Despain & texts on dialectics

Tony Smith tonys at
Thu Mar 9 09:40:43 MST 1995

	Unfortunately, after 15 years of working on Hegel and Marx I got a bit
burned out on the issue of dialectics, and so I have not participated in
the discussion on the topic.  However I do feel a need to respond to
Hans Despain's summary of my views in my work - The Logic of Marx's
Capital: Replies to Hegelian Criticisms -.  He wrote "I find that
Smith's argument, with its ground in the non-metaphysical interpretation
of Hegel, though capable of offering better ontological grounds, remains
rooted in first (seemingly) Hegel's external teleology, and second some
sort of dialectics of nature, which appears to be out of phase with
both Hegel and Engels.

	I must confess that I do not see how this interpretation of my
book can be justified.  Regarding the first point, I explicitly
distinguished systematic dialectics from historical dialectics.  I
stressed that my concern was with the former alone, that is, with Marx's
systematic reconstruction of the captialist mode of production in
thought through a dialectical ordering of economic categories.  Hegel's
"external telelogy," in contrast, has to do with historical dialectics,
that is, with the search for au underlying logic in historical
developments.  Since I clearly stated that I was not concerned with such
matters, I do not see how Hans's first point can be substantiated.

	  I think the second point is just as far off base.  Throughout
the book I respond to Hegelian critics of Marx who complain that his
theory of value, his theory of needs, and so on, are formulated in naturalistic
terms.  I state explicilty that the categories in Capital define social
forms.  They therefore have nothing to do with any dialectics of nature (e.g. p.225, 228)  There is not a single reference to the dialectics of nature
in the whole book, neither to Hegel's version nor to Engel's.

	Of course every text goes beyond the intentions of its
author.  But whatever the weakeness of the book, I don't think they are
the ones Hans suggests.

	I would also like to second the words of praise that have been
offered on behalf of Patrick Murray's Marx's Theory of Scientific
Knowledge.  It is a wonderful book.  People interested in the connection
between Marx and Hegel and dialectical method should also read Value-
Form and the State, by Geert Reuten and Mike Williams.  Among many other
valuable contributions to an understanding of dialectics, this work
pushes Marx's systematic ordering of economic categories past the point
where Marx himself left off in Volume III.  Marx's Method in Capital,
edited by Fred Moseley, includes papers by Murray, Reuten, and myself,
as well as papers by Marxists who reject dialectical logic.

	Tony Smith (tonys at

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