Unibg International

Department of Management, Economics and Quantitative Methods

Reading the Grundrisse

Area bacheca: 820&

c) Andrew Brown (Leeds University Business School, UK)
Materialism, Spinozism and Dialectics: E.V. Ilyenkov on why 'material production' is the 'object before us' at the outset of Marx's Grundrisse

Marx's methodological remarks in the Grundrisse have occasioned much debate regarding the nature of Marx's materialism. Why and in what sense is 'material production' the basis of society? The increasingly influential materialist and dialectical philosophy of E.V. Ilyenkov answers this question in a way that remains little understood by Western scholars. This paper aims to show how, according to Ilyenkov, the most abstract and fundamental aspects of philosophy are at stake in the development of the concept of social labour and material production. According to Ilyenkov's unique interpretation of Spinoza, the thinking body achieves an accordance or isomorphism with its object through ongoing practical activity. This isomorphism constitutes a direct acquaintance between thought and object, offering secure foundations for knowledge. The absence of recognition of these foundations explains the problem of scepticism that, from an Ilyenkovian perspective, petrifies Western philosophy of science. The 'thinking body' concept is swiftly developed by Ilyenkov, recognising, firstly, that 'Substance' is the true subject of thought for Spinzoa and, secondly, that 'social labour', rather than 'Substance', is the true subject of thought for Marx and Engels. As such, social labour is the determining moment of material production and material production is itself the appropriate starting point of Marx's Grundrisse.