Discussion on Park,
“A Critique of Overdetermination
The “Marx Problem”
1859 “My inquiry led to the conclusion that neither legal
relations nor forms of state could be grasped whether by
themselves or on the basis of a so-called general
development of the human mind, but on the contrary they
have their origin in the material conditions of existence, the
totality of which Hegel, following the example of the
Englishmen and Frenchmen of the eighteenth century,
embraces the term “civil society”; that the anatomy of this
civil society, however, has to be sought in political
economy” (scientific socialism) Preface to a Contribution
1865 “Trade unions work well as centres of
resistance against the encroachments of
capital. They fail partly from an injudicious use
of power. They fail generally from limiting
themselves to a guerilla war against the
effects of the existing system, instead of
simultaneously trying to change it, instead of
using their organized forces as a lever for the
final emancipation of the working class, that
is, the ultimate abolition of the wage system.”
(ideology) Speech to 1st International
1877 “This crisis [Russo-Turkish war and Near
Eastern crisis] is a new turning point in
European history. Russia has long been
standing on the threshold of an upheaval, all
the elements of it are prepared--I have
studied conditions there from the original
Russian sources, unofficial and official (the
latter only available to a few people but got
for me through friends in Petersburg).”
(relativization of scientific socialism) Marx
letter to Sorge
Thus the post-Marx “Marxists” need to find a
way to reconcile Marx’s inconsistency
between ideology and historical materialism,
as well need to explain scientific socialism’s
proposal that the inevitable Revolution will
occur under capitalist stage of history yet
actually occurred in a pre-capitalist society
Althusser attempted to reconcile the economic
determinism of scientific socialism with the
idealistic by re-’reading’ Marx’s writings in
order to explain the Russian Revolution and
borrowed Freud’s concept of
‘overdetermination’ to say that the base and
superstructure are co-determined.
Althusser uses Lenin’s concept of ‘weakest link’
where aggregated contradictions in noneconomic spheres provide economic “rupture
point” for Revolution.
Park believes that post-modern Marxism
(specifically Resnick & Wolf and Ameriglio &
Callari) oversimplifies overdetermination.
Park calls this OM (Overdetermination
In the paper Park conducts an immanent
critique of OM and finds:
1) post-modern Marxism reduces Marx to an
epistemologist, not a social scientist
2) OM is itself reductionist, applying a fruitless
essentialist – non-essentialist reading to
Marxian and Marxism thought
3) Marxism is reduced to relativism where both
economic and non-economic spheres carry
equal weight in history’s progress, and,
4) ‘Entry point’ means science (or is it just
Marxism?) is reduced to a “theory shaped by
trivial chance events experienced by one
individual” (e.g. the reader of the text).
5) OM “flattens” Althusser and makes Marxism
ahistorical without addressing the grand
narrative of historical progress attempted by
General comment on the paper:
Excellent critique, insightful, in-depth and well-argued
logically and textually
Sometimes unclear whether comparing OM to Marx or
post-Marx Marxism in general
Sometimes unclear whether addressing post-Modernism
in general or OM
OM means Resnick & Wolff, then later Ameriglio & Callari
thrown in, so somewhat unclear definition of OM
What is Park’s resolution to the “Marx problem” of
inconsistencies in Marx’s use of ideology and historical
materialism, and the failure of scientific socialism to
explain the Revolution?
A modest (perhaps “reactionary”) proposal:
Can’t we look at Marx’s writings on historical
progression in terms of J.S. Mills “general
tendencies” and “countervailing tendencies”?
Isn’t “entry point” similar to “reflexivity” (R.K.
Merton, K. Popper) in social science where
bias of researcher acknowledged up-front?

Discussion on Park, “A Critique of Overdetermination Marxism”