The dialectics of the Abstract & the Concrete in Marx’s Capital
Chapter 3 – Ascent from the Abstract to the Concrete
The logical conflicts in the development of political economy would be incomprehensible if we did not establish real connections between it and contemporary philosophy. The categories in which English economists consciously comprehended empirical facts were rooted in the philosophical systems current at the time.
A characteristic fact that had a profound effect on the development of economic thought in England was that one of the first theoreticians of political economy turned out to be none other than John Locke, the classical representative of empiricism in philosophy.
‘Locke’s view is all the more important because it was the classical expression of bourgeois society’s ideas of right as against feudal society, and moreover his philosophy served as the basis for all the ideas of the whole of subsequent English political economy.’ [Theories of Surplus Value I]
Locke’s views proved to be the intermediate link between the philosophy of English empiricism (with all the weaknesses of the latter) and the emerging theory of wealth. Through Locke, political economy assimilated the basic methodological principles of empiricism, in particular and especially the one-sided analytical and inductive method, the standpoint of the reduction of complex phenomena to their elementary constituents.
However, just as in the natural sciences of that epoch, the actual cognitive practice of the study of economic phenomena even in Locke himself differed essentially from the kind of epistemology that could be and was recommended by consistent empiricism. The method which was actually used by theoretical economists to form theoretical definitions of things, despite their one-sided epistemological illusions, did not tally with empirical inductive logic. While consciously applying the one-sided analytical method, the theoreticians proceeded in fact, without realising it clearly, from a number of theoretical assumptions which essentially contradicted the principles of the narrow empirical approach.
The logic of pure empiricism was incapable of coping with the task of working out a theoretical view of the phenomena of economic reality for the simple reason that actual economic reality was a most complex interlacing of bourgeois capitalist forms of property with the feudal ones.
Under those conditions direct inductive generalisation of empirical facts would have yielded, at best, only a correct description of the results of interaction of two not merely different but diametrically opposed and hostile principles of ownership. Locke’s empirical-deductive method would not have permitted to go deep into the inner ‘physiology’ of bourgeois private ownership.
It is well known that Locke himself did not merely generalise what he saw but actively singled out in the empirical facts only those forms and moments which, in his view, corresponded to man’s eternal and genuine nature.
In other words, the very task of abstract analytical extraction of the elementary constituents, the task of analysing empirical facts here as well implied a certain universal criterion according to which some forms of economy are described as ‘genuine’, as ‘corresponding to man’s nature’, while others are eliminated as ‘un-genuine’. The bourgeois individualistic conception of ‘man’s nature’ was used by all the bourgeois theoretician as such a criterion. Locke was one of the originators of this view.
Clearly, this universal and fundamental principle of bourgeois science, used as a yardstick to measure empirical facts, could as little be obtained by empirical induction as the concept of atom. In Locke’s time, bourgeois capitalist form of ownership was by no means universal and dominant. It was not an empirically universal fact, and the conception of wealth as the starting point of bourgeois political economy could not its If be formed by inductive generalisation of all the particular instances and kinds of ownership without exception.
It was formed with the aid of considerations quite different than the purely logical ones. The spontaneous social reason here too proved to be stronger than the cannons of ratiocinative, intellectual logic.
In other words, from its birth political economy faced the same logical problem as Newton did in his field: to make even a single inductive generalisation, an economist would have to have some conception, at least implied, of the universal genuine nature (substance) of the phenomena under consideration.
Just as Newton based all his inductions on the idea that only the geometrically definable forms of facts are the solely objective forms, economists silently assumed that only those forms of economy which corresponded to the principles of bourgeois private ownership were the genuine forms.
All other forms of economic relations wore silently eliminated as subjective errors of men, as forms that do not correspond to the genuine, natural, and therefore objective nature of man. Only those definitions of facts were incorporated in theory which were an immediate and direct outcome of man’s ‘eternal nature’ – in actual fact, of the specific nature of the private proprietor, the bourgeois.
All theoreticians of bourgeois political economy thus had to proceed and really did proceed from quite a definite universal basic principle, from a clear conception of the substance, the general objective nature of the particular cases and forms of economy.
This conception of substance, just as in natural science, could not be obtained through empirical induction. But Lockean epistemology was silent on just this point – on the question of the ways of cognition of substance, of the ways of formation of the universal original foundation of science. This foundation, the conception of the substance of wealth, had to be worked out by economists (Locke included) in a purely spontaneous way, without a clear understanding of the ways of obtaining it.
However it may be, English political economy practically solved this difficulty when William Petty discovered this universal substance of economic phenomena, the substance of wealth, in labour producing commodities, in labour performed with the objective of alienating the product of labour in the free market.
Insofar as economists actually proceeded from this more or less clearly realised conception of the universal substance of wealth, their generalisations were theoretical in nature and differed from the purely empirical generalisations of any merchant, usurer, or market woman.
But this meant that a theoretical approach to things coincided with the desire to understand different particular forms of wealth as modifications of one and the same universal substance.
The fact, however, that classical political economy was linked up, in its conscious methodological convictions, with Locke’s philosophy, made itself felt directly, and in a very instructive form. As a result, theoretical investigation of facts proper was continually interlaced with simple uncritical reproduction of empirical conceptions.
This is most clearly seen in the work of Adam Smith. The first economist to express clearly the concept of labour as the universal substance of all economic phenomena, fie unfolded a theory in which properly theoretical consideration of facts was continually interwoven with extremely untheoretical descriptions of empirical data from the standpoint of a man forcibly involved in production and accumulation of value.
‘Smith himself moves with great naivete in a perpetual contradiction. On the, one hand lie traces the intrinsic connection existing between economic categories or the obscure structure of the bourgeois economic system. On the other, he simultaneously sets forth the connection as it appears in the phenomena of competition and thus as it presents itself to the unscientific observer just as to him who is actually involved and interested in the process of bourgeois production. One of these conceptions fathoms the inner connection, the physiology, so to speak, of the bourgeois system, whereas the other takes the external phenomena of life, as they seem and appear and merely describes, catalogues, recounts and arranges them under formal definitions. With Smith both these methods of approach not only merrily run alongside one another but also intermingle and constantly contradict one another.’ [Theories of Surplus Value II]
Smith himself did not of course notice the contradiction between the two modes of reflection of reality in abstractions. It is easy to recognise here a scientist who pictures the process of cognition in a purely Lockean manner. It was Locke’s epistemology that ignored the distinction between theoretical abstraction (concept) and simple empirical abstraction, simple expression in speech of the sensually stated similarities and distinctions.
David Ricardo, as is well known, made a decisive step forward, as compared to Adam Smith. The philosophical-historical significance of this step consisted first and foremost in that he was the first to distinguish, consciously and consistently, between the task of properly theoretical consideration of empirical data (the task of expressing these data in concepts) and the task of simple description and cataloguing of phenomena in the form in which they are immediately given in contemplation and notion.
Ricardo understood very well that science (thinking in concepts) dealt with the same empirical facts as simple contemplation and notion. In science, however, these facts hay(, to be considered from a higher point of view – that of their inner connection. This requirement was not consistently and rigorously satisfied in Smith, whereas Ricardo strictly insisted on it.
Ricardo’s view of the nature of scientific inquiry is much more reminiscent of Spinoza’s method than the epistemology of the empiricist Locke; he consistently adheres to the substantive standpoint. Every individual economic formation, each separate form of wealth must be understood as modifications of one and the same universal substance rather than simply described.
In this respect, too, Ricardo and Spinoza are right where Smith and Locke are wrong.
Marx assessed Ricardo’s role in the development of the theory of political economy with classical clarity and decisiveness:
‘... Ricardo steps in and calls to science: Halt! The basis, the starting point for the physiology of the bourgeois system – for the understanding of its internal organic coherence and life process – is the determination of value by labour-time. Ricardo starts with this and forces science to get out of the rut, to render an account of the extent to which the other categories – the relations of production and commerce – evolved and described by it, correspond to or contradict this basis, this starting-point; to elucidate how far a science which in fact only reflects and reproduces the manifest forms of the process, and therefore also how far these manipulations themselves, correspond to the basis on which the inner coherence, the actual physiology of bourgeois society rests or the basis which forms its starting-point; and in general, to examine how matters stand with the contradiction between the apparent and the actual movement of the system. This then is Ricardo’s great historical significance for science’ [ibid]
In other words, Ricardo’s view did not consist in the reduction of complex phenomena to a number of their elementary constituents but rather in the deduction of all complex phenomena from one simple substance.
But that brought Ricardo face to face with the need for consciously abandoning the method of forming theoretical abstractions recommended for science by Lockean logic. Empirical induction did not correspond to the task facing Ricardo, the task of deducing theoretical definitions from one rigorously applied principle – the conception of the nature of value as determined by labour.
Adam Smith, to the extent in which he actually produced something more significant than mere description of facts, spontaneously and unconsciously contradicted at every step his own philosophical premises borrowed from Locke, doing something quite different from what he thought lie was doing, whereas Ricardo quite consciously chose the path of theoretical deduction of categories.
The rigorously deductive character of his reasoning has long become proverbial among political economists. But it was Marx alone who correctly evaluated the significance of this deduction, showing it as the natural logical expression of the greatest merit of Ricardo’s theoretical approach – his desire to understand all forms of bourgeois wealth without exception as more or less complex and remote products of labour producing commodities, of labour producing value, and all categories of political economy, as modifications of the value category.
What distinguishes him from Smith is his desire to regard empirical facts consistently and without waverings from one and the same viewpoint rigorously formulated in the definition of the basic concept – from the labour theory of value.
This standpoint is also present in Smith, and that makes him a theoretician. But it is not the only point of view with him, and on this score Ricardo is decisively at variance with Smith. In the latter, theoretical consideration of facts (that is, their analysis from the standpoint of the labour theory of value) all too often gives way to their purely empirical description.
Ricardo found, spontaneously and by trial and error, the correct view of the nature of theoretical analysis of facts. Hence his desire for a strictly deductive consideration of phenomena and categories.
This conception of deduction, as is easy to see, does not yet contain anything metaphysical or idealistic or formal logical. In this conception, deduction is tantamount to a negation of eclecticism with regard to facts. That means that a conception of the universal nature or substance of all the particular and individual phenomena, once established, must remain the same throughout the investigation, providing guidance for the understanding of any particular or individual phenomenon.
In other words, deduction in this interpretation (and in this interpretation only!) is a synonym of a really theoretical attitude to empirical facts.
The first formal indication of decline of Ricardo’s school of political economy was the giving up of the attempt to develop the entire system of economic categories from one established principle (the labour theory of value). Representatives of the ‘Vulgar economy’, and still more of hotchpotch compilation that Marx branded contemptuously as the professorial form of the decay of theory, rebelled first of all against the teacher’s deductive manner of inquiry. They rejected that which was Ricardo’s chief virtue as a theoretician – his desire to understand each particular category as a converted form of value, as a complex modification of labour creating commodities.
The principle of the vulgar and professorial form of theorising was this: if one could not deduce a conception of real phenomena from one basis common to them all (in this case from the labour theory of value) without running at once into a contradiction, one had to abandon the attempt in general, one had to introduce still another principle of explanation, one more ‘point of view’. If that did not help, one merely had to introduce a third and a fourth principle, taking into account this, that, and the other.
Supposing one could not explain the real market value (price) of a capitalistically produced commodity in terms of the necessary time spent on its production. That only meant that one need not persist in one-sidedness. Why not assume that value comes from many different sources rather than from one single universal source, as Ricardo believed? From labour too, but not only from labour. One must not underestimate the role of capital and the role of natural fertility of soil; one had to take into account the whims of fashion, accidents of demand, the effect of the seasons (felt boots cost more in winter than in summer), and a host of other factors, including the effect on the market situation of the periodical changes of the number of spots on the Sun that have an undoubted effect on crops and therefore on the price (‘value’) of grain and bread. Marx was never more sarcastic than in criticising the manner of theorising characteristic of the vulgar and professorial pseudo-theory. This eclectic manner of explaining a complex phenomenon by a number of factors and principles without any inner connection between them is, in Marx’s apt phrase, a real grave for science. There is no more theory, science, no more thinking in concepts here, only a translation of the widely spread superficial notions into the doctrinaire language of economic terminology and their systematisation.
John M. Keynes, an acknowledged classic of the entire present-day official science of the capitalist world, no longer permits himself to speak of value in general. In his view, that is an empty word, a myth. The only reality he recognises is market price. The latter, according to his theory, is determined by a concurrence of most diverse circumstances and factors, where labour plays a very insignificant role. Keynes insists, for instance, that the interest-rate entirely depends on the emotions of the owners of capital and is therefore a purely psychological factor. But that is not strong enough for Keynes:
‘It might be more accurate, perhaps, to say that the rate of interest is a highly conventional, rather than a highly psychological, phenomenon. ’slumps and depressions’, according to Keynes, are ‘the mere consequence of upsetting the delicate balance of spontaneous optimism. In estimating the prospects of investment, we must have regard, therefore, to the nerves and hysteria and even the digestions and reactions to the weather of those upon whose spontaneous activity it largely depends.’ [Keynes 1936]
There can be no question of theory or science here, of course. Where vulgar economy was mostly busy translating popular superficial conceptions into the doctrinaire language, assuming that it elaborated concepts, modern bourgeois science passes off the capitalist’s irrational emotions in their scholastic expression for concepts. That is the limit, as the saying goes.
Marx showed clearly that after Ricardo, the height of bourgeois political economy, the latter entered the phase of degradation. This degradation is certainly camouflaged by high-sounding verbiage and appeals for sober, inductive empirical study of facts, etc. In opposing their induction to Ricardo’s deductive method, the representatives of the decaying bourgeois political economy merely advocate eclecticism as against rigorous theory.
His desire to comprehend all categories without exception from the consistent position of the labour theory of value is unacceptable to them for, as they might have occasion to see, this position, when one considers its tendency of development, inevitably leads to the conception of the system of bourgeois economy as a system of insoluble antagonisms and contradictions. The motive force behind this attitude to Ricardo and his deductive method is simply an apologetic attitude towards reality.
Thus, Ricardo does not come to the choice of the deductive method of considering empirical facts out of a loyalty to rationalism. He applies this method of developing theoretical definitions, because it is the only one that answers his desire to understand the system of bourgeois economy as an integral system coherent in all its manifestations rather than as a totality of more or less accidental relations of men and things. Ricardo wants to deduce any particular, specific form of relations of production and distribution of wealth out of the labour theory of value, out of a theory expressing the universal substance, the real essence of all economic phenomena.
This desire of Ricardo is his absolute merit as a theoretician. The giving up of this desire is in general tantamount to a rejection of theoretical attitude to empirical facts. Here we see already that the method of reasoning which proceeds from a universal theoretical expression of reality as a rigorously tested basic principle, can ensure a theoretical attitude to empirical facts. Otherwise thought inevitably slides into eclectic empiricism.
Ricardo by no means rejects the empirical element in investigation. On the contrary, he realises that a genuine understanding of empirically given facts, genuine (rather than eclectic) empiricism, can only be carried through if empirical facts are considered from a standpoint in itself substantiated as the only correct and objective one, rather than from an arbitrary standpoint.
Spontaneously obeying the logic of things, Ricardo thus comes to the starting-point of theory that was later chosen by Marx consciously. Yet the fact that Ricardo arrived at this view of reality and of ways of reproducing it conceptually in a purely spontaneous manner, having no clear idea of the dialectics of the universal, the particular, and the individual, with which he had to deal in reality, this face left its imprint on his theory.
The conscious philosophical conceptions that were at his disposal – those of the relationship of deduction and induction, the universal and the particular, of essence and appearance, etc., had a direct bearing on the process of cognition as it was actually carried out by him. They had a significant effect on his inquiry and in some cases were directly responsible for the failure of his search.
What Ricardo actually did was not at all deduction in the sense in which it was interpreted by the metaphysical logic of his epoch; it was by no means speculative deduction of one concept from another concept. In his hands it is, in the first place, a method for theoretical expression of empirical facts, of empirical phenomena in their inner unity. As such, this method includes empirical induction. But he does not go unscathed by the pure s manner in which induction and deduction coincide in his method. Where he has to take a clear view of his method of studying facts, he is compelled to accept the contemporary conception of deduction and induction, of the relation of the universal to the particular, of the law to forms of its manifestation, etc. The metaphysical conception of the categories of logic and of ways of reproducing reality in thought directly disorients him as a theoretician.
Let us analyse Ricardo’s line of reasoning to show this more clearly. His method is as follows. He proceeds from the definition of value by the quantity of labour time, taking it as a universal basic principle of his system. Then he attempts to apply this universal basic principle, directly and immediately, to each of the particular categories with the aim of checking whether they agree with this universal basic principle or not.
Everywhere he endeavours to show direct coincidence of economic categories with the law of value.
In the spirit of contemporary metaphysical logic and philosophy, Ricardo assumed that the universal definition on which he based his deduction was a direct generic concept, that is, an abstract general concept comprising in itself the features that wore directly common to all phenomena comprehended by it, and nothing more. The relation of the value concept to the concepts of money, profit, rent, wages, interest, etc., appeared to him a genus-to-species relation between concepts. According to this conception based on a metaphysical notion of the relation of the universal to the particular and the individual, the concept of value must include only those features that are equally common to money, profit, rent, and any of the other categories. In the same spirit, he believed that any specific category was not exhausted by traits expressed in the definitions of the universal concept, and that each specific category possessed, apart from these definitions, additional features expressing precisely the specificity of each particular category.
Consequently, it is by no means enough to subsume any category under a universal principle or definition of a universal concept (in this case, the value concept). This operation will show only that in the particular category which is already expressed in the definitions of the universal concept. It is then necessary to find out what definitions are present in it over and above that the definitions expressing the distinctive rather than the common, identical features.
This logical conception, applied to the categories of political economy, appears as follows. Money, just as all the other categories, is a particular form of value. It follows that real money is subject in its motion to the law of value, first and foremost. It follows that the labour theory of value is directly applicable to money; in other words, definitions contained in the value concept must above all be included in the theoretical definition of money. That is the way in which the first definition of money is deduced.
It is quite clear, however, that this does not exhaust the concrete nature of money. The question then naturally arises what is money as money, what is money over and above the fact that it is the same kind of value as all other kinds, why money is money rather than simply value.
At this point in the study of the nature of money and the formation of the necessary theoretical definitions of money as a separate economic phenomenon, all deduction naturally stops. Deduction permitted to distinguish only those definitions of the nature of money which were previously contained in the concept of value.
And what is one to do next? How is one to discover in the actual empirical phenomena of money circulation theoretical definitions that would express just as necessary properties of money as those that are deduced from the value concept? How is one to read in the real money those characteristics that belong to it as necessarily as the universal value definitions yet at the same Lime constitute the difference of money from all the other forms of the existence of value?
Deduction becomes impossible at this point. One has to resort to induction, the goal of which is the singling out of definitions that are equally inherent in all the cases of the movement of money – the specifically general properties of money.
That is the way Ricardo is compelled to act. He constructs further theoretical definitions of the money form through immediate empirical induction, through singling out those abstract general properties which all phenomena of money circulation without exception have in common. He directly generalises the phenomena of the money market, in which simultaneously diverse forms of money circulate – metal coins, bullion, paper money, etc. He looks for the features that are common to metal coins, paper banknotes, gold and silver bullion, bank vouchers, promissory notes, etc. That is the fatal weakness of his theory of money.
Following this line, Ricardo confuses theoretical definitions of money as money with those properties which money actually owes to capital, whose specific movement in money has nothing in common with the phenomena of money circulation as such. As a result, he takes the laws of movement of financial capital for the laws of money movement and vice versa – he reduces the laws of financial capital to those of simple circulation of metal coins. Money as such, as a specific economic phenomenon, is not comprehended theoretically, just as before, or rather it is conceived erroneously.
Ricardo himself sensed that this method was inadequate. He understood that the purely empirical induction to which he had to resort at this point did not and could not by its very nature yield the necessary conclusion about the nature of money. This understanding did not come from purely logical considerations. The fact is that he continually argues with heads of banks and financiers who, in his view, handle money in a way that contradicts the value nature of money rather than agrees with it. He regards this as the cause of all unpleasant conflicts and dysfunctions in the sphere of money circulation. That is what compels him to look for the genuine essence and nature of money, not the philosophical and logical interest.
The empirically given picture of money circulation presents something directly opposed to the genuine nature of money – the handling of money that does not correspond to the nature of money, the results of incorrect handling of money by banks. So, purely empirical induction, as Ricardo himself understood quite clearly, will at best yield a generalised expression of untrue movement of money, one that
does not correspond to the nature of money, and will never yield a generalised expression of movement of money corresponding to the law of its existence.
In other words, he wants to find a theoretical expression of the kind of movement of money (gold, coins, papers, vouchers, etc.) which directly answers the requirements of the universal law of value and does not depend (as in the empirical reality) on the ill will, cupidity, and caprice of heads of banks. He searches for the genuine nature of money with the aim in view that the practical financier should act differently from the way he has acted previously – in accordance with the needs flowing from the nature of money.
He endeavours to solve this task by deducing the theoretical definitions of money from the law of value, which alone can show the necessary characteristics contained in the very nature of money.
But he will not be able to deduce the specific features of money as such, those that are not contained in the theoretical definitions of the universal law of value but constitute the specificity of money as a particular kind of value. No sophisticated procedures will help to deduce the specific properties of money from the definitions of value. Willy-nilly they have to be obtained not through deduction from a universal principle of the theory but through purely empirical induction, by extraction of the abstract general from all forms of money circulation without exception, including metal coins, paper money, state banknotes, and all the rest.
The conception of money therefore remained one of the weakest points of the theory of the Ricardian school.
Ricardo’s deduction actually remains purely formal, enabling one to single out in the phenomenon only that which was already contained in the definitions of the universal concept, while induction remains purely empirical and formal rather than theoretical; formal induction does not permit to abstract from the phenomenon those of its aspects which necessarily belong to it, being bound to the nature of the phenomenon as its attributes rather than emerging in it through the influence of external circumstances unconnected with its nature.
The formal nature of deduction in Ricardo’s system was still more apparent when he attempted to include such phenomena as profit and surplus-value in the sphere of the law of value.
In including profit in the universal category of value, Ricardo came face to face with the paradox that profit, on the one hand, could be included in the category of value but, on the other hand, profit contained, over and above the established universal definitions, something that proved to contradict the universal law if one attempted to express this ‘something’ through the category of value.
The situation here is somewhat similar to a hypothetical case where one would apply the dictum ‘All men are mortal’ to a certain Caius and see that, on the one hand, the dictum does apply to him but, on the other, his individual special trait is precisely that he is immortal.
That is exactly the kind of absurd situation in which Ricardo found himself when he tried to deduce theoretical definitions of profit from the law of value, when he tried to apply the law of value directly to profit. True, Ricardo himself did not notice this contradiction although it was he who discovered it. But it was immediately noticed by enemies of the labour theory of value, in particular by Malthus.
Ricardo’s adherents and followers tried hard to prove what could not be proved that this contradiction in his system did not actually exist, and if it did, it resulted merely from the teacher’s vagueness of expression, deficiency of his terminology, etc., and could therefore be eliminated by purely formal means – through changes in the terms, more precise definitions, expressions, etc., etc.
These attempts signified the beginning of the decline of Ricardo’s school and factual rejection of the principles of the labour theory of value despite formal agreement with them. Precisely because the logical contradiction between the universal law of value and the law of the average rate of profit established by Ricardo’s theory is a quite real contradiction, all attempts to present it as non-existent, as the product of vague expression and imprecise definition, could not result in anything but factual rejection of the very essence of the theory, of its rational kernel.
The first and principal indication of the decline of Ricardo’s school was the factual discarding of the objective of developing the entire system of economic categories from one universal principle, from the principle of defining value by the quantity of labour time, from the conception of labour creating value as the real substance and source of all the other forms of wealth.
At the same time the development of theory after Ricardo directly led to the need for a firm grasp on the dialectics of the relation of the universal law to developed forms of its realisation, to the particular. development of Ricardo’s theory led to the problem of contradiction in the very essence of the definitions of the subject-matter of theoretical investigation. Neither Ricardo himself nor his orthodox followers could cope with the difficulties through which the actual dialectics of reality manifested itself to thinking. Their reasoning remained essentially metaphysical and naturally could not conceptually express dialectics without rejecting its own fundamental logical notions, including the metaphysical understanding of the relation of the abstract to the concrete, of the universal to the particular and the individual.
Inability and unwillingness to consciously express in concepts the contradictions, the dialectics inherent in things was manifested in reasoning as obvious logical contradictions within theory. Metaphysics in general knows only one way of solving logical contradictions – elimination of them from reasoning, interpretation of contradictions as products of vagueness of expression, definitions, etc., as purely subjective evil.
Although Ricardo approached facts and their theoretical expression in a spontaneously correct way, consciously he remained on the positions of the metaphysical method of reasoning. Deduction for him was still a method of development of concepts which permitted to see in a particular phenomenon only that which was already contained in the major premise, in the original universal concept and its definitions, while induction contained thereby to be one-sidedly empirical. It offered no opportunity for singling out those traits of phenomena which necessarily belong to them and for forming a theoretical abstraction that would express phenomena in their pure form, in their immanent content.
Deduction and induction, analysis and synthesis, universal concept and concept expressing the specificity of a phenomenon – all these categories still remained metaphysical opposites in Ricardo, which he could not link up.
Deduction continually came into conflict with the task of inductive generalisation of facts in his system; in trying to bring analytical abstractions into a system, i.e. to synthesise them he ran into the insurmountable difficulties of logical contradiction; a universal concept (value) proved to be in mutual contradiction with a particular concept (profit) in his system, etc., etc. Under enemy fire, these internal lifts widened and the whole labour theory of value decayed, turning into compilation work without any system, which could only plume itself on empirical comprehensiveness totally unaccompanied by a theoretical understanding of the actual concreteness.
Philosophy and logic of Ricardo’s time did not (and could not) provide any correct indications concerning a possible way out of all these difficulties. What was required here was conscious dialectics combined with a revolutionary critical attitude to reality – a mode of reasoning that was not afraid of contradictions in definitions of objects and was alien to an apologetic attitude to the existing state of things. All these problems met at one point – the need to understand the system of capitalist production as a concrete historical system, as a system that emerged and developed towards its end.
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