7. The whole, fashionable, theory of 'reification' depends on a projection of the theory of alienation found in the early texts, particularly the 1844 Manuscripts, on to the theory of 'fetishism' in Capital. In the 1844 Manuscripts, the objectification of the human essence is claimed as the indispensable preliminary to the reappropriation of the human essence by man. Throughout the process of objectification, man only exists in the form of an objectivity in which he meets his own essence in the appearance of a foreign, non-human, essence. This 'objectification' is not called 'reification' even though it is called inhuman. Inhumanity is not represented par excellence by the model of a 'thing': but sometimes by the model of animality (or even of pre-animality -- the man who no longer even has simple animal relations with nature), sometimes by the model of the omnipotence and fascination of transcendence (God, the State) and of money, which is, of course, a 'thing'. In Capital the only social relation that is presented in the form of a thing (this piece of metal) is money. But the conception of money as a thing (that is, the confusion of value with use-value in money) does not correspond to the reality of this 'thing': it is not the brutality of a simple 'thing' that man is faced with when he is in direct relation with money; it is a power (or a lack of it) over things and men. An ideology of reification that sees 'things' everywhere in human relations confuses in this category 'thing' (a category more foreign to Marx cannot be imagined) every social relation, conceived according to the model of a money-thing ideology.
ism. In the real world philosophies of man are found after Marx as often as before, and today even some Marxists are tempted to develop the themes of a new theoretical humanism. Furthermore, Marx's theoretical anti-humanism, by relating it to its conditions of existence, recognizes a necessity for humanism as an ideology, a conditional necessity. The recognition of this necessity is not purely speculative. On it alone can Marxism base a policy in relation to the existing ideological forms, of every kind: religion, ethics, art, philosophy, law -- and in the very front rank, humanism. When (eventually) a Marxist policy of humanist ideology, that is, a political attitude to humanism, is achieved -- a policy which may be either a rejection or a critique, or a use, or a support, or a development, or a humanist renewal of contemporary forms of ideology in the ethico-political domain -- this policy will only have been possible on the absolute condition that it is based on Marxist philosophy, and a precondition for this is theoretical anti-humanism.
So everything depends on the knowledge of the nature of humanism as an ideology.
There can be no question of attempting a profound definition of ideology here. It will suffice to know very schematically that an ideology is a system (with its own logic and rigour) of representations (images, myths, ideas or concepts, depending on the case) endowed with a historical existence and role within a given society. Without embarking on the problem of the relations between a science and its (ideological) past, we can say that ideology, as a system of representations, is distinguished from science in that in it the practico-social function is more important than the theoretical function (function as knowledge).
What is the nature of this social function? To understand it we must refer to the Marxist theory of history. The 'subjects' of history are given human societies. They present themselves as totalities whose unity is constituted by a certain specific type of complexity, which introduces instances, that, following Engels, we can, very schematically, reduce to three: the economy, politics and
ideology. So in every society we can posit, in forms which are sometimes very paradoxical, the existence of an economic activity as the base, a political organization and 'ideological' forms (religion, ethics, philosophy, etc.). So ideology is as such an organic part of every social totality. It is as if human societies could not survive without these specific formations, these systems of representations (at various levels), their ideologies. Human societies secrete ideology as the very element and atmosphere indispensable to their historical respiration and life. Only an ideological world outlook could have imagined societies without ideology and accepted the utopian idea of a world in which ideology (not just one of its historical forms) would disappear without trace, to be replaced by science. For example, this utopia is the principle behind the idea that ethics, which is in its essence ideology, could be replaced by science or become scientific through and through; or that religion could be destroyed by science which would in some way take its place; that art could merge with knowledge or become 'everyday life', etc.
And I am not going to steer clear of the crucial question: historical materialism cannot conceive that even a communist society could ever do without ideology, be it ethics, art or 'world outlook'. Obviously it is possible to foresee important modifications in its ideological forms and their relations and even the disappearance of certain existing forms or a shift of their functions to neighbouring forms; it is also possible (on the premise of already acquired experience) to foresee the development of new ideological forms (e.g. the ideologies of 'the scientific world outlook' and 'communist humanism') but in the present state of Marxist theory strictly conceived, it is not conceivable that communism, a new mode of production implying determinate forces of production and relations of production, could do without a social organization of production, and corresponding ideological forms.
So ideology is not an aberration or a contingent excrescence of History: it is a structure essential to the historical life of societies. Further, only the existence and the recognition of its necessity enable us to act on ideology and transform ideology into an instrument of deliberate action on history.
It is customary to suggest that ideology belongs to the region of 'consciousness'. We must not be misled by this appellation
which is still contaminated by the idealist problematic that preceded Marx. In truth, ideology has very little to do with 'consciousness', even supposing this term to have an unambiguous meaning. It is profoundly unconscious, even when it presents itself in a reflected form (as in pre-Marxist 'philosophy'). Ideology is indeed a system of representations, but in the majority of cases these representations have nothing to do with 'consciousness': they are usually images and occasionally concepts, but it is above all as structures that they impose on the vast majority of men, not via their 'consciousness'. They are perceived-accepted-suffered cultural objects and they act functionally on men via a process that escapes them. Men 'live' their ideologies as the Cartesian 'saw' or did not see -- if he was not looking at it -- the moon two hundred paces away: not at an as a form of consciousness, but as an object of their 'world ' -- as their 'world ' itself. But what do we mean, then, when we say that ideology is a matter of men's 'consciousness'? First, that ideology is distinct from other social instances, but also that men live their actions, usually referred to freedom and 'consciousness' by the classical tradition, in ideology, by and through ideology ; in short, that the 'lived' relation between men and the world, including History (in political action or inaction), passes through ideology, or better, is ideology itself. This is the sense in which Marx said that it is in ideology (as the locus of political struggle) that men become conscious of their place in the world and in history, it is within this ideological unconsciousness that men succeed in altering the 'lived' relation between them and the world and acquiring that new form of specific unconsciousness called 'consciousness'.
So ideology is a matter of the lived relation between men and their world. This relation, that only appears as 'conscious ' on condition that it is unconscious, in the same way only seems to be simple on condition that it is complex, that it is not a simple relation but a relation between relations, a second degree relation. In ideology men do indeed express, not the relation between them their conditions of existence, but the way they live the relation between them and their conditions of existence: this presupposes both a real relation and an 'imaginary ', 'lived ' relation. Ideology, then, is the expression of the relation between men and their 'world', that is, the (overdetermined) unity of the real relation and the
imaginary relation between them and their real conditions of existence. In ideology the real relation is inevitably invested in the imaginary relation, a relation that expresses a will (conservative, conformist, reformist or revolutionary), a hope or a nostalgia, rather than describing a reality.
It is in this overdetermination of the real by the imaginary and of the imaginary by the real that ideology is active in principle, that it reinforces or modifies the relation between men and their conditions of existence, in the imaginary relation itself. It follows that this action can never be purely instrumental ; the men who would use an ideology purely as a means of action, as a tool, find that they have been caught by it, implicated by it, just when they are using it and believe themselves to be absolute masters of it.
This is perfectly clear in the case of a class society. The ruling ideology is then the ideology of the ruling class. But the ruling class does not maintain with the ruling ideology, which is its own ideology, an external and lucid relation of pure utility and cunning. When, during the eighteenth century, the 'rising class', the bourgeoisie, developed a humanist ideology of equality, freedom and reason, it gave its own demands the form of universality, since it hoped thereby to enroll at its side, by their education to this end, the very men it would liberate only for their exploitation. This is the Rousseauan myth of the origins of inequality: the rich holding forth to the poor in 'the most deliberate discourse' ever conceived, so as to persuade them to live their slavery as their freedom. In reality, the bourgeoisie has to believe in its own myth before it can convince others, and not only so as to convince others, since what it lives in its ideology is the very relation between it and its real conditions of existence which allows it simultaneously to act on itself (provide itself with a legal and ethical consciousness, and the legal and ethical conditions of economic liberalism) and on others (those it exploits and is going to exploit in the future: the 'free labourers') so as to take up, occupy and maintain its historical role as a ruling class. Thus, in a very exact sense, the bourgeoisie lives in the ideology of freedom the relation between it and its conditions of existence: that is, its real relation (the law of a liberal capitalist economy) but invested in an imaginary relation (all men are free, including the free labourers). Its ideology
consists of this play on the word freedom, which betrays the bourgeois wish to mystify those ('free men'!) it exploits, blackmailing them with freedom so as to keep them in harness, as much as the bourgeoisie's need to live its own class rule as the freedom of those it is exploiting. Just as a people that exploits another cannot be free, so a class that uses an ideology is its captive too. So when we speak of the class function of an ideology it must be understood that the ruling ideology is indeed the ideology of the ruling class and that the former serves the latter not only in its rule over the exploited class, but in its own constitution of itself as the ruling class, by making it accept the lived relation between itself and the world as real and justified.
But, we must go further and ask what becomes of ideology in a society in which classes have disappeared. What we have just said allows us to answer this question. If the whole social function of ideology could be summed up cynically as a myth (such as Plato's 'beautiful lies' or the techniques of modern advertising) fabricated and manipulated from the outside by the ruling class to fool those it is exploiting, then ideology would disappear with classes. But as we have seen that even in the case of a class society ideology is active on the ruling class itself and contributes to its moulding, to the modification of its attitudes to adapt it to its real conditions of existence (for example, legal freedom) -- it is clear that ideology (as a system of mass representations ) is indispensable in any society if men are to be formed, transformed and equipped to respond to the demands of their conditions of existence. If, as Marx said, history is a perpetual transformation of men's conditions of existence, and if this is equally true of a socialist society, then men must be ceaselessly transformed so as to adapt them to these conditions; if this 'adaptation' cannot be left to spontaneity but must be constantly assumed, dominated and controlled, it is in ideology that this demand is expressed, that this distance is measured, that this contradiction is lived and that its resolution is 'activated'. It is in ideology that the classless society lives the inadequacy/adequacy of the relation between it and the world, it is in it and by it that it transforms men's 'consciousness', that is, their attitudes and behaviour so as to raise them to the level of their tasks and the conditions of their existence.
In a class society ideology is the relay whereby, and the element
in which, the relation between men and their conditions of existence is settled to the profit of the ruling class. In a classless society ideology is the relay whereby, and the element in which, the relation between men and their conditions of existence is lived to the profit of all men.
We are now in a position to return to the theme of socialist humanism and to account for the theoretical disparity we observed between a scientific term (socialism) and an ideological one (humanism).
In its relations with the existing forms of bourgeois or Christian personal humanism, socialist personal humanism presents itself as an ideology precisely in the play on words that authorizes this meeting. I am far from thinking that this might be the meeting of a cynicism and a naïvety. In the case in point, the play on words is still the index of a historical reality, and simultaneously of lived ambiguity, and an expression of the desire to overcome it. When, in the relations between Marxists and everyone else, the former lay stress on a socialist personal humanism, they are simply demonstrating their will to bridge the gap that separates them from possible allies, and they are simply anticipating the movement, trusting to future history the task of providing the old words with a new content.
It is this content that matters. For, once again, the themes of Marxist humanism are not, first of all, themes for the use of others. The Marxists who develop them necessarily do so for themselves before doing so for others. Now we know what these developments are based on: on the new conditions existing in the Soviet Union, on the end of the dictatorship of the proletariat and on the transition to communism.
And this is where everything is at stake. This is how I should pose the question. To what in the Soviet Union does the manifest development of the themes of (socialist) personal humanism correspond? Speaking of the idea of man and of humanism in The German Ideology, Marx commented that the idea of human nature, or of the essence of man, concealed a coupled value judgement,
to be precise, the couple human/inhuman; and he wrote: 'the "inhuman" as much as the "human" is a product of present conditions; it is their negative side'. The couple human/inhuman is the hidden principle of all humanism which is, then, no more than a way of living-sustaining-resolving this contradiction. Bourgeois humanism made man the principle of all theory. This luminous essence of man was the visible counterpart to a shadowy inhumanity. By this part of shade, the content of the human essence, that apparently absolute essence, announced its rebellious birth. The man of freedom-reason denounced the egoistic and divided man of capitalist society. In the two forms of this couple inhuman/human, the bourgeoisie of the eighteenth century lived in 'rational-liberal' form, the German left radical intellectuals in 'communalist' or 'communist' form, the relations between them and their conditions of existence, as a rejection, a demand and a programme.
What about contemporary socialist humanism? It is also a rejection and a denunciation: a rejection of all human discrimination, be it racial, political, religious or whatever. It is a rejection of all economic exploitation or political slavery. It is a rejection of war. This rejection is not just a proud proclamation of victory, an exhortation and example addressed to outsiders, to all men oppressed by Imperialism, by its exploitation, its poverty, its slavery, its discriminations and its wars: it is also and primarily turned inwards : to the Soviet Union itself. In personal socialist humanism, the Soviet Union accepts on its own account the supersession of the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but it also rejects and condemns the 'abuses' of the latter, the aberrant and 'criminal' forms it took during the period of the 'cult of personality'. Socialist humanism, in its internal use, deals with the historical reality of the supersession of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of the 'abusive' forms it took in the U.S.S.R. It deals with a 'dual' reality: not only a reality superseded by the rational necessity of the development of the forces of production of socialist relations of production (the dictatorship of the proletariat) -- but also a reality which ought not to have had to be superseded, that new form of 'non-rational existence of reason ', that part of historical 'unreason ' and of the 'inhuman' that the past of the U.S.S.R. bears within it: terror, repression and dogmatism -- precisely what has not yet been completely superseded, in its effects or its misdeeds.
But with this wish we move from the shade to the light, from the inhuman to the human. The communism to which the Soviet Union is committed is a world without economic exploitation, without violence, without discrimination -- a world opening up before the Soviets the infinite vistas of progress, of science, of culture, of bread and freedom, of free development -- a world that can do without shadows or tragedies. Why then all this stress so deliberately laid on man ? What need do the Soviets have for an idea of man, that is, an idea of themselves, to help them live their history ? It is difficult here to avoid relating together the necessity to prepare and realize an important historical mutation (the transition to communism, the end of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the withering-away of the State apparatus, presupposing the creation of new forms of political, economic and cultural organization, corresponding to this transition) on the one hand -- and, on the other, the historical conditions in which this transition must be put into effect. Now it is obvious that these conditions too, bear the characteristic mark of the U.S.S.R.'s past and of its difficulties -- not only the mark of the difficulties due to the period of the 'cult of personality ', but also the mark of the more distant difficulties characteristic of the 'construction of socialism in one country ', and in addition in a country economically and culturally 'backward' to start with. Among these 'conditions', first place must be given to the 'theoretical' conditions inherited from the past.
The present disproportion of the historical tasks to their conditions explains the recourse to this ideology. In fact, the themes of socialist humanism designate the existence of real problems: new historical, economic, political and ideological problems that the Stalinist period kept in the shade, but still produced while producing socialism -- problems of the forms of economic, political and cultural organization that correspond to the level of development attained by socialism's productive forces; problems of the new form of individual development for a new period of history in which the State will no longer take charge, coercively, of the leadership or control of the destiny of each individual, in which from now on each man will objectively have the choice, that is, the difficult task of becoming by himself what he is. The themes of socialist humanism (free development of the individual, respect for socialist legality, dignity of the person, etc.) are the way the Soviets and other
socialists are living the relation between themselves and these problems, that is, the conditions in which they are posed. It is striking to observe that, in conformity with the necessity of their development, in the majority of socialist democracies as in the Soviet Union, problems of politics and ethics have come to the fore and that for their part, Western parties, too, are obsessed with these problems. Now, it is not less striking to see that these problems are occasionally, if not frequently, dealt with theoretically by recourse to concepts derived from Marx's early period, from his philosophy of man: the concepts of alienation, fission, fetishism, the total man, etc. However, considered in themselves, these problems are basically problems that, far from calling for a 'philosophy of man', involve the preparation of new forms of organization for economic, political and ideological life (including new forms of individual development) in the socialist countries during the phase of the withering-away or supersession of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Why is it that these problems are posed by certain ideologues as a function of the concepts of a philosophy of man -- instead of being openly, fully and rigorously posed in the economic, political and ideological terms of Marxist theory? Why do so many Marxist philosophers seem to feel the need to appeal to the pre-Marxist ideological concept of alienation in order supposedly to think and 'resolve' these concrete historical problems?
We would not observe the temptation of this ideological recourse if it were not in its own way the index of a necessity which cannot nevertheless take shelter in the protection of other, better established, forms of necessity. There can be no doubt that Communists are correct in opposing the economic, social, political and cultural reality of socialism to the 'inhumanity' of Imperialism in general; that this contrast is a part of the confrontation and struggle between socialism and imperialism. But it might be equally dangerous to use an ideological concept like humanism, with neither discrimination nor reserve, as if it were a theoretical concept, when it is inevitably charged with associations from the ideological unconsciousness and only too easily blends into themes of petty-bourgeois inspiration (we know that the petty bourgeoisie and its ideology, for which Lenin predicted a fine future, have not yet been buried by History).
Here we are touching on a deeper reason, and one doubtless difficult to express. Within certain limits this recourse to ideology might indeed be envisaged as the substitute for a recourse to theory. Here again we would find the theoretical conditions currently inherited by Marxist theory from its past -- not just the dogmatism of the Stalinist period, but also, from further back, the heritage of the disastrously opportunist interpretations of the Second International which Lenin fought against throughout his life, but which have neither as yet been buried by History. These conditions have hindered the development which was indispensable if Marxist theory was to acquire precisely those concepts demanded by the new problems: concepts that would have allowed it to pose these problems today in scientific, not ideological terms; that would have allowed it to call things by their names, that is, by the appropriate Marxist concepts, rather than, as only too often happens, by ideological concepts (alienation) or by concepts without any definite status.
For example, it is regrettable to observe that the concept by which Communists designate an important historical phenomenon in the history of the U.S.S.R. and of the workers' movement: the concept of the 'cult of personality' would be an 'absent', unclassifiable concept in Marxist theory if it were taken as a theoretical concept; it may well describe and condemn a mode of behaviour, and on these grounds, possess a doubly practical value, but, to my knowledge, Marx never regarded a mode of political behaviour as directly assimilable to a historical category, that is, to a concept from the theory of historical materialism: for if it does designate a reality, it is not its concept. However, everything that has been said of the 'cult of personality' refers exactly to the domain of the superstructure and therefore of State organization and ideologies; further it refers largely to this domain alone, which we know from Marxist theory possesses a 'relative autonomy' (which explains very simply, in theory, how the socialist infrastructure has been able to develop without essential damage during this period of errors affecting the superstructure). Why are existing, known and recognized Marxist concepts not invoked to think and situate this phenomenon, which is in fact described as a mode of behaviour and related to one man's 'psychology', that is, merely described but not thought? If one man's 'psychology' could take on this
historical role, why not pose in Marxist terms the question of the historical conditions of the possibility of this apparent promotion of 'psychology' to the dignity and dimensions of a historical fact? Marxism contains in its principles the wherewithal to pose this problem in terms of theory, and hence the wherewithal to clarify it and help to resolve it.
It is no accident that the two examples I have invoked are the concept of alienation and the concept of the 'cult of personality'. For the concepts of socialist humanism, too (in particular the problems of law and the person), have as their object problems arising in the domain of the superstructure: State organization, political life, ethics, ideologies, etc. And it is impossible to hold back the thought that the recourse to ideology is the shortest cut there too, a substitute for an insufficient theory. Insufficient, but latent and potential. Such is the role of this temptation of the recourse to ideology; to fill in this absence, this delay, this gap, without recognizing it openly, by making one's need and impatience a theoretical argument, as Engels put it, and by taking the need for a theory for the theory itself. The philosophical humanism which might easily become a threat to us and which shelters behind the unprecedented achievements of socialism itself, is this complement which, in default of theory, is destined to give certain Marxist ideologue the feeling of the theory that they lack; a feeling that cannot lay claim to that most precious of all the things Marx gave us -- the possibility of scientific knowledge.
That is why, if today socialist humanism is on the agenda, the good reasons for this ideology can in no case serve as a caution against the bad ones, without dragging us into a confusion of ideology and scientific theory.
Marx's philosophical anti-humanism does provide an understanding of the necessity of existing ideologies, including humanism. But at the same time, because it is a critical and revolutionary theory, it also provides an understanding of the tactics to be adopted towards them; whether they should be supported, transformed or combated. And Marxists know that there can be no tactics that do not depend on a strategy -- and no strategy that does not depend on theory.
A Complementary Note on 'Real Humanism'
Just a word or two on the phrase 'real humanism'.
The specific difference lies in the adjective: real. Real-humanism is scientifically defined by its opposition to unreal humanism, ideal(ist), abstract, speculative humanism and so on. This reference humanism is simultaneously invoked as a reference and rejected for its abstraction, unreality, etc., by the new real-humanism. So the old humanism is judged by the new as an abstract and illusory humanism. Its illusion is to aim at an unreal object, to have as its content an object which is not the real object.
Real humanism presents itself as the humanism that has as its content not an abstract speculative object, but a real object.
But this definition remains a negative one: it is sufficient to express the rejection of a certain content, but it does not provide the new content as such. The content aimed at by real-humanism is not in the concepts of humanism or 'real' as such, but outside these concepts. The adjective real is gestural ; it points out that to find the content of this new humanism you must look in reality -- in society, the State, etc. So the concept of real-humanism is linked to the concept of humanism as its theoretical reference, but it is opposed to it through its rejection of the latter's abstract object -- and by providing a concrete, real, object. The word real plays a dual role. It shows up the idealism and abstraction in the old humanism (negative function of the concept of reality); and at the same time it designates the external reality (external to the old humanism) in which the new humanism will find its content (positive function of the concept of reality). However, this positive function of the word 'real' is not a positive function of knowledge, it is a positive function of practical gesture.
What, indeed, is this 'reality' which is to transform the old humanism into real-humanism? It is society. The Sixth Thesis on
1. The concept of 'real-humanism' sustains the argument of an article by Jorge Semprun published in Clarté, no. 58 (see Nouvelle Critique, no. 164, March 1965). It is a concept borrowed from Marx's Early Works.
Feuerbach goes so far as to say that the non-abstract 'man' is 'the ensemble of the social relations'. Now if we take this phrase literally as an adequate definition it means nothing at all. Try and give it a literal explication and you will see that there is no way out without recourse to a periphrasis of the following kind: 'If anyone wants to know what reality is, not the reality corresponding adequately to the concept of man, or of humanism, but the reality which is directly at issue in these concepts, it is not an abstract essence but the ensemble of the social relations.' This periphrasis immediately highlights the inadequacy of the concept of man to its definition: the ensemble of the social relations. Between these two terms (man/ensemble of the social relations) there is, doubtless, some relation, but it is not legible in the definition, it is not a relation of definition, not a relation of knowledge.
But this inadequacy has a meaning, this relation has a meaning: a practical meaning. This inadequacy manifestly designates an action to be achieved, a displacement to be put into effect. It means that to find the reality alluded to by seeking abstract man no longer but real man instead, it is necessary to turn to society, and to undertake an analysis of the ensemble of the social relations. In the phrase real-humanism, in my opinion, the concept 'real' is a practical concept, the equivalent of a signal, of a notice-board that 'points out' what movement is to be put into effect and in what direction, to what place, must there be displacement to reach the real earth rather than the heaven of abstraction. 'The real this way!' We follow this guide and we come out into society, the social relations, and the conditions of their real possibility.
But it is then that the shocking paradox appears: once this displacement has really been put into effect, once the scientific analysis of this real object has been undertaken, we discover that a knowledge of concrete (real) men, that is, a knowledge of the ensemble of the social relations is only possible on condition that we do completely without the theoretical services of the concept of man (in the sense in which it existed in its theoretical claims even before the displacement). In fact, this concept seems to me to be useless from a scientific viewpoint, not because it is abstract! -- but because it is not scientific. To think the reality of society, of the ensemble of social relations, we must put into effect a radical displacement, not only a spatial displacement (from the abstract
to the concrete) but also a conceptual displacement (we change our basic concepts!). The concepts whereby Marx thought reality, which real-humanism pointed out, never ever again introduce as theoretical concepts the concepts of man or humanism; but other, quite new concepts, the concepts of mode of production, forces of production, relations of production, superstructure, ideology, etc. This is the paradox: the practical concept that pointed out for us the destination of the displacement has been consumed in the displacement itself, the concept that pointed out for us the site for investigation is from now on absent from the investigation itself.
This is a characteristic phenomenon of the transitions-breaks that constitute the advent of a new problematic. At certain moments in the history of ideas we see these practical concepts emerge, and typically they are internally unbalanced concepts. In one aspect they belong to the old ideological universe which serves as their 'theoretical' reference (humanism); but in the other they concern a new domain, pointing out the displacement to be put into effect to get to it. In the first aspect they retain a 'theoretical' meaning (the meaning in their universe of reference); in the second their only meaning is as a practical signal, pointing out a direction and a destination, but without giving an adequate concept of it. We still remain in the domain of the earlier ideology; we are approaching its frontier and a signpost points out to us a beyond, a direction and a destination.' Cross the frontier and go on in the direction of society and you will find the real.' The signpost is still standing in the ideological domain, the message is written in its language, even if it does use 'new' words, even the rejection of ideology is written in ideological language, as we see so strikingly in Feuerbach; the 'concrete', the 'real', these are the names that the opposition to ideology bears in ideology.
You can stay indefinitely at the frontier line, ceaselessly repeating concrete! concrete! real! real! This is what Feuerbach did, and Feuerbach, too, spoke of society and State, and never stopped talking about real man, man with needs, concrete man, who is merely the ensemble of his developed human needs, of politics and industry. He stayed with the words which in their concreteness itself referred him to the image of man whose realization he called for (Feuerbach, too, said that real man is society, in a defi-
nition then adequate to its concept, since society was for him in each of its historical moments never more than the progressive manifestation of the human essence ).
Or, on the contrary, you can cross the frontier for good and penetrate into the domain of reality and embark 'seriously on its study', as Marx puts it in The German Ideology. Then the signal will have played its practical part. It remains in the old domain, in the domain abandoned by the very fact of displacement. There you are face to face with your real object, obliged to forge the requisite and adequate concepts, to think it, obliged to accept the fact that the old concepts and in particular the concept of real-man or real humanism will not allow you to think the reality of man, that to reach this immediacy, which is precisely not an immediacy, it is necessary, as always where knowledge is concerned, to make a long detour. You have abandoned the old domain, the old concepts. Here you are in a new domain, for which new concepts will give you the knowledge. The sign that a real change in locus and problematic has occurred, and that a new adventure is beginning, the adventure of science in development.
So are we condemned to repeat the same experience? Real humanism may today be the slogan of a rejection and a programme and thus in the best of cases a practical signal, the rejection of an abstract 'humanism' which only existed in the discourse and not in the reality of institutions -- and the gesture towards a beyond, a reality which is still beyond, which is not yet truly realized, but only hoped for, the programme of an aspiration to be brought to life. It is only too clear that profound rejections and authentic wishes, as well as an impatient desire to overcome still unconquered obstacles, are, in their own way, translated in this concept of real humanism. It is also certain that in every epoch of history men must make their own experiments on their own account, and it is no accident that some of them retrace the 'paths' taken by their elders and ancestors. It is certainly indispensable that Communists should take seriously the real meaning concealed in this wish, the realities for which this practical concept is an index. It is certainly indispensable that Communists should pass to and fro between the still uncertain, confused and ideological forms in which this wish or some new experiment are expressed -- and their own theoretical concepts; that they should, when the need has been
absolutely proved, forge new theoretical concepts adequate to the upheavals of practice in our own time.
But we should not forget that the frontier separating ideology from scientific theory was crossed about one hundred and twenty years ago by Marx; that this great undertaking and this great discovery have been recorded in the works and inscribed in the conceptual system of a knowledge whose effects have little by little transformed the face of the earth and its history. We cannot and must not for one instant renounce the benefits of this irreplaceable gain, the benefits of these theoretical resources which far transcend in wealth and potential the use that has so far been made of them. We must not forget that an understanding of what is going on in the world today and the political and ideological interchange indispensable to the broadening and reinforcement of the base of socialism are only possible if, for our part, we do not fall behind what Marx gained for us, as far behind as that still uncertain frontier between ideology and science. We can give help to all those who are near to crossing that frontier, but only on condition that we have crossed it ourselves, and have inscribed in our concepts the irreversible result of this change of scene.
For us, the 'real' is not a theoretical slogan ; the real is the real object that exists independently of its knowledge -- but which can only be defined by its knowledge. In this second, theoretical, relation, the real is identical to the means of knowing it, the real is its known or to-be-known structure, it is the very object of Marxist theory, the object marked out by the great theoretical discoveries of Marx and Lenin, the immense, living, constantly developing field, in which the events of human history can from now on be mastered by men's practice, because they will be within their conceptual grasp, their knowledge.
This is what I meant when I demonstrated that real-humanism or socialist humanism may be the object of a recognition or of a misunderstanding, according to the status assigned it in respect to theory; that it can serve as a practical, ideological slogan in so far as it is exactly adequate to its function and not confused with a quite different function; that there is no way in which it can abrogate the attributes of a theoretical concept. I also meant that this slogan is not itself its own light, but can at most point out the place, beyond it, where light reigns. I meant that a certain inflation
of this practical, ideological concept might induce Marxist theory to fall behind its own frontiers; and what is more, might even hinder, if not bar, the way to truly posing, and hence truly solving, the problems whose existence and urgency it is intended to designate, in its own way. Simply put, the recourse to ethics so deeply inscribed in every humanist ideology may play the part of an imaginary treatment of real problems. Once known, these problems are posed in precise terms; they are organizational problems of the forms of economic life, political life and individual life. To pose these problems correctly and to resolve them in reality, they must be called by their names, their scientific names. The slogan of humanism has no theoretical value, but it does have value as a practical index: we must get down to the concrete problems themselves, that is, to their knowledge, if we are to produce the historical transformation whose necessity was thought by Marx. We must be careful that in this process no word, justified by its practical function, usurps a theoretical function; but that in performing its practical function, it simultaneously disappears from the field of theory.