Re: [xmca] social-societal

From: Andy Blunden (
Date: Tue Nov 08 2005 - 15:19:45 PST

   "Subjectivity" and "subject" and cognate words have meanings which are
   very contested; their meaning is generally a marker of the discourse
   in which they are used, rather than simply being used "in different
   For example, poststructuralists, who claim to have "deconstructed the
   subject," mean by "subject" what I would call "subject position", i.e,
   a social location or role within a narrative or discourse, with which
   a person identifies themselves. Judith Butler has a variation on this
   concept of subjectivity in that she adheres to what I would call an
   "abstract general" concept of subjectivity, where people identify
   themselves according to having or not having certain attributes, a
   kind of "in-itself" subjectivity.
   Habermas, on the other hand, understands "subject" in terms of the
   sovereign individual subject defined by Kant, and makes
   "intersubjectivity" the key concept, much like what Mike referred to
   as "social = individuals making phone calls to each other", i.e.,
   unmediated, individual contact.
   Certainly for many "subjectivity" means a state of mind, but for
   others it has as much an ethical or moral meaning as an ontological
   one, and such a meaning has firm grounding in Kant's "transcendental
   subject." For some, drawing their concept of subjectivity from Marx
   rather than Kant, subjectivity is a social relationship, in which
   individuals exercise the capacity to act, know and identify themselves
   through their participation in collaborative activity with others
   involving cultural constructs, language,etc., as I understand it.
   A structuralist like Althusser, as I understand him, deny subjectivity
   of this kind, seeing social structures alone as effective on the
   social-historical plane, and therefore confine use of the word
   "subjectivity" to "mind".
   In general, we have philosophers from Descartes to Fichte to thank for
   meanings of "subjectivity" which inhere within the individual as such,
   and the overwhelming majority of philsoophical literature today use
   the term "subject" in this way. We have Hegel and Marx to thank for
   meanings of "subjectivity" which inhere in social relations. We have
   to thank philosophers who have interpreted Marx in a structuralist
   spirit for taking the individual out of those relations and leaving
   agency, knowledge and identity only in social structures. We have
   others, such as Marxist humanists and the CHAT tradition, who have
   tried to develop Marx in a spirit which retains individual agency
   within a concept of subjectivity which includes both individual,
   particular and universal, to use Hegel's terminology, as I see it.
   Sorry for being longwinded, and apologies if I misrepresented any of
   those positions, through trying to avoid being too longwinded! :-)
   The great thing about this discussion, in my view, is that we are
   discussing what is in my view the No. 1 problem of today, loss of
   subjectivity. Look at France today. Take away people's agency, their
   identity and their education, and they will fight in the most bitter
   and angry way as their life is absolutely on the line. The Parisian
   suburbs are about subjectivity.
   What do people think?

     Could somone, other than Anna who uses the term subjectivity and
     knows well how to use it in their work please respond to the
     misgivings about its use that I tried asking about some days ago?
     And Joe asked about in a different way today?
     I think that it might help us sort out misunderstandings from

    Andy Blunden, on behalf of the Victorian Peace Network, Phone (+61)
                                03-9380 9435
             Alexander Surmava's Tour - September/October 2006


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