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

From: Paul Bullock (paulbullock@EBMS-LTD.CO.UK)
Date: Mon Oct 10 2005 - 18:14:53 EDT

Why not read Plekhanov again ? Essays on the History of Materialism'.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jerry Levy" <Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM>
Sent: Sunday, October 09, 2005 1:44 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Hegel's and Smith's historical materialism?

> Hi  Chris,  Paul C,  Andy, Ajit and Riccardo:
> Thanks for all of the comments -- mostly on Smith.
> In reply:
> 1a.  While Smith was a materialist and had a (certain) historical
> perspective, historical materialism is more than just the sum of
> materialism and historical.  It is a _particular_ philosophical
> perspective and I think it is at best confusing to refer to Smith's
> historical materialism.  While there is no doubt that materialism
> preceded Marx (a point made by Paul C and highlighted in various
> writings by Marx and Engels themselves) there are particular and
> central  perspectives associated with HM which were original.
> 1b.  Consider the quote from _WN_ provided by Ajit:
> > "Had human institutions, therefore, never disturbed
> > the natural course of things, the progressive wealth
> > and increase of the towns would, in every political
> > society, be consequential, and in proportion to the
> > improvement and cultivation of the territory and
> > country."
> Would M&E have referred as above to "the natural
> course of things" in relation to wealth creation?  Of
> course not.  It is a central proposition of historical
> materialism that neither capitalism nor any mode of
> production is natural: there is no "natural course of
> things" related to social and economic development.
> In this sense, I think I agree with the basic thrust of
> Andy's point:
> > I'd suggest Smith and classical political economy
> > were certainly materialist (they had classes based on
> > production,  they introduce the LTV) but not really
> > historical because capitalist classes are taken as
> > natural and 'history' merely a set of aberrations
> > prior to the natural (capitalist) order.
> 2.  While I see the point made by Andy Blunden (and
> re-stated by Chris) about Hegel's early writings,  the
> reason why it is misleading to refer to Hegel's historical
> materialism is because Hegel at no point in his intellectual
> career was a materialist.  To understand why this is the
> case one can not look at one part of his work in isolation;
> one has to examine his world-view as a whole.  Thus
> Chris makes the point:
> > It is true he gives more importance to labour in the
> > early work but it is still in the interests of the spirit.
> Whatever we can or can not gain by an examination of
> Hegel's theory we must not forget the role of Absolute
> Spirit in that world-view.  That is a world-view that, despite
> affinities for other aspects of Hegelianism, Marx and Engels
> took exception to.
> It turns out that the claim that  Andy Blunden, on the 'hegel-marx'
> yahoo group, made about Hegel's historical materialism could
> very well have been a typo: while he simply referred to Hegel's
> historical materialism in one post he added several days later:
> > I presume I put "historical materialism" in inverted commas.
> He hadn't  and in his first reply didn't correct the mistake hence
> the misunderstanding.
> In solidarity, Jerry

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