‘Transcritique: On Kant and Marx’ by Kōjin Karatani

Published by MIT Press in 2003. Download link updated on 23. December 2021.

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Kojin Karatani’s Transcritique introduces a startlingly new dimension to Immanuel Kant’s transcendental critique by using Kant to read Karl Marx and Marx to read Kant. In a direct challenge to standard academic approaches to both thinkers, Karatani’s transcritical readings discover the ethical roots of socialism in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and a Kantian critique of money in Marx’s Capital.

Karatani reads Kant as a philosopher who sought to wrest metaphysics from the discredited realm of theoretical dogma in order to restore it to its proper place in the sphere of ethics and praxis. With this as his own critical model, he then presents a reading of Marx that attempts to liberate Marxism from longstanding Marxist and socialist presuppositions in order to locate a solid theoretical basis for a positive activism capable of gradually superseding the trinity of Capital-Nation-State.

Inspiration for Slavoj Žižek’s concept of parallax as seen in The Parallax View and Parallax: The Dialectics of Mind and World.


Kōjin Karatani (柄谷 行人 Karatani Kōjin, born August 6, 1941, Amagasaki) is a Japanese philosopher and literary critic.

Educated at University of Tokyo, where he received a BA in economics and an MA in English literature. The Gunzō Literary Prize, which he received at the age of 27 for an essay on Natsume Sōseki, was his first critical acclaim as a literary critic. While teaching at Hosei University, Tokyo, he wrote extensively about modernity and postmodernity with a particular focus on language, number, and money, concepts that form the subtitle of one of his central books: Architecture as Metaphor.

In 1975, he was invited to Yale University to teach Japanese literature as a visiting professor, where he met Paul de Man and Fredric Jameson and began to work on formalism. Starting from a study of Natsume Sōseki, the variety of the subjects examined by Karatani became so wide that he earned the nickname The Thinking Machine.

Karatani collaborated with novelist Kenji Nakagami, to whom he introduced the works of Faulkner. With Nakagami, he published Kobayashi Hideo o koete (Overcoming Kobayashi Hideo). The title is an ironic reference to “Kindai no chokoku” (Overcoming Modernity), a symposium held in the summer of 1942 at Kyoto Imperial University (now Kyoto University) at which Hideo Kobayashi (whom Karatani and Nakagami did not hold in great esteem) was a participant.

He was also a regular member of ANY, the international architects’ conference that was held annually for the last decade of the 20th century and that also published an architectural/philosophical series with Rizzoli under the general heading of Anyone.

Since 1990, Karatani has been regularly teaching at Columbia University as a visiting professor.

Karatani founded the New Associationist Movement (NAM) in Japan in the summer of 2000. NAM was conceived as a counter–capitalist/nation-state association, inspired by the experiment of LETS (Local Exchange Trading Systems, based on non-marketed currency). He was also the co-editor, with Akira Asada, of the Japanese quarterly journal, Hihyōkūkan (Critical Space), until it ended in 2002.

In 2006, Karatani retired from the chair of the International Center for Human Sciences at Kinki University, Osaka, where he had been teaching.

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