Political Theory: Marx, Arendt and ? Need secondary sources and fellow travelers.
November 11, 2008 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I've got a term paper to write on Arendt, Marx, and general communism and am seeking secondary sources and other theorists. If you can help, please step inside.

I have 'The Portable Marx' and 'The Essential Works of Lenin' as well as a couple of books by Trotsky and Arendt. What else should I be looking for, both in the context of commentary on these (especially Marx) or similar thinkers?
posted by caitlinb to Education (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What did your professor say? The best way to know how your instructor wants you to complete an assignment is to ask the instructor. I would go to your prof's office hours and ask your prof how he or she would recommend you go about finding the secondary sources that you need to complete the assignment.

I suspect this question is too vague to get any useful answers.
posted by craichead at 8:01 AM on November 11, 2008

This question is actually mine.

My professor is a classicist. She gave me some recommendations, but I'm looking for others. If i can clarlify, please feel free to ask. I assume that anyone familiar with these theorists would have a good idea of what might be useful for me, especially since I'm still in the process of gathering research and outlining.
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:06 AM on November 11, 2008

I've recommended it elsewhere, and I'll recommend it again here: read Philip Mirowski's More Heat than Light: Economics as Social Physics, Physics as Nature's Economics. It's a broad indictment of the economic discipline as a whole, but it does so from within rather than without. The book takes all of is subjects, from the French Physiocrats, through Marx, and up to the 20th century, seriously, and is generally able to show how the various economic projects fail on their own terms.

In Marx's case, he winds up being completely unable to make his labor theory of value work in any satisfactory way, meaning you either need to ditch the broader social implications or ditch any pretense of not being a pure ideologue. Lenin doesn't receive all that much attention, as he and thinkers such as Trotsky are more interested than politics than in economics, but as a sympathetic-yet-devastating critique of Marx's thought, it's really unparalleled.
posted by valkyryn at 8:06 AM on November 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

This sounds painfully broad (especially for a term paper). You're investigating connections between the thought of Marx and Arendt? Do you have a thesis statement yet? I'm not saying this in a accusatory fashion, just that you'll probably get better answers if you provide more information on what you're interested in? Commentary on both these thinkers (especially Marx) is a huge field.

[On preview: what craichead said]
posted by Gnatcho at 8:06 AM on November 11, 2008

I'm interested in pursuing Arendt's ideas about Work, Labor and Action as they can be applied to Marx's form of communism. But I'm also reading Trotsky, Adorno and Weber... like I said, I'm still in the gathering stage. :)
posted by youcancallmeal at 8:09 AM on November 11, 2008

Do you have access to any journal databases? Do a search for Arendt and Marx together and see what comes up.

I'm not sure how helpful this will be, but I can think of one really obvious way that Arendt differs from the other thinkers you're talking about. She's really invested in a political sphere that's distinct from social and economic factors. Any reading of Arendt with Marx is likely to bump into this difference, and from there you're probably going to have to address Marxist concepts like base, superstructure, and ideology as they relate to Arendt's concepts of the political and social spheres. Adorno might be interesting here for the ways he complicates the Marxist concepts involved. And, of course, for Marx and Adorno the relationship between these various ideas is always dialectical (or negative-dialectical), but I don't think that's the case for Arendt.

Anyhow, that's just a brainstorm to help you start figuring out which way you want to take this so you can narrow your search terms. If you don't want to be typing this thing the night before it's due, you'd better find something to focus on in a hurry.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 9:15 AM on November 11, 2008

Check out Marcuse's criticism of Marx in Eros and Civilization.
posted by mattbucher at 9:18 AM on November 11, 2008

There's a fair amount of writing on Arendt and Marxism. For primary work, you'd want to focus on Arendt's On Revolution and The Human Condition. For secondary work, Margaret Canovan's book on reinterpreting Arendt is useful. My undergraduate thesis (15 years ago, ack!) explored some similar territory, and I found the work of Dagmar Barnouw, Seyla Benhahib and Bhikhu Parekh useful. Feel free to email me if I can help with specific questions.
posted by judith at 9:21 AM on November 11, 2008

Hey, was browsing MySpace and my "friend" The Ghost of Martin Heidigger has recently done a nice review of Arendt with numerous sources. You might need to sign in. Check it out
posted by Agamenticus at 6:00 PM on November 11, 2008

« Older 15th century France military-nobility complex   |   What's the best library database for finding... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.