Existentialism and Marxism - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#14595702
I was trying to consider how my feelings on existentialism and Marxism might interact and was reading up on it and one of the first links I came too was this one.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/novack/works/history/ch12.htm

First I'd like to know if this site is any good as a general resource.

Second I'd like to know if George Novack is any good in general.

And I'd also like to know if you agree or disagree with him that existentialism is irreconcilable with Marxism.

I greatly disagree, and feel like he somewhat mischaracterizes existentialism to do so. He seems to say that Existentialism rejects materialism entirely, and that existentialism rejects science, historical inevitability, etc.

I see materialism as true, but also as meaningless in the sense that there is no grand meaning to material forces. The material world just is, and no explanation of the material world will give it meaning beyond a description of what it is. I obviously don't reject science, even if I do not think science can grant any meaning beyond probabilistic descriptions of material forces. Historical inevitability I do in a way depart from marxism in general however. Socialism isn't inevitable, and while we can get a good look and understanding of historical progression human history is inherently subjective. It cannot be understood outside of our beliefs and ideologies and the beliefs and ideologies of those whose writings we read to try and learn what happened in the past. It's inherently value laden from what I can see. So I don't think we can draw any conclusions about the inevitability of the future, or really do much prediction using history at all. Not that it isn't very usefull to understand history to understand the current system.

So, thoughts?
#14613273
Judging from how the most influent french existentialist philosopher, Sartre (and also his chérie, Simone de Bauvoir) was communist, I don't think that marxism is irreconcilable with existentialism. First of all, existentialism is a very broad term and while Kierkegaard or let us say, Nietzsche can be hardly incorporated to a marxist worldview, but Sartre himself, for one, was communist, just as his chérie, Simone de Beauvoir. Even the absurdist Camus was a socialist (while rejecting stalinism and such abominations.)

But let us assume that Novack was right and a whole generation of french existentialists were not. Still, we have some problems to face. Existentialism is a school of philosophy. It is also mostly dealing with the individual and the ties that bound the individual to society but not with society in general. Existentialism can't be applied as a political philosophy, msotly becuse it has no political conclusions (generally speaking, as it was said before, existentialism is a broad term.)

On the other hand, marxism is an economic and political theory, but not a philosophy sticking to the strict definition of the word. And while there can be certain aspects of existentialism and marxism that may sound as contradicting (for example Sartre's authenticity can be (mis)understood as such) and one can even argue that individualist anarchism is the logical political consequence of existentialism, I still think that because they deal with different areas of life, they can be reconciled. Because thoughts applied to individuals as philosophical tenets can't be applied as a way of organizing society (the primary reason why there were never states founded upon Plato's or Evola's principles if you ask me) and vice versa - while Marx is provides an invaluable critique of capitalism and a splendid vision of the future which can be inspiring, he is not the one I seek when I want to achieve a better understanding of myself, the Selbst. For this task, Camus and Sartre are much more efficient.

In my opinion, existentialism can be reconciled with almost everything if we want to be extreme, for if there is a primal principle in all of existentialist philosophy it is to find a new meaning of life after the death of absolutes.

And to answer the first two questions:

1. The site is pretty good, back when I was out for some sources regarding Pannekoek and Luxemburg, it did a great service. However, in topics not strictly related to marxism or marxist tehoreticians I would be cautious with it. (Like in this case.)

2. My knowldege of Novack is limited, but I would read him with caution, and I if you find any better sources on this topic... well, you know. Read those instead of Novack.
#14613290
My understanding of Existentialism and Marxism has them as incompatible. Existentialism is about individual values, Marxism has tendency to monolithic top down structures, it tends disciplined parties with rigid values, which rhetorically devalue the individual in favor of the mass. Both a broad churches and I suppose it's possible to find some accommodation. But hey I;m some sort of apologetic anarchists more influenced by Camus/Nietzsche than Marx. I find Marx good at analysis as a tool for looking at society (but not the only tool or filter) but Marxism as a strand of Socialism I dont like because of it's authoritarian strain. But really have not taken the time to really study Marx is more from the large number of Marxists I have bumped into in the left underworld.,
#14613395
Existentialism is not incompatible with Marxism at all: The Multiverse can blindly trudge along its deterministic path guided by the iron laws of its material and social forces, while other than their class interest the individual people trapped in the moving machine' have to ponder on their own whatever if anything their individual subjective-and-thus-irrelevant existences mean to them, at least if they're the ponderin' type. *shrug*

The problem with Existentialism is not that it's anti-Marxist. The problem is that it brings nothing to the table. Who the fuck cares about the meaning of individual existences? What the fuck does meaning mean? Let's just sharpen Occam's Razor and shred the whole subjective and empty spook to pieces. When it comes to the Self I'm nihilistic enough to border Buddhist: Fuck the so-called Self, there's no use to it, let's drop the whole pseudo-concept and move along.

Don't pay much mind to me on them abstract questions, though: I'm a reductionistic vulgar materialist if there ever was one. Hell, Pote even said I only got a trade union consciousness . As far as I'm concerned dialectics is meant to be used as a cudgel to batter enemies with, not a scalpel for white-collar philosophizing.

And I'm not the most neutral judge neither: Can't say I'm all to fond of my own 'Self', and that might sour me on the whole notion of Selves in general.
Last edited by KlassWar on 27 Oct 2015 15:49, edited 1 time in total.
#14613397
KlassWar wrote:The problem with Existentialism is not that it's anti-Marxist. The problem is that it brings nothing to the table. Who the fuck cares about the meaning of individual existences? What the fuck does meaning mean? Let's just sharpen Occam's Razor and shred the whole subjective and empty spook to pieces.


You can cling to society, you can cling to ideas and ideologies, you can act as a communitarian, but in the end, everyone remains alone with themselves, staring into their own abyss. Not caring about individual existence is the first move towards dehumanization, which is a dangerous notion and can lead to atrocious things. In my opinion, to live a full life, one must deal with both their individual existence and their relationship with society. There's existentialism for the first one, and marxism for the second. But maybe I just have a tendency to separate life's different areas.
#14613749
KlassWar wrote: Fuck the so-called Self, there's no use to it, let's drop the whole pseudo-concept and move along.

The inevitable absurdity intended to rationalize, justify, and enable atrocities.
I'm a reductionistic vulgar materialist if there ever was one.

Reductionism without selves. Materialism without selves.

You are a proper caution, I must say.
Can't say I'm all to fond of my own 'Self', and that might sour me on the whole notion of Selves in general.

How eloquently insightful....
#14613781
Materialism without selves.


From a purely material standpoint the self isn't any more important than any other collection of atoms and forces.
#14613795
pugsville wrote:My understanding of Existentialism and Marxism has them as incompatible.

Incompatible is a good word for it.

Existentialism encompasses Marxism without any problem, it postulates that individuals choose how they define themselves. Marxism is a legit definition. However, Marxism/Communism denies the individual the right to define themselves and insists they accept and accommodate a predefined identity that is politically and philosophically conformist. It's just not possible to reconcile these viewpoints.

Zam
#14613797
Marxism/Communism denies the individual the right to define themselves and insists they accept and accommodate a predefined identity that is politically and philosophically conformist.

Can you quote the passage from Marx's writings where he says this? Thanks in advance.
#14613800
I think you could reconcile them, though it would be a little difficult as Existentialism seems to imply an ideological (in the philosophical sense) structure. Though, conceivably, you could get around that. You'd then say getting over the material conditions of society, being able to view them at all, was something of an existential act in of itself.

That's about all I can say about it though.
#14613801
Existentialism is more like a religion in terms of the solutions it offers. Kind of like a radical anarcho-individualist religion of the self. Nothing wrong with that either. And like its peers it can be molded to fit any economic base imaginable.

Marxism will absorb the whole superstructure.
#14613855
It doesn't matter how materialistic you are, Klass. The individual atoms of society are not just atoms; each is its own separate oceanic consciousness. Therein resides the inescapable contradiction that pits the individual against his peers, and causes him to struggle mightily with inherited dogmas.

The ghost will always be in the machine. No Marxist priest or liberal shaman can exorcise it. And existentialism does bring something to the table: the necessity to act in order to provide meaning to your existence.
#14613856
Marxism/Communism denies the individual the right to define themselves and insists they accept and accommodate a predefined identity that is politically and philosophically conformist.
Potemkin wrote:Can you quote the passage from Marx's writings where he says this?

I can throw a few quotes at you ...

Marx - (Communist Maifesto)
"Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie; in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society."

"They (communists) openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions."

Bebel - (The Socialization of Society)
"In the new society the conditions of existence will be the same for all."

Mao - (quotations)
"the dividing line between revolutionary intellectuals and non-revolutionary or counter-revolutionary intellectuals is whether or not they are willing to integrate themselves with the workers and peasants and actually do so."


In general Marxist/Communist rhetoric prefers to find fault with existing systems rather than propose specific solutions.

In practice, Marxist/Communist intolerance is well documented ... Look no further than the Gulags and Re-Education camps where "non conformists" were sent to reinvent themselves or die.

Zam
#14614007
quetzalcoatl wrote:The ghost will always be in the machine. No Marxist priest or liberal shaman can exorcise it. And existentialism does bring something to the table: the necessity to act in order to provide meaning to your existence.


The ghost in the shell is just like the illusion of free will: A neurochemical mirage, a malfunction artifact. Reality is wholly material, mechanical and deterministic, down to the lowliest of synapses. The self and the will are psychotic delusions with which faulty mind-machines try and cope with a bleak and meaningless existence where causality is a harsh and ruthless mistress. Them delusions are simply widespread enough that the culture itself embraces their folly.

Ultimately, though, we're just fleshy puppets dancing to the tune of a blind causality, and believing otherwise because our wiring is itself a blind and imprecise kludge. There will be grounds to question full mechanical determinism only if and when we manage to violate causality, and even then it could be successfully argued that we were simply on a deterministic path to break it in the first place.
#14614012
KlassWar wrote:The ghost in the shell is just like the illusion of free will: A neurochemical mirage, a malfunction artifact. Reality is wholly material, mechanical and deterministic, down to the lowliest of synapses. The self and the will are psychotic delusions with which faulty mind-machines try and cope with a bleak and meaningless existence where causality is a harsh and ruthless mistress. Them delusions are simply widespread enough that the culture itself embraces their folly.

Ultimately, though, we're just meat puppets dancing to the tune of a blind causality, and believing otherwise because our wiring is itself a blind and imprecise kludge. There will be grounds to question full mechanical determinism only if and when we manage to violate causality, and even then it could be successfully argued that we were simply on a deterministic path to break it in the first place.


Ka ching! Wow, great! you won a free game of Stoic Pinball!

Zam
#14614024
KlassWar wrote:The ghost in the shell is just like the illusion of free will: A neurochemical mirage, a malfunction artifact. Reality is wholly material, mechanical and deterministic, down to the lowliest of synapses. The self and the will are psychotic delusions with which faulty mind-machines try and cope with a bleak and meaningless existence where causality is a harsh and ruthless mistress. Them delusions are simply widespread enough that the culture itself embraces their folly.

Ultimately, though, we're just meat puppets dancing to the tune of a blind causality, and believing otherwise because our wiring is itself a blind and imprecise kludge. There will be grounds to question full mechanical determinism only if and when we manage to violate causality, and even then it could be successfully argued that we were simply on a deterministic path to break it in the first place.

Lenin wrote:...his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never made a study of the dialectics, and, I think, never fully understood it)...
#14614085
Lenin wrote:...his theoretical views can be classified as fully Marxist only with great reserve, for there is something scholastic about him (he has never made a study of the dialectics, and, I think, never fully understood it)...
Damn who is Lenin referring to there? Of course I could Google it but that would be cheating. I don't think its Trotsky. It could be a late quote about Stalin. I thought maybe Bukharin when he was a left Communism. Could it be Plekanhov? I'm fairly sure its not Kautsky. So guesses anyone who hasn't googled it. I would plumb for Stalin but i doubt Potemkin would quote such a pro Trotskyist line.

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