Sidney Hook and Max Eastman debate on dialectics in late 1920s to early 1930s; Raya Dunayevskaya, C.L.R. James correspondence on Hegel and Marx (1949 to 1950); Dunayevskaya, Marcuse dialogue on social movements, history, and necessity and freedom dialectic in Hegel and Marx (1954-1964); Marcuse, Critical Theory, "repressive tolerance" and today's social movements:
The Dialectic Comes to America: Two Decades of the Hegel-Marx Relationship (1933-1953) in the U.S. Radical Milieu
This presentation will discuss two decades of American radical debate on the Marx-Hegel relationship (1933-1953), focusing on contention over the dialectic in the work of Sidney Hook, Max Eastman, James Burnham, and the Johnson-Forest Tendency (C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Grace Lee). The early period of Marxism in the United States was not devoid of discussions of philosophy, but the brief Hegelian upsurge in Europe represented by the contributions of Lenin (1914), Lukacs (1922), and Korsch (1923) was delayed in its trans-Atlantic impact. This presentation will attempt to examine two decades of American discussions of the Marx-Hegel relationship in the radical milieu, focusing on Sidney Hook’s Toward the Understanding of Karl Marx (1933), Max Eastman’s criticism of Hook, and the collaborative work of the Johnson-Forest Tendency (C.L.R. James, Raya Dunayevskaya, and Grace Lee). This presentation will draw in part on the work of scholars Kevin Anderson, Paul Buhle, and Alan Wald.
Looking Back to Move Forward: Violence, Tolerance, and Neutrality in the Critical Theory of Herbert Marcuse.
Herbert Marcuse's trenchant engagement with the notion of “tolerance”, and the ways in which the rhetoric of tolerance can be used to maintain an unjust status quo, takes on new life in the present moment. By examining the complicity in structural violence that can accompany calls to “tolerance” and “neutrality”, this presentation will explore the ways in which Marcuse’s work requires us to continuously evaluate the pervasive manipulation of ideals, conventions, and aspirations present in many dominant narratives, facilitating ruthless critique in the face of systemic injustices.
Dunayevskaya-Marcuse Dialogue on Social Movements, History, and the Necessity and Freedom Dialectic in Hegel and Marx
In 1958, at the peak of a twenty-five year dialogue, Raya Dunayevskaya and Herbert Marcuse published works the relationship between which was key for defining Marxist-Humanism and Critical Theory in the U.S. Following an analysis in the text of Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom, Marcuse in a preface to that work, for the first time in the substantial body of his own work, analyzed Karl Marx’s Grundrisse. A close reading of the texts suggests that the two theorists’ interpretations of Marx’s important work significantly differed –especially in connection with historical and contemporary workers’ movements and automation. Equally significant, however, despite a several years long disagreement to date on the question of the contemporary social relevance of Hegel’s philosophy, Marcuse notes in his work Soviet Marxism, also published in 1958, that Hegel considered the transition from necessity to freedom to be the “hardest” of all dialectical transitions, and concedes that the relation between necessity and freedom is the key problem in the Hegelian as well as the Marxian dialectic, and also a key problem in the idea of socialism itself.