16 July 2010

The Subject Lives

Philosophy and Religion, Part 5a

The Subject Lives

In the previous post we said that in the late 20th Century, irrational “Post-modernism” became the house philosophy of Imperialism. Some declared the “Death of the Subject”, denying human free will.

James Heartfield’s 2002 book called “The ‘Death of the Subject’ Explained” confronted the Post-Modernists. Among other things, it helped inspire this Johannesburg Communist University that started in 2003, and to kick-start its studies in philosophy. 

Heartfield kindly allowed the CU to use extracts from his book. Some of these are contained in today’s main linked document, below. The illustration above is from the cover of this book.

What Heartfield manages to do very excellently in this book is to make clear the nature of “Post-modernism” by contrasting it polemically with the basic question of philosophy, namely the relationship between the human Subject (individual and collective) and the external, objective, material universe.

Post-modernism had flourished in a haze and a half-light that was the consequence of the “Western” bourgeois anti-communism, hardly challenged, couched in mystification and obfuscation.

Whereas outright fascism had promoted the “triumph of the will”, or in other words pure subjectivism, post-modernism became a prophecy of impotence and fatalism, or in other words pure objectivism.

Heartfield showed that these trends, i.e. both pure objectivism and pure subjectivism, though each appeared opposite to the other, both amounted to the same thing, namely anti-humanism, which in our time is anti-communism.

The human being exists, and can only exist, in the meeting place of Subject and Object. This is the master dialectic.

The first three pages of this document are a very brilliant explanation of the basis of society as it is in fact presently constructed around the freely willing human Subject. The following fifteen pages comprise a somewhat detailed account of the growth and the ramifications of post-modernism in the second half of the 20th Century.

In the eight years that have passed since the publication of Heartfield’s book, it appears that the former ascendancy of post-modernism in the academy and in the intellectual community as a whole is now a thing of the past, and that the free-willing human Subjected has re-asserted itself. This coincides with the resurgence of Marxist thought and criticism in the world.


Further reading:

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