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Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology
ISSN: 0007-1773 (Print) 2332-0486 (Online) Journal homepage:
Dialectical Phenomenology: Marx's Method, by
Roslyn Wallach Bologh
Michael E. Zimmerman
To cite this article: Michael E. Zimmerman (1985) Dialectical Phenomenology: Marx's Method,
by Roslyn Wallach Bologh, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 16:1, 100-102, DOI:
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Published online: 21 Oct 2014.
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Date: 12 November 2017, At: 04:19
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In other words, an authoritative treatment of Heidegger's philosophy is one
in which most of Heidegger's "theories" are rejected as the result of a conceptual
analysis which leaves a "few good ideas" intact and- may I say- un-shrouded.
Far be it from me to quarrel with Professor Edwards' use of "authoritative
treatment" but it is important that the reader of Heidegger and Death understand
Edwards' use of the expression in order to avoid any possible disappointment in
the reading of the text. Those prospective readers of Heidegger and Death who are
seeking out clear and well-developed philosophic-linguistic arguments against
Heidegger (primarily, in the present work, the Heidegger of Being and Time) will
find plenty here and more than they are likely to find elsewhere.
Those, however, who are looking for a reasonably clear and sympathetic
(even if critical) guide to Heidegger's earlier writing will have to look elsewhere.
In a way this is unfortunate because Edwards- it seems to me- takes more pains
to understand Heidegger and to try to imagine situations in which Heidegger's
words start making real sense than some of those who acknowledge Heidegger as
their master. But Edwards' "dyspathy" for Heidegger is so great (not to mention
what it is for Heidegger's followers!) that the book could never serve as that first
guide which gets us to see why a given thinker is worth writing about to begin w~th.
This is not to down-grade the book, but only to advise, in brief, the prospective
reader as to what the book is, and as to what the book is not.
Stanley Paluch
Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A.
Bologh. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979. pp. 287. Index. £12.00.
This curious book, which uses the analytic viewpoint developed by recent
"reflexive" social theory, interprets Marx's Grundrisse as an instance not only of
his analysis of capitalism but also of his analytic method as such. Although the
author suggests that her approach to Marx is novel, in fact she uses a different
vocabulary to "reproduce" what Marx said in his own way. She claims that she
"violates" Marx's text to disclose what really animates it and thereby to make it
live for us (p. 17). Marx's real "problematic" is the separation of subject (worker)
from object (product) in capitalist society (p. 160). He seeks to reveal the conditions necessary for the alienating mode of social ( re )production in capitalism. His
phenomenological method uncovers the grounds, origins, or conditions necessary
for knowing or producing a particular kind of object. Every object can only be
known within a particular historical context which guides human behavior. Following Wittgenstein, the author calls this context a "form of life". Phenomenology is
dialectical because it claims that the meaning of an object springs from the internal
relation between subject and object. "Dialectical phenomenology treats the
object as grounded in a form of life and, therefore, as a social object rather than an
object given with nature" (pp. 2-3). In the process of disclosing the form of life
operative in capitalism, Marx hopes to show that there is a non-alienating,
self-conscious mode of production (form of life) called socialism, whose possibility
is implicit in capitalism.
The key term in this book is probably "production", which Marx often uses in
the narrow sense of economic production, but which Professor Bologh argues can
be "broadly and existentially" understood as a form oflife, in the sense ofthe un-
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spoken rules or presuppositions which guide "the social production of any object
of knowledge and its corresponding subject" (p. ll ). Her analysis of Marx is
"reflexive" not only because it discloses Marx's analytic presuppositions, but also
because it employs ("reproduces") that very methodology in the process of
disclosing it (p. 29). That is, the author treats Marx's Grundrisse as an object, a
particular kind of theorizing. Every object can be produced and known only
within a certain form of life. The form of life presupposed by Marx's method
("dialectical phenomenology") is "reflexive theorizing." As the product of a form
of life, Marx's work is not an individual achievement, but a "social achievement.
This means that it is rule guided. The rules refer to its reproducibility" (p. 15). Just
as Marx reveals the form of life presupposed by the alienating social reproduction
in capitalist society, so too the author reveals the form of life presupposed by
Marx's own analytical activity. Because forms of life are "historically specific
universals" (p. 15), the objects they make possible cannot be known or produced
outside their own historical situation. Hence, dialectical phenomenology (as a form
of social reproduction) can only arise within a dualistic, alienated. unself-conscious form of life (p. 22). When socialism brings about the self-conscious unity of
subject and object in the reproduction of society, dialectical phenomenology will
become impossible. Professor Bologh claims that in "reading" (interpreting) the
hidden presuppositions of capitalism, Marx follows the four "rules" of dialectical
phenomenology, rules which she herselffollows in "reading" Marx's difficult text.
Her interpretation of the notoriously complex Grundrisse in light of these
rules is quite helpful. For this reason, the book is worth reading. Yet I must
confess that I find the entire project of "reproducing" Marx's text to be rather
puzzling, since Marx himself was well aware that he was disclosing (interpreting)
the hidden conditions of capitalism, and that his own work arose as the product of
a certain historical (dialectical) situation. My confidence in aspects ofthis book was
shaken, moreover, by its rather questionable interpretations of Hegel and Heidegger (cf. pp. 9, 46-47). But the author runs into real trouble when she contrasts
her "analytic" interpretations of Marx with the "concrete" interpretations sometimes practised by Habermas, Althusser, O'Neill, Lukacs, and Merleau-Ponty.
"Concrete" theorizing mistakenly introduces empirico-historical elements into
the interpretation of Marx's analysis, thereby (apparently) polluting its transcendental purity. For example, we are told that Merleau-Ponty wrongly criticized the
concept of the proletariat by saying that the historical deeds of members of the
proletariat seemed to end in violence or repression. Professor Bologh, who insists
that she is not concerned with the historical relevance or empirical validity of
Marx's theories but only in his mode of analysis (p. 29), urges us to understand
"the proletariat's revolutionary mode of existence as referring to the struggle by
labor to overcome its existence as a commodity subject to the vagaries of the
market" (p. 262). It is difficult to see how this "struggle" can take place other than
as the deeds of living individuals. The author insists that for Marx "The proletariat
is not a group of individuals; it is a form of life". (p. 262). This means, as I see it,
that Marx's work is really a-historical, since it concerns dialectical movements of
social structures ("forms of life"), not of real human individuals, who are merely
"embodiments" ofthose structures.
Although the author at first rejects the importance of education for changing
the prevailing form of life (p. 270), she claims that her inquiry makes possible a
liberating "self-education" which makes possible "change from within" (p. 273).
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Given her analysis of social life, it is astounding to hear her say that we are not to
treat the "oppressed" as objects for analysis and guidance. "Instead, analysis must
enter into the life of the oppressed, must learn the life of the oppressed in order to
grasp with the oppressed the conditions of that oppression" (p. 273). Had the
author followed this advice, she might not have portrayed human individuals as
embodiments of forms of life, no matter how much she insists that those individuals "reproduce" theirforms of life. The author is not sufficiently reflexive about
her own work; she does not reveal its hidden and animating conditions. If they are
revolutionary and practical, how could she justify this kind of analysis (which can
be understood by so few) as an instance of genuine praxis of benefit to the
"oppressed"? Unfortunately, her "reproduction" of Marx is primarily a repetition
which helps to explain him, but which fails to engage him in a truly critical dialogue
about the nature of individual human existence.
Michael E. Zimmerman
Newcomb College of Tulane Uni'!·
New Orleans, La.
Plantinga), Duquesne University press, 1983, pp. xi+ 203,$16.50.
The central question in psychology is whether or not the human being is part
of the natural order to be accounted for by principles of the same general kind as
cover inanimate nature. It is misleading to suppose that this is in any sense a moral
issue. Any moral stance vis-a-vis human nature is as compatible with the belief
that the human being is part of nature as with the belief that he is not. The issue is
factual- either the responses of the human being are (directly or indirectly)
linked to the stimuli impinging on him or they are not. If they are, then a possibility
exists of finding laws which involve the human organism in the natural world on
the same terms that rocks and stones and trees are involved. But what then
becomes of our intuition that human beings are independent centres of origin of
behaviour? More particularly, what can we make of the human being's evident
capacity to override the effect of any psychological law purporting to govern his
behaviour of whose existence he becomes aware? If they are not, then since
behaviour usually relates to the stimuli impinging on the organism something must
be supposed to intervene which monitors input and ensures that behavioural
output relates to input in an appropriate fashion. This 'thing' cannot be material
since if it were it would constitute a direct or indirect connection. This way there is
no problem in accounting for our intuition, since any properties whatsoever may
be predicted of what is non-material, but human nature is placed firmly outside
the natural order. The latter view is now the layman's view but in the three
hundred years that have elapsed since it was proposed no progress has been made
in understanding how what is material interacts whith what is non-material and the
failure makes it necessary to accept that our scientific understanding can extend
only so far.
Psychologists are not on the whole disposed to accept such a limitation though
at one time they did without question. Wundt certainly held that the mind was not
accessible to laboratory investigation though the sensory processes were. Even
Watson, in the paper that initiated the behaviourist revolution, seems to have held
that 'consciousness' should be involved in psychology in the same way as it was
involved in chemistry and physics, i.e. as an organ that conducts scientific
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