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Philosophy and Critical Pedagogy

Insurrection and Commonwealth


Charles Reitz

Critical pedagogy, political economics, and aesthetic theory combine with dialectical and materialist understandings of science, society, and revolutionary politics to develop the most radical goals of society and education. In Philosophy and Critical Pedagogy: Insurrection and Commonwealth, Marcuse’s hitherto misunderstood and neglected philosophy of labor is reconsidered, resulting in a labor theory of ethics. This develops commonwealth criteria of judgment regarding the real and enduring economic and political possibilities that concretely encompass all of our engagement and action. Marcuse’s newly discovered 1974 Paris Lectures are examined and the theories of Georg Lukács and Ernest Manheim contextualize the analysis to permit a critical assessment of the nature of dialectical methodology today. Revolutionary strategy and a common-ground political program against intensifying inequalities of class, race, and gender comprise the book’s commonwealth counter-offensive.


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Chapter 11. The Commonwealth Counter-Offensive


· 1 1 · the commonwealth counter-offensive “Material force can only be overthrown by material force; but theory itself becomes a material force when it is seized by the masses. Theory is capable of seizing the masses when it demonstrates ad hominem, and it demonstrates ad hominem as soon as it becomes radical. To be radical is to grasp things by the root. But for man the root is man himself.… The criticism of religion ends with…the categorical imperative to overthrow all those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being.… Theory is only realized in a people so far as it fulfills the needs of the people”. —Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law “We would therefore suggest that Gemeinwesen [commonwealth] be universally substituted for state; it is a good old German word that can very well do service for the French ‘Commune.’ —Frederick Engels, Letter to Bebel, March 18-24, 1875 A group of radical scholars with whom I have worked has attempted to assess our contemporary political-economic conditions in a tentative and provi- sional manner in order to re-frame and reconstruct, through the dialectical methodologies of critical theory, keener insights into the generative mecha- nisms that undergird intensifying inequality, alienation, cultural polarization, and war. We are grappling with the critical intellectual traditions of Marcuse and Marx, and we explore in particular the potentials and latent powers of an incipient radical opposition. We assembled our views in a collection of essays titled Crisis and Commonwealth.1 The...

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