The Relevance of Systematic Dialectics to Marxian Thought: A Reply to Rosenthal

Historical Materialism 4 (1):215-240 (1999)
Abstract
In his recent work The Myth of Dialectics John Rosenthal presents a forceful polemic against Hegel and Marxists sympathetic to the Hegelian legacy. The methodology Hegel employed, his metaphysical assertions, his rejection of the principles of formal logic, and the political implications of his standpoint, are all fundamentally incompatible with Marx’s perspective, according to Rosenthal. While Rosenthal grants that Marx did make use of Hegelian motifs in his theory of value, even this is not to Hegel’s credit: the very perversity of Hegel’s thought made it useful for the comprehension of the perversity of capital. In this paper I argue that a close and reasonably charitable reading of Hegel’s Logic reveals a quite different picture of his methodology and ontological commitments from that presented by Rosenthal. While there are profound substantive differences between the Hegelian and Marxian 1 perspectives on capitalist society, it is not the case that Hegel’s Logic is homologous with capital. The Logic provides helpful conceptual resources for a critique of capital. In the final section of the paper five areas are briefly sketched in which Hegelian dialectical logic remains of contemporary interest.
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