Bob Dylan’s Critical Theory

Karl Helm is a critical theorist who adjuncts at Bard and lives in Radclyffe adjacent to Bob Dylan’s old house.

Helm’s current project, Bob Dylan’s Marxian Critical Theory, forthcoming with Catskills Critical Theory Press, brings his two interests together, reading Moishe Postone’s critical theory into Dylan’s early corpus in a double-faceted manner. On the first hand, Helm argues that the very genre of folk music was invented by CPUSA and that the folk revival and Dylan’s early recordings are representative of traditional marxism. On the second, Helm argues that Dylan’s late early work, such as My Back Pages and Pawn in their Game, represent Dylan’s critique of traditional marxism and develop a critical theoretical conception of social domination.

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Update and Projects

I haven’t been posting frequently because I had been immersed in a number of projects, moves, and new jobs with new classes to prep. Most of this had abated by the start of the summer spent without internet access getting immersed in a number of new projects.

For those of you keeping score at home. Here are a number of projects that came to fruition over the past year or so:

The SAGE Handbook of Frankfurt School Critical Theory

My article on Adorno and the Critical Theory of the Negative Totality of contemporary society

My introduction to and co-translation of Adorno’s 1962 seminar on Marx

My article on Bonefeld’s Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy

My article on Lefebvre’s notion of fetishistic concrete abstraction

My co-authored article that uses the new spirit of capitalism to critique the artisan economy.

I also have articles on Lefebvre and Critical Theory, Negative Totality, and Real Abstraction that will be forthcoming at some point.

At the moment I am working on an article considering the importance of Postone’s interpretation of Capital for the new reading of the critique of political economy as a critical social theory. I will finish that by the end of the month and then turn to revising an article on reification, crisis and regression that argues the interpretation of reification developed by the aforementioned new reading provides a better basis for the critical theory of contemporary society than the interpretation of reification developed by Habermas and extended by Honneth. Then I will co-write an intervention on the gig economy, before turning to write an article on the Marxian Critical theory of the state and law for the Elgar Handbook of Marxism and Law.

Much of this material will also find its way into the book  — Fetishism, Social Domination and the Critical Theory of Society — I am also working on. It develops and expands on my thesis by drawing on the aforementioned work to critically map the development of how fetishism was utilized in Marx’s, Lukacs’s, Horkheimer’s, Adorno, the development of the NML by Schmidt, Backhaus, and Reichelt, Postone’s and Bonefeld’s theory of social domination. It will ultimately argue that New Reading of the critique of political economy as a critical theory of society provides the best approach to the critique of contemporary society, but that the work of Horkheimer, Adorno and others should be integrated with it to develop a New Reading of the Critical Theory of Society.

I am also working on an introduction to the reprint of Intellectual and Manual Labor with Frank Engster. The reprint will also include prefaces by Chris Arthur and Antonio Negri.

Happy to say that my new schedule etc. is giving me time to get stuck into these things in a way that hasn’t been possible since writing my thesis. Hopefully this will continue and that more posts will come out of it.

Finally, I am on the job market.  If you happen to have a job to spare that is within easy commuting distance of the greater New York City metropolitan area do give it to us.


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Postone’s Necessity, Labor and Time

Not to go full hipster but I do prefer Postone’s 1978 article Necessity, Labor and Time to Time, Labor and Social Domination. Currently working on an article that reads the two of them together. Check it out for yourself in the meantime.


Postone – Necessity, Labor, and Time(1)

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Critical Theory in the Time of Trump

Monster new issue of Logos features articles by Werner Bonefeld, Samir Gandesha, John Abromeit, myself and others on Critical Theory Right-Wing Populism, and Trump

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Alfred Schmidt, The Idea of Critical Theory

Thanks to Riccardo Bellofiore for pointing this one out: bookscancenter-4

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Critical Theory and Trump

There have been many hot takes in the aftermath of Trump’s election. Although I reckon many people are overdoing it historical parallels when it would be more helpful to admit one of the most terrifying things about all of this is that we have no fucking idea what will happen,  I reckon the following recent work in critical theory is quite useful in getting to grips with what happened and with what might lie ahead.

G.M. Tamas’s notion of Post-Fascism:

What is Post-Fascism?

Once More on Post-Fascism

Critical-Theoretical notions of Authoritarianism:

Peter Gordon, The Authoritarian Personality Revisited: Reading Adorno in the Age of Trump.

John Abromeit, Critical Theory and the Persistence of Right Wing Populism

Critical-Theoretical notions of Personalisation and Abjectification:

Werner Bonefeld, Anti-Capitalism and the Elements of Antisemitism: On Theology and Real Abstractions (Chapter 9 in Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy)

That being said I haven’t come across anything that addresses Trump and Trumpisms rampant misogyny from a critical-theoretical perspective.



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HM LDN 2016

I’ll be presented and chairing several of the panels on Marxy critical theory and value theory type stuff at this year’s HM LDN. Find the the details here and lemmie know if your going to make it.

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