Postone’s book argues that, contrary to traditional Marxist readings, Marx’s critical theory is not, most fundamentally, a critique of class exploitation and an affirmation of labor. More basically, it uncovers a historically specific form of social interdependence that structures modernity itself as a form of social life. This form of interdependence gives rise to peculiar, abstract forms of domination that cannot fully be understood in terms of the domination of a class or of any concrete social or political entity. These forms of domination are not static, but temporal. They generate a historical dynamic that is at the very heart of capitalist modernity.
This reading of Marx’s analysis provides the basis for a critical approach that could point beyond the increasingly manifest inadequacies of poststructuralism, deconstruction, and traditional Marxist approaches in ways that could contribute fruitfully to a more adequate understanding of our social universe.
Moishe Postone is the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of Modern History at the College at the University of Chicago, where he also is Co-Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory and Co-Editor of Critical Historical Studies. He received his Dr. Phil. (summa cum laude) in political science/sociology from the J.-W.-Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt a.M. in 1983, was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Psychosocial Studies in Chicago (1983—1987) and, since 1987, has been teaching social theory and intellectual history at the University of Chicago. He has written extensively on Marx, Critical Theory, recent global transformations, and modern anti-Semitism.
History and Heteronomy: Critical Essays, Tokyo 2009; with Eric Santner (eds.), Catastrophe and Meaning: The Holocaust and the Twentieth Century, Chicago 2003; Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory, New York and Cambridge 1993.
Responding to the far-reaching transformations of recent decades, Moishe Postone will outline an approach that seeks to place consideration of the historical dynamics of modernity at the center of critical social analysis.