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Fredric Jameson on Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge

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In honour of the Radical Thinkers competition, we publish an extract from Fredric Jameson's Ideologies of Theory. The extract is an examination of Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge's critiques of liberalism, in which Jameson conducts a tantalising study of Public Sphere and Experience, a prize in the aforementioned competition!

Nine years separate Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung and Geschichte und Eigensinn, the two collaborative works of Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge. What first strikes the "materialist" reader (the reader of physical books, rather than of "ideas") is the evidence they exhibit of the typographic revolution that—along with the postmodern, the end of the 1960s, and the defeat of the Left—intervenes between them. The first of the two clearly suffers under the constraints of classical discursive form. Its six official chapters, which set out to establish a theory of the "proletarian" public sphere, find themselves forced against their will to produce instead the rudiments of a theory of the bourgeois public sphere. Here everything has already begun to flee into the footnotes and appendices: three "excurses" and some twenty separate "commentaries" now fill up a third of a five-hundred-page volume, into which already a few illustrations begin to emerge.


Elsewhere in the various theoretical zones of the "First World," new ideologies of the heterogeneous and of Difference have begun to inspire "rhizomatic" notions of form: Deleuzian "plateaus" are being laid out side by side in separate and seemingly unrelated chapters, while the two stark columns of Glas dare you to figure out when to jump from one to the other. But even more definitively the discontinuities of Kluge's stories and films bar any return to the traditional essay or treatise, closing the road with a landslide of rubble ("You can imagine the problem of antagonistic realism in terms of the analysis of the site of an explosion. The explosion scattered objects across a wide area. The force of the explosion, in other words, what really moved, is no longer present..." [GE, 348]). Benjamin's "dialectical constellations" or montages—like Pound's ideograms—seem genealogically to present a family likeness, although in these predecessors the "heap of images" still strongly hints at some right way of putting everything together. Yet Kluge's own aesthetic (and that of Geschichte und Eigensinn, which is something of a theoretical film) is decidedly post-Benjaminian rather than post-Brechtian. And (despite Kluge's long personal association with Adorno), the later volume finds its ancestors in Benjamin's enormous and fragmentary Passagen-Werk, or at least in what one imagines this last project might have become. Here, for example, is what Kluge says about one of his own films:

[It] does not produce statements but proportions; an object one can argue with. Our point of departure is the following observation: that there is no immediate form of sense experience, or at least no organized form, that can encompass the various individual areas of work and milieus of production. Only a spurious public sphere offers such order and unity, as in the media ... The question is: how does one proceed with a disordered reality, with mixed experiences? How does one learn in the middle of errors? How do we deal with distorted objective and subjective impressions ... ? You have to take on reality as raw material ... Our opinion is that the viewers can use this film to test their own concepts of what is public and what is realistic.

The segmentation in Kluge's stories, however, is not merely perspectival and cinematographic (a fifteen-minute sequence of experience juxtaposed with a paragraph foreshortening eight years); it also projects qualitative leaps into incommensurable dimensions; this particular reading experience is prolonged in Geschichte und Eigensinn, where notes on Marx's "mode of production" (he dozed much of the day on the sofa, with people coming in and out, wrote nasty comments in the margins, strewed his papers with tobacco spots), disquisitions on Blitzkrieg and on the Chanson de Roland, illustrations drawn from evolutionary theory and the history of automata, anecdotes about Kant, quotes from the letters to Fliess, studies of domestic labor, the history of prices, the politics of the German romantics, on-the- spot readings of fairy tales, succeed each other unpredictably and compete with an extraordinary collection of hundreds of images drawn from
medieval manuscripts, films, workers' newspapers, ads, graphs, scientific models, newsreel photographs, pictures of old furniture, science fiction illustrations, penmanship exercises, and the reconstruction of Roman roads or Renaissance battles. The various chapters, sections, paragraphs, notes, and digressions (themselves following a variety of numeration systems) are reclassified typographically, by means of alternate typefaces, frames and blocks, and, most dramatically, black pages with white type that interleaf the more "normal" experiments (sometimes, as with the alternation of color and black and white in the Heimat series by Kluge's former cameraman Edgar Reitz, one has the feeling that it is the shift that counts, and not any stable one-to-one correspondence between the content and the mode of representation: Proust already said as much about the alternation of the imperfect and preterit in Flaubert's tenses). Authority is thus displaced and transformed; reading is still an exercise, a training, a socialization, and a pedagogy, but there is very little of the terroristic or the disciplinary in this work, nor even the dialectical imperative of the older montage, where, as in Godard, one is still challenged to find or guess the proper standpoint. Here the gaps and leaps suggest an associative process different from our own, or at least trust suggests the existence of such an alternative somewhere that it might be interesting to try to approximate, if not to learn. Indeed, the emphasis on learning is here so ubiquitous that we are willing to entertain the possibility of some Utopian way of establishing relations between themes and exhibits which is not Negt and Kluge's private style or methodological property, but which remains to be invented.

Yet, as Negt and Kluge never tire of reminding us, the experience of production is distinct from and incommensurable with its instruments or its products: political economy, capitalogic, deals with this last, but it is more difficult, and fraught with indirection, to seek, as here, to write a "political economy of labor power" (GE, 139). This also means that it will be struc- turally perverse to seek to convey anything about this book by means of the various "theories" it throws up in passing, as we shall have to do here, patiently turning back into a "system" what wanted to be a way of doing things, or even a habit, in some strong, positive sense. Thinking here (including "theory," which throughout this book means Marxism) is therapeutically reduced to a component of action, itself considered as a form of production—as we shall see shortly.

A similar qualification must be registered at this point about language, and in particular about our words for concepts, about which Negt and Kluge have taken some relatively uncanonical positions. One of the ways in which the story of modern thought can be told, indeed, is as an exploration of the consequences of a radical linguistic skepticism, in which Nietzsche's philological sophistication or the Sartrean attack on ordinary language in Nausea culminates paradoxically in a philosophical privileging of language in structuralism and poststructuralism that seals the diagnosis and confirms language itself (in forms that range from Western syntax to Kantian grids or discursive epistemes) as a new equivalent of ideology itself and as the source of all error. This formulation is, however, utterly misleading insofar as it implies the possibility of truth (that is to say, of getting outside of language itself). The problem of producing philosophical concepts under these circumstances slowly drifts into the problem of the status of a new "theoretical" language or discourse, about which all one can argue is that it must be radically provisional and must abolish itself in the process. Meanwhile, the equally influential discussions of essentialism and antiessentialism or anti- foundationalism would be better grasped as an indictment of the master linguistic codes rather than of "beliefs," about which no one is very clear whether or not they exist. Fulfilled or unfulfillable, however, the mission of philosophy today seems to be at one with the problem of ensuring the mortality of its language.

A related, yet inverted, impulse is at work in that tradition of German philosophical speculation which Jean Paulhan used to call the "proof by etymology," the inspection of the roots and radicals of contemporary German for traces of some older and more primal mode of relating to being itself. The procedure is defended on the grounds of some more direct, unmixed, unmediated relationship to the tribal language than what survives in the Romance languages or English, for example, and it allows German philosophy to assert its claim to parity with Greece, where Socrates (or Plato) often argued in a similar way, transforming "folk etymology" into an avenue of philosophical reason (a more distant, but related analogy, is to be found in China, where the written character offers similar evidence of older, "truer" meanings). The misuse of such arguments in Heidegger will make their recurrence in the Left thinking of Negt and Kluge perplexing (thinking—begreifen —as related to greifen, grasping or gripping in the production process [OE, 20–22]), until it is understood that it is not "nature," or "being" to which they appeal, but rather to what Marx called the naturwüchsig, or in other words the significantly different structure of earlier, simpler social formations. On the other hand, this "method" need have nothing of the religious solemnity of Heidegger's stylistic rituals:

In Kluge's segment of Deutschland im Herbst, we already saw Gabi Teichert digging with a spade for German history. These scenes have been transferred to Die Patriotin, where digging for the German past and for German history has become the central metaphor. The figurative language of "digging for the trea- sures of the past" is taken by Kluge absolutely literally, rendering it visually in the concrete image of a physical excavation of the frozen earth. What results is a kind of surrealistic image-pun in the tradition of Buñuel or Karl Valentin, which has the effect of distancing the viewer, who is then brought to observe the eccentric activities of Gabi Teichert less with empathy than with critical skepticism. So also when she translates the knowledge contained in fat historical tomes into sense perception and in that spirit "works on" old folios, something also "literally" illustrated: she dissects the history books with saws, drills, and hammers, and dissolves their pages in orange juice in order to choke them down. She then thus "bores her way into history," "assimilates history into herself," etc.—all unrealistic dream images which are grounded on linguistic figures. As she participates in illegal excavations of the old city wall as a part-time archeologist, she hopes to "grasp" [be-greifen] the past in the form of the prehistoric utensils, that is to say, to be able to "take hold" of it and to "understand" it all at once.

About such "efforts" to restore the purity of philosophical language, however, whether by way of fresh intervention or linguistic archeology, two further things now need to be observed. Whatever the crisis of philosophical discourse owes to the metaphysical or ontological doubtfulness of language itself, that crisis can also be read in socioeconomic terms as a local result of intensified commodification, by which abstract philosophical terms (now seen as something like the private property or brand names of their producers) enter the force field of commodity reification, where their increasingly rapid transformation into cultural objects and images equally rapidly undermines the philosophical legitimacy of these terms (along with that of philosophy itself). This is also what is meant when philosophical concepts are described as "outmoded" or "old-fashioned" (a response which would have sounded very strange indeed in traditional philosophy); this seems to be what Paul de Man had in mind when he reflected on the "thematization" which was the fate of philosophical themes and concepts in modern times.

Other solutions remain possible, however, in the contemporary prolifer- ation of ephemeral or provisional theoretical codes and discourses, solutions which do not (in some outmoded or old-fashioned way) propose either the invention of truer codes and discourses or the return to purer ones. Such is, for example, the notion of "transcoding" as a contemporary alternative to traditional philosophical critique. What is implied here is that the various "master terms" or "master codes" govern and name distinct, often contigu- ous and overlapping zones of the real, such that a systematic alternation between them or comparison of their signifying capacities results not in the emergence of any new linguistic or terminological synthesis, but in a kind of mapping out of the raw materials in which the real consists (Hjemslev's linguistic "substance"). The process is analogous to the problem of transla- tion in the realm of natural languages, which all project at least minimally distinct cognates of the meaning a translated sentence is supposed to share with its original. What is philosophical about translation is, then, not the effort to reproduce a foreign utterance as the same, but rather the deeper experience it affords of the radical differences between natural languages.

Transcoding imposes itself at once with Negt and Kluge's first book, Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung (1972), whose title can only be imperfectly translated as The Public Sphere and Experience. The motivation for the English equivalent is clear enough, insofar as the substantive publicity has already long since been captured by a specialized segment of that larger public domain the German Öffentlichkeit renders; while the notion of a "sphere" or "zone"—transferable to other dimensions of social life, such as culture—generates interesting theoretical problems in its own right (which the term would not do in German). Meanwhile, the topic itself can be said in some sense to "belong" to Jürgen Habermas, whose first book Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit (The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, 1962) offers a history of the emergence of the institutions of the early bourgeois media, including their philosophical and juridical theorization, from a perspective that will remain constant throughout Habermas's work: namely, that the values of the bourgeois revolutionary period remain universal, so that it would be improper to analyze these values in terms of the functional ideology of a specific social class. The palpable limits and failures of those values are, therefore, for Habermas not internal or structural, but rather the result of the historical blocking of the bourgeois revolutionary process that has remained incomplete and unrealized. This perspective is not shared by Negt and Kluge, for whom the tendential monopoly of the public sphere in modern times is very intimately related to the class function of the bourgeois concept of the public and to the nature of the institutions that emerged from it. They thus propose and support a radically different type of collective openness and communication, which they call "the proletarian public sphere."

Transcoding means, however, something more than mere translation. To appreciate the former's significance, we need to return to the second term of Negt and Kluge's title, Erfahrung, or "experience," in order to measure the deeper implicit claim that the concept of the "public sphere" governs a far greater area of social life than it does in Habermas. In his early work Habermas tends to reduce the public sphere to the relatively specialized institutions of the nascent media (newspapers, public opinion, "representative" or parliamentary debate, and so forth); his later philosophical development (speech acts, communicative action) makes it clear that he is as suspicious of such phenomenological concepts as experience as anyone on the other side of the Rhine. Negt and Kluge can, therefore, be aligned with anti-structuralist defenses of the notion of experience that range from E. P. Thompson and Raymond Williams to Sartre, but with some unexpected differences and modifications, as will become clear when we examine the prolongation of this idea and value in their later work.

What is significant about Negt and Kluge's extension of the notion of the public sphere, however, is that, while continuing to include the institutional referents of Habermas's history (in their contemporary forms, such as television), they seek to widen the notion in such a way as to secure its constitutive relationship to the very possibility of social or individual experience in general. The structure of the "public sphere" is now seen as what enables experience or, on the other hand, what limits and cripples it. This structure also determines that fundamental modern pathology whereby "experience" itself is sundered, its unevenly divided halves assigned to stereotypical public expressions, on the one hand, and, on the other, to that zone of the personal and the private which seems to offer shelter from the public and the political at the same time that it is itself a social fact produced by the public and political. At once, therefore, Öffentlichkeit becomes some- thing like a "named concept," in competition with a host of other concepts that range from Freud's "talking cure" to the very notion and language of "democracy" itself, in its political as well as its social forms. ("Work-place democracy," for example, now constitutes a central and ineradicable space of the "proletarian public sphere," and the political stake in transcoding can now be measured by way of a comparison between the relative weight of the political rhetoric of "democracy" and that of the new discursive space of Öffentlichkeit. 

The originality of Negt and Kluge, therefore, lies in the way in which the hitherto critical and analytic force of what is widely known as "discourse analysis" (as in Foucault's descriptions of the restrictions and exclusions at work in a range of so-called discursive formations) is now augmented, not to say completed, by the Utopian effort to produce a discursive space of a new type. But this redramatizes the philosophical problem of the creation of a new language or terminology in a way that relates it to the very issue of the public sphere itself: for there are social and historical reasons why a new and more adequate philosophical language—which is to say a new public language—is lacking. The forms and experiences to which such a language corresponds do not yet exist. The very absence of a proletarian public sphere problematizes the attempt to name it, except in the gaps in our present discourse. This holds true especially for the conception of "work" and of "production" which Negt and Kluge attempt to produce in Geschichte und Eigensinn, and which they also describe as a "political economy of labor power [Arbeitsvermögen]" (GE, 136–143). But even in Marxism these words designate a restricted or specialized zone of human activity: work, labor, or production exist only insofar as they can be "realized" as such (as in "the reproduction of the worker's labor power"). In the first pages of Capital the inaugural separation of use from exchange value (and the subsequent use of this term to designate only this last) means that Marx will write a political economy of labor, a capitalogic, and not the anatomy of its demiurgic underside, the anthropology of human productive power attempted here. Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung was in that sense a failure: we set out, Negt and Kluge tell us, to project a proletarian public sphere and found ourselves reduced to writing a critique of the limits of the bourgeois public sphere. Öffentlichkeit will, however, return in the later work in the climactic concept of a historically new "commercial-industrial public sphere" (Produktionsöffentlichkeit) which is identified with history itself.

The second book, therefore, partially transcodes the older one: but it pro- duces a more fundamental discursive challenge to current doxa, not merely in its ongoing commitment to the category of experience (including the anthropological dimension of the description of a whole range of bodily, psychological, and cultural "capacities"), but above all in its most unseason- able foregrounding of the category of production itself (which the authors understand in a very different way from fashionable and metaphorical, often cultural, uses of this term in the Althusserian and post-Althusserian period). Is a concept of production absolutized in this way and extended to all of human activity still a "productionist" one in the bad sense? The judgment will be more adequately made, however, on the basis of the success of the language experiment itself, and on the capacity of a language of pro- duction to articulate a wide range of materials normally governed by other languages or codes, most notably the psychoanalytic realm, the area of desire, fantasy, the intimate, the unconscious, but also that very different order of realities which we call history, or historical events (here most specifically German history). We are familiar with cognate experiments in the first of these areas in Deleuze and Guattari (occasionally referred to in these pages). The second area would seem to stand in some conflict with what we have termed the anthropological dimension of this work, in the sense in which philosophical anthropologies (particularly where they posit "aggressivity" or a "will to power" as a component of human nature, as in sociobiology) generally involve an implicit commitment to positivities, thereby setting the violence and the catastrophes of history beyond their reach.

The problem of history is, to be sure, registered in the title of Negt and Kluge's second work, but not yet the concept of production (nor even that of labor power), which is oddly and substitutively "represented" by the untranslatable word Eigensinn. Miriam Hansen has rendered this term in English as "obstinacy," but also as "autonomy"; Andrew Bowie meanwhile renders it as "willful meaning."6 I will add my own suggestion: "self-will," which restores the component of ownness or primal property and balances the (perfectly correct) insistence on the arbitrary and the stubborn with the coexisting connotation of an immanent logic, a drive or impulse remaining faithful to itself and pursuing its own autonomous line of force, its own specific trajectory, which is then also, as in Bowie's reading of the term, its meaning. I gloss the term this way to remove the henceforth misleading overtones of the word "self" in my version. Not that there is no question of "identity" in this work, but that identity—collective or individual—is to be achieved in the future: the self, if you like, of Marx's Gesamtarbeiter, or collective worker, and not of any current or former notion of the construction of the subject (such as the Freudian structure, where, Negt and Kluge suggest, the psychic functions operate in the manner of bourgeois parliamentary representation [GE, 382]). It is not, therefore, some primal "self " that has Eigensinn, but rather a whole range of historically acquired and developed skills, drives, capacities, each of which makes its own "stubborn" demands and has its own distinct "meaning." Such forces, however, can be residual or emergent; they often fail to be used to capacity; and their unemployment generates specific pathologies, as does their repression, alienation, or diversion. What also generates social pathology is their multiplicity, which is to say the permanent possibility for contradiction or for a harmful coordination among them. This is, for example, what explains the circumstance (so often dramatized for us by Kluge's fables) in which a "capacity," which is a splendid natural force in its own right, may, in the historical accident of combination with other equally valuable forces, have deathly or indeed deadly effects. 

What is implicit in this first appeal to some deeper, more meaningful logic—if not of the human instincts, then at least of the socially and histori- cally constructed human drives and powers—is a repudiation of vanguard Left politics. This is explicit in both of Negt and Kluge's books. Eigensinn, or labor power, labor capacity, becomes something like Gramscian "good sense," which is inherent in the collectivity and scarcely requires the supple- ment of intellectual or vanguard political stimulus. That this "good sense" may often seem to require supplement, however, is the effect of a deeper natural conservatism in the human organization, related to the require- ments of shelter, protection, and subsistence. A number of pages in both books, indeed, systematically analyze historical crises in the labor move- ment from this perspective, and such analyses are clearly crucial to Negt and Kluge's project, which could still, in 1972, appeal to conceptions of cultural revolution, but which in 1981 speaks from a situation of Left discouragment and pessimism. Negt and Kluge nevertheless assert a longer, geological or evolutionary type of hope, a hope which retains from cultural revolution its pedagogical impulse and its drive toward self-formation and self-reconstruction.

Geschichte und Eigensinn is organized around three enormous subsections: "The Historical Organization of Labor Capacity"; "Germany as a Commercial-Industrial Public Sphere [Produktionsöffentlichkeit]"; "The Power of Relationship (or Relationality) [Gewalt des Zusammenhang]." It will be misleading, but indispensable, to describe these sections as follows: the first sets in place the elements of what I have called Negt and Kluge's "anthropology," namely their "political economy of labor power"—something which involves not only the labor process, but evolutionary materials and an interest in the coexistence of a variety of temporal rhythms and cycles (individual, historical, and biological). The second section then attempts to confront the "peculiarities" of German history by way of these new production categories: its formal problem lies, therefore, in the conceptual gap between the language of historical events and a conception of production whose scale and focus is clearly very different from historiography and often felt to be incommensurable with it. The final section—which also includes a disquisition on war as a kind of production, and a lengthy engagement with existential experience and psychoanalytic materials—can best be grasped as the attempt to produce a new active ethical and political value which is also a working analytical concept, namely that of relationship or relationality itself. Theoretical positions emerge in each of these lengthy sections, and I will try to convey some of them, though these positions are not "argued," as the philosophers might put it, and the form of presentation is no longer that of the philosophical treatise or discursive essay. Rather, we might describe the book as a kind of conceptual film (if by "film" we have in mind one of Kluge's own).

The crucial mediating concept in the introductory "anthropological" section—which must be abstract enough to function for a variety of differ- ent kinds of materials, but also contain within itself the force of an event (trauma, change, scar, transformation, an irrevocable modification that also generates new future possibilities)—is the still-classical Marxian notion of Trennung—separation, division; in Marx, above all, the historical "separa- tion" of the producer from the means of production (as well as from the produced object and from production itself as my own activity). This is for Marx, of course, the central structural feature of the historical catastrophe at the very origin of capitalism, namely so-called "primitive accumulation." There is, therefore, already in Marx a mediation between a form of production and a historical event. Negt and Kluge will now project this event— primitive accumulation—along with its structural concept—Trennung, division and separation—into a more general historical and philosophical one, which designates all the catastrophes of history, most crucially at its beginning and in the destruction of traditional agricultural and communal societies. The concept of separation then becomes available for other kinds of materials: in the traditional Marxist literature, for the division of labor, for the separation between manual and intellectual labor, for the fragmentation of the psyche into distinct "faculties," and finally for the notion of reification itself (in Lukács, primarily a matter of the "Taylorization" of social life). Here in Negt and Kluge the primary emphasis seems to lie on the separation of the various work powers or capacities from one another, with results that will be clear later on.

It will be objected that such a concept implicitly or explicitly tends to valorize the phenomenon of "unification" on which it necessarily depends. That may be so—and their vision of communal life on the land would cer- tainly seem to provide evidence of historical nostalgia—but Negt and Kluge explicitly repudiate conceptions of the dialectic that aim at restoring some primal unity ("what kind of reality would the reappropriation of something lost have?" [GE, 42–44]). Far from perpetuating the longing for reunifica- tion, therefore, the fact and the concept of Trennung will have the very different effect of generating relationality as such, the ceaseless establish- ment of new connections and relationships. This, too, has its formal analogy in Marx, in the emergence, from the historical catastrophe of indus- trial wage labor, of the historically new value and social relationship he calls cooperation (GE, 192, and see below).

The other concept that emerges from this enlarged and generalized notion of "primitive accumulation" turns on what is thereby accumulated: in this "political economy of labor power" that will be precisely "dead labor," stored labor, the human labor of the past—a mysterious capital of human productive activity most dramatically associated in Marx with machinery and industrialization, in which there is a sudden quantum leap in the amassing of the labor time that had characterized previous human history. In its larger deployment here in Negt and Kluge, "dead labor" means tradition generally, cultural capital and habitus all together (to use Bourdieu's terminology), and very much includes the reproduction of acquired characteristics, of archaic character structures, and the historical levels of the psyche. Dead labor is, however, for Negt and Kluge, a baleful concept, which can account for the violences of history and its seemingly cyclical, irrepressible disasters (and which thereby avoids the ideological and anthropological temptation to posit negative forces within "human nature," such as aggressivity and a will to power).7 In this negative inflection of the notion of stored labor they approach the Sartrean idea of the "practico- inert" (developed in the Critique of Dialectical Reason), where human praxis, successfully invested in the transformation of the object world, then "magi- cally" returns upon human beings with an autonomous power of its own, as destructive fate and the now incomprehensible and antihuman "counter- finality" of a history beyond all human control. Any comparison between these two cognate philosophical projections needs to register the difference in emphasis between Sartre's central category of praxis—as realized human activity of any type—and Negt and Kluge's notion of labor power or capac- ity, which stresses potentiality and the subterranean formation and exercise of a variety of capabilities. Sartre's vision of counter-finality is thereby incomparably more dramatic and vivid than Negt and Kluge's, but also rel- atively monolithic, subsuming a whole range of historical disruptions beneath the single named concept. In Negt and Kluge, however, dead labor can have a variety of distinct historical results: in German history, the ur- trauma of the peasant wars, but also the initial disintegration of communal production at the dawn of feudalism, and the great "lost opportunity" of the anti-Napoleonic war of national liberation of 1811.

But the assessment of these historical events involves a reading of the Marxian "modes of production" which must first be put in place. Charac- teristically, the attention that Negt and Kluge give to the various modes of production will be directed by their interest in the specific capacities and forms of labor power developed in each. Their first schema, then, isolates three different moments of production: agriculture, handicraft, and indus- trial work (GE, 165–210). To specify these as distinct kinds of labor (as well as different historical dominants or moments of social development) is to begin to imagine how capabilities needed and developed in one form might undergo a kind of sedimentation in the succeeding one, leaving traces and scars in layers on subjectivity and the body, on experience, and in history itself. Like a swimmer's muscles, mobilized during wartime for the digging of trenches, and then used in the postwar era to make a living in circus acrobatics, historically developed capabilities persist, unused, misused, or readapted, occasionally interfering with each other or symptomatically marking and deforming the gestures current in some new kind of daily life.

Labor on the land is clearly for Negt and Kluge the "natural" form of human social life; or rather (since propositions of this type are alien to their work), it is the oldest form—the foundation, but also the starting point—of the European, and specifically the German, social formation:

We can only measure the comprehensive potentialities of field work by way of their modern transformations. Since all producers today derive, via their ances- tors, from the peasant class, there is something like a "peasant in me." This component of contemporary labor capacity—in a certain respect the latter's foundation—reveals itself (and reveals itself today, as distinct from its historical representations) as versatile [wendig], working in a noncompartmentalized way, developing more concrete visions and intimations of collective life than the other, later modes. The subtle component of properly intellectual activity follows the logic of a peasant or gardening mode of production. Labor capacity that aims at emancipatory processes or economic consciousness must necessarily deploy some vision of original property that stems from the history of agriculture. The idea of the "natural" qualities of a product and the development of human measures of time and temporality also derive from that source. In contrast, actual agricultural work in this country today is a subset of the industrial process. (GE, 174)

The observation will be misused or misunderstood if it is taken to be the development of a conservative or nostalgic ideological vision of the past. It poses, rather, an empirical question about the actually existing Utopian imagination and, thereby, about the possibility of the development of a political vision of change and action. What is asserted here and throughout is that Eigentum designates something more fundamental and necessary than property (the literal meaning of the word) in the juridical sense of forms of private property that come into being historically and can also be abolished. Eigentum—now in the more etymological sense of ownness, what belongs to me or us, what informs Eigensinn—is not a matter of pos- session, but of place and space and of our relationship to what Marx called "the body of the earth." The consequence is that for Negt and Kluge the vision of a purely urban Utopia is impossible.8 The Utopian imagination will always have to come to terms in one way or another with the demands of this oldest layer of consciousness or labor capacity. What must then be stressed is not merely that this is also an urgent political issue—for there can be no development of any genuine political movement or praxis without a vision of the future and of radical change—but also that, in the postmodern era, characterized by the atrophy of the historical imagination in general and of the capacity to project the future in particular, the analysis of the way in which the Utopian imagination functions is very much on the agenda.

In contrast, Negt and Kluge's devaluation of handicraft is to be read against a situation in which intellectuals are as a rule strongly drawn to this mode, which seems to offer an idealization of their own professional activi- ties and of writing and cultural production in general9 (the authors' more comprehensive discussion of the derivation of the work of intellectuals from more general productive capacities is to be found in the chapter entitled "On certain striking evasions in the functioning of intelligence," [GE, 415– 488]). Handicraft can then be seen to project values of métier and crafts- manship whose darker side is less often stressed: not merely the extension of labor to non-natural products, nor even the tendential "liberation" from time and space, from the earth and from the seasons, but above all some historically new principle of competition which arises from the work of small producers,

each of whom finds his point of honor in the effort to distinguish his activity from that of everyone else. This principle of competition determines a general expansion of production ... Such tendential expansion is deeply embedded in handicraft, even to the point of self-destruction. The guilds then necessarily try to correct this impulse by a limitation on products and a restriction on the choice of possible trades or callings. (GE, 175)

The very values of craftsmanship itself, then, lead dialectically to competi- tion and to a limitless drive to overproduce commodities, which foreshadows the market system itself and its structure and rhythms.

The craftsman must work at two kinds of things at once: (1) his product and (2) the conviction in his client ... that his product is indispensable and uniquely useful. This is a conviction the field worker does not particularly need to arouse. But what happens in handicraft labor is that, where painstaking effort is not visible, where the métier does not self-consciously make its presence felt, the activity ceases to be thought of as a matter of craftsmanship and stops being a viable profession. Professional honor must be present in the thing, like a payment for it—some first payment, which includes the recognition of its style and specificity, only then to be followed by the second one, in cash. (GE, 176)

Professional jealousies, pride, competition, as well as the limitless dynamic of sheer commodity accumulation are therefore already implicit in this mode as the vices inherent in its virtues.

The industrial mode, and the nature of industrial labor, needs less attention since it has been so carefully examined from Marx himself on down. In a very different spirit from Negt and Kluge, the essentially urban perspective of Sartre often led him to celebrate the anti- and postnatural consciousness generated by work with machinery—an insistence that is clearly an essential feature of any consequent "workerism" or "workerist" ideology. The specific forms of the alienation of factory work—and in par- ticular its specific divisions, or Trennungen—are more vividly reflected in contemporary theory, particularly in Harry Braverman's fundamental anal- ysis of Taylorism and its effects. This kind of analysis, whose relevance for culture and intellectual work has not been lost on contemporary theory, is not particularly stressed by Negt and Kluge, even though they include a striking description of a subsegment of production in a steel mill (GE, 202– 207). The unique and historically new capacity developed by factory work is, however, cooperation; and the emergence of this new form of labor capacity will then allow Negt and Kluge to stage the final section of their book in terms of the relationality that now issues from it. 

Modes of production are, however, generally discussed and debated more historically, in terms of various formations: feudalism, capitalism, the Asiatic mode, and so forth. In order to understand how the preceding dis- cussion can be related to that type of historical category, and also in order to grasp how war can sometimes stand as a grisly caricature of cooperative labor on a national scale, we must now (to borrow one of Negt and Kluge's favorite expressions) pass through the "needle's eye" of German history.

This history has the same starting point as those we have encountered previously, namely the primacy of peasant experience and of the specific capacities developed through labor on the land. Meanwhile, the German experience is determined by the spatial situation of central Europe, which offers all the peculiarities of a land-based and land-locked collectivity. If the word experience means anything, however, it designates not merely the kinds of problems and dilemmas or crises confronted, but also what is learned from those repetitive solutions, and what is transmitted in the form of habit and pedagogy. But where are we to find the traces of such experi- ence and the codification of these collective learning processes?

In fairy tales, which are not merely the repository of peasant Utopian wishes ("those who don't believe in fairy tales were never in distress" [GE, 619, n. 48]), but also preserve the most characteristic collective experiences of danger or menace, along with the age-old solutions devised to ward them off. In Germany, fairy tales are thus a collective testimony equivalent to, but significantly different from, the myths and sea-based epic legends of the Mediterranean classical world, to which it is instructive to compare them. For the activities, the skills, strengths, and capacities celebrated, pre- served, and transmitted by the Greek stories—those well-known "virtues" of shrewdness and cunning, resourcefulness and wiliness, of which Odysseus is the prototype—are the professional attributes of a world of commerce and trade, of merchant ruse and imperial diplomacy—shipboard attributes, augmented by ultimate recourse to the sea, to sailborne flight or the return, at night, with muffled oars. For a peasantry, however, such nar- ratives are problematic and unserviceable: unlike the great ships, "house, farmyard, and field cannot evade their dangers" (GE, 752). Meanwhile, for a peasant storytelling, for which "the dimension of production (or its impoverishment) is the determinant moment," tales of exploration and maritime adventure may look rather different and find their perspectives inverted.10 So it is, for example, that the protagonists of the Argonaut myth are, from the Greek standpoint, Jason and his crew, a focus which relegates the peasant experience—the landed population of Colchis—to the position of the Other: they are here the prize and the object of exploitation, the story is not told for them. This radical reversal of a peasant perspective is most evident in the inhumanity and monstrousness with which the figure of Medea herself emerges, a figure who, from the indigenous point of view (compare the roles of Malinche or Pocahantas in the New World), takes on the attributes of the patriot and the guerrilla, of Judith and of the struggles of wars of national liberation. From this perspective the Argonauts are not mere adventurers. Their function is to bring exchange and the market, to spell the doom of the older agricultural and communal system:

various episodes taken together make up the equivalent of what is, for production, the separation of labor power from the land and from the commune, namely primitive accumulation. From the perspective of goods distribution or the exchange relationship, there emerges an analogous mark of forced learning, of the introjection by violence. (GE, 747)

Within the peasant environment, therefore, and specifically within the world of the German fairy tale, this violence of commerce, this forcible "opening" and threat from without, will be registered in very different narrative forms and will demand the development of very different kinds of essentially defensive skills. In "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids," a premium is placed on powers of discrimination or judgment: 

What the enemy is is no longer clear. It becomes exceedingly difficult to decide whether the flour-covered paw of the wolf or the high-pitched voice belong to the mother, or whether the mother (end or means) may not actually have a pelt covered with flour or a high-pitched voice, and so forth. The mind is thus directed, not toward adventure as such, but rather toward a more decisive ques- tion: How can I distinguish the enemy exactly, where are the boundaries between the inside and the outside, between safe and unsafe? All German myths, as testi- mony of historical experience, take as their content the question about the How of wishes, and tell the story of this central uncertainty: How can we know about the outside from within the inside? ... This also shows how difficult it was, on the basis of the German relationship to history, to ascertain what was being let inside with Hitler. (GE, 754–755) 

The originality of these analyses of Negt and Kluge, which prolong Benjamin's thoughts on collective narrative in The Storyteller in new and unforeseeable ways, consists in a hermeneutic which, although registering the function of the tale to reflect the collective situation in a twofold positive and negative way (it both incorporates Utopian hope and inscribes histori- cal catastrophe), now strikes out in a third interpretive path, rereading the text as collective pedagogy, as the transmission not merely of experience, but also of collective vocational training. The instinctive recall of Brecht, which occurs whenever the pedagogical function of literature is invoked in the contemporary period, should not be allowed to distract us from some basic differences in emphasis. The content of Brecht's pedagogy is very different from Negt and Kluge's insistence on the learning of skills and capacities. Brecht's reading of the texts of the past most often stresses bad pedagogy, in the spirit of negative ideological critique (see the splendid sonnets on Hamlet and on Kleist). This is not to say that for Negt and Kluge a lesson, even well learned, cannot be without mixed consequences: 

The prototypical fairy tale that tries to rework this historical experience [an ideal dream of happiness finds no encouragement in the social facts themselves] in a way propitious for wish fulfillment is "Sleeping Beauty": an evil witch—a witch in any case evil out of disappointment and therefore not merely evil, but also, in some sense, a comrade—has cast princess and castle, including all its inhabitants and workers, in a magic sleep. Impenetrable hedges now surround it. But at the very outset a good witch has also sworn an oath, etc., etc. The main thing is simply to have the patience to endure the thousand-year rhythm in which change takes place. So when it turns out that the prince looks like Bismarck, Hindenburg, Hitler, or Adenauer, it isn't out of stupidity that you make a mistake and believe in the awakening kiss, nor out of lack of experience (some of the princes are obvi- ously very old, others come from distant peripheral areas of the Reich and are very unaristocratic), but rather out of the urgent need to give objective expression (however improbably) to the ongoing immemorial work of wish fulfillment. It must somehow be applied, and applicable. Even if those who pretend to be princes are false a hundred times over. (GE, 619, n. 48) 

This first strand of analysis of the German situation, therefore—a kind of cultural investigation—retains the significance of the peasant world, whose endemic crises and dangers it confronts with the specific habitus of labor capacity developed in peasant life, which is evidently not altogether equal to the task of overcoming the former.

The same story is then told again, with reference to the various historical modes of production—and in particular in terms of the crisis of feudal- ism—in a more concrete way, in which historical events and catastrophes now make their formal appearance. Indeed, Negt and Kluge develop a provocative analysis of feudalism (GE, 559–565), in which they suggest that what gives other national situations and histories their productive dynamism—their capacity not merely to "evolve" into capitalism, but especially to generate active political movements of all kinds—is the essen- tially impure or mixed nature of the feudalisms implanted there. The various feudalisms of Italy, France, and England are never indigenous or autochthonous, but the result of various kinds of foreign intervention: in Italy, the German emperors; in France, the Franks; in England, the Normans. These importations mark the new socioeconomic system in such a way that its own specific internal contradictions cannot take deep root, and it becomes susceptible to radical historical modification and change. But Negt and Kluge follow Marx—in that section of the Grundrisse often renamed "precapitalist modes of production"—in seeing feudalism as a dia- lectical, but nonetheless organic, outgrowth of the communal structure of the German tribes. Feudalism is thereby at home in Germany in a very different way from the Western histories, with the consequence that "the capitalistic principle found no original introjection [originäre Verinnerlichung] in our country" (GE, 893):

The basic rule is this: where a social formation originates, it continues to bear all its contradictions and the radicality (die Gründlichkeit) of its emergence within itself. It therefore does not develop systematically into its fullest form, since those very contradictions and radicalities by definition tear apart its absolute principle. In this sense no original prototype, but rather the feudal structure that William the Conqueror and his barons brought with them to England, stands as the most perfect realization of a classic feudal constitution. (GE, 562–563)

Replaced within the current "modes of production" debate, the analogy might well be the history of the capitalist mode, whose "indigenous" form in England remained notoriously unaccompanied by any "pure" political development of a triumphant bourgeoisie and a middle-class state (as in France).

However one judges this new theory of "transition," it will have in Negt and Kluge two different lines of consequence. One has to do with what is often called national character:

In the German configuration of the feudalism/capitalism form, the principle of abstraction [for Negt and Kluge, as for the Marxist tradition generally and Adorno in particular, a more general description of the essentially abstract "logic of capital"] appears as that of uncertainty in the application of power; by the same token, its specific principle of production can be described as an ideal of com- pleteness and thoroughness [Gründlichkeit]. (GE, 564)

We will return to this habitus, which combines arbitrariness with a compulsive work ethic, shortly.

The other, historical, result of the contradictions in German feudalism is an event: the catastrophe of the peasant wars, the ur-trauma of German history and one of those "resolutions" of class struggle about which Marx was probably thinking when, in the Manifesto, he evoked, as an alternate outcome to the "revolutionary reconstitution of society at large," the possi- bility of "the common ruin of the contending classes."11 For this common ruin is very specifically what the peasant wars achieve:

The peasant wars end with the political victory of a coalition made up of city bur- ghers and feudal lords, but from an economic perspective all three of the classes involved in the struggle—peasants, lords, cities—all know defeat. In the future no one of the three classes will ever be able to establish its independent political dominion. Economic and political determinants drift apart. (GE, 556)

Negt and Kluge stress the cultural consequences of the catastrophe; and it is logical, in the light of their valorization of the land and of peasant labor, that they should isolate as a supreme symptom the way in which peasant culture is stigmatized and repressed in Germany in the succeeding centuries, giving rise to an artificial culture based on what Bourdieu calls "distinction." Even the emergent middle classes now want to be "refined," have manners, tran- scend the body, and acquire "culture" and "taste" in their new ideological senses. Another fairy tale, "The Three Brothers," which shows the absurdity of a competition for arbitrary new skills when the upshot will be to live all together in the old home after all, is in this respect cautionary. It dramatizes

the distance that now divides collective life, the simple house on simple soil, from "simple" activity. Simplicity is not so easy to achieve. One's own soil and collec- tive life correspond rather to a complex psychic structure and remain the high point and the prize towards which all labor power strives. On the human or indi- vidual scale, such values then become ever more distant and difficult to realize, and for that reason you have to work ever harder and take more pains. This is very precisely the developmental path of the introversion of labor capacity in Germany. (GE, 632)

This is then the point at which the tendential repudiation of peasant culture, the radical turning away from peasant "labor capacity," and the repression of the "peasant in me," dialectically generate the German form of that principle of abstraction which has been mentioned above (and which is for Negt and Kluge a virtual thanatos or death drive within capitalism as well as German history). The stress is not on the features of some national identity or national character (which then in the pluralism of human cultures and collective identities takes its rather unique and grisly place), but rather on the failure of national identity, and on what they call "national loss" (Nationalverlust, GE, 538), seen not in terms of a collective psychology, but as a subset of a general loss in reality itself (see below). There emerges here a specific form of German "inflexibility" that ranges across a host of historical and cultural embodiments, as well as of a variety of linguistic expressions: from the work ethic of painstaking thoroughness (sich Mühe geben, Gründlichkeit, see above) to the terrible righteousness of Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas (and of Luther and Kant), and, beyond, to the inexora- bility (Unerbittlichkeit) of last-ditch obedience to the state in the last weeks of World War II, or the implacable strategy of the Baader-Meinhof Red Army Fraction in the mid-1970s: Fiat justitia pereat mundus! ("Let justice prevail even though the world itself should go under"):

Even if civil society were to dissolve itself with the consent of all its members (for example, if a people who inhabited an island decided to separate and to disperse to other parts of the world), the last murderer in prison would first have to be exe- cuted in order that each should receive his deserts and that the people should not bear the guilt of a capital crime through failing to insist on its punishment ... "It is better that one man should die than that the whole people should go to ruin." For if justice perishes, there is no further point in men living on earth.12

These chilling words of Kant are more deeply and figurally inscribed at the very center of Geschichte und Eigensinn in the form of the shortest and most dreadful of all the Grimm fairy tales, "The Willful Child" (Das eigensinnige Kind ), whose obstinacy, first expressed in disobedience and then in a kind of psychosomatic illness, persists after death (a hand stubbornly emerging from the grave) and must be chastised posthumously by the mother before rest is found. In the German history section, then, the enigmatic Eigensinn of Negt and Kluge's title (interpreted philosophically in our various transla- tions above) now takes on an ironic literalness, not only by formally posing the question of the relationship between history and inflexible self-will in Germany itself, but also by raising issues of the current relationship to the past and the dead in Germany, and in particular the much-discussed ques- tion of the "work of mourning" (Freud's expression, Trauerarbeit) needed to exorcise that past (rather than to repress it). For this particular fairy tale, however, the Greek equivalent comes as a rebuke: for the stubbornness of Antigone is a heroic form of political resistance with a social and collective resonance utterly lacking in the German story (GE, 765–769). Antigone's Eigensinn remains, to be sure, deadly, but it is a deathly outcome which, as Hegel showed us, is now consecrated as tragedy, which is to say, as contra- diction and as the unavoidable blocking of historical development. It has none of the shame that oddly clings to the Grimm tale, where the child seems pathological, but even the mother (in Negt and Kluge, a nurturing, sheltering figure associated with the primal commune) becomes strangely ambivalent and repulsive as she shatters the child's dead arm with her rod.

What must now, in conclusion, be shown is the way in which in the third section of this book, relationship, relationality as such (Zusammenhang), affords a diagnosis of such symptoms, and even a prescription for their tran- scendence. What must now most urgently be related are those realms which are conventionally dissociated as the public and the private; the political and the psychic; the realm of the socioeconomic, with its language of produc- tion, and that of the psychoanalytic, with its language of desire and fantasy. This act of relating will be, as a whole range of currents in contemporary thought testifies, a punctual and discontinuous one, a provisional exchange of energies, a spark struck across boundaries of separation. The older sys- tematic attempts at a formal Freudo-Marxian synthesis, in which Freud's findings were somehow built into Marx to form some new total system, are not replicated here. What underlies the provisionality of the new "rela- tional" approaches is no doubt the feeling that dimensions which are objec- tively sundered in our social order cannot finally be reassembled and put back together by an effort of pure thought.

Here, too, in one sense, Negt and Kluge prolong and correct Habermas, whose "synthesis" of Marx and Piaget aimed to substitute a cognitive evolu- tion for the discontinuous violence of social revolution.13 In Habermas, issues of desire, the unconscious, and sexuality are no longer much in evi- dence, but Piagetian psychology still affords in his work a kind of bridge between the "objective" historical and social situation and the "subjective factor," the kinds of individual dispositions and mental equipment necessary for social change and for the inauguration of a new stage in social development. In Negt and Kluge, the Piagetian reference is merely one in a constellation of illustrative or analogical materials, along with Freud, evolu- tionary theory, anatomy, cultural archeology, and the rest. But Habermas's great theme of the cognitive—here transformed into the pedagogical and the formative—is centrally maintained, and offers a Utopian response to the classical Frankfurt School critique of bourgeois "enlightenment" as such (a critique which remained an embarrassment for Habermas himself, since he has been concerned to promote the Utopian possibilities inherent in pre- cisely that bourgeois enlightenment and the bourgeois concept of reason).

As for desire and fantasy, their status in contemporary theory seems to result from the widespread feeling that narrative, image, fantasy, embodied symptom, are no longer mere subjective epiphenomena, but objective com- ponents of our social world, invested with all the ontological dignity of those hitherto "objective" social materials presented by economics, politics, and historiography. What is even more significant is that subjective or psy- chological phenomena are now increasingly seen as having epistemological and even practical functions. Fantasy is no longer felt to be a private and compensatory reaction against public situations, but rather a way of reading those situations, of thinking and mapping them, of intervening in them, albeit in a very different form from the abstract reflections of traditional philosophy or politics. Deleuze and Guattari's two-volume Capitalism and Schizophrenia (which so often comes to mind in reading this other collabo- ration) testifies to the richness of such explorations, as does Theweleit's related Männerphantasien (both are invoked in these pages). Along with the traditional notion of Reason, however, one of the casualties of this new valo- rization of fantasy (which surely corresponds both to historical changes in the structure of society and to the media apparatus of late capitalism) is the traditional concept of ideology and ideological analysis (essentially still the false-consciousness, or base-superstructure model, not often appealed to here). Into the breach opened by this loss, a whole range of new "ideologies of desire" have flowed. It is certain that, in the spirit of their anti-vanguard political positions, Negt and Kluge's Utopian work implicitly rejects the negativity of traditional forms of "ideology critique"; it becomes clear, espe- cially when we consider the theoretical collaboration alongside Kluge's own stories and films, that it is the primacy of the "subjective factor" that is here everywhere affirmed, but as a historical fact. Just as Marx ascribed to capital itself a Heisshunger (voracious appetite) for the realization of value, so Negt and Kluge identify a comparable appetite and lust for the "private," the "intimate," and the "subjective" in modern society:

Relationships are to be found in all public areas or in areas which have been struc- tured as private enclaves. But the libidinal relationships encapsulated in private contacts in the narrower sense reach the most bewildering levels of intensity of all social relationships ... The disintegration of the traditional public sphere programmed into the current crisis system therefore leads not merely to the strengthening of forces intent on constructing alternate or proletarian public spheres. Its disintegration also simultaneously encounters this other tendency toward the private accumulation of the work of relationship [Beziehungsarbeit], a kind of voracious appetite for the work of relationship, the private search fo