Contemporary Perspectives on Dialectics: Revisiting the Legacies and Schools (Part I and II)

A panel on 'Contemporary Perspectives on Dialectics: Revisiting the Legacies and Schools (Part I and II)'

Alexei Penzin
  penzhouse@mail.ru
  
Stewart Martin
  stewart.martin.t21@btinternet.com
  Middlesex University
  Chair
Artemy Magun
  amagun@eu.spb.ru
  European University, St. Petersburg; Chto Delat
  Contributor
Alexei Penzin
  A.Penzin@wlv.ac.uk
  University of Wolverhampton (UK); the Institute of Philosophy, Moscow; Chto Delat
  Contributor
Yoel Regev
  yoel.regev@gmail.com
  The Institute of Philosophy KU Leuven
  Contributor
Anton Syutkin
  asyutkin@eu.spb.ru
  European University, St. Petersburg
  Contributor
Oxana Timofeeva
  oxana_san@yahoo.com
  European University, St. Petersburg; Chto Delat
  Contributor
Alex Levant
  
  Contributor
 

Type Panel
When Jun 01, 2016
from 04:19 AM to 04:19 AM
Where London
Venue
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Contact Phone +44 7455 956727
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PANEL PROPOSAL: The last 50 years were characterized by critique of dialectics in the French post-WWII radical thought that coincided with a post-positivist aversion to dialectics in the Anglo-American analytical philosophy. This aversion resulted in the unfortunate failure to single out the main antagonisms and the main driving forces of the epoch behind the screen of «differences» and «pluralities» and in the failure to anticipate any relative historical progress apart from the beautiful-soul utopias. In the recent years, thanks to important works by Fredric Jameson, Slavoj Žižek and others, a rehabilitation of «dialectical materialism» is on the agenda, even though a systematic justification of this usage is absent. Alain Badiou, a very important thinker of the left, still refuses to speak of dialectics, and the «historical materialism» in philosophy and social sciences school stand in a problematic relation to dialectics. We think that time has come for a systematic treatment of dialectics as a framework of left-wing thinking. And in this respect, the problem of whether the dialectics can be «materialist» (an invention of the II-nd International), or «matter» is here simply a synonym of an empirical ground of thought, is one of the central ones. Another crucial choice is the one between the «negative dialectics» (whatever it means), a more traditional Engelsian dialectics of «synthesis», or other, more idealist or spiritualist versions. The legacy of the 20th century dialectical schools, namely the Frankfurt School and the Soviet Marxism, still awaits its adequate reckoning in this respect. The panel will explore the many varieties of dialectics and will review the ongoing work on the renewal of this school of thought and its historical antecedents. The panel will examine the main schools of dialectical thought and their legacies, with special focus on the Soviet Marxists such as Boris Porshnev and Lev Vygotsky, on the Kojevian understanding of dialectics as inspired by the USSR experiment, the place of negativity in dialectics, as well as possibilities to re-inscribe into this field some contemporary thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou. The panel also reflects on the famous theme of Master and Slave dialectics taken in contemporary terms of the non-human forms and conditions of labor. TITLES AND ABSTRACTS Contemporary Perspectives on Dialectics: Revisiting the Legacies and Schools (Part I) Soviet Marxism as One of the Three Dialectical Schools of the 20th Century, and the Case of Boris Porshnev’s Dialectical Anthropology Artemy Magun Dialectics, mostly abandoned for almost 40 years, returns now to the center of intellectual discussions. In developing it, we need no realize not just its relevance (the largely paradoxical nature of recent history), but also an existence of a large 20th century dialectical archive. In the 20th century there were three main dialectical schools: German Frankfurt school of negative dialectic, French Kojevianism to which one can refer such obviously dialectical thinkers as Sartre, Bataille, and Lacan, and finally Soviet Marxism, part of which fall prey to dogmatic naturalist assumptions, but the other part (mainly Vygotsky, Porshnev, Bakhtin, Marr, Ilyenkov, Lifshitz) produced a highly original neo-Hegelian social thought that was based on negativity like the German one but combined it with the French emphasis on collectivity and subjectivity. Boris Porshnev (1905-1972) shared Vygotsky’s accent on the collective nature of consciousness, but was a more rigorous Hegelian than the former, by grounding his dialectic in negativity, which in his view is essential to language. Porshnev reconstructed the early human history and conjectured that its basis was the capacity of first humans to subject other animals by language, and to block the action of language on themselves. The dialectical method that makes us discover the play of these contradictory active forces in the essence of human beings. The idea of smooth evolution is replaced by this play of forces which includes a vanishing mediator of sheer negativity. These considerations may seem abstract, but in fact they are highly relevant both for understanding the interaction of solidarity and domination in human societies and for refining the dialectical way of conceiving a historical genesis. Deleuze and Porshnev: Diplasty, Resonance, Materialist dialectics Yoel Regev The paper will examine the thought of the Soviet philosopher and anthropologist Boris Porshnev, while focusing on essential structural parallels between this thought and Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy. The central concepts of Porshnev’s project of explaining the genesis of human speech and rationality will be compared to Deleuze’s theory of sense and non-sense and the theory of the genesis of language in «Milles plateaux». A special emphasis will be put on the close connection between Deleuze’s concept of resonance and Porshnev’s idea of «diplasty». We will finally try to show that these similitudes can be explained by the fact that both Porshnev and Deleuze are trying to deal with the same questions: the questions formulated by Althusser in the 60s as the main questions of materialist dialectics. The closeness between two projects thus will be shown to be the affinity of two attempts to continue the development of tradition of materialist dialectics in a radical and unorthodox way. Dialectics and “Proletarian Awareness” in Alexander Kojève’s “Sophia” (1941) Alexei Penzin The work of Alexander Kojève, including his heterodox ideas on dialectics, was usually discussed in the context of his decisive influences on the development of French philosophy after WWII (Hegelianism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, and “la pensée 68”), or more recently in the discussions about the “post-histoire” which appropriated his concept of the “end of history” in terms of hegemonic and pervasive neoliberal managerialism. In his famous lectures of 1930s Kojève provocatively claimed that the dialectics could be whatever, but not the “method” of Hegel’s philosophy. Vice versa, Hegel is the first philosopher who stops using dialectics as philosophical “method,” renders it inoperative. And exactly this deactivation of dialectics allows him to get access to absolute knowledge. The philosopher takes the position of “Sage” who contemplates and describes the “dialectical movement” of the Real, not intervening into it with any subjective and one-sided “method”. The shaping of this position becomes possible, indeed, only after “the end of history” which allows the Real to be finally totalised and articulated in the philosophical system. Written in Russian in 1941 and still not published in full, the 900 pages of Kojève’s manuscript “Sophia – Phenomenology and Philosophy” introduce even more paradoxical twist with regard to dialectics. Taking the Soviet official discourse of 1920s-1930s at its face value, Kojève links the idea of the end of history to the “really existing communism” understood as the post-historical State, and associates the figure of the Sage with the so-called “conscious worker,” praised and promoted in the USSR. In “Sophia”, Kojève subverts the figure of the Sage as a privileged “philosopher” and introduces the figure of mass proletarian “awareness” or “self-awareness” (“soznatel’nost”), which is based on cognitive mirroring of the dialectical totality of the real, i.e. relations of production. In conclusion, the paper will critically consider some contemporary contexts of the Kojève’s ideas on dialectics, "end of history" and “proletarian awareness” (the recent works by Giorgio Agamben and Boris Groys). In the conditions of neoliberal bureaucracy, the paradigm of the “proletarian awareness” loses its communist nature and degrades into oppressive model of “accountability” of the contemporary corporate worker, captured into an endless self-reflexive formalism of paperwork. Contemporary Perspectives on Dialectics: Revisiting the Legacies and Schools (Part II) Posthuman Subjectivities: A Cultural-Historical Activity Theory Critique of New Materialist Philosophy Alex Levant From Division to Event: Alain Badiou and Materialist Dialectics Anton Syutkin French philosophy of the 60s is associated with hostility towards the dialectics and with a "general anti-Hegelianism," according to the expression of Gilles Deleuze. But, in many ways, this philosophical generation emerged from "the last great philosophical battle" between Jean-Paul Sartre and Louis Althusser about the meaning of materialist dialectics. Therefore, we can say that for a long time "materialist dialectics" was a repressed truth of French philosophy of the 60s. Only in the late 80s, the renaissance of materialist dialectics occurred under the influence of Alain Badiou and Slavoj Žižek - a kind of a "return of the repressed." The philosophy of Alain Badiou is one of the reasons for the renaissance of materialist dialectics. However, as emphasized by some critics, in his magnum opus "Being and Event" Badiou rejects the dialectical method and prefers mathematical formalization as an ontological foundation of his philosophy. The aim of our presentation is to show that the mathematical formalization of "Being and Event" does not reject his earlier Maoist dialectics, but provides it with an ontological ground and emphasizes its materialistic orientation. And, thus, the presentation will point out the connection between the contemporary renaissance of materialist dialectics and the problematics of French philosophy of the 60s. Freedom is Slavery: Hegel's Master and Slave Dialectics Today Oxana Timofeeva The paper presents an original account on Hegel's master and slave dialectic as it relates to the human/non-human distinction and the category of the undead. It analyzes various social and cultural phenomena, from Haitian zombies to contemporary 'black market' of slaves (human traffiking etc.), and reflects upon emancipatory force of the non-human forms and conditions of labor.