We cannot jump over our shadow, so it is said. But then where is — is there? — the rock that is higher than I?
The advantage GWF Hegel enjoyed was that he was already embedded in a social form that enjoyed a directional dynamic. He could therefore theorize a spirit that stood at the source of this stream.
We now know that this source was, both to Hegel and to us, terribly recent. For a species that emerged 2.4M years ago 1324 is less than the blink of an eye. Hardly a vantage point of critique.
So, the question is: does this exceedingly narrow vantage point actually offer us a window through which to see something else; a path to somewhere that is not here?
The conceit of orthodox Marxists is that the events of 1324 mark the center of history; that once time and labor are coordinated in Ghent by the abbot of St-Pierre in the workhouse constructed in the parish of Saint John, viola, all of history resolves into private property, class struggle, and the universal subject-object of history from whose vantage point we can finally, at long last, see the end.
Let us assume instead that we are fully, completely, without remainder, members of that social formation constituted in 1324. We are within the hall of mirrors. This is the time-space envelope whose floor and ceiling and walls we regularly and accurately measure, into which we launch projectiles with infallible accuracy. We have mastered this envelope. Viola.
The way through, in this case, always leads back. We are Truman Burbank, albeit in a world much more hellish than his. But — and this is the crucial point — there is no orchestrator outside the bubble. There is no “outside” to the bubble. But this does not mean that cracks do not appear. Cracks are everywhere. But they are always cracks within the bubble. So the question is: is there any determinate pattern to the cracks?
Orthodox Marxists would like there to be an objective material base that rubs uncomfortably against the fictitious commodified canopy. But no, that is not actually how it happens. It is fiction all the way down. It is fiction — thankfully — even when Kingdom comes. So, how does it happen?
Let me suggest that the distinction between value and its surface forms of appearance become visible to us in times of crisis. But let me also notice that this distinction does not convey its own interpretive framework. And, so, we, everyone — but we too — ask: what is contained in this breach? This difference? This interval?
There is nothing obvious or inevitable or necessary in this breach. It is a suggestion, a hint, an intimation: that what we thought was there differs from what might be there. In this difference — in noticing this difference — is the revelation that I do not know.
So, yes. Of course. this is the beginning of GFW Hegel’s Phenomenology. But it is also the beginning of the transformation. I do not know. That is to say, what seems transparent inside the bubble is not true. How do I know that? Why do I know that? What does it mean? What should I do?
But GWF Hegel could not see it. Because it means that the answer does not lie outside, above, beyond.
For concerning the righteousness that is by the law, Moses writes: “The man who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down) or, ‘Who will descend into the Abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with your heart you believe and are justified, and with your mouth you confess and are saved.Romans 10:5-10
No. The first century is not ours. This is only by analogy. I only mean to suggest that we are not being asked or invited to jump over our shadow.
We are instead being asked to attend to the determinate contradiction directly before us — not in history, not in time, not in humanity. The one that is right here. Not in heaven. Not beneath. Just right here.
What is your value? What is the value of the things you desire? Are they valued accurately?
From whence their value? Where does objectivity lie?
What do these things mean?
What role do you play in their meaning? What meaning do they play in your meaning?
Where is the vantage point of your critique?