Hans-Georg Backhaus

Hans-Georg Backhaus’s classic account of Marxian value theory

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"Although one must hold on to the painstakingly achieved insight that Marx's critique of economic categories transcends the scope of economics as a field, the analysis of the forms of value -- oriented toward philosophical categories -- must be understood in its function of sublating the antinomies of economics as a field. In a modification of the fourth Thesis on Feuerbach, Marx's critique of Ricardo can be characterized as follows: Ricardo assumes the fact of economic self-alienation, the doubling of the product into a thing of value, something imaginary, and a real thing. His theory consists in resolving value into labour. He overlooks that the main task still remains to be performed. The fact, namely, that the product is set apart from itself and is fixed beyond consciousness, as an independent realm of economic categories, can only be explained by the self-fragmentation and self-contradictory nature of social labour. This must itself therefore be understood first of all in its contradiction, in order to be practically revolutionized by the abolition of the contradiction. Thus, for example, after labour has been discovered as the secret of value, the former must itself be theoretically criticized and practically overturned. Methodologically, we are dealing here with the already demonstrated problematic of the advancement from the abstract to the concrete, from value to the form of appearance of value."

The classic collection of essays which were instrumental in initiating the New German Reading of Marx as well as revitalizing value-form theory and critical theory has never been fully translated into English. It is contracted to be published by the Historical Materialism Book Series. But we need your help!

The wave of Marxian scholarship known as the New German Reading of Marx that emerged in West Germany in the late-sixties and seventies has received unprecedented interest due to the popularity of its reception by authors such as Michael Heinrich, Moishe Postone, Werner Bonefeld, Christopher Arthur, Patrick Murray, Riccardo Bellofiore and Simon Clarke. However, little of this work has been translated into English.

We are planning to translate a series of seminal texts in the New German Reading of Marx by authors such as Hans-Georg Backhaus, Helmut Reichelt, Alfred Schmidt, Alfred Sohn-Rethel, and important later contributions such as those by Helmut Brentel, Joachim Hirsch, Dieter Wolf, Ingo Elbe, Roswitha Scholz, Nadja Rakowitz, Sonja Buckel, Sven Ellmers, Andreas Harms, Dirk Braunstein and Frank Engster. The first work in this series will be Hans-Georg Backhaus’s essay collection: Dialectic of the Value-Form. 

This seminal collection of ten essays on Marxian value theory, the critique of political economy, and its critical potential consists in the vastly important contributions Backhaus made to the New German Reading of Marx, which are still important for those interested in Value-Form Theory and Frankfurt School Critical Theory today.

We are now raising funds for the translation of Dialectic of the Value-Form, which will cost $6,600. All donations over $100 will receive a free copy of the book.

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We are also set to translate:

Alfred Sohn-Rethel, Warenform und Denkform: Aufsätze [Commodity-Form and Thought-Form: Essays]

Helmut Reichelt, Zur logischen Struktur des Kapitalbegriffs bei Karl Marx[On the Logical Structure of the Concept of Capital in Marx] and Neue Marx-Lektüre. Zur Kritik sozialwissenschaftlicher Logik [New Marx-Reading: A Contribution to the Critique of Social Scientific Logic]

Dieter Wolf, Der dialektische Widerspruch im Kapital. Ein Beitrag zur Marxschen Werttheorie [The Dialectical Contradiction in Capital: Marx’s Theory of Value – A Contribution]

Ingo Elbe, Marx Im Westen. Die neue Marx-Lektüre in der Bundesrepublik seit 1965 [Marx in the West: The New Marx-Reading in the Federal Republic of Germany since 1965]

Roswitha Scholz, Das Geschlecht des Kapitalismus. Feministische Theorien und die postmoderne Metamorphose des Kapitals [The Gender of Capitalism: Feminist Theories and the Postmodern Metamorphosis of Capital]

Dirk Braunstein, Adornos Kritik der politischen Ökonomie [Adorno’s Critique of Political Economy]

Joachim Hirsch, Materialistische Staatstheorie. Transformationsprozesse des kapitalistischen Staatensystems [Materialist Theory of the State: Processes of Transformation in the Capitalist State System]

Helmut Brentel, Soziale Form und ökonomisches Objekt, Studien zum Gegenstands- und Methodenverständnis der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie [Social Form and Economic Object: Studies on the Understanding of Object and Method in the Critique of Political Economy]

Nadja Rakowitz, Einfache Warenproduktion. Ideal und Ideologie [Simple Commodity Production: Ideal and Ideology]

Andreas Arndt, Karl Marx: Versuch über den Zusammenhang seiner Theorie [Karl Marx: An Approach to his Theory as an Interconnected Whole]

Andreas Harms, Warenform und Rechtsform. Zur Rechtstheorie von Eugen Paschukanis [Commodity-Form and Form of Right/Law: On Evgeny Pashukanis’ Theory of Right/Law]

Sonja Buckel, Subjektivierung und Kohäsion. Zur Rekonstruktion einer materialistischen Theorie des Rechts [Subjectification and Cohesion: A Contribution to the Reconstruction of a Materialist Theory of Right/Law]

Sven Ellmers, Freiheit und Wirtschaft. Theorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft nach Hegel [Freedom and Economy: The Theory of Bourgeois Society After Hegel]

Frank Engster, Das Geld als Maß, Mittel und Methode: Das Rechnen mit der Identität der Zeit [Money as Measure, Means and Method: Calculating with, and Banking on, the Identity of Time]