Alberto Toscano: Towards a Realism of the Abstract

Updated: May 13, 2021

Study Group With Alberto Toscano

Study Session1:

Towards a Realism of the Abstract

Study Session2:

Real Abstraction and the Critique of Juridical Ideology

Link to all readings:

Lecture from Session_1

Session1. Towards a Realism of the Abstract

Saturday, April 17th @ 9am PST

Reading 1-1

Alberto Toscano, 'Materialism Without Matter: Abstraction, Absence and Social Form', Textual Practice, 28.7 (2014): 1221-1240


In light of the contemporary theoretical infatuation with ‘new’ materialisms, matter and materiality, this essay revisits the heterodox Marxian thesis according to which materialism may, in E ́tienne Balibar’s formulation, have ‘nothing to do with a reference to matter’. The article explores variants of this materialism without matter: Antonio Gramsci’s objections to Bukharin’s ‘Marxist sociology’, Theodor W. Adorno and Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s critiques of epistemology, and Isaak Illich Rubin’s elucidation of the categories of Marx’s value-analysis. It foregrounds a shift in this counter-intuitive materialism from subjective praxis to the categories of capital, in which ‘not one atom of matter enters’ (Marx). This recovery of an understanding of materialism as the critical analysis of real, social abstractions concludes with a reconsideration of Louis Althusser’s ‘aesthetic’ reflections on the materialism of absence, as featured in his philosophical appreciation of the paintings of Leonardo Cremonini.