Lucio Colletti, “In­tro­duc­tion to Karl Marx’s early writ­ings” (1973)


The writ­ings con­tained in this volume were pro­duced by Marx dur­ing the two years 1843-1844, when he was little more than twenty-five years old. Some were pub­lished at once: The Jew­ish Ques­tion, for ex­ample, and the Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right: In­tro­duc­tion. Oth­ers, like the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Doc­trine of the State and the fam­ous Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts, were pub­lished only posthum­ously, in 1927 and 1932 re­spect­ively. When it is re­membered that the com­plete text of The Ger­man Ideo­logy was not prin­ted un­til 1932 and that The Holy Fam­ily, first pub­lished in 1845, rap­idly be­came a col­lect­or’s item, the read­er will un­der­stand why Marx’s youth­ful philo­soph­ic­al work was for the most part only dis­covered com­par­at­ively re­cently.

It is true that Mehring re­prin­ted some of Marx’s early pub­lished work in 1902, in his Aus dem lit­er­ar­ischen Nachlass. But the more im­port­ant writ­ings re­mained un­known. And in any case by that time the whole first gen­er­a­tion of Marxi­an in­ter­pret­ers and dis­ciples — in­clud­ing Karl Kaut­sky, Geor­gii Plekhan­ov, Eduard Bern­stein, and Ant­o­nio Lab­ri­ola — had already formed their ideas. So the Marx­ism of the Second In­ter­na­tion­al was con­sti­tuted in al­most total ig­nor­ance of the dif­fi­cult and in­tric­ate pro­cess through which Marx had passed in the years from 1843 to 1845, as he for­mu­lated his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism for the first time.

Up to the end of the last cen­tury, and even later, little more was known about this pro­cess than what Marx had said of it him­self in a few sen­tences of the 1859 pre­face to A Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Polit­ic­al Eco­nomy. Apart from this, the only ba­sic au­thor­ity to hand was En­gels’ Lud­wig Feuerbach (1888): a work in which one of the ori­gin­al prot­ag­on­ists of Marx­ism provided (or seemed to provide) a most au­thor­it­at­ive ac­count of all that was es­sen­tial, all that was really worth know­ing, about their re­la­tion ship to Feuerbach and Hegel and the part these men played in the form­a­tion of Marx’s thought.

A whole gen­er­a­tion of Marx­ist the­or­ists knew next to noth­ing (through no fault of their own) of Marx’s early philo­soph­ic­al writ­ings: it is vi­tal to keep this fact firmly in mind, if one wishes to un­der­stand one de­cis­ively im­port­ant cir­cum­stance. The first gen­er­a­tion of Marx­ists ap­proached Marx via Cap­it­al and his oth­er pub­lished writ­ings (mainly eco­nom­ic, his­tor­ic­al, or polit­ic­al), and were un­able to un­der­stand fully the philo­soph­ic­al pre­ced­ents and back­ground un­der­ly­ing them. They could not know the reas­ons, philo­soph­ic­al as well as prac­tic­al, which had in­duced Marx to give up philo­sophy after his break with Hegel and Feuerbach; in­duced him to de­vote him­self to the ana­lys­is of mod­ern cap­it­al­ist so­ci­ety, in­stead of go­ing on to write a philo­soph­ic­al treat­ise of his own. The few avail­able texts on this theme, like the Theses on Feuerbach, the already-men­tioned pre­face to A Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Polit­ic­al Eco­nomy, and the post­face to the second edi­tion of volume I of Cap­it­al, taken on their own were quite in­ad­equate for this pur­pose.

This fun­da­ment­al un­ease is re­vealed clearly in the Marx­ist writ­ings of the Second In­ter­na­tion­al. Why had Cap­it­al been giv­en pri­or­ity? Why had Marx de­voted all his ef­forts to the ana­lys­is of one par­tic­u­lar so­cioeco­nom­ic form­a­tion, without pre­fa­cing it by some oth­er work ex­press­ing his gen­er­al philo­soph­ic­al con­cep­tions, his over­all vis­ion of the world?

The ur­gency and sig­ni­fic­ance of these ques­tions may be bet­ter grasped if one re­flects upon the cul­tur­al and philo­soph­ic­al cli­mate of the time. Kaut­sky, Plekhan­ov, Bern­stein, Hein­rich Cun­ow and the oth­ers had grown up in­to a world pro­foundly dif­fer­ent from that of Marx. In Ger­many the star of Hegel and clas­sic­al Ger­man philo­sophy had long since set. Kaut­sky and Bern­stein were formed in a cul­tur­al mi­lieu dom­in­ated by Dar­win­ism, and by the Dar­win­ism of Haeck­el rather than that of Dar­win him­self. The in­flu­ence ex­er­ted upon them by Eu­gen Dühring is, from this point of view, par­tic­u­larly sig­ni­fic­ant. Plekhan­ov too was at bot­tom rooted in pos­it­iv­ism — think of the place he ac­cords Buckle in his The Mon­ist Con­cep­tion of His­tory, for ex­ample. The cul­tur­al men­tal­ity com­mon to this whole gen­er­a­tion, be­hind its many dif­fer­ences, re­posed upon a def­in­ite taste for great cos­mic syn­theses and world-views; and the key to the lat­ter was al­ways a single uni­fy­ing prin­ciple, one ex­plan­a­tion em­bra­cing everything from the most ele­ment­ary bio­lo­gic­al level right up to the level of hu­man his­tory (“mon­ism,” pre­cisely!).

This is (in barest out­line) the con­text which en­ables one to un­der­stand the re­mark­able im­port­ance of the philo­soph­ic­al works of En­gels for this gen­er­a­tion of Marx­ists: Anti-Dühring (1878), The Ori­gin of the Fam­ily, Private Prop­erty, and the State (1884) and Lud­wig Feuerbach (1888). These works ap­peared in the later years of Marx’s own life, or not long after his death in 1883, and they co­in­cided with the form­at­ive peri­od of the gen­er­a­tion to which Kaut­sky and Plekhan­ov be­longed. Fur­ther­more, En­gels not only en­ter­tained close per­son­al re­la­tions with the two lat­ter but shared their in­terest in the cul­ture of the peri­od, in Dar­win­ism and above all the so­cial ex­tra­pol­a­tions to be made from it, down to the most re­cent find­ings of eth­no­lo­gic­al re­search.

Thus, while a philo­soph­ic­al back­ground or gen­er­al con­cep­tion could be glimpsed only oc­ca­sion­ally and with some dif­fi­culty in Marx’s pre­val­ently eco­nom­ic works, in En­gels it stood squarely in the fore­ground. Not only that, it was ex­pounded there with such sim­pli­city and clar­ity that every single dis­ciple of the peri­od praised him for it.1 The lead­ing in­tel­lec­tu­al fig­ures were all in the most ex­pli­cit agree­ment on this point: they had all been drawn to Marx­ism prin­cip­ally by the works of En­gels. Com­ment­ing on his own cor­res­pond­ence with En­gels, Kaut­sky em­phas­izes the fact in more than one place: “Judging by the in­flu­ence that Anti-Dühring had upon me,” he wrote, “no oth­er book can have con­trib­uted so much to the un­der­stand­ing of Marx­ism.” Again: “Marx’s Cap­it­al is the more power­ful work, cer­tainly. But it was only through Anti-Dühring that we learned to un­der­stand Cap­it­al and read it prop­erly.”2 Later, Riazan­ov, too, ob­served how “the young­er gen­er­a­tion which began its activ­ity dur­ing the second half of the sev­en­ties learned what was sci­entif­ic so­cial­ism, what were its philo­soph­ic­al prin­ciples, what was its meth­od’ mainly from the writ­ings of En­gels. “For the dis­sem­in­a­tion of Marx­ism as a spe­cial meth­od and a spe­cial sys­tem,” he con­tin­ues, “no book ex­cept Cap­it­al it­self has done as much as Anti-Dühring. All the young Marx­ists who entered the pub­lic arena in the early eighties — Eduard Bern­stein, Karl Kaut­sky, Geor­gii Plekhan­ov — were brought up on this book.”3

Not only the first gen­er­a­tion was in­flu­enced in this way. The Aus­tro-Marx­ists who fol­lowed also re­cog­nized their spe­cial debt to En­gels, and un­der­lined no less ex­pli­citly the sig­ni­fic­ance his work had had for them. Of the two founders of his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism, it was En­gels who had de­veloped what one might call its “philo­soph­ic­al-cos­mo­lo­gic­al” as­pect, its philo­sophy of nature; it was he who had suc­cess­fully ex­ten­ded his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism in­to “dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism.” In­deed, he was the first to em­ploy this term. Even such a soph­ist­ic­ated thinker as Max Adler — a Kan­tian as well as a Marx­ist — could write in 1920 that En­gels’ work con­tained pre­cisely the gen­er­al philo­soph­ic­al the­ory whose ab­sence had been so of­ten lamen­ted in Marx him­self. Marx had not had the time to provide such a the­ory, hav­ing spent his whole life on the four volumes of Cap­it­al. “The pe­cu­li­ar sig­ni­fic­ance of En­gels for the de­vel­op­ment and form­a­tion of Marx­ism” lay much more, in Adler’s view, in the way in which he “lib­er­ated Marx’s so­ci­olo­gic­al work from the spe­cial eco­nom­ic form in which it had first ap­peared, and placed it in the lar­ger frame­work of a gen­er­al con­cep­tion of so­ci­ety, en­lar­ging Marx­ist thought, so to speak, in­to a world­view by his prodi­gious de­vel­op­ment of its meth­od and his ef­fort to re­late it to the mod­ern nat­ur­al sci­ences.” A little farther on, he con­cludes: “En­gels be­came the man who per­fec­ted and crowned Marx­ism,” not only in vir­tue of his “sys­tem­at­iz­a­tion” of Marx’s thought, but also be­cause his ‘cre­at­ive and ori­gin­al de­vel­op­ment” of that thought has “giv­en a basis to Marx’s ana­lyses.”4

Thus, En­gels’ the­or­et­ic­al works be­came the prin­cip­al source for all the more philo­soph­ic­al prob­lems of Marx­ism dur­ing the whole early peri­od cor­res­pond­ing (ap­prox­im­ately) to the Second In­ter­na­tion­al. They were vi­tal to an era which was in every sense de­cis­ive, the era in which Marx­ism’s main cor­pus of doc­trine was first defined and set out. As well as the oft-men­tioned mer­its of sim­pli­city and clar­ity, they were full of the lim­it­a­tions in­ev­it­able in pop­u­lar and oc­ca­sion­al writ­ings. Nev­er­the­less, their in­flu­ence was im­mense. The re­la­tion­ship between form­al and dia­lect­ic­al lo­gic, between Marx­ism and the nat­ur­al sci­ences, Marx’s re­la­tion­ship to Hegel — these were only a few of the many prob­lems posed and sup­posedly answered with ex­clus­ive ref­er­ence to state­ments (of­ten quite cas­u­al) in the pages of Anti-Dühring and Lud­wig Feuerbach.

This was (nat­ur­ally) par­tic­u­larly true for prob­lems which had be­come re­mote from the gen­er­al philo­soph­ic­al taste and out­look of the peri­od, and so lent them­selves eas­ily to pass­ive ac­cept­ance and mech­an­ic­al re­pe­ti­tion: the Marx-Hegel re­la­tion­ship, for ex­ample, or the prob­lem of dia­lectic. Plekhan­ov is typ­ic­al in this re­spect. Al­though one of the few Marx­ists of the time with some dir­ect know­ledge of Hegel’s ori­gin­al texts, he nev­er tried in his own writ­ings to go bey­ond il­lus­trat­ing or com­ment­ing on En­gels’ judg­ments on this top­ic.5 It was a sub­ject, in fact, where En­gels’ au­thor­ity seemed even more un­chal­lenge­able than usu­al. Not only had he per­son­ally lived through the ex­per­i­ence of the Ber­lin Left (or “Young”) Hegel­i­ans, the group Marx ori­gin­ally be­longed to, but more re­cently he had writ­ten a re­view of a book by Star­cke on Feuerbach for Neue Zeit, vividly evok­ing these youth­ful years and their at­mo­sphere of Sturm und Drang.

However, it was pre­cisely dur­ing those years that En­gels and Marx had fol­lowed quite dif­fer­ent in­tel­lec­tu­al paths. Only the more his­tor­ic­al cri­ti­cism of re­cent dec­ades has been able to piece to­geth­er this di­ver­gence with any ac­cur­acy. Yet it was un­doubtedly im­port­ant. In 1842, when Marx had come un­der Feuerbach’s in­flu­ence and already as­sumed a clearly ma­ter­i­al­ist po­s­i­tion, En­gels pub­lished a pamph­let en­titled Schelling and Rev­el­a­tion un­der the pen-name “Os­wald.”6 The at­ti­tude to Hegel ex­pressed in it was that of the young rad­ic­al Ideal­ists of the Ber­lin Dok­t­orklub. They held that there was a con­tra­dic­tion in Hegel between his re­volu­tion­ary prin­ciples and his con­ser­vat­ive con­clu­sions. Hegel had chosen to come to a per­son­al com­prom­ise with the Prus­si­an state, against his own prin­ciples. Once lib­er­ated from this com­prom­ise, the es­sen­tially re­volu­tion­ary prin­ciples of his philo­sophy were destined to dom­in­ate the fu­ture.7

En­gels also agreed with the oth­er Young Hegel­i­ans at this time in see­ing Feuerbach ex­clus­ively as a con­tin­uer of Strauss’ work on re­li­gion — even to the point of stat­ing that the former’s cri­tique of Chris­tian­ity was “a ne­ces­sary com­ple­ment to Hegel’s spec­u­lat­ive doc­trine of re­li­gion,” rather than its rad­ic­al an­ti­thes­is. Like the oth­er mem­bers of the Dok­t­orklub (and un­like Marx) he had not yet grasped the con­nec­tion in Feuerbach’s work between his cri­ti­cism of re­li­gion and ma­ter­i­al­ism. As his most im­port­ant bio­graph­er has ob­served, in those years “En­gels greeted Feuerbach’s work with joy, but without sus­pect­ing that it called in­to ques­tion Hegel’s world domin­ion.”8 Even after the ap­pear­ance of Feuerbach’s Grundsätze der Philo­soph­ie der Zukun­ft [Prin­ciples of the Philo­sophy of the Fu­ture] in 1843 — as one schol­ar has poin­ted out most acutely — ex­cept in the case of Marx “it was not Feuerbach’s ma­ter­i­al­ism which de­term­ined the new out­look of the Young Hegel­i­ans’, not his cri­tique of Hegel but his eth­ics, in oth­er words the most banal part of his work, and the one most laden with Ideal­ist residues.9

The dif­fer­ence between these po­s­i­tions is clear. For Feuerbach “the his­tor­ic­al ne­ces­sity and the jus­ti­fic­a­tion of the new philo­sophy [i.e. the ‘philo­sophy of the fu­ture’] there­fore spring prin­cip­ally from the cri­ti­cism of Hegel,” not from fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of his ideas, pre­cisely be­cause “Hegel­i­an philo­sophy is the com­ple­tion of mod­ern philo­sophy” and no more than that. “Hegel is not the Ger­man or Chris­ti­an Ar­is­totle — he is the Ger­man Pro­clus. The ‘ab­so­lute philo­sophy’ is the re­sur­rec­tion of Al­ex­an­dri­an­ism.”10 For the Young Hegel­i­ans, on the oth­er hand, the fu­ture lay in work­ing out the “re­volu­tion­ary” prin­ciples of Hegel­ian­ism it­self. They are in­sist­ent upon the theme of Hegel’s “per­son­al com­prom­ise” with the Prus­si­an state. And this is a po­s­i­tion de­cis­ively re­jec­ted by Marx, not only in the clos­ing pages of the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts in 1844, but even pre­vi­ously in a note to his Doc­tor­al Dis­ser­ta­tion of 1841.11

This is not the place to try to con­sider in depth the com­plex ques­tion of the dif­fer­ent ways in which Marx and En­gels ar­rived at the­or­et­ic­al com­mun­ism. However, the evid­ence sug­gests that En­gels made his trans­ition to it primar­ily on the ter­rain of polit­ic­al eco­nomy, rather than by con­tinu­ing his cri­tique of Hegel and the old spec­u­lat­ive tra­di­tion. It was Marx who pro­ceeded in this way — that is, by push­ing his philo­soph­ic­al cri­tique of Hegel­ian­ism to its lo­gic­al con­clu­sion. This may well be why, when En­gels turned again to write about philo­sophy forty years later, he was, in do­ing so, partly to re­pro­duce the ill-di­ges­ted no­tions of the early years. He re­turned, for ex­ample, to the idea of a con­tra­dic­tion between Hegel’s prin­ciples and his ac­tu­al con­clu­sions, between the “re­volu­tion­ary” dia­lect­ic­al meth­od and the con­ser­vat­ive sys­tem. But there is no doc­u­ment­ary evid­ence at all that Marx ever ac­cep­ted this idea of the rad­ic­al ideal­ist left.

Dur­ing the era of the Second In­ter­na­tion­al (and even more so after it), full and total iden­tity between the thought of Marx and En­gels be­came es­tab­lished as an art­icle of faith. Hence, this concept of a con­tra­dic­tion between the meth­od and the sys­tem ended by ab­sorb­ing and ob­scur­ing an­oth­er one, which looked sim­il­ar but was in fact quite dif­fer­ent. This is the idea ex­pressed by Marx in the post­face to the second edi­tion of Cap­it­al (1873), where he dis­tin­guishes not the re­volu­tion­ary meth­od from the con­ser­vat­ive sys­tem, but two dif­fer­ent and op­posed as­pects of the Hegel­i­an dia­lectic it­self — that is, two as­pects of the “meth­od.” These are the “ra­tion­al ker­nel” which must be saved, and the “mys­tic­al shell” which should be dis­carded.

Later, still an­oth­er factor con­trib­uted to the suc­cess of En­gels’ thes­is. In 1842, the youth­ful “Os­wald” pamph­let de­fend­ing Hegel against Schelling be­came known to Bel­in­skii (who warmly ap­proved) through some im­port­ant pas­sages the Rus­si­an crit­ic Botkin had tran­scribed from it.12 In the same year it was read by Aleksandr Herzen, then liv­ing in Ger­many, who knew the Left Hegel­i­an mi­lieu well and in­stantly took over all of “Os­wald’s” most sig­ni­fic­ant ideas and made them his own.13

These seem­ingly quite minor events were destined to have im­port­ant con­sequences. Bel­in­skii and Herzen were among the most rep­res­ent­at­ive fig­ures of the Rus­si­an “demo­crat­ic re­volu­tion­ary” move­ment. And Plekhan­ov and many oth­er Rus­si­an Marx­ists were ori­gin­ally schooled in this tra­di­tion. When they later went on to em­brace Marx­ism, it was to re­dis­cov­er in the writ­ings of En­gels an in­ter­pret­a­tion of Hegel very sim­il­ar to the one they had already learned from Bel­in­skii and Herzen. Since Plekhan­ov alone had any ser­i­ous know­ledge of Hegel dur­ing the time of the Second In­ter­na­tion­al and was for long ac­know­ledged by all Rus­si­an Marx­ists (in­clud­ing Len­in) as an in­dis­put­able au­thor­ity on philo­soph­ic­al mat­ters, it is easy to see how his work helped con­sol­id­ate this kind of in­ter­pret­a­tion.

It should not be for­got­ten either that Rus­si­an so­cial demo­cracy differed from the Ger­man vari­ety in one rel­ev­ant re­spect: where­as the Ger­mans were nev­er too deeply con­cerned about strictly philo­soph­ic­al is­sues, the Rus­si­ans paid the most ser­i­ous at­ten­tion to them and ac­tu­ally made them the chief cri­terion, the test-bed, of Marx­ist “or­tho­doxy” (par­tic­u­larly after the turn of the cen­tury and Bern­stein’s re­vi­sion­ist at­tack). First Plekhan­ov and then Len­in car­ried the defin­i­tion of this “gen­er­al” philo­soph­ic­al the­ory to its lo­gic­al con­clu­sion. It was hence­forth defin­it­ively labeled “dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism,” and seen as a ne­ces­sary pre­lim­in­ary to the more “par­tic­u­lar” the­ory of his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism. Dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism in this sense was ex­trac­ted from En­gels’ writ­ings on the basis of the as­sump­tion (now ax­io­mat­ic) that the two founders of his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism were one per­son on the plane of thought. To un­der­stand what this came to mean his­tor­ic­ally, it is salut­ary to con­sult the head­ing “Karl Marx” in the 1914 Granat en­cyc­lo­ped­ic dic­tion­ary. The item was writ­ten by Len­in, and later on served as a mod­el for Stal­in’s cel­eb­rated treat­ise On Dia­lect­ic­al Ma­ter­i­al­ism and His­tor­ic­al Ma­ter­i­al­ism. Both the para­graph on Marx’s “philo­soph­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism” and that on his con­cep­tion of “dia­lectic” con­sist en­tirely of quo­ta­tions from the works of En­gels.

The read­er ought not to con­clude that any very dra­mat­ic mean­ing at­taches, in it­self, to this dif­fer­ence of out­look on some points between Marx and En­gels. It was only nat­ur­al, and the ab­sence of such dif­fer­ences would really have been ex­traordin­ary. Giv­en that con­tra­dic­tions are of­ten met with in the work of a single au­thor, it is hard to see how they could fail to emerge between two au­thors who — mak­ing every al­low­ance for their deep friend­ship and the many ideas they shared — re­mained two dis­tinct people lead­ing very dif­fer­ent lives on the basis of dif­fer­ent in­clin­a­tions and in­tel­lec­tu­al tastes. The fact may seem al­most too ob­vi­ous to be worth men­tion­ing. Yet the ri­gid iden­ti­fic­a­tion of the two fath­ers of his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism and the rooted con­vic­tion that all of En­gels’ philo­soph­ic­al po­s­i­tions re­flec­ted Marx’s thought were to have not­able re­per­cus­sions when, at last, Marx’s own youth­ful philo­soph­ic­al work was pub­lished. This happened, as we saw, largely between 1927 and 1932. The ma­jor early works — the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Doc­trine of the State and the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts — were prin­ted at that time. By then the crys­tal­liz­a­tion of “dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism” as the of­fi­cial philo­sophy of the U.S.S.R. and the European com­mun­ist parties was already far ad­vanced and free de­bate was en­coun­ter­ing in­creas­ing dif­fi­culties, even at the most the­or­et­ic­al level. These were to have a def­in­ite in­flu­ence upon the re­cep­tion ac­cor­ded Marx’s early writ­ings over the next forty years.

The im­me­di­ate reas­ons for the res­ist­ances and per­plex­it­ies they aroused in Marx­ist circles were cer­tainly of a the­or­et­ic­al nature. It would be need­less ex­ag­ger­a­tion of the case to ascribe the re­ac­tion dir­ectly to polit­ic­al factors. Nev­er­the­less, the sheer ri­gid­ity of of­fi­cial doc­trine, the rig­or mor­tis which already gripped Marx­ism un­der Stal­in, con­trib­uted in no small way to the cool re­cep­tion which the writ­ings met with when they ap­peared, to the ab­sence of any de­bate about them, and to the man­ner in which they were im­me­di­ately clas­si­fied and pi­geon­holed.

They be­came, al­most at once, “the early writ­ings.” The de­scrip­tion is of course form­ally un­ex­cep­tion­able: they were com­posed, in fact, when Marx was a very young man of twenty-five or twenty-six. Yet this is ap­prox­im­ately the age at which Dav­id Hume had already com­posed his philo­soph­ic­al mas­ter­piece, the Treat­ise on Hu­man Nature, and age was nev­er con­sidered a cri­terion in eval­u­at­ing the work of the Scot­tish philo­soph­er. The ad­ject­ive “early” served to em­phas­ize their het­ero­gen­eity and dis­con­tinu­ity vis-à-vis the doc­trine of the sub­sequent peri­od.

This should not be taken to mean that the work of the young Marx poses no prob­lems, or that there are no dif­fer­ences between it and his ma­ture works. But the point is that the way in which the writ­ings came to be re­garded was really most un­fa­vor­able to them, and es­pe­cially to the Cri­tique and the Manuscripts. It meant that it was im­possible to per­ceive the man­ner in which they were re­lated (al­beit em­bryon­ic­ally) to Marx’s later ideas, or how they might (there­fore) throw new light on the work of his ma­tur­ity. In­stead, they were seen above all as the re­mains of a line of thought which had led nowhere, or in­to a blind al­ley (the Holzwege of Marx, as it were). There is no oth­er ex­plan­a­tion — to take only one par­tic­u­larly sig­ni­fic­ant ex­ample — of the de­cision made in 1957 by the East Ger­man In­sti­tute of Marx­ism-Len­in­ism (on the basis of an ana­log­ous de­cision by the Cent­ral Com­mit­tee of the So­viet Com­mun­ist Party) to ex­clude the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts from the edi­tion of the Marx-En­gels Werke and pub­lish them in a sep­ar­ate volume.14

What made the writ­ings ap­pear so “out of line” with Marx­ism was — quite in­de­pend­ently of their own lim­it­a­tions — their pro­found dis­sim­il­ar­ity to “dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism.” They said noth­ing at all about the dia­lectics of nature; noth­ing which pre­pared the way for En­gels’ the­ory of the three ba­sic dia­lect­ic­al laws of the uni­verse (the trans­form­a­tion of quant­ity in­to qual­ity and vice-versa, the neg­a­tion of neg­a­tion, the co­in­cid­ence of op­pos­ites); noth­ing which at all re­sembled the lat­ter’s con­cep­tion of, for ex­ample, the “neg­a­tion of neg­a­tion” as “an ex­tremely gen­er­al — and for this reas­on ex­tremely far-reach­ing and im­port­ant — law of de­vel­op­ment of nature, his­tory and thought; a law which… holds good in the an­im­al and plant king­doms, in geo­logy, in math­em­at­ics, in his­tory and in philo­sophy.”15 In­stead, the read­er was faced with a trenchant cri­tique of the philo­sophy of Hegel, in the shape of an ana­lys­is in­fin­itely more dif­fi­cult and com­plex than En­gels’ simple con­tra­pos­i­tion of “meth­od” against “sys­tem.” And in ad­di­tion, he found a dis­cus­sion of es­trange­ment and ali­en­a­tion, themes ab­sent from the work of En­gels, Plekhan­ov, and Len­in alike.

Just how pro­found was the em­bar­rass­ment pro­duced among even the most ser­i­ous Marx­ist schol­ars may be seen from the cases of Georg Lukács and Au­guste Cornu. In the pre­face to the 1967 edi­tion of his His­tory and Class-Con­scious­ness, Lukács re­calls the “stroke of good luck” which al­lowed him to read the newly de­ciphered text of the Manuscripts in 1930, two years be­fore their pub­lic­a­tion.16 This read­ing showed him the ba­sic mis­take he had made in his book (which first ap­peared in 1923). He had con­fused the concept of ali­en­a­tion in Hegel — where it means simply the ob­jectiv­ity of nature — with the quite dif­fer­ent concept in Marx’s work, where it refers not to nat­ur­al ob­jects as such but to what hap­pens to the products of labor when (as a res­ult of spe­cif­ic so­cial re­la­tion­ships) they be­come com­mod­it­ies or cap­it­al. “I can still re­mem­ber even today the over­whelm­ing ef­fect pro­duced in me by Marx’s state­ment,” he writes.17

Now it is true that the mis­take in ques­tion had in­val­id­ated some of the as­sump­tions of His­tory and Class-Con­scious­ness. But the prob­lem at the heart of the book re­mained as val­id as be­fore: that is, the prob­lem of the nature of ali­en­a­tion, which (in the au­thor’s own words) had been treated there “for the first time since Marx… as cent­ral to the re­volu­tion­ary cri­tique of cap­it­al­ism.”18 And yet Lukács was to pur­sue the prob­lem no fur­ther — the prob­lem which (be­fore and in­de­pend­ently of the Manuscripts) he had dis­covered to be cru­cial to the un­der­stand­ing of Cap­it­al it­self. What pre­ven­ted him was the habit of reas­on­ing with­in the frame­work and cat­egor­ies of “dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism,” and the im­possib­il­ity of re­con­cil­ing this with his dis­cov­ery. It is no ac­ci­dent that his use of the Manuscripts in later work was to be so epis­od­ic (like the few pages on them in the last part of Der junge Hegel, for in­stance), or that the themes of ali­en­a­tion and fet­ish­ism were to lose im­port­ance in his thought.

The res­ult was a re­turn to the state of af­fairs be­fore His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness when (again in Lukács’ own words) “the Marx­ists of the time were un­will­ing to see . . . more than his­tor­ic­al doc­u­ments im­port­ant only for his per­son­al de­vel­op­ment” in the youth­ful works which Mehring had re­pub­lished.19 An­oth­er ul­ti­mate con­sequence of this un­will­ing­ness was that Marx’s early works, vir­tu­ally aban­doned by Marx­ists, were to be­come a happy hunt­ing ground for Ex­ist­en­tial­ist and Cath­ol­ic thinkers, es­pe­cially in France after the Second World War.

The oth­er case, less im­port­ant but equally sig­ni­fic­ant from our point of view, was that of Au­guste Cornu. Cornu’s pro­found know­ledge of the Left Hegel­i­an move­ment made him per­fectly con­scious of the ori­gins of En­gels’ cri­tique of Hegel in the rad­ic­al lib­er­al mi­lieu, on the basis of po­s­i­tions wholly dis­tinct from those of his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism.20 Hence he was in the best pos­sible po­s­i­tion to un­der­stand the true im­port of Marx’s cri­ti­cism of Hegel in the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Doc­trine of the State, and to see why (Feuerbach’s in­flu­ence on it not­with­stand­ing) this study was far more than a mere “his­tor­ic­al doc­u­ment of Marx’s per­son­al de­vel­op­ment.” Yet his treat­ment of this ma­jor work con­sists of a few su­per­fi­cial pages, de­voted mainly to Feuerbach’s in­flu­ence upon it. The obstacles of “dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ist” or­tho­doxy, com­bined with a cer­tain dif­fi­culty, com­mon among his­tor­i­ans, in tack­ling the­or­et­ic­al ques­tions, simply pre­ven­ted him see­ing any­thing more.

This situ­ation has changed little in re­cent years. Among Marx­ists, in­terest in the Cri­tique, The Jew­ish Ques­tion, the Manuscripts, etc., has re­mained the pre­serve of a few spe­cial­ist stu­dents of the “pre­his­tory” of Marx’s thought. The old the­or­et­ic­al edi­fice of “dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism” has lost much of its an­cient solid­ity, cer­tainly. However, the new­er Marx­ist thought in­spired by struc­tur­al­ism has not only in­her­ited its harsh ver­dict on the early writ­ings, but threatens to ex­tend it to oth­er works of Marx, now judged equally un­worthy of the seal of ap­prov­al be­stowed by the “epi­stem­o­lo­gic­al break” [la coupure épistémologique].21 One may say, there­fore, that apart from the work of a few Itali­an Marx­ist schol­ars like Gal­vano della Volpe (still al­most un­known out­side Italy), Marx’s youth­ful philo­soph­ic­al works have still not re­ceived the at­ten­tion which they de­serve.


The Cri­tique of Hegel’s Doc­trine of the State was most likely com­posed at Kreuzn­ach between the months of March and Au­gust 1843, after Marx had ceased to be ed­it­or of the Rhein­is­che Zei­tung. This was the date pro­posed by Riazan­ov when he pre­pared the first edi­tion of the Cri­tique in 1927 as part of the Marx-En­gels His­tor­isch-Krit­ische Ges­amtaus­gabe (MEGA for short). Cornu also ac­cepts this date. Oth­er writers like S. Landshut and I.P. May­er (who pub­lished the work in a 1932 an­tho­logy of Marx’s early writ­ing) have placed it earli­er, between April 1841 and April 1842. However, this seems most un­likely for a vari­ety of reas­ons there is not space to deal with here, and most schol­ars have agreed with Riazan­ov’s dat­ing.

The manuscript of the Cri­tique (from which the first four pages have been lost) con­tains a study of much of the third sec­tion (“The State”) of the third part (“Eth­ic­al Life”) of Hegel’s The Philo­sophy of Right. The para­graphs ana­lyzed are those numbered from 261 to 313 in the Hegel text (pages 161 to 204 of the stand­ard Eng­lish edi­tion, ed­ited and trans­lated by T. Knox, 1942). The most im­me­di­ately strik­ing thing about the es­say is that the first part of it (from the be­gin­ning down to at least the com­ments on para­graph 274) is much more a cri­ti­cism of Hegel’s dia­lect­ic­al lo­gic than a dir­ect cri­ti­cism of his ideas on the state.

The lo­gic of Hegel, says Marx, is “lo­gic­al mys­ti­cism,” a mys­tique of reas­on.22 At first glance this might seem like an an­ti­cip­a­tion of Dilthey’s well-known theses of 1905 on Hegel’s youth­ful theo­logy, which de­pict him as es­sen­tially a vi­tal­ist and ro­mantic philo­soph­er. But ac­tu­ally the two po­s­i­tions are quite dif­fer­ent. Dilthey sees Hegel’s mys­ti­cism as a mys­tique of sen­ti­ment, so that his stance is rad­ic­ally at odds with the tra­di­tion­al idea of Hegel the pan-lo­gic­al ra­tion­al­ist. Marx on the oth­er hand per­ceives the mys­ti­cism as one of reas­on, de­riv­ing from Hegel’s all-per­vas­ive lo­gic — that is, de­riv­ing from the fact that for Hegel reas­on is not hu­man thought but the To­tal­ity of things, the Ab­so­lute, and pos­sesses (con­sequently) a dual and in­dis­tinct char­ac­ter unit­ing the worlds of sense and reas­on.

The prin­cip­al fo­cus of Marx’s cri­ti­cism, in oth­er words, is Hegel’s be­lief in the iden­tity of be­ing and thought, or of the real and the ra­tion­al. This iden­ti­fic­a­tion in­volves a double in­ver­sion or ex­change, claims Marx. On the one hand be­ing is re­duced to think­ing, the fi­nite to the in­fin­ite: em­pir­ic­al, real facts are tran­scen­ded, and it is denied they have genu­ine real­ity. The realm of em­pir­ic­al truth is trans­formed in­to an in­tern­al mo­ment of the Idea. Hence, the par­tic­u­lar, fi­nite ob­ject is not taken to be what it is, but con­sidered in and as its op­pos­ite (the uni­ver­sal, thought): it is taken to be what it is not. This is the first in­ver­sion: be­ing is not be­ing but thought. On the oth­er hand reas­on — which holds its op­pos­ite with­in it­self and is a unique to­tal­ity — be­comes an ab­so­lute, self-suf­fi­cient real­ity. In or­der to ex­ist, this real­ity has to trans­form it­self in­to real ob­jects, has to (the second in­ver­sion) as­sume par­tic­u­lar and cor­por­eal form. Marx ac­cuses Hegel of sub­stan­ti­fy­ing ab­strac­tion in his “Idea,” and so fall­ing in­to a new “real­ism of uni­ver­sals.”

Hegel in­verts the re­la­tion­ship between sub­ject and pre­dic­ate. The “uni­ver­sal” or concept, which ought to ex­press the pre­dic­ate of some real ob­ject and so be a cat­egory or func­tion of that ob­ject, is turned in­stead in­to an en­tity ex­ist­ing in its own right. By con­trast, the real sub­ject, the sub­jectum of the judg­ment (the em­pir­ic­al, ex­ist­ing world), be­comes for him a mani­fest­a­tion or em­bod­i­ment of the Idea — in oth­er words, a pre­dic­ate of the pre­dic­ate, a mere means by which the Idea vests it­self with real­ity. In his notes on Hegel’s para­graph 279, Marx says:

Hegel makes the pre­dic­ates, the ob­jects, autonom­ous, but he does this by sep­ar­at­ing them from their real autonomy, viz. their sub­ject. The real sub­ject sub­sequently ap­pears as a res­ult, where­as the cor­rect ap­proach would be to start with the real sub­ject and then con­sider its ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion. The mys­tic­al sub­stance there­fore be­comes the real sub­ject, while the ac­tu­al sub­ject ap­pears as something else, namely as a mo­ment of the mys­tic­al sub­stance. Be­cause Hegel starts not with an ac­tu­al ex­ist­ent (ὑποκείμενον [hy­po­kei­men­on], sub­ject) but with pre­dic­ates of uni­ver­sal de­term­in­a­tion, and be­cause a vehicle of these de­term­in­a­tions must ex­ist, the mys­tic­al Idea be­comes that vehicle.23

As Marx’s use of a Greek term sug­gests, this cri­ti­cism is sim­il­ar to one as­pect of Ar­is­totle’s cri­tique of Pla­to — as, for ex­ample, where the former writes that: a ma­ter­i­al dif­fers from a sub­ject mat­ter by not be­ing a par­tic­u­lar something: in the case of an at­trib­ute pre­dic­ated of a sub­ject mat­ter, for ex­ample, of a man, both body and soul, the at­trib­ute is “mu­sic­al” or “white”; and the sub­ject mat­ter of the at­trib­ute is not called “mu­sic,” but mu­si­cian, and the man is not a “white,” but a white man… Wherever this is the re­la­tion between sub­ject and pre­dic­ate, the fi­nal sub­ject is primary be­ing.24

In the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts Marx re­for­mu­lates this cri­ti­cism and notes that Hegel’s philo­sophy suf­fers from the double de­fect of be­ing at one and the same time “un­crit­ic­al pos­it­iv­ism” and “equally un­crit­ic­al ideal­ism.”25 It is un­crit­ic­al ideal­ism be­cause Hegel denies the em­pir­ic­al, sens­ible world and ac­know­ledges true real­ity only in ab­strac­tion, in the Idea. And it is un­crit­ic­al pos­it­iv­ism be­cause Hegel can­not help in the end restor­ing the em­pir­ic­al ob­ject-world ori­gin­ally denied — the Idea has no oth­er pos­sible earthly in­carn­a­tion or mean­ing. Hence, the ar­gu­ment is not simply that Hegel is too ab­stract, but also that his philo­sophy is crammed with crude and un­ar­gued em­pir­ic­al ele­ments, sur­repti­tiously in­ser­ted. This con­crete con­tent is first of all eluded and “tran­scen­ded,” and then re­in­tro­duced in an un­der­hand, con­cealed fash­ion without genu­ine cri­ti­cism.

What this means may be seen from the whole ar­gu­ment of The Philo­sophy of Right, and par­tic­u­larly from its treat­ment of the state. In the lat­ter, Hegel is con­cerned with a num­ber of highly de­term­in­ate his­tor­ic­al in­sti­tu­tions such as hered­it­ary mon­archy, bur­eau­cracy, the Cham­ber of Peers, pri­mo­gen­it­ure and so on. His task ought to be to ex­plain these in­sti­tu­tions — to in­vest­ig­ate their causes in his­tory, find out wheth­er they still have any rais­on d’être and demon­strate in what ways they cor­res­pond to real needs of mod­ern life rather than be­ing mere empty sur­viv­als from the past. But ac­tu­ally his pro­ced­ure is very dif­fer­ent. He does not show the ra­tionale of these in­sti­tu­tions by us­ing his­tor­ic­al and sci­entif­ic con­cepts, con­cepts with some bear­ing on the ob­jects in ques­tion; in­stead, he starts from an Idea which is noth­ing less than the di­vine Lo­gos it­self, the spir­it-god of Chris­ti­an re­li­gion. Since this Idea is the pre­sup­pos­i­tion of everything but can­not pre­sup­pose any­thing out­side it­self, it fol­lows that the lo­gi­co-de­duct­ive pro­cess must be one of cre­at­ing ob­jects. Hegel has to con­jure the fi­nite out of the in­fin­ite, in short. But since, as Marx says in his com­ment on para­graph 269, “he has failed to con­struct a bridge lead­ing from the gen­er­al idea of the or­gan­ism to the par­tic­u­lar idea of the or­gan­ism of the state or the polit­ic­al con­sti­tu­tion” (and in all etern­ity would nev­er con­struct such a bridge), all Hegel can really do is smuggle the em­pir­ic­al world in again, in un­der­hand fash­ion.26

What emerges is no his­tor­ic­al or sci­entif­ic un­der­stand­ing of the in­sti­tu­tions of the Prus­si­an state, but an apo­lo­gia for them. They em­an­ate dir­ectly out of the Idea or di­vine Spir­it, they are its worldly de­vel­op­ment or ac­tu­al­ity — be­ing products of Reas­on in this sense, they can of course hardly help be­ing totally ra­tion­al in them­selves. As Marx states in his résumé of Hegel’s ar­gu­ment for mon­archy, the res­ult is ‘that an em­pir­ic­al per­son is un­crit­ic­ally en­throned as the real truth of the Idea. For as Hegel’s task is not to dis­cov­er the truth of em­pir­ic­al ex­ist­ence but to dis­cov­er the em­pir­ic­al ex­ist­ence of the truth, it is very easy to fasten on what lies nearest to hand and prove that it is an ac­tu­al mo­ment of the Idea.”27 Hegel shows the in­sti­tu­tions of the Prus­si­an state to be gesta Dei, God’s self-real­iz­a­tion in the world. Hered­it­ary mon­archy, the state bur­eau­cracy, the lords who sit in the Cham­ber of Peers by right of pri­mo­gen­it­ure — they all re­appear in his ar­gu­ment not as his­tor­ic­al real­it­ies of this world but as in­carn­a­tions of God’s will on earth.

The state is based on God, ac­cord­ing to Hegel. It is foun­ded upon re­li­gion (which “has ab­so­lute truth as its con­tent”). However, “if re­li­gion is in this way the ground­work which in­cludes the eth­ic­al realm in gen­er­al, and the state’s fun­da­ment­al nature — the di­vine will — in par­tic­u­lar, it is at the same time only a ground­work.” While re­li­gion con­tains God in the depths of feel­ing, “The state is the di­vine will, in the sense that it is mind present on earth, un­fold­ing it­self to be the ac­tu­al shape and or­gan­iz­a­tion of a world.”28

Thus for Marx the con­ser­vat­ive and apo­lo­get­ic char­ac­ter of Hegel’s philo­sophy is not to be ex­plained by factors out­side his thought (his per­son­al com­prom­ises with au­thor­ity, etc.) as the Young Hegel­i­ans had tried to ex­plain it. It springs from the in­tern­al lo­gic of his philo­sophy. That “trans­fig­ur­a­tion of the ex­ist­ing state of af­fairs” which Marx ascribes to Hegel’s dia­lectic in the Post­face to the second edi­tion of Cap­it­al is ex­plained by the man­ner in which Hegel first makes the Idea a sub­stance and then has to show real­ity as merely its mani­fest­a­tion. The two pro­cesses are in­tim­ately linked. As the Manuscripts say, the “un­crit­ic­al pos­it­iv­ism” of the con­sequences is the in­ev­it­able coun­ter­part of the “un­crit­ic­al ideal­ism” found in the premises. In the Cri­tique Marx writes of ‘the in­ev­it­able trans­form­a­tion of the em­pir­ic­al in­to the spec­u­lat­ive and of the spec­u­lat­ive in­to the em­pir­ic­al.”29 The for­mu­lae are al­most the same, and all refer one to the ba­sic mys­ti­fic­a­tion of the sub­ject-pre­dic­ate in­ver­sion. The Cap­it­al pas­sage states that Hegel trans­forms thought in­to an “in­de­pend­ent sub­ject” labeled “the Idea”; after which the real, i.e. the em­pir­ic­al world, which is the true sub­ject, turns in­to “the ex­tern­al phe­nom­en­al form of the Idea,” in­to an at­trib­ute or pre­dic­ate of this en­ti­fied pre­dic­ate. In 1843, 1844, and 1873, there­fore, Marx’s ar­gu­ment re­mains sub­stan­tially the same.

It is ne­ces­sary, next, to say something about Feuerbach’s in­flu­ence on the Cri­tique. That he did have some in­flu­ence on it is un­deni­able. The phrase Marx em­ploys where he defines Hegel’s philo­sophy as “lo­gic­al mys­ti­cism” must surely de­rive from Feuerbach’s ana­log­ous de­scrip­tion of it in 1839 as “a mys­tique of reas­on’. The same might be said of Marx’s idea of Hegel­i­an sub­ject-pre­dic­ate in­ver­sion. As well as in Das Wesen des Christ­entums [The Es­sence of Chris­tian­ity] (1841) we find this idea stated ex­pli­citly in Feuerbach’s Vorläufige Thesen zur Re­form der Philo­soph­ie [Pro­vi­sion­al Theses for a Re­form of Philo­sophy] (1842). In March 1843 Marx wrote to Ruge telling him he had read this work and agreed with it whole­heartedly, ex­cept for the ex­ag­ger­ated im­port­ance it ac­cor­ded prob­lems of nat­ur­al philo­sophy at the ex­pense of his­tory and polit­ics. “In Hegel,” wrote Feuerbach, “thought is be­ing; thought is the sub­ject, be­ing the pre­dic­ate,” while on the con­trary “the true re­la­tion­ship of thought to be­ing can only be as fol­lows: be­ing is the sub­ject, thought the pre­dic­ate.”30

But in it­self such in­flu­ence does not mean much. Feuerbach is gen­er­ally a thinker of sec­ond­ary im­port­ance com­pared to Hegel. Nev­er­the­less in the 1839-1843 peri­od he touched a peak of per­son­al achieve­ment (soon fol­lowed by de­cline) which gives him a sig­ni­fic­ant place in the cri­tique and dis­sol­u­tion of Hegel­ian­ism in Ger­many, and so in the form­a­tion of Marx’s thought. His in­flu­ence on the Cri­tique must not be used as an ar­gu­ment for un­der­rat­ing this work. Marx­ist schol­ars who have chosen this tac­tic were in real­ity try­ing to avoid the still thorn­i­er prob­lem of re­con­cil­ing En­gels’s in­ter­pret­a­tion of Hegel with Marx’s. We have already no­ticed how the lat­ter sticks to the sub­ject-pre­dic­ate in­ver­sion thes­is in Cap­it­al. In the same place, Marx re­calls his youth­ful stud­ies of 1843 and the fact that he “cri­ti­cized the mys­ti­fic­at­ory side of the Hegel­i­an dia­lectic nearly thirty years ago, at a time when it was still the fash­ion.”31

The prob­lem of Feuerbach’s in­flu­ence is more com­plic­ated than ap­pears at first sight. De­lla Volpe, for in­stance, in­sists on the fact that Feuerbach’s cri­ti­cism (un­like Marx’s) was re­stric­ted to re­proach­ing Hegel with “empty form­al­ism.” Feuerbach was in­cap­able, there­fore, of grasp­ing clearly the ne­ces­sary re­la­tion­ship between the “un­crit­ic­al ideal­ism” of Hegel’s premises and the “un­crit­ic­al pos­it­iv­ism” of his con­clu­sions. From this point of view, Feuerbach’s lim­it­a­tions are seen as ana­log­ous to those of Kant, who re­proached Leib­n­iz with “empty ab­strac­tion” in the Cri­tique of Pure Reas­on.

But in try­ing so hard to dis­so­ci­ate Marx from Feuerbach, della Volpe is prob­ably too severe with the lat­ter. Marx’s cri­tique of Hegel is cer­tainly far more per­cept­ive. Non­ethe­less, Feuerbach too had his mo­ments of in­sight. In 1841, for ex­ample, he saw very well the re­la­tion­ship between ideal­ism and un­crit­ic­al pos­it­iv­ism in Hegel, when he wrote in Über den An­fang der Philo­soph­ie [On the Be­gin­ning of Philo­sophy]: “Philo­sophy which be­gins with a thought without real­ity ne­ces­sar­ily ends with a real­ity without thought,”32 that is, not sifted and crit­ic­ally ex­amined by the mind. It would cer­tainly not be dif­fi­cult to find equally ex­pli­cit re­marks else­where in his writ­ings of the 1842-1843 peri­od.

However, the ques­tion of Feuerbach’s de­gree of in­flu­ence on the Cri­tique still re­mains a fairly mar­gin­al one. Writers who have laid too great stress on it have re­vealed chiefly their own naïveté. That the theme of sub­ject-pre­dic­ate or be­ing-thought in­ver­sion is to be found in Feuerbach does not, of course, mean that it was an in­ven­tion of his, or in any way pe­cu­li­ar to his thought. It is in fact one of the most pro­found and an­cient themes in philo­soph­ic­al his­tory, and re­curs con­stantly in the de­bate between Ideal­ism and Ma­ter­i­al­ism. De­lia Volpe, for ex­ample, could prop­erly re­late Marx’s cri­tique of Hegel to Ar­is­totle’s cri­tique of Pla­to and Ga­lileo’s at­tack on the de­fend­ers of Ar­is­toteli­an-schol­ast­ic phys­ics. Moreover, at the points in his Cri­tique of Pure Reas­on where Kant does most to de­mol­ish the older on­to­logy (for ex­ample, in the “Note on the Am­phiboly of Con­cepts of Re­flec­tion”), it is also pos­sible to see a cri­tique of “real uni­ver­sals.” Hence, the only spe­cif­ic con­tri­bu­tion which Feuerbach can be held to have made is a re­applic­a­tion of one as­pect of this tra­di­tion in the new con­text, the way in which he brought it to bear on Hegel­ian­ism.

I be­lieve the vi­tal ele­ment in this vexed ques­tion — the edge which cuts the Gor­d­i­an knot — must be sought else­where. The true im­port­ance of Marx’s early cri­ti­cism of Hegel lies in the key it provides for un­der­stand­ing Marx’s cri­ti­cism of the meth­od of bour­geois eco­nom­ics (and this is why he could re­call and con­firm it after he had writ­ten Cap­it­al). In Chapter 2 of The Poverty of Philo­sophy (1847), “The Meta­phys­ics of Polit­ic­al Eco­nomy,” this con­nec­tion is brought out very well. “Eco­nom­ic cat­egor­ies are only the the­or­et­ic­al ex­pres­sions, the ab­strac­tions of the so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion,” says Marx. While Proud­hon, on the oth­er hand, “hold­ing things up­side down like a true philo­soph­er, sees in ac­tu­al re­la­tions noth­ing but the in­carn­a­tion of these prin­ciples.” In this man­ner, he goes on, “What Hegel has done for re­li­gion, law, etc., Mon­sieur Proud­hon seeks to do for polit­ic­al eco­nomy.” First of all by dint of ab­strac­tion he re­duces “the sub­stance of everything” in­to mere “lo­gic­al cat­egor­ies”; then, hav­ing hy­po­stat­ized these ab­strac­tions in­to sub­stances, it is not too dif­fi­cult to re­trace his steps and present real his­tor­ic­al re­la­tion­ships as the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, the em­bod­i­ment, of such cat­egor­ies.

Marx con­cludes:

If we ab­stract thus from every sub­ject all the al­leged ac­ci­dents, an­im­ate or in­an­im­ate, men or things, we are right in say­ing that in the fi­nal ab­strac­tion, the only sub­stance left is the lo­gic­al cat­egor­ies. Thus the meta­phys­i­cians who, in mak­ing these ab­strac­tions, think they are mak­ing ana­lyses, and who, the more they de­tach them­selves from things, ima­gine them­selves to be get­ting all the near­er to the point of pen­et­rat­ing to their core — these meta­phys­i­cians in turn are right in say­ing that things here be­low are em­broid­er­ies of which the lo­gic­al cat­egor­ies con­sti­tute the can­vas. This is what dis­tin­guishes the philo­soph­er from the Chris­ti­an. The Chris­ti­an, in spite of lo­gic, has only one in­carn­a­tion of the Lo­gos; the philo­soph­er has nev­er fin­ished with in­carn­a­tions.33

So back­ward has study of Marx’s work re­mained on ques­tions like this that the con­nec­tion between his cri­tique of Hegel and his cri­tique of the meth­ods of polit­ic­al eco­nomy is usu­ally seen as con­fined to this one par­tic­u­lar case — that is, to the sin­gu­lar co­in­cid­ence of themes which Proud­hon’s work provided for him. But in fact, as Maurice Dobb has poin­ted out in chapter five of his Polit­ic­al Eco­nomy and Cap­it­al­ism (1937), its sig­ni­fic­ance is far wider. “In mak­ing ab­strac­tion of par­tic­u­lar ele­ments in a situ­ation,” he writes, ‘there are two roads along which one can pro­ceed.” The first is that which ‘builds ab­strac­tion on the ex­clu­sion of cer­tain fea­tures which are present in any ac­tu­al situ­ation, either be­cause they are the more vari­able or be­cause they are quant­it­at­ively of less­er im­port­ance in de­term­in­ing the course of events. To omit them from con­sid­er­a­tion makes the res­ult­ing cal­cu­la­tion no more than an im­per­fect ap­prox­im­a­tion to real­ity, but nev­er­the­less makes it a very much more re­li­able guide than if the ma­jor factors had been omit­ted and only the minor in­flu­ences taken in­to ac­count.” The second is the road which bases ab­strac­tion “not on any evid­ence of fact as to what fea­tures in a situ­ation are es­sen­tial and what are in­es­sen­tial, but simply on the form­al pro­ced­ure of com­bin­ing the prop­er­ties com­mon to a het­ero­gen­eous as­sort­ment of situ­ations and build­ing ab­strac­tion out of ana­logy.”34

What char­ac­ter­izes this second meth­od (with its in­de­term­in­ate or gen­er­ic ab­strac­tions, as com­pared to the de­term­in­ate, spe­cif­ic ones of the first) is, Dobb says, that — “in all such ab­stract sys­tems there ex­ists the ser­i­ous danger of hy­po­stat­iz­ing one’s con­cepts,” that is of “re­gard­ing the pos­tu­lated re­la­tions as the de­term­in­ing ones in any ac­tu­al situ­ation” and so run­ning the grave risk of “in­tro­du­cing, un­noticed, purely ima­gin­ary as­sump­tions” and in­ter­pol­at­ing sur­repti­tiously all the con­crete, par­tic­u­lar fea­tures dis­carded in the first place. He con­tin­ues:

All too fre­quently the pro­pos­i­tions which are products of this mode of ab­strac­tion have little more than form­al mean­ing… But those who use such pro­pos­i­tions and build co­rol­lar­ies upon them are sel­dom mind­ful of this lim­it­a­tion, and in ap­ply­ing them as “laws” of the real world in­vari­ably ex­tract from them more mean­ing than their empti­ness of real con­tent can pos­sibly hold.

The re­semb­lance to Marx’s ar­gu­ment in the Cri­tique could hardly be closer. Dobb ob­serves how for some eco­nom­ists ab­strac­tions be­come in­de­pend­ent of all ref­er­ence to real­it­ies, and are then hy­po­stat­ized in­to “laws” val­id for all situ­ations, however het­ero­gen­eous and dis­par­ate these may be. Sub­sequently the same eco­nom­ists, try­ing to ex­tract sub­stance from their “laws,” are com­pelled to bring in “un­noticed,” in un­der­hand fash­ion, whatever par­tic­u­lar con­tent their po­s­i­tion re­quires.

Fi­nally, after re­fer­ring to Marx’s early writ­ings, Dobb con­cludes:

The ex­amples Marx cited were mainly drawn from the con­cepts of re­li­gion and ideal­ist philo­sophy… In the realm of eco­nom­ic thought (where one might at first glance least sus­pect it) it is not dif­fi­cult to see a par­al­lel tend­ency at work. One might think it harm­less enough to make ab­strac­tion of cer­tain as­pects of ex­change-re­la­tions in or­der to ana­lyze them in isol­a­tion from so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion. But what ac­tu­ally oc­curs is that once this ab­strac­tion has been made it is giv­en an in­de­pend­ent ex­ist­ence as though it rep­res­en­ted the es­sence of real­ity, in­stead of one con­tin­gent fa­cet of real­ity. Con­cepts be­come hy­po­stat­ized; the ab­strac­tion ac­quires a fet­ish­ist­ic char­ac­ter, to use Marx’s phrase. Here seems to lie the cru­cial danger of this meth­od and the secret of the con­fu­sions which have en­meshed mod­ern eco­nom­ic thought.35

But it is not only in The Poverty of Philo­sophy and oth­er early writ­ings that Marx em­ploys the cri­tique so ably re­con­struc­ted here by Dobb. It is no less cent­ral to Marx’s ana­lys­is of the meth­od of polit­ic­al eco­nomy in his ma­ture works. What eco­nom­ists do, says Marx, is to sub­sti­tute for the spe­cif­ic in­sti­tu­tions and pro­cesses of mod­ern eco­nomy gen­er­ic or uni­ver­sal cat­egor­ies sup­posed to be val­id for all times and places; then the former come to be seen as real­iz­a­tions, in­carn­a­tions of the lat­ter. His re­flec­tions on the concept of “pro­duc­tion” in the first para­graph of the 1857 in­tro­duc­tion to the Grundrisse are in­ter­est­ing in this con­nec­tion. In any sci­entif­ic ana­lys­is of the cap­it­al­ist mode of pro­duc­tion, Marx states, the ele­ments which are not gen­er­al and com­mon, must be sep­ar­ated out from the de­term­in­a­tions val­id for pro­duc­tion as such, so that in their unity — which arises already from the iden­tity of the sub­ject, hu­man­ity, and of the ob­ject, nature — their es­sen­tial dif­fer­ence is not for­got­ten. The whole pro­fund­ity of those mod­ern eco­nom­ists who demon­strate the etern­ity and har­mo­ni­ous­ness of the ex­ist­ing so­cial re­la­tions lies in this for­get­ting. For ex­ample. No pro­duc­tion pos­sible without an in­stru­ment of pro­duc­tion, even if this in­stru­ment is only the hand. No pro­duc­tion without stored-up, past labor, even if it is only the fa­cil­ity gathered to­geth­er and con­cen­trated in the hand of the sav­age by re­peated prac­tice. Cap­it­al is, among oth­er things, also an in­stru­ment of pro­duc­tion, also ob­jec­ti­fied, past labor. There­fore cap­it­al is a gen­er­al, etern­al re­la­tion of nature; that is, if I leave out just the spe­cif­ic qual­ity which alone makes “in­stru­ment of pro­duc­tion” and “stored-up labor” in­to cap­it­al.

John Stu­art Mill, for ex­ample (Marx con­tin­ues) typ­ic­ally presents “pro­duc­tion as dis­tinct from dis­tri­bu­tion etc., as en­cased in etern­al nat­ur­al laws in­de­pend­ent of his­tory, at which op­por­tun­ity bour­geois re­la­tions are then quietly smuggled in as the in­vi­ol­able nat­ur­al laws on which so­ci­ety in the ab­stract is foun­ded.” And this is in­deed, he con­cludes, “the more or less con­scious pur­pose of the whole pro­ceed­ing.”36

In oth­er words, lo­gic­al unity takes the place of real dif­fer­ence, the uni­ver­sal re­places the par­tic­u­lar, the etern­al cat­egory is sub­sti­tuted for the his­tor­ic­ally con­crete. After which — as the “more or less con­scious aim” of the op­er­a­tion — the con­crete is smuggled in as a con­sequence and a tri­umphant em­bod­i­ment of the uni­ver­sal. Both Cap­it­al and The­or­ies of Sur­plus Value de­vel­op this cri­ti­cism at some length. For ex­ample, eco­nom­ists identi­fy wage-labor with labor in gen­er­al, and so re­duce the par­tic­u­lar, spe­cif­ic form of mod­ern pro­duct­ive work to “labor” pure and simple, as that term is defined in any dic­tion­ary. The res­ult is — giv­en that “labor” in gen­er­al is, in Marx’s words, “the uni­ver­sal con­di­tion for the meta­bol­ic in­ter­ac­tion [Stoffwech­sel] between man and nature, the ever­last­ing nature-im­posed con­di­tion of hu­man ex­ist­ence” — that the light of etern­ity comes to be cast upon the par­tic­u­lar his­tor­ic­al fig­ure of the wage-laborer.37 Or else eco­nom­ists re­duce cap­it­al to a mere “in­stru­ment of pro­duc­tion” amongst oth­ers, with the res­ult that (since pro­duc­tion is clearly un­think­able without in­stru­ments and tools of labor) pro­duc­tion be­comes un­think­able without the pres­ence of cap­it­al.

There is no space to pur­sue this theme fur­ther here. Per­haps the most sug­gest­ive ap­plic­a­tions of this crit­ic­al meth­od are to be found in Marx’s The­or­ies of Sur­plus Value (the sec­tion on eco­nom­ic crises in Part II, and the sec­tion on James Mill in Part III). We must go on to look at the rest of the Cri­tique.


After the cri­tique of Hegel’s dia­lectic, the next great sub­ject Marx tackles is that of the mod­ern rep­res­ent­at­ive state. As we shall see, his views here are sub­stan­tially the same as those he ex­pressed in The Jew­ish Ques­tion and A Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right: In­tro­duc­tion, both pub­lished in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher of Feb­ru­ary 1844 and writ­ten soon after the Cri­tique.

This part of Marx’s work dis­plays the same sharp dif­fer­ence from the stance of even the most rad­ic­al Left Hegel­i­ans. True, Ruge had pub­lished a quite out­stand­ing cri­ti­cism of Hegel’s polit­ic­al thought un­der the title “The Hegel­i­an Philo­sophy of Right and the Polit­ics of Our Time” in the Deutsche Jahrbücher of Au­gust 1842. And in this art­icle he had com­men­ted on Hegel’s “trans­fig­ur­a­tion” of the em­pir­ic­ally giv­en in­sti­tu­tions of the Prus­si­an state in­to mo­ments of the Ab­so­lute. However, the main bur­den of his ar­gu­ment re­mained that of Hegel’s per­son­al and dip­lo­mat­ic “com­prom­ise” — which had turned him, against his own true prin­ciples, in­to the the­or­ist of the Res­tor­a­tion. Marx’s view is (as noted above) pro­foundly dif­fer­ent.

Marx knew very well, of course, that the state as Hegel de­pic­ted it differed from the clas­sic­al form of mod­ern rep­res­ent­at­ive state pro­duced by the French Re­volu­tion. The Philo­sophy of Right is full of feud­al re­min­is­cences de­rived from the con­di­tion of Prus­sia at that time. For ex­ample — as Marx nev­er tires of point­ing out — Hegel ten­ded con­stantly to con­fuse mod­ern so­cial classes with the “or­ders” or “Es­tates” of feud­al so­ci­ety: the former are so­cioeco­nom­ic in nature, while the lat­ter were also polit­ic­al in nature. In mod­ern so­ci­ety eco­nom­ic in­equal­ity ac­com­pan­ies polit­ic­al and jur­idic­al equal­ity, while un­der feud­al­ism the land­lord was also a polit­ic­al sov­er­eign, and the tiller of the soil was a sub­ject — that is, in­equal­ity reigned in all spheres between the priv­ileged and their serfs. Hegel also wanted to re­tain the me­di­ev­al cor­por­a­tions (or guilds), re­cog­nized pri­mo­gen­it­ure, and so on.38

Non­ethe­less, in spite of these strik­ingly prebour­geois or an­ti­bour­geois fea­tures in Hegel’s thought, Marx does not take him to be the the­or­ist of the post-1815 Res­tor­a­tion. He is seen, rather, as the the­or­ist of the mod­ern rep­res­ent­at­ive state. The Hegel­i­an philo­sophy of law and the state does not re­flect the his­tor­ic­al back­ward­ness of Ger­many but — on the con­trary — ex­presses the ideal as­pir­a­tion of Ger­many to es­cape from that back­ward­ness. It is here and only here (on the plane of philo­sophy rather than that of real­ity) that Ger­many man­ages to be con­tem­por­ary with France and Eng­land and stay abreast of the “ad­vanced world.”

In A Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right: In­tro­duc­tion Marx wrote:

We Ger­mans have lived our fu­ture his­tory in thought, in philo­sophy… Ger­man philo­sophy is the ideal pro­long­a­tion of Ger­man his­tory. There­fore, when we cri­ti­cize the œuvres posthumes of our ideal his­tory, i.e. philo­sophy, in­stead of the œuvres incomplètes of our real his­tory, our cri­ti­cism stands at the cen­ter of the prob­lems of which the present age says: That is the ques­tion. What for ad­vanced na­tions is a prac­tic­al quar­rel with mod­ern polit­ic­al con­di­tions is for Ger­many, where such con­di­tions do not yet ex­ist, a crit­ic­al quar­rel with their re­flec­tion in philo­sophy.39

It fol­lows from this that Marx’s pur­pose in cri­ti­ciz­ing Hegel’s philo­sophy is not to help cre­ate in Ger­many the polit­ic­al con­di­tions already ex­ist­ing in France and Eng­land but rather to cri­ti­cize these con­di­tions them­selves, by de­mol­ish­ing the philo­soph­ic­al struc­ture which ex­presses them. This in­ter­pret­a­tion of Hegel as the the­or­ist of mod­ern rep­res­ent­at­ive in­sti­tu­tions is not only im­port­ant for the light it throws on Marx’s in­ten­tions in 1843. It is im­port­ant primar­ily as the one point of view which en­ables us to pen­et­rate to the heart of Hegel’s prob­lem­at­ic.40 Hegel tends, as has of­ten been poin­ted out, to con­tam­in­ate mod­ern in­sti­tu­tions with pre­b­our­geois so­cial forms and ideas. But this must not be seen as a symp­tom of his im­ma­tur­ity, or in­ab­il­ity to grasp the prob­lems of mod­ern so­ci­ety. On the con­trary, what it does dis­play is his very acute per­cep­tion of just these prob­lems, and of the ur­gent need to find cor­rect­ive rem­ed­ies for them.

In oth­er words, the cent­ral theme of The Philo­sophy of Right is Hegel’s re­cog­ni­tion that mod­ern “civil so­ci­ety,” dom­in­ated as it is by com­pet­it­ive in­di­vidu­al­ism, rep­res­ents a kind of bel­lum om­ni­um con­tra omnes.41 It is uniquely torn apart and la­cer­ated by the pro­found­est ant­ag­on­isms and con­tra­dic­tions. Hegel’s ac­count of it can leave no doubt on this score in the read­er’s mind. In mod­ern civil so­ci­ety the power of ego­ism reigns, along­side ever-in­creas­ing in­ter­de­pend­ence:

Par­tic­u­lar­ity by it­self, giv­en free rein in every dir­ec­tion to sat­is­fy its needs, ac­ci­dent­al caprices, and sub­ject­ive de­sires, des­troys it­self… in this pro­cess of grat­i­fic­a­tion. At the same time… [it] is in thor­oughgo­ing de­pend­ence on caprice and ex­tern­al ac­ci­dent, and is held in check by the power of uni­ver­sal­ity. In these con­trasts and their com­plex­ity, civil so­ci­ety af­fords a spec­tacle of ex­tra­vag­ance and want as well as of the phys­ic­al and eth­ic­al de­gen­er­a­tion com­mon to them both.42

It is pre­cisely be­cause Hegel’s vis­ion of the con­tra­dict­ory and self-de­struct­ive char­ac­ter of mod­ern so­ci­ety is so lively that he tried so hard to re­sus­cit­ate and ad­apt to mod­ern con­di­tions cer­tain as­pects of the “or­gan­ic” feud­al or­der which still sur­vived in the Prus­sia of his day. Hegel sees these more or­gan­ic in­sti­tu­tions as an ele­ment­ary way of com­pens­at­ing for the newly un­leashed in­di­vidu­al­ism of bour­geois so­ci­ety: they (the guilds, etc.) must be made to hold so­ci­ety to­geth­er and ef­fect a ba­sic re­con­cili­ation of private in­terests among them­selves. In this way they will pre­pare the way for the pro­founder unity which the state will real­ize between the private and pub­lic spheres.

The main pur­pose of Hegel’s work is to ex­plain how, on this basis, the state can over­come the man­i­fold con­tra­dic­tions of “civil so­ci­ety.” The task of a mod­ern state, in this sense, must be to re­store the eth­ic and the or­gan­ic whole­ness of the an­tique pol­is — where the in­di­vidu­al was pro­foundly ‘in­teg­rated’ in­to the com­munity — and to do this without sac­ri­fi­cing the prin­ciple of sub­ject­ive free­dom (a cat­egory un­known to the an­cient Greeks, brought in­to the world by the Re­formed Chris­tian­ity of the six­teenth cen­tury). Hegel’s am­bi­tion is to find a new mode of unity which will re­com­pose the frag­ments of mod­ern so­ci­ety. Such frag­ment­a­tion as­sumes a dual form. On the one hand there is the sep­ar­a­tion of private in­terests from each oth­er; on the oth­er, the private in­terest of each is con­stantly op­posed to the in­terest of all the oth­ers to­geth­er, in such a way that a gen­er­al sep­ar­a­tion between private in­terests and “the pub­lic in­terest” takes place. These are two faces of the same prob­lem. The in­tern­al di­vi­sions of the so­cial or­der emerge fi­nally as a di­vi­sion between “civil so­ci­ety” and “polit­ic­al so­ci­ety,” or between so­ci­ety and the state.

It may help the read­er ap­pre­ci­ate this dis­tinc­tion to refer back to John Locke’s Second Treat­ise of Civil Gov­ern­ment (1690). There Locke main­tains that the mu­tu­al con­flicts of private in­terests make ne­ces­sary some ap­peal to an “im­par­tial judge,” loc­ated in the in­sti­tu­tion of “civil gov­ern­ment” (as dis­tinct from “nat­ur­al so­ci­ety”). But this civil gov­ern­ment must also serve to guar­an­tee the “prop­erty and free­dom” of private in­di­vidu­als, and so to per­petu­ate the frag­ment­a­tion of the un­der­ly­ing eco­nom­ic so­ci­ety which Locke called “nat­ur­al so­ci­ety,” and which Hegel and Marx call die bürgerliche Gesell­schaft, civil or bour­geois so­ci­ety.

Hegel ob­vi­ously dis­agrees with Locke. As Marx says, “The deep­er truth here is that Hegel ex­per­i­ences the sep­ar­a­tion of the state [i.e. Locke’s ‘civil gov­ern­ment’] from civil so­ci­ety as a con­tra­dic­tion.”43 The Philo­sophy of Right con­tains a res­ol­ute at­tack on Locke’s type of con­trac­tu­al­ist and nat­ur­al right the­ory. Hegel re­proaches this tra­di­tion above all with per­ceiv­ing the state as a means to an end, the means of guar­an­tee­ing private rights. It was, in his view, un­able to grasp the fact that the state (the “pub­lic in­terest,” the uni­ver­sal prop­erly so called) was no mere means, but rather the end.

However, Hegel’s solu­tion does not really over­come the sep­ar­a­tion of “civil so­ci­ety” from “polit­ic­al so­ci­ety” either. His for­mula for re­con­cil­ing the two was of course in­spired by the gen­er­al meth­od out­lined above. He again turns the uni­ver­sal in­to a sub­stance, a sub­ject suf­fi­cient un­to it­self, and makes it the demi­urge of real­ity. This im­plies that for him move­ment does not pro­ceed from the fam­ily and civil so­ci­ety to­wards the state, but comes from the state to­wards so­ci­ety — comes from the uni­ver­sal Idea, which Hegel de­picts as hav­ing three main in­tern­al “mo­ments” (the three powers of the state): mon­arch­ic­al power, the power of gov­ern­ment, and the power of le­gis­la­tion. Thus, all that seems to be a ne­ces­sary con­di­tion of the state (like the fam­ily and civil so­ci­ety) is ac­tu­ally an ef­fect or res­ult of its self-de­vel­op­ment. It fol­lows, as Marx notes at the be­gin­ning of the Cri­tique, that while in real­ity “the fam­ily and civil so­ci­ety are the pre­con­di­tions of the state; they are the true agents… in spec­u­lat­ive philo­sophy it is the re­verse. When the idea is sub­ject­iv­ized the real sub­jects — civil so­ci­ety, the fam­ily, ‘cir­cum­stances, caprice, etc.’ — are all trans­formed in­to un­real, ob­ject­ive mo­ments of the Idea re­fer­ring to dif­fer­ent things.” In real­ity it is the fam­ily and civil so­ci­ety which make them­selves in­to the state. Marx con­tin­ues:

They are the driv­ing force. Ac­cord­ing to Hegel, however, they are pro­duced by the real Idea; it is not the course of their own life that joins them to­geth­er to com­prise the state, but the life of the Idea which has dis­tin­guished them from it­self… In oth­er words the polit­ic­al state can­not ex­ist without the nat­ur­al basis of the fam­ily and the ar­ti­fi­cial basis of civil so­ci­ety. These are its sine qua non; and yet the con­di­tion is pos­ited as the con­di­tioned, the de­term­in­ant as the de­term­ined, the pro­du­cer as the product.44

We re­turn here to Marx’s main meth­od­o­lo­gic­al cri­tique of Hegel. But what is truly ori­gin­al in the second part of the Cri­tique is that, pur­su­ing his ana­lys­is of Hegel farther along these lines, Marx ends by ex­pos­ing a rad­ic­ally new level of prob­lem al­to­geth­er. The Hegel­i­an philo­sophy is up­side-down; it in­verts real­ity, mak­ing pre­dic­ates in­to sub­jects and real sub­jects in­to pre­dic­ates. Cer­tainly, but, Marx adds, the in­ver­sion does not ori­gin­ate in Hegel’s philo­sophy it­self. The mys­ti­fic­a­tion does not primar­ily con­cern the way in which this philo­sophy re­flects real­ity, but real­ity it­self.

In oth­er words, what is “up­side-down” is not simply Hegel’s im­age of real­ity, but the very real­ity it tries to re­flect. “This un­crit­ic­al mys­ti­cism is the key both to the riddle of mod­ern con­sti­tu­tions… and also to the mys­tery of the Hegel­i­an philo­sophy, above all the Philo­sophy of Right,” states Marx. He stresses, “This point of view is cer­tainly ab­stract, but the ab­strac­tion is that of the polit­ic­al state as Hegel has presen­ted it. It is also atom­ist­ic, but its atom­ism is that of so­ci­ety it­self. The ‘point of view’ can­not be con­crete when its ob­ject is ‘ab­stract’.” And so, “Hegel should not be blamed for de­scrib­ing the es­sence of the mod­ern state as it is, but for identi­fy­ing what is with the es­sence of the State.”45 In oth­er words, in de­scrib­ing the ex­ist­ing state of af­fairs, he con­nives with and re­peats its in­ver­ted lo­gic, in­stead of achiev­ing a crit­ic­al dom­in­a­tion of it.

From this in­sight there fol­lows a rad­ic­ally new ana­lys­is. It is no longer ac­cur­ate to say only that the concept of the state Hegel of­fers us is a hy­po­stat­ized ab­strac­tion; the point be­comes that the mod­ern state, the polit­ic­al state, is it­self a hy­po­stat­ized ab­strac­tion. The sep­ar­a­tion of the state from the body of so­ci­ety, or (as Marx writes) “The ab­strac­tion of the state as such… was not cre­ated un­til mod­ern times. The ab­strac­tion of the polit­ic­al state is a mod­ern product.”46

“Ab­strac­tion” here means above all sep­ar­a­tion, es­trange­ment. Marx’s thes­is is that the polit­ic­al state, the “state as such,” is a mod­ern product be­cause the whole phe­nomen­on of the de­tach­ment of state from so­ci­ety (of polit­ics from eco­nom­ics, of “pub­lic” from “private”) is it­self mod­ern. In an­cient Greece the state and the com­munity were iden­ti­fied with­in the pol­is: there was a sub­stan­tial unity between people and state. The “com­mon in­terest,” “pub­lic af­fairs,” etc., co­in­cided with the con­tent of the cit­izens’ real lives, and the cit­izens par­ti­cip­ated dir­ectly in the city’s de­cisions (“dir­ect demo­cracy”). There was no sep­ar­a­tion of pub­lic from private. In­deed, the in­di­vidu­al was so in­teg­rated in­to the com­munity that the concept of “free­dom” in the mod­ern sense (the free­dom of private in­di­vidu­al­ism) was quite un­known. The in­di­vidu­al was “free” only to the ex­tent to which he was a mem­ber of a free com­munity. In me­di­ev­al times there was if pos­sible even less sep­ar­a­tion of state from so­ci­ety, of polit­ic­al from eco­nom­ic life. The me­di­ev­al spir­it could be ex­pressed, Marx says, as one where “the classes of civil so­ci­ety were identic­al with the Es­tates in the polit­ic­al sense, be­cause civil so­ci­ety was polit­ic­al so­ci­ety; be­cause the or­gan­ic prin­ciple of civil so­ci­ety was the prin­ciple of the State.”47 Polit­ics ad­hered so closely to the eco­nom­ic struc­ture that so­cioeco­nom­ic dis­tinc­tions (serf and lord) were also polit­ic­al dis­tinc­tions (sub­ject and sov­er­eign). In the Middle Ages “prin­cip­al­ity or sov­er­eignty func­tioned as a par­tic­u­lar Es­tate which en­joyed cer­tain priv­ileges but was equally im­peded by the priv­ileges of oth­er Es­tates.”48 It was im­possible there­fore that there should have been a sep­ar­ate sphere of “pub­lic” rights at that time.

The mod­ern situ­ation is ut­terly dif­fer­ent. In mod­ern “civil so­ci­ety” the in­di­vidu­al ap­pears as lib­er­ated from all so­cial ties. He is in­teg­rated neither in­to a cit­izen com­munity, as in an­cient times, nor in­to a par­tic­u­lar cor­por­ate com­munity (for ex­ample a trade guild), as in me­di­ev­al times. In “civil so­ci­ety” — which for Hegel as for Adam Smith and Ri­cardo was a “mar­ket so­ci­ety” of pro­du­cers — in­di­vidu­als are di­vided from and in­de­pend­ent of each oth­er. Un­der such con­di­tions, just as each per­son is in­de­pend­ent of all oth­ers, so does the real nex­us of mu­tu­al de­pend­ence (the bond of so­cial unity) be­come in turn in­de­pend­ent of all in­di­vidu­als. This com­mon in­terest, or “uni­ver­sal” in­terest, renders it­self in­de­pend­ent of all the in­ter­ested parties and as­sumes a sep­ar­ate ex­ist­ence; and such so­cial unity es­tab­lished in sep­ar­a­tion from its mem­bers is, pre­cisely, the hy­po­stat­ized mod­ern state.

The ana­lys­is hinges upon the sim­ul­tan­eity of these two fun­da­ment­al di­vi­sions: the es­trange­ment of in­di­vidu­als from each oth­er, or pri­vacy with­in so­ci­ety, and the more gen­er­al es­trange­ment of pub­lic from private, or of the state from so­ci­ety. The two pro­cesses re­quire each oth­er. They are seen in the Cri­tique, then even more clearly in The Jew­ish Ques­tion, as hav­ing cul­min­ated in the French Re­volu­tion, the re­volu­tion which es­tab­lished jur­idic­al and polit­ic­al equal­ity only upon the basis of a new and even deep­er real in­equal­ity. “The con­sti­tu­tion of the polit­ic­al state,” writes Marx in The Jew­ish Ques­tion, “and the dis­sol­u­tion of civil so­ci­ety in­to in­de­pend­ent in­di­vidu­als — who are re­lated by law just as men in the es­tates and guilds were re­lated by priv­ilege — are achieved in one and the same act.”49

“It was a def­in­ite ad­vance in his­tory,” he in­sists in the Cri­tique, “when the Es­tates were trans­formed in­to so­cial classes so that, just as the Chris­ti­ans are equal in heav­en though un­equal on earth, the in­di­vidu­al mem­bers of the people be­came equal in the heav­en of their polit­ic­al world, though un­equal in their earthly ex­ist­ence in so­ci­ety? The trans­form­a­tion was car­ried through by the French Re­volu­tion, through which the “class dis­tinc­tions in civil so­ci­ety be­came merely so­cial dif­fer­ences in private life of no sig­ni­fic­ance in polit­ic­al life. This ac­com­plished the sep­ar­a­tion of polit­ic­al life and civil so­ci­ety.”50

Heav­en and earth, the heav­enly com­munity and the earthly one: in the first all are equal, in the second un­equal — in one all united, in the oth­er all es­tranged from each oth­er. Thus we find, already for­mu­lated in the Cri­tique, the cel­eb­rated an­ti­thes­is cent­ral to The Jew­ish Ques­tion, the con­trast between “polit­ic­al so­ci­ety” as a spir­itu­al or heav­enly com­munity and “civil so­ci­ety” as so­ci­ety frag­men­ted in­to private in­terests com­pet­ing against each oth­er. The mo­ment of unity or com­munity has to be ab­stract (the state) be­cause in the real, frag­men­ted so­ci­ety a com­mon or gen­er­al in­terest can only arise by dis­so­ci­ation from all the con­tend­ing private in­terests. But on the oth­er hand, since the res­ult­ant gen­er­al in­terest is form­al in nature and ob­tained by ab­stract­ing from real­ity, the basis and con­tent of such a “polit­ic­al so­ci­ety” in­ev­it­ably re­mains civil so­ci­ety with all its eco­nom­ic di­vi­sions. Be­neath the ab­stract so­ci­ety (the state), real es­trange­ment and un­so­ci­ab­il­ity per­sist.

In both the Cri­tique and The Jew­ish Ques­tion we find this double-edged pro­cess ana­lyzed in the terms Marx first used to cri­ti­cize the Hegel­i­an dia­lectic. And in both ana­lyses we are led to see a pro­cess com­pris­ing “un­crit­ic­al ideal­ism” at work along­side “equally un­crit­ic­al pos­it­iv­ism,” an “ab­stract spir­itu­al­ism” form­ing the coun­ter­part to a “crass ma­ter­i­al­ism.”

The “un­crit­ic­al ideal­ism” arises from the fact that, in or­der to at­tain the uni­ver­sal equal­ity of a “com­mon in­terest,” so­ci­ety is com­pelled to ab­stract from its real di­vi­sions and deny them value and sig­ni­fic­ance. Civil so­ci­ety, claims Marx, can ac­quire polit­ic­al mean­ing and ef­fic­acy only by an act of “thor­oughgo­ing tran­sub­stan­ti­ation,” an act by which “civil so­ci­ety must com­pletely re­nounce it­self as civil so­ci­ety, as a private class and must in­stead as­sert the valid­ity of a part of its be­ing which not only has noth­ing in com­mon with, but is dir­ectly op­posed to, its real civil ex­ist­ence.”51 The con­trary “crass ma­ter­i­al­ism” arises from the fact that, just be­cause the “gen­er­al in­terest” has been reached by neg­lect­ing or tran­scend­ing genu­ine in­terests, the lat­ter are bound to per­sist as its true con­tent — as the un­equal eco­nom­ic real­ity now sanc­tioned or le­git­im­ized by the state. One ob­tains man as an equal of oth­er men, man as a mem­ber of his spe­cies and of the hu­man com­munity, only by ig­nor­ing man as he is in really ex­ist­ing so­ci­ety and treat­ing him as the cit­izen of an eth­er­e­al com­munity. One ob­tains the cit­izen only by ab­stract­ing from the bour­geois. The dif­fer­ence between the two, says Marx in The Jew­ish Ques­tion, “is the dif­fer­ence between the trades­man and the cit­izen, between the day-laborer and the cit­izen, between the landown­er and the cit­izen, between the liv­ing in­di­vidu­al and the cit­izen.” On the oth­er hand, once the bour­geois has been neg­ated and made a cit­izen the pro­cess works the oth­er way: that is, it turns out that “polit­ic­al life de­clares it­self to be a mere means, whose goal is the life of civil so­ci­ety.” In­deed, “the re­la­tion­ship of the polit­ic­al state to civil so­ci­ety is just as spir­itu­al as the re­la­tion­ship of heav­en to earth. The state stands in the same op­pos­i­tion to civil so­ci­ety and over­comes it in the same way as re­li­gion over­comes the re­stric­tions of the pro­fane world, i.e. it has to ac­know­ledge it again, re­in­state it and al­low it­self to be dom­in­ated by it.”52 The polit­ic­al ideal­ism of the hy­po­stat­ized state serves only to se­cure and fix the crass ma­ter­i­al­ism of civil so­ci­ety.

The Cri­tique goes on to de­vel­op this ar­gu­ment that the mod­ern rep­res­ent­at­ive state acts as guar­ant­or of private prop­erty, with ref­er­ence to one par­tic­u­lar form of prop­erty: landed prop­erty reg­u­lated by the law of pri­mo­gen­it­ure (which Hegel sees as es­sen­tial to the state). The Jew­ish Ques­tion, on the oth­er hand, con­siders the ar­gu­ment in re­la­tion to private prop­erty in gen­er­al (both per­son­al and real) and also to the “De­clar­a­tion of the Rights of Man” and the prin­cip­al art­icles of the con­sti­tu­tions pro­duced dur­ing the course of the French Re­volu­tion. However, both texts ar­rive at the same con­clu­sion: that the polit­ic­al con­sti­tu­tion of mod­ern rep­res­ent­at­ive states is in real­ity the “con­sti­tu­tion of private prop­erty.” Marx sees this for­mula as sum­ming up the whole in­ver­ted lo­gic of mod­ern so­ci­ety. It sig­ni­fies that the uni­ver­sal, the “gen­er­al in­terest” of the com­munity at large, not only does not unite men to­geth­er ef­fect­ively but ac­tu­ally sanc­ti­fies and le­git­im­izes their dis­unity. In the name of a uni­ver­sal prin­ciple (the oblig­a­tory as­pect of “law” as ex­pres­sion of a gen­er­al or so­cial will) it con­sec­rates private prop­erty, or the right of in­di­vidu­als to pur­sue their own ex­clus­ive in­terests in­de­pend­ently of, and some­times against, so­ci­ety it­self.

Para­dox reigns, there­fore: the gen­er­al will is in­voked in or­der to con­fer ab­so­lute value on in­di­vidu­al caprice; so­ci­ety is in­voked in or­der to render aso­cial in­terests sac­red and in­tan­gible; the cause of equal­ity among men is de­fen­ded, so that the cause of in­equal­ity among them (private prop­erty) can be ac­know­ledged as fun­da­ment­al and ab­so­lute. Everything is up­side down. And, as Marx em­phas­izes in the sec­tion of the Cri­tique deal­ing with pri­mo­gen­it­ure, this re­versal is found in real­ity it­self, be­fore it comes to be re­flec­ted in philo­sophy.

In­de­pend­ent private cap­it­al, i.e. ab­stract private prop­erty and the private per­son cor­res­pond­ing to it, are the lo­gic­al apex of the polit­ic­al state. Polit­ic­al “in­de­pend­ence” is in­ter­preted to mean “in­de­pend­ent private prop­erty” and the “per­son cor­res­pond­ing to that in­de­pend­ent private prop­erty”… The polit­ic­al qual­i­fic­a­tions of the hered­it­ary landown­er are the polit­ic­al qual­i­fic­a­tions of his es­tate, qual­i­fic­a­tions in­her­ent in the es­tate it­self. Thus polit­ic­al qual­i­fic­a­tions ap­pear here as the prop­erty of landed prop­erty, as something dir­ectly arising from the purely phys­ic­al earth (nature)… Private prop­erty has be­come the sub­ject of will; the will sur­vives only as the pre­dic­ate of private prop­erty.53

Again, Marx re­turns to the form of his at­tack on Hegel’s lo­gic­al meth­od. This time, however, what it ex­presses is the real dom­in­a­tion of private prop­erty over mod­ern so­ci­ety. Prop­erty ought to be a mani­fest­a­tion, an at­trib­ute, of man, but be­comes the sub­ject; man ought to be the real sub­ject, but be­comes the prop­erty of private prop­erty. Here we find the sub­ject-pre­dic­ate in­ver­sion and, sim­ul­tan­eously, the for­mu­la­tion through which Marx be­gins to de­lin­eate the phe­nomen­on of fet­ish­ism or ali­en­a­tion.

The so­cial side of hu­man be­ings ap­pears as a char­ac­ter­ist­ic or prop­erty of things; on the oth­er hand, things ap­pear to be en­dowed with so­cial or hu­man at­trib­utes. This is in em­bryo the ar­gu­ment which Marx will de­vel­op later in Cap­it­al as “the fet­ish­ism of com­mod­it­ies.” In both places — the ana­lys­is of the mod­ern State and the ana­lys­is of mod­ern com­mod­ity-pro­duc­tion — it is not simply the the­or­ies of Hegel and the eco­nom­ists which are up­side down, but real­ity it­self. In both places Marx does not con­fine him­self to cri­ti­cism of Hegel’s “lo­gic­al mys­ti­cism” or of the “Di­vine Trin­ity” of polit­ic­al eco­nomy (cap­it­al, land, and labor) but goes on to ex­plain the fet­ish­ism of thought with ref­er­ence to the fet­ish­ism or mys­ti­cism built in­to so­cial real­ity. Cap­it­al defines a com­mod­ity (which “ap­pears at first sight an ex­tremely ob­vi­ous, trivi­al thing”) as be­ing in real­ity “a very strange thing, abound­ing in meta­phys­ic­al sub­tleties and theo­lo­gic­al niceties,” and goes on to em­ploy phrases like “the mys­tic­al char­ac­ter of the com­mod­ity,” or “the whole mys­tery of com­mod­it­ies, all the ma­gic and nec­ro­mancy that sur­rounds the products of labor on the basis of com­mod­ity pro­duc­tion.” Marx makes it clear that the “veil” is not ad­ded by bour­geois in­ter­pret­ers of ‘the so­cial life-pro­cess, i.e. the pro­cess of ma­ter­i­al pro­duc­tion,” but be­longs to this pro­cess, which there­fore ap­pears to polit­ic­al eco­nomy as what it really is.54

Talk­ing of the re­la­tion­ship between civil and polit­ic­al so­ci­ety we saw how so­ci­ety must “ab­stract from it­self,” must set it­self apart from its real di­vi­sions in or­der to at­tain the plane of com­mon in­terest or equal­ity. To get man as an equal of oth­er men, one has to ig­nore him as he really ex­ists in so­ci­ety. Ex­pres­sions like “so­ci­ety must ab­stract from it­self” may well have seemed meta­phors to the read­er. But what Marx has in mind is a pro­cess of real ab­strac­tion, something which ac­tu­ally goes on in real­ity it­self. That is, a pro­cess wholly ana­log­ous to the one which he de­scribes in Cap­it­al as un­der­ly­ing the the­ory of value — the pro­cess by which use­ful or con­crete work is trans­formed in­to the ab­strac­tion of “equal or ab­stract hu­man labor,” and “use value” is trans­formed in­to the ab­strac­tion of “ex­change value.” This is not a gen­er­al­iz­ing op­er­a­tion per­formed by thinkers, but something oc­cur­ring with­in the ma­chinery of the so­cial or­der, in real­ity. “Men do not there­fore bring the products of their labor in­to re­la­tion with each oth­er as val­ues,” he writes there, “be­cause they see these ob­jects merely as the ma­ter­i­al in­teg­u­ments of ho­mo­gen­eous hu­man labor. The re­verse is true: by equat­ing their dif­fer­ent products to each oth­er in ex­change as val­ues, they equate their dif­fer­ent kinds of labor as hu­man labor. They do this without be­ing aware of it.”55 To the sep­ar­a­tion between pub­lic and private, between so­ci­ety and the in­di­vidu­al (ana­lyzed in the Cri­tique) there cor­res­ponds the eco­nom­ic sep­ar­a­tion between in­di­vidu­al labor and so­cial labor.

So­cial labor too must ex­ist in its own right, must be­come “ab­stract labor” set over against con­crete, in­di­vidu­al work. The lat­ter is rep­res­en­ted in Marx’s eco­nom­ic ana­lys­is by “use value” and the former by the ob­jec­ti­fied “value” of com­mod­it­ies.

The pro­cess is al­ways the same. Wheth­er the ar­gu­ment deals with fet­ish­ism and ali­en­a­tion, or with Hegel’s mys­ti­fy­ing lo­gic, it hinges upon the hy­po­stat­iz­ing, the re­ify­ing, of ab­strac­tions and the con­sequent in­ver­sion of sub­ject and pre­dic­ate. A chapter Marx ad­ded to the first edi­tion of Cap­it­al while it was be­ing prin­ted, „Die Wert­form“ — re­vised and in­cor­por­ated, in sub­sequent edi­tions, in Chapter One, as the sec­tion on “The Form of Value” — re­peats the ar­gu­ment once more in its ana­lys­is of the value re­la­tion­ship of com­mod­it­ies:

With­in the value-re­la­tion and the ex­pres­sion of value con­tained in it the ab­stract uni­ver­sal is not a prop­erty of the con­crete, the sen­su­ous-ac­tu­al; on the con­trary, the sen­su­ous-ac­tu­al is a mere hy­po­stas­is or de­term­in­ate form of real­iz­a­tion of the ab­stract uni­ver­sal. Tail­ors’ work, which is to be found for ex­ample in the equi­val­ent coat, does not have, with­in the ex­pres­sion of value of cloth, the uni­ver­sal prop­erty of also be­ing hu­man labor. It is the oth­er way round. Its es­sence is be­ing hu­man labor, and be­ing tail­ors’ work is a hy­po­stas­is or de­term­in­ate form of real­iz­a­tion of that es­sence. This quid pro quo is in­ev­it­able, be­cause the labor rep­res­en­ted in the product of labor is only value-cre­at­ing in so far as it is un­dif­fer­en­ti­ated hu­man labor; so that the labor ob­jec­ti­fied in the value of one product is in no way dis­tin­guished from the labor ob­jec­ti­fied in an­oth­er product.

And Marx con­cludes:

This in­ver­sion, whereby the sen­su­ous-con­crete only fig­ures as a hy­po­stas­is of the ab­stract-uni­ver­sal, rather than the ab­stract-uni­ver­sal as a prop­erty of the con­crete, char­ac­ter­izes the ex­pres­sion of value. At the same time it is this in­ver­sion which makes it dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand the ex­pres­sion of value. If I say: Ro­man law and Ger­man law are both sys­tems of law, then that is ob­vi­ous. But if I say: Law, this ab­strac­tion, is real­ized in Ro­man law and in Ger­man law, these con­crete sys­tems of law, then the re­la­tion­ship is mys­tic­al.56

The sense of the ar­gu­ment could hardly be clear­er. The ab­stract uni­ver­sal which ought to be a qual­ity or at­trib­ute of the con­crete world be­comes the sub­ject; while the real sub­ject, the con­crete world, be­comes a mere “phe­nom­en­al form” of the former. This is, a one and the same time, the in­ver­sion ascribed to Hegel’s philo­sophy in the post­face to the 1873 edi­tion of Cap­it­al and the in­ver­ted real re­la­tion­ship which de­term­ines the ex­change value of com­mod­it­ies.

At this point, the full im­port­ance of the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Doc­trine of the State be­comes plain. The cri­ti­cism of Hegel in that work is — as we saw — the key to Marx’s sub­sequent cri­ti­cism of the bour­geois eco­nom­ists. It is no less vi­tal to the un­der­stand­ing of his views on the mod­ern rep­res­ent­at­ive state. And it is the pre­lude to all his later stud­ies, up to and in­clud­ing his fam­ous ana­lys­is of the fet­ish­ism of com­mod­it­ies and cap­it­al. The ques­tion fol­low­ing on these ob­ser­va­tions is an ob­vi­ous one: giv­en that most con­tem­por­ary Marx­ism has dis­missed the Cri­tique without ser­i­ous con­sid­er­a­tion, what can be the level of its com­pre­hen­sion of even the first few pages of Cap­it­al! Of, that is, the sec­tions on the “re­l­at­ive” and “equi­val­ent” forms of value?

Un­for­tu­nately it is not pos­sible to pur­sue this ar­gu­ment fur­ther here. Be­fore go­ing on to con­sider the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts, however, it is per­haps worth ex­amin­ing one of the cap­tious ob­jec­tions tra­di­tion­ally leveled at the Cri­tique. As well as ac­cus­ing it of be­ing un­duly sub­ject to Feuerbach’s in­flu­ence, crit­ics have of­ten in­sisted that in the Cri­tique Marx fig­ures merely as a prot­ag­on­ist of polit­ic­al “demo­cracy.” It is quite true that in his re­marks on Hegel’s the­ory of mon­archy Marx ex­pli­citly uses this concept. He writes:

Hegel pro­ceeds from the state and con­ceives of man as the sub­ject­iv­ized state; demo­cracy pro­ceeds from man and con­ceives of the state as ob­jec­ti­fied man. Just as re­li­gion does not make man, but rather man makes re­li­gion, so the con­sti­tu­tion does not make the people, but the people make the con­sti­tu­tion… Demo­cracy is the es­sence of all polit­ic­al con­sti­tu­tions, so­cial­ized man as a par­tic­u­lar polit­ic­al con­sti­tu­tion; it is re­lated to oth­er forms of con­sti­tu­tion as a genus to its vari­ous spe­cies…57

The few Marx­ist schol­ars who have bothered to study the Cri­tique have in­ter­preted these state­ments some­what oddly. Giv­en that the work as a whole con­tains a pro­nounced cri­tique of the sep­ar­a­tion between “polit­ic­al so­ci­ety” and “civil so­ci­ety” and states un­equi­voc­ally the re­la­tion­ship between the rep­res­ent­at­ive state and private prop­erty, it is scarcely pos­sible to avoid per­ceiv­ing that Marx goes well bey­ond the in­tel­lec­tu­al bounds of lib­er­al con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism. Au­guste Cornu, for in­stance, con­cedes that “through his Cri­tique of Hegel’s Doc­trine of the State, which helped him gain a clear­er idea of the re­la­tion­ships between the polit­ic­al State and civil so­ci­ety, Marx ar­rived at a new worldview, one no longer cor­res­pond­ing to the class in­terests of the bour­geois­ie but rather to those of the pro­let­ari­at.”58

Yet even after re­cog­niz­ing facts like this, Cornu and oth­er crit­ics have ten­ded to re­verse their fi­nal judge­ment, and to con­clude that after all the Marx of the Cri­tique is simply a bour­geois rad­ic­al. Cornu goes on to say, in fact, “This cri­ti­cism did not take Marx to com­mun­ism, however, but to a still very in­de­term­in­ate con­cep­tion of demo­cracy,” with the res­ult that “the re­forms which he fa­vors, like ab­ol­i­tion of the mon­archy and of rep­res­ent­a­tion by es­tates, or the in­tro­duc­tion of uni­ver­sal suf­frage, are still not sub­stan­tially dis­tinct from the re­forms sought by bour­geois demo­cracy.” The con­fu­sion is ob­vi­ous. Cornu is re­peat­ing the old mis­take — a mis­take with deep roots in one sort of Marx­ist tra­di­tion — to the ef­fect that “demo­cracy” and bour­geois demo­cracy are the same thing, as if the lat­ter could really be iden­ti­fied with “demo­cracy” tout court. From an ap­par­ently op­pos­ite ideo­lo­gic­al point of view, there­fore, he re­it­er­ates the idea found in every bour­geois in­tel­lec­tu­al’s head — that “demo­cracy” is par­lia­ment­ary gov­ern­ment, the di­vi­sion of powers, state-guar­an­teed equal­ity be­fore the law and so on.

Marx does in­deed use the term “demo­cracy.” But the sense he gives it is al­most the con­trary of the one Cornu at­trib­utes to him. His mean­ing of the word is rather that found in the En­light­en­ment tra­di­tion, and as used by some lead­ers of the French Re­volu­tion (Marx had stud­ied the French Re­volu­tion most in­tens­ively be­fore writ­ing the Cri­tique). It is the sense to be found, for ex­ample, in Mont­esquieu and — above all — Rousseau, where it sig­ni­fies the or­gan­ic com­munity typ­i­fied by the city-states of an­tiquity (com­munit­ies not yet split in­to “civil so­ci­ety” versus “polit­ic­al so­ci­ety”). So true is this that Marx not only dis­tin­guishes between “demo­cracy” and the “polit­ic­al re­pub­lic” (which is “demo­cracy with­in the ab­stract form of the state”) but goes on to em­phas­ize that demo­cracy in this sense im­plies the dis­ap­pear­ance of the state al­to­geth­er. “In mod­ern times,” he writes, “the French have un­der­stood this to mean that the polit­ic­al state dis­ap­pears in a true demo­cracy.”59 In oth­er words, what is really un­der­stood by demo­cracy here is the same as, many years later, Marx was to re­dis­cov­er in the ac­tions of the Par­is Com­mune of 1871.

Hence where Cornu ima­gines that Marx is de­mand­ing bour­geois re­forms like uni­ver­sal suf­frage, he is in fact for­mu­lat­ing a crit­ic­al ana­lys­is of par­lia­ment­ar­ism and of the mod­ern rep­res­ent­at­ive prin­ciple it­self. He com­ments on Hegel’s para­graph 309:

The depu­ties of civil so­ci­ety are con­sti­tuted in­to an “as­sembly” and only in this as­sembly does the polit­ic­al ex­ist­ence and will of civil so­ci­ety be­come real. The sep­ar­a­tion of the polit­ic­al state from civil so­ci­ety takes the form of a sep­ar­a­tion of the depu­ties from their elect­ors. So­ci­ety simply deputes ele­ments of it­self to be­come its polit­ic­al ex­ist­ence.

Then he con­tin­ues:

There is a two­fold con­tra­dic­tion:

  1. A form­al con­tra­dic­tion. The depu­ties of civil so­ci­ety are a so­ci­ety which is not con­nec­ted to its elect­ors by any “in­struc­tion” or com­mis­sion. They have a form­al au­thor­iz­a­tion but as soon as this be­comes real they cease to be au­thor­ized. They should be depu­ties but they are not.
  2. A ma­ter­i­al con­tra­dic­tion. In re­spect to ac­tu­al in­terests… Here we find the con­verse. They have au­thor­ity as the rep­res­ent­at­ives of pub­lic af­fairs, where­as in real­ity they rep­res­ent par­tic­u­lar in­terests.60

At this point one sees how Marx’s cri­tique of the sep­ar­a­tion between state and civil so­ci­ety is car­ried to its lo­gic­al (and ex­treme) con­clu­sion. Even from a form­al point of view, the rep­res­ent­at­ive prin­ciple of the mod­ern state is shown to be a fun­da­ment­al con­tra­dic­tion in terms. In so far as par­lia­ment­ary depu­ties are elec­ted by the people, it is thereby re­cog­nized that the source of “sov­er­eignty” or power be­longs in the pop­u­lar mass it­self. It is ad­mit­ted that del­eg­ates “draw their au­thor­ity” from the lat­ter — and so can be no more than people’s rep­res­ent­at­ives, bound by in­struc­tions or by the “man­date” of their elect­ors. Yet no soon­er has the elec­tion taken place and the depu­ties been “sworn in” than this prin­ciple is up-ended: they are no longer “mere del­eg­ates,” mere ser­vants, but in­de­pend­ent of their elect­ors. Their as­sembly, par­lia­ment, no longer ap­pears as an em­an­a­tion of so­ci­ety but as so­ci­ety it­self — as the real so­ci­ety out­side which there re­mains noth­ing but a form­less ag­greg­ate, an in­cho­ate mass of private wishes.

It is hard to avoid look­ing for­ward at this point to Marx’s later es­say The Civil War in France (1871). The “com­mis­sion­ing” of which Marx speaks in the Cri­tique, con­trast­ing it to the prin­ciple of par­lia­ment­ary rep­res­ent­a­tion, is the pro­ced­ure which was to be ob­served by the Com­mune of Par­is dur­ing its two months of power. There, Marx says in The Civil War, “each del­eg­ate was at any time re­voc­able and bound by the man­dat impératif (form­al in­struc­tions) of his con­stitu­ents.” In a pas­sage which reads like an ex­ten­ded com­ment upon point 2 cited above, Marx con­tin­ues: “In­stead of de­cid­ing once in three or six years which mem­ber of the rul­ing class was to mis­rep­res­ent the people in par­lia­ment, uni­ver­sal suf­frage was to serve the people, con­sti­tuted in Com­munes, as in­di­vidu­al suf­frage serves every oth­er em­ploy­er in the search for the work­men and man­agers in his busi­ness.”61

Al­most thirty years later, the ar­gu­ment of 1871 clearly re­calls that of 1843. What Marx says in The Civil War about the way in which the Com­mune used uni­ver­sal suf­frage to choose del­eg­ates should be com­pared to its al­most per­fect pendant in the Cri­tique. Dis­cuss­ing para­graph 308 of the Philo­sophy of Right, where Hegel had posed the al­tern­at­ive that either rep­res­ent­a­tion has to em­ploy “depu­ties” or else “all as in­di­vidu­als” would have to par­ti­cip­ate in the de­cision of all pub­lic af­fairs, Marx ob­jects that the choice is a false one. In fact:

Either the polit­ic­al state is sep­ar­ated from civil so­ci­ety; in that event it is not pos­sible for all as in­di­vidu­als to take part in the le­gis­lature. The polit­ic­al state leads an ex­ist­ence di­vorced from civil so­ci­ety… the fact that civil so­ci­ety takes part in the polit­ic­al state through its depu­ties is the ex­pres­sion of the sep­ar­a­tion and of the merely du­al­ist­ic unity… Al­tern­at­ively, civil so­ci­ety is the real polit­ic­al so­ci­ety. If so, it is sense­less to in­sist on a re­quire­ment which stems from the con­cep­tion of the polit­ic­al state as something ex­ist­ing apart from civil so­ci­ety… [for here] the le­gis­lature en­tirely ceases to be im­port­ant as a rep­res­ent­at­ive body. The le­gis­lature is rep­res­ent­at­ive only in the sense that every func­tion is rep­res­ent­at­ive. For ex­ample, a cob­bler is my rep­res­ent­at­ive in so far as he sat­is­fies a so­cial need… In this sense he is a rep­res­ent­at­ive not by vir­tue of an­oth­er thing which he rep­res­ents but by vir­tue of what he is and does.62

What Marx sug­gests is that either there is a sep­ar­a­tion of state from civil so­ci­ety, and so a di­vi­sion between gov­ernors and gov­erned (depu­ties and elect­ors, par­lia­ment and the body of so­ci­ety) which rep­res­ents the cul­min­a­tion of the class di­vi­sion with­in civil so­ci­ety; or else the sep­ar­a­tion does not ex­ist be­cause so­ci­ety is an or­gan­ism of solid­ary and ho­mo­gen­eous in­terests, and the dis­tinct “polit­ic­al” sphere of the “gen­er­al in­terest” van­ishes along with the di­vi­sion between gov­ernors and gov­erned. This means that polit­ics be­comes the ad­min­is­tra­tion of things, or simply an­oth­er branch of so­cial pro­duc­tion. And it would no longer be true that “all in­di­vidu­als as single in­di­vidu­als” would have to par­ti­cip­ate in all of this activ­ity; rather, some in­di­vidu­als would, as ex­pres­sions of and on be­half of the so­cial to­tal­ity, just as hap­pens with oth­er pro­duct­ive activ­it­ies (for ex­ample, the cob­bler) ne­ces­sary to so­ci­ety.

It is wholly ap­pro­pri­ate that this should be the con­clu­sion of Marx’s ar­gu­ment in the Cri­tique: the sup­pres­sion of polit­ics and the ex­tinc­tion of the state. In the con­text of the sep­ar­a­tion between state and so­ci­ety, the pro­gress­ive tend­ency of so­ci­ety — the “ef­forts of civil so­ci­ety to trans­form it­self” — be­comes ne­ces­sar­ily a wish to “force its way in­to the le­gis­lature en masse, or even in toto.”

Marx goes on to state:

It is there­fore self-evid­ent that the vote must con­sti­tute the chief polit­ic­al in­terest of real civil so­ci­ety. Only when civil so­ci­ety has achieved un­res­tric­ted act­ive and pass­ive suf­frage has it really raised it­self to the point of ab­strac­tion from it­self, to the polit­ic­al ex­ist­ence which con­sti­tutes its true, uni­ver­sal, es­sen­tial ex­ist­ence. But the per­fec­tion of this ab­strac­tion is also its tran­scend­ence [Auf­hebung]. By really es­tab­lish­ing its polit­ic­al ex­ist­ence as its au­then­t­ic ex­ist­ence, civil so­ci­ety en­sures that its civil ex­ist­ence is in­es­sen­tial in so far as it is dis­tinct from its polit­ic­al ex­ist­ence. And with the de­mise of the one, the oth­er, its op­pos­ite, col­lapses also. There­fore, elect­or­al re­form in the ab­stract polit­ic­al state is the equi­val­ent to a de­mand for its dis­sol­u­tion [Auflösung] and this in turn im­plies the dis­sol­u­tion of civil so­ci­ety.63

Here is a clearly for­mu­lated vis­ion of the dis­ap­pear­ance of both “state” and “civil so­ci­ety.” But not in the sense of Cornu’s in­ter­pret­a­tion, which amounts to say­ing that all this fol­lows from uni­ver­sal suf­frage alone. Marx’s con­cep­tion is rather that the drive of mod­ern so­ci­ety to­wards full suf­frage and elect­or­al re­form is one ex­pres­sion of the tend­ency to­wards over­com­ing the sep­ar­a­tion between state and so­ci­ety (though an in­dir­ect one, since it oc­curs in terms offered by the sep­ar­a­tion it­self) and so to­wards the dis­sol­u­tion of the state.

It is a fact that (as crit­ics have held) when Marx began writ­ing the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Doc­trine of the State he had not yet ar­rived at the­or­et­ic­al com­mun­ism. He ar­rived at this goal in the course of writ­ing it. The text which fol­lowed the Cri­tique al­most im­me­di­ately (writ­ten at most a few weeks later) was Marx’s In­tro­duc­tion to it, soon pub­lished sep­ar­ately. And it in­vokes the pro­let­ari­at as both sub­ject and prot­ag­on­ist of im­min­ent re­volu­tion.

At this point in his evol­u­tion, what strikes us most for­cibly is that while Marx has not yet out­lined his later ma­ter­i­al­ist con­cep­tion of his­tory he already pos­sesses a very ma­ture the­ory of polit­ics and the state. The Cri­tique, after all, con­tains a clear state­ment of the de­pend­ence of the state upon so­ci­ety, a crit­ic­al ana­lys­is of par­lia­ment­ar­ism ac­com­pan­ied by a counter-the­ory of pop­u­lar del­eg­a­tion, and a per­spect­ive show­ing the need for ul­ti­mate sup­pres­sion of the state it­self. Polit­ic­ally speak­ing, ma­ture Marx­ism would have re­l­at­ively little to add to this.

How true this is may be seen by a com­par­is­on with, for ex­ample, Len­in’s State and Re­volu­tion (1917). As re­gards the gen­er­al prin­ciples of its strictly polit­ic­al ar­gu­ments (cri­ti­cism of par­lia­ment­ary rep­res­ent­a­tion, the­ory of man­da­tion, del­eg­ates sub­ject to re­call at all times, dis­ap­pear­ance of the state, etc.) it ad­vances little bey­ond the ideas set out in the Cri­tique. In­deed, something of the lat­ter’s pro­fund­ity is lost in it. Like En­gels, Len­in tends to gloss over one vi­tal part of the the­ory of the state de­veloped in the Cri­tique (and also in its mar­velous con­tinu­ation, The Jew­ish Ques­tion). Marx’s con­cep­tion was that the state “as such” is prop­erly speak­ing only the mod­ern state, since it is only un­der mod­ern con­di­tions that the de­tach­ment of state from so­ci­ety oc­curs: only then does the state come to ex­ist over and above so­ci­ety, as a kind of ex­tern­al body dom­in­at­ing it. En­gels and Len­in, however, tend no­tice­ably to at­trib­ute such char­ac­ter­ist­ics to the state in gen­er­al. They fail to grasp fully the com­plex mech­an­ism whereby the state is really ab­strac­ted from so­ci­ety — and hence the whole or­gan­ic, ob­ject­ive pro­cess which pro­duces their sep­ar­a­tion from one an­oth­er. Be­cause of this they do not per­ceive the in­tim­ate con­nec­tion between such sep­ar­a­tion and the par­tic­u­lar struc­tures of mod­ern so­ci­ety. The most ob­vi­ous con­sequence of the con­fu­sion is their marked sub­ject­iv­ism and vol­un­tar­ism, based on their con­cep­tion of the state as a “ma­chine” know­ingly, con­sciously formed by the rul­ing class in de­lib­er­ate pur­suit of its own in­terest.

The para­dox­ic­al fact that Marx’s polit­ic­al the­ory pred­ated (at least in gen­er­al out­line) the de­vel­op­ment of Marx­ism prop­er shows plainly how much he owed to older tra­di­tions of re­volu­tion­ary and demo­crat­ic thought. He owed much, in par­tic­u­lar, to Rousseau (to what ex­tent he was con­scious of the debt is an­oth­er ques­tion). It is Rousseau to whom the cri­tique of par­lia­ment­ar­ism, the the­ory of pop­u­lar del­eg­acy, and even the idea of the state’s dis­ap­pear­ance can all be traced back. This im­plies in turn that the true ori­gin­al­ity of Marx­ism must be sought rather in the field of so­cial and eco­nom­ic ana­lys­is than in polit­ic­al the­ory. Even in the the­ory of the state, for ex­ample, the really new and de­cis­ive con­tri­bu­tion of Marx­ism was to be its ac­count of the eco­nom­ic basis for the rise of the state and (con­sequently) of the eco­nom­ic con­di­tions needed for its li­quid­a­tion. And this of course pro­ceeds bey­ond the lim­its of strictly polit­ic­al the­ory.

This in­ter­pret­a­tion may well give rise to some per­plex­ity. However, it does not seem to me too far re­moved in spir­it from the ar­gu­ment put for­ward by Marx him­self in Au­gust 1844 in his short es­say Crit­ic­al Notes on the Art­icle The King of Prus­sia and So­cial Re­form. Here he stated for the first time the ne­ces­sity for a so­cial­ist re­volu­tion, even though es­sen­tially so­cial in con­tent, to have a polit­ic­al form: “All re­volu­tion… is a polit­ic­al act,” and since “without re­volu­tion so­cial­ism can­not be real­ized” it there­fore “re­quires this polit­ic­al act.” And it is in this writ­ing — where Marx took the first steps to­wards a the­ory of the re­volu­tion­ary polit­ic­al party — that he also char­ac­ter­izes polit­ic­al in­tel­li­gence as the most es­sen­tial re­quis­ite, the spe­cif­ic ex­pres­sion of bour­geois men­tal­ity: “Polit­ic­al un­der­stand­ing is just polit­ic­al un­der­stand­ing be­cause its thought does not tran­scend the lim­its of polit­ics. The sharp­er and live­li­er it is… the more com­pletely it puts its faith in the om­ni­po­tence of the will; the blinder it is to­wards the nat­ur­al and spir­itu­al lim­it­a­tions of the will, the more in­cap­able it be­comes of dis­cov­er­ing the real source of the evils of so­ci­ety.”64 The “clas­sic­al peri­od of polit­ic­al un­der­stand­ing,” in this sense, was the French Re­volu­tion. Hence polit­ics is the mode of ap­pre­hen­sion of so­cial prob­lems most nat­ive to the bour­geois-spir­itu­al­ist­ic mind. It is no sur­prise, this be­ing so, that polit­ic­al the­ory “as such” should have been per­fec­ted by a thinker like Rousseau.


The prom­in­ence ac­cor­ded the Cri­tique so far should not be al­lowed to lead to the con­clu­sion that it oc­cu­pies a pree­m­in­ent or spe­cially priv­ileged place in Marx’s work as a whole (or even among his early writ­ings). On the con­trary, the con­clu­sion reached in the pre­vi­ous sec­tion should serve to in­dic­ate that Marx’s most ori­gin­al work began to emerge only with the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts of 1844.

Yet it was ne­ces­sary and de­sir­able to em­phas­ize the Cri­tique’s im­port­ance. Of all Marx’s texts deal­ing with polit­ics, law and the state it is eas­ily the most com­plex and — more to the point — the least read and the most mis­un­der­stood. It is also one of the most dif­fi­cult of Marx’s writ­ings. However, cla­ri­fic­a­tion of its in­ten­tion and mode of ar­gu­ment leads to much bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of both The Jew­ish Ques­tion and the In­tro­duc­tion — texts more widely read and ac­know­ledged as im­port­ant, and some­what more ac­cess­ible in style. More sig­ni­fic­ant still, it is the Cri­tique which con­nects Marx’s view of the Hegel­i­an dia­lectic to his later ana­lyses of the mod­ern state and its basis in private prop­erty. It demon­strates per­haps more clearly than any­thing else how his crit­ic­al thought moved along a single line of de­vel­op­ment stretch­ing from re­flec­tion on philo­soph­ic­al lo­gic to a dis­sec­tion of the form and con­tent of bour­geois so­ci­ety. His dis­cus­sion of sub­ject-pre­dic­ate in­ver­sion in Hegel’s lo­gic, his ana­lys­is of es­trange­ment and ali­en­a­tion, and (fi­nally) his cri­tique of the fet­ish­ism of com­mod­it­ies and cap­it­al can all be seen as the pro­gress­ive un­fold­ing, as the ever-deep­en­ing grasp of a single prob­lem­at­ic.

There is an ob­vi­ous risk of over­em­phas­iz­ing the factors of con­tinu­ity in Marx’s work in­her­ent in this ap­proach — that is, of neg­lect­ing the ele­ments of nov­elty or dis­con­tinu­ity present in each single stage of its de­vel­op­ment. This could lead to fail­ure to un­der­stand the very pro­cess by which Marx, slowly and la­bor­i­ously, worked his way through to­wards his fi­nal un­der­stand­ing of mod­ern so­ci­ety. It is per­haps also ne­ces­sary, there­fore, to fore­stall any such tempta­tion by un­der­lin­ing again that Marx­ism’s most spe­cif­ic ter­rain of de­vel­op­ment was the so­cioeco­nom­ic one. The lim­it­a­tions of the early texts are con­sti­tuted by this fact — in oth­er words, by the de­cis­ive im­port­ance of Marx’s own later ad­vances in his ma­ture eco­nom­ic writ­ings, his ever more rig­or­ous ac­counts of the the­ory of value and sur­plus value, of the rate of profit and so on.

Looked at in this light, the Cri­tique and the oth­er short­er writ­ings as­so­ci­ated with it con­sti­tute a fi­nal, near-defin­it­ive step in the gen­er­al the­ory of law and the state, while the Manuscripts rep­res­ent by con­trast the first step for­ward in what was to be a long (and ul­ti­mately more im­port­ant) in­tel­lec­tu­al voy­age rich in dis­cov­er­ies. The very grandeur of the lat­ter, Cap­it­al and the The­or­ies of Sur­plus Value, was bound in the long run to make the first step ap­pear some­what ir­rel­ev­ant. But (however un­der­stand­able) this judg­ment too is mis­taken. The later work should not be al­lowed to ob­scure the real im­port­ance of the 1844 Manuscripts, and es­pe­cially of their vi­tal cent­ral por­tion — the chapter on “Es­tranged Labor.”

In a fash­ion ana­log­ous to many dis­cus­sions of the Cri­tique, Marx­ist crit­ics have of­ten ob­jec­ted that the con­cep­tion of ali­en­a­tion or es­trange­ment in the Manuscripts is too dir­ectly modeled on Feuerbach’s the­ory of re­li­gious ali­en­a­tion. The lat­ter main­tains that man ob­jec­ti­fies his own “es­sence” and sep­ar­ates it from him­self, mak­ing it in­to a self-suf­fi­cient sub­ject called “God”; after which the product dom­in­ates the pro­du­cer, the creature be­comes the Cre­at­or and so on. In the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts (it is claimed) Marx re­mains a pris­on­er of this schema, and gives us only an an­thro­po­lo­gic­al the­ory, a the­ory deal­ing with “Man” in the ab­stract, man out­side of and in­de­pend­ent of his real so­ciohis­tor­ic­al re­la­tion­ships. But the series of texts presen­ted in this volume is it­self suf­fi­cient to provide an ini­tial reply to these ob­jec­tions. The ref­er­ences to the work­ing class in the very first of Marx’s art­icles in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, the his­tor­ic­al and polit­ic­al themes tackled so boldly in The Jew­ish Ques­tion; above all, the Cri­tique, bril­liant ana­lys­is of the dif­fer­ences between an­cient, me­di­ev­al and mod­ern so­ci­ety — how can it be ima­gined that any­body so en­grossed in this type of so­ciohis­tor­ic­al ana­lys­is in 1843 could, only one year later, have re­lapsed in­to a merely “an­thro­po­lo­gic­al” po­s­i­tion?

As far as the Feuerba­chi­an ana­lys­is of re­li­gious ali­en­a­tion is con­cerned, in­cid­ent­ally, it should be noted that Marx con­tin­ued to make some use of the mod­el it provides in his later work (without no­tice­ably re­gress­ing in­to an­thro­po­logy). He does so, for in­stance, in the chapter on “The Fet­ish­ism of Com­mod­it­ies” in Cap­it­al. After point­ing out how a “def­in­ite so­cial re­la­tion between men… as­sumes here, for them, the fant­ast­ic form of a re­la­tion between things,” he goes on to say: “To find an ana­logy we must take flight in­to the misty realm of re­li­gion,” since it is in these re­gions, pre­cisely, that “the products of the hu­man brain ap­pear as autonom­ous fig­ures en­dowed with a life of their own… So it is in the world of com­mod­it­ies with the products of men’s hands.”65

The charges brought against the Manuscripts by the up­hold­ers of “dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism” (quite un­der­stand­ably vexed by a text treat­ing prob­lems about which “dia­lect­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism” has noth­ing to say) may be summed up in one hoary le­gend. Ac­cord­ing to it, Marx nev­er em­ployed the concept of ali­en­a­tion [Entäußerung] or es­trange­ment [Ent­frem­dung] again after the battle against the Left Hegel­i­ans was over: the idea simply van­ishes from his ma­ture work. E. Bot­ti­gel­li, for ex­ample, re­cently gave a fresh lease of life to this view in his in­tro­duc­tion to a French edi­tion of the Manuscripts, and he is cer­tainly not alone in his con­vic­tion.

Not merely is cri­ti­cism of this or­der in­cap­able of grasp­ing that for Marx the phe­nomen­on of ali­en­a­tion or es­trange­ment and that of fet­ish­ism are one and the same thing — and the ana­lys­is of fet­ish­ism or re­ific­a­tion [Ver­sach­lichung, Verding­lichung] is, of course, dealt with at length in the three volumes of Cap­it­al. But even if one re­stricts one­self to the use of the ac­tu­al terms “ali­en­a­tion” and “es­trange­ment,” the read­er will find his only ser­i­ous prob­lem is to know which to choose among the hun­dreds of pas­sages in the Grundrisse and the The­or­ies of Sur­plus Value where they ap­pear in key po­s­i­tions.

In the Grundrisse for ex­ample, dis­cuss­ing the sale and pur­chase of labor power, Marx points out how this ex­change which seems at first glance to be one of equi­val­ents is in real­ity a dia­lect­ic­al sep­ar­a­tion of labor from prop­erty. It amounts to “ap­pro­pri­ation of ali­en labor without ex­change, without equi­val­ent.” He goes on:

Pro­duc­tion based on ex­change value, on whose sur­face this free and equal ex­change of equi­val­ents pro­ceeds… is at its base the ex­change of ob­jec­ti­fied labor as ex­change value for liv­ing labor as use value, or, to ex­press this in an­oth­er way, the re­lat­ing of labor to its ob­ject­ive con­di­tions — and hence to the ob­jectiv­ity cre­ated by it­self — as ali­en prop­erty: ali­en­a­tion [Entäußerung] of labor.66

In the clos­ing pages of the First Part of The­or­ies of Sur­plus Value we find the fol­low­ing sim­il­ar ar­gu­ment:

Since liv­ing labor — through the ex­change between cap­it­al and laborer — is in­cor­por­ated in cap­it­al, and ap­pears as an activ­ity be­long­ing to cap­it­al from the mo­ment that the labor-pro­cess be­gins, all the pro­duct­ive powers of so­cial labor ap­pear as the pro­duct­ive powers of cap­it­al, just as the gen­er­al so­cial form of labor ap­pears in money as the prop­erty of a thing. Thus the pro­duct­ive power of so­cial labor and its spe­cial forms now ap­pear as pro­duct­ive powers and forms of cap­it­al, of ma­ter­i­al­ized [vergegenständlicht] labor, of the ma­ter­i­al con­di­tions of labor — which, hav­ing as­sumed this in­de­pend­ent form, are per­son­i­fied by the cap­it­al­ist in re­la­tion to liv­ing labor. Here we have once more the per­ver­sion of the re­la­tion­ship, which we have already, in deal­ing with money, called fet­ish­ism.

A little farther on Marx adds:

Already in its simple form this re­la­tion is an in­ver­sion — per­son­i­fic­a­tion of the thing and ma­ter­i­al­iz­a­tion [Ver­sach­lichung] of the per­son; for what dis­tin­guishes this form from all pre­vi­ous forms is that the cap­it­al­ist does not rule over the laborer through any per­son­al qual­it­ies he may have, but only in so far as he is “cap­it­al”; his dom­in­a­tion is only that of ma­ter­i­al­ized [vergegenständlicht] labor over liv­ing labor, of the laborer’s product over the laborer him­self…

Then he con­cludes:

Cap­it­al­ist pro­duc­tion first de­vel­ops on a large scale — tear­ing them away from the in­di­vidu­al in­de­pend­ent laborer — both the ob­ject­ive and sub­ject­ive con­di­tions of the labor-pro­cess, but it de­vel­ops them as powers dom­in­at­ing the in­di­vidu­al laborer and ex­traneous [fremd] to him.67

State­ments like these demon­strate clearly the per­sist­ence of cer­tain key terms and con­cepts for­mu­lated in the early writ­ings: the “in­ver­sion” or ‘re­versal’ which turns the world up­side down to give ‘the per­son­i­fic­a­tion of the thing and the ma­ter­i­al­iz­a­tion [Ver­sach­lichung] of per­sons”; the “dom­in­a­tion… of the laborer’s product over the laborer him­self and the domin­ion of “ma­ter­i­al­ized [vergegenständlicht] labor over liv­ing labor”; and lastly, the domin­ion over men of all the forces and powers they them­selves have cre­ated, which tower above them as en­tit­ies ali­en­ated or es­tranged from them.

The same themes are at the heart of the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts. In es­tranged labor — which Marx already un­der­stands as wage-labor, the work which yields com­mod­it­ies and cap­it­al — the laborer ob­jec­ti­fies and ali­en­ates his own “es­sence.” “The ob­ject that labor pro­duces, its product, con­fronts it as an ali­en be­ing, as a power in­de­pend­ent of the pro­du­cer,” be­cause the product of es­tranged or wage-labor is not a mere nat­ur­al ob­ject mod­i­fied and ad­ap­ted to his own needs by man (a “use-value”). It is rather the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of hu­man sub­jectiv­ity it­self, of the work­er’s sub­jectiv­ity which in labor sep­ar­ates it­self from the work­er and is in­cor­por­ated in the ma­ter­i­al ob­ject or use-value (the “body” or ma­ter­i­al “en­vel­ope” of the com­mod­ity). In this form it then con­fronts the work­er as ob­jec­ti­fied labor, the “spec­tral ob­jectiv­ity” which Marx refers to in Cap­it­al. As he writes in the Grundrisse, “…ob­jec­ti­fied labor is, in this pro­cess, at the same time pos­ited as the work­er’s non-ob­jectiv­ity, as the ob­jectiv­ity of a sub­jectiv­ity an­ti­thet­ic­al to the work­er, as prop­erty of a will ali­en to him…”68

In the open­ing pages of the Manuscripts we find Marx well on the way to un­der­stand­ing something which his crit­ics and in­ter­pret­ers would still be strug­gling with a cen­tury later. That is, that the ob­ject pro­duced by es­tranged wage-labor is not simply a ma­ter­i­al thing but the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of the work­er’s sub­jectiv­ity, of his labor-power. This means, as Marx ex­plains in The­or­ies of Sur­plus Value, that “When we speak of the com­mod­ity as a ma­ter­i­al­iz­a­tion of labor — in the sense of its ex­change-value — this it­self is only an ima­gin­ary, that is to say, a purely so­cial mode of ex­ist­ence of the com­mod­ity which has noth­ing to do with its cor­por­eal real­ity…”69 He re­it­er­ates the point in Cap­it­al:

The ob­jectiv­ity of com­mod­it­ies as val­ues dif­fers from Dame Quickly in the sense that “a man knows not where to have it.” Not an atom of mat­ter enters in­to the ob­jectiv­ity of com­mod­it­ies as val­ues; in this it is the dir­ect op­pos­ite of the coarsely sen­su­ous ob­jectiv­ity of com­mod­it­ies as phys­ic­al ob­jects. We may twist and turn a single com­mod­ity as we wish; it re­mains im­possible to grasp it as a thing pos­sess­ing value. However, let us re­mem­ber that com­mod­it­ies only pos­sess an ob­ject­ive char­ac­ter as val­ues in so far as they are all ex­pres­sions of an identic­al so­cial sub­stance, hu­man labor.70

But the Manuscripts also go well bey­ond this re­cog­ni­tion that in es­tranged labor men ali­en­ate their own “es­sence” or “nature.” They have left be­hind in sub­stance, if not yet in form, the char­ac­ter­ist­ic Feuerba­chi­an po­s­i­tion re­ferred to in the sixth of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach: “The hu­man es­sence… can be com­pre­hen­ded only as ‘genus,’ as an in­tern­al, dumb gen­er­al­ity which nat­ur­ally unites the many in­di­vidu­als.”71 Pos­sibly the most ori­gin­al single as­pect of the Manuscripts is Marx’s at­tempt to define what this hu­man “es­sence” or “hu­man nature” ac­tu­ally con­sists of, and to show that it has noth­ing in com­mon with the es­sence of pre­vi­ous meta­phys­ic­al philo­sophies.

In his Stud­ies on Marx and Hegel (1969) Jean Hyp­polite claims to de­tect the sur­viv­al of “nat­ur­al law” among the dis­tinct­ive themes of the Manuscripts — the per­sist­ing echo, as it were, of a po­s­i­tion tied to the­or­ies of the Nat­ur­al Rights of man. But this simply re­veals his own in­com­plete un­der­stand­ing of Marx’s evol­u­tion. To avoid such an er­ror, for in­stance, it should have been enough to read through The Jew­ish Ques­tion. In real­ity the Manuscripts define “hu­man nature” in a rad­ic­ally dif­fer­ent fash­ion: not as a “nature” or “es­sence” of the sort found in nat­ur­al right philo­sophy but as a series of re­la­tion­ships.

If the work­er ali­en­ates or sep­ar­ates his sub­jectiv­ity from him­self in the course of work, this hap­pens be­cause he is sim­ul­tan­eously sep­ar­ated and di­vided both from the ob­ject­ive world of nature (his means of pro­duc­tion and sub­sist­ence) and from the oth­er men to whom his work-activ­ity be­longs. This means that Marx does not con­ceive of his sub­jectiv­ity as a fixed es­sence or an “in­tern­al, dumb gen­er­al­ity,” but as a func­tion of his re­la­tion­ship with nature and with oth­er men — a func­tion of inter-hu­man or so­cial re­la­tion­ships. This is the key to the most fas­cin­at­ing as­pect of the Manuscripts, and (more es­pe­cially) of the chapter on “Es­tranged Labor.” Their secret is that Marx en­vis­ages the pro­cess of es­trange­ment as oc­cur­ring in three dir­ec­tions or di­men­sions at the same time:

  1. as the es­trange­ment of the work­er from the ma­ter­i­al, ob­ject­ive product of his work;
  2. as the es­trange­ment of his work-activ­ity it­self (he does not be­long to him­self at work, but to who­ever he has sold his day’s work-activ­ity);
  3. lastly, as es­trange­ment from oth­er men, that is from the own­er of the means of pro­duc­tion and of the use to which his labor-power is put.

Marx writes in the Manuscripts:

We have con­sidered the act of es­trange­ment of prac­tic­al hu­man activ­ity, of labor, from two as­pects:

  1. the re­la­tion­ship of the work­er to the product of labor as an ali­en ob­ject that has power over him. This re­la­tion­ship is at the same time the re­la­tion­ship to the sen­su­ous ex­tern­al world, to nat­ur­al ob­jects, as an ali­en world con­front­ing him in hos­tile op­pos­i­tion.
  2. The re­la­tion­ship of labor to the act of pro­duc­tion with­in labor. This re­la­tion­ship is the re­la­tion­ship of the work­er to his own activ­ity as something which is ali­en and does not be­long to him, activ­ity as passiv­ity [Leiden], power as im­pot­ence, pro­cre­ation as emas­cu­la­tion, the work­er’s own phys­ic­al and men­tal en­ergy, his per­son­al life — for what is life but activ­ity? — as an activ­ity dir­ec­ted against him­self, which is in­de­pend­ent of him and does not be­long to him.72

The third as­pect of es­trange­ment, Marx adds a little farther on, is that “an im­me­di­ate con­sequence of man’s es­trange­ment from the product of his labor, his life activ­ity, his spe­cies-be­ing, is the es­trange­ment of man from man. When man con­fronts him­self he also con­fronts oth­er men. What is true of man’s re­la­tion­ship to his labor, to the product of his labor and to him­self, is also true of his re­la­tion­ship to oth­er men, and to the labor and the ob­ject of the labor of oth­er men.”73

At first glance such for­mu­la­tions might ap­pear a mere puzzle, a soph­ist­ic­ated word-game. In fact, they re­cord one of the most im­port­ant in­sights later to be amp­li­fied in Cap­it­al: that is, that wage-labor does not pro­duce only com­mod­it­ies, but also pro­duces and re­pro­duces it­self as a com­mod­ity. It pro­duces and re­pro­duces not only ob­jects but also the so­cial re­la­tion­ships of cap­it­al­ism it­self. This is hin­ted at in the Manuscripts at the be­gin­ning of the chapter on “Es­tranged Labor,” and we find it again much de­veloped and en­riched in Chapter 23 of the first volume of Cap­it­al, “Simple Re­pro­duc­tion.” Here Marx comes to the con­clu­sion that “The cap­it­al­ist pro­cess of pro­duc­tion, there­fore, seen as a total, con­nec­ted pro­cess, i.e. a pro­cess of re­pro­duc­tion, pro­duces not only com­mod­it­ies, not only sur­plus value, but it also pro­duces and re­pro­duces the cap­it­al-re­la­tion it­self; on the one side the cap­it­al­ist, on the oth­er the wage-laborer.”74

The hu­man sub­jectiv­ity or “es­sence” es­tranged by wage-labor, then, is no longer that of tra­di­tion­al meta­phys­ics (Kant’s “tran­scend­ent­al ego,” Hegel’s Lo­gos) but a func­tion which me­di­ates man’s re­la­tion­ship both to nature and to his own kind. It is the “me­di­at­ing activ­ity, the hu­man, so­cial act” of which Marx speaks in his notes on James Mill in 1844-1845. It is the func­tion which, after ab­stract­ing or sep­ar­at­ing it­self from this sim­ul­tan­eous du­al­ity of re­la­tion­ships (man/nature, man/man), be­comes trans­formed from a mere func­tion in­to a self-suf­fi­cient sub­ject, and as­sumes the char­ac­ter of an in­de­pend­ent en­tity. It is trans­formed in­to God, or in­to money.

In “value” or money the hu­man es­sence is cer­tainly es­tranged from man: man’s sub­jectiv­ity, his phys­ic­al and in­tel­lec­tu­al en­er­gies, his work-ca­pa­city, are re­moved from him. But — this is the de­cis­ive in­sight of the Manuscripts — the “es­sence” in ques­tion is clearly re­cog­nized to be no more than the func­tion­al re­la­tion­ships me­di­at­ing man’s work­ing rap­port with nature and with him­self. His es­trange­ment, con­sequently, is the es­trange­ment or sep­ar­a­tion of so­cial re­la­tion­ships from him­self.

This ar­gu­ment again re­pro­duces the gen­er­al form we noted above, con­sid­er­ing Marx’s ana­lys­is of the mod­ern rep­res­ent­at­ive state. The lat­ter cre­ates a sep­ar­a­tion between “civil so­ci­ety” and the heav­enly or ab­stract so­ci­ety of polit­ic­al equal­ity. When real in­di­vidu­als are frag­men­ted from one an­oth­er and be­come es­tranged then their me­di­at­ing func­tion must in turn be­come in­de­pend­ent of them: that is, their so­cial re­la­tion­ships, the nex­us of reci­procity which binds them to­geth­er. Thus, there is an evid­ent par­al­lel­ism between the hy­po­stas­is of the state, of God, and of money.

“In this so­ci­ety of free com­pet­i­tion,” writes Marx in the 1857 In­tro­duc­tion, ‘the in­di­vidu­al ap­pears de­tached from the nat­ur­al bonds etc. which in earli­er his­tor­ic­al peri­ods make him the ac­cess­ory of a def­in­ite and lim­ited hu­man con­glom­er­ate… Only in the eight­eenth cen­tury, in ‘civil so­ci­ety,’ do the vari­ous forms of so­cial con­nec­ted­ness con­front the in­di­vidu­al as a mere means to­wards his private pur­poses, as ex­tern­al ne­ces­sity.”75

This is one of the high points of Marx­ist the­ory. The spe­cif­ic trait, the es­sen­tial char­ac­ter­ist­ic of mod­ern bour­geois so­cial re­la­tions, is that in them the so­cial link presents it­self to us as something ex­tern­al, that is as something sep­ar­ated (es­tranged) from the very in­di­vidu­als whose re­la­tion­ship it is. We live in so­ci­ety, with­in the web of so­cial re­la­tion­ships; yet it is per­fectly pos­sible for so­cial re­la­tion­ships to have no mean­ing at all for us (think of the ques­tion of un­em­ploy­ment, for ex­ample). The so­cial re­la­tion­ship in gen­er­al has be­come something in­de­pend­ent of in­di­vidu­als, who in or­der to par­take of that re­la­tion­ship have to carry out cer­tain ac­tions: selling their labor-power, find­ing someone will­ing to em­ploy them, and so on. This so­cial re­la­tion­ship which has rendered it­self in­de­pend­ent of the mem­bers of so­ci­ety, and now coun­ter­poses it­self to them as “so­ci­ety,” as something out­side and above them, is dis­tin­guished and de­scribed for the first time in the Manuscripts as money. Money is the so­cial bond trans­formed in­to own­er­ship of things, the force of so­ci­ety pet­ri­fied in­to an ob­ject.

This is the per­spect­ive in which the great ana­lys­is of money in the Grundrisse must be placed: an ana­lys­is con­densed by Marx, at vari­ous points, in the fol­low­ing preg­nant phrases: “The in­di­vidu­al car­ries his so­cial power, as well as his bond with so­ci­ety, in his pock­et.” “Money is there­fore the God among com­mod­it­ies. Since it is an in­di­vidu­ated, tan­gible ob­ject, money may be ran­domly searched for, found, stolen, dis­covered; and thus gen­er­al wealth may be tan­gibly brought in­to the pos­ses­sion of a par­tic­u­lar in­di­vidu­al.” “Money thereby dir­ectly and sim­ul­tan­eously be­comes the real com­munity [Ge­mein­wesen], since it is the gen­er­al sub­stance of sur­viv­al for all, and at the same time the so­cial product of all. But as we have seen, in money the com­munity [Ge­mein­wesen] is at the same time a mere ab­strac­tion, a mere ex­tern­al, ac­ci­dent­al thing for the in­di­vidu­al, and at the same time merely a means for his sat­is­fac­tion as an isol­ated in­di­vidu­al.” “The spe­cial dif­fi­culty in grasp­ing money in its fully de­veloped char­ac­ter as money — a dif­fi­culty which polit­ic­al eco­nomy at­tempts to evade by for­get­ting now one, now an­oth­er as­pect, and by ap­peal­ing to one as­pect when con­fron­ted with an­oth­er — is that a so­cial re­la­tion, a def­in­ite re­la­tion between in­di­vidu­als, here ap­pears as a met­al, a stone, as a purely phys­ic­al, ex­tern­al thing.”76

This ana­lys­is leads to a defin­i­tion of cap­it­al as an es­tranged so­cial re­la­tion­ship: es­trange­ment means that it is in­cor­por­ated in a stock of ob­jects (raw ma­ter­i­als, the means of pro­duc­tion, etc.). It leads also to an un­der­stand­ing of com­mod­it­ies, and the sense in which the ob­jectiv­ity of their value is “ima­gin­ary, that is to say purely so­cial, hav­ing noth­ing at all to do with their cor­por­eal real­ity” as use-val­ues. In Cap­it­al, as we no­ticed, Marx in­sists that com­mod­it­ies ac­quire such real­ity only be­cause they are “ex­pres­sions of one identic­al so­cial sub­stance, viz., hu­man labor.”

What is im­pli­cit in these ar­gu­ments of the Manuscripts is in fact the first premise of genu­ine “his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism”: that is, the dis­cov­ery of the concept of the so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion. These re­la­tions are con­stantly chan­ging, be­cause while pro­du­cing ob­jects men pro­duce their own mu­tu­al re­la­tion­ships at the same time: while trans­form­ing nature, they also trans­form them­selves. Hence Marx can af­firm in the last of the Manuscripts that man’s “act of birth” is his­tory, be­cause man’s “be­ing” is how he makes him­self, how he “be­comes” his­tor­ic­ally. This state­ment alone, in­cid­ent­ally, in­dic­ates Marx’s dis­tance from Feuerba­chi­an an­thro­po­logy.

A pedant­ic Marx­ist crit­ic might ob­ject to this that the words “so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion” are not ac­tu­ally em­ployed in the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts. But if the words are not there, the concept is, though ad­mit­tedly in a still tent­at­ive and half-ob­scured form. In the sec­tion en­titled “Private Prop­erty and Com­mun­ism,” Marx de­scribes how “man’s re­la­tion to nature is dir­ectly his re­la­tion to man, and his re­la­tion to man is dir­ectly his re­la­tion to nature,” and this should be placed along­side his sub­sequent re­marks on in­dustry: “In­dustry is the ac­tu­al his­tor­ic­al re­la­tion­ship of nature, and thus of nat­ur­al sci­ence, to man… the his­tory of in­dustry and in­dustry as it ob­ject­ively ex­ists is an open book of the hu­man fac­ulties and hu­man psy­cho­logy which can be sen­su­ously ap­pre­hen­ded.” That is, just as inter-hu­man or so­cial re­la­tion­ships are in­con­ceiv­able apart from man’s re­la­tion­ship to nature, so his re­la­tion­ship to nature (and hence in­dus­tri­al pro­duc­tion) is in­con­ceiv­able apart from men’s so­cial re­la­tion­ships among them­selves.

The for­mu­la­tions of the Manuscripts are in this re­spect still in­volved and ab­stract. But they point for­ward clearly to the ad­mir­able defin­i­tion of the so­cial re­la­tions of pro­duc­tion giv­en, only a few years later, in Wage-Labor and Cap­it­al (1847-1849):

In pro­duc­tion, men not only act on nature, but also on one an­oth­er. They pro­duce only by co­oper­at­ing in a cer­tain way and mu­tu­ally ex­chan­ging their activ­it­ies. In or­der to pro­duce, they enter in­to def­in­ite con­nec­tions and re­la­tions with one an­oth­er and only with­in these so­cial con­nec­tions and re­la­tions does their ac­tion on nature, does pro­duc­tion, take place.77

Lu­cio Col­letti


1 See, for ex­ample, Karl Kaut­sky, Friedrich En­gels: sein Leben, sein Wirken, seine Schriften, Ber­lin, 1908, pg. 27.
2 Friedrich En­gels, Briefwech­sel mit Karl Kaut­sky, Vi­enna, 1955, pgs. 4, 77-79, 82-83.
3 Dav­id Riazan­ov, Karl Marx and Friedrich En­gels, Lon­don, 1927, pg. 210.
4 Max Adler, En­gels als Den­ker, Ber­lin, 1920, pgs. 48-49.
5 See par­tic­u­larly Plekhan­ov, Zu Hegels sechzig­stem Todestag in Neue Zeit, X Jahr­gang, I Band, 1891-182, pgs. 198 ff., 236 ff., and 273 ff.
6 Marx-En­gels His­tor­isch-Krit­ische Ges­amtaus­gabe (MEGA), 1, 2. The re­dis­cov­ery of this and oth­er youth­ful writ­ings of En­gels against Schelling was made by En­gels’ bio­graph­er, Gust­av May­er.
7 MEGA, I, 2, pgs. 183-184.
8 Gust­av May­er, Friedrich En­gels, Eine Bio­graph­ie, The Hag­ue, 1934, Vol. I, pg. 101. See also Au­guste Cornu, Karl Marx und Friedrich En­gels (Leben und Werke), Ber­lin, 1954, Vol. I, pg. 137.
9 See M.G. Lange, Lud­wig Feuerbach und der junge Marx, in Lud­wig Feuerbach, Kleine philo­soph­is­che Schriften, Leipzig, 1950, pgs. 11 and 16.
10 Lud­wig Feuerbach, Sämtliche Werke, ed. Bol­in and Jodl, 1905, II Band, pgs. 274 and 291.
11 MEGA, I, 1/1, pg. 64.
12 MEGA, I, 2, „Ein­lei­tung“, pgs. xlvi-xlix.
13 Aleksandr Herzen, Textes philo­sophiques chois­is, Mo­scow, 1950, pg. 340.
14 Marx-En­gels, Werke (MEW), Ber­lin, 1957, Vol. I, pg. xxxi.
15 Friedrich En­gels, Anti-Dühring, Mo­scow, 1954, pg. 195.
16 Georg Lukács, His­tory and Class Con­scious­ness, Lon­don, 1971, pg. xxxvi.
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid.
19 Ibid., pg. xxvi.
20 Cornu, op. cit., pg. 202 passim.
21 A term used by Louis Althusser to de­note what he sees as the “rad­ic­al break” between Marx’s youth­ful and his more ma­ture writ­ings. The former ex­press a “Hegel­i­an and Feuerba­chi­an ideo­logy.” The lat­ter con­struct the “ba­sic con­cepts of dia­lect­ic­al and his­tor­ic­al ma­ter­i­al­ism” (see Louis Althusser’s Read­ing Cap­it­al, Lon­don, 1970, pgs. 309-310).
22 Karl Marx, Early Writ­ings, pg. 61.
23 Ibid., pg. 80.
24 Ar­is­totle, Meta­phys­ics, trans­lated by R. Hope, Ann Ar­bor, 1952, pg. 191.
25 Karl Marx, Early Writ­ings, pg. 385.
26 Ibid., pg. 69.
27 Ibid., pg. 98.
28 Hegel, Philo­sophy of Right, ed. T.M. Knox, Lon­don, 1942, pg. 166.
29 Karl Marx, Early Writ­ings, pg. 98.
30 Lud­wig Feuerbach, Sämtliche Werke, II, pg. 195 and pgs. 238-239.
31 Karl Marx, Cap­it­al, Vol. 1, Mo­scow, 1965, pg. 19 (trans­la­tion mod­i­fied).
32 Feuerbach, op. cit., pg. 208.
33 Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philo­sophy, Chapter II, “‘First’ and ‘Second’ Ob­ser­va­tions.”
34 Maurice Dobb, Polit­ic­al Eco­nomy and Cap­it­al­ism, Lon­don, 1937, pgs. 130-131.
35 Ibid., pgs. 135-136.
36 Karl Marx, 1857 In­tro­duc­tion in Grundrisse, The Pel­ic­an Marx Lib­rary, 1973, pgs. 85-87.
37 Cap­it­al, Vol. 1, pgs. 183-184 (trans­la­tion mod­i­fied).
38 In Prus­sia as in Eng­land, “pri­mo­gen­it­ure” was the law of land in­her­it­ance which al­lowed the set­tle­ment of whole es­tates upon the eld­est son, rather than di­vi­sion among all the chil­dren. It was es­sen­tial to the main­ten­ance of the landed class’s power.
39 Karl Marx, Early Writ­ings, pg. 249.
40 A sim­il­ar dis­cus­sion of Hegel, from a dif­fer­ent point of view, can be found in ZA Pel­czyn­ski’s in­tro­duc­tion to Hegel’s Polit­ic­al Writ­ings (1964): Hegel as es­sen­tially the prot­ag­on­ist of “rad­ic­al, ra­tion­al re­form from above.”
41 The phrase ori­gin­ates in Hobbes’ Le­viath­an (1651), Part I, Chapter 4.
42 Knox, pgs. 122-123.
43 Karl Marx, Early Writ­ings, pg. 141.
44 Ibid., pgs. 62-63.
47 Ibid., pg. 137.
48 Ibid., pg. 138.
49 Ibid., pg. 233.
50 Ibid., pg. 146.
51 Ibid., pg. 143.
52 Ibid., pgs. 220-221 and 231.
53 Ibid., pgs. 168, 173, and 175.
54 Cap­it­al, Vol. 1, pgs. 71, 76 and 80 (trans­la­tion mod­i­fied).
55 Cap­it­al, Vol. 1, pg. 74 (trans­la­tion mod­i­fied).
56 Karl Marx, „Die Wert­form“, in Marx-En­gels, Kleine Ökonomische Schriften, Ber­lin, 1955, pg. 271.
57 Karl Marx, Early Writ­ings, pgs. 87-88.
58 Au­guste Cornu, op. cit., pg. 433.
59 Karl Marx, Early Writ­ings, pg. 88.
60 Ibid., pgs. 193-194.
61 Karl Marx, “The Civil War in France,” in The First In­ter­na­tion­al and After, The Pel­ic­an Marx Lib­rary, 1974, pg. 210.
62 Karl Marx, Early Writ­ings, pgs. 189-190.
63 Ibid., pg. 191.
64 Ibid., pgs. 413 and 420.
65 Cap­it­al, Vol. 1, pg. 72 (trans­la­tion mod­i­fied).
66 Grundrisse, pgs. 514-515.
67 The­or­ies of Sur­plus Value, Part I, Lon­don, 1969, pgs. 389-390 and 392.
68 Grundrisse, pg. 512.
69 The­or­ies of Sur­plus Value, Part I, pg. 171.
70 Cap­it­al, Vol. 1, pg. 47 (trans­la­tion mod­i­fied).
71 Karl Marx, Early Writ­ings, pg. 423.
72 Ibid., pg. 327.
73 Ibid., pgs. 329-330.
74 Cap­it­al, pg. 578 (trans­la­tion mod­i­fied).
75 Grundrisse, pgs. 83-84.
76 Ibid., pgs. 157, 221, 225-226, 239.
77 Marx-En­gels, Se­lec­ted Works in one volume, pg. 80.