Printed in Forum Kritische Psychologie 47/2004, 73-98 as "Das Subjekt der Kritik"


Morten Nissen, Ph.D.

Critique of the cold

Early in March, winter returns
In the garden, the newly-pruned apple trees
Hover like furred ghosts
Under hard frost and full moon. In here,
A branch is in blossom.

Ivan Malinovski: Heart of the Winter, 1980


Methodological precautions when dealing with "Critique" and "The Subject"

The aim of this paper is to contribute to an understanding and development of the general theory of Critical Psychology (CP), regarding, in particular, the internal relations between the concepts of "critique" and "the subject".

This may seem a straightforward project; one that promises to walk along well-trodden paths. After all, this is an editor of a journal named Outlines - Critical Social Studies writing what he hopes will become a contribution to a journal named Forum kritische Psychologie, using a "Science of the Subject" as common theoretical framework. But, perhaps indicative of some aspects of the way we seem to like to work with theories, even these, our very title concepts, the ones which identify and organize our endeavors, are far from clear-cut and simple. In fact they signify deep and important, and thus contested, tenets of Modern thinking, and our traditions for discussing this theoretical background are not as proud as we sometimes imagine.

If we consider, first, the idea of "critique": the occasional reflections on the theme in our journals (such as Markard, 2000, Nissen & Dreier, 1999) hardly do any more than scratch its surface. Neither did Holzkamp himself in the foundational period of CP (Holzkamp, 1971). CP, further, is percieved to be developing a Marxist critical tradition, but the obvious legacy of Critical Theory (Horkheimer, 1968) is very rarely discussed – except as the error of combining Psychoanalysis and Marxism – and the way any Marxist idea of critique inevitably forms part of a philosophical current that at least dates back to Kant has been left largely unexplored.

However, my point is not to discuss, let alone remedy, the relative philosophical ignorance of any science, even a theoretically critical "science of categories" (Jensen, 1999) such as CP, that must take the division of labor between the sciences as its starting point and is condemned to always only be partly aware of its own foundations. Rather, I have two other reasons for mentioning this at the beginning of this paper.

One is that I need to perform a balanced disclaimer: I know that I, too, am in the business of scratching surfaces here, and that so, if my arguments are countered by disdainful references to certain missing depths (why haven't I read a, b, or c …?) I may be able to ward them off with reference to certain others (but have you read x, y, z…), but the end result would be slightly frustrating. A certain humility is called for when one realizes that critical psychology is the kind of science that continuously propels itself into the no-man's-lands beyond the trenches facing cultural sciences, sociology, and above all philosophy.

The second reason is that this propelling is not at all a function of some abstract academic virtue of reflective learnedness, nor of a naļve megalomania. It is a necessary consequence of the encounter with the subject-matter itself: the subject. The concept of "the subject" in CP is itself an audacious remodelling of one of the pivotal categories of modern philosophy (Enlightenment as discussed in German Idealism as taken up in Marxism) with a relatively skinny theoretical argument that seems to primarily serve to denote and delineate what is called a "paradigm".

This characterization of the "Science of the Subject" is not in any way meant to be disrespectful. I only write this article because I am convinced that that "skinny theoretical argument" holds at least the germ cells to a theory of the subject which contains and surpasses both structuralist and phenomenological approaches, or, to put it in contemporary terms, both a theory of subjectification and of the conduct of everyday life. But the core ideas about the subject, in my view, need to be reconsidered and developed.

First, since in most – though, significantly, not all – texts in CP "the subject" is taken to be coextensive with "the human individual", "the subject" is often just another name for that empirical entity that could equally well be called "the person", "the human being" etc.  This means that theoretical determinations tend to slip and flow between those concepts. The name "science of the subject" was adopted to stress subjectivity as a central quality of the object that held title to what had been known as an "Individualwissenschaft"; but whilst the unit of analysis of "the individual" had been carefully theoretically reconstructed – and this was a most significant progress from earlier activity theory – the same cannot be said about "the subject". At this point, then, it may seem a simple solution to avoid the noun and stick to the adjective form "subjective", or, at most, the noun form derived from that adjective,"subjectivity". But that would not be entirely sincere, since in CP it is actually that singular and unique entity, rather than some abstract quality, which we are (at least, also) trying to understand. What we are after is not just "subjectivity", but "the subject"; but it is the subject as subject, so to speak.

Even with the relatively rich production in CP it is few texts that explicitly discuss the theoretical determinations of the concept of "the subject". Almost all refer to a handful of seminal texts written by Klaus Holzkamp (Holzkamp, 1973; Holzkamp, 1979a; Holzkamp, 1984; Holzkamp, 1977; Holzkamp, 1979b)  and, above all, (Holzkamp, 1983) . These texts, in turn, are characterized by a deliberate scarcity of references and by arguments which are often repeated rather than elaborated.

It is possible, of course, to find debates in CP about the concept of the subject. Relevant to the theme of this paper are the critiques raised by W.F Haug and the "PIT" group against the way Holzkamp's concept of the subject develops in the direction of a traditional idea of a pre-given autonomous centre of experience rather than a decentered social project (Haug, 1983; Hänninen & Paldįn, 1983) , as well as that raised by Dreier against abstract notions of relations between "the subject" and "the society" which tend to ignore concrete contexts and constellations of action (Dreier, 1992; Dreier, 1999) . But it seems to me that this debate has not quite received the attention it deserves.

Of course, the task is further complicated when we realize that the two concepts "critique" and "the subject" are internally theoretically related. This has been discussed extensively in the field of general philosophy (e.g. Foucault, 1994; Taylor, 1975) , and, more specifically, of ideology critique (Horkheimer & Adorno, 1969, Zizek, 1993, 1994, 1999) . As soon as the subject understands itself to be essentially mediated, it is both the case that self-consciousness must be a critical process, and that the subject itself is constituted partly by this same mediated self-consciousness. In CP, while the former statement is generally accepted, the latter is not quite so obvious. In the methodologies presented by Holzkamp, Markard, and others in the "classical" period of CP (Kappeler, Holzkamp, & Holzkamp-Osterkamp, 1977; Markard, 1984) , "the subject" is produced in a process of critique in a methodological sense: the subject appears in our actual-empirical research practices through a process of ideology critique. But even if those research practices are clearly understood as forming part of wider social [gesellschaftlicher] practices, and these are generally viewed as constitutive of the human individual as subject, the implication is never clearly made that the subject can be seen to be ontologically constituted in critique. In my view, this is the result of an utopianism which has led the way to the basically phenomenological approach to the subject which characterizes Holzkamp's later works, and which is perhaps most succinctly expressed in Holzkamp's "a priori" that the subject cannot deliberately harm herself (Holzkamp, 1983) .

Holzkamp saw the decisive contribution of CP in its – first implicit and later explicit – uncompromising adoption of the subject's perspective and recognition of the irreducability of an (ontologically pre-given) subjective experience. My claim is, against this, that the greatest potentials in CP lie in implications which can also be read from its theory (including even from the same works by Holzkamp!), which link subjectivity and ideology critique to the effect that the subject is viewed – and views herself – both from the inside and from the outside. And further, that this is constitutive, so that the subject is neither constituted inside nor outside of ideology – but, rather, in a perpetual movement between those points which may be termed ‘critique’. This dynamic perception is, as I hope to demonstrate, a rather straightforward consequence of the idea that participation implies both power, objectification, and self-transformation, and thereby generates self-consciousness. I shall return to the concept of participation, which will prove vital for the argument, below; first, it is necessary to reconstruct how subjectivity is conceived in CP.

The two basic determinations of subjectivity in Critical Psychology

The concept of subjectivity in Critical Psychology consists of two determinations. The first may be characterized as the subjectivity of labor, or praxis. In Holzkamp's ”Zur kritisch-psychologische Theorie der Subjektivität” from 1979 (Holzkamp, 1979a; Holzkamp, 1979b)  – a prelude to the Grundlegung 4 years later – subjectivity, following Marx, is determined as primarily supra-individual:

“One cannot understand the relation between sociality and subjectivity right, if one begins with the individual and attempts to highlight properties that are supposed to characterize their subjectivity. (…) We must, thus, first be able to characterize human 'subjectivity' as a property of the overall societal process, that is, as a 'subjective factor', or 'societal subjectivity'. Only on that basis can we then determine individual subjectivity as a personal realization of societal subjectivity" (p. 7-8)

This is why the issue, at this point, is subjectivity, rather than the subject. The very first determination of subjectivity shakes any belief in a pre-given, unproblematized unity of "a subject", since subjectivity is realized in participation. 

In the next step, societal subjectivity can be determined as against objective determination: human beings are, as subjects, "through practice the source of active manufacture and conscious control of the conditions of their existence" (ibid., p. 8) yet thereby at the same time "determined by their objective life conditions" (ibid.). This understanding was and is fundamental in Critical Psychology, and more generally, in the Activity Theory tradition, since it places subjectivity on the side of the active rather than passive (in contrast to the 'critical theory of the subject' which was very influential in the 70s, and is still important as part of the background of much 'critical psychology' in the English-speaking countries). Holzkamp's statement is sometimes read as a dualism of determinism and voluntarism, but the point is more subtly dialectical than that. The 'active subjectivity' does not push aside or deny objective determination, since it is precisely mediated by it in the process of production (see also (Nissen, 2002a) . The philosophical foundation of this 'subjectivity of labor' was in Marx' works, perhaps in particular the Theses on Feuerbach.

With the Grundlegung der Psychologie (Holzkamp, 1983) , a second determination of subjectivity was added – that which we might describe with the term self-reflexivity – based on "inter-subjectivity" and a "relation of possibility" to societal meanings [Bedeutungen]. Before, reflexive self-consciousness largely emerged as a result of the dual possibility resulting from suppression: from the development of struggle into a higher level of cooperation (expansive action potency) – in contrast to the self-delusion resulting from restrictive action potency. With the ideas of inter-subjectivity and relation of possibility, Holzkamp explained the emergence of self-consciousness at the general level of categories that did not presuppose class antagonism. In Holzkamp's 1983 version, it is the individual’s relation of possibility toward cultural meanings that is the driving force, that with which social relations are specified from a cooperative to a truly inter-subjective level – with that, I can recognize a "centre of intentionality" like myself in the Other. The roots of the relation of possibility are, historically as well as ontogenetically, the 'break with immediacy' ['Unmittelbarkeitsdurchbrechung']: the differentiation of societal cooperation into multiple communities, the individual's movements between them, and the development of tertiary cultural artifacts to mediate the 'meaning structures' of human activity (money, writing etc.). From the individual's perspective, what had been necessary was from now on optional; the contribution to societal reproduction had become 'problematic'.

This second determination of reflexive subjectivity, then, contrary to the subjectivity of labour, presupposes the individual as its pre-given unit of subjectivity, at the same time as it reconstructs the socio-historical emergence of it as a 'problematic' unit. And the emergent character of the subject, the subject as potential – so central to CP's overcoming of the nature/culture dichotomy – metamorphosed into the subject's choice, the reflexive grounding of her actions as optional.

Now, this second aspect of subjectivity is not quite as clearly based on Marx' general theory as the first. Here, our theoretical discussion is troubled by the fact that Holzkamp's references are very sparse. His frequent references to Marx and Leontiev are often unspecific and do not quite help us in these matters. But the problem does not begin with Holzkamp. Part of the problem that we encounter in attempting to retrace Holzkamp's theory of subjectivity is that Marx himself did not very directly address and explicitly reinterprete Hegel's theory of the subject, precisely on those aspects of subjectivity relating to intersubjectivity and reflexivity. It seems as if Marx was preoccupied with getting beyond Hegel's fundamental concept of Spirit and replacing it with what has later become foundational to modern sociology: the "empirically observable" presuppositions of "real individuals, their actions and material life conditions", the "first discernable fact" of "the bodily organization of these individuals and the relations to the rest of nature given therewith" which must be "the first premise for all human history" (Marx & Engels, 1981) , 17).

Hegel's dialectics of recognition and subject formation reappear in Marx, of course, in the shape of the class struggle[1]. But the particular unit of the class struggle is notoriously blurred, and the dialectical theory of subject formation was, otherwise, largely developed in idealist traditions that based on Hegel without Marx, by such philosophers as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger[2], and the American pragmatists. This is important now, since it is these lines of theory which were later taken up by the symbolic interactionists and by Foucault and his followers. Hegel's dialectic of recognition, in the Phenomenology of Spirit (Hegel, 1988) , begins with power but ends in labour, to put it bluntly: the slave's self-consciousness is constituted, first in the mirror image of the enemy in a struggle for life and death, then in the terror of facing death, and then, gradually, in an intersubjectivity which is mediated by production. It is at this latter point Marx continues the story, whereas his idealist colleagues returned to power, the prospect of death, and identification.

The utopian subject

Developing a subject-science from the Marxist tradition, then, means that one faces the task of reintegrating those issues into a framework of the subjectivity of labour, or praxis. Holzkamp's solution to this was the idea of the relation of possibility. Even if historically, the 'break with immediacy' was clearly internally related to the establishment of class societies, Holzkamp's version of it was shaped, to a large extent, by a methodology that implied a notion of original communism [Ur-Kommunismus]; the psychology of bourgeois society was a matter for the next section in his book. The general characteristics of Humanity must first be established independently of ideology critique in an historical reconstruction of anthropogenesis in two steps, corresponding to the two determinations of subjectivity: the upcoming of production, and the shift to a dominance of production in a total-societal reproduction of human life.

Thus, in Holzkamp's methodology of 1983, the 'Categories' which define Humanity is the only level of analysis exempted from grounding in an epistemology of practice (see (Nissen, 2000) . As these are also, in a Kantian fashion, declared to be transcendental in relation to actual-empirical research, and simultaneously form the paradigmatic framework that defines CP a community  of researchers, in terms of both understanding and ethical-political commitments, the inevitable result is a distinct utopianism: the theoretical construction of a set of ideals that serve hidden practical social functions by way of their purified character.The point here is not to refute utopian perspectives in general, and certainly not that implied in a general theory of Humanity (cf. (Harvey, 2000) ; the problem arises when the critical potentials of utopian visions are blocked by conferring on them a privileged, un-criticizable status that serves as an 'academic ideology', i.e. constitutes academic communities (inside or outside of ordinary University institutions)[3].

Elsewhere, I have discussed these problems in terms of a methodology of practice research (Nissen, 2000) . In this context, it is their implications consequences of that methodology in the theory of the subject that are relevant.

It was quite reasonable, in this framework, that the essential defining features of subjectivity, including intersubjectivity and self-consciousness, must be determined independently of the phenomenon of partial interest and the class struggle, as mentioned above. This led to the statement of individual subjectivity as an absolute methodological and ethical į priori to research – the first person perspective that ruled out objectification of the subject – which was, in effect, purified and dichotomized from ideology and power. The naked, abstract subject was placed at the point of departure of any empirical research: appeared, then, as a characteristic of the 'I' or the 'we' of any research that identified itself as CP. The object, on the other hand, in the concrete, would be exclusively the objective conditions and the forms of restrictive action potency from which the subject had already departed.

Thus, the classical dichotomization of subject and structure, which had been overcome in CP at the level of the subjectivity of labour, threatened to reappear in the subjectivity of reflective self-consciousness. In Holzkamp's later theory of learning (Holzkamp, 1993) , this is visible in the way Foucault's theory of discipline is received as abolutely external to the category of the learning subject which was established in a methodological individualism and cognitivism that was even formalized into an absolute epistemological distinction between 'implicative' and 'contingent' statements (the former combining, as it were, the two 'quasi-transcendental' "fundamental sciences", logic and phenomenological analysis; see note 3 above).

From this point, researchers developing the CP tradition have tended to move in two directions, corresponding to the impending dichotomization, taking up debates with two branches in current non-mainstream psychology which at a first glance appear opposite. One has been to engage in the development of a situated theory of practice inspired largely by phenomenological sociology {e.g. Dreier 1999 57 /id} {Huniche 2003 207 /id} . The other has been to attempt to integrate elements from structuralist and Foucauldian / poststructuralist theories of subjectivity {e.g. Hofmeister 1998 95 /id} {Nissen 1999 28 /id} . As these currents are discussed, generally, in relation to each other in (primarily anglo-saxon) 'critical psychology', regarding the theme of the subject, we can phrase it as the question of whether the subject is preexisting as a universal predicate of the temporally-spatially situated, embodied human individual (outside of ideology), and that thus, it is the subject who creates and uses discourse in his sovereign conduct of life, or whether, rather, the subject is itself formed in and by the discursive practices with which her conduct of life is conducted (inside ideology).

Either of these positions would be an unacceptable regression from the position of CP; but the problem is not solved just by stating that both positions are true, or related – just how are they related?

The structure of participation

It is my suggestion that the most promising road to reinterpreting the two theoretical strands into a transformed CP lies in unfolding the concept of participation, with its theoretical presuppositions of community, partiality, power, and production.

The implications of that concept in terms of an understanding of situated action have been, as developed by Dreier, Axel, and Höjholt  (Axel, 2002; Dreier, 1999; Höjholt, 1999) , that any notion of an autonomous, self-same, integrated 'personality' or 'identity' is relentlessly criticized, since the actions of the individual subject, in a sense, are always only partial. Thus, the concept of participation works as an important and useful tool against the ideology of the universal, autonomous individual subject that is always looming in the vicinity of phenomenological accounts of situated action. But it also, notably, works against the common postmodern counter-image that the subject is fragmented and dispersed – those terms which, since they remain purely negative, merely serve to confirm the unity they denounce – for the practices and action contexts in which she takes part are objectively related. Moreover, the focus on participation as a mediating concept retains the subject as immersed rather than disembedded or disembodied in relation to contexts of social practice, also when reflecting, transforming, or transcending. These general implications of the concept of participation are highly relevant in times when both the autonomy, the disconnectedness and the fragmentation of the subject are ideologically persuasive in neoliberal state reforms and post-industrial organizations of labour.

In the other direction, in relation to Foucauldian accounts of subject formation, the concept of participation in particular communities, more specifically, paves the way for a reconciliation of the contradiction between the first-person-perspective and the concept of subjectification. This seems, perhaps, something of an assertion. In Holzkamp's methodology, subject-science is, as mentioned, not a science about the subject, but for the subject, i.e. the subject must never be objectified (see, e.g. (Holzkamp, 1983) , 540 ff.). In Foucault and his followers – as in all accounts basing on Hegel's dialectics of recognition – subjectification results from subjection in power relations, that is, the subject is constituted precisely because and precisely the way it is problematized, that is, made the object of action and reflection (by herself and others). Conversely, Holzkamp absolutized, and Foucault rejected, the perspective of the subject. How can such incompatible ideas be related?

Perhaps, I would suggest, in a theory of participation, of the relations – in terms of subject positions – between you, me, and us. The only way to overcome the dichotomization of the concept of self-conscious subjectivity is to think of that as just as participatory as the subjectivity of labor, and that presupposes that "the subject" itself can be regarded as collective – the we / us, the particular collective subject-position which is only thinkable in a situated approach to cooperation, and only in an approach to situated intersubjectivity which recognizes cooperation. The precise determination of how particular communities are constituted and regulated etc. remains a task – indeed, a field – for further study (incidentally, my present project). At this point, suffice it to say that "communities" range all the way from fleeting conversational encounters between two strangers to massive enduring collectivities such as states; and that they are all unique, contingent and participate in each other like chinese boxes.

With the existence, or better, with the constitution, of a contingent 'we', subjectification does not rule out cooperation and the 'first-person-perspective'. Quite the contrary.

First, since "society" is never only one immediate cooperation (according to the principle of the break with immediacy), we must always have relations of participation between at least 3 levels of practice: the individuals, the communities, and the overall societal process. While the latter is all-encompassing and ever-transcendent, the two former of these are posited as particular units, and, in that sense, as agent-participants, particular subjects of practice (in the first determination of subjectivity). Second, these can only be theoretically necessary if their reproduction can be distinguished: if the interests of each individual are not exhaustedly and necessarily those of the community, and vice versa. Any community must be at least composed of me, you, and us, and consequently, mine, yours, and ours – and it must be distinguishable from ‘them’.

Thus, the idea of a community as a distinct cooperative unit does not in any way erode the decisive theoretical gain of Critical Psychology compared to earlier versions of Activity Theory (notably that of Leontiev): the overcoming of the dichotomy of socialization and self-interest which was made possible through investigating the subject's premises for participation, the need for action potency as a self-transformation that does not equal self-annihilation (Axel & Nissen, 1993) , and see further below). On the contrary, it is only by specifying the concept of a singular community-as-subject that a relationship of mutual recognition between community and participant can be posited.

There is no need, in fact, to fear the emergence of the much bespoken "mystical collective subject", i.e. an immediacy-bounded naļve cooperation (as does Holzkamp, 1983, p. 238), once the abstract-utopian subject is abandoned. It is a further implication of the singular community-as-subject is that a problematic relation between partial and general interest is theoretically inevitable, and that there is, of necessity, an objectification by one of the other – that is, a power relationship – e.g. 'we' problematize 'me', or 'I' problematize 'you', or 'us', etc., since, from the standpoint of 'us', no single participant is 'holy' or indispensable, and thus, subject-subject-relations are fundamentally 'relations of possibility'. And, given the relation of participation, it follows that each subject potentially problematizes itself – as when 'I' take part in 'our' problematization of 'me'. Finally, participation itself implies an intersubjective reciprocity: thus, if 'I' take part in 'us' problematizing 'me' – the participant – this implies already that 'I' and 'we' problematize 'us'. And this, in turn, of necessity means that the particular community is not only agent-participant, but also self-reflexive, that is, it is itself a subject in the full sense of the term[4].

Inside and outside of ideology – form and transformation

The internality of power to participation is the most important development from the utopian subject of CP. But before we develop that idea further, it is necessary to discuss the mediatedness of participation through which "objectification" can be viewed as a process that produces rather than destroys the subject. This is important because it is the only way to overcome the prevailing dichotomy between the naked human being (the body) and the structures in language, a dichotomy which forces an impossible choice between accepting or denying the individual as pregiven subject.

The objectifications which mediate, define and transform participation (that is, constitute both communities and participants) are also known as ideology. In other words, discussing the mediation of relations between Subjects and subjects through cultural objects amounts to approaching the theoretical traditions which, in different ways, construe the subject as constituted in ideology – from Mead and Goffman to Lacan, Althusser and Foucault. My suggestion here is that the problem with those theories is not the idea of ideological constitution, but, rather, that ideology is too structuralistically conceived.

In the pragmatist and systemic traditions, the community-participant reciprocity is mediated by significant symbols that organize meta-communication. These are seen as formed in a mere consensus (even if consensus may result from conflict), that is, they are in fact taken as structural givens, even if symbolic interactionists counteract the impending structuralism with the metaphysical, but sociologically customary, actor-given-with-the-body; theoretically, this contradiction is solved by bestowing the actor with an į priori drive for consensus. In Foucault, such extra-discursive agency is shunned, and, instead, discourse is grasped as itself self-transforming and ‘productive’. But Foucault consistently bases his analysis in discourse (the form of practice), rather than practice (which is formed yet transforming), and this nominalist approach reduces participation of central aspects: notably, the material externalization implied in productive objectification in a dialectics of objectification that extends far beyond the problematization of subjects (that is, discursive subjectification) and the essential uniqueness of the subject (Nissen, 2001, 2002a 2002b. in press) . Thus, the conceptualization of discourse (or symbols, frames, communication, etc.), in these theories, depicts the constitution of subjects as always inside an ideology which is pre-given. Althusser and Lacan, in other aspects, highlight important workings of ideology (some of which we shall discuss below), including the way that subjects are constituted as unique and as simultaneously always-already given and forever unfinished projects; but they, too, only oppose the subject with an objectivity that is fixed as a (linguistic or economic) structure which does not develop.

This is where the first principle of subjectivity, the subjectivity of labor, becomes relevant, according to which objectification is always transformative (elsewhere, I have discussed the concept of objectification in CP a bit more, Nissen, 2002b) . The production and transformation of societal object-meanings [gesellschaftlicher Gegenstandsbedeutungen] is a much wider productive phenomenon than the expressive performance [Vorstellung] of language itself; and even language must be essentially viewed as productive rather than merely performative or expressive.

This means that if the subject is constituted in participation, this implies a dialectics of subjectification and objectification that both realizes and transforms any given discursive form. These are dialectically interdependent and interchanging moments of a continuous movement. If we focus on the moment of realization of a given discursive form which organizes participation and thus constitutes, or 'recognizes' subjects – the 'positive' moment – we have ideology as given. But if we focus on the moment of transformation, the 'negative' moment, which is also inherent in practice as objectification, we are taken outside of ideology[5]. The ultimate reference points for any such transformative focus are, taken by themselves, metaphysical entities, such as the material substance into which meaning is externalized in objectification, the embodiment of practice in human life and in time-space contexts, and the overall societal process. Of course, these entities are all easily demonstrated to be always formed in discourse; and in that sense, it is futile to posit anything ‘outside ideology’. But this argument is merely the trope of turning to the next moment in the dialectical movement. If we take one more turn, we can see that it is equally futile to posit anything ‘inside’ ideology if that implies rejecting or marginalizing transformation – including the very transformation that is being carried out by the positing itself.

Critique as subject formation

What is ‘critique’, then, precisely, if we take the consequence of these considerations? Critique is the transformation of a given ideological form, a transformation which both pressupposes and posits a distinct form of community, and which thus, in the same instant, objectifies anew, that is, produces another ideological form. In other words, critique is the (trans-) formation  of subjects mediated by their objectification.

This implies, conversely, that critique and transformation are, in the general determination, implied in ideological reproduction. Thus, in terms of Althusser's theory of interpellation (Althusser, 1994) , we can say that, given the reciprocity of reflexivity between the community and the participant, the interpellation of the subject is at the same time the reconstitution of the community itself.

Thus, the approach developed here is close to the PIT notion of ideology as "societalization from above" [Vergesellschaftung von Oben] (Haug, 1979) , where "from above" is taken to mean "from the subject-standpoint of the (perhaps antagonistically reclaimed – see Haug in Hänninen et al., 1983) community". Haug et. al. would perhaps be critical of the "omnihistoricity" of ideology implied, here as in Althusser, but I would then point to the equally omnihistorical transformation of ideology which is also implied.

Incidentally, the insisting on the inner dialectics of the positive and the negative moments of critique was itself foundational to early CP in its conception of psychology critique; this was the basic argument that a critique of psychology as an ideology would necessarily include the proposition of another psychology, whether implicitly or explicitly, in a 'unity of critique and development'. The converse statement, that affirming psychology as an ideology would presuppose developing it, is obviously easily empirically confirmed – i.e. what we sometimes have called ‘traditional psychology’ survives, not by remaining the same, but rather, by what Bruno Latour calls ‘proliferating hybrids’ (Latour, 1993) – yet it also highlights our need for ways to conceptualize anew the distinction between conservation and critique. In the space of this argument, I shall limit myself to suggesting that the problem can be approached using the theoretical logic of to concept of "restrictive action potency" as a framework, according to which it is not reproduction in itself, but the dichotomization of reproduction and transformation that is the real predicament and the real veiling of the relations between partial and general interests.

Further, when I suggest that the dialectics of participation can be characterized with the term ‘critique’, one should be aware that the term is used, here, at two closely interrelated levels. The first is that transformation which is simply implied in productive objectification; and the second is the transformation of the form of participation itself which is necessarily implied therein, but not necessarily realized in a second-order objectification – in what we might call an ideology critique proper, or "for-itself"  (see Nissen, 1998; Nissen, 2002b) . Critique is human, we might say. Thus, Markard (2000, p. 42 ff.), in claiming that Nature cannot be criticized, is only right if we assume a dichotomy of nature and culture. On the basis of the dialectical materialist overcoming of that dichotomy, with the concept of production, characteristic of CP, we can see how Nature can indeed be criticized, since it is not simply an unrelated Outside, but the constitutive Other of Culture[6].

Finally, the concept of critique, viewed in a framework of participation, includes – and interrelates – the critique of the Other, the critique of Self, and the critique of the community within which Self and Other are related. The theoretical statement that these moments are internally related does not, it should perhaps be added, only amount to a normative stance – the idea that any ‘real’ critique should be also a self-critique etc.  It suggests a series of relevant analytical questions to be asked if one moment appears in the absense of the others[7]. Critique is the productive objectification of participation which splits the participant subject in two, as it were: she is turned into an object and at the same time interpellated as participant of the (reconstituted) community who thus objectifies. Thus, the concept of critique, here, implies that the subject is not excluded from that community in the process of objectification. But that, of course, is contingent. In the framework of a theory of the subject, this alternative draws the line between power and violence and establishes the all-pervasive contingency of recognition. In fact, physical violence can be viewed as primarily oppressive because of its severe misrecognition of the human subjectivity of the person thus reduced to a "body in pain" (Scarry, 1985) . Even without it – or, to be more precise, with its possibility as a hidden, mediated premise – the "technology" of in- and exclusion of participants from and to various communities is increasingly the prevalent form of disciplinary power in modern societies.

Productive formative power – the case of Makarenko

We can unfold these general statements, first, by discussing the issue of power in relation to social work. The assumption that critique is the formation of subjects mediated by their ideological objectification and that thus, participation implies and includes power, suggests much more than the banal teaching that ‘power is everywhere’ which leads some to include a section on power at the end of any discussion, in order ‘not to forget’, and others to reduce everything to power. The point is, rather, that participation, in implying partial interest, itself generates opposition and mutual objectification as inherent to intersubjectivity, not in spite of, but because intersubjectivity is grounded in a ‘common cause’, in production. It follows that any practice, in realizing a certain constellation of subjects, a certain form of participation, is also an exertion of power. Including power in participation also means that, even if self-conscious subjectivity develops in a process of subjectification [Subjektivierung] (i.e. objectification of the subject), we can see an alternative to subjection [Unterwerfung]: if the clash of partial interests can be 'generalized', sublated [Aufgehoben], in the way the community is reconstituted, then the power relation is productive rather than merely reproductive or even destructive.

The theme of productive power is highly relevant in pedagogical / social work, and as such, it has been discussed in many variants. Generally, formative coercion has been either considered a regrettable necessity in face of the anti-social child, or a form of oppressive violence against the naturally benevolent child. Recent events have reactualized the debate in Danish social and criminal politics and fuelled a policy of incarceration of the 'wild young', turning the pendulum away from a policy of outreach ‘on the terms of the users’. Engaging in this debate in the context of the 'Wild Learning' practice research cooperation (see Nissen, 2002b; Nissen, 2002a; Nissen, in press/b)  has been an important motivation for the present theoretical discussion, and for developing a theory of subject formation that eschews utopianism just as much as any justification of segregative coercion.

The CP approach to subjects as potential sets off at a point beyond the debate about the social or anti-social ‘nature’ of the child. The point is, to put it simply, to help realize any child’s social potentials through participation. But where does that leave us, one might ask, in the face of anti-social actions of people with whom we cannot simply establish dialogue (a space or framework [Rahmen] of inter-subjective ‘Verständigung’)? The immediate ‘humanist’ response is that we may need to act in self-defense, but otherwise, in other situations, performed by other people, we should seek to establish dialogue whenever possible. But this leads us precisely back to the misčre of social work – the dichotomizations and bifurcations between power and support that function to segregate and discipline behind the backs of well-meaning social workers. The only viable alternative, in my view, is envisaging a form of productive formative power that directly addresses partial interest in a clash of wills and directly reconstitutes participation.

At this point, a useful reference, known equally to Danish social workers and German Critical Psychologists, might be Anton Makarenko. Makarenko's 'Road to Life'  (Makarenko, 2002)  is certainly a narrative of productive power, instructive in its very explicit contextualization in the political struggles of the early Soviet years. A decisive dramatic climax is when the author-protagonist loses patience and self-control and desperately hits a young man who is much stronger than himself, and immediately after, unthinkingly, joins him and a whole group of hard-core street kids armed with axes and saws in cutting wood far from the colony. He exposes himself and deviates from prescribed pedagogical method – and thereby, in the same process, together with that group of youngsters, astonished with his emotional eruption, his courage and his earnestness, founds what is to become the revolutionary Gorkij colony. The point it makes is, among many others, that the community and the youngsters-as-participants are inaugured in the same dramatic (and lucky) sublation [Aufhebung] of conflict. The story that follows is one of unfolding and realizing that community (itself a participant in the formation of the early Soviet Union) – and thus revealing it also as formed in an ideology that itself requires transformation. The very shaping of the community as a distinct form, itself at first a critique (of petty-bourgeois pedagogy, of psychology, of state bureaucracy, of the Kulaks, etc., and, of course, of Makarenko’s own earlier attempts and of the young criminals), is a realization that becomes clearly visible to us as ideology.

This institution of the ideology of a reconstituted participation (and thus, reconstituted communities and participant subjects), is in-itself an interpellation in an Althusserian sense, a subject-formation in ideology. It naturalizes the participant as always-already subject, as, for instance, when Makarenko characterizes his boys as ‘sound’, in contrast to certains others – in particular, certain girls: apparently, Makarenko's relation to women is largely shaped by the Madonna/whore dichotomy. In a critical (and somewhat stylized) retrospective such as this, we can see how the exertion of power works. On the one hand, subjectifying power is performed as an aspect of participation, as a revolutionary community is constituted that includes the marginalized street kids. On the other hand, the same ideology performs a de-subjectifying power in relation to the women. The critical, comprehensive thinking in relation to subjects, the positing of potentials, is seen in the overcoming of the dichotomy of whether the boys are social or not (a 'sound' boy is the recognition of a boy who is wild, but who has potentials); but when seen relative to the girls, this same concept of 'soundness' appears an ideological naturalization organized by the gendered dichotomy.

How do we relate to such forms that are inseparably both ideology and critique? An utopian account of subject formation would posit one without the other in an absolute way; the subject will be reduced of its determinate features, that is, of its objectivity, in order to escape ideology (and Makarenko will be dumped). Ironically, this move will itself naturalize subjectivity, only behind the back. 'Normative' accounts will proliferate like Latourian hybrids precisely under the guise of an absolute rejection of any normativity whatsoever. A dialectical account, on the other hand, will accept that there is always another ideological dichotomy to overcome.

Further, Makarenko and his "counsil of commanders" evidently can be seen to "reclaim the community antagonistically" (Haug in Hänninen et al., 1983) by forming and usurping a symbolic form that is rendered transcendent (the idea of the Revolution, the "New Human Being" etc.). But we are forced to notice how those who stand to lose from this ideological construction are taking part in it as well, in its very constitution, rather than receiving it "from above"; and the (critical) analysis of relations of force [Kräfteverhältnisse] between partial interests, and between partial and general interests, becomes complex and historically concrete. In addition, the subject positions that carry those interests must be seen to be constituted in the same process, rather than externally to it – "discursively", "in ideology" (as famously argued by Laclau & Mouffe, 2001) – but of course, under given circumstances and continuing and/or breaking with certain given traditions. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that we can identify certain patriarchal traditions in Makarenko; but how are those, precisely, reconstituted here, where some (other) women are viewed as "comrades"? Likewise, we may witness one incident in the constitution of a class of "nomenclatura" – but how is that related, critically, to the class positions of intellectuals, warriors and bureaucrats from which it takes off?

The self-denial of the subject

If we attempt to overcome utopianism by substituting an omnihistoricity of both ideology and its transformation for the marking off of a time or a place without ideology, we must accept that critique of ideology is always also production of ideology. Thus, we are faced with the problem that occupies any psychology which takes as its starting point some kind of subjectification: The constitutive self-denial of the subject. This is discussed illustratively by Judith Butler (1997) :

"The "I" emerges upon the condition that it deny its formation in dependency, the conditions of its own possibility. The "I", however, is threatened with disruption precisely by this denial, by its unconscious pursuit of its own dissolution through neurotic repetitions that restage the primary scenarios it not only refuses to see but cannot see, if it wishes to remain itself." (p. 9-10)

If we read Butler, first, as just another (Lacanian) psychoanalyst, from the standpoint of CP, it is easy to see how her conception of subjectification is, once again, a universalization of restrictive action potency in the exclusion of the subjectivity of labor. Butler points to a crucial contradiction in subjectivity, but fails to see the road to its productive reconciliation: caught up in its psychoanalytic conception, agency must remain external to dependency, even if it is also formed by it. That which, at the general philosophical level, is a dialectical notion of freedom, becomes at the psychological level a constitutive repressive subjection.

This can be regarded, then, as an absolutization of restricted action potency. In restricted action potency, existential threats derive both from status quo (defending the "I"), and from development (dissoluting the "I"). Generalizing action potency, on the other hand, presupposes that 'dependency' can be viewed as an expression of participation. Thus, it is only by considering how the particular subject emerges as a contingent participant of a community which itself inheres subjectivity that the contradiction which triggers Butler's considerations can be overcome, sublated [Aufgehoben]:

"The story by which subjection is told is, inevitably, circular, presupposing the very subject for which it seeks to give an account. (…) A power exerted on a subject, subjection is nevertheless a power assumed by the subject, an assumption that constitutes the instrument of that subject's becoming" (ibid., 11)

In terms of participation, interpellation is a dialectical transformation. The gesture of hailing which establishes a symbolic identity between community and participant is substantialized in a process which simultaneously negates and realizes it. The subject, as identical with the community, is always-already there as abstract possibility (as 'symbolic meaning'), the realization of which, on the other hand, constitutes that subject as autonomous and self-conscious. The 'original' subject position, that of participating in the Subject of power, thereby becomes "identical with its opposite", the subject-as-autonomous, but potentially participant, against which power is directed. Thus, with the theory of participation, a more general theoretical problematic is developed in terms of which an exertion of power can be at once for and against the subject, at once presuppose the subject and constitute it.

With this theoretical platform, we can use Butler's deliberations to approach a further analysis of the issue of self-denial in ideology-critique.

Even if the logic of participation – specified as interpellation – can posit the subject at both ends of the process of subject formation, the positive moment of critique, taken in itself, still, of necessity, constitutes the subject in a certain, determinate [bestimmter] form. From the subject position thus formed, any potential transformation of this form can only be envisaged negatively, that is, as a vague abstraction, as a dissolution, as the 'death' of this subject-form. From this 'first-person-perspective', moreover, the community can only be grasped in a dichotomy of immediate identification ('we') and recognition as the Other. Thus, defensive self-assertion and self-denial of constitutive dependency is implied in the subject position when seen in itself. If, on the other hand, we absolutize the negative moment of critique, the subject position of that trope, we ourselves, are pushed out of focus, and the subject-as-determinate (as distinct from 'subjectivity') is either impossible or only conceivable in the abstract (in theory / Utopia). In other words, self-denial is the inescapable consequence of any of the two moments of critique when taken in-itself. Only in the totality of the movement, in the relentless passing, as it were, from one self-denial to the other, can the subject be (relatively) self-transparent.

This implies that critique always, in a sense, ‘kills’ the subject-form which is transcended and ‘gives birth’ to a new subject-form which, as such, is ‘methodologically innocent’. This provides, I think, a second key to the paradoxical statement of Holzkamp’s that method is necessarily retrospective (Holzkamp, 1983) . The first, and obvious, key is that method objectifies and generalizes actions as action possibilities which, to be sure, only make any sense because they are proactively instrumental, yet which necessarily refer to actions that have already been performed; the application of a method is inherently its transformation, in a sequence of imagination-realization, so that if method implies stable objectivity, it is retrospective. But the claim can also be viewed as a realization of the reconstitution of the subject which is implied in the process of critique. In proclaiming a method, the subject of a new level of self-reflection is recognized, or recognizes itself, through an objectification of practice that necessarily misrecognizes the self-understanding of the subject of that practice (Nissen, in press/b) . This, in fact, is another form of the kind of ‘productive formative power’ in Aufhebung of conflict which we encountered above.

Turning the gaze the opposite way, the ‘criticized subject’, the subject prior to reconstitution, faces dissolution. Development, when seen as subject-formation, as critique, involves a radical void, an impasse that can never be mediated and broken down in a sequence of steps that can be represented as a ‘method’ applied by any given subject (Zizek, 1993) . This is the dissolution or void which is feared in restrictive action potency, but which is also ‘unconsciously pursued’ in the subject’s expansive drive, based on its ‘productive needs’ – unconsciously, that is, only insofar as self-reproduction and self-transformation are dichotomized, so that critique is unbearable to the subject. Conversely, if critique is bearable, it is because the subject can assume the subject-position of the community – that Other which is also ‘Us’ – from which the impossible can be first possible, and later substantialized[8].

God, the general interest, and the object

Finally – and perhaps stretching the argument to its limits – it may be hypothesized that this logic can be linked with the prototypical or absolute ideological nature of religion. God is both the ultimate community-subject, and the ultimate transcendence of any given, 'earthly' community. The metaphysics of God, then, is the dichotomic naturalization of a necessary aspect of participation and subjectivity: the perpetual transcendence of everyday life.

Above, it was proposed that participation must include at least three levels of practice – not just the community and the participant(s), but also the overall societal process – the indeterminate [unbestimmter] substance of "society". This was an inevitable consequence of the internal relation of participation and critique; but it was far from innocent. As witnessed in the problematics concerning theories of everyday life, a determination of the indeterminate social practice carries with it a number of problems, not just of a logical kind (the object disappears when focussed on etc.), but also theoretical problems: the indeterminate 'praxis' is easily naturalized either from a standpoint outside or as a utopian ideal (Nissen, 2002b) . If positing a 'critical subject' implies an indeterminate societal process, a "critical invocation of everyday life", then, the subject-position of research in relation to this process needs to be reflected.

In CP 'classic', this is represented as the task of research as of any practice to promote general interest in expansive action potency. This matches the 'ideological' nature of 'ideology critique' from which some conclude that ideology, as a theoretical concept, must be discarded: the positing of a general interest – and with it, implications of universal features of humanity (see (Nissen, 2000) – in a form which is always historically specific and will (thus) always promote special interests, always reconstitute a specifically self-denying form of participation, in short, the Heavens in an earthly form. If the negative cannot be distilled from the positive moment of critique, then the paradox of ideology is inescapable. Following this paradoxical route, then, as I nevertheless propose, leads us on to a necessarily 'ethical' position that proports to always transcend any given, finite, standard. It is precisely by insisting on a 'normative' approach and the overall aim of expansion, generalizing of interest and perspective etc., that the critical subject-position is assumed. And precisely by explicitely stating a particular general interest it is objectified and ready to be criticized anew.

The anti-religious thrust of CP, then, is not only more than its participation in modernistic disenchantment, it also excedes the revealing of the ideological nature of religion: in assuming the standpoint of the critical subject, CP exists only as material objectifications which themselves invite critique, both with their immediate finitude and with their symbolic representation of the infinite transformative movement.

Thus, CP, in a certain sense, endeavours to replace religion. If the religious form resembles the point in the visual field where the parallel lines of a rail-road track meet – the finite form of the infinite – then it is not just the ultimate subject-community and its ultimate transcendence, but at the same time its ultimate externalization and objectification. The absolute realization of the artifact which reciprocates to create the subject itself, according to Scarry, (1985) , or the final realization that the "decentered hard kernel which eludes my grasp is ultimately self-consciousness itself (…) as an external object out of my reach", which Zizek, (1993) , calls the ‘scandal of Lacanian psychoanalysis’.

As already stated, objectification both realizes and negates the subject. The externality of the object, however, as a necessary moment in the continuous formation of the 'critical subject', is not merely conceptual or cognitive; it is not merely, as Zizek claims (alluding to the Cartesian origins of the problematic of the subject of critique), that "I doubt, therefore I am". It is more radical and more practical than that. Objectification is substantiated in materiality. Ideology as the objectification of the subject includes the material production of 'inscription devices' and the (self-) formation of the body of the subject, that is, materialities which inherently supersede any pregiven subjective intentionality. And, conversely, when, e.g., a new technology is developed and deployed, this is an objectification which is intrinsically also the (anticipatory) re-/constitution of a community, whether this is intended and reflected or not (see, to this theme, Schraube, 1998) . The critical subject is incessantly and inherently critical of material conditions, and this implies already an exercise of power, just as power is also "productive" in the sense that it necessarily involves a material externalization (in "discourse" as well as in other objective forms).

If the dialectical momentum of these movements is lost, the only point where the three positions of subject-object-transformation can merge is in the abstract as such, that is, alienated as a transcendent religious form. Otherwise, the sides fall apart into dichotomies. This implies, of course, that "instrumental" scientific objectifications do not challenge religion, but confirm and universalize it (Horkheimer & Adorno, 1969) . The principal ideological function of religion today is perhaps that it deploys this meta-dichotomization between the disenchanted modern self-denial in scientific one-sidedness and the meek positing of the wish to finally overcome it. CP is fundamentally different from most sciences on this account because it not only objectifies subjectivity itself, but even does that in order for that objectification to be transcended into a generalized interest.


A final word of reservation. I have taken up a monumental issue and delivered a only sketch to remedy some rather boldly claimed fundamental problems in a great theoretical tradition. This can only be helped by substantiating that sketch in further theoretical and empirical works which exceed the limits of a journal article. Yet the point has not been to jump to a new territory that will make my always limited understanding of the intricacies of that great tradition less awkward.

Far from it; it is my hope that the theory of critique as subject formation which I have proposed here can be recognized as the articulation of an approach to social and psychological problems which is, to a large extent, already characteristic of CP. In that sense, it is both my aim and my claim that the ‘criticized subject’ of the community of CP should be able to find a new subject position in the reconstituted communities of today’s "critical psychologies" and activity theories that gather around sites such as the FKP and the Outlines.

Of course, this will take more than theory. The utopian tendencies which I have criticized in CP would be ironically repeated if I were to claim that they derived simply from a false theory and suggest another theoretical framework within which the problem would be solved. One can find any number of conditions in University politics, the (post-) Cold War  etc. that make almost any kind of ‘opportunistic deviation’ understandable, just as well as, on the other hand, present (Danish or EU) University politics, the New World Order etc. give us other opportunities and other pitfalls that I probably haven’t even suspected. I believe I have steared clear of some of the dichotomies and illusions which face anyone who wishes to develop a ‘psychology of participation’ in these times, in particular, perhaps, that of a nostalgic, abstract communitarianism to counterweigh the equally abstract notion of liberal autonomy (Jensen, 1999) . But others will most certainly have overpowered me: here they are, then, ready for your critique!


The author wishes to thank Ernst Schraube and Frigga Haug  for their productive critique on earlier versions of this paper.



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[1] Incidentally, this is the same point where Holzkamp was later to identify a connection between collective subjectivity and power (Holzkamp, 1983, 331) . The theme was never unfolded further by Holzkamp, but is taken up here.

[2] It seems clear, by the way, that Holzkamp was influenced by phenomenology, if only from his use of certain phrases and concepts that match word by word those of Heidegger (the 'je ich', Befindlichkeit, etc.), even if at this point, too, Holzkamp's references are vague. He did make a piece on CP and phenomenological psychology, but the only reference there is to Grauman, and Holzkamp does not state explicitly which concepts he had reinterpreted from him into the "Grundlegung", nor help clarify the specifics of their history. He merely declares a methodological level of phenomenological analysis of the necessary constituents of human experience which any theory must address – comparable to the requirements of logic – and details how this level of analysis is better approached in the "Grundlegung" than in the earlier works in Critical Psychology.

[3] An interesting further twist to this ideological function of the categories, in terms of the 'social' [sozialer] structure of the communities they index, is that clearly Klaus Holzkamp himself was the only participant who was not obliged by the rules he formulated i 1983: he was busy developing categories in interaction with his contemporaries and without any foundation in functional-historical data, that is, studies of the history of the Species (and even sometimes, as with the reception of Foucault in (Holzkamp, 1993) , without critique, let alone 're-interpretation'). Further, the branching-off of the Danish kind and community of Critical Psychology was signaled when in 1993 (in Danish) and 1994 (in English) Ole Dreier published his theoretical work on action contexts, on the level of 'categories'.

[4] The necessary self-reflexivity of any community is partly discussed in the ethnomethodological tradition as the essential indexicality of interactions and accounts (Garfinkel, 1984) , in the systemic tradition as meta-communication (e.g. Bateson, 1972) , and in Goffman's notions of "frames" and "keys" (Goffman, 1986)

[5] On the dialectics of "form", one useful reference is the social anthropological tradition of "social practice theory", see (Holland & Lave, 2001; Willis, 2000)

[6] This, too, is actually classical Marxist modernism – thus, one inspiration to Malinovski's poem at the top of this paper was Bertolt Brecht. In his Kleines Organon (point 22), he writes: "Die Haltung ist eine kritische. Gegenüber einen Fluss besteht sie in der Regulierung des Flusses; gegenüber einem Obstbaum in der Okulierung des Obstbaums; gegenüber der Fortbewegung in der  Konstruktion der Fahr- und Flugzeuge, gegenüber der Gesellschaft in der Umwältzung der Gesellschaft" (Brecht, 1971 , 58).

[7] The way that a 'critique' of one member implies demands on the community and on the other participants is, in my view, one of the persuasive findings of the tradition of systemic psychotherapy.

[8] This possibility provides an approach to the phenomenon of the subject’s, not just self-denial, but deliberate self-cancellation as subject. I have discussed this problem extensively in (Nissen, 2002a) . This phenomenon is, in fact, one of the antinomies of Holzkamp’s theory of the subject. In order to establish the first-person-perspective, Holzkamp asserts the above-mentioned "a priori" that the subject cannot deliberately harm itself  (Holzkamp, 1983 , p. 350). This implies that suicide, even as the self-sacrifice of the patriotic or revolutionary soldier, must be either diagnosed from the outside as absolutely irrational or grounded in ‘values’ which are absolutely unfounded in the self-interest of the subject. Both those implications are serious contradictions to the theory, because it is necessarily assumed that reasoned [begründeter] self-interest is never simply abandoned in favour of collective interest, but sublated [Aufgehoben] into it. This antinomy can only be resolved in a theory of participation which includes the notion that the participant can assume the subject-position of the community, and, from that perspective, has the option of making an end to herself – jumping into the absolute void which objectifies and reconstitutes the community.