Radicalizing the Root: The Return of Philosophical Anthropology to the Critique of Political Economy

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Crisis and Critique


This paper examines the return to philosophical anthropology to the critique of political economy in the work of Etienne Balibar, Pierre Macherey, and Paolo Virno. I argue that this return is no longer a question of the alienation or realization of a human essence, but the way in which the very idea of the human is itself produced in and through the exploitation of labor power. The quotidian act of selling one’s labor power, of selling a capacity to work, makes it possible to reexamine the anthropological concept of humanity as potential, as the capacity to learn new habits. Finally, I argue that it is through this generic figure of the human, and its exclusions that we must think the ground for political struggle.