by François Laruelle
Situations of defeat or retreat, as much as those of victory, are the worst situations that the rigor of thought has to confront. We must not always leave it up to desertion to desire the verification of the supposed failure of Marxism and to “comment” upon it. Neither should it be left to what occupies the “post-Marxist intellectuals,” that is monetizing some revamped ideas still useful to today’s tastes. Nor to philosophy alone or to science alone, not even to their combination, meaning we shouldn’t leave it to Marxism itself, attempting it through auto-justification or auto-denigration. It isn’t for those who in- tend to “make a return” to the “text” of Marx against its Marx- ist use that this attempt is made nor this hypothesis proposed. Only a non-Marxian and non-Marxist repetition of Marx- ism can avoid the ideological comedy of the philosophical “return” as the tragicomedy of its deconstruction. The generation of Marxism’s deserters are certainly lost, but not lost to philosophical sufficiency. Hence the “returns,” to Heidegger and others, to the Platonic ontology of mathematics, to mono- theism, to Eastern philosophy, etc., or to the more modest and more institutionally secure tasks, like the history of the sciences and ideologies, epistemology, political philosophy, etc. In every way our project is closer, despite their philosophical postulation, to the neo-Marxisms that carry on the grand classical task of Marxism’s philosophical enrichment.
A failure in terms of the historical realization of the Marxist program carries several possible empirical significations, several aspects, never a single one as resentment makes us believe. On the other hand, strictly speaking there must be a single cause-of-the-last-instance for this failure. From this point of view, it is impossible to declare anything rigorously or stable regarding this supposed failure: 1. outside of its radical “inclusion” in the conjuncture, the concept of which it modifies; 2. if the conditions of a rigorous theory of this failure are not also simultaneously those of Marxism itself. They are neither theoretically nor practically joined as long as both are satisfied with adding postulates to the existing ones or varying them without radically changing their very nature, for example those of “conjuncture.” Isolated from the essence of Marxism (because there is one, contrary to what the runaways say), its “failure” is always poorly understood, as an accident and/or an absolute invalidation, as a historical appearance and/or a falsification of the metaphysical kind rather than a scientific one, leading to the deception and resentment that the “intellectuals” feed. The bad conscience of the anti-Marxists or sometimes the neo-Marxists comes with the disorderly retreat and the attempts at reforming the runaways by making them “sit and learn their lessons again.” On the other hand, non-Marxism consists very little in fleeing from Marxism or in returning to it, non-Marxism’s concern is simply going there, a gesture without separation, concerned with assuming it within the posture that is likely to provide the explanation of this failure as a new conjuncture.
There is no point in rushing toward this supposed failure. So how would we judge what this failure concerns? According to what criteria that wouldn’t immediately be contested for its partiality or arbitrariness? Is it “real,” “genuine,” etc.? Scientific? Philosophical? Political? Economic? All of these together? These failures are heterogeneous and incommensurable, their doctrinal “set” is nothing less than what will be its form of “totalization” or theoretical organization. Looking at this explication of the multiple aspects--as such—of failure, an explication that is not empiricist concerning one of them or through one of them alone, we postulate that the theoretical genre of Marxism is a new type, unknown within philosophy, an attempt at a radical unification of science and philosophy under the primacy of the “last instance,” but which still rightly forms itself here under the dominant drive of philosophy.
The feeling that there is a failure is in general confused, poorly analyzed and paralyzed with resentment: a failure sometimes considered to be the failure of so-called “Marx- ist science,” sometimes of Marxist philosophy, of “that philosophy,” of “this axiom,” etc. Each of these aspects is controversial and ambiguous:
1. A failure of the scientific kind? According to its scientific aspect, let us assume, lacking any better alternative, Popper’s criteria: a “false” theory in the absolute sense of metaphysics is not a falsifiable or a scientific theory. If it has been falsified by its application or its practical realization, it is because it was a science rather than a metaphysics. The hypothesis of its universality will have been contradicted experimentally and invalidated, but for that very reason it would have its scientific positivity and would not be the sanction of a metaphysical thesis on history. However, in addition to Popper’s criteria itself being “critical” and metaphysical in an enlarged sense, which sometimes escaped its author, the failure of Marxism confirms—it is true—that it is still too specularly copied from history and the thought-world to which it is not sufficiently heterogeneous, but it also confirms, in an inverse way, the validity of its hypothesis as relatively adequate to the phenomena and presumably “verified” by them.
2. A failure of the philosophical kind? Nothing like that exists inside of philosophy, which at best understands this as illusion and appearance rather than as error, or some flawed or uninteresting interpretation, etc. However, philosophy on the whole is in a posture that is excessively ambitious in relation to reality, in a posture of anticipation and retrospection, it claims to create or at least determine its own “real.” Any philosophical thesis is then also more verified than falsified. A philosophy is verified in a permanent way (but it is an apparent verification or a transcendental illusion), it fails in the same way, in a manner that is not the same as scientific falsification. To assume that there would be a philosophical obsolescence of Marxism has no more validity than the continued obsolescence of any philosophical decisions that form this dead, but always standing army that the tradition is. To the contrary, assume that philosophy has no history, that it is the fixed combat of two antagonistic positions, while it is a tradition that enriches and shifts itself according to a desire for the Real of which the materialist break is only one particular stasis. As a philosophy, Marxism does not have as its object concrete being and its properties, like the positive sciences do, but instead has Being (as matter) for its object and yet Marxism wants to intervene at the level of the concrete (of history, of society, etc.) that is still merely transcended, overviewed, and laterally aimed for, above all transforming concepts, producing the theoretical tradition and, for the rest, in wanting to keep incarnating these overly narrow abstractions (abstractions precisely because they are too narrow, limited, and specific to the thought-world), produced a bit of life, and a great deal of death. As a philosophy, it no longer has objects, it is a game of objectivities and positions. Its practical ambition is in reality a philosophical or excessive ambition, despite this, and because of the battle with its own overly narrow materialist concept of philosophical idealism, it confuses the practical transformation of historical efficacy with philosophical transcendence. Here failure is equally inevitable, but it is not the failure which is bad, it is the belief that a particular philosophy (Dialectical Materialism and what Historical Materialism is structured by) was adapted to the liberation of man. The materialist thesis is only a related system for a truly universal non-Marxism, but the belief that it is concerned with the philosophy for the proletariat (and therefore for man) is particularly illusory. There is nothing within philosophy that transforms the Real, at the very most it transforms the forms that make the World and the thought-world. Above all else, philosophy serves as a vehicle for a faith or for a hope-world, a teleology, which still, independent of every recognized utopia, profoundly grants Marxism a final aspect of the eschatological desire doomed to disappointment.
3. If Marxism is neither a separated science nor a separated philosophy, if it is both in their unity—a divided unity and thus philosophical—then the problem of Marxism’s failure is more complicated because of its “aspects” that it overcomes without undoing them. If it is a theory fusing processes in a double way, equally fusing through its economic and political object but also their philosophical conditions, then its more profound failure is still found elsewhere and not within the poorly formed synthesis or simple combination of these preceding forms of failure where one would dominate the other. Instead, finally, it is found in the specific type of fusions and the theoretical ingredients of its “sources,” and found in the lack of success for this fusion, such that fusion is assured by this instance that it is still philosophy in a mode of synthesis or through the third term, at best occasionally simply inhibited or repressed. The confusion that in general surrounds the thematic of failure results in the refusal, arising from philosophical resentment within Marx’s work itself first of all, to elucidate the ultimate theoretical constitution of doctrine, its “unified” usage of science and philosophy under the banner either of the dialectic or even determination-in-the-last-instance. It also results in the refusal to evaluate its effective practical meaning which is totally distinct from declarations of practical intention that nourish philosophical sufficiency within itself or sometimes even a certain scientistic and political positivism. The relative proportions of science and philosophy, of theory and practice, of technology and politics, disappear into a complete and apparent effect of failure due to the lack of their clear distinction.
excerpt from the book: INTRODUCTION TO NON-MARXISM by François Laruelle
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