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Matthew McManus, Conrad Hamilton, Michael J. Ardoline

Marxism: Science or Humanism


In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century—the “classical Marxist” period—the prevailing consensus amongst Marxist luminaries (Engels, Dietzgen, Lenin, etc.) was that it was indeed a science, comparable with the natural ones. The ossification of theoretical Marxism within the Second International (and, later, the USSR), however, soon gave rise to new intellectual currents. For György Lukács, Marxism is closer to the Hegelian Wissenschaft than a conventional science in so far as it “does not acknowledge the existence of independent sciences” but rather portrays “nothing but a single, unified--dialectical and historical--science of the evolution of society as a totality.” And for Antonio Gramsci, Marxism is not a science but true in a socially pragmatic sense: by articulating the class consciousness of the proletariat, it summed up the truth of its time more effectively than any other theory. To these names we could add that of Louis Althusser, who—in the 1960s and 70s—mounted an ambitious ‘third way’ defense of Marxism’s besieged scientific status by blending together French historical epistemology, structuralism, and Spinoza.

In this seminar, Matthew McManus and Conrad Hamilton will present papers arguing that Marxism is most effectively understood as a humanism or science respectively. For McManus, rather than being afraid of arguing for humanism from a normative standpoint, Marxists would benefit from assuming the burdens of moral judgment and asserting for the viability of their position relative to theoretical competitors. For Hamilton, by contrast, Marxism is a science in so far as it—as Roy Bhaskar points out—applies a retroductive method in which a posteriori concepts are used to elucidate the structure of reality. Yet what renders Marxism distinct from other sciences is that it is the only one capable of bringing to light the structure and genesis of science itself.

Matt McManus is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics at Whitman College. He is the author of The Rise of Post-Modern Conservatism and A Critical Legal Examination of Liberalism and Liberal Rights amongst other books. Matt is also a member of the Plastic Pills podcast.

Conrad Hamilton is a doctoral student at Paris 8 University, currently developing a thesis on the relationship between value and agency in the work of Karl Marx under the supervision of Catherine Malabou. He is a co-author of Myth and Mayhem: A Leftist Critique of Jordan Peterson.

Michael J. Ardoline recently completed his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Memphis. His current work argues for a grounding of mathematical truth in the necessity of difference, based on the metaphysics of Gilles Deleuze.

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