reason in history (Hegel, Marx, and Foucault)

About a week ago, someone challenged me to provide evidence for my claim
that, like Hegel, Marx believed that history was a rational process.
While I was convinced I was correct in saying this, I couldn't find any
quotable evidence.

I have however stumbled across a possiblity that slightly changes my view
of Marx, so I'll share it, hoping that I am not simply on the wrong list.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx talks about what Lenin will later refer
to as the whithering away of the state. Marx writes: "When, in the
course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all
production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of
the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character.
Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one
class oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the
bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize
itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the
ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of
production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away
the conditions for the existence of class antoagonisms and of classes
generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.
In the place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and
class antagonisms we shall have an association, in which the free
development of each is the condition for the free development of all"
(Marx-Engels Reader 490-1).

For both Hegel and Marx the end of history is freedom. However, for
Hegel, freedom is developed as spirit gains self-consciousness
(regardless of the self-consciousness of individuals). The process is an
ascending, productive one. Progress is made as each stage gathers the
best from the preceding one, yet carries it further. If one looks as
Marx's metaphors, his dialectic seems to be "descending" toward freedom:
the rhetoric is one of cleaining up, sweeping away, abolishing,
destroying. In a sense (but only a sense) Marx's reason in history is
the historical chipping away of the unreasonable or contradicted, while
for Hegel Spirit builds on top of the unreasonable. As Marx puts it,
demonstrating on one hand a Hegelian type necessity, but a non-Hegelian
excavatory (rather than "edifice buidling") rhetoric: "The development of
Modern Industry therefore cuts from under its feet the very foundation on
which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the
bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers.
Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable" (483).
(I would also note that Marx's historical theory of value also works
something like this, ultimately destroying the unreasonable ("unnatural")
forms of exchange, returning to a simpler one).

I think this does, finally, have some relevance for Foucault (though I
may have just "discovered" the obvious about Marx), and will help explain
why poststructuralists (in all their diversity :)) often take Hegel more
seriously than Marx. Put simply, for Hegel history is problematically
reasonable, but is also productive. For Marx, history creates all sorts
of alienations and estrangements, but, fortunately, is reasonable enough
also to create its grave-diggers and the custodians who will sweep away
the unreasonableness of history.

Any comments?


Erik D. Lindberg
Dept. of English and Comparative Lit.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Milwaukee, WI 53211
email: edl@xxxxxxxxxxx


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