Archive for the 'Spinoza' Category

A Re-injection of Spinoza

Ed note: These were left by Wayne in a comment in yesterday’s posting, but I think they deserve a posting of their own – rwd

To elaborate on this thought-experiment, a re-injection of the Spinozist side of Marx has been vital for a whole series of thinkers attempting to revitalize Marxism. The new emphasis on Spinoza coming out of France and Italy is I think attempt to fully develop the challenge of democracy. Spinoza places the demos or the multitude as the source of power. In Spinoza power comes from below. All of this is in Marx and Marxism, but it is not theoretically into analytic categories.

What I call, following Star Trek, the prime directive, is the idea that the exploited and oppressed have to liberate themselves. Marx, said this any number of times, but it often gets rolled under Marxist economic categories. It also is usually called the dicatatorship of the proletariat and given the histories of dictatorships over the proletariat, it is wise to be careful (if I may understate the case).

The multitude, the masses in action, is the active form of democratic power. The multitude is not a sociological category it exists in the streets when people go out to reclaim their power. It is a kind of anti-theater of collective power.

Socialism is marked by the creations of institutions of mass democratic power or the democratic control over power.

When people chant “this is what democracy looks like” they are calling for a society that is egalitarian in terms of both wealth and power. In our context they are both an active critique of societies that have elections but no longer seem democratic.

I share your reservations about Cuba, so without entering into a specific discussion of Cuba, I want to go into a discussion of metaphysics and politics. Spinoza, is famous for his radical solution to the mind-body problem,for those of you who stumbled onto our discussion hoping for more politics and less theory this is essentially a political discussion. The political point is that the mind-body split is a typical division of power where the leader (the boss under capitilism or the party in socialist politics) takes the position of the mind, and the masses or the working-classes are in the position of the body. So if you start things from the body and refuse a certain conception of the mind-body split it is a way thinking about a world in which people collectively control power or actively participate in the decision process.

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two links for tuesday morning reading

Monthly Review, May 2007: Healing the Rift: Metabolic Restoration in Cuban Agriculture, by Rebecca Clauso (Posted with some pre-requisite skepticism about many claims & apologetics about Cuba, which is frankly not a socialist utopia)…

Cuban agriculture over the past thirteen years has worked to reestablish the spatial relationships between nutrient cycles and material exchanges. A key principle of Cuba’s agroecology is the “optimization of local resources and promotion of within-farm synergisms through plant-animal combinations.”

The Cuban model of agriculture recognizes that the artificial divide between mental and manual labor limits the range of opportunities for productive food systems. The goals of a participatory democracy for agricultural decision making have been incorporated into the new farming model, and this is made possible by the new ownership patterns.

and from Cultural Logic,1998:Spinoza and Marx, by Eugene Holland

What follows is in the nature of a thought-experiment. It is well known that Marx was familiar with Spinoza; indeed, he hand-copied whole passages of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus into his notebooks. Less clear is the significance of this fact, and the extent of Spinoza’s influence on Marx’s thought.1 The aim of the experiment here is to deliberately exaggerate the extent of that influence: to think through some of the possible implications of placing Spinoza at the heart of Marx’s endeavor.