Pour Hegel: Marx’s lifelong debt to Hegelian dialectics

.

By now it should be obvious to anyone who has looked at Karl Marx’s entire corpus, both published and unpublished works, that the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was an abiding influence on his thought. Marx certainly had no patience for those “the ill-humored, arrogant, and mediocre epigones” who treated Hegel a “dead dog,” much in the same way that the Leibnizian philosopher Moses Mendelssohn treated Spinoza like a “dead dog.” This is amply evident both in the 1873 postface to his masterpiece, Capital, as well as in private letters written to friends and colleagues between 1866 and 1870.

In this post, I will adduce clearly that Marx still held Hegel in high regard up to and beyond the publication of his “mature” works (if one still insists, following Althusser and Colletti, upon drawing a rigid distinction between the Young Marx and Old Marx). Even further, I will show that Marx understood his own dialectical method as a critical application or “inversion” of Hegel’s. As Marx saw it, the principal difference between his own theoretical framework and that of Hegel consisted in their respective points of departure. Hegel was an idealist, after all, and started with the Idea. Marx, on the other hand, started with the real world. “With [Hegel],” Marx wrote, “[the dialectic] is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.”

First, however, a couple of caveats:

  1. None of this should be taken to mean that Marx was still wasting his time with philosophy as he sat down to write Capital. He and Engels had settled that score back in the 1840s, with a number of searing polemics against the Young Hegelians. Philosophy was, for all intents and purposes, finished by then. Hegel had completed it, and all that was left to do was to realize what philosophy had merely declared, ideologically, at the level of the Idea. Any attempt to travel back down that road was bound to lead to a dead end. Engels himself reaffirmed in 1886 that “with Hegel philosophy comes to an end.”
    .
    Joseph Dietzgen probably came closest to providing a philosophical account of Marx’s theory; Marx and Engels affectionately called him “the philosopher of socialism.” Generally speaking, however, the notion of founding a Marxist “philosophy” is absurd — something Althusser failed to recognize. Which isn’t to say that it’s not useful to retrace the steps by which Marx and Engels took their leave of philosophy. Karl Korsch’s outstanding essay “Marxism and Philosophy” (1923), makes the strongest case for this exercise.
    .
  2. My aim here is hardly to “re-mystify” Marx’s thought, or to turn him into some harmless figure whose books can be found in the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble. There’s doubtless cruel irony in the fact that Marx was overwhelmingly voted the “greatest philosopher” of all time in a 2005 BBC poll. He would doubtless have been appalled by the verdict, since he understood his vocation to be non-philosophical. Instead, my intention is to elucidate Marx’s rationalization and demystification of Hegel’s dialectic, placing it on terra firma rather than high up in the clouds.

Plenty of clues exist which verify Marx’s favorable opinion of Hegel, not just in the 1873 postface itself (though here also) but in letters Marx sent to colleagues around the same time, corroborating his annoyance with “ill-humored” anti-Hegelian boors. A proper timeline will help clear things up a great deal.

So before we take a look at his letters, let’s glance at the relevant passage from the postface again:

My dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only different from the Hegelian, but exactly opposite to it. For Hegel, the process of thinking, which he even transforms into an independent subject, under the name of “the Idea,” is the creator of the real world, and the real world is only the external appearance of the idea. With me the reverse is true: the ideal is nothing but the material world reflected in the mind of man, and translated into forms of thought.

I criticized the mystificatory side of the Hegelian dialectic nearly thirty years ago, at a time when it was still the fashion. But just when I was working at the first volume of Capital, the ill-humored, arrogant, and mediocre epigones who now talk large in educated German circles began to take pleasure in treating Hegel in the same way as the good Moses Mendelssohn treated Spinoza in Lessing’s time, namely as a “dead dog.” I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even, here and there in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him. The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell. (Capital, pgs. 102-103)

Clearly Marx credits Hegel as being “the first to present [the dialectic’s] general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner,” despite the mystifications it suffers at his hands. This does not render Marx’s own theoretical efforts superfluous: his task is precisely to demystify it and place it back on its feet. Its “general forms of motion” are the same, as readers from Lenin to Postone have pointed out, but its trajectory is precisely the reverse (“exactly opposite”). He places Hegel’s dialectic on solid foundations. After all, Marx says outright that “[his] dialectical method” is exactly opposite to Hegel’s “in its foundations.”

But wait, you might ask: Who were these “ill-humored, arrogant, and mediocre epigones who now talk large in educated German circles,” anyway? And when was it that Marx was provoked by their unlettered anti-Hegelianism to openly avow himself the pupil of that “great thinker” (Hegel)? Marx doesn’t provide any examples of who he’s talking about in the 1873 postface, nor does he indicate when he took such umbrage at their treatment of Hegel like a dead dog.

7458_georg_wilhelm_friedrich_hegel (1)

Fortunately, there are letters Marx wrote in which he used almost identical language to that which appears in the 1873 postface, many of which are still extant. Here he names names, and the letters are dated, so we can know precisely when he was expressing these opinions and who he was talking about. One might with some justice object that unpublished letters should not be accorded the same weight as published materials, but their cumulative effect should doubtless count for something, especially as they mirror, clarify, or reinforce statements made in official publications. Also, it would be unreasonable to assume that Marx would lie or be disingenuous to his correspondents, many of whom were his close intellectual compatriots throughout his life. Engels and Kugelmann especially.

Starting with a letter to Engels dated January 11, 1868 (that is, months after the release of Capital):

At the museum, where I did nothing but leaf through catalogues, I also noted that Dühring is a great philosopher. For he has written a Natürliche Dialektik against Hegel’s “un-natural” one. Hinc Mae lacrimae. The gentlemen in Germany (with the exception of theological reactionaries [i.e. Old Hegelians]) believe Hegel’s dialectic to be a “dead dog.” Feuerbach has much on his conscience in this respect.

The primary target here is the anti-Hegelian pinhead Eugen Dühring, but Marx also vaguely alludes to “gentlemen in Germany” who believe Hegel’s dialectic to be a “dead dog.” He adds that “Feuerbach has much on his conscience in this respect,” suggesting that this perceived obsolescence of Hegel is indeed unfortunate, and that Feuerbach’s contribution to this misperception should weigh on his conscience.

Marx expands on Dühring’s bumbling incomprehension of Hegel in a letter written to Ludwig Kugelmann dated March 6, 1868:

The curiously embarrassed tone used by Mr Dühring in his review is now clear to me. Usually, you see, he is a very bumptious, insolent lad, who sets himself up as a revolutionary in political economy. He has done two things. Firstly (basing himself upon Carey) he published a Kritische Grundlegung der Nationalökonomie (ABOUT 500 PAGES), and a new Natürliche Dialektik (against Hegelian dialectic). My book has buried him in both respects. He reviewed it out of hatred for Roscher, etc. Incidentally he practices deception, half intentionally and half from lack of insight. He knows full well that my method of exposition is not Hegelian, since I am a materialist, and Hegel an idealist. Hegel’s dialectic is the basic form of all dialectic, but only after being stripped of its mystical form, and it is precisely this which distinguishes my method.

Once again, Marx makes clear that Hegel’s form is “the basic form of all dialectic,” and that what distinguishes his own dialectic from the Hegelian one is that he is a materialist while Hegel is an idealist. Still, it’s unclear from these two letters who he’s specifically thinking of outside of Dühring. Let’s take a look at another letter to Kugelmann, then, this one dated June 27, 1870 (three years after the first volume of Capital was released):

[W]hat [Friedrich] Lange has to say about the Hegelian method and my application of the same is simply childish. First, he understands rien about Hegel’s method and, therefore, second, still less about my critical manner of applying it. In one respect he reminds me of Moses Mendelssohn. That prototype of a windbag once wrote to Lessing asking how he could possibly take “that dead dog Spinoza” au sérieux In the same way, Mr Lange expresses surprise that Engels, I, etc., take au sérieux the dead dog Hegel, after Büchner, Lange, Dr Dühring, Fechner, etc., had long agreed that they — POOR DEAR — had long since buried him. Lange is naïve enough to say that I “move with rare freedom” in empirical matter. He has not the slightest idea that this “free movement in matter” is nothing but a paraphrase for the method of dealing with matter — that is, the dialectical method.

Marx here expresses his disdain for Lange’s “childish” attitude toward Hegel, his total incomprehension of Hegel’s method, nor Marx’s “application of the same.” He calls Lange a “windbag” for treating Hegel like a “dead dog.” So the past tense Marx uses in the 1873 postface, in which he “openly avowed [him]self the pupil of that mighty thinker” and defended Hegel against Lange’s dismissal of the philosopher as a “dead dog,” was June 1870. That means he still considered himself Hegel’s pupil well after the first volume of Capital had been published, since Marx was still defending him three years on.

Who were the “ill-humored” boors to which Marx referred in the 1873 postface, then? Easy: “Büchner, Lange, Dr Dühring, Fechner, etc.” — the names he listed in 1870.

Marx obviously didn’t think that Hegel wasn’t a “dead dog” if he was defending him against dismissive gestures made against him in 1868 and 1870. There would be no reason for Marx to heap scorn upon these “gentlemen”  for treating Hegel like a “dead dog,” of course, if he in fact agreed with them that Hegel deserved such treatment.

Finally, let’s take a look at a letter that Marx wrote to Dietzgen in 1868, but which Marx approved for publication on January 9, 1876, even after the 1873 postface:

When I have cast off the burden of political economy, I shall write a “Dialectic.” The true laws of dialectics are already contained in Hegel, though in a mystical form. What is needed is to strip away this form.

Here you have it yet again. Marx explicitly states that “the true laws of dialectics are already contained in Hegel, though in mystical form.” This reinforces what Marx wrote in the 1873 preface: “The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner.” So the true laws of dialectics, its general forms of motion, are already there in Hegel, albeit in mystified form.

This is further confirmed by a note Marx prepared for the second volume of Capital during the 1870s:

In a review of the first volume of Capital, Mr. Dühring notes that, in my zealous devotion to the schema of Hegelian Logic, I even discovered the Hegelian forms of the syllogism in the process of circulation. My relationship with Hegel is very simple. I am a disciple of Hegel, and the presumptuous chattering of the epigones who think they have buried this great thinker appear frankly ridiculous to me. Nevertheless, I have taken the liberty of adopting towards my master a critical attitude, disencumbering his dialectic of its mysticism and thus putting it through a profound change, etc.

Yes, a profound change to be sure. Marx placed Hegel’s dialectic on solid footing by grounding it in a materialist foundation. But it’s obvious to anyone who has eyes to see that Marx was and remained a “disciple” of Hegel, by his own admission, despite his criticisms. It would be prima facie ridiculous to claim otherwise, or to suggest that he would call himself the “pupil” or “disciple” of a thinker only to excise any trace of that thinker’s thought.

Let’s finish off the 1873 postface by comparing what Marx wrote to Engels’ elucidation of it in Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of German Classical Philosophy:

In its mystified form, the dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and glorify what exists. In its rational form it is a scandal and an abomination to the bourgeoisie and its doctrinaire spokesmen, because it includes in its positive understanding of what exists a simultaneous recognition of its negation, its inevitable destruction; because it regards every historically developed form as being in a fluid state, in motion, and therefore grasps its transient aspect as well; and because it does not let itself be impressed by anything, being in its very essence critical and revolutionary.

Here’s the Engels:

[T]he Hegelian proposition [that the real is the rational] turns into its opposite through Hegelian dialectics itself: All that is real in the sphere of human history, becomes irrational in the process of time, is therefore irrational by its very destination, is tainted beforehand with irrationality, and everything which is rational in the minds of men is destined to become real, however much it may contradict existing apparent reality. In accordance with all the rules of the Hegelian method of thought, the proposition of the rationality of everything which is real resolves itself into the other proposition: All that exists deserves to perish.

Furthermore, there are instances in Capital itself where Marx does not at all “coquet” with Hegel’s distinct phraseology, but makes clear and emphatic statements regarding the general validity of the old philosopher’s insights. And without a hint of irony. Marx writes:

[T]he possessor of money or commodities actually turns into a capitalist only where the minimum sum advanced for production greatly exceeds the known medieval maximum. Here, as in natural science, is shown the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel, in his Logic, that at a certain point merely quantitative differences pass over by a dialectical inversion into qualitative distinctions. (Capital, pg. 423)

In the footnote attached to the end of this sentence, Marx adds: “The molecular theory of modem chemistry, first scientifically worked out by Laurent and Gerhardt, rests on no other law.”

As if this weren’t enough on its own, Marx further explains what he meant by this in a letter to Engels dated June 22 1867:

Incidentally, you will see from the conclusion to my Chapter III, where I outline the transformation of the master of a trade into a capitalist — as a result of purely quantitative changes — that in the text there I quote Hegel’s discovery of the law of the transformation of a merely quantitative change into a qualitative one as being attested by history and natural science alike. In the note to the text (I was as it happened attending Hofmann’s lectures at that time) I mention the molecular theory, but not Hofmann, who has discovered nothing in the matter except contributing general direction; instead I do mention Laurent, Gerhardt, and Wurtz, the latter being the real man.

What further proof is needed?

51 thoughts on “Pour Hegel: Marx’s lifelong debt to Hegelian dialectics

  1. With the end of history, the real is now really rational. This idea was accepted in french philopsophy during 50’s … It is why it is the end of philosophy (not only german philosophy). But may be the european nations want now recover their history …For better or for worse … let’s see …

    “Du point de vue authentiquement historique, les deux guerres mondiales avec leur cortège de petites et grandes révolutions n’ont eu pour effet que d’aligner sur les positions historiques européennes (réelles ou virtuelles) les plus avancées, les civilisations retardataires des provinces périphériques. Si la soviètisation de la Russie et la communisation de la Chine sont plus et autre chose encore que la démocratisation de l’Allemagne Impériale (par le truchement de l’hitlérisme) ou l’accession du Togo à l’indépendance, voire l’auto-détermination des Papous, c’est uniquement parce que l’actualisation sino-soviétique du bonapartisme robespierrien oblige l’Europe post-napoléonienne à accélérer l’élimination des nombreuses séquelles plus ou moins anachroniques de son passé pré-révolutionnaire. D’ores et déjà, ce processus d’élimination est d’ailleurs plus avancé dans les prolongements nord-américains de l’Europe qu’en Europe elle-même. On peut même dire que, d’un certain point de vue, les Etats-Unis ont déjà atteint le stade final du ” communisme ” marxiste, vu que, pratiquement, tous les membres d’une ” société sans classes ” peuvent s’y approprier dès maintenant tout ce que bon leur semble, sans pour autant travailler plus que leur coeur ne le leur dit.

    ….Or, plusieurs voyages comparatifs effectués (entre 1948 et 1958) aux Etats-Unis en et U.R.S.S. m’ont donné l’impression que si les Américains font figure de sino-soviétiques enrichis, c’est parce que les Russes et les Chinois ne sont que des Américains encore pauvres, d’ailleurs en voie de rapide enrichissement. J’ai été porté à en conclure que l’American way of life était le genre de vie propre à la période post-historique, la présence actuelle des Etats-Unis dans le Monde préfigurant le futur “éternel présent ” de l’humanité tout entière. Ainsi, le retour de l’Homme à l’animalité apparaissait non plus comme une possibilité encore à venir, mais comme une certitude déjà présente.”

    Alexandre Kojève, Notes à l’Introduction à la lecture de Hegel

  2. Thanks for this detailed expression of faith on your part, Ross, but we have already been over this — where it became clear that Marx had, indeed, joined in practice, if not in word, the ‘dead-dog’ tendency of us proud Hegel ignorers.

    How do we know this?

    Simple — and the reason is to be found in a section of the Postface to the second edition of Das Kapital, which is, oddly enough, absent from your stitch-up above (can’t think why you left it out since it contains the only summary of “the dialectic method” Marx published and endorsed in his entire life): here is this passage which Marx, not me, Marx described as “the dialectic method”, and as “my method” (edited):

    “After a quotation from the preface to my ‘Criticism of Political Economy,’ Berlin, 1859, pp. IV-VII, where I discuss the materialistic basis of my method, the writer goes on:

    ‘The one thing which is of moment to Marx, is to find the law of the phenomena with whose investigation he is concerned; and not only is that law of moment to him, which governs these phenomena, in so far as they have a definite form and mutual connexion within a given historical period. Of still greater moment to him is the law of their variation, of their development, i.e., of their transition from one form into another, from one series of connexions into a different one. This law once discovered, he investigates in detail the effects in which it manifests itself in social life. Consequently, Marx only troubles himself about one thing: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting-points. For this it is quite enough, if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over; and this all the same, whether men believe or do not believe it, whether they are conscious or unconscious of it. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence. … If in the history of civilisation the conscious element plays a part so subordinate, then it is self-evident that a critical inquiry whose subject-matter is civilisation, can, less than anything else, have for its basis any form of, or any result of, consciousness. That is to say, that not the idea, but the material phenomenon alone can serve as its starting-point….The scientific value of such an inquiry lies in the disclosing of the special laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, death of a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher one. And it is this value that, in point of fact, Marx’s book has.’

    “Whilst the writer pictures what he takes to be actually my method, in this striking and [as far as concerns my own application of it] generous way, what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?

    [Bold added.]

    It is worth pointing out once again, since you seem determined to avert your selectively blind eyes from it: In the above passage, not one single Hegelian concept is to be found — no “contradictions”, no change of “quantity into quality”, no “negation of the negation”, no “unity and identity of opposites”, no “interconnected Totality”, no “universal change” –, and yet Marx still calls this the “dialectic method”, and says of it that it is “my method”.

    So, Marx’s “method” has had Hegel completely excised –, except for the odd phrase or two, “here and there”, with which he merely “coquetted”.

    This shows that in practice Marx totally ignored Hegel’s confused and useless ideas when it came to analysing capitalism. As far as Das Kapital is concerned, Hegel was indeed a ‘dead dog’.

    But what of the many passages you have mined from the above book, and from unpublished and published letters?

    Most of them we have already discussed in detail in that other thread (so I can only refer interested readers — if any such exist — to that thread for more details):

    https://thecharnelhouse.org/2014/06/12/the-future-of-enlightenment/#comments

    So, let’s examine this ‘new evidence’:

    My dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only different from the Hegelian, but exactly opposite to it. For Hegel, the process of thinking, which he even transforms into an independent subject, under the name of “the Idea,” is the creator of the real world, and the real world is only the external appearance of the idea. With me the reverse is true: the ideal is nothing but the material world reflected in the mind of man, and translated into forms of thought.

    In fact, one can’t get more “opposite” to Hegel than to excise completely his ideas from one’s own work, which is what Marx did, as we now know.

    How do we know?

    Well, the long passage quoted above, which Marx calls “the dialectic method” and “my method”, contains not one atom of Hegel (upside down or ‘the right way up’).

    The rest of the short passage above only serves to confirm this, since Marx reverts to what is in effect a simplified version of Locke’s theory of perception, again totally ignoring Hegel.

    Yet another stab in the eye for the ‘non-dead-dog’ tendency, eh, Ross?

    You then comment on another passage (which we discussed in detail in the above thread):

    Clearly Marx credits Hegel as being “the first to present [the dialectic’s] general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner,” despite the mystifications it suffers at his hands.

    And what does this form of ‘the dialectic’ look like when it has been stripped of its “mystifications”?

    We needn’t speculate, for a few lines earlier in the same Postface we find Marx calling something “the dialectic method” and “my method”.

    “What can this ‘something’ be, Rosa?” I hear you ask.

    Wonder no more, Ross, for I have quoted it above — and you can read it until the ink fades, but you won’t find any Hegel in it.

    In which case, the following conclusion is forced upon us: independently of whether Marx did or did not have a high opinion of Hegel, Marx’s method was a Hegel-free zone. Removing these “mystifications” also removes anything distinctively Hegelian from Marx’s method.

    Now, you are guaranteed not to like this, Ross, but then you should pick a fight with Marx, not me, for treating Hegel, in practice, as a ‘dead dog’.

    I’ll say more in my next post.

  3. Here is another comment you make, Ross, this time in relation to a letter Marx sent to Dietzgen:

    Here you have it yet again. Marx explicitly states that “the true laws of dialectics are already contained in Hegel, though in mystical form.”

    You have had it pointed out to you many times (in that other thread, and again above), that as soon as we strip away the mystical shell and uncover the ‘rational core’, there is nothing distinctively Hegelian left. The “dialectic method” Marx actually used (as he himself tells us) could almost be called the manifesto of the ‘dead dog’ tendency of us Hegel loathers.

    The long passage from the Postface I quoted in my last post is proof enough of that.

    You then quote this famous passage from the Postface:

    In its mystified form, the dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seemed to transfigure and glorify what exists. In its rational form it is a scandal and an abomination to the bourgeoisie and its doctrinaire spokesmen, because it includes in its positive understanding of what exists a simultaneous recognition of its negation, its inevitable destruction; because it regards every historically developed form as being in a fluid state, in motion, and therefore grasps its transient aspect as well; and because it does not let itself be impressed by anything, being in its very essence critical and revolutionary.

    There are a couple of points worth making about this passage:

    1) Marx oddly enough personifies ‘the dialectic’ here — he says this about it:

    because it regards every historically developed form as being in a fluid state, in motion, and therefore grasps its transient aspect as well; and because it does not let itself be impressed by anything

    [Bold added.]

    But, ‘the dialectic’ could only do this if it were a human being, which I suspect even you can see isn’t the case, Ross.

    Much of this passage can’t be read literally, therefore. [Very few, if any, of you ‘non-dead-dog’ types seem to have noticed Marx’s odd use of language in this passage, yet you (plural) quote it as if its meaning were plain!]

    [Looks like Marx was beginning to ‘coquette’ even here!]

    2) As I have already noted, when the “mystification” under which Hegel buried “the dialectic” has been shovelled to one side, we are left with a “method” any member of the ‘dead dog’ tendency could have written — see the long quotation from the Postface I quoted in my last post.

    You then quote (again!) this lone passage from Das Kapital (it is, I think, the only one! You have yet to find any others. And good luck with that!):

    [T]he possessor of money or commodities actually turns into a capitalist only where the minimum sum advanced for production greatly exceeds the known medieval maximum. Here, as in natural science, is shown the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel, in his Logic, that at a certain point merely quantitative differences pass over by a dialectical inversion into qualitative distinctions. (Capital, pg. 423)

    Again, we have already been over this, where I pointed out that it contains a serious error on Marx’s part: no matter how large a pot of money becomes it can’t turn into capital unless the right social conditions are present and the money is put to a specific use. Quantity has nothing to do with this transition; so this isn’t an example of Hegel’s confused ‘law’.

    In which case, we are forced to conclude that one or other, but not both, of the following must be the case:

    1) Marx didn’t understand his own theory! [Prima facie ridiculous.]

    2) He was, as he himself told us in the Postface, ‘coquetting’ with Hegelian jargon.

    And that includes the footnote.

    The other ‘proof’ texts you appended to this rather weak defence of the non-dead-dog’ tendency’s view of Das Kapital has already been covered in the other thread, so I won’t go over what I said about them again.

    You finish with this example of premature chest-beating:

    What further proof is needed?

    As I have told you several times, you need the following (since the ‘proof’ you have offered above can only be called proof by those with severe language difficulties):

    A passage/article/book… written and published by Marx, contemporaneous with or subsequent to Das Kapital that summaries/outlines/details “the dialectic method”, and which contains all the things missing for the summary that Marx does call “the dialect method” (quoted in my last post) — viz: “contradictions”, change of “quantity into quality”, “negation of the negation”, “unity and identity of opposites”, “interconnected Totality”, “universal change” etc. etc. — and which explains how any of these mystical items can actually account for anything, let alone the dynamic of capitalism.

    So, you’d have spent your time far more wisely looking for this missing evidence, Ross, instead of wasting all this effort re-hashing familiar material, which fails to do what you would like it to do: re-mystify Marx’s masterpiece.

    • Whether or not you consider it “a serious error on Marx’s part,” the fact remains that this is his argument. Marx isn’t merely “coquetting” with a philosophical mode of expression here, either. It’s a positive assertion on his part, not an allegorical or metaphorical use. He’s stating, clearly and emphatically, that natural science confirms Hegel’s insight, that it “natural science [shows] the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel.”

      As if the textual evidence in Capital weren’t enough, Marx also explained to his lifelong intellectual compatriot and colleague Engels that Hegel’s “discovery” was reinforced by molecular theory. Deal with it.

      Moreover, Marx declares: “My dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only different from the Hegelian, but exactly opposite to it.” So in its foundations, then, Marx’s dialectical method is exactly the opposite. What foundations? Quite clearly, its foundation in the real world, as opposed to the ideal. This is what Marx goes on to say in detailing Hegel’s idealist premises versus his own materialist premises. Both in the 1873 postface and in the 1870 letter to Kugelmann: “[M]y method of exposition is not Hegelian, since I am a materialist, and Hegel an idealist.”

      Otherwise, “the true laws of dialectics are already contained in Hegel,” as Marx reaffirms in the published 1876 snippet, albeit in mystified form. And the mystification consists precisely in the old philosopher’s topsy-turvy point of departure, which is why with Hegel the dialectic is standing on its head, and “must be inverted.” Yes, his dialectical method is thus exactly the opposite of Hegel’s in its materialist basis. And Marx identifies this method (“my dialectical method”) clearly as his own.

      Doubtless it would be wiser to take Marx’s own word for it, since he plainly tells us that he “openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker [Hegel]” when he wrote Capital (“when I was working at the first volume of Capital“). Not just when he wrote Capital, either, but well after it was published, Marx continued to defend the Hegelian dialectic — mystified though it doubtless was — in letters excoriating Dühring, Lange, and other anti-Hegelian buffoons such as yourself. Sorry, but it’s there in black and white.

      Let the butthurt flow through you, son.

      • Ross:

        Whether or not you consider it “a serious error on Marx’s part,” the fact remains that this is his argument. Marx isn’t merely “coquetting” with a philosophical mode of expression here, either. It’s a positive assertion on his part, not an allegorical or metaphorical use. He’s stating, clearly and emphatically, that natural science confirms Hegel’s insight, that it “natural science [shows] the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel.”

        In other words, Marx was ‘coquetting’ the body of the text above this footnote, but wasn’t doing so in the footnote itself! What an odd way to interpret Marx!

        Especially when we already know the ‘the dialectic method’ doesn’t make use of Hegel’s vague and confused ‘law’ of the ‘transformation of quantity into quality’.

        How do we know?

        Well, and I am truly sorry if I haven’t mentioned this before, but Marx added a summary of ‘the dialectic method’ to the Postface to the second edition, which he also called “my method”. So, you either believe Marx was lying when he said this, or you believe him when he said he was merely ‘coquetting’ with Hegelian jargon in Das Kapital itself.

        So, your view would have us believe that Marx as either an imbecile who didn’t understand his own theory, or he was a liar.

        And you ‘claim’ to be a Marxist?

        As if the textual evidence in Capital weren’t enough, Marx also explained to his lifelong intellectual compatriot and colleague Engels that Hegel’s “discovery” was reinforced by molecular theory.

        But, he said this in a letter he chose not to publish –, but he did publish a summary of ‘the dialectic method’, where this supposed ‘law’ makes no appearance — and thus features nowhere in Das Kapital itself.

        Deal with it.

        In fact, I have dealt with it far better than you have dealt with the summary of ‘the dialectic method’ that Marx published and endorsed as “my method”.

        Indeed, you have “dealt” with it by totally ignoring it!. And it isn’t hard to see why: It scuppers your attempt to re-mystify Marx’s masterpiece.

        And, I predict, as I have done so many times, you will continue to ignore it, preferring to quote unpublished letters and ambiguous footnotes.

        Moreover, Marx declares: “My dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only different from the Hegelian, but exactly opposite to it.” So in its foundations, then, Marx’s dialectical method is exactly the opposite. What foundations? Quite clearly, its foundation in the real world, as opposed to the ideal. This is what Marx goes on to say in detailing Hegel’s idealist premises versus his own materialist premises. Both in the 1873 postface and in the 1870 letter to Kugelmann: “[M]y method of exposition is not Hegelian, since I am a materialist, and Hegel an idealist.”

        Otherwise, “the true laws of dialectics are already contained in Hegel,” as Marx reaffirms in the published 1876 snippet, albeit in mystified form. And the mystification consists precisely in the old philosopher’s topsy-turvy point of departure, which is why with Hegel the dialectic is standing on its head, and “must be inverted.” Yes, his dialectical method is thus exactly the opposite of Hegel’s in its materialist basis. And Marx identifies this method (“my dialectical method”) clearly as his own.

        Oh dear, we have already been over this. Let me walk you through it yet again!

        1) So, the foundation of Marx’s dialectic, according to the above quote, is the “opposite” of Hegel’s. Well, one can’t get more opposite than to excise Hegel completely from one’s own work.

        Mere speculation of my part?

        Well, you do the math:

        A few lines earlier in the very same Postface, Marx had already endorsed a summary of ‘the dialectic method’ that contained not one atom of Hegel. You couldn’t wish for a more “opposite” summary of ‘the dialectic method’ than this.

        And, as if to rub it in, Marx called it “my method”

        The only way he could be clearer, Ross, would be to rise from his grave and tattoo it on your forehead.

        2) And what does the final product look like? What does the ‘materialist dialectic’ look like when its ‘rational core’ has been exposed, and the mystic shell discarded?

        A good question.

        Does Marx help us out here?

        Why yes, he does, for a few lines earlier he added the only summary of ‘the dialectic method’ he published and endorsed in his entire life — which, because of that, one would have thought that a loyal Marxist like your good self, Ross, would pay heed to — and , even better, it’s a Hegel-free zone.

        Now, because Marx describes this as “my method”, it is plainly the method he used in Das Kapital itself. In which case, this book owes nothing at all to that Christian mystic, Hegel (upside down or ‘the right way up’).

        Doubtless it would be wiser to take Marx’s own word for it, since he plainly tells us that he “openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker [Hegel]” when he wrote Capital (“when I was working at the first volume of Capital“). Not just when he wrote Capital, either, but well after it was published, Marx continued to defend the Hegelian dialectic — mystified though it doubtless was — in letters excoriating Dühring, Lange, and other anti-Hegelian buffoons such as yourself. Sorry, but it’s there in black and white.

        And yet, you have yet to quote a single passage written by Marx (published or unpublished) where he “continued to defend the Hegelian dialectic”.

        Moreover, he might or he might not have had a high opinion of Hegel, but the fact that Marx’s version of ‘the dialectic method’ has had every trace of Hegel removed suggests a completely different interpretation of his genuine attitude toward Hegel (when it came to applying it to a scientific understanding of Capitalism).

        The additional fact that the very best Marx could do with the confused jargon Hegel inflicted on his readers was to treat it non-seriously — to ‘coquette’ with it. This merely confirms that when he had to use Hegel’s method, he found he couldn’t apply it, and had to use a method (“my method”) that contained no trace of Hegel whatsoever (upside down or ‘the right way up’).

        No wonder you have to scratch around in Das Kapital for a few crumbs of comfort — and even then, the one example you have managed to dredge up is ambiguous in the extreme. If the method you wish Marx had used in that book was quite as important as you would have us believe, the book would be bursting with examples (a bit like the Grundrisse, only maybe more so).

        Let the butthurt flow through you, son.

        I am sorry, I didn’t know you had a son, Ross. But do you think it appropriate to address him in such a crude way?

  4. I’m sorry, but the second half of my last post seems to be garbled again!

    Here is the correct version:

    You then quote (again!) this lone passage from Das Kapital (it is, I think, the only one! You have yet to find any others. And good luck with that!):

    [T]he possessor of money or commodities actually turns into a capitalist only where the minimum sum advanced for production greatly exceeds the known medieval maximum. Here, as in natural science, is shown the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel, in his Logic, that at a certain point merely quantitative differences pass over by a dialectical inversion into qualitative distinctions. (Capital, pg. 423)

    Again, we have already been over this, where I pointed out that it contains a serious error on Marx’s part: no matter how large a pot of money becomes it can’t turn into capital unless the right social conditions are present and the money is put to a specific use. Quantity has nothing to do with this transition; so this isn’t an example of Hegel’s confused ‘law’.

    In which case, we are forced to conclude that one or other, but not both, of the following must be the case:

    1) Marx didn’t understand his own theory! [Prima facie ridiculous.]

    2) He was, as he himself told us in the Postface, ‘coquetting’ with Hegelian jargon.

    And that includes the footnote.

    The other ‘proof’ texts you appended to this rather weak defence of the non-dead-dog’ tendency’s view of Das Kapital has already been covered in the other thread, so I won’t go over what I said about them again.

    You finish with this example of premature chest-beating:

    What further proof is needed?

    As I have told you several times, you need the following (since the ‘proof’ you have offered above can only be called proof by those with severe language difficulties):

    A passage/article/book… written and published by Marx, contemporaneous with or subsequent to Das Kapital that summaries/outlines/details “the dialectic method”, and which contains all the things missing for the summary that Marx does call “the dialect method” (quoted in my last post) — viz: “contradictions”, change of “quantity into quality”, “negation of the negation”, “unity and identity of opposites”, “interconnected Totality”, “universal change” etc. etc. — and which explains how any of these mystical items can actually account for anything, let alone the dynamic of capitalism.

    So, you’d have spent your time far more wisely looking for this missing evidence, Ross, instead of wasting all this effort re-hashing familiar material, which fails to do what you would like it to do: re-mystify Marx’s masterpiece.

  5. I just read some very good work by Paul Schafer on Marx’s dissertation and the influence of the Hegelian dialectic on it, with considerations on the ramifications for his later work. It probably backs up your case in general. Never get it why so many start with the theses on Feuerbach and ignore the dissertation.

    • Moreover, Marx wrote this note in Capital, volume II, sometime during the 1870s:

      In a review of the first volume of Capital, Mr. Dühring notes that, in my zealous devotion to the schema of Hegelian Logic, I even discovered the Hegelian forms of the syllogism in the process of circulation. My relationship with Hegel is very simple. I am a disciple of Hegel, and the presumptuous chattering of the epigones who think they have buried this great thinker appear frankly ridiculous to me. Nevertheless, I have taken the liberty of adopting towards my master a critical attitude, disencumbering his dialectic of its mysticism and thus putting it through a profound change, etc.

      Yes, a profound change to be sure. Marx placed Hegel’s dialectic on solid footing by grounding it in a materialist foundation. But it’s obvious to anyone who has eyes to see that Marx was and remained a disciple of Hegel, despite his criticisms.

      • Thanks for that, Ross, but you once again failed to notice this codicil:

        Nevertheless, I have taken the liberty of adopting towards my master a critical attitude, disencumbering his dialectic of its mysticism and thus putting it through a profound change, etc.

        So, what do we find when we disencumber “his dialectic of its mysticism and thus putting it through a profound change”?

        Where on earth can we look for guidance from Marx on this?

        Fortunately, I have found a passage in the Postface to the second edition of Das Kapital that provides us with the only guidance on this issue that Marx published and endorsed in his entire life — which, even now, you continue to ignore (as I predicted you would).

        So, what does this passage tell us? Easy: it tells us that the method Marx actually used in his masterpiece (which he called “my method”) had been stripped bare of all Hegelian jargon/concepts. Even so, Marx still called it “the dialectic method”.

        So, despite the fact that Marx says in volume two (which he didn’t publish — Engels did) that he was a disciple of that confused hermetic mystic, in practice, when push came to shove, he totally ignored Hegel, and endorsed a summary of his own method, “the dialectic method”, that treats the latter as a “dead dog”.

        In your desperate trawl through Marx’s work in order to try to find something, anything, that supports your vain endeavour to re-mystify Marx, you have found a grand total of two passages, Ross, neither of which, as it turns out, helps your case. Not much to show, is it?

        [There is another passage in volume three, by the way, but I’ll let you try and find it for yourself. (I discussed it in that essay of mine you skim-read, so it’s hardly my fault if you missed it.)]

      • There would be no point in even mentioning Hegel at all, let alone referring to him as one’s master or teacher (implied by describing oneself as a pupil or disciple), if one’s method had nothing at all to do with Hegel or the Hegelian dialectic. Do you take Marx for a fool?

        Marx describes his own dialectical method in the 1873 postface as a materialist inversion of Hegel’s idealist dialectic. I’ve said this again and again. When Marx wrote Capital, as he indicated in the 1873 postface, he openly avowed himself Hegel’s pupil. And then later, in a note that was to appear in volume 2, he again affirmed that he “is Hegel’s disciple.”

        You’re quite right to say that it is prima facie ridiculous that Marx did not understand his own theory. So when he says in plain writing that he was Hegel’s pupil while writing Capital (and beyond, well into the 1870s, as seen in his letters to colleagues and a note for volume 2), it would be ridiculous to say that he was confused about his own ideas or their profound debt to Hegel. He tells us, and certainly he knows better than you or I what he himself thought.

  6. I’m sorry that should read:

    Marcus, no one is denying that Hegel had a massive influence on Marx (in his early and middle period); what is in contention is whether Marx drifted away from, and then totally abandoned him in his mature work.

    My posts show that he did.

    • Marx drifted away from, and then totally abandoned [Hegel] in his mature work.

      Quite the opposite. Marx even tells us in the 1873 postface that he finished critiquing the mystificatory side of the Hegelian dialectic nearly thirty years ago [the 1840s], at a time when it was still the fashion.” In the interim, during the 1850s and early 1860s, Hegel remained an important touchstone for Marx’s thought while he was studying the classics of political economy. This can be seen throughout his Grundrisse and subsequent manuscripts.

      Only later, when Marx was writing Capital, did Marx again openly avow himself “the pupil of that great thinker,” against the anti-Hegelians who declared Hegel a “dead dog.” Perhaps to Rosa Lichtenstein, openly declaring one’s pupilage under a great thinker is the same thing as “drifting away from” and “abandoning” him. I think most people who understand the colloquial sense of these words should easily recognize that Marx did not abandon Hegel when he was writing Capital, but made himself his pupil, and defended the continuing relevance of Hegel against those who sought to diminish him. Such behavior would be unthinkable if he agreed that Hegel was a “dead dog” and if he owed nothing to his thought.

      In fact, if Marx actually regarded Hegel as a “dead dog,” there would be no reason for him to mention Hegel’s name at all in the 1873 postface, since the majority of Capital’s readers already considered Hegel an irrelevant and outmoded philosopher.

      As if Marx telling us directly that he was Hegel’s pupil while he was writing Capital (that is, up to its publication in 1867) was not enough, it’s clear from Marx’s letters that he continued to defend Hegel from his detractors and champion his method, once demystified, up to and through 1868-1870.

  7. Ross:

    Quite the opposite. Marx even tells us in the 1873 postface that he finished critiquing the mystificatory side of the Hegelian dialectic nearly thirty years ago [the 1840s], at a time when it was still the fashion.” In the interim, during the 1850s and early 1860s, Hegel remained an important touchstone for Marx’s thought while he was studying the classics of political economy. This can be seen throughout his Grundrisse and subsequent manuscripts.

    All unpublished.

    So, whatever happened to Marx’s opinion of Hegel between writing the Grundrisse and Das Kapital, it clearly took a nose-dive, since the very best he could do in that book was to ‘coquette’ with a few of Hegel’s jargonised expression. Hardly a ringing endorsement, is it?

    Even worse for you, Marx added a summary of “the dialectic method” to that Postface, which, as predicted, you continue to ignore, and which contains no trace of Hegel whatsoever. But that didn’t stop Marx from calling it “the dialectic method” and “my method”.

    Hence, in practice, whatever else he said in private or wrote in unpublished letters and manuscripts, in practice he found he couldn’t use this mystical incompetent’s work, and in effect, because of that (inadvertently or by design), he joined us genuine materialists in the ‘dead dog’ faction.

    Only later, when Marx was writing Capital, did Marx again openly avow himself “the pupil of that great thinker,” against the anti-Hegelians who declared Hegel a “dead dog.” Perhaps to Rosa Lichtenstein, openly declaring one’s pupilage under a great thinker is the same thing as “drifting away from” and “abandoning” him. I think most people who understand the colloquial sense of these words should easily recognize that Marx did not abandon Hegel when he was writing Capital, but made himself his pupil, and defended the continuing relevance of Hegel against those who sought to diminish him. Such behavior would be unthinkable if he agreed that Hegel was a “dead dog” and if he owed nothing to his thought.

    Except, that summary, which you blithely ignore, indicates that he did indeed abandon Hegel when it came to making sense of capitalism — for he describes it as “the dialectic method”, and “my method”, even though every trace of Hegel has been excised.

    Wriggle and squirm as much as you like, Ross, this is the rock upon which your ‘theory’ will always founder — and I will be happy to remind you of this unwelcome fact as many times as it takes before it sinks in — or even if it doesn’t sink in.

    In fact, if Marx actually regarded Hegel as a “dead dog,” there would be no reason for him to mention Hegel’s name at all in the 1873 postface, since the majority of Capital’s readers already considered Hegel an irrelevant and outmoded philosopher.

    As if Marx telling us directly that he was Hegel’s pupil while he was writing Capital (that is, up to its publication in 1867) was not enough, it’s clear from Marx’s letters that he continued to defend Hegel from his detractors and champion his method, once demystified, up to and through 1868-1870.

    Well, we can speculate about this until the cows next evolve, but the plain fact is that the summary you obviously prefer Marx hadn’t added to the Postface shows that Hegel was indeed, in practice, a ‘dead dog’. Hegel’s ideas nowhere feature in Das Kapital, and you have signally failed to demonstrate otherwise.

    This alone shows that you, too, are a reluctant, or inadvertent, member of the ‘dead dog’ tendency, since even you can see that Hegel’s ideas are quite as useless as I have alleged. Otherwise you’d have rammed down my throat the ‘many passages’ from Das Kapital that supposedly reveal Hegel’s ‘profound’ influence. So far you have found only two (from the first two volumes) — which, as we have seen, fail to support your case, anyway.

    But, hey, you keep banging your head against this non-dialectical brick wall, Ross, if it makes you happy. [‘The dialectic’ is, after all, your source of quasi-religious consolation; no wonder then that you think highly of that confused Christian mystic, Hegel.]

    • You take Marx at his word that he was “coquetting” here and there in Capital, especially the chapter on value (if not exclusively there), so I’m not sure why you don’t take Marx at his word when he writes in that same postface that he is Hegel’s pupil. Surely you can’t be so selective as to take him seriously in one sentence and unseriously in the next. Incidentally, it’s the same sentence.

      • In fact, I said this:

        Moreover, he might or he might not have had a high opinion of Hegel, but the fact that Marx’s version of ‘the dialectic method’ has had every trace of Hegel removed suggests a completely different interpretation of his genuine attitude toward Hegel (when it came to applying it to a scientific understanding of Capitalism).

        The additional fact that the very best Marx could do with the confused jargon Hegel inflicted on his readers was to treat it non-seriously — to ‘coquette’ with it. This merely confirms that when he had to use Hegel’s method, he found he couldn’t apply it, and had to use a method (“my method”) that contained no trace of Hegel whatsoever (upside down or ‘the right way up’).

        No wonder you have to scratch around in Das Kapital for a few crumbs of comfort — and even then, the one example you have managed to dredge up is ambiguous in the extreme. If the method you wish Marx had used in that book was quite as important as you would have us believe, the book would be bursting with examples (a bit like the Grundrisse, only maybe more so).

        Feel free to ignore it some more…

  8. hmmm … you may not like what i say, and I would like apologize for my very bad english, but I think US is not the really good place to understand philosophy. ;-)
    I will try to resume to resume Phänomenologie des Geistes and Marx’s objections :

    For Hegel, human history is the history of ‘thought’ as it attempts to understand itself and its relation to the world. He postulates that history began with unity, but into which man, a questioning ‘I’, emerges introducing dualism and splits. Man attempts to heal these sequences of ‘alienations’ dialectically, and drives history forwards, but in so doing causes new divisions which must then be overcome. Hegel sees the possibility of ‘historical reconciliation’ lying in the rational realization of underlying unity – the manifestation of an absolute spirit or ‘geist’ – leading to humanity living according to a unified, shared morality: the end of history.

    Marx objection of this point of view is seen in so-called ’1848 manuscripts’.
    For exemple, Marx ‘inverte Hegelianism’ by understanding the labor of historical development in broadly ‘materialist’ terms. The making of history is no longer simply a case of reason at work in the world, but of man’s activity as a being who collectively produces his own being. This occurs through the labor of appropriating and transforming his material world in order to satisfy his own needs. Whereas Hegel’s idealism gives priority to the forms of consciousness that produce the world as experienced etc.

    But Marx keeps (?) Hegelian because he undertsood ‘master-slave’ dialectic. It is very important to understand this because Lacan says the same thing : the position of master is very problematic.
    The relation between Master and Slave…is not recognition properly so-called…The Master is not the only one to consider himself Master. The Slave, also, considers him as such. Hence, he is recognized in his human reality and dignity. But this recognition is one-sided, for he does not recognize in turn the Slave’s human reality and dignity. Hence, he is recognized by someone whom he does not recognize. And this is what is insufficient – what is tragic – in his situation…For he can be satisfied only by recognition from one whom he recognizes as worthy of recognizing him.

    Secondly, for Marx it is the laboring ‘slave’ who is the key to historical progress. It is the ‘slave’ who works, and consequently it is he and not the ‘master’ who exercises his ‘negativity’ in transforming the world in line with human wants and desires. So, on the material level, the slave possesses the key to his own liberation, namely his active mastery of nature. Moreover, the ‘master’ has no desire to transform the world, whereas the ‘slave’, unsatisfied with his condition, imagines and attempts to realise a world of freedom in which his value will finally be recognised and his own desires satisfied. The slave’s ideological struggle is to overcome his own fear of death and take-up struggle against the ‘master’, demanding the recognition of his value and freedom. The coincidence of material and ideological conditions of liberation were already made manifest, for Kojève, by the revolutions of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; these struggles set the conditions for the completion of history in the form of universal society.

    for full history ;
    http://www.iep.utm.edu/kojeve/

    “je passais comme la rumeur,
    je m’endormais comme le bruit ” (Aragon)

      • ok … may be you mean – and sorry for my memory cos I was reading Marx when I was teenager – that a part of Kapital is only something like an analycal process and that is nothing to do with hegelian dialectic.

        That ‘s completly true … for the Marx of 1873(?)- till end, the start point of a proposition is the fact and not the theorical point of view. In fact he becomes more a sociologist (and sometimes journalist) than a philosopher. With the varying degree of development of productive power, social conditions and the laws governing them vary too.
        In fact, Marx becomes structuralist : the same phenomenon falls under quite different laws in consequence of the different structure of those organisms as a whole, of the variations of their individual organs, of the different conditions in which those organs function.

        But you know, as Hannah Arendt said, Marx is essentially a thinker of the work…. and the alienation. And it is absolutely impossible to think the concepts of alienation and work without dialectic.

        “Le Maître force l’Esclave à travailler. Et en travaillant, l’Esclave devient maître de la Nature. Or, il n’est devenu l’Esclave du Maître que parce que – au prime abord – il était esclave de la Nature, en se solidarisant avec elle et en se subordonnant à ses lois par l’acceptation de l’instinct de conservation. En devenant par le travail maître de la Nature, l’Esclave se libère donc de sa propre nature, de son propre instinct qui le liait à la Nature et qui faisait de lui l’Esclave du Maître. En libérant l’Esclave de la Nature, le travail le libère donc aussi de lui-même, de sa nature d’Esclave : il le libère du Maître. Dans le Monde naturel, donné, brut, l’Esclave est esclave du Maître. Dans le Monde technique, transformé par son travail, il règne – ou, du moins, régnera un jour – en Maître absolu.
        Et cette Maîtrise qui naît du travail, de la transformation progressive du Monde donné et de l’homme donné dans ce Monde, sera tout autre chose que la Maîtrise immédiate du Maître. L’avenir et l’Histoire appartiennent donc non pas au Maître guerrier, qui ou bien meurt ou bien se maintient indéfiniment dans l’identité avec soi-même, mais à l’Esclave travailleur. Celui-ci, en transformant le Monde donné par son travail, transcende le donné et ce qui est déterminé en lui-même par ce donné; il se dépasse donc, en dépassant aussi le Maître qui est lié au donné qu’il laisse – ne travaillant pas – intact. Si l’angoisse de la mort incarnée pour l’Esclave dans la personne du Maître guerrier est la condition sine qua non du progrès historique, c’est uniquement le travail de l’Esclave qui le réalise et le parfait”.

        A Kojève, Introduction à la lecture de Hegel

        to sum up …the fundamental entity of Marx theory is always the Slave… the Hegelian Slave …the only one element that can produce history.

  9. Yes and no, Rosa. If I understood the interpretation by Schafer of the dissertation correctly, then the specific method Marx used was already present from the outset and continued to be developed only substantially as Marx sought to investigate new subjects. So Hegel is already put in a certain spot, rather than remaining an ‘influence’.

    The key is how the lex atomi is related to the lex hominis, the swerve of the atom to the freedom of labouring humans. My knowledge of Hegel and capitalist economics is very limited, and I can’t be bothered really, but it really helped me make sense of the pre-capitalist writings (which go through right to the end).

    If you google: paul schafer dialectical atomism

    You can easily find Schafer’s dissertation on the subject.

    • Thanks for that Marcus, but I have lost count of the number of times I have been told to read X, Y, or Z’s thesis/article/book which ‘definitely’ shows Marx to be this that or the other (where “this that or the other” in the end turns out to be a re-hash/re-jig of the traditional, and failed Engels/Plekhanov/Lenin…/Ross line).

      Just like Ross here, they all invariably fail to take note of Marx’s publication and endorsement of a summary of “his method” which contains none of this material (from the Ancient Greeks or from Hegel), but which he still calls ‘the dialectic method’.

      Just as they all fail to notice that Marx had waved ‘goodbye’ to Philosophy in the middle-, to late-1840s.

      You can find the proof of that here:

      http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/was_wittgenstein_a_leftist.htm#Philosophy

      [Note, if you are using Internet Explorer 10 (or later), the above link won’t work properly unless you engage ‘Compatibility Mode’ — accessed via the Tools menu — or, for IE11, in the same menu, just add my site to the compatibility list.]

      However, if I can locate this thesis, I will certainly read it; but I’d advise you not to hold your breath that I will form any other opinion of if from those I formed in relation to all those Xs, Ys, and Zs, mentioned above. [And I have been reading this stuff since the late 1970s!]

      [A quick Google (using your ‘paul schafer dialectical atomism’) returns no direct link to this thesis. I will try to locate it another way.]

  10. I’m sorry, Ross, but I have only just seen this:

    There would be no point in even mentioning Hegel at all, let alone referring to him as one’s master or teacher (implied by describing oneself as a pupil or disciple), if one’s method had nothing at all to do with Hegel or the Hegelian dialectic. Do you take Marx for a fool?

    Marx describes his own dialectical method in the 1873 postface as a materialist inversion of Hegel’s idealist dialectic. I’ve said this again and again. When Marx wrote Capital, as he indicated in the 1873 postface, he openly avowed himself Hegel’s pupil. And then later, in a note that was to appear in volume 2, he again affirmed that he “is Hegel’s disciple.”

    You’re quite right to say that it is prima facie ridiculous that Marx did not understand his own theory. So when he says in plain writing that he was Hegel’s pupil while writing Capital (and beyond, well into the 1870s, as seen in his letters to colleagues and a note for volume 2), it would be ridiculous to say that he was confused about his own ideas or their profound debt to Hegel. He tells us, and certainly he knows better than you or I what he himself thought.

    Again, we can speculate all day about Marx’s motivations, beliefs, reasons and intentions, but if you insist on ignoring the only summary of “the dialectic method” he published and endorsed (as “my method”) in his entire life, it’s no wonder you are reduced to scratching around in footnotes, unpublished letters and manuscripts for something, anything, to support your ramshackle theory.

    The ‘results’ so far:

    A) Two brief and ambiguous passages (and one footnote) from the hundreds of thousands of words in the first two volumes of Das Kapital!

    [Looks like you still haven’t located the passage from volume 3 that I mentioned in an earlier post — seems your habit of skim-reading what I write/post is back-firing on you!]

    B) A handful of unpublished letters (none of which endorses the ‘Hegelian Dialectic’ — even though they reveal Marx had a high opinion of Hegel, he then undermined this by (1) totally ignoring him in Das Kapital, and by (2) endorsing a ‘dead-dog’ summary of “his method”, “the dialectic method”.

    C) One very brief published letter, which is much the same as those mentioned in B), above.

    If Hegel’s method/theory (upside down or ‘the right way up’) were quite as important as you would have us believe, Volumes One to Three of Das Kapital would be bristling with examples you could ram down my throat.

    But, as is quite plain, all three could well have been written by any card-carrying member of the ‘dead dog’ tendency.

    As indeed they were: by Marx.

  11. Thanks again for that, Fulgence, but the things you say are contradicted (ironically one almost feels) by the fact that Marx had waved ‘goodbye’ to all this philosophical stuff you keep speaking about by the late 1840s.

    You can find the proof of that here:

    http://anti-dialectics.co.uk/was_wittgenstein_a_leftist.htm#Philosophy

    [Note, if you are using Internet Explorer 10 (or later), the above link won’t work properly unless you engage ‘Compatibility Mode’ — accessed via the Tools menu — or, for IE11, in the same menu, just add my site to the compatibility list.]

    Even worse, Marx characterised his “method” in terms that also contradict the things you say — see my comments in this thread, and here, on this:

    https://thecharnelhouse.org/2014/06/12/the-future-of-enlightenment/#comments

    • Marx had certainly left philosophy behind by 1846 or 1847 at the latest, as both he and Engels agreed that Hegel had brought philosophy to an end. But Hegel remained an abiding and decisive influence on Marx, as he himself tells us in the 1873 postface that he was still “a pupil of that mighty thinker” when he wrote the first volume of Capital in the 1860s. (And in one of his notes for the second volume, too, he again reiterates that he is Hegel’s “disciple”). Furthermore, as Marx indicates in the 1873 postface and multiple letters to colleagues, those who consider Hegel irrelevant or a “dead dog” are tedious “windbags” and “ill-humored” boors whose claims are “frankly ridiculous.” Which is why one probably shouldn’t take Rosa so seriously.

      His critical method of applying the Hegelian dialectic is to “invert” it, placing it on a materialist rather than an idealist foundation. As he says in the 1873 postface, “my dialectical method” is “in its foundations” exactly opposite to Hegel’s. In that same paragraph he goes on to show that for him the dialectic operates at the level of the real world, and ideologies are formed on its basis, whereas for Hegel the dialectic starts from the Idea and works its way into reality.

      Rosa has correctly pointed out that it would be “prima facie ridiculous” to maintain that Marx didn’t understand his own theory. So he would hardly have stated that he was still Hegel’s pupil when he wrote Capital if his own method wasn’t profoundly indebted to him. The very idea is nonsensical.

      • Ross:

        But Hegel remained an abiding and decisive influence on Marx, as he himself tells us in the 1873 postface that he was still “a pupil of that mighty thinker” when he wrote the first volume of Capital in the 1860s. (And in one of his notes for the second volume, too, he again reiterates that he is Hegel’s “disciple”). Furthermore, as Marx indicates in the 1873 postface and multiple letters to colleagues, those who consider Hegel irrelevant or a “dead dog” are tedious “windbags” and “ill-humored” boors whose claims are “frankly ridiculous.” Which is why one probably shouldn’t take Rosa so seriously.

        So, comrades shouldn’t take me “seriously” for relying on the only summary of the “dialectic method” Marx published and endorsed in his entire life, one he even called “my method”, and which summary contains not one atom of Hegel (upside down or ‘the right way up’).

        Whereas they should take you seriously for ignoring it!

        So, as you have had pointed out to you many times, despite what Marx said about Hegel (in the few places you have been able to mine over the last week), in practice he totally ignored him.

        How do we know?

        Well, the aforementioned summary, which outlines the method Marx used in Das Kapital (on his own say-so), treats Hegel in effect as a ‘dead dog’.

        His critical method of applying the Hegelian dialectic is to “invert” it, placing it on a materialist rather than an idealist foundation. As he says in the 1873 postface, “my dialectical method” is “in its foundations” exactly opposite to Hegel’s. In that same paragraph he goes on to show that for him the dialectic operates at the level of the real world, and ideologies are formed on its basis, whereas for Hegel the dialectic starts from the Idea and works its way into reality.

        As I have pointed out, one can’t get more “opposite” to Hegel than to excise his ideas totally from one’s own.

        Did Marx do this Das Kapital?

        The aforementioned summary indeed suggests so.

        Add that to the fact that you, Ross, have conspicuously failed to show where Hegel’s ideas were actually used in that book (upside down or ‘the right way up’).

        Add to that, too, the fact that Marx reverts to a simplified version of Locke’s theory of perception and counterposes it to Hegel. Yet another slap in the face for that confused mystic. Yet another example of what “opposite” meant to Marx.

        You ignore all this, Ross, since you have no answer to it; except to repeat parrot-like the same lame points about Marx’s superficial attitude toward Hegel.

        “Superficial? Surely not!” I hear someone say.

        Yes, “superficial”, since in practice, whatever he might have said elsewhere, in practice he totally ignored this mystical bumbler.

        [What was that again about ‘actions speaking louder than words’…?]

        Rosa has correctly pointed out that it would be “prima facie ridiculous” to maintain that Marx didn’t understand his own theory. So he would hardly have stated that he was still Hegel’s pupil when he wrote Capital if his own method wasn’t profoundly indebted to him. The very idea is nonsensical.

        Once again, you totally ignore that summary, from which every trace of Hegel has been excised — but which Marx still calls “the dialectic method” and “my method”. [As I have been predicting for several days you will continue to do.]

        Just as you have ignored the fact that you have signally failed to show where Marx actually used any of Hegel’s ideas in all three volumes of Das Kapital, having been reduced to finding just two ambiguous passages and one footnote in all the thousands of pages comprising those three books.

        So, not so much “nonsensical” as an accurate depiction of Marx’s genuine opinion of that Hermetic incompetent.

      • But as you’ve said, it would be prima facie ridiculous to suggest that Marx didn’t understand his own theory. So it would be absurd to hold, as you do, that Marx removed any trace of Hegel’s influence in a summary of his dialectical method published in the same postface where he openly admits that he remained “the pupil of that mighty thinker” when writing Capital. (And well beyond, into the 1870s, as is clear from his letters). He says that Hegel’s dialectic is “standing on its head,” and must simply be “inverted” in order to demystify it.

        What does this “inversion” consist in? Lucky for us, he shows in plain language what he means by this:

        My dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only different from the Hegelian, but exactly opposite to it.
        What does he mean by “exactly opposite”? You write, flippantly, that

        As I have pointed out, one can’t get more “opposite” to Hegel than to excise his ideas totally from one’s own.

        But it’s patently obvious from Marx’s ensuing remarks what he means by “exactly opposite,” in the sentences that immediately follow the characterization of his dialectical method (“my dialectical method”) what he means by this:

        For Hegel, the process of thinking, which he even transforms into an independent subject, under the name of “the Idea,” is the creator of the real world, and the real world is only the external appearance of the idea. With me the reverse is true: the ideal is nothing but the material world reflected in the mind of man, and translated into forms of thought.

        Clearly that’s what he meant by “inversion” and “standing on its head.” Marx’s dialectical method is Hegel’s, only placed on opposite foundations: material rather than ideal.

  12. Ross:

    But as you’ve said, it would be prima facie ridiculous to suggest that Marx didn’t understand his own theory. So it would be absurd to hold, as you do, that Marx removed any trace of Hegel’s influence in a summary of his dialectical method published in the same postface where he openly admits that he remained “the pupil of that mighty thinker” when writing Capital. (And well beyond, into the 1870s, as is clear from his letters). He says that Hegel’s dialectic is “standing on its head,” and must simply be “inverted” in order to demystify it.

    As I have acknowledged, even though Marx might have said these things in letters, in practice when it came to apply Hegel’s useless method, he found he couldn’t use it. Now, if you begin from the only summary of Marx’s method he published and endorsed in his entire life, which he calls the ‘dialectic method’, then it is apparent that he could not, and did not use Hegel’s method (upside down or ‘the right way up’) — otherwise why call this summary “my method” and “the dialectic method” when it contains no trace of Hegel whatsoever?

    This is the insurmountable obstacle you continue to ignore, and prefer to listen to/begin from the failed Engels/Plekhanov/Lenin… tradition.

    Because of this we have witnessed the unedifying spectacle of you scratching around for a few crumbs of comfort from scattered and off-hand remarks buried in unpublished letters, manuscripts and footnotes. As I noted above, if the method you advocate were quite as important to Marx as you seem to think, you’d be falling over the many passages that support this view of ‘the dialectic’ in the three volumes of Das Kapital.

    Instead, the results of your desperate search are rather pathetic: two ambiguous passages and one footnote in the two thousand or so pages comprising those three books!

    Clearly that’s what he meant by “inversion” and “standing on its head.” Marx’s dialectical method is Hegel’s, only placed on opposite foundations: material rather than ideal.

    As predicted: you continue to ignore the very clear passage Marx added just a few lines above this “inversion” comment, which passage tells us what “the dialectic method” looks like when the mystical husk has been removed, exposing the “rational core”.

    As you will soon see for yourself if you take those blinders off and actually read it (as opposed to averting your tender eyes from its rather dangerous message): it contains no trace of Hegel whatsoever, and yet…, and yet, Marx, not me, Marx still calls it “my method” (not “Rosa’s method”, but “my (Karl’s) method”) and “the dialectic method”.

    Check it out for yourself, and tell me if you see any Hegel in there.

    Go on: I double dog dare you, Ross.

    Feeling brave enough?

    [Alas, I suspect not…. :-( ]

    • even though Marx might have said these things in letters

      Not just in letters, but in a note prepared for the second volume of Capital, as well as the published 1873 postface.

      You claim that the passage I’ve cited, where Marx describes his own “dialectical method” (“my dialectical method”) as “exactly opposite” in its foundations from Hegel’s, is ambiguous. It’s not. And it doesn’t refer back to the passage you mention, where you think he’s “completely excised” Hegel. The sentences that immediately follow show that Marx’s dialectic is Hegel’s dialectic, only starting from real rather than ideal foundations.

      • Ross (while still not brave enough to examine Marx’s endorsement of ‘the dialectic method’, you are nevertheless still capable of smacking into that non-dialectical rock Marx placed in your path, yet again!):

        Not just in letters, but in a note prepared for the second volume of Capital, as well as the published 1873 postface.

        All equivocal, as I have shown.

        [And, your interpretations of which are contradicted by the summary Marx calls “the dialectic method”.]

        You claim that the passage I’ve cited, where Marx describes his own “dialectical method” (“my dialectical method”) as “exactly opposite” in its foundations from Hegel’s, is ambiguous. It’s not. And it doesn’t refer back to the passage you mention, where you think he’s “completely excised” Hegel. The sentences that immediately follow show that Marx’s dialectic is Hegel’s dialectic, only starting from real rather than ideal foundations.

        And yet this is Marx’s own description — it is he, not Rosa, who calls this summary “my method” and “the dialectic method”.

        You appear to think I have access to a time machine and put it there myself!

        Of course, if you ever summon up enough (intellectual) courage to read it, you too will see it’s a Hegel-free zone.

        In which case, this is ‘the dialectic method’ in all its glory when the “mystical shell” has been stripped away.

        [Unless, of course, you know of another summary of ‘the dialectic method’, written and published by Marx, contemporaneous with or subsequent to Das Kapital that retains this mystical guff?]

        In the meantime, feel free to smack into this insurmountable obstacle yet again, Ross.

        Or — read it.

        [Silly me! You have no intention of doing that! Faaaar toooo scaaaareee…]

      • It is hardly equivocal to call oneself the “pupil” or “disciple” of a given thinker, even if one critically applies that thinker’s original method.

        You’re quite selective in your literalism, moreover, accepting colloquial turns of phrase in one instance and insisting upon an absurdly literal interpretation the next. For example, you deny the colloquial sense of this following:

        The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner.

        The implication of this phrase, in ordinary language, is obvious: “Despite Hegel’s mystification of the dialectic, he was the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner.” Marx phrases it negatively and indirectly (“by no means prevents”), but its meaning is easy to figure out.

        When it suits you, however, you accept colloquial turns of phrase. For example, when Marx writes:

        [W]hat else is [Kaufman, the reviewer] depicting but the dialectical method?

        A great deal of your argument would seem to hinge on reading this rhetorical question as saying: “This is my dialectical method.” I would agree with you that this is what he implies. Marx phrases it negatively and indirectly (“what else is it but” or “what else is this if not”), its meaning is easy enough to figure out.

        Once again, Marx’s endorsement of Kaufman’s description doesn’t trouble me in the least, whether Hegelian concepts explicitly appear in it or not. No “courage,” intellectual or otherwise, is required to confront what Marx plainly says. But the 1873 postface isn’t over, as you’ll notice, and Marx goes on to show exactly how his own method is indebted to the Hegelian dialectic.

        That Marx regarded Hegel as the first to present the dialectic’s general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner is reinforced by the high esteem in which he holds “that great thinker,” whose “pupil” he was when writing Capital. Right after he credits Hegel with the discovery of the dialectic’s “general forms of motion,” Marx explains:

        With him [Hegel] it [the dialectic] is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.

        So clearly, the main problem with the Hegelian dialectic is that it’s upside down, or standing on its head. Marx says as much when he writes that “it must be inverted.” What does he mean by this “inversion,” though?

        If you look a couple lines up, you’ll see Marx already provided a very clear explanation of what he meant. He simply reverses the mystical premises on which the Hegelian dialectic rests. And he identifies this reversal of as his own dialectical method (“my dialectical method”). Not just endorsed something somebody else wrote, as earlier with the Kaufman, but Marx’s own positive description of his method. These are Marx’s own published words:

        My dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only different from the Hegelian, but exactly opposite to it.

        How is it opposite, though? Fortunately, Marx tells us precisely what he means by this:

        For Hegel, the process of thinking, which he even transforms into an independent subject, under the name of “the Idea,” is the creator of the real world, and the real world is only the external appearance of the idea. With me the reverse is true: the ideal is nothing but the material world reflected in the mind of man, and translated into forms of thought.

        In other words, the “mystification” is Hegel’s idealist foundations. Once placed on materialist foundations, the dialectic is demystified, as Marx makes plain.

        You will notice that Marx calls this “my dialectical method.”

        So I accept both Marx’s indirect endorsement of Kaufman’s description (“what else is he depicting but the dialectical method?), which is relatively free of Hegelian jargon, and the subsequent supplement Marx provides in which he spells out his profound debt to Hegel’s discovery of its general forms of motion. In a paragraph that begins with Marx describing his dialectical method “my dialectical method,” he shows how the foundations are opposite in the sense that Marx’s foundations are materialist while Hegel’s are idealist. Or, as Marx put it to Kugelmann: “[M]y method of exposition is not Hegelian, since I am a materialist, and Hegel an idealist. Hegel’s dialectic is the basic form of all dialectic.”

  13. Yes indeed Rosa, but that intro is based on this thesis:

    I don’t really care for such arguments at all. I’ve read both Marx and Wittgenstein and found them rewarding in carrying forward my own thinking and its applications in research. Your piece has some good points, but it would have been much better if it had just said: the potential contribution of Wittgenstein is such and such, and yes he was a Stalinist of sorts (if not exactly a Marxist). What do I care who disavowed who, it’s pretty immaterial to me anyhow unless it pertains upon a concrete, material issue. In fact many of these kinds of disputes seem somewhat idealist to me, like arguing over the miracles in the Bible or whatever: theological.

  14. Ross,

    Since the lifetimes of Marx and Engels, their “followers” have generally done little to reconstruct the “dialectical method” that — as you document so well in the blog entry above — was of such central and crucial importance to revolutionary theory and practice in the views of both of them, and as Marx testified, again and again, e.g., in the passages from his books, letters, and manuscripts, many of which you cite.

    That is changing.

    There is a research collective which, at an accelerating rates, starting from 1999, has made publicly available a series of results, rooted in their extraction, in a Marxian, demystified manner, of the core mental operation, the ‘cognitive algorithm’, of Marx’s and Hegel’s dialectic — the “fundamental law of dialectical process” — and deployed that algorithm in the form of an intuitive, heuristic notation, capable of encoding both the Marxian, dialectical method of inquiry, and, in another interpretation, the Marxian, dialectical method of exposition, a veritable ‘dialectical ideography’, or ‘dialectical algebra’ — indeed, a realization of viable aspects of Leibniz’s dream: a dialectical “characteristica universalis”.

    Not surprisingly, the ‘dialectical arithmetic’ that undergirds this ‘mathematics of dialectics’ arises, via an immanent critique of the Boolean algebra of formal logic, as a ‘contra-Boolean arithmetic’, whose axioms imply a theorem that is a strong contrary of Boole’s “fundamental law of thought”.

    This dialectical arithmetic co-arises as the fruition of an immanent critique of the foundational arithmetic of the so-called “Natural” Numbers, as a “Non-Standard Model” of the first order axioms of that “Standard”. Such “Non-Standard” models of “Natural” arithmetic are implied by three of the deepest theorems in modern mathematics, but not constructively.

    This research collective — Foundation Encyclopedia Dialectica — has axiomatically constructed their ‘arithmetic of dialectics’ as a non-standard model of first-order “Natural” arithmetic.

    Their ‘dialectical organon’ is, again, interpretable in the mode of the presentation of a present totality, i.e., as a categorial progression, with the symbols of the successive categories generated, by their dialectical model, in systematic order [‘‘‘systematic dialectic’’’].

    It is also interpretable in the mode of a categorial recapitulation / ‘pre-capitulation’, or reconstruction / ‘pre-construction’ [prediction], of a chronological, causal progression, in chronological order [‘‘‘historical dialectic’’’].

    They have recently applied this ‘dialectical ideography’ to reconstruct the high-level [tables of] contents of the 6+ treatises planned by Marx for his full “Critique of Political Economy”, of which only the first treatise, Capital, volumes I through IV, was even partly completed by Marx.

    The main site for the free of charge distribution of these works is: http://www.dialectics.org.

    Related sites include —

    http://adventures-in-dialectics.org/Adventures-In-Dialectics/Adventures-In-Dialectics-entry.htm

    http://point-of-departure.org/Point-Of-Departure/ClarificationsArchive/ClarificationsArchive.htm

    http://equitism.org/Equitism/Equitism-entry.htm

    Applications of the whole dialectical progression of dialectical ideographies that grows out of their first dialectical ideography to the natural sciences are being explored here —

    http://feddialectics-miguel.blogspot.com/2014/05/part-iii-b-epoch-t-2-molecules-emergent.html

    Applications to the critique of capital-based political-economics are being explored here —

    http://capitalismsfundamentalflaw-wayforward.blogspot.com/2013/08/thorstein-veblens-version-of-marxs-law.html

    Enjoy, and Profit [in a social-revolutionary sense!].

    Regards,

    Miguel

    • Hi, Miguel:

      There is a research collective which, at an accelerating rates, starting from 1999, has made publicly available a series of results, rooted in their extraction, in a Marxian, demystified manner, of the core mental operation, the ‘cognitive algorithm’, of Marx’s and Hegel’s dialectic — the “fundamental law of dialectical process” — and deployed that algorithm in the form of an intuitive, heuristic notation, capable of encoding both the Marxian, dialectical method of inquiry, and, in another interpretation, the Marxian, dialectical method of exposition, a veritable ‘dialectical ideography’, or ‘dialectical algebra’ — indeed, a realization of viable aspects of Leibniz’s dream: a dialectical “characteristica universalis”.

      In fact, Miguel, all you have done is take some ill-defined mathematical symbols and mathematic concepts, and thrown some ill-digested and incomprehensible Hegelian jargon at them (and I say this as a mathematician myself).

      The result is unreadable, and looks like it was designed and written by someone who has been taking rather too much Mescaline.

      You then dogmatically impose this a priori, ‘dialectical goulash’ onto the world, in defiance of Engels:

      “Finally, for me there could be no question of superimposing the laws of dialectics on nature but of discovering them in it and developing them from it.” [Anti-Dühring.]

      As George Novack noted:

      “A consistent materialism cannot proceed from principles which are validated by appeal to abstract reason, intuition, self-evidence or some other subjective or purely theoretical source. Idealisms may do this….” [Novack The Origin of Materialism, p.17. Bold added.]

      So, even of we could figure out what you are banging on about, it would still constitute a prime example of Dogmatic Idealism.

      I have systematically demolishing this world-view of yours at my site, but you continue as if this theory had no problems at all, when it is riddled with them. [I would have gone into more detail when you began to post some of this material over at RevLeft (and no one over there understood what you were trying to say, either), but I was banned for being rather too good at demolishing Dialectical Materialism before I could post much. You were banned too, I hear.]

      I am sorry to be hard on all the work you have obviously put into this (even though you insist on attributing it to a mythical figure, a bit like Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan, in fact — which is what suggested the Mescaline comment, above), but if comrades here check out your work, I think they will find I have been rather restrained in my criticisms.

      • No one bans you for “being rather too good at demolishing Dialectical Materialism.” Rather, they ban you for your obsessive and frankly aspie behavior.

        Marx was Hegel’s disciple precisely when he was writing Capital, as he tells us himself, and scoffed at the notion that “that mighty thinker” was a “dead dog.” Your entire fanciful interpretation rests on a couple of ambiguous statements seeming to endorse a long passage from a reviewer, Kaufmann, while ignoring everything else he wrote both in that same postface as well as in notes and letters to others.

        I’m very sorry that Marx remained a loyal disciple of Hegel. Clearly it bothers you very much, as it seems to send you into hysterics. You even identify yourself as a “Hegel loather.”

        But as Marx makes abundantly clear, those who consider Hegel irrelevant or treat him like a “dead dog” are tired, presumptuous windbags and ill-humored boors. (Marx’s words, not mine). He says this on several occasions, moreover, all of them post-1867. So I’m not sure why Marxists, as followers of Marx, should regard you any differently.

        We should not ignore what Marx plainly says. And what he plainly says is that his own method is deeply indebted to Hegel’s, even though he started out from idealist (rather than materialist) premises. It would be prima facie ridiculous to claim that Marx didn’t understand his own theory, so for him to say that he was his pupil — not in the distant past, but indeed when he wrote Capital — it would be absurd to claim that Marx wasn’t still an abiding and decisive influence.

  15. Ross (What’s this I hear? Another dialectical mystic smacking into that non-dialectical brick wall?):

    It is hardly equivocal to call oneself the “pupil” or “disciple” of a given thinker, even if one critically applies that thinker’s original method.

    Well, we have been over this several times: it is certainly possible to be a “pupil” of another philosopher and totally, or nearly totally disagree with what they had to say. Plato and Aristotle, Wittgenstein and Russell come to mind, here. There are many more examples. Indeed, this is true of Marx in relation on Hegel.

    “Is this really true of Marx?” I hear you say.

    It sure is.

    “How do we know, Rosa?”

    Well, if you are patient, I’ll tell you.

    If we check out the method Marx actually used in Das Kapital, a method summarised in a passage he not only added to the Postface to the second edition to his masterpiece, he endorsed as “my method” and “the dialectical method” even though it contains not one atom of Hegel (upside down or ‘the right way up’) — the one you keep ignoring, Ross (but see below).

    So, we can see that in practice Marx counted himself as a card-carrying member of the ‘dead dog’ tendency. He totally ignores Hegel in Das Kapital.

    If we add to this the fact that, try as you might, you haven’t been able to find anything published by Marx which summarises, or even superficially describes, ‘the dialectic method’ as you might have wished he had, or which countermands the summary he did publish.

    You’re quite selective in your literalism, moreover, accepting colloquial turns of phrase in one instance and insisting upon an absurdly literal interpretation the next. For example, you deny the colloquial sense of this following:

    The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner.

    The implication of this phrase, in ordinary language, is obvious: “Despite Hegel’s mystification of the dialectic, he was the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner.” Marx phrases it negatively and indirectly (“by no means prevents”), but its meaning is easy to figure out.

    After alleging that I am “quite selective in [my] literalism”, what does a ‘strict literalist’ like your good self do? You change Marx’s words from this:

    The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner.

    To this:

    “Despite Hegel’s mystification of the dialectic, he was the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner.”

    So, ‘Mr Literal’ is really ‘Mr Re-Write”! [Can we all do this?]

    Once again this attempt on your part to alter Marx’s words to suit your sneaky attempt to re-mystify Das Kapital runs smack into the rock Marx himself placed in your path.

    “Why is that, Rosa?”

    Again, I’ll tell you.

    If we go over this again for the twentieth time, we can ask this question: What does prevent Hegel from being the first to “present [the dialectic’s] general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner”?

    “Unfair!” I hear you say, even though you have had it pointed out to you several times that this interpretation follows from what Marx added a few lines above this contentious passage. Had Hegel been the first to “present [the dialectic’s] general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner” Marx would hardly describe a summary of “the dialectic method” that totally ignored Hegel in the way he did, nor would he then call it “my method”.

    So, if Marx tells us that his method has had Hegel totally excised, then there must be something which does prevent Hegel from being the first to “present [the dialectic’s] general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner”.

    “What can this be, Rosa?” I hear you ask one more.

    Answer: Hegel didn’t present ‘the dialectic’ in a “comprehensive and conscious manner” first. second, third,…, or even nth. Had he does so, Marx (a) would have used that “comprehensive and conscious” method in Das Kapital, and (b) he wouldn’t have honoured a summary that totally ignored Hegel by calling it “the dialectic method” and “my method”.

    You have struggled, and have failed. to find a single unequivocal passage from all three volumes of Das Kapital. All you have managed to scrape together from the two thousand pages of this masterpiece are two equivocal passages and one footnote (‘supported’ somewhat ambiguously by one or two letters) — all of which fail to tell us that Marx had a different opinion of ‘the dialectic method’ from that Hegel-free summary he added to the Postface, or which show that Marx had resiled from his description of it as “my method”.

    Once more, this it the rock upon which all your rather pathetic attempts to re-mystify Marx’s work have, and will continue to flounder. You have continued to ignore this summary (but see below) as if it had never been written, and you have the cheek to tell me I am being ‘literal-minded’ by accepting it at face value. No worries, I will keep reminding you of it — as I have done — until its message sinks in, or even if it doesn’t.

    But, what is this? A minor miracle! You now deign to mention this summary:

    When it suits you, however, you accept colloquial turns of phrase. For example, when Marx writes:

    [W]hat else is [Kaufman, the reviewer] depicting but the dialectical method?

    A great deal of your argument would seem to hinge on reading this rhetorical question as saying: “This is my dialectical method.” I would agree with you that this is what he implies. Marx phrases it negatively and indirectly (“what else is it but” or “what else is this if not”), its meaning is easy enough to figure out.

    Once again, Marx’s endorsement of Kaufman’s description doesn’t trouble me in the least, whether Hegelian concepts explicitly appear in it or not. No “courage,” intellectual or otherwise, is required to confront what Marx plainly says. But the 1873 postface isn’t over, as you’ll notice, and Marx goes on to show exactly how his own method is indebted to the Hegelian dialectic.

    In fact he doesn’t; he underlines how different his method is: it is the opposite of Hegel’s method, and one can’t get more opposite than to leave Hegel’s mystical ideas out — indeed, as that summary shows.

    Marx underlined this by offering his readers a naive version of Locke’s theory of perception (albeit expressed in a different idiom):

    With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.”

    Once more, when it comes to providing the detail, and to practicalities, Marx treats Hegel as a ‘dead dog’.

    That Marx regarded Hegel as the first to present the dialectic’s general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner is reinforced by the high esteem in which he holds “that great thinker,” whose “pupil” he was when writing Capital. Right after he credits Hegel with the discovery of the dialectic’s “general forms of motion,” Marx explains:

    With him [Hegel] it [the dialectic] is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.

    So clearly, the main problem with the Hegelian dialectic is that it’s upside down, or standing on its head. Marx says as much when he writes that “it must be inverted.” What does he mean by this “inversion,” though?

    No need to speculate, Ross, since Marx told us what ‘the dialectic method’ would look like when the mystical shell had been peeled away, and he did this by calling that summery “my method” and “the dialectic method” — note, not “part of the dialectic method”, “one aspect of the dialectic method”, or even “a dialectic method”, but “the dialectic method”.

    I’ll say more in my next post.

  16. So, what does ‘the dialectic method’ look like when the mystical shell has been peeled away?

    Why this (edited):

    “After a quotation from the preface to my ‘Criticism of Political Economy,’ Berlin, 1859, pp. IV-VII, where I discuss the materialistic basis of my method, the writer goes on:

    ‘The one thing which is of moment to Marx, is to find the law of the phenomena with whose investigation he is concerned; and not only is that law of moment to him, which governs these phenomena, in so far as they have a definite form and mutual connexion within a given historical period. Of still greater moment to him is the law of their variation, of their development, i.e., of their transition from one form into another, from one series of connexions into a different one. This law once discovered, he investigates in detail the effects in which it manifests itself in social life. Consequently, Marx only troubles himself about one thing: to show, by rigid scientific investigation, the necessity of successive determinate orders of social conditions, and to establish, as impartially as possible, the facts that serve him for fundamental starting-points. For this it is quite enough, if he proves, at the same time, both the necessity of the present order of things, and the necessity of another order into which the first must inevitably pass over; and this all the same, whether men believe or do not believe it, whether they are conscious or unconscious of it. Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence…. A more thorough analysis of phenomena shows that social organisms differ among themselves as fundamentally as plants or animals. Nay, one and the same phenomenon falls under quite different laws in consequence of the different structure of those organisms as a whole, of the variations of their individual organs, of the different conditions in which those organs function, &c. Marx, e.g., denies that the law of population is the same at all times and in all places. He asserts, on the contrary, that every stage of development has its own law of population. … With the varying degree of development of productive power, social conditions and the laws governing them vary too. Whilst Marx sets himself the task of following and explaining from this point of view the economic system established by the sway of capital, he is only formulating, in a strictly scientific manner, the aim that every accurate investigation into economic life must have. The scientific value of such an inquiry lies in the disclosing of the special laws that regulate the origin, existence, development, death of a given social organism and its replacement by another and higher one. And it is this value that, in point of fact, Marx’s book has.’

    “Whilst the writer pictures what he takes to be actually my method, in this striking and [as far as concerns my own application of it] generous way, what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?”

    [Bold added.]

    And all this a few lines above the passage(s) you have been perseverating on for the last couple of days.

    So, while you deserve great credit for plucking up enough courage to direct your tender eyes at this passage, you haven’t yet managed to rise to the required level of intellectual courage (or honesty) and take note of what Marx actually called this ‘dead dog’ summary of ‘the dialectic method’ — viz: “my method”.

    In which case, you will continue smacking into it. And I will continue calling you out for this.

    If you look a couple lines up, you’ll see Marx already provided a very clear explanation of what he meant. He simply reverses the mystical premises on which the Hegelian dialectic rests. And he identifies this reversal of as his own dialectical method (“my dialectical method”). Not just endorsed something somebody else wrote, as earlier with the Kaufman, but Marx’s own positive description of his method. These are Marx’s own published words:

    My dialectical method is, in its foundations, not only different from the Hegelian, but exactly opposite to it.

    How is it opposite, though? Fortunately, Marx tells us precisely what he means by this:

    For Hegel, the process of thinking, which he even transforms into an independent subject, under the name of “the Idea,” is the creator of the real world, and the real world is only the external appearance of the idea. With me the reverse is true: the ideal is nothing but the material world reflected in the mind of man, and translated into forms of thought.

    In other words, the “mystification” is Hegel’s idealist foundations. Once placed on materialist foundations, the dialectic is demystified, as Marx makes plain.

    I have already covered this several times, but see my latest response in my latest post above.

    You will notice that Marx calls this “my dialectical method.”

    Indeed, and we already know what he meant by this — since he went to great lengths adding a long quote from that reviewer, which he not only called “my method”, but “the dialectic method”. Marx also says “his method” is the “opposite” of Hegel’s, a significant point I covered in detail in my last post, too. He nowhere says the reviewer’s summary is the “opposite” of his method (but he does say this of Hegel’s); he directly calls it “my method” and “the dialectic method”.

    So I accept both Marx’s indirect endorsement of Kaufman’s description (“what else is he depicting but the dialectical method?), which is relatively free of Hegelian jargon, and the subsequent supplement Marx provides in which he spells out his profound debt to Hegel’s discovery of its general forms of motion. In a paragraph that begins with Marx describing his dialectical method “my dialectical method,” he shows how the foundations are opposite in the sense that Marx’s foundations are materialist while Hegel’s are idealist. Or, as Marx put it to Kugelmann: “[M]y method of exposition is not Hegelian, since I am a materialist, and Hegel an idealist. Hegel’s dialectic is the basic form of all dialectic.”

    Well, thank you for summarising your ‘case’, and stretching it as far as you can (which isn’t far), but it still smacks into that summery, which you have yet to take seriously.

    Indeed, as I have been predicting all along.

    • The whole point I have been making in that alleged “re-write” is that it’s obvious that Marx thought Hegel was the first to present the dialectic’s general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner, despite mystifying it.

      If one wanted to be literal in the passage, you’ll notice that Marx doesn’t explicitly say that it’s his method.

      Whilst the writer pictures what he takes to be actually my method, in this striking and [as far as concerns my own application of it] generous way, what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?

      He says “what he [Kaufman] takes to be actually my method.” Not his method, but what Kaufman “takes to be” his method.

      And then he continues to write: “[W]hat else is he [Kaufman] picturing but the dialectic method?” I’m not sure. Could be any number of things he’s picturing other than the dialectic method. Sadly, Marx doesn’t say that what Kaufman described is the dialectic method, but just asks a rhetorical question.

  17. Ross:

    The whole point I have been making in that alleged “re-write” is that it’s obvious that Marx thought Hegel was the first to present the dialectic’s general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner, despite mystifying it.

    In fact it is far from “obvious”. It might have been had Marx not already told us that his method (but see below), “the dialectical method” contained no Hegel at all (upside down or ‘the right way up’).

    If one wanted to be literal in the passage, you’ll notice that Marx doesn’t explicitly say that it’s his method.

    1) Marx doesn’t repudiate this description, in fact he augments it by saying “what else is he picturing but the dialectic method?”.

    2) So, if this summary isn’t “my method” then we would be forced to conclude that Marx’s method isn’t “the dialectic method”, after all.

    If this individual is picturing “the dialectic method” then this is Marx’s method, too — either that, or Marx’s method isn’t “the dialectical method”.

    Either way, your approach would be toast.

    And then he continues to write: “[W]hat else is he [Kaufman] picturing but the dialectic method?” I’m not sure. Could be any number of things he’s picturing other than the dialectic method. Sadly, Marx doesn’t say that what Kaufman described is the dialectic method, but just asks a rhetorical question.

    If so, why quote this passage? Why ask this question if the answer isn’t obvious?

    Hence, fresh from scratching through the bottom of several barrels, you are now clutching at a rather slender straw, Ross.

    But, well, done for at least acknowledging the content of this summary.

    Some progress, then…

    • Why ask the question if the answer isn’t obvious?

      Well, Marx announces at the outset that his method has been misunderstood, and proceeds to demonstrate it by citing a number of different interpretations of it. Marx wrote:

      That the method employed in Capital has been little understood is shown by the various mutually contradictory conceptions that have been formed of it.

      The quote from Kaufman could be just another of these misinterpretations of Marx’s method in Capital. After all, he cites others. Sadly, in those lines he doesn’t say outright that it’s his method, but that it’s what Kaufman takes to be his method.

      Is Kaufman picturing “the dialectic method”? Marx doesn’t answer the question he poses here, sadly. What else could he be picturing? Again, it’s unclear. Could be picturing something else, but maybe not. So it’s guesswork on your part.

      We would do better to evaluate positive claims Marx made than speculate how he might answer the rhetorical questions he poses. He does affirm that his dialectical method is exactly opposite in its foundations from Hegel’s, in the same paragraph where he explains that the main difference between the two dialectics is that Hegel starts out with the Idea while Marx starts out with the real world.

      Marx also positively tells us that when he wrote Capital he was Hegel’s pupil or disciple, and scoffs at the notion that “that great thinker” is a dead dog. Looking at that paragraph you like to cite, Marx doesn’t actually say it’s his method, though, does he? And he doesn’t say that Kaufman was picturing the dialectic method, either, right?

  18. Well done Ross. Great article and responses, if a bit repetitive. The idea that Marx’ analysis is entirely divested of Hegel’s is risible on its face, and has been unimpressively argued by Rosa. Perhaps it is time to let it go…

  19. Pingback: Karl Marx: Prometheus and Lucifer | The Charnel-House

  20. Pingback: The golden age of bourgeois portraiture, before the rise of photography | The Charnel-House

  21. Pingback: Trotsky and the Frankfurt School | The Charnel-House

  22. Pingback: Revisionism revisited: The reform vs. revolution debate in Second International Marxism | The Charnel-House

  23. Pingback: Theories of the young Marx | The Charnel-House

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s