Determinacy for Itself − the Measure in Hegel and Marx

What follows marks the first in what I hope will be a series of posts by other contributors to this blog. The series starts with a copy of a paper delivered by Frank Engster at the 2012 Annual Historical Materialism conference in London. Engster’s paper — ‘Determinacy for Itself − the Measure in Hegel and Marx’ — gives a precis of some of the arguments in his authoritative thesis on the importance of measure in Hegel, Marx, Adorno and Sohn-Rethel, which will soon be published in German. Since there are not currently any plans to translate his thesis into English what follows will have to make due until his important work is translated:

‘Up until today, the relation between the Hegelian and Marxist dialectic is unresolved. Marx himself claimed that his Critique of Political Economy was some kind of socialisation of spirit and labeled it a materialist ‘inversion’ of Hegel’s dialectic. The Marxism which was subsequently developed considered Marx’s approach to be even more than a kind of materialist fulfillment of spirit: namely, an overcoming of idealist philosophy through its becoming practical and its realisation.

In my opinion, the relation between Spirit and Capital cannot be clarified as long as one attempts to accomplish such an inversion based on some grounding relation or  deduction of Spirit from a material or economic basis. On the contrary, we can make some progress when we refrain from such claims and take a step back: instead of aiming at such causal relations we should attempt to solve this question by using a mere analogy.

The analogy is that Hegel develops Spirit and Marx develops capitalist society as a self-relation. Hegel argues for the speculative identity of thought and being by referring to the logic of the identification of objectivity through subjectivity. Marx argues for the speculative identity of capitalist society through its mediation and valorisation of values; and so Hegel’s logic of the identification of objectivity through subjectivity corresponds in Marx’s economic critique to the realisation of value through money.

However, Hegel chooses to take two different approaches: one phenomenological way in The Phenomenology of Spirit, and one purely logical-systematic way in The Science of Logic. Marx’ elaboration on money and value is—particularly in Capital—a logical-categorical determined development which can be related to both of Hegel’s approaches as an analogy.

Meanwhile it is possible to apply the analogy even before its actual development; hence there is a type of initial access into the self-relation of Spirit or society. In fact, this access is the reason why such a self-relation of Spirit of society can occur. My hypothesis is that all three aforementioned works have the same core point in common, and that all three works start from this point in order to develop the idea of Spirit or capital. This crucial point is the measure. Thus the Phenomenology begins with self-consciousness which is [the] authoritative [measure] for the objectivity of subjective experience and renders the subject of knowledge identical. The Science of Logic starts from the authoritative [measure] of being for itself and founds the concept of objectivity while Marx’s Capital opens with the measure of value, money, which constitutes social objectivity through “value-objectivity” (Marx: Wertgegenständlichkeit).

This kind of approach shall be shown in the following. It is self-evident that I can merely point out a very basic introduction into an analogy between Spirit and capitalist society. In my PhD thesis I have developed this analogy in depth and it has taken me a few hundred pages to do so’.


Read the rest here — Engstermeasure


About HR

Deep in the adjunct crackhole.
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