The Logical Influence of Hegel on Marx by Rebecca Cooper 1925

PART III. Economic Theory


The Marxist system of economics is presented in a work called Capital. It consists of three volumes. Volume I is a treatment of the essentials of capitalist production; Volume II deals with the process of capitalist circulation; Volume III is a treatise on the system of capitalist economics as a whole. It is obvious that little significance, in point of view of its relationship with Hegel, can be attached to the bare fact that the work is composed of three volumes, the number of parts in a triad, for three volume works are too common, and Marx originally planned for the three volumes of Capital to consist of four books. (The fourth was published after his death, as a separate essay, but has not been translated). However, when the contents of the three volumes are considered, it is found that, as a group, they do seem to make up a sort of Hegelian triad, probably of the first, or purest form. The first two volumes consider two different processes, that of production, and that of circulation. These processes are first treated abstractly, in an artificial, isolated fashion, separated from each other, and from all other qualifying influences. Then, in the third volume, the concrete social system is analyzed as composed of these two processes very much qualified and altered by the complex inter-relationship between them. It is very easy in this way to view the third volume as something like an Hegelian synthesis of the other two, since it is of the nature of such syntheses to unite in a modified, elevated and above all, more concrete form, two terms which have been abstracted for purposes of analysis. According to Hegel, this tendency to a partial, isolated view of things is due to the involuntary form of cognition characteristic of the Understanding[97], which must be corrected, or made concrete by the operation of the Reason. Even Hegel, however, does not consider this partial view entirely erroneous, for it is part of his metaphysical doctrine that Reality, or the Absolute, consists not merely of the last all-complete reconciliation, but is composed of every antagonistic phase, and every synthesis, however incomplete, which appears in the process of its logical evolution. It thus becomes easy to appreciate the intention of Marx when for purposes of more accurate and complete analysis he isolated and considered separately the important features of the capitalist system. Marx relies on the principle that although the operation of a definite tendency in a complex situation is altered by its contact with other tendencies, it still has truth considered apart from the modifying influences, and an inspection of it by itself may be beneficial to our understanding of the whole to which it belongs. Therefore, it is possible for him to maintain the truth of the theory of value contained in the first volume as a definite tendency which is not proved false by the fact that other forces interfere to alter its operation. The same applies to the truth of the principles of capitalist circulation as contained in the second volume. Both volumes I and II contain true analyses of the two important features of our system of production as they are in their pure, or abstract form. It is in this form that they operate as tendencies in the complex actual system. The third volume, which deals with the system as it actually operates is but an account of the combined, or synthesized, workings of these two groups of economic laws.

At any rate, it has been made sufficiently clear that the three volumes may well be considered an example of a Marxist-Hegelian triad. Nor should the fact that the abstract process of circulation does not seem to be the negative of the corresponding process of production mitigate against this conclusion. It is not at all unusual in either the Hegelian or the Marxist systems for two parallel and equally important processes which in ordinary speech would not be considered antagonistic, to be designated as “opposites.” The only thing to do, apparently, is to view this as just one more inexplicable, though manifestly unimportant, Hegelian twist. Neither does the contemplated fourth book offer any insurmountable difficulty to this interpretation, for according to Marx’s own expressed intention, it was to be in the nature of a supplement rather than an integral part of the theoretical system. A history of the theories of value, which was to be the subject of this book, can hardly be regarded as interfering seriously with the symmetry of the economic triad.

Of the detailed doctrine contained within the three volumes, only the theories of value and money as stated in the first volume are of very great importance to this comparison. For it is these portions of the doctrine that are basic to the entire system, contain the original contribution to the science, and above all, are characteristic of the author in his most theoretical, speculative mood, when his Hegelian training and influences are most clearly exhibited. Therefore, it will be sufficient, as an introduction to this more important investigation, to pass over rapidly the contents of the remainder of the work.

In the first part of the first volume wealth, value (three kinds), price, and capital (five kinds) are defined; theories of money, surplus value, and wages are developed, and the process of circulation, in so far as it is necessary to production itself is traced; the remainder of the book contains formulae for the rates of profit, of surplus value, and of exploitation, gives a history of the introduction of the machine process, gives statistics on industrial conditions for 1860-70, and lastly presents a theory and history of primitive accumulation.

The first part of Volume I as described above contains all the essential theories of the entire doctrine, and they are stated in highly abstract Hegelian form. On the other hand, the analysis of the magnitude and rate of surplus value, which follows, is presented in strictly mathematical rather than Hegelian formulae. The next part after that, devoted largely to history and statistics concerning the development of capitalism, is, with the exception of certain scattered expressions, entirely free from Hegelian influences. Lastly, a clear-cut, statistical and historical proof, as contrasted with the earlier more speculative argument, is given of the theory that primitive accumulation is primarily not saving, but robbery.

The second volume seems to be of little value to the complete doctrine, chiefly because of its labored, involved, artificial and almost unreadable form. It is concerned with a discussion of the circulation of capital and of consumable products so far as necessary to an understanding of capital. Its method is that of an abstract, somewhat arbitrary, and bewilderingly complicated division of the process of circulation into spheres, based on purely hypothetical cases, and involving elaborate arithmetical calculations.[98]

The formulae and the argument turn largely on the distinction between fixed and circulating capital, and the production of goods for consumption. However, in the first chapter or two Marx considers the formulae for the metamorphosis of money into capital, elaborating the intermediate term. This discussion, which but supplements the similar subject in the first volume, involves, as does the latter, certain Hegelian concepts.

As explained before, the third volume is an application of the abstract theories contained in the first two volumes; it concerns itself with the counter-acting influences and the actual situation in the light of these modifications. Detailed practical attempts to increase surplus value are explained, along with the effects of fluctuation of the market on manufacturers’ income. Rates of profit are taken up, and a solution secured for the phenomenon of the “falling rate of profit” (it consists of a change in the composition of capital). The reasons for an average rate of profit are seen in the effects of the competition of capitals. This is the “great contradiction” because it involves the consequence that individual commodities do not exchange at prices fluctuating around their exchange values, but at prices which fluctuate around their prices of production[99]. Since these prices of production are themselves based on the Marxist value we have here really no contradiction but rather a fine example of the operation; of a tendency being influenced by other tendencies in a complex situation.

The last part of the volume is devoted principally to the division of surplus value into rent, interest, profit, and taxes. The formation of great trusts and monopolies is also prophesied.

Hegelian expressions in Volume III are comparatively few, and quite scattered; the reasoning for the most part, is couched in economic rather than philosophical terms. This may be due to the fact that Engels compiled the book, and probably wrote a great deal of it, from very incomplete manuscripts.


This resume of the theory of value may seem more metaphysical than Marx really is because wherever possible I have selected those statements of his which are most Hegelian, following his Critique of Political Economy rather than his Capital since this earlier work is the more Hegelian. Nevertheless, this is probably the best way to bring out the sort of influence exerted by Hegel.

Marx says that the economics of the capitalist system must concern itself with the wealth of that system. “The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities,’ its unit being a single commodity.”[100] In the first place, the exact nature of the unit-commodity must be determined – its difference from other objects noted. The commodity, it is found, has four distinguishing features; it must be a reproducible object, it must satisfy some want, it must be the product of human labor, and it must be made for the consumption of some one other than the producer, in other words, it is essential that it be produced for exchange.

This last characteristic, that all commodities must be produced for exchange, and exchange for each other is the key-note to the detailed analysis of the commodity, and determines its relation to other commodities, and to the entire capitalist system, which is but the complex of the inter-relatedness of these, its unit objects; for, from this fact, that commodities exchange for each other, it follows that they must have some common basis which can be measured. Since the measurement of the exchange ratio between commodities is based on their value, according to the definition of value, the discovery of the nature of this fundamental basis will solve the problem of the nature of value.

Two of the essential characteristics of the commodity are of prime importance, and may be viewed as its two sides. Thus a commodity has use-value, that is, it has certain physical properties which give it utility; but it has also another side, for it is likewise an exchange-value, that is, it exchanges for other commodities at a certain numerical rate, which figure represents its value in exchange. It then becomes necessary to distinguish not only the exchange-value and the use-value, but also the exchange-value and the value. The exchange-value is but the expression of that something which all commodities have in common, namely, their value. The question arises, what is this something, or what is value?

The proof which Marx gives of his theory of value is really a proof by elimination. Value must be something which is independent of the physical peculiarities of any particular commodities, because all commodities, regardless of what they are physically will exchange for each other. So use-value, which is a matter of the physical properties of the object, cannot be the basis of value. But then, too, there are some things which possess use-value without having any exchange-value; among these, the necessities, air, water, and sunshine may be mentioned. It is evident that value must be something which all commodities have in common, and also, it must be something without which they will not exchange. Use-value does not satisfy these requirements, nor does any particular physical quality. However, abstract human labor does satisfy every requirement fully, and must, therefore, be recognized as the value element in all commodities.

Exchange-value is not identical with value; it is the “form” of value, the “mode of expression,” the “phenomenal form.”[101] The commodity as a physical object, on the other hand, is the crystallization of this same abstract, tenuous thing, it is the materialization of the human, simple, uniform, abstract labor embodied in it. Value itself, then, is quite the opposite of the coarse materiality of substance; as such, it contains no matter at all; consequently, it is not discernable in the body of an individual commodity, but reveals itself only in the social relationship between commodities in exchange – which is another way of saying, in the exchange-value.[102]

Value is by its very nature susceptible of measurement; its basis is universal labor, abstract and unquantified, its measurement, therefore, must be sought for in its duration – labor-time is the measure of abstract labor, and consequently, of value.[103] Since exchange-value is but the form of value, it follows, in Marx’s words, that “as exchange-values, all commodities are but definite measures of congealed labor-time.[104]

Obviously, the use-value and the value of a commodity are, respectively, its qualitative and quantitative aspects. It is not so obvious, but just as true, that corresponding to these two aspects there is a two-fold character to the labor involved in its production. The qualitative side of the commodity, that is, its use-value, is dependent upon a certain kind of labor, which the Marxists, for purposes of distinction, have called work; while the value is independent of the physical nature of the labor (that is, of the work), requiring only that some useful labor, of a certain quantity, be employed. In other words, the qualitative aspect of the labor is responsible for the qualitative aspect of the commodity, and the same relation holds for the quantitative side of each. Thus, it may sometimes happen that an increase in the material wealth, that is, an increase in the actual body of goods may correspond with a decrease in the value of the entire amount – the possibility of such an antagonistic movement rests, of course, on the fact of this two-fold polar character of the factors involved.[105]

These two polar aspects of the commodity, the use-value and the exchange-value, are not so easily explained away as by merely pointing out that they constitute its quantitative and qualitative sides. When considered more closely, the different types of value present many complicated and subtle difficulties, even contradictions.

Though the use-value of a commodity is its qualitative aspect, its nature is such that it does not become a reality except in actual use, or consumption. Even though the use-value is identified with the material being of the object, and has no existence apart from it, it does not follow from the mere existence of certain physical properties that the object is a use-value in the economic sense. The use-value, or the utility, depends on the wants of the consumer, and -its existence is actually established only in the act of consumption.

The exchange-value, though the other, or quantitative side of the commodity, does not have quite the same intimate relationship with it. Its connection is more external and relative, since it serves to indicate the proportion in which use-values exchange for each other.[106] Above all, it is important to remember the much more intimate connection between value and exchange-value, for, exchange-value is the form of value, justifying Marx’s statement, as quoted before, that “as exchange-values all commodities are but definite measures of congealed labor-time.” From this connection another paradoxical situation becomes apparent. To quote again from Marx, “... labor which is expressed in exchange-value at once appears as the labor of a separate individual. It becomes social labor only by taking on the form of its direct opposite, the form of abstract universal labor.”[107]

Considering the commodity carefully as exchange-value and use-value, it becomes evident that these two sides presuppose each other, and in general involve the analysis in at least several difficult and contradictory relationships, which must in some way be resolved. The commodity is a use-value and an exchange-value only because it is the embodiment of universal labor-time. In other words, the exchange-value as the form of value, and in fact, the entire exchange relationship exhibits the peculiar, reversed order, that the social relationships of men appear in the opposite form of a social relation-ship between things.”[108] This means, merely, that things exchange because they are the embodiments of universal abstract labor, which in itself depends, after all, on the social relationships of the laborers – it is abstract and universal only because it is social. However, actually, it is not units of abstract labor which exchange, such a thing is impossible, but material objects which assume the social intercourse of mutual exchange. Therefore, though attention is directed to the physical commodity itself as use-value and exchange-value, its basis in abstract labor, or value, must never be lost sight of if the contradictions and their solution are to be understood.

There is, first, the contradiction that a commodity both is and is not a use-value. For the owner it is certainly not a use-value, or at any rate, it is a use-value only because it is an exchange-value – its utility consists in the fact that it will exchange. For the consumer, of course, it is truly a use--value, for it is only when the act of consumption is performed that the use-value of the article is finally and indubitably established. But the contradiction is even more grave than it would at first appear. If the commodity becomes a use-value only in use or consumption, then it does so only after it has gone through the process of exchange (since it is the nature of a commodity to be consumed, not by its original owner, or producer, but by the consumer who has purchased, that is, exchanged, for it). But, an object must have use-value, that is, it must be a commodity, before it can participate in economic exchange.”[109] Thus, in order to be realized as exchange-values, commodities must be realized as use-values, and in order to be realized as use-values they must be realized as exchange-values. The contradiction is obvious, and Marx attempts to solve it. However, before giving his solution, the other important contradiction evolved in the process of exchange should be analyzed, for the solutions of both really go together.

This time the contradiction arises between the pair: value, and its form, exchange-value. Individual labor (for, after all, all labor is the labor of individuals) becomes social labor, that is, universal labor, in the process of exchange, for, if it were not for exchange, social, universal labor would be a meaningless expression. Exchange is essential to the existence of abstract, homogeneous, universal labor, and it is in the process of exchange that exchange-value necessarily functions. But, then, a contradiction emerges, since, exchange-value is but the form of value, or universal labor, its existence (that is, the existence of exchange-value) must presuppose the existence of that of which it is but the form, or phenomenon. Thus, again, in order to become social, labor must become active in exchange, and in order to be active in exchange, or to be exchange-value, labor must be social – another glaring contradiction which Marx also undertakes to solve.

The solution of the contradictions is accomplished through an analysis of the process of exchange itself, for in reality, it is in the actual process, that the actual solution takes place. Now, in exchange every commodity appears as both a use-value and exchange-value. Its actual bodily form is, of course, its use-value. However, it is obvious that the exchange-value of any commodity cannot express itself in its own bodily form (the exchange-value of hats cannot be measured in hats – it is meaningless in economics to say that the exchange-value of this hat is equal to or measured by this hat), it must therefore express itself in the bodily form, or use-value, of some other commodity, called its equivalent, for only commodities can confront each other in exchange. When all commodities express their values in the bodily form of a single kind of commodity, that kind of commodity is excluded from the ordinary run of merchandise and becomes the universal equivalent, or money.[110] It is this feature of the exchange process which solves all the contradictions evolved in its movement, the difficulty of the two-fold, contradictory nature of the commodity, the two sides of which are not only opposite, but presuppose each other, is cleared up, made rational, through expression in the universal equivalent of the values of all commodities. And when, in this connection, the expression “exchange-process” is used, it is intended quite literally, for it cannot be said that the contradictions are solved by the exchange relation, since it is a process, not a static condition which is required.

Thus, following Marx’s order, and assuming for the time being that the first contradiction, between use-value and exchange-value does not exist, or has been solved,[111] the second main difficulty, of the manner in which individual labor becomes social labor, thus forming the basis of exchange-value, is cleared up in the following manner: in exchange, commodities must appear to each other as equivalents, that is, as exchange-values; they must, therefore, drop away from themselves all particular physical properties, in other words, their use-values. Now, the question is, how does the individual labor in the article become social, which it must before exchange can take place. It is at this point that the universal equivalent comes in and removes all difficulties, for it is directly through the universal equivalent that the individual labor in commodities becomes social in character. The universal equivalent is that commodity, or type of commodities, in the bodily form of which all other commodities have come to express their exchange-values. Thus, through a social act, the individual labor in the universal equivalent becomes socialized. The socialized labor serves as a measure of the labor contained within all other commodities, and, of course, is indicative of the proportions between them; in other words, commodities have now acquired a social, and universal basis for their exchange-values.

But, there is still the first contradiction, between use-value and exchange-value which presuppose each other, demanding solution. The answer is simply, that until the actual exchange takes place, the exchange-value, and certainly the use-value, exist ideally, or latently, this ideal expression being made possible by the universal equivalent, or money, the value or exchange-value being verbally, or ideally expressed in the price.[112] Thus, in the last analysis, it is because of the peculiar characteristics of a single commodity that this most contradictory relationship, that of the exchange, between commodities, is made possible. For, this commodity, the universal equivalent, has, as Marx puts it, a sort of double use-value, or it is a use-value in two ways, “Besides its special use-value as a particular commodity, it assumes a universal use-value. This latter kind of use-value constitutes its special feature, emanating as it does from the specific part which the commodity plays as a result of the universal relation which all other commodities bear toward it in the process of exchange. The use-value of every commodity as an object of a particular want, has a different value in different hands, for instance, it has a different value in the hands of the one who disposes of it, than in those of the one who acquires it. But the commodity singled out as the universal equivalent, is now an object of a universal want arising from the very process of exchange, and it has the same use-value to everybody, namely, that of serving as the depository of exchange-value, of being a universal means of exchange. Thus we find in one commodity the solution of the contradiction which is inherent in commodity, as such, namely, of being at one and the same time a particular use-value and a universal equivalent, and, therefore, a use-value for everybody or universal use-value.[113] In money, then, the opposition between exchange-value and use-value is overcome, because here the two are combined in one and the same thing, namely, the bodily form of money, which is at the same time the exchange-value of all other commodities, crystallized, and a universal use-value, because of the function of expressing all exchange-values.

In three successive logical steps, Marx then analyses the role of money in the exchange process – in the Critique as part of the solution of the above contradictions, in Capital, more fully in a separate discussion. From the point of view of its relation to Hegel, the more detailed account is significant enough to be reviewed here.

The first step, or form, of the relation of commodities in exchange is called the elementary, or accidental form of value.[114] It is the simplest form of exchange since it involves only commodities which are exchangeable for each other. However, it contains the germ of the higher forms; the elements of all three relation remain the same. Therefore, analysis of this simplest form is an aid to understanding the higher and more complicated forms. The two commodities which encounter each other in the value relation may be viewed as the two poles of that relation, one expressing the value of the other. The two poles are called, respectively, the relative and the equivalent forms of the expression of value. The exchange-value of the relative term expresses itself in the bodily form of the other commodity, its equivalent. Thus the relative term fluctuates with changes in the amount of labor-time contained in either term. In the value relation, these two terms are mutually connected and inseparable, yet antagonistic, and, though they are exactly equal to each other, (if they were not they could not exchange) they cannot be reversed without reversing also the form, and, consequently, the function of each.[115]

Comparing further the two forms (the nature and import of the relative form has already been given in its essential features), it is found that this first form is something with a certain value due to the amount of labor-time embodied within it. The value, however, is not the object itself, nor can it be measured by the bodily form of the object in which it is realized. It must, as explained above, express itself in the bodily form of another object, its equivalent.[116] The value of the equivalent, on the other hand, receives no direct quantitative expression. It differs from the relative in that the relative expresses something of itself other than its bodily substance and properties, something which exists only in a certain relation, namely, its value, in the bodily form of another object; while the peculiar value of the equivalent is expressed in its own bodily form. (Thus, the value of gold is expressed in gold, because gold happens to be the universal equivalent, while the value of a hat cannot be expressed in itself because the commodity hat did not happen to become the universal equivalent.)[117] It is in this relation, too, that the labor of individuals, for example, concrete labor, expresses itself, or in a sense, becomes its opposite, universal, abstract labor.[118] As a whole, the importance of this first form of value consists in the fact that the contrast between the opposites, use-value and value is made explicit through the equivalent. “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 a 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.”[119]

In spite of the fundamental nature of this form, it is hopelessly deficient because it is in terms of but one commodity; it fails to satisfy fully the requirements of the value relation because it does not express the “qualitative equality and quantitative proportionality of a commodity with all other commodities.”[120].

This fatal defect is remedied by the second step in the value relation, or, as Marx called it, the total, or expanded form. The relative form is in this case equated, not only to one, but to every other commodity in a certain proportion, thus abolishing the former accidental relationship. The equivalent no longer stands alone, but becomes a particular form, one out of innumerable others. However, in spite of the expansion, and the comprehensiveness of this form, it also suffers from certain very grave defects. In the first place, the relative form is “incomplete” and unsatisfactory because expressed in a never ending series[121] – to express the value of a commodity in every single other commodity when there is an indefinite number of commodities in existence, does not help very much. In the second place, such a “mosaic” of independent expressions of value is eminently confusing and unworkable; when the value of a commodity is given as a certain proportion of every other commodity, the expression, to say the least, becomes inconveniently cumbersome. Therefore, this form, too, is relinquished, and is superseded by the third form of value called the general form.

This last form is derived from the second by simply reversing the equation in which the second is expressed. Thus, if the value of A is represented in the equation of the second form; commodity A equals commodity B equals commodity C equals commodity D, etc., and this equation is reversed in such a way that the single relative term is no longer equated successively to the entire series of commodities as equivalents, but instead, commodities B, C, D, etc., in linear order, are all equated to the single commodity A, the equation of the new form will look like this :

commodity B

commodity C equals commodity A

commodity D

The characteristics of this form are all derived from the two preceding forms. Thus, it may be said that all commodities express their value in an elementary form because the expression appears in but one commodity; they express their value in an expanded form because all commodities are involved in the relation. This last form is called general because characterized by complete unity, in that all commodities express their value in one single commodity. n this way the basic condition of a true exchange relationship is realized, namely, that all commodities be “qualitatively equal and quantitatively proportional.”


Of the manner in which the Hegelian philosophy influenced his economic theories, Marx gives very little information, except to declare that he “coquetted” with Hegelian logical concepts. In the absence, then of any positive knowledge of the parts of Hegel’s philosophy which affected, directly or in-directly, the Marxist economic theory, discovering the logical relationship can consist merely in pointing out similarities in the two systems.

Though in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right there is a discussion of the nature of value,[122] Hegel does not begin, as do the economists Ricardo and Marx, by pointing out that the wealth of society consists in the collection of economic objects called commodities. However, in this same discussion the existence of certain economic goods which are exchanged for each other, is recognized. The one essential characteristic, apparently, of these objects is that they satisfy want, or be useful, a quality of economic goods to be found also in Adam Smith, Ricardo, and Marx. In fact, the treatment comes under the category of use, which in turn belongs to the first section, property, under the first main member of the triad which makes up this work, namely, abstract right. Use, then is the only one of the characteristics enumerated by Marx as essential to a commodity which is explicitly mentioned also by Hegel, who, by the way, gives its meaning a metaphysical twist entirely foreign to the Marxist discussion. Hegel explains that in desire for an object the will becomes properly particularized – “use is the realization of my want through change, destruction, and consumption of the object, which in this way reveals that it has no self and fulfills its nature.”[123] From the nature of this discussion of use as compared with that of Ricardo and Adam Smith, it is safe to conclude that the important Marxist concept of use-value was derived directly from the economists, and not from the philosopher.

The next point, on the other hand, that commodities exchanging for each other must have a common basis for that exchange, finds a much more significant parallel in Hegel’s theory of value. According to Hegel,[124],’” it is very significant that objects of any want may be compared with each other, thus indicating that all have in common some basis on which the possibility of this comparison rests. “In use the object is a single one, definite in quality and quantity, and answers to a special usefulness, when fixed quantitatively it can be compared with other objects capable of being put to the same use, and a special want, served by the object, and indeed any want may be compared with other wants; and their corresponding objects may be compared. This universal characteristic which proceeds from the particular object and yet abstracts from its special qualities is the value. Value is the true essence or substance of the object, and the object by possessing value becomes an object of consciousness.”[125] Thus, both Hegel and Marx emphasize the fact that when objects having different properties meet as equivalents there must be something about them, underlying their differences which is identical and measurable, and for both, this common basis constitutes their value. Perhaps, then, the inference is proper that for this important feature, at least, of his theory, Marx was indebted to Hegel. But, in his own discussion of the subject Marx quotes from Aristotle whom he credits with this discovery, though recognizing wherein the ancient philosopher failed to perfect his solution. “’Exchange,’ he,” that is, Aristotle, “says, ‘cannot take place without equality, and equality not without commensurability.’ Here, however, he comes to a stop, and gives up the further analysis of the forms of value. ‘It is, however, in reality impossible, that such unlike things can be commensurable – that is, qualitatively equal. Such equalization can only be something foreign to their real nature, consequently only a makeshift for practical purposes.’ “[126] Thus, Aristotle discovered long ago that there must be some common basis if true exchange is to take place, but he failed to arrive at the nature of that basis, or value. “The brilliancy of Aristotle’s genius is shown by this alone, that he discovered, in the expression of the value of commodities, a relation of equality. The peculiar conditions of the society in which he lived, alone prevented him from discovering what, ‘in truth,’ was at the bottom of this equality.”[127]

That Hegel as well as Marx and the other classical economists recognized that commodities have sides, a qualitative and a quantitative, is attested by the statement quoted above, that “in use the object is a single one definite in quality and quantity.” However, used in this connection, the term quantity seems to have the same meaning intended by Marx when he says, on page 42 of Capital, Vol. I, that “every useful thing, as iron, paper, and the like, may be looked at from the two points of view of quality and quantity. It is an assemblage of many properties, and may therefore be of use in various ways. To discover the various uses of things is the work of history. So also is the establishment of socially-recognized standards of measure for the quantities of these useful objects.” “Quantity” here and in the quotation from Hegel means, probably, quantity in the sense of the amount of any object considered as a use-value, that is, an object having certain physical properties. Ordinarily, when Marx speaks of an object having two sides, a qualitative and a quantitative, he is referring to the use-value and the exchange-value, using quantity in quite a different and more characteristic sense. When, in the course of his discussion of value, Hegel says, “Quality here becomes quantity. ‘Want’ is a term common to the greatest variety of things, and enables me to compare them.” And, again, “In property the quantitative aspect which issues from the qualitative is value,”[128] is seems that he, too, is using the term “quantitative” in a value sense, corresponding with that of Marx when he speaks of a commodity as being both a use-value and an exchange-value, or a value.

Little difference of meaning can be attached to the terms use and use-value. All agree that use-value is the qualitative side of the object, and is a matter of its physical properties in relation to certain human wants. The other side of the commodity, for Marx, is the exchange-value, the proportion in which commodities exchange; its basis is the value, or the abstract human labor embodied in the article. Value, according to Hegel, is something very different. The physical properties of certain goods make them the objects of human want. It is this common characteristic which makes it possible for them to exchange for each other, and which constitutes their value. Therefore, when Hegel makes such statements as: “Quality here becomes quantity,” and, “the qualitative determines the quantum,”[129] referring to the capacity of the physical properties to determine worth, he is attributing to these objects a quantitative or value side, in some sense analogous to that of Marx. However, judging from his statement of the nature of value, the quantitative side corresponds, not to exchange-value in Marx’s scheme, but rather to value itself, though no distinction is given between value and exchange-value. Quantum here refers to a definite amount, but a definite amount of want, or value, and not the proportion for which objects will exchange for each other. Marx, too, speaks of a definite value, or a definite amount of labor-time embodied in a commodity, which however, does not necessarily coincide with the exchange value. It is very difficult to decide this point exactly, because, in the absence of any explicit distinction on Hegel’s part between the two types of value, it is impossible to tell which of the two forms he has in mind. It is necessary to depend entirely on his wording, and though by no means very precise, it is most consistent with the interpretation I have made.

The difference between the Marxist and the Hegelian conceptions of the nature of value has already been indicated. For Hegel, the basis of value is want or utility – in other words, Hegel represents the so-called Hedonist school of economists to which the Marxist and classical theories of value are op-posed. The Hegelian statement that “value is the true essence or substance of the object” is suggestive of many similar expressions by Marx. But for Marx, these statements usually include some reference to the social labor involved, for example: “As the embodiment of social labor, all commodities are the crystallization of the same substance,”[130] for, unless the object is the pro-duct of human labor, it is not, according to Marx, the crystallization of value, even though it has utility, or “want.” On the other hand, it would seem from Hegel’s analysis that every object which is of use has value, since for him, use, or want, is the basis of value.

So far it has been possible to compare the Marxist theory of value with a similar Hegelian theory. However, all the features of the Marxist theory to which there correspond principles in Hegel’s value doctrine have been exhausted, and the remainder of the comparison, (not only of the theory of value, but of the other economic doctrines as well) can consist only in the indication of those Hegelian logical categories which resemble most’ closely the concepts and terminology of Marx. It is altogether impossible to say whether or not Marx had any particular categories in mind while making his analysis. The closeness of the resemblance in some cases seems, nevertheless, very significant. It is probable that Marx had so thoroughly imbibed the logic of Hegel that his reasoning, more or less unconsciously, followed the Hegelian mode.

So certain features of the Marxist theory of value must now be reconsidered, this time in connection with categories of the Hegelian logic. Abstract, universal, human labor constitutes the basis of value in Marx’s scheme. The abstract, universal feature might well have been derived from Hegel’s theory of value, since his account contains very similar expressions--"The universal characteristic which proceeds from the particular object and yet abstracts from its special qualities is the value.”[131] There must, however, be some means of measuring abstract human universal labor, which in itself – as abstract and universal – affords no basis for measurement. According to Marx, labor time is the measure required. Obviously, these matters of value and measurement fall within the category of quantity. Value, manifestly, con-forms to the first member of the triad of quantity, namely, pure quantity, be-cause, while quantitative in character, it is not in itself a definite quantity. Hegel’s own statement seems to fit it very well: “Quantity is mere being, in the case of which the character or determinateness ceases to be identified with Being itself, and is explicitly set aside or rendered indifferent.”[132] Labor-time, on the other hand, may be placed under the second member of this triad, the category of quantum (how much) – “Quantity, when the exclusionist character which it involves is explicitly attached to its essence, is a Quantum (or How Much) : that is, limited quantity.”[133] This seems to hold in spite of Marx’s statement that, “as exchange-values all commodities are but definite measures of congealed labor-time,” which with other similar passages seems to suggest that exchange-value is the proper measure of value, and should occupy the position of Quantum. However, it seems to me, the other interpretation is the more reasonable, since, after all, exchange-value is not a definite measure of value, but a relative quantity, which fluctuates though the value itself remains constant.

Many of Marx’s expressions suggest placing exchange-value with value under the category of appearance. Thus, Marx speaks of exchange-value as the “form” of value, the “mode of expression,” the “phenomenal form,” and though any judgment based on the mere mode of expression when translations are used is necessarily questionable, the consistency with which these very clear expressions appear, and the fact that all explanations of their meaning fall in with this interpretation, makes it well worth considering. The Hegelian category of appearance is the second member of the triad of essence, which constitutes the second main division of the logic. Since, with very few exceptions, the remainder of the principles which make up the Marxist theory of value seem to fall, as related to Hegel, somewhere within the realm of essence, a brief discussion of this doctrine may help to elucidate the connection.

Hegel begins his dissertation on essence with the following more or less clear general statement of the nature of this main category as contrasted with the one preceding : “The terms in Essence are always mere pairs of correlatives, and not yet absolutely reflected in themselves : hence in essence the actual unity of the notion is not realized, but only postulated by reflection. Essence – which is Being coming into mediation with itself through the negativity of itself – is self-relatedness, only in so far as it is relation to an Other – this Other, however, coming to view at first not as something which is, but as postulated and hypothetised. – Being has not vanished : but, firstly Essence, as simple self-relation, is Being, and secondly as regards its one-sided characteristic of immediacy, Being is deposed to a mere negative, to a seeming or reflected light – Essence accordingly is Being thus reflecting light into itself.”[134] He goes on to point out that the central conception of essence resembles a reflected ray of light, which involves two things, the ray of light itself, and its reflected, or thrown back, counterpart. Everything, then, according to essence, may be regarded as twofold in this manner, for everything is both “under-lying essence and the reflected appearance, Reflexion-in-sich and Reflexion-inanderes.”[135] And when Hegel speaks of this stage as “Being coming into mediation with itself through the negation of itself,” he is referring to the fact that the “other” to which being is now opposed, is, in the last analysis, but its own reflected self; the complete union, or identity, of the two constituting the ground of essence. Further details of this conception are suggested by one of Hegel’s paragraphs at the conclusion of the introduction to this topic : “As the one notion is the common principle underlying all logic, there appear in the development of Essence the same attributes or terms as in the development of Being, but in a reflex form. Instead of Being and Nought we have now the forms Positive and Negative; the former at first as Identity corresponding to pure and uncontrasted Being, the latter developed (showing in itself) as Difference.”[136] Though the general conception as stated above is sufficient, probably, to establish a connection between the various principles of the theory of value and the doctrine of Essence, it is possible, I think, to find significantly close parallels between the Marxist concepts and some few of the subordinate categories and notions contained within this important division.

Thus, the two sets of correlative terms, use-value and exchange-value, and work and labor, fall quite neatly, in the manner of their relationship, under the Hegelian maxim of opposition. According to this principle, true opposites, related to each other as positive and negative, are at the same time, inseparably bound up with each other, mutually dependent, even identical, as shown by the inevitable resolution of the contradiction between them. Hegel’s own explanation of opposition may well be quoted rather fully at this point, because of its important bearing on the central conceptions in the theory of value and ex-change: “Difference implicit is essential difference, the Positive and the Negative : and that is this way, the Positive is the identical self-relation in such a way as not to be the Negative, and the Negative is the different by itself so as not to be the Positive. Thus either has an existence of its own in proportion as it is not the other. The one is made visible in the other, and is only in so far as that other is. Essential difference is therefore Opposition; according to which the different is not confronted by any other but by its other. That is, either of these two (Positive and Negative) is stamped with a characteristic of its own only in its relation to its other: the one is only reflected into itself as it is reflected into the other. And so with the other. Either in this way is the other’s own other (1) ... Positive and negative are sup-posed to express an absolute difference. The two, however, are at bottom the same: the name of either might be transferred to the other ...”[137] “Contrariety then has two forms. The Positive is the aforesaid various (different) which is understood to be independent, and yet at the same time not to be unaffected by its relation to its other. The Negative is to be, no less independently, negative self-relating, self-subsistent, and yet at the same time as Negative must on every point have this its self-relation, that is, its Positive, only in the other. Both Positive and Negative are therefore explicit contradiction; both are potentially the same. Both are so actually also; since either is the abrogation of the other and of itself. Thus they fall to the Ground. Or as is plain, the essential difference, as a difference, is only the difference of it from itself, and thus contains the identical: so that to essential and actual difference there belongs itself as well as identity. As self-relating difference it is like-wise virtually enunciated as the self-identical. And the opposite is in general that which includes the one and its other, itself and its opposite. The immanence of essence thus defined is Ground.”[138]

Now the pairs use-value and exchange-value, and work and labor have many of the characteristics of opposition as contained in the above quotations.. When use-value and exchange-value are considered dynamically also, in the exchange process, it will be seen that they have many more. As such, however, these pairs were referred to by Marx as “polar opposites” because they are, in the first place, diametrically opposed to each other, one as the qualitative, and the other as the direct opposite, or quantitative, in nature, which makes it appropriate to regard them as, respectively, positive and negative; but, in the second place, they are as intimately connected as they are opposed – they are not only necessary to each other, but, in the last analysis, they are identical. This is proved by the fact that Marx used such expressions as : “the commodity is a use-value,” “the commodity is an exchange-value” – and, if the same commodity is both (or either) of these two things in this way, they must be identical (in the Hegelian sense, of course, which does not preclude their difference, but rather depends upon it). Exactly the same sort of analysis may be applied to the labor (in its wider meaning) embodied in commodities – it is both labor, that is, abstract, and work, that is, concrete.

Before taking up use-value and exchange-value more fully as they appear in the exchange relation, the pair already referred to, of value and exchange-value must be analyzed under a somewhat different type of relationship, still within the general category of essence, namely, that of appearance. Though the category of appearance occupies the position of second member in the triad of essence, it seems in many ways to peculiarly exemplify the essential characteristics of this category, especially in its character of reflexiveness. The relation between value and exchange-value resembles this category in more than the mere manner of expression, although the terms, “form,” “phenomenon,” “appearance,” and the like, used in this connection are very suggestive. “The Essence,” says Hegel,[139] explaining the nature of the category of appearance, “must appear or shine forth. Its shining or reflection in it is the suspension and translation of it to immediacy, which, whilst as reflection-on-self it is matter or subsistence, is also form, reflection-on-something-else, a subsistence which sets itself aside. To show or shine is the characteristic by which essence is distinguished from being – by which it is essence; and it is this show which, when it is developed, shows itself, and is Appearance. Essence accordingly is not something beyond or behind appearance, but just because it is the essence which exists – the existence is Appearance (Forth-shining) ... The appearance which is thus created does not stand on its own feet, and has its being not in itself but in something else.”[140]

Now, exchange-value is not only expressly called the appearance of value, but it is explained also that it is the sort of an appearance which is identical with that of which it is the appearance – for is not the commodity a two-sided object, a use-value and a value, or an exchange-value, value and exchange-value used interchangeably because essentially the same thing? Exchange-value’s chief distinction from value is its relative nature, its dependence on “others,” both of which distinctions are given by Hegel in the above quotations to differentiate essence (as ground of existence) and appearance. It seems quite safe, too, in view of this rather close parallel, to regard value as “reflection-on-self,” and exchange-value as its inseparable, but quite distinguishable counterpart, its relative expression as “reflection-on-something-else.” To place this relation more closely under one of the subordinate categories of appearance: (a) the world of appearance, (b) content and form, (c) relation, whole and parts, and the like, is a very difficult thing to do. It bears more resemblance to the first two than to the third, but cannot be placed definitely under either of these, since their peculiar characteristics do not seem to apply, especially.

Now, we must consider the various contradictions of the exchange relation – the contradictions which have a real existence, and are not merely mental difficulties. In the first place, the commodity both is and is not a use-value. This paradoxical situation for Hegel is not at all impossible, for even common-sense admits, he holds, that a thing may exhibit contradictory attributes, from different points of view. “A notion, which possesses either or both of two mutually contradictory marks, for instance, a quadrangular circle, is held to be logically false. Now though a multiangular circle and a rectilinear arc no less contradict this maxim, geometers never hesitate to treat the circle as a polygon with rectilineal sides.”[141]

The contradictory situation in exchange between use-value and exchange-value, and value and exchange-value, brought about by the fact that the members of each of these pairs mutually pre-suppose each other, receives ample Hegelian justification by the bare fact of being a contradiction – since for Hegel contradictory situations are not only possible, but the normal state of reality. ‘Instead of speaking by the maxim of Excluded Middle (which is the maxim of abstract understanding) we should rather say : Everything is opposite ... Contradiction is the very moving principle of the World: and it is ridiculous to say that contradiction is unthinkable. The only, thing correct in that statement is that contradiction is not the end of the matter, but cancels itself.” And with this last statement, that contradictions must cancel them-selves, or be resolved, Marx agrees perfectly, for according to him, the exchange-process constitutes just such a solution of all the above contradictions. The solution, which all hinges about, or may be said to be accomplished by, the universal equivalent, conforms beautifully to the requirements laid down by Hegel in continuation of the last quotation: “But contradiction, when can-celled, does not leave abstract identity; for that is itself only one side of the contrariety. The proximate result of opposition (when realized as contradiction) is the Ground, which contains identity as well as difference superseded and deposed to elements in the complete notion.”[142]

However, before the universal equivalent is reached as the all-decisive solver of the contradictions involved in the exchange of commodities, the re-semblance between Marx’s solution of the contradiction between use-value and exchange-value, and value and exchange-value, arising from the fact that though they (that is, the two members of each pair considered as such) must both exist, the existence of each presupposes the existence of the other, and Hegel’s discussion of actuality, possibility, and the like, should be considered without too much stress being put upon it. According to Hegel, the actual, or the real world, the concrete result of the dialectic movement, is, as the actual, that which was formerly the potential, or the merely possible – which must, however, be “real possibility.” Consideration of the possible and the actual introduces another element, namely, condition, or the contingent, which is the other without which the possible could never have become actual. Though there are many other principles included within this category of actuality, they do not seem to have much bearing on the Marxist doctrine at present under consideration. It does, however, seem possible to make a significant comparison between the above important concepts of this category and the potential existence of use-value, exchange-value, and social labor, which become actual during the course of the essential exchange process if certain conditions do not fail to materialize – if, for example, there is a consumer ready, for whom the physical properties of the object constitute a real use-value, and who is in possession of the necessary commodities (usually money) to make the exchange, and finally, who is able to overcome whatever other difficulties stand in the way of his coming into contact and making a bargain with the owner of the commodity in question.

Now, returning to the universal equivalent, which in another sense is a necessary condition to the potential existence of the various properties of the commodity, it may seem queer and distorted to place it under the category of ground, which in the logic precedes the discussion of the actual, appearing in the first member of the category of essence, while the actual is the third member of this same category. However, if it is correct that (to again quote Croce, with whom I agree on this point) “ ... the Hegelian dialectic of concepts, ... seems ... to bear a purely external and approximate re-semblance ... to the notion ... of antithetical conditions of society,” and further, “ ... the Hegelian phraseology beloved by Marx, of which the tradition is now lost, and which, even within that tradition he adapted with a freedom that at times seems not to lack an element of mockery,” then the simple reversal of the Hegelian order should not mitigate at all against the validity of this comparison. Neither do I claim that the meaning of categories and concepts as fully explained by Hegel coincides exactly, or is very nearly parallel to the analogous relations in Marx. Some of the Hegelian concepts as such were certainly used, though not necessarily in all their Hegelian relationships. -Indeed it may very well be true that Marx, by isolating certain of Hegel’s ideas, falsified them badly, yet even in their false position the ideas are distinctly Hegelian in character, and were certainly derived from him.

“The Ground,” Hegel defines, “is the unity of identity and difference, the truth of what difference and identity have turned out to be – the reflection-into-self, which is equally a reflection-into-another, and vice versa! It is essence put explicitly as a totality.” Then in fine type certain cautions are given: “We must be careful, when we say that the ground is the unity of identity and difference, not to understand by this unity an abstract identity. Otherwise we only change the name while we still think the identity (of under-standing) already seen to be false. To avoid this misconception we may say that the ground, besides being the unity, is also the difference of identity and difference The ground and what is grounded are one and the same content : the difference between the two is the mere difference of form which separates simple self-relation, on the one hand, from mediation or derivativeness on the other.”[143] It will be remembered that the universal equivalent is that factor in the exchange process which solves the contradictions of the process arising from the two-fold nature of the commodity. It is able to do so by virtue of the fact that in its bodily form the exchange-values of all other commodities are expressed. Thus it is itself an exchange-value, though a universal one. And, the ability of the bodily form to function in this manner, makes it also a use-value, a universal use-value. In its single bodily form the universal equivalent, without becoming involved in the contradictions of the ordinary commodity, unites within itself the two opposing characteristics. Be-cause, in this manner, it unites the opposites previously referred to as the positive and the negative, which as also explained, are both ‘identical” and “different,” and because, in so doing it becomes itself, not an “abstract identity,” but retains differentiated as much as united, these polar opposites, I think it is justifiable to place the universal equivalent under the category of ground as above defined.

Though the account of the three forms of the exchange process over-laps to some extent the more general account of the same process given above, certain new comparisons are also made possible by this more detailed analysis. In the first, or elementary form, two commodities face each other as, respectively, relative and equivalent. They are, then, Marx holds, opposite, yet identical, the one but the reflection of the other. The quotation from Hegel’s category of difference fits this much of the relationship almost perfectly. That these two, the relative and the equivalent, are related to each other in this manner, and may appropriately be viewed as positive and negative in this sense, is further attested by the fact that though the terms are equal, they can be reversed only by changing the form, or function, of each. It makes no difference at all which term is placed on the left hand side of the equation, and is therefore regarded as expressing itself in the other, in any case its function is that of the relative. This situation is analogous to Hegel’s statement of the equivalence of positive and negative.[144]

The further characteristic of this form, that the value of the equivalent is expressed in its own bodily form, places this with the universal equivalent (of which it is but the elementary form) under the category of ground, which, after all, is but a development of difference. The exposition of ground given by Hibben seems to fit this point particularly well: “The ground and whatever is grounded combines reference to self with a reference to its other as well. Such a reference involves the idea of mediation, or relativity, that is, the process of explaining a given thing by a reference to something else with which it is essentially related.”[145] Thus, the equivalent as ground, “combines a reference to self with a reference to its other as well,” by expressing its own value as well as the value of its other (that is, any other commodity, as relative) in its own self.

The chief defect of this form, which constitutes its transition to the next, is its extremely limited character. The form which expresses the value of only one commodity certainly lacks the universality necessary to capitalistic ex-change. This is not at all an un-Hegelian basis for transition to a new and more adequate stage in the dialectical process. Therefore, the total, or expanded form is introduced to obviate the specific difficulty of the preceding form by equating the relative term, not only to one, but to all other commodities.

Of the two difficulties developed by this form, one at least, the most important, is very suggestive of a certain Hegel’s transition from one category to the next. This form is unsatisfactory chiefly because one side of the equation is a never-ending series, which, of course, lacks the requisite definiteness for an expression of value. Says Marx, “ ... the relative expression of value is incomplete because the series representing it is interminable,”[146] and Hegel, discussing limit, and infinity under the category of being-determinate : “Something becomes another : this other is itself somewhat : therefore it like-wise becomes another, and so on ad infinitum.” Then, “In the attempt to con-template such an infinite, our thought, we are commonly informed, must sink exhausted. It is true indeed that we must abandon the unending contemplation, not however because the occupation is too sublime, but because it is too tedious."150 Or to quote Hibben in exposition of this Hegelian principle of transition : “But when we pass from any definite being to its other, this other, itself, possessing definite being, must also have its other to complete its meaning, and so on without limit. We thus find ourselves launched upon an infinite series that can never be satisfactory, because never complete. It is an endless progression, and can only bring weariness unutterable to the mind which at-tempts to follow it.”[147]

The third and last form of value in exchange is derived from the second by reversing its equation. This most developed form is, of course, that of the universal equivalent, and its relation to Hegel has consequently been taken up under that head. In this connection, however, another point is brought out, namely, that the general form of value constitutes a synthesis of the other two, and that therefore the three forms of value make an Hegelian triad. The elementary form gives expression to the value of the commodity in only a single commodity – to this extent it is unified. The expanded form, including all commodities, is universal, (that is, all inclusive) but not unified. The general form, however, is both universal and unified.



The process of circulation as a whole involves two different types of cycles, the first, represented by the letters C-M-C (Commodity-Money-Commodity) is the “selling in order to buy” phase, while the second, M-C-M (Money-Commodity-Money) is just the reverse, or the “buying in order to sell” aspect. C-M-C is the direct expression of the circulation, or as Marx calls it, the “metamorphosis” of commodities. The cycle is made up of two transactions, first, there is the act of selling, C-M, then the act of buying, M-C. Together, since the same M is common to them both, they form the whole, C-M-C, the net result of which is the material exchange of two commodities, or C-C.

Following the steps in the transformation more closely, we have: C is sold for M, or, as shown by the analysis of the exchange process, the use-value of this commodity becomes, in the body of its equivalent, the opposite, or exchange-value. M, however, is used to purchase another commodity, which means that the exchange-value is transformed back again into its old form of use-value, or again becomes C. This last C differs from the first in that it is actualized in consumption, thus completing this process, the function of which is to realize the use-values of commodities, which thereupon drop out of circulation.

Each of the two phases, C-M and M-C is, of course, reversible, and in other cycles of which each forms a part, the function is reversed. However, even within any particular cycle, for the purchaser the process is one thing and for the seller it is exactly the opposite. Consequently, C-M becomes definitely a sale only when considered in relation to the C-M-C cycle, in this fixed order. In the sale C-M, the terms have the real relation to each other already described when the exchange process as such was considered. The same analysis applies also to the M-C relation with this single difference: while, as previously indicated, the realization in M of the ideal price assumed by C depends upon accidental circumstances, or conditions, in the second phase of the cycle, M takes the initiative, acting whenever ready, because always effective in purchase, thus affording a point of rest, a pause, between the two acts during which anything might happen to prevent the consummation of the cycle. It is this possibility of a period of inactivity which makes the separation of the process into two phases so very important, because it is during such a pause that commercial crises, and other economic disturbances occur.

When it is considered that the C-M of any particular cycle is the M-C of other adjoining cycles, and that the same is true of M-C, it becomes apparent that C-M-C is but one member in a chain process which is without beginning or ending, and further, that it is inseparably mixed up with many other chains, crossing and re-crossing each other. This complex arrangement is especially important since it affords an opportunity for the view that the process is not that of the metamorphosis, in regular fashion of one C, but a medley of accidental criss-crossings.[148]

A very significant characteristic of the single cycle is the fact that the two extremes do not bear exactly the same relation to the middle term, M. The first C is related as the member of a special class of things to its universal (commodity) form, M. M is related to the second C as the universal form to the individual form of the commodity. This relationship, reduced to its abstract logical form, Marx points out, gives the formula: S-U-I, or Species-Universal-Individual.[149] While Marx gives no further explanation of his reason for calling the first C species, and the second individual, the explanation seems to be quite evident. Commodities are sold only when they constitute a surplus, when to the owner, they are objects of a certain class, with certain physical properties which to him mean merely the possibility of exchange. A commodity is consumed, on the other hand, when to the consumer its specific properties satisfy a definite want; the individual commodity as such has a specific importance, which as an exchange-value in the hands of the merchant or manufacturer, it does not have. Therefore, the commodity as exchange-value may be regarded as belonging to a class, or as a member of a species, while as a use-value it has become an individual.

Another significant thing is brought out by the process of the circulation of commodities, namely, that in the actual circulation, the owners of the commodities appear only as the guardians of these commodities – in other words, as personified bread versus personified gold. Accordingly, the process is not one primarily of the intercourse between men, but rather between men only in so far as they satisfy the conditions of the production and exchange of commodities, which become related to each other in a manner determined by the characteristics inherent within them.


The main features of the Marxist theory of the metamorphosis of commodities, so far as they do not overlap the general discussion of exchange, may be compared with Hegel’s principles of the syllogism, under the third main division of the logic, the doctrine of the notion. It will be observed that the same relationship of exchange considered in chapters 9 and 10 as belonging properly under the division of essence, now appears under the division of the notion. The entire movement of exchange, involving three terms, is considered as an example of an Hegelian syllogism, while two terms taken together (either end, and the middle), I now maintain has the form of an Hegelian judgment. The relationship now held to be an example of the judgment is exactly the same previously held to exhibit the characteristics of the categories of identity and difference. M, the middle term of this syllogism, is the same M, or U, which as the universal equivalent was designated as the ground. This apparent discrepancy in our treatment, however, far from detracting from the soundness of the comparison, lends it valuable Hegelian sup-port. In Hegelian language it is necessary only to point out that in the earlier stage of the argument the discussion was at a lower level in the dialectical movement (at the level of the Understanding) and that it has now progressed logically to a more concrete view of the same things (at the level of the Rea-son). For, it must be remembered that every category, and every categorical relationship in the Hegelian logic applies to, or is expressive of the nature of everything in the universe. They characterize not different things but different phases (at higher or lower levels) of all things.

The cycles are undoubtedly Hegelian triads, viewed either as composed of the three terms, C, M, and a return on a higher plane to C, or as C-M, M-C, and the synthesis, C-M-C. Now, Marx says, as stated above, “C-M-C can, therefore, be reduced by abstract logic to the final form S-U-I.” He therefore suggests very strongly that C-M-C is really a syllogism of the Hegelian type, which does not exist merely in an abstract logical sense, but constitutes the nature of the real world. “Accordingly the Syllogism is the essential ground of whatever is true; and at the present stage the definition of the Absolute is that it is the Syllogism, or stating the principle in a proposition : Everything is a Syllogism.”[150].

Considered as a syllogism, the major premise is C-M, represented by C or S; and, since by “species” Marx means what Hegel does by particular"-- “Again, the particular is the different or the specific character...”[151] in the course of the discussion nothing will be lost, and much will be gained by using P instead of S for the first premise; the minor premise is M-C represented by M, or U (that is, universal), and the conclusion is C-C, which in its turn can be represented by C, this time the last C, or I (that is, individual). C-M-C, then, or P-U-I, turns out to be a qualitative syllogism of the third figure,[152] the conclusion of which is P-I, or C-C, the middle term, M, or U, having dropped out in the course of the dialectical movement of exchange. Just as Hegel explains, when referring to an entire syllogism as I-P-U, that “of course the subject (terminus minor) has other characteristics besides individuality, just as the other extreme (the predicate of the conclusion, or terminus major) has other characteristics than mere universality. But here the interest turns only on the characteristics through which these terms make a syllogism,”[153] so the same justification can be made for calling the movement C-M by the single letter P (standing for particularity). C-M means a commodity of a certain type, changing its form for the universal characteristics of M (or money). P (or particularity) in this connection is its essential characteristic, and makes possible the syllogism. The same explanation applies to the designation by the single letter U, of M-C – the essential characteristic of money is its universality, and in this phase of the circulation of commodities, money is of prime importance. The reason for calling the conclusion, C-C, by the single letter I is even more easily explained. The conclusion of the cycle is the exchange between two commodities through the mediation of money, which, after all, is but a means to this end. The real object and end of the transaction, however, is the purchase, and the consumption of a certain commodity. Therefore, in the conclusion, the individuality of the last commodity is of greatest “interest” in producing the syllogism (or exchange).

Since C-M and M-C are the premises of a syllogism they are themselves judgments; from this point of view, then, the exchange relation must now he considered a form of judgment, which, by the way, its characteristics make very possible. In describing the nature of the judgment, Hegel says : “The abstract terms of the judgment, ‘The individual is the universal,’ present the subject (as negatively self-relating) as what is immediately concrete, while the predicate is what is abstract, indeterminate, in short, the universal. But the two elements are connected together by an ‘is’: and thus the predicate (in its universality) must also contain the specialty of the subject, must, in short, have particularity: and so is realized the identity between the subject and predicate; which, being thus unaffected by this difference in form, is the content.”[154] C-M, according to Marx, means: the commodity, as particular is (that is, becomes in exchange), money, or universal. But this is possible (as explained previously) only because the commodity is really also universal, that is, has value. – “and so is realized the identity between subject and predicate.” The same is true of M-C, for, money is not only universal, but it is also in a sense individual, that is, it has a definite use-value, thus the identity between the two notions necessary to their connection in the judgment plainly exists.

Referring to the subject and predicate of these judgments as “notions” brings out the fact that they really are notions in a somewhat Hegelian sense. The important characteristic of the Hegelian doctrine of the notion is its concreteness, in other words, the inseparability of its three moments : particularity, universality, and individuality. Though it is rather difficult to make the concepts which Hegel attaches to these words at this point fit into the scheme of their application in connection with the Marxist doctrine of value and ex-change, it is sufficient, probably, merely to indicate the similarity of their relationship toward each other. Hegel explains their inherent connection and identity as follows : “Universality, particularity, and individuality are, taken in the abstract, the same as identity, difference, and ground. But the universal is the self-identical, with the express qualification, that it simultaneously contains the particular and the individual. Again, the particular is the different or the specific character, but with the qualification that it is in itself universal and is an individual. Similarly the individual must be understood to be a subject or substratum, which involves the genus and species in itself and possesses a substantial existence. Such is the explicit or realized inseparability of the functions of the notion in their difference – what may be called the clearness of the notion, in which each distinction causes not dimness or interruption, but is quite as much transparent.”[155] In very much the same manner, the first C, in addition to, and inseparable from its own most important quality in this connection, its particularity, is also the other two qualities : as value, it is universal, and as a use-value for consumption it is individual. Similarly, M and the second C can be shown to be the concrete notion, having the three moments, universality, particularity, and individuality.

Coming back again to the syllogism, it is interesting to compare Marx’s observation that the C-M and M-C of any cycle are also M-C’s and C-M’s of other adjoining cycles, with Hegel’s analysis of the difficulties of the qualitative syllogism, which he explained as follows : “This contradiction in the syllogism exhibits a new case of the infinite progression. Each of the premises evidently calls for a fresh syllogism to demonstrate it: and as the new syllogism has two immediate premises, like its predecessor, the demand for proof is doubled at every step, and repeated without end.”[156] The difference between Hegel’s unending and interconnected series of syllogisms and those of Marx, is, of course, that in the case of Marx, all of the syllogisms would be of the same type, while for Hegel, all the different figures must appear.

Then, the point Marx makes about the relations between men being but the reflection of the relation between their commodities is suggestive of a statement in the Philosophy of Right, quoted by Bonar[157], “The legal relation of persons who only realize their personality by having property, is characteristic of the bourgeois society.”[158]

The one very important point in this doctrine for which there seems to be no significant Hegelian parallel is that of the rest period between the two movements of the circulation process; though, in a way, the division of the syllogism into premises suggests it, the resemblance is probably not a very close one.


The formula C-M-C represents the circulation of commodities for the purpose of reaching their proper consumers, and they then drop out of circulation. M-C-M on the other hand, describes the circulation of money for the sole purpose of accretion, which is the same thing as the accumulation of capital. The problem to be solved, of course, is the source of the new capital, in view of the essential tenet of the value theory, that every exchange must take place between equivalents (that is, in value). It is to solve this problem, then, that the formula M-C-M is subjected to analysis.

M-C-M, or buying in order to sell, like C-M-C, consists of the two antithetical phases, M-C and C-M, a purchase and a sale, involving, therefore, per-sons related to each other as buyers and sellers. “Each circuit is the unity of the same two antithetical phases, is brought about by the intervention of three contracting parties, of whom one only sells, another only buys, while the third both buys and sells.”[159] The differences between the two formulae are too numerous to be repeated here; it is enough to say that with the exchange of commodities, the simpler formula, or relationship, comes to an end, while, with the reflux of M, the second continues indefinitely; and more significantly : the first formula is terminated qualitatively different, but quantitatively equal to its initial state, while the reverse is true of the second formula which ends qualitatively equal, but quantitatively unequal, that is, with an increment.

This increment is the surplus-value for which the entire capitalistic process is set in motion. Yet its existence is in contradiction to the general form of commodity-circulation which rests on the incontrovertible principle that all exchange must take place between commodities which have equal value. It is because of this difficulty that Marx speaks in this connection of the “Contradictions in the General Formula of Capital.”[160] What is there about this process, which involves the same two antithetical phases as C-M-C, and yet introduces this new and quite foreign element, the increment? What is the source of this increment? Since its origin cannot possibly be the exchange process itself, or the exchange-value of any one of the commodities in the process of its transformation, it must then be derived from the peculiar value of one of them. “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.”[161] And, since there is nothing about M which can increase itself, this “one of them” must be the C which is purchased, evidently for this, purpose, and its nature, consequently, must be particularly examined – only in this way can the problem be solved of the origin of surplus-value which can be created only in ex-change, yet cannot be produced by exchange. The solution is found in the specific nature of the commodity in question, which is the labor-power[162] purchased by the first M to be used in the production or exchange of goods. “By labor-power, or capacity to labor,” Marx explains, “is to be understood the aggregate of those mental and physical capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any description.”[163]

The peculiar characteristic of this commodity which makes it fruitful in the creation of surplus-value, and consequently, useful to the capitalist, is the double nature of its use-value: it is “a source not only of value, but of more value than it has itself.”[164] In other words, the capitalist purchases from the laborer his labor-power for which the laborer receives the value of this, as of every other commodity. The value of the commodity labor-power is deter-mined by the amount of food, clothing, and shelter required to produce, (or rather, reproduce) it. However, having bought the labor-power, the capitalist proceeds to use it, that is, to apply it in the production of new value. It is at this point that its ability to create more than its own value comes into play. And it is by this means that the origin of the increment M has been explained without in any way going contrary to the equivalence law operating in exchange. For, the first phase, M-C, or money-purchasing-commodity-labor-power is an exchange of equivalents, as is also the next phase, C-M, or the sale of the commodity taken over again, this time in the form of the product of labor, sold on the market for its equivalent in money.


The formula M-C-M, is also an Hegelian triad, composed of the members, M-C, C-M, and the synthesis, M-C-M. It is likewise and more importantly, a syllogism of the form U-P-U, because the middle term is sold; but also since the middle term, C is consumed, it is a syllogism of the form U-I-U. The conclusion of this syllogism has the peculiar, because purely tautological, form U-U. In other words, considered qualitatively, no result at all has been attained by the movement. The only result is the quantitative one, M- (M plus increment M). For the logical form of the syllogism, U-I-U, there is no parallel in Hegel, since all true Hegelian syllogisms must contain all three forms of the notion. Though no brief, concise statement to this effect is avail-able, the entire discussion of the syllogism bears it out, and all the different types of the syllogism listed contain all three notions. Marx himself explicitly recognizes that, since the result of the process is but a repetition, qualitatively, of the same thing, namely, money, its source cannot be the process of exchange as such, and this is all that is represented by the bare logical formula. There-fore, the explanation of this point at least, is outside of the Hegelian principles of the syllogism.

Of the other differences between the two formulae of circulation, apart from the purely formal ones, such as the different positions occupied by the various terms, it is noteworthy that the middle term of the formula M-C-M, unlike that of C-M-C, does not serve merely to transfer the extremes from one person to another, but is reflexive in its function, serving to bring back to the same person the initial term. This type of repetition is certainly contrary to the ordinary form of the syllogism, though it may possibly be comparable to the type of mathematical syllogism, described by Hegel as follows : “In the round by which each constituent function assumes successively the place of mean and of the extremes, their specific difference from each other has been superseded. In this form, where there is no distinction between its constituent elements, the syllogism at first has for its connective link equality, or the external identity of understanding. This is the Quantitative or Mathematical Syllogism.”[165] The comparison here, if real at all, is admittedly very tenuous, but is nevertheless suggestive of the type of almost purely verbal relationship existing between the Marxist and Hegelian theories.

The distinction of which Marx makes so much, that M-C-M, unlike the other formula, does not come to an absolute end, but, on the contrary, because of the reflux of M, the process immediately repeats itself, and so on, without end – this distinction, too, is without parallel in the Hegelian doctrine of the syllogism. While the difference, already referred to, that, whereas C-M-C ends qualitatively unequal, M-C-M comes to an end qualitatively equal, but quantitatively unequal, though corresponding to no syllogistic distinction, is certainly couched in pronouncedly Hegelian language. In the same manner, it is interesting that the difficulty of the origin of surplus-value should be entitled by Marx the “contradictions,” in the formula to which it belongs. The solution, which is the peculiar capacity of labor to produce more than its own market value, and which can be made intelligible only by distinguishing between labor-power, and the actual labor itself, is one of the most important principles of the Marxist theory of value, and is claimed by all Marxists to be the improvement of the Ricardian labor theory which made the labor theory tenable. Since this important distinction did not come from Ricardo, it is interesting to speculate, on the basis of the extent of its resemblance, as to its possible indebtedness to Hegel. The only Hegelian feature that I can discover is the manner of statement (and this can easily be remedied); labor-power is the capacity or potentiality of something else, namely, labor. Consequently, Marx speaks in Hegelian fashion, of “labor-power realizing itself as labor,” “Labor-power, however, becomes a reality only by its exercise; it sets itself in action only by working.”[166]