Anyone want to read some stuff together?

I’m open to any method and (non)structure for discussion. I’d be keen to talk about the how part before starting, though. (A symposium per work? A symposium at the end? A blogpost a week? No plan, just post and comment as we like?)

I propose starting in a week or two and ending end of December or second week of January, with the following reading:

Marx’s 1859 Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks, Mao’s On Contradiction, the long final section of Althusser’s “On the Materialist Dialectic,” and Althusser’s “Marx in his Limits.”

Here’s the inspiration, a long quote from “On the Materialist Dialectic,” written in 1963:

I said that Marx left us no Dialectics. This is not quite accurate. He did leave us one first-rate methodological text, unfortunately without finishing it: the Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859. This text does not mention the ‘inversion’ by name, but it does discuss its reality: the validating conditions for the scientific use of the concepts of Political Economy. A reflection on this use is enough to draw from it the basic elements of a Dialectics, since this use is nothing more nor less than the Dialectics in a practical state.

I said that Lenin left us no Dialectics that would be the theoretical expression of the dialectic in action in his own political practice; more generally, that the theoretical labour of expressing the dialectic in action in the Marxist practice of the class struggle had still to be performed. This is not quite accurate. In his Notebooks Lenin did leave us some passages which are the sketch for a Dialectics. Mao Tse-tung developed these notes in the midst of a political struggle against dogmatic deviations inside the Chinese party in 1937, in an important text On Contradiction.

I hope to be able to show how we can find in these texts — in a form which has already been considerably elaborated and which it is only necessary to develop, to relate to its basis and to reflect on continually — the theoretical answer to our question: what is the specificity of the Marxist dialectic? (182.)

Page numbers etc —

Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy is the an intro that Marx wrote for and later omitted (sp?) from A Contribution to the Critique of P0litical Economy. The intro is in v28 of the Collected Works, p17-48. That’s 31 pages.

(The Contribution itself is in v29 and is pages 261-417, just under 160 pages. Also included in that volume is an earlier draft of the Contribution, p430-510, 80 pages, we could later read some of this stuff if we wanted to, or leave it optional for Marx fetishists).

The Philosophical Notebooks is an entire volume of Lenin’s Collected Works, volume 38. I propose reading just the short conspectus on Hegel’s smaller logic (3 pages), and from the conspectus on the greater logic reading just Lenin’s notes on the intro (13 pages) and his concluding notes (3 pages). That’s 19 pages.

We can treat the rest of the long conspectus on Hegel’s greater logic (that’s 167 pages) and the rest of the Philosophical Notebooks (I dunno how many pages the Notebooks are in total) the same way as A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy – optional, or something we return to later if we decide we want to.

On Contradiction is about fifty pages.

The section of “On the Materialist Dialectic” is pages 182-218 in For Marx, 36 pages.

That’s 136 pages not counting any of Lenin’s longer conspectus.

“Marx in his Limits” is 155 pages (pages 7-162 in Philosophy of the Encounter), and is unfortunately not online and so perhaps the plan should initially not include that essay.

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