On 'Freedom, necessity and post-capitalist society'
Hegel as an Enlightenment thinker sought to teach the transformative power of philosophy upon social life. Social life in the Enlightenment period was characterized by class domination, and Hegel's philosophy was emancipatory inasmuch as he theorized that the acquisition of social intelligence within a class-divided culture occurred most genuinely among theorizing members of the society having subordinate, rather than superordinate, political standing. This subversive learning dynamic, propounded in the master/slave discussion in the Phenomenology of Mind (1807), was propelled by what he saw as the necessity of human liberation internal to alienated human life itself. Marx, as a student of the liberation movements of the labor force, theorized human freedom as the emancipation of sensuous living labor from its estranged and distorted social existence as a commodity (i.e., wage labor)--and as capital. A future of freedom for the work force is, thus, to be found only in an economic order that is post wage-labor and post capital.
Russell Rockwell's essay (see June-July 2008 N&L) points to the work of Raya Dunayevskaya for theoretical leverage in moving us toward post-capitalist society. Dunayevskaya finds Hegel developing a theory of liberation in his Philosophy of Mind (1817, ten years after the Phenomenology) that is apparently more idealistic and less socially relevant. Hegel now elaborated emancipation in terms of the general concepts of freedom and necessity, rather than the more class-related terms master and servant. Dunayevskaya finds the greater universality of these philosophical concepts (as also the concepts nature and mind) pivotal to the late Marx's "social translation" of Hegel. She cites Capital Vol. 3 and the Critique of the Gotha Program in this regard, where Marx is said to have "deepened his idea of freedom inseparable from the concept of social necessity--and labor as the metabolic relation of man to nature. . ." according to Rockwell.
Dunayevskaya is taken with Hegel's Absolute Idea ("It is the business of philosophy to recognize it . . .") and socialism is interpreted as one of its forms, expressed in such movements as "the [Paris] Commune, the Soviets, the CIO." Rockwell extends Dunayevskaya's particular reading of Hegel through further citations from Marx: those persons whose structured social position requires that they serve capital nonetheless may find their ongoing oppression mitigated even under capitalism through a reduction of labor time. The true realm of freedom and the development of human powers in post-capitalist society, however, begin only beyond the realm of necessary labor. The development of concrete concepts of freedom and necessity are thus what Rockwell sees as the most urgent theoretical tasks of the workforce as it pursues its fullest political/human potential.
Let us conclude (like Engels in Ludwig Feuerbach and the others above) that the workforce is the inheritor of classical philosophy. We would also do well to understand how the dialectic of nature and mind led Engels (in Dialectics of Nature) to defend the proposition that science is matter become conscious of itself as matter. My point is that Engels saw dialectical materialism as the outcome of classical German philosophy, and we are called upon today to think--not in terms of the philosophical logic of Hegel's Absolute Idea as such--but in terms of a more concrete sociologic, per Marx's famous Introduction to the Grundrisse. Thinking sociologically and concretely about freedom for the workforce involves something more than pay increases or a reduction of labor time--it involves the abolition of the wages system--even as labor remains a necessity and freedom provides the future satisfaction in all of our works.
1. Russell Rockwell, "Freedom, necessity, and post-capitalist society," News & Letters, June-July 2008, p. 5, www.newsandletters.org/issues/2008/June-July/essayJunJul_08.asp.
2. Raya Dunayevskaya, "Letters on Hegels Absolutes of May 12 and 20, 1953," in Raya Dunayevskaya, The Power of Negativity, edited by Peter Hudis and Kevin B. Anderson (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2002) pp. 16, 17.
Published by News and Letters Committees