Jurgen Habermas’s ‘Meta-critique’ of Marxian Praxis

– by Joseph Belbruno Habermas's "Erkenntnis und Interesse' can be found here: http://solomon.tinyurl.alexanderstreet.com/cgibin/asp/philo/soth/documentidx.pl?sourceid=S10023103 or here in translation as "Knowledge and Human Interests": http://solomon.tinyurl.alexanderstreet.com/cgibin/asp/philo/soth/documentidx.pl?sourceid=S10023352 It would not be too unkind to say of Jurgen Habermas, the talented epigone of the Frankfurt School of Philosophy, that he devoted his lifetime to bridging the gap between theory and practice…. in theory alone! And it is not too unkind to say this when one considers that Habermas fundamentally misconstrued the entire Marxian notion of “praxis” – intended in the Gramscian sense of an intellectual activity that in its very theorization of capitalist society contains its critique in a manner that challenges directly and practically the operation of the society of capital and that by that very fact is the very first and necessary step toward its overthrow. The task of critique is invariably that of challenging the selfunderstanding of capitalist society so as to evince the elements of antagonism that lie at its very core, that indeed form its “essence”, and that occasion its crisis. And “crisis” is not a “thing”, but rather a “moment”, a point in time – a co-incidence on the occurrence of which we need to be pre-pared, organized to trans-form the present order of things. The task of critique is therefore to outline the “fault-lines” in the antagonistic asset of capitalist society and government so as to prepare the organization for its eventual democratic overthrow. Anyone who reviews Habermas’s theoretical oeuvre will be immediately and starkly aware of how far he was from this aspect of “critique”: at no stage did his enormous theoretical output tackle the all-important question of exactly how his intellectual efforts could be applied to the overthrow of capitalist society. For this is a task that must be most prominent and at the forefront of all our intellectual efforts devoted to the examination of the manner in which capitalism reproduces itself and tries to do so on an expanded scale. It may well be that the political problem of the hypostatization of revolutionary practical analysis into abstract and harmless “theory” begins really with Marx himself and his notion of “historical materialism”

that tries to convey at once two antithetical subjecta or subject-matters in its interpretation of human affairs: history on the one hand as the sphere of human political action, and nature on the other as the objective ground of all ontological reality. The difficulty emerges from as early as the Theses on Feuerbach where the Eleventh Thesis reads: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world; the point now is to change it”. Here Marx seems to imply that it is possible to interpret the world – surely the task of “theory” – without actually changing it. Here is precisely that “separation”, that Trennung, of intellectual and manual labor, of “direction” or “order” and “execution”, of “theory” and “practice”, of Politics and Economics, of Freedom and Necessity. Indeed, here is precisely that “separation” of Subject and Object that Kant will sanction with the very first “Critique” – that of “Pure Reason” – that will seek to delimit the theoretical limits of human knowledge from a purely theoretical viewpoint or “intuition” (An-schauung) whereby it is Reason that provides the “guide”, the “direction” to the human senses (Sinne) so that the “mind” or “spirit” (Geist) ultimately controls the body as in the Cartesian dualism of res cogitans (the “thinking” and “acting” [co-agitare] thing) and res extensa (the inert, “supine” thing) – the perfect synecdoche for Capital as command over living labor and the Worker as “labor power” to be commanded, “directed”. Recall Kant’s neat and telling summation of his epistemology: “Intuition without concepts is blind [no “direction”, like manual labor] and concepts without intuition are empty [ideas cannot be put into practice, as with purely intellectual labor]”. It is thus that the “separation” of living labor from the means of production, which enables its reduction to abstract labor under the command of capital, turns into a corresponding “division of social labor”, between intellectual labor that commands so-called manual labor. Or so at least the capitalist would have us believe. Thinkers as diverse as Weber and Arendt certainly fell into this prejudicial trap as the following quotations illustrate. – Which is not to say that there are no “technical” reasons why social labor should not be “divided”: but no amount of “technical rationality” can impede the democratic supervision of the most technical tasks of social labor! Returning to Marx, we have seen how he too believed that it was possible to separate “reflection” or “consciousness” – that is, theory and interpretation – as an entity distinct from “reality” or “the world”, such that “philosophers hitherto have only interpreted the world”. Marx evidently neglects the fact that “interpretations” and “theories” are themselves methods or modalities of human activity. Indeed, Marx himself observed that what distinguishes human beings from other animals is just this ability “to theorise or pro-ject” conceptually

and most specifically of Kantian and Hegelian. The problem revolves around the human temptation to separate conceptually the cosmos into subject and object. The problem with the philosophical approaches of Kant first – for he was the one who first conceptualized this Krisis – and then Hegel and Marx. But this dichotomy and antithesis between “thought” as deliberation and “action” as execution is exactly what lies at the source of the “division” of social labor and its “separation” from the means of production in the society of capital. as if the mere fact that there are “thoughts” proved incontrovertibly that there are “thinkers” and. we soon realize that in fact theory and practice were never “separate” and that therefore philosophy and science are not “ideologies” in the sense intended by Marcuse or Heidegger that they contain a pre-conceived project or design of human action. theorized. who were more concerned with the Trennung – that is. The notion of “ideology” implies that there are theoretical practices that are “non-ideological”. from an Archimedian . that can be observed. the “in-itself” that is acted upon. but in any case only transscendentally. of an objective substratum or “world”. with the “separation” or “alienation” of living labor and its abstraction into “labor power” – is that they pre-suppose the existence of a “reality”. he would doubtless have transliterated his Eleventh Thesis as follows: “Philosophers and scientists have hitherto claimed that they were only ‘inter-preting’ the world. that is to say. whereas in fact they were elaborating strategies either to change or to conserve it!” If we turn Marx’s dictum on its head like this. behind thinkers. only by leaving intact the epistemological separation or break (coupure) between concept and reality. Instead. that is to say. And this has occurred because in the past we have oriented human action in a fashion polarized between “consciousness”. Had Marx been aware of Nietzsche’s own critique of Western. This “separation” (Trennung) and “division” (Krisis) needs to be understood and examined with a view to its overthrow and supersession. the for-itself or “action”. Differently put.beforehand the activities that they intend to undertake. all these “theories” presuppose the epistemological “schism” between knowing Subject and known Object – a schism that can be “bridged” either irrationally or “schematically” or else “dialectically”. and “reality”. they should be viewed as strategies that have specific finalities or goals with which we may agree or disagree but that in any case are never purely speculative or contemplative because they remain ineluctably forms of human activity. and known “scientifically”. “freely” and “objectively”. metaphysics. “subjects” provided with a “consciousness” capable of com-prehending life and the world autonomously from these last.

despite an undeniable scientistic streak in Capital. the necessary human immanent inter-action with life and the world. of course. But Marx interprets what he does in the more restricted conception of the species' self-reflection through labor [Arbeit] alone. at an all-encompassing ontology. Such a theorization is essential.point. Marx chastises Hegel for making precisely this error – that of mis-taking human objectification. a reorientation of social labor. Quite rightly. The materialist concept of synthesis is not conceived broadly enough in order to explicate the way in which Marx contributes to realizing the intention of a really radicalized critique of knowledge. the ultimate stage of the Spirit or self-consciousness to the point where it en-compasses all its predicates and attributes whereby it is “ab-solved” from further clarification. it even prevented Marx from understanding his own mode of procedure from this point of view. But this “self-understanding” must occur in a historical perspective that is aimed not at a generic “philosophical totality”.) Obvious here is the intention on the part of Habermas to distinguish “the practice of inquiry” from “the philosophical self-understanding of inquiry”. Marx called his theoretical activity “critique” precisely for the reason that it was never intended as mere analysis or dia-gnosis of the . there is no question of his having reduced “logic” to “being” for the simple reason that this dichotomy does not occur in his oeuvre and certainly not in the most mature exposition of his philosophical theorization of capitalist society in the Grundrisse. the “false consciousness” arising from the extrinsication of the Idea in time and in space to the apotheosis of ab-solute knowledge. to correct its ever-growing distortion on the part of capitalist social relations of production. because the overthrow of capitalism has to be able to understand the needs that lead to it. with alien-ation. Here is how Habermas characterizes (one could be vicious and say “caricatures”) Marx’s Entwurf in the light of our formulation of this problematic thus far: Thus in Marx's works a peculiar disproportion arises between the practice of inquiry [Forschungspraxis] and the limited philosophical self-understanding of this inquiry [Forschung]. Hegel mistakes Being with Logic. p. Yet the opposite is not the case for Marx! If we consider Marx’s work in its entirety. has to be able to justify itself. Rather. the better.42. The sooner we free our-selves from this pre-judice. In his empirical analyses Marx comprehends the history of the species under categories of material activity and the critical abolition of ideologies. In fact. its principal aim and scope must be that of erecting a novel political orientation of human social relations of production. of instrumental action and revolutionary practice. Hegel therefore mistakes life and the world. of labor and reflection at once. with the dialectical un-folding of the Idea: in short. immanence. (K&HI.

it certainly does not help matters if we start splitting hairs in the manner Habermas suggests. even the most “theoretical” and “ana-lytical”. despite our humble admiration for him. therefore. For Marx to have done . the “disproportion” [Missverhaltniss] between the practice of inquiry and its philosophical self-understanding occurs in Marx because he interprets the history of being human “through labor alone”. that is. and thence invited those hideous “Hegelian-Marxist” (mostly Lukacsian) disquisitions on “authenticity and false consciousness”. And Habermas understands by “labor” exactly what he wishes to understand. a problem or “disproportion” in Marx’s praxis that Habermas (texts in hand) is about to overcome on his own “meta-critical” terms – that is. it is true that Marx leaned too heavily on the dichotomy between “the [real. “material activity” bereft of “reflection”. “instrumental action” without revolutionary practice. of instrumental action and revolutionary practice. had to be designed to put into political practice the overthrow of capitalist social relations of production. Habermas’s entire “meta-critique” of Marx is on shaky ground because he has excogitated for himself an obstacle. whose very content. a dianoia. natural] world” and its – ideological. Though it is possible. In other words. the command by dead labor over living labor. and we would argue even correct. by engaging in renewed analyses not just of “the practice of inquiry” – which may be politically justified because there is an immediate link with praxis – but also of “the philosophical self-understanding” of this inquiry – because at that stage we already indulging in what threatens to become an endless chain of “meta-critiques” of “knowledge” that rapidly spiral into complete irrelevance to anything “practical” in a Marxian sense! What troubles Habermas is the alleged fact that “Marx interprets what he does in the more restricted conception of the species' self-reflection through labor [Arbeit] alone”. whereas in his “empirical analyses” Marx had more properly “comprehend[ed] the history of the species under categories of material activity and the critical abolition of ideologies. fetishistic – “interpretations”. Already. of labor and reflection at once”. But it is or should be wholly evident that when Marx spoke of “labor” he never intended by that term to mechanical pro-duction that the bourgeoisie intends by it in opposition to some other mystical artistic notion of “labor” such as that contained in the classical distinction between poiesis and techne’. namely. to contend that Marx’s own account of the social synthesis was defective. philosophisch! That is why we protest. that Habermas spent his lifetime bridging theory and practice in theory alone! For what purpose can it serve to draw a distinction as subtle as it is casuistic between the Marxian notion of “labor” and “reflection”? As we saw with the Eleventh Thesis.workings and status of capitalism but rather as a practical project.

so would have amounted to succumbing to the most risible nostalgia of late-romantic dreamers hankering (like Lukacs and Heidegger and many after them) for the utopia of “totality”. then it is obvious that the two are and will remain utterly anti-nomic and ir-reconcilable. The unbridgeable hiatus – this perennial conundrum of the philosophic mind – between “con-cept” and the “re-ality” that it is supposed “to grasp” or “com-prehend” (as a “totality”) belongs to the bourgeois fables that Nietzsche laughed off so “comprehensively” in Zarathustra and that indeed he “hammered” to smithereens in the Twilight (a book whose subtitle is “how to philosophise with a hammer”). that is to say. This dualism of the Arbeit (labor) as the “totality” of human objectification that is parcelised and commodified by the capitalist so that its qualitative character as use value is then reduced to its quantitative monetary form as “exchange value” until a surplus value is produced over and above the “socially necessary labor time” needed for the reproduction of “society” – all this is a colossal fiction for which Marx himself was principally responsible. but one that Lukacs ably worked up into an even greater mythology. it was Heidegger himself who. invented by Heidegger. Heidegger genially bypasses Lukacs’s entire Hegelian problematic of “the dialectic of selfconsciousness” which the Hungarian philosopher had re-worked along Simmelian lines that led straight into the formal Weberian notion of “rationalization” as “reification”. sought valiantly in his Kantbuch (which he intended as volume two of Being and Time) to correct Kant’s misapprehensions regarding the nature of human intuition into which Kant fell in the second edition of the Kritik der reinen Vernunft. by reference to an “ideal world” or a world of “Ideas” of which this world. “Man” understood not immanently but rather trans-scendentally. (Simply bathetic is that highbrow bourgeois interpretation. If we define “labor” in terms of its mechanical a-spect and of its ideal or creative a-spect.which in turn he adapted from Marx’s original discussion of “the fetishism of commodities” in Capital. . It is obvious that we shall forever sway between crude “materialism” and refined “idealism”. phenomena or “mere representations” (blosse Vorstellungen). Habermas has set up a straw man. on the tracks of Lukacs’s trenchant critique of “The Antinomies of Bourgeois Thought” (in the Geschichte). of artistic and aesthetic fulfillment and wholeness – for “Art”. of Nietzsche’s hammer referring to “sounding” philosophical thoughts!) To be sure. this life are only im-perfect copies – mere appearances (blosse Erscheinungen). on the tracks of Lenin’s fanciful Bolshevist vanguard or “dictatorship” (avant-garde?) of the “proletariat” . and then proceeds to punch him out of shape! – Exactly in the manner in which the philosophia perennis since Plato and Aristotle has sought to present the cosmos as an “Other” to be subjugated and dominated by “the Subject”.

Habermas sums up: This seal placed on absolute knowledge by the philosophy of identity is broken if the externality of nature. The Kantian elements are already made explicit in the “terminology” adopted which. Having quoted from a passage of the Paris Manuscripts in which Marx decries Hegel’s confusion of human objectification with “alienation”. or demolished critically and then threw overboard! Just listen to these pearls from the supreme academic brain of the Teutonic establishment – something to make you bristle with rage: . gives rise likewise to the natural being man and the nature that surrounds him --and not in the idealist sense of a mind that. All along this line of reasoning or analysis. But Habermas’s adoption of terms – “signifiers”. still posits the “external” character of “nature” to “mind”: “Here the mind presupposes nature”. finally unveiled as “the individual subject-object of history” (a concept Lukacs took from Schopenhauer’s critique of Kant’s formal distinction between noumenon and phenomenon). but in the sense of a natural process that. the Keynesian State-Form now on its last desperate death-throes. both Kantian and non-Kantian components to Marx’s philosophical framework. argues Habermas. mortifying ballast and baggage carried by Western meta-physics – what Nietzsche so valiantly de-structed. “symbols” – as charged and redolent with the problematic of the prima philosophia. posits a natural world as its own self-created presupposition. unlike Hegel’s absolute idealism. not only seems external to a consciousness that finds itself within nature but refers instead to the immediacy of a substratum on which the mind contingently depends. both objective environmental and subjective bodily nature. such as “mind” and “nature” means that he has already saddled Marx’s Entwurf with all the worthless paralyzing.as being the Hegelian “carrier” (Trager) of the dialectical self-dissolution of capital (the working class dressed up as the Kapital-Geist). Here the mind presupposes nature. we find a laughable string of puerile distinctions between a “real world” and an “apparent world” which serves to obfuscate our immediate practical aim – the overthrow of the society of capital (subjective genitive – the “society” created by and for capital) and its final institutional form. from within itself.4 There are therefore. Habermas’s proton pseudon (principal [first and foremost] mistake) he himself articulates in only his second paragraph (!) from the start of his “meta-critique” of Marx. as Idea existing for itself.

Once more. It is prior to the world of mankind.Marx is assuming something like a nature in itself. "Nature in itself" is therefore an abstraction. It is at the root of laboring subjects as natural beings and also enters into their labor processes. (ch. it is evident that Habermas then needs… a syn-thesis (!) – an equally phantomatic effort by Marx “to bridge” this Fichtean hiatus irrationalis from within the Kantian philosophical.34) This is patent and despicable nonsense! Had Marx had the misfortune of catching a glimpse of this kind of utter bastardry from academic poltroons such as Habermas no-one could vouchsafe for the physical integrity of the Frankfurt professor! Nothing but nothing could be further from Marx’s entire worldview. p. Kant's "thing-in-itself" reappears under the name of a nature preceding human history." While epistemologically we must presuppose nature as existing in itself. speculative strait-jacket in which Habermas has entangled Marx’s praxis. having set up a phantasmagoric Kantian anti-thesis in Marx’s “revolutionary practice” between “mind” and “nature”. that velame oscuro or “obscure veil” – one could call it letame oscuro. Habermas sees a “distortion” arising between Marx’s “practice of inquiry” and his “philosophical self- . philosophy – call it what you like! – than the garbage about “Dinge an sich” (things in themselves. Here nature in human form mediates itself with objective nature.2. the ground and environment of the human world. obscure filth!) that Kant unloads by the cart-load in the First Kritik! The plain and overwhelming fact of the matter is that Marx was attempting by all means available to him to overcome (Nietzsche’s Uberwindung) precisely the kind of meta-physical conundrums in which precious bourgeois “minds” such as Kant’s took such obvious delight. But as the subjective nature of man and the objective nature of their environment. and therefore between “labor” and “reflection” or “interaction”. perspective. which is a requisite of our thought: but we always encounter nature within the horizon of the world-historical self-formative process of mankind. That Marx was unable to achieve such a feat – we will have to wait until Nietzsche for a far more sophisticated and penetrating effort – does not mean that he shared the trans-scendental idealist claptrap of Kant and his German Idealist epigones! Quite obviously. we ourselves have access to nature only within the historical dimension disclosed by labor processes. it is already part of a system of social labor that is divided up into two aspects of the same "process of material exchange.

and if not. in distinction from Kant. why not? -. On the other hand. Marx believed in a “subject” as well as in “nature”. stubborn immanence! Nor can the human species for Marx be described “barrenly” as “a species of tool-making animals” – because. as Habermas remarks in the very next sentence.for labor processes are the ‘perpetual natural necessity of human life’? Why does the Marxian “perpetual natural necessity of human life” – the .for labor processes are the "perpetual natural necessity of human life. “in distinction from Kant. why does this entitle Habermas to conclude in the same breath that “[w]hat is Kantian about Marx's conception of knowledge is the invariant relation of the species to its natural environment”? How on earth can this relation be “invariant” when Habermas has just acknowledged that it is liable to “historical transformation”? And how can this “invariance” be “established by the behavioral system of instrumental action -. But why and how are these necessarily “retained from Kant’s fixed framework”? And where oh where is that “transcendental consciousness” that Habermas claims to detect in Marx? Nothing is transcendental in Marx! Marx is inveterate.29 What is Kantian about Marx's conception of knowledge is the invariant relation of the species to its natural environment. why. But again." It is quite mesmerizing to witness the effusive impetus with which Habermas with nonchalant hermeneutic fury completely misrepresents Marx’s most express theoretical intentions.understanding of this inquiry” – but this “distortion” exists only because Habermas has fundamentally “pre-distorted” Marx’s praxis by redefining its central – revolutionary – problematic! Here is how Habermas summarises his conclusions: The materialist concept of synthesis thus retains from Kant the fixed framework within which the subject forms a substance that it encounters. a Goethian “trans-crescence”. This framework is established once and for all through the equipment of transcendental consciousness or of the human species as a species of tool-making animals. in light of this “historical trans-formation” – surely a “meta-morphosis”. Marx assumes empirically mediated rules of synthesis that are objectified as productive forces and historically transform the subjects' relation to their natural environment. which is established by the behavioral system of instrumental action -. Doubtless. Marx assumes empirically mediated rules of synthesis that are objectified as productive forces and historically transform the subjects' relation to their natural environment”.

if . hence even as Arbeit – suddenly become a “behavioral system of instrumental action”? The conditions of instrumental action arose contingently in the natural evolution of the human species. The objectivity of the possible objects of experience is constituted within a conceptual perceptual scheme rooted in deep-seated structures of human action. this is only partly so – only to the extent. which is oriented toward action.36 -possible objects of experience is thus grounded in the identity of a natural substratum.evident ec-sistence of being human as living activity. this scheme is equally binding on all subjects that keep alive through labor. was always (remember!?) implanted on Hegel’s dialectic for a start! Now. At the same time. then we necessarily end up with his “disproportion” because. that is. that Habermas is making things up “on the run” – such is the obtuseness of his fantastic “variations” on Marx’s theme! Where in God’s name does “transcendental necessity” come into Marx’s immanent naturalism – something worthy of Nietzsche’s “genealogy of morals”? The objectivity of the -. in contrast. that this “un-Kantian point of view” merely counterbalances the other “Kantian” elements of Marx’s theory that Habermas seemingly detects. The identity of societal subjects. at the risk of sounding vulgar. and not in an original unity of apperception. Finally! Finally Habermas snaps out of his neo-Kantian trance! But remember. namely that of the bodily organization of man. from the quotation just above. however. alters with the scope of their power of technical control. they bind our knowledge of nature to the interest of possible technical control over natural processes. and the laboring subjects themselves alter in relation to the development of the productive forces. if we accept Habermas’s one-sided Kantian formulation of Marx’s problematic. The knowledge generated within the framework of instrumental action takes on external existence as a productive force. which has been reshaped and civilized in labor processes. This point of view is fundamentally un-Kantian. At this point one would have to state bluntly. far from falling back on Kantian formalism. according to Kant. Consequently both nature. with transcendental necessity. which. guarantees with transcendental necessity the identity of an a-historical consciousness in general. But Habermas remains locked within his own formulation of the Marxian problematic which.

which precludes epistemology as such. the Hegelian dialectic of self-consciousness is much more than a critique of Kantian epistemology! It is above all else an attempt to move beyond . Notwithstanding. that is. it gives rise to Habermas’s lamented “distortion” in Marx – for the simple reason that “nature” understood as the antithesis of “the subject” can never be “transformed” or “civilized” or “altered” by…. I see the reason for this in the reduction of the self. then it follows necessarily that for such a “framework of instrumental action” to be trans-muted into an “external existence as a productive force” involves a “reshaping and civilizing” of “nature” as well as an “alteration of both nature and the laboring subjects themselves” that is quite inevitably anti-thetical – that is.42) So herein lies the problem with Habermas’s wholly unwarranted interpretation of Marx’s “epistemology”: in the fact. given Marx’s selfavowed indebtedness (cf. Habermas in-vents (in the double sense of “conjures up” and invenire. (p. “runs up against”) the “disproportion” in Marx’s praxis that he laments! First. that Habermas entirely overlooks Marx’s adoption of Hegel’s critique of Kant – from positions that will be shared in part even by the negatives Denken from Schopenhauer to Nietzsche and Heidegger. In a turn of thought peculiarly determined by Fichte. and that indeed had germinated as early as Schelling (see Lowith.”instrumental action”! Thus. pulls it out of a hat. whereas Hegel is concerned essentially with ontology – with the nature of Being – despite the fact (and here is the pretext for Marx’s critique of Hegel. and thence to epistemology. Vom Hegel zu Nietzsche) – and this not merely in terms of method. Marx adopts the intention of Hegel's objection to the Kantian approach to the critique of knowledge. and then.[t]he knowledge generated within the framework of instrumental action takes on external existence as a productive force. but also and above all in the fact that the Hegelian dialectic constitutes a critique of Kantian transcendental idealism both as epistemology – and above all as ontology! Kant is almost exclusively concerned (despite the helpful objections Heidegger raises in the Kantbuch) with epistemology. of Ricardo) that he assimilates ontology to “logic”. he in-vents this problem in the sense that he claims “to have run up against it” as a “disproportion” in Marx! The materialist concept of synthesis through social labor marks the systematic position occupied by Marx's conception of [42] the history of mankind in the intellectual current that begins with Kant. and then of Political Economy. Habermas “invents” in the sense that he “makes the problem up all by himself”.generative act of the human species to labor. Considered immanently. In so doing he is impervious to the philosophy of identity. Nevertheless. the philosophical foundation of this materialism proves itself insufficient to establish an unconditional phenomenological self-reflection of knowledge and thus prevent the positivist atrophy of epistemology. Preface to Capital) to Hegelian dialectic.

as Heidegger showed. By reducing the self-positing of the absolute ego to the more tangible productive activity of the species. and more intensely by Heidegger. as mere operari – precisely because he theorises the entire complex ontology of the Arbeit from a pre-Nietzschean viewpoint! Marx. it is not inconsistent that he does not distinguish between the logical status of the natural sciences and of critique. on the contrary. had already moved to a philosophical dimension that Kant did not even imagine – and here the pun is intended because. (p. that is of reflection. Because he tacitly starts with this premise. it is exactly the defective Kantian notion of the “imagination” as the “syn-thesis” between human “intuition” (Sinn) and “the understanding” (Verstand) that made his critical idealism vulnerable to the Nietzschean assault…. this relation turns into the relation of production and appropriation. In this case the act of appropriation is no longer identical with the reflective reintegration of some previously externalized part of the subject itself. to the process of becoming conscious of what has been objectified. on the premises of a philosophy of labor. that is of hypostatization. “if you please” (as Marx would say). in Habermas’s review of Marxian praxis ( of inquiry as political and theoretical practice) lies perhaps most centrally and essentially in his misconception of the Marxian notion of “labor”. Marx conceives of reflection according to the model of production. but note that already he has turned this praxis into “the critique of epistemology”: Marx reduces the process of reflection to the level of instrumental action. of the Arbeit. His re-interpretation of Hegel's Phenomenology betrays the paradoxical consequences of taking Fichte's philosophy of the ego and undermining it with materialism.Kant’s epistemological formalism which inevitably shatters against the rock of its ontological “antinomies”! It is absurd.44) . he eliminates reflection as such as a motive force of history. which Habermas understands as “instrumental action”. even though he retains the framework of the philosophy of reflection. the weak link. whilst he lacked the philosophical lexicon developed later by Nietzsche. Marx preserves the relation of the subject's prior positing activity (which was not transparent to itself). Here the appropriating subject confronts in the non-ego not just a product of the ego but rather some portion of the contingency of nature. of externalization and the appropriation of externalized essential powers. in light of all this – and we need not even consider Hegel here. Here then is how Habermas recapitulates his “animadversion” on Marx in the second part of his critical review of Marxian praxis. But. for one could as well invoke Schopenhauer’s own critique of Kant (!) – to insist that Marx’s own critique of Hegel would – after all was said and done – revert to Kantian positions that Marx himself would have considered well and truly dead and buried after Hegel’s philosophical advances! The weakness.

It is intriguing. that Habermas – though most probably aware of SohnRethel’s theses – fails to acknowledge or even to mention them in his work! Our own divergence from the theses of this work will be the subject of a separate review. Yet. and most notably his insistence on the historical uniqueness of capitalist social relations of production (in contrast to Political Economy). it is emphatically not Marx who “reduces the process of reflection to the level of instrumental action” – in the first place because Marx never properly understood human living activity or living labor in terms of this dichotomy that Habermas wishes to impose on it between the “instrumental” side of human activity and its “conscious” or “reflective” side! There was unquestionably a scientistic and reductive side to Marx’s work that takes us down to that most vulgar of his claims – that of having “uncovered the laws of motion of human history” or at any rate “the economic laws of motion of modern society” on which Habermas predictably lays much emphasis. (Intellectual and Manual Labor is the title of the major theoretical work by Alfred Sohn-Rethel in which he introduces also the notion of “social synthesis”. that directly confutes Habermas’s claim of the Marxian “reduction” of reflection to instrumental action and “disproportion” between his practice of inquiry and his philosophical self-understanding of it. if you like “techno-scientific” aspect.Now. as we showed in the first part of this review. when Habermas claims that “Marx conceives of reflection according to the model of production”. Rather than carp on the all-too-easily confutable scientism of Marx’s analysis. but we are happy to adopt them provisionally here. in .) To say it again. This is a gallant effort from a genuinely devoted Marxist revolutionary thinker whom we hold in high esteem. as even Habermas himself concedes. and into a “reflective” or “conscious” or contemplative aspect: in short. there is much in Marx’s practical application of his critique to specific historical events. Habermas ought to have asked himself why and how it is indeed possible for Marx to be able simultaneously to engage in the “vulgar” conception of “the laws of motion of human history” – and indeed even to indulge the claim that human history could be subsumed eventually under natural history (the infamous unification of science)! – whilst still being able to conceive of the “critique” of political economy as a form of revolutionary practice! The reason why Habermas is unable to pose himself the question is the converse of the reason why Marx was able to contradict his praxis: and the reason is that Habermas is illegitimately dissecting human living activity (the Arbeit or “labor”) into an “instrumental” or “mechanical” or. he is illicitly concluding that “production” is somehow “un-reflexive” and “mechanical” – that. he is accepting without hint of a doubt – unreflexively indeed! – the division of human labor into intellectual and manual labor. to say the least.

nor have we time and space to trace the historical correspondence between the division of social labor into its “directive intellectual” and its “commanded manual” aspects. “soul”. again. . in opposition to this. Indeed. it is not inconsistent that he does not distinguish between the logical status of the natural sciences and of critique. And again we would have to concede that in this regard as well Marx displays all the scientistic prejudices. Nevertheless. of technical and scientific instrumental action (including that of “economic science”?) and.other words. this does not entitle Habermas to saddle Marx with a “framework” of philosophical analysis that the bearded thinker time and again challenges and even contra-dicts most notably in the Grundrisse. Habermas is reproducing uncritically the Cartesian schema of res cogitans (“mind”. and then. to whom he intended to dedicate Capital. of the age of Darwin. in the Grundrisse and elsewhere. matter). it is possible to distinguish between a sphere of necessity. we attribute to the political division of human living activity into intellectual labor on one side and manual labor on the other. “spirit”) and res extensa (body. But we must take time to delineate two facets of an implicit Marxian “critique of epistemology” based on a reading of Marx’s work that draws upon the Nietzschean critique of Western “values” (scientific and ethico-political) – which. so pervicaciously ingrained is this philosophical CartesianKantian prejudice in Habermas’s entire worldview. The cardinal sin committed by Habermas here is first to have articulated a purely fictitious and wholly phantomatic distinction between “the logic of the natural sciences” and “the logic of critique” – when he should know that there is no logic to either the natural sciences or indeed to “critique” (!). This is not the place to go into the merits of Marx’s explicit and implicit outline of his philosophical framework. In effect. that he even has the effrontery to accuse Marx of confusing “the logical status of the natural sciences and of critique” (!) when it ought to be amply evident to him by now – if indeed he had read Marx with an open mind – that no such distinction can be drawn between “the logical status of the natural sciences and of critique”! Because he [Marx] tacitly starts with this premise. Habermas compounds his temerary insolence by accusing Marx of not distinguishing between these two utterly phantomatic entities! Here Habermas doubtless has in mind Marx’s famous statement in Capital about human beings as “species-conscious beings” – the Gattungswesen. of a “reflexive” sphere of freedom or ideation that responds to symbolic interaction. even bigotry.

as well as the theory of society. then both the technically exploitable knowledge of the natural sciences. belong to the same objective context of the selfconstitution of the species. unlike Habermas. it defines the self-consciousness of societal subjects. dead objectified labor . but rather an “immanent” one that subsumes “science and technology” to those “social relations of production”. the knowledge of laws of human natural history. and finally – but here is the real immanent political contrast that matters to us: . If we take as our basis the materialist concept of synthesis through social labor. a “contrast” between “the knowledge of nature” and “the knowledge of society” which leads us back to the old confabulations about “Subject and Object”. And immediately following this sentence. then there is no reason why the development of these social relations of production in accordance with phylogenetically defined “human interests” may clash and come into contra-diction with their actual asset under capitalism! This is not a “logical” contradiction but what Marx would have called a “dialectical” one – one that does not require a “transcendental” understanding or theory of “knowledge” that is separate from (that “transcends”) the actual social relations of production (the satisfaction of human needs and goals) .which is precisely the reason why Habermas champions Kant against Hegel! -. Simply breath-taking is the mulish obstinacy with which Habermas harps on this opposition that exists only in his mind and in his neo-Kantian mind alone (!) between “natural laws” and “laws of human natural history” (whatever that means!). Their identity is reformed at each stage of development of the productive forces and is in turn a condition for steering the process of production…. at the same time it reacts back upon the system of social labor and stimulates its development. the knowledge of nature derives from man's primary coming to grips with nature. “Mind and Body”. The knowledge of society can be viewed analogously.Here is a splendid example of Habermas’s inability to see that “science and technology” and “human history” can be at one and the same time subsumed under “social relations of production” and therefore (!) still be subsumed within a phylogenetic understanding of human being as species-conscious being. objective” entities with a “neutral logical status”. Thus. Extending from the level of the pragmatic self-understanding of social groups to actual social theory. just take a look at this pearl (!): From the level of pragmatic. we are able to understand “science and technology” as products of human social relations of production rather than as “autonomous. “Spirit and Nature”. an “opposition”. everyday knowledge to modern natural science. the knowledge of natural laws. Habermas has conjured up a “division”.capitalist and worker. out of his own creative imagination. If indeed.

Natural knowledge congealed in technologies impels the social subject to an ever more thorough knowledge of its "process of material exchange" with nature. and therefore [!] the conditions of the social life process itself have come under the control of the general intellect. In vain. according to Habermas. entirely innocent of economic knowledge. a great deal of intellect in the mix. for which we thank him! Again and again. A science of man . commits the very vulgar error – one that Habermas. At the level of the selfconsciousness of social subjects. Marx does not “self-understand philosophically”! At this stage of arcane nonsense we would be quite entitled to throw the whole physical weight of the book Knowledge and Human Interests at Habermas himself were it not for the fact that we owe him the stimulus of his comprehensive obtuse asininity . knowledge that makes possible the control of natural processes turns into knowledge that makes possible the control of the social life process.47) Marx himself. Habermas goes on (as if repetition could somehow dispel his confusion) to cavil at this “dualism” of “labor” (Arbeit) as mere “instrumental action” (manual labor?) and “labor” as “reflection” or “interaction” (intellectual labor?): Here it is from the methodological perspective that we are interested in this conception of the transformation of the labor process into a scientific process that would bring man's "material exchange" with nature under the control of a human species totally emancipated from necessary labor. In the end this knowledge is transformed into the steering of social processes in a manner not unlike that in which natural science becomes the power of technical control. in the quotation Habermas adopts above.7 So far as production establishes the only framework in which the genesis and function of knowledge can be interpreted. “technology”).commanding living labor. In the dimension of labor as a process of production and appropriation. fails to detect – of confusing what he will later (in Capital) call “constant capital” with “fixed capital” (plant and equipment – roughly put. the science of man also appears under categories of knowledge for control (Verfügungswissen). reflective knowledge (Reflexionswissen) changes into productive knowledge (Produktionswissen).and. let us admit it. (p. Habermas invokes the Marx of the Grundrisse to enlist him in this neo-Kantian folly: The development of fixed capital indicates the extent to which general social knowledge has become an immediate force of production. But this does not entitle Habermas to conclude that by “fixed capital” Marx means “mere instrumental technology” or “knowledge for control” (my God! Where does he get these notions from?) or “Verfugungswissen” which can then be combined with “reflective knowledge” to yield finally – in a transmutation worthy of the maddest mediaeval alchemist – a magical “productive knowledge” or “Produktionswissen” (I give up!) that.

For. on the one hand. In this sense the science of man would be subsumed under natural science. According to this other version the self-constitution of the species takes place not only in the context of men's instrumental action upon nature but simultaneously in the dimension of power relations that regulate men's interaction among themselves. On the other hand. the scientization of production is seen as the movement that brings about the identity of a subject that knows the social life process and then also steers it. It is not typical of the actual social theory in which Marx materialistically appropriates Hegel on a broad scale. the natural sciences are comprehended in virtue of their function in the self.and only through labor. It thus conceals the dimension of selfreflection in which it must move regardless. It would make true the fiction of the early Marx that natural science subsumes the science of man just as much as the latter subsumes the former. This is complete and utter nonsense – because nowhere in the Grundrisse (the “Roh-entwurf”) will we find Marx indulging in the kind of academic hair-splitting exercises on which Habermas built his academic career between “labor” as “instrumental action upon nature” and “labor” as “interaction between human beings” – least of all would Marx have countenanced the “simultaneous” occurrence of these two “fictions” of Habermas’s own making.generative process of the species as the exoteric disclosure of man's essential powers. The latter contains principles from which a methodology of the natural sciences resembling a transcendental-logically determined pragmatism could be derived.51 -Marx's critique of Hegel. And that is because Marx knew all too well that acquiescing in such a dualism or dichotomy between “instrumental action” on one side and “interaction” on the other would have landed him straight into the Comtean positivism – indeed the “nihilism”. In this sense. It understands itself in analogy to the natural sciences as productive knowledge. that is production as the "activity" of a self-constituting species. But this science does not question its own epistemological foundations. Even in the Grundrisse we find already the official view that the transformation of science into machinery does not by any means lead of itself to the liberation of a self-conscious general subject that masters the process of production. as Nietzsche so ably unmasked it in Gaya Scienza and in the Genealogie – for the very simple reason that once we admit that human living activity is subject to “the laws of nature”. Now the argument which we have taken up was not pursued beyond the stage of the "rough sketch" ("Rohentwurf") of Capital.developed from this point of view would have to construct the history of the species as a synthesis through social labor-. natural science would be subsumed under the science of man. It is typical only of the philosophical foundation of -. then it follows just as “scientifically” that the “interaction between human beings” also is subject to these “laws of nature” (or .

or at least the intention that Marx believed himself to be pursuing. So distant is Habermas from comprehending the most basic outline of the Marxian critique of political economy that he confuses Marx’s identification of the social antagonism intrinsic to the technological means and mode of production adopted by capitalists to subjugate living labor and reduce it . (p. he disavowed it. which epistemology had abandoned and from which Hegel and Marx believed themselves exempted. it is so not because it is “scientific” but rather because its strategy of domination on behalf of capital against living labor is effectual! Habermas again confuses “what is” with “what succeeds”. whose philosophical self-liquidation had been carried on by Hegel and Marx. it is hard to believe.63) “Successfully”? Really? Yet to the degree that positivist methodology is “successful”. Comte merely needed to take Marx. if not even to spell out. will serve both as “theory of knowledge” and as “social theory”. however. but this is exactly what Habermas does!) as Habermas almost insanely. Positivism turned its back to the theory of knowledge. as the English title to this chapter suggests. Wrong! It is Habermas’s attempt to rescue “natural science” from the practical critique of Marxian theory that delivers Habermas straight into the paws and maws and jaws of Positivism – which he himself confirms when he foolishly and absurdly concedes with the last words of his essay that positivism successfully set about the task. I know. Materialist scientism only reconfirms what absolute idealism had already accomplished: the elimination of epistemology in favor of unchained universal "scientific knowledge"--but this time of scientific materialism instead of absolute knowledge. In so doing. of elaborating a methodology of the sciences. a “positive science” that. which is the very opposite of what the task of “critique” and “reflection” is supposed to do! Perhaps the singular source of Habermas’s confusion is the fact that he wishes to outline. In continuity with pre-critical traditions. With his positivist demand for a natural science of the social.“technology”) – which is exactly what every Positivism from Comte onwards has tried to establish! So this turns into complete and utter nonsense Habermas’s absurd claim that Marx was somehow responsible for the intellectual emergence of Comtean positivism (yes. suggests! Marx did not develop this idea of the science of man. of elaborating a methodology of the sciences. it successfully set about the task. who were of one mind in this regard. which epistemology had abandoned and from which Hegel and Marx believed themselves exempted. By equating critique with natural science. at his word. positivism regressed behind the level of reflection once attained by Kant. but assuredly inanely.

given that the process of production is scientifically and technologically “neutral” (!).to abstract labor with a simple squabble between “social classes” over “the distribution of the surplus product created by labor”. But as we now see. With the cleavage of the social system into classes that are made permanent by the institutional framework."15 As long as we regard the self-constitution of the species through labor only with respect to the power of control over natural processes that accumulates in the forces of production. which participate to varying degrees in the burdens of production and in social rewards. Habermas then needs to add to this process as an adjunct or appendage a “social theory” that can explain why and how. the social subject loses its unity: "To regard society as one single subject is. The aim of our revolutionary movement can never be that of developing a “neutral science”. the problem arises of distributing the surplus product created by labor. So far as the identity of a society takes form via this level of scientific-technical progress. (p. is accompanied by a self-formative process mediated by the interaction of class subjects either under compulsory integration or in open rivalry. This problem is solved by the formation of social classes. which in each case is given with the available technical knowledge. By “labor”! So vulgar is Habermas’s reading of Marx that he cannot even distinguish between “living labor” and “labor power”. instruments and strategies of capitalist domination over living labor. the self-formative process of the species does not coincide with the genesis of this subject of scientific-technical progress. it is the selfconsciousness of "the" social subject. to regard it falsely--speculatively. so that the entire problem with capitalism boils down for him to one about “the distribution of surplus product” over and above what Marx unhappily called “necessary labor” – another fable attributable to his pervasive scientism! If production attains the level of producing goods over and above elementary needs. it is meaningful to speak of the social system in general and to speak of the social subject in the singular. Rather." which Marx comprehended as a materialistic activity. this "self-generative act. In principle the members of a society all live at the same level of mastery of nature. it is that of creating a democratic society! ****** Marx’s inability to determine “value” and “prices” independently of the market “mechanism” induced him to seek the “objectification” of value . As a result. moreover.54) Habermas’s difficulty is that he conceives of “the process of production” as a “scientifically and technically neutral process” – one that responds to “natural laws”. there can ever arise any “social divisions” in “society” over the “distribution of the product” between “social classes”! What Habermas neglects entirely is that “science and technology” are never “neutral” but rather are tools. For the level of development of the forces of production determines the system of social labor as a whole. Rather.

there is no “real” or “necessary” illusion behind reification but the naked blunt violence of the capitalist – “the regular discipline of the factory”. Theory of Communicative Action. Habermas understands Lukacs’s statement to mean that workers are aware that the “reification” of labor time is “an illusion”.can keep a social system in “reproduction”! (We dealt before with Lukacs’s description of reification as “necessary illusion” – which is an oxymoron because “illusions” cannot be “necessary” and “necessity” cannot be “illusory”. it is possible “to measure” value independently of political institutions. in other words. the Marxian concept of “commodity fetishism” or the Lukacsian equivalent of “reification” simply cannot account for “the social synthesis”.because “rationalization” is not an “objective” (Weber) or merely “ideological” (Marx-Lukacs. [See Habermas. that “the limit to reification is its ‘formalism’” (in HCC. As if “history” required anything like “individual subjectobjects” for exploitation to occur! (Nietzsche would have a fit if he ever read Lukacs!) Quite obviously. formalism). as Habermas rightly notes. In other words. of the mythical law of value. Marx and Lukacs understand that if this “social synthesis” is objectively valid – if. Vol. will defeat capitalism for the precise reason that what makes it possible is a reality of “antagonism”. of violence -.in the “fetishism of commodities” which served the same purpose as Weber’s “rationalization” – that of “measuring” the social synthesis.1. which is what Lukacs translated into the concept of “reification”. reification. then capitalism would be made “scientifically legitimate” and the only “objection” to it would rest with its “efficiency” as a mode of production of social wealth. If. because it is hard to see how the “necessary illusion” of reification could ever become “unnecessary”! (The old Frankfurt School realized this. – let alone a “necessary fiction”. this “formalism” can be overcome only “philosophically” – through “class consciousness”. then we have a contradiction because no “illusion”. only to preserve the idolatry of “[Instrumental] Reason”).) Lukacs perceives this problem when he asserts. Just as with Weber’s “rationalization”. which entails opposing one “illusion” with another. of capitalist command over living labor that ensures the “abstraction” of living labor. then . however “necessary” it may be “objectively” and that therefore the bourgeoisie cannot be “the individual subject-object of history”. p.] The only way to lend validity to Lukacs’s position is to reflect that the “formalism” of reification. on the contrary. which is an oxymoron! . This is why “formalism” is the limit of capitalism: .101). albeit still from the viewpoint of the opposition of “fragmented alienated labor” against the “(lost!) totality of artisanal labor”. Lukacs’s analysis does not deal with the problem because. this “social synthesis” is achieved through a “necessary illusion” (fetishism of commodities.

62) . but rather (with Nietzsche’s invariance. Habermas demonstrates how little he has understood where the actual problem with the wage relation and with Lukacs’s concept of “reification” (and Marx’s “fetishism”) really lies: . Because Habermas accepts the “scientific” basis of “historial materialism” based on the mistaken distinction he draws between “instrumental action” and “interaction” or “reflection”. the “unreality” of values) an “arbitrary” one that responds to a strategy of command and exploitation. (K&HI. Nevertheless. ch. he can then accept this oxymoron as indicating the “historical necessity” of the “commodity form” at a given stage of “the natural history of society”! Here is the proof in his own words: Marx did not adopt an epistemological perspective in developing his conception of the history of the species as something that has to be comprehended materialistically. then. at the page reference cited by Habermas.Heidegger-Marcuse) phenomenon. Habermas. The science of man itself is critique and must remain so. seem to indicate “formalism” as the internal limit of the wage relation in terms of the fact that “the market mechanism” metamorphoses living labor into a “thing” but only “formally”. the analysis of history is possible only in a phenomenologically mediated (gebrochen) mode of thought.that is to say. produces and reflects on objective illusion. whilst on the other side it is “necessary” because it exemplifies the objective and material “economic laws of motion of society”. that is. p. as part of this process. through class antagonism. it is a subjective product of human “history”. only “abstractly” – not “in reality” or “necessarily” – and must therefore succumb to the “reality” of class antagonism! It is true that both Marx and Lukacs ultimately fall into this vicious circle of “market competition” leading to “abstract labor” and then to “value” as a “necessary illusion” – an operation that is impossible because “competition” cannot automatically turn living experience into a “thing”. Lukacs does in fact. if social practice does not only accumulate the successes of instrumental action but also. however. in the impossibility of “reification” or “fetishism” as a “necessary illusion”! – Certainly not in Lukacs’s residual Hegelian “idealistic objectivism”! The oxymoron of “necessary illusion” to describe the “fetishism of the commodity” and “reification” is the mirror-image of the Marxian notion of “historical materialism”: on one side the phenomenon of “value” is an “illusion”. completely fails to see that this is the real political problem and engages instead in a critique of Lukacs on the ground that the reality of “reification” (which Lukacs has rendered identical with Weberian “rationalization” because of his erroneous acceptance of “market competition”) cannot be “dispelled” by a mythical “class consciousness”! By so doing.3.

[HCC. Lukacs shares this perspective with Weber as with Horkheimer. to attribute the social synthesis of the society of capital to the sheer violence of the wage relation. albeit to denounce its “formal limits”! It is much simpler for us. the lifeworld has to become reified and individuals degraded – as “systems theory” foresees – into an “environment” for a society that has become external to them. p. Vol1.” (Marx. how “competition” between capitalists can ever provide “the social synthesis” for the reproduction of capitalist society in any form whatsoever. who are but parts of a mechanism that belongs to him. but it finds its limit in the formal character of its own rationality”. with a theory of crisis. very shortly after the passage cited by Habermas. neither Marx nor Lukacs will ever succeed in showing how “the market mechanism” can “function”. respectively. to provide the foundation for that comprehensive “irrationality” constituted by the capitalist wage relation – which is why Lukacs can then fall prey to and swallow wholesale the “formal rationality” of a Weber. has to run up against internal limits: “This rationalization of the world appears to be complete.” (Habermas.101] The burden of proof that Marx wanted to discharge in politico-economic terms. HCC. least of all that of “value”! For this reason. they rely on the notions of “fetishism” and “reification”. TCA. it seems to penetrate to the very depths of man’s physical and psychic nature.102. is the ingrained “transcendental objectivism” – derived mainly from Neo-Kantian sources.102. of the coercion exerted by the pressure of their mutual interests. of course. chiefly Simmel’s “social forms“ – that afflicts Habermas’s own analytical framework! Here is Habermas again: To the degree that the commodity form becomes the form of objectivity and rules the relations of individuals to one another as well as their dealings with external nature and with internal subjective nature.361). Capital III. on p.What this reveals. Lukacs goes on to cite Marx on this very point! Division of labor within the workshop implies the undisputed authority of the capitalist over men. that has consolidated for them into an opaque system. now falls upon a demonstration of the immanent limits to rationalization. The division of labor within society brings into contact independent commodity producers who acknowledge no other authority than that of competition. Habermas is wrong because the context in which Lukacs discusses this “limit” to rationalization is precisely that of Marx’s theory of capitalist crisis induced both by antagonism in the labor process and by inter-capitalist competition in the “market”! As a matter of fact. but. imposed through a . p. Again. a demonstration that has to be carried out in philosophical terms. p. instead. that has been abstracted from them and become independent of them.) Of course. quoted in Lukacs. but he is convinced that this development not only can be stopped practically. for reasons that can be theoretically demonstrated.

network of capitalist political and social institutions all of which answer ultimately to the stability of money-wages and the price and monetary system. that is to say in communicative [p. rather than on the political antagonism of the wage relation! Habermas is entirely right to chide Lukacs’s “idealistic” reconciliation of theory and practice in the “class consciousness” of “the individual subject-object of history”. pp.” (TCA. is a direct result of Habermas’s persistent wrong focus on the “philosophical”. on the other. of morality and aestheticism: It is characteristic of the pattern of rationalization in capitalist societies that the complex of cognitive-instrumental rationality establishes itself at the cost of practical rationality. Marx did not adopt an epistemological perspective in developing his conception of the history of the species as something that has . namely the proletariat (p. it is one that is intrinsic to the politics of the wage relation itself! Perhaps the worst that can be said of Habermas’s “meta-critique” of Marx and Lukacs is that his own notion of “communicative action” remains trapped in the voluntarism of “consciousness”. which served Hegel only as an introduction to scientific knowledge. communicative relations are reified. “idealistic” and Neo-Kantian theorization of the whole quaestio of “reason and rationalization” as a discrepancy (Missverhaltnis) between “laws of nature” or epistemology and “laws of society” or social theory. But this does not mean that Habermas has identified this real apory in Marx’s and Lukacs’s theories – the aporetic notion of “labor value” as the foundation of the social synthesis of capitalist reproduction through market competition! And this failure.364). But he completely misses the point that the “contra-diction” in capitalist social relations is not predominantly one that concerns “communicative action or competence”! Instead. Thus it makes sense to ask whether the critique of the incomplete character of the rationalization that appears as reification does not suggest taking a complementary relation between cognitive-instrumental rationality. we argue. 8888 For Marx.363-4). becomes the frame of reference in which the analysis of the history of the species stays confined.1.364] action itself. Vol. and moral-practical and aesthetic-practical rationality. as a standard that is inherent in the unabridged concept of practice. the phenomenological exposition of consciousness in its manifestations. on the one hand.

63 -species. social theory remains embedded in the framework of phenomenology. then the idea of a science of man would not have been obscured by identification with natural science. Nevertheless. . is possible only as the self-reflection of the knowing subject. if social practice does not only accumulate the successes of instrumental action but also. then. there is only one condition under which critical consciousness could adopt a perspective that allowed disengaging social theory from the epistemological mediation of phenomenological self-reflection: that is if critical consciousness could apprehend and understand itself as absolute synthesis. as part of this process. If Marx had not thrown together interaction and work under the label of social practice (Praxis). It would have made clear that ultimately a radical critique of knowledge can be carried out only in the form of a reconstruction of the history of the -. The science of man itself is critique and must remain so. If Marx had reflected on the methodological presuppositions of social theory as he sketched it out and not overlaid it with a philosophical self-understanding restricted to the categorial framework of production. For after arriving at the concept of synthesis through a reconstruction of the course of consciousness in its manifestations. through class antagonism. and had he instead related the materialist concept of synthesis likewise to the accomplishments of instrumental action and the nexuses of communicative action. As it is. assumes the form of the critique of ideology.to be comprehended materialistically. the analysis of history is possible only in a phenomenologically mediated (gebrochen) mode of thought. the difference between rigorous empirical science and critique would not have been concealed. however. from the viewpoint of the selfconstitution of the species in the medium of social labor and class struggle. and that conversely social theory. under materialist presuppositions. this idea would have taken up Hegel's critique of the subjectivism of Kant's epistemology and surpassed it materialistically. while the latter. Rather. produces and reflects on objective illusion.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful