Marx, Hegel, the Labour Theory of Value and Human Desire

Human Desire

Hour-long, by hour, may we two stand
When we’re dead, between these lands
The sun set behind his eyes
And Joe said, “Is this desire?”

– PJ Harvey, ‘Is This Desire?

I’ll be honest: I hate discussing Marx, dialectical materialism and the Labour Theory of Value (hereafter: LTV). Why? Because it’s like discussing monetary theory with a hyperinflation obsessed Austrian; they don’t have enough grounding to have a discussion as they’ve only really read their side of the debate. Even those Marxists that have read Hegel come away with an understanding that is so deeply biased by Marx’s perversions of dialectical philosophy that they don’t get what poor uncle Hegel is saying at all.

Anyway, with all that in mind I’m going to here quickly lay out why the LTV requires Marx’s materialist dialectic to function philosophically. In order to understand this we must first understand how “value” functions in Hegel.

For Hegel value is an inter-subjective phenomenon that arises out of a desire for recognition by the Other. The great French Hegelian Alexandre Kojève was the one who put this most succinctly. In an excellent essay on Kojève entitled A Problem of Recognition Michael Roth summarises the answer to the question as such:

Kojeve begins with the question, “What is Hegelian man?” and answers it by explicating the structure of human desire, in contradistinction to the needs or demands of the animal. Human desire is the desire for recognition (reconnaissance), which, according to Kojeve’s Hegel, alone can lead to self-consciousness. Human desire, properly so-called, has as its object another desire and not another thing.” Thus, it is an animal desire which draws one to the body of another, but a human desire which is expressed as the wish to be desired, loved or-most generally for Kojeve-recognized by another. The essential mark of human desire is that it does not consume its object. The satisfaction of a human desire is thereby creative, since its object is empty. Desire, Kojeve says (following Hegel) is the presence of an absence. To make the same point somewhat differently: the satisfaction of human desire requires some form of mutuality (the loved one “returns” the love), or social recognition of an object’s value (a medal is given social value; the enemy fights to keep its flag). When satisfaction occurs, something new is introduced into the world (a useful object becomes beautiful; two individuals become a couple). For the satisfaction to endure, the desire qua object has to be preserved, albeit in an altered state. The simultaneous preservation and change (negation) marks the dialectic of human desire. The effort at satisfaction and conservation demands that this dialectic be linked with the development of self-consciousness. (Pp295-296, My Emphasis)

I highlight the above examples not because they are particularly important with regards to Roth’s excellent analysis but because they serve as a simple departure to discuss a properly dialectical analysis of value as against a crude Marxist so-called “dialectical materialist” analysis. As we can see, for Kojève and Hegel value is attributed to objects due to our desire for them. This desire, in turn, is inter-subjective. We desire to gain the medal or to capture the enemy flag because it will win recognition in the eyes of our peers. The medal and the flag are not valued for their objective properties, nor are they valued for the amount of labour embodied in them, rather they are desired for the symbolic positions they occupy in the inter-subjective network of desires.

By analysing desire dialectically — something Marx never managed to do — we see that a person’s desire is always already mediated through the desire of others — or Others, to use the more modern capitalised term. This is a similar take on human desire to that posited by Thorstein Veblen in his analysis of conspicuous and invidious consumption. It is also similar to James Duesenberry’s excellent contributions to Keynesian consumption theory.

Note that this is not marginalism. Marginalist theory is subjective but it is also atomistic. Actors in marginalist analysis have self-contained preferences; they do not have inter-subjective desires. Again to return to Roth, marginalist analysis is one that deals with animal desire; that is, desire prior to it being caught up in the inter-subjective abstract entity that we call “society”. Human desire is totally different. It is, in its very structure, interdependent; that is why, for example, people are more inclined to buy Nike runners when they see Michael Jordon wearing them. Marketers today are good Hegelians; not crude Marxists. It is to the latter that we now turn.

In the very first chapter of Das Kapital Marx lays out his analysis of the commodity. The form of the analysis is dialectical, but he never deals with the true object of dialectics: thought. Instead he deals with what he sees to be “material reality”. He shows that all commodities contain a variety of values — from use value to exchange value — but at the end of the day only one of them matters: labour value. That is, the amount of labour hours put into a commodity. This is ultimately, for Marx, what determines the value of a commodity. Marx writes:

How, then, is the magnitude of this value to be measured? Plainly, by the quantity of the value-creating substance, the labour, contained in the article. The quantity of labour, however, is measured by its duration, and labour time in its turn finds its standard in weeks, days, and hours.

This, for Marx, is how to properly understand value. And yet, as we can clearly see, it avoids the real dialectical analysis; namely, that of why humans actually attribute value to things. This is because Marx was a crude thinker who viewed people as objects and not subjects. He cared not for humans as fully realised conscious beings; he merely saw them as objects; masses of muscles and tissues that created commodities.

In this Marx was the same as the marginalists who, as I have pointed out elsewhere before, try to reduce people to a fixed bundle of preferences. Both analyses — which hold a cynical and rather dark vision of man — aim at reducing men to objects in the economic machine. Marx sees them as producers while the marginalists see them as consumers; but both see them objects determined largely by the economic machine surrounding them and not self-conscious subjects.

To deal with proper subjectivity is to deal with the complexity of human consciousness, human relationships and human desire. Marxists prefer to retreat behind a pseudo-scientific shield and instead interrogate Man as if he were an object. This is, in a very real way, the evil of Marxism. And it is what accounts for its cult-like qualities and its tendency to treat men as expendable objects whenever it gets the chance. The killing fields of Cambodia are not an anomaly; nor are the mass starvations in Ukraine; they both come directly out of a philosophy that treats men as it treats tractors and spades: as objects.

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About pilkingtonphil

Philip Pilkington is a London-based economist and member of the Political Economy Research Group (PERG) at Kingston University. You can follow him on Twitter at @pilkingtonphil.
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20 Responses to Marx, Hegel, the Labour Theory of Value and Human Desire

  1. Hedlund says:

    The big problem I see here is, as always in discussions of “value,” to do with the use of the word. This has become a pet peeve of mine, a personal axe I grind relentlessly: namely, clarifying the meaning of value. Whenever the v-word enters discussion, it’s almost guaranteed that equivocation will occur. In this case, it goes unmentioned that Marx and Hegel are using “value” in different ways. Or, more accurately, in different contexts.

    In Roth’s explication of Kojeve’s explication of Hegel, an object can be said to possess value when it becomes an object of intersubjective Desire. As I recall, Kojeve’s Introduction begins by clarifying that the distinctively “human” impulse is the one that directs Desire at other Desires, or even the Desire thereof, and so on. This is a view to value that is trans-historical, that grows out of a fundamental humanness that distinguishes itself from the animal “I,” for which Desire is directed chiefly at material subsistence, reproductive impulses, etc.

    Marx’s “value” is not, it must be stressed, trans-historical or ahistorical. Rather, it is placed squarely within a specific context — namely, a capitalist economy. It is a historical instantiation of that broad category you discuss. Considering that one of Marx’s most important lessons is that one should be careful to always historicize, it is folly to criticize him by stripping away the historical context of his work!

    Consider for a moment Marx’s excoriation of Bentham from late in vol 1 (emphasis mine):

    Bentham is a purely English phenomenon. Not even excepting our philosopher, Christian Wolff, in no time and in no country has the most homespun commonplace ever strutted about in so self-satisfied a way. The principle of utility was no discovery of Bentham. He simply reproduced in his dull way what Helvétius and other Frenchmen had said with esprit in the 18th century. To know what is useful for a dog, one must study dog-nature. This nature itself is not to be deduced from the principle of utility. Applying this to man, he that would criticize all human acts, movements, relations, etc., by the principle of utility, must first deal with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch. Bentham makes short work of it. With the driest naiveté he takes the modern shopkeeper, especially the English shopkeeper, as the normal man. Whatever is useful to this queer normal man, and to his world, is absolutely useful. This yard-measure, then, he applies to past, present, and future. The Christian religion, e.g., is “useful,” “because it forbids in the name of religion the same faults that the penal code condemns in the name of the law.” Artistic criticism is “harmful,” because it disturbs worthy people in their enjoyment of Martin Tupper, etc. With such rubbish has the brave fellow, with his motto, “nuila dies sine line!,” piled up mountains of books. Had I the courage of my friend, Heinrich Heine, I should call Mr. Jeremy a genius in the way of bourgeois stupidity.

    To wit, I believe you’re taking the discussion into the “general” consideration of value, and in doing so ignoring its epochal modification.

    That is, under the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie,” in which capitalists fundamentally direct the broad movements of material existence, value to capitalists vis-a-vis other capitalists and, ultimately, workers, is the specific appearance of value Marx analyzes. And this value, the basic object over which Desire is directed between and among these classes, is the time spent performing social labor, without which there can be no profit. Under different circumstances, a different analysis of value will no doubt be called for; he’s only talking about value under capitalism. And it’s only embodied in things to the extent that those things are also desired in their own right (as use-values). As I said before, a serious critique of Marx must therefore begin with his dual analysis of the commodity as the expression of (capitalist) value as the synthesis of value in use and value in exchange.

    Incidentally, the relationship between capitalist and worker is also probably a good point to hook in the master/slave dialectic, too. Moreover, treating people not as ends but as means is the very essence of the relationship of capitalist to worker. This was something Marx was pointing out about how the capitalist class views workers, not something he believed himself. The misattribution you make at the conclusion of your article represents such a fundamental confusion over this, it is staggering.

    The horrors of dictatorial communism are very real things, but viewing them as paradigmatic once again strips away any semblance of historical context.

    • “This is a view to value that is trans-historical, that grows out of a fundamental humanness that distinguishes itself from the animal “I,” for which Desire is directed chiefly at material subsistence, reproductive impulses, etc.”

      Nonsense. Hegel/Kojève are talking about desire as embedded in historical time. Michael Roth says this at the very beginning of the quote I cite (although I left that bit out because it was not necessary to the analysis at hand). Here is the start of the quote:

      “Kojeve shows that Hegelian time is history for man, but he does not try to specify what is properly human. Kojeve begins with the question, “What is Hegelian man?” and answers it by explicating the structure of human desire, in contradistinction to the needs or demands of the animal.”

      Read the paper. History is just the unfolding of intersubjective desire. In Hegel this is called the unfolding of the “Absolute Spirit”. It is NOT outside of time. It is always taking place in and through time.

      This is what I mean when I say that those tainted with Marx’s mind-poison cannot even read Hegel coherently.

    • More, just so you can’t slip away from this like a wet fish:

      The pursuit of satisfaction of the desire for recognition and its parallel development of self-consciousness is History, as Kojeve would say, “properly-so-called.” Of course, man — even “Hegelian man” — does not always make history and does not only have properly human desires. His desir de reconnaissance [desire for recognition] coexists with purely animal needs. (Pp296, My Emphasis)

      • Hedlund says:

        Congratulations on supporting my thesis that your perspective on value is universal in scope. Still waiting on contextualization.

      • Stop putting words in my mouth. Everyone else can see that nowhere have I claimed that value is “universal in scope”.

  2. Hedlund says:

    That quotation doesn’t say what you are suggesting it does. “Human desire in contradistinction to the needs or demands of an animal” is exactly what I was just referencing.

    History writ broadly is the unfolding of the “absolute spirit,” yes. But the process of history writ broadly IS NOT a context; everyone who has ever lived has lived in history.

    • Gobble-dee-gook. What you’re now saying doesn’t even make sense. This sentence is grammatically incoherent:

      …the process of history writ broadly IS NOT a context…

      Let me be clear as day: for Hegel the unfolding of history is the unfolding of human consciousness. For Kojeve the unfolding of history is the unfolding of human desire for recognition and animal instincts (most of which can be found in Hegel).

      In Hegel the movement of Reason is Universal. But Hegelian thought can be read as being more relativist. Either way, value comes from the desire for recognition among men. This is really basic stuff.

      • Hedlund says:

        “[Noun] is not [other noun]” is grammatically incoherent. Gotcha. Though I realize that your understanding of grammar says little about your understanding of philosophy, when you pontificate on both of them the same way, they become rhetorically linked. What I’m saying is, you’re not helping your own credibility, here.

        I’d urge you to continue to vindicate what I am saying about the contextual scoping of value, but I feel like we’re dangerously close to talking in circles.

      • Let’s try again from a different angle.

        You think — based on grammatical incoherence (the confusion of subject and object) — that we need to “contextualise” human consciousness in the broad scope of history. This means that human consciousness is a product of history. That is the Marxist view.

        However, this makes no sense. Because “history” is a phenomenon that human consciousness studies — while “human consciousness” is not a phenomenon that history studies (that latter sentence is another example of grammatical incoherence, a confusion of subject and object). Thus, “history” is an object of human consciousness. It is also, as Marx himself says in a less confused moment, the “product” of human consciousness.

        Human consciousness cannot logically be a “product” of history because history is just an abstract category of thought. Historical materialism, and basically all of Marxist thought, is based on an epistemological error.

        Marxists can’t understand this because they are trapped in what Hegel analysed as the Unhappy Consciousness — one that is confused and divided; not recognising in its object the production of consciousness itself:

        208. This unhappy consciousness, divided and at variance within itself, must, because this contradiction of its essential nature is felt to be a single consciousness, always have in the one consciousness the other also; and thus must be straightway driven out of each in turn, when it thinks it has therein attained to the victory and rest of unity. Its true return into itself, or reconciliation with itself, will, however, display the notion of mind endowed with a life and existence of its own, because it implicitly involves the fact that, while being an undivided consciousness, it is a double-consciousness. It is itself the gazing of one self-consciousness into another, and itself is both, and the unity of both is also its own essence; but objectively and consciously it is not yet this essence itself — is not yet the unity of both.

        The Marxists are just a bunch of people who could never get beyond the Unhappy Consciousness stage of dialectical thinking. That’s also why they’re bolshie, loud and juvenile in their politics; seeing everything as a big conspiracy by the Evil Capitalist like teenagers.

      • Hedlund says:

        No, I was saying we need to contextualize intersubjective Desire and the object thereof. To say that Desire unfolds is, by itself, no better than to argue for Benthamite utilitarianism. It is a skeleton of an idea, requiring contextual flesh. As such, Marxian political economy takes the view of value that, under capitalism, the object over which Desires mutually and often competitively pine — and over which people will Recognize one another — is socially necessary abstract labor time.

        This all hearkens back to the point I was trying to make about Hume and Kant. You’re saying that Marx made category errors, and yet he was quite explicit that he believed that Hegel had done the very same thing, “mystifying” it in the process. To suggest that the Unhappy Consciousness goes unacknowledged is bizarre, since it was, as far as I am aware, the basis for his analysis of alienation.

        The fact that we’re just retreading terrain to me says we’re not likely to find any new ground, here. If we’ve both said all we’re going to say, then c’est la vie. Be well.

      • Hedlund says:

        Though I forgot to say (something something wet fish), one of the whole points of Marxism is that there doesn’t NEED to be a “conspiracy by the Evil Capitalist,” as the class relations described are emergent phenomena.

        Seriously though, have a good day.

      • 1) Just because you don’t like the answer doesn’t mean its the wrong answer. Marx’s LTV is just a bullshit evasion of the complexity of human desire posited by zealous people who require answers to the Big Questions about life.

        2) Yes, you’re right about alienation. This is precisely how the Unhappy Consciousness operates in Marxism. Marx posits a split in the consciousness of men and then tells his flock that this is the fault of the capitalist class. The flock then get mad and go and attack the enemy.

        But all this is to just cover up the truth, which Hegel recognised: the division is really within these people themselves. They feel the need to project the split in their consciousness onto the outside world because this is easier for them than to recognise that their life is really the product of their actions. What Hegel called “Unhappy Consciousness” is today known in psychology as “projection” (Nietzsche called it “ressentiment” and Hegel at another point calls it the “beautiful soul”). They are one and the same thing. Marxism, like conspiracy theories and cults, plays on projection for its appeal.

      • Hedlund says:

        I was going to leave it there, but your remarks, paired with your rudeness in the other discussion, have really helped me to understand where you’re coming from.

        1) Just because you don’t like the answer doesn’t mean its the wrong answer. Marx’s LTV is just a bullshit evasion of the complexity of human desire posited by zealous people who require answers to the Big Questions about life.

        Argumentum ad hominem is, in fact, a fallacy. You seem to have mistaken it for a crutch. But use it as you like. It’s your blog.

        But all this is to just cover up the truth, which Hegel recognised: the division is really within these people themselves. They feel the need to project the split in their consciousness onto the outside world because this is easier for them than to recognise that their life is really the product of their actions.

        Mm, yes. The role of humans as historical actors, the concept of praxis, Marx had nothing to say on any of this, for he missed Hegel’s key point that all problems you identify external to yourself are actually problems within yourself that you project outward. Brilliant.

        And yet, in an Unhappy turn of events, it seems our dear blogger personality has not considered the implications of this for one who with missionary zeal calls all who do not agree with him “zealots,” who uncritically suggests his opponents are automata unwilling to consider different points of view, and who levels accusations of others being “crude thinkers” or “charlatans” when… well, you get the idea.

        Still with the Have A Good Day, by the by.

        Help yourself to the last word, I no longer care.

      • No, no, no, again you misunderstand. The Unhappy Consciousness is not manifest when you see stupidity in others. It is when you, like a Gnostic, project a fundamental split in self-consciousness onto the world itself. You call this “Marxian alienation”. I have no such concept.

        Calling you a zealot is not the same as mistaking an object of consciousness (history) as that which dictates the consciousness of the subject. And calling you a charlatan is not the equivalent of thinking that alienation can be overcome by fighting the men in the top hats.

        Insults and rudeness are not equivalent to Unhappy Consciousness and ressentiment. I might be an asshole; but at least I’m an epistemologically correct asshole. And I’ll take that over being a cult follower and a shabby philosopher any day.

  3. Tom Hickey says:

    The fundamental philosophical issue is to give an objective, concrete foundation to value, which is otherwise relative to a subject. To put it briefly, I would say that for Hegel value arises out recognition of the underlying unity of man and nature based on reason (intelligibility), which is progressively realized through history. Man discoverers himself in history through reason dialectically. This adds a historical dimension to the Greek view. Value for Marx arises out of man’s productive relationship to nature through labor, which is transformative and drives history by discovering himself in his own works. For both value is personal in that it arises from desire, intersubjective in that man is a social being, and objective and natural in that value arises from man’s relationship with nature. So it is a variation on the same theme, or facets of the same gem.

    I studied Hegel (as well as Heidegger and Sartre) under a French Hegelian (Wilfrid Desan) that brought in Kojève’s interpretation of Hegel, as well as that of Jean Hyppolite. It’s quite clear that Kojève was a philosopher in his own right and his interpretation of Hegel reflects his own thought, influenced by Marx’s historicism and Heidegger’s existentialism, for example, of which, of course, Hegel was unaware.

    Sartre took Kojève’s thought to it pessimistic conclusion, that man is a useless passion because his desire is to become God but comes to realize it is futile. Leo Strauss and Francis Fukuyama took Kojève’ end of history to its optimistic conclusion of a society under capitalism and democracy as the “end of man” after which man lives happily ever after in harmony and prosperity.

    None of this accurately represents what Hegel was doing, which was creating a rational (natural) theology as a process theology that culminates in the end of reason being attained intersubjectively in universal society based on reason. Subsequent thinkers influenced by Hegel including Marx and Kojève were atheists and re-interpreted Hegel;s conclusion differently.

    While Hegel recuperates human consciousness into a theological totality (Geist or ‘Absolute Spirit’), Kojève secularises human history, seeing it as solely the product of man’s self-production. Whereas Hegelian reconciliation is ultimately the reconciliation of man with God (totality or the Absolute), for Kojève the division of man from himself is transcended in humanist terms. If Hegel sees the end of history as the final moment of reconciliation with God or Spirit, Kojève (Like Feurbach and Marx) sees it as the transcendence of an illusion, in which God (man’s alienated essence, Wesen) is reclaimed by man. Whereas the Hegelian totality provides a prior set of ontological relations between man and world waiting to be apprehended by a maturing consciousness, Kojève sees human action as the transformative process that produces those ontological relations. While Hegel arguably presents a ‘panlogistic’ relation between man and nature, unifying the two in the Absolute, Kojève sees a fundamental disjunction between the two domains, providing the conditions for human self-production through man’s negating and transforming activities.

    Perhaps the conceptual key to Kojève’s understanding of universal history is desire. Desire functions as the engine of history – it is man’s pursuit in realisation of his desires that drives the struggles between men. Desire is the permanent and universal feature of human existence, and when transformed into action it is the basis of all historical agency. The desire for ‘recognition’ (Anerkennung), the validation of human worth and the satisfaction of needs, propels the struggles and processes that make for historical progression. History moves through a series of determinate configurations, culminating in the end of history, a state in which a common and universal humanity is finally realised. This would entail ‘the formation of a society…in which the strictly particular, personal, individual value of each is recognised as such’. Hence individual values and needs would converge upon a common settlement in which a shared human nature (comprising the desires and inclinations that define humanity as such) would find its satisfaction.

    How and why is this realisation of mutuality and equality to come about? Kojève follows Hegel’s famous presentation of the ‘master-slave’ dialectic in order to deduce the necessary overcoming of inequality, division and subordination.

    From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s short explanation of Kojève’s thought and influence here.

    Moreover, Kojève’s interpretation of Marx made Hegel’s master-slave dialectic central. Ih fact, When I studied Hegel with Desan, we spent an undue amount of time on the master-slave dialectic in the Phenomenology as viewed in light of Kojève, owing to its influence on subsequent thinkers.

    But there is good reason to think that Kojève as not correct about the influence of the master-slave dialectic on Marx’s thinking. See Chris Arthur, Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialectic and a Myth of Marxology.

    • I don’t think that the Master-Slave dialectic had any influence on Marx’s thinking at all. If it had Marx wouldn’t have fallen into the objectivist value trap.

      I also don’t think that you can equate Marx’s and Hegel’s view of value. It is true that for Hegel the concept of value — which he discusses in some way in his chapters on ethics and so forth — is tied up with his rational theology. However, this is not an objective conception in the same way as Marx’s “value = 10 hours of socially necessary labour time” is. Instead it is a value that arises out of the Absolute Subject which is, of course, Reason. The difference here is enormous.

      For Marx “value” can be studied as we might study an object — literally. Men’s value relationships can be studied in relation to each other as we study billiard balls on a table. For Hegel this is nonsense. For him value, despite being Absolute and thus not relative (as in Kojeve), arises out of the pure development of Self-Consciousness in its attaining the Absolute. It is something that unfolds “in here”, not “out there”. Whereas for Marx man is merely an object; and value arises from the amount of hours he toils. For this reason Kojeve’s presentation is far closer to Hegel’s than to Marx.

      I’m really averse to equating Marxian and Hegelian value because neither are relative. I really think that this misses the key point. Marx is trying to establish value that a man in a lab-coat can study. Kojeve and Hegel are not. And that is where all the key differences arise; including the killing fields in Cambodia and the mass starvation in the Ukraine. Marx’s is a very dark and rather evil vision. Hegel’s and Kojeve’s are not.

  4. Tom Hickey says:

    “I also don’t think that you can equate Marx’s and Hegel’s view of value.” I am not equating them. I am saying that they were approaching the same philosophical issue — grounding value — from different vantages, idealism and materialism. Both avoid the Cartesian problem of dualism by positing unity, Hegel of “Geist” and Marx of matter as Urgrund.

    I don’t disagree with your analysis. What I am pointing out is that Hegel attempted to make the ancient Greek metaphysical analysis and his own metaphysical logic more “objective” through his historical phenomenological approach. Of course, it ends up looking “subjective” in that it is absolute idealism. Husserl got trapped in his own version of phenomenology. He sought objectivity (“back to things in themselves”) and ended with the idealism of his final work, Ideas.

    Marx realized the outcome of Hegel’s idealistic assumptions and assumed materialism instead, along with the other “young Hegelians” in order to escape the trap of subjectivity. But Marx was intelligent enough not to fall for a simplistic objectivity like Bentham’s. However, both Marx’s approach and Bentham’s approach would subsequently result in dominant economic paradigms that would manifest historically in society, and both would be used to rationalize a lot of craziness that would result in dysfunction and mayhem.

    Where one starts with what one assumes determines where one is going to end up, although there may be many ways of getting there intellectually. This determines the various philosophies and philosophical schools that emerge from the assumptions of idealism, materialism, etc.

    And there are always tradeoffs. So to date there is no single overarching paradigm of thinking that “resolves all the contradictions”; thus the dialectic continues (pace those who see “the end of history.”)

    For example, Kojève was aware of the outcome of the assumptions of Hegel and Marx, and sought to tie down objectivity not only historically but also through the existential facticity of Dasein in time along with freedom.

    Kojève’s ontology is, pace Heidegger’s analysis of Dasein in Being & Time, first and foremost experiential and existential. By bringing together Hegel with Heidegger, Kojève attempts to radically historicise existentialism, while simultaneously giving Hegelian historicity a radically existential twist, wherein man’s existential freedom defines his being. Freedom is understood as the ontological relation of ‘negativity’, the incompleteness of human being, its constitutive ‘lack’. It is precisely because of this lack of a fully constituted being that man experiences (or, more properly is nothing other than) desire. The negativity of being, manifest as desire, makes possible man’s self-making, the process of ‘becoming’.

    Nice move, but not the final move.

  5. Dr J says:

    You make some interesting points. However the idea that historical materialism is based on “an epistemological error” because consciousness cannot be be a product of history is some weird philosophy! Unless you are a panpsychist (or some such) you believe consciousness emerges from neuronal activity – and while neurons are indeed mental representations, those representations refer to physical objects in the world. Also: “He cared not for humans as fully realised conscious beings” – How does this statement mesh with Marx’s writings on human self-actualisation (drawing on Aristotle)?

    Not here to be negative though – would be interested to hear your thoughts on whether you think there exists an acceptable and complete alternative to the LTV and utility theory and how you see the relationship to price.

    • You can be an idealist and still think that there is a relationship between the object we experience as the brain and consciousness.

      As to price, I would think that it is subjective social norm. As is value. Institutionalists like JK Galbraith do work on this.

  6. Talbert says:

    If you like Hegel you may enjoy Kojève’vs mate, that dude. His lectures are pretty good.

    You’re arguments for idealism tap onto a critical point, rather a mystical one, when you said: “comprehend yourself comprehending (an impossible task… try it…).”

    Reminds me of that old yarn from the good book: “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: yet he hath set the world in the hearts of men, so that no man can discover that which God maketh from the beginning to the end.”

    Anyswhos, reason can only lead us to what we truly mean when we say what we do (this holds for others, but we can only understand others as well as we understand ourselves). Reason without meaning is literally the antithesis of reason: nonsense. Reason is, or rather it ought, to refer merely to the means by which we understand each other. To talk of highly complex social traditions carried out through generations through several centuries, such as the scientific method, in terms of some sort of absolute structured gobblediegook that ultimately turns out to be heuristics is just silly to me. Try reducing peer review to “logic”, or what’s accepted as such these days, and I’ll laugh my ass off at the attempt.

    Good to see someone in econ with half a brain and taking Hegel seriously. There’s another dude that did a good article on Hegel. U-banks I believe. Kick ass and well worth the read.


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