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Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of Epistemology by Alfred Sohn-Rethel; Martin Sohn-Rethel; Marxism and Materialism: A Study in Marxist

Theory of Knowledge by DavidHillel Ruben Review by: William H. Shaw The American Historical Review, Vol. 84, No. 3 (Jun., 1979), pp. 708-709 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the American Historical Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 01/03/2012 16:10
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Reviewsof Books

and Manual LaSOHN-RETHEL. Intellectual bour: A Critique Epistemology. of Translated by MARALFRED TIN SOHN-RETHEL.

manities Press. 1978.

AtlanticHighlands,N.J.: HuPp. XiV, 2I6. $I9.00.

ory and ContemporaryCapitalism.) Atlantic Highlands, NJ.: HumanitiesPress. I978. Pp. x,

199. $20.00.

DAVID-HILLEL RUBEN. Marxism and Materialism: A Studyin Marxist Theory Knowledge. of (Marxist The-

embarkson a strange,if not incoherent, project. The author believes that if societyis to control technology ifmentaland manual labor are to and be integrated-two laudable Marxiangoals-then it is necessary demonstrate onlythe social to not rootsof sciencebut the social prerequisites inof tellectual abstraction itself. Turning Marx's disto cussionofexchangein Capital, Sohn-Rethel seizes on what he considers "abstractness"inherent the in commodity exchange.This consists, primarily, in thefactthatin themarket-place exchange the of goods is separated("abstracted") from theirconand moneyemerges the bearerofan as sumption, abstraction, namely,exchangevalue. These "abstractions" carriedout unconsciously, they are but nonetheless generatesuch nonempirical concepts as time,space, matter, and quantity motion, with which the intellect,especially in science, must work.Kant, to whom the authorcompareshimsuch conceptswere supplieda priori self,thought by the mind as it organized sense experience; Sohn-Rethelsees them as a result of the commodity process. The intellect,however,is not aware ofthesocialgenesisofitsbasic concepts and so views itself, as incorrectly, self-sufficient and independentof manual labor-hence, the unhappy schismbetweenmentaland physicalwork and the alienationof sciencefrom society. Regardlessofwhat one makesofSohn-Rethel's intendedenterprise, one will search his book in vain forany conceptualor proceduralclarity-or

Alfred Sohn-Rethel's Intellectual Manual Labour and

indeed for anythingresemblingargument.His themeis frequently voiced,Marx is quoted, and but manysentences strung are together, thereader is continuallyhard pressed to understandwhat point the author thinkshe is makingor how it supports thesis. his and David-Hillel Ruben's Marxism By contrast, and competence. is Materialism a model of clarity to Although Ruben's book is directed thosein the he at Marxisttradition, is evidently homewiththe stanand sensitiveto the professional literature dardsofcontemporary non-Marxist, Anglo-American philosophy. Rubencontends thatifMarxistmaterialism to is be consistent, then it requires a correspondence of theory knowledge. returns Kant in order He to to make his case, showinghow Kant's beliefthat all knowledge the presupposes interpretive activity of thought cannot be squared with his commitment theexistence objectsindependent to of of the mind.Hegel and Feuerbachgraspedopposite horns of this dilemma, and Marx followedthe latterin adoptinga materialist As perspective. a materialist, though,he mustalso hold the epistemologicalthesis that truth consistsin the correto spondenceof thought the world. The author thenturns, appropriately, arguing to that a correspondence reflection) (or theory-althoughconsidered manyMarxiststo be fatally by undialectical-is, whensuitably stated, acceptable from Marxistpointofview.In hisfinal the chapter Ruben reviewsLenin's attempt formulate to such cluding that, althoughLenin's heart was in the rightplace philosophically, confuseda refleche tiontheory knowledge of withan untenable reflecof tiontheory perception. Ruben is precisein his terminology careful and to distinguish related but distinctphilosophical positions.He discusses Kant, Hegel, and Marx with intelligence, and his basic thesis is sensible and well argued. One mightwish, however, that theauthorhad been moreambitious. pavesthe He of way fora materialist theory knowledge does but not actuallydevelopone; nordoes he attendto the
a theory in Materialismand Empirio-Criticism, con-


problems thatcontemporary non-Marxist philosophers have raised forcorrespondence theoriesof the typehe suggests. These are big tasks. Perhaps Ruben will be kindenoughto undertake themin the future.


theorysufficient praxis? Afterall, it was not as Marx with his theory, but Lenin and Mao with their praxis who did succeed in changing the world. And thereis a price to be paid forrevolution. That is the dilemma.

University Tennessee, of Nashville

San Francisco StateUniversity

zen Books. I977. Pp. xv, 340. Cloth $I5.00, paper $6.95.
in the course of the ig6os, moved froma phenome-


The Marxian Legacy.New York: Uri-

L.. STINCIICOMBE. ARTlITR Theoretical Methodsin Socmal History. (Studies in Social Discontinuity.) New York: Academic Press. I978. Pp. x, I30. $Io100.

Dick Howard was a memberofthe New Leftwho,

nological-existential stanceto the Marxistunity of theoryand praxis. Marxist theoryenabled the New Leftto discoverthat the locus of political actionwas thatsphereoftheeveryday thatis civil of in society.But the disintegration the movement the I970s forces Howard to ask anew, 'what is the political?" as the foundationfor revolutionary praxis.Marxismis not a closed system. Rather,it is a project that mediates philosophyand the world. In a different situation, one must rethink the Marxistproject.Therefore, Howard goes back to interrogate thoseseminalMarxistthinkers who had similarconcernsabout the applicationof the Marxistunityof theory and praxisto theirsituations-namely Luxemburg,Bloch, Horkheimer, Habermas,Sartre,Merleau-Ponty, Claude Lefort, and CorneliusCastoriadis. This book is neitherintellectual nor portraiture history ideas but a personal,criticalstudy of of theseeightthinkers orderto renewthe Marxist in of unity theory and praxis. 'I willbe starting from the premises Marx, adaptinghis methodto the of present, and thenusingthe structure thatpresof ent-includingthe lessonoftheNew Left-to criticize Marx. This does notlessentheimportance of within Mania Marx; norshouldit be interpreted chaean friend-foe context"(p. 20). Howard is honest and forthright hiscriticism thepositivism, in of elitism,and bureaucratization in inherent Marxism. Nevertheless, believesthatMarxismis still he the only philosophyto open a horizon in our world. And he is acute in his evaluation of the thinkers. eight Mlarxist The authorconcludesthat"Castoriadisand Lefort have opened up the dimension the political of whichhad fortoo long been takenforgrantedby It the revolutionaries. is to the structure and suppositions of this political project that attention mustnow be turned"(p. 300). This bookis in itself an admirableproject.And, forHoward, thequest forthe politicalprojectis the nexttask. But thereis a gnawingquestion:Is theprojectof

This is a book by a sociologist about the relationship betweengeneraltheories and historical studies that challenges the conventional sociologist's notionof theory and data but confirms workthe ing instincts the ordinary of historian. is a "perIt sonal" book in that it is not a systematic treatise on thesubjector evena review theliterature of but a seriesofcase studieson the writings Trotsky, of de Tocqueville, Smelser,and Bendix to discover how theorists actuallydo historical studiesas opposed to what theysay theydo. The book is also personalin thatthe introduction conclusions and are writtenin an argumentative and sometimes didactic stylethat has overtones classroominof tellectualprovocation. ArthurL. Stinchcombe's contention is primary thatcausal theory, and especiallytheories epoof chal historicalmovements change, should be or derivedfromempiricalstudies and fromthe deof tailedconstruction analogiesbetweeninstances, notdeducedfrom generaltheoretical suppositions. Thus he analyzesthestrategies selectedauthors of to see howtheygo about theory makingregardless oftheirpresumedtheoretical commitments. an In
excellent chapter on Trotsky's History theRussian of Revolution and de Tocqueville's Old Regimeand the

French Revolution, Stinchcombe showshow Trotsky in analyzes the revolution termsof the exerciseof political authorityand the situations and dispositionsthat channelthe choicespeople maketo sustainor replace an existing regime.In the Russian Revolution analysis focuseson the breakthe down ofthe authority thetsarist of regimeand on theway in whichcompeting includorganizations, to ingthe stateand the Bolshevik party, attempted become the channel throughwhich solutionsto politicaland economicproblemscould be found. of pattern historical change describedin termsof an initialfunctionally a integrated situation, procfamilies ess of change in which working-class adapted household and familyneeds to the exand the cumulaigenciesofa new factory system, tion of choices which,once made, built up a new
In his analysis of Smelser's Social Change in the IndustrialRevolution, Stinchcombe finds a similar