Hans-Jürgen Krahl (1943-1970)

Hans-Jürgen Krahl points to the ceiling during the occupation of the University of Frankfurt, May 15, 1968 (AP Photo)

Dave Mesing | Hans-Jürgen Krahl, For and Against Critical Theory: Introduction

For Anglophone readers, Hans-Jürgen Krahl’s name is most distinctive as a marker for a possible alternative path within the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research.

Hans-Jürgen Krahl | Personal Information

The anti-authoritarian revolt was precisely a process of Marxist training, in which we have gradually detached from bourgeois ideologies, in which we have revealed the purely ideological character of its promises of liberation, and definitively understood that the classic forms of liberalism and emancipation, which still drive the liberal capitalism of competition, have definitively passed away. We have understood that now, in the struggle against the state, against bourgeois justice, and against the organized power of capital, in a long and certainly difficult process, it is a matter of conquering conditions that allow us to enter into organized contact with the working class and to create the historical pressures necessary for the education of class consciousness. It was a long process of education which also had to impose itself within the SDS.

Detlev Claussen | Krahl and His Conjuncture: An Interview with Detlev Claussen

The task for intellectuals is not to propagate the revolution from the outside, but to develop emancipatory needs which go beyond work—an emancipatory consciousness of the totality. In 1969, the world in Europe still seemed so open, the Italian Hot Autumn and the September strikes in Germany made such a task seem appropriate.

Andrea Cavazzini | Class Struggles in Advanced Capitalism: Adventures of the Dialectic in the Work of Hans-Jürgen Krahl

Subjectivity is never identical, then, with subjection. Insofar as it emerges out of a fractured social synthesis, subjectivity virtually extends the possibility of an antagonistic constitution, of a different social and productive synthesis; in short, the structural mutations of the proletariat and the determinate possibilities of its organization need to be incorporated within Critical Theory.

Massimiliano Tomba | Hans-Jürgen Krahl: New Emancipative Desires (1943-1970)

[Krahl’s] use of Marx is not only a weapon against reformism, but also against the practice of many extra-parliamentary groups which emerged following the dissolution of the SDS. Krahl’s rereading of Marx intended to wrest him away from groups who sought to legitimate their own practice by appealing to a Marxist theory isolated from the historico-political context. Krahl contested the abstract character of the positions taken by those who assumed their own actions for the proletariat as a declaration of faith, a ritual of self-confirmation in absence of a real revolutionary class.

Marco Assennato | “A Work of the Self on the Self”: Krahl and Intellectual Labor

1968 therefore expresses a radical change of the processes of antagonistic subjectivation, and consequently a major change in the composition of the productive subject. Krahl knew how to grasp this nexus, cultivated in many experiences of heretical European Marxism, in his own way: cultural labor is increasingly determined as common, salaried, alienated, and exploitative by industry. From this major premise, what follows is the refusal of the traditional figure of the committed intellectual, by now inscribed in a trajectory of progressive proletarianization.

Andrea Cengia | Krahl, Panzieri, and Technological Capitalism

For both Krahl and Panzieri, the massive introduction of technology into the capitalist mode of production must not be seen as a sign of the advent of the final phase of capitalism, but, on the contrary, as the expression of this mode of production’s capability for greater exploitation, an increase in real subsumption. The movement of the decomposition of antagonistic subjectivity corresponds, with disturbing symmetry, to the increase in the organic composition of capital. The idea of a final stage of capitalism should be considered a “mythology.”

Elia Zaru | Subjectivity and Class Composition: Methodological Notes on Krahl and Negri

Strategically, subjectivity reminds us that no preconceived revolutionary recipe is possible, that no mechanism exists behind the revolution, that, in the last instance, there is a concrete enemy to depose. And that this task belongs to proletarians, no matter whether they work in material or immaterial production.

Authors of the article

is a PhD student at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy. He also works as a teaching assistant at the University of Milan, and is part of the organizing group of the Critical Theory of Society seminar at the University of Milan Bicocca. For the last ten years, he has been part of the editorial collective of Radio Onda d'Urto.

is an activist based in Berlin. He graduated from the Sapienza University of Rome with a focus on philosophy and critical theory.

is a member of the Viewpoint editorial collective.