28 September 2016

Laurence Paul Hemming's ignorance

In his 2013 book, Heidegger and Marx. A Productive Dialogue over the Language of Humanism, Laurence Paul Hemming proclaims, "The only person to have attempted a full-scale synthesis of Heidegger's and Marx's thinking is Kostas Axelos." This assertion comes as some surprise considering not only my own extensive and intensive engagement with both Marx's and Heidegger's thinking over many decades,** but also the work of H.D. Kittsteiner in Germany, whose Mit Marx für Heidegger - Mit Heidegger für Marx was published in 2004 (cf. my critique of Kittsteiner).

The restriction of Hemming's book to considering, in the usual arbitrary scholarly fashion, only "the language of humanism" is a violent truncation of Marx's thinking, since the so-called "humanist Marx" is the young Marx of around 1844, when he wrote the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts, the only text of Marx's with which Heidegger himself bothered to engage. Marx's mature thinking is not considered. Not only that, the rereading and reconstructing of Marx's uncompleted critique of political economy as the basis for a dialectical theory of the totality of the capitalist form of society, initiated in 1965 by Hans-Georg Backhaus in Frankfurt with his Dialektik der Wertform, first presented in an Adorno seminar, is not even mentioned. Quite an achievement in ignorance, although not uncommon. But it is precisely through a reassessment of the dialectics of the value-form and its consequences for thinking through the mode of sociation in capitalist society via reified value that Marx, by returning to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, offers his best for a social ontology of the modern world that serves as a corrective to Heidegger's one-eyed fixation on modern technology as the consummation of Greek te/xnh poihtikh/.

The terrain on which Heidegger and Marx are to fruitfully engage is not that of humanism, but the question concerning the multifaceted phenomenon of value (Gk. timh/), not only in its reified, capitalist form, but as the evaluating, estimating power interplay infusing all sharing of a social world. Not only tame and inconsequential Heidegger scholarship, but also politically and ideologically committed Marxism remain worlds away from any engagement with thinking through the primordially sociating phenomenon of value, and hence incapable of  bringing the phenomenon of social power to its adequate concept. Instead it is taken merely sociologically as an all-too-familiar, ontic given, without ever revealing its ontology as estimating power plays among whos.

** My book, Capital and Technology: Marx and Heidegger, first published in German in 2000 and available also in Chinese (transl. Li Yanjun), is only one part of my attempt to take both Heidegger's and Marx's thinking further, not through narrative scholarship that merely 'talks about', but through a demanding conceptual thinking-through of the phenomena themselves.

Further reading:

Social Ontology, along with Capital and Technology: Marx and Heidegger, both of which serve to deepen my criticism of Hemming's book for those willing and able to grapple with decisive philosophical questions. This demands the attempt to interpret the elementary phenomena at issue with closely fitting concepts.

No comments:

Post a Comment