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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The end of objective reality

I am sitting here listening to Hawkwind's Space Ritual/ Pink Fairies's What a Bunch of Sweeties. There are 31 books stacked up in arms reach around me, five lever-arch files, three big maps (one of Northern Ireland) and a small mountain of photocopies, some of which have avalanched onto the floor.

Word count tells me I have written 8545 words in the past 12 days which means I now have 45 963 words of “Against the poor, the rich prevail...” my dissertation on the Galloway Levellers Uprising of 1724. Damn, I hadn't added it all up until now and it should only be 40 000. And it isn't quite finished.

It nearly is, just trying to fill in some gaps and summarise/ draw conclusion. I guess I will have to cut my 5000 word Introduction to create some more room. But I have been writing up this damn dissertation for 18 months now – got up to 60 000 words last September, then threw 40 000 of them away to create space for editing and re-writing.

I guess it is a moving target. If it was all printed off would look like a big thick solid wodge, but it isn't fixed, it is unstable, shifting and changing as I find new bits to add – like all the Irish connections which came about from the Plantation of Ulster when thousands of Protestant Scots were given land by king James I (of England, VI of Scotland) which had belonged to Irish Catholics. Some of these Scots (well quite a lot really) moved from Galloway across the North Channel to Ulster. To make money from their Irish lands, they sent cattle from Ulster to England via Scotland. That started about 1620. English farmers didn't like it so in 1667 they banned Irish cattle.

I knew about the last bit, but tracking down all the Irish links - like which Galloway landowners owned which bit of Ireland and for how long - was a bit harder. A then I found that a big chunk of County Derry/London/Derry was inherited by one of Galloway's Roman Catholic families who owned the Irish land from about 1650 to 1720.

Enough. Tomorrow I will get up early and go for a long walk in the mist and fog. I will think very hard about how to make some kind of sense of the 45 963 words of confusion. Then I will tidy up all the books and stuff. Then I will write a Conclusion, delete my Introduction and replace it with the Conclusion.

And then?

Well I need to start checking a nearby wood to see if (once it gets a bit more springish) there are any plants in it like wood anemones and bluebells which mean it might be an ancient wood. Which means I need to brush up on my plant identification skills.

Then there is “the end of objective reality”
- from http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/502/lukacs.html

Commodity fetishism is the central, definitive characteristic of capitalist society.
What is extraordinary about Lukács is that he was one of the few Marxist philosophers who really added something to Marx’s views. Lukács goes further than Marx, developing the notion of reification in a way it is not developed in Capital. For Lukács, commodity fetishism was the “basic phenomenon of reification”, which refers to the process through which the exchange of the products leads to the transformation of social relations among human beings into apparently natural relations among things.

The problem is that Lukács identifies reification with objectivity, whereas they cannot be considered socially or conceptually identical: “It is in Hegel that we first encounter alienation as the fundamental problem of man in the world and vis-à-vis the world. However, in the term ‘alienation’, he includes every type of objectification.” Thus ‘alienation’, when taken to its logical conclusion, is identical with objectification. Therefore, when the identical subject-object transcends alienation it must also transcend objectification at the same time. But since, according to Hegel, the object, the thing, exists only as an alienation from self-consciousness, to take it back into the subject would mean the end of objective reality and thus of any reality at all.

History and class consciousness follows Hegel in that it too equates alienation (Entfremdung) with objectification (Vergegenständlichung). It is necessary to make such distinction, because only in certain forms of society is there reification of external objects. And without this distinction, it means that de-reification will imply that there are no objects, material or social.

I have read History and Class Consciousness after reading a suggestion by Joppe that it was an important source for Debord's Society of the Spectacle. It is a hell of a read. As dense,complex and confusing as the works of Kenneth Grant, who is also a great fan of the word 'reification'. Could a synthesis between Lukács and Grant be created? Which could then, in a Hegel style dialectic , become the thesis against which to oppose/ negate the notion of Marx as an ecologist proposed by John Bellamy Foster (Marx's Ecology and Ecology Against Capitalism) and Joel Kovel (The Enemy of Nature) – all which I have skimmed through recently.

Should keep me busy once I have finished the dissertation.


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