Michel Henry, “The humanism of the young Marx” (1976)

To the Feuerba­chi­an concept of spe­cies is re­lated what could be called the hu­man­ism of the young Marx. To the ex­tent that the Feuerba­chi­an concept of spe­cies is equi­val­ent, with a mere change in ter­min­o­logy, to the Hegel­i­an concept of mind, the hu­man­ism of the young Marx is just a cam­ou­flaged re­peat of Hegel­ian­ism. To the ex­tent, however, that the Feuerba­chi­an concept of spe­cies al­lows, on the oth­er hand, the very sub­stance and con­tent of the Hegel­i­an on­to­logy to es­cape it, it is empty and so ap­pears ab­surd. To this ex­tent, it is note­worthy to see that Marx is in­stinct­ively pre­oc­cu­pied with the at­tempt to give a sense to this concept once again and, in or­der to do this, to re­store to it pre­cisely the Hegel­i­an philo­soph­ic­al con­tent which was lost in Feuerbach, who re­tained only rem­nants of it.1 This is where Marx is closest to Hegel, and ma­ter­i­al­ism but an­oth­er name for ideal­ism. But just as in the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Doc­trine of the State, the oth­er texts of 1843 and es­pe­cially those of 1844, in which the hu­man­ism of the young Marx is ex­pressed, con­tain a deep-seated con­tra­dic­tion. This is due to the fact that in them a thought moves in search of it­self, one which, des­pite the Hegel­ian­ism with which it is burdened still and in a cer­tain way more than ever, has as its sole aim the re­jec­tion of this bur­den.

The main themes which to­geth­er con­sti­tute the hu­man­ism of the young Marx are: the cri­tique of re­li­gion, the concept of hu­man­ism as such and the af­firm­a­tion of the iden­tity of hu­man­ism and nat­ur­al­ism, the the­ory of re­volu­tion and of the pro­let­ari­at, and the myth­o­lo­gic­al concept of his­tory.

Hu­man­ism prop­erly speak­ing: the iden­tity of hu­man­ism and nat­ur­al­ism

In Feuerbach the cri­tique of re­li­gion leads to an­thro­po­logy. What is sub­sti­tuted for the God of theo­logy and what claims to take its place is the spe­cies. However, the ac­tu­al con­tent of the concept of spe­cies in the 1844 Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts can be eas­ily re­cog­nized; it is the re­la­tion between man and nature. It is from Feuerbach that Marx bor­rows the in­ter­pret­a­tion of the spe­cies as the re­la­tion between man and nature and, to an even lar­ger ex­tent, the man­ner in which this re­la­tion is un­der­stood. What char­ac­ter­izes the re­la­tion between man and nature ac­cord­ing to Feuerbach is that this is first of all and at one and the same time a re­la­tion of man to man. The first re­la­tion, in fact, that can he grasped in man him­self is his re­la­tion to the wo­man. This re­la­tion is a nat­ur­al re­la­tion; it rests on a nat­ur­al de­term­in­a­tion, vir­il­ity, and ad­dresses it­self to a nat­ur­al de­term­in­a­tion, fem­in­in­ity, in such a way that, obey­ing nature and aim­ing at nature, it opens, pre­cisely, onto a hu­man be­ing. The first nature which, con­form­ing to its nature, of­fers it­self to man is thus a hu­man nature. And it is in this way that, from the very start and in its very ori­gin, the hu­man­ism of the young Marx ap­pears as a nat­ur­al­ism and, re­cip­roc­ally, this nat­ur­al­ism as a hu­man­ism.2 How is this nat­ur­al re­la­tion, prop­erly speak­ing, a spe­cies re­la­tion? How does this sen­su­ous fact con­tain already in it­self the ideal­ity of the uni­ver­sal? This is a ques­tion that must not be over­looked. For the hu­man spe­cies is defined by its re­la­tion to the spe­cies as such. Inas­much as the nat­ur­al re­la­tion of man to wo­man is a spe­cies re­la­tion, it is not ori­gin­ally a re­la­tion to the in­di­vidu­al, to this wo­man con­sidered in her­self and for her­self, in her em­pir­ic­al in­di­vidu­al­ity, in her ir­re­place­able sin­gu­lar­ity, but, pre­cisely and simply, in re­la­tion to the spe­cies, to the “hu­man.” The Thou is, as Feuerbach says, only the “rep­res­ent­at­ive of the spe­cies.” Man needs some “Oth­er,” who­ever this may be; in his re­la­tion to a Thou it is to this Oth­er in gen­er­al, in real­ity, that he ad­dresses him­self. The so-called sen­su­ous and con­crete re­la­tion of a man to a wo­man sig­ni­fies open­ing up to a uni­ver­sal. This open­ing resides in the in­di­vidu­al as such and defines him in­so­far as he is this need of the Oth­er. In this way the secret on­to­lo­gic­al ho­mo­gen­eity of I and Thou ap­pears in the re­la­tion that defines them. In­so­far as he is the need of the Oth­er, the in­di­vidu­al at­tests to the fact that he is more than an in­di­vidu­al, more than a self-suf­fi­cient de­term­in­a­tion — the er­ror of Chris­tian­ity lies pre­cisely in con­ceiv­ing of the in­di­vidu­al in this way — but that he is in­stead in­hab­ited by the spe­cies, in such a way that what is ex­per­i­enced in him is noth­ing oth­er than the will of the spe­cies to real­ize it­self. Just as Thou, I, fi­nally, is but the rep­res­ent­at­ive of the spe­cies and the place of its ad­vent. This im­man­ence of the spe­cies in the in­di­vidu­al can in­deed be seen in the isol­ated in­di­vidu­al. Not only in his need but also in his lan­guage, in thought, in that meta­phys­ic­al situ­ation in which man con­stantly per­ceives him­self in light of the uni­ver­sal as re­lat­ing to him­self, as be­ing oth­er than him­self, as be­ing able to take the place of the Oth­er as Oth­er can take his place, as be­ing a man. The im­man­ence of the spe­cies in the in­di­vidu­al is what defines man’s in­ner life and makes it pos­sible. “The in­ner life of man is the life which has re­la­tion to his spe­cies, to his gen­er­al, as dis­tin­guished from his in­di­vidu­al, nature. Man thinks — that is, he con­verses with him­self… Man is him­self at once I and Thou; he can put him­self in the place of an­oth­er, for this reas­on, that to him his spe­cies, his es­sen­tial nature, and not merely his in­di­vidu­al­ity, is an ob­ject of thought.”3

Un­der its ap­par­ent nat­ur­al­ism, the Feuerba­chi­an thes­is, taken up again by Marx in the 1844 Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts, ac­cord­ing to which the re­la­tion to nature is identic­al with the re­la­tion to man, thus refers to a dia­lectic of the uni­ver­sal. The re­la­tion of man to nature and to man is not main­tained only in the po­lem­ic against Chris­tian­ity; it is not in­ten­ded only to re­call the force of nature in the face of the pre­sump­tu­ous at­tempts to raise man above nature and to ig­nore it.4 The ef­fect­ive char­ac­ter of the spe­cies is not lim­ited to sexu­al­ity,5 to the nat­ur­al re­la­tion between men and wo­men6 which, pre­cisely, forces the in­di­vidu­al to con­sider him­self as but a part of the spe­cies.7 In Feuerbach him­self, the theme of nature ori­gin­ally grasped as the oth­er man is rooted in Ger­man meta­phys­ics, and we are re­minded of this by the com­ment­ary on Boehme’s thought pro­posed in The Es­sence of Chris­tian­ity, to which we have already re­ferred in our study of the 1843 manuscript. For Boehme, it is known, the gen­er­a­tion with­in God of the Son is the pro­cess in which the ab­so­lute sets it­self in op­pos­i­tion to it­self in or­der to present it­self to it­self as ob­ject. “The second Per­son (the Son) is God dis­tin­guish­ing him­self from him­self, set­ting him­self op­pos­ite to him­self, hence be­ing an ob­ject to him­self. The self-dis­tin­guish­ing of God from him­self is the ground of that which is dif­fer­ent from him­self… God first thinks the world in think­ing him­self: to think one­self is to be­get one­self, to think the world is to cre­ate the world.”8 In Boehme, this self-dif­fer­en­ti­ation of God is, ac­cord­ing to Feuerbach, only the “mys­tic para­phrase” of the “unity of con­scious­ness and self-con­scious­ness…”9 Self-con­scious­ness ob­jec­ti­fies it­self; it thus sets be­fore it­self an­oth­er self-con­scious­ness so that the lat­ter con­sti­tutes, pre­cisely, the first ob­ject. The first coun­ten­ance offered to me by the world is that of a self. More spe­cific­ally: the self as ob­ject is the world as such. Con­scious­ness, that is to say, con­scious­ness of an ob­ject, is, there­fore, first of all self-con­scious­ness. This ori­gin­al unity of con­scious­ness and self-con­scious­ness is ex­pressed in turn by Feuerbach’s an­thro­po­logy: “The first ob­ject of man is man.”10 Feuerbach de­vel­ops this thes­is in psy­cho­lo­gic­al lan­guage: “The ego first steels its glance in the eye of a thou be­fore it en­dures the con­tem­pla­tion of a be­ing which does not re­flect its own im­age. My fel­low man is the bond between me and the world.”11

The thes­is of the iden­tity of nat­ur­al­ism and hu­man­ism thus finds its ex­pli­cit on­to­lo­gic­al ground in the af­firm­a­tion — bor­rowed from Hegel by Feuerbach but which here at­tests to an earli­er ori­gin — that ob­jectiv­ity rests on in­ter­sub­jectiv­ity. However, the fact that ob­jectiv­ity is foun­ded upon in­ter­sub­jectiv­ity re­veals no less ex­pli­citly the nature of in­ter­sub­jectiv­ity it­self and al­lows it to ap­pear as con­sti­tuted, pre­cisely, by ob­jectiv­ity and as hav­ing its own ground in the lat­ter. Ob­jectiv­ity, then, is con­sti­tuted first of all by a self, but how? It is be­cause self-con­scious­ness ob­jec­ti­fies it­self, be­cause the ori­gin­al struc­ture of con­scious­ness is in­deed ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, op­pos­i­tion, and dif­fer­en­ti­ation it­self, that that of which it is con­scious is at one and the same time an ob­ject and a self. In this way, what is ex­pressed in the hu­man fig­ur­a­tion of nature is noth­ing oth­er than the meta­phys­ic­al nature of an ori­gin­al power which is ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion it­self, which is the power of ob­jectiv­ity. It is be­cause ob­jectiv­ity reigns in the first place as ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion and in­tern­al self-dif­fer­en­ti­ation that what is pro­duced un­der this reign is the re­lat­ing of a self to it­self, of one Self to a Self in the form of an ob­ject, “in­ter­sub­jectiv­ity.” Right after stat­ing that “the first ob­ject of man is man,” Feuerbach adds, “The sense of nature, which opens to us the con­scious ness of the world as a world, is a later product; for it first arises through the dis­tinc­tion of man from him­self.”12 And again, even more ex­pli­citly, if this be pos­sible: “The last dis­tinc­tion that I can think is the dis­tinc­tion of a be­ing from and in it­self… The cos­mogon­ic prin­ciple in God, re­duced to its last ele­ments, is noth­ing else than the act of thought in its simplest forms made ob­ject­ive.”13

The act of ob­ject­ive thought, the in­tern­al self-dif­fer­en­ti­ation of be­ing un­der­stood as self-con­scious­ness, this is the meta­phys­ic­al con­tent at which Hegel aims. In re­turn­ing to Boehme, whom he fi­nally re­proaches for no more than a “mys­tic” trans­pos­i­tion of the meta­phys­ics of self-con­scious­ness, Feuerbach, far from break­ing with Ger­man philo­sophy, con­tin­ues it, lib­er­ates the ho­ri­zon of his own prob­lem­at­ic and, with ap­par­ent modi­fic­a­tions in the vocab­u­lary, trans­mits it in­tact to Marx, who in 1844 takes it up again in its most pro­found and most fully de­veloped form, in its Hegel­i­an form. Hegel con­ceives of ob­jectiv­ity in a rad­ic­al man­ner, as the self-ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of con­scious­ness. Inas­much as ob­jectiv­ity — the world, “nature” in Feuerbach’s terms — must be un­der­stood as the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of con­scious­ness, it is not an in-it­self, it is noth­ing that can stand by it­self, but only the res­ult of a pro­cess, its product. The means of ac­cess to ob­jectiv­ity, con­sequently, is not it­self any­thing stable, a set es­sence, but pre­cisely this pro­cess it­self and its com­ple­tion. Hegel un­der­stands Be­ing-in-the-world im­me­di­ately as pro­duc­tion. To say that this pro­duc­tion is that of con­scious­ness and that it stems from it sig­ni­fies: (l) it is con­scious­ness it­self which real­izes this pro­duc­tion, and this pro­duc­tion is the work of con­scious­ness; (2) be­cause it is the work of con­scious­ness, this pro­duc­tion is real­ized in ac­cord­ance with the nature of con­scious­ness, it is an “ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion,” a mak­ing in­to an ob­ject; (3) what res­ults from this pro­duc­tion, fi­nally, is con­scious­ness it­self in the form of the ob-ject, since the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of con­scious­ness is a self-ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion. That the res­ult of the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of con­scious­ness is con­scious­ness it­self — that, in the lan­guage of an­thro­po­logy, “nature” is “hu­man” — this is, in its turn, to be un­der­stood in two ways: con­scious­ness as res­ult des­ig­nates, on the one hand, be­ing-con­scious, the fact of be­ing con­scious, and this, pre­cisely, as an ob­ject, as the ob­ject­ive con­di­tion as such, and, on the oth­er hand, “nature,” what of­fers it­self as ob-ject, in this con­di­tion of ob­jectiv­ity, namely, con­scious­ness again, the first nat­ur­al be­ing, what an­thro­po­logy re­cog­nizes im­me­di­ately as its ob­ject, “man.”

Hegel also in­ter­prets the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion pro­cess as “neg­at­iv­ity” be­cause it is purely and simply the neg­a­tion of be­ing, of be­ings, or, yet again, the self-neg­a­tion of be­ing which al­lows it to ex­ist as ob­ject. Un­der­stood as neg­at­iv­ity, the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion pro­cess is again de­scribed as “labor,” a term by which Hegel un­der­scores the spe­cific­ally act­ive char­ac­ter of ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion it­self as such. It is in this way that he speaks of the “labor of the neg­at­ive.”14 Labor un­der­stood in this way does not yet refer to the spe­cif­ic hu­man activ­ity by which men pro­duce the ob­jects re­quired for their sub­sist­ence: this is in­stead the in­tern­al struc­ture of be­ing as it has been per­ceived in Ger­man meta­phys­ics since Boehme, this is the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion pro­cess un­der­stood as in­tern­al self-dif­fer­en­ti­ation which Hegel thinks of first of all un­der the concept of labor, this is the nature of con­scious­ness it­self. But when Hegel, as a read­er of Adam Smith, en­coun­ters labor in the spe­cif­ic role it is pre­pared to play, and which it is already play­ing, in nine­teenth-cen­tury so­ci­ety, the role it has in fact played since the ori­gin of hu­man­ity, since men have “labored” in or­der to live, he im­me­di­ately in­ter­prets labor as neg­at­iv­ity. With the in­ter­pret­a­tion of con­crete labor as neg­at­iv­ity and as ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, Ger­man meta­phys­ics enters the realm of eco­nom­ics. The lat­ter, con­versely, or rather the vi­tal ele­ment­ary phe­nom­ena which serve as its basis — need, activ­ity, pro­duc­tion in its re­la­tion to man­u­fac­tured products, etc. — provides this meta­phys­ics with a new field, one that is no longer con­sti­tuted by the simple sphere of think­ing and of rep­res­ent­a­tion but pre­cisely by that of ex­ist­ence, of life com­ing to grips with nature in need and in labor. The year 1844 is pre­cisely the time when the young Marx throws him­self pas­sion­ately in­to his stud­ies of polit­ic­al eco­nomy, pur­su­ing them in the light of Feuerbach’s an­thro­po­logy, that is, in the light of Hegel­ian­ism as well. Be­cause the hu­man spe­cies has fi­nally no con­tent and no mean­ing oth­er than self-con­scious­ness, the lat­ter, its in­tern­al struc­ture, its self-com­ple­tion as self-ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, the un­der­stand­ing of this com­ple­tion as pro­duc­tion, neg­at­iv­ity, and labor, the defin­i­tion of the ob­ject as the Self’s own product and as con­sti­tuted by the Self it­self inas­much as it is the pro­duc­tion of the Self by it­self, all of this defines the con­di­tion of man and of what hap­pens to him in such an ob­vi­ous man­ner that Marx him­self be­comes aware of this. “The im­port­ance of Hegel’s Phe­nomen­o­logy and its fi­nal res­ult — the dia­lectic of neg­at­iv­ity as the mov­ing and pro­du­cing prin­ciple — lies in the fact that Hegel con­ceives of the self-cre­ation of man as a pro­cess, ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion as loss of ob­ject [Entgegenständlichung], as ali­en­a­tion and as su­per­ses­sion of this ali­en­a­tion; that he there­fore grasps the nature of labor and con­ceives ob­ject­ive man — true, be­cause real man — as the res­ult of his own labor.” And yet again: “He [Hegel] sees labor as the es­sence, the self-con­firm­ing es­sence, of man.”15 Thus man is the product of his own labor in the same way as and on the basis of one and the same pro­cess of self-ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion; the ob­ject of con­scious­ness is con­scious­ness it­self in the iden­tity of con­scious­ness and self-con­scious­ness. The “self-cre­ation of man” is a “pro­cess”; it is both “ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion and “loss of ob­ject” [Entgegenständlichung], that is to say that it pro­duces man as ob­ject but in such a way that the ob­ject pro­duced is pre­cisely man him­self. Marx in­dic­ates even more spe­cific­ally that the ob­ject, that nature, is man by present­ing this ob­ject as the ex­tern­al­iz­a­tion and, con­sequently, as the ex­hib­i­tion of “spe­cies-powers,” that is, of the very es­sence of man. It is against the back­ground of ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, of ex­tern­al­iz­a­tion, that man’s mani­fest­a­tion and real­iz­a­tion are pos­sible, his be­ing-for-him­self, giv­ing him­self to him­self as ob­ject. In this self-given­ness, against the back­drop of an ex­tern­al­iz­a­tion which iden­ti­fies this self-given­ness with a cre­ation, the spe­cies of man finds its source and its com­ple­tion. “The real, act­ive re­la­tion of man to him­self as a spe­cies-be­ing, or the real­iz­a­tion of him­self as a real spe­cies-be­ing, i.e. as a hu­man be­ing, is only pos­sible if he really em­ploys all his spe­cies-powers.”16

In this way the op­pos­i­tion of man and an­im­al is ex­plained. Where­as the lat­ter is iden­ti­fied with its activ­ity, which it per­forms in a sort of im­me­di­ate­ness, hu­man activ­ity is, on the con­trary, a con­scious activ­ity, which means that man dis­tin­guishes him­self from his activ­ity, sets him­self in op­pos­i­tion to it and takes it, pre­cisely, as an ob­ject. The in­tern­al struc­ture of spe­cies labor is that of con­scious­ness as an op­pos­i­tion­al struc­ture. “Man makes his life activ­ity it­self an ob­ject of his will and con­scious­ness… Only be­cause of that is he a spe­cies-be­ing. Or rather, he is a con­scious be­ing, i.e. his own life is an ob­ject for him, only be­cause he is a spe­cies-be­ing.”17

The op­pos­i­tion between con­scious­ness and life against the back­ground of con­scious­ness un­der­stood as this very op­pos­i­tion de­term­ines the first for­mu­la­tion of the concept of ali­en­a­tion that ap­pears in the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts, mak­ing its Hegel­i­an char­ac­ter most evid­ent. Be­cause spe­cies-activ­ity is the con­scious activ­ity to which life activ­ity, an­im­al activ­ity must be sub­or­din­ated — since the axi­olo­gic­al re­la­tion of the sub­or­din­a­tion of life to con­scious­ness is the ex­pres­sion of the on­to­lo­gic­al defin­i­tion of con­scious­ness as the neg­a­tion of life — ali­en­a­tion con­sists pre­cisely in the re­versal of this re­la­tion, in the sub­mis­sion of spe­cies-activ­ity to life activ­ity. The situ­ation of the work­er who works to eat and not to lib­er­ate with­in him­self the be­ing of labor as such, namely be­com­ing one­self in the world in the form of self-con­scious­ness, is the con­crete ex­pres­sion of this ali­en­a­tion, in which one can read the very mean­ing, al­though now in­ver­ted, of the struggle between con­scious­nesses, namely the defin­i­tion of one­self as a con­scious be­ing and not as a mere “liv­ing thing”: “In the same way as es­tranged labor re­duces spon­tan­eous and free activ­ity to a means, it makes man’s spe­cies-life a means of his phys­ic­al ex­ist­ence. Con­scious­ness, which man has from his spe­cies, is trans­formed through es­trange­ment so that spe­cies-life be­comes a means for him. “18

In what, more spe­cific­ally, does spe­cies-labor con­sist? We have seen that the hu­man spe­cies is defined by the re­la­tion to the spe­cies as such and so im­plies an open­ing to the uni­ver­sal. It is this very open­ing which defines spe­cies-labor. Where­as an­im­al activ­ity is urged on by need as an activ­ity that is par­tial, one-sided, and in­di­vidu­al, so that its res­ult is of sig­ni­fic­ance only to the an­im­al it­self, provid­ing only a sen­su­ous, in­di­vidu­al sat­is­fac­tion which re­mains part of its body, hu­man labor, on the con­trary, is modeled on the pat­tern of things, tak­ing as its law of con­struc­tion the uni­ver­sal laws of nature, cre­at­ing ob­jects in ac­cord­ance with these laws, ob­jects stand­ing in and of them­selves, pos­sess­ing their own in­ner fi­nal­ity, that is to say, uni­ver­sal ob­jects. By cre­at­ing ob­jects in ac­cord­ance with the laws of nature, the ob­jects of nature it­self, man re­pro­duces nature, and his ac­tion has an ob­ject­ive and uni­ver­sal sig­ni­fic­ance.19 However, act­ing in this way, cre­at­ing in ac­cord­ance with the aes­thet­ic laws of nature, man real­izes his own es­sence, an es­sence which is pre­cisely the re­la­tion to the spe­cies as such, the open­ing to the uni­ver­sal. “The prac­tic­al cre­ation of an ob­ject­ive world, the fash­ion­ing of in­or­gan­ic nature, is proof that man is a con­scious spe­cies-be­ing, i.e. a be­ing which treats the spe­cies as its own es­sen­tial be­ing or it­self as a spe­cies-be­ing.”20 By cre­at­ing in ac­cord­ance with the laws of the spe­cies and by mak­ing these laws ap­par­ent in the ob­ject he cre­ates, by mak­ing them ob­ject­ive, man thus renders ob­ject­ive his own ca­pa­city for cre­ation fol­low­ing the laws of the spe­cies, mak­ing ob­ject­ive his re­la­tion to the spe­cies. It is this re­la­tion to the spe­cies that is dis­played in the re­pro­duc­tion of nature; it is the es­sence of man, who ob­jec­ti­fies him­self in the ob­ject of hu­man labor. “The ob­ject of labor is there­fore the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of the spe­cies-life of man.”21 It is in this way that hu­man labor is truly real­ized as self-con­scious­ness by vir­tue of the fact that its ob­ject, the ob­ject that it cre­ates in the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion which con­sti­tutes it, is noth­ing oth­er than the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of the re­la­tion to the uni­ver­sal as such and, con­sequently, the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of con­scious­ness it­self. In the ob­ject of his labor, in nature re­pro­duced, man, says Marx, “can con­tem­plate him­self in a world he has cre­ated.”22

Ali­en­a­tion then names what takes place when, tak­ing away from man the ob­ject of his labor, at the same time one takes away his own Self, his true spe­cies-life, takes it away pre­cisely to the ex­tent that this true life does not ex­ist for it­self, does not ex­ist for man ex­cept as an ob­ject, as ob­ject­ive spe­cies-life. “In tear­ing away the ob­ject of his pro­duc­tion from man,” says Marx, “es­tranged labor there­fore tears away from him his spe­cies-life, his true spe­cies-ob­jectiv­ity.”23 This true spe­cies-ob­jectiv­ity, however, is none oth­er than nature, what nature has be­come for man, a nature which makes the vari­ous spe­cies ap­par­ent and the spe­cies of man with­in these. What is torn away from man in the ob­ject of his labor is at one and the same time his nature and nature it­self, so that now de­prived of all nature, he is more des­ti­tute than the an­im­al. Ali­en­ated labor, Marx again states, “trans­forms his ad­vant­age over an­im­als in­to the dis­ad­vant­age that his in­or­gan­ic body, nature, is taken from him.”24

Be­cause in the ob­ject of his labor man gives him­self his own Self, be­cause he him­self be­comes this ob­ject, ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion has the rad­ic­al mean­ing of self-real­iz­a­tion, it is pos­it­iv­ity. Be­cause ali­en­a­tion is pro­duced only to the ex­tent that man is robbed of the ob­ject of his labor, that is to say, of his own self as ob­ject, such ali­en­a­tion is tied to a con­tin­gent con­di­tion, to that situ­ation in which, pre­cisely, the work­er works for an­oth­er, for the in­dus­tri­al­ist who robs him of the product of his labor and ap­pro­pri­ates it for him­self. It is in a de­term­ined his­tor­ic­al situ­ation that ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion sig­ni­fies ali­en­a­tion. If this situ­ation is elim­in­ated, then ali­en­a­tion will dis­ap­pear, while ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, on the con­trary, will be able to be car­ried out fully, to be the rad­ic­al on­to­lo­gic­al real­iz­a­tion that it sig­ni­fies. The dis­so­ci­ation of ali­en­a­tion and ob­jectiv­ity im­plied by the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts of 1844, which is taken up again by Lukács in par­tic­u­lar and which is held to char­ac­ter­ize Marx’s own po­s­i­tion in op­pos­i­tion to that of Hegel, be­longs in fact to the ho­ri­zon of the Hegel­i­an prob­lem­at­ic and un­folds with­in it. De­fin­ing be­ing in terms of self-ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, the pos­sib­il­ity of ali­en­a­tion, if not its ac­tu­al real­iz­a­tion, un­der stood as loc­ated with­in this very ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion (when my be­ing is con­sti­tuted as an ob­ject, then it can be taken away from me and handed over to the fate of the world), these form the pri­or frame­work with­in which — and with­in which alone — the ques­tion of the con­nec­tion between ob­jectiv­ity and ali­en­a­tion, their pos­sible unity and dis­so­ci­ation, can arise. Just when thought finds it­self in the pres­ence of a de­cis­ive “eco­nom­ic” prob­lem, that of the re­la­tion of the work­er to the product of his labor and to his labor it­self, it seems ob­vi­ous once more that this prob­lem is shaped and ar­gued against the back­ground of Ger­man meta­phys­ics, which it­self is nev­er elu­cid­ated. Lukács’ al­leged reex­am­in­a­tion of Hegel­ian­ism is simply an­oth­er ex­ample of this.

Marx de­scribed more pre­cisely the con­di­tions un­der which ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion is pos­it­ive, but he still secretly bor­rows the con­di­tions and the con­tent of this pos­it­iv­ity from Hegel. This is the reas­on why these con­di­tions prove to be dir­ectly and at one and the same time the con­di­tions of a pos­sible ali­en­a­tion. By “as­sum­ing the pos­it­ive su­per­ses­sion of private prop­erty,” that is, by con­sid­er­ing ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion in its pos­it­ive as­pects, leav­ing aside all ali­en­a­tion, the claim that “man pro­duces man” — a claim by which hu­man­ism gives a pos­it­ive sense to the cri­tique of re­li­gion — is now made more ex­pli­cit in the claim that he “pro­duces… him­self and oth­er men.”25 Man pro­duces him­self not only be­cause he cre­ates the ob­ject re­quired for his sub­sist­ence but pre­cisely be­cause this ob­ject is the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion and the real­iz­a­tion of his ca­pa­city to cre­ate in ac­cord­ance with the spe­cies-law. But this ob­ject is offered to an­oth­er for his con­tem­pla­tion or his con­sump­tion. In the second case, man has pro­duced the ex­ist­ence of oth­er men, he has kept them alive. In the first case, which also in­cludes the second, man of­fers an ob­ject to oth­ers to ex­per­i­ence, an ob­ject which is the real­iz­a­tion of the hu­man es­sence, the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of hu­man labor, of the abil­ity to cre­ate in ac­cord­ance with the spe­cies-law. What is giv­en to oth­ers to ex­per­i­ence is there­fore this very abil­ity; it is this es­sence which is each per­son’s own es­sence, the es­sence of man as uni­ver­sal es­sence. Inas­much as the oth­er ex­per­i­ences in and through this ob­ject the cre­at­ive es­sence of the spe­cies, the uni­ver­sal es­sence, his own es­sence, it is the es­sence of ex­per­i­en­cing which is mod­i­fied with­in him and which be­comes the ex­per­i­en­cing of the uni­ver­sal, self-con­scious­ness.

What is meant by the fact that man “pro­duces him­self and oth­er men” is there­fore to be un­der­stood in the strict sense. Sum­ming up a part of the manuscript that has been lost, Marx says of man that “the ob­ject, which is the dir­ect activ­ity of his in­di­vidu­al­ity, is at the same time his ex­ist­ence for oth­er men, their ex­ist­ence and their ex­ist­ence for him.”26 Ex­ist­ence here does not mean sheer ex­ist­ence, sub­sist­ence, but, pre­cisely, the ex­ist­ence of man. This is not life, it is the abil­ity to work ac­cord­ing to the laws of the spe­cies, it is the pos­sib­il­ity of the re­la­tion to the uni­ver­sal and of the uni­ver­sal it­self which is real­ized and brought in­to ex­ist­ence. The ob­ject that I cre­ate is my ex­ist­ence for the oth­er; this means that in it I make mani­fest what I am and what I do — a spe­cies-be­ing work­ing in light of the uni­ver­sal. It is the oth­er’s ex­ist­ence, be­cause the spe­cies ex­ist­ence it dis­plays is pre­cisely the oth­er’s es­sence and, in provid­ing him with the op­por­tun­ity to ex­per­i­ence his own es­sence, it provides him with his own prop­er ex­ist­ence in ad­di­tion to the con­scious­ness of what he is. The ob­ject is, there­fore, the ex­ist­ence of the oth­er man for man, that is for me, as the one who cre­ated the ob­ject be­cause as the oth­er finds his ex­ist­ence in the ob­ject I have cre­ated, he thus finds in it his ex­ist­ence for me.

The ob­ject, says Marx, is so­cial. By this it may seem first of all, and most of­ten, that the ob­ject is cre­ated by me for the oth­er, that the ob­ject of my work is the ob­ject of his need. And in the same way, the ob­ject of my need is the ob­ject of his work. To say that the ob­ject is so­cial means that it car­ries this ori­gin in it­self, that it comes from the oth­er for me and from me for the oth­er. In this ori­gin lies the ob­ject’s “so­cial and hu­man nature,” which is noth­ing but the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion and real­iz­a­tion of man’s so­cial nature. In the pro­duc­tion which es­capes ali­en­a­tion, in which each per­son real­izes him­self in the ob­ject of his work while sat­is­fy­ing the needs of the oth­ers, “I would have the joy of hav­ing pro­duced in the in­di­vidu­al mani­fest­a­tion of my life the dir­ect mani­fest­a­tion of your life, and so of hav­ing af­firmed and real­ized dir­ectly in my in­di­vidu­al activ­ity my true nature, my so­cial, hu­man nature.”27 Still speak­ing of non-ali­en­ated pro­duc­tion, Marx fur­ther states: “The su­per­ses­sion of private prop­erty is there­fore the com­plete eman­cip­a­tion of all hu­man senses and at­trib­utes; but it is this eman­cip­a­tion pre­cisely be­cause these senses and at­trib­utes have be­come hu­man, sub­ject­ively as well as ob­ject­ively. The eye has be­come a hu­man eye, just as its ob­ject has be­come a so­cial, hu­man ob­ject, made by man for man.”28 Just what is meant by “made by man” and “for man” must nev­er­the­less be kept con­stantly in mind. “Made by man,” pre­cisely, does not mean “com­ing from an in­di­vidu­al” and in­ten­ded for an in­di­vidu­al, com­ing from a liv­ing be­ing and in­ten­ded for a liv­ing be­ing, in­ten­ded to main­tain life with­in him. Made by man means com­ing from one who works in the light of the laws of beauty, one who in­deed has this re­la­tion to the laws of nature. Com­ing from man means mak­ing this re­la­tion ob­ject­ive, mak­ing the uni­ver­sal it­self an ob­ject so that in this ob­ject the oth­er can re­cog­nize his own es­sence, his spe­cies es­sence, re­cog­nize him­self as man. This is why “I can only re­late my­self to a thing in a hu­man way if the thing is re­lated in a hu­man way to man,”29 if it is the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of the uni­ver­sal and its be­com­ing-for-it­self.

It is true that the so­cial ob­ject car­ries with­in it the re­la­tion ob­tain­ing between in­di­vidu­als and that it ex­presses this re­la­tion. Com­ing from one in­di­vidu­al and be­ing giv­en to an­oth­er ap­pears as the first char­ac­ter­ist­ic of the ob­ject of labor. Is not the put­ting in­to re­la­tion of dif­fer­ent in­di­vidu­als, in­ter­sub­jectiv­ity, the very es­sence of the “so­cial” and its defin­i­tion? But why is it that the ob­ject of my labor is cap­able of be­ing giv­en and is in fact giv­en to an­oth­er and why must this be so? Why, if not be­cause it is first and fore­most pre­cisely an ob-ject? It is inas­much as the ob­ject is spread out in the ex­ten­ded­ness of ex­ter­i­or­ity that it is there in front of us, bathing thus in the light of be­ing, that it is there pre­cisely for each and every one and can be there for all. It is be­cause labor is ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion that its ob­ject can be so­cial. Ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion does not only ob­jec­ti­fy the spe­cies-es­sence of man, his abil­ity to re­late to the uni­ver­sal; it first of all opens the mi­lieu in which this es­sence can ap­pear and be giv­en, the mi­lieu of ob­jectiv­ity which is the uni­ver­sal it­self. So it is against the back­ground of the uni­ver­sal it­self and of its un­fold­ing that the uni­ver­sal be­comes ap­par­ent and can be ex­per­i­enced. It is in this rad­ic­al sense that labor is the uni­ver­sal’s self-ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion and its be­com­ing-for-it­self. In the Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts, the con­cepts of the so­cial, of so­ci­ety, and of the hu­man ex­press noth­ing oth­er than this ab­so­lute on­to­lo­gic­al event.

The in­di­vidu­al him­self is only the place of this event — the self-ful­fill­ment of the uni­ver­sal as ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion and self-mani­fest­a­tion — which con­sti­tutes his very life, his spe­cies-life, “so­cial” life. “The in­di­vidu­al is the so­cial be­ing. His vi­tal ex­pres­sion — even when it does not ap­pear in the dir­ect form of a com­mun­al ex­pres­sion, con­ceived in as­so­ci­ation with oth­er men — is there­fore an ex­pres­sion and con­firm­a­tion of so­cial life. Man’s in­di­vidu­al and spe­cies-life are not two dis­tinct things… Man, however much he may there­fore be a par­tic­u­lar in­di­vidu­al… is just as much the to­tal­ity, the ideal to­tal­ity, the sub­ject­ive ex­ist­ence of thought and ex­per­i­enced so­ci­ety for it­self,”30 that is to say, the “sub­ject­ive” ex­ist­ence of the uni­ver­sal, its be­com­ing-for-it­self in ob­jectiv­ity.

And just as Feuerbach, who defined the in­di­vidu­al in terms of his re­la­tion to the spe­cies, was able to present the ac­tu­al ex­ist­ence of an­oth­er in­di­vidu­al as con­tin­gent, so Marx af­firms in the above-cited text that the so­cial mani­fest­a­tion of “in­di­vidu­al” life is neither ne­ces­sar­ily nor in the first place a “col­lect­ive” ex­ist­ence; rather it is pre­cisely the mani­fest­a­tion of the uni­ver­sal upon which, as in Hegel, all pos­sible in­ter­sub­jectiv­ity is foun­ded. “So­cial activ­ity and so­cial con­sump­tion,” Marx again states, “by no means ex­ist solely in the form of a dir­ectly com­mun­al activ­ity and a dir­ectly com­mun­al con­sump­tion… even if I am act­ive in the field of sci­ence, etc. — an activ­ity which I am sel­dom able to per­form in dir­ect as­so­ci­ation with oth­er men — I am still so­cially act­ive be­cause I am act­ive as a man. It is not only the ma­ter­i­al of my activ­ity — in­clud­ing even the lan­guage in which the thinker is act­ive — which I re­ceive as a so­cial product. My own ex­ist­ence is so­cial activ­ity. There­fore what I cre­ate from my­self I cre­ate for so­ci­ety, con­scious of my­self as a so­cial be­ing.”31 “So­ci­ety” is fi­nally noth­ing oth­er than the “ob­ject­ive mind.” It is the place in which the uni­ver­sal be­comes ob­ject­ive, in which the es­sence of man is there for each and every one.

Be­cause so­ci­ety is this place where the es­sence of man is there for man, where man at­tains self-con­scious­ness, nature is made really ho­mo­gen­eous to man only when it is iden­ti­fied with, pre­cisely, man’s self-con­scious­ness, with so­ci­ety. “The hu­man es­sence of nature ex­ists only f or so­cial man; for only here does nature ex­ist for him as a bond with oth­er men… only here does it ex­ist as the basis of his own hu­man ex­ist­ence. Only here has his nat­ur­al ex­ist­ence be­come his hu­man ex­ist­ence and nature be­come man for him. So­ci­ety is there­fore the per­fec­ted unity in es­sence of man with nature, the true re­sur­rec­tion of nature, the real­ized nat­ur­al­ism of man and the real­ized hu­man­ism of nature.”32 What ul­ti­mately ex­ists, be­ing as it is un­der­stood and defined by the iden­tity of nat­ur­al­ism and hu­man­ism, is “nat­ur­al ex­ist­ence be­come hu­man ex­ist­ence,” it is nature be­come so­ci­ety, and it is so­ci­ety it­self as the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion and the real­iz­a­tion of the spe­cies-es­sence, as the mind’s self-real­iz­a­tion. The theme of so­ci­ety has played a de­cis­ive role in the modes of thought stem­ming from Marx, but it is only in the most ab­surd man­ner that this theme of the “so­cial” sub­sists in Marx­ism inas­much as the lat­ter presents it­self as a ma­ter­i­al­ism, inas­much as that which is thought un­der the term “so­cial,” or rather that which thinks the so­cial di­men­sion, is a meta­phys­ics of the uni­ver­sal.

The the­ory of the pro­let­ari­at and re­volu­tion

Feuerbach’s cri­tique of re­li­gion serves only as a start­ing point for Marx’s own prob­lem­at­ic, which im­me­di­ately goes bey­ond it in the dir­ec­tion of something else, namely of real­ity. This is why all of Marx’s texts con­cern­ing re­li­gion evince a sud­den break, that is, they break with the plane which en­com­passes both re­li­gious thought and the cri­tique of re­li­gion it­self, to the ex­tent that this cri­tique con­nects re­li­gion, un­der­stood as a set of rep­res­ent­a­tions, to con­scious­ness, un­der­stood as the source and basis of these rep­res­ent­a­tions. As early as 1844 Marx’s thought at­tempts to break with the no­tion of con­scious­ness as ba­sic­ally in­cap­able of dis­play­ing with­in it­self the ori­gin of re­li­gious rep­res­ent­a­tion as well as its li­quid­a­tion, and so to break ex­pli­citly with the philo­sophy of con­scious­ness. This is the ap­par­ent sense of the In­tro­duc­tion to the Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right. Man, as Feuerbach showed, projects his own es­sence onto God. But why? Be­cause this es­sence is not ful­filled on the plane of real­ity. Re­li­gion is an il­lus­ory real­iz­a­tion of the hu­man es­sence, il­lus­ory be­cause it is pro­duced on the plane of rep­res­ent­a­tion, of mere thought, of the ima­gin­a­tion, and so a rep­res­ent­a­tion that is not really one, a “fant­ast­ic” real­iz­a­tion. As such, as the fant­ast­ic real­iz­a­tion of the hu­man es­sence, re­li­gion is the ex­pres­sion of its genu­ine non­real­iz­a­tion and at the same time a com­pens­a­tion for this, the ima­gin­ary sa­ti­ation of that which is not really sat­is­fied. Un­der these con­di­tions, the prob­lem­at­ic can only turn away from the sphere of the ima­gin­ary and il­lus­ory real­iz­a­tion of the hu­man es­sence in or­der to turn to­ward the sphere of its real non­real­iz­a­tion, to­ward the ac­tu­al situ­ation “which has need of il­lu­sions.” Thus the cri­tique of re­li­gion in fact takes leave of re­li­gion it­self and of its rel­ev­ant prob­lems in or­der to turn to­ward something else, to­ward the life of men here be­low, pre­cisely to­ward real­ity, un­der­stood as the real­ity of so­ci­ety.33

On the Jew­ish Ques­tion ex­presses this same move­ment of thought in the dir­ec­tion of real­ity. Where­as Bruno Bauer wanted to solve the para­dox of the Chris­ti­an State by ask­ing both Jews and Chris­ti­ans to give up their re­li­gion, that is to say, their par­tic­u­lar­ity, in or­der to open them­selves, pre­cisely, to polit­ic­al uni­ver­sal­ity, to be­come full-fledged cit­izens of a State which it­self would be are­li­gious, that is, cap­able of be­ing this uni­ver­sal­ity ful­filled, the ra­tion­al State, Marx, on his part, shows that this dia­lectic is in­op­er­at­ive be­cause it is still for­eign to real­ity. To ask both Chris­ti­ans and Jews to give up their re­li­gion is to pos­tu­late a mere change in their con­scious­ness. The fact that this con­scious­ness, re­lin­quish­ing its par­tic­u­lar­ity on either side, opens it­self to the uni­ver­sal in free cit­izen­ship, this is just what re­mains for­eign to real­ity to the ex­tent that real­ity resides not in the State but in civil so­ci­ety. In this way, the elim­in­a­tion of re­li­gion on the level of the State, the athe­ist State, which al­lows private re­li­gion to sub­sist along with, in gen­er­al, whatever is af­firmed or re­cog­nized on the plane of the State, this is flatly con­tra­dicted on the real plane of civil so­ci­ety. The polit­ic­al eman­cip­a­tion of re­li­gion is an il­lu­sion be­cause polit­ic­al eman­cip­a­tion as such is an il­lu­sion. All that counts is real eman­cip­a­tion, which Marx con­tin­ues to call, fol­low­ing Feuerbach and Bauer him­self, “hu­man” eman­cip­a­tion.34

There­fore, if the cri­tique of re­li­gion al­ways leads to real­ity, the ques­tion of know­ing what this real­ity is can be for­mu­lated as fol­lows: what is the real­ity dis­cussed in the 1844 Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts, inas­much as this is so­cial real­ity?

This has already been answered in the prob­lem­at­ic: it is the real­ity of self-con­scious­ness. We are then presen­ted with the fol­low­ing in­dis­put­able self-evid­ence: the pas­sage that the cri­tique of re­li­gion wants to make in the dir­ec­tion of real­ity, in the dir­ec­tion of a sphere for­eign to that which en­com­passes both re­li­gion and the theo­lo­gic­al cri­tique of re­li­gion as we find them in Bauer and in Feuerbach, is purely an il­lu­sion, if the real­ity to which it leads does not dif­fer from that which it claims to es­cape. It is true that Marx ex­pli­citly re­jects Bauer’s athe­ism, con­sidered a pure modi­fic­a­tion of con­scious­ness, and that he ex­pli­citly calls for a dif­fer­ent sort of ground for re­li­gion it­self. Is not civil so­ci­ety ba­sic­ally dif­fer­ent from the rep­res­ent­a­tion of a God ex­tern­al to man? But in the 1844 Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts so­ci­ety is the de­vel­op­ment and the res­ult of the self-ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of the hu­man es­sence, which it­self is noth­ing oth­er than this self-ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion which defines at one and the same time the struc­ture of con­scious­ness and that of labor: “The ob­ject of labor is there­fore the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of the spe­cies-life of man; for man re­pro­duces him­self not only in­tel­lec­tu­ally, in his con­scious­ness, but act­ively and ac­tu­ally, and he can there­fore con­tem­plate him­self in a world he has cre­ated.”

In the In­tro­duc­tion to A Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right, this ref­er­ence to real­ity is no less am­bigu­ous. In­deed, it is not real­ity it­self that is taken as the theme of re­flec­tion but its ex­pres­sion in law and in polit­ics. To say that “the cri­ti­cism of heav­en turns in­to the cri­ti­cism of earth” means that “the cri­ti­cism of re­li­gion” turns in­to “the cri­ti­cism of law and the cri­ti­cism of theo­logy in­to the cri­ti­cism of polit­ics.”35 Marx gives as the reas­on for this them­at­ic shift, in which philo­sophy is sub­sti­tuted for real­ity, the back­ward­ness of Ger­many in re­la­tion to oth­er peoples, a back­ward­ness which leads the Ger­mans to ex­per­i­ence, for ex­ample, the Res­tor­a­tion without hav­ing had a Re­volu­tion. It is only on the the­or­et­ic­al level, in its philo­sophy, that Ger­many is able to main­tain a re­la­tion with the real and to mani­fest its con­tem­por­an­eity with his­tory. Ger­man philo­sophy, however, is the cri­tique of re­li­gion. The pas­sage from the cri­tique of re­li­gion to real­ity, to the ex­tent that real­ity now des­ig­nates in a pre­cise man­ner Ger­man real­ity, is thus noth­ing oth­er than this pas­sage to the cri­tique of re­li­gion. The prob­lem­at­ic is con­tained in­side a circle which Marx, it is true, im­me­di­ately breaks. If the­ory, namely the cri­tique of re­li­gion, is in Ger­man real­ity the only real ele­ment cor­res­pond­ing to his­tory and to the in­tern­al re­quire­ment of its ful­fill­ment, should not the whole of Ger­man real­ity be made ho­mo­gen­eous with what it already in­cludes that is present and liv­ing? Does not Ger­man the­ory then con­tain the “prin­ciples” upon which the rest of Ger­man real­ity is to be or­gan­ized and con­struc­ted? “We must then ask ourselves: can Ger­many at­tain a prac­tice à la hauteur des prin­cipes, that is to say, a re­volu­tion that raises it not only to the of­fi­cial level of mod­ern na­tions but to the hu­man level that will be their im­me­di­ate fu­ture?”36

At­tain­ing a prac­tice that meas­ures up to its prin­ciples means for Ger­man real­ity: be­com­ing ho­mo­gen­eous with philo­sophy, and for philo­sophy this means: be­com­ing Ger­man real­ity it­self, real­iz­ing it­self therein. By fol­low­ing the path that leads from the cri­tique of re­li­gion to real­ity un­der­stood as Ger­man real­ity, un­der­stood in the first place as the cri­tique of re­li­gion it­self and in the second place as the real­ity of Ger­man so­ci­ety which must come to con­form to this cri­tique, to philo­sophy, the prob­lem­at­ic is not, prop­erly speak­ing, con­tained in­side a circle for it has achieved the fol­low­ing self-evid­ence: the real­ity to which the cri­tique of re­li­gion leads is not a real­ity of an or­der oth­er than that of the real­ity of this very cri­tique, oth­er than the real­ity of con­scious­ness, oth­er than the real­ity of philo­sophy; quite the con­trary, its struc­ture is the same. Only on this con­di­tion will Ger­man real­ity be able to real­ize Ger­man philo­sophy, the philo­sophy of self-ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, of ali­en­a­tion — on the con­di­tion, that is, that this struc­ture in­deed be its own. Such is, once again here, the in­ev­it­able pre­sup­pos­i­tion of the sur­pris­ing meet­ing of thought and real­ity: the secret ho­mo­gen­eity of their com­mon es­sence. A ho­mo­gen­eity such as this renders il­lus­ory the op­pos­i­tion — even the mere dif­fer­ence — between Ger­man the­ory and prac­tice; it sig­ni­fies their pro­found af­fin­ity and, pre­cisely, their ho­mo­gen­eity. The ques­tion Marx poses to Ger­many thus be­comes fully trans­par­ent: “Will the the­or­et­ic­al needs be dir­ectly prac­tic­al needs? It is not enough that thought should strive to real­ize it­self; real­ity must strive to­wards thought.”37

However, Ger­man real­ity does not strive to­ward thought and is not ho­mo­gen­eous with its the­or­et­ic­al re­quire­ments. Marx’s en­tire ana­lys­is will show, pre­cisely, in the break that opens up between, on the one hand, the Ger­man philo­soph­ic­al re­quire­ments that are ad­equate to con­tem­por­ary his­tory and so to its im­me­di­ate fu­ture and, on the oth­er hand, the ar­cha­ism of Ger­man so­ci­ety, “the enorm­ous gap that ex­ists between the de­mands of Ger­man thought and the re­sponses of Ger­man real­ity.”38 The de­mands of Ger­man thought are con­tained in the rad­ic­al­ism of its the­ory, in the cri­tique of re­li­gion to the ex­tent that this ends in “the doc­trine that for man the su­preme be­ing is man.” Such a doc­trine, over­de­termined as it is by both the ideal­ist con­cep­tions of the autonomy of con­scious­ness and the Hegel­i­an de­scrip­tions of mas­tery and ser­vitude means that man’s total lib­er­a­tion is called for, that is to say, it in­volves the no less rad­ic­al re­jec­tion of his ali­en­a­tion and, pre­cisely, of all ser­vitude. This mean­ing is made all the more ob­vi­ous if we refer, with Marx, to “Ger­many’s re­volu­tion­ary past,” which, just as its present, “is also the­or­et­ic­al”: the Ref­or­ma­tion. We are fa­mil­i­ar with the fam­ous text on Luth­er, who “cer­tainly conquered ser­vitude based on de­vo­tion, but only by re­pla­cing it with ser­vitude based on con­vic­tion. He des­troyed faith in au­thor­ity, but only by restor­ing the au­thor­ity of faith. He trans­formed the priests in­to lay­men, but only by trans­form­ing the lay­men in­to priests. He freed man­kind from ex­tern­al re­li­gi­os­ity, but only by mak­ing re­li­gi­os­ity the in­ner man. He freed the body from its chains, but only by put­ting the heart in chains.”39 Ger­many’s “re­volu­tion­ary” past sig­ni­fies the in­ner ser­vitude of man, that is, his most rad­ic­al ali­en­a­tion, and this is why it is the con­di­tion for Ger­many’s the­or­et­ic­al re­volu­tion­ary present which sig­ni­fies the most rad­ic­al lib­er­a­tion, be­cause, by elim­in­at­ing the ex­tern­al God, it elim­in­ates pre­cisely the in­ner faith in this God. Ger­many’s re­volu­tion­ary the­or­et­ic­al de­mand is, there­fore, the de­mand for a rad­ic­al ali­en­a­tion as the con­di­tion for a rad­ic­al lib­er­a­tion.

The re­sponse of Ger­man real­ity to its the­or­et­ic­al de­mand is nonex­ist­ent. Where in Ger­man so­ci­ety do we see the growth and de­vel­op­ment of a “rad­ic­al” ali­en­a­tion, a situ­ation which gets bogged down in an ever great­er, ever graver con­tra­dic­tion, let­ting a wall build up be­fore it, a wall grow­ing ever high­er un­til it be­comes in­sur­mount­able, un­til the only solu­tion lies in the bru­tal de­struc­tion of this wall, the total sup­pres­sion of this ali­en­a­tion? Where is the pas­sion for the uni­ver­sal, the will to carry things through to the end, which alone could call for, de­mand an ab­so­lute dénouement? What class in Ger­many bears with­in it­self the vi­ol­ence of this pas­sion or ac­tu­ally pos­sesses this will? Let us take a look: “What a spec­tacle! A so­ci­ety in­fin­itely di­vided in­to the most di­verse races which con­front one an­oth­er with their petty an­ti­path­ies, their bad con­sciences and their bru­tal me­diocrity.”40 Marx strives in vain to present this me­diocrity as the sum of the fail­ings of all oth­er re­gimes and of all oth­er peoples, as if an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of par­tic­u­lar wrongs could take the place of the ab­sent cause of a rad­ic­al re­volu­tion.41 The fact that Ger­man real­ity does not con­sti­tute a re­sponse to the de­mands of Ger­man thought is ac­know­ledged as the ana­lys­is pro­gresses, when, un­able to find in this real­ity the con­di­tions for “uni­ver­sal hu­man eman­cip­a­tion,” the con­di­tion for at least “the par­tial, merely polit­ic­al re­volu­tion”42 is sought. A par­tial re­volu­tion means that a class eman­cip­ates it­self but only by es­tab­lish­ing its dom­in­a­tion over the oth­er classes. In so do­ing it makes the oth­ers be­lieve that it struggles not for it­self but for so­ci­ety as a whole, that its goals are uni­ver­sal goals. Only on this con­di­tion is it able to arouse gen­er­al en­thu­si­asm, to cap­tiv­ate the rest of so­ci­ety. And yet this il­lus­ory real­iz­a­tion of the uni­ver­sal is brought about only against the back­ground of op­pos­i­tion. One class can sum up and em­body in it­self the pos­it­ive goals of so­ci­ety only if an­oth­er class gath­ers to­geth­er in it­self the wrongs and vices of this so­ci­ety. The lat­ter erects the bar­ri­er, defines the obstacle, con­sti­tutes the op­pos­i­tion which has to be over­come so that what is pos­it­ive in the pos­it­ive class of so­ci­ety can be lib­er­ated and brought to com­ple­tion.43 Thus in 1789 the French bour­geois­ie not only needs to make it­self be­lieve and to have oth­ers be­lieve that in its goals and in its ideals it rep­res­ents and real­izes the eman­cip­a­tion of the whole of so­ci­ety; at the same time it must also show what must be des­troyed if these goals and these ideals are to be real­ized, that is to say, there must ex­ist some “neg­at­ive rep­res­ent­a­tion of so­ci­ety” — namely the clergy and the no­bil­ity along with their “priv­ileges”; the sup­pres­sion of these priv­ileges will thus per­mit the ad­vent of the uni­ver­sal and the es­tab­lish­ment of “gen­er­al rights.” The sup­pres­sion of the neg­at­ive, the neg­a­tion of the neg­a­tion as the pos­sib­il­ity of the ad­vent of the uni­ver­sal and of the lib­er­a­tion that will ac­com­pany it, this is already the con­di­tion for polit­ic­al re­volu­tion, of all re­volu­tion, even “par­tial” re­volu­tion.

The con­di­tions for a simple polit­ic­al re­volu­tion do not ex­ist in Ger­many any more than do the con­di­tions for a gen­er­al re­volu­tion. Due to the prac­tic­al me­diocrity of the Ger­man classes, there is not one that pos­sesses the ideal­ism which would al­low it to claim to stand for the whole and to re­shape the en­tire so­ci­ety in its own im­age, nor is there any Ger­man class cap­able of stand­ing as an obstacle to this project of gen­er­al eman­cip­a­tion, which it­self does not ex­ist. Where­as in France “each class of the people is a polit­ic­al ideal­ist” and so claims to be dir­ec­ted to­ward the gen­er­al in­terest and to real­ize it, so that “the role of eman­cip­a­tion there­fore passes in a dra­mat­ic move­ment from one class of the French people to the next,” in Ger­many, “no class of civil so­ci­ety has the need and ca­pa­city for uni­ver­sal eman­cip­a­tion.”44 There is really no re­sponse in Ger­many to the de­mands of Ger­man thought or to the ne­ces­sity for a re­volu­tion.

This is why Marx will con­struct it. To con­struct a re­sponse to the de­mands of Ger­man thought means to ad­dress one­self to real­ity, to turn to it not in or­der to dis­play it or to re­cog­nize it — it does not ex­ist — but pre­cisely to turn to what does not ex­ist in or­der to sketch the frame­work, the form, the struc­ture of what should be and will be, that is, what will fit in­to this frame­work, take on this form, com­ply with this struc­ture. The Ger­man ques­tion is the rough draft and the mold of a “real­ity” which will be shaped by this very ques­tion. The Ger­man ques­tion is not a simple ques­tion. As the rough draft and the mold of what will be and what will oc­cur, of the be­ing to come, the Ger­man ques­tion in­deed defines the con­di­tion of its oc­cur­rence, of its pos­sible-be­ing, of its on­to­lo­gic­al struc­ture. The Ger­man ques­tion is the be­ing of the re­sponse. The Ger­man ques­tion is Ger­man the­ory, the­ory as such. The re­sponse is prac­tice, as the prac­tice of the­ory, a prac­tice which is made pos­sible and defined by it. To the ex­tent that prac­tice is con­struc­ted in ac­cord­ance with the­ory, find­ing in the­ory its rough draft and its mold, prac­tice — real­ity — is the ob­ject of a con­struc­tion a pri­ori. How then is Ger­man real­ity con­struc­ted in­so­far as it is con­struc­ted a pri­ori by Ger­man the­ory? Ger­man the­ory, in its com­pleted form, is the cri­tique of re­li­gion, the the­ory of a rad­ic­al lib­er­a­tion con­sidered as the sup­pres­sion of a rad­ic­al ali­en­a­tion. Since it finds its law of con­struc­tion in the a pri­ori of Ger­man the­ory, Ger­man real­ity has to or will have to of­fer it­self as this rad­ic­al ali­en­a­tion whose neg­a­tion will be rad­ic­al lib­er­a­tion, that is, it will be Ger­man eman­cip­a­tion but as “uni­ver­sal hu­man” eman­cip­a­tion.

Marx states ex­pli­citly that Ger­man the­ory de­term­ines what its prac­tice must be: “The only lib­er­a­tion of Ger­many which is prac­tic­ally pos­sible is lib­er­a­tion from the point of view of that the­ory which de­clares man to be the su­preme be­ing for man.”45 The fact that prac­tice is de­term­ined by the­ory and that this, in turn, leads to a concept of eman­cip­a­tion which is defined and real­ized as the sup­pres­sion of ali­en­a­tion, all this is no less clearly af­firmed: “The cri­ti­cism of re­li­gion ends with the doc­trine that for man the su­preme be­ing is man, and thus with the cat­egor­ic­al im­per­at­ive to over­throw all con­di­tions in which man is a de­based, en­slaved, neg­lected and con­tempt­ible be­ing.”46 However, these so­cial con­di­tions do not ex­ist, Ger­man real­ity does not re­spond to the Ger­man ques­tion. This is why we say that Marx con­struc­ted this real­ity a pri­ori. And the real­ity con­struc­ted a pri­ori in ac­cord­ance with the de­mands of Ger­man the­ory, which, in ac­cord­ance with the theses of Ger­man philo­sophy, is noth­ing oth­er than the law of this con­struc­tion, is the pro­let­ari­at. The con­struc­tion a pri­ori of the pro­let­ari­at is con­tained in the fol­low­ing text: “So where is the pos­it­ive pos­sib­il­ity of Ger­man eman­cip­a­tion? This is our an­swer. In the form­a­tion of a class with rad­ic­al chains, a class [Stand] which is the dis­sol­u­tion of all classes, a sphere which has a uni­ver­sal char­ac­ter be­cause of its uni­ver­sal suf­fer­ing and which lays claim to no par­tic­u­lar right be­cause the wrong it suf­fers is not a par­tic­u­lar wrong but a wrong in gen­er­al; a sphere of so­ci­ety which can no longer lay claim to an his­tor­ic­al title, but merely to a hu­man one, which does not stand in one-sided op­pos­i­tion to the con­sequences but in all-sided op­pos­i­tion to the premises of the Ger­man polit­ic­al sys­tem; and fi­nally a sphere which can­not eman­cip­ate it­self without eman­cip­at­ing it­self from — and thereby eman­cip­at­ing — all the oth­er spheres of so­ci­ety, which is, in a word, the total loss of hu­man­ity and which can there­fore re­deem it­self only through the total re­demp­tion of hu­man­ity. This dis­sol­u­tion of so­ci­ety as a par­tic­u­lar class is the pro­let­ari­at.”47

Be­cause its real­ity is con­struc­ted a pri­ori in ac­cord­ance with the pre­scrip­tions of Ger­man philo­sophy, the pro­let­ari­at mani­fests in its be­ing its com­pli­ance with the struc­ture of the­ory, a com­pli­ance which founds their af­fin­ity and which ap­pears in this af­fin­ity as the way in which they mu­tu­ally serve one an­oth­er: the pro­let­ari­at en­ables philo­sophy to be real­ized by giv­ing it­self an ac­tu­al, “ma­ter­i­al” con­tent; the pro­let­ari­at provides philo­sophy with its weapons while, re­cip­roc­ally, find­ing in philo­sophy its law of con­struc­tion, along with its law of de­vel­op­ment and thus its law of ac­tion. “Just as philo­sophy finds its ma­ter­i­al weapons in the pro­let­ari­at, so the pro­let­ari­at finds its in­tel­lec­tu­al weapons in philo­sophy; and once the light­ning of thought has struck deeply in­to this vir­gin soil of the people, eman­cip­a­tion will trans­form the Ger­mans in­to men.”48

The real­ity of the pro­let­ari­at, in­so­far as it is con­struc­ted a pri­ori in com­pli­ance with the pre­scrip­tions of Ger­man philo­sophy, is presen­ted as a par­tic­u­lar real­ity which be­comes uni­ver­sal — a par­tic­u­lar class which ceases to be a par­tic­u­lar class — in such a way, however, that this is the uni­ver­sal­iz­a­tion of the neg­at­ive, that it is it­self the de­vel­op­ment of ali­en­a­tion — not a “par­tic­u­lar wrong” but a “wrong in it­self” — and that it is pre­cisely in and through the de­vel­op­ment of this rad­ic­al and uni­ver­sal ali­en­a­tion that lib­er­a­tion and re­gen­er­a­tion take place, as a lib­er­a­tion which is it­self uni­ver­sal, as the lib­er­a­tion not of one class of so­ci­ety but of all classes, not of one na­tion, Ger­many, but of “man.” As we see, Marx still con­ceives of lib­er­a­tion in the same way as did Bauer in The Jew­ish Ques­tion, as a pas­sage from the par­tic­u­lar to the uni­ver­sal; the par­tic­u­lar de­term­in­a­tion that has to be ab­ol­ished is, however, no longer that of the Jew or of the Chris­ti­an but of the par­tic­u­lar class on the one hand and of the na­tion on the oth­er. With re­spect to the term in which the par­tic­u­lar is re­solved in its sup­pres­sion, this is once again here, as in Bauer, the uni­ver­sal, and its ad­vent is also thought of by Marx as the ad­vent of “man.” However, the pre­sup­pos­i­tions which guide Marx in his ana­lys­is go back much farther than this. As the move­ment from the par­tic­u­lar to the uni­ver­sal, a move­ment tak­ing place through the me­di­ation of neg­a­tion and the sup­pres­sion of this neg­a­tion, the real­ity of the pro­let­ari­at is dia­lect­ic­al. What then is the dia­lectic?

The dia­lectic is usu­ally presen­ted as a concept whose mean­ing is held to have been first of all ideal, spir­itu­al, the mod­el of which was said to have been pro­posed to Marx by Hegel, who him­self took up the grand theme of the dia­lectic as it had found its most cel­eb­rated and most re­mark­able ex­pres­sion in Pla­ton­ism. The dia­lectic is first and fore­most the dia­lectic of ideas, their ne­ces­sary in­ter­con­nec­tion fol­low­ing the schema of op­pos­i­tion and syn­thes­is. Marx is sup­posed to have main­tained this schema, while at the same time rad­ic­ally chan­ging its sense by ap­ply­ing it to an­oth­er do­main, no longer that of ideal de­term­in­a­tions but that of real­ity, that is to say, of nature or, yet again, of “mat­ter.” Ac­tu­ally, it is En­gels who ex­pli­citly real­ized this muta­tion in the concept of the dia­lectic, or rather its simple trans­fer from one re­gion of be­ing to an­oth­er by con­struct­ing and pro­pos­ing a “dia­lectic of nature.” Did not Marx him­self, however, claim to have set the dia­lectic back on its feet, that is, pre­cisely, to have sought and to have loc­ated its move­ment in real­ity be­fore find­ing it in what is but its re­flec­tion, in the move­ment of ideas and of the mind?

One may ven­ture the gravest doubts con­cern­ing the le­git­im­acy of such an in­ter­pret­a­tion of nature and of the role of the concept of the dia­lectic in Ger­man philo­sophy at the be­gin­ning of the nine­teenth cen­tury. First of all, it is false to sup­pose that in Hegel the dia­lectic had solely an “ideal” mean­ing, in­volving only the world of con­scious­ness or of thought, the “hu­man” world, in con­trast to the do­main prop­er to nature,49 as if the lat­ter re­mained in it­self for­eign to the dia­lect­ic­al move­ment and out­side it domin­ion. Quite the op­pos­ite, it is only with­in the dia­lect­ic­al pro­cess that nature reaches be­ing; and this is so, on the one hand, be­cause the ali­en­a­tion of mind is real­ized only if this ali­en­a­tion be­comes truly rad­ic­al, if nature ex­ists not only for con­scious­ness which is ali­en­ated in nature, that is for the mind and as its own prop­er ali­en­a­tion, but in it­self in the ac­tu­al­ity of ab­so­lute op­pos­i­tion, as the term that is really oth­er, for­eign to the mind; on the oth­er hand, this is so be­cause be­ings at­tain be­ing only in this con­di­tion of op­pos­i­tion, only to the ex­tent, then, that they are pen­et­rated by the neg­at­iv­ity of the dia­lectic. Be­cause it grounds the be­ing of nature and so be­longs to it and con­sti­tutes it, the Hegel­i­an dia­lectic in no way al­lows it­self to be bound up in­side the sphere of “con­scious­ness,” a sphere which for Hegel does not ex­ist as such, in its al­leged sep­ar­a­tion from the sphere of be­ing. In­stead, con­scious­ness is be­ing it­self in its ac­tu­al­ity, nature it­self in its con­di­tion of ob­ject, the un­fold­ing and the reign of nature in ac­cord­ance with its own prop­er struc­ture.

Be­cause it refers to nature, the Hegel­i­an dia­lectic al­lows the trace of its real ori­gin to ap­pear in it­self. This ori­gin is def­in­itely not to be found in Pla­ton­ism. It is al­ways after the fact, and only in or­der to con­firm what it con­siders to be self-evid­ent that Ger­man thought refers to an­cient philo­sophy and, for ex­ample, to Pla­to. The ori­gin­al char­ac­ter of the Ger­man dia­lectic can be seen, pre­cisely, in its spe­cif­ic ori­gin, which lies in me­di­ev­al al­chemy, where in­tu­itions or il­lu­min­a­tions, re­search, and work reach their cul­min­a­tion in the circle of thinkers and philo­soph­ers grouped around Paracelsus. By claim­ing to make gold out of lead, al­chemy im­plies dir­ectly as the pri­or the­or­et­ic­al pre­sup­pos­i­tion sup­port­ing its prac­tic­al un­der­tak­ing that the ground of real­ity is not made up of fixed things, of im­mut­able ele­ments, but that it is in­stead change. Or again: change can­not be un­der­stood as the mere sub­sti­tu­tion of one ele­ment for an­oth­er, as re­pla­cing one body with an­oth­er, as will be the case in Cartesian mech­an­ism, with its con­cep­tion of move­ment as a chain of bod­ies which move to­geth­er.50 Quite the op­pos­ite, change as it is con­sidered by al­chem­ic­al prac­tice and as it is pre­sup­posed by this prac­tice, is a change in the body it­self; it is the in­tern­al and real trans­form­a­tion of one be­ing in­to an­oth­er, in such a way that this “oth­er” is noth­ing but the trans­formed-be­ing of the first, the be­com­ing-oth­er of the be­ing it­self. A be­com­ing such as this, the be­com­ing-oth­er of a be­ing, is in­scribed in it as its very real­ity, as a con­stitutive po­ten­ti­al­ity of its be­ing and which de­term­ines this be­ing. To the ex­tent, then, that the be­ing of be­ings is un­der­stood as be­com­ing, as the po­ten­ti­al­ity of be­com­ing oth­er, real­ity can thus ap­pear and be un­der­stood as “dia­lect­ic­al.”

Giv­en this be­com­ing which is im­man­ent in real­ity, this uni­ver­sal move­ment of things as they pass in­to one an­oth­er, it is then only too easy for man to base his ac­tion upon this fact in or­der to ef­fect trans­form­a­tions in bod­ies which are already in­scribed in them vir­tu­ally. These trans­form­a­tions are in no way in­dif­fer­ent; they are ordered on the basis of a tele­ology which is im­man­ent in each thing and which places with­in it as con­sti­tut­ing the very nature of the thing the un­eas­i­ness and suf­fer­ing of wait­ing. The al­chem­ist is at­tent­ive to this un­eas­i­ness and this suf­fer­ing; his know­ledge of nature is truly meta­phys­ic­al, it goes bey­ond stable ap­pear­ances and moves back to the ob­scure will which in­hab­its each thing and which is dir­ec­ted at ful­filling its be­ing by trans­form­ing it­self in­to what for it will be, pre­cisely, its ful­fill­ment. This hun­ger, this pain­ful de­sire, this in­com­plete­ness, and this un­ful­fill­ment char­ac­ter­ize, for ex­ample, the be­ing of lead and de­term­ine it as “dark,” “bereft,” “dis­con­sol­ate,” as long as it has not be­come gold and has not taken on its glor­i­ous bril­liance.

The concept of the dia­lectic ori­gin­ally un­der­stood in this way as a dia­lectic of be­ings, as an ont­ic dia­lectic, re­ceived a rad­ic­ally new mean­ing when Jac­ob Boehme had the un­pre­ced­en­ted in­tu­ition — an in­tu­ition which was de­cis­ively to de­term­ine the Ger­man meta­phys­ics of the great post-Kan­tians and, through this, the en­tire his­tory of West­ern thought — the in­tu­ition that passing in­to the oth­er does not lead to the pro­duc­tion of a new and priv­ileged be­ing in which the dark ele­ment finds its con­sol­a­tion, but in­stead to the ad­vent of that which is more than any par­tic­u­lar be­ing, to the ad­vent and to the ac­tu­al be­com­ing of be­ing it­self in its phe­nom­en­al­ity. For the pas­sage of one be­ing in­to an­oth­er is its passing in­to the con­di­tion of ob-ject, its com­ing in­to the light of the world. The dia­lectic of nature no longer has a lim­ited mean­ing; it no longer con­cerns the play of its ele­ments and their mu­tu­al trans­form­a­tion; rather it is nature as a whole, it is the whole of what is that at­tains be­ing to the ex­tent that the reign of the oth­er is es­tab­lished, the reign of ob­jectiv­ity which is that of nature it­self. Inas­much as it no longer des­ig­nates the trans­form­a­tion of one par­tic­u­lar thing but rather the lib­er­a­tion of its be­ing, the dia­lectic of be­ings has be­come the dia­lectic of the ob­ject, and ont­ic dia­lectic an on­to­lo­gic­al dia­lectic. This is pre­cisely the sense of the dia­lectic in Hegel.

To the ex­tent to which the dia­lectic has an on­to­lo­gic­al mean­ing and to which be­com­ing oth­er defines the be­com­ing of ob­jectiv­ity in which the be­ing of nature un­folds, the struc­ture of the dia­lectic ap­pears at one and the same time to be the struc­ture of con­scious­ness it­self, such as Hegel un­der­stands this, that is to say, not as a sphere closed in upon it­self in the si­lent tau­to­logy of iden­tity but pre­cisely as the de­vel­op­ment of ob­jectiv­ity in the move­ment of ali­en­a­tion. This is why ali­en­a­tion, in Hegel, has a pos­it­ive mean­ing, be­cause it defines the very struc­ture of be­ing; this is also why ali­en­a­tion must be rad­ic­al and mind be brought down to the level of nature, be­cause the ex­treme point of ali­en­a­tion is at one and the same time the be­ing of mind, as it is the be­ing of nature it­self. This is not all: in the move­ment by which a be­ing is ali­en­ated as it be­comes an ob­ject, it enters in­to the realm of uni­ver­sal­ity and bathes in its light; the dia­lect­ic­al pro­cess is the pas­sage from the par­tic­u­lar to the uni­ver­sal. Fi­nally, be­cause ali­en­a­tion is the ori­gin­al form­a­tion of ob­jectiv­ity and be­cause it lib­er­ates this ob­jectiv­ity along with the be­ing which is in the lat­ter, ali­en­a­tion is at one and the same time this lib­er­a­tion and the ac­tu­al be­com­ing of mind. The thes­is of a rad­ic­al eman­cip­a­tion which would have its con­di­tion in a rad­ic­al ali­en­a­tion is rooted in the very struc­ture of the dia­lectic, un­der­stood as the struc­ture of con­scious­ness, of ex­per­i­ence and of be­ing. Feuerbach was to con­fer upon the concept of ali­en­a­tion a purely neg­at­ive mean­ing, but its ori­gin­al on­to­lo­gic­al mean­ing secretly sub­sists in Ger­man meta­phys­ics. To this ori­gin­al mean­ing, in any event, is con­nec­ted the dia­lect­ic­al in­ter­pret­a­tion of the pro­let­ari­at in the 1843-1844 In­tro­duc­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right, an in­ter­pret­a­tion in the light of which the struc­ture of the pro­let­ari­at ap­pears as the struc­ture of con­scious­ness it­self such as this is un­der­stood in Ger­man meta­phys­ics.

The concept of dia­lectic in Ger­man meta­phys­ics is, however, over­de­termined by con­cep­tions of an­oth­er or­der. Ac­tu­ally, the dia­lectic, to the ex­tent that it sig­ni­fies change, can­not have its ex­clus­ive and truly primary ori­gin in nature, inas­much as the lat­ter of­fers in­stead the im­age of a cer­tain per­man­ence and of stable be­ing. The very move­ments and di­verse changes which af­fect the be­ing of nature dis­play a cer­tain reg­u­lar­ity, when they do not present a cyc­lic­al form in which the idea of change moves bey­ond it­self in the dir­ec­tion, pre­cisely, of per­man­ence. The al­chem­ist’s in­tu­ition of a trans­form­a­tion that takes place with­in things and that con­sti­tutes their true nature had to be fought for and had, in a cer­tain sense, to be pos­tu­lated in the face of ap­pear­ances to the con­trary. If it does not lie in the con­tent of ex­tern­al ex­per­i­ence, where can one find not the idea but above all the ac­tu­al ex­per­i­ence of change and of trans­form­a­tion con­sidered real, im­man­ent, and lived change, in­tern­al trans­form­a­tion, if not in life it­self? It is in­di­vidu­al sub­ject­ive life as it oc­curs in the im­me­di­ate ex­per­i­ence of its rad­ic­al phe­nomen­o­lo­gic­al im­man­ence which re­veals this change with­in it­self, inas­much as it changes and as it is it­self “change,” in the flow of its im­pres­sions and of its hid­den af­fect­ive ton­al­it­ies; and in this flow the lat­ter nev­er stop passing in­to one an­oth­er in an in­cess­ant move­ment that is life it­self.

We are un­able to show here how, in this passing which is not in time but which is time, the af­fect­ive mod­al­it­ies of life do not ori­gin­ate and oc­cur therein by chance, how they stem not from the world and its fu­ture but from life it­self and its es­sence, as mod­al­it­ies which are willed and or­dained by it, as the very modes of its real­iz­a­tion and as the his­tory of its es­sence [his­tori­al].31 Let us simply state: it is be­cause these mod­al­it­ies ori­gin­ate in the on­to­lo­gic­al passiv­ity which de­term­ines the es­sence of life and which con­sti­tutes it from the out­set as af­fect­ive that these mod­al­it­ies are them­selves presen­ted and are pos­ited as af­fect­ive, more pre­cisely, as suf­fer­ing and as joy and as their in­cess­ant “passing back and forth.” For the es­sence of suf­fer­ing lies in the rad­ic­al passiv­ity of life and in its suf­fer­ance and as such in­cludes, to the ex­tent that life’s suf­fer­ance is its ori­gin­al self-given­ness in the ad­equa­tion of an un­di­vided im­man­ence and the ex­per­i­ence of its own plen­it­ude, the pos­sib­il­ity and the es­sence of the op­pos­ite de­term­in­a­tion, the pos­sib­il­ity and the es­sence of its un­ceas­ing trans­form­a­tion in­to joy. The ori­gin­al es­sence of the dia­lectic lies in life to the ex­tent that it con­tains with­in it­self the a pri­ori and pure pos­sib­il­ity of its fun­da­ment­al ton­al­it­ies and along with this the pos­sib­il­ity of their re­cip­roc­al trans­form­a­tion.

It is in the ori­gin­al es­sence of the dia­lectic, inas­much as it lies in life and ex­presses the ei­det­ic reg­u­lar­it­ies of its fun­da­ment­al ton­al­it­ies, that one should seek the de­term­in­a­tions it will later pos­sess in an ex­pli­cit man­ner on the level of thought such as, for ex­ample, the law of op­pos­ites. The more life is caught up in the suf­fer­ing of its be­ing as it is lim­ited and tied to it­self, and the more it ex­per­i­ences as a bur­den the ab­sence and the im­possib­il­ity of any tran­scend­ence, of any over­com­ing, the more this over­com­ing is real­ized, the more one can feel in and through this very suf­fer­ing the emer­gence of one’s own be­ing, its si­lent ad­vent and the ex­per­i­ence of its ul­ti­mate ground. In this way, Kierkegaard was able to con­ceive of the ex­treme point of suf­fer­ing, des­pair, as lead­ing the self to the most rad­ic­al test both of it­self and of the life with­in it, to delve through its own trans­par­ence in­to the power that has pos­ited it. Thus, gen­er­ally speak­ing, we can ex­plain the re­li­gious or mys­tic­al con­cep­tions which ex­press the meta­phys­ic­al es­sence of be­ing un­der­stood as life and which re­late the his­tory of its es­sence [his­tori­al] in the sim­ul­tan­eous or suc­cess­ive blos­som­ing of op­pos­ites in the dra­mat­ic passing from neg­at­ive to pos­it­ive, from des­ti­tu­tion to plen­it­ude, from suf­fer­ing to joy. From the nearest to the farthest, per au­gusta ad au­gusta. The high­er the star is in the heav­ens, the deep­er is its re­flec­tion in the sea. It is this dra­mat­ic passing between op­pos­ites that provides the re­li­gious idea of sac­ri­fice with its force and per­haps with its on­to­lo­gic­al con­tent as well. If we now call suf­fer­ing “ali­en­a­tion” and use “liberty” to refer, on the con­trary, to the pos­it­ive ex­pan­sion of af­fectiv­ity, then ali­en­a­tion is the con­di­tion for all lib­er­a­tion and the primary mode of its ful­fill­ment. If we call it death, then death is the con­di­tion for life. In Christ’s pas­sion and in his sac­ri­fice the meta­phys­ic­al law of life is re­vealed and is ex­pressed, in­so­far as its es­sence lies in af­fectiv­ity, in­so­far as the blow struck against life lays bare its in­tan­gible es­sence, in­so­far as the wound made in the soft, white flesh gushes with blood, in­so­far as suf­fer­ing re­veals what it is that suf­fers at the very heart of this suf­fer­ing, the ab­so­lutely liv­ing be­ing of life.

As has been rightly said: the pro­let­ari­at is Christ. The pro­let­ari­at is the one — for, just like Christ, the pro­let­ari­at is a per­son — who must go to the very lim­it of suf­fer­ing and of evil, to the sac­ri­fice of his be­ing, giv­ing his sweat and blood and ul­ti­mately his very life, in or­der to reach — through this com­plete self-an­ni­hil­a­tion, through this self-neg­a­tion which is a neg­a­tion of life — the true life which leaves all fi­nite­ness and all par­tic­u­lar­ity be­hind, which is a com­plete life and sal­va­tion it­self. “He who wants to save his life shall lose it, and he who wants to lose it will be truly alive.” In its own way, the pro­let­ari­at is in­volved in the dra­mat­ic his­tory of op­pos­ites and ful­fills this his­tory, ful­fills the sac­ri­fice, strips it­self down, loses it­self com­pletely and so has ac­cess to re­demp­tion, which con­sti­tutes the re­cov­ery and the re­con­quer­ing of true be­ing, re­viv­al and re­gen­er­a­tion. “A sphere,” states the text we are dis­cuss­ing, “…which is, in a word, the total loss of hu­man­ity and which can there­fore re­deem it­self only through the total re­demp­tion of hu­man­ity.” The cri­tique of re­li­gion claimed to take us out of the re­li­gious sphere and to re­lease us from its fant­ast­ic con­struc­tions, claimed to lead us in­to the do­main of real­ity and, more pre­cisely in the 1843-1844 In­tro­duc­tion, in­to the do­main of Ger­man real­ity, of Ger­man his­tory, and of the pro­let­ari­at which is be­ing formed there. But the pro­let­ari­at is just a sub­sti­tute for the Chris­ti­an God, the his­tory that it an­im­ates and will ful­fill is merely the pro­fane tran­scrip­tion of a sac­red his­tory.

However, it is far from the case that the re­li­gious and mys­tic­al con­cep­tions to which we have been com­pelled to refer have them­selves had any dir­ect in­flu­ence on the texts we are ana­lyz­ing. In­stead, this in­flu­ence is ex­er­ted through the me­di­ation of Ger­man meta­phys­ics. It is by way of the re­mark­able works of G. Cot­ti­er, on the one hand, and of de Negri, on the oth­er, that we are able to spe­cify just how Ger­man meta­phys­ics be­came im­bued with these re­li­gious themes to be­gin with, so that in their turn Marx’s 1844 texts and fi­nally Marx­ism it­self were de­term­ined by these same themes. At the source of what he terms the kenot­ic schema — in ac­cord­ance with which real­ity, in or­der to reach its ful­fill­ment, must first of all an­ni­hil­ate it­self by passing in­to its op­pos­ite so that, out of the an­ni­hil­a­tion of this op­pos­ite and in this way alone, the schema of real­iz­a­tion un­der­stood as self-neg­a­tion and as the neg­a­tion of this neg­a­tion can at last emerge in its plen­it­ude — Cot­ti­er rightly cites the pas­sage from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Phil­ip­pi­ans (2:6-9) in which he re­counts in the fol­low­ing terms what could be called the his­tory of Christ’s es­sence, that is to say, at once his per­son­al his­tory and his be­ing: “For the di­vine nature was his from the first; yet he did not think to snatch at equal­ity with God, but made him­self noth­ing, as­sum­ing the nature of a slave. Bear­ing the hu­man like­ness, re­vealed in hu­man shape, he humbled him­self, and in obed­i­ence ac­cep­ted even death — death on a cross. There­fore God raised him to the heights and be­stowed on him the name above all names…” ἐκένωσεν in Greek de­notes the act by which Christ strips him­self, emp­ties him­self of his di­vin­ity, that is to say, of his very be­ing, and thereby an­ni­hil­ates him­self in or­der to take on the hu­man con­di­tion, in such a way, however, that this priva­tion is pushed to the ex­treme, that it con­sti­tutes the act of tak­ing on hu­man­ity in what in it is most ex­treme, its lim­it­ing situ­ation, death, and even more, death in its most ig­no­mini­ous form, the death re­served for those sen­tenced to death and for slaves. For it is only in this way, when it is pushed to its own lim­it and to the end point of its be­ing, that the op­pos­ite is it­self an­ni­hil­ated to per­mit the re­turn of the full pos­it­iv­ity of the ab­so­lute in re­gen­er­a­tion. Cot­ti­er’s presen­ti­ment con­cern­ing the role Luth­er played in trans­mit­ting this “kenot­ic schema,” that is to say, in the form­a­tion of Ger­man meta­phys­ics as dia­lect­ic­al thought, has its source in the fact that Luth­er trans­lated ἐκένωσεν by hat sich selbst geäußert, thus tak­ing Christ’s priva­tion as his ali­en­a­tion.32

Ac­tu­ally, it is the en­tire Luther­an prob­lem­at­ic which can ap­pear in many re­spects as a pre­fig­ur­a­tion and at times an ex­pli­cit pre­form­a­tion of dia­lect­ic­al thought. In­deed, the founder of the Ref­or­ma­tion rises to this level of thought in his ef­fort to re­solve the dif­fi­culties of the Chris­ti­an para­dox, dif­fi­culties which all con­verge on the ques­tion of the pos­sib­il­ity of unit­ing op­pos­ites, of pres­ence sub con­trario or yet again of com­mu­nic­a­tio idio­matum. The prob­lems that lead to this ques­tion and that oc­cupy all of Luth­er’s at­ten­tion are not­ably those con­cern­ing Christ on the cross and the Euchar­ist. They are posed in this way: how can it be that in a slave who has been cru­ci­fied and has died a God can ex­ist and can live, or rather, God him­self; how, then, un­der this con­trary ap­pear­ance [sub con­trario] can the di­vine es­sence be present? And like­wise in the Euchar­ist, which Luth­er termed the im­pana­tio, how is the real pres­ence of Christ in the bread to be un­der­stood? That one and the same per­son, namely Christ on the cross, could be at one and the same time spir­itu­al and car­nal, sin­ner and just, bad and good, thus both dead and liv­ing, suf­fer­ing and blessed, act­ive and at rest, just as the bread is it­self also the body of Christ, is ex­plained by the com­mu­nic­a­tio idio­matum, that is, by the uni­on of op­pos­ing prop­er­ties. In this uni­on each of the prop­er­ties re­mains it­self and, con­sequently, the prop­er­ties con­tin­ue to op­pose one an­oth­er, but in their meet­ing they form a new es­sence which con­tains these op­pos­ites and re­unites them in a high­er uni­on. Luth­er, in one of his last treat­ises, called De praedic­a­tione identica de di­ver­sis na­tur­is, which is ana­lyzed by de Negri, strives to jus­ti­fy ra­tion­ally the com­mu­nic­a­tio idio­matum by show­ing that un­der­stand­ing it im­plies giv­ing up syl­lo­gist­ic lo­gic and re­pla­cing the cop­ula “is” with a thought of be­com­ing, of wer­den, in which the pas­sage from one prop­erty in­to an­oth­er and even in­to its own op­pos­ite is real­ized. To the ob­jec­tion that this pas­sage from the same to its op­pos­ite is ir­ra­tion­al, Luth­er replies, and in this strik­ingly fore­shad­ows Hegel, that such a pas­sage defines, pre­cisely, true reas­on, that which con­ceives be­com­ing and not iden­tity as the es­sence of things, in short, a dia­lect­ic­al reas­on.53

The prop­erly spir­itu­al mean­ing of Luth­er’s thought must not, however, be for­got­ten. It is not only the ont­ic prop­er­ties of things that are in­volved in the com­mu­nic­a­tio and are thus sub­mit­ted to the power of the dia­lectic. The law of op­pos­ites, its para­dox, and its su­per­ses­sion con­cern and define first and fore­most the life of each be­liev­er, his ex­per­i­ence along the road to sal­va­tion. What char­ac­ter­izes this road is that it can by no means be con­sidered to be a pro­gress, a con­tinu­ous im­prove­ment of mor­al life as a res­ult of per­son­al ef­fort and will. Quite the con­trary, it is only with heart­felt con­tri­tion, by slip­ping in­to ab­so­lute des­pair and by giv­ing one­self up to the re­volt against God, in and through this spir­itu­al death, that faith and sal­va­tion can be born. In this, one ele­ment of the sub­sequent idea of the dia­lectic be­comes ap­par­ent — the rad­ic­al nature of op­pos­i­tion as the con­di­tion for its rad­ic­al sup­pres­sion and for the ad­vent of uni­ver­sal­ity, since it is by los­ing everything and only by ab­so­lute fault that everything can be re­covered. This is the sense of the cri­ti­cism of in­dul­gences, which is not dir­ec­ted at the mere fact of this trade but at the Cath­ol­ic con­cep­tion of gradu­ated pen­it­ence, pro­por­tion­al to the wrong. It is the very idea of pro­por­tion­ing and of meas­ur­ing that ap­pears in­ad­equate and com­pletely un­re­lated to sal­va­tion if the lat­ter im­plies, as the sphere in which it emerges, total evil, the abyssal con­scious­ness of sin in the soul of the sin­ner. It is ob­vi­ously un­der the in­flu­ence of Luth­er and of Luther­an theo­lo­gians that Kierkegaard con­ceived his dia­lectic of the Treat­ise on Des­pair to which we have al­luded.

Re­cog­niz­ing the spir­itu­al sig­ni­fic­ance of Luther­an thought leads us to the ori­gin of the dia­lectic, to lived ex­per­i­ence. This sheds new light on the evid­ence that has already been en­countered in our own prob­lem­at­ic, ac­cord­ing to which the primary real­ity of pas­sage and the very place where its concept arises is in life, in the pas­sage which is it­self un­der­stood as a lived ex­per­i­ence, as the ex­per­i­ence of the trans­form­a­tion of life in its own prop­er and fun­da­ment­al ton­al­it­ies. For it is pre­cisely when life, in the very course of its ex­per­i­ence, is lived as modi­fic­a­tion and, what is more, as rad­ic­al self-modi­fic­a­tion in the pas­sage from des­pair to cer­tainty, that it is el­ev­ated to the in­tu­ition of spir­itu­al­ity. But then it must be said that already in Luth­er, and con­sequently from its in­cep­tion, the concept of dia­lectic al­lows its ba­sic am­bi­gu­ity to ap­pear. This con­sists in a μετάβασις εἰς ἄλλο γένος in the in­con­test­able μετάβασις by vir­tue of which what is con­sidered to be a law of the spir­itu­al world and which is dis­covered in it is found to have been trans­ferred to an­oth­er re­gion of be­ing, to the do­main of ma­ter­i­al things and their prop­er­ties. For the identic­al pre­dic­a­tion of op­pos­ites no longer con­cerns only the phe­nomen­o­lo­gic­al be­com­ing of the Er­leb­n­isse, their si­lent growth out of life and its es­sence; iden­tity no longer des­ig­nates this ori­gin­al and con­crete es­sence as the con­di­tion of the pos­sib­il­ity of what hap­pens to it and thus hap­pens in it; it is to the whole of what is, and first and fore­most to ma­ter­i­al be­ings, that the com­mu­nic­a­tio idio­matum, the new “reas­on,” is al­leged to ap­ply. The dia­lect­ic­al schema is isol­ated from the con­di­tions that give it its ori­gin­al valid­ity; it be­comes a form­al struc­ture un­der which any­thing and everything is al­leged to be sub­sumed. The pos­sib­il­ity of sub­sump­tion lies neither in the nature of what is sub­mit­ted to the schema nor in its pri­or ex­am­in­a­tion, in mak­ing evid­ent at least a pos­sible ad­equa­tion of the lat­ter, of this par­tic­u­lar nature, to the former, to that schema. It is the schema it­self, the form­al struc­ture of the dia­lectic, which jus­ti­fies the sub­sump­tion by reas­on of its own and some­what ma­gic­al power. Form has be­come con­tent. Be­ing it­self, whatever it may be, whatever con­crete form it may pos­sess in each in­stance, comes to be in self-neg­a­tion and comes to be to the ex­tent that this neg­a­tion is car­ried to term, that is to say is, in its turn, neg­ated. Every­where and al­ways the neg­at­ive sig­ni­fies the gen­es­is of be­ing and its ad­vent. Every­where and al­ways: not only when the neg­at­ive des­ig­nates the suf­fer­ing of sac­ri­fice, or des­pair, and the up­surge in it and through it of the lim­it­less ex­per­i­ence which thought can­not name, but also when what is in­volved is an ob­ject­ive event in­scribed in the course of nature or of his­tory — when what is in­volved is the ad­vent of ob­jectiv­ity it­self, of “nature” and of “his­tory” as such and as the whole of be­ing.

However, the found­ing power of the neg­at­ive is coupled with an axi­olo­gic­al mean­ing which, like this power, is ascribed to its secret ori­gin, to the ca­pa­city of suf­fer­ing to lib­er­ate in it­self the be­ing of life, to the ca­pa­city of evil grasped in its phe­nomen­o­lo­gic­al ac­tu­al­ity, just where it is in­deed an “evil,” to be a “good.” Just like the power of the neg­at­ive, its pos­it­ive axi­olo­gic­al mean­ing is trans­ferred along with it and so comes in­to play along with it, plays where it plays. On the one hand, the simple course of events, wheth­er nat­ur­al events or hu­man events, is not in­dif­fer­ent but is al­ways ori­ented to­ward the com­ing of that which, as the neg­a­tion of its con­di­tion, is more than it, and his­tory has a “sense.” As we have seen, even the al­chem­ic­al trans­form­a­tion of things obeys an im­man­ent tele­ology which leads to what is con­sidered an “end” and a com­ple­tion in terms of all the earli­er modi­fic­a­tions. On the oth­er hand, to the ex­tent that the concept of dia­lectic adds to the ini­tial ont­ic mean­ing it has in al­chemy or in Luth­er the de­cis­ive on­to­lo­gic­al mean­ing it con­tains in Boehme or in Hegel, it is now the pro­duc­tion of ob­jectiv­ity, the phe­nomen­o­logy of mind, which is presen­ted as the fi­nal­ity of the en­tire pro­cess, as the res­ult which secretly drives it.

Ger­man meta­phys­ics ac­quires and con­veys three mean­ings of the concept of dia­lectic: (1) its ori­gin­al af­fect­ive mean­ing, in ac­cord­ance with which it des­ig­nates life and the di­cho­tomy of the ton­al­it­ies with­in it, their sud­den muta­tion, the para­dox­ic­al bond of suf­fer­ing and joy, of love and hate; (2) an ont­ic mean­ing, in ac­cord­ance with which the trans­form­a­tion is ex­ten­ded to “things” and al­leged to define the be­ing of every be­ing; (3) an on­to­lo­gic­al mean­ing, by vir­tue of which the dia­lectic defines and de­term­ines this be­ing as it is thought and grasped in it­self, the op­pos­i­tion of ob­jectiv­ity and the world. The ont­ic and on­to­lo­gic­al mean­ings are the μετάβασις of its ori­gin­al mean­ing, the tardy and pre­crit­ic­al ex­ten­sion to all that “is” of the ori­gin­al es­sen­tial his­tory of be­ing in the life of rad­ic­al sub­jectiv­ity. In the μετάβασις, the prop­er­ties that be­long to the single re­gion of be­ing in which they have been per­ceived, that is, to the ori­gin­al be­ing of life, are also ex­ten­ded to the whole of be­ing and are held to con­sti­tute its struc­ture. We must not simply re­peat the bril­liant cri­tique which Kierkegaard was to ad­dress to Hegel and say that the neg­at­ive can­not be used to des­ig­nate any­thing and everything, can­not func­tion at one and the same time as an eth­ic­al, meta­phys­ic­al, on­to­lo­gic­al, and, we might add, ont­ic concept, for the prob­lem lies in the way in which the neg­at­ive op­er­ates in each case, and this can­not be re­solved by the equi­voc­a­tion of hom­onymy. Pro­du­cing a nature, ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion, can­not be the same thing as what des­pair des­tines us for — and which sig­ni­fies, pre­cisely, the im­possible ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of life — nor is the his­tory of the world that of the in­di­vidu­al.

The threefold mean­ing of the concept of dia­lectic con­veyed by Ger­man meta­phys­ics is present in the con­struc­tion a pri­ori of the pro­let­ari­at and secretly de­term­ines it, de­term­ines the Ger­man ques­tion to which Ger­man real­ity has to re­spond, the real­ity of Prus­si­an so­ci­ety dur­ing the first half of the nine­teenth cen­tury. To de­term­ine the real­ity of a par­tic­u­lar so­ci­ety, even of so­ci­ety in gen­er­al, on the basis of the concept of dia­lectic as this happened to be con­sti­tuted in the move­ment of West­ern meta­phys­ics as the res­ult of vari­ous and sun­dry con­cep­tions, of re­li­gious, theo­lo­gic­al, theo­soph­ic­al, al­chem­ic­al, ont­ic, and on­to­lo­gic­al con­cep­tions, and even more as the un­re­cog­nized ex­pres­sion of the es­sence of life, is to ac­com­plish a new μετάβασις, the μετάβασις of the dia­lectic it­self in a do­main totally for­eign to its place of birth, and is to give to the ele­ments that con­sti­tute it a sense they do not pos­sess. The first philo­sophy of labor presen­ted in the 1844 Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts marked the in­va­sion of eco­nom­ics by Ger­man meta­phys­ics; the con­struc­tion a pri­ori of the pro­let­ari­at and the the­ory of re­volu­tion that it defines mark the in­va­sion of polit­ics and his­tory by Ger­man meta­phys­ics. This is what is stated in­vol­un­tar­ily and yet with sharp clar­ity by a fam­ous pro­pos­i­tion: the pro­let­ari­at is the in­her­it­or of clas­sic­al Ger­man philo­sophy.54

Fol­low­ing the shift to the do­main of ma­ter­i­al things, what can be the mean­ing of the struc­ture of the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion pro­cess of con­scious­ness or of the af­fect­ive dia­lectic of life, the “power of the neg­at­ive”? If it is not the simple Ger­man des­ig­na­tion of their ob­ject­ive con­di­tion, can the neg­a­tion of a bridge or a house then mean only their de­struc­tion, sheer an­ni­hil­a­tion? In what way does this pro­cess of de­struc­tion, in it­self and of it­self, the qual­ity and the force, so to speak, to make something new surge forth, something that is great­er in the or­der of real­ity or of per­fec­tion, a wider bridge, a big­ger house? And yet this is the really ma­gic­al qual­ity be­long­ing to the neg­at­ive in the concept of re­volu­tion. Re­volu­tion is noth­ing oth­er than the neg­at­ive in its claim to per­form it­self the work of be­ing, the neg­a­tion which is to define and to pro­duce all pos­it­iv­ity. The concept of re­volu­tion re­flects the meta­phys­ic­al iden­tity of be­ing and noth­ing­ness but by trans­pos­ing it, ab­surdly, onto a level where it loses any pos­sible sense, onto the ont­ic level.

Giv­en this, is there any reas­on to say, in the ab­sence of any ref­er­ence to ac­tu­al ma­ter­i­al real­ity, that the concept of re­volu­tion is empty, robbed of all pos­sible ef­fect­ive­ness? However, the concept of re­volu­tion gath­ers with­in it­self the con­stitu­ent ele­ments of the dia­lect­ic­al schema. The re­volu­tion per­forms the re­deem­ing cata­strophe, the life-giv­ing rad­ic­al neg­a­tion, and in this re­sembles the pro­let­ari­at whose his­tory it con­cen­trates in a dra­mat­ic sum­mary. And yet, as has been suf­fi­ciently demon­strated, it is from life that the dia­lect­ic­al schema as it is presen­ted in the concept of the pro­let­ari­at, which is summed up in that of the re­volu­tion, is secretly bor­rowed; it is the di­cho­tomy of af­fectiv­ity which founds its op­pos­i­tion­al struc­ture and its pathos. From this mo­ment on, the polit­ic­al heav­en loses its trans­par­ency and its light­ness, the empty concept of re­volu­tion is filled all at once and be­comes a sphere of total in­vest­ment. In it, all the powers of life are rep­res­en­ted and find an ima­gin­ary pro­long­a­tion: in de­struc­tion the death in­stinct, in re­gen­er­a­tion the life in­stinct, in the loss of ali­en­a­tion suf­fer­ing, in the vic­tory over ali­en­a­tion and re­con­quest of joy, in the pas­sage from de­struc­tion to re­gen­er­a­tion the very move­ment of life, of life which is al­ways ahead of it­self, in the am­bi­gu­ity of at­trac­tion and re­pul­sion, in the secret con­niv­ance of an­guish and hap­pi­ness. Re­volu­tion is the ima­gin­ary rep­res­ent­a­tion of what is pro­duced and can only be pro­duced in us. Re­volu­tion is a fantasy of life.

The myth­o­logy of his­tory

The concept of re­volu­tion, just as that of the pro­let­ari­at which is its agent, if not to say its of­fi­ci­at­ing priest — the pro­let­ari­at, Marx writes in The Class Struggles in France, com­prises “the high dig­nit­ar­ies of the re­volu­tion­ary in­terests”55 — names no par­tic­u­lar real­ity which would be lim­ited to a mo­ment in time and in his­tory. Not only does the pro­let­ari­at bring about the ad­vent of the uni­ver­sal, since it is that par­tic­u­lar class which denies it­self as such and in so do­ing ab­ol­ishes all the oth­er classes, thus tak­ing man out of the fi­nite­ness or re­strict­ive and op­pos­i­tion­al de­term­in­a­tion and giv­ing him back to him­self — inas­much as the be­ing of man is, pre­cisely, the uni­ver­sal — but for this very reas­on, be­cause the pro­let­ari­at real­izes the es­sen­tial his­tory of the uni­ver­sal, it is the es­sence of his­tory that is ac­com­plished in it, if in­deed his­tory has a sense, if it is that meta­phys­ic­al ad­ven­ture in which the poverty and the lim­it­a­tions of ori­gins are gradu­ally over­come and fi­nally su­per­seded in the ma­jor event of total real­iz­a­tion. To the ex­tent that his­tory finds the con­di­tion for its pos­sib­il­ity, along with its sense and its es­sence, in re­volu­tion, his­tory also bor­rows from the lat­ter its struc­ture, the struc­ture of tem­por­al­ity prop­er to it. His­tory’s time is thus in no sense the ho­mo­gen­eous mi­lieu with­in which a suc­ces­sion of events un­folds; it is not an evol­u­tion but a re­volu­tion; it does not oc­cur as a pro­gress but as its op­pos­ite, as the de­vel­op­ment of the con­trary, the op­pos­ite, the obstacle, as the slow con­struc­tion of the wall whose sud­den col­lapse will free be­ing in all its full­ness, will in­aug­ur­ate the new King­dom. This is why the com­ing of the uni­ver­sal, the es­tab­lish­ment of a hu­man or­der, is not the res­ult of a lin­ear pro­gress at the end of which man would gain pos­ses­sion of him­self; it is not win­ning man over [le gain de l’homme] but his “re­viv­al” [son «re­gain»], a new con­quest which oc­curs by way of the “total loss of man.” The time of his­tory, his­tory it­self, is the de­vel­op­ment of ali­en­a­tion as the con­di­tion for re­appro­pri­ation. Moreover, this is why the present of his­tory is not a simple present, that which is here and now, purely and simply, a state of things, but the mo­ment of a fall, a time of dis­tress, for it is only out of the ex­cess­ive­ness of this dis­tress and only when suf­fer­ing be­comes uni­ver­sal that sal­va­tion will come. The present an­nounces this sal­va­tion and re­cog­nizes its com­ing in the very com­ing of cata­strophe. All of his­tory is held in this present which gath­ers his­tory to­geth­er with­in it­self and which dom­in­ates his­tory; his­tory is the in­stant in which the con­tra­dic­tion is con­densed, in which amid col­lapse and gen­er­al up­heav­al the past all at once swings in­to the fu­ture.

The ex­tent to which this apo­ca­lyptic and mes­si­an­ic con­cep­tion of his­tory is an off­shoot of Ger­man meta­phys­ics could be eas­ily demon­strated if we had the time here to re­call the grand themes of Ger­man Ro­man­ti­cism as these ap­pear, not­ably, in Schle­gel, Noval­is, Hölderlin, Hegel, or Schelling.56 In the lat­ter, for ex­ample, be­com­ing com­mences by pos­it­ing an ini­tial bas­tard prin­ciple destined to be sup­pressed; thus it is presen­ted as a strange pro­cess which be­gins by pur­su­ing the slow con­struc­tion of what it will then tear down and which un­does what it has already done. This way of get­ting at the defin­it­ive and the true by first of all as­sert­ing the con­trary ap­pear­ance, this dis­guising of one’s deep in­ten­tions, is what Schelling calls the irony of God,57 an irony which Marx, in his turn, thinks he re­cog­nizes at the heart of his­tory. Sig­ni­fic­ant in this re­gard are the his­tor­ic­al-polit­ic­al writ­ings — in par­tic­u­lar those com­posed at the time of the 1848 re­volu­tion and dur­ing the rise to power of the fu­ture Na­po­leon III. Ex­amin­ing the re­volu­tion­ary pro­cess in France dur­ing the years 1846-1851, Marx di­vides this peri­od in­to two parts, the first of which has just ended be­fore his own eyes and thus be­longs to the past, lead­ing to the Decem­ber 2 coup d’état; the second is just in the pro­cess of oc­cur­ring, and its de­scrip­tion is at the same time a proph­ecy, and this Marx in­ter­prets, pre­cisely, as the con­struc­tion of a secret fi­nal­ity in the guise of an ap­par­ent coun­terfi­nal­ity. “It [the re­volu­tion] goes about its busi­ness meth­od­ic­ally. By Decem­ber 2, 1851 it had com­pleted one half of its pre­par­at­ory work; it is now com­plet­ing the oth­er half. First of all it per­fec­ted the par­lia­ment­ary power, in or­der to be able to over­throw it. Now, hav­ing at­tained this, it is per­fect­ing the ex­ec­ut­ive power, re­du­cing it to its purest ex­pres­sion, isol­at­ing it, and pit­ting it­self against it as the sole ob­ject of at­tack, in or­der to con­cen­trate all its forces of de­struc­tion against it. And when it has com­pleted this, the second half of its pre­lim­in­ary work, Europe will leap from its seat and ex­ult­antly ex­claim: ‘Well worked, old mole’.”58

The con­struc­tion of the con­trary which, in turn, is handed over to de­struc­tion, this “meth­od” which is the meth­od of re­volu­tion and of his­tory, is presen­ted by Marx in the open­ing lines of The Class Struggles in France, where he ex­pli­citly of­fers it as the ob­ject of his demon­stra­tion. Only “by cre­at­ing a power­ful and united coun­ter­re­volu­tion; only in com­bat with this op­pon­ent did the in­sur­rec­tion­ary party ma­ture in­to a real party of re­volu­tion. To demon­strate this is the task of the fol­low­ing pages.”59 It is as this con­trary ne­ces­sary for the de­vel­op­ment of the pro­cess that the bour­geois­ie in­ter­venes and de­vel­ops, as­sem­bling to­geth­er with­in it­self all the con­trar­ies, all the prop­erty-own­ing classes in or­der to con­sti­tute the ab­so­lute obstacle. “The first task of the Feb­ru­ary re­pub­lic was rather to com­plete the rule of the bour­geois­ie by all the prop­erty-own­ing classes to enter the polit­ic­al arena along with the fin­an­cial ar­is­to­cracy.”60 Be­cause this op­pos­i­tion is ne­ces­sary for the de­vel­op­ment of the re­volu­tion­ary pro­cess, that is for its own de­vel­op­ment, the pro­let­ari­at must par­ti­cip­ate in its form­a­tion, as­sist in the as­cen­sion of the bour­geois­ie, pur­sue along with it the com­mon struggle against the ar­cha­ic ele­ment which con­tin­ues to op­pose the tri­umph of the bour­geois­ie. “At this stage, there­fore, the pro­let­ari­ans do not fight their en­emies, but the en­emies of their en­emies, the rem­nants of ab­so­lute mon­archy, the landown­ers, the non-in­dus­tri­al bour­geois, the petty bour­geois­ie.”61

However, if the pro­let­ari­at, whose ac­tions are like those of Schelling’s God, can secretly sa­vor the set­ting up of this com­plex sys­tem of which it is to be the ul­ti­mate be­ne­fi­ciary, the bour­geois­ie, on the oth­er hand, caught up in the in­eluct­able pro­cess of this strange his­tory of which it un­der­stands only the short-term po­s­i­tions and con­sequences, finds it­self in an un­com­fort­able and, in a word, dia­lect­ic­al situ­ation. The bour­geois­ie con­sti­tutes the con­trary which is pos­ited only to be des­troyed, and its de­struc­tion be­gins with its in­cep­tion.62 In 1850 the bour­geois­ie’s self-de­struc­tion passes by way of the rise to power and the tri­umph of Bona­parte, and Marx shows with sub­tlety how, in or­der to de­fend it­self, the bour­geois­ie throws it­self in­to the arms of its en­emy and is forced, in or­der to en­sure its sur­viv­al as it con­fronts the people and the “Montagne” which rep­res­ents the lat­ter, to sac­ri­fice its own par­lia­ment­ary re­gime.63 The irony of his­tory does not simply hand the bour­geois­ie over to Bona­parte; it es­tab­lishes Bona­parte’s reign only to isol­ate it in turn and to set up in op­pos­i­tion to it the whole of the people, so that “the over­throw of the par­lia­ment­ary re­pub­lic con­tains with­in it­self the germ of the tri­umph of the pro­let­ari­an re­volu­tion.”64

In ad­di­tion to the di­vine irony which con­tinu­ally poses the con­trary of what it wants to do and so does what it wants only in and through the an­ni­hil­a­tion of what it does not want, in Schelling we also find the reas­on for this irony, which is there­fore not sheer mad­ness. This kind of “reas­on” resides in the di­vine will or, if one prefers, in the law of be­ing ac­cord­ing to which “all pos­sib­il­it­ies must oc­cur.”65 It is not a mat­ter of choos­ing from among all pos­sib­il­it­ies the best one and abandon­ing the oth­ers to the noth­ing­ness of that which will nev­er be, but in­stead of bring­ing it about that all pos­sib­il­it­ies are real­ized and come in­to be­ing so that the great law of be­ing is in­deed ac­com­plished, the law of the total ex­hib­i­tion and the total real­iz­a­tion of be­ing. His­tory is pre­cisely the mi­lieu in which this law is ac­com­plished. This his­tory will thus be a total his­tory, the his­tory in which all that can be does oc­cur, the his­tory of all vir­tu­al­it­ies, so that everything shows it­self and can show it­self, so that noth­ing re­mains hid­den. This is why his­tory is the his­tory of con­trar­ies, why it pro­vokes their oc­cur­rence and re­quires that each blos­som forth fully, that each un­fold com­pletely all of the po­ten­ti­al­it­ies that it im­plies, be­cause it is im­port­ant that all of these po­ten­ti­al­it­ies66 come to ful­fill­ment and be dis­played in full light. This is why the work of his­tory is rad­ic­al; it can­not tol­er­ate any­thing with­in it­self that is un­ful­filled or ob­scure; it seizes the secret in each thing, un­cov­ers it and in this as­signs to it its end; it real­izes all pos­sib­il­it­ies and des­troys them in one and the same move­ment, and as a great puri­fy­ing fire, it con­sumes everything along its path and leaves noth­ing stand­ing. “His­tory,” says Marx in the 1843-1844 In­tro­duc­tion to his Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right, “is thor­ough and passes through many stages while bear­ing an an­cient form to its grave.”67 Inas­much as it is the ar­cha­ic Ger­man re­gime that is iden­ti­fied sud­denly, on the con­trary, with the his­tor­ic­al present and with his­tory it­self, Marx, ac­cord­ingly, writes in the same text: “Ger­many, which is renowned for its thor­ough­ness…”68 Be­ing thor­ough, in this con­text, is to make re­volu­tion not merely by over­throw­ing what is in the sum­mary and bru­tal neg­a­tion of a state of things but, rather, by the much more subtle in­ter­play which al­lows a situ­ation to de­vel­op, leads the con­trary to its term and the con­tra­dic­tion to its greatest de­gree of ten­sion, thereby ex­haust­ing the pos­sible. “But,” Marx will again state in The Eight­eenth Bru­maire, “the re­volu­tion is thor­ough.”69 In­deed, in the re­volu­tion the pro­cess of ex­haust­ing pos­sib­il­it­ies, which strews them one after the oth­er like empty car­casses along the road it fol­lows, is ac­cel­er­ated.

In the first French re­volu­tion the rule of the Con­sti­tu­tion­al­ists was fol­lowed by the rule of the Girond­ins, and the rule of the Girond­ins by the rule of the Jac­obins. Each of these parties leaned on the more pro­gress­ive party. As soon as it had brought the re­volu­tion to the point where it was un­able to fol­low it any fur­ther, let alone ad­vance ahead of it, it was pushed aside by the bolder ally stand­ing be­hind it and sent to the guil­lot­ine. In this way the re­volu­tion moved in an as­cend­ing path. In the re­volu­tion of 1848 this re­la­tion­ship was re­versed. The pro­let­ari­an party ap­peared as the ap­pend­age of petty-bour­geois demo­cracy. It was be­trayed and aban­doned by the lat­ter on April 16, on May 15, and in the June days. The demo­crat­ic party, for its part, leaned on the shoulders of the bour­geois-re­pub­lic­an party. As soon as the bour­geois re­pub­lic­ans thought they had found their feet, they shook off this bur­den­some com­rade and re­lied in turn on the shoulders of the party of Or­der. The party of Or­der hunched its shoulders, al­lowed the bour­geois re­pub­lic­ans to tumble off, and threw it­self onto the shoulders of the armed forces. It be­lieved it was still sit­ting on those shoulders when it no­ticed one fine morn­ing that they had changed in­to bay­on­ets. Every party kicked out be­hind at the party press­ing it for­ward and leaned on the party in front, which was press­ing back­ward. No won­der each party lost its bal­ance in this ri­dicu­lous pos­ture, and col­lapsed in the midst of curi­ous capers, after hav­ing made the in­ev­it­able grim­aces. In this way the re­volu­tion moved in a des­cend­ing path.70

It is, in truth, the pro­cess of his­tory it­self which be­comes more evid­ent when it gath­ers it­self to­geth­er and ac­cel­er­ates in the re­volu­tion­ary pro­cess. His­tory in gen­er­al is this rad­ic­al move­ment which ac­tu­al­izes pos­sib­il­it­ies only in or­der bet­ter to ex­haust them and to lead them, by way of their power, to their im­pot­ence and to their death.

Be­cause it does noth­ing halfway and be­cause it is thor­ough, be­cause it forces each pos­sib­il­ity to pro­duce all the vir­tu­al­it­ies it holds with­in it­self and to dis­play them in the light of de­veloped-be­ing, his­tory, which is the place of this ex­hib­i­tion and its es­sence, is also the place and the es­sence of truth. What is char­ac­ter­ist­ic of truth is that it ap­pears when its time has come, as Hegel states in the pre­face to T he Philo­sophy of Right. His­tory, however, is this time of truth in which every par­tic­u­lar be­ing has to prove what it truly is. By un­mask­ing each thing down to its in­ner­most be­ing, his­tory eval­u­ates it in terms of what it con­tains of ac­tu­al pos­it­iv­ity; his­tory judges it. Welt­geschichte ist Welt­gericht. In a talk he gave as part of the cel­eb­ra­tion of the Lon­don Chartist or­gan­iz­a­tion on April 14, 1856, Marx, al­lud­ing to the secret court of Saint-Vehme, which in the Middle Ages avenged the evil deeds com­mit­ted by the power­ful, mark­ing a red cross on the houses of those to be pun­ished, stated in con­clu­sion: “Today the mys­ter­i­ous red cross marks all the houses in Europe. His­tory it­self renders justice and the pro­let­ari­at will carry out the sen­tence.”71

How does his­tory render justice? The truth of his­tory is the ob­jec­ti­fic­a­tion of be­ing in which be­ing ar­rives at it­self in the ac­tu­al­ity of its ob­ject-con­di­tion. The truth of his­tory is the un­fold­ing of the world. His­tory is, pre­cisely, the his­tory of the world. His­tory is a fore­ground bathed in light, the stage upon which that which can­not re­main en­vel­oped in the night of vir­tu­al­ity steps for­ward in or­der to ac­count for it­self and to be de­veloped. His­tory is a theat­er, the theat­er of the world. On the stage of this theat­er, pos­sib­il­it­ies, one by one, come to play their role; these are the fig­ures in which the ab­so­lute ap­pears, the suc­cess­ive forms in which it is real­ized. The char­ac­ters of his­tory, Hegel’s peoples or em­pires, Marx’s classes, even in­di­vidu­als in­so­far as they speak in the name of these peoples or these classes or of some great cause and thus in­carn­ate them, have only a short time, the time to say what they have to say and to play their role. His­tory re­claims them and col­lects them in the mauso­leums it erects to their glory, un­less it re­leg­ates them to its dun­geons or its wastebins. Cer­tain char­ac­ters, it is true, do not want to leave the stage; oth­ers try to make a comeback; they then re­cite empty lines and go through the mo­tions of a second death. His­tory is also a his­tory of ghosts; death the second time around is com­edy.72 Marx was ob­sessed with the aes­thet­ic cat­egor­ies of Hegel­i­an ro­man­ti­cism, and it is from them that he takes the open­ing lines of the Eight­eenth Bru­maire: “Hegel re­marks some­where that all the great events and char­ac­ters of world his­tory oc­cur, so to speak, twice. He for­got to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”73

In truth, all the Hegel­i­an cat­egor­ies, as if they too wanted to play their role a second time, little by little in­vade this “ma­ter­i­al­ist” his­tory, giv­ing it an air of déjà vu. And it is not only words but con­cepts as well which, here and there, con­fer upon his­tory a com­mon struc­ture, an identic­al way of be­ing real­ized. This real­iz­a­tion takes on, every­where and in all cases, the form of dia­lect­ic­al op­pos­i­tion, of the ti­tan­ic con­front­a­tion of con­trar­ies and of their fight to the death. Against the back­drop of this tragedy, in the per­petu­al play of birth and death, at the heart of this “bac­chanali­an rev­el, where not a mem­ber is sober,” the ri­dicu­lous her­oes and their empty ges­tic­u­lat­ing ap­pear for but a mo­ment, as a crest of foam on a vast wave be­fore it breaks and is no more. However, the obstacle and evil are the secret mo­tor at the heart of this pro­cess. The op­pos­i­tion of ant­ag­on­ist­ic forces is a spir­itu­al com­bat. The schema of re­dempt­ive neg­a­tion can be re­cog­nized un­der the ma­ter­i­al­ist gaugue of the dia­lectic; it con­tin­ues to shine forth in these lines ad­ded onto Cap­it­al: “In his­tory, just as in nature, pu­tre­fac­tion is the labor­at­ory of life.”74

What in­deed could be the re­la­tion between his­tory which obeys the kenot­ic schema, which is noth­ing oth­er than this very schema — his­tory pur­su­ing the slow con­struc­tion of the con­trary and sud­denly col­lapsing in the lib­er­at­ing cata­strophe — and real his­tory, the his­tory of in­di­vidu­als, of their needs, of their works, of the in­stru­ments with which they pro­duce? In par­tic­u­lar, how is it that the per­fect­ing of these in­stru­ments, the in­nu­mer­able in­ven­tions that in every in­stance ap­pear un­der par­tic­u­lar con­di­tions with re­spect to par­tic­u­lar prob­lems, pre­cise tech­nic­al prob­lems, how is it that the series of these spe­cif­ic modi­fic­a­tions, where each calls for the oth­er, where each is situ­ated as a pro­long­a­tion of an­oth­er, how is it that this slow trans­form­a­tion of activ­it­ies which are di­verse and yet which al­ways com­ple­ment one an­oth­er and co­ordin­ate with one an­oth­er to some ex­tent, in short, how is it that this whole pos­it­ive de­vel­op­ment could sig­ni­fy sheer neg­at­iv­ity and the growth of the neg­at­ive, of evil as such, the form­a­tion of the “con­trary,” in a word, an in­creas­ing ali­en­a­tion and, in this ali­en­a­tion and through it, in the sud­den de­struc­tion of this con­trary, the lib­er­a­tion, the blos­som­ing forth of all the es­sen­tial po­ten­ti­al­it­ies of life — how could this ac­tu­al­ize in suc­ces­sion or rather at one and the same time, in the same in­stant, “the com­plete loss of man and the com­plete re­viv­al of man”? Let us ask once again, more pre­cisely, by what mir­acle the his­tor­ic­al present comes to of­fer it­self as the first term in a pro­cess which Ger­man meta­phys­ics elab­or­ated at an earli­er time in the philo­soph­ic­al act by which it them­at­ic­ally posed oth­er prob­lems? How can one hide the ar­bit­rar­i­ness of the de­cision which ascribes to this par­tic­u­lar present rather than to an­oth­er the task of real­iz­ing the neg­at­ive and first of all of identi­fy­ing with it? Does not this iden­ti­fic­a­tion of the present with a mo­ment of the dia­lect­ic­al pro­cess pre­sup­pose the secret on­to­lo­gic­al ho­mo­gen­eity link­ing all of real his­tory, to which the present be­longs, to a pro­cess such as that which defines the struc­ture of ideal ob­jectiv­ity, the on­to­lo­gic­al ho­mo­gen­eity of real­ity and of pure ideal­ity as such? It is said that Marx­ist ma­ter­i­al­ism wants pre­cisely to trans­fer the dia­lectic from the spir­itu­al sphere to that of real­ity. But is it not this trans­fer which is an ab­er­ra­tion and which car­ries the ab­surdity of the μετάβασις to its ex­treme? And then just what could be meant by the op­pos­i­tion of “ma­ter­i­al­ism” and ideal­ism?

The dia­lect­ic­al con­cep­tion of his­tory im­plies, however, oth­er pre­sup­pos­i­tions which, in the fi­nal ana­lys­is, con­cern the meta­phys­ic­al prob­lem of be­ing, pre­sup­pos­i­tions which Marx’s thought, all at once dis­cov­er­ing the anti-Hegel­i­an in­tu­ition that has secretly an­im­ated it from the start, will now re­cog­nize and de­nounce.


1 “Com­pared with Hegel,” Marx will later say, “Feuerbach is ex­tremely poor” (Marx to JB Sch­weitzer, Lon­don, Janu­ary 24, 1865, in The Poverty of Philo­sophy, [New York: In­ter­na­tion­al Pub­lish­ers], 1963, pg. 194).
2 Cf. Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts in Early Writ­ings, pg. 347.
3 Feuerbach, The Es­sence of Chris­tian­ity, pg. 2.
4 “Only by unit­ing man with nature can we con­quer the supra­nat­ur­al­ist­ic ego­ism of Chris­tian­ity” (ibid., pg. 270).
5 “…sex is the cord which con­nects the in­di­vidu­al­ity with the spe­cies” (ibid., pg. 170).
6 “Man and wo­man to­geth­er are the ex­ist­ence of the race” (ibid., pg. 167).
7 “Hence the man who does not deny his man­hood is con­scious that he is only a part of be­ing, which needs an­oth­er part for the mak­ing up of the whole of true hu­man­ity” (ibid.).
8 Ibid., pg. 81.
9 Ibid.
10 Ibid., pg. 82.
11 Ibid.
12 Ibid., pgs. 82-83; our it­al­ics.
13 Ibid., pgs. 85-86; it­al­ics cor­res­pond to those of the French trans­la­tion of Feuerbach.
14 Hegel, Phe­nomen­o­logy of Mind, trans. JB Bail­lie (New York: Harp­er Colo­phon Books), 1967, pg. 81.
15 Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts, pgs. 385-386.
16 Ibid., pg. 386.
17 Ibid., pg. 328; our it­al­ics.
18 Ibid., pg. 329.
19 Cf. ibid.
20 Ibid., pgs. 328-329.
21 Ibid., pg. 329; Marx’s it­al­ics.
22 Ibid.
23 Ibid.
24 Ibid.
25 Ibid., pg. 349.
26 Ibid.
27 Marx, En­gels, His­tor­isch-Krit­ische Ges­amtaus­gabe Werke (MEGA) (Ber­lin: Di­etz Ver­lag), 1975, 1, 3, pg. 547.
28 Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic­al Manuscripts, pg. 352.
29 Ibid., note.
30 Ibid., pgs. 350-351.
31 Ibid., pg. 350; Marx’s it­al­ics.
32 Ibid., pgs. 349-350; Marx’s it­al­ics.
33 A Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right. In­tro­duc­tion, in Early Writ­ings, p 244; D, I, pgs. 350-351.
34 On the Jew­ish Ques­tion, in Early Writ­ings, pg. 216; D, I, pgs. 350-351.
35 A Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right, pgs. 244-245; D, I, pg. 379.
36 Ibid., pg. 251; D, I, pg. 385.
37 Ibid., pg. 252; D, I, pg. 386.
38 Ibid.
39 Ibid., pg. 251; D, I, pg. 386.
40 Ibid., pg. 246; D, I, pg. 381.
41 Cf. ibid., pgs. 253-255; D, I, pgs. 387-388.
42 Ibid., pg. 253; D, I, pg. 387.
43 Cf. ibid., pg. 254; D, I, pg. 388.
44 Ibid., pgs. 255-256; D, I, pg. 390.
45 Ibid., pg. 257; D, I, pg. 391; our it­al­ics.
46 Ibid., pg. 251; D, I, pg. 385.
47 Ibid., pg. 256; D, I, pg. 390.
48 Ibid., pg. 257; D, I, pg. 391.
49 This is not­ably the er­ro­neous in­ter­pret­a­tion offered by Kojève in his In­tro­duc­tion à la lec­ture de Hegel (Par­is: Gal­li­mard), 1947, pg. 472, note; pgs. 483-485, note.
50 As we know, Cartesian phys­ics was con­sti­tuted in op­pos­i­tion to the Ar­is­toteli­an con­cep­tion of nature as a liv­ing power. If Ger­man dia­lectic, as its germ is found in al­chemy, can claim an ori­gin in an­cient thought, one must look in the dir­ec­tion more of Ar­is­totle than of Pla­to. But as re­gards the prob­lem which oc­cu­pies us here, al­chemy can­not simply be re­duced to a dis­tant echo of Ar­is­totelian­ism for the sole reas­on that al­chemy es­tab­lishes and con­ceives of a real and total trans­form­a­tion of things rather than the mere com­ple­tion of their own es­sence.
51 We refer the read­er who is in­ter­ested in these prob­lems to our work, The Es­sence of Mani­fest­a­tion (The Hag­ue: Nijhoff), in par­tic­u­lar §70.
52 “It is,” says Cot­ti­er, “from Luth­er’s trans­la­tion of the let­ter to the Phil­ip­pi­ans that Hegel bor­rowed the term Entäußerung out of which he forged the sub­stant­ive but which he also of­ten uses in the form of the verb” (L’Athéisme du jeune Marx [Par­is: Vrin], 1950, pg. 28).
53 On all of this, cf. En­rico de Negri, La teo­lo­gia di Lutero, Rivelazione e Dialet­tica (Firen­ze: La Nuova Italia Ed­it­or­ia), 1967, pg. 315. We should also like to men­tion the Ger­man trans­la­tion of this work: Of­fen­bar­ung und Dialektik Luth­ers Re­al­theo­lo­gie (Darm­stadt: Wis­senschaft­liche Buchgesell­schaft), 1973, XV, pg. 229.
54 The ex­act sen­tence by which En­gels’ book, Lud­wig Feuerbach and the End of Clas­sic­al Ger­man Philo­sophy, is con­cluded is the fol­low­ing: “The Ger­man work­ing-class move­ment is the in­her­it­or of Ger­man clas­sic­al philo­sophy” (Lon­don: Lawrence and Wis­hart), 1968, pg. 632.
55 Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France: 1848-1850, trans. Paul Jack­son, in Sur­veys from Ex­ile, ed. with an In­tro­duc­tion by Dav­id Fern­bach (New York: Vin­tage Books), 1974, pg. 90.
56 On the ques­tion cf. G. Cot­ti­er, Du ro­mantisme au Marx­isme (Alsa­tia, 1961), pg. 40.
57 It is re­mark­able that the ma­jor ex­ample giv­en by Schelling of this irony of God is pre­cisely that of Christ on the cross.
58 The Eight­eenth Bru­maire of Louis Bona­parte, trans. Ben Fowkes, in Fern­bach, Sur­veys from Ex­ile, pg. 237; our it­al­ics.
59 The Class Struggles in France, pg. 35.
60 Ibid., pg. 43; Marx’s it­al­ics. Here one finds an­oth­er idea which be­longs to this dia­lectic of op­pos­ites, namely that in the pro­cess which de­vours them, these op­pos­ites be­come less and less nu­mer­ous, clump­ing to­geth­er to form lar­ger and lar­ger, ever more com­pact masses, so that all of this fi­nally ends in the gi­gant­ic con­front­a­tion of two op­pos­ites which con­front one an­oth­er alone, the bour­geois­ie (or cap­it­al­ism) and the pro­let­ari­at.
61 The Com­mun­ist Mani­festo, pg. 75.
62 The Eight­eenth Bru­maire of Louis Bona­parte, pg. 189. Marx re­turned to this idea in The Com­mun­ist Mani­festo: “The weapons with which the bour­geois­ie felled feud­al­ism to the ground are now turned against the bour­geois­ie it­self” (p. 327). And once again: “The bour­geois­ie it­self, there­fore, sup­plies the pro­let­ari­at with its own ele­ments of polit­ic­al and gen­er­al edu­ca­tion; in oth­er words, it fur­nishes the pro­let­ari­at with weapons for fight­ing the bour­geois­ie” (ibid., pg. 331).
63 Cf. The Eight­eenth Bru­maire of Louis Bona­parte, pgs. 181, 186.
64 Ibid., pg. 236.
65 W. Jankélévitch, L’Odyssée de la con­science dans la dernière philo­soph­ie de Schelling (Par­is: Al­can), 1932, pg. 196.
66 In this way the ex­ist­ence of evil is jus­ti­fied not only be­cause evil it­self is presen­ted as something pos­sible which, as such, has to be fully real­ized, but also for the more pro­found reas­on that it is per­haps noth­ing oth­er than this sum­mons of the pos­sible, this ex­i­gency to try and to do everything, noth­ing oth­er than tempta­tion. The ver­tigo ex­per­i­enced when we con­front the pos­sible also ex­presses the meta­phys­ic­al law of be­ing and of its deep­est vo­li­tion, and this un­der the ap­pear­ance of evil and even if it is lived as sin.
67 The Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right, pg. 247; D, I, pg. 382.
68 Ibid., pg. 257; D, I, pg. 391.
69 The Eight­eenth Bru­maire of Louis Bona­parte, pg. 236.
70 Ibid., pg. 170.
71 In Riazan­ov, Karl Marx, homme, pen­seur et révolutionnaire, pg. 52.
72 Cf. Con­tri­bu­tion to the Cri­tique of Hegel’s Philo­sophy of Right, pgs. 247-248; D, I, pg. 382.
73 The Eight­eenth Bru­maire of Louis Bona­parte, pg. 146.
74 Œuvres, I (La Pléiade), pg. 995. It is in­ter­est­ing to note that this sen­tence does not ap­pear in the Ger­man text and that Marx ad­ded it on to the French trans­la­tion. In this fi­nal con­ces­sion to rhet­or­ic can be re­cog­nized the swan song of the dia­lectic. (Trans, note: The cor­res­pond­ing text in the Eng­lish trans­la­tion, Cap­it­al, 1, Part IV, Sec­tion 9, pg. 490, does not in­clude this ad­di­tion).