If the question about the “real” Marx is to have any sense, it can be neither merely factual and historical nor merely subjective and evaluative. The “real” Marx can be neither a heap of historical “facts” nor a free creation of somebody’s imagination. He can be neither an entirely “objective” Marx, which once upon a time existed “in itself,” nor a purely “subjective” Marx who somebody finds likeable or useful. It is impossible to expound the first, and the second is more than one man. The “real” Marx is the Marx to whom history owes a debt, and the “real” Marx’s philosophy is Marx’s contribution to the development of philosophical thought.
Stalinists and those who practice Stalinist criticism, while rejecting it in word, oppose the “old” Marx to the “young,” maintaining that the “real” Marx is the “old.” They find the “young” Marx interesting merely as an historical document, a testimony to Marx’s original immaturity and his gradual emancipation from Hegelian and Feuerbachian errors. By their outcry against the “young” Marx they hope to conceal the fact that they have departed equally far from the “old” Marx. Marxism is a philosophy of freedom, and Stalinism a “philosophical” justification of unfreedom.
The thesis that the “real” Marx is the “young” one represents the first, ill-considered reaction of awakened Marxist thought against Stalinism. It is a negation of Stalinism that makes concessions to Stalinism. Its supporters accept the opposition between the “young” and the “old” Marx and at the same time magnanimously surrender the “old” Marx to the Stalinists.
The theory of alienation is not only the central theme of Marx’s “early” writings; it is also the guiding idea of all his “later” works. The theory of man as a being of praxis is not a discovery of the “old” Marx; we already find it in a developed form in the “young” one. The “young” and the “old” Marx are essentially one and the same: Marx the fighter against self-alienation, dehumanization and exploitation; Marx the combatant for the full humanization of man, for a many-sided development of man’s human possibilities, for the abolition of class society and for the realization of an association in which the “free development of each is a condition of free development for all.”
The unity of Marx’s essential thought does not preclude its development. Marx’s work is an unremitting self-criticism, a continuous revision of his own views. The division into the “young” and the “old” Marx only very incompletely describes this complex process. It is usually held that the “mature” Marx begins with the Poverty of Philosophy and the Manifesto of the Communist Party. The Marx of the doctoral thesis, the Marx of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and the Marx of the German Ideology are supposed to be one and the same “young” Marx; the Marx of the Manifesto and the Marx of Capital, one and the same “old” Marx. In fact Marx in German Ideology is considered as quite different from Marx in Poverty of Philosophy or the Manifesto. But not only is the opposition between the “young” and the “old” Marx untenable; even the twofold division of Marx’s development, which this opposition assumes, is dubious.
The fundamental coherence of Marx’s thought does not mean that it is an all-embracing and finished system. The essential truthfulness of Marx’s thought does not mean that it is an eternal truth for all time. Marx’s work is full of open problems; it contains questions without answers, searches without final results. Some people find definitive solutions in Marx precisely where he himself saw difficulties. But what was merely a question for Marx cannot be a ready answer for us; what Marx himself regarded as a solution may become a problem for us. Great thinkers cast light far into the future, but every generation has to work out for itself a concrete solution to its own problems.
Some people still think that the “old” Marx definitively parted company with philosophy and philosophical “phraseology.” But what kind of “phraseology” is it when Marx in the first volume of Capital indicts bourgeois society because in it “a general or a banker plays a great part, but mere man [man as man], on the other hand, a very shabby part”? Or when in the third volume he writes about the conditions of production that are most adequate to the “human nature” of the producers. Marx’s thought has a philosophical meaning when he, as in German Ideology, directly renounces philosophy and also when he, as in Capital, maintains that he is only flirting with it.
Nevertheless, in many respects Marx merely indicated his philosophy. Engels’ and Lenin’s philosophical works — Anti-Dühring and Dialectics of Nature, Materialism and Empiriocriticism and Philosophical Notebooks — are regarded by some as a worthy supplement to Marx, and by others as a complete failure, inadequate to the basic sense of Marxism. In fact, Engels, Plekhanov, and Lenin were right in feeling the need to develop more explicitly and fully the ontological foundations of Marx’s philosophy. It is not their fault if they were unable to do it on the level on which it could have been done by Marx himself. Undoubtedly the development of the ontologico-epistemological foundations of Marx’s philosophy still needs to be done. It is illusory to think that a “pure” anthropology or an “ontology of man” free from general ontological assumptions is possible. It is a dubious idea also that questions of general ontology are merely a part of an ontology of man.
It is the task of followers of Marx to develop his thought in all directions. One of the aspects of this task is a critical analysis and evaluation of new philosophical trends and phenomena. To be sure, there are some “Marxists” who do not see the difference between a Marxist criticism of non-Marxist philosophy and an inconsistent yielding to it. The only consistent Marxist for them is Comrade Ostrich, who in burying his head in the sand clearly draws the boundaries between himself and “the seemingly new philosophical schools and little schools” (and the external world in general). In his attempt to evade an independent analysis of new phenomena the dogmatist simply labels them old. Creative Marxism has no reason to follow his example.
The continuity of Marx’s thought
The question about continuity or discontinuity is one of the most important and most topical in connection with Marx’s thought, which is not to say that it is a vital question only in connection with Marx. There is no thinker for whom it is without consequence, because in putting this question we are really asking whether we have to do with one or a number of different thinkers. It has, however, a special significance where Marx is concerned, not only because very different answers to this question have been given and ardently defended in regard to him but also because these diverse “theoretical” answers have been connected with divergent “practical” aims and actions.
The thesis that there is a discontinuity in Marx’s thought has mainly appeared, and still appears, in the theory about the fundamental differences between the “young” or “immature” Marx, represented by his works up to 1844-1845 (according to others up to 1847-1848), and the “old” or “mature” Marx, represented by his later works. This theory has many different variants.
In “Marxism”-Stalinism the theory is concretized into the thesis that the mature Marx, the sober scientist-economist, transcended and made uninteresting the young Marx, the abstract philosopher-dreamer. Criticizing the “young” Marx’s philosophical idealism and political liberalism, Stalinists affect being consistent revolutionaries fighting against what is non-Marxist in the young Marx, against the misuse of Marx’s juvenile failings and mistakes by the enemies of socialism. However, the question irresistibly imposes itself: is not the alleged purification of the young Marx from “Hegelianism” and “bourgeois liberalism” in fact a “cleansing” of Marx’s thought from its humanistic essence, a pragmatic “preparation” for making it serviceable as a theoretical justification of bureaucratic, antisocialist practice?
Among non-Marxists, too, there are adherents of the thesis who hold that the old, “scientific” Marx, and not the young, “confused” one, is the “real” Marx; that although Marx’s political economy is relatively the most valuable part of his theoretical work, it is none the less basically wrong, or at least outdated. It is becoming more and more frequent, however, among the critics of Marxism to make this opposition in favor of the “young” Marx, and simultaneously to belittle the thought of the “young” Marx by declaring it an ill-considered synthesis of Hegel and Feuerbach. In both cases the question naturally arises: is not the aim of proclaiming either the “old” or the “young” Marx the only “true” Marx to restrict Marxism to a more narrow field (in which the critic feels more confident), and thus to make criticism of it easier?
The thesis that there is a continuity in Marx’s thought has also been interpreted in various ways, and its adherents have been accused of holding that Marx’s conceptions never changed at all, but always remained exactly the same. Conceived in this way, the continuity thesis is obviously unfounded and it would be strange for anybody to advocate it, since it implies that Marx was a narrow-minded theoretician incapable of any development. And were anyone to try to defend it, it would be easy to refute him; it is not difficult to show that some of Marx’s essential views changed considerably.
I believe in the continuity of Marx’s thought, by which I do not mean that his views never changed, that he was, so to speak, born with the beard, but rather, that there are not two fundamentally different and mutually unconnected Marxes. From his high school years to his death, Marx’s thought was constantly changing, but there were no such turns in this process as would represent a complete break with former ideas and the passage to entirely different or even opposite conceptions. The “young” Marx is not an “abstract philosopher,” nor is the “old” an “austere scientist”: Marx’s thought from beginning to end is a revolutionary humanism, and only when it is considered as a whole can it serve as an adequate theoretical basis of the revolutionary struggle for a democratic, humanistic socialism.
It is not difficult to formulate briefly the thesis about the continuity of Marx’s thought, as I have done in the preceding essay. But to justify it completely one would have to analyze basic thoughts from his earliest published and unpublished manuscripts to his last writings. Nevertheless, although it is impossible in a short space to “prove” the thesis completely, it is possible to support it at least partially — by comparing the key ideas of some of his works that belong to different periods of his life and have a decisive importance for those periods.
What about considering, for example, the relationship between Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, Sketches for the Critique of Political Economy, and Capital? This choice may seem arbitrary, but it is by no means so. The three works belong to different periods of Marx’s life: the first of them was written in the 1840s, i.e., in the first decade of Marx’s theoretical work; the second, in the fifties, the second decade of his work; and the third mainly in the sixties and seventies, hence in the third and fourth decades of his work. Although the writing of the first two occupied Marx for only a small portion of the decades in which they were produced, and despite the fact that he did not himself either finish or publish any of the three,1 these works are representative of the periods in which they were written. Marx’s letters show that he was exceptionally anxious to write them and that he regarded them as more important than many other works that he finished and published. And comparing the contents of these works with other works from the same periods, we can establish that these are works where Marx discussed fundamental problems and came to decisive conclusions, conclusions that are basic for other works from these periods.
Taking the three works as a basis for analysis has one more special justification. Those who advocate the thesis about the two different Marxes very often put forward as their main argument the alleged unbridgeable gap between the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and Capital, maintaining that the first work shows the hand of Marx the abstract philosopher who solves concrete social questions by speculation, whereas in Capital we have before us Marx the scientist, the economist who bases his conclusions on scrupulous empirical investigation and the mathematical elaboration of a “mountain of factual material.” In disputing the thesis about the two Marxes, we cannot bypass either of the two works involved in this argument — or the third work, which is ignored because it occupies the place reserved for the alleged “gap.”
The fact that Marx did not finish and publish his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts does not mean that it consists of purely private notes not intended for publication. From Marx’s preface, where he informs us that in preparing the manuscript for publication he gave up his original intention of discussing in it law, morals, politics, etc., which, he announces, he will elaborate critically in a subsequent series of pamphlets, and in a separate work endeavor “to present the interconnected whole, to show the relationships between the parts, and to provide a critique of the speculative treatment of this material,”2 it is obvious that Marx wished to publish this work. That he did not realize his intention is explained by the fact that after meeting Engels at the end of August 1844 he devoted himself to the polemical work The Holy Family, which they planned and wrote together (although much more of it was written by Marx than by Engels). Marx did not believe that his unfinished manuscript thus lost its value and interest, and he intended to finish and publish it later, as can be seen from the fact that on February 1, 1845, he signed a contract with C.W. Leske, a publisher from Darmstadt, for a book entitled A Critique of Politics and National Economy. Soon after finishing The Holy Family, however, both he and Engels got involved in polemics again and started writing the German Ideology.
Marx did not cease his work on the Sketches for the Critique of Political Economy for any external reasons; he did so because he was dissatisfied with what he had written. He was dissatisfied, however, not with the content but with the form, which was, according to him, affected by the liver disease that had suddenly attacked him. This is vividly testified to in his letters of that time, like the one to Lassalle of November 12, 1858, in which he complained: “In all… that I wrote, I felt in the style the taste of the liver disease. And I have a double reason not to allow this writing to be spoiled by medical causes: 1) It is the result of a fifteen-year-long investigation, hence of the best years of my life. 2) It presents scientifically for the first time an important view of social relations. Consequently I owe it to the party not to distort the matter by the kind of dull, wooden writing that is proper to a sick liver.”3
In Marx’s letters we also find a partial explanation of his liver complaint. The illness was caused to a considerable extent by intensive night work, which was stimulated by the economic crisis of 1857, the fourth in the series of great economic crises of the nineteenth century and the first that really assumed a world character, embracing both Europe and America and all branches of economics.
Optimistically expecting that the crisis would inflict a mortal blow on the capitalistic social order, Marx applied all his energy to work in order to round up his basic conceptions as soon as possible, at least in broad lines. “I work madly throughout whole nights, summarizing my economic studies,” he writes to Engels in December 1857, “in order to have the foundations ready before the flood.”4
The comparative study of the three works may at first give the impression that they agree both in the basic themes, which are economic, and in the literature on which they rely, which is also economic, but that they nevertheless differ, partly in subject matter — because the first work includes philosophical as well as economic topics — but even more in the method — because the first work is characterized by abstract philosophical reasoning and the second and third by concrete empirical analysis.
Such an assertion might seem convincing. In the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, in addition to sections devoted to such economic phenomena as wage, profit, rent, money, we also find special sections on distinctly philosophical themes such as alienated labor and Hegel’s dialectics (the editor entitled those sections “Alienated Work” and “Criticism of Hegel’s Dialectics and Philosophy in General”). In the Sketches for the Critique of Political Economy and in Capital, on the contrary, there is no chapter that is obviously devoted to a philosophical topic. The difference in method may also at first seem incontestable. Capital abounds in historical information, statistical facts, and mathematical computations, whereas there are none of these in Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts.
Against the view that the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts are abstract speculations without support in empirical investigations, there is, however, Marx’s statement in the preface to that work: “It is hardly necessary to assure the reader who is familiar with political economy that my conclusions are the fruit of an entirely empirical analysis based upon a careful critical study of political economy.”5 This statement, of course, cannot be decisive when one asks to what extent Marx’s results really were reached by an empirical analysis, but it must at least be taken into account when one discusses his conscious intentions and conscious methodological approach.
And if empirical analysis, or at least the intention of empirical analysis, was not alien to the “young” Marx, perhaps philosophizing was not extraneous to the “old.” Indeed, is not the abundant use of philosophical terminology in the Sketches and in the Capital an indication of this?
The question leads us to the main thesis of this essay: despite the fact that the three chosen works are different, they possess a basic unity, even an essential identity. First, all three represent a critique of the political economy and the economic reality of capitalism and of every class society from a viewpoint that is not purely economic but above all philosophical. And they all contain a theoretical foundation and a call for the realization of a truly human society in which man will no longer be alienated from himself, will no more be an economic animal, but will realize himself as a free creative being of praxis.
An external confirmation for the critical, “transeconomic” character of these works is provided by explicit statements of Marx. In the preface to the 1844 Manuscripts he stresses the critical nature of the work, characterizing it as one critique, which will be followed by others. And concerning the Sketches, Marx wrote to Lassalle: “The work that is first in question is the critique of economic categories, or, if you like, the system of bourgeois economy presented critically. This is at the same time the representation of the system and through the presentation its criticism.”6 The critical character of Capital was stressed by Marx in the subtitle — “critique of political economy” — but also, for example, in the epilogue of the second edition (1873) where he says that he used the dialectical method in this work, and that it is “in its essence critical and revolutionary.”7
Such single statements cannot be regarded as decisive confirmation of the identity of the basic position of the three works in question. The decisive confirmation is offered by the whole content of these works.
A fundamental idea of Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts is that man is a free creative being of praxis who in the contemporary world is alienated from his human essence, but that the radical form man’s self-alienation assumes in the contemporary society creates real conditions for a struggle against self-alienation, for realizing socialism as a de-alienated, free community of free men. And this is also the guiding idea of the Sketches for the Critique of Political Economy and of Capital.
Every fragment of a great literary work expresses at least partly the meaning of the whole. Perhaps we will come closer to understanding Marx’s Sketches for the Critique of Political Economy if we carefully consider the following passage:
We never find in the ancients an investigation of which form of ownership of land, etc., is most productive, creates the largest wealth. Wealth does not appear as an end of production, although, of course, Cato may investigate which tillage of the ground is most remunerative, or Brutus may lend money at the best rate of interest. The investigation is always which form of ownership creates the best citizens. As an end in itself wealth appears only among a small number of commercial nations — monopolists of the carrying trade — which live in the pores of the old world like the Jews in medieval society. However, wealth is, on the one hand, a thing, it is realized in things, material products, which are confronted by man as a subject; on the other hand, as value it is a pure command over alien work, with the purpose not of domination but of private enjoyment, etc. In all forms it appears in a thing-form either as a thing, or as a relationship by means of a thing, which lies outside and accidentally beside the individual. In this way the old view, according to which man, although in a limited national, religious, political determination, appears as the end of production, seems very exalted compared with that of the modern world, where production appears as the end of man, and wealth as the end of production. But in fact, if one tears down the limited bourgeois form, what else is wealth if not universality of needs, capabilities, enjoyments, productive forces, etc., of individuals produced in a universal exchange? The full development of man’s domination over natural forces, those of nature so-called as well as those of his own nature? The development of one’s creative predispositions — without any other presupposition but the previous historical development that makes this totality of development, i.e., the development of all human forces as such, not measured by some previously given standard — to an end in itself; where man does not reproduce himself in his definiteness but produces his totality? Where he does not endeavor to remain something become, but is in an absolute movement of becoming? In bourgeois economy — and in the epoch of production to which it corresponds — this full development of the internal in man appears as a complete emptying, this universal objectification as total alienation, and the demolition of all one-sided ends as the sacrificing of the end in itself to an entirely external end. Therefore, the childish old world on the one hand appears higher. On the other hand, it really is so in everything where a closed appearance, form, and definite limitation is required. It is satisfaction from a limited standpoint; whereas the modern world leaves man dissatisfied, or is, where it appears satisfied within itself, banal.8
What is the meaning of this passage? What topics are discussed here? What is the author’s approach? What are his theses?
If we consider carefully the beginning of the passage, we immediately notice the terms: “ownership of land,” “most productive,” “wealth,” “production,” “tillage of the ground,” “most remunerative,” “lend,” “money,” “interest.” How many economic terms in only the first two sentences! But the rest of the passage is equally rich in economic terminology: “commercial,” “work,” “exchange,” “productive forces,” etc. Does this not show that economic themes are being discussed here? It is perhaps a too superficial way of reasoning to judge the subject matter of a text on the basis of the terms used. It is not, however, only the terms that are economic here. The main content of the passage seems to be a comparison of ancient and contemporary conceptions about the end of production. And is not production, at least in the sense in which it is used in the text, an economic category?
One may object that Marx is not speaking about production here, or even about the end of production, but about views concerning the end of production. And he does not engage in general theoretical considerations about any view, but compares ancient and contemporary views. He does not directly discuss an economic phenomenon, nor does he here consider any phenomenon theoretically and systematically. He gives an historical comparison of two different conceptions. This objection can, however, be answered convincingly: the view of the end of production is not a “material” economic phenomenon, but it is nevertheless an economic view. Thus the historical consideration of ancient and contemporary views about the end of production, although it is not a direct investigation of economic reality, is still an historical investigation of the development of economic views, and consequently belongs to the sphere of economic investigations in a broad sense. It is an investigation on the borderline between economics and history.
Let us look more carefully at the question with which Marx is here concerned: in what way and what sense is he concerned with the ancient and the contemporary views about the end of production? Marx first establishes what is the immediate difference between the two views. According to the ancient view, the end of production is man; according to the contemporary, capitalist conception, the end of production is wealth, and the end of man is production. These statements can be regarded as a constituent part of a science that establishes the difference between the views of different periods by an objective investigation of historical documents.
Marx, however, does not stop at an objective registration of the difference between the ancient and the contemporary views about the end of production; he maintains that the ancient is “very exalted” compared with the modern. The main thesis of the whole passage is that the conception of man as the end of production is the “more exalted” (better, higher, more human) view. It is difficult to call this fundamental thesis “economic,” because it is first concerned not with economics, but with man.
Not only is this thesis not “economic,” it is not really “scientific.” It might be possible to establish by scientific methods whether one of the two views was actually widespread in the ancient, and the other in the modern world. But what scientific methods can establish whether one view is more “exalted” than the other? What kind of observation, experiment, measurement, in other words, what empirical method can establish “exaltedness”?
But the fact that Marx’s thesis cannot be “scientifically proved” does not make it meaningless or unsupportable. Indeed, Marx tries to persuade us of its truth. This “persuasion” begins with the sentence: “But in fact, if one tears down the limited bourgeois form, what else is wealth if not universality of needs, capabilities, enjoyments, productive forces, etc., of individuals produced in a universal exchange?”
At first this sentence may be embarrassing. Marx here seems to jump to quite another question: what wealth really is. What is even more curious, in answering the question Marx denies what he said about it in the first half of the passage, where he said that wealth is, on the one hand, a collection of material products, things, and, on the other hand, command of the work of others for the purpose of private enjoyment. Now all at once we are informed that wealth is in fact something else, quite different, namely universality of needs, capabilities, enjoyments, productive forces, etc., of individuals. What do these differences and inconsistencies mean?
If we reflect a little more about Marx’s text, we realize that his thought is really pretty clear and consistent: if wealth is conceived of as a collection of material things and command over the work of others, then the view that man is the end of production is “exalted” compared to the view that the end of production is wealth. But the view that the end of production is wealth need not be wrong or contrary to the view that the end of production is man, if “wealth” is interpreted in another way as:
- “universality of needs, capabilities, enjoyments, productive forces, etc., of individuals produced in a universal exchange”;
- “the full development of man’s domination over natural forces, those of nature so-called as well as those of his own nature”;
- “the absolute development of one’s creative predispositions — without any other presupposition but the previous historical development that makes this totality of development, i.e., development of all human forces as such, not measured by some previously given standard, an end in itself”;
- such development of one’s creative predispositions in which man “does not reproduce himself in his definiteness, but produces his totality”;
- such development of one’s creative predisposition in which man “does not endeavor to remain something become, but is in an absolute movement of becoming.”
Thus, according to Marx, man is rich not when he possesses many things or when he successfully exploits other people, but when he universally develops his needs, capabilities, creative forces; when he does not reproduce himself in his definiteness, does not endeavor to remain what he already is, but is in the “absolute movement of becoming.” Can such a view of man’s wealth be regarded as an “economic” doctrine? Is it a scientific conception that can be empirically proved, or is it a philosophical thesis founded on philosophical argument?
Marx’s thought in the part of the passage analyzed so far can be summarized as follows: the ancient view that the end of production is man is superior to the new, capitalist view that the end of man is production, and the end of production, wealth. If, however, wealth is conceived of not as the possession of things, but as the development of the creative human personality, the difference between the two views disappears.
The analysis of the passage is still not finished. The thesis that man’s wealth lies in the universal development of his capabilities and that the end of production is the development of man might seem to be an idealization of man and his production to those who regard philosophical theses as empirical descriptions of what in fact is. That Marx was not given to idealization of man in his factual existence can be seen from the part of the passage already quoted. But in the text that follows Marx also directly warns that he is not talking of what is but of what can and ought to be, because he regards the existing world as an alienated world in which man does not realize his human nature, but something contrary to it: “In bourgeois economy — and in the epoch of production to which it corresponds — this full development of the internal in man appears as a complete emptying, this universal objectification as total alienation, and the demolition of all definite one-sided ends, as the sacrificing of the end in itself to an entirely external end.”
Thus Marx testifies that he is concerned with a philosophical question and with a critical, not apologetic or neutral, attitude toward the existing world. But although he takes care to protect his thought from misinterpretation as an apology for, or embellishment of, the existing reality, Marx also warns against conceiving of it as a criticism of the contemporary world from the viewpoint of the past. Repeating, at the end of the passage, that the old world is in certain respects higher than the modern (“in everything where a closed appearance, form and definite limitation is required”), he at the same time characterizes this old world as “childish,” and remarks that it is “satisfaction from a limited standpoint.” This, however, does not do away with the thesis that the old world is, in a qualified sense, higher than the contemporary. The old world satisfies man from a limited standpoint; the modern world leaves him dissatisfied or satisfies him in a banal way.
It is not necessary to be an expert on the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts to know that the view that man’s wealth is not the mere possession of things and domination over other men, but rather the full development of his creative potentialities, was already stated in the 1844 Manuscripts. Nevertheless let us quote one passage:
It will be seen from this how, in place of the wealth and poverty of political economy, we have the wealthy man and the plenitude of human need. The wealthy man is at the same time one who needs a complex of human manifestations of life, and whose own self-realization exists as an inner necessity, a need. Not only the wealth but also the poverty of man acquires, in a socialist perspective, a human and thus a social meaning. Poverty is the passive bond that leads man to experience a need for the greatest wealth, the other person. The sway of the objective entity within me, the sensuous outbreak of my life-activity, is the passion that here becomes the activity of my being.9
The two passages (this one from the Manuscripts and the other from the Sketches) are, of course, not identical, but it is not difficult to see that the conception of man’s wealth is essentially the same in both.
The ideas expressed in the Manuscripts were further developed by Marx in the Sketches, and he did not abandon them in Capital. Let us consider only this passage from Capital:
However terrible and disgusting, under the capitalist system, the dissolution of the old family ties may appear, nevertheless, large-scale industry, by assigning as it does an important part in the process of production, outside the domestic sphere, to women, to young persons, and to children of both sexes, creates a new economic basis for a higher form of the family and of the relations between the sexes. It is, of course, just as absurd to regard the Teutonic-Christian form of the family as absolute and final as it would be to apply that character to the ancient Roman, the ancient Greek, or the Eastern forms, which, moreover, taken together, form a series in historical development. Moreover, it is obvious that the fact of the collective working group being composed of individuals of both sexes and all ages must necessarily, under suitable conditions, become a source of humane development, although in its spontaneously developed, brutal capitalist form, where the laborer exists for the process of production, and not the process of production for the laborer, it is a pestilential source of corruption and slavery.10
This quotation from Capital seemingly has nothing to do with the fragment from the Sketches for the Critique of Political Economy. A more careful comparison, however, shows interesting analogies: just as the passage from the Sketches at first seemed purely economic or economico-historical, so this fragment from Capital at first seems sociological or sociologico-historical. Just as in the passage from the Sketches Marx seemed to idealize the ancient view about the end of production, so in the fragment from Capital it may seem that Marx is extolling the old form of the family. In the first instance, however, Marx is not upholding either the ancient or the contemporary, capitalist viewpoint, but regarding past and present from the viewpoint of the future; and in the second, he characterizes as folly the absolutization of either the Christian-Germanic, the Greco-Roman or the Oriental form of the family and attempts to discover in an observed present the germs of a human future. The passage from Capital is not only analogous to the one from the Sketches; it actually repeats its fundamental thesis, criticizing the brutal capitalistic order where “the laborer exists for the process of production, and not the process of production for the laborer.”
Instead of “man” he here speaks of the “laborer,” but the fundamental idea about the relationship between production and the producer is the same.
This does not mean that in Capital Marx only repeated the Sketches, and in the Sketches, the Manuscripts, so that there is nothing new in either the Sketches or Capital. To give only one example, when in the Sketches Marx says that man is really man when he “does not endeavor to remain something become, but is in the absolute movement of becoming,” this is certainly one of the ways of expressing the essence of his philosophical position, which is also inherent in his other works, but which, so far as I know, is not expressed at any other place in exactly this way. The same holds for many other ideas expressed in the Sketches and in Capital.
The passage from the Sketches was not chosen entirely at random, but it is by no means the only one that is rich in interesting and important philosophical considerations. There are many like it. But the substance is not only in single passages. This whole unfinished manuscript is full of philosophical intentions, guided by philosophical ideas, and rich in philosophical insights. Thus it is a convincing testimony of the continuity of Marx’s thought and makes it easier to grasp the essential continuity of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and Capital.
1 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts was written between February and August 1844, and published nearly half a century after Marx’s death in 1932 in two editions with not quite identical texts: in Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe, Erste Abteilung, Band 3, Marx-Engels Verlag (Berlin, 1932); and also in K. Marx, Der historische Materialismus. Die Frühschriften, Erster Band, Herausgegeben von S. Landshut und J.P. Mayer, Alfred Kroner Verlag (Leipzig, 1932). The title under which they became familiar originates from their Soviet editors (Landshut and Mayer entitled them Nationalökonomie und Philosophie). The Sketches for the Critique of Political Economy were written between October 1857 and March 1858, edited and given a title by the Moscow Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, and published by the Moscow Publishing House for Literature in Foreign Languages (Verlag für Fremdsprachige Literatur) in two volumes in 1939 and 1941. Owing to the war, most of this edition perished, so that the work became accessible only after it was republished in Berlin after the war (Karl Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, Rohentwurf, 1857-1858; Anhang, 1850-1859, Marx-Engels-Lenin Institut, Moskau, Dietz Verlag [Berlin, 1953]). As is well known, the title of Capital [Das Kapital: Kritik der politischen Ökonomie], was given by Marx himself, and he succeeded in finishing and publishing the first volume of it in 1867. The second and the third volumes, however, were edited and published by Engels in 1887 and 1894.
2 Fromm, Marx’s Concept of Man, pg. 90.
3 Marx and Lassalle am 12.XI, 1858, Lassalle-Nachlass, s. 136; quoted from K. Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie [Groundwork for a Criticism of Political Economy] (Berlin, 1953), s. XIII.
4 Marx, Engels, Prepiska, vol. II, pg. 279; cf. also, pg. 285.
5 Fromm, Marx’s Concept of Man, pgs. 90-91.
6 Marx, Lassalle, den 22.II, 1858, s. 116-117; quoted from Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, s. IX.
7 Marx, Capital, vol. I, pg. lxiv.
8 Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, ss. 387-388.
9 Fromm, Marx’s Concept of Man, pgs. 137-138.
10 Capital, I, pgs. 514-516; quoted in K. Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, edited by T.B. Bottomore and M. Rubel, Penguin Books (1963), p. 259.