If Marx’s opus Capital provided the foundational account of the forces of production in all of their objective, machine formats, what happens when the concepts of political economy are applied not to dead labor, but to its living counterpart, the human subject? The result is Kluge and Negt’s History and Obstinacy, a breathtaking archaeology of the labor power that has been cultivated in the human body over the last 2,000 years.
Supplementing classical political economy with the insights of fields ranging from psychoanalysis and phenomenology to evolutionary anthropology and systems theory, History and Obstinacy examines the complex ecology of expropriation and resistance as it reaches down into the deepest strata of unconscious thought, genetic memory, and cellular life. First published in 1981, this epochal collaboration has now been edited, expanded, and updated by the authors in response to global developments of the last decade to create an entirely new analysis of “the capitalism within us.”
“This book is an astounding manifestation of an improbable constellation between a great writer/filmmaker and an important social philosopher. Readers will enjoy the illuminating insights and surprising discoveries from the revealing assemblage of ideas, arguments, and imaginations.” —Jürgen Habermas
“Finally, the English-language public has access to this, the most ambitious German theoretical construction since the War and an extraordinary, unsettling, and paradoxical journey through history and the construction of subjectivity, the pedagogies of labor, and the ceaseless struggles and coalitions between affect and habit — a well-nigh Blochian excavation of the layers of history and the production of the future. The richness of examples, parables, and illustrations, the unexpected originalities and unforeseeable philosophical stimulations of this unclassifiable work, are comparable, if in little else, to the shock of Deleuze and Guattari’s great collaborations.” —Fredric Jameson
“By presenting theory as montage with photos, highlighted text, excursuses, diagrams, and box quotes, History and Obstinacy takes up the legacies of the historical avant-garde, but it does so in an anti-vanguardist mode. As it explores materialist anthropology, the archeology of labor power, and histories and stories of defiance and tenacious resistance, it turns its political attention toward the extended past that grounds our evolving present. In its search for answers about the neglected organic and subjective dimension of capital’s logic, this book speaks more directly to our current condition than its historical origin in a period of post-1960s disorientation might suggest. An indispensable message in a bottle from another time and a pleasure to read.” —Andreas Huyssen