Social Scientist. v 12, no. 128 (Jan 1984) p. 53.


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NOTES

Method, Metaphysics and Theory: Some Reflections on Reading Marx

THIS BRIEF COMMENT on Marx is a tentative intervention in an ongoing debate on how to read Marx. Most recently we have had an interesting stricture on how to construe. Marx by an Indian Marxist scholar.1 I think central to most of this discussion remains the troublesome but inescapable question of the epistemological relationship between me (.hod, theory and metaphysics. The conventional recommendation used to be to read Marx as a dialectical materialist, in which case the element of metaphysics persisted, but, with Althusser's intervention, a positivistic turn seems to have been taken. We have now Cohen's functionalist-linguist analysis, not to speak of the efforts to accommodate Marx to phenomenology.2 Now in all this bewildering array of interpretations and counter-interpretations, it may be naive but necessary to ask the simple question: What remains of Marx in the current neo-Marxist and academic Marxist and bourgeois assaults on the revolutionary Marx, the Marx of the proletarian historical destiny?

It appears to me that the advanced capitalist systems are now successfully co-opting Marx via neo-scholasticism and an ironically Marxist transformation of Marx into a commodity in the bourgeois intellectual market-place. I am not suggesting that the recent rash of Marxist exegesis is misplaced altogether or that it has not advanced our knowledge of Marx. I am merely asking the question: How does it all relate to praxis? It may well be that in the non-Communist West Marx is becoming increasingly over-theorised (in the fashion of German philosophy in Marx's own reading of it in The German Ideology) simply because praxis appears to be unavailable. This defensive and scholastic Marxism tries to accept a variety of critiques of Marxism and then explains the alleged weaknesses of Marx by resorting to very sophisticated bourgeois intellectual tools. One of the easiest ways out has been to argue that one must separate Marx's method from its specific applications and their results. This approach rests on a theoretical separation between the empirical and the epistemological in Marx's work. Marx's defects are attributed to a lack of necessary or adequate empirical data, which once available would help the Marxist method to arrive at a



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