Nadav Spiegelman

The Marx-Engels Reader

Author
KARL MARX, Friedrich Engels, Robert C. Tucker
My last highlight
2024-01-16
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9

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Hegel represents history as the self-realization of spirit (Geist) or God. The fundamental scheme of his theory is as follows. Spirit is self-creative energy imbued with a drive to become fully conscious of itself as spirit. Nature is spirit in its self-objectification in space; history is spirit in its self-objectification as culture—the succession of world-dominant civilizations from the ancient Orient to modern Europe. Spirit actualizes its nature as self-conscious being by the process of knowing. Through the mind of man, philosophical man in particular, the world achieves consciousness of itself as spirit. This process involves the repeated overcoming of spirit’s “alienation” (Entfremdung) from itself, which takes place when spirit as the knowing mind confronts a world that appears, albeit falsely, as objective, i.e. as other than spirit. Knowing is recognition, whereby spirit destroys the illusory otherness of the objective world and recognizes it as actually subjective or selbstisch. The process terminates at the stage of “absolute knowledge,” when spirit is finally and fully “at home with itself in its otherness,” having recognized the whole of creation as spirit—Hegelianism itself being the scientific form of this ultimate self-knowledge on spirit’s part. Such is the argument of Hegel’s great work The Phenomenology of Mind (1807), on which he elaborated further in his later writings.
Briefly, Marx created his theory of history as a conscious act of translation of Hegel’s theory into what he, Marx, took to be its valid or scientific form. In this he followed the procedure of the German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach, author of The Essence of Christianity (1841), who had argued that Hegel’s philosophy could reveal scientific truth if subjected to “transformational criticism.” This consisted in the inverting of its principal propositions, meaning that one transposed subject and predicate in them. For Hegel man is spirit (or God) in the process of self-alienation and self-realization, i.e. man presents himself in history as self-alienated God. The truth, says Feuerbach, is just the reverse. Instead of seeing man as self-alienated God, we must see God as self-alienated man. That is, when man, the human species, projects an idealized image of itself into heaven as “God” and worships this imaginary heavenly being, it becomes estranged from itself; its own ungodly earthly reality becomes alien and hateful. To overcome this alienation man must repossess his alienated being, take “God” back into himself, recognize in man—and specifically in other human individuals—the proper object of care, love, and worship. Such is the basic argument of Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity. Transformational criticism of Hegel yields the theme that religion is a phenomenon of human self-estrangement. The conception of history as the self-realization of God or spirit through man is transformed into the conception of history as the self-realization of the human species via the detour of alienation in the sphere of religion. Hegelian idealism undergoes a metamorphosis and becomes Feuerbachian “humanism.”
The Hegelian picture of spirit alienated from itself was, on this reading, simply the philosopher’s upside-down and hence “mystified” vision of the real social process, namely, man’s alienation from himself in the material world. Furthermore, man’s alienation could be traced out in other spheres than religion. The state, for example, was a sphere of human alienation, and could be exposed as such by applying to Hegel’s political philosophy the same method of transformational criticism that Feuerbach had applied to his general theory of history.
Just as man projects the idealized attributes of the species into his image of a transcendent deity, so he projects social power into a separate sphere—the state—which dominates him. Here, however, the resulting division of man against himself is not a matter of the imagination simply but of institutional reality; and the escape from political alienation, unlike that from religious alienation, requires a real revolution—a collective act whereby the citizens repossess the social power externalized in state institutions.
move from mystification to reality, from philosophy to science, one had only to turn Hegel on his head. Then it appeared that the Hegelian image of spirit creating a world was simply a philosopher’s distorted picture of the reality of history, namely, that man—working man—creates a world in material productive activities over the centuries. Inevitably, therefore, Marx later named his transformed Hegelianism the “materialist conception of history.”
The basis of the moral condemnation of wage labour is not that the wages are too low,15 but that wage labour by its very nature dehumanizes man. This means, for Marx, that it defeats his natural human urge toward spontaneous productive activity, converts his free creativity into forced labour and drudgery, and frustrates his human need for a variety of occupations.
new mode of productive activity that is to be achieved through the revolutionary liberation of human productiveness from the bonds of factory toil for the accumulation of “surplus value.” They advanced no particular name for this new mode of production, but described it in various places as the free activity of human beings producing in cooperative association. The socialization of the means of production was not, on this view, the essence of socialism or communism, but only its precondition.
Pervasive in the “original Marxism” of Marx’s Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, and recurrent in such later writings as the Grundrisse and even Capital, is the term Entfremdung, for which some translators have used “alienation” and others “estrangement.” Correspondingly, Marx’s Selbstentfremdung becomes either “self-alienation” or “self-estrangement.” In the translation of the 1844 manuscripts used here, Martin Milligan has used “estrangement” and “self-estrangement.” Thus the title of the famous section Die entfremdete Arbeit is rendered as “Estranged Labour.”
One other term met very often in Marx yet often misunderstood—although not because of difficulty of translation—is “mode of production” (Weise der Produktion, alternatively Produktionsweise). One might easily suppose that it refers to instruments of production (Marx calls these Produktionsmittels) or state of technology, but such is not the case. Marx, to begin with, treats all forms of human activity under the aspect of production. So, in the 1844 manuscripts (see p. 85, below) he says that the family, state, law, morality, science, and art are so many Weisen der Produktion. And when he refers to “mode of production” in an economic context, he means a given way of carrying on production as a social activity—conditioned in every case, it is true, by a prevailing set of the means of production or state of technology. The mode of production is thus a form of productive activity, historically a form of labor, e.g., serf labor under feudalism or wage labor under capitalism. Marx’s term for the new mode of production which he envisages arising on the yonder side of history, after the worldwide proletarian revolution, is “associated” production. “Labor” will have been abolished (see The German Ideology, below, p. 193), not in the sense that individuals will sink into indolent inactivity, but that their productive activities will take on the character of free creative self-expression not performed for wages or acquisitive purposes. Productive activity, having undergone Aufhebung as labor, will continue in a new mode.