No revolution, nowhere?

Image: Diana Smykova


Considerations on the work of Robert Kurz, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of his death

On the ground of confrontation

“It is recommended that one seek, precisely today, the theoretical distance, not so much in the silence of the many years of development of the concept of the total work of art, but as a formulation of the conflict hand-to-hand in the field of debate.”[I] Ten years later, this statement by Robert Kurz has lost none of its relevance. On the contrary, after all, the required theoretical distance is still necessary. It is, however, precisely for this reason that it ceased to be a recommendation and began to designate needs: “in the field of debate”, “as a formulation of hand-to-hand conflict”.

I have not met Robert Kurz personally. If I'm here today, in front of you, it's only because I started to read it – belatedly, I've been told several times. I cannot, therefore, speak of the man Robert Kurz. I can, however, speak of the impression that reading his writings leaves on me. I imagine that this would not be to his displeasure, but I am not sure, precisely for the aforementioned reason.

Almost a year ago, at a meeting of value critics, I stated that my interest in the critique of value-dissociation, co-founded by Robert Kurz, stemmed from the aggravation of the crisis phenomena that accompany the destruction of the foundations of life, as well as from the perplexity associated to the state of apathy, the impression of paralysis and the attitude of ignorance that characterize these conditions.

Conceiving the commodity-producing modernity, which dominates our daily life as a fetish society – and, for the first time, “totalitarian”[ii] –, as Kurz proposed, represents, for me, the first step towards an answer to the question about the origin of this destruction and this apathy, this paralysis and this ignorance, an answer that goes beyond a psychologizing explanatory approach that threatens us. everywhere (including in psychoanalysis).

The pivot of this first stage is the Marxian use of the metaphor of the fetish[iii] to explain the capitalist mode of production, – and, therefore, mercantile socialization, “in which men entrusted the control of their most intimate relations, including their survival, to an external instance, even if created by themselves, and which begins to mediate social relations and thus constitutes a relationship of domination”[iv] – which is, in this sense, a subjectless domination.

The capitalist mode of production is “an extension of production for its own sake”, that is, “an irrational end in itself”. Marx designates this “true core of the paradoxical capitalist social relation”, the subject, through the “paradoxical metaphor” of the automaton subject, which should not be understood as “an individual being hidden somewhere out there”, but as “the social spell under the which human beings subject their own actions to the automatism of capitalized money”.[v]

It is from this that I understand the notion of crisis (as elaborated by the critique of value-dissociation) that accompanies the fundamental hypothesis – proposed by Robert Kurz – according to which the world we live in is the world of crisis of a “totalitarianism of socialization by value”.[vi] Therefore, precisely because the social condition of psychoanalysis is commodity-producing modernity, neither the couch nor the armchair are outside my practical activity as a psychoanalyst, nor what happens between the two.

That the necessary response to such conditions does not immediately emerge, the keywords suggest by themselves. After all, how to get out of your own fetish society, free yourself from subjectless domination, deny the value of the automaton subject? How to say no, how to refuse negative socialization? But at the same time, nothing explains why we have not always followed the proposal of the famous French cartoon of the early 1970s, The year 01: “We stopped everything. We reflect. And it's not sad."[vii]

Why is criticism of these conditions not a truism? Or, to put it another way, why does the push towards a critical theory of this crisis always end up in the water? How to justify the “current paralysis of radical criticism”[viii]?

Thirty years ago, Robert Kurz drew attention to the fact that “radical criticism must engage against the gravitational pull of existing, seemingly overwhelming conditions”, as a starting point for crafting an answer to these questions.[ix]. Unlike the physical law of gravity, this is not a natural law, but immediately, that is, essentially associated with the "seemingly almighty existent" - as a human fact. But gravity, in this sense, is also not something we can directly perceive – unless we step on the Moon or, as some would like, on Mars.[X] As long as our two feet are planted on this ground, we have to confront the invisible and immediately imperceptible adversary of the “apparently all-powerful existent” of which we are a part. So, it's something that glues us to the skin, so to speak, but that we can't remove because it sticks like it's from the inside. In other words: something that is not external to us.

How to fight against something that forces us and call into question the commonly accepted distinction between inside and outside? Psychoanalysis also has, par excellence, something to say about this – Robert Kurz, let it be said and passant, sensed this early on and tried to do it justice.[xi]

Thus we have our starting point: the ontological rupture with the history of fetishist relations has no basis[xii] – and the ontological need is insatiable[xiii]. This rupture and this need are therefore always-already intertwined, and for this reason they must be mediated by each other – in a transversal manner in relation to the usual points of reference – countercurrent, so to speak. This necessary mediation does not take place between external limitations and their subjective interiorization, or between the subject and the object, but is perceived as a problem of mediation between content and form.[xiv]


crisis and criticism

Ten and a half years ago, Robert Kurz wrote an open letter to those interested in the magazine Exit! - Crisis and critique of mercantile society[xv], founded after the breakup of Krisis. I gave my speech today the same title as that letter, but including a question mark. What I would like to present, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the death of Robert Kurz, this July 18, 2022, can be seen as the unfolding of this question mark: how to understand these words “no revolution, nowhere”?

Robert Kurz addressed his readers at the turn of the year 2011/12 to invite them to support the magazine in its “swimming against the current”. He did not do so, however, without first and critically opposing the “sudden inflation of the concept of revolution”, perceptible at that time, under the influence of the so-called Arab spring, the violent riots of young people from disadvantaged and underprivileged classes. hope in the United Kingdom, mass demonstrations against the Netanyahu government's policy in Israel, student rebellion in Chile against the neoconservative orientation of the education system, and movement protests Occupy in the United States against growing inequalities and against the power of the banks.

Robert Kurz's opposition is unequivocal: nowhere can we speak of revolution. But, everywhere, the serious social distortions concern the global structures of world capitalism – indications that are not, however, exactly or sufficiently understood and seen as such.[xvi]. Robert Kurz's interpretation? “Whoever does not want to understand and fight the capitalist totality has already lost his war”. And your conclusion? “Without revolutionary theory there is no revolutionary movement!”.

Along with Marx, he emphasizes “the importance of theoretical reflection”: “Marx rightly stressed that a truly revolutionary transformation only progresses to the extent that its beginnings and transitional phases are mercilessly criticized, in order to overcome them and to repel the its half-truths, fallacies and aberrations”.[xvii] What is decisive here is that this theoretical reflection must precisely be something more than a simple exercise in an academic rationalist style, but must consist of an examination of its own historical conditions.

Two years earlier, Robert Kurz had already taken care of the conditionality highlighted between the necessary (bottomless) ontological rupture and the ontological necessity that opposes the rupture with existing conditions. This break would have as a condition the recognition of the crisis, as well as the insufficiency of criticism and the respective formations of compromise are the consequence of this need. It is about enabling the transformation of this situation: the “categorical criticism without ontological reassurance and [the] categorical crisis as a strictly objective internal limit of the production of surplus value are mutually interdependent”.

This means saying that either the crisis and the critique touch their common categorical core, or they disappear at the same time and each one by its side; in the latter case, “a truncated critique, which does not go to the fundamentals” – therefore immanent – ​​does not want to know about the crisis and sustains “the postulate that the production of surplus value must be able to regenerate itself eternally”[xviii]. One year after the beginning of the so-called financial crisis of 2008, Robert Kurz points out here, once again, the categorical level of the crisis highlighted by the critique of value-dissociation, namely, that of an absolute internal limit of valuation that inevitably leads to the collapse of capitalist civilization; however, he also designates, in the same gesture, “a retreat in fear from the consequences of the categorical crisis, which stuns any capacity for reflection”.[xx]

From this, we understand why the already mentioned letter, written two years later, states that “the overdue theoretical renewal can only aim negatively at the false whole in an essentialist and anti-relativist way”.[xx]

That same year, Robert Kurz presented an overview of the internal historical context of capitalist development, stressing once again that this development obeys nothing but a crisis dynamic. The question of why capitalism survives each crisis is therefore misplaced. It is preferable to say that he lives from the crisis. Or, more precisely, and in response, that capitalism is the crisis.

And what about this crisis capitalism? Although he reminds us, in the blink of an eye, that, “unfortunately, Marx did not leave us a comfortable theory of the crisis, in pocketbook format”, Robert Kurz finds, even so, the beginning of an answer to this question in the thought of the founder of the critique of political economy – precisely in this context of a critical and in-depth reading of Marx with Marx and beyond Marx,[xxx] which includes the third volume of The capital, published eleven years after his death, in which his theory of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall is formulated[xxiii]. Robert Kurz concludes his reading by stating that “in the long run, the problem is not the periodic insufficiency of the realization of surplus value in the market, but, fundamentally, the very lack of its production”.[xxiii]

In other words, “the foundation or presupposition of Marx's theory of crisis is in the argument that presents the disappearance of 'work' itself”. From this point of view, the crisis “is nothing but the loss of objective substance of capital, through its own internal mechanism”. Work, according to Kurz, "leaves away, like sand through a hole in a bag, or like water through a crack in a pond."

In greater detail, the following occurs: “Capital is emptied and weakened, its life fed by work paralyzes. If one of the states of aggregation of the automatic subject, work, has to diminish the other, money – which remains without substance, and thus 'without validity' and itself obsolete. It paralyzes the relationship, or form of general social circulation, of the triple mediation through abstract labor, cash income, and commodity consumption. The whole apparently natural way of life based on these fetishistic relationships is ruined and made practically impossible. Then comes the light of day the absurdity that all the means and capabilities of a rich reproduction are abundant, but people, paralyzed by the 'invisible hand' of capital, cannot activate their own possibilities, because these no longer correspond to the end. itself irrational of the automatic subject.[xxv]

From this, we must recognize two things: on the one hand, that “the crisis does not develop in a linear way, but progressively”, that is, “presenting a historical tendency to increase”; on the other hand, and simultaneously, that these phases do not describe a future situation, but the current moment[xxiv] – and that was half a century ago.[xxv]


mediation of contradiction

One of the strengths of the “critique of value”, co-founded by Robert Kurz in the 1980s, is that it is developed “from capitalist immanence”. Of course, we can only indicate it here. The only way to understand it is to read the works of Robert Kurz as he conceived them: The collapse of modernization (1991)

The consequence of this immanent development, namely that the critique of value-dissociation can no longer “adopt a point of view of ontological identity and positive interest”, has been criticized several times and from different sides. It is, in any case, a mistake to see this attitude as a weakness of criticism. In fact, one can notice here, on the contrary, its true strength – which, on the other hand, confronts it with an incessant challenge. For the “contradiction in process” (Marx) of the capitalist system of commodity-producing modernity accompanies the “[affirmative] treatment of contradiction”[xxviii] within the system, which opposes the necessary critical “mediation of contradiction” (Kurz) – for example, in what this “treatment of contradiction” produces forms of immanent “counter-practice” that, however, “despite its external opposition and relation to the management of humans and the crisis, are an integral part of capitalist reproduction itself and refer [uniquely and exclusively] to the given social forms”[xxviii]. It is exactly here that we find a great proximity to the psychoanalytic approach, which does not treat the symptom as an “isolated and separate manifestation” – contrary to several other therapeutic approaches.

Once again: the starting point is the recognition of the contradiction: “capital is self-contradiction in process since, on the one hand, it has as its sole objective the incessant accumulation of value, or 'abstract wealth' (Marx), but, on the other, competition obliges, through the development of the productive forces, to render superfluous the workforce, which is the only source of this value, and to replace it with technical-scientific devices. However, the development of the productive forces is not the eternal return of the same, but an irreversible historical process”.[xxix]

This contradiction, however, is always confronted in an immanent and affirmative way – for example, when it comes to the fact that “the interest of the capitalist Dasein, leaving the treatment of the immanent contradiction, binds itself to the socially overlying ontologized fetishist categories, submitting them to to an interpretation, or real interpretation, that goes down to the murderous contents of sexism, racism and anti-Semitism”[xxx]. It is necessary, however, precisely to break with this treatment – ​​which preserves the capitalist process – and open the way for the mediation of the contradiction, in the same sense of overcoming it.

A fundamental idea of ​​the value-dissociation critique is that the “contradiction in process” and the “treatment of the contradiction” that derives from it undermine all categories of the modern system of commodity production. The “mediation” of this contradiction must therefore deal with all categories at once.

The following survey of elementary capitalist categories shows that it makes sense, in this context, to speak of the totality of the negative socialization of value.[xxxii]: (1) The abstract notion of “work”, (2) economic “value”, (3) the social presentation of products as “commodities”, (4) the general form of money, (5) the passage through “ markets", (6) the union of these markets into "national economies", (7) the "labour markets" as conditions of a mercantile, financial and market economy on a large scale, (8) the State as a "community abstract”, (9) the general and abstract “law” regulating all personal and social relations as a form of social subjectivity, (10) the form of the pure and finished State that is “democracy”, (11) the irrational masking, cultural and symbolic of national economic coherence in the “nation”.

It is, finally, the Marxian concept of value that shapes this categorical relation, and it has been so from the beginning. Robert Kurz not only highlighted that the “social form” [Formzusammenhang] of these fundamental categories of modern capitalist socialization, on the one hand, “is constituted through blind historical processes”, but, on the other hand, they were also “imposed on human beings by the respective protagonists and holders of power (themselves without awareness of the whole) in a process of pedagogization, habituation and internalization over centuries, resulting in the fact that these categories soon emerged as insurmountable anthropological constants, mocking all criticism”.[xxxi]. Robert Kurz, in this way and above all, deduced that, in this way, the “first difficulty of a categorical critique of capitalism” could be nothing other than “removing these categories from their status of tacit obviousness, making them explicit and only thus criticizable” .[xxxii]


work review

Although what has just been said means that it is not a question, in the spirit of radical criticism, of dissociating a category from its formal relationship with the others in order to criticize it individually, the “critique of value-dissociation” was, from the beginning, above all a “criticism of work”.[xxxv]

The greatest witness to this is the phrase by Robert Kurz, written five years after the publication of the 1999 manifesto and also published in the magazine Krisis – “workers from all over the world, enough!”. This sentence sums up the eighteen points of this “Manifesto against work”: “concrete work and abstract work are the same thing; they unite in the abstraction 'work' as real abstraction”.[xxxiv]

The abstract work category[xxxiv] does not, in fact, mean “nothing suprahistorical”[xxxviii], but presents itself, despite this, as a “metaphysical madness”[xxxviii]: it concerns “a matter of conscience”[xxxix], but it represents, at the same time, not only an “inversion of the concrete and the abstract”[xl], but also “the relation of the general and the particular [taken] in reverse”[xi]; and, thus, the abstract work bears witness to a “ghostly system” that he himself engendered – and within which he is “in the world, but not of the world”[xliii].

Just as value, as a real abstraction, imposes its form on the relationship between categories and the commodity has its character conferred by the fetishistic relationship, labor provides capital with its substance. unheimlich (of an unsettling strangeness). Abstract work, therefore, constitutes “the way in which the non-material and essential social principle appallingly confiscates the material world”[xiii]. The socialization that results from this must be qualified as negative – because for her, men are really in the world, but at the same time, they are not of the world.


Against the current, against gravity

From this, we understand that there is, truly, “no revolution” on the horizon, “nowhere”!

If it is true, as Robert Kurz once formulated, that the more the world becomes economic, the more it is affected by crises; and the more he is in crisis, the more economic consciousness becomes, albeit “in a totally atheoretical and uncritical way”[xiv] – what paths does this situation open up for a change in conditions or social relations?

"No revolution, nowhere" can also be understood another way, in the sense of Robert Kurz's introduction to his latest book, The unfinished theoretical revolution. This is the revolution started by Karl Marx. It is considered unfinished because, in order to be carried forward, a new reading is needed, another reading of Marx's work. And it was to the development of this new and another reading that Robert Kurz dedicated his life.

In the spirit of this reading, it is always a question of “restoring”, against the current and against the force of gravity, “a theoretical culture of criticism of political economy”[xlv]. In this same spirit, today, ten years after his death, Robert Kurz's work is far from complete.

I started with a quote. So I would like to end with a quote. More precisely, with three sentences from the beginning, that is, from a 1987 work that we always refer to as a founding text of the critique of value-dissociation. Thirty-five years later, these words haven't aged a second. On the contrary, they remain fresh and bear witness to the fire that burned in Robert Kurz: “The historically current task is the theoretical and practical preparation of a revolution that will liquidate value and, therefore, money. Everything else is just theoretical and ideological junk. The real bomb, as the core of Marx's work, his explosive legacy for the future, has yet to be ignited.[xlv].

*Frank Grohmann is a psychoanalyst in Berlin.

Presentation text in cafe Plume in Berlin, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the death of Robert Kurz.

Translation: Daniel Pavan.

Originally posted on the blog Grundrisse: Psychanalyse et capitalisme.



[I] Excerpt from the preface by KURZ, R. worthless money. Lisbon: Antigone, 2014. p.11.

[ii] KURZ, Robert. Bleeding Raison. Essais pour une critique émancipatrice de la modernité capitaliste et des Lumières bourgeoises, Crisis & Critique, Alibi, 2021, p. 83

[iii] Claus-Peter Ortlieb speaks of “the fetish character of the commodity, introduced metaphorically by Marx”; ORTLIEB, CP. (2019). “Westliche Werte? Aufklärung und Fetish”, Zur Kritik of modern Fetischismus, Scmetterling Verlag, Stuttgart, 2019, p.211; ten years earlier, Ortlieb was already speaking of Marx's “metaphorical use of the concept of fetish” for “mercantile socialization” – see Ortlieb, C.-P. (2002), “Die Aufklärung und ihre Kehrseite”, Zur Kritik of modern Fetischismus, aaO, p. 236.

[iv] ORTLIEB, C.-P. (2002), “Die Aufkläerung und ihre Jerhseite”, op. cit., ibid.

[v] KURZ, Robert. Read Marx. Translated by: Boaventura Antunes

[vi] KURZ, Robert (2004), bloody raison, op. Cit., p. 131.

[vii] “On arrête tout. On réflechit. Et c'est pas triste.” Gebe, The year 01 (1971), L'association, Paris, 2014.

[viii] KURZ, Robert. L'état n'est pas le sauveur supreme. Theses pour une theorie critique de l'État, Crisis & Critique, Alibi, 2022, p. 24.

[ix] KURZ, R. bloody raison, op.cit., p. 135. With regard to the current accusation of excessiveness in this struggle – given the ideological gravity – “the problem is thus inverted: the radical critique is accused of what should be blamed on the real social relationship. Rather than the real underlying relationship, it is the critique of ideology that appears as 'totalitarian'”. KURZ, R. The substance of the capital, L'échappée, Paris, p. 29.

[X] One way or another, we only notice a difference between the two conditions of the force of gravity on Earth. This difference is approximately one-sixth on the Moon and one-third on Mars.

[xi] Some indications: Robert Kurz already spoke, in 1992, of a “psychoanalytic dimension of the critique of the commodity form” (KURZ, R. “Geschlechtfetischismus Anmerkungen zur Logik von Weiblichkeit und Männlichkeit”, Krisis, 12, 1992; a year later, he said that “the key concept to understand this 'third' that represents the really constitutive element is the unconscious” (KURZ, R. “Domination sans sujet”, bloody raison, op. Cit. P. 278); at the dawn of the new millennium, we find his observation that “psychoanalysis prematurely declared dead” (but also “the feminist critique of language”) contains “unexplored possibilities”, not only for discovering “the repressed history and false objectification of the restrictions capitalists”, but, at the same time, for making visible “the process of psychic 'interiorization' of these restrictions”. (KURZ, R. “Die kulturelle Richtung des 21. Jahrhunderts. Symbolische Orientierung und neue Gesellschaftskritik”); and, still at the turn of the year 2014/15, Claus-Peter Ortlieb wrote: “Most of the questions regarding the nature of the … fetish spell and how to break it remain open. To elucidate them, it could be interesting to make the psychoanalytic categories fruitful for the value-dissociation theory” (ORTLIEB, C.-P. “Krisenwirren”, Zur Kritik des modernen Fetischismus. Die Grenzen bürgerlichen Denkens, Schmetterling Verlag, Stuttgart, 2019, p.343).

[xii] KURZ, R. Bloody Raison, op.cit., p.184.

[xiii] Ibid., “Decantatore 191” (Presenze grafiche).

[xiv] “In this fetishism of a socialization of dead things instead of living men, which constitutes the essence of the automaton subject, a relation of form and substantial content is established which is both real and ghostly.” KURZ, R. “Marx 2000”, Weg und Ziel, 2 / 99.

[xv] “In this fetishism of a socialization of dead things rather than living men themselves, which constitutes the essence of the automaton subject, a substantial relationship of form and content is established which is both real and ghostly.” KURZ, R. (2000), “Marx 200), Weg und Ziel, 2 / 99

[xvi] And therefore: on all sides, be it a brutal repression, be it a smooth instrumentation of the revolt.

[xvii] KURZ, R. »Keine Revolution, nirgends«, op. cit., p. 156.

[xviii] KURZ, R. (2009), »Weltkrise und Ignoranz«, EXIT!, 6, 2009. Cité ici d'après la réimpression dans Weltkrise und Ignoranz. Capitalismus im Niedergang, Edition Tiamat, Berlin, 2013, p. 205.

[xx] Ibid., P. 209.

[xx] KURZ, R. (2012), »Keine Revolution, nirgends«, op. cit., p. 161.

[xxx] And that, as each one says, leads to the recognition of a “double” Marx, an “exoteric” Marx and an “esoteric” Marx.

[xxiii] “For every monetary capital invested, the share of physical capital constantly increases, provided that the number of workers mobilized by this variation regularly decreases. (...) As only labor power produces new value, the average profit on the scale of society must decrease by the advanced money capital, however much the relative share of surplus value in the value production of a labor power increases. For the social result, what counts is the relationship of magnitude between two opposing tendencies”. KURZ, R. (2012), »Die Klimax des Kapitalismus. Kurzer Abriss der historischen Krisendynamik«, Weltkrise und Ignoranz. Capitalismus im Niedergang, op. cit., p. 233

[xxiii] Ibid., P. 232. “Capitalism reaches its climax when internal expansion is achieved and surpassed by the development of the productive forces. Then, the relative fall in the rate of profit is transformed into an absolute fall in the social mass of surplus value and, therefore, of profit. Thus, the expected eternal appreciation of value is transformed into its historical devaluation. Ibid., P. 235.

[xxv]  KURZ, Robert. Read Marx. Translated by: Boaventura Antunes

[xxiv]  “It will certainly be necessary to examine in more detail how the third industrial revolution of microelectronics actually led to the absolute internal limit of capital. But it is precisely this examination that is rejected by the academic scientific body, as well as by the pathetic rest of the political left. KURZ, Robert. Read Marx. Translated by: Boaventura Antunes

[xxv] “The crisis is less analyzed than repressed and denied. The paradox remains in the fact that economic theory breaks down the more quickly the more clearly the crisis of economic categories manifests itself.” Ibid, see also Grohmann, F. (2020), »Die Vermittlung des Widerspruchs und die doppelte Aufgabe der Psychoanalytiker«, Junktim — Forschen und Heilen in der Psychoanalyse, #3, Umwelt, Krise, Unbewusstes, Turia & Kant, Wien, Berlin, 2020.

[xxviii] See in detail: KURZ, R. “Grey is the golden tree of life and green is the theory”, available at: <>

[xxviii] “It can be concluded that the treatment of contradiction at the level of “practical praxis” in its multiple spheres and mediations is never originary, direct and, so to speak, reflexively innocent, but instead always pregnant with ideology and steeped in “theory”. ”, even if the everyday conscience does not realize it. In the permanent and “suffered” (real) interpretation of capitalism, “theoretical praxis” and “practical praxis” are equally ideological praxis and united precisely for that reason. This “ideological praxis” represents the true mediating relationship of the negative unity between theory and praxis; constitutes a key component of capitalist reproduction, since it enters into material and social action fetishically constituted of valuing value and dissociation.” Ibid.

[xxix] “As Marx shows in floorplans, we are moving towards a situation in which products will indeed be goods of common use, but they cannot represent, as commodities, a sufficient amount of human labor power. They become unsalable because they no longer represent any abstract value. This is not a purification, but an 'internal barrier' (Marx) of capital”. Kurz, R. (2012), »Die Klimax des Kapitalismus«, op. cit., p. 232.

[xxx] KURZ, R. “Grey is the golden tree of life and green is the theory”, available at: <>

[xxxii] KURZ, Robert. Read Marx. Translated by: Boaventura Antunes

[xxxi] “The economic sciences, and with them all the other fully developed social sciences (which today are definitively degraded to simple auxiliary sciences, not to say auxiliary theoretical police of the economic sciences), do not have the capitalist categories of work, value, merchandise, money. , market, state, politics, etc. as object, but how blind assumption of his "scientific" reasoning. The subject form of commodity exchange, the transformation of labor power into money and money capital into surplus value (profit) is not questioned in its “what” and “why”, but only in its functional “how”. , just as scientists only analyze the “how” of so-called natural laws.” Ibid.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxv] KURZ, R. “Grey is the golden tree of life and green is the theory”, available at: <>

[xxxiv] KURZ, R. (2004), The substance of the capital, Crisis & Critique, Albi, 2019, p. 118.

[xxxiv] “Only the modern commodity production system, with its autotelic purpose of permanently transforming human energy into money, came to create that particular domain, “separated” from all other social relations and abstracted from any content, which bears the name of sphere of work – the sphere of non-autonomous, unconditional, non-relational, robotic activity, separated from the rest of the social context and obeying an abstract finalist rationality of «business economy», regardless of needs. (…) The accumulation of «dead work» as capital, represented in the form of money, is the only «meaning» that the commodity production system knows.” Group Krisis, “Manifesto against work”. Available at: <>

[xxxviii] “In its specific historical form, [abstract labor] is nothing other than the abstract expenditure of human labor power and the consumption of nature's raw materials in the entrepreneurial economy. (…) Work, in this strange abstraction, can also be defined by its strange character as an end in itself”. Kurz, R. (1991), L'effondrement de la modernisation. From l'écroulement du socialisme de barracks to the crisis du marché mondial, Crisis & Critique, Albi, 2021, p. 32.

[xxxviii] “«Dead work»? A metaphysical madness! Yes, but a metaphysics that has become a palpable reality, an "objectified" madness that dominates this society with an iron fist. In the eternal buying and selling, men do not relate to each other as conscious social beings, they limit themselves to executing as social automatons the autotelic purpose that is prescribed for them.” Group Krisis, “Manifesto against work”. Available at: <>

[xxxix] As far as “metaphysical madness” is concerned, it is “neither a material problem, nor a technical or organizational problem, but only a matter of conscience. In order to survive as a civilization, humanity must free itself from the brainwashing of liberalism and its Benthanian system, that is, in a way, regurgitate the limits and internalized impositions of the blind money machine, in order to be able to confront, without prejudice, with the relationship between available resources and their rational social use. This would mean no longer wishing to group the dominant social forms, categories and criteria in a different combination, but abolishing them purely and simply.” Kurz, R. (1999), Schwarzbuch Capitalismus. Ein Abgesang auf die Marktwirtschaft, Eichborn, Frankfurt am Main, 1999, p. 783.

[xl] “The inversion of means and ends corresponds, therefore, to an inversion of the concrete and the abstract; the concrete is nothing more than the expression of the abstract, rather than the other way around. The so-called “concrete work” and the corresponding spectrum of “use values” are thus not the “good” side of the needs-oriented system, but are themselves the concrete manifestation of a real abstraction. This is because the activity of concrete production appears socially only as a “carrier” of this abstraction. It does not exist in itself, but is subject to the dictum of “value enhancement”. “Concrete work” therefore also produces irrational and destructive results on the use-value side; and, without being aware of it, all participants continue to be tied to the structural limitations of the system”. Kurz, R. (1999), « Marx 2000 », Weg und Ziel, 2 / 99.

[xi] “I would be tempted to say that these Marxian definitions reflect the real paradox of the capital relation and its value-centered socialization, for in the event capital effectively ('really') reduces the concrete, the infinite diversity of the world, to abstraction, and completely inverts the relationship between the universal and the particular. Instead of the universal emanating from the particular, the particular finds itself demoted to the level of a manifestation of the totalitarian universal. With regard to the concrete, it no longer represents the structured diversity of the particular, but is the 'expression' of the abstract-real universal, of the universal 'substance'.” KURZ, R. (2004), The substance of the capital, op. cit., p 50-51.

[xliii] “This phantasmatic system of 'abstract work' as a form of movement of 'abstract wealth' is in the world, but it is not of the world. He is not a god, but the victim awakens in a truly ghostly, synthetic life of his own.” Kurz, R. (2012), Geld ohne Wert. Grundrisse zu einer Transformation der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, Horlemann, Berlin, 2012, p. 404.

[xiii] Kurz, R. (2004), The substance of the capital, op. cit., p. 44

[xiv] KURZ, Robert. Read Marx. Translated by: Boaventura Antunes

[xlv] Ibid

[xlv] KURZ, R. (1987), »Abstrakte Arbeit und Sozialismus. Zur Marxschen Werttheorie und ihrer Geschichte«, Marxistische Kritik, 4, December 1987.


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