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30 Reviews

Apel: Transformation of Philosophy
K.O. Apel, Towards a Transformation of PhiZosophy,
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980 (trans. Adey and
Frisby), £12.50 hc
This book·assembles some of the results of a
sustained interplay between the broadly analytic and
pragmatist traditions and traditions in German
philosophy and critical theory, with the central aim
of outlining a transformation of philosophy along the
lines of what the author calls a transce~dental
pragmatics of language, or a transcendental

Perhaps the guiding theme is a critique of the
methodological solipsism which Apel finds presupposed by the unified theory of science, all forms
of positivism, certain hermeneutic positions relying
on empathy as a key concept, and the transcendental
theory of consciousness since Kant. P~thodolouical
solipsism, briefly, amounts to the view that ‘~ne
alone, and only once’ can follow a rule, and hence
one alone can understand something as something of
such-and-such a kind – or, in other words, can
employ concepts – which understanding is required
for the possibility of any thought. Wittgenstein
is naturally important here, being responsible both
for the introduction of methodological solipsism
into the analytic philosophy of language, and for
its supercession, by showing that the use of concepts, the understanding of something as something,
is possible only within a social life-form in which
agreement in meanings, or participation in a languagegame, is embedded.

This is enough to show that the positivist
attempt to integrate the social sciences into the
programme of unified science cannot succeed; for the
grasp of e~pirical data requires the use of concepts,
and this necessarily presupposes communication
between su~jects in a language-game, and hence a
cognitive interest in understanding others. Social
interaction and c~mmunication cannot then be reduced
to sets of causal relationships between objects
(for example, in behaviourism), nor can the cognitive
interes~ in understanding others be treated as merely
one empirical psychological datum among others; for
these attempts to establish a separation between the
subject and its object, in accordance with a cognitive interest in the technical control of the object,
always presuppose, in the very use of concepts, the
cognitive interest in understanding the other as a
communicant; a co-subject rather than an object.

Before bringing on the third in the triad of
cognitive interests which Apel shares with Habermas,
we need to see how the programme escapes the relativism of those like Winch, who, taking UP
~ittgenstein’s themes, argued that the p~rticipation
In a language-game required in order to understand a
particular social life-form rules out any critical
questioning of that life-form. l]e can understand a
society only in its own terms; philosophy leaves
everything as it is. Apel argues instead that,
rather than take empirically given language-game as
the starting-point of philosophy and accept the conservatism that goes with it, we should investigate
the necessary conditions of the possibility of any
communication, the structure required for any
language-game to exist at all. The uncovering of
these conditions is the work of a transcendental

pragmatics of language. ~ong the conditions is that
a certain notion of communication – which Apel calls
the transcendental language-game, and which involves,
at least, subjects telling significant truths to
others who are treated as equal members of the
community – is a norm for participants in any given
language-game. A norm not in that it is statistically the case that this is so (societies exist, as
we know, where this does not hold), but in that this
notion of communication sets an ideal of what is to
be aimed at in social interaction. To illustrate:

unless a child implicitly takes its parents to be
saying something true and relevant to it, it will not
be able to correlate utterances with states of
affairs in the world, and so not be able to grasp
their meaning at all.

In the light of this ideal communication community, critical theory takes actually existing social
formations to task. It uncovers ways in which
communication is obstructed or broken down by prevai~ing social, political, psychological and ideo10g1cal structures: it does this in a language which
cannot be restricted to the par~icular social lifeform i~ question, but is nevertheless in principle
access1ble to, and its claims verifiable by,
participants in that society through a process 0″£
critical self-reflection. In this way Marxist
~heory, psychoanalytic theory and the critique of
1deology are seen to be governed by an interest in
the emancipation of the self and others in order to
achieve t~at ideal community which is p~esupposed,
~s an act10n-guiding norm, by any communication, or
1ndeed thought, whatsoever. In this way also, the
refusal of Marxists to divorce their theory from
communis~ valu~s_is given a transcendental grounding:

th~ Marx1:t cr1t1que is not just an account of capita11~t soc1ety, but is necessarily a guide to its
act1ve transformation.

This simplified account of some basic themes
necessarily omits Apel’s insights 0~ other related
issues: the impossibility of a thorough-going
objectivisation of language (as attempted in recent
semantic theory), the structural transformations of
transcendental philosophy from Kant through Peirce
to Wittgenstein, and so on. It also perhaps suggests
the high level of abstraction at which most of the
writing takes place, which goes with the Kantian
spirit in which it is conducted, and the immense
depth and breadth of knowledge it assumes. It is
not an easy book to read, and the repetition of
themes is a help rather than hindrance. However,
suspicions raised in analytic philosophers by the
transcendental nature of the issues will be heightened
by the eclectic character of much of the work:

Wittgenstein’s private language argument is taken on
trust, as i~ Royce’s notion of the triadic structure
of the mediation of tradition, and Peirce’s concept
of an unlimited cowmunication community.

When he gets down to some detailed argument, as in
the essay on the foundation of ethics, the final
quarter of the book, Apel carries less conviction:

h~ never mana?es quite to match up with the preceding
h1gh abstract10ns. Scholars will also have complaints
about the treatment of their pet authors. Despite
such faults, the book offers an impressive overview
and integration of some of the central preoccupations
of critical European philosophy.

Kim Davies


Nelson: Justifying Democracy
W.N. Nelson, On Justifying Demoaraay, Routledge and
Kegan Paul, 1980, £9.75 hc
The main aim of this book is to provide a justification of at least some types of representative
democracy, in terms of the moral quality of the laws
they produce. While this involves the use of a moral
argument, or at least an argument about the conditions and possibility of moral argument, reference is
also made to other approaches which have attempted to
justify democratic types of government either with a
non-moral justification, or with a moral justification which does not refer to the moral quality of the
laws they produce. This~eference to other approaches
is however highly critical and really serves only as
a negative counterpart to Nelson’s positive justification of democracy.

Early on a distinction is made between defining a
system as democratic, which is done in terms of its
procedures (p.3), and justifying a democratic system,
which is done through an evaluation of the kinds -of
laws and policies to which such procedures lead
(p.5). The question of the feasibility of a democrati~ system is further hived off from its definitionsand justification. Although there may be
grounds for such a distinction, especially as Nelson
recognizes that any ‘theory of democracy’ must deal
with all three factors, the consequence in this book
is that questions about the definition of democracy
are dealt with only lightly, while those concerning
the feasibility of different models of democracy are
usually ignored as interesting but empirical questions,
and hence not the concern of a philosopher!

It is a tribute to Nelson that despite these unpromising foundations and the highly atomistic view
he takes of the individual’s position in society he
still manages to raise some interesting points. For
example, in Chapter 2 he attacks justifications of
democracy which ~e!::>t on its procedural fairness and
equality by showing how these don’t necessarily lead
to the guarantee of substantive rights. Purely
procedural justice internal to the system of government will not ensure morally acceptable outcomes.

If we add to this Nelson’s plausible argument that
even the non-moral goods which democratic governments
legislate to achieve rest on moral considerations
about the nature of justice, then we can clearly see
his position. This involves the need for a moral
argument which assesses the outcomes (the policies

and laws) of a democratic governmental procedure as
a means to giving a moral justification of that procedure.

The chapter on procedural fairness is complemented
by others on participation, popular sovereignty, and
economic theories of democracy all of which purport
to showl.hat these theories fail to provide an adequate justification for it. Having shown the inadequacy of these positions and in the process indicated his own view Nelson concludes, in the final
two chapters, with a discussion of his own justification for democracy. This, as I have said, is an
instrumental justification which looks at the consequences of democratic procedures in order to give a
moral justification for them. However, this argument
is supplemented by another and different argument,
particularly in Chapter 6. l~en stating this argument
at its simplest level Nelson says,
The general idea is this: the tests that a
law has to pass to be adopted in a constitutional
democracy are analogous to the tests that a
moral principle must pass in order to be an
acceptable moral principle.

This second argument soems to res”t crucially on a
comparison of the actual procedure of law making with
the process of moral discourse. And yet elsewhere in
the book Nelson is scathing about attempts to justify
democracy by reference to its procedures. The two
arguments do not fit easily together, and in not
making a distinction between them Nelson is at least
guilty of confusion.

Despite these problems Nelson does make some
interesting points about the role of rational argument
in giving reasons for the acceptance of moral
principles and how this role is analogous· to” (and
supportive of) the role of argument in the procedures
of constitutional democracy.

Finally he makes an interesting distinction between
the interpretation of law and the content of morality
(what is morally required) in order to outline the
circumstances in which an in~ividual may not be
obliged to obey a morally just law passed by a democratic government. Overall the book is cl~sely
argued but it reads as dated (despite its recent
publication) and remains completely and unquestioningly within very narrow and artificial boundaries.

Peter Vipond

Tradition and History
Books on Sartre and Merleau-Ponty
D. LaCapra, A Prefaae to Sartre, Methuen, 1979, £9.50
D. Archard, Marxism and ExistentiaZism, Blackstaff,
1980, £7.50
Dominick LaCapra is nothing if not up-to-date.

Indeed, he is positively trendy. So his new book on
Sartre must surely say something new and interesting.

His introduction promises us that it will. He is
going, he says, to transcend existing concepts of
intellectual history, to hold a creative dialogue
with the past, to revise those artificial ways of
thinking which radically separate text from context.

A new Sartre will emerge; one hitherto hidden even
from himself.

What enables LaCapra to do all this, he tells us,


is that he is inspired by Derrida’s notion of deconstructive reading. Sartre read deconstructively
will be seen to ignore tradition, to strive misguidedly for clarity and lack of aMbiguity, to
succumb to the logic of domination, and to propose a
naive notion of human freedom. LaCapra, if not
exactly original, could be right. We read on – and
discover that tradition ‘may be defined on tbe analogy of the text as a problematic unitary concept
designating a series of displacements over time that
raise the question of the relationship between continuity and discontinuity’ (p.25). So that’s what
tradition is! And how about ‘text’? Well, it turns
out that just about everything is a text: there’s the
text of Sartre’s complete oeuvre, the text of the

world, the text of life, even context – it’s all text
isn’t it? At this point I begin to sympathize with
Sartre’s remark: ‘I am completely opposed to the idea
of the text’.

The trick, apparently, is to ignore what Sartre
said, because it is what he didn’t say that is the
real significance of his work. This sort of arrogant trivilization perturbs me not least because it
licences an arbitrary and cavalier approach to
textual exegesis. A short but clear example of this
sort of total missing-of-the-point occurs on page 97,
where LaCapra quotes what Sartre said in 1964 about
his early writing. lVhen I wrote Nausea, he said,
‘what I lacked was a sense of reality. Since then I
have changed …. I have seen children die of hunger.

In the face of a child who dies, Nausea has no weight’

This ‘disconcerting passage,’ says LaCapra, ‘posits
an extreme either/or choice: kill the novel or kill
the child’. Rubbish more utter than this is hard
to find.

Archard’s book is in total contrast, and refreshing for it. In place of LaCapra’s verbose pretentiousness we have a modest and succinct attempt to

trace a real slice of ‘tradition’ – or rather history.

The history is that of the dialogue between Sartre
and Herleau-Ponty about philosophy and politics.

The themes of that dialogue – for Archard takes
seriously what was actually said – were reason and
history, theory and practice, the responsibility of
intellectuals and the problem of political effectiveness. What Archard does, and in this he goes beyond
the standard accounts which detach the philosophical
texts from their actual context, is to situate the
thought of the two men in its historical place, and
to show how they developed in response to each other
and to events.

Archard does not, of course, solve the problems.

But he does show how to put history and philosophy
back together, how to treat a text as standing in a
serious relation to a real context, and how rational
argument can inform political activity. As such,
the book is a short, clear contribution to an
unfinished debate.

Roger Waterhouse

Value and Logic
Diane Elson Ced.), Vatue: The Representation of
Labour in Capitatism, CSE Books/Harvester Press,
1979, £4.95 pb, £12 hb
Roman Rosdolsky, The Making of Marx’s ‘Capitat’,
Pluto Press, 1980 Ctrans. Pete Burgess), £4.95 pb
The cluster of concepts, arguments and problems
usually referred to as the ‘Theory of Value’ is
often taken, by marxists and non-marxists alike, as
definitive of a specifically marxist approach to
political economy. It is said that the theory
refutes the claims of classical economics to have
uncovered the eternal and ineluctable laws of relation between the economic categories, offering in
their place a demonstration of the historically and
socially specific exploitation of labour b~’ capital.

The political consequences of such a demonstration
are held to be equally far-reaching. In specifying
the location and form of capitalist exploitation, the
theory of value sets the agenda for a working class
political/economic struggle whose objectives can only
be the abolition of the ‘value form’ itself. Or so
the ‘official’ story runs.

In fact, the theory of value has progressively
become something of an embarrassment to marxist
intellectuals and activists. From an early date the
status of the theory as a contribution to ‘technical’

economic debates has been problematic. It is not at
all clear that the theorems through which exchangevalue and the rate of surplus-value are calculated
relate in any significant way to the theorems which
determine the prices at which commodities exchange
and the profits which accrue to capital. This is the
notorious ‘transformation problem’, already identified as the achilles heel of marxist economics by
Bohm-Bawerk in the l890s. More generally, it can be
argued that Marx, far from moving beyond the presuppositions of classical political economy, shares
with his predecessors a fatal attachment to the
‘value prob~.ematic’; a pre-scientific quest for the
general determinants of the imaginary quality
‘value’ .

At the political level, changes in the labourmarkets and class structures of capitalist societies
have created difficulties for political groupings
whose programmes are addressed solely, or even
mainly, to ‘productive’ wage labour. On the other

side of this coin, the development of movements for
the liberation of oppressed ‘minorities’ has contributed to a widespread feeling on the left that the
extraction of surplus-value from wage-labour is
neither the only, nor perhaps the most important,
form of exploitation and oppression in advanced
capitalist societies.

The course of debates within marxist theory itself
have not been without consequence for t~e theory of
value. The retention of a concept of value by Marx
in his later work is felt by a variety of soi-disant
scientific marxists to signify an unhealthy nostalgia
for the philosophical anthropology of 1844. A
‘labour theory of value’ seems to echo the postulate
of labour as human ‘species being’. As is notorious,
those passages of Capitat Vot.I and Grundrisse in
which Marx reflects on the nature, determinants and
effects of the ‘value form’ display distinct traces
of hegelian modes of enquiry, argument and presentation. Questions about the status of Marx’s valueconcepts are dragged into the mire of debate on the
relations, or lack of them, between the marxist and
hegelian methods.

At the heart of these theoretical debates lies an
issue which will form the focus of attention here.

If it can be shown that the theory of value
embodies a ‘logic of the concrete’ which cannot be
captured by the theorems of formal, analytical logic,
then it can be argued that the theory represents not
a dispensable element within analytic economics, but
the basis for a complete reconceptualisation of
economic relations. Both the Elson and Rosdolsky
volumes are involved in the debate over what such a
‘logic’ might look like. The Elson collection is
clearly conceived, at least in part, as a response
to the post-althusserian assaults on the coherence
of the concept of ‘value’ and any notion of a ‘logic
of the concrete’ represented by Cutler et at. (in
Marx’s ‘Capitat’ and Capitatism Today). The appearance of The Making of Marx’s ‘Capitat’ in Germany in
1967 gave a considerable impetus to the development
of the ‘Capital-Logic’ perspective, with its markedly
hegelian model of ‘logic’.

The argument here will be that any defence of the
‘Theory of Value’ must first of all abandon the
notion that it is a ‘theory’ in anything like the
usual sense of the term. Further, to make this move

it is necessary to defend a conception of enquiry
which can only be understood as a specifically marxist re-working of the hegelian ‘method’.

Elson is aware of the difficulties which arise if
Marx’s use of the value-concepts is understood as a
theory, and a good part of her own essay is devoted
to a consideration of what it might be a theory of.

Having considered and rejected suggestions that it
constitutes a ‘proof’ of exploitation, ‘explains’

prices or ‘explains’ the social division of labour;
she argues that Marx offers not a ‘labour theory of
value’ but a ‘value theory of labour’.

The object of Marx’s theory of value is
labour. It is … a matter of … seeking
an understanding of why labour takes the
forms it does, and what the political consequences are.

(Elson, p.123)
Elson quotes approvingly from Grundrisse to the
effect that ‘labour is the living, form-giving
fire’ (Elson, p.361), a ‘potential’ which may become
‘fixed’ differently in different modes of production.

The ‘Theory of Value’ in Capital serves to explain
the mode in which labour becomes fixed under the
conditions of commodity production.

Elson is keen tha~ her account of the labour/value
nexus should find a pathway between two cardinal
errorSj that of positing extra-historical determinants
of socio-historical processes (ascribed to Cutler et
al.) on the one hand, and that of reducing the complex
materiality of socio-historical nrocesses to an
‘ideal’ and all-embracing logic (ascribed to
Rosdolsky) on the other. To do this she must be
able to elucidate a conception of ‘determination’

which is neither empiricist nor idealist in which
labour and value stand neither as cause and effect,
nor as implicans and implicate, but are related in
a ‘logic of the concrete’. The variant of this
which Elson adopts owes more than a little to the
current fashion for an ‘aristotelian’ Harx.

The middle way between empiricism and idealism
lies in ‘ … a conception of a process of social
determination that ~roceeds from the indeterminate
to the determinate, from the potential to the actual,
from the formless to the formed’ (Elson, pp.129-30).

Labour is to be conceived as a social ‘substance’ of
which concrete/abstract and private/social labour
are to be considered the potentia: ‘Labour always has
its abstract and concrete, its social and private
aspects’ (El son, p .149, emphasis SC). Thus, ~1arx’ s
value-concepts constitute the re-presentation ‘in
thought’ of the capitalist ‘form’ of labour, while
labour in its abstract aspect is their ‘substance’.

These ‘formulations give rise to difficulties at
two levels. First, it is not clear that the terms
‘substance’, ‘potential’ and ‘forn}’ are used consistently and coherently. In classical realism substance
already has form, it is formed ‘matter’, and Elson’s
references to ‘form-giving fire’ and movements from
‘the formless to the formed’ would suggest that
labour is not substance but matter. If this is the
case, then abstract, concrete, particular and social
labour as formed matter must be different substances.

If, on the other hand, labour is a substance it can
only be a ‘secondary substance’, the ‘essence’ of a
range of primary substances, and it is unclear that
Elson has evaded idealism.

The second difficulty in Elson’s formulations,
which is illustrated by the first, is that it
reduces ~farx’ s materialism to a reaU st metaphysics.

The logic of the concrete is sought in the structure
of the ‘real’ itself, which can be knowr. prior to any
concrete investigation. It consists of substances,
possessed of potentia, passing through a succession
of forms.

It is unfortunate, if unde:r:tandable, that many
marxists tend to equate objective idealism with meta-


physics per se. In consequence they are so keen to
avoid the former that they fall into alternative
forms of the latter. This tendency can be seen at
work in Elson’s defence of her model of the logic o~
the concrete. She is aware that ‘substance is a
term with a certain philosophical history’ (Elson,
p.157) and offers a ‘materialist’ conception of
substance as ‘an abstraction with a pra~tical reality
insofar as one form of the substance is actually
transformed into another form, and not in idealist
terms, as an absolute entity realising its goals’

(Elson, p.158). Materialist or not, this conception
must add a metaphysical dimension to the logic of
explanation, as an example will show.

Elson claims that ‘Marx’s argument is not that
the abstract aspect of labour is the product of
capitalist social relations, but that the latter are
characterised by the dominance of the abstract aspect
over other aspects of labour’ (Elson, p.150). This
distinction only has any point on the assumption that
‘labour’ is always potentially ‘labour in capitalist
social relations’ and that the latter can in some
part be explained by that potential. Taken to its
conclusion this principle implies that social
structures can be known a priori through a consideration of the potentia of the substances which compose
them. If this conclusion is to be avoided, it needs
to be shown that the metaphysical short-circuit of
explanation by potential has a legitimate if limited
place in a non-metaphysical logic of explanation.

Elson’s ontologising blurs the distinction which
Marx makes in the 1857 Introduction between conceptual
and concrete processes. There has always been, Marx
argues, a concept of abstract labour (Grundrisse,
p.I03), but this concept is itself an empty abstraction except in social relations where ‘.:. not only
the category, labour, but labour in reality has
become the means of creating wealth in general’

(Grundrisse, p.I04). Elson herself quotes from
Grundrisse to the effect that it would be ‘unfeasible
and wrong’ to equate the logical order of the economic
categories with their historical order, but her conception of a logic of the concrete implies that the
history of labour is the history of its potential
forms, and seems to move in just that direction.

Whatever the infelicities of her solution, it can
be argued that Elson has posed the problem of a logic
of the concrete correctly; it must avoid empir;.clsm
and idealism. Arthur’s paper in the Elson collection
makes the claim that Harx’s use of the value-concepts
conforms to such a logic, and that on this basis they
have an important role to play in economic debates as
measures of equivalence. ‘It is precisely the fact
that commodities differ as use-values, but are equivalent as values that is the basis of capitalist’

exchange’ (Elson, p.69). The importance of Arthur’s
contribution lies in his insistence that a conception
of value as equivalence does not imply the identity
of th~ equivalents and need not degenerate into the
search for a common substance present in all

Marx’s conception of ‘equivalence’, Arthur argues,
is not that found in formal logic where it is
characterised as a relation of reflexivity, symmetry
and transitivity (RST). In the simple form of value,
for example, R must be violated since the value of,
say, cotton cannot be expressed in terms of cotton
itself. ‘x = x’ is not an expression of value.

Again, in the money form T must be violated; even if
‘x iron’ = ‘n money’ = ‘y saffron’, there is no
guarantee that the owner of x will exchange it
directly for y. Hence, precisely, the need for money.

Arthur’s paper is a model of clarity and constitutes a first line of defence against the charge that
Marx’s concept of equivalence (and of logic more
generally) is ‘rationalist’. Beyond this Arthur does
not go, however. Even if it can be established that

Harx systematically violates RST, and does so as a
matter of policy rather than as a result of shoddy
argument, this remains a negative insight into the
logic of the concrete. Repeated assertiOlls that the
violation of RST is necessary in view of the ‘concreteness’ of ~rocesses of exchange have a limited
heuristic value. Both Arthur and Elson recognise
that a defence of the value-concepts requires a
characterisation of the logic of the concrete in
which ‘logic’ is not understood in a formalist/
rationalist manner, and ‘concrete’ is not understood
in an empiricist/idealist manner. But neither has
wholly carried out such a characterisation.

Both Rosdolsky and Banaji (in the Elson collection)
insist that the solution to this riddle lies in
Marx’s critique of Hegel’s objective idealism.

Banaji makes the point most forcefully, arguing that
the widespread attacks on the ‘hegelian, dialectical
elements’ in ~1arx can only generate ‘ … a bizarre
philosophical eclecticism, ranging over the most
divergent and incompatible tendencies’ (Elson, p.14).

For Rosdolsky, the reading of Grundrisse confirms
this view: ‘If Hegel’ s influence on Harx’ s Capital
can be seen explicitly only in a few footnotes, the
Rough Draft must be designated as a massive reference
to Hegel’ (Rosdolsky, p.xiii). As has been noted,
the most COJ!lJllon objection to hegelianising Harxism
is that it reduces the complexity of concrete
processes to the unfolding- of a single teleological

The remainder of this essay will try to show that
properly understood Harx’s use of an ‘hegelian
method’ does not have this baleful implication, but
on the contrary meets the criteria for a non-idealist,
non-empiricist logic of the concrete. It will be
useful to begin with an example which lies at the
heart of debates on value, the relation between value
and price.

Having agreed that Marx is far from consistent in
this matter, Rosdolsky argues that his most coherent
,solution is to be found in a twofold distinction
between ‘individual’ and ‘market’ value, and market
‘value’ and market ‘price’ (a distinction made in
Capital Vol. 3). Wheit the value of a commodity is
considered in abstraction from the ‘many capitals’,
, as it is in Capital Vol.l, it is quite proper to
demonstrate the determination of value by labour on
“the heuristic assumption that commodities exchange
at their value. Once commodity production is placed
in the context of the market, however, this assumption
can equally properly be dropped, Rosdolsky argues.

Assume three enterprises, A, Band C all producing
commodity x whose ‘conditions of production’ diverge
so that the value of x is high in A, low in C and
average in B. In this case the ‘market value’ of x
will depend on the level of demand for x. If demand
is high’ enough to consume the products of A, Band C,
x’s market value will be set by its ‘individual
value’ in A, with Band C making large profits, If
demand is too low to consume the products of A, Band
C, the market value of x will be set by its individual
value in B or C, thus creating difficulties for A or
A and B. Rosdolsky points out that this interpretation of Harx’s view needs to be set against another
in which the fluctuations of supply and demand set a
price for a commodity which may be above or below its
value, and the door is wide open for Bohm-Bawerk.

For Rosdolsky, price must always reflect market value
while for the individual producer individual and
,market value will rarely be equivalent.

It may still be felt that supply and demand are
being introduced as ‘external’ determinants of market
value, but according to Rosdolsky this is not the
case for two reasons. First, the limits to the
fluctuation of market value are set by the range of
individual values; second, demand itself represents
the aggregate demand of society ~or a particular use-

value. This latter relates to one of the senses in
which Harx uses the expression ‘socially necessary
labour time’; labour is necessary to the €xtent to
which it meets the ‘aggregate requirements of society’

(see Rosdolsky, p. 90) . ~’.That ‘bourgeois economics’

represents as the autonomous role of demand in the
determination of prices is pro~erly understood as the
set of mediations through which necessary labour in
the above sense is related to necessary labour in its
more familiar guise as the ‘technical’ determinant
of wages.

This example suggests that Rosdolsky’s model of a
logic o~ explanation is neither empiricist nor idealist. On the one hand, supply and demand are not
‘given’ determinants of price, while on the other the
process being described is utterly material. The
transformation of value into price proceeds not
‘through their essential identity, but through contradiction (between the price-form and the value-form in
general and between individual and market value in
particular cases) and complex processes of mediation.

Even so, hard cases make bad law and if Rosdolsky is
to be acquitted of the twin charges of ‘idealism’ and
‘essentialism’ a more general model of his logic of
the concrete must be examined.

To an important extent the claim that hegelianising
marxism is essentialist rests on a misconception of
Hegel’s and Marx’s understanding of ‘essence’.

Rosdolsky quotes from Capital VoZ.l to the effect that
it is the immediate non-identity of essence and
appearance which makes scientific work necessary.

He adds:

… scientific investigation must proceed
from the ‘surface appearance’ to the ‘inner
essence’, the ‘essential structure’ of the
economic process in order to be able to
discover the ‘law of appearances’ and to
understand that this appearance is itseZf

(Rosdolsky, p.S2, emphasis SC)
Essence here is not a specific substance, or a hidden
level of reality, but the necessity of relations
between appearances. Ranaji underlines this point
when he notes the importance of Harx’s distinction
between Schein, surface appearance or illusion; and
Erscheinung, objective appearance. Harx’s aim is not
to show, for example, that value is the ‘essence’ of
price, a misconception which Banaji ascribes to the
Lenin of the Notebooks. Neither is it to postulate
the arrangement of the value-concepts as a- set of
given ‘real relations’ which await discovery beneath
the ‘phenomenal forms’ of the economic-concepts.

Essence is not an ontological category in Harx, but
a category of method.

The search for essence is the search for a cognitive stand-point ~rom which the complexity of the
‘many determinations’ which constitute the ‘concrete’

can be comprehended as rational relations rather than
as a chaotic ‘given’. On this view, for example, the
distinction between ‘capital in general’ and ‘the
many capitals’, which both Banaji and ~osdolsky
regard as crucial, is not an immediate distinction
between essence and appearance. ‘Capital in gene~al’

is an abstract concept which serves to order and to
mediate the concreteness of the ‘many capitals’ .

It is possible to see in the above the outline of
what might be termed a ‘non-essentialist conception
of essence’ (parallel to Elson’s ‘non-determinist
conception of- determination) which might form the
basis of a logic of the concrete. The value-concepts
should not be thought of as a ‘theory’ which explains
some specific object external to value, but as
moments in a ‘thought-process’ which seeks to display
the structure of the concrete through a movement from
the economic categories as Sahein to their arrangement as Ersaheinung.

There is, however, an ambiguity at the heart of


such a conception of essence. ‘Essence must appear’

could mean either that ‘essence is no more than the
necessity in appearances’ or that ‘essence must
display ;tself at the level of appearance’. The
‘non-essentialist’ conception of essence requires
the first formulation, but the second is bound to
appeal to many hegelianising Marxists. Banaji, for
example, refers to ‘Hegel’s great announcement … of
the conception of a self-developing, self-evolving
substance’ (Elson, p.19). How convenient it would be
if that substance were the ‘real’ process of history
itself as the ‘concrete essence’ which must appear.

Rosdolsky appears to succumb to the temptations
of this ‘essentialist’ conception of essence when he
suggests that Marx’s historical derivation of the
value-concepts runs ‘parallel’ to the logical derivation, or in his section on ‘the Transition to
Capital’ where he seems to regard dialectical-logical
relations between concepts as a direct representation
of ‘real’ historical mediations. In order to avoid a
slippage from the non-essentialist into the essentialist conception of essence two distinctions need to be
borne in mind. The first is the familiar distinction
between historical processes and processes of thought.

The second is a distinction within thought-processes
between ‘logical’ and ‘historical’ derivations of
concepts. Lapses into essentialism occur when these
distinctions are merged and historical derivations of
concepts are treated as if they represented the
direct ‘presence’ of historical processes in thought.

On the whole Rosdolsky avoids this snare, thus:

… the dialectical transition from labour
value … to prices of production … is not
an historical deduction, but a method of
comprehending the concrete, i.e. capitalist
society itself.

(Rosdolsky, p.173)
Th~ distinction is made again later.

‘The conditions
of the becoming of capital are distinct from the
capitalist mode of production itself, and must be
explained outside of it’ (Rosdolsky, p.268). While
the history of capital may be a presupposition of the
derivation of capitalist social relations it also
represents the timits of that derivation. Both Marx
and Rosdolsky insist that without an historical
derivation of capitalist relations, any logical
derivation would be an idealist abstraction. But an
historical-derivation can only be a re-presentation
‘in thought’ of history as the history of capitalist
relations. It implies an historical and cognitive
stand-point. It is only through the double distinction between historical/thought processes and
logical/historical derivations that a logic of the
concrete’can ~~erge which does not reduce history to
a mere ‘given’ and does not inflate it into the
‘material’ equivalent of the progress of the
absolute idea.

If Rosdolsky does, for the TIost part, adhere to a
‘non-essentialist’ conception of essence, it remains
to be explained why he sometimes does not. The
simplest answer is that Rosdolsky follows Grundrisse
closely, and, as is notorious, Grundrisse contains
passages which imply that a dialectic of cpncepts
directly reflects concrete processes. For example:

Not-objeatified tabour, not-vatue conceived
positivety, or as negativity in relation to
itself, is the most objeatified, hence nonobjective, i.e. subjective existence of labour

(Grundrisse, p.296)
This kind of stuff has led to suggestions of a
radical discontinuity between the ‘discourse’ of
Grundrisse a~d the ‘discourse’ of Capitat, a discontinuity which would prejudice the legitimacy of
Rosdolsky’s attempt to trace the origins of the later
text in the earlier.

Just such a case is made strongly in Mepham’s 1978


review of Rosdolsky:

The making of Marx’s Capitat is possible only
on condition that Hegel’s methods are abandoned.

This striking example [of the two treatments
of the transition from money to capital, Se]
should be sufficient warning against the
temptation to search the Grundrisse for
the key to Marx’s mature scientific work.

(Eaonomy and Soaiety, Vol.7, p.444)
It is admitted that there are hegelian echoes in
Capitat, but this is because that text represents
‘a struggle to release discourse from hegelian
methods’ (Mepham, p.436). Rosdolsky would disagree,
of course, and after a lengthy examination of
Mepham’s ‘striking example’ he concludes that
It would … be pointless to counterpose
the more ‘realistic’ seeming solution in
Capitat to the more metaphysical one in the
Rough Draft. Both are the product of M~.rx’ s
dialectical method … the difference lies
only in the method of presentation
(Rosdolsky, pp.189-90)
Earlier, when discussing the transition from money
to capital, Rosdolsky cites Marx’s own recognition
that he would have to ‘correct the idealist manner
of … presentation’ (Rosdolsky, p.114) precisely in
order to counter the impression that concrete processes of transformation are immediately ‘given’ in
a dialectic of concepts.

On this basis it is possible to offer a rough and
ready defence of Rosdolsky’s enterprise and of his
occasional slippage into an ‘essentialist’ conception
of essence. In both Grundrisse and Capitat Marx’s
methods of enquiry and modes of demonstration rest
upon a logic of the concrete embodying a non-essentialist conception of essence. In some parts of
Grundrisse, however, Marx presents his preliminary
thoughts on concrete relations in a form more suited
to a logic of concepts in the idealist manner. Marx
is aware that this might give rise to mi5conceptions
about the relations between concrete and cognitive
processes, and he ‘corrects’ these formulations when
preparing Capitat for publication. The key methodological distinctions; between conceptual and concrete,
immediate and universal, Sahein and Ersaheinung and
the rest remain unaltered.

In conclusion, the implications of this discussion
of the relations between the logic of the concrete
and the theory of value can be spelled out. The
conclusions are provisional, and of course ‘more
research is needed’. ~~ch important work which is
not referenced here has been done, notably in Sayer’s
somewhat Kantian Marx’s Method and in Zeleny’s highly
technical The Logia of Marx. It would, perhaps, be
helpful if further investigations into the possibility
of a logic of the concrete could cease to rattle the
bones over the sacred texts. Otherwise the baby of
concrete logic may well be thrown out with the bathwater of anachronistic economic theory.

The logic of the concrete is, to quote Banaji
slightly out of context, ‘a specific, non-classical
logical type of scientific thought’ (Elson, p.18).

Its specificity as a togia lies in its ability to
introduce movement into relations between concepts,
and concepts themselves, the objective of such movement being to demonstrate the necessity of appearances. Arthur’s account of Marx’s concept of equivalence is an important illustration of the formal
characteristics of an aspect of that logic. l1hile
the logic of the concrete seeks to re-present the
concrete ‘in thought’, it does so without invoking
the presenae of the concrete within thought.

~1aterialist analysis of social relations, whether
working in a ‘logical’ or ‘historical’ mode, always
constitutes a rational re-construction, and the
‘necessity’ of appearances within thought is always
conditioned by a cognitive and historical stand-


Such a logic necessitates the consistent application of a non-essentialist conception of essence, it
constpucts essence as the demonstrable necessity of
appearances. The unacceptable face of essentialism
is its tendency to claim- to ‘know’ the structure of
reality prior to analysis. Attempts to characterise
a logic of the concrete fall into this snare when
they try to ground logic in ontology. This is the
case whether the ‘substance’ granted an ontic primacy
is an element in a process (as with Elson’s substancelabour), or the totality of the process (as on
possible readings of Banaji). The specific virtue
of Marx’s materialism lies precisely in its reworking of: the hegelian method into a logic of the
concrete which renounces all claims to a metaphysical
knowledge of the structure of reality ‘as such’.

Within such a logic, Harx’s value-concepts can be
defended, both in general theoretical terms and as an
important element in the demonstration of the

economic categories as Erscheinung, as both Arthur and
Rosdolsky argue. But two important consequences flow
from such a defence. First, the value-concepts loose
the privileged status often claimed for them in
marxist theory. They are not in and of themselves
the ‘essence’ or ‘secret’ of economic relations, but
analytic tools whose centrality or otherwise will be
relative to the task in hand. Second, there is no
fixed arrangement of the value-concepts which could
be said to constitute a ‘theory’ in the usual sense
of the term. Elson comes close to realising this,
but is in the end driven to locate an object, labour,
for the ‘theory’, with baleful results. The valueconcepts are no more and no less a theory of labour
than they are a theory of prices, a theory of capital
or a theory of exploitation. As elements in a logic
of the concrete they have a place in the demonstration of each of these phenomena, and of the essential
relations between them.

Steve Crook

Pilling: Marx’s ‘Capital’!

Geoffrey Pilling, Marx’s ‘Capital’ – Philosophy and
Political Economy, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1980,
£10 hc
This book is concerned with the philosophical presuppositions of Marx’s Capital. This is not an easy
question. For example, one of the most ‘philosophical’ sections of Capital is that in which Marx
discusses the value-form and undertakes a dialectical
derivation of money; money is currently a very
topical matter; yet how many Marxists can explain
Marx’s conception of money as ‘value for itself’

(Gpundrisse)? This Hegelian term reminds us that
Lenin observed that it is impossible to understand
Capital, and especially its first chapter, without
having read Hegel’s Logic.

Pilling stresses Marx’s grounding in Hegel’s
dialectics and speaks of ‘the struggle between the
Marxist method and the method of empiricism’. First
he examines Marx’s critique of political economy with
a view to bringing out the philosophical method
underlying Marx’s review of the work of Smith,
Ricardo, Mill, etc. This leads to a consideration of
Marx’s concepts, and thence to a detailed examination
of the opening chapters of Capital. Finally it is
argued that Narx’s notion of fetishism is a central
category which lies at the basis of his entire
critique of political economy. Pilling’s discussion
has the merit of emphasizing the importance of the
notion of economic form and of the necessary sequence
of development of forms. The empiricist method,
from which Ricardo is not free in spite of his
abstraction of the concept of value, takes a phenomenon like exchange-value and asks about the
influence on it of more complex forms which actually
presuppose it and need to be developed from it.

This is because these other determinations are picked
up from experience as just given. So Ricardo’s
‘forced abstraction’ (Marx) creates ‘value’ out of
the phenomenal movement instead of identifying the
structural level which situates thjs form. Marx
follows Hegel in rejecting the metaphysical opposition between form and content, logic and fact; in~
” stead he pursues the specific logic of the specific
object. He was concerned to present the capitalist
mode of production as a self-generating, selfdeveloping, self-destroying structure. Hence he
differs from Ricardo’s method, which absolutizes
value as the underlying inner essence of the commod-

ity, and which concentrates on the external quantitive relations in which it is expressed. For Marx
the value-substance has ‘a purely social reality’;
it comes into being on the basis of historically
specific social relations. As Pilling shows, the
British post-Althusserians completely misread
Capital (and the famous letter of Marx to Kugelmann)
when they posit an ahistorical law of value. In a
letter to Kautsky written in September llm4 Engels
repudiated the sort of reading put forward today by
Cutler, Hussain, and company:

[You say that] value is associated with
commodity production, but with the abolition
of commodity production value too will be
‘changed’, that is value as such will remain,
and only its form will be changed. In actual
fact however economic value is a category
peculiar to commodity production and disappears with it … just as it did not exist
before it. The relation of labour to its
product did not manifest itself in the form
of value before commodity production, and
will not do so after it.

Pilling stresses that all Marx’s economic categories
pick up social relations. Capital itself is ‘not a
thing, but rather a definite social production relation, belonging to a definite historical formation
of society …. ‘ (Marx). Marx’s critique penetrates
the fetishism of commodity, money, and capital to
the social relations behind them. However, against
socialist Ricardians Marx points out that this
fetishism arises from the commodity form itself and
it is necessary to study the logic of its development
and overthrow it.

Hodgskin regards this (fetishism) as a
pure subjective illusion which conceals
the deceit and the interests of the ruling
classes. He does not see that the way of
looking at things arises out of the actual
relation itself; the latter is not an
expression of the former, but vice versa.

In the same way English socialists say ‘we
need capital, but not the capitalist’. But
if one eliminates the capitalists, the means
of production cease to be capital.

(Marx, Theories of Surplus Value III, p.296)
What is the value of Pilling’s book? His points of
reference in his reading of Marx are Hegel, Rubin,
Ilyenkov, Rosdolsky; in my opinion these are the


right sources to draw on, and I am in general
sympathy with Pilling’s approach. However, it must
be said that he does not go beyond his sources.

Much of the book consists in the rehearsal of familiar
passages from Marx. I would say therefore that the
book is likely not to be too exciting for specialists.

On the other hand it would be a very useful compallior..

volume to anyone tackling Capital for the first time.

One gripe ~bout presentation that I have is that
the system of referencing employs that ugly method
currently gaining ground which inserts dates but not
titles in the text. This leads to such meaningless
formulae as ‘Marx 1963’ and ‘Hegel 1968’. In

scientific literature it usually makes sense because
the date given refers to the announcement of research
results. To employ it when the date is that of the
printing used is nothing but an unpleasant distraction when one knows perfectly well that Marx did
not publish anything in 1963 and one hasn’t the
faintest idea to which text it refers without grubbing
in the notes. I would also find it helpful if
bibliographies using later editions would also cite
the original date of publication.

C.J. Arthur

Oilman V. University of Maryland
In June last year, Bertell OIlman lost his lawsuit
against the University of Maryland over the rejection
of his appointment at the University’s College Park
campus. OIlman had claimed that the University’s
president, John Toll, had rejected him for the chair
of the Department of Government and Politics because
of his marxist politics. The district court dismissed the charges, however.

In his decision the judge agreed that it was Toll’s
‘considered judgement that OIlman did not possess the
qualifications to develop the department •.. in a
manner which President Toll thought it should develop.’ He said the court was not evaluating OIlman’s
credentials, but merely arguing that Toll had acted
‘honestly and conscientiously’.

The case goes back to March 1978 when OIlman was
recommended for the U.M. position by the faculty
search committee, the Provost and the Chancellor of
the College Park campus. The recommendation was then
sent to the U.M. president Wilson Elkins for his
normally routine approval. The appointment hecame a
national controversy when the Governor of Maryland,
Blair Lee, said that it would be ‘unwise’ to appoint
a marxist to chair a U.M. department. The issue was
debated in the editorial pages of most major newspapers throughout the USA. Elkins retired before
making a decision on the appointment. The incoming
president, Toll, then reviewed the matter and rejected
the appointment, saying that OIlman was not the best
qualified person for the job. Although he refused to
elaborate at the time, Toll testified at the trial
that his decision was based mainly on OIlman’s lack
of administrative experience and judgement.

During the trial a great deal of evidence showed
that Toll, Elkins and the U.M. vice-president, Lee
Hornbake, were under considerable pressure to reject
OIlman because of his marxist politics. For example,
Hornbake said that OIlman’s role as department chairman would be negatively affected by his refusal to
seek Defence Department funding for his own research.

Hornbake also said that OIlman’s appointment would
hurt the department’s image and would make it more
difficult for other faculty members to do consulting
and receive funding from other government agencies.

The Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun, both of
which had questioned Toll’s original decision, argued
in editorials that the trial had ‘vindicated’ the U.M.

president. Toll said the decision ‘gives extremely
important support for a University’s right to make
its own appointments in accordance with a careful
evaluation of candidates, without regard to external
pressure’ .

Harry Magdoff (of the Monthly Review) and others


have circulated the following statement: ‘OIlman must
come up with $15,000 to $20,000, which he does not
have, in the next three to four months to launch his
appeal. (Most of this money will pay for typing up
the month-long-trial transcript.) For that he needs
our help. The issue of academic freedom affects us
all, directly or indirectly, now or potentially!, and
asked for contributions to be sent to the ‘OIlman
Academic Freedom Fund’, clo Michael Brown, 210 Spring
Street, New York, NY 10012.

(Report adapted from the (US) Guardian of 26 August

‘Praxis’ Professors Reinstated in Yugoslavia
In an important gain for the fight for democratic
rights in Yugoslavia, seven dissident Marxist
professors have been reemployed at the University of
Belgrade, reversing an earlier decision by the
authorities to fire them.

In 1975, eight professors associated with the
philosophical journal Praxis were barred from teaching and their journal was banned. One subsequently
found work at a sociological institute in Belgrade.

In December 1980, the authorities moved to dismiss
the seven other professors (who had remained on staff
at 60 per cent of their pay).

In reemploying the seven, however, the authorities
have taken care to try to keep them isolated from the
student body as a whole. They now form an autonomous
Center for Philosophy and Social Theory, which is
involved only in graduate work with young scholars.

Nevertheless, the seven professors called the
move ‘an important step toward normalization’ of
their status.

In addition, the passport of one of the seven,
Mihailo Markovie has been returned, following its
revocation in January. All seven are now free to
travel and teach abroad.

Chris Arthur

Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society and the
Mind Association
One useful symposium on aesthetics aside, the recent
Joint Session at Manchester University (10-12 July
1981) gave more insight into the politics of
philosophers than into philosophy.

Rumours of professorial disapproval preceded a
meeting to discuss the U.G.C. report; philosophers at

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