The Wager of Lucien Goldmann

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He rejected the traditional Marxist view of the proletariat and contested the structuralist and antihumanist theorizing that infected French left-wing circles in the tumultuous s. Highly regarded by thinkers as diverse as Jean Piaget and Alasdair MacIntyre, Goldmann is shown here as a socialist who, unlike many others of his time, refused to portray his aspirations for humanitys future as an inexorable unfolding of historys laws. He saw these aspirations instead as a wager akin to Pascals in the existence of God. Risk, Goldmann wrote in his classic study of Pascal and Racine, The Hidden God, possibility of failure, hope of success, and the synthesis of the three in a faith which is a wager are the essential constituent elements of the human condition.

In The Wager of Lucien Goldmann, Cohen retrieves Goldmanns achievementhis genetic structuralist method, his sociology of literature, his libertarian socialist politics.

  • Lucien Goldmann.
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  • Cohen, Mitchell 1952-.

Originally published in The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. The theoretical affirmations of socialists are not based, we are told, on ideas invoked or discovered by some thinker who wants to improve the world, but simply the general expression of real social relations, of a class struggle which really exists.

Well, it can easily be understood from the historical and psychological point of view Socialism cannot free itself from ethics historically or logically, neither on the theoretical level nor in fact. My time being limited, I must give up the attempt to show you how the young Marx and Engels were obviously impelled by ethical motives to shift from their radical bourgeois positions to communist positions. And abundant proof of this can be found in the works of Dr Woltmann [12] and Professor Masaryk [13] , and above all in the early writing of Marx and Engels just published by Mehring.

Soon he was able to publish a triumphant balance-sheet, showing that the idea of ethical socialism was tending to become the philosophical position of the reformist wing of the parties of the Second International. The fact that the principal reply to neo-Kantianism came from Kautsky is obviously no coincidence. The philosophical pivot of his text is the sentence in which, speaking of the organic world, he writes:.

In reality, this highly questionable synthesis of Marxism and Darwinism, which met the most serious reservations from other Marxist theoreticians, did not give Kautsky any superiority at all in face of the neo-Kantian arguments. An objective science, whether determinist or finalist, does not allow any conclusions in the imperative.

The fact that historical evolution is necessarily oriented towards socialism in no way provides an obligation for any particular person to accelerate that evolution, or even merely to approve it. But this ideal has nothing to do with scientific socialism, the scientific study of the laws of evolution of the social organism in order to know the trends and the necessary ends of the proletarian class struggle.

But he always, correctly, tried to exclude it as far as possible. For in science, the moral ideal becomes a source of errors, if it attempts to prescribe the ends of science. Of course this is an isolated passage in a text directed entirely against neo-Kantianism and ethical socialism, and Kautsky was certainly sincere in his convictions.

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But in between these two positions and their respective theoreticians, there was in Marxist thought during the period a third intermediary current known on the theoretical level as Austro-Marxism, and on the political level under the highly expressive nick-name of the Two-and-a-Half International. From the intellectual point of view, what concerns us here is the fact that Austro-Marxism produced a whole group of theoreticians who were among the most brilliant socialist thinkers up to the second world war, notably the economist Rudolf Hilferding [16] , author of Finance Capital and Minister of Finance in the Weimar Republic, the jurist Karl Renner [17] , first president of the Austrian Republic after the last war, the militant and theoretician Otto Bauer [18] , and finally the philosopher, Max Adler.

The last named, a writer and thinker of the highest level, devoted an important part of his work to the problems of the relations between the thought of Kant and Marx, and left numerous books, which by their form as well as their content, exercised a wide influence on several generations of young socialists in Central Europe.

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Like all of them, he believed in the radical separation of judgments of fact and judgments of value. Adler thus came to an original conclusion, and, it must be admitted, one which was the most satisfactory of all those elaborated on the basis of a separation between theory and practice, between judgments of fact and judgments of value.

For him, and this is one of his principal ideas, Marx was a sociologist , and, moreover, the founder of sociology.


The fact that the product of causality is also justified from an ethical point of view is in no way secondary, and for a Marxist is not an accident. But this convergence of the causal necessities of evolution with the ethical justification is a sociological problem. Within Marxist thought this problem can be resolved only in a causal manner.

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Marxism is a system of sociological knowledge. It bases socialism on the causal knowledge of the processes of social life. Marxism and sociology are one and the same thing. It is Marx, and not, as is usually believed, Auguste Comte, who is the true founder of sociology.

But beyond this methodological point of view, he had nothing to contribute to the realisation of this programme, and his practical attitude never went beyond a mere glorification of the value and importance of science for politics. As far as the relations between Kant and Marx are concerned, Max Adler elaborated quite an original theory, making the Kantian a priori , as it were, a first discovery of the collective consciousness, and Kant himself into the creator of the first epistemological elements that made sociology possible.

Marx thus finds himself placed in the direct continuation of a line going from Kant, who discovers the existence of social consciousness, to Fichte, who introduces the idea of action, and to Hegel, who makes this social consciousness historical and poses the problems of the laws governing its dynamics. The sociology of Marx becomes for Max Adler the culmination of classical German philosophy.

We can see the superiority of his position in comparison to those already developed by other Marxist thinkers.

Lucien Goldmann (1913-1970)

In comparison with Kautsky, he rejected any mixture of Darwinism and Marxism, preserving the purely historical and social character of die latter, while refusing, like Kautsky and Marx himself, any attempt to found socialism on ethical values, and moreover, apparently taking a more orthodox position than Kautsky, for he rejected any kind of finalism. In comparison with Plekhanov, who at this time, together with Kautsky, was recognised as die principal theoretician of orthodox Marxism, Max Adler seemed to accept in a rigorous manner the comparison, upheld by the latter, between Spinoza and Marxism, and like him rejected any idea of finality; nonetheless, he had a better understanding of ethical reality, for, he explained, social determinism was operative precisely through collective consciousness, which alone transformed biological realities into social facts, and for the individual, took on the aspect of will and the ethical norm.

We can also appreciate the authority enjoyed by Max Adler, and the growing influence of his thought on young socialist intellectuals. This position very rapidly became the ideology of a certain explicit reformist trend consisting primarily of some bourgeois democrats brought to socialism by taking seriously the demand for individual freedom for all men. To the ethical conceptions of the reformists, they oppose a political conception of historical action, which comprehends the latter as a sort of social technology , without, however, clearly realising that no practical attitude, whether political or ethical, can be derived from a science in the indicative mood.

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Organized chronologically, from Thucydides to Foucault, the book brings together forty-four selections of enduring intellectual value - key articles, book excerpts, essays, and speeches - that have shaped our understanding of Western society and politics. You must use it makes currently trained. In examining the origins of Goldmann's ideas, the theorist's preoccupations Terms and Conditions Privacy Statement. New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2. English Copyright of Acta Poetica is the property of Instituto de Investigaciones Filologicas - UNAM and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title.

Such a science can, like the natural sciences, indicate the most effective means to achieve a certain end; it could never indicate the ends themselves. Taken up again in our day by the Stalinists, this position appears to us to develop among the bureaucratic machines of working-class parties every time that, in order to win the masses, these bureaucracies claim to be explicitly revolutionary when in reality they no longer are. We may add that this analysis comes from Marx himself who expressed it in a famous text: the Third Thesis on Feuerbach. This work, reverting to the dialectical tradition of Hegel and Marx, made a direct attack on the premise common to all the positions which we have listed, namely, the existence of an objective Marxist sociology and the legitimacy of a separation between judgments of fact and judgments of value.

But it is precisely all these complementary concepts — sociology, objective science of social life, technical or ethical action — which seemed to him questionable and above all undialectical. For hiin, what characterises historical action, is precisely the fact that it is not carried out by isolated individuals, but by groups who simultaneously know and constitute history. Therefore neither the group nor the individual who is part of it can consider social and historical life from the outside, in an objective fashion. The knowledge of historical and social life is not science but consciousness although it must obviously strive towards the attainment of a rigour and precision comparable to those achieved in an objective fashion by the natural sciences.

Any separation of judgments of fact and judgments of value, and, similarly, any separation of theory and practice is impossible in the process of understanding history; the very affirmation of such a separation will have an ideological and distorting effect. Historical knowledge is not a contemplative science; historical action is neither social technique Machiavelli nor ethical action Kant ; the two constitute an indivisible whole which is a progressive awareness and the march of humanity towards freedom.

The ethical conceptions of socialism, moreover, lead to a liberal ideology which subordinates the end to the means and the group to the individual; the conceptions of socialist action as social technology, conversely, subordinate the means to the end and the individual to the collective. Ends, means, groups, individuals, parties, masses, etc, are for dialectical thought the constituent elements of a dynamic totality;, within which the greatest necessity is to combat, in every concrete situation, the ever recurring danger of the primacy of one or other of them in relation to the others and to the whole.

We have published several works inspired by this viewpoint and which elaborate on it; so we do not need to dwell on it further here, but simply refer the reader to these works. It was only a few isolated thinkers here and there who, as free-lancers and against the stream, tried to continue a tradition which social and political evolution seemed to be condemning to oblivion. Moreover, he takes this position without any reference to the former discussion [26] , and without telling us how he intends to reconcile these two ideas.

The idea of progress towards socialism is in fact for Marx both part of his theoretical construction, and of his scale of values , it is, so to speak, together with the problem of the transformation of men by social conditions and Of social conditions by men, one of the main touchstones by means of which we can judge whether his thought is monist or dualist. Thus, for those who accept a dualist interpretation, the problem is posed whether this idea should be placed on the ethical side — in which case they are led to deeply modify and question the whole theoretical structure of Marxist thought — or on the sociological side, as Max Adler did — in which case there remains for ethics only the sphere of individual consciousness which decides whether or riot to ally itself with the objectively necessary historical evolution.

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In The Wager of Lucien Goldmann, Mitchell Cohen provides the first full-length study of this major figure of postwar French intellectual life and champion of. Cohen, Mitchell, –. The wager of Lucien Goldmann: tragedy, dialectics, and a hidden god / Mitchell Cohen. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and.

In fact, not only does he never define what he means by these words [27] , but, furthermore, he seems to oscillate on this point between at least three different positions:. We shall give our readers a single example of this perpetual oscillation. As to the nature of this duality, let us look at three passages of this same section:.

There is thus supposed to be in Marx — and Mr Rubel repeats it elsewhere — a conscious and deliberate confusion of two theoretically incompatible positions. We are inclined to believe that, if we stand on the ground of the operational method of sociological exploration which seems to have been adopted by Marx, there is reason to make a clear distinction between the sphere of the material structure, subject to truly scientific techniques of research and observation, and the sphere of human behaviour, subject to ethical criteria and judgments.

Here also, Mr Rubel, while permanently oscillating between three interpretations which are certainly not easy to reconcile, does not even seem to suspect the existence of a problem. On this subject, we must also point out a really surprising discovery. For Mr Rubel has found one single text in which Marx is supposed himself to affirm the existence of a fundamental duality and even a contradiction in his work.

We can understand why he devotes to it the last section of his book before the conclusion, under the title Ambiguity and Subjectivity.