Ruy Fausto: Rebuilding the dialectic

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By MICHAEL LÖWY*

Commentary on the French edition of Marx: Logic and Politics

Marx is today treated “like Spinoza in Lessing's time”, like Hegel in Marx's time: as a “dead dog”. As Ruy Fausto observes in the preface of his book, the hurried Marxist fashion of the 60s is replaced by a new superficial anti-Marxist fashion: “we are leaving where we never entered…”

This book therefore goes against the current. Not because he refuses to criticize Marxism, but because he considers such a critique – necessary in several respects – impossible from a theoretical point of view, if classical dialectical rationality (Hegel and Marx) is not followed.

The texts that make up the book address different issues: the Marxism / humanism (or anthropology) relationship, the dialectical logic in the critique of political economy, the links between the “young” and the “old” Marx. Despite this apparent diversity – heterogeneous materials, on different themes, written at different times -, the methodological unity and theoretical coherence of the whole is remarkable. A philosopher by training – he teaches philosophy at the University of São Paulo and the University of Paris VIII – Ruy Fausto uses a definitively interdisciplinary method, articulating logical reflection with the concrete themes of economic science and political theory.

What else could be said about Marx? – ask some tired minds. They forget, therefore, that Marx (as well as Plato, Hegel and Nietzsche) is that type of inexhaustible thinker, who raises, in each era, in each historical, political or cultural period, new interpretations and new criticisms or refutations.

The originality of Faust's book manifests itself on several levels:

First, in a position in relation to Marxism that refuses the usual solutions, that is, both the defense of an orthodoxy and the false “overcoming”. This orientation allows him to show (especially from the writings of Castoriadis) that any criticism of the Capital who does not take the dialectic seriously as a discourse of contradiction can only fail, falling short of Marx.

In addition, there is a new position on the debate between defenders and opponents of theoretical humanism (anthropology), which traces the foundations – through the repeal of these two traditional poles – for another reading of Marx’s work (from his youth writings to Capital) capable of overcoming the limits of pre-dialectical understanding.

Finally, it contributes to the “reconstruction of the dialectic”, polemicizing with the main trends of the current philosophical scenario: neomoralism, theories of human death, philosophies of irresponsibility, technocratic positivism.

This reconstruction implies the rediscovery of the logical rigor of dialectical concepts – in spite of the prevailing opinion, which is increasingly focused on formalism or empiricism. In this regard, it seems to me that Faust is mistaken in translating repeal by "suppressing". His criticism of the term “subsume” used by Labarrière and Jurczyk in their translation of the Science of Logic is pertinent: the term does not sufficiently express the negative side of the Hegelian concept. However, as he himself recognizes, the term “suppress” does the opposite: it does not express the positive side. Unfortunately, it may be necessary to keep using a double word – for example, “overcome/suppress” – to account for the contradiction that lies at the heart of the logic of repeal… As Faust states very well, any attempt to “clarify” too much Hegelian dialectical thought ends up failing, because this thought is not “clear” in the usual sense of the word (that of understanding).

*Michael Lowy is director of research at Scientific Research National Center (France) author, among other books, of The theory of revolution in young Marx (Boitempo).

Translation: Ilan Lapyda

Originally published in the magazine La Quinzaine Littéraire (June 1-15, 1987).

Reference

Ruy Fausto. Marx: Logique et Politique. Preface: Jean Toussaint Desanti. Paris, Publisud, 1986 (https://amzn.to/44k2gpP).

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