[OPE-L:2683] Re: Proof from Marx that Hegel is NOT required to understand him?

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 03 2000 - 00:41:30 EDT

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This is a response to Paul Z.'s very interesting post (2668) on Marx's
comments on Sieber and the subsequent discussion between Paul and Jerry
and Nicky. Thanks very much to Paul for initiating this discussion.

I have been interested in Sieber ever since I first noticed Marx's
comments in the second Postface 15 years ago. I found a copy of a second
edition of Sieber's book (1885) in the Harvard (Weidener) library. The
first edition is Sieber's Ph.D dissertation at U. of Kiev, and the title
(*David Ricardo's Theory of Value and Capital*) suggests that it was
mostly about Ricardo. The title of the second edition is expanded to
*David Ricardo and Karl Marx and Their Socioeconomic Studies* and appears
(from the table on contents) to be mostly about Marx.
I made copies of the table of contents and various prefaces and had a
Russian student at Colby translate them for me. I toyed with the idea of
trying to get a translator and publisher for the book. I still think it
would be exceedingly interesting to have a translation, at least of the
parts of the book that are about Marx. Maybe we can figure out a way to
do that.

I only have a hard copy, not a computer file, of this translation, which I
would be happy to send to anyone interested. I could also have this copy
scanned and send it as an email attachment.

But, Paul, I don't think your argument is valid. I would agree that it is
possible to have a "firm grasp" of Marx's theory, including his logical
method, without an understanding of Hegel and dialectics. Indeed, I
immodestly think that I myself have a pretty good understanding of Marx's
method and I have not studied Hegel (much to my regret). However, I also
think Marx's method is based on Hegel, at least to some extent, and that
anyone (myself included) would have a better understanding Marx's theory
and his method if one had studied Hegel. The fact that Sieber understood
well Marx's theory (or at least some aspects of it) and that Sieber may
have had little first-hand knowledge of Hegel does not mean that Marx's
method is not based in part on Hegel. To come to a conclusion about the
importance of Hegel to Marx requires a lot more work - both to understand
Marx's method and to understand Hegel's method and the relation between
the two.

I agree with Jerry that Marx's comment on Sieber in the Notes on Wagner
certainly do not suggest that Sieber's book is in some sense a substitute
for Capital. As Jerry points out, Marx simply says that Wagner could have
understood better the differences between Marx and Ricardo by reading
Sieber's book (the similarities and differences Marx and Ricardo seems to
be a main theme of the book). The particular difference that Marx is
discussing in this passage is the all-important subject of
money: "Ricardo concerned himself with labor only as the measure of the
quantity of value and for that reason found no connection between his
theory of value and the nature of money." This does not suggest that
Sieber's book is a substitute for Marx's Capital.

By the way, Marx's comment here also brings to light I think a key aspect
of Marx's method which is similar to Hegel - the explanation of the
NECESSARY CONNECTIONS between different aspects of reality.
This aspect of Marx's method is emphasized by Nicky. In this passage, the
necessary connection is between the substance of value - abstract labor -
and the form of appearance of value - money (i.e. the "necessity of

With regard to Marx's Afterword, Paul acknowledges that it has long been
interpreted to provided evidence of the importance of Hegel's dialectic to
Marx's method. For example, after an extensive quotation from a review of
Capital, Marx said approvingly "what else is (the reviewer) depicting but
the dialectical method?" Marx also remarked two paragraphs later that he
has "openly avowed myself the student of that mighty thinker (Hegel)," and
stated that "Hegel was the first to demonstrate the general laws of motion
of the dialectic". And of course this Postface ends with the famous line
that the next crisis will "drum dialectics" into the heads of the

Paul, how do you interpret these passages? Why are Marx's comments on
Sieber a "smoking gun" and not these other passages? You say that you
want to consider only the new evidence. But doesn't the new evidence
(which itself is not convincing) have the be considered along with the
other evidence?

So, I would agree that Sieber's book appears to be very important and to
provide important evidence with respect to Marx's method. But Marx's few
comments on Sieber and the fact that Sieber may not have known much about
Hegel certainly does not "prove" that Hegel was not important to
Marx. Hopefully, we can get Sieber's book translated and examine the
evidence in greater detail. For example, what exactly does Sieber say
about Marx's theory as a "necessary sequel" to Smith and Ricardo?
What does he say are the similarities and the differences?

One of the front-pieces of Sieber's book that I had translated was a list
of his publications (two pages). On this list appears an 1879 article
entitled "Dialectics in its Application to Science" ! So it appears that
Sieber himself must have thought that dialectics was important and learned
some more about it after the first edition of his book. This new
understanding would presumably have led Sieber to discuss dialectics in
the second edition of his book in 1885. So it will be very interesting
indeed to see what is in this second edition! And how it may differ from
the first edition, which Marx read and was commenting on in his Postface.

I look forward very much to the continuation of this discussion.


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