Anti-Dühring by Frederick Engels 1877
Part II: Political Economy

X. From Kritische Geschichte[92]

Finally, let us take a glance at the Kritische Geschichte der Nationalökonomie, at “that enterprise” of Herr Dühring's which, as he says, “is absolutely without precedent” {9}. It may be that here at last we shall find the definitive and most strictly scientific treatment which he has so often promised us.

Herr Dühring makes a great deal of noise over his discovery that

“economic science” is “an enormously modern phenomenon” (p. 12).

In fact, Marx says in Capital: “Political economy ... as an independent science, first sprang into being during the period of manufacture”; and in Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie, page 29, that “classical political economy ... dates from William Petty in England and Boisguillebert in France, and closes with Ricardo in the former country and Sismondi in the latter”. Herr Dühring follows the path thus laid down for him, except that in his view higher economics begins only with the wretched abortions brought into existence by bourgeois science after the close of its classical period. On the other hand, he is fully justified in triumphantly proclaiming at the end of his introduction:

“But if this enterprise, in its externally appreciable peculiarities and in the more novel portion of its content, is absolutely without precedent, in its inner critical approaches and its general standpoint, it is even more peculiarly mine” (p. 9).

It is a fact that, on the basis of both its external and its internal features, he might very well have announced his “enterprise” (the industrial term is not badly chosen) as: The Ego and His Own [an oblique reference to Stirner’s book].

Since political economy, as it made its appearance in history, is in fact nothing but the scientific insight into the economy in the period of capitalist production, principles and theorems relating to it, for example, in the writers of ancient Greek society, can only be found in so far as certain phenomena—commodity production, trade, money, interest-bearing capital, etc.—are common to both societies. In so far as the Greeks make occasional excursions into this sphere, they show the same genius and originality as in all other spheres. Because of this, their views form, historically, the theoretical starting-points of the modern science. Let us now listen to what the world-historic Herr Dühring has to say.

“We have, strictly speaking, really” (!) “absolutely nothing positive to report of antiquity concerning scientific economic theory, and the completely unscientific Middle Ages give still less occasion for this” (for this — for reporting nothing!). “As however the fashion of vaingloriously displaying a semblance of erudition ... has defaced the true character of modern science, notice must be taken of at least a few examples” {17}.

And Herr Dühring then produces examples of a criticism which is in truth free from even the “semblance of erudition”.

Aristotle's thesis, that

“twofold is the use of every object... The one is peculiar to the object as such, the other is not, as a sandal which may be worn, and is also exchangeable. Both are uses of the sandal, for even he who exchanges the sandal for the money or food he is in want of, makes use of the sandal as a sandal. But not in its natural way. For it has not been made for the sake of being exchanged” —

this thesis, Herr Dühring maintains, is “not only expressed in a really platitudinous and scholastic way“ {18}; but those who see in it a “differentiation between use-value and exchange-value” fall besides into the “ridiculous frame of mind” {19} of forgetting that “in the most recent period” and “in the framework of the most advanced system”—which of course is Herr Dühring's own system—nothing has been left of use-value and exchange-value.

“In Plato’s work on the state, people ... claim to have found the modern doctrine of the national-economic division of labour” {20}.

This was apparently meant to refer to the passage in Capital, Ch. XII, 5 (p. 369 of the third edition), where the views of classical antiquity on the division of labour are on the contrary shown to have been “in most striking contrast” with the modern view. Herr Dühring has nothing but sneers for Plato's presentation—one which, for his time, was full of genius—of the division of labour as the natural basis of the city (which for the Greeks was identical with the state); and this on the ground that he did not mention—though the Greek Xenophon did, Herr Dühring — the “limit”

“set by the given dimensions of the market to the further differentiation of professions and the technical subdivision of special operations... Only the conception of this limit constitutes the knowledge with the aid of which this idea, otherwise hardly fit to be called scientific, becomes a major economic truth” {20}.

It was in fact “Professor” Roscher {14}, of whom Herr Dühring is so contemptuous, who set up this “limit” at which the idea of the division of labour is supposed first to become “scientific”, and who therefore expressly pointed to Adam Smith as the discoverer of the law of the division of labour. In a society in which commodity production is the dominant form of production, “the market”—to adopt Herr Dühring’s style for once—was always a “limit” very well known to “business people” {18}. But more than “the knowledge and instinct of routine” is needed to realise that it was not the market that created the capitalist division of labour, but that, on the contrary, it was the dissolution of former social connections, and the division of labour resulting from this, that created the market (see Capital, Vol. I, Ch. XXIV, 5: “Creation of the Home-Market for Industrial Capital”).

“The role of money has at all times provided the first and main stimulus to economic” (!) “ideas. But what did an Aristotle know of this role? No more, clearly than was contained in the idea that exchange through the medium of money had followed the primitive exchange by barter” {21}.

But when “an” Aristotle presumes to discover the two different forms of the circulation of money—the one in which it operates as a mere medium of circulation, and the other in which it operates as money capital,

he is thereby—according to Herr Dühring—“only expressing a moral antipathy”

And when “an” Aristotle carries his audacity so far as to attempt an analysis of money in its “role” of a measure of value, and actually states this problem, which has such decisive importance for the theory of money, correctly—then “a” Dühring prefers (and for very good private reasons) to say nothing about such impermissible temerity.

Final result: Greek antiquity, as mirrored in the “notice taken” {21} by Dühring, in fact possessed “only quite ordinary ideas” (p. 25), if such “niaiserie” (p. 19) has anything whatever in common with ideas, whether ordinary or extraordinary.

It would be better to read Herr Dühring's chapter on mercantilism [93] in the “original”, that is, in F. List's Nationales System, Chapter 29: “The Industrial System, Incorrectly Called the Mercantile System by the School”. How carefully Herr Dühring manages to avoid here too any “semblance of erudition” {17} is shown by the following passage, among others:

List, Chapter 28: “The Italian Political Economists”, says:

“Italy was in advance of all modern nations both in the practice and in the theory of political economy”,

and then he cites, as

“the first work written in Italy, which deals especially with political economy, the book by Antonio Serra, of Naples, on the way to secure for the kingdoms an abundance of gold and silver (1613)”.

Herr Dühring confidently accepts this and is therefore able to regard Serra's Breve trattato

“as a kind of inscription at the entrance of the more recent prehistory of economics” {34}.

His treatment of the Breve trattato is in fact limited to this “piece of literary buffoonery” {506}. Unfortunately, the actual facts of the case were different: in 1609, that is four years before the Breve trattato, Thomas Mun's A Discourse of Trade etc., had appeared. The particular significance of this book was that, even in its first edition, it was directed against the original monetary system which was then still defended in England as being the policy of the state; hence it represented the conscious self-separation of the mercantile system from the system which gave it birth. Even in the form in which it first appeared the book had several editions and exercised a direct influence on legislation. In the edition of 1664 (England's Treasure etc.), which had been completely rewritten by the author and was published after his death, it continued to be the mercantilist gospel for another hundred years. If mercantilism therefore has an epoch-making work “as a kind of inscription at the entrance”, it is this book, and for this very reason it simply does not exist for Herr Dühring's “history which most carefully observes the distinctions of rank” {133}.

Of Petty, the founder of modern political economy, Herr Dühring tells us that there was

“a fair measure of superficiality in his way of thinking” {54} and that “he had no sense of the intrinsic and nicer distinctions between concepts” {55} ... while he possessed “a versatility which knows a great deal but skips lightly from one thing to another without taking root in any idea of a more profound character” {56}, .. his “national-economic ideas are still very crude”, and “he achieves naivetés, whose contrasts ... a more serious thinker may well find amusing at times” {56}.

What inestimable condescension, therefore, for the “more serious thinker” Herr Dühring to deign to take any notice at all of “a Petty” {60}! And what notice does he take of him?

Petty's propositions on

“labour and even labour-time as a measure of value, of which imperfect traces can be found in his writings” {62}

are not mentioned again apart from this sentence. Imperfect traces! In his Treatise on Taxes and Contributions (first edition 1662), Petty gives a perfectly clear and correct analysis of the magnitude of value of commodities. In illustrating this magnitude at the outset by the equal value of precious metals and corn on which the same quantity of labour has been expended, he says the first and the last “theoretical” word on the value of the precious metals. But he also lays it down in a definite and general form that the values of commodities must be measured by equal labour. He applies his discovery to the solution of various problems, some of which are very intricate, and on various occasions and in various works, even where he does not repeat the fundamental proposition, he draws important conclusions from it. But even in his very first work he says:

“This” (estimation by equal labour) “I say to be the foundation of equalizing and balancing of values, yet in the superstructures and practices hereupon, I confess there is much variety, and intricacy.”

Petty was thus conscious equally of the importance of his discovery and of the difficulty of applying it in detail. He therefore tried to find another way in certain concrete cases.

A natural par should therefore be found between land and labour, so that value might be expressed at will "by either of them alone as well or better by both"

Even this error has genius.

Herr Dühring makes this penetrating observation on Petty's theory of value:

“Had his own thought been more penetrating it would not be possible to find, in other passages, traces of a contrary view, to which we have previously referred” {63-64};

that is to say, to which no “previous” reference has been made except that the “traces” are “imperfect”. This is very characteristic of Herr Dühring's method—to allude to something “previously” in a meaningless phrase, in order “subsequently” to make the reader believe that he has “previously” been made acquainted with the main point, which in fact the author in question has slid over both previously and subsequently.

In Adam Smith, however, we can find not only “traces” of “contrary views” on the concept of value, not only two but even three, and strictly speaking even four sharply contrary opinions on value, running quite comfortably side by side and intermingled. But what is quite natural in a writer who is laying the foundations of political economy and is necessarily feeling his way, experimenting and struggling with a chaos of ideas which are only just taking shape, may seem strange in a writer who is surveying and summarising more than a hundred and fifty years of investigation whose results have already passed in part from books into the consciousness of the generality. And, to pass from great things to small: as we have seen, Herr Dühring himself gives us five different kinds of value to select from at will, and with them, an equal number of contrary views. Of course, “had his own thought been more penetrating”, he would not have had to expend so much effort in trying to throw his readers back from Petty's perfectly clear conception of value into the uttermost confusion.

A smoothly finished work of Petty’s which may be said to be cast in a single block, is his Quantulumcunque concerning Money, published in 1682, ten years after his Anatomy of Ireland (this “first” appeared in 1672, not 1691 as stated by Herr Dühring, who takes it second-hand from the “most current textbook compilations”). [94] In this book the last vestiges of mercantilist views, found in other writings by him, have completely disappeared. In content and form it is a little masterpiece, and for this very reason Herr Dühring does not even mention its title. It is quite in the order of things that in relation to the most brilliant and original of economic investigators, our vainglorious and pedantic mediocrity should only snarl his displeasure, and take offence at the fact that the flashes of theoretical thought do not proudly parade about in rank and file as ready-made “axioms” {D. Ph. 224}, but merely rise sporadically to the surface from the depths of “crude” {D. K. G. 57} practical material, for example, of taxes.

Petty's foundations of Political Arithmetic {58}, vulgo statistics, are treated by Herr Dühring in the same way as that author’s specifically economic works. He malevolently shrugs his shoulders at the odd methods used by Petty! Considering the grotesque methods still employed in this field a century later even by Lavoisier, [95] and in view of the great distance that separates even contemporary statistics from the goal which Petty assigned to them in broad outline, such self-satisfied superiority two centuries post festum stands out in all its undisguised stupidity.

Petty’s most important ideas—which received such scant attention in Herr Dühring's “enterprise” {9}—are, in the latter's view, nothing but disconnected conceits, chance thoughts, incidental comments, to which only in our day a significance is given, by the use of excerpts torn from their context, which in themselves they have not got; which therefore also play no part in the real history of political economy, but only in modern books below the standard of Herr Dühring's deep-rooted criticism and “historical depiction in the grand style” {556}. In his “enterprise”, he seems to have had in view a circle of readers who would have implicit faith and would never be bold enough to ask for proof of his assertions. We shall return to this point soon (when dealing with Locke and North), but must first take a fleeting glance at Boisguillebert and Law.

In connection with the former, we must draw attention to the sole find made by Herr Dühring: he has discovered a connection between Boisguillebert and Law which had hitherto been missed. Boisguillebert asserts that the precious metals could be replaced, in the normal monetary functions which they fulfil in commodity circulation, by credit money (un morceau de papier). Law on the other hand imagines that any “increase” whatever in the number of these “pieces of paper” increases the wealth of a nation. Herr Dühring draws from this the conclusion that Boisguillebert’s

“turn of thought already harboured a new turn in mercantilism” {83}

in other words, already included Law. This is made as clear as daylight in the following:

All that was necessary was to assign to the ‘simple pieces of paper’ the same role that the precious metals should have played, and a metamorphosis of mercantilism was thereby at once accomplished” {83}.

In the same way it is possible to accomplish at once the metamorphosis of an uncle into an aunt. It is true that Herr Dühring adds appealingly:

“Of course Boisguillebert had no such purpose in mind” {83}.

But how, in the devil’s name, could he intend to replace his own rationalist conception of the monetary function of the precious metals by the superstitious conception of the mercantilists for the sole reason that, according to him, the precious metals can be replaced in this role by paper money?

Nevertheless, Herr Dühring continues in his serio-comic style,

“nevertheless it may be conceded that here and there our author succeeded in making a really apt remark” (p. 83).

In reference to Law, Herr Dühring succeeded in making only this “really apt remark”:

“Law too was naturally never able completely to eradicate the above-named basis” (namely, “the basis of the precious metals”), “but he pushed the issue of notes to its extreme limit, that is to say, to the collapse of the system” (p. 94).

In reality, however, these paper butterflies, mere money tokens, were intended to flutter about among the public, not in order to “eradicate” the basis of the precious metals, but to entice them from the pockets of the public into the depleted treasuries of the state. [96]

To return to Petty and the inconspicuous role in the history of economics assigned to him by Herr Dühring, let us first listen to what we are told about Petty’s immediate successors, Locke and North. Locke’s Considerations on Lowering of Interest and Raising of Money, and North’s Discourses upon Trade, appeared in the same year, 1691.

“What he” (Locke) “wrote on interest and coin does not go beyond the range of the reflections, current under the dominion of mercantilism, in connection with the events of political life” (p. 64).

To the reader of this “report” it should now be clear as crystal why Locke's Lowering of Interest had such an important influence, in more than one direction, on political economy in France and Italy during the latter half of the eighteenth century.

“Many businessmen thought the same” (as Locke) “on free play for the rate of interest, and the developing situation also produced the tendency to regard restrictions on interest as ineffective. At a period when a Dudley North could write his Discourses upon Trade in the direction of free trade, a great deal must already have been in the air, as they say, which made the theoretical opposition to restrictions on interest rates seem something not at all extraordinary” (p. 64).

So Locke had only to cogitate the ideas of this or that contemporary “businessman”, or to breathe in a great deal of what was “in the air, as they say” to be able to theorise on free play for the rate of interest without saying anything “extraordinary”! In fact, however, as early as 1662, in his Treatise on Taxes and Contributions, Petty had counterposed interest, as rent of money which we call usury to rent of land and houses, and lectured the landlords, who wished to keep down by legislation not of course land rent, but the rent of money, on the vanity and fruitlessness of making civil positive law against the law of nature. In his Quantulumcunque (1682) he therefore declared that legislative regulation of the rate of interest was as stupid as regulation of exports of precious metals or regulation of exchange rates. In the same work he made statements of unquestionable authority on the raising of money (for example, the attempt to give sixpence the name of one shilling by doubling the number of shillings coined from one ounce of silver).

As regards this last point, Locke and North did little more than copy him. In regard to interest, however, Locke followed Petty’s parallel between rent of money and rent of land, while North goes further and opposes interest as rent of stock to land rent, and the stocklords to the landlords. And while Locke accepts free play for the rate of interest, as demanded by Petty, only with reservations, North accepts it unconditionally.

Herr Dühring—himself still a bitter mercantilist in the “more subtle” {55} sense—surpasses himself when he dismisses Dudley North’s Discourses upon Trade with the comment that they were written “in the direction of free trade” {64}. It is rather like saying of Harvey that he wrote “in the direction” of the circulation of the blood. North's work—apart from its other merits—is a classical exposition, driven home with relentless logic, of the doctrine of free trade, both foreign and internal—certainly “something extraordinary” {64} in the year 1691!

Herr Dühring, by the way, informs us that

North was a “merchant” and a bad type at that, also that his work “met with no approval” {64}.

Indeed! How could anyone expect a book of this sort to have met with “approval” among the mob setting the tone at the time of the final triumph of protectionism in England? But this did not prevent it from having an immediate effect on theory, as can be seen from a whole series of economic works published in England shortly after it, some of them even before the end of the seventeenth century.

Locke and North gave us proof of how the first bold strokes which Petty dealt in almost every sphere of political economy were taken up one by one by his English successors and further developed. The traces of this process during the period 1691 to 1752 are obvious even to the most superficial observer from the very fact that all the more important economic writings of that time start from Petty, either positively or negatively. That period, which abounded in original thinkers, is therefore the most important for the investigation of the gradual genesis of political economy. The “historical depiction in the grand style” {556}, which chalks up against Marx the unpardonable sin of making so much commotion in Capital about Petty and the writers of that period, simply strikes them right out of history. From Locke, North, Boisguillebert and Law it jumps straight to the physiocrats, and then, at the entrance to the real temple of political economy, appears—David Hume. With Herr Dühring's permission, however, we restore the chronological order, putting Hume before the physiocrats.

Hume’s economic Essays appeared in 1752. In the related essays: of Money, of the Balance of Trade, of Commerce, Hume follows step by step, and often even in his personal idiosyncrasies, Jacob Vanderlint’s Money Answers All Things, published in London in 1734. However unknown this Vanderlint may have been to Herr Dühring, references to him can be found in English economic works even at the end of the eighteenth century, that is to say, in the period after Adam Smith.

Like Vanderlint, Hume treated money as a mere token of value; he copied almost word for word (and this is important as he might have taken the theory of money as a token of value from many other sources) Vanderlint's argument on why the balance of trade cannot be permanently either favourable or unfavourable to a country; like Vanderlint, he teaches that the equilibrium of balances is brought about naturally, in accordance with the different economic situations in the different countries; like Vanderlint, he preaches free trade, but less boldly and consistently; like Vanderlint, though with less profundity, he emphasises wants as the motive forces of production; he follows Vanderlint in the influence on commodity prices which he erroneously attributes to bank money and government securities in general; like Vanderlint, he rejects credit money; like Vanderlint, he makes commodity prices dependent on the price of labour, that is, on wages; he even copies Vanderlint’s absurd notion that by accumulating treasures commodity prices are kept down, etc., etc.

At a much earlier point Herr Dühring made an oracular allusion to how others had misunderstood Hume's monetary theory with a particularly minatory reference to Marx, who in Capital had, besides, pointed in a manner contrary to police regulations to the secret connections of Hume with Vanderlint and with J. Massie, who will be mentioned later.

As for this misunderstanding, the facts are as follows. In regard to Hume’s real theory of money (that money is a mere token of value, and therefore, other conditions being equal, commodity prices rise in proportion to the increase in the volume of money in circulation, and fall in proportion to its decrease), Herr Dühring, with the best intentions in the world — though in his own luminous way—can only repeat the errors made by his predecessors. Hume, however, after propounding the theory cited above, himself raises the objection (as Montesquieu, starting from the same premises, had done previously) that

nevertheless “’tis certain” that since the discovery of the mines in America, “industry has encreased in all the nations of Europe, except in the possessors of those mines”, and that this “may justly be ascribed, amongst other reasons, to the encrease of gold and silver”.

His explanation of this phenomenon is that

“though the high price of commodities be a necessary consequence of the encrease of gold and silver, yet it follows not immediately upon that encrease; but some time is required before the money circulate through the whole state, and make its effects be felt on all ranks of people”. In this interval it has a beneficial effect on industry and trade.

At the end of this analysis Hume also tells us why this is so, although in a less comprehensive way than many of his predecessors and contemporaries:

“‘Tis easy to trace the money in its progress through the whole commonwealth; where we shall find, that it must first quicken the diligence of every individual, before it encreases the price of labour."

In other words, Hume is here describing the effect of a revolution in the value of the precious metals, namely, a depreciation, or, which is the same thing, a revolution in the measure of value of the precious metals. He correctly ascertains that, in the slow process of readjusting the prices of commodities, this depreciation "increases the price of labour" — vulgo, wages—only in the last instance; that is to say, it increases the profit made by merchants and industrialists at the cost of the labourer (which he, however, thinks is just as it should be), and thus “quickens diligence”. But he does not set himself the task of answering the real scientific question, namely, whether and in what way an increase in the supply of the precious metals, their value remaining the same, affects the prices of commodities; and he lumps together every “increase of the precious metals” with their depreciation. Hume therefore does precisely what Marx says he does (Zur Kritik etc., p. 141). We shall come back once more to this point in passing, but we must first turn to Hume's essay on Interest.

Hume's arguments, expressly directed against Locke that the rate of interest is not regulated by the amount of available money but by the rate of profit, and his other explanations of the causes which determine rises or falls in the rate of interest, are all to be found, much more exactly though less cleverly stated, in An Essay on the Governing Causes of the Natural Rate of Interest; wherein the sentiments of Sir W. Petty and Mr. Locke, on that head, are considered. This work appeared in 1750, two years before Hume's essay; its author was J. Massie, a writer active in various fields, who had a wide public, as can be seen from contemporary English literature. Adam Smith's discussion of the rate of interest is closer to Massie than to Hume. Neither Massie nor Hume know or say anything regarding the nature of “profit”, which plays a role with both.

“In general,” Herr Dühring sermonises us, “the attitude of most of Hume’s commentators has been very prejudiced, and ideas have been attributed to him which he never entertained in the least” {131}.

And Herr Dühring himself gives us more than one striking example of this “attitude”.

For example, Hume’s essay on interest begins with the following words:

“Nothing is esteemed a more certain sign of the flourishing condition of any nation than the lowness of interest: And with reason; though I believe the cause is somewhat different from what is commonly apprehended.”

In the very first sentence, therefore, Hume cites the view that the lowness of interest is the surest indication of the flourishing condition of a nation as a commonplace which had already become trivial in his day. And in fact this “idea” had already had fully a hundred years, since Child, to become generally current. But we are told:

“Among” (Hume’s) “views on the rate of interest we must particularly draw attention to the idea that it is the true barometer of conditions” (conditions of what?) “and that its lowness is an almost infallible sign of the prosperity of a nation” (p. 130).

Who is the “prejudiced” and captivated “commentator” who says this? None other than Herr Dühring.

What arouses the naive astonishment of our critical historian is the fact that Hume, in connection with some felicitous idea or other, “does not even claim to have originated it” {131}. This would certainly not have happened to Herr Dühring.

We have seen how Hume confuses every increase of the precious metals with such an increase as is accompanied by a depreciation, a revolution in their own value, hence, in the measure of value of commodities. This confusion was inevitable with Hume because he had not the slightest understanding of the function of the precious metals as the measure of value. And he could not have it, because he had absolutely no knowledge of value itself. The word itself is to be found perhaps only once in his essays, namely, in the passage where, in attempting to “correct” Locke's erroneous notion that the precious metals had “only an imaginary value”, he makes it even worse by saying that they had “merely a fictitious value”.

In this he is much inferior not only to Petty but to many of his English contemporaries. He shows the same “backwardness” in still proclaiming the old-fashioned notion that the “merchant” is the mainspring of production—an idea which Petty had long passed beyond. As for Herr Dühring’s assurance that in his essays Hume concerned himself with the “chief economic relationships” {121}, if the reader only compares Cantillon’s work quoted by Adam Smith (which appeared the same year as Hume's essays, 1752, but many years after its author’s death), [97] he will be surprised at the narrow range of Hume’s economic writings. Hume, as we have said, in spite of the letters-patent issued to him by Herr Dühring, is nevertheless quite a respectable figure also in the field of political economy, but in this field he is anything but an original investigator, and even less an epoch-making one. The influence of his economic essays on the educated circles of his day was due not merely to his excellent presentation, but principally to the fact that the essays were a progressive and optimistic glorification of industry and trade, which were then flourishing — in other words, of the capitalist society which at that time was rapidly rising in England, and whose “approval” they therefore had to gain. Let one instance suffice here. Everyone knows the passionate fight that the masses of the English people were waging, just in Hume’s day, against the system of indirect taxes which was being regularly exploited by the notorious Sir Robert Walpole for the relief of the landlords and of the rich in general. In his essay Of Taxes, in which, without mentioning his name, Hume polemises against his indispensable authority Vanderlint—the stoutest opponent of indirect taxation and the most determined advocate of a land tax—we read:

“They” (taxes on consumption) “must be very heavy taxes, indeed, and very injudiciously levied, which the artisan will not, of himself, be enabled to pay, by superior industry and frugality, without raising the price of his labour.”

It is almost as if Robert Walpole himself were speaking, especially if we also take into consideration the passage in the essay on “public credit” in which, referring to the difficulty of taxing the state’s creditors, the following is said:

“The diminution of their revenue would not be disguised under the appearance of a branch of excise or customs.”

As might have been expected of a Scotchman, Hume’s admiration of bourgeois acquisitiveness was by no means purely platonic. Starting as a poor man, he worked himself up to a very substantial annual income of many thousands of pounds; which Herr Dühring (as he is here not dealing with Petty) tactfully expresses in this way:

“Possessed of very small means to start with he succeeded, by good domestic economy, in reaching the position of not having to write to please anyone” {134}.

Herr Dühring further says:

“He had never made the slightest concession to the influence of parties, princes or universities” {134}.

There is no evidence that Hume ever entered into a literary partnership with a “Wagener”, [98] but it is well known that he was an indefatigable partisan of the Whig oligarchy, which thought highly of “Church and state”, and that in reward for these services he was given first a secretaryship in the Embassy in Paris and subsequently the incomparably more important and better-paid post of an Under-Secretary of State.

“In politics Hume was and always remained conservative and strongly monarchist in his views. For this reason he was never so bitterly denounced for heresy as Gibbon by the supporters of the established church,”

says old Schlosser.

“This selfish Hume, this lying historian” reproaches the English monks with being fat, having neither wife nor family and living by begging; “but he himself never had a family or a wife, and was a great, fat fellow, fed, in considerable part, out of public money, without having merited it by any real public services”—this is what the “rude” plebeian Cobbett says.

Hume was “in essential respects greatly superior to a Kant in the practical management of life” {122}, is what Herr Dühring says.

But why is Hume given such an exaggerated position in Kritische Geschichte? Simply because this “serious and subtle thinker” {121} has the honour of enacting the Dühring of the eighteenth century. Hume serves as proof that

“the creation of this whole branch of science” (economics) “is the achievement of a more enlightened philosophy” {123};

and similarly Hume as predecessor is the best guarantee that this whole branch of science will find its close, for the immediately foreseeable future, in that phenomenal man who has transformed the merely “more enlightened” philosophy into the absolutely luminous philosophy of reality, and with whom, just as was the case with Hume,

“the cultivation of philosophy in the narrow sense of the word is combined — something unprecedented on German soil—with scientific endeavours on behalf of the national economy” {D. Ph. 531}

Accordingly we find Hume, in any case respectable as an economist, inflated into an economic star of the first magnitude, whose importance has hitherto been denied only by the same envious people who have hitherto also so obstinately hushed up Herr Dühring's achievements, “authoritative for the epoch” {D. K. G. 1}.

* * *

The physiocratic school left us in Quesnay’s Tableau économique, as everyone knows, a nut on which all former critics and historians of political economy have up to now broken their jaws in vain; This Tableau, which was intended to bring out clearly the physiocrats’ conception of the production and circulation of a country's total wealth, remained obscure enough for the succeeding generations of economists. On this subject, too, Herr Dühring comes to finally enlighten us.

What this “economic image of the relations of production and distribution means in Quesnay himself,” he says, can only be stated if one has “first carefully examined the leading ideas which are peculiar to him”. All the more because these have hitherto been set forth only with “wavering indefiniteness”, and their “essential features cannot be recognised” {105} even in Adam Smith.

Herr Dühring will now once and for all put an end to this traditional “superficial reporting”. He then proceeds to pull the reader’s leg through five whole pages, five pages in which all kinds of pretentious phrases, constant repetitions and calculated confusion are designed to conceal the awkward fact that Herr Dühring has hardly as much to tell us in regard to Quesnay's “leading ideas” {105}, as the “most current textbook compilations” {109} against which he warns us so untiringly. It is “one of the most dubious sides” {111} of this introduction that here too the Tableau, which up to that point had only been mentioned by name, is just casually snuffled at, and then gets lost in all sorts of “reflections”, such as, for example, “the difference between effort and result”. Though the latter, “it is true, is not to be found completed in Quesnay's ideas”, Herr Dühring will give us a fulminating example of it as soon as he comes from his lengthy introductory “effort” to his remarkably shortwinded “result” {109}, that is to say, to his elucidation of the Tableau itself. We shall now give all, literally all that he feels it right to tell us of Quesnay’s Tableau.

In his “effort” Herr Dühring says:

“It seemed to him“ (Quesnay) “self-evident that the proceeds” (Herr Dühring had just spoken of the net product) “must be thought of and treated as a money value {105-06} ... He connected his deliberations” (!) “immediately with the money values which he assumed as the results of the sales of all agricultural products when they first change hands. In this way” (!) “he operates in the columns of his Tableau with several milliards” {106} (that is, with money values).

We have therefore learnt three times over that, in his Tableau, Quesnay operates with the “money values” of “agricultural products”, including the money values of the “net product” or “net proceeds”. Further on in the text we find:

“Had Quesnay considered things from a really natural standpoint, and had he rid himself not only of regard for the precious metals and the amount of money, but also of regard for money values... But as it is he reckons solely with sums of value, and imagined” (!) “the net product in advance as a money value” {106}.

So for the fourth and fifth time: there are only money values in the Tableau!

“He” (Quesnay) “obtained it” (the net product) “by deducting the expenses and thinking,” (!) “principally” (not traditional but for that matter all the more superficial reporting) “of that value which would accrue to the landlord as rent” {106}.

We have still not advanced a step; but now it is coming:

“On the other hand, however, now also”—this “however, now also” is a gem!—“the net product, as a natural object, enters into circulation, and in this way becomes an element which ... should serve ... to maintain the class which is described as sterile. In this the confusion can at once” (!)“be seen—the confusion arising from the fact that in one case it is the money value, and in the other the thing itself, which determines the course of thought” {106}.

In general, it seems, all circulation of commodities suffers from the “confusion“ that commodities enter into circulation simultaneously as “natural objects” and as “money values”. But we are still moving in a circle about “money value”, for

“Quesnay is anxious to avoid a double booking of the national-economic proceeds” {106}.

With Herr Dühring's permission: In Quesnay's Analysis at the foot of the Tableau, the various kinds of products figure as “natural objects” and above, in the Tableau itself, their money values are given. Subsequently Quesnay even made his famulus, the Abbé Baudeau, include the natural objects in the Tableau itself, beside their money values.

After all this “effort“, we at last get the “result”. Listen and marvel at these words:

“Nevertheless, the inconsequence“ (referring to the role assigned by Quesnay to the landlords) “at once becomes clear when we enquire what becomes of the net product, which has been appropriated as rent, in the course of the national-economic circulation. In regard to this the physiocrats and the economic Tableau could offer nothing but confused and arbitrary conceptions, ascending to mysticism” {110}.

All’s well that ends well. So Herr Dühring does not know “what becomes of the net product, which has been appropriated as rent, in the course of the national-economic circulation” (represented in the Tableau). To him, the Tableau is the “squaring of the circle” {110}. By his own confession, he does not understand the ABC of physiocracy. After all the beating about the bush, the dropping of buckets into an empty well, the hying hither and thither, the harlequinades, episodes, diversions, repetitions and stupefying mix-ups whose sole purpose was to prepare us for the imposing conclusion, “what the Tableau means in Quesnay himself” {105}—after all this Herr Dühring's shamefaced confession that he himself does not know.

Once he has shaken off this painful secret, this Horatian “black care” which sat hunched on his back during his ride through the land of the physiocrats, our “serious and subtle thinker” blows another merry blast on his trumpet, as follows:

“The lines which Quesnay draws here and there” (in all there are just five of them!) “in his otherwise fairly simple” (!) “Tableau, and which are meant to represent the circulation of the net product”, make one wonder whether “these whimsical combinations of columns” may not be suffused with fantastic mathematics; they are reminiscent of Quesnay’s attempts to square the circle” {110}—and so forth.

As Herr Dühring, by his own admission, was unable to understand these lines in spite of their simplicity, he had to follow his favourite procedure of casting suspicion on them. And now he can confidently deliver the coup de grâce to the vexatious Tableau:


“We have considered the net product in this its most dubious aspect” {111}, etc.

So the confession he was constrained to make that he does not understand the first word about the Tableau économique and the “role” played by the net product which figures in it—that is what Herr Dühring calls “the most dubious aspect of the net product”! What grim humour!

But in order that our readers may not be left in the same cruel ignorance about Quesnay’s Tableau as those necessarily are who receive their economic wisdom “first hand” from Herr Dühring, we will explain it briefly as follows:

As is known, the physiocrats divide society into three classes: (1) The productive, i.e., the class which is actually engaged in agriculture — tenant-farmers and agricultural labourers; they are called productive, because their labour yields a surplus: rent. (2) The class which appropriates this surplus, including the landowners and their retainers, the prince and in general all officials paid by the state, and finally also the Church in its special character as appropriator of tithes. For the sake of brevity, in what follows we call the first class simply “farmers”, and the second class “landlords”. (3) The industrial or sterile class; sterile because, in the view of the physiocrats, it adds to the raw materials delivered to it by the productive class only as much value as it consumes in means of subsistence supplied to it by that same class. Quesnay's Tableau was intended to portray how the total annual product of a country (concretely, France) circulates among these three classes and facilitates annual reproduction.

The first premise of the Tableau was that the farming system and with it large-scale agriculture, in the sense in which this term was understood in Quesnay’s time, had been generally introduced, Normandy, Picardy, Île-de-France and a few other French provinces serving as prototypes. The farmer therefore appears as the real leader in agriculture, as he represents in the Tableau the whole productive (agricultural) class and pays the landlord a rent in money. An invested capital or inventory of ten milliard livres is assigned to the farmers as a whole; of this sum, one-fifth, or two milliards, is the working capital which has to be replaced every year—this figure too was estimated on the basis of the best-managed farms in the provinces mentioned above.

Further premises: (1) that for the sake of simplicity constant prices and simple reproduction prevail; (2) that all circulation which takes place solely within one class is excluded, and that only circulation between class and class is taken into account; (3) that all purchases and sales taking place between class and class in the course of the industrial year are combined in a single total sum. Lastly, it must be borne in mind that in Quesnay’s time in France, as was more or less the case throughout Europe, the home industry of the peasant families satisfied by far the greater portion of their needs other than food, and is therefore taken for granted here as supplementary to agriculture.

The starting-point of the Tableau is the total harvest, the gross product of the annual yield of the soil, which is consequently placed as the first item—or the “total reproduction” of the country, in this case France. The magnitude of value of this gross product is estimated on the basis of the average prices of agricultural products among the trading nations. It comes to five milliard livres, a sum which roughly expresses the money value of the gross agricultural production of France based on such statistical estimates as were then possible. This and nothing else is the reason why in his Tableau Quesnay “operates with several milliards” {106}, to be precise, with five milliards, and not with five livres tournois. [99]

The whole gross product, of a value of five milliards, is therefore in the hands of the productive class, that is, in the first place the farmers, who have produced it by advancing an annual working capital of two milliards, which corresponds to an invested capital of ten milliards. The agricultural products—foodstuffs, raw materials, etc.—which are required for the replacement of the working capital, including therefore the maintenance of all persons directly engaged in agriculture, are taken in natura from the total harvest and expended for the purpose of new agricultural production. Since, as we have seen, constant prices and simple reproduction on a given scale are assumed, the money value of the portion which is thus taken from the gross product is equal to two milliard livres. This portion, therefore, does not enter into general circulation. For, as we have noted, circulation which takes place only within a particular class, and not between one class and another, is excluded from the Tableau.

After the replacement of the working capital out of the gross product there remains a surplus of three milliards, of which two are in means of subsistence and one in raw materials. The rent which the farmers have to pay to the landlords is however only two-thirds of this sum, equal to two milliards. It will soon be seen why it is only these two milliards which figure under the heading of “net product” or “net income” {106}.

But in addition to the “total reproduction” of agriculture amounting in value to five milliards, of which three milliards enter into general circulation, there is also in the hands of the farmers, before the movement described in the Tableau begins, the whole "pécule" of the nation, two milliards of cash money. This comes about in the following way.

As the total harvest is the starting-point of the Tableau, this starting-point also forms the closing point of an economic year, for example, of the year 1758, from which point a new economic year begins. During the course of this new year, 1759, the portion of the gross product destined to enter into circulation is distributed among the two other classes through the medium of a number of individual payments, purchases and sales. These movements separated, following each other in succession, and stretching over a whole year, are however—as was bound to happen in any case in the Tableau—combined into a few characteristic transactions each of which embraces a whole year's operations at once. This, then, is how at the close of the year 1758 there has flowed back to the farmer class the money paid by it to the landlords as rent for the year 1757 (the Tableau itself will show how this comes about), amounting to two milliards; so that the farmer class can again throw this sum into circulation in 1759. Since, however, that sum, as Quesnay observes, is much larger than is required in reality for the total circulation of the country (France), inasmuch as there is a constant succession of separate payments, the two milliard livres in the hands of the farmers represent the total money in circulation in the nation.

The class of landlords drawing rent first appears, as is the case sometimes even today, in the role of receivers of payments. On Quesnay's assumption the landlords proper receive only foursevenths of the two milliards of rent: two-sevenths go to the government, and one-seventh to the receivers of tithes. In Quesnay's day the Church was the biggest landlord in France and in addition received the tithes on all other landed property.

The working capital (avances annuelles) advanced by the “sterile” class in the course of a whole year consists of raw materials to the value of one milliard—only raw materials, because tools, machinery, etc., are included among the products of that class itself. The many different roles, however, played by such products in the industrial enterprises of this class do not concern the Tableau any more than the circulation of commodities and money which takes place exclusively within that class. The wages for the labour by which the sterile class transforms the raw materials into manufactured goods are equal to the value of the means of subsistence which it receives in part directly from the productive class, and in part indirectly, through the landlords. Although it is itself divided into capitalists and wage-workers, it forms, according to Quesnay's basic conception, an integral class which is in the pay of the productive class and of the landlords. The total industrial production, and consequently also its total circulation, which is distributed over the year following the harvest, is likewise combined into a single whole. It is therefore assumed that at the beginning of the movement set out in the Tableau the annual commodity production of the sterile class is entirely in its hands, and consequently that its whole working capital, consisting of raw materials to the value of one milliard, has been converted into goods to the value of two milliards, one-half of which represents the price of the means of subsistence consumed during this transformation. An objection might be raised here: Surely the sterile class also uses up industrial products for its own domestic needs; where are these shown, if its own total product passes through circulation to the other classes? This is the answer we are given: The sterile class not only itself consumes a portion of its own commodities, but in addition it strives to retain as much of the rest as possible. It therefore sells the commodities thrown by it into circulation above their real value, and must do this, as we have evaluated these commodities at the total value of their production. This, however, does not affect the figures of the Tableau, for the two other classes receive manufactured goods only to the value of their total production.

So now we know the economic position of the three different classes at the beginning of the movement set out in the Tableau.

The productive class, after its working capital has been replaced in kind, still has three milliards of the gross product of agriculture and two milliards in money. The landlord class appears only with its rent claim of two milliards on the productive class. The sterile class has two milliards in manufactured goods. Circulation passing between only two of these three classes is called imperfect by the physiocrats; circulation which takes place between all three classes is called perfect.

Now for the economic Tableau itself.

First (imperfect) Circulation: The farmers pay the landlords the rent due to them with two milliards of money, without receiving anything in return. With one of these two milliards the landlords buy means of subsistence from the farmers, to whom one-half of the money expended by them in the payment of rent thus returns.

In his Analyse du Tableau économique Quesnay does not make further mention of the state, which receives two-sevenths, or of the Church, which receives one-seventh, of the land rent, as their social roles are generally known. In regard to the landlord class proper, however, he says that its expenditure (in which that of all its retainers is included) is at least as regards the great bulk of it unfruitful expenditure, with the exception of that small portion which is used “for the maintenance and improvement of their lands and the raising of their standard of cultivation”. But by “natural law” their proper function consists precisely in “provision for the good management and expenditure for the maintenance of their patrimony in good repair”, or, as is explained further on, in making the avances foncieres, that is, outlays for the preparation of the soil and provision of all equipment needed by the farms, which enable the farmer to devote his whole capital exclusively to the business of actual cultivation.

Second (perfect) Circulation: With the second milliard of money still remaining in their hands, the landlords purchase manufactured goods from the sterile class, and the latter, with the money thus obtained, purchases from the farmers means of subsistence for the same sum.

Third (imperfect) Circulation: The farmers buy from the sterile class, with one milliard of money, a corresponding amount of manufactured goods; a large part of these goods consists of agricultural implements and other means of production required in agriculture. The sterile class returns the same amount of money to the farmers, buying raw materials with it to the value of one milliard to replace its own working capital. Thus the two milliards expended by the farmers in payment of rent have flowed back to them, and the movement is closed. And therewith also the great riddle is solved:

“what becomes of the net product, which has been appropriated as rent, in the course of the economic circulation?” {110.}

We saw above that at the starting-point of the process there was a surplus of three milliards in the hands of the productive class. Of these, only two were paid as net product in the form of rent to the landlords. The third milliard of the surplus constitutes the interest on the total invested capital of the farmers, that is, ten per cent on ten milliards. They do not receive this interest—this should be carefully noted—from circulation; it exists in natura in their hands, and they realise it only in circulation, by thus converting it into manufactured goods of equal value.

If it were not for this interest, the farmer—the chief agent in agriculture—would not advance the capital for investment in it. Already from this standpoint, according to the physiocrats, the appropriation by the farmer of that portion of the agricultural surplus proceeds which represents interest is as necessary a condition of reproduction as the farmer class itself; and hence this element cannot be put in the category of the national “net product” or “net income”; for the latter is characterised precisely by the fact that it is consumable without any regard to the immediate needs of national reproduction. This fund of one milliard, however, serves, according to Quesnay, for the most part to cover the repairs which become necessary in the course of the year, and the partial renewals of invested capital; further, as a reserve fund against accidents, and lastly, where possible, for the enlargement of the invested and working capital, as well as for the improvement of the soil and extension of cultivation.

The whole process is certainly “fairly simple” {110}. There enter into circulation: from the farmers, two milliards in money for the payment of rent, and three milliards in products, of which two-thirds are means of subsistence and one-third raw materials; from the sterile class, two milliards in manufactured goods. Of the means of subsistence amounting to two milliards, one half is consumed by the landlords and their retainers, the other half by the sterile class in payment for its labour. The raw materials to the value of one milliard replace the working capital of this latter class. Of the manufactured goods in circulation, amounting to two milliards, one half goes to the landlords and the other to the farmers, for whom it is only a converted form of the interest, which accrues at first hand from agricultural reproduction, on their invested capital. The money thrown into circulation by the farmer in payment of rent flows back to him, however, through the sale of his products, and thus the same process can take place again in the next economic year.

And now we must admire Herr Dühring's “really critical” {D. Ph. 404} exposition, which is so infinitely superior to the “traditional superficial reporting” {D. K. G. 105}. After mysteriously pointing out to us five times in succession how hazardous it was for Quesnay to operate in the Tableau with mere money values—which moreover turned out not to be true—he finally reaches the conclusion that, when he asks,

“what becomes of the net product, which has been appropriated as rent, in the course of the national-economic circulation?”—the economic Tableau “could offer nothing but confused and arbitrary conceptions, ascending to mysticism” {110}.

We have seen that the Tableau—this both simple and, for its time, brilliant depiction of the annual process of reproduction through the medium of circulation—gives a very exact answer to the question of what becomes of this net product in the course of national-economic circulation. Thus once again the “mysticism” and the “confused and arbitrary conceptions” are left simply and solely with Herr Dühring, as “the most dubious aspect” and the sole “net product” {111} of his study of physiocracy.

table insert

Herr Dühring is just as familiar with the historical influence of the physiocrats as with their theories.

“With Turgot,” he teaches us, “physiocracy in France came to an end both in practice and in theory” {120}.

That Mirabeau, however, was essentially a physiocrat in his economic views; that he was the leading economic authority in the Constituent Assembly of 1789; that this Assembly in its economic reforms translated from theory into practice a substantial portion of the physiocrats' principles, and in particular laid a heavy tax also on land rent, the net product appropriated by the landowners “without consideration”—all this does not exist for “a” Dühring. —

Just as the long stroke drawn through the years 1691 to 1752 removed all of Hume’s predecessors, so another stroke obliterated Sir James Steuart, who came between Hume and Adam Smith. There is not a syllable in Herr Dühring's “enterprise” {9} on Steuart’s great work, which, apart from its historical importance, permanently enriched the domain of political economy. But, instead, Herr Dühring applies to him the most abusive epithet in his vocabulary, and says that he was “a professor” {136} in Adam Smith’s time. Unfortunately this insinuation is a pure invention. Steuart, as a matter of fact, was a large landowner in Scotland, who was banished from Great Britain for alleged complicity in the Stuart plot and through long residence and his journeys on the Continent made himself familiar with economic conditions in various countries.

In a word: according to the Kritische Geschichte the only value all earlier economists had was to serve either as “rudiments” {1} of Herr Dühring's “authoritative” {1} and deeper foundations, or, because of their unsound doctrines, as a foil to the latter. In political economy, however, there are also some heroes who represent not only “rudiments” of the “deeper foundation” {D. C. 11}, but “principles” {5} from which this foundation, as was prescribed in Herr Dühring’s natural philosophy, is not “developed” {353} but actually “composed”: for example, the “incomparably great and eminent” {16} List, who, for the benefit of German manufacturers, puffed up the “more subtle” mercantilistic teachings of a Ferrier and others into “mightier” words; also Care, who reveals the true essence of his wisdom in the following sentence:

“Ricardo’s system is one of discords ... its whole tends to the production of hostility among classes ... his book is the true manual of the demagogue, who seeks power by means of agrarianism, war, and plunder”;

People who want to study the history of political economy in the present and immediately foreseeable future will certainly be on much safer ground if they make themselves acquainted with the “watery products”, “commonplaces” and “beggars’ soup” {14} of the “most current text-book compilations” {109}, rather than rely on Herr Dühring’s “historical depiction in the grand style” {556}.

* * *

What, then, is the final result of our analysis of Dühring’s “very own system” of political economy? Nothing, except the fact that with all the great words and the still more mighty promises we are just as much duped as we were in the Philosophy. His theory of value, this “touchstone of the worth of economic systems” {499}, amounts to this: that by value Herr Dühring understands five totally different and directly contradictory things, and, therefore, to put it at its best, himself does not know what he wants. The “natural laws of all economics” {D. C. 4}, ushered in with such pomp, prove to be merely universally familiar and often not even properly understood platitudes of the worst description. The sole explanation of economic facts which his “very own” system can give us is that they are the result of “force”, a term with which the philistine of all nations has for thousands of years consoled himself for everything unpleasant that happens to him, and which leaves us just where we were. Instead however of investigating the origin and effects of this force, Herr Dühring expects us to content ourselves gratefully with the mere word “force” as the last final cause and ultimate explanation of all economic phenomena. Compelled further to elucidate capitalist exploitation of labour, he first represents it in a general way as based on taxes and price surcharges, thereby completely appropriating the Proudhonian “deduction” (prélèvement), and then proceeding to explain it in detail by means of Marx’s theory of surplus-labour, surplus-product and surplus-value. In this way he manages to bring about a happy reconciliation of two totally contradictory modes of outlook, by copying down both without taking his breath. And just as in philosophy he could not find enough hard words for the very Hegel whom he was so constantly exploiting and at the same time emasculating, so in the Kritische Geschichte the most baseless calumniation of Marx only serves to conceal the fact that everything in the Cursus about capital and labour which makes any sense at all is likewise an emasculated plagiarism of Marx. His ignorance, which in the Cursus puts the “large landowner” at the beginning of the history of the civilised peoples, and knows not a word of the common ownership of land in the tribal and village communities, which is the real starting-point of all history — this ignorance, at the present day almost incomprehensible, is well-nigh surpassed by the ignorance which, in the Kritische Geschichte, thinks not little of itself because of “the universal breadth of its historical survey” {2}, and of which we have given only a few deterrent examples. In a word: first the colossal “effort” of self-admiration, of charlatan blasts on his own trumpet, of promises each surpassing the other; and then the “result” {109}—exactly nil.