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Hegel, Marx and the Cunning of Reason

  • G. H. R. Parkinson (a1)

This paper is concerned with two theories of history—those of Hegel and of Marx. Its primary aim is to clarify. The writings of Hegel are notoriously obscure, and those of Marx have been variously interpreted, so there is room for a paper which tries to ensure that when the theories of history propounded by Marx and Hegel are criticized, what are criticized are views which they actually held. It is no part of this paper's thesis that, in his theory of history, Marx consciously borrowed from Hegel. But it will be argued that there is more of Hegel in Marx than is sometimes supposed, and that if this fact is ignored one seriously distorts Marx.

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1 The term also figures in the discussion of teleology in Hegel's works on logic: Encyclopaedia, par. 209; Wissenschaft der Logik, ed. Lasson (Leipzig: Meiner, 1923), Vol. 2, 398 (trans. Miller , Hegel's Science of Logic (London: Allen & Unwin, 1969), 746).

2 The following abbreviations are used in this paper: VG=Die Vernunft in der Geschichte, ed. Hoffmeister (Hamburg: Meiner, 1955) (the introduction to Hegel's lectures on the philosophy of world history). N=Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History: Introduction, trans. Nisbet H. B. (Cambridge University Press, 1975). (In some cases, I modify Nisbet's translation.) MECW=Marx and Engels, Complete Works, English trans. (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1975 to date). MESW=Marx and Engels, Selected Works, 2 vols. (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1950). MEW=Marx and Engels, Werke (Berlin: Dietz, 19641968).

3 Hegel is quite ready to use theistic language to make a point; for example, he talks about God's ‘providence’ (VG 39, N 35). But this is a case of what he would call Vorstellung, ‘picture-thinking’, and is only a symbolic version of the truth.

4 On the translation of this term, cf. Parkinson G. H. R., ‘Hegel's Concept of Freedom’, Reason and Reality, Vesey G. N. A. (ed.) (London: Macmillan, 1972), 177 n. 1. There, I argued in favour of the translation ‘mind of a people’. But ‘mind’ is perhaps too intellectualist in its connotations to render Hegel's term Geist.

5 Cf. VG 59, 65, 167; N 52, 56, 138.

6 History, of course, is also the story of states. For Hegel, states and nations are closely related, but are not the same. A nation does not begin by being a state (Philosophy of Right, par. 349), but its substantial aim is to be a state (Encyclopaedia, par. 549).

7 Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, Vols. 2–4, ed. Lasson (Leipzig: Meiner, 1923), 710711.

8 Op. cit., 712.

9 Compare a passage quoted earlier, VG 105, N 89: Caesar knew that the Roman republic was a lie.

10 S. Avineri argues that there is a contradiction: see his article, ‘Con sciousness and History. List der Vernunft in Hegel and Marx’, New Studies in Hegel's Philosophy, Steinkraus W. E. (ed.) (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971), 110111. The contrary view is defended by Taylor Charles, Hegel (Cambridge University Press, 1975), 393.

11 Dray W. H., Philosophy of History (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1964), 81.

12 The phrase (though not the reference to the Communist Party) comes from the preface to the first edition of Capital, MEW 23.16: English trans, by E. & C. Paul (London: Dent, 1930), 864.

13 Op. cit., MEW 23.12; Paul trans., 863. See also MEW 23.791, 28; Paul trans. 846, 874.

14 Op. cit., MEW 23.12; Paul trans., 862–863. Cf. MEW 23.16; Paul trans., 864.

15 MEW 13.8–9; trans. Ryazanskaya (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1971), 20–21.

16 Some scholars argue that only the relations of production are the basis; see, e.g., Cohen G. A., Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), 29, and Kolakowski L., Main Currents of Marxism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), Vol. 1, 337. It must be admitted that Marx, in the Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, says that the superstructure rests on the relations of production; they are the foundation. But this is puzzling; for if the relations of production alone are the basis, where are we to place the forces of production? Perhaps the answer is that Marx means that the relations of production are the immediate determinants of the superstructure, which is of course consistent with their being determined as well. This suggestion agrees with a passage from Marx's The Poverty of Philosophy (MECW 6.166), which states that ‘The same men who establish their social relations in conformity with their material productivity, produce also principles, ideas and categories in conformity with their social relations’. Here, both productive forces and relations of production are said to be involved in the determination of ‘principles, ideas and categories’, and so there is a case for referring to both together as ‘the basis’.

17 This view is shared by several scholars: see, e.g., Chesnokov D. I., Historical Materialism (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969), 7374; Cohen G. A., op. cit., 37, 40 ff. In Capital, Marx has much to say about the labour-power of human beings, and we are surely to see this as a productive force.

18 Cf. Lenin , A Great Beginning: Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1965), Vol. 29, 421, quoted by Chesnokov , op. cit., 171.

19 Capital, MEW 23.371–80; Paul trans., 369380. Marx distinguishes between what he calls the ‘manufacturing’ and the ‘social’ division of labour. In the latter, what is produced is a complete commodity; the former is concerned with detail-work only.

20 Cf. Lukács , Werke (Neuwied: Luchterhand, 1968), Vol. 2, 603604.

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