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"Adorno seems to mean that critical consciousness, including his own, is almost impossible. History, in some sense, has come to a halt. Negative Dialectics is an attempt to break out of this unbreakable paradox and to invite others to do the same. . . . Anyone who is involved in the possibility of Marxism as a mode of cognition sui generis, at a time when critical consciousness can no longer be even 'imputed' to an ideal-typical class . . . must read Adorno's book."
-- Gillian Rose, Review of Adorno's Negative Dialectics (1976)

( • required / + recommended readings)

Required background reading:
• Chris Cutrone, "Revolution without Marx? Rousseau, Kant and Hegel" (2013); Review of Andrew Feenberg, The Philosophy of Praxis (2015); "Why still read Lukacs? The place of 'philosophical' questions in Marxism" (2014); "Ends of philosophy" (2018); "On philosophy and Marxism" (2020); and “The negative dialectic of Marxism” (2021)

Recommended supplemental reading:
+ Adorno, Lectures on Negative Dialectics; History and Freedom; Introduction to Dialectics; Ontology and Dialectics; Metaphysics: Concepts and Problems

Primary sources:
• Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics (1966, trans. E.B. Ashton, 1973)
+ Alternate translation by Dennis Redmond (2001/2021) [2021 updated PDF]

Charts of terms:
Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Kant's 3 Critiques [PNG] and philosophy [PNG] chart of terms
Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 
Commodity form chart of terms
Reification chart of terms
+ Adorno's critique of actionism chart of terms

Week 1: June 5, 2021

• Gillian Rose, Review of Adorno's Negative Dialectics (1976)
• Theodor W. Adorno, "Why still philosophy?", Critical Models pp. 5-17 (322-325nn.)
• Chris Cutrone, "Ends of philosophy" (2018); "On philosophy and Marxism" (2020); and “The negative dialectic of Marxism” (2021)

Week 2: June 12, 2021

Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Prologue (Preface and Introduction) 
(The Possibility of Philosophy 3 Dialectics Not a Standpoint 4 Reality and Dialectics 6 The Concern of Philosophy 8 The Antagonistic Entirety 10 Disenchantment of the Concept 11 “Infinity” 13 The Speculative Moment 15 Presentation 18 Attitude Toward Systems 20 Idealism as Rage 22 The Twofold Character of the System 24 The Antinomical Character of Systems 26 Argument and Experience 28 Vertiginousness 31 Fragility of Truth 33 Against Relativism 35 Dialectics and Solidity 37 The Privilege of Experience 40 Qualitative Moment of Rationality 43 Quality and Individual 44 Substantiality and Method 47 Existentialism 49 Thing, Language, History 52 Tradition and Knowledge 53 Rhetoric 55)

Week 3: June 19, 2021

Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Part One: Relation to Ontology: I. The Ontological Need
(Question and Answer 61 Affirmative Character 65 Incapacitation of the Subject 66 Being, Subject, Object 69 Ontological Objectivism 70 The Disappointed Need 72 “Deficiency=Profit” 76 No Man’s Land 77 Unsuccessful Realism 78 On Categorical Vision 80 Being 83 “Sense of Being” 85 Ontology Prescribed 87 Protest Against Reification 89 The Wrong Need 92 Weakness and Support 94)

Week 4: June 26, 2021

Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Part One: Relation to Ontology: II. Being and Existence
(Immanent Critique of Ontology 97 Copula 100 No Transcendence of Being 105 Expressing the Inexpressible 108The Child’s Question 110 The Question of Being 112 Looping the Loop 115 Mythology of Being 117 Ontologization of the Ontical 119 Function of the Concept of Existence 122 “Dasein in Itself Ontological” 124 The Nominalistic Aspect 126 Existence Authoritarian 127 “Historicality” 128)

Week 5: July 3, 2021

Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Part Two: Negative Dialectics: Concepts and Categories
(The Indissoluble “Something” 134 Compulsory Sustantiveness 136 “Peephole Metaphysics” 137 Noncontradictoriness Not to be Hypostatized 139 Relation to Left-wing Hegelianism 143 “Logic of Disintegration” 144 On the Dialectics of Identity 146 Cogitative Self-reflection 148 Objectivity of Contradiction 151 Starting Out from the Concept 153 Synthesis 156 Critique of Positive Negation 158 Individuality Not the Ultimate Either 161 Constellation 162 Constellation in Science 164 Essence and Appearance 166 Indirectness by Objectivity 170 Particularity and the Particular 173 Subject-Object Dialectics 174 Reversal of the Subjective Reduction 176 Interpreting the Transcendental 178 “Transcendental Delusion” 180 The Object’s Preponderance 183 The Object Not a Datum 186 Objectivity and Reification 189 Passage to Materialism 192 Materialism and Immediacy 194 Dialectics Not a Sociology of Knowledge 197 The Concept of Mind 198 Pure Activity and Genesis 200 Suffering Physical 202 Materialism Imageless 204)

Week 6: July 10, 2021

Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Part Three: Models: I. Freedom
(On The Metacritique of Practical Reason 211 “Pseudoproblems” 211 A Split in the Concern with Freedom 214 Freedom, Determinism, Identity 216 Freedom and Organized Society 217 The Impulse Before the Ego 221 Experimenta crucis 223 The Addendum 226 The Fiction of Positive Freedom 231 Unfreedom of Thought 233 “Formalism” 235 The Will as a Thing 237 Objectivity in the Antinomy 239 Dialectical Definition of the Will 241 Contemplation 244 Structure of the Third Antinomy 246 Kant’s Concept of Causality 247 The Plea for Order 249 The Antithetical Argument 252 Ontical and Ideal Moments 255 Repressive Character of the Doctrine of Freedom 260 Self-experience of Freedom and Unfreedom 261 The Crisis of Causality 265 Causality as a Spell 269 Reason, Ego, Super-ego 270 Potential of Freedom 274 Against Personalism 276 Depersonalization and Existential Ontology 279 Universal and Individual in the Philosophy of Morals 281 On the State of Freedom 285 Kant’s “Intelligible Character” 287 Intelligibility and the Unity of Consciousness 292 Truth Content of the Doctrine of Intelligibility 297)

Week 7: July 17, 2021

Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Part Three: Models: II. World Spirit and Natural History
(An Excursion to Hegel 300 Trend and Facts 300 Construction of the World Spirit 303 “Harmonizing with the World Spirit” 305 The Unleashing of Productive Forces 306 Group Spirit and Dominion 307 The Legal Sphere 309 Law and Equity 310 Individualistic Veil 312 Dynamics of Universal and Particular 313 Spirit as a Social Totality 314 Historical Reason Antagonistic 317 Universal History 319 Antagonism Contingent? 321 The Supramundance Character of the Hegelian World Spirit 323 Hegel Siding with the Universal 326 Relapse into Platonism 329 Detemporalization of Time 331 Dialectics Cut Short by Hegel 334 The Role of the Popular Spirit 338 Popular Spirit Obsolete 340 Individuality and History 342 The Spell 344 Regression Under the Spell 347 Subject and Individual 349 Dialectics and Psychology 351 “Natural History” 354 History and Metaphysics 358)

Week 8: July 24, 2021

Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Part Three: Models: III. Meditations on Metaphysics
(After Auschwitz 361 Metaphysics and Culture 365 Dying Today 368 Happiness and Idle Waiting 373 “Nihilism” 376 Kant’s Resignation 381 Rescuing Urge and Block 384 Mundus intelligibilis 390 Neutralization 393 “Only a Parable” 399 The Semblance of Otherness 402 Self-Reflection of Dialectics 405) 
+ Cutrone, "Ends of philosophy" (2018); "On philosophy and Marxism" (2020); and “The negative dialectic of Marxism” (2021)

Marx-Engels Reader Platypus reading group

Time: Saturdays 2:30PM US EST 

April 10 - May 29, 2021

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/194881882245655

Required reading:

Robert Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (2nd Edition, 1978)

Recommended background reading:

Franz Mehring, Karl Marx: The Story of his Life (1918)

David Riazanov, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: An Introduction to Their Lives and Work (1927)

(Selections from Engels’s prefaces, etc. to be added as recommended readings)

(*recommended)

Week One | April 10, 2021 — 1839-44

7-125 (“On the Jewish Question,” “Contribution to the Critique,” and “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts” etc.)

577-85 “Working-Class Manchester”

*Mehring chapters 1-3

Week Two | April 17, 2021 — 1844-48

126-219 (“Critical Marginal Notes,” “Theses on Feuerbach,” “German Ideology,” “Wage Labor and Capital,” etc.)

469-500 “Communist Manifesto”

*Mehring chapters 4-5

Week Three | April 24, 2021 — 1850-56

“Address to the CL” (501-11), Class Struggles in France and Eighteenth Brumaire (586-617), “On Imperialism in India” (653-664), and “Speech at the Anniversary of the PP” (577-78),

*Mehring chapters 6-8

Week Four | May 1, 2021 — 1857-64

 “Marx on the History of his Opinions” (3-6), “Grundrisse” (221-93), “Inaugural Address to the IWMA” (512-19)

*Mehring chapters 9-11

Weeks Five and Six | May 8 and 15, 2021 — Capital

294-468 (and additional selections from the Grundrisse)

*Mehring Chapter 12; *Kautsky, “The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx” (1887/1903)

Week Seven | May 22, 2021 — The Paris Commune and the Aftermath of the International

“The Civil War in France”

520-555 (Critique of Gotha etc.), 665-680 (etc.)

*Mehring chapters 13-15

Week Eight | May 29, 2021 — Engels after Marx and Marxism

681-768 (selections from SocialismAnti-Dühring, and Origins of Family, PP, and the State etc.)

556-76 “The Tactics of Social Democracy”

Kautsky, “The Historic Accomplishment of Karl Marx” (1908); and *“Friedrich Engels: His Life, His Work, His Writings” (1899)

Platypus primary Marxist reading group Winter–Spring 2021

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism


required / + recommended reading


Marx and Engels readings pp. from Robert C. Tucker, ed., Marx-Engels Reader (Norton 2nd ed., 1978)


Recommended winter break preliminary readings:

+ Leszek Kolakowski, “The concept of the Left” (1968)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)
+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 (1968)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)
+ James Joll, The Second International 1889–1914 (1966)
+ Carl Schorske, The SPD 1905-17: The Development of the Great Schism (1955)
+ J.P. Nettl, Rosa Luxemburg (1966) [Vol. 1] [Vol. 2]
+ Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History (1940), Part II. Ch. (1–4,) 5–10, 12–16; Part III. Ch. 1–6


Film screenings: Winter 2021

Fall of Eagles (1974) episodes: ("The Last Tsar,") "Absolute Beginners," ("Dearest Nicky," "The Appointment,") "The Secret War," and "End Game"
37 Days (2014) ([Episode 1] [Episode 2]) [Episode 3]
( • 37 Days (2014) [Episode 3] and Fall of Eagles (1974) episode "The Secret War" )
Rosa Luxemburg (1986)
• Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States (2012) Prequel Episodes A (1900-20) and B (1920-40)
Reds (1981)

4 screenings, each ~2 hours of film: 
1.) Fall of Eagles episodes: #5 "The Last Tsar" and #6 "Absolute Beginners" on the origins of the Bolsheviks 
2.) 37 Days Episode #3 "One Long Weekend" (uncut BBC version including the Socialists) on the start of WWI; and Fall of Eagles episode #12 "The Secret War" on WWI and the Russian Revolution 
3.) Fall of Eagles episode #13 "End Game" on the German Revolution 1918-19; and Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States Prequel Episode A. 1900-20, on imperialism, WWI and the Russian Revolution 
4.) Rosa Luxemburg film 

additional recommended screenings:
+ Fall of Eagles episodes #s 7-8 "Dearest Nicky" and "The Appointment" on the Russo-Japanese War and Russian Revolution of 1905 and modernization, the Narodniks and Socialist Revolutionaries 
+ Reds film on American anarchists, Socialists and Communists in WWI and the Russian Revolution 
+ Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States Prequel Episode B. 1920-40 on counterrevolution, fascism, the Great Depression, Stalinism and Nazism 


Winter 2021

I. What is the Left? – What is Marxism?

Week 8. What is Marxism? V. Reification | Jan. 2, 2021

• Georg Lukács, “The phenomenon of reification” (Part I of “Reification and the consciousness of the proletariat,” History and Class Consciousness, 1923)
+ Commodity form chart of terms
+ Reification chart of terms
+ Capitalist contradiction chart of terms
+ Organic composition of capital chart of terms
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms


Week 9. What is Marxism? VI. Class consciousness | Jan. 9, 2021

Lukács, “Class Consciousness” (1920), Original Preface (1922), “What is Orthodox Marxism?” (1919), History and Class Consciousness (1923)
+ Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 
+ Reification chart of terms
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Herbert Marcuse, "Note on dialectic" (1960)
+ Marx, Preface to the First German Edition and Afterword to the Second German Edition (1873) of Capital (1867), pp. 294–298, 299–302


Week 10. What is Marxism? VII. Ends of philosophy | Jan. 16, 2021

Korsch, “Marxism and philosophy” (1923)
+ Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Herbert Marcuse, "Note on dialectic" (1960)
+ Marx, To make the world philosophical (from Marx's dissertation, 1839–41), pp. 9–11
+ Marx, For the ruthless criticism of everything existing (letter to Arnold Ruge, September 1843), pp. 12–15
+ Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach" (1845), pp. 143–145


Winter–Spring 2021

II. Introduction to revolutionary Marxism

Week 11. Revolutionary leadership | Jan. 23, 2021

• Rosa Luxemburg, “The Crisis of German Social Democracy” Part 1 (1915)
• J. P. Nettl, “The German Social Democratic Party 1890–1914 as a Political Model” (1965)
• Cliff Slaughter, “What is Revolutionary Leadership?” (1960)


Week 12. Reform or revolution? | Jan. 30, 2021

Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution? (1900/08)
+ Eugene Debs, "Competition versus Cooperation" (1900)


Week 13. Lenin and the vanguard party | Feb. 6, 2021

Spartacist League, Lenin and the Vanguard Party (1978)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)


Week 14. What is to be done? | Feb. 13, 2021

• V. I. Lenin, What is to be Done? (1902)
+ Richard Appignanesi and Oscar Zarate / A&Z, Introducing Lenin and the Russian Revolution / Lenin for Beginners (1977)


Week 15. Mass strike and social democracy | Feb. 20, 2021

Luxemburg, The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions (1906)
+ Luxemburg, "Blanquism and Social Democracy" (1906)


Week 16. Permanent revolution | Feb. 27, 2021

• Leon Trotsky, Results and Prospects (1906)
+ Tariq Ali and Phil Evans, Introducing Trotsky and Marxism / Trotsky for Beginners (1980)


Week 17. State and revolution | Mar. 6, 2021

Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917)


Week 18. Imperialism | Mar. 13, 2021

“The bourgeoisie makes it its business to promote trusts, drive women and children into the factories, subject them to corruption and suffering, condemn them to extreme poverty. We do not ‘demand’ such development, we do not ‘support’ it. We fight it. But how do we fight? We explain that trusts and the employment of women in industry are progressive. We do not want a return to the handicraft system, pre-monopoly capitalism, domestic drudgery for women. Forward through the trusts, etc., and beyond them to socialism!”
— Lenin, The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution (1916/17)

Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916)
+ Lenin, Socialism and War Ch. 1 The principles of socialism and the War of 1914–15 (1915)


Week 19. Mar. 20, 2021 (spring break)


Week 20. Failure of the revolution | Mar. 27, 2021

Luxemburg, “What does the Spartacus League Want?” (1918)
Luxemburg, “On the Spartacus Programme” (1918)
+ Luxemburg, "German Bolshevism" (AKA "The Socialisation of Society") (1918)
+ Luxemburg, “The Russian Tragedy” (1918)
+ Luxemburg, “Order Reigns in Berlin” (1919)
+ Eugene Debs, “The Day of the People” (1919)
+ Sebastian Haffner, Failure of a Revolution: Germany 1918–19 (1968)


Week 21. Apr. 3, 2021 [Platypus international convention]


Week 22. Retreat after revolution | Apr. 10, 2021

Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder (1920)
+ Lenin, "Notes of a Publicist" (1922)


Week 23. Dialectic of reification | Apr. 17, 2021

Lukács, “The Standpoint of the Proletariat” (Part III of “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” 1923). Available in three sections from marxists.org: section 1 section 2 section 3
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Commodity form chart of terms
+ Capitalist contradiction chart of terms + Organic composition of capital chart of terms
+ Reification chart of terms
+ Lukács, “The phenomenon of reification” (Part I of “Reification and the consciousness of the proletariat,” History and Class Consciousness, 1923)


Week 24. Lessons of October | Apr. 24, 2021

Trotsky, The Lessons of October (1924) [PDF]
Trotsky, "Stalinism and Bolshevism" (1937)


Week 25. Trotskyism | May 1, 2021

+ Trotsky, "To build communist parties and an international anew" (1933)
+ Trotsky, "If America should go communist" (1934)
Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International (AKA The Transitional Program and the Struggle for Socialism, 1938)
+ Trotsky, "Trade unions in the epoch of imperialist decay" (1940)
+ Trotsky, Letter to James Cannon (September 12, 1939)


Week 26. The authoritarian state | May 8, 2021

• Friedrich Pollock, "State Capitalism: Its Possibilities and Limitations" (1941) (note 32 on USSR)
• Max Horkheimer, "The Authoritarian State" (1942) [PDF]
+ Capitalist contradiction chart of terms 


Week 27. On the concept of history | May 15, 2021

• epigraphs by Louis Menand (on Edmund Wilson) and Peter Preuss (on Nietzsche) on the modern concept of history
+ Charles Baudelaire, from Fusées [Rockets] (1867)
+ Bertolt Brecht, "To posterity" (1939)
+ Walter Benjamin, "To the planetarium" (from One-Way Street, 1928)
+ Benjamin, "Fire alarm" (from One-Way Street, 1928)
[JPG] [PDF]
+ Benjamin, "Experience and poverty" (1933)
+ Benjamin, Theologico-political fragment (1921/39?)
+ Benjamin on history chart of terms
Benjamin, "On the Concept of History" (AKA "Theses on the Philosophy of History") (1940) [PDF]
Benjamin, Paralipomena to "On the Concept of History" (1940)
+ Benjamin, Arcades Project Convolute N, "On the theory of knowledge, theory of progress" (see especially p. 471 [N8,1] on Horkheimer on unredeemablility of past suffering)
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms


Week 28. Reflections on Marxism | May 22, 2021

+ Capital in history timeline and chart of terms
+ Benjamin on history chart of terms
• Theodor Adorno, “Reflections on Class Theory” (1942)
Adorno, “Imaginative Excesses” (1944–47)
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Adorno, Dedication, "Bequest", "Warning: Not to be Misused" and "Finale", Minima Moralia (1944–47)
+ Horkheimer and Adorno, "Discussion about Theory and Praxis" (AKA "Towards a New Manifesto?") [Deutsch] (1956)


Week 29. Theory and practice | May 29, 2021

+ Adorno, “On Subject and Object” (1969)
+ Commodity form chart of terms
+ Reification chart of terms
+ Capitalist contradiction chart of terms
+ Adorno's critique of actionism chart of terms
Adorno, “Marginalia to Theory and Praxis” (1969)
Adorno, “Resignation” (1969)
+ Being and becoming (freedom in transformation) / immanent dialectical critique chart of terms
+ Adorno, “Late Capitalism or Industrial Society?” (AKA “Is Marx Obsolete?”) (1968)
+ Organic composition of capital chart of terms
+ Esther Leslie, Introduction to the 1969 Adorno-Marcuse correspondence (1999)
+ Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, correspondence on the German New Left (1969)
+ Adorno, Interview with Der Spiegel magazine (1969)

Platypus Berlin English Marxist Reading Group Fall 2020 – Winter 2021

Platypus Boston College Primary Marxist Reading Group Summer/Fall 2020 – Winter 2021