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New Left Review I/107, January-February 1978

Étienne Balibar

Irrationalism and Marxism

How should the philosophies of crisis be combated? For some time, Communists have had to pay rather more systematic attention to a number of ideological themes whose contemporary weight cannot be put down to chance. In the economic field, the phenomenon involves such notions as ‘the limits of growth’, ‘zero growth’, and the ‘risks’ and ‘harmful effects’ (for ‘man’ and ‘nature’) of intensive industrialization. At the social level, it involves a renewal of anarchist arguments directed against ‘institutions’ and ‘power’, and proclaiming the necessity of immediate ‘abolition’ of the Family, the School, Medicine and the Courts. On the philosophical plane, it involves yet another challenge to ‘the value of science’ as a mode of knowledge and source of social progress—be it in favour of religious (Ilich) or mystic-naturalist (‘Princeton Gnosticism’) themes, or be it in favour of nihilist and irrationalist ones (Deleuze-Guattari). It need hardly be stressed that, for us, the problem is not whether these themes have to be combated at a practical and ideological level, but how, from what point of view, the struggle should be waged. It is a philosophical question. It is a political question.

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Etienne Balibar, ‘Irrationalism and Marxism’, NLR I/107: £3

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