Hermeneutic Communism

Hermeneutic Communism: From Heidegger to Marx

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    Hermeneutic Communism
    Book Description:

    Having lost much of its political clout and theoretical power, communism no longer represents an appealing alternative to capitalism. In its original Marxist formulation, communism promised an ideal of development, but only through a logic of war, and while a number of reformist governments still promote this ideology, their legitimacy has steadily declined since the fall of the Berlin wall.

    Separating communism from its metaphysical foundations, which include an abiding faith in the immutable laws of history and an almost holy conception of the proletariat, Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala recast Marx's theories at a time when capitalism's metaphysical moorings -- in technology, empire, and industrialization -- are buckling. While Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri call for a return of the revolutionary left, Vattimo and Zabala fear this would lead only to more violence and failed political policy. Instead, they adopt an antifoundationalist stance drawn from the hermeneutic thought of Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, and Richard Rorty.

    Hermeneutic communism leaves aside the ideal of development and the general call for revolution; it relies on interpretation rather than truth and proves more flexible in different contexts. Hermeneutic communism motivates a resistance to capitalism's inequalities yet intervenes against violence and authoritarianism by emphasizing the interpretative nature of truth. Paralleling Vattimo and Zabala's well-known work on the weakening of religion, Hermeneutic Communism realizes the fully transformational, politically effective potential of Marxist thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52807-8
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-8)

    If marxist philosophers until now have failed to change the world, it isn’t because their political approach was wrong but rather because it was framed within the metaphysical tradition. Contrary to other thinkers of the twentieth century, Heidegger did not propose a new philosophy capable of correcting metaphysics but instead indicated the difficulty of such pretentiousness. Only once we recognize how metaphysics cannot be overcome in the sense of überwunden, defeating and leaving at large, but only in the sense of verwindung, that is, incorporating, twisting, or weakening, does it become possible to change the world: “Overcoming is worthy only...


      (pp. 11-44)

      On wednesday, november 17, 2004, president george W. Bush awarded the National Humanities Medal to, among others, John Searle. In this beautiful ceremony at the White House, Searle was honored for his “efforts to deepen understanding of the human mind, for using his writings to shape modern thought, defend reason and objectivity, and define debate about the nature of artificial intelligence.¹ ” What is most interesting about the awarding of this prize is not that Searle accepted it but rather what sort of philosophy is endorsed by a president who had both just invaded a country contrary to the desires...

      (pp. 45-72)

      Almost three years after president barak obama’s election, these words by Ellen Meiksins Wood have been confirmed. In spite of Obama’s noble intentions, he not only increased military spending but also intensified the wars in the Middle East. ¹ Also, the recent economic crisis of 2008, like the terrorist atack of 9/11, instead of resulting in an actual change in financial and international relations, produced an intensification of the existing U.S. dominance; that is, these events demonstrated how within the system of metaphysically framed democracies, change is almost impossible. Against this interpretation, many analysts believe that the election of a...


      (pp. 75-108)

      Throughout the history of political philosophy, interpretation and politics have been considered two separate domains. Kant regarded interpretation as the social function that mediates between people and the sovereign, Hobbes conceived it as a subordination to the demands of the state, and Weber saw in politics and interpretation two exclusively different domains of culture. ¹ While interpretation became a central problem of philosophy, psychology, and science by the beginning of the twentieth century, only recently have the political consequences of hermeneutics begun to emerge. For example, in 1982 the interdisciplinary journal Critical Inquiry ran an issue entitled “Politics of Interpretation,”...

      (pp. 109-140)

      Communism was a specter at the time of the Communist Manifesto—a ghost that frightened the upper middle class and the governors of the epoch. And it is still spectral today, because it has lost the ability to frighten the status quo after the complete domination of capitalistic framed democracies. These democracies managed to reduce communism to a residue of the past, a trace of a conquered fear, demonstrated by its complete absence in recent Western electoral politics (especially in the United States). Communism has become a ghost-like presence, and when it is noted at all, it is simply as...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 141-198)
    (pp. 199-238)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 239-256)