Reading List

Marxism and Hegel Reading List


"As Prometheus, having stolen fire from heaven, begins to build houses to settle upon the earth, so philosophy, expanded to be the whole world, turns against the world of appearance. The same now with the philosophy of Hegel." - Marx

Even though Marx rejected Hegel's idealism, Marx's dialectical method and his conception of historical materialism were borne out of his reading of Hegel. The books below engage with the complex relationship between these two titans of philosophy and lay out what their thought means for the radical left today.

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The interpretation of Hegel has been a focal point of philosophical controversy ever since the beginning of the twentieth century, both among Marxists and in the major European philosophical schools. Yet despite wide differences of emphasis most interpretations of Hegel share important similarities. They link his idea of Reason to the revolutionary and rationalist tradition which led to the French Revolution, and they interpret his dialectic as implying a latently atheist and even materialist world outlook.

Lucio Colletti directly challenges this picture of Hegel. He argues that Hegel was an essentially Christian philosopher, and that his dialectic was explicitly anti-materialist in both intention and effect. In contrast to earlier views, Colletti maintains that there is no contradiction between Hegel’s method and his system, once it is accepted that his thought is an exercise in Absolute Idealism stemming from a long Christian humanist tradition. He claims, on the contrary, that intellectual inconsistency is rather to be found in the works of Engels, Lenin, Lukás, Kojève and others, who have attempted to adapt Hegel to their own philosophical priorities.

Henri Lefebvre saw Marx as an ‘unavoidable, necessary, but insufficient starting point’, and always insisted on the importance of Hegel to understanding Marx. Metaphilosophy also suggested the significance he ascribed to Nietzsche, in the ‘realm of shadows’ through which philosophy seeks to think the world. Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche: or the Realm of the Shadows proposes that the modern world is, at the same time, Hegelian in terms of the state, Marxist in terms of the social and society and Nietzschean in terms of civilisation and its values. As early as 1939, Lefebvre had pioneered a French reading of Nietzsche that rejected the philosopher’s appropriation by fascists, bringing out the tragic implications of Nietzsche’s proclamation that ‘God is dead’ long before this approach was followed by such later writers as Foucault, Derrida and Deleuze. Forty years later, in the last of his philosophical writings, Lefebvre juxtaposed the contributions of the three great thinkers, in a text that’s themes remain surprisingly relevant today.

In this major new study, the philosopher and cultural theorist Fredric Jameson offers a new reading of Hegel’s foundational text Phenomenology of Spirit. In contrast to those who see the Phenomenology as a closed system ending with Absolute Spirit, Jameson’s reading presents an open work in which Hegel has not yet reconstituted himself in terms of a systematic philosophy (Hegelianism) and in which the moments of the dialectic and its levels have not yet been formalized. Hegel’s text executes a dazzling variety of changes on conceptual relationships, in terms with are never allowed to freeze over and become reified in purely philosophical named concepts. The ending, on the aftermath of the French Revolution, is interpreted by Jameson, contra Fukuyama’s “end of history,” as a provisional stalemate between the political and the social, which is here extrapolated to our own time.

Slavoj Zizek, the maverick philosopher, author of over 30 books, acclaimed as the "Elvis of cultural theory", and today's most controversial public intellectual. His work traverses the fields of philosophy, psychoanalysis, theology, history and political theory, taking in film, popular culture, literature and jokes—all to provide acute analyses of the complexities of contemporary ideology as well as a serious and sophisticated philosophy. His recent films The Pervert's Guide to the Cinema and Zizek! reveal a theorist at the peak of his powers and a skilled communicator. Now Verso is making his classic titles, each of which stand as a core of his ever-expanding life's work, available as new editions. Each is beautifully re-packaged, including new introductions from Zizek himself. Simply put, they are the essential texts for understanding Zizek's thought and thus cornerstones of contemporary philosophy.

Modern audiovisual media have spawned a 'plague of fantasies', electronically inspired phantasms that cloud the ability to reason and prevent a true understanding of a world increasingly dominated by abstractions—whether those of digital technology or the speculative market.

Into this arena, enters Žižek: equipped with an agile wit and the skills of a prodigious scholar, he confidently ranges among a dazzling array of cultural references—explicating Robert Schumann as deftly as he does John Carpenter—to demonstrate how the modern condition blinds us to the ideological basis of our lives.

For a long time, the term ‘ideology’ was in disrepute, having become associated with such unfashionable notions as fundamental truth and the eternal verities. The tide has turned, and recent years have seen a revival of interest in the questions that ideology poses to social and cultural theory, and to political practice.

Mapping Ideology is a comprehensive reader covering the most important contemporary writing on the subject. Including Slavoj Žižek’s study of the development of the concept from Marx to the present, assessments of the contributions of Lukács and the Frankfurt School by Terry Eagleton, Peter Dews and Seyla Benhabib, and essays by Adorno, Lacan and Althusser, Mapping Ideology is an invaluable guide to the most dynamic field in cultural theory.

In the ruins of the 2007–2008 financial crisis, self-proclaimed progressives the world over clamoured to resurrect the economic theory of John Maynard Keynes. The crisis seemed to expose the disaster of small-state, free-market liberalization and deregulation. Keynesian political economy, in contrast, could put the state back at the heart of the economy and arm it with the knowledge needed to rescue us. But what it was supposed to rescue us from was not so clear. Was it the end of capitalism or the end of the world? For Keynesianism, the answer is both. Keynesians are not and never have been out to save capitalism, but rather to save civilization from itself. It is political economy, they promise, for the world in which we actually live: a world in which prices are “sticky,” information is “asymmetrical,” and uncertainty inescapable. In this world, things will definitely not take care of themselves in the long run. Poverty is ineradicable, markets fail, and revolutions lead to tyranny. Keynesianism is thus modern liberalism’s most persuasive internal critique, meeting two centuries of crisis with a proposal for capital without capitalism and revolution without revolutionaries.

In this provocative and enthusiastically revisionist book, the distinguished economist Meghnad Desai argues that capitalism’s recent efflorescence is something Karl Marx anticipated and indeed would, in a certain sense, have welcomed. Capitalism, as Marx understood it, would only reach its limits when it was no longer capable of progress. Desai argues that globalization, in bringing the possibility of open competition on world markets to producers in the Third World, has proved that capitalism is still capable of moving forwards.

Marx’s Revenge opens with a consideration of the ideas of Adam Smith and Hegel. It proceeds to look at the nuances in the work of Marx himself, and concludes with a survey of more recent economists who studied capitalism and attempted to unravel its secrets, including Joseph Schumpeter, John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek.

The Destruction of Reason is Georg Lukács’s trenchant criticism of certain strands of philosophy after Marx and the role they played in the rise of National Socialism: ‘Germany’s path to Hitler in the sphere of philosophy,’ as he put it. Starting with the revolutions of 1848, his analysis spans post-Hegelian philosophy and sociology. The great pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer, neo-Hegelians such as Leopold von Ranke and Wilhelm Dilthey, and the phenomenologists Edmund Husserl, Karl Jaspers, and Jean-Paul Sartre come in for a share of criticism, but the principal targets are Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger. Through these thinkers he shows in an unsparing analysis that, with almost no exceptions, the post-Hegelian tradition prepared the ground for fascist thought.

Gillian Rose is among the twentieth century’s most important social philosophers. In perhaps her most significant work, Hegel Contra Sociology, Rose mounts a forceful defence of Hegelian speculative thought. Demonstrating how, in his criticisms of Kant and Fichte, Hegel supplies a preemptive critique of Weber, Durkheim, and all of the sociological traditions that stem from these “neo-Kantian” thinkers, Rose argues that any attempt to preserve Marxism from a similar critique and any attempt to renew sociology cannot succeed without coming to terms with Hegel’s own speculative discourse. With an analysis of Hegel’s mature works in light of his early radical writings, this book represents a profound step toward enacting just such a return to the Hegelian.

Louis Althusser is remembered today as the scourge of humanist Marxism, but that was his later incarnation, an identity formed by years grappling with the intellectual inheritance of Hegel and Catholicism. The Spectre of Hegel collects the writings of the young Althusser, before his final epistemological break with the philosopher’s work in 1953. The Spectre of Hegel gives a unique insight into Althusser’s engagement with a philosophy he would later renounce.

In Marxism and Philosophy Korsch argues for a reexamination of the relationship between Marxist theory and bourgeois philosophy, and insists on the centrality of the Hegelian dialectic and a commitment to revolutionary praxis. Although widely attacked in its time, Marxism and Philosophy has attained a place among the most important works of twentieth-century Marxist theory, and continues to merit critical reappraisal from scholars and activists today.

Today, as global capitalism comes apart at the seams, we are entering a new period of transition. In Less Than Nothing, the product of a career-long focus on the part of its author, Slavoj Žižek argues it is imperative we not simply return to Hegel but that we repeat and exceed his triumphs, overcoming his limitations by being even more Hegelian than the master himself. Such an approach not only enables Žižek to diagnose our present condition, but also to engage in a critical dialogue with the key strands of contemporary thought—Heidegger, Badiou, speculative realism, quantum physics, and cognitive sciences. Modernity will begin and end with Hegel.

After half a century exploring dialectical thought, renowned cultural critic Fredric Jameson presents a comprehensive study of a misunderstood yet vital strain in Western philosophy. The dialectic, the concept of the evolution of an idea through conflicts arising from its inherent contradictions, transformed two centuries of Western philosophy. To Hegel, who dominated nineteenth-century thought, it was a metaphysical system. In the works of Marx, the dialectic became a tool for materialist historical analysis.

Jameson brings a theoretical scrutiny to bear on the questions that have arisen in the history of this philosophical tradition, contextualizing the debate in terms of commodification and globalization, and with reference to thinkers such as Rousseau, Lukács, Heidegger, Sartre, Derrida, and Althusser. Through rigorous, erudite examination, Valences of the Dialectic charts a movement toward the innovation of a “spatial” dialectic. Jameson presents a new synthesis of thought that revitalizes dialectical thinking for the twenty-first century.