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Materialist Regressions and a Return to Idealism

Djordje Popović (University of Minnesota)

Kontradikce. Časopis pro kritické myšlení I, č. 2 (2017): 63–91

stáhnout (pdf)

Keywords: Materialism, idealism, Left Hegelianism

Over the last decade or two, judging by the frequency and jubilance of its sundry invocations, “materialism” seems to have finally returned from discursive exile, having barely survived and only with aid from the most unlikely ally. Th at this new materialism is barely recognizable matters little, for the stories of conceptual adventure and the promise of a world beyond our wildest conceptual grasp are so captivating that most fail to notice that the human never appears in them. That is precisely the point. Under the guise of materialism, a redemptive nihilism has taken the place of the revolutionary hubris that once struck fear in ruling classes and ideas alike. How did it come to this? The stodgy old materialism
did not so much lose to the imposter in some marketplace of ideas as it was systematically appropriated, its concepts expropriated, aspirations falsifi ed and entire traditions effaced. A sustained philosophical and political eff ort to weaken the Left Hegelian tradition – the concept of alienation in particular – preceded today’s ontological restoration, enabling new “materialists” to maintain what is entirely an absurdity (materialism that resides solely and immanently in the object) and an obscenity (radical politics built on arch-conservative principles). This essay will identify a few points of ontological infi ltration and argue that critical social theory, for the sake of materialism and not against it, must recuperate the prohibitively idealist conceptual framework – one that is by no means foreign to it and that once went by the name of Reason in History.

doi: 10.46957/con.2017.2.5

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