Marx Myths & Legends

Christopher J. Arthur

Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialectic and a Myth of Marxology

Hegel's "Master-Slave Dialectic" has, largely thanks to the work of Kojève and Koyre dominated much interpretation of Hegel, even though it primarily refers to one fairly small section of Hegel's "Phenomenology of Spirit". Since it describes the unfolding of consciousness in labour, and in a conflict between servant and master, it is easy to infer a link between the "lordship & bondage" chapter and a Marxian class politics, and this chapter of Hegel's has come to occupy a privileged position in interpretation of Marx, particularly in the French existentialist tradition. The grounds for this privileging of the "master-slave dialectic" are however, as Chris Arthur shows, distinctly questionable, and a simple alignment of Hegel and Marx in such terms can be misleading for interpretation of both Hegel and Marx.

Source: Originally published in the New Left Review, November-December 1983, pp. 67–75. Revised by the author for Marx Myths & Legends. Used with permission of New Left Review for non-commercial, educational purposes only, and no permission is granted to reproduce the text.

The Myth of ‘Simple Commodity Production’

Many misunderstandings have arisen from and about the structure of Capital. One of these is that Capital has an historical structure beginning with "Simple Commodity Production." As Chris Arthur shows in this article, Marx knows of no such mode of production. Marx begins with the simplest relation of capital and exhibits the relations of capital by means of a logical, not an historical structure.

Source: Written in February 2005 for "Marx Myths & Legends". Covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Licence 2.0.

Biographical information

Christopher J. Arthur formerly taught philosophy at the University of Sussex. He is the author of Dialectics of Labour: Marx and his Relation to Hegel (1986, Basil Blackwell) and The New Dialectic and Marx's Capital (2002, Brill). He edited and introduced: Marx and Engels, The German Ideology (1970, Lawrence & Wishart); Pashukanis, E. B., Law and Marxism. (1989, Pluto Press); Marx's Capital: A Student Edition (1992, Lawrence & Wishart); Friedrich Engels: A Centenary Appreciation (1996, Macmillan).

See also: Chris Arthur's reviews for Radical Philosophy