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In Review

ENGL 308

I’ve learned a lot in this class. Here, I write down the key ideas and modes of thinking I’ve learned.

  • Doing is always a matter of knowing, and knowing is always a matter of seeing. As agents in the world, what we do is contingent on what we know - what we think we know: our feelings, opinions, belief-systems. What we know – the titular epistemological question – is fundamentally a question of how we see. How do institutions and systems obscure – or, perhaps to better reflect the complex nature of sight, refract – our sight? How do we see, and how can we imagine a new mode of sight?
  • Marxism is about much more than economics. Most people, me included before the class, understand Marxism as a principally economic doctrine – with syntactic associations to ‘socialism’, ‘communism’, ‘Soviet’, ‘Lenin’, and so on. (This very fact is interesting as a question of knowledge and sight.) When one reads Marx’s writing and the writing of those that have carried on his work, however, one realizes that Marxism is much more: it is philophical, anthropological, historical, cultural, ethnographical, political, literary. Much of modern intellectual thought is indebted to Marxist modes of thinking, whether it acknowledges it or not.
  • Marxism is not a unified field. For the same reason as previously mentioned, it seems to be assumed that Marxism is a wholly unified boogeyman other. On the other hand, we find that Marxist intellectual thought is full of rich debate and disagreement: between the optimist and the pessimist, the optimist and the realist, the pessimist and the realist, the structuralist and the poststructuralist, the structuralist and the deconstructionist, and so on.

After taking this class, I find myself a pessimist (among Althusserian lines). I will continue to study philosophy, both Marxist and in other schools, with an interest in understanding how people and systems of people produce various dialectic relationships. However, I find myself pessimistic at the moment on the possibility of substantial change (think - Marx’s polemic class-collapsing gesture at the conclusion of the Manifesto).