Marx’s Grundrisse and Hegel’s Logic by Hiroshi Uchida (1988)

Chapter 1
The Introduction to the Grundrisse and
the Doctrine of the Notion

Production in general and ‘the life-process’

Marx begins the Introduction to the Grundrisse as follows:

The object before us, to begin with, material producttion. Individuals producing in society – hence socially determined individual production – is, of course, the point of departure (Grundrisse, Introduction).

In the first section of the Introduction Marx does not directly refer to Hegel by name. Rather he explicitly criticises the political economists (Adam Smith, David Ricardo, etc.) for defining historically-determined individuals, material production and society in general terms. In the quotation above, however, he also implies a critique of Hegel. This is accomplished through a critique of political economy as follows:

  1. The object of political economy is material production, not in general, but rather capitalist production in particular. Capital necessitates specific mental activities to mediate, maintain and increase value. Marx asks if Hegel grasps material production in that way.
  2. Marx asks whether individuals are involved in material production as human beings in a general sense or in historically specific societies. Simultaneously he inquires into the historical characteristics of the metabolic system in which ‘man’ and nature are organised, and asks if Hegel properly addresses the problems this poses.
  3. Marx asks how individuals are organised socially in order to carry out material production, and he inquires if Hegel recognises a historically specific form through which individuals relate to each other.

In the first section of Marx’s Introduction to the Grundrisse Hegel does not seem to be relevant to the questions which are discussed. However, if the first section of the Introduction is compared with Hegel’s work on ‘life’ under the ‘idea’ in the Doctrine of the Notion, it becomes evident that Marx is implicitly considering Hegel’s theory of ‘life’ in the Logic in relation to the economists’ theories of material production.

Hegel defines the human individual as the individual in general or the living individual:

The first is the process of the living being inside itself. In that process it makes a split on its own self, and reduces its corporeity to its object or its inorganic nature. This corporeity, as an aggregate -of correlations, enters in its very nature into difference and opposition of its elements, which mutually become each other’s prey, and assimilate one another, and are retained by producing themselves. Yet this action of the several members is only the living subject’s one act to which their productions revert; so that in these productions nothing is produced except the subject: in other words, the subject only reproduces itself (Shorter Logic§ 218).

In the above quotation human being is defined as ‘living being’. The human body is separated from the human mind. The individual body is reproduced as a physical subject through the activities of its various members or organs. There is an analogy to these activities in Aristotle’s ‘ability to nourish’. When Hegel talks about the natural self-reproduction of human life, he treats the human body in isolation from the human mind or consciousness.

However, according to Marx the specific characteristic of human life is that it has consciousness. This appears in his Economic and philosophical manuscripts (1844). He thinks that when human beings obtain food they not only ingest calories but also generate and express their culture.

Hegel, on the contrary, defines human beings as mere existence, and does not inquire into the specific mode of human life which varies regionally and historically. After that definition he discusses mental activity in a way that is indifferent to material life.

Marx sees in Hegel’s account the bourgeois division of labour into physical and mental activities. In Marx’s view human beings are born not only with nutritive capabilities, but with mental ones that are inseparable from them. Human beings engage in their own process of reproduction with both material and mental capabilities united as a whole. Hegel, by contrast, treats the process of reproduction as spontaneous, alien to human sensibility, needs and thought. In this view Marx finds certain characteristics of bourgeois private property.

Bourgeois private property separates physical and mental labour by means of exchange-relations based on private property, taking the superiority of mental labour over physical for granted. Human life is maintained in the metabolic process of individuals with nature. On that point Hegel writes:

But the judgement of the Notion proceeds, as free, to discharge the objective [physical] or bodily nature as an independent totality from itself; and the negative relation of the living thing to itself makes, as immediate individuality, the presupposition of an inorganic nature confronting it ... The dialectic by which the object, being implicitly null, is merged, is the action of the self-assured living thing, which in this process against an inorganic nature thus retains, develops, and objectifies itself (Shorter Logic § 219).

In the quotation above Hegel defines the metabolic process of man with nature. ‘Man’ constantly works on nature outside ‘him’, and obtains the means of life and enjoys them. Hegel remarks that ‘man’ not only maintains ‘himself’, but develops and objectifies ‘himself’. However, this development and objectification depend on the natural unity of physical and mental activities. Hegel takes up ‘man’ as a merely physical existence and only later (Shorter Logic § 222) does he introduce mental abilities.

It is a limitation of Hegel’s work that he defines ‘man’ in the metabolic process as a mere physical existence. Can ‘man’ produce wealth without mental ability? In Hegel’s conception of man a specific aspect of the bourgeois economy becomes evident. This is the aspect in which the physical labourer (wage-worker) carries out material production under the command of a mental labourer (capitalist). Hegel unconsciously describes the wage-worker when he defines ‘man’ in the metabolic process simply as a physical existence.

Marx notes that Hegel is silent on the separation of labour into physical and mental that is characteristic of capitalism. From Marx’s point of view it is a misunderstanding to accept Hegel’s conception of the physical elements in ‘man’s metabolism with nature as a general definition common to every form of production.

In Marx’s view ‘man’ is born from nature with physical and mental abilities united. Marx’s materialism should be understood in this way. The unity of physical and mental abilities is subsequently separated by the bourgeois value-relation.

Marx’s second task is to examine Hegel’s conception of the origin of society. He finds it in the sexual relation between man and woman, or in the ‘genus’, as follows:

The process of genus brings it to Being-for-itself. Life being no more than the immediate idea, the product of this process breaks up into two sides. On the one side, the living individual, which was at first presupposed [or pre-posited] as immediate, is now seen to be mediated and generated. On the other, however, the living individuality, which, on account of its first immediacy, stands in a negative attitude towards generality, sinks in the superior power of the latter (Shorter Logic § 221).

Hegel’s discussion of ‘being-for-itself’ in the Logic argues that the individual expresses himself in relation to another, who takes the role of, so to speak, a mirror. Here (Shorter Logic § 221) the individual breaks into man and woman, and they express themselves in sexual relations to bear their child, a new individual. In reality, ‘being-for-itself’ is the reproduction of ‘man’ as child through the sexual relationship between man as father and woman as mother. Parents become aged and die, so ‘the living being dies’ (Shorter Logic § 221).

However, Hegel does not ask in what form of society individuals as men and women conduct this relationship, but instead takes this association to be a purely natural or sexual one. However, men and women relate to each other in a determinate society. Through the level of development of their society it is determined how much their relationship is humanised, The specificity of society is manifested in the sexual relation as well. (c.f Science of Logic pp 772-4) Their relationship is not simply a physiological relation, but one in which they produce a future for their child. Although they die as individuals, they live in their child, their hope. Hegel writes: ‘The death of merely immediate and individual vitality is the emergence of spirit’ (Shorter Logic § 222).

Hegel evidently thinks that even if an individual dies, the human spirit remains. Hegel’s ‘idea’ displays the influence of Aristotle’s theory of ‘active reason’. The spirit which has emerged from the death of the individual and has become independent is Aristotle’s ‘active reason’, appropriated by Hegel. However, after their deaths human beings leave various forms of spiritual wealth which continue to exist through being appreciated by the living. Hegel mistakes the appropriation of spiritual wealth by the living for a spirit independent of human beings. They leave behind not only their culture but material wealth or civilisation. Their children live with a power ruling over society, the culture and civilisation which their parents have left them.

Hegel thus defines the individual merely as a physical being, the process of metabolism as production in general, and the social relation of individuals as a merely sexual relation. He abstracts their historically specific social characteristics. Though his definitions appear naturalistic, they are in fact an abstraction of specific aspects of historical reality. The standpoint from which Hegel considers ‘man’ indicates that he takes it for granted that most ‘men’ are socially determined as a physical existence alienated from mental activity. He thinks that the separation of mental activity from physical is natural as a matter of fact and that modern private property is a manifestation of this, though these arguments are not consciously made.

In other words, in his Logic Hegel expresses a specific form of society as natural or universal. In that form of society physical ability (causa efficiens, efficient cause, archë) and mental ability (causa finalis, final cause, eidos), are separated and mental ability is superior to and rules over physical. If it is possible to say that as the suffix ‘-ism’ may express some sort of state in which something is dominant, e.g. alcohol-ism or capital-ism, Hegel’s ‘ideal-ism’ may be interpreted as a state in which the idea is dominant as a positing subject. In Hegel’s idealism Marx sees the abstract reflection of modern civil society or capitalism where the ideal subject, i.e. increasing value, is dominant. This is the third point in his implicit critique.

Hegel presupposes the individual in general, abstracting from the society in which he actually lives. The very image of the independent person, e.g. the Robinson Crusoe-type, is but ‘the anticipation of "civil society", in preparation since the sixteenth century and making giant strides towards maturity in the eighteenth’ (Grundrisse, Introduction).

Hegel treats the metabolic process of ‘man’ with nature as a natural process or production in general, that is, he perversely generalises capitalist production. This is determined by the circuit of productive capital, as we will see later in Chapter 3. The definition of capital given by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, in which capital is represented as a mere condition of production, comes from such a reification of self-increasing value. Whereas Hegel abstracts the human being into a merely physical existence, Marx sees the capitalist division of labour and production lurking behind Hegel’s abstraction.

In the Shorter Logic Hegel discusses ‘life’ (Shorter Logic § § 216 – 222) only as a physical life carried out by physical labour, then moves on to recognition’ (Shorter Logic§ 223 – 235), which he treats as an activity of the human mind on a level quite separate from physical life. He defines mental activity only as ‘recognition’, and in this Marx finds a crucial problem. He acknowledges this problem but does not confine himself to mental aspects of human labour in his discussion of production in general. Rather he is concerned with mental activity in the capitalist economy.

In considering production in general Marx takes the human mind and body to be naturally united. This unity is broken by the capitalist division of labour in which the capitalist appears as mental labourer and the wage-worker as physical labourer. The capitalist orders the worker to labour in material production. Capital itself necessitates and posits a specific person, the capitalist, who mediates it. The capitalist has a mission to measure capital-value, which has to be maintained and increased in prospect during production. The capitalist’s mental activity continues in the process of circulation which actualises this possibility. Capital is personified in the capitalist, who internalises its value in -capitalist consciousness.

Although Hegel seems to define the process of human life as one in which ‘man’ engages only as a physical existence, he unconsciously reproduces capitalist production from the theoretical standpoint of the capitalist, without acknowledging this. As we will see later in detail, the ‘subject’ in the Doctrines of Being and of Essence is an ideal subject par excellence. In a certain respect Marx finds that Hegel’s subject implies a specific person engaged in capitalist activity. That person appears as the spiritual subject of an organism which, so Hegel explains, eternally reproduces itself as a process of recognition. In fact Hegel’s conception represents for Marx the demiurgos of bourgeois society: value and capital.

Hegel’s idealism, especially in the Logic, expresses the capitalist mode of production abstractly, giving an account of its potential and essence. Unawares, he indicts capitalist production by defining the subject of the metabolic process as a merely physical labourer divorced from mental labour. The absence of mental labour in his definition of material life is a clue to certain features of his work. Marx explicates what Hegel has expressed only implicitly.

Critique of political economy and production in general

In the second section of the Introduction to the Grundrisse, Marx again undertakes a critique of Hegel in the form of a critique of political economy, even though Hegel does not appear by name. The validity of this undertaking will become apparent when we consider the third section of his Introduction.

Marx considers three pairs of concepts – consumption and production, distribution and production, and exchange and production – derived from the four categories of political economy production, consumption, distribution and exchange. Then he clarifies the permutations between each pair of categories in order to show that they form a self-producing totality. And he demonstrates that, though the political economists seem to describe production in general, they in fact describe capitalist production from the standpoint of the circuit of productive capital (P ... C-M-C ... P), where the determinations of capital are invisible.

Consumption and production

Marx sets the pair in reverse order so production is last, and this is the same with the other two pairs. This order gives a clue to his critique of the political economists.

Because Adam Smith studies capital from the viewpoint of the circuit of productive capital, he believes that the movement of capital starts from production. Therefore, with respect to the relation of production to consumption, he considers individual consumption as an act apart from production, and he does not take it up in relation to production. He thinks that individual consumption is unproductive and should be restrained in order to increase capital-stock, which is to be invested as capital in production. He merely affirms consumption when it is productive, and he emphasises parsimony as a subjective fact in capitalist accumulation. Though he asserts that the purpose of production is individual consumption, in fact he theorises production for the sake of production.

However, is individual consumption always unproductive? The individual returns to the process of production afterwards, not only with physical abilities reproduced, but with some knowledge of production and a revitalised morale. The political economist omits the subjective aspect of reproduction, which is typically shown to move from consumption back to production. But why does the political economist abstract from the subjective factor? This is because production is considered from the capitalist standpoint, so in this way any funds to reproduce the lives of workers appear as costs to be reduced. The subjective factor belongs to and is monopolised by the capitalist.

Here we find the same problems as above. Political economists, such as David Ricardo, bring into focus the distribution of a net product or surplus product amongst industrial capitalists and landlords, analysing the rate of distribution of profit or surplus-value which determines the rate of capitalist accumulation. In this sense, Ricardo is an economist of distribution and capitalist accumulations.

However, for Marx the most basic relation in capitalism is the one between capitalist and wage-worker, and it is between them that the conditions of production are distributed. The means of production belong to the capitalist, and labour-power to the wage-labourer. Therefore the relations of distribution include not only the distribution of surplus-value but the distribution or separation of the subjective and objective conditions of production, which is the basic presupposition of capitalism. Ricardo considers only the means of production, taking labour-power for granted as a natural presupposition. In this lacuna there lies the crucial problem of the distribution or alienation of the conditions of production in capitalism.

This distribution or separation is presupposed historically when the process of capitalist production begins and then brings about these alienated conditions as effects, so reproducing the capital relation.

The process of capitalist production is as follows:

  1. distribution or separation of the conditions of production;
  2. production of surplus-value;
  3. distribution of surplus-value.

By contrast Ricardo’s order of things is to consider production by way of the distribution of surplus-value, and to proceed back to production in this circuit of productive capital.

Exchange and production

We find the same problems here. Smith sees the process from the standpoint of the circuit of productive capital, even when he considers exchange. Marx defines three kinds of exchange:

  1. immediate exchange, which links labourers within a division of labour, but without commodity-exchange;
  2. commodity-exchange, which links labourers within a division of labour in commercial society (P ... C-M-C ... P);
  3. independent exchange, which functions as an end in itself (M – C – M').

For Marx the essential nature of exchange is manifested in the third form. The content of this kind of exchange is represented by an increase in money or value (M' – M= ΔM). This movement towards increasing value subsumes production (M – C ... P ... C' – M'), and moreover it turns into a movement to produce as an end in itself, i.e. the circuit of productive capital (P ... C' – M' – M – C ... P). It is from this standpoint that Smith observes exchange.

The third form of exchange listed above includes the process of realising surplus-value (C' – M'). From Smith’s viewpoint, however, it is secondary, since to him it is a process for obtaining the conditions of production.

The nature of exchange, when it serves to increase value, is not visible to Smith, nor is it comprehensible to him that the increase of value begins with an exchange between labour-power as a commodity and money as capital, both of which are productively consumed in order to produce surplus-value in the process of capitalist production.

Because money-capital is powerful enough to link the separate conditions of production, including science and technology, the productive power of social labour appears as if it were an aspect of capital. The mental labour of the capitalist in pursuing an increase in the value of capital also appears as if it produces material wealth. Smith cannot see beneath the circuit of money-capital, which increases capital-value, because it moves within the visible circuit of productive capital. Therefore he defines money merely as a means of exchange.

Marx analyses the capitalist determinations of production, consumption, distribution and exchange as moments of capital, so what economists call ‘production in general’ is not trans-historical, but is in fact production based on capital, or production which includes the determinations of capital. In the lacunae in their analyses are buried the capitalist determinations of these four categories.

The nature of this omission is the same with Hegel. When he mentions ‘life’ (human individual), ‘life-process’ (the process of metabolism between man and nature) and ‘species’ (social relation) in which the individual is linked with others, he treats human beings as a merely physical existence, abstracting the human mind as the subject of ‘recognition’. He keeps silent about the human mind when he considers the three subjects – life, life-process, species - which in reality exist as moments of capitalist production. In the abstraction and omission that we find in Hegel’s account there are hidden away the capitalist determinations of production, consumption, distribution and exchange.

As we have just seen, the process of capitalist production begins with an exchange between capital and labour-power in order to link the distributed conditions of production which are productively consumed in the production process.

Marx’s order of analysis, A. Consumption to B. Distribution to C. Exchange in the second section of the Introduction to the Grundrisse, is in fact the correct analytical order for revealing the capitalist determinations of the four categories which prima facie constitute ‘production in general’. Exchange, at the end of this progress, is the determination from which capital originates. The essential nature of exchange is shown in the form of circulation, M – C – C' – M', which signifies an increase in value.

Marx’s next task is therefore to inquire just how to demonstrate the genesis of capital, so he considers his method and system or plan. He handles this task in the third section of the Introduction to the Grundrisse, but employs a synthetic order – exchange or circulation, then distribution or separation and reconnection, and finally consumption, including industrial and individual - that is contrary to the analytical order in which he considered these categories in the second section.

The method of political economy and ‘analytical method, synthetic method, the simple, and classification’

At the beginning of the third section of Marx’s Introduction to the Grundrisse, The method of political economy, we find the following paragraph. It is often cited because in it Marx spoke of ascending and descending methods:

The economists of the seventeenth century, e.g. always begin with the living whole, with population, nation, state, several states, etc.; but they always conclude by discovering through analysis a small number of determinant, abstract, general relations such as division of labour, money, value, etc. As soon as these individual moments had been more or less firmly established and abstracted, there began the economic systems, which ascended from the simple, such as labour, division of labour, need, exchange-value, to the level of the state, exchange between nations and the world market. The latter is obviously the scientifically correct method (Method of Political Economy).

Here Marx takes William Petty’s Political arithmetick of 1690 as representative of the economic works of the seventeenth century. Petty compares three superpowers, France, the Netherlands and England. He inquires into the causes of the power of nations and concludes that it lies in the money necessary to employ wage-workers in manufacture. He thus descends from the nation down to money.

For the ascending method Marx turns to Adam Smith’s The wealth of nations of 1776, in which Smith inquires into the nature and causes of wealth, not merely of Britain, but of all nations, and he demonstrates how the division of labour brings about material abundance even among the middle and lower classes of society. He ascends from the simple category ‘division of labour’ to exchange, distribution, the accumulation of capital and lastly to the revenue of the state. The wealth of nations thus reflects the ascending method.

However, Marx is conscious not only of Petty and Smith, but also of Hegel. This is indicated by Marx’s use of Hegel’s terminology ‘through analysis’ and ‘the simple’ in the quotation above. Moreover when Marx asserts that the systematic method with which we ascend from the abstract or ‘the simple’ to ‘the concrete’ or the complex is scientifically correct, he evidently follows Hegel.

Marx’s characterisation of the method of the seventeenth-century economists is based on this definition of ‘analytical method’ by Hegel:

While finite recognition presupposes what is distinguished from it as something already found and confronting it – the various facts of external nature or of consciousness – it has, in the first place, 1. formal identity or the abstraction of generality for the form of its action. Its activity therefore consists in analysing the given concrete, isolating its differences, and giving them the form of abstract generality. Or it leaves the concrete as a ground, and by setting aside the unessential-looking particulars, brings into relief a concrete general, the Genus or Force and Law. This is the analytical method (Shorter Logic § 227).

According to Marx, the method of the seventeenth-century economists coincides with what Hegel defines as ‘analytical method’, quoted above. But the method of eighteenth-century economists follows what Hegel calls ‘synthetic method’ defined as follows:

The movement of the synthetic method is the reverse of the analytical method. The latter starts from the individual, and proceeds to the general; in the former the starting-point is given by the general (as a definition), from which we proceed by particularising (in classification) to the individual (the theorem). The synthetic method thus presents itself as the development of the moments of the Notion on the objects (Shorter Logic § 228).

The wealth of nations systematically reflects the synthetic method. It starts from the simplest definition, division of labour or production, and proceeds to exchange, distribution, and reproduction or accumulation of capital. It functions in a spiral because it subsumes definitions which have been posited as presuppositions (‘the pre-posited’ [Voraus-Setzung]). For example, in Book II reproduction develops in the following order: from division of stock or capital (Chapter 1), to division of revenue (Chapter 2), to productive labour (Chapter 3), to profit and interest (Chapter 4), to capital investment (Chapter 5). These themes are considered in a spiral as factors of reproduction.

However, as we can see from the discussion of reproduction in Book II of The wealth of nations, Smith does not explicate the determinations of capital, but rather describes them in physical terms as natural or as ‘production in general’, so he materialises capital-value. Marx criticises ‘production in general’ as defined in The wealth of nations and then redefines it as historically determined. This task also encompasses a critique of Hegel’s Logic, arguing that both classic authors take capitalist production to be natural. Marx thinks that Smith displays the material aspect of capitalist production, overlooking the formal aspect, whereas Hegel expresses the formal or ideal aspect. He does this in demonstrating the self-creation of the ‘idea’, which is in fact the value-consciousness characteristic of the bourgeois. In that way the material aspect is subject to the formal. Hegel’s Logic is the self-creation of the ‘idea’, but Marx exposes this as capitalist production described from the viewpoint of the capitalist, even though it is described by Hegel as natural.

Marx gives a critical assessment of Hegel’s synthetic method:

The concrete is concrete because it is the concentration of many determinations, hence unity of the diverse. It appears in the process of thinking, therefore, as a process of concentration, as a result, not as a point of departure, even though it is the point of departure in reality and hence also the point of departure for intuition and conception. Along the first path the full conception was evaporated to yield an abstract determination; along the second, the abstract determinations lead towards a reproduction of the concrete by way of thought. In this way Hegel fell into the illusion of conceiving the real as the product of the thought concentrating itself, probing its own depths, and unfolding itself out of itself, by itself, whereas the method of ascending from the abstract to the concrete is only the way in which thought appropriates the concrete, reproduces it as the spiritually concrete. But this is by no means the process by which the concrete itself comes into being (Method of Political Economy).

Hegel-defines the analytical method as analysing the concrete and finding an abstract general form, while Marx defines ‘the first path’, i.e. the method of descending from the concrete to the abstract, as the process in which the concrete is dissolved into an abstract determination. What Marx calls ‘the first path’ is based on Hegel’s analytical method.

Hegel says that the synthetic method is ‘the development of the moments of the notion’, proceeding from the abstract or general and then particularising to the individual instance. Marx calls this the method of ascending from the abstract to the concrete’. This in order – from the general by way of particularising to the individual instance – represents Hegel’s synthetic method. In Marx’s work this is reflected in the triadic composition of the Chapter on Capital in the Grundrisse as I. Generality of Capital, II. Particularity of Capital, III. Individuality of Capital.

What Hegel says in ‘the development of the moments of the notion’ signifies for Marx that reality is mentally reproduced and appropriated as the concrete concept. This is a totality of manifold determinations in the mind, so categories in the Doctrine of Being become presuppositions of the notion of capital, and categories in the Doctrine of Essence develop from generality or the ‘notion’ itself, towards particularity or judgement, and up to individuality or syllogism. Marx thus turns the two doctrines of the objective logic into objective moments of the mental reproduction of the concrete. This reflects Hegel’s triad – generality, particularity, individuality – in the Doctrine of the Notion.

However, Hegel regards the synthetic method as the process in which the real or concrete is posited, because he thinks that the process of thinking is the same as that of positing something in actuality. He does not distinguish between the two processes. For him, thinking means actualising the real, and therefore the only labour which he recognises is alien, spiritual labour. The Logic is the most abstract description of the ‘idea’, which objectives itself as the demiurgos of the universe through its spiritual labour.

By-contrast Marx insists that the concrete concept, bourgeois society, which he and Hegel take as their object of study, really exists outside the minds of those who think about it. So why has Marx compared his method with Hegel’s and in fact praised his synthetic method as scientifically correct? Why, in constructing the Chapter on Capital, is Marx applying Hegel’s triad of generality, particularity and individuality?

Here Marx intends critically to absorb Hegel’s idealism, the idealism through which Hegel unconsciously describes capitalism, in which the ideal subject (value) is dominant. Marx reads the Logic as a work in which the ideal subject or ‘idea’ alienates itself, i.e. posits the concrete or the real, as the social logic of value-consciousness in the person who recognises value in property. The relation of private exchange necessitates a subjective or ideal activity to equate products and to effect their exchange. Because of that, the activity becomes a subject which appears as if it should posit the concrete or the real.

Hegel accepts a reversal of ideas and reality as a natural fact and describes it in the Logic. The relations of private property then divide human activity into mental and physical labour, and mental labour rules over physical. Hegel takes alienation in the Logic to be natural, because he is ignorant of the fact that alienation is historical par excellence. In the Economic and philosophical manuscripts (1844) Marx has already detected the perverse character of the Logic, writing that Hegel grasps the positive aspect of labour ‘within alienation or abstraction’.

Therefore Marx’s critique of Hegel’s idealism is a critique of pseudo-naturalism and pseudo-historicism. Marx’s critical absorption of the Logic is one of the important factors in his critique of political economy, and it is to be understood as a reading of the Logic as an account of value-consciousness in persons who represent the ideal character of modern private property. Marx’s work is supplemented by a critique of the political economy of Smith and Ricardo, who describe material aspects of capitalist production but are indifferent to its ideal aspects, including the drive to self-expansion. This is because these economists unconsciously reify or transubstantiate value-consciousness into material products, and mistake it for what is purely material. In short, Marx reveals the determinations of capital within what the economists treat as a purely material system of production. As Hegel is ‘a vulgar idealist’, so Smith and Ricardo are ‘vulgar materialists’ (N 687, M 567).

Marx considers where a systematic critique of political economy should start, taking up ‘the simplest economic category’ (N 101, M 36), i.e. exchange-value, possession, money, exchange and labour in general, which he derives from Chapter 5 on money of Book I of The wealth of nations. He traces them back to their point of departure, inquiring where and how money is generated, and noting that from money comes capital. Accepting Hegel’s view that the end of an analysis is the same as the starting point of a synthesis, i.e. ‘the simple’, Marx confirms this in economic categories. Hegel writes:

The general is in and for itself the first moment of the Notion because it is the simple moment, and the particular is only subsequent to it because it is the mediated moment; and conversely the simple is the more general, and the concrete, as in itself differentiated and so mediated, is that which already presupposes the transition from a first. (Science of Logic p 801)

‘The general’ is simple and abstract enough to develop by mediating particular determinations under itself. ‘The concrete’ is 'the manifold’ or ‘the complex’, an ‘individual’ instance, which is composed of particular moments. At first the concrete is abstracted into ‘the simple’, and then ‘the simple’ is developed into the ‘notion’, proceeding from ‘the general’ by particularisation up to the moments of ‘the individual’ or ‘one determined totality’. Hegel defines ‘determinate being’ (Dasein) or ‘what is there’ as a reproduction of ‘what has already been’ (Gewesen) or as the existence of ‘essence’ (Wesen). ‘Determinate being’ is what has been posited by ‘essence’.

Employing this demonstration, Marx argues in economic terms that the product undergoes a transformation into the commodity, the commodity into money, and money into capital. Then capital as subject posits the product, the commodity and money. The first ‘determinate beings’ (product, commodity and money) are what is posited by the ‘essence’ (capital). They are forms of existence of capital.

Neither Hegel nor Marx conceives the progress from ‘the simple’ to ‘the complex’ in a one-sided way. Rather ‘the simple’ changes into ‘the complex" and then ‘the simple’ is determined as what ‘the complex’ has posited. What is at first ‘pre-posited’ or presupposed is then posited and reproduced as a result. This forms the circle of ‘pre-positing’ or presupposition and ‘positing’ or ‘the posited’. Therefore once something is ‘pre-posited’, it is then repeatedly posited as the next ‘pre-posited’ or presupposition, forming a circulation which looks as if it should exist forever.

The point at which Marx departs from Hegel is his judgment on whether this circulation is merely logical, or whether the first ‘pre-positings’ or presuppositions were originally manifested in the course of history and then receded as capitalism developed.

Indeed both Hegel and Marx posit ‘the general’ at the outset, though for each the content is different. Hegel’s ‘the general’ is the ‘self-cause’ which has no historical origin. It is an eternal subject, whereas Marx’s is historical in form, the alienated relation of private exchange. This has become an ideal subject independent of the persons who live within the social relationship of private exchange.

Marx argues that once the logical presupposition is given, it posits the same presupposition as a result, and thus continues to reproduce itself. That is the way an organic system reproduces itself. However, he inquires where the first presuppositions were given, and he finds that they were posited historically. The logical circulation of self-reproduction begins just after the logical presuppositions have been established.

Hegel does not inquire if these logical presuppositions are independent of their historical actuality or not, though he writes a good deal about history, taking the historical subject to be what is natural. His ideal subject or ‘Idea’ is in fact an abstract expression of value. As the demiurgos it posits itself in the Logic, it posits nature in the Philosophy of nature, and it posits humankind in the Phenomenology of spirit.

Marx uses a logico-historical method when he starts to demonstrate that the bourgeois economy is a system which reproduces itself. The first logical presupposition reproduces itself and as a result it generates the next presupposition. Using this demonstration he shows how the first presuppositions were posited in early capitalism: from exchange in the thirteenth century, to manufacture from the sixteenth century onwards, to the industrial revolution from the last half of the eighteenth century, and eventually to the first capitalist crisis in 1825.

‘The simple’ in Marx’s ascending or synthetic method is therefore a presupposition which was posited in history. But at first lie takes ‘the simple’ to be a logical presupposition. It becomes the immanent moment of logical circulation, e.g. the circuit of money-capital and the accumulation of capital in the Grundrisse, and on that proof he grounds his account of the historical origin and development of ‘the simple’ as the primitive community and primitive accumulation. In this demonstration he uses a logico-historical order. Using that methodology he criticises Hegel, who assumes that presupposition and result, or cause and effect, should continue infinitely to form a logical circulation. Hegel does this in his theory of ‘positing reflection’ and ‘causality’ in the Doctrine of Essence with respect to the bourgeois economy.

Marx asserts that reproductive circulation was the historical presupposition for the bourgeois economy, and he descends analytically to primitive accumulation. This demonstrates that the value-form generates capital. Capital links the presuppositions or conditions of production, which are separated in primitive accumulation. And it will cease to exist, as Marx argues later, through the annulment of the law of value. This is caused by the development of fixed capital, which leaves disposable time to be enjoyed when human emancipation is achieved.

In short, bourgeois society is not a closed society, but is dependent on the past and open to the future. By contrast Hegel unconsciously describes it in the Logic as a closed system which the ideal subject regenerates and reproduces infinitely as its own organism. By reading Hegel’s ‘idea’ as the intersubjective value-consciousness of the bourgeoisie, Marx uncovers the capitalist economy itself in the Logic.

Marx reads the Logic as the phenomenology or genesis of the value-consciousness described in the Chapter on Money and the Chapter on Capital in the Grundrisse. In the Chapter on Money he reveals the way in which this bourgeois consciousness is ideally expressed through the relation of private exchange, which is analogous to Hegel’s definition of ‘being-for-itself’. This is in fact the relationship of commodity-owners in the market. In the market, value is separated from them through the equation of their commodities, on the presumption that their commodities have equivalent value in the first place. Marx touches on how commodity-exchangers take part in the formation of money without being aware of this equation, and he begins his demonstration of the genesis of money by considering the value-form and the process of exchange. At this point commodity-owners share their value-consciousness intersubjectively in the money in which their consciousness is materialised.

At the beginning of the Chapter on Capital Marx defines capital as the generality which increases value, changing its temporal forms. Through alienated relations, value produces value-consciousness, which mediates capital. Capital-value then posits capitalist consciousness as a capitalist who ideally identifies particular concrete forms of value with an abstract capital-value. The capitalist mediates these concrete forms of value as the incarnation of capital-value in a circular motion.

The capitalist carries on an exchange with the wage-labourer as a private owner with an equal title. However, through this exchange, the capitalist aims at ‘form as content’, so the form of exchange, which is value, has become its content or purpose. The wage-labourer, who is now subsumed under the process of the production of capital as mere variable capital, must engage in material production, and the wage-labourer is subject to capitalist consciousness, which strives to increase capital-value. As a result, the wage-labourer produces not only surplus-value which belongs to the capitalist, but also a loss of property for wage-labourers themselves. The wage-labourer produces the capital-labour relation, and it becomes evident that capital itself is the accumulation of the surplus labour of wage-labourers. A new consciousness is born as the wage-labourer suspects that capitalist property is against the interests of wage-labourers. In that way commonplace bourgeois consciousness can be broken down and antagonistic consciousness can emerge.

In considering ‘disposable time’ Marx argues that value-consciousness arises from the exchange-relation of commodities, which is presupposed as the product of ‘individual immediate labour’. But in the course of capitalist development, that sort of labour is replaced by 'collective scientific labour’. This arises through technological innovation embodied in machinery or fixed capital. Thus the law of value ceases to operate, because the labour objectified in the product decreases to a minimum. Then capital-value consciousness loses ground and begins to vanish, leaving behind proletarian consciousness. Eventually this develops into a free society.

In that way Marx’s phenomenology of spirit is developed in the Grundrisse. When he evaluates Hegel’s synthetic method as the way to reproduce the real, he does not accept it as a merely formal explanation, but as a real mode of demonstration based on the dramaturgy of the birth and death of value-consciousness. Marx’s plan is as follows:

The classification obviously has to be

  1. The general, abstract determinations ...
  2. The categories which make up the inner structure of bourgeois society and on which the fundamental classes rest. Capital, wage-labour, landed property ...
  3. Concentration of bourgeois society in the form of the state ...
  4. The international relation of production ...
  5. The world market and crisis (Method of Politcal Economy).

Marx's discussion of method and ‘the simple’, followed by his classificatory plan, reflects the order found in Hegel’s work in the Doctrine of the Notion: ‘The statement of the second moment of the notion, or of the determinateness of the general, is classification in accordance with some external consideration’ (Shorter Logic § 230).

‘The simple’ at the beginning of systematic explanation is also ‘the general’ or differentia specifica, and it becomes particularised, as is shown in the classification above. After the plan just quoted Marx made other plans in the Chapter on Money (N 227-8, M 151 – 2) and the Chapter on Capital (N 264, M 187; N 275, M 199). The plans in the Chapter on Capital are clearer. Following Hegel, these plans are composed in the triadic order I. Generality of Capital, II. Particularity of Capital and III. Individuality of Capital. This triadic plan is manifested throughout the Chapter on Capital of the Grundrisse.

Mode of production and ideology, and ‘the absolute idea'

In the fourth and final section of the Introduction to the Grundrisse Marx makes eight notes on the problems he has kept in mind:

  1. War developed earlier than peace; the way in which certain economic relations such as wage-labour, machinery etc. develop earlier, owing to war and in the armies etc. ...
  2. Relation of previous ideal historiography to the real. Namely of the so-called histories of culture, which are only histories of religions and states ...
  3. Secondary and tertiary matters; in general, derivative, inherited, not original relations of production ...
  4. Accusations about the materialism of this conception. Relation to naturalistic materialism.
  5. Dialectic of the concepts productive force (means of production) and relation of production ...
  6. The uneven development of material production relative to e.g. artistic development. In general, the concept of progress not to be conceived in the usual abstractness. Modern art etc.
    Roman private law ...
  7. This conception appears as necessary development. But legitimation of chance. How. (Of freedom also ... ) .
  8. The point of departure obviously from the natural characteristic; (Grundrisse, Relations of Production).

The eight items have already been analysed in detail. For that reason, we mention only their connection with Hegel's Logic.

So far in his discussion Marx has reflected Hegel’s consideration of individual life, life-process and ‘genus’ as discussed in ‘life’ under the ‘idea’ in the Doctrine of Notion, the last book of the Logic. And he has studied method, ‘the simple’ and classification. After critically reflecting on ‘life’ and ‘recognition’ in the first three sections of the Introduction to the Grundrisse, Marx takes up the absolute idea’ in the fourth section.

Following Hegel, who considers such topics as nature and spirit, art and religion, philosophy, ‘the beginning’, dialectic, system and method in his Logic, Marx investigates the bourgeois mode of production in the first three sections of the Introduction to the Grundrisse. Then he gropes for his own historical theory of modes of production, applying in the fourth section the summary listed above (first, third and fifth items). The fourth section of the Introduction to the Grundrisse evidently fills out Marx’s scheme by criticising the ‘absolute idea’.

In his Introduction to the Grundrisse Marx intends to make use of Hegel’s idealism, which argues the dominance of an ideal subject. This occurs in the Doctrines of Being and of Essence, but as a perverse expression of capitalist production. Marx reveals this logic of modern value-consciousness, and so criticises Hegel’s work as ideology.