Intellectual and Manual Labour

A Critique of Epistemology


Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s Intellectual and Manual Labour is one of the major texts of post-war Marxist theory. A tremendous influence on the major writers of the Frankfurt School, with ongoing relevance to current debates about value, abstraction, and domination, Sohn-Rethel’s ideas are here presented at their fullest scope and with their greatest theoretical clarity.

Out of print for many years, this new Historical Materialism edition contains a new introduction by Chris O’Kane, an afterword by Chris Arthur, and a compilation of the responses to Intellectual and Manual Labour published in the Italian journal Lotta Continua, including a substantial article by Antonio Negri.

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Alfred Sohn-Rethel was born in 1899. Forced to flee Germany during World War II, he settled in the United Kingdom, where he continued to work on the ideas that he would present in his magnum opus, Intellectual and Manual Labour.
“The republication of Intellectual and Manual Labour is a gift to Marxist scholars and finally makes Sohn-Rethel’s work available to the wider public. With its additional material and contextual essay, the new edition of Intellectual and Manual Labour is likely to reinvigorate an interest in Sohn-Rethel’s work.” – Fabian van Onzen, Lone Star College, in: Marx and Philosophy Review of Books (18 June 2021) [Full review]
Introduction to the Historical Materialism Edition
Chris O’Kane
Translator’s Foreword


Part 1 Critique of Philosophical Epistemology

 1 The Fetishism of Intellectual Labour
 2 Can There Be Abstraction Other Than by Thought?
 3 The Commodity Abstraction
 4 The Phenomenon of the Exchange Abstraction
 5 Economics and Knowledge
 6 The Analysis of the Exchange Abstraction
 7 The Evolution of Coined Money
 8 Conversion of the Real Abstraction into the Conceptual Abstraction
 9 The Independent Intellect

Part 2 Social Synthesis and Production

 10 Societies of Production and Societies of Appropriation
 11 Head and Hand in Labour
 12 The Beginnings of Surplus Production and Exploitation
 13 Head and Hand in the Bronze Age
 14 The Classical Society of Appropriation
 15 Mathematics, the Dividing-Line of Intellectual and Manual Labour
 16 Head and Hand in Medieval Peasant and Artisan Production
 17 The Forms of Transition from Artisanry to Science
 18 The Capitalist Relations of Production
 19 Galilean Science and the Dynamic Concept of Inertia
 20 Bourgeois Science

Part 3 The Dual Economics of Advanced Capitalism

 21 From De-socialised to Re-socialised Labour
 22 A Third Stage of the Capitalist Mode of Production?
 23 The Turn to Monopoly Capitalism
 24 Imperialism and Scientific Management
 25 The Economy of Time and ‘Scientific Management’
 26 The Essentials of Taylorism
 27 Critique of Taylorism
 28 The Foundation of Flow Production
 29 The Unity of Measurement of Man and Machine
 30 The Dual Economics of Monopoly Capitalism
 31 The Necessity for a Commensuration of Labour
 32 The Commensuration of Labour in Action
 33 The Way to Automation
 34 The Curse of the Second-Nature
 35 The Epoch of Transition
 36 Logic of Appropriation and Logic of Production

Part 4 Historical Materialism as Methodological Postulate

 37 The Theory of Reflection and Its Incompatibilities as a Theory of Science
 38 Materialism Versus Empiricism
 39 Marx’s Own Object Lesson
 40 Necessary False Consciousness
 41 The Philosophical Issue
 42 The Essentially Critical Power of Historical Materialism

Chris Arthur

Materials from Lotta Continua on Alfred Sohn-Rethel
Translated by Richard Braude
Marxists, authors interested in debates around real abstraction, the value-form, and social domination, students of Kant, economic anthropology, social epistemology and historical materialism.
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