Strategic Estrangement

  • Julius Sensat


We’ve seen that Marx applies the charge of doctrinal inversion in novel and surprising ways (Section 4.1). It was natural for Feuerbach to extend his critique of religion to Hegel’s philosophy, since the latter claims to be a conceptually adequate account of the same content that religion captures in images, narratives and metaphors. Feuerbach could trace both projections to the same psychological need for reconciliation. But Marx finds a doctrinal inversion in the unlikely doctrine of political economy, which aspires to be an empirical theory of economic mechanisms rather than something akin to a theodicy. Economic value (as manifested in monetary or exchange value) is for Marx a social projection rather than something intrinsic to commodities as natural objects: value only exists in virtue of the specific and contingent way the economy is organized. But political economy, he claims, ignores this fact by explaining the workings of the economy as a social response to certain immutable natural laws of value. In this way, it mischaracterizes not only value but capital—self-expanding value—through a doctrinal inversion. They depend on a certain configuration of human activities for their existence, but political economy treats them as an independent determinant of those activities. Such representations of the economy thus have an inherently apologetic character, because they treat socially variable features of it as fixed in the nature of things. They in effect treat value and capital—and thus capitalism—as always with us, as something whose forces can be channeled, perhaps, but not eliminated. On this view, trying to get rid of capitalism is as foolish as trying to get rid of gravitation.


Common Knowledge Social Form Collective Agency Extrinsic Information Collective Intention 
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© Julius Sensat 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julius Sensat
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Wisconsin—MilwaukeeUSA

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