Lay of the Land: Moving on from the Matrix

I feel compelled to add a few words, now that this series is finished, because I know I’ve left some pretty big moments of the movies out of the analysis: How does Trinity “revive” Neo at the end of the first movie? How does Neo deactivate or overload the Sentinels in the real world at the end of the second movie? How, precisely, does Smith get “self-destructed” at the end of the third movie?

And there are others. To my knowledge, Marxian theory cannot explain these scenes and happenings; and this is a good thing. It’s a good thing because Marxists have often used Marx’s theory as an explanation for everything or as a foundation upon which to build a theory that explains everything.

I am more modest than this; I believe, alongside others, that all knowledge and the theories it implies has its foundations, from which it derives its utility, but also its limits, beyond which the attempt to explain perverts the theory employed to this end.

There are claims that everything in these movies can be explained (see the Film Theorists Youtube channel) by a single totalizing theory, but these theories are plagued by either contradictory facts which are conveniently ignored (if the prophecy is a lie, why take its criteria to determine who is the “real” One) or by an irrelevant premise. For example, if both the Matrix and the “real world” (Zion and all) are simulations, then everything is a simulation and so nothing is a simulation; in other words, we still have to tackle the practical problems that the characters need to resolve within that “universal” simulation. Or: if Elon Musk tells me he is convinced we are living in a computer simulation, it doesn’t really matter because I still have to find a way to buy bread if I want to find out later rather than sooner what “the real world I will wake up to” is like.

I am satisfied with what I have managed to pull together with Marxian theory concerning this trilogy, but I have also been made aware of some of the limitations of my efforts. For one, the writing may be a bit too drawn out: a big part of future posts will be to further boil down arguments in order that they may be easily and quickly read and understood. Second, we’ve tackled a lot of partial ideas and quotations from Marx and a few others, but we’ve been cherry-picking quite a bit: we must now broach Marx’s ideas as much as possible as a totality, as a system of concepts with coherent internal relations and conditions. Third, as we stated our ambition to be in our first post, we must always link “feature” posts with past “feature” posts so that all of them are comprehensible in themselves, but also so that their significance can be further built upon considering past and future contributions.

This declaration of principle out of the way, we will, for a large portion of the foreseeable future, focus on Marx’s Capital in our next series. Chapter-by-chapter readings have already been done and are public on the Internet, and here I notably think of David Harvey’s incredibly pertinent reading of it.

David Harvey has been doing a chapter-by-chapter reading of Capital as a seminar for more than 25 years, so it’s not my intention to work to compete with his understanding of it. However, what I lack in experience I hope to make up for in originality. I’m not exactly sure of all the fine details and how exactly it will turn out in precise logistics (reason why this post is late…), but I think Capital as a book is so important to assess, to understand and to assimilate, that I want to spend around 4 weeks/posts with every chapter of it.

Here’s what I project for every week/post/chapter:
1) a summary of the argument made by Marx in that chapter and how it bridges with the previous chapter;
2) how that argument can be read through and into the Matrix trilogy of movies or some other piece of cinema (I like cinema);
3) a mosaic of recent statistical/social/cultural events that can be explained and elucidated through that chapter;
4) how that particular chapter compares with some of the writings of a Marxist author.

On this last point, I’ve fiddled about how to pair authors with Marx, and I’ve decided that a nice experiment would be to partially randomize it. So, if Capital Vol. 1 has 33 chapters, we will need 33 authors. And yes, that would mean it would take almost three years to complete this mega-project I have assigned for myself: but from what I understand, a lot of the chapters, especially towards the end, are short and can be bunched together, so it will certainly not take 33 4-week cycles to get through it. In any case, at the end of each week 1, I will list a few authors that I believe can be linked with that particular chapter; you, Readers, can also cite authors in the comments until week 2 is published; at the end of each week 2, I will show what numbers were assigned to which author (randomized by computer) as well as the dice roll (done by me in real life) that decided which author it was going to be; that will leave me two weeks to familiarize myself with that author and compare with our chapter from Capital.

I may, from time to time, take a break from this cycle if there’s something going on in the world or in my life which is worthy of Marxian examination/documentation. And I’m wholly uncertain as to when the cycle will commence. But until it does commence, I still intend doing some impromptu posts in the middle of weeks as I did before.

For those of you interested in the future of this publication, and thus having read to the end of this post, I offer you a quote from Hegel, one where he proves to be quite Leninist:

He only gets to know his original nature, which must be his End, from the deed; while, in order to act, he must have that End beforehand. But for that very reason, he has to start immediately and, without further scruples about beginning, means or End, proceed to action!


David Harvey’s excellent video series on Capital Vol.1 and I’ve also seen Vol. 2 recently. Available online here.

Leninist Hegel quote is from The Phenomenology of the Spirit, Miller translation, which I found in Jameson’s Valences of the Dialectic.

Credits to Pixabay for the photo.


  1. Simone de Beauvoir!

    To try to convince you, here’s a quote from her “Ethics and ambiguity”: “In spite of so many stubborn lies, at every moment, at every opportunity, the truth comes to light, the truth of life and death, of my solitude and my bond with the world, of my freedom and my servitude, of the insignificance and the sovereign importance of each man and all men. There was Stalingrad and there was Buchenwald, and neither of the two wipes out the other. Since we do not succeed in fleeing it, let us therefore try to look the truth in the face. Let us try to assume our fundamental ambiguity. It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our life that we must draw our strength to live and our reason for acting.”

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s