Marx's Reaction Against Hegel

 

Reversal of Hegel's

Two Levels of Reality

 

RationalIZATION:  mind, universal, objective, ethical, essential, LAW, SUPERSTRUCTURE, freedom AS AN IDEA IS AN ILLUSION

 

 

Natural:  body, particular, subjective, inclination, causation, accidental/contingent,  MODES OF PRODUCTION AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS, SUBSTRUCTURE, FREEDOM AS A CONCRETE RELATION OF SPECIES BEINGS IS AN INEVITABLE REALITY.

 

 

        “In direct contrast to German philosophy, which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven.”(860)

 

        Marx's Dialectical Materialism:  History is a process of development through conflict; not a conflict of ideas, but real conflict between economic classes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marx claims to have turned Hegel on his head, in the following way:

 

1.  The Individual and Particular Have Priority Over the Universal (Materialism replaces Idealism).  Start from the individual and particular.  Basic Empirical Facts:  modes of production and relations of production and exchange.  History is the history of the development of the division of labor.  Forms of property are a symptom of the underlying facts.

 

2.  Basic empirical facts have priority over ideas (e.g., laws and philosophical theories.  Laws and all religious, moral, and philosophical speculation is part of a superstructure that is determined by the sub-structure of basic empirical facts.

 

3.  Purely descriptive has priority over the Ethical (Normative).  There are no ethical relations independent of the basic relations of production and exchange. 

 

4.  Invisible Hand Explanation of History.  History is the product of causal relations and class conflict, not dialectical conflict between ideas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marx's Latent Hegelianism

 

1.  Although Marx denies objective moral truths, his account is an account of the elimination of alienation, oppression and exploitation.  Marx claims to be able to explain them purely descriptively.  But in this he fails.  His account seems to make use of universal ethical categories.

 

2.  Surprisingly, according to Marx, history has a teleology.  Its goal is human emancipation (Hegel's goal). 

 

3.  Emancipation is understood anti-individualistically.  Emancipation as a species being.

 

4.  History progresses dialectically by resolving conflict. 

Note, however, that Marx's description of the process is not Hegelian: 

 

a.  History progresses not as a result of conflicts (contradictions) of ideas, but by class conflict:  free man and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, bourgeoisie and proletariat (870). 

 

b.  The Final Stage of the Process is specified:  The abolition of bourgeois private property, that is, private property in the means of production, and the abolition of bourgeois individualism in favor of life as a species being, ultimately to include the withering away of the state.


"Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts"

 

Key ideas:  Capitalist economy based on division between capital and labor and on competition. 

 

Three kinds of alienation:

 

(1) alienation from the product of one’s labor.

        “The worker is related to the product of his labor as to an alien object.”(842)

        Private property "is the product of alienated labor, and . . . it is the means by which labor alienates itself, the realization of this alienation."(847)

        “It is true that labor produces for the rich wonderful things—but for the worker it produces privation.  It produces palaces—but for the worker, hovels.”(843)

 

(2) alienation from the activity of production itself.

        Wage laborers are literally alienated from their labor, because they sell it to capitalists.  Labor itself becomes a commodity.

        “Labor produces not only commodities: it produces itself and the worker as a commodity”(842).

        “[Labor] produces intelligence—but for the worker stupidity, cretinism.”(843)

        "Spontaneous, free activity is degraded to a means of individual subsistence” (846). 

 

(3) Wage laborers are also alienated from other laborers, because they are competitors in the labor market:  the "estrangement of man from man." 

        Individualistic man replaces man as a species being.

 

The solution:  The emancipation of society from wages = emancipation from private property = the emancipation of the workers (which itself implies) universal human emancipation (848)

 

        How will this emancipation take place?  By the elimination of all conflict (Who does this remind you of?)

What must be eliminated to eliminate conflict?

        Private property.  Without private property, there can be no greed, no competition, no conflict of economic interests.

        "[W]ages and private property are identical."(847)

 

Why not raise wages?

 

 

 

Note how much the early Marx is influenced by Hegel: 

 

(1) Individualism is a problem to be overcome. 

 

(2) Emancipation is the goal, but of a species-being not as an individual.  Freedom is identified with the universal (844). 

 

Note, also, how much normative moral content there is in the early Marx’s theory.  The later Marx will claim to replace the normative moral with the purely empirical.  But in this he will fail.

The German Ideology

 

 

The Reversal of Hegelian Philosophy:  Empirical facts:  the modes of production and productive relations are the substructure.  The philosophical and the normative are the superstructure, which simply reflects the sub-structure.

 

History is not understood as a rational process of becoming aware of universal mind, but an empirical process driven by developments in the modes of production (primarily innovations in technology) and productive (especially class) relations (primarily innovations in the division of labor, including the division between capital and labor).  Ownership rights are symptoms of the underlying modes of production and productive relations.

 

First premise of all human existence:  the production of material life itself

 

Five Stages of ownership:

(1) Tribal ownership

(2) Communal and State ownership in the City

(3) feudal or estate property and guilds

(4) bourgeois property = capitalism (private ownership of the means of production and wage labor)

(5) communism (the dictatorship of the proletariat with communal ownership of the means of production):  solution to the problem of alienation of labor and to conflicting individual interests (competition).

 

The reversal of Hegel:

 

“Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life.” (861)

 

What is the first premise of Marx’s philosophy?

 

History is the history of modes of production and modes of cooperation (for production).

 

The division of labor is a euphemism for division of classes.  The result is class conflict.

 

The solution is the elimination of classes, which can only be done by the elimination of private property.

 

Marx emphasizes the differences between particular interests and communal interest.  Who does this remind you of?

 

What does Marx mean by the world historical existence of the proletariat and communism?  Who does this remind you of?

 

What will life in a communist society be like?

 



 

 

 

Manifesto of the Communist Party

 

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."(870)

 

The last stage:  Bourgeois (capitalist) vs. proletariat (wage laborers)

 

What was the bourgeoisie revolution? 

 

Capitalism "creates a world after its own image."  How?

 

But it also contains the seeds of its own destruction.  Why? 

What does Marx mean by an "epidemic of overproduction"?

 

How are the proletarians exploited?

 

How do the communists differ from other political movements?

 

The abolition of property rights represents the abolition of all individual rights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the next stage? 

"Their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property [i.e., private ownership of the means of production]."(876)

Abolition of private property.

Abolition of freedom, understood how?

Abolition of individuality.

Abolition of the family.

Abolition of nationality.

Abolition of all classes will eliminate oppressor and oppressed.

Abolition of all eternal truths (e.g., justice), all religion, all morality

 

 

The Ten Elements of the Communist Platform (882).

 

The Final Result:  A realization of the Golden Rule (882)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARX ON EXPLOITATION

 

MARX’S EQUATIONS:

 

TRUE VALUE OF A COMMODITY = NATURAL PRICE OF A COMMODITY = ITS LABOR VALUE = NUMBER OF SOCIALLY NECESSARY HOURS TO PRODUCE IT.

 

COMMODITY VALUE OF LABOR = NATURAL PRICE OF LABOR = LABOR VALUE = NUMBER OF SOCIALLY NECESSARY HOURS OF PRODUCTION TO PRODUCE A BEING WITH LABOR POWER.

 

PROFIT = SURPLUS VALUE = NATURAL PRICE OF THE COMMODITY LESS THE NATURAL PRICE OF THE LABOR USED TO PRODUCE IT.

 

For Marx, capitalism represents the commodification of labor, which enables capitalists to pay labor its natural price rather than the value of what it produces.  The difference between the two is the surplus value produced by labor, which the capitalist takes as profits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fatal Flaws in Marx’s Analysis

 

Real value plays no role in economics.  Market value is simply the price that willing buyers and willing sellers agree on.  This is a function of many variables.  Wages are only one of the variables.

 

In addition, the definition of labor value fails for two reasons: 

 

        (1) There is no fixed number of socially necessary hours for production of a commodity.  Innovation can generate increases in productivity.

 

        (2) Suppose that at current rates of productivity, it takes me 2,000 hours to produce my novel.  No one else could have produced it.  There is no guarantee that anyone will be willing to pay me anything to publish my novel, because there is no guarantee that anyone will buy it after it is published.  This is true of all commodities.  The difference between authors who make millions on their novels and authors who make nothing is not a difference in the amount of socially necessary labor that they put into their work.  It rather reflects what consumers are willing to pay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marx noted some of the effects of private property (greed, inequality, alienation) and thought he could eliminate them by eliminating private property in the means of production.  He failed to recognize that “that which in the first instance is prejudicial may be excellent in its remoter operation; and its excellence may arise even from the ill effects it produces in the beginning,” due to the effect of “obscure almost latent causes”.  Who said this?  What would he have said about reducing the suffering and other bad effects of capitalism and private property?