LARUELLE’S “NON-MARXISM”: Between Ethicism and Religionism

INTRODUCTION TO NON-MARXISM is a very interesting work of transition, published in French in 2000, and well worth reading in the contemporary context of thought trying to break free from the inherited limitations that prevent it from engaging realistically with the world. It comes just after Laruelle’s ethical phase, where he is still unable to shake off the influence of Lacan and of Levinas on his thought, and just before his religious phase.

In an only half-successful attempt to escape from his previous scientism (which despite his denegations is not at all limited to his Philosophy I phase but continuous with his whole corpus) Laruelle undertook an ethical turn that left him imprisonned in schemas of thought and ensconced in a system of references inherited from post-68 thought. Mobilising other aspects of that same thought, in this case Althusserian Marxism, and attempting to rework it by means of a non-philosophy newly freed from its preceding scientistic phase, Laruelle seems to have initially thought that a nonphilosophical extension of Marxism could achieve the breakthrough into nonstandard philosophy that he was searching for.

Far from hailing Laruelle’s notion of “determination in the last instance” as a major concept, readers should be aware that from the point of view of Laruelle’s later works this concept is an impasse as it is articulated in this book, just as his later concept of Christ in THE FUTURE CHRIST is an impasse. Both are overcome and fused together in Laruelle’s quantum approach inaugurated with his passage from non-philosophy to non-standard philosophy, which to be found principally in NON-STANDARD PHILOSOPHY, ANTI-BADIOU, and CHRISTO-FICTION. One of the most notable innovations in these later books is that the notion of “determination in the last instance” is reworked to mean indetermination in the “pre-primary” instance.

INTRODUCTION TO NON-MARXISM is a transitional work, caught in an impasse. Preliminary overviews of Laruelle’s work often give primacy to one or other of Laruelle’s phases over the others. I am particularly worried by the reductionist (politicist) readings that tout the pre-quantum version of “determination in the last instance” as a panacea for thought, just as I am worried about the (religionist) appeal to the pre-quantum Christ. I am glad that Laruelle’s “quantum deconstruction” is part of his ongoing process of liberating his thought from its pre-established limits, and I think it is what is needed to avoid the suture (in Badiou’s sense of reductionist conflation) of his thought with any one particular truth procedure (science, psychoanalysis, ethics, art, religion, or politics).

Laruelle’s INTRODUCTION TO NON-MARXISM is a very interesting non-philosophical extension of philosophical Marxism, but it remains a sutural work, and thus is more reductionist than emancipatory, for that very reason. Laruelle goes on to argue in his NON-STANDARD PHILOSPHY (published in French in 2010) that what is needed today is not an extension of any particular philosophical thought-world, but rather the quantum superposition of different thought-worlds, relieved of their sufficiency, contributing to a democratic pluralism of thought.

The unresolved tension between the monistic structuralist notion of “determination in the last instance” (drawn from Althusserian Marxism) and the pluralist post-structualist notion of “superposition” (drawn from quantum physics) is an ongoing problem of Laruelle’s thought, indicating the need to develop a new type of thought that conserves the radical impulse of non-philosophy without being tied down by the influences (and sutures) of Laruelle’s particular intellectual biography (scientism, psychoanalysm, ethicism, religionism).

Ultimately we are stimulated to create our own non-Laruellean non-philosophy.

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