Discussion of Tony Smith's The Logic of Marx's Capital

From Andy, responding to Robert and Margo

Robert and Margo,

I am copying your question and my short response to the discussion list, because others may wish to reply as well. Please indicate with your next message whether or not you wish to participate in the list.

My comments follow your question, below.

From Robert and Margo

Andy Blunden,

Have you read Tony Smith's The Logic of Marx's Capital. I am a participant in a radical social philosophy study group. We are presently working our way through Tony Smith's book. In the event you are not aware of this work, Smith's book is refutation of charges from certain Hegelian quarters that Marx failed to understand Hegel's dialectics and hence was unable to correctly apply Hegel's method in his analysis of the capitalist value form of social production. Among the Hegelian critics of Marx's Capital is Richard Winfield.

Smith takes the position that Marx indeed understood Hegel's dialectical method; that had Marx not used Hegel's methodology Capital would not and could not have been written.

Your comments will be greatly appreciated.

Robert L. Dresbach

Andy's response:

A glance at Marx Manuscripts of 1844 makes it obvious that Marx's thought developed in and through a study and critique of Hegel, and throughout his works there are observations and lines of argument that clearly reflect the contribution of Hegel.

To suggest that Marx "did not udnerstand Hegel" is the kind of fraud that could only be pertetrated against sonmeoen who had never botherred to read Marx, and otherwise is not worth responding to.

However, Marx did not "apply Hegel's method". In the manuscripts of 1844 there is a very explicit criticism of Hegel along with a deence of him against Feuerbach and a recognition of the great contribution of Feuerbach.

Further, in the Grundrisse Marx not only develops Hegel's Logic in relation to political economic categories, but makes quite specific criticisms of Hegel's Logic quite apart from the epistemological issues of 1844, The German Ideology, etc.,

While Marx clearly "uses" the results of Hegel's labours, to difference between Hegel and Marx, the "turning on his feet" which is so famous and oft-discussed, is no matter of detail, no small correction, but absolutely fundamental. Capital could never have been written if Marx had used Hegel's method - though indeed it could also probably not have been written withoutMarx having studied and learnt from Hegel.

You will find in the archive of the discussion list a lot of discussion about this issue. See discuss.htm.

Cyril Smith's cyril24.htm is just about the last word is showing how far away Hegel is from Marx, but the prior discussion of Uchida and Cyril's book, "Marx at the Millenium" shows a range of positions on the question of the relation of Hegel and Marx which will help you.

You should read the excerpts from Cyril's book: ../works/smith.htm and Uchida's book ../../../subject/philosophy/works/ot/uchida.htm

I have not read Tony Smith's book, but I would be interested in seeing it. However, I am quite frankly uninterested in any book pushing Hegel against Marx.


And from Robert and Margo:

Tony Smith does not push Hegel as against Marx. That, according to Smith, is the intent of Klauss Hartman (Die Marxsche Theorie) and Richard Winfield (The Just Economy). Smith's position, as I presently understand it, is that Marx took from Hegel a core of dialectical methodology, inverted it (that is, stood it on its feet).

"A dialectical theory of categories begins with an appropriation of the categories used in understanding a given object realm. It then proceeds to a systematic reconstruction of those categories, moving from the categories that are the simplest and most abstract and deriving categories that are progressively more complex and concrete." Page X, The Logic of Marx's Capital, State University of New York Press, 1990

It was only by ordering real world categories according to their immanent logic that Marx was able to penetrate the illusions generated by the value form of social production.

After I have read Uchida and Cyril I will respond to your invitation to participate in the discussion list. I'm interested.


PS: I did read Cyril Smith's article. It is my view that Tony Smith would have no argument with Cyril's discussion of the relationship between Hegel and Marx. You may not be able to find a copy of Tony Smith's The Logic of Marx's Capital: replies to Hegelian criticisms in Australia. If you cannot, I may be able locate a copy here and send it to you Please indicate your pleasure.

From: cyrilsmith@cix.compulink.co.uk (Mr C Smith)

I was interested in the contribution about Tony Smith's book from Robert and Margo. I'm not sure which bits of my stuff you have put on the Net, but may I put in a plug for my contribution to the Tom Kemp memorial volume? ['History, Economic History and the Future of Marxism', edited by Brotherstone and Pilling. (Porcupine, 1996.)]

This is directed against several of the works of Tony Smith. (You have to beware of confusing Tony, Adam and Cyril of that ilk. Also, watch out for the garbling of some references, among others, one which attributed some of Aristotle's remarks to me! This was the result of a near-tragic computer crash.)

My attack is against the allegation that Marx 'applied' Hegel's dialectical logic to economics. As I have written in this discussion before, this tries to separate a so-called 'logic' from its object - precisely what both Marx and Hegel are determined to avoid! This separation is itself an expression of class division, the division of mental and physical labour, etc.

To slightly alter a well-known aphorism: it is impossible to understand Hegel's 'Science of Logic' without studying the whole of Marx's 'Capital', especially its first chapter. Each of these great books is fundamentally about the basic structure of an entire set of social relations and an entire way of living. But they look at the subject from directly opposed standpoints. That is why Hegel celebrates the outlook of political economy, while Marx's life's work was to criticise it.

Best wishes,


PS Have you had a look at the International Socialist Forum's website isr.org.uk yet? It's beginning to look quite promising.