Re: The dialectic of reality/possibility

On Fri, 3 Oct 1997, Campbell Jones wrote:

> >
> >> John Ransom wrote:
> >>
> >> >I've
> >> >always thought of Hegel as much more of a leftist than a rightist because
> >> >he is willing to oppose his abstract, presently unrealized but present in
> >> >nuce, concept of the truth of Spirit against its "actual" but in some
> >> >sense "unreal" manifestations.
> >>
> >> Doug Henwood replied:
> >>
> >> Huh? Have you ever read any neoclassical economics? Any social institution
> >> (unions, the welfare state, regulations) that stands in the way of their
> >> textbook model of markets must be smashed. Reality must conform to the
> >> model! And I never thought of neoclassical econonomics as leftist in any
> >> way.
> >>
> >> And John Ransom answered:
> >
> >I don't follow.
> >
> Of course, the dialectic of reality/possibility can function in a number of
> ways. As John notes, in the hands of Hegel and Marx, it is employed with
> the intention of making critical comment about the present (more so in Marx
> than in Hegel though--at times Hegel seemed fairly content with his point
> in history!). But at the same time, as Doug notes, the same tool can
> function in a very different way in the hands of technocrats. Isn't the
> disagreement here about the ends to which the tool is being used, rather
> than the tool itself? (that is to say [against Fukuyama etc.] 'the
> absolute' and 'the market' might be rather different things.) Or is there
> something genuinely 'wrong' with the way that this dialectic is being
> evoked by neoclassical economists and their allies?
> -------------------
> Campbell Jones
> University of Otago
> New Zealand
> -------------------

My thanks to Campbell for clarifying for me.

No, I don't think neoclassical technocrats can can be compared to Hegel.
Nor do I think it makes much sense to compare Plato to Hegel, or Rousseau
to Hegel, or Hobbes to Hegel. All these other people have models that
stand at some distance from the world they inhabit. Rousseau has his
Social Contract, Hobbes his Leviathan, Plato his Republic, and
neoclassical economists their liberal market. Marx, who called himself
Hegel's pupil, can, however, be usefully compared to Hegel.

There is a very big gap between the mere positing of a model or ideal type
that more or less accords with the world and asserting that world history
evolves according to an inner necessity that works itself out in the
manifestations of Spirit (Hegel) or a succession of economic forms (Marx).

It doesn't seem to me that the neoclassical economists employ the
dialectic. They employ models. For Hegel, Spirit, which has an ethical
component, stands over and guides the movement of history from Greece to
Rome, Christianity, the Reformation, French Revolution, and then GWF
himself. The end goal of the progress of Spirit is freedom. There is none
of this evolutionary necessity in any of the other 'model' theorists
mentioned above -- and that includes critical thinkers like Rousseau. Marx
also thought that the evolution of economic forms would take us out of the
prehistory of humanity and into the realm of freedom.


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