My partner and I have been together for four years now. Deep down, I think we both know we’re not right for each other in the long term; we have too many fundamental differences – we both want very different things in life and share few of the same values and goals – but we do have fun together. At what point do you sacrifice fun for the future?
[Editors note: ‘Lot’ is the pseudonym the writer of this letter chose, we didn’t alter this]
The problem in your relationship is the same as the one in capitalism. Namely, what in dialectical materialism we call ‘determinate negation.’ This can refer to how an idea entails contradictions, which make it inevitable that the idea will come to an end. For example, one contradiction in capitalism is that it demands ever-increasing consumption, while our planet has only a limited amount of natural resources. Something has to give – and it obviously can’t be the planet – so capitalism must
be expected to end eventually. Is this not similar to your romantic relationship, where the contradiction between your values and goals and those of your partner is irreconcilable? Something has to give here too, and I’m afraid to say that it will be your relationship. On the other hand, capitalism hasn’t ended yet. Despite many predictions from my comrades that capitalism was entering its final ‘late stage,’ it has managed to drag on, though it does seem to become increasingly vulgar over time.
I won’t judge you if you stick around with your beau, for ‘fun’ as you say. But
I encourage you to imagine what could come after. Perhaps a deeper and more meaningful relationship is possible. Perhaps there is someone else out there waiting for you who could meet all your needs. If you leave ‘fun’ to pursue such a dream, some people might call you idealistic or utopian, but they called me that too. Don’t settle. A better politico-economic system is waiting out there for us, and so too is a better partner waiting for you.
Now, getting back to that term ‘determinate negation,’ which I mentioned earlier. This originated with the philosopher Hegel, who often described it as a process, using the German word aufheben. This word has often been translated as ‘to overcome,’ ‘to transcend,’ or ‘to supersede.’ Perhaps the time has simply come for you to aufheben.
Yours, K. M.
Marx is back, and I’m not just referring to the increased academic attention his thought has been receiving in the wake of the global financial crisis and the concomitant failure of more hegemonic paradigms of thought to explain the event – I’m also referring to the return of his love advice column.