Commentary on Political Economy

Sunday 4 March 2012

Jurgen Habermas's 'Meta-Critique' of Marxian Praxis

Friends will recall that the original aim of this Blog was to re-elaborate the categories of our interpretation of social reality - from philosophy through economics to sociology and politics - in light of Nietzsche's critique of Western metaphysics and above all of Marx's critique of capitalist society. This review of Habermas's own review of Marx's "critique of epistemology" in Knowledge and Human Interest was one of the crucial steps toward our goal, - and we are pleased to re-publish it on the date of Karl Marx’s 200th birthday.

Jurgen Habermas's 'Meta-Critique' of Marxian Praxis

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 self-understanding 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 beforehand the activities that they intend to undertake. 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.

This “separation” (Trennung) and “division” (Krisis) needs to be understood and examined with a view to its overthrow and supersession. The problem with the philosophical approaches of Kant first – for he was the one who first conceptualized this Krisis – and then Hegel and Marx, who were more concerned with the Trennung – that is, with the “separation” or “alienation” of living labor and its abstraction into “labor power” – is that they pre-suppose the existence of a “reality”, of an objective substratum or “world”, that can be observed, theorized, and known “scientifically”. Differently put, 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”, but in any case only trans-scendentally, that is to say, only by leaving intact the epistemological separation or break (coupure) between concept and reality. And this has occurred because in the past we have oriented human action in a fashion polarized between “consciousness”, the for-itself or “action”, and “reality”, the “in-itself” that is acted upon.

Had Marx been aware of Nietzsche’s own critique of Western, and most specifically of Kantian and Hegelian, metaphysics, he would doubtless have transliterated his Eleventh Thesis as follows: “Philosophers and scientists have hitherto claimed that they were only ‘inter-preting’ the world, 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, 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. The notion of “ideology” implies that there are theoretical practices that are “non-ideological”. Instead, 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.

The problem revolves around the human temptation to separate conceptually the cosmos into subject and object, as if the mere fact that there are “thoughts” proved incontrovertibly that there are “thinkers” and, behind thinkers, “subjects” provided with a “consciousness” capable of com-prehending life and the world autonomously from these last, that is to say, “freely” and “objectively”, from an Archimedian point. The sooner we free our-selves from this pre-judice, the better. Quite rightly, Marx chastises Hegel for making precisely this error – that of mis-taking human objectification, the necessary human immanent inter-action with life and the world, with alien-ation, the “false consciousness” arising from the extrinsication of the Idea in time and in space to the apotheosis of ab-solute 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. Hegel therefore mistakes life and the world, immanence, with the dialectical un-folding of the Idea: in short, Hegel mistakes Being with Logic.

Yet the opposite is not the case for Marx! If we consider Marx’s work in its entirety, despite an undeniable scientistic streak in Capital, 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. Such a theorization is essential, of course, because the overthrow of capitalism has to be able to understand the needs that lead to it, has to be able to justify itself. But this “self-understanding” must occur in a historical perspective that is aimed not at a generic “philosophical totality”, at an all-encompassing ontology. Rather, its principal aim and scope must be that of erecting a novel political orientation of human social relations of production, a re-orientation of social labor, to correct its ever-growing distortion on the part of capitalist social relations of production.

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]. In his empirical analyses Marx comprehends the history of the species under categories of material activity and the critical abolition of ideologies, of instrumental action and revolutionary practice, of labor and reflection at once. But Marx interprets what he does in the more restricted conception of the species' self-reflection through labor [Arbeit] alone. 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. In fact, it even prevented Marx from understanding his own mode of procedure from this point of view. (K&HI, p.42.)

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 workings and status of capitalism but rather as a practical project, a dia-noia, whose very content, even the most “theoretical” and “ana-lytical”, had to be designed to put into political practice the overthrow of capitalist social relations of production, namely, the command by dead labor over living labor. Though it is possible, and we would argue even correct, to contend that Marx’s own account of the social synthesis was defective, it certainly does not help matters if we start splitting hairs in the manner Habermas suggests, 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 are 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, of instrumental action and revolutionary practice, of labor and reflection at once”. In other words, the “disproportion” [Missverhaltnis] or "incongruence" between the practice of inquiry and its philosophical self-understanding occurs in Marx because he interprets the history of being human “through labor alone”. And Habermas understands by “labor” exactly what he wishes to understand, that is, “instrumental action” without revolutionary practice, “material activity” bereft of “reflection”. Already, therefore, Habermas’s entire “meta-critique” of Marx is on shaky ground because he has excogitated for himself, he has invented an obstacle, 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, philosophisch! That is why we protest, despite our humble admiration for him, 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, it is true that Marx leaned too heavily on the dichotomy between “the [real, natural] world” and its – ideological, fetishistic – “interpretations”, and thence invited those hideous “Hegelian-Marxist” (mostly Lukacsian) disquisitions on “authenticity and false consciousness”. 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’. For Marx to have done 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”, of artistic and aesthetic fulfillment and wholeness – for “Art”.

Habermas has set up a straw man, 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”, “Man” understood not immanently but rather trans-scendentally, that is to say, by reference to an “ideal world” or a world of “Ideas” of which this world, this life are only im-perfect copies – mere appearances (blosse Er-scheinungen), phenomena or “mere representations” (blosse Vor-stellungen). If we define “labor” in terms of its mechanical a-spect and of its ideal or creative a-spect, then it is obvious that the two are and will remain utterly anti-nomic and ir-reconcilable. It is obvious that we shall forever sway between crude “materialism” and refined “idealism”. 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”). (Simply bathetic is that highbrow bourgeois interpretation, invented by Heidegger, of Nietzsche’s hammer referring to “sounding” philosophical thoughts!)

To be sure, it was Heidegger himself who, on the tracks of Lukacs’s trenchant critique of “The Antinomies of Bourgeois Thought” (in the Geschichte), 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. Heidegger genially by-passes Lukacs’s entire Hegelian problematic of “the dialectic of self-consciousness” which the Hungarian philosopher had re-worked along Simmelian lines that led straight into the formal Weberian notion of “rationalization” as “reification”, - which in turn he adapted from Marx’s original discussion of “the fetishism of commodities” in Capital. 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, on the tracks of Lenin’s fanciful Bolshevist vanguard or “dictatorship” (avant-garde?) of the “proletariat” as being the Hegelian “carrier” (Trager) of the dialectical self-dissolution of capital (the working class dressed up as the Kapital-Geist), 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).

All along this line of reasoning or analysis, 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, the Keynesian State-Form now on its last desperate death-throes.

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. Having quoted from a passage of the Paris Manuscripts in which Marx decries Hegel’s confusion of human objectification with “alienation”, Habermas sums up:

This seal placed on absolute knowledge by the philosophy of identity is broken if the

externality of nature, both objective environmental and subjective bodily nature, 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. Here the mind

presupposes nature, but in the sense of a natural process that, from within itself, gives rise

likewise to the natural being man and the nature that surrounds him --and not in the

idealist sense of a mind that, as Idea existing for itself, posits a natural world as its own

self-created presupposition.4

There are therefore, argues Habermas, both Kantian and non-Kantian components to Marx’s philosophical framework. The Kantian elements are already made explicit in the “terminology” adopted which, unlike Hegel’s absolute idealism, still posits the “external” character of “nature” to “mind”: “Here the mind presupposes nature”. But Habermas’s adoption of terms – “signifiers”, “symbols” – as charged and redolent with the problematic of the prima philosophia, such as “mind” and “nature” means that he has already saddled Marx’s Entwurf with all the worthless paralyzing, mortifying ballast and baggage carried by Western meta-physics – what Nietzsche so valiantly de-structed, 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:

Marx is assuming something like a nature in itself. It is prior to the world of mankind. It

is at the root of laboring subjects as natural beings and also enters into their labor

processes. But as the subjective nature of man and the objective nature of their

environment, it is already part of a system of social labor that is divided up into two

aspects of the same "process of material exchange." While epistemologically we must

presuppose nature as existing in itself, we ourselves have access to nature only within the

historical dimension disclosed by labor processes. Here nature in human form mediates

itself with objective nature, the ground and environment of the human world. "Nature in

itself" is therefore an abstraction, which is a requisite of our thought: but we always

encounter nature within the horizon of the world-historical self-formative process of

mankind. Kant's "thing-in-itself" reappears under the name of a nature preceding human

history. (ch.2, p.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, perspective, philosophy – call it what you like! – than the garbage about “Dinge an sich” (things in themselves, that velame oscuro or “obscure veil” – one could call it letame oscuro, 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. 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, having set up a phantasmagoric Kantian anti-thesis in Marx’s “revolutionary practice” between “mind” and “nature”, and therefore between “labor” and “reflection” or “interaction”, 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, speculative strait-jacket in which Habermas has entangled Marx’s praxis. Once more, Habermas sees a “distortion” arising between Marx’s “practice of inquiry” and his “philosophical self-understanding of this inquiry” – but this “distortion” exists only because Habermas has fundamentally “pre-distorted” Marx’s praxis by re-defining 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. 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. On the other hand, in distinction from Kant,

Marx assumes empirically mediated rules of synthesis that are objectified as productive

forces and historically transform the subjects' relation to their natural environment.29

What is Kantian about Marx's conception of knowledge is the invariant relation of the species to its natural environment, which is established by the behavioral system of instrumental action -- for labor processes are the "perpetual natural necessity of human life."

It is quite mesmerizing to witness the effusive impetus with which Habermas with nonchalant hermeneutic fury completely misrepresents Marx’s most express theoretical intentions. Doubtless, Marx believed in a “subject” as well as in “nature”. 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, 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,

“in distinction from Kant, Marx assumes empirically mediated rules of synthesis that are objectified as productive forces and historically transform the subjects' relation to their natural environment”.

But again, why, in light of this “historical trans-formation” – surely a “meta-morphosis”, a Goethian “trans-crescence”, and if not, why not? -, 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 -- for labor processes are the ‘perpetual natural necessity of human life’? Why does the Marxian “perpetual natural necessity of human life” – the evident ec-sistence of being human as living activity, 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. At the same time, however, with transcendental necessity, they bind our

knowledge of nature to the interest of possible technical control over natural processes.

The objectivity of the possible objects of experience is constituted within a conceptual perceptual scheme rooted in deep-seated structures of human action; this scheme is equally binding on all subjects that keep alive through labor.

At this point one would have to state bluntly, at the risk of sounding vulgar, 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

-- 36 --

possible objects of experience is thus grounded in the identity of a natural substratum,

namely that of the bodily organization of man, which is oriented toward action, and not in

an original unity of apperception, which, according to Kant, guarantees with

transcendental necessity the identity of an a-historical consciousness in general. The

identity of societal subjects, in contrast, alters with the scope of their power of technical

control. This point of view is fundamentally un-Kantian. The knowledge generated

within the framework of instrumental action takes on external existence as a productive

force. Consequently both nature, which has been reshaped and civilized in labor

processes, and the laboring subjects themselves alter in relation to the development of the

productive forces.

Finally! Finally Habermas snaps out of his neo-Kantian trance! But remember, this is only partly so – only to the extent, that is, that this “un-Kantian point of view” merely counterbalances the other “Kantian” elements of Marx’s theory that Habermas seemingly detects. But Habermas remains locked within his own formulation of the Marxian problematic which, far from falling back on Kantian formalism, was always (remember!?) implanted on Hegel’s dialectic for a start! Now, if we accept Habermas’s one-sided Kantian formulation of Marx’s problematic, then we necessarily end up with his “disproportion” because, from the quotation just above, if

[t]he knowledge generated within the framework of instrumental action takes on external existence as a productive force,

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, 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….”instrumental action”! Thus, Habermas in-vents (in the double sense of “confabulates” and in-venire, “runs up against”) the “disproportion” in Marx’s praxis that he laments! First, Habermas “invents” in the sense that he “makes the problem up all by himself”; and then, 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. In a turn of thought peculiarly determined by Fichte, Marx adopts the intention of Hegel's objection to the Kantian approach to the critique of knowledge. In so doing he is impervious to the philosophy of identity, which precludes epistemology as such. Notwithstanding, 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. Considered immanently, I see the reason for this in the reduction of the self- generative act of the human species to labor. (p.42)

So herein lies the problem with Habermas’s wholly unwarranted interpretation of Marx’s “epistemology”: in the fact, that is, 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, and that indeed had germinated as early as Schelling (see Lowith, Vom Hegel zu Nietzsche) – and this not merely in terms of method, given Marx’s self-avowed indebtedness (cf. Preface to Capital) to Hegelian dialectic, 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, 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 then of Political Economy, of Ricardo) that he assimilates ontology to “logic”, and thence to epistemology. Nevertheless, 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 Kant’s epistemological formalism which inevitably shatters against the rock of its ontological “antinomies”!

It is absurd, in light of all this – and we need not even consider Hegel here, 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, the weak link, “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”, of the Arbeit, which Habermas understands as “instrumental action”, as mere operariprecisely because he theorises the entire complex ontology of the Arbeit from a pre-Nietzschean viewpoint! Marx, on the contrary, whilst he lacked the philosophical lexicon developed later by Nietzsche, and more intensely by Heidegger, had already moved to a philosophical dimension that Kant did not even imagine – and here the pun is intended because, as Heidegger showed, 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….

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