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Critique

Journal of Socialist Theory

ISSN: 0301-7605 (Print) 1748-8605 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcso20

Recent Developments in German Critical Theory


Thomas Klikauer
To cite this article: Thomas Klikauer (2015) Recent Developments in German Critical Theory,
Critique, 43:3-4, 551-562, DOI: 10.1080/03017605.2015.1099851
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03017605.2015.1099851

Published online: 04 Jan 2016.

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Date: 20 February 2016, At: 06:27

Critique, 2015
Vol. 43, Nos. 34, 551562, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03017605.2015.1099851

REVIEW ARTICLE
Recent Developments in German Critical Theory

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Per Jepsen: Adornos kritische Theorie der Selbstbestimmung [Adornos Critical Theory
of Self-determination]
Wrzburg, Knigshausen & Neumann-Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-3-8260-4533-2
Dirk Braunstein: Adornos Kritik der politischen konomie [Adornos Critique of the
Political Economy]
Bielefeld, Transcript Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-3-8376-1782-5
Rolf Tiedemann: Adorno und Benjamin noch einmal: Erinnerungen, Begleitworte,
Polemiken [Adorno and Benjamin Once Again: Memories, Accompanying Words
and Polemics]
Munich, et+k Press, 2011
ISBN: 9788-3-86916-141-9
Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch: Anerkennung als Prinzip der Kritischen Theorie
[Recognition as a Principle of Critical Theory]
Berlin, deGruyter-Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-3-11-025566-9
German critical theory continues to evolve in a manner that carries implications for the
development of Marxism. This review article summarises developments in some of the
latest literature.
Keywords: Marxism; Autonomy; German Critical Theory; Adorno; Self-determination;
Political Economy; Walter Benjamin; Dialectic of Enlightenment

In 2011, four interesting books were published in the German language enhancing our
understanding of critical theory. The proceeding review outlines the main themes of
each book, before concluding with a critique. Unfortunately, a review of the combined
1350 pages on critical theory could only ever skim the surface of this substantial body
of work.

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The rst book is an updated PhD thesis by Danish author Per Jepsen. Jepsen deals
with Adornos Critical Theory of Self-determination in four chapters, starting with
the concept of self-determination. This chapter also contains the historical-philosophical background of the dialectic of enlightenment. Part two discusses diagnostic
models. Part three of the work concerns sociological theories, while the fourth
chapter highlights perspectives of a realisation of autonomy. The two and a half
pages long (!) conclusion is an examination of autonomy as resistanceon the necessary changes of practical philosophy. Jepsen makes it clear that Adorno is at the centre
of his work, stating that critical theory questions individual self-determination
(p. 13). Jepsen analysed the role of self-determination in Adornos thinking by examining the relevant literature on this subject, including Schweppenhaeusers ethics after
Auschwitz (p. 16), Wischkes critique of the ethics of obedience (p. 17), Menkes
mirror of equality, Weyands Adornos critical theory of the subject and Hammerss
Adorno and the Political (p. 19). In chapter one, Jepsen states that autonomy and
self-determination are often used synonymously (p. 25). He outlines the concept of
freedom in three ways: (a) as theory of action; (b) as political freedom; and (c) Tugendhats inner and external autonomy (p. 26).
Unfortunately, the section entitled the historical-philosophical background of the
dialectic of enlightenment lacks a detailed elaboration on the very Kantian notion
of self-determination and Hegels self-actualisation. Adornos philosophy is set
rmly inside the tradition of the philosophy of Enlightenment to which Kant and
Hegel have contributed. Curiously, Adornos HegelThree Studies (1993) are here
absent, as is Habermass Taking Aim at the Heart of the Present: On Foucaults
Lecture on Kants What is Enlightenment? (1989). An investigation into the historical-philosophical background of Adornos thinking on self-determination
should not have missed that. There is a historic-philosophical development of selfdetermination from Kantian formalism to Hegels socially based self-actualisation
inside Sittlichkeit to Adornos theory of self-determination. Such a continuation
might also include Brinks exquisite elaboration of Adornos Damaged Life and
self-determination (2010), in which Brink discusses what is a perhaps the most
Adorno-like statement of all: wrong life cannot be lived rightly.1
Jepsens second chapter on diagnostic models includes Honneths two stages of
bourgeois subjectivity (p. 58) outlining that in the history of civilisation, subjectivity
developed while in a second stage, modern society has empirically destroyed subjectivity. The above-mentioned discussion by Brink2 leads to the same conclusion that
Jepsen delivers in this chapter, namely the end of autonomy (p. 85) leading to a

B. von den Brink, Damaged LifePower and Recognition in Adornos Ethics, in Bert von den Brink and
David Owen (eds) Recognition and PowerAxel Honneth and the Tradition of Critical Social Theory (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2010); and T.W. Adorno, Minima MoraliaReections from the Damaged Life,
transl. D. Redmond (1944/2005), www.efn.org/~dredmond/MinimaMoralia; also transl. E.F.N. Jephcott
(London: New Left Books, 1974).
2
Brink, op. cit.
1

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liquidation of individuals.3 Unfortunately, this is not discussed as a parallel issue of a


simultaneous rise of the ideology of individualism. Nevertheless, the liquidation of
individuals also leads to a loss of an I-identity (p. 98) and what Adorno has called
Unmndigkeit [roughly mental immaturity], which Kant viewed as self-inicted
[selbstverschuldet]. Adorno on the other hand would not have seen it as self-inicted,
but as deliberately created by what Mills for his part would have called The Power
Elite.4
Mills power elite is linked to Jepsens third chapter on theories of capitalism, logic
of exchange and the administered world.5 Jepsens fourth chapter on perspectives of
a realisation of autonomy begins with a discussion on the utopia of a societal subject
and the question of correct politics.6 It continues with Marx and the concept of free
socialisation of production and the concept of a societal subject of Horkheimers early
writings.7 Regrettably, the book does not have a conclusion, apart from a postscript
on autonomy as resistanceon the necessary changes of practical philosophy, highlighting Adornos concept of subjective autonomy as an antidote against a repetition
of Auschwitz. To actualise (Hegel) this, moral philosophy needs to change its present
form of being ethics and morality, towards the inclusion of a substantive critique of
present forms of the human condition.8 This allows for a drawing out of the
current pathologies of human existence.9
Jepsens work on Adornos theory of self-determination is also linked to Braunsteins book on Adornos Critique on Political Economy, which extends Adornos
thinking to an area classically not associated with Adorno. The manuscript contains
14 chapters: (1) An Attempt to Critique Political Economy; (2) The Relevant
Marxist Publications on Hegel; (3) Against the Sociology of an Inner Self; (4) The
Knowledge Contained in the First Chapter of Marxs Capital; (5) The Concept of
Late Capitalism, which is Theoretically Unusable [nicht brauchbar]; (6) The
Hedging of National Economies; (7) The Fruitfulness of Humankind; (8) Rubbish;
(9) The Curse of writing Today; (10) Who Read Marx; (11) Eat and to be Eaten;
(12) Points of Indifference; (13) Something Missing; and (14) Raison dtre.
Being the editor of Adornos Posthumous Writings: Section IV: LecturesVolume 6:
Philosophy and Sociology (1960),10 Braunstein is well qualied to engage with Adornos
3
Per Jepsen, Adornos kritische Theorie der Selbstbestimmung [Adornos Critical Theory of Self-determination]
(Wrzburg: Knigshausen & Neumann-Press, 2011), pp. 8588.
4
C.W. Mills, The Power Elite (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956).
5
Jepsen, op. cit., pp. 113, 120, 133.
6
Ibid., p. 154
7
Ibid., pp. 158159.
8
Ibid., pp. 187189.
9
M. Achbar and J. Abbott, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Prot and Power, DVD, 145 min
(Toronto: Big Picture Media Corporation, 2003); A. Honneth, Pathologies of ReasonOn The Legacy of Critical
Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009); Y. Samuel, Organizational Pathology: Life and Death of
Organizations (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2010).
10
Nachgelassene Schriften. Abteilung IV: VorlesungenBand 6: Philosophie und Soziologie, 1960
(Suhrkamp-Press, 2011).

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political economy. Braunstein starts with a quote that perhaps everyone familiar with
critical theory has an understanding of: Adorno never dealt with political economy
(p. 9). Braunsteins challenge is twofold: (a) demonstrating that Adorno has a political
economy; and (b) explicating what it is. Interestingly, Braunstein quotes a letter by
Marx written to Engels, in which Marxoriginally a lawyercomplains that he
does not enjoy dealing with all this economic shit [konomischer Scheisse].
Braunstein notes that Adornos writings are always measured against Marxs economic theories.11 In order to understand Adornos take on political economy, is it useful
to understand Marx, but to understand Marx, it is equally useful to understand
Hegel.12 Disappointingly, Braunsteins chapter on Hegel is predominantly not on
Hegel, but in reality on Lukacs interpretation of Hegel. On this, Braunstein notes
that Adorno departed from Lukacs (according to Martin Jay) around the spring of
1925. Strangely, Lukacss der Junge Hegel is absent from Braunsteins bibliography.
In his rst Frankfurt lecture, Adorno noted that the subject that is to be liberated
relies on rationality only in two exceptional cases, namely Hegels Geist [spirit] and
Lukacs proletariat as subjectobject relationship.13 In Braunsteins fourth chapter,
he discusses Marxs concept of fetishism as applied by Adorno to music and consumerism14. The next chapter delivers a critique on the term late capitalism15 as
perhaps the last thing bourgeois society has to offer.16 It also emphasises the question
around whatever happened to the proletariat,17 but misses Gorzs Farewell to the
Working Class.18 In Braunsteins expression now they are integrated, the author
describes Adornos analysis of an integrated working class based on Adornos incomplete reections on class theory [unausgebrtete Reexionen zur Klassentheorie].19
Braunsteins chapter seven delivers a solid critique on capitalist exchange theories
leading to Adornos critique on the cultural industry, but without mentioning Enzensbergers brilliant essay on The Afrmation Industry.20
Braunsteins chapter on capitalist exchange is followed by a chapter simply entitled
Rubbish [Mll]. It discusses why commodity fetishism does not result in happiness.21
The next chapter is on the curse of writing, detailing the process of writing based on
the fertile interchange between Adorno and Horkheimer. In line with that is

11

Dirk Braunstein, Adornos Kritik der politischen konomie [Adornos Critique of the Political Economy]
(Bielefeld: Transcript-Press, 2011), p. 13.
12
Ibid., p. 19.
13
Ibid., p. 49.
14
Ibid., pp. 95ff. and 117ff.
15
Ibid., p. 129.
16
Ibid., p. 145.
17
Ibid., p. 161.
18
A. Gorz, Farewell to the Working ClassAn Essay on Post-Industrial Socialism (London: South End Press,
1982).
19
Braunstein, op. cit., p. 167.
20
H.G. Enzensberger, The Afrmation IndustryOn Literature, Politics, and the Media (New York: Continuum Books/The Seabury Press), 1974.
21
Braunstein, op. cit., p. 229.

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Braunsteins discussion on whether priority should be given to economy or society in


his chapter on Who Read Marx.22 In Eat and to be Eaten, Braunstein also emphasises the relationship between nature and economy in Marx, as discussed by Adorno.
Points of Indifference debates the role of labour in the writings of Marx. It also discusses the fact that the appropriation of surplus value (Marx) remains unchanged
during the transitions of liberal to social welfare and to neo-liberal capitalism.
What is missing describes Adornos analysis of Nazism.23 The last chapter, Raison
dtre, notes that only after his death did Adorno become known as philosopher, sociologist, an expert on a critique on culture, and his work entered the classics of European thinking [Geistesleben]. Nevertheless, his critique on political economy remains
separated from his critical theory.24 According to Braunstein, Adornos philosophical, sociological and cultural-critical writings as well as his essays on music, literature,
and psychoanalysis have to be understood as models of a societal-theoretical critique
on political economy. Implicitly, my thesis implies according to Braunstein, that
Adorno was indeed concerned with political economy. On his reception of Marxist
theory, however, Adorno remained orthodox. According to Braunstein, this should
not be misunderstood is such a way that Adorno presents Marxian political
economy as an unchallenged truth and nal stage of knowledge, but rather as something to which Adorno could always go back and rely on.
Adornos legacy, as presented in Tiedemanns Adorno and Benjamin Once Again:
Memories, Accompanying Words and Polemics is quite differently interpreted when
compared with Braunstein and Jepsen. The former Adorno and Horkheimer PhD
student Rolf Tidemann was the rst to write a doctoral thesis on Benjamin, but also
worked at the Frankfurt Institute between 1959 and 1965, returning in 1970 to edit
the complete works of Adorno and Benjamin. Unlike Jepsen and Braunstein, Tiedemann had a long and very personal association with critical theory. The introduction
emphasises that some, if not many, social scientists [Geisteswissenschaftler], who have
spent their lifetime writing on social theory, have also spent a lifetime not writing those
books that they always wanted to write. They were known as scholars [Gelehrte], often
publishing Opusculasmall, minor worksas a compensation for their unpublished
books. According to Tiedemann, this is the reason for his own book on Adorno and
Benjamin Once Again. Hence, what is presented is a collection of Tiedemanns
minor works in three chapters: (1) Memory and Farewell; (2) Accompanying
Words; and (3) Polemics. By the authors own admission, the rst chapter consists
of different texts written at different times (p. 10), while the second chapter comprises
the main and most relevant contributions. The nal chapter deals rather polemically
with Angriffe (attacks) against Benjamin and Adorno. Tiedemanns collection starts
with Apprenticeship with Adorno, sketching out his relationship to Adorno and
22

Ibid., p. 269.
T. Klikauer, Not a Psychological IssueBook Review of Adornos Guilt and Defence, Radical Philosophy,
167 (May/June 2011), pp. 5657.
24
Braunstein, op. cit., p. 394.
23

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their work at the Frankfurt Institute. This 45-page essay is a memorable read. The
theme is continued in Memories of Scholem and In Memory of Gretel Adorno,
Adornos wife, who died nearly 20 years after Adorno.
Accompanying Words [Begleitworte] starts with Benjamins ousting by the Nazis
in 1933, when, based on his publications in the Frankfurter Zeitung newspaper, he was
already a known author. It was Tiedemann who published the complete works of Benjamin on which Adorno commented the publication of Benjamins complete work has
to mirror his signicance. Tiedemann lived up to his supervisors request. In 54 pages,
Tiedemann details hisat times painfultask of getting Benjamins work published.
This is followed by a description of Adornos postscript to Benjamins text Berlin
Childhood around 1900. Perhaps an even more interesting chapter is on The Philosopher in Front of a MicrophoneOn the Radio Broadcasted Lectures of Adorno. Of
equal interest is Tiedemanns Dictionnaire de la Philosophie Adornienne,25 detailing
key terms as understood and used by Adorno, such as fetishism, fragment, history,
gnosis (the common Greek noun for knowledge), immanent critique, institution,
Ludwig Klages, concrete [Konkretion], Left-Hegelianism, Lukacs, Mana, Mimesis,
philosophy of nature, non-identity, radically evil, restitutio ad integrum, salvation,
the Nazi Carl Schmitt, theology, innity, unhappy consciousness, Verblendung
[roughly blinding] and second nature. Adornos writings on music and culture are presented in AdnotandaPosthumous Works of Adorno and in the naturalness
[Selbstverstndlichkeit] of culture.26 This concludes Tiedemann second chapter.27
Tiedemanns nal chapter starts with On the Subject of Benjamin: Preliminary
Responses to his Critics, a theme continued with a section entitled: The Conscation
of Walter Benjamin, detailing distortions of Benjamins work using a simple 2-by-2
matrix (wrong/correct).28 Cashing upWalter Benjamin and his Publisher highlights Benjamins relationship with one of Germanys most reputable publishers,
namely the Frankfurt-based Suhrkamp Press, the nancial support of the Volkswagen
and Thyssen Foundation, and the Hamburg Foundation for Science and Culture. Tiedemann does not mention that Volkswagen is known for its use of Jewish slave labour,
while Thyssen is better known for nancing the Nazi party. The relationship between
Benjamin and Suhrkamp is further detailed in Rights of Authors and the Arbitrariness
of Publishers. Tiedemann also discusses the response to the publication of Benjamins
works with the example of a review in the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau entitled
Undiscovered Treasures.29 Tiedemann returns to Adorno when outlining the historical distortions of Ernst Nolte during the so-called Historikerstreit. This occurred
when conservative historians attempted to equaliseand diminishthe magnitude
of the Holocaust by denying its singularity, highlighting the precedent set by
25

Rolf Tiedemann, Adorno und Benjamin noch einmal: Erinnerungen, Begleitworte, Polemiken [Adorno and
Benjamin Once Again: Memories, Accompanying Words and Polemics] (Munich, et+k Press, 2011), p. 175.
26
Ibid., pp. 237, 263.
27
Ibid., pp. 237, 263.
28
Ibid., pp. 285301.
29
Ibid., p. 354.

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Stalins gulags, and arguing that is was just another event in history. Together with
many historians, it was Habermas who won a comprehensive victory over Nolte
and his entourage. Once again, the victory over conservative ideology during the Historikerstreit made explicit the power of critical theory. The lack of an index at the end
of Tiedemanns collection does not diminish the signicance of his book in terms of
the Historikerstreit, but even more so in terms of Tiedemanns intimate and detailed
knowledge of critical theory and its history.
Perhaps the most theoretically sound book of the four under review here is Schmidt
am Buschs Recognition as a Principle of Critical Theory. In many ways, it provides the
underlying theoretical foundations for all three previous books. It also discusses the
future of critical theory using the question: can recognition be a concept for a
general theory of critical theory? Schmidt am Busch answers this question after his
thorough investigation of critical theory starting with Part I, Problems and Perspectives of Critical Theory, followed by Part II, Marx RecognitionTheoretical Critique
on Capitalism and Part III, Hegels Critical Social Theory. A very short conclusion
simply entitled Result [Ergebnis] concludes the book. In Schmidt am Buschs introduction, he raises the key question of the book: is Hegels political and social philosophy on recognition a viable theory for critical theory?
Part I starts with Structural Change of Work, outlining the typical neo-liberal programme of deregulation, expansion of markets, deregulation of industrial relations
and reduction of state involvement. In Work in the Focus of Philosophy, Schmidt
am Busch notes that social participation is a human right, which includes work.
This leads to the inclusion of work into institutionalised forms of recognition
where Schmidt am Busch argues that labour, recognition and social participation
are essential for critical theory. From the standpoint of moral philosophy, it is imperative to note that social relationships and mutual recognition are essential for critical
theory. For this, Schmidt am Busch, delivers two arguments: (a) recognition is vital
for human dignity; and (b) recognition leads to a distinctive human identity based
on social relations. Such social relations form inside society or what Hegel called
civil society, which includes social and economic relations.30
Schmidt am Busch discusses Habermas Economic Theory: a Problematic Alternative, arguing that Habermass concept of lifeworld includes three components: culture,
society and people. These three exist inside Habermass lifeworld and economic
relation. Key to understanding Habermass argument is that modern economies are
norm-free systems [normfreie Systeme, p. 32] because predominately they are
steered through one medium: money. Money is also a key mediation instrument
through which the economic sphere colonises the lifeworld, reducing society to a
sub-system. In other words, Habermas argues that economic market systems need
to be analysed through system theory because they represent economic systems

Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch, Anerkennung als Prinzip der Kritischen Theorie [Recognition as a
Principle of Critical Theory] (Berlin: deGruyter-Press, 2011), p. 29.
30

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based on what Adam Smith called the invisible hand.31 In the illusion of neo-liberalisms Friedrich Hayek, crypto-cybernetic market relationships are established that
mutual reinforce one another, providing a check-and-balance system, and creating
the ever illusive equilibrium. As such, Habermas argues, market systems are incapable
of developing moral norms. From the standpoint of Kants self-determination and
Hegels self-actualisation, Habermass argument is correct, because an economic
sphere that has relinquished self-determination and self-actualisation in favour of
non-human market relationsSmiths invisible handcan never develop nor live
up to Kantian categorical imperatives and Hegels ethics of Sittlichkeit.
Therefore, establishing social values [soziale Wertschtzung, p. 43] is next to
impossible inside economic markets. Nevertheless, these market economies also
include a human part in the form of labour. Labour, however, has been denigrated
in the human resource ideology, as Bolton and Houlian (2008) and Smith (2010)
have shown to perfection (Klikauer 2011).32 If the critical theorist Claus Offe (1985)
was correct and work remains the key sociological category for critical theory, then
labour, work, and economy remain spheres where system-vs-moral philosophy
clash.33 Adornos critical theory position on political economy, labour and work, for
example, has been detailed by Braunstein (2011) above. Schmidt am Busch meanwhile
argues that the target of todays critical theory is not a critique on capitalism as such,
but on its neo-liberal variant.34
If this is correct, ethics is something that belongs to Hegels civil society and Habermass lifeworld, and not to market economies. Markets annihilate Hegelian Sittlichkeit
and his ethics of recognition. On the other side of the scale is Honneths aim to establish recognition as an overall theme of critical theory. For Honneth, markets are an
institutionalised form of a social order based on recognition [institutionalisierte
Anerkennungsordnung].35 For Schmidt am Busch this goes back to Marx RecognitionTheoretical Critique on Capitalism.36 According to Schmidt am Busch,
there is a renaissance of Marxian thinking 20 years after the dissolution of EasternEuropean socialism.37 To analyse this further, Schmidt am Busch discusses Marx
L. Herzog, Inventing the Market. Smith, Hegel, and Political Theory, unpublished DPhil thesis, New
College, Oxford University, 2011.
32
S.C. Bolton and M. Houlian (eds), Searching for the Human in Human Resource Management (Basingstoke:
Palgrave, 2008); C. Smith, Go with the Flow: Labour Power Mobility and Labour Process Theory, in
P. Thompson and C. Smith (eds) Working LifeRenewing Labour Process Analysis (Houndmills: Palgrave,
2010); T. Klikauer, Management and EmancipationTwo Opposing Ideas: The Oxford Handbook of Critical
Management Studies, International Journal of Social Economics, 38:6 (2011), pp. 573580.
33
C. Offe, Disorganised CapitalismContemporary Transformations of Work and Politics (Oxford: Polity
Press, 1985).
34
Schmidt am Busch, op. cit., p. 51.
35
A. Honneth, The Struggle for RecognitionThe Moral Grammar of Social Conicts (Cambridge: Polity
Press, 1995), p. 62.
36
Schmidt am Busch, op. cit., p. 69.
37
For example, T. Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011);
M. Heinrich, An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marxs Capital (New York: Monthly Review Press,
2012).
31

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theory of human production whilst also covering the most famous part of Hegels Phenomenology (1807): the masterslave dialectics.38
Schmidt am Busch argues that modern production as understood by Marx is
incompatible with Hegels philosophy of human freedom.39 What this means for critical theory is discussed in Return to Critical Theory.40 It argues that Marxs Hegel critique seeks to show that Hegels theory of recognition eclipses the factual relationship
of power prevalent in market economies and that there is no mutual recognition
between human beings because economic relationships are based on power. Nevertheless, Schmidt am Busch argues that critical theory cannot continue the Marxian
concept of human production [menschliche Produktion] because Marxs concept
does not live up to the methodological requirements of critical theory.
According to Schmidt am Busch, an argument for that might be Marxs understanding of Hegels masterslave relation conning one to a narrow and asphyxiated mode
of thinking. Yet Marx saw the masterslave dialectics in relation to wage-labour and he
saw its signicance for all social and economic relationships.41 This damages Hegels
ethics of a free will, as Schmidt am Busch notes in Part III.42 Surrendering the human
free will to mere market relations and to Smiths invisible hand may even carry parallels to reducing human beings to animal-like relations. Both are externally
formed. They exist as externalities of markets, and in the externality of instinctive animalistic behaviours. What the conversion of the Enlightenment into pure instrumental
rationality has achieved appears as a mere exchange of the brutal forces of animalistic
existence with the brutal force of market existence. As Hegel noted, animals have
instincts, desires, inclinations, but animals do not have a will and must [therefore]
obey impulses [Triebe, Begierde, Neigungen hat auch das Tier, aber das Tier hat
keinen Willen und muss dem Triebe gehorchen].43 For Hegel, free will only exists
in human beings that have established a social context for it.44
This clashes with one of the core ideas of Schmidt am Buschs book, namely that
markets represent an institutionalisation of a specic form of recognition.45
Schmidt am Busch argues that it is through markets that one person respects the
other person; that markets can be seen as institutionalisation of personal respect;
that market relations are established when people reach agreement; and that such
economic agents are exchange partners [Tauschpartner]. Schmidt am Busch equalises
commercial- labour- and capital markets, arguing that a wage contract is a kind of
exchange-contract.46 Marx, and also Offe and Wiesenthal (1980) argue the opposite:

38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46

Schmidt am Busch, op. cit., pp. 79, 88.


Ibid., p. 120.
Ibid., p. 138
Ibid., p. 143
Ibid., p. 155.
Ibid., p. 164.
Ibid., p. 167.
Ibid., p. 181.
Ibid., p. 197.

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commercial and capital markets are not equal to labour markets.47 For one, in the
former two markets, property and money are exchanged, while in the latter, labour
is rented and no property is exchangedcorporations do not own people. Secondly,
the latter concerns living human beings and not dead things. Under capitalism,
labour is forced to work through what some have called structural violence. This
has been highlighted by the French Nobel Prize winner Jacques Anatole when
noting, the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep
under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. After the successful destruction
of state-socialism and 20th century welfare states, starvation level handouts called
Hartz-IV in Germany and the New Start in Australia provide a kind of structural
violence that forces labour into work. In other words, Schmidt am Buschs wage contracts are kinds of exchange-contracts occurring under a structural asymmetry of
economic power relations.48
In line with that, Schmidt am Busch quotes Hegels remark that the factory worker
is degraded to the lowest level of dullness. In many parts of the world, the mass of the
population is condemned to the stupefying, unhealthy and insecure labour of factories,
manufactories, mines and so on.49 Nevertheless, Schmidt am Busch also argues that
individuals that respect one another and cooperate economically have a personal
reason to welcome market economies based on property rights.50 This leads to the
central dilemma discussed in the book, namely Habermass concept of markets as
systems that deprive human beings of Hegels free will, his self-actualisation and
Kants self-determination. One the other side is Honneths argument that bourgeois-capitalist market societies create an institutionalised form of a social order
based on recognition. Hence, markets are key institutions of such economies and
have to be understood within the theory of recognition. Schmidt am Buschs argues
that this is in line with Hegelian philosophy, because markets establish institutionalised forms of personal respect. This is the case because human beings engage in
market-related transactions, inside which they establish mutual respect.51
Furthermore, market participants [Marktteilnehmer] grant mutual respect whether
or not factual transactions take place. This occurs independently of the fact that commodities, labour and money are actually exchanged.52 Aligned to that, Schmidt am
Busch discusses social belonging [soziale Zugehrigkleit], Hegels concept of the
police and the corporation. According to Hegel, market economies lead to an addiction to prots [Sucht des Gewinns], luxury and extravagance as Schmidt am Busch

47
C. Offe and H. Wiesenthal, Two Logics of Collective Action: Theoretical Notes on Social Class and Organisational Form, in M. Zeitlin (ed.) Political Power and Social theoryA Research Annual, Vol. 1 (Greenwich: JAI
Press, 1980).
48
D. Zimmerman, Coercive Wage Offers, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 10 (1981), pp. 121145.
49
H. Marcuse, Reason and RevolutionHegel and the Rise of Social Theory (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1941/1961);
T. Klikauer, Critical Management Ethics (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2010).
50
Schmidt am Busch, op. cit., p. 203.
51
Ibid., p. 204.
52
Ibid., p. 205.

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highlights in the theory of recognition and the addition to prots and luxury. On the
downside, market economies also create what Hegel described as utterly ruthless factories, manufacturing based on the misery of an existing class [gnzliche UnbarmherzigheitFabriken, Manufacturen grndet gerade auf das Elend einer Klasse ihr
Bestehen].53 To some extent, the post-imperialist ideology of globalisation has
exported this under Managerialisms headings of outsourcing, GPN (global production networks) and supply chain management. Hegels Satanic Mills have been
removed to distant corners of the Planet of Slums54 in which the Boys Without
Names make cheap consumer goods.55 All of this does not eliminate the fact that
Hegels assessment remains correct.
The above outlined problem leads Schmidt am Busch to the following conclusion on
the issue whether or not Hegels social and political philosophy of recognition opens
up new theoretical avenues for critical theory. One might recall Schmidt am Buschs
key argument that critical theory is to engage not with capitalism as such, but with
its neo-liberal variant. Schmidt am Busch argues that Hegels Phenomenology (1807)
which outlines recognitionis a worthwhile contribution to todays critical
theory. However, this carries two qualications:
(1) Hegels social and political philosophy does not allow critical theory to establish a
social policy directed against markets, hence critical theory is to critique neo-liberalism without taking an anti-market economy standpoint.
(2) Relying on recognition as the fundamental theory of critical theory does not direct
critical theory to advocate for a re-activation of social-democratic forms of
capitalism.56
Schmidt am Busch argues against returning to social-democratic capitalism that
entails industrial labour and inhuman work rotas (Taylor), denying labour social recognition. Instead, critical theory in the tradition of Hegels Phenomenology (1807)
acknowledges that neo-liberalism represents an inadequate form of capitalism, one
that is incapable of securing the interests of human beings. Neo-liberalism focuses
one-dimensionally on property rights ideologically linked to personal freedom. This
is further elaborated in Schmidt am Buschs overall conclusion.57 It notes that the
project of a theory of recognition as key element of critical theory has been met
with vehement critique. This critique argues that key institutions of neo-liberal capitalism can never represent mutual recognition and the acknowledgement of having
social value [soziale Wertschtzung].58 From this point of view, the idea of
53

Ibid., p. 261.
M. Davis, Planet of Slums (London: Verso, 2007).
55
K. Sheth, Boys Without Names, 1st edn (New York: Balzer & Bray, 2010).
56
Schmidt am Busch, op. cit., pp. 281282.
57
Ibid., pp. 287293.
58
Ibid., p. 288; T. Klikauer, Not a Psychological IssueBook Review of Adornos Guilt and Defence, Radical
Philosophy, 167 (May/June 2011), pp. 5657.
54

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T. Klikauer

recognition as a basic theory of critical theory directed towards analysing present


capitalism is deemed to fail.
Against that, Schmidt am Busch argues that his book shows the opposite. Recognitionas a principle of critical theoryenriches critical theory. It is capable of producing critical social theory. In conclusion, recognition as a theoretical principle for
social critique is in the tradition of the Frankfurt School of critical theory.59 Against
that, one might argue that in market economies human beings are reduced to two
elements: (a) human resources inside production; and (b) consumers externally.
Neo-iberalism and markets destroy human-to-human contact necessary for recognition. They articially and very forcefully introduce markets into human relationships. When Friedrich Hayeks neo-liberal Free Market Missionaries have achieved
what they has set out to dothe complete conversion of human-to-human relationships to matters of economic transactionsrecognition dies. Markets are not institutionalised forms of a social order based on recognition.60 They are the signier of antiemancipation. Market life is a false life that derecognises and dominates human
beings.61 Markets hand over the human free will to an illusive economic system
that annihilates Kants self-determination, Hegels self-actualisation and Habermass
lifeworld. Kant, Hegel, Marx, Adorno, Habermas and critical theory are correct. In
the end, Adorno has the right answer to Schmidt am Buschs key theme that
markets are institutionalised forms of a social order based on recognition and this
is a good theme for critical theory: wrong life cannot be lived rightly.62
Thomas Klikauer
2016, Thomas Klikauer

59

A. Honneth, The Struggle for Recognition, op. cit.


F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (London: Routledge, 1944); S. Beder, Free Market MissionariesThe Corporate Manipulation of Community Values (London: Earthscan Press, 2006).
61
S.S.C. Anderson, Hegels Theory of RecognitionFrom Oppression to Ethical Liberal Modernity (London:
Continuum, 2009).
62
Adorno, op. cit.; Brink, op. cit.
60