David MacGregor 1984

Dialectic and the Rational State

Source: The Communist Ideal in Hegel and Marx. David MacGregor, 1984. Published by the University of Toronto Press, 1990. Chapter 8 only reproduced here.


If the Trinity is the principal mystery of Christianity, the dialectic is the chief mystery of modern western Marxism.[1] Much of the confusion is due to Marx’s observation that the dialectic as it appears in Hegel’s writing ‘is standing on its head.’ According to Marx, Hegel makes the Idea ‘the creator of the real world’ and fails to recognize that ‘the ideal is nothing but the material world reflected in the mind of man, and translated into forms of thought.’[2] One of the conclusions of this study is that Marx fundamentally misjudges the Hegelian philosophy. He accepts uncritically Feuerbach’s critique of Hegel, and falls to revise his own early and mistaken opinion about absolute idealism. Both Feuerbach and Marx fall to comprehend Hegel’s distinction between the three levels of consciousness or ideology, although this distinction, as Hegel himself observes, is ‘of capital importance for understanding the nature and kinds of knowledge.’[3]

Feuerbach remains confined to the first level of objectivity — the crude materialist celebration of sense perception, which takes the categories of thought to be merely a reflection of the external world. The second level is represented by Kant’s transcendental idealism which holds that sense perception is guided and informed by the a priori categories of mind. Marx accepts Hegel’s thesis that mind, understood as conscious human practice, is active rather than passive in relation to the outside world. But while he makes use of this third level of objectivity, he overlooks its application by Hegel to epistemology and the study of nature and society. Hence, he views the Idea as a form of thought, instead of what it really is — an expression both of the concrete reality of society and of the categories that create and correspond to that reality.

The basic principle of Hegel’s thought, and of dialectic method as well, is the unity between subject and object of knowledge as achieved through ideality or revolutionizing practice. Conscious human practice or ideality , cancels the antithesis between the objective which would be and stay an objective only, and the subjective which in like manner would be and stay a subjective only.’ The nature of ideality, notes Hegel, has been presented in his philosophy ‘often enough. Yet it could not be too often repeated, if the intention were really to put an end to the stale and purely malicious misconception in regard to this identity’ of subject and object as obtained through practice.[4]

In the introduction to the Grundrisse, where Marx works out the elements of dialectic method, he observes that ‘the economic categories ... express the forms of being, the characteristics of existence, and often only individual sides of this specific society, this subject.’[5] But if the categories express the relations of society, this is only because they also create them — through the mediation of concrete human practice. Ideas and knowledge — ideology therefore, do not merely reflect, but are inseparable from, the object and manifestation of human thinking activity, or ideality. ‘Mind,’ writes Hegel, ‘is only what it does, and its act is to make itself the object of its own consciousness.[6] This dialectical relationship is applied by Marx to the notion of capital itself. ‘The development of fixed capital,’ he writes, ‘Indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it. To what degree the powers of social production have been produced, not only in the form of knowledge, but also as immediate organs of social practice, of the real life process.[7]

Ernest Mandel argues that the economic categories studied by Marx ‘are just forms of material existence, of material reality as perceived and simplified by the human mind.’[8] Mandel, however, refers only to the subjective side of the categories and forgets their objective side; he, along with most Marxist and bourgeois writers, ignores the unity of objective and subjective achieved through human practice, which is the most important aspect of the dialectic method. The economic category of labour, for example, which abstracts from the content of any particular type of work, ‘Is not merely,’ states Marx, ‘the mental product of a concrete totality of labours.’ Rather, it refers to the ‘Indifference towards specific labours’ characteristic of ‘a form of society in which individuals can with ease transfer from one labour to another, and where the specific kind is a matter of chance for them, hence of indifference.’ The United States — ‘the most modern form of existence of bourgeois society’ — is thus also the society where ‘for the first time, the point of departure of modern economics, namely the abstraction of the category “labour,” “labour as such,” labour pure and simple, becomes true in practice.’[9]

The dialectic method as employed by both Hegel and Marx does not, of course, deny the objective reality of the external world. ‘The sun, the moon, rivers, and the natural objects of all kinds by which we are surrounded,’ states Hegel, ‘are. For consciousness they have the authority not only of mere being but also of possessing a particular nature which it accepts and to which it adjusts itself in dealing with them, using them, or in being otherwise concerned with them.’[10] Nevertheless, the categories of science, through which men and women interpret, explain, and utilize the objects of external nature and discover their laws, are products of human ideality and determine the relation of individuals to nature. Scientific categories are devoted not to the external manifestation of natural phenomena, but to their inner connection which can be grasped only through the power of thought. If the categories merely reflected natural objects, asks Marx, ‘what need would there be of science?[11] Dialectic method as employed by Hegel’s philosophy of nature differs from natural science only because it ‘brings before our mind the adequate forms of the notion in the physical world.[12]

While the categories express and create through revolutionizing practice the social world of individuals, men and women do not consciously employ them in their everyday activities; the forms of thought are ideal determinations raised by science out of their merely implicit existence and manifestation in society. The pure economic category of labour, for example, does not determine the conscious practice of men and women in advanced capitalist society. It simply expresses what people do, not what they think. Before the categories of method in their pure form can be studied, they must exist in implicit or unconscious form in society. ‘The stage of philosophical knowledge,’ Hegel observes, ‘is the richest in material and organization, and therefore, as it came before us in the shape of a result, it presupposed the existence of the concrete formations of consciousness, such as individual and social morality, art and religion.’ The development of the categories of method — the ‘objective thoughts’[13] of society, or what Marx calls ‘the power of knowledge, objectified’[14] — ‘must so to speak, go on behind consciousness, since those facts are the essential nucleus which is raised into consciousness.’[15] The men and women who emigrated to a new land in North America brought with them the bourgeois notion of making money, no matter how; they threw aside feudal conceptions of the identity of a person with his or her craft or trade, and plunged into a social world where labour is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. The theoretical expression of their practice is the simple economic category, labour.

In his essay, ‘Lenin before Hegel,’ Louis Althusser draws attention to Lenin’s aphorism that ‘it is impossible completely to understand Marx’s Capital ... without having thoroughly studied and understood the whole of Hegel’s Logic. Consequently, half a century later none of the Marxists understood Marx!!’[16] But Althusser perceptively reverses this aphorism: ‘A century and a half later no one has understood Hegel because it is impossible to understand Hegel without having thoroughly studied and understood “Capital”!’[17] Althusser’s remark points to a second major conclusion of this study: Marx’s later work cannot be comprehended except as a dialogue with Hegel. By contrast, his early efforts constitute a humanist critique of society (and Hegelian philosophy) based on the crude materialism of Feuerbach. The mature Marx develops and concretizes many of Hegel’s observations on bourgeois society, and utilizes his knowledge of Hegelian dialectic in the formulation of historical materialism. Marx’s insights make it possible to grasp those aspects of Hegel which Marx himself overlooks or misinterprets. These include, as I have shown, Hegel’s notion of ideality, which is identical with and much more developed than Marx’s concept of revolutionizing practice, as well as Hegel’s critique and analysis of religion, natural science, and bourgeois thought. Further, since Hegel had already worked out the essential distinction between use-value and exchange-value, this enables him to develop a profound critique of bourgeois private property, economic crises, and imperialism, which anticipates and, in some cases, goes beyond Marx. Also, he develops a theory of the state, social class, and the modern corporation that remains only implicit in Marx’s writings, and which, as I argue below, provides the theoretical outlines of the new form of civilization which both thinkers see emerging from the capitalist mode of production.

In his essay ‘The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism,’ Lenin declares that ‘the genius of Marx consists precisely in his having furnished answers to questions already presented by the foremost minds of mankind.’ Marx, therefore, is ‘the legitimate successor to the best that man has produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism.’[18] Lenin’s view is widely accepted, but it is mistaken. Before Marx, Hegel had already fused German idealism with British political economy and the ideals of the French Revolution. His influence was therefore pivotal in Marx’s decision to study and criticize the classics of political economy[19] and the conclusions Marx drew from this study are identical with those of Hegel. Marx himself is well aware of his enormous debt to Hegel: ‘You will understand, my dear fellow,’ he writes to Engels in 1866, ‘that in a work like mine [i.e., Capital] there must be many shortcomings in detail. But the composition of the whole, the way it all hangs together, is a triumph of German science and scholarship to which an individual German may confess since the merit belongs not to him but to the whole nation.’[20] Before Marx, of course, no one had contributed more to German science and scholarship than Hegel. In any case, Marx’s letter repeats an observation Hegel makes about his own work: ‘I could not pretend that the method which I follow ... is not capable of greater completeness, of much elaboration in detail; but at the same time I know that it is the only true method.’[21]

Although both theorists point to the value of dialectic method for their work many commentators are sceptical of these claims. Walter Kaufmann, for example, who provides a lucid introduction to Hegel, writes that ‘I am not so much rejecting the dialectic as I say: there is none. Look for it, by all means ... but you will not find any plain method that you could adopt even if you wanted to.’[22] Kaufmann’s difficulty in finding dialectic method is understandable since, as Hegel explains, ‘it is not something distinct from its object and content ... it is the inwardness of the content, the dialectic which it possesses within itself, which is the mainspring of its advance.’[23] Among Western Marxists, Karl Korsch presents a thorough discussion of dialectic method, observing that it concerns ‘the question of the relationship between the totality of historical being and all historically prevalent forms of consciousness.[24] Lukacs[25] and Gramsci[26] also approach the dialectic from this angle, assimilating it into a discussion of the class consciousness of the proletariat. ‘The Marxist method,’ declares Lukacs, ‘the dialectical materialist knowledge of reality, can arise only from the point of view of a class, from the point of view of the struggle of the proletariat.’[27] This account tends to degenerate into an elitist conception of history, according to which the developing consciousness of the workers is guided by an omnipotent party of middle-class intellectuals who provide the ‘reasons’ for the ‘faith’ of the workers.[28] As I have argued throughout this study, however, dialectic method ultimately concerns the consciousness not of a class, but of the social individual or the free worker. Thus for Marx, the defect of capitalist production is precisely that ‘the growth of ... material wealth is brought about in contradiction to and at the expense of the individual human being.’[29] The role of civil or bourgeois society in the education and development, through struggle, of the social individual provides the historical justification for, and brings about the dissolution of, the capitalist mode of production.

For both Hegel and Marx, dialectic method can only be applied to a given concrete reality; its object ‘is always what is given, in the head as well as in reality.’[30] Neither thinker is, in Marx’s words, ‘writing recipes ... for the cookshops of the future.’[31] The ‘Objective Thoughts’ — or social facts studied by dialectical science are ‘the truth ... which is ... the absolute object of philosophy’;[32] and truth ‘means that concept and external reality correspond.’[33] At the same time, dialectic method is not limited by what Hegel calls, the ‘finite’ categories of the understanding: these categories are finite because ‘they are only subjective and the antithesis of an objective clings to them.’ In other words, they cannot comprehend the dynamic unity of subject and object obtained through ideality or revolutionizing practice. Moreover, the categories of the understanding ‘are always of restricted content, and so persist in antithesis to one another and still more to the Absolute.’ The ‘Absolute’ is Hegel’s term for the rational state in which reason and reality absolutely correspond. Fettered by the alienation and irrationality of bourgeois society, the understanding cannot come to terms with capitalism’s transient character; thus it fails ‘to point out how [its] categories and their whole sphere [i.e., the society to which they correspond: D.M.] pass into a higher.’[34] Accordingly, what Hegel means by the ‘understanding’ is just what Marx indicates with the term ‘bourgeois.’ This form of thought, Marx declares, ‘views the capitalist order as the absolute and ultimate form of social production, instead of as a historically transient stage of development.’[35]

There are three aspects or moments of dialectic method. The first is recognition of the dialectic as it appears in the subject matter itself. ‘The method,’ Hegel declares, ‘has emerged as the self-knowing Notion that has itself ... for its subject matter ... It is therefore not only the highest force, or rather the sole and absolute force of reason, but also its supreme and sole urge to find and cognize itself by means of itself in everything.[36] The second aspect of dialectic method is method proper, which includes the appropriation of the facts and laws of other sciences.[37] The third moment of dialectic is exposition — the logical ordering and presentation of the movement of the object discovered through method. In the following discussion I will outline the first two moments of dialectic — recognition and method. The third, exposition, will be dealt with in the next, and concluding, section of this study.

The first moment — recognition — is the basic presupposition of method which Hegel calls, ‘the consciousness of the form of the inner self-movement of the content,’ or subject matter of science.[38] Marx refers to this presupposition in Capital: ‘My standpoint [views] the development of the economic formation of society ... as a process of natural history.’ Accordingly, society is seen as ‘an organism capable of change, and constantly engaged in a process of change.’[39] Dialectic within the object of study constitutes the universal laws to which [its] life and changes conform.’[40] This might be called ‘bio-dialectic’; and it is the bio-dialectic of bourgeois society that is studied by Marx in Capital. ‘The ultimate aim of this work,’ he affirms, is , to reveal the economic law of motion of modern society.’[41] The presupposition of dialectic method may only be confirmed by the results achieved through it: ‘The very point of view, which originally is taken on its own evidence only, must in the course of the science be converted to a result the ultimate result in which philosophy returns into itself and reaches the point with which it began.’[42]

Dialectic method presupposes that society is inherently rational, or governed by laws; in this sense, society resembles nature, for it is constituted not by ‘the formations and accidents evident to the superficial observer,’ but — like nature — by laws which may be discovered by science.[43] There are, however, vital differences between the laws of society and those of nature. First, social laws can be discovered only through thought and theory; the sensuous methodology of natural science can play no part in their discovery. As Marx puts it, ‘in the analysis of economic forms neither microscopes nor chemical reagents are of assistance. The power of abstraction must replace both.’[44]

Another distinction between the laws of nature and society is that the latter originate from the conscious activity of men and women and may also be changed by their activity.[45] Moreover, while natural laws are rigid and remain unaffected by knowledge, the transformation of social laws may be made possible, or, in any case, easier, by knowledge of them. ‘Even when a society,’ Marx observes, ‘has begun to track down the natural laws of its movement ... it can neither leap over the natural phases of its development nor remove them by decree. But it can shorten and lessen the birth-pangs’.[46] The principle of law — whether of nature or society — involves ‘an inseparable unity, a necessary inner connection’ between diverse phenomena: the law of gravity, for example, requires that all objects must fall to the ground at a given rate of acceleration; the law of value means that all commodities have exchange-value and use-value; criminal law states that all crimes involve punishment.[47] But legislative and criminal laws differ from those of nature and society because they are deliberately framed by individuals, while natural and social laws unfold outside the conscious intent of men and women.

There are two related, but incorrect, conceptions about what I have called the second moment of dialectic method — method proper. The first is that dialectic concerns the study of society as a progressive series of stages, one leading naturally to another; the second is that dialectic is essentially negative and critical. Both express only one-sided aspects of dialectic method. For Hegel, the belief that dialectic concerns the study of society ‘as an issuing of the more perfect from the less perfect ... does prejudice to the method of philosophy.’[48] Dialectic method investigates the immanent or self-originating development of the social organism, i.e., of what Marx calls, ‘the organic social body within which the individuals reproduce themselves as individuals, but as social individuals.’ And if an organism may be seen as a series of progressive transformations that ultimately reveal its mature form, it can also be envisioned as the explicit determination of what already implicitly existed in embryo or germ. In other words, the form of the new social organism is already contained in the old one. This is what Hegel refers to as the ‘double movement’ or ‘doubling process’ of the dialectic. The ‘superficial thoughts of more imperfect and more perfect,’ states Hegel, ‘indicate the distinction’ between each stage or form of consciousness and society from the next; they have nothing to do with its inner movement.[50]

A view of communist society as the next stage after capitalism is similar to Kant’s notion of the ‘good,’ which Hegel characterizes as ‘something which merely ought to be, and which at the same time is not real — a mere article of faith, possessing a subjective certainty, but without truth, or that objectivity which is adequate to the Idea.’ This contradiction, he adds, ‘may seem to be disguised by adjourning the realization of the Idea to a future, to a time when the Idea will also be.’ Time, however, is merely ‘a sensuous conception,’ and does not remove the obligation of the theorist to prove what is held out to be true. The only proof of the development of the new society lies in the present, in the concrete, living actuality which science has for its object. ‘The only way to secure any growth and progress in knowledge is to hold results fast in their truth.’[51] Consequently, dialectic method aims to disclose the rational elements within the present which presage the future. ‘Rationality ... enters upon external existence simultaneously with its actualization, it emerges with an infinite wealth of forms, shapes, and appearances. Around its heart it throws a motley covering with which consciousness is at home to begin with, a covering which the concept has first to penetrate before it can find the inward pulse and feel it still beating in the outward appearances.’[52] The same idea is expressed in Marx’s Grundrisse: capitalism, he writes,

the most extreme form of alienation ... is a necessary point of transition — and therefore already contains in itself, in a still only inverted form, turned on its head, the dissolution of all limited presuppositions of production, and moreover creates and produces the unconditional presuppositions of production, and there with the full material conditions for the total, universal development of the productive forces of the individual.[53]

The supreme principle guiding dialectic method is Kant’s notion ‘that man ... alone is the final end and aim’ of the natural and social order.[54] Thus Hegel’s ‘Absolute Idea,’ which ‘is the sole subject matter and content of philosophy,’ is nothing else but the ‘free subjective Notion that is for itself and therefore possesses personality — the practical, objective Notion determined in and for itself which, as person, is impenetrable atomic subjectivity — but which, none the less, is not exclusive individuality, but explicitly universality and cognition, and in its other has its own objectivity for its object.’[55] The growth of consciousness and society is a process in which the social individual who ‘is implicitly rational ... must also become explicitly so by struggling to create himself not only by going forth from himself but also by building himself up within.’[56] This struggle, rather than a mere survey of the progressive stages of society, forms the object and content of dialectic method.

The result of dialectic, says Hegel, ‘is the individual, the concrete, the subject.’[57] The individual is a procession, a trinity, of ‘three in one and one in three’; he or she appears as the individualization of knowledge and society, the ideal and real community. What distinguishes capitalism from earlier social forms is that its principle of private property — especially the free ownership of one’s labour-power — is the motive force behind the education and increased self-consciousness or rationality of the individuals within it. The struggle of the individual, which in civil society is necessarily class struggle, implies growing control over social forces even within the bourgeois mode of production, and is likely to turn aside all predictions of capitalism’s imminent collapse. Capital itself, to use Marx’s phrase, is a permanent revolution.[58] ‘Every degree of the development of the social forces of production, of intercourse, of knowledge, etc. appears to it only as a barrier which it strives to overpower.’[59]

The transitory nature of capitalism results from its contradictory character which ‘appears in such a way that the working individual alienates himself ... relates to the conditions brought out of him by his labour as those not of his own but of an alien wealth and of his own poverty.’ But alienation is abolished within capitalism itself; in fact, abolition of alienation is a presupposition of the rational or communist state. ‘The recognition’ by the individual, says Marx, ‘of the products’ of labour ‘as its own, and the judgement that its separation from the conditions of its realization is improper — forcibly imposed — is an enormous [advance in] awareness ... itself the product of the mode of production resting on capital, and ... the knell to its doom.’[60] The same notion is expressed in more abstract terms by Hegel: ‘Everything that from eternity has happened in heaven and earth, the life of God and all the deeds of time,’ he writes, ‘simply are the struggles for Mind to know itself, to make itself objective to itself, to find itself, be for itself, and finally to unite itself to itself; it is alienated and divided, but only so as to be able thus to find itself and return to itself. Only in this manner does Mind attain its freedom, for that is free which is not connected with or dependent on another.’[61]

Individual self-awareness or rationality brings about the ‘truth of necessity ... Freedom.’ Under a mature form of capitalism, which is the point of transition to the rational state, ‘It then appears that the members, linked to one another, are not really foreign to each other, but only elements of one whole, each of them, in its connection with the other, being, as it were, at home, and combining with itself. In this way necessity is transfigured into freedom — not the freedom that consists in abstract negation, but freedom concrete and positive.’[62] This is the same concrete and positive freedom advocated by Marx: ‘Freedom ... can only consist in socialised man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature.’[63]

Thinkers in the Marxist tradition believe correctly that the dialectic method is negative and critical towards existing society. ‘The action of thought,’ states Hegel, ‘has also a negative effect upon its basis.’[64] Dialectical science, says Marx, ‘does not let itself be impressed by anything, being in its very essence critical and revolutionary.’[65] Both theorists contend that the capitalist mode of production is arbitrary instead of rational; its cruel dialectic alienates the worker from his or her property and will, and contains the contradictions of wealth and poverty, over-production, imperialism, and dehumanization which propel bourgeois society towards the rational or communist state. ‘It is the bad side,’ writes Marx, ‘that produces movement which makes history, by providing a struggle.’[66] Or, as Hegel puts it, ‘For anything to be finite is just to suppress itself and put itself aside.’[67] The negative and critical aspect of dialectic, however, is only a part, and not even the most important one, of scientific method. ‘The fundamental prejudice in this matter,’ declares Hegel, ‘is that dialectic has only a negative result.’[68] Rather than being purely negative, ‘the result of Dialectic is positive, because it has a definite content.’[69] Marx also emphasizes that dialectic contains the ‘positive understanding of what exists.’[70] Yet dialectic is not simply ‘a subjective see-saw of arguments pro and con’: [71] what Marx calls, referring to Proudhon’s false dialectic, the ‘petty-bourgeois point of view composed of On The One Hand and On The Other Hand.’[72] The dialectic method is ultimately a positive or affirmative approach to the study of consciousness and society. ‘To hold fast to the positive in its negative, this is the most important feature in rational cognition.’[73]

Dialectic studies the process of becoming, the progress of the, at first only implicit, rationality of the social individual. ‘Enrichment,’ notes Hegel,

proceeds in the necessity of the Notion. it is held by it, and each determination is a reflection-into-self. Each new stage of forthgoing, that is, of further determination, is also a withdrawal inwards, and the greater extension is equally a higher intensity. The richest is ... the most concrete and most subjective, and that which withdraws itself into the simplest depth is the mightiest and most all-embracing. The highest, most concentrated point is the pure personality which, solely through the absolute dialectic which is its nature, no less embraces and holds everything within itself, because it makes itself the supremely free — the simplicity which is the first immediacy and universality.’[74]

Capital, for example, is nothing but the objectified essence of the developing power of the social individual: ‘real wealth is the developed productive power of all individuals ... The full development of the individual ... reacts back upon the productive power of labour as itself the greatest productive power.’ Even the study of bourgeois political economy, therefore, presupposes that it is also the study of the organic development of the social individual: ‘The final result of the process of social production always appears as the society itself, i.e. the human being itself in its social relations.’[75]

The process of becoming involves absorption and transcendence of all earlier stages of a developing and conscious organism by its most mature stage. ‘In the absolute method,’ says Hegel, ‘the Notion maintains itself in its otherness ... at each stage of its further determination it raises the entire mass of its preceeding content, and by its dialectical advance it not only does not lose anything or leave anything behind, but carries along with it all that it has gained, and inwardly enriches and consolidates itself.’[76] Accordingly, the highest and most mature phase of the social organism — the communist or rational state — will contain within itself all the positive or rational aspects of earlier social forms, including capitalist society.

Recognition of the positive aspect of dialectic forms the ‘epistemological break’ which, as Althusser suggests, separates the work of the young from the mature Marx.[77] Before 1845, Marx was greatly influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach’s criticism of the Hegelian ‘negation of the negation’ or ‘true affirmation’ which, Feuerbach claims ‘restored ... theology ... through philosophy.’ Hegel’s writings conceal their reactionary content under a revolutionary guise: ‘At first everything is overthrown, but then everything is put again in its former place.’[78] The young Marx applauds Feuerbach’s ‘serious, critical attitude to the Hegelian dialectic,’ especially his opposition to ‘the negation of the negation,’ which claims to be ‘the confirmation of the true essence.’ According to the young Marx, bourgeois society will destroy itself and a new communist society, ‘positively self-deriving humanism,’ will emerge from the ruins.[79] The same apocalyptic view, which contrasts strongly with his later ideas on the development of the social individual under capitalism, also appears in the Communist Manifesto:

The modern labourer ... instead of rising with the progress of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him.[80]

For many commentators, Marx’s dialectic method involves some type of reciprocity between the economic base and the ideological superstructure of society. Giddens, for example, suggests that the ‘dialectical view’ assumes , reciprocal interaction of ... ideas with the social organisation of “earthly man” ... the active interplay between subject and object ... whereby the individual acts upon the world at the same time as the world acts upon him.’[81] Given this assumption, the problem becomes the degree to which the ideological superstructure (i.e., law, politics, religion, and so on) is influenced by the economic base and vice versa.

Hegel observes that dialectic method ‘tries especially to show how the questions men have proposed ... on the nature of Knowledge, Faith, and the like — questions which they imagine to have no connection with abstract thoughts — are really reducible to the simple categories, which first get cleared up in Logic.’[82] The questions involved in interpretations of dialectic are no exception. The base/superstructure version is a regressive hybrid of the categories of reciprocity or functionalism, and causality; these categories, in turn, are the staple diet of the understanding or bourgeois consciousness.

Hegel provides a useful analysis of the category of reciprocity which reveals why so much difficulty is involved in determining the direction of the base/superstructure relationship. In the relation of reciprocity, the elements said to interact tend to disappear and dissolve into one another, so that instead of two interacting elements there turns out to be only one. ‘Reciprocal action just means that each characteristic we impose [in this case, base or superstructure: D.M.] is also to be suspended and inverted into its opposite, and that in this way the essential nullity of the “moments” is explicitly stated. An effect is introduced into the primariness [i.e., the superstructure is said to have an effect on the base: D.M.]; in other words, the primariness is abolished: the action of a cause becomes reaction, and so on.’[83] The solution suggested for this dilemma by Engels, Althusser, and others (namely, that the economic base is determinant in ‘the last instance’) does one of two things. It either refers the relation between base and superstructure to the sensuous conception of time: i.e., the economy is the first (or the second-last) element in the relation of reciprocity, in which case nothing has been solved at all. Or it leads to the abandonment of the relation of reciprocity to the even less satisfactory category of causality: i.e., if the base, then the superstructure.

The base/superstructure version of dialectic assumes an interaction between the conscious subject and its object. Thus, for example, the laws or religion of a society result from the influence of economic activity on the minds of individuals within that society. But the assumption that consciousness depends upon and interacts with its object is false. Human consciousness is above all active; thinking, considered as ideality or revolutionizing practice, is not dependent on its object. ‘We may be said to owe eating to the means of nourishment,’ writes Hegel, ‘so long as we can have no eating without them. If we take this view, eating is certainly represented as ungrateful: it devours that to which it owes itself. Thinking, upon this view of its action, is equally ungrateful.’[84] As Marx puts it in the Theses on Feuerbach: ‘Social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which mislead theory to mysticism find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice.’[85]

The same conscious human practice that creates the ideological superstructure also creates the economic base. The reciprocal interaction of the two, which undoubtedly exists, is a result of the fact that they have an identical source. ‘The true category,’ Hegel observes, ‘is the unity of all these different forms, so that it is one Mind which manifests itself in, and impresses itself upon these different elements.’[86] Hence, the bourgeois approximation to rationality (which turns out to be irrationality) is felt everywhere in capitalist society, from the organization of industry to the structure of the legal system. It is founded on a peculiar interpretation of human freedom (Hegel calls it ‘an insanity of personality’) according to which the individual is free to alienate the products of his or her own labour — which in fact are the property of the individual — and hand them over to the ‘overlord to nothing, ‘[87] the capitalist. This relation makes possible the fantastic growth, the richness and complexity of bourgeois society, but the limit of the rationality of the capitalist property relation is also the limit of the capitalist mode of production itself.

The supreme importance of conscious human activity in dialectic method explains the prominence of the world-historical individual in the work of Hegel. For Hegel, world-historical individuals are revolutionaries who derive ‘their purposes and their vocation,’ from the underground principle of freedom which eventually bursts through the surface of society and overthrows the existing order. ‘They are men, therefore, who appear to draw the impulse of their life from themselves; and whose deeds have produced a condition of things and a complex of historical relations which appear to be only their interest, and their work.’ World-historical individuals are persons who, though unconscious ‘of the general Idea they were unfolding,’ nevertheless attained to ‘an insight into the requirements of the time — what was ripe for development.’ These individuals, these revolutionaries, expressed what was in the minds of all ‘but in a state of unconsciousness which the great men in question aroused.’ In other words, ‘They are great men, because they willed and accomplished something great; not a mere fancy, a mere intention, but that which met the case and fell in with the needs of the age.’[88] Marx is also conscious of the individual’s role in history, pointing out that ‘acceleration and delay’ in historical progress ‘are very much dependent upon ... “accidents,” including the “accident” of the character of the people who first head the movement.’[89] He argues, for example, that the French Revolution was not only a product of the struggle of great masses of people, but also of the deeds of heroes. ‘Camille Desmoulins, Danton, Robespierre, Saint-Just, Napoleon, the heroes as well as the parties and the masses of the old French Revolution, performed the task of their time ... the task of unchaining and setting up modern bourgeois society.’[90] Nor does the role of the individual in history simply concern heroes. ‘In the history of the United States,’ he observes in 1862, ‘and of humanity, Lincoln will take his place directly next to Washington! ... Lincoln is not the offspring of a people’s revolution. The ordinary play of the electoral system, unaware of the great tasks it was destined to fulfill, bore him to the summit — a plebeian, who made his way from stone-splitter to senator in Illinois, a man without intellectual brilliance, without special greatness of character, without exceptional importance — an average man of good will. Never has the New World scored a greater victory than in the demonstration that with its political and social organization, average men of good will suffice to do that which in the Old World would have required heroes to do!’[91]

The actuality of a nation or culture is crucial to an understanding of the ultimate object of dialectic method: the social individual. ‘The relation of the individual to’ his or her nation, writes Hegel, ‘is that he appropriates to himself this substantial existence; that it becomes his character and capability, enabling him to have a definite place in the world — to be something. For he finds the being of the people to which he belongs an already established, firm world — objectively present to him — with which he has to incorporate himself.’ The ideality of the individual is fused with a particular spirit, a particular view of the world that permeates all facets of his or her culture. ‘It is within the limitations of this idiosyncrasy that the spirit of the nation, concretely manifested, expresses every aspect of its consciousness and will — the whole cycle of its realization. Its religion, its polity, its ethics, its legislation, and even its science, art, and mechanical skill, all bear its stamp. These special peculiarities find their key in that common peculiarity the particular principle that characterizes a people.[92] Accordingly, Hegel’s social and political theory is an account of the emergence and growth of the principle of individual freedom and its realization in the Western (or German) world.

Similarly, Marx’s Capital is not just a study of the bourgeois mode of production in the abstract; it also concerns the life and spirit of that classic bourgeois society — England. ‘What I have to examine in this work,’ he writes, ‘is the capitalist mode of production, and the relations of production and forms of intercourse ... that correspond to it. Until now, their locus classicus has been England. This is the reason why England is used as the main illustration of the theoretical developments I make.’[93] In like fashion, he connects the rapid development of the United States with the enterprising character of the individuals who settled there[94] and infused its spirit with what, in another context, he calls ‘one of the delusions carefully nurtured by Political Economy’:

The truth is this, that in this bourgeois society every workman, if he is an extremely clever and shrewd fellow, and gifted with bourgeois instincts and favoured by an exceptional fortune, can possibly be converted himself into an exploiteur du travail d’autrui [‘Exploiter of others’ labour’] ... But where there was no travail to be exploité, there would be no capitalist nor capitalist production.[95]

Whatever the defects of this American dream, it also contains a core of truth: ‘In the usual formulation [of political economy], an industrial people reaches the peak of its production at the moment when it arrives at its historical peak generally. In fact. The industrial peak of a people when its main concern is not yet gain, but rather to gain. Thus the Yankees over the English.’[96]

In order to grasp the spirit of a nation or people, dialectic method investigates its supreme intellectual productions — the art, religion, science, and philosophy created within it; these are the comprehension in thought of society and represent ‘the progression of the total actuality evolved.’ The object of Marx’s theoretical effort, therefore, is certainly capitalism, but capitalism as expressed in the categories of bourgeois political economy. A particular philosophy or scientific system represents the ideas of its creator, but also the entire richness of the social universe to which the thinker belongs. ‘Everything hangs on this,’ states Hegel, ‘these forms [of science and philosophy] are nothing else than the original distinctions in the Idea itself, which is what it is only in them.’[97] Feuerbach and Kant, for example, express in thought the determinate categories and relations that constitute bourgeois consciousness and reality. Although science and philosophy are products of society, they are above it in form, since they place society ‘in the relation of object.’ The merely formal difference between theory and society, however, becomes an actual difference because it is through thought that ‘Mind makes manifest a distinction between knowledge and that which is; this knowledge is thus what produces a new form of development.’[98]

The dialectical science of Hegel and Marx is a product of bourgeois society; but it also anticipates and expresses the development of the free and independent social individual who will find his or her concrete existence in the rational, communist state.


Dialectical exposition — the presentation of the results of dialectic method is not historical in character, although it is commonly (and wrongly) assumed to refer mainly to history. Putting aside the time-order of events related to the object under study, dialectical exposition deals with the object as a living organism which, as it were, unfolds itself from itself. ‘In order to develop the laws of bourgeois economy,’ says Marx, ‘It is not necessary to write the real history of the relations of production.’ To present society as an ‘organic whole’ means to represent it in a manner ‘corresponding to its concept’[99] — or as Hegel puts it, in a manner corresponding to ‘the immanent self-differentiation of the concept.’[100] The concept, in turn, like the processes within a living body, develops in all its parts, not historically or in a certain time-order, but simultaneously. ‘The simultaneity of the process of capital in different phases of the process is possible only through its division and break-up into parts, each of which is capital, but capital in a different aspect. This change of form and matter is like that in the organic body ... the shedding in one form and renewal in the other is distributed, takes place simultaneously.’[101]

Dialectic method may, of course, be applied to history, but the exposition of historical development is different from dialectical exposition in its pure form.[102] Hegelian logic, for example, shows the movement of the categories in purely necessary, i.e., rational and non-historical, terms. In the history of philosophy, however, their appearance followed a particular time-order which differs in some respects from the logical one. Dialectical exposition in history, ‘shows the different stages and moments in development, in manner of occurrence, in particular places, in particular people or political circumstances, the complications arising thus, and, in short, it shows us the empirical form’.[103]

Dialectical exposition must start from the most abstract form of the object under study, but also from its most universal and necessary aspect. ‘The Idea,’ writes Hegel, referring to both consciousness and society,

must further determine itself within itself continually, since in the beginning it is no more than an abstract concept. But this original abstract concept is never abandoned. It merely becomes richer in itself and the final determination is therefore the richest. in this process its earlier, merely implicit, determinations attain their free self-subsistence but in such a way that the concept remains the soul which holds everything together and attains its own proper differentiation only through an immanent process.[104]

Since dialectical exposition begins with the simplest and most abstract conceptions, the sequence of the categories at some points may be similar to their appearance in history.[105] But in relation to application of dialectic method this similarity is purely fortuitous.

The absolute idea in Hegel’s speculative logic — which, as I have argued, is the logical or theoretical expression of the relation of the social individual with the rational state — is the final category of logic. But it also includes being — the first category. The absolute idea, or rational state, is the richest and most developed form of (social) being. Accordingly, speculative logic concerns ‘the knowledge that the idea is the one systematic whole.’[106] Similarly, the ultimate category in the Philosophy of Right — the rational state includes the first category, i.e., ‘the absolutely free will’ of the social individual. ‘In the state self-consciousness finds in an organic development the actuality of its substantive knowing and willing.’[107] Marx begins Capital with the commodity — the most abstract and universal category within capitalist society. The final chapters of Capital are concerned with the social relations developed around the commodity, i.e., private property and its abolition within the capitalist mode of production, first by the monopoly of the capitalist class, and then by socialist revolution.

Dialectical exposition presents the object of method in its highest or ideal form; in the same way, the moments or aspects of the object are displayed in their most extreme or purest configuration. This makes it possible to find in the object the means both to comprehend less developed forms and to anticipate future developments.[108] ‘Our method,’ says Marx,

indicates the points where ... bourgeois economy as a merely historical form of the production process points beyond itself to earlier historical modes of production ... These indications ... together with a correct grasp of the present, then also offer the key to the understanding of the past ... This correct view likewise leads at the same time to the points at which the suspension of the present form of production relations gives signs of its becoming — foreshadowings of the future.[109]

If the order of the categories in the Philosophy of Right has little to do with their historical succession ‘in the actual world, ‘[110] this order is of supreme importance for understanding the Hegelian state: ‘a philosophical division is far from being an external one.’[111] The concrete formations leading up to the rational state prove its dialectical necessity. Both the family and civil society — social categories that precede the exposition of the state (though not its development in history) — are ‘stages or factors’ which ‘as actualities ... are yet at the same time to be viewed as forms only, collapsing and transient.’[112] Accordingly, Hegel examines the dissolution of the patriarchal family in civil society, along with the moments that lead to the , splitting up’ and integration of civil society into the rational state.[113] The family and civil society are only the ‘finite phase’ of the rational state, a phase which is necessary ‘only in order’ for the consciousness of the social individual ‘to rise above its ideality and become explicit as infinite actual mind.’[114]

‘We should desire,’ remarks Hegel, ‘to have in the state nothing except what is an expression of rationality. The state is the world which mind has made for itself; its march therefore, is on lines that are fixed and absolute ... The state [is] a secular deity.’[115] The state Hegel refers to resembles Marx’s communist society where social relations ‘generally present themselves to [the individual] in a transparent and rational form,’ and social production is ‘under [the] conscious and planned control’ of individuals.[116] But the rational society Hegel envisions has nothing to do with the abstraction of the ‘withering away of the state.’[117] The notion that the state in communist society must eventually disappear is based on the bourgeois conception of the external state, according to which the state is antithetical and antagonistic to the interests of the individual. For Hegel, however, the state is the chief instrument of self-education and freedom for the social individual. In communist society, therefore, the state does not wither away; rather, the antagonistic sphere of civil society is integrated with and rationalized by the state.

Progress towards the rational state does not involve a complete departure from the governing institutions of capitalist society. The bourgeois order, states Hegel, is a ‘battlefield,’ where private interests oppose particular interests of general concern, and both of these are locked in struggle with the state and its more universal outlook. The major combatants on the battleground of a mature civil society are first, the business class, a class divided from within but at the same time approaching a unity of interest among its members based on joint ownership of the means of production; and second, the universal class, a class increasingly allied with those poor and dispossessed who are excluded from the corporations of the business class. A third combatant, the agricultural class, loses prominence in the struggle as its basis in the soil is undermined by the economic forces of civil society. The network of conflict and compromise which unites the contenders for power in bourgeois society constitutes the living core of the nascent rational state. With the development of the social state, classes as groups with unequal privileges and wealth disappear. But classes as groups of individuals organized in a corporate whole and performing varied and diverse modes of social labour will remain; in fact, within the rational state a person’s social class is the mediating institution between the individual and government. Membership in any social class — which in the rational state will be either the class of civil servants or the business class — is completely open to the individual. Wealth and birth play no part in distinctions of class within the rational state.[118]

Transcending the class character of civil society by giving it a political form, Hegel’s rational state sublates the alienated politics of the bourgeoisie into a democratic class politics. The result is a mode of government which resembles the liberal capitalist state in form but departs from it in content. In bourgeois political theory the state is composed of three main elements: the legislature or parliament, the judiciary, and the executive. Each element features a system of checks and balances on the powers of the other two. There are also three elements in Hegel’s social state, but these are separate aspects of a unitary process of government rather than autonomous, conflicting powers. The judiciary is part of the executive instead of a separate entity; similarly, the government bureaucracy, the police, and the military, described by some writers as independent elements of the state, are actually aspects of the executive power. The three moments of the rational state are the bead of state, the executive, and the estates or parliament. The executive and parliament correspond to the chief actors in civil society; members of the universal class make up the larger part of the executive, while the legislature mostly represents the claims of the business class and the corporations.

Organized as the state executive, the universal class of civil servants is responsible for the over-all guidance and administration of civil society; particular functions within the sphere of industry and production are carried out by the democratic corporations of the business class. The estates or parliament are formed by popularly elected representatives from the corporations. In this way, the electorate avoids the atomization and alienation intrinsic to the democratic set-up of the external state. Since deputies from the corporations are elected by the business or working class itself, they ‘eo ipso adopt the point of view of society, and their actual election is therefore either something wholly superfluous or else reduced to a trivial play of opinion and caprice ... The interest itself is actually present in its representative, while he himself is there to represent the objective element of his own being.’[119]

Although parliament is usually seen strictly as a body of elected representatives, it actually brings together the three elements of the state in the process of government, a process identical with the trinity relation, the rational syllogism that unites the individual with society. Thus the head of state (the individual) is also head of the legislature (the universal) and has the power of ultimate decision. Similarly, the executive (the particular) whose senior ministers are chosen by the head of state from elected representatives in the estates — belongs to the legislature in its capacity as an advisory body with specialized expertise and experience in areas of national concern.

Parliament guarantees general welfare and public freedom in the rational state as it is supposed to do in the liberal democratic one, but Hegel argues that the parliamentary guarantee is misconstrued by bourgeois political theorists, who believe the public has a deeper insight and knowledge of affairs than government bureaucracy. Accordingly, the estates are assumed to reflect the wisdom of the citizens and apply it to the problems of government. Hegel contends, however, that senior public servants and their professional and administrative personnel have a better understanding of the nation’s organization and requirements than does the average citizen. Moreover, they are experienced and skilled in the mechanisms of government and are able to run it without parliament, which indeed they do when the legislature is in recess or otherwise engaged.

Parliament fulfils its role as guarantor of public freedom in the rational state first by virtue of the additional insight elected deputies offer bureaucracy and its ministers. The government learns how effectively its policies are applied and received at the local level through criticism and appraisal by the people’s representatives, and it becomes aware of deficiencies and lacunae through the same process. Parliament also defends public freedom through its ability to influence the conduct of the bureaucracy; anticipation of criticism from the estates — and from elsewhere — induces officials to pay attention to their duties and administer programs in an efficient and responsible manner. The bureaucracy must expect criticism and discipline from parliament and the corporations and also from the head of state, who is anxious to maintain the legitimacy of his or her government.[120]

Hegel’s rational state is suggestive for an analysis of contemporary liberal democratic society. The huge, modern bureaucracy, allied with state clients and public interest groups, may have its own class interests that could set it in opposition to dominant groups from civil society. Thus government initiatives in education, health, safety, and welfare may be seen as expressing the interests of the universal class and its constituency among the poor and unorganized (this is certainly how they are interpreted by the capitalist class in the United States). The Hegelian perspective also provides some powerful tools for understanding the complex relationship between government and the class structure of liberal democracy. If Hegel is correct, future political constituencies in liberal democratic society may be rooted in a functional rather than geographic network of representation, so that voters will elect candidates at the level of the business corporation, school, or government department. At the same time these organizations will be transformed through a process of conflict and struggle into organs of direct democracy and workers’ control. The state apparatus itself will more and more become the self-conscious embodiment of the universal class and its allies, mediated at the top by the head of state and the upper levels of the executive, and from the bottom by corporations and parliament. In this form, the liberal democratic state could finally embrace the ethical principle Hegel called ‘the final end of the state,’ i.e., ‘that all human capacities and all individual powers be developed and given expression in every way and in every direction.’[121]

Hegel is chiefly concerned with the state as it will exist in its most concrete, i.e., rational, form, but his theory results from an analysis of the affirmative aspects of already existing states. Accordingly, he is determined to justify the particular form taken by governments of his time, including the great influence wielded over the state by the class of landed property owners and the role of the monarchy. As I argued in Chapter 7, Hegel is convinced that the aristocracy’s political influence will melt away along with its economic basis in civil society. Since positions of authority in the rational state are to be filled according to objective and rational criteria, rather than those of wealth or birth, the institution of primogeniture associated with aristocracy ‘is nothing but a chain on the freedom of private rights, and either political meaning is given to it’ — which, as Hegel makes clear, is out of the question in the rational state — ‘or else it will in due course disappear.’[122]

Dialectic method deals ‘with that which is’[123] and during Hegel’s period, as he observes, ‘In almost all European countries the individual head of the state is the monarch.’ He is impatient with theorists who see nothing rational in the institution of constitutional monarchy, and who believe that a democratic republic is the only reasonable form of government. For Hegel, the question whether a republic or a constitutional monarchy is most to be preferred ‘is quite idle,’ precisely because ‘such forms must be discussed historically or not at all.’[124]

The function of the constitutional monarch as outlined in the Philosophy of Right is actually consistent with that of any democratic national leader.[125] The head of state embodies the principle of individuality which runs through every democratic government and symbolically connects the leader’s decision-making power with the will and rationality of each citizen. Personalization of political power, however, has nothing to do with despotic usurpation of authority; the power of the head of state is restricted simply to a choice of options offered by the state executive. As Hegel puts it, the monarch ‘is bound by the concrete decisions of his counsellors, and if the constitution is stable, he has often no more to do than sign his name.’ The appearance of power merely serves to disguise the leader’s real subservience to the administrative mechanisms of government and ultimately to the organized will of every free citizen. Nevertheless, despite its illusory quality, the personal authority of the head of state ‘as the final subjectivity of decision, is above all answerability for acts of government.’[126]

For Marcuse, along with many others, Hegel’s rational state glorifies the Prussian monarchy and betrays ‘his highest philosophical ideas. His political doctrine surrenders society to nature, freedom to necessity, reason to caprice ... Freedom becomes identical with the inexorable necessity of nature, and reason terminates in an accident of birth.’[127] But monarchy, constitutional or otherwise, will have no place in the rational state. When Hegel observes that the sovereign ‘is raised to the dignity of monarchy in an immediate, natural, fashion, i.e. through his birth in the course of nature,’ he is actually referring to the finitude and transitory character of the monarchy. [128] In a constitutional monarchy, ‘birth is the oracle — something independent of any arbitrary volition.’[129] But oracles of any kind are only required ‘when men [have] not yet plumbed the depths of self-consciousness or risen out of their undifferentiated unity of substance to their independence.’ The monarchy is a flawed concept because it lacks the character of rationality; it represents ‘a single and natural existent without the mediation of a particular content (like a purpose in the case of action).’ Princely power is only necessary as a counterpoise to the caprice and irrationality that characterize the development of civil society; it will disappear in the social state. The monarch, notes Hegel, ‘is ... ungrounded objective existence (existence being the category which is at home in nature).’[130] But if this existence ‘is at home in nature,’ i.e., in the state of nature represented by the antagonisms and discord of bourgeois society, it will not be ‘at home’ in the rational state. Existence is a poor category since it refers to ‘finite things’ which ‘are changeable and transient, i.e. ... existence is associated with them for a season, but that association is neither eternal nor inseparable.’[131]

Marx’s mature work, as I have argued in this study, is devoted not only to the critical analysis of capitalism, but also to an investigation of the presuppositions of the rational or communist state. He explores the conditions for transcending bourgeois society that are formed within the capitalist mode of production itself. But he never went beyond the economic study of capitalism. In particular, he did not produce a comprehensive theory of the state; nor did he develop an aesthetic, or a critical examination of the history of thought. There is no confrontation with the categories of logic in Marx; and the reader will look in vain for a Marxist psychology or philosophy of nature or a system of law. Hegel, however, did produce a great deal of comprehensive work in all these subjects. Moreover, his efforts are informed by the same dialectic method that led Marx and him to identical conclusions about bourgeois political economy.

One reason for the superiority of scope and range in Hegel’s thought over that of Marx is that Marx had no established Income or position, and spent much of his life in unsettled conditions and strenuous political activity. Hegel had much more time, and the financial independence provided by state teaching and university posts, to devote his attention entirely to theory. But there is another, and perhaps more crucial, difference in their personal biographies. Hegel’s was the age of the French Revolution and the incredible march of Napoleon’s ‘army of liberation’ over the whole of Europe; Marx’s was the age of Louis Bonaparte. Hegel’s contemporaries formed the elite of classical German idealism, literature, and music: Kant, Schiller, Fichte, Schelling, Hölderlin, Goethe, Beethoven, and others were among his coevals, and some were his personal friends. Except for Heinrich Heine, Marx had only Engels, Feuerbach, and the other members of the Young Hegelians. However accomplished these thinkers were, they stood nowhere near the likes of Kant or even Schelling. Most of them are known today only through their association with Marx.[132] In England, of course, Marx was surrounded by the shallowest empiricism.

Marx was intensely aware of his isolation, an isolation made all the more bitter because he alone among the thinkers of his generation had a profound comprehension of Hegel. His grasp, as I have argued, was faulty; but without him, the mystery surrounding dialectic would, no doubt, be impenetrable. Marx did not transcend Hegelian philosophy; he merely developed and amplified ideas already available in the discussion of civil society in the Philosophy of Right. That he did so in a form and manner much more accessible to the intellectual climate of high capitalism than Hegel’s more philosophical approach is self-evident.

The division commonly made between Hegel and Marx is illusory; the parallels between their theories are much more compelling than the differences. Based on the arguments in this book, there may be a large field of theoretical work and endeavour available to students of Marx. A new synthesis of Marx with Hegel might provide significant insights into diverse areas of theory and practice — insights that could transform contemporary Marxism and nourish the struggle for individual freedom and the rational state.


1. Sidney Hook, From Hegel to Marx: Studies in the Intellectual Development of Karl Marx (Ann Arbor 1976), 60

2. Capital, I, 103, 102

3. Enc. Logic, §20, 29; also Philosophy of Right, §21R, 29-30

4. Enc. Logic, §204, 269; §193, 258

5. Grundrisse, 106

6. Philosophy of Right, §343, 216

7. Grundrisse, 706

8. Mandel’s Introduction to Capital, I, 22

9. Grundrisse, 104-5

10. Philosophy of Right, §146R, 106

11. Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, 191

12. Enc. Logic, §24, 40

13. Enc. Logic, §25, 45-6

14. Grundrisse, 706

15. Enc. Logic, §25, 46; also Philosophy of Right, §343, 216. ‘Reflection on the forms of human life, hence also scientific analysis of those forms, takes a course directly opposite to their real development. Reflection begins post festum, and therefore with the results of the process of development ready to hand.’ Capital, I, 168

16. ‘Philosophical Notebooks’ in Collected Works, 38 (London 1960), 180

17. Lenin and Philosophy, and Other Essays, trans. Ben Brewster (London 1971), 109

18. Lenin. Selected Works in Three Volumes (Moscow 1971), I, 66

19. Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 20

20. Quoted in S.S. Prawer, Karl Marx and World Literature (Oxford 1976), 369

21. Science of Logic, 54

22. Hegel: A Reinterpretation (Notre Dame 1978), 160

23. Science of Logic, 54

24. Karl Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy, trans. Fred Halliday (London 1970), 133

25. Georg Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge MA 1971)

26. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, trans. Quinton Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York 1971)

27. Class Consciousness, 21

28. Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, 339

29. Capital, I, 1037

30. Grundrisse, 106

31. Capital, I, 99

32. Enc. Logic, §25, 45

33. Philosophy of Right, §21A, 231

34. Enc. Logic, §25, 45; 516, 22

35. Capital, I, 96

36. Science of Logic, 826

37. Enc. Logic, §12, 18

38. Science of Logic, 53

39. Capital, I, 92-3

40. Science of Logic, 51

41. Capital, I, 92

42. Enc. Logic, §17, 23

43. Philosophy of Right, 4

44. Capital, I, 90

45. Philosophy of Right, A, 224

46. Capital, I, 92

47. Phil. of Mind, §422z, 163

48. Enc. Logic, §159, 221

49. Grundrisse, 832

50. Enc. Logic, §241, 295; §159, 221; also History of Philosophy, I, 22

51. Enc. Logic, §60, 91; §89, 133

52. Philosophy of Right, 10-11

53. Grundrisse, 515

54. Critique of Pure Reason, trans. J.M.D. Meiklejohn, (London 1893), 251

55. Science of Logic, 824

56. Philosophy of Right, §10A, 229

57. Science of Logic, 837

58. Selected Works in Three Volumes I, 179

59. Grundrisse, 541

60. Grundrisse, 541, 463

61. History of Philosophy, 1, 23

62. Enc. Logic, §§158 158z, 220; Philosophy of Right, §§23 27, 30-2

63. Capital, III, 820

64. Enc. Logic,, §50, 81

65. Capital, I, 103

66. Poverty of Philosophy, , 116

67. Enc. Logic,, §81, 116

68. Science of Logic, 832

69. Enc. Logic,, §82, 119

70. Capital, I, 103

71. Enc. Logic,, §81, 116

72. Marx-Engels Selected Correspondence, 157

73. Science of Logic, 834; also Enc. Logic,, §82, 119

74. Science of Logic, 840

75. Grundrisse, 708, 711, 712

76. Science of Logic, 840; also Philosophy of Right, §§34-35, 216-17

77. Louis Althusser, For Marx, trans. Ben Brewster (London 1969), 34-5

78. Principles of the Philosophy of the Future, trans. Manfred H. Vogel (Indianapolis and New York 1966), 33-4

79. 1844 Manuscripts, 172, 187

80. Marx Engels Selected Works, I, 119

81. Anthony Giddens, Capitalism and Modern Social Theory: An Analysis of the Writings of Marx, Durkheim and Max Weber (Cambridge 1971) 210

82. Enc. Logic,, §25, 46

83. Enc. Logic,, §156, 218

84. Enc. Logic,, §12, 17

85. Marx Engels Selected Works, I, 15

86. History of Philosophy, I, 50

87. Philosophy of Right, §62R, 50

88. Philosophy of History, 30-1; also Philosophy of Right, §348, 218

89. Marx Engels Selected Correspondence,264

90. Marx Engels Selected Works, I, 399

91. Marx, On the American Civil War, 222

92. History of Philosophy, 74, 64

93. Capital, I, 90

94. German Ideology, 90-1

95. Capital, I, 1079

96. Grundrisse, 86-7. In this passage, Marx reproduces a discussion by Hegel, where the latter also refers to the British nation: ‘A Nation is moral — virtuous — vigorous while it is engaged in realizing its grand projects, and defends its work against external violence during the process of giving to its purposes an objective existence. The contradiction between its potential, subjective being — its inner aim and life — and its actual being is removed; it has attained full reality, has itself objectively present to it. But this having been attained, the activity displayed by the Spirit of the people in question is no longer needed; it has its desire. The Nation can still accomplish much in war and peace at home and abroad; but the living substantial soul itself may be said to have ceased its activity. The essential, supreme interest has consequently vanished from its life, for interest is present only where there is opposition.’ History of Philosophy, 74; also Philosophy of Right, §347, 217-18

97. History of Philosophy, I, 33, 34-5; also Enc. Logic,, §25, 45-6

98. History of Philosophy, I, 55; also Philosophy of Right, §343, 216. Philosophy awakes in the spirit of governments and nations the wisdom to discern what is essentially and actually right and reasonable in the real world ... thought makes the spirit’s truth an actual present, leads it into the real world, and thus liberates it in its actuality and in its own self.’ Phil. of Mind, §551, 285-6

99. Grundrisse, 460, 100, 885

100. Philosophy of Right, §33R, 36

101. Grundrisse, 661

102. A capital misunderstanding ... is that the natural principle or the beginning which forms the starting point in the natural evolution or in the history of the developing individual, is regarded as the truth, and the first in the Notion.’ Science of Logic, §88

103. History of Philosophy, 1, 29-30; also Philosophy of Right, §32, 35

104. Philosophy of Right, §32A, 233

105. History of Philosophy, I, 30; also Grundrisse, 102

106. Enc. Logic,, §242, 296

107. Philosophy of Right., §34, 37; §360, 222-3

108. Philosophy of Right, §32, 35; Phil. of Mind, §380, 7-8

109. Grundrisse, 460-1

110. Phil. of Mind, §408z, 130; also Philosophy of Right, 32R, 35

111. Philosophy of Right, §33R, 36

112. Enc. Logic,, §147, 208

113. Phil. of Mind, §408z, 130

114. Philosophy of Right, §262, 162

115. Philosophy of Right, §272A, 285

116. Capital, I, 173

117. E.g. Marx Engels Selected Works, III, 147

118. Philosophy of Right, §289, 189; §308, 200-1

119. Philosophy of Right, §§272R 273, 174-6; §§288-9, 189-90; 5308, 200; §311R, 202

120. Philosophy of Right, §§272-33 174-6; §§300-3, 195-8; §§300-1A, 292

121. Aesthetics, 1, 48

122. Philosophy of Right, §258A, 279, §203R, 132; §306A, 293

123. History of Philosophy, 87

124. Philosophy of Right, §329, 296; §273, 177

125. This point was made long ago in Bernard Bosanquet’s classic, The Philosophical Theory of the State, sec. ed. (London 1958), 264

126. Philosophy of Right, §297A, 288; §284, 187

127. Herbert Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory, sec. ed. (New York 1954), 218, 217

128. Philosophy of Right, §280, 184

129. History of Philosophy, 428

130. Philosophy of Right, §§279 280R 81, 184-5

131. Enc. Logic,, §193, 259

132. I owe these observations to a conversation with Professor Donald G. MacRae.