Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | February 16, 2010

Marxism is radically antifoundationalist part 2

Marxism is radically antifoundationalist. Once the age of pre-historical class society is over, grand teleological narratives such as Marxist theory, which have so far proved regrettably necessary to grasp the dreary continuities of class history, will give ground to that multiplicity of mini-narratives flourishing entirely for their own sake which for Marx is the mark of history proper, and of which he has exceedingly little to say. It is in this sense that Adorno can deny that a socialist society would form a totality. But in another sense, just as in the case of theology, Marx’s thought is not antifoundational at all. For one thing, production for its own sake. will still of course rest on the foundation of Nature. But emancipated labor is precisely that form of production which, rather like the work of art, transforms its material conditions into the grounds of its freedom.

It is thus that the early Marx of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts speaks of the naturalization of humanity and the humanization of nature. Freedom, once more, is not a question of being cut mysteriously adrift from determinations, but of folding them into one’s project as the source of one’s self-determining. Freedom lies not in a release from determinations, but in a peculiar way of being determined. For Marx, this is in one sense an anthropological fact about humanity; but to convert that fact into a value is what is known as communism. And this process, like the grace of theology or the autonomy of the artwork, can be adequately captured neither by foundational nor antifoundational models.But there is another sense in which Marx’s proposal escapes this binary logic.

For one can always ask why this condition, in which freely and reciprocally4 realizing our powers and capacities as historical subjects becomes an end in itself, should be thought desirable. And here Marx’s answer involves a kind of self-founding foundationalism, which is to say that the question cannot really be answered. It cannot be answered because for Marx such self-realization simply belongs to what the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts call our “species being” or Gattungswesen. “Species being” is Marx’s “just because.” Given the kind of laboring, linguistic, historical creatures we are, our happiness or well-being requires that we be as far as possible self-determining and self-realizing.



  1. This ontological ground cannot
    be epistemologically grounded. And it is in this sense that an appeal to
    natures, or essences, is a radical one

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