Work of the negative

This blog unabashedly takes the standpoint that Marxist-Humanism, founded by Raya Dunayevskaya, is the philosophy of the age.  That philosophy continually needs to be concretized anew, which at the same time requires understanding it.  An epochal philosophy cannot be studied and mastered, and then taken for granted.This blog takes its name from a phrase in the Preface to the great dialectical philosopher Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, “the earnestness, the pain, the patience, and the work of the negative.”  (This is a newer translation by Yirmiyahu Yovel.  You may be used to the more common “seriousness, suffering, patience and labor of the negative.”)  It hopes to capture some instances of the negative at work in human affairs–that is to say, human beings doing negation.  Of course, nothing happens without negation.  Through negation and the negation of the negation, we can arrive at the positive in the negative.  Nothing less will save humanity from the looming barbarism.

In that same Preface Hegel also wrote, “…our time is a time of birth and transition into a new era.  Spirit has broken away from its former world…and is busy shaping itself anew….”  Two centuries later, we are still in transition, but to what?  What is needed today is all-sided liberation struggle, in both activity and thought, to shape a transition based on self-activity, self-movement, self-liberation of humanity.  The alternative is the twilight of humanity, suffering in climate chaos, war and social collapse.

Nothing less than a social revolution can accomplish a transformation of the needed depth.  However, the past century has proved that revolutions as great as Russia 1917, not to mention any number of others, can transform into opposite.  The greatest challenge is not for revolutionaries to attain power and hold onto it, but for the revolution to continue in such a way that self-movement and self-development of masses grow, as against those who seek to hold onto power separating themselves from the masses and becoming yet another oppressive bureaucracy.  The decades of retrogression we have been experiencing reinforce Dunayevskaya’s contention that the totality of the crises call for a total view, that is, a philosophy of revolution.

Future blog posts will be less abstract.  In general they will be linked to events or debates of the day, and often will draw attention to an article of interest, from the Marxist-Humanist newspaper News & Letters or elsewhere.  Since a good part of my experience is in environmental and environmental justice activities, events and ideas in those areas will likely play a big part, particularly climate change, which has been a major concern of mine for many years.

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