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Title: The problem of subjectivity in Marxism : Karl Marx, George Lukacs and Antonio Gramsci
Author: Jackson, Robert
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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The recent revival of interest in Marxism has addressed the question of subjectivity in new ways. This thesis undertakes a critical investigation of the theme of subjectivity in key texts from the classical Marxist tradition in preparation for assessing its contribution to contemporary debates. My aim in this project has been to explore how one might construct a defensible version of the solution to the problem of subjectivity advanced by Marx and his successors. Examining Marx’s effort to develop the dialectical unity of subject and object in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, I propose the coexistence of two conceptions of subjectivity in these Manuscripts. A tension is created within the text that I argue pre-figures the development of his theory of commodity fetishism. This theory addresses the problem of the authentic or quasi-subjectivity of capital. This theme is developed through an exploration of the obstacles confronting proletarian subjectivity in Marx’s Capital. Within this framework, I show how Marx elaborates concrete forms of working class self-activity, such as in his chapter on The Working Day. The relationship between human actors and social structures is studied, in particular the role of the knowing subject in the process of class struggle, such as with the case of the factory inspectors. I also critically examine the interpretation of Capital advanced by Moishe Postone in his work: Time, Labour and Social Domination. In the third chapter, Lukács’s theory of reification is examined, extending commodity fetishism to locate the commodity-form as the structuring principle fragmenting subjectivity in all spheres of social life. Following Marx’s discovery of the proletariat as the ‘universal’ class, Lukács poses the proletariat as the philosophical basis for overcoming these obstacles. I attempt to locate the questions that Lukács’s History and Class Consciousness allows us to ask and those it excludes. Whilst Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks do not directly address the theme of alienation and fetishism, in the final chapter, I argue that his distinctively concrete account of class subjectivity has a de-fetishising function related to the central role played by intellectuals in political leadership. I discuss the apparent autonomy of the State in Gramsci’s framework and examine whether this poses a problem for his conception of class subjectivity. In order to assess this challenge, I propose a new categorisation of two modes – holistic and constitutive – by which Gramsci analyses the State. Finally, I consider the possibility that Lukács and Gramsci’s heterogeneous frameworks might yield complementary contributions towards contemporary discussions of the problem of subjectivity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available