Subjectivity, Alienation, and Liberation in Levinas and Marx
Froese, Robert Brian
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This dissertation examines the relationship between (inter)subjectivity, normativity, and politics in Emmanuel Levinas and Karl Marx. At first sight, Levinas depiction of a singular and unique relation to othersa bond which prohibits even the slightest trace of historical, hermeneutic or political contextappears not only at odds with the basic philosophical and political insights of Marx but the whole of the Continental tradition (spanning from, at least, Fichte and Hegel to Heidegger and Foucault). This much is evident from the numerous political critiques and appropriations of Levinas, which condemn him on the grounds that his epistemology, ontology and ethics are needlessly naive, insular, individualistic, and pseudo-theological. Against such readings I argue that if we are to retain the normative kernel of his thought while overcoming such politically limited interpretations we must radicalize and theoretically deepen this impulse to deworld the other. This interpretation opens Levinas thought to a new field of new possibilities which are explored through Marx and related thinkers, such as Fichte, Hegel, Hediegger, and others. I claim that a dialogue with Marx is particularly instructive because it can push Levinas beyond his limited conception of politics and alienation, while, at the same time, provide a better foundation for normative and political questions that were under- or poorly-theorized by Marx. Together, Levinas and Marx can further an understanding of subjectivity and politics that comprehends the importance of mediation, history, collectivity and universality without ceding the profound rootlessness of subjectivity, which, at every moment, retains the asymmetrical structure of the one-for-the-other.