The origins of Axel Honneth's theory of recognition lie in his earlier project to correct the conceptual confusions and empirical shortcomings of historical materialism for the purpose of an adequate post-Habermasian critical social theory. Honneth proposed to accomplish this project, most strikingly, by reconnecting critical social theory with one of its repressed philosophical sources, namely anthropological materialism. In its mature shape, however, recognition theory operates on a narrow concept of interaction, which seems to lose sight of the material mediations with which intersubjective relations are imbricated. The paper argues that a circumspect return to this twofold materialist heritage could substantively correct and enrich contemporary critical theory. The paper provides an illustration of this with the paradigmatic example of work.