Marx & Philosophy: Hegel or Spinoza

By Ian Jakobi
Marx & Philosophy

macherey_hegel coverThe charge of teleology has long plagued Marxist conceptions of history. In 1877 Marx himself responded to criticism that the historical presentation in part VIII of Capital preordained the stages of history’s long march to communism by noting that he had not given a ‘historico-philosophical theory of general development, imposed by fate’ but only offered a ‘historical sketch’ of one possible sequence (Marx and Engels 1987, 200). However, in the twentieth century such criticisms re-emerged in the wake of the historical impasse of Stalinism, which undermined any positing of communism as the necessary result of history’s dialectic. Macherey’s work enters this debate by attempting to save Marxism from this apparent historical refutation. The promise of Hegel or Spinoza, originally published in French in 1979, is therefore that by separating the dialectic from its teleological form, a new mode of politics emerges through what may seem a rather narrow and abstruse philosophical issue, namely, the critique of Hegel’s reading of Spinoza. For while the book is firmly presented in the philosophical register, such appearances cannot be separated from its political motivation.

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