For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Traditional and Critical Theory

by Horkheimer, Max (2002)

Key Passage

The internal difficulties in the supreme concepts of Kantian philosophy, especially the ego of transcendental subjectivity, pure or original apperception, and consciousness-in-itself, show the depth and honesty of his thinking. The two-sidedness of these Kantian concepts, that is, their supreme unity and purposefulness, on the one hand, and their obscurity, unknownness, and impenetrability, on the other, reflects exactly theĀ  contradiction filled form of human activity in the modern period. The collaboration of men in society is the mode of existence which reason urges upon them, and so they do apply their powers and thus confirm their own rationality. But at the same time their work and its results are alienated from them, and the whole process with all its waste of work-power and human life, and with its wars and all its senseless wretchedness, seems to be an unchangeable force of nature, a fate beyond man's control. In Kant's theoretical philosophy, in his analysis of knowledge, this contradiction is preserved. The unresolved problem of the relation between activity and passivity, a priori and sense data, philosophy and psychology, is therefore not due to purely subjective insufficiency but is objectively necessary. (p.203)


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