Beyond the Juxtaposition of Nature and Culture

Lawrence Krader, Interdisciplinarity, and the Concept of the Human Being

by Cyril Levitt (Volume editor) Sabine Sander (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XVIII, 304 Pages


The essays contained in Beyond the Juxtaposition of Nature and Culture represent an attempt by scholars from Canada, Germany, and Mexico to come to grips with the innovative work of the American philosopher and anthropologist Lawrence Krader who has proposed nothing less than a new theory of nature, according to which there are at least three different orders—the material-biotic, the quantum, and the human—which differ from one another according to their different configurations of space-time, and which cannot be reduced the one to the others. Each author takes up Krader’s theory in relation to its impact on their own discipline: sociology, anthropology, the study of myth, the theory of labor and value, economics, linguistics, and aesthetics. The question of how nature and culture can be integrated within a theoretical framework which links them in difference and nexus and allows each their non-reductive space leads each of the contributors to move in their thinking beyond the old dualisms of materialism and idealism, fact and value, nature and culture.

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface: Lawrence Krader—a Personal Retrospective in Memoriam (Cyril Levitt)
  • Introduction
  • The “Unknown” Krader: New Encounters (Sabine Sander / Cyril Levitt)
  • Lawrence Krader: Noetics: The Science of Thinking and Knowing (Cyril Levitt)
  • Human Being in Relation to Several Orders of Nature
  • Constructionist Reflections on Noetics (Dorothy Pawluch / Kathleen Steeves)
  • Variations of the Embodied Self: George H. Mead, Ernst Cassirer, and Lawrence Krader on the Human Being between Nature and Culture (Sabine Sander)
  • Krader and Anthropology
  • Projecting a New Anthropology? Some Reflections on Lawrence Krader’s Contribution to the Discipline of Anthropology and His Significance Today (Antje Linkenbach)
  • Krader’s Encompassing “Weltanschauung”: His Concepts of Art, Techne, and Science, and the Ethno-history of Mesoamerica (Brígida von Mentz)
  • Myth in Krader’s Mito e Ideología Compared with Myth in Noetics (Mayán Cervantes)
  • Economics, Labor, and Value
  • Lawrence Krader’s Noetics and Its Implications for Resolving the Methodological Conundrum of the “Naturalistic Turn” in Contemporary Economics (Carsten Herrmann-Pillath)
  • Science, Productive and Unproductive Labor, Mediate and Immediate Production (Michelle Goldenberg)
  • Appendix: Theory of Nature. Theory of Human Being. Workplan (Lawrence Krader)
  • Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

← vi | vii →


Preface: Lawrence Krader—a Personal Retrospective in Memoriam


With the publication of Noetics: The Science of Thinking and Knowing, and the organization of the conference Beyond the Juxtaposition of Nature and Culture in May of 2016, I have discharged my promise to Lawrence Krader to publish his magnum opus and to bring together an international group of scholars to discuss some of the leading ideas contained in that work. He had hoped that the research project which bears his name and which he helped to establish might become an international hub for scholarly work in the spirit of his own writings that would engage in the topics dear to him, and with problems that he had chosen to consider and tried to resolve.

I first met Lawrence in the late summer of 1970. He had just assumed the position of professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Waterloo in Canada. I was canvassing the chairs of each department in the Faculty of Arts in hopes that they would sign a petition supporting student efforts to organize a conference on phenomenology and Marxism under the aegis of the journal Telos, run by the graduate students in philosophy at SUNY Buffalo. I had taken courses on Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty with Richard Holmes and audited a course on Hegel’s Phenomenology with Leslie Armour. Krader asked me a series of questions, most of which I could not answer (or answer well), but I knew from the way he was talking that he knew much more about all three philosophers than I did. Sensing my enthusiasm, he asked me if I would be interested in meeting with him for a seminar on topics of mutual interest. And so, for the next two years I met regularly with him and a junior faculty member, Margrit Eichler, and we read and discussed Marx, selections from Kapital, Hegel’s Die Phänomenologie des Geistes, Hannah Arendt’s ← vii | viii → The Human Condition, Lucien Goldmann’s article “La réification,” and the third essay of Georg Lukács’ Geschichte und Klassenbewusstsein. Krader was entirely fluent in German and French, and many other languages besides.

In the late winter of 1972, Krader took me aside to inform me that he had accepted a position as professor and director of the Institut für Ethnologie at the Freie Universität Berlin, and that he would be leaving to assume that post at the end of April. He asked me to consider following him to Berlin to complete my doctorate, under his supervision, on his soon-to-be-published The Ethnological Notebooks of Karl Marx. I quickly completed my MA thesis, which I defended early in September, and left for Berlin immediately thereafter. I attended all of Lawrence’s seminars and lectures and threw myself into the intensive study of German, passing both levels of language exams (kleine Matrikel and große Matrikel) by March of 1973. That gave me all the rights of a German student; I could register for courses and proceed to complete all requirements for the doctorate.

Lawrence and I met frequently to discuss various aspects of Marx’s ethnological notebooks, and I decided to focus my attention on Marx’s notes on and interpolations into his gloss on Henry Sumner Maine’s Lectures on the Early History of Institutions. For several years Lawrence conducted a small private seminar with me and two other students: Andreas Baudis, a student of philosophy, who was writing a dissertation on Hegel under the supervision of Helmut Gollwitzer, and Sylvia Zacharias. We studied many of Hegel’s early writings: Das System der Sittlichkeit, Das Naturrecht, Die Jenaer Realphilosophie, and Hegel’s late work, Die Rechtsphilosophie. At the same time, I was carefully working my way through Marx’s Kapital, and would often come to Lawrence with questions.

Another one of Krader’s seminars which stands out in my memory was a semester-long study of section four of chapter one of Kapital, on the fetishism of commodities. The section was only about ten pages in length, but Krader was able to deliver lectures over the course of the semester, tracing all the literary and philosophical roots of the material Marx was presenting. I further recall in the context of another seminar, on anthropological theory, that Krader charged me with presenting a full discussion of the main ideas in Emile Durkheim’s Division of Labor in Society—in German. I was terrified, but working diligently, I was able to prepare some thirty pages of detailed notes, which enabled me to fill the class time with my presentation. I could tell that Lawrence was pleased.

During the last of my four years in Berlin I would meet with Lawrence at his apartment for two hour meetings on my work and on his current interests, and then go to dinner with him and Barbara Krader, his wife, a ← viii | ix → world-class scholar and ethnomusicologist who had studied with the linguist Roman Jakobson at the Charles University in Prague (where she had also worked for the OSS [Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA] at the end of World War II), and at Columbia University in New York, and had served as his research assistant.1 I discovered that she and Lawrence had met at Jakobson’s graduate seminar at Columbia. Lawrence would come to New York from Boston—he was working on his dissertation at Harvard—to attend Jakobson’s seminar. After each session, Lawrence would go out with Barbara for a beer. She told me that it was only after a year that she was allowed to call him Lawrence, instead of Mr. Krader.2

Only gradually did I discover aspects of Lawrence’s biography. I learned of his involvement with the anti-Stalinist students at Alcove I at CCNY, and years later I found a picture printed in the Forward of the young Lawrence Krader lecturing the young Irving Kristol at CCNY in the late thirties. Since Krader was not identified in the photo I sent a copy to him in Berlin and he confirmed that indeed he was in the photo. I also learned of Lawrence’s friendship with Karl Korsch, an independent-minded Marxist who had been expelled by the Third International and by the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the 1920s. Krader had met Korsch while at the Far Eastern Institute, where in the late 1940s Krader worked as an assistant to Karl August Wittfogel, a former German communist turning conservative, who had been a friend of Korsch’s in Germany.

I heard many interesting stories from Lawrence about his travels in Mongolia. For example, he told me that he was once approached by the KGB to act as a spy on their behalf. His reply was classic. He said he would agree if they would turn over to him the minutes of the meeting where Lenin and Trotsky decided to open fire on the mutinying Kronstadt sailors. A more poignant refusal I cannot imagine. On another occasion, he told the story of meeting with the head of the Soviet Academy of Sciences at a restaurant in Moscow. They were concerned that someone at a nearby table working for the KGB was listening in on their conversation. They switched from Russian to Polish but, to be on the safe side, ended up talking to one another in Azeri.

Jacob Taubes, who was instrumental in bringing Krader to Berlin, and who headed both the Institut für Hermeneutik and the Institut für Judaistik, led a doctoral seminar with Krader on a variety of topics related to hermeneutics. I attended these interesting sessions as well. Taubes, when he found out that I had some proficiency in Yiddish, asked me to teach an introductory course in the Yiddish language, which I did for two or three semesters. I discovered in this connection that Lawrence and Barbara had both been good friends of Uriel Weinreich, who wrote the main textbook in Yiddish and who ← ix | x → died tragically young. Barbara told me that Lawrence and Jakobson would have lengthy battles over the etymology and derivation of Yiddish words. (One of the words they argued about, as I recall, was nebekh—a word indicating some sorry state or an individual in an unenviable situation—that Krader thought was derived from Hebrew and Jakobson from Czech).

In addition to teaching a doctoral seminar with Taubes at the Institut für Hermeneutik, Lawrence also taught courses with a visiting professor in archeology from the University of Chicago on Nomadism and another one on Shamanism. I took both courses.

I never tired of hearing some of the wonderful stories that Barbara and Lawrence had to tell of their interesting lives together. For example, every Sunday in the mid-to-late 1950s, Lawrence and Barbara attended concerts at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, performed by the Budapest String Quartet with whom they became quite friendly. Originally composed of three Hungarians and a Dutchman, by the 1950s in Washington they were actually four Russians. Barbara and Lawrence would recall with some amusement how the quartet introduced themselves. Mischa Schneider, the cellist, would say: “One Russian is a disturbance; two Russians are a riot; three Russians are a revolution; and four Russians are the Budapest String Quartet!” Both Lawrence and Barbara were avid classical music fans and both were extremely knowledgeable. Barbara played the piano and collected a variety of folk instruments from the Balkans where she had done years of fieldwork on the music, dance, and folklore of the peoples of that region of Europe. She spoke most of their languages as well, and had many close friends that she had met in connection with her research there. She was forever fretting about some friend or other in Albania, Montenegro, or Kosovo.

Lawrence would often absent himself from Berlin for a period of several days to several weeks or months. He was in great demand after the publication of his transliteration and edition of Marx’s notebooks, and he travelled widely throughout Western and Eastern Europe, Mexico, India, and North America. He was almost always able to deliver his lectures in the language of the host institutes and universities. His lectures in German at the Freie Universität were delivered slowly, deliberately, with a few small grammatical errors, which did not seem to bother the native German students, and he was able to engage in passionate discussion with students in the aftermath of his lectures. He was always ready to meet with students and to help them with their academic issues.

During the four years of my stay in Berlin, there were two guests at the Institut für Ethnologie Krader had invited. Claude Meillassoux, a Marxist anthropologist from France, and Stanley Diamond from the New School for ← x | xi → Social Research in New York City, were each there for a semester. Krader had some hopes of working with both of them, but he expressed his disappointment to me with regard to aspects of their work. And this was a pattern that I observed over the years—that is, he would become somewhat interested in a scholar, have some interactions with them, and then express his disappointment with them. The grounds were different in each case but usually related to his perception of their lack of depth of understanding of some complex issue or other. His opposition to careerists is now known (see Sander, Levitt, and McLaughlin 2017) and he kept himself aloof from all politics. He thought of his work as of the ages and found all contemporary political parties and organizations, scholarly tendencies, and fads on the left tiresome, off-base, and especially self-serving.

I left Berlin in the summer of 1976 to take up a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. I kept up an active correspondence with Lawrence and Barbara. Lawrence had established a series with Van Gorcum Publishers in Assen, Holland, and asked me first to serve on the editorial board and then as the Associate Editor. In addition to his own publications in this series Dialectic and Society, he published a book by Agnes Heller, another by György Márkus of the Lukács’ students’ Budapest School, and one by José Ripalda, a friend and fellow student of mine at the FU Berlin who had just received an appointment as an assistant professor in philosophy at the University of Madrid. I soon came to realize that the editorial board of this series, although composed of some leading intellectuals such as Ernest Gellner, Maurice Godelier, David McLellan, and Claude Meillassoux, rarely, if ever, was consulted by Lawrence on publishing matters or priorities.

In 1980 the Kraders moved to Toronto. When looking for an apartment to rent, Lawrence did not want to live in Toronto’s Annex, a tony area near the University of Toronto where many professors resided, but instead chose to live in Scarborough, a working-class and largely immigrant area of the city. He rented two apartments side by side and knocked out the wall between them to accommodate all his books. Once a week, my friend and colleague Rod Hay, and I―Rod was an economic historian who taught at McMaster University and the University of Guelph―met with Krader to discuss a variety of issues of mutual interest, especially his work on the history of objective and subjective value theory from Aristotle to Marx and the modern Austrian school.

In the summer of 1981, I worked with Krader and a group of his colleagues and students at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) in Mexico City. Krader delivered several ← xi | xii → lectures in Spanish on the Asiatic mode of production and its connection to some of the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica and on the formation of the state. I accompanied Lawrence on several outings to the archeological digs in Teotihuacán where one of the foci of the study was the distribution and locations of households by class measured in terms of the nature of the pottery shards discovered in different areas. I was also surprised to see how spry Lawrence was when he climbed the considerable number of steps of the large pyramid of the sun at the site. We ate breakfast together every day (we were staying at the same hotel) and took our evening meals at different restaurants which specialized in different regional Mexican cuisine. Krader, of course, knew an enormous amount about the nature and the history of the regional foods which he enthusiastically shared with me.

Back in Canada, Lawrence came to McMaster University on several occasions to lecture on his work on labor and value and on his speculations on the applicability of the theory of the Asiatic mode of production to societies described in the Bible. A recording exists of one of his lectures which will be shortly posted on the website of the Lawrence Krader Research Project at McMaster (www.lawrencekrader.com). On the occasion of one of his visits he let it be known that he was looking into the oft-cited remark by W. I. Thomas concerning “the definition of the situation” and asked my colleague, Billy Shaffir, and me to locate the reference since none of the sources he found in a cursory search ever cited the original. Billy and I divided up the books by Thomas and Billy found the original source in the book The Child in America by W. I. Thomas and Dorothy S. Thomas.3

The Kraders returned to Berlin from Toronto in 1982 when Lawrence decided to retire from his position at the FU Berlin. He wanted to devote most of his time to researching and writing, and carried this out over the course of the next 16 years. In 1985, I applied for and received a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation to come to Berlin to continue my work with Krader, and to follow up on my study of the German student movement in the sixties. Krader was hard at work on his research and writing, the scope of which I only came to realize with what turned out to be my last meeting with him in August 1998. When I returned to Canada in the early fall of 1985, I and my co-author, Billy Shaffir, were busy writing a book on an anti-Semitic riot which occurred in Toronto in 1933, and I had to tell Lawrence that my time was limited. This led to a break in our relationship which lasted for about eight years, although my correspondence with Barbara continued unabated. Through Barbara’s intercession, our relationship was restored and cemented in two ways: through my contribution of two articles to Krader’s Festschrift edited by one of his former students, Dittmar ← xii | xiii → Schorkowitz (1995), and through Lawrence’s kind expression of sympathy on the death of my wife around the same time.

Correspondence between Lawrence and me continued with increasing frequency. Early in 1998 he wrote to me about a planned English translation of Marx’s notebooks, and expressed his unhappiness with those preparing the translation and their putative lack of understanding of the position of the notebooks in Marx’s corpus. He was especially concerned that they referenced the material in the notebooks in terms of current political issues, contrary to Lawrence’s view that the notebooks belonged to the late nineteenth century and should be understood only in that connection.

A few months later Lawrence wrote to ask me to come to Berlin to discuss a proposal he wanted to make, which involved my collaboration with him on a major research and writing project. I complied. I spent a week with Lawrence in Berlin in August of 1998, and he showed me the 153 manuscripts that he had produced over the course of his retirement from 1982. He proposed to locate the project, to be built around further work on his manuscripts, at McMaster University, and he showed me a copy of his holographic will which he asked me to sign as a witness, and which specified that a large portion of his estate be devoted to the establishment and support for such a research project and program of writing. He asked me to bring a copy of this holographic will to the dean of my faculty at the university, along with a letter confirming his intentions. When I returned to Canada I did as Lawrence instructed. I then received a letter from Lawrence, which expressed his intention to transfer a large sum of money to McMaster to begin the work of the project. A few days after receiving this letter, I received a call from Barbara informing me that Lawrence had just passed away suddenly, the result of a pulmonary embolism.

I left almost immediately for Berlin to help Barbara with arrangements. The last time I saw Lawrence was at the funeral home where the body had been prepared for viewing before the cremation. I could not stay for the funeral but asked that a passage from Goethe’s Faust II Act V, Scene VI [spoken by Faust] be read by way of eulogy.4 Lawrence often referred to this passage, which he interpreted as a call for the realization of the substance of freedom by that mighty thinker. In the late spring of 1999, Barbara sent Lawrence’s entire library to me in Canada5, and I spent a week in Berlin just prior to her move to stay with her nephew and niece in Salem, Oregon. At that time, I catalogued Lawrence’s entire library to keep a record of his holdings.

In addition, I established contact with Rainer Winkelmann, who had been one of Krader’s doctoral students and who was extremely helpful to Barbara in preparing for her move back to the United States, and in storing ← xiii | xiv → Krader’s manuscripts and photocopying all of them and sending copies to me in Canada. In subsequent trips to Berlin, I was eventually able to bring all of the original manuscripts with me. The question of carrying out the terms of the will was complicated, for it was a holographic will by a U.S. citizen domiciled in Germany, the bulk of whose valuables were in a Washington DC brokerage firm, which was to be bequeathed to a university in Canada. The matter was further complicated by the university’s reluctance to initially follow Krader’s expressed wishes and intentions. Eventually, these matters were all worked out and The Lawrence Krader Research Project was launched in May of 2008. Rod Hay and I had already published Krader’s Labor and Value (2003) and years later I edited, introduced, and published Noetics (2010) under the aegis of the research project.

With the publication of Noetics, I began to look for a scholar who could help me with the further research and preparation of further manuscripts for publication. I consulted my colleague Hans Joas and met with him in Berlin. He introduced me to Dr. Sabine Sander at the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at the University of Erfurt. McMaster University established a “Memorandum of Understanding” with that German institution and as a result, Dr. Sander was able to come to Canada to work with me on the Krader manuscripts and in helping me organize the international conference, the papers of which are presented in edited form in this current publication.6

I would also like to acknowledge the help of two research assistants, Jacqueline Kutt and Michelle Goldenberg, both doctoral students in the Department of Sociology at McMaster University, who helped with organizational, research, and technical matters in the project. I would also like to thank the various chairs of my department and deans of the faculty who were instrumental in the setting up and the continuing functioning of the project. I would also like to thank the scholarly members of the board of the project, especially the two external members of the board, Dr. Rainer Winkelman in Berlin, and Dr. Rob Beamish, professor and former head of the Department of Sociology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, both of whom had studied with Krader, for their helpful suggestions and support. We would also like to thank our colleague Neil McLaughlin from the Department of Sociology for hosting a discussion on the documentary Arguing the World on the New York Intellectuals during the International Lawrence Krader Conference in May of 2016, and for his continuing support and interest in our Project. Last but not least we are grateful for the excellent editorial and preparatory work done by Emma Cole on this book manuscript. ← xiv | xv →

We dedicate this book to the memory of Lawrence Krader in the hope that his intellectual legacy will achieve the scholarly audience that it deserves.

Cyril Levitt


XVIII, 304
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Vienna, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVIII, 304 pp.

Biographical notes

Cyril Levitt (Volume editor) Sabine Sander (Volume editor)

Cyril Levitt is Professor and former Chair of the Department of Sociology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. He is also a psychoanalyst in private practice in Toronto, Canada. Sabine Sander is a visiting professor at The Lawrence Krader Research Project at McMaster University, as well as Privatdozentin in Cultural Studies at the University of Koblenz-Landau. She received her Ph.D. in cultural studies at the University of Leipzig. She was the winner of the Max Weber Award for her book on dialogue concepts in the German Jewish context (2017).


Title: Beyond the Juxtaposition of Nature and Culture