Lukács, Marx, and Hegel

Last week, in my concluding lecture on Lukács, I pointed out that whereas Marx had taken the value form of the commodity to be the subject-object of history, Lukács had credited the industrial proletariat with that role. I then promised that I would place the references from Marx and Hegel on line. Here they are:

It is constantly changing from one form into the other, without becoming lost in this movement; it thus becomes transformed into an automatic subject. If we pin down the specific forms of appearance assumed in tum by self-valorizing value in the course of its life, we reach the following elucidation: capital is money, capital is commodities. In truth, however, value is here the subject of a process in which, while constantly assuming the form in tum of money and commodities, it changes its own magnitude, throws off surplus-value from itself considered as original value, and thus valorizes itself independently. For the movement in the course of which it adds surplus-value is its own movement, its valorization is therefore self-valorization [Selbstverwertung]. . . .  As the dominant subject [übergreifendes Subjekt] of this process, in which it alternately assumes and loses the form of money and the form of commodities, but preserves and expands itself through all these changes, value requires above all an independent form by means of which its identity with itself may be asserted (K Marx, Capital, vol. 1, trans. Livingston, NY: Penguin, p. 255).

And here is the passage from GFW Hegel:

18. Further, the living Substance is being which is in truth Subject, or, what is the same, is in truth actual only in so far as, it is the movement of positing itself, or is the mediation of its self-othering with itself. This Substance is, as Subject, pure, simple negativity, and is for this very reason the bifurcation of the simple; it is the doubling which sets up opposition, and then again the negation of this indifferent diversity and of its antithesis [the immediate simplicity]. Only this self-restoring sameness, or this reflection in otherness within itself—not an original or immediate unity as such—is the True. It is the process of its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its end as its goal, having its end also as its beginning; and only by being worked out to its end, is it actual (GFW Hegel, “Preface,” Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A.V. Miller, NY: Oxford UP, 1977, p. 10).

I do not aim to repeat last Thursday’s lecture here. Marx’s aim was evidently to account for the directional dynamism we experience under capitalism. This directional dynamism, according to Marx, arises out of the movement and flexibility of abstract value, which, like Hegel’s Substance that is Subject, becomes the agent of its own self-realization. It is, or becomes, “the subject of a process,” of which it is itself the independent, quasi-personal, agent or actor. When, however, by contrast, Lukács places the industrial working class in this position, he replaces a continuous, more or less transparent process, value formation, with a condition of working-class consciousness that (a) must either be cast as the true agent in the process of value formation (i.e., working-class consciousness is the active agent in capital accumulation and, therefore, by inference is the source of its own domination, or that (b) is discontinuous with the process of value-formation, but, for this reason, is by its very nature inexplicable, or that (c) mistakes value formation for working class consciousness and therefore mistakes the comprehensive, totalizing integration of all social and economic relations for an emancipatory process constituted by and for labor (rather than, as Marx and the neoclassicals would have it, an independent, quasi-personal, directionally dynamic process into which all factors of production, including labor, are integrated and brought to completion).