Social Structure and Forms of Consciousness, Volume 1: The Social Determination of Method

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This new work (the first in a two-volume series) by the leading Marxian philosopher of our day is a milestone in human self-understanding. It focuses on the location where action emerges from freedom and necessity, thefoundation of all social science.

Today, as never before, the investigation of the close relationship between social structure—defined by Marx as "arising from the life-process of definite individuals"—and the various forms of consciousness is particularly important. We can only perceive what is possible by first identifying the historical process that constrains consciousness itself and therefore social action.

The relationship between social structure and forms of consciousness discussed in this volume is multifaceted and profoundly dialectical. It requires the presentation of a great wealth of historical material and the assessment of the relevant philosophical literature, from Descartes through Hegel and the Liberal tradition to the present, together with their connections with political economy and political theory. István Mészáros moves beyond both abstract solutions to the surveyed methodological questions and one-sided structuralist evaluation of the important substantive issues, bringing the process of our understanding of social structure and consciousness to a level not previously attained.

Above all, in the spirit of the Marxian approach, even the most complicated problems are always analyzed in relation to the major practical concerns of our time. The primary aim of this work is to outline the dialectical intelligibility of historical development toward a viable societal reproductive order. Social Structures and Forms of Consciousness is of the highest importance as both a political and philosophical work, illuminating the place from where we must act, today.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583672044
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

István Mészáros is a world-renowned philosopher and critic. He left his native Hungary after the Soviet invasion of 1956. He is professor emeritus at the University of Sussex, where he held the chair of philosophy for fifteen years. Meszaros is author of The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time, Beyond Capital, The Power of Ideology, The Work of Sartre, and Marx’s Theory of Alienation.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 11

1 The Programmatic Orientation Toward Science 27

1.1 “The Mastery of Man over Nature” 27

1.2 Behaviourists and Weberians 30

1.3 Mannheim's “Scientific Sociology of Culture” 32

1.4 The Structural Links of Science-Oriented Ideology 34

2 The General Tendency to Formalism 37

2.1 Formalism and Conflictuality 37

2.2 The Structural Affinity of Practical and Intellectual Inversions 45

2.3 Reconciliation of Irrational Forms 47

2.4 Formal/Reductive Homogenization and Universal Value-Equation 51

2.5 The Social Substance of Operational Rationality 53

2.6 The Concept of Nature as a Dehistoricized Formal Abstraction 56

2.7 “Formal Rationality” and Substantive Irrationality 61

3 The Standpoint of Isolated Individuality 67

3.1 Individualistic Conceptions of Conflict and Human Nature 67

3.2 The Elevation of Particularity to the Status of Universality 70

3.3 The Inversion of Objective Structural Relationships 73

4 Negative Determination of Philosophy and Social Theory 79

4.1 Substance, Subjectivity, and Freedom 79

4.2 The Positive Aspect of Critical Negation 82

4.3 The Quantification of Quality and the Law of Measure 83

4.4 Second Order “Mediations of the Mediation” and the Triumph of Negativity 88

4.5 Reconciliatory Function of “Negativity as Self-Transcending Contradiction” 90

4.6 Negativity in Sartre and Marcuse: Dependency on the Ideologically Dominant Discourse 95

5 The Rise and Fall of Historical Temporality 101

5.1 Historical Explanation in Ancient Greece and in the Middle Ages 101

5.2 “Divine Providence” in Bourgeois Philosophies of History 103

5.3 Vico's Conception of Civil Society and History 108

5.4 Organic Models as Substitutes for Historical Explanation 111

5.5 Vicissitudes of Historical Consciousness in the Twentieth Century 114

5.6 “There Is Neither Necessity nor Meaning” 119

5.7 “If Sense There Be, It Escapes Our Perception”: From Ranke and Tocqueville to Sir Lewis Namier and Beyond 132

5.8 Social Antagonism and Historical Explanation 136

6 Dualism and Dichotomies in Philosophy and Social Theories 149

6.1 The Hidden Premises of Dichotomous Systems 149

6.2 The Functional Imperative of Operational Exclusiveness 151

6.3 Ruling Values Disguised as Instrumental Complexes: The Illusions of Value-Free Functionality 155

6.4 Ideological Roots of Methodological Dualism 159

6.5 The Inward-Oriented Subject of Philosophical Discourse 162

6.6 From “Unreconciled Dualism” to Dualism of Reconciliation 165

6.7 Moralizing Apriorism in the Service of the “Commercial Spirit” 170

6.8 The Dominance of Counter-Value in Antinomous Value-Relations 175

6.9 The Supersession of Dichotomies: The Question of Social Agency 186

7 The Postulates of “Unity” and “Universality” 205

7.1 The Incorrigible Circularity and Ultimate Failure of Individualistic Mediation 205

7.2 “The Process of the Genus with the Individual”: The Reconciliatory Function of Anthropological Models 216

7.3 Fragmentation and “Longing for Unity” 232

7.4 “The Ideal General Will Should Also Be the Empirically General Will” 251

7.5 Unification through the Material Reproduction Process 261

8 Method in a Historical Epoch of Transition 277

8.1 The Marxian Reorientation of Method 277

8.2 From Hegel's “Science of Logic” to the Marxian View of Science 298

8.3 The Critique of Political Economy 317

8.4 Self-Critique as a Methodological Principle 332

8.5 Categorical Reflections of Social Antagonism and the Central Categories of Socialist Theory 353

8.6 Methodological Aspects of Mediation in an Epoch of Transition 394

Index 451

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