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Showing posts from April 28, 2013

Reading Marx reading me

I resist the teleological interpretation of Marx – that all of Marx is there in every text, and if a text seems to say something that contradicts all-of-Marx, then we just have to either categorize Marx’s works to shunt it to the side – it was polemical! – or decide that it was an unfortunate collateral gesture. On the other hand, I’m not sure that my idea of Marx as constructing his all-of-Marx-ness in his text really purges the teleological impulse completely. Take the issue of the notebook, or the draft. We have these things. They were preserved. But the facile notion that Marx, too, having these things, goes back over them suffers both from lack of proof and automatic assumptions about research and writing that I have found, both in my personal experience and as an editor of others, to be false. I have found, instead, that one’s vital discoveries tend to fade and change and be renewed – that old intentions get submerged by new ones. Yet characteristic themes and inclinations will a

3 versions of liberty

Last night, as I lay in bed and waited for sleep, like a good little insomniac, I thought about the dialectic of freedom. It didn’t put me to sleep. So, here I am, the next day, putting words to my sleep deprived thoughts. In the Anglosphere, the problem of liberty has been narrowly framed by a tradition reaching from Benjamin Constant to Isaiah Berlin, in which the supreme contrast is between negative liberty and positive liberty. In Two Concepts of Liberty, Berlin speaks of negative liberty in terms of compulsion: “I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no human being interferes with my activity. Political liberty in this sense is simply the area within which a man can act unobstructed by others. If I am prevented by other persons from doing what I could otherwise do,I am to that degree unfree; and if this area is contracted by other men beyond a certain minimum, I can be described as being coerced, or, it may be, enslaved.” Positive liberty, for Be