Morton has a righteous rant up on denunciations of interiority and eudaimonism. It seems to me that these rejections come from the linguistic turn and a certain form of Marxist thought. With the linguistic turn we got the idea that the subject is an effect of the signifier. As a consequence, any talk of eudaimonia would be the height of naivete. With a certain variant of Marxism, talk of eudaimonia and interiority smacks too much of the bourgeois individual that ignores the manner in which we’re always already embedded in social relations. I’m sympathetic to both of these lines of arguments, however I also think there’s a way in which we’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater with these sorts of rejections. A while back one of our Marxist colleagues denounced any talk of eudaimonia (though not in those terms), arguing that Marxist thought must formulate itself in terms of sacrifice. This left me scratching my head. If Marxist critique is not premised on proposing a more fulfilling and satisfying life for us, then what is it worth? Why be interested in this form of critique and its political program at all. Indeed, Marxism will denounce a certain form of commodity subjectivity. However, part of the point here is that commodity subjectivity is already unsatisfying. We are filled with burning desires and wants, yet whenever we get the objects we believe to correspond to these wants we are only further dissatisfied. Giving up what didn’t satisfy you in the first place isn’t a sacrifice at all. It’s an improvement. What we should be emphasizing is not some sort of puritanical or ascetic minimalism where we suffer in our just righteousness, but rather the possibility of another life and another form of collectivity that is far more satisfying. And besides, doesn’t Spinoza’s geometry of the passions, Hume’s analysis of the passions and sentiments, and much of Buddhist thought give us both the means of detaching ourselves from erroneous passions and the means of pursuing joyous collective passions? Far from Kantian asceticism, wasn’t this Spinozist-Humean tradition a big part of what inspired Marx?

About these ads