Marxism is having a moment; higher workloads, stagnating wages, rising costs of living, a new economic crisis every few years, a warming climate and now almost two years of a worldwide pandemic have all led to a number of people across the world, especially younger people, to self-identify with ideas once thought to be in the dustbin of history. But while people may find Marx’s theories helpful for understanding what’s happening, turning these interpretations into sustained commitments is another thing. What’s more, Marx’s works often turn out to be less definitive than is often imagined, giving us rigorous methods of inquiry that we then need to develop and adapt to other fields. Being a Marxist then is not simply about adopting a particular series of propositions, but a way of interpreting and engaging with the world.
This is one of the animating ideas for my guest today, Ted Stolze, here to discuss his essay collection Becoming Marxist: Studies in Philosophy, Struggle, and Endurance (Haymarket Books, 2020). While Marx occupies a central place throughout the essays, readers will find engagements with a variety of figures, going back as far as Aristotle or the Apostle Paul, all the way up to the present with essays on Zizek and Deleuze. In between these poles are studies of Hobbes, Spinoza, Hegel and many other early modern thinkers. Throughout the essays, Stolze puts Marxist practice in dialogue with philosophy and vice-versa, showing us how political struggle demands philosophical inquiry, not simply for the purpose of political and tactical clarity, but for the same reasons people have turned to philosophy for several millennia now. Socrates famously said the unexamined life is not worth living, kicking off an entire tradition of self-examination. It’s this tradition Stolze believes activists and organizers ought to draw on today to better understand what it might mean to become Marxist.
Published as part of the Historical Materialism book series.
Ted Stolze holds an M.A. in religion and a PhD in philosophy. He is an associate professor of philosophy at Cerritos College. He is the coeditor of The New Spinoza and has published numerous articles on philosophy, politics and religion.