Hegel: absolute general law of capitalist accumulation
Source Ted Winslow
Date 04/07/16/13:07

Daniel Davies asked:

> was he right?

Hegel's logic elaborates an ontology.  One of its key concepts is
"internal relations."  Individual entities are internally related where
their "essences" are the product of their relations.  This contrasts
with the concept of "external relations" which conceives individual
entities as "substances" in the senses of Aristotle and Descartes, i.e.
as possessing properties without being themselves properties and as
needing nothing but themselves in order to exist.

This has implications for the meaning of language.  Where relations are
internal the identities of related things change with changes in their
relations so it isn't possible to use language to fix their meaning
once and for all.  Meaning depends on context.  Meaning is, for this
reason, essentially vague.

It also has implications for deductive axiomatic reasoning.  This
requires that, to the extent required by the particular reasoning
involved, meaning remain unchanged.

It also leads to the interpretation of "laws" such as the "general law
of capitalist accumulation" as immanent since they are expressive of
the nature of the behaving individuals and hence change as this nature
changes with changes in their relations.

When combined with other ontological premises, the idea of relations as
internal produces a philosophy of human history as a set of internally
related stages in a process of "bildung" through which human
consciousness develops to rationality.

These ideas have been appropriated by Marx.  He treats capitalism as a
stage in such a process.  One aspect of this is that the "logic" and
"laws" of capital hold, at best, only for the relations that constitute
capital.  Another is that these relations are to be understand as
developmental relations i.e. as relations that generate an increased
degree of rational self-consciousness in those who occupy the dominated
position within them.

Marx will consequently be misinterpreted where these Hegelian features
of his treatment of capital are ignored.  Since most Marxists ignore
them, most Marxists misinterpret him.

One illustration of the need to take account of them in reading Capital
is provided by Hegel's idea, rooted in the above ontological ideas, of
the fully rational self-consciousness as the self-consciousness of the
"educated" person.   Hegel elaborates this in the Philosophy of Right.

"By educated men we may prima facie understand those who without the
obtrusion of personal idiosyncrasy can do what others do.  It is
precisely this idiosyncrasy, however, which uneducated men display,
since their behaviour is not governed by the universal characteristics
of the situation.  . . .  Education rubs the edges off particular
characteristics until a man conducts himself in accordance with the
nature of the thing." (Hegel, Philosophy of Right, p. 268)

Educated individuals "determine their knowing, willing, and acting in a
universal way." (pp. 124-6)

These passages are cited by Marx in Capital to indicate Hegel's " very
heretical views" on the specialization and division of labor. (Capital
vol. 1 [Penguin ed.], p. 485)

Marx himself appropriates the idea.  It's embodied in the German
Ideology's description of a person able "to do one thing today and
another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear
cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as [she has] in
mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic"
(German Ideology, p. 47)  and in Grundrisse's idea of the "universally
developed individual" (Grundrisse, pp. 161-2).

It's taken as the basis of what "must become a general law of social
production" in an ideal community in the following passage from
Capital, a passage which also indicates some of the ways Marx views
capitalism as working to make the actualization of the idea

> Modern industry never views or treats the existing form of a
> production process as the definitive one. Its technical basis is
> therefore revolutionary, whereas all earlier modes of production were
> essentially conservative.29  By means of machinery, chemical processes
> and other methods, it is continually transforming not only the
> technical basis of production but also the functions of the worker and
> the social combinations of the labour-process. At the same time, it
> thereby also revolutionises the division of labour within society, and
> incessantly throws masses of capital and of workers from one branch of
> production to another. Thus large-scale industry, by its very nature,
> necessitates variation of labour, fluidity of functions, and mobility
> of the worker in all directions.  But on the other hand, in its
> capitalist form, it reproduces the old division of labour with its
> ossified particularities.  We have seen how this absolute
> contradiction does away with all repose, all fixity and all security
> as far as the worker's life-situation is concerned; how it constantly
> threatens, by taking away the instruments of labour, to snatch from
> his hands his means of subsistence,30 and, by suppressing his
> specialized function, to make him superfluous. We have seen, too, how
> this contradiction bursts forth without restraint in the ceaseless
> human sacrifices required from the working class, in the reckless
> squandering of labour-powers, and in the devastating effects of social
> anarchy. This is the negative side.  But if, at present, variation of
> labour imposes itself after the manner of an overpowering natural law,
> and with the blindly destructive action of a nautral law that meets
> with obstacles everywhere,31 large-scale industry, through its very
> catastrophes, makes the recognition of variation of labour and hence
> of the fitness of the worker for the maximum number of different kinds
> of labour into a question of life and death.  This possibility of
> varying labour must become a general law of social production, and the
> existing relations must be adapted to permit its realization in
> practice. That monstrosity, the disposable working population held in
> reserve, must be replaced by the individual man who is absolutely
> available for the different kinds of labour required of him; the
> partially developed individual, who is merely the bearer of one
> specialized social function, must be replaced by the totally developed
> individual, for whom the different social functions are different
> modes of activity he takes up in turn.
>       "One aspect of this transformation, which has developed spontaneously
> from the foundation provided by large-scale industry, is the
> establishment of technical and agricultural schools.  Another is the
> foundation of 'écoles d'enseignement professionnel,' in which the
> children of the workers receive a certain amount of instruction in
> technology and in the practical handling of the various implements of
> labour. Though the Factory Act, that first and meagre concession wrung
> from capital, is limited to combining elementary education with work
> in the factory, there can be no doubt that when the working-class
> comes into power, as inevitably it must, technical instruction, both
> theoretical and practical, will take its proper place in the
> working-class schools. There is also no doubt that, with the
> inevitable conquest of political power by the working class,
> technological education, both theoretical and practical, will take its
> proper place in the schools of the workers.  There is also no doubt
> that those revolutionary ferments whose goal is the abolition of the
> old division of labour stand in diametrical contradiction with the
> capitalist form of production, and the economic situation of the
> workers which corresponds to that form. However, the development of
> the contradictions of a given historical form of production is the
> only historical way in which it can be dissolved and and then
> reconstructed on a new basis. 'Ne sutor ultra crepidam' ? a phrase
> which was the absolute summit of handicraft wisdom, became sheer
> nonsense from the moment the watchmaker Watt invented the
> steam-engine, the barber Arkwright, the throstle and the jeweller,
> Fulton, the steamship.32
> 29 "The bourgeoisie cannot exist without continually revolutionising
> the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production
> and all the social relations. Conservation, in an unaltered form, of
> the old modes of production was on the contrary the first condition of
> existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolution in
> production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions,
> everlasting uncertainty and agitation, distinguish the bourgeois epoch
> from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their
> train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept
> away, all new formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.
> All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and
> man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions
> of life, and his relations with his kind." (F. Engels und Karl Marx:
> "Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei." Lond. 1848, p. 5.)
> 30 "You take my life
>        When you do take the means whereby I live."
>       (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene 1)
> 31 A French worker wrote as follows on his return from San Francisco,:
> "I could never have believed, that I was capable of working at all the
> trades I practised in California. I was firmly convinced that I was
> fit for nothing but the printing of books ...  Once I was in the midst
> of this world of adventurers, who change their jobs as often as their
> shirts, then, upon my faith, I did as the others. As mining did not
> pay well enough, I left it for the city, and there I became in
> succession a typographer, a slater, a plumber, etc. As a result of
> this discovery that I am fit for any sort of work, I feel less of a
> mollusc and more of a man." (A. Corbon, "De l'enseignement
> professionnel," 2nd ed., p. 50.)
> 32 John Bellers, a veritable phenomenon in the history of Political
> Economy, already saw very clearly, at the end of the seventeenth
> century, the need to abolish the present system of education and
> division of labour, which gives rise to hypertrophy and atrophy at the
> two opposite extremities of society. Amongst other things he says
> this: 'An idle learning being little better than the learning of
> idleness ...  Bodily labour, it's a primitive institution of God ...
> Labour being as proper for the bodies' health as eating is for its
> living; for what pains a man saves by ease, he will find in disease
> ... Labour adds oil to the lamp of life, when thinking inflames it ...
> A childish silly employ" (an anticipatory warning against the Basedows
> and their modern imitators) "leaves the children's minds silly'
> (Proposals for Raising a Colledge of Industry of all Useful Trades and
> Husbandry,  London, 1696, pp. 12, 14, 16,18).
>  Capital vol. 1[Penguin ed.], pp. 618-9

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