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Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 16, Issue 5/6, 2006

Authentic University

Kevin M. Brien
Pages 39-58

Humanistic Marxism and the Transformation of Reason

This paper will open with a focus on alienated and unfree activity as it is presented by Marx in his famous Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. My concern will be to bring out the most central dimensions of his view of such activity including: the alienated relation in such activity to other people, to one’s own activity, to the products of one’s activity, to the natural world, etc. Moreover, I will be especially concerned to bring out the mode of reason that is embedded within alienated activity, as well as the kind of relation between cognition, conation, sensory experience, feeling, (etc.) that Marx projects as obtaining in such activity. Following this I will make a dialectical extrapolation from the analysis of alienated activity that Marx gives us, and go on to present a sketch of a humanistic-Marxist interpretation of unalienated and free activity. This will be seen to involve not only a very different structural relation to other people, to one’s own activity, and to the natural world than the one that obtains in alienated activity—but also a very different structural relation between cognition, conation, sensory experience, feeling, (etc.). Then I will give a sketch of a praxis-oriented interpretation of historical materialism, which will serve to bring out the historicity of reason, and the historicity of the modes of rationality that prevail at various stages in world history. The last section of this paper will argue: (1) that a transformation of reason is a real possibility; (2) that a transformation of reason in the direction of the kind of unalienated and free activity I have delineated earlier offers the best hope for a human future and a sustainable relation to the natural world; and also (3) that at this juncture in human history it has now become a practical necessity, if humankind is to lift itself out of the mounting world crisis—spiritual and otherwise—in which we are all enmeshed.

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