Reification, Money, and Wage Labour: A Defense of the Classical Theory

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: Booth 63
Oral Presentation
Christoph HENNING , School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Reification, Money, and Wage Labour: A Defense of the Classical Theory

Reification is not a new topic, neither in Sociology nor in Social Philosophy: Authors such as Berger/Luckmann, Hannah Arendt and Helmut Plessner, or G.W.F. Hegel have described it already. Astonishingly, however, when Axel Honneth 'reconstructed' this concept from the angle of his normative theory of recognition in 2005, he did not include the 'classic' factors of reification: money and wage labour, in his new version of the theory. This lead, or so I will argue, to a re-idealisation of the concept which had more in common with Hegel than it had with the classical Critical theory that used this term in a Marxist understanding.

Against this moralization and de-economisation of the term, this paper argues for a re-economised theory of reification. The starting point for an alternative reconstruction, however, is not History and Class Consciousness, but the political economy of Karl Marx himself, who already used the term in an interesting way (e.g. in Vl. III of Capital). The paper will first develop and defend a sociological interpretation of Marx's Parise manuscripts (1844) and Capital (1867), where Marx identifies the mechanisms of a monetarized economy and a production based on wage labour as the main drivers of a capitalistic 'reification' of social relations. In a second step I will apply this reformulated classical theory of reification to today's globalized and flexibilized economy. I would like to suggest that conceptually the 'classic' tradition of Critical theory still has a lot to offer for an analysis of contemporary capitalism.