Alfred Schmidt on the Concept of Knowledge in the Critique of Political Economy

Andres was kind enough to pass along the attached pdf of a poor translation of Alfred Schmdit’s Zum Erkenntnisbegriff der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. A new translation is in the works. In the meantime, enjoy Schmidt’s distillation of a number of essential points in the Critical-Theoretical reading of Marx, such as the following:

“Das Kapital, far from being a call to hasty action, is the most thorough and comprehensive attempt made for some time “to lay bare the conomic law of motion of modern society”, in other words to view the “evolution of the economic formation of society …. as a process of natural history”


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Schmidt_On the Concept of Knowledge in the Criticism of Political Economy

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Frankfurt School Philosophy and Economy

Excellent new issue of History of Human Sciences edited by
Matthias Rothe and Bastian Ronge including articles by Bonefeld on Adorno and Engster on crisis.


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Lotz on Engster

Christian Lotz has written a review of Frank Engster’s very important work for Marx and Philosophy Review of Books:

“In addition to the absolutely brilliant sections on Lukács and Sohn-Rethel, the book’s strongest part is Engster’s masterful handling of Marx. One has the impression that the author studied every single page of Capital and the Grundrisse for years, and that he thus moves with an ease and lightness through Marx’s critique of political economy that is rarely seen in recent publications. It is clear that Engster’s concept of money and capitalism is based on a deep philosophical vision of Marx’s theory and, as such, it deserves attention. In conclusion, Engster’s book is a true “event” in the history of recent Marxist philosophizing. It is an outstanding example of what academic work can achieve, even if, at times, it borders on “madness.” Against empirical reductions Engster pushes the Marxist discourse back to its genuine philosophical dimensions, despite the fact that the speculative core of his considerations and reconstructions, as well as the unclear methodological structure of this text will not go down easily with most readers, as I earlier intimated. Nevertheless, Engster’s admirable tour de force through money sets a high bar for future Hegelian approaches to Marx and Critical Theory. ”

Read the rest here.


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Marcuse on Marx’s Theory of Value

The following is an appendix in Crisis and Commonwealth: Marcuse, Marx, McLaren

“Wert und Tauschwert fallen nicht zusammen,” is filed as HMA 0109.01 (Herbert Mar- cuse Archive, Stadt- und Universitäts Bibliothek Frankfurt). It contains a handwritten notation at the top, “15. IV. 36,” which could indicate the date of the typescript following the German convention of noting first the day, then the month, and then year: 15. April 1936. Marcuse’s use of the German- language and the economic content would testify also to this as its time frame. It would place Marcuse in New York City at the time when he and his Frankfurt School colleagues, including Max Horkheimer, were developing their now classic 1937 formulations of critical theory in the German lan- guage for the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung. The original publications of Max Horkheimer’s “Traditional and Critical Theory” and Herbert Marcuse’s “Philosophy and Critical Theory” both occurred in German versions in the same Zeitschrift issue that year. In the remarks that follow Marcuse treats the central philosophical notions undergirding the Marxist critique of the com- modification of labor and economic life. My translation.—CR


1. Value and exchange value are not identical; rather, they overlap. What is the meaning of their difference?

2. The differentiation between value and exchange value in itself contains a critical element. This is because in bourgeois society value and exchange value are regarded as completely identical insofar as human beings and goods are defined in terms of the exchange values they happen to possess. Within (philosophical and religious) ideologies value usually is treated with greater dignity and is seen as seemingly detached from the prices that express exchange value; however the Marxist concept of value clarifies that this apparent detachment is illusory. This is because his concept of value—devel- oped out of the economics in which bourgeois society values everything in terms of exchange value—shows itself to be a value conception from which several other insights can be derived and explained which permit criticism of the conventional ideology. Although the concept of value is introduced from the perspective of economics, it overlaps with other insights that go beyond the sphere of economics.

3. The value of a good can never be understood isolated within a particu- lar sub-division of the production or circulation process, whether this would be by deriving it from the market alone or from the production process alone. In the assessment of value and exchange value the temporal sequence must be left out altogether; when assessing the value of a good, it is meaningless to inquire at what point before it reached the market its value was determined or whether it attained its value just as it was offered on the market or just at the time it was in fact sold. Whenever one wants to understand the value aspect of any particular exchange event, one must comprehend the totality of pro- duction and circulation relationships within the society.

4. The method of Marxism has logical presuppositions that correspond to the historical presuppositions of an object. Simple commodity production is not only a conceptual oversimplification, but also an historical preliminary stage (Vorstufe). Marx wanted above all else, given his completion of the analysis of the economic system, to furnish simultaneously an adequate anal- ysis of the historical epoch. This interpenetration of the logical and the his- torical categories is an important characteristic of the dialectical method.

5. Marx understands value on the basis of abstract labor time. The catego- ry of abstract labor time is not immediately intelligible. Is it an axiom? If it is, then only in this sense: his explication of the total system allows its axiomatic character to be superseded [aufgehoben]; it is shown to be the decisive historical relationship.”



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Alfred Sohn Rethel Selected Works

This Collection will offer new editions of Sohn Rethel’s Intellectual and Manual Labour and The Economy and Class Structure of German Fascism, which will include translations of Antonio Negri’s introduction to the Italian edition of the former and Johannes Agnoli’s introduction to the German Edition of the latter. It will also offer translations of Sohn Rethel’s most important German works as well as his correspondence with Theodor W. Adorno.

We are now raising funds to translate the following, which will cost $7,000.


The Ideal of the Broken [Das Ideal des Kaputten – über neapolitanische Technik]
Money, the Cash-Value of the Apriori [Das Geld, die bare Münze des Apriori]
Technical Intelligence and Socialization of Labour [Technische Intelligenz und Vergesellschaftung der Arbeit]
Technical Intelligence between Capitalism and Socialism [Technische Intelligenz zwischen Kapitalismus und Sozialismus]
Sociological Theory of Knowledge [Soziologische Theorie der Erkenntnis]
The Commodity-Form and Form of Thought [Warenform und Denkform]
The Economic Double-Nature of Late Capitalism [Die ökonomische Doppelnatur des Spätkapitalismus]
The Form-Character of Second Nature [Die Formcharakter der zweiten Natur]

All donations over $100 will receive a free copy of one of the volumes of the Selected Works.

All donations over $200 will receive one free copy of two of the volumes of the Selected Works.

All donations over $300 will receive one free copy of three of the volumes of the Selected Works.

All donations over $400 will receive one free copy of four of the volumes of the Selected Works.

All donations over $500 will receive one free set of the Selected Works.

You can set up a recurring monthly donation here.

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Black Box

The article of mine on the Domination of Nature has just been published alongside other luminaries in the first issue of Black Box.

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Behavioral Rationality and Instrumental Reason

It seems to me that there is a need for an article or a piece of work that disentangles and articulates the relationship between instrumental rationality and behavioral rationality in Adorno. It seems to me that Habermasian criticisms as well as Habermases’ perceived corrective to the ‘first generation’ of critical theory rests on viewing the former as pervasive in Adorno’s thought, whilst ignoring the latter. As a consequence, instrumental reason is not tied to any sort of systematic compulsion or materialist need, so that another form of reason can be counterposed to it without addressing the former .

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