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

Chapter 2
The Chapter on Money and the Doctrine of Being

Product, commodity and money, and 'identity, difference, opposition and contradiction'

As noted in the Preface to the present work, the Chapter on Money in Marx's Grundrisse corresponds to the Doctrine of Being in Hegel's Logic. However, at the beginning of the Chapter on Money we find the following paragraph, which is written with reference to Hegel's description of 'Identity, Difference, Opposition and Contradiction' at the beginning of the Doctrine of Essence. Marx writes:

The simple fact that the commodity exists doubly, in one aspect as a specific product whose natural form of determinate being [natürliche Dasein] ideally contains (latently contains) its exchange-value (money), in which all connection with the natural form of determinate being of the product is stripped away again - this double, differentiated existence [Existenz] must develop into a difference, and the difference into opposition and contradiction (N 147, M 81).

Why does Marx write in that way? He does so, because he is thinking in the following manner. The identity of a simple product with itself is differentiated into dual form: 1. the 'natural form of determinate being of the product' (in other words, use-value; in fact Marx refrains from using this term for a reason explained later), and 2. the 'form of exchange-value'. When the product is brought into an exchange-relation it becomes a commodity. When exchange-value, which the commodity-owner pursues, is further realised as money, the immanent difference between use-value and exchange-value becomes an external opposition between commodity and money. As we shall see later, this opposition will develop into a contradiction within money, and from money arises capital. Marx thus links the movement 'from product to commodity to money and on to capital' with the movement 'from identity to difference to opposition and on to contradiction', as Hegel writes in the transition from 'being' to 'essence'.

A commodity cannot simply exist as such, and so money is generated. From money arises capital. In the paragraph cited above, Marx obtains a theoretical perspective on this development. In other words, the product is explicitly defined as a commodity when it is the product of capital, or when capital posits or produces a product. Therefore the commodity is by nature commodity-capital. This means that the product is posited as a commodity through the capital-relation, into which the value-relation has transformed itself. If we inquire why the product exists as such, we must trace it back to capital. 'Positing reflection' at the beginning of the Doctrine of Essence is the determination which mediates 'being' and 'essence'. 'Determinate being' (Dasein) will be revealed as that which 'essence' (Wesen) has posited as 'ground' (Grund). It is the semblance of 'essence'.

Using this logic Marx connects the commodity with capital in this way. The commodity as 'determinate being' is in fact the product which capital has posited. Because the product becomes a commodity, the commodity gives rise to money, and money gives rise to capital. But now capital posits the product as a commodity. Therefore the product at the beginning of this analysis is de facto that which capital has posited.

For capital, the product as 'the simple' or 'the posited' is a result. The product is thus posited or reproduced at the end in order to become the next presupposition. Marx has obtained this perspective on the circular relationship of presupposition or 'the posited' from Hegel's 'positing reflection'.

Marx grasps the relation between the Chapter on Money and the Chapter on Capital in a similar way. The logical relation between presupposition as 'the simple' or the product, and 'the posited' as 'the complex' or capital, is already established in the Introduction to the Grundrisse. This is the logical phase of the logico-historical circulation through which what is historically posited is reproduced as the next presupposition in logic.

Marx uses this methodological perspective in the Chapter on Money. In that work he interprets Hegel's Doctrine of Being as the genesis of the value-consciousness shared amongst the bourgeoisie, in effect a phenomenology of the bourgeois spirit.

The two aspects of the commodity and 'likeness and unlikeness'

At the beginning of the Chapter on Money in the Grundrisse, Marx defines the commodity as follows:

The commodity is neither posited as constantly exchangeable, nor exchangeable with every other commodity in its natural properties; not in its natural likeness with itself, but as unlike itself, as something unlike itself, as exchange-value (N 142, M 77).

What is 'natural likeness' in the above quotation? Marx uses the word 'natural' as an antonym of 'social'. It means something that is free from social determinations, or free from the commodity-money relation. In other words, historical and social determinations are abstracted from 'natural' ones. Therefore the 'natural likeness' or 'natural properties' of the commodity means use-value or 'the product as such', which people obtain from nature through labour.

So long as the relations of the primitive community persist, human beings as natural force or natural form are directly united with nature itself or natural matter. When members of the community are dissociated into modern individuals, they relate to each other through the exchange of their products. Then the product is no longer a mere natural 'likeness' but becomes a commodity. The product as a commodity is not posited in its natural likeness to itself or as use-value, but as unlike itself or as exchange-value. Its use-value now changes into 'use-value for others', or social usevalue.

This two-fold determination of the product as a commodity is based on Hegel's 'pure reflection': 'Likeness is an Identity only of those things which are not the same, not identical with each other; and Unlikeness is a relation of things that are unlike (Shorter Logic §118).

Both likeness and unlikeness are defined, not in the sense that they are separated and indifferent to each other, but in the sense that they hold each other as their own indispensable element, connected in their own definition. Hegel continues:

In the case of difference, in short, we like to see identity, and in the case of identity we like to see difference. Within the range of the empirical sciences, however, the one of these two categories is often allowed to put the other out of sight and mind. Thus the scientific problem at one time is to reduce existing differences to identity; on another occasion, with equal one-sidedness, to discover new differences (Shorter Logic §118).

Marx does not try to discover a definition of identity without differences, nor one of differences without identity, but one in which both 'likeness' and 'unlikeness' are mutually mediated. He does this in his critique of political economy, one of the typical empirical sciences, by treating it as the self-recognition of bourgeois society. His critique of Hegel also limits the validity of the Logic to bourgeois society.

Marx considers in detail how exchange-value is generated and transformed:

I equate each of the commodities with a third ; i.e. unlike themselves. This third, which differs from them both [the two commodities in exchange], exists initially only in the head [of the commodity-owners], as a conception, since it expresses a relation; just as relations in general can only be thought, when they should be fixed, in distinction from the subjects who relate to each other (N 143, M 7 7 - 8).

By using Hegel's definition of 'likeness', i.e. the identity of what is not identical, Marx considers commodities on a new level. He calls their 'likeness' exchange-value.

What is exchange-value in reality? Marx thinks that it is the relation of private exchange, which is unconsciously separated from the subjects who form the relation. Exchange-value arises through the action of equating products as commodities. This can occur because of the presumption that an equivalent exchange-value originally exists in each commodity.

The use-value of a commodity for its owner is a non-use-value. Thinking of Adam Smith's explanations of exchange and division of labour in The wealth of nations, Marx writes as follows: 'Exchange and division of labour reciprocally condition one another. Since everybody works for himself but his product is nothing for him' (N 158, M 91). The commodity-owner brings his product to exchange. Use-value is non-use-value or 'nothing' for the commodity-owner, but it may be a use-value or 'being' for others. Each use-value is different, but in order to be exchanged, each must be equated to another through 'a third'. What is 'the third'? What really exists in the exchange-relation is the use-value of each commodity. Therefore 'the third' can only be another relation through which products with different use-values are linked. This relation exists only in the minds of persons. It is what is thought.

It is noteworthy that the relation of 'the third' comes to exist only when persons, who relate to each other, keep it in mind. However, they do not notice this mental action. Though they form the relation of commodity-exchangers, they presume that exchange-value exists originally in a commodity, without an awareness that exchange-value derives from an unconscious reflection of the real exchange-relation between their products. Exchange-value is a relation which is abstracted unawares from exchange and transformed into an immanent factor of the commodity itself. In that way the real exchange-relation is alienated as exchange-value from the exchangers and is materialised in the commodity.

In writing the sentences quoted above, Marx is surely remembering the following passage from Hegel:

Difference is 1. immediate difference, i.e. diversity. In diversity each of the different things is by itself what it is, and is indifferent to its relation to any other. This relation is therefore external to it. Because of the indifference of the diverse things to the difference between them, the difference falls outside them into a third, something comparable ( (Shorter Logic §117))

Hegel does not explain 'the third' any further, but Marx assumes that it is the value-consciousness of commodity-owners, which they unconsciously project on to their products and take to be an original feature of the commodity itself.