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Marx and Spinoza: Connections and Provocations
Sat, March 26, 2022 @ 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM$3.00 – $11.00
A presentation and discussion with Jason Read
“…in the postindustrial age the Spinozan critique of representation of capitalist power corresponds more to the truth than does the analysis of political economy.”
Readers of contemporary theory will perhaps not be surprised to see the name Spinoza paired with that of Marx. Ever since Louis Althusser argued that he, and his cowriters of Reading Capital, were Spinozists rather than structuralists, there has been an increased inquiry into the points of connection between Marx and Spinoza. It might even be possible to say that what the Hegel/Marx connection was to a previous generation, animating the writings of Adorno, Sartre, Lukacs, etc. the Marx/Spinoza connection is to a current collection of philosophers ranging from Althusser, and the members of his circle such as Étienne Balibar and Pierre Macherey, to Antonio Negri, Frédéric Lordon, Warren Montag, and Hasana Sharp.
This shift in names also entails a fundamental change of problems. Whereas the relationship of Hegel to Marx was always one of the anxiety of influence, trying to contend with both the massive influence that Hegel had on Marx as well as Marx’s attempt to critically distance himself from Hegel, to separate the rational kernel from the mystical shell. The Spinoza/Hegel relation is less direct, less a matter of the influence of the latter on the former, than on their point of contact around connected problems. These problems are less the problems that defined the Spinoza of Marx’s time, the debates on pantheism, Hegel’s attempt to shift the absolute from substance to subject, than they are the debates framed by the attempts of Marxist theory to keep up with the changes of capitalism. To place it in classical Marxist terms, Spinoza’s thought has provide the tools for developing a critique of the superstructure, for an understanding of ideology, power, and the production of subjectivity.
JASON READ is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author of The Micro-Politics of Capital: Marx and the Prehistory of the Present (SUNY 2003) and The Politics of Transindividuality (Brill 2015/Haymarket 2016) and a forthcoming collection of essays, The Production of Subjectivity: Between Marxism and Post-Structuralism (Brill 2022) as well as The Double Shift: Marx and Spinoza on the Politics and Ideology of Work (Verso 2023). He blogs on popular culture, philosophy, and politics at unemployednegativity.com.