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Essays in
Critical Theory
Herbert Marcuse
may f l y

Herbert Marcuse
Herbert Marcuse’s Negations is both a radical critique of capitalist
modernity and a model of materialist dialectical thinking. In a series
of essays, originally written in the period stretching from the 1930s
to 1960s, Marcuse takes up the presupposed categories that have,
and continue to, ground thought and action in our administered
society: liberalism, industrialism, individualism, hedonism, aggres-
sion. This book is both a testament to a great thinker and a still vital
strand of thought in the comprehension and critique of the mod-
ern organized world. It is essential reading for younger scholars and
a radical reminder for those steeped in the tradition of a critical
theory of society. With a brilliance of conception combined with
an insistence on the material conditions of thought and action, this
book speaks both to the particular contents engaged and to the
fundamental grounds of any critique of organized modernity.
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1. Herbert Marcuse, N egat i ons: E ssays i n C r i t i cal T heor y

Essays in Critical Theory
Herbert Marcuse
W i t h T r ansl at i ons fr om t he G er man by Jer emy J. Shapi r o

Fi rst publ i shed by Al l en Lane, Pengui n Press, 1968.
Publ i shed by MayFl yBooks i n paperback i n London and f ree onl i ne at
www.mayf l i n 2009.

Pri nt ed by t he MPG Books Group i n t he UK .

Wi t h permi ssi on of t he Li t erary Est at e of H erbert Marcuse, Pet er Marcuse,
Execut or. Suppl ement ary mat eri al f rom previ ousl y unpubl i shed work of
H erbert Marcuse, much now i n t he Archi ves of t he Goet he Uni versi t y i n
Frankf urt / Mai n, has been and wi l l be publ i shed by Rout l edge Publ i shers,
Engl and, i n a si x-vol ume seri es edi t ed by D ougl as K el l ner and by zu K l ampen
Verl ag i n a f i ve-vol ume German seri es edi t ed by Pet er-Erwi n Jansen. Al l ri ght s
t o f urt her publ i cat i on are ret ai ned by t he Est at e.

CC: Li t erary Est at e of H erbert Marcuse, Pet er Marcuse, 2009.

I SBN (Pri nt ) 978-1-906948-04-7
I SBN (PD F) 978-1-906948-05-4

Thi s work i s l i censed under t he Creat i ve Commons At t ri but i on-
N oncommerci al -N o D eri vat i ve Works 3.0 Unport ed. To vi ew a copy of t hi s
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Contents vii
Acknowledgements ix
Translator’s Note xi
Foreword to the 2009 Edition
St effen B öhm and C ampbel l Jones xiii
Foreword xvii
1 The struggle against liberalism in the totalitarian view of the state 1
2 The concept of essence 31
3 The af f irmative character of culture 65
4 Philosophy and critical theory 99
5 On hedonism 119
6 I ndustrialization and capitalism in the work of Max Weber 151
7 Love mystif ied: A critique of N orman O. Brown 171
8 Aggressiveness in advanced industrial societies 187
Notes 203

Chapter 1 originally published in German in Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung,
vol. I I I (1934).
Chapter 2 originally published in German in Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung,
vol. V (1936).
Chapter 3 originally published in German in Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung,
vol. VI (1937).
Chapter 4 originally published in German in Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung,
vol. VI (1937).
Chapter 5 originally published in German in Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung,
vol. VI I (1938).
Chapter 6 f irst published in German in M ax W eber und di e Sozi ol ogi e heut e
(1964). This translation is based on a revised f orm of the essay f irst
published in German in K ul t ur i n G esel l schaft (1965).
Chapter 7 (‘Love Mystif ied’) was f irst published in C omment ar y, February
1967. Norman O. Brown’s response (‘A reply to Herbert Marcuse’) was
published in C omment ar y in March 1967.
Chapter 8 printed f irst in N egat i ons (Allen Lane/ Penguin Press, 1968).

Translator’s N ote
My t ransl at i on of t he f oreword and t he f i rst f i ve essays i n t hi s vol ume
are f rom t he German t ext i n K ul t ur und G esel l schaft (2 vol umes, 1965).
The t ransl at i on of ‘I ndust ri al i zat i on and Capi t al i sm i n t he Work of Max
Weber’ i s pri nci pal l y t he work of Prof essor K urt Wol f f of Brandei s
Uni versi t y, who had t ransl at ed an ear l i er versi on of t he German t ext . H e
has graci ousl y al l owed me t o use hi s t ransl at i on, whi ch I have modi f i ed
i n accordance wi t h t he revi sed German t ext publ i shed i n K ul t ur und
G esel l schaft . Prof essor Wol f f has i nspect ed t he changes and made
i mprovement s.
I shoul d l i ke t o t hank Shi erry Weber f or gi vi ng generousl y of her
t i me and energy i n provi di ng what proved t o be i ndi spensabl e assi st ance
at every st age of t he t ransl at i on. I am grat ef ul al so t o Rust y Si monds and
Sharon H erson f or several usef ul suggest i ons and t o Robert a
Fi t zsi mmons f or negent ropy.


xi i i
Foreword to the 2009 Edition
St ef f en Böhm and Campbell Jones
Wi t h t hi s publ i cat i on of H erbert Marcuse’s N egat i ons we al so announce
t he est abl i shment of MayFl yBooks, and wi t h t hi s a programme f or t he
det ermi nat e negat i on of cont emporary corporat e capi t al i sm. Marcuse’s
book, whi ch we are repri nt i ng here, bears t he mark of a part i cul ar
hi st ori cal moment , charact eri zed by economi c and cul t ural over-
i ndust ri al i zat i on, war and t ot al i t ari ani sm. Thi s i s t he speci f i c moment
agai nst whi ch Marcuse set hi msel f . I n t he current hi st ori cal si t uat i on one
senses t he equal l y pressi ng need f or opt i ons agai nst t he i mposi t i ons of
t he i ncreasi ngl y grot esque f orms of gl obal capi t al i sm. As Marcuse
responded t o t he part i cul ar hi st ori cal moment i n whi ch he l i ved, we
sense t oday t he demand t o perf orm si mi l ar negat i ons, whi ch wi l l be at
once det ermi nat e, speci f i c and si ngul ar at t he same t i me t hat t hey keep
an eye on t he uni versal .
Thi s i s not t o say t hat t he worl d we l i ve i n, l i ke t hat of Marcuse, i s
one t hat i s si mpl y i n cri si s, but rat her t hat , across t he vari ous spaces i n
whi ch i t i s grasped i n t hought , i t i s not i n cri si s enough. Thi s i s t he
resul t of t he i mposi t i ons and ext ensi ons not onl y of t he capi t al i st mode
of product i on and t he commodi f i cat i on of l i f e, but of t he i ncorporat i on
of t he very spaces i n whi ch t hese soci al processes mi ght have been
underst ood and t ransf ormed. H ere we t hi nk wi t h Marcuse of t he pl ace
of cul t ure and t he di versi on or i ncorporat i on of t he cri t i cal i mpul se, but
al so t he al most compl et e abdi cat i on of responsi bi l i t y by t hose worki ng
i n what are st i l l nobl y cal l ed uni versi t i es.
St ruggl i ng agai nst t hese t ot al i sat i ons, Marcuse’s book i s caught at t he
borderl i ne bet ween ut opi ani sm and despai r. On t he one hand, i t
out l i nes concret e t heoret i cal and pract i cal proposal s f or overcomi ng t he
N egat i ons

present , while, on t he ot her hand, it is keenly aware t hat t he present is
marked by an almost complete subsumpt ion in ‘tot al administ rat ion’.
This dialect ic t heref ore eschews t wo of t he most dominant t rends in
t hought t oday: f irst , naive ut opianism t hat imagines t he easy escape
f rom t he present , as if t he collapse of t he capit alist empire is already at
hand, and, second, t he variet ies of empiricism and f atalism that merely
document the state of af f airs and our f ailures t o dat e.
The essays in t his book f all in t wo part s. The f irst f ive chapt ers were
writ t en and published bef ore t he st art of t he Second World War at a
t ime when Marcuse was a member of t he Frankf urt I nst it ut e f or Social
Research. These essays were originally published in t he Z ei t schr i ft für
Sozi al for schung (Jour nal for Soci al R esear ch), t he ‘house journal’ and main
lit erary organ of t he Frankf urt School, which was edit ed and led by Max
Horkheimer during t he 1930s. Marcuse joined t he I nst it ut e in 1933, t he
same year he emigrat ed f rom Germany, f irst t o Swit zerland and t hen t o
t he Unit ed St at es, where he lived unt il his deat h in 1979. These essays
t heref ore precede, and can be read as preparat ions f or, R eason and
R evol ut i on (1941), Marcuse’s elaborat ion of t he negat ive philosophy
which he t akes f rom Hegel. The f inal t hree chapt ers in N egat i ons
appeared lat er, in t he mid t hrough lat e 1960s, in t he years f ollowing t he
publicat ion of O ne-D i mensi onal M an in 1964, in t hose years in which
Marcuse was elevat ed int o a public int ellect ual f igure in t he days of
Fort y years af t er t heir original publicat ion, t hese essays are not ,
however, of merely hist orical int erest , nor as part of a document ary
t est imony t o Marcuse or t he ‘Frankf urt School’. For Marcuse, published
works are prof oundly hist orical, both in t heir locat ion in relat ion t o t he
moment against which t hey are opposed, but , at t he same t ime, t ext s
cannot deny t heir relat ion t o t hat which exceeds t hat moment . From
our current sit uat ion of suf f ocat ing af f luence we can again sense
Marcuse’s dismay at t he f ailure or unwillingness t o seize t he product ive
capacit ies unleashed by capit alism and put t hem t owards more humane
purposes t han t hose t o which t hey were and current ly are being put .
The condit ions f or t ransf ormat ion were f or Marcuse, as t hey are f or us
now, present in t he very same condit ions that also give us so much
reason f or despair.
N egat i ons is t heref ore not a negat ive book but a call t o act ion, a
t hinking t hat involves an af f irmation of t hinking and of lif e and a
F or ewor d t o t he 2009 E di t i on

hopef ulness that knows also that hopef ulness without negation – an
awareness of what must be negated and the risks of that task – is naive.
I n this way, it is continuous with the project that, as Adorno stressed in
N egat i ve D i al ect i cs, to stay positive, to af f irm lif e, one must engage in a
process of negating what i s. Because only through this negating of what
is can one f ind determinate possibilities of development, progress,
f reedom. Positive possibilities of a new lif e that escape the stultif ying
repetition of the present can only come through negation. Being simply
‘positive’ involves the danger of putting f orward utopian f utures which
have no relation to the present, to the ‘what is’, to contemporary social
relations. This is why Marx so vehemently criticised the utopian
socialists of his time, as their utopian ideas f or new towns and
communities were not f ounded in an understanding of the realities of
‘actually existing’ capitalist relations.
I n the world of academic f ashion, every dog will have its day. There
is little point in taking issue with those who have set themselves to
sidestep the work of Marcuse, and others, in their interest to create ever
more radical thought. Rather, we of f er this book as something of an
invitation, an invitation f or a learning – or a relearning – of what
dialectical thinking, in a materialist register, can of f er. Because our
suspicion is that Marcuse continues to inf orm, and indeed should
continue to inf orm, the diverse and of ten self -servingly isolated critical
vocabularies currently circulating. This we hold to be the case f rom
those concerned with the incorporation of critique in the production of
a ‘new spirit of capitalism’ to those who sense the immanent
possibilities that arise f rom the socialisation of work and the tendencies
that are apparently rendering productive relations today linguistic and
This book is, as we all are, part of these productive relations. We are
all part of a capitalist culture that continuously tries to individualize us,
to set us apart, to establish hierarchies that are able to judge, measure
and categorize us. I t is theref ore perhaps unsurprising that academic
critique is today so individualised and is more intent on distinguishing
itself f rom other criticism than on changing anything. But to overcome
this state of af f airs is also the point. Marcuse’s N egat i ons shows how this
individualisation f unctions, how it is directly related to the
commodif ication of lif e, and how it produces, what he calls with a
directness rare today, a ‘sick society’. N egation means to, f irst, realize
N egat i ons

t hat we are si ck, and, second, t hat t here i s a need t o devel op st rat egi es
beyond t hat si ckness.
To escape si ckness i s not t o ret urn t o t he previ ous st at e of good
heal t h, but i s a j oy i n t he possi bi l i t y of l i vi ng agai n. Joy of negat i on t hen,
and not f or t he purpose of f ri vol i t y or post uri ng, but because of t he
encl osure and of t he f orest al l ed real possi bi l i t i es f or f reedom, t hat i s, f or
meani ngf ul and genui nel y democrat i c soci al rel at i ons. Joy i n knowi ng
t hat anot her worl d i s possi bl e and t hat t he i mmanent possi bi l i t i es of t he
present bot h cont ai n and const rai n t hat very worl d. Joy i n a negat i on
t hat st ands t oget her wi t h t hose who have st ruggl ed f or t he possi bi l i t y of
a f ut ure and who cont i nue t o do so t oday, i n t hei r vari ous pract i cal and
i nt el l ect ual experi ment s.
MayFl yBooks i s part of t hi s hi st ory and t radi t i on of pract i cal and
i nt el l ect ual experi ment at i on and t he st ruggl e t oward a di f f erent f ut ure.
Publ i shi ng under Creat i ve Commons i s t oday an expl i ci t negat i on of t he
t he pol i t i cal and economi c st ruct ures of t he publ i shi ng i ndust ry, whi ch
cont i nues t o put prof i t over t hought , encl osure over f reedom. I n
cont rast t o t he publ i shi ng corporat i ons, we of f er t hi s book t o t he
i nt el l ect ual commons, f or everyone t o l earn, t o l earn f rom hi st ory, t o
l earn t o negat e, t o l earn t o i nt errogat e t he present and oursel ves. We
t hus hope t hi s book wi l l i nspi re a new generat i on of commoners, of
i nt el l ect ual s and act i vi st s st ruggl i ng f or a bet t er worl d, beyond t he
current encl osures of t hought and l i f e.
To be sure, t hi s book wi l l not provi de al l t he answers. Far f rom i t .
We have not made any ef f ort t o cover up t he def ect s i n t hi s book, and
i ndeed we of f er i t up f or cri t i cal readi ng. We have correct ed a f ew
obvi ous t ypographi cal errors but have l ef t sl i ps of t he pen and ot her
l apses and i nconsi st enci es i n pl ace. Thi s means, and not merel y at t he
l evel of t ypography, t hat t hi s i s a book f or t he cri t i cal reader, t he reader
who i s not sat i sf i ed wi t h readymade answers, who i s not l ooki ng f or a
reci pe book f or how t o change t he worl d. N egat i ons needs t o be read
af f i rmat i vel y, t o draw out connect i ons t o t oday, t o ot her present
st ruggl es, and t o t he current cri si s. Af f i rmat i vel y, whi ch i s t o say al so,
and at t he same t i me, t hrough a st rat egy of negat i on.

Herbert Marcuse
Many of t he essays collect ed here were writ t en in t he years f rom 1934 t o
1938. They developed out of my work at t he I nst it ut e f or Social
Research in N ew York and were f ormulat ed in discussion wit h my
f riend Max Horkheimer, at t hat t ime direct or of t he I nst it ut e, and his
coworkers. I have let t hem be republished unchanged. N o revision
could bridge t he chasm t hat separat es t he period in which t hey were
written f rom the present one. At that time, it was not yet clear that the
powers t hat had def eat ed f ascism by virt ue of t heir t echnical and
economic superiorit y would st rengt hen and st reamline t he social
st ruct ure which had produced f ascism. The quest ion remained open,
whet her t his conquest would not be superseded by more progressive
and general historical f orces. Capitalist society had not yet revealed all
its strength and all its rationality, and the f ate of the labor movement
was still ‘uncertain’. The f irst of t hese essays closes wit h t hat
uncert aint y, which is common t o all of t hem, as is t he hope, t hat f ascism
might perhaps be vanquished by f orces (or rather, that its destruction
would set f ree f orces) t hat would make possible a more human and
more rat ional societ y. For if t here was one mat t er about which t he
aut hor of t hese essays and his f riends were not uncertain, it was the
underst anding t hat t he f ascist st ate was f ascist societ y, and t hat
t ot alit arian violence and t ot alit arian reason came f rom t he st ruct ure of
exist ing societ y, which was in t he act of overcoming it s liberal past and
incorporat ing it s hist orical negat ion. This present ed t he crit ical t heory of
societ y wit h t he t ask of ident if ying the tendencies that linked the liberal
past with its totalitarian abolition. This abolition was not restricted at all
t o t he t ot alit arian st at es and since t hen has become realit y in many
democracies (and especially in t he most developed ones). The present
N egat i ons
did not appear t o be in immediat e opposit ion t o t he past : it was
necessary to exhibit the mediation by means of which bourgeois
f reedom could become unf reedom. But it was also necessary t o indicat e
t he element s t hat opposed t his t ransf ormat ion. Thus t he t heme of t he
f irst essay is common to all of them.
The f ocal point is t he int erpret at ion of some of t he leading ideas of
intellectual culture – of ideology. I n polit ical economy, Marxian t heory
had t raced t o t heir origins t he t endencies that linked the liberal past with
its totalitarian liquidation. What I attempted was to detect and trace
these tendencies in culture, more specif ically in its representative
philosophy. For it was mind, reason, consciousness, ‘pure’ t hought t hat
in t he t radit ional cult ure was supposed t o const it ut e t he aut onomy of
t he subject , t he essent ial f reedom of man. Here was t he sphere of
negat ion, of cont radict ion t o t he established order, of protest, of
dissociation, of criticism. Protestant ism and t he bourgeois revolut ions
proclaimed t he f reedom of t hought and of conscience. They were t he
sanct ioned f orms of contradict ion – of t en t he only ones – and t he most
precious ref uge of hope. Only rarely and in except ional cases did
bourgeois society dare to inf ringe on this ref uge. Soul and mind were (at
least of f icially) considered holy and awesome. Spiritually and mentally,
man was supposed t o be as aut onomous as possible. This was his inner
f reedom, which was his aut hent ic and essent ial f reedom; t he ot her
liberties were taken care of by the economy and t he st at e. N ormally it
was not necessary f or society to intervene in this sphere; a total
coordinat ion and subordinat ion of individuals was not required. The
product ive f orces had not yet reached t hat st age of development at
which t he sale of t he product s of social labor demanded t he syst emat ic
organizat ion of needs and want s,
including intellectual ones. The
market regulat ed f or bet t er or worse t he operat ion and out put of a labor
apparat us not yet dependent upon unint errupt ed mass consumpt ion. At
a low level of product ive f orces, bourgeois societ y did not yet have t he
means t o administ er soul and mind without discrediting this
administration through terroristic violence. Today total administration is
necessary, and the means are at hand; mass gratif ication, market
research, industrial psychology, computer mathematics, and the so-
called science of human relat ions. These t ake care of t he nont errorist ic,
democrat ic, spont aneous-aut omat ic harmonizat ion of individual and
socially necessary needs and want s, of aut onomy and het eronomy. They
assure the f ree election of individuals and policies necessary f or this
F or ewor d
system to continue to exist and grow. The democratic abolition of
thought, which the ‘common man’ undergoes automatically and which
he himself carries out (in labor and in the use and enjoyment of the
apparatus of production and consumption), is brought about in ‘higher
learning’ by those positivistic and positive trends of philosophy,
sociology, and psychology that make the established system into an
insuperable f ramework f or conceptual thought.
But the rapidity with which it was possible to achieve the social
organization and administration of the mind suggests the question
whether the mind did not itself bear part of the responsibility f or such a
development. I n other words, did intellectual culture prepare its own
liquidation? Were its autonomy, inwardness, purity, and the happiness
and f ulf ilment that it promised already permeated with unf reedom,
adjustment, unhappiness, and renunciation? Did this culture have an
af f irmative character even where it was the negation of the status quo?
I n regard to these questions I investigated several concepts of idealism
and materialism. I deas such as essence, happiness, or theory bore
evidence of inner disunity. I n an authentic way they revealed the
genuine potentialities of man and of nature as being in contradiction to
the given reality of man and of nature; thus they were eminently critical
concepts. At the same time, however, they invalidated this contradiction
by giving it ontological stability. This was the specif ic situation of
idealism that culminated in Hegelian philosophy; contradiction becomes
the very f orm of truth and movement, only to be enclosed in a system
and internalized. But by adhering to reason as the power of the negative,
idealism made good the claim of thought to be a condition of f reedom.
The classical connection between German idealism and the Marxian
labor movement was valid, and not merely as a f act of the history of
I t was in this perspective that the essays dealt with the legacy of
idealism, with the element of truth in its repressive philosophy. But the
legacy and truth of materialism, and not only historical materialism,
were of equal import. I n the insistence of thought upon the abolition of
misery and of need, upon happiness and pleasure as contents of human
f reedom, the tabooed tasks of revolution were preserved: tasks which
even in socialist theory and practice had already been long suppressed
or postponed. The more ‘materialistic’ society became in the advanced
industrial countries, i.e. the higher the standard of living rose f or broad
strata of the population, the clearer became the extent to which this
N egat i ons
progress st abilized misery and unhappiness. Product ivit y bore
dest ruct ion wit hin it and t urned t echnology f rom an inst rument of
liberat ion int o one of new enslavement . Faced wit h a societ y in which
af f luence is accompanied by int ensif ied exploit at ion, milit ant
mat erialism remains negat ive and revolut ionary (even where exploit at ion
becomes more comf ort able and does not penet rat e int o consciousness).
I t s idea of happiness and of grat if icat ion can be realized only t hrough
polit ical pract ice t hat has qualit at ively new modes of human exist ence as
it s goal.
That most of t his was writ t en bef ore Auschwit z deeply separat es it
f rom t he present . What was correct in it has since become, perhaps not
f alse, but a t hing of t he past . To be sure, t he concern wit h philosophy
expressed in t hese essays was already, in t he t hirt ies, a concern wit h t he
past: remembrance of something that at some point had lost it s realit y
and had t o be t aken up again. Precisely at t hat t ime, beat en or bet rayed,
t he social f orces in which f reedom and revolut ion were joined were
delivered over t o t he exist ing powers. The last t ime t hat f reedom,
solidarit y, and humanit y were t he goals of a revolut ionary st ruggle was
on t he bat t lef ields of t he Spanish civil war.
Even t oday t he songs sung
f or and in t hat st ruggle are, f or t he younger generat ion, t he only
persist ing ref lect ion of a possible revolut ion. The end of a hist orical
period and t he horror of t he one t o come were announced in t he
simult aneit y of t he civil war in Spain and t he t rials in Moscow.
The new period saw t he suppression, crippling, and neut ralizat ion of
t he classes and f orces t hat , due t o t heir real int erest s, embodied hope
f or t he end of inhumanit y. I n t he advanced indust rial count ries, t he
subordinat ion and coordinat ion of t he suppressed is ef f ect ed t hrough
t he t ot al administ rat ion of t he product ive f orces and t he growing
sat isf act ion of needs, which insulat e societ y against it s necessary
t ransf ormat ion. Product ivit y and prosperit y in league wit h a t echnology
in t he service of monopolist ic polit ics seem t o immunize advancing
indust rial societ y in it s est ablished st ruct ure.
I s t his concept of immunit y st ill dialect ical? To be sure, f or crit ical
t heory it implies t he sorrow of concern wit h somet hing t hat has
disappeared (t his was t he t enor of t he essay ‘Philosophy and Crit ical
Theory’). But does it also of f er hope t hat t he social t endencies
comprehended t hrough t his concept promise somet hing ot her t han
what t hey are? Perhaps t he very break wit h t he past exhibit ed in t he
F or ewor d
neutralization and liquidation of the opposition is an indication. I n the
essay just mentioned, I wrote: “ Critical theory must concern itself to a
hitherto unknown extent with the past – precisely insof ar as it is
concerned with the f uture” . Has social development perhaps attained a
stage when the remembrance and constructive abolition of the past
demands more radical concepts than those which were f ormed in the
pretotalitarian period? Today critical theory is essentially more abstract
than it was at that time: it can hardly think of ‘taking hold of the
masses’. But may not the abstract, ‘unrealistic’ character of the theory at
that time have lain in its having been attached too strongly to the society
that it comprehended, so that in its concept of negation it did not go f ar
enough in surpassing that society? I n other words, did not its concept of
a f ree and rational society promise, not too much, but rather t oo l i t t l e? I n
view of the capacity and productivity of organized capitalism, should
not the ‘f irst phase’ of socialism be more and qualitatively other than it
was projected to be in Marxian theory? I s not this the context in which
belongs socialism’s af f inity f or and successes in preindustrial and weakly
industrialized societies? The Marxian concepts of capitalism and of
socialism were decisively determined by the f unction of human labor,
physical labor in social reproduction. Marx’s image of the realm of
necessity does not correspond to today’s highly developed industrial
nations. And in view of the f rantic expansion of totalitarian mass
democracy, the Marxian image of the realm of f reedom beyond the
realm of necessity must appear ‘romantic’. For it stipulates an individual
subject of labor, an autonomy of creative activity and leisure, and a
dimension of unspoiled nature that have long since been liquidated in
the progress of domination
and industrialization.
Does this progress perhaps show that the contradiction and
negation were not radical enough, that they rejected too little and held
too little to be possible, that they underestimated the qualitative
dif f erence between the really possible and the status quo? Has not late
industrial society already surpassed, in a bad f orm, the idea of socialism
– as in bad planning, bad expansion of the productive f orces, bad
organization of the working class, and bad development of needs and of
gratif ication? Of course, all the wealth, the technology, and the
productivity of this society cannot match the ideas of real f reedom and
of real justice which are at the center of socialist theory. Nevertheless,
these ideas appear in f orms worked out substantially as the potentiality

and negation of a capitalism that was not yet f ully developed.
N egat i ons
Developed industrial society has already won f or itself much of the
ground on which the new f reedom was to have f lourished. This society
has appropriated dimensions of consciousness and nature that f ormerly
were relatively unspoiled. I t has f ormed historical alternatives in its own
image and f lattened out contradiction, which it can thus tolerate.
Through this totalitarian-democratic conquest of man and of nature, the
subjective and objective space f or the realm of f reedom has also been
I n return, f orces of total transf ormation are at work in the realm of
necessity itself . The same mathematization and automation of labor and
the same calculated, public administration of existence that tend to
make society and the nature that it appropriates into one single
apparatus, into an object of experimentation and control in the hands of
the rulers, create an apparatus f rom which men can more easily
withdraw, the more calculable and automatic it becomes. Here appears
the chance of the transf ormation of quantity into quality, the leap into a
qualitatively dif f erent stage. Marx described this transf ormation as an
explosive tendency in the f inal transmutation of the capitalist labor
process. Capital
diminishes labor time … in the f orm of necessary labor in order to
augment it in the f orm of surplus labor. I t therewith in increasing
measure sets the surplus as a condition – question de vie et de mort – of
the necessary. On the one hand it calls to lif e all the f orces of science
and of nature as well as of social combination and of social intercourse,
in order to make the creation of wealth (relatively) independent of the
labor time expended on it. On the other hand it wants to measure
against labor time the gigantic social f orces that have been created, and
to conf ine them within the limits required in order to preserve as value
the value already created.

The growing automation of the labor process and the time that it sets
f ree transf orm the subject himself , and man then enters as a dif f erent
into the immediate process of production. Considered in relation to
developing man, the process of production is discipline. At the same
time, in relation to developed man, in whose head exists the
accumulated knowledge of society, it is practice, experimental science,
and materially creative, self -objectif ying knowledge.

F or ewor d
I t can be seen that precisely the most exaggerated, ‘eschatological’
conceptions of Marxian theory most adequately anticipate social
tendencies: f or instance, the idea of the abolition of labor, which Marx
himself later rejected. Behind all the inhuman aspects of automation as
it is organized under capitalism, its real possibilities appear: the genesis
of a technological world in which man can f inally withdraw f rom,
evacuate, and oversee the apparatus of his labor – in order to
experiment f reely with it. I rresponsible as it may seem, in view of
existing poverty and existing need, to summon up the image of such
f reedom, it is just as irresponsible to conceal the extent to which
existing poverty and existing need are perpetuated only by the interests
that rule the status quo. D espite all planning and organization, however,
the f undamental tendencies of the system realize themselves against the
will and the intentions of individuals – as blind f orces even where they
are scientif ically mastered and calculated and obey the requirements of
the apparatus. The apparatus becomes in a literal sense the subject; this
is practically the def inition of an automaton. And to the extent to which
the apparatus itself becomes the subject, it casts of f man as a serving
and working being and sets him f ree as a thinking, knowing,
experimenting, and playing being. Freedom f rom the need f or the
intervention of human service and servitude – that is the law of
technological rationality. Today the latter is enmeshed in the apparatus
of domination, which perpetuates the necessity whose abolition it makes
possible. To experiment and play with the apparatus is at present the
monopoly of those who work f or the preservation and expansion of the
status quo. Perhaps this monopoly can be broken only by catastrophe.
Catastrophe, however, appears not only in the constant menace of
atomic war, in play with annihilation, but also in the social logic of
technology, in play with ever-growing productivity, which f alls into
ever-clearer contradiction to the system in which it is caught. N othing
justif ies the assumption that the new f orm of the classic contradiction
can be manipulated permanently. I t is just as unjustif iable, nevertheless,
to assume that it cannot lead once more to new f orms of oppression.
More than bef ore, breaking through the administered consciousness is a
precondition of liberation. Thought in contradiction must be capable of
comprehending and expressing the new potentialities of a qualitatively
dif f erent existence. I t must be capable of surpassing the f orce of
technological repression and of incorporating into its concepts the
elements of gratif ication that are suppressed and perverted in this
N egat i ons
repression. I n other words, thought in contradiction must become more
negative and more utopian in opposition to the status quo. This seems
to me to be the imperative of the current situation in relation to my
theoretical essays of the thirties.
I n totalitarian technological society, f reedom remains thinkable only
as autonomy over the entirety of the apparatus. This includes the
f reedom to reduce it or to reconstruct it in its entirety with regard to the
pacif ication of the struggle f or existence and to the rediscovery of quiet
and of happiness. The abolition of material poverty is a possibility
within the status quo; peace, joy, and the abolition of labor are not. And
yet only in and through them can the established order be overcome.
Totalitarian society brings the realm of f reedom beyond the realm of
necessity under its administration and f ashions it af ter its own image. I n
complete contradiction to this f uture, autonomy over the technological
apparatus is f reedom in the realm of necessity. This means, however,
that f reedom is only possible as the realization of what today is called

The Struggle Against Liberalism in the
Totalitarian View of the State
The establishment of the total-authoritarian state was accompanied by
the annunciation of a new political weltanschauung: ‘heroic-f olkish

realism’ became the governing theory.
Blood rises up against f ormal understanding, race against the rational
pursuit of ends, honor against prof it, bonds against the caprice that is
called ‘f reedom’, organic totality against individualistic dissolution, valor
against bourgeois security, politics against the primacy of the economy,
state against society, f olk against the individual and the mass.

The new worldview
is a great reservoir f or all the currents that have
been deluging ‘liberalist’ political and social theory since World War I .
The struggle f irst began f ar f rom the political arena as a philosophical
controversy with the rationalism, individualism, and materialism of the
nineteenth century. A united f ront emerged which, with the
intensif ication of economic and social conf lict af ter the war, soon
revealed its political and social f unction; compared with the latter, the
struggle against liberalism (as we shall show in what f ollows) became no
more than peripheral. Let us f irst brief ly survey the most important
sources of the current theory –
The heroizing of Man
Long bef ore World War I , the celebration of a new type of man became
prevalent, f inding its adepts in almost all branches of the social sciences
and humanities, f rom economics to philosophy. Right down the line, an
attack was launched against the hypertrophic rationalization and
technif ication of lif e, against the ‘bourgeois’ of the nineteenth century
N egat i ons
wi t h hi s pet t y j oys and pet t y ai ms, agai nst t he shopkeeper and merchant
spi ri t and t he dest ruct i ve ‘anemi a’ of exi st ence. A new i mage of man
was hel d up t o t hi s pal t ry predecessor, composed of t rai t s f rom t he age
of t he Vi ki ng, German myst i ci sm, t he Renai ssance, and t he Prussi an
mi l i t ary: t he heroi c man, bound t o t he f orces of bl ood and soi l – t he
man who t ravel s t hrough heaven and hel l , who does not reason why,
but goes i nt o act i on t o do and di e, sacri f i ci ng hi msel f not f or any
purpose but i n humbl e obedi ence t o t he dark f orces t hat nouri sh hi m.
Thi s i mage expanded t o t he vi si on of t he chari smat i c l eader
l eadershi p does not need t o be j ust i f i ed on t he basi s of hi s ai ms, but
whose mere appearance i s al ready hi s ‘proof ’, t o be accept ed as an
undeserved gi f t of grace. Wi t h many modi f i cat i ons, but al ways i n t he
f oref ront of t he f i ght agai nst bourgeoi s and i nt el l ect ual i st i c exi st ence,
t hi s archet ype of man can be f ound among t he i deas of t he St ef an
George ci rcl e, of Mol l er van den Bruck, Sombart , Schel er, H i el scher,
Jünger, and ot hers. I t s phi l osophi cal j ust i f i cat i on has been sought i n a
so-cal l ed –
Philosophy of life
‘L i f e’ as such i s a ‘pri mal gi ven’ beyond whi ch t he mi nd cannot
penet rat e, whi ch i s wi t hdrawn f rom any rat i onal f oundat i on,
j ust i f i cat i on, or eval uat i on. L i f e, when underst ood i n t hi s way, becomes
an i nexhaust i bl e reservoi r f or al l i rrat i onal powers. Through i t t he
‘psychi c underworl d’ can be conj ured up, whi ch i s “ as l i t t l e evi l as [i s]
t he cosmi c … , but i s rat her t he womb and ref uge f or al l product i ve and
generat i ve f orces, al l f orces t hat , t hough f orml ess, serve every f orm as
cont ent , al l f at ef ul movement s.”
When t hi s l i f e ‘beyond good and evi l ’
i s seen as t he f orce t hat act ual l y ‘makes hi st ory’, an ant i rat i onal and
ant i mat eri al i st vi ew of hi st ory i s creat ed whose soci ol ogi cal f ert i l i t y i s
demonst rat ed i n pol i t i cal exi st ent i al i sm and i t s t heory of t he t ot al st at e.
Thi s phi l osophy of l i f e resembl es D i l t hey’s L ebensphi l osophi e i n name
onl y and t ook f rom N i et zsche onl y odds and ends and pat hos. I t s soci al
f unct i ons come t o l i ght most cl earl y i n t he works of Spengl er,
t hey become t he subst ruct ure of an i mperi al i st economi c t heory.
The t endency common t o bot h of t hese current s, namel y ‘l i berat i ng’
l i f e f rom t he compul si on of a ‘uni versal l y’ obl i gat ory reason t hat st ands
above speci f i c rul i ng i nt erest s (and t he mandat e, deri ved f rom t hi s
reason, t o creat e a rat i onal human soci et y) and del i veri ng up exi st ence
t o pregi ven ‘i nvi ol abl e’ powers, l eads t o –
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
Irrationalistic naturalism
The interpretation of the historical and social process as a natural-
organic process goes behind the real (economic and social) motive
f orces of history into the sphere of eternal and immutable nature.
N ature is interpreted as a dimension of mythical originality (well
characterized in the phrase ‘blood and soil’), present in all things as a
prehistorical dimension. Human history truly begins only when this
dimension is overcome by being transf ormed. I n the new
weltanschauung, mythical, prehistorical nature has the f unction of
serving as the real adversary of responsible, autonomous, rational
practice. As something justif ied through its mere existence, this nature
stands opposed to that which requires rational justif ication; as what
must be absolutely acknowledged, against all that is f irst to be known
critically; as the essentially dark, against all that derives its substance
f rom the clarity of light; as the indestructible, against everything subject
to historical change. Naturalism is based on an equation that is
constitutive of the new worldview: nature, as original, is simultaneously
the natural, genuine, healthy, valuable, and sacred. That which is
beneath reason elevates itself , by means of its f unction ‘beyond good
and evil’, to what is beyond reason.
But the keystone of the entire edif ice is still missing. The hymn to
the natural-organic order contrasts too crassly with the f actual,
established order. There is a screaming contradiction between the
relations of production on the one hand and the attained level of
productive f orces and the satisf action of needs it makes possible on the
other. Nature is conf ronted with an economy and society that are
‘unnatural’, an order perpetuated by means of the violence of a gigantic
apparatus that can represent the whole against the individual because it
wholly oppresses him, a ‘totality’ that subsists only through the total
domination of all. The theoretical transf iguration of this totality results
in –
We shall not discuss here those elements of a genuine contribution to
philosophical and scientif ic knowledge (e.g. Gestalt theory) present in
universalism. I n the present context, what is signif icant is that in the
area of social theory universalism quickly took over the f unction of a
doctrine of political justif ication. Compared with individuals, the social
totality as self -subsistent and primary reality becomes, by virtue of its
N egat i ons
pure total character, a self -subsistent and primary value: the totality is, as
totality, the true and the genuine. Universalism does not ask whether
every totality does not f irst have to prove itself bef ore the tribunal of
individuals, to show that their potentialities and needs are realized in it.
When the totality is no longer the conclusion but the axiom, the path of
theoretical and practical social criticism leading to this totality is blocked
of f . Totality is programmatically mystif ied. I t can “ never be grasped by
hands, nor seen with outer eyes. Composure and depth of spirit are
necessary in order to behold it with the inner eye.”
I n political theory
this totality is represented by the f olk (V ol k ), as an essentially ‘natural-
organic’ unity and totality that is prior to all social dif f erentiation into
classes, interest groups, etc. With this thesis universalism rejoins
Here we interrupt our sketch of the currents that come together in
heroic-f olkish realism; later we shall deal both with their unif ication in a
total political theory and their social f unction. Bef ore interpreting their
interconnection it is necessary to def ine the historical locus of their
unif ication. I t becomes visible f rom its antipode. Heroic-f olkish realism
indiscriminately brings together everything against which it f ights under
the title of l i ber al i sm. “ Liberalism is the destruction of the nations” ; these
words stand at the head of that chapter of his book which Möller van
den Bruck devoted to the mortal enemy.
I t was as a counter to
liberalism that the theory of the total-authoritarian state became a
‘weltanschauung’. Only in this Combat position did it attain its political
sharpness (and even Marxism always appears to it in the train of
as its heir or partner). We must initially ask, theref ore: What
does this theory mean by liberalism, which it damns with a virtually
eschatological pathos, and what brought this damnation upon it?
I f we ask the spokesmen of the new weltanschauung what they are
f ighting in their attack on liberalism, we hear in reply of the ‘ideas of
1789’, of wishy-washy humanism and pacif ism, Western intellectualism,
egotistical individualism, sacrif ice of the nation and state to conf licts of
interest between particular social groups, abstract, conf ormist
egalitarianism, the party system, the hypertrophy of the economy, and
destructive technicism and materialism. These are the most concrete
– f or the concept ‘liberal’ of ten serves only f or purposes of
def amation, and political opponents are ‘liberal’ no matter where they
stand, and are as such the simply ‘evil’.

St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
Most surprising in t his cat alogue of sins is their abstract generality
and ahist orical qualit y. Scarcely one of t hem is characteristic of historical
liberalism. The ideas of 1789 have by no means always been on t he
banner of liberalism and have even been sharply at t acked by it .
Liberalism has been one of t he st rongest support s of t he demand f or a
powerf ul nat ion. Pacif ism and int ernationalism were not always causes it
adopt ed, and it has of t en enough accept ed considerable int ervent ion of
t he st at e in t he economy. What remains is a vague ‘welt anschauung’
whose hist orical associat ion wit h liberalism is not at all clear, although
its qualif ication as an object f or the attacks of the totalitarian theory of
the state will, we hope, become clear later. But supplanting the real
content of liberalism with a weltanschauung is in itself decisive in what
it conceals and leaves unsaid. The concealment points to the true
bat t lef ront : it avoids t he economic and social structure of liberalism. I t
is necessary t o reconst ruct (however summarily) this structure in order
t o know t he hist orical and social t errain which makes t he st ruggle of t he
‘welt anschauungen’ underst andable.
Liberalism was t he social and economic t heory of European
indust rial capit alism in t he period when t he act ual economic bearer of
capitalism was the ‘individual capitalist’, the private entrepreneur in the
literal sense. D espite structural variations in liberalism and its bearers
f rom one count ry or period t o another, a unif orm f oundat ion remains:
t he individual economic subject ’s f ree ownership and cont rol of privat e
propert y and t he polit ically and legally guarant eed securit y of t hese
right s. Around t his one st able cent er, all specif ic economic and social
demands of liberalism can be modif ied – modif ied t o t he point of self -
abolit ion. Thus, during t he rule of liberalism, powerf ul intervention in
economic lif e by st at e aut horit y f requent ly occurred, whenever t he
t hreat ened f reedom and securit y of privat e propert y required it ,
especially if the threat came f rom the proletariat. The idea of
dict at orship and of aut horit arian direction of the state is (as we shall see
shortly) not at all f oreign to liberalism. And, of t en enough, nat ional wars
were f ought in t he period of pacif istic-humanitarian liberalism. Those
basic polit ical demands of liberalism, result ing f rom it s economic views,
t hat are so hat ed t oday (such as f reedom of speech and of t he press,
complete publicity of political lif e, the representative system and
parliament arianism, t he separat ion or balance of powers) were never, in
f act, completely realized. D epending on t he social sit uat ion, t hey were
curbed or dropped.

N egat i ons
I n order to get behind the usual camouf lage and distortion and
arrive at a true image of the liberalist economic and social system, it
suf f ices to turn to Von Mises’ portrayal of liberalism:
The program of liberalism …, summed up in a single word, should read
‘Property’, that is, private property in the means of production. … All
other demands of liberalism derive f rom this basic demand.
I n the f ree, private initiative of the entrepreneur he sees the surest
guarantee of economic and social progress. That is why liberalism
considers “ capitalism the only possible order of social relations” , and
why it has only one enemy: Marxian socialism. On the other hand,
liberalism maintains that
f ascism and all similar attempts at dictatorship… have momentarily
saved European culture. The merit that f ascism has thereby acquired
will live on eternally in history.
We can already discern the reason why the total authoritarian state
diverts its struggle against liberalism into a struggle of
‘weltanschauungen’, why it bypasses the social structure basic to
liberalism: it is itself largely in accord with this basic structure. The latter
was characterized as the organization of society through private
enterprise on the basis of the recognition of private property and the
private initiative of the entrepreneur. And this very organization remains
f undamental to the total-authoritarian state; it is explicitly sanctioned in
a multitude of programmatic declarations.
The considerable
modif ications and restrictions of this organization that are put into
ef f ect everywhere correspond to the monopoly capitalist requirements
of economic development itself . They leave untouched the principle of
the organization of production relations.
There is a classic document illustrating the inner relationship
between liberalist social theory and the (apparently so antiliberal)
totalitarian theory of the state: a letter addressed to Mussolini by Gentile
at the time when the latter joined the Fascist party. There he writes:
As a liberal by deepest conviction, I could not help being convinced, in
the months in which I had the honor to collaborate in the work of your
government and to observe at close quarters the development of the
principles that determine your policies, that liberalism as I understand it,
the liberalism of f reedom through law and theref ore through a strong
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
state, through the state as ethical reality, is represented in I taly today not
by the liberals, who are more or less openly your opponents, but to the
contrary by you yourself . Hence I have satisf ied myself that in the
choice between the liberalism of today and the Fascists, who understand
the f aith of your Fascism, a genuine liberal, who despises equivocation
and wants to stand to his post, must enroll in the legions of your
f ollowers.

N o document s are needed t o show t hat, quite apart f rom this positive
connection, liberalism is entirely at one with the new worldview in its
f ight against Marxian socialism. To be sure, we of t en encount er in
heroic-f olkish realism vehement invect ive against t he monst rosit y of
capit alism, against it s bourgeois (Bür ger ) and his ‘greed f or prof it’ and so
on. But since t he f oundat ions of t he economic order, t he sole source of
the possibility of this bourgeois, remain intact, such invectives are
always direct ed against only a specif ic t ype of bourgeois (t hat of t he
small and petty ‘merchant breed’ [H ändl er t um] and against a specif ic
f orm of capitalism (represented by the model of the f ree competition of
independent and individual capit alist s). They never at t ack t he economic
f unct ions of t he bourgeois in t he capit alist product ion process. The
f orms of t he bourgeois and of capit alism t hat are at t acked here are
t hose which have already been displaced by t he course of economic
development ; nevert heless t he bourgeois capit alist remains as t he
subject of t he capit alist economy. The new welt anschauung reviles t he
‘merchant ’ and celebrat es t he ‘gif t ed economic leader’, t hereby only
hiding t hat it leaves t he economic f unct ions of t he bourgeois
unt ouched. The ant ibourgeois sent iment is merely a variation of that
‘heroizing’ of man whose social meaning we shall come to later.
Since t he social order int ended by liberalism is lef t largely intact, it is
no wonder t hat t he ideological int erpret at ion of t his social order
exhibit s a signif icant agreement between liberalism and antiliberalism.
More precisely, import ant element s of liberalism are picked up and t hen
reint erpret ed and elaborat ed in t he manner required by t he alt ered
economic and social condit ions. I n what f ollows we shall consider t he
t wo most import ant sources in t he liberalism of t he new polit ical and
social doctrine: the naturalistic interpret at ion of societ y and t he liberalist
rationalism that ends in irrationalism.
Behind t he economic f orces and relat ions of capit alist societ y
liberalism sees ‘natural’ laws which will demonstrate their entire salutary
nat uralness if t hey are only lef t t o develop f reely and without artif icial
N egat i ons
di st urbance. Rousseau sums up t hi s i dea wi t h t he words, “ That whi ch i s
good and conf ormabl e t o order i s so by t he nat ure of t hi ngs and
i ndependent l y of human convent i ons.”
There i s a ‘nat ure of t hi ngs’
t hat has i t s own pri mal l aw-l i ke charact er i ndependent l y of human
act i vi t y or power and t hat persi st s and cont i nual l y reproduces i t sel f
t hrough and despi t e al l di st urbances. H ere we f i nd a new concept of
nat ure t hat , i n sharp ant i t hesi s t o t he mat hemat i cal-rat i onal concept of
t he si xt eent h and sevent eent h cent uries, ref ers back t o t he anci ent
concept of nat ure as physi s. Af t er a short revol ut i onary peri od, i t s soci al
f unct i ons wi t hi n bourgeoi s t hought become ret ardi ng and react i onary
(as we shal l see bel ow). The appl i cat i on of t hi s concept of nat ure t o
pol i t i cal economy becomes deci si ve.
The exi st ence of nat ural l aws was al ways t he charact eri st i c assert i on of
t he cl assi cal school . These l aws … are qui t e si mpl y ‘nat ural ’, j ust l i ke
physi cal l aws, and are consequent l y amoral . They can be usef ul or
harmf ul : i t i s up t o man t o adapt t o t hem as wel l as he can.

L i beral i sm bel i eves t hat t hrough adapt at i on t o t hese ‘nat ural l aws’ t he
conf l i ct bet ween di f f erent want s, t he st ri f e bet ween t he general i nt erest
and pri vat e i nt erest s, as wel l as soci al i nequal i t y are ul t i mat el y overcome
i n t he al l-encompassi ng harmony of t he whol e, and t hat t he whol e t hus
becomes a bl essi ng f or t he i ndi vi dual .
H ere, i n t he cent er of t he
l i beral i st syst em, soci et y i s i nt erpret ed t hrough i t s reduct i on t o ‘nat ure’
i n i t s harmoni zi ng f unct i on: as t he evasi ve j ust i f i cat i on of a
cont radi ct ory soci al order.

L ooki ng ahead, we observe t hat t he new ant i l i beral i sm, j ust l i ke t he
crassest l i beral i sm, bel i eves i n et ernal nat ural l aws of soci al l i f e: “ There
i s somet hi ng et ernal i n our nat ure t hat cont i nual l y reproduces i t sel f and
t o whi ch every devel opment must ret urn….” “ N at ure i s conservat i ve,
because i t i s based on an unshakabl e const ancy of appearances t hat
al ways reproduces i t sel f even i f i t i s t emporari l y di st urbed.” These are
not t he words of a l i beral but of none ot her t han Möl l er van den
And t ot al i t ari an pol i t i cal t heory shares wi t h l i beral i sm t he
convi ct i on t hat ul t i mat el y t he “ bal ance of economi c i nt erest s and f orces
wi l l be est abl i shed”
i n t he whol e. Even nat ural l aw, one of t he most
t ypi cal l i beral i st concept i ons, i s rest at ed t oday at a new st age of hi st ory.
“ We are ent eri ng a new epoch of nat ural l aw!” procl ai ms H ans J. Wol f f
i n a t reat i se on “ t he new f orm of government of t he German Rei ch.” I n
t he cri si s of l egal t hought t oday t he di ce “ have f al l en i n f avor of nat ure” .
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
Only it is “ no longer the nature of man” out of which “ the appropriate
determination of norms is developed: it is nature, the specif ic character
of the f olk-nation (and nations) as a natural given and product of
historical becoming.”

Granted, liberalist naturalism is part of an essentially rationalist
system of thought, antiliberalist naturalism part of an irrationalist one.
The distinction must be maintained in order not to obliterate artif icially
the boundaries of both theories and not to misunderstand the change in
their social f unction. But liberalist rationalism already contains,
pref ormed, those tendencies that later, with the change f rom industrial
to monopoly capitalism, take on an irrationalist character.
The position which critical analysis leads a scientif ic theory of
society to take with regard to the antithesis rationalism-irrationalism has
been presented elsewhere.
I n what f ollows we have only worked out
the f undamental irrationalist tendency of the social theory that we have
taken as our theme. ‘I rrationalism’ is a counterconcept; in order to
understand an essentially irrationalist worldview, it is necessary to
construct an ‘ideal-type’ of a rationalist view of society.
A theory of society is r at i onal i st when the practice it enjoins is subject
to the idea of autonomous reason, i.e. to the human f aculty of
comprehending, through conceptual thought, the true, the good, and
the right. Within society, every action and every determination of goals
as well as the social organization as a whole has to legitimate itself
bef ore the decisive judgment of reason and everything, in order to
subsist as a f act or goal, stands in need of rational justif ication. The
principle of suf f icient reason,
the authentic and basic principle of
rationalism, puts f orward a claim to the connection of ‘things’ or ‘f acts’
as a ‘rational’ connection: the reason, or cause, posits that which it
causes as eo i pso also in accordance with reason.
The necessity of
acknowledging a f act or goal never f ollows f rom its pure existence;
rather, acknowledgment occurs only when knowledge has f reely
determined that the f act or goal is in accordance with reason. The
rationalist theory of society is theref ore essentially cr i t i cal ; it subjects
society to the idea of a theoretical and practical, positive and negative
critique. This critique has two guidelines: f irst, the given situation of
man as a rational organism, i.e. one that has the potentiality of f reely
determining and shaping his own existence, directed by the process of
knowledge and with regard to his worldly happiness; second, the given
N egat i ons
level of development of the productive f orces and the (corresponding
or conf licting) relations of production as the criterion f or those
potentialities that can be realized at any given time in men’s rational
structuring of society.
The rationalist theory is well aware of the limits
of human knowledge and of rational social action, but it avoids f ixing
these limits too hurriedly and, above all, making capital out of them f or
the purpose of uncritically sanctioning established hierarchies.
The i r r at i onal i st theory of society f inds it unnecessary to deny
radically the reality of critical reason: between binding reason to
pregiven ‘natural-organic’ f acts and enslaving it to the ‘beast of prey
within man’, there is suf f iciently wide latitude f or all sorts of derivative
reason. Decisive here is that irrational givens (‘nature’, ‘blood and soil’,
‘f olkhood’, ‘existential f acts’, ‘totality’, and so f orth) are placed prior to
the autonomy of reason as its limit i n pr i nci pl e (not merely in f act), and
reason is and remains causally, f unctionally, or organically dependent on
them. Against all attempts to f ight shy of this conclusion, it cannot be
emphasized of ten enough that such f unctionalization of reason or of
man as a rational organism annihilates the f orce and ef f ectiveness of
reason at its roots, f or it leads to a reinterpretation of the irrational
pregivens as nor mat i ve ones, which place reason under the heteronomy of
the irrational. I n the theory of contemporary society, playing up natural-
organic f acts against ‘rootless’ reason means justif ying by irrational
powers a society that can no longer be rationally justif ied and
submerging in the hidden darkness of ‘blood’ or the ‘soul’
contradictions recognized by the light of conceptual knowledge. This is
intended to truncate comprehension and criticism. “ Reality does not
admit of knowledge, only of acknowledgement” :
in this ‘classical’
f ormulation irrationalist theory arrives at the extreme antipode to all
rational thought and at the same ti me reveals its deepest intentions.
Today the irrationalist theory of society is as essentially uncritical as the
rationalist theory is critical; it is essentially antimaterialist, f or it must
def ame the worldly happiness of man that can be brought about only
through a rational organization of society and replace it with other, less
‘palpable’ values. What it of f ers as an alternative to materialism is a
heroic pauperism: an ethical transf iguration of poverty, sacrif ice, and
service, and a ‘f olkish realism’ whose social meaning we shall come to
later. Compared with heroic-f olkish realism, liberalism is a rationalist
theory. I ts vital element is optimistic f aith in the ultimate victory of
reason, which will realize itself above all conf licts of interest and
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
opinion in the harmony of the whole. I n keeping with its economic
views, liberalism links this victory of reason (and here begins the typical
liberalist conception of rationalism) to the possibility of a f ree and open
rivalry of divergent views and elements of knowledge, which is to result
in rational truth and rightness.

As the economic organization of society is built upon the f ree
competition of private economic subjects, in other words, on the unity
of opposites and the unif ication of the dissimilar, so the search f or truth
is f ounded on open self -expression, f ree dialogue, and convincing and
being convinced through argument – at root, that is, on contradicting
and criticizing one’s opponent. All the tendencies f rom which the
political demands of liberalism derive their theoretical validity (such as
f reedom of speech and of the press, publicity, tolerance, parliamentary
government) are elements of a true rationalism.
There is another source that f urnishes liberalist society with a
rationalist underpinning. The third f undamental right proclaimed in the
Declaration of the Rights of Man is sûr et é. This security means very
def initely a guarantee of f reedom in economic conduct – not only the
state’s guarantee of disposal over private property, but also the private
entrepreneur’s assurance of obtaining the greatest possible prof itability
and stability. This has two primary corollaries: a maximum of legal
security f or all private contracts and a maximum of exact calculability of
prof it and loss, supply and demand. I n the liberalist epoch of capitalism,
the rationalization of law and the rationalization of the enterprise (the
elements demonstrated by Max Weber to be decisive f or the spirit of
Western capitalism) are realized to a previously unknown extent. But at
this very point, liberalist rationalism comes up against barriers that it can
no longer surmount of itself . I rrationalist elements seep into it and
explode its basic theoretical conception.
The liberalist rationalization of economic lif e (as of social
organization in general) is essentially pr i vat e. I t is tied to the rational
practice of the individual economic subject or of a multiplicity of
individual economic subjects. I n the end, of course, the rationality of
liberalist practice is supposed to demonstrate itself in the whole and
characterize the whole, but this whole itself is outside the sphere of
The harmony of general and private interests is
supposed to result of i t sel f f rom the undisturbed course of private
N egat i ons
practice. On principle it is not subject to criticism, nor does it f all within
the bounds of rational projects f or practice.
Through this pr i vat i z at i on of r eason, the construction of society in
accordance with reason is deprived of the end which is supposed to
provide its goal (just as in irrationalism it is deprived of its beginning
through the f unctionalization of reason). Thus, precisely the rational
determination and condition of that ‘generality’ in which the ‘happiness’
of the individual is supposed to be realized is missing. To this extent
(and only to this extent) the reproach that liberalism’s talk of general
interest or humanity remains caught in pure abstractions is correct. The
structure and order of the whole are ultimately lef t to irrational f orces:
an accidental ‘harmony’, a ‘natural balance’. The plausibility of liberalist
rationalism thus ceases immediately when, with the intensif ication of
social conf lict and economic crises, general ‘harmony’ becomes
increasingly improbable. At this point liberalist theory must grasp at
irrational justif ications. Rational critique gives up; it is all too readily
prepared to acknowledge ‘natural’ privileges and f avors. The idea of the
charismatic, authoritarian leader is already pref ormed in the liberalist
celebration of the gif ted economic leader, the ‘born’ executive.
This rough sketch of liberalist social theory has shown how many
elements of the totalitarian view of the state are already present in it.
Taking the economic structure as a point of ref erence, we see an almost
unbroken continuity in the development of the social theory. We shall
here assume some prior knowledge of the economic f oundations of this
development f rom liberalist to totalitarian theory:
they are all
essentially part of the transf ormation of capitalist society f rom
mercantile and industrial capitalism, based on the f ree competition of
independent individual entrepreneurs, to monopoly capitalism, in which
the changed relations of production (and especially the large ‘units’ such
as cartels and trusts) require a strong state mobilizing all means of
power. Economic theory declares openly and clearly the reason why
liberalism now becomes the mortal enemy of social theory:
I mperialism has ... put the expedient of a strong state at the disposal of
capitalism…. The liberal ideas of f ree-f loating competition between
individual economic enterprises have proved themselves unsuited to

St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
The turn f rom the liberalist to the total-authoritarian state occurs within
the f ramework of a single social order. With regard to the unity of this
economic base, we can say it is liberalism that ‘produces’ the total-
authoritarian state out of itself , as its own consummation at a more
advanced stage of development. The total-authoritarian state brings with
it the organization and theory of society that correspond to the
monopolistic stage of capitalism.
This organization and its theory, it is true, also contain ‘new’
elements that go beyond the old liberal social order and its mere
negation: elements in which a clear dialectical reaction against liberalism
is perceptible, but which presuppose f or their realization the abolition
of the economic and social f oundations preserved by the total-
authoritarian state. The new political and social theory must not,
theref ore, be interpreted simply as a process of ideological adaptation.
I n order to contribute to comprehension of its real social f unction, we
shall interpret its basic f eatures by analyzing its three constitutive
components: universalism, naturalism (organicism), and existentialism.
The priority and primacy of the whole over its ‘members’ (parts) is a
basic thesis of heroic-f olkish realism. The whole is understood not only
as a sum or abstract totality, but as the unity that unif ies the parts, a
unity which is the precondition f or the f ulf illment and completion of
each part. The demand f or the realizat ion of such a totality occupies the
f irst place in the programmatic proclamations of the total-authoritarian
state. I n the organic order of lif e
the whole is primally given in its organic segmentation: the members
serve the whole, which is superordinate to them, but they serve it
according to the unique character that appertains to them as members
…, and, at the same time, it is in this uniqueness that their personal
destiny and the meaning of their personality are f ulf illed to the extent
that they participate in the whole.

As a historical entity this whole is supposed to encompass the entirety
of historical occurrences and relationships: within it are “ enclosed both
the national and the social idea” .

We have seen that the exclusion of the whole f rom the process of
rational action was a serious omission on the part of liberalist theory.
N egat i ons
Those demands of liberalism that go beyond saf eguarding and
exploiting private property in really intending a rational plan f or human
practice require f or their realization precisely the rational planning of the
whole of the relations of production within which individuals have to
live. The primacy of the whole over individuals is real, insof ar as the
f orms of the production and reproduction of lif e, which are ‘general’,
are pregiven to the individuals and insof ar as the appropriate
organization of these f orms is the precondition of the individual
happiness of men. But released f rom its economic and social content,
the concept of the whole has absolutely no concrete meaning in social
theory. We shall see that its organicist version, i.e. the interpretation of
the relation of totality to members as an organic-natural relationship, is
not able to provide this meaning. Even the ‘f olk’ becomes a real totality
only by virtue of its economic and social unity, not vice versa.
The strong universalist tendency does not, indeed, arise as a
philosophical speculation; economic development actually requires it.
One of the most important characteristics of monopoly capitalism is
that it brings about, in f act, a quite def inite ‘unif ication’ within society. I t
creates a new “ system of dependencies of the most diverse kinds” , such
as that of small and middle-sized enterprises on cartels and trusts or of
landed property and large-scale industry on f inance capital.

Here, in the economic structure of monopoly capitalist society, are
located the f actual bases of universalism. But in the theory they are
totally reinterpreted. The whole that it presents is not the unif ication
achieved by the domination of one class within the f ramework of class
society, but rather a unity that combines al l classes, that is supposed to
overcome the reality of class struggle and thus of classes themselves: the
“ establishment of a real f olk community, which elevates itself above the
interests and conf licts of status groups and classes” .
A classless
society, in other words, is the goal, but a classless society on the basis of
and within the f ramework of – the existing class society. For in the
totalitarian theory of the state the f oundations of this society, i.e. the
economic order based on private property in the means of production,
are not attacked. I nstead, they are only modif ied to the degree
demanded by the monopolistic stage of this very economic order. I n
consequence, all contradictions that inhere in such an order and make a
real totality impossible are carried over into the new stage and its theory.
Realizing the desired unif ying totality would be in truth primarily an
economi c task: elimination of the economic order that is the source of
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
classes and class struggles. But it is just this task that universalism
cannot and will not take on; indeed, it cannot even recognize it as an
economic one: “ I t is not economic conditions that determine social
relations but, to the contrary, it is moral views that determine economic
relations” .
Universalism must divert both consciousness and action
f rom the only possible way to realize the ‘whole’ and f rom the only
possible f orm of that whole into another, less dangerous direction: it
substitutes the ‘primal given’ of the fol k , of fol k hood.
We shall not go into the various attempts that have been made to
def ine the concept ‘f olk’. What is decisive is that it aims at a ‘primal
given’ that, as a ‘natural’ one, is prior to the ‘artif icial’ system of society.
I t is the “ social structure of the organic level of occurrence”
and as
such represents an ‘ultimate’, ‘germinated’ unity. “ The f olk is not a
structure that has originated through any human power” ;
it is a
‘divinely willed’ groundwork of human society. I n this way the new
social theory arrives at the equation through which it is led to the
premises of irrationalist ‘organicism’: as a natural-organic whole, the
f irst and last totality, the f oundation and limit of all ties and obligations,
is the genuine, divinely willed, eternal reality in contrast with the
inorganic, ‘derived’ reality of society. As such, owing to its origins, it is
largely withdrawn f rom the range of all human planning and decision.
Hence all attempts are ‘a priori’ discredited that would overcome the
present anarchically conf licting strivings and needs of individuals and
raise them to a true totality by means of a planned transf ormation of the
social relations of production. The path is cleared f or ‘heroic-f olkish’
organicism, which provides the basis necessary f or totalitarian political
theory to f ulf ill its social f unction.
N aturalism
I n ever new f ormulations, heroic-f olkish realism emphasizes the natural
properties of the totality represented by the f olk. The f olk is ‘subject to
blood’, it arises f rom the ‘soil’, it f urnishes the homeland with
indestructible f orce and permanence, it is united by characteristics of
‘race’, the preservation of whose purity is the condition of the f olk’s
‘health’. I n the train of this naturalism f ollows a glorif ication of the
as the only estate still ‘bound to nature’. I t is celebrated as
the ‘creative, original source’, as the eternal pillar of society. The
mythical glorif ication of the renewal of agriculture has its counterpart in
the f ight against the metropolis and its ‘unnatural’ spirit. This f ight
N egat i ons
expands into an attack on the rule of reason in general and sets loose all
irrational powers – a movement that ends with the total
f unctionalization of the mind. ‘N ature’ is the f irst in the series of
restricting conditions to which reason is subordinated. The
unconditioned authority of the state seems to be the last. ‘N ature’ as
celebrated by organicism, however, does not appear as a f actor of
production in the context of actual relations of production, nor as a
condition of production, nor as the basis, itself historical, of human
history. I nstead it becomes a myt h, and as myth it hides the organicist
depravation and f orcible displacement of historical and social processes.
Nature becomes the great antagonist of history.
The naturalistic myth begins by apostrophizing the natural as
‘eternal’ and ‘divinely willed’. This holds especially f or the totality of the
f olk, whose naturalness is one of the myth’s primary claims. The
particular destinies of individuals, their strivings and needs, their misery
and their happiness – all this is void and perishable, f or only the f olk is
permanent. The f olk is nature itself as the substructure of history, as
eternal substance, the eternally constant in the continual f lux of
economic and social relations. I n contrast with the f olk, the latter are
accidental, ephemeral, and ‘insignif icant’.
These f ormulations announce a characteristic tendency of heroic-
f olkish realism: its depr avat i on of hi st or y to a merely temporal occurrence
in which all structures are subjected to time and are theref ore ‘inf erior’.
This dehistoricization marks all aspects of organicist theory: the
devaluation of time in f avor of space, the elevation of the static over the
dynamic and the conservative over the revolutionary, the rejection of all
dialectic, the glorif ication of tradition f or its own sake.
N ever has
history been taken less seriously than now, when it is primarily adjusted
to the preservation and service of a national heritage, when revolutions
are held to be ‘background noise’ or ‘disturbances’ of natural laws, and
when the determination of human happiness and dignity is delivered
over to natural f orces of ‘blood’ and ‘soil’. I n this dehistoricization of
the historical, naturalist theory gives itself away; it expresses an interest
in stabilizing a particular f orm of the conditions of lif e, one that can no
longer be justif ied in its present historical situation. I f history were really
taken seriously, it could all too easily remind men that this f orm is in
crisis and that possibilities f or changing it can be derived f rom the
history of its origins. I n short, it could remind men that the established
social order is transitory, that “ the hour of its birth … is the hour of its
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
death” (Hegel). I t is ideologically perpetuated when it is claimed to be
the ‘natural order of lif e’.
Nonetheless, the new doctrine of history and society resists speaking
of race, f olkhood, blood, and soil in terms of a naturalistic biologism. I t
stresses that it conceives of these natural-organic data as simultaneously
and essentially ‘historical-spiritual’ f acts out of which grows a historical
‘community of destiny’. But if the word ‘destiny’ is supposed to do
more than stop short of knowledge of the real motive f orces and f actors
of history, then it cancels the organicist myth of the ‘natural community’
and thus the theoretical basis of the very philosophy of history f rom
which it derives. Certainly every nation or people (f olk) has its own
destiny (insof ar as it is an economic, geopolitical, and cultural unity), but
it is precisely this destiny that cleaves the nation’s unity into social
antagonisms. Common destinies af f ect the dif f erent groups within the
nation in dif f erent ways, and each reacts to them dif f erently. A war,
which undoubtedly af f ects the entire nation, can throw the masses into
terrible poverty while particular ruling strata derive nothing but
advantages f rom it. I n a general crisis the economically powerf ul have
much more ample opportunities f or resistance and f or avoiding dire
consequences than does the economically weaker majority. The
community of destiny almost always operates at the expense of the large
majority of the people: it thus cancels itself out as a community. I n
previous human history, this cleavage of national or communal unity
into social antagonisms is not merely secondary, nor is it the f ault or
responsibility of individuals. Rather, it comprises history’s real content,
which cannot be changed through adaptation to any sort of natural
order. I n history there are no longer any natural patterns that could
serve as models and ideas f or historical movement. Through the process
in which men in society contend with nature and with their own
historical reality (whose state at any given time is indicated by the
various conditions and relations of lif e), ‘nature’ has long been
historicized, i.e. to an increasing degree denuded of its naturalness and
subjected to rational human planning and technology. Natural orders
and data occur structured as economic and social relations (so that, f or
example, the peasant’s land is less a clod in the homeland than a holding
in the mortgage section of the land register).

This real structure, it is true, remains hidden f rom the consciousness
of most people.
N egat i ons
The f orm of the social process of lif e, that is, the material process of
production, strips of f its nebulous, mystical veil as soon as it is under
the conscious, planned control of f reely associated men as their

Until then it will be in the interest of those groups whose economic
situation contradicts the attainment of this goal to represent specif ic
social relations as perpetual and thus ‘natural’ in order to preserve the
established order and guard against the disturbance created by criticism.
The path that organicist theory takes in f ollowing this interest leads
beyond naturalizing the economy as such to the naturalization of the
monopoly capitalist economy as such and of the mass poverty it brings
about; all of these phenomena are sanctioned as ‘natural’. At the end of
this path (of which we shall suggest only the most important stages)
comes the point where ideology’s f unction of creating illusions turns
into one of disillusionment: transf iguration and camouf lage are replaced
by open brutality.
The economy is viewed as a ‘living organism’ that one cannot
transf orm ‘in one blow’. I t is constructed according to ‘primitive laws’
rooted in human ‘nature’. That is the f irst stage.
The step f rom the economy in general to the current economy is
quickly taken. The current crisis is ‘nature’s revenge’ on the “ intellectual
attempt to violate its laws. … But nature always wins in the end. …”
The transf iguration of economic and social relations to natural
archetypes must inevitably and repeatedly come up against the so
completely ‘unnatural’ f acticity of the current f orms of lif e. I n order to
paper over this contradiction, a radical devaluation of the material
sphere of existence, of the ‘external riches’ of lif e, is necessary. They are
‘overcome’ in the ‘heroism’ of poverty and ‘service’, of sacrif ice and
discipline. For heroic-f olkish realism, the f ight against materialism is
necessary in both theory and practice. I t must disavow, in f avour of
‘ideal’ values (honor, morality, duty, heroism), the worldly happiness of
men that the social order it upholds can never bring about. This
tendency toward ‘idealism’, however, is countered by another very
strong trend. For monopoly capitalism and its political situation demand
f rom men the utmost exertion and permanent tension in the provision
of the ‘worldly’ goods that are to be produced. I t f ollows f rom this that
all of lif e is comprehended under the categories of service and work – a
pure ‘inner-worldly’ asceticism. Another f actor that discredits idealism is
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
that classical idealism was essentially rationalist, an idealism of the
‘mind’, of reason. To the extent that it always contains, in some f orm,
t he aut onomy of reason and places human practice under the idea of
knowledge engaged in active comprehension, it necessarily brings down
upon itself the enmity of the total-authoritarian state. The latter has
every cause to consider reason’s critique dangerous and hence to bind it
to preordained states of f act. “ German I dealism must theref ore be
overcome in f orm and content if we want to become a political, an
active people” .

A f undamental ambiguity thus runs through antiliberalist theory.
While on the one hand it advocates a constant, hard, almost cynical
realism, on the other it extols ‘ideal’ values as the f irst and last meaning
of lif e and cries out f or the salvation of the ‘spirit’. We f ind two sets of
pronouncement s juxt aposed. The f irst attacks the weak ‘idealist’,
alienated f rom the world, to the advantage of the new type, the heroic
man: “ He lives not f rom t he mind, but f rom blood and earth. He lives
not f rom culture, but f rom action” .
The second consists of passages
such as this:
The banner of the spirit waves over mankind as its distinctive mark.
Although f rom time to time we may be carried away by glorious and
impulsive urges of the will, the spirit always re-establishes its rights.


All sorts of ‘metaphysical certainties’ are conjured up, but they have
probably never been as carelessly prof f ered and elevated to an of f icial
weltanschauung as today, when the f inal victory over the metaphysics of
humanist idealism is announced while the big stick of imperialism is
being brandished overhead:
We no longer live in the age of education, of culture, of
humanitarianism, and of the pure spirit, but rather under the necessity
of struggle, of shaping political reality, of soldiery, of f olkish discipline,
of f olkish honor and of the f uture of the f olk. What is required of the
men of this era, consequently, is not the idealist but the heroic attitude
as both task and necessity of lif e.

N ever, moreover, has that anti-idealist ‘shaping of reality’ been seen and
interpreted in a bleaker and poorer manner: “ Service that never ends
because service and lif e coincide” .
I n f act, it takes a heroism that
cannot possibly be rationally justif ied to make the sacrif ice required f or
N egat i ons
the preservation of the established order. I n view of the everyday
poverty of the masses and the danger of new and terrible wars and
crises, appealing to the ‘naturalness’ of this order is of no avail. I t is not
‘nature’ but capitalism in its true f orm that has the last word. We are
now at the last stage, where this theory lets f all its veil of transf iguration
and discloses the true f ace of the social order: “ We hold … the lowering
of the standard of living to be inevitable and deem the most urgent
consideration to be the way we are to view this occurrence and react to
it” . Thus theory’s ef f orts are not directed toward the elimination of
mass poverty. To the contrary, it regards the growth of this poverty as
its inevitable presupposition. Nowhere has the new ‘realism’ come
closer to the truth, which it f aithf ully pursues as f ollows: “ What is f irst
necessary is that everyone realize that poverty, restriction, and especially
the renunciation of ‘cultural goods’ are required of all” . Very likely, not
everyone will concede this necessity: people “ at the present time still
resist [it] with biological individual instincts” . The main business of
theory will thus be “ to bring [these instincts] to heel” . The theoretician’s
acumen lets him know that this cannot be accomplished by the “ f aculty
of reason” alone, but only “ when poverty again acquires the stamp of an
ethical virtue, when poverty is no longer a shame or misf ortune but
rather a dignif ied attitude taken as a matter of course with regard to a
grave and universal destiny” . And the theorist reveals to us the f unction
of this and similar ‘ethics’: it is the “ pedestal needed by the politician …
in order to make policy decisions with certainty” .

Heroism, the ethic of poverty as the ‘pedestal’ of politics: here the
struggle against the materialist worldview reveals itself in its f inal
meaning, that of ‘bringing to heel’ instincts that rebel against the f alling
standard of living. A f unctional change in ideology, characteristic of
certain stages of social development, has taken place. This ideology
exhibits the status quo, but with a radical transvaluation of values:
unhappiness is turned into grace, misery into blessing, poverty to
destiny. Vice versa, striving f or happiness and material improvement
becomes sin and injustice.
The perf ormance of duty, the sacrif ice, and the devotion that ‘heroic
realism’ requires of men are brought into the service of a social order
that perpetuates the misery and unhappiness of individuals. Although
these sacrif ices are made at the ‘brink of meaninglessness’, they have
nonetheless a concealed, very ‘rational’ purpose: f actually and
ideologically stabilizing the current system of producing and
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
reproducing lif e.
Heroic realism of f ends against the great ideas of duty,
sacrif ice, and devot ion by programmat ically incorporat ing int o t he
apparat us of a syst em of dominat ion what can only occur as t he f ree gif t
of f ree men.
As we have seen, t he model of man project ed by t oday’s heroic
realism is of one whose existence is f ulf illed in unquestioning sacrif ices
and uncondit ional act s of devot ion, whose et hic is povert y and all of
whose worldly goods have been melt ed down int o service and
discipline. This image st ands in sharp opposit ion t o all t he ideals
acquired by West ern man in t he last cent uries. How just if y such an
exist ence? Since man’s mat erial well-being is not it s goal, it cannot be
just if ied on t he basis of his nat ural needs and inst inct s. But neit her can
its goal be his spiritual welf are, or salvat ion, since t here is no room f or
justif ication by f aith. And in the universal struggle against reason,
just if icat ion by knowledge can no longer count as a justif ication.
To the extent that totalitarian theory moves wit hin t he bounds of
scientif ic discussion, it becomes aware of t his problem. Thinking of t he
‘emergency’ in which sacrif icing one’s own lif e and killing ot her men are
demanded, Carl Schmitt inquires into t he reason f or such sacrif ice:
“ There is no rat ional end, no norm however correct , no program
however exemplary, no social ideal however beaut if ul, and no legit imacy
or legality that could justif y men’s killing one another” .
What, then,
remains as a possible justif ication? Only this: that there is a state of
af f airs t hat t hrough it s very exist ence and presence is ex empt f rom all
justif ication, i.e. an ‘existential’, ‘ont ological’ st at e of af f airs –
justif ication by mere existence. ‘Existentialism’ in its political f orm
becomes t he t heory of t he (negat ive) just if icat ion of what can no longer
be justif ied.
We shall be dealing here not wit h t he philosophical f orm of
existentialism but with its political f orm, i.e. that in which it has become
a decisive element of totalitarian political theory. I t must he stressed
right f rom the start that in political existentialism there is not even an
attempt to def ine the ‘existential’ concept ually. The only t hing we have
t o go on in elucidat ing t he int ended meaning of the existential is the
passage by Carl Schmit t cit ed above. There t he exist ent ial appears
essent ially as a cont rast t o t he ‘normat ive’, i.e. as somet hing t hat cannot
be placed under any norm lying out side it. From this it f ollows that one
N egat i ons
absolutely cannot think, judge, or decide about an existential condition
as a ‘non-partisan third [party]’. “ The possibility of correct knowledge
and understanding and therewith also the competence to participate in
speaking and to judge is given here only by existential partaking and
participation” .
There is no f undamental or general criterion in
existentialism f or determining which f acts and conditions are to be
considered existential. That remains lef t in principle to the decision of
the existential theoretician. But once he claims a state of f act as
existential, all those who do not ‘participate and partake’ in its reality are
to keep silent. Predominantly pol i t i cal conditions and relations are
sanctioned here as existential, and within the political dimension it is the
relation to the enemy,
or war, that counts as the simply and absolutely
existential relationship (‘the f olk and f olk membership’ have been added
as a second, equally existential, relationship).
Given this lack of any exact conceptual character, it is necessary to
turn brief ly f rom political to philosophical existentialism. The meaning
of philosophical existentialism lay in regaining the f ull concretion of the
historical subject in opposition to the abstract ‘logical’ subject of
rational idealism, i.e. eliminating the domination, unshaken f rom
D escartes to Husserl, of the ego cogi t o. Heidegger’s position bef ore his
Sei n und Z ei t was philosophy’s f urthest advance in this direction. Then
came the reaction. With good reason, philosophy avoided looking more
caref ully at the historical situation, with regard to its material f acticity, of
the subject to which it addressed itself . At this point concretion
stopped, and philosophy remained content to talk of the nation’s ‘link
with destiny’, of the ‘heritage’ that each individual has to adopt, and of
the community of the ‘generation’, while the other dimensions of
f acticity were treated under such categories as ‘they’ (das M an), or ‘idle
talk’ (das G er ede), and relegated in this way to ‘inauthentic’ existence.
Philosophy did not go on to ask about the nature of this heritage, about
the people’s mode of being, and about the real powers and f orces that
ar e history. I t thus renounced every possibility of comprehending the
f acticity of historical situations and distinguishing between them.
I nstead, something like a new anthropology gradually began to
crystallize, absorbing in an ever more superf icial way the f ertile
discoveries of existential analysis. This anthropology then took on the
job of f urnishing a philosophical f oundation f or the ideal of man
projected by heroic realism.
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
The theoretical man to whom the value concepts currently in circulation
ref er is a f iction. … Man is essentially a political creature, i.e. …, he is
not a creature whose being is determined by his participation in a higher
‘spiritual world’…, but he is rather an originally acting creature.

A total activation, concretization, and politicization of all dimensions of
existence is demanded. The autonomy of thought and the objectivity
and neutrality of science are repudiated as heresy or even as a political
f alsif ication on the part of liberalism. “ We are active, enterprising beings
and incur guilt if we deny this our essence: guilt by neutrality and
tolerance” .
The proclamation includes the af f irmation that “ all science
is lif e-conditioned, reality-oriented, historically conditioned, and
situationally bound” .
Many of these theses have long been part of the
conceptual makeup of scientif ic social theory. The conditions at their
root have already been identif ied by historical materialism. That
knowledge originally developed to fi ght the established order is now
applied in its ser vi ce shows how the dialectic realizes itself in the realm of
theory: the stabilization of the current social structure is only possible in
a way that at the same time sets f ree progressive f orces of development.
Politically, these f orces are coerced into a f orm that obstructs their
original movement and makes their liberating ef f ect illusory. This
change in f unction is simultaneously expressed in the attempt to ground
them in theory. The concrete social meaning of positing man as a
primarily historical, political, and politically acting being is revealed only
when we ask: What manner of ‘historicity’ is meant, what f orm of
political action and of practice is intended? What kind of action is it,
then, that the new anthropology enjoins as the ‘authentic’ practice of
Action does not mean ‘deciding in f avor of ’ …, f or that presupposes
that one knows in f avor of what one is deciding; rather, action means
‘setting of f in a direction’, ‘taking sides’, by virtue of a mandate of
destiny, by virtue of ‘one’s own right’. … I t is really secondary to decide
in f avor of something that I have come to know.

This typical f ormulation sheds light on the sorry picture that ‘existential’
anthropology paints of active man. He acts – but he knows not what
f or. He acts – but he has not even decided f or himself in f avor of what
he acts. He simply ‘takes sides’ or ‘goes into action’ – “ I t is really
secondary to decide in f avor of something I have come to know” . This
anthropology derives its pathos f rom a radical devaluation of Logos as
N egat i ons
knowledge t hat reveals and decides. I t was Aristotle’s view that it is
precisely Logos t hat dist inguishes man f rom animal: t he capacit y “ t o set
f ort h t he expedient and t he inexpedient, and theref ore likewise the just
and t he unjust ” .
Exist ent ial ant hropology believes t hat knowing t he
reason f or one’s decision, t he goal which gives all human act ion
meaning and value, is secondary. I t is essential only t hat a pat h be t aken,
t hat one t ake sides. “ The horrif ying dif f erences of st andpoint do not
reside in t he sphere of pure mat erial object ivit y” but rat her “ in t he
synthetic f orce of existentially root ed ways of looking at t hings” .
when existential anthropology attains this irrat ional t one does it become
capable of f ulf illing its social f unction in the service of a system of
dominat ion t o which not hing can be less opport une t han a ‘mat erial,
objective’ justif ication of the action it requires.
Seen in this perspective, the strong emphasis on t he hist oricit y of
existence reveals itself as empty, f or it is possible only on t he basis of
t he above-ment ioned depravat ion of hist ory. Genuine hist oricit y
presupposes a cognit ive relat ion of exist ence t o t he f orces of hist ory
and, derived f rom it, the theoretical and practical cr i t i que of these f orces.
But in exist ent ial ant hropology t he corresponding relat ion is limit ed t o
one of accepting a ‘mandate’ issued to existence by the ‘f olk’. I t is
considered self -evident that it is t he ‘f olk’ – and not any part icular
int erest group – which issues t he mandat e and f or which it is exercised.
A secularized theological image of history emerges. Every f olk receives
its historical mandate as a ‘mission’ that is the f irst and last, the
unrestricted obligation of existence. I n a sal t o mor t al e (t he speed of which
cannot obscure t hat in it t he ent ire t radit ion of philosophical and
scient if ic knowledge is t hrown by the board) the ‘will to knowledge’ is
subject ed t o t he alleged mandat e of one’s own f olk. And t he f olk is
considered a unit y and t ot alit y underlying t he socio-economic sphere.
Existentialism, too, sees in ‘earthy and bloody f orces’ t he real f orces of
Thus t he exist ent ialist current s, t oo, are nourished f rom t he
great naturalistic reservoir.
On this point political existentialism is more sensitive than its
philosophical count erpart . I t knows t hat even t he ‘eart hy and bloody
f orces’ of a f olk become hist orical only in particular political f orms, that
is, if a real st ruct ure of dominat ion, t he st at e, has been erect ed over t he
f olk. Existentialism, too, needs an explicit political theory: the doctrine
of the total state. We shall not provide here an express critique of this
t heory and shall st ress only what is decisive in our context.
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
Polit ical relat ionships and condit ions are int erpret ed as exist ent ial
ones, as in accordance wit h Being. This view would be self -evident if it
meant not hing more t han t hat man, wit h respect t o his nat ure,
(physei ), is a polit ical organism. But it does mean more. We saw t hat t he
exist ent ial as such is exempt f rom any rat ional st andard or norm lying
beyond it ; it is it self t he absolut e norm and is inaccessible t o any and all
rat ional crit icism and just if icat ion. Accordingly, polit ical condit ions and
relat ionships are now posit ed as t he most emphat ically signif icant
f act ors ‘deciding’ exist ence. And wit hin t he polit ical sphere all
relat ionships are orient ed in t urn t oward t he most ext reme ‘crisis’,
t oward t he decision about t he ‘st at e of emergency’, of war and peace.
The t rue possessor of polit ical power is def ined as beyond all legalit y
and legit imacy: “ Sovereign is he who decides on t he st at e of
emergency” .
Sovereignt y is f ounded on t he f act ual power t o make t his
decision (decisionism). The basic political relat ionship is t he ‘f riend-
enemy relat ionship’. I t s crisis is war, which proceeds unt il t he enemy has
been physically annihilat ed. There is no social relat ionship t hat does not
in a crisis t urn int o a polit ical relat ionship. Behind all economic, social,
religious, and cult ural relat ions st ands t ot al polit icizat ion. There is no
sphere of privat e or public lif e, no legal or rat ional court of appeal t hat
could oppose it .
At t his point occurs t he release of progressive f orces t o which we
have already ref erred. Tot al act ivat ion and polit icizat ion do away wit h
t he inhibit ing neut ralit y of broad st rat a of t he populat ion and creat e,
along a f ront never bef ore mat ched in lengt h and breadt h, new f orms of
polit ical st ruggle and new met hods of polit ical organizat ion. The
separat ion of st at e and societ y, which liberalism had at t empt ed t o carry
out in t he ninet eent h cent ury, is abolished: t he st at e t akes over t he
polit ical int egrat ion of societ y. And, in t he process of t he
exist ent ializat ion and t ot alizat ion of t he polit ical sphere, t he st at e also
becomes t he bearer of t he aut hent ic pot ent ialit ies of exist ence it self . I t is
not t he st at e t hat is responsible t o man but man who is responsible t o
t he st at e; he is delivered over t o it . At t he level on which polit ical
exist ent ialism moves, t here can be absolut ely no quest ion whet her t he
st at e in it s ‘t ot al’ f orm is right in making such demands, whet her t he
syst em of dominat ion t hat it def ends wit h all available means guarant ees
anyt hing like t he possibilit y of more t han illusory f ulf ilment f or most
men. The exist ent ialit y of t he polit ical st ruct ure is removed f rom such
‘rat ionalist ic’ quest ions; even asking t hem is a crime: “ All t hese at t empt s
N egat i ons
to dispute the state’s newly gained ef f ective right signif y sabotage. …
Relentlessly to exterminate this sort of thought is the noblest duty of the
state today” .

No longer f ounded on the pluralism of social interests and their
parties, and exempt f rom all f ormal legality and legitimacy, this state’s
f orm of domination is that of the authoritarian leader and his
‘f ollowing’.
I n conscious opposition to the liberal and civil [bür ger l i ch] constitutional
state, the national constitutional state, in its politics and constitutional
law, has the f orm of the authoritarian leader-state [F ühr er st aat ]. The
authoritarian leader-state sees in state authority the most essential
f eature of the state.

Essentially, authoritarian leadership draws its political qualif ications
f rom two sources, which are themselves linked: an irrational,
‘metaphysical’ power, and a ‘non-social’ power. The idea of
‘justif ication’ still disquiets the theory: “ An authoritarian government
needs a justif ication that goes beyond the personal” . There is no
material or rational justif ication. Thus the “ justif ication must be
metaphysical …. As a principle of state order, the distinction between
leaders and led can be made only metaphysically” .
The political and
social meaning of the concept ‘metaphysical’ gives itself away: “ A
government that governs only because it has a mandate f rom the f olk is
not an authoritarian government. Authority is possible only if it comes
f rom transcendence…”
The word ‘transcendence’ ought to be taken
seriously here. The f oundation of authority lies beyond all social
f acticity, so that it does not depend on it f or validation. Above all, it
surpasses the ‘f olk’s’ f actual situation and power of comprehension:
“ Authority presupposes a status that is valid over against the f olk
because the f olk does not conf er it but acknowledges it” .

Acknowledgment is the f oundation of authority: a truly ‘existential’
proof !
Let us now brief ly consider the ‘dialectical’ f ate of existentialist
theory in the total state. This dialectic is ‘passive’, f or it passes over the
theory without the latter being able to incorporate it and develop it
f urther. With the realization of the total-authoritarian state,
existentialism abolishes itself – rather, it undergoes abolition.
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
The total state must be a state of total responsibility. This means that
the state becomes the only source and object of every individual’s
duties. Being in this state of duty abolishes the private character of
individual existence.

Existentialism, however, was originally based on the ‘private’ character
of individual existence, its irremovable, personal ‘always-being-my-own’
(Jemei ni gk ei t ). The total state takes over total responsibility f or individual
existence; existentialism had claimed the inalienable self -responsibility of
existence. The total state decides existence in all its dimensions;
existentialism had put f orth as the f undamental category of existence
that ‘decidedness’ (E nt schl ossenhei t ) which can be the project only of each
individual existence. The total state demands total duty without even
allowing inquiry into the truth of such obligation; existentialism (here in
agreement with K ant) had celebrated the autonomous self -giving of
duty as the real dignity of man. The total state has “ overcome
[individual f reedom] as a postulate of human thought …” ;

existentialism (again in accord with K ant) had placed “ the essence of
human f reedom” , as the autonomy of the person
at the origin of
philosophizing, and made f reedom the condition of truth.
f reedom was seen as man’s ‘self -authorization’ f or his existence and to
the realm of beings as such; conversely man is now “ authorized to
f reedom by the authoritatively led community of the f olk” .

There would appear yet one escape f rom this hopeless
heteronomism. One can screen the abolition of human f reedom with
the pretext that only the bad liberalist concept of f reedom is being
abolished and then def ine the ‘true’ concept of f reedom somewhat as
f ollows: “ The essence of f reedom lies precisely in obligation to the f olk
and the state” .
Now even the most convinced liberal never denied that
f reedom does not exclude obligation but rather demands it. And since
Aristotle, in the last book of the N i chomachean E t hi cs, inseparably linked
the question of man’s ‘happiness’ to the question of the ‘best state’,
essentially grounding ‘politics’ and ‘ethics’ in each other (with the
f ormer as the f ulf ilment of the latter), we know that fr eedom i s an emi nent l y
pol i t i cal concept . Real f reedom f or individual existence (and not merely in
the liberalist sense) is possible only in a specif ically structured polis, a
‘rationally’ organized society. I n consciously politicizing the concept of
existence, and deprivatizing and deinternalizing (E nt -l nner l i chung) the
liberalist, idealist conception of man, the totalitarian view of the state
represents progress – progress that leads beyond the basis of the
N egat i ons
totalitarian state, propelling the theory beyond the social order that it
af f irms. As long as it remains within the latter’s bounds, the progress
operates regressively: the process of politicizing and deprivatizing
annihilates individual existence instead of truly raising it to
This becomes clear in the antiliberalist concept of
f reedom.
The political identif ication of f reedom and obligation is more than
an empty phrase only if the community to which the f ree individual is a
priori obligated secures him the possibility of a f ulf illed existence
worthy of man, or if the community can be directed toward such a
possibility. The question that the identity of f reedom and political
obligation (an identity which as such deserves to be recognized) impels
one to ask, rather than dispenses one f rom asking, is this: What is this
community like, to which I am to obligate myself ? Can it sustain human
happiness and dignity? The ‘natural’ af f iliations of ‘blood’ and ‘soil’
alone can never justif y the total surrender of the individual to the
community. Man is more than nature, more than an animal, “ and we
can never leave of f thinking. For man is a thinking being, that is how be
distinguishes himself f rom animals” .
N or can totally delivering over
the individual to the state that f actually exists at a given moment be
demanded merely on the grounds that man is ‘ontologically’ a political
being or that political relationships are ‘existential’. Unless it is to
annihilate human f reedom rather than to f ulf il it, the political obligation
of f reedom can be only the f ree practice of the individual himself . This
practice begins with critique and ends with the f ree self -realization of
the individual in a rationally organized society. This organization of
society and this practice are the mortal enemies that political
existentialism combats with all available means.
Existentialism collapses the moment its political theory is realized.
The total-authoritarian state f or which it longed gives the lie to all its
truths. Existentialism accompanies its debacle with a self -abasement
unique in the history of ideas, bringing its own history to end as a satyr
play. I n philosophy, existentialism begins as the antagonist in a great
debate with Western rationalism and idealism, intending to save their
conceptual content by injecting it into the historical concretion of
individual existence. I t ends by radically denying its own origin; the
struggle against reason drives it blindly into the arms of the powers that
be. I n their service and with their protection, it turns traitor to the great
philosophy that it f ormerly celebrated as the culmination of Western
St r uggl e A gai nst L i ber al i sm i n T ot al i t ar i ani sm
thought. The abyss between them is now unbridgeable. K ant was
convinced that there are ‘inalienable’ human rights, which “ man cannot
surrender even if he so wills” .
Human right must be kept sacred, no matter how great the sacrif ice it
costs the ruling powers. One cannot go only half way and contrive a
pragmatically conditioned right. … All politics, rather, must bend the
knee bef ore sacred human right….

K ant had obligated man to self -given duty, to f ree self -determination as
the only f undamental law; existentialism annuls this law and obligates
man “ to the leader and the f ollowing that is immediately pledged to
him” .
Hegel could still believe that
what is true, great, and divine in lif e is so through the I dea. … All that
holds human lif e together and that has merit and validity is of a mental
and spiritual [gei st i g] nature and this realm of the mind and spirit exists
only through the consciousness of truth and right, through the
comprehension of I deas.

Today existentialism knows better: “ Let not doctrines and ‘I deas’ be the
rules of your being. Today and in the f uture, only the F ühr er himself is
German reality and its law.”

The question of philosophy’s ‘standpoint’ arose in the period of
rationalist idealism as it does today. As K ant wrote,
Here we see philosophy now accorded, in f act, a precarious standpoint,
which is supposed to be stable in spite of not being supported by or
attached to anything either in heaven or on earth. Here it is to prove its
integrity as keeper of its own laws, not as the herald of those insinuated
to it by some inveterate disposition or by who knows what tutelary

Today philosophy is accorded just the opposite standpoint:
What should philosophy do in this hour? Perhaps there is lef t f or it
today only the business of justif ying, through employment of its
prof ound knowledge of man, those who want not to know but to act.

With relentless consistency, this philosophy has f ollowed through to the
end the road f rom critical idealism to ‘existential’ opportunism.
Existentialism, which at one time understood itself to be the heir of
N egat i ons
German I dealism, has given up the greatest intellectual heritage of
German history. I t was not with Hegel’s death but only now that the
Fall of the Titans of German philosophy occurs.
At that time, in the
nineteenth century, its decisive achievements were preserved in a new
f orm in scientif ic social theory and the critique of political economy.
Today the f ate of the labor movement, in which the heritage of this
philosophy was preserved, is clouded with uncertainty.

The Concept of Essence
I n philosophy, there are f undamental concepts whose metaphysical
character sets them f ar apart f rom the sociohistorical roots of thought.
That their content remains the same in the most diverse philosophical
theories would appear the soundest justif ication f or the idea of a
‘phi l osophi a per enni s’. Yet even these lof tiest conceptions of philosophy
are subject to historical development. I t is not so much their content as
it is their position and f unction within philosophical systems which
changes. Once this is seen, it becomes clear that these very concepts
provide a clearer indication of the historical transf ormation of
philosophy than those whose contents are f ar closer to f acticity. Their
metaphysical character betrays more than it conceals. For so much of
men’s real struggles and desires went into the metaphysical quest f or an
ultimate unity, truth, and universality of Being
that they could not have
f ailed to f ind expression in the derived f orms of the philosophical
The concept of essence belongs to these categories. I ts manif old
f orms have as their common content the abstraction and isolation of
the one true Being f rom the constantly changing multiplicity of
appearances. Under the name of ‘essence’ this Being is made into the
object of ‘authentic’, certain, and secure knowledge. The way in which
modern philosophy has understood and established knowledge of
essence contrasts with that of ancient and medieval philosophy. The
historical situation of the bourgeoisie, the bearer of modern philosophy,
comes out in modern interpretations of the relation of essence and
appearance. According to the view characteristic of the dawning
bourgeois era, the critical autonomy of rational subjectivity is to
N egat i ons
establish and justif y the ultimate essential truths on which all theoretical
and pract ical t rut h depends. The essence of man and of t hings is
cont ained in t he f reedom of the thinking individual, the ego cogi t o. At the
close of t his era, knowledge of essence has primarily t he f unct ion of
binding the critical f reedom of the individual to pregiven,
unconditionally valid necessities. I t is no longer t he spont aneit y of t he
concept but the receptivity of intuition t hat serves as t he organon of t he
doct rine of essence. Cognit ion culminates in recognition, where it
remains f ixat ed. Husserl’s phenomenology can be considered a delayed
attempt to reinvigorate bourgeois t heory wit h t he basic f orces and
concept s of German I dealism (in which t he doct rine of essence had
f ound its classical f orm). Although eliminating their critical (K antian)
orientation, Husserl’s philosophy thus still belongs to the liberalist
period. The material eidetics (Scheler) that came in Husserl’s train,
however, represents the transition to a new st age: t he preparat ion of
t hought f or t he ideology of aut horit arian f orms of dominat ion. The
intuition of essence is misused to establish orders of value in which the
relat ions of hierarchy and subordinat ion required by t he est ablished
order are derived f rom the ‘essence’ of man, of nat ionalit y, and of race.
From D escartes to modern eidetics, the concept of essence has
f ollowed a course leading f rom aut onomy t o het eronomy, f rom t he
proclamation of the f ree, rational individual to his surrender to the
powers of the authoritarian state.
The current f orm of t he doct rine of essence no longer preserves t he
comprehension t hat led t o t he separat ion of essence and appearance;
neit her does t he abst ract cancellat ion of t his separat ion demanded by
positivism. A theory that wants to eradicate f rom science the concept of
essence succumbs to helpless relativism, thus promoting the very
powers whose react ionary t hought it wants to combat. Positivism
cannot provide an ef f ective critique of the idealist doctrine of essence.
D oing so devolves upon the materialist dialectic. Bef ore this task is
attempted, we shall analyze some typical f orms of the idealist doctrine
of essence.


I n Plato’s theory of I deas, where the concept of essence was f irst clearly
f ormulat ed, it was an out come of t he quest f or the unity and universality
C oncept of E ssence
of Being in view of t he mult iplicity and changeabilit y of beings. That
t hings, even t hough each of t hem is ‘individual’, are nevert heless similar
and dissimilar, like and unlike; t hat in t he endless mult iplicit y of t heir
at t ribut es t hey are comprehended as one and t he same; t hat quit e
diverse phenomena accord in being considered good, beaut if ul, just ,
unjust , and so f ort h; in short , t hat t he world of beings is divided int o
species and genera, subsumed under t he highest cat egories, and known
by means of universal concept s is t he philosophical subst rat um of t he
problem of essence. This problem was not one of epist emology alone.
For when t he unit y in mult iplicit y, t he universal, is conceived as what
t ruly exist s, crit ical and et hical element s ent er int o t he concept of
essence. The isolat ion of t he one universal Being is connect ed t o t hat of
aut hent ic Being f rom inaut hent ic, of what should and can be f rom what
is. The Being of t hings is not exhaust ed in what t hey immediat ely are;
t hey do not appear as t hey could be. The f orm of t heir immediat e
exist ence is imperf ect when measured against t heir pot ent ialit ies, which
comprehension reveals as t he image of t heir essence. Their ei dos, or
I dea, becomes t he crit erion by means of which t he dist ance bet ween
exist ence and what it could be, it s essence, is measured in each case.
Accordingly, t he at t ribut es of t his concept of essence do not have a
primarily logical or epist emological basis. Seeking t he unit y, universalit y,
and permanence of Being and ‘remembering’ t he essence are mot ivat ed
by t he crit ical consciousness of ‘bad’ f act icit y, of unrealized
pot ent ialit ies. The essence as potent ialit y becomes a f orce wit hin
exist ence. Beginning wit h t he lat e version of t he t heory of I deas in t he
Sophi st and t he Phi l ebus, t he I dea as dynami s ent ers int o t he process in
which ‘t rue Being’ originat es as t he result of becoming. This is t he f irst
f orm in which t he crit ical and dynamic charact er of t he concept of
essence is f ully realized. The I dea means f undament ally t he agat hon, or
what exist s as it can be according t o it s own measure; exist ence is in
mot ion t oward t his agat hon.
The dynamic of t his relat ion also governs
Arist ot elian ont ology. The concept s of essence ousi a and t i en ei nai
at t empt t o grasp t he manner in which beings const it ut e and preserve
t hemselves as ident ical in t he various phases of t heir movement . From
Plat o on t he ancient t heory of essence was impelled by t he unrest of t he
unresolved t ension bet ween essence and exist ence.
The Christ ian philosophy of t he Middle Ages pacif ied t he crit ical
consciousness of t his ant it hesis in an ont o-t heological principle, which it
et ernalized as a st ruct ural law of t he creat ed world. For Thomas
N egat i ons
Aquinas the essence, as essent i a of existence, is that according to,
through, and in which existence is what it is. The essent i a is, in other
words, the inner structure of existence, in which it operates as the
principle of f orm f or each kind of being. The essence has always already
been realized in whatever is the case; yet – and this is the crucial point –
this reality is never that of the essence itself . I n all f inite being, essence
and existence are ontologically separated. The latter supervenes to the
f ormer ‘f rom outside’, and, in relation to existence, the essence as such
has the ontological character of pure potentiality, pot ent i a t r anscendent al i s.
I t is eternal, unchanging, and necessary: the ‘I dea’ as the original model
of existence in the divine intellect. The essence conceived in this way
can become real only through a principle that is ‘exterior’ to it. I n its
material concreteness, the f orm of its real existence remains an
irrevocable contingency.
Human beings are thus exonerated f rom
concern with the ‘ontic’ dif f erence between essence and existence in the
realm of f inite being.

No matter how much it mitigated the critical tensions implied in the
concept of essence, Thomistic philosophy persevered in conceiving the
dif f erence between essence and existence as indicative of a characteristic
of beings themselves, as they are given to man in spatio-temporal reality.
I n this way, the reduction of the problem of essence to one of logic and
epistemology was impeded. This reduction occurred only in the
development of modern thought that began with Descartes and ended
with Husserl. The concept of essence enters the sphere of the self -
certain ego cogi t o, or transcendental subjectivity. Liberated f rom the
bonds and obligations of the medieval order and empowered to shape
his own world, the autonomous individual saw his reason presented
with the task that had been metaphysically hypostatized in the doctrine
of essence: realizing the authentic potentialities of beings on the basis of
the discovery that nature can be controlled. Essence became the object
of theoretical and practical reason. The transcendental, subjective f orm
of the concept of essence is typical of bourgeois theory and was f irst
f ully worked out by Descartes.
I n his attempt to provide philosophy with a new f oundation,
Descartes sought an instance of absolutely certain, necessary, and
universally valid knowledge. He f ound it in the individual’s
consciousness, in the ego cogi t ans. To a considerable extent, the concept
of theory guiding Descartes was patterned on mathematically
f ormulated natural science, but this does not adequately account f or the
C oncept of E ssence
signif icance of his approach. At the same time, science was making its
pioneering discoveries, and the ideal of ‘objectively’ ascertained
knowledge, f ulf illed in a nature subjected to calculation and domination,
seemed attainable as never bef ore. Why then did D escartes have
recourse to the ‘subjective’ certainty of the ego cogi t o? Why is his
anchoring of theory in the consciousness of subjectivity to be f ound
right alongside his mechanistic philosophy, his analytical geometry, and
his treatise on machines?
The dif f iculty of circumscribing the signif icance of D escartes’
approach derives f rom its thoroughly contradictory nature:
simultaneous liberation and impotence, representing the simultaneous
af f irmation and f light or protest with which the individual, released
f rom medieval hierarchy, reacted to the law of bourgeois society.
Universal doubt, the demand that the proof of all judgments be
appealed to the sovereign reason of the individual, and the
incorporation of mathematics and mechanics into philosophy expressed
the new, self -possessed individuality that appeared with demands f or the
f ree shaping of the conditions of lif e and f or the subjection of nature
and its newly discovered wealth. I ntense activism is manif est in the
programmatic connection, emphasized by D escartes, between theory
and practice: theory, absolutely certain of its knowledge, is to serve as a
sure organon of practice. “ I t suf f ices to judge well in order to do well,
and to judge as well as one can in order to do one’s best, that is to say,
to acquire … all the other goods that one can acquire.”
D escartes
believed in a phi l osophi e pr at i que instead of the ancient phi l osophi e spécul at i ve,
a practical philosophy
by means of which, knowing the f orce and the actions of f ire, water, air,
the stars, the heavens, and all the other bodies that surround us … we
should be able to utilize them in like manner f or all the uses to which
they are suited and thus render ourselves masters and possessors of

But in the contemporary f orm of social organization, the domination of
nature through rational methods of production as envisioned by
Descartes was neither joined to nor directed by the sovereign reason of
the associated individuals. The f ate of bourgeois society announces itself
in its philosophy. When the liberated individual as the subject of
practice actually sets himself to shaping the conditions of his lif e, he
sees himself subjected to the laws of the commodity market, which
N egat i ons
operat es as blind economic laws of behind his back. At most , his f irst
st ep, t he beginning of his career, can appear f ree, as t hough dict at ed by
his own reason. All subsequent ones are prescribed him by t he
condit ions of a commodit y-producing societ y, and he must observe
them if he does not want to go under.
The t ransparent relat ions of dependence charact erist ic of t he
medieval order were replaced by a syst em in which relat ions of
dependence could no longer be grasped as such by t he individual. The
condit ions of labor become aut onomous; subject ed t o t heir mechanism,
t he individual’s f at e in such a societ y appears as a mere cont ingency.
Spatio-temporal reality becomes a merely ‘external’ world that is not
rat ionally connect ed wit h man’s aut hentic potential, his ‘substance’ or
‘essence’. This ext ernal realit y is not organized by t he act ivit y of human
f reedom, alt hough modern science shows such organizat ion t o be
possible and modern philosophy requires it as a t ask. I n pract ice, t he
f ulf illment of this task comes up against an obstacle whose removal
would lead beyond t his societ y’s limits. As long as philosophy does not
adopt t he idea of a real t ransf ormat ion, t he crit ique of reason st ops at
t he st at us quo and becomes a crit ique of pure t hought . The uncert aint y
and unf reedom of t he ext ernal world is count ered by t he cert aint y and
f reedom of t hought as t he individual’s only remaining power base. He
must recognize t hat he must conquer himself rather than f ortune, his
want s rat her t han ‘the order of t he world’, and “ t hat t here is not hing
aside f rom our t hought s which is completely within our power, so that,
af t er we have done our best wit h regard t o t hings out side us, all wherein
we f ail t o succeed is absolut ely impossible on our part” .
I f the
individual is t o be salvaged and human f reedom t o be preserved, t hen
t he ‘essence’ of man must be locat ed in t hought . Here is where his
aut hent ic pot ent ialit ies and t he ont ological certainty of his existence
must be f ound: “ I conclude wit h assurance t hat my essence consist s
exclusively in my being a t hing t hat t hinks, or a subst ance whose ent ire
essence or nature is only to think.”

I t is of t en assert ed t oday t hat D escart es, by beginning wit h t he ego
cogi t o, commit t ed t he original sin of modern philosophy, t hat he placed a
completely abstract concept of the individual at the basis of theory. But
his abst ract concept of t he individual is animat ed by concern wit h
human f reedom: measuring t he t rut h of all conditions of lif e against the
st andard of rat ional t hought . Hegel said of D escartes: “ I t is the interest
of f reedom t hat is f undament al here. What is known t o be t rue is t o
C oncept of E ssence
have the f unction of preserving our f reedom through our thinking.”

That this f reedom is f reedom ‘only’ of thought, that only the ‘abstract’
individual is f ree, that concern with human f reedom becomes concern
with the absolute certainty of thought, demonstrate the historical
veracity of Cartesian philosophy. As the counterpart to his f actual
unf reedom, the individual, aiming at the greatest truth and certainty
possible within bourgeois practice, is lef t only with the f reedom of
thought. The ‘reason’ of this epoch is necessarily ‘abstract’; in order to
remain true to itself and avoid f alling into irrationality, reason must
disregard not only the given f orm of spatio-temporal existence, but even
the concrete content of thought at any time, and retain only thought as
such, the pure f orm of all cogi t at i ones. Reason cannot unf old itself in the
rational domination and shaping of objects by f ree individuals. Rather,
objectivity becomes a postulate of pure knowledge and is thus released
f rom the ‘interest of f reedom’:
The impulse to f reedom is in f act basic, but predominating, at least in
consciousness, is the goal of arriving at something solid and objective –
the element of objectivity, not the moment of subjectivity (i.e. that it is
posited, known, and verif ied by me).

Af ter Descartes def ined the essence of man as ‘thinking’ and thought as
fundament um i nconcussum (unshakable f oundation), the problem of essence
moved into the sphere of cognitive subjectivity. The question of essence
– of the truth, unity, and authenticity of Being – became the question of
the truth, unity, and authenticity of knowledge. Post-Cartesian idealism
retains this f undamental philosophical idea of the bourgeois period, the
idea that the ‘organization’ of existing things in accordance with their
comprehended potentialities is a f unction of the f ree, critical reason of
the individual. I n the reif ied world in which work relations are no longer
‘essentially’ related to men’s potentialities and appear rather as an ef f ect
of over-powering conditions of production, the idea that an
organization of existing things in terms of their ‘essential’ relationships
could be the result of a f uture change disappears; organization becomes
a matter of pure cognition. I n transcendental philosophy the notion of a
critical, rational organization of existing things underwent the decisive
reduction to a f ormal a priori that has always already preceded any
f actual experience. To be sure, the relation of the a priori syntheses to
experience is in the mode of absolute simultaneity; but in that the
syntheses, which are eternally valid, precede every possible f uture
N egat i ons
experience and cannot be surpassed by any f uture experience, the
essence of man as cognitive subject and of the objects of cognition is
cut of f f rom the f uture and oriented toward the past. This is the
dominant motif of the transcendental method, the method specif ic to
bourgeois philosophy.
With K ant the characteristics of essence – such as unity, universality,
permanence – reappear in the context of pure theoretical reason, where
they are incorporated partly in the pure concepts of the understanding
or in their transcendental apperception, partly in the transcendental
I deas of reason. Thus they appear on the one hand as the categorical
f orms of conceptual synthesis, which are prior to all f uture experience,
and on the other as I deas or pure concepts of reason which “ extend
beyond the limit of all experience” , in which “ no object can ever appear
that would be adequate to the transcendental I dea” .
I n the f irst case,
the critical and dynamic opposition of essence to experience is
eliminated by being completely absorbed into the timeless history of
cognition. I n the second it is more immediately and explicitly clear that
the problem of essence has been taken up into ‘reason’ – and not only
because K ant consciously associated himself with the Platonic doctrine
of essence by calling the concepts of reason ‘I deas’. Reason is the locus
of the f inal unity, totality, and universality of knowledge: “ the f aculty
that unif ies the rules of the understanding under principles” .
As a pure
concept of reason, the I dea is directed toward the “ totality of the
conditions f or a given conditioned thing” ; it is the “ concept of the
unconditioned” .
N ow, K ant says that these I deas “ perhaps make
possible a transition f rom natural concepts to practical ones” .
The age-
old philosophical question of realizing essence in existence becomes
here the problem of the transition f rom the concepts of theoretical to
those of practical reason. K ant emphasized that reason’s interest in
these I deas was ‘a practical interest’: in the I deas the “ f oundation stones
of morality and religion”
were at stake. And precisely here that
thought whose structure K ant is unf olding becomes tangled in
paralogisms and antinomies, in a “ natural and unavoidable illusion” ,
which “ is still deceptive even when one is no longer at its mercy” .

I t is characteristic of the historical situation of idealist thought that
the ‘I deas’ as concepts of reason become part of the dialectic of
transcendental illusion and that when the dialectic f irst reappears in
idealism it is one of illusion: of necessary illusion. The essence of man is
still seen as lying in reason, “ which alone is called upon to do away with
C oncept of E ssence
all errors” ; K ant still insists that this reason “ knows no other judge than
universal human reason, in which each man has a voice; and since it is
f rom reason that every improvement of which our condition is capable
must spring” , f reedom is its original right “ and may not be restricted” .

But it is not accidental that two dif f erent concepts of reason are
intertwined in K ant’s work: reason as the unif ying totality of man’s
cognitive f aculty (as which it is the subject of the ‘critiques’ of pure and
practical reason), and reason in a narrower sense, as a single f aculty that
rises ‘above’ the understanding, as the f aculty of those ‘I deas’ that can
never be adequately represented in experience and have a merely
regulative f unction. I t is reason in this second, more narrow sense
through which, f or K ant, the transition to practical concepts occurs. I t
occurs under the aegis of the concept of f reedom: the ‘I dea’ is
transf ormed into a ‘postulate’ and the ‘postulate’ into a ‘f act’ of practical
reason. I n this way reason’s f reedom undergoes still another limitation.
Through the stipulation that man’s f ree reason be united with the
empirical world of necessity, f reedom is hypostatized as a timeless
occurrence: it can exercise its causality on the empirical world only
insof ar as the world has no ef f ect whatsoever on it. Free reason is
limited in f unction to f urnishing the determining ground of actions, to
‘beginning’ them. Once begun, actions enter the unbreakable causal
nexus of natural necessity, and they proceed in accordance with its laws
f orever af ter.
Thus this doctrine mirrors the f ate of a world in which rational
human f reedom always can take only the initial step f reely, only to
encounter af terward an uncontrolled necessity which remains
contingent with respect to reason. The causality of reason, operating in
one direction only, cuts of f the possibility of the empirical world
af f ecting the intelligible essence of man. I t thus imprisons this essence
in a past without f uture:
The intelligible essence of every thing, and especially of man, stands,
according to this [idealism] outside of every causal connection, as it
stands outside of or above all time. Thus it can never be determined by
anything that has gone bef ore it, in that it rather is prior, not so much
temporally as logically, to everything else that is or becomes within it.

N egat i ons

I n the development of transcendental philosophy af ter K ant, this
stabilization of the concept of essence was broken down and a dynamic
theory of essence achieved. Hegel’s dialectic, in which this dynamic
theory of essence was developed, received no f urther elaboration in
idealist philosophy: its development f orms part of a dif f erent trend of
thought and will be discussed later. When Husserl undertook to f ound
anew the theory of essence, he based it on the theory of transcendental
subjectivity as it was worked out f rom D escartes to K ant.
Phenomenology did not, to be sure, start out as transcendental
philosophy. The pathos of purely descriptive, scientif ic objectivity
which characterizes the L ogi sche U nt er suchungen (‘Logical I nvestigations’)
is indicative of an inner connection with positivism, even where Husserl
attacks it. Husserl himself pointed to Hume as the f irst to “ make serious
use of D escartes’ pure inward f ocus” .
But where the theory of essence
becomes central in Husserl’s philosophy, its elaboration f orces
phenomenology to base itself ever more radically on transcendental
apriorism. For this reason the stage represented by the L ogi sche
U nt er suchungen does not need to be considered here.
Husserl def ines essence in opposit ion to the individual, spatio-
temporally existing real thing, the ‘f act’, object of all empirical sciences:
the signif icance of this contingency, which is called f acticity, is limited
by its correlation to a necessi t y that does not stand f or the mere f actual
existence of a valid rule f or the co-ordination of spatio-temporal f acts;
rather, it has the character of essent i al necessi t y and is thus related to
essent i al uni ver sal i t y.
Part of the “ meaning of everything contingent … is to have an essence
and t hus an ei dos that is to be grasped in its purity. This ei dos is a
component of essential truths of various levels of generality.”
At f irst
glance, these attributes do not dif f er at all f rom those of the traditional
conception of essence as qui ddi t as and essent i a, as it was f ormulated by
the Scholastics and incorporated into philosophy. But the context in
which phenomenology deals with the concept of essence is completely
dif f erent: the sphere of transcendental consciousness, ‘purged’ of all acts
intending spatio-temporal existence. For Husserl, the concept of
essence is relevant only within the dimension of pure subjectivity that
remains as a residuum af ter the phenomenological “ annihilation of the
C oncept of E ssence
world” and that “ precedes the being of the world as constituting in itself
the meaning of that being” – a “ completely self -contained reality” ,
“ something existing absolutely” .
The essential truths that make their
appearance in this dimension “ do not contain the slightest assertion
about f acts, and thus f rom them alone not even the most meager f actual
truth can be derived” .

Af ter his I deen (‘I deas’), Husserl programmatically def ined his
philosophical work in relation to Descartes. The relationship of Husserl
to Descartes is not only one within the history of philosophy: it is the
r el at i onshi p of advanced bour geoi s t hought t o i t s begi nni ngs. Transcendental
phenomenology itself represents, in its own content, an endpoint. I ts
attempt at a new f oundation of philosophy as rigorous science presents
itself as the end, no longer to be surpassed, of the line of thought that
tried to anchor the absolute certainty, necessity, and universal validity of
knowledge in the ego cogi t o. Once again the f undamental characteristics
of bourgeois theory are at stake, and in the struggle f or them resignation
and the transition to a new stage are already in evidence. Only in this
context does the signif icance of phenomenology’s restitution of the
concept of essence become clear.
I n his F or mal e und t r anszendent al e L ogi k (‘Formal and Transcendental
Logic’) Husserl gives an account of his relation to Descartes and to
transcendental philosophy. He sees Descartes as the originator of
transcendental philosophy and accepts this origin as valid f or himself as
well, f or “ all objective knowledge must be f ounded on the single
apodictic givenness … of the ego cogi t o” .
But he calls it a great error that
Descartes saw in this ego a “ primary, indubitably existing particle of the
world” and deduced the rest of the world f rom it. This ‘realism’ on
Descartes’ part, according to Husserl, is a naïve prejudice with which
phenomenology cannot concur.
On the other hand, the K antian
critique of reason ‘erred’ in directing itself toward the constitution of
the given spatiotemporal world rather than toward ‘all possible
Thus, f or Husserl, K ant’s critical thought remained caught in
‘mundane’ realism. Phenomenology insisted on distinguishing itself
f rom the start f rom this critical thought: “ Phenomenology cannot
distance itself f rom critical thought, because it was never at one with
it” .

Now, it is precisely this point – where the ego cogi t o is construed as an
‘indubitably existing particle of the world’ and at the same time serves as
N egat i ons
t he only springboard int o t he world – t hat links Cart esian philosophy
wit h t he progressive t endencies of t he bourgeoisie. Only when t he ego
as somet hing really exist ing in t he world becomes t he f irst cert aint y in
t he realm of beings can it s reason provide t he crit ical st andard of real
knowledge and serve as t he organon f or t he ordering of lif e. And only
as long as reason is const it ut ively direct ed t oward empirically given
‘mat erial’ can it s spont aneit y be more t han mere imaginat ion. Once t his
connect ion bet ween rat ional t hought and spat io-t emporal realit y is
severed, t he ‘int erest of f reedom’ disappears complet ely f rom
But t his severance belongs f rom the st art t o t he program of t he
phenomenological reduct ions. Spat io-t emporal f act s in t heir spat io-
t emporal relevance are excluded f rom t he f ield of genuine
phenomenological st udy. What remains af t er t he f irst reduct ion are t he
f act s of consciousness, a world whose f act ual qualit y and richness are
‘t he same’ as t he ‘nat ural’ world’s – wit h one very decisive dif f erence:
t he phenomenological index modif ies t he meaning of realit y in such a
way as t o make all f act s, as f act s of int ent ional consciousness, of equal
validit y;
t hey are ‘exemplary’ in principle. Thus
t he whole spat io-t emporal world, t o which man and t he human ego
ascribe t hemselves as subordinat e individual realit ies, acquires t he
meaning of merely int ent ional being, t hat is, being t hat has t he merely
secondary and relat ive meaning of being f or a consciousness. I t is a
being posit ed by consciousness in it s experiences, a being which in
principle can be int uit ed and det ermined only as t hat which is ident ical
in t he mot ivat ed manif olds of appearances but which aside f rom t hat is
not hing.

The f ull import of t his reduct ion of f act s t o ‘exemplars’ is revealed in
t he phenomenological def init ion of t he relat ion of essence and f act in
t he prehension
of essence (W esenser fassung). I n a second reduct ion, t he
essent ial cont ent and essent ial organizat ion of t he f act s of consciousness
are dist inguished f rom t heir f act ual being. Thus all cont ent s of
consciousness f unct ion equally as ‘exemplary’: t he elucidat ion of essence
(W esenser k l är ung) can t ake place on t he basis of a percept ion or any ot her
kind of represent at ion – moreover and signif icant ly, “ f ree f ant asies
acquire a pref erent ial posit ion wit h respect t o percept ions” .
result s as t he invariant wit hin t he inf init ely manif old variat ions which
C oncept of E ssence
representational acts undertake with regard to their object. Variation
resulting in essence is generated
in the f reedom of pure f antasy and in the pure consciousness of
arbitrariness – of ‘pure at-all-ness’ … thereby simultaneously entering a
horizon of openly and endlessly manif old f ree possibilities f or ever new
variants. This variation is thus f ully f ree, unbound f rom all a priori f acts.
I t comprises all variants of the openly endless horizon, including the
‘example’ itself , f reed of all f acticity, as something ‘arbitrary’. … I n this
variation, they are in a continuous, pervasive synthesis of ‘coinciding
opposites’. But in this very coincidence appears the i nvar i ant , that which
is necessarily constant in the f ree and continuously ref ormed variation,
that which is indivisibly the same in that which is other and recurrently
other – in short, universal essence – to which all ‘thinkable’ modif ications
of the example remain tied.

This text, which leads deep into the inner mechanism of the
phenomenological prehension of essence, also provides the best insight
into the changed f unction of the theory of essence. All the decisive
concepts which played a role in the theory of essence since its
beginnings reappear here, and all in a characteristically changed f orm.
Freedom has become a mark of pure f antasy, as the f ree arbitrariness of
ideational possibilities of variation. The constant, identical, and
necessary is no longer sought as the Being of beings but as what is
invariant in the inf inite manif old of representational modif ications of
‘exemplars’. Possibility is no longer a f orce straining toward reality;
rather, in its open endlessness it belongs to mere imagination.

As the ego cogi t o and the essence which appear to it become the
object of phenomenology, there is no longer a critical tension between
them and f actual existence. Phenomenology is therewith in principle a
descr i pt i ve philosophy: it always aims only at describing what is as it is and
as it presents itself , not, f or instance, at showing what could and should
be. The theoretical radicalness which seemed audible in the call, ‘To the
things themselves!’ reveals its quietistic, indeed posi t i vi st i c, character as
phenomenology progresses. The ‘things’ become so f or phenomenology
only af ter they have been stripped of their actual materially objective
character and have entered the ‘leveling’ sphere of transcendental
subjectivity f or which everything is equi-valent (in-dif f erent) as a f act of
consciousness. I n this dimension, speaking of essence no longer means
setting reality against its potentiality and what exists against what could
N egat i ons
be; essence has a purely descriptive and epistemological character. A
philosophy that considers “ all pre-given beings with their exact
evidence” equally ‘prejudgments’
no longer has any basis f or
distinguishing critically among these beings. Universal f reedom f rom
presuppositions here becomes equivalent to universal acknowledgment.
Phenomenology’s concept of essence is so f ar removed f rom any critical
signif icance that it regards both the essential and the inessential, the
object of phantasy as well as that of perception, as ‘f acts’. The
epistemological antipositivism of this doctrine ill conceals its positivistic
The abatement of the dynamic movement contained in the concept
of essence can also be seen in the f ew remnants of a position on
Husserl’s part with regard to knowledge of (spatio-temporal) f acticity.
The f ormal epistemological version of the concept of essence lets
f acticity subsist as a self -contained realm ‘alongside’ the realm of
essence. To know it does not involve changing or abolishing any aspect
of it, but ‘only understanding’. “ Through my phenomenological
ref lection, the transcendent world … is neither abolished, devalued, nor
changed, but only understood…” .
The phenomenological epoché,
which was intended to be so much more radical than D escartes’
methodical doubt, contains a quietistic indif f erence, which regresses
behind D escartes, with regard to the established order. With Husserl,
concern with the present has become concern with eternity: the eternity
of pure science, whose timeless and absolute truth is supposed to
provide the present with security. He considers the ‘spiritual distress’ of
our time the ‘most radical distress of lif e’ and declares:
We must not sacrif ice eternity f or the sake of alleviating our distress in
the present. We must not bequeath to our descendants an accumulation
of distress such that it becomes an ultimately indestructible evil.

Positivistic indif f erence, however, is only one way in which the altered
f unction of transcendental philosophy is expressed in phenomenology.
Phenomenology appeared on the scene with the radical claim of
beginning anew. That phenomenology explicitly speaks once more of
‘essence’ in opposition to ‘f act’ and makes essence the object of an
independent ‘intuition’ is a signif icant novelty that cannot be explained
exclusively as a development of the transcendental method. The pathos
of the evidence of universal, necessary, and objective truths, the demand
of arriving at ‘the things themselves’, and the renaissance of metaphysics
C oncept of E ssence
in the wake of phenomenology belong to a new historical trend. While
retaining the transcendental approach philosophy prof esses to be truly
concrete and to take concrete objects as its point of departure. A sign of
material ‘objectivity’ and diversity can be seen in the renewed
consideration of essence as the object of an independent, originally
‘giving’ intuition. I t is signif icant that phenomenology claims that the
verif ication, ‘meaning’, and truth of cognitive judgments no longer
reside on the ‘side of the subject’, of the ego cogi t o, but on the ‘side of the
object’. I t is the object itself which appears there and whose essence
prescribes, as it were, the cognitive acts directed toward it. The
phenomenological doctrine of essence binds the transcendental f reedom
of the ego cogi t o to objectively pregiven essences and essential objects.
This is the point where, within phenomenology, the new situation of
thought imposes itself : the introduction of material eidetics, in which
the entire perspective is changed. The philosophy of the bourgeois era
was f ounded by Descartes as a subjective and idealist one, and this
resulted f rom an inner necessity. Every attempt to ground philosophy in
objectivity, in the sphere of material reality, without attacking the real
presuppositions of its conceptual character, i.e. without integrating into
the theory a practice aimed at transf ormation, necessarily surrenders its
rationally critical character and becomes heteronomous. This f ate bef ell
the material doctrine of essence; it led, just as with positivism, to the
subjection of theory to the ‘given’ powers and hierarchies. With regard
to knowledge, the basic meaning of the intuition of essence is that it
‘lets itself be given’ its object, that it passively accepts it and binds itself
to it as ‘something absolutely given’.
That which gives itself in evident
‘congruent unity’ (D eck ungsei nhei t ) is “ at the same time absolute Being,
and the object that is now the object of such Being, such pure essence,
is to an ideal degree adequately given” .
The intuition of essence is
(despite the ‘f reedom’ of ideational variations) receptive. At the apex of
philosophy, the receptivity of the intuition of essence replaces the
spontaneity of the comprehending understanding that is inseparable
f rom the idea of critical reason.
The sacrif ice of the idea of critical reason paved the way to
resignation f or the doctrine of essence, to its gradual transition to a new
ideology. Bourgeois philosophy lost the Archimedian point where it had
anchored the f reedom of the knowing individual, and without it, it has
no basis f rom which the weapon of crit ique can be employed against the
claims of specif ic f acts and hierarchies to be ‘essential’. The material
N egat i ons
doctrine of essence began with the elaboration of a new ethics, which
was outlined in opposition to K ant’s ethics. The lawlike character of
ethical valuation no longer resides in the obedience of the autonomous
individual to a f reely self -given, absolutely obligatory, ‘norm’, but
f ollows, to the contrary, “ f rom the ef f ectiveness of personally structured
prototypes and antitypes” .

I assert, in other words, that value systems, and especially the systems of
norms and laws that depend on them and which man obeys or disobeys,
are in the last analysis always to be reduced to per sonal pr ot ot ypes, to value
patterns in the f orm of a person. We do not choose them, f or they
possess us and attract us bef ore we can choose.

Material value-ethics (W er t et hi k ) becomes the ethics of personal
prototypes, where the norms of action are no longer given by individual
or universal reason, but are instead r ecei ved; here, too, the autonomy of
f reedom is replaced by receptive heteronomy. This is part of the
annunciation of the ideology of the monopoly-capitalist period, in
which domination by the most powerf ul economic groups is ef f ected by
means of the delegation of power to prototypical leader personalities
and in which the interests of these groups are concealed by means of
the image of an essentially personal order of values (leadership and
f ollowing, status order, racial elite, and so f orth). The intuition of
essence helps to set up ‘essential’ hierarchies in which the material and
vital values of human lif e occupy the lowest rank, while the types of the
saint, the genius, and the hero take f irst place. Renunciation, sacrif ice,
and humility are considered ‘essential’ as the central values of the
individual, while ‘blood and soil’ are supposed to constitute the ‘essence’
of the nation (V ol k st um). We shall not delineate here the f urther
development of these theories. I t was our intention only to indicate
their conceptual links to the material doctrine of essence.

The f unction of the intuition of essence in material eidetics leads to
the abdication of the critical f reedom of reason, to the cancellation of its
autonomy. From Descartes on, the idea of the autonomy of reason was
linked to the progressive tendencies of the bourgeoisie. I ts restriction to
abstract cognitive reason characterized the retreat of these tendencies.
I n the epoch of monopoly capitalism, reason is replaced by the
acquiescent acknowledgment of ‘essential’ givens, in whose verif ication
reason initially plays only a derivative role, and subsequently none at all.
C oncept of E ssence
I t is material eidetics against which the positivist attack on the
concept of essence was directed. The positivist opposition to the
‘metaphysics’ of the doctrine of essence conceived itself primarily as an
epistemological critique: our experience of reality (reality by no means
being identif ied with the immediately given) does not at all justif y the
assumption of two ontologically dif f erent ‘worlds’, an assumption
presupposed by the opposition of thing and appearance, essence and
f act.
There is no f act that compels or even justif ies us in making such a
contrast between two irreducible realities…. We arrive at a satisf actory
picture of the world only when we accord eveyt hi ng real, the contents of
consciousness as well as all Being outside of consciousness, the same
sort and the same degree of reality, without any distinction. All things
are in the same sense self -subsistent, yet all are in the same sense

With this contention, positivism takes a decisive step beyond
epistemological empiricism. For with its concept of f act, the f acticity of
an object of knowledge establishes not only its ‘reality’ but
simultaneously its cognitive equi-valence to every other reality. With
respect to knowledge, all f acts are as such equi-valent. The world of
f acts is, so to speak, one-dimensional. The real is ‘absolutely (schl echt hi n)
real’ and as such precludes any metaphysical or critical transcendence
toward essence.
There is only one reality, which is always essence and cannot be
decomposed into essence and appearance. There are, to be sure, many
sorts of real objects, perhaps even inf initely many, but there is only one
sort of reality, and all of them partake of it equally.

Here the thesis of the essentiality of the f acts is associated with absolute
acknowledgment of reality, ‘which is always essence’. Cognition, f reed
f rom the tension between f acts and essence, becomes recognition. The
very theory that intended to eliminate f rom science the concept of
essence makes the same sacrif ice of critical reason perf ormed by
phenomenological eidetics in liberating essence f rom all opposition to
spatio-temporal f acts and arriving at an equi-valence of all f acts f or
transcendental consciousness. When all f acts are indiscriminately held to
be essential, and when each f act is indiscriminately held to be an
essence, philosophy’s attitude toward reality is f undamentally identical.
N egat i ons
To be sure, positivism comprehended the critical and moral motivation
of t he t heory of essence: “ One kind of Being is considered higher, more
genuine, more noble, and more import ant t han t he ot her, i.e. an
evaluative conception has been introduced” .
But f or it this is only a
conf usion of t he “ evaluat ive viewpoint with the logical viewpoint” , the
pr ot on pseudos or f alse premise of a scientif ic theory. Positivism adheres
to the bourgeois ideal of presupposit ionless, pure t heory, in which t he
absence of ‘ethical neutrality’ or t he commit ment of t aking a posit ion
signif ies delinquency in rigor. Compared wit h t he ideology which
material eidetics became, in which the language of the essential priority
of specif ic values concealed their establishment by regressive social
interests, positivism retains a certain critical tendency. But the world of
‘absolutely real’ f acts is dominat ed by powers concerned wit h t he
preservation of this f orm of reality, in the interest of small and powerf ul
economic groups, against the already real possibility of another f orm of
reality; and the tension between essence and appearance determines the
historical image of reality in the shape of universal social contradiction.
Under these conditions a theory f or which reality is ‘always essence’ can
only be one of resignat ion. As with phenomenological eidetics, the
positivist annulment of the opposition of essence and f act is not a new
beginning, but an end.


The t heme of t he philosophical t heories of t he last decades has been t he
reconsiderat ion of bourgeois t hought’s traditional preoccupation with
absolutely certain, unconditioned, universally valid knowledge. Concern
f or the self -certain critical f reedom of the individual was transf ormed
into this epistemological ideal. The various f orms of transcendental
reduction ref lect the stages of the historical development of this thought
up to its adaptation to the anti-individualistic and antirationalistic
ideology of the present. From it bot h t he ‘int erest of f reedom’ and
interest in the true happiness of the individual have disappeared. The
social groups which during their rise t o power developed and support ed
t hese int erest s oppose t hem under present f orms of dominat ion. The
critical impulses in the theory of essence, abandoned by eidetics as well
as posit ivism, have been incorporated into materialist theory. Here,
however, the concept of essence takes on a new f orm. This t heory
C oncept of E ssence
conceived concern with the essence of man as the task of a rational
organization of society, to be achieved through practice that alters its
present f orm. Materialist theory thus transcends the given state of f act
and moves toward a dif f erent potentiality, proceeding f rom immediate
appearance to the essence that appears in it. But here appearance and
essence become members of a real antithesis arising f rom the particular
historical structure of the social process of lif e. The essence of man and
of things appears within that structure; what men and things could
genuinely be appears in ‘bad’, ‘perverted’ f orm. At the same time,
however, appears the possibility of negating this perversion and
realizing in history that which could be. This antagonistic character of
the historical process as it is today turns the opposition of essence and
appearance into a dialectical relationship and this relationship into an
object of the di al ect i c. Materialist theory takes up the concept of essence
where philosophy last treated it as a dialectical concept – in Hegel’s
L ogi c.
For Hegel appearance and essence are two modes of being which
stand in reciprocal relation to one another, so that the existence of
appearance presupposes the suppression of merely self -subsistent
essence. Essence is essence only through appearing, that is, through
emerging f rom its mere self -subsistence: ‘Essence must appear’. And
appearance, as the appearance of what is in itself , becomes “ what the
thing in itself is, or its truth” .
“ By this token essence is neither in back
of nor beyond appearance; rather, existence is appearance because it is
essence that exists.”
Hegel conceives of essence as a process in which
‘mediated being’ is posited through the overcoming of unmediated
being; essence has a hi st or y. And the critical theme of the theory of
essence is reactivated in the meaning of this history, in this movement
f rom unmediated ‘Being’ through ‘essence’ to mediated ‘existence’.
“ When, f urther, it is said that all things have an essence, what is being
expressed is that they are not in reality what they show themselves to
be” , “ that their immediate existence does not correspond to what they
are in themselves” .
The movement of essence has the task of doing
away with this bad immediacy and positing the sphere of beings (das
Sei ende) as that which it is in itself : “ N ow the process of reality is itself of
this sort. Reality is not simply something which i s immediately, but
rather, as essential Being, it is the overcoming of its own immediacy and
theref ore mediates itself with itself .”

N egat i ons
Essence is conceived as something which ‘has become’, as a ‘result’
that itself must reappear as a result and that enters into relation with the
dynamic categories of the inessential, illusion, and appearance. I n this
way, it is conceived as part of a process which takes place between
unmediated Being, its overcoming and preservation in essence (as its
being-in-itself ) and the realization of this essence. But with Hegel the
process remains ontological; it is the Being of beings which undergoes it
and is its subject. I t thereby proves itself to be Logos, ‘reason’. The
movement through which unmediated Being is ‘recollected’
to essence
as to its being-in-itself , ‘ref lection’, in which immediacy is overcome and
posited again as mediated existence, is a determination of Being itself , of
Being as essence. “ Essence as such is one with its ref lection and not
distinguished f rom the latter’s own movement.”
I t is not man who
recollects essence, who grasps the world of beings which conf ronts him,
overcomes its bad immediacy and posits it anew through the knowledge
of essence; rather, f or Hegel all this occurs within rational Being itself .
Man participates in this process only as the subject of cognition, insof ar
as he himself is rational Being.
Hegel’s conception of essence already contains all the elements of a
dynamic historical theory of essence, but in a dimension where they
cannot be ef f ective. Essence is f or Hegel a movement, but a movement
in which there is no longer any actual change, a movement which takes
place within itself . “ Essence is the absolute unity of being-in-itself and
being-f or-itself ; the process of its determination thus remains within this
unity and is neither a becoming nor a transition to something else” ; it is
“ the movement of becoming and of transition which remains within
itself ” .
Hegel transposes the tension between what could be and what
exists, between being-in-itself (essence) and appearance, into the very
structure of Being; as such it is always prior to all states of f act. Hegel’s
theory of essence remains transcendental.


When the materialist dialectic as social theory conf ronts the opposition
of essence and appearance, the concern f or man which governs it gives
the critical motif in the theory of essence a new sharpness. The tension
between potentiality and actuality, between what men and things could
be and what they are in f act, is one of the dynamic f ocal points of this
C oncept of E ssence
t heory of societ y. I t sees t herein not a t ranscendent al st ruct ure of Being
and an immut able ont ological dif f erence but a hist orical relat ionship
which can be t ransf ormed in t his lif e by real men; t he incongruit y of
pot ent ialit y and act ualit y incit es knowledge t o become part of t he
pract ice of t ransf ormat ion. That appearance does not immediat ely
coincide wit h essence, t hat self -subsist ent pot ent ialit ies are not realized,
t hat t he part icular st ands in conf lict wit h t he general, t hat chance on t he
one hand and blind necessit y on t he ot her rule t he world – t hese
condit ions represent t asks set f or men’s rat ional pract ice. For t he t heory
associat ed wit h t his pract ice, t he st at ement t hat all science would be
superf luous when “ t he f orm of appearance and t he essence of t hings
immediat ely coincided”
has a new meaning. What is t he signif icance
here of t he divergence of essence and appearance, and of what sort is
t he process of t ranscendence f rom appearance t o essence?
To t he int erest governing t he mat erialist dialect ic, it s object , t he
t ot alit y of t he process of social evolut ion, appears as an inherent ly
mult idimensional, organized st ruct ure. I t is by no means t he case t hat all
of it s dat a are equally relevant or ‘f act ual’. Some phenomena lie close t o
t he surf ace, ot hers f orm part of t he cent ral mechanism. From t his
dist inct ion result s a f irst and st ill complet ely f ormal concret ion of
essence as what is essent ial: in a very general sense, essence is t he
t ot alit y of t he social process as it is organized in a part icular hist orical
epoch. I n relat ion t o t his process every individual f act or, considered as
an isolat ed unit , is ‘inessent ial’, insof ar as it s ‘essence’, i.e. t he concept of
t he real cont ent of an appearance, can be grasped only in t he light of it s
relat ion t o t he t ot alit y of t he process. N ow t he lat t er is st ruct ured in a
second way; even t hough t hey int eract , t he various levels of social realit y
nevert heless are grounded in one f undament al level. The manner in
which t his occurs det ermines t he whole of lif e. I n t he current hist orical
period, t he economy as t he f undament al level has become ‘essent ial’ in
such a way t hat all ot her levels have become it s ‘manif est at ions’
(E r schei nungsfor m).
I n mat erialist t heory t he dif f erence bet ween appearance
(manif est at ion) and essence t akes on a t hird signif icance, one which
permit s a f urt her concret ion of it s object . Basic t o t he present f orm of
social organizat ion, t he ant agonisms of t he capit alist product ion
process, is t he f act t hat t he cent ral phenomena connect ed wit h t his
process do not immediat ely appear t o men as what t hey are ‘in realit y’,
but in masked, ‘pervert ed’ f orm. I n t he cases of work relat ions, t he
N egat i ons
divisions of the social and political hierarchy, the institutions of justice,
education, and science, the f orm in which they appear conceals their
origin and their true f unction in the total social process. To the extent
that individuals and groups base their actions and thoughts on
immediate appearances, the latter are, of course, not ‘mere’ appearances
but themselves f actors essential to the f unctioning of the process and to
the maintenance of its organization. N evertheless, in the course of the
process a stage is reached where it is possible to comprehend the
essence in the manif estation and to understand that the dif f erence
between essence and appearance is a historical constellation of social
relationships. The nature of this dif f erence and the necessarily
dichotomous character it gives to materialist theory will be discussed
The three meanings which we have indicated here of the dif f erence
between essence and appearance in materialist theory permit an initial
understanding of those characteristics f undamental to the dialectical
concept of essence. The transcendence leading f rom f acts to essence is
historical. Through it, given f acts are understood as appearances whose
essence can be comprehended only in the context of particular historical
tendencies aiming at a dif f erent f orm of reality. The theory’s historical
interest enters constitutively into its conceptual scheme and makes the
transcendence of ‘f acts’ toward their essence critical and polemical.
Measured against their real potentialit ies, the f acts reveal themselves to
be the ‘bad’ manif estations of a content which must be realized by
doing away with these manif estations in opposition to the interests and
powers connected with them. Thus, even in the f irst f orm in which we
encounter it, the dialectical concept of essence is distinguishable f rom
phenomenology’s conception of neutral essences as well as f rom
positivism’s neutral leveling of essence. I n place of a static
epistemological relationship of essence to f act emerges a critical and
dynamic relationship of essence to appearance as parts of a historical
Connecting at its roots the problem of essence to social practice
restructures the concept of essence in its relation to all other concepts
by orienting it toward the essence of man. Concern with man moves to
the center of theory; man must be f reed f rom real need and real misery
to achieve the liberation of becoming himself . When the essence of man
becomes the object of inquiry in this way, the relation of essence and
appearance is posited as a historical disproportion (M i ss-V er häl t ni s). At
C oncept of E ssence
the stage of development that man has presently reached, real
potentialities f or the f ulf illment of human lif e are at hand in all areas,
potentialities which are not realized in the present social structure. Here
the concept of what could be, of inherent possibilities, acquires a precise
meaning. What man can be in a given historical situation is determinable
with regard to the f ollowing f actors: the measure of control of natural
and social productive f orces, the level of the organization of labor, the
development of needs in relation to possibilities f or their f ulf illment
(especially the relation of what is necessary f or the reproduction of lif e
to the ‘f ree’ needs f or gratif ication and happiness, f or the ‘good and the
beautif ul’), the availability, as material to be appropriated, of a wealth of
cultural values in all areas of lif e. This def inition of essence already
implies the whole theory of history that deduces the totality of the
conditions of lif e f rom the mode of social organization and that at the
same time provides the methodological and conceptual tools making
possible knowledge of the historical tendencies ef f ective at a particular
time. On the basis of this theory the essence of man is understood in
connection with those tendencies which have as their goal a new f orm
of social lif e as the ‘I dea’ of that which practice must realize. Considered
this way, the image of man represents not only what can already be
made of man today, what ‘in itself ’ can already be today, but also – and
this is the polemical demand theory raises by means of this concept of
essence – the real f ulf illment of everything that man desires to be when
he understands himself in terms of his potentialities.
I n making this demand of the essence of man, theory points the way
f rom the bad current state of humanity to a mankind that disposes of
the goods available to it in such a way that they are distributed in
accordance with the true needs of the community. Here men would
themselves take on the planning and shaping of the social process of lif e
and not leave it to the arbitrariness of competition and the blind
necessity of reif ied economic relations. The power of the conditions of
labor over lif e, along with the separation of the immediate producers
f rom the means of labor, would be abolished. I nstead of lif e being
placed in the service of labor, labor would become a means of lif e.
I nstead of degrading cultural values to the rank of privilege and object
of ‘leisure’, men would really make them part of the common existence.
These determinations of essence are distinguished f rom utopia in that
theory can demonstrate the concrete roads to their realization and can
adduce as evidence those attempts at realization which are already under
N egat i ons
way. Of course these insights cannot be arrived at through a
contemplative attitude; in order to justif y them knowledge can have
recourse neither to evidence af f orded by mere perception nor to a
universal system of values in which they are anchored. The truth of this
model of essence is preserved better in human misery and suf f ering and
the struggle to overcome them than in the f orms and concepts of pure
thought. This truth is ‘indeterminate’ and remains necessarily so as long
as it is measured against the idea of unconditionally certain knowledge.
For it is f ulf illed only through historical action, and its concretion can
thus result only post fest um.
When orientation toward historical practice replaces orientation
toward the absolute certainty and universal validity of knowledge that
prevailed in the traditional doctrine of essence, then the concept of
essence ceases to be one of pure theory. Consequently it can no longer
be f ulf illed in pure thought and pure intuition. This does not mean that
it gives up its claim to truth or that it contents itself with a ‘truth’ valid
only f or particular individuals and groups.
But its verif ication occurs
only within the total structure of the theory in which it has its place and
where it is corroborated by all the other concepts. One criterion f or the
objective validity of dialectical theory’s separation of essence and
appearance is the suitability of its concept f or service as the organizing
principle in the explanation of a given group of appearances (e.g.
constellations of political power among states of a specif ic era, their
alliances, and conf licts). I f the historical structure (e.g. ‘imperialism’)
postulated as ‘essential’ f or the explanation of such a grouping makes it
possible to comprehend causally the situation both in its individual
phases as well as in terms of the tendencies ef f ective within it, then it is
really the essential in that manif old of appearances. This determination
of essence is true; it has held good within the theory. Yet the theory of
which it is a part is itself at the same time a f actor in the historical
struggles that it aims to comprehend: only in them can the essential
theoretical truths be ultimately verif ied.
And f rom this very historicity
of dialectical concepts grows a new kind of ‘universal validity’ and
The materialist concept of essence is a historical concept. Essence is
conceivable only as the essence of a particular ‘appearance’, whose
f actual f orm is viewed with regard to what it is in itself and what it could
be (but is not in f act). This relation, however, originates in history and
changes in history. To every attempt to ‘historicize’ the concept of
C oncept of E ssence
essence, t he t radi t i onal doct ri ne of essence has obj ect ed t hat vi ewi ng t he
f act ual l y gi ven appearance wi t h regard t o what i t i s i n i t sel f presupposes
‘havi ng’ t hi s bei ng-i n-i t sel f . I n ot her words, accordi ng t o t hi s vi ew,
‘measuri ng’ t he appearance agai nst i t s essence, i ndeed, merel y ref erri ng
t o a bei ng as an ‘appearance’ t hat does not i mmedi at el y coi nci de wi t h
what i t i s i n i t sel f , presupposes pri or acquai nt ance wi t h t he essence
t hrough i nt ui t i on. Si nce Pl at o’s t heory of I deas, t hi s has been a pri nci pal
mot i ve f or est abl i shi ng t he concept of essence as an a pri ori one. I n
t rut h, an a pri ori el ement i s at work here, but one conf i rmi ng t he
hi st ori ci t y of t he concept of essence. I t l eads back i nt o hi st ory rat her
t han out of i t . The i mmemori al l y acqui red i mage of essence was f ormed
i n manki nd’s hi st ori cal experi ence, whi ch i s preserved i n t he present
f orm of real i t y so t hat i t can be ‘remembered’ and ‘ref i ned’ t o t he st at us
of essence. Al l hi st ori cal st ruggl es f or a bet t er organi zat i on of t he
i mpoveri shed condi t i ons of exi st ence, as wel l as al l of suf f eri ng
manki nd’s rel i gi ous and et hi cal i deal concept i ons of a more j ust order of
t hi ngs, are preserved i n t he di al ect i cal concept of t he essence of man,
where t hey have become el ement s of t he hi st ori cal pract i ce l i nked t o
di al ect i cal t heory. There can al so be experi ence of pot ent i al i t i es t hat
have never been real i zed. They can be deri ved f rom real i t y as f orces and
t endenci es. The a pri ori nat ure of t he concept of essence has by no
means al ways been comprehended t ranscendent al l y and
suprahi st ori cal l y. And t he t races of t he past wi t hi n t he concept of
essence can be underst ood as an al l usi on t o a hi st ori cal condi t i on,
as i n
Ari st ot l e’s not i on of essence as ‘t hat whi ch Bei ng was’ and H egel ’s
not i on of t he ‘recol l ect i on’ of Bei ng t o essence.
H egel speaks of
essence as of ‘t i mel essl y past ’ Bei ng. Past , because i t i s an i mage of
bei ng-i n-i t sel f t hat no l onger corresponds t o i mmedi at e exi st ence;
t i mel ess, because recol l ect i on has preserved i t and kept i t f rom
di sappeari ng i nt o t he past . I n i deal i st phi l osophy t he t i mel ess past
domi nat es t he concept of essence. But when t heory associ at es i t sel f
wi t h t he progressi ve f orces of hi st ory, t he recol l ect i on of what can
aut hent i cal l y be becomes a power t hat shapes t he f ut ure. The
demonst rat i on and preservat i on of essence become t he mot i ve i dea of
pract i ce ai med at t ransf ormat i on.
H ere t he t horough di f f erence of t he mat eri al i st concept of essence
f rom t hat of i deal i st phi l osophy becomes cl ear f or t he f i rst t i me. Just as
t he cont ent of t he mat eri al i st not i on i s hi st ori cal and ori ent ed t oward
pract i ce, t he way i n whi ch i t i s arri ved at i s al so det ermi ned by hi st ori cal
N egat i ons
and practical presuppositions. I t is not an object of the contemplative
receptivity of perception, nor is it a synthesis perf ormed by the
spontaneity of pure understanding. Rather, it is determined within the
f ramework set by the historical goals with which materialist theory is
linked. N ot only do the interests resulting f rom these goals play a role in
establishing what is essential, they enter into the content of the concept
of essence. And yet the theory’s particular interests are f ulf illed in a real
‘universality’, that of the general interest, whose material objectivity (in
contrast to the f ormal ‘universal validity’ of the idealist concept of
essence) allows essence to validate itself as essence. Even positivism has
acknowledged that theory is determined by interests: “ Trends in
scientif ic research are … never socially neutral, even though they are
not always at the center of social conf lict” ; the sort of ‘propositional
systems’ set up depends on the ‘social situation’ of ‘the group that
promotes or tolerates this research’.
But positivism concludes f rom
this only that systems of hypotheses may be set up in more than one
way and that all types can satisf y the requirements of internal
consistency and accordance with ‘protocol sentences’. I t either holds the
theories’ dif f erent interests (like the ‘f acts’) to be indif f erent with respect
to knowledge or, to compensate f or the indeterminacy f actor,
incorporates them into the propositional system as ‘personal’
evaluations made by the scientist. I n contrast to all other theories,
materialist theory, precisely by virtue of its guiding interest, advances a
claim to truth f or which value-f ree positivism af f ords absolutely no
basis. Of the many social interests, it represents one and only one,
which claims verif iability as ‘general’ and ‘objective’. I ts claim dif f ers
completely f rom those put f orth by all other philosophical theories, f or
it rejects the adequacy of a priori logical or epistemological validation.
To be sure, it can be negatively delimited f rom all antirationalistic
theories in that all its propositions must justif y themselves bef ore men’s
critical reason, and the ‘interest of f reedom’, originally the f oundation of
the philosophy of reason, is thus preserved in materialist theory. The
source of materialist theory’s substantial dif f erence is that its particular
interests aim at an organization of lif e in which the individual’s f ate
depends no longer on chance and the blind necessity of uncontrolled
economic relationships but rather on planned shaping of social
potentialities. I n such a society particular interests can be integrated into
a universality which is thus concrete as a community and no longer
abstract as a ‘universal’. For the material conditions of lif e, previously
C oncept of E ssence
unmast ered, can now be incorporat ed int o a general plan. They can be
organized t hrough and by individuals’ social f reedom; that is, they can
be linked t o t he ‘essence’ of t he individual. At t he end of t he process,
when f ormer social ant agonisms have been overcome in such a
community, the ‘subjectivity’ of materialist t heory becomes object ivit y –
in t he f orm of an exist ence where t he int erest s of individuals are t ruly
preserved in t he communit y.
But t his mat erial universalit y of t heory presupposes a complet e
change in it s subject , which is no longer the isolated, abstract individual
at t he basis of idealist philosophy. Consciousness no longer st ands at
t he beginning of t hought as t he fundament um i nconcussum of t rut h, and it
no longer st ands at t he end as t he bearer of t he f reedom of pure will
and pure knowledge. Theory has moved t o anot her subject ; it s concept s
are generat ed by t he consciousness of specif ic groups and individuals
who are part of t he f ight f or a more rat ional organizat ion of societ y.
Only when it has changed it s hist orical st andpoint in t his way can
t heory meet t he desiderat um f or which philosophy has st ruggled in vain
in t he last f ew decades. D ilt hey’s lif ework can be regarded as an at t empt
t o replace t he abst ract epist emological subject , who has been t he
st art ing point f or philosophy since D escart es and in whose veins runs
“ not real blood but t he dilut ed lymph of reason as mere ment al
activity” , with concrete historical man in his ‘real lif e process’.
D ilt hey, t he various t rends of L ebensphi l osophi e (philosophy of lif e) and
exist ent ialism have concerned t hemselves with the concrete ‘historicity’
of t heory; phenomenology, t oo, as was ment ioned above, was conceived
as t he philosophy of concret e mat erial object ivit y (Sachl i chk ei t ). All such
ef f ort s had t o f ail, because t hey were linked (at f irst unconsciously, later
consciously) t o t he very int erest s and aims whose t heory t hey opposed.
They did not at t ack t he presupposit ion of bourgeois philosophy’s
abst ract ness: t he act ual unf reedom and powerlessness of t he individual
in an anarchic product ion process. Consequent ly, t he place of abst ract
reason was t aken by an equally abst ract ‘hist oricit y’, which amount ed at
best t o a relat ivism addressed indif f erent ly t o all social groups and
Mat erialist t heory moves beyond hist orical relativism in linking itself
wit h t hose social f orces which t he hist orical sit uat ion reveals t o be
progressive and t ruly ‘universal’. I t underst ands all t heory as an element
of t he social process of lif e, borne by part icular hist orical int erest s.
N egat i ons
Hitherto these interests have governed theory primarily ‘behind its
back’, unconsciously. As long as t he product ion process operat es
unconsciously and by chance, so t o speak, it reproduces lif e only in a
bad f orm. I t changes its content entirely when t he reproduct ion of lif e is
qualitatively (as well as quantitatively) improved by becoming a task f or
conscious planning. Similarly, the concept ual cont ent of t heory changes
when its interest is consciously directed toward this task, f or it then
represents in its true f orm what f ormerly f unct ioned as an unconscious
mot ivat ion. The relat ionship of t he historical concept of essence to
traditional general concepts of essence is of this type. Behind the
traditional concepts, too, lie concrete historical aims, but in the course
of tradition they were watered down to general f ormal structural
concepts and lost their dynamism. Once understood again as historical
concepts, the original critical tension bet ween t hem and realit y is
restored. What is true in them is preserved in the materialist notion of
essence and expressed in accordance wit h t he changed hist orical
situation. Aristotle’s doctrine of t he essence of man is not
comprehensible simply through his general ‘def inition’ of man as .cov
·oyov /,ov; .coc ao·i:ikov (zoon l ogon echon; zoon pol i t i k on), f or it
presupposes his metaphysics as well as his ethics, politics, rhetoric, and
psychology, f rom which come t he not ions l ogos, pol i t i k on, zoon. I t
presupposes no less his post ulat ion of dominat ion and servit ude as
modes of Being and his view of t he role of material labor in the totality
of the areas of lif e. I n translating l ogos as r at i o and def ining man as
‘rational’ late antiquity and the Middle Ages integrated man’s being into
Christian theology’s worldview. The meaning of the Aristotelian
def inition was thereby completely transf ormed, even though the
def initions are literally the same. I n a later period, the appeal to reason
as that which is essential in man served to proclaim the f reedom of the
aut onomous individual in bourgeois societ y. But at t he same t ime, when
man is conceived t o be f ree only as a rat ional being, whole dimensions
of exist ence become ‘inessent ial’, of no bearing on man’s essence. For
K ant, ‘being master or servant’ is one of the ‘inessential (ausser wesent l i ch)
characteristics’ of man,
designating only an accidental and ‘external
relation of man’. The connection, essential to Aristotle, between being
master or servant and the particular mode of possessing l ogos,
is completely dissolved. That relationships which were originally held to
be essent ial should become inessential indicates a total change in the
content of the concept of essence, even t hough reason is maintained as
C oncept of E ssence
a dimension of t he concept . That dominat ion and servit ude now appear
cont ingent and inessent ial ensues f rom t he f orm of human social
organizat ion which t he new concept of essence ref lect s. Wit h respect t o
t he essence of man, t he cont ingency of t he mast er-servant relat ionship
result s f rom t he blind necessit y which t he power of reif ied condit ions of
labor over t he producers appears t o be. Cont ingency is recognized as
such, but it s cause is not yet underst ood. Since ‘ext ernal relat ions’ are
not organized in accordance wit h man’s needs and pot ent ialit ies, wit h
his ‘essence’, t hey remain as a cont ingency out side t he philosophical
det erminat ion of essence as well.
This det erminat ion of t he essence of man, which does not include
‘ext ernal relat ions’ such as dominat i on and servit ude or t he place of t he
individual in t he mat erial process of product ion in man’s ‘essent ial
charact erist ics’, is t rue insof ar as it comprehends man as he act ually
exist s in t he bourgeois epoch. Beyond t hat , it has no validit y. When t he
associat ed individuals t hemselves have t aken over t he direct ion of t he
lif e process and have made t he t ot alit y of social relat ions t he work of
t heir reason and t heir f reedom, what man is in himself will be relat ed t o
his exist ence in a new way. The f ormerly cont ingent and ‘inessent ial’ will
now represent t he f ulf illment of t he most aut hent ic pot ent ialit ies. Man
will t hen have t o be ‘def ined’ not as a f ree rat ional being in opposit ion
t o cont ingent condit ions of lif e but as t he f ree and rat ional creat or of his
condit ions of lif e, as t he creat or of a bet t er and happier lif e.
So f ar we have at t empt ed t o show t he signif icance of t he problem of
essence f or mat erialist t heory chief ly in t erms of t he concept of t he
essence of man. This has been by no means an arbit rary example.
According t o t he t heory’s governing concern f or real, concret ely exist ing
men, t he quest ions raised by t his concept are really essent ial t o
knowledge, and t he t heory must be linked t o t hem at every point : not in
t he abst ract f orm in which t hey have been present ed here but as
object ive circumst ances of a given st ate of t he whole societ y, which in
each case is concret ized and t ransf ormed in hist orical pract ice. I n t his
cont ext , t he way some ot her concept s of t he t heory of essence develop
and t ake on new meaning will be out lined in what f ollows.
The essence t hat t he t heory at t empt s t o concept ualize appeared f irst
in t he f orm of man’s pot ent i al i t y wit hin a part icular historical sit uat ion, in
conf lict wit h his immediat e exist ence. The connect ion of t he concept of
essence wit h t hat of pot ent ialit y is as old as t he problem of essence
N egat i ons
itself ; it received its f irst explicit philosophical interpretation in
Aristotle’s notion of μ (dynami s). I n the postmedieval
philosophical tradition the ‘potential’ nature of essence increasingly lost
its connection with the notions of f orce, striving, and tendency and
became a matter of (f ormal and transcendental) logic. Hegel reinstated
the notion of ‘real possibility’ (potentiality) in his theory of essence:
Formal possibility is ref lection-into-itself (R efl ex i on-i n-si ch) only as
abstract identity, the f act that something is not self -contradictory. But to
the extent that one goes into the attributes, the circumstances, and the
conditions of a thing in order to know its possibility, one is no longer
restricting oneself to f ormal possibility but considering its real
possibility. This real possibility is itself immediate existence.

Real possibility exists. Theref ore it can be known as such by theory, and
as known it can be taken up by the practice f or which theory is the
guide and be transf ormed into reality. For Hegel the existence of a
thing’s real possibility consists in the “ existing manif old of
circumstances which relate to it” .
The idealist dialectic considers this
manif old ‘indif f erent’; in the materialist dialectic, in keeping with the
latter’s historical interests, it is accentuated and operates as a tendency in
men’s actions and in the course of things. The basis f or its
determination has already been indicated. Reality, where man’s essence
is determined, is the totality of the relations of production. I t is no mere
‘existing manif old of circumstances’, but rather a structure whose
organization can be analyzed, and within which it is possible to
distinguish between f orm and content, essence and appearance, the
concealed and the obvious. I ts content is the maintenance and
reproduction of society as a whole – the actual process of production
and reproduction, based on a given level of the productive f orces and of
technology. I ts f orm is the turnover of the production process as the
realization of capital. Form and content can be separated, f or the f ormer
is only a particular historical pattern in which the latter is realized; there
are tendencies toward the abolition of the f orm at work in the content.
When considered with regard to them, distinguished f rom its given
f orm, and seen with a view to a dif f erent f orm, in which it would no
longer f unction as the realization of capital, the content enters the mode
of real possibility. I n doing so it loses none of its reality, while
preserving all its wealth, the f ull range of the productive f orces it has
acquired, and the power and amplitude of the work techniques it has
C oncept of E ssence
developed. All this is, in f act, a condition f or the transition to the new
f orm. The content is reality in a ‘bad’ f orm; it is possibility in that its
emancipation f rom this f orm and its realization in a new f orm are still to
be accomplished through men’s social practice – but, given the
conditions at hand, this transf ormation can be accomplished. This is
what makes the possibility real.
Thus the dialectical relationship between reality and possibility is
f ulf illed: “ When real possibility overcomes itself , something double is
overcome, f or it is itself double in being both reality and possibility.”

Reality is overcome by being comprehended as the mere possibility of
another reality; possibility is overcome by being realized (in this
dif f erent reality). The relationships of possibility and reality and of f orm
and content typif y a trait of all the ways in which the opposition of
essence and appearance appears in the materialist dialectic: both
members of the relationship are real in the emphatic sense. The f orm,
f or instance, is no less real than the content; it does not exist only
‘subjectively’ or ‘ideally’. All such distinctions take place and change
within the f ramework of the totality of society. This f ramework itself is
never transcended, not even in concepts such as essence and
potentiality. But its historical appearance is always shaped by particular
interests and f orces and is transcended under the direction of new ones.
Essence and appearance belong to dif f erent spheres of interests and
f orces, as do potentiality and actuality, content and f orm. N evertheless,
the distinctions are not on that account indif f erent or arbitrary; they
apply not only to those who f ormulate them but also to their
opponents. For these distinctions conceive the social totality f rom the
standpoint of a set of goals toward which the particular goals of
individuals can be transcended by being preserved in the real
universality of a community.
The conceptual scheme of materialist theory in its present f orm
exhibits a dialectical dichotomy grounded in the structure of its object.
I t derives f rom the antagonistic character of the social lif e process as the
identity of the processes of production on the one hand and the
realization of capital on the other. From this basis the antagonism
permeates all areas of lif e. I t brings about the dif f erentiation of true and
f alse consciousness (the f ormer represented by correct theory, which
transcends the f orm of the production process in the direction of its
content, the latter by consciousness that remains on this side of such
transcendence and considers the historical f orm of the production
N egat i ons
process to be eternally valid). Correspondingly, there are two dif f erent
modes in which phenomena appear to and f or consciousness. The
concealment and distortion of decisive social matters in the
consciousness of the subjects of the production process are caused by
the independence f rom the subject attained by the conditions and
relations of work, a process that necessarily f ollows f rom the capitalist
f orm of production. This is why it is necessary to distinguish between
essence and appearance in all their various f orms. To the consciousness
of men dominated by reif ied social relations, the latter appear in a
distorted f orm which does not correspond to their true content – their
origin and their actual f unction in this process. But they are not by that
token in any way ‘unreal’. I t is precisely in their distorted f orm and as
motives and ‘f oci’ in the calculating consciousness of those groups who
control the process of production that they are very real f actors which
at f irst conf ront the immediate producers, degraded to mere objects, as
independent, blindly necessary powers. Theory, which aims at
overcoming this distortion, has the task of moving beyond appearance
to essence and explicating its content as it appears to true
At this level the tension between essence and appearance, between
authentic potentiality and immediate existence, is ref lected anew in the
concrete notions with which theory attempts to grasp the social process
of lif e in its antagonistic character. These concepts belong to two levels;
some deal with phenomena in their reif ied f orm, as they appear
immediately, and others aim at their real content, as it presents itself to
theory once its phenomenal f orm has been transcended. Thus Marxian
economics works with two dif f erent sets of concepts, corresponding to
these levels. One set describes the economic process in its immediate
appearance as production and reproduction, that is, it abstracts f rom its
character as a process of capital realization. To this group belong
concepts such as entrepreneurial prof it and wages, employer and
employee. The relations they designate are ‘real’, even though they are
only the f orms in which things appear; they determine the thought and
action of men insof ar as they are the subjects and objects of the
production process. The second set comprehends the same process in
its antagonistic unity of production process and process of capital
realization and relates every individual f actor to this totality. The
relations represented in the f irst set by such concepts as wages and
entrepreneur, are here grasped by means of categories in which the class
C oncept of E ssence
character of this method of production is expressed (f or instance,
surplus value). Both groups of concepts are equally necessary to the
understanding of the antagonistic reality; nevertheless, they are not on
the same level. I n terms of dialectical theory, the second group of
concepts, which has been derived f rom the totality of the social
dynamic, is intended to grasp the essence and the true content of the
manif estations which the f irst group describes as they appear.
The dialectical concepts transcend given social reality in the
direction of another historical structure which is present as a tendency
in the given reality. The positive concept of essence, culminating in the
concept of the essence of man, which sustains all critical and polemical
distinctions between essence and appearance as their guiding principle
and model, is rooted in this potential structure. I n terms of the positive
concept of essence, all categories that describe the given f orm of
existence as historically mutable become ‘ironic’: they contain their own
negation. I n economic theory this irony f inds its expression in the
relationship of the two sets of concepts. I f , f or instance, it is said that
concepts such as wages, the value of labor, and entrepreneurial prof it
are only categories of manif estations behind which are hidden the
‘essential relations’ of the second set of concepts, it is also true that
these essential relations represent the truth of the manif estations only
insof ar as the concepts which comprehend them already contain their
own negation and transcendence – the image of a social organization
without surplus value. All materialist concepts contain an accusation and
an imperative.
When the imperative has been f ulf illed, when practice has created
men’s new social organization, the new essence of man appears in
reality. Then the cur r ent historical f orm of the antithesis of essence and
appearance, which expresses primarily the externality, lack of planning,
and blind necessity of the present material conditions of lif e in the f ace
of the individuals’ true needs and potentialities, will have disappeared.
But this does not mean that all grounds f or the distinction between
essence and appearance, potentiality and immediate existence would
cease. N ature remains a realm of necessity; the overcoming of need
(N ot ), and the satisf action of human wants will remain a struggle – a
struggle, to be sure, which it will only then be possible to conduct in a
manner worthy of man and without hist orically obsolete f orms of social
conf lict. I nto it will go the theoretical energy which has hitherto spent
itself in the concern with absolutely certain and universally valid
N egat i ons
knowledge. The charact erist ics of essence no longer need t o be
st abilized in t imeless et ernal f orms. The t rut h according t o which t he
part icular int erest s are preserved in t he universal, t he result ing object ive
‘validit y’ of t he universal, and t he t ransparent rat ionalit y of t he lif e
process, will all have t o prove t hemselves in t he pract ice of t he
associat ed individuals and no longer in an absolut e consciousness
divorced f rom pract ice.

The Affirmative Character of Culture

The doct rine t hat all human knowledge is orient ed t oward pract ice
belonged t o t he nucleus of ancient philosophy. I t was Arist ot le’s view
t hat t he t rut hs arrived at t hrough knowledge should direct pract ice in
daily lif e as in t he art s and sciences. I n t heir st ruggle f or exist ence, men
need t he ef f ort of knowledge, t he search f or t rut h, because what is
good, benef icial, and right f or t hem is not immediat ely evident . Art isan
and merchant , capt ain and physician, general and st at esman – each must
have correct knowledge in his f ield in order t o be capable of act ing as
t he changing sit uat ion demands. While Arist ot le maint ained t he
pract ical charact er of every inst ance of knowledge, he made a signif icant
dist inct ion bet ween f orms of knowledge. He ordered t hem, as it were,
in a hierarchy of value whose nadir is f unct ional acquaint ance wit h t he
necessit ies of everyday lif e and whose zenit h is philosophical
knowledge. The lat t er has no purpose out side it self . Rat her, it occurs
only f or it s own sake and t o af f ord men f elicit y. Wit hin t his hierarchy
t here is a f undament al break bet ween t he necessary and usef ul on t he
one hand and t he ‘beaut if ul’ on t he ot her. “ The whole of lif e is f urt her
divided int o t wo part s, business and leisure, war and peace, and of
actions some aim at what is necessary and usef ul, and some at what is
beaut if ul [ ].”
Since t his division is not it self quest ioned, and
since, t oget her wit h ot her regions of t he ‘beaut if ul’, ‘pure’ t heory
congeals int o an independent act ivity alongside and above ot her
act ivit ies, philosophy’s original demand disint egrat es: t he demand t hat
pract ice be guided by known t rut hs. Separat ing t he usef ul and necessary
f rom t he beaut if ul and f rom enjoyment init iat ed a development t hat
abandons t he f ield t o t he mat erialism of bourgeois pract ice on t he one
N egat i ons
hand and t o t he appeasement of happiness and t he mind wit hin t he
preserve of ‘culture’ on the other.
One theme continually recurs in the reasons given f or the relegation
of the highest f orm of knowledge and of pleasure to pure, purposeless
theory: the world of necessity, of everyday provision f or lif e, is
inconst ant , insecure, unf ree – not merely in f act, but in essence.
D isposal over material goods is never entirely the work of human
industry and wisdom, f or it is subject to the rule of contingency. The
individual who places his highest goal, happiness, in these goods makes
himself the slave of men and things. He surrenders his f reedom. Wealth
and well-being do not come or persist due to his autonomous decision
but rather through the changeable f ortune of opaque circumstances.
Man thus subjects his existence to a purpose sit uat ed out side him. Of
itself , such an external purpose can vitiate and enslave men only if the
material conditions of lif e are poorly ordered, that is, if their
reproduction is regulated through the anarchy of opposing social
interests. I n this order the preservation of the common existence is
incompatible with individual happiness and f reedom. I nsof ar as
philosophy is concerned wit h man’s happiness – and the theory of
classical antiquity held it to be the highest good – it cannot f ind it in the
established material organization of lif e. That is why it must transcend
this order’s f acticity.
Along with metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, this
transcendence also af f ects psychology. Like the extrapsychic
world, the
human soul is divided into a lower and a higher region. The history of
the soul transpires between the poles of sensuality
and reason. The
devaluation of sensuality results f rom the same motives as that of the
material world: because sensuality is a realm of anarchy, of inconstancy,
and of unf reedom. Sensual pleasure is not in itself bad. I t is bad
because, like man’s lower activities, it is f ulf illed in a bad order. The
‘lower parts of the soul’ drive man to covet gain and possessions,
purchase and sale. He is led to “ admire and value nothing but wealth
and its possessors” .
Accordingly the ‘appetitive’ part of the soul, which
is oriented toward sensual pleasure, is also termed by Plato the ‘money-
loving’ part, “ because money is the principal means of satisf ying desires
of this kind” .

All the ontological classif ications of ancient idealism express the
badness of a social reality in which knowledge of the truth about human
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
existence is no longer incorporated into practice. The world of the true,
the good, and the beautif ul is in f act an ‘ideal’ world insof ar as it lies
beyond the existing conditions of lif e, beyond a f orm of existence in
which the majority of men either work as slaves or spend their lif e in
commerce, with only a small group having the opportunity of being
concerned with anything more than the provision and preservation of
the necessary. When the reproduction of material lif e takes place under
the rule of the commodity f orm and continually renews the poverty of
class society, then the good, beautif ul, and true are transcendent to this
lif e. And if everything requisite to preserving and securing material lif e is
produced in this f orm, then what ever lies beyond it is certainly
‘superf luous’. What is of authentic import to man, the highest truths,
the highest goods, and the highest joys, is separated in signif icance f rom
the necessary by an abyss. They are a ‘luxury’. Aristotle did not conceal
this state of af f airs. ‘First philosophy’, which includes the highest good
and the highest pleasure, is a f unction of the leisure of the f ew, f or
whom all necessities of lif e are already adequately taken care of . ‘Pure
theory’ is appropriated as the prof ession of an elite and cordoned of f
with iron chains f rom the majority of mankind. Aristotle did not assert
that the good, the beautif ul, and the true are universally valid and
obligatory values which should also permeate and transf igure ‘f rom
above’ the realm of necessity, of the material provision f or lif e. Only
when this claim is raised are we in the presence of the concept of
culture that became central to bourgeois practice and its corresponding
weltanschauung. The ancient theory of the higher value of truths above
the realm of necessity includes as well the ‘higher’ level of society. For
these truths are supposed to have their abode in the ruling social strata,
whose dominant status is in turn conf irmed by the theory insof ar as
concern with the highest truths is supposed to be their prof ession.
I n Aristotelian philosophy, ancient theory is precisely at the point
where idealism retreats in the f ace of social contradictions and expresses
them as ontological conditions. Platonic philosophy still contended with
the social order of commercial Athens. Plato’s idealism is interlaced
with motif s of social criticism. What appears as f acticity f rom the
standpoint of the I deas is the material world in which men and things
encounter one another as commodities. The just order of the soul is
destroyed by
N egat i ons
the passion f or wealth which leaves a man not a moment of leisure to
attend to anything beyond his personal f ortunes. So long as a citizen’s
whole soul is wrapped up in these, he cannot give a thought to anything
but the day’s takings.

And t he aut hent ic, basic demand of idealism is that this material world
be t ransf ormed and improved in accordance wit h the t rut hs yielded by
knowledge of t he I deas. Plat o’s answer t o t his demand is his program
f or a reorganizat ion of societ y. This program reveals what Plat o sees as
t he root of evil. He demands, f or t he ruling st rat a, t he abolit ion of
privat e propert y (even in women and children) and t he prohibit ion of
t rade. This same program, however, t ries t o root t he cont radict ions of
class societ y in t he dept hs of human nature, thereby perpetuating them.
While the majority of the members of the state are engaged f or their
entire lives in the cheerless business of providing f or t he necessit ies of
lif e, enjoyment of the true, the good, and the beautif ul is reserved f or a
small elite. Although Aristotle still lets ethics terminate in politics, f or
him t he reorganizat ion of societ y no longer occupies a cent ral role in
philosophy. To t he ext ent t o which he is more ‘realist ic’ t han Plat o, his
idealism is more resigned in the f ace of the historical tasks of mankind.
The t rue philosopher is f or him no longer essent ially t he t rue stat esman.
The dist ance bet ween f act icit y and I dea has increased precisely because
t hey are conceived of as in closer relat ionship. The purport of idealism,
viz. t he realizat ion of t he I dea, dissipates. The history of idealism is also
the history of its coming to terms with the established order.
Behind t he ont ological and epist emological separat ion of t he realm
of t he senses and t he realm of I deas, of sensuousness and reason, of
necessit y and beaut y, st ands not only t he reject ion of a bad hist orical
f orm of exist ence, but also it s exoneration. The material world (i.e. the
manif old f orms of the respective ‘lower’ member of this relation) is in
itself mere matter, mere potentiality, akin more t o N on-Being t han t o
Being. I t becomes real only insof ar as it part akes of t he ‘higher’ world.
I n all these f orms the material world remains bare matter or stuf f f or
something outside it which alone gives it value. All and any truth,
goodness, and beaut y can accrue t o it only ‘f rom above’ by t he grace of
the I dea. All activity relating to the material provision of lif e remains in
it s essence unt rue, bad, and ugly. Even with these characteristics,
however, such activity is as necessary as matter is f or the I dea. The
misery of slave labor, t he degradat ion of men and t hings t o
commodities, the joylessness and lowliness in which the totality of the
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
mat eri al condi t i ons of exi st ence cont i nuousl y reproduces i t sel f , al l t hese
do not f al l wi t hi n t he sphere of i nt erest of i deal i st phi l osophy, f or t hey
are not yet t he act ual real i t y t hat const i t ut es t he obj ect of t hi s
phi l osophy. D ue t o i t s i rrevocabl y mat eri al qual i t y, mat eri al pract i ce i s
exonerat ed f rom responsi bi l i t y f or t he t rue, good, and beaut i f ul , whi ch
i s i nst ead t aken care of by t he pursui t of t heory. The ont ol ogi cal
cl eavage of i deal f rom mat eri al val ues t ranqui l l i zes i deal i sm i n al l t hat
regards t he mat eri al processes of l i f e. I n i deal i sm, a speci f i c hi st ori cal
f orm of t he di vi si on of l abor and of soci al st rat i f i cat i on t akes on t he
et ernal , met aphysi cal f orm of t he rel at i onshi p of necessi t y and beaut y,
of mat t er and I dea.
I n t he bourgeoi s epoch t he t heory of t he rel at i onshi p bet ween
necessi t y and beaut y, l abor and enj oyment , underwent deci si ve changes.
Fi rst , t he vi ew t hat concern wi t h t he hi ghest val ues i s appropri at ed as a
prof essi on by part i cul ar soci al st rat a di sappears. I n i t s pl ace emerges t he
t hesi s of t he uni versal i t y and uni versal val i di t y of ‘cul t ure’. Wi t h good
consci ence, t he t heory of ant i qui t y had expressed t he f act t hat most
men had t o spend t hei r l i ves provi di ng f or necessi t i es whi l e a smal l
number devot ed t hemsel ves t o enj oyment and t rut h. Al t hough t he f act
has not changed, t he good consci ence has di sappeared. Free
compet i t i on pl aces i ndi vi dual s i n t he rel at i on of buyers and sel l ers of
l abor power. The pure abst ract ness t o whi ch men are reduced i n t hei r
soci al rel at i ons ext ends as wel l t o i nt ercourse wi t h i deas. I t i s no l onger
supposed t o be t he case t hat some are born t o and sui t ed t o l abor and
ot hers t o l ei sure, some t o necessi t y and ot hers t o beaut y. Just as each
i ndi vi dual ’s rel at i on t o t he market i s i mmedi at e (wi t hout hi s personal
qual i t i es and needs bei ng rel evant except as commodi t i es), so hi s
rel at i ons t o God, t o beaut y, t o goodness, and t o t rut h are rel at i ons of
i mmedi acy. As abst ract bei ngs, al l men are supposed t o part i ci pat e
equal l y i n t hese val ues. As i n mat eri al pract i ce t he product separat es
i t sel f f rom t he producers and becomes i ndependent as t he uni versal
rei f i ed f orm of t he ‘commodi t y’, so i n cul t ural pract i ce a work and i t s
cont ent congeal i nt o uni versal l y val i d ‘val ues’. By t hei r very nat ure t he
t rut h of a phi l osophi cal j udgment , t he goodness of a moral act i on, and
t he beaut y of a work of art shoul d appeal t o everyone, rel at e t o
everyone, be bi ndi ng upon everyone. Wi t hout di st i nct i on of sex or
bi rt h, regardl ess of t hei r posi t i on i n t he process of product i on,
i ndi vi dual s must subordi nat e t hemsel ves t o cul t ural val ues. They must
N egat i ons
absorb them into their lives and let their existence be permeated and
transf igured by them. ‘Civilization’ is animated and inspired by ‘culture’.
This is not the place to discuss the various attempts to def ine
culture. There is a concept of culture that can serve as an important
instrument of social research because it expresses the implication of the
mind in the historical process of society. I t signif ies the totality of social
lif e in a given situation, insof ar as both the areas of ideational
reproduction (culture in the narrower sense, the ‘spiritual world’) and of
material reproduction (‘civilization’) f orm a historically distinguishable
and comprehensible unity.
There is, however, another f airly widespread
usage of the concept of culture, in which the spiritual world is lif ted out
of its social context, making culture a (f alse) collective noun and
attributing (f alse) universality to it. This second concept of culture
(clearly seen in such expressions as ‘national culture’, ‘Germanic
culture’, or ‘Roman culture’) plays of f the spiritual world against the
material world by holding up culture as the realm of authentic values
and self -contained ends in opposition to the world of social utility and
means. Through the use of this concept, culture is distinguished f rom
civilization and sociologically and valuationally removed f rom the social
This concept itself has developed on the basis of a specif ic
historical f orm of culture, which is termed ‘af f irmative culture’ in what
f ollows. By af f irmative culture is meant that culture of the bourgeois
epoch which led in the course of its own development to the
segregation f rom civilization of the mental and spiritual world as an
independent realm of value that is also considered superior to
civilization. I ts decisive characteristic is the assertion of a universally
obligatory, eternally better and more valuable world that must be
unconditionally af f irmed: a world essentially dif f erent f rom the f actual
world of the daily struggle f or existence, yet realizable by every
individual f or himself ‘f rom within’, without any transf ormation of the
state of f act. I t is only in this culture that cultural activities and objects
gain that value which elevates them above the everyday sphere. Their
reception becomes an act of celebration and exaltation.
Although the distinction between civilization and culture may have
joined only recently the mental equipment of the social and cultural
sciences, the state of af f airs that it expresses has long been characteristic
of the conduct of lif e and the weltanschauung of the bourgeois era.
‘Civilization and culture’ is not simply a translation of the ancient
relation of purposef ul and purposeless, necessary and beautif ul. As the
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
purposeless and beautif ul were internalized and, along with the qualities
of binding universal validity and sublime beauty, made into the cultural
values of the bourgeoisie, a realm of apparent unity and apparent
f reedom was constructed within culture in which the antagonistic
relations of existence were supposed to be stabilized and pacif ied.
Culture af f irms and conceals the new conditions of social lif e.
I n antiquity, the world of the beautif ul beyond necessity was
essentially a world of happiness and enjoyment. The ancient theory had
never doubted that men’s concern was ultimately their worldly
gratif ication, their happiness. Ultimately, not immediately: f or man’s
f irst concern is the struggle f or the preservation and protection of mere
existence. I n view of the meager development of the productive f orces
in the ancient economy, it never occurred to philosophy that material
practice could ever be f ashioned in such a way that it would itself
contain the space and time f or happiness. Anxiety stands at the source
of all idealistic doctrines that look f or the highest f elicity in ideational
practice: anxiety about the uncertainty of all the conditions of lif e, about
the contingency of loss, of dependence, and of poverty, but anxiety also
about satiation, ennui, and envy of men and the gods. Nonetheless,
anxiety about happiness, which drove philosophy to separate beauty and
necessity, preserves the demand f or happiness even within the separated
sphere. Happiness becomes a preserve, in order f or it to be able to be
present at all. What man is to f ind in the philosophical knowledge of the
true, the good, and the beautif ul is ultimate pleasure, which has all the
opposite characteristics of material f acticity: permanence in change,
purity amidst impurity, f reedom amidst unf reedom.
The abstract individual who emerges as the subject of practice at the
beginning of the bourgeois epoch also becomes the bearer of a new
claim to happiness, merely on the basis of the new constellation of
social f orces. N o longer acting as the representative or delegate of
higher social bodies, each separate individual is supposed to take the
provision of his needs and the f ulf illment of his wants into his own
hands and be in immediate relation to his ‘vocation’, to his purpose and
goals, without the social, ecclesiastical, and political mediations of
f eudalism. I n this situation the individual was allotted more room f or
individual requirements and satisf actions: room which developing
capitalist production began to f ill with more and more objects of
possible satisf action in the f orm of commodities. To this extent, the
bourgeois liberation of the individual made possible a new happiness.
N egat i ons
But t he universalit y of t his happiness is immediat ely canceled, since
t he abst ract equalit y of men realizes it self in capit alist product ion as
concret e inequalit y. Only a small number of men dispose of t he
purchasing power required f or t he quant it y of goods necessary in order
t o secure happiness. Equalit y does not ext end t o t he condit ions f or
at t aining t he means. For t he st rat a of t he rural and urban prolet ariat , on
whom t he bourgeoisie depended in t heir st ruggle against t he f eudal
powers, abst ract equalit y could have meaning only as real equalit y. For
t he bourgeoisie, when it came t o power, abst ract equalit y suf f iced f or
t he f lourishing of real individual f reedom and real individual happiness,
since it already disposed of t he mat erial condit ions t hat could bring
about such sat isf act ion. I ndeed, stopping at t he st age of abst ract
f reedom belonged t o t he condit ions of bourgeois rule, which would
have been endangered by a t ransit ion f rom abst ract t o concret e
universalit y. On t he ot her hand, t he bourgeoisie could not give up t he
general charact er of it s demand (t hat equalit y be ext ended t o all men)
wit hout denouncing it self and openly proclaiming t o t he ruled st rat a
t hat , f or t he majorit y, everyt hing was st ill t he same wit h regard t o t he
improvement of t he condit ions of lif e. Such a concession became even
less likely as growing social wealt h made t he real f ulf illment of t his
general demand possible while t here was in cont rast t he relat ively
increasing povert y of t he poor in cit y and count ry. Thus t he demand
became a post ulat e, and it s object a mere idea. The vocat ion of man, t o
whom general f ulf illment is denied in t he mat erial world, is hypost at ized
as an ideal.
The rising bourgeois groups had based t heir demand f or a new
social f reedom on t he universalit y of human reason. Against t he belief
in t he divinely inst it ut ed et ernit y of a rest rict ive order t hey maint ained
t heir belief in progress, in a bet t er f ut ure. But reason and f reedom did
not ext end beyond t hese groups’ int erest , which came int o increasing
opposit ion t o t he int erest of t he majorit y. To accusing quest ions t he
bourgeoisie gave a decisive answer: af f irmat ive cult ure. The lat t er is
f undament ally idealist . To t he need of t he isolat ed individual it responds
wit h general humanit y, t o bodily misery wit h t he beaut y of t he soul, t o
ext ernal bondage wit h int ernal f reedom, t o brut al egoism wit h t he dut y
of t he realm of virt ue. Whereas during t he period of t he milit ant rise of
t he new societ y all of t hese ideas had a progressive charact er by point ing
beyond t he at t ained organizat ion of exist ence, t hey ent ered increasingly
int o t he service of t he suppression of t he discont ent ed masses and of
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
mere self -justif ying exaltation, once bourgeois rule began to be
stabilized. They concealed the physical and psychic vitiation of the
But bourgeois idealism is not merely ideology, f or it expresses a
correct objective content. I t contains not only the justif ication of the
established f orm of existence, but also the pain of its establishment: not
only quiescence about what is, but also remembrance of what could be.
By making suf f ering and sorrow into eternal, universal f orces, great
bourgeois art has continually shattered in the hearts of men the f acile
resignation of everyday lif e. By painting in the luminous colors of this
world the beauty of men and things and trans-mundane happiness, it
has planted real longing alongside poor consolation and f alse
consecration in the soil of bourgeois lif e. This art raised pain and
sorrow, desperation and loneliness, to the level of metaphysical powers
and set individuals against one another and the gods in the nakedness of
physical immediacy, beyond all social mediations. This exaggeration
contains the higher truth that such a world cannot be changed
piecemeal, but only through its destruction. Classical bourgeois art put
its ideal f orms at such a distance f rom everyday occurrence that those
whose suf f ering and hope reside in daily lif e could only rediscover
themselves through a leap into a totally other world. I n this way art
nourished the belief that all previous history had been only the dark and
tragic prehistory of a coming existence. And philosophy took this idea
seriously enough to be concerned about its realization. Hegel’s system is
the last protest against the degradation of the idea: against playing
of f iciously with the mind as though it were an object that really has
nothing to do with human history. At least idealism maintained that the
materialism of bourgeois practice is not the last word and that mankind
must be led beyond it. Thus idealism belongs to a more progressive
stage of development than later positivism, which in f ighting
metaphysical ideas eliminates not only their metaphysical character, but
their content as well. I t thus links it self inevitably to the status quo.
Culture is supposed to assume concern f or the individual’s claim to
happiness. But the social antagonisms at the root of culture let it admit
this claim only in an internalized and rationalized f orm. I n a society that
reproduces itself through economic competition, the mere demand f or a
happier social existence constitutes rebellion. For if men value the
enjoyment of worldly happiness, then they certainly cannot value
acquisitive activity, prof it, and the authority of the economic powers
N egat i ons
that preserve the existence of this societ y. The claim t o happiness has a
dangerous ring in an order t hat f or t he majorit y means need, privat ion,
and t oil. The cont radict ions of such an order provide t he impet us t o t he
idealizat ion of t hat claim. But t he real gratif ication of individuals cannot
be cont ained by an idealist ic dynamic which eit her cont inually
post pones grat if cat ion or t ransmut es it into striving f or the unattained.
I t can only be realized agai nst idealist culture, and only agai nst this
cult ure is it propagat ed as a general demand: t he demand f or a real
t ransf ormat ion of t he mat erial conditions of existence, f or a new lif e,
f or a new f orm of labor and of enjoyment. Thus it has remained active
in t he revolut ionary groups t hat have f ought t he expanding new syst em
of injust ice since t he waning of t he Middle Ages. And while idealism
surrenders t he eart h t o bourgeois societ y and makes it s ideas unreal by
f inding sat isf act ion in heaven and t he soul, mat erialist philosophy t akes
seriously t he concern f or happiness and f ights f or its realization in
hist ory. I n t he philosophy of t he Enlight enment , t his connect ion
becomes clear.
False philosophy can, like theology, promise us an eternal happiness
and, cradling us in beautif ul chimeras, lead us there at the expense of
our days or our pleasure. Quite dif f erent and wiser, true philosophy
af f ords only a temporal happiness. I t sows roses and f lowers in our path
and teaches us to pick them.

I dealist philosophy, t oo, admit s t he cent ralit y of human happiness. But
in its controversy with stoicism, t he Enlight enment adopt ed precisely
t hat f orm of t he claim t o happiness which is incompatible with idealism
and wit h which af f irmat ive cult ure cannot deal:
And how we shall be anti-Stoics! These philosophers are strict, sad, and
hard; we shall be tender, joyf ul, and agreeable. All soul, they abstract
f rom their body; all body, we shall abstract f rom our soul. They show
themselves inaccessible to pleasure and pain; we shall be proud to f eel
both the one and the other. Aiming at the sublime, they elevate
themselves above all occurrences and believe themselves to be truly
men only insof ar as they cease to exist. Ourselves, we shall not control
what governs us, although circumstances will not command our
f eelings. By acknowledging their lordship and our bondage, we shall try
to make them agreeable to us, in the conviction that it is here that the
happiness of lif e resides. Finally, we shall believe ourselves that much
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
happier, the more we f eel nature, humanity, and all social virtues. We
shall recognize none but these, nor any lif e other than this one.


I n it s idea of pure humanit y, af f irmative culture took up the historical
demand f or t he general liberat ion of t he individual. “ I f we consider
mankind as we know it according t o t he laws which it embodies, we
f ind not hing higher in man t han humanit y.”
This concept is meant to
comprise everything that is directed t oward “ man’s noble educat ion t o
reason and f reedom, t o more ref ined senses and inst inct s, t o t he most
delicate and the heartiest health, to the f ulf illment and domination of
the earth” .
All human laws and f orms of government are t o have t he
exclusive purpose of “ enabling man, f ree f rom at t ack by ot hers, t o
exercise his powers and acquire a more beaut if ul and f reer enjoyment of
lif e” .
The highest point which man can attain is a community of f ree
and rat ional persons in which each has t he same opport unit y t o unf old
and f ulf ill all of his powers. The concept of the person, in which the
struggle against repressive collectivities has remained act ive t hrough t he
present, disregards social conf licts and convent ions and addresses it self
to all individuals. N o one relieves the individual of t he burden of his
exist ence, but no one prescribes his right s and sphere of act ion – no one
except the ‘law in his own breast’.
N ature intended that man generate entirely out of himself everything
going beyond the mechanical organization of his animal existence, and
that he partake of no other happiness or perf ection than that which he
provides f or himself , f ree of instinct, by means of his own reason.

All wealth and all poverty derive f rom him and react back upon him.
Each individual is immediat e t o himself : wit hout worldly or heavenly
mediations. And this immediacy also holds f or his relations to others.
The clearest represent at ion of t his idea of t he person is t o be f ound in
classical literature since Shakespeare. I n its dramas, individuals are so
close t o one anot her t hat bet ween t hem t here is not hing t hat is in
principle inef f able or inexpressible. Verse makes possible what has
already become impossible in prosaic realit y. I n poet ry men can
transcend all social isolation and distance and speak of t he f irst and last
N egat i ons
t hings. They overcome t he f act ual loneliness in t he glow of great and
beaut if ul words; t hey may even let loneliness appear in it s met aphysical
beaut y. Criminal and saint , prince and servant , sage and f ool, rich and
poor join in discussion whose f ree f low is supposed t o give rise t o t rut h.
The unit y represent ed by art and t he pure humanit y of it s persons are
unreal; t hey are t he count erimage of what occurs in social realit y. The
crit ical and revolut ionary f orce of t he ideal, which in it s very unrealit y
keeps alive t he best desires of men amidst a bad realit y, becomes
clearest in t hose t imes when t he sat iat ed social st rat a have accomplished
t he bet rayal of t heir own ideals. The ideal, t o be sure, was conceived in
such a f ashion t hat it s regressive and apologet ic, rat her t han it s
progressive and crit ical, charact erist ics predominat ed. I t s realizat ion is
supposed t o be ef f ect ed t hrough t he cult ural educat ion of individuals.
Cult ure means not so much a bet t er world as a nobler one: a world t o
be brought about not t hrough t he overt hrow of t he mat erial order of
lif e but t hrough event s in t he individual’s soul. Humanity becomes an
inner st at e. Freedom, goodness, and beaut y become spirit ual qualit ies:
underst anding f or everyt hing human, knowledge about t he great ness of
all t imes, appreciat ion of everyt hing dif f icult and sublime, respect f or
hist ory in which all of t his has become what it is. This inner st at e is t o
be t he source of act ion t hat does not come int o conf lict wit h t he given
order. Cult ure belongs not t o him who comprehends t he t rut hs of
humanit y as a bat t le cry, but t o him in whom t hey have become a
post ure which leads t o a mode of proper behavior: exhibit ing harmony
and ref lect iveness even in daily rout ine. Cult ure should ennoble t he
given by permeat ing it , rat her t han put t ing somet hing new in it s place. I t
t hus exalt s t he individual wit hout f reeing him f rom his f act ual
debasement . Cult ure speaks of t he dignit y of ‘man’ wit hout concerning
it self wit h a concret ely more dignif ied st at us f or men. The beaut y of
cult ure is above all an inner beaut y and can only reach t he ext ernal
world f rom wit hin. I t s realm is essent ially a realm of t he soul .
That cult ure is a mat t er of spirit ual (seel i sch) values is const it ut ive of
t he af f irmat ive concept of cult ure at least since H erder. Spirit ual values
belong t o t he def init ion of cult ure in cont rast t o mere civilizat ion.
Alf red Weber was merely summing up a concept ual scheme wit h a long
hist ory when he wrot e:
Culture … is merely spiritual expression and spiritual will and thus the
expression and will of an ‘essence’ that lies behind all intellectual
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
mastery of existence, of a ‘soul’ that, in its striving f or expression and in
its willing, pays no regard to purposiveness and utility…. From this
f ollows the concept of culture as the prevailing f orm in which the
spiritual is expressed and released in the materially and spiritually given
substance of existence.

The soul posited by this interpretation is other and more than the
totality of psychic f orces and mechanisms (such as might be the object
of empirical psychology). Rather, this noncorporeal being of man is
asserted as the real substance of the individual.
The character of the soul as substance has since D escartes been
f ounded upon the uniqueness of the ego as r es cogi t ans. While the entire
world outside the ego becomes in principle one of measurable matter
with calculable motion, the ego is the only dimension of reality to evade
the materialistic rationality of the rising bourgeoisie. By coming into
opposition to the corporeal world as a substance dif f ering f rom it in
essence, the ego is subjected to a remarkable division into two regions.
The ego as the subject of thought (mens, mind) remains, in the
independence of self -certainty, on this side of the being of matter – its a
priori, as it were – while D escartes attempts to explain materialistically
the ego as soul (ani ma), as the subject of ‘passions’ (love and hate, joy
and sorrow, shame, jealousy, regret, gratitude, and so f orth). The
passions of the soul are traced to blood circulation and its
transf ormation in the brain. This reduction does not quite succeed. To
be sure, all muscular movements and sense perceptions are thought to
depend on the nerves, which “ are like small f ilaments or small pipes that
all come f rom the brain” , but the nerves themselves contain “ a certain
very f ine air or wind called animal spirits” .
D espite this immaterial
residue, the tendency of the interpretation is clear: the ego is either mind
(thought, cogi t o me cogi t ar e) or, insof ar as it is not merely thought (cogi t at i o),
it is no longer authentically ego, but rather corporeal. I n the latter case,
the properties and activities ascribed to it belonged to r es ex t ensa.
they do not quite admit of being dissolved into matter. The soul remains
an unmastered intermediate realm between the unshakable self -certainty
of pure thought and the mathematical and physical certainty of material
being. Already in the original project of rationalism there is no room in
the system f or what is later considered actually to compose the soul, viz.
the individual’s f eelings, appetites, desires, and instincts. The position
within rationalism of empirical psychology, i.e. of the discipline really
N egat i ons
dealing with the human soul, is characteristic, f or it exists although
reason is unable to legitimate it.
K ant polemized against the treatment of empirical psychology
within rational metaphysics (by Baumgarten). Empirical psychology
must be “ completely banished f rom the domain of metaphysics; it is
indeed already completely excluded by the very idea of the latter
science” . But, he goes on, “ in conf ormity, however, with scholastic
usage we must allow it some sort of a place (although as an episode
only) in metaphysics, and this f rom economical motives, because it is
not yet so rich as to be able to f orm a subject of study by itself , and yet
is too important to be entirely excluded and f orced to settle
elsewhere…. I t is thus merely a stranger who is taken in f or a short
while until he f inds a home of his own, in a complete anthropology” .

And in his metaphysics lectures of 1792–93 K ant expressed himself
even more sceptically about this ‘stranger’: “ I s an empirical psychology
possible as science? No – our knowledge of the soul is entirely too
limited” .

Rationalism’s estrangement f rom the soul points to an important
state of af f airs. For in f act the soul does not enter into the social labor
process. Concrete labor is reduced to abstract labor that makes possible
the exchange of the products of labor as commodities. The idea of the
soul seems to allude to those areas of lif e which cannot be managed by
the abstract reason of bourgeois practice. I t is as though the processing
of matter is accomplished only by a part of the r es cogi t ans: by technical
reason. Beginning with the division of labor in manuf acture and
brought to completion in machine industry, “ the intellectual [gei st i gen]
potencies of the material process of production” come into opposition
to the immediate producers as “ the property of another and as a power
that rules them” .
To the extent that thought is not immediately
technical reason, it has f reed itself since Descartes f rom conscious
connection with social practice and tolerates the reif ication that it itself
promotes. When in this practice human relations appear as material
relations, as the very laws of things, philosophy abandons the individual
to this appearance by retreating and re-establishing itself at the level of
the transcendental constitution of the world in pure subjectivity.
Transcendental philosophy does not make contact with reif ication, f or it
investigates only the process of cognition of the immemorially (j e schon)
reif ied world.
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
The soul is not comprehended by the dichotomy of r es cogi t ans and
r es ex t ensa, f or it cannot be understood merely as one or the other. K ant
destroyed rational psychology without arriving at an empirical
psychology. For Hegel, every single attribute of the soul is
comprehended f rom the standpoint of mind (G ei st ), into which the soul
passes over (über geht ); f or mind reveals itself to be the soul’s true
content. The soul is essentially characterized by its “ not yet being
mind” .
Where Hegel treats psychology, i.e. the human soul, in his
doctrine of subjective mind, the guiding principle is no longer soul but
mind. Hegel deals with the soul principally as part of ‘anthropology’,
where it is still completely “ bound to the attributes of nature” .
examines planetary lif e on a general scale, natural racial distinctions, the
ages of man, magic, somnambulism, various f orms of psychopathic self -
images, and – only f or a f ew pages – the ‘real soul’. For him the latter is
nothing but the transition to the ego of consciousness, wherewith the
anthropological doctrine of soul is already lef t behind, and the
phenomenology of mind arrived at. The soul is thus allotted to
physiological anthropology on the one hand and the philosophy of
mind on the other. Even in the greatest system of bourgeois rationalism
there is no place f or the independence of the soul. The authentic objects
of psychology, f eelings, instincts, and will, are conceived only as f orms
of the existence of mind.
With its concept of the soul, however, af f irmative culture means
precisely what is not mind. I ndeed, the concept of soul comes into ever
sharper contradiction to the concept of mind. What is meant by soul “ is
f orever inaccessible to the lucid mind, to the understanding, or to
empirical, f actual research. … One could sooner dissect with a knif e a
theme by Beethoven or dissolve it with an acid than analyze the soul
with the means of abstract thought” .
I n the idea of the soul, the
noncorporeal f aculties, activities, and properties of man (according to
the traditional classif ications, reason, will, and appetite) are combined in
an indivisible unity that manif estly endures through all of the
individual’s behavior and, indeed, constitutes his individuality.
The concept of the soul typical of af f irmative culture was not
developed by philosophy, and the examples f rom Descartes, K ant, and
Hegel were intended only to illustrate philosophy’s embarrassment with
regard to the soul.
This concept f ound its f irst positive expression in
the literature of the Renaissance. Here the soul is in the f irst instance an
unexplored part of the world to be discovered and enjoyed. To it are
N egat i ons
ext ended t hose demands wit h whose proclamat ion t he new societ y
accompanied t he rat ional dominat ion of t he world by liberat ed man:
f reedom and t he int rinsic wort h of t he individual. The riches of t he
soul, of t he ‘inner lif e’, were t hus t he correlat e of t he new-f ound riches
of ext ernal lif e. I nt erest in t he neglect ed “ individual, incomparable,
living st at es” of t he soul belonged t o t he program of “ living out one’s
lif e f ully and ent irely” .
Concern wit h t he soul “ react s upon the
increasing dif f erent iat ion of individualit ies and augment s man’s
consciousness of enjoying lif e wit h a nat ural development root ed in
man’s essence” .
Seen f rom t he st andpoint of t he consummat ed
af f irmat ive cult ure of t he eight eent h and ninet eent h cent uries, t his
spirit ual demand appears as an unf ulf illed promise. The idea of ‘nat ural
development ’ remains, but it signif ies primarily inner development . I n
t he ext ernal world t he soul cannot f reely ‘live it self out ’. The
organizat ion of t his world by t he capit alist labor process has t urned t he
development of t he individual int o economic compet it ion and lef t t he
sat isf act ion of his needs t o t he commodit y market . Af f irmat ive cult ure
uses t he soul as a prot est against reif icat ion, only t o succumb t o it in t he
end. The soul is shelt ered as t he only area of lif e t hat has not been
drawn int o t he social labor process.
The word ‘soul’ gives t he higher man a f eeling of his inner exist ence,
separat ed f rom all t hat is real or has evolved, a very def init e f eeling of
t he most secret and genuine pot ent ialit ies of his lif e, his dest iny, his
hist ory. I n t he early st ages of t he languages of all cult ures, t he word
‘soul’ is a sign t hat encompasses everyt hing t hat is not world.

And in t his – negat ive – qualit y it now becomes t he only st ill
immaculat e guarant or of bourgeois ideals. The soul glorif ies resignat ion.
The ideal t hat man, individual, irreplaceable man, beyond all nat ural and
social dist inct ions, be t he ult imat e end; t hat t rut h, goodness, and just ice
hold bet ween men; t hat all human weaknesses be expiat ed by humanit y
– t his ideal can be represent ed, in a societ y det ermined by t he economic
law of value, only by t he soul and as spirit ual occurrence. All else is
inhuman and discredit ed. The soul alone obviously has no exchange
value. The value of t he soul does not ent er int o t he body in such a way
as t o congeal int o an object and become a commodit y. There can be a
beaut if ul soul in an ugly body, a healt hy one in a sick body, a noble one
in a common body – and vice versa. There is a kernel of t rut h in t he
proposit ion t hat what happens t o t he body cannot af f ect t he soul. But
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
in the established order this truth has taken on a terrible f orm. The
f reedom of the soul was used to excuse the poverty, martyrdom, and
bondage of the body. I t served the ideological surrender of existence to
the economy of capitalism. Correctly understood, however, spiritual
f reedom does not mean the participation of man in an eternal beyond
where everything is righted when the individual can no longer benef it
f rom it. Rather, it anticipates the higher truth that in this world a f orm
of social existence is possible in which the economy does not preempt
the entire lif e of individuals. Man does not live by bread alone; this truth
is thoroughly f alsif ied by the interpretation that spiritual nourishment is
an adequate substitute f or too little bread.
The soul appears to escape reif ication just as it does the law of value.
As a matter of f act, it can almost be def ined by the assertion that
through its means all reif ied relations are dissolved into human relations
and negated. The soul institutes an all-encompassing inner community
of men that spans the centuries. “ The f irst thought in the f irst human
soul links up with the last thought in the last human soul.”
I n the
realm of culture spiritual education and spiritual greatness overcome the
inequality and unf reedom of everyday competition, f or men participate
in culture as f ree and equal beings. He who looks to the soul sees
through economic relations to men in themselves. Where the soul
speaks, the contingent position and merit of men in the social process
are transcended. Love breaks through barriers between rich and poor,
high and lowly. Friendship keeps f aith even with the outcast and
despised, and truth raises its voice even bef ore the tyrant’s throne.
Despite all social obstacles and encroachments, the soul develops in the
individual’s interior. The most cramped surroundings are large enough
to expand into an inf inite environment f or the soul. I n its classical era,
af f irmative culture continually poetized the soul in such a manner. The
individual’s soul is f irst set of f f rom, and against, his body. I ts adoption
as the decisive area of lif e can have two meanings: the release of
sensuality (as the irrelevant area of lif e) or, to the contrary, the
subjection of sensuality to the domination of the soul. Af f irmative
culture unequivocally took the second course. Release of sensuality
would be release of enjoyment, which presupposes the absence of guilty
conscience and the real possibility of gratif ication. I n bourgeois society,
such a trend is increasingly opposed by the necessity of disciplining
discontented masses. The internalization of enjoyment through
spiritualization theref ore becomes one of the decisive tasks of cultural
N egat i ons
education. By being incorporated into spiritual lif e, sensuality is to be
harnessed and transf igured. From the coupling of sensuality and the
soul proceeds the bourgeois idea of love.
The spiritualization of sensuality f uses matter with heaven and death
with eternity. The weaker the belief in a heavenly beyond, the stronger
the veneration of the spiritual beyond. The idea of love absorbs the
longing f or the permanence of worldly happiness, f or the blessing of the
unconditional, f or the conquest of termination. I n bourgeois poetry,
lovers love in opposition to everyday inconstancy, to the demands of
reality, to the subjugation of the individual, and to death. Death does
not come f rom outside, but f rom love itself . The liberation of the
individual was ef f ected in a society based not on solidarity but on
conf lict of interests among individuals. The individual has the character
of an independent, self -suf f icient monad. His relation to the (human
and nonhuman) world is either abstractly immediate (the individual
constitutes the world immemorially in itself as knowing, f eeling, and
willing ego) or abstractly mediated (i.e. determined by the blind laws of
the production of commodities and of the market). I n neither case is the
monadic isolation of the individual overcome. To do so would mean the
establishment of real solidarity and presupposes the replacement of
individualist society by a higher f orm of social existence.
The idea of love, however, requires that the individual overcome
monadic isolation and f ind f ulf illment through the surrender of
individuality in the unconditional solidarity of two persons. I n a society
in which conf lict of interest is the pr i nci pi um i ndi vi duat i oni s, this complete
surrender can appear in pure f orm only in death. For only death
eliminates all of the external conditions that destroy permanent
solidarity and in the struggle with which individuals wear themselves
out. I t appears not as the cessation of existence in nothingness, but
rather as the only possible consummation of love and thus as its deepest
signif icance.
While in art love is elevated to tragedy, it threatens to become mere
duty and habit in everyday bourgeois lif e. Love contains the
individualistic principle of the new society: it demands exclusiveness.
The latter appears in the requirement of unconditional f idelity which,
originating in the soul, should also be obligatory f or sensuality. But the
spiritualization of sensuality demands of the latter what it cannot
achieve: withdrawal f rom change and f luctuation and absorption into
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
t he uni t y and i ndi vi si bi l i t y of t he person. Just at t hi s poi nt , i nwardness
and out wardness, pot ent i al i t y and real i t y are supposed t o be f ound i n a
pre-est abl i shed harmony whi ch t he anarchi c pri nci pl e of soci et y
dest roys everywhere. Thi s cont radi ct i on makes excl usi ve f i del i t y unt rue
and vi t i at es sensual i t y, whi ch f i nds an out l et i n t he f urt i ve i mpropri et i es
of t he pet i t bourgeoi s.
Purel y pri vat e rel at i onshi ps such as l ove and f ri endshi p are t he onl y
real m i n whi ch t he domi ni on of t he soul i s supposed t o be i mmedi at el y
conf i rmed i n real i t y. Ot herwi se t he soul has pri mari l y t he f unct i on of
el evat i ng men t o t he i deal wi t hout urgi ng t he l at t er’s real i zat i on. The
soul has a t ranqui l i zi ng ef f ect . Because i t i s exempt ed f rom rei f i cat i on, i t
suf f ers f rom i t l east , consequent l y meet i ng i t wi t h t he l east resi st ance.
Si nce t he soul ’s meani ng and wort h do not f al l wi t hi n hi st ori cal real i t y, i t
can mai nt ai n i t sel f unharmed i n a bad real i t y. Spi ri t ual j oys are cheaper
t han bodi l y ones; t hey are l ess dangerous and are grant ed more wi l l i ngl y.
An essent i al di f f erence bet ween t he soul and t he mi nd i s t hat t he f ormer
i s not ori ent ed t oward cri t i cal knowl edge of t rut h. The soul can
underst and what t he mi nd must condemn. Concept ual knowl edge
at t empt s t o di st i ngui sh t he one f rom t he ot her and resol ves
cont radi ct i on onl y on t he basi s of t he ‘di spassi onat el y proceedi ng
necessi t y of t he obj ect ’, whi l e t he soul rapi dl y reconci l es al l ‘ext ernal ’
ant i t heses i n some ‘i nt ernal ’ uni t y. I f t here i s a West ern, Germani c,
Faust i an soul , t hen a West ern, Germani c, and Faust i an cul t ure bel ongs
t o i t , and f eudal , capi t al i st , and soci al i st soci et i es are not hi ng but
mani f est at i ons of such soul s. Thei r f i rm ant i t heses di ssol ve i nt o t he
beaut i f ul and prof ound uni t y of cul t ure. The reconci l iat ory nat ure of t he
soul mani f est s i t sel f cl earl y where psychol ogy i s made t he organon of
t he soci al and cul t ural sci ences, wi t hout f oundat i on i n a t heory of
soci et y t hat penet rat es behi nd cul t ure. The soul has a st rong af f i ni t y
wi t h hi st ori ci sm. As earl y as H erder we f i nd t he i dea t hat t he soul , f reed
f rom rat i onal i sm, shoul d be capabl e of uni versal empat hy (ei nfühl en). H e
adj ures t he soul ,
Ent i re nat ure of t he soul t hat rul es al l t hi ngs, t hat model s al l ot her
i ncl i nat i ons and psychi c f orces af t er i t sel f and t i nges even t he most
i ndi f f erent act i ons – i n order t o f eel t hese, do not answer i n words, but
penet rat e i nt o t he epoch, i nt o t he regi on of heaven, i nt o al l of hi st ory,
f eel yoursel f i nt o everyt hi ng….

N egat i ons
Wit h it s propert y of universal empat hy t he soul devalues t he dist inct ion
bet ween t rue and f alse, good and bad, or rat ional and irrat ional t hat can
be made t hrough t he analysis of social reality with regard to the
at t ainable pot ent ialit ies of t he organizat ion of mat erial exist ence. Every
hist orical epoch, t hen, as Ranke stat ed, manif est s but anot her f acet of
t he same human spirit . Each one possesses it s own meaning, “ and it s
value rest s not on what result s f rom it , but on it s very exist ence, on it s
own self ” .
Soul has not hing t o do wit h t he correct ness of what it
expresses. I t can do honor t o a bad cause (as in D ost oevski’s case).
I n
t he st ruggle f or a bet t er human f ut ure, prof ound and ref ined souls may
st and aside or on t he wrong side. The soul t akes f right at t he hard t rut h
of t heory, which point s up the necessit y of changing an impoverished
f orm of exist ence. How can an ext ernal t ransf ormat ion det ermine t he
aut hent ic, inner subst ance of man? Soul let s one be sof t and compliant ,
submitting to the f acts; f or, af ter all, they do not really matter. I n this
way t he soul was able t o become a usef ul f act or in t he t echnique of
mass dominat ion when, in t he epoch of authoritarian states, all available
f orces had t o be mobilized against a real t ransf ormat ion of social
exist ence. Wit h t he help of t he soul, t he bourgeoisie in advanced
capitalist society buried its ideals of an earlier period. That soul is of t he
essence makes a good slogan when only power is of t he essence.
But the soul really is essential – as t he unexpressed, unf ulf illed lif e of
t he individual. The cult ure of souls absorbed in a f alse f orm t hose
f orces and want s which could f ind no place in everyday lif e. The cult ural
ideal assimilated men’s longing f or a happier lif e: f or humanity,
goodness, joy, t rut h, and solidarit y. Only, in this ideal, they are all
f urnished wit h t he af f irmat ive accent of belonging t o a higher, purer,
nonprosaic world. They are eit her int ernalized as t he dut y of t he
individual soul (t o achieve what is const ant ly bet rayed in t he ext ernal
exist ence of t he whole) or represent ed as object s of art (whereby t heir
reality is relegated to a realm essentially dif f erent f rom that of everyday
lif e). There is a good reason f or t he exemplif icat ion of t he cult ural ideal
in art , f or only in art has bourgeois societ y t olerat ed it s own ideals and
t aken t hem seriously as a general demand. What count s as ut opia,
phant asy, and rebellion in t he world of f act is allowed in art . There
af f irmat ive cult ure has displayed t he f orgot t en t rut hs over which
‘realism’ triumphs in daily lif e. The medium of beauty decontaminates
t rut h and set s it apart f rom t he present . What occurs in art occurs wit h
no obligat ion. When t his beaut if ul world is not complet ely represent ed
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
as something long past (the classic artistic portrayal of victorious
humanity, Goethe’s I phi geni e, is a ‘historical’ drama), it is deprived of
concrete relevance by the magic of beauty.
I n the medium of beauty, men have been permitted to partake of
happiness. But even beauty has been af f irmed with good conscience
only in the ideal of art, f or it contains a dangerous violence that
threatens the given f orm of existence. The immediate sensuousness of
beauty immediately suggests sensual happiness. According to Hume the
power to stimulate pleasure belongs to the essential character of beauty.
Pleasure is not merely a by-product of beauty, but constitutes its very
And f or N ietzsche beauty reawakens ‘aphrodisiac bliss’. He
polemizes against K ant’s def inition of the beautif ul as the object of
completely disinterested pleasure (W ohl gefal l en) and opposes to it
Stendhal’s assertion that beauty is ‘une promesse de bonheur’.
lies its danger in a society that must rationalize and regulate happiness.
Beauty is f undamentally shameless.
I t displays what may not be
promised openly and what is denied the majority. I n the region of mere
sensuality, separated f rom its connection with the ideal, beauty f alls prey
to the general devaluation of this sphere. Loosed f rom all spiritual and
mental demands, beauty may be enjoyed in good conscience only in well
delimited areas, with the awareness that it is only f or a short period of
relaxation or dissipation.
Bourgeois society has liberated individuals, but as persons who are
to keep themselves in check. From the beginning, the prohibition of
pleasure was a condition of f reedom. A society split into classes can
af f ord to make man into a means of pleasure only in the f orm of
bondage and exploitation. Since in the new order the regulated classes
rendered services not immediately, with their persons, but only
mediated by the production of surplus value f or the market, it was
considered inhuman to exploit an underling’s body as a source of
pleasure, i.e., to use men directly as means (K ant). On the other hand,
harnessing their bodies and intelligence f or prof it was considered a
natural activation of f reedom. Correspondingly, f or the poor, hiring
oneself out to work in a f actory became a moral duty, while hiring out
one’s body as a means t o pleasure was depravity and ‘prostitution’. Also,
in this society, poverty is a condition of prof it and power, yet
dependence takes place in the medium of abstract f reedom. The sale of
labor power is supposed to occur due to the poor man’s own decision.
He labors in the service of his employer, while he may keep f or himself
N egat i ons
and cultivate as a sacred preserve the abstraction that is his person-in-
itself , separated f rom its socially valuable f unctions. He is supposed to
keep it pure. The prohibition against marketing the body not merely as
an instrument of labor but as an instrument of pleasure as well is one of
the chief social and psychological roots of bourgeois patriarchal
ideology. Here reif ication has f irm limits important to the system.
N onetheless, insof ar as the body becomes a commodity as a
manif estation or bearer of the sexual f unction, this occurs subject to
general contempt. The taboo is violated. This holds not only f or
prostitution but f or all production of pleasure that does not occur f or
reasons of ‘social hygiene’ in the service of reproduction.
Those social strata, however, which are kept back in semi-medieval
f orms, pushed to the lowest margin of society, and thoroughly
demoralized, provide, even in these circumstances, an anticipatory
memory. When the body has completely become an object, a beautif ul
t hing, it can f oreshadow a new happiness. I n suf f ering the most extreme
reif ication man triumphs over reif ication. The artistry of the beautif ul
body, its ef f ortless agility and relaxation, which can be displayed today
only in the circus, vaudeville, and burlesque, herald the joy to which
men will attain in being liberated f rom the ideal, once mankind, having
become a true subject, succeeds in the mastery of matter. When all links
to the af f irmative ideal have been dissolved, when in the context of an
existence marked by knowledge it becomes possible to have real
enjoyment without any rationalization and without the least puritanical
guilt f eeling, when sensuality, in other words, is entirely released by the
soul, then the f irst glimmer of a new culture emerges.
But in af f irmative culture, the ‘soulless’ regions do not belong to
culture. Like every other commodity of the sphere of civilization, they
are openly abandoned to the economic law of value. Only spiritual
beauty and spiritual enjoyment are lef t in culture. According to
Shaf tesbury, it f ollows f rom the inability of animals to know and enjoy
“ that neither can man by the same sense or brutish part conceive or
enjoy beauty; but all the beauty and good he enjoys is in a nobler way,
and by the help of what is noblest, his mind and reason.” … When you
place a joy elsewhere than in the mind, the enjoyment itself will be no
beautif ul subject, nor of any gracef ul or agreeable appearance.

A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
Only in the medium of ideal beauty, in art , was happiness permit t ed t o
be reproduced as a cult ural value in the totality of social lif e. N ot so in
t he t wo areas of cult ure which in other respects share with art in the
representation of ideal truth: philosophy and religion. I n its idealist
t rend, philosophy became increasingly distrustf ul of happiness, and
religion accorded it a place only in the hereaf ter. I deal beauty was the
f orm in which yearning could be expressed and happiness enjoyed.
Thus art became the presage of possible truth. Classical German
aesthetics comprehended the relation bet ween beaut y and t rut h in t he
idea of an aesthetic education of the human species. Schiller says that
the ‘political problem’ of a better organization of society “ must take the
pat h t hrough t he aest het ic realm, because it is t hrough beaut y t hat one
arrives at f reedom” .
And in his poem D i e K ünst l er (‘The Artists’) he
expresses t he relat ion bet ween t he est ablished and t he coming cult ure in
t he lines: “ What we have here perceived as beaut y/ We shall some day
encounter as truth” (“ W as wi r al s Schönhei t hi er empfunden/ W i r d ei nst al s
W ahr hei t uns ent gegengehn” ). With respect to the extent of socially
permitted truth and to the f orm of attained happiness, art is the highest
and most representative area within af f irmative culture. “ Culture:
dominion of art over lif e” – t his was N ietzsche’s def inition.
entitles art to this unique role?
Unlike the truth of theory, the beauty of art is compatible with the
bad present , despit e and wit hin which it can af f ord happiness. True
t heory recognizes t he misery and lack of happiness prevailing in t he
est ablished order. Even when it shows t he way t o t ransf ormat ion, it
of f ers no consolat ion t hat reconciles one t o t he present . I n a world
wit hout happiness, however, happiness cannot but be a consolat ion: t he
consolat ion of a beaut if ul moment in an int erminable chain of
misf ort une. The enjoyment of happiness is compressed int o a
momentary episode. But the moment embodies the bitterness of its
disappearance. Given t he isolat ion of lone individuals, t here is no one in
whom one’s own happiness can be preserved af ter the moment passes,
no one who is not subject t o t he same isolat ion. Ephemeralit y which
does not leave behind solidarit y among t he survivors must be
eternalized in order to become at all bearable. For it recurs in every
moment of exist ence and in each one, as it were, it anticipates death.
Because every moment comprehends deat h, t he beaut if ul moment must
be et ernalized in order t o make possible anyt hing like happiness. I n t he
N egat i ons
happiness it prof f ers, af f irmative culture eternalizes the beautif ul
moment; it immortalizes the ephemeral.
One of the decisive social tasks of af f irmative culture is based on
this contradiction between the insuf f erable mutability of a bad existence
and the need f or happiness in order to make such existence bearable.
Within this existence the resolution can be only illusory. And the
possibility of a solution rests precisely on the character of artistic beauty
as i l l usi on. On the one hand the enjoyment of happiness is permitted
only in spiritualized, idealized f orm. On the other, idealization annuls
the meaning of happiness. For the ideal cannot be enjoyed, since all
pleasure is f oreign to it and would destroy the rigor and purity that must
adhere to it in idealless reality if it is to be able to carry out its
internalizing, disciplining f unction. The ideal emulated by the person
who renounces his instincts and places himself under the categorical
imperative of duty (this K antian ideal is merely the epitome of all
af f irmative tendencies of culture) is insensitive to happiness. I t can
provide neither happiness nor consolation since it never af f ords
gratif ication in the present. I f the individual is ever to come under the
power of the ideal to the extent of believing that his concrete longings
and needs are to be f ound in it – f ound moreover in a state of
f ulf illment and gratif ication, then the ideal must give the illusion of
granting present satisf action. I t is this illusory reality that neither
philosophy nor religion can attain. Only art achieves it – in the medium
of beauty. Goethe disclosed the deceptive and consoling role of beauty
when he wrote:
The human mind f inds itself in a glorious state when it admires, when it
worships, when it exalts an object and is exalted by it. Only it cannot
long abide in this condition. The universal lef t it cold, the ideal elevated
it above itself . Now, however, it would like to return to itself . I t would
like to enjoy again the earlier inclination that it cherished toward the
individual without returning to a state of limitation, and does not want
to let the signif icant, that which exalts the mind, depart. What would
become of the mind in this condition if beauty did not intervene and
happily solve the riddle! Only beauty gives lif e and warmth to the
scientif ic; and by moderating the high and signif icant and showering it
with heavenly charm, beauty brings us closer to it. A beautif ul work of
art has come f ull circle; it is now a sort of individual that we can
embrace with af f ection, that we can appropriate.

A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
What is decisive in t his connect ion is not t hat art represent s ideal realit y,
but t hat it represent s it as beaut if ul realit y. Beaut y gives t he ideal t he
charact er of t he charming, t he gladdening, and t he grat if ying – of
happiness. I t alone perf ect s t he illusion of art . For only t hrough it does
t he illusory world arouse t he appearance of f amiliarit y, of being present :
in short , of realit y. I llusion (Schei n) really enables somet hing t o appear
(er schei nen): in t he beaut y of t he work of art , longing is moment arily
f ulf illed. The percipient experiences happiness. And once it has t aken
f orm in t he work, t he beaut if ul moment can be cont inually repeat ed. I t
is et ernalized in t he art work. I n art ist ic enjoyment , t he percipient can
always reproduce such happiness.
Af f irmat ive cult ure was t he hist orical f orm in which were preserved
t hose human want s which surpassed t he mat erial reproduct ion of
existence. To that extent, what is true of t he f orm of social realit y t o
which it belonged holds f or it as well: right is on its side. Certainly, it
exonerat ed ‘ext ernal condit ions’ f rom responsibilit y f or t he ‘vocat ion of
man’, thus stabilizing their injustice. But it also held up t o t hem as a t ask
t he image of a bet t er order. The image is dist ort ed, and t he dist ortion
f alsif ied all cult ural values of t he bourgeoisie. N evert heless it is an image
of happiness. There is an element of eart hly delight in t he works of
great bourgeois art , even when t hey port ray heaven. The individual
enjoys beaut y, goodness, splendor, peace, and vict orious joy. He even
enjoys pain and suf f ering, cruelt y and crime. He experiences liberat ion.
And he underst ands, and encount ers underst anding f or and in response
t o, his inst inct s and demands. Reif ication is t ranspierced in privat e. I n
art one does not have t o be ‘realist ic’, f or man is at st ake, not his
occupat ion or st at us. Suf f ering is suf f ering and joy is joy. The world
appears as what it is behind t he commodit y f orm: a landscape is really a
landscape, a man really a man, a t hing really a t hing.
I n t he f orm of exist ence t o which af f irmat ive cult ure belongs,
“ happiness in exist ing … is possible only as happiness in illusion” .
t his illusion has a real ef f ect , producing sat isf act ion. The lat t er’s
meaning, t hough, is decisively alt ered; it ent ers t he service of t he st at us
quo. The rebellious idea becomes an accessory in just if icat ion. The t rut h
of a higher world, of a higher good t han mat erial exist ence, conceals t he
t rut h t hat a bet t er mat erial exist ence can be creat ed in which such
happiness is realized. I n af f irmat ive cult ure even unhappiness becomes a
means of subordinat ion and acquiescence. By exhibit ing t he beaut if ul as
present , art pacif ies rebellious desire. Toget her wit h t he ot her cult ural
N egat i ons
areas it has contributed to the great educational achievement of so
disciplining the liberated individual, f or whom the new f reedom has
brought a new f orm of bondage, that he tolerates the unf reedom of
social existence. The potentiality of a richer lif e, a potentiality disclosed
with the help of modern thought, and the impoverished actual f orm of
lif e have come into open opposition, repeatedly compelling this thought
to internalize its own demands and def lect its own conclusions. I t took a
centuries-long education to help make bearable the daily reproduced
shock that arises f rom the contradiction between the constant sermon
of the inalienable f reedom, majesty, and dignity of the person, the
magnif icence and autonomy of reason, the goodness of humanity and
of impartial charity and justice, on the one hand, and the general
degradation of the majority of mankind, the irrationality of the social lif e
process, the victory of the labor market over humanity, and of prof it
over charity, on the other. “ The entire counterf eit of transcendence and
of the hereaf ter has grown up on the basis of an i mpover i shed lif e …” ,

but the injection of cultural happiness into unhappiness and the
spiritualization of sensuality mitigate the misery and the sickness of that
lif e to a ‘healthy’ work capacity. This is the real miracle of af f irmative
culture. Men can f eel themselves happy even without being so at all.
The ef f ect of illusion renders incorrect even one’s own assertion that
one is happy. The individual, thrown back upon himself , learns to bear
and, in a certain sense, to love his isolation. Factual loneliness is
sublimated to metaphysical loneliness and, as such, is accorded the
entire aura and rapture of inner plenitude alongside external poverty. I n
its idea of personality af f irmative culture reproduces and glorif ies
individuals’ social isolation and impoverishment.
The personality is the bearer of the cultural ideal. I t is supposed to
represent happiness in the f orm in which this culture proclaims it as the
highest good: private harmony amidst general anarchy, joyf ul activity
amidst bitter labor. The personality has absorbed everything good and
cast of f or ref ined everything bad. I t matters not that man lives. What
matters is only that he live as well as possible. That is one of the
precepts of af f irmative culture. ‘Well’ here ref ers essentially to culture:
participating in spiritual and mental values, patterning individual
existence af ter the humanity of the soul and the breadth of the mind.
The happiness of unrationalized enjoyment has been omitted f rom the
ideal of f elicity. The latter may not violate the laws of the established
order and, indeed, does not need to violate them, f or it is to be realized
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
i mmanent l y. The personal i t y, whi ch i n devel oped af f i rmat i ve cul t ure i s
supposed t o be t he ‘hi ghest happi ness’ of man, must respect t he
f oundat i ons of t he st at us quo: def erence t o gi ven rel at i ons of
domi nat i on bel ongs t o i t s vi rt ues. I t may onl y ki ck over t he t races i f i t
remai ns consci ous of what i t i s doi ng and t akes i t back af t erward.
I t was not al ways so. Formerl y, at t he begi nni ng of t he new era, t he
personal i t y showed anot her f ace. L i ke t he soul whose compl et ed human
embodi ment i t was supposed t o be, i t bel onged i n t he f i rst i nst ance t o
t he i deol ogy of t he bourgeoi s l i berat i on of t he i ndi vi dual . The person
was t he source of al l f orces and propert i es t hat made t he i ndi vi dual
capabl e of mast eri ng hi s f at e and shapi ng hi s envi ronment i n
accordance wi t h hi s needs. Jacob Burckhardt depi ct ed t hi s i dea of t he
personal i t y i n hi s descri pt i on of t he ‘uomo uni versal e’ of t he
Renai ssance.
I f t he i ndi vi dual was addressed as a personal i t y, t hi s was
t o emphasi ze t hat al l t hat he made of hi msel f he owed onl y t o hi msel f ,
not t o hi s ancest ors, hi s soci al st at us, or God. The di st i ngui shi ng mark
of t he personal i t y was not soul (i n t he sense of t he ‘beaut i f ul soul ’) but
power, i nf l uence, f ame: a l i f e as ext ensi ve and as f ul l of deeds as
possi bl e.
I n t he concept of personal i t y whi ch has been represent at i ve of
af f i rmat i ve cul t ure si nce K ant , t here i s not hi ng l ef t of t hi s expansi ve
act i vi sm. The personal i t y remai ns l ord of i t s exi st ence onl y as a spi ri t ual
and et hi cal subj ect . “ Freedom and i ndependence f rom t he mechani sm
of nat ure as a whol e” , whi ch i s now t he t oken of i t s nat ure,
i s onl y an
‘i nt el l i gi bl e’ f reedom t hat accept s t he gi ven ci rcumst ances of l i f e as t he
mat eri al of dut y. Space f or ext ernal f ul f i l l ment has shrunk; space f or
i nner f ul f i l l ment has expanded consi derabl y. The i ndi vi dual has l earned
t o pl ace al l demands pri mari l y upon hi msel f . The rul e of t he soul has
become more exact i ng i nwardl y and more modest out wardl y. The
person i s no l onger a spri ngboard f or at t acki ng t he worl d, but rat her a
prot ect ed l i ne of ret reat behi nd t he f ront . I n i t s i nwardness, as an et hi cal
person, i t i s t he i ndi vi dual ’s onl y secure possessi on, t he onl y one he can
never l ose.
I t i s no l onger t he source of conquest , but of renunci at i on.
Personal i t y charact eri zes above al l hi m who renounces, who ekes out
f ul f i l l ment wi t hi n gi ven condi t i ons, no mat t er how poor t hey mi ght be.
H e f i nds happi ness i n t he Est abl i shment . But even i n t hi s i mpoveri shed
f orm, t he i dea of personal i t y cont ai ns a progressi ve aspect : t he
i ndi vi dual i s st i l l t he ul t i mat e concern. To be sure, cul t ure i ndi vi duat es
men t o t he i sol at i on of sel f -cont ai ned personal i t i es whose f ul f i l l ment
N egat i ons
l i es wi t hi n t hemsel ves. But t hi s corresponds t o a met hod of di sci pl i ne
st i l l l i beral i n nat ure, f or i t exempt s a concret e regi on of pri vat e l i f e
f rom domi nat i on. I t l et s t he i ndi vi dual subsi st as a person as l ong as he
does not di st urb t he l abor process, and l et s t he i mmanent l aws of t hi s
l abor process, i .e. economi c f orces, t ake care of men’s soci al i nt egrat i on.


Changes occur as soon as t he preservat i on of t he est abl i shed f orm of
t he l abor process can no l onger gai n i t s end wi t h merel y part i al
mobi l i zat i on (l eavi ng t he i ndi vi dual ’s pri vat e l i f e i n reserve), but rat her
requi res ‘t ot al mobi l i zat i on’, t hrough whi ch t he i ndi vi dual must be
subj ect ed i n al l spheres of hi s exi st ence t o t he di sci pl i ne of t he
aut hori t ari an st at e. N ow t he bourgeoi si e comes i nt o conf l i ct wi t h i t s
own cul t ure. Tot al mobi l i zat i on i n t he era of monopol y capi t al i sm i s
i ncompat i bl e wi t h t he progressi ve aspect s of cul t ure cent ered about t he
i dea of personal i t y. The sel f -abol i t i on of af f i rmat i ve cul t ure begi ns.
The l oud pugnaci t y of t he aut hori t ari an st at e agai nst t he ‘l i beral
i deal s’ of humani t y, i ndi vi dual i t y, and rat i onal i t y and agai nst i deal i st art
and phi l osophy cannot conceal t hat what i s occurri ng i s a process of
sel f -abol i t i on. Just as t he soci al reorgani zat i on i nvol ved i n passi ng f rom
parl i ament ary democracy t o an aut hori t ari an l eadershi p-st at e i s onl y a
reorgani zat i on wi t hi n t he est abl i shed order, so t he cul t ural
reorgani zat i on i n whi ch l i beral i st i deal i sm changes i nt o ‘heroi c real i sm’
t akes pl ace wi t hi n af f i rmat i ve cul t ure i t sel f . I t s nat ure i s t o provi de a
new def ense of ol d f orms of exi st ence. The basi c f unct i on of cul t ure
remai ns t he same. Onl y t he ways i n whi ch i t exerci ses t hi s f unct i on
The i dent i t y of cont ent preserved wi t hi n a compl et e change of f orm
i s part i cul arl y vi si bl e i n t he i dea of i nt ernal i zat i on. The l at t er, i nvol vi ng
t he conversi on of expl osi ve i nst i nct s and f orces i nt o spi ri t ual
di mensi ons, had been one of t he st rongest l evers of t he di sci pl i ni ng
Af f i rmat i ve cul t ure had canceled soci al ant agoni sms i n an
abst ract i nt ernal communi t y. As persons, i n t hei r spi ri t ual f reedom and
di gni t y, al l men were consi dered of equal val ue. H i gh above f act ual
ant i t heses l ay t he real m of cul t ural sol i dari t y. D uri ng t he most recent
peri od of af f i rmat i ve cul t ure, t hi s abst ract i nt ernal communi t y (abst ract
because i t l ef t t he real ant agoni sms unt ouched) has t urned i nt o an
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
equally abst ract ext ernal communit y. The individual is insert ed int o a
f alse collectivity (race, f olk, blood, and soil). But t his ext ernalizat ion has
t he same f unct ion as int ernalizat ion: renunciat ion and subject ion t o t he
st at us quo, made bearable by t he real appearance of grat if icat ion. That
individuals f reed f or over f our hundred years march wit h so lit t le
t rouble in t he communal columns of t he aut horit arian st at e is due in no
small measure to af f irmative culture.
The new met hods of discipline would not be possible wit hout
cast ing of f t he progressive element s cont ained in t he earlier st ages of
cult ure. Seen f rom t he st andpoint of t he most recent development , t he
cult ure of t hose st ages seems like a happy past . But no mat t er how
much t he aut horit arian reorganizat ion of exist ence act ually serves only
t he int erest s of small social groups, it present s it self , like it s predecessor,
as t he way in which t he social t ot alit y preserves it self in t he changed
sit uat ion. To t hat ext ent it represent s – in a bad f orm and t o t he
increasing unhappiness of t he majorit y – t he int erest of all individuals
whose exist ence is bound up wit h t he preservat ion of t his order. And it
is t his order in which idealist cult ure was implicat ed. This double
cont radict ion is in part the source of the weakness with which culture
t oday prot est s against it s new f orm.
The ext ent t o which idealist inwardness is relat ed t o heroic
out wardness is shown by t heir united f ront against t he mind. Along
wit h t he high est eem f or t he mind which was charact erist ic of several
areas and bearers of af f irmat ive cult ure, a deep cont empt f or t he mind
was always present in bourgeois pract ice. I t could f ind it s just if icat ion in
philosophy’s lack of concern f or t he real problems of men. But t here
were st ill ot her reasons why af f irmat ive cult ure was essent ially a cult ure
of t he soul and not of t he mind. Even bef ore it s decline t he mind was
always somewhat suspect. I t is more tangible, more demanding, and
nearer t o realit y t han t he soul. I t s crit ical lucidit y and rat ionalit y and it s
cont radict ion of irrat ional f act icit y are dif f icult t o hide and t o silence.
Hegel goes poorly wit h an aut horit arian st at e; he was f or t he mind,
while t he moderns are f or t he soul and f or f eeling. The mind cannot
escape realit y wit hout denying it self ; t he soul can, and is supposed t o do
so. I t is precisely because t he soul dwells beyond t he economy t hat t he
lat t er can manage it so easily. The soul derives it s value f rom it s
propert y of not being subject ed t o t he law of value. An individual f ull of
soul is more compliant , acquiesces more humbly t o f at e, and is bet t er at
obeying aut horit y. For he get s t o keep f or himself t he ent ire wealt h of
N egat i ons
hi s soul and can exal t hi msel f t ragi cal l y and heroi cal l y. The i nt ensi ve
educat i on t o i nner f reedom t hat has been i n progress si nce L ut her i s
now, when i nner f reedom abol i shes i t sel f by t urni ng i nt o out er
unf reedom, beari ng i t s choi cest f rui t . Whi l e t he mi nd f al l s prey t o hat e
and cont empt , t he soul i s st i l l cheri shed. L i beral i sm i s even reproached
wi t h no l onger cari ng f or ‘soul and et hi cal cont ent ’. “ Great ness of soul
and personal i t y wi t h st rong charact er” , and “ t he i nf i ni t e expansi on of
t he soul ” are ext ol l ed as t he “ deepest spi ri t ual f eat ure of cl assi c art” .

The f est i val s and cel ebrat i ons of t he aut hori t ari an st at e, i t s parades, i t s
physi ognomy, and t he speeches of i t s l eaders are al l addressed t o t he
soul . They go t o t he heart , even when t hei r i nt ent i s power.
The out l i nes of t he heroi c f orm of af f i rmat i ve cul t ure were most
cl earl y drawn duri ng t he peri od of i deol ogi cal preparat i on f or t he
aut hori t ari an st at e. N ot ewort hy i s host i l i t y t o t he “ academi c and art i st i c
[museal ] est abl i shment ” and t o t he “ grot esque f orms of edi f i cat i on” i t
has t aken on.
Thi s cul t ural est abl i shment i s j udged and rej ect ed f rom
t he st andpoi nt of t he requi si t es of t ot al mobi l i zat i on. I t
represent s not hi ng ot her t han one of t he l ast oases of bourgeoi s
securi t y. I t provi des t he apparent l y most pl ausi bl e excuse f or avoi di ng
pol i t i cal deci si on.
Cul t ural propaganda i s
a sort of opi um t hat vei l s danger and cal l s f ort h t he decept i ve
consci ousness of order. But t hi s i s an unbearabl e l uxury i n a si t uat i on i n
whi ch t he need of t he day i s not t o speak of t radi t i on, but t o creat e i t .
We l i ve i n a peri od of hi st ory i n whi ch everyt hi ng depends on an
i mmense mobi l i zat i on and concent rat i on of avai l abl e f orces.

Mobi l i zat i on and concent rat i on f or what ? What Ernst Jünger coul d st i l l
desi gnat e as t he sal vat i on of t he ‘t ot al i t y of our l i f e’, as t he creat i on of a
heroi c worl d of l abor, and so f ort h, reveal s i t sel f i n act i on i ncreasi ngl y
as t he reshapi ng of al l of human exi st ence i n t he servi ce of t he most
powerf ul economi c i nt erest s. They al so det ermi ne t he demands f or a
new cul t ure. The requi si t e i nt ensi f i cat i on and expansi on of l abor
di sci pl i ne make occupat i on wi t h t he “ i deal s of an obj ect i ve sci ence and
of an art exi st i ng f or i t s own sake” appear a wast e of t i me. I t seems
desi rabl e t o cast of f bal l ast i n t hi s area. “ Our ent i re so-cal l ed cul t ure
cannot prevent even t he smal l est nei ghbori ng st at e f rom vi ol at i ng t he
A ffi r mat i ve C har act er of C ul t ur e
border” , whi ch i s real l y what i s pri mary. The worl d must know t hat t he
government woul d not hesi t at e f or a mi nut e “ t o auct i on of f al l art
t reasures i n t he museums i f nat i onal def ense requi red i t ” .
Thi s at t i t ude
det ermi nes t he shape of t he new cul t ure t hat i s t o repl ace t he ol d. I t
must be represent ed by young and reckl ess l eadershi p. “ The l ess
educat i on of t he usual ki nd possessed by t hi s st rat um, t he bet t er i t wi l l

The cyni cal suggest i ons of f ered by Jünger are vague and rest ri ct ed
pri mari l y t o art . “ Just as t he vi ct or wri t es hi st ory, i .e., creat es hi s myt h,
so he deci des what i s t o count as art .”
Even art must ent er t he servi ce
of nat i onal def ense and of l abor and mi l i t ary di sci pl i ne. (Jünger
ment i ons ci t y pl anni ng: t he di smemberment of l arge ci t y bl ocks i n order
t o di sperse t he masses i n t he event of war and revol ut i on, t he mi l i t ary
organi zat i on of t he count rysi de, and so f ort h.) I nsof ar as such cul t ure
ai ms at t he enri chment , beaut i f i cat i on, and securi t y of t he aut hori t ari an
st at e, i t i s marked by i t s soci al f unct i on of organi zi ng t he whol e soci et y
i n t he i nt erest of a f ew economi cal l y powerf ul groups and t hei r hangers-
on. H ence i t s at t ri but es of humi l i t y, sacri f i ce, povert y, and dut i f ul ness
on t he one hand, and ext reme wi l l t o power, i mpul se t o expansi on, and
t echni cal and mi l i t ary perf ect i on on t he ot her. “ The t ask of t ot al
mobi l i zat i on i s t he t ransf ormat i on of l i f e i nt o energy as mani f est ed i n
economi cs, t echnol ogy, and t ransport at i on by t he whi rri ng of wheel s or,
on t he bat t l ef i el d, by f i re and movement .”
The i deal i st cul t of
i nwardness and t he heroi c cul t of t he st at e serve a f undament al l y
i dent i cal soci al order t o whi ch t he i ndi vi dual i s now compl et el y
sacri f i ced. Whereas f ormerl y cul t ural exal t at i on was t o sat i sf y t he
personal wi sh f or happi ness, now t he i ndi vi dual ’s happi ness i s t o
di sappear compl et el y i n t he great ness of t he f ol k. Whi l e cul t ure f ormerl y
appeased t he demand f or happi ness i n real i l l usi on, i t i s now t o t each
t he i ndi vi dual t hat he may not advance such a cl ai m at al l : “ The gi ven
cri t eri on l i es i n t he worker’s way of l i f e. What i s necessary i s not t o
i mprove t hi s way of l i f e, but t o l end i t an ul t i mat e and deci si ve
si gni f i cance” .
H ere, t oo, ‘exal t at i on’ repl aces t ransf ormat i on.
D emol i shi ng cul t ure i n t hi s way i s t hus an expressi on of t he ut most
i nt ensi f i cat i on of t endenci es f undament al t o af f i rmat i ve cul t ure.
Overcomi ng t hese t endenci es i n any real sense woul d l ead not t o
demol i shi ng cul t ure as such but t o abol i shi ng i t s af f i rmat i ve charact er.
Af f i rmat i ve cul t ure was t he count eri mage of an order i n whi ch t he
mat eri al reproduct i on of l i f e l ef t no space or t i me f or t hose regi ons of
N egat i ons
exist ence which t he ancient s had designat ed as t he ‘beaut if ul’. I t became
cust omary t o see t he ent ire sphere of mat erial reproduct ion as
essent ially t aint ed wit h t he blemish of povert y, severit y, and injust ice
and t o abandon or suppress any demands prot est ing it . The orient at ion
of all t radit ional cult ural philosophy, i.e. set t ing cult ure apart f rom
civilizat ion and f rom t he mat erial lif e process, is based upon
acknowledging as perpet ual t his hist orical sit uat ion. The lat t er is
met aphysically exculpat ed by t he t heory of cult ure according t o which
lif e must be “ deadened t o a cert ain ext ent ” in order “ t o arrive at goods
of independent value” .

The int egrat ion of cult ure int o t he mat erial lif e process is considered
a sin against t he mind and t he soul. As a mat t er of f act , it s occurrence
would only make explicit what has long been in ef f ect blindly, since not
only t he product ion but also t he recept ion of cult ural goods is already
governed by t he law of value. Yet t he reproach is just if ied t o t he ext ent
t hat unt il now such resorpt ion has t aken place only in t he f orm of
utilitarianism. The latter is simply the obverse of af f irmative culture. I ts
concept of ut ilit y is not hing but t hat of t he businessman who ent ers
happiness in his books as an inevit able expense: as necessary regimen
and recreat ion. Happiness is calculat ed at t he out set wit h regard t o it s
ut ilit y just as t he chance of prof it is weighed in relat ion t o risk and cost .
I t is t hus smoot hly int egrat ed int o t he economic principle of t his
society. I n utilitarianism the interest of t he individual remains linked t o
t he basic int erest of t he est ablished order. His happiness is harmless,
and t his harmlessness is preserved even in t he organizat ion of leisure in
t he aut horit arian st at e. What ever joy is permit t ed is now organized. The
idyllic count ryside, t he sit e of Sunday happiness, is t ransf ormed int o
drilling grounds, t he picnic of t he pet it bourgeois is replaced by
scout ing. Harmlessness generat es it s own negat ion.
From t he st andpoint of t he int erest of t he st at us quo, t he real
abolit ion of af f irmat ive cult ure must appear utopian. For it goes beyond
t he social t ot alit y in which cult ure has been enmeshed. I nsof ar as in
West ern t hought cult ure has meant af f irmat ive cult ure, t he abolit ion of
its af f irmative character will appear as t he abolit ion of cult ure as such.
To t he ext ent t hat cult ure has t ransmut ed f ulf illable, but f act ually
unf ulf illed, longings and inst inct s, it will lose its object. The assertion
t hat t oday cult ure has become unnecessary cont ains a dynamic,
progressive element . I t is only t hat cult ure’s lack of object in t he
aut horit arian st at e derives not f rom f ulf illment but f rom t he awareness
A ffi r mat i ve Char act er of Cul t ur e
that even keeping alive the desire f or f ulf illment is dangerous in the
present situation. When culture gets to the point of having to sustain
f ulf illment itself and no longer merely desire, it will no longer be able to
do so in contents that, as such, bear an af f irmative character. ‘Gratitude’
will then perhaps really be its essence, as Nietzsche asserted of all
beautif ul and great art.
Beauty will f ind a new embodiment when it no
longer is represented as real illusion but, instead, expresses reality and
joy in reality. A f oretaste of such potentialities can be had in
experiencing the unassuming display of Greek statues or the music of
Mozart or late Beethoven. Perhaps, however, beauty and its enjoyment
will not even devolve upon art. Perhaps art as such will have no objects.
For the common man it has been conf ined to museums f or at least a
century. The museum was the most suitable place f or reproducing in the
individual withdrawal f rom f acticity and the consolation of being
elevated to a more dignif ied world – an experience limited by temporal
restriction to special occasions. This museum-like quality was also
present in the ceremonious treatment of the classics, where dignity
alone was enough to still all explosive elements. What a classic writer or
thinker did or said did not have to be taken too seriously, f or it
belonged to another world and could not come into conf lict with this
one. The authoritarian state’s polemic against the cultural (museal )
establishment contains an element of correct knowledge. But when it
opposes ‘grotesque f orms of edif ication’, it only wants to replace
obsolete methods of af f irmation with more modern ones.
Every attempt to sketch out the counterimage of af f irmative culture
comes up against the ineradicable cliché about the f ools’ paradise. I t
would be better to accept this cliché than the one about the
transf ormation of the earth into a gigantic community center, which
seems to be at the root of some theories of culture. There is talk of a
“ general dif f usion of cultural values” , of the “ right of all members of
the nation [V ol k ] to cultural benef its” , of “ raising the level of the
nation’s physical, spiritual, and ethical culture” .
But all this would be
merely raising the ideology of a conf licted society to the conscious
mode of lif e of another, making a new virtue out of its necessity. When
K autsky speaks of the ‘coming happiness’, he means primarily “ the
gladdening ef f ects of scientif ic work” , and “ sympathetic enjoyment in
the areas of science and art, nature, sport, and games” .
“ Everything
hitherto created in the way of culture should be … put at the disposal of
the masses” , whose task is “ to conquer this entire culture f or
N egat i ons
t hemselves” .
This can mean not hing ot her t han winning t he masses t o
t he social order t hat is af f irmed by t he ‘ent ire cult ure’. Such views miss
t he main point : t he abolit ion of t his cult ure. I t is not t he primit ive,
mat erialist ic element of t he idea of f ools’ paradise t hat is f alse, but it s
perpet uat ion. As long as t he world is mut able t here will be enough
conf lict , sorrow, and suf f ering t o destroy t he idyllic pict ure. As long as
t here is a realm of necessit y, t here will be enough need. Even a
nonaf f irmat ive cult ure will be burdened wit h mut abilit y and necessit y:
dancing on t he volcano, laught er in sorrow, f lirt at ion wit h deat h. As
long as t his is t rue, t he reproduct ion of lif e will st ill involve t he
reproduct ion of cult ure: t he molding of unf ulf illed longings and t he
purif icat ion of unf ulf illed inst inct s. I n af f irmat ive cult ure, renunciat ion
is linked t o t he ext ernal vit iat ion of t he individual, t o his compliance
wit h a bad order. The st ruggle against ephemeralit y does not liberat e
sensualit y but devalues it and is, indeed, possible only on t he basis of
t his devaluat ion. This unhappiness is not met aphysical. I t is t he product
of an irrat ional social organizat ion. By eliminat ing af f irmat ive cult ure,
t he abolit ion of t his social organizat ion will not eliminat e individualit y,
but realize it . And “ if we are ever happy at all, we can do not hing ot her
t han promot e cult ure” .

Philosophy and Critical Theory
From the beginning the critical theory of society was constantly
involved in philosophical as well as social issues and controversies. At
the time of its origin, in the thirties and f orties of the nineteenth
century, philosophy was the most advanced f orm of consciousness, and
by comparison real conditions in Germany were backward. Criticism of
the established order there began as a critique of that consciousness,
because otherwise it would have conf ronted its object at an earlier and
less advanced historical stage than that which had already attained reality
in countries outside Germany. Once critical theory had recognized the
responsibility of economic conditions f or the totality of the established
world and comprehended the social f ramework in which reality was
organized, philosophy became superf luous as an independent scientif ic
discipline dealing with the structure of reality. Furthermore, problems
bearing on the potentialities of man and of reason could now be
approached f rom the standpoint of economics.
Philosophy thus appears within the economic concepts of
materialist theory, each of which is more than an economic concept of
the sort employed by the academic discipline of economics. I t is more
due to the theory’s claim to explain the totality of man and his world in
terms of his social being. Yet it would be f alse on that account to reduce
these concepts to philosophical ones. To the contrary, the philosophical
contents relevant to the theory are to be educed f rom the economic
structure. They ref er to conditions that, when f orgotten, threaten the
theory as a whole.
I n the conviction of its f ounders the critical theory of society is
essentially linked with materialism. This does not mean that it thereby
N egat i ons
sets itself up as a philosophical system in opposition to other
philosophical systems. The theory of society is an economic, not a
philosophical, system. There are two basic elements linking materialism
to correct social theory: concern wit h human happiness, and t he
conviction that it can be attained only through a transf ormation of the
material conditions of existence. The actual course of the
transf ormation and the f undamental measures to be taken in order to
arrive at a rational organization of society are prescribed by analysis of
economic and political conditions in the given historical situation. The
subsequent construction of the new society cannot be the object of
theory, f or it is to occur as the f ree creation of the liberated individuals.
When reason has been realized as the rational organization of mankind,
philosophy is lef t without an object. For philosophy, to the extent that it
has been, up to the present, more than an occupation or a discipline
within the given division of labor, has drawn its lif e f rom reason’s not
yet being reality.
Reason is the f undamental category of philosophical thought, the
only one by means of which it has bound itself to human destiny.
Philosophy wanted to discover the ultimate and most general grounds
of Being. Under the name of reason it conceived the idea of an
authentic Being in which all signif icant antitheses (of subject and object,
essence and appearance, thought and being) were reconciled. Connected
with this idea was the conviction that what exists is not immediately and
already rational but must rather be brought to reason. Reason represents
the highest potentiality of man and of existence; the two belong
together. For when reason is accorded the status of substance, this
means that at its highest level, as authentic reality, the world no longer
stands opposed to the rational thought of men as mere material
objectivity (G egenst ändl i chk ei t ). Rather, it is now comprehended by
thought and def ined as a concept (Begr i ff). That is, the external,
antithetical character of material objectivity is overcome in a process
through which the identity of subject and object is established as the
rational, conceptual structure that is common to both. I n its structure
the world is considered accessible to reason, dependent on it, and
dominated by it. I n this f orm philosophy is idealism; it subsumes being
under thought. But through this f irst thesis that made philosophy into
rationalism and idealism it became critical philosophy as well. As the
given world was bound up with rational thought and, indeed,
ontologically dependent on it, all that contradicted reason or was not
Phi l osophy and C r i t i cal T heor y
rational was posited as something that had to be overcome. Reason was
established as a critical tribunal. I n the philosophy of the bourgeois era
reason took on the f orm of rational subjectivity. Man, the individual,
was to examine and judge everything given by means of the power of
his knowledge. Thus the concept of reason contains the concept of
f reedom as well. For such examination and judgment would be
meaningless if man were not f ree to act in accordance with his insight
and to bring what conf ronts him into accordance with reason.
Philosophy teaches us that all properties of mind subsist only through
f reedom, that all are only means f or f reedom, and that all seek and
produce only f reedom. To speculative philosophy belongs the
knowledge that f reedom is that alone which is true of mind.

Hegel was only drawing a conclusion f rom the entire philosophical
tradition when he identif ied reason and f reedom. Freedom is the ‘f ormal
element’ of rationality, the only f orm in which reason can be.

With the concept of reason as f reedom, philosophy seems to reach
its limit. What remains outstanding to the realization of reason is not a
philosophical task. Hegel saw the history of philosophy as having
reached its def initive conclusion at this point. However, this meant f or
mankind not a better f uture but the bad present that this condition
perpetuates. K ant had, of course, written essays on universal history
with cosmopolitan intent, and on perpetual peace. But his
transcendental philosophy aroused the belief that the realization of
reason through f actual transf ormation was unnecessary, since
individuals could become rational and f ree within the established order.
I n its basic concepts this philosophy f ell prey to the order of the
bourgeois epoch. I n a world without reason, reason is only the
semblance of rationality; in a state of general unf reedom, f reedom is
only a semblance of being f ree. This semblance is generated by the
internalization of idealism. Reason and f reedom become tasks that the
individual is to f ulf ill within himself , and he can do so regardless of
external conditions. Freedom does not contradict necessity, but, to the
contrary, necessarily presupposes it. Only he is f ree who recognizes the
necessary as necessary, thereby overcoming its mere necessity and
elevating it to the sphere of reason. This is equivalent to asserting that a
person born crippled, who cannot be cured at the given state of medical
science, overcomes this necessity when he gives reason and f reedom
scope within his crippled existence, i.e. if f rom the start he always posits
N egat i ons
his needs, goals, and actions only as the needs, goals, and actions of a
cripple. I dealist rationalism canceled the given antithesis of f reedom and
necessity so that f reedom can never trespass upon necessity. Rather, it
modestly sets up house within necessity. Hegel once said that this
suspension of necessity ‘transf igures necessity into f reedom’.

Freedom, however, can be the truth of necessity only when necessity
is already true ‘in itself ’. I dealist rationalism’s attachment to the status
quo is distinguished by its particular conception of the relation of
f reedom and necessity. This attachment is the price it had to pay f or the
truth of its knowledge. I t is already given in the orientation of the
subject of idealist philosophy. This subject is rational only insof ar as it is
entirely self -suf f icient. All that is ‘other’ is alien and external to this
subject and as such primarily suspect. For something to be true, it must
be certain. For it to be certain, it must be posited by the subject as its
own achievement. This holds equally f or the fundament um i nconcussum of
D escartes and the synthetic a priori judgments of K ant. Self -suf f iciency
and independence of all that is other and alien is the sole guarantee of
the subject’s f reedom. What is not dependent on any other person or
thing, what possesses itself , is f ree. Having excludes the other. Relating
to the other in such a way that the subject really reaches and is united
with it (or him) counts as loss and dependence. When Hegel ascribed to
reason, as authentic reality, movement that ‘remains within itself ’, he
could invoke Aristotle. From the beginning, philosophy was sure that
the highest mode of being was being-within-itself (B ei si chsel bst sei n).
This identity in the determination of authentic reality points to a
deeper identity, property. Something is authentic when it is self -reliant,
can preserve itself , and is not dependent on anything else. For idealism
this sort of being is attained when the subject has the world so that it
cannot be deprived of it, that it disposes of it omnipresently, and that it
appropriates it to the extent that in all otherness the subject is only with
itself . However, the f reedom attained by D escartes’ ego cogi t o, Leibniz’s
monad, K ant ’s t ranscendent al ego, Fichte’s subject of original activity,
and Hegel’s world-spirit is not the f reedom of pleasurable possession
with which the Aristotelian God moved in his own happiness. I t is
rather the f reedom of interminable, arduous labor. I n the f orm that it
assumed as authentic Being in modern philosophy, reason has to
produce itself and its reality continuously in recalcitrant material. I t
exists only in this process. What reason is to accomplish is neither more
nor less than the constitution of the world f or the ego. Reason is
Phi l osophy and C r i t i cal T heor y
supposed to create the universality and community in which the rational
subject participates with other rational subjects. I t is the basis of the
possibility that, beyond the encounter of merely self -suf f icient monads,
a common lif e develops in a common world. But even this achievement
does not lead beyond what already exists. I t changes nothing. For the
constitution of the world has always been ef f ected prior to the actual
action of the individual; thus he can never take his most authentic
achievement into his own hands. The same characteristic agitation,
which f ears really taking what is and making something else out of it,
prevails in all aspects of this rationalism. Development is proclaimed,
but true development is “ not a transf ormation, or becoming something
else” .
For at its conclusion it arrives at nothing that did not already
exist ‘in itself ’ at the beginning. The absence of concrete development
appeared to this philosophy as the greatest benef it. Precisely at its
maturest stage, the inner statics of all its apparently so dynamic concepts
become manif est.
Undoubtedly all these characteristics make idealist rationalism a
bourgeois philosophy. And yet, merely on account of the single concept
of reason, it is more than ideology, and in devoting oneself to it one
does more than struggle against ideology. The concept of ideology has
meaning only when oriented to the interest of theory in the
transf ormation of the social structure. Neither a sociological nor a
philosophical but rather a political concept, it considers a doctrine in
relation not to the social conditions of its truth or to an absolute truth
but rather to the interest of transf ormation.
Countless philosophical
doctrines are mere ideology and, as illusions about socially relevant
f actors, readily integrate themselves into the general apparatus of
domination. I dealist rationalism does not belong to this class, precisely
to the extent that it is really idealistic. The conception of the domination
of Being by reason is, af ter all, not only a postulate of idealism. With a
sure instinct, the authoritarian state has f ought classical idealism.
Rationalism saw into important f eatures of bourgeois society: the
abstract ego, abstract reason, abstract f reedom. To that extent it is
correct consciousness. Pure reason was conceived as reason
‘independent’ of all experience. The empirical world appears to make
reason dependent; it manif ests itself to reason with the character of
‘f oreignness’ (F r emdar t i gk ei t ).
Limiting reason to ‘pure’ theoretical and
practical achievement implies an avowal of bad f acticity – but also
concern with the right of the individual, with that in him which is more
N egat i ons
than ‘economic man’, with what is lef t out of universal social exchange.
I dealism tries to keep at least thought in a state of purity. I t plays the
peculiar double role of opposing both the true materialism of critical
social theory and the f alse materialism of bourgeois practice. I n idealism
the individual protests the world by making both himself and the world
f ree and rational in the realm of thought. This philosophy is in an
essential sense individualistic. However, it comprehends the individual’s
uniqueness in terms of his self -suf f iciency and ‘property’; all attempts to
use the subject, construed in this sense, as the basis f or constructing an
intersubjective world have a dubious character. The alter ego always
could be linked to the ego only in an abstract manner: it remained a
problem of pure knowledge or pure ethics. I dealism’s purity, too, is
equivocal. To be sure, the highest truths of theoretical and of practical
reason were to be pure and not based on f acticity. But this purity could
be saved only on the condition that f acticity be lef t in impurity; the
individual is surrendered to its untruth. Nevertheless, concern f or the
individual long kept idealism f rom giving its blessing to the sacrif ice of
the individual to the service of f alse collectives.
Rationalism’s protest and critique remain idealistic and do not
extend to the material conditions of existence. Hegel termed
philosophy’s abiding in the world of thought an ‘essential
determination’. Although philosophy reconciles antitheses in reason, it
provides a “ reconciliation not in reality, but in the world of ideas” .
materialist protest and materialist critique originated in the struggle of
oppressed groups f or better living conditions and remain permanently
associated with the actual process of this struggle. Western philosophy
had established reason as authentic reality. I n the bourgeois epoch the
reality of reason became the task that the f ree individual was to f ulf ill.
The subject was the locus of reason and the source of the process by
which objectivity was to become rational. The material conditions of
lif e, however, allotted f reedom to reason only in pure thought and pure
will. But a social situation has come about in which the realization of
reason no longer needs to be restricted to pure thought and will. I f
reason means shaping lif e according to men’s f ree decision on the basis
of their knowledge, then the demand f or reason hencef orth means the
creation of a social organization in which individuals can collectively
regulate their lives in accordance with their needs. With the realization
of reason in such a society, philosophy would disappear. I t was the task
of social theory to demonstrate this possibility and lay the f oundation
Phi l osophy and C r i t i cal T heor y
f or a transf ormation of the economic structure. By so doing, it could
provide theoretical leadership f or those strata which, by virtue of their
historical situation, were to bring about the change. The interest of
philosophy, concern with man, had f ound its new f orm in the interest
of critical social theory. There is no philosophy alongside and outside
this theory. For the philosophical construction of reason is replaced by
the creation of a rational society. The philosophical ideals of a better
world and of true Being are incorporated into the practical aim of
struggling mankind, where they take on a human f orm.
What, however, if the development outlined by the theory does not
occur? What if the f orces that were to bring about the transf ormation
are suppressed and appear to be def eated? Little as the theory’s truth is
thereby contradicted, it nevertheless appears then in a new light which
illuminates new aspects and elements of its object. The new situation
gives a new import to many demands and indices of the theory, whose
changed f unction accords it in a more intensive sense the character of
‘critical theory’.
I ts critique is also directed at the avoidance of its f ull
economic and political demands by many who invoke it. This situation
compels theory anew to a sharper emphasis on its concern with the
potentialities of man and with the individual’s f reedom, happiness, and
rights contained in all of its analyses. For the theory, these are
exclusively potentialities of the concrete social situation. They become
relevant only as economic and political questions and as such bear on
human relations in the productive process, the distribution of the
product of social labor, and men’s active participation in the economic
and political administration of the whole. The more elements of the
theory become reality – not only as the old order’s evolution conf irms
the theory’s predictions, but as the transition to the new order begins –
the more urgent becomes the question of what the theory intended as
its goal. For here, unlike in philosophical systems, human f reedom is no
phantom or arbitrary inwardness that leaves everything in the external
world as it was. Rather, f reedom here means a real potentiality, a social
relationship on whose realization human destiny depends. At the given
stage of development, the constructive character of a critical theory
emerges anew. From the beginning it did more than simply register and
systematize f acts. I ts impulse came f rom the f orce with which it spoke
against the f acts and conf ronted bad f acticity with its better
potentialities. Like philosophy, it opposes making reality into a criterion
in the manner of complacent positivism. But unlike philosophy, it
N egat i ons
always derives its goals only f rom present tendencies of the social
process. Theref ore it has no f ear of the utopia that the new order is
denounced as being. When truth cannot be realized within the
established social order, it always appears to the latter as mere utopia.
This transcendence speaks not against, but f or, its truth. The utopian
element was long the only progressive element in philosophy, as in the
constructions of the best state and the highest pleasure, of perf ect
happiness and perpetual peace. The obstinacy that comes f rom adhering
to truth against all appearances has given way in contemporary
philosophy to whimsy and uninhibited opportunism. Critical theory
preserves obstinacy as a genuine quality of philosophical thought.
The current situation emphasizes this quality. The reverse suf f ered
by the progressive f orces took place at a stage where the economic
conditions f or transf ormation were present. The new social situation
expressed in the authoritarian state could be easily comprehended and
predicted by means of the concepts worked out by the theory. I t was
not the f ailure of economic concepts that provided the impetus behind
the new emphasis of the theory’s claim that the transf ormation of
economic conditions involves the transf ormation of the entirety of
human existence. This claim is directed rather against a distorted
interpretation and application of economics that is f ound in both
practice and theoretical discussion. The discussion leads back to the
question: I n what way is the theory more than economics? From the
beginning the critique of political economy established the dif f erence by
criticizing the entirety of social existence. I n a society whose totality was
determined by economic relations to the extent that the uncontrolled
economy controlled all human relations, even the noneconomic was
contained in the economy. I t appears that, if and when this control is
removed, the rational organization of society toward which critical
theory is oriented is more than a new f orm of economic regulation. The
dif f erence lies in the decisive f actor, precisely the one that makes the
society rational – the subordination of the economy to the individuals’
needs. The transf ormation of society eliminates the original relation of
substructure and superstructure. I n a rational reality, the labor process
should not determine the general existence of men; to the contrary, their
needs should determine the labor process. N ot that the labor process is
regulated in accordance with a plan, but the interest determining the
regulation becomes important: it is rational only if this interest is that of
the f reedom and happiness of the masses. N eglect of this element
Phi l osophy and C r i t i cal T heor y
despoils the theory of one of its essential characteristics. I t eradicates
f rom the image of liberated mankind the idea of happiness that was to
distinguish it f rom all previous mankind. Without f reedom and
happiness in the social relations of men, even the greatest increase of
production and the abolition of private property in the means of
production remain inf ected with the old injustice.
Critical theory has, of course, distinguished between various phases
of realization and pointed out the unf reedoms and inequalities with
which the new era inevitably will be burdened. N evertheless, the
transf ormed social existence must be determined by its ultimate goal
even at its inception. I n its concept of an ultimate goal, critical theory
did not intend to replace the theological hereaf ter with a social one –
with an ideal that appears in the new order as just another hereaf ter in
virtue of its exclusive opposition to the beginning and its telescoping
distance. By def ending the endangered and victimized potentialities of
man against cowardice and betrayal, critical theory is not to be
supplemented by a philosophy. I t only makes explicit what was always
the f oundation of its categories: the demand that through the abolition
of previously existing material conditions of existence the totality of
human relations be liberated. I f critical theory, amidst today’s
desperation, indicates that the reality it intends must comprise the
f reedom and happiness of individuals, it is only f ollowing the direction
given by its economic concepts. They are constructive concepts, which
comprehend not only the given reality but, simultaneously, its abolition
and the new reality that is to f ollow. I n the theoretical reconstruction of
the social process, the critique of current conditions and the analysis of
their tendencies necessarily include f uture-oriented components. The
transf ormation toward which this process tends and the existence that
liberated mankind is to create f or itself determine at the outset the
establishment and unf olding of the f irst economic categories. Theory
can invoke no f acts in conf irmation of the theoretical elements that
point toward f uture f reedom. From the viewpoint of theory all that is
already attained is given only as something threatened and in the
process of disappearing; the given is a positive f act, an element of the
coming society, only when it is taken into the theoretical construction as
something to be transf ormed. This construction is neither a supplement
to nor an extension of economics. I t is economics itself insof ar as it
deals with contents that transcend the realm of established economic
N egat i ons
Unconditional adherence to its goal, which can be attained only in
social struggle, lets theory continually conf ront the already attained with
the not yet attained and newly threatened. The theory’s interest in great
philosophy is part of the same context of opposition to the established
order. But critical theory is not concerned with the realization of ideals
brought into social struggles f rom outside. I n these struggles it identif ies
on one side the cause of f reedom and on the other the cause of
suppression and barbarism. I f the latter seems to win in reality, it might
easily appear as though critical theory were holding up a philosophical
idea against f actual development and its scientif ic analysis. Traditional
science was in f act more subject to the powers that be than was great
philosophy. I t was not in science but in philosophy that traditional
theory developed concepts oriented to the potentialities of man lying
beyond his f actual status. At the end of the C r i t i que of Pur e R eason, K ant
cites the three questions in which ‘all the interest’ of human reason
‘coalesces’: What can I know?; What should I do?; What may I hope?

And in the introduction to his lectures on logic, he adds a f ourth
question encompassing the f irst three: What is man?
The answer to
this question is conceived not as the description of human nature as it is
actually f ound to be, but rather as the demonstration of what are f ound
to be human potentialities. I n the bourgeois period, philosophy
distorted the meaning of both question and answers by equating human
potentialities with those that are real within the established order. That
is why they could be potentialities only of pure knowledge and pure will.
The transf ormation of a given status is not, of course, the business
of philosophy. The philosopher can only participate in social struggles
insof ar as he is not a prof essional philosopher. This ‘division of labor’,
too, results f rom the modern separation of the mental f rom the material
means of production, and philosophy cannot overcome it. The abstract
character of philosophical work in the past and present is rooted in the
social conditions of existence. Adhering to the abstractness of
philosophy is more appropriate to circumstances and closer to truth
than is the pseudophilosophical concreteness that condescends to social
struggles. What is true in philosophical concepts was arrived at by
abstracting f rom the concrete status of man and is true only in such
abstraction. Reason, mind, morality, knowledge, and happiness are not
only categories of bourgeois philosophy, but concerns of mankind. As
such they must be preserved, if not derived anew. When critical theory
examines the philosophical doctrines in which it was still possible to
Phi l osophy and C r i t i cal T heor y
speak of man, it deals f irst with the camouf lage and misinterpretation
that characterized the discussion of man in the bourgeois period.
With this intention, several f undamental concepts of philosophy
have been discussed in this journal [Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung]: truth
and verif ication, rationalism and irrationalism, the role of logic,
metaphysics and positivism, and the concept of essence. These were not
merely analyzed sociologically, in order to correlate philosophical
dogmas with social loci. Nor were specif ic philosophical contents
‘resolved’ into social f acts. To the extent that philosophy is more than
ideology, every such attempt must come to nought. When critical theory
comes to terms with philosophy, it is interested in the truth content of
philosophical concepts and problems. I t presupposes that they really
contain truth. The enterprise of the sociology of knowledge, to the
contrary, is occupied only with the untruths, not the truths of previous
philosophy. To be sure, even the highest philosophical categories are
connected with social f acts, even if only with the most general f act that
the struggle of man with nature has not been undertaken by mankind as
a f ree subject but instead has taken place only in class society. This f act
comes to expression in many ‘ontological dif f erences’ established by
philosophy. I ts traces can perhaps be f ound even in the very f orms of
conceptual thought: f or example, in the determination of logic as
essentially the logic of predication, or judgments about given objects of
which predicates are variously asserted or denied. I t was dialectical logic
that f irst pointed out the shortcomings of this interpretation of
judgment: the ‘contingency’ of predication and the ‘externality’ of the
process of judgment, which let the subject of judgment appear ‘outside’
as self -subsistent and the predicate ‘inside’ as though in our heads.

Moreover, it is certainly true that many philosophical concepts are mere
‘f oggy ideas’ arising out of the domination of existence by an
uncontrolled economy and, accordingly, are to be explained precisely by
the material conditions of lif e.
But in its historical f orms philosophy also contains insights into
human and objective conditions whose truth points beyond previous
society and thus cannot he completely reduced to it. Here belong not
only the contents dealt with under such concepts as reason, mind,
f reedom, morality, universality, and essence, but also important
achievements of epistemology, psychology, and logic. Their truth
content, which surmounts their social conditioning, presupposes not an
eternal consciousness that transcendentally constitutes the individual
N egat i ons
consciousness of historical subjects but only those particular historical
subjects whose consciousness expresses itself in critical theory. I t is only
with and f or this consciousness that the ‘surpassing’ content becomes
visible in its real truth. The truth that it recognizes in philosophy is not
reducible to existing social conditions. This would be the case only in a
f orm of existence where consciousness is no longer separated f rom
being, enabling the rationality of thought to proceed f rom the rationality
of social existence. Until then truth that is more than the truth of what
is can be attained and intended only in opposition to established social
relations. To this negative condition, at least, it is subject.
I n the past, social relations concealed the meaning of truth. They
f ormed a horizon of untruth that deprived the truth of its meaning. An
example is the concept of universal consciousness, which preoccupied
German I dealism. I t contains the problem of the relation of the subject
to the totality of society: How can universality as community
(A l l gemei nhei t ) become the subject without abolishing individuality? The
understanding that more than an epistemological or metaphysical
problem is at issue here can be gained and evaluated only outside the
limits of bourgeois thought. The philosophical solutions met with by
the problem are to be f ound in the history of philosophy. No
sociological analysis is necessary in order to understand K ant’s theory of
transcendental synthesis. I t embodies an epistemological truth. The
interpretation given to the K antian position by critical theory
does not
af f ect the internal philosophical dif f iculty. By connecting the problem of
the universality of knowledge with that of society as a universal subject,
it does not purport to provide a better philosophical solution. Critical
theory means to show only the specif ic social conditions at the root of
philosophy’s inability to pose the problem in a more comprehensive
way, and to indicate that any other solution lay beyond that philosophy’s
boundaries. The untruth inherent in all transcendental treatment of the
problem thus comes into philosophy ‘f rom outside’: hence it can be
overcome only outside philosophy. ‘Outside’ does not mean that social
f actors af f ect consciousness f rom without as though the latter existed
independently. I t ref ers rather to a division within the social whole.
Consciousness is ‘externally’ conditioned by social existence to the very
extent that in bourgeois society the social conditions of the individual
are eternal to him and, as it were, overwhelm him f rom without. This
externality made possible the abstract f reedom of the thinking subject.
Consequently, only its abolition would enable abstract f reedom to
Phi l osophy and C r i t i cal T heor y
disappear as part of the general transf ormation of the relationship
between social being and consciousness.
I f the theory’s f undamental conception of the relation of social
existence to consciousness is to be f ollowed, this ‘outside’ must be taken
into consideration. I n previous history there has been no pre-established
harmony between correct thought and social being. I n the bourgeois
period, economic conditions determine philosophical thought insof ar as
it is the emancipated, self -reliant individual who thinks. I n reality, he
counts not in the concretion of his potentialities and needs but only in
abstraction f rom his individuality, as the bearer of labor power, i.e. of
usef ul f unctions in the process of the realization of capital.
Correspondingly, he appears in philosophy only as an abstract subject,
abstracted f rom his f ull humanity. I f he pursues the idea of man, he
must think in opposition to f acticity. Wishing to conceive this idea in its
philosophical purity and universality, he must abstract f rom the present
state of af f airs. This abstractness, this radical withdrawal f rom the given,
at least clears a path along which the individual in bourgeois society can
seek the truth and adhere to what is known. Beside concreteness and
f acticity, the thinking subject also leaves its misery ‘outside’. But it
cannot escape f rom itself , f or it has incorporated the monadic isolation
of the bourgeois individual into its premises. The subject thinks within a
horizon of untruth that bars the door to real emancipation.
This horizon explains some of the characteristic f eatures of
bourgeois philosophy. One of them af f ects the idea of truth itself and
would seem to relativize ‘sociologically’ all its truths f rom the start: the
coupling of truth and certainty. As such, this connection goes all the
way back to ancient philosophy. But only in the modern period has it
taken on the typical f orm that truth must prove itself as the guaranteed
property of the individual, and that this proof is considered established
only if the individual can continually reproduce the truth as his own
achievement. The process of knowledge is never terminated, because in
every act of cognition the individual must once again re-enact the
‘production of the world’ and the categorical organization of experience.
However, the process never gets any f urther because the restriction of
‘productive’ cognition to the transcendental sphere makes any new f orm
of the world impossible. The constitution of the world occurs behind
the backs of the individuals; yet it is their work.
N egat i ons
The corresponding social f act ors are clear. The progressive aspect s
of t his const ruct ion of t he world, namely t he f oundat ion of knowledge
on t he aut onomy of t he individual and t he idea of cognit ion as an act
and t ask t o be cont inually re-enact ed, are made inef f ect ive by t he lif e
process of bourgeois societ y. But does this sociological limitation af f ect
t he t rue cont ent of t he const ruct ion, t he essent ial connect ion of
knowledge, f reedom, and pract ice? Bourgeois societ y’s dominat ion
reveals it self not only in t he dependence of t hought but also in t he
(abst ract ) independence of it s cont ent s. For t his societ y det ermines
consciousness such t hat t he lat t er’s act ivit y and cont ent s survive in t he
dimension of abst ract reason; abst ract ness saves it s t rut h. What is t rue is
so only t o t he ext ent t hat it is not t he t rut h about social realit y. And just
because it is not t he lat t er, because it t ranscends t his realit y, it can
become a mat t er f or crit ical t heory. Sociology t hat is int erest ed only in
t he dependent and limit ed nat ure of consciousness has not hing t o do
wit h t rut h. I t s research, usef ul in many ways, f alsif ies the interest and
the goal of critical theory. I n any case, what was linked, in past
knowledge, t o specif ic social st ruct ures disappears wit h t hem. I n
contrast, critical theory concerns it self wit h prevent ing t he loss of t he
t rut hs which past knowledge labored t o at t ain.
This is not t o assert t he exist ence of et ernal t rut hs unf olding in
changing hist orical f orms of which t hey need only t o be divest ed in
order f or t heir kernel of t rut h t o be revealed. I f reason, f reedom,
knowledge, and happiness really are t ransf ormed f rom abst ract concept s
into reality, then they will have as much and as lit t le in common wit h
t heir previous f orms as t he association of f ree men wit h compet it ive,
commodit y-producing societ y. Of course, t o t he ident it y of t he basic
social st ruct ure in previous hist ory cert ainly corresponds an ident it y of
cert ain universal t rut hs, whose universal character is an essential
component of t heir t rut h cont ent . The st ruggle of aut horit arian ideology
against abst ract universals has clearly exhibit ed t his. That man is a
rat ional being, t hat t his being requires f reedom, and t hat happiness is his
highest good are all universal proposit ions whose progressive impet us
derives precisely f rom t heir universalit y. Universalit y gives t hem an
almost revolut ionary charact er, f or t hey claim t hat all, and not merely
t his or t hat part icular person, should be rat ional, f ree, and happy. I n a
societ y whose realit y gives t he lie t o all t hese universals, philosophy
cannot make t hem concret e. Under such condit ions, adherence t o
universalit y is more import ant t han it s philosophical dest ruct ion.
Phi l osophy and C r i t i cal T heor y
Critical theory’s interest in the liberation of mankind binds it to
certain ancient truths. I t is at one with philosophy in maintaining that
man can be more than a manipulable subject in the production process
of class society. To the extent that philosophy has nevertheless made its
peace with man’s determination by economic conditions, it has allied
itself with repression. That is the bad materialism that underlies the
edif ice of idealism: the consolation that in the material world everything
is in order as it is. (Even when it has not been the personal conviction
of the philosopher, this consolation has arisen almost automatically as
part of the mode of thought of bourgeois idealism and constitutes its
ultimate af f inity with its time.) The other premise of this materialism is
that the mind is not to make its demands in this world, but is to orient
itself toward another realm that does not conf lict with the material
world. The materialism of bourgeois practice can quite easily come to
terms with this attitude. The bad materialism of philosophy is overcome
in the materialist theory of society. The latter opposes not only the
production relations that gave rise to bad materialism, but every f orm of
production that dominates man instead of being dominated by him: this
idealism underlies its materialism. I ts constructive concepts, too, have a
residue of abstractness as long as the reality toward which they are
directed is not yet given. Here, however, abstractness results not f rom
avoiding the status quo, but f rom orientation toward the f uture status of
man. I t cannot be supplanted by another, correct theory of the
established order (as idealist abstractness was replaced by the critique of
political economy). I t cannot be succeeded by a new theory, but only by
rational reality itself . The abyss between rational and present reality
cannot be bridged by conceptual thought. I n order to retain what is not
yet present as a goal in the present, phantasy is required. The essential
connection of phantasy with philosophy is evident f rom the f unction
attributed to it by philosophers, especially Aristotle and K ant, under the
title of ‘imagination’. Owing to its unique capacity to ‘intuit’ an object
though the latter be not present and to create something new out of
given material of cognition, imagination denotes a considerable degree
of independence f rom the given, of f reedom amid a world of
unf reedom. I n surpassing what is present, it can anticipate the f uture. I t
is true that when K ant characterizes this ‘f undamental f aculty of the
human soul’ as the a priori basis of all knowledge,
this restriction to
the a priori diverts once again f rom the f uture to what is always past.
I magination succumbs to the general degradation of phantasy. To f ree it
N egat i ons
f or the construction of a more beautif ul and happier world remains the
prerogative of children and f ools. True, in phantasy one can imagine
anything. But critical theory does not envision an endless horizon of
The f reedom of imaginat ion disappears to the extent that real
f reedom becomes a real possibility. The limits of phantasy are thus no
longer universal laws of essence (as the last bourgeois theory of
knowledge that took seriously the meaning of phantasy so def ined
), but technical limits in the strictest sense. They are prescribed by
the level of technological development. What critical theory is engaged
in is not the depiction of a f uture world, although the response of
phantasy to such a challenge would not perhaps be quite as absurd as
we are led to believe. I f phantasy were set f ree to answer, with precise
ref erence to already existing technical material, the f undamental
philosophical questions asked by K ant, all of sociology would be
terrif ied at the utopian character of its answers. And yet the answers
that phantasy could provide would be very close to the truth, certainly
closer than those yielded by the rigorous conceptual analyses of
philosophical anthropology. For it would det ermine what man is on t he
basis of what he really can be tomorrow. I n replying to the question,
‘What may I hope?’, it would point less to eternal bliss and inner
f reedom than to the already possible unf olding and f ulf illment of needs
and wants. I n a situation where such a f uture is a real possibility,
phantasy is an important instrument in the task of continually holding
the goal up to view. Phantasy does not relate to the other cognitive
f aculties as illusion to truth (which in f act, when it plumes itself on
being the only truth, can perceive the truth of the f uture only as
illusion). Without phantasy, all philosophical knowledge remains in the
grip of the present or the past and severed f rom the f uture, which is the
only link between philosophy and the real history of mankind.
Strong emphasis on the role of phantasy seems to contradict the
rigorously scientif ic character that critical theory has always made a
criterion of its concepts. This demand f or scientif ic objectivity has
brought materialist theory into unusual accord with idealist rationalism.
While the latter could pursue its concern with man only in abstraction
f rom given f acts, it attempted to undo this abstractness by associating
itself with science. Science never seriously called use-value into question.
I n their anxiety about scientif ic objectivity, the N eo-K antians are at one
with K ant, as is Husserl with D escartes. How science was applied,
Phi l osophy and C r i t i cal T heor y
whet her it s ut ilit y and product ivit y guarant eed it s higher t rut h or were
inst ead signs of general inhumanit y – philosophy did not ask it self t hese
quest ions. I t was chief ly int erest ed in t he met hodology of t he sciences.
The crit ical t heory of societ y maint ained primarily t hat t he only t ask lef t
f or philosophy was elaborat ing t he most general result s of t he sciences.
I t , t oo, t ook as it s basis t he viewpoint t hat science had suf f icient ly
demonst rat ed it s abilit y t o serve t he development of t he product ive
f orces and t o open up new pot ent ialit ies of a richer exist ence. But while
t he alliance bet ween idealist philosophy and science was burdened f rom
t he beginning wit h sins engendered by t he dependence of t he sciences
on est ablished relat ions of dominat ion, t he crit ical t heory of societ y
presupposes t he disengagement of science f rom t his order. Thus t he
f at ef ul f et ishism of science is avoided here in principle. But t his does
not dispense t he t heory f rom a const ant crit ique of scient if ic aims and
met hods which t akes int o account every new social sit uat ion. Scient if ic
object ivit y as such is never a suf f icient guarant ee of t rut h, especially in a
sit uat ion where t he t rut h speaks as strongly against t he f act s and is as
well hidden behind t hem as t oday. Scient if ic predict abilit y does not
coincide wit h t he f ut urist ic mode in which t he t rut h exist s. Even t he
development of t he product ive f orces and t he evolut ion of t echnology
know no unint errupt ed progression f rom t he old t o t he new societ y.
For here, t oo, man himself is t o det ermine progress: not ‘socialist’ man,
whose spirit ual and moral regenerat ion is supposed t o const it ut e t he
basis f or planning t he planners (a view t hat overlooks t hat ‘socialist’
planning presupposes t he disappearance of t he abst ract separat ion bot h
of t he subject f rom his act ivit y and of t he subject as universal f rom each
individual subject ), but t he associat ion of t hose men who bring about
t he t ransf ormat ion. Since what is t o become of science and t echnology
depends on t hem, science and t echnology cannot serve a priori as a
concept ual model f or crit ical t heory.
Crit ical t heory is, last but not least , crit ical of it self and of t he social
f orces t hat make up it s own basis. The philosophical element in t he
t heory is a f orm of prot est against t he new ‘Economism’, which would
isolat e t he economic st ruggle and separat e t he economic f rom t he
polit ical sphere. At an early st age, t his view was count ered wit h t he
crit icism t hat t he det ermining f act ors are t he given sit uat ion of t he
ent ire societ y, t he int errelat ionships of t he various social st rat a, and
relat ions of polit ical power. The t ransf ormat ion of t he economic
st ruct ure must so reshape t he organizat ion of t he ent ire societ y t hat ,
N egat i ons
with the abolition of economic antagonisms between groups and
individuals, the political sphere becomes to a great extent independent
and determines the development of society. With the disappearance of
the state, political relations would then become, in a hitherto unknown
sense, general human relations: the organization of the administration of
social wealth in the interest of liberated mankind.
The materialist theory of society is originally a nineteenth-century
theory. Representing its relation to rationalism as one of ‘inheritance’, it
conceived this inheritance as it manif ested itself in the nineteenth
century. Much has changed since then. At that time the theory had
comprehended, on the deepest level, the possibility of a coming
barbarity, but the latter did not appear to be as imminent as the
‘conservative’ abolition of what the nineteenth century represented:
conservative of what the culture of bourgeois society, f or all its poverty
and injustice, had accomplished nonetheless f or the development and
happiness of the individual. What had already been achieved and what
still remained to be done was clear enough. The entire impetus of the
theory came f rom this interest in the individual, and it was not necessary
to discuss it philosophically. The situation of inheritance has changed in
the meantime. I t is not a part of the nineteenth century, but
authoritarian barbarity, that now separates the previous reality of reason
f rom the f orm intended by theory. More and more, the culture that was
to have been abolished recedes into the past. Overlaid by an actuality in
which the complete sacrif ice of the individual has become a pervasive
and almost unquestioned f act of lif e, that culture has vanished to the
point where studying and comprehending it is no longer a matter of
spitef ul pride, but of sorrow. Critical theory must concern itself to a
hitherto unknown extent with the past – precisely insof ar as it is
concerned with the f uture.
I n a dif f erent f orm, the situation conf ronting the theory of society in
the nineteenth century is being repeated today. Once again real
conditions f all beneath the general level of history. Fettering the
productive f orces and keeping down the standard of lif e is characteristic
of even the economically most developed countries. The ref lection cast
by the truth of the f uture in the philosophy of the past provides
indications of f actors that point beyond today’s anachronistic
conditions. Thus critical theory is still linked to these truths. They
appear in it as part of a process: that of bringing to consciousness
potentialities that have emerged within the maturing historical situation.
Phi l osophy and C r i t i cal T heor y
They are preserved in t he economic and political concepts of critical

On Hedonism
The idealist philosophy of the bourgeois era attempted to comprehend
the universal, which was supposed to realize itself in and through
isolated individuals, under the notion of reason. The individual appears
as an ego isolated f rom and against others in its drives, thoughts, and
interests. This isolating individuation is overcome and a common world
constructed through the reduction of concrete individuality to the
subject of mere thought, the rational ego. Operating among men who at
f irst f ollow only their particular interests, the laws of reason eventually
succeed in bringing about community. The universal validity of at least
some f orms of intuition and of thought can be securely established, and
certain general maxims of conduct can be derived f rom the rationality
of the person. I nsof ar as the individual partakes of universality only as a
rational being and not with the empirical manif old of his needs, wants,
and capacities, this idea of reason implicitly contains the sacrif ice of the
individual. His f ull development could not be admitted into the realm of
reason. The gratif ication of his wants and capacities, his happiness,
appears as an arbitrary and subjective element that cannot be brought
into consonance with the universal validity of the highest principle of
human action.
For it is every man’s own special f eeling of pleasure and pain that
decides in what he is to place his happiness, and even in the same
subject this will vary with the dif f erence of his wants according as this
f eeling changes, and thus a law which is subj ect i vel y necessar y (as a law of
nature) is obj ect i vel y a very cont i ngent practical principle, which can and
must be very dif f erent in dif f erent subjects, and theref ore can never
f urnish a law …

N egat i ons
Happiness is of no matter, f or happiness does not lead beyond the
individual in all his contingency and imperf ection. Hegel saw the history
of humanity as burdened with this irredeemable misf ortune. I ndividuals
must be sacrif iced f or the sake of the universal, f or there is no pre-
established harmony between the general and the particular interest, or
between reason and happiness. The progress of reason realizes itself
against the happiness of individuals.
Happy is he who has adapted his existence to his particular character,
will, and choice and thus enjoys himself in his existence. History is not
the stage of happiness. I n it, the periods of happiness are empty pages


The universal f ollows its course in disregard of individuals, and history,
when comprehended, appears as the monstrous Calvary of the spirit.
Hegel f ought against eudaemonism in the interest of historical
progress. As such, the eudaemonistic principle of ‘making happiness
and pleasure the highest good’ is not f alse, according to Hegel. Rather,
the baseness of eudaemonism is that it transposes the f ulf illment of
desire and the happiness of individuals into a ‘vulgar world and reality’.
I n accordance with this eudaemonism, the individual is supposed to be
reconciled to this common and base world. The individual should “ trust
in this world and yield himself to it and be able to devote himself to it
without sin” .
Eudaemonism sins against historical reason, according to
Hegel, in that it lets the culmination of human existence be prescribed
and tainted by bad empirical reality.
Hegel’s critique of eudaemonism expresses insight into the required
objectivity of happiness. I f happiness is no more than the immediate
gratif ication of particular interests, then eudaemonism contains an
irrational principle that keeps men within whatever f orms of lif e are
given. Human happiness should be something other than personal
contentment. I ts own title points beyond mere subjectivity.
Both ancient and bourgeois eudaemonism viewed happiness
essentially as such a subjective condition. I nsof ar as men can and should
attain happiness within the status prescribed them by the established
social order, this doctrine contains a moment of resignation and
approbation. Eudaemonism comes into contradiction with the principle
of the critical autonomy of reason.
O n H edoni sm
The contraposition of happiness and reason goes all the way back to
ancient philosophy. The relegation of happiness to chance, to that
which cannot be controlled and is not dominated, to the irrational
power of conditions that are essentially external to the individual, so
that happiness at most ‘supervenes’ on its aims and goals – this resigned
relationship to happiness is contained in the Greek concept t yche.
is happy in the realm of ‘external goods’, which do not f all within the
f reedom of the individual, but rather are subject to the opaque
contingency of the social order of lif e. True f elicity, the f ulf illment of
individuals’ highest potentialities, thus cannot consist in what is
commonly called happiness, but must be sought in the world of the soul
and the mind.
I t is against this internalization of happiness, which accepts as
inevitable the anarchy and unf reedom of the external conditions of
existence, that the hedonistic trends of philosophy have protested. By
identif ying happiness with pleasure, they were demanding that man’s
sensual and sensuous potentialities and needs, too, should f ind
satisf action – that in them, too, man should enjoy his existence without
sinning against his essence, without guilt and shame. I n the principle of
hedonism, in an abstract and undeveloped f orm, the demand f or the
f reedom of the individual is extended into the realm of the material
conditions of lif e. I nsof ar as the materialistic protest of hedonism
preserves an otherwise proscribed element of human liberation, it is
linked with the interest of critical theory.
Two types of hedonism are commonly distinguished: the Cyrenaic
and the Epicurean trends. The Cyrenaics’ point of departure is the
thesis that the f ulf illment of specif ic instincts and wants of the
individual is associated with the f eeling of pleasure. Happiness consists
in having these individual pleasures as of ten as possible.
Our end is particular pleasure, whereas happiness is the sum total of all
individual pleasures, in which are included both past and f uture
pleasures. Particular pleasure is desirable f or its own sake, whereas
happiness is desirable not f or its own sake, but f or the sake of particular

What the individual instincts and wants may be makes no dif f erence;
their moral evaluation is not based upon their ‘nature’. They are a matter
of custom, of social convention.
Pleasure is all that matters. I t is the
N egat i ons
only happiness that the individual is allotted. “ … pleasure does not
dif f er f rom pleasure nor is one pleasure more pleasant than another.”

And now the materialist protest against internalization:
… bodily pleasures are f ar better than mental pleasures, and bodily
pains f ar worse than mental pains …

Even rebellion against sacrif icing the individual to the hypostatized
community is preserved: “ I t was reasonable … f or the good man not to
risk his lif e in the def ence of his country, f or he would never throw
wisdom away to benef it the unwise” .

This hedonism f ails to dif f erentiate not only between individual
pleasures but also between the individuals who enjoy them. They are to
gratif y themselves just as they are, and the world is to become an object
of possible enjoyment just as it is. I n its relegation of happiness to
immediate abandon and immediate enjoyment, hedonism accords with
circumstances located in the structure of antagonistic society itself ; they
become clear only in their developed f orm.
I n this f orm of society, the world as it is can become an object of
enjoyment only when everything in it, men and things, is accepted as it
appears. I ts essence, that is, those potentialities which emerge as the
highest on the basis of the attained level of the productive f orces and of
knowledge, is not present to the subject of enjoyment. For since the lif e
process is not determined by the true interests of individuals creating, in
solidarity, their existence through contending with nature, these
potentialities are not realized in the decisive social relations. They can
only appear to consciousness as lost, atrophied, and repressed. Any
relationship to men and things going beyond their immediacy, any
deeper understanding, would immediately come upon their essence,
upon that which they could be and are not, and would then suf f er f rom
their appearance. Appearance becomes visible in the light of unrealized
potentialities. Then it is no longer one beautif ul moment among others
so much as something evanescent which is lost and cannot be restored.
Faults and blemishes of the objects of enjoyment are then burdened
with the general ugliness and general unhappiness, whereas in
immediacy they can even become a source of pleasure. Contingency in
relations to men and things and the accompanying obstacles, losses, and
renunciations become an expression of the anarchy and injustice of the
O n H edoni sm
whole, of a societ y in which even t he most personal relat ions are
det ermined by t he economic law of value.
I n t his societ y, all human relat ionships t ranscending immediat e
encount er are not relat ions of happiness: especially not relat ionships in
t he labor process, which is regulat ed wit h regard not t o t he needs and
capacit ies of individuals but rat her t o prof it on capit al and t he
product ion of commodit ies. Human relat ions are class relat ions, and
t heir t ypical f orm is t he f ree labor cont ract . This cont ract ual charact er of
human relat ionships has spread f rom t he sphere of product ion t o all of
social lif e. Relat ionships f unct ion only in t heir reif ied f orm, mediat ed
t hrough t he class dist ribut ion of t he mat erial out put of t he cont ract ual
part ners. I f t his f unct ional depersonalizat ion were ever breached, not
merely by t hat backslapping f amiliarit y which only underscores t he
reciprocal f unct ional dist ance separat ing men but rat her by mut ual
concern and solidarit y, it would be impossible f or men t o ret urn t o t heir
normal social f unct ions and posit i ons. The cont ract ual st ruct ure upon
which t his societ y is based would be broken.
Cont ract , however, does not encompass all int erpersonal relat ions.
Societ y has released a whole dimension of relat ionships whose value is
supposed t o consist precisely in t heir not being det ermined by
cont ract ual achievement s and cont ract ual services. These are
relat ionships in which individuals are in t he relat ion of ‘persons’ t o one
anot her and in which t hey are supposed t o realize t heir personalit y.
Love, f riendship, and companionship are such personal relat ions, t o
which West ern cult ure has relegat ed man’s highest eart hly happiness.
But t hey cannot sust ain happiness, precisely when t hey are what t hey are
int ended t o be. I f t hey are really t o guarant ee an essent ial and
permanent communit y among individuals, t hey must be based on
comprehending underst anding of t he ot her. They must cont ain
uncompromising knowledge. To t his knowledge t he ot her reveals
himself not merely in t he unint errupt ed immediacy of sensual
appearance t hat can he desired and enjoyed as beaut if ul, t hrough
sat isf act ion wit h appearance, but rat her in his essence, as he really is. His
image will thus include ugliness, injust ice, inconst ancy, decay, and
ephemeralit y not as subject ive properties t hat could be overcome by
underst anding concern but rat her as t he ef f ect s of t he int ervent ion of
social necessit ies int o t he personal sphere. These necessit ies act ually
const it ut e t he inst inct s, want s, and int erest s of t he person in t his societ y.
Accordingly t he very essence of t he person expresses it self in modes of
N egat i ons
behavior to which the other (or the person himself ) reacts with
disappointment, concern, sympathy, anxiety, inf idelity, jealousy, and
sorrow. Culture has transf igured these f eelings and given them tragic
consecration. I n f act, they subvert reif ication. I n the behavior to which
they are a response, the individual wants to release himself f rom a
situation whose social law he has hitherto obeyed, whether marriage,
occupation, or any other obligation in which he has accepted morality.
He wants to f ollow his passions. I n an order of unf reedom, however,
passion is deeply disorderly and hence immoral. When not diverted
toward generally desired goals, it leads to unhappiness.
This is not the only way in which personal relations are linked to
pain and unhappiness. The development of personality also means the
development of knowledge: insight into the structures of the reality in
which one lives. These structures being what they are, every step of
cognition removes the individual f rom immediate abandonment to
appearance and f rom ready acceptance of the ideology that conceals its
essence. Thus knowledge destroys prof f ered happiness. I f the individual
really acts on his knowledge, he is led either to struggle against the status
quo or to renunciation. K nowledge does not help him attain happiness,
yet without it he reverts to reif ied relationships. This is an inescapable
dilemma. Enjoyment and truth, happiness and the essential relations of
individuals are disjunctions.
By not concealing this dichotomy, consistent hedonism f ulf illed a
progressive f unction. I t did not pretend that, in an anarchic society,
happiness could be f ound in a developed, harmonic ‘personality’ based
on the highest achievements of culture. Hedonism is useless as ideology
and in no way admits of being employed to justif y an order associated
with the suppression of f reedom and the sacrif ice of the individual. For
such a purpose it must f irst be morally internalized or revised in a
utilitarian sense. Hedonism advocates happiness equally f or all
individuals. I t does not hypostatize a community in which happiness is
negated without regard to individuals. I t is meaningf ul to speak of the
progress of universal reason realizing itself in the f ace of the
unhappiness of individuals, but general happiness apart f rom the
happiness of individuals is a meaningless phrase.
Hedonism is the opposite pole to the philosophy of reason. I n
abstract f ashion, both movements of thought have preserved
potentialities of existing society that point to a real human society. The
O n H edoni sm
philosophy of reason has emphasized the development of the
productive f orces, the f ree rational shaping of the conditions of lif e, the
domination of nature, and the critical autonomy of the associated
individuals. Hedonism has stressed the comprehensive unf olding and
f ulf illment of individual wants and needs, emancipation f rom an
inhuman labor process, and liberation of the world f or the purposes of
enjoyment. I n society up to the present, the two doctrines have been
incompatible, as are the principles that they represent. The idea of
reason aims at universality, at a society in which the antagonistic
interests of ‘empirical’ individuals are canceled. To this community,
however, the real f ulf illment of individuals and their happiness remains
alien and external; they must be sacrif iced. There is no harmony
between the general and the particular interest, between reason and
happiness. I f the individual believes that both interests are in accord, he
becomes the victim of a necessary and salutary illusion; reason outwits
individuals. The true interest (of universality) reif ies itself in opposition
to the individuals and becomes a power that overwhelms them.
Hedonism wants to preserve the development and gratif ication of
the individual as a goal within an anarchic and impoverished reality. But
the protest against the reif ied community and against the meaningless
sacrif ices which are made to it leads only deeper into isolation and
opposition between individuals as long as the historical f orces that
could transf orm the established society into a true community have not
matured and are not comprehended. For hedonism, happiness remains
something exclusively subjective. The particular interest of the
individual, just as it is, is af f irmed as the true interest and is justif ied
against every and all community. This is the limit of hedonism: its
attachment to the individualism of competition. I ts concept of
happiness can be derived only by abstracting f rom all universality and
community. Abstract happiness corresponds to the abstract f reedom of
the monadic individual. The concrete objectivity of happiness is a
concept f or which hedonism f inds no evidence.
This inevitable entanglement of even the most radical eudaemonism
is a proper target of Hegel’s critique. For it reconciles particular
happiness with general unhappiness. Hedonism is not untrue because
the individual is supposed to seek and f ind his happiness in a world of
injustice and of misery. To the contrary, the hedonistic principle as such
rebels of ten enough against this order. I f it were ever to take hold of the
masses, they would scarcely tolerate unf reedom and would be made
N egat i ons
completely unsuited f or heroic domestication. The apologetic aspect of
hedonism is located at a deeper level. I t is to be f ound in hedonism’s
abstract conception of the subjective side of happiness, in its inability to
distinguish between true and f alse wants and interests and between true
and f alse enjoyment. I t accepts the wants and interests of individuals as
simply given and as valuable in themselves. Yet these wants and
interests themselves, and not merely their gratif ication, already contain
the stunted growth, the repression, and the untruth with which men
grow up in class society. The af f irmation of the one already contains the
af f irmation of the other.
The inability of hedonism to apply the category of truth to
happiness, its f undamental relativism, is not a logical or epistemological
f ault of a philosophical system. I t can be neither corrected within the
system nor eliminated by a more comprehensive and better
philosophical system. I t originates in the f orm of social relations to
which hedonism is linked, and all attempts to avoid it through
immanent dif f erentiation lead to new contradictions.
The second type of hedonism, the Epicurean, represents such an
attempt at immanent dif f erentiation. The identif ication of the highest
good with pleasure is retained, but a specif ic kind of pleasure is, as ‘true’
pleasure, opposed to all others. The undif f erentiated gratif ication of
whatever wants are given is all too of ten obviously f ollowed by pain,
whose magnitude is the basis f or a dif f erentiation of individual
pleasures. There are wants and desires whose satisf action is succeeded
by pain that only serves to stimulate new desires, destroying man’s
peace of mind and health. Theref ore
… we do not choose every pleasure whatsoever, but of t-times pass over
many pleasures when a greater annoyance ensues f rom them. And of t-
times we consider pains superior to pleasures when submission to the
pains f or a long time brings us as a consequence a greater pleasure.

Reason, whose f oresight makes possible a comparison of the values of
momentary pleasure and later pain, becomes the adjudicator of pleasure.
I t may itself even become the highest pleasure.
I t is not an unbroken succession of drinking-bouts and of revelry, not
sexual love, not the enjoyment of the f ish and other delicacies … which
produce a pleasant lif e; it is sober reasoning, searching out the grounds
O n H edoni sm
of every choice and avoidance, and banishing those belief s through
which the greatest tumults take possession of the soul.

Reason grants man that moderate enjoyment which reduces risk and
of f ers the prospect of permanently balanced health. The dif f erentiating
evaluation of pleasure ensues theref ore with regard to the greatest
possible security and permanence of pleasure. This method expresses
f ear of the insecurity and badness of the conditions of lif e, the
invincible limitation of enjoyment. I t is a negative hedonism. I ts
principle is less the pleasure to be striven f or than the pain to he
avoided. The truth against which pleasure is to be measured is only
evasion of conf lict with the established order: the socially permitted if
not desired f orm of pleasure. The ‘sage’s’ tranquility is the goal: an idea
in which the concept of pleasure as well as the concept of the sage are
deprived of their meaning. Pleasure perishes, inasmuch as the cautious,
measured, and withdrawn relationship of the individual to men and
things resists their dominion over him precisely where this dominion
brings real happiness: as enjoyable abandon. I n the antagonistic ordering
of existence, happiness is encountered as something withdrawn f rom
the autonomy of the individual, something that can be neither achieved
nor controlled by reason. The element of extraneousness, contingency,
and gratuitousness is here an essential component of happiness. I t is just
in this externality, in this innocent, unburdened, harmonious
conjunction of the individual with something in the world, that pleasure
consists. I n the historical situation of individuals up to the present, it is
not what reason has achieved nor what the soul experiences that can be
called happiness (f or these are necessarily tainted with unhappiness). To
the contrary, only ‘externalized’ pleasure, i.e. sensuality, can be called
happiness. I n reif ied social relationships, sensuality, and not reason, is
the ‘organ’ of happiness.
I n the antithesis of reason and sensuality (or sensuousness), as it has
been worked out in the development of philosophy, sensuality has
increasingly acquired the character of a lower, baser human f aculty, a
realm lying on this side of true and f alse and of correct and incorrect, a
region of dull, undiscriminating instincts. Only in epistemology has the
connection between sensuousness and truth been preserved. Here the
decisive aspect of sensuality has been retained: receptivity that is open
and that opens itself (to experience). This quality contradicts sensuality’s
allegedly dull instinctual character. Precisely through this receptivity, this
N egat i ons
open abandon t o object s (men and t hings), sensualit y can become a
source of happiness. For in it , in complet e immediacy, t he individual’s
isolation is overcome. Objects can occur t o him here wit hout t heir
essent ial mediat ion t hrough t he social lif e process and, consequent ly,
wit hout t heir unhappy side becoming constitutive of pleasure. I n the
process of knowledge, in reason, quit e t he reverse holds. Here t he
individual’s spontaneity necessarily comes up against t he object as
against somet hing f oreign. Reason must overcome t he lat t er qualit y and
comprehend t he object in it s essence, not only as it is present ed and
appears but as it has become. The met hod of reason has always been
held to be the way of attaining clarity about the origin and principle of
beings. This method implicitly ref erred t o hist ory. To be sure, hist ory
was underst ood not as real history but only transcendentally.
N evert heless, t hat process of comprehension wort hy of t he t it le of
reason absorbed enough of t he mut ability, the insecurity, the conf licts,
and suf f ering of realit y t o make t he applicat ion of t he t erm ‘pleasure’
appear f alse in t his realm. When Plat o and Arist ot le connect ed reason
wit h pleasure, t hey did not est ablish reason as one of (or t he best of ) t he
individual pleasures in t he sense of t he hedonist s. Rat her, reason
appears as the highest human potentiality and theref ore, necessarily, as
t he highest human pleasure. Here, in the f ight against hedonism, the
concept of pleasure is t aken out of t he sphere t o which t he hedonist s
had relegated it and held up in opposition to this entire sphere.
The sit uat ion is dif f erent when, as in t he case of Epicurus, reason is
made a pleasure or pleasure is made reasonable wit hin hedonism it self .
This gives rise to that ideal of the satisf ied sage in which both pleasure
as well as reason have lost t heir meaning. The sage, t hen, would be t he
person whose reason and whose pleasure never go t oo f ar. They never
are f ollowed t hrough t o t he end because, if t hey were, t hey would come
upon knowledge t hat negat es enjoyment . The sage’s reason would be so
limited f rom the start that it would only be occupied with the
calculat ion of risks and wit h t he psychic technique of extracting the best
f rom everyt hing. Such reason has abdicated its claim to truth. I t appears
only as subjective cunning and private expertise, calmly acquiescing in
t he persist ence of general unreason and enjoying not so much what is
allotted or occurs to it as itself .
Hedonism embodies a correct judgment about societ y. That t he
recept ivit y of sensualit y and not t he spont aneit y of reason is t he source
of happiness result s f rom ant agonist ic work relations. They are the real
O n H edoni sm
f orm of the attained level of human reason. I t is in them that the extent
of possible f reedom and possible happiness is decided. I f this f orm is
one in which the productive f orces are disposed of in the interest of the
smallest social groups, in which the majority of men are separated f rom
the means of production, and in which labor is perf ormed not in
accordance with the capacities and needs of individuals but according to
the requirements of the process of prof itable production, then
happiness cannot be general within it. Happiness is restricted to the
sphere of consumption. Radical hedonism was f ormulated in the ancient
world and draws a moral conclusion f rom the slave economy. Labor
and happiness are essentially separated. They belong to dif f erent modes
of existence. Some men are slaves in their essence, others are f ree men.
I n the modern epoch the principle of labor has become general.
Everyone is supposed to work and everyone is supposed to be rewarded
in accordance with his work. But since the distribution of social labor
proceeds according to the opaque necessity of the capitalist law of
value, no rational relation is established between production and
consumption, between labor and enjoyment. Gratif ication occurs as a
contingency that is to be accepted. Reason rules only behind the backs
of individuals in the reproduction of the whole that takes place despite
anarchy. For the individual in pursuit of his own interests, reason’s role
is at most a personal calculation in choosing among given possibilities.
And it is in this atrophied f orm that reason depreciated to the idea of
the sage. I f reason cannot be ef f ective in the process of production as
f ree communal decision about the state of human existence (within
specif ic historical and natural conditions), then it can certainly not be
ef f ective in the process of consumption.
The restriction of happiness to the sphere of consumption, which
appears separated f rom the process of production, stabilizes the
particularity and the subjectivity of happiness in a society in which
rational unity of the process of production and consumption, of labor
and enjoyment, has not been brought about. The rejection by idealistic
ethics of hedonism just because of the latter’s essential particularity and
subjectivity is f ounded upon a justif ied criticism: D oes not happiness,
with its immanent demand f or increase and permanence, require that,
within happiness itself , the isolation of individuals, the reif ication of
human relations, and the contingency of gratif ication be done away
wit h? Must not happiness become compatible with truth? On the other
hand, none other than isolation, reif ication, and contingency have been
N egat i ons
t he dimensions of happiness in previous society. Hedonism, theref ore,
has been right precisely in it s f alsehood insof ar as it has preserved t he
demand f or happiness against every idealizat ion of unhappiness. The
t rut h of hedonism would be it s abolit ion by and preservat ion in a new
principle of social organizat ion, not in a dif f erent philosophical
Philosophy has at t empt ed in various ways t o save t he object ivit y of
happiness and t o comprehend it under t he cat egory of t rut h and
universality. Such attempts are to be f ound in ancient eudaemonism, in
t he Cat holic philosophy of t he Middle Ages, in humanism, and in t he
French Enlight enment . I f inquiry into the possible objectivity of
happiness is not ext ended t o t he st ruct ure of t he social organizat ion of
humanit y, it s result is bound t o run aground on social cont radict ions.
I nasmuch, however, as t he philosophical crit ique at least ref ers
decisively t o t he hist orical problem at hand as a t ask of hist orical
practice, we shall discuss in what f ollows the f irst and most important
cont roversy wit h hedonism.
Plat o’s crit ique of hedonism (on t wo dif f erent levels in t he G or gi as
and Phi l ebus) worked out f or the f irst time t he concept of t rue and f alse
want s and t rue and f alse pleasure. Here t rut h and f alsehood are
cat egories t hat are supposed t o be applicable to every individual
pleasure. The critique takes its depart ure f rom t he essent ial conjunct ion
of pleasure and pain. Every pleasure is connect ed wit h pain, since
pleasure is the removal and f ulf illment of a want (lack, privation) that as
such is f elt as painf ul. Pleasure, t heref ore, cannot be ‘the good’ or
happiness, because it cont ains it s own opposit e: unless it were possible
t o f ind an ‘unmixed’ pleasure, one essent ially separat ed f rom pain. I n
t he Phi l ebus (51b f f .) what remains as unmixed, t rue pleasure is in t he last
analysis only pleasure in lines, sounds, and colors that are ‘beautif ul in
themselves’, in other words, enjoyment released f rom all painf ul desire
and rest rict ed t o inorganic object s. This enjoyment is obviously t oo
empt y t o be happiness. D esignat ing inorganic entities as the object of
pure pleasure shows decisively t hat in the given f orm of existential
relations true pleasure is not only separat ed f rom t he soul, which, as t he
seat of desire and longing, is necessarily also t he source of pain, but is
also separat ed f rom all essent ial personal relat ionships. Unmixed
pleasure is t o be had only in t hose t hings which are most removed f rom
the social lif e process. The receptivit y of open abandonment t o t he
object of enjoyment , which Plat o recognizes as t he precondit ion of
O n H edoni sm
pleasure, remains only in complete externality, in which all essential
relations between man and man are silenced. Happiness is thus situated
at the antipode of internalization and inwardness.
Plato’s earlier solution of the problem of true pleasure takes another
direction. I n the G or gi as he proceeds directly to the question of the
social order within which the individual is to f ulf ill himself . This order
itself as the highest norm against which individual pleasures are to be
measured is not a subject of discussion; it is accepted in its given f orm.
Bad wants and bad pleasures are those which destroy the just order of
the soul and which prevent the individual f rom attaining his true
potentialities. I t is the community, however, within which individuals
live and through which alone “ the heavens and the earth, gods and men
are bound together” (508a) that decides these potentialities and thus the
truth and f alsehood of wants and pleasures. The concept of the order of
the soul turns into that of the order of the community and the concept
of the individually ‘just’ into that of justice (504). Whether the
individuals enjoy the right pleasure depends on the right ordering of the
polis. The generality of happiness is posed as a problem. Only those
wants may be satisf ied which make the individual a good citizen. They
are true wants, and the pleasure associated with their gratif ication is true
pleasure. The others are not to be f ulf illed. I t is the task of the
statesman to look af ter the general interest and to bring the satisf action
of particular interests into accord with it. The possibility of such
harmony, the authentic social questi on, is not pursued f urther in the
G or gi as (although the critique of major Greek statesmen at least suggests
social criticism).
I nasmuch as true and f alse pleasure are contraposed, happiness is
subjected to the criterion of truth. I f human existence is to come in
pleasure to its highest f ulf illment, to f elicity, then not every sensation of
pleasure can in itself be happiness. Plato’s critique of hedonism traces
the givens of wants and of pleasures back to the individuals who ‘have’
them. This conceptual regress is made necessary by the f act that both
the sick and the healthy, the good and the bad, the crazy and the normal
f eel pleasure in like manner (at least with respect to the f act of
What is common to all of these cannot be the highest. There
must be a truth of happiness on the basis of which the happiness of the
individual can be judged. Pleasure must be susceptible to distinction
according to truth and f alsehood and to justice and injustice if (in case
pleasure is happiness) the happiness of men is not to be inseparably
N egat i ons
associated with unhappiness. The basis of such a distinction, however,
cannot lie in the individual sensation of pleasure as such, f or both the
sick and the healthy and the bad and the good f eel real pleasure.
N evertheless, just as an idea can be f alse even though it be a real idea, so
too a pleasure can be f alse without the reality of the sensation of
pleasure being denied (Phi l ebus 36). This is more than a mere analogy.
Here a cognitive f unction in the strictest sense is attributed to pleasure,
f or it reveals beings as objects of enjoyment. On the basis of its
‘intentional’ character, pleasure is thus made accessible to the question
of truth. A pleasure is untrue when the object that it intends is not ‘in
itself ’ pleasurable (according to the exposition of the Phi l ebus, when it
can only be encountered mixed with pain). But the question of truth
does not regard only the object but also the subject of pleasure. This is
made possible through Plato’s interpretation of pleasure as belonging
not merely to sensuousness (aesthesis) alone but also to the psyche
(Phi l ebus 33f .). Psychic f orces (such as desire, expectation, memory) are
necessary f or every sensation of pleasure, so that in pleasure the whole
man is involved. With respect to the latter the question of truth arrives
at the same point that had been reached in the G or gi as: that ‘good’ men
have true pleasure and ‘bad’ men have f alse pleasure (Phi l ebus 40b, c).
The essential connection of the good of man with the truth of
pleasure at which Plato’s discussion of hedonism arrives makes of
pleasure a moral problem. For it is the concrete f orm of the
‘community’ that ultimately decides on this connection. Pleasure is
subject to the claim of society and enters the realm of duty – duty to
oneself and to others. The truth of the particular interest and its
gratif ication is determined by the truth of the general interest. The
agreement of the two is not immediate. Rather, it is mediated through
the subjection of the particular to the requirements of generality. Within
a society that requires morality (as an objective, general code of ethics
opposed to the subjective wants and interests of individuals) f or its
existence, an amoral attitude is intolerable, f or the latter destroys the
bases of communal order. The amoral man violates the law of a society
that, even if in a bad f orm, guarantees the preservation of social lif e. He
does so, f urthermore, without linking himself to a better, true society.
For he remains in the given, ‘corrupted’ structure of instincts and wants.
Morality is the expression of the antagonism between the particular and
the general interest. I t is the code of those demands which are a matter
of lif e and death f or the society’s self -preservation.
I nsof ar as
O n H edoni sm
particular interests are not really incorporated into and f ulf illed in the
society, such demands appear to the individual as commands coming
f rom outside himself . I f lef t to itself , pleasure as the immediate
gratif ication of the merely particular interest must come into conf lict
with the interest of the hypostatized social community. I n contrast to
the isolated individual, society represents what is historically right. I t
demands the repression of all pleasure that violates the decisive social
taboo. I t f orbids the satisf action of those wants which would shatter the
f oundations of the established order.
The moralization of pleasure is called f or by the existence of
antagonistic society. I t is the historical f orm in which this society unites
the satisf action of particular wants and instincts with the general
interest, and it has had a progressive f unction in the development of the
social labor process.
The hedonistic protest of the individual who is
isolated in his particular interest is amoral. The amoral, beyond-good-
and-evil attitude can be progressive only within a historical practice that
leads beyond the already attained f orm of this process and f ights f or a
new, true community against the established one. Only then does this
attitude represent more than a merely particular interest. I solated f rom
the historical struggle f or a better organization of the conditions of lif e,
in which the individual has to engage himself in concrete social groups
and tasks and thus gives up his amorality, amoral thought and action
can, of course, escape f rom morality (if its subject is economically
independent enough). But the ruling social law maintains its power over
the amoral individual both in his wants and in the objects of their
satisf action. They originated under this law, and only the latter’s
transf ormation could overcome morality. Amoral rebellion, however,
stops short of this decisive sphere. I t wants to avoid morality as well as
its social basis within the given order. D odging the latter’s
contradictions, this amoral rebellion really remains beyond good and
evil. I t puts itself beyond the bounds of even that morality which links
the established order with a more rational and happy society.
The attempt to save the objectivity of happiness, expressed f or the
f irst time in Plato’s critique of hedonism, takes two directions in the
advance toward an objective f ormulation of the concept of happiness.
On the one hand, the gratif ication of the individual, his best possible
existence, is measured against the ‘essence of man’ in such a way that
the highest potentialities open to man in his historical situation take
precedence in development and gratif ication over all others in which
N egat i ons
man is not f ree but rat her dependent on what is ‘ext ernal’. On t he ot her
hand, t he essence of man can develop only wit hin societ y, whose act ual
organizat ion part icipat es in det ermining t he realizat ion of t hose
pot ent ialit ies and t heref ore also det ermines happiness. I n Plat onic and
Arist ot elian et hics bot h aspect s, t he personal and t he social, are st ill
joined. I n t he et hics of t he modern period, in t he f orm in which t hey
have become prevalent since t he Ref ormat ion, societ y is t o a great
ext ent relieved of responsibilit y f or human pot ent ialit ies. The lat t er are
supposed t o subsist exclusively in t he individual himself , in his
aut onomy. The uncondit ioned f reedom of t he person becomes t he
measure of t he ‘highest good’. Since, however, t his f reedom is only
abst ract in t he real world and coexist s with social unf reedom and
unhappiness, it becomes, in idealist et hics, programmat ically separat ed
f rom happiness. The lat t er increasingly t akes on t he charact er of
irrat ional, bodily grat if icat ion, of mere enjoyment and t heref ore of
inf eriorit y:
… reason can never be persuaded t hat t he exist ence of a man who
merely lives f or enjoyment … has a worth in itself … Only through
what he does wit hout ref erence t o enjoyment , in f ull f reedom and
independent ly of what nat ure can procure f or him passively, does he
give an absolut e wort h t o his being, as t he exist ence of a person; and
happiness, wit h t he whole abundance of it s pleasures, is f ar f rom being
an uncondit ioned good.

The duress of t he disciplining process of modern societ y comes t o
expression: t he happiness of t he individual is at best a wort hless
accident of his lif e. I n t he det erminat ion of t he highest good, happiness
is complet ely subordinat ed t o virt ue. Happiness may be only t he
‘morally condit ioned alt hough necessary consequence’ of moralit y. A
‘necessary connect ion’ bet ween t he et hics of convict ion and happiness
becomes possible only t hrough t he assumpt ion of a “ purely int ellect ual
det ermining principle” of human act ion and of an “ int elligible aut hor of
nat ure” .
The harmony of virt ue and happiness belongs t o t hose
beaut if ul relat ions f or whose realizat ion t he world beyond is necessary.
The uncondit ional manner, however, in which German idealism
adhered t o t he principle of f reedom as t he condit ion of t he highest
good serves t o emphasize more t han ever t he inner connect ion bet ween
happiness and f reedom. The concret e f orm of human f reedom
det ermines t he f orm of human happiness. Comprehension of t he
O n H edoni sm
connection between happiness and f reedom was already expressed in
the ancient critique of hedonism. Happiness, as the f ulf illment of all
potentialities of the individual, presupposes f reedom: at root, it is
f reedom. Conceptual analysis reveals them to be ultimately identical.
Because f reedom does not reign in the material conditions of the
external world, because there happiness and contingency are almost
identical, and because on the other hand the individual’s f reedom was
maintained as a condition of the ‘highest good’, f elicity could not be
made to reside in the external world. This motive is at work in Platonic
and Aristotelian ethics. I n the moral critique of the bourgeois period,
too, hedonism is rejected f rom the standpoint of the concept of
Freedom. K ant rejected the principle of pleasure as something merely
contingent which contradicted the autonomy of the person. And Fichte
called pleasure essentially ‘involuntary’ since it presupposes an
agreement of the ‘external world’ with the instincts and wants of the
subject, whose realization does not f all within the range of the subject’s
f reedom. I n the happiness of pleasure, the individual is thus ‘alienated
f rom himself ’.
This position presupposes that the subject’s unf reedom
in relation to the good things of the external world cannot be abolished
and that the f ree person is theref ore necessarily debased if his happiness
is located in this relation. For the ancient critique the highest good was
still supposed really to be the highest happiness. But now f actual
unf reedom is ontologized, and both f reedom and happiness are so
internalized that in the process happiness is excluded. The attempt to
include happiness in the autonomous development of the person is
abandoned, and a virtue is made out of the abstract f reedom that
accompanies social unf reedom.
The gratif ication of instincts and wants f alls into ill repute; in any
case, it lies beneath the human sphere with which philosophy is to
concern itself . Moral commands can be f ollowed without one’s wants
having been f ulf illed to more than the physiological minimum; with this
proposition, to be sure, a decisive achievement of modern society
receives philosophical recognition. Man educated to internalization will
not be easily induced, even under extreme wretchedness and injustice,
to struggle against the established order.
I n the moral concept of the highest good an untruth of hedonism is
supposed to be eliminated: the mere subjectivity of happiness.
Happiness remains an ‘element’ of the highest good, but it stays subject
to the universality of the moral law. This law is a law of reason:
N egat i ons
happiness is linked to knowledge and taken out of the dimension of
mere f eeling. Real happiness presupposes knowledge of the truth: that
men know what they can attain as the highest potential of their
existence, that they know their true interest. I ndividuals can f eel happy
and yet not be happy, because they do not even know real happiness.
How, though, is one to judge of the reality of happiness? What is the
criterion of its truth? I n the ancient critique of hedonism this question
became the political question of the right organization of the polis. The
Christian ethics of the Middle Ages saw the answer to it in divine
justice. The rigoristic morality of the bourgeois period made f reedom
the criterion of truth. But this was def ined as the abstract f reedom of
the rational being and, in contrast to it, happiness remained external and
contingent. The moral interpretation of happiness, its subjection to a
universal law of reason, tolerated both the essential isolation of the
autonomous person and his actual limitation.
Critical theory
comes to the question of the truth and universality
of happiness in the elucidation of the concepts with which it seeks to
determine the rational f orm of society. One of these determinations
circumscribing the association of f ree men contains the explicit demand
that each individual share in the social product according to his needs.
With the comprehensive development of individuals and of the
productive f orces, society can inscribe on its banner, ‘From each
according to his abilities, to each according to his needs’. Here
reappears the old hedonistic def inition which seeks happiness in the
comprehensive gratif ication of needs and wants. The needs and wants
to be gratif ied should become the regulating principle of the labor
process. But the wants of liberated men and the enjoyment of their
satisf action will have a dif f erent f orm f rom wants and satisf action in a
state of unf reedom, even if they are physiologically the same. I n a social
organization that opposes atomized individuals to one another in classes
and leaves their particular f reedom to the mechanism of an uncontrolled
economic system, unf reedom is already operative in the needs and
wants themselves: how much more so in enjoyment. The way want and
enjoyment appear here, they do not even require general f reedom. The
development of the productive f orces, the growing domination of
nature, the extension and ref inement of the production of commodities,
money, and universal reif ication have created, along with new needs,
new possibilities f or enjoyment. But these given possibilities f or
enjoyment conf ront men who objectively, due to their economic status,
O n H edoni sm
as well as subjectively, due to their education and disciplining, are largely
incapable of enjoyment. From the discrepancy between what exist as
objects of possible enjoyment and the way in which these objects are
understood, taken, and used arises the question of the truth of the
condition of happiness in this society. Acts intending enjoyment do not
achieve the f ulf illment of their own intention; even when they f ulf ill
themselves, they remain untrue.
Enjoyment is an attitude or mode of conduct toward things and
human beings. The f ormer, unless they have been made generally
available by nature or by social regulation, are commodities accessible to
corresponding purchasing power. For the great majority of humanity,
only the very cheapest portion of these commodities is available. They
become objects of enjoyment as commodities, and their origin is
preserved within them – even enjoyment has a class character. The
cheap is not as good as the dear. Precisely insof ar as they lie outside the
labor process, relations between men are essentially relations between
members of the same class. For the majority, one’s partner in pleasure
will also be one’s partner in the poverty of the same class. These
conditions of lif e are a paltry showplace f or happiness. The continual
pressure under which the great masses must be kept f or the
reproduction of this society has only been augmented by the
monopolistic accumulation of wealth. Any growth of enjoyment would
endanger necessary discipline and make dif f icult the punctual and
reliable coordination of the masses who keep the apparatus of the whole
in operation. The economic regulation of enjoyment is supplemented by
the police and the administration of justice. Pleasure wants essentially its
own augmentation and ref inement. The unf olding of the personality
must not be merely spiritual. I ndustrial society has dif f erentiated and
intensif ied the objective world in such a manner that only an extremely
dif f erentiated and intensif ied sensuality can respond adequately to it.
Modern technology contains all the means necessary to extract f rom
things and bodies their mobility, beauty, and sof tness in order to bring
them closer and make them available. Both the wants corresponding to
these potentialities and the sensual organs through which they can be
assimilated have been developed. What man can perceive, f eel, and do
in the midst of advanced civilization corresponds to the newly opened-
up wealth of the world. But only those groups with the greatest
purchasing power can take advantage of the expanded capacities and
their gratif ication. The development of sensuality is only one part of the
N egat i ons
development of the productive f orces: the need to f etter them is rooted
in the antagonistic social system within which this development has
taken place. There are many ways in which the ruled strata can be
educated to diversion and substitute gratif ication. Here sports and a
wide variety of permitted popular entertainment f ulf ill their historical
f unction. I n authoritarian states sadistic terror against enemies of the
regime has f ound unf oreseen modes of organized discharge. At the
movies the common man can regularly participate in the glamour of the
world of the stars and yet be aware at the same time that it is only a f ilm
and that there, too, there is splendor, bitterness, trouble, guilt,
atonement, and the triumph of the good. The labor process, in which
the laborer’s organs atrophy and are coarsened, guarantees that the
sensuousness of the lower strata does not develop beyond the
technically necessary minimum. What is allowed beyond this as
immediate enjoyment is circumscribed by the penal code.
I t is not only the masses, however, in whom enjoyment cannot
achieve the f ulf illment of all subjective and objective potentialities, as it
intends. Where the prevailing social relationship is the relation of men
to one another as owners of commodities and where the value of every
commodity is determined by the abstract labor time applied to it,
enjoyment has no value in itself . For all that it is in this society, it is in
separation f rom labor. I n enjoyment the individual expends no labor
power, nor does he reproduce labor power. He behaves as and
acknowledges himself to be a private person. When value, the standard
of the equity of exchange, is created only by abstract labor, then
pleasure may not be a value. For if it were, social justice would be called
into question. I ndeed, it would reveal itself as striking injustice. The
legitimation of pleasure as a value would, in f act, invert what is ‘all the
news that’s f it to print’.
For every modern man the value of a thing is the value of the labor that
was necessary to produce it. Value is thus coated with the laborer’s
sweat, which pastes up the f laming sword that separates culture f rom
paradise. I t is dangerous to associate conceptually pleasure and pain
with value. For the question then arises whether those who produce
values have more pleasure or more pain. And one could come upon the
thought that value may be in inverse proportion to pleasure.

O n H edoni sm
The danger of this conceptual association was recognized as early as at
the origins of bourgeois society. The worthlessness of mere pleasure
was inculcated by all means into the consciousness of individuals.
N owhere does t he connect ion bet ween t he devaluat ion of
enjoyment and its social justif ication manif est itself as clearly as in the
interpretation of sexual pleasure. The latter – pragmatically or morally –
is rationalized and appears as a mere means to an end lying outside of
itself , in the service of a smooth subordination of the individual to the
established f orm of the labor process. As a hygienic value sexual
pleasure is supposed to contribute t o physical and ment al healt h, which
promot es t he normal f unct ioning of man within the given order.
According to Spinoza, ‘sensual pleasure’ may only ‘be sought as means’,
and above all as hygienic means. We may “ indulge ourselves with
pleasures only insof ar as they are necessary f or preserving health” .

Leibniz declares that “ voluptuousness of the senses must be used,
according t o t he rules of reason, as a nourishment , medicat ion, or
tonic” .
Fichte brings sexuality into immediate conjunction with the
renovation of the social labor process:
The real station, the honor and worth of the human being, and quite
particularly of man in his morally natural existence, consists without
doubt in his capacity as original progenitor to produce out of himself
new men, new commanders of nature: beyond his earthly existence and
f or all eternity to establish new masters of nature…. I t would
consequently be absolute dishonor, the abnegation of authentic human
and manly honor, if the capacity bestowed f or the exercise of that
privilege were made into a means of sensual pleasure. What is above all
of nature and intended to reproduce dominion over her would become
secondary and subject to one of nature’s urges: pleasure…. [This
absolute worthlessness is] lewdness – the use of the f aculty of
generation f or mere pleasure, without intending its purpose or
consciously willing it.

Only when sexual relations are placed under the express purpose of the
product ion of new labor power f or t he process of the social domination
of nature is their enjoyment worthy of a human being and sanct ioned.
Later representatives of idealist ethics turned away f rom such f rankness.
Hermann Cohen considers t he mere procreation of men an ‘animalistic’
process and demands t he purif icat ion of sexual pleasure by means of a
truly ethical purpose. Only in love based on f idelity is sexual intercourse
N egat i ons
raised to the sphere of morality, making ‘sexual love’ into a
“ characteristic of the pure will to the f ormation of ethical self -
consciousness” .
I n the authoritarian phase of the bourgeois order, the
attachment of love to the f orm of marriage comes into open
contradiction to the state’s need of a strong military and economic
reserve army. The ‘experience of love’ is ‘not unconditionally bound to
marriage’. But love should be “ the presupposition and condition of
marriage and of childbearing in marriage” . Not the begetting of children
as such, but the procreation of industrious and usef ul children is
decisive. “ Racial hygiene, social anthropology, and other medical-
anthropological disciplines [give consideration] in a very meritorious
way to valuable aspects even of human procreation.”

The unpurif ied, unrationalized release of sexual relationships would
be the strongest release of enjoyment as such and the total devaluation
of labor f or its own sake. No human being could tolerate the tension
between labor as valuable in itself and the f reedom of enjoyment. The
dreariness and injustice of work conditions would penetrate explosively
the consciousness of individuals and make impossible their peacef ul
subordination to the social system of the bourgeois world.
The f unction of labor within this society determines its attitude with
respect to enjoyment. The latter may not be meaningf ul in itself or
remain unrationalized. I nstead it must receive its value f rom elsewhere.
“ Pleasure … and pain are withdrawn f rom any justif ication or
motivation by the will to labor; rather, they provide this will with the
stimulus to labor” , which would then be subsumed under the principle
of the satisf action of wants. “ Hedonism is the limit of a self -justif ication
of the will to labor”
and contradicts the basic interest of the
established order. The internalization and spiritualization by means of
which enjoyment is ref ined to the level of culture, which helps
reproduce the whole and thus proves its social value, is subject to this
conviction. For the immediate producer the restriction of enjoyment
operates immediately, without any moral mediation, through the
working day, which leaves only a brief period of ‘leisure time’ f or
enjoyment and puts it in the service of relaxation and the recreation of
energy or labor power. The usuf ructuaries of the labor process are
af f ected by the same valuation. That their enjoyment consists of doing
and having what actually produces no value, creates a kind of social guilt
f eeling that leads to a rationalization of enjoyment. As representation,
relaxation, and display of the splendor of those who are on top and bear
O n H edoni sm
t he great est responsibilit y, t his enjoyment is discharged almost as a
burden or dut y.
The creat ion of social guilt f eeling is a decisive achievement of
educat ion. The prevailing law of value is mirrored in t he cont inually
renewed convict ion t hat everyone, lef t completely to himself , must earn
a living in t he general compet it ive st ruggle, if only in order t o be
enabled t o cont inue t o earn it in t he f ut ure, and t hat everyone is
rewarded in proport ion t o t he labor power he has expended. Happiness,
however, cannot be earned in t his f ashion. The goal of labor is not
supposed t o be happiness, and it s remunerat ion is not enjoyment but
prof it or wages, i.e. the possibility of working more in t he f ut ure. For
t he perpet uat ion of t his labor process, t hose inst inct s and want s which
could undermine t he normal relat ion of labor and enjoyment (as t he
ext ent of t he absence of labor) and t he inst it ut ions t hat secure it (such
as the f amily or marriage) must be divert ed or repressed. This diversion
and repression is not always linked t o cult ural progress. Many inst inct s
and want s f irst become f alse and destruct ive due t o t he f alse f orms int o
which t heir sat isf act ion is channeled, while t he at t ained level of
object ive development would permit t heir t rue grat if icat ion – t rue
because t hey could f ulf ill t hemselves in t heir original int ent ion of
‘unmixed’ pleasure. Such are t he repressed cruelt y t hat leads t o sadist ic
t error and t he repressed self -abandon t hat leads t o masochist ic
subject ion. I n t heir aut hent ic int ent ion as f orms of t he sexual inst inct
t hey can result in augment ed pleasure not only f or t he subject but f or
t he object as well. They are t hen no longer connect ed wit h
dest ruct ion.
But precisely t he increased dif f erent iat ion of pleasure is
int olerable in a societ y t hat requires such want s t o be grat if ied in a
repressed f orm. Augment ed pleasure would represent immediat ely
increased liberat ion of t he individual, f or it would demand f reedom in
t he choice of object , in t he knowledge and in t he realizat ion of his
pot ent ialit ies, and f reedom of t ime and of place. All t hese demands
violat e t he law of lif e of t he est ablished societ y. The t aboo on pleasure
has been most st ubbornly maint ained due t o t he innermost connect ion
of happiness and f reedom. This t aboo has ext ended f ar int o t he ranks of
t he hist orical opposit ion t o t he given order, dist ort ing t he problem and
it s solut ions.

The designat ion of happiness as t he condit ion of t he comprehensive
grat if icat ion of t he individual’s needs and want s is abst ract and incorrect
as long as it accept s needs and want s as ult imat e dat a in t heir present
N egat i ons
f orm. For as such t hey are beyond neit her good and evil nor t rue and
f alse. As hist orical f act s t hey are subject t o quest ioning as t o t heir ‘right ’:
Are t hey of such a sort t hat t heir grat if icat ion can f ulf ill t he subject ive
and object ive pot ent ialit ies of individuals? For many f orms of want
charact erist ic of t he prevailing human condit ion, t his quest ion would
have t o be answered in t he negat ive in view of t he already at t ained st age
of social development . For t he lat t er makes possible a t ruer happiness
t han t hat which men at t ain f or t hemselves t oday. Pleasure in t he
abasement of anot her as well as self -abasement under a st ronger will,
pleasure in t he manif old surrogat es f or sexualit y, in meaningless
sacrif ices, in t he heroism of war are f alse pleasures because t he drives
and needs t hat f ulf ill t hemselves in t hem make men less f ree, blinder,
and more wret ched t han t hey have t o be. They are t he drives and needs
of individuals who were raised in an ant agonist ic societ y. To t he ext ent
t o which t hey do not complet ely disappear in a new f orm of social
organizat ion, modes of t heir grat if icat ion are conceivable in which t he
most ext reme pot ent ialit ies of men can really unf old happiness. This
liberat ion of pot ent ialit ies is a mat t er of social pract ice. What men, wit h
t heir developed sensuous and psychic organs and t he wealt h creat ed by
t heir work, can undert ake t o at t ain t he highest measure of happiness
rest s wit h t his pract ice. Underst ood in t his way, happiness can no longer
or in any way be merely subject ive: it ent ers t he realm of men’s
communal t hought and act ion.
Where societ y ut ilizes t he developed product ive f orces only in
f et t ered f orm, it is not just t he grat if icat ions but t he very want s
t hemselves t hat are f alsif ied. I nsof ar as t hey ext end beyond t he
subsist ence minimum, t hey come t o expression only in proport ion t o
t heir ef f ect ive demand. Class sit uat ion, especially t he sit uat ion of t he
individual in t he labor process, is act ive in t hem, f or t his sit uat ion has
f ormed t he (bodily and spirit ual) organs and capacit ies of men and t he
horizon of t heir demands. Since t hese appear as want s only in t heir
st unt ed f orm, wit h all t heir repressions, renunciat ions, adapt at ions, and
rat ionalizat ions, t hey can normally be sat isf ied wit hin t he given social
f ramework. Because t hey are t hemselves already unf ree, t he f alse
happiness of t heir f ulf illment is possible in unf reedom.
I n crit ical t heory, t he concept of happiness has been f reed f rom any
t ies wit h bourgeois conf ormism and relat ivism. I nst ead, it has become a
part of general, object ive t rut h, valid f or all individuals insof ar as all
t heir int erest s are preserved in it . Only in view of t he hist orical
O n H edoni sm
possibilit y of general f reedom is it meaningf ul t o designat e as unt rue
even act ual, really perceived happiness in t he previous and present
condit ions of exist ence. I t is t he individual’s interest that expresses itself
in his want s, and t heir grat if icat ion corresponds t o t his int erest . That
t here is any happiness at all in a societ y governed by blind laws is a
blessing. Through t his happiness, t he individual in t his societ y can f eel
secure and prot ect ed f rom ult imat e desperation. Rigoristic morality sins
against t he cheerless f orm in which humanit y has survived. All
hedonism is right in opposing it . Only t oday, at t he highest st age of
development of t he est ablished order, when t he object ive f orces making
f or a higher order of humanit y have become mat ure, and only in
connect ion wit h t he t heory and pract ice linked t o such a t ransf ormat ion,
may t he crit ique of t he t ot alit y of t he est ablished order also t ake as it s
object t he happiness t hat t his order provides. I t appears t hat individuals
raised t o be int egrat ed int o t he ant agonist ic labor process cannot be
judges of t heir own happiness. They have been prevent ed f rom
knowing t heir t rue int erest . Thus it is possible f or t hem t o designat e
t heir condit ion as happy and, wit hout ext ernal compulsion, embrace t he
syst em t hat oppresses t hem. The result s of modern plebiscit es prove
t hat men separat ed f rom possible t ruth can he brought t o vot e against
t hemselves. As long as individuals see t heir int erest only as get t ing along
wit hin t he given order, such plebiscit es pose no problems f or t he
aut horit arian apparat us. Terror merely supplement s t he delusions of t he
governed. Appeal to interest is untrue.
I n view of t he possibilit y of a happier real st at e of humanit y t he
int erest of t he individual is no longer an ult imat e dat um. There are t rue
and f alse int erest s even wit h regard to the individual. His f actual,
immediate interest is not in itself his true interest. I t is not as though the
t rue int erest were t hat which demanded, on t he grounds of lesser risk
and great er chance of enjoyment , t he sacrif ice of an immediate interest.
Such calculat ion of happiness st ays wit hin t he general f ramework of
f alse int erest and can at best f acilit at e t he choice of t he bet t er f alse
happiness. I t cannot be in t he t rue int erest of t he individual t o want his
own and ot hers’ vit iat ion – not even in t he t rue int erest of t hose whose
power can only be maint ained at t he cost of such vit iat ion. At t he
at t ained level of development power can no longer enjoy t he world
which it dominat es. For if it were t o cease working and cont inually
renewing t he bloody and dest ruct ive process of it s mere reproduct ion, it
N egat i ons
would be instantly lost. Even the powers that be have something to
That the true interest of individuals is the interest of f reedom, that
true individual f reedom can coexist with real general f reedom and,
indeed, is possible only in conjunction with it, that happiness ultimately
consists in f reedom – these are not propositions of philosophical
anthropology about the nature of man but descriptions of a historical
situation which humanity has achieved f or itself in the struggle with
nature. The individuals whose happiness is at stake in making good use
of this situation have grown up in the school of capitalism. To the high
intensif ication and dif f erentiation of their abilities and of their world
corresponds the social shackling of this development. I nsof ar as
unf reedom is already present in wants and not just in their gratif ication,
they must be the f irst to be liberated – not through an act of education
or of the moral renewal of man but through an economic and political
process encompassing the disposal over the means of production by the
community, the reorientation of the productive process toward the
needs and wants of the whole society, the shortening of the working
day, and the active participation of the individuals in the administration
of the whole. When all present subjective and objective potentialities of
development have been unbound, the needs and wants themselves will
change. Those based on the social compulsion of repression, on
injustice, and on f ilth and poverty would necessarily disappear. There
may still be the sick, the insane, and the criminal. The realm of necessity
persists; struggle with nature and even among men continues. Thus the
reproduction of the whole will continue to be associated with privations
f or the individual. Particular interest will not coincide immediately with
true interest. The dif f erence between particular and true interest,
nevertheless, is something other than the dif f erence between particular
interest and a hypostatized general interest that suppresses the
individuals. I n his relation to an authentic general interest, the individual
would relate to truth; the demands and decisions of the whole would
then preserve the individual interest and eventually promote his
happiness. I f the true interest, f urthermore, must be represented by a
general law f orbidding specif ic wants and gratif ications, such a law will
no longer be a f ront f or the particular interest of groups that maintain
their power against the general interest through usurpation. Rather, it
will express the rational decision of f ree individuals. Having come of
age, men themselves will have to conf ront and deal with their wants.
O n H edoni sm
Their responsibility will be inf initely greater, because they will no longer
have the f alse pleasure of masochistic security in the strong protection
of a heteronomous power. The internal, real union of duty and
happiness (and not a union ef f ected in the world beyond), which idealist
ethics had doubted, is possible only in f reedom. This was K ant’s
intention when he f ounded the concept of duty on the autonomy of the
person. Through its limitation to the f reedom of the pure will,
autonomy limits itself in f avor of a social order that it could only admit
in an abstract f orm.
I f individuals, having attained majority, reject particular wants or a
particular pleasure as bad, this would occur on the basis of the
autonomous recognition of their true interest: the preservation of
general f reedom. Consequently it would occur in the interest of
happiness itself , which can only exist in general f reedom as the
f ulf illment of all developed potentialit ies. I t was the ancient desideratum
of hedonism to join in thought both happiness and truth. The problem
was insoluble. For as long as an anarchic, unf ree society determined the
truth, the latter could only manif est itself either in the particular interest
of the isolated individual or in the necessities of the hypostatized
general interest, the society. I n the f irst case its f orm (generality) was
lost; in the second, its content (particularity). The truth to which the
liberated individual relates in happiness is both general and particular.
The subject is no longer isolated in its interest against others. His lif e
can be happy beyond the contingency of the moment, because his
conditions of existence are no longer determined by a labor process
which creates wealth only through the perpetuation of poverty and
privation. I nstead they are regulated through the rational self -
administration of the whole in which the subject participates actively.
The individual can relate to others as equals and to the world as his
world, no longer alienated f rom him. Mutual understanding will no
longer be permeated by unhappiness, since insight and passion will no
longer come into conf lict with a reif ied f orm of human relationship.
General happiness presupposes knowledge of the true interest: that
the social lif e-process be administered in a manner which brings into
harmony the f reedom of individuals and the preservation of the whole
on the basis of given objective historical and natural conditions. With
the development of social antagonisms the connection of happiness
with knowledge was obscured. The abstract reason of isolated
individuals is certainly powerless over a happiness abandoned to
N egat i ons
contingency. But this very social development has also brought f orth
the f orces which can once again bring about that connection. For the
immediate producers, isolating individuation has already been abolished
extensively within unf reedom: the individual has no property to
preserve that can only be enjoyed at the expense of others. His interest
drives him not to competition or into interest groups based in turn
upon competition but rather to militant solidarity. The f irst goal of
struggle is only a particular social group’s interest in better, more
humane conditions of lif e. But this particular interest cannot be pursued
without bettering and making more humane the conditions of lif e of the
whole and liberating the entire society. I n the monopolistic phase of
bourgeois society, when the preservation of the general interest on the
part of the groups f ighting f or transf ormation is obvious enough, the
ef f orts of the benef iciaries of the Establishment are directed toward
splitting that solidarity. Bureaucratization, increase of wage dif f erentials,
and immediate corruption of the workers are intended to root
contradictions even among these strata. Their true interest requires not
piecemeal change but the reconstruction of the productive process.
When this has been achieved, general reason can no longer outwit the
particular interest behind the backs of the individuals. To the contrary,
the particular interest becomes the active and cognitive f orce of the
process through which generality, embodied in the community, is
advanced. Only at this point in society is “ the truth of par t i cul ar
satisf actions … the gener al satisf action that, as happiness, the thinking
will sets itself as goal” .

Hegel pointed out that general progress comes about in history only
through particular interests, f or only particular interest can stir the
individual to the passion of historical struggle. “ The particular interest
of passion is theref ore inseparable f rom the activity of the universal; f or
it is f rom the particular and determinate and f rom its negation, that the
universal results.”
When this inseparability rests on the cunning of
reason, it entails the unhappiness of individuals. I n the passion with
which they pursue their particular interests, they wear themselves out
and are destroyed. Hegel called it a ‘horrible comf ort’ that “ historical
men have not been what is called happy” .
I f no higher f orm of
historical reason is possible than the antagonistic organization of
humanity, then this horror cannot be thought away. I t is true, of course,
that men intend not happiness but, in each case, specif ic ends whose
f ulf illment then brings happiness. I n the specif ic goals which are aimed
O n H edoni sm
at i n sol i t ary st ruggl e f or a rat i onal soci et y, happi ness i s no l onger
merel y an at t endant cont i ngency. I t i s bui l t i nt o t he very st ruct ure of t he
new order of t he condi t i ons of exi st ence t hat have been demanded.
H appi ness ceases t o be a mere subj ect i ve st at e of f eel i ng when general
concern f or t he pot ent i al i t i es of i ndi vi dual s i s ef f ect i ve at t he l evel of t he
l i berat ed needs and want s of t he subj ect s.
For H egel , t hen, t he st ruggl e f or t he hi gher general i t y, or f orm of
soci et y, of t he f ut ure becomes i n t he present t he cause of part i cul ar
i ndi vi dual s and groups, and t hi s const i t ut es t he t ragi c si t uat i on of worl d-
hi st ori cal persons. They at t ack soci al condi t i ons i n whi ch – even i f badl y
– t he l i f e of t he whol e reproduces i t sel f . They f i ght agai nst a concret e
f orm of reason wi t hout empi ri cal proof of t he pract i cabi l i t y of t he
f ut ure f orm whi ch t hey represent . They of f end agai nst t hat whi ch,
wi t hi n l i mi t s at l east , has proven t rue. Thei r rat i onal i t y necessari l y
operat es i n a part i cul ar, i rrat i onal , expl osi ve f orm, and t hei r cri t i que of
decadence and anarchy appears anarchi c and dest ruct i ve. I ndi vi dual s
who hol d so f ast t o t he I dea
t hat i t permeat es t hei r exi st ence are
unyi el di ng and st ubborn. Common sense cannot di st i ngui sh bet ween
t hem and cri mi nal s, and i n f act i n t he gi ven order t hey are cri mi nal s l i ke
Socrat es i n At hens.
Uni versal i t y and reason have become t hei r own
passi on. The f ormal i st i c conf ormi st , f or whom one want i s j ust as val i d
as anot her, knows of t hem as sel f i sh charact ers who are dangerous. H e
sees how t he cri t i que of t he appearance of f reedom i n t he present and
t he knowl edge of t he f ut ure real i t y of f reedom al ready const i t ut e t hei r
happi ness, because i n t hem t he bl unt separat i on of here and t here, t oday
and t omorrow, t he excl usi ve, def ensi ve ego-f eel i ng of bourgeoi s
exi st ence i s overcome – but he cannot underst and i t . What ever he may
say, t hey are t o hi m exal t ed, at best rel i gi ous. For of t hemsel ves, t hi nks
t he conf ormi st , peopl e have onl y t hei r own advant age i n mi nd. Thei r
paradoxi cal si t uat i on i s apparent onl y t o f ew.
Just as t he at t ai nabl e f orm of happi ness can onl y be real i zed t hrough
t he part i cul ar i nt erest of onl y t hose soci al st rat a whose l i berat i on l eads
not t o t he domi nat i on of part i cul ar i nt erest s over t he communi t y but t o
t he general l i berat i on of humani t y, t he same hol ds f or t he correct
knowl edge requi red by t hi s f orm. Thi s i nt erest requi res i t s i deol ogy as a
vei l over t he st ruct ure of t rut h i n order t o j ust i f y i t sel f as a general
i nt erest . Thi s i nt erest , by i t s very nat ure, i mpl i es t hi nki ng t o t he end al l
real i zabl e pot ent i al i t i es (whi ch i n t he bourgeoi s peri od f ound t hei r soci al
l i mi t i n t he danger of a mat eri al t ransf ormat i on of t he whol e) and
N egat i ons
keeping to the goal of their realization. The loss of correct knowledge
would entail the loss of happiness as well, f or the compulsion and
necessity of an uncontrollable situation would once again win its
contingent power over men. Freedom of knowledge is a part of real
f reedom, which can only exist together with common decision and
action on the basis of what is known to be true. The essential role of
truth f or the happiness of individuals makes the characterization of
happiness as pleasure and enjoyment appear insuf f icient. When
knowledge of truth is no longer linked to knowledge of guilt, poverty,
and injustice, it is no longer f orced to remain external to a happiness
ceded to immediate, sensual relationships. Even the most personal
human relations can be opened to happiness in a really guiltless
knowledge. Perhaps they would thereby become, in f act, that f ree
community in lif e of which idealist morality had expected the highest
unf olding of individuality. K nowledge will no longer disturb pleasure.
Perhaps it can even become pleasure, which the ancient idea of nous had
dared to see as the highest determination of knowledge. The bogey of
the unchained voluptuary who would abandon himself only to his
sensual wants is rooted in the separation of intellectual f rom material
productive f orces and the separation of the labor process f rom the
process of consumption. Overcoming this separation belongs to the
preconditions of f reedom. The development of material wants must go
together with the development of psychic and mental wants. The
organization of technology, science, and art changes with their changed
utilization and changed content. When they are no longer under the
compulsion of a system of production based on the unhappiness of the
majority, and of the pressures of rationalization, internalization, and
sublimation, then mind and spirit can only mean an augmentation of
happiness. Hedonism is both abolished and preserved in critical theory
and practice. I f f reedom prevails in the spiritual and mental side of lif e,
i.e. in culture, and if culture is no longer subject to the compulsion of
internalization, then it becomes meaningless to restrict happiness to
sensual pleasure.
The reality of happiness is the reality of f reedom as the self -
determination of liberated humanity in its common struggle with nature.
“ The truth of particular satisf actions is the gener al [al l gemei ne] satisf action
that, as happiness, the thinking will sets itself as goal.” But this
happiness is at f irst “ generality of content only as representation, as
abstraction, only as something that shoul d be” . I ts truth is “ the uni ver sal
O n H edoni sm
[al l gemei ne] determinacy of the will in itself , i.e. its own self -
determination: fr eedom” .
For idealism, f reedom was also reason: “ the
substance of ” and “ that alone which is true of spirit” .
I n their
completed f orm both, happiness and reason, coincide. Hegel did not
believe that the realization of this f orm by bringing about a new f orm of
the social organization of humanity could become the task of historical
practice. Under the title of the ‘ideal’, however, he represented
happiness as a ‘stage of world development’ that is simultaneously one
of reason and f reedom: as the abolition of the antithesis, characteristic
of the bourgeois stage of development, between individuals isolated in
their particular interests, on the one hand, and the hypostatized general
interest as the state that perpetuates itself through the sacrif ice of
individuals, on the other.
I n the ideal … particular individuality is supposed to remain precisely in
undissolved harmony with the substantial; and insof ar as the ideal
partakes of the f reedom and independence of subjectivity, to that extent
the surrounding world of conditions and developmental structures may
not possess any essential objectivity belonging to itself quite apart f rom
the subjective and the individual. For the ideal individual should be self -
contained. The objective world should still be part of what is
incontestably his and not move or develop by itself , detached f rom the
individuality of subjects. Otherwise the subject becomes merely
subordinate to a world that is complete in itself .

Industrialization and Capitalism in the Work of
Max Weber
I ndustrialization and capitalism become problematic in Max Weber’s
work in two respects: as the historical f ate of the West, and as the
contemporary f ate of the Germany created by Bismarck. As the f ate of
the West, they are the decisive realizations of that Western rationality,
that idea of reason, which Weber traces in its open and veiled,
progressive and repressive, manif estations. As the f ate of modern
Germany, these manif estations determine f or him the politics of the
Reich, primarily as the historical task of the German bourgeoisie – in
the transf ormation of the conservative-f eudal state, then in
democratization, f inally in the struggle against revolution and socialism.
I t is essentially the idea of a f atef ul connection between
industrialization, capitalism, and national self -preservation that
motivates Max Weber’s passionate and – let us be f rank – spitef ul f ight
against the socialist ef f orts of 1918. According to him, socialism
contradicts the idea of occidental reason, as well as that of the national
state; hence it is a world-historical error, if not a world-historical crime.
(We might ask what Max Weber would have said had he lived to see
that it is not the West, but the East, which, in the name of socialism, has
developed modern occidental rationality in its extreme f orm.) Whatever
capitalism may do to man, it must, according to Weber, f irst and bef ore
all evaluation, be understood as necessary reason.
Philosophical, sociological-historical, and political motives are
f undamentally connected in Weber’s analysis of industrial capitalism.
His theory of the intrinsic value-f reedom, or ethical neutrality, of
science reveals itself as that which it is in practice: an attempt to make
science ‘f ree’ to accept obligatory valuations that are imposed on it f rom
N egat i ons
t he out side. This f unct ion of Weber’s t heory of knowledge has been
clear ever since his inaugural address at Freiburg in 1895, which wit h
rut hless f rankness subordinat es value-f ree economics t o t he claims of
nat ional power polit ics. Somet ime lat er (at t he meet ing of t he V er ei n für
Sozi al pol i t i k in 1909) he himself made it as explicit as possible:
The reason why I argue on every occasion so sharply and even, perhaps,
pedant ically against t he f usion of I s and Ought is not because I
underest imat e Ought quest ions, but , on t he cont rary, because I cannot
st and it when problems of world-moving import ance, of t he great est
int ellect ual and spirit ual bearing, in a cert ain sense t he highest problems
t hat can move a human breast are t ransf ormed here int o quest ions of
t echnical-economic ‘product ivit y’ and are made int o t he t opic of
discussion of a t echnical discipline, such as economics is.

But t he Ought t hat is t hus t aken out of science (a mere ‘t echnical
discipline’) is t hereby simult aneously prot ect ed f rom science and
shielded f rom scient if ic crit icism: t he “ value of t hat ideal it self can never
be derived”
f rom t he mat erial of scient if ic work it self .
I t is precisely Max Weber’s analysis of indust rial capit alism,
however, which shows t hat t he concept of scient if ic neutralit y, or,
bet t er, impot ence, vis-à-vis t he Ought , cannot be maint ained: pure
value-f ree philosophical-sociological concept f ormat ion becomes,
t hr ough i t s own pr ocess, value crit icism. I nversely, t he pure value-f ree
scient if ic concept s reveal t he valuation t hat is cont ained in t hem: t hey
become t he crit ique of t he given, in t he light of what t he given does t o
men (and t hings). The Ought shows itself in t he I s: t he indef at igable
ef f ort of concept ual t hinking makes it appear. I n W i r t schaft und
G esel l schaft , t hat work of Max Weber which is most f ree f rom values and
where t he met hod of f ormal def init ions, classif icat ions, and t ypologies
celebrat es t rue orgies, f ormalism at t ains t he incisiveness of cont ent . This
aut hent ic concret ion is t he result of Weber’s mastery of an immense
mat erial, of scholarship t hat seems unimaginable t oday, of knowledge
t hat can af f ord t o abst ract because it can dist inguish t he essent ial f rom
t he inessent ial and realit y f rom appearance. Wit h it s abst ract concept s,
f ormal t heory reaches t he goal at which a posit ivist ic, pseudoempirical
sociology host ile t o t heory aims in vain: t he real def init ion of realit y.
The concept of indust rial capit alism t hus becomes concret e in t he
f ormal t heory of r at i onal i t y and of domi nat i on which are t he t wo
f undament al t hemes of W i r t schaft und G esel l schaft .
I ndust r i al i zat i on and C api t al i sm i n M ax W eber
Let us try f irst to present the connection between capitalism,
rationality, and domination in the work of Max Weber. I n its most
general f orm this connection may be f ormulated as f ollows: the
specif ically Western idea of reason realizes itself in a system of material
and intellectual culture (economy, technology, ‘conduct of lif e’, science,
art) that develops to the f ull in industrial capitalism, and this system
tends toward a specif ic type of domination which becomes the f ate of
the contemporary period: total bureaucracy. The comprehensive and
basic concept is the idea of reason as Western rationality. We begin with
this concept.
For Weber, there is a rationality that has come into ef f ect only in the
West, that has f ormed (or has at least helped f orm) capitalism, and that
has decided our f oreseeable f uture. The ef f ort to determine this
rationality in its many (and of ten contradictory) manif estations occupies
a large part of Weber’s work. The ‘spirit of capitalism’, as described in
the f irst volume of his collected essays in the sociology of religion, is
one of these manif estations; the pref ace to this work points out
programmatically that the rationality f ormulated and acted on in
capitalism f undamentally distinguishes Western industrialization f rom all
other f orms of economy and technology.
Let us f irst list the elements that are characteristic of Max Weber’s
concept of reason. (1) There is the progressive mathematization of
experience and knowledge, a mathematization which, starting f rom the
natural sciences and their extraordinary successes, extends to the other
sciences and to the ‘conduct of lif e’ itself (universal quantif ication). (2)
There is the insistence on the necessity of rational experiments and
rational proof s in the organization of science as well as in the conduct
of lif e. (3) There is the result of this organization which is decisive f or
Weber, namely, the genesis and solidif ication of a universal, technically
trained organization of of f icials that becomes the “ absolutely i nescapabl e
condition of our entire existence” .
With this last characteristic, the
transition f rom theoretical to practical reason, to the historical f orm of
reason is ef f ected. The consciousness of its specif ic historicity was
contained in the beginning in Weber’s conception of reason, with, or
precisely due to, its abstractness. However, we shall see that it is not
sustained in the entire course of his analysis and miscarries at the
decisive point. I n his sociology, f ormal rationality turns into capi t al i st
rationality. Thus it appears as the methodical taming of the irrational
N egat i ons
‘acquisitive drive’, the taming that f inds its typical expression in
‘innerworldly asceticism’.
I n this ‘taming’, occidental reason becomes the economi c reason of
capitalism, that is, the striving f or ever renewed gain within the
continuous, rational, capitalist enterprise. Rationality thus becomes the
condition of prof itability, which in turn is oriented toward systematic,
methodical calculation, ‘capital accounting’.

The basis of this rationality is abstraction which, at once theoretical
and practical, the work of both scientif ic and social organization,
determines the capitalist period: through the reduction of quality to
quantity. As universal f unctionalization (which f inds its economic
expression in exchange value), it becomes the precondition of calculable
effi ci ency – of universal ef f iciency, insof ar as f unctionalization makes
possible the domination of all particular cases and relations (through
their reduction to quantities and exchange values). Abstract reason
becomes concrete in the calculable and calculated domi nat i on of nature
and man. The reason envisaged by Weber thus is revealed as t echni cal
reason, as the production and transf ormation of material (things and
men) through the methodical-scientif ic apparatus. This apparatus has
been built with the aim of calculable ef f iciency; its rationality organizes
and controls things and men, f actory and bureaucracy, work and leisure.
But t o what pur pose does it control them? Up to this point, Weber’s
concept of reason has been ‘f ormal’, that is, has been def ined as
quantif ying abstraction f rom all particulars, an abstraction that rendered
possible the universally calculable ef f iciency of the capitalist apparatus.
But now the limits of f ormal reason emerge: neither the specif ic
purpose of the scientif ic-technical construction nor its material (its
subjects and its objects) can be deduced f rom the concept of reason;
they explode f rom the start this f ormal, ‘value-f ree’ concept.
I n capitalist rationality, as analyzed by Weber, these elements that
are prior and ‘external’ to reason and that thus materially delimit it
appear in two historical f acts: (1) provision f or human needs – the aim
of economic activity – is carried out in the f ramework of pr i vat e ent er pr i se
and its calculable chances of gain, that is, within the f ramework of the
prof it of the individual entrepreneur or enterprise; (2) consequently, the
existence of those whose needs are to be satisf ied depends on the pr ofi t
opportunities of the capitalist enterprise. This dependence is embodied,
I ndust r i al i zat i on and C api t al i sm i n M ax W eber
in its extreme f orm, in the ‘f ree’ labor that is at the disposal of the
I n terms of Weber’s conception, these f acts are pregiven to f ormal
reason f rom the outside, but as historical f acts, they limit the general
validity of the concept itself . According to Weber, the f ocal reality of
capitalist rationality is the pr i vat e enterprise; the entrepreneur is a f ree
person, responsible by and to himself f or his calculations and their risks.
I n this f unction, he is bour geoi s, and the bourgeois conduct of lif e f inds
its representative expression in innerworldly asceticism. I s this
conception still valid today? I s the bourgeoisie, in which Weber saw the
bearer of industrial development, still its bearer in the late capitalist
phase? I s late capitalist rationality still that which derives f rom
innerworldly asceticism? I think the answer to these questions must be
in the negative. I n the development of capitalistic rationality itself , the
f orms ascribed to it by Weber have disintegrated and become obsolete,
and their disintegration makes the rationality of capitalistic
industrialization appear in a very dif f erent light: in the light of its
irrationality. To mention only one aspect: ‘innerworldly asceticism’ is no
longer a motivating f orce in late capitalism; it has become a f etter that
serves the maintenance of the system. K eynes denounced it as such, and
it is a danger to the ‘af f luent society’ wherever it could hinder the
production and consumption of superf luous goods. To be sure, even
late capitalism is built on ‘renunciation’: the struggle f or existence and
the exploitation of labor must be intensif ied more and more if increased
accumulation is to be possible. ‘Planned obsolescence’, methodical
irrationality, becomes a social necessity. But this is no longer the
conduct of lif e of the bourgeoisie as the class that develops the
productive f orces. I t is rather the stigma of productive destruction
under total administration. And the capital accounting of mathematized
prof itability and ef f iciency celebrates its greatest triumphs in the
calculation of kill and overkill, of the risk of our own annihilation
compared with that of the annihilation of the enemy.
I n the unf olding of capitalist rationality, i r r at i onal i t y becomes r eason:
reason as f rantic development of productivity, conquest of nature,
enlargement of the mass of goods (and their accessibility f or broad
strata of the population); irrational because higher productivity,
domination of nature, and social wealth become destructive f orces. This
destruction is not only f igurative, as in the betrayal of so-called higher
cultural values, but literal: the struggle f or existence intensif ies both
N egat i ons
within national states and internationally, and pent-up aggression is
discharged in the legitimation of medieval cruelty (torture) and in the
scientif ically organized destruction of men. Did Max Weber f oretell this
development? The answer is N o if the accent is placed on ‘tell’. But this
development is implied in his conceptual scheme – implied at such a
deep level that it appears as inexorable, f inal, and thereby, in turn (in the
bad sense), rational.
I n the course of Weber’s analysis, the value-f ree concept of capitalist
rationality becomes a critical concept – critical in the sense not only of
‘pure science’, but also of an evaluative, goal-positing critique of
reif ication.
But then the critique stops, accepts the allegedly inexorable, and
turns into apologetics – worse, into the denunciation of the possible
alternative, that is, of a qualitatively dif f erent historical rationality. With
clairvoyance, Weber himself recognized the limit of his conceptual
scheme. He def ined himself as a ‘bourgeois’ and identif ied his work
with the historical mission of the bourgeoisie; in the name of this
alleged mission, he accepted the alliance of representative strata of the
German bourgeoisie with the organizers of reaction and repression. For
political adversaries on the radical lef t, he recommended the lunatic
asylum, the zoo, and the revolver shot. He raged against the intellectuals
who had sacrif iced their lives f or the revolution.
The personal serves us
here only as illustration of the conceptual; it serves to show how the
concept of reason itself , in its critical content, remains ultimately tied to
its origin: ‘reason’ remains bour geoi s reason, and, indeed, only one part of
the latter, viz. capitalist technical reason.
Let us try now to reconstruct the inner development of the
Weberian concept of capitalist reason. The Freiburg inaugural address
envisions capitalist industrialization wholly as a f orm of power politics,
that is, as imperialism. Only the development of large-scale industry can
guarantee the independence of the nation in the ever more intense
international competitive struggle. I mperialist power politics requires
intensive and extensive industrialization, and vice versa. The economy
must serve the r ai son d’ ét at of the national state and must work with the
latter’s means. Such means are colonization and military power, means
f or the realization of the extrascientif ic aims and values to which value-
f ree economics must subordinate itself . As historical reason, the reason
of state demands rule by that class which is capable of carrying out
I ndust r i al i zat i on and C api t al i sm i n M ax W eber
i ndust ri al i zat i on and t hus ef f ect i ng t he growt h of t he nat i on, i .e. rul e by
t he bour geoi si e. I t i s dangerous when an “ economi cal l y decl i ni ng cl ass i s
i n power”
as t he Junkers i n Germany). Under t he pressure of
ext rasci ent i f i c, pol i t i cal val uat i on, economi c sci ence t hus becomes, wi t h
Weber, t he pol i t i cal -soci ol ogi cal cri t i que of t he st at e erect ed by
Bi smarck. And t hi s cri t i que ant i ci pat es t he f ut ure i n an unheard-of way:
i n Germany, t he hi st ori cal l y appoi nt ed cl ass, t he bourgeoi si e, i s
‘i mmat ure’; i n i t s weakness i t l ongs f or a new Caesar who woul d do t he
deed f or i t .

The comi ng t o power of t he bourgeoi s cl ass meant , at t hat t i me, t he
democrat i zat i on of t he st i l l prebourgeoi s st at e. But , owi ng t o i t s pol i t i cal
i mmat uri t y, t he German bourgeoi si e can nei t her real i ze nor hi nder t hi s
democrat i zat i on and cal l s f or caesari sm. D emocracy, t he pol i t i cal f orm
correspondi ng t o capi t al i st i ndust ri al i zat i on, t hreat ens t o change i nt o
pl ebi sci t ary di ct at orshi p; bourgeoi s reason conj ures up i rrat i onal
char i sma. Thi s di al ect i c of bourgeoi s democracy i f not of bourgeoi s
reason cont i nued t o t roubl e Weber, and i s i nci si vel y expressed i n
W i r t schaft und G esel l schaft . We shal l ret urn t o i t . H ere i t shoul d be
observed t hat Weber, more correct l y t han most cont emporary soci al i st s,
al so f oresaw t he l at er devel opment of t he ot her cl ass t hat underl i es
capi t al i sm, t he prol et ari at , and t herewi t h repeat ed al most unchanged
what Bi smarck had sai d as earl y as 1865. “ The danger does not l i e wi t h
t he masses” ,
Weber decl ared i n hi s 1895 i naugural address. I t i s not t he
rul ed cl asses who wi l l hi nder i mperi al i st i c pol i t i cs, l et al one cause i t t o
f ai l . I t i s rat her ‘t he rul i ng and ri si ng cl asses’ who represent t hi s t hreat t o
t he nat i on’s chances f or survi val i n i nt ernat i onal compet i t i on.
The conservat i ve charact er of t he masses, t he caesari st i c t endenci es
of t he rul i ng cl asses: t hese changes of l at e capi t al i sm Max Weber di d
f oresee. H e di d not , as Marxi st t heory does, root t hem i n t he st ruct ure
of capi t al i sm i t sel f . ‘Pol i t i cal i mmat urit y’ i s a poor cat egory as l ong as i t
does not def i ne t he f act ors behi nd t he f act – i n t hi s case t he
i mpossi bi l i t y f or capi t al i st product i on of preservi ng t he f ree market
t hrough f ree compet i t i on. Capi t al i st product i on i t sel f runs up agai nst i t s
l i mi t s i n t he democrat i c i nst i t ut i ons of t he market soci et y. D omi nat i on
i s concent rat ed i n and above t he bureaucracy, as t he necessary apex of
regi ment at i on. What appeared as pol i t i cal i mmat uri t y wi t hi n t he cont ext
of l i beral i st i c capi t al i sm becomes, i n organi zed capi t al i sm, pol i t i cal
mat uri t y.
N egat i ons
And the harmlessness of the ruled classes? Even while Weber was
still living, they were, f or a historical instant, ready to cause imperialistic
politics to f ail. Af ter that, however, the political maturity of the
bourgeoisie and the intellectual ef f iciency of capitalist productivity took
things in hand and conf irmed Weber’s prediction.
Let us now look at his concept of capitalism where (apparently) it is
removed f rom the concrete context of imperialistic power politics and
developed in its value-f ree scientif ic purity: in W i r t schaft und G esel l schaft .
Here capitalism, as a f orm of ‘rational economic acquisition’, is def ined
in the f irst instance as a ‘particular f orm of monetary calculation’:
Capital accounting is the valuation and calculation of prof it
opportunities and … proceeds by means of comparing the respective
monetary values of total (f ixed and liquid) assets at the beginning and
end of a single prof it-oriented undertaking or, in the case of a
continuous prof it-making enterprise, of comparing the initial and f inal
balance sheets f or an accounting period.

The ef f ort – one is tempted to say the provocative ef f ort – to def ine
capitalism in a purely scientif ic manner and to abstract f rom everything
human and historical shows f orth even in the f orbidding syntax (at least
in German). What is at issue here is business and nothing else. I n
contrast to this attitude, Weber’s emphasis on the next page seems
almost shocking: “ Capital accounting in its for mal l y most rational mode
thus presupposes t he st r uggl e of man wi t h man.”
What capital accounting
does to men f inds sharper expression in its abstract def inition than in
the latter’s concretion: inhumanity is included in the rationality of the
initial and f inal balance sheets.
The ‘f ormally most rational’ mode of capital accounting is the one
into which man and his ‘purposes’ enter only as variables in the
calculation of the chances of gain and prof it. I n this f ormal rationality,
mathematization is carried to the point of the calculus with the real
negat i on of l i fe itself ; at the extreme, risk of death f rom hunger, it becomes
a motive f or economic activity on the part of those who have nothing:
… decisive as [an] element of the motivation of economic activity under
the conditions of a market economy [is] nor mal l y … f or those without
property … the f act that they run the risk, both f or themselves and their
personal dependents, such as children, wives, sometimes parents, whose
I ndust r i al i zat i on and C api t al i sm i n M ax W eber
maintenance the individual typically takes over, of going without any
provision …

Again and again, Weber def ines for mal rationality in contrast to a mat er i al
(substantive) rationality, in which the economic maintenance of men is
considered “ f rom the point of view of certain valuational postulates (of
whatever kind)” .

Formal rationality is thus in conf lict not only with ‘traditional’ value
orientations and goals, but also with revolutionary ones. As an example,
Max Weber mentions the antinomy between f ormal rationality on the
one hand and, on the other, of attempts to abolish the separation of
powers (“ soviet republic, government by a convention or committee of
public saf ety”
) of attempts, in other words, to change radically the
existing f orm of domination. But is the f ormal rationality that f inds
expression in a capitalist economy really so f ormal? Here, once more, is
its def inition:
The term ‘f ormal rationality of economic action’ will be used to
designate the extent of quantitative calculation or accounting which is
technically possible and which is actually applied. A system of economic
activity will be called ‘f ormally’ rational according to the degree in which
the provision f or needs, which is essential to every rational economy, is
capable of being expressed in numerical, calculable terms, and is so

According to this def inition, a totally planned economy, that is, a
noncapitalist economy, would evidently be mor e rational, in the sense of
f ormal rationality, than the capitalist economy. For the latter sets itself
the limits of calculability in the particular interest of the private
enterprise and in the ‘f reedom’ (however regimented) of the market. I f
Weber declares such a planned economy retrogressive or even
realistically impossible, he does so in the f irst place f or a technological
reason: in modern industrial society, the separation of the workers f rom
the means of production has become a t echni cal necessity requiring the
individual and private direction and control of the means of production,
that is, the authority of the personally responsible entrepreneur in the
enterprise. The highly material, historical f act of the private-capitalist
enterprise thus becomes (in Weber’s sense) a for mal structural element of
capitalism and of r at i onal economic activity itself .
N egat i ons
But the rational social f unction of individual control of production
that is based on the separation of labor f rom the means of production
goes beyond this. For Max Weber, it is the guarantor of technically and
economically necessary organizational di sci pl i ne, which then becomes the
model of the entire discipline required by modern industrial society.
Even socialism, according to Weber, has its origin in f actory discipline:
“ From this lif e situation, f rom the discipline of the f actory, was modern
socialism born.”

The ‘subjection to work discipline’ characteristic of f ree enterprise is
thus, on the one hand, the rationality of a per sonal hi er ar chy, but on the
other hand, the rational domination of things over man, that is, ‘of the
means over the end (the satisf action of needs)’. I n these words, Weber
quotes a socialist thesis.
He does not contest it but believes that not
even a socialist society will change the f undamental f act of the worker’s
separation f rom the means of production, because this separation is
simply the f orm of technical progress, of industrialization. Even
socialism remains subject to its rationality, f or otherwise it cannot
remain f aithf ul to its own promise of the general satisf action of needs
and the pacif ication of the struggle f or existence. The control of man by
things can be deprived of its irrationality only through the rational
control of man by man. The question, theref ore, is f or socialism, too:
“ who, then, is supposed to take over and direct this new economy?”

I ndustrialization is thus seen as the f ate of the modern world, and
the f atef ul question f or both capitalist and socialist industrialization is
only this: What is the most rational f orm of dominating industrialization
and hence society? (‘Most rational’ is still used in the sense of that for mal
rationality which is determined only by the calculable and regulated
f unctioning of its own system.) But this f ormal rationality seems to have
changed imperceptibly in the course of the logical development of
Weber’s analysis. I n becoming a question of domination, of control, this
rationality subordinates itself , by virtue of its own inner dynamic, to
another, namely, to the rationality of domination. Precisely insof ar as
this f ormal rationality does not go beyond its own structure and has
nothing but its own system as the norm of its calculations and
calculating actions, it is as a whole dependent, determined ‘f rom the
outside’ by something other than itself ; in this f ashion reason becomes,
in Weber’s own def inition, ‘material’.
I ndust r i al i zat i on and C api t al i sm i n M ax W eber
I ndustrialization as ‘f ate’, domination as ‘f ate’ – Max Weber’s
concept of ‘f ate’ shows in exemplary f ashion the material content of his
f ormal analysis. ‘Fate’ is the law of an economy and society which are
largely independent of individuals, and violation of this law would mean
self -destruction. But society is not ‘nature’. Who decrees the f ate?
I ndustrialization is a phase in the development of men’s capacities and
needs, a phase in their struggle with nature and with themselves. This
development can proceed in very dif f erent f orms and with very
dif f erent aims; not only the f orms of control but also those of
technology and hence of needs and of their satisf actions are in no way
‘f atal’, but rather become such only when they are socially sanctioned, that
is, as the result of material, economic, and psychological coercion.
Weber’s concept of f ate is construed ‘af ter the f act’ of such coercion: he
generalizes the blindness of a society which reproduces itself behind the
back of the individuals, of a society in which the law of domination
appears as objective technological law. However, in f act, this law is
neither ‘f atal’ nor ‘f ormal’. The context of Weber’s analysis is the
historical context in which economic reason became the reason of
domination – domination at almost any price. This f ate has become a f ate
and inasmuch as it has become a f ate it can also be abol i shed. Any
scientif ic analysis that is not committed to this possibility is pledged, not
to reason, but to the reason of established domination. For there is no
structure that has not been posi t ed or made and is not as such dependent.
I n the continuum of history, in which all economic action takes place,
all economic reason is always the reason of domination, which
historically and socially determines economic action. Capitalism, no
matter how mathematized and ‘scientif ic’, remains the mathematized,
technological domi nat i on of men; and socialism, no matter how scientif ic
and technological, is the construction or demolition of domination.
I f in Weber’s work the f ormal analysis of capitalism thus becomes
the analysis of f orms of domination, this is not due to a discontinuity in
concept or method; their purity itself shows itself impure. And this is
so, not because Max Weber was a bad or inconsistent sociologist, but
because he knew his subject matter: Truth becomes critique and
accusation, and accusation becomes the f unction of true science. I f he
subjected the science of economics to politics as early as in the inaugural
address, this tour de f orce shows itself , in the light of the whole of
Weber’s work, as the inner logic of his method. Your science must
remain ‘pure’; only thus can you remain f aithf ul to the truth. But this
N egat i ons
truth f orces you to recognize what determines the objects of your
science ‘f rom the outside’. Over this you have no power. Your f reedom
f rom value judgments is as necessary as it is mere appearance. For
neutrality is r eal only when it has the power of resisting interf erence.
Otherwise it becomes the victim, as well as the aid, of every power that
wants to use it.
The f ormal rationality of capitalism comes up against its internal
limit in two places: in the f act of pr i vat e ent er pr i se, or the private
entrepreneur as the actual subject of the calculated nature of economic
activity; and in the f act of the worker’s separation f rom the means of
production, of fr ee l abor .
These two f acts belong, f or Max Weber, to the specif ic rationality of
they are technological necessities. For him, they thus are
the basis f or domination as an integral element of capitalist (and even of
economic) rationality in modern industrial society. I f this is so, then
domination itself must be demonstrated as the f orm of modern
economic rationality; and this is what Weber tries to do in his analysis of
bur eaucr acy.
Bureaucratic control is inseparable f rom increasing industrialization;
it extends the maximally intensif ied ef f iciency of industrial organization
to society as a whole. I t is the f ormally most rational f orm of control,
thanks to its “ precision, steadf astness, discipline, rigor, and
dependability, in short calculability f or both the bead [of the
organization] and f or those having to do with it …” ;
and it is all this
because it is ‘domination by virtue of knowledge’, ascertainable,
calculable, calculating knowledge, specialized knowledge. Properly
speaking, it is the appar at us that dominates, f or the control of this
apparatus, based on specialized knowledge, is such only if it is f ully
adjusted to its technical demands and potentialities. For this reason,
domination of the apparatus is “ possible f or the layman only within
limits: in the long run, the technically trained permanent of f icial is
usually superior to the layman as a [government] minister” .

Again Weber stresses that any ‘rational socialism’ ‘would simply
have to take over and would intensif y’ bureaucratic administration since
this administration is nothing but purely obj ect i ve domination, demanded
by the objective circumstances themselves, and equally valid f or the
most varied political, cultural, and moral aims and institutions. And the
objective circumstances themselves are the given, ever more
I ndust r i al i zat i on and C api t al i sm i n M ax W eber
product ively and ef f icient ly developing, ever more precisely calculable
apparat us.
The specialized scientif ic administrat ion of t he apparat us as f ormally
rat ional dominat ion: t his is t he reif icat ion of reason, reif icat ion as
reason, t he apot heosis of reif icat ion. But t he apot heosis t urns int o it s
negat ion, is bound t o t urn int o it s negat ion. For t he apparat us, which
dictates its own objective administration, is itself instrument, means –
and t here is no such t hing as a means ‘as such’. Even t he most
productive, most reif ied apparatus is a means to an end outside itself . As
f ar as t he economic apparat us of capit alism is concerned, it is not
enough t o say t hat t his end is t he sat isf act ion of needs. Such a concept
is t oo general, t oo abst ract , in t he bad sense of t he word. For, as Max
Weber himself realized, t he sat isf act ion of needs is f ar more t he by-
product t han t he end of capit alist economic act ivit y. Human needs are
necessary and ‘f ormally rational’ as long as living human beings are still
required as consumers (as producers t hey already are part ly
unnecessary), and already much is sold t o warehouses – st ockpiling f or
annihilat ion and a subhuman subt erranean lif e. But if t he bureaucrat ic
administ rat ion of t he capit alist apparat us, with all its rationality, remains
a means, and t hus dependent , t hen it has, as rationality, its own limit.
The bureaucracy subject s it self t o an ext ra- and suprabureaucrat ic power
– t o an ‘unbusinesslike’ power. And if rationality is embodied in
administ rat ion, and onl y in administration, then this legislative power
must be irrat ional. The Weberian concept ion of reason ends in irrat ional
char i sma.
Among all of Weber’s concept s, t hat of charisma is perhaps t he
most quest ionable. Even as a t erm it cont ains t he bias t hat gives every
kind of successf ul, allegedly personal dominat ion an almost religious
consecrat ion. The concept it self is under discussion here only insof ar as
it can illuminate the dialectic of rationality and irrationality in modern
societ y. Charismat ic dominat ion appears as a phase in a t wof old process
of development . On t he one hand, charisma t ends t o t urn int o t he
solidif ied dominat ion of int erest s and t heir bureaucrat ic organizat ion; on
t he ot her hand, bureaucrat ic organizat ion t ends t o submit t o a
charismatic leader.
I n t he chapt er ‘Transf ormat ion of Charisma’ Max Weber describes
how pure charismat ic dominat ion t ends to transf orm itself into a
‘permanent possession’; in t his process “ it is given over t o t he
N egat i ons
conditions of everyday lif e and to the powers that dominate it, above all
to economic interests” .
What begins as the charisma of the single
individual and his personal f ollowing ends in domination by a
bureaucratic apparatus that has acquired rights and f unctions and in
which the charismatically dominated individuals become regular, tax-
paying, dutif ul ‘subjects’.

But this rational administration of masses and things cannot do without
the irrational charismatic leader. For the administration would tend,
precisely to the degree to which it is really rational, to the abolition of
domination (and to the administration of t hi ngs). Yet the administrative
apparatus has always been built on the basis of domination and has
been established to maintain and strengthen domination. To the
democratization required by rational administration thus corresponds a
parallel limitation and manipulation of democratization. Domination as
the privilege of particular interests and self -determination as an
expression of the general interest are brought into f orced unity. This
violent and simultaneously f ormally rational, i.e. technically ef f icient,
solution of the contradiction has its classical manif estation in
plebiscitary democracy,
in which the masses periodically depose their
leaders and determine their policies – under previously established
conditions well controlled by the leaders. For Max Weber, universal
suf f rage thus is not only the result of domination but also its instrument
in the period of its technical perf ection. Plebiscitary democracy is the
political expression of irrationality-become-reason.
I n what way does this dialectic of reason (that is, of for mal reason)
show f orth in the development of capitalism? The latter’s prof ane
power resists the idea of charisma, and Weber is rather timid when it
comes to the application of this term to contemporary industrial society,
even though his attitude and even his language during World War I and
against the revolution of ten came very close to succumbing to
charismatic illusions. But the actual trend is clearly exhibited by his
analysis: the f ormal reason of the technically perf ect administrative
apparatus is subordinated to the irrational. Max Weber’s analysis of
bureaucracy breaks through the ideological camouf lage. Far ahead of his
time, he showed the illusory character of modern mass democracy with
its pretended equalization and adjustment of class conf licts. The
bureaucratic administration of industrial capitalism is indeed a ‘leveling’,
I ndust r i al i zat i on and C api t al i sm i n M ax W eber
but what is decisive here is exclusively the l evel i ng of t he domi nat ed vis-à-vis
the ruling, bureaucratically organized group, which may actually, and
of ten even f ormally, occupy a wholly autocratic position.
He stresses
again and again that precisely the technically perf ect administrative
apparatus, by virtue of its f ormal rationality, is a “ means of power of the
very f irst rank f or him who has the bureaucratic apparatus at his
disposal” .
The dependence of the material f ate of the mass on the continuous,
correct f unctioning of the increasingly bureaucratically organized
private-capitalist organizations increases continuously, and the thought
of the possibility of their elimination thus becomes ever more utopian.

Total dependence on the f unctioning of an omnipresent apparatus
becomes the ‘basis of all order’ so that the apparatus itself is no longer
questioned. “ Trained orientation toward obedient subjection to those
orders” becomes the cement of a subjugation of which people are no
longer conscious because the order to which they subordinate
themselves is itself so terrif yingly rational; that is, because it administers
too ef f iciently and puts at one’s calculable disposal the world of goods
and perf ormances of which the single individual no longer has an
overview or a comprehension. Max Weber did not live long enough to
see how mature capitalism, in the ef f iciency of its reason, makes even
the planned annihilation of millions of human beings and the planned
destruction of human labor the f ountainhead of a bigger and better
prosperity, how even sheer insanity becomes the basis, not only of the
continuation of lif e, but of the more comf ortable lif e. He did not live to
see the ‘af f luent society’, in the f ace of inhuman misery and methodical
cruelty outside its borders, squander its unimaginable technical, material,
and intellectual power and abuse its power f or the purposes of
permanent mobilization. Even bef ore the unf olding of the power of this
reason he called attention to the danger present in the submission of the
rational bureaucratic administrative apparatus, by virtue of its own
rationality, to an irrational supreme authority.
I n the f irst place, in the f ramework of Weber’s conceptual scheme, it
is almost self -evident that the administration of industrial society
requires outside and superior direction: “ Every administration requires
some kind of domination, since, f or its direction, some commanding
powers must always be placed in someone’s hands” .
The capitalist
entrepreneur is ‘in the material sense’ as little of a trained of f icial as the
N egat i ons
monarch at the head of the empire. N o specialized qualities are required
of him: “ Bureaucratic domination thus inevitably has at its apex an
element that is at least not purely bureaucratic” .
‘I nevitably’, because
the value-f ree rationality of administration is dependent upon values and
goals that come to it f rom the outside. I n his inaugural address, Weber
had def ined the power politics of the nation-state as giving economics
its values and goals. Capitalism was therewith def ined as i mper i al i sm.
I n W i r t schaft und G esel l schaft some characteristics of the imperialistic
economy are called by their names and summed up in the concept of
‘politically oriented capitalism’. Weber then states: “ I t is clear f rom the
start that those politically oriented events that of f er these (political)
possibilities f or gain are economically irrational when viewed f rom the
point of view of orientation toward market chances…” .
As irrational,
they can be replaced by others. Control of the capitalistic economy not
only requires no specialized qualif ication, it is also to a great degree
f ungible.
Capitalism, with all its rationality (or rather just because of its
specif ic rationality), thus terminates in an irrational, ‘accidental’ head –
not only in the economy, but also in the control of the bureaucratic
administration itself , in governmental administration. (I t is dif f icult not
to think here of Hegel’s Phi l osophy of R i ght where the state of civil society,
the rational state, culminates in the ‘accidental’ person of the monarch
who is determined only by the contingency of birth: in Hegel as in
Weber, the analysis of bourgeois reason reveals the latter’s limits:
bourgeois reason negates itself in its consummation.)
Let us look back brief ly at the stages in the development of Weber’s
concepts (and of their objects). Western capitalism originated under the
specif ic social, political, and economic conditions of the waning Middle
Ages and of the Ref ormation. I t developed its ‘spirit’ in that f ormal
rationality that realized itself in the psychological as well as the
economic orientation and action of the originators (but not the objects!)
of the process of capital. I ndustrialization has been carried out under
this f ormal reason: technical progress and progressive satisf action of
needs, whatever needs they may be. We have seen that this f ormal
rationality develops on the basis of two very mat er i al historical f acts,
which maintain themselves in its progress and which (according to Max
Weber) are condi t i ons of capitalism, namely (1) the private enterprise and
(2) ‘f ree labor’, the existence of a class that ‘economically’, “ under the
I ndust r i al i zat i on and C api t al i sm i n M ax W eber
compul si on of t he l ash of hunger” , i s f orced t o sel l i t s servi ces.
product i ve f orces, t hese mat eri al condi t i ons ent er i nt o f ormal reason.
Capi t al i sm expands i n t he compet i t i ve st ruggl e of unequal (but f ormal l y
f ree) powers: t he st ruggl e f or exi st ence of persons, nat i on-st at es, and
i nt ernat i onal al l i ances.
For Max Weber, t he cont emporary phase of capi t al i sm i s domi nat ed
by nat i onal power pol i t i cs: capi t al i sm i s i mperi al i sm. But i t s
admi ni st rat i on remai ns f ormal l y rat i onal , i .e. bureaucrat i c domi nat i on. I t
admi ni st ers t he cont rol of men by t hi ngs; rat i onal , ‘val ue-f ree’
t echnol ogy i s t he separat i on of man f rom t he means of product i on and
hi s subordi nat i on t o t echni cal ef f i ci ency and necessi t y – al l t hi s wi t hi n
t he f ramework of pri vat e ent erpri se. The machi ne i s t he det ermi ni ng
f act or, but t he “ l i f el ess machi ne i s congeal ed spi ri t (G ei st ). Onl y by bei ng
t hi s has i t t he power t o f orce men i nt o i t s servi ce…” .
Yet because i t i s
‘congeal ed spi ri t ’, i t al so i s domi nat i on of man by man; t hus t hi s
t echni cal reason reproduces ensl avement . Subordi nat i on t o t echnol ogy
becomes subordi nat i on t o domi nat i on as such; f ormal t echni cal
rat i onal i t y t urns i nt o mat eri al pol i t i cal rat i onal i t y (or i s i t t he ot her way
around, i nasmuch as t echni cal reason was f rom t he begi nni ng t he
cont rol of ‘f ree’ l abor by pri vat e ent erpri se?). Under t he compul si on of
reason, t he f at e i s f ul f i l l ed t hat Weber f oresaw wi t h remarkabl e cl ari t y i n
one of hi s most t el l i ng passages:
Joi ned t o t he dead machi ne, [bureaucrat i c organi zat i on] i s at work t o
erect t he shel l of t hat f ut ure bondage t o whi ch one day men wi l l
perhaps be f orced t o submi t i n i mpot ence, as once t he f el l ahs i n t he
anci ent Egypt i an st at e – i f a pur el y, t echni cal l y good, t hat i s, r at i onal
bur eaucr at i c admi ni st r at i on and mai nt enance i s t he l ast and onl y val ue whi ch i s t o
deci de on t he manner i n whi ch t hei r affai r s ar e di r ect ed.

But i t i s preci sel y here, at t hi s most deci si ve poi nt , where Weber’s
anal ysi s becomes sel f -cri t i ci sm, t hat one can see how much t hi s anal ysi s
has f al l en prey t o t he i dent i f i cat i on of t echni cal reason wi t h bourgeoi s
capi t al i st reason. Thi s i dent i f i cat i on prevent s hi m f rom seei ng t hat not
‘pure’, f ormal , t echni cal reason but t he reason of domi nat i on erect s t he
‘shel l of bondage’, and t hat t he consummat i on of t echni cal reason can
wel l become t he i nst rument f or t he l i ber at i on of man. Put di f f erent l y:
Max Weber’s anal ysi s of capi t al i sm was not suf f i ci ent l y val ue-f ree,
i nasmuch as i t t ook i nt o i t s ‘pure’ def i ni t i ons of f ormal rat i onal i t y
val uat i ons pecul i ar t o capi t al i sm. On t hi s basi s, t he cont radi ct i on
N egat i ons
developed bet ween f ormal and mat erial (or subst ant ive) rat ionalit y,
whose obverse is t he ‘neut ralit y’ of t echnical reason vis-à-vis all out side
mat erial valuat ions. This neut ralit y, in t urn, made it possible f or Weber
t o accept t he (r ei fi ed) int erest of t he nat ion and it s polit ical power as t he
values t hat det ermine t echnical reason.
The very concept of t echnical reason is perhaps ideological. N ot
only t he applicat ion of t echnology but t echnology it self is dominat ion
(of nat ure and men) – met hodical, scient if ic, calculat ed, calculat ing
cont rol. Specif ic purposes and int erest s of dominat ion are not f oist ed
upon t echnology ‘subsequent ly’ and f rom t he out side; t hey ent er t he
very const ruct ion of t he t echnical apparat us. Technology is always a
hist orical-social pr oj ect : in it is project ed what a societ y and it s ruling
int erest s int end t o do wit h men and t hings. Such a ‘purpose’ of
dominat ion is ‘subst ant ive’ and t o t his ext ent belongs t o t he very f orm
of t echnical reason.
Weber abst ract ed f rom t his ineluct able social mat erial. We have
emphasized t he right t o t his abst raction in t he analysis of capit alist
reason: abst ract ion becomes cr i t i cal of t his reason insof ar as it shows t he
degree t o which capit alist rat ionalit y it self abst ract s f rom man, t o whose
needs it is ‘indif f erent ’, and in t his indif f erence becomes ever more
product ive and ef f icient , calculat ing and met hodical, t hus erect ing t he
‘shell of bondage’, f urnishing it (quit e luxuriously), and universalizing it .
Weber’s abst ract ness is so sat urat ed wit h his mat erial t hat it pronounces
rat ional judgment on t he rat ional exchange societ y. I n t he course of it s
development , however, t his societ y t ends t o abolish it s own mat erial
prerequisit es: t he privat e ent repreneur is no longer t he subject of
economic rat ionalit y, answering only t o himself , and ‘f ree labor’ is no
longer t he enslavement enf orced by t he t hreat ening ‘lash of hunger’.
The exchange societ y, where everyt hing proceeds so f reely and
rat ionally, comes under t he cont rol of economic and polit ical
monopolies. The market and it s libert ies, whose ideological charact er
Max Weber demonst rat ed of t en enough, is now subject ed t o f right f ully
ef f icient regulat ion, in which t he general int erest is markedly shaped by
t he ruling part icular int erest s. Reif icat ion is abolished, but in a very
decept ive manner. The separat ion f rom t he means of product ion, in
which Weber right ly saw a t echnical necessit y, t urns int o t he subject ion
of t he whole t o it s calculat ing managers. The f ormal rat ionalit y of
capit alism celebrat es it s t riumph in elect ronic comput ers, which
calculat e everyt hing, no mat t er what t he purpose, and which are put t o
I ndust r i al i zat i on and C api t al i sm i n M ax W eber
use as mighty instruments of political manipulation, reliably calculating
the chances of prof it and loss, including the chance of the annihilation
of the whole, with the consent of the likewise calculated and obedient
population. Mass democracy becomes plebiscitary even within the
economy and the sciences: the masses themselves elect their leaders into
the shell of bondage.
But if technical reason thus reveals itself as political reason, it does
so only because f rom the beginning it was this technical reason and this
political reason, that is, limited in the specif ic interest of domination. As
political reason, technical reason is hi st or i cal . I f separation f rom the
means of production is a technical necessity, the bondage that it
organizes is not . On the basis of its own achievements, that is, of
productive and calculable mechanization, this separation contains the
potentiality of a qualitatively dif f erent rationality, in which separation
f rom the means of production becomes the separation of man f rom the
socially necessary labor that de-purposiveness would be no longer
‘antinomical’; nor would administer automated production, f ormal and
substantive purposiveness would be no longer ‘antinomical’; nor would
f ormal reason prevail indif f erently among and over men. For, as
‘congealed spirit’, the machine is not neut r al ; technical reason is the social
reason ruling a given society and can be changed in its very structure. As
technical reason, it can become the technique of liberation.
For Max Weber this possibility was utopian. Today it looks as if he
was right. But if contemporary industrial society def eats and triumphs
over its own potentialities, then this triumph is no longer that of Max
Weber’s bourgeois reason. I t is dif f icult to see reason at all in the ever
more solid ‘shell of bondage’ which is being constructed. Or is there
perhaps already in Max Weber’s concept of reason the irony that
understands but disavows? D oes he by any chance mean to say: And
this you call ‘reason’?

Love Mystified: A Critique of N orman O.

… sie hätte singen nicht reden sollen diese neue Seele
– Stef an George, ‘N ietzsche’
For here is t he ‘new soul’, prophet of t he new man – radical break wit h
t he past and wit h t he present which is still the rule of the past. And this
past is t he archet ypal one, in t he individual as well as in t he hist ory of
t he species: t he primal crime and t he primal scene. Psychoanalysis in its
most ext reme and most advanced concept s guides Brown’s
int erpret at ion of t he hist ory of men and of t he human condit ion. Brown
likes t o quot e Adorno: “ I n psychoanalysis, only t he exaggerat ions are
t rue” . For only t he exaggerat ions can shat t er t he normal complacency of
common sense and scient if ic sense and t heir comf ort ing limit at ions and
illusions. Only t he exaggerat ions can (perhaps), wit h t he violence of a
shock, elucidat e t he horror of t he whole, t he dept h of t he decept ion,
and t he incommunicable promise of a f ut ure which can come int o being
(can come int o t hought ) only as t he t ot al annihilat ion of t he past and
present . Apocalypse and Pent ecost : dest ruct ion of everyt hing and t he
redempt ion of everyt hing: f inal liberat ion of t he repressed cont ent –
abolit ion of t he realit y principle, nay, abolit ion of realit y. For what we
call realit y Brown calls illusion, lie, dream. We are asleep, and being
asleep is being dead; we still live in t he womb or ret urn int o t he womb;
our genit al sexualit y is regression t o t he st at e bef ore birt h; and we are
st ill under t he spell of t he primal scene: we reenact t he f at her whom we
have int roject ed; our sex lif e is his, not ours, and our pleasure remains
vicarious. Thus if all our lif e is dream and illusion, t hen t he awakening
t o real lif e is t he end of our lif e: deat h and resurrect ion in one. The way
out of t he womb, out of t he dream cave is t o die in order t o be reborn.
N egat i ons
Liberat ion is t ransubst ant iat ion; resurrect ion of t he body, but t he
body is “ raised a spirit ual or symbolic body” (p. 191). “ The revolut ion,
t he revelat ion, t he apocalypse, is vision; which pronounces a last
judgment ; and brings about t he end” (p. 232). The cave and t he womb,
Plat o and Freud, revolut ion and revelat ion, Man and Christ : t he grand
union and communion of opposit es, t he overcoming of all division
bet ween male and f emale, self and out side world, t hine and mine, body
and spirit – t his ult imat e reconciliat ion of opposit es, does it convey t he
image of liberation? Or is it again the past t hat assert s it s power over t he
image of the f uture, the old in new clothes? The attempt to answer this
quest ion involves heavy responsibilit y, f or N orman Brown has carried
t he burden of radical t hought t o t he f art hest point : t he point where
sanit y must appear as madness, where concept s must t urn int o f ant asies,
and t he t rut h must become ridiculous. Once again, t he t ragedy of man
as comedy, as t he play of Sat yre. N orman Brown’s book moves along
t he limit s of communicat ion; he is on t he search f or a new language,
which can break t hrough t he f alsif ying, st ult if ying, repressive universe of
ordinary and academic discourse (‘senatorial and senile’). I n its best
part s, t his book is a poem and a song, of t he beaut y which is “ ni cht s al s
des Schr eck l i chen A nfang, den wi r noch gr ade er t r agen…” .
The f orm of t he
sent ence, t he proposit ion which f reezes t he cont ent is abandoned; t he
words, f reed f rom t he enchaining f orm, recapt ure t heir explosive
meaning, a hidden t rut h.
The normal f lux of ordinary and academic discourse is also broken –
the argument is developed in relatively self -suf f icient f ragments, short
paragraphs, aphorisms; t heir inner connect ion, t he f low of t he argument
is of a musical rather than conceptual order: variat ions on a t heme,
progress t hrough repet it ion, dissonance as element of st ruct ural
harmony and development . The right of t he imaginat ion as cognit ive
power is t hus rest ored: released f rom it s senat orial and senile garb,
t hought becomes play, j eu i nt er di t , t he scandal; t he espr i t de sér i eux gives
way t o t he gaya sci enci a, drunkenness and laught er. Hegel, t he most
serious of all serious philosophers, knew it well:
The true is thus the bacchanalian whirl in which no member is not
drunken; and because each, as soon as it detaches itself , dissolves
immediately – the whirl is just as much transparent and simple repose.

But t hen comes t he hangover; t he imaginat ion f alt ers, and t he new
language looks f or support in t he old. Support in quot at ions and
L ove M yst i fi ed
ref erences, which are t o demonst rat e or at least t o illust rat e t he point s
made; support in ret urning t o t he primordial, element al, subrat ional; t o
t he inf ant ile st ages in t he development of t he individual and of t he
species. Psychoanalysis changes it s direct ion and f unct ion: t he lat ent
cont ent , t he unconscious and it s prehist ory, serve not only as powers t o
be recognized, comprehended, conquered, but also (and increasingly so
in t he unf olding of t he argument ) as normat ive values, as ends. The
grand leap int o t he realm of f reedom and light is t hus arrest ed and
becomes a leap backward, int o darkness.


N orman Brown’s demonst rat ions and illust rat ions have yet anot her and
very dif f erent signif icance. A large bulk of his ref erence is t o H oly
Script , t o Christ and his gospel. A f ew examples may show how cent ral
t hese ref erences are:
The conclusion of t he whole mat t er is, break down t he boundaries, t he
walls. D own wit h def ense mechanisms, charact er-armor; disarmament .
Ephesians 11, 14 … (p. 149).
The real world … is t he world where t hought s are omnipot ent , where
no dist inct ion is drawn bet ween wish and deed. As in t he N ew
Test ament … (p. 151).
The solut ion t o t he problem of ident it y is, get lost . Or as it says in t he
N ew Test ament … (p. 161).
The solut ion t o t he problem of war in t he Eucharist , wit h
t ransubst ant iat ion … (p. 173).
But t he unconscious is t he t rue psychic realit y; and t he unconscious is
t he H oly Spirit … (p. 195).
Real lif e is lif e af t er deat h, or resurrect ion. Colossians 111, 3 … (p. 207).
Fulf illment gat hers up t he past int o t he present in t he f orm of a
recapit ulat ion: t hat in t he dispensat ion of t imes t here might be a
recapit ulat ion of all t hings in Christ … (p. 207).
N egat i ons
Then cometh the end, when he shall have put down all rule and all
authority and power. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. I
Corinthians XV, 24 … (p. 243).
N ow Brown takes great pains to state again and again that the religious
symbolism is to be interpreted symbolically, in the other direction, as it
were. Sexual potency is restored at Pentecost; speech resexualized (p.
251); knowledge made carnal, copulation of subject and object (p. 249);
and the spirit is phallic (p. 224) – merger of Christ and D ionysus. But
the one stays with the other, and the new emphasis does not suf f ice to
reverse the established direction: sexualization of the spirit is also
spiritualization of sexuality, and sexuality itself becomes symbolic:
“ everything is symbolic, including the sexual act” (p. 181). Behind the
veil of Brown’s sexualized language, desexualization prevails. The
orgasm provides only ‘vicarious gratif ication’ (p. 129). Brown’s
consistent attempt to convey, against overwhelming odds, the new
nonrepressive interpretation of the old repressive symbols cannot undo
the association of the spirit with the Spirit, the resurrection of the body
with the Resurrection. Brown’s images of f ulf illment suggest total
sublimat ion which drains t he unsublimated dimension. Liberation in
N irvana: I like to believe that N orman Brown was aware of t his goal of
his voyage, and t hat he communicat ed his awareness to the reader: his
f irst chapter is headed ‘Liberty’ and his last, ‘N othing’.
Bef ore examining the reasons f or this f ailure, I shall review brief ly
the radical origin and intent of Brown’s analysis prior to their
mystif ication.


The t rut h of t he human condit ion is hidden, repressed – not by a
conspiracy of some sort, but by the actual course of history. The f irst
aim, theref ore, is the critical destruct ion of hist ory, and of t he manner in
which history is written and understood. The f acts stand f or other f acts
in the depth of the individual and collective unconscious, and the
repressed prehist ory of mankind continues t o make t he hist ory of man.
The established f acts are symbolic f acts, derivatives and distortions of
the latent content, which is the unexpurgated drama of sexuality.
Consequently, history must be explained symbolically. All literal
L ove M yst i fi ed
interpretation of history is f alsif ication; t he “ modern hist orical
consciousness is Prot est ant lit eralism” which of f ends against t he spirit ,
kills the spirit. Thus it becomes an ‘operation with ghosts’
(G ei st eswi ssenschaft ) (pp. 198f f .). “ We must rise f rom hist ory t o myst ery”
(p. 214) – here is the f irst mystif ication in Brown’s analysis: t he ‘myst ery’
is initially that of the primal crime and t he ambivalent penit ence f or it ;
but t hen t he myst ery becomes t hat of t he resurrect ion and redempt ion,
t ransubst ant iat ion, t he Eucharist . The radical dest ruct ion of hist ory
terminates in the religious tale, in which history is, not aufgehoben, but
simply negat ed, abolished. The beginning of Brown’s book cont ained a
very dif f erent promise: t he ref usal t o accept any myst if icat ion, and t he
resolut ion t o call t hings by t heir name, their real name, instead of
canceling all names in t he impossible unit y and union of everyt hing.
I n line wit h t his promise, Brown begins wit h t he symbolic
interpretation of politics:
I n order to know the reality of politics we have to believe the myth, to
believe what we were told as children. Roman history is the story of the
brothers Romulus and Remus, the sons of the she-wolf ; leaders of
gangs of juvenile delinquents …; who achieved the rape of the Sabine
women; and whose f estival is the Lupercalia; at which youth naked
except f or girdles made f rom the skin of victims ran wild through the
city; … a season f it f or killing. Jul i us C aesar , Act I (p. 15).
And Brown cont inues, summing up t he init ial exposit ion: “ Polit ics
made out of delinquency. All brot hers are brot hers in crime; all equal as
sinners” af t er t he killing of t he f at her, whom t hey rest ored in
t hemselves and whom t hey cont inue t o obey, t he killing of each ot her.
Myth or reality? Fictitious past, or f actual history that is still with us?
The st uf f out of which hist ory is made – t he st uf f of great ness and
progress: Brown quot es Livy:
To expand the population, Romulus f ollowed the model of other
f ounders of cities: he opened an asylum f or f ugitives. The mob that
came in was the f irst step to the city’s f uture greatness.
The Cit y of Man – ‘a sanct uary’ providing ‘immunit y f or a mult it ude of
criminals’ (August ine). Here is t he lat ent cont ent in t he not ion of t he
social contract:
N egat i ons
The social cont ract est ablishes corporat e virt ue as an asylum f or
individual sin, making a moral societ y out of immoral men; men whose
nat ural inclinat ion, according t o H obbes and Freud, is murder (p. 16).
The f oundat ion of t he st at e is it self a crime, t he primal crime, f or t he
st at e is f ormed by t he f rat ernit y (here, Brown sides wit h Plat o and
Spart a as against Arist ot le and Athens), and it is t he common crime t hat
creat es common solidarit y – polit ical, nat ional solidarit y. And af t er t he
primal crime, t he endless st ruggle among t he brot hers – t he ‘quarrel
over t he pat ernal inherit ance’: t he original unit y of t he body polit ic now
is divided int o a mult it ude of segment s, ‘moiet ies’; each acquiring
privat e propert y, a self , group or individual self , f ight ing. Law only
organizes t his f ight : “ t he Rule of Law is t he Rule of Force” ; and, as t he
classical myt hs t ell us, right and wrong can be decided only “ by an
appeal t o heaven, t hat is, by war and violence” (p. 18). The division
st ays wit h us: hist ory is f rat ricide af t er t he parricide. “ Polit ical part ies are
conspiracies t o usurp t he power of t he f at her” (p. 29); behind polit ics is
t he rit ual of murder and sacrif ice:
The comic wearing of t he I ndian mask, in t he Bost on Tea Part y, or
Tammany’s Wigwam, is t he light er side of a game, a rit ual, t he darker
side of which is f rat ernal genocide (p. 30).
Brown t hen t races t he development of t he lat ent cont ent in t he
hist orical st ep f rom absolut e monarchy t o represent at ive government ,
f rom Hobbes t o Locke. A st ep wit hin t he same cont inuum of f raud.
The illusion in libert y and equalit y:
Locke allows no man t he st at us of f at her, and makes all men sons of t he
Heavenly Fat her…. Sonship and brot herhood are espoused against
f at herhood: but wit hout a f at her t here can be no sons or brot hers.
Locke’s sons, like Freud’s cannot f ree t hemselves f rom f at her
psychology … (pp. 4-5).
The f at her survives in t he superego, and in t he many new polit ical
leaders, now f reely elect ed. The aut onomous individual, t he ‘person’ –
t his cherished achievement of bourgeois societ y is a f raud, Hobbes’s
‘art if icial Person’. I n realit y, a person is never himself but always
anot her: he wears a mask, he is possessed by anot her, represented by
anot her, and represent ing anot her. And in all disguises, t he ot her is
always t he f at her (p. 98). I n t heory and in pract ice, it is always t he
L ove M yst i fi ed
Oedipus Complex: as in the Apocalypse, “ pump, power, and politics is
discovered to be sex” (p. 75) – perverted sex, sado-masochistic sex,
striving f or impossible satisf action. For the desired object is the
‘combined object’: f rozen image of the primal scene – a “ male f emale
(vaginal f ather) or a f emale male (phallic mother)” , “ stuck together in
eternal coitus, eternal lust, and eternal punishment” (pp. 70, 71). And
this “ could go on f orever; there is eternal recurrence” .
I t must go on until we have overcome the Fall, which is the division of
the original and total unity. The solution, the end of the drama of
history is the restoration of original and total unity: unity of male and
f emale, f ather and mother, subject and object, body and soul – abolition
of the self , of mine and thine, abolition of the reality principle, of all


Perhaps only the most extreme imagery can elucidate the depth
dimension of history, the web of pleasure and terror, truth and
deception in eternal recurrence. But the imagery is not enough; it must
become saturated with its reality: symbolism must recapture that which
it symbolizes. The king must be shown not only as f ather but as king,
that is to say, as master and lord; war and competition and
communication must be shown not only as copulation but as war and
business and speech. Unless the analysis takes the road of return f rom
the symbolic to the literal, f rom the illusion to the reality of the illusion,
it remains ideological, replacing one mystif ication by another.
Brown’s concept of illusion (sleep, dream) covers, undif f erentiated, the
latent and the overt content of history, or, it de-realizes reality. To him,
the political kingdoms are ‘shadows’, political power is a f raud: the
emperor has no new clothes, he has no clothes at all. But unf ortunately,
he does: they are visible and tangible; they make history. I n terms of the
latent content, the kingdoms of the earth may be shadows: but
unf ortunately, they move real men and things, they kill, they persist and
prevail in the sunlight as well as in the dark of night. The king may be
an erected penis, and his relation to the community may be intercourse;
but unf ortunately, it is also something very dif f erent and less pleasant
and more real. Brown skips the mediations which transf orm the latent
into the overt content, sex into politics, the subrational into the rational.
N egat i ons
Thus he is st uck wit h t he t ime-honored quandary of psychoanalysis: t he
airplane is a penis symbol, but it also get s you in a couple of hours f rom
Berlin t o Vienna.
The ‘lower dept hs’, t he ‘underworld’ of t he Unconscious moves t he
hist ory of mankind wit hout dissolving it s realit y, it s rat ionalit y. The
root s of repression are and remain real root s; consequent ly, t heir
eradicat ion remains a real and rat ional job. What is t o be abolished is
not t he realit y principle; not everyt hing, but such part icular t hings as
business, polit ics, exploit at ion, povert y. Short of t his recapt ure of realit y
and reason, Brown’s purpose is def eated, and t he crit ical dest ruct ion of
hist ory, t he discovery of it s lat ent and real cont ent , t urns int o t he
myst if icat ion of t he lat ent and real cont ent . True, in t he language which
reveals t he st uf f out of which hist ory is made, t he est ablished hist ory of
t he Est ablishment , f rom Romulus and Remus t o t he Founding Fat hers
and t heir represent at ive government , t oday appears as crime, decept ion,
lie, illusion; we are asleep, we are dreaming, we are dead if we
experience t his as realit y, as lif e, f reedom, f ulf illment . But t his illusion is
it self a hist orical f act and f act or, and it s negat ion, if any, is a hist orical,
def init ive negat ion: hist orical goal of hist orical pract ice. Out side and
beyond t he hist orical cont inuum, t he solut ion is not hing (as Brown’s
last chapt er indicat es), and t hat means: it is not . And wit hin t he
hist orical universe (t he only one t hat , in any meaningf ul sense, can ever
be t he universe of Freedom and f ulf illment ), t here are divisions and
boundaries t hat are real and will cont inue t o exist even in t he advent of
f reedom and f ulf illment , because all pleasure and all happiness and all
humanit y originat e and live in and wit h t hese divisions and boundaries.
Such are t he division int o t he sexes, t he dif f erence bet ween male and
f emale, bet ween t he penis and t he vagina, bet ween you and me, even
bet ween mine and t hine, and t hey are, or can be, most enjoyable and
most grat if ying divisions; t heir abolit ion would be not only illusion but
night mare – t he acme of repression. To be sure, t his grat if icat ion is
t ransit ory, moment ary, and part ial, but t his does not make it ‘vicarious’
– on t he cont rary! To be sure, al l e L ust wi l l E wi gk ei t , but t his et ernit y can
only be t hat of t he ever ret urning moment s of joy, of t he ever-ret urning
solut ion of t ension. Tension can be made nonaggressive,
nondest ruct ive, but it can never be eliminat ed, because (Freud knew it
well) it s eliminat ion would be deat h – not in any symbolic but in a very
real sense. And we st ill want t o live, wit hin our boundaries and
divisions, which we want t o make our own inst ead of leaving t heir
L ove M yst i fi ed
determination to our f athers and leaders and representatives. For there
is such a thing as the Self , the Person – it does not yet exist but it must
be attained, f ought f or against all those who are preventing its
emergence and who substitute f or it an illusory self , namely, the subject
of voluntary servitude in production and consumption, the subject of
f ree enterprise and f ree election of masters. There is even such a thing
as property which is a f actor and ingredient of true f reedom (Marx knew
it well): that which is properly mine because I am dif f erent f rom you
and can be with and f or you only in this dif f erence – boundaries to be
enjoyed by you and by me. And there are ‘others’, strangers who must
remain strangers, must not enter my domain or yours because there is
no pre-established harmony, and their otherness is not based on any
economic position, social status, racial or national heritage but on their
own self and own body with its own drives, pleasures, sorrows.
Here is the central f allacy, the mystif ication in Brown’s vision. He
obliterates the decisive dif f erence between real and artif icial, natural and
political, f ulf illing and repressive boundaries and divisions. D oes the
well-trained classicist not recognize the liberating truth in the concepts
of t el os and mesot es? Fulf illment becomes meaningless if everything is
one, and one is everything. The sinister images of ‘burning’ and
‘sacrif ice’ recur in Brown’s vision: “ The true sacrif ice is total, a making
holy of the whole” (p. 174); “ Love is all f ire; and so heaven and hell are
the same place. As in Augustine …” (p. 179); “ The true body is the
body burnt up, the spiritual body” (p. 183); “ The reality adumbrated in
all sacrif ice, in animal sacrif ice, is human sacrif ice, the sacrif ice of the
human body, as an eternal truth” (p. 228). N o symbolism can repulse
the repressive connotation: one cannot love in f ire – unless one is a
Christian or Buddhist martyr. Acme of sublimation: the unsublimated
realizations of Eros are burnt up, sacrif iced – they evaporate. For Eros
lives in the division and boundary between subject and object, man and
nature; and precisely in its polymorphous-perverse manif estations, in its
liberation f rom the ‘despotism of genital organization’, the sexual
instincts transf orm the object and the environment – without ever
annihilating the object and the environment together with the subject.


N egat i ons
Brown’s logic is consistent: if the Fall was the division of the original
unity which was total unity, then the redemption can only be the
restoration of total unity:
Fusion: the distinction between inner self and outside world, between
subject and object, overcome (p. 253).
But such f usion would be the end of human lif e, in its instinctual as well
as rational, unsublimated as well as sublimated, expressions. The unity
of subject and object is a hallmark of absolute idealism; however, even
Hegel retained the tension between the two, the distinction. Brown goes
beyond the Absolute I dea: “ Fusion, mystical, participation” (p. 254).
But mystical participation is not made less mystical if it is ‘f reely’
consummated, and magic does not become less magical if it is
‘conscious magic’.
The last sentence of the last chapter: “ Everything is only a
metaphor; there is only poetry” . To understand the reality of politics is
to believe in the myth. We still don’t believe in it; we don’t understand;
we are prisoners in the cave. “ Turning and turning in the animal belly,
the mineral belly, the belly of time. To f ind the way out: the poem” (p.
56). This is one of Brown’s most advanced f ormulations: a vision of the
truth. But poetry is made in history and makes history; and the poem
which is ‘the way out’ will be (if ever) written and sung and heard here
on our earth. Brown had such a poem in mind, and he started to write
it, but it became adumbrated by the ancient ghosts, by the symbols of
sacrif ice, death, transubstantiation. The concluding ref erence in his
book contains the sentence:
Then the body of the Enlightened One becomes luminous in
appearance, convincing and inspiring by its mere presence, while every
word and every gesture, and even his silence, communicate the
overwhelming reality of the Dharma.
This does not work, and no new symbolic interpretation can remove the
impact of the many centuries of deception and exploitation which has
def ined the connotation of these words. To be sure, the sinister spell
can be broken: by the power of the poet and singer, even bef ore the
historical, the real break with deception and exploitation has occurred.
But the poet and singer can give to such words a new and revolutionary
connotation only if his speech and song subvert the established meaning
L ove M yst i fi ed
not merely symbolically but also literally, that is to say, if he cancels this
meaning by translating the impossible into the possible, the mystical
absurd into the real absurd, the metaphysical utopia into the historical
utopia, the second into the f irst coming, redemption into liberation.
Brown moves in the opposite direction. He begins with tearing the
ideological veil; the “ history of mankind goes f rom the natural cave to
the artif icial cave, f rom the underground cave to the aboveground
underground” (p. 39). I n such sentences, the symbolism names the
reality as that which it is and thereby invokes revolution:
The revolution is f rom below, the lower classes, the underworld, the
damned, the disreputable, the despised and rejected. Freud’s
revolutionary motto in T he I nt er pr et at i on of D r eams: F l ect er e si nequeo
Super os, A cher unt a movebo. I f I cannot bend the higher powers, I will stir
up the lower depths. Freud’s discovery: the universal underworld (p.
But then, the very next paragraph opens with the statement: “ D arkness
at noon. A progressive darkening of t he everyday world of common
sense” . Of common sense only? Or has the darkness also descended on
t he ‘way out ’ which Brown has opened? The equat ing sequence:
revolut ion = revelat ion = redempt ion = resurrection strikes not only at
common sense but at sense. True, it is not merely common sense that is
f alse; thus it may be an indispensable, rational task to reduce words to
non-sense, “ to transcend the antinomy of sense and nonsense, silence
and speech” (p. 258). However, this task, if it should help us to f ind ‘the
way out’, is a political task: the silence is not that of the Tibetan or any
ot her monast ery, nor of Z en, nor of mystical communion – it is the
silence which precedes action, the liberating action, and it is broken by
action. The rest is not silence but complacency, or despair, or escape.
And when and where such action is barred, the task of reducing words
to non-sense is the critique of the established language as the language
of the Establishment which makes sense out of non-sense: the non-
sense of its preservation and reproduction as its sole r ai son d’ êt r e.
Brown’s ‘way out’ leaves the Establishment behind – that is, the way
out is indeed mystical, mystif ication. The symbolic interpretation works
both ways: it reveals the latent, the real content of reality, and it
symbolizes the real content: it mystif ies the possibilities of liberation.
Revolution, f reedom, f ulf ilment become in turn symbolic – symbolic
goals and events. Symbolic of what? The answer remains, must remain,
N egat i ons
shrouded in mystery, because Brown envisions an Absolute, a Totality, a
Whole which swallows up all parts and divisions, all tensions and all
needs, that is to say, all lif e. For such a totality does not exist in any
sense or non-sense, and should not even be the vision of the f ree
imagination because it is the negation of all f reedom, and of all
happiness (at least human happiness). To be sure, in dialectical logic, the
whole is the truth, but a whole in which all parts and divisions have
their place and stage. The relations between them, their specif ic
f unction, the dif f erent levels and modes of reality, its inner development
must be demonstrated and def ined – only then, in the unending and
subverting stream of mediations, appears the true as the bacchanalian
whirl: sober drunkenness of the whole: Reason as Freedom. Critical, not
absolute vision; a new rationality, not the simple negation of rationality.


I n the beginning may have been the Uroboros: male and f emale, f ather
and mother, mother and child, ego-id and outside world in one. But the
Uroboros has busted a long time ago; the distinctions and divisions are
our reality – real with all its symbols. I n the light of its own possibilities,
it may well be called a cave, and our lif e in it dream or death. I ts horror
has come to penetrate every part of it, every word and every vision. The
way out may well be the subversion of this entire reality, but this
subversion, in order to be real, must itself be real, look in the f ace of
this reality, and not turn the head. Brown af f irms the proposition on the
need f or changing the world instead of interpreting it. I f there is one
proposition which should not be understood symbolically, it is this one.
And yet, in the development of Brown’s argument, both the latent and
the overt content of this proposition are being sublimated and
mystif ied, and his vision of total change, of the f inal union at the end of
history remains under the spell of the primordial Uroboros, the unity
that is prior to all history.
The way out is also a way back: regression at a higher level,
regression sanctif ied, liberated. I s it again a case of The God That
Failed: f rom politics to a new Communion, f rom Liberty to Nothing?
(When will we realize that there was no god that f ailed because there
was no god, and that the f ailure was ours, and theirs?) Anyhow, his song
of f ulf illment ends in silence, not in the sensuous, audible, living silence
L ove M yst i fi ed
at t he end of t he L i ed von der E r de, but t he si l ence under t he cross, af t er
t he cruci f i xi on; not t he et erni t y of A l l e L ust wi l l E wi gk ei t (t he ‘ewi g’ whi ch
i s t he l ast word i n t he L i ed von der E r de), but t he et erni t y whi ch i s not of
t hi s worl d, t he et erni t y of N i rvana i n whi ch al l j oy and al l sorrow are
f ul f i l l ed – anni hi l at ed.
We l i ke t o have a di f f erent i dea of L ove’ s Body, and we l i ke t o bel i eve
t hat Brown hi msel f has a di f f erent i dea:
To pass f rom t he t empl e t o t he body i s t o percei ve t he body as t he new
t empl e, t he t rue t empl e. The house i s a woman, and t he woman i s a
house, or pal ace…. The l and i s a woman, t he vi rgi n l and; and t he
woman i s a l and, my Ameri ca, my N ewf oundl and (p. 225).
Thi s i s i t . The woman, t he l and i s here on eart h, t o be f ound here on
eart h, l i vi ng and dyi ng, f emal e f or mal e, di st i ngui shed, part i cul ar,
t ensi on t o be renewed, Romeo’s and D on Juan’s, sel f and anot her, yours
or mi ne, f ul f i l l ment i n al i enat i on. N o Euchari st , no cruci f i xi on, no
resurrect i on, no myst i ci sm. To f i nd t hi s woman, t o f ree t hi s l and: hi c
R hodus, hi c sal t a! And don’t j ump i nt o N ot hi ng. Waki ng up f rom sl eep,
f i ndi ng t he way out of t he cave i s work wi t hi n t he cave; sl ow, pai nf ul
work wi t h and agai nst t he pri soners i n t he cave. Everywhere, even i n
your own l and whi ch i s not yet f ound, not yet f ree, t here are t hose who
do t hi s work, who ri sk t hei r l i ves f or i t – t hey f i ght t he real f i ght , t he
pol i t i cal f i ght . You have reveal ed t he l at ent , t he t rue cont ent of pol i t i cs
– you know t hat t he pol i t i cal f i ght i s t he f i ght f or t he whol e: not t he
myst i cal whol e, but t he very unmyst i cal , ant agoni st i c whol e of our l i f e
and t hat of our chi l dren – t he onl y l i f e t hat i s.


Among t he many sent ences i n Brown’s book whi ch I l i ke best i s t he
openi ng of t he Pref ace: “ At l east i n t he l i f e of t he mi nd, vent ures shoul d
be carri ed t hrough t o t he end” . H e has not done so; t hi s i s not t he end.
H e has reached a poi nt of ret urn; on a new way, ret urn t o t he eart h. Bon

N egat i ons
A Reply to Herbert Marcuse
By N orman O. Brown

My f riend Marcuse and I : Romulus and Remus quarreling; which of
them is the r eal ‘revolutionary’.
He will not see the recurrence in revolution. Revolution is not a slate
wiped clean, but a revolving cycle (L ove’ s Body, p. 204). Even newness is
renewal. As it was in the beginning. The idea of progress is in question;
the reality of Marx cannot hide the reality of Nietzsche. The thing is to
change the world; but it is also true that everything remains always the
same. The assignment then is (to put it simply) the simultaneous
af f irmation and rejection of what is; not in a system, as in Hegel, but in
an instant, as in poetry.
There is eternal recurrence; there are ‘eternal objects’ (Whitehead);
archetypes. This is a hard lesson. There is a sense in which war cannot
be abolished (L ove’ s Body, p. 182). Or, there is an eternal object of which
literal war is a f alse image, or inadequate idea. The thing to be abolished
is literalism; the worship of f alse images; idolatry. Allen Ginsberg saw it
just the way it is: Moloch. A f alse idol f ed with real victims. This is no
joke. (N or is f ire; Heraclitean f ire.)
I dolatry is f etishism, mystif ication; demystif ication would be an end
to idolatry. But an end to idolatry is not so easy (L ove’ s Body, p. 114). I t is
not the abolition of the temple, but the discovery of the true temple:
Love’s body. K arl Barth saw religion as idolatry; K arl Marx saw religion
as the heart of a heartless world. The Sacred Heart. The thing is not to
excise the heart but to put it where it belongs. The real atheism is to
become divine. I n a dialectical view, atheism becomes theurgy, god-
making; demystif ication becomes the discovery of a new mystery; and
everything remains the same.
There is another sense in which mystif ication must be af f irmed. We
have to surpass the Enlightenment notion that in the lif e of the species
or of the individual there is a def initive change-over f rom darkness to
light. Light is always light in darkness; that is what the unconscious is all
about (L ove’ s Body, p. 216). N or can the light become a current, always
turned on, in ordinary prosaic language. Truth is always in poetic f orm;
not literal but symbolic; hiding, or veiled; light in darkness. Yes,
L ove M yst i fi ed
mysterious. Literalism is idolatry of words; the alternative to idolatry is
mystery. And literalism reif ies, makes out of everything things, these
tables and chairs, commodities. The alternative to reif ication is
mystif ication (L ove’ s Body, p. 234). The world is actually not a collection
of commodities;
When silence
Blooms in the house, all the paraphernalia of our existence
Shed the twitterings of value and reappear as heraldic devices.
– Robert D uncan
Heraldic devices: airplanes as penis symbols rat her t han ‘modern
conveniences’. One of the eternal verities is the human body as the
measure of all things, including technology. The businessman does not
have t he last word; t he real meaning of t echnology is it s hidden relat ion
t o t he human body; a symbolical or myst ical relat ion.


With the whole world still in the bourgeois stage of competitive
development and war, the thing to remember about Mars is that he was
able t o look beyond t his world t o anot her possible world, of union,
communion, communism. What needs to be reiterated is not
reassurance t o t he bourgeois t hat he will be able to carry his little old
Self , Person, and Propert y int o t hat world, but that the kingdom of
heaven on eart h is possible; and t hat ot her world, t he negat ion of t his
jungle, cannot possibly be anyt hing except Communit as. A higher f orm
of chaos; inst ead of conf usion, f usion (L ove’ s Body, pp. 248, 253).
And, af ter Freud, we have to add that there is also a sexual
revolut ion; which is not t o be f ound in t he bourgeois cycle of repression
and promiscuit y, but in a t ransf ormat ion of t he human body, an
abolition of genital organization. I ndeed, L ove’ s Body shows that genital
organizat ion is t he same t hing as Self , Person, Propert y; and, t heref ore,
t he abolit ion of genit al organizat ion, f oret old by Marcuse in E r os and
C i vi l i zat i on, turns out to mean what Marcuse calls the impossible unity
and union of everyt hing.
N egat i ons
Yes, indeed, there was a God that f ailed; that mortal God, the great
Leviathan; or Moloch; discovered to be not only mortal but also dead,
an idol. From literalism to symbolism; the lesson of my lif e. The next
generation needs to be told that the real f ight is not the political f ight,
but to put an end to politics. From politics to metapolitics.
From politics to poetry. Legislation is not politics, nor philosophy,
but poetry. Poetry, art, is not an epiphenomenal ref lection of some
other (political, economic) realm which is the ‘real thing’; nor a still
contemplation of something else which is the ‘real action’; nor a
sublimation of something else which is the ‘real’, carnal ‘act’. Poetry, art,
imagination, the creator spirit is lif e itself ; the real revolutionary power
to change the world; and to change the human body. To change the
human body: here is the crisis, hi c R hodus, hi c sal t a; which, as Hegel said,
is to be translated ‘here is the Rose, here begin to dance’. To begin to
dance; who can tell the dancer f rom the dance; it is the impossible unity
and union of everything.
From politics to lif e. And theref ore revolution as creation;
resurrection; renaissance instead of progress. To perceive in all human
culture the hidden reality of the human body. This is to discover as
Freud did, the Holy Communion as the basis of community; the
Eucharist; the cannibalism, the hidden eat i ng; one of the f orms of which
is war – making children pass through the f ire unto Moloch. Go to the
end of the road and that is what you will f ind. And so the God is not
Freud’s God Logos, abstract or disembodied Reason, but the Human
Form Divine. And the language is the language not of reason but of
love. Reason is power; powerf ul arguments; power politics; Realpolitik;
reality-principle. Love comes empty-handed (L ove’ s B ody, p. 237); the
eternal proletariat; like Cordelia, bringing N othing.

Aggressiveness in Advanced Industrial
I propose to consider here the strains and stresses in the so-called
‘af f luent society’, a phrase which has (rightly or wrongly) been coined to
describe contemporary American society. I ts main characteristics are: (1)
an abundant industrial and technical capacity which is to a great extent
spent in the production and distribution of luxury goods, gadgets, waste,
planned obsolescence, military or semimilitary equipment – in short, in
what economists and sociologists used to call ‘unproductive’ goods and
services; (2) a rising standard of living, which also extends to previously
underprivileged parts of the population; (3) a high degree of
concentration of economic and political power, combined with a high
degree of organization and government intervention in the economy; (4)
scientif ic and pseudoscientif ic investigation, control, and manipulation
of private and group behavior, both at work and at leisure (including the
behavior of the psyche, the soul, the unconscious, and the
subconscious) f or commercial and political purposes. All these
tendencies are interrelated: they make up the syndrome which expresses
the normal f unctioning of the ‘af f luent society’. To demonstrate this
interrelation is not my task here; I take its existence as the sociological
basis f or the thesis which I want to submit, namely, that the strains and
stresses suf f ered by the individual in the af f luent society are grounded in
the normal f unctioning of this society (and of the individual!) rather
than in its disturbances and diseases.
‘N ormal f unctioning’: I think the def inition presents no dif f iculties
f or the doctor. The organism f unctions normally if it f unctions, without
disturbance, in accord with the biological and physiological makeup of
the human body. The human f aculties and capabilities are certainly very
N egat i ons
dif f erent among the members of the species, and the species itself has
changed greatly in the course of its history but these changes have
occurred on a biological and physiological basis which has remained
largely constant. To be sure, the physician, in making his diagnosis and
in proposing treatment, will take into account the patient’s environment,
upbringing, and occupation; these f actors may limit the extent to which
normal f unctioning can be def ined and achieved, or they may even
make this achievement impossible, but as criterion and goal, normality
remains a clear and meaningf ul concept. As such, it is identical with
‘health’, and the various deviations f rom it are to various degrees of
The situation of the psychiatrist seems to be quite dif f erent. At f irst
glance, normality seems to be def ined along the same lines the physician
uses. The normal f unctioning of the mind (psyche, psyche-soma) is that
which enables the individual to perf orm, to f unction in accord with his
position as child, adolescent, parent, as a single person or married, in
accord with his job, prof ession, status. But this def inition contains
f actors of an entirely new dimension, namely, that of society, and
society is a f actor of normality in a f ar more essential sense than that of
external inf luence, so much so that ‘normal’ seems to be a social and
institutional rather than individual condition. I t is probably easy to agree
on what is the normal f unctioning of the digestive tract, the lungs, and
the heart, but what is the normal f unctioning of the mind in
lovemaking, in other interpersonal relations, at work and at leisure, at a
meeting of a board of directors, on the golf course, in the slums, in
prison, in the army? While the normal f unctioning of the digestive tract
or the lung is likely to be the same in the case of a healthy corporation
executive and of a healthy laborer, this does not hold true of their
minds. I n f act, the one would be very abnormal if he regularly thought,
f elt, and operated like the other. And what is ‘normal’ lovemaking, a
‘normal’ f amily, a ‘normal’ occupation?
The psychiatrist might proceed like the general physician and direct
therapy to making the patient f unction within his f amily, in his job or
environment, while trying to inf luence and even change the
environmental f actors as much as this is in his power. The limits will
soon make themselves f elt, f or example, if the mental strains and
stresses of the patient are caused, not merely by certain bad conditions
in his job, in his neighborhood, in his social status, but by the very nat ur e
of the job, the neighborhood, the status itself – in their normal
A ggr essi veness i n A dvanced I ndust r i al Soci et i es
condit ion. Then making him normal f or t his condit ion would mean
normalizing t he st rains and st resses, or t o put it more brut ally: making
him capable of being sick, of living his sickness as healt h, wit hout his
not icing t hat he is sick precisely when he sees himself and is seen as
healt hy and normal. This would be t he case if his work is, by it s very
nat ure, ‘deadening’, st upef ying, wastef ul (even t hough t he job pays well
and is ‘socially’ necessary), or if t he person belongs t o a minorit y group
which is underprivileged in t he est ablished societ y, t radit ionally poor
and occupied mainly in menial and ‘dirt y’ physical labor. But t his would
also be t he case (in very dif f erent f orms) on t he ot her side of t he f ence
among the t ycoons of business and polit ics, where ef f icient and
prof it able perf ormance requires (and reproduces) t he qualit ies of smart
rut hlessness, moral indif f erence, and persist ent aggressiveness. I n such
cases, ‘normal’ f unct ioning would be t ant amount t o a dist ort ion and
mut ilat ion of a human being – no mat t er how modest ly one may def ine
t he human qualit ies of a human being. Erich Fromm wrot e T he Sane
Soci et y; it deals, not wit h t he est ablished, but wit h a f ut ure, societ y, t he
implicat ion being t hat t he est ablished societ y is not sane but insane. I s
not t he individual who f unct ions normally, adequat ely, and healt hily as a
cit izen of a sick societ y – is not such an individual himself sick? And
would not a sick societ y require an ant agonist ic concept of ment al
healt h, a met a-concept designat ing (and preserving) ment al qualit ies
which are t abooed, arrest ed, or dist ort ed by t he ‘sanit y’ prevalent in t he
sick societ y? (For example, ment al healt h equals t he abilit y t o live as a
dissent er, t o live a nonadjust ed lif e.)
As a t ent at ive def init ion of ‘sick societ y’ we can say t hat a societ y is
sick when it s basic inst it ut ions and relat ions, it s st ruct ure, are such t hat
t hey do not permit t he use of t he available mat erial and int ellect ual
resources f or t he opt imal development and sat isf act ion of individual
needs. The larger t he discrepancy bet ween t he pot ent ial and t he act ual
human condit ions, t he great er t he social need f or what I t erm ‘surplus-
repression’, t hat is, repression necessit at ed not by t he growt h and
preservat ion of civilizat ion but by t he vest ed int erest in maint aining an
est ablished societ y. Such surplus-repression int roduces (over and above,
or rat her underneat h, t he social conf lict s) new st rains and st resses in t he
individuals. Usually handled by t he normal working of t he social
process, which assures adjust ment and submission (f ear of loss of job or
st at us, ost racism, and so f ort h, no special enf orcement policies wit h
respect t o t he mind are required. But in cont emporary af f luent societ y,
N egat i ons
t he discrepancy bet ween t he est ablished modes of exist ence and t he real
possibilit ies of human f reedom is so great t hat , in order t o prevent an
explosion, societ y has t o insure a more ef f ect ive ment al coordinat ion of
individuals: in it s unconscious as well as conscious dimensions, t he
psyche is opened up and subject ed t o syst emat ic manipulat ion and
cont rol.
When I speak of t he surplus-repression ‘required’ f or t he
maint enance of a societ y, or of t he need f or syst emat ic manipulat ion
and cont rol, I do not ref er t o individually experienced social needs and
consciously inaugurat ed policies: t hey may be t hus experienced and
inaugurat ed or t hey may not . I rat her speak of t endencies, f orces which
can be ident if ied by an analysis of t he exist ing societ y and which assert
t hemselves even if t he policy makers are not aware of t hem. They
express t he requirement s of t he est ablished apparat us of product ion,
dist ribut ion, and consumpt ion – economic, t echnical, political, mental
requirement s which have t o be f ulf illed in order t o assure t he cont inued
f unct ioning of t he apparat us on which t he populat ion depends, and t he
cont inuing f unct ion of t he social relat ionships derived f rom t he
organizat ion of t he apparat us. These object ive t endencies become
manif est in t he t rend of t he economy, in t echnological change, in t he
domest ic and f oreign policy of a nat ion or group of nat ions, and t hey
generat e common, supraindividual needs and goals in t he dif f erent
social classes, pressure groups, and part ies. Under t he normal condit ions
of social cohesion, t he object ive t endencies override or absorb
individual int erest s and goals without exploding t he societ y; however,
the particular interest is not simply det ermined by t he universal: t he
f ormer has it s own range of f reedom, and cont ribut es, in accordance
wit h it s social posit ion, t o t he shaping of t he general int erest – but short
of a revolut ion, t he part icular needs and goals will remain def ined by t he
predominant object ive t endencies. Marx believed t hat t hey assert
t hemselves ‘behind t he back’ of t he individuals; in t he advanced
societ ies of t oday, t his is t rue only wit h st rong qualif icat ions. Social
engineering, scient if ic management of ent erprise and human relat ions,
and manipulat ion of inst inct ual needs are pract iced on t he policy-
making level and t est if y t o t he degree of awareness wit hin t he general
As f or t he syst emat ic manipulat ion and cont rol of t he psyche in t he
advanced indust rial societ y, manipulat ion and cont rol f or what , and by
whom? Over and above all part icular manipulat ion in t he int erest of
A ggr essi veness i n A dvanced I ndust r i al Soci et i es
cert ain businesses, policies, lobbies – t he general object ive purpose is t o
reconcile t he individual wit h t he mode of exist ence which his societ y
imposes on him. Because of t he high degree of surplus-repression
involved in such reconciliat ion, it is necessary t o achieve a libidinal
cat hexis of t he merchandise t he individual has t o buy (or sell), t he
services he has t o use (or perf orm), t he f un he has t o enjoy, t he st at us
symbols he has t o carry – necessary, because t he exist ence of t he societ y
depends on t heir unint errupt ed product ion and consumpt ion. I n ot her
words, social needs must become individual needs, inst inct ual needs.
And t o t he degree t o which t he product ivit y of t his societ y requires
mass product ion and mass consumpt ion, t hese needs must be
st andardized, coordinat ed, generalized. Cert ainly, t hese cont rols are not
a conspiracy, t hey are not cent ralized in any agency or group of agencies
(alt hough t he t rend t oward cent ralizat ion is gaining moment um); t hey
are rat her dif f used t hroughout t he society, exercised by t he neighbors,
t he communit y, t he peer groups, mass media, corporat ions, and
(perhaps least ) by t he government . But t hey are exercised wit h t he help
of , in f act rendered possible by, science, by t he social and behavioral
sciences, and especially by sociology and psychology. As indust rial
sociology and psychology, or, more euphemist ically, as ‘science of
human relat ions’, t hese scient if ic ef f ort s have become an indispensable
t ool in t he hands of t he powers t hat be.
These brief remarks are suggest ive of t he dept h of societ y’s
ingression int o t he psyche, t he ext ent t o which ment al healt h, normalit y,
is not t hat of t he individual but of his societ y. Such a harmony bet ween
t he individual and societ y would be highly desirable if t he societ y
of f ered t he individual t he condit ions f or his development as a human
being in accord wit h t he available possibilit ies of f reedom, peace, and
happiness (t hat is in accord wit h t he possible liberat ion of his lif e
inst inct s), but it is highly dest ruct ive t o t he individual if t hese condit ions
do not prevail. Where t hey do not prevail, t he healt hy and normal
individual is a human being equipped wit h all t he qualit ies which enable
him t o get along wit h ot hers in his societ y, and t hese very same qualit ies
are t he marks of repression, t he marks of a mut ilat ed human being, who
collaborat es in his own repression, in t he cont ainment of pot ent ial
individual and social f reedom, in t he release of aggression. And t his
sit uat ion cannot be solved wit hin t he f ramework of individual
psychology and t herapy, nor wit hin t he f ramework of any psychology –
a solut ion can be envisaged only on t he polit ical level: in t he st ruggle
N egat i ons
against societ y. To be sure, t herapy could demonst rat e t his sit uat ion and
prepare t he ment al ground f or such a st ruggle – but t hen psychiat ry
would be a subversive undert aking.
The quest ion now is whet her t he strains in cont emporary American
society, in the af f luent society, suggest t he prevalence of condit ions
essent ially negat ive t o individual development in t he sense just
discussed. Or, t o f ormulat e t he quest ion in t erms more indicat ive of t he
approach I propose t o t ake: D o t hese st rains vit iat e t he very possibilit y
of ‘healt hy’ individual development – healt hy def ined in t erms of
opt imal development of one’s int ellect ual and emot ional f acult ies? The
quest ion calls f or an af f irmat ive answer, that is, this society vitiates
individual development s, if t he prevailing st rains are relat ed t o t he very
st ruct ure of t his societ y and if t hey activate in its members instinctual
needs and sat isf act ions which set t he individuals against t hemselves so
t hat t hey reproduce and int ensif y t heir own repression.
At f irst glance, t he st rains in our societ y seem t o be t hose
charact erist ic of any societ y which develops under t he impact of great
t echnological changes: t hey init iat e new modes of work and of leisure
and t hereby af f ect all social relat ionships, and bring about a t horough
t ransvaluat ion of values. Since physical labor t ends t o become
increasingly unnecessary and even wast ef ul, since t he work of salaried
employees t oo becomes increasingly ‘aut omat ic’ and t hat of t he
polit icians and administ rat ors increasingly quest ionable, t he t radit ional
cont ent of t he st ruggle f or exist ence appears more meaningless and
wit hout subst ance t he more it appears as unnecessary necessit y. But t he
f ut ure alt ernat ive, namely, t he possible abolit ion of (alienat ed) labor
seems equally meaningless, nay, f right ening. And indeed, if one
envisages t his alt ernat ive as t he progress and development of t he
est abl i shed syst em, t hen t he dislocat ion of t he cont ent of lif e t o f ree t ime
suggest s t he shape of a night mare: massive self -realizat ion, f un, sport in
a st eadily shrinking space.
But t he t hreat of t he ‘bogey of aut omation’ is itself ideology. On the
one hand it serves t he perpet uat ion and reproduct ion of t echnically
obsolet e and unnecessary jobs and occupat ions (unemployment as
normal condit ion, even if comf ort able, seems worse t han st upef ying
rout ine work); on t he ot her hand it just if ies and promot es t he educat ion
and t raining of t he managers and organizat ion men of leisure t ime, t hat
is t o say, it serves t o prolong and enlarge cont rol and manipulat ion.
A ggr essi veness i n A dvanced I ndust r i al Soci et i es
The real danger f or t he est abl i shed syst em i s not t he abol i t i on of
l abor but t he possi bi l i t y of nonal i enat ed l abor as t he basi s of t he
reproduct i on of soci et y. N ot t hat peopl e are no l onger compel l ed t o
work, but t hat t hey mi ght be compel l ed t o work f or a very di f f erent l i f e
and i n very di f f erent rel at i ons, t hat t hey mi ght be gi ven very di f f erent
goal s and val ues, t hat t hey mi ght have t o l i ve wi t h a very di f f erent
moral i t y – t hi s i s t he ‘def i ni t e negat i on’ of t he est abl i shed syst em, t he
l i berat i ng al t ernat i ve. For exampl e, soci al l y necessary l abor mi ght be
organi zed f or such ef f ort s as t he rebui l di ng of ci t i es and t owns, t he
rel ocat i on of t he pl aces of work (so t hat peopl e l earn agai n how t o
wal k), t he const ruct i on of i ndust ri es whi ch produce goods wi t hout
bui l t -i n obsol escence, wi t hout prof i t abl e wast e and poor qual i t y, and t he
subj ect i on of t he envi ronment t o t he vi t al aest het i c needs of t he
organi sm. To be sure, t o t ransl at e t hi s possi bi l i t y i nt o real i t y woul d
mean t o el i mi nat e t he power of t he domi nant i nt erest s whi ch, by t hei r
very f unct i on i n t he soci et y, are opposed t o a devel opment t hat woul d
reduce pri vat e ent erpri se t o a mi nor rol e, t hat woul d do away wi t h t he
market economy, and wi t h t he pol i cy of mi l i t ary preparedness,
expansi on, and i nt ervent i on – i n ot her words: a devel opment t hat woul d
reverse t he ent i re prevai l i ng t rend. There i s l i t t l e evi dence f or such a
devel opment . I n t he meant i me, and wi t h t he new and t erri bl y ef f ect i ve
and t ot al means provi ded by t echni cal progress, t he popul at i on i s
physi cal l y and ment al l y mobi l i zed agai nst t hi s event ual i t y: t hey must
cont i nue t he st ruggl e f or exi st ence i n pai nf ul , cost l y, and obsol et e
f orms.
Thi s i s t he real cont radi ct i on whi ch t ransl at es i t sel f f rom t he soci al
st ruct ure i nt o t he ment al st ruct ure of t he i ndi vi dual s. There, i t act i vat es
and aggravat es dest ruct i ve t endenci es whi ch, i n a hardl y subl i mat ed
mode, are made soci al l y usef ul i n t he behavi or of t he i ndi vi dual s, on t he
pri vat e as wel l as pol i t i cal l evel – i n t he behavi or of t he nat i on as a
whol e. D est ruct i ve energy becomes soci al l y usef ul aggressi ve energy,
and t he aggressi ve behavi or i mpel s growt h – growt h of economi c,
pol i t i cal , and t echni cal power. Just as i n t he cont emporary sci ent i f i c
ent erpri se, so i n t he economi c ent erpri se and i n t hat of t he nat i on as a
whol e, const ruct i ve and dest ruct i ve achi evement s, work f or l i f e and
work f or deat h, procreat i ng and ki l l i ng are i next ri cabl y uni t ed. To
rest ri ct t he expl oi t at i on of nucl ear energy woul d mean t o rest ri ct i t s
peacef ul as wel l as mi l i t ary pot ent i al ; t he amel i orat i on and prot ect i on of
l i f e appear as by-product s of t he sci ent i f i c work on t he anni hi l at i on of
N egat i ons
lif e; to restrict procreation would also mean to restrict potential
manpower and the number of potential customers and clients. Now the
(more or less sublimated) transf ormation of destructive into socially
usef ul aggressive (and thereby constructive) energy is, according to
Freud (on whose instinct-theory I base my interpretation) a normal and
indispensable process. I t is part of the same dynamic by which libido,
erotic energy, is sublimated and made socially usef ul; the two opposite
impulses are f orced together and, united in this twof old transf ormation,
they become the mental and organic vehicles of civilization. But no
matter how close and ef f ective their union, their respective quality
remains unchanged and contrary: aggression activates destruction which
‘aims’ at death, while libido seeks the preservation, protection, and
amelioration of lif e. Theref ore, it is only as long as destruction works in
the service of Eros that it serves civilization and the individual; if
aggression becomes stronger than its erotic counterpart, the trend is
reversed. Moreover, in the Freudian conception, destructive energy
cannot become stronger without reducing erotic energy: the balance
between the two primary impulses is a quantitative one; the instinctual
dynamic is mechanistic, distributing an available quantum of energy
between the two antagonists.
I have brief ly restated Freud’s conception inasmuch as I shall use it
to discuss the depth and character of the strains prevalent in American
society. I suggest that the strains derive f rom the basic contradiction
between the capabilities of this society, which could produce essentially
new f orms of f reedom amounting to a subversion of the established
institutions on the one hand, and the repressive use of these capabilities
on the other. The contradiction explodes – and is at the same time
‘resolved’, ‘contained’ – in the ubiquitous aggression prevalent in this
society. I ts most conspicuous (but by no means isolated) manif estation
is the military mobilization and its ef f ect on the mental behavior of the
individuals, but within the context of the basic contradiction,
aggressiveness is f ed by many sources. The f ollowing seem to be
f oremost:
(1) T he dehumani z at i on of t he pr ocess of pr oduct i on and consumpt i on.
Technical progress is identical with the increasing elimination of
personal initiative, inclination, taste, and need f rom the provision of
goods and services. This tendency is liberating if the available resources
and techniques are used f or f reeing the individual f rom labor and
recreation which are required f or the reproduction of the established
A ggr essi veness i n A dvanced I ndust r i al Soci et i es
institutions but are parasitic, wastef ul, and dehumanizing in terms of the
existing technical and intellectual capabilities. The same tendency of ten
gratif ies hostility.
(2) T he condi t i ons of cr owdi ng, noi se, and over t ness char act er i st i c of mass soci et y.
As René Dubos has said, the need f or “ quiet, privacy, independence,
initiative, and some open space” are not “ f rills or luxuries but constitute
real biological necessities” . Their lack injures the instinctual structure
itself . Freud has emphasized the ‘asocial’ character of Eros – the mass
society achieves an ‘oversocialization’ to which the individual reacts
“ with all sorts of f rustrations, repressions, aggressions, and f ears which
soon develop into genuine neuroses” .
I mentioned, as the most conspicuous social mobilization of
aggressiveness, the militarization of the af f luent society. This
mobilization goes f ar beyond the actual draf t of manpower and the
buildup of the armament industry: its truly totalitarian aspects show
f orth in the daily mass media which f eed ‘public opinion’. The
brutalization of language and image, the presentation of killing, burning,
and poisoning and torture inf licted upon the victims of neocolonial
slaughter is made in a common-sensible, f actual, sometimes humorous
style which integrates these horrors with the pranks of juvenile
delinquents, f ootball contests, accidents, stock market reports, and the
weatherman. This is no longer the ‘classical’ heroizing of killing in the
national interest, but rather its reduction to the level of natural events
and contingencies of daily lif e.
The consequence is a ‘psychological habituation of war’ which is
administered to a people protected f rom the actuality of war, a people
who, by virtue of this habituation, easily f amiliarizes itself with the ‘kill
rate’ as it is already f amiliar with other ‘rates’ (such as those of business
or traf f ic or unemployment). The people are conditioned to live “ with
the hazards, the brutalities, and the mounting casualties of the war in
Vietnam, just as one learns gradually to live with the everyday hazards
and casualties of smoking, of smog, or of traf f ic” .
The photos which
appear in the daily newspapers and in magazines with mass circulation,
of ten in nice and glossy color, show rows of prisoners laid out or stood
up f or ‘interrogation’, little children dragged through the dust behind
armored cars, mutilated women. They are nothing new (‘such things
happen in a war’), but it is the setting that makes the dif f erence: their
appearance in the regular program, in togetherness with the
N egat i ons
commercials, sports, local politics, and report s on t he social set . And t he
brut alit y of power is f urt her normalized by it s ext ension t o t he beloved
automobile: the manuf acturers sell a Thunderbird, Fury, Tempest , and
the oil industry puts ‘a tiger in your tank’.
However, t he administ ered language is rigidly discriminating: a
specif ic vocabulary of hat e, resent ment , and def amat ion is reserved f or
opposition to the aggressive policies and f or t he enemy. The pat t ern
const ant ly repeat s it self . Thus, when st udent s demonst rat e against t he
war, it is a ‘mob’ swelled by ‘bearded advocat es of sexual f reedom’, by
unwashed juveniles, and by ‘hoodlums and st reet urchins’ who ‘tramp’
t he st reet s, while t he count erdemonst rat ions consist of cit izens who
gather. I n Vietnam, ‘typical criminal communist violence’ is perpetrated
against American ‘strategic operations’. The Reds have the impertinence
t o launch ‘a sneak at t ack’ (presumably t hey are supposed t o announce it
bef orehand and t o deploy in t he open); they are ‘evading a death trap’
(presumably t hey should have st ayed in). The Viet cong at t ack American
barracks ‘in the dead of night’ and kill American boys (presumably,
Americans only at t ack in broad daylight , don’t dist urb t he sleep of t he
enemy, and don’t kill Vietnamese boys). The massacre of hundreds of
t housands of communists (in I ndonesia) is called ‘impressive’ – a
comparable ‘killing rate’ suf f ered by the other side would hardly have
been honored wit h such an adject ive. To t he Chinese, t he presence of
American t roops in East Asia is a threat to their ‘ideology’, while
presumably t he presence of Chinese t roops in Cent ral or Sout h America
would be a real, and not only ideological, threat to the United States.
The loaded language proceeds according t o t he Orwellian recipe of
t he ident it y of opposit es: in t he mout h of t he enemy, peace means war,
and def ense is attack, while on the righteous side, escalation is restraint,
and sat urat ion bombing prepares f or peace. Organized in t his
discriminatory f ashion, language designates a priori the enemy as evil in
his entirety and in all his actions and intentions.
Such mobilizat ion of aggressiveness cannot be explained by t he
magnitude of the communist threat: the image of the ostensible enemy
is inf lated out of all proportion to reality. What is at stake is rather the
continued stability and growth of a system which is threatened by its
own irrat ionalit y – by t he narrow base on which it s prosperit y rest s, by
t he dehumanizat ion which it s wast ef ul and parasitic af f luence demands.
The senseless war is itself part of this irrationality and thus of the
A ggr essi veness i n A dvanced I ndust r i al Soci et i es
essence of the system. What may have been a minor involvement at the
beginning, almost an accident , a cont ingency of f oreign policy, has
become a test case f or the productivity, competitiveness, and prestige of
the whole. The billions of dollars spent f or the war ef f ort are a political
as well as economic stimulus (or cure): a big way of absorbing part of
t he economic surplus, and of keeping the people in line. D ef eat in
Vietnam may well be the signal f or other wars of liberation closer to
home – and perhaps even f or rebellion at home.
To be sure, the social utilization of aggressiveness belongs to the
historical structure of civilization and has been a powerf ul vehicle of
progress. However, here t oo, t here is a stage where quantity may turn
into quality and subvert the normal balance bet ween t he t wo primary
instincts in f avor of destruction. I ment ioned t he ‘bogey man’ of
automation. I n f act the real spectre f or the af f luent society is the
possible reduction of labor to a level where t he human organism need
no longer f unct ion as an inst rument of labor. The mere quant it at ive
decline in needed human labor power militates against the maintenance
of t he capit alist mode of product ion (as of all other exploitative modes
of product ion). The syst em react s by st epping up t he product ion of
goods and services which eit her do not enlarge individual consumpt ion
at all, or enlarge it with luxuries – luxuries in the f ace of persistent
poverty, but luxuries which are necessities f or occupying a labor f orce
suf f icient to reproduce the established economic and polit ical
inst it ut ions. To t he degree t o which t his sort of work appears as
superf luous, senseless, and unnecessary while necessary f or earning a
living, f rustration is built into the very productivity of this society, and
aggressiveness is activated. And to the degree to which the society in its
very structure becomes aggressive, the mental structure of its citizens
adjusts itself : the individual becomes at one and the same time more
aggressive and more pliable and submissive, f or he submits to a society
which, by virtue of its af f luence and power, satisf ies his deepest (and
otherwise greatly repressed) instinctual needs. And these instinctual
needs apparently f ind their libidinal ref lection in the representatives of
t he people. The chairman of t he Armed Services Commit t ee of t he
United States Senate, Senator Russell of Georgia, was struck by this f act.
He is quoted as saying:
There is something about preparing f or destruction that causes men to
be more careless in spending money than they would be if they were
N egat i ons
building f or constructive purposes. Why that is, I do not know; but I
have observed, over a period of almost thirty years in the Senate, that
there is something about buying arms with which to kill, to destroy, to
wipe out cities, and to obliterate great transportation systems which
causes men not t o reckon t he dollar cost as closely as t hey do when t hey
t hink about proper housing and t he care of t he healt h of human

I have argued elsewhere t he question of how one can possibly gauge
and hist orically compare t he aggression prevalent in a specif ic societ y;
inst ead of rest at ing t he case, I want now t o f ocus on dif f erent aspect s,
on t he specif ic f orms in which aggression t oday is released and sat isf ied.
The most t elling one, and t he one which dist inguishes t he new f rom
t he t radit ional f orms, is what I call t echnol ogi cal aggr essi on and sat i sfact i on.
The phenomenon is quickly described: t he act of aggression is physically
carried out by a mechanism wit h a high degree of aut omat ism, of f ar
great er power t han t he individual human being who set s it in mot ion,
keeps it in mot ion, and det ermines it s end or t arget . The most ext reme
case is t he rocket or missile; t he most ordinary example t he aut omobile.
This means t hat t he energy, t he power act ivat ed and consummat ed is
t he mechanical, elect rical, or nuclear energy of ‘t hings’ rat her t han t he
inst inct ual energy of a human being. Aggression is, as it were,
t ransf erred f rom a subject t o an object , or is at least ‘mediat ed’ by an
object , and t he t arget is dest royed by a t hing rat her t han by a person.
This change in t he relat ion bet ween human and mat erial energy, and
bet ween t he physical and ment al part of aggression (man becomes t he
subject and agent of aggression by virt ue of his ment al rat her t han
physical f acult ies) must also af f ect t he ment al dynamic. I submit a
hypot hesis which is suggest ed by t he inner logic of t he process: wit h t he
‘delegat ion’ of dest ruct ion t o a more or less aut omat ed t hing or group
and syst em of t hings, t he inst inct ual sat isf act ion of t he human person is
‘int errupt ed’, reduced, f rust rat ed, ‘supersublimat ed’. And such
f rust rat ion makes f or repet it ion and escalat ion: increasing violence,
speed, enlarged scope. At t he same t ime, personal responsibilit y,
conscience, and t he sense of guilt is weakened, or rat her dif f used,
displaced f rom t he act ual cont ext in which t he aggression was
commit t ed (i.e. bombing raids), and relocat ed in a more or less
innocuous cont ext (impolit eness, sexual inadequacy, et c.). I n t his
react ion t oo, t he ef f ect is a considerable weakening of t he sense of guilt ,
and t he def ense (hat red, resent ment ) is also redirect ed f rom t he real
A ggr essi veness i n A dvanced I ndust r i al Soci et i es
responsible subject (the commanding of f icer, the government) to a
substitute person: not I as a (morally and physically) acting person did it,
but the thing, the machine. The machine: the word suggests that an
apparatus consisting of human beings may be substituted f or the
mechanical apparatus: the bureaucracy, the administration, the party, or
organization is the responsible agent: I , the individual person, was only
the instrumentality. And an instrument cannot, in any moral sense, be
responsible or be in a state of guilt. I n this way, another barrier against
aggression, which civilization had erected in a long and violent process
of discipline is removed. And the expansion of advanced capitalism
becomes involved in a f atef ul psychical dialectic which enters into and
propels its economic and political dynamic: the more powerf ul and
‘technological’ aggression becomes, the less is it apt to satisf y and pacif y
the primary impulse, and the more it tends toward repetition and
To be sure, the use of instruments of aggression is as old as
civilization itself , but there is a decisive dif f erence between technological
aggression and the more primitive f orms. The latter were not only
quantitatively dif f erent (weaker): they required activation and engagement
of the body to a much higher degree than the automated or
semiautomated instruments of aggression. The knif e, the ‘blunt
instrument’, even the revolver are f ar more ‘part’ of the individual who
uses them and they associate him more closely with his target.
Moreover, and most important, their use, unless ef f ectively sublimated
and in the service of the lif e instincts (as in the case of the surgeon,
household, etc.), is criminal – individual crime – and as such subject to
severe punishment. I n contrast, technological aggression is not a crime.
The speeding driver of an automobile or motor boat is not called a
murderer even if he is one; and certainly the missile-f iring engineers are
Technological aggression releases a mental dynamic which
aggravates the destructive, antierotic tendencies of the puritan complex.
The new modes of aggression destroy without getting one’s hands dirty,
one’s body soiled, one’s mind incriminated. The killer remains clean,
physically as well as mentally. The purity of his deadly work obtains
added sanction if it is directed against the national enemy in the national
N egat i ons
The (anonymous) l ead art i cl e i n L es T emps M oder nes (January 1966)
l i nks t he war i n V i et nam wi t h t he puri t an t radi t i on i n t he Uni t ed St at es.
The i mage of t he enemy i s t hat of di rt i n i t s most repul si ve f orms; t he
uncl ean j ungl e i s hi s nat ural habi t at , di sembowel ment and beheadi ng are
hi s nat ural ways of act i on. Consequent l y, t he burni ng of hi s ref uge,
def ol i at i on, and t he poi soni ng of hi s f oodst uf f are not onl y st rat egi c but
al so moral operat i ons: removi ng of cont agi ous di rt , cl eari ng t he way f or
t he order of pol i t i cal hygi ene and ri ght eousness. And t he mass purgi ng
of t he good consci ence f rom al l rat i onal i nhi bi t i ons l eads t o t he at rophy
of t he l ast rebel l i on of sani t y agai nst t he madhouse: no sat i re, no
ri di cul e at t ends t he moral i st s who organi ze and def end t he cri me. Thus
one of t hem can, wi t hout becomi ng a l aughi ngst ock, publ i cl y prai se as
t he ‘great est perf ormance i n our nat i on’s hi st ory’, t he i ndeed hi st ori cal
achi evement of t he ri chest , most powerf ul , and most advanced count ry
of t he worl d unl eashi ng t he dest ruct i ve f orce of i t s t echni cal superi ori t y
on one of t he poorest , weakest , and most hel pl ess count ri es of t he
worl d.
The decl i ne of responsi bi l i t y and gui l t , t hei r absorpt i on by t he
omni pot ent t echni cal and pol i t i cal apparat us al so t ends t o i nval i dat e
ot her val ues whi ch were t o rest rai n and subl i mat e aggressi on. Whi l e t he
mi l i t ari zat i on of soci et y remai ns t he most conspi cuous and dest ruct i ve
mani f est at i on of t hi s t endency, i t s l ess ost ensi bl e ef f ect s i n t he cul t ural
di mensi on shoul d not be mi ni mi zed. One of t hese ef f ect s i s t he
di si nt egrat i on of t he val ue of t r ut h. The medi a enj oy a l arge di spensat i on
f rom t he commi t ment t o t rut h, and i n a very speci al way. The poi nt i s
not t hat t he medi a l i e (‘l i e’ presupposes commi t ment t o t rut h), t hey
rat her mi ngl e t rut h and hal f -t rut h wit h omi ssi on, f act ual report i ng wi t h
comment ary and eval uat i on, i nf ormat i on wi t h publ i ci t y and propaganda
– al l t hi s made i nt o an overwhel mi ng whol e t hrough edi t ori al i zi ng. The
edi t ori al l y unpl easant t rut hs (and how many of t he most deci si ve t rut hs
are not unpl easant ?) ret reat bet ween t he l i nes, or hi de, or mi ngl e
harmoni ousl y wi t h nonsense, f un, and so-cal l ed human i nt erest st ori es.
A nd t he consumer i s readi l y i ncl i ned t o t ake al l t hi s f or grant ed – he
buys i t even i f he knows bet t er. N ow t he commi t ment t o t he t rut h has
al ways been precari ous, hedged wi t h st rong qual i f i cat i ons, suspended, or
suppressed – i t i s onl y i n t he cont ext of t he general and democrat i c
act i vat i on of aggressi veness t hat t he deval uat i on of t rut h assumes
speci al si gni f i cance. For t rut h i s a val ue i n t he st ri ct sense i nasmuch as i t
serves t he prot ect i on and amel i orat i on of l i f e, as a gui de i n man’s
A ggr essi veness i n A dvanced I ndust r i al Soci et i es
struggle with nature and with himself , with his own weakness and his
own destructiveness. I n this f unction, truth is indeed a matter of the
sublimated lif e instincts, Eros, of intelligence becoming responsible and
autonomous, striving to liberate lif e f rom dependence on unmastered
and repressive f orces. And with respect to this protective and liberating
f unction of truth, its devaluation removes another ef f ective barrier
against destruction.
The encroachment of aggression on the domain of the lif e instincts
also devalues the aesthetic dimension. I n E r os and C i vi l i zat i on I have tried
to show the erotic component in this dimension. Nonf unctional, that is
to say, not committed to the f unctioning of a repressive society, the
aesthetic values have been strong protectors of Eros in civilization.
Nature is part of this dimension. Eros seeks, in polymorphous f orms, its
own sensuous world of f ulf illment, its own ‘natural’ environment. But
only in a protected world – protected f rom daily business, f rom noise,
crowds, waste, only thus can it satisf y the biological need f or happiness.
The aggressive business practices which turn ever more spaces of
protective nature into a medium of commercial f ulf illment and f un thus
do not merely of f end beauty – they repress biological necessities.
Once we agree to discuss the hypothesis that, in advanced industrial
society surplus-aggression is released in quite unsuspected and ‘normal’
behavior, we may see it even in areas which are f ar removed f rom the
more f amiliar manif estations of aggression, f or instance the style of
publicity and inf ormation practiced by the mass media. Characteristic is
the permanent repetition: the same commercial with the same text or
picture broadcast or televised again and again; the same phrases and
clichés poured out by the purveyors and makers of inf ormation again
and again; the same programs and platf orms prof essed by the politicians
again and again. Freud arrived at his concept of the death instinct in the
context of his analysis of the ‘repetition compulsion’: he associated with
it the striving f or a state of complete inertia, absence of tension, return
to the womb, annihilation. Hitler knew well the extreme f unction of
repetition: the biggest lie, of ten enough repeated, will be acted upon and
accepted as truth. Even in its less extreme use, constant repetition,
imposed upon more or less captive audiences, may be destructive:
destroying mental autonomy, f reedom of thought, responsibility and
conducive to inertia, submission, rejection of change. The established
society, the master of repetition, becomes the great womb f or its
citizens. To be sure, this road to inertia and this reduction of tension is
N egat i ons
one of high and not very satisf actory sublimation: it does not lead to an
instinctual nirvana of satisf action. However, it may well reduce the
stress of intelligence, the pain and tension which accompany
autonomous mental activity – thus it may be an ef f ective aggression
against the mind in its socially disturbing, critical f unctions.
These are highly speculative hypotheses on the socially and mentally
f atef ul character of aggression in our society. Aggression is (in most
cases) socially usef ul destructiveness – and yet f atef ul because of its self -
propelling character and scope. I n this respect too, it is badly sublimated
and not very satisf ying. I f Freud’s theory is correct, and the destructive
impulse strives f or the annihilation of the individual’s own lif e no matter
how long the ‘detour’ via other lives and targets, then we may indeed
speak of a suicidal tendency on a truly social scale, and the national and
international play with total destruction may well have f ound a f irm
basis in the instinctual structure of individuals.


1. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘Bedür fni s’ means ‘need’ or ‘want’. I have of ten rendered it by
‘want’, which, while denoting an objective condition of lack, has taken on
the connotation, derived f rom recent usage of ‘to want’, of subjective and
conscious desire.
2. The last time in Europe. Today the historical heritage of this struggle is to
be f ound in those nations which def end their f reedom in uncompromising
struggle against the neo-colonial powers.
3. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘H er r schaft ’, f rom ‘H er r ’ (lord), means ‘lordship’, i.e. generally
‘domination’, f rom ‘domi nus’ (lord), and thus by extension ‘authority’,
‘control’, even, mi r abi l e di ct u, ‘imperative coordination’. I have used
‘domination’ except where English usage seemed to make ‘authority’ or
‘control’ advisable.
4. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘M ögl i chk ei t ’ means both potentiality and possibility (both
derived f rom ‘posse’ [to be able]). I have usually used ‘potentiality’ except in
the contexts ‘real possibility’ and ‘f ormal possibility’.
5. K arl Marx, Grundrisse der K ritik der politischen Ökonomie (Berlin, 1953),
p. 593.
6. I bi d., pp. 599-600.

N egat i ons

1 The struggle against liberalism in the totalitarian view of the
1. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: I n common parl ance, ‘V ol k ’ means ‘peopl e’ or ‘nat i on’, and
i n such cont ext s I have so t ransl at ed i t . I n N at i onal Soci al i st i deol ogy and i t s
precursors, i t means an organi c, raci al communi t y. I n t hi s usage I have i n
pri nci pl e rendered i t as ‘f ol k’, and t he deri ved adj ect i ve ‘völ ki sch’ as
‘f ol ki sh’. To t he ext ent , however, t hat t he meani ng at t ached t o t he Engl i sh
words ‘nat i on’ and ‘peopl e’ by chauvi nist s does not di f f er as much f rom t hat
of ‘V ol k ’ as one woul d i magi ne on seei ng ‘f ol k’, I have used ‘nat i on’ or
‘peopl e’ when t he German t ext seemed t o be of chauvi ni st i c, rat her t han
expl i ci t l y raci st or nat ural -organi c, i mport .
2. Ernst K ri eck, N at i onal pol i t i sche E r zi ehung, 14t h-16t h i mpressi on (1933), p. 68.
3. I n t he f ol l owi ng we shal l use t he expressi on ‘heroi c-f ol ki sh real i sm’ t o
desi gnat e t he ent i ret y of t he vi ew of hi st ory and soci et y adapt ed by t he t ot al -
aut hori t ari an st at e. Al so, i n speaki ng of t he ‘t ot al i t ari an vi ew of t he st at e’, we
do not mean t he doct ri ne of t he st at e t aken i n i t s st ri ct est sense, but t he
‘wel t anschauung’ appropri at ed by t hi s st at e. Recent devel opment s ref l ect
at t empt s bei ng made t o spl i t up t he concept of t he t ot al st at e and
di f f erent i at e i t accordi ng t o di st i nct modes of t ot al i zat i on. So, t o ment i on
onl y t he most charact eri st i c t erms, Germany i s spoken of as a t ot al ‘f ol ki sh’,
‘aut hori t ari an’, or ‘l eadershi p’ st at e. See K öl l reut t er, A l l gemei ne St aat sl ehr e
(1933). p. 64; Frei sl er i n D eut sche Just i z (1934). N o. 2; E. R. H uber i n T at ,
X X VI (1934), N o. 1. But t he di f f erences do not af f ect t he f oundat i ons of
t he t ot al st at e, whi ch are t he obj ect of our i nt erpret at i on. To t he ext ent t hat
t hey f al l wi t hi n t hese f oundat i ons, our i nt erpret at i on appl i es t o t hem even
when t hey are not ment i oned expl i ci t l y.
4. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘F ühr er ’ means ‘l eader’. I have so t ransl at ed i t except when i t s
i dent i f i cat i on wi t h t he person of Adolf H it ler makes it no more t han a
proper noun.
5. K ri eck, op. ci t ., p. 37.
6. See t he di scussi on of Spengl er’s Jahre der Ent schei dung i n Z ei t schri f t f ür
Sozi al f orschung, I I , N o. 3.
7. Ot hmar Spann, G esel l schaft sl ehr e (3d ed., 1930), p. 98.
8. Möl l er van den Bruck, D as dr i t t e Rei ch, Speci al edi t i on (H amburg:
H anseat i sche Verl agsanst al t , 1933). p. 69. The pol i t i cal t heory of
ant i l i beral i sm was creat ed by Carl Schmi t t , who was f ol l owed by K öl l reut t er,
H ans J. Wol f f , et al .
9. K öl l reut t er, op. ci t ., p. 21: “ Marxi sm i s a spi ri t ual f rui t of l i beral i sm….”
N ot es
10. A good collection of all antiliberalist slogans may be f ound in K rieck, op. ci t .,
p. 9. The best portrayal of liberalism f rom the standpoint of totalitarian
political theory is to be f ound in Carl Schmitt’s introduction and appendix
to the second edition of his Begr i ffe des Pol i t i schen, as well as in his D i e
gei st esgeschi cht l i che L age des heut i gen Par l ament ar i smus, 2d ed. (1926).
11. As in Möller van den Bruck’s ‘def inition’: “ Liberalism is the f reedom to
have no convictions and yet to believe that precisely this is a conviction”
(op. ci t ., p. 70). The height of conf usion is reached when K rieck brings
liberalism, capitalism, and Marxism together as “ f orms of counter-
movement” (op. ci t ., p. 32).
12. Leopold von Wiese in F est gabe für L uj o Br ent ano, I (1925), p. 16: “ I repeat my
assertion that there practically has not yet been any [liberalism] to any
adequate degree….” Richard Behrendt in Schmol l er s Jahr buch, LX, No. 3, p.
14: “ I n no period of world history has economic rationality operated in a
decisive manner f or a long period of time. One can and must deny that
liberalism, even in the nineteenth century, was ever in this sense the ruling
power.” On German liberalism, see H. Schroth, W el t - und St aat si deen des
deut schen L i ber al i smus … (1931), especially pp. 69 and 95f f .
13. “ I n private initiative in the area of production, the corporate state sees the
most valuable and ef f ective instrument f or protecting the nation’s interests.”
“ The state intervenes in the economy only where private initiative is lacking
or insuf f icient or where the state’s political interests are at stake.” Car t a del
L avor o, Articles VI I and I X, in Niederer, D er St ändest aat des F aschi smus (1992),
p. 179. “ Fascism af f irms f undamentally the private entrepreneur’s role as
director of production and as instrument f or the augmentation of wealth.”
W. K och, ‘Politik und Wirtschaf t im Denken der f aschistischen Führer’,
Schmol l er s Jahr buch (1933) No. 5, p. 44. For Germany, see especially the
quotation given by K öllreutter, op. ci t ., pp. 179-180.
14. Quoted in the periodical A ufbau, F. K arsen, ed., I V (1931), p. 233.
15. I bi d., p. 258.
16. Gide and Rist, G eschi cht e der vol k swi r t schaft l i chen L ehr mei nungen (1913), p. 402.
Wilhelm von Humboldt’s statement is characteristic: “ The best human
operations are those which most f aithf ully imitate the operations of nature.”
‘Über die Grenzen der Wirksamkeit des Staates’, K l assi k er der Pol i t i k , VI
(1922). p. 12.
17. Classical statements are to be f ound in Adam Smith’s T he W eal t h of N at i ons,
Book I I I , Chap. I , ‘Of the Natural Progress of Opulence’. On Bastiat, see
Gide and Rist, op. ci t ., p. 373. For liberalism nothing “ stands on such shaky
ground as the assertion of the equality of all that bears a human visage”
(Mises, op. ci t ., p. 25). Liberalism proceeds f rom the essential inequality of
men, which is considered the presupposition of the harmony of the whole.
See R. Thoma in E r i nner ungsgabe für M ax W eber , I I (1923), p. 40.
N egat i ons
18. On t hi s f unct i on of t he l i beral i st concept of nat ure, see Myrdal , D as pol i t i sche
E l ement i n der nat i onal ök onomi schen D ok t r i nbi l dung (1932), p. 177. The concept
of nat ure, he wri t es, i s a “ cl i ché t hat f unct i ons j ust l i ke every ot her pol i t i cal
recommendat i on.” I t i s used “ when anyone, i n some pol i t i cal quest i on,
want s t o assert somet hi ng wi t hout adduci ng proof of i t .”
19. Möl l er van den Bruck, op. ci t ., pp. 200 and 210.
20. Mussol i ni i n D er F aschi smus, t rans. by Wagenf ühr (1933), p. 38.
21. H ans J. Wol f f i n Recht und St aat i n G eschi cht e und G egenwar d (1933), N o. 104,
pp. 8-9.
22. See Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung, I I I , N o. 1, pp. 1f f .
23. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘G r und’ means ‘ground’, ‘pri nci pl e’, ‘reason’, or one of t he
f our ‘causes’.
24. Thi s ‘coi nci dence’ of ground, reason, and cause comes st ri ki ngl y t o
expressi on i n L ei bni z’s f ormul at i on of t he rat i onal i st pri nci pl e of ‘ground’:
“ Thi s pri nci pl e i s t hat of t he need f or a suf f i ci ent reason f or a t hi ng t o exi st ,
f or an event t o occur, f or a t rut h t o t ake pl ace.” L et t er s t o Cl ar k e, Fi f t h Paper,
t o paragraph 46, N o. 125.
25. Wi t hi n a rat i onal i st t heory of soci et y, t heref ore, t he ‘aut onomy of reason’
def i ni t el y does not mean set t i ng reason as t he absol ut e ground or essence of
what i s. To t he ext ent , rat her, t hat reason i s comprehended as t he reason of
concret e i ndi vi dual s i n t hei r speci f i c soci al si t uat i on, t he ‘mat eri al ’
condi t i ons of t hi s si t uat i on ent er i nt o t he condi t i ons of t he rat i onal pract i ce
t hat i s requi red. But t hese condi t i ons as wel l are t o be comprehended
rat i onal l y and, on t he basi s of t hi s comprehensi on, t o be t ransf ormed.
26. H . Forst hof f , D as E nde der humani st i schen I l l usi on (1933), p. 25.
27. Carl Schmi t t gi ves a bri l l i ant port rayal of l i beral i st rat i onal i sm i n hi s
G ei st esgeschi cht l i che L age des heut i gen Par l ament ar i smus, especi al l y pp. 45f f .
28. To be sure, i n t he l egal sphere rat i onal i zat i on i s, i n pri nci pl e, ‘general ’; but
t hi s general i t y i s bought at t he pri ce of compl et e f ormal i t y i n ci vi l l aw and
compl et e abst ract ness i n const i t ut i onal l aw.
29. We can readi l y do so, si nce Fri edri ch Pol l ock has expl ai ned t hem i n
Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung, I I , N o. 3.
30. Sombart . D as W i r t schaft sl eben i m Z ei t al t er des H ochk api t al i smus, I (1927), Part I ,
p. 69.
31. K ri eck, op. ci t ., p. 23.
32. N i col ai , G r undl agen der k ommenden V er fassung (1933), p. 9.
33. Sombart i n V er handl ungen des V er ei ns für Sozi al pol i t i k (1928), p. 30.
34. K öl l reut t er, op. ci t ., pp. 184-185.
35. Bernhard K öhl er, D as dr i t t e Rei ch und der K api t al i smus (1933), p. 10.
N ot es
36. G. I psen, Pr ogr amm ei ner Sozi ol ogi e des deut schen V ol k st ums (1933), p. 11. See
al so K öl l reut t er, op. ci t ., pp. 34f f .
37. H . Forst hof f , D er t ot al e St aat , pp. 40f f .
38. G. I psen, D as L andvol k (1933), especi al l y p. 17.
39. Fol l owi ng are some charact eri st i c passages t aken f rom Möl l er van den
Bruck’s D as dr i t t e Rei ch, pp. 180-182: “ Conservat i ve t hought … can be
underst ood onl y f rom t he spat i al vi ewpoi nt . Space i s soverei gn, and t i me
presupposes i t .” “ Thi ngs grow i n and emerge f rom t hi s space. I n t i me, t hey
rot .” “ I n t he hi st ory of a f ol k, wi t h t i me, t hi ngs may change as t hey wi l l : t he
i mmut abl e, whi ch remai ns, i s more powerf ul and i mport ant t han t he
mut abl e, whi ch consi st s onl y i n somet hi ng bei ng added or subt ract ed. The
i mmut abl e i s t he presupposi t i on of al l changes, and what ever may change
ret urns, when i t s t i me has come, t o t he i mmut abl e.” “ Al l revol ut i on i s
background noi se, a si gn of di st urbance: i t i s nei t her t he wal k of t he creat or
t hrough hi s workshop, nor t he f ul f i l l ment of hi s commands, nor agreement
wi t h hi s wi l l . The worl d i s concei ved as somet hi ng t o be preserved, and
when i t has f al l en i nt o conf usi on, i t i mmedi at el y, t hrough i t s own f orce, f al l s
back i nt o pl ace: i t ret urns t o i t s equi l i bri um.”
We ci t e onl y one charact eri st i c exampl e of t he empl oyment of ‘Gest al t
t heory’ f or t he depravat i on of hi st ory: “ A Gest al t si mpl y i s, and no
devel opment augment s or di mi ni shes i t . H ence devel opment al hi st ory i s not
t he hi st ory of a Gest al t , but at most a dynami c comment ary on i t .
D evel opment knows bot h begi nni ng and end, bi rt h and deat h; t he Gest al t
knows t hem not .” “ A hi st ori cal Gest alt i s most prof oundl y i ndependent of
t he t i me and ci rcumst ances f rom whi ch i t appears t o ori gi nat e.” Ernst
Jünger, D er A r bei t er : H er r schaft und G est al t , 2d ed. (H amburg, 1932), p. 79.
40. K arl Marx, D er acht zehnt e Br umai r e des L oui s Bonapar t e (Berl i n, 1927), pp. 122-
41. K arl Marx, D as K api t al (V ol k sausgabe: Berl i n, 1928), I , p. 43.
42. Ernst K ri eck i n V ol k i m W er den (1933), N o. 3, p. 4.
43. I bi d., p. I . An even cl earer st at ement can be f ound i n V ol k i m W er den, N o. 5.
pp. 69 and 71: “ Radi cal cri t i que t eaches us t o see t hat so-cal l ed cul t ure has
become t ot al l y i nessent i al and t hat i n any case i t i s not one of t he hi ghest
val ues.” “ Fi nal l y, l et us t ake care here, t oo, t o be st rai ght f orward, t rut hf ul ,
and genui ne, l est t he growi ng f orce and heal t h of t he f ol k be corrupt ed by
t he swi ndl e of cul t ure. Let t hem cal l us barbari ans, i f t hey wi l l !”
44. Eugen D i esel i n D eut sche Rundschau (January, 1934), p. 2.
45. K ri eck, N o. 3, p. 1.
46. D er deut sche St udent (August , 1933), p. 1.
N egat i ons
47. H . K ut zl eb, ‘Et hos der Armut al s Auf gabe’, i n V ol k i m W er den (1933), N o. I ,
pp. 24f f .
48. On t hi s f unct i on of heroi c real i sm see Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung, I I I , N o. I ,
pp. 42f f .
49. Carl Schmi t t , D er Begr i ff des Pol i t i schen, p. 37.
50. I bi d., p. 15.
51. Al t hough t he f ormul a f or t he pol i t i cal rel at i onshi p i s ‘f ri end-enemy
groupi ng’, t he f ri end rel at i onshi p i s always spoken of onl y i nci dent al l y and
i n t he shadow of t he enemy groupi ng.
52. Al f red Bäuml er, M änner bund und W i ssenschaft (1934) p. 94.
53. I bi d., p. l 09.
54. Ernst K ri eck, ‘Z ehn Grundsät ze ei ner ganzhei t l i chen Wi ssenschaf t sl ehre’,
V ol k i m W er den, N o. 6, pp. 6f f .
55. Bäumler, op. ci t ., p. 108.
56. Ari st ot l e Pol i t i cs 1253 a 14f ., t rans. by Benj ami n Jowet t i n T he Basi c W or k s of
A r i st ot l e, Ri chard McK eon, ed. (N ew York: Random H ouse, 1941), p. 1129.
57. E. Rot hacker, G eschi cht sphi l osophi e (1934), p. 96.
58. Mart i n H ei degger, D i e Sel bst behaupt ung der deut schen U ni ver si t ät (1933), p. 3.
59. Carl Schmi t t , Pol i t i sche T heol ogi e (1922), p. 1. We present t he f undament al
t heses of t he t heory of t he t ot al st at e i n accordance wi t h Carl Schmi t t ’s
Begr i ff des Pol i t i schen. The superabundant l i t erat ure succeedi ng t hi s work
cont ai ns not hi ng but t he dregs of Schmi t t ’s t hought .
60. H . Forst hof f , D er t ot al e St aat , p. 29.
61. K öl l reut t er, V om Si nn und W esen der nat i onal en Revol ut i on (1933), p. 30. See
al so hi s A l l gemei ne St aat sl ehr e, p. 58.
62. Forst hof f , p. 31.
63. I bi d., p. 30.
64. I bi d. Forst hof f ’s j ust i f i cat i on of aut hori t y i s undercut by t he f l at l y zool ogi cal
one gi ven by Carl Schmi t t i n hi s l at est work: “ Bot h t he cont i nui ng unerri ng
cont act bet ween l eader (F ühr er ) and f ol l owi ng as wel l as t hei r reci procal
l oyal t y are based on i dent i t y of speci es. Onl y speci es i dent i t y can prevent t he
l eader’s power f rom becomi ng t yranny and arbi t rari ness….” St aat , Bewegung,
V ol k (1933), p. 42.
65. Forst hof f , p. 42.
66. I bi d., p. 41.
67. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘Per son’ means, i n K ant i an et hi cs, t he i ndi vi dual consi dered
as end i n hi msel f , as wort hy of reverence owi ng t o hi s sel f -det ermi ned
obedi ence t o t he moral l aw.
N ot es
68. The possi bl e reproach t hat we are pl ayi ng of f phi l osophi cal agai nst pol i t i cal
exi st ent i al i sm has been ref ut ed by phi l osophi cal exi st ent i al i sm i t sel f , whi ch,
as H ei degger’s most recent publ i cat i ons show, has pol i t i ci zed i t sel f . The
ori gi nal opposi t i on i s t hus cancel ed.
69. V ol k i m W er den (1993), N o. 2, p. 13.
70. K öl l reut t er, D er deut sche F ühr er st aat , p. 31. See al so A l l gemei ne St aat sl ehr e, p.
71. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: The word ‘al l gemei n’ (l i t eral l y ‘common t o al l ’) means
‘general ’ or ‘uni versal ’. I n phi l osophy i t means ‘uni versal ’ i n cont rast wi t h
‘part i cul ar’, especi al l y i n t he f orm ‘(das) A l l gemei ne’, ‘(t he) uni versal ’. As ‘(di e)
A l l gemei nhei t ’ i t means bot h t he qual i t y of ‘uni versal i t y’ or ‘general i t y’ and
‘communi t y’, ‘soci et y’, ‘col l ect i vi t y’, and ‘general wi l l ’, as wel l as ‘general
publ i c’. For H egel “ A l l gemei nhei t means at one and t he same t i me, f i rst , a
soci et y i n whi ch al l part i cul ar and i ndi vidual i nt erest s are i nt egrat ed i nt o t he
whol e, so t hat t he act ual soci al organi sm t hat resul t s accords wi t h t he
common i nt erest (communi t y), and, second, a t ot al i t y i n whi ch al l t he
di f f erent i sol at ed concept s of knowl edge are f used and i nt egrat ed so t hat
t hey recei ve t hei r si gni f i cance i n t hei r rel at i on t o t he whol e (uni versal i t y).
The second meani ng i s obvi ousl y t he count erpart of t he f i rst .” H erbert
Marcuse, Reason and Revol ut i on (Bost on: Beacon Press, 1960), p. 52.
72. H egel , V or l esungcn zur Phi l osophi e der W el t geschi cht e, L asson, ed., p. 1.
73. K ant i n W er k e, Ernst Cassi rer, ed., VI , p. 468.
74. H ei degger i n t he F r ei bur ger St udent enzei t ung, N ovember, l 0, 1933.
75. From H egel ’s address t o hi s st udent s at t he openi ng of hi s l ect ures i n Berl i n
i n 1818. W er k e, 2d ed., VI (1843), p. xl .
76. H ei degger i n t he F r ei bur ger St udent enzei t ung, N ovember 3, 1933.
77. K ant , op. ci t ., I V, p. 284.
78. D er deut sche St udent , op. ci t ., p. 14.
79. Carl Schmi t t expresses prof ound comprehensi on (whi ch he i nt ended qui t e
di f f erent l y, of course), when he wri t es: “ Accordi ngl y one can say t hat on
t hi s day (January 30, 1933) ‘H egel di ed’.” St aat , Bewegung, V ol k , p. 32.

2 The concept of essence
1. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘(D as) Sei n’ (esse) I have rendered as ‘Bei ng’. ‘(D as) Sei ende’
(ens) I have rendered as ‘bei ngs’ or ‘t he worl d of bei ngs’ or, when t here was
no escapi ng i t , ‘bei ng’.
N egat i ons
2. The relevant passages f or the dynamic f orm of Plato’s theory of I deas are
Sophi st 247e f f . and Phi l ebus 23b-27b.
3. “ Accidens dicitur large omne, quod non est pars essentiae, et sic est esse in
rebus creatis” (Thomas Aquinas, Q uaest i ones quodl i bet al es 12, 5). – “ Oportet
ergo, quod illud, cuius esse est aliud ab essentia sua, habeat esse causatum
ab alio” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa T heol ogi ca, I a, 3, 4).
4. The change wrought by the mitigation of the critical tensions in the theory
of essence is evident in the altered meaning of the classical ontological
concepts incorporated into Aquinas’ philosophy. Essence as such is no
longer ‘authentic’ Being but pure possibility. Compared with reality,
possibility is inf erior, a privation. Aristotle, too, had characterized the
relationship of dynami s and ener gei a in this way, but f or him the relationship
of possibility to reality was one of movement; the on dynamei was conceived
as an existing ‘power’ or ‘potentiality’ which in itself strives f or actuality
(Aristotle M et aphysi cs 1045 b 33f f .). Essence as pot ent i a t r anscendent al i s, in
contrast, is no longer the ‘real possibility’ of ‘power’, and its relation to
reality is no longer the dynamic one of movement.
5. Descartes, D i scour s de l a M ét hode, in Oeuvr es Choi si es (Paris: Garnier, 1930), I ,
pp. 24f f .
6. I bi d., p. 54.
7. I bi d., p. 22.
8. Descartes, M édi t at i ons M ét aphysi ques, in Oeuvr es Choi si es I , p. 150.
9. Hegel, V or l esungen über di e G eschi cht e der Phi l osophi e, in W er k e, original edition,
XVI , p. 338.
10. I bi d., p. 336.
11. K ant, K r i t i k der r ei nen V er nunft , in W er k e, Cassirer, ed. (Berlin, 1913), I I I , p.
12. I bi d., p. 250.
13. I bi d., p. 262.
14. I bi d., p. 265.
15. I bi d., p. 334.
16. I bi d., p. 303.
17. I bi d., pp. 503 and 509.
18. Schelling, V om W esen der menschl i chen F r ei hei t , in W er k e (Stuttgart, 1856-57),
Section I , VI I , p. 383.
19. Edmund Husserl, F or mal e und t r anszendent al e L ogi k , in Jahr buch für Phi l osophi e,
X (Halle, 1929), p. 227.
N ot es
20. Edmund Husserl, I deen zu ei ner r ei nen Phänomenol ogi e und phänomenol ogi schen
Phi l osophi e, in Jahr buch für Phi l osophi e und phänomenol ogi sche F or schung, I (Halle,
1913), p. 9.
21. Husserl, F or mal e und t r anszendent al e L ogi k , pp. 237 and 241.
22. Husserl, I deen, p. 13.
23. Husserl, F or mal e und t r anszendent al e L ogi k , p. 201.
24. I bi d., p. 202.
25. I bi d., p. 125.
26. Fink, D i e phänomenol ogi sche Phi l osophi e E dmund H usser l s i n der gegenwär t i gen K r i t i k
(Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1934), p. 20.
27. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘G l ei chgül t i g’ literally means ‘equivalent’ and, as equi-valent,
‘indif f erent’.
28. Husserl, I deen, p. 93.
29. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘E r fassung’ literally means ‘grasping’.
30. I bi d., p. 130.
31. Husserl, F or mal e und t r anszendent al e L ogi k , p. 219.
32. Husserl, M édi t at i ons Car t ési ennes (Paris, 1931), p. 49.
33. Husserl, F or mal e und t r anszendent al e L ogi k , p. 244.
34. I bi d., p. 243.
35. Husserl, ‘Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaf t’, L ogos, I (1910-11), p. 337.
36. I bi d., p. 315.
37. Scheler, Z ur E t hi k und E r k ennt ni sl ehr e, in Schr i ft en aus dem N achl ass (Berlin,
1993), I , p. 288.
38. Scheler, D er F or mal i smus i n der E t hi k und di e mat er i al e W er t et hi k , in Jahr buch für
Phi l osophi e, Husserl, ed. I I (Halle, 1916), p. 465.
39. Scheler, ‘Vorbilder und Führer’, in Z ur E t hi k und E r k ennt ni sl ehr e, op. ci t ., pp.
40. A characteristic utterance f rom a representative source makes the
connection obvious: “ Recent philosophy says that intuitive ‘seeing of
essences’ (W esensschau) is the immediate intuition of what is lawlike. This
quality f inds its strongest expression in the personality of Adolf Hitler ….
The Führer possesses not only the inf initely valuable capacity of seeing what
is essential in things, but also, to a great extent, the instinct f or bold and
accurately timed action.” – Otto D ietrich, D i e phi l osophi schen G r undl agen des
N at i onal sozi al i smus (Breslau, 1935), pp. 36-37.
41. M. Schlick, ‘Erscheinung und Wesen’, K ant -St udi en, XXI I I , No. 2-3 (Berlin,
1918), p. 206.
N egat i ons
42. M. Schlick, A l l gemei ne E r k ennt ni sl ehr e (Berlin, 1918), p. 205.
43. M. Schlick, ‘Erscheinung und Wesen’, op. ci t ., p. 194.
44. Hegel, W i ssenschaft der L ogi k , in W er k e, original edition, I V, pp. 119-120.
45. Hegel, E nzyk l opädi e, I , VI , p. 260 (§131).
46. I bi d., pp. 224 and 242 (gloss to §112 and gloss 2 to §119).
47. I bi d., p. 292 (gloss to §146).
48. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘Sich erinnern’, the word f or ‘to remember’ or ‘to recollect’,
literally means ‘to go into oneself ’. That is, in remembering, one is re-
membered or re-collected by returning to oneself f rom a state of externality,
dispersion, or alienation.
49. Hegel, W i ssenschaft der L ogi k , p. 79.
50. I bi d., pp. 5 and 14.
51. K arl Marx, D as K api t al (Hamburg: Meissner, 1921-22), I I I , 2, p. 352.
52. On the concept of truth in dialectical logic see Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung
(1935), pp. 321f f .
53. On the distinction between conf irmation and ef f icacy and the
dif f erentiation f rom pragmatism that it permits, see i bi d., pp. 342-343.
54. Hegel, E nzyk l opädi e, p. 225 (§112).
55. Aristotle M et . 1030a and Hegel, W i ssenschaft der L ogi k , p. 3.
56. O. Neurath, E mpi r i sche Sozi ol ogi e (Wien, 1931), pp. 128 and 132.
57. Wilhelm Dilthey, E i nl ei t ung i n di e G ei st eswi ssenschaft en, in G esammel t e Schr i ft en
(Leipzig, 1923), I , p. xviii.
58. K ant, L ogi k , VI I I , p. 374.
59. Aristotle, Pol i t i cs 1254b 20f f .
60. Hegel, W i ssenschaft der L ogi k , p. 208.
61. I bi d., p. 209.
62. I bi d., p. 210.
3 The affirmative character of culture
1. This essay was prompted by Max Horkheimer’s remarks about ‘af f irmative
culture’ and the ‘f alse idealism’ of modern culture. Cf . Z ei t schr i ft für
Sozi al for schung, V (1936), p. 219.
N ot es
2. Ari st ot l e, Pol i t i cs 1333a 30f f ., t rans. by Benj ami n Jowet t i n T he Basi c W or k s of
A r i st ot l e, Ri chard McK eon, ed. (N ew York: Random H ouse, 1941), p. 1298
(wi t h change i n t ransl at i on).
3. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: Whi l e ‘Seel e’ has an adj ect i val f orm, ‘seel i sch’, i t s Engl i sh
count erpart ‘soul ’ does not . I have used ‘psychi c’ or ‘spi ri t ual ’, dependi ng on
t he cont ext . Accordi ngl y, al t hough t he word ‘gei st i g’ means bot h ‘spi ri t ual ’
and ‘ment al ’, i n t he present essay I have rendered i t as ‘ment al ’, and
‘spi ri t ual ’ ref ers t o a qual i t y of ‘soul ’, not of ‘mi nd’.
4. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: ‘Si nnl i ch’ means si mul t aneousl y ‘sensual ’, whi ch st resses i t s
appet i t i ve aspect , and ‘sensuous’, whi ch st resses i t s aest het i c aspect . I have
t ransl at ed i t i n each case accordi ng t o t he emphasi s of t he cont ext , but bot h
meani ngs are al ways i mpl i ed. For f urt her di scussi on, see H erbert Marcuse,
E r os and Ci vi l i zat i on (Bost on: Beacon Press, 1955), pp. 166-167.
5. Pl at o Republ . 553 i n T he Republ i c of Pl at o, t rans. by Franci s M. Cornf ord (N ew
York: Oxf ord, 1945), p. 277. Cf . Republ . 525.
6. I bi d., pp. 306-307.
7. Pl at o L eges 831, t rans. by A. E. Tayl or i n T he Col l ect ed D i al ogues of Pl at o, Edi t h
H ami l t on and H unt i ngt on Cai rns, eds. (N ew York: Bol l i ngen Foundat i on-
Pant heon Rooks, 1964), p. 1397. Cf . J. Brake, W i r t schaft en und Char ak t er i n der
ant i k en Bi l dung (Frankf urt am Mai n, 1935), pp. 124f f .
8. See St udi en über A ut or i t ät und F ami l i e (‘Schri f t en des I nst i t ut s f ür
Sozi al f orschung’, V [Pari s, 1936]), pp. 7f f .
9. Spengl er i nt erpret s t he rel at i onshi p of cul t ure and ci vi l i zat i on not as
si mul t anei t y, but as ‘necessary organi c successi on’. Ci vi l i zat i on i s t he
i nevi t abl e f at e and end of every cul t ure. See D er U nt er gang des A bendl andes,
23d t o 32d edi t i ons (Muni ch, 1920), I , pp. 43-44. Such ref ormul at i on does
not modi f y t he above-ment i oned t radi t i onal eval uat i on of cul t ure and
ci vi l i zat i on.
10. La Met t ri e, ‘D i scours sur l e Bonheur’, Oeuvr es Phi l osophi ques (Berl i n, 1775), I I ,
p. 102.
11. I bi d., pp. 86-87.
12. H erder, I deen zur Phi l osophi e der G eschi cht e der M enschhei t i n W er k e, Bernhard
Suphan, ed. (Berl i n, 1877-1933), X I V, p. 208.
13. I bi d., X I I I , p. 154.
14. I bi d., X I V, p. 209.
15. K ant , I dee zu ei ner al l gemei nen G eschi cht e i n wel t bür ger l i cher A bsi cht i n W er k e, Ernst
Cassi rer, ed. (Berl i n, 192f f .), I V, p. 153.
16. Alf red Weber, ‘Pri nzi pi el l es zur K ul t ursozi ol ogi e’, A r chi v für
Sozi al wi ssenschaft , X LVI I (1920-21), pp. 29f f . See al so Georg Si mmel , ‘D er
Begri f f und di e Tragödi e der K ul t ur’, where “ t he soul ’s way t o i t sel f ” i s
N egat i ons
described as the f undamental f act of culture [in Phi l osophi sche K ul t ur (Leipzig.
1919), p. 222]. Spengler characterizes culture as “ the realization of the
spiritually possible” ; op. ci t ., p. 418.
17. Descartes, T r ai t é des Passi ons, François Mizrachi, ed. (Paris: Union Générale
d’Editions, 1965), p. 39.
18. See Descartes’ reply to Gassendi’s objections to the second Meditation,
M edi t at i onen über di e G r undl agen der Phi l osophi e, trans. by A. Buchenau (Leipzig,
1915), pp. 327-328.
19. K ant, Cr i t i que of Pur e Reason, trans. by Norman K emp Smith (London:
Macmillan, 1958), p. 664 (with changes in translation).
20. D i e Phi l osophi schen H aupt vor l esungen I mmanuel K ant s, A. K owalewski, ed.
(Munich and Leiprig, 1924), p. 602.
21. Marx, D as K api t al , Meissner, ed. (Hamburg, n.d.), I , p. 326.
22. Hegel, E nzyk l opädi e der phi l osophi schen W i ssenschaft en, I I , par. 388.
23. I bi d., par. 387, addendum.
24. Spengler, op. ci t ., p. 406.
25. Characteristic is the introduction of the concept of the soul in Herbart’s
psychology: The soul is “ not anywhere or anytime” and has “ absolutely no
predispositions and f aculties either to receive or produce anything.” “ The
simple nature of the soul is f ully unknown and f orever remains so; it is as
little an object of speculative as of empirical psychology.” Herbart, L ehr buch
zur Psychol ogi e in Sämt l i che W er k e, Hartenstein, ed. (Leipzig, 1850), V, pp. 108-
26. Wilhelm Dilthey on Petrarca in ‘Weltanschauung und Analyse des
Menschen seit Renaissance und Ref ormation’, G esammel t e Schr i ft en (Leipzig,
1914), I I , p. 20. See also Dilthey’s analysis of the transition f rom
metaphysical to ‘descriptive and analytical’ psychology in the thought of L.
Vives, i bi d., pp. 423f f .
27. I bi d., p. 18.
28. Spengler, op. ci t ., p. 407.
29. Herder, A bhandl ung über den U r spr ung der Spr ache, op. ci t ., V, p. 135.
30. Herder, A uch ei ne Phi l osophi e der G eschi cht e zur Bi l dung der M enschhei t , i bi d., p.
31. Ranke, Ü ber di e E pochen der neuer en G eschi cht e, in D as pol i t i sche G espr äch und
ander e Schr i ft en zur W i ssenschaft sl ehr e, Erich Rothacker, ed. (Halle, 1925), pp.
32. On the quietist character of spiritual demands in D ostoevski see L.
Löwenthal, ‘D ie Auf f assung D ostojewskis im Vorkriegs-deutschland’,
Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung, I I I (1934), p. 363.
N otes
33. D avid H ume, A T r eat i se of H uman N at ur e, L. A. Sel by-Bi gge, ed. (Oxf ord,
1928), p. 301.
34. N i et zsche, W er k e (l arge 8 vol ume ed., 1917), X VI , p. 233, and VI I , p. 408.
35. Goet he, F aust I I , Phorki as: “ Ol d i s t he sayi ng, yet nobl e and t rue i t s
meani ng st i l l , t hat shame and beaut y never hand i n hand t raverse eart h’s
green pat h.” W er k e (Cot t a Jubi l äumsausgabe), X I I I , p. 159.
36. ‘The Moral i st s, a Phi l osophi cal Rhapsody’ i n Char act er i st i cs of M en, M anner s,
Opi ni ons, T i mes, et c. by t he Ri ght H onourabl e Ant hony Earl of Shaf t esbury,
John M. Robert son, ed. (i n t wo vol umes; N ew York: E. P. D ut t on & Co.,
1900), I I , p. 143.
37. Schi l l er, Ü ber di e äst het i sche E r zi ehung des M enschen, end of t he second l et t er.
38. N i et zsche, op. ci t ., X , p. 245.
39. Goet he, D er Samml er und di e Sei ni gen, t oward t he end of t he si xt h l et t er.
40. N i et zsche, op. ci t ., X I V. p. 366.
41. I bi d., VI I I , p. 41.
42. D i e Kul t ur der Renai ssance i n I t al i en, 11t h ed., L. Gei ger, ed. (Lei pzi g, 1913),
especi al l y I , pp. 150f f .
43. K ant , Kr i t i k der pr ak t i schen V er nunft , op. ci t ., V, p. 95.
44. Goet he once expressed as f ol l ows t he qual i t y ‘onl y’ t hat i s present i n t he
i dea of personal i t y: “ Peopl e are al ways carpi ng at t he personal i t y, reasonabl y
and bol dl y. But what do you have t hat gl addens you asi de f rom your
bel oved personal i t y, of what ever sort i t be? ‘Z ahme X eni en’, W er k e, I V, p.
45. See Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung, V (1936), pp. 219f f .
46. Walt er St ang, G r undl agen nat i onal sozi al i st i scher Kul t ur pfl ege (Berl i n, 1935), pp. 13
and 43.
47. Ernst Jünger, D er A r bei t er : H er r schaft und G est al t , 2d ed. (H amburg, 1932) p.
48. I bi d., p. 199.
49. I bi d., p. 200.
50. I bi d., p. 203.
51. I bi d., p. 204.
52. I bi d., p. 210.
53. I bi d., p. 201.
54. H ei nri ch Ri ckert , ‘Lebenswert e und K ul t urwert e’, L ogos, I I (1911-12), p.
55. N i et zsche, op. ci t ., VI I I , p. 50.
N egat i ons
56. Program of t he Sozi al demok r at i sche Par t ei D eut schl ands (German Soci al
D emocrat i c Part y) of 1921 and of t he Sächsi sche V ol k spar t ei (Saxon Popul ar
Part y) of 1866.
57. K arl K aut sky, D i e mat er i al i st i sche G eschi cht sauffassung (Berl i n, 1917), I I , pp. 819
and 837.
58. I bi d., p. 824.
59. N i et zsche, op. ci t ., X I , p. 241.
4 Philosophy and critical theory
1. H egel , Vorl esungen über di e Phi l osophi e der Geschi cht e i n Werke, 2d ed.
(Berl i n, 1840-47), I X , p. 22.
2. H egel , Vorl esungen über di e Geschi cht e der Phi l osophi e i n Werke, X I I I , p.
3. H egel , Enzykl opädi e der phi l osophi schen Wi ssenschaf t en, par. 158, op. ci t .,
VI , p. 310.
4. H egel , Vorl esungen über di e Geschi cht e der Phi l osophi e, op. ci t ., p. 41.
5. See Max H orkhei mer, ‘Ei n neuer I deol ogi ebegri f f ?’, Grünbergs Archi v, X V
(1930), pp. 38-39.
6. K ant , N achl ass N r. 4728 i n Gesammel t e Schri f t en, Preussi sche Akademi e
der Wissenschaf t en, ed. (Berl i n, 1900-1955), X VI I I .
7. H egel , Vorl esungen über di e Geschi cht e der Phi l osophi e, op. ci t ., p. 67.
8. See Max H orkhei mer, ‘Tradi t i onel l e und kri t i sche Theori e’, Z ei t schri f t f ür
Sozi al f orschung, VI (1937), p. 245.
9. K ant , Werke, Ernst Cassi rer, ed. (Berl i n, 1911f f .), I I I , p. 540.
10. I bi d., VI I I , p. 344.
11. H egel , Enzykl opädi e, par. 166, op. ci t ., p. 328.
12. See Z ei t schri f t f ür Sozi al f orschung, VI (1937), pp. 257f f .
13. K ant , K ri t i k der rei nen Vernunf t , op. ci t ., p. 625.
14. Edmund H usserl , Formal e und t ranszendent al e Logi k i n Jahrbuch f ür
Phi l osophi e, X (H al l e, 1929), p. 219.
N ot es
5 On hedonism
1. K ant , Cr i t i que of Pr act i cal Reason, 6
t h
ed., t rans. by T. H . Abbot t (London:
Longmans, 1909), pp. 112-113.
2. H egel, V or l esungen über di e Phi l osophi e der G eschi cht e i n W er k e, 2d ed., E. Gans,
K . H egel , et al ., eds. (Berl i n, 1840-47), I X , p. 34.
3. H egel, G l auben und W i ssen i n W er k e, I , pp. 8f f .
4. Ari st ot l e Pol i t i cs, 1323 b 27f f ., M agna M or al i a, 1206 b 30f f ., Pol i t i cs, 1332 a 30.
5. D i ogenes Laert i us, L i ves of E mi nent Phi l osopher s, t rans. by R. D . H icks (2 vols.;
N ew York: Put nam, 1925), I , p. 217.
6. I bi d., p. 221.
7. I bi d., p. 217.
8. I bi d., p. 219.
9. I bi d., p. 227.
10. I bi d., I I , p. 655.
11. I bi d., p. 657.
12. G or gi as 497-498.
13. Cf . Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung, I I (1933), pp. 169f f .
14. Cf . Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung, V (1936), pp. 190-191, 201-202.
15. K ant , K r i t i k of Judgement , t rans. by J. H . Bernard (N ew York: Macmi l l an,
1892), p. 52 (wi t h changes i n t ransl at i on).
16. K ant , K r i t i k der pr ak t i schen V er nunft i n W er k e, Ernst Cassi rer, ed. (Berl i n,
1912f f .), V, pp. 125 and 129.
17. Fi cht e, Syst em der Si t t enl ehr e i n W er k e, Fri t z Medi cus, ed. (Lei pzi g, n.d.), I I , p.
18. By cri t i cal t heory we mean here soci al t heory as present ed i n t he
f undament al essays of t he Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung on t he basi s of
di al ect i cal phi l osophy and t he cri t i que of pol i t i cal economy. See t he essay
‘Phi l osophy and Cri t i cal Theory’ i n t hi s vol ume.
19. H ermann Cohen, E t hi k des r ei nen W i l l ens, 3d ed. (Berl i n, 1931), p. 163.
20. Spi noza, On t he I mpr ovement of t he U nder st andi ng, t rans. by R. H . M. El wes, i n
Sel ect i ons, J. Wi l d, ed. (N ew York: Scri bner, 1930), pp. 4 and 6.
21. Lei bni z, V on der G l ück sel i gk ei t i n Oper a Phi l osophi ca, J. E. Erdmann, ed.
(Berl i n, 1840), p. 672.
22. Fi cht e, D i e St aat sl ehr e (1813) i n W er k e, VI , pp. 523-524.
23. H erman Cohen, op. ci t ., p. 584.
24. Bruno Bauch, G r undsät ze der E t hi k (St ut t gart , 1933), pp. 240-241.
N egat i ons
25. A. Görl and, E t hi k al s K r i t i k der W el t geschi cht e (L ei pzi g, 1914), pp. 119-120.
26. Cf . Z ei t schr i ft für Sozi al for schung, V (1936), pp. 229f f .
27. Even i n t he case of t he f i rmest advocat es of bourgeoi s sexual ref orm, t he
t aboo of pl easure st i l l appears, conceal ed i n et hi cal or psychol ogi cal
rat i onal i zat i ons.
28. H egel , E nzyk l opädi e i n W er k e, VI I . p. 372 (§478).
29. H egel , V or l esungen über di e Phi l osophi e der G eschi cht e, op. ci t ., p. 41.
30. I bi d., p. 39.
31. T r ansl at or ’ s not e: That i s, t hey pursue i n pract i ce what t hey have rat i onal l y
come t o know as t he t endenci es i mmanent i n t he st at us quo – t endenci es
t hat can be real i zed onl y by t ransf ormi ng t he st at us quo. For t hi s H egel i an
use of ‘I dea’ as subst ance developi ng bot h subj ect i vel y and obj ect i vel y
t hrough a di al ect i cal process, see H erbert Marcuse, Reason and Revol ut i on
(Bost on: Beacon Press, 1960), pp. 164f f ., and ‘The concept of essence’, i n
t hi s vol ume.
32. Cf . H egel , V or l esungen über di e G eschi cht e der Phi l osophi e i n W er k e, X I V, p. 101.
33. H egel , E nzyk l opädi e, op. ci t . (§478, 480).
34. H egel , V or l esungen über di e Phi l osophi e der G eschi cht e, op. ci t ., p. 22.
35. H egel , V or l esungen über di e Ä st het hi k i n W er k e, X , Part 1, pp. 227-228.
6 Industrialization and capitalism
1. Max Weber, Gesammel t e Auf sät ze zur Sozi ol ogi e und Sozi al pol i t i k
(Tübi ngen: Mohr, 1924), p. 419.
2. I bi d., p. 402.
3. Max Weber, Foreword t o t he f i rst vol ume of Gesammel t e Auf sät ze zur
Rel i gi onssozi ol ogi e (Tübi ngen: Mohr, 1920), pp. 1f f .
4. I bi d., pp. 4-5.
5. For document at i on, see Wol f gang J. Mommsen, Max Weber und di e
deut sche Pol i t i k (Tübi ngen: Mohr, 1959), where t he document at i on i s
col l ect ed and anal yzed i n an exempl ary manner.
6. Max Weber, Gesammel t e pol i t i sche Schri f t en (München: D rei Masken
Verl ag, 1921), pp. 20-21.
7. I bi d., p. 27.
8. I bi d., p. 29.
N ot es
9. Wirtschaf t und Gesellschaf t (Tübingen: Mohr, 1922), p. 48. Cf . The Theory
of Social and Economic Organisation, translated by A. M. Henderson and
Talcott Parsons (New York: Oxf ord University Press, 1947), pp. 191-192.
10. Weber, Wirtschaf t und Gesellschaf t, p. 49 (original italics). Henderson-
Parsons translate the passage as f ollows (Theory, p. 193): “ Thus the highest
degree of rational capital accounting presupposes the existence of
competition on a large scale.”
11. Weber, Theory, pp. 213-214 (translation modif ied); Wirtschaf t und
Gesellschaf t, p. 60 (italics added).
12. Weber, Wirtschaf t und Gesellschaf t, p. 44 (cf . Theory, p. 185). Translator’s
note: Weber’s ‘materiale rationalität’ is rendered by Henderson-Parsons as
‘substantive rationality’. Here, both ‘material’ and ‘substantive’ are used.
13. Weber, Wirtschaf t und Gesellschaf t, p. 167 (cf . Theory, pp. 406-407).
14. Weber, Theory, pp. 184-185; Wirtschaf t und Gesellschaf t, pp. 44-45.
15. Weber, Gesammelte Auf sätze zur Soziologie und Sozialpolitik, p. 501 (‘D er
16. I bid., p. 502.
17. I bid., p. 511.
18. Weber, Wirtschaf t und Gesellschaf t, pp. 19-23 (cf . Theory, pp. 130-139).
19. I bid., p. 128 (cf . Theory, p. 337).
20. Weber, Theory, p. 338 (translation modif ied); (cf . Wirtschaf t und
Gesellschaf t, pp. 128-129).
21. Weber, Wirtschaf t und Gesellschaf t, p. 762.
22. I bid., pp. 156-157, 174, 763f f .
23. I bid., p. 667.
24. I bid., p. 669.
25. I bid., p. 607.
26. I bid., p. 127.
27. I bid., p. 96.
28. I bid., p. 240.
29. Weber, Gesammelte politische Schrif ten, p. 151.
30. I bid., p. 351.

N egat i ons
7 Love mystified: A critique of N orman O. Brown
1. Norman O. Brown, L ove’ s Body (New York: Random House, 1966).
2. “ Nothing but the beginning of terror we can just barely endure ….” – Rilke,
D ui no E l egi es (the translation is by C. F. MacI ntyre) [or i g. pub.].
3. Pref ace to the Phenomenol ogy of t he Spi r i t , trans. by Walter K auf mann, in H egel
(Doubleday), p. 424.
8 Aggressiveness in advanced industrial society
1. I . Z if erstein, in the UCLA D ai l y Br ui n, Los Angeles, May 24, 1966. See also:
M. Grotjahn, ‘Some Dynamics of Unconscious and Symbolic
Communication in Present-Day Television’, T he Psychoanal yt i c St udy of
Soci et y, I I I , pp. 356f f ., and Psychi at r i c A spect s of t he Pr event i on of N ucl ear W ar ,
Group f or the Advancement of Psychiatry (New York, 1964), passim.
2. Quoted in T he N at i on, August 25, 1962, pp. 65-66, in an article by Senator
William Proxmire.