2012 conference abstracts

Andrew Chitty (Sussex)
Recognition and Property in Hegel and the Early Marx

I shall attempt, first, to show that for Hegel property plays the dual role of enabling persons to objectify their freedom, and of enabling them to demonstrate to each other, and thereby realise, their mutual recognition as free. Second, I shall try to show that the Marx of 1844 uses fundamentally similar ideas in his exposition of communist society. For him ‘true property’ plays the dual role of enabling individuals to objectify their individuality and of enabling them to demonstrate, and thereby realise, their mutual recognition as fellow human beings with needs. In turn, Marx uses these ideas to condemn the society of private property and market exchange as characterised by ‘estranged’ versions of property and recognition. Marx therefore uses a structure of ideas which Hegel had used to justify the institutions of private property and market exchange, but in order to condemn those same institutions.

Emmanuel Renault (Lyon)
The Early Marx and Hegel: The Young-Hegelian Mediation

The Young Hegelian movement is usually considered only a transition between Hegel and Marx and as a result it is seen as having played only a minor role in Marx’s interpretation of Hegel. As is well known, Marx was one of the main protagonists in Young-Hegelianism between 1841 and 1844. Nevertheless, his own reading of Hegel is usually considered as a criticism of the Young-Hegelian relationship to Hegel rather than a reading mediated by the Young-Hegelian movement. In this paper, I describe the various splits in the Hegelian school that first gave rise to Left-Hegelianism and then to Young-Hegelianism. In a first step, I analyze the various uses and interpretations of Hegel that have been proposed by these movements. In a second step, I compare them with Marx’s own uses and interpretations of Hegel between 1841 and 1845. I then focus on three issues that were decisive in the various splits of the Hegelian school: the critical dimension of Hegelian philosophy; the relation of Hegel’s system to the present; and the realisation of philosophy. These three issue are decisive for the Young-Hegelian relationship to Hegel as well as for Marx’s relationship to Hegel until 1845, much more so than the issue of dialectics. My claim will be that Marx has been more deeply a Young-Hegelian and for a longer time than what is commonly acknowledged, so that the Early Marx has to be read as a Young-Hegelian, and most particularly as regards his specific relationship to Hegel.

Frederick Neuhouser (Columbia)
Marx and Hegel on the Value of ‘Bourgeois’ Ideals

In this paper I ask what positive normative role, if any, “bourgeois” ideals (freedom, equality, and justice) play in Marx’s critique of capitalism and in his vision of communism — or, more precisely, whether there is room in Marx’s normative position for appropriating, rather than merely discarding, ethical ideals associated with earlier modes of production. I compare Marx’s approach to freedom in “On the Jewish Question” with a part of Hegel’s strategy for developing a satisfactory conception of freedom. I conclude that many of Marx’s normative commitments are similar to Hegel’s but that Marx, to his own detriment, fails to follow Hegel to the point where one could speak of a genuine appropriation of past ideals.

Graduate panel 1:

Herbert De Vriese (Antwerp)
Breaking the Idealistic Spell: Marx’s farewell to the Hegelian Ideal of Presuppositionless Thinking

The logical requirement of presuppositionlessness (‘Voraussetzungslosigkeit’) is a crucial, though often underappreciated, connection between Hegel’s systematic philosophy and the critical thought of the Young Hegelians. In line with Trendelenburg’s famous attack on Hegel’s logic, the critique of presuppositionless thinking is generally considered to be a criticism that only affects the systematic construction of Hegel’s philosophy, and does not touch the philosophical radicalism of his younger disciples. Yet, this view cannot be sustained. In spite of many notable deviations from hegelian orthodoxy, the ideal of presuppositionless thinking is one of the sacred principles of Hegel’s philosophy to which most of his disciples remain firmly committed. What is more, the method of pure critique that dominates the Berlin wing of Young Hegelianism during the years of 1841 to 1846 is a form of critical analysis that is entirely based on the principle of presuppositionlessness (Bruno Bauer 1841:xviii, 1844:20; 1846:9-10; Edgar Bauer 1844:39-40,95; Fränkel 1844:23-25). This observation, which has not been sufficiently analyzed in secondary literature – Kempski’s analysis, for instance, fails to see the link with pure critique – is a major point to understand Marx’s changing relationship to Hegel’s philosophy in the 1840ies. While his early writings are still under the spell of presuppositionless thinking, the works of the mid-1840ies, with which he distances himself from Young Hegelianism in general and the Berlin radicals in particular, demonstrate a clear and conscious break with this ideal. This paper will examine to what extent Marx’s farewell to both Hegel’s and Young Hegelian idealism has been triggered by his discovery of a pernicious principle at the heart of modern idealistic philosophy, namely the destructive but almost irresistible attraction to thinking without presuppositions. This will not only illuminate Marx’s insistence upon the concept of presupposition in The German Ideology, but also holds significant promise for adding a new dimension to classic issues such as the realization of philosophy, the critique of ideology, and the transition from theory to praxis and from idealism to materialism.

Bue Rübner Hansen (Queen Mary)
Hegel, Marx, and Singular Times

The Hegelian concept of time has been rejected by Althusser as reductive of the varieties of temporality to the ‘homogeneous continuity of time’, and history to the present moment, hence foreclosing politics.

More productive than this strategy of dismissal seems to be the suggestion, common to the Systematic Dialectic approach, and going back to Lukács’ and Benjamin’s critiques of abstract and continuous time, that Hegel’s dialectic provides a basis for the exposition of capital, while Marx’s method provides the means to understand the historical and material conditions of possibility of the Hegelian dialectic itself.

Building on, but going beyond this idea my paper argues that Hegel’s systematic conceptualization of time in his Philosophy of Nature gives us a rich rather than merely abstract conception of time. Time, for Hegel, is a mediation of space’s self-relating negativity. My thesis is that if we consider, with Hegel, that space relates to itself negatively and is mediated with itself in several distinct ways, we might extract several notions of time or temporality. Among these we find the singular time, or duration, of a point as irreducible to any other point; the point rests not in itself as a monad, but is put into movement in its own non-identity (becoming line, which in turns becomes plane). This approach allows us to think of time not merely as the grand abstraction of universal time, but as non-totalised becoming (necessarily multiple), giving some pointers to thinking the temporality of Marx’s free activity and living labour. This notion, if developed, will allow us to think revolutionary processes whose antagonistic relations to the abstractions of capital are not reducible to the politics of the Aufhebung or negation of capital. Here we arrive at the possibility of an affirmative politics of singular durations; constitutive of time, yet subsumed by universal time. These are the times of processes of communization, whose multiplication and generalization would be nothing but the condition – insufficient but necessary – of a real movement which abolishes the present state of things, while affirming the becoming of another.

Jacob Blumenfeld (New School for Social Research)
The Method and Object of Capital

The topic of this paper is old, gone over a thousand times, and yet still, no resolution is on the horizon. The question is, how far does Marx’s philosophical enterprise depend on a Hegelian method? And furthermore, is this Hegelian form necessary for Marx’s project? Is it interesting? Is it worthwhile? First, I separate out three meanings of dialectic according to Hegel: a) dialectic as skeptical inversion, b) dialectic as historical progress, and c) dialectic as method of exposition of a dynamic whole. I show how Marx was influenced by each kind of dialectic in his work, but that the third form is the most important for understanding Capital. I take Hegel’s Philosophy of Right as a case study of this method of exposition, showing the transition from Abstract Right to Morality, and why this is neither simply a movement of inversion nor a historical progression, but a logic of explaining an interrelated whole. Then I show how Marx thought of his method this way too, as seen in the Introduction to the Grundrisse. Next, I analyze chapter I of Capital, particularly the dialectic of the value-form, in order to show the method at work. I argue that the movement from one commodity to a series of commodities to money is a methodological procedure which presupposes money already as the ground for adequately explaining the value of a single commodity. Finally, I speculate as to why this Hegelian method is particularly suitable to the object of Capital, perhaps even moreso than the object of right in Hegel. My hypothesis is that although the object is structurally the same for both, as a society of free human beings recognizing themselves through the exchange of labor, Marx’s analysis is able to show why this object appears not as the result of the self-activity of people, but as the self-movement of value.

Graduate panel 2:

Christopher Joonho Ro (Princeton)
Capital as Collective Product: Mutual Interaction in Marx’s Idea of Alienation

Many commentators on Marx and alienation tend to privilege two notions of alienation found in Marx’s critique of capitalism: alienation as people’s stunted self-realization; and alienation as the worker’s separation from his products. I propose that while these conceptions of alienation are important components of his account of alienation in 1844, the most stable conception of alienation across Marx’s work – and one worthy of more attention – primarily refers to the phenomenon of the rule of self-produced alien powers over society.

In this paper, my aim is to elaborate on how we ought understand the thesis that the impersonal forces that dominate us are of our own making.1 Considering Marx’s own examples of self-produced alien powers (e.g. the laws of supply and demand), I argue that the self-production thesis is best understood as the claim that particular forms of mutual interaction between individuals give rise to alien powers. I consider Adam Smith’s notion of the invisible hand, arguing that Marx adopts from political economy the view that economic phenomena are nothing but the cumulative and unintended result of the individual interactions within the economy.

Marx’s insistence that alienation assumes the form of capital – which is produced by the workers alone and takes on concrete, material form – appears to stand in tension with my account. I argue that Marx is concerned with the production of capital in two distinct senses. On the one hand, he wants to identify the source of surplus value (and hence capital). On the other, he aims to explain how anything can assume the form of capital at all. I argue that the former is best understood in terms of exploitation and the latter in terms of the account of alienation I defend. For Marx, capital is a collective product (of capitalists and workers alike) in the sense that things can only assume the form of capital within a particular configuration of social relations (namely, the capitalrelation). I explain this idea with reference to Marx’s comments on economic categories in general and the social relations of production that they presuppose.

David Marjoribanks (Kent)
Universality and Particularity in Hegel and Marx

This paper investigates particularity and universality in the political philosophies of Hegel and Marx. Both seek an organic unity of the two. Hegel grasps the paradox of universality in contradictory civil society. Hegel’s idealism – which derives sovereignty from the concept and subordinates civil society to the state– attempts to overcome this. Since his idealist solution proves untenable, Hegel’s political philosophy embodies an unresolved antinomy between particularity and universality, as Marx shows.

Marx shares with Hegel the view that the universal implicit in civil society must be rationally comprehended and recognised as such. But where Hegel posits the state over and against civil society, Marx sees democracy as the true unity of the universal and the particular. Where Hegel recognises the paradoxical character of universality in modern society, but resolves it in the Idea, Marx argues it is a more essential paradox, which only democracy can overcome. Here two alternatives arise. Democracy as true universality is conceived as form or also as content. Marx takes the latter, positing a ‘truly universal’ society. Further, emancipation for Marx can only be achieved by a class which genuinely embodies a universal. The proletariat is the bearer of such a genuine universality. In his argument for democracy as the true unity, and in his positing of the proletariat as the class which is ontologically destined to carry this out, Marx, like Hegel, posits a given and essential content to the universal.

I argue that this is problematic. Idealist delusions aside, there is a split between particularity and universality, which there is little reason to think particularity ever fully overcomes. As Marx argued, the paradox is a real one; but Marx’s solution is little more convincing than Hegel’s. Marx’s later, more suspicious, approach, which unmasks (bourgeois) universality as ideological sham provides a better alternative for materialism.

Jan Kandiyali (Sheffield)
Work and Freedom in Marx’s Account of Communism

Many commentators argue that there is a major shift in Marx’s account of communism: as Marx got older, and learned more about economics, he dropped the vision of non-alienated labour that he spoke of in his early writings, and adopted a more pessimistic account of work in communist society, where we achieve self-realisation ourselves outside of necessary labour, in leisure. Other commentators, however, have questioned whether this is really the case: properly understood, they argue, there is no shift in Marx’s views on this matter. Marx’s view, from his early more philosophical writings to his later economic works, is that labour itself will be radically transformed under communism so that it will provide an immense source of meaning and fulfilment for the worker.

My aim in this paper is to give a different interpretation of this debate. On my view, Marx moves between two ways of thinking about work and its relation to freedom, which, I shall argue, give rise to two different models of communist society. The first strand states that, whilst a form of freedom can be had in the realm of necessary labour, the highest form of freedom can only be achieved outside of that realm, in those activities, like art, that are completely free from the exigencies of physical need. The second strand, by contrast, argues that true freedom, the highest form of it, can in fact be achieved in activities that are directed towards the satisfaction of physical needs, in labour, and, indeed, can only be had in this way. Having pointed to tensions and discrepancies in Marx’s account of communism, it might be thought that I am basically in agreement with those commentators who see a major shift in Marx’s writings between his early optimistic account of communism and his later, more pessimistic, portrayal of a future society. However, this is not so. For, on my account, these two strands of thought are not to be viewed in terms of a simple distinction between the ‘young’ and ‘old Marx. Rather, I shall argue that Marx moves between these two models in his writings, never settling on one. It is an oscillation rather than a shift.

I will begin in section one by briefly outlining how this debate has been conducted so far. In sections two to three I give my reading of Marx’s views on this matter, outlining the two rival views of communist society and Marx’s oscillation between them. In section four I turn away from these interpretive issues and defend the second model over the first, suggesting that this puts forward a more desirable and feasible account of communist society.