Marx or Tarde

In a post over at Bogost’s blog there’s an interesting discussion of Marx. I think it is correct to say one is not a Marxist if by that one means that Latour is not a Marxist. Latour is explicit on this point in his recent book, The Science of Passionate Interests, where he wonders how the 20th century might have unfolded had Tarde’s approach to understanding capitalism been more influential than Marx’s. Latour’s critique of Marx is much the same as his critique of Durkheim (you could substitute Durkheim for Marx in the previous sentence). Rather than presuppose the existence of class and society, Tarde examines the myriad ways in which society is composed. Latour follows a similar approach, of course, and in an essay he wrote with Shirley Strum, ‘redefining the social,’ he explicitly claims that society is not a given but needs to be composed, and composed by way of things – i.e., our human/nonhuman interactions. I develop this argument extensively in Deleuze’s Hume. Thanks to Robert and Ian for bringing my attention to Latour’s unpublished “Compositionist Manifesto.”


4 responses to “Marx or Tarde

  • Is Marx a Sociologist of the Social? « Larval Subjects .

    […] insofar as he treats entities like class as agents in history. Over at Aberrant Monism Jeffrey Bell nicely articulates this critique. Bell writes: I think it is correct to say one is not a Marxist if by that one means […]

  • Mikhail Emelianov

    “Rather than presuppose the existence of class and society, Tarde examines the myriad ways in which society is composed.”

    I rather did not enjoy the interaction over at Bogost’s – usually it’s very good and thoughtful, but the Marx exchanges was just so overrun with generalizations and cliches that it made for a difficult read. All these things about tweed jacketed academics talking politics in pubs was just too much – I sensed a lot of resentment in this talk of “them Marxists”…

    In any case, I don’t know if Marx necessarily presupposes the existence of class and society, as you put it, I wonder if you could say more? Clearly, class distinction for Marx has to do with the ownership of the means of production, not some generic idea we normally associate with the notion of “class” (by “we” I mean general public). If we sell our labor for wages, it doesn’t matter if this labor is manual or intellectual – there’s no “middle class” (which is, of course, our favorite escapist fantasy in the US).

    On the other hand, I’ve love to read up on Tarde – where would I start?

  • Jeffrey Bell

    Have to agree that one must search for the silver lining in the threads – and sometimes they become all too polemical for my taste, but the question about being a Marxist and what that would mean is an important question, and one Latour has put front and center of his recent work. To get up to speed with Tarde you could start with the book I mention in the post, and as for Tarde’s work itself The Laws of Imitation (it’s available for free online) is probably the best place to start. It was very influential upon the work of Deleuze and has helped me to understand Deleuze better, especially the Humean influence.

  • Anti Vigilante

    I don’t suppose there’s any commentary on the speculation that Marx was a tool of the Bank of England set up to reduce society and economics to simplistic self-prophetic models to lure the oppressed and engorge the egos of self-appointed savior masters perpetuating what it pretends to fight.

    I use an abstract numbering for the advancement of philosophy with the successive addition of both static and dynamic principles.

    0 – Nihilism
    1 – Solipsism
    2 – Materialism
    3 – Relativism
    4 – Realism
    5 – ???

    At each step alternating static and dynamic principles refine and dominate the model. This puts Dialectical Materialism right between Materialism and Relativism which suggests it’s a shell game of disgusting proportions. It’s Relativism sold as a more malleable form of Materialism. The explicit deception is that its concepts revolve around binary choices as the number 2 is associated with Materialism. Relativism is associated with the number 3 because there at least three major elements in a discussion of any topic. In Dialectical Materialism, the third element is moved around conveniently to make the binary model work or if it isn’t hidden it is introduced deus-ex style so the cat always lands on its feet.

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