The following thoughts were prompted by Gabriel Rockhill’s truculent essay, “Capitalism’s Court Jester: Slavoj Zizek” on Jan. 2 of this year; Nick
Source: Beyond Vulgar Materialism: Hegel, Lenin, Zizek and the Philosophical Poverty of Today’s Radical Left – CounterPunch.org
I have often been critical of Marxist dialectic and in The Last Revolution have an appendix on this and other issues (Samkhya: Ancient and Modern). This essay enters the quagmire of the dialectic which tends to produce endless confusion in the mental fugue of thoughts apercu (very profound) attempting to resolve its logical/supra/logical fog.
In considering the classic philosophical moment of the period of Hegel/Marx it is important to consider the whole problem and its history: Kant, Schopenhauer, Hegel, and then Marx/Engels (and many others of the period). If you wish a dialectic, get to the bottom of this triad. We might forget and never register that Hegel is attempting to deal with the to me the non-problem of the noumenal and the phenomenal (or in Schopenhauer’s terminology, the thing-in-itself as the noumenal). Kant was one of the few philosophers who innovated a great insight and his thematic of the phenomenal/noumenal was a remarkable advance, although it is surely present in Plato. Unless we are clear here at the start the whole of Hegel will prove incomprehensible, like walking into an advanced math class armed with the mere rudiments of beginner’s ‘archaic calculus’). This has been the disastrous fate of the Marx legacy and the whole issue of socialism has been confounded by issues that should be set to one side in the practical construction of some kind of postcapitalist social system. An army of confused dialectical idiots rehashing the Marx/Hegel gulch will come to nothing save madness in the name of philosophy. This interesting article cites Buddhist and other legacies and it should be recalled that Buddha rejected philosophy and demanded the obsessed thinker act to still thoughts in meditation. If the men overboard in the Marx/Hegel quicksand could but take his advice the subject of socialism might be able to recover.
It was Schopenhauer who fulminated for decades against Hegel, his absolute bete noir) and observed that he confused a whole generation and reduced intelligent men to mystical hashwork. Maybe so, maybe not, but the point is clear that the Hegel obsession in Marxists (cf. the instance of Zizek) is a contingent outcome of a given limited cultural totality and contracted around a set of problems that have no real outcome as proven conclusions. It is possible to simply truncate from this muddle and start over with the basic propositions of socialism without attempting to provide the solution to the materialist/idealist issue. In a way Marx/Engels have seeded the whole subject with unnecessary confusion, or, at any rate, a meme nexus that to a high probability will confuse eager students of socialist futurism. History bears out Schopenhauer’s warning, and the field of Marxism is a small army of philosophic cripples.
In The Last Revolution I recommend taking Marx/Engels as journalists and observers of the Industial/Capitalist revolution and simply putting their philosophical background to one side in the attempt to decipher the path to dealing with the capitalist situation, now a global menace. Beyond historical materialism and dialectical materialism, two exceptionally mediocre ‘philosophies’, lie the acute observations of Marx/Engels on class, class struggles, and the mechanics of exploitation if only one can (and really can one) disentangle from the theory package, mostly pseudo-science, of Marx’s confusion in the era of Hegel.