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slimharpo wrote:Social classes exist? Ok cool. Is that it?The class in this situation is related to a group of people who share common relations to labour and the means of production. Therefore, we are not connecting people, based upon how much money they make.
slimharpo wrote:Dialectical? wtf is that mean?Dialectics is a method that aims to comprehend things concretely in all aspects, change and interconnections, with the opposite or contradictory side in unity. Dialectics is attempting to get to the essence of things. In regard to general understanding, there is no difference between appearance and essence, but in terms of dialectics, the form and contend of something can be very contradictory. Dialectics attempts to look, not just at the form, but at the whole picture, to completely understand a concept. An excellent example is our current form of democracy. We have democracy in relation to form (The image of democracy), but dictatorship in content (Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie).
Marx wrote:The first work which I undertook to dispel the doubts assailing me was a critical re-examination of the Hegelian philosophy of law; the introduction to this work being published in the Deutsch-Franzosische Jahrbucher issued in Paris in 1844. My inquiry led me to the conclusion that neither legal relations nor political forms could be comprehended whether by themselves or on the basis of a so-called general development of the human mind, but that on the contrary they originate in the material conditions of life, the totality of which Hegel, following the example of English and French thinkers of the eighteenth century, embraces within the term “civil society”; that the anatomy of this civil society, however, has to be sought in political economy. The study of this, which I began in Paris, I continued in Brussels, where I moved owing to an expulsion order issued by M. Guizot. The general conclusion at which I arrived and which, once reached, became the guiding principle of my studies can be summarised as follows.
In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.
In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.
Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation.
In regard to general understanding, there is no difference between appearance and essence, but in terms of dialectics, the form and contend of something can be very contradictory. Dialectics attempts to look, not just at the form, but at the whole picture, to completely understand a concept.From what I have understood in Zizek's writing referring to Hegel and Lacan, the form is actually the very important part of dialectics instead of the essence which is a product of interpretation rather than the unravelling of the absolute.
From what I have understood in Zizek's writing referring to Hegel and Lacan, the form is actually the very important part of dialectics instead of the essence which is a product of interpretation rather than the unravelling of the absolute.
Zizek was referring to Lacan's work on the interpretation of dreams. Usually people try to find a kernel of truth behind the dream. But, if I recall correctly, the dream has no kernel of truth. Any meaning to it must be found in the form in which the dream represents itself. This left me the impression that in Hegelian dialectics the form itself leads you to the essence rather than peeling it off like an onion to reach an absolute inside it.
Is this why then self-image is so important? That through self-image you create your surface which in turn leads to your essence. While at the same time the self-image, in itself, is nothing. If you become obsessed with it, like the schizoids you described, than in turn it will be in vain.
Schizoids are not obsessed with their self-image; in fact, they tend to be indifferent to either praise or blame. They are fearful of having their personal identity invaded or erased by others, and therefore try to protect it by splitting their psyche into two parts (hence the label 'schizoid') - their hidden 'true self' and their surface 'false self', with which they interact with other people. It is conceptually similar to the Kantian division of the world into the (false) 'phenomenal realm' and the (true but hidden) 'noumenal' realm. In reality, of course, this division or splitting (both of the psyche and of the world) is a delusion. The hidden 'true self' is empty and meaningless, and the surface 'false self' is an artificial construct without authenticity. The surface appearance and the essence should not be separated in this way, and the 'essence' should certainly not be valorised at the expense of the surface appearance. Meaning and significance can only be possible through the interaction of the two.
And does this teach us something about the relations and forces of production and the revolution?
Fichte also demonstrated this dialectic from the example of the origin of consciousness, of the ‘positing’ of the non-Ego (not-l) by the activity of the Ego, the differentiation of the person himself as the thinking being from himself as thought of, as the object of thought. Could a person become aware of himself, of the acts of his own consciousness, of his own constructive activity? Obviously he could. He not only thought, but also thought about his thinking, and converted the very act of thinking into an object; and that exercise was always called logic.
The starting point in this case, as was shown above, could only be I, the Ego (Ich, das Selbst) understood as the subject of an activity producing something different from itself, that is to say the product, the recorded result. The Ego was initially equal to itself (I= I) and, considered as something active, creative, creating, already contained in itself the necessity of its own transformation into a non-Ego (not-I). We saw and knew this directly, from self-observation, for consciousness in general was realised only insofar as a representation of something else arose in it, a representation of a non-Ego, a thing, an object. There could not be empty consciousness not filled by anything.
What is thought then? How are we to find the true answer to this question, i.e. to give a scientific definition of this concept, and not simply to list all the actions that we habitually subsume under this term (reasoning, will, fantasy, etc.), as Descartes did? One quite clear recommendation follows from Spinoza’s position, namely: if thought is the mode of action of the thinking body, then, in order to define it, we are bound to investigate the mode of action of the thinking body very thoroughly, in contrast to the mode of action (mode of existence and movement) of the non-thinking body; and in no case whatsoever to investigate the structure or spatial composition of this body in an inactive state. Because the thinking body, when it is inactive, is no longer a thinking body but simply a ‘body’.
Human consciousness arises from the interaction between human physiology and human behaviour. Both these two processes are perfectly objective processes which are observable. Thought cannot be identified with neurons. I can think of a neuron, and I can think with a neuron, but a thought cannot be a neuron or any combination of neurons or neuronal processes. And nor is a thought identical to its object, either in form or content. But when my cat looks behind the mirror to find the other cat, I know what’s in his mind; but it is an appearance, an illusion; it is not my illusion, but his illusion, and such appearances can be studied scientifically.
Having thus posed the problem Hegel proved to be the first professional logician who resolutely and consciously threw aside the old prejudice that thought was presented to the investigator only in the form of speech (external or internal, oral or written). The prejudice was not accidental; thought could only look at itself from the side, as it were, as an object different from itself, only insofar as it had expressed itself, embodied itself in some external form. And the completely conscious thought that all the old logic had in view really assumed language, speech, the word, as its outward form of expression. In other words thought achieved awareness of the schemas of its own activity precisely through and in language. (This circumstance had in fact been recorded in the very name of logic, which is derived from the Greek logos, word.) Not only Hegel and the Hegelians, incidentally, spoke of this, but also some of their opponents in principle, like Trendelenburg, who noted that traditional (formal) ‘logic becomes conscious of itself in speech and so in many respects is a grammar absorbed with itself’.
But, that being so, man’s actions, and so too the results of his actions, the things created by them, not only could, but must, be considered manifestations of his thought, as acts of the objectifying of his ideas, thoughts, plans, and conscious intentions. Hegel demanded from the very start that thought should be investigated in all the forms in which it was realised, and above all in human affairs, in the creation of things and events. Thought revealed its force and real power not solely in talking but also in the whole grandiose process of creating culture and the whole objective body of civilisation, the whole ‘inorganic body of man’ (Marx), including in that tools and statues, workshops and temples, factories and chancelleries, political organisations and systems of legislation.
It was on that basis that Hegel also acquired the right to consider in logic the objective determinations of things outside consciousness, outside the psyche of the human individual, in all their independence, moreover, from that psyche. There was nothing mystical nor idealist in that; it meant the forms (‘determinations’) of things created by the activity of the thinking individual. In other words, the forms of his thought embodied in natural materials, ‘invested’ in it by human activity. Thus a house appeared as the architect’s conception embodied in stone, a machine as the embodiment of the engineer’s ideas in metal, and so on; and the whole immense objective body of civilisation as thought in its ‘otherness’ (das Idee in der Form des Anderssein), in its sensual objective embodiment. The whole history of humanity was correspondingly also to be considered a process of the ‘outward revelation’ of the power of thought, as a process of the realisation of man’s ideas, concepts, notions, plans, intentions, and purposes, as a process of the embodying of logic, i.e. of the schemas to which men’s purposive activity was subordinated.
BUT my consciousness, I cannot investigate scientifically. As Feuerbach put it quite correctly: “what for me is a mental, non-material, suprasensory act, is in itself a material, sensory act.” The other point about Marx’s aphorism is that he defines it as “My relation to my environment” without any qualification. It is all-inclusive. Marx does not limit consciousness to “awareness” nor does he exclude emotions, or make any other such qualification. It is the totality of my relation to my environment. The problem of the further specification of consciousness cannot be settled in advance by philosophy but requires positive, experimental investigation. So philosophy can only give this very starting point: “My relation to my environment is my consciousness.”
Putting this together with the problem of the difference between phenomenon and being in psychology, what this means is that introspection may contribute something to an elaboration of consciousness, but consciousness is not given to introspection. Introspection is a phenomenon in its own right. I cannot step outside of myself and make my own consciousness an object of my consciousness.
If I were to begin with the population, this would be a chaotic conception of the whole, and I would then, by means of further determination, move analytically towards ever more simple concepts, from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations. From there the journey would have to be retraced until I had arrived at the population again, but this time not as the chaotic conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and relations.
If we are free to select one general feature over another we can radically change the concept of capital. If we choose only the ahistorical features we can make capital seem eternal. If abstraction is just seen as the identification of general features then we have no choice but to be arbitrary in our abstractions. But if abstraction is seen differently, as identifying the essential nature of an object, as identifying the “relation within which this thing is this thing” as Ilenkov puts it, then we can be scientific about our abstractions.
When we make an abstraction we want to select that aspect of the object which identifies its essence. Since the essence of things is in their relation to other things, we want to identify the essential relations which govern the object, abstracting away other non-essential aspects. Thus capital’s essence is in the increase of value in production through the exploitation of wage labor. A funny thing happens when we make abstractions of this kind: They often cease to be general features of the entire class. For instance, the above abstract definition of capital does not describe the general features of all capitalist activity. For instance, banks have an increase in value over time but they do not engage in production. Neither do landlords. So the abstraction, capital, is not a general property of capital. Instead it is an abstraction that gets to an essential relation. The profit of banks and landlords is a derivative profit, a subtraction from the surplus value created in production by other capitalists. This is a very different sense of abstraction that we are often used to. Here the abstraction ‘capital’ identifies the essential relation which makes all forms of capital possible, wether or not they share the same general features! The same is true with the basic abstract starting point of Marx’s theory: the commodity. As Ilenkov points out, Marx defines the commodity form very abstractly, even abstraction away money at first and just looking at the relation of one commodity to another. But this basic commodity-commodity relation is generative of the whole complex of social forms that exist in a capitalist economy. Even though some aspects of capitalism (credit default swaps for instance) are not the exchange of one product of labor for another this basic C-C relation is the logical and historical cell which is generative of the whole.
This way of abstracting gets us out of the arbitrary nature of old-logic where we chose whatever general features we wanted. Instead when we abstract we must identify the essential relation which defines an object, a relation that is generative of the class. This requires a very careful scientific approach to understanding how one form generates another, etc. This is the process of unfolding contradictions, etc…. but I will not get into that here.
A good abstraction, one that really identities the essential “relation within which the thing is the thing” is called a ‘concrete abstraction’. From the standpoint of old-logic this seems a contradiction in terms. But it makes perfect sense once we jettison the prejudice that abstract-concrete refers to thought-reality. Concrete abstractions don’t just refer to ideas. They refer to real things in the world. Every concept is abstract in the sense that it just refers to one aspect of reality. Every concept (every well-defined dialectical concept) is concrete in that it refers to the specific features that define an object in relation to the whole rather than to abstract general features. So every well-conceived dialectical concept is a concrete-abstraction.
What is “common” between the employer and employee? Or consumption and production?
Clearly, the concrete-empirical, apparent essence of the relation that binds together various phenomena (individuals) into some “one,” into a common “set,” is by no means delineated and expressed by their abstract-common feature, nor in the definition equally characteristic of both. The unity (“or commonness”) is provided much sooner by the “feature” which one individual possesses and another does not. The very absence of the known feature ties one individual to another much stronger than its equal presence in both.
Ilyenkov has established that thinking in concepts entails revealing the real living unity of things, their concrete connection of interaction and not abstract dead unity.
Sameness is usually assumed to identify a link or interaction between phenomena. Yet the sameness does not reveal the essence of interconnection. For example two gears are locked together between their teeth and grooves not between tooth and tooth. They are connected through their opposite reflection.
A similar process is observed in chemical process between particles when to become a molecule one particle finds its compliment in another in the electrons within its opposite structure. Bonding takes place through one particle finding in the other a property which it lacks. Without this continuous coming together and breaking apart no cohesion or interaction exists either.
Indeed were two phenomena absolutely identical it would be hard to see any interaction between them ever taking place. Identical phenomena may exist side by side but in order for there to be interaction between them certain changes must take place within them that turns them into mutually opposing moments within a coherent whole.
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