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Real Abstraction: The Conference--Day3 Frank Engster, Maya Gonzalez, Paul Reynolds

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Sunday, August 8

11am EST: Frank Engster

1:30pm EST: Maya Gonzalez

4pm EST: Paul Reynolds

Webinar Link to all the sessions:


Link to Blog post for:

Day4: Monday, August 9: Roundtable/questions for presenter



Frank Engster- 11am EST

The Blind Spot in Sohn-Rethel and in Marxist Critique: The Technique of Measurement

Sohn-Rethel construed Marx’s value-form analysis as an empirical exchange of commodities and held that this empirical exchange performs a "real abstraction". In this way, he labored under the very semblance that money engenders at the surface of society. This semblance can be rendered transparent by, on the one hand, explaining value in terms of capitalist valorization rather than as a product of abstraction, and on the other hand by developing money as the measure and as the capitalist form of this valorization, rather than as a means of exchange. I want to show how this technique of measurement constitutes both a first and a second nature by quantifying relations, forcing the identity of nature and of our society to appear by magnitudes decisive for the very same reproduction of nature and society.


Maya Gonzalez -1:30 EST

Real Abstraction and the Logic of Gender

This paper begins with an analysis of the exchange abstraction as the form of value under capitalist conditions of social reproduction. It then conceptualizes the separation of productive and reproductive spheres--as directly and indirectly mediated by the market-- resulting from the real abstraction of social labor in the process of exchange. The paper then expands an analysis of separate spheres as well as public and private temporalities found in Alfred Sohn-Rethel's Intellectual and Manual Labour: a Critique of Epistemology. Although critical of his historicization of commodity exchange, the paper considers the relationship between Sohn-Rethel's theorization of real abstraction and the abstraction of the value form under capitalism specifically, as well as the spatial and temporal separation of spheres throughout the circuits of production and reproduction; and lastly, it concludes by analyzing modern sexual difference as a conceptual distinction arising from the division of intellectual and manual labor, appearing as a real abstraction through the performance and activities of gender.


Paul Reynolds - 4pm EST

Real Abstraction: Some Thoughts on Sexuality and Embodied Pleasure

The essence of real abstraction is that the philosophical method of abstraction should be inverted from the essential and ideal to a dialectical tension between the concrete and material world and its processes and how theory and analysis draws out significances in understanding trends, developments and change. Method is always dialectically connected to material and historical ontology, and when abstraction creates self-sustaining ontologies for itself, through the process of intellectual/philosophical labor, these mask the terms of their location within power/knowledge relationships directly emergent from patterns of power, domination, oppression, exploitation and alienation. I want to explore this in the context of how sexuality and embodied pleasure are explored and understood in modern and contemporary capitalism. This takes a phenomenological turn and explores the tensions and contradictions of quantification/quality, the composition of embodied value in spatial, temporal and conjunctural contexts, and the contours of alienation, subjectivity and pleasure.

Sexual Capitalism: Marxist Reflections on Sexual Politics, Culture and Economy in the 21st Century’, Triple C: Communication, Capitalism and Critique Special issue on Karl Marx @ 200: Debating Capitalism & Perspectives for the Future of Radical Theory 16(2): 696-706

file:///C:/Users/Paul/Downloads/995-Article%20Text-4299-1-10-20180504.pdf(translated into Turkish in Praksis 48 [2019] p132-141


About the Panelists:

Frank Engster wrote his PhD thesis on the subject of time, money and measure. His areas of interest lie in the different - (post-)operaist, (post-)structuralist, form-analytic, (queer-)feminist etc. - readings of Marx’s critique of the political economy and especially in money as a technique and its connection with measurement, quantification, time and (natural) science.

Maya Gonzalez is a PhD candidate in the History of Consciousness program at University of California, Santa Cruz working on the Marxist Feminist Critique of Political Economy. She has written for Endnotes journal and ViewpointMagazine.

Paul Reynolds is a member of the Editorial Board of Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory. Amongst other involvements he is also Co-Convenor of the International Network for Sexual Ethics and Politics (INSEP)

and Co-Director of the Cultural Difference and Social Solidarity Network,

and Co-Series Editor of the new University of Bristol/Policy Press Book Series on ‘Sex and Intimacy in Later Life’ (with Trish Hafford-Letchfield and Paul Simpson).


Hosted by: Foreign Objekt


Sepideh Majidi (Foreign Objekt)

Conrad Hamilton (Kapital Komrades)

Paul Reynolds: (Historical Materialism)


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