BUKU-BUKU MINGGU INI

Sabtu yang lalu, aku sempat ketemu sejarawan merangkap intelektual awam yang banyak mengangkat wacana-wacana kritis di Malaysia, iaitu saudara Farish Noor yang juga merupakan seorang Associate Professor di NTU, Singhapura. Aku, dan juga beberapa teman dari Imagined Malaysia datang jauh dari Malaysia untuk menemu ramah akan kehidupan intelektual beliau bagi sebuah projek buku yang sedang kami usahakan. Nah, untuk berbicara panjang soal intipati pertemuan dengan farish noor itu pastinya tidak cukup ruang di sini, dan barangkali akan ditulis pada tulisan akan datang.

Namun satu perkara yang dikongsikan oleh Farish pada pertemuan tersebut, yang seterusnya mencetuskan inspirasi untuk akutulis pada ruangan ini. Semasa beliau berceloteh soal kehidupan beliau semasa menjalani sesi Undergraduate di Sussex,  beliau menyebutkan bahawa secara puratanya, beliau berjaya menghabiskan sekitar 5 buku setiap minggu. 5 BUKU SEMINGGU!! Dan sebahagian daripada 5 buku tersebut pasti terselit sat  atau dua buku fiksi.

Perkongsian Farish ini buat aku terdiam seketika, termenung memikirkan sama ada aku benar-benar sudah mengerahkan segenap tenaga dalam usaha pengajian aku ini. 5 Buku seminggu tidaklah mustahil. Seminggu mempunyai sekitar 7 hari, dan setiap hari punya 24 jam. Tidak mustahil, namun harus disertakan dengan tekad dan usaha yang benar-benar serius. Malah Farish menyatakan beliau sentiasa mempunyai “habit” untuk memastikan setiap buku yang beliau baca akan disertakan dengan nota-nota penting yang dikutip dari setiap pembacaan beliau. Nah, kebanyakan daripada kita nak habsikan satu buku seminggu pun hampir tercungap-cungap, apatah lagi 5 buah buku beserta nota!

Sekali lagi, aku tidak rasa ini sesuatu yang mustahil. Pankaj Mirshra, penulis terkenal yang sudah banyak menghasilkan karya-karya sejarah dan politik, katanya telah menghabiskan sebuah buku sehari semasa beliau bertafakur dan mengasingkan diri di perkampungan Himalaya. Apa yang dibutuhkan hanyalah minat, fokus, dan yang paling penting ialah disiplin yang kuat.

Usai aku pulang dari pertemuan itu aku mula merancang untuk cuba menghabiskan 4 buku seminggu. Empat buku yang mewakil empat kategori dan fokus yang berbeza: (1) Fiksi, (2) Sejarah Asia Tenggara(sebahagian daripada usaha ulangkaji), (3) Buku berkenaan dengan Marx, dan (4) Buku berkenaan dengan tajuk kajian dissertasi aku: history of pirates!

Maka untuk minggu ini, aku terpaksa skipkan beberapa kategori, namun akan cuba kekalkan quota empat buku seminggu. Berikut adalah pilihan buku-buku untuk minggu ini:

  1.  Soul Mountain karya Gao Xinjiang- Sebuah fiksi daripada salah seorang pemenang Nobel dari China.

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  2.  Filipino politics : development and decay oleh  David Wurfel. Buku ini harus dibca sebagai ulangkaji untuk pembentangan Jumaat nanti.

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  3. The Pirate Myth: Genealogies of an Imperial Concept oleh Amedeo Policante. Pensyarah muda di Nottingham Malaysian Campus.

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  4. Realizing Freedom: Hegel, Sartre and the Alienation of Human Being  oleh G. Rae. Buku ini harus aku baca bagi mendapatkan beberapa isi dan material penting bagi sebuah makalah yang aku sedang siapkan.

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Doakan aku berjaya!!

 

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#NOTES: Philosophy as a Revolutionary Weapon by Althusser

It is not easy to become a Marxist-Leninist philosopher. Like every ‘intellectual’, a philosophy teacher is a petty bourgeois. When he opens his mouth, it is petty-bourgeois ideology that speaks: its resources and ruses are infinite.

You know what Lenin says about ‘intellectuals’. Individually certain of them may (politically) be declared revolutionaries, and courageous ones. But as a mass, they remain ‘incorrigibly’ petty-bourgeois in ideology. Gorky himself was, for Lenin, who admired his talents, a petty-bourgeois revolutionary. To become ‘ideologists of the working class’ (Lenin), ‘organic intellectuals’ of the proletariat (Gramsci), intellectuals have to carry out a radical revolution in their ideas: a long, painful and difficult re-education. An endless external and internal struggle.

Proletarians have a ‘class instinct’ which helps them on the way to proletarian ‘class positions’. Intellectuals, on the contrary, have a petty-bourgeois class instinct which fiercely resists this transition.

A proletarian class position is more than a mere proletarian ‘class instinct’. It is the consciousness and practice which conform with the objective reality of the proletarian class struggle. Class instinct is subjective and spontaneous. Class position is objective and rational. To arrive at proletarian class positions, the class instinct of proletarians only needs to be educated ; the class instinct of the petty bourgeoisie, and hence of intellectuals, has, on the contrary, to be revolutionized. This education and this revolution are, in the last analysis, determined by proletarian class struggle conducted on the basis of the principles of Marxist-Leninist theory.”

4. The opening up of this new continent has induced a revolution in philosophy. That is a law: philosophy is always linked to the sciences.

Philosophy was born (with Plato) at the opening up of the continent of Mathematics. It was transformed (with Descartes) by the opening up of the continent of Physics. Today it is being revolutionized by the opening up of the continent of History by Marx. This revolution is called dialectical materialism.

….

World outlooks are represented in the domain of theory (science + the ‘theoretical’ ideologies which surround science and scientists) by philosophy. Philosophy represents the class struggle in theory. That is why philosophy is a struggle (Kampf said Kant), and basically a political struggle: a class struggle. Everyone is not a philosopher spontaneously, but everyone may become one…

Philosophy exists as soon as the theoretical domain exists: as soon as a science (in the strict sense) exists. Without sciences, no philosophy, only world outlooks. The stake in the battle and the battle-field must be distinguished. The ultimate stake of philosophical struggle is the struggle for hegemony between the two great tendencies in world outlook (materialist and idealist). The main battlefield in this struggle is scientific knowledge: for it or against it. The number-one philosophical battle therefore takes place on the frontier between the scientific and the ideological. There the idealist philosophies which exploit the sciences struggle against the materialist philosophies which serve the sciences. The philosophical struggle is a sector of the class struggle between world outlooks. In the past, materialism has always been dominated by idealism.

I should therefore add one further remark: the most important of all.

In order really to understand what one ‘reads’ and studies in these theoretical, political and historical works, one must directly experience oneself the two realities which determine them through and through: the reality of theoretical practice (science, philosophy) in its concrete life; the reality of the practice of revolutionary class struggle in its concrete life, in close contact with the masses. For if theory enables us to understand the laws of history, it is not intellectuals, nor even theoreticians, it is the masses who make history. It is essential to learn with theory – but at the same time and crucially, it is essential to learn with the masses.

….

Why does philosophy fight over words? The realities of the class struggle are ‘represented’ by ‘ideas’ which are ‘represented’ by words. In scientific and philosophical reasoning, the words (concepts, categories) are ‘instruments’ of knowledge. But in political, ideological and philosophical struggle, the words are also weapons, explosives or tranquillizers and poisons. Occasionally, the whole class struggle may be summed up in the struggle for one word against another word. Certain words struggle amongst themselves as enemies. Other words are the site of an ambiguity: the stake in a decisive but undecided battle.

 

Study Leaves to Shariati’s Wonder-semi-dialectical-Land.

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Now in my final phase of gathering materials for a research paper that i am currently working on, and intend to present in a conference in Tehran sometimes around the end of April.

My paper will be a preliminary attempt to reconstruct the dialectical philosophy that guides through the thinking of Shariati in most of his major works. Through his discussion on alienation, the nature or man, and unfolding of history, one can trace, albeit scatteredly, the presence of dialectical method running through his thinking process.

My job then is to identify the genealogy of this dimension( possibly through the influence of Sartre, Lefebvre, Weber–> which leads to Hegel, or/and through the influence of mystical traditions of Islamic Sufism) and resurrect it back to life for more discussion. The greatest challenge is, of course, is to locate and identify such influences in Shariati’s vast amount of works, which mainly comprised of lecture notes that has minimal references or citations. But one can still manage to draw certain parallels with other thinkers from the texts through closer readings. Through a semi-biographical notes he left, Shariati shared with us the list of thinkers and inviduals that has shaped his philosophical and political project. That would be my reference, for a start, before i begin to venture into other pieces of his writings.

Anyhow, this would mean that for the next few weeks i would posted less on Marxist related works, and probably will be fully occupied with readings from Shariati and Sartre. Interesting nonetheless.

FOUR ADVISES ON BEING A GOOD STUDENT

 

I probably not the best person to write about this. Being a lazy ass, undisciplined, easily distracted, and with great taste for unproductive activities i could never be an exemplar for an ideal student or learner.

But over the (very limited) number of years, i have learned few things that are important for self-development, especially in the intellectual department. These are the few things that i will unceasingly try to commit myself to do regardless of where i am on the globe.

One, and this is very crucial, is to surround yourself with the right circle of friends. The kind that will stimulate your desire to study further, encouraging critical thinking, and constantly motivates you to delve deeper into any object of studies. The life of studying, which includes thinking and staring the thousands of words and pages, can be very lonely without a good companions to share your findings and ideas. Having a good number of friends that can challenge your views, and critically serves as your check and balance is not only useful but profoundly joyful. Those exchanges you have with these friends will motivates you to return to your study bubbles and get back to work after long, tiring and boring weeks of studying.

Secondly, and this is equally important as the first one, is to plan and focus. Plan your study, set your goals, and narrow your focus to specific areas of study that you intend to explore for the year. I have make a mistake while studying at University to never stick with a plan, and tend to read scatteredly. Alas, after I graduated i still feel some sense of superficiality in my understanding of the world. For some, it might be enough but not for me. This year I intend to narrow my focus, and sticks to the my own constructed regiment. To help myself stays in the process, i set few requirements/ public presentations that i have to meet. This method is also useful; develop a pressuring point, like an event or presentation or something, that involve the topic of your study so there can never be a way out but to commit.

Thirdly, don’t be tempted to follow the popular discourses, or seduced to join the cohort of all knowing intellectuals/commentators that have more time talking than thinking. Superficiality can be attractive sometimes, but it will never last. Those who occupies the seat of ‘cool intellectual’, if they only dance around the cliches and superficial understanding of the world and the problems of the society, then their time will runs out. The verbose and jargonistic rhetorics they used can never be a long lasting amulets that can preserve their perceived importance in the society. Hence why it is vital to focus on developing your self and makes this your priority. Stay in the lane, and dont get distracted. Always remember that everything takes time and it’s better to stay slow than to rush things beyond what is needed.

Lastly, always check your intention. Why did you do this? Why do you work so hard to understand all these things? I a, sure there is always a personal interest to it, but never make it your sole reason to be in this journey. You can be religious or non-religious, but whatever you do always includes the sense of emphathy and responsibility for the society or humanity at large.

I have few mores to write, but here is three things I deemed important. I am not sure why i wrote this, probably i need to remind myself again of such advises. Hope it’s useful for you.

Excerpt on/by Marx: historical materialism

“The specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers, determines the relationship of rulers and ruled, as it grows directly out of production itself and, in turn, reacts upon it as a determining element. Upon this, however, is founded the formation of the economic community which grows out of the production relations themselves, thereby simultaneously its specific political form. It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers – a relationship always naturally corresponding to a definite stage in the development of the methods of labour and thereby its social productivity – which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure, and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state”

— K. Marx, Capital, III (Moscow, 1971), p. 791. Hal Draper comments: ‘If one had to select from Marx’s writing a single statement which contains the main body of his theoretical work in ovo, this would be it’, Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, I (New York, 1977), p. 571

Here Alex Callinicos commented that:

“In this passage, Marx does three things. First, he claims that exploitation – ‘the specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers’ – explains the particular form of political domination. Secondly, exploitation itself is grounded in the relations of production, ‘the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers’. Thirdly, the relations of production are conceived as ‘naturally corresponding to a definite stage in the development’ of the productive forces, i.e. ‘the methods of labour and thereby its social productivity’. It is tempting to see these three points as representing the sort of hierarchical structure which Cohen assigns to a mode of production: at the top the ideologico- political superstructure, then the ‘economic structure’ on which it rests, the relations of production and finally the productive forces whose development provides history with its dynamic.12”

* Cohen referred in the passage is referring to G. A. Cohen. Callinicos has written a long review/critiques on Cohen’s theory of History, which seems to suffer with a Functionalist flaws.

 

 

 

Jairus Banaji: Sejarawan dan teoris Marxis tulen

jairus

Jairus Banaji adalah seorang Professor di School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, dan seorang pemikir dan sejarawan Marxis tegar yang banyak mendatangkan ide-ide dan analisis baru dalam ranah perbahasan tradisi Marxis. Beliau mendapat pendidikan awal dalam bidang Anthropologi Sosial di Oxford, dan seterunsya menyambung pengajian Phd beliau di Universitas yang sama dalam bidang sejarah dan Antropologi.

Beliau terkenal sebagai sejarawan yang banyak menulis tentang sejarah perkembangan masyarakat dari sudut pandang Marxisme, terutama perkembangan sejarah India dan Byzantine. Buku beliau yang berjudul “Theory as History: Essays on Mode of Production and Exploitation” telah memenangi anugerah  “Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize”  pada tahun 2011, suatu penghormatan akan jasa dan sumbangan beliau dalam perbahasan tradisi marxisme.

Ketika saya dalam proses menekuni teks-teks pemikir dari tradisi kiri dan Marxis, serta dalam masa yang sama juga mengikuti kelas-kelas Master dalam bidang Sejarah Asia Tenggara, sering saya terfikir pada 10 tahun akan datang apakah yang bakal terjadi kepada saya? Jenis ahli akademik yang bagaimanakah yang saya ingin jadi? Bidang kajian apakah yang mahu saya ceburi? apakah trajetori pemikiran saya nanti?

Dalam melayani soalan-soalan ini saya terbayangkan watak Jairus Banaji. Ya, saya fikir saya setidak-tidaknya mahu mengikut jejak langkah beliau. Iaitu dengan tekun mendalami bidang sejarah masyarakat terpinggir, masyarakat non-Barat, dan dalam masa yang sama memanfaatkan pendekatan serta kerangka Marxis dengan kritis( bukan dogmatis). Saya membayangkan bahawa saya juga mahu mengikut jejak langkah yang sama, barangkali dalam ruang kajian di Asia Tenggara. Saya tidak mahu terikut-ikut dengan sikap dogmatis, ataupun perbahasan dalam ruang yang hanya berlegar di dimensi yang abstrak. Seperti yang disebutkan oleh Trotsky:

“Conquests that may be attained on this road can be determined only as the result of such an investigation itself, which must be more systematic, more orderly than those historical materialist excursions hitherto undertaken. In any case, such an approach to modern history promises to enrich the theory of historical materialism with conquests far more precious than the extremely dubious speculative juggling with the concepts and terms of the materialist method that has, under the pens of some of our Marxists, transplanted the methods of formalism into the domain of the materialist dialectic, and has led to reducing the task to rendering definitions and classifications more precise and to splitting empty abstractions into four equally empty parts; it has, in short, adulterated Marxism by means of the indecently elegant mannerisms of Kantian epigones. It is a silly thing indeed endlessly to sharpen and resharpen an instrument to chip away Marxist steel, when the task is to apply the instrument in working over the raw material!”- Trotsky, The Curve of Capitalist Development (april 1923)

 

Absurdism of the Economism

 

This excerpt is taken from a letter by Engels to Bloch to address some of the misconceptions on the relationshio between Base and Superstructure. Unfortunately, these misunderstandings are still prevalent in the contemporary Malaysian Marxist discourses, known also as Vulgar Marxist reading of Marx. The Ontological primacy of the Economy is taken too far that it implicates deterministic reading of Marxist theory, turning it into “meaningless, abstract and absurd phrase.”

i intend to translate this into Malay. Will post it here again some time soon.

A Letter to J. Bloch

London, September 21, 1890

Dear Sir:

YOUR letter of the 3rd inst. was forwarded to me at Folkestone; but as I did not have the book in question there, I could not answer you. Returning home on the 12th I discovered such a pile of urgent work waiting for me, that only today have I found the time to write you a few lines. This in explanation of the delay which I hope you will kindly pardon….

 

To Point II. [3] I qualify your first major proposition as follows: According to the materialistic conception of history, the production and reproduction of real life constitutes in the last instance the determining factor of history. Neither Marx nor I ever maintained more. Now when someone comes along and distorts this to mean that the economic factor is the sole determining factor, he is converting the former proposition into a meaningless, abstract and absurd phrase. The economic situation is the basis but the various factors of the superstructure – the political forms of the class struggles and its results – constitutions, etc., established by victorious classes after hard-won battles – legal forms, and even the reflexes of all these real struggles in the brain of the participants, political, jural, philosophical theories, religious conceptions and their further development into systematic dogmas – all these exercize an influence upon the course of historical struggles, and in many cases determine for the most part their form. There is a reciprocity between all these factors in which, finally, through the endless array of contingencies (i.e., of things and events whose inner connection with one another is so remote, or so incapable of proof, that we may neglect it, regarding it as nonexistent) the economic movement asserts itself as necessary. Were this not the case, the application of the history to any given historical period would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree.

We ourselves make our own history, but, first of all, under very definite presuppositions and conditions. Among these are the economic, which are finally decisive. But there are also the political, etc. Yes, even the ghostly traditions, which haunt the minds of men play a role albeit not a decisive one. The Prussian state arose and developed also through historical, in the last instance, economic causes. One could hardly, however, assert without pedantry that among the many petty principalities of North Germany, just Brandenburg was determined by economic necessity and not by other factors also (before all, its involvement in virtue of its Prussian possessions, with Poland and therewith international political relations – which were also decisive factors in the creation of the Austrian sovereign power) to become the great power in which was to be embodied the economic, linguistic and, since the Reformation, also the religious differences of North and South. It would be very hard to attempt to explain by economic causes, without making ourselves ridiculous, the existence of every petty German state of the past or present, or the origin of the shifting of consonants in High-German, which reinforced the differences that existed already in virtue of the geographical separating wall formed by the mountains from Sudeten to Taunus.

Secondly, history is so made that the end-result always arises out of the conflict of many individual wills, in which every will is itself the product of a host of special conditions of life. Consequently there exist innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite group of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant product – the historical event. This again may itself be viewed as the product of a force acting as a whole without consciousness or volition. For what every individual wills separately is frustrated by what every one else wills and the general upshot is something which no one willed. And so the course of history has run along like a natural process; it also is subject essentially to the same laws of motion. But from the fact that the wills of individuals – who desire what the constitution of their body as well as external circumstances, in the last instance economic (either personal or social) impel them to desire – do not get what they wish, but fuse into an average or common resultant, from all that one has no right to conclude that they equal zero. On the contrary, every will contributes to the resultant and is in so far included within it.

I should further like to beg of you to study the theory from its original sources and not at second hand. It is really much easier. Marx hardly wrote a thing in which this theory does not play a part. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Bonaparte is an especially remarkable example of its application. There are many relevant passages also in Capital. In addition, permit me to call your attention to my own writings, Herrn E. Dühring’s Umwälzung der Wissenschaft and L. Feuerbach und der Ausgang der klassischen deutschen Philosophie where I give the most comprehensive exposition of historical materialism which to my knowledge exists anywhere.

Marx and I are partly responsible for the fact that at times our disciples have laid more weight upon the economic factor than belongs to it. We were compelled to emphasize this main principle in opposition; to our opponents who denied it, and there wasn’t always time, place and occasion to do justice to the other factors in the reciprocal interaction. But just as soon as it was a matter of the presentation of an historical chapter, that is to say, of practical application, things became quite different; there, no error was possible. Unfortunately it is only too frequent that a person believes he has completely understood a new theory and is capable of applying it when he has taken over its fundamental ideas – but it isn’t always true. And from this reproach I cannot spare many of the recent “Marxists”. They have certainly turned out a rare kind of tommyrot.

To Point I again. Yesterday (I am writing now on the 22nd of September), I found the following decisive passage, in Schoe-mann’s Griechische Altertümer (Berlin, 1855, I, p.52), which completely confirms the view taken above: “It is well known, however, that marriages between half-brothers or sisters of different mothers was not regarded as incest in late Greece.”

I hope that the appalling parenthetical expressions which, for brevity’s sake, have slipped from my pen, won’t frighten you off, and I remain.

Yours sincerely,

Engels

source:https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/ni/vol01/no03/engels.htm