Sunday, October 05, 2008

Where's Wally?

After attending the lecture and seminar for this course I felt rather adventurous. I'm particularly relieved that we're encouraged to read the text afresh and for ourselves (in so far as that is possible).

However, after reading what Luckacs had to say about totality as opposed to particulars and analysing fragments, I'm confused about our approach to the text.

I understand the distinction between analysis and presentation and that Lukacs criticises certain economists for focusing on Marx's formulae / the particulars of the text and their failure to understand history as a totalising process, rather than the coherence of his analysis as a WHOLE.

However, while Marx's analysis as a whole is fascinating and revolutionary (literally), what I find equally if not more compelling is to read the text in order to explore the different images, references and subplots that are contained within it (have I missed the point if I call these images/metaphors/sentences fragments - or even trinkets?????) and the ambivalence/contradictions/disjunctures/ambiguities contained within these trinkets themselves and what happens or what you can see when you put them next to each other.

After the lecture I felt really inspired and that I could approach this text as MYSELF(s) but then I wondered if I am supposed to be looking for Wally after all- I mean, looking for the analysis, the 'point' of the text, what he MEANS to say about capitalism, rather than the relationship between what he means to say and the way he says it. I felt that Lukacs didn't want Marx to be read with too much attention to all of the other characters on the page (the vampires etc), only on where Wally (the main analysis) was located.

But then maybe I'm the wally and I'm taking Lukacs too personally.


Tom Bunyard said...

Hi Judy,

(and point taken about Housmans - we should organise a philosophy field trip. I've been meaning to go there for ages)

I don't think you missed the point at all. The Lukacs text isn't intended to illustrate 'what Marx really meant', but rather to introduce one particular interpretation of that. It's a version that serves as a useful point of entry to the course because Lukacs was so concerned with getting past the immediate appearances of capital. It certainly doesn't constitute some kind of 'true', correct version of Marxism. Lukacs himself admitted later (in 1967) that he'd read Marx incorrectly (the essay we're looking at was written prior to the publication of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, which he later claimed disproved what he'd said), and I - personally - think that some of the conclusions he came to are horrible. When criticised by the Party he said that even though he thought he was right he had to be wrong, as the Party constituted the true expression of historical consciousness, and who was he to argue with that? If that's the real message of Marx's writings then I'm taking my ball and going home, as it doesn't sound like much fun at all.

As far as I understand it, you're absolutely right: the point of the course is to help you develop your own reading of Marx. In order to do so, however, I think it's really important to give Marx and the other writers their due: i.e. to read their texts closely, to try and understand what they were trying to say, and to thereby figure out what your own position might be.
Cheers, see you Thursday,


John said...

My earlier email reply will have to suffice for an abysmal lack of time to develop this further just yet... [everything is underdeveloped]:

Sorry for the delay - I would have liked to be able to have respond earlier and in more detail, but tragically I spent the last two days in a finances meeting about the college budget - 8.30 start and double maths all day... killer. So, I want to get to sleep [and anyway, Tom already said good things].

But I think you have got a lot of what we want to push in this course. Yes, lets read Capital as openly and for ourselves as we can. I think that might have been how Marx expected people to read it anyway - recall that he was the first to say he was not a Marxist. That said, we cannot ignore the rich and varied Marxisms (plural, both academic and revolutionary, or both) that have followed that text and they each surely have something to teach us. Lukacs to remind us of the party and struggle, Derrida to look to the ghosts (next week) and so on and on - hopefully endlessly, or at least until we have seen Capital 'sublated' into something better (we get to sublation later of course - though we should wish for it now - and the financial chaos might hasten it along, or not - discuss). Anyway, thanks for the comment.
- John