Sei sulla pagina 1di 5

On becoming things: An interview with Axel Honneth September 1st, 2013 Relate !

!ile "n er #ensen S$ther %lat&p$s Review '( ) September 2013 On #$l& 3r , 2013, at the *oethe "niversit+t in !ran,-$rt, *erman&, #ensen S$ther interviewe Axel Honneth, irector o- the !ran,-$rt .nstit$te -or Social Research an a$thor o- n$mero$s boo,s an articles, on behal- o- %lat&p$s/ 0heir conversation -oc$se on the problem o- 1rei-ication,2 or the ten enc& -or processes o- trans-ormation to appear as, an be treate as i- the& were, static ob3ects o- an imm$table nat$re/ Rei-ication was the theme oseveral writings Honneth elivere as the 0anner 4ect$res at 5er,ele& in 200'/ 0hese lect$res are compile in the boo, Rei-ication: A 6ew 4oo, at an Ol . ea 76ew 8or,: Ox-or "niversit& %ress "SA, 20129/ :hat -ollows is an e ite transcript o- their isc$ssion/

*eorg 4$,;cs in 1(13

#ensen S$ther: .n &o$r 200' 0anner 4ect$re series, &o$ arg$e that *eorg 4$,;cs<s =arxist anal&sis o- the problem o- rei-ication is problematic, partic$larl& in that he ascribes the overcoming o- alienate social relations to the wor,ing class/ 8o$ en the lect$re b& emphasi>ing that, pace 4$,;cs, -or whom rei-ication is generate b& the commo it& -orm, i--erent sets o- social practices give rise to rei-&ing behavior an no one gro$p, class, or social movement can be sing$larl& assigne the tas, o- abolishing rei-ie social relations/ However, rei-ication has historicall& been an important concept -or the 4e-t/ ?o &o$ see the criti@$e o- rei-ication as necessaril& le-tistA How, i- at all, oes &o$r contrib$tion to the isco$rse on rei-ication relate to the 4e-tA Axel Honneth: 0his is a s$rprising @$estion, one . wo$l not have tho$ght to as,, so m& answer comes ver& m$ch a hoc/ . o not believe that concepts belong to an& speci-ic political comm$nit& or gro$p/ 0he egree to which concepts help $s explore something or see something new, the& sho$l be ta,en as an instr$ment potentiall& available -or ever&one in societ&/ So, in that sense, . o not believe that rei-ication is an a$tomaticall& le-tist concept/ =oreover, in terms o- the histor& o- i eas, . am not even s$re that rei-ication is necessaril& a concept evelope onl& b& le-tists/ !or instance, the !rench =arxist thin,er 4$cien *ol mann so$ght to emonstrate the similarities between the approaches o- 4$,;cs an Hei egger/ 8o$ can -in in Hei egger an i ea o- rei-ication, which alrea & in icates that rei-ication was a concept also $tili>e b& the right, or on the right/ 0here are man& problems with 4$,;cs<s anal&sis/ 0he almost m&stical role he assigns the proletariat is onl& one othem/ Bven i- we grant that his was one o- the most -r$it-$l perio s in the 4e-t tra ition, in the histor& o- :estern =arxism, . thin, that to a& we can see m$ch more clearl& the limits othat anal&sis an the mista,es bo$n $p with those limits/ An , s$rel&, the biggest mista,e is not onl& the emphasis on the worl Chistorical role o- the proletariat, b$t also how this is emphasi>e , namel& b& wa& o- a ver& pec$liar set o- bac,gro$n i eas, let<s sa&, abo$t the

social str$ct$re o- realit&/ 4$,;cs relies on a ,in o- !ichteanCHegelian metaph&sical concept b& which all h$man societ& is tho$ght to be gro$n e in a certain ,in o- worl Cconstit$ting activit&, an so 4$,;cs thin,s that the onl& class that can overcome rei-ication, which is seen as the estr$ction o- that worl Cconstit$ting activit&, is the class which is representingDeven $n er alienate or istorte con itionsDthat ,in o- praxis/ 0here-ore, we have this almost -antastic piece within the whole st$ &, wherein 4$,;cs wants to reveal this one moment othe overcoming o- these istorte con itions/ !or 4$,;cs, this moment loo,s almost li,e this one revol$tionar& actE . mean, &o$ almost get the sense that in one secon all these estr$ctive con itions are overcome/ .t<s a ver& pec$liar anal&sisDenormo$sl& inspiring, b$t also ver& strange/ #S: 8o$ arg$e in &o$r 200' lect$res that rei-ication oes not eliminate nonCrei-ie -orms osocial praxis, b$t onl& papers over them, an &o$ claim that this was also 4$,;cs<s position/ .n other wor s, &o$ arg$e that a 1gen$ine -orm o- h$man existence,2 one base on m$t$al recognition, perseveres beneath rei-ie social relations/ Bven i- this is the case, is it possible to grasp this gen$ine, $n erl&ing social realit&, 1as it reall& is2A Or is it rather the case, as 0heo or A orno s$ggests, that misrecognition is constit$tive o- o$r social con itionA An what o- 4$,;cs<s claim that the commo it& -orm not onl& generates rei-ication, b$t also pro $ces conscio$snessA AH: 0hat stri,es me as an epistemological @$estion, or probabl& better still an ontological @$estion: .- we grant the con ition that rei-ication is constit$tive o- o$r societ&, how co$l we ever attain a less istorte , or 1$n ist$rbe ,2 -orm o- praxisA .- we are to avoi contra icting o$rselves, we can onl& hol o$t hope -or this better -orm o- praxis i- we also believe that there m$st alwa&s alrea & be an element o- the better, $n ist$rbe -orm o- praxis in o$r alrea & existing societ&/ 0his is a i--ic$lt iss$e in 4$,;cs/ One wa& to $n erstan him is to sa& that all praxis in the present moment o- capitalist societ& is completel& rei-ie / 5$t then &o$ have this problem o- how one has access to an& sense that an $n istorte -orm o- praxis is possible/ .n A orno it is tric,ier still/ Bven when A orno is sa&ing that rei-ication is constit$tive, he believes that there are still alternatives, or signs o- another -orm o- praxis/ 5e it in art, the artwor,, or be it in small examples o- ever& a& practicesDthere are, he claims, elements oan $n istorte practice/ So in A orno &o$ have this i ea o- the immanent appearance o- an $n istorte praxis, whereas 4$,;cs is m$ch more ra ical in his claim that rei-ication is total/ 5$t this ma,es it m$ch more i--ic$lt -or 4$,;cs to thin, the revol$tion, or thin, social change/ 0h$s -or 4$,;cs it has to be this completel& eschatological trans-ormation, a complete reversal/ :ith respect to this @$estion . thin, A orno is more open/

#S: 0o come bac, to the last part o- m& previo$s @$estion, isn<t it the case, -or 4$,;cs an A orno, that rei-ication oes not merel& represent the ossi-ication o- social relations, nor 3$st the ob3ecti-ication o- in ivi $alsA !or both thin,ers rei-ication also ha a positive signi-icance, as the basis -or abolishing c$rrent social relations/ A orno, -or instance, in his 1Re-lections on Flass 0heor&,2 arg$es that, 1in rei-ie h$man beings rei-ication -in s its o$ter limits/2G1H .n several places A orno stresses that ever& secon nat$re is alwa&s alrea & a new -irst nat$re/ Similarl&, 4$,;cs spea,s o- how, $ring a revol$tionar& perio in the crisis ocapital, one sees the intensi-ication, not the imin$tion, o- rei-ication/ .n ee , he ma,es clear that rei-ication is integral to the ialectic o- theor& an practice, an not simpl& an obstacle to

it/ How oes this imension o- rei-ication -ig$re into &o$r acco$ntA Or, to p$t the @$estion a i--erent wa&, what are the limitations to the immanent anal&sis o- rei-icationA AH: . o not see that, .<m a-rai / 0hat has to o, . thin,, with one<s strateg& -or i enti-&ing rei-ication/ 0here is a h$ge i--erence between 4$,;cs an A orno, on one si e, an m&sel-, on the other/ !or them, the bac,gro$n i ea is that capitalist exchange relations, as s$ch, are pro $cing rei-ication/ . have o$bts abo$t s$ch a totali>ing i ea/ . o not thin, -orms orei-ication are a$tomaticall& or necessaril& pro $ce b& capitalist societies, b$t rather that speci-ic -orms o- capitalism an speci-ic -orms o- practices within capitalism are what pro $ce reall& rei-ie attit$ es/ Asi e -rom this i--erence, however, . also thin, that A orno an 4$,;cs ma,e mista,es even in terms o- their own concept$ali>ations/ .- &o$ ta,e rei-ication literall&, which . thin, 4$,;cs wants to o, then &o$ cannot reall& sa& that all economic exchange, even exchange irectl& involving the labor -orce, is rei-ication as s$ch/ 6ot all practices involve in the pro $ction process necessaril& re@$ire that the h$man potentialities o- the wor,ers m$st be exacte -rom them/ Fapitalist pro $ction as s$ch entails the $se, as a commo it&, o- the h$man potentialities o- the labor -orce, b$t onl& in some speci-ic cases oes this -orm o- pro $ction also exhibit the oppositeDnamel&, an ignorance o-, or isregar -or, h$man potential/ Onl& in these partic$lar cases oes it ma,e sense to spea, o- rei-ication/ .n the sex tra e, -or example, we have a clear case o- rei-ication/ 5$t rei-ication oes not obtain in all -orms o- capitalist pro $ction/ #S: .n an essa& &o$ wrote that concl$ es the Fambri ge Fompanion to Fritical 0heor&, entitle 1A social patholog& o- reason: on the intellect$al legac& o- Fritical 0heor&,2 &o$ arg$e that the process o- social rationali>ation, or what Hegel wo$l have calle the historical $n-ol ing o- -ree om, has been interr$pte , an that it is the tas, o- Fritical 0heor& to thin, thro$gh the contra iction between capitalism an the aspirations o- bo$rgeois societ&/ 8o$ claim that this interr$ption poses a moral or ethical challenge, whose resol$tion oes not necessaril& re@$ire the s$blation o- capitalism, an that histor& has emonstrate that the 1=arxist wing o- le-t Hegelianism2 was wrong, since the wor,ing class i not 1a$tomaticall& evelop a revol$tionar& rea iness/2 8o$ arg$e that, in light o- the -ail$re o=arxism, ps&choanal&sis ma& o--er power-$l tools -or anal&>ing social irrationalit&/ .n &o$r view, what wo$l be the signi-icance o- ps&choanal&sis -or a revitali>e emancipator& politicsA AH: .t is a ver& complicate @$estion/ !irst, . wo$l not claim that =arxism as s$ch has -aile , b$t that it has clearl& erre in one respect, namel& in its conviction that the proletariat or the class o- the labor -orce will a$tomaticall& evelop a critical perspective/ An empirical o$bt o- that premise ha alrea & been -orm$late b& the earl& !ran,-$rt School/ 0heir starting point, in a wa&, was hesitation as to precisel& that premise/ . thin, A orno an some o- the other representatives o- the !ran,-$rt School relie mainl& on ps&choanal&sis as a wa& to thin, thro$gh the emancipator& mechanisms alrea & immanent in capitalism/ .n certain passages A orno s$ggests that a certain component o- o$r ps&chic li-e simpl& resists the existent capitalist con itions beca$se o- the element o- s$--ering implicit in these con itions/ However, i- &o$ -ollow !re$ , s$--ering pro $ces certain ispositions, not -or emancipation, b$t -or enlightening ,nowle ge/ 6onetheless, A orno, $ntil the en , believe in that ,in o- ps&chic mechanism/ :ith =arc$se it is completel& i--erent/ =arc$se arg$e there are certain rives that permanentl& resist the capitalist -orm o- rationali>ation, which wo$l point to a completel& i--erent $sage o- ps&choanal&sis/ 5$t, regar ing how .

thin, ps&choanal&sis might contrib$te to emancipation, . wo$l give several answers/ !irst, . am most intereste in ob3ect relations theor&, a certain strain within ps&choanal&sis/ .n brie-, . thin, this strain, an the wor, o- ?onal :innicott in partic$lar, is ver& help-$l in or er to thin, abo$t emancipator& moments in normal h$man li-e/ =ore generall&, one element . wo$l ta,e -rom ps&choanal&sis is a eep s$spicion abo$t the completel& rational actor/ %s&choanal&sis is one tra ition among others that helps $s to see that h$man beings are riven not onl& b& their p$rposive rational interests, b$t also b& their $nconscio$s wishes/ . ta,e this insight to be necessar& -or an& anal&sis o- emancipator& potentialities within a given capitalist societ&/ #S: .n a recent interview, &o$ anno$nce &o$r s$pport -or the .nstit$te -or Fomparative .rrelevance 7.nstit$t -Ir ie Jergleichen e .rrelevan>, or .v.9, 3$st be-ore the b$il ing it has occ$pie -or nearl& a eca e was sei>e / .n a !ebr$ar& 2012 ispatch entitle , 1Fritical 0hin,ing 6ee s an 0a,es 0ime an Space,2 available on its website, the .v. writes that it sees itsel- as o--ering an alternative -orm o- politics base aro$n a sel-Corgani>e space within which it is possible -or participants o- an& age, gen er, or ethnicit& to achieve a$tonom&/G2H ?o &o$ thin, this sort o- alternative political pro3ect reali>es, or at least approximates, the ,in o- m$t$al recognition an eCrei-&ing behavior that &o$ call -or in &o$r wor,A A orno arg$es in several places, most notabl& in his late essa& 1Resignation,2 that attempts to 1resc$e enclaves o- imme iac& in the mi st o- a thoro$ghl& me iate an rigi i-ie societ&2 amo$nt to pse$ oCactivit&, obsc$ring the nee -or change on the level osociet&/G3H How wo$l &o$ respon to this criti@$eA AH: . wo$l hope that the notion o- m$t$al -orms o- recognition can help to ma,e a little bit clearer what A orno ha in min , act$all&/ Foncerning the .nstit$te -or Fomparative .rrelevance, . thin, one sho$l s$pport it, simpl& beca$se this is one expression o- the interests o- st$ ents to have alternative spaces -or their own wa& o- thin,ing, within a nonC reg$late , nonChierarchical -orm o- $niversit& e $cation/ An . thin, it is a goo sign -or a generation o- st$ ents i- the& evelop interest in creating s$ch spaces/ . o not thin, that these spaces represent another -orm o- li-e/ .n the .v.<s own sel-C escription it oes so$n as tho$gh the .v. has alrea & create an alternative -orm o- li-e/ . o not thin, it has one that, b$t the .v. nevertheless has, thro$gh a legitimate -orm o- occ$pation, create a $ni@$e place close to the $niversit&/ 0he& occ$pie the b$il ing in or er to reclaim a space -or -ree thin,ing an -ree isc$ssion o$tsi e the control o- o--icial representatives o- ,nowle ge/ . thin, this is a goo step/ 0here is still a etermine gro$p o- st$ ents who believe the& nee these places, be&on the speci-ic reg$lations o- e $cation within the $niversit&, where the& can ebate an isc$ss their own matters, their own theoretical interests, their own insights/ .t is a goo sign i- a $niversit& allows those spaces, beca$se that<s the whole i ea o- a $niversit& D not to istrib$te -ormal ,nowle ge that allows one to attain a position within societ&, b$t to represent a space where -ree thin,ing is possible/ An , i- the $s$al -orms o- teaching are being p$t $n er greater press$re o- certain economic interests, then more places li,e the .v. become necessar&/ )%

1/ A orno, 0heo or, 1Re-lections on Flass 0heor&,2 in Fan One 4ive a-ter A$schwit>A A %hilosophical Rea er, e / Rol- 0ie emann 7Stan-or , FA: Stan-or "niversit& %ress, 20039, 110/K 2/ 0he -$ll text o- 1Fritical 0hin,ing 6ee s an 0a,es 0ime an Space2 71Lritisches ?en,en bra$cht$n nimC mt sichCMeit $n Ra$m29 can be -o$n online at Nhttp:OO ivi/cop&riot/comO$eberC2P/K 3/ A orno, 0heo or, 1Resignation,2 in Fritical =o els: .nterventions an Fatchwor s, trans/ Henr& :/ %ic,-or 76ew 8or,: Fol$mbia "niversit& %ress, 200'9, 2(1

http:OOplat&p$s1(1Q/orgO2013O0(O01OonCbecomingCthingsCanCinterviewCwithCaxelChonnethO