My Thoughts on ‘How to Philosophize With a Hammer and Sickle’
First preface: I am already skeptical of any book which is released by someone who gained notoriety through YouTube, however, when Jonas Čeika released this I was urged to check it out, purely on the basis that the videos I did watch by him were clearly well-informed. I should start by mentioning my lack of knowledge on Nietzsche, and that my introduction to Nietzsche is through this book (whereas my knowledge on Marx is where my strong point might be found).
Second preface (written after finishing this review): This book did encourage me to read The Gay Science by Nietzsche, which has been a book that I can’t even begin to describe in its affects on my life thus far. Quickly an off-topic mention of Cioran, I had read him recently, and I just can’t — for the life of me — see Cioran’s supposed ‘life-affirming’ aspects. He drove me into the greatest moment of depression I have ever been in, for that period I no longer had the motivation to even get out of bed. If it were not for Nietzsche’s rescuing of me: I don’t know what would’ve happened. And for that reason, How to Philosophize With a Hammer and Sickle holds a special place in my heart, it told me of a possibility, of a hope, of a light that was within my reach (even if that light may be a train coming to hit me); it retrieved myself from the loneliest of lonely nights.
- To begin with, it is unfortunate to note the authors lack of academic rigor. It skimps out on a lot of much needed citations. With — and this is found especially are the beginning — there also being some vague generalizations (as another reviewer pointed out).
- There is a lack of defense of the plenitude of claims made. For instance, “There is nothing wrong with finding a person useful for some end or other, but their dignity requires that we do note reduce them to that usefulness, which is, of course, precisely what the capitalist division of labour does.”¹ That's a nice piece of rhetoric, I will grant that. However, may I pose the question: why should we uphold this dignity for the individual? And, perhaps, there is an even more pressing question: what does it mean for someone to have dignity?
- Something I think Čeika unfortunately concedes is already found within the eighth page, wherein he states, “Marx is often presented, especially to people who fear him, in the following way: there is Marx the socialist revolutionary, but then, on the other hand, there is Marx the economic analyst, in principle separable from the former; in other words, one can separate Marx’s analysis of capitalism from his revolutionary politics. Perhaps this presentation could be defended on pedagogic grounds, but it prevents one from ever truly understanding Marx.”² There are two problems with this, the first being less pressing as we might pose the question of: what does it mean to truly understand a philosopher? Its a pointless and vulgar supposition of literary critics to take that we could ever really understand a thinker. Not only is it useless as it holds us down to this notion of the thinker itself, rather than the ideas, but even more, that we hold ourselves down to this notion that gaining any understanding of the thinker matters other than as a nationalistic identity to unite others. Even granting that, it leads us to an even more pressing matter of Čeika conceding that we can separate Marx the economist from Marx the revolutionary on pedagogical grounds… what?! You are, so to speak, ripping the balls off of Marx. Do we not — if we are to embrace the truly revolutionary nature of these thinkers — have an obligation to precisely embrace both matters, both on pedagogical grounds and theoretical grounds? Čeika seems to recognize it, yet loses grasp of it later on when he states that, “When Marxism is reduced to theoretical propositions, no wonder the common individual finds it irrelevant to their lives.”³
- Straight up, it admittedly lacks a serious analysis. He goes on and on about the evils of capitalism, referring to events (wherein he lacks any citation), then continues on about how evil capitalism is (without explaining any dynamics which would constitute how this said evil functions). Unfortunately, it can be read like a propaganda piece at times (with sound-bites, itching to be grasped).
- Ceika, Jonas. How to Philosophize with a Hammer and Sickle: Nietzsche and Marx for the 21st-Century Left. Repeater, 2022, p. 7.
- Ibid., 8.
- Ibid., 9.