The dialectics of the Abstract & the Concrete in Marx’s Capital
Chapter 5 – The Method of Ascent from the Abstract to the Concrete in Marx’s Capital

Contradiction as a Principle of Development of Theory

Let us further analyse the fundamental difference between deduction of categories in Capital and formal-logical deduction, that is, the concrete essence of the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete.

We have established that the Ricardian concept of value, that is, a universal category of the system of a science, is an abstraction, an incomplete and formal one, and therefore also incorrect. Ricardo regarded value as a concept expressing the abstract general features inherent in each of the developed categories, each of the concrete phenomena to which it applies, and he therefore does not study value specially, in the strictest abstraction from all the other categories.

Thus the theoretical definitions of the basic universal category and the methods of its definition contain already, as in an embryo, the whole difference between the deduction of categories by the metaphysician Ricardo and the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete used by the dialectician Marx.

Quite consciously, Marx constructs the theoretical definitions of value by a most thoroughgoing concrete analysis of simple commodity exchange, leaving aside, as irrelevant, a host of phenomena that developed on this basis and the categories that express these phenomena. That is, on the one hand, really complete abstraction, and on the other, really meaningful rather than formal (‘generic’) abstraction.

Only this conception, assuming a concrete historical approach to things, makes possible special analysis of the form of value, special inquiry into the concrete content of the universal category-analysis of value as a concrete sensually given reality, as an elementary economic concreteness, and not as a concept.

Value is not analysed as a mental abstraction of the general but rather as a fully specific economic reality actually unfolding before the observer and therefore capable of being specially studied, as reality possessing its own concrete historical content, the theoretical description of which is identical with elaboration of definitions of the concept of value.

Marx shows that the real content of the form of value is not, as Ricardo believed, simply abstract quantitative identity of portions of labour but rather dialectical contradictory identity of the opposites of relative and equivalent forms of expression of the value of each commodity entering the relation of exchange. The point where Marx’s dialectics opposes Ricardo’s metaphysical mode of reasoning is the fact that Marx revealed the inner contradiction of the simple commodity form.

To put the matter differently, the content of the universal category, of the concrete concept of value is not elaborated by Marx on the basis of the abstract identity principle but rather on the basis of the dialectical principle of the identity of mutually assuming poles, of mutually exclusive definitions.

That means that the content of the value category is revealed through establishing the inner contradictions of the elementary form of value realised as exchange of a commodity for another commodity. Marx presents commodity as a living contradiction of the reality denoted by that term, as a living unresolved antagonism within that reality. A commodity contains a contradiction within itself, in its immanent economic definitions.

Let us note that the inner dichotomy into mutually exclusive and at the same time mutually presupposing moments is characteristic, as Marx shows, of each of the two commodities participating in an act of exchange.

Each of them comprises in itself the economic form of value as its immanent economic definiteness. In an exchange, in the act of substitution of one commodity for another, this inner economic definiteness of each of the commodities is merely manifested or expressed and in no way created.

That is the central point, the understanding of which determines not only the problem of value but also the logical problem of the concrete concept as a unity of mutually exclusive and at the same time mutually presupposing definitions.

The phenomenon of actual exchange presents the following picture: one commodity is replaced in the hands of the commodity owner by another, and this replacement is reciprocal. The replacement can only take place when both mutually substitutable commodities are equated as values. ‘[’lie question therefore arises in this form: what is value?

What is the economic reality the nature of which is revealed in an exchange? How is it to be expressed in a concept? The actual exchange shows that each of the commodities is, vis--vis its owner, exchange value only, and in no way use-value. In the hands of the other owner each of the participants in the exchange sees use-value only, that is, a thing that can satisfy his needs. That is the reason why he endeavours to possess it. And this relation is absolutely identical on both sides.

From the point of view of one commodity owner each of the commodities appears in different, and namely in directly opposed forms: the commodity he owns (linen) is only exchange value and by no means use-value – otherwise he would not alienate, that is, exchange it. The other commodity (the coat) is, on the contrary, only a use-value for him, with regard to him, only an equivalent of his own commodity.

The meaning of actual exchange lies in mutual substitution of the exchange- and use-values, of the relative and equivalent forms.

This mutual substitution, mutual transformation of polar, mutually exclusive and opposed economic forms of the product of labour is a true and factual transformation taking place outside the theoretician’s head and completely independent from it.

Value is realised and implemented in this mutual transformation of opposites. Exchange emerges as the only possible form in which the value nature of each of the commodities is manifested or expressed in a phenomenon.

It is factually obvious that this mysterious nature can only be manifested or revealed through mutual conversion of the opposites – exchange- and use-values, through mutual substitution of the relative and equivalent forms. In other words, the only way is this: one commodity (linen) appears as exchange value, while another (coat), as use-value; one of them assumes the relative form of expression of value, and the other, the opposite, the equivalent form. Both of these forms cannot be combined in one commodity, for in this case the need for exchange disappears. Only that is alienated through exchange which does not constitute a direct use-value but only an exchange value.

Marx gives theoretical expression to this actual state of things: ‘A single commodity cannot, therefore, simultaneously assume, in the same expression of value, both forms. The very polarity of these forms makes them mutually exclusive.’ [13]

The metaphysician will undoubtedly be overjoyed at reading this proposition. Two mutually exclusive definitions cannot in reality be combined in one commodity! A commodity can only assume one of the mutually exclusive economic forms and by no means both of them simultaneously!

Does that mean that the dialectician Marx rejects the possibility of combining polar definitions in a concept? It may appear to be so, at first glance.

However, a closer analysis of the movement of Marx’s thought shows that the matter is not so simple as that. The point here is that the passage quoted here crowns an analysis of the empirical form of manifestation of value and merely leads up to the problem of value as immanent content of each of the commodities. The task of working out a concept expressing this latter still lies ahead. Reasoning, which so far registers the mere form of empirical manifestation of value rather than the inner content of this category, indicates the fact that each of the commodities may assume, in this manifestation of value, only one of its polar forms and not both of them simultaneously.

But the form assumed by each of the commodities confronting each other is not value at all but merely an abstract one-sided manifestation of the latter. Value in itself, the concept of which is yet to be established, is a third quantity, something that does not coincide with either of the polar forms taken separately or with their mechanical combination.

A closer consideration of exchange shows that the abovementioned impossibility of coincidence in one commodity of two polar mutually exclusive economic characteristics is nothing but a necessary form of manifestation of value on the surface of phenomena.

‘The opposition or contrast existing internally in each commodity between use-value and value, is, therefore, made evident externally by two commodities being placed in such relation to each other, that the commodity whose value it is sought to express, figures directly as a mere use-value, while the commodity in which that value is to be expressed, figures directly as mere exchange-value. Hence the elementary form of value of a commodity is the elementary form in which the contrast contained in that commodity, between use-value and value, becomes apparent.’ [14]

The matter looks quite different, however, when we are not dealing with the external form of manifestation of value but with value as such, as an objective economic reality concealed in each of the commodities confronting each other in an exchange and constituting the hidden, inner nature of each of them.

The principle forbidding direct coincidence of mutually exclusive forms of being in one and the same thing and at one and the same time (and consequently in the theoretical expression of this thing) applies, it appears, to the external empirical form of manifestation of analysed reality (value, in this case) but is directly rejected with respect to the inner content of this reality, to the theoretical definitions of value as such.

The inner nature of value is theoretically expressed only in the concept of value. The distinctive feature of the Marxian concept of value is that it is revealed through identity of mutually exclusive theoretical definitions.

The value concept expresses the inner relation of the commodity form rather than the external relation of one commodity to another (in the latter the inner contradiction is not directly manifested but split into contradictions ‘in different, relations’: in one relation, in relation to the owner, the commodity appears as exchange value only; in another, in relation to the owner of the other commodity, it appears ,is use-value, although objectively there is one, not two relations, To put it differently, a commodity is here considered not in relation to another commodity but in relation to itself reflected through the relation to another commodity.

This point contains the mystery of Marxian dialectics, and it is impossible to understand anything either in Capital or in its logic unless this point, this kernel of the logic of Capital, is properly understood.

Value, the inner essence of each commodity, is only manifested or revealed (reflected) in the relation to another commodity. This value, this objective economic reality, is not created or born in the exchange but only manifested in it, being one-sidedly reflected in the other commodity as in a mirror that is only capable of reflecting that side that is turned to it. In the same way the real mirror reflects only man’s face, although he also has the back of the head.

Being reflected outside, value appears in the form of external opposites that do not coincide in one commodity – as exchange- and use-values, the relative and the equivalent forms of expression.

However, each of the commodities, inasmuch as it is a value, is a direct unity of mutually exclusive and at the same time mutually assuming economic forms. In the phenomenon (in the exchange act) and in its theoretical expression this concrete dual economic nature always appears divided, as it were, into its two abstract moments confronting each other, each of which mutually excludes the other and at the same time assumes it as a necessary condition of its existence, a condition that is not within but outside it.

In the concept of value these opposites, abstractly confronting each other in the phenomenon, are united again, though not in a mechanical way but exactly in the way they are united in the economic reality of the commodity itself – as living mutually exclusive and at the same time mutually assuming economic forms of the existence of each commodity, of its immanent content – value.

To phrase it differently, the concept of value registers the inner unrest of the commodity form, the inner. stimulus of its movement, its self-development – the economic content that is inherent in a commodity prior to any exchange and in no relation to other commodities.

Proceeding from the established concept of value as a living dialectically contradictory coincidence of opposites within each separate commodity, Marx confidently and clearly reveals the evolution from the elementary commodity form to the money form, the process of generating money by the movement of the elementary commodity market.

What is the crux of the matter here, where does Marx see the necessity for the transition from the simple, direct, exchange of one commodity for another without money to exchange mediated by money?

The need for such a transition is deduced directly from the impossibility to resolve the contradiction of the elementary form of value while remaining within the framework of this elementary form.

The point is that each of the commodities entering an exchange relation is a living antinomy. Commodity A can only be in one form of value and not simultaneously in two. But if the exchange is performed in reality, that means that each of the two commodities assumes in the other the very form which the latter cannot take because it already has the opposite form. After all, the other commodity owner did not bring his commodity to the market for someone to measure by it the value of his commodity. He himself must, and wants to, measure the value of his own commodity by the other commodity, that is, he must regard the opposing commodity as an equivalent. But it cannot be an equivalent because it already has the relative form.

This relation is absolutely identical on both sides. The owner of linen regards the commodity – the coat – only as an equivalent, and his own commodity only as a relative form. But the coat owner reasons in precisely the opposite way: for him linen is an equivalent, and the coat only an exchange value, only the relative form. And if the exchange does take place, that means (to express the fact of the exchange theoretically) that both commodities mutually measure their value and just as mutually serve as the material in which value is measured. In other words, both coat and linen posit each other as that very form of expression of value which they cannot assume for precisely the reason that they have already assumed the other form.

Linen measures its value in the coat (that is, makes it an equivalent), while the coat measures its value in linen (that is, makes it an equivalent, too). However, as both linen and coat have already assumed the relative form of value, as both measure their value in the other, they cannot assume the role of the equivalent. But, if the exchange actually did take place, that means that both commodities mutually measured their value in each other, they mutually recognised each other to be equivalent values, despite the fact that both of them had been before that in the relative form, which excludes the possibility of assuming the opposite, the equivalent form. Thus real exchange is a real, actually occurring coincidence of two polar and mutually exclusive forms of expression of value in each of the commodities.

But this cannot be, the metaphysician will say: it appears that Marx contradicts himself! Now he says that a commodity cannot assume both polar forms of value, and then again lie says that in actual exchange it is compelled to be in both at the same time!

Marx answers that this may and actually does take place. That is a theoretical expression of the fact that direct commodity exchange cannot serve as a form of the social exchange of matter that would proceed smoothly, without friction, obstacles, conflicts or contradictions. That is nothing but the theoretical expression of the real impossibility against which the movement itself of the commodity market runs – impossibility of precise establishment of the proportions in which the socially necessary work is spent in diverse branches of the socially divided labour connected only through the commodity market, that is, the impossibility of precise expression of value.

Direct exchange of commodity for commodity cannot express the socially necessary measure of the expenditure of labour in various spheres of the social production. The antinomy of value in the framework of the elementary commodity form therefore remains unresolved and unresolvable. Here commodity both must and cannot assume both mutually exclusive economic forms. Otherwise exchange according to value is impossible. But it cannot be simultaneously in two forms. That is a hopeless antinomy that cannot be resolved in the framework of the elementary form of value.

Marx’s dialectical genius showed itself in the fact that lie grasped this antinomy and expressed it as such.

But, inasmuch as exchange according to value still has to take place somehow, the antinomy of value has to be somehow resolved in a relative way.

The solution is found by the movement itself of the simple commodity market, generating money, the money form of expression of value. Money in Marx’s analysis emerges as the natural form in which the movement of the market itself finds a means for the solution of the contradiction of the elementary form of value, of direct exchange of one commodity for another commodity.

This is a point where the fundamental difference is most graphically demonstrated between dialectic materialist mode of solving contradictions and all those methods that are known to metaphysical thought.

What is the metaphysician’s procedure when a contradiction arises in the definition of a theoretical expression of a certain reality? He always endeavours to solve it by making concepts more precise, by setting stricter limits upon terms, etc.’ he will always attempt to construe it as an external rather than an internal contradiction, as a contradiction in different relations, with which metaphysics is well reconciled. In other words, all he does is change the expression of the reality in which the contradiction has arisen.

Marx acts quite differently in a case like this. He proceeds from the assumption that in the framework of the elementary form of value the established antinomy in definitions is not resolved and cannot objectively be resolved. One therefore need not search for its solution in the consideration of the elementary form of value. This antinomy is insoluble in direct exchange of commodity for commodity either objectively (that is, by the movement of the commodity market itself) or subjectively (that is, in theory). Its solution must not therefore be looked for in further reflection on the elementary form of value, 1)tit in tracing out the objective spontaneous necessity with which commodity market itself finds, creates, or works out the real means of its relative resolution.

The dialectical materialist method of resolution of contradictions in theoretical definitions thus consists in tracing the process by which the movement of reality itself resolves them in a new form of expression. Expressed objectively, the goal lies in tracing, through analysis of new empirical materials, the emergence of reality in which an earlier established contradiction finds its relative resolution in a new objective form of its realisation.

That is Marx’s procedure in the analysis of money. Money is the natural means by which use-value begins to transform itself into exchange value, and vice versa.

Before, money appeared, each, of the commodities coming together in an exchange had to perform simultaneously, within on(,, and the same individual relation, both of the mutually exclusive metamorphoses (from use-value into exchange value and at the same moment, within the same act, to perform the reverse transfiguration). Now it all looks different. Now the dual transformation is not realised as direct coincidence of the two mutually exclusive forms but as a mediated act through transformation into money, the universal equivalent.

The transformation of use-value into value no longer directly coincides with the opposite transformation of value into use-value. Exchange of commodity for another commodity breaks up into two different and opposite acts of transformation no longer coinciding in one point of space and time. Commodity is transformed into money, not another commodity. A use-value becomes an exchange value, no more, and somewhere at another point of the market, possibly at a different time, money becomes a commodity, value becomes use-value, is replaced by it.

The coincidence of two transformations in two diametrically opposed directions now falls, in the reality of exchange itself, into two different transformations no longer coinciding in time or place – the act of selling (transformation of use-value into value) and the act of buying (transformation of value into use-value).

Money fully monopolises the economic form of equivalent, becoming a pure embodiment of value as such, while all the other commodities assume the form of relative value. They confront money as use-values only.

The antinomy in the theoretical expression of commodity exchange was apparently resolved: the contradiction (as direct coincidence of two polar mutually exclusive opposites of economic form) now merged split, as it were, between two different things, between commodity and money.

In actual fact, with the emergence of the money form of value, the contradiction of value did not disappear or evaporate at all – it merely assumed a new form of expression. It continues to be (though only implicitly) an inner contradiction permeating both money and commodity and, consequently, their theoretical definitions.

Indeed, a commodity confronting money has apparently become a use-value only, and money, a pure expression of exchange value. But, on the other hand, each commodity appears only as exchange value in relation to money. It is sold for money precisely for the reason that it is no use-value for its owner. And money plays the role of an equivalent precisely because it confronts any commodity as the universal image of use-value. The entire import of the equivalent form lies in that it expresses the exchange value of another commodity as use-value.

The originally established antinomy of the elementary commodity exchange has thus been retained both in money and in commodities, it still constitutes the elementary essence of the one and of the other, although on the surface of events this inner contradiction of both money and commodity forms proved to be extinguished.

’We saw [says Marx] ... that the exchange of commodities implies contradictory and mutually exclusive conditions. The differentiation of commodities into commodities and money does not sweep away these inconsistencies, but develops a modus vivendi, a form in which they can exist side by side. This is generally the way in which real contradictions are reconciled. For instance, it is a contradiction to depict one body as constantly falling towards another, and as, at the same time, constantly flying away from it. The ellipse is a form of motion which, while allowing this contradiction to go on, at the same time reconciles it.’ [15]

From the external contradiction of use-value and exchange value Marx proceeds to the fixing of the internal contradiction contained in each of the two commodities. The fact that the contradiction first arises as contradiction in different relations (exchange value in relation to one of the commodity owners and use-value in relation to the other) is for him an indication of abstractness, of insufficient completeness and concreteness of knowledge. The concreteness of knowledge is manifested in comprehending this external contradiction as a superficial mode of revelation of something quite different, namely, an internal contradiction, a coincidence of mutually exclusive theoretical definitions in the concrete concept of value.

Its significance may be explained, e.g., by comparing Marx’s analysis of value with a discourse on value in a work by the English empiricist Bailey.

The latter took the external form of manifestation of value in exchange for its genuine and only economic reality, believing all talk about value as such abstract dialectical scholastics; he declared: ‘Value is nothing intrinsic and absolute’. His substantiation of this assertion was this: ‘It is impossible to designate, or express the value of a commodity, except by a quantity of some other commodity.’

To this, Marx answered: ‘As impossible as it is to "designate" or "express" a thought except by a quantity of syllables. Hence Bailey concludes that a thought is – syllables.’ [16]

In this case Bailey aimed at presenting value as a relation of one commodity to another, as an external form of a thing posited by its relation to another thing, whereas Ricardo and Marx endeavoured to find an expression of value as an inner content of each exchanged thing, of each thing entering the relation of exchange. The proper immanent value of a thing is only manifested, by no means created, in the form of a relation of one thing to another.

Bailey, being an empiricist, tries to present the inner relation of a thing within itself as an external relation of one thing to another.

Ricardo and Marx endeavour (and therein lies the theoretical nature of their approach) to see through the relation of one thing to another the inner relation of a thing to itself – value as the essence of a commodity, which is only manifested in an exchange through an external relation of this commodity to another one.

The metaphysician always attempts to reduce an inner contradiction of a thing to an external contradiction of this thing to another thing, to a contradiction in different relations, that is, to a form of expression in which this contradiction is eliminated from the concept of a thing. Marx, on the contrary, always endeavours to discern in the external contradiction only a superficial manifestation of an inner contradiction immanently inherent in each thing confronting its counterpart in the relation of external contradiction. Therein lies the difference between a genuinely theoretical approach and an empirical description of phenomena.

Dialectics consists exactly in the ability to discern the inner contradiction of a thing, the stimulus of its self-development, where, the metaphysician sees only an external contradiction resulting from a more or less accidental collision of two internally non-contradictory things.

Dialectics requires in this case that external contradiction of two things be interpreted as a mutually necessary manifestation of the inner contradiction of each of them. The external contradiction emerges as an inner identity of mutually exclusive moments mediated through a relation to something else and reflected through something else, as an internally contradictory relation of a thing to itself, that is, as a contradiction in one relation and at one and the same moment in time. Marx proceeds from an external manifestation of a contradiction to establishing the inner basis of this contradiction, from the appearance to the essence of this contradiction, whereas the metaphysician always tries to act in a precisely reverse manner, refuting the theoretical expression of the essence of a thing from the standpoint of external appearance, which he believes to be the only reality.

That is Bailey’s mode of reasoning in the above. That is the mode of reasoning of a metaphysician, who always assumes that the true interpretation of a contradiction is its interpretation as a contradiction in different relations. And it always leads to a destruction of the elementary theoretical approach to things.

Marx regards value as the relation of a commodity to itself, rather than to another commodity, and that is why it emerges as a living, unsolved and insoluble inner contradiction. This contradiction is not resolved because on the surface of phenomena it appears as a contradiction in two different relations, as two different transformations – as buying and selling. The entire significance of Marx’s analysis consists in showing that the contradiction of value is insoluble in principle within the framework of elementary commodity exchange, and that value inevitably appears here

as a living antinomy in itself, no matter how much one specifies concepts, or how deeply one examines, or reflects upon value.

A commodity as an embodiment of value cannot simultaneously assume both of the mutually exclusive forms of value., yet it actually does assume both these forms simultaneously when the exchange according to value is performed.

This theoretical antinomy expresses nothing but the real impossibility which the movement of the simple commodity market continually encounters. An impossibility is an impossibility. It does not disappear if it is present in theory as a possibility, as something uncontradictory.

The movement of the real market leaves behind the form of direct exchange of a commodity for another commodity. In considering extensive empirical data expressing this movement, Marx proceeds to the theoretical analysis of those more complex forms by which the market realises and at the same time resolves this contradiction. Therein lies the necessity of the transition to money.

Looking at this matter from the philosophical viewpoint, we shall see that that is an expression of the materialist nature of Marx’s method of resolving contradictions in the theoretical expression of objective reality. In this method, the contradiction is not resolved by its elimination from the theory. On the contrary, this method is based on the assumption that contradiction in the object itself cannot be and is never resolved in any other way than by the development of the reality fraught with this contradiction into another, higher and more advanced reality.

The antinomy of value finds its relative resolution in money. But then again, money does not eliminate the antinomy of value – it merely creates a form in which this antinomy is realised and expressed as before. This mode of theoretical presentation of a real. process, is the only adequate logical form in which the dialectical development of the object, its self-development through contradictions, may be expressed in theory.

The materialist nature of the method by which Marx resolved theoretical contradictions in the definition of the object, was well expressed by Engels in his review.

’With this method we begin with the first and simplest, relation which is historically, actually available.... Contradictions will emerge demanding a solution. But since we are not examining an abstract mental process that takes place solely in our mind, but an actual event which really took place at some time or other, or which is still taking place, these contradictions will have arisen in practice and have, probably been solved. We shall trace the mode of this solution and find that it has been effected by establishing a new relation, whose two contradictory aspects we shall then have to set forth, and so on.’ [17]

It is the objective impossibility of solving the contradiction between the social nature of labour and the private form of appropriating its product through direct exchange of one commodity for another without money that is theoretically expressed as an antinomy, as an insoluble contradiction of the elementary form of value, as an insoluble contradiction of its theoretical definitions. That is why Marx did not even try to get rid of the contradiction in the definition of value. Value remains an antinomy, an unresolved and insoluble contradiction, a direct coincidence of mutually exclusive theoretical definitions. The only real method of the resolution of this antinomy is a socialist revolution eliminating the private nature of the appropriation of the product of social labour, appropriation through the commodity market.

The objective impossibility of resolving the contradiction between the social nature of labour and the private form of appropriation of its products, given the daily need for realising the social exchange of matter through the commodity market, stimulates the search for natural means and methods of doing so. It is this factor that ultimately leads to the emergence of money.

In the same way as money emerges in the real movement of the commodity market as a natural means of resolving the contradictions of direct commodity exchange, the theoretical definitions of money in Capital are worked out as a means of resolving the contradiction in the definition of value. Here we are dealing with the most important element of Marx’s dialectical method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete, with the dialectical materialist deduction of categories. The stimulus of theoretical development, the motive force behind the unfolding of a system of theoretical definitions of a thing, is the theory’s inner contradiction. It performs this function precisely because and precisely in those cases when it directly reflects the contradiction of the object that is the inner stimulus of its development, of the growth of its complexity and development of its forms of existence. The theoretical expression of this stimulus in the concept is naturally preceded by extensive and thorough work on the selection and analysis of empirical data characterising the development of these forms.

From this viewpoint, the entire logical structure of Capital emerges in a new light that is of fundamental interest: else entire movement of theoretical thought in Capital proves to be locked in between two originally established poles of the expression of value.

The first concrete category following value, money, emerges as a real method of mutual transformation of the poles of expression of value, as that metamorphosis through which the two poles of value, gravitating towards each other and at the same time mutually excluding each other, must pass in the process of their mutual transformation.

This approach objectively orientates reasoning, when it faces the task of establishing the universal and necessary theoretical definitions of money: in considering the entire totality of the empirical, concrete sensual data, only those characteristics are singled out and registered which are necessarily posited by the transformation of value into use-value and vice versa, whereas all the empirical features of the money form which do not necessarily follow from this mutual conversion or cannot be deduced from it, are left aside.

The fundamental difference between dialectical materialist deduction of categories and abstract intellectual deduction comes to light here.

The latter is based on abstract general or generic concept. A particular phenomenon is subsumed under it, and in considering this phenomenon, the traits are discerned that constitute the distinctive features of the given species. The result is mere appearance of deduction. For instance, the Orlov trotter breed is included in the abstraction ‘horse in general’. The definition of this particular breed includes those features which permit to distinguish an Orlov trotter from any

other breed of horses. It is quite clear, however, that the specific features of an Orlov trotter are by no means included in the abstraction ‘horse in general’, and they therefore can in no way be deduced from it. They are tacked on to the definitions of the ‘horse in general’ in a purely mechanical way. Because of this, formal deduction offers no guarantees that these specific differences are discerned correctly, that they necessarily belong to the breed in question. It may well be that these specific traits of an Orlov trotter are found in something that it has in common with a trotter from the state of Oklahoma.

The same is the case, as we have seen, with Ricardo’s theoretical definitions of money. In his conception the specific differences of the money form are in no way deduced from value. It is for this reason that he cannot distinguish between the really necessary economic characteristics of money as such and those properties that the empirically observed money possesses because of the fact that it embodies the movement of capital. And it is for this reason that lie sees the specific definitions of money in the characteristics of quite a different phenomenon – the process of circulation of capital.

Marx’s approach was quite different. The fact that in his theory value was understood in the movement of opposites, and that theoretical definition of value in general contains a contradiction, allowed him to discern in the empirically observed phenomena of money circulation exactly those and only those features which are necessarily inherent in money as money and exhaustively define money as a specific form of the movement of value.

Marx includes in the theoretical definition of money only those features of money circulation which are necessarily deduced from the contradictions of value, being necessarily generated by the movement of elementary commodity exchange.

That is what Marx calls deduction. It is easy to state here that this kind of deduction becomes possible only if its major premise is not an abstract general concept but a concrete universal one interpreted as unity or identity of mutually transforming opposites, as a concept reflecting the real contradiction in the object.

It should be stressed again and again that this theoretical deduction is based on a most detailed and all-sided consideration of a system of empirical facts and phenomena constituting the economic reality that is the object of theory.

That was the only way in which genuinely complete and meaningful rather than formal abstractions could be obtained which reveal the specific essence of the money form. Marx obtained theoretical definitions of money by considering the process of circulation abstractedly, ’that is, apart from circumstances not immediately flowing from the laws of the simple circulation of commodities’. [18]

The circumstances flowing from the immanent laws of simple commodity circulation are precisely the products of the inner contradiction of value as such, of the simple form of value.

The dialectics of the abstract and the concrete is here manifested in a most apparent and graphic form: precisely because money is considered in the abstract, concrete theoretical definitions are obtained expressing the concrete historical nature of money as a particular phenomenon.

A football, the planet Mars or a ball-bearing can all easily be included in the abstract general concept of the spherical, but no effort of logical thought will deduce from the concept of the spherical in general, for none of these forms originate in the reality reflected in the concept of the spherical in general, that is, in the actual similarity or identity of all spherical bodies.

But the economic form of money is deduced, in a most rigorous manner, from the concept of value (in its Marxian interpretation), exactly because the objective economic reality reflected in the category of value in general contains a real objective necessity of generating money.

This necessity is nothing but the inner contradiction of value insoluble in the framework of the simple exchange of one commodity for another. Marx’s category of value is a concrete universal category exactly because it comprises in its definitions an inner contradiction, being a unity, an identity of mutually exclusive and at the same time mutually assuming theoretical definitions.

The concreteness of the universal concept is in Marx’s approach intimately linked with the contradiction in its definition. Concreteness is in general identity of opposites, whereas the abstract general is obtained according to the principle of bare identity, identity without contradiction.

If one considers closely the movement of Marx’s thought from commodity and value in general to money, comparing it to the similar movement of Ricardo’s thought, the result will be a clear picture of the difference between dialectics and metaphysics on the question of the motive forces of the unfolding of a system of categories.

Ricardo is stimulated in his progress by the contradiction between the incompleteness, poverty, and one-sidedness of the universal abstraction (value in general) and the richness, fullness, and variety of aspects of the phenomena of money circulation. Including money (just as all the other categories) in the sphere of application of the universal formula of the law of value, Ricardo sees that money is, on the one hand, included in this sphere (money is also a commodity) but, on the other, it possesses many other properties that are not expressed in the abstraction of value in general. In short, he sees that money, apart from the general features registered in the category of value, possesses specific distinctions which he proceeds to establish. In this way he handles all of the developed categories. We have already seen what that entails: empirical data are assimilated in a theoretically undigested form.

Marx’s results are different. In Capital, the progress of thought towards new definitions is not stimulated by any contradiction between ‘incomplete abstraction’ and ‘fullness of the sensually concrete image’ of reality. Such a conception of the motivating contradiction of theory would not take us a single step beyond the Lockean comprehension of theoretical interpretation of reality, fully identifying the methods of Marx and of Ricardo. The theoretical development of categories in Capital is based on a more concrete understanding of the contradiction stimulating the progress of thought. Reasoning is here guided by the following principle: an objective contradiction is reflected as a subjective, theoretical or logical task for reasoning, which may only be solved through further study of empirical facts, of sensual data.

This further consideration of empirical facts is not done blindly, but in the light of a rigorously and concretely formulated theoretical task or problem, the latter being formulated each time as a logical, that is, formally insoluble, contradiction.

We have already analysed the transition from the consideration of value to the consideration of money, establishing that in the real empirically given phenomena of developed money circulation Marx singles out only those and exactly those definitions which make money understandable as a means of relative resolution of the inner contradiction of commodity exchange. Then thought faces a new theoretical contradiction, a new theoretical problem: analysis of commodity-money circulation shows that this sphere does not comprise in itself any conditions under which circulation of value could generate new value, surplus-value.

’Turn and twist then as we may, the fact remains unaltered. If equivalents are exchanged, no surplus-value results, and if non-equivalents are exchanged, still no surplus-value.’ [19]

This generalisation, however, is in the relation of mutually exclusive contradiction with another not less obvious fact – namely, that money put into circulation fetches profit. This also remains a fact, ‘turn and twist as we may’, and a very ancient fact, the same age as money-lending, and the latter is as old as money itself. In other words, analysis of the commodity-money sphere has resulted in the conclusion that usurious capital is impossible. But, far from being impossible, it remains a pervading fact not only under capitalism but in all the earlier systems, too – under the slave-owning system and feudalism.

This new antinomy, the contradiction of the theoretical thought to itself, contained a formulation of the problem, of the theoretical task which Marx was capable of solving, for the first time in the history of economic thought, exactly because he was the first to formulate the problem correctly.

He who has formulated the problem correctly has half the answer to it. Old logic, as is well known, did not in general study the question as a logical form, as the necessary form of the logical process. Idealism skilfully speculated on this drawback of old logic.(Thus Kant stated that nature answers only those questions that we ask it, making this an argument in favour of his a priori conception of theoretical cognition: the answer to a question essentially depends on the manner of formulating it, and the formulation is done by the subject.)

The ability to ask the right question and to formulate the problem correctly is one of the most important tasks of dialectical materialist logic. Marx concretely showed in Capital what it meant to formulate a concrete question and how to find a concrete answer to it.

Marx’s logic is brought into relief in the way he formulated and answered the question of the origin of surplus-value. The question is formulated here not arbitrarily but on the basis of an objective analysis of the laws of commodity-money circulation, and in a form that brings the study of the immanent laws of commodity-money circulation to a theoretical contradiction.

’It is therefore impossible for capital to be produced by circulation, and it is equally impossible for it to originate apart from circulation. It must have its origin both in circulation and yet not in circulation.... These are the conditions of the problem. Hic Rhodus, hic salta!’ [20]

This formulation of the problem by Marx is not accidental and is by no means only an external rhetorical device. It is linked with the very essence of dialectics as a method of concrete analysis, as a method that follows the analysed reality as it develops through contradictions.

As the development of the reality occurs through the ,emergence of contradictions and their resolution, so does thought occur as it reproduces this development. This feature of the dialectical method makes it possible not only to ask the right question but also to find its theoretical solution.

An objective inquiry into the commodity-money circulation has shown that this sphere does not contain in it any ,conditions under which an obvious, unquestionable, and omnipresent economic fact is possible, nay necessary: the spontaneous growth of value. Thought is thus directed at defining that real economically necessary condition in the presence of which commodity-money circulation becomes capitalistic circulation of commodities.

This result that we need must satisfy a number of rigorous conditions, it must be correlated with them. These conditions of the theoretical task are established by the study of the commodity-money circulation as the universal foundation of the capitalistic commodity system. In this respect, thought moves deductively in the full sense of the term – from the universal to the particular, from the abstract to the concrete, which makes it goal-directed.

Marx formulates the task in the following way: the only condition on which surplus-value is possible without violating the law of value is ‘to find, within the sphere of circulation, in the market, a commodity, whose use-value possesses the peculiar property of being a source of value, whose actual consumption, therefore, is itself an embodiment of labour, and, consequently, a creation of value’. [21]

This point sharply marks the fundamental opposition between the dialectics of Marx, that is, materialist dialectics, and the speculative idealist dialectics of Hegel, his method of constructing reality out of a concept.

The axiomatic and unquestionable principle of Hegelian dialectics is that the entire system of categories must be developed from the immanent contradictions of the basic concept. If the development of commodity-money circulation into capitalistic commodity circulation had been presented by an orthodox follower of Hegelian logic, he would have had to prove, in the spirit of this logic, that the immanent contradictions of the commodity sphere generate by themselves all the conditions under which value becomes spontaneously growing value.

Marx adopts the reverse procedure: he shows that commodity-money however a long it may go on within itself, cannot increase the overall value of commodities being exchanged, it cannot create by its movement any conditions under which money put into circulation would necessarily fetch new money.

At this decisive point in the analysis, thought goes back again to the empirics of the capitalistic commodity market. It is in the empirics that the economic reality is found which transforms the movement of the commodity-money market into production and accumulation of surplus-value. Labour-power is the only commodity which, at one and the same time, is included in the sphere of application of the law of value and, without any violation of this law, makes surplus-value, which directly contradicts the law of value, both possible and necessary.

Here we again see the enormous theoretical importance of the fact that commodity was revealed by Marx to be a direct unity, an identity of the opposites of value and use-value.

The essence of labour-power as commodity is also revealed in Capital as a direct identity of mutually exclusive definitions of value and use-value: the use-value of labour-power, its specific property, consists only in the fact that in the course of its consumption it is transformed into its counterpart – value.

The economic definitions of labour-power within the capitalistic commodity system of conditions of production derive from this unity of mutually excluding opposites, from their antinomical combination in one and the same commodity, the use-value of which exclusively consists in its ability to be transformed into value in the act of consumption itself.

When labour-power figures as use-value (the act of its consumption by the capitalist), it emerges at the same time as value materialised in the product of labour. That is again a contradiction in one and the same relation – in relation to the process of production and accumulation of surplus-value, an inner contradiction of the capitalist process.

From the logical point of view, one most significant circumstance must be noted here: any concrete category of Capital emerges as one of the forms of mutual transformation of value and use-value, that is, of those two mutually exclusive poles that were established at the beginning of the research, in the analysis of the ‘cell’ of the organism under study, of those two poles which in their antagonistic unity constitute the content of the basic universal category underlying the entire subsequent deduction of categories. The whole deduction of categories emerges from this angle as a complication of the chain of mediating links through which both poles of value must pass in their transformation into each other.

The formation of the capitalist organism emerges as the process of growing tension between the two poles of the original category. The transformation of the opposites of value and use-value into each other becomes ever more complicated. In simple exchange of one commodity for another, the mutual transformation of value and use-value is performed as a direct act, whereas with the emergence of money each of the poles must first become money and only later its own counterpart. Labour-power emerges as a new mediating link of the mutual transformation of forms of value, as a new form of its realisation.

The poles of value gravitating towards each other remain two extreme points between which ever new economic forms emerge. Any new economic reality assumes a meaning and significance only if it serves the mutual transformation of value and use-value, if it becomes a form of realisation of value as a living antagonistic unity of its inner opposites.

Value becomes the supreme judge of all the economic destinies, the highest criterion of the economic necessity of any phenomenon involved in its movement. Man himself, the subject of the production process, becomes a passive plaything, an ‘object’ of value, the latter assuming ‘an automatically active character ... being the active factor in such a process’. [22]

’In simple circulation, C – M – C, the value of commodities attained at the most a form independent of their use-values, i.e., the form of money; but that same value now in the circulation M – C – M, or the circulation of capital, suddenly presents itself as an independent substance, endowed with a motion of its own, passing through a life-process of its own, in which money and commodities are mere forms which it assumes and casts off in turn’ [23] – that is what Marx says of the role of value in the capitalistic commodity mode of production.

It is not difficult to discern here a concealed polemics with the very essence of Hegelian philosophy, its fundamental substantiation in The Phenomenology of the Spirit. In this work, containing the whole secret of Hegelian philosophy, the idealist dialectician propounded this requirement to be imposed on science: ‘to conceive and to express the truth not as substance but in the same degree as a subject.’ [24]

For Hegel, the subject is tantamount to reality developing through contradictions, to the self-developing reality. The whole point is, however, that Hegel did not recognise this as a property of the objective reality existing outside the spirit and independently from it. For him, the only self-developing substance is the logical idea, and it is therefore assumed and substantiated that the requirement to conceive and express the truth not as substance but in the same degree as a subject clan only be realised in the science of thought, only in philosophy and in objective idealist philosophy at that.

Using Hegel’s terminology in Capital, Marx emphasises thereby the fundamental opposition of his philosophical standpoint to that of Hegelianism, demonstrating a model of materialist dialectics as the science of development through inner contradictions.

The essence of the Marxian upheaval in political economy may be expressed in philosophical terms in the following manner: in Marx’s theory, not only the substance of value, labour, was understood (Ricardo also attained this understanding), but, for the first time, value was simultaneously understood as the subject of the entire development, that is, as a reality developing through its inner contradictions into a whole system of economic forms. Ricardo failed to understand this latter point. To attain such an understanding, one had to take the standpoint of conscious materialist dialectics.

Only on the basis of this conception of the objective laws of development through contradictions can one understand the essence of the logic of inquiry applied in Capital, the essence of the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete.

At first sight, viewed from the external form, that is pure deduction, movement from a universal category (value) to particular ones (money, surplus-value, profit, wages, etc.). The external movement of thought resembles very much traditional deduction – money (and subsequently surplus-value and other categories) appears as a more concrete image of value in general, as specific being of value. At first glance, value may seem to be the generic concept, the abstract general, while money and the rest, species of value.

Analysis reveals, however, that there is no genus-to-species relation here. Indeed, the content of ‘value in general’ is revealed as a directly contradictory unity of value and use-value. As for money and particularly paper money, it does not have use-value, realising in its economic function only one of the two definitions of value in general – that of the universal equivalent. Value in general proves to be richer in content than its own species, money. The universal category has a feature that is not present in the particular category. Money thus realises the two-fold nature of value only in a one-sided (abstract) way. Nevertheless money is a more concrete, more complex, historically derivative economic phenomenon than value. From the standpoint of the traditional conception of deduction that is a paradox, not deduction but something else.

Indeed, that is not deduction in the sense of old logic, but rather movement of thought which combines in an integral manner both the transition from the universal to the particular and vice versa, from the particular to the universal, the movement from the abstract to the concrete and from the concrete to the abstract.

All economic realities reflected in the categories of Capital (commodity, money, labour-power, surplus-value, rent) represent both the concrete and the abstract – objectively, independently from their theoretical interpretation. Each of these categories reflects quite a concrete economic formation or phenomenon, and at the same time each of them reflects a reality which is merely a one-sided (abstract) implementation of that whole of which it is an integral part, being a disappearing moment in the movement of this whole, its abstract manifestation.

Deduction reproduces the real process of the formation of each of these categories (that is, of each real economic formation) as well as of their entire system as a whole, disclosing real genetic links, genetic unity, where on the surface there appear a number of seemingly unconnected phenomena and even those which contradict each other.

Hence the fundamental difference between formal-logical, syllogistic deduction and the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete.

The basis or the major premise of the former is an abstract general, generic concept, the least meaningful in content and the broadest in extent. This concept applies only to those particular phenomena which do not contain a feature contradicting the properties of the universal concept. Apart from that, this concept does not apply to phenomena in which at least one feature included in the definition of the content of the universal concept is absent. This phenomenon will be evaluated from the standpoint of old logic as belonging to some other system, to another genus of phenomena.

The axiom of old deduction reads: each of the particular phenomena to which an abstract general concept may apply must possess all the features contained in the definition of the universal concept, and must not possess any features contradicting the features of the universal concept. Only phenomena consistent with this requirement are recognised in old deduction as belonging to the genus of phenomena defined by the universal concept. The universal concept here functions as a criterion for selecting phenomena which should be taken into account in considering a certain type of phenomena and, in logical parlance, predetermines from the outset the plane of abstraction, the angle from which things are viewed. But, as soon as we apply this axiom to the categories of political economy, we clearly see its artificial and subjective nature.

Thus, money does not possess an attribute of value in general – use-value. Capitalistic commodity circulation comprises in itself a feature that directly contradicts the law of value, the law of exchange of equivalents – the ability to create surplus-value, to which the category of value cannot apply without a contradiction. Surplus-value therefore begins to seem a phenomenon of some other world, not the sphere of the movement of value.

Paradoxes like this confused the bourgeois economists who did not recognise any logic other than formal logic or any deduction other than syllogistic one.

The theoretical task posed by the development of pre-Marxian political economy was this – to show that phenomena directly contradicting the labour theory of value become not only possible but also necessary on the basis of the law of value and without any violations of it.

We have already shown in sufficient detail that this task is absolutely insoluble as long as value is understood as an abstract general, generic concept, and that it can be solved rationally if value is interpreted as a concrete universal category reflecting quite a concrete economic reality (direct exchange of one commodity for another) containing a contradiction.

This conception of value gave Marx a key to the solution of all those theoretical difficulties that always present an obstacle to theoretical analysis of living reality developing through contradictions.

Marx’s analysis discovers in value itself, in the basic category of theoretical development, the possibility of those contradictions which emerge in an explicit form on the surface of developed capitalism as destructive crises of overproduction, as a most acute antagonism between excess of riches at one pole of society and unbearable poverty, at the other, as direct class struggle ultimately resolved only through revolution.

Theoretically presented, this emerges as the inevitable result of the development of that very contradiction which is contained in simple commodity exchange, in the ‘cell’ of the whole system – value, as in an embryo or kernel.

It now becomes clear why value in the course of theoretical development of the categories of capitalist economy proves to be a rigorous guideline permitting to single out abstractly only those features of analysed reality which are linked with it as its attributes, being universal and necessary forms of the existence of the capitalist system. The theoretical presentation of this system incorporates only those generalisations to which the definitions of value can apply. However, this inclusion of the categories in the sphere of value, as it is performed in Capital, is essentially alien to the formal subsumption of concepts under other concepts. Labour-power, for instance, is included in the category of value, but that directly reflects the actual formation of the capitalist system of relations.

Analysis of this system has shown that commodity-money circulation forms the universal basis, the elementary universal and necessary condition without which capitalism cannot emerge, exist, or develop. The theoretical definitions of commodity-money circulation are thus shown to be reflections of those objective universal conditions that must be satisfied by any phenomenon to be included at any time in the movement of the capitalistic commodity organism.

If a phenomenon does not satisfy the conditions dictated by the laws of commodity-money circulation, that means that it could not and in general cannot be included in this process, it cannot become a form of the capitalistic commodity metabolism in society.

Definitions of value thus become for theoretical thought a rigorous criterion of discerning and selecting those phenomena and economic forms that are inherent in capitalism.

Only that which actually, independently of thought, satisfies the conditions dictated by the immanent laws of the commodity-money sphere, only that which may be assimilated by this sphere and may assume the economic form of value, may become a form of movement of the capitalist system. Therefore reasoning, which abstracts from the boundless ocean of empirical facts only that concrete historical definiteness of these facts which they owe to capitalism as an economic system, is justified in abstracting only those features of the analysed reality which are included in the definitions of value.

If a certain fact does not satisfy these definitions and requirements established in the analysis of the commodity-money sphere and theoretically expressed in the category of value, that is a clear and categorical indication that, objectively, it does not belong to the kind of facts the generalisation of which must serve as the basis for constructing a theory, a system of concrete historical definitions of capital. Everything that cannot assume the form of value, cannot become capital either.

The entire significance of the category of value in Marx’s theory is contained in the fact that it reflects the universal and necessary element, a ‘cell’ of capital, constituting the universal and most abstract expression of the specific nature of capital, and simultaneously quite a concrete economic fact – direct exchange of a commodity for another commodity.

Extremely indicative in this light is the theoretical transition from the consideration of the commodity-money sphere to the analysis of the production of surplus-value.

What is the basis for the strictest logical necessity of this transition?

It is founded, first of all, on the fact that the analysis of production of surplus-value is approached from the definitions established by the analysis of the commodity-money sphere. Second, what is analytically studied here is a real fact – the fact that money put in capitalist circulation, passing through all of its metamorphoses, brings a return – surplus-value. Then one has to go back to establish the conditions which make this fact possible. One of the conditions of this possibility, and an absolutely necessary one, is already established by the analysis of the commodity-money form. It is the law of value, with regard to which it has been shown that, on the one hand, it is an absolutely universal law of the analysed whole and, on the other, that it does not contain all the necessary conditions under which surplus-value is objectively necessary.

A certain necessary condition of the analytically studied economic fact is still missing. Thought is then purposefully directed at finding this missing condition, the necessary condition of the possibility of surplus-value.

The task is formulated in this form: the unknown quantity must be found not by logical construction but among a number of real economic facts, in the empirical reality of developed capitalism. We do not yet know what that fact is. At the same time we know something very important about it. It must in any case be a commodity, that is, an economic reality entirely subject to the law of value, to its indisputable requirements. This commodity, however, must possess one specific feature: its use-value must consist exactly in its ability to be transformed into value in the act of consumption itself. This second requirement imposed on the unknown quantity is, as is easy to see, an analytically established condition of the possibility of surplus-value, of capital.

Empirical consideration of developed capitalistic commodity circulation shows that only one economic reality satisfies these conditions, namely, labour-power. The logically correctly formulated question here yields the only possible solution: the unknown quantity satisfying the theoretically established conditions is labour-power.

This conclusion, this theoretical generalisation of actual facts has all the merits of the most perfect induction. If the latter is to be interpreted as generalisation proceeding from actual facts. This generalisation, however, simultaneously satisfies the most stringent demands of the adherents of the deductive character of scientific theoretical knowledge.

The mode of ascent from the abstract to the concrete permits to establish strictly and to express abstractedly only the absolutely necessary conditions of the possibility of the object given in contemplation. Capital shows in detail the necessity with which surplus-value is realised, given developed commodity-money circulation and free labour-power.

The totality of all the necessary conditions appears in this method of analysis as a real and concrete possibility, while developed commodity-money circulation is shown as an abstract possibility of surplus-value. For logical reasoning, however, this abstract possibility appears as impossibility: analysis of the commodity-money sphere shows that its immanent laws are in mutually exclusive contradiction to surplus-value. In the same way, the study of the nature of labour-power as such reveals that it cannot be considered as a source of surplus-value. Labour in general creates a product, a use-value, and by no means value.

The scientific theoretical conception of surplus-value is in this methodological framework focused on discovering the necessary conditions which make it possible only in their concrete historical interaction. Each of them, considered abstractedly, outside concrete interactions with others, rules out in principle the very possibility of surplus-value. In thought, this appears as a mutually exclusive contradiction between the law of value (as an abstract possibility of a fact) and the fact itself – surplus-value.

Only concrete possibility is real, only the totality of all the necessary conditions of the being of a thing in their concrete historical mutual conditioning. A real solution of the contradiction between the universal law and the empirical form of its realisation, between abstraction and concrete fact, can only be found through revealing this concrete totality of conditions. The abstractly expressed universal law inevitably stands in relations of mutually exclusive contradiction to the fact under study. From the standpoint of dialectical logic, there is nothing to be afraid of here. On the contrary, logical contradiction is in this case only an indication and feature of the fact that the analysed object is understood abstractedly and not concretely, that not all the necessary conditions of its being are as yet discovered. The logical contradictions necessarily arising in cognition are thus solved in the unfolding of the concrete system of categories reproducing the object in the entire fullness of its necessary characteristics, of the objective conditions of its being.

But concrete understanding does not completely eliminate all contradictions. On the contrary, it shows in detail that these contradictions are logically correct forms of reflection of the objective reality developing through contradictions. Concrete theoretical knowledge shows the necessity of the fact that phenomena directly contradicting the universal law emerge on its basis without violating, changing, or transforming it in any way.

In this cognitive process, all the necessary conditions of the possibility of the analysed phenomenon are not simply listed or juxtaposed but conceived in their concrete historical interaction, in the genetic links between them.

The mere mechanical sum of the conditions of surplus-value (developed commodity-money circulation and labour-power) does not yet constitute its real, concrete nature. Surplus-value is the product of organic interaction between the two, a qualitatively new economic reality, and its concrete understanding is not simply made up of the characteristics that could be obtained from the consideration of commodity-money circulation and labour-power. Labour-power becomes a factor in the production of surplus-value only on condition that it commences to function in that social form which was developed by the movement of the commodity-money market – in the form of a commodity. But the economic form of commodity also becomes a form of the movement of capital only if it dominates the movement of labour-power. The interaction of the laws of commodity-money circulation and of labour-power gives birth to a certain new economic reality not contained in either of them taken separately, outside their concrete interaction. . Therefore the movement of logical reasoning reproducing the necessary moments of the development of surplus-value cannot consist in the formal combination or synthesis of the theoretical definitions obtained in the analysis of its constituents, that is, of the definitions of the commodity-money sphere, on the one hand, and labour-power as a commodity, on the other. Further movement of thought in which a conception of surplus-value is formed can only proceed through new analysis of new facts – those of the movement of surplus-value as a specific economic phenomenon that cannot in principle be reduced to its constituents.

On the other hand, this further theoretical consideration of the movement of surplus-value could not have taken place in the absence of categories developed in the study of the laws of the movement of the commodity-money market and or the specific, features of labour-power as commodity. Unless these categories are previously developed, theoretical analysis of the empirical facts of the movement of surplus-value is impossible. In this case, only abstract characteristics of the production of surplus-value will be obtained, reflecting merely the external appearance of this process rather than concrete theoretical definitions.

Theoretical analysis directly coinciding with the theoretical synthesis of the abstract definitions of surplus-value established earlier does not express the abstract superficial forms of its movement but rather the necessary changes that take place in the movement of the commodity-money market when this movement involves such an unusual commodity as labour-power. This commodity introduces in the movement of commodity-money circulation precisely those changes which transform the commodity-money circulation into the sphere of production of surplus-value.

Labour-power itself is not here regarded as an eternal characteristic identical for all formations but in its concrete historical definiteness as commodity. That means that the first thing that is discovered in it (and recorded in a concept) is the historically definite form which it assumes only in the sphere of commodity-money circulation.

That is what distinguishes scientific theoretical reproduction of the creation of surplus-value from an abstract description of this process, from a mere abstract expression of its superficial phenomena.

To understand and express in concepts the essence of capitalist production, of labour producing surplus-value, one must first establish the entire totality of the necessary conditions on the basis of which such labour becomes possible in general, and further trace the changes it introduces into the very conditions of its realisation.

Analysis of changes introduced by labour-power in commodity-money circulation, in the production of value, therefore assumes preliminary analysis of the conditions that undergo these changes, that is, analysis of the production of value – the process which wage labour finds in existence. Without this, the origin of surplus-value is in principle impossible to understand.

This method of interpreting phenomena permits more than a more description of the aspect in which they emerge before direct contemplation on the surface of the developed stage in their existence – it permits to reproduce, in the full sense of the term, their origination, to trace their emergence and development into the present state through the strictly necessary stages.

The method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete is founded at this point on the real circumstance that the actually necessary and universal conditions of the origin and development of the object are retained at each given moment as forms of its existence. That is why thought can discern, in the analysis of a developed object, its sublated history. A historical approach to the study of an object cannot be realised other than by the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete.

Therefore the picture presented in the most abstract parts of the theory (e.g., the first chapter of Capital) differs most radically from the picture as it appears in the direct contemplation and in the notions of the developed stage of the process. Contrariwise, the greater the number of law-governed influences, tendencies, and stimuli taken into account in the ascent from the abstract to the concrete and the more concrete the picture, the closer it comes to complete coincidence with the picture given in direct contemplation and notion.

As a result, Marx’s Capital shows more than the ‘economic skeleton’ of the social organism, more than its inner structure. Lenin believed it to be a great advantage of Marx’s method that, in ’explaining the structure and development of the given formation of society exclusively through production relations, he nevertheless everywhere and incessantly scrutinised the superstructure corresponding to these production relations and clothed the skeleton in flesh and blood’. Capital, as Lenin pointed out,

’showed the whole capitalist social formation to the reader as a living thing – with its everyday aspects, with the actual social manifestation of the class antagonism inherent in production relations, with the bourgeois political superstructure that protects the rule of the capitalist class, with the bourgeois ideas of liberty, equality and so forth, with the bourgeois family relationships’. [25]

Capital also shows that these actual relations cannot be other than they are, as long as the entire social life is based on privately owned capitalistic commodity economy, just as a person with a curvature of the spine cannot be graceful. It is only the grave that can correct these actual relations.; As long as the law of surplus-value works, both crises and unemployment are inevitable, for they are merely the external forms of manifestation of the deepest essence of the capitalistic commodity organism – the contradictions of the accumulation of surplus-value. These contradictions are inherent in capitalism in the same way as protein metabolism is inherent in a living body. They are not spots on the surface but an expression of its very essence. That is exactly what Capital shows, and that is what its method is used for – the method of attaining a comprehension of phenomena from their universal essence, the method of ascent from the abstract to the concrete.

Having accepted Marx’s method, it is impossible not to accept all the conclusions of Capital. That is why it is so hated by the apologists of modern capitalism. It proves that the crises of overproduction, the existence of a reserve army of the unemployed and all the other similar forms of bourgeois ‘wealth’ are universal and absolute forms of production and accumulation of surplus-value, its integral forms, not only the consequences but also the necessary conditions of this process.

For this reason, bourgeois philosophers and logicians have long tried to discredit Marx’s method, calling it ‘speculative construction’, ‘the Hegelian form of reasoning’, allegedly adopted by Marx without due criticism, etc., although, as we have taken pains to show, the resemblance to the Hegelian method is purely external and formal. The deduction performed by Marx is merely a synonym of the materialist method, a method of explaining the spiritual-ideological, political, legal, moral, and other relations from the material relations, from the relations of production.

In Capital, Marx indicated this fact quite unequivocally: ‘It is, in reality, much easier to discover by analysis the earthly core of the misty creation of religion, than, conversely, it is, to develop from the actual relations of life the corresponding celestial forms of those relations. The latter method is the only materialistic, and therefore the only scientific one.’ [26]

That is the method which insists that the task of scientific cognition of money does not lie in grasping the fact that money is also a commodity, but in tracing the reasons and the manner in which commodity becomes money. That is a much more difficult but also a surer way. This method shows the relations of real life which are reflected in the well-known ideological forms and, moreover, it explains why the given, rather than some other, ideological, political, legal, and scientific forms have developed. All of these forms are literally ‘deduced’ from the relations of real life, from its contradictions. Herein lies the profound difference between the Marxian and the Feuerbachian critique of the forms of religious consciousness. Therein consists the principal advantage of the dialectical method of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, and at the same time, its materialistic nature, in application to any field of inquiry – from political economy to epistemology and aesthetics.

Marx’s Capital, is indeed the highest type of school for theoretical thinking. A scientist specialising in any field of knowledge can use it as a source of most valuable ideas with regard to the theoretical method of research. Philosophers and logicians must make this treasury more accessible. Of course, a single author and a single book can solve this task to a very limited extent only. In view of the complexity and the amount of work involved, this task will require a whole series of studies.


13. Capital Vol I p 56

14. Capital Vol I p 67

15. Capital Vol I p 106

16. Theories of Surplus Value III

17. Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

18. Capital Vol I p 156

19. Capital Vol I p 160

20. Capital Vol I p 163

21. Capital Vol I p 164

22. Capital Vol I p 152

23. Capital Vol I p 152-3

24. Hegel Phenomenology of Spirit, §§ 12-13

25. Lenin, What the ‘Friends of the People are’ and How they fight the Social-Democrats, LCW Vol 1, pp141-2

26. Capital Vol I p 352