There are a few axis points I think are important for the discussion on subjectivity, one being inter-subjectivity in the embodied Hegelian sense, against a Habermasian conception of communicative inter-subjectivity that focuses on the deeper stratum of rationality and (soft) linguistic teleology. The second is Liebnizian/Spinozian/Deleuzian subject monism versus a comparative structure. Of course there is an unavoidable ground for some degree of comparison, but the monistic account can suffer that on the instance of the subject being validated on its own standards.
It is difficult to plot the axis for this distinction before parsing out whether a Spinozian subject monism meets the anti-humanist claims which are made for it. Before really going through with a critique of this it would perhaps be important to reread some of Delueze’s work on Spinoza. However, I think there are substantial grounds in the Ethica for dismissing a radical anti-humanist interpretation. Especially looking into the affects there is an almost liberal account of subjectivity, combining Liebniz’ monad with some proto-version of the will to power, or more accurately an Epicurean relationship to activity and passivity which seeks to rationally plot life in such a way as to become most happy/active. Spinoza believes there is some space for being affected in a positive way (in “love”, and “nobility”) but generally relies on the core argument that utter self-sufficiency and control are the stabilizing factors in maintaining a happy life. This is at the heart of the Ethics, and plugs deeply into the metaphysical structure of the book, as the active subject becomes more and more godly the less it relies on others, or merely receives affects as “passions”. There is something profoundly humanistic in the account, and perhaps even hubristic despite Spinoza’s warnings against pride. Most notably perhaps in Spinoza’s disdain for humility, which he describes as degrading to the individual.
Of course this is all to be taken in terms of a more general structure which certainly dethrones the human in a way, especially when we’re given the anti-Cartesian A2 in EII, which mockingly states: “Man thinks”, and the definition of a body itself (EIId1): “By body I understand a mode that in a certain and determinate way expresses God’s essence insofar as he is considered as an extended thing.” This brings up another intresting axis of the Ethica generally, which is that the focus on “The mind” in the chapter on the affects, and its ability to overcome the passions, seems to almost reintroduce a mind/body duality, despite such radical definitions of mind as just the idea of the body (this of course opens up a whole discourse regarding parallelism which I will skip for now). There is a way in which these more general structures that seem exciting are undermined in the chapter on the affects, by rendering them almost void in the way the structural elements actually play out.
So the question of “anti-humanism” in Spinoza seems far more complicated than the charts I am constructing will allow, though the Hegelian in me wants to just stuff him the subject-based monad corner. This corner is extremely problematic in its own right, as it certainly plays a huge role in liberal idealogy/individualism (perhaps I should look at Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism), but also seems to be making a re-emergence as a radical idea. This is the question of “pluralism”, which I am excited about, but my gut reaction is to qualify it as inter-subjective pluralism, rather than monadic, perhaps falling somewhere between my provisional designation for Spinoza and the Habermasian completely structure-based account (maybe a slightly less consciousness oriented Hegelianism). If anyone has some clarifying passages or books on this topic please send them over!
My final concern, having just finished Kompridis’ book on Habermas, is his brand of what I will call “hard inter-subjectivity”, which reacts to Habermas’ structural account to such an extent that there is the romantic stink of humanism. There is a good reason to take the other to reason perhaps, especially if were going to have an account that considers factors like environment and non-human animals (though I am generally critical of many accounts which focus too hard on these issues, and miss some of the deeper problems occurring). The useful bit that I got from Critique and Disclosure, is that idea of “receptivity” as method of being active in receiving, which beautifully disrupts the rigidity of the Spinozian active/passive grid.
I am also interested in thinking about this in terms of Marx’ Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, and the Hegelian account of “Substance as Subject”, which construct a really solid account of the dialectic interplay which undermines the traditional narrative of “consciousness versus nature”, but in the end are perhaps a bit too far on the consciousness side of it. Marcuse will probably be helpful in such a consideration.
The main thing I hope to work out from this discussion would be getting at the wiring behind class-consciousness, and how to think about a collective phenomenology of class struggle. I want to work around sites of common oppression in such a way that harmonizes between the collective totality and the particular, so that dialogue and structures can be built without the necessity of folding in difference. Mainly I want to explore how we can consider difference not to be a problem, but as strategic towards achieving an intersectional, broad-based, and militant party structure. -M
I was actually surprised by how thoughtless Habermas’ critique of Marx was, relying as it does on the Weber/Lukacs reading, and the whole base/superstructure trope. For those of you who heard about this famous duality and want to critique Marx based on it: Marx said this ONCE, and with contextual specificity. He didn’t really believe you could just dump the social on top of some stool called “economy” (this is an economist reading, a.k.a a Stalinist one).  Habermas also seems to think Marxism can’t account for the welfare state, or the other somewhat underhanded tactics Capitalism has used to keep itself afloat through ever worsening financial crisis. I think he would be hard pressed to find a Marxist economist who isn’t dealing with this currently, not to mention Marx himself being relatively clear on how capitalism won’t abide a barrier, and has historically come up with extremely remarkable ways to keep moving— Engels and Lenin likewise discuss the issue of “buying off the proletariat” in The Conditions of the Working Class in England, and Imperialism respectivly. Marx doesn’t go into depth on the problem in Capital, but certainly discusses how an increased rate of exploitation can be pumped back into the working class in order to keep them invested in capitalism. Habermas doesn’t deal with the core of Marx’s real addendum to the political economic discourse of the time, namely that its core isn’t just the commodity relation, but surplus-value. While scooting around Marx’s ideas about value in general, he never actually gets at the core factor, which is that the surplus-value relationship which is inherent to Capitalism is inherently exploitative, and no amount of restructuring will cure this fundamental ailment, it is the historical condition which allows for the creation of a welfare state. There is no real “pacification” of class antagonism, and we are beginning to see Marx’s foresight on this matter now. Habermas posses another fundamentally poorly framed question when he wonders why modern resistance is declassed in a way (as in coming from students rather than workers). Firstly I don’t think anyone looking at the conflicts happening around the world in the 60’s could be so deluded as to not understand the class interaction of situations like Vietnam, and secondly he perhaps should relook at the class positions of many students. The global proletariat has increased significantly since Marx’s time, despite the postmodernist rhetoric. Not to mention his claim that Marx somehow ignores or subsumes culture in this severe way…
A few other problems with Habermas:
-The idea that we have to work from the assumption that language has an inherent drive toward consensus/understanding (and that somehow this is not teleological in a hard sense because its merely “goal-oriented”). The abstract theory of language that serves as the foundation of his entire method is simply terrible. His system falls apart without its fallacious starting point being assumed. -Economy and State are considered in isolation from culture, those making the problem remarkably similar to a bad reading of Marx in that his problem is these “systems” (economy, state) invading the “lifeworld” (culture, language). How economy is not a cultural and linguistic practice is totally beyond my comprehension. It seems like there is just some mystical assumption about how economy just flows on its own, and any mention of the ruling classes and their historical and current role in shaping that interaction are ignored (what about imperialism!?) -The appeal to general political “legitimacy”, which eliminates all forms of political struggle save communicative action. The assumption that we can rationally talk out our problems and thus solve any dispute, and that this is the only legitimate way to do so, leaves a great deal to be desired. -In his theory of communicative action, regulative validity claims are subject to acceptance (in the Yes or No dichotomy of responses to validity claims) based on their normativeness, which seems problematic if this is the type of speech act which we use to request or regulate others. -An inability to fold art/poetry into his proceduralist account of communicative action towards satisfying reason leads him to put it wholly outside the world. The autonomous realm of art is just a mythology, whether from those who wish to validate it, or from those who say it is not reasonable enough. -Linguistic Kantianism based on “regulatory ideals” is a one way ticket back to Hegel’s critique of universal morality. How can Habermas claim to have an intersubjective account with this monstrous presupposition looming all of our discourse? (I understand the attempted tripartite of objective, inter-subjective, and subjective, I just think it fails to come through.) -The problem of “social order” and its explanation has never been a satisfying frame for my understanding of social systems (stemming from Parson’s social integration theory). Marx describes our economic condition as anarchic, and I tend to agree. Phrasing the problem in such a way as to assume that there is a relative degree of social equilibrium really misses the power relationships at the bottom of even the most basic agreements (though I generally sympathize with Habermas in that he is responding to post-structuralist power analysis). I think Parson’s critique of Hobbes is missing the main thrust of the Hobbsian argument, which is that fear of violent death accounts for “social order”— this is lurking closer to the surface than we often realize. This is the difference between a “crises” model that recognizes the internal contradictions of the capitalist system, and a “consensus” model; one wonders if Parson’s had a window in his ivory tower. Habermas at least tries to explain why our society is in perpetual crisis (“systems” invading “life-world”), but that our “natural culture and language” is bent towards rejection of systems seems more than arbitrary, it is down right anti-dialectic. -ANTHROPOCENTRISM, only humans have language, the environment and the animals are just going to have to deal with our decision. -ETHNOCENTRISM, being situated in and being the self-proclaimed heir to western philosophical/linguistic thought, the backwards cultures that have yet to evolve to western standards of rationality are just waiting to be subsumed, and receive this prescriptive division from immediate mythological binding ( ala Durkheim).
1. “Habermas, who once wrote extensively on historical materialism, clearly assumed it to be a theoretical explanation of history. Significantly, he recommends Stalin’s 1938 essay as ‘a handbook of historical materialism” - Cyril Smith Marx Versus Historical Materialism -M