The Value Form, Reification, and the Consciousness of the Collective Worker (Milchman, 2010)

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Alan Milchman (Mac Intosh) 1940-2021


Internationalist Perspective
Issue 57: Fall/Winter 2010 [PDF]


Marx’s critical theory exposed a mode of production, a civilization, based on value, which he described as a “deranged” or “perverted form” [verrückte Form], in which social relations between persons are inverted and appear as relations between things. It is the abstract labor of the working class that produces and reproduces this deranged form. As Max Horkheimer, in 1937, put it in “Traditional and Critical Theory”: “[H]uman beings reproduce [erneuern], through their own labor, a reality which increasingly enslaves them.”1 It was Georg Lukács, in his essay “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” in the collection History and Class Consciousness (1923), who had first elaborated a theory of reification through which the effects of the value form, that perverted form, and the commodity fetishism that was integral to it, seized hold of society. Lukács’ accomplishment, even before many of Marx’s own vast “economic” manuscripts had been published, was a theoretical breakthrough upon which Marxism as a negative critique of capitalism is still based.

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