Hermeneutic Communism

From Heidegger to Marx

Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala

Columbia University Press

Hermeneutic Communism

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Pub Date: October 2011

ISBN: 9780231158039

264 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: October 2011

ISBN: 9780231158022

264 Pages

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Pub Date: October 2011

ISBN: 9780231528078

264 Pages

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Hermeneutic Communism

From Heidegger to Marx

Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala

Columbia University Press

Having lost much of its political clout and theoretical power, communism no longer represents an appealing alternative to capitalism. In its original Marxist formulation, communism promised an ideal of development, but only through a logic of war, and while a number of reformist governments still promote this ideology, their legitimacy has steadily declined since the fall of the Berlin wall.

Separating communism from its metaphysical foundations, which include an abiding faith in the immutable laws of history and an almost holy conception of the proletariat, Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala recast Marx's theories at a time when capitalism's metaphysical moorings—in technology, empire, and industrialization—are buckling. While Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri call for a return of the revolutionary left, Vattimo and Zabala fear this would lead only to more violence and failed political policy. Instead, they adopt an antifoundationalist stance drawn from the hermeneutic thought of Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, and Richard Rorty.

Hermeneutic communism leaves aside the ideal of development and the general call for revolution; it relies on interpretation rather than truth and proves more flexible in different contexts. Hermeneutic communism motivates a resistance to capitalism's inequalities yet intervenes against violence and authoritarianism by emphasizing the interpretative nature of truth. Paralleling Vattimo and Zabala's well-known work on the weakening of religion, Hermeneutic Communism realizes the fully transformational, politically effective potential of Marxist thought.

Hermeneutic Communism is much more than a beautifully written essay in political philosophy, reaching from ontological premises to concrete political analyses: it provides a coherent communist vision from the standpoint of Heideggerian postmetaphysical hermeneutics. All those who criticize postmodern 'weak thought' for its inability to ground radical political practice will have to admit their mistake—Gianni Vattimo and Santiago Zabala demonstrate that weak thought does not mean weak action but is the very resort of strong radical change. This is a book that everyone who thinks about radical politics needs like the air he or she breathes!

Slavoj Žižek, author of Living in the End

Hermeneutic Communism is one of those rare books that seamlessly combines postmetaphysical philosophy and political practice, the task of a meticulous ontological interpretation and decisive revolutionary action, the critique of intellectual hegemony and a positive, creative thought. Vattimo and Zabala, unlike Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, do not offer their readers a readymade political ontology but allow radical politics to germinate from each singular and concrete act of interpretation. This is the most significant event of twenty-first-century philosophy!

Michael Marder, author of Groundless Existence: The Political Ontology of Carl Schmitt

The authors argue that 'weak thought,' or an antifoundational hermeneutics, will allow social movements to avoid both the violence attending past struggles and, if triumphant, a falling back into routines of domination—the restoration of what Jean-Paul Sartre called the 'practico-inert.' Vattimo and Zabala end with Latin America as a case study of applied weak thought politics, where the left in recent years has had remarkable success at the polls.

Greg Grandin, New York University

Those interested in the potential for theoretical reformulations made possible by postfoundational political thought and those following the rebellion of marginal sectors of society have a lot to learn from this remarkable book.

Ernesto Laclau, author of On Populist Reason

The work of Vattimo and Zabala clears a new stage for political theorizing based on a careful probe of the current state of destitution and hidden edges of social vitality. While I do not always agree with the conclusions drawn by these marvelous writers, I thank them for sparking an essential debate and replenishing our critical vocabularies.

Avital Ronell, New York University and the European Graduate School

...action-packed...

Asia Times

...Vattimo and Zabala offer a refreshing alternative to the hegemonic discourse, a breathof fresh air from the violent imposition of "metaphysics" by those in power.

Ceasefire Magazine

Despite its thin profile the content itself is formidable in achieving both its critical and scholarly aims.

Maxwell Kennel, Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy Blog
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I. Framed Democracy
1. Imposing Descriptions
2. Armed Capitalism
Part II. Hermeneutic Communism
3. Interpretation as Anarchy
4. Hermeneutic Communism
Bibliography
Index
Web Features:

About the Author

Gianni Vattimo is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Turin and a former member of the European Parliament. His most recent Columbia University Press books include A Farewell to Truth (2011); Hermeneutic Communism: From Heidegger to Marx (with Santiago Zabala, 2011); The Responsibility of the Philosopher (2010); and Art's Claim to Truth (2008), all translated into several languages.