11. The structure of closure in Hegel's Logic and in Marx's Capital
In our detailed analysis of the three volumes of Capital in the preceding chapters it was repeatedly contended that, at various points within the text, Marx came to put forward arguments that were tangential to the principal line of theoretical development that was being presented in Capital. Perhaps the most persistent and important of such digressions were those that raised the question of rupture and crisis which, as we saw, became increasingly apparent in Volume III. There, at several points, both in the exposition of his theory of profit and in his theory of interest, Marx came to pose the question of crisis only to leave it disparate and incomplete in order to return to more immediate and pressing theoretical issues. The implications that we have drawn from such digressions were that the theoretical development presented within the three volumes of Capital serves to impose a provisional closure within Marx's thematic of capitalism and its overthrow, so such vital questions as rupture and crisis remain marginal to the text. From this we may conclude that, even in terms of Marx's general analysis of the objective laws of the dialectic of capital, in a fundamental sense, Marx is incomplete.
But what is this 'principal line of theoretical development' from which Marx digresses? How does it come to structure the three volumes of Capital? In this chapter we shall seek to answer these questions and thereby further substantiate the contentions that we have advanced in the previous three chapters.
At its simplest the overall structure of Capital may be represented as in follows: Volume I: Production Volume II: Circulation Volume III: Distribution Within this structure we may discern a two-fold theoretical development. Firstly, there is a movement from the abstract to the more concrete. In this movement we find that the abstract categories of Volume I become transformed into the more contingent and concrete categories of Volume III as they unfold through the successive mediations of circulation and distribution. Thus, for example, surplus-value of Volume I becomes transformed into the distributional categories of profit, interest and rent that we find in Volume III.
Secondly, along with this ascent from the abstract to the concrete, there is an oscillatory movement between essence and appearance, the envelope of which comes to inscribe an overall circular movement within the three volumes. Thus, Marx begins Volume I with the semblance of the capitalist economy as generalized commodity exchange and then proceeds to uncover its inner laws and essential relations by delving into the sphere of production itself. Having unearthed these inner laws and essential relations with his theory of surplus-value, Marx then proceeds to make the long return journey back to the outward appearance of the capitalist economy by showing how this essence must appear through its regulation of circulation and distribution. So Marx ends Capital where he began, with the outward appearance of the capitalist economy, this time in the form of the trinity formula that is evident to the analysis of vulgar economists. But in returning to this outward appearance, Marx ascends to a more concrete level of analysis.(1)
With this spiral-like theoretical movement, which comes to encompass all three spheres of the capitalist mode of production (i.e. production, circulation and distribution), it would appear that the line of theoretical development of Capital is complete. That it encloses all there is to a critique of political economy and with it a general analysis of the capitalist economy. Certainly, with the trinity formula this theoretical development comes to a point of rest. But is this the final point of rest as far as Marx's investigation of the dialectic of capital is concerned? Would the fragment of the chapter on classes, with which Marx breaks off at the end of Capital, have immediately opened out into the counter-dialectic of capital? Or is this fragment on classes a little premature, which explains why it could not be completed? Is it not possible that this point of rest is merely provisional, and that therefore the structure of Capital is open rather than closed? Marx's method and the structure of Capital according to Rosdolsky To answer this we must once again return with Rosdolsky to the original outline of Marx's plan of work.
According to the original outline the book on capital was to have had the following structure:2 a) Section on capital-in-general 1) Production process of capital 2) Circulation process of capital 3) Profit and interest b) Section on competition c) Section on the credit system d) Section on share capital While the Grundrisse is taken to cover merely the first section on capital-in-general, Rosdolsky argues that Capital encompasses the essential contents of all of the four sections of the original plan, but within a changed structure.
The first two subsections of the section on capital-in- general were directly incorporated into Volumes I and II. The separate sections on competition, credit capital and share capital were dropped and their contents combined with the subsection on profit and interest to form, with the addition of the theory of rent taken from the discarded book on landed property, the basis for Volume III.
This change in structure, which arose between the Grundrisse and Capital, was due, according to Rosdolsky, to Marx discarding the original division of material between capital- in-general and many-capitals. Thus in order for us to understand the significance of the change in the original outline on the structure of Capital as it stands, it is necessary to understand what Marx meant by the terms 'capital- in-general' and 'many-capitals'.3 As Rosdolsky argues, in order to unearth the inner-relations of capital, in order to draw out its immanent laws, Marx sought to abstract from competition within which these laws became manifest. While competition between 'many-capitals' compels each individual capital to act in accordance with its own internal laws it does not produce such laws; it merely externalizes them. In fact in many cases, as Marx repeatedly points out, competition presents these laws in inverted form. Thus the initial task which faced Marx was to abstract from competition, credit and so forth which arise in the context of 'many-capitals' in order to define 'capital-in-general'. As Rosdolsky puts it: Thus in order to be able to inquire directly into the inherent laws of capital we must abstract from competition and its accompanying characteristics, and begin with 'capital as such', or 'capital-in-general'.
(Rosdolsky, 1977, p. 42) So what is the basis for this conception of 'capital-in- general' as distinct from 'many-capitals'? Rosdolsky answers this by arguing that 'capital-in-general' concerns those characteristics which all capitals have in common and which distinguishes capital as an historically specific form of wealth. Such characteristics are those which arise from capital as self-expanding value and the process of valorization that this self-expansion requires. As Rosdolsky himself explains: What all capitals have in common is their capacity for expanding their value (Verwertungseigenschaft) - the fact that they appropriate (directly or indirectly) the surplus-value created in the capitalist production process. The analysis of 'capital-in-general' must, therefore, begin with the investigation of the production process. This must show how money, 'goes beyond its simple quality of being money' and becomes capital, how it then produces surplus-value through the consumption of human labour and finally how production of surplus-value for its part, leads the reproduction of both capital and the relation of capital itself. All this can be developed without our having to pay attention to the presence of several capitals and the differences between them... (Rosdolsky, 1977, p. 44) Thus the 'chapter on money' and the first section of the 'chapter on capital' in the Grundrisse, which together provided the material for Volume I of Capital, are based on the methodological abstraction of 'capital-in-general'. An abstraction that allows Marx to grasp the essential relations of capital in the sphere of production through the more complex and mediated categories that appear at the surface of bourgeois society. But: ...the life-cycle of capital is not confined to the direct production process... The phase of production must be completed by that of the circulation process.
And so the movement of capital becomes a circuit in which forms grow (fixed and circulating), which harden into specific forms of the existence of capital from being temporary determinations of it. In addition these forms are to be understood as distinctions within the abstraction 'capital-in-general' ('particularisation of capital') and must therefore be understood without the reciprocal action of 'many-capitals'. (Rosdolsky, 1977, p. 45) Hence Rosdolsky argues that the second section of the 'chapter on capital' in the Grundrisse, the 'section on circulation', which provided the material for Volume II, was also developed on the basis of the methodological abstraction of 'capital-in-general'. The limitations of this methodological abstraction only arose, according to Rosdolsky, once Marx came to consider 'profit and interest'.
In the Grundrisse the distinction between profit and surplus- value, and thus between the rate of profit and the rate of surplus-value, is considered as part of the analysis of 'capital-in-general' in accordance with the original plan of work. As far as Marx's enquiry in section three of the 'chapter on capital' is concerned there is some justification of this. Since Marx at that point had yet to solve the problem of the transformation of values into prices (of production), he could only go as far as to distinguish profit in general from surplus-value in general, which was still strictly compatible with the methodological abstraction of 'capital-in-general' since it did not directly involve the reciprocal action of 'many-capitals'.4 However, once Marx came to present his theory of 'profit and interest' a few years later in Volume III of Capital he had to go beyond the limited results of this section of the Grundrisse.
In developing his theorization of both the qualitative and quantitative transformation of surplus-value into profit, and with it the transformation of values into prices and the formation of a general rate of profit, Marx had to explicitly introduce the question of the competition between 'many- capitals'. It was only in terms of the reciprocal action of several capitals that Marx could show how the inner laws of the capitalist mode of production necessarily appear at the surface of the capitalist economy in movements of price, profit, interest and so forth.
Rosdolsky concludes from this that the methodological division of material made by the distinction between 'capital- in-general' and 'many-capitals' becomes redundant and is therefore dropped when Marx came to write Capital. So: ...the distinction between 'capital-in-general' and 'many-capitals', which forms the basis of the Rough Draft [i.e. Grundrisse], also represents, first and foremost, a 'blue-print', without which Marx's economic system could never have developed, but which - like any working hypothesis - can only lay claim to full validity within specified limits. (Rosdolsky, 1977, p. 53) Dropping this distinction between 'capital-in-general' and 'many-capitals' as the primary division of material did not mean that Marx came to reject the counterposing of essence to appearance, as Rosdolsky himself is anxious to make clear. Instead he argues that: ...in Capital Marx regards that part of his inquiry which 'progressively approaches the surface forms in competition' (i.e. Volume III) as also belonging to the 'general analysis of capital'. Hence the scope of the latter analysis expands and the framework of the analysis of competition is narrowed down. (Rosdolsky, 1977, p. 52) From this it can be seen that Rosdolsky views the change in structure that occurs between Grundrisse and Capital as revolving around the primary methodological division of material. In the original outline the division is that between 'capital-in-general' and 'many-capitals', while by the time of writing Capital this had become a division between the 'general analysis of capital' and 'the theory of competition'. In the revised division of material most of what would have comprised the analysis of 'many-capitals' is taken to have been included in the 'general analysis of capital'.
The claim that with Capital Marx established a revised methodological division of material is supported by numerous references made by Marx in the course of Capital where he repeatedly postpones certain points to a fuller discussion within a future work on 'the theory of competition'. For instance towards the end of Volume III Marx remarks: In our description of how production relations are converted entities rendered independent in relation to the agents of production, we leave aside the manner in which inter-relations, due to the world market, its conjunctures, movements of market prices, periods of credit, industrial and commercial cycles, alternations of prosperity and crisis, appear to them as overwhelming natural laws that irresistibly enforce their will over them, and confront them as blind necessity. We leave this aside because the actual movement of competition belongs beyond our scope, and we need present only the inner organisation of the capitalist mode of production, in its ideal average, as it were. (Capital III,: p. 831) Referring to this and similar remarks in Capital Rosdolsky comments in a footnote: In contrast to the Rough Draft, in Capital the field of the 'theory of competition' is confined to the analysis of the 'real movement of market prices' (in antithesis to the prices of production), and the study of competitive struggles on the world market. (Rosdolsky, 1977, p. 52) Because Rosdolsky implicitly views Capital as Marx's ultimate work, and thus essentially complete and closed, he fails to extrapolate any further from this revised methodological division of material that arises with the distinction between the 'general analysis of capital' and the 'theory of competition'. For Rosdolsky, the 'eventual continuation' of Marx's work to deal with the 'theory of competition' is merely peripheral to the 'general analysis' of Capital itself. So peripheral that it warrants little more than a footnote in Rosdolsky's commentary.
Thus while Rosdolsky in his seminal work The Making of Marx's Capital makes an inestimable contribution to our understanding of the methodological underpinnings of the structure of Capital and the development of this structure from Marx's original plan of work of 1857, his efforts are, for our purposes, ultimately limited. While he shows the importance and limitations of the methodological division of material that emerges with the distinction between 'capital-in-general' and 'many-capitals' for Marx's original plan, and the tensions this produced which eventually forced Marx to go beyond this plan to formulate the structure within which Capital was finally written, Rosdolsky does not go on to consider in any detail the implications and problems that emerge with the revised methodological division between the 'general analysis of capital' and the 'theory of competition'. Instead he takes the question of this new division of material to be resolved within the presentation of the three volumes of Capital. Yet, as we have seen, the presentation within Capital, particularly that of Volume III, is far from being unproblematic. Within this very presentation there appears, at various points, a new process of enquiry in which the problems of separating the question of 'many-capitals' into a 'general analysis of capital' on the one side and a 'theory of competition' on the other seems far from being adequately resolved. We must therefore go beyond Rosdolsky to see the methodological process that is still at work within the structure of Capital itself.
In considering the methodology at work within the structure of Capital it is vital to remember the methodological importance of Hegel. As Marx himself remarks in the Afterword of the second German edition of Volume I of Capital: The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel's hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.
In its mystified form, dialectic became the fashion in Germany, because it seems to transfigure and to glorify the existing state of things. In its rational form it is a scandal and abomination to bourgeoisdom and its doctrinaire professors, because it includes in its comprehension an affirmative recognition of the existing state of things, at the same time also, the recognition of the negation of that state, of its inevitable breaking up; because it regards every historically developed social form as in fluid movement, and therefore takes into account its transient nature not less than its momentary existence; because it lets nothing impose upon it, and is in its essence critical and revolutionary. (Capital I, p. 20) Capital can be seen as a first step in placing Hegel's dialectic on its feet. Through a critique of political economy Marx can be seen to provide the material basis on which to stand the dialectic. This intention may be illustrated if we consider the striking similarities between Marx's original plan of six books and the corresponding structure of Hegel's political work - Philosophy of Right.5 Capital can be seen to be both a critique of bourgeois political economy and, at the same time, a critique of Hegel. An attack on the twin pillars of classical bourgeois ideology: the pillar of classical liberalism represented by Smith and Ricardo, and the pillar of classical conservatism represented by Hegel.
While the critique of political economy provided the economic and material basis for the inversion of Hegel's dialectic, the critique of Hegel provided the dialectical form for the critique of political economists. In order to understand the structure and method of Capital it is therefore necessary to understand the dialectical form it takes, and the relation of this form to the dialectical logic of Hegel from which it is derived.
As has been widely recognized, the Hegelian influence is readily apparent in the Grundrisse and within the dialectical transitions of the value-form with which Marx opens Volume I of Capital. While this influence of Hegel becomes less explicit as Capital progresses it may still be readily discerned in terms of Marx's Hegelian conception of the relation of essence to appearance. In fact, as we have already noted, this conception structures the theoretical development within Capital - as Marx moves from the essential relations and inner laws of motion detailed in Volume I, to their mode of appearance in Volume III. In fact it is only by means of this Hegelian conception of the relation between essence and appearance that Marx is able to formulate his critique of political economy.
Yet, as we shall now argue, it is not simply in terms of essence and appearance that we can fully grasp the significance of Hegel for the structure of Capital. If we are to understand Marx's methodological conception of 'capital-in- general' and 'many-capitals' and so forth it is necessary to consider how Marx came to appropriate the Hegelian triad of the universal, the particular and the individual or singular that is set out in Hegels's doctrine of the Notion.
Hegel's doctrine of Notion and Marx's notion of capital While Rosdolsky is well aware of the importance of such Hegelian conceptions for Marx's methodological distinction between 'capital-in-general' and 'many-capitals' he does not make explicit the implications this has for our understanding of the structure both of the Grundrisse and of Capital. So what are these implications? How does Hegel's triadic conception of the universal, the particular and the individual or the singular, come to be reflected in the structure of Marx's critique of political economy, both in its process of enquiry and its presentation?(6)
The doctrine of the Notion in Hegel's Logic Hegel introduces his triadic conception of; the universal, the particular and the individual or singular at the beginning of the third subdivision of his logic - that is at the beginning of 'The Doctrine of the Notion'. So what is the significance of this location in Hegel's Logic?
In the first subdivision of his Logic - 'The doctrine of Being' - Hegel had opened with the triadic conception of Being, Nothing and Becoming.7 With this simple transition Hegel showed how thought, starting at the level of sensory perception, apprehends the world, at its most abstract, as process. As both constant and changing. However, thought could not remain with this abstract unity in which every perception is apprehended as a process of becoming. It must differentiate Being into determinate Being, into particular instances of Being. Abstract, indeterminate Being has to be made more concrete in terms of the multiple forms that confront sensory perception. Thus, for example, Being becomes a determinate Being in the shape of a tree, which is itself a process of becoming (i.e. the tree grows, reproduces, dies etc.). Sensory perception, having fixed a collection of sensory impressions as a determinate Being, in our example a tree, distinct from other determinate Beings, is then able to describe the tree in terms of immediate qualitative and quantitative characteristics that are readily apparent. Thus, in our example, the tree may be described by sensory perception in terms of its colouring, number of leaves, its height and breadth, and so on.
However, the determination of Being through this descriptive procedure of sensory perception does not show what it is. The tree remains a mere collection of sensory impressions that appear as random and contingent. Hence sensory perception gives way to the next level of thought which Hegel terms Understanding which is then dealt with in the second subdivision of his Logic - 'The doctrine of Essence'.
Understanding seeks to go beyond the mere description of things by attempting to reveal the underlying laws that govern appearances. Thus in our example, Understanding will seek to explain the tree in terms of a set of chemical and ecological processes which obey the general laws of chemistry and ecology. The tree no longer appears as an independent given fact but as the outcome of a complex chain of cause and effect in which it is brought into relation to other things. The immediacy of the categories of sensory perception consequently give way to the mediated categories of Understanding.
Yet in showing the web of interrelated processes and reciprocal actions that lie behind the independent and immediate appearances evident to sensory perception, Understanding comes to drive a wedge between the object and the subject. The external world of objects appears independent of the mind of the subject. In its search for 'scientific' and 'objective' knowledge, Understanding takes thought as being no more than a mirror that simply reflects the objective world into the mind of the subjective ego. So ultimately Understanding reconstitutes the unity of thought, that was lost with differentiation of Being into determinate Being, but only in terms of a unified world of objects that stand opposed to the minds of individual egos. The unity of thought therefore finds itself objectified but at the same time divorced from itself.
However, Hegel argues that things can only appear to a conscious subject, just as the causes underlying those appearances can only be interpreted by a conscious subject. Hence the tree is not aware of its own blossoming just as it is not aware of the causes of this blossoming. It is only for us, as conscious subjects, that the blossoming of a tree, and the causes and purposes of that blossoming, can have any meaning. It is the activity of thought that constitutes the known world for us as knowing subjects. Yet to realize this, thought must rise above the level of Understanding to become self-reflexive at the level of Reason. It this this level of Reason which is dealt with in the third subdivision of his Logic.
Here, in The doctrine of the Notion', the abstract unity of thought, with which Hegel started his Logic in the form of indeterminate Being, now returns from its objectification in the world of material objects to the realm of thought. Yet through its objectification this unity of thought has become specified in the diversity of the objective world. It therefore returns as a concrete unity of thought, that is as the Notion. The immediacy of Being, and the mediacy of Essence, are now superseded in the Notion as the self- mediating, self-determining totality of knowledge.
Hegel describes the Notion as follows: The Notion is the principle of freedom, the power of substance self-realised. It is a systematic whole, in which each of its constituent functions is the very total which the notion is, and is put as indisolvably one with it. Thus in its self-identity it has the original and complete determinateness.
(Hegel, 1975, p. 223) The Notion as Notion has, however, three distinct but inseparable moments: universality, particularity and singularity. As moments of a self-mediating totality each of these three moments must include each other. As Hegel puts it: 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 difference 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 realised inseparability of the functions of the notion in their difference - what may be called the clearness of the notion, in which each distinction causes no dimness or interruption, but is quite as much transparent. (Hegel, 1975, p. 229) For Hegel then, there can be no separation between the universal and individual existence, nor can there be mere contingent connections between them once they are understood to be part of the Notion. On the contrary, the individual is necessarily the particularization of the universal. A vital point which, Hegel argues, is not grasped in formal logic and its syllogisms, which seek to relate the universal, the particular and the individual in various contingent configurations of mere formal statements.
Hegel's Notion, which is none other than the totalization of thought as active mental labour, finds its materialist and historical analogue in Marx's conception of capital, the totalizing movement of alienated labour (both physical and mental). Hence when Marx speaks of 'capital-in-general' he is referring to generality in the sense of Hegel's universality of the Notion. Consequently, when Rosdolsky states that 'capital-in-general' refers to what individual capitals have in 'common' this must be understood in terms of the caveat Hegel makes in relation to the meaning of the generality of the Notion: The Notion is generally associated in our minds with abstract generality, and on that account it is often described as a general conception. We speak, accordingly, of the notions of colour, plant, animal, etc. They are supposed to be arrived at by neglecting the particular features which distinguish the different colours, plants and animals from each other, and by retaining those common to them all. This is the aspect of the notion which is familiar to understanding; and feeling is in the right when it stigmatises such hollow and empty notions as mere phantoms and shadows. But the universal of the notion is not a mere sum of features in common to several things, confronted by a particular which enjoys an existence of its own. It is, on the contrary, self-particularising or self-specifying, and with undimmed clearness finds itself at home in its antithesis. For the sake both of cognition and our particular conduct, it is of the utmost importance that the real universal should not be confused with what is merely held in common." (Hegel, 1975, p. 227) 'Capital-in-general' therefore refers to what particular capitals necessarily have in common; that which characterizes every particular capital as capital. Furthermore, 'capital-in- general' must be shown to be self-particularizing; that is, it must be shown how 'capital-in-general' subsists within its particular forms and within individual capitals.
Universality, particularity, and singularity of capital-in- general In the light of this Hegelian conception of the universality of the Notion, which in terms of Marx becomes 'capital-in- general', we can unravel the underlying structure of Marx's critique of political economy. A structure that is alluded to in a brief aside in the Grundrisse. Here Marx writes: Capital I. Generality: (1) (a) Emergence of capital out of money. (b) Capital and labour (mediating itself through alien labour). (c) The elements of capital dissected according to their relation to labour (Product. Raw material. Instrument of labour.).
(2) Particularisation of capital: (a) Capital circulant and fixe. Turnover of capital. (3) The Singularity of capital: Capital and profit. Capital and interest. Capital as distinct from itself as interest and profit. II Particularity (1) Accumulation of capitals. (2) Competition of capitals (3) Concentration of capitals (quantitative distinction of capital as at the same time qualitative, as measure of its size and influence). III. Singularity: (1) Capital as credit.
(2) Capital as stock-capital. (3) Capital as money market. (Grundrisse, p. 275) Here we can see Marx conceiving the overall structure of his work as a series of triadic progressions whose terms are the universal, the particular and the singular. While this plan, in this precise form and content, was later abandoned, the basic triadic structure is still discernible both within the Grundrisse itself and in the three volumes of Capital. Both these works can be considered to cover approximately Part I of this plan - the generality of capital. Let us examine this in a little more detail.
In Volume I, and the corresponding parts of the Grundrisse (i.e. the 'chapter on money' and the first section of the 'chapter on capital'), Marx considers the generality of 'capital-in-general'. As we have seen, capital as a real universal is self-expanding value; that is, the fundamental and necessary feature of all capitals is that they expand and accumulate objectified and alienated labour as value. This is true of the total aggregate social capital as it is of its individual components.
Yet before 'capital-in-general' could be considered it was first necessary to show how it is presupposed. Consequently both Volume I and the main text of the Grundrisse begin by examining the presuppositions of capital. Through the dialectical transitions of the forms of value, from the commodity through money to its self-expanding form as capital, Marx shows how capital-in-general presupposes generalized commodity exchange in which labour-power itself has become a commodity.
Having examined the presuppositions of capital, Marx is then able to proceed to examine how 'capital-in-general' produces itself as self-expanding value through his theory of the production of surplus-value. In examining how 'capital-in- general' appropriates alien labour by subsuming the labour process and production to its own ends and dynamic, Marx abstracts from 'many-capitals' to consider 'capital-in- general' in terms of the production process of a singular capital. Through this abstraction the singular capital is stripped of all its specificity so that it can be considered as immediately reflecting the process of 'capital-in-general'. It therefore appears as the 'ideal' average of the movement of all real capitals. (It is on the basis of this abstraction that Marx is able to provisionally equate value with price throughout his exposition of the theory of surplus-value).
Volume I is then concluded by showing how, with the accumulation of capital, the presuppositions of capital presuppose capital itself; that is how the production and realization of surplus-value maintains the separation of the working class from the means of production, so that labour- power is reproduced as a commodity, and how capitalist production sustains generalized commodity exchange through the production of wealth as commodities. With this conclusion capital is shown to be a logically self-mediating and self- determining systematic whole (cf. Hegel's Notion).
However, as we have noted, this universality of capital - as a self-determining systematic whole - must be shown to be self- particularizing. This particularization of 'capital-in general' is dealt with by Marx in his analysis of the circulation process of capital; that is, in Volume II of Capital (and the second section of the 'chapter on capital' in the Grundrisse).
Marx's analysis of the three circuits of industrial capital in Part I of Volume II shows the formal process of the self- particularization of 'capital-in-general'. If capital is to sustain itself as self-expanding value it must continually move back and forth between production and exchange, since surplus labour extracted in the production process can only be realized and validated as surplus-value in the act of exchange. This movement requires capital to take on and discard three specific forms; namely, money-capital, commodity- capital and productive-capital. We can see in more detail how this movement constitutes the formal self-particularization of 'capital-in-general' if we take the example of the circuit of money-capital.
The circuit of money-capital begins, both for the individual capital and for capital as a whole, with capital in its money- form. In the form of the universal equivalent (i.e. as money) the value of each individual capital is in a form that is indistinguishable from the value of all other individual capitals. In the homogeneous form of money the value of capital is purely abstract social labour and each particular capital is simply a fragment of the total abstract labour that has been objectified in production as a whole. Thus each particular capital is itself only a mere fragment of 'capital- in-general'.
However, capital cannot remain in this form; it must be transformed into commodity-capital if it is to sustain itself as self-expanding value. With this transformation of money- capital into commodity-capital each individual capital becomes specified in terms of the multiplicity of use-values required for each particular production process. The homogeneity and unity of the money-form is thereby replaced by the heterogeneity and diversity of the various commodities that constitute the commodity-form of each particular capital. Each particular capital comes to be distinguished from all other particular capitals by its own particular production process, which demands a distinct set of commodity inputs. Thus capital-in-general becomes particularized into the multiplicity of individual production processes required by the social division of labour and which together comprise industry as a whole.
With the transformation of commodity-capital into productive- capital each individual capital stands distinct and separated from all other individual capitals, directly concerned only with its own transformation of concrete use-value. Yet it still persists as a representative of 'capital-in-general' since its production process is ultimately subordinated to the production and realization of surplus-value and thus to the preservation and expansion of itself as capital. The products of the individual production process must not only possess a transformed use-value but also must provide the newly expanded commodity-form for the next step in the circuit of this individual capital.
With the consequent transformation of the newly expanded commodity-capital back into money-capital, the diversity of the individual use-values which had been produced within the multiplicity of production processes becomes reunited within the unity of money. All the concrete labours that served to produce these use-values and which distinguished each individual capital, become recognized as abstract social labour. So each individual capital, in returning to its money- form, finds that it is once more a homogeneous fragment of the totality of social capital. Thus we find that the movement of self-particularization of 'capital-in-general', which arose in the first phase of the circuit of money-capital (M---P), now becomes annulled by a contrary process of self-generalization with the concluding phase of this circuit of money-capital (P- --M).(8)
From this example of the circuit of money-capital it can be seen that, just as Hegel's Notion is a process that comprises three distinct but inseparable moments - the universal, the particular and the individual - so, homologously, Marx's 'capital-in-general' is one that involves real and material processes. Marx, therefore, had to proceed to examine in detail the real substantiation of this formal movement of the self-particularization/self-generalization of 'capital-in- general'. He had to show how this formal movement comes to subsume and overcome the common peculiarities and obstinacies of the production and circulation of material use-values, and how this gives rise to specific forms of the existence of capital. This he does in the second and third parts of Volume II.
In Part II Marx considers the substantiation of the movement of the self-particularization and self-generalization of 'capital-in-general' in terms of the circuit of the individual capital. The circuit of an individual capital becomes specified, and distinguished from other circuits of capital, firstly in terms of the time it takes to complete its circulation; that is, by its turnover period. This specification, as Marx shows, is dictated by the time required to both produce and circulate the particular use-values produced and consumed by the individual capital. Consequently, the individual circuit of capital does not establish itself as 'capital-in-general' by reference to the simple quantitative expansion of its own value, but through the temporal rate of this expansion; that is, with reference to its annual rate of surplus-value.
The particularization of capital does not only occur between individual circuits of capital but also within them. In becoming substantiated within the process of the production and circulation of a particular commodity an individual capital must necessarily appropriate and subsume a multiplicity of material use-values required for the production of this commodity. Thus the individual capital itself breaks up into a multiplicity of parts. Some of these parts are able to circulate freely within the duration of the individual capital's turnover period. Other parts, faced with the peculiarities and obstinacies of the consumption of various use-values, become interrupted in one of the three phases, each of which belongs to a specific form of capital's existence common to all individual capitals and to capital as a whole. These forms being fixed and circulating capital, latent money-capital and latent commodity-capital, and so forth.
These specific forms of capital's existence come to establish themselves as 'capital-in-general' through their own particular mode of circulation. Thus, for example, while circulating capital freely circulates with every production period, fixed capital circulates, and affirms itself as being 'capital-in-general', only gradually through the wear and tear or obsolescence of the material forms within which it is trapped. With these various modes the rigid particularities imposed by the various material forms assumed by the different parts of each individual circuit of capital become dissolved within the generality of capital in the continuity of its movement.
However, it is not sufficient merely to substantiate the self- particularization and self-generalization of capital in terms of individual circuits of capital operating as if they were independent of each other. It is also necessary to grasp these individual circuits in their interconnection; that is, in terms of the metabolism of the totality of the social capital. This substantiation of the self-particularization and self-generalization of 'capital-in-general' is dealt with by Marx in Part III of Volume II with his schemas of the reproduction of aggregate social capital.
If capital as a social totality is to reproduce itself it is necessary that the multiplicity of use-values produced in one period matches those that are required for the commencement of production in the following period. As Marx shows with his schemas of the reproduction of aggregate social capital, this leads to the totality of social capital becoming specified in terms of the various departments and subdepartments of production. It is only if these departments are in the correct proportions to each other that social capital can sustain its own reproduction as a social totality, and furthermore, it is only through this reproduction of the totality of social capital that the individual capitals which are assigned to each of these departments and subdepartments are able to re-affirm themselves as being 'capital-in- general'.
So from this we can see that with Volume II Marx comes to consider the particularity of 'capital-in-general', while in Parts II and III he considers the real substantiation of this formal movement in terms of both the individual circuit of capital and circulation of capital as a social totality. This Hegelian progression from generality to particularity is, at least in terms of the Grundrisse, recognized by Rosdolsky. As he notes in passing: The phase of the production process must be complemented by that of the circulation process. And so the movement of capital becomes a circuit in which forms grow (fixed and circulating), which harden into specific forms of the existence of capital from being temporary determinations of it. In addition these forms are to be understood as distinctions within the abstract 'capital- in-general', because they 'characterise every kind of capital'...
To which he attaches the footnote: Similarly the concept 'particularisation' is a specifically Hegelian one (in the same way that Marx's use of such terms as 'universality', 'particularity' and 'individuality' are based on Hegel's Logic. (Rosdolsky, 1977, p. 45) But, because Rosdolsky does not seek to go beyond the abandonment of the division of material between 'capital-in- general' and 'many-capitals', he does not go on to draw out the obvious implications of this Hegelian progression to designate Volume III as the presentation of the singularity of 'capital-in-general'. Instead it would appear that for Rosdolsky this Hegelian progression only goes as far as to structure Marx's investigation of the critique of political economy, as is evident in the Grundrisse, and was later abandoned along with the methodological division of material between 'capital-in-general' and 'many-capitals'. However as we shall seek to show, Volume III is indeed an exposition of the singularity of 'capital-in-general'. An exposition, which while abandoning the opposition of 'capital-in-general' to 'many-capitals', does not abandon the methodological conception of 'capital-in-general' in coming to consider 'many- capitals' but necessarily includes the multiplicity of capitals within it.
Let us begin our consideration of the structural designation of Volume III with Marx's transition from Volume II. With the schemas of the reproduction of aggregate social capital Marx showed that capital must not only produce the material use- values that are directly required for future production but also those required to sustain and reproduce the principal classes of the capitalist mode of production. Here we find that analysis of the subsumption of material use-values required by the overall circulation of capital, through which the movement of self-particularization and self-generalization of capital is established, begins to give way to the question of the appropriation and distribution of surplus-value by the propertied classes. With this question the self- particularization and self-generalization of 'capital-in- general' come to be held within the unity of the singularity of capital-in-general insofar as the discontinuities in this movement of capital are contained within its overall continuity. But this singularity of capital is two-fold; on the one hand there stands the multiplicity of individual capitals, each of which acts as a singularity of capital containing its own various moments of self-particularization and self-generalization, on the other hand there stands the totality of social capital which itself stands as the singularity of 'capital-in-general'.
The capitalist class, and subsequently the class of landowners, does not appropriate surplus-value collectively as a social whole. On the contrary, surplus-value is appropriated by the disassociated capitalists in individual processes of production and is then realized as profit, rent or interest in the act of exchange. So the individual capital, as constituted by the de facto ownership of the disassociated individual capitalist(s), serves as the basic organizational unit for the appropriation of surplus-value and the realization of profit. The specific but opposed forms of the existence of capital that arose with the consideration of the particularity of the individual circuit of capital (such as fixing and circulating capital) now find their unity as particular organic functions in the individual capital's pursuit of profit. Hence the movement of self- particularization of 'capital-in-general' which occurs within the individual circuit of capital is now seen to be fixed and unified by the individual capital considered as a singular self-sustaining organism. From this we may say that the individual capital comes to express the singularity of 'capital-in-general', and is, as Hegel would have put it, 'the subject or substratum', which involves the genus and species in itself and possesses a substantial existence.
But the individual capital cannot exist in isolation. It can only realize profit, and thereby affirm itself as self- expanding value - as 'capital-in-general' - in and against other individual capitals in the process of exchange. The individual capital is only one of many capitals whose reciprocal action on one another serves to constitute the totality of social capital. With the totalization of this multiplicity of individual capitals each one comes to be seen as a mere particular function of the totality of social capital. This totality of social capital now appears as the singularity of 'capital-in-general' which establishes its substantiality in the form of the money market, where as Marx states: ...capital is posited as a totality; there it determines prices, given work, regulates production, in a word, is the source of production...(Grundrisse, p. 275) This logical progression from the immediate singularity of the individual capital, through the mediation of the multiplicity of individual capitals, to the singularity of the totality of social capital is one that serves to structure Marx's theory of profit in Volume III. Let us consider how it does so in a little more detail.
Marx's conception of the individual capital with which he begins his theory of profit at the beginning of Volume III is no longer the same as it was during his exposition of the theory of surplus-value in Volume I. There the individual capital was only considered insofar as it was stripped of all particularity. It stood as the immediate representative of all capitals, as the abstract generality of capital as such. Consequently, the individual capital could be taken as a simple microcosm of the totality of social capital, its direct and immediate individual embodiment. But now, at the beginning of Volume III, the individual capital can no longer be considered as the immediate representative of all other capitals, nor of the totality of social capital. While the overall continuity of the movement of an individual circuit of capital has served to resolve the particularization of capital within the singularity of an individual capital, this particularization is still preserved within this singularity. The individual capital now stands as a particular individual capital; an individual capital amongst many other such capitals. So implicit within the singularity of the individual capital, which serves to open Volume III and Marx's theory of profit, is the multiplicity of such individual capitals. An implication that soon becomes explicit in Marx's exposition of his theory of the transformation of surplus- value into profit.9 In his examination of the qualitative transformation of surplus-value into the form of profit Marx shows that the surplus-value which the individual capital produces first appears as the difference between the cost-price and the selling price of the commodity produced. This difference, which the individual capitalist takes as her profit, is seen to arise out of exchange; it is the 'profit of exchange'. Consequently, surplus-value appears as a fact external to the individual capital and which arises from the interaction of the individual capital with a multiplicity of other individual capitals. This becomes further confirmed once Marx goes on to consider the quantitative transformation of surplus-value into the form of profit. Here, as Marx shows, the particular value compositions of each individual capital give rise to a systematic and quantitative divergence between the surplus- value each individual capital produces and the profit that each one realizes in the act of exchange, thereby further obscuring the origin of surplus-value from the individual capitalist and worker.
So, as Marx's exposition of his theory of profit proceeds, we find a transition of the singularity of the individual capital into a multiplicity of individual capitals. But Marx's exposition does not stop there. Marx goes on to show how the competitive interaction of 'many-capitals' produces a tendency for the rates of profit of individual capitals to become equalized, producing a general rate of profit, and as a consequence,a tendency for individual market prices to gravitate around given production prices. At the limit of this tendency each capital emerges as both a quantitative as well as a qualitative fragment of the singular totality of social capital. As such, each particular individual capital now stands, through the mediation of the competitive interaction of 'many-capitals', as a particular instance of 'capital-in-general'. Thus we find that, with Marx's examination of the formation of the general rate of profit and with it the set of production prices, the multiplicity of individual capitals is superseded into the singularity of the totality of social capital in which each individual capital is merely a functional part.
From this we can see that, at least as far as Marx's theory of profit is concerned, Volume III is structured in terms of the singularity of 'capital-in-general' and that this necessarily involves the multiplicity of individual capitals - that is 'many-capitals' - and their competitive interaction. Thus we may conclude that Marx did not abandon his methodological conception of 'capital-in-general' when he replaced his original methodological division of material with that between the 'general analysis of capital' and 'the theory of competition'. In fact when Marx comes to speak of his 'general analysis of capital' we should take it to mean the analysis of 'capital-in-general'. An analysis that as it draws to a close, in true Hegelian fashion, sees its subsequent negation, the theory of competition, begin to emerge within it.
We may therefore represent the structure of the three Volumes of Capital as follows:- Volume I : The universality of 'capital-in-general' Volume II : The particularity of 'capital-in-general' Volume III : The singularity of 'capital-in-general' From this we may clearly discern the Hegelian structure within which Marx's principal line of theoretical development unfolds in the three volumes of Capital. And once more it would appear that the structure of Capital brings this theoretical development to a close. But is it sufficient for Marx simply to structure his critique of political economy in accordance with the dialectical logic of Hegel? Is it enough for Marx simply to substitute his materialist category of 'capital-in- general' for Hegel's idealist category of the Notion? If it is, then where would this place the projected 'theory of competition' in relation to Capital? To answer these questions we must once more place Marx's critique of political economy, as it appears in the three volumes of Capital, in the context of his broader thematic of 'capitalism and its overthrow'.
A homology of closure? As we have argued, Marx's critique of political economy is merely the first step in the articulation of his broader thematic of 'capitalism and its overthrow'. As such it is primarily concerned with what capitalism essentially is: with the objective movement of the dialectic of capital that constitutes capitalism as an historically specific social totality. Yet, for Marx, implicit within this movement there lies the potential for capitalism's own demise, and with this demise the possibility of a future communist society. If Marx was to have gone beyond his critique of political economy to further articulate his broader thematic it would have been necessary for him to have explicated this potential in detail. He would have had to have shown how the dialectic of capital, through its inherent ruptures and crises, produces the objective conditions for the emergence of the counter- dialectic of class struggle which holds within it the possibility of the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and thus of a future communist society. Yet such a departure would presuppose that Marx had not only overcome the ahistorical conceptions of the political economists - which he does through his critique of them - but also that he had overcome the suprahistorical conceptions of the Hegelian dialectic; both conceptions, in defence of the bourgeois order, deny in their own way the immanent possibility of communism.
In making his critique of political economy Marx, as we have seen, does not attempt to refute the categories of the political economists, but rather seeks to go beyond them by giving them a dialectical form. The political economists, as a result of their atomistic and analytical methodology, uncritically appropriated the conceptions of everyday economic discourse as the independent and empirically self-evident starting point for their analysis. They were not so much concerned with what such categories as wages, profits and so forth were, or how they arose, but with how they were externally related to each other. As a consequence the political economists, for all their insights, were able to avoid theorizing capitalism as an historically specific totality. For the political economists, capitalism could only appear as being both the natural and the only form that a 'civilized society' could take. Hence, for them, there could be no immanent possibility of communism.
Marx, however, did not simply take the categories of political economy as being fixed and self-evident. Instead, in the true spirit of Hegelian philosophy, Marx critically examined both the logical and historical presuppositions of these categories and was therefore able to constitute capitalism as an historically specific totality. But while treating the categories of political economy dialectically was necessary for Marx to demonstrate the possibility of communism immanent within capitalism, it is not sufficient. The reason for this insufficiency is the suprahistoricism inherent within the Hegelian dialectic even in its inverted form.
As we have seen previously, for Hegel the dialectical movement of history was merely the means through which the suprahistorical World Spirit came to reveal itself within human thought. A revelation that found its culmination in the bourgeois epoch. For Hegel, history had served its purpose and was now at an end. Thus, for Hegel, there could be no question of a communist future.
Of course, in inverting Hegel's dialectic and articulating it in the materialist terms of political economy Marx goes a long way towards surmounting the suprahistoricism of Hegel. Marx clearly subordinates logic to history and this is repeatedly emphasized in the numerous historical digressions that Marx makes throughout Capital and the Grundrisse. Yet this is not enough. If the dialectic of capital is simply substituted for the dialectic of the World Spirit then capitalism may just as easily appear as the necessary culmination of history, albeit a materialist culmination rather than an idealist one.
In order for Marx to go beyond the suprahistoricism of Hegel it would have been necessary for him to show that capitalism is not only an historically specific totality but that it is also a transient totality. A totality whose continued identity can only ever be provisionally assured and whose very movement contains the possibility of its own supersession. It is therefore not enough for Marx simply to invert Hegel's dialectic and articulate it in terms of the categories of political economy; he must open up this dialectic that for Hegel comes to a close in the present epoch of capitalist society. Of course, as we have repeatedly noted, this opening up of the dialectic is present within the three volumes of Capital but it remains for the most part implicit. Where it does come to the surface, in for example the digressions on crisis, it is always premature and hence marginal to the text. The reason for this is that in order to show what capitalism essentially is it is first necessary to show how it sustains itself in its identity. Marx therefore must stress the unity of the dialectic of capital over and above its oppositions and contradictions. As a result the three volumes of Capital come to be structured in close approximation to an inverted Hegelian logic. But the trajectory of the Marxian project points beyond this, and thus beyond the structure of Capital. The closure of Capital can only be provisional. A provisional closure that awaits the explicit opening up of its dialectical structure.
Closure in Hegel's doctrine of the 'Objective Notion' If we are to open up the Marxian dialectic we must understand how it comes to be provisionally closed. Thus we must once more return to Hegel's Logic to see how Hegel closes his dialectic and how this becomes transposed into the provisional closure within the structure of Marx's Capital. This time we shall focus our attention on the second subdivision of Hegel's 'doctrine of the Notion' - 'the Objective Notion'.
As we have seen, with the 'Subjective Notion' Hegel showed how the knowing subject comes to constitute her knowledge as a self-particularizing and self-generalizing totality - that is, as Notion. Yet for Hegel, if this totality of thought was to be true it could not be simply subjective since this would mean that it would be essentially arbitrary and contingent on the individual knowing subject. The Notion therefore had to be shown to be independent of the knowing subject, and in the that sense objective. The immediate basis for the objectivity of the Notion lay in its appropriation of the material world of objects common to all knowing subjects. But this was not a secure basis for the truth of knowledge since the material world of objects is outside and alien to thought, and its appropriation still depends on the active thought of the knowing subject. The knowing subject could only find a secure basis for her knowledge if, in her appropriation of the objective world, she comes to recognizes herself as part of the work of a greater totality of knowledge. A totality of knowledge that is independent of each knowing subject and which is therefore both objective and subjective, and hence absolute.
So, in the 'Objective Notion' Hegel traces the path whereby the knowing subject, in appropriating the knowledge of the objective world, comes to recognize her knowledge as part of the absolute totality of knowledge. And it is at the end of this subdivision on the 'Objective Notion', where the knowing subject comes to recognize her thought as part of the absolute, that we find the ultimate closure within Hegel's dialectical presentation.
Let us then proceed by sketching out in the simplest manner the principal stages in the course of Hegel's second subdivision of his 'doctrine of the Notion', in which the totality of thought becomes constituted by the knowing subject.
The Subjective Notion, in confronting the material world of objects, finds its antithesis and negation in the totality of nature which Hegel here terms the object. Yet at the very moment at which the Notion confronts this antithetical totality of nature it finds that it breaks up into a multiplicity of natural objects. As Hegel puts it: The object is immediate being, because insensible to difference in which it has suspended itself, while at the same time (as this identity is only implicit identity of its dynamic elements) it is equally indifferent to its immediate unity. It thus breaks up into distinct parts, each of which is itself the totality. hence the object is the absolute contradiction between a complete independence of the multiplicity, and the equally complete non-independence of the different pieces. (Hegel, 1975, p. 260) In this quote we see Hegel setting out the fundamental problem of the objectification of the Notion: how it is possible to constitute the unity, and hence the certainty, of knowledge in the face of the apparent indifferent multiplicity of the natural world? To answer this Hegel proceeds to follow the development of thought's appropriation of this multiplicity of nature.
Thought first of all takes the immediate multiplicity of natural objects as given. As such each object is taken as being both independent and indifferent to all other natural objects. the totality of nature is therefore viewed as being no more than a simple and unsystematic aggregation of the multiplicity of natural objects. This constitutes the viewpoint of what Hegel terms formal mechanism. A viewpoint in which the world is taken as the outcome of random atomistic collisions and interactions.
However, this viewpoint soon emerges as being inadequate since it becomes clear that Nature is not purely random and cannot be constituted only in terms of atomistic collisions. Natural objects come together to form systems and subsystems in which each constituent object is not totally independent or random. Thus thought, in recognizing this, proceeds from the viewpoint of formal mechanism, through what Hegel terms mechanism with affinity, to reach the highest mechanical viewpoint, which he designates as absolute mechanism. The example Hegel gives for such a viewpoint is that of the solar system. Here the objects of the system - the sun, the moons, the planets etc. - could all exist independently of each other, but they are combined together through the external relation of gravity to form a mechanical system whose movement can be precisely predicted. Thus thought comes to view the world as a mechanical system that combines otherwise independent and self-subsistent objects into a systemic whole.
This mechanical view of the world was one that pervaded the natural sciences in the early nineteenth century when Hegel was writing, yet despite this he was able to discern a further viewpoint that emerges within scientific understanding; that of chemism. While chemistry was usually regarded as a variant of mechanical thought Hegel argued that it exhibited a distinct graduation in the objectification of the Notion.
For Hegel, chemical reactions are an example of internal, rather than external, relations between natural objects, a fact which clearly distinguishes them from mechanical systems and relations. A chemical that reacts with another chemical produces a third compound of which each of the chemicals are a part. But in this reaction both of the chemicals are themselves transformed. They are no longer in themselves what they were before the reaction took place. The chemical therefore becomes internally dependent in its relation to the compound of which it is part. Thus the whole, the compound, comes to structure and determine its parts.
However, chemical reactions can just as easily serve to break up compounds as to constitute them. There is no overriding tendency that can lead to the coalescence of objects into an overall internally related whole and thereby point towards the unity of the natural world. Such a tendency only emerges once thought goes beyond chemism and mechanism to consider organic organism. This leads to the third level of the objectification of the Notion; that of teleology.
In living organisms the parts are not only dependent and determined by the whole (and the whole dependent on its parts), as in the case of chemism, but also the whole actively seeks to sustain and reproduce itself through its parts. The organism seeks to interact and appropriate the external world; subordinating it to its own ends and purposes ensures its survival as a living whole. At the same time the parts that make up this living organism become structured and determined in terms of the ends and purposes of the organism as a whole.
Since living organisms have an end and purpose they have to appropriate by thought teleologically. The process of cause and effect familiar to the viewpoints of mechanism and chemism (that is, in Aristotelian terms, efficient causation) is no longer sufficient. The process of cause and effect with which the living organism interacts with the external world can only be fully understood in terms of the ends and purposes of that organism (that is efficient causation must be subsumed within a final causation). The importance of teleological reasoning becomes most clear once thought comes to consider the fully conscious and rational organism - the human being.
Human beings, as living organisms, seek to sustain themselves by subsuming the natural world of objects to their own subjective ends and purposes. Yet as conscious and rational organisms, human beings do so through design. The human being consciously formulates its design and then acts on the natural world in order to bring it into accordance with the subjective ends of this design. This she does by means of her knowledge of the natural world of objects. Thus while at the level of mechanism and chemism the subject appeared as radically opposed to the natural world of objects - as a mere observer - now we find the subject actively involved in this world and coming to know it. The objective world is now seen to become subsumed and negated by the conscious design and actions of knowing subjects - human beings.
Here, with the movement from the teleology of the organism to that of the human being, we find Hegel rapidly approaching the resolution of the subject/object dichotomy. However, such a resolution can not be completed until Hegel is able to finally resolve the contradiction between the world of natural objects as a totality and the multiplicity of its parts; since without this resolution there can be no singular truth or absolute knowledge.
As we have seen, through the viewpoints of mechanism the conception of the whole developed from a mere simple aggregation of independent and indifferent objects to a system of externally related objects, while from the viewpoints of chemism the whole came to structure its internally related and dependent parts. At both these levels the constitution of the whole was purely accidental; it lacked necessity. Necessity only fully emerges with the purposeful actions of the organism; with a whole that seeks to sustain itself. Yet such wholes are themselves a multiplicity; they are only individual organisms amongst many within the natural world, and this is true of human beings.
Each human being has only a partial viewpoint of the world, and her subjective ends and designs, being so limited, may well find themselves in conflict with those of other individual human beings. The individual human being cannot therefore come to know the totality of the world through or her own limited and partial design and subjective ends. So we are still left with the fundamental contradiction of the objectification of the Notion which now appears in the form of the opposition between the totality of objective knowledge and the individuality of the human subject.
Hegel resolves this opposition within the identity of the Absolute Idea through what he terms the Cunning of Reason. Hegel argues that out of the conflicting designs of human beings the Cunning of Reason comes to reveal the absolute knowledge of God. The subjective ends of each individual become subsumed as the means (the efficient causation) for the designs of the Cunning of Reason, whose purpose is to continually recreate the absolute truth and goodness of God. In coming to recognize the work of the Cunning of Reason within her own knowledge of the world the individual knowing subject can come to recognize her knowledge as being absolute.
In the introduction to this section of the 'doctrine of the Notion' Hegel had criticised those who saw God as an external object divorced from the human mind. Now he is able to show how God reveals himself through human knowledge of the natural world. In coming to know the natural world as object, and acting upon it, humanity comes to know it as God's own design and creation. The totality of thought that is the Notion is now revealed as the totality of the thought of God.
But in invoking God Hegel brings the movement of the knowledge of the world to a halt. As Hegel then proceeds to argue: The Good, the absolutely Good, is eternally accomplishing itself in the world: and the result is that it need not wait upon us, but is already by implication, as well as in full actuality, accomplished.
That is the illusion under which we live. It alone supplies at the same time the actualising force on which the interests of the world reposes. In the course of its process the Idea creates the illusion, by setting an antithesis to confront it; and its action consists in getting rid of the illusion which it has created. Only out of this error does truth arise. In this fact lies the reconciliation with error and finitude. Error or other-being, when superseded, is still a necessary dynamic element of truth: for truth can only be where it makes itself its own result. (Hegel, 1975, p. 274) Here we find most clearly expressed the kernel of Hegel's optimistic conservatism. The appearance of the world as a state of constant flux in which conflicting interests fight it out, is, for Hegel, ultimately an illusion that serves to hide the constancy of the Absolute. From the heights of philosophical and theological Reason the evils of the world emerge as mere moments of the constant and necessary recreation of the Absolute Good.
At this point, where Hegel completes his exposition of the 'Objective Notion' and begins the concluding section of his 'doctrine of the Notion' we find the final closure within the Hegelian dialectic. The question that we must now ask is: how does all this become transposed into Marx? How is this reflected within Capital?
The transposition of Hegel's 'Objective Notion' The key to understanding the transposition of Hegel's dialectic into the materialist dialectic of Marx is to remember that, for Marx, Hegel's system is a philosophical generalization of his reflection on bourgeois society. Bearing this in mind it is not hard to see that when Hegel comes to consider the development of the Notion as object and the contradiction between its unity and the multiplicity of the readily apparent objective world he is in effect posing the fundamental contradiction of bourgeois society; which is that it is, at one and the same time, a social totality and a multiplicity of disassociated individuals. This contradiction becomes mystified within Hegel because he takes as his object, not bourgeois society as such, but Nature. Hence the problem of reconciling and resolving the diversity of individual interests and interactions within the unity of society as a whole appears as the problem of resolving the apparent multiplicity of nature within the unity of Reason. A problem that is both natural and eternal.
For Marx, who takes his object, not merely bourgeois society as such but its basis, the capitalist mode of production, Hegel's absolute contradiction becomes transposed as the problem of how the multiplicity of objectivized and alienated labours accumulated by the individual capitals become totalized within the totality of social capital: that is, a contradiction between the singularity of the individual capital on the one side and the singularity of social capital on the other. Yet just as this contradiction and its resolution brings Hegel's Logic to the point of closure by bringing him to the threshold of the Notion as Absolute, so transposed it does so with Marx.
To see the extent to which Hegel's Logic is homologous with Capital we must now return to the development of Hegel's objectification of the Notion and transpose it in terms of political economy and its critique.
From the viewpoint of formal mechanism the bourgeois economy as object breaks up before the eyes of the political economists into the multiplicity of its indifferent parts. Here we find the starting point of Marx in the semblance of capitalism as a society of general commodity production, or alternatively the multiplicity of firms and households that provides the basis for modern economic analysis.
But political economy cannot remain content with such a viewpoint. The next step must be to see the economy as a mechanical system that connects together the multiplicity of its individual parts. Hence political economy comes to embrace the viewpoint of absolute mechanism in which the various parts of the economy are externally connected as a system through the operation of market and price. Here the interactions of supply and demand, regulated and expressed through prices, ensure that the individual parts of the economy act together as a systematic whole.
This viewpoint of mechanism is sufficient for the 'vulgar' economists, and is evident in the neoclassical economic theories of today, but we can see in the more perceptive side of classical political economy a move towards what Hegel would have termed the viewpoint of chemism. By considering economic relations in class terms the political economists were able, at least implicitly, to show how the parts of the economy - land, capital and labour, for example - were not simply externally related but were dependent parts of a social whole. This insight was taken up and developed by Marx so that, for example, each individual capital emerges as the singular expression of capital-in-general, a dependent and presupposed fragment of the totality of social capital.(10)
Whether from the viewpoint of chemism or mechanism, the economy is viewed as pure object. Now, at the level of teleology, Hegel demands to know how the subject emerges within the object. The political economists, confined within their analytical methodology, are unable to go beyond the rigid separation of the subject and object. The economy is merely seen as an objective system through which wealth is produced and then distributed for consumption. It is therefore merely viewed as a means with which human subjects are provided with their material wealth and subsistence.
Consequently, subjectivity cannot be seen by either the classical economists or the 'vulgar' economists as emerging within the objective, but is instead confined to the margins of their analysis as an exogenous 'psychological' factor that determines the shape of demand and supply. This becomes most evident with the 'trinity formula' in which the three class subjects of bourgeois society are considered in relation to the economy. Each of these subjects is taken to possess an objective 'factor of production' that is distinct and separable from themselves as subjects which they can then 'contribute to the production process'. Thus the capitalist contributes capital, the labourer contributes labour, while the landlord contributes land or natural resources. As a result each subject is then entitled to its due reward in accordance with the contribution they have made in the form of a share in the objective wealth produced in production. Thus we find that the 'trinity formula' rigidly separates the subject from the object, and ends with the object returning to serve the needs and subsistence of the subject.
Yet as Marx shows the 'trinity formula' is not a starting point but only a result that obscures the real relations of the bourgeois economy. Only the landlord can stand apart from the process of production as a subject; the capitalist and the worker are intimately involved.
Labour, as conscious human activity, cannot enter production already separated from the worker as subject. It has to be alienated from the worker in the very process of production with its objectification in the final product. In this process the subjectivity of the worker has to be subsumed within the objectivity of the production of the commodity. The subjective ends of the worker are thereby subsumed as mere means of the capitalists whose own subjective ends and designs direct production. So labour, as an alien object, does not precede capitalist production but is produced by it. In fact this alienation of labour is the very basis of capitalist production.
So in the example of labour we can see how the subject becomes subsumed and negated within the process of capitalist production and thereby how worker as subject becomes alienated to her objectification. We must now turn to the capitalist, whose perspective is after all that of the bourgeois political economist.
The capitalist enters the production process alongside the means of production (which are none other than the objectified and alienated forms of past labour) and sets them in motion through or her appropriation of the labour of the worker. Through the activity of the worker the capitalist can be seen to realize her own subjective ends. After all the worker labourers for the capitalist under her orders and to her ends. But the capitalist does not direct production immediately to produce her own ends (which exist distinct and separately from production) but rather to produce profit through the extraction of surplus-value. The capitalist can only remain a capitalist insofar as her subjective ends can be subordinated to the production of surplus-value, and thus insofar as, at the limit, the capitalist becomes a mere personification of capital. The capitalist may only stand before production in possession of capital only insofar as she has sustained the capital as self-expanding value in the past (or can hope to do so in the future).
So capital, as a totality of self-expanding objectified labour, comes to subordinate human subjectivity, whether of the capitalist or the worker, to its own ends. It is capital that emerges as the identity of both subject and object. The capitalist economy does not serve human beings but rather human beings serve the economy. Capital is revealed as an objective force which operates beyond the wills and desires of human subjects which are merely means for its own dynamic. Here we have the crux of Marx's critique of political economy and an important moment in his critique of Hegel. But we are still left with one problem: how are the subjective ends of the individual capitalists constrained and subordinated to produce the ends of capital as a whole? How are the individual capitalists reduced to being mere personifications of 'capital-in-general'?
This problem directly corresponds to the problem Hegel faced of reconciling the totality of knowledge with the multiplicity of knowing subjects. A problem that as we have seen brought Hegel's dialectic to a close.
As we have seen Hegel finds his solution, and comes to close his Logic through the device of the Cunning of Reason which serves to unite the disparity of individual viewpoints within the identity of the Absolute. Yet it is not hard to trace the origins of this conception of the Cunning of Reason back to the classical political economists. In fact close inspection reveals the Cunning of Reason to be none other than the speculative philosophical generalization of Adam Smith's 'invisible hand'.
In considering the multiplicity of private self-interests that emerged with the division of labour of 'civilized societies' (i.e. capitalism) Smith had argued that such multiplicity was overcome through the mutual acts of exchange that take place within the market. As he goes on to comment: It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
(Smith, 1970, p. 7) With each individual freely pursuant of their self-interest the common good will become maximized. As Smith later argues: ...by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he [the capitalist] intends only his own gain, and in this, as in many other cases, lead by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intentions. Nor is it always the worse for society that it was no part of it. by pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectively than when he really intends to promote it." (Smith, 1970, p. 194) For Smith the 'invisible hand' worked in two ways. Firstly, since each individual produces for exchange with others, then in order to maximize the wealth that they consume they must maximize the wealth that they create. Hence the free pursuit of self-interest leads to a maximization of the wealth created throughout society and thus of the common good. Secondly, the pursuit of self-interest promotes competition. Competition will ensure that prices will tend towards the 'natural prices' of commodities at which the full cost of wages, rent and profits which are required to bring the commodity to market are met. With market prices driven towards the levels of natural prices the continued supply of goods and services required to meet the demands of society is ensured. Over- supply of goods and services, or their shortages, tend to be eliminated, and the equilibrium and unity of the economy is maintained.
This idea of the 'invisible hand' has become central to bourgeois political economy, but it is not entirely rejected by Marx. When Marx comes to consider the opposition between the individual capital and the total social capital, he argues, in a similar vein to Smith, that this is resolved by means of competition. It is through competition that market prices are driven towards values, modified as production prices, and that profits become equalized. It is through competition that the individual capitals are compelled to act as 'capital-in-general' and the capitalist is reduced to acting as a mere personification of capital. With the 'invisible hand' Marx comes to stress the unity of capital and in doing so comes to close, albeit provisionally, his exposition of the dialectic of capital.
Of course the 'invisible hand' is not taken unaltered from Smith any more than the Cunning of Reason can be taken unaltered from Hegel. Just as the Cunning of Reason is transformed by its materialist inversion so must the 'invisible hand' be transformed by its dialectical transposition. In fact each provides the fulcrum for the inversion of the other. Let us examine this more closely.
Because Smith takes up the view of the capitalist, the supervisor of production, he is able to rigidly separate the object of production from the subject, the capitalist. Consequently he is able to take production as being subordinated to the designs and will of the capitalist. Production and exchange, the economy, therefore appear as merely a means to achieve subjective ends. There appears to be no problem of alienation of the subject within production since the ideas and expectations of the capitalist are realized by the labour of others. With this rigid separation of the object from the subject (which emerges from the bourgeois perspective of supervising production) production is seen as merely the production of objects; its production of the subject is obscured.
Unable to see that the capitalist production process produces wealth in a specific social form, Smith is unable to see how capital, as a social relation, takes on its autonomous power. How the subject becomes subordinated by capital as an objective force, and hence even the subjective ends of the capitalist are subordinated to the designs of capital as a social totality. Thus, while Smith views each individual capitalist's maximization of wealth as contributing to the common good, even if unintentionally, since he sees the objects of wealth as simply serving the ends of individuals and society, and production as a mere means, this is not so for Marx.
For Marx capitalist production is above all the production of capital. Capital, the endless expansion of value, becomes the end, and the subjective ends and designs of the individual becomes the means. The 'invisible hand' does not serve the common good of society as such, but of capital as an alien social totality.
This critical inversion of Smith's 'invisible hand', and with it bourgeois political economy as a whole, could not have been made if Marx had not learnt the importance of the interconnection of the subject and object through Hegel's dialectical logic. Yet Hegel, as a bourgeois philosopher, only saw the dialectic in terms of mental labour. His dialectic remained idealist. While Hegel did not rigidly separate the subject from the object but sought to show how the subject became objectified, he ultimately ran into the problem of realizing the unity of Absolute thought out of the multiplicity of individual knowing subjects. His solution was, as we have seen, to appeal to God through his Cunning of Reason. Through Adam Smith's 'invisible hand' Marx is able to demystify the Cunning of Reason in materialist and economic terms and with this finds the solution to the corresponding problem in his exposition of the dialectic of capital, so that he can show the persistence of the totality of social capital as being constituted as a self-reproducing whole out of its disassociated parts.
Thus insofar as he allows competition to motivate Smith's 'invisible hand' - insofar as supply becomes equated with demand, market prices with values/prices of production etc. - Marx brings his dialectic of capital to a close. It therefore appears as the mere materialist inversion of Hegel's dialectic - and this is reflected in the structure of Capital. A dialectical process that finally finds itself at rest with its ultimate, and ever reoccurring, identity in difference.
In bringing his dialectic of capital to a close in this way, by making it homologous to Hegel's dialectic, Marx is able to articulate his critique of both Hegel and the political economists in their own terms. Yet such a closure, which becomes imposed within the three volumes of Capital, can only be provisional. There can be no ultimate identity for Marx, but rather there must be a repeatedly imposed unity of opposition. Since capital is not natural, it is not preordained by God, but is rather produced out of the historically determined actions of human beings, capitalism can be grasped as a transient historical form.
Throughout the three volumes of Capital, as well as in the Grundrisse, Marx, as we have shown, repeatedly points to the possibility of rupture, to crisis, and thereby underlines the precariousness of the unity of capital. Yet in order to make his critique Marx has to first emphasize this unity of capital, a unity testified by capital's persistence. It is only after Marx has established this unity that he could have fully presented the contradictions within this unity - its divergence - but this lay beyond the confines of Capital as it stands. Capital, in its presentation, is provisionally closed and as such possesses a structure broadly homologous with the closed dialectic of Hegel.
Conclusion As we have see, Marx's principal line of theoretical development, presented within the three volumes of Capital, is articulated within a methodological structure broadly homologous to Hegel's dialectic of the Notion. By transposing Hegel's Notion as 'capital-in-general' Marx is able to construct the unity of capital as a social totality.
Marx's first enquiries into a critique of political economy, as is shown by the Grundrisse, set out, as Rosdolsky has argued, by dividing the material of political economy between that concerned with 'capital-in-general' and that concerned with 'many-capitals'. Yet this proved to be an inadequate methodological distinction. If Marx was to present his 'general analysis of capital' he had to incorporate the competitive interaction of 'many capitals', at least in part.
While Rosdolsky is correct to argue that between the Grundrisse and the publication of Capital Marx came to drop the methodological division of material between 'capital-in- general' and 'many-capitals', this does not mean, as he concludes, that Marx abandoned the methodological thread of 'capital-in-general'. On the contrary, by abandoning his original methodological distinction, Marx was able to pose the singularity of 'capital-in-general' and thereby, in effect, complete the transposition of the three moments of Hegel's subjective Notion into the structure of the three volumes of Capital.
Yet in transposing Hegel's dialectic of the Notion into materialist terms Marx comes to impose a closure within his exposition of the dialectic of capital and consequently within the structure of its presentation in Capital.
In incorporating 'many-capitals' and their competitive interaction into 'capital-in-general' Marx comes to impose a new methodological division of his material. Competition is only incorporated insofar as it is convergent; that is, only insofar as it motivates the workings of Smith's 'invisible hand', and thus provides the material inversion for Hegel's Cunning of Reason. Divergent aspects of the competition of 'many-capitals' were excluded. It is with this new methodological division of theoretical material that Marx seeks to define the limits of 'capital-in-general' and thereby his 'general analysis' of the unity of the dialectic of capital which is presented within Capital. Capital thereby becomes counterposed to its continuation, beyond this provisional closure, to the theory of competition, market prices and so forth.
This continuation is however not peripheral. Throughout the presentation of Capital Marx necessarily poses the oppositions and contradictions within the unity of 'capital-in-general' but finds himself pointing beyond the structure of this work, moving tangentially to its theoretical line of development. Repeatedly, rupture, dislocation and crisis appear, but are premature. They are foreclosed; confined to being immanent moments for a fresh enquiry. Yet Marx's dialectic must be open, it cannot be confined to an identity of difference like that of Hegel. The tangential moments of Capital must be bent back together to form a new presentation. But this lies beyond Capital itself; it underlies its incompleteness, and thus the incompleteness of Marx.
1. For a detailed consideration of Marx's method as a 'spiral movement' that oscillates between essence and appearance as it ascends towards 'reproducing the concrete in thought', see (Banaji, 1979).
2. (Rosdolsky, 1977, p. 12.)
3. Although this distinction between 'capital-in-general' and 'many-capitals' is vitally important for the understanding of the development of Marx's methodology in both the Grundrisse and in Capital there has been relatively little discussion of its implications in English. However, for a recent exchange on such matters see Heinrich (1989) and Burkett (1991).
4. See Vygodski (1973).
5. Hegel's Philosophy of Right Marx's Original Plan of Work III Ethical Life: A) The Family ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Book on Capital B) Civil Society } Book on Landed Property Book on Wage-Labour ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ C) The State The State International Law International Trade World History The World Market and Crisis ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As can be seen the similarity between Hegel's Section on 'Ethical Life' and Marx's original plan of work becomes particularly pronounced with the last three of his proposed Six Books.
6. For attempts to directly relate the structure of Marx's critique of political economy to the logic of Hegel, see Sekine (1985) and Uchida (1988).
7. Hegel's logic is set out in the first part of his Encyclopedia, see Hegel (1975) to which we shall refer in the discussion that follows, and in a more elaborated version in The Science of Logic.
8. Hegel's logic is set out in the first part of his Encyclopedia, see Hegel (1975) to which we shall refer in the discussion that follows, and in a more elaborated version in his The Science of Logic
9. See chapter 10.
10. Ricardo and the classical political economists are often reproached for their 'heroic aggregations' by the modern economist. Yet, committed as they are to an individualistic methodology, to what Hegel would describe as mechanism, they are themselves perennially troubled by the problem of aggregation, and hence the combination of otherwise independent entities into a greater whole such as the 'economy'. As such they can be seen to fall far below Ricardo and his contemporaries. For a critical discussion of individualist methodology, see Arthur (1988) and Meikle (1985).