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Interpretation As Phantasmagoria: Variations On A Theme On Marx's Theses On Feuerbach

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Despite Louis Althusser's description of Marx's Theses on Feuerbach as the lighting flash that announces a major event in philosophy, breaking the night of an idealist past by glimpsing at the new world through the discovery of an unknown continent of knowledge, it may not be an error to say that not only is not sufficient space given to these small notes, but also the new continent of knowledge was never known, or at best partially known in its evolutionary form. There are two possibilities: one that the lighting flash has concealed more than it is to reveal—the new continent is hidden and colonized (or as one will say savaged by the counterrevolutionary Stalin)—and the second possibility is that numerous readings have taken place, thus almost leading to manifold political positions (or academic positions if you will). One recalls Antonio Gramsi's 'philosophy of praxis'—where praxis as revolutionary will and action forms the leitmotiv of Marxist repertoire. The 'laws' of Marxism are thus read as a fiction to be dissolved as nothing but theological postulations. Marxism is here understood as a humanism and historicism, clearly to be differentiated from the positivist, or almost onto-theological renderings of Marxism. There is another reading, that of Althusser, who defines Marxism as a 'different practice of philosophy'. And yet, as one, would argue this different practice could never be articulated, because the nature of the continent was never known. Etienne Balibar in his post-Marxist zeal says that Marxism is 'not a philosophy of action, but action itself, action “sans phrases” … ' It is keeping these above-mentioned thinkers in mind that we turn our attention to the Theses. The first point that one needs to make is: where stands the very discourse of interpretation in revolutionary Marxism? Is interpretation as interpretation to be abolished? In this sense is not merely philosophical hermeneutics to be negated but the entire Western tradition from Aristotle to Kant? One turns immediately to the last and the most celebrated of the Theses—'The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it'. An immediate response is the critique of theoretism in the history of philosophy, where the philosophers as seekers of the elixir of life have succumbed to the alienation inherent in the capitalist division of labour. In contrast to these well-known claims (Gramsci, Althusser and Balibar) this essay reads the Theses from a different perspective—the perspective of the critique of the estrangement principle and the birth of revolutionary materialism, a materialism that is distinct from 'old' materialism and most certainly from the distorted onto-theological materialism of the 'diamat' ideologists of the Soviet regime. What we shall be claiming is that the new continent—historical materialism—has within it the black hole of alienation. Thus whilst the first terrain (historical materialism) was made visible the other (the black hole) was repressed and forgotten. In these variations on a theme on the Theses on Feuerbach we are relating the Theses with his 1843-44 critique of Hegel (the principle of the Aufhebung und Verwirklichung der Philosophie), the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 as well as with Capital such that Marx's exploration of the black hole can lead both to the critique of class societies as well as to its distinct transcendence. We shall be reading the Theses like reading a musical score—the last of the Theses as the Rondo Allegro is the summation of the themes spelt out in the ten above notes.
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Keywords: Barbarism; Black Hole of Alienation; Interpretation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2010

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