2014 conference abstracts

Main speakers

Heikki Ikäheimo (New South Wales)
From the Old Hegel to the Young Marx and Back: Recognition and Essentialism on Humanity in Marx’s Comments on James Mill

My aims in this paper are twofold. First, I wish to lay out what I think are the main elements of Hegel’s concept of recognition, and spell out how they relate to another, even more fundamental concept in Hegel’s Philosophy of Spirit, namely the concept of ‘concrete freedom’. Secondly, I aim to provide a clear picture of how exactly the concept, or concepts of recognition, as well as the Hegelian concept of concrete freedom figure in what is probably the most prominent text for a reading of Marx from this point of view, namely the Comments on James Mill written in Paris in 1844. Here I wish to clarify what exactly of Hegel’s conception is present and what remains absent in Marx’s Comments. Eventually, my aim is not merely scholarly, but also systematic since I believe the concepts of recognition, concrete freedom, as well as an idea that both the old Hegel and the young Marx shared that of a normative ontology of the human life-form – is something worth a serious philosophical scrutiny. In this presentation however, rather than trying to defend or develop this program further, I will concentrate merely on reconstructing and contrasting two different versions of it by Hegel and Marx.

Hans-Christoph Schmidt am Busch (Brunswick)
Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Theory of Recognition as Person

Douglas Moggach (Ottawa)
Perfectionism and Recognition: Leibniz, Wolff, Marx

The Leibnizian perfectionist ethic is based upon three fundamental principles derived from a reinterpretation of Roman law. They can be characterised as deontological, distributive, and developmental. By reconfiguring these principles, Christian Wolff offers a defence of enlightened absolutism as the vehicle for promoting happiness, understood as material, intellectual, and spiritual thriving, stressing the development of the local productive forces through state agency. In the process, Leibniz’s first principle, the right of spontaneity or self-causing action, is increasingly marginalised by Wolff and his eighteenth-century disciples. Following Fichte’s identification of spontaneity and labour, Marx’s own version of perfectionist ethics in the 1840’s is markedly, but problematically, post-Kantian in character. The recognitive dimension in this ethical programme will be contrasted with Fichte’s, and with pre-Kantian forms.

Graduate panel

Hannes Kuch (Stockholm)
A Hegelian Reading of Marx’s Concept of Recognition

In my talk I will explore the relationship of Hegel’s social philosophy and Marx’s early philosophical anthropology, and in particular, the affinity of Hegel’s theory of economic cooperation in ‘civil society’ to the recognition-based account of a communist society that Marx outlines in 1844. This proposal might appear rather ambitious, since Marx seems to be opposed to almost all the foundational concepts of Hegel’s social and political philosophy: He rejects Hegel’s idealism as well as Hegel’s separation of society and the state, he severely criticizes Hegel’s affirmation of private property, and of course he is deeply opposed to Hegel’s alleged anti-communism and his endorsement of the modern market. By contrast, in reading Marx’s vision of a communist form of producing for others against the background of what Hegel calls ‘Being for others’ in economic cooperation, I shall try to understand Marx in a Hegelian light, while making Hegel at the same a little bit more Marxian than is commonly assumed. In the course of my talk I will reflect on the relationship of implicit and explicit mutuality in economic cooperation, the connection of basic economic institutions and supplementary institutions, and the interplay between primary ends of action and secondary ends in the production for others. In his early writings Marx criticizes the formal recognition between individual property owners for leading to alienation and a struggle for domination over one another. Within this context Marx outlines a quite detailed sketch of a non-alienated form economic cooperation in a communist society. In this rather Feuerbachian account, true recognition fundamentally figures as the mirroring of oneself in the product of one’s essential forces as a species-being. These reflections on recognition, especially in the Comments on James Mill, have fuelled an extraordinary inspiring scholarship within the last one or two decades.

Valentinos Kontoyiannis (Sussex)
Marx and Mauss contra Habermas: Reification and Recognition in Production and Exchange

Since the so-called ‘communicative turn’ in Critical Theory, the Marxian concept of labour has been relegated to almost complete insignificance. Jürgen Habermas, who introduced this paradigm shift, contends that in his work Marx reduced interaction to labour and as a result, communicative action to instrumental action. According to this view, the Marxian concept of labour cannot provide an adequate explanation for the genesis of social norms or their reproduction; neither can it serve as a basis to test the status of their moral validity.

In response to the diminished importance of the Marxian concept of labour, several scholars have in recent years reread Marx’s social theory through the lenses of Hegel’s theory of recognition and highlighted the latter’s influence on Marx’s notion of labour. While these contributions are important and timely, most of them either focus too narrowly on Marx’s earliest writings and particularly on the notion of species being, or they lack a philosophical­anthropological justification that could serve as the basis of an account of the production and reproduction of social norms, and thus as a reply against Habermas’s criticism.

My approach to the themes of mutual recognition and misrecognition in Marx’s work is different from current approaches in two significant ways: (a) I rely on Marx’s notions of alienation and commodity fetishism to show the affinity between his critique of commodity production and exchange with Marcel Mauss’s theory of the gift in my attempt to ground the genesis, reproduction and justification of social norms on an ethic of reciprocity which emanates from socialised production and exchange, and (b) I briefly outline a research project which would address whether such reorganization of production and exchange can be achieved in complex and differentiated societies.

Igor Shoikhedbrod (Toronto)
Marx and the Struggle for Human Emancipation: What’s Recognition Got to Do with It?

My objective in this paper is threefold. First, I outline the evolution of Marx’s understanding of recognition from his formative Comments on James Mill to his historically-grounded account of recognition among socialized individuals in the Grundrisse and in Capital. Second, I argue against those who claim that the mature Marx replaced his earlier, Hegelian-inspired formulation of recognition with an interest-based and economistic theory that no longer emphasized recognition as such. Third, drawing upon the later work of Georg Lukács, I maintain that Marx’s account of recognition is neither too demanding nor unrealistic to warrant its dismissal in light of the complexities facing modern societies. Marx’s formulation of recognition provides a necessary corrective to dominant theories of recognition that have been held captive by a proprietary conception of personhood.