Among the most ingrained ambiguities of Marxism are its relationship both to philosophy and to science. The ambiguity with which each one is viewed is amplified in part because Marx had a commitment to both. As an intellectual system with an interest in knowledge, Marxism vacillates concerning its most fundamental "paradigm"--in Thomas Kuhn's sense of that term.1 At times Marx looks to science as his paradigm of knowledge, but at other times he looks to "critique" born of philosophy.
Long before he wrote Capital, but especially in that work, Marx had begun to think of himself as a scientist. Indeed, even before that great work begins, the very first page of Marx's preface to the first German edition places him in the camp of science. He reminds his readers that "the saying that all beginnings are difficult applies to every science,"2 and hence they may, he warns, experience their chief difficulties in the very first chapter to follow. In short, Marx's opening assertion is that Capital is a work of "science." He then immediately goes on, at some length, to explain that the analysis of economic "value" has no microscope or chemical reagents to help and, substituting for these, "the power of abstraction has to take the place of both these expedients."3 He adds that if this sometimes seems like hairsplitting, the uninitiated reader should remember that we are no less concerned "with minutiae when we study histology, the microscopic study of the tissues.4 Note, ''when we study histology..." A few lines later Marx is no longer the histologist but is now the physicist who, he explains, ''pursues his investigations either by studying natural process . . . in the most pregnant forms . . . or else, whenever he can, he performs experiments." He himself, says Marx, shall pursue the first option, studying capitalism in England, where it is most fully developed. In one case histologist, in another physicist, in a third case Marx is a chemist, comparing his analysis of commodities to a chemical analysis which reveals that different substances are sometimes "made up of the same chemical elements."5
As a scientist, Marx explains his object is the study of "the natural laws of capitalist production, . . . these laws in themselves, the tendencies which work out with an iron necessity towards an inevitable goal."6 Marx refers to his laws as "tendencies." Does this mean, as it usually does, an (inherent or acquired) inclination to move in a certain direction which can, however, be opposed but (unlike the notion of a "trend") only with great difficulty? In short, does "tendency" mean, for Marx, some inclination close to but still less than "inevitable"? Marx himself answers, insisting that "tendencies" are inclinations which "work out with an iron necessity toward an inevitable goal."
When Marx speaks of natural law and of tendency he clearly means, here and in other but not in all cases, inclinations that are unopposable, inexorable, and "inevitable." We have no choice but to believe that Marx meant what he said. No invocation of "tendency" can escape the conclusion that Marx--at any rate, this Marx--was a ''determinist'' who, in the plain meaning of that term, refers to someone who adheres to the doctrine that occurrences in nature are determined by antecedent causes and take place in accordance with natural laws, and who, further, holds that acts of the will are also the result of causes that determine them.
For Marx, knowing the natural laws governing capitalist society does not permit us either to "overleap the natural phases of evolution, nor shuffle out of the world by decrees." Such knowledge, said Marx, does not permit any change in the direction of social evolution; all it can do is "shorten and lessen the birthpangs."7 But the movement remains one of "iron necessity toward an inevitable goal."
I take some care to fasten down the determinist implications of Marx the scientist, for it has lately become fashionable to deny this outright, to gloss over it, or to soften it by saying that all Marx meant by laws were "tendencies"--as if there was more than a difference of degree. Inclinations to deny that Marx often conceived himself a scientist searching for inexorable laws are, in part, rationalizations seeking to modernize and salvage Marx; but, in part, they are also efforts grounded in ambiguities resident in Marx himself, but eagerly seized upon by those embarrassed by Marx's determinism and anxious to blot it out rather than to confront the meaning of his determinism and of his ambivalences about it.
As early as 1847, Marx had declared that the proletariat could not "overleap the natural phases of evolution," and that its political victory depended upon the prior development of an advanced industrial economy. If a proletariat forgets this, he warned, an-- victory it achieves will be only temporary and it will suffer a retribution:
If the proletariat destroys the political rule of the bourgeoisie that will only be a temporary victory, only an element in the service of the bourgeois revolution itself, as in 1789, so long as in the course of history, in its "movement," the material conditions are not yet created which make necessary the abolition of the bourgeois mode of production. Men do not build themselves a new world out of the fruits of the earth, as vulgar superstition believes, but out of the historical accomplishments of declining civilization. They must, in the course of their development, begin by themselves producing the material conditions of a new society, and no effort of mind or will can relieve them from this destiny.8 [Note this is Marx, not Engels, and was written a full twenty years before his remarks quoted above.]
In this, Marx gave voice to a cardinal political doctrine of Scientific Marxism,
namely, that a successful socialist revolution requires, as its indispensable requisite, a
prior high level of industrial development. This early determinism, later echoed in
Capital, forbidding any "overleap [of] the natural phases of evolution" is
clearly not Engels's corruption of Marx, and the former was thus utterly faithful when he
wrote: "only at a certain level of development of the productive forces, an even very
high level of our modern condition, does it become possible to raise production to such an
extent that the abolition of class distinctions can be a real progress--can be lasting
without bringing about stagnation."9 There was, then, no point in a classless society
if this meant an equality of poverty and a stagnant economy. For Marx and Engels,
socialism also means development and modernization.
In Capital itself, Marx wrote that the accumulation of capital is one of the basic laws of capitalism and that "in proportion as capital accumulates, the condition of the worker, be his wages high or low, necessarily grows worse; ... poverty grows as the accumulation of capital grows. The accumulation of wealth at one pole of society involves a simultaneous accumulation of poverty, labour ferment, slavery, ignorance, brutalisation, and moral degradation, at the opposite pole--where dwells the class that produces its own product in the form of capital."10 In short, there is a mathematical proportionality as well as necessity in this law, which, by the way, Marx had already enunciated twenty years earlier in his polemic against Proudhon, The Misery of Philosophy.
The entire process comes to its necessary and catastrophic culmination when "the monopoly of capital itself becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. The integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist expropriation sounds. The expropriators are expropriated." 11
That there can be no doubt that Marx thought himself a scientist who had discovered the laws guarantying the doom of capitalism is, finally, discernible in his familiar "preface to the second German edition" of Capital, where he quotes approvingly--calling it "apt" and generous--from a laudatory Russian review of the first edition. The Russian reviewer (Illarion Kaufman) had written:
For Marx, only one thing is important to discover laws of the phenomena he is investigating.... As soon as he has discovered this law he proceeds to work out in detail the effects as manifested in social life.... Marx troubles himself only about one thing to demonstrate by means of exact scientific investigation, the necessity of definite and orderly successions in social relations.... Marx regards the social movement as a natural process, guided by laws which are not merely independent of the will, the consciousness, and the purposes of men, but, conversely, determine their will, their consciousness, and their purposes.12
Like scientists of that period, Marx understood science as encompassing laws that
governed human consciousness and will as they did any other natural object. In that
specific sense, he was as polemically determinist as Robert Chambers and others of the
scientific avant-guard of his time. Marx thus continually counterposes morality and
"will" to the conditions and power of persons and classes, and he frequently
comments on this in the most admonitory manner. "What you think just or equitable is
out of the question," replies Marx to those calling for equal wages. "The
question is: what is necessary and unavoidable with a given system of production?"13
And again, "the will of the capitalist is certainly to take as much as possible. What
we have to do is not to talk about his will, but to enquire into his power, the limits of
that power, and the character of those limits."14
In 1872, during the course of a polemic against Bakunin, Marx denounces him because he "does not understand a thing about social revolution, only the political phrases about it; its economic conditions do not exist for him. Now since all hitherto existing forms, developed or undeveloped, include the servitude of the worker (be it in the form of the wage worker, peasant, etc.) he believes that in all of them a radical revolution is equally possible. But even more! He wants the European social revolution, founded on the economic basis of capitalist production, to take place at the level of the Russian or Slav agricultural and pastoral people." Marx concludes in disgust, ''Will, not economic conditions, is the foundation of his social revolution."15 Notice: Marx does not say both are necessary in some admixture. He himself treats each as mutually exclusive of the other; in short, he treats the two as contradictory.
This is one of the key doctrines usually separating Scientific from Critical Marxists, as suggested in the following comment by the arch Scientific Marxist, Karl Kautsky, in his review of Marxism and Philosophy by the sometime Critical Marxist, Karl Korsch: "In reality the conviction that social revolution is possible only under determinate conditions, and thus only in particular countries, belongs to the most important features of Marxism. The communist sect to which Korsch belongs has totally forgotten this. In its view, social revolution is possible and under all conditions. 16
Marx's discussion of the role of "will" is more balanced yet unmistakable in its thrust in his Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered given, and transmitted from the past." Engels was to repeat this more than once. Here it seems as if Marx leaves room for the voluntaristic element--for "will"--as, indeed, he formally does. Yet the thrust of his argument is in the opposite direction, stressing not the freedom of the will but the limits on it. Thus in the very next sentence Marx invokes the constraint of tradition: "the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living."17
There is, then, a scientific Marx and Marxism in which there are laws governing the evolution and inner dynamics of capitalism, dooming it inexorably; and, likewise, imposing a necessity no less severe upon revolutionaries; requiring that they, too, surrender to necessity, and remember that before a socialist revolution can succeed there must first have been established, by capitalism, an advanced industrial economy, whether in the state undergoing the revolution or at least in one able and willing to render aid to it. It is not "will" that is the foundation of revolution, Marx told Bakunin, but economic conditions. It is precisely this insistence, upon a prior advanced economic development for socialism, that Marx used to distinguish his own socialism from utopian socialism.
Marx generalized the point by formulating a sociology in which the focus is not on what persons wish or on their moralities, but on what their situations prevent or enable them to do. His focus, then, is on the constraints of social structure; it is this that is an authentic mark of scientific socialism. Here, the central emphasis is that all persons are limited by the roles they play, the classes of which they are members, the times and places in which, and the traditions and institutions under which, they live. Marx is especially concerned with the manner in which persons are limited by the level of the forces of production in their economy and, above all, by the direct social relationships into which owner and worker enter. For Marx the scientist, the center from which constraint emanates out into society is the mode of production, while the public sphere of the "will" is the realm of politics. Note, for example, how in his polemic against Bakunin, Marx counterposed the two. Bakunin, he says scornfully, "does not understand a thing about social revolution," only the political phrases about it; its economic conditions do not exist for him. Marx the scientist thereby created a political lacuna in his theory that called for a remedy.
If at times Marx thinks himself a scientist among scientists, there are also other times
when he thinks himself something different, when he regards himself as a critic and his
work as critique. Thus Das Kapital's subtitle is, of course, A Critique of Political
Economy. Critique is the realm of philosophy and of the art of interpretation. I have
noted how, in the pages of Capital, Marx portrays himself as a scientist. Yet there was
another self-portrait that he also drew: "when Marx was working on his first volume,
he wrote Engels (July 31, 1865) that whatever the shortcomings of his writings might be,
they had the 'merit of making an artistic whole'; and in his next letter to Engels (August
5) he speaks of his book as a 'work of art' and mentions 'artistic considerations' in
connection with his delay in getting it finished."18 Edmund Wilson is surely correct
in adding that, "certainly there went into the creation of Das Kapital as much of art
as of science"; but it should not be missed that the art was vaunted only privately
and the science publicly. In the public presentation of his scholarship, Marx offered it
as science and suppressed a definition of it as art, thereby telling us about the
hierarchy of values to which his work submitted. Indeed, the three main texts used to
portray Marxism as critique rather than science--the Grundrisse, the Paris manuscripts of
1844, and the theses on Feuerbach--were never published by Marx himself. They were in
effect suppressed by him, self-censored.
Scientific and Critical Marxism are divergent paradigms because Marx's ''science" is especially concerned to discover laws independent of human will and which cannot be suspended by science itself, while his "critique" is concerned to exhibit the manner in which outcomes depend on human efforts. His science's standpoint, then, is deterministic and structural; his critiques's standpoint is voluntaristic. Science is generally concerned with the internal cultivation of technical knowledge. It does not make focal the ''command" implications of what it "reports," and (in August Comte's words), neither "praises nor blames" events. Critique, however, is concerned with interpreting events in terms of values that are not merely technical and it thus works at the interface between a technical speciality and the larger, encompassing culture.
Unlike the "laws" of Scientific Marxism, which exhibit the inexorable working of events, critique is not determinist. It does not show what must be but only what may be, or what can or could be. The standpoint of critique and its special reading of Marx is well exhibited by the young Max Horkheimer.
The illusion that the advent of the socialist order is of the same order of necessity is hardly less of a danger to correct action than is skeptical disbelief. If Marx did not prove socialism, he did show that capitalism harbors developmental tendencies which make it possible.... The socialist order of society is not prevented by world history; it is historically possible. But it will not be realized by a logic that is immanent in history.19
Critique, then, only shows what may be, not what must be. It may examine emerging trends and their relative strength as one element in establishing what may be. It is open to the truly new and emergent. Critique especially throws light on the hidden, repressed, unspoken possibilities, the possibilities that may be hostile to ''what is," indicating what they are, why they have been hidden, and by whom. It is thus not "what is" or even what is becoming on which critique is grounded. For it cannot opt for all that is possible, but must select among possibilities on the basis of some set of values to which it has committed itself.
To make a critique of something--to criticize it--inevitably premises things might be otherwise. There is a tacit Kantianism in critique which assumes, "ought implies can." Thus a knowledge of what is (or is becoming) may indicate what is possible and is the empirical part of critique; but there is no way of choosing among various possibilities without grounding choice in some value system. Critique, then, is inevitably a fusion of the empirical and the moral. It implies that human history is the outcome not of structural constraints or "necessity'' but of human striving, of persons' efforts and powers, even if these are hidden. The basic conclusion of the Left Hegelians' critique of religion--the concrete paradigm of the more general critique used by Marx--thus stressed that God's being was entirely a projection of people's own alienated being.
Critique, therefore, aims at making human potency manifest; it is grounded in a humanism optimistically convinced that humanity can make and remake the world. To that extent critique shares the antitragic perspective common to all ideological discourse (as discussed in Chapter Three of my Dialectic of Ideology).
The polymorphous diversity of Marx's thought, continually vacillating between science and
critique, had a very personal and indeed biographical grounding expressed in Marx's own
shifting identifications, first with Hegel, then with Darwin; the two are his greatest
models. There is an archeology here: Marx starts by taking Hegel's role but then moves
toward an identification with Darwin, which in part replaces and in part suppresses that
earlier identification. Marx is soon happy to be compared with Darwin and wants to
dedicate an edition of Capital to him.
On 19 December 1860, Marx writes Engels that, in the last four weeks, "I have read all sorts of things. Among others Darwin's book on Natural Selection. Although it is developed in the crude English style, this is the book which contains the basis in natural history for our view."20 A year later he writes Lassalle (16 January 1861) that "Darwin's book is very important and serves me as basis in natural science for the class struggle in history; . . . the death blow is dealt here for the first time to 'teleology' in the natural sciences but their rational meaning is empirically explained."21 At Marx's funeral, then, it was not Engels's vulgarizing distortion that led him, in his final eulogy at the Highgate Cemetery, to compare Marx to Darwin: "Just as Darwin discovered the laws of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history." Similar comparisons later made by Karl Kautsky are, again, no evidence at all of a corruption of originary Marxism.
For Marx, Darwin is Hegel scientized and modernized while Hegel is the philosophic depth of Darwin--without the English "crudity." Both saw development as blind and unconscious; and both saw it as occurring through struggle. For Hegel, there is the metaphysics of "contradiction" and the sociological archetypal contest between master and bondsman, eventuating in the latter's paradoxical triumph; while for Darwin, struggle inheres in the natural processes producing survival of the fittest. Both theorists also work with nonpredictive "interpretations"; for both, the Owl of Minerva flew late. As George Herbert Mead clearly saw, in his much neglected but very valuable work,22 the convergence between Darwin and Hegel was profound. Indeed, it was in part that very convergence that enabled Marx to move from critique to science, to sublate and escape from philosophy.
Though convergent, Darwin and Hegel were scarcely identical. Each permitted Marx a different perspective on himself and expressed different sides of his ambitions. Marx had been Hegel but was for a while tempted to "become'' Darwin. Matters were not made simpler, however, when Darwin politely declined Marx's offer to dedicate the English translation of Capital to him. But if Marx recognized the convergence between Darwin and himself; he clearly saw certain ideological limits in Darwin. In a letter to Engels of 18 June 1862, he observed that "Darwin recognizes among beasts and plants his English society with its division of labour, competition, opening up of new markets, 'invention,' and the Malthusian 'struggle for existence'." To which Engels (in a letter to P.L. Lavrov, 17 November 1875) added ironically that, after having projected society's characteristics on nature, "the same theories are transferred back again from organic nature into history and their validity as eternal laws of human society has been proved."
To surrender Hegel and dwell only on Darwin, then, was to surrender to a shallow natural history, which was devoid of sociological insight and which would extinguish subjectivity as an element in human history, transforming human conflict into a blind species struggle for existence. Marx thus retained an abiding ambivalence toward both these different paradigms, and they remained two worlds uneasily juxtaposed within him, even as he edged ever closer to science. While Marx was respectfully ambivalent toward science, his critique of philosophy is far sharper and less evenly balanced. Marx thus creates an opening toward positivism23 to which some among the next generation of Marxists, lacking his philosophical heritage and depth, would be susceptible.
Marxism's potentiality for a positivistic segregation of philosophy and science, with its
corresponding devaluation of philosophy, was clearly signaled in Engels's analysis of the
development of German philosophy from Hegel to Ludwig Feuerbach. With Hegel, Engels
assumes, ''there is an end of all philosophy in the hitherto accepted sense of the word, .
. . instead, one pursues attainable, relative truth along the path of the positive
sciences, and the summation of their results by means of dialectical philosophy At any
rate, with Hegel philosophy comes to an end; . . . he showed us the way out of the
labyrinth of 'systems' to real positive knowledge of the world."24
In this judgement, Engels treats philosophy as a passive "summation" of the sciences, as science's bookkeeper, rather than as the independent auditor appraising its intellectual solvency. He clearly intimates the obsolescence of philosophy and its supersession by the sciences. Unlike science, philosophy remains in his view linked intrinsically to ideology and even to religion: "Still higher ideologies . . . take the form of philosophy and religion."25 In a later passage, Engels also holds that the Marxist conception of history ... puts an end to philosophy in the realm of history," maintaining that now "philosophy has been expelled from nature and history."26
The above remarks, having been written by Engels, will quickly be seized upon by those who believe that weaknesses in Marxism were all produced by Engels and the strengths by Marx. But this crude view of the matter is soon dispelled if we look at The German Ideology which was written by both of them in 1846. There it may be seen that both invidiously counterposed positive science to philosophy--and not just once: "When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of activity loses its mediun1 of existence." And then expressly foreshadowing Engels's remarks above--about philosophy serving as a ''summation'' of the sciences--they immediately add: "At the best its [philosophy's] place can only be taken by a summing-up of the most general results, abstractions which arise from the observation of the historical development of men."27 The invidious contrast between philosophy and empirical science is again formulated in the following manner: "when we conceive things thus, as they really are and happened, every profound philosophical problem is resolved, as will be seen even more clearly later, quite simply into an empirical fact."28 These comments mark the transition in both Marx and Engels from philosophy to science and, indeed, to a view of science which stressed the decisive role of empirical observation.
It is in this sense that Louis Althusser is correct in noting that Marx's critique of "ideology" entailed a transition to a focal affirmation of a social "science" (historical materialism), along with a simultaneous (but de-focalized) philosophical innovation, dialectical materialism. In Althusser's words: "as the new philosophy was only implicit in the new science it might be tempted to confuse itself with it. The German Ideology sanctions this confusion as it reduces philosophy . . . to a faint shadow of science, if not to the empty generality of positivism."29
Althusser, however, ignores the reason that Marx's dialectical philosophy remained de-focalized or "only implicit." He fails to understand Marx's silence properly, treating it as a kind of passive lacuna or mere oversight, rather than as the symptom of an active repression grounded in a real struggle within Marxism. The point is that philosophy is not simply ignored but comes to be devalued in Marx and Engels. This devaluation is expressed in a conception of philosophy as ideological, as idealistic, even religious. In Marx's experience, the dominant, paradigmatic philosophies of his time were in fact idealistic; his critique of idealism and ideology therefore becomes identified with and colors his critique of philosophy as such. Marx's critique of philosophy, then, has the same structure as his critique of ideology and idealism; both entail the affirmation of the contrary. In his critique of philosophy there is an affirmation of "positive science"30 that presents science as an alternative to philosophy. In that framework, to favor science is to oppose or at least suspect, philosophy and to treat it repressively rather than to complement and complete it with a social science.
The tendency invidiously to contrast philosophy and science within Marxism is not recent then, but is faithfully grounded in Marx's own intellectual transition from Hegel's philosophy to what he takes to be the scientific scholarship of empirically grounded political economy. This transition should be thought of as a shift in languages occasioned by moving from one intellectual territory (or problematic) to another. It does not necessarily mean that the mover comes to hold his first language in contempt or reject it; indeed, he may even feel a certain warm nostalgia when he thinks about it; certainly it has a lingering influence on his thinking; but he begins to forget and to lose competence in it and, in time, he begins to think and even dream in the new language.
While Marx stressed that political economy needed to be subjected to a purifying critique before he appropriated it to his own purposes, this was a process of stripping it of its ideological impurities so that what remained for his use would be authentic science Increasingly, Marx developed a sense of the kinship between his own views and those of the sciences then burgeoning and (as we saw) most especially with Darwinianism.
When Marx spoke of abolishing (aufgehoben) philosophy, many take this as mere hyperbole, as if this greatly learned man could not have contemplated a ''sin against philosophy" or harbored truly destructive impulses toward this capstone of culture. Others, however, seem to think that Marx renounced philosophy and became antiintellectual. Both views vulgarize the matter, missing the complexities; missing, above all, Marx's and Marxism's real ambivalence toward philosophy. Karl Korsch captured this when he remarked, "I described the dialectical materialist, critical revolutionary theory of Marx and Engels in the 1840's as an 'antiphilosophy' which yet in itself remained philosophical. On the one hand, socialist 'science' became positive and gradually turnecl away from philosophy altogether. On the other hand, philosophical development occurred, apparently in conflict with the former but in fact complementary to it."31
Marx's judgement on philosophy is complex and ambivalent: suspecting that philosophy is rooted in the past, regarding it as world-avoiding and academic, as interpreting but never achieving. He viewed philosophy's very paradigm as idealism, believing that idealism was a secret secularisation of religion, and that all critique begins with the critique of religion. Marx's reaction t`' philosophy embodied a certain warm contempt as well as cool critique. Other Marxists heard this contempt correctly. Franz Mehring thus once allowed himself to speak of the importance of rejecting "all philosophical fantasies," while Karl Kautsky could blandly confess, "philosophy was never my strong point." In this very articulate group, it is easy to miss the silences in Marx and Marxism. Therefore one notes: while there was much talk about "philosophical'' fantasies there was no corresponding curt dismissal of the fantasies of science; while there was heady talk about the importance of ''subsuming'' and transcending philosophy there was never any corresponding passionate plea with regard to science.
This multi-layered critique of philosophy--whose full passion is revealed in Marx's mocking work, The Holy Family--spills out in two different directions. One is toward positivism, where he drops the mantle of critical philosopher and attempts to squeeze into the garb of scientist. At the same time, however, and even as he slowly stops thinking in the language of philosophy, he senses that the new science has been left without intellectual depth. Seeing the political crudities of scientists, the ease with which they are snared in ideological traps,32 and recognizing that the new sciences are used by and fused with capitalist industry, Marx silently revisits the old haunted house of philosophy--as in 1857 when he takes up Hegel's Logic, the year he starts the Grundrisse. The first, the scientific culture in which he (and Engels still more) immersed himself, eventuated in an articulate scientific theory of society--"historical materialism"--while the second was a critical standpoint, a philosophy, Althusser's unborn ''dialectical materialism," present only in embryo. Around these different archeological layers there grew the tendrils of the subsequent differentiation between Scientific and Critical Marxism.
It is in this light that we can perhaps reinterpret the relationship of the two Marxisms to Hegel. For it is not so much that only Critical Marxists return to Hegel, and that Scientific Marxists forgo that pilgrimage. There are tendencies in this direction, but only that; a more accurate formulation would suggest that both sometimes return to Hegel, but for different reasons. Scientific Marxism goes back to restore its sense of a comprehensive system, to prevent itself from drowning in the narrowness of the new scientific specializations, to refurbish its feeling for wholeness. In this return to Hegel, as Merleau-Ponty suggests, it is not a question of the dialectic but of Hegel's logic, with its promise that order is embedded in the universe. In its most extreme manifestations, Scientific Marxism centers on ''materialism"--in which mind is thought of as mirroring an out-there reality--while Critical Marxism becomes the guardian of mind-as-lamp. Critical Marxism returns to Hegel precisely for his dialectic: i.e., for his sense of the subject-object interaction, therefore of the subjective side of boundaried things, of the inserted character of boundaries, and, above all, because of the dialectic's power of negativity--its ability to draw a line and to say, No. When Critical Marxism returns to Hegel and when it invokes philosophy more generally, it strives to establish the grounds for a standpoint outside science that will allow a critique even of vaunted science which will not allow science to become a law to itself and will not take science's fusion with technology for granted. Critical Marxism returns to philosophy and to Hegel, then, in part because it does not altogether trust science and certainly does not believe (as George Lundberg once said) "science can save us."
The return to Hegel, then, is not simply the impulse of the Critical Marxist alone; this is quite plain in Engels's own admiration for Hegel which, he acknowledges,33 was his and Marx's "point of departure." Engels, too, stressed the ambiguity of Hegel, distinguishing between Hegel's "system" which he felt was of conservative import and his "method" which maintained a revolutionary ethos. Engels held that when Hegel claimed that "all that is real is rational; and all that is rational is real,'' that this was "tangibly a sanctification of things that be, a philosophical benediction bestowed upon despotism, police-government, star chamber proceedings and censorship."34 Yet, at the same time, Hegel also
dealt the deathblow to the finality of all products of human thought and action; . . . all successive historical situations are only transitory stages in the endless course of development of human society from the lower to the higher. Each stage is necessary, therefore, justified for the time and conditions to which it owes its origins. But in the newer and higher conditions which gradually develop in its own bosom, each loses its validity and justification. It must give way to the higher form which will also in its turn decay and perish; . . . so this dialectical philosophy dissolved all conceptions of final absolute truth and of a final absolute state of humanity corresponding to it. For it, nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything.35
Whether Engels finally judged Hegel as primarily conservative or primarily revolutionary is far from certain. On one side, he held Hegel's conservatism was only ''relative," declaring that his philosophy's "revolutionary character is absolute."36 On the other side, however, Engels also declared that "Hegel, himself, despite the fairly frequent outbursts of revolutionary wrath in his works, seemed on the whole to be more inclined to the conservative side."37 Thus Engels seems to have been tempted to accept a contradiction between Hegel the man and the Hegelian philosophy, as well as an inner tension between the philosophy's system and its method.
Clearly, however, no interpretation of Hegel's philosophy as an unequivocal critique of the present can be sustained. There is a powerful element of conservative positivity in the Hegel who claimed that his own Philosophy of Right "must be poles apart from an attempt to construct a state as it ought to be.... To comprehend what is, this is the task of philosophy, because what is, is reason." Again, in his introduction to The German Constitution Hegel wrote that "the thoughts contained in this essay cannot have any other aim or effect upon publication than the understanding of that which is and thus promote calmer contemplation as well as the ability to endure it."38
Rejecting the separation of reality and morality, Hegel identified the task of his philosophy as understanding the "present and actual, not the construction of an ideal world." It is not farfetched to hear Marx's rejection of utopianism, of sentimentality, and of morality as echoing this. In short, it is not just Marx's turn toward science that is the grounding for the emergence of "scientific'' Marxism; so, too, are elements in Hegel's philosophy. Hegel, like Marx, also believed that he had turned philosophy toward science: "To help bring philosophy near to the form of science; . . . that is what I have set before me."39 It would be difficult to state Marx's own ambition more aptly. The essential point, then, is that Marx was exposed to positivism and, indeed, readied for positive science, not simply by his studies of science but, well before that, by his own most basic grounding in a philosophy whose own aspirations were scientific. Marxism's own tendency to differentiate itself into Scientific and Critical Marxism is thus partly rooted in its very Hegelian legacy which had, even earlier, already sought to transform itself into science.
Marx was Hegelian in seeking to ground communism in what was, and in what was becoming, in the "present and actual." He was edged toward positivisn1 as much by his Hegelian heritage as by his involvement with the empirical sciences themselves. At the same time, and like Hegel, Marx does not take "what is" as final; he does not simply describe it or accept it. He opposes the present with a critique which, in turn, requires the standpoint of a philosophy and not just a science; in particular, he requires a philosophy that can provide a grounding for political choice and action. Essentially, then, Marx is caught in a tunnel connecting science and philosophy, and he shuttles back and forth between them. He cannot relinquish science without capitulating to a moralistic view of socialism and he cannot renounce philosophy and the grounding it provides critique without surrendering to the present. For Marx's double-pronged project--to know and to change the world--philosophy was insufficient to know the world, science insufficient to criticize it. Marx cannot therefore embrace critique without science and science without critique.
1. For further discussion of Kuhn, see Alvin W. Gouldner, The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology (New York: Seabury Press, 1976).
2. Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy Vol. I, translated from the 4th German ed. by Eden and Cedar Paul, published in 2 vols., with an introduction by G. D. H. Cole (London and Toronto: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1930), vol. 2, p. 861.
3. Capital I, Dent ed., 2:862.
5. Capital I, Dent ed., 1:20.
6. Capital I, Dent ed., 2:863. Italics added.
7. Capital I, Dent ed., 2:864.
8. Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, ed. T. Bottomore and M. Rubel (London: Watts, 1956), p. 240. Italics added.
9. Robert C. Tucker, ea., The Marx-Engels Reader (New York: W. W. Norton &
Co., 1972), p. 590.
10. Capital I, Dent ed., 2:714.
11. Capital I, Dent ed., 2:763.
12. Capital I, Dent ed., 2:871. Italics added. That Marxism was construed by Kaufman as a scientific Marxism bent on identifying the governing laws of capitalism was not, therefore, as is sometimes supposed by certain critical Marxists, a late misinterpretation that sprang up only under the impress of social democracy or was inserted by Engels after Marx's death. There is no question at all but that Marxism was widely defined as a "scientific Marxism" during Marx's lifetime and, indeed, under his auspices. This can be seen in the interpretations given of his work immediately upon his death in 1883, and in the eulogies and obituaries whose spontaniety suggests that this was a definition of Marx's work already in being. The definitive source for such materials is the very useful collection of materials edited by Philip S. Foner, When Karl Marx Died: Comments in 1883 (N.Y.: International Publishers, 1973). Here we may plainly see that, for example, it was not only in Engels's funeral address that Marx is eulogized as having "discovered the special law of motion governing the present-day capitalist method of production" (p. .3t) but in others as well. Thus the Paris Brotherhood of the French Workers' Party sent a telegram emphasizing that Marx's contribution had been the creation of "scientific socialism" (p. 41). Wilhelm Liebknecht's funeral oration, "as representative of German social democracy," also extols Marx as having created the scientific basis of socialism, defining Marxism as centered in and characterized by its scientific character, and going on to eulogize science itself (p. 42.) As many of the contemporary obituaries make plain, Marxism was then widely understood as distinguished from other socialisms in large part by reason of its discovery of capitalism's laws.
13. Karl Marx, Value, Price and Profit, ed. Eleanor Marx Aveling (New York:
International Publishers, 1935), p. 39.
14. Ibid., p. 11.
15. Karl Marx, Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 562. Italics added.
16. From Die Gesellschaft, (1924), Vol. 1, pp. 306-14; cited by Paul Breines "Praxis and Its Theorists," Telos, Spring 1972, p. 74.
17. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (New York: International Publishers, 1964), p. 27.
18. Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1940), p. 287. This is a magisterial work of passionate scholarship that remains the best standard by which to measure the achievements of the post--World War II generation of Hegelian interpretations of Marxism. Set against Wilson's lucid synthesis, my generation's self-celebrations seem somewhat intoxicated.
19. Max Horkheimer, Dawn and Decline: Notes 1926-1931 and 1950-1969, trans. Michael Shaw (New York: Seabury Press, 1978), p. 37. Originally published by Horkheimer under the pseudonym Heinrich Regius in Dammerung, Notizen in Deutschland (1926-1931).
20. Karl Marx and Friedrick Engels, Selected Correspondence 1846-1895, trans. Dona Torr (New York: International Publishers, 1942), p. 126.
21. Ibid., p. 125.
22. G. H. Mead, Movements of Thought in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936).
23. Positivism is a mode of consciousness in which science is taken as a given and is not concerned to justify itself and the basic criteria it applies. Its sociological premise is the segregation of science from philosophy, partly through an institutionalized academic division of labor and partly through bourgeois culture's contempt for philosophy as impractical, useless, and powerless.
24. F. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy (New York: International Publishers, 1941), p. 15.
25. Ibid., p. 55.
26. Ibid., p. 59.
27. K. Marx and F. Engels, The German Ideology, trans. W. Lough and C. P. Magill, ed. R. Pascal (New York: International Publishers, n.d.), p. 15.
28. Ibid., p. 35. On p. 13 empirical observation is contrasted invidiously not only with mystification but also with "speculation."
29. Louis Althusser, For Marx (London: Allen Lane, 1969), pp.33-34.
30. This positivistic dimension of Marxism and Marx has been brilliantly explored in the work of Jurgen Habermas and Albrecht Wellmer.
31. Karl Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy (London: New Left Books, 1970), p. 95.
32. Marx most especially scored the ahistorical abstractness of science: "The abstract materialism of a natural science that excludes the historical process is defective; we can see in a moment where we glance at the abstract and ideological conceptions voiced by its advocates whenever they venture beyond the boundary of their own specialty." But, still, this is said only in a footnote. Capital I, Dent ed. 1:393.
33. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach, p. 8.
34. Ibid., p. 10.
35. Ibid., pp. 11-12.
36. Ibid., p. 12.
37. Ibid., p. 16.
38. Cited in Walter Kaufmann, Hegel: A Reinterpretation (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1966), p. 86.
39. G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Mind, trans. J. B. Baillie (New York: Harper & Row Pubs., 1967), p. 70.
From Alvin W. Gouldner, The Two Marxisms. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980, Chapter 3, "Philosophy, Science and the Two Marxisms," pp. 64-81.
Back to the Table of Contents
Back to Chapter 2, "Marxism as Science and Critique"
Forward to Chapter 3 - Appendix - "Conflating the Contrary and Negation"
Back to the Dead Sociologists' Index