Theory and Praxis of Romantic Anti-Capitalism

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Matthias István Köhler, Goethe University, Frankfurt/Main. Germany


    With the ongoing economic crisis and the inability of political elites to solve it, we are facing a wave of critique of capitalism and even anti-capitalist sentiment. From a Marxist perspective one should be glad about this. But a closer look at the arguments in TV-shows and newspapers or internet shows that this critique is focusing almost exclusively on moral issues. Words like greed or insatiability are leading the discourse about the reasons for the crisis. The related conclusion would be that the economic crisis is in reality a crisis of morality and to solve the problem we have to restore the sense of morality in society in order to regain faith and trust in its institutions. We see this argument ranging from the far-right to liberals and even to the social movements. Its roots can be traced back into the time of romanticism. However, the argument is turning cause and effect. Bourgeois society is not in crisis because of a lack of morality; on the contrary, the suspension of morality is the fundament of its functioning. The Hegelian division of the modern individual in bourgeois and citoyen is the necessary consequence of this suspension.
    In my paper I would like to argue that the moral critique of capitalist society based on romantic conceptions is leading us nowhere; actually, as Georg Lukács points out, it is working as “indirect apologetics”. Taking the example of romantic anti-capitalism I would like to show that praxis is always based on theoretical assumptions, even if those are not conscious. In fact, from a Marxist point of view, the revelation of these unconscious theoretical assumptions is to show that history and society are made by humans, even if they don’t (want to) know.