For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Reification through Commodity Form or Technology? From Honneth back to Heidegger and Marx"

by Lotz, Christian (2013)


After briefly criticizing Honneth's recent reconceptualization of reification as (1) psychological and (2) noneconomic, I outline the problem of reification from the perspective of Marx, which prepares the confrontation that I present between Heidegger and Marx, for the real issue is whether reification is the result of technology (which I will call ?causality form?) or the result of the commodity form. I claim, against Heidegger, that Marx's concept of the commodity form is not based on subjectivity and, in addition, that Heideggerian ontology is unable to explain the connection between ?enframing? and the capitalist structures that Heidegger implies in his descriptions of modern phenomena. Accordingly, this essay tries to open a new path towards what has recently been called ?Heideggerian Marxism.

Key Passage

Heidegger’s view of the concept of labor is closely connected to Junger’s Der Arbeiter, within which Junger outlines the transformation of modern human beings into ‘‘workers.’’ The total mobilization of human beings through labor leads, according to Heidegger, to the domination of the earth transforms everything into energy to be exploited, and is rooted in manipulation. Laboring, according to Heidegger, is basically an exploitative relationship toward beings, especially since it establishes beings as something that in principle can be labored upon. This, in turn, presupposes that beings are accessible to the laboring subject. Heidegger’s argument, consequently, is that labor as a universal (human) concept, as can be found in Marx until 1845, presupposes a framework that makes it possible for beings to appear to labor while being themselves ‘‘things’’ that can be manipulated. Labor, accordingly, is secondary. The manipulability, for Heidegger, comes from somewhere else, as it is not the result of the act of labor; rather, it is its presupposition. Here Heidegger follows a transcendental argument: the condition of the possibility of labor is the understanding of being as manipulability. In his notes about Junger, Heidegger quotes Lenin’s definition of communism as ‘‘Soviet power electrification’’ which he then interprets as the total mobilization of every being through technology. Seen from this angle, Heidegger argues that socialism has nothing to do with sociality and that it is rather the planetary unfolding of power, in which the proletariat is used as a means within a ‘‘planetary process of labor’’, which is itself based on thetotal upsetting of beings as mere sources of energy and use. Having said this, it is astonishing that Heidegger constantly focuses on two aspects: namely, on the modern tendency to use everything up, and on the total availability of everything for consumption. (p.193)


Heidegger, Marx, Commodity, Technology


Technology, On Heidegger, Marx

Links to Reference



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