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Tag: moishe postone

Postone and Class Theory


by A New Institute for Social Research (2019)

Moishe Postone’s most famous work in the Anglophone world, Time, Labor, and Social Domination, is hampered by the fact that it is written against a straw man — “traditional Marxism.” The effort to prove that traditional Marxism has a superficial understanding of capitalism, and thus that the USSR only made superficial changes and remained essentially capitalist, leads him to the curious argumentative strategy of attempting to sift out only what is ‘essential’ in Marx’s theory. Yet as Postone himself continually asserts, Marx’s categories are historically specific and refer to the actually-existing capitalist social totality. This perverted totality is constituted by a real metaphysics, an essential movement and its forms of appearance, but that doesn’t make the forms of appearance ‘inessential’ in the sense of being dispensable — as every student of Hegel knows, essence must appear. What sense does it make then to claim that the commodity (a thing produced by and for exchange) is essential, but exchange is not? That proletarian labor is essential, but class is not? It makes sense only to the extent that Postone has redefined property, class, and exchange in a superficial manner in order to declare them inessential.

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Behind our Backs: Moishe Postone in Conversation


Moishe Postone, who was Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of the College, History, and the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago, passed away in March of 2018 after a long battle with cancer. A founding editor of Critical Historical Studies, he is best known for his important and novel reinterpretation of Marx in Time, Labor, and Social Domination. His passing is a serious blow; his mind and his person will be deeply missed.

In the spring of 2015, we sat down with Professor Postone to talk about everything except Marx. Our conversation focused on the authors read in the Social Sciences Core (Soc Core) sequence that he chaired from 1990 to 2016, “Self, Culture, & Society.” Professor Postone was the most formative influence on the “Self, Culture, & Society” curriculum during his tenure as chair and was a passionate advocate for general education requirements.

All undergraduates at the University of Chicago are required to take a year-long, three-quarter course in the Soc Core. “Self, Culture, & Society” (“Self”) is one of the three most popular Soc Core sequences at the University, the others of which are “Classics of Social and Political Thought” (“Classics”) and “Power, Identity, and Resistance” (“Power”), both of which are mentioned below. The reading list for “Self, Culture, & Society,” circa 2015, was roughly as follows:

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For Moishe Postone


Barbara Brick, Moishe Postone, Harold Marcuse, 1979, after Herbert Marcuse’s death

by Jacob Blumenfeld

I first encountered Moishe Postone‘s work on antisemitism in the early 2000s but it wasn’t until 2008-9, when the United States was in the grips of a financial crisis, that his thinking on Marx, capitalism, and value really began to hit home. I remember making zines out of his essay, “Critique and Historical Transformation“, and distributing them in New York City to students, activists, and friends, in the hopes of starting a more critical conversation on the crisis. The point was to go beyond superficial analyses of “crony capitalism” and to see the totality of capital as a self-mediating, crisis-prone dynamic of value which cannot simply be opposed to labor. Furthermore, Postone’s critical theory challenged those of us who became politicized in the ‘anti-globalization’ movement and the anti-war movements of the late 90s and early 00s.

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: The return of the repressed (Postone)


by Moishe Postone and Elizabeth Traube (1985)

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have emerged in recent years as masters of Hollywood entertainment cinema. They specialize in slick, technically sophisticated science fiction and adventure films, modeled on the popular culture of the 1930s and 1940s and promising a way to recover the innocent pleasures of childhood movie-viewing. Yet Lucas and Spielberg’s high-tech, traditionalist mythology lacks innocence, and this is nowhere so apparent as in their latest blockbuster, INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM.

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Continental Thought & Theory Vol 1. Issue 4 (2017): 150 years of Capital



150 years of Capital

Edited by Mike Grimshaw and Cindy Zeiher



Cindy Zeiher, Mike Grimshaw, Introduction – Rethinking Marx’s Capital, Vol 1

Michael Heinrich, 150 Years of Capital-with No End in Sight. Unsystematic Remarks on a Never-ending Story

Silvia Federici, Notes on Gender in Marx’s Capital

Moishe Postone, The Current Crisis and the Anachronism of Value: A Marxian Reading

Jacques Bidet, Capital as read by Moishe Postone: Alchemy or Astrology?

Riccardo Bellofiore, Between Schumpeter and Keynes: The Heterodoxy of Paul Marlor Sweezy and the Orthodoxy of Paul Mattick

Patrick Murray, Jeanne Schuler, The Commodity Spectrum

Agon Hamza, Re-reading Capital 150 years after: some Philosophical and Political Challenges

Roland Boer, Interpreting Marx’s Capital in China

Martha Campbell, Marx’s Transition to Money with no Intrinsic Value in Capital, Chapter 3

David Neilson, Re-situating Capital Vol. 1 beyond Althusser’s epistemological break: Towards second generation neo-Marxism

Geoff Pfeifer, The Question of Capitalist Desire: Deleuze and Guattari with Marx

Adrian Johnston, From Closed Need to Infinite Greed: Marx’s Drive Theory

Circle of Studies of Idea and Ideology (CSII), Organization and Political Invention

Guido Starosta, Fetishism and Revolution in the Critique of Political Economy: Critical Reflections on some Contemporary Readings of Marx’s Capital

Graham Cassano, Capital, Gender and the Machine

Fred Moseley, M- C- M’ and the End of the ‘Transformation Problem’

Natalia Romé, Anachronism of the True. Reading Reading Capital

Todd McGowan, The Particularity of the Capitalist Universal

Bruce Curtis, A Sesquicentennial of Capital: Marx, Mandel and Methodological Musings

Ted Stolze, Beatitude: Marx, Aristotle, Averroes, Spinoza

Rebecca Carson, Fictitious Capital and the Re-emergence of Personal Forms of Domination

Ali Alizadeh, Marx and Art: Use, Value, Poetry

Jason Read, Man is a Werewolf to Man: Capital and the Limits of Political Anthropology

Mark P. Worrell,  Daniel Krier, The Organic Composition of Big Mama

David Norman Smith, Sharing, Not Selling: Marx Against Value

Mike Grimshaw, Proof-texting Capital via the ‘short-circuit’: a religious text?

Book reviews

Robert Boncardo, Universal Life: A review reading of The Lost Thread: The Democracy of Modern Fiction | Jacques Rancière

Gabriel Tupinambá, Totalization as critique: a review of Marxism and Psychoanalysis: In or Against Psychology|David David Pavón-Cuéllar

Notes on this issues’ contributors

The Dualisms of Capitalist Modernity Reflections on History, the Holocaust, and Antisemitism (Moishe Postone)


The Dualisms of Capitalist Modernity – Postone

This chapter seeks to relate historical changes in public responses to the Holocaust and understandings of antisemitism, especially on the left, to the historically changing configurations of capitalist modernity since 1945. 1 Thinking about the two together can be clarifying: public responses to the Holocaust have tended to be structured by an opposition between abstract modes of universalism and concrete particularism – an opposition that also is constitutive of modern antisemitism. These responses have shifted with and are related to the changing configurations of capitalist modernity from the statist Fordist–Keynesian configuration of the 1950s and 1960s to a subsequent neoliberal one. Consideration of these large-scale configurations can illuminate the historical character of those responses; at the same time examination of those responses can shed light on these larger historical configurations. This problem complex can be fruitfully approached on the basis of a critical theory of capital, on the one hand, and one of antisemitism, on the other. Within the framework of a critical theory of capital the opposition between abstract modes of universalism and concrete particularism is neither ontologically given nor historically contingent but is intrinsic to the fundamental forms that structure capitalism, namely, the commodity and capital.2 Such an analysis grasps both terms of the opposition – abstract universality and concrete particularity – as remaining bound within the framework of capitalist modernity, however much positions based on each of them have understood themselves to be fundamentally “critical” or “radical,” pointing beyond the existing order. This essay seeks to problematize such “critical” positions by highlighting the one-sided character of each and by drawing attention to a historical shift from the predominance of critiques based on abstract universalism, characteristic of classical liberal thought and, with important differences, working-class movements, to the ascendancy of positions focused on concrete particularity, such as those expressed by liberation struggles that can be deemed anticolonial in the broadest sense. By suggesting that both sorts of responses remain immanent to capitalism, to its double character, the approach presented here problematizes the relation of each to the Holocaust and to antisemitism while contributing to a reflexive critique of emancipatory theory. Far from delineating issues of peripheral importance for critical theories of capitalism then, the problem complex of responses to the Holocaust and the changing configurations of capitalist modernity touches upon issues of fundamental importance for such theories. Within the framework outlined in this chapter consideration of those changing responses not only reveals their generally problematic character, but also illuminates the limits of the left in terms of its most fundamental self-understanding as a practical and theoretical critique of the capitalist order. What mediates these various moments, as I shall elaborate, is the issue of antisemitism. I shall only be able to present a preliminary sketch of this argument here. To do so I shall briefly describe the main features of the two general historical configurations of postwar capitalist modernity and also outline an analysis of antisemitism that distinguishes it from racism in general while showing it to be deeply intertwined with history as constituted by capital. Such an analysis could help conceptually distinguish political terror and mass murder (as expressed metaphorically by Buchenwald and Hiroshima) from extermination (as represented by Auschwitz). These distinctions are important not because the one crime is “worse” than the other but because the left, which has had few problems dealing conceptually with political terror and mass murder, has had difficulty grasping extermination. This difficulty reveals an inadequate understanding of antisemitism and relatedly an underlying weakness in apprehending the fundamental object of the left’s critique: capitalism.

From the book: Jews and Leftist Politics. Judaism, Israel, Antisemitism, and Gender ed. Jack Jacobs (2017)

Crisis and Critique


CRISIS AND CRITIQUE: Critique Of Political Economy

Volume 3, issue 3, 16-11-2016 Edited by Frank Ruda &  Agon Hamza

It is 2016, and we are still living under capitalism. Yet, how does  contemporary capitalism function? How is it possible for a system, which declared its final victory in the beginning of the last decade of the previous century, to already face some of its most serious and profound crisis since the first decade, of the present century? The on-going crisis has reopened some of the (half) forgotten and prematurely answered & questions about the modes in which capitalism operates: the relation between the State and capital, the limits of capital, the forms of changes within capitalism, forms of domination and exploitation, social classes, et cetera . . .

Table of Contents

Introduction by Frank Ruda &  Agon Hamza PDF

A Marxian Critique of Neoclassical Economics’ Reliance on Shadows of Capital’s Constitutive Social Forms by Dennis Badeen & Patrick Murray PDF

Marx after Hegel: Capital as totality and the centrality of production by Riccardo Bellofiore PDF

Capital: A Critical Theory? by Jacques Bidet PDF

The Beast and the Universal: Hegel’s Critique of Political Economy by Ivan Boldyrev PDF

The “Capital ” after the MEGA: Discontinuities, Interruptions and New Beginnings by Michael Heinrich PDF

How to Read Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Campbell Jones PDF

Capital as Spirit  by Kojin Karatani PDF

Creativity vs. Unskilled Labour: Kant on Class Struggle by Ognian Kassabov PDF

How Not to Evaluate the Relevance of Marx’s Capital by Andrew Kliman PDF

The Critique of Political Economy and the ‘New Dialectic’: Marx, Hegel and the Problem of Christopher J. Arthur’s ‘Homology Thesis’ by Elena Louisa Lange PDF

The Economic Catastrophe as a Passionate Event by Frédéric Lordon PDF

Marx’s Destruction of the Inner World: from the Colonial Internalisation of the Psyche to the Critique of the Psychological Roots of Political Economy by David Pavón Cuéllar PDF

Radicalizing the Root: The Return of Philosophical Anthropology to the Critique of Political Economy by Jason Read PDF

Mapping the Abstract Essence of Concrete Existence: An Analysis of the Privative Form of Value, an Overdetermined Category by Frank Smecker PDF

Journeying on the Roads Not Taken: The Possessive Individual, the Commons and Marx by Massimiliano Tomba PDF

Economic crises, historical regression and social conflicts: an essay by Raquel Varela and Valério Arcary PDF

Capitalist Bulimia: Lacan on Marx and crisis by Fabio Vighi PDF

The ‘Ideal Total Capitalist’: On the State-Form in the Critique of Political Economy by Gavin Walker PDF

Phenomenology of Value: Badiou and Marx by Yuan Yao PDF

Can One Exit from The Capitalist Discourse Without Becoming a Saint? by Slavoj Žižek PDF

Interview with Moishe Postone: That Capital has limits does not mean that it will collapse by Agon Hamza & Frank Ruda PDF

Notes on Contributors PDF

Download the full edition PDF

Capitalism, Temporality, and the Crisis of Labor (Postone)

The current crisis has laid bare the contradictory and shaky character of contemporary capitalism. Yet the essentially inchoate responses to the crisis have dramatically revealed the absence of a robust conceptualization of post-capitalist society and, by implication, of a robust critique of capital. One result has been the continued hegemony of neoliberal discourses and policies. Moishe Postone seeks to fundamentally rethink the core categories of Marx’s critique of political economy in the fall 2015 Ellen Maria Gorrissen lecture. He argues that Marx’s mature critique of political economy, as elaborated in the Grundrisse and Kapital, provides the basis for a different critical theory of modernity with contemporary significance.

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Sanders Chooses Postone as Running Mate


Moishe Postone, son of a Canadian Rabbi, received his Ph.D. from Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University in 1983.

His research interests include modern European intellectual history; social theory, especially critical theories of modernity; twentieth-century Germany; anti-Semitism;[1] and contemporary global transformations. He is co-editor with Craig Calhoun and Edward LiPuma of Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives and author of Time, Labor and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory. He is also co-editor with Eric Santner of Catastrophe and Meaning: The Holocaust and the Twentieth Century, a collection of essays that consider the meaning of the holocaust in twentieth-century history and its influence on historical practice. Postone’s work has had a large influence on the anti-Germans.

He was originally denied tenure by the University of Chicago’s Sociology Department, sparking a great deal of public resentment from graduate students whom he had been involved in teaching. He was later granted tenure by the History Department.

Today Moishe Postone is the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Modern History and co-director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory.

Capitalism as a historical specificity

An heterodox marxist

In 1978 Postone started a critical analysis on Marx’s theory of value.[2] But Moishe Postone’s most distinguished main work, ‘Time, Labor and Social Domination’, was published in 1993 (translated into French in 2009 and Japanese in 2012).

In his works he proposes a fundamental reinterpretation of Karl Marx‘s critique of political economy, focusing on Marx’s original concepts value, capital and labour. Inspired by heterodox Marxist thinkers such as Isaak Rubin, Roman Rosdolsky, etc., and certain authors of the Frankfurt School, e.g., Sohn-Rethel, who remained marginal to that school, he shows that the assumptions of the ‘pessimistic turn’ of Horkheimer were historically rather than theoretically founded. Postone interprets critical writings on Marx’s economics, especially in its Capital 1 edition, and Grundrisse, as the development of a social-mediational theory of value.

Marx’s Capital: a critic immanent to its purpose

Postone thinks that in writing the ‘Grundrisse‘ Marx concludes that adequate critical theory must be completely immanent to its purpose. The criticism cannot be taken from a point of view external to its object, but must appear in the mode of presentation itself. Das Kapital is so structured, for Postone, with a surface level immanent to political economics discourse and a deeper layer which comes through later, which makes it particularly difficult to interpret. Indeed, precisely because of the inherent nature of the format Marx uses, the object of the critique of Marx has often been taken as the standpoint of this criticism. For example, not only is the categories of exchange valuehistorically specific to the capitalist period, but also value’s basis, the capitalist form of wage labour, must also be historically specific, and does not apply conceptually to other periods. The methodological sections of the Grundrisse clarify therefore not only Marx’s presentation, but other sections make explicit that the categories of capital such as value and exchange-labour, are historically specific to the capitalist social formation. The so-called labour theory of value is not a theory of the material wealth created by labor but is in a parallel manner also seen when looked at transhistorically as “human metabolism with nature.” Precisely because it is not structured immanently, the ‘Grundrisse’ provides a key to read Capital. This is the key to the reinterpretation of the work of mature Marx, with which Postone works.

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