Re: general, particular Holzkamp, Engeström

From: Wolff-Michael Roth (
Date: Wed Oct 13 2004 - 11:44:14 PDT

I made comment earlier about the Marx translation. One striking example
is the English use of "social" where Marx writes "societal"
(Gesellschat, gesellschaftlich). The two terms are not the same, as
German has a word for social, which is "sozial" as in Sozialarbeit
(social work), Sozialwissenschaft (social science) etc. Holzkamp
retains this crucial distinction between social and societal. It is at
the level of the society that work/labor is general, which for the
individual provides concrete physical exertion etc.
        Another issue we often forget is that for Marx, it is no longer the
individual that fends for its life, but society. By contributing to the
survival of the society, the individual contributes to its own
survival. This is where double identity of work/labor shows up: it is
concrete, physical/mental exertion of the individual AND generalized
work/labor that produces and reproduces society. It is by contributing
to society that we not only contribute to our own needs, but in fact
become free in choosing how we want to contribute to the total labor of
society. If we chose not to contribute, we become dependent again on
the sociomaterial environment, e.g., depend on private, governmental
hand-outs and the uncertainties that come with them and their timing.

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