[OPE-L] Hegel's and Smith's historical materialism?

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Thu Oct 06 2005 - 09:48:20 EDT

> - good to see you mention Andy Blunden, who is an great
> promoter of  Ilyenkov.

Hi again Andy:

Since you liked my mentioning of Andy Blunden before, I'll
do it again.

(I know you're busy now so you can let others reply should they
wish to and/or reply yourself at a later date.)

I was somewhat taken aback when Paul C, in a post on 9/29
on "basics vs. non-basics"
http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/ope/archive/0509/0195.html ,
asserted that a listmember "underestimates Smith's grasp of historical
materialism."     This caught me by surprise as I  hadn't heard Smith
referred to as a historical materialist previously (although, I seem
to recall former member Duncan Foley once suggesting  on OPE-L
that we shouldn't underestimate Smith's and Ricardo's grasp of
dialectics).  I think it suggests a rather unconventional interpretation
of the meaning of historical materialism and its origins and precursors.

While I was still recovering from that assertion, I received a jolt
from Andy Blunden who asserted that Hegel's theory (or at least
parts thereof) could be thought of as being  historical materialist!

Andy B (no relation, I presume) was challenged on this by several
'hegel-marx' yahoo group listmembers, myself included.  in
answer, he referred to the Young Hegel, especially the 1st draft
of the _Phenomenology of Spirit_ and included a large excerpt from
the _System of Ethical Life_ (the whole of which is at:
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/help/se.htm )

Even if we granted his inference that there are some sections of his
works that read as if they could have been written by a historical
materialist,  I think this really misses the point.  Namely, that sections
of his writings can't be extracted in isolation.  Rather, they have to be
put in the context of his overall world-view.  Within that world-view,
Absolute Mind/Spirit is crucial and central.  To assert that Hegel was a
materialist (historical or otherwise) misses the crucial way in which his
spirituality and religious conceptions shaped his theory.  This is not to
say that Hegel was unaware of material/natural processes.  On the
contrary, he was quite well-read on all of the natural sciences. Moreover,
nature plays an important role within his overall perspective (see the 3
volume _Philosophy of Nature_,  an often overlooked part of the
_Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences_).  Yet, I do not think
this can be taken to be historical materialist.

Am I off-track here?  Did Smith have a historical materialist
perspective?  Did Hegel?

In solidarity, Jerry

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