Michael Heinrich

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Michael Heinrich in Zagreb, 2014

Michael Heinrich (born 1957, Heidelberg) is a German Marxist political scientist. He has taught economics at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin and was managing editor of PROKLA: Journal for Critical Social Science [de] (until 2014).


His PhD dissertation was published in 1991 and was titled Die Wissenschaft vom Wert as (The Science of Value).[1] (Today it is available in its 8th German edition, with an English translation forthcoming.[2])

Heinrich is known for his works on Marx's critique of political economy.[1]

As of 2021 Heinrich is working on a four-volume biography of Marx.[3] Karl Marx und die Geburt der modernen Gesellschaft 1. Band. 1818-1841 was published in 2018 (Stuttgart Schmetterling Verlag, ISBN 9783896570857) and an English translation Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society in 2019 (NYU Press, ISBN 9781583677353).[4][5] The second volume is expected to be published in 2022.[6]


Heinrich is an outspoken critic of what he calls "worldview Marxism" (Weltanschauungsmarxismus), for which Karl Kautsky was the dominant figure. This form of Marxism is characterized by "a crudely knitted materialism, a bourgeois belief in progress, and a few strongly simplified elements of Hegelian philosophy and modular pieces of Marxian terminology combined into simple formulas and explanations". Other prominent features include "a rather crude economism" and "a pronounced historical determinism that viewed the end of capitalism and the proletarian revolution as inevitable occurrences".[7]: 24–25 

Fetishism and context of delusion[edit]

Contrary to "worldview Marxism", Heinrich primarily views Marx as "a critic of a social structure that is mediated by value and thus 'fetishized'". Following the structuralism of Althusser and critical theory, he speaks of a context of deception (Verblendungszusammenhang) to which both workers and capitalists are equally subject. For Heinrich, fetishism is not an impenetrable context of deception, but one cannot speak of a "privileged position of perception occupied by the working class",[7]: 79  nor can one speak of a conscious instrumentalization by capital, making moral criticisms of behaviors of individuals unproductive.

Monetary theory of value[edit]

Heinrich rejects the prevailing "substantialist" interpretation of Marx's theory of value, which understands value as the "property of an individual commodity",[7]: 54  namely the "abstract labor" defined by Marx. Rather, he understands Marx's theory as a monetary theory of value, which marks a paradigmatic shift from the pre-monetary labor theory of the preceding classical political economists, and also distinguishes Marx from the utility theory of neoclassical economics.[7]: 64 

Although the value of a commodity appears to be a material property, it is a social relationship, namely the relationship between "the individual labor of producers and the total labor of society". This does not mean that exchange produces value, but only in exchange can value "obtain an objective value form".[7]: 55 

Tendency of the rate of profit to fall and crisis theory[edit]

Heinrich strenuously rejects the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. While the rate of profit can fall, it can also rise, and "a long-lasting tendency for the rate of profit to fall cannot be substantiated at the general level".[7]: 153  Similarly, a long-term tendency towards collapse cannot be derived from the crisis-prone nature of capitalism: "[C]rises are not just destructive. Rather, in crises the unity between spheres (such as production and consumption) that belong together but become independent of one another (production and consumption follow different determinations) is violently restored." Heinrich rejects the thesis of proponents of value criticism such as Robert Kurz that the contradiction between the logics of production and consumption lead to a "logical self-contradiction of capital" from which capitalism will inevitably collapse.[8] To Heinrich, the collapse theory, which was already widespread in the early labor movement, "has historically always had an excusatory function: regardless of how bad contemporary defeats were, the opponent's end was a certainty". Heinrich argues that such a theory is not found in Marx beyond a possible trace of one in Marx's early work, the Grundrisse, an idea which he did not return to. Heinrich states that in any case, the rejection of collapse theory is not a defense of capitalism.[7]: 176–178 

Published books (selected)[edit]

  • An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital, Monthly Review Press, New York 2012, ISBN 978-1-58367-289-1.
  • Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society: The Life of Marx and the Development of His Work. Volume I: 1818-1841, Monthly Review Press, New York 2019, ISBN 978-1-58367-735-3.
  • How to Read Marx’s ‘Capital’. Commentary and Explanations on the Beginning Chapters. Monthly Review Press, New York 2021, ISBN 978-1-58367-894-7


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Roso, Darren (2018). "Interview with Michael Heinrich". Historical Materialism. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  2. ^ Marx and the Birth of Modern Society: An Interview with Michael Heinrich, 2020-11-25
  3. ^ "Karl-Marx-Biografie – Leben und Werk im Kontext" (in German). Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  4. ^ "Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society: The Life of Marx and the Development of His Work (Volume I: 1818-1841)". Monthly Review. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  5. ^ Byron, Chris (2020). "'Karl Marx and the Birth of Modern Society: The Life of Marx and the Development of His Work (Volume I: 1818-1841)' by Michael Heinrich reviewed by Chris Byron". marxandphilosophy.org.uk. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  6. ^ "Exposé (EN) – Karl-Marx-Biografie" (in German). Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Heinrich, Michael (2012). An introduction to the three volumes of Karl Marx's Capital. Alexander Locascio. New York: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 978-1-58367-291-4. OCLC 812923956.
  8. ^ Kurz, Robert (1999). Schwarzbuch Kapitalismus ein Abgesang auf die Marktwirtschaft. Frankfurt am Main. p. 731. ISBN 978-3-8218-0491-0. OCLC 231858531.

External links[edit]