[OPE-L] Sayers on Marx's Concept of Labour

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sat May 21 2005 - 08:29:41 EDT

Sean Sayers (Kent) will be presenting a paper on "Marx's Concept of
Labour"  at the Marx and Philosophy Society seminar this Saturday
(28 May) in London. An abstract of his paper is below, along with
an abstract of  a paper by Georgios Daremas (Indianapolis Athens) on
"Marx's Concept of  Democracy in his Critique of Hegel's Philosophy
of the State."  Hopefully, the entire papers will be posted soon at
< http://www.marxandphilosophy.org.uk >.

Does Marx's concept of labour as formative, as Sayers suggests below,
derive from Hegel?

In solidarity, Jerry

Abstracts and relevant texts:

(1) Sean Sayers, 'Marx's Concept of Labour'

'In the labour-process . . . man's activity, with the help of the
instruments of labour, effects an alteration, designed from the
commencement, in the material worked upon' (Marx 1961, 180). Through such
'formative activity' we exercise our powers and see them objectified and
realised. This account is often criticised as a 'productivist' view which
takes manufacturing or craft work as the paradigm case (Benton). In the
process, it is said, other kinds of work are ignored and work is
illegitimately idealised (Arendt).

These criticisms misunderstand the character of Marx's account, I shall
argue. Marx's conception of labour as 'formative' activity derives from
Hegel. In this context, it is clear that its purpose is not to privilege
one particular kind of work, but to provide a theoretical classification
of the relation of subject and object involved in different kinds of which
applies to all types of work. In this light it is also apparent that Marx
does not hold the 'productivist' ethic so often attributed to him.

K. Marx, Capital, I, trans. S. Moore and E. Aveling (Moscow: Foreign
Languages Publishing House, 1961), chapter 7
K. Marx, Grundrisse, trans. M. Nicolaus (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973),
pp. 699-712
G.W.F. Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, trans. H.B. Nisbet
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 189-208
T. Benton, 'Marxism and Natural Limits: An Ecological Critique and
Reconstruction', New Left Review, 178 (1989), pp. 51-86
H. Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1958), III-IV

(2) Georgios Daremas 'Marx's Theory of Democracy in his Critique of
Hegel's Philosophy of the State'

Marx in his 'On the Jewish Question' and in 'The Holy Family' (chap. 6:3)
launches a severe critique of 'representative political democracy' which
he sees as resting on an illusory abstraction of the domain of politics
from that of society and on the alienation of the citizen from the social
individual as the true bearer of the human essence. I argue that the real
ground norms on which Marx bases his critique are actually clarified and
elaborated in his detailed confrontation with the essential elements of
Hegel's speculative conceptualization of the modern, rational state as an
ethico-political organism. Without such grounding, Marx's rejection of
'political democracy' appears to be dogmatic and unsupported. It is only
his explicit grappling with the connection between civil (bourgeois)
society and the political state, the fulcrum of Hegel's theorization of
the State's constitution, that permits Marx to become self-aware of the
real source of determination of the political realm and to reveal the
mystery of
speculative metaphysics. On the basis of that he feels competent to
identify tensions and contradictions in the way the three powers of the
state (legislative, executive, monarchical) are conceived and concatenated
as a whole by Hegel.

Nevertheless, I will further claim that the logical validity of Marx's
critique is problematic because he adopts, on the one hand, an
unreconstructed version of Feuerbachian premises ('the self-grounded
empirical phenomenon') and on the other a Kantian/liberal conception of
the logical subsumption of predicates under a subject (presupposing the
subject, external articulation of predicates). As a consequence his
celebrated critique of Hegel's 'inversion of the subject-predicate
relation' is misconceived and undialectical and affects the tenor of his
argumentation. Such logical misconception is silently rectified in later
writings and it helps us understand both Marx's turnabout on
'representative political democracy' in the Communist Manifesto, where
political democracy mediates the labor-capital relationship by
transforming the working class from substance into (political) Subject,
and his espousal of a more dialectical approach to the antinomies of
socio-historical reality in the German Ideology, the Grundrisse and

Hegel G.W.F., Elements of the Philosophy of Right, ed. Allen W. Wood
(Cambridge: CUP, 1991)
Hegel G.W.F., Logic: Part One of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical
Sciences (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975)
Hegel G.W.F.,  Philosophy of Mind: Part Three of the Encyclopaedia of the
Philosophical Sciences Together with the Zusatze in Boumann's Text
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971)
Hegel G.W.F.,  'The German Constitution' in Hegel: Political Writings ed.
L. Dickey & H.B. Nisbet (Cambridge: CUP, 1999)
Marx Karl, 'Critique of Hegel's Doctrine of the State' in Marx: Early
Writings (Middlesex: Penguin/New Left Review, 1975)
Marx Karl, 'Letters from the Franco-German Yearbooks' in Marx: Early Writings
Marx Karl, 'On the Jewish Question' in Marx: Early Writings
Marx Karl, Manifesto of the Communist Party, 2nd ed. (Peking: Foreign
Languages Press, 1973)

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