This introduction outlines the importance that Hans-Georg Backhaus’s transcript of Adorno’s 1962 seminar on ‘Marx and the Basic Concepts of Sociological Theory’ has for shedding light on the relationship between Adorno’s critical theory and the critique of political economy. Part I signals the importance of the seminar by assaying the Anglophone scholarship on Adorno. Part II contextualises the seminar in the development of his thought. Parts III and IV focus on what the transcript tells us about Adorno’s interpretation of Marx and the importance this interpretation held for Adorno’s critical social theory. Part V points to the influence this interpretation of the critique of political economy had on the formation of the New German Reading of Marx.
This review-essay assays Werner Bonefeld’s timely attempt to unite contemporary critical theory with the critique of political economy. I begin by contextualising Bonefeld’s contribution in relation to the dearth of material on this issue in contemporary anglophone critical theory. I then discuss the anglophone reception of Adornian critical theory and provide an overview of the development of the subterranean critical-theoretical interpretations of the critique of political economy that Adorno influenced which have been occluded by the former. This sets up my discussion of how Bonefeld has taken up, criticised and developed this subterranean strand in critical theory and the critique of political economy. I close with some criticisms of how Bonefeld addresses the relationship between critical theory and the critique of political economy and point toward several areas of further investigation that are intended to extend this approach to the contemporary critical theory of society.
The following is the transcript of a lecture taken in shorthand by Hans-Georg Backhaus. The transcript was originally published as an appendix in Hans-Georg Backhaus, Dialektik der Wertform. Untersuchungen zur marxschen Ökonomiekritik (Freiburg: ça ira, 1997), a complete translation of which is forthcoming in the Historical Materialism book series.