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Tom Rockmore’s Marx After Marxism: ...

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Tom Rockmore’s Marx After Marxism: The Philosophy of Karl Marx, Oxford:
Basil Blackwell, 2002, pp. 224 , $35.95

- Maria Dimitrova (University of Sofia)

The intention of this book is clearly expressed in its title—to rediscover Marx’s philosophy after the end of politics that has been using it as an ideological cliché during an entire century. After the “wind of change” and whirlpool of events that led to the fall of the Berlin wall, it can be seen that the end of history has not come yet. Today, we are asking ourselves whether a new epoch is emerging or the old capitalism is transforming itself into a financial/silicon mode.
Tom Rockmore himself is convinced that Marx’s philosophy “will be worth reading as long as capitalism lasts.” (1) He ironically observes that the statement that Marx’s theory is dead is “as accurate as the idea that ideology is at end.” (2)
Rockmore’s study belongs resolutely to the field of the history of philosophy. Marx’s texts are the object of a research wherein both description and interpretation are pursued. As Rockmore emphasizes, the description it-self is impossible “without picking up what is significant in the texts, hence without interpreting them”(3). Unlike the Marxists “who claim to speak in Marx’s name, we should enable his texts to speak for him.” (4) Rockmore’s message is that we need to regard Marx’s philosophical insights not only as a completed result and theory sui generis but in “the way they emerged in the debates of his own time.” (5) This means that Marx should not be opposed to Hegel, but rather viewed within the larger Hegelian framework.
Such an approach is welcomed by Eastern European readers. Why? Because during the times of the old regimes, the official publications on Marx were supposed to follow the Party directives. However, in the universities, in particular after 1968, a clandestine movement of intellectuals op-posed to power began to form. For them the issue of Hegel’s influence on Marx and, especially, the issue of the dialectical method were matters to be discussed with scholarly precision and scrupulousness. Unofficially and in a dissident mode, an enormous amount of work was done to show the narrow-mindedness of those interpretations which Rockmore calls “Marxist” and to discover the authentic Marx. It was known that Marx is among those giants of human thought to whom we constantly go back in order to synchronize our compass. Today as the compass hand has turned 180°, the territory of the former Soviet block, regrettably, is experiencing exactly what Rockmore has noticed in the context of the Western democracies: “Almost everyone who writes on Marx feels obliged to say something about Hegel. But what is said is often minimal, sometimes very minimal … by writers who are them-selves insufficiently informed, or again who fail to reflect on … the singular importance of Hegel.” (6) However, in this book Hegelian logic is highlighted less than the relevance of the Hegelian themes which attracted Marx most of all and focused the attention of his whole life and work. “If … Marx is centrally concerned with very nearly the same set of issues as Hegel in Philosophy of Right …, then Marx’s own specific contribution can be grasped, the way he differs from, modifies, and surpasses Hegel.” (7)
Rockmore’s book in fact recovers, besides Marx’s own life trail, the development of his ideas from his early works to his opus magnum, Das Kapital. The “rediscovery” operation is carried out within the intellectual horizon of Marx’s predecessors, contemporaries, and followers. Rockmore possesses an incredible aptitude to expose comprehensively and simply, but with no profanation, the most complicated relations and perspectives This can be achieved only by a profound connoisseur of the subject. His conclusion at the end of the study is that “as a philosopher Marx remains generally within the Hegelian orbit.” (8) In such a way Rockmore overturns the interpretations of Marxists who, in their majority, “consider Hegel as merely leading up to Marx.” (9) For Rockmore, the truth is just the opposite: “despite Marx’s criticism of Hegel, Marx’s own theories are broadly Hegelian.” (10)
The final judgment of the book states that “Marx is our greatest theoretician of modern industrial society”(11). It would be very difficult not to agree with this assessment. Our problem today is that society is not modern and industrial anymore but post-modern and post-industrial.
As mentioned in the book, Heidegger talks of the need to dialogue with a great thinker on the thinker’s own level. Evidently from our perspective, a dialogue with Marx is timely and necessary. Rockmore’s book clears the way for such a dialogue.

1 Tom Rockmore. Marx after Marxism. The Philosophy of Karl Marx. Oxford: Black-well, 2002, p. xi
2 Ibid., p.x
3 Ibid., p.xiv
4 Ibid., p.xiv
5 Ibid., p.xvi
6 Ibid., p.xv
7 Ibid., p.30
8 Ibid., p.195
9 Ibid., p.162
10 Ibid., p.183
11 Ibid., p.183