Self-Knowledge, Estrangement, and Social Metabolism

  • Boris Hennig
Keywords: Philosophy, Marxism


Following two key themes in Karl Marx's thought—estrangement and political economy, in their relation to human self-knowledge—labor mediates the social metabolism. In this schema, organic (or functional) metabolism is distinguished from extended metabolism (or social organization). Socially extended metabolism gives rise to shared values and concepts in the same way that organic metabolism gives rise to life. On this basis, I suggest that both the subject and object of human self-knowledge is a socially extended self, which can connect to itself only when humans freely participate in socially extended metabolism—that is, economy, science, and industry. Estrangement, in contrast, is seen to result from a disruption within socially extended metabolism.