humanism, Keti Chukhrov

narrator Keti Chukhrov
term humanism
published July 2014, Moscow

If we were to list the rebukes to humanism, starting with Nietzsche and continuing up to now, this would take us too far. However, there is a certain map of inhumanist or post-humanist views worth mentioning in terms of defining the motivations to reject the humanist project as something passé. Among the few of the kind are Althusser’s critique of early Marx for his “humanist” lyricism; Gilbert Simondon in his overturned genealogy of → labour and technique, where it is technical merit rather than a human → subject that generates labour and hence culture; Bruno Latour with his criticism of anthropocentrism and his demand for equal grounds for any → agency whatsoever; Donna Haraway disputing the claim for the generic on the part of a human being as an authoritarian position of “a man”; and the accelerationist manifesto of Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, which calls for “unleashing productive forces” of science and technology without the constraints of ethics in order to acquire the over- and post-human skills appropriate for the socio-technical evolution.[1]


One of the fiercest criticisms of the human condition comes from speculative realism. Its attack on humanism is not social or cultural, but is first and foremost grounded on the meta-philosophical sublation of philosophy’s critical edifice. In this case, the human condition is disputed as the finiteness that philosophy claimed to overcome in the long run of its history. However, all such attempts in the history of philosophy are regarded by speculative realism as part and parcel of a human condition. One of the reasons for this was that idealist philosophy made an attempt to transcend human cognition, or to question the limits of human existence, but exactly such moves had often been the core of asserting what the human mind might be. Moreover, this relates to a history of philosophy in general – starting with, Kant and up to Marx. That is the reason why such philosophically biased inhuman humanism is considered to be nothing but the appropriation of → the Universal and the Absolute by the finite human mind. As Quentin Meillasoux puts it,[2] the effort of the finite human mind to exceed its finitude via thought leads nowhere but back into the limits of human consciousness, which cannot in the end exceed its own idealist illusions about the Absolute, cannot but install the correlationist pretension of grasping the inhuman by the human mind. This is the reason why speculative realism claims – as Yoel Regev put it – the necessity to go beyond this illusionary beyond of philosophic mythologies. In order to end up with the correlationist “beyond”, speculative knowledge has to dispense itself of this beyond, as well as of including the ethical or metaphysical projections into the utter → autonomy of knowledge and rationality. Only then, without the screen of human subjectivity, can the Absoluteness of reality be at all addressed.


But what the fear of correlationism in speculative realism does not take into account is the following: it locates the problem of correlation between the solitary human subject and the multiple, objective and contingent reality. But it neglects and ignores that if this human subject is itself collective and multiple, then the relation with the world and reality might as well be constructed not between the subject of knowledge and the worldly matter, but also between those subjects themselves and in an interaction between them. They do not relate to the world as to their object of contemplation. But they, these subjects themselves, might as well be the reality, they are themselves the extension of matter and of the world’s ungraspable realness – not just its observers. Since one might assert oneself not only as the one that reflects, studies the world or correlates oneself to the world as to reality, but also as the one that takes for that very reality first and foremost another human being. This would be a strongly disputable assertion, since in many sociological theories societies are constructed out of any agents – be they objects, animals, machines, languages, and so on. There is thus no need of any specific generic relation among humans.


One of the pioneers in defining the human via the generic (inter-human) dimension was Marx. In his Economic Manuscripts the human, generic and communist go together. The question is how to enable the dimension of the generic, and how to determine the de-alienation that Marx claims precisely on behalf of humans, and not create/make any contingent connection with anything else? Because it is due to this bond among humans that all other modes of alienation in nature, or the material world, are able to de-alienate. Marx answers as follows: if an animal forms matter in accord with the needs of the species, a man can produce things in order to meet the needs of other species/beings as well. In other words, the generic mode is in producing not for oneself and implementing this voluntarily.


One of the ways to terminate alienation for Marx is to prevent the sense of private property from superseding other senses. Private property forecloses the potentiality of the generic (→ Universal) dimension. The “human” is thus not the substantiation of some attributes, but rather a virtue of aspiring for the general, which in its own turn means made by a man not for himself but for others: other men or creatures.


De facto, it is exactly in the figure of a proletarian that evacuation of private property is accomplished. The proletarian undergoes the “impoverishment” of their humanness to the utmost, but that’s exactly the point at which one can claim that very humaneness to the utmost. As Frank Ruda puts it, “it is impoverishment [Entwesung] of man that builds the condition for the fact that the proletariat as soon as it emerges at its material site implies an immediate dimension of universality which is addressed to anyone, because it is for anyone.”[3]


This is because dispossession brings forth the de facto free space for the non-self being, being not as only the self, but also as non-self, because many conditions → constructing the self – property, personal comfort, living standards, individual pleasures, fears and traumas, cognitive or creative achievements, recognition, and so on – are not implementable. This potentiality of the non-self is given to a proletarian de facto, but it becomes the opportunity to be exercised in actu. In other words, the absence of possession paradoxically becomes a starting point to question the potentiality of a non-self being and of de-alienation in the conditions of the utmost alienation.


The potentiality of the non-self is not possible in nature, it is unnatural. Instead it is something that might be exercised in actu. The human is thus general, but general – not in the sense that every individual gets a share of something to be distributed among the many. It means a demolition of the limits between the self and the non-self, between personal needs and those needs that are not my own. This requires some kind of self-amnesia, or to apply another term used by Mikhail Lifshitz – “humane resignation”, the transmission of which becomes the principal issue for art as its chief communist trait.


According to Lifshitz “humane resignation” is the principal issue of art, inasmuch as it presupposes the capacity of an artist to achieve the metanoic resignation of the self. In fact, the dimension of the “classical” preserves its importance exactly in this sense too.


When Lacan was analysing the structure of the “I”, he was constructing both the “I” inscribed into a real life and the real life itself as the realm of the “Imaginary”. Such an “I” nevertheless automatically becomes the “Other”. This is because what I envisage as “me” is always the other, imaginary “I”, since I might want to imagine myself as alien, quite in the vein of constructing a self-image out of phantasmatic desires. Hence Lacan’s formula “I is the Other”. But in this case “the Other” is nothing but the imaginary deviation from the “I”, understood as the gap between imagination and reality. Consequently the concrete “Other” – another person which is not me – is only someone to be internalised by the “I” and in the “I”. This formula of Lacan is thus inevitably stuck within a narcissistic framework.


In a case of “humane resignation”, the “I” is consciously put aside in favour of the non “I”. Such resignation of “the self” has nothing to do with the phantasm of the “Other” mimicked by “me” when the narcissistic place of the “I” is preserved. Self-amnesia is a radical turnover of the anthropological order of society. This is not at all the case of supersession of the self by the super-ego or the Big Other of any kind – which is a classic case of rejection of the self in the name of sublime issues, duty, God, responsibility, and death: in other words everything that exceeds the pleasure principle on behalf of the super-ego’s control.


In a case of self-resignation “the Other” can only appear after a recession of the self. This recession is not sacrificial, but is metanoic; metanoia is caused by involvement into reality, which can only unravel via such self-recession. This reality is not the world seen by the “I” or “me”, but it comes forth exactly when this unsurpassable division between the “I” and not “I” is surpassed, destroying the natural psychics and anthropology of the interrelation between the subjective and intersubjective, the individual and the collective.


[1] Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, “#Accelerate Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics”, The Critical Legal Thinking – Law and the Political (14 May 2013), (accessed 3 July 2014).

[2]Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (Continuum, 2009).

[3] Frank Ruda, Who Thinks Reductively: Capitalism’s Animals, (accessed 3 July 2014). Editors’ note: The text has been removed from A revised version of the text will be published in Slavoj Žižek,‎ Frank Ruda, and Agon Hamza, Reading Marx (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2018).


associative terms


associative narrator

draft version

humanism, Keti Chukhrov, May 2014