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Paul Z [OPE-L:2678] quotes Marx:
>Thus the Paris Revue Positiviste reproaches me in that, on the one hand, I
>treat economics metaphysically, and on the other hand imagine! confine
>myself to the mere critical analysis of actual facts, instead of writing
>receipts (Comtist ones?) for the cook-shops of the future. In answer to
>the reproach in re metaphysics, Professor Sieber has it: "In so far as it
>deals with actual theory, the method of Marx is the deductive method of
>the whole English school, a school whose failings and virtues are common
>to the best theoretic economists."
The key sentence here is "In answer to the reproach in re metaphysics,
Professor Sieber has it".
Marx frequently criticised Hegel's ontology (the a priori self-development
of categories, or creation of thought out of itself) as idealist and
metaphysical. In a comment on Lassalle's Hegelianisation of political
economy Marx writes:
'He will learn to his cost that to bring a science of criticism to the
point where it can be dialectically presented is an altogether different
thing from applying an abstract ready-made system of logic to mere inklings
of such a system' (Marx & Engels, p.123). Therefore an idealist or
metaphysical reading of Capital is not helpful - and this is what Sieber
This is not, however, any reason to suppose that Marx did not use Hegel's
dialectical method of theory construction (which is not in itself either
idealist or metaphysical). His comment on Lassalle DOES NOT reject a
systematic dialectical method. On the contrary, what Marx attempted to do
in Capital was to trace 'the intrinsic connection existing between economic
categories or the obscure structure of the bourgeois economic system'
(Marx, 1968, p.165). It would appear, then, that Marx took over an element
of Hegel's logic of theory construction, which consisted in 'the tracing of
intrinsic connections between categories' (Hegel, cited Smith, 1993).
Although the method is similar to Hegel's the ontology supporting it is the
inverse of Hegel's. i.e. Marx clearly considered the categories of
bourgeois political economy to be representations in thought of actual
relations existing in capitalism.
A close analysis of the structure of *Capital* supports claims that Marx
made use of the Hegel's systematic dialectic, although he did not do so
consistently. The Hegelian influence on Marx should therefore be read as a
method for the reconstruction in thought of the capitalist commodity
production, not as a metaphysical work based on some a priori creation of
categories, and relationships among categories. I think that Marx's
response to Sieber is consistent with such a reading.
This is not to say that one must read Hegel in order to understand Marx.
The categories of Capital could be understood as a set of deductive
propositions. But what is lost along the way? In my view, a materialist
application of Hegel's systematic dialectical approach to political economy
has great advantages in that political economy is seen as a process, rather
than a set of structures. i.e. a given social form generates the
tendencies that lead to the a different social form. In principle, then,
the categories describing these tendencies can be derived with 'necessity'.
The logic underlying Hegel's system, has to do with determination arrived
at on the basis of the logic of material practices (as opposed to the
neccessity with which one proposition follows another in an axiomatic system).
Different projects within Marxism require different tools. Projects that
seek to establish the specific character and tendencies of *capitalism* as
a historical form of social organisation require some way in which to
explore the logic of necessity behind material practices (i.e. what
features are necessary as opposed to merely contingent). Here, I believe
that Hegel's systematic dialectic continues to be a useful tool,
irrespective of how successfully Marx, himself, actually used it.
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