In a new review in Radical Philosophy Review, Thomas Klikauer discusses History and Obstinacy by Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt. Click here to learn more about the book. Click the button to the left to read the full article. An excerpt appears below.
“Written in the tradition of historical materialism, labor remains, as Claus Offe once said in a seminar I attended in Germany, “a key sociologi- cal category”. The powers of labor not only manifests themselves in com- modity production but also exists as social relations as they develop inside workplaces and the community of Brecht’s proletarian milieu. For Kluge and Negt, the product of obstinacy and labor is history. This explains the thoroughly historical character of the book. But this has never been a linear, one-dimensional and smooth history because labor also “possesses obsti- nacy when the authors note, ‘every act of fettering, plundering, and exploi- tation inflicted on a human characteristic entails, on the one hand, a loss— every adversity elicits, on the other hand, resistance, invention, a possible way out” (98).
Given this, the authors “seek to expand the concept of what constitutes labor’ just as they do with the concept of ‘production” (147). With this, Kluge and Negt “disrupt our habitual ways of seeing” (76) labor power, philoso- phy, history, and political sociology. But undeniably this also leads to what the authors call the “labor of annihilation” (418) and “labor as personal re- lationships” (364). In a rather brief section, Kluge and Negt apply Hegel’s philosophy to World War I drawing out on the multitude of interfaces pro- vided by the “master-slave relations” (262). They see social relations not so much in terms of Hegel’s and Honneth’s concept of recognition, but in- stead in terms of a conception in which recognition provides obstinacy and perhaps even revolution a ground, and a sociological-philosophical raison d'être. Kluge and Negt argue that it is labor—as opposed to recognition—that remains the fundamental category of all social relations.”