Issue 1 – The Actuality of Historical Materialism

Editor: E. Atilla Alptekin
THE THEORETICAL AND POLITICAL DRAWBACKS
OF POST-MARXISM
Gülseren Adaldı

In this article, the characteristics of the war that post-Marxism and the, theories of discourse analysis, since the 1970s, declared and waged against universal ideals, total discourses and Marxist notions such as class and class struggle is explained and critisized. The main premises of structuralist linguistics, which provided the postulates of post-Marxism, especially when applied to antropology and pyscoanalysis, initiated the process of the challenge against the subject and a range of modem notions. The discourse analysis perspective, as represented by Foucault and Derrida, founded an epistemology that invalidates all kinds of subject and reality assertions. Concepts such as class, class struggle, relations of production and forces of production are placed on the target by this perspective. The only difference of post-Marxism from these approaches is the advocates of the former suggest a political project of ‘radical democracy’, even though they do not add any normative content to the ideas of discourse analysts. It is not possib­le, however, to establish a radical political line from a theoretical position that emphasizes the impossibility of the subject, society, totality, and meaning.

Abstract: Post-Marxism, radical democracy, class, Foucault, Derrida.

THE MISERY OF POST-MARXlST POLITICS:
RADICAL DEMOCRACY
Sevilay Kaygalak

For Emesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, the most well-known post-Marxists theorists, it is no longer possible to accept Marx’s conceptual and theoretical framework, which was based on the primacy of economic structure and the idea of working class having a ‘privileged’ position in the struggle for socialism, of society as a unified and closed totality and of revolutionary ruptures in transformations of societies. For them, new strategies corresponding to the complexity. plurality and fragmented structure of contemporary social formations are needed. Therefore, they suggest a new political project called Radical Democracy, which is a kind of politics to be derived from hegemonic articulations or discoursive practices rather than objective interests of different social classes. They argue that Radical Democracy is a socialist project but its crucial strategic goal is not to abolish the capitalist mode of production. This article intends to reveal the conceptual and theoretical confusions of post-Marxism and its political project. Radical Democracy, through an attempt of reconsidering Marxism and clarification of the concept of socialist democracy.

Abstract: Emesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Post-Marxism, Radical Democracy, Socialist Democracy.

BRECHTS CONTRIBUTION TO THE ART OF LIFE: DIALECTICS,
HEGEMONY AND THE VERFREMDUNG EFFEKT
Emre Arslan

 

Throughout this article, I attempt to contextualise and conceptualise Brecht’s well-known Verfremdung Effekt by relating it to the Gramscian concept hegemony. Only with the help of dialectical and historical materialist perspective can one construct a meaningful association between them. Neither Gramsci nor Brecht can be useful for breaking the hegemonic relations in their post-modern (or post-Marxist) interpretations. Therefore, in this article, post-modernist critics are criticised from a historical materialist point of view. In order to do this, firstly. I try to focus on some aspects of dialectics, such as historicity. inner relations, transcending by embracing (aufheben) and revolutionary change. Secondly. by employing these aspects of dialectics, I seek to clarify how Verfremdung Effekt can be grasped as an instrument, strategy or effect for a counter hegemonic project that aims at transforming the existing order. Thirdly, I maintain that such an effect can only be fulfilled by eliminating the formalist notion of art and by adapting a realist conception. And finally. this paper asserts that post-modern exposition of Brechtian theatre can not avoid a formalist framework, which, in turn, reinforce the hegemonic relations within the global capitalist order.

Abstract: Brecht, Dialectics, Hegemony, Verfremdung Effekt, Art.

MARXISM:THE PHILOSOPHY OF HUMAN EMANCIPATION
Ecehan Balta

This short article is based on the idea that freedom is an inherent element/basic concept of Marxism. It has no strong claims to clarify the theoretical/philosophical problems that are faced up while using this concept. but rather it attempts to describe the Marxian use of concept. And it hopes to show that, in contrast to bourgeois use of the concept, freedom is defined as collective, positive, social and abstract one in the Marxist theory. As far as the concept of freedom is used in the meaning of self-realization and self-control, it excludes the possibility of “flying discourses” of “psuedo-Marxists” on “freedom of others” in the name of Marxism.

Abstract: Marxism, Freedom, Self-realization, Self-control, Human Emancipation.

CLASSES AS HISTORICAL AND SOCIAL FRAMEWORKS
Mustafa Bayram Mısır

This article is an attempt the discuss the concept of class within the framework of Marxist theory. It reconsiders the accounts of particularly structuralist and historicist Marxisms on the concept and argues for a totalistic Marxist theory of class. According to this argument. firstly, class is a social (indicating the internal division of the society) and historical (transforming the society as an agent) relation. Secondly, this relation itself is material and is based on a material basis, this basis being direct or indirect exploitation. Thirdly, class, in the sense that class experiences are continuing, is constantly in formation. This framework helps us to perpetuate and follow the basic explanation of The Communist Manifesto, which relates the history of societies to class struggle.

Abstract: Class, Class as a Social and Historical Relation, Exploitation, Formation, The Communist Manifesto.

FIVE WAYS IN WHICH CRITICAL REALISM CAN HELP MARXISM
Jonathan Joseph

This article examines the relationship between critical realist philosophy and Marxist analysis and looks at the ways that the arguments of critical realism can strengthen Marxist theory. It begins by distinguishing philosophy from social science and then develops five main areas of analysis. First it looks at critical realism’s underlabouring role and contrasts it with approaches that impose philosophical categories on social explanation. In contrast to the praxis school, critical realism stresses ontological primacy and distinguishes between transitive knowledge and intransitive or independent objects. It gives a stratified and emergent account of the relation between structure, agency and transformatory activity that recognises the complexity of social totality and breaks from crude forms of determinism. lt also provides an explanation of Marxist methodology and the process of abstraction. Finally, critical realism maintains philosophical partisanship and offers an emancipatory critique.

Abstract: Critical Realism, Marxism, Transitive Knowledge, Structure, Agency, Transformatory Activity.

‘INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY” DUALISM VERSUS SOCIAL RELATIONS AS THE OBJECT OF INQUIRY OF HISTORICAL MATERIALISM
Nazım Güveloğlu

The dualism of individual and society has far since been a ground for
methodological discussions regarding social sciences. In the contemporary capitalist societies, the belief that society is created by individuals seems to have gained a hegemonic status, so that almost all the the popular social and political issues are explained in terms of the ends and interests or personal qualifications of the individuals engaging in them. The aim ‘of this paper is to discuss the validity of the methodological and conceptual bases of this hegemonic ideology as much as to present the concept of “social relations” as an alternative. Basic arguments supported here take their roots from Marx’s writings, particularly those in the German Ideology. Especially the first and sixth of the Theses on Feuerbach present a good illustration of the core of the discussions here. The main discussions and arguments in this paper can be summarized as follows: First, social reality cannot be understood via the dualism of individual and society. This dualism which is reproduced both by Methodological Individualist and Durkheimian approaches presume individual and society as two distinct entities. Defining the­se concepts as distinct entities is misleading, since these two are not mutually exclusive phenomena.  Secondly, the essence of social reality is social relations, beyond the duality of individual and society. The concepts of individual and society should be regarded just as analytical tools related to this reality; and social reality can not be explained through either of these concepts solely.
Thirdly, the relational understanding supported here bases upon internal relations but not external ones. That is, it attributes the relation to the ontology of social reality, rather than focusing on relations between distinct ontologies. In this sense, it bases upon more on a Hegelian tradition than a Kantian one. In order to distinguish these two, the relational claim of Bhaskar’s transformational model is assessed and it is approached as a Kantian account.
Finally, conception of the essence of social reality as social relations
enables an historical analysis since social relations are not rigid and
they change continuously in history. and a materialist analysis since
human activity – and, of course, at the same time social relations – is
nothing but material.

Abstract: Individual, Society, Dualism, Human Activity, Social Relations.

RE-THINKING HISTORICAL MATERIALISM: OPEN MARXISM
RELATIONAL APPROACH AND PRAXIS
Sinan Kadir Çelik

However much there are also internal debates and different views inside “Open Marxism”, the main theoretical/political standpoint of Open Marxism can be seen as a rejection of “the colonization of Marxist theoretical and political territory” politically by New Right Liberalism and methodologically by several kinds of “scientism” in the sense of incorporations of Marxism with deterministic, structuralist, functionalist, analytical, Kantian, Cartesian, dialectical materialist modes of explanations. In that respect, by taking anehor from “historical materialist”, “Hegelian”, “Italian autonomist” Marxist traditions, the attempt of Open Marxist approach can be considered as developing a critical stance against these prevalent tendencies in contemporary Marxism and offering an alternative methodology.
Under this heading, the aim of the present paper is rather to show the
possible contributions of Open Marxism to the task of re-thinking historical materialism on the base of relational understanding of social phenomena and the concept of praxis than to describe or to argue against the main theoretical positions of Open Marxist approach. In this sense, this paper should be considered as both a critique of and a possible contribution to Open Marxism.
The present paper consists of three major parts. In the first part of the
paper, the place of Open Marxism in contemporary topography of Marxism is tried to be shown by outlining its critiques against various Marxist methodologies and its discussions on the philosophical/political bases of these arguments. The second part of the article examines the roots and basic features of alternative methodology of Open Marxism.In this section, the concepts of “openness of categories”, “historical and conceptual primacy of class struggle” and “form analysis” are illustrated as the main axis of this approach. In the last section of the article, these are discussed by focusing on the Open Marxist conceptualizations of class, class struggle, state and praxis. The main arguments supported in this discussion can be briefly given as follows:

Within Open Marxism, no analytical distinction is made between class
antagonisms and class struggles. However, lack of such a distinction
can not be considered as a theoretical weakness. Inspiring from the
Gramscian conception of hegemony, we can argue that wherever class
antagonism exists, there is also class struggle. Therefore, what should
be at stake here is to indicate possibilities of combining these views, by means of which Open Marxist approach could strengthen its explanatory power. On the other hand, Open Marxism form analysis, which finds its roots in a kind of relational understanding, has many insightful points for solving the tension between historical and logical analysis. By replacing categories of externality with internal relations and processes, such an approach has also a considerable potential for making way for historical materialist analysis. However, Open Marxist approach confronts with the danger of “closure” by analyzing history solely as a “movement of class struggle”. But still such a closure is not a destiny and can be overcome by accepting Heide Gerstenberger’s alternative, which claims “the impossibility of adequate explanation just in terms of class struggle”. Further, taking “organization of material life as a first principle of historical materialism” as Ellen Meiksins Wood argues for, and reevaluating Bertell Ollman’s emphasis on “historical pre-condition” in this context give us possibility for historical analysis of historical processes without reducing class struggle into a “but also” position. In addition to our previous diagnosis about “form analysis” and Open Marxist relational approach, such a methodology seems as a strong alternative to determinist and functionalist-structuralist orthodoxy, by means of which the problem of reification of concepts, like class and state as discussed in particular, can be resolved. Finally, taking into account the modus vivendi of the concept of praxis within dialectical relation between “object”, “theory” and “abstract”, opens an alternative way for overcoming Cartesian rooted dichotomies like concrete/abstract, theory/practice, theory/meta-theory.

Abstract: Open Marxism, History as Class Struggle, Heide Gerstenberger, Ellen Meiksins Wood, Bertell Ollman.