The Philosophy of History and the Authoritarian State (1971)

Farbmuster Visualisierung Politischer Tendenzen (Color Pattern Visualization of Political Tendencies), silkscreen on polyester (K.P. Brehmer, 1970).
Farb­muster Visu­al­isierung Poli­tis­ch­er Ten­den­zen (Col­or Pat­tern Visu­al­iza­tion of Polit­i­cal Ten­den­cies), silkscreen on poly­ester (K.P. Brehmer, 1970).


“If social­ism is improb­a­ble, it will require an all the more des­per­ate deter­mi­na­tion to make it come true. What stands in its way is not the tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ty of its imple­men­ta­tion but the appa­ra­tus of dom­i­na­tion of the rul­ing class.”

– Hein­rich Regius1

His­tor­i­cal materialism’s crit­i­cal eco­nom­ic prog­noses on the nat­ur­al course of the cap­i­tal­ist world order have been con­firmed. The con­di­tions for the eco­nom­ic break­down and cri­sis of cap­i­tal have been ful­filled; the his­tor­i­cal ten­den­cy of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion has long since reached the degree of con­cen­tra­tion and cen­tral­iza­tion that Marx and Engels des­ig­nat­ed as its nat­u­ral­ly pro­duced his­tor­i­cal ter­mi­nus.2 The exis­tence of the author­i­tar­i­an state is just as much an expres­sion of the “final cri­sis” as it is of the tem­po­rary, polit­i­cal­ly medi­at­ed suc­cess of the attempt to man­age it in the inter­ests of monop­oly cap­i­tal. Schol­ars have long feared, how­ev­er, that the eco­nom­ic break­down and cri­sis does not yet spell the polit­i­cal end of the cap­i­tal­ist social for­ma­tion:

Even if the the­o­ry of the immi­nent col­lapse were cor­rect as an eco­nom­ic the­o­ry, no unam­bigu­ous polit­i­cal con­se­quences would flow from it. If it were cor­rect that the process of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion must nec­es­sar­i­ly lead to the col­lapse of this pro­duc­tion, this still would not mean that a polit­i­cal col­lapse would have to fol­low on the eco­nom­ic col­lapse. It could very well be that the rul­ing class would draw the infer­ence from the threat­en­ing col­lapse of the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem that it must use polit­i­cal means to pre­vent this col­lapse from becom­ing polit­i­cal­ly effec­tive.3

Franz Neumann’s hypoth­e­sis is notable for his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism as the only gen­er­al mod­el [Form­ty­pus] of rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry to date, that is, of a doc­trine the propo­si­tions of which describe soci­ety in terms of its rev­o­lu­tion­ary trans­forma­bil­i­ty. To equate the system’s final eco­nom­ic cri­sis with its elim­i­na­tion from the whole of soci­ety would con­tra­dict all of the the­o­ret­i­cal deter­mi­na­tions that struc­ture the mate­ri­al­ist con­cept of his­to­ry in the doc­trine of Marx and Engels. A ten­den­cy towards eco­nom­ic break­down, gen­er­al­ized in terms of the phi­los­o­phy of his­to­ry and social the­o­ry, would imply that humans are inescapably under the heel of a social being that is beyond their con­scious con­trol; rev­o­lu­tion then would be an absur­di­ty of the his­tor­i­cal process. The “final bat­tle,” how­ev­er, should defin­i­tive­ly annul the shab­by mate­ri­al­ist doc­trine of cap­i­tal­ist real­i­ty, accord­ing to which mate­r­i­al being deter­mines con­scious­ness. That the his­to­ry human­i­ty makes is also made con­scious­ly, that “mankind is not begin­ning a new work, but is con­scious­ly car­ry­ing into effect its old work,” is a cen­tral eman­ci­pa­to­ry exi­gency of the Marx­i­an con­cept of his­to­ry.4 Thus the nat­ur­al log­ic of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment, accord­ing to which “cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion begets, with the inex­ora­bil­i­ty of a law of Nature, its own nega­tion,” implies no opti­mistic belief in progress as a kind of fate.5 The nat­ur­al laws of cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety are of a qual­i­ta­tive­ly dif­fer­ent con­sti­tu­tion from those of nature itself [ersten Natur]. They can be abol­ished; their abstract exis­tence relies on the pro­duc­ers’ false con­scious­ness of their own pro­duc­tion. The objec­tive valid­i­ty of the law of the ten­den­cy of the rate of prof­it to fall is not immutable in the same way as the phys­i­cal law of grav­i­ty. Such views are left over from Marx’s epigones in the Sec­ond Inter­na­tion­al, for whom the idea of unstop­pable human progress accord­ing to nat­ur­al laws exempt­ed the pro­le­tari­at, as well as them­selves, from the task of rev­o­lu­tion­ary lib­er­a­tion even while ratio­nal­iz­ing their own reformist betray­al.6

Against Wil­helm Dietzgen’s “reli­gion of social democ­ra­cy” – “Every day our cause becomes clear­er and peo­ple get smarter” – Ben­jamin also applies his accu­rate cri­tique of the social demo­c­ra­t­ic con­cept of time, in which his­to­ry, for­mal­ized as a tran­scen­den­tal time-con­tin­u­um, in truth deliv­ers an apol­o­gy for a dehis­tori­cized time-con­scious­ness that, through exploita­tion, comes to appear as unchange­able labor-time.

Social Demo­c­ra­t­ic the­o­ry, and even more its prac­tice, have been formed by a con­cep­tion of progress which did not adhere to real­i­ty but made dog­mat­ic claims… The con­cept of the his­tor­i­cal progress of mankind can­not be sun­dered from the con­cept of its pro­gres­sion through a homoge­nous, emp­ty time. A cri­tique of the con­cept of such a pro­gres­sion must be the basis of any crit­i­cism of the con­cept of progress itself.7

When raised to a his­tor­i­cal prin­ci­ple, the prac­ti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion of cap­i­tal­ism through the pol­i­tics of social reform cor­re­spond­ed to the vul­gar­ized reprise of the bour­geois phi­los­o­phy of his­to­ry in social demo­c­ra­t­ic the­o­ry. Bern­stein, as a sort of Kant of social democ­ra­cy, deliv­ered the nice­ly pack­aged tele­ol­o­gy that insert­ed a hid­den nat­ur­al ratio­nal­i­ty into the his­to­ry of the human species as capitalism’s evo­lu­tion­ary “grow­ing into” social­ism. He glo­ri­fied the log­i­cal unrea­son of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment as the ratio­nal course of world his­to­ry itself. His­to­ry is then expect­ed to per­form what only the rev­o­lu­tion­ary prax­is of a unit­ed pro­le­tari­at can accom­plish. By con­trast, Marx and Engels con­sis­tent­ly stress:

His­to­ry does noth­ing, it “pos­sess­es no immense wealth,” it “wages no bat­tles.” It is man, real, liv­ing man who does all that, who pos­sess­es and fights; “his­to­ry” is not, as it were, a per­son apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; his­to­ry is noth­ing but the activ­i­ty of man pur­su­ing his aims.8

Social reformism repeats the ide­al­is­tic and Young Hegelian mys­ti­fi­ca­tion of his­to­ry as a “per­son apart, a meta­phys­i­cal sub­ject of which the real human indi­vid­u­als are mere­ly the bear­ers.”9 It ossi­fies the ambiva­lent objec­tiv­i­ty of the law of val­ue, which indeed places itself over the heads of the indi­vid­u­als who are thus reduced to acci­den­tal agents of cap­i­tal-in-process and which impos­es itself, in the man­ner of a law of nature, as an unfal­ter­ing nat­ur­al his­to­ry. Accord­ing to Marx and Lenin, it is only the final cri­sis that will be brought about with the neces­si­ty of nat­ur­al law, by no means rev­o­lu­tion­ary lib­er­a­tion and much less a ratio­nal soci­ety – a cri­tique that forms the sys­tem­at­ic con­cep­tu­al basis of Georg Lukács’ ear­ly work. “Lenin was very right to go against the front of opin­ion that mech­a­nis­ti­cal­ly and fatal­is­ti­cal­ly deemed the impe­ri­al­ist cri­sis of capitalism—which he him­self thor­ough­ly comprehended—as hope­less; there is, he said, no sit­u­a­tion that could be abstract­ly, and in and for itself hope­less. The pro­le­tari­at, the action of the pro­le­tari­at blocks the way out of the this cri­sis for cap­i­tal­ism. Of course, the fact that the pro­le­tari­at can be in such a posi­tion that the solu­tion to the cri­sis depends on the pro­le­tari­at is the con­se­quence of eco­nom­ic neces­si­ty, of ‘nat­ur­al laws.’ But the ‘nat­ur­al laws’ only deter­mine the cri­sis and rule out that this cri­sis (like ear­li­er ones) will reach a cap­i­tal­ist sort of solu­tion. The unhin­dered effects of this cri­sis allow for anoth­er solu­tion: ‘the joint down­fall of the strug­gling class­es,’ the rever­sion to a con­di­tion of bar­barism. The ‘nat­ur­al laws’ of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment can only lead soci­ety into the the final cri­sis, they are not able to point to the path that would lead out of the cri­sis.”10 The final cri­sis that his­tor­i­cal­ly announces the eco­nom­ic col­lapse of the cap­i­tal rela­tion does not nec­es­sar­i­ly com­pel the pro­le­tari­at, but rather offers it the objec­tive pos­si­bil­i­ty to break through the eco­nom­ic pow­er struc­tures inter­nal­ized by ter­ror­is­tic means for hun­dreds of years – the real sem­blance of cap­i­tal­ist con­for­mi­ty to the laws of nature – and to illu­mi­nate the dark­ened mem­o­ry of exploita­tion through the his­tor­i­cal anam­ne­sis of a class con­scious­ness that is aware of the medi­a­tions of pol­i­tics and the econ­o­my at the lev­el of soci­ety as a whole. This could then mate­ri­al­ize the dif­fuse posi­tion of the wage-depen­dent mass­es as a class-in-itself into a rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and an objec­tive­ly deter­mined orga­ni­za­tion of the pro­le­tar­i­an class strug­gle. Lib­er­a­tion can only occur through the con­scious­ness and will of the exploit­ed, or it does not occur at all.

The dic­ta­tor­ship of cap­i­tal can, how­ev­er, find an exit from the final cri­sis, as Marx and Engels, Lenin and Rosa Lux­em­burg empha­sized in his­tor­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent ways. An extreme dialec­tic of monop­o­lis­tic and impe­ri­al­ist phas­es in the col­lapse of the cap­i­tal­ist social for­ma­tion admits of two objec­tive­ly pos­si­ble res­o­lu­tions, one at the scale of world his­to­ry and the oth­er in the dimen­sion of the his­to­ry of the species: the his­tor­i­cal abo­li­tion of the sys­tem through the self-con­scious asso­ci­at­ed pro­duc­ers, the “leap into the realm of free­dom” (Engels), or else the blind repro­duc­tion of the uncon­scious “spir­i­tu­al ani­mal king­dom” of cap­i­tal­ist pre­his­to­ry – “either tran­si­tion to social­ism or regres­sion to bar­barism.” More than fifty years ago, in ref­er­ence to the First World War, Rosa Lux­em­burg artic­u­lat­ed this world-his­tor­i­cal alter­na­tive with which impe­ri­al­ism con­fronts human­i­ty.

Today, we face the choice exact­ly as Friedrich Engels fore­saw it a gen­er­a­tion ago: either the tri­umph of impe­ri­al­ism and the col­lapse of all civ­i­liza­tion as in ancient Rome, depop­u­la­tion, des­o­la­tion, degen­er­a­tion – a great ceme­tery. Or the vic­to­ry of social­ism, that means the con­scious active strug­gle of the inter­na­tion­al pro­le­tari­at against impe­ri­al­ism and its method of war. This is a dilem­ma of world his­to­ry, an either/or; the scales are waver­ing before the deci­sion of the class-con­scious pro­le­tari­at. The future of civ­i­liza­tion and human­i­ty depends on whether or not the pro­le­tari­at resolves man­ful­ly to throw its rev­o­lu­tion­ary broadsword into the scales.11

The nat­ur­al deci­sion in favor of fas­cist bar­barism and the destruc­tive pow­er of high­ly tech­nol­o­gized forces of pro­duc­tion in late cap­i­tal­ism, the dan­ger of an atom­ic cat­a­stro­phe, all con­firm the world-his­tor­i­cal and species-his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ter of the alter­na­tive that the phase of cap­i­tal­ist col­lapse has put to the human species: the ques­tion of a bet­ter life is inex­tri­ca­bly bound, on the lev­el of glob­al his­to­ry, to that of mere sur­vival; the final cri­sis forces the species to con­front the ques­tion of its own con­tin­ued exis­tence.

The author­i­tar­i­an state is capital’s polit­i­cal exit from the eco­nom­ic cri­sis. Its abso­l­u­tized extra-eco­nom­ic coer­cive pow­er, typ­i­cal­ly rep­re­sent­ed by the Bona­partist coer­cion of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry and the fas­cist ter­ror of the twen­ti­eth, fur­nish­es the repres­sive instru­men­tar­i­um nec­es­sary to delay defin­i­tive eco­nom­ic col­lapse and to sab­o­tage the real pos­si­bil­i­ty that the action of the “uni­fied pro­le­tar­i­ans” could bring the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem to an “unnat­ur­al end” (Horkheimer). Nev­er­the­less, Thalheimer’s phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal descrip­tion – cor­rect­ly devel­oped in con­nec­tion with Marx’s mate­ri­al­ist his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of Louis Bonaparte’s regime – of a struc­tur­al equiv­a­lence between the Bona­partist and the fas­cist forms of the author­i­tar­i­an state’s appear­ance found­ed upon the mech­a­nism of “the inde­pen­dence of the exec­u­tive author­i­ty” (Marx) vis-à-vis the bour­geoisie,12 which blind­ly del­e­gates its polit­i­cal pow­er to the “the dic­ta­tor­ship of an adven­tur­er and his gang” for the sake of main­tain­ing its exis­tence and eco­nom­ic dom­i­nance, should not lead us to over­look the essen­tial dif­fer­ences between the two that result from changes with­in the eco­nom­ic pro­duc­tion process itself owing to the pro­gres­sive con­cen­tra­tion of cap­i­tal. The monop­o­list and impe­ri­al­ist final phase of cap­i­tal­ism trans­forms the rela­tion between val­oriza­tion and cri­sis. Monop­oly cap­i­tal is cri­sis cap­i­tal in inten­tione rec­ta; it requires the state’s unin­ter­rupt­ed inter­ven­tion into the eco­nom­ic val­oriza­tion process, which ulti­mate­ly ele­vates the state to the mate­r­i­al per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of nation­al cap­i­tal [den Staat zum materiellen Gesamtkap­i­tal­is­ten]. If we fol­low Max Horkheimer’s ear­ly analy­ses, fas­cism is a poten­tial­i­ty inher­ent to monop­oly cap­i­tal that the state can actu­al­ize at any time. “In any case, with trusts or with­out,” Engels writes,

the offi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety – the state – will ulti­mate­ly have to under­take the direc­tion of pro­duc­tion. This neces­si­ty for con­ver­sion into State prop­er­ty is felt first in the great insti­tu­tions for inter­course and com­mu­ni­ca­tion – the post office, the telegraphs, the rail­ways… All its social func­tions are now per­formed by salaried employ­ees… But, the trans­for­ma­tion – either into joint-stock com­pa­nies and trusts, or into State-own­er­ship – does not do away with the cap­i­tal­is­tic nature of the pro­duc­tive forces… And the mod­ern State, again, is only the orga­ni­za­tion that bour­geois soci­ety takes on in order to sup­port the exter­nal con­di­tions of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion against the encroach­ments as well of the work­ers as of indi­vid­ual cap­i­tal­ists. The mod­ern state, no mat­ter what its form, is essen­tial­ly a cap­i­tal­ist machine – the state of the cap­i­tal­ists, the ide­al per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the total nation­al cap­i­tal… The work­ers remain wage-work­ers – pro­le­tar­i­ans. The cap­i­tal­ist rela­tion is not done away with. It is, rather, brought to a head.13

The the­o­ry of the author­i­tar­i­an state is deter­mined by this his­tor­i­cal end­point of the cap­i­tal rela­tion; if the con­cept of late cap­i­tal­ism is to have more than a for­mal mean­ing, then it will have it only in the philo­soph­i­cal con­text of the ten­den­cy towards state cap­i­tal­ism that Engels described and that Horkheimer once broached the­o­ret­i­cal­ly:

This the­o­ry of the end grows out of a sit­u­a­tion which was still ambigu­ous, and is itself ambigu­ous: either it counts on col­lapse through an eco­nom­ic cri­sis, there­by rul­ing out sta­bi­liza­tion of an author­i­tar­i­an state, as Engels in fact pre­dict­ed. Or else the the­o­ry expects the tri­umph of the author­i­tar­i­an state, thus fore­clos­ing col­lapse through a cri­sis, which was always defined by the mar­ket econ­o­my. But state cap­i­tal­ism does away with the mar­ket and hypo­sta­tizes the cri­sis for the dura­tion of eter­nal Ger­many.14

Out of sci­en­tif­ic neces­si­ty, the cri­tique of polit­i­cal econ­o­my breaks off at the end­point of cap­i­tal his­tor­i­cal­ly fixed by Marx and Engels them­selves, if it is not to degen­er­ate into prophet­ic abstrac­tion. Rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry still applies to the end phase of cap­i­tal­ism, which is part­ly but not whol­ly char­ac­ter­ized by its form of appear­ance, the increas­ing pri­ma­cy of the polit­i­cal. It is high­ly ques­tion­able whether rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry is still pos­si­ble as the cri­tique of polit­i­cal econ­o­my, or whether it must already be writ­ten, like Mar­cuse implic­it­ly assumes, as a cri­tique of polit­i­cal tech­nol­o­gy. In any case the dog­ma­tists still treat rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry as if no fur­ther his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ment were pos­si­ble. Cri­tique, how­ev­er, is the the­o­ret­i­cal life of the rev­o­lu­tion. It would be a log­i­cal absur­di­ty to claim that a doc­trine that is so much a the­o­ry of his­to­ry and of con­scious change as is his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism should itself be removed from his­to­ry and in no need of change. With the his­tor­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion of social facts, his­tor­i­cal materialism’s propo­si­tions about these facts must also change. The his­toric­i­ty of the the­o­ry demands the crit­i­cal appli­ca­tion of his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism to itself, which Karl Korsch ele­vat­ed to a pro­gram. Through its desire, ground­ed in prac­ti­cal rea­son, for a rev­o­lu­tion­ary trans­for­ma­tion of the world, his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism ulti­mate­ly presents itself with the immense the­o­ret­i­cal claim to be the first self-aware doc­trine in the his­to­ry of human thought.

The lev­el of rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tiv­i­ty in his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism was crit­i­cal­ly and philo­soph­i­cal­ly uncov­ered by Korsch and Lukacs in the ear­ly 1920s through their expli­ca­tions of the gen­uine­ly neg­a­tive rela­tion­ship of Marx­ism and phi­los­o­phy. This was a time of actu­al his­tor­i­cal world rev­o­lu­tion defined by the objec­tive ter­rain of the first impe­ri­al­ist world war and the great Octo­ber social­ist rev­o­lu­tion and the failed Novem­ber Ger­man rev­o­lu­tion, which struc­tured the thought of Lenin and Rosa Lux­em­burg, the the­o­ret­i­cal devel­op­ment of the con­stituent phase of the Com­intern, as well as the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Dutch school in regard to con­tro­ver­sial the­o­ries of orga­ni­za­tion.15 Yet the eman­ci­pa­to­ry sub­jec­tive dimen­sion of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry of the pro­le­tari­at brought to light the­o­ret­i­cal­ly in this way was con­demned to either suf­fo­cate or be of prac­ti­cal incon­se­quence for decades to come due to the Sovi­et Union’s trans­for­ma­tion of once rev­o­lu­tion­ary pol­i­tics into prag­mat­ic Realpoli­tik. This went along with the grow­ing ter­ror­is­tic demands of forced col­lec­tiviza­tion of the coun­try­side and stunt­ed tech­ni­cal indus­tri­al­iza­tion under Stal­in­ism,16 not to men­tion the ever-more inten­si­fy­ing con­text of the world eco­nom­ic cri­sis and fascism’s solu­tion of vio­lence.

To a sim­i­lar degree, Marx­ist the­o­reti­cians were less and less able to ana­lyt­i­cal­ly describe monop­oly cap­i­tal­ism and its impe­ri­al­ist world sys­tem as guid­ed by the eman­ci­pa­to­ry ratio­nal inter­est to con­nect rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry to such a prax­is. The recon­struc­tion peri­od of West Euro­pean cap­i­tal­ism fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War seemed to per­ma­nent­ly extin­guish the actu­al­i­ty of rev­o­lu­tion­ary prax­is and put off rev­o­lu­tion for­ev­er and a day. Crit­i­cal polit­i­cal econ­o­my con­tin­ued to ossi­fy into a pos­i­tive eco­nom­ics unable to con­cep­tu­al­ize soci­ety as a whole. As a result, its prac­ti­cal strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance remained in the dark. To unite his­tor­i­cal­ly new facts with the con­clu­sions of a hand­ed-down the­o­ry, the “sys­tem” of Marx­ism was either frag­men­tar­i­ly “amend­ed” into dog­mat­ic ortho­doxy, or parts were bro­ken off from it in a revi­sion­ist man­ner to bring it into accor­dance with the changed con­di­tions. The pos­si­bil­i­ty that the fun­da­men­tal strat­i­fi­ca­tion of the social total­i­ty – of pro­duc­tion and cir­cu­la­tion, of eco­nom­ic “base” and the deriv­a­tive insti­tu­tion­al “super­struc­ture” – could have his­tor­i­cal­ly trans­formed itself was left entire­ly out of con­sid­er­a­tion, due not least to the his­tor­i­cal sit­u­a­tion of the­o­ry, marked as it was by the absence of any prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence of rev­o­lu­tion­ary actu­al­i­ty. The “sys­tem” in toto was assumed to be inal­ter­able; ortho­dox dog­ma­tism and sys­tem-adapt­ed revi­sion­ism agree in liq­ui­dat­ing the dialec­ti­cal quin­tes­sence of cri­tique, the his­tor­i­cal dif­fer­ence between the essence and appear­ance of things. Accord­ing to this view, his­tor­i­cal muta­bil­i­ty should per­tain only to the empir­i­cal man­i­fold of capitalism’s world of appear­ances, not the con­sis­tent iden­ti­ty of its exploita­tive essence. If such pro­found changes in the rei­fied forms of appear­ance of cap­i­tal­ist pro­duc­tion – of the flow of exchange and of the legal, polit­i­cal-moral, and cul­tur­al-sci­en­tif­ic super­struc­ture – take place as hap­pened in the tran­si­tion from com­pet­i­tive to monop­oly cap­i­tal­ism in the high­ly indus­tri­al­ized coun­tries at the end of 19th and begin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry, then it stands to rea­son to assume, in terms of his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism, that the deriv­a­tive rela­tion­ship of econ­o­my and indus­tri­al­ized ide­ol­o­gy had changed togeth­er. This sug­gests a change of “the sys­tem of needs,” of the eco­nom­ic essence of cap­i­tal­ist social forms them­selves and, with that, bour­geois soci­ety in gen­er­al.

With­out the assump­tion that the “essence” of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion is part of its his­tor­i­cal dynam­ic and in no way onto­log­i­cal­ly sep­a­rate from it, and that it alone cor­re­sponds to the his­tor­i­cal­ly tran­si­to­ry char­ac­ter of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion that Marx sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly revealed, nei­ther Horkheimer’s con­cep­tion of the author­i­tar­i­an state nor Marcuse’s sys­tem­at­ic hypoth­e­sis of the one-dimen­sion­al­iza­tion of social antag­o­nisms would be think­able.17 Both the­o­ret­i­cal con­cep­tions offer com­ple­men­tary sys­tem­at­ic approach­es that tar­get the changed whole of the cap­i­tal­ist social for­ma­tion. They set out to hold onto Marx and Engels’ the­o­ry of the his­tor­i­cal end­point of cap­i­tal­ist rela­tions, albeit with­out ade­quate­ly sub­ject­ing their new sys­tem­at­ic approach to a cri­tique of polit­i­cal econ­o­my in its Marx­i­an ver­sion. Mar­cuse and Horkheimer relate to each oth­er, with dif­fer­ent emphases, by ref­er­ence to two over­lap­ping socioe­co­nom­ic ten­den­cies that are bound to the law of the ten­den­cy of the rate of prof­it to fall. 

1. Horkheimer, in agree­ment with Engels, refers essen­tial­ly to the grow­ing and man­i­fest­ly emer­gent social­iza­tion of the pro­duc­tive forces at the foun­da­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion itself. Accord­ing to Marx and Engels, with the joint stock com­pa­ny form this imma­nent though sup­pressed basic con­tra­dic­tion in the cap­i­tal rela­tion – the intrin­si­cal­ly social char­ac­ter of the forces of pro­duc­tion that are coerced into the guise of cap­i­tal­ist pri­vate prop­er­ty – his­tor­i­cal­ly becomes an “empir­i­cal­ly per­cep­ti­ble” appear­ance that can be prac­ti­cal­ly expe­ri­enced and gains explo­sive rev­o­lu­tion­ary force.18 Engels takes the Marx­i­an the­o­ry of the joint-stock com­pa­ny fur­ther by expos­ing this imma­nent ten­den­cy toward monop­oly and the author­i­tar­i­an state:

Tak­ing over of the great insti­tu­tions for pro­duc­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, first by joint-stock com­pa­nies, lat­er in by trusts, then by the State. The bour­geoisie demon­strat­ed to be a super­flu­ous class. All its social func­tions are now per­formed by salaried employ­ees.19)

It was under the his­tor­i­cal­ly new effect of monop­o­liza­tion, in which the inner-cap­i­tal­ist social­iza­tion of the pro­duc­tive forces cor­re­spond­ed to an increas­ing­ly coer­cive sta­t­i­fi­ca­tion [Ver­staatlichung] of soci­ety, that Horkheimer near the end of the 1930s draft­ed – in how­ev­er frag­men­tary a fash­ion – a the­o­ry of the author­i­tar­i­an state. At the heart of this the­o­ry is the assump­tion of an admit­ted­ly inad­e­quate­ly defined liq­ui­da­tion of the sphere of cir­cu­la­tion by the monop­o­list mar­ket con­trols of cen­tral­ized author­i­tar­i­an pro­duc­tion. With the abo­li­tion of com­pe­ti­tion and the lib­er­al free mar­ket econ­o­my, this process elim­i­nates from bour­geois soci­ety its ide­o­log­i­cal­ly dis­tort­ed eman­ci­pa­to­ry con­tent and unleash­es the exploita­tive rela­tion­ship of vio­lence between cap­i­tal exchange and wage labor, which was pre­vi­ous­ly con­cealed by the law of con­tract. By no means does the term “author­i­tar­i­an state” stand for a prob­lem­at­ic iso­lat­ed to the­o­ries of legal phi­los­o­phy and of the state, but rather for a his­tor­i­cal­ly new sys­tem con­sti­tut­ing the social total­i­ty. “State cap­i­tal­ism is the author­i­tar­i­an state of the present.”20

2. Where for Horkheimer the sys­temic accu­mu­la­tive dynam­ic toward author­i­tar­i­an [autori­ta­tiv­en] state cap­i­tal­ism is based on the his­tor­i­cal­ly new monop­o­lis­tic qual­i­ty of social­iz­ing pro­duc­tive forces imma­nent to cap­i­tal and the result­ing changed con­stel­la­tion of pro­duc­tion and cir­cu­la­tion, Mar­cuse, more than thir­ty years lat­er, deals with the changed con­sti­tu­tion with­in the “metab­o­lism between man and nature” itself: the increas­ing automa­tion of indus­tri­al forces of pro­duc­tion rad­i­cal­ly shifts the weight of the con­sti­tu­tive moment of the labor process from the posi­tion of the pro­duc­ers to machines [Maschi­nen­we­sen], from liv­ing to objec­ti­fied labor.21 The tech­ni­cal and sci­en­tif­ic advance by means of automa­tion is more “than quan­ti­ta­tive growth of mech­a­niza­tion,” rather “a change in the char­ac­ter of the basic pro­duc­tive forces.”22 Automa­tion “is an explo­sive or non-explo­sive cat­a­lyst in the mate­r­i­al base of qual­i­ta­tive change”23 that actu­al­izes a “total­i­tar­i­an” sys­temic trans­for­ma­tion of bour­geois soci­ety even as it poten­tial­ly opens the “his­tor­i­cal tran­scen­dence toward a new civ­i­liza­tion.”24 With this, Mar­cuse is able to  invoke what Marx in the Grun­drisse referred to as the high­est and last devel­op­men­tal ten­den­cy of the cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, in which tech­nol­o­gy and sci­ence have reached a pro­duc­tive­ly imple­ment­ed stage of devel­op­ment on a scale that threat­ens to explode the sys­tem. The “growth of sci­en­tif­ic pow­er… the mea­sure in which it is already posit­ed as fixed cap­i­tal, the scope and width in which it is real­ized and has con­quered the total­i­ty of pro­duc­tion” is one of those explo­sive moments of con­tra­dic­tion found at the nat­ur­al end of capital’s vio­lent his­to­ry of cri­sis “in which advice is giv­en it to be gone and to give room to a high­er state of social pro­duc­tion.”25 The tech­no­log­i­cal and sci­en­tif­ic reshap­ing of pro­duc­tion is no longer able to tol­er­ate its com­pul­so­ry cap­i­tal­ist objec­ti­fi­ca­tion. For Marx, automation—the sci­en­tif­ic reshap­ing of indus­tri­al machin­ery— pro­duces a total­i­tar­i­an tech­nol­o­giza­tion of polit­i­cal econ­o­my.26 But with that, accord­ing Mar­cuse, the prin­ci­ple of “tech­no­log­i­cal ratio­nal­i­ty,” which is part and par­cel of indus­tri­al tech­nique [Tech­nik] and mod­ern sci­ence from the begin­ning and insep­a­ra­ble from dom­i­na­tion over nature and human beings seems to reach its ful­ly devel­oped real­i­ty, as he asserts in his cri­tique of Max Weber’s con­cept of ratio­nal­i­ty. “[W]hen tech­nics becomes the uni­ver­sal form of mate­r­i­al pro­duc­tion, it cir­cum­scribes an entire cul­ture; it projects a his­tor­i­cal totality—a ‘world’.”27

Fol­low­ing Marcuse’s log­ic, the­o­ry can no longer be car­ried out as a cri­tique of polit­i­cal econ­o­my; rather, it is dri­ven on by the force of its intrin­sic his­tor­i­cal ten­den­cy to become to a cri­tique of polit­i­cal tech­nol­o­gy.

Both end­points of the cap­i­tal rela­tion – the author­i­tar­i­an [autoritär] sta­t­i­fi­ca­tion of soci­ety as well as its total­i­tar­i­an one-dimen­sion­al­iza­tion in a social life­world thor­ough­ly ratio­nal­ized by tech­nol­o­gy – under­lie a pecu­liar dialec­tic of his­tor­i­cal tran­si­tion. Both the imma­nent ten­den­cy of social­iza­tion toward state cap­i­tal­ism that Horkheimer demon­strat­ed as well as the pos­si­ble tech­ni­cal and sci­en­tif­ic sub­sti­tu­tion of liv­ing labor described by Mar­cuse refer imme­di­ate­ly to the asso­ci­a­tion of pro­duc­ers and the “asso­ci­a­tion of free men.” Cap­i­tal nev­er­the­less seems to put off its own his­tor­i­cal ter­mi­nus and to sta­bi­lize in its tran­si­tion when imme­di­ate­ly faced with the pos­si­bil­i­ty of its demise. State cap­i­tal­ism and a total sys­tem of fixed cap­i­tal embod­ied in machines typ­i­cal­ly stand for this final dialec­tic of cap­i­tal, which neu­tral­izes in appear­ance its most his­tor­i­cal­ly glar­ing con­tra­dic­tion and most acute cri­sis. The author­i­tar­i­an “Wel­fare State” presents the image “of a his­tor­i­cal freak between orga­nized cap­i­tal­ism and social­ism, servi­tude and free­dom, total­i­tar­i­an­ism and hap­pi­ness.”28 In a Hegelian sense, state cap­i­tal­ism is an instance of bad ide­al­i­ty [schlechte Ide­al­ität]. The ide­al is a spec­u­la­tive result of a his­tor­i­cal­ly ripe and per­ish­ing real­i­ty with­in the medi­um of bour­geois post fes­tum con­scious­ness. “His­to­ry thus cor­rob­o­rates the teach­ing of the con­cep­tion that only in the matu­ri­ty of real­i­ty does the ide­al appear as coun­ter­part to the real, appre­hends the real world in its sub­stance, and shapes it into an intel­lec­tu­al king­dom.”29 The ide­al com­pris­es a two-fold abstrac­tion of the course of his­to­ry. It releas­es the old sub­stance that has his­tor­i­cal­ly come into being from the medi­um of the con­cep­tu­al process with­in which it real­ized itself, and abstracts the prin­ci­ple of the his­tor­i­cal­ly new from the con­cep­tu­al unfold­ing that lies before it, and in which it forms an idea for the first time. It con­nects ahis­tor­i­cal­ly two moments that repel each oth­er his­tor­i­cal­ly, the old sub­stance with the new though still unre­al prin­ci­ple.30 State cap­i­tal­ism is just such an ide­al end prod­uct of a matured cri­sis and the dying val­oriza­tion of cap­i­tal. State cap­i­tal­ism, in its form of appear­ance, releas­es the old sub­stance of cap­i­tal – val­ue – from the shell of cap­i­tal­ist pri­vate prop­er­ty and appar­ent­ly links it to the his­tor­i­cal­ly unde­vel­oped prin­ci­ple of the social­iza­tion of the means of pro­duc­tion, whose social­ist, asso­cia­tive con­cre­tion it at first blocks; it thus cap­tures the new prin­ci­ple of the asso­cia­tive mode of pro­duc­tion in the old sub­stance of val­ue. The author­i­tar­i­an state is capitalism’s dis­tort­ed car­i­ca­ture of social­ism.

Con­verse­ly, the tech­no­log­i­cal and sci­en­tif­ic reshap­ing of pro­duc­tion, which push­es for the abo­li­tion of cap­i­tal, is unable to real­ize its eman­ci­pa­to­ry poten­tial so long as it remains cap­tured with­in the lim­its of the val­oriza­tion of fixed cap­i­tal. But this cre­ates the tech­ni­cal and sci­en­tif­ic advance that ele­vates the abo­li­tion of work to a con­crete utopia, instead of struc­tur­al unem­ploy­ment: “In the sys­tem of the free mar­ket econ­o­my, which pushed men to labor-sav­ing dis­cov­er­ies and final­ly sub­sumed them in a glob­al math­e­mat­i­cal for­mu­la, its spe­cif­ic off­spring, machines, have become means of destruc­tion not mere­ly in the lit­er­al sense: they have made not work but the work­ers super­flu­ous.”31

This fatal dialec­tic, which fix­es the cap­i­tal rela­tion in its tran­si­tion, leads Mar­cuse and Horkheimer to con­clude that the posi­tion of rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tiv­i­ty in rela­tion to the objec­tive state of devel­op­ment of the cap­i­tal­ist social for­ma­tion has changed. The objec­tive appeal to matu­ri­ty, “the top­ic proban­dum and pro­ba­tum,” of his­to­ry (Horkheimer), has lost its valid­i­ty. In its time, Marx’s polemic against Bakunin’s abstract­ly ide­al­ist vol­un­tarism was prac­ti­cal­ly cor­rect and the­o­ret­i­cal­ly true, but now seems to have lost its pow­er. When faced with the Willich-Schap­per group, Marx dis­missed the ide­al­ism of pure will in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary learn­ing process that takes place in the for­ma­tive epoch-mak­ing spon­tane­ity of cri­sis-rid­den and war­ring social rela­tions, a process in which the work­ing class matures into self-lib­er­a­tion:

The point of view of the minor­i­ty is dog­mat­ic instead of crit­i­cal, ide­al­is­tic instead of mate­ri­al­is­tic. They regard not the real con­di­tions but a mere effort of will as the dri­ving force of the rev­o­lu­tion. Where­as we say to the work­ers: “You will have to go through 15, 20, 50 years of civ­il wars and nation­al strug­gles not only to bring about a change in soci­ety but also to change your­selves, and pre­pare your­selves for the exer­cise of polit­i­cal pow­er,” you say on the con­trary: “Either we seize pow­er at once, or else we might as well just take to our beds.”32

That the pro­le­tari­at must be free for its lib­er­a­tion is a con­di­tio sine qua non of insight into the rev­o­lu­tion. But reg­u­lat­ed fixed cap­i­tal, at its nat­ur­al his­tor­i­cal end­point, seems to flip the rela­tion­ship between Marx­ism and anar­chism on the grounds of his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ism itself. If the nat­ur­al laws of cap­i­tal­ist devel­op­ment have run their course, then the appeal to insuf­fi­cient matu­ri­ty can only hold off prac­ti­cal­ly the the­o­ret­i­cal­ly nec­es­sary rev­o­lu­tion.

It might be said of past his­tor­i­cal enter­pris­es that the time was not yet ripe for them. Present talk of inad­e­quate con­di­tions is a cov­er for the tol­er­ance of oppres­sion. For the rev­o­lu­tion­ary, con­di­tions have always been ripe… A rev­o­lu­tion­ary is with the des­per­ate peo­ple for whom every­thing is on the line, not with those who have time. The invo­ca­tion of a scheme of social stages which demon­strates post fes­tum the impo­tence of a past era was at the time an inver­sion of the­o­ry and polit­i­cal­ly bank­rupt. Part of the mean­ing of the­o­ry is the time at which it is devel­oped.33

The con­cep­tion of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry of the pro­le­tari­at as an “epis­te­mol­o­gy of rev­o­lu­tion­ary will” cor­re­sponds to Horkheimer’s idea that the actu­al­i­ty of rev­o­lu­tion depends on the prac­ti­cal rea­son of the vol­un­tary fac­tor. Cer­tain­ly unheed­ed in this con­cep­tion is whether the reifi­ca­tion of cap­i­tal in its end­phase does not con­sti­tute anoth­er con­tra­dic­to­ry qual­i­ty, whether rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and objec­tiv­i­ty do not dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves anew on anoth­er social lev­el. If we pre­sup­pose the objec­tive pos­si­bil­i­ty, opened by the last cri­sis, of a for­mer­ly only hypoth­e­sized rev­o­lu­tion­ary lib­er­a­tion in the world his­tor­i­cal sense, then Horkheimer’s dic­tum applies: “The rev­o­lu­tion that ends dom­i­na­tion is as far-reach­ing as the will of the lib­er­at­ed. Any res­ig­na­tion is already a regres­sion into pre­his­to­ry.”34

 – Trans­lat­ed by Michael Shane Boyle and Daniel Spauld­ing

  1. Trans­la­tor Note: Hein­rich Regius was a pseu­do­nym Max Horkheimer used for some of his ear­ly writ­ings. This epi­graph comes from Max Horkheimer. Dawn & Decline: Notes 1926-1931 and 1950-1969. New York: Seabury Press, 1978, 37. 

  2. Marx sketch­es the nat­ur­al his­to­ry of the cap­i­tal­ist social for­ma­tion in the abstrac­tion of a phi­los­o­phy of his­to­ry, and char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly in con­nec­tion with his descrip­tion of prim­i­tive accu­mu­la­tion. The social­iz­ing mech­a­nism that is con­tained in the expro­pria­tive con­sti­tu­tion of cap­i­tal­ist pri­vate prop­er­ty dri­ves on the his­tor­i­cal ten­den­cy of cap­i­tal­ist accu­mu­la­tion as the “cen­tral­iza­tion of cap­i­tal.” This is nec­es­sar­i­ly linked to the tech­ni­cal advance of the econ­o­miz­ing forces of production—as they are defined by the tech­no­log­i­cal appli­ca­tion of the sci­ences in indus­tri­al machin­ery and the grow­ing com­bi­na­tion of the pro­gres­sive­ly more autom­a­tized work process—and ulti­mate­ly trans­forms into the nega­tion of cap­i­tal­ist expro­pri­a­tion. (See Karl Marx, Kap­i­tal I, MEW, Bd. 23, pp. 790-91). 

  3. Franz Neu­mann, “Eco­nom­ics and Pol­i­tics in the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry,” in The Demo­c­ra­t­ic and the Author­i­tar­i­an State. Ed. Her­bert Mar­cuse, Trans. Peter Gay. New York: The Free Press, 1964, 258-269. 267-268. 

  4. Karl Marx, “Let­ter to Ruge, Sep­tem­ber 1943.” 

  5. Karl MarxCap­i­tal, Vol­ume 1. Trans. Ben Fowkes. Lon­don and New York: Pen­guin Books, 1990, 929. Hen­ryk Gross­man – one of the most impor­tant Marx­ist the­o­rists of the ten­den­cy of eco­nom­ic break­down, who, against all reformist posi­tions, ana­lyt­i­cal­ly fore­ground­ed the objec­tive inevitabil­i­ty and unavoid­able neces­si­ty of the cap­i­tal­ist break­down – also turned against the idea of a fatal automa­tion of the law of break­down, when he stress­es “that the col­lapse of cap­i­tal­ism, although objec­tive­ly nec­es­sary and in con­nec­tion with its onset exact­ly cal­cu­la­ble, nonethe­less is not mere­ly auto­mat­i­cal­ly to be pas­sive­ly await­ed.” See Hen­ryk Gross­man. Das Akku­mu­la­tions- und Zusam­men­bruchs­ge­setz des kap­i­tal­is­tis­chen Sys­tems. Frank­furt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1967, 601. On the role of con­scious­ness and will for the objec­tive process of his­to­ry in the Marx­i­an dis­tinc­tion “between prac­ti­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal neces­si­ty” with regard to rev­o­lu­tion, see also Jür­gen Haber­mas. The­o­ry and Prac­tice. Trans.: John Vier­tel. Boston: Bea­con Press, 1973.  

  6. In con­nec­tion with the crit­i­cal Marx­ism of the ear­ly Lukács, who saw past the hypo­sta­ti­za­tion of insti­tu­tion­al­ized social rela­tions – the abstract­ed sec­ond nature – to nature itself as repro­duc­tion of the cap­i­tal­ist objec­ti­fi­ca­tion in the medi­um of the­o­ry, Adorno wrote: “The nat­ur­al law­ful­ness of soci­ety is ide­ol­o­gy, to the extent it is hyposta­sized as an immutable giv­en fact of nature. Nat­ur­al law­ful­ness is real how­ev­er as a law of motion of uncon­scious soci­ety, as it is pur­sued in Cap­i­tal from the analy­sis of the com­mod­i­ty form down to the the­o­ry of eco­nom­ic cri­sis in a phe­nom­e­nol­o­gy of the anti-Spir­it. The changes in each con­sti­tu­tive eco­nom­ic form took place like those of ani­mal species, which arise and go extinct over mil­lions of years.” T.W. Adorno. Neg­a­tive Dialec­tics. Trans. Den­nis Red­mond. 

  7. Wal­ter Ben­jamin, “The­ses on the Phi­los­o­phy of His­to­ry,” in Illu­mi­na­tions. Trans. Har­ry Zohn. New York: Schock­en Books, 1986, 260-261. 

  8. Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. The Holy Fam­i­ly. Trans. Richard Dixon. (See also Alfred Schmidt. “Über Geschichte und Geschichtss­chrei­bung in der mate­ri­al­is­tis­chen Dialek­tik,” in Fol­gen ein­er The­o­rie. Frank­furt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1967, 113-114).  

  9. Ibid. 

  10. Georg Lukács, “Spon­taneität der Massen, Aktiv­ität der Partei,” in Die Inter­na­tionale 3:6 (1921), p. 221. [from the Ger­man by the present trans­la­tors]. This cri­tique also cor­re­sponds with what Rosa Lux­em­burg for­mu­lates in The Junius Pam­phlet against the war pol­i­tics of the Ger­man Social Democ­rats in 1916. 

  11. Rosa Lux­em­burg. The Junius Pam­phlet: The Cri­sis of Ger­man Social Democ­ra­cy. Trans. Dave Hol­lis. 

  12. August Thal­heimer. “On Fas­cism.” Trans. Mike Jones. See also Karl Marx. The 18th Bru­maire of Louis Bona­parte. Trans. Progress Pub­lish­ers. (For a cri­tique of the claims Thal­heimer makes in his struc­tur­al analy­sis and its typo­log­i­cal hypo­sta­ti­za­tion of the “social­ly legal cohe­sion of polit­i­cal cat­e­gories” in which Marx’s analy­sis of Bona­partism are “medi­at­ed by con­clu­sions based on analo­gies” and applied “to the process of creep­ing fas­cism in late bour­geois soci­ety,” see Tjaden Griepen­burg. “Fas­cis­mus und Bona­partismus,” Argu­ment 8:6 (Decem­ber), 1966, 461-472. 

  13. Friedrich Engels. Social­ism: Utopi­an and Sci­en­tif­ic. Trans. Edward Avel­ing. 

  14. Max Horkheimer. “The Author­i­tar­i­an State.” Telos 15:2 (Spring), 1973, 3-20; p. 4. 

  15. The refor­mu­la­tion of rev­o­lu­tion­ary sense in Marx­ist the­o­ry was ini­ti­at­ed by Karl Korsch’s pro­gram­mat­i­cal­ly titled Marx­ism and Phi­los­o­phy (1923) and Georg Lukács’ His­to­ry and Class Con­scious­ness (1923), both of which opened a new phase of crit­i­cal Marx­ism and were them­selves shaped by Marx’s rela­tion­ship to Hegel as shown in his cri­tique of phi­los­o­phy as such. We must leave aside here the accu­sa­tion of ide­al­ism raised against Lukács and also Korsch, espe­cial­ly the epis­te­mo­log­i­cal dilem­ma of tran­scen­den­tal­ism that Georg Lukács deci­sive­ly falls back on the­o­ret­i­cal­ly in his method­olog­i­cal treat­ment of the ques­tion of orga­ni­za­tion. On the actu­al­i­ty of rev­o­lu­tion for the peri­od imme­di­ate­ly after the first World War, see Georg Lukács. Lenin: A Study on the Uni­ty of his Thought. Trans. Nicholas Jacobs. Rosa Luxemburg’s qua­si-tes­ta­men­tary procla­ma­tion in her final essay from Jan­u­ary 14, 1919 empha­sizes the actu­al pres­ence of rev­o­lu­tion in con­di­tions of defeat. See “Order Pre­vails in Berlin,” Trans. Mar­cus. On the Com­intern, see Karl Radek, “The forces of the world rev­o­lu­tion still oper­ate and we are wit­ness­ing not the defeat of world rev­o­lu­tion, but the assem­bly of rev­o­lu­tion­ary forces for new strug­gles” (“Refer­at über Tak­tik, gehal­ten auf dem 3. Weltkongress der Kom­intern,” 1921). On the Dutch School, see above all Pannekoek’s essay “World Rev­o­lu­tion and Com­mu­nist Tac­tics.” Trans. Andy Blun­den. 

  16. Accord­ing to Man­del, Stal­in­ist indus­tri­al­iza­tion destroyed the require­ments for pro­por­tion­al­i­ty between city and coun­try in the social­iza­tion of the means of pro­duc­tion in under­de­vel­oped coun­tries that were for­mu­lat­ed in 1925 by [Jew­geni Alex­e­je­w­itsch] Pre­o­braschen­s­ki: “When Stal­in imple­ment­ed delayed but accel­er­at­ed indus­tri­al­iza­tion (such as build­ing the first trac­tor fac­to­ry) and rash col­lec­tiviza­tion of the coun­try­side, he destroyed these nec­es­sary pro­por­tions, giv­ing rise to the mass pau­per­iza­tion of farm­ers and the sud­den col­lapse of work­er pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in the coun­try­side, of which the Sovi­et econ­o­my and pop­u­la­tion are, near­ly three decades lat­er, the unnec­es­sary vic­tims.” Ernest Man­del, “Die Marxsche The­o­rie der ursprünglichen Akku­mu­la­tion und die Indus­trieal­isierung der Drit­ten Welt,” in Fol­gen ein­er The­o­rie (Frank­furt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1967), p. 81 [Eng­lish by the present trans­la­tors]. 

  17. My con­tri­bu­tion refers above all to the sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly new approach­es to the crit­i­cal social the­o­ry of the “Frank­furt School” cir­cle. We must leave aside at this point the epis­te­mo­log­i­cal­ly prob­lem­at­ic rela­tion­ship between crit­i­cal and rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry. (Crit­i­cal the­o­ry, which looks to amend Marx­ist the­o­ry in an explic­it­ly epis­te­mo­log­i­cal way, was chart­ed above all in the Thir­ties by Max Horkheimer in the Zeitschift für Sozial­forschung. The mate­r­i­al approach­es of this school that I dis­cuss and con­front with Marx­ist the­o­ry in what fol­lows, are dis­tin­guished main­ly by the two con­tent-dri­ven ten­den­cies addressed below: A) Max Horkheimer [1939]. “The Jews and Europe,” in Crit­i­cal The­o­ry and Soci­ety. Eds. Stephen Eric Bron­ner and Dou­glas Kell­ner. Lon­don: Rout­ledge: 1989, 77-94.; Horkheimer, “The Author­i­tar­i­an State.” Horkheimer. “Rea­son Against Itself: Some Remarks on Enlight­en­ment.” The­o­ry, Cul­ture & Soci­ety 10 (May) 1993, 79-88. On the prob­lem­at­ic, in the phi­los­o­phy of law, of monop­oly cap­i­tal­ism and the author­i­tar­i­an state, and of the trans­for­ma­tion of the lib­er­al con­sti­tu­tion­al state into the author­i­tar­i­an wel­fare state, see Franz Neu­mann, The Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Author­i­tar­i­an State, espe­cial­ly “The Change in the Func­tion of Law in Mod­ern Soci­ety.” B) Her­bert Mar­cuse. One-Dimen­sion­al Man: Stud­ies in the Ide­ol­o­gy of Advanced Indus­tri­al Soci­ety. Boston: Bea­con Press, 1991; Mar­cuse. “Indus­tri­al­iza­tion and Cap­i­tal­ism in the Work of Max Weber,” in Nega­tions. Eds. Stef­fen Böhm and Camp­bell Jones, Trans. Jere­my J. Shapiro. Lon­don: Mayfly Books, 2009, 151-170. Haber­mas has tried to sketch a meta­crit­i­cal sys­tem approach to Marcuse’s con­cep­tion of sci­en­tif­ic tech­no­log­i­cal ratio­nal­i­ty that I crit­i­cal­ly take into account in what fol­lows. 

  18. On the Marx­i­an the­o­ry of the joint-stock com­pa­ny, see Cap­i­tal Vol. 3, Chap­ter 27 as well as Chap­ter 23. 

  19. Engels, Social­ism: Utopi­an and Sci­en­tif­ic. (See also Engel’s sup­ple­ment to the Marx­i­an the­o­ry of the joint-stock com­pa­ny in Cap­i­tal Vol. 3, Chap­ter 27. 

  20. Horkheimer, “The Author­i­tar­i­an State,” 3. Due to the sig­nif­i­cance for soci­ety as a whole of the con­cept of the author­i­tar­i­an state – which relates pri­mar­i­ly to the descrip­tion of fascism’s state machine of vio­lence, though accord­ing to Horkheimer the con­cept refers to the whole of monop­oly cap­i­tal­ism – it seems legit­i­mate to me to expand the his­tor­i­cal scope of this con­cepts in what fol­lows. 

  21. See Mar­cuse, One-Dimen­sion­al Man. See also the same per­spec­tive applied to social­ism in advanced indus­tri­al soci­eties in PRAXIS 2, 1965, 266. 

  22. Ibid., 35. 

  23. Ibid., 36. 

  24. Ibid., 37. 

  25. Karl Marx. Grun­drisse. Trans. Mar­tin Nico­laus, 676. 

  26. On the tech­no­log­i­cal appli­ca­tion of sci­ence [to pro­duc­tion], see Marx, Grun­drisse, 618-643.  On the sig­nif­i­cance of this sec­tion in the tran­si­tion from cap­i­tal­ism to social­ism, see R[oman] Ros­dol­sky. Zur Entste­hung­sh­eschichte des Marxschen Kap­i­tal Vol. 2. Frank­furt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1968, 499-504. 

  27. Mar­cuse, One-Dimen­sion­al Man, 154. 

  28. Ibid., 52. 

  29. Hegel. “Pref­ace,” in Phi­los­o­phy of Right. Trans. S.W. Dyde. 

  30. Hegel uses the prin­ci­ple of rea­son to con­nect the Pla­ton­ic Repub­lic “regard­ed as the bye-word for an emp­ty ide­al” to the old essen­tial “nature of the eth­i­cal life of the Greeks” in ahis­tor­i­cal abstrac­tion that “could direct­ly man­i­fest itself only as an unsat­is­fied long­ing and there­fore as ruin.” 

  31. Horkheimer, “The Author­i­tar­i­an State,” 3. 

  32. Karl Marx. “Rev­e­la­tions Con­cern­ing the Com­mu­nist Tri­al in Cologne.” 

  33. Horkheimer, “The Author­i­tar­i­an State,” 11. 

  34. Ibid., 10. 

Author of the article

was a leading figure in the West German student movement of the 1960s, and the author of Constitution and Class Struggle.