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Volume 1. Marx and Heidegger

"Marxian Hermeneutics and Heideggerian Social Theory: Interpreting and Transforming Our World"
Gerry Stahl, PhD dissertation in philosophy, Northwestern University, June 1975

Today neither philosophy of interpretation (hermeneutics) nor philosophy of society can legitimately proceed without the other. Interpretation of the world precedes the possibility of transforming it, according to Martin Heidegger, because the presence of beings is always already meaningfully structured. For Karl Marx, however, interpretations of the world are constituted by human praxis, the reproduction and transformation of social reality. The confrontation of Marx’s thought with Heidegger’s provides an appropriate historical medium for the indispensable task of bringing the problematics of critical social theory and philosophical hermeneutics to bear upon each other.

The alternative notions, that hermeneutics either founds or is founded upon social analysis, are reconciled by interpreting Marx’s social methodology as being in accord with hermeneutic principles and by transforming Heidegger’s ontology to take account of social mediations. Thereby, Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics clarifies Marx’s methodological sophistication, rescuing Marxism from a history of mechanistic corruptions, while Marx’s insights into the power of social relations provide a corrective to the politically reactionary self-understanding, abstract form, scholastic structure and non-social content of Heidegger’s jargon.

Considering Heidegger and Marx together suggests that Heidegger’s central fault is in failing to relate changes in Being—the historically prevalent form of presence of beings—to developments within the concrete social realm of entities. Changes of ontological interpretation can, as Marx demonstrates, be comprehended in terms of transformations within society, whereby, of course, the social theory must itself be hermeneutically appropriate.

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table of contents

Introduction 5
Abstract 8
Preface 11
Part I: Interpreting Marx and Heidegger in Our World 17
Chapter I. The Alternative of Marx and Heidegger 18
Interpretation for Transformation 19
Interpreting Marx and Heidegger Together 23
The Hermeneutic Context 26
Chapter II. Heidegger’s Critique of Marx 33
Heidegger’s Early Criticisms 34
Political Distortions 36
Heidegger’s Mature Criticisms 43
Chapter III. A Marxist Critique of Heidegger 50
Adorno’s Early Criticisms 51
Adorno’s Methodology of Critique 52
Adorno’s Mature Criticisms 54
Part II. Karl Marx: Ideology Critique as Interpretation and Transformation of the World 58
Chapter IV. Anticipations: The Early Works 60
The Primacy of Commodity Production for Interpretation 62
The Alienated World 67
Ideology Critique and the Transformation of the World 71
Chapter V. Research: The Grundrisse 77
Materialistic Conceptualizations for the Self-Interpretation of the World 77
Historically-specific Conceptualizations 89
Retrospective Interpretation of the History of Property Relations 99
Chapter VI. Presentation: Capital 111
The Form of Value of Commodities 111
Abstract Labor in Theory and Practice 119
Fetishism as Appearance and Reality 126
Part III. Martin Heidegger: Meta-Ontology as Interpretation and Transformation of the World 131
Transitional Remarks 133
Chapter VII: The Work 137
The Art Work and History 137
Art and Being 141
The Primacy of Being 145
Chapter VIII: The Thing 151
Thing and Stock 151
Technological Being 156
Forgetfulness of Being 159
Chapter IX: Being-Itself 162
The History of Being 162
Meta-ontology 172
The Concept of Being 176
Concluding Remarks 179
Bibliography 181
Vita 184