World In View: Moishe Postone, 1942-2018

From the May-June 2018 issue of News & Letters

We mourn the passing of Moishe Postone, Marxist theorist and author of Time, Labor and Social Domination (1993). Radicalized through 1960s student politics and his reading of Karl Marx’s philosophic work, Postone became one of the most significant thinkers to arise from within the New Left.

It can be argued that his analysis of capitalist social relations fell short of recreating Marx’s philosophy of revolution. The category of the “transhistorical” isn’t at the same level as Marx’s new humanism. Nevertheless his theoretic work had profound real world consequence.

SYRIA AND PHILOSOPHY

The proof of this can be seen in the way Postone’s critique of anti-Semitism as a fetishized form of anticapitalism came alive for those struggling with the betrayal of the Syrian Revolution by so many “Leftists.”

He recently said: “This is the greatest slaughter we’ve seen since the Second World War. Assad has killed at least 350,000 people. The Left has nothing to say. You’d think that after the beginnings in Syria of a democratic uprising that was put down with incredible brutality by the Assad regime, that would ring a bell. I think large parts of the Left have lost their theoretical acumen, their political analysis, and their moral compass.”

The genuinely Marxist category of the concrete—human solidarity with people struggling for freedom and dignity—transcended the theoretic limitation of the “transhistorical.” Moishe Postone’s life and work became part of a world-historic rethinking that will end in humanity’s grasping a deeper, more integral philosophy of revolution.

—Gerry Emmett

 

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