A Short Note on Sohn Rethels Realabstraktion

Even the disregard for empiricism, which Sohn-Rethel places in the context of the concept of real abstraction of exchange (abstraction from use and at the same time separation of the form of exchange itself) does not really apply to the concept of abstraction; Sohn-Rethel defines an abstract reality with the exchange(act), i.e, an abstract movement of abstract substances (material, but at the same time imperceptible), which leads through a (continuous and homogeneous) abstract space and time, substances which in exchange are not subject to any material changes and are only capable of quantitative differentiation, namely an abstract, non-dimensional differentiation. For Sohn-Rethel, however, this kind of abstract synthesis is not constituted by actors, but purely by actions, i.e. a) without the actors’ knowledge of the synthesis, and b) due to their specific solipsism (everyone always pursues his own interests in the barter transactions). At the same time, real abstraction always implies a specific intellectual movement, insofar as it is shown as an execution of action, which as a purely abstract and synthesising act in Sohn-Rethel’s work takes place in capitalism solely in exchange, whereby the question would of course have to be immediately addressed to Sohn-Rethel here, whether this transcendental a priori could not also be applied to production, insofar as this concept of abstraction – leaving empiricism aside – certainly allows the capitalist production process to be seen as a process of the pure expenditure of labour energy or, as the case may be, of the pure expenditure of labour energy. as an abstraction of technically concrete moments (although these two moments cannot be separated in the real production process, but remain mentally capable of separating analysis). It is precisely because of the indeterminacy of the value that paradoxically it is also determined in the exchange how the actants think of this value, whereby Sohn-Rethel does not give a particularly resounding answer to the question of how abstraction translates itself into discourse and thinking, whether it consciously or unconsciously lays itself on all possible thought contents, when he finally claims that this can happen through conscious reflection, with which we can then recognise the money-mediated exchange and the power of abstraction hidden in it. It seems, however, that we see the world through money, as it were, as if we already have it in our eyes and so lay on everything, as Eske Bockelmann once put it beautifully, on everything “on which our gaze falls, a kind of colouring of the vitreous body, which therefore seems to lie on things, a polarisation through the cornea, which makes us see the world no longer differently than polarised. Money and its economic maths ever seem to have been neuronally orbited.

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