Tedman contd/...

The following gives a rough outline of Fay's findings. After this we shall be in a position to draw some conclusions from these findings based on the additional research performed in the creation of the online hypertext EPM. Before we proceed I must warn the reader that the recounting of this will necessitate some to-ing and fro-ing from discussion of the inner themes to the outward form and back again, which may prove to be a little disconcerting, but this is necessary to grasp the full import of the subject matter.

In her thesis, Fay explains the negative and positive aspects of Marx's method, which is one of 'immanent criticism'. The latter is a term she uses to emphasize the activity of 'working within the texts' that form the basis of the 'level of understanding' (to employ Hegel's terminology) that human science has of the problem at hand. It can be contrasted to 'eminent' or idealist criticism. A criticism that seeks to impose a preordained or 'higher' notional order: i.e. the will of God, Man, a Deity, the concept of Human Essence, etc. According to Fay this immanent mode of criticism is to be found at work in the EPM. Fay demonstrates that for Marx the first stage of the dialectical method is the negative side. Its object is not the criticism of the social reality as such, here, the production of the nation's wealth, but the hard toil of a human subject attempting to understand and interpret that reality. The 'thought material' that the immanent critic (Marx, in this case) works on are the products of the human mind at the 'level of understanding' and involves the 'immersion' of the critic in the contents of the object of critical analysis. Marx therefore centered upon Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, the book that has underpinned the whole liberal economic tradition since its publication in 1776, in order to locate contradictions that are internal to that object. So, in referring to the structuring of Marx's text into three columns, Fay shows that in the pages of the first notebook accurate paraphrases and quotations drawn from Smith's book are brought together, side-by-side, and contradictions in this 'level of understanding' are revealed for the reader through this deliberate juxtaposition.

Divulging that Marx's first notebook is truly radical ('radix', it 'goes to the roots') in that it is mainly concerned with an examination of the basic category, the commodity, and its components, Fay shows--as we know from a glance at Smith--that these are the same categories that underpin the fundamental theoretical structure of Smith's text. Smith's categories are dealt with by Marx in pages which are divided into
three columns, with the exception of four pages divided into only two (XIII to XVI), and seven of one (including page VII and pages XXII to XXVII), of writing. On every page at the top of each column is an underlined heading, and these are taken directly from Smith's categories of the threefold division of the exchange value of the commodity. The three columns of text thus refer to Wages of Labor, Profit of Capital and Rent of Land. These, after reading the text and noting the parallel arguments, split into two columns, as Fay explains, when one of the components of commodity price, Rent of Land, is theoretically refuted.

This change in the design structure is clearly a formal feature, which occurs when Marx proves that profit of capital and rent of land are not independent but two manifestations of the more fundamental category: private property. At the same time Marx demonstrates that 'wages of labor' is a concept based on a self-contradictory notion. In speculation hitherto, rent of land and profit on capital are deductions suffered by wages, while in actual fact wages are a deduction which land and capital allow to go to the worker, a concession from the product of labor to the workers (its producers), or, to labor, hence this labor is alienated labor: labor alienated from its own products.

As Fay says, the responsibility of this form of criticism does not end at this first stage, there is now the transition phase from the negative to the positive aspect of the immanent critique. This is when these inconsistencies reveal a common underlying theme, disclosing that these are not simply accidental faults, but follow directly from the inadequacies of the thought-material to properly grasp the object under analysis. The contents of the account yielded by the 'level of understanding', deconstructed from the inflexible framework of these 'scientific categories', are now free to become the contents of the immanent critic's reconstruction. This analyses the same phenomena, but now, for Marx, it becomes part of a process of dialectical self-development. Marx's reconstruction of the concept rests upon the dialectical premise that 'everything within the coordinates of time and space is finite, and that everything finite is changeable' (Hegel: 'everything finite is transient').

From this stage on, because Marx uses elements of Hegel's dialectical method, any social reality has to be understood as a process of change, but with a structure: as a 'structure-in-change' and therefore a changing totality. In this, Marx puts to work Hegel's dialectical critique of traditional logic (in the EPM itself this method is critically derived and theorized in the third manuscript, which appears to be linked to the first manuscript by the second and so does not come 'later', but unfortunately here we are obliged to relegate this discussion to a later point in this essay). Traditional logic is where, as Hegel says, 'determinations are accepted in their unmoved fixity and are brought only into an external relation with each other...consequently everything rests on difference, on mere comparison and becomes completely analytical procedure and mechanical calculation'. Hegel criticizes such a mode of thinking in which contradictions are 'held asunder', in juxtaposition and temporal succession only, and so 'come before consciousness without reciprocal contact'. In contrast to this kind of thinking Hegel's dialectical method, and Marx's particular use of it, contains the dynamic that 'gives immanent connexion and necessity to the subject matter of science'. It is also able to 'apprehend the unity of the categories in their opposition', and it 'marks and seizes the affirmation...which is latent in their disintegration and transition state'.

Hence the positive side of the dialectical method of immanent criticism that Marx sets to work seeks to explain the dynamic that shapes the particular process of social change, from its origins to its developed stage. This is a dynamic envisaged as a process of self-development, and demonstrates the inner interconnections between the vast assortment of simultaneously emergent and seemingly unconnected external phenomena. This concept of self-development contrasts sharply with the 'level of understanding' and its multifarious 'one-sided' categories hitherto used to organize empirical data in terms of historical events.

Fay thereby analyses the inconsistencies that Marx worked upon in Adam Smith's political economy and shows that Marx on this basis introduces two new and interrelated concepts: private property, that never appears as such in the Wealth of Nations, and alienated labor. So begins Marx's new approach, one that centers on the dynamic contradiction of the labor process in production as the veiled unity of capitalist society, rather than on market-forces, and the process which distributes the products of labor, as had markedly been the case in previous accounts. This is a crucial discovery that clearly develops out of Marx's critically explicit dialectical immersion in the writings of Adam Smith.

Fay goes on to note the fact that the third notebook is devoted to a thorough examination of Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind, first published in 1809, where Hegel sets out his proof for his historical method. Why Hegel? The choice of Hegel is of course germane, as he was the foremost product of classical German Idealist philosophy. So we move from political economy to philosophy. But why do we make this move? We shall see…

The four sentences of Hegel that Marx investigates in the EPM in fact contain the distilled essence of his answer to the interrogatory posed by Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, this question is: 'how is it possible to have true and accurate knowledge of ourselves?' The problem posed by Kant supposed that the internal operations of reasoning self-consciousness, the 'I-think', could never obtain exact knowledge of the external world, the 'Thing-in-itself'. It is the chief objection that must be answered, as Hegel knew, in order to justify any scientific activity, and Marx of course realized that this included his own critical appraisal of political economy. So here Marx addresses the philosophical legitimization for his own critical procedure (a procedure that he has already set to work on Smith's political economy and in fact in this critique of Hegel). In this way Fay establishes that the 1844 Marx is not only radical but also specific in his attentions. In the first place he aims his critique of the inadequacy of political economy to comprehend and explain contemporary social reality on specific excerpts of Smith's Wealth of Nations, these being premises made by Smith on which the whole of subsequent liberal political economy rests or falls. In the second place he aims his critique of the philosophical justification for scientific inquiry on a specific area of Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind, an area in which Hegel discusses 'Absolute Knowledge' (in fact, the as yet untranslated notebook four is a text that was sewn into notebook three by Marx, and contains almost word-for-word quotations from Hegel's chapter on 'Absolute Knowledge' from the Phenomenology)
and felt that he had decisively refuted Kant's position that the scientific and philosophizing mind cannot have true and accurate knowledge. Roughly, Hegel's refutation asks the question, how can Kant know this, which would constitute absolute knowledge, without contradicting his own premise?

On the other hand, Fay also discloses for us that Marx not only makes use of Hegel's dialectical argument, but transforms it as he did with Smith's categories. Marx's refutation of Hegel, in turn, does not return us to Kant, but moves beyond the whole philosophical assumption that understanding is chiefly an intellectual activity. So here, in the pages of the third notebook, Marx expounds in detail Hegel's 'one-sidedness' and limitations in the last chapter of the Phanomenologie. To begin with, he shows that the standpoint of Hegel is that of contemporary political economy: i.e., Hegel cited Adam Smith in his lectures delivered at Jena University in 1803-4, and in his Philosophie des Rechts he mentions Smith, Say, and Ricardo. For Marx, Hegel is only able to grasp labor as 'the essence of man', he sees only the positive and not the negative side of labor, the only labor, he says, therefore, which Hegel understands is 'abstractly mental' labor. Hence the factor that constitutes the essence of Philosophy: the estrangement of 'man who knows himself', or, 'alienated science thinking itself', Hegel takes to be its essence. On this basis he (Hegel) is safe to present his position as the most complete philosophy, because other philosophers have for him only grasped the separate phases of abstract self-consciousness, that now 'comes to an end' in Hegel's own 'self-conscious' philosophy.

Despite many interpretations to the contrary, it is quite clear from Fay's work that in making this critique of Hegel, Marx's dialectic in the EPM is quite unlike Hegel's. It is not fundamentally teleological, it does not have ultimate origins or Goals to History that would require a unique Subject 'guiding' history, and neither does it express anything akin to Adam Smith's (Hegelian) 'Invisible Hand' of the Deity or Author. For this Marx, the answer to the problem posed by Kant that Hegel had already addressed, is the abrogation of the concept of thought and thinking as a self-contained and self-sustaining activity. In writing the EPM Marx's actual precondition for negating the idea of thinking as a (Cartesian) self-sustaining activity is the abolition of the whole system of the division of labor in its contemporary state, because it inevitably includes the principal division and estrangement of mental from physical labor. So in place of the Absolute Subject is not only the concept of the social whole as a humanized part of nature, elaborated as a theme of the entire text, but also the human act of labor in artistically designing the document itself, with the formal system of the document being brought to the fore. It can be said, therefore, that the design is, amongst other things, also intended to hinder historically teleological interpretations of the relationship between Spirit, championed by Philosophy (chiefly Hegel) and the actual life of human subjects, via Political Economy (represented mainly by Smith).


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The Hypertext Manuscripts of Karl Marx, Paris 1844
Copyright Gary Tedman 2001
last modified: 10/8/01 10:52:55 PM