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New Left Review I/85, May-June 1974

Sebastiano Timpanaro

Considerations on Materialism

Perhaps the sole characteristic common to all contemporary varieties of Western Marxism is, with very few exceptions, their concern to defend themselves against the accusation of materialism. Gramscian or Togliattian Marxists, Hegelian-Existentialist Marxists, Neo-Positivizing Marxists, Freudian or Structuralist Marxists, despite the profound dissensions which otherwise divide them, are at one in rejecting all suspicion of collusion with ‘vulgar’ or ‘mechanical’ materialism; and they do so with such zeal as to cast out, together with mechanism or vulgarity, materialism tout court. Much of the polemical debate between various Marxist groups turns precisely on the selection of the most effective safeguard against the danger of falling into vulgar materialism: whether this safeguard is to be the dialectic or historicism, an appeal to Marxist humanism or an association of Marxism with an empirio-critical or pragmatist or Platonist epistemology.

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Sebastiano Timpanaro, ‘Considerations on Materialism’, NLR I/85: £3

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