A Marxist Critique of the Individual, Rational, Self-Interested, Wealth Maximizer

The concept of the individual, self-interested, wealth maximizer goes back to a figure well known to Karl Marx, namely Adam Smith. Smith promulgates a conception of capitalism that relies on “enlightened self-interest.”[1] Such a concept has morphed over time to become the foundational ideology of capitalist economics. It is the sole ideology that defines the psychology of humans and justifies capitalism. This ideology claims humans by nature are individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizers. For this paper, I argue this ideology is the real subsumption of the mind to the commodity form. I begin by explaining Marx’s concepts of the commodity form and real subsumption. Next, I briefly explicate Smith’s concept of the individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer and the modern day adaption of the concept. I then explore Adorno and Horkheimer’s concepts of the culture industry and the mechanization of rationality.[2] I argue Adorno and Horkheimer’s concepts demonstrate how the individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer ideology sublimates humans psychologically, to the extent of real subsumption of the mind, to the commodity form.[3]

At the very onset, it is necessary to explain Marx’s concepts of the commodity form and real subsumption. Capitalism is a system of social relations based on the commodity form.[4] As Harry Cleaver states, “the commodity-form is the fundamental form of capital.”[5] Marx, in Wage Labour and Capital and Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, asserts under the commodity form the laborer’s labor becomes a commodity to be sold in order to earn a wage that the laborer must then spend in order to buy the necessities of life, necessities which have also been turned into commodities.[6] The commodity form, for the laborer, is one where they are merely a laborer and a consumer. In order to survive, the laborer must sell their labor as a commodity to the capitalist in order to be a consumer of the capitalist’s commodities.[7] In the missing Chapter 6 of Capital, Marx draws a distinction between labor that expands capital by producing commodities and labor that supports the reproduction of labor but does not directly produce commodities (e.g. healthcare, education, etc.).[8] Marx also draws a distinction between the formal subsumption of labor and the real subsumption of labor within capitalism.[9] Under the formal subsumption of labor, capitalism takes the existing technological and methodological production processes and incorporates them into the commodity form.[10] Under the real subsumption of labor, capitalism transforms the existing technological and methodological production processes to be to be fully compatible and “imbued with the nature of capital.”[11] A process fully compatible and imbued with the nature of capital is one in which mechanical reproduction of commodities takes place by unskilled laborers, as efficiently as possible in order to produce as many commodities as possible in the shortest amount of time as possible, dropping the value of the commodity to as low as possible.[12] As capitalism is a system of social relations, this process occurs society wide.[13] Thus, capitalism conquers all labor processes, direct and indirect labor processes, to really subsume them under the commodity form. All labor is turned into productions of commodities and everything in society becomes a commodity. In other words, the real subsumption of the labor process under capital is one of mechanical wealth-maximization.

Smith’s notion of capitalism relies on two assumptions: (1) that humans are essentially self-interested and (2) that humans, being utility-minded, will naturally act in the interests of others in order to preserve their own self-interest. I will examine, from a Marxist perspective, how believing in these two premises ideologically shapes human psychology to conform to capitalism.[14] From the starting point of the Marxist position that humans are shaped by the historical and social conditions in which they live, it is clear that the social conditions of existence for humans includes but is not excluded to economics, politics, law and culture. To begin, let’s examine the self-interest ideology as it has morphed from Smith to today. From an economic perspective, In The Wealth of Nations, Smith advocates self-interest as a foundational economic principle. Smith states:

But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and shew them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer […] It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.[15]

Smith is clear. Humans are psychological predisposed to be primarily concerned with their own self-interest. It is out of our own self-interest that we appeal to others in the economy by appealing to their self-interest. Appeal to self-interest is how the economy functions and it is how we get what we want and need. However, Eamonn Butler states “By ‘self-love’ or ‘self-interest,’ Smith does not imply ‘greed’ or ‘selfishness.’”[16] Butler asserts Smith is referring to a natural concern humans have for their own welfare which is called “prudence” in The Theory of Moral Sentiments.[17]

Smith advocates a notion of enlightened self-interest. Such a notion asserts, basically, out of one’s own self-interest, one acts in the best interests of society.[18] Prudence, for Smith, consists of “reason and understanding” and “self-command.”[19] Ultimately, according to Smith, we are rational as defined as being utility-minded. We use our reason, understanding, and self-command to “restrain our present appetites, in order to gratify them more fully upon another occasion.”[20] Self-interestedly, we reason about what would have the most utility in achieving our wants and needs. For Smith, this leads to a system of social relations whereby the capitalist reasoning based on their own self-interest, will act in the best interests of the laborers because the capitalist understands the utility to themselves of recognizing the interests of the laborers.[21] Greed and selfishness are dismissed because the capitalist is conceived of as acting in the long run for the interests of society by seeking their own self-interests.

Smith’s notion of self-interest has morphed over time to become the founding assumption of Milton Friedman’s Chicago School capitalist campaign. In regard to Friedman’s Chicago School, Maurice Stucke writes:

For 30 years, the economic theories of Milton Friedman and others associated with the University of Chicago have shaped American policies. Their theories assume a world of rational people who make optimal choices about spending and saving. In pursuing self-interest, the theory goes, people seek to maximize their wealth and other material goals; they generally do not care about other social goals when those goals conflict with their economic self-interest. When “self-interest and ethical values with wide verbal allegiance are in conflict,” said the Chicago School economist George Stigler, “much of the time, most of the time in fact, self-interest theory…will win.”[22]

Such a theory justifies laissez-faire, free market ideologies where self-interest under capitalism is all that is needed to economically govern society.

Judge Richard Posner has been influential in propagating such a concept in law which focuses explicitly on the individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer. Termed the “law and economics movement,” it takes as its central assumed premise “that human beings are rational maximizers of their individual satisfactions […] A rational maximizer of personal satisfaction adjusts means to ends in the most efficient way possible.”[23] Individual satisfactions may not necessarily be money per se, but anything that provides satisfaction.[24] Posner asserts all “people are rational maximizers of their satisfactions […] in all their activities.”[25] Law, under Posner’s theory, would be a utilitarian calculation of the wealth maximization of the satisfaction of society as a whole. Again, what is important to note is how rationality and wealth maximization have become the guiding principles for rule over society.

So, what are these human satisfactions that we seek to maximize? Our culture tells us what they are. Here is where a Marxist critical analysis of the dominant ideology emerges. Adorno and Horkheimer assert “The whole world is passed through the filter of the culture industry.”[26] We are ideologically shaped by the media representations of culture in our society. All forms of cultural media, from film to music to art, homogenize consumers through a mechanical homogenization of media offerings.[27] Separate classifications of media products (e.g. film, music, etc.) and separate classifications within media as products (e.g. commodities and personalities) are designed by the culture industry as ready-made templates, practically indistinguishable from each other, to which consumers assume their identity.[28]  These ready-made templates ascribe into the identity of consumers their roles in society.[29] The laborer seeks entertainment, but what they find is mechanically homogenized media that reinforces in the identity of the laborer the mechanization and homogeneity found in their work.[30] Adorno and Horkheimer assert, “The more strongly the culture industry entrenches itself, the more it can do as it chooses with the needs of consumers – producing, controlling, disciplining them.”[31] The culture industry entrenches itself as a natural reproduction of reality, and as it does so, it is more able to manipulate consumers. However, the culture industry as a commodity requires advertising to avoid becoming obsolete due to the “satiation and apathy” it produces in consumers.[32] Adorno and Horkheimer state:

Advertising and the culture industry are merging technically no less than economically. In both, the same thing appears in countless places, and the mechanical repetition of the same culture product is already that of the same propaganda slogan. In both, under the dictate of effectiveness, technique is becoming psychotechnique, a procedure for manipulating human beings. In both, the norms of the striking yet familiar, the easy but catchy, the worldly wise but straightforward hold good, everything is directed at overpowering a customer conceived as distracted or resistant.[33]

Adorno and Horkheimer describe how the culture industry has become really subsumed under capital. To be a profitable commodity, the culture industry has mechanically transformed its mode of production and style to fit the labor production process of capitalism. Such a transformation produces not meaningful pieces of culture that inspire critical thought, but absent minded mechanical homogenization. The mechanical homogenization of the culture industry ideologically manipulates the purveyors of the media to fit into the ready-made classificatory roles offered to them within the media, roles of mechanical homogenization to the needs of capital. Through the entrenchment of the culture industry, the needs of capitalism become the needs of the laborers. Advertising, necessarily required by the culture industry, further instills mechanical homogenization on the consumer level. Adorno and Horkheimer state:

But freedom to choose an ideology, which always reflects economic coercion, everywhere proves to be freedom to be the same […] the whole inner life compartmentalized according to the categories of vulgarized depth psychology, bears witness to the attempt to turn oneself into an apparatus meeting the requirements of success, an apparatus which, even in its unconscious impulses, conforms to the model presented by the culture industry.[34]

Robert McChesney argues we are constantly bombarded by advertising, reaching into more and more areas of media and society, and that advertising is psychologically manipulating us.[35] Companies are not selling a product, they are “connecting with consumers on an emotional level.”[36] Hyper-commercialization geared toward psychologically connecting with individuals on an emotional level reduces everything valued in a society, such as community, love, education and health, “to commodities provided by the market.”[37] McChesney states, “Social problems either cannot be solved or can be solved only through individual material consumption […] human happiness derives from material consumption.”[38]

The connection between Adorno and Horkheimer’s critique of the ideological manipulation of the culture industry and advertising and the ideology of individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer emerges. The media of the culture industry and advertising defines what is considered success. What is defined by capitalism as success is the individual who rationally (i.e. utility-minded) determines how best to maximize their satisfactions. Per this ideology, in order to maximize one’s satisfactions one must be a competitive laborer, maximizing profit for the capitalist, because the capitalist will recognize that it is in their self-interest to reward such. The satisfactions to be maximized are those commodities offered by the culture industry and advertising, satisfactions tied to the manipulation of human emotional needs. To maximize one’s satisfactions is to be the most voracious consumer, inciting a competitive consumerism. The culture industry and advertising manipulates people into fitting the mechanically homogenous roles of laborer and consumer, roles of the commodity form.

Adorno and Horkheimer tie the mechanical production process of the culture industry and advertising directly to the psychology of individuals. In this sense, humans carry out the production process psychologically. The production process is an extension of our psychology and we psychologically are an extension of the production process. Marx does the same when he asserts machines are the extension of human knowledge and a society’s mechanical development “indicates to what degree general knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it.”[39] Marx is asserting capitalism is a system of social relations between individuals. The capitalist production process is transformed by mechanical general knowledge. Mechanical general knowledge in turn transforms the social relations between individuals. Elsewhere, Marx states:

When we consider bourgeois society in the long view and as a whole, then the final result of the process of social production always appears as the society itself, i.e. the human being itself in its social relations. Everything that has a fixed form, such as the product etc., appears as merely a moment, a vanishing moment, in this movement. The direct production process itself here appears only as a moment. The conditions and objectifications of the process are themselves equally moments of it, and its only subjects are the individuals, but individuals in mutual relationships, which they equally reproduce and produce anew. The constant process of their own movement, in which they renew themselves even as they renew the world of wealth they create.[40]

The direct production process and the material products of that process are moments. What is indirectly produced and reproduced are the individuals and their social relations. The indirect production process is a constant process, producing and reproducing. The indirect production process occurs psychologically within the individuals themselves as subjects of the process. The mechanically homogenous roles of laborer and consumer are really subsumed under capital once individuals see themselves as individual, rational, self-interested wealth maximizers. It is at that point that individual actions, which are continuations of the production process, are “thoroughly imbued with the nature and requirements of capital.”[41]

Mechanization becomes a crucial point of criticism, particularly the mechanization of human rationality.[42] Adorno and Horkheimer are critical of enlightenment ideals which they conceive of as a systematic progressive process that intellectually and practically analyzes, categorizes and classifies nature through discursive, scientific, thought and based on an assumption of an absolute, unitary, truth of such.[43] Humans seek control over nature and to do so nature becomes objectified.[44] Enlightenment thought processes objectify nature and nature objectified becomes subordinate to humans in a relationship akin to the dictator over the dominated.[45] Enlightenment becomes the dictator over nature and the material world.[46] Individuals of any genus are no longer conceived of as representatives of a whole with a uniqueness of their own but instead become mere fungible specimens.[47] The abstraction in enlightenment thought “amputates the incommensurable,” forcing individuals into conformity.[48]

Adorno and Horkheimer state, “Under the leveling rule of abstraction, which makes everything in nature repeatable, and of industry, for which abstraction prepared the way, the liberated finally themselves become the ‘herd.’”[49] Through the abstract generalization of discursive thought, “truth in general” becomes equated with “classifying thought.”[50] The form of deductive science “mirrors hierarchy and compulsion” of power and subordination in social relations in that hierarchical systems of thought reflect the hierarchical division of labor in society.[51] Adorno and Horkheimer state, “mathematical procedure became a kind of ritual of thought […] it installed itself as necessary and objective: mathematics made thought into a thing—a tool, to use its own term” and “through this mimesis […] thought makes the world resemble itself.”[52] Mathematical, scientific, deductive and discursive thought, reflects a hierarchy of domination.[53] However, within this systematic thought process thought becomes objectified.[54] Thought becomes a thing, a tool, to be used and constructs the world to resemble itself, in its systematic and objectified form.[55] Adorno and Horkheimer state:

world domination over nature turns against the thinking subject itself; nothing is left of it except that ever-unchanging “I think,” which must accompany all my conceptions. Both subject and object are nullified. […] What appears as the triumph of subjectivity, the subjection of all existing things to logical formalism, is bought with the obedient subordination of reason to what is immediately at hand. To grasp existing things as such, not merely to note their abstract spatial-temporal relationships, by which they can then be seized, but, on the contrary, to think of them as surface, as mediated conceptual moments which are only fulfilled by revealing their social, historical, and human meaning—this whole aspiration of knowledge is abandoned. Knowledge does not consist in mere perception, classification, and calculation but precisely in the determining negation of whatever is directly at hand. Instead of such negation, mathematical formalism, whose medium, number, is the most abstract form of the immediate, arrests thought at mere immediacy. The actual is validated, knowledge confines itself to repeating it, thought makes itself mere tautology. The more completely the machinery of thought subjugates existence, the more blindly it is satisfied with reproducing it.[56]

The mechanization of rationality, as a tool to control the world, actually makes the subject utilizing rationality subordinate to the object being analyzed because the subject’s knowledge is truncated to a very narrow understanding of the object. The object is subordinate to the subject while the subject is subordinate to the object. Thus, the subjection of existence occurs at the subjective and the objective levels repetitively, reinforcing and reproducing the mechanized subjection of existence making itself appear as universal absolute truth.

The individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer ideology reduces the subject’s satisfactions to objects to be perceived, classified, and calculated upon abstractly in mere immediacy. The objects of satisfaction are to be assessed merely mathematically, without regard to the multi-faceted expanse of human existence. The individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer does not consider the social, historical and human contexts of the objects of their satisfactions. The subject as such becomes oppressed by the objects of their satisfactions as these objects are oppressed by their mechanized rationality. The mechanization of rationality that reduces satisfactions to objects to be merely calculated mathematically reinforces and reproduces subjugation by projecting the appearance of being natural and inherent. The individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer subjugates their satisfactions to a mechanistic rationality, and in turn is subjugated by their satisfactions, creating a cyclical tautology. This is how capitalist “thought makes the world resemble itself.”[57]

The subjugated individual, rational, self-interested, wealth-maximizer is thus estranged from not only the objects of their own satisfactions but from themselves and other human beings because their calculations exclude social, historical and human contexts. Adorno and Horkheimer state:

Not only is domination paid for with the estrangement of human beings from the dominated objects, but the relationships of human beings, including the relationship of individuals to themselves, have themselves been bewitched by the objectification of mind. Individuals shrink to the nodal points of conventional reactions and the modes of operation objectively expected of them […] The countless agencies of mass production and its culture impress standardized behavior on the individual as the only natural, decent, and rational one. Individuals define themselves now only as things, statistical elements, successes or failures. Their criterion is self-preservation, successful or unsuccessful adaptation to the objectivity of their function and the schemata assigned to it.[58]

Pierre Lamarche states, “we ultimately become mere objects of the form of reason that we have created.”[59] Mechanistic rationality becomes objectified. The individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer becomes objectified as a laborer and consumer. Their actions dictated by mechanistic rationality become standardized and such standardization becomes perceived as inherent and natural. The individual is considered successful the more they exemplify this standardization. In the schemata of capitalism, where competition over satisfactions is promoted, success is measured by the maximization of satisfactions. Self-preservation occurs through the maximization of satisfactions without regard for the social, historical and human contexts. This creates a society of individuals who are objectified, atomized and estranged from one another and perpetuates a society of individuals whose primary, immediate, self-interests are satisfied by fulfilling the roles of laborers and consumers.

Self-interest tied to self-preservation plays a crucial role in the ideology. The production process of capitalism reduces subjects to atomized individuals who are solely focused on their own isolated functions. The production process molds individuals to focus on their own self-preservation by focusing on their own self-interest. Reason by extension is molded into a mechanistic tool, a tool that is used to aid the capitalist schemata. Adorno and Horkheimer state:

In the bourgeois economy the social work of each individual is mediated by the principle of the self; for some this labor is supposed to yield increased capital, for others the strength for extra work. But the more heavily the process of self-preservation is based on the bourgeois division of labor, the more it enforces the self-alienation of individuals, who must mold themselves to the technical apparatus body and soul. Enlightened thinking has an answer for this, too: finally, the transcendental subject of knowledge, as the last reminder of subjectivity, is itself seemingly abolished and replaced by the operations of the automatic mechanisms of order, which therefore run all the more smoothly. […] reason itself has become merely an aid to the all-encompassing economic apparatus. Reason serves as a universal tool for the fabrication of all other tools, rigidly purpose-directed and as calamitous as the precisely calculated operations of material production, the results of which for human beings escape all calculation.[60]

When reason becomes the aid to the all-encompassing economic apparatus, reason is really subsumed to the commodity form. The real subsumption of the mind to the commodity form is achieved when reason itself firstly becomes mathematically mechanized, secondly becomes objectified, and thirdly becomes focused on the individual’s self-interest toward maximizing their own satisfactions. The individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer ideology perpetuates capitalism by fulfilling this process. The ideology reinforces and reproduces the roles of laborer and consumer.

If one is a utility-minded, individual, rational, self-interested, wealth maximizer, then one is going to calculate how best to satisfy their wants and needs and believe that it is only natural that they do so. The subject becomes objectified to the satisfactions they objectify and uncritically fulfills the roles of laborer and consumer required to maximize their satisfactions. Extending this to society justifies a system of social relations that perpetuates capitalism. To believe in such an ideology is to justify being a competitive laborer and consumer, the foundations of capitalism. To justify such on an ideological level is to psychologically shape the mind to be really subsumed under capital to the commodity form. It is to make the mind, which is an extension of the production process, fully compatible to the needs of capital.

[1] I put his term in quotations because it is not my own. However, it is so widely used that I cannot trace the origins of where I first encountered it.

[2] See Pierre Lamarce, lecture, March 24, 2014; I am replacing “instrumentalization of reason” with “mechanization of rationality.”

[3] I must clarify what I mean by the terms “psychology” and “mind” from the onset. I take the terms to be interchangeable and both to encompass, broadly, all human mental processes; emotionality, rationality, knowledge and consciousness.

[4] Lamarche, lecture, Jan. 13, 2014

[5] Harry Cleaver, Reading Capital Politically (Antithesis Press: 2000) p. 81; See also Larmarche, lecture, Feb. 3, 2014

[6] Karl Marx, “Wage Labour and Capital,” The Marx-Engels Reader, Ed. Robert C. Tucker (W. W. Norton & Company: 1978) pp. 204-205; Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I, Book One: The Process of Production of Capital, Marxists.org, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/

[7] Ibid. p. 209; See also Cleaver, p. 82 and Lamarche, lecture, Jan. 27, 2014

[8] Lamarche, lecture, Feb. 24, 2014

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid. See also Karl Marx, “Formal and Real Subsumption of Labour Under Capital,” Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63, marxists.org, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1861/economic/ch37.htm

[13] Larmarche, lecture, Feb. 24, 2014; See also Karl Marx, “Notebook VII,” Economic Manuscripts: Grundrisse, marxists.org, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch14.htm

[14] This, of course, implies and assumes the Marxist notion of historical materialism (that humans are psychologically shaped by the historical and material conditions in which they live) which is directly opposed to Smith’s essentialism (that humans are psychologically by nature a certain way). It could be incredibly interesting to flesh out this dichotomy. However, I do not think it is necessary to do so in order to conduct the examination I propose. It is enough to recognize that the dichotomy exists. See, Rob Sewell, “Historical Materialism,” In Defence of Marxism, http://www.marxist.com/historical-materialism/ – “’it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence that determines their consciousness.’ (Marx, in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.)”

[15] Adam Smith, “The Wealth of Nations,” in Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts, Ed. Steven M. Cahn (Oxford University Press: 2011) p. 456.

[16] Eamonn Butler, The Condensed Wealth of Nations, The Adam Smith Institute, p. 11, http://www.adamsmith.org/sites/default/files/resources/condensed-WoN.pdf

[17] Ibid. pp. 11-12

[18] This is Smith’s famous “invisible hand” theory. See Smith, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” in Political Philosophy: The Essential Texts, Ed. Steven M. Cahn (Oxford University Press: 2011) p. 446. See also, Butler, p. 49.

[19] Smith, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” p. 449.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Butler, p. 30. Marx would of course wholly disagree with this. For Marx, the antagonism between the interests of the capitalist and the laborer were clear. The relationship between wage-laborer and capitalist is fundamentally a relationship of antagonism because the wage-laborer, separated from the means of production by the capitalist, is forced to sell their lives piece meal to the capitalist in order to survive whereas the capitalist seeks to exploit the wage-laborer to expand capital. See Pierre Lamarche, lecture, Jan. 27, 2014. Another interesting point of departure could be the issue of utility. The issue of utility raises a whole other host of questions from human psychological adherence to such to the economics and ethics of such.

[22] Maurice E. Stucke, “Auditing Self-Interest,” America: The National Catholic Review, December 14, 2009, http://americamagazine.org/issue/719/article/auditing-self-interest

[23] Brian Edgar Butler, “Law and Economics,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://www.iep.utm.edu/law-econ/

[24] Ibid.

[25] Richard A. Posner, “The Economic Approach to Law,” Philosophical Problems in the Law, Ed. David M. Adams (Wadsworth Cengage:2013) pp. 151-160.

[26] Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno, “The Culture Industry,” Enlightenment as Mass Deception, p. 99.

[27] Ibid. pp. 94-97

[28] Ibid. pp. 98-99

[29] Ibid. pp. 102-104

[30] Ibid. p. 109

[31] Ibid. p. 115

[32] Ibid. p. 131

[33] Ibid. p. 133

[34] Ibid. pp. 135-136

[35] Robert W. McChesney, The Problem and the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century, (Monthly Review Press: 2004) pp. 145-153.

[36] Ibid. p. 155.

[37] Ibid. p. 166

[38] Ibid. pp. 166-167

[39] Karl Marx, “Notebook VII,” Economic Manuscripts: Grundrisse, marxists.org, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch14.htm

[40] Ibid.

[41] Marxists.org, “Subsumption, Formal and Real,” http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/s/u.htm

[42] It is not lost on me that this entire paper is an argument. Thus, it is a sort of process of rationality to which Adorno and Horkheimer would take objection. They state: “No matter which myths are invoked against it, by being used as arguments they are made to acknowledge the very principle of corrosive rationality of which enlightenment stands accused. Enlightenment is totalitarian.” The Concept of Enlightenment, pp. 3-4, http://www.sup.org/html/book_pages/0804736324/Chapter%201.pdf. But, perhaps rationality is not the issue. The issue is an assumption within the mechanization of rationality. The issue is the transformation of critical thought (e.g. deconstruction and constructivism) to a mechanical, homogenous, thought process that leads to heteronomy. Adorno and Horkheimer seem to have no problem with thought in the former sense but do have a problem with thought in the latter sense. Perhaps both the former and the latter are forms of rationality when rationality is conceived of differently. Even if not, if we consider perspectivalism combined with a pragmatic view toward how we ought to orient ourselves and society, then rationality cannot be entirely precluded from human thought processes. Rationality is another perspective. Adorno and Horkheimer could agree. They state: “For enlightenment is totalitarian as only a system can be. Its untruth does not lie in the analytical method, the reduction to elements, the decomposition through reflection, as its Romantic enemies had maintained from the first, but in its assumption that the trial is prejudged” (Ibid., p. 18). The flaw of rationality is that its mechanization assumes all of nature, the world, humans, the universe, even the unknown is mechanized. Its flaw is that it assumes absolute truth and that these absolute truths are mathematically mechanized. Without these assumptions, the process itself is just another perspective. See also the text associated with footnote 56.

[43] Lamarche, lecture, March 24, 2014; See also Adorno and Horkheimer, The Concept of Enlightenment, p. 18.

[44] Ibid.; Adorno and Horkheimer, p. 6

[45] Adorno and Horkheimer, p. 6

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid. pp. 6-7

[48] Ibid. p. 9

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid. p. 10

[51] Ibid. p. 16

[52] Ibid. p. 19

[53] Cf. Lamarche, lecture, March 24, 2014

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Adorno and Horkheimer, p. 20

[57] Ibid. p. 19

[58] Ibid. pp. 21-22

[59] Lamarche, lecture, March 24, 2014

[60] Ibid. p. 23

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s