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Spinoza: ontology and the political

McMurtrie, William McGillivray 2010. Spinoza: ontology and the political. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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Historically, Spinoza has tended to be considered as something of an anomaly within European modernity, a fascinating exception within the Western philosophical canon but one who has largely remained on the margins. More recently, however, there has been a significant revival of interest in Spinoza, a ‘turn’ to Spinoza which has had major impact on leftist philosophical- political thought. This thesis traces some of the history of this turn, and seeks to determine the nature of this impact. It ranges critically over the readings of Spinoza produced by Louis Althusser and by Etienne Balibar, by Gilles Deleuze and by Antonio Negri, and by Alain Badiou. As the conjuncts and the commas here suggest, these readings are grouped within two broad ‘lines of descent’ from Spinoza: Line 1 comprising Althusser and Balibar, and sharing among other things a problematics of ideology and of the subject in which the influence of Lacan becomes apparent, Line 2 comprising Deleuze and Negri and sharing a certain qualified naturalism. Badiou, while exhibiting connections with Line 1, at the same time produces his own distinctive reading of Spinoza ( as indeed do each of these thinkers), one which turns on the status of the subject within Spinoza’s ontology, and on what Badiou alleges is a suppression of ‘ the place of the subject’, and therefore of the negative, within it. Several broad lines of enquiry run through the thesis. The first of these concerns the relationship between ontology and the ethical-political, between what Balibar terms ‘first’ and ‘second’ philosophy. The second concerns the function of the negative within these various readings, and what I argue is its persistence within an otherwise apparently positive ontology. The third, however, an overarching theme, concerns the ways in which Spinoza is deployed by these various thinkers as a philosophical and political antidote to Hegelian idealism within Marx, and above all to Hegelian teleology. In connection with this, the thesis therefore moves towards an examination of the ways in which these various readings of Spinoza have in turn fed into renewed readings of Marx, and considers this both in connection with a preoccupation with primitive accumulation shared by Althusser, Deleuze and Negri, and in relation to the readings of Marx produced by the Italian Marxist traditions of operaismo and autonomia. The thesis concludes that the turn to Spinoza has had a positive and enriching effect on Marxist thought, and outlines both some of the new dimensions which it has allowed to be developed, and some new lines of investigation which it has opened up within Marxism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:29

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