Posted by rainer ganahl on November 21, 2000 at 22:00:47:
In Reply to: Question to ganahlmarx posted by Craig Martin on November 21, 2000 at 12:04:03:
Craig Martin: I'm interested to discuss with you the reasoning behind instigating such a project at this point in time. Given the failures of the Althusserian model, which attempted a 'new' & altogether 'textual' reading of Marx, do the possibilties exist to produce a 'contemporary' reading?
Rainer Ganahl: I am not so sure what you mean by a failure of a “textual” reading of Marx. How can any reading, whether it is “textual” or “contemporary” be a failure or a success? I only can speak for myself and for the people that gave me a feed back when reading Marx together.
In my case, reading Marx did change my life. I read it first when I was barely 20 years old and it triggered a lot of responses that in retrospect had been very influential: Marx’ notion of work, for example, as the pivotal point in the construction of identity or his conception of history with its dialectical, conflict oriented ideas based on material conflicts of interests had been very liberating for myself as a troubled student and as a troubled person. It helped me to impregnate me from all kind of phenomenological influences and gave me a sense of urgency and socio-political awareness. It helped me to completely get over all kind of metaphysical flirtations which hunted me as a teenager. It helped me to completely ignore all family pressure and yet accept their modest financial support without feeling any guilt, since I regarded my reading, traveling, studying and even my way to “fuck up” as work, capital work. It even helped me to justify getting the books I needed from bookshops in the specific way I acquired them at the time.
Answering the question whether there could be a “contemporary” reading is easy: there only are contemporary readings – plural- possible, since we now live under different regimes of technologies and changed political, social and ideological orders that determine production, labor, communication, exchange and so on. It is not even possible to read Marx other than through a contemporary perspective.
I try to work through these texts like a search engine, looking for things that are fruitful when projected onto contemporary conditions. And even in places where statements look obsolete for all kind of reasons, I am curious to analyse the changes seen from my given position. For example, I ask myself whether the division of labor is really an expression of private property, as suggested in Marx’ “German Ideology”, and whether they are both really the origin of evil and alienation in society?
Louis Althusser has failed personally with the murder of his wife in a state of insanity but I don’t think that he failed as a theoretician given the fact that his readings of Marx are still discussed. His way to redefine ideology and state apparatuses had been at least very influential for my understanding of things.
In short, it is even a Marxist notion of ‘reading” that doesn’t allow but for a “contemporary” understand of Marx’ texts, an understanding that takes into account its own historical and materialistic – interest specific – conditions.
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