Central and East European
Society for Phenomenology

Conference | Paper

Marx's Phenomenology of Capitalism and Blindness

Mark Losoncz

Thursday 2 December 2021

15:00 - 15:40

Zoom 1-3

Although there were theoreticians who tried to combine phenomenology and Marxism (e.g., Tran Duc Thao), or to conceptualize capitalist everyday experience from the viewpoint of phenomenality (e.g., Karel Kosik), according to our knowledge, Marx himself was very rarely read as a thinker for whom the phenomenological perspective was decisive. It has to be pointed out that already the very beginning of Marx’s Capital is marked by a certain phenomenological discourse: “The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself [erscheint als] as ‘an immense accumulation of commodities,’ its unit being a single commodity.” In other words, Marx focuses on how things appear in capitalism and also their ratio manifestationis. According to our view, Marx’s phenomenology reaches its peak in his metaphorology of “blinding” and “blindness”: “the blinding form of the money fetish,” “blinding commodity,” “the blinding form of money,” etc. When Marx conceptualizes the specific hyperphenomenality of capitalist forms, he introduces a very rich and diverse metaphor—and he relies on all its dimensions (intensity, relation to practice, the servile acceptance of blindness, the semiotical machine). The focal point of the Marxian phenomenology is the “savage” or “wild” aesthetical experience of capitalism, in which the abundance of phenomenality hides deeper structures. As Kosik would put it, capitalism hides itself by hiding the structural characteristics of phenomena as phenomena. Contrary to certain interpreters, such as Jacques Bidet, we are going to suggest that phenomenology is a crucial and organic part of the Marxian analysis. The Marxian phenomenology does also have serious consequences with regard to key questions, such as practice, ideology, or struggle. In capitalism, the “sole message is: ‘What appears is good; what is good appears’” (Guy Debord). Marxian phenomenology is first of all a critical approach to this kind of phenomenodicy.