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When Spinoza Met Marx

Experiments in Nonhumanist Activity

Explores concepts that bring together the thinking of Spinoza and Marx.

Karl Marx was a fiery revolutionary theorist who heralded the imminent demise of capitalism, while Spinoza was a contemplative philosopher who preached rational understanding and voiced skepticism about open rebellion. Spinoza criticized all teleological ideas as anthropomorphic fantasies, while Marxism came to be associated expressly with teleological historical development. Yet socialists of the German nineteenth-century were consistently drawn to Spinoza as their philosophical guide. Tracie Matysik shows how the metaphorical meeting of Spinoza and Marx arose out of an intellectual conundrum about the meaning of activity. How is it, exactly, that humans can be fully determined creatures and also able to change their world? To address this paradox, many revolutionary theorists came to think of activity in the sense of Spinoza—as relating. Matysik follows these Spinozist-socialist intellectual experiments as they unfolded across the nineteenth century, drawing lessons from them that may be meaningful for the contemporary world.

368 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2022

The Life of Ideas

History: History of Ideas

Philosophy: Ethics, Philosophy of Society

Table of Contents

Abbreviations, Citational Shortcuts, and a Note on Translation
Introduction: When Spinoza Met Marx, or Activity in a Nonhumanist Key
Chapter 1. The Headless Revolution: Heinrich Heine’s Ethos of “Vigorous Repose”
Chapter 2. Love and Friendship: Berthold Auerbach and Moses Hess on Understanding and Activity
Chapter 3. When Marx Met Spinoza: Determination, Contingency, and Substance
Chapter 4. Spinoza against Bismarck, or Johann Jacoby and the Pursuit of Monist Democracy
Chapter 5. An Ethics of Natural Necessity: Jakob Stern, Free Thought, and German Social Democracy
Chapter 6. What Is “Nature”? Georgi Plekhanov and the Dilemmas of Consistent Materialism
Conclusion: The Persistence of Vigorous Repose

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