Archive for the 'Philosophy' Category

Gramsci on Lukács and the dialectic in human vs natural history

Note: One must study the position of Professor Lukács towards the philosophy of praxis. It would appear that Lukács maintains that one can speak of the dialectic only for the history of men and not for nature. He might be right and he might be wrong. If his assertion presupposes a dualism between nature and man he is wrong because he is falling into a conception of nature proper to religion and to Graeco-Christian philosophy and also to idealism which does not in reality succeed in unifying and relating man and nature to each other except verbally. But if human history should be conceived also as the history of nature (also by means of the history of science) how can the dialectic be separated from nature? Perhaps Lukács, in reaction to the baroque theories of the Popular Manual, has fallen into the opposite error, into a form of idealism.”
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Antonio Gramsci, ‘The Concept of ‘Science’ section of “Problems of Marxism,” in Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. by Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International Publishers, 1971), page 448.
The Popular Manual Gramsci is referring to is Nikolai Bukharin’s Historical Materialism.

Rudolf Rocker’s Yiddish translation of Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ (1910)

Title page of Rocker's Yiddish translation of 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra'

German radical Rudolf Rocker was one of the most prominent figures of the anarcho-syndicalist movement during the classical period. His works such as Nationalism and Culture (as well as works of literary criticism like The Six) also made him anarcho-syndicalism’s most noted intellectual in the Anglophone world. A polyglot, Rocker learned Yiddish and became a well-known organizer of Jewish workers when he lived in London.

Lesser known is Rocker’s work as a translator, and his most interesting work was a Yiddish translation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The Yiddish edition can be read online here.

Some of his Rocker’s works in Yiddish are available here as well.

(Special thanks to the Russian anarchist blogger Laplandian for finding these resources.)

Spencer Sunshine: “Nietzsche and the Anarchists” (2005)

The proposal to combine Nietzsche and anarchism must sound audacious to many people. Even if one doesn’t hold to the old belief that the “working class” (whoever that might be today) are the only ones who can make revolutionary change, wasn’t Nietzsche an influence on the fascists, and an individualist who championed the right of the strong to rule over the weak? And doesn’t Nietzsche himself repeatedly denounce the anarchist movement of his day, calling them “dogs” and accusing them of ressentiment?

Without consulting Nietzsche’s works themselves in an attempt to “prove” or “disprove” whether he is compatible with anarchism or not, I believe that a more fruitful way to approach this proposed conjunction is to look at the historical record of how left-wing anarchists have approached Nietzsche. The surprising answer is that many of them quite liked him, including the “classical anarchists”; in fact, some of them even used his ideas to justify anarchist beliefs about class struggle.

The list is not limited to culturally-oriented anarchists such as Emma Goldman, who gave dozens of lectures about Nietzsche and baptized him as an honorary anarchist. Pro-Nietzschean anarchists also include prominent Spanish CNT–FAI members in the 1930s such as Salvador Seguí and anarcha-feminist Federica Montseny; anarcho-syndicalist militants like Rudolf Rocker; and even the younger Murray Bookchin, who cited Nietzsche’s conception of the “transvaluation of values” in support of the Spanish anarchist project.

There were many things that drew anarchists to Nietzsche: his hatred of the state; his disgust for the mindless social behavior of “herds”; his (almost pathological) anti-Christianity; his distrust of the effect of both the market and the State on cultural production; his desire for an “overman” — that is, for a new human who was to be neither master nor slave; his praise of the ecstatic and creative self, with the artist as his prototype, who could say, “Yes” to the self-creation of a new world on the basis of nothing; and his forwarding of the “transvaluation of values” as source of change, as opposed to a Marxist conception of class struggle and the dialectic of a linear history.

Continue reading ‘Spencer Sunshine: “Nietzsche and the Anarchists” (2005)’

Emma Goldman’s ‘Mother Earth’ & Nietzsche

Below is an ad from Emma Goldman’s journal Mother Earth, advertising the collected works of Frederich Nietzsche, which could be ordered directly through the magazine. This ad originally appeared in the November 1912 issue, and the magazine offered Nietzsche’s works for sale through 1914.

Jünger on Heidegger: “If only he hadn’t done those stupid things – for which, however, I don’t reproach him…”

Hervier: À propos of traveling, you talk about Heidegger, who was more of a homebody. You know that he was once invited to give a lecture in Rome, where he was supposed to spend a week. But the lecture was such a big hit that he was asked to give a second one, and he spent his entire stay indoors, preparing the lecture.

Jünger: Yes: in Seventy Wines, I quote a letter that Heidegger wrote me, saying that he is like an old Chinese, he prefers staying at home. My brother Freidrich Georg was closer to Heidegger than I, and he always had anecdotes about him. One day, Heidegger was stung in the back of the neck by a bee, and my brother told him that that was excellent for rheumatism. Heidegger didn’t know what to answer. I have a whole pack of letters he sent me, and he also presented me with two unpublished essays in a very beautiful penmanship. He gave seminars on The Worker and Total Mobilization. If only he hadn’t done those stupid things – for which, however, I don’t reproach him; it is not the job of the philosopher to have clear political thinking. Besides, the situation was not such that one could say: “I want to preserve things as they are.” He thought something new was coming, but he was dreadfully mistaken. He did not have as clear a vision as I did.

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from The Details of Time: Conversations with Ernst Jünger, trans. Joachim Neugroschel (NY: Marsilo Publishers, 1986/1995), p 55.

Henri Lefebvre – “The Spontaneous”

The category of the ‘lived’ permits us to rehabilitate the category of spontaneity, which has long been disparaged, thanks to the attitude both of rationalist and of transcendentalist philosophy. Neither culturalism nor structuralism can admit the spontaneous and the unformed.

However, the rehabilitation of the ‘spontaneous’ does not rob critique of its rights. Quite the opposite. Are we about to make an apology for the spontaneous which would fetishize it? [fn11 – This is implied in the work on the ‘non-directive’ by the American psycho-sociologist Rogers and his school in France, for example.] Certainly not. Spontaneity has no privileges in any domain, be it everyday life or politics. When it is lacking, ‘something’ fundamental is missing; there is a gap, like a sterile little vacuum in the tissue of life. However, spontaneity is not always creative every time, with every risk it takes. It makes mistakes, and it fails more frequently than rational prognostication and calculation. Neither the idea of it nor its reality offers a criterion for existence or for value. Authentic per se (but how can we know this?), it eludes control and integration. And yet it imitates and mimics itself. In the spontaneous, it is difficult to make out what are dramas, dramatizations, de-dramatizations or super-dramatizations (which procedures of social control and integration encourage, and then repress). In periods of intense ideological control, the spontaneous and the non-spontaneous become merged, as do the natural and the artificial. This means  the members of a particular group discover ideologically saturated values, norms and symbols ‘spontaneously’.

To put it another way, whether it be in our consciousness or in the outside world, we never attain pure nature or an unconditional ‘being’. The spontaneous is already part of the social, although it is not the social per se. Everyday life gives it a place and a consistency and is the level on which it expresses itself. The spontaneous is nothing more than an element of the social, on a certain level. As such, it exists. It is active, it grows, it withers away, and as such it dies, in everyday life.

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from Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, Vol II: Foundations for a Sociology of the Everyday, trans. John Moore (London & NY: Verso, 2002), pp 218-19.



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