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Who Is ‘The Prince’?: Hegel and Marx in Jameson and Bhaskar

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Abstract This article compares the dialectics of Fredric Jameson and Roy Bhaskar. From a dialectical critical-realist standpoint, it argues that Jameson’s approach in his recent collection Valences of the Dialectic sits uncomfortably between Hegelian and Marxist presuppositions. This is seen in the way he configures the relation between thinking and being, and it leads to an alliance with poststructuralist thinking in which real negativity is denied. In consequence, his thought is caught between a critique of the present and the impossibility of thinking real change within it.

1. Adorno Theodor W. Ashton E.B. Negative Dialectics 1973 [1966] London Routledge
2. Archer Margaret Realist Social Theory: The Morphogenetic Approach 1995 Cambridge Cambridge University Press
3. Barnes Jonathan Early Greek Philosophy 1987 Harmondsworth Penguin Books
4. Bhaskar Roy Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom 1993 London Verso
5. Bhaskar Roy Plato, etc.: The Problems of Philosophy and Their Resolution 1994 London Verso
6. Bhaskar Roy A Realist Theory of Science 1997 London Verso
7. Bhaskar Roy The Possibility of Naturalism: A Philosophical Critique of the Contemporary Human Sciences 1998 London Routledge
8. Callinicos Alex Resources of Critique 2006 Cambridge Polity
9. Deleuze Gilles Patton Paul Difference and Repetition 1993 [1968] New York Columbia University Press
10. Hartwig Mervyn Dictionary of Critical Realism 2007 London Routledge
11. Hegel Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Knox T.M. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right 1952 [1820] Oxford Oxford University Press
12. Hegel Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Wallace William Hegel’s Logic: Being Part One of the ‘Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences’ (1830) 1975 [1830] Oxford Oxford University Press
13. Inwood Michael A Heidegger Dictionary 1999 Oxford Blackwell
14. Jameson Fredric Valences of the Dialectic 2009 London Verso
15. Jameson Fredric The Hegel Variations 2010 London Verso
16. Jameson Fredric Representing ‘Capital’: A Reading of Volume One 2011 London Verso
17. Kant Immanuel Meiklejohn J.M.D. Critique of Pure Reason 1993 [1781/7] London J.M. Dent
18. Marx Karl , Engels Frederick Collected Works 1983 Vol Volume 40 London Lawrence and Wishart
19. Norrie Alan Law and the Beautiful Soul 2005 London Routledge
20. Norrie Alan Dialectic and Difference: Dialectical Critical Realism and the Grounds of Justice 2010 London Routledge
21. Sartre Jean-Paul Barnes Hazel E. Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology 1956 [1943] New York Washington Square
22. FN1 1. Jameson 2009. I also make reference to the essays Jameson has since written on Marx’s Capital( Jameson 2011) and Hegel’s Phenomenology( Jameson 2010), which draw upon the understanding of dialectics already developed in Valences.
23. FN2 2. Jameson 2009, p. 69, n. 68.
24. FN3 3. Ibid.
25. FN4 4. In a letter to Engels of 16 January 1858 (Marx and Engels 1983, p. 248), Marx wrote that ‘If ever the time comes when such work is again possible, I should very much like to write 2 or 3 sheets making accessible to the common reader the rationalaspect of the method which Hegel not only discovered but also mystified.’ But the time never came.
26. FN5 5. Bhaskar 1993; see also Bhaskar 1994. The difficulty in this work is now alleviated by the publication of Hartwig 2007 and Norrie 2010. In the latter (Norrie 2010, pp. 5–7), I suggest that the difficulty in Bhaskar is overstated because he works against the grain of at least four different currents in modern critical thought (Hegelianism, Marxism, poststructuralism and ‘original’ critical realism). I also develop there a dialectical critical-realist metacritique of justice and a critique of poststructuralist ontology (Norrie 2010, Chapters 5–7). The latter is explored below.
27. FN6 6. See Jameson 2009, Chapter 2.
28. FN7 7. See Jameson 2009, p. 8, as discussed below.
29. FN8 8. Jameson 2009, p. 4.
30. FN9 9. In its original form, critical realism emphasises the distinction between epistemology and ontology and a parallel distinction between the transitive and intransitive domains of knowledge. See Bhaskar 1997 and 1998. Dialectical critical realism maintains the distinction but explores the dialectical relationship between the terms as one in which two seemingly opposed categories are intrinsically related and maintained together within a whole (totality). For a discussion, see Norrie 2010, pp. 16–17, 99–101.
31. FN10 10. Norrie 2010, pp. 7–11.
32. FN11 11. This is the irreducibly hermeneutic moment in any social-scientific understanding of human society: see Bhaskar 1998, Chapter 4.
33. FN12 12. Archer 1995.
34. FN13 13. Theory and practice here presuppose each other as a dual where both elements are constellationally co-related.
35. FN14 14. The ontological openness of the world is something critical realism has always insisted upon: see Bhaskar 1997, Chapter 2.
36. FN15 15. Bhaskar 1997, Chapter 3.
37. FN16 16. This is the argument of Bhaskar 1998, Note 8.
38. FN17 17. While the first and third of these grounds properly point to the limits of representation as such, the second leads to the need for understanding representation and phenomena to be represented in a non-empiricist way. In his recent essay on Capital, Jameson conflates these two aspects to produce an over-extensive ‘postmodern’ conception of a crisis of representation, under which capitalism is unrepresentable, requiring ‘the expression of the inexpressible’ ( Jameson 2009, p. 7).
39. FN18 18. Or, perhaps, from Adorno, ‘the preponderance of the object’ (Adorno 1973, pp. 183–5). In his recent book on Hegel’s Phenomenology, Jameson states that Adorno’s phrase was a propos Hegel who ‘always inclines’ to the object (contra Fichte and Schelling) ( Jameson 2010, p. 21). Adorno’s comment is, I think, also programmatic for the historical and social ontology that (in part) embeds dialectical thinking in his negative dialectics (Norrie 2005, Chapter 9). With regard to Hegel, or indeed Kant, as Adorno indicates, it is certainly valid to use the phrase as against, say, Fichte or Schelling, but it is then necessary to reflect on what Jameson sees, ultimately, as the predominance of the concept in Hegel. His final judgement on Hegel is that for him speculative thinking, and not the object, dominates – though not in the Phenomenologywhich is full of ‘heterogeneities’ ( Jameson 2010, p. 131). I return to this point below.
40. FN19 19. What Bhaskar calls ‘totalising depth-praxis’: see Norrie 2010, p. 122.
41. FN20 20. Callinicos 2006, Chapter 2.
42. FN21 21. Hegel 1952, p. 10.
43. FN22 22. Thus it is the rôle of the police in times of heightened social conflict to impose ‘the working of a necessity of which [those involved] know nothing’ (Hegel 1952, p. 148).
44. FN23 23. See Bhaskar 1993, Chapter 2; Norrie 2010, Chapter 2.
45. FN24 24. Norrie 2010, pp. 28–34.
46. FN25 25. Parmenides gets the ball rolling: ‘Never will this prevail, that what is not is:/restrain your thought from this road of inquiry.’ (Barnes 1987, p. 133 [B 7.1–2].) Kant keeps it in play for modernity: a negation ‘indicates a mere privation’, nothing ‘corresponding to [a] representation’ (Kant 1993, p. 398 [A575/B603]).
47. FN26 26. In Hegel in the transition from being to becoming in his Logic(Hegel 1975, pp. 123–33 [§§84–8]); in Heidegger, nothing is related to Daseinand the angst that accompanies it: see Inwood 1999, pp. 144–6. The interest in Presocratic philosophy is equally not to how it is understood in Heidegger. Here, I would agree with Jameson as to Heidegger’s idealistic understanding of that thought: see Jameson 2009, pp. 148–50.
48. FN27 27. Sartre’s account of négatitébears some resemblance to Bhaskar’s, but is tied to perception: Sartre 1956, pp. 55–6.
49. FN28 28. See above, Footnote 25.
50. FN29 29. See Jameson 2011, p. 5. Here, the dialectical relation is also given a spatio-temporal turn, but in a limited and supplementary way.
51. FN30 30. See Norrie 2010, Chapters 6–7.
52. FN31 31. Norrie 2010, pp. 42–7, Chapter 6.
53. FN32 32. Jameson 2009, p. 5. There is a less ambitious form than ‘the dialectic’, which is dialectic as ‘method’, but Jameson rightly suggests that this leads back to the more ambitious sense of dialectic as system ( Jameson 2009, pp. 3–4). From a dialectical critical realist standpoint, this idea of dialectic is doubly problematic: because of its closed (untranscendable) and its thought-based character.
54. FN33 33. Jameson 2009, p. 7.
55. FN34 34. Ibid.
56. FN35 35. See Jameson 2009, pp. 23, 36.
57. FN36 36. In the latter, mindedness is of course a crucial, constellationally embedded, part.
58. FN37 37. Jameson 2009, p. 8.
59. FN38 38. Ibid.
60. FN39 39. Jameson 2009, pp. 8–9.
61. FN40 40. This would be a Hegel without Aufhebung, as the second part of Jameson 2009 is called, where more attention to his account of reification should be paid (Chapter 2), and where he may be defended from poststructuralist preoccupations (Chapter 3). As I will argue, however, Jameson is not well-equipped to oppose poststructuralism.
62. FN41 41. The argument is pursued in his recent book on the Phenomenology( Jameson 2010). This is a subtle but difficult contemplation of a famously difficult text, in which the complexities in Jameson’s thoughts might either be taken to reflect, phenomenologically, as it were, the ‘heterogeneities’ ( Jameson 2010, p. 131) in this unresolved text-in-history, or to reflect the different and conflicting views Jameson himself brings to his reading (or, probably, both, with the latter in a way illuminating the former). The most plausible view of the Phenomenologyhe articulates is that it perpetuates a ‘tension between the historical and the abstract-philosophical, rather than its resolution one way or the other’ ( Jameson 2010, p. 88), with the implication that the later Hegel resolved the tension in favour of thought. But this would mean acknowledging that the text contains the latent philosophical structure that would dominate the mature work, so is not very different from it. Less plausible and productive in my view is the likening of the text to a Beethoven work in which theme and variation fluidly fold into each other so that there never was a grounding theme ( Jameson 2010, p. 24). This ‘postmodern’ liquidation of identity rests ill with the more historical view that the Phenomenologyis an historically grounded meditation on modernity’s philosophical and historical prospects in 1807. Jameson also reads it as a radical, praxis-oriented, anti-reificatory work, but acknowledges that this makes its natural ending the chapters on spirit, excluding those on religion and absolute knowledge. Surely, if a critical reading is to be proposed, it ought to be one that can acknowledge the text as a whole, which cannot exclude those elements least favourable to the reading.
63. FN42 42. Jameson 2009, p. 9.
64. FN43 43. Ibid.
65. FN44 44. Jameson 2009, p. 15.
66. FN45 45. The point has been made in review that to poststructuralists, Jameson is seen as a Marxist, whereas I portray him as essentially in the poststructuralist camp. My position is, however, that Jameson sits between Marxism and poststructuralism, but, at the deepest level, deploys poststructuralist assumptions (which in their post-Hegelian quality are in line with his Hegelianism) concerning the problem of thought and its object, ‘the one and the many’, and the possibility of change which are problematically aligned with his broadly Marxist social and economic commitments.
67. FN46 46. See, for example, Jameson’s explanation of the work of Deleuze and Guattari (Jameson 2009, Chapter 5), where an essential dualism locates the authors (ultimately) in the line of Hegel and Marx.
68. FN47 47. Jameson 2009, p. 18.
69. FN48 48. Jameson 2009, p. 17.
70. FN49 49. Jameson 2009, p. 18.
71. FN50 50. Cf. Norrie 2005, Chapter 8.
72. FN51 51. Jameson 2009, p. 22.
73. FN52 52. Ibid.
74. FN53 53. Jameson 2009, p. 25.
75. FN54 54. Ibid.
76. FN55 55. Jameson 2009, p. 26.
77. FN56 56. That is, a dialectic of ‘the one and the many’, from the standpoint of a radical affirmation of ‘the many’. Jameson’s subtle engagement with Derrida in Valencesover his Specters of Marxequally seeks to assimilate the latter to Marx (and hence dialectics). The concept of spectrality remains alive in Marx’s writing as the unrealised futurity embedded in ‘use-value’ ( Jameson 2009, p. 170), while the messianism drawn from Benjamin represents a revolutionary possibility in a world where revolution remains impossible ( Jameson 2009, p. 176). In these ways, ‘hauntology’ is, paceDerrida, inscribed in Marxian ontology. Thus Marx is alive in Derrida, though Jameson does not seek to interrogate Derrida’s own ontological presumptions concerning radical difference.
78. FN57 57. Jameson 2009, p. 10.
79. FN58 58. Jameson 2009, p. 12.
80. FN59 59. But if this is the case, why does Jameson argue, as we have seen, that all thought, including ‘theory’, is ultimately trapped?
81. FN60 60. For a similar view, see Norrie 2010, pp. 187–9, Chapter 7.
82. FN61 61. Jameson 2009, p. 36.
83. FN62 62. Deleuze 1993.
84. FN63 63. Jameson 2009, p. 37.
85. FN64 64. Ibid.
86. FN65 65. See also Jameson 2011, pp. 130–4.
87. FN66 66. On the link between Deleuze, Nietzsche, and a doctrine of ‘Heraclitan flux’, see Norrie 2010, Chapter 6. I argue there that such a doctrine is not only incomplete in itself, it is also untrue to Heraclitus, who embraced views of both becoming andstructured being.
88. FN67 67. Jameson 2009, pp. 116–20.
89. FN68 68. Jameson 2009, p. 120.
90. FN69 69. Jameson 2009, pp. 37–8.
91. FN70 70. Jameson 2009, p. 38.
92. FN71 71. Ibid.
93. FN72 72. Jameson 2009, p. 43.
94. FN73 73. As discussed at Jameson 2009, p. 43.
95. FN74 74. Jameson 2009, p. 50. Compare this with what he says in Representing ‘Capital’: ‘no dialectic without realising that we are practising dialectic; no spontaneous and unselfconscious dialectical thinking as such’ ( Jameson 2011, p. 137). If so, what of the ‘dialectical reality’ that embeds our thought, and has the last laugh?
96. FN75 75. Jameson 2009, p. 50.
97. FN76 76. Jameson 2009, p. 56.
98. FN77 77. Jameson 2009, p. 57.
99. FN78 78. Jameson 2009, p. 60.
100. FN79 79. Jameson 2009, p. 62.
101. FN80 80. Ibid.
102. FN81 81. Jameson 2009, p. 64.
103. FN82 82. Ibid.
104. FN83 83. Jameson 2009, p. 65.
105. FN84 84. Jameson 2009, p. 57. At various points in his Negative Dialectics, Adorno identifies different, problematic, escape-routes away from conceptuality: the primordial, the somatic, the historical.
106. FN85 85. Jameson 2009, p. 65.
107. FN86 86. Jameson 2009, p. 608.
108. FN87 87. Jameson 2011, p. 7.
109. FN88 88. Jameson 2011, p. 9.
110. FN89 89. Jameson 2011, p. 132.
111. FN90 90. Jameson 2011, p. 71.
112. FN91 91. Jameson 2011, p. 133.

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Affiliations: 1: School of Law, University of Warwick


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