theory of subjectivity? (fwd)

Santiago Colas scolas at
Thu Feb 8 12:31:41 MST 1996

Santiago Colas					e-mail:	scolas at
Asst. Professor					phone:	(313) 763-4352
Latin American and Comparative Literature	fax:	(313) 764-8163
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI  48109-1275

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 5 Feb 1996 23:42:55 -0500 (EST)
From: Santiago Colas <scolas at>
To: marxism at
Cc: marxism at
Subject: Re: theory of subjectivity?

Just to build on this thread that Lisa has restarted:

I'm reminded of a spot in Marx's writing that perhaps we don't think of 
first when looking for promising starting points toward a theory of 
subjectivity:  His draft ms. for a Critique of Hegel's _Doctrine of the 
State_ (a section of the latter's Philosophy of Right).  I grant this was 
wwritten when Marx was very young (25 or so) and for some that will be a 
priori reason for dismissal.  Not for me.  In this passage, Marx has just 
quoted a long passage from Hegel and what he basically says is:  Hegel's 
grammar mystifies the issue of subjectivity in relation to the state.  
I'm quoting from the Penguin edition of Marx's Early Writings.

"The Idea is subjectivized and the _real_ relationship of the family and 
civil society to the state is conceived as their _inner_, _imaginary_ 
activity.  The family and civil society are the preconditions of the 
state; they are the true agents; but in speculative philosophy it is the 
reverse.  When the Idea is subjectivized the real subjects--civil 
society, the family, 'circumstances, caprice, etc.'--are all transformed 
into _unreal_, objectivie moments of the Idea referring to different 
things." (p. 62)

A bit further on:

"But as [Hegel] begins by making the 'Idea' or 'substance' into the 
subject, the real essence, it is inevitable that the _real subject_ 
should appear only as the _last predicate_ of the abstract predicate."
(p. 73)

And finally, 

"If Hegel had begun by positing real subjects as the basis of the state 
he would not have found it necessary to subjectivize the state in a 
mysteical way.  'The truth of subjectivity,' Hegel claims, 'is attained 
only in a _subject_, and the truth of personality only in a _person_.'  
This too is a mystification.  Subjectivity is a characteristic of the 
subject, personality is a characteristic of the person.  Instead of 
viewing them as the predicates of their subjects Hegel makes the 
predicates into autonomous beings and then causes them to becomes 
transformed into their subjects by means of a mystical process."

And so on for a few more pages.  Obviously, this is no way shape or form 
definitive.  At the very least, however, it suggests that Lisa's line of 
thought:  subject in the grammatical sense in connection with subject as 
agent of an action is already present very early in Marx's thought.  
Coupled with the Negri reading of the Grundrisse of which we've read in 
recent posts, it would be hard to convince me that this is some 
pre"break" or pre-scientific anomaly in Marx.  At any rate, it's clear 
that, like many sacred texts, Marx's writings are complex enough to make 
themselves available as authorities for any number of positions.  It 
seems to me there's the skeleton of a theory of subjectivity here.

Sorry to take up so much space,

Lisa's post follows for those who missed it.


Santiago Colas					e-mail:	scolas at
Asst. Professor					phone:	(313) 763-4352
Latin American and Comparative Literature	fax:	(313) 764-8163
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI  48109-1275

On Fri, 2 Feb 1996, Lisa Rogers wrote:

> Lisa: I've wondered about this, but didn't have time to get into it
> when it has come up before onlist.  I think it's something like what
> is also called 'agency'.  There has also been stuff onlist called
> 'intersubjectivity' which may be related.
> My possible beginning of a clue at this point begins with the
> definition of 'subject' in the grammatical sense, the subject is the
> 'who', the one that acts, as distinct from objects.  Webster's also
> offers "the mind, ego, or agent of whatever sort that sustains or
> assumes the form of thought or consciousness." 
> Subjective means "relating to or determined by the mind as the
> subject of experience [snip] characteristic of or belonging to
> reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind [snip]
> arising out of or identified by means of one's awareness of one's own
> states and processes: illusory."
> I'm interested to see if/how this relates to whatever others may
> offer on 'subjectivity' and theories thereof.
>      --- from list marxism at ---

     --- from list marxism at ---

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