Christopher J. Arthur: the New Dialectic and Marx's Capital.

Author:Bell, Franklin
Position:Book Review

Christopher J. Arthur

The New Dialectic and Marx's Capital

Brill, Leiden, 2002, 263 pp.

ISBN 90-0412-798-4 (hbk) 35 [pounds sterling]

ISBN 90-0413-643-6 (pbk) 21.50 [pounds sterling]

This book presents a combination of 'systematic dialectic' and 'value-form theory', and Arthur succeeds in showing how the two complement each other. This entails significant 'reconstruction' of Marx and Hegel, as Arthur acknowledges, although he may underestimate the extent of the reconstruction. The book is positioned within a tendency that Arthur calls 'the New Dialectic', which is interested in a return to Hegel's logic as the basis for Marx's method.

Since this is hardly a new idea, it is surprising that there is no real discussion of other schools of Hegelian Marxism in the book, except to say that the New Dialectic--or a portion of it--is distinguished by its preference for 'systematic dialectic', which studies a totality through a self-ordering sequence of categories, and counter-poses the effort 'to construct a systematic dialectic in order to articulate the relations of a given social order' to a 'historicist' idea of 'recovering the grand narrative of Hegel's philosophy of history and relating it to historical materialism' (pp. 2-3).

Following an interesting discussion, in the Introduction, comparing the approaches of various New Dialectic proponents, the book focuses on Arthur's particular approach, concentrating on his 'homology' of Hegelian logic with the logic of capital, which he believes incarnates the Hegelian 'Idea'.

Homology, a biological term meaning the possession of similar structures by two organisms, is further specified as a 'homology between the structure of Hegel's Logic and Marx's Capital ... given some minor reconstructive work on either or both' (p. 7). Arthur's 'systematic dialectic' achieves this via value-form theory, featuring a split between form and content where 'the former becomes autonomous and the dialectical development of the structure is indeed form=determined' (p. 81). This is because the value form abstracts from commodities' material characteristics, Arthur argues. Hence, the dialectic of capitalist society is a 'dialectic of forms', and the functioning of the value form creates 'the reality of pure forms' (p. 83), making the relationship of Hegel's logic to Capital not just an application but an identity.

Arthur acknowledges that this requires some reconstruction of Marx's theory and Hegel's dialectic. Chapter 5...

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