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By Warren

Marxism's cave in within the 20th century profoundly altered the fashion and substance of Western ecu radical concept. to construct a higher kind of democratic concept and motion, fashionable theorists moved to reject revolution, abandon category for extra fragmented types of social motion, and raise the political over the social. Acknowledging the constructedness of society and politics, they selected the "symbolic" as an idea robust adequate to reinvent leftist idea outdoors a Marxist framework. Following Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Adventures of the Dialectic, which reassessed philosophical Marxism at mid century, Warren Breckman severely revisits those exciting experiments within the aftermath of Marxism.The post-Marxist inspiration of the symbolic is dynamic and complicated, uncannily echoing the early German Romantics, who first complex a contemporary perception of symbolism and the symbolic. Hegel and Marx denounced the Romantics for his or her otherworldly and nebulous posture, but post-Marxist thinkers liked the wealthy strength of the ambiguities and paradoxes the Romantics first famous. Mapping assorted rules of the symbolic between modern thinkers, Breckman strains a desirable mirrored image of Romantic subject matters and resonances, and he explores intensive the hassle to reconcile an intensive and democratic political time table with a politics that doesn't privilege materialist understandings of the social. enticing with the paintings of Claude Lévi-Strauss, Cornelius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort, Marcel Gauchet, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, and Slavoj Žižek, Breckman uniquely situates those vital theorists inside 2 hundred years of eu notion and extends their profound relevance to cutting-edge political activism.

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Laclau’s conviction that the future of the left depends on rediscovering a dimension of universality beyond postmodern identity politics is shared by Žižek, though they have developed sharply conflicting visions of what that dimension might be. The prolific theorist from Slovenia has come to occupy a position of almost unrivaled international visibility through a cascade of works, with trademark leaps between philosophy and popular culture and an idiosyncratic synthesis of Hegel and Lacan. If 8 INTRODUCTION Žižek began as a supporter of Laclau and Mouffe, the final chapter will trace Žižek’s rejection of the post-Marxist project and his return to an equally idiosyncratic and deeply problematic revolutionary language.

Indeed, for the French “Romantic socialist” Pierre Leroux, the ambiguity and transcendentalism implied in the Romantic concept of the symbolic offered a way to conceive social life as a communion and preserve the openness of the social world for artistic and political creativity. The desymbolizing and secularizing line staked out by the Hegelian left and radicalized by Karl Marx won and came to exercise a dominant influence on the European left. We will gain a deeper sense of the complexities, echoes, and subterranean continuities of post-Marxism’s adventure of the symbolic if we recall the early European left’s critical engagements with Romanticism.

Just as the Romantic ideal of the symbol was anchored in the desire to present the unpresentable, so too was the Left Hegelian rejection of the symbolic deeply implicated in their campaign against religion. Marx followed the Left Hegelians in associating human emancipation with the task of overcoming the otherness, heteronomy, and unmasterability implied by symbolic representation. Not all of the Left Hegelians’ contemporaries on the left set themselves against 22 INTRODUCTION the Romantics, however.

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