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Tag: Werner Bonefeld

Ordoliberalism and the Death of Liberal Democracy: An Interview with Werner Bonefeld

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(Salvage 2017)

George Souvlis: Can you tell us a bit about your intellectual and political formation?

Werner Bonefeld: One of my most important formative experiences was factory work. Studying was easy in comparison. I studied at the Universities of Marburg, Berlin, and Edinburgh. At Marburg the Marxism on offer was very dogmatic. It did not encourage people to think for themselves. I left after two years to continue my studies at the Free University of Berlin. In Berlin a few things came together, as it were. My favorite Professor was Agnoli, who was one of the most distinguished Marxists of his generation. He allowed his students to think. He welcomed it. He was a great orator. Part of the degree programme was to do work-placement. I first worked as a removal man and then as a research assistant at the West-German teachers’ union, for which I got paid. Never before had I earned money by reading and writing (my research was into alternative schooling as opposed to public provision). I quickly understood the meaning of Marx’s insight that to be a productive labourer in not a piece of luck but a great misfortune. One might add, nor is it an ontological privilege, as a whole tradition of historical materialism saw it. I studied in Berlin at a time of great restlessness, from the peace movement to the squatter movement in the early 1980s.

I met Kosmas Psychopedis in Edinburgh during the 1980s. He visited John Holloway. Richard Gunn and John Holloway were my PhD supervisors. Kosmas was a character, and a good friend.

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Destruction as the Determination of the Scholar in Miserable Times (J. Agnoli)

by JOHANNES AGNOLI (1990)

The determination of scholarly work as destruction originated with Johann Gottlieb Fichte; Holderlin drew widespread attention to the misery of the period. Fichte’s determination was based on the belief in the emergence of a new era; Holderlin, in contrast, found the period to be one of such misery that he asked himself what role, if any, was left for a poet . .  . READ PDF


[translated by Werner Bonefeld; first published in english in Common Sense 12, republished in Revolutionary Writings ed. Bonefeld 2003]

Trump and America’s Populist Turn

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Logos Journal 2017: Vol. 16, nos. 1-2

Thus rather than conceiving of authoritarianism as a social pathology arising as a reaction to the irrational disequilibrium between the system and the lifeworld that can be remedied by advocating and instituting a democratic equilibrium on normative grounds, such an understanding of the critical theory of society held that authoritarianism was inherent to the irrational objective and subjective dynamics of capitalist society as such. Consequently, this notion of Critical Theory not only tried to cultivate autonomy as a bulwark against the rise of authoritarianism, but also endeavored to understand, demystify and negate the antagonistic, dominating and regressive society that brought forth authoritarianism. – Chris O’Kane

Judith Stein: Wall Street versus Main Street

Dan Krier: Behemoth Revisited

James Block: Beyond the Collapse

Harriet Fraad: Women, Class, Gender and the Trump Agenda

Chip Berlet: The Alt-Right: A Primer on the Online Brownshirts

Jefferson Decker: The Ends of Reform

Mark Worrell: The Twilight of Liberal American Imperialism

Stephen Eric Bronner: Trump’s Counter-Revolution
 

The Frankfurt School and the New Right

Chris O’Kane: “A Hostile World”: Critical Theory in the Time of Trump

Werner Bonefeld: Authoritarian Liberalism, Class and Rackets

John Abromeit: Right Wing Populism and the Limits of Normative Critical Theory

Samir Gandesha: The Neoliberal Personality 

Darren Barany: Explaining “Cult 45”


Review Essays


Kim Scipes: Black Subjugation in America: Review of Theodore W. Allen, Edward E. Baptist, and Sven Beckert

George Lundskow: White Like Them: Review of Arlie Russell Hochschild, Nancy Isenberg, and J. D. Vance

Book Reviews

Andy Blunden, The Origins of Collective Decision Making
Reviewed by Geoffrey Kurtz

Stuart Jeffries, Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School
    Reviewed by Aidan Beatty

Martin Jay, Reason after its Eclipse: On Late Critical Theory
Reviewed by Brian Caterino

Henry Giroux, America at War with Itself
    Reviewed by Matthew H. Bowker

Vince Czyz, Adrift in a Vanishing City
    Reviewed by Nate Liederbach

The Difficult Theory of a Mad World

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From its central question, what does critical theory have to do with the critique of political economy?, Werner Bonefeld’s new book, reviewed here by Chris Wright, develops a deep engagement with the Frankfurt School, Marx and a constellation of less translated critics of the value-form.

By Chris Wright, Mute Magazine

I find it hard to tell you

’Cause I find it hard to take

When people run in circles it’s a very, very
Mad world

– Tears for Fears, ‘Mad World’

Critical Theory and the Critique of Political Economy is a difficult book to approach. Despite its small size, it is a theoretically dense and systematically developed work in which each chapter is premised on grasping the one preceding it. Each of its moments are an intertwining of precisely aimed critiques and novel critical expositions that challenge not just traditional Marxism, but much of the heterodox work alleging to renew Marxian thought in a post-Soviet, neoliberal world.1

The book opens with two questions that will be asked and answered repeatedly from different angles throughout: ‘What does Critical Theory have to do with the critique of political economy?’ and ‘What exactly do we mean by a “critique of political economy” that is different from a radical (“Marxist” or “Critical”) political economy?’

The students of Frankfurt School critical theory transformed the understanding of Capital against traditional Marxism with its technological determinism, historical teleology, and crude matterism that missed the centrality of the critique of social forms in Marx’s oeuvre. Social forms like value or abstract labour do not refer to objects, but the objectification of human relations in which essence and appearance do not coincide. Bonefeld analyses and criticises the main trends of that post-68 critical theory, especially the debates over the first few chapters of Capital. Not only does he revisit his earlier critiques of structuralist Marxism, but he comments critically on Hans-Georg Backhaus and Helmut Reichelt, who, among other key contemporaries, played a pivotal role in the turn towards the critique of the value-form.

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The Bourgeois State

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The capitalist state is the first in human history with no direct access to the material product of labour. The subordination of social relations to the capitalist state is characterised by impersonal or abstract forms of dependency in terms of law and money. Within the framework of bourgeois freedom, “individual” freedom is the freedom of contract between equals regardless of their inequality in property. The law in its abstract majestic form treats poor and rich as equals. It treats the owners of the means of production and the free labourer as identical subjects, as legal subjects. The law is blind to privileges. It is a law of equality. Contractual relations represent the form in which, according to law, freedom obtains in the form of a legally bound recognition of private individuals in their relation to one another. The contract is the juridical form of freedom—the master of the contract is the state. Neither does the law “announce” itself as if it were a force in its own right. Nor does the law “enforce” itself. The law requires the maker of the law to fill it with material force, that is to implement it indiscriminately, imposing upon social relations the abstract quality of their existence as personifications of formal equality. The capitalist state rests on the social constitution of these rights and protects them through the regulation of law and money. This, then, is the subordination of social relations to the law of private property, that is equality, freedom and Bentham. The treatment of all as equals before the law characterises the form of the state as an “illusory community” (cf. Marx and Engels, 1962). It treats the real existing individual as constituted “character-masks” or “personifications” (on this: Marx, 1983), and espouses the interest that is common to all character-masks: their universal existence for each other as a resource, as a utility.

 – Werner BonefeldThe Capitalist State: Illusion and Critique