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Tag: negation

Hegel and Freud


Mladen Dolar (2012)

Hegel and Freud have nothing in common, it would seem; there is everything to oppose them. On the one hand: the speculative philosopher of absolute spirit whose system encompassed every sphere of being – logic, nature, and spirit – and who is reputed to be the most obscure and difficult in the entire grand philosophical tradition; on the other hand: a man of medical formation, a therapist who in all his work took clinical practice as his guideline and only gradually extended some psychological insights into larger circles of culture, civilization, and history. On the one hand: not only a philosopher, but a philosopher par excellence, the paradigmatic example of a philosopher who managed to encapsulate in his system all the themes and achievements of the metaphysical tradition; on the other hand: a man of natural science who adamantly opposed philosophy as such and even saw attempts to turn psychoanalysis into a new philosophical current as one of his discipline’s greatest dangers. On the one hand: not only a German, but seemingly a German par excellence, a model of German spirit, or even the Prussian state philosopher, as the adage goes; on the other hand: a Jew who already in his young days experienced the pressure of anti-Semitism and eventually, despite his fame, lived his final days in exile, his books burned by a regime that was, ironically, evoking Hegel. And finally, on the one hand the philosopher who relied more than anyone else in the history of philosophy on the powers of reason, concepts, and knowledge; on the other hand someone who more than anyone else took his cue from something that inherently escapes those powers or presents their fissure – this fissure forms the very object of psychoanalysis, of entities such as the unconscious and the drives.

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Negation (Freud, 1925)


THE manner in which our patients bring forward their associations during the work of analysis gives us an opportunity for making some interesting observations. ‘Now you’ll think I mean to say something insulting, but really I’ve no such intention.’ We realize that this is a rejection, by projection, of an idea that has just come up. Or: ‘You ask who this person in the dream can be. It’s not my mother.’ We emend this to: ‘So it is his mother.’ In our interpretation, we take the liberty of disregarding the negation and of picking out the subject‑matter alone of the association. It is as though the patient had said: ‘It’s true that my mother came into my mind as I thought of this person, but I don’t feel inclined to let the association count.”[1]

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 A Note on Dialectics (Marcuse, 1960)


[In 1941, Herbert Marcuse published Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory. In 1960, he added this new preface, which briefly explains the underlying basis of Hegel’s philosophy, and why Marcuse considers dialectics such a powerful approach to theory and politics. All genuine progress, he insists, requires the recognition of the negative as a social force and reality.]

By Herbert Marcuse

This book [Reason and Revolution] was written in the hope that it would make a small contribution to the revival, not of Hegel, but of a mental faculty which is in danger of being obliterated: the power of negative thinking. As Hegel defines it: “Thinking is, indeed, essentially the negation of that which is immediately before us.” What does he mean by “negation,” the central category of the dialectic?

Even Hegel’s most abstract and metaphysical concepts are saturated with experience—experience of a world in which the unreasonable becomes reasonable and, as such, determines the facts; in which unfreedom is the condition of freedom, and war the guarantor of peace. This world contradicts itself. Common sense and science purge themselves from this contradiction; but philosophical thought begins with the recognition that the facts do not correspond to the concepts imposed by common sense and scientific reason—in short, with the refusal to accept them. To the extent that these concepts disregard the fatal contradictions which make up reality, they abstract from the very process of reality. The negation which the dialectic applies to them is not only a critique of conformist logic, which denies the reality of contradictions; it is also a critique of the given state of affairs on its own ground—of the established system of life, which denies its of promises and potentialities.

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From Marx to Hegel and Back to the Future


In einer Zeit globaler wirtschaftlicher Krisen, zunehmender gesellschaftlicher Ungleichheiten sowie neuer sozialer Bewegungen und politischer Kämpfe gibt es ein wiederaufblühendes Interesse an Marx und seinem Denken.  Für eine kritische Auseinandersetzung mit unserer Welt ist eine erneute Lektüre von Marx tatsächlich von entscheidender Bedeutung. Das war der Ausgangspunkt der internationalen Konferenz von 25. bis 27. Februar 2016: From Marx to Hegel and Back to the Future. Hier haben wir einige der Vorträge dokumentiert.

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Negation of the Diaspora


Brooklyn Rail, Mar 5th, 2015

Clowders of cats wander the streets of Tel Aviv like stranger kings to whom all must pay their respect. Lying under chairs, sitting on top of cars, relaxing in cafes, they settle on other people’s property without regard for anyone or anything. A friend tells me a story: When the British ruled over Palestine, there was a massive rat infestation. To solve the problem, they introduced cats all over the country. One population was displaced, and another took its place. This story, like most narratives that circulate about Israel, is false. There were always cats here, and they come not from some mistaken British policy, but from the ecology of the region itself. Yet its falseness contains a moment of truth: no origins are given here, nothing is taken for granted as a fact of history—everything is contested terrain.

Here’s another example. Sitting in a café in the hip Florentin district of Tel Aviv, I ask a few leftist friends about the war in Gaza last summer. “Horrible, unnecessary,” they say. “Some people just cannot believe that not every war is absolutely essential for the survival of the country, that some are rather functional to maintain the occupation.” Tell me about the anti-war protests. “We were attacked, called traitors, no one from the left parties would officially endorse the protests either.” None except the Jewish-Arab Marxist party, Hadash, which has only a few seats in the Knesset. Not even Meretz would support the protestors.

On a different night in a different bar with different Israelis, I ask the same questions about the summer war. “Horrible, unnecessary,” one woman answers. “Some people just cannot believe that we are constantly under attack, that these wars are necessary for our survival.” She tells me about the tunnels that Hamas built, the rockets, the sirens, the bomb shelters. The “hippies” who protested at Rabin Square enraged her. “Fools” she says, “but they have the right to be stupid.”

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The truth is the whole. However, the whole is only the essence completing itself through its own development. This much must be said of the absolute: It is essentially a result, and only at the end is it what it is in truth. Its nature consists precisely in this: To be actual, to be subject, that is, to be the becoming-of-itself. As contradictory as it might seem, namely, that the absolute is to be comprehended essentially as a result, even a little reflection will put this mere semblance of contradiction in its rightful place. The beginning, the principle, or the absolute as it is at first, that is, as it is immediately articulated, is merely the universal. But just as my saying “all animals” can hardly count as an expression of zoology, it is likewise obvious that the words, “absolute,” “divine,” “eternal,” and so on, do not express what is contained in them; – and it is only such words which in fact express intuition as the immediate. Whatever is more than such a word, even the mere transition to a proposition, is a becoming-other which must be redeemed, that is, it is a mediation. However, it is this mediation which is rejected with such horror as if somebody, in making more of mediation than in claiming both that it itself is nothing absolute and that it in no way exists in the absolute, would be abandoning absolute cognition altogether.

Das Wahre ist das Ganze. Das Ganze aber ist nur das durch seine Entwicklung sich vollendende Wesen. Es ist von dem Absoluten zu sagen, daß es wesentlich Resultat, daß es erst am Ende das ist, was es in Wahrheit ist; und hierin eben besteht seine Natur, Wirkliches, Subjekt, oder Sich-selbst-werden, zu sein. So widersprechend es scheinen mag, daß das Absolute wesentlich als Resultat zu begreifen sei, so stellt doch eine geringe Überlegung diesen Schein von Widerspruch zurecht. Der Anfang, das Prinzip, oder das Absolute, wie es zuerst und unmittelbar ausgesprochen wird, ist nur das Allgemeine. Sowenig, wenn ich sage: alle Tiere, dies Wort für eine Zoologie gelten kann, ebenso fällt es auf, daß die Worte des Göttlichen, Absoluten, Ewigen u.s.w. das nicht aussprechen, was darin enthalten ist; – und nur solche Worte drücken in der Tat die Anschauung als das Unmittelbare aus. Was mehr ist, als ein solches Wort, der Übergang auch nur zu einem Satze, ist ein Anderswerden, das zurückgenommen werden muß, ist eine Vermittlung. Diese aber ist das, was perhorresziert wird, als ob dadurch, daß mehr aus ihr gemacht wird denn nur dies, daß sie nichts Absolutes und im Absoluten gar nicht sei, die absolute Erkenntnis aufgegeben wäre.

Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, §20