Critics of Marx of various stripes have rejected the view of historical necessity that he purportedly inherits from Hegel. Marx famously pledges allegiance to Hegelian necessity by arguing, for example, that social antagonisms ‘spring from natural laws’ that work themselves out with ‘iron necessity’; that the bourgeoisie produces its own ‘gravediggers’; that the proletariat’s victory is ‘inevitable’. In response, some commentators have argued that Marx’s allegiance to Hegelian modality has more to do with understanding possibility as indexed to actuality than with claims about the necessary logic and eventual collapse of capital. Iain Macdonald complicates both classic and revisionary accounts by distilling a rare but powerful notion in Marx’s early and middle period: ‘deactualization’ (Entwirklichung). Marx deploys this term to theorize the ‘thwarting’ indeed ‘undoing’ of real possibility within the ‘living process of actuality’. For Macdonald, this is a deeply ‘unHegelian moment’ in Marx’s corpus. In this paper, I provide a reading of Hegel’s treatment of modality in the Doctrine of Essence that shows that Hegelian modality not only makes room for alternate possibilities, but indeed accounts for thwarted possibilities within actuality. Rather than formal or real modality, Hegelian absolute modality is the proper philosophical framework for thinking the coextensive actualization and deactualization distinctive of capitalism.
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