By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Historical materialism and the economics of Karl Marx
Author: Croce, Benedetto, 1866-1952
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Historical materialism and the economics of Karl Marx" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/Canadian Libraries)

       *       *       *       *       *

    | Transcriber's Note:                                       |
    |                                                           |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original     |
    | document have been preserved. Superscripts are            |
    | represented like so: 1^a                                  |
    |                                                           |
    | Obvious typographical errors have been corrected. For     |
    | a complete list, please see the end of this document.     |
    |                                                           |

       *       *       *       *       *






  _Fellow and Lecturer of Balliol College, Oxford_



  _First published by Howard Latimer Ltd._          _1914_
  _Transferred to George Allen & Unwin Ltd._        _1915_



  INTRODUCTION                                                 ix



  1. Scope of essay: Labriola's book implies that historical
  materialism is not a philosophy of history: Distinction
  between a philosophy of history and philosophising about
  history: Reason why two have been confused: Materialistic
  theory of History as stated by Labriola not an attempt to
  establish a law of history: This contrasted with theories
  of monists, and teleologists: Engels' statement that it is
  a new method erroneous: New content not new method            2

  2. Historical materialism a mass of new data of which
  historian becomes conscious: Does not state that history
  is nothing more than economic history, nor does it provide
  a theory of history: Is simply investigation of influence
  economic needs have exercised in history: This view does
  not detract from its importance                              12

  3. Questions as to relations between historical
  materialism and socialism; Only possible connection lies
  in special historical application: Bearing of historical
  materialism upon intellectual and moral truth: Throws
  light on influence of material conditions on their
  development, but does not demonstrate their relativity:
  Absolute morality a necessary postulate of socialism         21



  1. Relation between Professor Stammler's book on
  historical materialism and Marxism: Distinction between
  pure economics and general historical economics: Socialism
  not dependent on abstract sociological theory: Stammler's
  classification of the social sciences: His definition of
  society: Of social economics: Of social teleology: Nature
  of Stammler's social science does not provide abstract
  sociology: Social economics must be either pure economics
  applied to society or a form of history                      25




  _Das Kapital_ an abstract investigation: His society is
  not this or that society: Treats only of capitalist
  society: Assumption of equivalence between value and
  labour: Varying views about meaning of this law: Is a
  postulate or standard of comparison: Question as to value
  of this standard: Is not a moral ideal: Treats of economic
  society in so far as is a working society: Shows special
  way in which problem is solved in capitalist society:
  Marx's deductions from it                                    48


  Marxian economics not general economic science and
  labour-value not a general concept of value: Engels'
  rejection of general economic law: abstract concepts used
  by Marx are concepts of pure economics: relation of
  economic psychology to pure economics: pure economics does
  not destroy history or progress                              66


  Historical materialism a canon of historical
  interpretation: Canon does not imply anticipation of
  results: Question as to how Marx and Engels understood it:
  Difficulty of ascertaining correctly and method of doing
  so: How Marxians understand it: Their metaphysical
  tendency: Instances of confusion of concepts in their
  writings: Historical materialism has not a special
  philosophy immanent within it                                77


  Socialism and free trade not scientific deductions:
  Obsolete metaphysics of old theory of free trade: Basis of
  modern free trade theories not strictly scientific though
  only possible one: The desirable is not science nor the
  practicable: Scientific law only applicable under certain
  conditions: Element of daring in all action                  93


  Meaning of Marx's phrase the 'impotence of morality' and
  his remark that morality condemns what has been condemned
  by history: Profundity of Marx's philosophy immaterial:
  Kant's position not surpassed                               106


  Recapitulation: 1. Justification of Marxian economics as
  comparative sociological economics: 2. Historical
  materialism simply a canon of historical interpretation:
  3. Marxian social programme not a pure science: 4. Marxism
  neither intrinsically moral nor anti-moral                  115




  Labriola's criticism of method and conclusions of
  preceeding essays answered: His criticism merely
  destructive: Tendency of other thinkers to arrive at like
  conclusions                                                 120


  Meaning of phrase crisis in Marxianism: Sorel's view of
  equivalence of value and labour mostly in agreement with
  view put forward above: An attempt to examine profits
  independently of theory of value: Is not possible: Surplus
  product same as surplus value                               131



  Interpretation here given assumes acceptance of Marx's
  main principles: Necessary decline in rate of profit on
  hypothesis of technical improvement: Two successive stages
  confused by Marx: More accurately a decline in amount of
  profit: Marx assumes that would be an increase of capital:
  Would be same capital and increase in rate of profits:
  Decline in rate of profits due to other reasons             142





  Need for more comprehensive definition of the economic
  principle: Reasons why the mechanical conception
  erroneous, economic fact capable of appraisement: Cannot
  be scale of values for particular action: Economic datum a
  fact of human activity: Distinction and connection between
  pleasure and choice: Economic datum a fact of will:
  Knowledge a necessary presupposition of will: Distinction
  between technical and economic: Analogy of logic and
  æsthetic: Complete definition of economic datum             159


  Disagreement (1) about method (2) postulates: (1) Nothing
  arbitrary in economic method, analogy of classificatory
  sciences erroneous: (2) Metaphysical postulate that facts
  of human activity same as physical facts erroneous:
  Definition of practical activity in so far as admits of
  definition: Moral and economic activity and approval:
  Economic and moral remorse: Economic scale of values        174

  INDEX OF NAMES                                     187


The Essays in this volume, as will be apparent, have all of them had
an occasional origin. They bear evident traces of particular
controversy and contain much criticism of authors who are hardly, if
at all, known in this country. Their author thought it worth while to
collect them in one volume and it has been, I am sure, worth while to
have them translated into English, because though written on different
occasions and in different controversies they have all the same
purpose. They are an attempt to make clear by philosophical criticism
the real purpose and value of Marx's work.

It is often said that it is the business of philosophy to examine and
criticise the assumptions of the sciences and philosophy claims that
in this work it is not an unnecessary meddler stepping in where it is
not wanted. For time and again for want of philosophical criticism the
sciences have overstepped their bounds and produced confusion and
contradiction. The distinction between the proper spheres of science
and history and moral judgment is not the work of either science or
history or moral judgment but can only be accomplished by
philosophical reflection, and the philosopher will justify his work,
if he can show the various contending parties that his distinctions
will disentangle the puzzles into which they have fallen and help them
to understand one another.

The present state of the controversy about the value of the writings
of Karl Marx obviously calls for some such work of disentangling. No
honest student can deny that his work has been of great historic
importance and it is hard to believe that a book like _Das Kapital_
which has been the inspiration of a great movement can be nothing but
a tissue of false reasoning as some of its critics have affirmed. The
doctrine of the economic interpretation of history has revivified and
influenced almost all modern historical research. In a great part of
his analysis of the nature and natural development of a capitalist
society Marx has shown himself a prophet of extraordinary insight. The
more debatable doctrine of the class war has at least shown the
sterility of the earlier political theory which thought only in terms
of the individual and his state. The wonderful vitality of the Marxian
theory of labour value in spite of all the apparent refutations it has
suffered at the hands of orthodox political economists is an insoluble
puzzle if it had no more in it than the obvious fallacy which these
refutations expose. Only a great book could become 'the Bible of the
working classes.'

But the process of becoming a Bible is a fatal process. No one can
read much current Marxian literature or discuss politics or economics
with those who style themselves orthodox Marxians without coming to
the conclusion that the spirit of ecclesiastical dogmatism daily
growing weaker in its own home has been transplanted into the religion
of revolutionary socialism. Many of those whose eyes have been opened
to the truth as expounded by Marx seem to have been thereby granted
that faith which is the faculty of believing what we should otherwise
know to be untrue, and with them the economic interpretation of
history is transformed into a metaphysical dogma of deterministic
materialism. The philosopher naturally finds a stumbling-block in a
doctrine which is proclaimed but not argued. The historian however
grateful he may be for the light which economic interpretation has
given him, is up in arms against a theory which denies the
individuality and uniqueness of history and reduces it to an automatic
repetition of abstract formulæ. The politician when he is told of the
universal nature of the class war points triumphantly to the fact that
it is a war which those who should be the chief combatants are slow to
recognise or we should not find the working classes more ready to vote
for a Liberal or a Conservative than for a Socialist. The Socialist
must on consideration become impatient with a doctrine that by its
fatalistic determinism makes all effort unnecessary. If Socialism must
come inevitably by the automatic working out of economic law, why all
this striving to bring it about? The answer that political efforts can
make no difference, but may bring about the revolution sooner, is too
transparently inadequate a solution of the difficulty to deceive
anyone for long. Lastly the economist can hardly tolerate a theory of
value that seems to ignore entirely the law of supply and demand, and
concludes with some justice that either the theory of labour value is
nonsense or that Marx was talking about something quite apart in its
nature from the value which economics discusses. All these objections
are continually being made to Marxianism, and are met by no adequate
answer. And just as the sceptical lecturer of the street corner argues
that a religion which can make men believe in the story of Balaam's
ass must be as nonsensical as that story, so with as little justice
the academic critic or the anti-socialist politician concludes that
Socialism or at least Marxianism is a tissue of nonsensical statements
if these ridiculous dogmas are its fruit.

A disentangler of true and false in so-called Marxianism is obviously
needed, and Senatore Croce is eminently fitted for the work. Much of
the difficulty of Marx comes from his relation to Hegel. He was
greatly influenced by and yet had reacted from Hegel's philosophy
without making clear to others or possibly to himself what his final
position in regard to Hegel really was. Senatore Croce is a Hegelian,
but a critical one. His chief criticism of Hegel is that his
philosophy tends to obscure the individuality and uniqueness of
history, and Croce seeks to avoid that obscurity by distinguishing
clearly the methods of history, of science and of philosophy. He holds
that all science deals with abstractions, with what he has elsewhere
called pseudo-concepts. These abstractions have no real existence, and
it is fatal to confuse the system of abstraction which science builds
up with the concrete living reality. 'All scientific laws are abstract
laws,' as he says in one of these essays, (III p. 57), 'and there is
no bridge over which to pass from the concrete to the abstract; just
because the abstract is not a reality but a form of thought, one of
our, so to speak, abbreviated ways of thinking. And although a
knowledge of the laws may _light up_ our perception of reality, it
cannot become that perception itself.'

The application to the doctrine of historic materialism is obvious. It
calls attention to one of the factors of the historical process, the
economic. This factor it quite rightly treats in abstraction and
isolation. A knowledge of the laws of economic forces so obtained may
'light up our perception' of the real historical process, but only
darkness and confusion can result from mistaking the abstraction for
reality and from the production of those _a priori_ histories of the
stages of civilisation or the development of the family which have
discredited Marxianism in the eyes of historians. In the first essay
and the third part of the third Croce explains this distinction
between economic science and history and their proper relation to one
another. The second essay reinforces the distinction by criticism of
another attempt to construct a science which shall take the place of
history. A science in the strict sense history is not and never can

Once this is clearly understood it is possible to appreciate the
services rendered to history by Marx. For Croce holds that economics
is a real science. The economic factors in history can be isolated and
treated by themselves. Without such isolated treatment they cannot be
understood, and if they are not understood, our view of history is
bound to be unnecessarily narrow and onesided. _On the relative
importance_ of the economic and the political and the religious
factors in history he has nothing to say. There is no _a priori_
answer to the question whether any school of writers has unduly
diminished or exaggerated the importance of any one of these factors.
Their importance has varied at different times, and can at any time
only be estimated empirically. It remains a service of great value to
have distinguished a factor of such importance which had been
previously neglected.

If then the economic factor in history should be isolated and treated
separately, how is it to be distinguished? For it is essential to
Croce's view of science that each science has its own concepts which
can be distinguished clearly from those of other sciences. This
question is discussed in Essay III Q. 5 and more specifically in Essay
VI. Croce is specially anxious to distinguish between the spheres of
economics and ethics. Much confusion has been caused in political
economy in the past by the assumption that economics takes for granted
that men behave egoistically, _i.e._ in an immoral way. As a result of
this assumption men have had to choose between the condemnation of
economics or of mankind. The believer in humanity has been full of
denunciation of that monstrosity the economic man, while the
thorough-going believer in economics has assumed that the success of
the economic interpretation of history proves that men are always
selfish. The only alternative view seemed to be the rather cynical
compromise that though men were sometimes unselfish, their actions
were so prevailingly selfish that for political purposes the unselfish
actions might be ignored. Croce insists, and surely with justice, that
economic actions are not moral or immoral, but in so far as they are
economic, nonmoral. The moral worth of actions cannot be determined by
their success or failure in giving men satisfaction. For there are
some things in which men find satisfaction which they yet judge to be
bad. We must distinguish therefore the moral question whether such and
such an action is good or bad from the economic whether it is or is
not useful, whether it is a way by which men get what they, rightly
or wrongly want. In economics then we are merely discussing the
efficiency or utility of actions. We can ask of any action whether it
ought or ought not to be done at all. That is a moral question. We may
also ask whether it is done competently or efficiently: that is an
economic question. It might be contended that it is immoral to keep a
public house, but it would also have to be allowed that the discussion
of the most efficient way by keeping a public house was outside the
scope of the moral enquiry. Mrs Weir of Hermiston was confusing
economics with ethics when she answered Lord Braxfield's complaints of
his ill-cooked dinner by saying that the cook was a very pious woman.
Economic action according to Croce is the condition of moral action.
If action has no economic value, it is merely aimless, but it may have
economic value without being moral, and the consideration of economic
value must therefore be independent of ethics.

Marx, Croce holds was an economist and not a moralist, and the moral
judgments of socialists are not and cannot be derived from any
scientific examination of economic processes.

So much for criticisms of Marx or rather of exaggerated developments
of Marxianism, which though just and important, are comparatively
obvious. The most interesting part of Signor Croce's criticism is his
interpretation of the shibboleth of orthodox Marxians and the
stumbling-block of economists, the Marxian theory of labour value
with its corollary of surplus value. Marx's exposition of the doctrine
in _Das Kapital_ is the extreme of abstract reasoning. Yet it is found
in a book full of concrete descriptions of the evils of the factory
system and of moral denunciation and satire. If Marx's theory be taken
as an account of what determines the actual value of concrete things
it is obviously untrue. The very use of the term surplus value is
sufficient to show that it might be and sometimes is taken to be the
value which commodities ought to have, but none can read Marx's
arguments and think that he was concerned with a value which should
but did not exist. He is clearly engaged on a scientific not a Utopian

Croce attempts to find a solution by pointing out that the society
which Marx is describing is not this or that actual society, but an
ideal, in the sense of a hypothetical society, capitalist society as
such. Marx has much to say of the development of capitalism in
England, but he is not primarily concerned to give an industrial
history of England or of any other existing society. He is a scientist
and deals with abstractions or types and considers England only in so
far as in it the characteristics of the abstract capitalist society
are manifested. The capitalism which he is analysing does not exist
because no society is completely capitalist. Further it is to be
noticed that in his analysis of value Marx is dealing with objects
only in so far as they are commodities produced by labour. This is
evident enough in his argument. The basis of his contention that all
value is 'congealed labour time' is that all things which have
economic value have in common only the fact that labour has been
expended on them, and yet afterwards he admits that there are things
in which no labour has been expended which yet have economic value. He
seems to regard this as an incidental unimportant fact. Yet obviously
it is a contradiction which vitiates his whole argument. If all things
which have economic value have not had labour expended on them, we
must look elsewhere for their common characteristic. We should
probably say that they all have in common the fact that they are
desired and that there is not an unlimited supply of them. The pure
economist finds the key to this analysis of value in the consideration
of the laws of supply and demand, which alone affect all things that
have economic value, and finds little difficulty in refuting Marx's
theory, on the basis which his investigation assumes.

A consideration of Marx's own argument forces us therefore to the
conclusion that either Marx was an incapable bungler or that he
thought the fact that some things have economic value and are yet not
the product of labour irrelevant to his argument because he was
talking of economic value in two senses, firstly in the sense of
price, and secondly in a peculiar sense of his own. This indeed is
borne out by his distinction of value and price. Croce developing this
hint, suggests that the importance of Marx's theory lies in a
comparison between a capitalist society and another abstract economic
society in which there are no commodities on which labour is not
expended, and no monopoly. We thus have two abstract societies, the
capitalist society which though abstract is very largely actualised in
modern civilisation, and another quite imaginary economic society of
unfettered competition, which is continually assumed by the classical
economist, but which, as Marx said, could only exist where there was
no private property in capital, _i.e._ in the collectivist state.

Now in a society of that kind in which there was no monopoly and
capital was at everyone's disposal equally, the value of commodities
would represent the value of the labour put into them, and that value
might be represented in units of socially necessary labour time. It
would still have to be admitted that an hour of one man's labour might
be of much greater value to the community than two hours of another
man, but that Marx has already allowed for. The unit of socially
necessary labour time is an abstraction, and the hour of one man might
contain two or any number of such abstract units of labour time. What
Marx has done is to take the individualist economist at his word: he
has accepted the notion of an economic society as a number of
competing individuals. Only he has insisted that they shall start fair
and therefore that they shall have nothing to buy or sell but their
labour. The discrepancy between the values which would exist in such
a society and actual prices represent the disturbance created by the
fact that actual society is not a society of equal competitors, but
one in which certain competitors start with some kind of advantage or

If this is really the kernel of Marx's doctrine, it bears a close
relation to a simpler and more familiar contention, that in a society
where free economic competition holds sway, each man gets what he
deserves, for his income represents the sum that society is prepared
to pay for his services, the social value of his work. In this form
the hours worked are supposed to be uniform, and the differences in
value are taken to represent different amounts of social service. In
Marx's argument the social necessity is taken as uniform, and the
difference in value taken to represent differences in hours of work.
While the main abstract contention remains the same, most of those who
argue that in a system of unfettered economic competition most men get
what they deserve, rather readily ignore the existence of monopoly,
and assume that this argument justifies the existing distribution of
wealth. The chief purpose of Marx's argument is to emphasise the
difference between such an economic system and a capitalist society.
He is here, as so often, turning the logic of the classical economists
against themselves, and arguing that the conditions under which a
purely economic distribution of wealth could take place, could only
exist in a community where monopoly had been completely abolished and
all capital collectivised.

Croce maintains that Marx's theory of value is economic and not moral.
Yet it is hard to read Marx and certainly Marxians without finding in
them the implication that the values produced in such an economic
society would be just. If that implication be examined, we come on an
important difficulty still remaining in this theory. The contention
that in a system of unfettered economic competition, men get the
reward they deserve, assumes that it is just that if one man has a
greater power of serving society than another he should be more highly
rewarded for his work. This the individualist argument with which we
compared Marx's assumes without question. But the Marxian theory of
value is frequently interpreted to imply that amount of work is the
only claim to reward. For differences in value it is held are created
by differences in the amount of labour. But the word amount may here
be used in two senses. When men say that the amount of work a man does
_should_ determine a man's reward; they commonly mean that if one man
works two hours and another one, the first ought to get twice the
reward of the second. 'Amount' here means the actual time spent in
labour. But in Marx's theory of value amount means something quite
different, for an hour of one man's work may, he admits, be equal to
two of another man's. He means by amount a sum of abstract labour time
units. Marx's scientific theory of value is quite consistent with
different abilities getting different rewards, the moral contention
that men should get more reward if they work more and for no other
reason is not. The equation of work done by men of different abilities
by expressing them in abstract labour time units is essential to
Marx's theory but fatal to the moral claim sometimes founded upon it.

Further the great difficulty in allowing that it is just that men of
different abilities should have different rewards, comes from the fact
that differences of ability are of the nature of monopolies. In a pure
economic society high rewards would be given to rare ability and
although it is possible to equate work of rare ability with work of
ordinary ability by expressing both as amounts of abstract labour time
units, it surely remains true that the value is determined not by the
amount of abstract labour time congealed in it but by the law of
supply and demand. Where there are differences of ability there is
some kind of monopoly, and where there is monopoly, you cannot
eliminate the influence of the relation of supply and demand in the
determination of value. What you imagine you have eliminated by the
elimination of capital, which you can collectivise, remains
obstinately in individual differences of ability which cannot be

But here I have entered beyond the limits of Croce's argument. His
critical appraisement of Marx's work must be left to others to judge
who have more knowledge of Marx and of economics than I can lay claim
to. I am confident only that all students of Marx whether they be
disciples or critics, will find in these essays illumination in a
field where much bitter controversy has resulted in little but
confusion and obscurity.

                                                   A.D. LINDSAY.


Historical materialism is what is called a fashionable subject. The
theory came into being fifty years ago, and for a time remained
obscure and limited; but during the last six or seven years it has
rapidly attained great fame and an extensive literature, which is
daily increasing, has grown up around it. It is not my intention to
write once again the account, already given many times, of the origin
of this doctrine; nor to restate and criticise the now well-known
passages in which Marx and Engels asserted the theory, nor the
different views of its opponents, its supporters, its exponents, and
its correctors and corruptors. My object is merely to submit to my
colleagues some few remarks concerning the doctrine, taking it in the
form in which it appears in a recent book by Professor Antonio
Labriola, of the University of Rome[1].

For many reasons, it does not come within my province to praise
Labriola's book. But I cannot help saying as a needful explanation,
that it appears to me to be the fullest and most adequate treatment of
the question. The book is free from pedantry and learned tattle,
whilst it shows in every line signs of the author's complete knowledge
of all that has been written on the subject: a book, in short, which
saves the annoyance of controversy with erroneous and exaggerated
opinions, which in it appear as superseded. It has a grand opportunity
in Italy, where the materialistic theory of history is known almost
solely in the spurious form bestowed on it by an ingenious professor
of economics, who even pretends to be its inventor[2].


    _1. Scope of essay: Labriola's book implies that historical
        materialism is not a philosophy of history: Distinction
        between a philosophy of history and philosophising about
        history: Reason why two have been confused: Materialistic
        theory of history as stated by Labriola not an attempt to
        establish a law of history: This contrasted with theories
        of monists, and teleologists: Engels' statement that it
        is a new method erroneous: New content not new method._

Any reader of Labriola's book who tries to obtain from it a precise
concept of the new theory of history, will reach in the first instance
a conclusion which must appear to him evident and incontestable, and
which I sum up in the following statement: 'historical materialism,
so-called, _is not a philosophy of history_.' Labriola does not state
this denial explicitly; it may even be granted that, in words, he
sometimes says exactly the opposite.[3] But, if I am not mistaken, the
denial is contained implicitly in the restrictions which he places on
the meaning of the theory.

The philosophical reaction of realism overthrew the systems built up
by teleology and metaphysical dogmatism, which had limited the field
of the historian. The old philosophy of history was destroyed. And, as
if in contempt and depreciation, the phrase, 'to construct a
philosophy of history,' came to be used with the meaning: 'to
construct a fanciful and artificial and perhaps prejudiced history.'

It is true that of late books have begun to re-appear actually having
as their title the 'philosophy of history.' This might seem to be a
revival, but it is not. In fact their subject is a very different one.
These recent productions do not aim at supplying a _new philosophy of
history_, they simply offer _some philosophising about history_. The
distinction deserves to be explained.

The possibility of a philosophy of history presupposes the possibility
of reducing the sequence of history to general concepts. Now, whilst
it is possible to reduce to general concepts the particular factors of
reality which appear in history and hence to construct a philosophy
of morality or of law, of science or of art, and a general philosophy,
it is not possible to work up into general concepts the single complex
whole formed by these factors, _i.e._ the _concrete fact_, in which
the historical sequence consists. To divide it into its factors is to
destroy it, to annihilate it. In its complex totality, historical
change is incapable of reduction except to one concept, that of
_development_: a concept empty of everything that forms the peculiar
content of history. The old philosophy of history regarded a
conceptual working out of history as possible; either because by
introducing the idea of God or of Providence, it read into the facts
the aims of a divine intelligence; or because it treated the formal
concept of development as including within itself, logically, the
contingent determinations. The case of positivism is strange in that,
being neither so boldly imaginative as to yield to the conceptions of
teleology and rational philosophy, nor so strictly realistic and
intellectually disciplined as to attack the error at its roots, it has
halted halfway, _i.e._ at the actual concept of development and of
evolution, and has announced the philosophy of evolution as the true
philosophy of history: development itself--as the law which explains
development! Were this tautology only in question little harm would
result; but the misfortune is that, by a too easy confusion, the
concept of evolution often emerges, in the hands of the positivists,
from the formal emptiness which belongs to it in truth, and acquires
a meaning or rather a pretended meaning, very like the meanings of
teleology and metaphysics. The almost religious unction and reverence
with which one hears the sacred mystery of _evolution_ spoken of gives
sufficient proof of this.

From such realistic standpoints, now as always, any and every
philosophy of history has been criticised. But the very reservations
and criticisms of the old mistaken constructions demand a discussion
of concepts, that is a process of philosophising: although it may be a
philosophising which leads properly to the denial of a philosophy of
history. Disputes about method, arising out of the needs of the
historian, are added. The works published in recent years embody
different investigations of this kind, and in a plainly realistic
sense, under the title of _philosophy of history_. Amongst these I
will mention as an example a German pamphlet by Simmel, and, amongst
ourselves a compendious introduction by Labriola himself. There are,
undoubtedly, still philosophies of history which continue to be
produced in the old way: voices _clamantium in deserto_, to whom may
be granted the consolation of believing themselves the only apostles
of an unrecognised truth.

Now the materialistic theory of history, in the form in which Labriola
states it, involves an entire abandonment of all attempt to establish
a law of history, to discover a general concept under which all the
complex facts of history can be included.

I say 'in the form in which he states it,' because Labriola is aware
that several sections of the materialistic school of history tend to
approximate to these obsolete ideas.

One of these sections, which might be called that of the _monists_, or
_abstract materialists_, is characterised by the introduction of
metaphysical materialism into the conception of history.

As the reader knows, Marx, when discussing the relation between his
opinions and Hegelianism employed a pointed phrase which has been
taken too often beside the point. He said that with Hegel history was
standing on its head and that it must be turned right side up again in
order to replace it on its feet. For Hegel the idea is the real world,
whereas for him (Marx) 'the ideal is nothing else than the material
world' reflected and translated by the human mind. Hence the statement
so often repeated, that the materialistic view of history is the
negation or antithesis of the idealistic view. It would perhaps be
convenient to study once again, accurately and critically, these
asserted relations between scientific socialism and Hegelianism. To
state the opinion which I have formed on the matter; the link between
the two views seems to me to be, in the main, simply _psychological_.
Hegelianism was the _early inspiration_ of the youthful Marx, and it
is natural that everyone should link up the new ideas with the old as
a development, an amendment, an antithesis. In fact, Hegel's
_Ideas_--and Marx knew this perfectly well--are not human _ideas_,
and to turn the Hegelian philosophy of history upside down cannot give
us the statement that ideas arise as reflections of material
conditions. The inverted form would logically be this: history is not
a process of the _Idea_, _i.e._ of a rational reality, but a system of
forces: to the rational view is opposed the dynamic view. As to the
Hegelian dialectic of concepts it seems to me to bear a purely
external and approximate resemblance to the historical notion of
economic eras and of the antithetical conditions of society. Whatever
may be the value of this suggestion, which I express with hesitation,
recognising the difficulty of the problems connected with the
interpretation and origin of history;--this much is evident, that
metaphysical materialism, at which Marx and Engels, starting from the
extreme Hegelian left, easily arrived, supplied the name and some of
the components of their view of history. But both the name and these
components are really extraneous to the true character of their
conception. This can be neither materialistic nor spiritualistic, nor
dualistic nor monadistic: within its limited field the elements of
things are not presented in such a way as to admit of a philosophical
discussion whether they are reducible one to another, and are united
in one ultimate source. What we have before us are concrete objects,
the earth, natural production, animals; we have before us man, in whom
the so-called psychical processes appear as differentiated from the
so-called physiological processes. To talk in this case of monism and
materialism is to talk nonsense. Some socialist writers have expressed
surprise because Lange, in his classic _History of Materialism_, does
not discuss historical materialism. It is needless to remark that
Lange was familiar with Marxian socialism. He was, however, too
cautious to confuse the metaphysical materialism with which he was
concerned, with historical materialism which has no essential
connection with it, and is merely a _way of speaking_.

But the metaphysical materialism of the authors of the new historical
doctrine, and the name given to the latter, have been not a little
misleading. I will refer as an example to a recent and bad little
book, which seems to me symptomatic, by a sufficiently accredited
socialist writer, Plechanow.[4] The author, designing to study
historical materialism, thinks it needful to go back to Holbach and
Helvetius. And he waxes indignant at metaphysical dualism and
pluralism, declaring that 'the most important philosophical systems
were always _monistic_, that is they interpreted matter and spirit as
merely two classes of phenomena having a single and indivisible
cause.' And in reference to those who maintain the distinction between
the factors in history, he exclaims: 'We see here the old story,
always recurring, of the struggle between eclecticism and monism, the
story of the dividing walls; here nature, there spirit, etc.' Many
will be amazed at this unexpected leap from the materialistic study
of history into the arms of monism, in which they were unaware that
they ought to have such confidence.

Labriola is most careful to avoid this confusion: 'Society is a
datum,' he says, 'history is nothing more than the history of
society.' And he controverts with equal energy and success the
_naturalists_, who wish to reduce the history of man to the history of
nature, and the _verbalists_, who claim to deduce from the name
materialism the real nature of the new view of history. But it must
appear, even to him, that the name might have been more happily
chosen, and that the confusion lies, so to speak, inherent in it. It
is true that old words can be bent to new meanings, but within limits
and after due consideration.

In regard to the tendency to reconstruct a materialistic philosophy of
history, substituting an omnipresent Matter for an omnipresent Idea,
it suffices to re-assert the impossibility of any such construction,
which must become merely superfluous and tautologous unless it
abandoned itself to dogmatism. But there is another error, which is
remarked among the followers of the materialistic school of history,
and which is connected with the former, viz., to anticipate harm not
only in the interpretation of history but also in the guidance of
practical activities. I refer to the teleological tendencies (abstract
teleology), which also Labriola opposes with a cutting attack. The
very idea of _progress_, which has seemed to many the only law of
history worth saving out of the many devised by philosophical and
non-philosophical thinkers, is by him deprived of the dignity of a
law, and reduced to a sufficiently narrow significance. The idea of
it, says Labriola, is 'not only empirical, but always incidental and
hence limited': progress 'does not influence the sequence of human
affairs like destiny or fate, nor like the command of a law.' History
teaches us that man is capable of progress; and we can look at all the
different series of events from this point of view: that is all. No
less incidental and empirical is the idea of _historical necessity_,
which must be freed from all remnants of rationalism and of
transcendentalism, so that we see in it the mere recognition of the
very small share left in the sequence of events, to individuals and
personal free will.

It must be admitted that a little of the blame for the teleological
and fatalistic misunderstandings fall on Marx himself. Marx, as he
once had to explain, liked to 'coquette' with the Hegelian
terminology: a dangerous weapon, with which it would have been better
not to trifle. Hence it is now thought necessary to give to several of
his statements a somewhat broad interpretation in agreement with the
general trend of his theories.[5] Another excuse lies in the impetuous
confidence which, as in the case of any practical work, accompanies
the practical activities of socialism, and engenders beliefs and
expectations which do not always agree with prudent critical and
scientific thought. It is strange to see how the positivists, newly
converted to socialism, exceed all the others (see the effect of a
good school!) in their teleological beliefs, and their facile
predeterminations. They swallow again what is worst in Hegelianism,
which they once so violently opposed without recognising it. Labriola
has finely said that the very forecasts of socialism are merely
_morphological_ in nature; and, in fact, neither Marx nor Engels would
ever have asserted in the abstract that communism must come about by
an unavoidable necessity, in the manner in which they foresaw it. If
history is always accidental, why in this western Europe of ours,
might not a new barbarism arise owing to the effect of incalculable
circumstances? Why should not the coming of communism be either
rendered superfluous or hastened by some of those technical
discoveries, which, as Marx himself has proved, have hitherto produced
the greatest revolutions in the course of history?

I think then that better homage would be rendered to the materialistic
view of history, not by calling it the _final and definite philosophy
of history_ but rather by declaring that properly speaking _it is not
a philosophy of history_. This intrinsic nature which is evident to
those who understand it properly, explains the difficulty which exists
in finding for it a satisfactory theoretical statement; and why to
Labriola it appears to be only in its beginnings and yet to need much
development. It explains too why Engels said (and Labriola accepts the
remark), that it is nothing more than a new _method_; which means a
denial that it is a new _theory_. But is it indeed a new method? I
must acknowledge that this name _method_ does not seem to me
altogether accurate. When the philosophical idealists tried to arrive
at the facts of history by inference, this was truly a new method; and
there may still exist some fossil of those blessed times, who makes
such attempts at history. But the historians of the materialistic
school employ the same intellectual weapons and follow the same paths
as, let us say, the philological historians. They only introduce into
their work some new _data_, some new _experiences_. The content is
different, not the nature of the method.


    _2. Historical materialism a mass of new data of which
        historian becomes conscious: Does not state that history
        is nothing more than economic history, nor does it
        provide a theory of history: Is simply investigation of
        influence economic needs have exercised in history: This
        view does not detract from its importance._

I have now reached the point which for me is fundamental. Historical
materialism is not and cannot be a new philosophy of history or a new
method; but it is properly this; a _mass of new data_, _of new
experiences_, of which the historian becomes conscious.

It is hardly necessary to mention the overthrow a short time ago of
the naïve opinion of the ordinary man regarding the objectivity of
history; almost as though events spoke, and the historian was there to
hear and to record their statements. Anyone who sets out to write
history has before him documents and narratives, _i.e._ small
fragments and traces of what has actually happened. In order to
attempt to reconstruct the complete process, he must fall back on a
series of assumptions, which are in fact the ideas and information
which he possesses concerning the affairs of nature, of man, of
society. The pieces needed to complete the whole, of which he has only
the fragments before him, he must find within himself. His worth and
skill as a historian is shown by the accuracy of his adaptation.
Whence it clearly follows that the enrichment of these views and
experiences is essential to progress in historical narration.

What are these points of view and experiences which are offered by the
materialistic theory of history?

That section of Labriola's book which discusses this appears to me
excellent and sufficient. Labriola points out how historical narration
in the course of its development, might have arrived at the theory of
_historical factors_; _i.e._, the notion that the sequence of history
is the result of a number of forces, known as physical conditions,
social organisations, political institutions, personal influences.
Historical materialism goes beyond, to investigate the interaction of
these factors; or rather it studies them all together as parts of a
single process. According to this theory--as is now well known, and as
Marx expressed it in a classical passage--the foundations of history
are the methods of production, _i.e._ the economic conditions which
give rise to class distinctions, to the constitution of rank and of
law, and to those beliefs which make up social and moral customs and
sentiments, the reflection whereof is found in art, science and

To understand this point of view accurately is not easy, and it is
misunderstood by all those who, rather than take it in the concrete,
state it absolutely after the manner of an absolute philosophical
truth. The theory cannot be maintained in the abstract without
destroying it, _i.e._ without turning it into the _theory of the
factors_, which is according to my view, the final word in abstract
analysis.[6] Some have supposed that historical materialism asserts
that history is nothing more than economic history, and all the rest
is simply a mask, an appearance without reality. And then they labour
to discover the true god of history, whether it be the productive tool
or the earth, using arguments which call to mind the proverbial
discussion about the egg and the hen. Friedrich Engels was attacked by
someone who applied to him to ask how the influence of such and such
other historical factors ought to be understood in reference to the
economic factor. In the numerous letters which he wrote in reply, and
which now, since his death, are coming out in the reviews, he let it
be understood that, when together with Marx, upon the prompting of the
facts, he conceived this new view of history, he had not meant to
state an exact theory. In one of these letters he apologises for
whatever exaggeration he and Marx may have put into the controversial
statements of their ideas, and begs that attention may be paid to the
practical applications made of them rather than to the theoretical
expressions employed. It would be a fine thing, he exclaims, if a
formula could be given for the interpretation of all the facts of
history! By applying this formula, it would be as easy to understand
any period of history as to solve a simple equation.[7]

Labriola grants that the supposed reduction of history to the economic
factor is a ridiculous notion, which may have occurred to one of the
too hasty defenders of the theory, or to one of its no less hasty
opponents.[8] He acknowledges the complexity of history, how the
products of the first degree first establish themselves, and then
isolate themselves and become independent; the ideals which harden
into traditions, the persistent survivals, the elasticity of the
psychical mechanism which makes the individual irreducible to a type
of his class or social position, the unconsciousness and ignorance of
their own situations often observed in men, the stupidity and
unintelligibility of the beliefs and superstitions arising out of
unusual accidents and complexities. And since man lives a natural as
well as a social existence, he admits the influence of race, of
temperament and of the promptings of nature. And, finally, he does not
overlook the influence of the individual, _i.e._ of the work of those
who are called _great men_, who if they are not the creators, are
certainly collaborators of history.

With all these concessions he realises, if I am not mistaken, that it
is useless to look for a theory, in any strict sense of the word, in
historical materialism; and even that it is not what can properly be
called a _theory_ at all. He confirms us in this view by his fine
account of its origin, under the stimulus of the French Revolution,
that great school of sociology--as he calls it. The materialistic
view of history arose out of the need to account for a definite
social phenomenon, not from an abstract inquiry into the factors of
historical life. It was created in the minds of politicians and
revolutionists, not of cold and calculating _savants_ of the library.

At this stage someone will say:--But if the theory, in the strict
sense, is not true, wherein then lies the discovery? In what does the
novelty consist? To speak in this way is to betray a belief that
intellectual progress consists solely in the perfecting of the forms
and abstract categories of thought.

Have approximate observations no value in addition to theories? The
knowledge of what has usually happened, everything in short that is
called experience of life, and which can be expressed in general but
not in strictly accurate terms? Granting this limitation and
understanding always an _almost_ and an _about_, there are discoveries
to be made which are fruitful in the interpretation of life and of
history. Such are the assertions of the dependence of all parts of
life upon each other, and of their origin in the economic subsoil, so
that it can be said that there is but one single history; the
discovery of the true nature of the State (as it appears in the
empirical world), regarded as an institution for the defence of the
ruling class; the proved dependence of ideals upon class interests;
the coincidence of the great epochs of history with the great economic
eras; and the many other observations by which the school of
historical materialism is enriched. Always with the aforesaid
limitations, it may be said with Engels: 'that men make their history
themselves, but within a given limited range, on a basis of conditions
actually pre-existent, amongst which the economic conditions, although
they may be influenced by the others, the political and ideal, are
yet, in the final analysis, decisive, and form the red thread which
runs through the whole of history and guides us to an understanding

From this point of view too, I entirely agree with Labriola in
regarding as somewhat strange the inquiries made concerning the
supposed forerunners and remote authors of historical materialism, and
as quite mistaken the inferences that these inquiries will detract
from the importance and originality of the theory. The Italian
professor of economics to whom I referred at the beginning, when
convicted of a plagiarism, thought to defend himself by saying that,
at bottom, Marx's idea was not peculiar to Marx; hence, at worst, he
had robbed a thief. He gave a list of forerunners, reaching back as
far as Aristotle. Just lately, another Italian professor reproved a
colleague with much less justice for having forgotten that the
economic interpretation had been explained by Lorenzo Stein before
Marx, I could multiply such examples. All this reminds me of one of
Jean Paul Richter's sayings: that we hoard our thoughts as a miser
does his money; and only slowly do we exchange the money for
possessions, and thoughts for experiences and feelings. Mental
observations attain real importance through the realisation in thought
and an insight into the fulness of their possibilities. This
realisation and insight have been granted to the modern socialist
movement and to its intellectual leaders Marx and Engels. We may read
even in Thomas More that the State is a conspiracy of the rich who
make plots for their own convenience: _quaedam conspiratio divitum, de
suis commodis reipublicae nomine tituloque tractantium_, and call
their intrigues laws: _machinamenta jam leges fiunt_.[9] And, leaving
Sir Thomas More--who, after all, it will be said, was a communist--who
does not know by heart Marzoni's lines: _Un' odiosa Forza il mondo
possiede e fa nomarsi Dritto_....[10] But the materialist and
socialist interpretation of the State is not therefore any the less
new. The common proverb, indeed, tells us that interest is the most
powerful motive for human actions and conceals itself under the most
varied forms; but it is none the less true that the student of history
who has previously examined the teachings of socialist criticism, is
like a short-sighted man who has provided himself with a good pair of
spectacles: he sees quite differently and many mysterious shadows
reveal their exact shape.

In regard to historical narrative then, the materialistic view of
history resolves itself into a warning to keep its observations in
mind as a new aid to the understanding of history. Few problems are
harder than that which the historian has to solve. In one particular
it resembles the problem of the statesman, and consists in
_understanding the conditions of a given nation at a given time in
respect to their causes and functioning_; but with this difference:
the historian confines himself to exposition, the statesman proceeds
further to modification; the former pays no penalty for
misunderstanding, whereas the latter is subjected to the severe
correction of facts. Confronted by such a problem, the majority of
historians--I refer in particular to the conditions of the study in
Italy--proceed at a disadvantage, almost like the savants of the old
school who constructed philology and researched into etymology. Aids
to a closer and deeper understanding, have come at length from
different sides, and frequently. But the one which is now offered by
the materialistic view of history is great, and suited to the
importance of the modern socialist movement. It is true that the
historian must render exact and definite in each particular instance,
that co-ordination and subordination of factors which is indicated by
historical materialism, in general, for the greater number of cases,
and approximately; herein lies his task and his difficulties, which
may sometimes be insurmountable. But now the road has been pointed
out, along which the solution must be sought, of some of the greatest
problems of history apart from those which have been already

I will say nothing of the recent attempts at an historical application
of the materialistic conception, because it is not a subject to hurry
over in passing, and I intend to deal with it on another occasion. I
will content myself with echoing Labriola, who gives a warning against
a mistake, common to many of these attempts. This consists in
retranslating, as he says, into economic phraseology, the old
historical perspective which of late has so often been translated into
Darwinian phraseology. Certainly it would not be worth while to create
a new movement in historical studies in order to attain such a result.


    _3. Questions as to relation between historical materialism
        and socialism: Only possible connection lies in special
        historical application: Bearing of historical materialism
        upon intellectual and moral truth: Throws light on
        influence of material conditions on their development,
        but does not demonstrate their relativity: Absolute
        morality a necessary postulate of socialism._

Two things seem to me to deserve some further explanation. What is the
relation between historical materialism and socialism? Labriola, if I
am not mistaken, is inclined to connect closely and almost to identify
the two things. The whole of socialism lies in the materialistic
interpretation of history, which is the truth itself of socialism; to
accept one and reject the other is to understand neither. I consider
this statement to be somewhat exaggerated, or, at least, to need
explanation. If historical materialism is stripped of every survival
of finality and of the benignities of providence, it can afford no
apology for either socialism or any other practical guidance for life.
On the other hand, in its special historical application, _in the
assertion which can be made by its means_, its real and close
connection with socialism is to be found. This assertion is as
follows:--Society is now so constituted that socialism is the only
possible solution which it contains within itself. An assertion and
forecast of this kind moreover will need to be filled out before it
can be a basis for practical action. It must be completed by motives
of interest, or by ethical and sentimental motives, moral judgments
and the enthusiasms of faith. The assertion in itself is cold and
powerless. It will be insufficient to move the cynic, the sceptic, the
pessimist. But it will suffice to put on their guard all those classes
of society who see their ruin in the sequence of history and to pledge
them to a long struggle, although the final outcome may be useless.
Amongst these classes is the proletariat, which indeed aims at the
extinction of its class. Moral conviction and the force of sentiment
must be added to give positive guidance and to supply an imperative
ideal for those who neither feel the blind impulse of class interest,
nor allow themselves to be swept along by the whirling current of the

The final point which I think demands explanation, although in this
case also the difference between myself and Labriola does not appear
to be serious, is this: to what conclusions does historical
materialism lead in regard to the ideal values of man, in regard that
is to intellectual truth and to what is called moral truth?

The history of the origin of intellectual truth is undoubtedly made
clearer by historical materialism, which aims at showing the influence
of actual material conditions upon the opening out, and the very
development of the human intellect. Thus the history of opinions, like
that of science, needs to be for the most part re-written from this
point of view. But those who, on account of such considerations
concerning historical origins, return in triumph to the old relativity
and scepticism, are confusing two quite distinct classes of problem.
Geometry owes its origin no doubt to given conditions which are worth
determining; but it does not follow that geometrical truth is
something merely historical and relative. The warning seems
superfluous, but even here misunderstandings are frequent and
remarkable. Have I not read in some socialist author that Marx's
_discoveries_ themselves are of merely historical _importance_ and
must necessarily be _disowned_. I do not know what meaning this can
have unless it has the very trivial one of a recognition of the
limitation of all human work, or unless it resolves itself into the no
less idle remark that Marx's thought is the offspring of his age. This
onesided history is still more dangerous in reference to moral truth.
The science of morality is evidently now in a transformation stage.
The ethical imperative, whose classics are Kant's _Kritik der reinen
Vernunft_, and Herbart's _Allgemeine praktische Philosophie_, appears
no longer adequate. In addition to it an historical and a formal
science of morality are making their appearance, which regard morality
as a fact, and study its universal nature apart from all
preoccupations as to creeds and rules. This tendency shows itself not
only in socialistic circles, but also elsewhere, and it will be
sufficient for me to refer to Simmel's clever writings. Labriola is
thus justified in his defence of new methods of regarding morality.
'Ethics,--he says,--for us resolves itself into an historical study of
the subjective and objective conditions according to which morality
develops or finds hindrances to its development.' But he adds
cautiously, 'in this way alone, _i.e._, within these limits, is there
value in the statement that morality corresponds to the social
situation, _i.e._, _in the final analysis_ to the economic
conditions,' The question of the intrinsic and absolute worth of the
moral ideal, of its reducibility or irreducibility to intellectual
truth, remains untouched.

It would perhaps have been well if Labriola had dwelt a little more on
this point. A strong tendency is found in socialistic literature
towards a moral relativity, not indeed historical, but substantial,
which regards morality as a vain imagination. This tendency is chiefly
due to the necessity in which Marx and Engels found themselves, in
face of the various types of Utopians, of asserting that the so-called
social question is not a moral question,--_i.e._ as this must be
interpreted, it cannot be solved by sermons and so-called moral
methods--and to their bitter criticism of class ideals and
hypocrisies.[11] This result was helped on, as it seems to me, by the
Hegelian source of the views of Marx and Engels; it being obvious that
in the Hegelian philosophy ethics loses the rigidity given to it by
Kant and preserved by Herbart. And lastly the name _materialism_ is
perhaps not without influence here, since it brings to mind at once
well-understood interests and the calculating comparison of pleasures.
It is, however, evident that idealism or absolute morality is a
necessary postulate of socialism. Is not the interest which prompts
the formation of a concept of _surplus-value_ a moral interest, or
social if it is preferred? Can surplus value be spoken of in pure
economics? Does not the labourer sell his labour-power for exactly
what it is worth, given his position in existing society? And, without
the moral postulate, how could we ever explain Marx's political
activity, and that note of violent indignation and bitter satire which
is felt in every page of _Das Kapital_? But enough of this, for I find
myself making quite elementary statements such as can only be
overlooked owing to ambiguous or exaggerated phraseology.

And in conclusion, I repeat my regret, already expressed, concerning
this name _materialism_, which is not justified in this case, gives
rise to numerous misunderstandings, and is a cause of derision to
opponents. So far as history is concerned, I would gladly keep to the
name _realistic view of history_, which denotes the opposition to all
teleology and metaphysics within the sphere of history, and combines
both the contribution made by socialism to historical knowledge and
those contributions which may subsequently be brought from elsewhere.
Hence my friend Labriola ought not to attach too much importance, in
his serious thoughts, to the adjectives _final and definite_, which
have slipped from his pen. Did he not once tell me himself that Engels
still hoped for other discoveries which might help us to understand
that mystery, made by ourselves, and which is _History_?

_May, 1896._


[1] _Del materialismo storico, dilucidazione preliminare_, Rome, E.
Loescher, 1896. See the earlier work by the same author: _In memoria
del 'Manifesto dei communisti,'_ 2nd ed. Rome, E. Loescher, 1895.

[2] I refer to the works of Professor Achille Loria.

[3] He calls it on one occasion: 'the final and definite philosophy of

[4] _Beiträge zur Geschichte des Materialismus_, Stuttgart, 1896.

[5] See, for example, the comments upon some of Marx's statements, in
the article _Progrès et développement_ in the _Devenir Social_ for
March, 1896.

[6] For this reason I do not, like Labriola, call the theory of the
factors a _half-theory_; nor do I like the comparison with the ancient
doctrine, now abandoned in physics, physiology and psychology, of
physical forces, vital forces and mental faculties.

[7] See a letter dated 21st September 1890, published in the Berlin
review, _Der Socialistische Akademiker_, No 19, 1st October 1895.
Another, dated 25th January 1894, is printed in No 20, 16th October,
of the same review.

[8] He even distinguishes between the _economic interpretation_ and
the _materialistic view of history_. By the first term he means 'those
attempts at analysis, which taking separately on the one hand the
economic forms and categories, and on the other for example, law,
legislation, politics, custom, proceed to study the mutual influences
of the different sides of life, thus abstractly and subjectively
distinguished.' By the second, on the contrary, 'the organic view of
history' of the 'totality and unity of social life,' where economics
itself 'is melted into the tide of a process, to appear afterwards in
so many morphological stages, in each of which it forms the basis
relatively to the rest which corresponds to and agrees with it.'

[9] _Utopia_, L. ii (THOMÆ MORI angli _Opera_, Louvain 1566, _f._ 18.)

[10] 'Hateful Force rules the world and calls itself Justice.'

[11] From this point of view it is worth while to note the antipathy
which leaks out in socialist writings towards Schiller, the poet of
the Kantian morality æsthetically modified, who has become the
favourite poet of the German middle classes.


    _1. Relation between Professor Stammler's book on historical
        materialism and Marxism: Distinction between pure
        economics and general historical economics: Socialism not
        dependent on abstract sociological theory: Stammler's
        classification of the social sciences: His definition of
        society: Of social economics: Of social teleology: Nature
        of Stammler's social science does not provide abstract
        sociology: Social economics must be either pure economics
        applied to society or a form of history._

The attentive reader of Professor Stammler's book,[12] realises at the
outset that it treats of the materialistic theory of history not as a
fruitful guide to the interpretation of historical fact, but as a
_science_ or _philosophy of society_.

A number of attempts have been made, based in the first instance on
Marx's statements, to build up on these statements a general theory of
history or of society. It is on these attempts then, and not on the
least bold amongst them, that Stammler bases his work, making them the
starting point of his criticism and reconstruction. It may be
precisely on this account that he chooses to discuss historical
materialism in the form given to it by Engels,--which he calls the
most complete, the _authentic_(!) statement of the principles of
social materialism. He prefers this form to that of Marx, which he
thinks too disconnected; and which is, indeed, less easily reduced to
abstract generalities; whereas Engels was one of the first to give to
historical materialism a meaning more important than its original one.
To Engels, also, as is well known, is due the very name _materialism_
as applied to this view of history.

We cannot, indeed, deny that the materialistic view of history has in
fact developed in two directions, distinct _in kind_ if not _in
practice_, viz.: (1) _a movement relating to the writing of history_,
and (2) _a science_ and _philosophy of society_. Hence there is no
ground for objecting to Stammler's procedure, when he confines himself
to this second problem, and takes it up at the point to which he
thinks that the followers of historical materialism have brought it.
But it should be clearly pointed out that he does not concern himself
at all with the problems of historical method. He leaves out of
account that is, what, for some people--and for me amongst them--is
the side of this movement of thought which is of living and scientific

Professor Stammler remarks how in the propositions employed by the
believers in historical materialism: '_the economic factor dominates
the other factors of social life_,' '_the economic factor is
fundamental and the others are dependent_,' and the like, the concept
economic has never been defined. He is justified in making this
remark, and in attaching the greatest importance to it, if he regards
and interprets those propositions as assertions of _laws_, as strict
propositions of social science. To use as essential in statements of
this kind, a concept which could neither be defined nor explained, and
which therefore remained a mere word, would indeed be somewhat odd.
But his remark is entirely irrelevant when these propositions are
understood as: 'summaries of empirical observations, by the help of
which concrete social facts may be explained.' I do not think that any
sensible person has ever expected to find in those expressions an
accurate and philosophical definition of concepts; yet all sensible
people readily understand to what class of facts they refer. The word
_economic_ here, as in ordinary language, corresponds, not to a
concept, but to a _group_ of rather diverse representations, some of
which are not even qualitative in content, but quantitative. When it
is asserted, that in interpreting history we must look chiefly at the
_economic factors_, we think at once of technical conditions, of the
distribution of wealth, of classes and sub-classes bound together by
definite common interests, and so on. It is true these different
representations cannot be reduced to a single concept, but no matter,
there is no question of that: here we are in an entirely different
_sphere_ from that in which abstract questions are discussed.

This point is not without interest and may be explained more in
detail. If _economic_ be understood in its strict sense, for example,
in the sense in which it is employed in pure economics, _i.e._, if by
it be meant the axiom according to which all men seek the greatest
satisfaction with the least possible effort, it is plain that to say
that this _factor_ plays a part (essential, dominant, or equal to that
of the others) in social life, would tell us nothing concrete. The
economic axiom is a very general and purely a formal principle of
conduct. It is inconceivable that anyone should act without applying,
well or ill, the very principle of every action, _i.e._, the economic
principle. Worse still it _economic_ be taken in the sense which, as
we shall see, Professor Stammler gives to it. He understands by this
word: 'all concrete social facts'; in which sense it would at once
become absurd to assert that the economic factor, _i.e._, _all social
facts in the concrete_ dominated, a part of these facts! Thus in order
to give a meaning to the word _economic_ in this proposition, it is
necessary to leave the abstract and formal; to assign definite ends to
human action; to have in mind an 'historical man,' or rather the
average man of history, or of a longer or shorter period of history;
to think, for example, of the need for _bread_, for _clothes_, for
_sexual relations_, for the so-called _moral satisfactions_, esteem,
vanity, power and so on. The phrase _economic factor_ now refers to
groups of concrete facts, which are built up in common speech, and
which have been better defined from the actual application made of the
above-mentioned propositions in historical narrative and in the
practical programmes of Marx and his followers.

In the main, this is recognised by Professor Stammler himself when he
gives an admirable explanation of the current meaning of the
expressions: _economic facts_ and _political facts_, revolutions _more
political than economic_ and vice versa. Such distinctions, he says,
can only be understood in the concrete, in reference to the aims
pursued by the different sections of society, and to the special
problems of social life. According to him, however, Marx's work does
not deal with such _trifling matters_: as, for instance, that
so-called economic life influences ideas, science, art and so on: old
lumber of little consequence. Just as philosophical materialism does
not consist in the assertion that bodily facts have an influence over
spiritual, but rather in the making of these latter a mere appearance,
without reality, of the former: so historical materialism must consist
in asserting that economics is the true _reality_ and that law is a
fallacious _appearance_.

But, with all deference to Professor Stammler, we believe that these
_trifling matters_, to which he contemptuously refers, are precisely
what are dealt with in Marx's propositions; and, moreover, we think
them neither so trifling nor of such little consequence. Hence
Professor Stammler's book does not appear to us a criticism of the
most vital part of historical materialism, viz., of a movement or
school of historians. The criticism of history is made by history; and
historical materialism is history made or _in the making_.

Nor does it provide the starting point for a criticism of _socialism_,
as the programme of a definite social movement. Stammler deceives
himself when he thinks that socialism is based on the materialistic
philosophy of history as he expounds it: on which philosophy are
based, on the contrary, the illusions and caprices of some or of many
socialists. Socialism cannot depend on an abstract sociological
theory, since the basis would be inadequate precisely because it was
abstract; nor can it depend on a philosophy of history as rhythmical
or of little stability, because the basis would be transitory. On the
contrary, it is a complex fact and results from different elements;
and, so far as concerns history, socialism does not presuppose a
_philosophy of history_, but _an historical conception determined by
the existing conditions of society and the manner in which this has
come about_. If we put on one side the doctrines superimposed
subsequently, and read again Marx's pages without prejudice, we shall
then see that he had, at bottom, no other meaning when he referred to
history as one of the factors justifying socialism.

'The necessity for the socialisation of the means of production is not
proved scientifically.' Stammler means that the concept of _necessity_
as employed by many Marxians, is erroneous; that the denial of
teleology is absurd, and that hence the assertion of the socialisation
of the means of production as the social programme is not logically
accounted for. This does not hinder this assertion from being possibly
quite true. Either because, in addition to logical demonstrations
there are fortunate intuitions, or because a conclusion can be true
although derived from a false premiss: it suffices, obviously, that
there should be two errors which cancel one another. And this would be
so in our case. The denial of teleology; the tacit acceptance of this
same teleology: here is a method scientifically incorrect with a
conclusion that may be valid. It remains to examine the whole tissue
of experiences, deductions, aspirations and forecasts in which
socialism really consists; and over which Stammler passes
indifferently, content to have brought to light an error in the
philosophical statement of a remote postulate, an error which some, or
it may be many, of the supporters and politicians of socialism commit.

All these reservations are needed in order to fix the scope of
Stammler's investigation; but it would be a mistake to infer from them
that we reject the starting point of the inquiry itself. Historical
materialism--says Professor Stammler--has proved unable to give us a
valid _science of society_: we, however, believe that this was not its
main or original object. The two statements come practically to the
same thing: the science of society is not contained in the literature
of the materialistic theory. Professor Stammler adds that although
historical materialism does not offer an acceptable social theory, it
nevertheless gives a _stimulus of the utmost intensity_ towards the
formation of such a theory. This seems to us a matter of merely
individual psychology: suggestions and stimuli, as everyone knows,
differ according to the mind that receives them. The literature of
historical materialism has always aroused in us a desire to study
history in the concrete, _i.e._, to reconstruct the actual historical
process. In Professor Stammler, on the contrary, it arouses a desire
to throw aside this meagre empirical history, and to work with
abstractions in order to establish concepts and general points of
view. The problems which he sets before himself, might be arrived at
psychologically by many other paths.

There is a tendency, at present, to enlarge unduly the boundaries of
social studies. But Stammler rightly claims a definite and special
subject for what ought to be called _social science_; that is
_definite social data_. Social science must include nothing which has
not _sociability_ as its determining cause. How can ethics ever be
social science, since it is based on cases of conscience which evade
all social rules? _Custom_ is the social fact, not _morality_. How can
_pure economics_ or _technology_ ever be social science, since those
concepts are equally applicable to the isolated individual and to
societies? Thus in studying _social data_ we shall see that,
considered in general, they give rise to two distinct theories. The
first theory regards the concept _society_ from the _causal_
standpoint; the second regards it from the _teleological_ standpoint.
Causality and teleology cannot be substituted the one for the other;
but one forms the complement of the other.

If, then, we pass from the general and abstract to the concrete, we
have society as existing in history. The study of the facts which
develop in concrete society Stammler consigns to a science which he
calls _social (or political, or national) economics_. From such facts
may still be abstracted the mere form, _i.e._, the collection of rules
supplied by history by which they are governed; and this may be
studied independently of the matter. Thus we get _jurisprudence_, or
the technical science of law; which is always bound up inseparably
with a given actual historical material, which it works up by
scientific method, endeavouring to give it unity and coherence.
Finally, amongst social studies are also included those investigations
which aim at judging and determining whether a given social order is
as it ought to be; and whether attempts to preserve or change it are
objectively justified. This section may be called that of practical
social problems. By such definitions and divisions Professor Stammler
exhausts every possible form of social study. Thus we should have the
following scheme:

                 { General Study      { Causal.
                 {  of Society.       { Teleological.
                 {                    { of the form
                 {                    {   (technical science
                 {                    {   of law).
                 {                    {
SOCIAL SCIENCE.  {                    {
                 { Study of Concrete  { of the matter
                 { Society.           {   (social economics).
                 {                    { of the possible,
                 {                    {   (practical problems).

We believe that this table correctly represents his views, although
given in our own way, and in words somewhat different from those used
by him. A new treatment of the social sciences, the work of serious
and keen ability, such as Stammler seems to possess, cannot fail to
receive the earnest attention of all students of a subject which is
still so vague and controversial. Let us examine it then section by

The first investigation relating to society, that concerned with
causality, would be directed to solving the problem of the _nature_ of
society. Many definitions have been given of this up to the present:
and none of them can be said to be generally accepted, or even to
claim wide support. Stammler indeed, rejects, after criticism, the
definitions of Spencer or Rümelin, which appear to him to be the most
important and to be representative of all the others. Society is not
an _organism_ (Spencer), nor is it merely something opposed to
_legalised society_ (Rümelin): Society, says Stammler, is '_life lived
by men in common, subject to rules which are externally binding_.'
These rules must be understood in a very wide sense, as all those
which bind men living together to something which is satisfied by
outward performance. They are divided, however, into two large
classes: rules properly speaking _legal_, and rules of _convention_.
The second class includes the precepts of propriety and of custom, the
code of knightly honour, and so on. The distinctive test lies in the
fact that the latter class are merely _hypothetical_, while the
former are imposed without being desired by those subjected to them.
The whole assemblage of rules, legal and conventional, Stammler calls
social _form_. Under these rules, obeying them, limiting them and even
breaking them men act in order to satisfy their desires; in this, and
in this alone, human life consists. The assemblage of concrete facts
which men produce when working together in society, _i.e._, under the
assumption of social rules, Stammler calls _social matter_, or _social
economics_. Rules, and actions under rules; these are the two elements
of which every social datum consists. If the rules were lacking, we
should be outside society; we should be animals or gods, as says the
old proverb: if the actions were lacking there would remain only an
empty form, built up hypothetically by thought, and no portion of
which was actually real. Thus social life appears as a single fact: to
separate its two constituent factors means either to destroy it, or to
reduce it to empty form. The law governing changes within society
cannot be found in something which is extra social; not in technique
and discovery, nor in the workings of supposed natural laws, nor in
the influence of great men, of mysterious racial and national spirit;
but it must be sought in the very centre of the social fact itself.
Hence it is wrong to speak of a causal bond between law and economics
or vice versa: the relation between law and economics is that between
the rule and the things ruled, not one of cause and effect. The
determining cause of social movements and changes is then ultimately
to be found in the actual working out of social rules, which precede
such changes. This concrete working out, these actions accomplished
under rules, may produce (1) social mutations which are entirely
_quantitative_ (in the number of social facts of one or another kind);
(2) mutations which are also _qualitative_ consisting that is in
changes in the rules themselves. Hence the _circle of social life_:
rules, social facts arising under them; ideas, opinions, desires,
efforts resulting from the facts; changes in the rules. When and how
this circle originated, that is to say when and how social life arose
on the earth, is a question for history, which does not concern the
theorist. Between social life and non-social life there are no
gradations, theoretically there is a gulf. But as long as social life
exists, there is no escape from the circle described above.

The form and matter of social life thus come into conflict, and from
this conflict arises change. By what test can the issue of the
conflict be decided? To appeal to facts, to invent a causal necessity
which may agree with some ideal necessity is absurd. In addition to
the law of social _causality_, which has been expounded, there must be
a law of ends and ideals, _i.e._, a _social teleology_. According to
Stammler, historical materialism identifies, nor would it be the only
theory to attempt such an identification, _causality_ and _teleology_;
but it, too, cannot escape from the logical contradictions which such
assertions contain. Much praise has been given to that section of
Professor Stammler's book in which he shows how teleological
assumptions are constantly implied by historical materialism in all
its assertions of a practical nature. But we confess that the
discovery seems to us exceedingly easy, not to be compared to that of
Columbus about the egg. Here again we must point out that the _pivot_
of the Marxian doctrine lies in the _practical problem_ and not in the
_abstract theory_. The denial of finality is, at bottom, the denial of
a merely subjective and peculiar finality. And here, too, although the
criticism as applied to historical materialism seems to us hardly
accurate, we agree with Stammler's conclusion, _i.e._, that it is
necessary to construct, or better to reconstruct, with fresh material,
a theory of social teleology.

Let us omit, for the present, an examination of Stammler's
construction of teleology, which includes some very fine passages
(_e.g._ the criticism of the anarchist doctrine) and ask instead: What
is this social science of Stammler, of which we have stated the
striking and characteristic features? The reader will have little
difficulty in discovering that the second investigation, that
concerning social teleology, is nothing but a modernised _philosophy
of law_. And the first? Is it that long desired and hitherto vainly
sought _general sociology_? Does it give us a new and acceptable
concept of society? To us it appears evident that the first
investigation is nothing but a _formal science of law_. In it
Professor Stammler studies _law as a fact_, and hence he cannot find
it except in _society subjected to rules imposed from without_. In the
second, he studies law as an _ideal_ and constructs the philosophy
(imperative) of law. We are not here questioning the _value_ of the
investigation, but its _nature_. The present writer is convinced that
social data leave no place for an abstract independent science.
Society is a _living together_; the kind of phenomena which appear in
this life together is the concern of descriptive history. But it is
perfectly possible to study this life together from a given point of
view, _e.g._, from the legal point of view, or, in general, from that
of the legal and non-legal rules to which it can be subjected; and
this Stammler has done. And, in so doing, he has examined the nature
of law, separating the concrete individual laws and the ideal type of
law; which he has then studied apart. This is the reason why
Stammler's investigation seems to us a truly scientific investigation
and very well carried out, but not an abstract and general science _of
society_. Such a science is for us inconceivable, just as a formal
science of law is, on the contrary, perfectly conceivable.

As to the second investigation, that concerning teleology, there would
be some difficulty in including it in the number of sciences if it be
admitted that ideals are not subjects for science. But here Professor
Stammler himself comes to our assistance by assigning the foundation
of social teleology to philosophy, which he defines as the science of
the True and of the Good, the science of the Absolute, and understands
in a non-formal sense.

Professor Stammler speaks readily of a _monism_ of the social life,
and accepts as suitable and accurate the name _materialism_ as applied
to Marx's conception of history, and connects this _materialism_ with
metaphysical materialism, applying to it also Lange's statement, viz.,
that 'materialism may be the first and lowest step of philosophy, but
it is also the most substantial and solid.' For him historical
materialism offers truth, but not the whole truth, since it regards as
real the _matter_ only and not the _form_ of social life; hence the
necessity of completing it by restoring the _form_ to its place, and
fixing the relation between _form_ and _matter_, combining the two in
the unity of _social life_. We doubt whether Engels and his followers
ever understood the phrase _social materialism_ in the sense which
Stammler assigns to it. The parallel drawn between it and metaphysical
materialism seems to us somewhat arbitrary.

We come to the group of concrete sciences, _i.e._, those which have
for their subject society as given in history. No one who has had
occasion to consider the problem of the classification of the
sciences, will be inclined to give the character of independent and
autonomous sciences to studies of the practical problems of this or
that society, and to jurisprudence, and the technical study of law.
This latter is only an interpretation or explanation of a given
existing legal system, made either for practical reasons, or as simple
historical knowledge. But what we think merits attention more than
these questions of terminology and classification, is the conception
of _social economics_, advanced by Stammler; of the second, that is,
of the concrete social sciences, enumerated above. The difficulties
arising out of this conception are more serious, and centre on the
following points; whether it is a new and valid conception, or whether
it should be reduced to something already known; or finally whether it
is not actually erroneous.

Stammler holds forth at length against economics regarded as a science
in itself, which has its own laws and which has its source in an
original and irreducible economic principle. It is a mistake, he says,
to put forward an abstract economic science and subdivide it into
economic science relating to the individual and social economic
science. There is no ground of union between these two sciences,
because the economics of the isolated individual offers us only
concepts which are dealt with by the natural sciences and by
technology, and is nothing but an assemblage of simple natural
observations, explained by means of physiology and individual
psychology. Social economics, on the other hand, offers the peculiar
and characteristic conditions of the _externally binding rules_, under
which activities develop. And what can an economic principle be if not
a hypothetical maxim: the man who wishes to secure this or that object
of subjective satisfaction must employ these or those means, 'a maxim
which is more or less generally obeyed, and sometimes violated'? The
dilemma lies then between the natural and technological consideration
and the social one: _there is no third thing_. '_Ein Drittes ist nicht
da!_' This Stammler frequently reiterates, and always in the same
words. But the dilemma (whose unfortunate inspiration he owes to Kant)
does not hold, it is a case of a trilemma. Besides the concrete social
facts, and besides the technological and natural knowledge, there is a
third thing, viz., the economic principle, or hedonistic postulate, as
it is preferred to call it. Stammler asserts that this third thing is
not _equal in value_ to the two first ones, that it comes as a
_secondary_ consideration, and we confess that we do not clearly
understand what this means. What he ought to prove is that this
principle _can be reduced_ to the two former ones, viz., to the
technical or to the social conditions. This he has not done, and
indeed we do not know how it could be done. That economics, thus
understood, is not social science, we are so much the more inclined to
agree since he himself says as much in calling it _pure_ economics,
_i.e._, something built up by abstraction from particular facts and
hence also from the social fact. But this does not mean that it is not
applicable to society, and cannot give rise to inferences in _social
economics_. The social factor is then assumed as a medium through
which the economic principle displays its influence and produces
definite results. Granted the economic principle, and granted, for
example, the legal regulation of private property in land, and the
existence of land differing in quality, and granted other conditions,
then the fact of rent of land arises of necessity. In this and other
like examples, which could easily be brought forward, we have laws of
social and political economics, _i.e._, deductions from the economic
principle acting under given legal conditions. It is true that, under
other legal conditions, the effects would be different; but none of
the effects would occur were it not for the economic nature of man,
which is a necessary postulate, and not to be identified with the
postulate of technical knowledge, or with any other of the social
rules. _To know_ is not to _will_; and _to will in accordance with
objective rules_ is not _to will in accordance with ideals which are
merely subjective and individual_ (economic).

Stammler might say that if the science of economics thus interpreted
is not properly a social science, he leaves it on one side, because
his object is to construct a science which may be fully entitled to
the name of _social economics_. But--let us, too, construct a
dilemma!--this social economics, to which he aspires, will either be
just economic science applied to definite social conditions, in the
sense now indicated, or it will be a form of historical knowledge. No
third thing exists. _Ein Drittes ist nicht da!_

And indeed, for Stammler an _economic phenomenon_ is not any single
social fact whatever, but a group of homogeneous facts, which offer
the marks of _necessity_. The number of economic facts required to
form the group and give rise to an economic phenomenon cannot be
determined in general; but can be seen in each case. By the formation
of these groups, he says, social economics does not degenerate into a
register of data concerning fact, nor does it become purely mechanical
statistics of material already given which it has merely to enumerate.
Social economics should not merely examine into the change in the
actual working out of one and the same social order, but remains, now
as formerly, the seat of all knowledge of actual social life. It must
start from the knowledge of a given social existence, both in regard
to its form and in regard to its content; and enlarge and deepen it up
to the most minute peculiarity of its actual working out, with the
accuracy of a technical science, the conditions and concrete objects
of which are clearly indicated; and thus free the reality of social
life from every obscurity. Hence it must make for itself a series of
concepts, which will serve the purpose of such an explanation.

Now this account of the concept of _social economics_ is capable of
two interpretations. The first is that it is intended to describe a
science, which has indeed for its object (as is proper for sciences)
_necessary_ connections, in the strict sense of the word. But how
establish this _necessity_? How make the concepts suitable to _social
economics_? Evidently by allowing ourselves to be guided by a
principle, by abstracting a single side from concrete reality; and if
it is to be for economics this principle can be none other than the
_economic principle_, and social economics will consider only the
economic side of a given social life. Profits, rent, interest, labour
value, usury, wages, crises, will then appear as economic phenomena
necessary under given conditions of the social order, through which
the economic principle exerts its influence.

The other interpretation is that Stammler's social economics does not
indeed accomplish the dissolving work of analysis but considers this
or that social life in the concrete. In this case it could do nothing
but _describe_ a given society. To _describe_ does not mean to
_describe in externals and superficially_; but, more accurately, to
free that group of facts from every obscurity, showing what it
actually is, and describing it, as far as possible in its naked
reality. But this is, in fact, historical knowledge, which may assume
varied forms, or rather may define in various ways its own subject. It
may study a _society_--in all its aspects during a given period of
time, or at a given moment of its existence, or it may even take up
one or more aspects of social life and study them as they present
themselves in different societies and at different times, and so on.
It is history always, even when it avails itself of _comparison_ as an
instrument of research. And such a study will not have to make
_concepts_, but will take them as it needs them from those sciences,
which do, in fact, elaborate concepts.

Thus it would have been to great interest to see the working out of
this new _social economics_ of Stammler a little more clearly, so that
we might determine exactly in which of the aforesaid two classes it
ought to be placed. Whether it is merely political economy in the
ordinary sense, or whether it is the concrete study of single
societies and of groups of them. In the latter case Stammler has added
another name or rather two names; _science of the matter of social
life_ and _social economics_, to the many phrases by which of late the
old _History_ has been disguised (social history, history of
civilisation, concrete sociology, comparative sociology, psychology of
the populace and of the classes, etc.). And the gain, if we may be
allowed to say so, will not be great.

_September 1898._


[12] _Wirthschaft und Recht nach der materialistischen
Geschichtsauffassung_, eine socialphilophische Untersuchung, DR
RUDOLPH STAMMLER, Professor at the University of Halle, A.S., Leipzig,
Veit U.C., 1896, pp. viii-668.




    _Das Kapital an abstract investigation: His society is not
        this or that society: Treats only of capitalist society:
        Assumption of equivalence between value and labour:
        Varying views about meaning of this law: Is a postulate
        or standard of comparison: Question as to value of this
        standard: Is not a moral ideal: Treats of economic
        society in so far as is a working society: Shows special
        way in which problem is solved in capitalist society;
        Marx's deductions from it._

Notwithstanding the many expositions, criticisms, summaries and even
abbreviated extracts in little works of popular propaganda, which have
been made of Karl Marx's work, it is far from easy, and demands no
small effort of philosophical and abstract thought, to understand the
exact _nature_ of the investigation which Marx carried out. In
addition to the intrinsic difficulty of the subject, it does not
appear that the author himself always realised fully the peculiar
character of his investigation, that is to say its theoretical
distinctness from all other investigations which may be made with his
economic material; and, throughout, he despised and neglected all such
preliminary and exact explanations as might have made his task plain.
Then, moreover, account must be taken of the strange composition of
the book, a mixture of general theory, of bitter controversy and
satire, and of historical illustrations or digressions, and so
arranged that only Loria, (fortunate man!), can declare _Das Kapital_
to be the _finest and most symmetrical_ of existing books; it being,
in reality, un-symmetrical, badly arranged and out of proportion,
sinning against all the laws of good taste; resembling in some
particulars Vico's _Scienza nuova_. Then too there is the Hegelian
phraseology beloved by Marx, of which the tradition is now lost, and
which, even within that tradition he adapted with a freedom that at
times seems not to lack an element of mockery. Hence it is not
surprising that _Das Kapital_ has been regarded, at one time or
another, as an economic treatise, as a philosophy of history, as a
collection of sociological laws, so-called, as a moral and political
book of reference, and even, by some, as a bit of narrative history.

Nevertheless the inquirer who asks himself what is the _method_ and
what the _scope_ of Marx's investigation, and puts on one side, of
course, all the historical, controversial and descriptive portions
(which certainly form an organic part of the book but not of the
fundamental investigation), can at once reject most of the
above-mentioned definitions, and decide clearly these two points:

(1) As regards _method, Das Kapital_ is without doubt an _abstract_
investigation; the capitalist society studied by Marx, is not this or
that society, historically existing, in France or in England, nor the
modern society of the most civilised nations, that of Western Europe
and America. It is an ideal and formal society, deduced from certain
hypotheses, which could indeed never have occurred as actual facts in
the course of history. It is true that these hypotheses correspond to
a great extent to the historical conditions of the modern civilised
world; but this, although it may establish the importance and interest
of Marx's investigation because the latter helps us to an
understanding of the workings of the social organisms which closely
concern us, does not alter its nature. Nowhere in the world will
Marx's categories be met with as living and real existences, simply
because they are abstract categories, which, in order to live must
lose some of their qualities and acquire others.

(2) As regards _scope_, Marx's investigation does not cover the whole
field of economic fact, nor even that one ultimate and dominant
portion, whence all economic facts have their source, like rivers
flowing from a mountain. It limits itself, on the contrary, to one
special economic system, that which occurs in a society with private
property in capital, or, as Marx says, in the phrase peculiar to him,
_capitalist_. There remained untouched, not only the other systems
which have existed in history and are possible in theory, such as
monopolist society, or society with collective capital, but also the
series of economic phenomena common to the different societies and to
individual economics. To sum up, as regards _method, Das Kapital_ is
not an historical description, and as regards _scope_, it is not an
economic _treatise_, much less an _encyclopedia_.

But, even when these two points are settled, the real essence of
Marx's investigation is not yet explained. Were _Das Kapital_ nothing
but what we have so far defined, it would be merely an _economic
monograph on the laws of capitalist society_.[13] Such a monograph
Marx could only have made in one way: by deciding on these laws, and
explaining them by general laws, or by the fundamental concepts of
economics; by reducing, in short, the complex to the simple, or
passing, by deductive reasoning, and with the addition of fresh
hypotheses, from the simple to the complex. He would thus have shown,
by precise exposition, how the apparently most diverse facts of the
economic world are ultimately governed by one and the same law; or,
what is the same thing, how this law is differently refracted as it
takes effect through different organisations, without changing itself,
since otherwise the means and indeed the test of the explanation would
be lacking. Work of this nature had been already carried out, to a
great extent, in Marx's time, and since then it has been developed yet
further by economists, and has attained a high degree of perfection,
as may be seen, for instance, in the economic treatises of our Italian
writers, Pantaleoni and Pareto. But I much doubt whether Marx would
have become an economist in order to devote himself to a species of
research of almost solely theoretical, or even scholastic, interest.
His whole personality as a practical man and a revolutionist,
impatient of abstract investigation which had no close connection with
the interests of actual life, would have recoiled from such a course.
If _Das Kapital_ was to have been merely an economic monograph, it
would be safe to wager that it would never have come into existence.

What then did Marx accomplish, and to what treatment did he subject
the phenomena of capitalist society, if not to that of pure economic
theory? _Marx assumed, outside the field of pure economic theory, a
proposition; the famous equivalence between value and labour; i.e. the
proposition that the value of the commodities produced by labour is
equal to the quantity of labour socially necessary to produce them._
It is only with this assumption that his special investigation

But what connection has this proposition with the laws of capitalist
society? or what part does it play in the investigation? This Marx
never explicitly states; and it is on this point that the greatest
confusions have arisen, and that the interpreters and critics have
been most at a loss.

Some of them have explained the law of labour-value as an _historical_
law, peculiar to capitalist society, all of whose manifestations it
determines;[14] others rightly seeing that the manifestations of
capitalist society are by no means determined by such a law, but
comply with the general economic motives characteristic of the
economic nature of man, have rejected the law as an absurdity at which
Marx arrived by pressing to its extreme consequences an unfortunate
concept of Ricardo.

Criticism was thus bewildered between entire acceptance, combined with
a clearly erroneous interpretation, and entire and summary rejection
of Marx's treatment; until, in recent years, and especially after the
appearance of the third and posthumous volume of _Das Kapital_, it
began to seek out and follow a better path. In truth, despite its
eager defenders, the Marxian doctrine has always remained obscure;
and, despite contemptuous and summary condemnation, it has always
displayed also an obstinate vitality not usually possessed by nonsense
and sophistry. For this reason it is to the credit of Professor Werner
Sombart, of Breslau University, that he has declared, in one of his
lucid writings, that Marx's practical conclusions may be refuted from
a political standpoint, but that, scientifically, it is above all
important to _understand_ his ideas.[15]

Sombart, then, breaking openly with the interpretation of Marx's law
of value as a _real_ law of economic phenomena, and giving a fuller,
and I may say, a bolder expression to the timid opinions already
stated by another (C. Schmidt), says, that _Marx's law of value_ is
not _an empirical but a conceptual fact_ (Keine empirische, sondern
eine gedankliche Thatsache); that Marx's value is a _logical fact_
(eine logische Thatsache), which aids our thought in understanding the
actual realities of economic life.[16]

This interpretation, in its general sense, was accepted by Engels, in
an article written some months before his death and published
posthumously. To Engels it appeared that 'it could not be condemned as
inaccurate, but that, nevertheless, it was too vague and might be
expressed with greater precision.'[17]

The acute and courteous remarks on the theory of value, published
lately in an article in the _Journal des Economistes_ by an able
French Marxian, Sorel, indicate a movement in the same direction. In
these remarks he acknowledges that there is no way of passing from
Marx's theory to actual phenomena of economic life, and that, although
it may offer elucidation, in a somewhat limited sense, it does not
appear further that it could ever _explain_, in the scientific meaning
of the word.[18]

And now too Professor Labriola, in a hasty glance at the same subject,
referring clearly to Sombart, and partly agreeing and partly
criticising, writes: 'the theory of value does not denote an empirical
_factum_ nor does it express a merely _logical proposition_, as some
have imagined; but it is the _typical premise_ without which all the
rest would be unthinkable.'[19]

Labriola's phrase appears to me, in fact, somewhat more accurate than
Sombart's; who, moreover, shows himself dissatisfied with his own
term, like someone who has not yet a quite definite concept in view,
and hence cannot find a satisfactory phrase. '_Conceptual fact_,'
'_logical fact_' expresses much too little since it is evident that
all sciences are interwoven from logical facts, that is from concepts.
Marx's labour-value is not only a logical generalisation, it is also
_a fact conceived and postulated as typical_, _i.e._ something more
than a mere logical concept. Indeed it has not the inertia of the
abstract but the force of a concrete fact,[20] which has in regard to
capitalist society, in Marx's investigation, the function of a term of
comparison, of a standard, of a _type_.[21]

This standard or type being postulated, the investigation, for Marx,
takes the following form. Granted that value is equal to the labour
socially necessary, it is required to show _with what divergencies
from this standard_ the prices of commodities are fixed in capitalist
society, and how labour-power itself acquires a price and becomes a
commodity. To speak plainly, Marx stated the problem in unappropriate
language; he represented this typical value itself, postulated by him
as a standard, as being the _law_ governing the economic phenomena of
capitalist society. And it is the law, if he likes, but in the
_sphere of his conceptions_, not _in economic reality_. We may
conceive the divergencies from a standard as the revolt of reality
when confronted by this standard which we have endowed with the
dignity of law.

From a formal point of view there is nothing absurd about the
investigation undertaken by Marx. It is a usual method of scientific
analysis to regard a phenomenon not only as it exists, but also as it
would be if one of its factors were altered, and, in comparing the
hypothetical with the real phenomenon, to conceive the first as
diverging from the second, which is postulated as fundamental, or the
second as diverging from the first, which is postulated in the same
manner. If I build up by deductive reasoning the moral rules which
develop in two social groups which are at war one against another, and
if I show how they differ from the moral rules which develop in a
state of peace, I should be making something _analogous_ to the
comparison worked out by Marx. Nor would there be great harm (although
the expression would be neither fortunate nor accurate) in saying, in
a figurative sense, that the _law_ of the moral rules in time of war
is the same as that of the rules in time of peace, modified to the new
conditions, and altered in a way which seems, ultimately, inconsistent
with itself. As long as he confines himself to the limits of his
hypothesis Marx proceeds quite correctly. Error could come in only
when he or others confuse the hypothetical with the real, and the
manner of conceiving and of judging with that of existing. As long as
this mistake is avoided, the method is unassailable.

But the formal justification is insufficient: we need another. With a
formally correct method results may be obtained which are meaningless
and unimportant, or mere mental tricks may be performed. To set up an
arbitrary standard of comparison, to compare, and deduce, and to end
by establishing a series of divergencies from this standard; to what
will this lead? It is then, the _standard itself_ which needs
justification: _i.e._ we need to decide what meaning and importance it
may have for us.

This question too, although not stated exactly in this way, has
occurred to Marx's critics; and an answer to it has been already given
some time ago and by many, by saying that the equivalence of value and
labour is an ideal of social ethics, a _moral ideal_. But nothing
could be imagined more mistaken in itself and farther from Marx's
thought than this interpretation. What moral inference can ever be
drawn from the premiss that value is equal to the labour socially
necessary? It we reflect a little, _absolutely none_. The
establishment of this fact tells us nothing about the needs of the
society, which needs will make necessary one or another ethical-legal
system of property and of methods of distribution. Value may certainly
equal labour, nevertheless special historical conditions will make
necessary society organised in castes or in classes, divided into
governing and governed, rulers and ruled; with a resulting unequal
distribution of the products of labour. Value may certainly equal
labour; but even supposing that fresh historical conditions ever make
possible the disappearance of society organised in classes and the
advent of a communistic society, and even supposing that in this
society distribution could take place according to the quantity of
labour contributed by each person, this distribution would still not
be a deduction from the established equivalence between value and
labour, but a standard adopted for special reasons of social
convenience.[22] Nor can it be said that such an equivalence supplies
in itself an idea of perfect justice (even though unrealisable), since
the criterion of justice has no relation to the difference often due
to purely natural causes, in the ability to do more or less social
labour and to produce a greater or smaller value. Thus neither a rule
of abstract justice nor one of convenience and social utility can be
derived from the equivalence between value and labour. Rules of either
kind can only be based on consideration of a quite different grade
from that of a simple economic equation.

Sombart, avoiding this vulgar confusion, has been better advised in
looking for the meaning of the standard set up by Marx in the nature
of society itself, and apart from our moral judgments. Thus he says
that labour is _the economic fact of greater objective importance_,
and that value, in Marx's view, is nothing 'if not the economic
expression of the fact of the socially productive power of labour, as
the basis of economic existence.'

But this investigation appears to me to be merely begun and not yet
worked out to a conclusion; and if I might suggest wherein it needs
completion, I should remark that it is necessary to attempt to give
clearness and precision to this word _objective_, which is either
ambiguous or metaphorical. What is meant by an economically objective
fact? Do not these words suggest rather a mere _presentiment of a
concept_ instead of the distinct vision of this concept itself?

I will add, merely tentatively, that the word _objective_ (whose
correlative term is _subjective_) does not seem to be in place here.
Let us, instead, take account, in a society, only of what is properly
economic life, _i.e._ out of the whole society, only of _economic
society_. Let us abstract from this latter all goods which cannot be
increased by labour. Let us abstract further all class distinctions,
which may be regarded as accidental in reference to the general
concept of economic society. Let us leave out of account all modes of
distributing the wealth produced, which, as we have said, can only be
determined on grounds of convenience or perhaps of justice, but in
anycase upon considerations belonging to society as a whole, and never
from considerations belonging exclusively to economic society. What is
left after these successive abstractions have been made? Nothing but
_economic society in so far as it is a working society_.[23] And in
this society without class distinctions, _i.e._ in an economic society
as such and whose only commodities are the products of labour, what
can value be? Obviously the sum of the efforts, _i.e._ the quantity of
labour, which the production of the various kinds of commodities
demands. And, since we are here speaking of the economic social
organism, and not of the individual persons living in it, it follows
that this labour cannot be reckoned except by averages, and hence as
labour _socially_ (it is with society, I repeat, that we are here
dealing) _necessary_.

Thus labour-value would appear as that determination of value peculiar
to economic society as such, when regarded only in so far as it
produces commodities capable of being increased by labour.

From this definition the following corollary may be drawn: the
determination of labour value _will have a positive conformity with
facts as long as a society exists, which produces goods by means of
labour_. It is evident that in the imaginary county of Cocaigne this
determination would have no conformity with facts, since all goods
would exist in quantities exceeding the demand; similarly it is also
evident that the same determination could not take effect in a society
in which goods were inadequate to the demand, but could not be
increased by labour.

But hitherto history has shown us only societies which, in addition to
the enjoyment of goods not increasable by labour, have satisfied their
needs by labour. Hence this equivalence between value and labour has
hitherto had and will continue for an indefinite time to have, a
conformity with facts; but, of what kind is this conformity? Having
ruled out (1) that it is a question of a moral ideal, and (2) that it
is a question of scientific law; and having nevertheless concluded
that this equivalence is a _fact_ (which Marx uses as a type), we are
obliged to say, as the only alternative, that _it is a fact, but a
fact which exists in the midst of other facts; i.e. a fact that
appears to us empirically as opposed, limited, distorted by other
facts_, almost like a force amongst other forces, which produces a
resultant different from what it would produce if the other forces
ceased to act. _It is not a completely dominant fact but neither is it
non-existent and merely imaginary._[24]

It is still necessary to remark that in the course of history this
_fact_ has undergone various alterations, _i.e._, has been more or
less obscured; and here it is proper to do justice to Engels' remark
in reference to Sombart; that as regards the way in which the latter
defines the law of value 'he does not bring out the full importance
which this law possesses during the stages of economic development in
which it is supreme.' Engels makes a digression into the field of
economic history to show that Marx's law of value, _i.e._ the
equivalence between value and the labour socially necessary, has been
supreme for several thousand years.[25] Supreme is too strong a term;
but it is true that the opposed influences of other facts to this law
have been fewer in number and less intense under primitive communism
and under mediæval and domestic economic conditions, whilst they have
reached a maximum in the society based on privately owned capital and
more or less free universal competition, _i.e._ in the society which
produces almost exclusively _commodities_.[26]

Marx, then, in postulating as _typical_ the equivalence between value
and labour and in applying it to capitalist society, was, as it were,
making a comparison between capitalist society and a part of itself,
isolated and raised up to an independent existence: _i.e._ a
comparison between capitalist society and economic society as such
(but only in so far as it is a working society). In other words, he
was studying the social problem of labour and was showing by the test
implicitly established by him, _the special way in which this problem
is solved in capitalist society_. This is the justification, no longer
_formal_ but _real_, of his method.

It was in virtue of this method, and by the light thrown by the type
which he postulated, that Marx was able to discover and define the
social origin of _profit_, _i.e._ of _surplus value_. Surplus value in
pure economics is a meaningless word, as is evident from the term
itself; since a _surplus value_ is an _extra value_, and thus falls
outside the sphere of pure economics. But it rightly has meaning and
is no absurdity, as a _concept of difference_, in comparing one
economic society with another, one fact with another, or two
hypotheses with one another.

It is also in virtue of the same premise that he was able to arrive at
the proposition: that the products of labour in a capitalist society
do not sell, unless by exception, for their value, but usually for
more or less, and sometimes with great deviations from their value;
which is to say, to put it shortly, _value_ does not coincide with
_price_. Suppose, by hypothesis the organisation of production were
suddenly changed from a capitalist to a communistic system, we should
see at once, not only that alteration in the fortunes of men which
appeals so much to popular imagination, but also a more remarkable
change: a change in the fortunes of things. A scale of valuation of
goods would then fashion itself, very different for the most part,
from that which now exists. The way in which Marx proves this
proposition, by an analysis of the different components of the capital
employed in different industries, _i.e._ of the proportion of fixed
capital (machines, etc.) and of floating capital (wages), need not be
explained here in detail.

And, in the same way, _i.e._ by proving that fixed capital increases
continually in comparison with floating capital, Marx tries to
establish another law of capitalist society, the law of the _tendency
of the rate of profits to fall_. Technical improvement, which in an
abstract economic society would show itself in the decreased labour
required to produce the same wealth, shows itself in capitalist
society in a gradual decline in the rate of profits.[27] But this
section of Volume III of _Das Kapital_ is one of the least developed
in this little worked-out posthumous book; and it seems to me to be
worth a special critical essay, which I hope to write at another time,
not wishing to treat the subject here incidentally.[28]



    _Marxian economics not general economic science and
        labour-value not a general concept of value: Engel's
        rejection of general economic law: abstract concepts used
        by Marx are concepts of pure economics: relation of
        economic psychology to pure economics: pure economics
        does not destroy history or progress._

Marxian economics is thus a study of abstract working society showing
the variations which this undergoes in the different social economic
organisations. This investigation Marx carried out only in reference
to one of these organisations, _i.e._ the capitalist; contenting
himself with mere hints in regard to the slave and serf organisations,
primitive communism, the domestic system and to savage conditions.[29]

In this sense he and Engels declared that economics (the economics
studied by them), was an historical science.[30] But here, too, their
definition has been less happy than the investigation itself; we know
that Marx's researches are not historical, but hypothetical and
abstract, _i.e._ theoretical.[31] They might better be called
researches into _sociological economics_, if the word _sociological_
were not one which is employed most variously and arbitrarily.

If Marx's investigation is thus limited, if the law of value
postulated by him is the special law of an abstract working society,
which only partially takes effect in economic society as given in
history, and in other hypothetical or possible economic societies, the
following results seem to follow evidently and readily: (1) That
Marxian economics _is not general economic science_; (2) that
labour-value _is not a general concept of value_. Alongside, then, of
the Marxian investigation, there can, or rather must, exist and
flourish a general economic science, which may determine a concept of
value, deducing it from quite different and more comprehensive
principles than the special ones of Marx. And, if the pure economists,
confined to their own special province, have been wrong to show an
ungenerous intellectual dislike for Marx's investigations, his
followers, in their turn, have been wrong to regard ungratefully a
branch of research which was alien to them, calling it now useless,
and now frankly absurd.

Such is, in effect, my opinion, and I freely acknowledge that I have
never been able to discover other antithesis or enmity between these
two branches of research except the purely accidental one of the
mutual antipathy to and mental ignorance of each other, of two groups
of students. Some have resorted to a political explanation; but, with
no wish to deny that political prepossessions are often the causes of
theoretical errors, I do not consider an explanation as adequate and
appropriate, which resolves itself into accusing a large number of
students of allowing themselves blindly and foolishly to be overcome
by passions alien to science; or, what is worse, of knowingly
falsifying their thought and constructing a whole economic system from
motives of practical opportunism.

Indeed Marx himself had not the time or means to adopt an attitude, so
to speak, towards the _purists_, or the _hedonists_, or the
_utilitarians_, or the _deductive_ or _Austrian_ school, or whatever
else they may call themselves. But he had the greatest contempt for
the _oeconomia vulgaris_, under which term he was wont to include also
the researches of general economics, which explain what needs no
explanation and is intuitively evident, and leave unexplained what is
more difficult and of genuine interest. Nor has Engels discussed the
subject; but an indication of his opinion may be found in his attack
on Dühring. Dühring was struggling to find a general law of value,
which should govern all possible types of economic organisation; and
Engels refuted him: 'Anyone who wishes to bring under the same law the
political economy of Terra del Fuoco and that of modern England, can
produce nothing but the vulgarest commonplaces.' He scorns the truth
of ultimate instance, the eternal laws of value, the tautologous and
empty axioms which Herr Dühring would have produced by his method.[32]
Fixed and eternal laws are non-existent: there is then no possibility
of constructing a general science of economics, valid for all times
and in all places. If Engels had meant to refer to those who affirm
the eternity and inevitability of the laws characteristic of
capitalist society, he would have been justified; and would have been
aiming his blows at a prejudice which history alone suffices to
refute, by showing as it does, how capitalism has appeared at
different times, replacing other types of economic organisation, and
has also disappeared, replaced by other types. But in Dühring's case
the criticism was much beside the mark; since Dühring did not indeed
mean to set up the laws of capitalist society as fixed and eternal;
but to determine _a general concept of value_, which is quite another
matter: or, in other words, to show how, _from a purely economic point
of view_, capitalist society is explained by the same general concepts
as explain the other types of organisation. No effort, not even that
of Engels, will suffice to stop such a problem from being stated and
solved; unless it were possible to destroy the human intellect, which,
in addition to particular facts, recognises universal concepts.

It would be instructive to examine the references which there are in
Marx's _Das Kapital_ to unfinished analyses, extraneous to his special
method; for in this dependence on analysis the researches of pure
economics have their origin. What is, for instance, _abstract human
labour_ (_abstrakt menschliche Arbeit_), a concept which Marx uses
like a postulate? By what _method_ is that reduction of _complex_ to
_simple_ labour accomplished, to which he refers as to an obvious and
ordinary matter? And if, in Marx's hypothesis, _commodities_ appear as
_congealed labour_, or _crystalised labour_, why by another
hypothesis, should not all economic goods and not only commodities,
appear as _congealed methods of satisfying needs_ or as _crystalised
needs_? I read at one point in _Das Kapital_: 'Things which in
themselves are not commodities, _e.g._ knowledge, honour, etc., may be
sold by their owners; and thus, by means of their price, acquire the
form of commodities. A thing may formally have a price without having
a value. The expression of the price here becomes _imaginary_ like
certain quantities in mathematics.'[33] Here is yet another
difficulty, indicated but not overcome. Where are these _formal_ or
_imaginary_ prices to be found? And what are they? By what laws are
they governed? Or are they perhaps like the Greek words in Latin
prosody, which according to the school rule, _per Ausoniae fines sine
lege vagantur_?--Questions of this kind are answered by the researches
of pure economics.

The philosopher Lange also, who rejected Marx's law of value, which he
regarded as an _extravagant production_, _a child of sorrow_, thinking
it unsuitable--and in this he was justified, as a general law of
value, arrived at the solutions which have since been given of the
latter, a long time before the researches of the purists came into
blossom. 'Some years ago,' he wrote in his book on labour problems,
'I too worked at a new theory of value, _which should be of such a
character as to show the most extreme cases of variation in value as
special cases of the same formula_.' And, whilst adding that he had
not completed it, he intimated that the course which he attempted was
the same as that hastily glanced at by Jevons in his _Theory of
political economy_, published in 1871.[34]

To any of the more cautious and moderate Marxians it is plainly
evident that the researches of the Hedonists are not merely to be
rejected as erroneous or unfounded; and hence an attempt has been made
to vindicate them in reference to the Marxian doctrine as an _economic
psychology_, having its place alongside of true economics itself. But
this definition contains a curious equivocation. Pure economics is
quite apart from psychology. Indeed, to begin with, it is hard to fix
the meaning of the words _economic psychology_. The science of
psychology is divided into _formal_ and _descriptive_. In formal
psychology there is no place either for economic fact nor for any
other fact which may represent a particular content. In descriptive
psychology, it is true, are included representations, sentiments and
desires of an economic content, but included as they appear in
reality, mixed with the other psychical phenomena of different
content, and inseparable from them. Thus _descriptive economic
psychology_ can be, at most, an approximate limitation, by which we
take as a subject of special description the way in which men (at a
given time and place, or even in the mass as hitherto they have
appeared in history) think, feel and desire in respect to a certain
class of goods which are usually called material or economic, and
which, however, stand in need of specification and definition.
Subject-matter, in truth, better suited to history than to science,
which regards such matters only as empty and unimportant
generalisations. This may be seen in the long discussion of the matter
by that most weighty of pedants, Wagner, in his manual, which, of all
that has been written on the question, I think the most worthy of
notice, and which is yet, in itself, a thing very little worthy of
notice or conclusive.[35] An enumeration and description of the
various tendencies which exist in men as they appear in ordinary life:
egoistical and altruistic tendencies, love of self-advantage and fear
of disadvantage, fear of punishment and hope of reward, sense of
honour and fear of disgrace and public contempt, love of activity and
dislike of idleness, feeling of reverence for the moral code, etc.,
this is what Wagner calls _economic psychology_; and which might
better be called: _various observations in descriptive psychology, to
be kept in mind whilst studying the practical questions of

But what, pray, has pure economics in common with psychology? The
purists start from the hedonistic postulate, _i.e._ from the economic
nature itself of man, and deduce from it the concepts of _utility_
(_economic_ utility which Pareto has proposed to call by a special
name, _ofelimita_, from the Greek ωφἑλιμοϛ) of _value_, and
directly, all the other special laws in accordance with which man
behaves in so far as he is an abstract _homo oeconomicus_. They do
exactly what the science of ethics does with the moral nature; and the
science of logic with the logical nature; and so on. At this rate then
would ethics be a _psychology of ethics_ and logic a _psychology of
logic_? And, since all that we know passes through the human mind,
ontology would be a _psychology of existence_, mathematics a
_psychology of mathematics_, and we should thus have confused the most
diverse things, ending in a disorder the aim of which would be no
longer comprehensible. Hence we conclude, that with care and the
exercise of a little thought, it will necessarily be agreed that pure
economics is not a psychology, but is the true and essential _general
science of economic facts_.

Professor Labriola, too, shows a certain ill-humour which does not
seem to me entirely justified, towards the pure economists, 'who', he
says, 'translate into _psychological conceptualism_ the influence of
_risk_ and other analogous considerations of ordinary commercial
practice! And they do well--I answer--because the mind desires to give
an account even of the influences of risk and of commercial practice,
and to explain their mechanism and character. And then, _psychological
conceptualism_; is not this an unfortunate connection between what
your intellect shows you that pure economics really is (science which
takes as its starting point an irreducible concept), and that
hazardous definition of _psychology_ which has been criticised above?
Are not the noun and adjective in opposition to one another? And
further, Labriola speaks contemptuously of the '_abstract atomism_' of
the hedonists, in which, 'one no longer knows what history is, and
progress is reduced to mere appearance.'[37] Here too, it does not
seem to me that his contempt is justified; for Labriola is well aware
that in all abstract sciences, concrete and individual things
disappear and that their _elements_ alone remain as objects to be
considered: hence this cannot be made a ground for special complaint
against economic science. But _history_ and _progress_, even if they
are alien to the study of abstract economics, do not therefore cease
to exist and to form the subject of other studies of the human mind;
and this is what matters.

For my part I hold firmly to the economic notion of the hedonistic
guide, to utility-ophelimity, to final utility, and even to the
explanation (economic) of interest on capital as arising from the
different degrees of utility possessed by present and future goods.
But this does not satisfy the desire for a _sociological_, so to
speak, elucidation of interest on capital; and this elucidation, with
others of the same kind, can only be obtained from the comparative
considerations put before us by Marx.[38]



    _Historical materialism a canon of historical interpretation:
        Canon does not imply anticipation of results: Question as
        to how Marx and Engels understood it: Difficulty of
        ascertaining correctly and method of doing so: How
        Marxians understand it: Their metaphysical tendency:
        Instances of confusion of concepts in their writings:
        Historical materialism has not a special philosophy
        immanent within it._

Historical materialism if it is to express something critically
acceptable, can, as I have had occasion to state elsewhere,[39] be
neither a new _a priori_ notion of the philosophy of history, nor a
new method of historical thought; it must be simply a _canon_ of
historical interpretation. This canon recommends that attention be
directed to the so-called economic basis of society, in order that the
forms and mutations of the latter may be better understood.

The concept canon ought not to raise difficulty, especially when it is
remembered that _it implies no anticipation of results_, but only an
aid in seeking for them; and is entirely of empirical origin. When
the critic of the text of Dante's _Comedia_ uses Witte's well-known
canon, which runs: '_the difficult reading is to be preferred to the
easy one_,' he is quite aware that he possesses a mere instrument,
which may be useful to him in many cases, useless in others, and whose
correct and advantageous employment depends entirely on his caution.
In like manner and with like meaning it must be said that historical
materialism is a mere _canon_; although it be in truth a canon _most
rich in suggestion_.

But was it in this way that Marx and Engels understood it? and is it
in this way that Marx's followers usually understand it?

Let us begin with the first question. Truly a difficult one, and
offering a multiplicity of difficulties. The first of these arises so
to speak, from the _nature of the sources_. The doctrine of historical
materialism is not embodied in a classical and definite book by those
authors, with whom it is as it were identified; so that, to discuss
that book and to discuss the doctrine might seem all one thing. On the
contrary it is scattered through a series of writings, composed in the
course of half a century, at long intervals, where only the most
casual mention is made of it, and where it is sometimes merely
understood or implied. Anyone who desired to reconcile all the forms
with which Marx's and Engels have endowed it, would stumble upon
contradictory expressions, which would make it impossible for the
careful and methodical interpreter to decide what, on the whole,
historical materialism meant for them.

Another difficulty arises in regard to the weight to be attached to
their expressions. I do not think that there has yet been a study of
what might be called Marx's _forma mentis_; with which Engels had
something in common, partly owing to congeniality, partly owing to
imitation or influence. Marx, as has been already remarked, had a kind
of abhorrence for researches of purely scholastic interest. Eager for
knowledge of _things_ (I say, of concrete and individual things) he
attached little weight to discussions of _concepts_ and the _forms of
concepts_; this sometimes degenerated into an exaggeration in his own
concepts. Thus we find in him a curious opposition between statements
which, interpreted strictly, are erroneous; and yet appear to us, and
indeed are, loaded and pregnant with truth. Marx was addicted, in
short, to a kind of _concrete logic_.[40] Is it best then to interpret
his expressions literally, running the risk of giving them a meaning
different from what they actually bore in the writer's inmost
thoughts? Or is it best to interpret them broadly, running the
opposite risk of giving them a meaning, theoretically perhaps more
acceptable, but historically less true?

The same difficulty certainly occurs in regard to the writings of
numerous thinkers; but it is especially great in regard to those of
Marx. And the interpreter must proceed with caution: he must do his
work bit by bit, book by book, statement by statement, connecting
indeed these various indications one with another, but taking account
of differences of time, of actual circumstances, of fleeting
impressions, of mental and literary habits; and he must submit to
acknowledge ambiguities and incompleteness where either exists,
resisting the temptation to confirm and complete by his own judgment.
It may be allowed for instance, as it appears to me for various
reasons, that the way in which historical materialism is stated above
is the same as that in which Marx and Engels understood it in their
inmost thoughts; or at least that which they would have agreed to as
correct if they had had more time available for such labours of
scientific elaboration, and if criticism had reached them less
tardily. And all this is of importance up to a certain point, for the
interpreter and historian of ideas; since for the history of science,
Marx and Engels are neither more nor less than they appear in their
books and works; real, and not hypothetical or possible persons.[41]

But even for science itself, apart from the history of it, the
hypothetical or possible Marx and Engels have their value. What
concerns us theoretically is to understand the various possible ways
of interpreting the problems proposed and the solutions thought out by
Marx and Engels, and to select from the latter by criticism those
which appear theoretically true and welcome. What was Marx's
intellectual standpoint with reference to the Hegelian philosophy of
history? In what consisted the criticism which he gave of it? Is the
purport of this criticism always the same for instance in the article
published in the _Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher_, for 1844, in the
_Heilige Familie_ of 1845, in the _Misère de la philosophie_ of 1847,
in the appendix to _Das Komnunistische Manifest_ of 1848, in the
preface to the _Zur Kritik_ of 1859, and in the preface to the 2nd
edition of _Das Kapital_ of 1873? Is it again in Engels' works in the
_Antidühring_, in the article on _Feuerbach_, etc.? Did Marx ever
really think of substituting, as some have believed, _Matter_ or
material fact for the Hegelian _Idea_? And what connection was there
in his mind between the concepts _material_ and _economic_? Again, can
the explanation given by him, of his position with regard to Hegel:
'the ideas determined by facts and not the facts by the ideas,' be
called an inversion of Hegel's view, or is it not rather the inversion
of that of the ideologists and doctrinaires?[42] These are some of the
questions pertaining to the _history of ideas_, which will be
answered some time or other: perhaps at present the time has not yet
arrived to write the history of ideas which are still in the process
of development.[43]

But, putting aside this historical curiosity, it concerns us now to
work at these ideas in order to advance in theoretical knowledge. How
can historical materialism justify itself scientifically? This is the
question I have proposed to myself, and to which the answer is given
by the critical researches referred to at the beginning of this
paragraph. Without returning to them I will give other examples, taken
from the same source, that of the Marxian literature. How ought we to
understand scientifically Marx's _neodialectic_? The final opinion
expressed by Engels on the subject seems to be this: the dialect is
the rhythm of the development of things, _i.e._ the inner law of
things in their development. This rhythm is not determined _a priori_,
and by metaphysical deduction, but is rather observed and gathered _a
posteriori_, and only through the repeated observations and
verifications that are made of it in various fields of reality, can it
be presupposed that all facts develop through negations, and negations
of negations.[44] Thus the dialect would be the discovery of a great
natural law, less empty and formal than the so-called _law of
evolution_ and it would have nothing in common with the old Hegelian
dialect except the name, which would preserve for us an historical
record of the way in which Marx arrived at it. But does this natural
rhythm of development exist? This could only be stated from
observation, to which indeed, Engels appealed in order to assert its
existence. And what kind of a law is one which is revealed to us by
observation? Can it ever be a law which governs things absolutely, or
is it not one of those which are now called tendencies, or rather is
it not merely a simple and limited generalisation? And this
recognition of rhythm through negations of negations, it is not some
rag of the old metaphysics, from which it may be well to free
ourselves.[45] This is the investigation needed for the progress of
science. In like manner should other statements of Marx and Engels be
criticised. What for example shall we think of Engels' controversy
with Dühring concerning the basis of history: whether this is
_political force_ or _economic fact_? Will it not seem to us that this
controversy can perhaps retain any value in face of Dühring's
assertion that political fact is that _which is essential
historically_, but in itself has not that general importance which it
is proposed to ascribe to it? We may reflect for a moment that Engels'
thesis: 'force protects (_schützt_) but does not cause (_verursacht_)
usurpation,' might be directly inverted into another that: 'force
_causes_ usurpation, but economic interest _protects_ it,' and this by
the well known principle of the inter-dependence and competition of
the social factors.

And the class war? In what sense is the general statement true that
_history is a class war_? I should be inclined to say that history is
a class war (1) when there are classes, (2) when they have
antagonistic interests, (3) when they are aware of this antagonism,
which would give us, in the main, the humourous equivalence that
history is a class war only when it is a class war. In fact sometimes
classes have not had antagonistic interests, and very often they are
not conscious of them; of which the socialists are well aware when
they endeavour, by efforts not always crowned with success (with the
peasantry, for example, they have not yet succeeded), to arouse this
consciousness in the modern proletariat. As to the possibility of the
non-existence of classes, the socialists who prophesy this
non-existence for the society of the future, must at least admit that
it is not a matter intrinsically necessary to historical development,
since in the future, and without classes, history, it may well be
hoped will continue. In short even the particular statement that
'history is a class war,' has that limited value of a canon and of a
point of view, which we have allowed in general to the materialist

The second of the two questions proposed at the beginning is: How do
the Marxians understand historical materialism? To me it seems
undeniable that in the Marxian literature, _i.e._ the writings of the
followers and interpreters of Marx, there exists in truth a
_metaphysical danger_ of which it is necessary to beware. Even in the
writings of Professor Labriola some statements are met with which have
recently led a careful and accurate critic to conclude that Labriola
understands historical materialism in the genuine and original sense
of a metaphysic, and that of the worst kind, a metaphysic of the
contingent.[47] But although I have myself, on another occasion,
pointed out those statements and formulae which seem to me doubtful in
Labriola's writings, I still think, as I thought then, that they are
superficial outgrowths on a system of thought essentially sound; or to
speak in a manner agreeing with the considerations developed above,
that Labriola, having educated himself in Marxism, may have borrowed
from it also some of its over-absolute style, and at times a certain
carelessness about the working out of concepts, which are somewhat
surprising in an old Herbartian like himself,[48] but which he then
corrects by observations and limitations always useful, even if
slightly contradictory, because they bring us back to the ground of

Labriola, moreover, has a special merit, which marks him off from the
ordinary exponents and adapters of historical materialism. Although
his theoretical formulae may here and there expose him to criticism,
when he turns to history, _i.e._ to concrete facts, he changes his
attitude, throws off as it were, the burden of theory and becomes
cautious and circumspect: _he possesses, in a high degree, respect for
history_. He shows unceasingly his dislike for formulae of every kind,
when concerned to establish and scrutinise definite processes, nor
does he forget to give the warning that there exists 'no theory,
however good and excellent in itself, which will help us to a summary
knowledge of every historical detail.'[49]

In his last book we may note especially a full inquiry into what could
possibly be the nature of a _history of Christianity_. Labriola
criticises those who set up as an historical subject the _essence_ of
Christianity, of which it is unknown where or when it has existed;
since the history of the last centuries of the Roman Empire shows us
merely the origin and growth of what constituted the Christian
society, or the church, a varying group of facts amidst varied
historical conditions. This critical opinion held by Labriola seems to
me perfectly correct; since it is not meant to deny, (what I myself,
do not deny) the justification of that method of historical
exposition, which for lack of another phrase, I once called _histories
by concepts_,[50] thus distinguishing it from the historical
exposition of the life of a given social group in a given place and
during a given period of time. He who writes the _history of
Christianity_, claims in truth, to accomplish a task somewhat similar
to the tasks of the historians of _literature_, of _philosophy_, of
_art_: _i.e._ to isolate a body of facts which enter into a fixed
concept, and to arrange them in a chronological series, without
however denying or ignoring the source which these facts have in the
other facts of life, but keeping them apart for the convenience of
more detailed consideration. The worst of it is that whereas
literature, philosophy, art and so on are determined or determinable
concepts, Christianity is almost solely a bond, which unites beliefs
often intrinsically very diverse; and, in writing the history of
Christianity, there is often a danger of writing in reality the
history of a _name, void without substance_.[51]

But what would Labriola say if his cautious criticism were turned
against that _history of the origin of the family, of private property
and of class distinctions_, which is one of the most extensive
historical applications made by the followers of Marx: desired by
Marx, sketched out by Engels on the lines of Morgan's investigations,
carried on by others. Alas, in this matter, the aim was not merely to
write, as could, perhaps, have been done, a useful manual of the
historical facts which enter into these three concepts, but actually
an _additional history_ was produced: A history, to use Labriola's own
phrase, of the _essence_ family, of the _essence_ class and of the
_essence_ private property, with a predetermined cadence. A 'history
of the family,' to confine ourselves to one of the three groups of
facts,--can only be an enumeration and description of the particular
forms taken by the _family_ amongst different races and in the course
of time: a series of particular histories, which unite themselves into
a general concept. It is this which is offered by Morgan's theories,
expounded by Engels, which theories modern criticism have cut away on
all sides.[52] Have they not allowed themselves to presuppose, as an
historical stage, through which all races are fated to pass, that
chimerical matriarchate, in which the mere reckoning of descent
through the mother is confused with the predominance of woman in the
family and that of woman in society? Have we not seen the reproofs and
even the jeers directed by some Marxians against those cautious
historians who deny that it is possible to assert, in the present
condition of the criticism of sources, the existence of a primitive
communism, or a matriarchate, amongst the Hellenic races? Indeed, I do
not think that throughout this investigation proof has been given of
much critical foresight.

I should also like to call Labriola's attention to another confusion,
very common in Marxian writings, between _economic forms of
organisation_ and _economic epochs_. Under the influence of
evolutionist positivism, those divisions which Marx expressed in
general: the _Asiatic_, the _antique_, the _feudal_ and the
_bourgeois_ economic organisation, have become four historical
_epochs_: _communism_, _slave organisation_, _serf organisation_, and
_wage-earning organisation_. But the modern historian, who is indeed
not such a superficial person as the ordinary Marxians are accustomed
to say, thus sparing themselves the trouble of taking a share in his
laborious procedure, is well aware that there are four _forms_ of
economic organisation, which succeed and intersect one another in
actual history, often forming the oddest mixtures and sequences. He
recognises an Egyptian mediævalism or feudalism, as he recognises an
Hellenic mediævalism or feudalism; he knows too of a German
_neo-mediævalism_ which followed the flourishing bourgeois
organisation of the German cities before the Reformation and the
discovery of the New World; and he willingly compares the general
economic conditions of the Greco-Roman world at its zenith with those
of Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Connected with this arbitrary conception of historical epochs, is the
other of the inquiry into _the cause_ (note carefully; into the cause)
of the transition from one form to another. Inquiry is made, for
instance, into the _cause_ of the abolition of slavery, which must be
the _same_, whether we are considering the decline of the Greco-Roman
world or modern America; and so for serfdom, and for primitive
communism and the capitalist system: amongst ourselves the famous
Loria has occupied himself with these absurd investigations, the
perpetual revelation of a single cause, of which he himself does not
know exactly whether it be the earth, or population or something
else--yet it should not take much to convince us, (it would suffice
for the purpose to read, with a little care, some books of narrative
history), that the transition from one form of economic, or more
generally, social, organisation, to another, is not the result of a
_single cause_, nor even of _a group of causes which are always the
same_; but is due to causes and circumstances which need examination
for each case since they usually vary for each case. Death is death;
but people die of many diseases.

But enough of this; and I may be allowed to conclude this paragraph by
reference to a question which Labriola also brings forward in his
recent work, and which he connects with the criticism of historical

Labriola distinguishes between historical materialism as an
interpretation of history, and as a general conception of life and of
the universe (_Lebens-und-Weltanschauung_), and he inquires what is
the nature of the _philosophy immanent_ in historical materialism; and
after some remarks, he concludes that this philosophy is the _tendency
to monism_, and is a _formal_ tendency.

Here I take leave to point out that if into the term _historical
materialism two different things_ are intruded, _i.e._: (1) a method
of interpretation; (2) a definite conception of life and of the
universe; it is natural to find a philosophy in it, and moreover with
a tendency to monism, because it was included therein at the outset.
What close connection is there between these two orders of thought?
Perhaps a logical connection of _mental coherence_? For my part, I
confess that I am unable to see it. I believe, on the contrary, that
Labriola, this time, is simply stating _à propos_ of historical
materialism what he thinks to be the necessary attitude of modern
thought with regard to the problems of ontology; or what, according to
him, should be the standpoint of the socialist opinion in regard to
the conceptions of optimism and pessimism; and so on. I believe, in
short, that he is not making an _investigation_ which will reveal the
philosophical conceptions underlying historical materialism; but
merely a _digression_, even if a digression of interest and
importance. And how many other most noteworthy opinions and
impressions and sentiments are welcomed by socialist opinion! But why
christen this assemblage of new facts by the name of historical
materialism, which has hitherto expressed the well-defined meaning of
a way of interpreting history? Is it not the task of the scientist to
distinguish and analyse what in empirical reality and to ordinary
knowledge appears mingled into one?



    _Socialism and free trade not scientific deductions: Obsolete
        metaphysics of old theory of free trade: Basis of modern
        free trade theories not strictly scientific though only
        possible one: The desirable is not science nor the
        practicable: Scientific law only applicable under certain
        conditions: Element of daring in all action._

It has become a commonplace that, owing to Marx's work, socialism has
passed _from utopia to science_, as the title of a popular booklet by
Engels expresses it; and _scientific socialism_ is a current term.
Professor Labriola does not conceal his doubts of such a term; and he
is right.

On the other hand, we hear the followers of other leaders, for
instance the extreme free traders (to whom I refer by preference
_honoris causa_, because they, too, are amongst the _idealists_ of our
times), in the name of science itself, condemn socialism as
_anti-scientific_ and declare that free trade is the only scientific

Would it not be convenient if both sides retraced their steps and
mortified their pride a little, and acknowledged that _socialism and
free trade_ may certainly be called _scientific_ in metaphor or
hyperbole; but that neither of them are, or ever can be, scientific
deductions? And that thus the problem of socialism, of free trade and
of any other practical social programme, may be transferred to another
region; which is not that of pure science, but which nevertheless is
the only one suited to them?

Let us pause for an instant at free trade. It presents itself to us
from two points of view, _i.e._ with a two-fold justification. In the
older aspect it undeniably has a metaphysical basis, consisting in
that conviction of the goodness of natural laws and that concept of
_nature_ (natural law, state of nature, etc.) which, proceeding from
the philosophy of the 17th century, was predominant in the 18th
century.[53] 'Do not hinder Nature in her work and all will be for the
best.' A similar note is struck, only indirectly, by a criticism like
that of Marx; who, when analysing the concept of _nature_, showed that
it was the ideological complement of the historical development of the
middle class, a powerful weapon of which this class availed itself
against the privileges and oppressions which it intended to
overthrow.[54] Now this concept may indeed have originated as a weapon
made occasional use of historically, and nevertheless be intrinsically
true. _Natural law_ in this case, is equivalent to _rational law_; it
is necessary to deny both the rationality and the excellence of this
law. Now, just because of its metaphysical origin, this concept can be
rejected altogether, but cannot be refuted in detail--it disappears
with the metaphysic of which it was a part, and it seems at length to
have really disappeared. Peace to the _sublime goodness_ of natural

But free trade presents itself to us, among its more recent
supporters, in a very different aspect--the free traders, abandoning
metaphysical postulates, assert two theses of practical importance:
(_a_) that of an _economic hedonistic maximum_, which they suppose
identical with the maximum of social desirability;[55] and (_b_) the
other, that this hedonistic maximum can only be completely secured by
means of the fullest economic liberty. These two theses certainly take
us outside metaphysics and into the region of reality; but not
actually into the region of science. Indeed the first of them contains
a statement of the ends of social life, which may perhaps be welcome,
but is not a deduction from any scientific proposition. The second
thesis cannot be proved except by reference to experience, _i.e._ to
what we know of human psychology, and to what, by approximate
calculation, we may suppose that psychology will still probably be in
the future. A calculation which can be made, and has been made with
great acumen, with great erudition and with great caution and which
hence may even be called scientific, but only in a metaphorical and
hyperbolical sense, as we have already remarked: hence the knowledge
which it affords us, can never have the value of strictly scientific
knowledge.[56] Pareto, who is both one of the most intelligent and
also one of the most trustworthy and sincere, of the recent exponents
and supporters of free trade,[57] does not deny the limited and
approximate nature of its conclusions; which appears to him so much
the more clearly in that he uses mathematical formulae, which show at
once the degree of certainty to which statements of this kind may lay

And, in effect, communism (which has also had its metaphysical period,
and earlier still a theological period) may, with entire justice, set
against the two theses of free trade, two others of its own which
consist: (_a_) in a different and not purely economic estimate of the
maximum of social desirability; (_b_) in the assertion that this
maximum can be attained, not through extreme free trade, but rather
through the organisation of economic forces; which is the meaning of
the famous saying concerning the _leap from the reign of necessity_
(=free competition or anarchy) _into that of liberty_ (=the command of
man over the forces of nature even in the sphere of the social natural
life). But neither can these two theses be proved; and for the same
reasons. Ideals cannot be proved; and empirical calculations and
practical convictions are not science. Pareto clearly recognises this
quality in modern socialism; and agrees that the communistic system,
as a system, is perfectly conceivable, _i.e._ theoretically it offers
no internal contradictions (§ 446). According to him it clashes, not
with scientific laws, but with _immense practical difficulties_
(_l.c._) such as the difficulty of adopting technical improvements
without the trial and selection secured by free competition; the lack
of stimuli to work; the choice of officials, which in a communistic
society would be guided, still according to him, not by wholly
technical reasons, as in modern industry, but on political and social
grounds (837). He admits the socialist criticism of the waste due to
free competition; but thinks this inevitable as a practical way of
securing equilibrium of production. The real problem--he says--is:
whether without the experiments of free competition it is possible to
arrive at a knowledge of the line (the line which he calls _mn_) of
the complete adaptation of production to demand, and whether the
expense of making a unified (communistic) organisation of work, would
not be greater than that needed to solve the equations of production
by experiments (718, 867). He also acknowledged that there is
something parasitical in the capitalist (Marx's _sad-faced knight_);
but, at the same time, he maintains that the capitalist renders social
services, for which we do not know how otherwise to provide.[58] If it
be desired to state briefly the contrasts in the two different points
of view, it may be said that human psychology is regarded by the free
traders as for the most part, determined, and by the socialists, as
for the most part changeable and adaptable. Now it is certain that
human psychology does change and adapt itself; but the extent and
rapidity of these changes are incapable of exact determination and are
left to conjecture and opinion. Can they ever become the subject of
exact calculation?

If now we pass to considerations of another kind, not of what is
desirable, that is of the ends and means admired and thought good by
us; but of what under present circumstances, history promises us;
_i.e._ of the objective tendencies of modern society, I really do not
know with what meaning many free traders cast on socialism the
reproach of being Utopian. For quite another reason socialists might
cast back the same reproach upon free trade, if it were considered as
it is at present, and not as it was fifty years ago when Marx composed
his criticism upon it. Free Trade and its recommendations turn upon an
entity which _now at least_, does not exist: _i.e._ the national or
general interest of society; since existing society is divided into
antagonistic groups and recognises the interest of each of these
groups, but not, or only very feebly, a general interest. Upon which
does free trade reckon? On the landed proprietors or on the industrial
classes, on the workmen or on the holders of public dignities?
Socialism, on the contrary, from Marx onwards, has placed little
reliance on the good sense and good intentions of men, and has
declared that the social revolution must be accomplished chiefly by
the effort of a class directly interested, _i.e._ the proletariat. And
socialism has made such advances that history must inquire whether the
experience that we have of the past justifies the supposition that a
social movement, so widespread and intense, can be reabsorbed or
dispersed without fully testing itself in the sphere of facts. On this
matter too I gladly refer to Pareto, who acknowledges that even in
that country of free traders' dreams, in England, the system is
supported not owing to people's conviction of its intrinsic
excellence, but because it is in the interests of certain
_entrepreneurs_.[59] And he recognises, with political acumen, that
since social movement takes place in the same manner as all other
movements, along the line of least resistance, it is very likely that
it may be necessary to pass through a socialistic state,--in order to
reach a state of free competition (§ 791).

I have said that the extreme free traders, much more than the
socialists, are _idealists_, or if one prefers it, _ideologists_.
Hence in Italy we are witnesses of this strange phenomenon, a sort of
fraternising and spiritual sympathy between socialists and free
traders, in so far as both are bitter and searching critics of the
same thing, which the former call the _bourgeois tyranny_ and the
latter _bourgeois socialism_. But in the field of practical activity
the socialists (and here I no longer refer especially to Italy)
undoubtedly make progress whilst the free traders have to limit
themselves to the barrenness of evil-speaking and of aspirations,
forming a little group of well-meaning people of select intelligence,
who make audience for one another.[60] By this I mean no reproach to
these sincere and thoroughly consistent free-traders: rather I
sincerely admire them; their lack of success is not their own fault.
I wish merely to remark that if ideals, as the philosopher says, have
short legs, those of the free traders' ideals are indeed of the

I could continue this exemplification, bringing forward various other
social programmes, such as that of state socialism, which consists in
accepting the socialist ideal, but as an ultimate end perhaps never
fully attainable, and extending its partial attainment over a long
course of centuries; and in relying for the effective force, not in a
revolutionary class, nor simply in the views of right thinkers, but in
the state, conceived as a creative power, independent of and superior
to individual wills. It is certainly undeniable that the function of
the state, like all social functions, owing to a complication of
circumstances, amongst which are tradition, reverence, the
consciousness of something which surpasses individuals, and other
impressions and sentiments which are analysed by collective
psychology, acquires a certain independence and develops a certain
peculiar force; but in the estimation of this force great mistakes are
made, as socialist criticism has clearly shown: and, in any case,
whether it be great or small, we are always faced by a calculation;
and one moreover, in the region of opinion, which region science may,
in part, yet bring under its power, but which in a great degree will
always be rebellious to it.

Oh the misuses which are made of this word _science_! Once these
misuses were the monopoly of metaphysics, to whose despotic nature
they appeared suitable. And the strangest instances could be quoted,
even from great philosophers, from Hegel, from Schopenhauer, from
Rosmini, which would show how the humblest practical conclusions, made
by the passions and interests of men, have often been metaphysically
transformed into inferences from the Spirit, from the Divine Being,
from the Nature of things, from the finality of the universe.
Metaphysics hypostatised what it then triumphantly inferred. The
youthful Marx wittily discovered in the Hegelianism of Bruno Bauer,
the _pre-established harmony of critical analysis_ (Kritische Kritik)
under German _censorship_. Those who most frequently have the word in
their mouths make a sort of Sibyl or Pythia of a limited intellectual
function. But the _desirable_ is not science, nor is the

Is scientific knowledge then in fact superfluous in practical
questions? Are we to assent to this absurdity? The attentive reader
will be well aware that we are not here discussing the _utility_ of
science, but the possibility of _inferring_, as some claim to do,
_practical programmes from scientific prepositions_; and it is this
possibility only which is denied.

Science, in so far as it consists in knowledge of the laws governing
actual facts, may be a legitimate means of simplifying problems,
making it possible to distinguish in them what can be scientifically
ascertained from what can only be partially known. A great number of
things which are commonly disputed, may be cleared up and accurately
decided by this method. To give an example, when Marx in opposition to
Proudhon and his English predecessors (Bray, Gray, etc.) showed the
absurdity of creating _labour bonds_, _i.e._ labour-money; and when
Engels directed similar criticisms against Dühring, and then again,
perhaps with less justification, against Rodbertus[62] or when both
established the close connection between the method of production and
the method of distribution, they were working in the field proper to
scientific demonstration, trying to prove an inconsistency between the
conclusions and the premisses, _i.e._ an internal contradiction in the
concepts criticised. The same may be said of the proof, carefully
worked out by the free traders, of the proposition: that protection of
every kind is equivalent to a destruction of wealth. And if it were
possible to establish accurately that law of the tendency of the rate
of profits to decline, with which Marx meant to correct and widen the
Ricardian law deduced from the continuous encroachments of the rent of
land, it could be said, _under certain conditions_, that the end of
the bourgeois capitalist organisation was a scientific certainty,
though it would remain doubtful what could take its place.

This limitation '_under certain conditions_' is the point to be
noticed. All scientific laws are abstract laws; and there is no bridge
over which to pass from the concrete to the abstract; just because the
abstract is not a reality, but a form of thought, one of our, so to
speak, abbreviated ways of thinking. And, although a knowledge of the
laws may _light up_ our perception of reality, it cannot become _this
perception itself_.

Here we may agree with what Labriola justly felt, when, showing his
dissatisfaction with the term _scientific socialism_, he suggested,
though without giving any reasons, that that of _critical communism_
might be substituted.[63]

If then from abstract laws and concepts we pass to observations of
historical fact, we find, it is true, points of agreement between our
ideals and real things, but at the same time we enter upon those
difficult calculations and conjectures, from which it is always
impossible to eliminate, as was remarked above, the diversity of
opinions and propensities.

In face of the future of society, in face of the path to be pursued,
we have occasion to say with Faust--Who can say I believe? Who can say
I do not believe?

Not indeed that we wish to advocate or in any way justify a vulgar
scepticism. But at the same time we need to be sensible of the
relativity of our beliefs, and to come to a determination in practice
where indetermination is an error. This is the point; and herein lie
all the troubles of men of thought; and hence arises their practical
impotence, which art has depicted in Hamlet. Neither shall we wish, in
truth, to imitate that magistrate, famous for miles around the
district where he officiated for the justice of his decisions, of whom
Rabelais tells us, that he used the very simple method, when about to
make up his mind, of offering a prayer to God and settling his
decision by a game of odd and even.[64] But we must strive to attain
personal conviction, and then bear always in mind that great
characters in history have had the courage to _dare_. '_Alea jacta
est_,' said Cæsar; '_Gott helfe mir, amen!_' said Luther. The brave
deeds of history would not be brave if they had been accompanied by a
clear foresight of the consequences, as in the case of the prophets
and those inspired by God.

Fortunately, logic is not life, and man is not intellect alone. And,
whilst those same men whose critical faculty is warped, are the men of
imagination and passion, in the life of society the intellect plays a
very small part, and with a little exaggeration it may even be said
that things go their way independent of our actions. Let us leave them
to their romances, let them preach, I will not say in the market
places where they would not be believed, but in the university lecture
rooms, or the halls of congresses and conferences--the doctrine that
science (_i.e._ their science) is the ruling queen of life. And we
will content ourselves by repeating with Labriola that 'History is the
true mistress of all us men, and we are as it were _vitalised_ by



    _Meaning of Marx's phrase the 'impotence of morality' and his
        remark that morality condemns what has been condemned by
        history: Profundity of Marx's philosophy immaterial:
        Kant's position not surpassed._

Labriola, with his usual piquancy, lashes those who reduce history to
a _case of conscience_ or to an _error in bookkeeping_.

With this he recalls us to the two-fold consideration (1) that for
Marx the social question was not a moral question, and (2) that the
analysis made by Marx of capitalism amounts to a proof of the laws
which govern a given society, and not indeed to a proof of _theft_, as
some have understood it, as though it would suffice to restore to the
workman the amount of his wrongfully exacted surplus labour, so that
the accounts may turn out in order, and the social question be
satisfactorily solved.[65]

Leaving the second consideration, which yet gives us an instance of
the ludicrous travesties which may be made of a scientific theory, let
us pause for a moment over the first formula, which usually gives the
greatest offence to non-socialists; so much so that many of them wish
to put a little salt in the broth and complete socialism by morality.

In actual fact, offence and moral indignation have never been caused
less appropriately.

Those remarks in Marx's writings which savour of moral indifference,
bear a very limited and trivial meaning. Consider a moment, as indeed
has been considered many times, that no social order of any kind can
exist without a basis of slavery, or serfdom, or hired service; that
is to say that slavery, or serfdom, or hired service are natural
conditions of social order, and that without them a thing cannot
exist, which is so necessary to man that, at least since he was man,
he has never done without it, viz., society. Faced by such a fact,
what meaning would our moral judgment have, directed against these
governing human beings who call themselves slave owners, feudal lords
and bourgeois capitalists, and in favour of these governed human
beings who call themselves slaves, serfs, free labourers; neither of
whom could be different from what they are, nor could otherwise fulfil
the function assigned to them by the very nature of things.[66] Our
condemnation would be a condemnation of the inevitable; a Leopardian
curse directed against the _brutal power which rules in secret to the
general harm_. But moral praise or blame has reference always to an
act of will, good or bad; and such judgments would on the contrary be
directed against a fact, which has not been willed by anyone, but is
endured by every one because it cannot be different. You, indeed, may
lament it; but by lamenting it, you not only do not destroy it, you do
not even touch it, _i.e._, you waste your time.

This is what Marx calls the impotence of morality, which is as much as
to say that it is useless to propound questions which no effort can
answer and which are therefore absurd.

But when, on the other hand, these conditions of subjection are not
conceived as necessary for the social order in general, but only as
necessary for a stage in its history; and when new conditions make
their appearance which render it possible to destroy them (as was the
case in the industrial advance toward serfdom, and as the socialists
reckon will happen in the final phase of modern civilisation in regard
to wage earners and capitalism); then moral condemnation is justified,
and, up to a certain point, is also effective in quickening the
process of destruction and in sweeping away the last remnants of the

This is the meaning of Marx's other saying: that morality condemns
what has already been condemned by history.[67]

I cannot manage to see any difficulty in agreeing to remarks of this
kind, even from the standpoint of the strictest ethical theories.
There is here no question of misunderstanding the nature of morality,
and of wishing to make it into something fortuitous or relative; but
simply of determining the conditions of human progress, turning the
attention from the inevitable effects to the fundamental causes, and
seeking remedies in the nature of things and not in our caprices and
pious wishes. It must needs be thought that the opposition proceeds,
not from intellectual error, but rather from human pride, or vanity it
may be, owing to which many desire to retain for their wretched words
a little of the virtue of the divine word, which created light by its

The same feeling must perhaps be present as the basis of the horror
which usually greets the other practical maxim of the socialists; that
the workman educates himself by the political struggle. But Labriola
is fully justified in admiring in the advance of German socialism 'the
truly new and imposing instance of social pedagogy; viz. that, amongst
such an enormous number of men, particularly of workmen of the lower
middle class, a new consciousness is developing, within which compete
in equal degree, a direct sense of the economic situation, which
incites to the struggle, and the socialist propaganda understood as
the goal or point of arrival.' What means have the preachers of moral
maxims at their disposal, to secure a result equal to this? Who are
these workmen who combine in associations, who read their newspapers,
discuss the acts of their delegates and accept the decisions of their
congresses, if not _men who are educating themselves morally_?

But there is not only a question of vanity and pride in that feeling
of aversion, which animates many with regard to the practical maxims
of the socialists, and in the desire, which people also show, of
undertaking in the name of morality or religion, the spiritual
direction of the education of the working man; nor shall we wish to be
so ingenuous and complacent as to confine ourselves to such a partial
explanation. There is more, there is, I might almost say, an
_apprehension_ and a _fear_. An apprehension, little justified, lest
the political organisation of the proletariat may lead to a brutal and
unrestrained outbreak of the masses and to I know not what kind of
social ruin; as if such outbreaks were not recorded by history in
precisely those periods in which it is usual to suppose that the
dominion of religion over conscience was greatest,--as in the
_jacqueries_ of the fourteenth century in France, and again in the
_peasants' wars_ in Germany,--and in which there was no organisation
and political culture amongst the common people.[69] A _fear_, which
is on the contrary thoroughly justified and arises from the knowledge
that instinctive and blind proletariat movements are conquered by
force; whereas organisation combined with an enlightened
consciousness, is not conquered or only suffers temporary reverses.
Does not Mommsen remark, in reference to the slave revolts in ancient
Rome; that _states_ would be very fortunate if they were in no other
dangers besides those which might come to them from the revolts of
the proletariat, _which are no greater than the dangers arising from
the claws of hungry bears or wolves_?

These statements concerning ethics and socialist pedagogy having been
explained, someone might yet ask:--But what was the philosophical
opinion of Marx and Engels in regard to morality? Were they
relativists, utilitarians, hedonists, or idealists, absolutists, or
what else?

I may be allowed to point out that this question is of no great
importance, and is even somewhat inopportune, since neither Marx nor
Engels were philosophers of ethics, nor bestowed much of their
vigorous ability on such questions. It is indeed of consequence to
determine that their conclusions in regard to the function of morality
in social movements and to the method for the education of the
proletariat, contain no contradiction of general ethical principles,
even if here and there they clash with the prejudices of current
pseudo-morality. Their personal opinions upon the principles of ethics
did not take an elaborate scientific form in their books; and some wit
and some sarcasm are not adequate grounds upon which to base a
discussion of the subject.

And I will say yet more; in ethical matters, I have not yet succeeded
in freeing myself from the prison of the Kantian Critique, and do not
yet see the position taken up by Kant surpassed; on the contrary, I
see it strengthened by some of the most modern tendencies, and to me
the way in which Engels attacks Dühring with regard to the principles
of morality in his well-known book, does not in truth appear very
exhaustive.[70] Here again the procedure is repeated which we have
already criticised in connection with the discussions upon the general
concept of value. Where Dühring, owing to the exigencies of scientific
abstraction, takes for consideration the isolated individual and
explicitly states that he is dealing with an abstract illustration
(_Denkschema_), Engels remarks, wittily but erroneously--that the
isolated man is nothing but a new edition of the first Adam in the
Garden of Eden. It is true that in that criticism are contained many
well-directed blows; and it might even be called just, if it refers
only to ethical conceptions in the sense of assemblages of special
rules and moral judgments, relative to definite social situations,
which assemblages and constructions cannot claim absolute truth for
all times, and all places, precisely because they are always made for
particular times and particular places. But apart from these special
constructions, analysis offers us the essential and ruling principles
of morality, which give opportunity for questions which may, truly, be
differently answered, but which most certainly are not taken into
account by Marx and Engels. And, in truth, even if some may be able to
write on the _theory of knowledge according to_ _Marx_,[71] to write
on the principles of ethics according to Marx seems to me a somewhat
hopeless undertaking.



    _Recapitulation: 1. Justification of Marxian economics as
        comparative sociological economics: 2. Historical
        materialism simply a canon of historical interpretation:
        3. Marxian social programme not a pure science: 4.
        Marxism neither intrinsically moral nor antimoral._

The preceding remarks are partly attempts at interpretation, and
partly critical emendations of some of the concepts and opinions
expressed by Marx and in the Marxian literature. But how many other
points deserve to undergo revision! Beginning with that _concentration
of private property in a few hands_, which threatens to become
something like the discredited _iron law of wages_, and ending with
that strange statement in the history of philosophy that _the labour
movement is the heir of German classical philosophy_. And attention
could thus be given to another group of questions which we have not
discussed (_e.g._ to the conception of future society) in regard to
their detailed elucidation and their practical and historical
applications.[72] If that _decomposition of Marxism_, which some have
predicted,[73] meant a careful critical revision, it would indeed be

To sum up, in the meantime, the chief results which are suggested in
the preceding remarks: they maintain.

1. In regard to economic science, the _justification_ of Marxian
economics, understood not as general economic science, but as
comparative sociological economics, which is concerned with a problem
of primary interest for historical and social life.

2. In regard to the philosophy of history, the _purification_ of
historical materialism from all traces of any _a priori_ standpoint
(whether inherited from Hegelianism or an infection from ordinary
evolutionism) and the understanding of the theory as a simple, albeit
a fruitful, _canon_ of historical interpretation.

3. In regard to practical matters, the _impossibility of inferring_
the Marxian social programme (or, indeed, any other social programme)
from the propositions of pure science, since the appraisement of
social programmes must be a matter of empirical observations and
practical convictions; in which connection the Marxian programme
cannot but appear one of the noblest and boldest and also one of those
which obtain most support from the objective conditions of existing

4. In regard to ethics, the _abandonment of the legend_ of the
intrinsic _immorality_ or of the intrinsic _anti-ethical_ character of

I will add a remark on the second point. Many will think that if
historical materialism is reduced to the limits within which we have
confined it, it will not only no longer be a legitimate and real
scientific theory (which we are indeed prepared to grant) but will
actually lose all importance whatever, and against this second
conclusion we once more, as we have done already on another occasion,
make vigorous protest. Undoubtedly the horror expressed by some for
pure science and for abstractions is inane, since these intellectual
methods are indispensable for the very knowledge of concrete reality;
but no less inane is the complete and exclusive worship of abstract
propositions, of _definitions_, of _theorems_, of _corollaries_:
almost as if these constituted a sort of aristocracy of human thought.
Well! the economic purists (not to draw examples from other fields,
though numbers could be found in pure mathematics) prove to us, in
fact, that the discovery of scientific theorems,--strictly,
unimpeachably scientific,--is frequently neither an over-important nor
over-difficult matter. To be convinced thereof we need only remark how
many _eponimi_ of new theorems issue from every corner of the German
or English schools. And concrete reality, _i.e._ the very world in
which we live and move, and which it concerns us somewhat to know,
slips out, unseizable, from the broad-meshed net of abstractions and
hypotheses. Marx, as a sociologist, has in truth not given us
carefully worked out definitions of _social phenomena_, such as may be
found in the books of so many contemporary sociologists, of the
Germans Simmel and Stammler, or of the Frenchman Durckheim; but he
teaches us, although it is with statements approximate in content and
paradoxical in form, to penetrate to what society is in its _actual
truth_. Nay, from this point of view, I am surprised that no one has
thought of calling him 'the most notable _successor_ of the Italian
Niccolo Machiavelli'; a Machiavelli of the labour movement.

And I will also add a remark on the third point--if the social
programme of Marxism cannot be _wholly included_ in Marxian science,
or in any other science, no more can the daily practice of socialist
politics be, in its turn, _wholly included_ in the general principles
of the programme, which programme, if we analyse it, determines (1)
_an ultimate end_, (the technical organisation of society); (2) _an
impulse, based on history_, towards this end, found in the objective
tendencies of modern society (the necessity for the abolition of
capitalism and for a communistic organisation, as the one possible
_form of progress_); (3) _a method_ (to accelerate the final phases of
the bourgeoisie, and to educate politically the class destined to
succeed them). Marx, owing to his political insight, has for many
years in a striking manner, joined with, and guided by his advice and
his work, the international socialist movement; but he could not give
_precepts_ and _dogmas_ for every contingency and complication that
history might produce. Now _the continuation of Marx's political work
is much more difficult than the continuation of his scientific work_.
And, if, in continuing the latter, the so-called Marxians have
sometimes fallen into a _scientific dogmatism_ little to be admired,
some recent occurrences remind us of the danger, that the continuation
of the former may also degenerate into a dogmatism with the worst
effects, _i.e._ a _political dogmatism_. This gives food for thought
to all the more cautious Marxians, amongst whom are Kautsky and
Bernstein in Germany, and Sorel in France; Labriola's new book, too,
contains serious warnings on the matter.

_November, 1897._


[13] 'An immense monograph' (of economics understood) it is called by
Professor Antonio Labriola, the most notable of the Italian Marxians,
in his recent book (_Discorrendo di filosophia e socialismo_, Rome,
Loescher, 1898). But in an earlier work (_In Memoria del 'Manifesto
dei Comunisti'_, 2nd ed. Rome, 1895, p. 36) he defined it as '_a
philosophy of history_'.

[14] I leave out those who regard the law of labour-value as the
_general_ law of value. The refutation is obvious. How could it ever
be 'general' when it leaves out of account a whole category of
economic goods, that is the goods which cannot be increased by labour?

[15] WERNER SOMBART: _Zur Kritik des oekonomischen Systems von Karl
Marx_ (in the _Archiv für soziale Gesetzgebung und Statistik_ Vol.
VII, 1894, pp. 555-594). I have not by me the criticism (from the
Hedonistic point of view) of this article by Sombart--on the third
volume of _Das Kapital_--made last year by BOHM BAWERK in the
_Miscellany_ in honour of Knies.

[16] _Loc. cit._, p. 571, _et seq._

[17] In the _Neue Zeit_ xiv. vol. 1, pp. 4-11, 37-44, I quote from the
Italian translation: _Dal terzo volume del 'Capitale,'_ preface and
notes by F. Engels, Rome 1896, p. 39.

[18] _Sur la théorie Marxiste de la valeur_ (in the _Journal des
Economistes_, number for March 1897, pp. 222-31, see p. 228).

[19] _Discorrendo di socialismo e di filosophia_, p. 21.

[20] It must be carefully noticed that what I call a _concrete fact_
may still not be a fact which is empirically real, but a fact made by
us hypothetically and _entirely imaginary_ or a fact _partially
empirical_, _i.e._ existing partially in empirical reality. We shall
see later on that Marx's typical premise belongs properly to this
second class.

[21] I accept the term employed by Labriola so much the more readily
since it is the same as that used by me a year ago. See Essay on Loria
(_Materialismio Storico_, pp. 48-50).

[22] In making an hypothesis of this nature, Marx distinguished
clearly that, in such a case, 'labour-time would serve a _double_
purpose: on the one hand as standard of value, on the other as a
standard of the individual share reckoned to each producer in the
common labour' (_andrerseits dient die Arbeitzeit zugleich als Mass
des individuellen Antheils des Producenten an der Gemeinarbeit, und
daher auch an dem individuell verzehrbaren Theil des Gemein
products_): See _Das Kapital_ I, p. 45.

[23] This is a different thing from the workmen or operatives in our
capitalist society, who form a _class_, _i.e._ a portion of economic
society and not economic society in general and in the abstract,
producing goods which can be increased by labour.

[24] It may be doubted whether this general application of
labour-value to every working economic society was included in the
ideas of Marx and Engels, when the numerous passages are recalled in
which one or other has declared many times that _in the future
communistic society the criterion of value will disappear and
production will be based on social utility, cf._ Engels as early as in
the _Umrisse_ 1844, (Italian translation in _Critica sociale_ a. v.
1895) _Marx_, _Misère de la philosophie_, 2nd ed. Paris, Giard et
Brière. 1896, p. 83; Engels _Antidühring_, p. 335. But this must be
understood in the sense that, not being a hypothetical communistic
society based on exchange, the function of value (in exchange) would
lose, according to them, its practical importance; but not in the
other sense that in the opinion of the communistic society the value
of goods would no longer equal the labour which they cost to society.
Because even in such a system of economic organisation, value-labour
would be the economic law which entirely governed the valuation of
individual commodities, produced by labour. There would be that
clearness of valuation which Marx describes in his _Robinsonia, cf.
Das Kapital_, p. 43.

[25] _Dal terzo volume del 'Capitale,'_ pp. 42-55.

[26] Hence also Marx in §4 of Chap. I.: _Der Fetischcharakter der
Waare und sein Geheimniss_ (I. pp. 37-50) gave a brief outline of the
other economic systems of mediæval society, and of the domestic
system: 'Aller Mysticismus der Waarenwelt, all der Zauber und Spuk,
welcher Arbeitsprodukte auf grundlage der Waarenproduktion umnebelt,
verschwindet daher sofort, sobal wir zu anderen Producktions formen
flüchten' (p. 42). The relation between value and labour appears more
clearly in the less complex economic systems, because less opposed and
obscured by other facts.

[27] _Das Kapital_, Book III., sec. III., Chaps. XIII., XIV., XV.,
_Gesetz des tendentiellen Falls der Profitrate_ (vol. iii., Part I,
pp. 191-249).

[28] The task of Marx's followers ought to be to free his thought from
the literary form which he adopts, to study again the questions which
he propounds, and to work them out with new and more accurate
statements, and with fresh historical illustrations. In this alone can
scientific progress consist. The _expositions_ made hitherto of Marx's
system, are merely _materials_; and some (like Aveling's) consist
entirely in a series of little summaries, which follow the original
chapter by chapter and prove even more obscure. For the law of the
fall in the rate of profits, see below, chap. V.

[29] 'To follow out completely this criticism of bourgeois economics a
knowledge of the capitalist form of production, exchange and
distribution is not alone adequate. We ought similarly to study at
least in their essential features and taken as terms of comparison,
the other forms which have preceded it in time, or exist alongside of
it in less developed countries. Such an investigation and comparison
has hitherto been briefly expounded only by Marx; and we owe almost
entirely to his researches what we know about pre-bourgeois
theoretical economics.' (ENGELS, _Antidühring_, p. 154). This was
written by Engels twenty years ago; and since then the literature of
economic history has grown remarkably, but historical research has
been seldom accompanied by theoretical research.

[30] 'Political economy is essentially an historical science.'
(ENGELS, _l.c._, p. 150).

[31] What is strange is that ENGELS (in the passage quoted in the
penultimate note) says himself most truly that Marx has written
_theoretical economics_, nevertheless in the sentence quoted in the
last note (which appears in the same book and on the same page) he
states definitely that economics in the Marxian sense is nothing but
an _historical science_.

[32] _Antidühring_, pp. 150, 155.

[33] _Das Kapital_, I, p. 67.

[34] F.A. LANGE, _Die Arbeiterfrage_, 5th ed., Winterthur, 1894, (the
author's last revision was in 1874) see p. 332; _cf._ p. 248 and on p.
124, the quotation from Gossen's book, then very little known.

[35] ADOLF WAGNER, _Grundlegung der politischen oekonomie_, 3rd Ed.,
Leipzig, 1892, vol. I, pt. I; Bk. I, ch. i. _Die Wirthschaftliche
Natur des Menschen_, pp. 70-137.

[36] I may be allowed to remark that in similar discussions,
economists usually make the serious mistake _of making the concept
economic coincide with the concept egoistic_. But the economic is an
independent sphere of human activity, in addition to all the others,
such as the spheres of ethics, æsthetics, logic, etc. The moral
_goods_ and the satisfaction of the higher moral _needs_ of man, just
because they are _goods_, and _needs_, are taken into account in
economics, but still _only as goods and needs_, not as _moral_ or
_immoral_, _egoistic_ or _altruistic_. In like manner, a
_manifestation_ (by words or by any other means of expression) is
taken into account in æsthetics; but only _as a manifestation _not_ as
true, false, moral, immoral, useful, harmful, etc._ Economists are
still impressed by the fact that Adam Smith wrote one book of theory
and of ethics, and another of economic theory; which may interpret to
mean that one dealt with a theory of _altruistic_ facts and the other
with one of _egoistic_ facts. But if this had been so, Adam Smith
would have discussed, in both of his chief works, facts of an ethical
character, estimable or reprehensible; and would not have been an
economist at all; a ridiculous conclusion which is a _reductio ad
absurdum_ of the identification of economic action with egoism.

[37] _Discorrendo di socialismo e di filesophia_, l. vi.

[38] It is strange how among the students of pure economics also this
need for a different treatment makes itself felt, leading them to
contradictory statements and to insuperable perplexities. PANTALEONI,
_Principî di economia pura_, Florence, Barbara, 1889, p. 3, Ch. iii §
3 (pp. 299-302), contradicts Böhm-Bawerk, inquiring whence the
borrower of capital at interest is able to find the wherewithal to pay
the interest. PARETO, _Introd. critica agli Estratti del Capitale del
Marx_, Ital. trans. Palermo, Sandron, 1894, p. xxx, n.: 'The phenomena
of _surplus value_ contradicts Marx's theory which determines values
solely by labour. _But, on the other hand, there is an expropriation
of the kind which Marx condemns._ It is not at all proved that this
expropriation helps to secure the hedonistic maximum. _But it is a_
_difficult problem how to avoid this expropriation._' A learned and
accurate Italian work which attempts to reconcile the opinions of the
hedonistic school with those of the followers of Ricardo and Marx, is
the memorandum of Prof. G. RICCA SALERMO, _La theoria del valore nella
storia delle dottrine e dei fatti economici_, Rome 1894. (extr. from
the _Memorie dei Lincei_, s. v. vol. I., pt. i.)

[39] See above, chap. I.

[40] The over-abused Dühring was not mistaken when he remarked that in
Marx's works expressions occur frequently 'which appear to be
universal without being actually so' (Allgemein aussehen ohne es zu
sein). _Kritische Geschichte der Nationalökonomie und des
Socialismus_, Berlin, 1871, p. 527.

[41] GENTILE, _Una critica del materialismo storico_ in the _Studî
storici_ of Crivellucci, vol. VI, 1897, pp. 379-423, throws doubt on
the interpretation offered by me of the opinions of Marx and Engels,
and on the method of interpretation itself. I gladly acknowledge that
in my two earlier essays I do not clearly point out where precisely
the textual interpretation ends and the really theoretical part
begins; which theoretical exposition, only by conjecture and in the
manner described above, can be said to agree with the inmost thoughts
of Marx and Engels. In his recent book, _La filosofia di Marx_, Pisa,
Spoerri, 1899 (in which the essay referred to is reprinted), Gentile
remarks (p. 104), that, although it is a very convenient practice, and
in some cases legitimate and necessary 'to interpret doctrines, by
calling a part of their statement worthless or accidental in form and
external and weak, and a part the real substance and essential and
vital, it is yet necessary to justify it in some way.' He means
certainly, 'justify it as historical interpretation,' since its
justification as correction of theory cannot be doubtful. It seems to
me that even historically the interpretation can be justified without
difficulty when it is remembered that Marx _did not insist_, (as
Gentile himself says) on his metaphysical notions; and did certainly
insist on his historical opinions and on the political policy which he
defended. Marx's personality as a sociological observer and the
teacher of a social movement, certainly outweighs Marx as a
metaphysician which he was almost solely as a young man. That it is
worth the trouble to study Marx from all sides is not denied, and
Gentile has now admirably expounded and criticised his youthful
metaphysical ideas.

[42] I confess that I have never been able to _understand_--however
much I have considered the matter--the meaning of this passage (which
ought however to be very evident, since it is quoted so often without
any comment), in the preface to the second edition of _Das Kapital_:
'Meine dialektische Methode ist der Grundlage nach von der Hegel'schen
nicht nur verschieden, sondern ihr direktes Gegentheil. Für Hegel is
_der Denkprocess_, den er sogar unter dem Namen _Idee_ in ein
selbständiger subjeckt verwandelt, der Demjurg des Wirklichen, das nur
seine äussere Erscheinung bildet. Bei mir ist umgekehrt _das Ideelle_
nichts Andres als das im Menschenkopf umgesetzte und ubersetzte
Materielle.' (_Das Kapital_ I, p. xvii.) Now it seems to me that the
_Ideelle_ of the last phrase has _no relation_ to the _Denkprocess_
and to the Hegelian _Idea_ of the preceding phrase, _cf._ above pp.
17. Some have thought that by the objections there stated, I intended
to deny Marx's Hegelian _inspiration_. It is well to repeat that I
merely deny the _logical relation_ affirmed between the two
philosophical theories. To deny Marx's Hegelian inspiration would be
to contradict the evidence.

[43] Answers to several of the questions suggested above are now
supplied in the book already referred to, by GENTILE: _La Filosofia di

[44] _Antidühring_, pt. I. ch. xlii., especially pp. 138-145, which
passage is translated into Italian in the appendix to the book by
Labriola referred to above: _Discorrendo di socialismo e di
filosophia_, _cf._ _Das Kapital_, I. p. xvii, 'Gelingt dies und
spiegelt sich nun das Leben des stoffs ideell wieder, _so mag es
aussehen_, als habe man es mit einer Konstruction a priori zu thun.'

[45] LANGE, indeed, in reference to Marx's _Das Kapital_, remarked
that the Hegelian dialectic, 'the development by antithesis and
synthesis, might almost be called an _anthropological discovery_. Only
in history, as in the life of the individual, development by
antithesis _certainly does not accomplish itself so easily and
radically, nor with so much precision and symmetry as in speculative
thought_.' (_Die Arbeiterfrage_, pp. 248-9.)

[46] With regard to the _abstract_ classes of Marxian economics and
the _real_ or _historical_ classes, see some remarks by SOREL in the
article referred to in the _Journal des Economistes_, p. 229.

[47] G. GENTILE, _o.c._ in _Studî storici_, p. 421. _cf._ 400-401.

[48] Labriola has indeed an exaggerated dislike for what he calls the
_scholastic_: but even this exaggeration will not appear wholly
unsuitable as a reaction against the method of study which usually
prevails among the mere men of letters, the niggardly scholars, the
empty talkers and jugglers with abstract thought, and all those who
lose their sense of close connection between science and life.

[49] _Discorrendo di socialismo e di filosophia_, l. ix.

[50] _In torno alla storia della cultura_ (Kulturgeschichtein _Atti_
dell Accad. Pont.; vol. xxv. 1895, p. 8.)

[51] 'If by Christianity is meant merely the sum of the beliefs and
expectations concerning human destiny, these beliefs'--writes
Labriola--'vary as much, in truth, as in the difference, to mention
only one instance, between the free will of the Catholics after the
Council of Trent, and the absolute determination of Calvin!' (_L.c._

[52] Without referring to the somewhat unmethodical work of
Westermarck, _History cf Human Marriage_, see especially Ernst
Grosse's book, _Die Formen der Familie und die Formen der
Wirthschaft_, Freiburg in B., 1896.

[53] This connection is shortly but carefully dealt with by INGRAM,
_History of Political Economy_, Edinburgh, A. & C. Black, 1888, p. 62.

[54] See, amongst many passages, MARX, _Misère de la philosophie_, p.
167, _et seq._ ENGELS, _Antidühring_, p. 1, _et seq._

[55] On the hedonistic maxima, _cf._ Bertolini-Pantaleoni, _Cenni sul
concetto di massimi edonistici individuali e collectivi_ (_in Giorn,
degli Econ._, s II vol. iv.) and Coletti, in the same _Giornale_, vol.

[56] In regard to this metaphysical use of the word science; there
even exists in Italy a _Rivista di polizia scientifica_! And the
metaphor may pass here also.

[57] _Cours d'économie politique_, Lausanne, 1896-7.

[58] _Cf._ also his criticism of Marx already referred to: p. xviii.

[59] Sauf l'Angleterre, où règne le libre échange _principalement
parcequ'il est favourable aux intérêts de certains entrepreneurs_, le
reste des pays civilisés verse de plus en plus dans le protectionnisme
(§. 964.)

[60] See the _Giornale degli economisti_, excellent in all its
critical sections; and especially Pareto's _chronicles_ therein.

[61] It may be remarked that in the difficulty of distinguishing the
purely scientific from the practical lies the chief cause of the
dangers and poverty of the social and political sciences. And we may
even smile at those scientists or their ingenious admirers, who claim
to accomplish the salvation of the social and political sciences, by
applying to them the methods, as they say, of the natural sciences.
(An Italian astronomer, ingenuous as clever, has suggested the
formation of sociological observatories which, in a few years would
make sociology something like astronomy!) Alas! the matter is not so
simple; all sociologists intend indeed to apply exact methods; but how
can this application succeed when one advances _per ignes_ or over
ground which moves; _d'una e d'altra parte sì come l'onda chefugge e
s'appressa_? (From both sides like the wave which ebbs and flows.)

[62] See the preface of the German translation of _Misère de la
philosophie_, 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1892, and now also in French in the
reprint of the original text of the same work (Paris, Giard et Brière,

[63] The word _communism_ is also more appropriate, since there are so
many _socialisms_ (democratic state, catholic, etc.). On the relation
between the materialistic theory of history and socialism, see
GENTILE, _op. cit._, _passim_.

[64] _Pantagruel_, III, 39-43.

[65] The absurdity of this interpretation will come out clearly if it
is merely remembered that there are many cases in which the capitalist
manufacturer pays for the labour of his workman, _a price higher than
what he then realises on the market_; cases, it is true, where the
capitalist is proceeding towards ruin and bankruptcy; but which he
cannot, on this account, always avoid. 'Marx part des recherches
faites par cette école Anglaise, dont il avait fait une étude
approfondie; et il veut _expliquer le profit sans admettre aucun
brigandage_.' (SOREL, _art. cit._, p. 227.)

[66] See in _Antidühring_, p. 303, the historical justification of
class divisions.

[67] From among the many passages which support this interpretation,
_cf. Antidühring_, pp. 152-3, 206 and especially pp. 61-2, and the
preface to the German translation of _Misère de la Philosophie_, 2nd
ed. Stuttgart, 1892 pp. ix-x, _cf._ also Labriola, _o.c._ _Lett.

[68] See LABRIOLA, _o.c. l. cit._, the remarks on the difficulty with
which the theory of historical materialism meets owing to mental
dispositions, and amongst those who wish _to moralise socialism_.

One instance, in some respects analogous to this which arises from the
discussions on Marx's ethics, is the traditional criticism of
Machiavelli's ethics: which was refuted by De Sanctis (in the
remarkable chapter devoted to Machiavelli, in his _Storia della
letteratura_), but which continually recurs and is inserted even in
Professor Villari's book, who finds this defect in Machiavelli: that
he did not consider the _moral question_.

I have always asked myself for what reason, by what obligation, by
what agreement, Machiavelli was bound to discuss all kinds of
questions, even those for which he had neither preparation nor
sympathy. Can it be said, by way of example, to some one who is
researching in chemistry:--Your weak and erroneous spot is that you
have not gone back from your detailed investigations to the general
metaphysical enquiries into the principles of reality?--Machiavelli
starts from the establishment of a fact: the condition of war in which
society found itself; and gives rules suited to this state of affairs.
Why should he, who was not cut out for a moral philosopher, discuss
the ethics of war? He goes straight to practical conclusions. Men are
wicked--he says--and to the wicked it is needful to behave wickedly.
You will deceive him who would certainly deceive you. You will do
violence to him who would do violence to you. These maxims are neither
moral nor immoral, neither beneficial nor harmful; they become one of
the two according to the subjective aims and the objective effects of
the action, _i.e._ according to the _intentions_ and the _results_.
What is evident is that a morality which desired to introduce into war
the maxims of peace would be a morality for lambs fit for the
slaughter, not for men who wish to repel injustice and to maintain
their rights. 'And if men were all good, this precept would not be
good, etc., etc.' says Machiavelli himself. (_Principe_, ch. xviii).
Villari is also troubled by the old formula concerning the 'end which
justifies the means' and the 'moral end' and the 'immoral means'. It
is however sufficient to consider that the _means_, just because they
are _means_, cannot be divided into _moral_ and _immoral_, but merely
into _suitable_ and _unsuitable_. _Immoral means_, unless as an
expression in current speech, is a contradiction in terms. The
qualification moral or immoral can only belong to the end. And, in the
examples usually given, an analysis made with a little accuracy shows
at once, that it is never a question of immoral _means_ but of immoral
ends. The height of the confusion is reached by those who introduce
into the question the absurd distinction of _private_ and _public_

I may be pardoned the digression; but, as I said, questions which are
really analogous re-appear now in connection with the ethical maxims
of Marxism.

[69] And it would be to the point to draw a comparison between the
peasants' rebellions, with which modern Italy has supplied us with
another example in recent years, and the political struggles of the
German workmen, or the economic struggles of the Trade Unions in

[70] See in particular P.I. ch. ix., _Moral und Recht, Ewige

[71] See, in particular, MARX'S ideas: _Ueber Feuerbach_, in 1845, in
the appendix to Engels' book, _Ludwig Feuerbach und der Ausgang der
Klassischen deutschen Philosophie_, 2nd ed. Stuttgart, 1895, pp.
59-62; and _cf._ ANDLER in _Revue de metaphysique_, 1897, LABRIOLA,
_o.c. passim_ and GENTILE, _l.c._, p. 319. From this point of view
(_i.e._ limiting the statement to the theory of knowledge) we might
speak like Labriola of historical materialism as a philosophy of
practice, _i.e._ as a particular way of conceiving and solving, or
rather of over-coming, the problem of thought and of existence. The
philosophy of practice has now been designedly studied by Gentile in
the volume referred to.

[72] Some interpretations would be merely verbal explanations. To some
it will appear a very hard statement that socialism aims at abolishing
the State. Yet it suffices to consider that the State, among
socialists, is synonymous with difference of classes and the existence
of governing classes, to understand that as in such a case, we can
speak of the _origin_ of the State, so we can speak of its _end_;
which does not mean the end of organised society (_cf. Antidühring_,
p. 302). The conception of _the way in which capitalist society will
come to an end_ demands no little critical working out; on this point
the thought of Marx and Engels is not without obscurities and
inconsistencies (_cf. Antidühring_, pp. 287 _et seq._ and p. 297).

[73] See CH. ANDLER, _Les origines du socialisme d'état en Allemagne_,
Paris, Alcan, 1897. Andler promises a book, and is now giving a course
of lectures on the _decomposition of Marxism_.



    _Labriola's criticism of method and conclusions of preceeding
        essays answered: His criticism merely destructive:
        Tendency of ether thinkers to arrive at like

I have always discussed frankly the views expressed in the writings of
my eminent friend Professor Antonio Labriola. I am therefore glad that
he has taken the same liberty with me, and has subjected to a vigorous
criticism (in the French edition of his book on _Socialismo e la
filosofia_),[74] my interpretation of the Marxian theory of value.[75]
Labriola has been impelled to this also from a wish to prevent my
opinions from appearing, 'to the reader's eyes,' as a supplement,
approved by him, of his own personal ones. And though I do not think
that 'to the reader's eyes' (I will however add _intelligent_
readers), this would be possible, since, I have always carefully
indicated the points, and they are neither few nor unimportant, where
we disagree: yet being convinced that clearness is never superfluous,
I welcome his intention to make it still plainer that I am not he,
and that he thinks with his mind whilst I think with mine.

Labriola rejects entirely the method adopted by me, which he describes
variously as _scholastic_, _metaphysical_, _metaphorical_, _abstract_,
_formal logic_. When I take pains to point out the differences between
_homo oeconomicus_ and man, moral or immoral, between personal
interest and egoism,[76] he shrugs his shoulders, he does not refuse a
certain indulgence to this _traditional scholasticism_, and compares
me to the man in the street who speaks of the rising or setting of the
sun, or of _shining light_ and _warm heat_. When I firmly maintain the
theoretical necessity for a _general economics_ in addition to the
heterogeneous considerations of sociological economics, he taxes me
with creating, _in addition to all the visible and tangible animals,
an animal as such_. And he charges me, moreover, with wishing to
attack history, comparative philology and physiology in order to
substitute for all these the plain _Logic_ of Port Royal, so that
instead of studying examples of epigenesis which have actually
occurred, such as the transitions from invertebrates to vertebrates,
from primitive communism to private property in land, from
undifferentiated roots to the systematic differentiation of nouns and
verbs in the Ariosemitic group, it might suffice to register these
facts in concepts passing from the more general to the more
particular, in the series A a^1 a^2 a^3 etc.

But I hardly know how to defend myself seriously from such
accusations, because it obliges me to repeat what is too obvious,
_i.e._, that to make concepts does not mean to _create entities_; that
to employ metaphors (and language is all metaphor), does not mean to
_believe mythology_; that to construct experiences in thought, and
scientific abstractions, does not mean to substitute either one or the
other for _concrete reality_; that to make use, when needful, of
formal logic, does not mean to ignore _fact_, _growth_, _history_.
When Marx expounds historical facts I know no way of approaching him
except that of historical criticism, and when he defines concepts and
formulates laws, I can only proceed to recognise the content of his
concepts, and to test the correctness of his inferences and
deductions. Thus I have followed this second method in studying his
theory of value. If Labriola knows another and better one, let him
state it. But what could this _other_ one possibly be? Real logic? In
that case let us boldly re-establish Hegel, it will be the lesser
evil, at least we shall understand one another. Or a still worse
alternative, what monstrous empirical-dialectic or evolutionist method
may it be, which confuses together and abuses two distinct procedures,
and lends itself so readily to the lovers of prophecy? Or is it merely
a question of new phraseology by which we shall go on humbly working,
more or less well, with the old methods, whilst detesting the old
words? Or again, is this dislike for formal logic nothing but a
convenient pretext for dispensing with any vindication of the concepts
which are employed?

Marx has stated his concept of _value_; has expounded a process of
transformation of _value_ into _price_; has reconstructed the nature
of profit as _surplus value_. For me the whole problem of Marxian
criticism is confined within these limits:--Is Marx's conception
substantially erroneous (entirely, owing to false premisses, and
partially, owing to false deductions)? or, is Marx's conception
substantially correct, but has it been subsumed under a category to
which it does not belong, and has search been made in it for what it
cannot supply, whilst what it actually offers has been ignored? Having
come to this second conclusion I have asked myself: Under what
conditions and assumptions is Marx's theory _thinkable_? And this
question I have tried to answer in my essay.

What Marx wished to do, or mistakenly thought himself to be doing is,
I think, of interest to criticism up to a certain point; although the
history of science shows that thinkers have not always had the
clearest and plainest knowledge of the whole of their thought; and
that it is one thing to discover a truth, and another to define and
classify the discovery when made. It may be allowed that he who
confuses ideological with historical research thus best reproduces
Marx's _spirit_; but in this case the work will be an artistic
recasting or a psychological reproduction, not a criticism; and will
gather up with the sound also the unsound portion of Marx's thought.

To go into details. Labriola tries to prove the emptiness or vagueness
of some of my definitions and the falsity of some of my reasoning. I
having asserted that capitalist economics is a special case of general
economics, Labriola remarks, '_en passant_,' that it is nevertheless
the only case which has given rise to a theory and to divisions of
schools; and I acknowledge that I do not understand the point of this
remark, although it is said to be made '_en passant_.' Both Marx and
Engels lamented that the ancient and medieval economic systems had not
been studied in the same way as the modern. Thus there are conceivable
at least three economic theories, ancient, medieval and modern, and is
it not lawful to construct a general economics; _i.e._ to study in
isolation that common _element_ which causes these three groups of
facts to be all three denoted by a common name? Labriola then asks
what this general and extra-historical economics can consist of, and
whether it can never be of service to the conjectural psychology of
primitive man: he jests after the manner of Engels, who in truth has
sometimes joked too much during a discussion on serious matters. Is it
incredible that I too should jest? But I do not think there is
occasion to do so! He wonders at my _insatiability_, because having
accepted the hedonistic theories, I wish to accept Marx's theories
too: as though my entire proof was not intended to make it plain that
the antithesis between these theories exists only in imagination; and
that Marx's theory is not an economic system entirely opposed to other
systems ('_quelque chose de tout-à-fait opposé_' are Labriola's own
words), but a special and partial inquiry; and as though by hedonism I
meant all the personal convictions, philosophical, historical and
political, of those who follow, or say that they follow, its guidance,
and not indeed _only what follows legitimately from its axiom_. When I
call the explanation of the nature of profits, offered by the
hedonistic school, an _economic explanation_, he inquires
sarcastically: 'Could it possibly be _non-economic_?' But my statement
contains no pleonasm: the adjective _economic_ is added to mark off
the hedonistic explanation from that of Marx, which, to my thinking,
is not purely economic, but historical and comparative, or
sociological, if it is preferred. He wonders that I speak of a
_working society_, and asks: 'As opposed to what?' 'Perhaps to the
saints in paradise?' But I have pointed out the opposition between a
hypothetical _working society_,--_i.e._ such that all its goods are
produced by labour,--and a society, economic certainly, but not
exclusively working, because it enjoys goods given by nature, as well
as the products of labour. The saints in paradise form another
irrelevant jest.

I called Marx's concept of _surplus-value a concept of difference_;
and Labriola reproaches me for not being able 'to say exactly what I
understand by these words.' And yet I am not in the habit of speaking
or writing when I do not exactly know what I want to say; and here I
believe that I have clearly expressed a thought which I had
exceedingly clearly in my mind. Let us take two types of society: type
A consisting of 100 persons, who, with capital held in common and
equal labour, produce goods which are divided in equal proportions;
type B consisting of 100 persons, 50 of whom own the land and the
means of production, _i.e._ are capitalists, and 50 are shut out from
this ownership, _i.e._ are proletarians and workmen; in the
distribution, the former receive, in proportion to the capital which
they employ, a share in the products of the labour of the latter. It
is evident that in type A there is no place for _surplus value_. But
neither in type B are you justified in giving the name _surplus-value_
to that portion of the products which is swallowed up by the
capitalists, except when _you are comparing_ type B with type A, and
_are considering the former as a contrast to the latter_. If type B is
considered by itself, which is precisely what the pure economists do
and ought to do, the product which the 50 capitalists appropriate,
_i.e._ their profits, is a result of mutual agreement, arising out of
different comparative degrees of utility. Turn in every direction and
in pure economics you will find nothing more. The expropriatory
character of profit can be asserted only when to the second society,
we apply, almost like a chemical reagent, the standard, which, on the
other hand, is characteristic of a type of society founded on human
equality, a type 'which has attained the solidity of a popular
conviction' (Marx). Profit 'is surplus-labour _not paid for_', says
Marx, and it may be so; but _not paid for_ in reference to what? In
existing society it is certainly paid for, by the price which it
actually secures. It is a question then, of determining in what
society _it would have that price_ which in existing society _is
denied it_. And then, indeed, it is a question of _comparison_.

The following of Labriola's assertions is not original, but is
nevertheless quite gratuitous: 'Pure economics is so little
extra-historical, that it has borrowed the data from real history, of
which it makes two absolute postulates: the freedom of labour and the
freedom of competition, pushed to their extreme by hypothesis.' If I
open Pantaleoni's well-known treatise, I read in the very first
paragraph of the _Teoria del valore_, Ferrara's fundamental theory
that: 'value is above all a phenomenon of the _economics of the
individual or isolated person_.' So little do the legal conditions of
society enter into the necessary postulates of pure economics.

After which, Labriola ought not to be horrified if I have written:
'that Marx has taken his celebrated equivalence[77] "between value and
labour from outside the field of pure economics." He will ask me:
from whence then has he taken it? And I reply: _from a special and
definite type of society_, in which the legal organisation and the
pre-supposed conditions of fact make value correspond to the quantity
of labour.

Labriola does not consider justified the comparison which I have
drawn, (metaphor for metaphor), between the commodities which in
Marxian economics are presented as the _crystallisations of labour_
and the goods which in pure economics might well be called _quantities
of possible satisfactions for crystallised wants_. 'Hitherto--he
exclaims--only sorcerers have been able to believe, or to cause it to
be believed, that by desires alone a part of ourselves might be
glutinised into any goods whatsoever.' But what does _glutinise_ mean?
To obtain the commodity _a_ costs us _x_ labour of a given kind, this
is Marx's _congealed labour_. Pure economics, using a more general
formula, states that it costs us that body of wants which we must
leave unsatisfied: this is the form of _congealment_ which pure
economics might supply. There is no question, in the one case, of an
objective reality, as Labriola seems to think, or in the other of an
imagined sorcery; but in both cases it is a matter of the literary use
of imaginative expressions to denote mental attitudes and
elaborations. In this connection Labriola, as if to limit their range,
says that Marx, as an author, belonged to the seventeenth century. May
I be allowed, as a humble student of literature, and the author of
several investigations into the character and origin of seventeenth
century style,[78] to protest. Seventeenth century style consists in
ingenuity, _i.e._ in putting cold intellectuality into an æsthetic
form; hence the forced comparison, the lengthy metaphor, the play on
words and the equivocations. But Marx, on the contrary, misuses poetic
expressions, which give the content of his thought with unrestrained
vigour. We find in him just the opposite of seventeenth century style:
not a lack of connection between the form and the thought, but such a
violent embrace of the former by the latter that the unlucky form
sometimes runs the risk of being left suffocated.[79]

The reader will be tired of these replies to a negative criticism; but
negative criticism is nevertheless all that Labriola offers us. What
is his interpretation of Marx's thought? Or which does he accept, out
of those offered? Here Labriola is silent. It is true that on another
occasion I believed that I discerned in his statement that
'labour-value is the _typical premiss_ in Marx, without which all the
rest would be unthinkable,' an agreement with my thesis. But I see now
that I must have been deceived, and that the words must have another
meaning; which, however, warned by the unlucky attempt already made, I
shall not attempt further to specify. In the meantime Sombart has
_built castles in the air_; Sorel has made _hasty_ or _premature
elaborations_; the present writer _has not understood_ (see p. 224).
Are we then faced by a mystery? Our friend, Labriola, relates (p. 50)
a story of Hegel who is said to have declared that _one only of his
pupils had understood him_. (The anecdote, I may add, is recounted by
Heinrich Heine in a much wittier manner).[80] Is the same thing to be
repeated with regard to Marx's theory of value?

In truth, though without wishing to deny the difficulty of Marx's
thought and of the form in which he expresses it, I think that the
mystery may be at length cleared up. And I say this, not only on
account of my inward conviction of the truth of my own interpretation,
but also on account of the agreement in which I find myself with
several critics, who, almost at the same moment, and by independent
methods, have arrived at results nearly similar to my own.

    'Or, se im mostra la mia carta il vero,
    Non è lontano a discoprirsi il porto....'[81]

A similar tendency shows itself in what has been written on the
subject by Sombart, in 1894, by Engels in 1895, by myself in 1896, by
Sorel in 1897, by myself more at length in 1897, and again by Sorel in
June of last year (1898).[82] Certainly truth and falsehood cannot be
decided by external signs, the intellect being the only judge of them,
and a judge who allows scope for infinite appeals. But nevertheless it
is natural that under the circumstances pointed out above, a feeling
of hope and confidence must arise that the discussion is about to be
closed, that the problem is at length _ripe for solution_.


    _Meaning of phrase crisis In Marxianism: Sorel's view of
        equivalence of value and labour mostly in agreement with
        view put forward above: An attempt to examine profits
        independently of theory of value: Is not possible:
        Surplus product same as surplus value._

I think it opportune, however, to return to those _elaborations_ of
Sorel, which Labriola summarily judges with such severity, in order
to make some remarks about them, not in refutation but in support, and
to explain a certain point where there may seem to be disagreement
between us, which perhaps has no reason to exist.

But here I may be allowed to make a remark. Labriola is also waging
war with Sorel: his book _Discorrendo_, etc., arising out of a series
of friendly letters to Sorel, which I undertook to edit in Italy, is
published in French with an appendix directed against me, and a
preface directed against Sorel. The ground of the quarrel is
especially in connection with the so-called _crisis in Marxism_.

Now if the _crisis in Marxism_ be understood as the assertion of the
need for a revision and correction of the scientific ideas, of the
historical beliefs, of the material of observed facts, which are
current in Marxian literature, well and good: in such a crisis I too
believe. If it means also a change in the programmes and practical
methods, I neither agree nor disagree, having never concerned myself
with the subject in dispute. If the danger is really existent the
apprehension of which seems to obsess and disturb Labriola, that a
crisis in Marxism of whatever kind, or the commencement of it, may be
neutralised by those to whose interest it is to lead astray and
scatter the labour movement, then _provideant consules_. But whether
there be crisis or no crisis, whether purely scientific or also
practical, whether apprehensions are well-founded or imagined and
exaggerated, all these things have no connection with the questions
raised by me, which relate to the erroneousness of this or that
theoretical or historical statement of Marxism, and the way in which
this or that must be understood in order to be regarded as true. This
is my standpoint and on this ground alone I admit discussion. I may be
mistaken, but this must be proved to me. But if, on the contrary, the
only answer vouchsafed to me is that the crisis in Marxism results
from the international reaction, of which ingenious critics are taking
advantage, I shall be left it is true, somewhat bewildered; but I
shall not on this account be convinced that the theory of value is
true, in the burlesque sense, for example, in which it is expounded by
Stern in his well-known propagandist booklet.

Sorel at first supposes,[83] wittily enough, that Marx had built up
different economic spheres, the first of which (that of labour-value)
is the simplest; the second, including the phenomenon of an average
rate of profit, and the creation of cost of production, is more
complex, and the third, in which is observed the effect of rent of
land, is still more complex. In passing from the simple to the more
complex sphere, we should find again the laws of the preceding one,
modified by the new data introduced, which would have given rise to
new phenomena.

In his second article he abandons this interpretation, being convinced
that Marx's ideal construction does not aim at supplying a complete
explanation of the phenomena of economics by means of the increasing
complexity of his combinations. And, in my opinion, he did well to
abandon it; not only for the excellent reason stated by him, that
Marx's inquiry does not include an entire system of economics, but
also because the process suggested by him does not explain why Marx,
in analysing the economic phenomena of the second or third sphere,
ever _used concepts whose place was only in the first one_. It does
not explain what I have called the _eliptical comparison_, and herein
lies the difficulty of Marx's work, or rather of the literary
statement of his thought. If the correspondence between labour and
value is only realized in the simplified society of the first sphere,
why insist on translating the phenomena of the second _into terms of
the first_? Why give the name transformation of surplus value to what
makes its appearance as the natural economic result of capital which
must have (from its very nature as capital) a profit? Does Marx offer
an explanation connecting ground and consequence, or does he not
rather draw a _parallel between two different phenomena_, by which the
diversities illuminating the origins of society are set in relief?

But Sorel now advances to precisely this conclusion, borrowing a happy
phrase from his first article: that Marx's work is not intended to
explain by means of laws analogous to physical laws, but only to throw
partial and indirect light on economic reality.

The method which Marx employs in his inquiry, says Sorel, is a
_metaphysical instrument_; he makes a _metaphysics of economics_. This
expression may be satisfactory or not, according to the different
meanings given to the word _metaphysics_; but the idea is accurate and
true. Marx builds an ideal construction which helps him to explain the
conditions of labour in capitalist society.

What are the limits of Marx's ideal construction, and in what do his
hypotheses consist? I have said that the concept of labour-value is
true for an ideal society, whose only goods consist in the products of
labour, and in which there are no class distinctions. Sorel does not
think it necessary to eliminate as I have done, the divisions of
classes. But, since he writes: 'Marx, like Ricardo, conceived a
mechanical society, perfectly automatic, in which competition is
always at its maximum efficiency, and exchanges are effected by means
of universal information; and he supposed that the various
sociological conditions are measurable in intensity, and that the
numbers resulting can be connected by mathematical formulæ; hence in
such a society, utility, demand, and commerce in commodities _are
results of the divisions of classes_; _value will not in consequence
be a function of this condition_, although it is truly a function of
the conditions of production; utility, demand, can only appear in the
forms of the function, _in the parameters referring to the social
divisions_.' Since he, I repeat, does not in his hypothesis, make
labour-value dependent on the division of classes, it seems to me
that this is practically to _leave out_ the fact of the division. And
it is perhaps clearer to omit it explicitly.

We should have then: (1) a working economic society without
differences of classes, law of labour-value; (2) Social divisions of
classes, origin of profit, which, _but only in comparison with the
preceding type and in so far as the concepts of the former are carried
over into the latter_, may be defined as surplus-value; (3) Technical
distinction between the different industries requiring different
combinations of capital (different proportions of fixed and floating
capital). Origin of the average rate of profits, which in relation to
the preceding type, may be regarded as a change in, and equalisation
of, surplus-values; (4) Appropriation of the land by part of a social
class. Pure rent; (5) Qualitative differences in land. Differential
rent. Which rents, pure and differential, present themselves, but only
in comparison with the preceding types, as cut off from the amounts of
surplus-value and of profits. Sorel agrees with me that the concept of
labour-value, obtained in the manner described, is not only not a law
in the same sense as a physical law, but is also not a law in the
ethical sense, _i.e._ one that could be understood as a rule of what
ought to exist. It is a law, he says, _in an entirely Marxian sense_.
This I too tried to express when I wrote in my essay: 'It is a _law_
in Marx's _conception_, but not _in economic reality_. It is clear
that we may conceive the divergencies in relation to a standard as the
rebellion of reality in opposition to that standard, to which we have
given the dignity of law.'

It seems to me that the jurist Professor Stammler in his book
_Wirthschaft und Recht nach der materialistischen
Geschichtsauffassung_,[84] has also made the mistake of interpreting
Marx's concept as an _ideal_ law. He is absolutely correct when, in
rejecting Kautsky's comparison between the concept of labour-value and
the law of gravity--which takes effect fully on a vacuum--whilst the
resistance made by air leads to special results, he maintains that
this has nothing analogous to a physical law. For him, on the other
hand, Marx's law is justified (at least formally) as an attempt at
investigation into what in the judgment of economists, granted the
capitalist organisation of society, may be _objectively accurate_.
Subjective judgments may differ, but that does not affect what ought
to be an objective criterion, to divide the true from the false. But
can an _objective criterion_ ever be found within the sphere of
economics? Anyone who has rightly understood the principle of
hedonistic economics must answer no. And if Stammler brings forward
such an idea, it is because in his work he expressly intends to deny
the originality of economic material and the independence of economics
as a science.[85]

Sorel believes that Marx's method has rendered all the assistance of
which it is capable, and cannot aid the study, which it is needful to
make, of modern economic conditions. If I am not mistaken he means
that the hopes of the Marxians in regard to the fruitfulness of Marx's
method are futile, and that the pages which he has written in the
history of economics are practically all that can be produced by it. A
good part of the third volume, in which Marx shows himself a simple
classical economist, and the miserable and scanty output of Marxian
economic writings subsequent to Marx, would suggest that Stammler's
opinion is justified by the facts.

But, whilst Sorel's book seems to me welcome in the endeavour to
understand and define the score of Marx's economic inquiries, I cannot
form the same judgment of another attempt made to reform the basis of
Marx's system by rejecting his method, and a part of his results. I
refer to a recent book by Dr Antonio Graziadei,[86] which has been
much discussed during these last months. Graziadei's object is to
examine profits independently of the theory of value: a course already
indicated by Professor Loria, and the fallacy of which ought to be
clearly evident at a glance, without its being necessary to wait for
proof from the results of the attempt. A system of economics from
which _value_ is omitted, is like logic without the _concept_, ethics
without _duty_, æsthetics without _expression_. It is economics ...
cut off from its proper sphere. But let us see for a moment how
Graziadei manages the working out of his idea.

In the first place he tries to prove that in Marx's own work the
theory of profits is in itself independent of that of value. Profits
he says, consist in surplus-value, _i.e._ in the difference between
total labour and necessary labour. Hence it can be made to originate
in surplus-value without starting from the form value itself. But he
himself destroys the argument when further on (p. 10) he objects that
if labour is not productive labour it does not give rise to profits.
Precisely for that reason--we answer--in order to be in a position to
speak of labour which is productive, Marx must start from value, and
precisely for that reason, in Marx's thought, the theory of profits
and the theory of value are inseparably connected.

As to the construction, on his own account, of a theory of profits
which is independent of that of value, Graziadei accomplishes this in
a very curious way: viz. by carefully avoiding the words _value_ and
_labour_, and by speaking instead only of _product_. Profits,
according to him, do not arise out of surplus-labour or surplus-value,
but out of surplus-product; hence we can, and ought, in theory, to
start from the concept of product and not concern ourselves with
value, which is a superficial growth of the final stage of the market.

Surplus product! But surplus-product, in so far as it is an _economic_
surplus-product, is _value_. Certainly, the capitalist who pays wages
in kind, and in getting back again the goods advanced by him, also
appropriates the other part of the product (surplus-product), can,
instead of taking this to market, consume it himself directly (as in
Graziadei's hypothesis). But this does not alter the matter at all,
because the fact that the product is not taken to market does not mean
that it has no value in exchange: since it is true that the capitalist
has obtained it by means of an exchange between himself and the
labourer; which means that he has always assessed its value in some

And here we are again at the theory of value, from which we have
vainly attempted to escape. Moreover, since Graziadei is essentially
concerned with the economics of labour, here we are again at Marx's
exact concept of labour value. _Tamen usque recurrit!_[87]

Graziadei's book includes also some _corrections_ of Marx's special
theories on profits and wages. But I may be allowed to remark that the
corrections to be called such ought to refer to the governing
principles. New facts do not weaken a theory firmly established on
fundamentals; and it is natural that, with a change in the actual
conditions, a new casuistry will arise which Marx could not discuss.
Whatever forecasts he may have made in his long career as author and
politician, which the event has proved fallacious--I do not believe he
ever pretended:

      'Sguaiato Giosué ...
          Fermare il sole.'[88]

_April, 1899._


[74] _Socialisme et philosophie_ by ANTONIO LABRIOLA. Paris, Giard et
Brière, 1899, see pp. 207-224. Postscript to the French edition.

[75] See chap. III.

[76] Like an impenitent sinner I shall come back to this distinction,
which is essential for the solid foundation of the principles of
economics, and the evil effects of whose neglect are apparent in the
discourses of economists.

[77] I write _equivalence_ because Marx writes thus, and because for
the present question this other is quite irrelevant: viz. whether the
relation of value can be expressed in the mathematical form of a
relation of equivalence. But, for my part, and I follow the hedonists
in this; I deny entirely that the relation of value is a relation of
equivalence. The proof of this has already been supplied by others,
and there is no occasion to repeat it.

[78] See CROCE _Giambattista Basile e il 'Cunto de li Cunti_,' Naples,
1891; _Ricerche ispano-italiane_, series I, last paragraph, (_Atti
dell' Acc. Pontan_; vol. xxviii, 1898); _I predicatori italiani del
seicento e il gusto spagnuolo_, Naples, Pierro, 1899; _I trattatisti
italiani del 'concettismo' e Baltasar Gracian_ (_Atti dell' Acc.
Pontan_; vol. xxix, 1899).

[79] LABRIOLA--who reproduces Marx's style very well here and there in
his own--writes in his essay on '_Das Kommunistische Manifest_,' 2nd
Ed., p. 79. 'The _Manifesto_ ... does not shed tears over nothing. The
tears of things have already risen on their feet of themselves, like a
spontaneously vengeful force.' The _tears_ which rise _on their feet_
may make the hair rise _on the head_ of a man of moderate taste; but
the expression, although violently imaginative, is not in seventeenth
century style.

[80] Als Hegel auf dem Todbette lag, sagte er:--Nur einer hat mich
verstanden! Aber gleich darauf fügte er verdriesslich hinzu. Und der
hat mich auch nicht verstanden!' (_Heine. Zur Geschichte der Religion
und Philosophie in Deutschland._ Bk. III).

[81] 'Now, if my map shows me true, we are not far from the sight of
our haven....' (Ariosto, _Orlando Furioso_.)

[82] SOMBART, in the _Archiv für soziale Gesetzgebung und Statistik_,
vol. vii., 1894, pp. 555-594; ENGELS in _Neue Zeit_ xiv., vol. i.,
4-11, 37-44; CROCE, _Le teorie storiche del prof. Loria_; SOREL in the
_Journal des économistes_, no. for May 15th, 1897; CROCE, _Per la
interpretazione e la critica di alcuni concetti del marxism_, see in
this volume chap. III.; SOREL, _Nuovi contributi alla teoria
marxistica del valore_, in the _Giornale degli economisti_, June 1898.

[83] In the article referred to, in the _Journal des Economistes_.

[84] See pp. 266-8, 658-9.

[85] See chap. II.

[86] _La produzione capitalistica_, Turin, Bocca, 1899.

[87] Graziadei will allow me to point out to him that it is not the
first time that he has made discoveries that turn out to be equivocal.
Some years ago when carrying on a controversy, in the review _Critica
sociale_, on the theory of the origin of profits in Marx's system,
Graziadei (vol. IV., n. 22, 16th Nov. 1894, p. 348) wrote; 'We can
very readily imagine a society, in which profits exist, not indeed
with surplus-labour, but with _no labour_. If, in fact, for all _the
labour_ now accomplished by man was substituted the work of machines,
these latter, with a relatively small quantity of commodities would
produce an enormously greater quantity. Now, given a capitalist
organisation of society, this technical phenomenon would afford a
basis for a social phenomenon, viz.: that the ruling class being able
to enjoy by itself alone the difference between the product and the
consumption of the machine, would see at their disposal an excess of
products over the consumption of the _labourers_, _i.e._, a
surplus-product, much larger than when the feeble muscular force of
man still co-operated in production.' But here Graziadei neglects to
explain how _labourers_ could ever exist, and _profits_ of labour, in
a hypothetical society, based on _non-labour_, and in which _all the
labour_ actually done by man would be done by machines. What would the
labourers be doing there? The work of Sisyphus or the Danaides? In his
hypothesis the proletariat would either be maintained by the charity
of the ruling class, or would end by rapidly disappearing, destroyed
by starvation. For if he supposed that the machines would produce
automatically a superfluity of goods for the whole of that society,
then he was simply constructing by hypothesis a land of _Cocaigne_.

[88] 'As follower of Joshua ... to stop the sun.'


    _Interpretation here given assumes acceptance of Marx's main
        principles: Necessary decline in rate of profit on
        hypothesis of technical improvement: Two successive
        stages confused by Marx: More accurately a decline in
        amount of profit: Marx assumes that would be an increase
        of capital: Would be same capital and increase in rate of
        profits: Decline in rate of profits due to other

This law is set forth in the third section of the third book
(posthumous) of _Das Kapital_. A few criticisms have been made of it,
which vary from that of Sombart, who says that it is developed _in the
most striking manner_ (in glänzendster Weise), to that of Loria, who
defines it as 'a metaphysical pistol shot (_sic_) from beyond the
Rhine,' and thinks that he refutes it by an objection which is in fact
quite inappropriate. Others have thought the law certainly true, but
that it explained only partially the fact of the decline in the rate
of profits and required to be combined with other laws already known
to classical economics. But most of those who have studied Marx's
economic theories have not examined it at all; his opponents (like
Böhm Bawerk) reject it by implication, when they reject Marx's
fundamental principles; the Marxians welcome it, German fashion,
humbly and submissively, without discussion, with that lack of freedom
and intellectual originality which is noticeable in all their

The examination of it attempted here, rests on the same basis as
Marx's theories, _i.e._ it is made from the standpoint of those who
accept the essentials of these theories, and hence the premiss of
_labour-value_, the distinction between _fixed_ and _floating_
capital, the view of profits as arising from _surplus-value_, and of
the _average rate_ of profits as arising from the equalisation, owing
to competition, of the various rates of surplus-value. It is true that
I accept all these things _in a certain sense_, which is not the sense
of the ordinary Marxian, inasmuch as they are not looked upon as _laws
actually working in the economic world_, but as _the results of
comparative investigations into different possible forms of economic
society_. But such a reservation, which relates to a question
discussed by me at length elsewhere,[89] has practically no effect on
the present study, whose results would be almost the same, even if
these theories of Marx were interpreted in the sense which I consider
erroneous. The object here is no longer to determine and define
accurately Marx's fundamental concepts, but to see whether, from these
concepts, even when interpreted in the current manner, it is ever
possible in any way to deduce the _law of the fall in the rate of
profits_. This task I think impossible.

The law was derived by Marx from the study of the effects of technical
improvement. Marx states that technical improvement increases the
amount and changes the form of the total capital, increasing the
proportion of fixed as compared with floating capital, so that by this
means the rate of profit is decreased; the latter arises, as is
well-known, out of the surplus-value, the product of the floating
capital divided by the total capital. He illustrates the matter thus.
Some technical improvement occurs; new machines are made, which
formerly did not exist. The capital employed in production has been
hitherto, we will suppose, a total of 1,000, divided into 500 fixed
and 500 floating, and employing 100 labourers: the surplus-value =
500, _i.e._ the rate of it is 100 per cent.; and hence the rate of
profit is 500/1000 = 50 per cent. In consequence of the technical
improvement, and of the construction of new machines, the 100
labourers who are maintained by the variable capital of 500, continue
still to be employed in production; but, in order that this may be
possible, it is necessary to use a larger fixed capital, which we may
suppose 200 larger than before. Hence, as the result of the technical
improvement, there will now be a total capital of 1,200, _i.e._ 700
fixed and 500 floating; and the rate of surplus-value remaining
unchanged at 100 per cent., the rate of profit will be 500/1200 =
about 41 per cent., _i.e._ will have decreased from 50 per cent. to 41
per cent. Hence the necessary decline in the rate of profit on the
_hypothesis_ of technical improvement. But this _hypothesis_ is an
actual everyday _fact_ in modern capitalist society. Hence, the
_actual_ decline of the average rate of profits in modern capitalist
society. But this law is more or less counteracted by other facts,
which act in a contrary sense more or less transitorily. Thus the fall
is only _a tendency_.

In order that our study may be clear, it is above all necessary to
distinguish the two groups of facts, or the two stages in the same
capitalist society which Marx confused and embraced in a single
somewhat obscure view.

The first stage is marked by the fact, pure and simple, of a technical
improvement. Now technical improvement, among its logical, or what is
the same thing, its necessary effects, in no way includes that of an
increase in the amount of total capital employed, nor that of leaving
the quantity of total capital unchanged. It has rather exactly the
opposite as its necessary and immediate effect: _i.e._ that of
_limiting the capital employed_. It is unnecessary to warn the reader
that we are here treating of economic science and that increase and
decrease refer always to _economic values_. In its simplest form,
supposing the quantity of objects produced to be constant (200 shoes
are required, and there is no reason to increase the production),
technical progress will consist, purely and simply, in a saving of
social expense: the same production at less expense. And since all
cost, in Marx's hypothesis resolves itself into social labour, there
will be the same production with less social labour. If it were not
so, it would not be worth while to introduce this technical
innovation; there would be, economically, no improvement but either
the _status quo ante_ or a regression. We must not take into account
the other effects which would arise to increase production, greater
consumption, increase of population, etc: additional and extraneous
facts which are not considered here, since we are concerned with the
single fact of technical improvement, all other conditions remaining
unchanged. And, in such a case, we cannot represent technical
improvement with the increasing series of total capital which Marx
employs, viz. 150, 200, 300, 400, 500, etc., but with this decreasing
one, 150, 140, 130, 120, 110, etc. And to keep to the illustration
used above, if we suppose that the given technical improvement has
caused a decrease of 1/10 in the total social labour required, we
shall have in place of the original capital of 1,000 a capital of 900,
no longer made up of 500 fixed and 500 floating, but of 450 fixed and
450 floating. The decrease must affect proportionally every part of
the capital since all of it is, in the final analysis, a product of
labour. Of the 100 original labourers, 1/10, _i.e._ 10 of them will
remain unemployed: a fraction of the original capital will remain
unemployed; the quantity (or utility) of the goods produced will
remain the same.[90]

When the description of the facts is thus corrected, there is no doubt
that the smaller total capital employed, supposing on the one hand,
the rate of surplus-value to remain unchanged, and, on the other, 10
of the original labourers to be working no longer, would absorb an
amount of surplus-value of 450. But the rate of profit would not on
this account be changed; or rather, just for this reason the rate of
profit could not be altered and would be expressed by 450/900 (as at
first 500/1000), _i.e._ it would be as at first, 50 per cent.

This simplest case does not then give us Marx's law, but this other
law; 'Technical improvement, supposing all the other conditions remain
unchanged, causes a decrease in the _amount_ (not the _rate_) of
surplus-value and of profits.' This law assumes that the 1/10 of the
labourers left unemployed become entirely superfluous. These ten
labourers are henceforth to be a dead weight supported by the charity
of others, or to die of starvation, or to emigrate--to a new world.
Let them be left to their fate. Social production will remain at its
former level, thanks to the technical improvement, but accomplished
without their help. This is the hypothesis; but given this hypothesis,
of what importance is the law? To see this clearly it will suffice to
push the hypothesis yet further, as we are entitled to do, and suppose
that the technical improvements continuing, the employment gradually
becomes superfluous, not only of 1/10, but of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2 of the
labourers, _i.e._ that the employment of labourers tends to become =
0. In this case capitalist society as such would come entirely to an
end, since the utility of labour, on which it is based, would come to
an end. Where there is nothing the King loses his rights; and where
labour has no utility the capitalist loses his. The ex-capitalists
would have no more workmen to impoverish, but would be changed into
the owners of automatic fountains of wealth; like those fortunate
mortals in the fable enriched by charmed knives, by wonderful lamps,
by gardens producing with instantaneous and spontaneous energy all
God's gifts. In other words the law here resolves itself into a

But Marx did not think of this _truism_. He wished to determine
exactly the organic law of the variations in the rate of profits. In
fact--as is seen in the illustration given--he does not at all suppose
that the energy of labour may become superfluous; but rather that the
labourers will find fresh employment with an increase in the original
fixed capital. Given technical improvement and production also will be
increased; this is the second stage which he considers. The 100
labourers are still all working, the fixed capital with which they
work must be increased from 500 to 700, and the total has hence become
1200. The law which he deduces, of the fall in the rate of profits
(in the illustration, from 50 per cent. to 41 per cent.) is not a
_truism_; on the contrary it presents itself with all the importance
and originality of a scientific discovery. All den ends on seeing
whether in the scientific discovery we have indeed--the truth.

The crux of Marx's proof lies in the statement; that the labourers who
would have had to remain unemployed, find on the contrary employment,
but with a capital _increased by so much_ (= 200) over the original.
Is this statement correct? On what does Marx base it?

To this fundamental proposition my _criticism_ refers, itself equally
fundamental. If it is admitted it amounts to _a most complete denial
of the truth of the Marxian law_. Nevertheless I state my idea in the
form of a _criticism_ and _doubtfully_, because, in dealing with a
thinker of Marx's rank, it is necessary to proceed cautiously, and to
remember (which I do not forget) that several times errors ascribed to
him have been explained as mistakes of his opponents.

For what reason, I ask myself, do the ten un-occupied labourers, in
order to be employed afresh, require a constant capital larger than
the original?

The technical improvement has not diminished the natural _utility_ of
the production (also in our hypothesis it has not increased it either,
but has left it unchanged); but it has only diminished its _value_.
There will be then, with the improved technical organisation, raw
materials, tools, clothing, foodstuffs, etc., of the same total
natural utility as at first. The economic value of all these products
is diminished, because in them (to employ the metaphor chosen by
Marx), is congealed a smaller quantity of labour, _i.e._ less by the
work of ten labourers. But from the point of view of power to satisfy
wants, the raw materials, the tools, the clothing, the means of
sustenance, etc., remain, in virtue of the technical improvement, of
the same rank as at first. If then capitalists and workpeople have
remained as temperate as before, and their standard of life has not
risen (and this is in the hypothesis), the production will offer as at
first means of employment and means of sustenance for the ten
labourers left unoccupied. By re-employing them, _i.e._ maintaining
them with the original means of subsistence, and setting them to work
on the original raw materials or their new products, the capitalists
will increase their production, or--what is the same thing--will
improve its quality. But since we know that, economically, the value
of that capital has _diminished_, it will come about that a capital
_economically smaller_ will absorb the same energy of labour as
formerly, _i.e._ _the same amount of profits_; and an equal amount of
profits with a smaller total capital means an _increased rate of
profits_. Exactly the opposite to what Marx thought it possible to

Turning to our illustration, the ten labourers will find employment
with a capital which, like the utility, has remained the same, but
economically has decreased to 900. This means that the rate of
profits has increased from 500/1000 to 500/900, _i.e._ from 50 per
cent. to about 55 per cent. As to the rate of surplus-value, since the
entire value of the total capital is reduced, it must no longer be
calculated, as before the technical improvement, as 500/500, nor as in
the first stage we considered (in which the technical improvement had
made a portion of the labour entirely superfluous) as 450/450, but as
500/450, _i.e._ it will no longer be 100 per cent., but will have
risen to about 111 per cent.

To this criticism of mine I have found no answer, either explicit or
implicit, in Marx's work. Only in one passage, where he speaks of the
counteracting causes, and in particular of surplus population (Chap,
XIV., § iv.), he hints at the case where labour power may be
re-employed with a minimum capital. It may be said that here Marx
passed close to the difficulty, without striking upon it, _i.e._
without becoming aware of its importance. And, if he had struck on it,
I doubt whether he would have overcome it and passed on; I think
rather that his theory would have gone to pieces.

I foresee that it may be said: you have assumed that, owing to the
technical improvement, not only would a number of labourers remain
unemployed, but also a fraction of the original total capital, _i.e._
of means of production and means of subsistence; and when the
labourers are re-employed, it is true that during the new cycle of
production, other fractions of unoccupied capital will not unite with
the original fractions, but precisely for this reason the quantity of
production which will result will be increased, and in the next cycle
of production a still greater fraction of unoccupied capital will add
itself, unless the ten labourers do not continue to be re-employed, in
which case the un-occupied fraction will be smaller, but the increase
will become constant. Now all these means of production and of
sustenance will not be consumed (or will be partially consumed and
partially saved), by the capitalist class, and hence there will be an
increasing accumulation. The quantities of goods saved, owing to the
impulsion of economic interest will not remain un-used in warehouses
or strong boxes, but will be thrown on the market as capital seeking
employment. This will increase the rate of wages, and hence will have
a depressing effect on the rate of profits. Very good, but in such a
case we are outside the Marxian law. The _factor_ here considered, is
no longer technical improvement taken by itself, but _saving_, which
may be, as stated, encouraged by technical progress, but cannot be
_inferred_ from it. For it is true that, if we suppose the case of
extravagant capitalists, saving, in spite of technical improvement
will not take place. And as technical improvement encourages saving,
so the latter, in its turn, by increasing wages, encourages the
increase of population, and hence the reduction of wages, and once
again a rise in the rate of profits. But, when saving and the increase
of population come upon the scene we are already within the sphere of
the law of demand and supply, _i.e._ of ordinary, accredited
economics, which Marx despised as vulgar, and out of dislike of which
he devised his law of the fall in the rate of profits yielded by the
above combination of capital owing to the effect of technical
improvement. I, indeed, believe that only the ordinary law of demand
and supply can explain the variations in the rate of profit: but to
return to it is not indeed to defend Marx's thesis, but rather to
ratify its condemnation.

However it is regarded, this thesis seems to me indefensible; and even
more indefensible if, leaving aside for a moment logical trains of
reasoning and arithmetical calculations, we look at it with the clear
intuition of common sense. See here--to follow the strict hypothesis
set forth by Marx--on one side a capitalist class, and on the other a
proletarian class. What effect does technical improvement have? It
increases the wealth in the hands of the capitalist class. Is it not
intuitively evident that, as a result of technical improvement, the
capitalists can, by anticipating commodities _whose value is
continually decreasing_, obtain _the same services_ which they
obtained at first from the proletariat? And that hence the relation
between value of services and value of capital will change in favour
of the former, _i.e._ that the rate of profits will increase? When
commodities (capital) are anticipated, which formerly were reproduced
by five hours of labour and now are reproduced by four, the workman
will continue to work ten hours. Formerly with five there were ten;
now with four there is similarly ten. The sponge costs less, but the
quantity of water with which it is saturated is the same. How could
Marx suppose that after technical improvement, the expenses of the
capitalists would always increase, so that proportionally profits
would be in a state of perpetual decline, and would end by making, in
face of the total costs, a most wretched figure?

Marx's mistake has been that he has inadvertently attributed a
_greater value_ to the fixed capital, which after the technical
improvement is worked by the same labourers as before. Certainly
anyone who looks at a society in two successive stages of technical
development, will find in the second stage a greater number of
machines and of tools of every kind. _This is a question of
statistics, not of economics._ Capital (and Marx appears to have
neglected this point for the moment) is not estimated by its physical
extension, but by its economic value. And economically that capital
(supposing all the other conditions remain constant) _must be worth
less_; otherwise no technical improvement would have taken place.

An external circumstance which might serve to explain Marx's error is
the fact that the third book of _Das Kapital_ is a posthumous work,
some parts of which are hardly sketched out, and amongst these that of
the _law of the rate of profits_, which, moreover, does not relate to
the _establishment of principles_, but, being a consequence and an
application or these, was perhaps not worked out to the same extent
as the fundamental or central part of the theory.[91] It is probable
that the author, if he could have gone over his rough draft again,
would have materially modified it or entirely discarded it. But
perhaps some internal reason could also be found for this strange
mistake, in that Marx always misused the comparative method without
disclosing any distinct knowledge of his procedure. And it might be
that, as already in his earlier investigations, he perpetually
transferred labour-value from a hypothetical society to the actual
capitalist society, so in this new problem he has been led to estimate
the worth of the technical capital in a more advanced society at the
rate of value of that in a less advanced society. In this impossible
attempt his method has here broken in his hands.

As we have disputed the actual basis of the Marxian law, it seems
indeed superfluous to follow out its further developments, which are
advanced in a form worked out with but little care. It is enough to
remark that in these developments, as in general, throughout _Das
Kapital_, there is a continuous medley of theoretical deductions and
historical descriptions, of logical and of material connections. The
defect, however, becomes in this instance an advantage, because many
of the observations made by Marx, understood as historical
descriptions of what usually happens in modern society, will be found
to be true and can be saved from the shipwreck, as regards the theory
of the law, with which by chance they are feebly connected. And it
would even be possible to make such an investigation in respect to
that very portion which we have disputed, _i.e._ to enquire what
_facts_, actually observed by him, could have impelled Marx to
construct his law, _i.e._ to give of these facts an explanation which
is theoretically unjustifiable.

Marx attributed the greatest importance to the discovery of the _law
of the fall in the rate of profits_. Herein lay for him 'the mystery
over which all economists from Adam Smith onwards have toiled'; and in
the different attempts to solve the problem he saw the explanation of
the divergence between the various schools of economists. Ricardo's
bewilderment in face of the phenomenon of the progressive decrease in
the rate of profits seemed to him fresh evidence of the earnestness of
mind of that writer, who discerned the vital importance of the problem
for capitalist society. That the solution had not been found before
his, Marx's, time, appeared to him easily explicable, when it was
remembered that until then political economy had sought gropingly for
the distinction between fixed and floating capital without succeeding
in formulating it, and had not been able to explain surplus-value in
distinction from profits, nor profit itself in its purity,
independently of the separate fractions of it in competition amongst
themselves; and that, in the end, it had been unable to analyse
completely the difference in the organic composition of capital, and
much less, the formation of the general rate of profits.

His explanation being now rejected, a double problem presents itself.
The first question relates to fact. It is needful to ask: does the
fact spoken of actually exist, and how does it exist? Has a gradual
decline in the rate of profits been ascertained? And in which
countries, and in what circumstances? The second question relates to
the cause: since, whilst we have seen that there could only be one
economic reason for the phenomenon, (the law of demand and supply),
there may be several historical causes, and these may vary in
different cases. The decline in the rate of profits may happen owing
to a nominal increase in wages due to an increase in the rent of land,
or it may happen owing to a real increase in wages due to stronger
organisation among the workpeople, or it may happen owing to an
increase, also real, in wages resulting from saving and from growing
accumulations, which increase the capital in search of employment.
This investigation must be made without prejudices, whether optimistic
or pessimistic, apologetic or controversial; and economists have
sinned but too often in all these ways. The listeners have seized upon
the result of limited and qualified investigations, now in order to
sing a hymn to the spontaneous force of progress, which will gradually
cause the disappearance of capitalists or reduce interest to 1/2 per
cent.; now in order to terrify their audience by a spectacle no less
fantastic, of landed proprietors as the sole owners of all the goods
of society![92]

May 1899.


[89] See chaps. III. and IV.

[90] We here suppose a series of productive periods already rapidly
passed through, which may suffice to replace the whole of the total
capital by the new technical processes. It is evident however, that as
fixed capital is replaced in successive portions, in a first stage,
goods are used as capital, whose cost of _reproduction_ no longer
corresponds to their original cost of _production_, _i.e._ whose
actual social value no longer corresponds to the original one. But to
consider the separate stages would here cause a useless complication.

[91] The explanation of the way in which the average rate of profit
arises belongs to the fundamental part of the third book of _Das
Kapital_, and Marx must have thought it out together with the
fundamental chapters in the first book.

[92] This is the case contemplated by Ricardo in the celebrated § 44
of chapter vi, _On Profits_: Marx appears to attach little importance
to this case, having complete faith in the continued technical
progress of agriculture, not to speak of other counteracting causes.
It is necessary to add that Marx in conformity with his law, maintains
that the rent of land also has a tendency to fall, although it may
increase its total amount, or its proportion in reference to
industrial profits: see vol. iii, 223-4.




    _Need for more comprehensive definition of the economic
        principle: Reasons why the mechanical conception
        erroneous, economic fact capable of appraisement: Cannot
        be scale of values for particular action: Economic datum
        a fact of human activity: Distinction and connection
        between pleasure and choice: Economic datum a fact of
        will: Knowledge a necessary presupposition of will:
        Distinction between technical and economic: Analogy of
        logic and æsthetic: Complete definition of economic

_Esteemed Friend_,

On reading the little paper, which you were courteous enough to send
me, on how to state the problem of pure economics,[93] I at once felt
a desire to discuss the subject with you. Other occupations have
obliged me to defer the satisfaction of this wish until now; and this
has been fortunate. The extracts from your new and still unpublished
treatise on pure economics, which came out in the March number of this
Review,[94] have obliged me to abandon in part the scheme of thought
which I had in mind; for I saw from them that you had modified some of
those points in your thesis, which seemed to me most open to dispute.

I have on several occasions heard something like a feeling of distaste
expressed for the endless discussions about value and the economic
principle which absorb the energies of economic science. It is said
that if this splitting of hairs over the scholastic accuracy of its
principle were abandoned, the science might throw light on historical
and practical questions which concern the welfare of human society.
Apparently you have not allowed yourself to be alarmed by the
threatened distaste of readers; nor indeed am I. Can we silence the
doubts which disturb us? Could we have assurance whilst silencing
these doubts that we were not endangering just those _practical_
issues which the majority have at heart? Issues which we ourselves
have at heart since we are certainly not able, like the monks of old,
to free ourselves from interest in _the affairs of the age_. May not
science be, as Leibniz said, _quo magis speculativa, magis practica_?
We must then go our way, and endeavour to satisfy our doubts, with all
the caution and self-criticism of which we are capable; since they
cannot be suppressed. On the other hand we should endeavour also not
to offer our solutions to the public except when our knowledge,--wide
if it may be so (yet necessarily imperfect)--of the literature on the
subject, gives us some confidence that we are not repeating things
already stated. Unless indeed, other considerations make us think it
opportune to repeat and to impress things which have been stated, but
without sufficient emphasis.

The new school of economic thought, of which you are such a worthy
representative, has a merit of no small significance. It has reacted
against the anti-scientific tendencies of the historical and empirical
schools, and has restored the concept of a science of _pure_
economics. This means indeed nothing more than a science which is
science; the word pure, unless tautologous, is an explanation added
for those who are ignorant or unmindful of what a science is.
Economics is neither history nor discussion of practical issues: it is
a science possessing its own principle, which is indeed called the
_economic principle_.

But, as I had occasion to remark at another time,[95] I do not
consider that this principle whose fundamental character is asserted,
has hitherto been grasped in its individuality, nor conveniently
defined in relation to other groups of facts, that is to the
principles of other sciences. Of those conceptions of it which seem to
me _erroneous_, the chief ones can be reduced to four which I will
call the _mechanical_, the _hedonistic_, the _technological_ and the

You have now rejected the first two, because you think that mechanical
and hedonistic considerations belong to metaphysics and psychology.
But I acknowledge that I am dissatisfied with your method of arriving
at this praiseworthy rejection.

You no longer say, indeed, as in your previous essay: 'L'économie pure
n'est pas seulement semblable à la méchanique: c'est, à proprement
parler, un genre de méchanique.' But you still say that 'Pure
economics employs the same methods as rational mechanics, and has many
points of contact with this science.' Although you do not pause over
the mechanical considerations, it is not from a clear conviction that
a datum in economics, as such, is quite different from a datum in
mechanics; but merely because it seems to you _convenient_ to omit
such considerations, of which you do not deny, but rather admit, the

Now I on the contrary, say decisively that the data of economics is
not that of mechanics, or that there is no transition from the
mechanical aspect of a fact to the economic aspect; and that the very
possibility of the mechanical point of view is excluded, not as a
thing which may or may not be abstracted from, but as a contradiction
in terms, which it is needful to shun.

Do you wish for the simplest and clearest proof of the non-mechanical
nature of the economic principle? Note, then, that in the data of
economics a quality appears which is on the contrary repugnant to that
of mechanics. _To an economic fact words can be applied which express
approval or disapproval._ Man behaves economically _well_ or _ill_,
with _gain_ or _loss_, _suitably_ or _unsuitably_: he behaves, in
short, _economically_ or _uneconomically_. A fact in economics is,
therefore, capable of _appraisement_ (positive or negative); whilst a
fact in mechanics is a mere fact, to which praise or blame can only be
attached metaphorically.

It seems to me that on this point we ought easily to be agreed. To
ascertain it, it is sufficient to appeal to internal observation. This
shows us the fundamental distinction between the mechanical and the
teleological, between mere fact and value. If I am not mistaken, you
assign to metaphysics the problem of reducing the teleological to the
mechanical, value to mere fact. But observe that metaphysics cannot
get rid of the distinction; and will only labour, with greater or less
good luck, at its old business of _reconciling_ opposites, or of
_deriving two contraries from one unity_.

I foresee what may be advanced against this assertion of the
non-mechanical nature of the economic principle. It may be said: What
is not mechanical, is not measurable; and economic values, on the
contrary, _are measured_. Although hitherto the unit of measurement
has not been found, it is yet a fact that we distinguish very readily
_larger_ and _smaller_, _greater_ and least _values_ and construct
scales of values. This suffices to establish the _measurability_ and
hence the essentially mechanical nature of economic value. Look at the
_economic man_, who has before him a series of possible actions _a_,
_b_, _c_, _d_, _e_, _f_, ...; which have for him a decreasing value,
indicated by the numbers 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 ... just because he _measures_
value, he decides on the action a=10, and not on c=8 or f=6.

And there is no fault in the deduction granted the existence of the
_scale of values_, which we have just illustrated by an example.
_Granted the existence_: but, supposing this to be an _illusion_ of
ours? If the man in the example, instead of being the _homo
oeconomicus_ were the _homo utopicus_ or _heterocosmicus_, not to be
found even in imaginative constructions?

This is precisely my opinion. The supposed _scale of values_ is an
absurdity. When the _homo oeconomicus_ in the given example, selects
_a_, all the other actions (_b_, _c_, _d_, _e_, _f_, ...) are not for
him _values smaller than a_; they are merely _non-a_; they are what he
rejects; they are _non-values_.

If then the _homo oeconomicus_ could not have _a_, he would be acting
_under different conditions_: under conditions without _a_. Change the
conditions and the economic action--as is well known--changes also.
And let us suppose that the conditions are such that, for the
individual acting, _b_ represents the action selected by him; and _c_,
_d_, _e_, _f_, ... those which he omits to do, and which are all
_non-b_, _i.e._ have no value.

If the conditions change again and it is supposed that the individual
decides on _c_, and then on _d_, and then on _e_, and so on. These
different economic actions, each _arising under particular
conditions_, are _incommensurable_ amongst themselves. They are
_different_; but each is perfectly adapted to the given conditions,
and can only be judged _in reference to these conditions_.

But then what are these numbers, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 ...? They are
_symbols_, symbols of what? What is the _reality_ beneath the
numerical symbol? The reality is the _alteration in the actual
conditions_; and these numbers show a succession of changes: neither
more nor less than is indicated by the alphabetic series, for which
they are substituted.

The absurdity involved in the notion of greater or smaller values is,
in short, the assumption that an individual may be _at the same
moment_ under different conditions. The _homo oeconomicus_ is not at
the same moment in _a_, _b_, _c_, _d_, _e_, _f_ ... but when he is in
_b_, he is no longer in _a_; when he is in _c_ he is no longer in _b_.
He has before him only one action, approved by him; this action rules
out all the others which are infinite, and which for him are only
_actions not preferred_ (non-values).

Certainly physical objects form part of the data of economics; and
these, just because they are _physical_, are _measurable_. But
economics does not consider physical things and objects, but
_actions_. The physical object is merely the brute matter of an
economic act: in measuring it we remain in the physical world, we do
not pass over to that of economics, or else, when measured, the
economic fact has become volatile. You say that 'political economy
only concerns itself with choices, which fall on things that are
variable in quantity and capable of measurement'; but pardon me, dear
friend, you would be much perplexed if you had to justify this wholly
arbitrary limitation; and if you had to show that the attribute
measurabilility influences in any way the attribute of belonging to

I think that I have explained, shortly, but adequately for a wise man
like yourself, the reasons why the mechanical conception of the
economic principle is untenable. If calculations and measurements come
into problems that are called economic they do so just in so far as
these are not problems in _pure_ economics.

This non-mechanical datum, which is an economic datum, you call
_choice_. And this is all right. But _to choose_ means to _choose
consciously_. A choice made unconsciously, is either not a choice or
not unconscious. You speak of the _unconscious actions_ of man; but
these cannot be the _actions_ of the man _in so far as he is man_ but
movements of man _in so far as he is also animal_. They are
_instinctive_ movements; and instinct is not choice _except
metaphorically_. Hence the examples you bring forward of dogs, of
cats, of sparrows, of rats, and of asses from _Buridano_, are not
facts of _choice_; and hence are not economic facts. You consider
animal economics as an unfruitful science, which exhausts itself in
descriptions. Look more closely and you will see that this science
does not exist. An economics of the animals, understood in the sense
of the naturalists, has not been written, not because it is not worth
while, but because _it is impossible to write it_. Whence could it be
obtained unless from books such as the _Roman de Renart_ and the
_Animali parlanti_?

This analysis ought to lead us to conceive of an economic datum as an
act of man; _i.e._ as a _fact of human activity_.

And from this recognition is inferred in its turn the true criticism
of the _hedonistic_ conception of the economic principle. You say that
'the equations of pure economics express merely the fact of a choice,
and can be drawn up independently of the ideas of pleasure and pain,'
but you admit at the same time that the fact of the _choice_ 'can be
expressed equally well as a fact of _pleasure_.'

It is true that every case of economic choice is at the same time, a
case of _feeling_: of agreeable feeling if the economic choice is
rightly made, of disagreeable feeling, if it is ill made. Man's
activity develops itself in the human mind, not under a pneumatic
bell, and an activity which develops rightly, brings as its reflex, a
feeling of pleasure, that which develops badly, one of displeasure.
What is economically useful, is, at the same time _pleasurable_.

But this judgment cannot be converted. The pleasurable is not always
economically useful. The mistake in the hedonist theory consists in
making this conversion. Pleasure may appear unaccompanied by man's
activity, or may be accompanied by a human activity which is not
economic. Herein lies the fundamental distinction between _pleasure_
and _choice_. A choice, is in the concrete, inseparable from the
feeling of pleasure and displeasure; but this feeling is separable
from _choice_, and may in fact exist independently of it.

If psychology be understood (as it is usually understood) as the
science of psychical mechanism, economics is not a psychological
science; this Herr von Ehrenfels fails to grasp. I do not know whether
you have read the two volumes hitherto published on the _System der
Werttheorie_.[96] After devoting some hundred pages to psychological
disquisitions--which I do not mean to discuss here--he wishes,
finally, to prove that his definitions of value remain sound, from
whatever theory of psychology you start. He does this as he asserts (§
87), not because he is doubtful of himself, but to safeguard his
economic conclusions, which are so important for the practical
problems of life, from unjustified attacks based on the standpoints of
schools of psychology other than his own, the method of the barrister,
who composes an apparent conclusion, and makes several demands that
are connected therewith _subordinately_. It is true that there is no
need for economists to spend their time on details of theoretical
psychology; so true that Professor Ehrenfels might spare us his: but
is it not true that economics remains the same _whatever psychological
theory is accepted_. The unity of science means that a modification
at one point is never without some reaction on the others; and the
reaction is greatest when it is a question of the way of conceiving
two facts, distinct but inseparable, like the economic and the
psychical fact.

An economic datum is not then a hedonistic datum, nor, in general, a
mechanical datum. But as the fact of man's _activity_, it still
remains to determine whether it is a fact of _knowledge_ or of _will_:
whether it is theoretical or practical.

You, who conceive it as choice, can have no doubt that it is a fact of
practical activity, _i.e._ of _will_. This is also my own conclusion.
_To choose_ something can only mean _to will it_.

But you somewhat obscure the conclusion now indicated when you speak
of _logical_ and _illogical_ actions, and place actions properly
economic amongst the former. Logical and illogical bring us back to
theoretical activity. A _logical_ or _illogical_ action is a common
way of speaking; but it is not a way of speaking exactly or
accurately. The logical work of thought is quite distinct from the
action of the will. To reason is not to will.

Nor is to will to reason; but the will _presupposes_ thought and hence
logic. He who does not think, cannot even will. I mean by willing,
what is known to us by the evidence of our consciousness; not
Schopenhauer's metaphysical _will_.

In _knowledge_, in so far as it is a necessary presupposition of
economic action, is found, if not a justification, an explanation of
your phrases about _logical and illogical actions_. Economic actions
are always (we say so, at any rate) _logical_ actions, _i.e._ preceded
by logical acts. But it is necessary to distinguish carefully the two
stages: the phenomenon and its presupposition, since _from lack of
distinction between the two stages has arisen the erroneous conception
of the economic principle as a technological fact_. I have criticised
at length in other essays this confusion between _technical_ and
_economic_, and I may be allowed to refer both to what I have written
in my review of Stammler's book _Wirthschaft und Recht_, and to the
more exact analyses in my recent memorandum on the _Estetica_.
Stammler maintains precisely that the economic principle can be
nothing but a technical concept. I would advise anyone who wishes to
see at a glance, the difference between the technical and the economic
to consider carefully in what a _technical error_ and in what an
_economic error_ respectively consist. A technical error is ignorance
of the laws of the material on which we wish to work: for instance the
belief that it is possible to put very heavy beams of iron on a
delicate wall, without the latter falling into ruins. An _economic_
error is the not aiming directly at one's own object; to wish this and
that, _i.e._ not really to wish either this or that. A technical error
is an error of knowledge: an economic error is an error of will. He
who makes a technical mistake will be called, if the mistake is a
stupid one, an ignoramus; he who makes an economic mistake, is a man
who does not know how to behave in life: a weak and inconclusive
person. And, as is well known and proverbial, people can be _learned_
without being _men_ (_practical_ or _complete_).

Thus an economic fact is a fact of _practical activity_. Have we
attained our object in this definition? Not yet. The definition is
still incomplete and to complete it we must not only cross another
expanse of sea, but avoid another rock: viz. that of the conception of
economic data as _egoistic_ data.

This error arises as follows: if an economic fact is a practical
activity, it is still necessary to say how this activity is
distinguished from moral activity. But moral activity is defined as
_altruistic_; then, it is inferred, economic data will be _egoistic_.
Into this mistake has fallen, amongst others, our able Professor
Pantaleoni, in his _Principî d'economia pura_, and in other writings.

The _egoistic_ is not something merely _different_ from a moral fact;
it is the _antithesis_ of it; it is the _immoral_. In this way, by
making the economic principle equivalent to an egoistic fact, instead
of distinguishing economics from morality, we should be subordinating
the former to the latter, or rather should deny it any right to exist,
recognising it as something merely negative, as a deviation from moral

A datum in economics is quite different. It does not form an
antithesis to a moral datum; but is in the peaceable relation of
condition to conditioned. It is the general condition which makes the
rise of ethical activity possible. In the concrete, every action
(volition) of man is either moral or immoral, since no actions are
_morally indifferent_. But both the moral and the immoral are economic
actions; which means that the economic action, taken by itself, is
neither moral nor immoral. Strength of character, for example, is
needed both by the honest man and by the cheat.

It seems to me that you approach gropingly to this conception of the
economic principle, as relating to practical actions, which taken in
the abstract, are neither moral nor immoral; when at one point in your
last essay, you exclude from economic consideration _choices_, which
have an _altruistic motive_; and further on, exclude also those which
are _immoral_. Now, since choices are necessarily either altruistic or
egoistic, either moral or immoral, you have no way of escaping from
the difficulty except the one which I suggest; to regard economics as
concerned with practical activity in so far as it is (abstractly)
_emptied_ of all _content, moral or immoral_.

I might enlarge further on this distinction and show how it has an
analogy in the sphere of theoretical activity, where the relation of
economics to ethics is repeated in the relation of æsthetics to logic.
And I might point out the reason why scientific and æsthetic
productions cannot be subjects of economic science, _i.e._ are not
economic products. The reason given, in this connection, by Professor
Ehrenfels, is, to say the least of it, curious: he remarks that: 'the
relations of value upon which the data of logic and æsthetics rest,
are so simple that they do not demand a special economic theory.' It
should not be difficult to see that logical and æsthetic values are
theoretical and not practical values, whereas economic value is a
practical value, and that it is impossible to unite an _economics_ of
the _theoretical_ as such. When, some years ago, the lamented Mazzola
sent me the introduction in which he had discussed _Economics_ and
_Art_, I had occasion to write to him and afterwards to say to him by
word of mouth, that much more fundamental relations might be
discovered between the two groups of phenomena; and he urged me to
expound my observations and inquiries. This I have done in the essay
on _Estetica_, referred to above. I am sorry to be obliged to _refer_
so many times in writing to you and to the public. But here the need
for brevity and clearness constrains me.

This, then, is a rapid statement of how I arrive at the definition of
the data of economics, which I should like to see at the beginning of
every economic treatise. _The data of economics are the practical
activities of men in so far as they are considered as such,
independent of any moral or immoral determination._

Granted this definition, and it will be seen also that the concept of
_utility_, or of _value_ or of _ofelimity_, is nothing but the
economic action itself, _in so far as it is rightly managed_, _i.e._
in so far as it is really economic. In the same way as _the true_ is
_thinking_ activity itself, and _the good_ is _moral_ activity itself.

And to speak of things (physical objects) as having or not having
value, will appear simply a metaphorical usage to express those
_causes which we think efficacious to produce the effects_ which we
_desire_, and which are therefore our _ends_. _A_ is worth _b_, the
value of _a_ is _b_, does not mean (the economists of the new school
knew it well) _a=b_; nor even as is said _a>b_; but that _a_ has
_value_ for us, and _b_ has not. And value--as you know--exists only
at _the moment of exchange_, _i.e._ of _choice_.

To connect with these general propositions the different problems
which are said to belong to economic science, is the task of the
writer of a special treatise on economics. It is your task, esteemed
friend, if after having studied these general propositions, they seem
to you acceptable. To me it seems that they alone are able to
safeguard the independence of economics, not only as distinct from
_History_ and _Practice_ but as distinct from _Mechanics_,
_Psychology_, _Theory of Knowledge_, and _Ethics_.

Naples, 15th May 1900.[97]


    _Disagreement (1) about method (2) postulates: (1) Nothing
        arbitrary in economic method, analogy of classificatory
        sciences erroneous: (2) Metaphysical postulate that facts
        of human activity same as physical facts erroneous:
        Definition of practical activity in so far as admits of
        definition: Moral and economic activity and approval:
        Economic and moral remorse: Economic scale of values._

_Esteemed Friend_,

Our disagreement concerning the nature of economic data has two chief
sources: disagreement on a question of _method_ and disagreement on a
question of _postulates_. I acknowledge that one object of my first
letter was to obtain from you such explanations as might set clearly
in relief our disagreement on the two points indicated.--To reduce
controversies to their simplest terms, to expose ultimate oppositions,
is, you will agree, an approach to truth. I will explain briefly the
two points at issue. In regard to that of method, although I agree
with you in upholding the claims of a procedure that is logical,
abstract and scientific, as compared with one that is historical (or
synthetic, as you say), I cannot in addition allow that the former
procedure involves something of the nature of an arbitrary choice, or
that it can be worked out equally well in either of two ways. You talk
of _cutting away_ a _slice_ from a concrete phenomenon, and examining
this by itself; but I inquire how you manage to cut away that slice?
for it is no question here of a piece of bread or of cheese into which
we can actually put the knife, but of a series of representations
which we have in our consciousness, and into which we can insert
nothing except the light of our mental analysis. In order to cut off
your slice you would thus have to carry out a logical analysis; _i.e._
to do at the outset what you propose to do subsequently. Your _cutting
off of the slice_ is indeed an answer to the problem of the _quid_ in
which an economic fact consists. You assume the existence of a test to
distinguish what you take for the subject of your exposition from what
you leave aside. But the test or guiding concept must be supplied by
the very nature of the theory, and must be in conformity with it.

Would it for instance be in conformity with the nature of the thing,
to cut away, as you wish to do, only that group of economic facts
which relates to objects capable of measurement? What intrinsic
connection is there between this merely accidental attribute,
measurability, of the objects which enter into an economic action, and
the economic action itself? Does measurability lead to a modification
in the economic fact by changing its nature, _i.e._ by giving rise to
_another_ fact? If so, you must prove it. I, for my part, cannot see
that an economic action changes its nature whether it relates to a
sack of potatoes, or consists in an exchange of protestations of

In your reply you refer to the need of avoiding waste of time over
matters that are too simple, for which 'it is not worth while to set
in motion the great machine of mathematical reasoning.' But this need
relates to the pedagogy of the professional chair or of the book, not
to the science in itself, which alone we are now discussing. It is
quite evident that anybody who speaks or writes lays more stress on
those portions which he thinks harder for his hearers and readers to
grasp, or more useful to be told. But he who thinks, _i.e._ speaks
with himself, pays attention to all portions without preferences and
without omissions. We are now concerned with thought, that is with the
_growth_ of science; not with the manner of _communicating_ it. And
in thought, we cannot admit arbitrary judgments.

Nor need we be turned aside by an analogy with the _classes_ of facts,
made by zoology and other natural sciences. The classifications of
zoology and botany are not scientific operations, but merely views in
perspective; and, considered in relation to really scientific
knowledge, they are arbitrary. He who investigates the nature of
economic data, does not, however, aim at putting together, in
perspective and roughly, groups of economic cases, as the zoologist or
the botanist do, mutilating and manipulating the inexhaustible,
infinite varieties of living creatures.

Upon the confusion between _a science_ and the _exposition of a
science_ is based also the belief that we can follow different paths
in order to arrive at a demonstration of the same truth. Unless in
your case, since you are a mathematician, it arose from a false
analogy with calculation. Now, calculation is not a science, because
it does not give us the reasons of things; and hence _mathematical_
logic is logic in a manner of speaking, a variety of formal logic, and
has nothing to do with _scientific_ or inventive logic.

When we pass to the question of the postulates, you will certainly be
surprised if I tell you that the disagreement between us consists in
your wish to introduce a _metaphysical_ postulate into economic
science; whereas I wish here to rule out every metaphysical postulate
and to confine myself entirely to the analysis of the given facts. The
accusation of being _metaphysical_ will seem to you the last that
could ever be brought against you. Your implied metaphysical postulate
is, however, this; that the facts of man's activity are of the same
nature as physical facts; that in the one case as in the other we can
only observe regularity and deduce consequences therefrom, without
ever penetrating into the inner nature of the facts; that these facts
are all alike _phenomena_ (meaning that they would presuppose a
_noumena_, which evades us, and of which they are manifestations).
Hence whereas I have called my essay 'On the economic _principle_,'
yours is entitled 'On the economic _phenomenon_.'

How could you defend this postulate of yours except by a
_metaphysical_ monism; for example that of Spencer? But, whilst
Spencer was anti-metaphysical and positivist in words, I claim the
necessity of being so in deeds; and hence I cannot accept either _his_
metaphysics or _his_ monism, and I hold to experience. This testifies
to me the fundamental distinction between external and internal,
between physical and mental, between mechanics and teleology, between
passivity and activity, and secondary distinctions involved in this
fundamental one. What metaphysics unites philosophy distinguishes (and
joins together); the abstract contemplation of unity is the death of
philosophy. Let us confine ourselves to the distinction between
physical and mental. Whilst the external facts of nature, admitted by
empirical physical science, are always phenomena, since their source
is by definition outside themselves, the internal facts or activities
of man, cannot be called phenomena, since they are their own source.

By this appeal to experience and by this rejection of all metaphysical
intrusion, I place myself in a position to meet the objection which
you bring forward to my conception of economic data. You think that
the ambiguity of the term _value_ comes from this, that it denotes a
very complex fact, a collection of facts included under a single word.
For me, on the contrary, the difficulty in it arises from its denoting
a very simple fact, a _summum genus_, _i.e._ the fact of the very
_activity_ of man. Activity is value. For us nothing is valuable
except what is an effort of imagination, of thought, of will, of our
activity in any of its forms. As Kant said that there was nothing in
the universe that could be called _good_ except the _good will_; so,
if we generalise, it may be said that there is nothing in the universe
that is valuable, except the _value of human activity_. Of value as of
activity you cannot demand a so-called genetic definition. The simple
and the original is genetically indefinable. Value is observed
immediately in ourselves, in our consciousness.[98]

This observation shows us also that the _summum genus_ 'value,' or
'mental activity' gives place to irreducible forms, which are in the
first instance those of theoretical activity and practical activity,
of theoretical values and practical values. But what does _practical_
mean?--you now ask me. I believe that I have already answered by
explaining that the theoretical is everything which is a work of
_contemplation_, and the practical everything that is the work of
_will_. Is will an obscure term? We may rather call the terms _light_,
_warmth_ and so on, obscure; not that of _will_. What will is, I know
well. I find myself face to face with it throughout my life as a man.
Even in writing this letter, today, in a room in an inn, and in
shaking off the laziness of country life, I have _willed_; and if I
have delayed the answer for two months, it is because I have been so
feeble as not to know how to _will_.

You see from this that the question raised by me, whether by _choice_
you meant _conscious_ or _unconscious_ choice, is not a _careless_
question. It is equivalent to this other one; whether the economic
fact is or is not a fact of _will_. 'This does not alter the fact of
the choice,' you say. But indeed it does alter it! If we speak of
_conscious_ choice, we have before us a mental fact, if of
_unconscious_ choice, a natural fact; and the laws of the former are
not those of the latter. I welcome your discovery that economic fact
is the fact of choice; but I am _forced_ to mean by _choice_,
_voluntary_ choice. Otherwise we should end by talking not only of the
_choices_ of a man who is _asleep_ (when he moves from side to side)
but of those of _animals_, and why not? of _plants_ and why not again?
of _minerals_; passing rapidly along the steep slope down which my
friend Professor C. Trivero has slipped in his recently published
_Teoria dei bisogni_, for which may he be forgiven![99]

When I defined economic data as 'the practical activities of man, in
so far as they are considered as such, independently of any moral or
immoral determination,' I did not make an arbitrary judgment, which
might authorise others to do likewise, in a science which does not
tolerate arbitrary judgments; but I merely _distinguished_ further
within the species _practical activity_, two _sub-species_ or grades:
_pure_ practical activity, (economic), and _moral_ practical activity,
(ethical); will that is merely economic, and moral will. There is
ambiguity in your reproach that when I speak of approval or
disapproval as aroused by economic activity, I am considering the
matter from a _synthetic_ instead of an analytic point of view, and
that approval or disapproval are _extraneous_ factors. I did not
however speak (and I believed that I had explained myself clearly), of
_moral_, _intellectual_ or _æsthetic_ approval or disapproval. No, I
said, and I repeat, that a judgment of approval or reprobation was
necessarily bound up with economic activity: but a _merely_ ECONOMIC
judgment of approval or reprobation. '_By saying_ that Rhenish wine is
_useful_ to me, has a _value_ for me, is _ofelimo_ to me, I mean only
to say that I like it; and I do not see how this simplest of relations
can be well or ill-managed.' You will forgive me if in this sentence
of yours I have italicised the words _by saying_. Here is the point.
Certainly the mere _saying_ does not give rise to an internal judgment
of economic approval or disapproval. It will give rise to a
grammatical or linguistic, _i.e._ æsthetic, approval or disapproval,
according to whether the saying is clear or confused, well or ill
expressed. But it is no question of _saying_: it is a question of
_doing_, _i.e._ of the action willed carried out by the movement that
is willed, of a _choice_ of movement. And do you think that the
acquisition and consumption of a bottle of Rhenish wine involves no
judgment of approval or disapproval? If I am very rich, if my aim in
life is to obtain momentary sensual pleasures, and I know that Rhenish
wine will secure me one of them, I buy and drink Rhenish wine and
approve my act. I am satisfied with myself. But if I do not _wish_ to
indulge in gluttony, and if my money is all devoted to other purposes,
for which I _wish_ as preferable, and if, in spite of this, yielding
to the temptation of the moment, I buy and drink Rhenish wine, I have
put myself into contradiction with myself, and the sensual pleasure
will be followed by a judgment of disapproval, by a legitimate and

To prove to you how, in all this, I omit every _moral_ consideration,
I will give you another example: that of a knave who thinks it
_ofelimo_ to himself to murder a man in order to rob him of a sum of
money. At the moment of assassination, and although remaining a knave
at heart, he yields to an emotion of fear or to a pathological feeling
of compassion, and does not kill the man. Note carefully the terms of
the hypothesis. The knave will call himself an ass and an imbecile,
and will feel _remorse_ for his contradictory and inconclusive
conduct; but not indeed a _moral_ remorse (of that he is, by
hypothesis, incapable), but, precisely, a remorse that is merely

It seems to me that there is another confusion, easy to dispel, in
your counter criticism to my criticism of the _scale of values_
(economic) you say that 'there is no need for one person to find
himself at the same moment under different conditions; it is enough
that he can _picture to himself_ these different conditions.' Can you
in truth _picture yourself_ being _at the same moment_ under
_different_ conditions? Fancy has its laws; and does not allow the
imagination of what is unimaginable. You can easily say that you
_picture_ it to yourself: words are docile; but, to picture it _in
reality_, is, pardon me, another matter altogether. You will not
succeed in it any more than I. Ask me to imagine a lion with the head
of a donkey, and I will comply at once; but ask me to imagine a lion
standing _at the same moment_ in two different places, and I cannot
succeed. I will picture to myself, if you like, two similar lions, two
exactly alike, but not the same in two different positions. Fancy
reconstructs reality, but possible reality, not the impossible or what
is contradictory. Thus my demonstration of the absurdity of the _scale
of values_ applies both to actual and to possible reality. Nay, in
discussing science in the abstract it was framed precisely on the mere
consideration of the possible.

I do not know whether I have answered all your objections, but I have
endeavoured to answer all those which seem to me fundamental. A
dispute, in which questions of method and of principle are at stake
need not be carried on pedantically into minute details; we must
depend to some extent on the assistance of the readers, who, putting
themselves mentally in the position of the two disputants, work out
for themselves the final application. I wish merely to add that it is
my strongest conviction that the reaction against metaphysics (a
far-sighted reaction in that it has freed scientific procedure from
admixture with the arbitrary judgments of feeling and belief) has been
pushed forward by many so far as to destroy science itself. The
mathematicians who have a quick feeling for scientific procedure, have
done much for economic science by reviving in it the dignity of
abstract analysis, darkened and overwhelmed by the mass of anecdotes
of the historical school. But, as it happens, they have also
introduced into it the prejudice of their profession, and, being
themselves students of the general conditions of the physical world,
the particular prejudice that mathematics can take up in relation to
economics--which is the science of _man_, of a form of the conscious
activity of man--the same attitude which it rightly takes up in
relation to the empirical natural sciences.

From what I have now stated you will easily discover exactly how far
we are in agreement in the establishment of the principles of
_Economics_ and how far we disagree. If my new observations should
assist in further reducing the extent of the disagreement, I shall
indeed be glad.

Perugia, _20th October, 1900_.[100]


[93] _Comment se pose le problème de l'economie pure._ Paper read in
December 1898 to the _Societé Stella_.

[94] _Giornale degli economisti_, March 1900, pp. 216-235.

[95] _Rivista di sociologia_, III. no. vi., pp. 746-8, see
_Materialismo Storico_, pp. 193-208.

[96] DR CHRISTIAN V. EHRENFELS (Professor at Prague University):
_System der Werttheorie_, vol. I, _Allgemeine Werttheorie, Psychologie
des Begehrens_, Leipzig, Reisland, 1897; vol. II, _Grundzüge einer
Ethik_, the same, 1898.

[97] PARETO answered this letter in the same journal, _Giornale degli
economisti_, August, 1900, pp. 139-162.

[98] I have before me Professor A. GRAZIADEI's article _Intorno alla
teoria edonistica del valore_. (In _Riforma Sociale_, September 15th,
1900); in which A. fails to see how the purist theory of value
dovetails in with the doctrines of Psychophysics and Psychology. I can
well believe it! Psychophysics and Psychology are natural sciences and
cannot throw light on economic fact which is mental and of value. I
may be allowed to point out, that, even three years ago, I gave a
warning against the confusion of economics with psychology. (See in
this volume pp. 72-75.) He who appeals to psychology (naturalistic) in
order to understand economic fact, will always meet with the delusion,
opportunely shown up by Graziadei. I have stated the reasons owing to
which economics cannot dwell where the psychologists and hedonists
say; now Graziedei has questioned the door-keepers (Fechner, Wundt,
etc.), and has learnt that it does not dwell there. Well and good!

[99] CAMILLO TRIVERO, _La teoria dei bisogni_, Turin, Bocca, 1900, pp.
198. Trivero means by _need_ 'the condition of a being, either
conscious or unconscious (man, animal, plant, thing), in which it
cannot remain': so that it can be said 'that all needs are ultimately
condensed into the supreme _need_ or _end_ of being or becoming.'
_Need_ for him is hence actual reality itself. But since, on the other
hand, he declares that he does not wish to solve nor even to consider
the philosophical problem, it is hard to understand what a _theory of
needs_ (_i.e._ of reality) can be, and for what reason he goes back to
such generalities.

It is true that Trivero believes that, by going back to the general
concept of _need_, he can establish the _parent theory_ on which rest
the particular doctrines of needs; and amongst them economics, which
concerns itself with _economic_ needs. If there are _species_--he
says--we ought to determine of what _genus_ they are species. But he
will allow me to remark that the genus to look for is, as logic
teaches, the _proximate_ genus. To jump to such a great distance as to
reality or to fact, would only lead to the noble discovery: that
economic needs are part of reality, are a group of facts.

And what he does is to make an equally valuable discovery: that the
true theory of history is the theory of needs, which, granted his
definition of _needs_, is as much as to say that history is history of
reality and the theory of it is--the theory.

I have then no objection to make to the meaning which Trivero wishes
to give to the word _need_; but I must assert that, having given it
this meaning, he has not afterwards constructed the theory of
anything, nor thrown light on any special group of facts.

For real economic theory his book is quite useless. Economists do not
recognise the needs of things and plants and animals, but only human
needs, or those of man in so far as he is _homo oeconomicus_ and hence
a conscious being. I too believe that it is right to work out
philosophically the principle of economics; but in order to do this,
Trivero should have studied economic science. He declares that 'he
does not want to hold fast to anyone's petticoats.' This statement is
superfluous if it means that each individual ought to base his own
scientific convictions on reason and not on authority. It is dangerous
if it signifies, on the contrary, an intention to spare himself the
trouble of studying other people's books, and of reconstructing
everything from the beginning by his own personal efforts and by the
aid of general culture alone. The result obtained--being far from
satisfactory--should deter the author (who will not grumble at my
plain speaking), from returning to this unfruitful method in the

[100] PARETO answers this second letter in the _Giornale degli
economisti_, February, 1901, pp. 131-138.


*Marx's name is omitted. The Asterisks indicate notes.

Aristotle, 18

Aveling, E., 66*

Bauer, B., 102

Bernstein, E., 119

Bertolini, A., 96

Böhm-Bawerk, 54, 76,* 142

Bray, 103

Coletti, F., 115*

Croce, B., 129,* 131*

Dühring, E. 69, 79,* 84, 103, 114

Durckheim, E., 118

Ehrenfels, Christian Von, 168, 172

Engels, F., 7, 11, 14, 18, 19, 25, 26, 28, 41, 55, 63, 67, 69, 78-81,
  83, 84, 89, 95,* 103, 114-116, 124, 131*

Fechner, 180

Ferrara, F., 127

Gentile, G., 80,* 83,* 86,* 104,* 115*

Gray, A., 103

Graziadei, A., 138-140, 179*

Grosse, E., 90*

Hegel, G.F., 6, 11, 81-82, 102, 122, 130

Heine, H., 130

Helvetius, 8

Herbart, 24, 25

Holbach, 8

Kant, E., 24, 25, 43, 113-114, 179

Kautsky, K., 119, 137

Ingram, 95*

Jevons, 72

Labriola, Antonio, 1, 5, 9, 10-15, 18, 21-26, 51,* 55, 76, 84,* 86-93,
  106, 109,* 110, 111, 114, 119, 120-132

Lange, A.F., 8, 41, 71, 72*

Leibniz, 160

Loria, A., 49, 91, 138, 142

Machiavelli, N., 110,* 118

Manzoni, A., 19

Mommsen, T., 122

Morgan, 89

More, Thomas, 19*

Pantaleoni, M., 76,* 96, 127, 171

Parrto, V., 74, 76,* 96-101, 159-186

Plechanow, G., 8

Proudhon, P.G., 103

Rabelais, 105

Ricardo, D., 53, 135, 156, 157*

Ricca, Salermo G., 77*

Richter, G.P., 18

Rodbertus, K., 103*

Rosmini, 102

Rümalin, 36

Sanctis (de), F., 110*

Schiller, 25*

Schmidt, C., 54

Schopenhauer, A., 102

Simmel, G., 5, 24, 118

Smith, A., 74*

Sombart, W., 54,* 55, 60, 63, 131,* 142

Sorel, G., 55, 86,* 119, 131-138

Spencer, H., 36, 178

Stammler, R., 27-47, 118, 137,* 138, 170

Stein, L., 18

Stern, G., 133

Trivero, C, 181,* 182

Villari, P., 110*

Wagner, A., 73*

Westermarck, E., 90*

Witte, 78

Wundt, 180*


       *       *       *       *       *

    | Typographical errors corrected in text:                   |
    |                                                           |
    | Page    ix: philosopy replaced with philosophy            |
    | Page xxiii: knowlege replaced with knowledge              |
    | Page  53: manifestions replaced with manifestations       |
    | Page  55: acknowleges replaced with acknowledges          |
    | Page  60: necesary replaced with necessary                |
    | Page  61: corrollary replaced with corollary              |
    | Page  85: schutzt replaced with schützt                   |
    | Page  86: contigent replaced with contingent              |
    | Page  86: idealogical replaced with ideological           |
    | Page 104: abreviated replaced with abbreviated            |
    | Page 122: empirical-dialetic replaced with                |
    |           empirical-dialectic                             |
    | Page 124: sytems replaced with systems                    |
    | Page 149: Mark's replaced with Marx's                     |
    | Page 187: Duhring replaced with Dühring                   |
    | Page 187: Colatti replaced with Coletti                   |
    | Page 187: Kantsky replaced with Kautsky                   |
    | Page 187: Leibnitz replaced with Leibniz                  |
    | Page 188: Parrto replaced with Pareto                     |
    | Page 188: Plechanov replaced with Plechanow               |
    | Page 188: Rümalin replaced with Rümelin                   |
    | Footnote 15: oekonomischer replaced with oekonomischen    |
    | Footnote 15: Bohm replaced with Böhm                      |
    | Footnote 15: fur replaced with für                        |
    | Footnote 22: verzehbaren replaced with verzehrbaren       |
    | Footnote 42: aüssere replaced with äussere                |
    | Footnote 59: entrepeneurs replaced with entrepreneurs     |
    | Footnote 74: Briere replaced with Brière                  |
    | Footnote 80: fugte replaced with fügte                    |
    | Footnote 82: fur replaced with für                        |
    | Footnote 92: ittle replaced with little                   |
    | Footnote 95: "Materialismio Storico" replaced with        |
    |              "Materialismo Storico"                       |
    |                                                           |
    | Note that on page 166 that the word 'measurabilility'     |
    | is likely to be a typo either for 'measurability' or      |
    | 'measurably'                                              |
    |                                                           |

       *       *       *       *       *

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Historical materialism and the economics of Karl Marx" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.