The British Wasteland: A History of the Present – Daily Wales: News of a Sovereign Nation

The British Wasteland: A History of the Present

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Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred

Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred

James Luchte

marx

Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions.  It is the opium of the people. [1]

Religion is the general theory of that world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in a popular form, its spiritualistic point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its universal source of consolation and justification.  It is the fantastic realization of the human essence because the human essence has no true reality.  The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly a fight against the world of which religion is the spiritual aroma.[2]

Perhaps the most formidable obstacle in the task of retrieving a sense of the sacred in Marx consists in his repeated, and often polemical, statements against religion – or the edited selections of his editors and guardians.  Indeed, such an obstacle may in the end be one of our own making, as we are trapped within the labyrinth of our own historical understanding.[3] Yet, assuming, for the moment, that religion and the sacred are the same phenomena, if we take his pronouncement that religion is the opium of the people – which I purposely left out in the opening quotation – in isolation, we may be lead to believe that Marx felt that at best religion – and thus the ‘sacred’ – is a narcotic, which while it may be utilized to alleviate pain, remains an illusory amelioration for a situation of humiliation and despair.  Religion is an opiate in that it not only implies sedation from the pain of a life of exploitation, but also – ambivalently – suggests a systematic and strategic attempt to deaden or absorb any critical impulse to liberation.  In this sense, Marx’s characterization of religion as an opiate is a forerunner of many of the most radical criticisms of religion and ‘negative’ theology in last century – Gutierrez, Miranda, Bultmann, Heidegger, Derrida, and Bataille.  Each of these thinkers, in his own way, articulated a sense of the sacred in the wake of Marx and his deconstruction of religion as an ‘ideology’ – despite, perhaps, his own generation’s scientistic blindness to the regulative status of all ideas.

The kinship which is shared by each of these thinkers is a disdain for mere religion in favour of the ‘sacred’.[4] Religion simultaneously constructs a ‘picture’ (Bild) for contemplation (Anschauung) and an organization that cultivates our captivity to that ‘picture’ (Wittgenstein).  The sacred, on the contrary, intimates ‘love’ (Badiou), ‘binding commitment’ (Heidegger), an engaged and affirmative eruption of liberation amidst finite existence.  Religion constructs its eternal church as an everlasting perpetuation of the ‘picture’, of an idol – a captivating grammar of existence – while the sacred exults in this moment of lived existence,[5] in the haeccitas of Duns Scotus.  If religion is a ‘rational’ and ‘systematic’ orchestration of feeling and phenomena, the sacred is an attempt to seek access to a phenomenon beyond the array of objectification towards traces of the numen.  Indeed, for Otto, one need only begin amidst this singular event.

In light of this preliminary distinction between religion and the sacred, it will be the task of Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred to excavate and disclose in the writings and historical activism of Marx an affirmative sense of the sacred which is alterior to his inherently negative conception of religion.  With Marx’s empathy in his ‘sigh of the oppressed creature’, we can glimpse a sense of the sacred dissociated from a religious leviathan that merely serves to perpetuate suffering – we can begin to glimpse a sacred that exists as a radical commitment to liberation.  In this way, I will contend that Marx’s criticism of religion as an ideology of oppression and sedation in no way forecloses on a possible relationship between his work and Twentieth and Twenty-First Century attempts to articulate a sense of the sacred in the world.  There emerges in these latter attempts the possibility of an openness which discloses a topos for an encounter with a sense of a sacred not mediated by ‘ideology’ (or positive theology).

To read the book for free, please visit Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred

To read and download a smart phone, IPad, etc.-friendly PDF of the book, please visit Marx and the Revolution of the Sacred – Academia.edu

The British Wasteland: A History of the Present

Chapter 1: The British Wasteland: The Toxic Coalition and the Vultures of the Right

Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron

 

On the Toxicity of the Coalition Government and the Cynicism of UKIP and the Tory Right

 

The British Wasteland: The Meaning of Cameron

As we can barely remember the debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, it appears that the odd man out has now obtained legitimacy, stature, plausibility. With our senses still awash with the anti-climactic failure of the Scots to take a bloodless independence that was so nicely gift-wrapped for them, all we can now remember is that Nick Clegg was dreadful and failed to convey the very absurdity of UKIP policy on obvious grounds. The very fact that Nick Clegg stood on the same stage as Nigel Farage was a mistake and revealed his lack of political judgment.  Why were not the other two parties represented, as an all UK debate?  Or, was it, perhaps, merely a job interview for the junior partner of the next Coalition?

Clegg’s follow up criticism of Farage over Ukraine was a pathetic sideshow to the illegal Western involvement in a coup d’etat, in which fascists have now formally entered into the cabinet of a soon-to-be European government for the first time since WWII.  But, we all pretend that that did not happen and condemn Russia instead.  Farage was ironically correct on this issue that the Coalition government has ‘blood on its hands’ over Ukraine, and UKIP has never been as strong as it is today. It is now conceivable to imagine a Coalition Government in which they would be a part, such as a Conservative-UKIP alliance.

 

To read the rest of the article, please visit The British Wasteland

 

‘Bastion’, School of Humanities, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics

Karl Marx and the School’s adopted cat, Meow Tse Tung

Fish in Shanghai

Fish in Garden Unit, Shanghai

Appendix: A Psychoanalysis of Alain Badiou

This piece is an ‘Appendix: A Psychoanalysis of Alain Badiou’ to my essay Fatal Repetition: Badiou and the Age of the Poets, but though it still remains linked to the essay, I believe that it deserves attention on its own as an exploration into the phenomenon of Alain Badiou and as an invitation to a discussion about Alain Badiou, his relation to Lacan, Surrealism, and Poststructuralism.

Appendix: A Psychoanalysis of Alain Badiou

Badiou

This current deconstruction of Badiou should be taken, along with the myriad other implications of its criticisms of Badiou, in a political sense as a critique of the credibility of his approach to Marx with respect to the derivative and rather conservative advocacy in his philosophy.  In the press, from which he originally emerged as a host of a television programme, he takes often radical and I would argue worthwhile stands.  But, then, there is his philosophy and the particular psychoanalytic obsession that underlies his thought.  This would seem fair game as he has overtly confessed his discipleship to Lacan.  But, what is this psycho-analytic image that underlies his thought, in the sense in which Wittgenstein felt lay below Heidegger?  

To read the rest of the Appendix, please visit  Appendix: ‘A Psychoanalysis of Alain Badiou’

İştirakî 2. Sayı Çıktı! – Ölümcül Tekrar: Badiou ve ‘Şairler Çağı’ (Fatal Repetition: Badiou and the ‘Age of the Poets’)

İştirakî 2. Sayı Çıktı!

‘Ölümcül Tekrar: Badiou ve ‘Şairler Çağı’ (Fatal Repetition: Badiou and the ‘Age of the Poets’) – Istiraki
Translated into Turkish by Mustafa Kerem Yüksel, Istiraki

kapak toplu

Makeshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality, with Appendix: Reply to Kisiel

Martin HeideggerThis essay was published by Philosophy Today in Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 252-257 (Fall, 2003). The Appendix: Reply to Kisiel, ‘The Indication of “Makeshift” in an Interpretation of Heidegger’s Radical Phenomenology’ is intended as a reply to Theodore Kisiel’s criticism of the indication of ‘Makeshift’ as too revolutionary for Heidegger in his Review of  Heidegger’s Early Philosophy: The Phenomenology of Ecstatic Temporality, published by Bloomsbury in 2008.

When questions are raised about principles, the network of exchange that they have opened becomes confused, and the order that they have founded declines. A principle has its rise, its period of reign, and its ruin. Its death usually takes disproportionately more time than its reign.1

In a summary of the Davos Disputation with Ernst Cassirer, and in his lecture on Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, Heidegger is documented as announcing the deaths of the principles of ‘reason’, logos, and ‘spirit’ as adequate “grounds” for a finite thinking rooted in existence. He rings the alarm bells – the “foundations of Western thinking” are in “crisis” – and are threatened with utter collapse. Heidegger makes these statements amidst the horizons of his own temporal existence and problematic, that of his radical temporalization of thought and of the exposure of these traditional grounds to their ‘tragic’ origin as aspirations of finitude. Cassirer contests Heidegger’s radical, temporal interpretation to Kant – any thought worth its salt must be open to the eternal. Despite his comments elsewhere that defer to the spirit of Cassirer’s criticism, Heidegger intimates possible readings of or engagements with the Kantian text which moves beyond “philology” or “scholarship” in the usual sense of cultivating or advocating a “school of thought” – or any attempt to identify the will as a ding an sich. Heidegger’s attempt to disclose an “unsaid”, to de-construct texts so as to retrieve the original temporality of the question, concerns not only Kant but, in light of the “Being and Time project”, other thinkers, such as Leibniz and Husserl, who are significant for his expression of a radical phenomenology – for his temporalist thinking.

In many ways, these many names are place-names, topoi, for the investigation of the historicity of thought in its significant junctures, reversals, transitions, convergences, transgressions. And there is a marked similarity in the treatment of these many thinkers as each is appropriated in the context of Heidegger’s “makeshift.” As mentioned, Heidegger does not seek to be a “good scholar,” but to investigate various topoi of thought with respect to their disclosure of “matters themselves,” in their accentuation of the phenomenon of original temporality. In his activity of squatting these various topoi, Heidegger is in a destruktive, oppositional comportment with the “history of ontology,” but in such a way which seeks to learn from this trajectory of the questionable thesis that truth resides in the proposition and that the measure of truth is ultimately “logic.”

To read the rest of the essay, which includes the Appendix: Reply to Kisiel, please visit Makeshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality

A Note on Kant and Bataille

Kant and Bataille emerge as thinkers on either side of the industrial-technological revolution.  Philosophers of the period in between,Bataille - Acephalae such as Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx and Nietzsche, have argued that the meaning of both reason and the ‘sacred’ have undergone a radical transformation with this historical and existential revolution.  For Kant, reason remains specifically aloof from temporality and history – indeed, as he alludes in the Critique of Judgement, reason emerges with the self-suppression of imagination, of temporal and spatial perspective, in the sublime.  In parallel, his notion of the sacred or true morality, especially that portrayed in the Critique of Practical Reason, admitted no admixture with the imagination and motivations of experience – with temporality.

To read the rest, please visit A Note on Kant and Bataille.

The Body of Sublime Knowledge: The Aesthetic Phenomenology of Arthur Schopenhauer

The Body of Sublime Knowledge:
Arthur Schopenhauer
The Aesthetic Phenomenology of Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer has been portrayed, since the emergence of the analytic philosophies of Russell and Moore[1], with respect to two primary philosophical results. On the one hand, he is described as a ‘metaphysician’ of the Will. On the other hand, he is depicted as an ‘ethicist’ of the tragic self-denial of the Will. Indeed, there is much evidence for such interpretations in his magnum opus. Yet, the collateral effect of our captivation to this picture of mere philosophical results has been to render Schopenhauer’s philosophy into a closed circle or a philosophical dead-end.

Indeed, even the rare admissions of his influence upon major philosophers such as Nietzsche and Wittgenstein[2] have been accompanied by a decided suppression of any consideration of the philosophical context of Schopenhauer’s original questioning and of the specific meaning of ‘metaphysics’ amid his post-Kantian horizons. Until the last decade or so, the usual attitude to the philosophy of Schopenhauer has been dominated by the prejudicial legacy of the logical positivists – and other anti-metaphysicians – with their respective dismissals of ‘metaphysical’ philosophies. For these iconoclasts, the philosophy of Schopenhauer is a contradictory, idiosyncratic – but above all metaphysical – teaching which sought, due to its own weakness or obscurity (or, Orientalism), to escape from the facticity of existence.[3] Of course, Nietzsche could be blamed for some aspects of this picture of Schopenhauer.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit The Body of Sublime Knowledge.

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