A World to Win Summer School Wales 2011 –
Moving beyond resistance – the role of ideas and philosophy

Presented by Corinna Lotz

Why philosophy matters

Global crisis of system (the whole) in all its parts – economic, ecological, political, cultural – within time – the movement of generations – history. It is the systemic whole that concerns us – whole and parts approach of dialectics.

Global economic crisis – massive indebtedness the background to political changes: British student movement (Nov-Dec 2010), Arab awakening (no longer spring!), Latin America, Europe - March 26 to M15, J30 and beyond. Higher level of spontaneous movement.  Revolutionary possibilities – issue of power – taking on the state and replacing it. How can this movement succeed?

Responsibility of leadership – to Secure transformation of opposites in society – political leap is needed – to bring about revolutionary change. Spontaneous level movement – in its essence against the system - but struggling to go beyond it. The problem /contradictions of ideology in the age of Web 2.

Challenging the ideologies of the system: DRY Collective approach: Virginia – “for the first time in my life I took part in building ideas collectively. Not the same as team work.”

Taking on the state at the level of power requires more than the pressure of the masses. Lessons of history (Gen Strike in Britain, Spanish Revolution of 1936 – in some areas 75% under worker control; British Miners’ strike vs Thatcher) Why did these movements not succeed and what is needed for today.

How does change take place, how do we prepare for it, how do we intervene in it? How and when does one social order change into another. Is this a revolutionary period? AWTW + PAs: NAE, DV, RTW, DRY, SOS-Lamb, PAN, Scot, NE, Sussex, TTs.

Image creation machine - not “conspiracy” but through media, church, education, politicians, public relations - which are part of the structure of system and constantly evolve. These lies and distortions that are churned out are underpinned by philosophies – systems of thought.

This is how capitalism continues to rule, Not only through state and the various institutions but through ideas and philosophies which lie behind them and foreshadow events.

Examples: “today’s society is the same as things have always been” – capitalist system is the only system, not historic – i.e. no shelf life; revolutionary change doomed to fail; no alternative exists - TINA; ideas and ideals are just that – images pasted over reality; a one-dimensional world.

Even people who sees themselves or are seen as left wing or anti-system can also be caught in empiricism and formal thought. Or combinations of these – pauper’s broth of eclecticism. Holloway / Zizek.

The main philosophies that we have to contend with: Empiricism; pragmatism – also known as “common sense”. 

What is the essence of empirical outlook?

1. ‘Knowledge is simply what we perceive through our senses. There is no need to go beyond “experience” – there is no distinction between our thoughts and what lies outside of our individual perception. The world is what we make of it: image = reality. “the perception is...” ‘

2. ‘There may or may not be a world beyond our senses but in any case it’s unknowable and each individual has his or her own point of view. Common sense is connected to formal thought and the worship of “facts” which are said to equal reality. A = A. A thing is equal to itself. Contradiction is to be avoided at all costs.’ e.g. Struggle with notion of Democracy at IOE meeting.

As opposed to this we need a philosophy that is:

Theory of knowledge – the relationship between being and consciousness

[In the following red denotes "world beyond thought"]

Not common sense, nor guessing, not impressions and images but grasping the relation between whole and part, individual and universal, and the abstraction of law. Not scepticism – (there is an absolute within the relative); an object within the subject. Identity within difference.

Therefore not rejecting the negative or pinning images on to the immediate but grasping the contradictions within things/processes as the source of movement and change.

Path Of Cognition 1

A theory of knowledge and path of knowledge – Materialist dialectics: Dialectical path of cognition: from living perception to abstract thought to practice. A material and social world in constant movement and change.

Not a “tool” to be “applied” but “the path of (self) construction” – mobile concepts to unlock the logic of things themselves. (science and art

The starting point – the source of sensation. We must be alive to think
the independent existence of material physical world beyond thought, outside of ourselves and our brains – which constantly changes and is the source of all sensations and thought.

At the same time: If the world was simply as it presents itself, there would be no need for scientific thought – as Marx put it: “But all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.”

Therefore:  Discovering – struggling with the internally necessary movement of things and processes. How “the thing itself comes out of itself”. Need for flexible concepts – “hewn, treated, flexible, mobile, relative, mutually connected, united in opposites in order to embrace the world” = materialist dialectics – contradiction, negation, appearance – essence. Training in thinking this way.

Role of concepts

Working with concepts that grasp the world, society and human beings in transition.

Concept of Contradiction – not as a bothersome, nasty thing but as revealing and demonstrating movement. Contradictions... strivings of opposing forces within single whole – coming into being and passing away – internal contradictions.

Dialectical training in how to mentally and physically apprehend contradiction at the very essence of objects, processes in the external world.

In inorganic world – the formation of the universe (s) through and in time – contraction and expansion; life and death, beginning and end. These changes independent of humans

Organic life – evolution and natural revolutions that made earth

In history – the rising and passing away - struggle of social systems

In society – the struggle of classes – transformations depend on the conscious activity of people. In capitalism – opposing classes are joined together, depend on each other but are in opposition to each other
In thought – being and consciousness; outer/inner; concrete/abstract; negation and thinking of contradiction in concepts; emotions

Each “concept” is contradictory in itself in a self-related way and therefore in transition to its own opposite through self-reflection, but at the same time it is part of the interconnected moments / transitions of the material world outside of itself.

The knowability of things but as a path of understanding, which is itself in development – science as the foundation of “true humility” of understanding our individual limitations but also our collective possibilities.

Each process has its own laws of development which we need to understand. Understanding the immediate, the surface, the impression and its relationship to the deep currents underneath.

The Formation of semblance

Objective dialectical laws abstracted from the history of nature, human society, thought:

Unity, conflict and interpenetration of opposites
Transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa
Negation of negation

Path Of Cognition 2


Understanding Identity as containing Difference

“Not only are we stardust but children of chaos” – Peter Atkins On Being.

Identity = positive indication, “sign” of the New (a result of the development of Contradiction (movement) in the “world beyond thought” – the external world of nature, human society and thought.

Arises out of the web of changes going on – which are reflected into us through “impressions flashing past”.

Source: The movement of things, processes in the external world reflects through Sensation (via our five senses) into the positive “image” of “Semblance” – “being as a moment”.

Shows itself as Difference (negation) from what came before.  This is a SENSUOUS  contradiction: the positive image of sensation on the negative of thought. This “Semblance”  is the first moment of “essence in itself”. Not empty scepticism, but a moment of connection and transition in the path of cognition. Mistake at this point is to discount the moment of change as it “contradicts” what we already know – a “negative moment”.

But “allowing it to be what it is” - a moment of connection and transition - the negative becomes a positive which returns to the source for more impulses. In other words:

The operation of the objective dialectical laws on this “unquiet” moment of difference:
The entire process is taking place within the infinite movement of things, processes in the external world beyond thought. The positive identity becomes negative in the difference in thought = Identity containing difference. This is a contradiction, unstable and in transition.

Through the movement of reflection abstract identity containing positive difference is negated back into the source of the sensation – the infinite quantity of properties and changes going on in the external world, as more impulses from the source stream in – i.e. from negation to “unity”.  This is the second negation – negation of the negation.
Unravelling the contradictions to reveal and facilitate transition.  Discovering the contours of the new within the old and “assisting with the birth”.  Not “sectarian” approach nor “worshipping spontaneity” but sharpening the contradictions – whilst at the same time preserving unity with the “First”. That is hard and requires the ability to “endure contradiction” – hold fast opposite and contradictory strivings within a single whole, which transform it.

Topics for groups – concepts and ideas to bring to life