Author:
Christopher J. Arthur
Search for other papers by Christopher J. Arthur in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Open Access

Although I start from Marx, I go beyond him. So my book aims to reconstruct Marx’s work in the spirit of a systematic-dialectical logic. I do not take a position here on ‘what Marx really meant’, still less on ‘what Hegel really meant’, nor yet on ‘whether Marx got Hegel right or wrong’.1 What I aim at is entirely substantive, even though I draw heavily upon my readings of Hegel and of Marx. Insofar as I appropriate their ideas for my purposes it is easy to discern the readings I favour; but nothing hangs on this. Insofar as I attribute to capital in part an ideal reality with a problematic relationship to the material it subsumes, I wish this theory to be assessed in its own terms. Its plausibility does not depend on whether, in borrowing from Hegel and Marx, I have read them correctly. Even if I have read them incorrectly – and I freely admit to revision at various points – it is the fruitfulness of the ‘incorrect’ readings for understanding capital that is to be judged. What I present here should be understood, then, as my own view, not as Hegel’s or Marx’s.

This book exemplifies the ‘homology thesis’, namely that the logic of capital may be exhibited by reference to Hegel’s logic. In particular, I take the architectonic of both orders to be in part the same.2 (For example, see the Table at the end of this Introduction.) This does not require me to take a position on ‘what Hegel really meant’. Tony Smith argues that Hegel’s metaphysical language disguises a sophisticated social ontology.3 But, for me, it is precisely ‘the metaphysical Hegel’ that is of interest in that capital models in its form the all-pervasive generation of its moments from itself. The presentation of capital in an ordered manner is, then, a question of actualising it in a sequence of logical levels of complexity, which I argue picks up nested internal relations.

This account is unusual in the tradition of ‘Hegelian Marxism’ in that it does not rely on a view that Hegel provides a method of general heuristic value, but rather it shows that even the most objectionable feature of Hegel’s idealism, its apparent pan-logicism, is significant because this false ontology is abstracted from an inverted world in which the value form achieves priority over its material bearers, and the ideal logic of capital imposes itself on human beings.4 (For more on my use of this Hegel see Chapter 18.)

If on occasion I appear to be paraphrasing passages from Hegel and Marx, then the sense to be attributed to such words is to be understood only in the context of my own presentation. Nonetheless, because I draw very much upon Hegel’s categories, for the benefit of specialists, I give a commentary in an appendix showing in detail how and why my own terms, and their arrangement more especially, derive from my reading of his. I also provide in the Appendices three charts (organised in triads) of logical categories: (i) Hegel’s Science of Logic; (ii) Hegel’s Encyclopaedia Logic; (iii) The logic of capital (as I understand it) drawing on, but reconstructing, these versions of Hegel’s system. In addition, I provide (iv) one of the value-form categories, based on (iii).

Throughout I freely use Marx’s categories without any attempt at an exegesis of Capital. But, where I do not give my own glosses on the terms concerned, it may be assumed that I intend to follow Marx’s use. (Among the Appendices is a Glossary listing unusual terms, and terms used here in very specific ways.) My most obvious differences from Marx are as follows: a) I postpone discussion of the labour theory of value until the form of capital is adduced; b) I provide a ‘political’ theory of the source of value in labour; c) I provide my own solution to the so-called ‘transformation problem’; d) where the overall structure of Capital is concerned, I order my main divisions differently (see the Table on ‘the system of industrial capital’ in the Appendices); e) I take rent to be fully capitalised, but in any case I view it as supplementary to the core Idea of capital, to which I limit myself. I also note significant departures from the conceptual apparatus of Capital in my text.

If I rarely cite directly passages from Hegel, and from Marx, still less do I refer much to secondary literature. This is partly for reasons of space, and partly because I do not wish to attribute views to those who may not hold them (or may not now hold them). However, a selection of relevant books I have found stimulating may be found in the Bibliography.

This book is divided into two Parts. Part 1 is ‘scene-setting’ in that it justifies the approach to the critique of political economy taken here. With this background established, Part 2 proceeds to a systematic-dialectical presentation of the forms of capital, rising from abstract to concrete categorial forms of it, as ‘Idea’.

The ‘bridging’ chapter, Chapter 5, is the most difficult in the book. Its upshot is that the presentation proper must begin with the commodity, but with an entirely ‘negative’ characterisation of it: as absence of use-value. It would be possible to omit this chapter on first reading, and to move to the ‘affirmative’ development of the value form in Part 2. However, I regard it as central to my unique take on value-form theory.

Capitalisation

In this book (and especially in Part 2), I capitalise initial letters of certain terms of art, fundamental to the presentation. (Note that in German all nouns have such capitals so Hegel could not call special attention to any one of them in this way. But, although German does not allow this honorary capital orthographically, I can.)

The central cases are ‘The Concept’, ‘The Idea’, and ‘The Absolute’. These are virtually personified in Hegelian logic. So, in order to indicate its peculiar status ‘The Concept’ is capitalised. On the rule of parity, if ‘The Idea’ takes a capital so too should ‘Nature’ and ‘Spirit’. Likewise, to maintain parity with ‘the Concept’, ‘Being’ and ‘Essence’ take their own capital. However, there is a complication here to be noticed. It is very common in Hegel’s triads that the term standing for the whole also appears as the first term of the triad. This is so with Being, Essence, and Concept. For example, under ‘Essence’ there is the triad: essence/appearance/actuality. The reason for this is that the general principle of moving from the abstract simple determination to the concrete one is at play in every triad. Thus the triad of essence begins with ‘essence’ itself taken in its simple immediacy and then dialectically developed through its opposite to their unity. Only the whole triad expresses the nature of essence. It is convenient here then to mark the ‘Essence’ that is the topic of the whole Doctrine of Essence with a capital, and to give the ‘interior’ use of the term without a capital. Yet I do not follow this same rule with Being and Concept. I regard the founding opposition of the whole Logic, Being and Nothing, to be of such importance as to be worth flagging with capitals. The first moment of the Concept is ‘the formal Concept’. Here, the reason given above for writing Concept with a capital would also apply. But to distinguish more clearly ‘the formal Concept’ from the Doctrine of the Concept, I take advantage of the presence in English of a similar term, ‘The Notion’, to achieve this (for more discussion see Commentary on Hegel below). Moreover, second in importance only to the founding triad is the triad of Universality, Particularity, Singularity; hence these moments together are given the dignity of ‘the Concept’; as also Individual.

Here then is the full list of capitalised categories:

  • (Doctrine of) Being;

  • Nothing;

  • Being;

  • Nothingness;

  • (Doctrine of) Essence;

  • (Doctrine of) The Concept;

  • Notion;

  • Universality;

  • Particularity;

  • Singularity;

  • Individual;

  • The Absolute;

  • Idea;

  • Nature;

  • Spirit.

‘One’ is a special case (mostly employed in Chapters 5 and 6). Where the context demands it, for example ‘a One’, it is dignified.

Where there are contexts in which these words are used in non-technical ways, they do not take capitals. Note that the economic categories are not usually capitalised, unless they are qualified with a logical category that is so, for example ‘Value-as-Concept’.

Paragraph Numbers

In Part 2, I provide the strictly dialectical presentation of my system of categories. From here on, much of the text is broken up with paragraph numbers. These indicate the logical relations of the categories concerned. At the beginning of Part 2, I give a list of its contents organised in these paragraph numbers.

Table of Correspondences

Hegel Encyclopaedia §18

  1. Logic: the science of the Idea in and for itself,

  2. The Philosophy of Nature; the science of the Idea in its otherness,

  3. The Philosophy of Spirit; as the Idea come back to itself out of that otherness.

Arthur

  1. Value Form: as the science of Capital in its Notion,

  2. Capital Relation: Capital and its other,

  3. Capital as systemic unity.

Hegel Encyclopaedia §83

Logic falls into three parts:

  1. the Doctrine of Being,

  2. the Doctrine of Essence,

  3. the Doctrine of the Concept and the Idea.

That is, into the theory of Thought in:

  1. its immediacy: the concept implicit and in germ,

  2. its reflection and mediation: the being-for-itself and show of the concept,

  3. its return into itself and its developed being-by-itself: the concept in-and-for-itself.

Arthur

The dialectic of the value form falls into three parts:

  1. Commodity,

  2. Money,

  3. Capital.

That is, into the theory of Exchange in:

  1. its immediacy: value implicit and in germ,

  2. its reflection and mediation: value for-itself, the showing-forth of value,

  3. its return into itself, and its development of itself: self-valorisation.

Hegel: Logic

Arthur: Dialectic of the Value Form

I.The Doctrine of Being

I.Commodity

A.Quality

A.Exchangeable commodities

B.Quantity

B.Quantity of commodities

C.Measure

C.Exchange-Value of commodities

II.The Doctrine of Essence

II.Money

A.Intro-reflection

A.Value-in-itself

B.Appearance

B.Forms of Value

C.Actuality

C. Money

III.The Doctrine of Concept

III.Capital (General Formula)

A.Subjectivity

A.Price

B.Objectivity

B.Metamorphoses of commodities (C–M–C′)

C.The Idea

C.Capital (M–C–M′)

1

For the aporias of Hegel’s philosophy, see Arthur 2000.

2

Cf. Sekine 2020, pp. 40–1.

3

Smith 1990.

4

For a similar argument see Bellofiore 2014, especially p. 172.

  • Collapse
  • Expand