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Vilém Flusser makes it quite clear that he has read Karl Marx. In the essay “Einbildungen” [Imaginations] (Lob der Oberächlichkeit, 1993) he describes the difference of “realness” between the computer (postindustrial, post-Marxist) image and that which it might represent in the physical world of things. Labor (which he associates with Marx) will only be necessary until technical images can be produced which have a density of particles approximating to that of conventional reality. Therefore, the technical image will render Marxism obsolescent. Further, as Flusser sees Marxism as the last bastion of linear/causal political-historical thought, his notion of post-history specifically questions the contemporary validity or usefulness of Marx’s concepts.

Not unusually for his generation, as a young intellectual in Prague, Flusser was drawn to Marx's thinking, but already in his autobiography Bodenlos [No Firm Ground] (1992), Flusser sees a profound failure in Marxist humanism. The oppression under Joseph Stalin tainted Marxism forever and compromised its humanist pedigree. Enlightenment humanism, the great spirituality of causal, linear thinking, was completely discredited having unexpectedly produced its antithesis in the cutting-edge technologies of mass murder employed by the Nazis. Marx represents for Flusser an apotheosis of such linear thought in the Platonic tradition through Immanuel Kant; thought which is at once preserved and annihilated in the visual poetry of technical images.

Nevertheless, Flusser remains ambivalent as to whether the obsolescence of the linear and causal reasoning epitomized in Marx heralds more favorable auspices for humankind. “Of course, no doubt, that the apparatus of the Communist party was a terribly oppressive apparatus. […] But now that the apparatus was destroyed, chaotic situations menace us.” (“On Technical Images, Chance, Consciousness and the Individual” [1991], in: “We Shall Survive in the Memory of Others,” 2010).

Original article by Baruch Gottlieb in Flusseriana

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marxism.txt · Last modified: 2024/02/15 14:30 (external edit)