Perverted forms and reductio ad hominem: Hans Georg Backhaus and Marx’s Theory of Fetishism

Tommaso Redolfi Riva



The aim of my presentation is to analyse Hans Georg Backhaus's interpretation of Marx's theory of fetishism. According to Backhaus, the categories with which economic theory (Marxist, Neoclassical and Neoricardian) erects its own models are unreflected forms: in economic theory, the categories of value, price, commodity, capital etc. represent external presupposed objects, “Sachen außer dem Menschen”. For Backhaus, these categories are “perverted forms” [verrückte Formen], social relationships that have become autonomous, assuming the form of things. Accordingly, the Marxian program of the Critique of Political Economy can be understood as the deduction of the perverted forms of economic theory and of the process of their autonomization, starting from the social structure that characterised capitalistic production and circulation. In Backhaus’s perspective, Marx’s critique of the fetishism of economic theory represents both a reductio ad hominem and an epistemological critique of economic theory as a whole. From this latter standpoint, according to Backhaus, only a dialectical theory can explain the double nature of the commodity and develop the contradiction between the universal character of value and its material existence in a specific commodity.
Starting from the explanation of the concept of perverted forms and from Backhaus’ idea of the Marxian Critique of Political Economy as reductio ad hominem and as a critique of economic categories, I will try to outline his interpretation of Marx’s theory of fetishism.

neue Marx Leküre - Backhaus - Fetishism