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On Wed, 5 Apr 2000, Paul Zarembka wrote:
> Actually, Fred (and please don't take this personally) but there is a
> nasty element involved here -- the element is "if you don't read Hegel I'm
> not going to give you full Marxist credentials", which is a form of
> attempting to dominate discussion, to FORCE a reading of Hegel. We DON'T
> need this kind of practice.
Paul, I didn't intend to raise the temperature of our discussion, which I
have enjoyed. I would like to keep the discussion constructive. I think
you are reading too much into my comments. Perhaps I overstated my case.
I have already said that I myself have not read Hegel, so if there is an
indictment, it would apply to me as well. But I intended no indictment.
I will not reject other interpretations of Marx (including yours) just
because they have not read Hegel, just as I would hope that others would
not reject my interpretation because I have not yet read Hegel. Nor will
I automatically accept Hegelian interpretations of Marx.
Rather, I think the relation between Marx and Hegel remains an open
question, and an important one. I myself have no stake in the answer to
this question. I am not a Hegelian and do not wish to defend a Hegelian
interpretation. My objective is to understand Marx's theory as well as
possible, especially his logical method.
And it seems to me that one could understand Marx's theory better (and
perhaps much better) if one understood Hegel, so that's what I want to
do. It is my hypothesis at this point that Marx incorporated various
aspects of Hegel's logic into his own theory. I could be wrong about
this. But the process of invalidating this hypothesis will itself result
I think in a better understanding of Marx's theory.
Does this mean that I "refuse to give Marxist credentials" to anyone who
does not consider Hegel? No, just like I don't "refuse to give Marxist
credentials" to myself at the present time. I just think my and our
understanding of Marx's theory would be enhanced (and perhaps greatly
enhanced) by a study of Hegel.
You may say that there are other, more important, things to be done.
But I would ask, would any of these lead to a better understanding of
Marx's theory (besides reading the classical economists, which I and most
of us have already done)?
In particular, some of the questions I am interested in with respect to
the logic of Marx's economic theory are the following:
1. Why is the commodity the starting point of Marx's economic theory?
Is this commodity a produce of capitalism or simple commodity production?
2. What are the initial presuppositions of Marx's theory?
3. What is Marx's logic in his derivation of the "necessity of money"?
4. What is the logical relation between the three volumes of Capital?
Are volumes 1 and 2 about capital in general (the production of
surplus-value) and volume 3 about competition (the distribution of
5. What is Marx's logic in the determination of prices of production
in Part 2 of Vol. 3?
6. What is Marx's logic in the derivation of the falling rate of profit
in Part 3 of Vol. 3?
7. How evaluate the emprical validity of Marx's theory?
Did Althusser ever discuss these questions? Did he discuss how Marx's
epistemological break with Hegel changed Marx's answer to these questions?
My memory of Althusser's "epistemological break" is that it is about
Marx's philosophy and his theory of history, not his economic theory.
Did it have anything to do with Marx's economic theory? Did it have an
effect on the logic of his economic theory? Does Althusser discuss these
questions somewhere (any references would be appreciated)? I don't have a
copy of Reading Capital. Are these questions discussed there?
As I remember Althusser, Marx's "epistemological break" started in 1845,
while writing the German Ideology. But this was long before Marx began to
develop his economic theory. And the final definitive break came in 1875
with the Critique of the Gotha Program. But this work is not economic
theory. It does not involve a reworking any part of Marx's economic
theory (e.g. Chapter 1).
So what does Marx's "epistemological break" have to do with his economic
theory (and especially its logical structure)?
> > Paul, could you please tell us IN WHAT SPECIFIC ASPECTS did Marx
> > himself from Hegel later in his life? What specific aspects of Hegel's
> > method did Marx first accept and then later reject as he "distanced
> > himself"? How did this "distancing himself" alter the logical structure
> > of his economic theory after the Grundrisse?
> You are asking a VERY big question. And your implicit presumption is that
> if I cannot give you a satisfactory response in an internet interchange
> (and of course I cannot as the question is too complicated), then whatever
> my understanding of Marx is should be "downgraded". If I were to cite
> Althusser I'd also accomplish little vis-a-via the pro-Hegel position
> unless I were to do an extensive discussion of Althusser's position and
> the manner in which his position to some extent shifted over time. I
> could do that, but the end result would not be different for those who are
> wedded to the importance of Hegel.
Paul, I wasn't expecting a full answer to these big questions, but I was
hoping that you could give us at least some idea (an example or two) of
what you have in mind, because I do not know what you mean by "Marx
distanced himself from Hegel". In particular, what difference did this
"distancing" make in the logic of Marx's economic theory, especially with
respect to my questions above?
Thanks very much for this discussion. I look forward to its continuation.
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