The Ontology Wars

A Review of Pierre Macherey’s Hegel or Spinoza?

in Historical Materialism
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Pierre Macherey’s Hegel or Spinoza? suggests that Hegel was driven to his now legendary misinterpretations of Spinoza because he could not accept Spinozism without compromising his own philosophy. Macherey shows us a Spinoza that pre-emptively resists and challenges Hegel’s understanding of Spirit as Subject realising itself through self-negation and contradiction. This review draws out the central arguments in the book, and those arguments most salient for contemporary theories of capitalism and revolution, and points towards possible implications for Marxist theory.

Historical Materialism

Research in Critical Marxist Theory



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See Balibar 1997.


Negri 2000, p. 57.


Negri 2004, pp. 37–41.


Negri 2004, p. 80.


For a summary of this, see Holland 1998, paragraphs 17–24.


Negri 2004, p. 115.


Althusser 2005, p. 94.


See Macherey 2012, p. 11.


Negri 2000, p. 239, n. 67.


See Althusser 2005.


Poulantzas 2008, pp. 139–64, connects Althusser’s commitment to contradiction to Mao, who in effect has theorised contradiction more explicitly and foundationally than most other communists over the last century.


Montag 2012.


Hegel, The Science of Logic, quoted in Macherey 2011, p. 36. At best, Hegel asserts that mathematical methodology of the kind Spinoza engages in is anachronistic and obsolete (Macherey 2011, p. 28).


Melamed 2010, p. 83.


Holland 1998, paragraph 8.


Hegel quoted in Macherey 2011, p. 120.


Sharp 2011, p. 120. In similar vein to Macherey’s critique of Negri, Sharp criticises Deleuze for re-instituting Hegelianism through his vulgarised dismissal of it.


Deleuze 1990, p. 60. Also: ‘[i]n the reproach Hegel will make to Spinoza, that he ignored the negative and its power, lies the glory and innocence of Spinoza, his own discovery. In a world consumed by the negative, he has enough confidence in life, in the power of life, to challenge death, the murderous appetite of men, the rules of good and evil, and the just and unjust. Enough confidence in life to denounce all the phantoms of the negative.’ (Deleuze 1988, p. 13.)


Holland 1998, paragraph 8.


Montag 2012.


See Arthur 2002; Postone 1996.


Harvey 2012.


Harvey 2012, p. 17.


Endnotes 2010.


See Théorie Communiste 2011a and 2011b, and Lyon 2012.


Montag in Macherey 1998, p. 7, quoting a letter from Macherey to Althusser from 1965.


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