired. Lesser known – or lesser accepted in the reception of his work – is the fact that his many critical writings on art, philosophy, and politics as well as his archives and political activism are integrated and important parts of his entire artwork. For (...) the first time in the reception of Jorn’s critical thinking the essay examines his Situationist criticism of Marx’ concepts of value, as outlined in the commodity analysis in Capital vol. 1, by regarding it a crucial example of his understanding of counter value as the only or most prominent quality of the artwork as such. (shrink)
THE SUBJETCS OF THE ABSOLUTE WRONG AND ITS OPPSPRING The notion of the proletariat as the historical subject has disappeared in radical left-wing theory since the late 1960's. By comparing Guy Debord and the young Marx’s notion of the proletariat with the later notions of transgressive subjectivities, proposed by Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière and Antonio Negri respectively, the article analyses a split between ‘interior’ and ‘exterior’ in contemporary Marxist and post-Marxist theory.
FROM THE CRITIQUE OF THE HEAVENS TO THE CRITIQUE OF THE EARTH - A CONTRIBUTIONTO THE RECONSTRUCTION OF KARL MARX'S UNFINISHED CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL THEOLOGYThis article presents a reconstruction of Marx’s unfinished 1843 critique of political theology. In the preparatory notebooks for Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx identified Hegel’s political philosophy as an expression of “political theology,” which was to be the subject of his projected critique. However, he never completed nor published the manuscript. This article presents a (...) detailed analysis of the manuscript and its intellectual context in order to reconstruct this incomplete critique of political theology, conceived as the conception of the state as a sovereign subject that transcends and determines society from without that remains predominant in contemporary political thought. The distinctly Hegelian conceptual resources of Marx’s critique allowed him to overcome the contradiction between state and society issuing from this political theological conception of the state without resorting to abstract negation as most prior critiques have done. Marx instead proceeds to show that it is the social significance of this political theology and the associated practices that constitute the earthly existence of the modern state within civil society as a whole. (shrink)
'The VILE MULTITUDE' - MARX AND THE PARIS COMMUNEThe entire purpose of Marx’s work is to enable the working class to act as a revolutionary subject, i.e. as its own liberator, destined to overthrow capitalism. However, this paper demonstrates that this view, which has political validity, is supplemented by another more nuanced and more theoretically interesting understanding of revolutionary upheavals in Marx’s work. This more subtle approach is found particularly in his political analyses, and the paper specifically interprets his writings (...) on the Paris Commune in this light. It is argued that in Marx’s analysis of the actual events, it is not the working classes of Paris that make the revolution. Rather, the revolution is triggered by a series of extraordinary circumstances, and by external agents. It produces an undecidedness, here referred to as a multitude, which is only après coup seized and defined by the working classes. Finally, the paper details how this reading has consequences for a Marxist understanding of politics in general and revolutionary upheavals in particular. (shrink)
THE DOUBLE INVERSION - THE CONCEPT OF FETISHISM IN THE CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL ECONOMYKarl Marx’s critical analysis of ‘the secret of the fetishism of commodities’ – according to which the universal domination of the commodity form makes social relations appear in the form of relations between things – is today widely regarded as a central element of the critique of political economy. The concept of fetishism was generally neglected until in the 1920’s, and the debates around this concept did not (...) really take off until the 1960’s. Since then, there have essentially been two predominant interpretations of Marx’s concept of fetishism: on the one hand those who regards fetishism as an ideological phenomenon, as something that has to do with the way in which social reality is represented for and in the social agents. On the other hand there are those who insists that fetishism refers to a certain displacement or inversion at the level of social practice itself, and not its ideological representation. In this article, I review these conflicting readings in the light of a close reading of Marx’s use of the term fetish in all of his writings from the Grundrisse onwards. I argue that Marx used this term to refer to an ideological phenomenon, and that he was right in doing so. I also point out that this does not entail subscribing to a naïve view of ideology as false consciousness or class manipulation that can be abolished by enlightenment and criticism. (shrink)
'MARXCELERATIONISM' - A HISTORICO-PHILOSOPHICAL IN THE HISTORY OF MARXISMThis article reconstructs anew the correspondence that took place in 1881 between Marx and the Russian revolutionary Vera Zasulich. In this correspondence, initially about the Russian ‘agrarian question’, a much broader historico-philosophical issue was fundamentally at stake: the idea of progress. In the ill-fated history of Marxism the idea of progress has, arguably, served to bolster a politics of modernization partly shielded from criticism by the very fact that it allegedly originated in (...) Marx’s so called theory of history. This article argues, on the contrary, that Marx held no such universal theory of history at all. Instead, Zasulich’s and subsequently Lenin’s appeal to an ‘acceleration’ of the contradictions of capitalism to promote the presumably inevitable historical passage to socialism is construed as part and parcel of a Marxist ideology of progress unequivocally criticized by Marx himself as early as in 1881. (shrink)
THE ITALIAN CASE - FROM LABRIOLA TO GRAMSCITaking The Communist Manifesto as a point of departure, this article intends to emphasize the aporia in the works of Marx between Marx the scientist og Marx the politician, that furthermore reflects some of the main fractures between on one hand the theoretical interpretation of the capitalistic mode of production and on the other hand the strategic approaches characterizing the attempts of the European Socialist parties and the early European labour movement to overcome (...) the ever returning crisis and the deep-rooted class conflicts. The specific Italian experiences offer the opportunity not only to discuss the philosophical and scientific contents of historical materialism but also to reactualize the political categories of democracy vis-à-vis the dictatorship of the proletariat and permanent revolution. In this respect, Antonio Labriola was a leading figure in the Italian debate of Marxism in the years between the 18th and the 19th Centuries, while Antonio Gramsci in the 1930ies revised the Marxist-Leninist tradition in the light of Fascism and the Stalinistic impasse of the Russian revolution. (shrink)