Dialectical Materialism

26 October 2012 |

More on reading … It seems to be all I do these days, which I can’t complain about. My husband just bought be a reading chair for Christmas and we are getting rid of our television so I can indulge in the pleasure of crime novels, the not-always pleasurable student essays, the editing of the book – which will require a serious amount of reading attentively once I am done with the writing – and the dialectical materialism texts.

I— and I created the dialectical materialism book club in anticipation of Slavoj Zizek’s publication of ‘Less than Nothing’, as an excuse to get together and discuss ideas. N– was jealous, so we invited him, and S– was curious so we added him to the group. So DiaMat is composed of 4 friends, each hosting a monthly evening where we discuss one or various texts. It has been lovely so far. If anything, because I get to see good friends, catch up and we have the excuse of discussing ideas.

I have also discovered that my friends are good cooks. The events have the potential of degenerating into a Marxist ‘Come Dine with Me‘ but so far, we are keeping that aspect under control (just about, we all like nice things for dinner).

We met for the first time on the 10th July 2012 and yesterday was our latest gathering. Here’s a summary of the soirées so far:

10th July 2012. Reading: Introduction to Slavoj Zizek’s ‘Less than Nothing’
A great discussion, given the text was short, intense and provocative. We talked politics and philosophy together and the combination of the two was very stimulating. I particularly was taken by Zizek’s discussion of what life is, on p.25: <<(Say, when Aristotle, in his Physics, struggles to define life and proposes a series of definitions – a living being is a thing which is moved by itself, which has in itself the cause of its movement – he is not really exploring the reality of living beings; he is rather describing the set of pre-existing notions which determine what we always-already understand by "living-being" when we designate an object is "alive"). Life=movement (both physical and emotional). Great for a dancer ...

17 August 2012. Reading: well, this is a little complicated. The suggestion was China Mieville’s ‘The City and the City’ but half of DiaMat rebelled, so we had to also add David Harvey’s ‘The Enigma of Capital’. The discussion, again, was very animated, especially in relation to the Julian Assange rape story – and rape as a difficult to prove crime – and class – there are only two classes: Property owwning and those working for the property owning class.

20 September 2012. Reading: Karl Marx’s ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and ‘The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’. One of the DiaMatters dropped so we had a three-way discussion. It was good, but I feel we had too much to read (I did not finish any of the books) and we could not focus on the interesting issues raised ether by historical materialism or by the idea of communism. When we turned to discuss the 10 measures needed for communism according to Marx and Engels, however, I feel we were productive and focused again. We agreed with 8/10 suggestions, finding 6 and 10 problematic in their wording.

25 October 2012. Reading: We turned post-Marxist and each of us suggested a 300-word article to read. N–’s was ‘Occupying a non-place’ by Ewan Morrison and follow-up post from Mark Fisher, ‘One year after Occupy’. S– settled for a classic: Fredric Jameson’s ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Culture’ with section 4 of ‘Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ as an addendum. I–’s choice was a podcast: ‘Alternative Economic Cultures, a conversation between Paul Mason and Professor Manuel Castells’, and mine was ‘The Power of Madness: A Marxist Critique of Social Constructionism’ by Bruce Cohen, one of the authors of the forthcoming book I am editing. The discussion was excellent, especially around the Occupy movement, Wikileaks, and notions of space. My and S– text suffered a little, I think, as they were so different, but we had a good go at picking apart Jimmy Saville’s abuse allegations. The discussions work best, I think, when we can link the philosophical to the actual, hence the next choice of text.

November 2012. Reading: Arthur Schopenhauer’s ‘The Wisdom of Life’, proposed by N– for being a philosophical, eudaemonology text, as far as away from what we have been reading as possible.

I will keep updating the page, as we meet and discuss (if anything, for my future self) but, in the meantime, here’s our tumblr page for silliness and caption competitions.

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