István Mészáros, “The controversy about Marx” (1970)


The realm of free­dom ac­tu­ally be­gins only where labor which is de­term­ined by ne­ces­sity and mundane con­sid­er­a­tions ceases; thus in the very nature of things it lies bey­ond the sphere of ac­tu­al ma­ter­i­al pro­duc­tion. Just as the sav­age must wrestle with Nature to sat­is­fy his wants, to main­tain and re­pro­duce life, so must civ­il­ized man, and he must do so in all so­cial form­a­tions and un­der all pos­sible modes of pro­duc­tion. With his de­vel­op­ment this realm of phys­ic­al ne­ces­sity ex­pands as a res­ult of his wants; but, at the same time, the forces of pro­duc­tion which sat­is­fy these wants also in­crease. Free­dom in this field can only con­sist in so­cial­ized man, the as­so­ci­ated pro­du­cers, ra­tion­ally reg­u­lat­ing their in­ter­change with Nature, bring­ing it un­der their com­mon con­trol, in­stead of be­ing ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achiev­ing this with the least ex­pendit­ure of en­ergy and un­der con­di­tions most fa­vor­able to, and worthy of, their hu­man nature. But it non­ethe­less still re­mains a realm of ne­ces­sity. Bey­ond it be­gins that de­vel­op­ment of hu­man en­ergy which is an end in it­self, the true realm of free­dom, which, however, can blos­som forth only with this realm of ne­ces­sity as its basis. The short­en­ing of the work­ing-day is its ba­sic pre­requis­ite.



1. “Young Marx” versus “ma­ture Marx”

It is im­possible to deal with the vari­ous in­ter­pret­a­tions of Marx’s the­ory of ali­en­a­tion in a sys­tem­at­ic way with­in the con­fines of this study. All we can do is to choose a few char­ac­ter­ist­ic points which help to cla­ri­fy some ques­tions of im­port­ance, and thus carry a step for­ward the main ar­gu­ments of this in­quiry.

One of the most con­tro­ver­sial is­sues is: what place ought to be as­signed to the early works of Marx in his sys­tem as a whole?

Ever since the pub­lic­a­tion of the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts of 1844 many philo­soph­ers have main­tained that the young Marx ought to be treated sep­ar­ately, be­cause there is a break between the thinker who deals with prob­lems of ali­en­a­tion and the “ma­ture Marx” who as­pires to a sci­entif­ic so­cial­ism. And, strangely enough, the hold­ers of this view be­longed to polit­ic­ally op­pos­ite camps. Their dif­fer­ences amoun­ted to this, that while the one camp ideal­ized the young Marx and op­posed his early manuscripts to his later works, the oth­er only ac­cep­ted these lat­ter, and dis­missed his earli­er writ­ings as ideal­ist­ic.

In his study of The Early De­vel­op­ment of Marx’s Thought, John Macmur­ray char­ac­ter­ized these ap­proaches in this way: “Com­mun­ists are rather li­able to mis­in­ter­pret this early stage even if they do not en­tirely dis­count it. They are nat­ur­ally apt to read these writ­ings in or­der to find in them the re­flec­tion of their own the­ory as it stands today, and, there­fore, to dis­miss as youth­ful ab­er­ra­tions those ele­ments which do not square with the fi­nal out­come. This is, of course, highly un­dia­lect­ic­al. It would equally be a mis­un­der­stand­ing of Marx to sep­ar­ate the early stages of his thought from their con­clu­sion, though not to the same ex­tent. For they are earli­er stages, and though they can only be fully un­der­stood in terms of the the­ory which is their fi­nal out­come, they are his­tor­ic­ally earli­er and the con­clu­sion was not ex­pli­citly in the mind of Marx when his earli­er works were writ­ten.”1

These words were pub­lished as far back as 1935, but the highly un­dia­lect­ic­al sep­ar­a­tion of the young Marx from the later Marx has not dis­ap­peared in the years that sep­ar­ate us from the early thirties. On the con­trary, the as­ser­tion of a sup­posed break has be­come an ac­cep­ted com­mon­place in a con­sid­er­able amount of cur­rent philo­soph­ic­al lit­er­at­ure.

Is it true, as is of­ten af­firmed, that the no­tion of ali­en­a­tion “drops out” from the later writ­ings of Marx; in­deed, that he treats it iron­ic­ally, thus de­tach­ing him­self from his own philo­soph­ic­al past? Two ref­er­ences are usu­ally giv­en in sup­port of this thes­is: one to The Ger­man Ideo­logy and the oth­er to the Com­mun­ist Mani­festo. The ques­tion is, however, are the pas­sages in ques­tion rightly in­ter­preted?

Un­doubtedly there are iron­ic­al sen­tences in The Ger­man Ideo­logy which con­tain the words “es­trange­ment” or “self-es­trange­ment.” There are ac­tu­ally two of them. The first says that “This ‘es­trange­ment’ (to use a term which will be com­pre­hens­ible to the philo­soph­ers) can, of course, only be ab­ol­ished giv­en two prac­tic­al premises.”2 And the second adds: “The whole pro­cess was thus con­ceived as a pro­cess of the self-es­trange­ment of ‘man’.”3 The trans­lat­or and Ed­it­or, Roy Pas­cal, com­ments in his notes on these pas­sages: “In The Ger­man Ideo­logy Marx makes his fi­nal reck­on­ing with this concept of ‘self-es­trange­ment’.” This “fi­nal reck­on­ing” is sup­posed to be in sharp con­trast to the earli­er Manuscripts of 1844 in which Marx still “wrestles with this concept, and charges it with a new con­tent.”4

This con­tra­pos­i­tion is highly mis­lead­ing. “Fi­nal reck­on­ing” fol­low­ing the pre­vi­ous “wrest­ing” sounds pretty dra­mat­ic and is in keep­ing with the Marx-En­gels-Len­in In­sti­tute’s pre­face to the edi­tion of The Ger­man Ideo­logy. This pre­face greatly ex­ag­ger­ates the dif­fer­ences of this lat­ter from the earli­er writ­ings and claims as rad­ic­al in­nov­a­tions points that had, in fact, been worked out in the Manuscripts of 1844, or even earli­er. Yet the simple, un­dra­mat­ic truth is that there is neither a “fi­nal reck­on­ing” in The Ger­man Ideo­logy, nor some kind of a “wrest­ling” in the Par­is manuscripts which could be in­ter­preted as lag­ging be­hind the pre­sumed ma­ture reck­on­ing. In­deed the po­s­i­tion cri­ti­ciz­ing the ideal­ist­ic philo­soph­ers — our first quo­ta­tion — and re­fer­ring the mat­ter of ali­en­a­tion to prac­tice, had been reached by Marx well be­fore the Manuscripts of 1844 (see es­pe­cially his In­tro­duc­tion to the Cri­tique of the Hegel­i­an Philo­sophy of Right).

Marx made it ex­pli­cit more than once in his Manuscripts of 1844 that he sets out from the lan­guage of polit­ic­al eco­nomy in or­der to res­cue its achieve­ments, which re­mained hid­den to the polit­ic­al eco­nom­ists them­selves, as well as to cri­ti­cize them in their own terms. He ad­op­ted ex­actly the same ap­proach to­wards ideal­ist­ic philo­sophy. This is why he could nev­er “drop” the concept of ali­en­a­tion: it would have amoun­ted to de­priving him­self of a real achieve­ment (i.e. ex­tract­ing the “ra­tion­al ker­nel” of the Hegel­i­an philo­sophy) not­with­stand­ing its mys­ti­fy­ing set­ting. In the dis­puted pas­sage Marx simply wants to point out — as he does on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions in the Par­is Manuscripts — that the lan­guage of “es­trange­ment” is mys­ti­fy­ing without the ne­ces­sary ref­er­ences to so­cial prac­tice.

As to the second quo­ta­tion, a more care­ful read­ing will make it clear that it has noth­ing to do with the re­jec­tion of the term of “self-es­trange­ment.” The rel­ev­ant pas­sage reads as fol­lows: “The in­di­vidu­als, who are no longer sub­ject to the di­vi­sion of labor, have been con­ceived by the philo­soph­ers as an ideal, un­der the name ‘man’. They have con­ceived the whole pro­cess which we have out­lined as the evol­u­tion­ary pro­cess of ‘man,’ so that at every his­tor­ic­al stage ‘man’ was sub­sti­tuted for the in­di­vidu­als and shown as the motive force of his­tory. The whole pro­cess was thus con­ceived as a pro­cess of the self-es­trange­ment of ‘man,’ and this was es­sen­tially due to the fact that the av­er­age in­di­vidu­al of the later stage was al­ways fois­ted on to the earli­er stage, and the con­scious­ness of a later age on to the in­di­vidu­als of an earli­er. Through this in­ver­sion, which from the first is an ab­stract im­age of the ac­tu­al con­di­tions, it was pos­sible to trans­form the whole of his­tory in­to an evol­u­tion­ary pro­cess of con­scious­ness.”5

As we can see, there is noth­ing that even vaguely re­sembles a fi­nal reck­on­ing, but only an ar­gu­ment quite fa­mil­i­ar to us from the Manuscripts of 1844. What Marx is iron­ic­al about is not the concept of self-es­trange­ment, but philo­soph­ic­al ab­strac­tion­ism which sub­sti­tutes for the real (his­tor­ic­ally and so­cially con­crete) in­di­vidu­al the ideal­ist­ic im­age of ab­stract man, and thus mys­ti­fies the ac­tu­al es­trange­ment of real man (the so­cial in­di­vidu­al) by rep­res­ent­ing it as the es­trange­ment of con­scious­ness. In oth­er words, what he ob­jects to is the iden­ti­fic­a­tion of the concept of man with ab­stract, gen­er­ic con­scious­ness. This ob­jec­tion, well known to us also from his earli­er writ­ings, does not make the no­tion of “the self-es­trange­ment of real man” ob­sol­ete in the least.

The ref­er­ence to the Com­mun­ist Mani­festo is no more con­vin­cing. This is the pas­sage in ques­tion: “It is well known how the monks wrote silly lives of Cath­ol­ic Saints over the manuscripts on which the clas­sic­al works of an­cient hea­then­dom had been writ­ten. The Ger­man liter­ati re­versed this pro­cess with the pro­fane French lit­er­at­ure. They wrote their philo­soph­ic­al non­sense be­neath the French ori­gin­al. For in­stance, be­neath the French cri­ti­cism of the eco­nom­ic func­tions of money, they wrote ‘ali­en­a­tion of hu­man­ity,’ and be­neath the French cri­ti­cism of the bour­geois state they wrote ‘de­throne­ment of the cat­egory of the gen­er­al,’ and so forth. The in­tro­duc­tion of these philo­soph­ic­al phrases at the back of French his­tor­ic­al cri­ti­cism they dubbed ‘philo­sophy of ac­tion,’ ‘true so­cial­ism,’ ‘Ger­man sci­ence of so­cial­ism,’ ‘philo­soph­ic­al found­a­tions of so­cial­ism,’ and so on. The French so­cial­ist and com­mun­ist lit­er­at­ure was thus com­pletely emas­cu­lated. And, since it ceased in the hands of the Ger­man to ex­press the struggle of one class with the oth­er, he felt con­scious of hav­ing over­come ‘French one-sided­ness’ and of rep­res­ent­ing, not true re­quire­ments, but the re­quire­ments of Truth; not the in­terests of the pro­let­ari­at, but the in­terests of hu­man nature, of man in gen­er­al, who be­longs to no class, has no real­ity, who ex­ists only in the misty realm of philo­soph­ic­al fantasy.”6

Again, we can see, the cri­ti­cism is not dir­ec­ted against the concept of ali­en­a­tion, but the ideal­ist use of it, be­cause such a use “com­pletely emas­cu­lates” it, de­prives it of its con­crete so­cial con­tent and power of prac­tic­al cri­ti­cism. Equally, what is at­tacked here is not the no­tion of man defined by Marx in 1844 as the so­cial in­di­vidu­al, but the ab­strac­tion “hu­man nature” and “man in gen­er­al” as used by his op­pon­ents, be­cause these only ex­ist in the “misty realm of philo­soph­ic­al fant­asy.” Quite the op­pos­ite of a break: the most re­mark­able con­tinu­ity. Every single point made in this pas­sage can eas­ily be found even in Marx’s In­tro­duc­tion to the Cri­tique of the Hegel­i­an Philo­sophy of Right which pre­ceded, as we all know, not only The Ger­man Ideo­logy, but also the Manuscripts of 1844. Here are a few quo­ta­tions to prove this as­ser­tion:

  1. “But man is no ab­stract be­ing squat­ting out­side the world. Man is the world of man, the state, so­ci­ety.”
  2. “If the spec­u­lat­ive philo­sophy of right, that ab­stract ex­tra­vag­ant think­ing on the mod­ern state, the real­ity of which re­mains a thing of the bey­ond, if only bey­ond the Rhine, was pos­sible only in Ger­many, in­versely the Ger­man thought-im­age of the mod­ern state which makes ab­strac­tion of real man was pos­sible only be­cause and in­so­far as the mod­ern state it­self makes ab­strac­tion of real man or sat­is­fies the whole of man only in ima­gin­a­tion. In polit­ics the Ger­mans thought what oth­er na­tions did.”
  3. “No class in civil so­ci­ety has any need or ca­pa­city for gen­er­al eman­cip­a­tion un­til it is forced by its im­me­di­ate con­di­tion, by ma­ter­i­al ne­ces­sity, by its very chains. Where, then, is the pos­it­ive pos­sib­il­ity of a Ger­man eman­cip­a­tion? An­swer: In the form­a­tion of a class with rad­ic­al chains, a class of civil so­ci­ety which is not a class of civil so­ci­ety, an es­tate which is the dis­sol­u­tion of all es­tates, … This dis­sol­u­tion of so­ci­ety as a par­tic­u­lar es­tate is the pro­let­ari­at.”6 In read­ing these pas­sages, should not one be struck by the ba­sic iden­tity of the early Marx’s ap­proach with that of his later work?

Noth­ing could be fur­ther re­moved from the truth than to as­sert — no mat­ter from which polit­ic­al point of view — that from 1845 on­wards Marx is no longer in­ter­ested in man and his ali­en­a­tion, be­cause his crit­ic­al at­ten­tion is then di­ver­ted in an­oth­er dir­ec­tion by the in­tro­duc­tion of the con­cepts of “the classes” and “the pro­let­ari­at.” As we have seen, these con­cepts had ac­quired a cru­cial im­port­ance in his thought already in 1843. We must em­phas­ize that if by “man” one means, as Marx’s op­pon­ents did, “ab­stract man” or “man in gen­er­al” who is “ab­strac­ted from all so­cial de­term­in­a­tions,” then this is com­pletely be­side the point. He was, in fact, nev­er in­ter­ested in this “man,” not even be­fore 1843, let alone at the time of writ­ing the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts of 1844. On the oth­er hand “real man,” the “self-me­di­at­ing be­ing of nature,” the “so­cial in­di­vidu­al” nev­er dis­ap­peared from his ho­ri­zon. Even to­wards the end of his life when he was work­ing on the third volume of Cap­it­al, Marx ad­voc­ated for hu­man be­ings the “con­di­tions most fa­vor­able to, and worthy of, their hu­man nature.”7 Thus his con­cern with classes and the pro­let­ari­at in par­tic­u­lar al­ways re­mained to him identic­al with the con­cern for “the gen­er­al hu­man eman­cip­a­tion”8 — a pro­gram clearly laid down in the same early In­tro­duc­tion to the Cri­tique of the Hegel­i­an Philo­sophy of Right. And this pro­gram, for­mu­lated in these words, is only an­oth­er ex­pres­sion for what he called else­where the “tran­scend­ence of ali­en­a­tion.”

But what about the concept of ali­en­a­tion in Marx’s works which fol­lowed the Manuscripts of 1844? Why did he “drop” this concept (or why did he drop the “word,” as oth­ers put it) if he re­mained faith­ful to his pro­gram of tran­scend­ing ali­en­a­tion? The simple an­swer is that he did not drop the word at all, let alone the concept. As a mat­ter of fact there is ample evid­ence to show that Marx went on us­ing the word “ali­en­a­tion” up to the very end of his life. So ample is this evid­ence that even if we con­fine ourselves to the word Ent­frem­dung, taken — as in the Par­is Manuscripts — with its pre­dic­at­ive forms (leav­ing out, that is, Ent­äu­ße­rung and Ver­äu­ße­rung: i.e. two fur­ther words which mean “ali­en­a­tion,” as well as Ver­ding­li­chung, Ver­selbst­stän­di­gung, Fe­ti­schis­mus, etc.) we can only give a very mod­est se­lec­tion of the ex­pres­sions in which the dis­puted word oc­curs. For a com­plete re­pro­duc­tion of all the rel­ev­ant pas­sages con­tain­ing also these closely re­lated terms, we would need to mul­tiply the length of this chapter sev­er­al times over. Here then is our lim­ited sample, in chro­no­lo­gic­al or­der. (For ob­vi­ous reas­on we have to re­pro­duce these pas­sages in the ori­gin­al Ger­man. Trans­la­tion is giv­en in Note No. 200)

The Holy Fam­ily: Quite a few pas­sages from the Manuscripts of 1844 were in­cor­por­ated in­to this later work. Con­trary to some as­ser­tions, these pre­sum­ably ideal­ist­ic pas­sages which dealt with the prob­lem of “ali­en­a­tion” were known to, and ap­prov­ingly quoted by, Len­in.

The Ger­man Ideo­logy: „so­lan­ge die Men­schen sich in der na­tur­wüch­si­gen Ge­sell­schaft be­fin­den, so­lan­ge al­so die Spal­tung zwi­schen dem be­son­dern und ge­mein­sa­men In­ter­es­se exis­tiert, so­lan­ge die Tä­tig­keit al­so nicht frei­wil­lig, son­dern na­tur­wüch­sig ge­teilt ist, die eig­ne Tat des Men­schen ihm zu ei­ner Frem­den, ge­gen­über­ste­hen­den Macht wird, die ihn un­ter­jocht, statt dass er sie be­herrscht.“ (Just as in the good, or bad, old days, ali­en­a­tion is presen­ted as the trans­form­a­tion of man’s — the pur­ists should no­tice: man’s and not men’s or the classes’ — own activ­ity in­to an ali­en power that con­fronts him; as such it is op­posed to free­dom, or free activ­ity.) „Eben weil die In­di­vi­du­en nur ihr be­sond­res, für sie nicht mit ih­rem ge­mein­schaft­li­chen In­ter­es­se zu­sam­men­fal­len­des su­chen, über­haupt das All­ge­mei­ne il­lu­so­ri­sche Form der Ge­mein­schaft­lich­keit, wird dies als ein ih­nen ‚frem­des’ und von ih­nen ‚un­ab­hän­gi­ges’, als ein selbst wie­der be­son­de­res und ei­gen­tüm­li­ches ‚All­ge­mein’-In­ter­es­se gel­tend ge­macht, oder sie selbst müs­sen sich in die­sem Zwie­spalt be­we­gen, wie in der De­mo­kra­tie.“ (Two points should be no­ticed : 1.) Marx does not say that the par­tic­u­lar in­terests of the in­di­vidu­als are identic­al with their com­mun­al in­terests, but that they should not fol­low ex­clus­ively their par­tic­u­lar in­terests; do­ing this ac­tu­ally de­feats their pur­pose, su­per­im­pos­ing on them their real com­mun­al in­terests in an ali­en­ated form as ab­stract “gen­er­al in­terest.” 2) The il­lus­ory de­pic­tion of man’s real com­mun­al in­terests as an ab­stract “gen­er­al in­terest” — what he calls else­where “the leg­al­ist­ic il­lu­sion” — and its rep­res­ent­a­tion as something quite dif­fer­ent from the ac­tu­al hu­man in­di­vidu­al, hides a real ali­en­a­tion: man’s self-ali­en­a­tion in the form of the „Spal­tung zwi­schen dem be­son­dern und ge­mein­sa­men In­ter­es­se“. It is on this basis that real ali­en­a­tion can be mys­ti­fied by the philo­soph­ers as the ali­en­a­tion of “man,” mean­ing by “man,” as Marx com­men­ted: „Der Mensch = dem ‚den­ken­den Men­schen­geist’.“ [“Man = the ‘think­ing hu­man spir­it’.”] In real­ity “gen­er­al-in­terest” is not a sep­ar­ate “es­sence” that should be con­tras­ted with and op­posed to the “in­di­vidu­al es­sence” of Man; it is only an ali­en­ated ex­pres­sion of an ac­tu­al state of ali­en­a­tion. Real man is the „wirk­li­cher his­to­ri­schen Mensch“ to whom his com­mun­al in­terest ac­tu­ally “be­longs” — i.e. it is in­sep­ar­able from his nature as a so­cial in­di­vidu­al be­ing — even if in a giv­en his­tor­ic­al situ­ation it con­fronts him in an ali­en­ated form. This is why one can think of ali­en­a­tion as cap­able of su­per­ses­sion).
………„…mit der kom­mu­nis­ti­schen Re­ge­lung der Pro­duk­ti­on und der dar­in lie­gen­den Ver­nich­tung der Fremd­heit, mit der sich die Men­schen zu ih­ren ei­ge­nen Pro­dukt ver­hal­ten, die Macht des Ver­hält­nis­ses von Nach­fra­ge und Zu­fuhr sich in Nichts auf­löst…“
………„In der bis­he­ri­gen Ge­schich­te… die ein­zel­nen In­di­vi­du­en mit der Aus­deh­nung der Tä­tig­keit zur Welt­ge­schicht­li­chen im­mer mehr un­ter ei­ner ih­nen frem­den Macht ge­knech­tet wor­den sind…“
………„… Be­din­gun­gen, die bis­her dem Zu­fall über­las­sen wa­ren und sich ge­gen die ein­zel­nen In­di­vi­du­en eben durch ih­re Tren­nung als In­di­vi­du­en… zu ei­nem ih­nen frem­den Ban­de ge­wor­den war, ver­selb­stän­digt hat­ten. …In der Vor­stel­lung sind da­her die In­di­vi­du­en un­ter der Bour­geois­herr­schaft frei­er als frü­her, weil ih­nen ih­re Le­bens­be­din­gun­gen zu­fäl­lig sind; in der Wirk­lich­keit sind sie na­tür­lich un­frei­er, weil mehr un­ter sach­li­che Ge­walt sub­su­miert“ (MEWE, Vol. 3, pgs. 33, 34, 49, 42, 35, 37, 75-76).

Com­mun­ist Mani­festo:der Macht über frem­de Ar­beit“; “Der Kom­mu­nis­mus nimmt kei­nen die Macht, sich ge­sell­schaft­li­che Pro­duk­te an­zu­eig­nen, er nimmt nur die Macht, sich durch die­se An­eig­nung frem­de Ar­beit zu un­ter­jo­chen” (MEWE, Vol. 4, pgs. 476, 477).

Wage Labor and Cap­it­al: „Je ra­scher die Ar­bei­ter­klas­se die ihr feind­li­che Macht, den frem­den, über sie ge­bie­ten­den Reich­tum ver­mehrt und ver­grö­ßert, un­ter des­to güns­ti­ge­ren Be­din­gun­gen wird ihr er­laubt, von neu­em an der Ver­meh­rung des bür­ger­li­chen Reich­tums, an der Ver­grö­ße­rung der Macht des Ka­pi­tals zu ar­bei­ten, zu­frie­den, sich selbst die gol­de­nen Ket­ten zu schmie­den, wor­an die Bour­geoi­sie sie hin­ter sich her­schleift“ (MEWE, Vol. 6, pg. 416).

Out­lines of a Cri­tique of Polit­ic­al Eco­nomy [Ro­hent­wurf]: This work con­tains hun­dreds of pages where the prob­lems of ali­en­a­tion are ana­lyzed in a com­pre­hens­ive way. The words „Ent­frem­dung“, „ent­frem­det“ etc. oc­cur on these pages sev­er­al hun­dred times. I have chosen one pas­sage only. It will show not only how wrong they are who as­sert that “ali­en­a­tion” has dropped out from Marx’s later works, but also that his ap­proach to the dis­cussed prob­lems is es­sen­tially the same as in the Manuscripts of 1844. This pas­sage reads as fol­lows: „Der Ton wird ge­legt nicht auf das Ver­ge­gen­ständ­licht­sein, son­dern das Ent­frem­det-, Ent­äu­ßert-, Ver­äu­ßert­sein, das Nicht-dem-Ar­bei­ter-, son­dern den per­so­ni­fi­zier­ten Pro­duk­ti­ons­be­din­gun­gen-, i.e. dem-Ka­pi­tal-Zu­ge­hö­ren der un­ge­heu­ren ge­gen­ständ­li­chen Macht, die die ge­sell­schaft­li­che Ar­beit selbst sich als eins ih­rer Mo­men­te ge­gen­über­ge­stellt hat. So­weit auf dem Stand­punkt des Ka­pi­tals und der Lohn­ar­beit die Er­zeu­gung die­ses ge­gen­ständ­li­chen Lei­bes der Tä­tig­keit im Ge­gen­satz zum un­mit­tel­ba­ren Ar­beits­ver­mö­gen ge­schieht — die­ser Pro­zess der Ver­ge­gen­ständ­li­chung in fact als Pro­zess der Ent­äu­ße­rung vom Stand­punkt der Ar­beit aus oder der An­eig­nung frem­der Ar­beit vom Stand­punkt des Ka­pi­tals aus er­scheint —, ist die­se Ver­dre­hung und Ver­keh­rung ei­ne wirk­li­che, kei­ne bloß ge­mein­te, bloß in der Vor­stel­lung der Ar­bei­ter und Ka­pi­ta­lis­ten exis­tie­ren­de. Aber of­fen­bar ist die­ser Ver­keh­rungs­pro­zess bloß his­to­ri­sche Not­wen­dig­keit, bloß Not­wen­dig­keit für die Ent­wick­lung der Pro­duk­tiv­kräf­te von ei­nem be­stimm­ten his­to­ri­schen Aus­gangs­punkt aus, oder Ba­sis aus, aber kei­nes­wegs ei­ne ab­so­lu­te Not­wen­dig­keit der Pro­duk­ti­on; viel­meh­re ei­ne ver­schwin­den­de, und das Re­sul­tat und der Zweck (im­ma­nen­te) die­ses Pro­zes­ses ist die­se Ba­sis selbst auf­zu­he­ben, wie die­se Form des Pro­zes­ses. Die bür­ger­li­chen Öko­no­men sind so ein­ge­pfercht in den Vor­stel­lun­gen ei­ner be­stimm­ten his­to­ri­schen Ent­wick­lungs­stu­fe der Ge­sell­schaft, dass die Not­wen­dig­keit der Ver­ge­gen­ständ­li­chung der ge­sell­schaft­li­chen Mäch­te der Ar­beit ih­nen un­zer­trenn­bar er­scheint von der Not­wen­dig­keit der Ent­frem­dung der­sel­ben ge­gen­über der le­ben­di­gen Ar­beit. Mit der Auf­he­bung aber des un­mit­tel­ba­ren Cha­rak­ters der le­ben­di­gen Ar­beit als bloß ein­zel­ner, oder als bloß in­ner­lich, oder bloß äu­ßer­lich all­ge­mei­ner, mit dem Set­zen der Tä­tig­keit der In­di­vi­du­en als un­mit­tel­bar all­ge­mei­ner oder ge­sell­schaft­li­cher, wird den ge­gen­ständ­li­chen Mo­men­ten der Pro­duk­ti­on die­se Form der Ent­frem­dung ab­ge­streift; sie wer­den da­mit ge­setzt als Ei­gen­tum, als der or­ga­ni­sche ge­sell­schaft­li­che Leib, wor­in die In­di­vi­du­en sich re­pro­du­zie­ren als Ein­zel­ne, aber als ge­sell­schaft­li­che Ein­zel­ne.“ (Roh­ent­wurf, pg. 716). (Here we have even the “an­thro­po­lo­gic­al” no­tions of the early Marx, to­geth­er with the con­cep­tion of the su­per­ses­sion of ali­en­a­tion as the tran­scend­ence of the ab­stract me­di­ated char­ac­ter of hu­man activ­ity).

The­or­ies of Sur­plus-Value: As one would ex­pect from a crit­ic­al mono­graph on past the­or­ies of sur­plus-value, this mo­nu­ment­al work, (al­most 2,000 pages long) has many ref­er­ences to “ali­en­a­tion.” For in­stance, deal­ing with Linguet’s the­or­ies, Marx writes: „Die Rei­chen ha­ben sich al­ler Pro­duk­ti­ons­be­din­gun­gen be­mäch­tigt; (dies führ­te zur) Ent­frem­dung der Pro­duk­ti­ons­be­din­gun­gen, die in ih­rer ein­fachs­ten Form die Na­tur­ele­men­te selbst sind.” But there are places of a dif­fer­ent kind too, where „Ent­frem­dung“ etc. do not simply oc­cur in the sum­mary or quo­ta­tion of someone else’s ar­gu­ment, but in the ex­pos­i­tion of Marx’s own ideas. For in­stance:
………„Der Zins an sich drückt al­so gra­de das Da­sein der Ar­beits­be­din­gun­gen als Ka­pi­tal in ih­rem ge­sell­schaft­li­chen Ge­gen­satz und ih­rer Me­ta­mor­pho­se als per­sön­li­che Mäch­te ge­gen­über der Ar­beit und über die Ar­beit aus. Er re­sü­miert den ent­frem­de­ten Cha­rak­ter der Ar­beits­be­din­gun­gen im Ver­hält­nis zur Tä­tig­keit des Sub­jekts. Er stellt das Ei­gen­tum des Ka­pi­tals oder das blo­ße Ka­pi­tal­ei­gen­tum als Mit­tel dar, die Pro­duk­te frem­der Ar­beit sich an­zu­eig­nen als Herr­schaft über frem­de Ar­beit. Aber er stellt die­sen Cha­rak­ter des Ka­pi­tals dar als et­was, was ihm au­ßer dem Pro­duk­ti­ons­pro­zess selbst zu­kommt und kei­nes­wegs das Re­sul­tat der spe­zi­fi­schen Be­stimmt­heit die­ses Pro­duk­ti­ons­pro­zes­ses selbst ist.“ One could fill many pages with pas­sages of this kind which can be found in Marx’s The­or­ies of Sur­plus-Value. (For the re­por­ted two pas­sages cf. MEWE, Vol. 26. Part I., pg. 321 and Part III. pg. 485).

Cap­it­al: „Die ver­selb­stän­dig­te und ent­frem­de­te Ge­stalt“; „Da vor sei­nem Ein­tritt in den Pro­zess sei­ne eig­ne Ar­beit ihm selbst ent­frem­det, dem Ka­pi­ta­lis­ten an­ge­eig­net und dem Ka­pi­tal ein­ver­leibt ist, ver­ge­gen­ständ­licht sie sich wäh­rend des Pro­zes­ses be­stän­dig. in frem­den Pro­dukt… Der Ar­bei­ter selbst pro­du­ziert da­her be­stän­dig den ob­jek­ti­ven Reich­tum als Ka­pi­tal, ihm frem­de, ihn be­herr­schen­de und aus­beu­ten­de Macht, und der Ka­pi­ta­list pro­du­ziert eben­so be­stän­dig die Ar­beits­kraft als sub­jek­ti­ve, von ih­ren eig­nen Ver­ge­gen­ständ­li­chungs- und Ver­wirk­li­chungs­mit­teln ge­trenn­te, abs­trak­te, in der blo­ßen Leib­lich­keit des Ar­bei­ters exis­tie­ren­de Reich­tums­quel­le, kurz den Ar­bei­ter als Lohn­ar­bei­ter.“; „al­le Mit­tel zur Ent­wick­lung der Pro­duk­ti­on… ver­stüm­meln den Ar­bei­ter in ei­nen Teil­men­schen, ent­wür­di­gen ihn zum An­häng­sel der Ma­schi­ne, ver­nich­ten mit der Qual sei­ner Ar­beit ih­ren In­halt, ent­frem­den ihm die geis­ti­gen Po­ten­zen des Ar­beits­pro­zes­ses im sel­ben Mas­se, wor­in letz­te­rem die Wis­sen­schaft als selb­stän­di­ge Po­tenz ein­ver­leibt wird…”; „die­se Pro­duk­ti­ons­mit­tel tre­ten dem Be­sit­zer der Ar­beits­kraft ge­gen­über als frem­des Ei­gen­tum. An­de­rer­seits steht der Ver­käu­fer der Ar­beit ih­rem Kauf er ge­gen­über als frem­de Ar­beits­kraft…“; „Die­se Vor­stel­lungs­wei­se ist um so we­ni­ger be­fremd­lich, als ihr der Schein der Tat­sa­chen ent­spricht, und als das Ka­pi­tal­ver­hält­nis in der Tat den in­nern Zu­sam­men­hang ver­birgt in der voll­stän­di­gen Gleich­gül­tig­keit, Äu­ßer­lich­keit, und Ent­frem­dung, wor­in es den Ar­bei­ter ver­setzt ge­gen­über den Be­din­gun­gen der Ver­wirk­li­chung sei­ner eig­nen Ar­beit.“; „Es bleibt je­doch nicht bei der Ent­frem­dung und Gleich­gül­tig­keit zwi­schen dem Ar­bei­ter, dem Trä­ger der le­ben­di­gen Ar­beit hier, und der öko­no­mi­schen, d.h. ra­tio­nel­len und spar­sa­men An­wen­dung sei­ner Ar­beits­be­din­gun­gen dort.“; „Das Ka­pi­tal zeigt sich im­mer mehr als ge­sell­schaft­li­che Macht… – aber als ent­frem­de­te, ver­selb­stän­dig­te ge­sell­schaft­li­che Macht, die als Sa­che, und als Macht des Ka­pi­ta­lis­ten durch die­se Sa­che, der Ge­sell­schaft ge­gen­über­tritt“; „Die­ser Ent­frem­dung der Pro­duk­ti­ons­be­din­gung vom Pro­du­zen­ten ent­spricht hier aber ei­ne wirk­li­che Um­wäl­zung in der Pro­duk­ti­ons­wei­se selbst.“; „die wirk­li­chen Pro­duk­ti­ons­agen­ten in die­sen ent­frem­de­ten und ir­ra­tio­nel­len For­men von Ka­pi­tal — Zins, Bo­den — Ren­te, Ar­beit — Ar­beits­lohn, sich völ­lig zu Hau­se füh­len, denn es sind eben die Ge­stal­tun­gen des Scheins, in wel­chem sie sich be­we­gen und wo­mit sie täg­lich zu tun ha­ben” (MEWE, Vol. 23; Vol. I of Cap­it­al — pgs. 455, 596, 674; Vol. 24; Vol. II of Cap­it­al — pg. 37; Vol. 25; Vol. III of Cap­it­al — pgs. 95, 96, 274, 610, 838).

Read­ing these quo­ta­tions will, per­haps, suf­fice to sug­gest an an­swer to the ques­tion: just how much at­ten­tion should be paid to the “drop-out” the­ory. It should be clear by now that none of the mean­ings of ali­en­a­tion as used by Marx in the Manuscripts of 1844 dropped out from his later writ­ings. And no won­der. For the concept of ali­en­a­tion, as grasped by Marx in 1844, with all its com­plex rami­fic­a­tions, is not a concept which could be dropped, or one-sidedly “trans­lated.” As we have seen in vari­ous parts of this study, the concept of ali­en­a­tion is a vi­tally im­port­ant pil­lar of the Marxi­an sys­tem as a whole, and not merely one brick of it. To drop it, or to trans­late it one-sidedly, would, there­fore, amount to noth­ing short of the com­plete de­moli­tion of the build­ing it­self and the re-erec­tion, per­haps, of its chim­ney only. That some people have been — or are still — en­gaged in such op­er­a­tions, try­ing to build their “sci­entif­ic” the­or­ies on chim­ney-tops dec­or­ated with Marx­ist ter­min­o­logy, is not in doubt here. The point is that their ef­forts should not be con­fused with the Marxi­an the­ory it­self.

2. “Philo­sophy” versus “polit­ic­al eco­nomy”

The nu­mer­ous ver­sions of the “young Marx” versus “ma­ture Marx” (or the oth­er way round) ap­proach have something in com­mon. This is: an ef­fort to op­pose polit­ic­al eco­nomy to philo­sophy or philo­sophy to polit­ic­al eco­nomy and use Marx as a sup­port­ing au­thor­ity in fa­vor of such pseudo-al­tern­at­ive. Broadly speak­ing those who want to evade or re­ject the vi­tal — and by no means spec­u­lat­ive — philo­soph­ic­al prob­lems of free­dom and the in­di­vidu­al, side with the “ma­ture polit­ic­al eco­nom­ist” or “sci­entif­ic” Marx, where­as those who wish the prac­tic­al power of Marx­ism (which is in­sep­ar­able from its de­mys­ti­fic­a­tion of cap­it­al­ist eco­nomy) nev­er ex­is­ted ex­alt the “young philo­soph­er Marx.”

Need­less to say, there is something ex­tremely ar­ti­fi­cial and ar­bit­rary in this con­tra­pos­i­tion. It is, there­fore, not sur­pris­ing at all to find that the con­struc­tions based on this pre­fab­ric­ated op­pos­i­tion do not stand up to ex­am­in­a­tion. Thus, for in­stance, we can read from the pen of Daniel Bell about a pre­sumed trans­mu­ta­tion in Marx’s Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts: “The title it­self is both lit­er­al and sym­bol­ic. Be­gin­ning as an an­thro­po­logy, it ends as a polit­ic­al eco­nomy.”10 What should we think of this state­ment? What is the title “sym­bol­ic” of? It can­not be of any­thing in Marx be­cause he nev­er gave these manuscripts a title him­self. (As is made ex­pli­cit in a foot­note, the title was giv­en by the ed­it­ors of the Mo­scow In­sti­tute of Marx­ism-Len­in­ism.) And what about the as­ser­tion that this work be­gins as an an­thro­po­logy and ends as a polit­ic­al eco­nomy?

For this is how it ac­tu­ally be­gins: “Wages are de­term­ined through the ant­ag­on­ist­ic struggle between cap­it­al­ist and work­er. Vic­tory goes ne­ces­sar­ily to the cap­it­al­ist.” This means that the Manuscripts of 1844 be­gin as full-blooded “ma­ture Marx” with the no­tions of polit­ic­al eco­nomy. True, there is a short In­tro­duc­tion to the volume in which there are ref­er­ences to Feuerbach which might, per­haps, be con­strued as be­gin­ning as an an­thro­po­logy. But this In­tro­duc­tion — as the same foot­note tells the read­er — was writ­ten after the com­ple­tion of the rest of the Manuscripts. Thus if one said that the Manuscripts be­gin with polit­ic­al eco­nomy and fin­ish with philo­sophy, this would re­flect a simple chro­no­lo­gic­al fact. This, however, could not fit in­to a con­struc­tion which seeks to as­sert the ex­act op­pos­ite and make something ter­ribly sig­ni­fic­ant out of it.

It would be a waste of the read­er’s time to ana­lyze these con­struc­tions were they not sig­ni­fic­ant ideo­lo­gic­ally. Daniel Bell bor­rows his grot­esque ideas on young Marx from R.W. Tuck­er to whom, in his own words, he is “in­debted for many in­sights.”11 Now Tuck­er’s ef­forts, ex­pressed in his book Philo­sophy and Myth in Karl Marx, are dir­ec­ted at a com­plete emas­cu­la­tion of the Marxi­an ideas so that the un­sus­pect­ing read­er would be led in­to be­liev­ing that “Marx’s concept of com­mun­ism is more nearly ap­plic­able to present-day Amer­ica, for ex­ample, than his concept of cap­it­al­ism.”12 The ob­ject of such ex­er­cises is to “demon­strate” the mean­ing­less­ness of the Marxi­an “ab­strac­tions,” and Daniel Bell will­ingly con­trib­utes his share of hot air to keep Tuck­er’s bal­loon fly­ing. Talk­ing about the re­viv­al of in­terest in young Marx he writes:

To the ex­tent that this is an ef­fort to find a new, rad­ic­al cri­tique of so­ci­ety, the ef­fort is an en­cour­aging one. But to the ex­tent — and this seems as much to be the case — that it is a form of new myth­mak­ing, in or­der to cling to the sym­bol of Marx, it is wrong. For while it is the early Marx, it is not the his­tor­ic­al Marx. The his­tor­ic­al Marx had, in ef­fect, re­pu­di­ated the idea of ali­en­a­tion… The irony, however, is that in mov­ing from “philo­sophy” to “real­ity,” from phe­nomen­o­logy to polit­ic­al eco­nomy, Marx him­self had moved from one kind of ab­strac­tion to an­oth­er. For in his sys­tem, self-ali­en­a­tion be­comes trans­formed: man as “gen­er­ic man” (i.e. Man writ large) be­comes di­vided in­to classes of men. The only so­cial real­ity is not Man, not the in­di­vidu­al, but eco­nom­ic classes. In­di­vidu­als, and their motives, count for naught.13

Here the ideo­lo­gic­al mo­tiv­a­tions, des­pite all the ef­forts to keep them in the back­ground, come out in­to the open. For so long as there is some hope that young Marx would be used against the eco­nom­ic “ab­strac­tions” of the “his­tor­ic­al Marx,” the ef­fort is hailed as an en­cour­aging rad­ic­al cri­tique of so­ci­ety. If, however, people do not fall for this anti-Marx­ist sep­ar­a­tion but re­cog­nize the es­sen­tial con­tinu­ity of the Marxi­an thought, this must be con­demned as “a form of myth-mak­ing, in or­der to cling to the sym­bol of Marx.” The con­struc­tion op­pos­ing the “young philo­soph­er” to the “ma­ture polit­ic­al eco­nom­ist Marx” must be main­tained at all costs, even if the evid­ence to the con­trary is over­whelm­ing.14 The mys­ti­fy­ing — and crudely falsi­fy­ing — in­ter­pret­a­tion ac­cord­ing to which the “ori­gin­al philo­soph­ic­al ex­pres­sion” of Marx’s ideas em­bod­ied a time­less “so­cio-psy­cho­lo­gic­al con­di­tion”15 (with no ref­er­ence to cap­it­al­ism, classes, ex­ploit­a­tion, so­cial ant­ag­on­isms, etc.) must be main­tained so that “the his­tor­ic­al Marx” and those who pay at­ten­tion to him could be dis­missed as guilty of “myth­mak­ing.”

Thus in Bell’s view the Marxi­an “ab­strac­tions” ought to be dis­trib­uted between two classes: (1) the young Marx’s cat­egor­ies, al­legedly re­lated to those time­less, philo­soph­ic­ally re­spect­able “so­cio-psy­cho­lo­gic­al” con­di­tions, and (2) the “eco­nom­ic ab­strac­tions” of the ma­ture Marx which, hor­ribile dictu, cri­ti­cize cap­it­al­ism. And of course one is wel­come to toy with the philo­sophico-psy­cho­lo­gic­al cat­egor­ies of “the hu­man con­di­tion”16 — thus earn­ing the praise: “a rad­ic­al cri­tique of so­ci­ety” — provided that (a) cap­it­al­ism is nev­er men­tioned in this “rad­ic­al cri­tique” of “so­ci­ety,” and that (b) the Marxi­an “eco­nom­ic ab­strac­tions” are con­demned by our “rad­ic­als,” be­cause such “ab­strac­tions” do not lend them­selves to mys­ti­fy­ing twists and falsi­fic­a­tions.

This “de­tached,” “non-ideo­lo­gic­al” ana­lys­is of Marx­ism is taken a stage fur­ther — to the point of per­son­al vili­fic­a­tion:

Al­though Marx drew most of his ideas from his peers — self-con­scious­ness from Bauer, ali­en­a­tion from Feuerbach, com­mun­ism from Moses Hess, the stages of prop­erty from Proud­hon — he was not con­tent, simply, to syn­thes­ize these ideas, but had to at­tack, and usu­ally vi­ciously, all these in­di­vidu­als in the de­term­ined ef­fort to ap­pear wholly ori­gin­al.17

No fur­ther com­ments are re­quired. Our quo­ta­tion, re­pro­du­cing Daniel Bell’s own words, set along­side the title of his book — The End of Ideo­logy — speak loudly enough for them­selves. Ad­mit­tedly, in the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx spoke about the task of su­per­sed­ing polit­ic­al eco­nomy. But in the same breath he also spoke about the prac­tic­al ab­ol­i­tion of philo­sophy. These pro­pos­i­tions stand or fall to­geth­er be­cause they are re­lated to one and the same his­tor­ic­al task as seen by Marx. It is, there­fore, quite ar­bit­rary to pick one of them and to use it against the oth­er.

When Marx re­ferred to the task of su­per­sed­ing philo­sophy and polit­ic­al eco­nomy, he did not mean su­per­sed­ing the one by “vul­gar eco­nom­ism” and the oth­er by “an­thro­po­logy,” or a “philo­sophico-psy­cho­lo­gic­al” ana­lys­is of the “hu­man con­di­tion,” etc. As we have seen, the point he was mak­ing was that philo­sophy and polit­ic­al eco­nomy ap­ply a “dif­fer­ent and op­pos­ite yard­stick to man,” both of them in an equally ex­clus­iv­ist man­ner, stand­ing “in an es­tranged re­la­tion to the oth­er,” since their points of ref­er­ence are ba­sic­ally dif­fer­ent. And he wanted to su­per­sede them by something that is neither tra­di­tion­al philo­sophy nor tra­di­tion­al polit­ic­al eco­nomy.

He real­ized that the dif­fer­ent and op­pos­ite yard­sticks as or­der­ing cri­ter­ia of the par­tic­u­lar the­or­et­ic­al fields in­ev­it­ably res­ult in “in­teg­ral­ist­ic” at­tempts that em­brace only those as­pects of the com­plex prob­lems of real­ity which can be eas­ily fit­ted in­to the isol­ated, spe­cial schemes, ar­bit­rar­ily ex­clud­ing all the oth­er as­pects and ant­ag­on­ist­ic­ally op­pos­ing those dis­cip­lines which work out their gen­er­al­iz­a­tions on the basis of these ex­cluded as­pects. This is why Marx op­posed to the ar­bit­rary in­teg­ral­ism of the par­tic­u­lar the­or­et­ic­al fields — which he ex­plained as a ne­ces­sar­ily ali­en­ated re­flec­tion of prac­tic­al ali­en­a­tion — the ideal of a “hu­man sci­ence,” i.e. the non-ali­en­ated syn­thes­is of all as­pects. A “hu­man sci­ence” ori­ented by a non-ar­ti­fi­cial and all-in­clus­ive meas­ure: man him­self. (Marx’s own ex­pres­sions were: “there will be one sci­ence,” “the sci­ence of man”).

The su­per­ses­sion of philo­sophy and polit­ic­al eco­nomy in this con­cep­tion does not mean the ab­ol­i­tion of the prob­lems of either tra­di­tion­al philo­sophy or those of polit­ic­al eco­nomy, nor in­deed a run­ning away from them. Marx is con­vinced that philo­soph­ic­al etc. prob­lems can­not be “ab­ol­ished” (or “dis­solved”) in thought, only in so­cial prac­tice, be­cause they are ex­pres­sions of real­ity, however mys­ti­fied and ali­en­ated they may be. Equally, he is con­vinced that one must not evade them, or simply de­clare that they are mys­ti­fic­a­tions and leave everything at that, but face up to them and meet them at the level where they present them­selves. There­fore the cri­tique of tra­di­tion­al philo­sophy or polit­ic­al eco­nomy im­plies the pos­it­ive elab­or­a­tion of al­tern­at­ives to the per­sist­ent old ques­tions.

It goes without say­ing that, in Marx’s view, such a task can­not be ac­com­plished with­in the lim­its of either philo­sophy or polit­ic­al eco­nomy. To turn polit­ic­al eco­nomy in­to a “su­per-sci­ence” to which everything else should be sub­or­din­ated would cer­tainly amount to “eco­nom­ic de­term­in­ism.” And, as we have seen, noth­ing is fur­ther re­moved from Marx than that. He knows very well that polit­ic­al eco­nomy is just as one-sidedly in­teg­ral­ist­ic as philo­sophy, and more dan­ger­ous in the sense that its rep­res­ent­at­ives of­ten have dir­ect ac­cess to power.

Thus when he de­vel­ops his cri­ti­cism of polit­ic­al eco­nomy — no mat­ter in how great a de­tail or how many highly tech­nic­al prob­lems are taken in­to ac­count — he is not the “polit­ic­al eco­nom­ist ma­ture Marx.” Nor is he in­deed the “young philo­soph­er” or “an­thro­po­lo­gist” Marx when he cri­ti­cizes Hegel. The earli­est com­pre­hens­ive idea of young Marx was the uni­fic­a­tion of philo­sophy with prac­tic­al hu­man real­ity, and this went far bey­ond the ho­ri­zon of tra­di­tion­al philo­sophy. Whenev­er Marx ana­lyses philo­soph­ic­al prob­lems, in his youth or in his old age, he al­ways tries to do this in the form of syn­thes­iz­ing — in an „aufge­hoben“ sense — the most gen­er­al philo­soph­ic­al for­mu­la­tions with the in­sights gained from ac­tu­al hu­man ex­per­i­ence as well as from its the­or­et­ic­al and artist­ic re­flec­tions: from his­tory to polit­ic­al eco­nomy, and from Shakespeare and Goethe to Balzac. And, of course, he pro­ceeds in the same way when he dis­cusses the prob­lems of polit­ic­al eco­nomy: by mo­bil­iz­ing the whole range of hu­man ex­per­i­ence known to him — e.g. Shakespeare on money in the Par­is Manuscripts as well as in Cap­it­al — and syn­thes­iz­ing it with the fun­da­ment­al in­sights he gained from the crit­ic­al study of the most com­pre­hens­ive gen­er­al for­mu­la­tions of philo­sophy. It is, there­fore, simply not true that the ma­ture Marx had no time for or in­terest in the prob­lems of philo­sophy. His in­terest in philo­sophy was nev­er “philo­soph­ic­al”: it was al­ways prac­tic­al-hu­man.

Nor was his in­terest in polit­ic­al eco­nomy “sci­entif­ic-eco­nom­ic­al”: it was also prac­tic­al-hu­man. Thus for him both philo­sophy and polit­ic­al eco­nomy were from the be­gin­ning merged in a prac­tic­al-hu­man con­cern. In the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx was not less in­ter­ested in “polit­ic­al eco­nomy” than in his Ro­hent­wurf or in Cap­it­al. Or, to put it the oth­er way round, in these lat­ter he was not less do­ing “philo­sophy” — of course his kind of philo­sophy, just as in the early works — than in the Par­is Manuscripts. The people who deny this tend to be either those who crudely identi­fy “hu­man” with “eco­nom­ic,” or those who, in the name of mys­ti­fy­ing psy­cho­lo­gic­al ab­strac­tions, treat with ex­treme skep­ti­cism the rel­ev­ance of so­cioeco­nom­ic meas­ures to the solu­tion of hu­man prob­lems. To as­sert, however, the rad­ic­al break in Marx’s de­vel­op­ment, un­dis­turbed by the evid­ence of his work as a whole, is to de­duce a little too much from a mere title Marx him­self nev­er gave to an un­fin­ished manuscript.

3. Marx’s in­tel­lec­tu­al de­vel­op­ment

The re­jec­tion of the “young Marx” versus “ma­ture Marx” di­cho­tomy does not mean the deni­al of Marx’s in­tel­lec­tu­al de­vel­op­ment. What is turned down is the dram­at­ized idea of a rad­ic­al re­versal of his po­s­i­tion in the af­ter­math of the Manuscripts of 1844.

This is not the place to dis­cuss in de­tail the com­plex prob­lems of Marx’s in­tel­lec­tu­al de­vel­op­ment. There are, however, a few as­pects of it — those dir­ectly re­lated to the prob­lems raised in the pre­vi­ous sec­tion — which ought to be touched upon, if only briefly, in this con­text.

(1) The concept of ali­en­a­tion played a minor role in Marx’s thought pri­or to 1843. Even in 1843 its im­port­ance was re­l­at­ively small as com­pared with the Manuscripts of 1844. The point of really sig­ni­fic­ant change is not between 1844 and 1845 but between 1843 and 1844. (And even this change is far more com­plex than the vul­gar­izers — who can only op­er­ate with crude schemes like “ideal­ism” versus “ma­ter­i­al­ism” etc. — ima­gine).

To see the con­trast, it is enough to read a short pas­sage from Marx’s In­tro­duc­tion to the Cri­tique of the Hegel­i­an Philo­sophy of Right. It says: “Cri­ti­cism of heav­en turns in­to cri­ti­cism of the earth, cri­ti­cism of re­li­gion in­to cri­ti­cism of right and cri­ti­cism of theo­logy in­to cri­ti­cism of polit­ics.”18 Un­ques­tion­ably, Marx’s in­sight con­cern­ing the task of uni­fy­ing philo­sophy with prac­tice can be per­ceived here. Yet at this stage of his de­vel­op­ment it is ex­pressed in a rather gen­er­ic form. If we are able to re­cog­nize the geni­us of this Marxi­an in­sight it is be­cause we are aware of its later elab­or­ated, im­mensely far-reach­ing im­plic­a­tions, thanks to the keys we were giv­en by Marx him­self, in the works that fol­lowed this In­tro­duc­tion. Had Marx re­mained at the ab­stract pro­gram­mat­ic level of gen­er­al­iz­a­tion which char­ac­ter­izes this In­tro­duc­tion he could hardly have ex­er­cised the sort of in­flu­ence he did on later in­tel­lec­tu­al and so­cial de­vel­op­ments.

Marx of the Manuscripts of 1844 made a great step for­ward, as we have seen in sev­er­al con­texts. By re­cog­niz­ing that the key to all ali­en­a­tion — re­li­gious, jur­idic­al, mor­al, artist­ic, polit­ic­al, etc. — is “ali­en­ated labor,” the ali­en­ated form of man’s prac­tic­al pro­duct­ive activ­ity, he was able to base his whole con­cep­tion on a sure foot­ing. Now it be­came pos­sible for him to elab­or­ate his ideas in a most con­crete form, in­dic­at­ing the stra­tegic points of the ne­ces­sary prac­tic­al activ­ity. Since the concept of “labor’s self-ali­en­a­tion” pin­pointed the ul­ti­mate cause of all forms of ali­en­a­tion, the cri­ti­cism of eco­nom­ics — i.e. an ad­equate un­der­stand­ing of its laws and mech­an­isms — ac­quired a cru­cial im­port­ance : it be­came the vi­tal link in the pro­gram of gain­ing mas­tery over the vari­ous caus­al factors in­volved, serving the pur­pose of prac­tic­ally su­per­sed­ing ali­en­a­tion in all spheres of life. While the earli­er In­tro­duc­tion went only as far as em­phas­iz­ing that the cri­ti­cism of theo­logy must be trans­formed in­to the cri­ti­cism of polit­ics, the Manuscripts of 1844 ac­com­plished the struc­tur­ally vi­tal step of turn­ing the cri­ti­cism of polit­ics in­to the cri­ti­cism of eco­nom­ics. Thus the earli­er, ab­stractly pro­gram­mat­ic char­ac­ter of the Marxi­an ideas had been ef­fect­ively su­per­seded. Marx did not have to stop any longer at the point of pos­tu­lat­ing the unity of the­ory and prac­tice, he could now con­cretely demon­strate how to real­ize in so­cial prac­tice this re­volu­tion­ary pro­gram.

And this is how the concept of ali­en­a­tion be­came the cent­ral concept of Marx’s whole the­ory. It is, there­fore, not only not true that when Marx ac­quired an in­terest in the prob­lems of polit­ic­al eco­nomy he turned his back on the concept of ali­en­a­tion: the ex­act op­pos­ite is true. For as soon as he real­ized that eco­nom­ic ali­en­a­tion was the com­mon link of all forms of ali­en­a­tion and de­hu­man­iz­a­tion, it was im­possible for him not to ad­opt the concept of ali­en­a­tion — this struc­tur­al com­mon de­nom­in­at­or — as the cen­ter of ref­er­ence of his en­tire con­cep­tion. The Manuscripts of 1844 provide massive evid­ence in sup­port of this view. They also show that, en­riched by the in­sights he gained from his crit­ic­al study of polit­ic­al eco­nomy, his philo­soph­ic­al cri­ti­cism be­came more pro­found and com­pre­hens­ive than ever be­fore.

(2) There can be no doubt about Feuerbach’s in­flu­ence on Marx: he him­self ac­know­ledged this on more than one oc­ca­sion. The ques­tion is, however, what did this in­flu­ence really amount to in 1844, or in­deed to­wards the end of 1843? Greatly ex­ag­ger­ated claims are made in this re­gard which, if true, would re­duce Marx — up to the time he jot­ted down his Theses on Feuerbach — in­to a mere fol­low­er of the lat­ter.

We pos­sess two im­port­ant let­ters ad­dressed by Marx to Feuerbach which help to dis­pel this le­gend. Already the first of them—writ­ten on the 3rd of Oc­to­ber 1843 — re­veals a sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence of ap­proach. In the spir­it of Marx’s gen­er­al line of thought at that time, it ad­voc­ates the cri­ti­cism of so­ci­ety in the form of the cri­ti­cism of polit­ics. Marx would like to see Feuerbach act­ively in­volved in this ef­fort and asks for his con­tri­bu­tion ac­cord­ingly:

Schelling suc­ceeded in unit­ing not only philo­sophy and theo­logy but also philo­sophy and dip­lomacy. He turned philo­sophy in­to the gen­er­al sci­ence of dip­lomacy, in­to a dip­lomacy for all. An at­tack on Schelling would, there­fore, be an in­dir­ect at­tack on our whole, namely Prus­si­an, polit­ic­al sys­tem. Schelling’s philo­sophy is Prus­si­an polit­ics sub specie philo­sophi­ae.19

Per­haps Marx had il­lu­sions about Feuerbach’s will­ing­ness or abil­ity to en­gage in such battles against the ex­ist­ing or­der, per­haps he only wanted to en­list the sup­port of a power­ful ally and at the same time, as a good ed­it­or, push his would-be col­lab­or­at­or for­ward in rad­ic­al­ism, bring­ing him in­to line with his own con­cep­tion of the journ­al’s tasks. It does not mat­ter which way we look at the is­sue. What mat­ters, however, is that Feuerbach could not pos­sibly sup­ply what Marx ex­pec­ted or hoped to get from him.

The oth­er let­ter is even more im­port­ant in this re­spect. Writ­ten on the 11th of Au­gust 1844 — i.e., ap­prox­im­ately at the time of the com­ple­tion of the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts of 1844 — it dir­ectly raises the ques­tion of the mean­ing of “man,” the “unity of men with oth­er men,” and “the hu­man spe­cies” [Menschengat­tung]. This is how Marx looks on these con­cepts, not after his Theses on Feuerbach, not at the time of the Com­mun­ist Mani­festo, not in the course of the elab­or­a­tion of his Cap­it­al, but right in the middle of 1844:

In your writ­ings you have giv­en — I do not know wheth­er con­sciously or not — a philo­soph­ic­al found­a­tion to so­cial­ism, and we com­mun­ists at once have un­der­stood your works in this sense. The unity of men with oth­er men, which is based on the real dif­fer­ences between men, the concept of the hu­man spe­cies brought down from the sky of ab­strac­tion to the real ground of earth, what else is it if not the concept of so­ci­ety.20

These con­sid­er­a­tions are in full agree­ment with Marx’s own use of the dis­cussed terms in the Par­is Manuscripts, but they could hardly be fur­ther re­moved from Feuerbach’s con­cepts. Marx puts his in­ter­pret­a­tion of these con­cepts to Feuerbach—on the oc­ca­sion of post­ing to him a pub­lished copy of the In­tro­duc­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right — in the hope of start­ing a fruit­ful ex­change of ideas with him. The dis­tance was, as Feuerbach real­ized read­ing Marx’s let­ter and the In­tro­duc­tion, far too great to be bridged, and he nev­er fol­lowed up the of­fer.

As a mat­ter of fact Marx him­self was well aware of the qual­it­at­ive dif­fer­ence between his own as­pir­a­tions and Feuerbach’s ac­tu­al achieve­ments. Already in the In­tro­duc­tion he made it clear that the Feuerba­chi­an cri­ti­cism is only a ne­ces­sary pre­lim­in­ary to the fun­da­ment­al task, the “cri­ti­cism of earth” as he put it. In the Manuscripts of 1844 he was fully en­gaged in the the­or­et­ic­al real­iz­a­tion of this task which ne­ces­sar­ily im­plied a rad­ic­al de­par­ture from Feuerbach’s sphere to its real so­cioeco­nom­ic basis. (Only in his cri­ti­cism of the Hegel­i­an philo­sophy could Marx use Feuerbach more ex­tens­ively, as a pos­it­ively su­per­seded “mo­ment” of his own in­com­par­ably more com­pre­hens­ive gen­er­al con­cep­tion).

Also, al­most every single point Marx made in his Theses on Feuerbach, in the first months of 1845, can be found in the Manuscripts of 1844, even though without ex­pli­cit crit­ic­al ref­er­ences to Feuerbach him­self. That he made ef­forts to take Feuerbach with him in car­ry­ing out an en­ter­prise he con­sidered to be the lo­gic­al con­tinu­ation of Feuerbach’s ne­ces­sary pre­lim­in­ar­ies, was thor­oughly con­sist­ent with his gen­er­al out­look; these ef­forts, there­fore, should not be con­sidered as merely tac­tic­al steps. Equally, the next lo­gic­al step for Marx was — after see­ing the fail­ure of his ef­forts to en­list Feuerbach’s act­ive help in the cause of a rad­ic­al prac­tic­al cri­ti­cism of so­ci­ety — to make the formerly im­pli­cit cri­ti­cism ex­pli­cit on Feuerbach as well, all the more be­cause Marx’s ad­versar­ies made great use of the Feuerba­chi­an line of reas­on­ing. (Marx’s at­ti­tude to­wards some of his oth­er con­tem­por­ar­ies was very sim­il­ar, but this did not make him share their views and il­lu­sions. He al­ways tried to carry them with him on the road he had chosen, but did not hes­it­ate to take the cri­ti­cism to its ut­most once this proved im­possible when his former friends ideo­lo­gic­ally lined them­selves up with his polit­ic­al ad­versar­ies).

Thus the point of con­tact between Marx and Feuerbach at the time of writ­ing the Manuscripts of 1844 is more ter­min­o­lo­gic­al than any­thing else. Ter­min­o­lo­gic­al in Marx’s sense, of course: i.e. im­ply­ing that even a mys­ti­fied ter­min­o­logy re­flects a prob­lem of real­ity that ought to be grasped in its prop­er set­ting. In oth­er words, this kind of ter­min­o­lo­gic­al con­tact should not be crudely sim­pli­fied as “lip-ser­vice” or mere “tac­tics.” It fol­lows from Marx’s his­tor­ic­al-struc­tur­al prin­ciple that one’s meth­od of set­ting out from the avail­able, to great­er or less­er ex­tent mys­ti­fied, terms is not only ad­miss­ible but also ne­ces­sary. It is, in fact, the only way in which it is pos­sible to grasp the dia­lect­ic­al move­ment of ideas as con­crete gen­es­is, provided they are re­lated to their real basis in the course of their con­crete de­mys­ti­fic­a­tion.

In The Ger­man Ideo­logy Marx iden­ti­fied the reas­on why his ef­forts at en­list­ing Feuerbach’s sup­port had to fail:

In real­ity and for the prac­tic­al ma­ter­i­al­ist, i.e. the com­mun­ist, it is a ques­tion of re­vo­lu­tion­iz­ing the ex­ist­ing world, of prac­tic­ally at­tack­ing and chan­ging ex­ist­ing things. When oc­ca­sion­ally we find such views with Feuerbach, they are nev­er more than isol­ated sur­mises and have much too little in­flu­ence on his gen­er­al out­look to be con­sidered here as any­thing else than em­bry­os cap­able of de­vel­op­ment.21

At the time of writ­ing the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx did not real­ize that these “em­bry­os” were not cap­able of de­vel­op­ment by Feuerbach him­self. But who could de­duce from this fact the con­clu­sion that in 1844 Marx him­self was not a “prac­tic­al ma­ter­i­al­ist” en­gaged in real­iz­ing his pro­gram of “re­vo­lu­tion­iz­ing the ex­ist­ing world, of prac­tic­ally at­tack­ing and chan­ging ex­ist­ing things”? He did not real­ize, in 1844, that the oc­ca­sion­al re­marks in Feuerbach’s philo­sophy con­cern­ing the “prac­tic­al cri­ti­cism of the ex­ist­ing world” were only “isol­ated sur­mises” lead­ing to no prac­tic­al con­sequence what­so­ever. But who could de­duce from this fact the con­clu­sion that con­sequently for Marx too the idea of a “prac­tic­al cri­ti­cism of earth” was noth­ing but an “isol­ated sur­mise”? Feuerbach could not pos­sibly ac­cept Marx’s of­fers pre­cisely be­cause in his philo­sophy the idea of a prac­tic­al at­tack on ex­ist­ing things was peri­pher­al and par­tial: nev­er em­bra­cing the to­tal­ity of the so­ci­opol­it­ic­al sys­tem, for he simply did not have the concept of the so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion. To find out about the real lim­its of the Feuerba­chi­an philo­sophy, to find out how far he him­self was cap­able of de­vel­op­ing the isol­ated “em­bry­os” of his sys­tem, it was ne­ces­sary to try to en­list his act­ive sup­port for the prac­tic­al task of rad­ic­ally at­tack­ing the ex­ist­ing or­der of so­ci­ety and its sup­port­ers, like old Schelling. That Feuerbach could not meet Marx’s ex­pect­a­tions is not sur­pris­ing in the light of these lim­it­a­tions of which we are all now aware. But to sug­gest that Marx shared in the least the same lim­it­a­tions in 1844 — or in­deed in 1843 when he first wrote to Feuerbach — means to take no no­tice what­so­ever of the young Marx’s ef­forts at rad­ic­al­iz­ing this “con­tem­plat­ive ma­ter­i­al­ist,” not to speak of ig­nor­ing the evid­ence of Marx’s philo­soph­ic­al works them­selves.

It may be ar­gued that Marx had il­lu­sions about Feuerbach in 1844. It would be, however, an ele­ment­ary lo­gic­al er­ror to equate Marx’s il­lu­sions about Feuerbach with Feuerbach’s own il­lu­sions. Yet it is pre­cisely this er­ror which we en­counter when we are told that Marx’s concept of man in the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts of 1844 is the Feuerba­chi­an “gen­er­ic man.”

(3) The concept of ali­en­a­tion is em­in­ently a concept of syn­thes­is. This means, among oth­er things, that the word “ali­en­a­tion” is not ne­ces­sar­ily re­quired when the com­plex prob­lem­at­ics covered by it is presen­ted or de­veloped in a de­tailed form. To take an ex­ample, let us con­sider the fol­low­ing pas­sage from Wage-Labor and Cap­it­al [Lohnarbeit und Kapit­al]:

But the ex­er­cise of labor power, labor, is the work­er’s own life-activ­ity, the mani­fest­a­tion of his own life. And this life-activ­ity he sells to an­oth­er per­son in or­der to se­cure the ne­ces­sary means of sub­sist­ence. Thus this life-activ­ity is for him only a means to en­able him to ex­ist. He works in or­der to live. He does not even reck­on labor as part of his life, it is rather a sac­ri­fice of his life. It is a com­mod­ity which he has made over to an­oth­er. Hence, also, the product of his activ­ity is not the ob­ject of his activ­ity. What he pro­duces for him­self is not the silk that he weaves, not the gold that he draws from the mine, not the palace that he builds. What he pro­duces for him­self is wages, and silk, gold, palace re­solve them­selves for him in­to a def­in­ite quant­ity of the means of sub­sist­ence, per­haps in­to a cot­ton jack­et, some cop­per coins and a lodging in a cel­lar. And the work­er, who for twelve hours weaves, spins, drills, turns, builds, shovels, breaks stones, car­ries loads, etc. — does he con­sider this twelve hours’ weav­ing, spin­ning, drilling, turn­ing, build­ing, shov­el­ing, stone break­ing as a mani­fest­a­tion of his life, as life? On the con­trary, life be­gins for him where this activ­ity ceases, at ta­ble, in the pub­lic house, in bed. The twelve hours’ labor, on the oth­er hand, has no mean­ing for him as weav­ing, spin­ning, drilling, etc., but as earn­ings, which bring him to the ta­ble, to the pub­lic house, in­to bed. If the silk worm were to spin in or­der to con­tin­ue its ex­ist­ence as a cater­pil­lar, it would be a com­plete wage-work­er.22

Here we have some of the most fun­da­ment­al as­pects of ali­en­a­tion as seen in the Manuscripts of 1844 — from “selling one’s life-activ­ity” to as­sert­ing that “life-activ­ity be­comes a mere means of ex­ist­ence” and to say­ing that the per­cept­ible world, be­cause of the ex­tern­al char­ac­ter of labor, is not ap­pro­pri­ated by man in a dir­ect sen­su­ous form which would be on­to­lo­gic­ally ap­pro­pri­ate, but is me­di­ated by ab­stract “wages,” as a res­ult of the trans­form­a­tion of labor power in­to a com­mod­ity — and yet, the word “ali­en­a­tion” is nev­er men­tioned.

There may have been a num­ber of par­tic­u­lar reas­ons for this, such as (a) Marx’s de­lib­er­ate policy of avoid­ing any re­semb­lance to “true so­cial­ism” which ab­used the word; (b) the fact that the pub­lic to which Wage-Labor and Cap­it­al was presen­ted — first as a series of lec­tures in the Work­ers’ Club in Brus­sels and later in the form of news­pa­per art­icles in the Neue Rhein­is­che Zei­tung — was not at all fa­mil­i­ar with the ex­tremely com­plex philo­soph­ic­al prob­lem­at­ics of „Ent­frem­dung“ and „Entäußerung“.

Nev­er­the­less what keeps the vari­ous phe­nom­ena con­cep­tu­ally to­geth­er in this ana­lys­is is the un­der­ly­ing concept of ali­en­a­tion as their fo­cal point or com­mon de­nom­in­at­or. One must dis­tin­guish between con­cep­tion and present­a­tion. It is simply un­think­able to con­ceive the Marxi­an vis­ion without this fun­da­ment­al concept of ali­en­a­tion. But once it is con­ceived in its broad­est out­lines — in the Manuscripts of 1844 — it be­comes pos­sible to let the gen­er­al term “re­cede” in the present­a­tion. Moreover, in or­der to work out in the most con­crete form the man­i­fold spe­cif­ic as­pects of this com­pre­hens­ive vis­ion, it be­comes also im­per­at­ive to find those par­tic­u­lar terms which ad­equately ex­press the spe­cif­ic fea­tures of the par­tic­u­lar spheres, levels, me­di­ations, etc. of the over­all prob­lem­at­ics. The con­crete ar­tic­u­la­tion of the com­pre­hens­ive vis­ion can­not pos­sibly be car­ried out by us­ing al­ways the same gen­er­al term: do­ing this would not only res­ult in end­less re­pe­ti­tions but, ul­ti­mately, in a co­lossal tau­to­logy as well. Thus the re­ced­ing of the gen­er­al term in the course of the con­crete elab­or­a­tion of the com­plex prob­lem­at­ics of ali­en­a­tion should not be mis­taken for abandon­ing the concept it­self.

The no­tion of ali­en­a­tion has something about it that could be de­scribed as a “short­hand” char­ac­ter. It can, le­git­im­ately, com­pre­hend a great deal and, there­fore, it is em­in­ently suit­able to serve the pur­poses of quickly sur­vey­ing and sum­mar­iz­ing for one’s own use a broad syn­thes­is. But for­mu­lat­ing the broad out­lines of a syn­thes­is is not the end of the task, only its real be­gin­ning. This out­line or pre­lim­in­ary syn­thes­is must be rendered spe­cif­ic enough in every re­spect, oth­er­wise the prac­tic­al real­iz­a­tion of the philo­soph­ic­al pro­gram in­her­ent in this syn­thes­is can­not be ser­i­ously con­tem­plated for a mo­ment. It is in the course of this ar­tic­u­la­tion or “ren­der­ing con­crete” of the broad pre­lim­in­ary syn­thes­is that the term “ali­en­a­tion” must be re­placed in nu­mer­ous con­texts. This is why it is not at all sur­pris­ing to find that the works which fol­lowed the Manuscripts of 1844, up to about 1856 — and writ­ten for pub­lic­a­tion — are far less densely pop­u­lated with the word “ali­en­a­tion” than the first broad syn­thes­is.

If, however, the read­er has doubts about this in­ter­pret­a­tion, he should con­sult Marx’s Grundrisse der Kritik der polit­ischen Ökonomie: Ro­hent­wurf [Out­lines of the Cri­tique of Polit­ic­al Eco­nomy: Rough Draft] — a work writ­ten between 1857 and 1858 — and he should com­pare this work with its in­com­plete ar­tic­u­la­tion in the three volumes of Cap­it­al. The Ro­hent­wurf is Marx’s second broad syn­thes­is whose con­cep­tion was made ne­ces­sary by the enorm­ous wealth of ma­ter­i­al he had ac­cu­mu­lated between 1844 and 1856. When he was try­ing to in­teg­rate this ma­ter­i­al in­to a co­her­ent whole, the no­tion of ali­en­a­tion again pushed it­self in­to the fore­ground and main­tained its massive pres­ence throughout the whole manuscript. (The length of this Ro­hent­wurf is many times that of the Manuscripts of 1844). While in the Ro­hent­wurf the term “ali­en­a­tion” oc­curs in in­nu­mer­able con­texts, in Cap­it­al it oc­cu­pies a re­l­at­ively mod­est place. This second broad syn­thes­is — it must be made ex­pli­cit, in or­der to avoid mis­un­der­stand­ings — is in no way op­posed to the Manuscripts of 1844: it is only in­com­par­ably rich­er and more con­cretely com­pre­hens­ive. In fact the Ro­hent­wurf is the fully ar­tic­u­lated equi­val­ent of the early sys­tem in statu nas­cendi. It is prob­ably the greatest single the­or­et­ic­al monu­ment of Marx’s life.

(4) One of the strik­ing fea­tures of Marx’s work is that, des­pite the im­mense labor that went in­to them, all his ma­jor works re­mained un­fin­ished. Not only the Manuscripts of 1844 but also the The­or­ies of Sur­plus-Value; not only the Ro­hent­wurf but also — as is some­times for­got­ten — his Cap­it­al. This can­not be ex­plained simply by the cir­cum­stances of his life, however hard these might have been.

The cause lies deep­er, in the in­ner­most nature of his work, in­sep­ar­able from his con­cep­tion of su­per­sed­ing philo­sophy, polit­ic­al eco­nomy, etc. by a com­pre­hens­ively in­teg­rated, em­pir­ic­ally foun­ded and prac­tic­ally tested and real­ized “sci­ence of man.” There is something sub­ject­ively self-de­feat­ing about this ideal of com­pre­hens­ive­ness. In its ori­gins it goes back to Hegel who not only for­mu­lated it as a pro­gram but also car­ried it out in his mo­nu­ment­al — though of course spec­u­lat­ive — philo­soph­ic­al syn­thes­is. However, to achieve such a syn­thes­is in an ideal­ist­ic form is a task rad­ic­ally dif­fer­ent from Marx’s aim of elab­or­at­ing the gen­er­al frame­work of a uni­fied hu­man sci­ence which in­teg­rates all the real ac­com­plish­ments of hu­man know­ledge with the prac­tic­al re­quire­ments of hu­man life. If, in the ideal­ist­ic sys­tem, there are gaps, the Welt­geist is al­ways at hand to fill them in: the more con­geni­ally so the big­ger these gaps and cleav­ages are. In Marx’s vis­ion, however, ac­cord­ing to which the whole en­ter­prise must be car­ried out “on earth,” with means that can be put to prac­tic­al tests, the real­iz­a­tion of the pro­gram re­quires, among oth­er things, the highest de­gree of de­vel­op­ment in all fields of sci­ence. If, there­fore, some of the ne­ces­sary con­di­tions of the non-spec­u­lat­ive gen­er­al­iz­a­tions are ab­sent, the thinker can­not le­git­im­ately re­sort to a new spec­u­lat­ive device but has to sit down and work out the prob­lems for him­self, no mat­ter how much time-wast­ing re­search is in­volved in this ef­fort. Be­sides, the more com­pre­hens­ive his grasp be­comes the more he must real­ize the in­ev­it­able gaps due to the al­ways lar­ger and more com­pre­hens­ive in­ter­con­nec­tions. Also, every new fun­da­ment­al achieve­ment in the par­tic­u­lar fields re­quires the thor­ough re­vi­sion of the pic­ture as a whole which in its turn again en­larges the pre­vi­ous lim­its of par­tic­u­lar re­search. And this mu­tu­al in­ter­ac­tion and re­cip­roc­al en­rich­ment goes on in­def­in­itely, for only ideally can the two poles merge in­to each oth­er.

The task, in this Marxi­an vis­ion, is clearly bey­ond the power of any par­tic­u­lar in­di­vidu­al, no mat­ter how great he might be. The un­fin­ished char­ac­ter of the work of syn­thes­is thus in­ev­it­ably fol­lows from this new vis­ion of syn­thes­is it­self, and in this sense it may be called sub­ject­ively self-de­feat­ing. In an­oth­er sense, however, this vis­ion provides a chal­len­ging task for gen­er­a­tions to fol­low. A task of com­ing near­er, in the course of the re­cip­roc­al in­teg­ra­tion of the­ory and prac­tice, to the Marxi­an ideal: through con­stant re­for­mu­la­tions and su­per­ses­sions of pre­vi­ous ef­forts, even though — by the very nature of the whole en­ter­prise which im­plies a con­stantly re­newed prac­tic­al in­ter­change with a con­stantly chan­ging prac­tice — nev­er defin­it­ively real­iz­ing it.

4. The­ory of ali­en­a­tion and philo­sophy of his­tory

Marx’s the­ory of ali­en­a­tion is his “philo­sophy of his­tory.” Not in the sense of a spe­cial­ized branch of philo­sophy that op­er­ates with con­cepts which are of no rel­ev­ance to any oth­er sphere, but as the re­flec­tion of a dy­nam­ic move­ment which is at the basis of all of them.

The con­cepts of “ali­en­a­tion” and “tran­scend­ence” are closely in­ter­re­lated and thus if someone speaks of his­tory in terms of ali­en­a­tion, he can­not jus­ti­fi­ably for­get about the prob­lem of its tran­scend­ence. As soon as one real­izes this, a vi­tal is­sue arises: what does one mean by the su­per­ses­sion or tran­scend­ence of ali­en­a­tion?

Nowhere is the danger of mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­in­ter­pret­a­tion great­er than pre­cisely in this con­text. Es­pe­cially if there are — and where are there not? — so­cial con­tin­gen­cies that could tempt people to ad­opt a self-com­pla­cently dis­tor­ted view. The dream of the “golden age” did not ori­gin­ate yes­ter­day and is most un­likely to dis­ap­pear to­mor­row.

It would go against the spir­it of Marx’s gen­er­al con­cep­tion to settle the prob­lem of „Auf­hebung“, once and forever, in the fairytale form of a Uto­pi­an golden age. In Marx’s vis­ion — which can­not re­cog­nize any­thing as ab­so­lutely fi­nal — there can be no place for a uto­pi­an golden age, neither “round the corner” nor as­tro­nom­ic­al dis­tances away. Such a golden age would be an end of his­tory, and thus the end of man him­self.

Yet the fact re­mains that not only Marx’s en­emies but also many of his fol­low­ers and vul­gar­izers iden­ti­fied him with the proph­et of a prom­ised land, and some even have claimed to have real­ized — or of be­ing very near to the real­iz­a­tion of — his al­leged idea of a prom­ised land. There are, of course, sen­tences in Marx which, if taken in isol­a­tion, can be con­strued as sup­port­ing such claims. Moreover there is the ad­di­tion­al, and more ser­i­ous, dif­fi­culty that Marx — des­pising the oc­cu­pa­tion of day­dream­ing about the fu­ture — did not an­ti­cip­ate in ex­pli­cit form the re­jec­tion of these ap­proaches.

Be­cause of this lack of ex­pli­cit­ness the an­swer to the ques­tion of a tran­scend­ence of ali­en­a­tion must be “worked out” from some of Marx’s fun­da­ment­al con­cepts. To men­tion just two of them:

  1. „Auf­hebung“ ne­ces­sar­ily im­plies not only the su­per­ses­sion of any giv­en form of ali­en­a­tion but also the “pre­ser­va­tion” of some of its “mo­ments”;
  2. his­tor­ische Not­wendigkeit“ means not only that so­cial phe­nom­ena are es­tab­lished his­tor­ic­ally and can­not be fic­ti­tiously dreamed away from the his­tor­ic­al stage but also that all par­tic­u­lar stages of hu­man his­tory ne­ces­sar­ily dis­ap­pear, be­cause to be a his­tor­ic­al ne­ces­sity is to be a ne­ces­sar­ily dis­ap­pear­ing ne­ces­sity [eine ver­schwindende Not­wendigkeit]. It is not dif­fi­cult to see, there­fore, that to pos­it a uto­pi­an “golden age” as a „ver­schwindende Not­wendigkeit“ is a con­tra­dic­tion in terms.

Nev­er­the­less this does not mean that, with a sum­mary ref­er­ence to these and sim­il­ar con­cepts, one could con­sider settled the com­plic­ated prob­lems that arise in con­nec­tion with the „Auf­hebung“ of ali­en­a­tion. What is im­port­ant is to sep­ar­ate the genu­ine dif­fi­culties from their mys­ti­fic­a­tions in bour­geois philo­sophy.

As we have seen Hegel, rep­res­ent­ing “the stand­point of polit­ic­al eco­nomy,” iden­ti­fied ali­en­a­tion with ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, thus pre­clud­ing the pos­sib­il­ity of an ac­tu­al, prac­tic­al tran­scend­ence of ali­en­a­tion. Un­der­stand­ably, there­fore, this is the one and only Hegel­i­an idea which has met with the whole­hearted ap­prov­al of all trends of bour­geois philo­sophy in the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. Since this was the cru­cial point of dif­fer­ence between Marx and Hegel, the mod­ern ir­ra­tion­al­ist­ic reed­i­tion of the Hegel­i­an idea could be em­in­ently used against Marx, or in­deed some­times in sup­port of an ex­ist­en­tial­ist­ic­ally mys­ti­fied in­ter­pret­a­tion of Marx. In the twen­ti­eth cen­tury Marx could not be ig­nored any longer. The best way to neut­ral­ize his in­tel­lec­tu­al im­pact was, there­fore, an ex­ist­en­tial­ists in­ter­pret­a­tion of his thought which con­sisted ba­sic­ally in the mys­ti­fic­a­tion of the his­tor­ic­ally spe­cif­ic — an­ti­cap­it­al­ist — con­cep­tion of ali­en­a­tion. Ac­cord­ingly, the concept of ali­en­a­tion gained an in­com­par­ably great­er sig­ni­fic­ance in the writ­ings of twen­ti­eth cen­tury ex­ist­en­tial­ists than in those of their fore­fath­er, Kierkegaard him­self.23 Heide­g­ger, for in­stance, defines Marx’s im­port­ance like this: “Be­cause Marx, through his ex­per­i­ence of the ali­en­a­tion of mod­ern man, is aware of a fun­da­ment­al di­men­sion of his­tory, the Marx­ist view of his­tory is su­per­i­or to all oth­er views.”24 Need­less to say, Marx did not ex­per­i­ence ali­en­a­tion as “the ali­en­a­tion of mod­ern man,” but as the ali­en­a­tion of man in cap­it­al­ist so­ci­ety. Nor did he look upon ali­en­a­tion as a “fun­da­ment­al di­men­sion of his­tory,” but as the cent­ral is­sue of a giv­en phase of his­tory. Heide­g­ger’s in­ter­pret­a­tion of Marx’s con­cep­tion of ali­en­a­tion is thus re­veal­ing not about Marx, but about his own very dif­fer­ent ap­proach to the same is­sue.

The same at­tempt is ex­pressed, in a less subtle form, in Jean Hyp­polite’s dis­cus­sion of the re­la­tion­ship between ali­en­a­tion and his­tory. He writes, with dir­ect ref­er­ence to Marx’s cri­ti­cism of the Hegel­i­an iden­ti­fic­a­tion of ali­en­a­tion and ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion : «L’au­teur de la Phé­no­mé­no­lo­gie, de l’En­cy­clo­pé­die, de la Phi­lo­so­phie de l’his­toire, n’a pas confon­du l’alié­na­tion de l’es­prit hu­main dans l’his­toire avec l’ob­jec­ti­va­tion sans quelques rai­sons va­lables, autres que celles qu’on peut dé­cou­vrir dans la struc­ture éco­no­mique de l’époque et dans l’état du sys­tème ca­pi­ta­liste. Que l’homme, en s’ob­jec­ti­vant dans la culture, dans l’Etat, dans l’œuvre hu­maine en gé­né­ral, en même temps s’aliène, se fasse autre et dé­couvre dans cette ob­jec­ti­va­tion une al­té­ri­té in­sur­mon­table et qu’il faut pour­tant ten­ter de sur­mon­ter, c’est là une ten­sion in­sé­pa­rable de l’exis­tence, et le mé­rite de He­gel est d’avoir in­sis­té sur cette ten­sion, de l’avoir conser­vée au centre même de la conscience de soi hu­maine. Une des grandes dif­fi­cul­tés du mar­xisme est par contre de pré­tendre sup­pri­mer cette ten­sion dans un ave­nir plus ou moins proche, de l’ex­pli­quer trop ra­pi­de­ment par une phase par­ti­cu­lière de l’his­toire… Tel quel, ce concept ne nous pa­raît pas ré­duc­tible au seul concept d’alié­na­tion de l’homme dans le ca­pi­tal comme l’in­ter­prète Marx. Ce n’est là qu’un cas par­ti­cu­lier d’un pro­blème plus uni­ver­sel qui est ce­lui de la conscience de soi hu­maine, qui, in­ca­pable de se pen­ser comme un co­gi­to sé­pa­ré, ne se trouve que dans le monde qu’elle édi­fie, dans les autres moi qu’elle re­con­naît et où par­fois elle se mé­con­naît. Mais cette façon de se trou­ver dans l’autre, cette ob­jec­ti­va­tion est tou­jours plus ou moins une alié­na­tion, une perte de soi en même temps qu’une dé­cou­verte de soi. Ain­si ob­jec­ti­va­tion et alié­na­tion sont in­sé­pa­rables et leur uni­té ne peut être que l’ex­pres­sion d’une ten­sion dia­lec­tique qu’on aperçoit dans le mou­ve­ment même de l’his­toire».25

Thus Hyp­polite in­ter­prets ali­en­a­tion as a ten­sion in­sé­pa­rable de l’exis­tence and as ne­ces­sar­ily in­her­ent in the very nature of “hu­man self-con­scious­ness” [la conscience de soi hu­maine]. This is an ideal­ist­ic mys­ti­fic­a­tion which con­demns all at­tempts dir­ec­ted at a prac­tic­al tran­scend­ence of ali­en­a­tion to the fate of a Quix­ot­ic en­ter­prise. Hyp­polite’s ul­ti­mate premise is the ar­bit­rar­ily as­sumed anti-dia­lect­ic­al concept of a so-called «al­té­ri­té in­sur­mon­table» (in­sur­mount­able oth­er­ness) which he couples with an equally ar­bit­rary, ir­ra­tion­al „Sol­len“: «qu’il faut pour­tant ten­ter de sur­mon­ter» (“one ought, nev­er­the­less, to try and sur­mount it”).

Such an en­ter­prise is no more mean­ing­ful than “try­ing” to re­write — in the very last second of one’s life — Tol­stoy’s War and Peace. At­tempts make no sense what­so­ever if they are a pri­ori con­demned to fail­ure. As we have seen, “ought” played a ma­jor role also in Rousseau’s concept of ali­en­a­tion. The dif­fer­ence, however, could not be more rad­ic­al. Rousseau’s “ought,” ex­press­ing an ob­ject­ive con­tra­dic­tion of which the philo­soph­er him­self was not aware, was meant to have an ac­tu­al im­pact on real­ity, in or­der to re­move the ex­ist­ing ali­en­a­tions. Here, by con­trast, the ba­sic premise is a will­ing ac­cept­ance and glor­i­fic­a­tion of an al­leged «al­té­ri­té in­sur­mon­table» as a «ten­sion in­sé­pa­rable de l’exis­tence». Con­sequently the “ought” which is brought in­to this pic­ture can­not be oth­er than an ab­surd, ir­ra­tion­al­ist­ic, empty “ought” whose only func­tion is to give a “mor­al re­spect­ab­il­ity” to a crude apo­logy for the cap­it­al­ist­ic­ally ali­en­ated so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion. What is at fault here is not the use of a mor­al cat­egory but its mys­ti­fy­ing ab­use in sup­port of the ex­ist­ing, de­hu­man­ized or­der of so­ci­ety.

It goes without say­ing, there is a grain of truth in these in­ter­pret­a­tions, oth­er­wise they could hardly suc­ceed in their mys­ti­fic­at­ory func­tion. Their meth­od­o­logy is char­ac­ter­ized by the ex­ag­ger­a­tion of this ele­ment of truth out of all pro­por­tion, so that — by sup­press­ing the com­plex dia­lect­ic­al in­ter­con­nec­tions as well as by re­mov­ing the con­crete so­ciohis­tor­ic­al ref­er­ences — it is turned in­to a grave dis­tor­tion. The main ef­fort is dir­ec­ted at ob­scur­ing even the vis­ible lines of de­marc­a­tion, in­stead of aim­ing at the elab­or­a­tion of those spe­cif­ic con­cepts which could high­light the ob­ject­ive dif­fer­ences that are veiled by the re­ific­a­tion of the ex­ist­ing so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion.

There is some truth in as­sert­ing that ali­en­a­tion and ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion are «plus ou moins in­sé­pa­rables». But the valid­ity of state­ments of this kind de­pends en­tirely on the philo­soph­er’s abil­ity to spe­cify, both con­cep­tu­ally and so­ciohis­tor­ic­ally, his terms of ref­er­ence. Here, however, we are not giv­en any con­cret­iz­a­tion what­so­ever. On the con­trary, the vague gen­er­al­ity of «plus ou moins» serves the pur­pose of both ex­empt­ing the philo­soph­er from the task of con­cret­iz­a­tion and at the same time of cre­at­ing the semb­lance of a prop­er as­sess­ment.

Moreover, in­separ­ab­il­ity of ali­en­a­tion and ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion only ap­plies if one treats “ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion” as a ho­mo­gen­eous cat­egory which it is not. One must dis­tin­guish, at least, between ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion mani­fest­ing it­self in the form of ob­jects such as tables, chairs, etc., and ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion tak­ing the form of hu­man in­sti­tu­tions. There is no reas­on why tables etc. should be con­sidered as in­sep­ar­able from ali­en­a­tion. Ob­jects of this kind can cer­tainly as­sume in­sti­tu­tion­al func­tions — when, e.g. the sol­emn ma­na­geri­al desk also helps to carry out the func­tion of keep­ing the dis­tance from the man who is ce­re­mo­ni­ously shown in to sit down be­hind it. But the “ali­en­a­tion” in­volved is not due to the ex­ist­ence of desks as hu­man ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tions but to their in­sti­tu­tion­al func­tions which can be changed.

It is dif­fer­ent with ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion as in­sti­tu­tion­al­iz­a­tion. Totally and defin­it­ively to ab­ol­ish ali­en­a­tion in this re­spect would im­ply the total ab­ol­i­tion of hu­man in­sti­tu­tions, while we do not need to ab­ol­ish desks to re­move their ali­en­ated in­sti­tu­tion­al func­tions. But what the total ab­ol­i­tion of hu­man in­sti­tu­tions would amount to is, para­dox­ic­ally, not the ab­ol­i­tion of ali­en­a­tion but its max­im­iz­a­tion in the form of total an­archy, and thus the ab­ol­i­tion of hu­man­ness. “Hu­man­ness” im­plies the op­pos­ite of an­archy: or­der which, in hu­man so­ci­ety, is in­sep­ar­able from some or­gan­iz­a­tion. Even “con­scious as­so­ci­ation” — no mat­ter how con­scious it might be — is in­con­ceiv­able without hav­ing some spe­cif­ic form, and this form, for hu­man be­ings, can­not be oth­er than some kind of in­sti­tu­tion set up on the basis of some guid­ing prin­ciples. And even if we take the ideal case — when the un­der­ly­ing guid­ing prin­ciple is con­scious guard­ing against any pos­sible pet­ri­fic­a­tion or “re­ific­a­tion” — the fact still re­mains that the spe­cif­ic form of as­so­ci­ation has to deal with spe­cif­ic tasks which will also de­term­ine the char­ac­ter of the in­sti­tu­tion in ques­tion. But this last — in­es­cap­able — fact means that the giv­en new form of in­sti­tu­tion which has just su­per­seded a re­ified struc­ture con­tains — from the first mo­ment of its ex­ist­ence and not merely in its dy­ing-out stages — an ele­ment of re­ific­a­tion, in­so­far as it is ne­ces­sar­ily biased against the tasks it is in­cap­able of ful­filling.

To do away com­pletely with this dif­fi­culty one would have to pos­tu­late either the ab­so­lute fi­nal­ity of cer­tain tasks (i.e. “ideal tasks” — that is, the end of his­tory or a uto­pi­an “golden age”) or the ab­so­lute fi­nal­ity of an in­sti­tu­tion (i.e. the “ideal in­sti­tu­tion” which could ideally solve all pos­sible tasks — such an ideal in­sti­tu­tion would not and could not have any spe­cif­ic form and, of course, it could not solve any spe­cif­ic task what­so­ever). For such pos­tu­lates, however, one would also have to in­vent a be­ing to fit in them: a be­ing whose needs, tasks, func­tions, etc., nev­er change, or a be­ing who has no needs, tasks, func­tions, etc. at all.

An­oth­er im­port­ant as­pect of this prob­lem is that, no mat­ter how con­scious hu­man ef­forts to elim­in­ate all pos­sible con­tra­dic­tions between the in­di­vidu­al and the giv­en form of so­ci­ety may be, an ele­ment of po­ten­tial ali­en­a­tion is al­ways in­volved. In this con­nec­tion we can only briefly refer to two as­pects of this com­plex prob­lem­at­ics:

  1. A ne­ces­sary pre­con­di­tion for any in­di­vidu­al to ac­quire his per­son­al­ity is to be in a mul­ti­pli­city of re­la­tions with oth­er people, us­ing, for self-de­vel­op­ment, the means and tools he is giv­en (at least up to a cer­tain point of in­de­pend­ence and ma­tur­ity), and try­ing out his own forces in­so­far as he is cap­able of identi­fy­ing them in a re­cip­roc­al in­ter­change with oth­ers, provided that they are no­tice­ably present in some form in his fel­low men. To ab­ol­ish, ab­so­lutely and defin­it­ively, all ele­ments of ali­en­a­tion and re­ific­a­tion in this re­spect would, again, be only pos­sible by ideal­iz­ing these re­la­tions to such an ex­tent that they would sharply con­tra­dict all pos­sible re­la­tions between the real in­di­vidu­al and so­ci­ety.
  2. One of the strik­ing fea­tures of this prob­lem is that for the in­di­vidu­al — wheth­er he is con­scious of it or not — his own self-real­iz­a­tion is, in the first place, ne­ces­sar­ily a task of fit­ting in­to the ex­ist­ing and avail­able (but of course not cre­ated spe­cific­ally for him) roles and func­tions. Later he may be able to en­large their lim­its or to break out of them if they are in­cap­able of ad­apt­a­tion and if his strength to break out en­coun­ters no de­feat­ing res­ist­ance. Nev­er­the­less the prob­lem re­mains that the in­di­vidu­al can real­ize his own powers only if he has out­lets for them, if, that is, his fel­low-men are able and will­ing to take what he has to of­fer.

Also, the re­la­tion­ship between so­ci­ety and tech­no­logy is not free from prob­lems with ser­i­ous im­plic­a­tions. In a let­ter to Annen­kov (28 Dec. 1846) Marx made the im­port­ant dis­tinc­tion between tech­no­logy and its so­cially de­term­ined ap­plic­a­tion. This dis­tinc­tion, however, can­not mean that tech­no­logy it­self is totally neut­ral in this re­spect, for all de­term­in­ants are also them­selves de­term­ined.26

Tech­no­logy is neut­ral in prin­ciple, but a giv­en form of es­tab­lished tech­no­logy is not. Every form of tech­no­logy has its lim­its not only in the quant­ity of its products but also — and this is the rel­ev­ant point here — in the qual­ity of hu­man needs it is best suited to sat­is­fy. This im­plies the danger of dis­tort­ing the whole range of hu­man needs in the dir­ec­tion of the “min­im­um res­ist­ance,” or the “op­tim­al al­loc­a­tion of hu­man re­sources,” etc., which in its turn — since con­sump­tion reaches back to pro­duc­tion — can again en­hance those po­ten­tials of the giv­en tech­no­logy which in the first place ten­ded to pro­duce ser­i­ously dis­tort­ing ef­fects. Evid­ently against this danger one has to ap­peal to so­cial pri­or­it­ies, in­volving a most thor­ough ex­am­in­a­tion of the whole com­plex­ity of hu­man needs. In this sort of ex­am­in­a­tion and as­sess­ment the tasks fa­cing any form of so­ci­ety must be for­mu­lated also in terms of a con­stant struggle against the ali­en­at­ing po­ten­tials of tech­no­logy.

All these prob­lems, nev­er­the­less, are cap­able of a solu­tion, though of course only of a dia­lect­ic­al one. In our as­sess­ment of the tran­scend­ence of ali­en­a­tion it is vi­tally im­port­ant to keep the “time­less” as­pects of this prob­lem­at­ics in their prop­er per­spect­ives. Oth­er­wise they can eas­ily be­come am­muni­tion for those who want to glor­i­fy cap­it­al­ist ali­en­a­tion as a «ten­sion inséparable de l’ex­ist­ence».

What the prob­lems de­scribed above really amount to can be summed up as fol­lows:

  1. that no a pri­ori safe­guards and as­sur­ances can be giv­en for a prac­tic­al su­per­ses­sion of ali­en­a­tion, since the is­sues in­volved are them­selves in­her­ently so­ciohis­tor­ic­al;
  2. that there are some dangers of ali­en­a­tion which are in­her­ent in the re­ify­ing po­ten­tial of cer­tain in­stru­ments and in­sti­tu­tions of hu­man in­ter­change;
  3. and that no achieve­ment in this re­spect (however rad­ic­al and im­port­ant) can be con­sidered an ab­so­lutely defin­it­ive (per­man­ent) „Auf­hebung“ of all pos­sible forms of ali­en­a­tion.

Dangers, nev­er­the­less, can be con­trolled, at least in prin­ciple. And this is pre­cisely what is denied by the mys­ti­fi­ers who first make his­tory stop ar­bit­rar­ily at its cap­it­al­ist phase, char­ac­ter­ized by an ac­tu­al lack of con­trol, and then con­clude that hu­man “ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tions” are un­con­trol­lable in prin­ciple. They mis­rep­res­ent dangers and ali­en­at­ing po­ten­tials as meta­phys­ic­al ne­ces­sit­ies (by call­ing ali­en­a­tion a «ten­sion in­sé­pa­rable de l’exis­tence», a “fun­da­ment­al di­men­sion of his­tory,” etc.) in or­der to jus­ti­fy the ex­ist­ing, so­ciohis­tor­ic­ally spe­cif­ic and tran­scend­able ac­tu­al­ity of cap­it­al­ist ali­en­a­tion as an in­es­cap­able, ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity. Thus in op­pos­i­tion to the dy­nam­ic, so­ciohis­tor­ic­ally con­crete, dia­lect­ic­al on­to­logy of Marx they of­fer a frozen, meta­phys­ic­al, an­ti­his­tor­ic­al, “phe­nomen­o­lo­gic­al” pseudo-on­to­logy. To say that “ali­en­a­tion is a fun­da­ment­al di­men­sion of his­tory” is to neg­ate his­tory al­to­geth­er. An “on­to­logy” based on the found­a­tions of such a neg­a­tion is noth­ing but a mys­ti­fy­ing pro­jec­tion of cap­it­al­ist ali­en­a­tion and re­ific­a­tion on a “time­less” scale.

The ali­en­at­ing po­ten­tials in­her­ent in the in­stru­ments and in­sti­tu­tions of hu­man in­ter­course can be con­trolled provided that they are re­cog­nized as in­stru­ments and con­sciously brought in­to re­la­tion with hu­man ends. And this is where we can identi­fy what is really at stake and in what way and form is the so­ciohis­tor­ic­ally spe­cif­ic, cap­it­al­ist, ali­en­a­tion in­volved in the mat­ter. For it is not in the “on­to­lo­gic­al” nature of the in­stru­ments them­selves that they get “out of con­trol” and turn from means in­to self-sus­tain­ing ends. It is not the on­to­lo­gic­ally fun­da­ment­al first or­der me­di­ation between man and nature that is at stake here (i.e. not the fact that hu­man be­ings have to pro­duce in or­der to sur­vive, and that no pro­duc­tion is con­ceiv­able without in­stru­ments of some kind) but the cap­it­al­ist form of second or­der me­di­ations. Hu­man in­stru­ments are not un­con­trol­lable un­der cap­it­al­ism be­cause they are in­stru­ments (it is a sheer mys­ti­fic­a­tion to say that they rep­res­ent an «al­té­ri­té in­sur­mon­table» be­cause they are dis­tinct from “hu­man self-con­scious­ness” [«la con­science de soi hu­maine»]) but be­cause they are the in­stru­ments — spe­cif­ic, re­ified second or­der me­di­ations — of cap­it­al­ism. As such they can­not pos­sibly func­tion, ex­cept in a “re­ified” form; if, that is, they con­trol man in­stead of be­ing con­trolled by him. It is, there­fore, not their uni­ver­sal char­ac­ter­ist­ic of be­ing in­stru­ments that is dir­ectly in­volved in ali­en­a­tion but their spe­cificity of be­ing in­stru­ments of a cer­tain type. It is in­deed one of the dif­fer­en­tia spe­cifica of cap­it­al­ist­ic in­stru­ments that they rep­res­ent an «al­té­ri­té in­sur­mon­table» to the «con­science de soi hu­maine» which is in­cap­able of con­trolling them. Pre­cisely be­cause they are cap­it­al­ist­ic second or­der me­di­ations — the fet­ish char­ac­ter of com­mod­ity, ex­change and money; wage-labor; ant­ag­on­ist­ic com­pet­i­tion; in­tern­al con­tra­dic­tions me­di­ated by the bour­geois state; the mar­ket; the re­ific­a­tion of cul­ture; etc. — it is ne­ces­sar­ily in­her­ent in their “es­sence” of be­ing “mech­an­isms of con­trol” that they must elude hu­man con­trol. This is why they must be rad­ic­ally su­per­seded: the “ex­pro­pri­at­ors must be ex­pro­pri­ated”; “the bour­geois state must be over­thrown”; ant­ag­on­ist­ic com­pet­i­tion, com­mod­ity-pro­duc­tion, wage-labor, the mar­ket, money-fet­ish­ism must be elim­in­ated; the bour­geois he­ge­mony of cul­ture must be broken, etc. Con­sequently the pro­gram of su­per­sed­ing cap­it­al­ist ali­en­a­tion can be con­cret­ized as the re­place­ment of the un­con­trol­lable, re­ified in­stru­ments of cap­it­al­ism by con­trol­lable in­stru­ments of hu­man in­ter­change. For in the very mo­ment in which man suc­ceeds in con­sciously sub­or­din­at­ing his in­stru­ments to the real­iz­a­tion of his own ends their «altérité in­sur­mont­able» is sur­moun­ted.

It goes without say­ing, a rad­ic­al trans­form­a­tion of this mag­nitude can­not hap­pen overnight. The “ex­pro­pri­ation of the ex­pro­pri­at­ors” is no more than the first act of a long and im­mensely com­plex pro­cess of change, char­ac­ter­ized by the dia­lectic of “con­tinu­ity in dis­con­tinu­ity” and “dis­con­tinu­ity in con­tinu­ity.” Grant­ing that it is un­think­able to su­per­sede ali­en­a­tion in a form that could be con­sidered as ab­so­lutely and def­in­itely su­per­sed­ing all pos­sible dangers and po­ten­tials of re­ific­a­tion, is fully com­pat­ible with con­ceiv­ing „Auf­hebung“ as a suc­ces­sion of so­cial en­ter­prises of which the later is less (in­deed qual­it­at­ively less) ali­en­a­tion-rid­den than the pre­ced­ing one. What mat­ters is not only the giv­en amount and ex­tent of something you fight against — as crim­in­o­lo­gists know all too well — but also the gen­er­al trend of de­vel­op­ment of the phe­nomen­on in ques­tion. Cap­it­al­ism is not char­ac­ter­ized simply by ali­en­a­tion and re­ific­a­tion but, at the same time, also by the max­im­iz­a­tion of the trend of ali­en­a­tion, to the point where the very ex­ist­ence of man­kind is now at stake.

What gives sense to hu­man en­ter­prise in so­cial­ism is not the fic­ti­tious prom­ise of a fic­ti­tious ab­so­lute (a world from which all pos­sible con­tra­dic­tion is elim­in­ated for ever) but the real pos­sib­il­ity of turn­ing a men­acingly in­creas­ing trend of ali­en­a­tion in­to a re­as­sur­ingly de­creas­ing one. This it­self would already be a qual­it­at­ive achieve­ment on the road to an ef­fect­ive, prac­tic­al su­per­ses­sion of ali­en­a­tion and re­ific­a­tion. But fur­ther qual­it­at­ive achieve­ments are pos­sible which can be pin­pointed not only in terms of the re­versal of the gen­er­al trend it­self but also as re­gards the sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent — self-ful­filling — char­ac­ter of spe­cif­ic forms of hu­man activ­ity which are freed from their sub­jec­tion to ali­en­ated means serving the pur­pose of the per­petu­ation of the re­ified so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion.

The sub­sti­tu­tion of con­sciously con­trolled in­stru­ments and means of hu­man in­ter­change for the ex­ist­ing, cap­it­al­ist­ic­ally ali­en­ated and re­ified “second or­der me­di­ations” is the so­ciohis­tor­ic­ally con­crete pro­gram of this tran­scend­ence. As to the “time­less” as­pects of the dangers in­her­ent in the in­stru­ments them­selves, as we have seen they are not time­less at all be­cause mere po­ten­ti­al­it­ies can­not be­come real­it­ies without the prac­tic­al in­ter­ven­tion of so­ciohis­tor­ic­ally al­ways spe­cif­ic forms of hu­man agency. Wheth­er or not such po­ten­ti­al­it­ies re­main mere po­ten­ti­al­it­ies or be­come de­hu­man­iz­ing real­it­ies de­pends en­tirely on the spe­cif­ic nature of the in­ter­ven­ing hu­man agency. If, there­fore, the cap­it­al­ist­ic­ally ali­en­ated second or­der me­di­ations — which are a pri­ori, by their “es­sence,” in­com­pat­ible with hu­man con­trol — are ab­ol­ished and re­placed by in­stru­ments de­vised for the real­iz­a­tion of con­sciously ad­op­ted hu­man aims, then whatever dangers and po­ten­tials of ali­en­a­tion may present them­selves at any stage of his­tory, they must, in prin­ciple, be cap­able of hu­man mas­tery and con­trol.

His­tory, there­fore, in the Marxi­an con­cep­tion re­mains his­tory, which means simply that the in­stru­ments and forms of hu­man in­ter­change are con­ceived by Marx as in­her­ently his­tor­ic­al, chan­ging, so­ciohis­tor­ic­ally spe­cif­ic — at any stage what­so­ever of hu­man de­vel­op­ment.27 And this is the point where we can clearly see the prac­tic­al im­plic­a­tions of the dif­fer­ence between an “open” and a “closed” sys­tem dis­cussed else­where in gen­er­al terms.

Marx op­poses to the ac­tu­al, prac­tic­al mys­ti­fic­a­tion of cap­it­al­ism — which is only re­flec­ted in an ali­en­ated form in the vari­ous philo­soph­ic­al ra­tion­al­iz­a­tions of the prac­tic­al neg­a­tion of his­tory by cap­it­al­ism — the open­ness of his con­cep­tion : the as­ser­tion of a «historicité in­sur­mont­able» of hu­man ex­ist­ence. By con­trast the Hegel­i­an cat­egor­ies were mere con­cepts, lo­gic­al ab­strac­tions; — there­fore their “his­tor­icity,” too, was a “spec­u­lat­ive” one, i.e. ter­min­able at the point which rep­res­en­ted the so­ciohis­tor­ic­al lim­its of the philo­soph­er’s stand­point. (“The stand­point of polit­ic­al eco­nomy”). In­deed, since Hegel was op­er­at­ing with lo­gic­al ab­strac­tions as his cat­egor­ies, his cat­egory of his­tor­icity too had to be in­tro­duced in­to his con­cep­tion in the form of a lo­gic­al ab­strac­tion, a mere concept. And just as eas­ily — and ar­bit­rar­ily — as one spec­u­lat­ively in­tro­duces the cat­egory of his­tor­icity in­to such a sys­tem, just as eas­ily one can bring to an end the whole “ab­stract, spec­u­lat­ive, lo­gic­al” pro­cess. This is why in the end the Hegel­i­an con­cep­tion of tele­ology must turn out to be a pe­cu­li­ar ver­sion of theo­lo­gic­al tele­ology. And a “his­tor­ic­al on­to­logy” which is based on a theo­lo­gic­al theo­logy is not only a closed, spec­u­lat­ive, pseudo­his­tor­ic­al sys­tem but also a meta­phys­ic­al on­to­logy.

By con­trast the Marxi­an on­to­logy is dy­nam­ic­ally his­tor­ic­al and ob­ject­ively dy­nam­ic. Marx does not “de­duce” hu­man so­ci­ety from the “cat­egor­ies” but, on the con­trary, sees the lat­ter as spe­cif­ic modes of ex­ist­ence of the so­cial be­ing. He does not “add” his­tor­icity to an ori­gin­ally stat­ic vis­ion; for if his­tor­icity is merely ad­ded at a cer­tain point it can be also taken away at an­oth­er. In­stead he defines the on­to­lo­gic­al sub­stance of his con­cep­tion as “the self-me­di­at­ing be­ing of nature,” i.e. as an ob­ject­ive be­ing who can­not help be­ing in­her­ently his­tor­ic­al.

Man, in the Marxi­an con­cep­tion, is not a “di­men­sion of his­tory” but, on the con­trary, hu­man his­tory is a di­men­sion of man as a self-me­di­at­ing ob­ject­ive be­ing of nature. Only an ob­ject­ive be­ing can be his­tor­ic­al, and an ob­ject­ive be­ing can only be his­tor­ic­al. His­tory is a mean­ing­less ab­strac­tion un­less it is re­lated to an ob­ject­ive be­ing. In this dual sense his­tory is, there­fore, a di­men­sion of man as an ob­ject­ive, self-me­di­at­ing be­ing of nature.

If, however, his­tory is a di­men­sion of man, ali­en­a­tion can­not be “a fun­da­ment­al di­men­sion of his­tory.” Be­ing a di­men­sion of an ob­ject­ive be­ing, his­tory can­not have any di­men­sion of its own — let alone one which is the dir­ect neg­a­tion of all his­tor­icity. By turn­ing ali­en­a­tion in­to “a fun­da­ment­al di­men­sion of his­tory,” Heide­g­ger li­quid­ates the his­tor­icity of an in­her­ently his­tor­ic­al, ob­ject­ive be­ing. In­so­far as ali­en­a­tion is a neg­a­tion of hu­man­ness, it is char­ac­ter­ist­ic of a cer­tain phase of his­tory, of a cer­tain stage of de­vel­op­ment of the so­cial on­to­logy of the ob­ject­ive “self-me­di­at­ing be­ing of nature.”

A phase which per­petu­ates it­self through the re­ific­a­tion of the so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion and, in­so­far as it suc­ceeds in this self-per­petu­ation, it prac­tic­ally neg­ates his­tory, by op­pos­ing the power of the re­ified in­sti­tu­tions of hu­man in­ter­change to all hu­man ef­forts which aim at the re­place­ment of the un­con­trol­lable in­stru­ments of cap­it­al­ism. This ac­tu­al, prac­tic­al neg­a­tion of his­tory by the cap­it­al­ist­ic­ally re­ified so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion is mys­ti­fied by Heide­g­ger and oth­ers, in their ef­fort to trans­fer the so­ciohis­tor­ic­ally spe­cif­ic phe­nom­ena of cap­it­al­ist ali­en­a­tion and re­ific­a­tion to the etern­al, “fun­da­ment­al,” meta­phys­ic­al plane of an anti-his­tor­ic­al, frozen on­to­logy. This is why time and his­tory must be “sub­stan­tial­ized” and giv­en some fic­ti­tious “fun­da­ment­al di­men­sions”: so that man should be de­prived of his his­tor­ic­al di­men­sion and con­fron­ted, in­stead, with the un­con­trol­lable power of a myth­ic­al “his­tory” equated with an al­leged meta­phys­ic­al “etern­al­ity” and “fun­da­ment­al­ity” of ali­en­a­tion in the pseudo-his­tor­ic­al “thrown­ness” [„Ge­wor­fen­heit“] of hu­man ex­ist­ence.

In the Marxi­an con­cep­tion — against which all these mys­ti­fic­a­tions are dir­ec­ted — both ali­en­a­tion and its tran­scend­ence must be defined in terms of the ob­ject­ive ne­ces­sit­ies that char­ac­ter­ize the ob­ject­ive so­cial on­to­logy of the “self-me­di­at­ing be­ing of nature.” The ne­ces­sity of ali­en­a­tion is defined as a ne­ces­sity in­her­ent in the ob­ject­ive tele­ology of hu­man “self-de­vel­op­ment and self-me­di­ation” at a cer­tain stage of de­vel­op­ment of hu­man pro­duct­ive activ­ity which re­quires such ali­en­a­tion and re­ific­a­tion for the — however ali­en­ated — self-real­iz­a­tion of hu­man po­ten­ti­al­it­ies. Since this ne­ces­sity of ali­en­a­tion is a his­tor­ic­al ne­ces­sity, it is bound to be su­per­seded [aufge­hoben] through the con­crete his­tor­ic­al de­vel­op­ment of the same pro­duct­ive activ­ity, provided that:

  1. the de­vel­op­ment of the pro­duct­ive forces al­lows the rad­ic­al neg­a­tion of cap­it­al­ist­ic ali­en­a­tion;
  2. that the ripen­ing of the so­cial con­tra­dic­tions of cap­it­al­ism (in the closest in­ter­change with the de­vel­op­ment of the pro­duct­ive forces) com­pels man to move in the dir­ec­tion of an „Auf­hebung“;
  3. that the in­sights of hu­man be­ings in­to the ob­ject­ive char­ac­ter­ist­ics of their in­stru­ments en­able them to elab­or­ate those forms of con­trol and in­ter­change which pre­vent the re­pro­duc­tion of the old con­tra­dic­tions in some new form;
  4. and that the rad­ic­al trans­form­a­tion of edu­ca­tion from be­ing a mere in­stru­ment of bour­geois he­ge­mony in­to an or­gan of self-de­vel­op­ment and con­scious self-me­di­ation in­spires the in­di­vidu­als to pro­duce “ac­cord­ing to their real hu­man cap­ab­il­it­ies” — uni­fy­ing know­ledge and ideals, design and ex­e­cu­tion, the­ory and prac­tice, as well as in­teg­rat­ing the par­tic­u­lar as­pir­a­tions of the so­cial in­di­vidu­als in­to the con­sciously ad­op­ted gen­er­al aims of so­ci­ety as a whole.

The tran­scend­ence of ali­en­a­tion thus can­not be meas­ured merely in terms of pro­duc­tion per cap­ita, or any­thing like that. Since the whole pro­cess dir­ectly in­volves the in­di­vidu­al, the “meas­ure” of suc­cess can hardly be oth­er than the real hu­man in­di­vidu­al him­self.

In terms of such a meas­ure, the tran­scend­ence of ali­en­a­tion — its de­creas­ing hold over men — is in an in­verse ra­tio to the in­creas­ingly fuller self-real­iz­a­tion of the so­cial in­di­vidu­al. Since, however, the in­di­vidu­al’s self-real­iz­a­tion can­not be ab­strac­ted from the so­ci­ety in which he lives, this ques­tion is in­sep­ar­able from that of the con­crete in­ter­re­la­tions between in­di­vidu­al and so­ci­ety or the types and forms of so­cial in­sti­tu­tions in which the in­di­vidu­al may be able to in­teg­rate him­self.


1 Marx-En­gels, The Ger­man Ideo­logy (In­ter­na­tion­al Pub­lish­ers Co., New York, 1947), p. 22.
2 John Macmur­ray, “The Early De­vel­op­ment of Karl Marx’s Thought,” in Chris­tian­ity and the So­cial Re­volu­tion, ed­ited by John Lewis, Karl Po­la­nyi, Don­ald K. Kit­chin (Vic­tor Gol­lancz Ltd., Lon­don, 1935), pp. 209-10.
3 Marx-En­gels, The Ger­man Ideo­logy. Ed­ited with an In­tro­duc­tion by Roy Pas­cal (In­ter­na­tion­al Pub­lish­ers Co., New York, 1947), pg. 24.
4 Ibid., pg. 68.
5 Ibid., pg. 202.
6 Ibid., pg. 68.
7 Marx-En­gels, Mani­festo of the Com­mun­ist Party. In Se­lec­ted Works, ed. cit., Vol. I, pg. 58.
8 Marx, In­tro­duc­tion to a Cri­tique of the Hegel­i­an Philo­sophy of Right. In Marx-En­gels On Re­li­gion (Mo­scow, 1957), pgs. 41, 49, 56-57.
9 Marx, Cap­it­al, ed. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 800.
10 Marx-En­gels On Re­li­gion, ed. cit., p. 53.
11 The Ger­man Ideo­logy: “As long as man re­mains in nat­ur­al so­ci­ety, that is, as long as a cleav­age ex­ists between the par­tic­u­lar and the com­mon in­terest, as long, there­fore, as activ­ity is not vol­un­tar­ily, but nat­ur­ally, di­vided, man’s own deed be­comes an ali­en power op­posed to him, which en­slaves him in­stead of be­ing con­trolled by him” (pgs. 44-45). “Just be­cause in­di­vidu­als seek only their par­tic­u­lar in­terest, which for them does not co­in­cide with their com­mun­al in­terest (in fact the gen­er­al is the il­lus­ory form of com­mun­al life), the lat­ter will be im­posed on them as an in­terest (‘ali­en’ to them, and ‘in­de­pend­ent’ of them, as in its turn a par­tic­u­lar, pe­cu­li­ar ‘gen­er­al’ in­terest; or they them­selves must re­main with­in this dis­cord, as in demo­cracy” (pg. 46). “With the com­mun­ist reg­u­la­tion of pro­duc­tion (and, im­pli­cit in this, the de­struc­tion of the ali­en re­la­tion between men and what they them­selves pro­duce), the power of the re­la­tion of sup­ply and de­mand is dis­solved in­to noth­ing” (pg. 47). “In his­tory up to the present it is cer­tainly an em­pir­ic­al fact that sep­ar­ate in­di­vidu­als have, with the broad­en­ing of their activ­ity in­to world-his­tor­ic­al activ­ity, be­come more and more en­slaved un­der a power ali­en to them” (pg. 49). “Con­di­tions which were pre­vi­ously aban­doned to chance and had won an in­de­pend­ent ex­ist­ence over against the sep­ar­ate in­di­vidu­als just be­cause of their sep­ar­a­tion as in­di­vidu­als, and be­cause of the ne­ces­sity of their com­bin­a­tion which had been de­term­ined by the di­vi­sion of labor, and through their sep­ar­a­tion had be­come a bond ali­en to them… Thus, in ima­gin­a­tion, in­di­vidu­als seem freer un­der the dom­in­ance of the bour­geois­ie than be­fore, be­cause their con­di­tions of life seem ac­ci­dent­al; in real­ity, of course, they are less free, be­cause they arc more sub­jec­ted to the vi­ol­ence of things” (pgs. 95-96).
……Mani­festo of the Com­mun­ist Party: “to com­mand the labor of oth­ers” (i.e. to rule over ali­en­ated labor, ed. cit., p. 48). “Com­mun­ism de­prives no man of the power to ap­pro­pri­ate the products of so­ci­ety; all that it does is to de­prive him of the power to sub­jug­ate the labor of oth­ers by means of such ap­pro­pri­ation” (pg. 49).
……Wage-Labor and Cap­it­al: “To say that the most fa­vor­able con­di­tion for wage labor is the most rap­id pos­sible growth of pro­duct­ive cap­it­al is only to say that the more rap­idly the work­ing class in­creases and en­larges the power that is hos­tile to it, the wealth that does not be­long to it and that rules over it, the more fa­vor­able will be the con­di­tions un­der which it is al­lowed to labor anew at in­creas­ing bour­geois wealth, at en­lar­ging the power of cap­it­al, con­tent with for­ging for it­self the golden chains by which the bour­geois­ie drags it in its train.” (Se­lec­ted Works, Vol. I, pg. 98).
……Out­lines of a Cri­tique of Polit­ic­al Eco­nomy [Grundrisse, Ro­hent­wurf]: “The stress is not on be­ing ob­jec­ti­fied, but on be­ing ali­en­ated, ex­tern­al­ized, es­tranged: on the fact that the im­mense ob­ject­ive power set up by so­cial labor, as one of its mo­ments, over against it­self, does not be­long to the work­er but to the per­son­i­fied con­di­tions of pro­duc­tion, i.e. to cap­it­al. Inas­much as at the stand­point of cap­it­al and wage-labor the pro­duc­tion of this ob­ject­ive body of activ­ity un­folds in op­pos­i­tion to dir­ect labor-power — this pro­cess of ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion ap­pears in fact as a pro­cess of ali­en­a­tion from the stand­point of labor and as ap­pro­pri­ation of ali­en labor from the stand­point of cap­it­al — this per­ver­sion and over­turn­ing is real, not ima­gined: it does not merely ex­ist in the mind of work­ers and cap­it­al­ists. But ob­vi­ously this pro­cess of over­turn­ing is only an his­tor­ic­al ne­ces­sity; it is a ne­ces­sity for the de­vel­op­ment of the pro­duct­ive forces from a cer­tain point of de­par­ture, or basis, but by no means an ab­so­lute ne­ces­sity of pro­duc­tion as such; rather it is a dis­ap­pear­ing ne­ces­sity, and the res­ult and end which is im­man­ent in this pro­cess is the su­per­ses­sion of this basis and of this par­tic­u­lar form of ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion. Bour­geois eco­nom­ists are so tied to the rep­res­ent­a­tions of a de­term­in­ate his­tor­ic­al stage of so­cial de­vel­op­ment that in their eyes the ne­ces­sary ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of labor’s so­cial powers is in­sep­ar­able from the lat­ter’s ne­ces­sary ali­en­a­tion from liv­ing labor. However, with the su­per­ses­sion of the dir­ect char­ac­ter of liv­ing labor as merely in­di­vidu­al — or as merely in­tern­ally, or only ex­tern­ally uni­ver­sal — labor, with the con­sti­tu­tion of the in­di­vidu­als’ activ­ity as dir­ectly uni­ver­sal, i.e. so­cial activ­ity, the ob­ject­ive mo­ments of pro­duc­tion will be freed of this form of ali­en­a­tion; they will be con­sti­tuted as prop­erty, as the or­gan­ic body of so­ci­ety in which the in­di­vidu­als re­pro­duce them­selves as in­di­vidu­als, but as so­cial in­di­vidu­als.”
……The­or­ies of Sur­plus-Value: “The rich have taken pos­ses­sion of all the con­di­tions of pro­duc­tion; [hence] the ali­en­a­tion of the con­di­tions of pro­duc­tion, which in their simplest form are the nat­ur­al ele­ments them­selves” (Part I, trans­lated by Emile Burns, Mo­scow, without date, pg. 335).
……“In­terest in it­self ex­presses pre­cisely the be­ing of the con­di­tions of labor as cap­it­al in its so­cial op­pos­i­tion to labor, and its meta­morph­oses as per­son­al powers over against labor. It sums up the ali­en­ated char­ac­ter of the con­di­tions of labor in re­la­tion to the activ­ity of the sub­ject. It rep­res­ents the prop­erty of cap­it­al — i.e. mere cap­it­al-own­er­ship — as a means to ap­pro­pri­ate the products of ali­en labor, as rule over ali­en labor. But it rep­res­ents this char­ac­ter of cap­it­al as something that comes from out­side the pro­cess of pro­duc­tion, and not as the res­ult of the spe­cif­ic de­term­in­a­tion of this pro­cess of pro­duc­tion it­self.”
……Cap­it­al: “the char­ac­ter of in­de­pend­ence and es­trange­ment which the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion as a whole gives to the in­stru­ments of labor and to the product, as against the work­man” (Vol. I, p. 432). “Since, be­fore en­ter­ing on the pro­cess, his own labor has already been ali­en­ated from him­self by the sale of his labor-power, has been ap­pro­pri­ated by the cap­it­al­ist and in­cor­por­ated with cap­it­al, it must, dur­ing the pro­cess, be real­ized in a product that does not be­long to him… The laborer there­fore con­stantly pro­duces ma­ter­i­al, ob­ject­ive wealth, but in the form of cap­it­al, of an ali­en power that dom­in­ates him; and the cap­it­al­ist as con­stantly pro­duces labor-power, but in the form of a sub­ject­ive source of wealth, sep­ar­ated from the ob­jects in and by which it can alone be real­ized; in short he pro­duces the laborer, but as a wage-laborer” (Vol. I, pgs. 570-571). “With­in the cap­it­al­ist sys­tem all meth­ods for rais­ing the so­cial pro­duct­ive­ness of labor are brought about at the cost of the in­di­vidu­al laborer; all means for the de­vel­op­ment of pro­duc­tion trans­form them­selves in­to means of dom­in­a­tion over, and ex­ploit­a­tion of, the pro­du­cers; they mu­til­ate the laborer in­to a frag­ment of a man, de­grade him to the level of an ap­pend­age of a ma­chine, des­troy every rem­nant of charm in his work and turn it in­to a hated toil; they es­trange from him the in­tel­lec­tu­al po­ten­ti­al­it­ies of the labor-pro­cess in the same pro­por­tion as sci­ence is in­cor­por­ated in it as an in­de­pend­ent power.” (Vol. I, pg. 645.) “These means of pro­duc­tion are in op­pos­i­tion to the own­er of the labor-power, be­ing prop­erty of an­oth­er [frem­des Ei­gentum]. On the oth­er hand the seller of labor faces its buy­er as labor-power of an­oth­er [frem­de Arbeit­skraft]” (Vol. II, pg. 29). “This con­cep­tion is so much the less sur­pris­ing since it ap­pears to ac­cord with fact, and since the re­la­tion­ship of cap­it­al ac­tu­ally con­ceals the in­ner con­nec­tion be­hind the ut­ter in­dif­fer­ence, isol­a­tion, and ali­en­a­tion in which they place the laborer. vis-à-vis the means in­cor­por­at­ing his labor.” (Vol. III, p. 84.)
……“However, it is not only the ali­en­a­tion and in­dif­fer­ence that arise between the laborer, the bear­er of liv­ing labor, and the eco­nom­ic­al, i.e., ra­tion­al and thrifty, use of the ma­ter­i­al con­di­tions of his labor.” (Vol. III, p. 86.) “Cap­it­al comes more and more to the fore as a so­cial power… It be­comes an ali­en­ated, in­de­pend­ent so­cial power, which stands op­posed to so­ci­ety as an ob­ject [Sache], and as an ob­ject that is the cap­it­al­ist’s source of power.” (Vol. III, p. 259.) “But un­der this sys­tem sep­ar­a­tion of the pro­du­cer from the means of pro­duc­tion [Ent­frem­dung der Produk­tions­bedin­gung vom Produzen­ten] re­flects an ac­tu­al re­volu­tion in the mode of pro­duc­tion it­self” (Vol. III, p. 583).
……“On the oth­er hand, it is just as nat­ur­al for the ac­tu­al agents of pro­duc­tion to feel com­pletely at home in these es­tranged and ir­ra­tion­al forms of cap­it­al — in­terest, land — rent, labor — wages, since these are pre­cisely the forms of il­lu­sion in which they move about and find their daily oc­cu­pa­tion” (Vol. III, pgs. 809-810).
12 In Re­vi­sion­ism: Es­says on the His­tory of Marx­ist Ideas, Ed­ited by L. Labedz (Al­len & Un­win Ltd., Lon­don, 1962), p. 201.
13 See Daniel Bell, The End of Ideo­logy, Re­vised Edi­tion (The Free Press, New York, 1965), pg. 433.
14 R.C. Tuck­er, Philo­sophy and Myth in Karl Marx (Cam­bridge Uni­versity Press, 1961), pg. 235, Tuck­er’s book is worth a closer look as a char­ac­ter­ist­ic ideo­lo­gic­al ef­fort. His line of ar­gu­ment runs as fol­lows. It is quite wrong to pay at­ten­tion to Marx as an eco­nom­ist, so­ci­olo­gist or polit­ic­al thinker. His philo­sophy must be un­der­stood as a “mor­al­ism of the re­li­gious kind” (pg. 21). As such it ought to be traced back to Ger­man philo­sophy — not­ably Kant, Hegel, and Feuerbach — which dis­plays a com­puls­ive drive for “self-ag­grand­ize­ment” and “self-in­fin­it­iz­ing,” i.e. a psy­cho­path­o­lo­gic­al as­pir­a­tion of man to be­come God. We are told by Tuck­er that “What made Hegel­ian­ism ir­res­ist­ibly com­pel­ling to young Marx was the theme of man’s soar­ing in­to the un­lim­ited. His own darkly proud and am­bi­tious nature, in which his wor­ried fath­er Hein­rich dis­cerned what he called a ‘Faust-like spir­it,’ was the key to his re­sponse” (pg. 74). All this is said quite ser­i­ously. If Hein­rich Marx dis­cov­ers in his son a “Faust-like spir­it,” there must be something deeply wrong with the Faust-like spir­it. “The Faust-theme is pride in the sense of self-glor­i­fic­a­tion and the res­ult­ing search for self-ag­grand­ize­ment” (pg. 31.) “Marx’s main work is an in­ner drama pro­jec­ted as a so­cial drama” (pg. 221) — but Marx de­ceives him­self about its real nature. Just like Feuerbach — as Hegel be­fore him — who did not real­ize that when he ana­lyzed re­li­gion he was in fact talk­ing about “the neur­ot­ic phe­nomen­on of hu­man self-glor­i­fic­a­tion or pride, and the es­trange­ment of the self that res­ults from it” (pg. 93), Marx had no idea that in his pre­sumed ana­lys­is of cap­it­al­ism he un­con­sciously painted something re­sem­bling Robert Louis Steven­son’s Dr. Je­kyll and Mr. Hyde: a purely psy­cho­lo­gic­al prob­lem, re­lated to an en­tirely “in­di­vidu­al mat­ter” (pg. 240). “Be­ing a suf­fer­ing in­di­vidu­al him­self,, who had pro­jec­ted upon the out­er world an in­ner drama of op­pres­sion, he saw suf­fer­ing every­where” (pg. 237); “the in­ner con­flict of ali­en­ated man with him­self be­came, in Marx’s mind, a. so­cial con­flict between ‘labor’ and ‘cap­it­al,’ and the ali­en­ated spe­cies-self be­came the class-di­vided so­ci­ety. Self-ali­en­a­tion was pro­jec­ted as a so­cial phe­nomen­on, and Marx’s psy­cho­lo­gic­al ori­gin­al sys­tem turned in­to his ap­par­ently so­ci­olo­gic­al ma­ture one” (pg. 175).
……All this can be summed up in one sen­tence: Marx was a neur­ot­ic who — after ex­per­i­en­cing the in­ner drama of his own darkly proud and am­bi­tious per­son­al­ity and after ex­press­ing it in his ori­gin­al psy­cho­lo­gic­al sys­tem — suc­cumbed to total self-de­cep­tion and myth­ic­ally pro­jec­ted his in­ner drama on the out­side world, mis­lead­ing people in­to be­liev­ing that ali­en­a­tion was not an en­tirely in­di­vidu­al mat­ter but primar­ily a so­cial prob­lem with pos­sible so­cial solu­tions to it.
……Tuck­er’s book is full of in­con­sist­en­cies and self-con­tra­dic­tions. One of them con­cerns the ques­tion: “Two Marx­isms or One.” We get con­tra­dict­ory an­swers to this ques­tion : (1) there are two Marx­isms: “ori­gin­al Marx­ism” and “ma­ture Marx­ism”; (2) there is one Marx­ism only; the dif­fer­ences are merely ter­min­o­lo­gic­al; e.g. “‘di­vi­sion of labor’ be­comes the com­pre­hens­ive cat­egory of ma­ture Marx­ism cor­res­pond­ing to the cat­egory ‘self-ali­en­a­tion’ in ori­gin­al Marx­ism” (pg. 185).
……The so-called “ori­gin­al Marx­ism” is sup­posed to be an “openly sub­ject­iv­ist­ic, psy­cho­lo­gic­al ori­gin­al sys­tem.” The most con­spicu­ous dif­fer­ence between the “ori­gin­al” and the “ma­ture sys­tem” is, we are told, that “self-ali­en­ated man, who was the cent­ral sub­ject of ori­gin­al Marx­ism, dis­ap­pears from view in the later ver­sion” (pg. 165). As re­gards the time of this al­leged trans­form­a­tion we are giv­en, again, con­tra­dict­ory an­swers. First we learn that it began “ap­prox­im­ately with the state­ment of the Ma­ter­i­al­ist Con­cep­tion of His­tory by Marx in The Ger­man Ideo­logy (1845-1846)” (pg. 165) and that “Marx put for­ward this thor­oughly ‘so­cial­ized’ ver­sion of Marx­ism in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of his work on the manuscripts of 1844” (pg. 166). A few pages later, however, we are sur­prised with this state­ment: “The trans­ition to the seem­ingly ‘de­hu­man­ized’ ma­ture Marx­ism ac­tu­ally oc­curred at that point in the manuscripts of 1844 where Marx de­cided, un­cer­tainly but ir­re­voc­ably, that man’s self-ali­en­a­tion could and should be grasped as a so­cial re­la­tion ‘of man to man’” (pg. 175). This state­ment con­tra­dicts not only the pre­vi­ous as­ser­tions but also an earli­er ref­er­ence to Marx’s es­say On the Jew­ish Ques­tion (1843). There, after quot­ing Marx, Tuck­er ad­ded: “Marx con­cludes that the lib­er­a­tion of man from ali­en­a­tion in the state, un­like his lib­er­a­tion from re­li­gion, will re­quire a real so­cial re­volu­tion” (pg. 105). Now he wants us to be­lieve that one year later, in his “psy­cho­lo­gic­al sys­tem” of 1844, Marx’s con­cern with ali­en­a­tion was not at all so­cial but merely psy­cho­lo­gic­al, hav­ing in mind “the con­flict of an ali­en­ated gen­er­ic man with him­self” (pg. 173).
……The only place where Tuck­er makes an at­tempt at sub­stan­ti­at­ing with quo­ta­tions from Marx his own as­ser­tion that “man” means non-so­cial “gen­er­ic man” in the Manuscripts of 1844 is this: “Marx says that man is a nat­ur­al be­ing and must, like any oth­er nat­ur­al be­ing, un­der­go a de­vel­op­ment­al pro­cess or act of be­com­ing. This self-de­vel­op­ment pro­cess of man is the ‘act of world his­tory.’ By ‘man,’ moreover, Marx means man­kind or the hu­man spe­cies, fol­low­ing Feuerbach. The act of world his­tory is the self-real­iz­a­tion of man in this col­lect­ive or gen­er­ic sense. Marx, of course, does not over­look (any more than Hegel did) the ex­ist­ence of in­di­vidu­als as parts of and par­ti­cipants in the col­lect­ive life of the spe­cies. But the self-de­vel­op­ing be­ing of whom he speaks in his sys­tem is man writ large in the spe­cies. ‘The in­di­vidu­al life and spe­cies-life of man are not dis­tinct,’ he says, for ‘the de­term­in­ate in­di­vidu­al is only a de­term­in­ate spe­cies be­ing.’ The life of the in­di­vidu­al is a mi­cro­cosm of the life of man on the gen­er­ic scale. Ac­cord­ingly, the ‘man’ of whom Marx speaks in his manuscripts is un­der­stood as man in gen­er­al” (pgs. 129-130).
……Un­der­stood by whom? Cer­tainly not by Marx, for he main­tains, on every single point of this quo­ta­tion, the ex­act op­pos­ite of Tuck­er’s as­ser­tions. He does not think that man must “un­der­go” a de­vel­op­ment­al pro­cess “like any oth­er nat­ur­al be­ing.”
……On the con­trary, he says that un­like all the oth­er nat­ur­al be­ings man de­vel­ops him­self — cre­ates him­self — through his labor in so­ci­ety, and thus he is the only be­ing who has a his­tory of his own. Also, as we have already seen, Marx does not fol­low Feuerbach in un­der­stand­ing by man “gen­er­ic man” but, on the con­trary, he rad­ic­ally de­parts from this ab­strac­tion and the du­al­ism im­pli­cit in it. Nor does he be­lieve that there is such a thing as the sep­ar­ate “col­lect­ive life of the spe­cies” or “the life of man on the gen­er­ic scale” (whatever that may mean). On the con­trary, he in­sists that the dif­fer­ence amounts only to that of a “mode of ex­ist­ence” as re­flec­ted in hu­man con­scious­ness, and that the cen­ter of ref­er­ence of the es­sen­tial unity between the in­di­vidu­al and the spe­cies is the “real in­di­vidu­al so­cial be­ing.”
……The pas­sage from which Tuck­er quotes is full of ex­pres­sions like “real com­munity,” “so­cial fab­ric,” “so­cial be­ing,” “so­cial life” and “so­cial ex­ist­ence,” but they are all care­fully avoided by our learned au­thor, in or­der to give a semb­lance of au­then­ti­city to the as­ser­tion ac­cord­ing to which man means “gen­er­ic man” in Marx’s “psy­cho­lo­gic­al” and “openly sub­ject­iv­ist­ic ori­gin­al sys­tem.” What Marx was ac­tu­ally con­cerned with in this pas­sage (see MSS of 1844, pgs. 104-105, and T.B. Bot­to­more’s trans­la­tion, pgs. 158-159) was to point, in a dir­ect cri­ti­cism of ab­stract philo­soph­iz­ing, to the unity of think­ing and be­ing, the spe­cies and the in­di­vidu­al, find­ing this unity, as we have seen, in the “real in­di­vidu­al so­cial be­ing” who is at the same time “a de­term­in­ate spe­cies be­ing.” He did not say that they are not “dis­tinct” — oth­er­wise how could they pos­sibly form a dia­lect­ic­al unity: the lack of dis­tinct­ness would amount to a simple iden­tity. He only in­sisted that, since they are not “dif­fer­ent things” (Bot­to­more’s trans­la­tion, pg. 158), they should not be op­posed to each oth­er. In oth­er words, this is a re­jec­tion of the Hegel­i­an solu­tion which de­clares that the in­di­vidu­al has to ac­cept ali­en­a­tion in his ac­tu­al life, for the su­per­ses­sion of ali­en­a­tion (i.e. the real­iz­a­tion of spe­cies-life) is to be achieved merely in thought, not in be­ing: in a fic­ti­tious “tran­scend­ence” of ali­en­a­tion which leaves the real ex­ist­ence of the par­tic­u­lar in­di­vidu­al as ali­en­ated as be­fore. This is what Marx was talk­ing about, fully en­gaged in for­mu­lat­ing the ques­tion of su­per­sed­ing ali­en­a­tion as a so­cial pro­gram centered around man as a “real in­di­vidu­al so­cial be­ing,” in op­pos­i­tion to the gen­er­ic char­ac­ter of ab­stract philo­soph­iz­ing on the one hand and to “the rees­tab­lish­ing of ‘so­ci­ety’ as an ab­strac­tion vis-à-vis the in­di­vidu­al” on the oth­er.
……There is no space to go on much longer with the dis­cus­sion of the nu­mer­ous in­con­sist­en­cies and mis­in­ter­pret­a­tions we find in Tuck­er’s book. To the ex­amples dis­cussed so far we can only add his treat­ment of the prob­lems of (1) the di­vi­sion of labor; and (2) “ego­ist­ic need” and “com­pet­i­tion.”
…………(1) We are told that Marx’s concept of the di­vi­sion of labor is noth­ing but a “trans­la­tion of the ori­gin­al psy­cho­lo­gic­al term: “self-ali­en­a­tion” in­to the mys­ti­fied “ap­par­ently so­ci­olo­gic­al” terms of “ma­ture Marx­ism.” This in­ter­pret­a­tion is un­ten­able not only be­cause “self-ali­en­a­tion” for Marx has nev­er been a merely psy­cho­lo­gic­al term but also be­cause “di­vi­sion of labor” played an ex­tremely im­port­ant part, as we have seen, in the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts of 1844.
…………(2) The con­cepts of “money wor­ship” and “ego­ist­ic need” are treated as un­con­scious pro­jec­tions of the psy­cho­lo­gic­al urge for “self-ag­grand­ize­ment,” and it is stated that in Cap­it­al — as a re­versal of Marx’s earli­er po­s­i­tion — com­pet­i­tion is in­tro­duced as the source of the “ac­quis­it­ive mania.” But, we are told, this is a big mis­take be­cause “The whole sys­tem in­stantly col­lapses without the were­wolf hun­ger for sur­plus value as a primary un­der­ly­ing pos­tu­late” (pp. 216-217).
……One might ask: whose sys­tem? Marx’s sys­tem or Tuck­er’s psy­chi­at­ric ca­ri­ca­ture of it? To get the an­swer we should read the foot­note on pg. 217: “As men­tioned earli­er (pg. 138), Marx stated in the manuscripts of 1844, that the only wheels that set polit­ic­al eco­nomy in mo­tion are greed and the war among the greedy — com­pet­i­tion. Now he sug­gests that the lat­ter sets the former in mo­tion, or that the war is the cause of the greed. He must have been un­eas­ily aware that the whole struc­ture res­ted on the pos­tu­late of in­fin­ite greed as the driv­ing force of cap­it­al­ist pro­duc­tion. To sug­gest that this could be de­rived from the com­pet­it­ive mech­an­ism it­self was a way of min­im­iz­ing the total de­pend­ence of the sys­tem upon a highly ques­tion­able pos­tu­late, and at the same time of re­in­for­cing the pos­tu­late.” As a mat­ter of fact at the place re­ferred to by Tuck­er, Marx is talk­ing about the in­ab­il­ity of bour­geois polit­ic­al eco­nomy to go bey­ond ex­tern­al ap­pear­ances and get to the causes. (See MSS of 1844, pg. 68. In Bot­to­more’s even clear­er ver­sion: “The only mov­ing forces which polit­ic­al eco­nomy re­cog­nizes are av­arice and the war between the av­ar­i­cious, com­pet­i­tion.” pg. 121.) And there are many places in the Manuscripts of 1844 where Marx makes it amply clear that the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of cap­it­al (and thus “greed” coupled with it) is the ne­ces­sary res­ult of com­pet­i­tion, not its cause.
……The al­leged con­tra­dic­tion, there­fore, simply does not ex­ist in Marx. He is not con­cerned in the dis­puted pas­sage with the “com­pet­it­ive mech­an­ism” of cap­it­al­ism but with its dis­tor­ted re­flec­tion in the writ­ings of bour­geois polit­ic­al eco­nomy. There is no trace of a psy­cho­lo­gist­ic treat­ment of greed and com­pet­i­tion in the Manuscripts of 1844 but, on the con­trary, the clearest pos­sible state­ment of Marx’s re­jec­tion of the bour­geois no­tion of “ego­ist­ic man” (who is sup­posed to be selfish “by nature”). Thus the whole struc­ture of Tuck­er’s ar­gu­ment rests on a com­plete mis­un­der­stand­ing of the pas­sage which is sup­posed to es­tab­lish his whole case. Without his pos­tu­late of “in­fin­ite greed” (of which even in his own mis­trans­lated ver­sion of Marx’s words there is no trace) this whole am­a­teur­ish psy­chi­atry-centered con­struc­tion col­lapses.
……To sum up: read­ing the evid­ence presen­ted by Tuck­er in sup­port of his psy­chi­at­ric hy­po­thes­is, we find that the whole con­struc­tion is based on dis­tor­tions, mis­trans­la­tions, and some­times even on a com­plete mis­un­der­stand­ing of the pas­sages re­ferred to. Moreover, this book is full of in­con­sist­en­cies and self-con­tra­dic­tions. Thus the con­clu­sion is in­es­cap­able: Marx’s non­so­cial, openly sub­ject­iv­ist­ic, psy­cho­lo­gic­al sys­tem is a myth which ex­ists only in Tuck­er’s ima­gin­a­tion. Philo­sophy and Myth in Karl Marx is con­struc­ted around the dog­mat­ic as­ser­tion ac­cord­ing to which the fun­da­ment­al hu­man re­la­tion­ship is the in­di­vidu­al’s “in­fra-per­son­al” re­la­tion to him­self, and the re­la­tions of men to men are sec­ond­ary, de­riv­at­ive, etc. No at­tempt is made to prove this as­ser­tion, or even to put for­ward a single ar­gu­ment in its fa­vor. It is simply as­sumed by Tuck­er as self-evid­ent and as the ab­so­lute stand­ard of all eval­u­ation. Ac­cord­ingly, ali­en­a­tion is a merely in­di­vidu­al mat­ter: “No mat­ter how many in­di­vidu­al men may be­long to this cat­egory, it is al­ways an in­di­vidu­al mat­ter” (p. 240.) Thus the “su­per­ses­sion” of ali­en­a­tion must also be con­fined to the in­di­vidu­al’s ima­gin­a­tion: “Only so long as an ali­en­ated man can find in him­self the cour­age to re­cog­nize that the ‘ali­en power’ against which he rebels is a power with­in him, that the in­hu­man force which makes his life a forced labor is a force of the self, that the ‘ali­en, hos­tile, power­ful man’ is an in­ner man, the ab­so­lute be­ing of his ima­gin­a­tion, has he hope of tran­scend­ing his ali­en­a­tion” (pgs. 241-242). Here we can also see why this book is, des­pite its al­most un­be­liev­able in­tel­lec­tu­al stand­ard, a fa­vor­ite of men like Daniel Bell: for in this kind of a “rad­ic­al cri­tique of so­ci­ety” no men­tion is ever made of cap­it­al­ism in a neg­at­ive sense. The “rad­ic­al cri­tique of so­ci­ety” turns out to be a cri­tique of the “in­ner man” of the isol­ated in­di­vidu­al who finds in him­self alone the (merely psy­cho­lo­gic­al) causes of his own “self-ali­en­a­tion,” in­sist­ing that even the “forced labor” to which he is sub­jec­ted un­der the cap­it­al­ist­ic­ally re­ified so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion is only “a force of the self, a fea­ture of his own ima­gin­a­tion.”
15 Daniel Bell, The End of Ideo­logy, ed. cit., pgs. 365-366.
16 Over­whelm­ing in all works of Marx, in­clud­ing the tenden­tiously mis­rep­res­en­ted Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Manuscripts of 1844.
17 Bell, The End of Ideo­logy, ed. cit., pg. 362.
18 Char­ac­ter­ist­ic­ally enough, we read in Bell’s book: “The most in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sion of the thought of young Marx can be found in the re­cent study by Han­nah Aren­dt, The Hu­man Con­di­tion” (ed. cit., pg. 433).
19 Ibid., pg. 364.
20 In Marx-En­gels On Re­li­gion, ed. cit., pg. 42.
21 MEWE, Vol. 27, pg. 420.
22 MEWE, Vol. 27, pg. 425.
23 Marx-En­gels, The Ger­man Ideo­logy (Lawrence & Wis­hart, Lon­don, 1965), pg. 57.
24 Marx, Wage-Labor and Cap­it­al, In Marx-En­gels, Se­lec­ted Works, ed. cit., Vol. I, pgs. 82-83.
25 This is why we have to read with cau­tion Heine­mann’s as­ser­tion that “ex­ist­en­tial­ism is in all its forms a philo­sophy of crisis. It ex­presses the crisis of man openly and dir­ectly, where­as oth­er schools, like that of the lo­gic­al pos­it­iv­ists, ex­press it in­dir­ectly and un­con­sciously. For this reas­on, the fact of es­trange­ment in its enorm­ous com­plex­ity and many-sided­ness be­came cent­ral with them.” (F.H. Heine­mann, Ex­ist­en­tial­ism and the Mod­ern Pre­dic­a­ment, Adam & Charles Black, Lon­don, 1953, pg. 167.) That ex­ist­en­tial­ism is a philo­sophy of crisis may be true, ab­stractly speak­ing. However, the “crisis of man” is al­ways his­tor­ic­ally spe­cif­ic. In ex­ist­en­tial­ism it­self, it was the chan­ging nature of this crisis that gave rise to the very dif­fer­ent forms of the move­ment. It is highly in­ac­cur­ate to say that the cat­egory of ali­en­a­tion is cent­ral in ex­ist­en­tial­ism as a whole. Em­manuel Mouni­er is much more ac­cur­ate when he writes : “One can­not dis­cuss fun­da­ment­al es­trange­ment from a Chris­ti­an stand­point… This concept of es­trange­ment, which, from the Chris­ti­an stand­point so cat­egor­ic­ally denies the In­carn­a­tion of the tran­scend­ent be­ing in hu­man be­ing, is, by con­trast, a prom­in­ent fea­ture of the athe­ist branch of ex­ist­en­tial­ism.” (Ex­ist­en­tial­ist Philo­sophies. An In­tro­duc­tion). Trans­lated by Eric Blow, Rock­liff, Lon­don, 1948, pgs. 35-36. Mouni­er dis­tin­guishes between “fun­da­ment­al es­trange­ment” and “ac­ci­dent­al es­trange­ment.” This lat­ter is present, in vari­ous de­grees, in the dif­fer­ent forms of Chris­ti­an ex­ist­en­tial­ism as well). The gen­er­al con­cep­tu­al frame­work of a philo­soph­ic­al trend is mod­i­fied ac­cord­ing to the par­tic­u­lar so­ciohis­tor­ic­al situ­ations in which the philo­soph­ers con­ceive their works. There are very great dif­fer­ences in this re­spect among the vari­ous trends of ex­ist­en­tial­ism. In Kierkegaard’s writ­ings “ali­en­a­tion” is rather peri­pher­al, as com­pared to those of Sartre; and there are ex­ist­en­tial­ists — like Jaspers and Gab­ri­el Mar­cel, for in­stance — who are situ­ated some­where between the two ex­tremes. Be­sides, even when the no­tion of ali­en­a­tion plays an im­port­ant part in the philo­soph­er’s sys­tem, one should not ig­nore the dif­fer­ences in the so­cial sig­ni­fic­ance of its vari­ous in­ter­pret­a­tions. In the thirties and after the war the concept of ali­en­a­tion star­ted to play a great­er role in the vari­ous ex­ist­en­tial­ist ap­proaches to con­tem­por­ary prob­lems, re­flect­ing a more dy­nam­ic so­ciohis­tor­ic­al situ­ation. Mouni­er him­self — the prin­cip­al fig­ure of ex­ist­en­tial “per­son­al­ism” — re­for­mu­lated in this sense the pro­gram of his move­ment shortly after the war, in­sist­ing that “Le per­son­nal­isme est un ef­fort con­tinu pour cherch­er les zones où une vic­toire décisive sur toutes les formes d’op­pres­sion et d’aliénation, économique, so­ciale ou idéologique, peut déboucher sur une véritable libération de l’homme.” (In L’Es­prit, Janu­ary 1946, pg. 13.)
26 See Ir­ing Fetscher, Marx­is­musstud­i­en. In “So­viet Sur­vey,” No. 33 (Ju­ly-Septem­ber, 1960), p. 88.
27 Jean Hyp­polite, Études sur Marx et Hegel (Lib­rair­ie Mar­cel Rivière & Cie., Par­is, 1955), pgs. 101-102.
28 “It is su­per­flu­ous to add that men are not free to choose their pro­duct­ive forces — which are the basis of all their his­tory — for every pro­duct­ive force is an ac­quired force, the product of former activ­ity. The pro­duct­ive forces are there­fore the res­ult of prac­tic­al hu­man en­ergy; but this en­ergy is it­self con­di­tioned by the cir­cum­stances in which men find them­selves, by the pro­duct­ive forces already won, by the so­cial form which ex­ists be­fore they do, which they do not cre­ate, which is the product of the former gen­er­a­tion. Be­cause of this simple fact that every suc­ceed­ing gen­er­a­tion finds it­self in pos­ses­sion of the pro­duct­ive forces won by the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion, which serve it as the raw ma­ter­i­al for new pro­duc­tion, an in­ter­con­nec­tion arises in hu­man his­tory, there is a his­tory of hu­man­ity which has be­come all the more a his­tory of hu­man­ity since the pro­duct­ive forces of man and there­fore his so­cial re­la­tions have been ex­ten­ded. Hence it ne­ces­sar­ily fol­lows: the so­cial his­tory of men is nev­er any­thing but the his­tory of their in­di­vidu­al de­vel­op­ment, wheth­er they are con­scious of it or not. Their ma­ter­i­al re­la­tions are the basis of all their re­la­tions. These ma­ter­i­al re­la­tions are only the ne­ces­sary forms in which their ma­ter­i­al and in­di­vidu­al activ­ity is real­ized.” Let­ter to Annen­kov (28 Dec. 1846), in Marx, The Poverty of Philo­sophy (Mar­tin Lawrence Ltd., without date), Ap­pendix, pgs. 152-153.
29 See the Marxi­an ex­pres­sions: “the be­gin­ning of real his­tory” — i.e., a form of so­ci­ety in which hu­man be­ings are in con­trol of their life — in con­trast to “pre­his­tory” char­ac­ter­ized by the sub­jec­tion of men to the ali­en­ated so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion.