Thursday, February 24, 2011


How have issues of class shaped my understanding of the human condition? Well, the answer is very much so. In 1971-72, I was steeped in Marxism, and wrote my master's thesis on "Wilhelm Reich and the Creation of a Marxist Psychology," i.e., an analysis of the influence of Marx and Freud on the thought of that psychologist in the 1930s. Then as a teaching assistant in the Ph.D. program in Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (1974), one course I taught for a year was called "Radical Thought," which covered everything from Marx's "1844 Manuscripts" to Mao and Marcuse. (One student in that class, Richard Gelfond, went on to become the present co-owner of IMAX.) Marx led me, of course, to Hegel; and Hegel led me to phenomenology as a philosophical method and movement.
 Economic class is something we always thematize in our reflections on the human condition, especially if we're creating fictional characters since one question that must be raised is, "How does he or she make money or earn a living?" It isn't a question that I privilege when creating a character's biography, but it is part of the essential mix of details we must know about characters to give them depth and the illusion of three-dimensionality, for labor (how and where we invest our energy) defines our lives in the social world.

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