Abraham Rotstein, Notes de fin de semaine XIX

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Weekend Notes (Overview)

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Texte en anglais à traduire en français

Liberté et technologie (3)

[24] The peculiar thing about Fromm is he never got beyond La grande transformation. (These were strongly Marxist ideas.)

He is definitely pre-sputnik and what we are saying is post-sputnik. We must make it clear that this is not the reorganization of society we are talking about.

What is freedom? It is the fear of eternal death. Others say that it is the hope of eternal life and people differ on what that means but they don't differ on what eternal death means. Whether they say integrity or conscience it is the same thing. This fear and its corresponding hope is hat freedom is. This has a f[e]ar and hope, and is meaningless if it is not a condition that we are in.

P. makes the test… […]

The reason is the entrance […]

The fact that our existence […]

[25] With the freedoms, […]

The moral values of every day have less and less connection with basic values. The answer is the lake of recognition of society.

What happens to freedom we don't know, and we just cannot cease living up to the moral requirements everyone knows we are true, […]

This answers […]

The discovery of society takes us out of the superficial dangers of the market economy (superficial meaning immediate). […]

Putting it in simpler […]

[26] […] P. thinks that the truth is what we are saying − that in a technological civilization our inner freedom is invalid, is vain. […]

[27] The whole question of the loss of freedom hinges on "compelled to compel". However, this is only an illustration. Just like Jesus used the illustration that the one with no sins should throw the first stone.

He who says I would refuse to compel others − he has disproved us. Fear is not fear for ourselves but fear for others. […]

[28] […] Bouddhisme a cette peur similaire or reincarnation. Dans le monde juif, it is expressed only in your share in the destruction of the race through breaking God's convenant. It is not a persona factor. But in all other religions it is you who count.

Fromm didn't get this point. He forgets something which didn't become apparent dans l'Ancien Testament et Jésus made this [29] point: it is not the crowd who is going to stone her. That's all right, but what about you? What are you going to do? Give your coat to the poor? There is probably the same thing in les Manuscrits de la Mer Morte, le Christianisme a fait une grande propagande sur la théologie mais n’a pas prêté d’attention aux enseignements du Christ. Everyone knows in his heart of hearts that these things make for life.

Fromm doesn't see that this is the way mankind is hit. He might say you follow the externalitities of life, not the internal things.

Fromm has a deep analysis but leaves part of the question unanswered − the technological civilizations is not touched upon. Fromm explains what is meant by alienation.

Fromm doesn't speak of freedom but means something what we usually call freedom. (It is very vague but ou meaning has much more than what's usually attached to it.)

Power is needed to organize and it existence doesn't permit the individual to make his life the center of his inner existence.

This widespread concern can only be seemingly rejected in a joking fashion. This is our common world, not with Christian communities only. Not at all. By their nature the Russians are alive to this. It is usually called the dignity of man. They mean that man isn't supposed to be a liar and hypocrite. It doesn't mean to choose between Eatons and Simpson or the C.P.R. and C.N.R. when we talk of a choice.

[30] Avec Hegel, il y a the coming up of economic life but there is no intimation of technology.

With Smith it has a pseudo presence. While he discovered the market he didn't discover the machine. But no one ever noticed the market was a significant transformer of society.

Ainsi la Machine resta encore à découvrir, et ce fut Owen qui découvrit tout ce de quoi relevait la Machine. En 1816, ce fut alors Hegel qui après plus de la moitié de sa vie de travail était terriblement impressionné par le capitalisme.

P. doesn't know if he found the machine in Hegel. Hegel didn't miss much. Also Marx to 1844 is the same story. […]

Already in Comte there is no history, bu the structure of society under the laws. Therefore sociology was the highest science and the most advanced way in which the limitation of human freedom was formulated.

This is the result of thinking about these matters and P. thinks we make our thesis as narrow as possible - the assertions are specific and definite. The other thing is that P. has been [31] reading so much and is conscious how the subject comes in from all sides, but one doesn't allow that to make one's own position diffuse.

We follow the story of freedom where freedom is seen to exist (German idealism) and technology − which begins with Owen.

Unless you have the Rousseau paradox, you can't relate freedom to something. This can be in the introduction and freedom can be traced to Rousseau, and Kant took this from Rousseau. Technology is Owen. Under the reality of society, one takes necessity as a conter to freedom.

Hegel l'a découvert parce que la Révolution française a échoué et il croyait en elle. Therefore he thought it was necessity that made it fail and made Napoleon follow on Robespierre.

Marx never relinquished necessity but placed it in the material aspect of society. […]

P. has a lecture which he gave on the emergence of reform of consciousness in 1927 ou '29. P. a donné cette conférence a un petit groupe où se trouvaient Kolnyai, Ernst Karl Winter, et Otto Bauer. Winter voulait créer un groupe anti-fasciste à Vienne. P. était simplement intéressé par ses propres idées.

[32] The essential thing in the reform of consciousness was the acceptance of the reality of society.

P. said that one must think as the right wing and act as the left wing do. Winter said the opposite (He was catholic).

La conférence s'appelait "Reformietes Bewusstsein”. It maintained that first there was conscious religious consciousness and second to take upon oneself the burden of society with unalterable alternatives. Thirdly, the reform of consciousness was not absolute but it is a reform of consciousness which receives in itself the need for compromise as resignation, and turns without any qualification to the reaching of these ideals: "in fascism there is a false resignation – social reality is set as impossible to salve it. Out of this national socialism finds no way out but to attack the basic religious position”.

This is the full circle in which left thought moves: the left is bound to the absolute (unconditional) and being in the false consciousness of fighting against religion and morality. P. is the only one to give the left position true rigor of the unqualified. The left necessarily must formulate a position in an absolute way and take up the position outside of society and claim validity through…

P. got the idea of ineluctable alternatives from Ulysses which he read in 1922 in the 'Westbarstrasse'.[1] This lecture was an advance and gave a more definite subject [33] but we didn't have definite criteria. What are the points we are linking up here to the extent to which we have the reality of society? It was vague bringing in too many different things.

We are here distinguishing three problems, one set by the Rousseau paradox, one set by the market economy and one set by the technology civilization.

The first probably comes into being by something like the birth of modern man e.g., Rousseau's Confessions and the Contrat Social. The paradox is put by his statement “Man is born free and is everywhere in chains.” He has here a postulate of freedom which is the same as individualism and has never been resolved.This therefore we accept in a way as basic and yet there is something which is distinct.

This is the discovery of society which doesn't happen in Rousseau and is the essence of a socialist outlook. It is crucial of capitalism because capitalism covers up society and looks like a realm of freedom. It covers up what underlies it and on the whole socialism consists of the realization of the discovery of society as we call it.

This is enormously strongly expressed in Owen. Society determines the individual's outlook and precipitates this question and catalyzes it. There is no concern with freedom and Owen is the originator if the ideological criticism of freedom. Marx may have taken it from here.

[34] […]

If one goes on from Owen to Hegel or Marx one cannot assume a very great interest in the subject. There is a prejudice against Hegel that it is some empty metaphysics. And for Marx that it is just some materialism which has been disproved.

It is not possible to go on as if it was one of the uncontentious subjects. So P. does not yet see the obvious way.

P. wants to avoid being too specific. More hinges on the introduction and the human story of the machine.

Merton agrees that it begins to be quite a concern what surprises mechanisms hold in store.

Fromm works out as a socialist line and he calls it humanistic (?) socialism. Altogether socialism begins to be more important than it was. There is not the slightest interest in socialism in the world.

If one puts the matter with brutal simplicity one can get a great deal of clarity.

C’est une chose particulière, vivant dans deux ou trois mondes et sans réaliser qu’ils ne sont pas séparés, c’est-à-dire que l’interprétation chrétienne de la liberté et celle de Marx sur l’Histoire ne sont pas sans liens. Le communisme est une hérésie chrétienne. Ils n’ont pas de valeurs distinctes et différentes. La liberté est de suivre le sillon [“trail”] [35] de l’Histoire. Engels dit que si nous suivons l’Histoire nous sommes libres.

We don't even know whether history itself knows what it will be. There are determinate stretches, elements and patterns but these don't exhaust history. It is full of surprises and we don't know what history will be. According to Marx if I know what the first flight of stairs is then I know what the second will be like.

From our experience if the revelation of the underlying forces no one would suspect the two greatest events of our age. Who know that Germany was Hitler? The two greatest events of our age were Fascism and Bolshevism. Two things took place which were utterly unexpected.

Fascism is the rejection of freedom and Bolshevism is another form of the rejection of freedom. The whole of the 19th century thought there was too much freedom.

If history is the realm of freedom it is not because it is the realm of necessity but because it isn't. Hegel and Marx thought it was necessity.

Also if culture is the realm of freedom it is not because it conforms to necessities of existence but because it doesn't, although it has their imprint.

Of course we have sports because they are needed in an industrial civilization, but the form they take is indeterminate. It is the playfulness which is the essential thing about culture, and there is something similar to culture in history. It is like [36] creativity - art and play and the free patterning in culture. Just watch the flight of the birds and try to explain it by maximizing or minimizing anything.


In Christianity there is a dogma that God can't do the impossible (that is the inconceivable or self-contradictory) but the possible he can do.

We should take up the question of the discovery of society and the reality of society. The discovery of society happens to the extent that the market veil is withdrawn. The reality of society is recognized to the extent that necessity (i.e., as opposed to freedom) enters our consciousness.

Hegel wanted strongly to take up the question of necessity. The French Revolution failed and why? Napoleon was an instrument off necessity. Otherwise everything would have got lost. His conservatism reversed everything. By necessity, Hegel meant the reality of society. He was the first to see that there was a society - economic activities which were integrated and he took this from the British.

Marx made a double movement. He moved to reality and discovered [37] in machines the compelling element in the economy which are an ultimate mover in real society and cause change and development. P. follows Landshut, and wonders whether to take Marx and Hegel together. He thinks he will, otherwise he would have to explain Hegel. He can explain him as a sociologist, social psychologist, politician and historian but would not like to explain him as a Hegelian.

It is much easier to deal with the question as the young Hegel and the young Marx (usually called early). Perhaps he will call it Hegel and Marx, and using "young" for both might imply that we are dealing with infants otherwise known as 'Hegel and Marx in the Nursery'.

But in what tone should it be done? It should be as pedestrian as anything. It should not be discussed on the highest level but on the lowest. It gives people a chance to follow. That means to discuss it in terms of the day, but occasionally there will be outbursts of sophistication to give a birds-eye view. But the argument should run pivotally on elementary matters.

We won't have the Utopians - Fourier and Saint Simon, but Owen fits very well.

Engels wrote his “Condition of the Working Class…” in 1844 and when Marx wrote his E.P.M. he didn't know it. There was terrible misery in England and Chartism begins in 1828-38.

[38] P. would forget about his studies on Hegel and Marx etc. and outline our story, otherwise it would be a different book and destroy the book.

Marcuse is very well usable for our outline of Hegel but he didn't know the young Hegel. ↑ Top

Marx (3)

[39] One might take a simple view that Marx saw the positive sides of technological progress and that that alone would continue in socialism.


At that time Marx thought Feuerbach had created man's image [40] and Marx thought that man created money and it was an objectification of the economic sphere.

Marcuse […]

If Engels said the German working class is the heir to German classical philosophy he meant it was about freedom. Now this concept of freedom is a pure metaphysical construct and therefore consciousness of freedom is a construction.

But this is not really Christian freedom, the care for your salvation of fear of eternal death. Otherwise the modern reader wouldn't understand.

Ultimately, Mary the virgin, is the new Eve − she bears the son of God. Man is conscious and by an act of will raises himself to a higher level of freedom. In Jesus Christ the Saviour this is obscure. But there is some idea of this in Hegel and Marx: consciousness is freedom and the higher consciousness is higher freedom. It has nothing to do with political freedom.

Wetter says that Eve stepped on the head of the serpent and [41] killed it (brute nature). Man is self consciousness and Eve does away with the serpent and a new Eve by an act of fiat bears the son of God, and this is the highest state of freedom which is conceivable.

It is the Hegelian theory that nature is freedom alienated. Therefore in history man becomes conscious of himself, and history ends when man becomes free of all necessity acting out consciously because he knows, etc.

This is what Engels says socialism is, the jump from necessity to freedom and he consciously makes his history.

One must know a great deal to put all this aside and P. doesn't advise me to know it.

Mannheim is greatly troubled in the same way as Rousseau: mankind will only be free if they all want the same thing as society wants and that is possible only if you educate them that way. Hegel says that wisdom and virtue consist of living according to the customs of your people. Margaret Meade says the same - make people wish that they are supposed to want. It is the Rousseau idea again. Alle these problems revolve around the same terms.

What then happens with freedom? Society is real and a man should comply. Then one can't insist on freedom, otherwise life is not liveable.

Lenin said exactly the same thing as the early Hegel (see quotation in Hegel section). If the volonté de tous cannot transcend [42] the volonté générale but can bring the volonté générale at its best. P.'s idea of limits is the Hegelian idea. It is also like Owens “childish unavailing complaints will cease”.

I begin to see there is not much point in evading a point - but if I don't there may be some point to that.

P. doesn't know what the condition of freedom is but he calls it maturity and this gives a content to maturity.

P. will go into some simple formulation like Marcuse. Marcuse is clear and sound and somehow interested in the kind of things that we are working on.

P. sees much more the tremendous power and grandeur of Hegel and why he was such an overpowering figure.

Wetter is not a Catholic on the basis of Catholic philosophy but Catholic belief. His question is, is dialectical materialism incompatible with Catholic philosophy? His answer is no. But he finds the fourth tenets of dialectical materialism unacceptable - the denial of the need for God. He thinks that D.M. is a poor philosophy, but he accepts all of Marx. The Marxian is the nearest to Catholic philosophy and is purely authoritarian (whether the authorities say so or not.)

But what Marxism did was to project the absolute into history. Insofar as you serve history you are free.

Isaiah Berlin is a good book. He really knows things well.

[43] Wetter's book is on dialectical materialism and he knows things well. The Communists swear by him. The Communists say this is the best book on the subject and he says that this is no high praise because no book has ever been written on the subject.

One must know exactly where the young Marx section is supposed to land you.

The utopian element in Marxism was the role assigned to the working class ans secondly the role assigned to science and thirdly the utopian role assigned to history. These were the three illusions but for the rest there was a deep insight.

The illusions were that the working class could do the job of history, that history was pre-determined and one could bank on it and thirdly that all this was scientific.

Lenin showed that history was not so, that you had…

This was a movement based on science ans was a misunderstanding of what science could do.

It was correct that capitalism was a passing phase and technology could be reorganized with different social organizations and they rightly saw this and that it had something to do with industrialism and the whole planet.

But there was no clear idea on freedom and technology and [44] they missed the point and didn't see that technology would increase the reality of society to the point of endangering freedom.


Myself: What about Marxist economics?

It was all nonsense. Marx was a journalist and Capital was a pamphlet, but it ended up as a complete failure.

Myself: It strikes […] … Keynes

Marx believed in Say's Law and Keynes disproved it. P. isn't even interested in good economics, much less bad economics.

In Marx the illusions come in through history. The working class would have to shoulder the mission and he had never thought [45]


Feuerbach … but Thurnwald showed it wasn't true. trade is earlier than the division of labour among individuals. Marx had nothing on these matters.


[46] Marx didn't know that the early Hegel was so radical. This was so by the time Hegel wrote the Philosophy of Law. He took it from Ferguson and Adam Smith not Ricardo. Ferguson is a precursor of Smith. Hegel saw capitalism coming and he thought it was crazy and was doomed right away, and only the authoritarian State could hold society together. P. had this thought in The Great Transformation (the English edition) that the Liberals brought Fascism in by insisting on laissez-faire.

The Liberal economy makes the omnipresent state imperative. This became apparent in the 1920's but Hegel deduced this in 1810. By the time he got to Jena he developed this.

Marx turned Hegel around in two ways − the subject-predicate (to real society) and from conservative to radical. But Hegel had been more radical than Marx with the idea that such a society was doomed.

P. has read a good deal of Hegel and hunted for the various Hegel editions with some success and continued reading in New York. (He also read the mystery stories of Graham Greene). P. read the Phenomenologie, The Encyclopedia of Sciences the Philosophy of Law, The Philosophy of History, the Philosophy of State (which is part of the Philosophy of Law). P. read recently the documents of Larrson and Hofmeister.

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The trouble with Hegel is that in the early years he wrote under a different name.

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[47] Hegel had the term "Sittlichkeit” often translated as morality but it's really logic.

P. read the proofs of the existence of God and also various other fragments. Hegel is marvelous in originality and giftedness.

P. also read half of the Lukacs and one third of the Wetter.

The first half of Marcuse's book is the clearest presentation of Hegel[2]. But he doesn't understand Marx' economics − the things any child would understand, he doesn't. His presentation of Hegel however, is excellent.

We know the alienation theory is all Hegelian.

Diderot invented a nephew of Rameau and he wrote a dialogue (similar to La chute) with a nephew who is cynical and corrupt but gifted. He is the prototype of La Chute. Hegel regarded that as the key to the French Revolution. If such a person could exist……

Hegel wrote his material for a pre-revolutionary country. Dostoevski also wrote as an author who didn't know that revolution was imminent and therefore is a parallel to Diderot.

In 1805 (before Jena) Hegel wrote: (approximate translation): "confidently and courageously the son of the Gods may throw himself into the struggle for perfection. Break peace with yourself, break with the work of the world, endeavor and try more than the thing of the present and yesterdays. In doing so, nothing that is better than your own time will you achieve, but that at its very best.”

[48] This is a summary of our relationship to the reality of society − to Man's endeavor, to his boundless attempt to go beyond the possible and fulfill at its best.

This was Hegel before he started to Jena. He just started to become a political journalist and failed.

P. had this difficulty on where to bring in the Rousseau, and Hegel was also troubled where to bring it in. Marcuse has the Hegel-Rousseau book.

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Rousseau (2)

P. has a certain difficulty with Rousseau. There is a book about Hegel and Rousseau and P. must read it without the Rousseauian dilemma we wont get far.

It is the Rousseau dilemma which needs an answer. He wasn't concerned with technology but the polis - the opposite of the modern state. Also Hegel wanted to restore these virtues which were naive and this was the naiveté of the French Revolution.

P. is not sure where to bring the Roussau dilemma.

The trouble…

When he says that man is born free this is ridiculous. He has an organic…

It was however, formulated as a revelt against institutions.


Robert Owen (5)

[51] The way Owen ends should be made clear although it is an excellent ending on the right lines.

It is peculiar that there is no concern about freedom in Owen at all. […]

P. has looked through the Margaret Cole book and saw that she missed all the important points. […]

Business and Economics

[54] P. was approached to organize a seminar at the University of Chicago about business. […]

…Lord of Church, politics, marrying his daughter, and ransoming his son. […]

Weber worked on that. The whole of Babylonia was like this. Therefore business must be redefined.

Oppenheim should give a report on the three phases where we find a high level of activity in Mesopotamia and the rest… […]

Rostow had this idea…

Pirenne said that capitalism…

[55] […]

Weber had the suspicion that the economic activity of antiquity was political and not economic.

P. thinks that a new concept should be introduced - business as an activity regardless of the sub-system of politics, religion or family in which it is the activity.


[56] Adam Smith ne parlait pas d'économie. The English used term “economic life” in the 19th century.

It is doubtful whether the Romans meant anything by the economy or economic life.

Hegel was astounded when he heard of the economic life of individuals. It was utterly new how the business activity were integrated.

In Dahomey, …


Les Allemands n'ont jamais complètement quitté la version Marshallienne de l'économie. Les historicistes et les penseurs de la grande méthode[3] (Schmoller, Sombart) ainsi que les institutionnalistes eurent un débat avec Menger pendant 20 ans. He lost out and Germany was never won ever to the Marshallian school while we had the neo-classical economics. Jevons et Edgeworth n'étaient pas connus en Allemagne. En Amérique, il y avait J.B. Clark, qui était un Böhm-Bawerkien. Puis vint Swedes et plus tard Keynes.

Commentaires sur mon "Le moment de la liberté”, Brouillon n°1


Paul Medow


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[67] Eisenhower made a fool of himself by keeping to the 38 billion dollar ceiling. He thought he could achieve it. Both his pacifism and his sound money comes from the Jehovah's Witnesses.

The whole of British policy is explained by preventing America from having talks with Russia, because that is the end of the British.


Amérique (3)




[69] Kierkegaard is a Christian and tests the position of the relation to Christian faith. But it is not the relationship which is the most topical today. His description of freedom is like P.'s − unless you fear something you can't maintain it. What is the anxiety about? Also K's Christian dogmatism can't be maintained today. With Abraham the specific thing doesn't come up but commands [t]o come up and put us in the position of to trust or not to trust.

P's interpretation of freedom is existentialist and never was any other since man reached his peculiar state. P. is not opposed to existentialism. He accepts the challenge and tries to answer it. He goes beyond.

Psychologie et idéologie (3)

[70] P. will have something published soon on sociology and is getting something into shape he did ten years ago. This is on the question of institutional change and how strain causes change. What kind of strains are these and in what sens can one follow this?[4]

Ideology is a picture of motives which is normative and valuational. If the strain is very big it will have consequences.

One of the reasons value systems work or don't work is how they are related to motives.

La grande transformation (6)

Monnaie (3)

Grèce (2)

Projet interdisciplinaire (7)

Otto Bauer

[71] When he was in New York. P. spoke to Otto Bauer − the founder of the socialist Christian movement.

K.P., personnel (5)

Perdre Emmet[5] fit une grande différence. P. couldn't work but he got into subjects of is interest, e. g., la question de la liberté.

Il y a vingt ans P. ne connaissait pas l'histoire économique anglaise et il l'apprit en trois ou quatre ans − 1937-40, en l'enseignant continuellement. In that way you really get to know it.

Notes de l'éditeur

  1. Must be the Vorgartenstrasse… Cf. Felix Schafer, First Memoirs (1964-1966)
  2. Must be Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory [1941].
  3. “high method people”.
  4. See both texts (or two versions of the same project) in 41/07.
  5. Emmet Mulvaney. Cf. “Weekend Notes” XV, 17

Informations sur le texte

Date : 21 décembre 1957 (Entretien)
Texte Original : Abraham Rotstein, Weekend Notes XIX
AKP : 45/14