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Marx Manuscrits De 1844 Dissertation Meaning

Louis Althusser 1963

Part Two ‘On The Young Marx’

‘On the Young Marx: Theoretical Questions’ first appeared in La Pensée, March-April 1961.

Theoretical Questions

The periodical Recherches Internationales offers us eleven studies by Marxists from abroad ‘on the Young Marx’. One article by Togliatti, already old (1954), five from the Soviet Union (three of which are by young scholars, twenty-seven to twenty-eight years old), four from the German Democratic Republic, and one from Poland. Exegesis of the Young Marx might have been thought the privilege and the cross of Western Marxists. This work and its Presentation show them that they are no longer alone in the perils and rewards of this task.[1]

Reading this interesting but uneven[2] collection has given me the opportunity to examine a number of problems, clear up certain confusions and put forward some clarifications on my own account.

Convenience of exposition is my excuse for entering on the question of Marx’s Early Works in three basic aspects: political, theoretical and philosophical.

The Political Problem

First of all, any discussion of Marx’s Early Works is a political discussion. Need we be reminded that Marx’s Early Works, whose history and significance were well enough described by Mehring, were exhumed by Social-Democrats and exploited by them to the detriment of Marxism-Leninism? The heroic ancestors of this operation were named Landshut and Mayer (1931). The Preface to their edition may be read in Molitor’s translation in the Costès edition of Marx (OEuvres philosophiques de Marx, t. IV, pp. XIII LI). The position is quite clearly put. Capital is an ethical theory, the silent philosophy of which is openly spoken in Marx’s Early Works.[3] Thus, reduced to two propositions, is the thesis which has had such extraordinary success. And not only in France and in Italy, but also, as these articles from abroad show, in contemporary Germany and Poland. Philosophers, ideologues, theologians have all launched into a gigantic enterprise of criticism and conversion: let Marx be restored to his source, and let him admit at last that in him, the mature man is merely the young man in disguise. Or if he stubbornly insists on his age, let him admit the sins of his maturity, let him recognize that he sacrificed philosophy to economics, ethics to science, man to history. Let him consent to this or refuse it, his truth, everything that will survive him, everything which helps the men that we are to live and think, is contained in these few Early Works.

So these good critics leave us with but a single choice: we must admit that Capital (and ‘mature Marxism’ in general) is either an expression of the Young Marx’s philosophy, or its betrayal. In either case, the established interpretation must be totally revised and we must return to the Young Marx, the Marx through whom spoke the Truth.

This is the location of the discussion: the Young Marx. Really at stake in it: Marxism. The terms of the discussion: whether the Young Marx was already and wholly Marx.

The discussion once joined, it seems that Marxists have a choice between two parrying dispositions within the ideal order of the tactical combinatory.[4]

Very schematically, if they want to rescue Marx from the perils of his youth with which his opponents threaten them, they can either agree that the young Marx is not Marx;or that the young Marx is Marx. These extreme theses may be nuanced; but their inspiration extends even to their nuances.

Of course, this inventory of possibilities may well seem derisory. Where disputed history is concerned, there is no place for tactics, the verdict must be sought solely in a scientific examination of the facts and documents. However, past experience, and even a reading of the present collection, proves that on occasion it may be difficult to abstract from relatively enlightened tactical considerations or defensive reactions where facing up to a political attack is concerned. Jahn sees this quite clearly:[5] it was not Marxists who opened the debate on Marx’s Early Works. And no doubt because they had not grasped the true value of Mehring’s classic work or of the scholarly and scrupulous research of Auguste Cornu, young Marxists were caught out, ill-prepared for a struggle they had not foreseen. They reacted as best they could. There is some of this surprise left in the present defence, in its reflex movement, its confusion, its awkwardness. I should also add: in its bad conscience. For this attack surprised Marxists on their own ground: that of Marx. If it had been a question of a simple concept they might have felt themselves to have less of a special responsibility, but the problem raised was one that directly concerned Marx’s history and Marx himself. So they fell victim to a second reaction which came to reinforce the first reflex defence: the fear of failing in their duty, of letting the charge entrusted to them come to harm, before themselves and before history. In plain words: if it is not studied, criticized and dominated, this reaction could lead Marxist philosophy into a ‘catastrophicparrying movement, a global response which in fact suppresses the problem in its attempt to deal with it.

To discomfit those who set up against Marx his own youth, the opposite position is resolutely taken up: Marx is reconciled with his youth – Capital is no longer read as On the Jewish Question, On the Jewish Question is read as Capital; the shadow of the young Marx is no longer projected on to Marx, but that of Marx on to the young Marx; and a pseudo-theory of the history of philosophy in the ‘future anterior’ is erected to justify this counter-position, without realizing that this pseudo-theory is quite simply Hegelian.[6] A devout fear of a blow to Marx’s integrity inspires as its reflex a resolute acceptance of the whole of Marx: Marx is declared to be a whole, ‘the young Marx is part of Marxism[7] – as if we risked losing the whole of Marx if we were to submit his youth to the radical critique of history, not the history he was going to live, but the history he did live, not an immediate history, but the reflected history for which, in his maturity, he gave us, not the ‘truth’ in the Hegelian sense, but the principles of its scientific understanding.

Even where parrying is concerned, there can be no good policy without good theory.

The Theoretical Problem

This brings us to the second problem posed by a study of Marx’s Early Works: the theoretical problem. I must insist on it, as it seems to me that it has not always been resolved, or even correctly posed in the majority of studies inspired by this subject.

Indeed, only too often the form of the reading of Marx’s early writings adopted depends more on free association of ideas or on a simple comparison of terms than on a historical critique.[8] This is not to dispute that such a reading can give theoretical results, but these results are merely the precondition of a real understanding of the texts. For example, Marx’s Dissertation may be read by comparing its terms with those of Hegel’s thought;[9] the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right by comparing its principles with those of Feuerbach or those of Marx’s maturity;[10] the 1844 Manuscripts by comparing their principles with those of Capital.[11] Even then, the comparison may be either superficial or profound. It may give rise to misunderstandings[12] which are errors for all that. On the other hand, it can open up interesting perspectives.[13] But such comparison is not always its own justification.

Indeed, to stick to spontaneous or even enlightened association of theoretical elements is to run the risk of remaining the prisoner of an implicit conception only too close to the current academic conception of the comparison, opposition and approximation of elements that culminates in a theory of sources – or, what comes to the same thing, in a theory of anticipation. A sophisticated reading of Hegel ‘thinks of Hegel’ when it reads the 1841 Dissertation or even the 1844 Manuscripts. A sophisticated reading of Marx ‘thinks of Marx’ when it reads the Critique of the Philosophy of Right.[14]

Perhaps it is not realized often enough that whether this conception is a theory of sources or a theory of anticipation, it is, in its naïve immediacy, based on three theoretical presuppositions which are always tacitly active in it. The first presupposition is analytic: it holds that any theoretical system and any constituted thought is reducible to its elements: a precondition that enables one to think any element of this system on its own, and to compare it with another similar element from another system.[15] The second presupposition is teleological: it institutes a secret tribunal of history which judges the ideas submitted to it, or rather, which permits the dissolution of (different) systems into their elements, institutes these elements as elements in order to proceed to their measurement according to its own norms as if to their truth.[16] Finally, these two presuppositions depend on a third, which regards the history of ideas as its own element, maintains that nothing happens there which is not a product of the history of ideas itself and that the world of ideology is its own principle of intelligibility.

I believe it is necessary to dig down to these foundations if we are to understand the possibility and meaning of this method’s most striking feature: its eclecticism. Where this surface eclecticism is not hiding completely meaningless forms a search beneath it will always reveal this theoretical teleology and this auto-intelligibility of ideology as such. When reading some of the articles in this collection, one cannot help feeling that even in their efforts to free themselves from this conception, they still remain contaminated by its implicit logic. Indeed it seems as if writing the history of Marx’s early theoretical development entailed the reduction of his thought into its ‘elements’, grouped in general under two rubrics: the materialist elements and the idealist elements; as if a comparison of these elements, a confrontation of the weight of each, could determine the meaning of the text under examination. Thus, in the articles from the Rheinische Zeitung the external form of a thought which is still Hegelian can be shown to conceal the presence of materialist elements such as the political nature of censorship, the social (class) nature of the laws on the theft of wood, etc.; in the 1843 Manuscript (The Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right), the exposition and formulation, though still inspired by Feuerbach or still Hegelian, conceal the presence of materialist elements such as the reality of social classes, of private property and its relation to the State, and even of dialectical materialism itself, etc. It is clear that this discrimination between elements detached from the internal context of the thought expressed and conceived in isolation, is only possible on condition, that the reading of these texts is slanted, that is, teleological. One of the most clear-headed of the authors in this collection, N. Lapine, expressly recognizes this: ‘This kind of characterization ... is, in fact, very eclectic, as it does not answer the question as to how these different elements are combined together in Marx’s world outlook.’[17] He sees clearly that this decomposition of a text into what is already materialist and what is still idealist does not preserve its unity, and that this decomposition is induced precisely by reading the early texts through the content of the mature texts. Fully developed Marxism, the Goal are the members of the tribunal which pronounces and executes this judgment, separating the body of an earlier text into its elements, thereby destroying its unity. ‘If we start with the conception Marx then had of his philosophical position, the 1843 Manuscript emerges as a perfectly consistent and complete work,’ whereas ‘from the viewpoint of developed Marxism the 1843 Manuscript does not emerge as an organically complete whole, in which the methodological value of each element has been rigorously demonstrated. An obvious lack of maturity means that an exaggerated attention is paid to certain problems, whereas others of basic importance are no more than outlined... .’[18] We could not ask for a more honest recognition that the decomposition into elements and the constitution of these elements is induced by their insertion into a finalist perspective. I might further add that a sort of ‘delegation of reference’ often occurs, which fully developed Marxism confers on an intermediate author, for example, on Feuerbach. As Feuerbach is reckoned to be a ‘materialist’ (though, strictly speaking, Feuerbach’s ‘materialism’ depends essentially on taking Feuerbach’s own declarations of materialism at their face value) he can serve as a second centre of reference, and in his turn make possible the acceptance of certain elements in Marx’s Early Works as materialist by-products, by virtue of his own pronouncement and his own ‘sincerity’. Thus the subject-predicate inversion, the Feuerbachian critique of speculative philosophy, his critique of religion, the human essence objectified in its productions, etc., are all declared to be ‘materialist’... . This ‘by-production’ of elements via Feuerbach combined with the production of elements via the mature Marx occasionally gives rise to strange redundancies and misunderstandings; for example, when it is a matter of deciding just what does distinguish the materialist elements authenticated by Feuerbach from the materialist elements authenticated by Marx himself.[19] Ultimately, as this procedure enables us to find materialist elements in all Marx’s early texts, including even the letter to his father in which he refuses to separate the ideal from the real, it is very difficult to decide when Marx can be regarded as materialist, or rather, when he could not have been! For Jahn, for example, although they ‘still’ contain ‘a whole series of abstract elements’ the 1844 Manuscripts mark ‘the birth of scientific socialism’.[20] For Pajitnov, these manuscripts ‘form the crucial pivot around which Marx reoriented the social sciences. The theoretical premises of Marxism had been laid down.’[21] For Lapine, ‘unlike the articles in the Rheinische Zeitung in which certain elements of materialism only appear spontaneously, the 1843 Manuscript witnesses to Marx’s conscious passage to materialism’, and in fact ‘Marx’s critique of Hegel starts from materialist positions’ (it is true that this ‘conscious passage’ is called ‘implicit’ and ‘unconscious’ in the same article).[22] As for Schaff, he writes squarely ‘We know (from later statements of Engels) that Marx became a materialist in 1841’.[23]

I am not trying to make an easy argument out of these contradictions (which might at little cost be set aside as signs of an ‘open’ investigation). But it is legitimate to ask whether this uncertainty about the moment when Marx passed on to materialism, etc., is not related to the spontaneous and implicit use of an analytico-teleological theory. We cannot but notice that this theory seems to have no valid criterion whereby it could pronounce upon the body of thought it has decomposed into its elements, that is, whose effective unity it has destroyed. And this lack arises precisely because this very decomposition deprives it of such a criterion: in fact, if an idealist element is an idealist element and a materialist element is a materialist element, who can really decide what meaning they constitute once they are assembled together in the effective living unity of a text? Ultimately, the paradoxical result of this decomposition is that even the question of the global meaning of a text such as On the Jewish Question or the 1843 Manuscript vanishes, it is not asked because the means whereby it might have been asked have been rejected. But this is a question of the highest importance that neither real life nor a living critique can ever avoid! Suppose by chance that a reader of our own time came to take seriously the philosophy of On the Jewish Question or of the 1844 Manuscripts, and espoused it (it has happened! I was about to say, it has happened to us all! and how many of those to whom it has happened have failed to become Marxists!). Just what, I wonder, could we then say about his thought, considered as what it is, that is, as a whole. Would we regard it as idealist or materialist? Marxist or non-Marxist?[24] Or should we regard its meaning as in abeyance, waiting on a stage it has not yet reached? But this is the way Marx’s early texts are only too often treated, as if they belonged to a reserved domain, sheltered from the ‘basic question’ solely because they must develop into Marxism... . As if their meaning had been held in abeyance until the end, as if it was necessary to wait on the final synthesis before their elements could be at last resorbed into a whole, as if, before this final synthesis, the question of the whole could not be raised, just because all totalities earlier than the final synthesis have been destroyed? But this brings us to the height of the paradox from behind which this analytico-teleological method breaks out: this method which is constantly judging cannot make the slightest judgment of any totality unlike itself. Could there be a franker admission that it merely judges itself, recognizes itself behind the objects if considers, that it never moves outside itself, that the development it hopes to think it cannot definitively think other than as a development of itself within itself? And to anyone whose response to the ultimate logic that I have drawn from this method is to say ‘that is precisely what makes it dialecticalmy answer is ‘Dialectical, yes, but Hegelian!

In fact, once it is a matter of thinking precisely the development of a thought which has been reduced to its elements in this way, once Lapine’s naïve but honest question has been asked: ‘how are these different elements combined together in Marx’s final world outlook?’, once it is a matter of conceiving the relations between these elements whose destiny we know, the arguments we can see emerging are those of the Hegelian dialectic, in superficial or profound forms. An example of the superficial form is a recourse to the contradiction between form and content, or more precisely, between content and its conceptual expression. The ‘materialist content’ comes into contradiction with its ‘idealist form’, and the idealist form itself tends to be reduced to a mere matter of terminology (it had to dissolve in the end; it was nothing but words). Marx was already a materialist, but he was still using Feuerbachian concepts, he was borrowing Feuerbachian terminology although he was no longer and had never been a pure Feuerbachian: between the 1844 Manuscripts and the Mature Works Marx discovered his definitive terminology;[25] it is merely a question of language. The whole development occurred in the words. I know this is to schematize, but it makes it easier to see the hidden meaning of the procedure. It can on occasion be considerably elaborated, for example, in Lapine’s theory which, not content with opposing form (terminology) and content, opposes consciousness and tendency. Lapine does not reduce the differences between Marx’s thought at different times to a mere difference of terminology. He admits that the language had a meaning: this meaning was that of Marx’s consciousness (of himself) at a particular moment in his development. Thus, in the 1843 Manuscript (The Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right) Marx’s self-consciousness was Feuerbachian. Marx spoke the language of Feuerbach because he believed himself to be a Feuerbachian. But this language-consciousness was objectively in contradiction with his ‘materialist tendency’. It is this contradiction which constitutes the motor of his development. This conception may well be Marxist in appearance (cf. the ‘delay of consciousness’), but only in appearance, for if it is possible within it to define the consciousness of a text (its global meaning, its language-meaning), it is hard to see how concretely to define its ‘tendency’. Or, rather, it is perfectly clear how it has been defined once we realize that, for Lapine, the distinction between materialist tendency and consciousness (of self) coincides exactly with ‘the difference between the appearance of the objective content of the 1843 Manuscript from the viewpoint of developed Marxism and what Marx himself regarded as the content at the time’.[26] Rigorously understood, this sentence suggests that the ‘tendency’ is nothing but a retrospective abstraction of the result, which was precisely what had to be explained, that is, it is the Hegelian in-itself conceived on the basis of its end as its real origin. The contradiction between consciousness and tendency can thus be reduced to the contradiction between the in-itself and the for-itself. Lapine immediately goes on to say that this tendency is ‘implicit’ and ‘unconscious’. We are given an abstraction from the problem itself as if it were the solution. Naturally, I am not denying that in Lapine’s essay there are not indications of a way to a different conception (now I shall be accused of lapsing into the theory of elements! The very concept of ‘tendency’ must be renounced if it is to be really possible to think these elements), but it must be admitted that his systematics is Hegelian.

It is not possible to commit oneself to a Marxist study of Marx’s Early Works (and of the problems they pose) without rejecting the spontaneous or reflected temptations of an analytico-teleological method which is always more or less haunted by Hegelian principles. It is essential to break with the presuppositions of this method, and to apply the Marxist principles of a theory of ideological development to our object.

These principles are quite different from those hitherto considered. They imply:

(1) Every ideology must be regarded as a real whole, internally unified by its own problematic, so that it is impossible to extract one element without altering its meaning.

(2) The meaning of this whole, of a particular ideology (in this case an individual’s thought), depends not on its relation to a truth other than itself but on its relation to the existing ideological field and on the social problems and social structure which sustain the ideology and are reflected in it; the sense of the development of a particular ideology depends not on the relation of this development to its origins or its end, considered as its truth, but to the relation found within this development between the mutations of the particular ideology and the mutations in the ideological field and the social problems and relations that sustain it.

(3) Therefore, the developmental motor principle of a particular ideology cannot be found within ideology itself but outside it, in what underlies (l’en-deça de) the particular ideology: its author as a concrete individual and the actual history reflected in this individual development according to the complex ties between the individual and this history.

I should add that these principles, unlike the previous ones, are not in the strict sense ideological principles, but scientific ones: in other words, they are not the truth of the process to be studied (as are all the principles of a history in the ‘future anterior’). They are not the truth of, they are the truth for, they are true as a precondition to legitimately posing a problem, and thus through this problem, to the production of a true solution. So these principles too presuppose ‘fully developed Marxism’, but not as the truth of its own genesis, rather, as the theory which makes possible an understanding of its own genesis as of any other historical process. Anyway, this is the absolute precondition if Marxism is to explain other things than itself: not only its own genesis as something different from itself, but also all the other transformations produced in history including those marked by the practical consequences of the intervention of Marxism in history. If it is not the truth of in the Hegelian and Feuerbachian sense, but a discipline of scientific investigation, Marxism need be no more embarrassed by its own genesis than by the historical movement it has marked by its intervention: where Marx came from, as well as what comes from Marx must, if they are to be understood, both suffer the application of Marxist principles of investigation.[27]

If the problem of Marx’s Early Works is really to be posed, the first condition to fulfil is to admit that even philosophers are young men for a time. They must be born somewhere, some time, and begin to think and write. The scholar who insisted that his early works should never be published, or even written (for there is bound to be at least some doctoral candidate to publish them!) was certainly no Hegelian ... for from the Hegelian viewpoint, Early Works are as inevitable and as impossible as the singular object displayed by Jarry: ‘the skull of the child Voltaire’. They are as inevitable as all beginnings. They are impossible because it is impossible to choose one’s beginnings. Marx did not choose to be born to the thought German history had concentrated in its university education, nor to think its ideological world. He grew up in this world, in it he learned to live and move, with it he ‘settled accounts’, from it he liberated himself. I shall return to the necessity and contingency of this beginning later. The fact is that there was a beginning, and that to work out the history of Marx’s particular thoughts their movement must be grasped at the precise instant when that concrete individual the Young Marx emerged into the thought world of his own time, to think in it in his turn, and to enter into the exchange and debate with the thoughts of his time which was to be his whole life as an ideologue. At this level of the exchanges and conflicts that are the very substance of the texts in which his living thoughts have come down to us, it is as if the authors of these thoughts were themselves absent. The concrete individual who expresses himself in his thoughts and his writings is absent, so is the actual history expressed in the existing ideological field. As the author effaces himself in the presence of his published thoughts, reducing himself to their rigour, so concrete history effaces itself in the presence of its ideological themes, reducing itself to their system. This double absence will also have to be put to the test. But for the moment, everything is in play between the rigour of a single thought and the thematic system of an ideological field. Their relation is this beginning and this beginning has no end. This is the relationship that has to be thought: the relation between the (internal) unity of a single thought (at each moment of its development) and the existing ideological field (at each moment of its development). But if this relationship is to be thought, so, in the same movement, must its terms.

This methodological demand immediately implies an effective knowledge of the substance and structure of this basic ideological field, and not just an allusive knowledge. It implies that as neutral a representation of the ideological world as that of a stage, on which characters as famous as they are non-existent make chance encounters, will not do. Marx’s fate in the years from 1840 to 1845 was not decided by an ideal debate between characters called Hegel, Feuerbach, Stirner, Hess, etc. Nor was it decided by the same Hegel, Feuerbach, Stirner and Hess as they appeared in Marx’s own works at the time. Even less by later evocations of great generality by Engels and Lenin. It was decided by concrete ideological characters on whom the ideological context imposed determinate features which do not necessarily coincide with their literal historical identities (e.g. Hegel), which are much more extensive than the explicit representations Marx gave of them in these same writings, quoting, invoking and criticizing them (e.g. Feuerbach), and, of course, the general characteristics outlined by Engels forty years later. As a concrete illustration of these remarks, the Hegel who was the opponent of the Young Marx from the time of his doctoral dissertation was not the library Hegel we can meditate on in the solitude of 1960; it was the Hegel of the neo-Hegelian movement, a Hegel already summoned to provide German intellectuals of the 1840s with the means to think their own history and their own hopes; a Hegel already made to contradict himself, invoked against himself, despite himself. The idea of a philosophy transforming itself into a will, emerging from the world of reflection to transform the political world, in which we can see Marx’s first rebellion against his master, is perfectly in accord with the interpretation dominant among the neo-Hegelians.[28] I do not dispute the claim that in his thesis Marx already showed that acute sense of concepts, that implacably rigorous grasp and that genius of conception which were the admiration of his friends. But this idea was not his invention. In the same way, it would be very rash to reduce Feuerbach’s presence in Marx’s writings between 1841 and 1844 to explicit references alone. For many passages directly reproduce or paraphrase Feuerbachian arguments without his name ever being mentioned. The passage Togliatti extracted from the 1844 Manuscripts comes straight from Feuerbach; many others could be invoked which have been too hastily attributed to Marx. Why should Marx have referred to Feuerbach when everyone knew his work, and above all, when he had appreciated Feuerbach’s thought and was thinking in his thoughts as if they were his own? But as we shall see in a moment, we must go further than the unmentioned presence of the thoughts of a living author to the presence of his potential thoughts, to his problematic, that is, to the constitutive unity of the effective thoughts that make up the domain of the existing ideological field with which a particular author must settle accounts in his own thought. It is immediately obvious that if it is impossible to think the unity of an individual’s thought while ignoring its ideological field, if this field is itself to be thought it requires the thought of this unity.

So what is this unity? Let us return to Feuerbach for an illustration whereby we can answer this question, but this time to pose the problem of the internal unity of Marx’s thought when the two were related. Most of the commentators in our collection are manifestly troubled by the nature of this relation, and it gives rise to many conflicting interpretations. This embarrassment is not merely the result of a lack of familiarity with Feuerbach’s writings (they can be read). It arises because they do not succeed in conceiving what it is that constitutes the basic unity of a text, the internal essence of an ideological thought, that is, its problematic. I put this term forward – Marx never directly used it, but it constantly animates the ideological analyses of his maturity (particularly The German Ideology)[29] – because it is the concept that gives the best grasp on the facts without falling into the Hegelian ambiguities of ‘totality’. Indeed, to say that an ideology constitutes an (organic) totality is only valid descriptively – not theoretically, for this description converted into a theory exposes us to the danger of thinking nothing but the empty unity of the described whole, not a determinate unitary structure. On the contrary, to think the unity of a determinate ideological unity (which presents itself explicitly as a whole, and which is explicitly or implicitly ‘lived’ as a whole or as an intention of ‘totalization’) by means of the concept of its problematic is to allow the typical systematic structure unifying all the elements of the thought to be brought to light, and therefore to discover in this unity a determinate content which makes it possible both to conceive the meaning of the ‘elements’ of the ideology concerned – and to relate this ideology to the problems left or posed to every thinker by the historical period in which he lives.[30]

Take a specific example: Marx’s 1843 Manuscript (The Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right). According to the commentators this contains a series of Feuerbachian themes (the subject-predicate inversion, the critique of speculative philosophy, the theory of the species-man, etc.), but also some analyses which are not to be found in Feuerbach (the interrelation of politics, the State and private property, the reality of social classes, etc.). To remain at the level of elements would be to fall into the impasse of the analytico-teleological critique we discussed above, and into its pseudo-solution: terminology and meaning, tendency and consciousness, etc. We must go further and ask whether the presence in Marx of analyses and objects about which Feuerbach says little or nothing is a sufficient justification for this division into Feuerbachian and non-Feuerbachian (that is, already Marxist) elements. But no answer can be hoped for from the elements themselves. For the object discussed does not directly qualify the thought. The many authors who talked of social classes or even of the class struggle before Marx have never to my knowledge been taken for Marxists simply because they dealt with objects which were eventually destined to attract Marx’s attention. It is not the material reflected on that characterizes and qualifies a reflection, but, at this level the modality of the reflection,[31] the actual relation the reflection has with its objects, that is, the basic problematic that is the starting point for the reflection of the objects of the thought. This is not to say that the material reflected may not under certain conditions modify the modality of the reflection, but that is another question (to which we shall return), and in any case, this modification in the modality of a reflection, this restructuration of the problematic of an ideology can proceed by many other routes than that of the simple immediate relation of object and reflection! So anyone who still wants to pose the problem of elements in this perspective must recognize that everything depends on a question which must have priority over them: the question of the nature of the problematic which is the starting-point for actually thinking them, in a given text. In our example, the question takes the following form: in the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, has Marx’s reflection on his new objects, social class, the private property/State relation, etc., swept aside Feuerbach’s theoretical presuppositions, has it reduced them to the level of mere phrases? Or are these new objects thought from the starting-point of the same presuppositions? This question is possible precisely because the problematic of a thought is not limited to the domain of the objects considered by its author, because it is not an abstraction for the thought as a totality, but the concrete determinate structure of a thought and of all the thoughts possible within this thought. Thus Feuerbach’s anthropology can become the problematic not only of religion (The Essence of Christianity), but also of politics (On the JewishQuestion, the 1843 Manuscript), or even of history and economics (the 1844 Manuscripts) without ceasing to be in essentials an anthropological problematic, even if the ‘letter’ of Feuerbach is itself abandoned or superseded.[32] It is, of course, possible to regard it as politically important to have moved from a religious anthropology to a political anthropology, and finally to an economic anthropology, and I would agree completely that in Germany in 1843 anthropology represented an advanced ideological form. But to make this judgment presupposes that the nature of the ideology under consideration is already familiar, that is, that its effective problematic has been defined.

I should add that if it is not so much the immediate content of the objects reflected as the way the problems are posed which constitutes the ultimate ideological essence of an ideology, this problematic is not of itself immediately present to the historian’s reflection, for good reason: in general a philosopher thinks in it rather than thinking of it, and his ‘order of reasons’ does not coincide with the ‘order of reasons’ of his philosophy. An ideology (in the strict Marxist sense of the term – the sense in which Marxism is not itself an ideology) can be regarded as characterized in this particular respect by the fact that its own problematic is not conscious of itself. When Marx tells us (and he continually repeats it) not to take an ideology’s consciousness of itself for its essence, he also means that before it is unconscious of the real problems it is a response (or non-response) to, an ideology is already unconscious of its ‘theoretical presuppositions’, that is, the active but unavowed problematic which fixes for it the meaning and movement of its problems and thereby of their solutions. So a problematic cannot generally be read like an open book, it must be dragged up from the depths of the ideology in which it is buried but active, and usually despite the ideology itself, its own statements and proclamations. Anyone who is prepared to go this far will, I imagine, feel obliged to stop confusing the materialist proclamations of certain ‘materialists’ (above all Feuerbach) with materialism itself. There is much to suggest that this would clarify some problems and dissipate some other, false, problems. Marxism would thereby gain an ever more exact consciousness of its own problematic, that is, of itself, and even in its historical works – which, after all, is its due, and, if I may say so, its duty.

Let me summarize these reflections. Understanding an ideological argument implies, at the level of the ideology itself, simultaneous, conjoint knowledge of the ideological field in which a thought emerges and grows; and the exposure of the internal unity of this thought: its problematic. Knowledge of the ideological field itself presupposes knowledge of the problematics compounded or opposed in it. This interrelation of the particular problematic of the thought of the individual under consideration with the particular problematics of the thoughts belonging to the ideological field allows of a decision as to its author’s specific difference, i.e, whether a new meaning has emerged. Of course, this complex process is all haunted by real history. But everything cannot be said at once.

It is now clear that this method, breaking directly with the first theoretical presupposition of eclectic criticism, has already[33] detached itself from the illusions of the second presupposition, the silent tribunal over ideological history whose values and verdicts are decided even before investigation starts. The truth of ideological history is neither in its principle (its source) nor in its end (its goal). It is in the facts themselves, in that nodal constitution of ideological meanings, themes and objects, against the deceptive backcloth of their problematic, itself evolving against the backcloth of an ‘anchylose’ and unstable ideological world, itself in the sway of real history. Of course, we now know that the Young Marx did become Marx, but we should not want to live faster than he did, we should not want to live in his place, reject for him or discover for him. We shall not be waiting for him at the end of the course to throw round him as round a runner the mantle of repose, for at last it is over, he has arrived. Rousseau remarked that with children and adolescents the whole art of education consists of knowing how to lose time. The art of historical criticism also consists of knowing how to lose time so that young authors can grow up. This lost time is simply the time we give them to live. We scan the necessity of their lives in our understanding of its nodal points, its reversals and mutations. In this area there is perhaps no greater joy than to be able to witness in an emerging life, once the Gods of Origins and Goals have been dethroned, the birth of necessity.

The Historical Problem

But all this seems to leave the third presupposition of the eclectic method in the air; the presupposition that the whole of ideological history occurs within ideology. Let us take up this point.

I am afraid that, with the exception of the articles by Togliatti and Lapine and above all Hoeppner’s very remarkable piece,[35] the majority of the studies offered here ignore this problem or devote only a few paragraphs to it.

But ultimately, no Marxist can avoid posing what used a few years ago to be called the problem of ‘Marx’s path’, that is, the problem of the relation between the events of his thought and the one but double real history which was its true subject. We must fill in this double absence and reveal the real authors of these as yet subjectless thoughts: the concrete man and the real history that produced them. For without these real subjects how can we account for the emergence of a thought and its mutations?

I shall not pose the problem of Marx’s own personality here, the problem of the origin and structure of that extraordinary theoretical temperament, animated by an insatiable critical passion, an intransigent insistence on reality, and a prodigious feeling for the concrete. A study of the psychological structure of Marx’s personality and of its origins and history would certainly cast light on the style of intervention, conception and investigation which are so striking in these Early Writings themselves. From it we would obtain, if not the root origin of his undertaking in Sartre’s sense (the author’s ‘basic project’), at least the origins of the profound and far-reaching insistence on a grasp on reality, which would give a first sense to the actual continuity of Marx’s development, to what Lapine has, in part, tried to think in the term ‘tendency’. Without such a study we risk a failure to grasp what precisely it was that saved Marx from the fate of most of his contemporaries, who issued from the same environment and confronted the same ideological themes as he did, that is, the Young Hegelians. Mehring and Cornu have carried out the substance of this study and it is worth completing so that we may be able to understand how it was that the son of a Rhenish bourgeois became the theoretician and leader of the workers’ movement in the Europe of the railway epoch.

But as well as giving us Marx’s psychology this study would lead us to real history, and the direct apprehension of it by Marx himself. I must stop here for a moment to pose the problem of the meaning of Marx’s evolution and of its ‘motor’.

When eclectic criticism is faced with the question, ‘how were Marx’s growth to maturity and change possible’, it is apt to give an answer which remains within ideological history itself. For example, it is said that Marx knew how to distinguish Hegel’s method from his content, and that he proceeded to apply the former to history. Or else, that he set the Hegelian system back on to its feet (a statement not without a certain humour if we recall that the Hegelian system was ‘a sphere of spheres’). Or, that Marx extended Feuerbach’s materialism to history, as if a localized materialism was not rather suspect as a materialism; that Marx applied the (Hegelian or Feuerbachian) theory of alienation to the world of social relations, as if this ‘application’ could change the theory’s basic meaning. Or finally, and this is the crucial point, that the old materialists were ‘inconsistent’ whereas Marx, on the contrary, was consistent. This inconsistency-consistency theory which haunts many a Marxist in ideological history is a little wonder of ideology, constructed for their personal use by the Philosophers of the Enlightenment. Feuerbach inherited and, alas, made good use of it! It deserves a short treatise all to itself, for it is the quintessence of historical idealism: it is indeed obvious that if ideas were self-reproducing, then any historical (or theoretical) aberration could only be a logical error.

Even when they do contain a certain degree of truth,[36] taken literally these formulations remain prisoner to the illusion that the Young Marx’s evolution was fought out and decided in the sphere of ideas, and that it was achieved by virtue of a reflection on ideas put forward by Hegel, Feuerbach, etc. It is as if there was agreement that the ideas inherited from Hegel by the young German intellectuals of 1840 contained in themselves, contrary to appearances, a certain tacit, veiled, masked, refracted truth which Marx’s critical abilities finally succeeded in tearing from them, and forcing them to admit and recognize, after years of intellectual effort. This is the basic logic implied by the famous theme of the ‘inversion’, the ‘setting back on to its feet’ of the Hegelian philosophy (dialectic), for if it were really a matter merely of an inversion, a restoration of what had been upside down, it is clear that to turn an object right round changes neither its nature nor its content by virtue merely of a rotation! A man on his head is the same man when he is finally walking on his feet. And a philosophy inverted in this way cannot be regarded as anything more than the philosophy reversed except in theoretical metaphor: in fact, its structure, its problems and the meaning of these problems are still haunted by the same problematic.[37] This is the logic that most often seems to be at work in the Young Marx’s writings and which is most apt to be attributed to him.

Whatever the status of this view, I do not believe that it corresponds to reality. Naturally, no reader of Marx’s Early Works could remain insensible to the gigantic effort of theoretical criticism which Marx made on all the ideas he came across. Rare are the authors who have possessed so many virtues (acuity, perseverance, rigour) in the treatment of ideas. For Marx, the latter were concrete objects which he interrogated as the physicist does the objects of his experiments, to draw from them a little of the truth, of their truth. See his treatment of the idea of censorship in his article on the Prussian Censorship, or the apparently insignificant difference between green and dead wood in his article on the Theft of Wood, or the ideas of the freedom of the press, of private property, of alienation, etc. The reader cannot resist the transparency of this reflective rigour and logical strength in Marx’s early writings. And this transparency quite naturally inclines him to believe that the logic of Marx’s intelligence coincides with the logic of his reflection, and that he did draw from the ideological world he was working on a truth it really contained. And this conviction is further reinforced by Marx’s own conviction, the conviction that shines through all his efforts and even through his enthusiasms, in short, by his consciousness.

So I will go so far as to say that it is not only essential to avoid the spontaneous illusions of the idealist conception of ideological history, but also, and perhaps even more, it is essential to avoid any concession to the impression made on us by the Young Marx’s writings and any acceptance of his own consciousness of himself. But to understand this it is necessary to go on to speak of real history, that is, to questionMarx’s path’ itself.

With this I have returned to the beginning. Yes, we all have to be born some day, somewhere, and begin thinking and writing in a given world. For a thinker, this world is immediately the world of the living thoughts of his time, the ideological world where he is born into thought. For Marx, this world was the world of the German ideology of the 1830s and 1840s, dominated by the problems of German idealism, and by what has been given the abstract name of the ‘decomposition of Hegel’. It was not any world, of course, but this general truth is not enough. For the world of the German ideology was then without any possible comparison the world that was worst crushed beneath its ideology (in the strict sense), that is, the world farthest from the actual realities of history, the most mystified, the most alienated world that then existed in a Europe of ideologies. This was the world into which Marx was born and took up thought. The contingency of Marx’s beginnings was this enormous layer of ideology beneath which he was born, this crushing layer which he succeeded in breaking through. Precisely because he did deliver himself, we tend too easily to believe that the freedom he achieved at the cost of such prodigious efforts and decisive encounters was already inscribed in this world, and that the only problem was to reflect. We tend too easily to project Marx’s later consciousness on to this epoch and, as has been said, to write this history in the ‘future anterior’, when it is not a matter of projecting a consciousness of self on to another consciousness of self, but of applying to the content of an enslaved consciousness the scientific principles of historical intelligibility (not the content of another consciousness of self) later acquired by a liberated consciousness.

In his later works, Marx showed why this prodigious layer of ideology was characteristic of Germany rather than of France or England: for the two reasons of the historical backwardness of Germany (in economics and politics) and the state of the social classes corresponding to this backwardness. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Germany emerged from the gigantic upheaval of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars deeply marked by its historical inability either to realize national unity or bourgeois revolution. And this ‘fatality’ was to dominate the history of Germany throughout the nineteenth century and even to be felt distantly much later. This situation whose origins can be traced back to the period of the Peasants’ War, made Germany both object and spectator of the real history which was going on around it. It was this German inability that constituted and deeply marked the German ideology which was formed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was this inability which obliged German intellectuals to ‘think what the others had done’ and to think it in precisely the conditions implied by their inability: in the hopeful, nostalgic, idealized forms characteristic of the aspirations of their social circle: the petty bourgeoisie of functionaries, teachers, writers, etc. – and with the immediate objects of their own servitude as starting-point: in particular, religion. The result of this set of historical conditions and demands was precisely a prodigious development of the ‘German idealist philosophy’ whereby German intellectuals thought their conditions, their hopes and even theiractivity’.

It was not the attraction of a witty turn of phrase that led Marx to declare that the French have political minds, the English economic minds, while the Germans have theoretical minds. The counterpart to Germany’s historical underdevelopment was an ideological and theoreticalover-development’ incomparable with anything offered by other European nations. But the crucial point is that this theoretical development was an alienated ideological development, without concrete relation to the real problems and the real objects which were reflected in it. From the viewpoint we have adopted, that is Hegel’s tragedy. His philosophy was truly the encyclopaedia of the eighteenth century, the sum of all knowledge then acquired, and even of history. But all the objects of its reflection have been ‘assimilated’ in their reflection, that is, by the particular form of ideological reflection which was the tyrant of all Germany’s intelligence. So it is easy to imagine what could be and what had to be the basic precondition for the liberation of a German youth who started to think between 1830 and 1840 in Germany itself. This precondition was the rediscovery of real history, of real objects, beyond the enormous layer of ideology which had hemmed them in and deformed them, not being content with reducing them to their shades. Hence the paradoxical conclusion: to free himself from this ideology, Marx was inevitably obliged to realize that Germany’s ideological overdevelopment was at the same time in fact an expression of her historical underdevelopment, and that therefore it was necessary to retreat from this ideological flight forwards in order to reach the things themselves, to touch real history and at last come face to face with the beings that haunted the mists of German consciousness.[38] Without this retreat, the story of the Young Marx’s liberation is incomprehensible; without this retreat, Marx’s relation to the German ideology, and in particular to Hegel, is incomprehensible; without this return to real history (which was also to a certain extent a retreat) the Young Marx’s relation to the labour movement remains a mystery.

I have deliberately stressed this ‘retreat’. The too frequent use of formulae such as the ‘supersession’ of Hegel, Feuerbach, etc., tends to suggest some continuous pattern of development, or at least a development whose discontinuities themselves should be thought (precisely along the lines of a Hegelian dialectic of ‘Aufhebung’) within the same element of continuity sustained by the temporality of history itself (the story of Marx and his time); whereas the critique of this ideological element implies largely a return to the authentic objects which are (logically and historically) prior to the ideology which has reflected them and hemmed them in.

Let me illustrate this formula of the retreat by two examples.

The first concerns those authors whose substance Hegel ‘assimilated’, among them the English economists and the French philosophers and politicians, and the historical events whose meaning they interpreted: above all, the French Revolution. When, in 1843, Marx sat down and read the English economists, when he took up the study of Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Diderot, etc., when he studied concretely the history of the French Revolution,[39] it was not just a return to Hegel’s sources to verify Hegel by his sources: on the contrary, it was to discover the reality of the objects Hegel had stolen by imposing on them the meaning of his own ideology. To a very great extent, Marx’s return to the theoretical products of the English and French eighteenth century was a real return to the pre-Hegelian, to the objects themselves in their reality. The ‘supersession’ of Hegel was not at all anAufhebung’ in the Hegelian sense, that is, an exposition of the truth of what is contained in Hegel; it was not a supersession of error towards its truth, on the contrary, it was a supersession of illusion towards its truth, or better, rather than a ‘supersession’ of illusion towards truth it was a dissipation of illusion and a retreat from the dissipated illusion back towards reality: the term ‘supersession’ is thus robbed of all meaning.[40] Marx never disavowed this his decisive experience of the direct discovery of reality via those who had lived it directly and thought it with the least possible deformation: the English economists (they had economic heads because there was an economy in England!) and the French philosophers and politicians (they had political heads because there was politics in France!) of the eighteenth century. And, as his critique of French utilitarianism, precisely for its lack of the advantage of direct experience,[41] shows, he was extremely sensitive to the ideological ‘distanciation’ produced by this absence: the French utilitarians made a ‘philosophical’ theory out of the economic relation of utilization and exploitation whose actual mechanism was described by the English economists as they saw it in action in English reality. I feel that the problem of the relation between Marx and Hegel will remain insoluble until we take this readjustment (décalage) of viewpoint seriously, and realize that this retreat established Marx in a domain and a terrain which were no longer Hegel’s domain and terrain.

What were the meanings of Marx’s loans from Hegel, of his Hegelian heritage and in particular of the dialectic, are questions that can only be asked from the vantage point of this ‘change of elements’.[42]

My second example: In their arguments within the Hegel they had constructed to answer to their needs, the Young Hegelians constantly asked the questions which were in fact posed them by the backwardness of the German history of the day when they compared it with that of France and England. The Napoleonic defeat had not indeed greatly altered the historical dislocation (décalage) between Germany and the great nations of Western Europe. The German intellectuals of the 1830s and 1840s looked to France and England as the lands of freedom and reason, particularly after the July Revolution and the English Reform Act of 1832. Once again, unable to live it, they thought what others had done. But as they thought it in the element of philosophy, the French constitution and the English Reform became for them the reign of Reason, and they therefore awaited the German liberal revolution primarily from Reason.[43] When the failure of 1840 revealed the impotence of (German) Reason alone, they looked for aid from outside; and they came up with the incredibly naïve yet moving theme, the theme which was simply an admission of their backwardness and their illusions, but an admission still within those illusions, that the future belonged to the mystical union of France and Germany, theunion of French political sense and German theory.[44] Thus they were haunted by realities which they could only perceive through their own ideological schema, their own problematic, in the deformations produced by this medium.[45]

And when, in 1843, Marx was disillusioned by his failure to teach the Germans Reason and Freedom and he decided at last to leave for France, he still went largely in search of a myth, just as a few years ago it was still possible for the majority of the students of colonial subject nations to leave home in search of their myth in France.[46] But when he got there, he made the fundamental discovery that France and England did not correspond to their myth, the discovery of the class struggle, of flesh and blood capitalism, and of the organized proletariat. Thus an extraordinary division of labour led to Marx discovering the reality of France while Engels did the same for England. Once again we must use the term retreat (not ‘supersession’), that is, the retreat from myth to reality, when we are dealing with the actual experience which tore off the veils of illusion behind which Marx and Engels had been living as a result of their beginnings.

But this retreat from ideology towards reality came to coincide with the discovery of a radically new reality of which Marx and Engels could find no echo in the writings ofGerman philosophy’. In France, Marx discovered the organized working class, in England, Engels discovered developed capitalism and a class struggle obeying its own laws and ignoring philosophy and philosophers.[47]

This double discovery played a decisive part in the Young Marx’s intellectual evolution: the discovery beneath (en-deça) the ideology which had deformed it of the reality it referred to – and the discovery beyond contemporary ideology, which knew it not, of a new reality. Marx became himself by thinking this double reality in a rigorous theory, by changing elements – and by thinking the unity and reality of this new element. Of course, it should be understood that these discoveries are inseparable from Marx’s total personal experience, which was itself inseparable from the German history which he directly lived. For something was happening in Germany none the less. Events there were not just feeble echoes of events abroad. The idea that everything happened outside and nothing inside was itself an illusion of despair and impotence: for a history that fails, makes no headway and repeats itself is, as we know only too well, still a history. The whole theoretical and practical experience I have been discussing was in fact bound up with the progressive experimental discovery of German reality itself. The disappointment of 1840 which broke down the whole theoretical system behind the neo-Hegelians’ hopes, when Frederick William IV, the pseudo-’liberal’, changed into a despot – the failure of the Revolution of Reason attempted by the Rheinische Zeitung, persecution, Marx’s exile, abandoned by the German bourgeois elements who had supported him at first, taught him with facts what was concealed by the famous ‘German misery’, the ‘philistinism’ denounced with such moral indignation, and this moral indignation itself: a concrete historical situation which was no misunderstanding, rigid and brutal class relations, reflex exploitation and fear, stronger in the German bourgeoisie than any proof by Reason. This swept everything aside, and Marx at last discovered the reality of the ideological opacity which had blinded him; he realized that he could no longer project German myths on to foreign realities and had to recognize that these myths were meaningless not only abroad but even in Germany itself which was cradling in them its own bondage to dreams: and that on the contrary, he had to project on to Germany the light of experience acquired abroad to see it in the light of day.

I hope it is now clear that if we are truly to be able to think this dramatic genesis of Marx’s thought, it is essential to reject the term ‘supersede’ and turn to that of discoveries, to renounce the spirit of Hegelian logic implied in the innocent but sly concept of ‘supersession’ (Aufhebung) which is merely the empty anticipation of its end in the illusion of an immanence of truth, and to adopt instead a logic of actual experience and real emergence, one that would put an end to the illusions of ideological immanence; in short, to adopt a logic of the irruption of real history in ideology itself, and thereby – as is absolutely indispensable to the Marxist perspective, and, moreover, demanded by it – give at last some real meaning to the personal style of Marx’s experience, to the extraordinary sensitivity to the concrete which gave such force of conviction and revelation to each of his encounters with reality.[48]

I do not propose to give a chronology or a dialectic of the actual experience of history which united in that remarkable individual the Young Marx one man’s particular psychology and world history so as to produce in him the discoveries which are still our nourishment today. The details should be sought in ‘Père’ Cornu’s works, for, with the exception of Mehring who did not have the same erudition or source material, he is the only man to have made this indispensable effort. I confidently predict that he will be read for a long time, for there is no access to the Young Marx except by way of his real history.

I merely hope that I have been able to give some idea of the extraordinary relation between the enslaved thought of the Young Marx and the free thought of Marx by pointing out some thing which is generally neglected, that is, the contingent beginnings (in respect to his birth) that he had to start from and the gigantic layer of illusions he had to break through before he could even see it. We should realize that in a certain sense, if these beginnings are kept in mind, we cannot say absolutely that ‘Marx’s youth is part of Marxism’ unless we mean by this that, like all historical phenomena, the evolution of this young bourgeois intellectual can be illuminated by the application of the principles of historical materialism. Of course Marx’s youth did lead to Marxism, but only at the price of a prodigious break with his origins, a heroic struggle against the illusions he had inherited from the Germany in which he was born, and an acute attention to the realities concealed by these illusions. If ‘Marx’s path’ is an example to us, it is not because of his origins and circumstances but because of his ferocious insistence on freeing himself from the myths which presented themselves to him as the truth, and because of the role of the experience of real history which elbowed these myths aside.

Allow me to touch on one last point. If this interpretation does make possible a better reading of the Early Works, if the deeper unity of the thought (its problematic) casts light on their theoretical elements, and the acquisitions of Marx’s actual experience (his history; his discoveries) illuminate the development of this problematic, and this makes it possible to settle those endlessly discussed problems of whether Marx was already Marx, whether he was still Feuerbachian or had gone beyond Feuerbach, that is, of the establishment at each moment of his youthful development of the internal and external meaning of the immediate elements of his thought, there is still another question that it leaves unanswered, or rather introduces: the question of the necessity of Marx’s beginnings, from the vantage point of his destination.

It is as if Marx’s necessity to escape from his beginnings, that is to traverse and dissipate the extraordinarily dense ideological world beneath which he was buried, had, as well as a negative significance (escape from illusions), a significance in some sense formative, despite these very illusions. We might even feel that the discovery of historical materialism was ‘in the air’ and that in many respects Marx expended a prodigious theoretical effort to arrive at a reality and attain certain truths which had already in part been recognized and accepted. So there ought to have been a ‘short-cut’ to the discovery (e.g., Engels’s route via his 1844 article, or the one Marx admired in Dietzgen) as well as the ‘roundabout’ route that Marx took himself. What did he gain by this theoretical ‘Long March’ that his beginnings had forced on him? What profit was there in starting so far from the end, in sojourning so long in philosophical abstraction and in crossing such spaces on his way to reality? Probably the sharpening it gave to his critical intelligence as an individual, the acquisition of that historically incomparable ‘clinical sense’, ever vigilant for the struggles between classes and ideologies; but also, and in his contact with Hegel par excellence, the feeling for and practice in abstraction that is indispensable to the constitution of any scientific theory, the feeling for and practice in theoretical synthesis and the logic of a process for which the Hegelian dialectic gave him a ‘pure’, abstract model. I have not provided these reference points because I think I can answer this question; but because they may perhaps make possible, subject to certain scientific studies in progress, a definition of what might have been the role of the German Ideology and even of German ‘speculative philosophy’ in Marx’s formation. I am inclined to see this role less as a theoretical formation than as a formation for theory, a sort of education of the theoretical intelligence via the theoretical formations of ideology itself. As if for once, in a form foreign to its pretensions, the ideological over-development of the German intellect had served as a propaedeutic for the Young Marx, in two ways: both through the necessity it imposed on him to criticize his whole ideology in order to reach that point beneath (en-deça) his myths; and through the training it gave him in the manipulation of the abstract structure of its systems, independently of their validity. And if we are prepared to stand back a little from Marx’s discovery so that we can see that he founded a new scientific discipline and that this emergence itself was analogous to all the great scientific discoveries of history, we must also agree that no great discovery has ever been made with out bringing to light a new object or a new domain, without a new horizon of meaning appearing, a new land in which the old images and myths have been abolished – but at the same time the inventor of this new world must of absolute necessity have prepared his intelligence in the old forms themselves, he must have learnt and practised them, and by criticizing them formed a taste for and learnt the art of manipulating abstract forms in general, without which familiarity he could never have conceived new ones with which to think the new object. In the general context of the human development which may be said to make urgent, if not inevitable, all great historical discoveries, the individual who makes himself the author of one of them is of necessity in the paradoxical situation of having to learn the way of saying what he is going todiscover in the very way he must forget. Perhaps, too, it is this situation which gives Marx’s Early Works that tragic imminence and permanence, that extreme tension between a beginning and an end, between a language and a meaning, out of which no philosophy could come without forgetting that the destiny they are committed to is irreversible.

December, 1960


1. The interest shown in the study of Marx’s Early Works by young Soviet scholars is particularly noteworthy, It is an important sign of the present direction of cultural development in the U.S.S.R. (cf. the ‘Presentation’, p. 4, n. 7).

2. Incontestably dominated by the remarkable essay by Hoeppner: ‘A propos de quelques conceptions erronées du passage de Hegel à Marx’ (pp. 175-90).

3. See Molitor, trans., (OEuvres philosophiques de Marx, Ed. Costès, Vol. IV, ‘Introduction’ by Landshut and Mayer: ‘It is clear that the basis for the tendency which presided over the analysis made in Capital is ... the tacit hypothesis that can alone restore an intrinsic justification to the whole tendency of Marx’s most important work ... these hypotheses were precisely the formal theme of Marx’s work before 1847. For the author of Capital they by no means represent youthful errors from which he progressively liberated himself as his knowledge matured, and which were cast aside as waste in the process of his personal purification. Rather, in the works from 1840 to 1847 Marx opened up the whole horizon of historical conditions and made safe the general humane foundation without which any explanation of economic relations would remain merely the work of a good economist. Anyone who fails to grasp this hidden thread which is the subject-matter of his early work and which runs through his works as a whole will be unable to understand Marx ... the principles of his economic analysis are directly derived from “the true reality of man"’ (pp. XV-XVII). ‘A slight alteration in the first sentence of the Communist Manifesto would give us: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of the self-alienation of man ..."’ (p. XLII), etc. Pajitnov’s article, ‘Les Manuscrits de 1844’ (Recherches, pp. 80-96) is a valuable review of the main authors of this ‘Young-Marxist’ revisionist current.

4. Obviously, they could calmly adopt their opponents’ theses (without realizing it) and rethink Marx through his youth – and this paradox has been tried, in France itself. But ultimately history always dissipates misunderstandings.

5. W. Jahn, ‘Le contenu économique de l’aliénation’ (Recherches, p. 158).

6. Cf. Schaff: ‘Le vrai visage du jeune Marx’ (Recherches, p. 193) and also the following extract from the Presentation (pp. 7-8): ‘Marx’s work as a whole cannot be seriously understood, nor Marxism itself as thought and as action, on the basis of the conception of his early works he happened to have when he was working them out. Only the opposite approach is valuable, that is, the approach which understands the significance and appreciates the value of these first fruits (?) and enters those creative laboratories of Marxist thought represented by writings such as the Kreuznach notebooks and the 1844 Manuscripts via Marxism as we have inherited it from Marx and also – it must be plainly stated – as it has been enriched by a century in the heat of historical practice. In default of this there is nothing to prevent an evaluation of Marx by criteria taken from Hegelianism if not from Thomism. The history of philosophy is written in the future anterior: ultimately, a refusal to admit this is a denial of this history and the erection of oneself as its founder in the manner of Hegel.’ I have emphasized the last two sentences deliberately. But the reader will have done so himself, astonished to see attributed to Marxism precisely the Hegelian conception of the history of philosophy and, as the summit of this confusion!, find himself accused of Hegelianism if he rejects it... . We shall soon see that there are other motives at issue in such a conception. At any rate, this quotation clearly demonstrates the movement I have been pointing out: Marx is threatened in everything by his youth, so he is recuperated as a moment of the whole and a philosophy of the history of philosophy is constructed to this end, a philosophy which is quite simply – Hegelian. Hoeppner calmly brings this into perspective in his article (‘A propos du passage de Hegel à Marx’, Recherches, p. 180): ‘History must not be studied from the front backwards, searching for the heights of Marxist knowledge its ideal germs in the past. The evolution of philosophical thought must be traced on the basis of the real evolution of society.’ This is Marx’s own position, extensively developed in the German Ideology for example.

7. ‘Presentation’, p. 7. The reasoning is unambiguous.

8. Cf. Hoeppner (op. cit., p. 178): ‘It is not a question of knowing what Marxist content a Marxist investigation might today be able to read into such passages but rather of knowing what social content they had for Hegel himself.’ Hoeppner’s excellent position on Hegel, opposing Kuczynski who looks in Hegel for ‘Marxist’ themes, is also unreservedly valid for Marx himself when his early works are being read from the standpoint of his mature works.

9. Togliatti, ‘De Hegel au marxisme’ (Recherches, pp. 38-40).

10. N. Lapine, ‘Critique de la philosophie de Hegel’ (Recherches, pp. 52-71).

11. W. Jahn, ‘Le contenu économique du concept d’aliénation du travail dans les oeuvres de jeunesse de Marx’ (Recherches, pp. 157-74).

12. For example, the two quotations invoked by Togliatti to prove that Marx superseded Hegel are precisely a plagiarism of writings of Feuerbach! Hoeppner, hawk-eyed, has spotted this: ‘The two quotations from the Manuscripts (of 1844) used by Togliatti to show that Marx had by then liberated himself from Feuerbach merely reproduce in essentials the ideas of Feuerbach expressed in the Provisional Theses and the Principles of the Philosophy of the Future’ (op. cit., p. 184, n. 11). It would be possible to dispute the proof-value of the quotations invoked by Pajitnov on pp. 88 and 109 of his article ‘Les Manuscrits de 1844’ in the same way. The moral of these mistakes is that one should closely read one’s authors. It is not superfluous where Feuerbach is concerned. Marx and Engels discuss him so much, and so well, that it is easy to believe that one knows him intimately.

13. For example, Jahn: a suggestive comparison between the theory of alienation in the 1844 Manuscripts and the theory of value in Capital.

14. See footnote 5.

15. This formalism is excellently criticized by Hoeppner with respect to Kuczynski (op. cit., pp. 177-8).

16. In the theory of sources it is the origin that measures the development. In the theory of anticipation it is the goal that decides the meaning of the moments of the process.

17. Lapine, ‘Critique de la Philosophie de Hegel’ (Recherches, p. 68).

18. Lapine, op. cit., p. 69.

19. Cf., e.g. Bakouradzé, ‘La formation des idées philosophiques de K. Marx’ (Recherches, pp. 29-32).

20. Jahn, op. cit., pp. 160 and 10.

21. Pajitnov, op. cit., p. 117.

22. Lapine, op. cit., pp. 58, 67 and 69.

23. Schaff, op. cit., p. 202.

24. I ask this question with regard to some third party. But we all know that it is asked of all Marxists who make use of Marx’s Early Writings. If their use of them lacks discernment, if they take essays like On the Jewish Question or the 1843 and 1844 Manuscripts for Marxist writings, if this inspiration gives rise to conclusions for theory and for ideological action, they have in fact answered the question, what they do answers for them: the Young Marx can be taken as Marx, the Young Marx was a Marxist. They give openly the answer that the critique I am discussing gives under its breath (by avoiding any answer at all). In both cases, the same principles are at work, and at stake.

25. Jahn, op. cit., p. 173, ‘In The German Ideology ... historical materialism found its adequate terminology.’ But as Jahn’s own essay shows, it is a matter of something quite different from terminology.

26. Lapine, op. cit., p. 69.

27. Of course, like any other scientific discipline, Marxism did not stop at Marx any more than physics stopped at Galileo who founded it. Like any other scientific discipline, Marxism developed even in Marx’s own lifetime. New discoveries were made possible by Marx’s basic discovery. It would be very rash to believe that everything has been said.

28. Cf. Auguste Cornu: Karl Marx et F. Engels (PUF Paris), Vol. 1, ‘Les années d’enfance ef de jeunesse. La Gauche hégélienne’, the chapter on ‘la formation de la Gauche hégélienne’, especially pp. 141 ff. Cornu quite correctly insists on the role of von Cieskowski in the elaboration of a philosophy of action of neo-Hegelian inspiration, adopted by all the young liberal intellectuals of the movement.

29. This is not the place to embark on a study of the concepts at work in the analyses of The German Ideology. Instead, one quotation that says everything. On ‘German criticism’ he says: ‘The whole body of its inquiries has actually sprung from the soil of a definite philosophical system, that of Hegel. Not only in their answers, but in their very questions there was a mystification .’ It could not be better said that it is not answers which make philosophy but the questions posed by the philosophy, and that it is in the question itself, that is, in the way it reflects that object (and not in the object itself) that ideological mystification (or on the contrary an authentic relationship with the object) should be sought.

30. This conclusion is crucial. What actually distinguishes the concept of the problematic from the subjectivist concepts of an idealist interpretation of the development of ideologies is that it brings out within the thought the objective internal reference system of its particular themes, the system of questions commanding the answers given by the ideology. If the meaning of an ideology’s answers is to be understood at this internal level it must first be asked the question of its questions. But this problematic is itself an answer, no longer to its own internal questions – problems – but to the objective problems posed for ideology by its time. A comparison of the problems posed by the ideologue (his problematic) with the real problems posed for the ideologue by his time, makes possible a demonstration of the truly ideological element of the ideology, that is, what characterizes ideology as such, its deformation. So it is not the interiority of the problematic which constitutes its essence but its relation to real problems: the problematic of an ideology cannot be demonstrated without relating and submitting it to the real problems to which its deformed enunciation gives a false answer. But I must not anticipate the third point in my exposition (see footnote 45).

31. Such is the meaning of the ‘basic question’ distinguishing materialism from all the forms of idealism.

32. Cf. the excellent passage by Hoeppner, op. cit., p. 188. See also p. 184, n. 11.

33.Already, because the success of this rupture as of the whole of this liberation process, presupposes that real history is being taken seriously.


35. op. cit.

36. Let us say: of pedagogic truth. As for the famous ‘inversion’ of Hegel, it is a perfect expression for Feuerbach’s project. It was Feuerbach who introduced it and sanctioned it for Hegel’s posterity. And it is remarkable that Marx correctly attacked Feuerbach in The German Ideology for having remained a prisoner of Hegelian philosophy precisely when he was claiming to have ‘inverted’ it. He attacked him for accepting the presuppositions of Hegel’s questions, for giving different answers, but to the same questions. In philosophy only the questions are indiscreet, as opposed to everyday life, where it is the answers. Once the questions have been changed it is no longer possible to talk of an inversion. No doubt a comparison of the new relative rank of questions and answers to the old one still allows us to talk of an inversion. But it has then become an analogy since the questions are no longer the same and the domains they constitute are not comparable, except, as I have suggested, for pedagogic purposes.

37. Cf. footnote 36.

38. This desire to dissipate all ideology and return to ‘the things themselves’, to ‘unveil existence’ (zur Sache selbst ... Dasein zu enthüllen) animates the whole of Feuerbach’s philosophy. His terms are the moving expression of this. His tragedy was to have carried out his intentions and yet to have remained a prisoner of the very ideology he desperately hoped to deliver himself from, because he thought his liberation from speculative philosophy in the concepts and problematic of this same philosophy. It was essential to ‘change elements’.

39. Lapine (op. cit., pp. 60-61) is excellent on this point. But these intellectual ‘experiments’ of Marx’s do not measure up to the concept of ‘tendency’ (a concept too broad and abstract for them, and one which also reflects the end of the development in progress) in which Lapine wants to think them. On the other hand, I am in profound agreement with Hoeppner (op. cit., pp. 186-7): ‘Marx did not reach his solution by resorting to some manipulations of the Hegelian dialectic, but essentially on the basis of very concrete investigations into history, sociology and political economy ... the Marxist dialectic was in its essentials born of the new lands which Marx cleared and opened up for theory ... Hegel and Marx did not drink at the same source.’

40. If there is any meaning to the term ‘supersede’ in its Hegelian sense, it is not established by substituting for it the concept of ‘the negation-which-contains-in-itself-the-term-negated’, thereby stressing the rupture in the conservation, for this rupture in conservation presupposes a substantial unity in the process, translated in the Hegelian dialectic by the passage of the in-itself into the for-itself, then to the in-itself-for-itself, etc. But it is precisely the substantial continuity of a process containing its own future in germ in its own interiority which is in dispute here. Hegelian supersession presupposes that the later form of the process is the ‘truth’ of the earlier form. But Marx’s position and his whole critique of ideology implies on the contrary that science (which apprehends reality) constitutes in its very meaning a rupture with ideology and that it sets itself up in another terrain, that it constitutes itself on the basis of new questions, that it raises other questions about reality than ideology, or what comes to the same thing, it defines its object differently from ideology. Therefore science can by no criteria be regarded as the truth of ideology in the Hegelian sense. If we want a historical predecessor to Marx in this respect we must appeal to Spinoza rather than Hegel. Spinoza established a relation between the first and the second kind of knowledge which, in its immediacy (abstracting from the totality in God), presupposed precisely a radical discontinuity. Although the second kind makes possible the understanding of the first, it is not its truth.

41. Cf. The German Ideology pp. 447-54: ‘The theory which for the English still was simply the registration of a fact becomes for the French a philosophical system.’ (p. 452).

42. See Hoeppner, op. cit., pp. 186-7. One further word on the term ‘retreat’. Obviously it should not be understood as meaning the exact opposite of ‘supersession’, except metaphorically. It is not a question of substituting for the understanding of an ideology via its end some kind of understanding of it through its origins. All I wanted to illustrate was the fact that even within his ideological consciousness the Young Marx demonstrated an exemplary critical insistence: an insistence on consulting the originals (French political philosophers, English economists, revolutionaries, etc.) which Hegel had discussed. But with Marx himself, this ‘retreat’ ultimately lost the retrospective aspect of a search for the original in the form of an origin, as soon as he returned to German history itself and destroyed the illusion of its ‘backwardness’, that is, thought it in its reality without measuring it against an external model as its norm. This retreat was therefore really the current restoration, recuperation and restitution of a reality which had been stolen and made unrecognizable by ideology.

43. This was the ‘liberal’ moment of the Young Hegelian movement. Cf. Cornu, op. cit., Ch. IV, pp. 132 ff.

44. A theme widely developed by the neo-Hegelians. Cf. Feuerbach: Provisional Theses for the Reform of Philosophy, paras. 46 and 47 (Manifestes philosophiques, op. cit., pp. 116-17).

45. At the heart of this problematic was the implication of the deformation of real historical problems into philosophical problems. The real problems of bourgeois revolution, political liberalism, the freedom of the Press, the end of censorship, the struggle against the Church, etc., were transformed into a philosophical problem: the problem of the reign of Reason whose victory was promised by History despite the appearances of reality. This contradiction between Reason, which is the internal essence and goal of History, and the reality of present history was the neo-Hegelians’ basic problem. This formulation of the problem (this problematic) naturally commanded its solutions: if Reason is the goal of History and its essence, it is enough to show its presence even in its most contradictory appearances: the whole solution is thus to be found in the critical omnipotence of philosophy which must become practical by dissipating the aberrations of History in the name of its truth. For a denunciation of the unreasons of real History is merely an exposition of its own reason at work even in its unreasons. Thus the State is indeed truth in action, the incarnation of the truth of History. It is enough to convert it to this truth. That is why this ‘practice’ can be definitively reduced to philosophical critique and theoretical propaganda: it is enough to denounce the unreasons to make them give way, and enough to speak reason for it to carry them away. So everything depends on philosophy which is par excellence the head and heart (after 1840, it is only the head – the heart is to be French) of the Revolution. So much for the solutions required by the way the basic problem was posed. But what is infinitely more revealing, and of the problematic itself, is to discover by comparing it to the problems raised for the neo-Hegelians by real History that although this problematic does provide solutions to real problems, it does not correspond to any of these real problems; there is nothing at issue between reason and unreason, the unreason is neither an unreason nor an appearance, the State is not liberty in action, etc., that is, the objects which this ideology seems to reflect in its problems are not even represented in their ‘immediate’ reality. By the end of such a comparison, not only do the solutions given by an ideology to its own problems fall (they are merely the reflection of these problems on themselves), but also the problematic itself – and the full extent of the ideological deformation then appears: its mystification of problems and objects. Then we can see what Marx meant when he spoke of the need to abandon the terrain of Hegelian philosophy, since ‘not only in their answers, but in their questions there was a mystification’.

46. Cf. Marx, Letter to Ruge, September 1843.

47. Cf. Engels: ‘Umrisse zu einer Kritik der Nazionalökonomie; Marx later referred to this article as ‘genial’ – it had a great influence on him. Its importance has generally been underestimated.

48. It will be readily understood that to speak of a logic of emergence is not to suggest, with Bergson, a philosophy of invention.

The ‘Young Marx’ myth in interpretations of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844]

Focusing on the dissemination and reception history of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, this article will critically examine the famous controversy surrounding the relationship between Marx’s “early” and “mature” writings. A review of all the major books published worldwide (especially in Germany, France, the Soviet Union and English-speaking countries) on Marx’s early writings is followed by a plea for a new and rigorous reading of Marx’s Paris manuscripts, which have been wrongly considered by almost all interpreters as a finished work.

Careful textual analysis of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 alongside the so-called Paris Notebooks makes it possible to refute conceptions of the former as a fully fledged text either prefiguring Marx’s thought as a whole (as Landshut or the French existentialists argued) or advancing a well-defined theory opposed to that of Marx’s “scientific” maturity (as Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy or Althusser claimed).

1. The two editions of 1932

The [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] are among Marx’s most famous writings, and among those most widely published around the world. But although they have played a major role in the overall interpretation of his thought, they remained unknown for a long time and finally appeared in print nearly a century after their composition.

The publication of these manuscripts was by no means the end of the story. In fact, it triggered a lengthy dispute about the character of the text, some regarding it as an immature work in comparison with Marx’s subsequent critique of political economy, and others as the invaluable philosophical foundation for his thought, which lost its intensity over the years as he worked on the writing of Capital. Hence the field of research concerning the relationship between the ‘youthful’ theories of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] and the ‘mature’ ones of Capital hinged on the following questions. Can the writings of the ‘Young Marx’ be considered an integral part of ‘Marxism’­­­­­­? Is there an organic unity of inspiration and realization throughout Marx’s work? Or should two different Marxes be identified in it?

The conflict of interpretation also had a political side. Marx scholars in the Soviet Union after the early Thirties, as well as most researchers close to Communist parties within or linked to the ‘socialist bloc’, offered a reductionist analysis of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], whereas those in a tradition of critical Marxism set a higher value on the texts and found in them the most powerful arguments (especially in relation to the concept of alienation) for breaking the monopoly that the Soviet Union had established over Marx’s work. In each case, the instrumentality of the reading provides a clear example of how theoretical and political conflicts have repeatedly distorted Marx’s work to serve purposes extraneous to it.

The first sections of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] to be published were those which David Ryazanov, the famous Marx scholar then in charge of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, brought out in Russian in 1927, as part of the third volume of the Arkhiv K. Marksa i F. Engel’sa [Marx and Engels Archive]. These appeared under the title ‘Preparatory Work for The Holy Family’,[1] comprising a large part of what would later be known as ‘the third manuscript’. [2] In an introductory article, Ryazanov underlined the rapid theoretical advances that Marx made in the period when he was working on this manuscript; in his view, the great value of publishing it was that, far from being a mere bibliographical curiosity, it marked an important stage in Marx’s trajectory and afforded new insight into his intellectual development.[3] This hypothesis – that the third manuscript consisted of preparatory materials for The Holy Family – proved to be erroneous, however. Its content, as well as Marx’s own indications, locate it rather as a quite different earlier text centred mainly on a critical analysis of political economy.

In 1929 a French translation of Ryazanov’s text was published in two parts in La Revue Marxiste: the February issue featured a section entitled [‘Notes on Communism and Private Property’], and the June issue one called [‘Notes on Needs, Production and the Division of Labour’]. [4] The texts were presented as fragments of a work by Marx from 1844 and arranged under various subheadings to make them easier to read.

In the same year, the first Soviet compilation of the works of Marx and Engels (K. Marks-F. Engels Sochineniya, 1928-47) contained a second Russian edition of the text in volume three, in the same fragmentary form and with the same misleading title as in 1927. [5] Then in 1931 the journal Unter dem Banner des Marxismus published for the first time in German the fragment entitled [‘Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic and Philosophy In General’].[6]

The first complete edition of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] was published in 1932, in German. In fact, two versions came out in the same year, and this added to the confusion about the text. The Social Democrat scholars Siegfried Landshut and Jacob Peter Mayer included the manuscripts in a two-volume collection entitled Historical Materialism. Early Writings,[7] Mayer having prepared the way for this in 1931 with an article that gave advance notice of a highly important ‘hitherto unknown text by Marx’. [8] The version that appeared in the collection was not complete, however, and contained a number of significant inaccuracies: the ‘first’ manuscript was missing altogether; the ‘second’ and ‘third’ were in a jumbled order; and a supposedly fourth manuscript was in fact no more than the compendium of the final chapter of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, without any kind of commentary by Marx himself. Nor did the switched sequence of publication, III-II-IV, make the manuscripts any easier to understand.

Equally serious were the errors made in transcribing the original and the mistaken choice of title [‘Political Economy and Philosophy. On the Connection of Political Economy with the State, Law, Ethics and Civic Life’], which totally contradicted what Marx stated in the draft Preface included in the text: ‘It will be found that the interconnection between political economy and the state, law, ethics, civil life, etc., is touched upon in the present work only to the extent to which political economy itself expressly touches upon these subjects.’[9] Finally, one of the rare points on the text made in the editors’ preface suggested that it had probably been written in the period between February and August 1844.

The initial plan had been to publish the text in a separate edition entitled [On the Connection of Political Economy with the State, Law, Ethics and Civic Life, with a Critique of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit], with Mayer responsible for the editorial part and Friedrich Solomon for the interpretive section. However, after a second revision of the originals, it was inserted into the previously mentioned collection by Mayer and Landshut.[10] This edition, despite its major editorial and interpretive errors, was widely distributed in Germany and formed the basis for Jules Molitor’s French translation in 1937.

The second version of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] to appear in 1932 was the one edited by the IME in Moscow and published in the third volume of Part One of the works of Marx and Engels (Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, or MEGA). This was the first full scholarly edition, and the first to bear the later famous name [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844].[11] Now the three manuscripts were published in the correct order, having also been transcribed with considerably greater accuracy than in the Landshut-Mayer edition. An introduction, also very limited in scope, reconstructed the genesis of the text, and each manuscript was preceded by a brief philological description. The volume bore the subtitle [For a Critique of Political Economy. With a Concluding Chapter on Hegel’s Philosophy] and placed the manuscripts under the following headings. First Manuscript: [Wages], [Profit of Capital], [Ground Rent], [Estranged Labour]. Second Manuscript: [The Private Property Relationship]. Third Manuscript: [Private Property and Labour], [Private Property and Communism], [Need, Production and Division of Labour], [Money], [Critique of Hegel’s Dialectic and His Philosophy in General]. The so-called fourth manuscript, containing the extracts from Hegel, was published as an appendix [Marx’s Extracts from the Last Chapter of the Phenomenology of Spirit].

The MEGA editors, however, having to assign a name to the manuscripts, reorganized the whole and placed Marx’s Preface at the beginning (instead of in its original place in the third manuscript), so that they too ended up implying that Marx’s intention had always been to write a critique of political economy and that he had conceived his manuscripts as falling into chapters within such a work.[12]

Of particular significance in this edition was the inclusion of Marx’s notebooks from his period in Paris. Placed in the second part of the volume, under the heading From the Notebooks of Excerpts. Paris, Early 1844 to Early 1845, these also contained previously unpublished extracts from works by Friedrich Engels, Jean-Baptiste Say, Frédéric Skarbek, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, James Mill, John R. MacCulloch, Antoine L. C. Destutt de Tracy and Pierre de Boisguillebert. The editors further provided an account of Marx’s nine Paris notebooks and an alphabetic index of all the works from which he copied extracts.[13] At the same time, the Soviet editors passed on to interpreters of Marx’s work the misconception that he wrote the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] only after he had read and compiled extracts from a large part of the corpus of works on political economy.[14] In reality, the composition process had involved an alternation of writing and extracting;[15] the excerpts had punctuated the whole of the Parisian period, from the articles for the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher [German-French Yearbooks] up to The Holy Family.

2. Later translations and reprints

Thanks to its superior philological quality, the MEGA version became the choice of preference on which nearly all translations into other languages based themselves. This was the case with the first Japanese translation (1946), the two Italian translations, by Norberto Bobbio (1949) and Galvano Della Volpe (1950), the first English and Chinese translations (both in 1956) and the French translation of 1962 (which replaced the unreliable one of 1937 referred to above).

The greater value of the MEGA version was also recognized by the Protestant theologian Erich Thier in his introduction to the variant German edition he brought out in 1950.[16] However, this turned out to be a hybrid of the MEGA and Landshut-Mayer editions, serving to create further misunderstandings. The text itself was taken from the MEGA edition, but – like the two Social Democrat scholars before him – Thier decided to omit the ‘first manuscript’. Similarly, he took over many of the MEGA explanatory notes but also reproduced some serious inaccuracies committed by Landshut and Mayer and followed them in their misguided choice of title. All these errors, it should be stressed, were made not when the MEGA edition was a recent acquisition but nearly two decades after its appearance in print.

A revised version of the Landshut-Mayer edition came out in 1953, this time under Landshut’s name alone and with the title Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts (1844).[17] This repeated the mistakes of 1932, however, and the only improvement, based on the MEGA edition, was a correction of some transcription errors. Two years later, a collection of ‘Short Economic Writings’[18] included the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] without the final chapter [Critique of Hegel’s Dialectic and Philosophy in General]. It also made some corrections of the MEGA version of 1932.

While the limits of these new German editions marked a step back with regard to the MEGA version, the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] were subjected to veritable persecution in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In 1954, the Institute of Marxism-Leninism (IML) in Moscow – the new name for the IME – decided not to include Marx’s unfinished manuscripts in the new Russian edition of the K. Marks-F. Engels Sochineniya then in preparation, thereby omitting many of the works essential for an accurate account of the genesis of his thought. But this editorial policy was not followed through consistently. The second Sochineniya that eventually appeared between 1955 and 1966 contained many more writings than the first one of 1928-1947, but it excluded the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] and the [Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy], better known as the [Grundrisse], more as an act of censorship than for cogent editorial reasons. On the other hand, it found room for other manuscripts by Marx, including his [Contribution to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right] in Volume One, and filled the whole of Volume Three with [The German Ideology].

The [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] appeared in 1956[19] in a separate book with the title Extracts from the Youthful Works;[20] the print run was only 60,000 (not very high in comparison with other of Marx’s writings at that time). Their first inclusion in the Sochineniya came nearly twenty years later, in 1974, as part of the supplementary volume XLII.[21] The work on the edition of 1974 involved rechecking photocopies of the original manuscripts from the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, which still today holds two-thirds of the Marx-Engels literary bequest.[22] This proved to be a wise decision, since it allowed a number of not unimportant corrections to be made to the MEGA version of 1932. For example, the last line in the ‘first manuscript’, previously transcribed as ‘Kollision wechselseitiger Gegensätze [clash of mutual opposites]’ was amended to the correct ‘feindlicherwechselseitiger Gegensatz [hostile mutual opposition]’; and in several passages Genuß (enjoyment) was rightly substituted for Geist (spirit). Some of Marx’s own mistakes in the manuscripts were also corrected: for example, his misquotation of Adam Smith’s ‘the three productive classes’ (earlier copied down correctly in his notebooks) as ‘the three primitive classes’.[23] Furthermore, all the quotations extracted by Marx – many of them very long, especially in the ‘first’ manuscript – were published in a smaller font size, so as to make it easier to identify their original author and to avoid any misattribution to himself.[24]

As in the case of the Soviet edition, the collection of writings by Marx and Engels published in the German Democratic Republic between 1956 and 1968 (the Marx-Engels-Werke or MEW) did not include the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] in its numbered sequence of 39 volumes. Chronologically they should have featured in Volume II, published in 1962, but instead they eventually appeared in a supplementary volume (Ergänzungsband) at the end of the project in 1968.[25] After remaining in this guise until 1981, the manuscripts then went through four successive editions in the years to 1985, as part of Volume XL of the MEW entitled ‘Writings and Letters from November 1837 to August 1844’. The edition in question was the MEGA version of 1932, with some transcription corrections and the critical apparatus from the 1955 volume of ‘Brief Economic Writings’.

After the original MEGA, the first edition of Marx’s works published in the ‘socialist bloc’ to include the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] in its numbered sequence of volumes was the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA²). Publication of this began in 1975, and the Paris manuscripts were printed in Volume I/2 in 1982, exactly fifty years after their first publication. In this new form, they appeared in a historical-critical edition in two separate versions. The first (Erste Wiedergabe) reproduced the papers as originally left by Marx and therefore divided parts of the text of the ‘first manuscript’ into columns; the second (Zweite Wiedergabe) used the division into chapters and the pagination generally adopted by all previous editions.[26] Further improvements were made in the transcription of the originals, this time mainly referring to the [‘Preface’].[27] As an example of the classification difficulties posed by Marx’s various manuscripts (but also of certain limitations of the MEGA² edition), the prospectus of the final chapter of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit appears both in Volume I/2 and in the later volume (IV/2) containing the notebooks of extracts from this period.[28] In 1981, indeed, MEGA² again offered the notebooks with the Paris extracts, and the extracts from works by Carl W. C. Schüz, Friedrich List, Heinrich F. Osiander, Guillaume Prevost, Senofonte and Eugène Buret, not previously published in the first MEGA, were printed for the first time in this volume. The publication of the [Paris Notebooks] finally came to an end in 1998 with Volume IV/3, which included Marx’s compilations from Jean Law, James Lauderdale and a Roman history manual of uncertain authorship. With MEGA², the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] and all the notebooks of extracts from 1844 were finally in print in their entirety [29].

3. One or two Marxes? The dispute on the continuity of Marx’s thought

The two editions of 1932 gave rise to many controversies of a hermeneutic or political character, in which Marx’s text was often squashed between two interpretive extremes. One understood it as a mere expression of youthful theorizing negatively imbued with philosophical concepts and terminology, while the other considered it to be the highest expression of Marx’s humanism and the essential core of the whole of his critical theory. With the passage of time, successive supporters of the two positions engaged in lively debate, offering different answers concerning the ‘continuity’ of his thought. Were there in fact two distinct thinkers: an early Marx and a mature Marx? Or was there only one Marx, whose convictions remained substantially the same over the decades?

The opposition between these two views became ever sharper. The first, uniting Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy with those in Western Europe and elsewhere who shared its theoretical and political tenets, downplayed or dismissed altogether the importance of Marx’s early writings; they presented them as completely superficial in comparison with his later works and, in so doing, advanced a decidedly anti-humanist conception of his thought. [30] The second view, advocated by a more heterogeneous group of authors, had as its common denominator a rejection of the dogmatism of official Communism and the correlation that its exponents sought to establish between Marx’s thought and the politics of the Soviet Union.

A couple of quotations from two major protagonists in the 1960s will do more than any possible commentary to elucidate the terms of the debate. For Louis Althusser:

First of all, any discussion of Marx’s Early Works is a political discussion. Need we be reminded that Marx’s Early Works […] were exhumed by Social-Democrats and exploited by them to the detriment of Marxism-Leninism? […] This is the location of the discussion: the Young Marx. Really at stake in it: Marxism. The terms of the discussion: whether the Young Marx was already and wholly Marx.[31]

Iring Fetscher, on the other hand, argued:

The early writings of Marx centre so strongly on the liberation of man from every form of exploitation, domination and alienation, that a Soviet reader must have understood these comments as a criticism of his own situation under Stalinist domination. For this reason then, the early writings of Marx were never published in large, cheap editions in Russian. They were considered to be relatively insignificant works by the young Hegelian Marx who had not yet developed Marxism.[32]

Both sides distorted Marx’s text in various ways. The ‘Orthodox’ denied the importance of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] (indispensable though they are for an understanding of the evolution of Marx’s thought) and carried this so far that they excluded them from Russian and German editions of the complete works of Marx and Engels. On the other hand, many representatives of so-called ‘Western Marxism’, as well as a number of existentialist philosophers, took this unfinished sketch by a young, inexpert student of economic theory and assigned to it a value greater than that of the product of more than twenty years of research: Das Kapital.

It is not possible here to give a full account of the vast critical literature on the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844]. Instead, we shall focus on the main works and try to show the major limitations of previous debate concerning both this text and Marx’s work as a whole.

4. Early interpretations of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844]

When they first appeared in print in 1932, the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] became one of the main bones of contention between ‘Soviet Marxism’ and ‘Western Marxism’. The introductions accompanying their publication brought out this sharp difference of approach. Viktor Adoratskii, the MEGA director who had replaced Ryazanov in 1931 after a purge of the Marx-Engels Institute (recently renamed the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute), presented the theme of the Manuscripts as an ‘analysis of money, wages, the interest of capital, and ground rent’; Marx, in his view, had put forward a ‘general characterization of capitalism’ (a term not yet used by Marx), which then reappeared in The Poverty of Philosophy and theManifesto of the Communist Party.[33] By contrast, Landshut and Meyer[34] spoke of a work that ‘in essence already anticipated Capital’,[35] since ‘no fundamentally new idea’ would subsequently appear in Marx’s oeuvre. The [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], they wrote, was actually ‘Marx’s central work. It formed the crux of the development of his thought, deriving the principles of economic analysis directly from the idea of the “true reality of man”.’ It was so important because it lifted the veil on Marx’s philosophical terminology and made it possible to trace the theories developed in Capital back to concepts in his youthful period. The two German authors even asserted that Marx’s aim was not ‘the socialization of the means of production’ and the overcoming of ‘exploitation’ through the ‘expropriation of the expropriators’, but rather the ‘realization of man (die Verwirklichung des Menschen) […] without which everything else had no meaning.’[36] Despite the evidently forced character of their claim that the manuscripts of 1844 were the crux of Marx’s development,[37] this interpretation soon achieved great success and may be seen as the original source of the ‘Young Marx’ myth.

The first two authors to review the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] and to join the debate on the importance of Marx’s early writings were Henri de Man and Herbert Marcuse, both of whom came to conclusions that were in some respects similar to those of Landshut and Meyer. In an article ‘The Newly Discovered Marx’, which appeared in Der Kampf in 1932, De Man referred to

a hitherto unknown work, of the utmost importance for a correct assessment of the development and significance of Marx’s theory. Rather more clearly than any other work by Marx, it revealed the ethical-humanist motives informing his socialist orientation and the value judgements expressed in his lifelong scientific activity.[38]

According to the Belgian writer, the key question that Marx’s interpreters had to address was ‘whether that humanist phase should be seen as a position he later overcame or, on the contrary, as an integral and lasting part of his theory’.[39] De Man clearly stated his own view that the Paris text already contained all the concepts on which Marx would later build. ‘In the Manuscripts,’ he argued, ‘and more generally in the writings from 1843 to 1846, Marx formulated positions and judgements that remained the basis of all his later works.’ Therefore, ‘the Marx of 1844 belonged to Marxism as much as did the Marx of 1867, or […] the Engels of 1890’.[40] Nevertheless, De Man held that two Marxisms were present in Marx: the humanist one of his youth and the later one of his maturity. The first, which had achieved the greatest theoretical breakthroughs, was allegedly superior to the second, which had marked ‘a decline in his creative capacities’. [41]

Marcuse too maintained that the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] brought to light the philosophical premises of Marx’s critique of political economy. In an essay ‘The Foundation of Historical Materialism’, first published in 1932 in Die Gesellschaft, Marcuse argued that ‘the publication of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts written by Marx in 1844 [was destined] to become a crucial event in the history of Marxist studies’, since it placed ‘the discussion about the origin and original meaning of historical materialism [...] on a new footing’. It was now possible to assert that ‘economics and politics have become the economic-political basis of the theory of revolution through a quite particular, philosophical interpretation of human existence and its historical realization’. The 1844 manuscripts had shown the falseness of the view, variously put forward by exponents of the Second International and Soviet Communism, that in Marx there was ‘simply [...] a transformation from a philosophical to an economic basis and that in its subsequent (economic) form philosophy had been overcome and “finished” once and for all’. Since the publication of theManuscripts, it was no longer possible to think of Marxism as an essentially economic doctrine. [42]

A few years later, interest in the ‘Young Marx’ led on to study of his relationship to Hegel – a line of research encouraged by recent publication of the German philosopher’s manuscripts from his period in Jena.[43] Georg Lukács, in his work of 1938 The Young Hegel: Studies in the Relations between Dialectics and Economics, was one of the main Marxist theorists to compare these two sets of early writings – including Marx’s on philosophy and Hegel’s on economics – and to draw what he saw as certain analogies between them. In his opinion, Marx’s references to Hegel in the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] went well beyond the passages he directly quoted and commented on. Indeed, Marx’s economic analysis itself had been inspired by a critique of Hegel’s conception of philosophy.

The link between economics and philosophy […] in these manuscripts of Marx’s is a profound methodological necessity, the precondition for actually transcending Hegel’s idealist dialectic. For this reason it would be superficial to imagine that Marx’s concern with Hegel begins in the last portion of the Manuscript which contains the critique of the Phenomenology. The four preceding sections, which do not expressly concern themselves with Hegel at all, are nevertheless the foundation on which that criticism is built: they provide the economic clarification of the real nature of alienation. [44]

Alexandre Kojève was another writer who exerted a major influence on discussions of Marx and Hegel. In his lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit , which he gave in Paris between 1933 and 1939 at the École pratique des hautes études, Kojève went more deeply into the relationship between the two thinkers, although now it was Hegel’s work that was subjected to a Marxian reading.[45] Finally, Karl Löwith approached the theme in his book From Hegel to Nietzsche, without doubt one of the main studies of the time on Hegelian and post-Hegelian philosophy.[46]

The debate resumed in Germany after the end of the Second World War, and the early Fifties saw the publication in the Federal Republic of Erich Thier’s Anthropology of the Young Marx in the Paris Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts,[47] Heinrich Popitz’s Alienated Man[48] and Jacob Hommes’s The Eros of Technology.[49] These three books, though differing in nuances, helped to establish the view that the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] were the fundamental text of the whole Marxian oeuvre. In a short time, this reading won over many authors in various countries and disciplines, and one of the nodal points on which no serious student of Marx could fail to express an opinion was how the texts of the ‘Young Marx’ should be interpreted.

5. The ‘Young Marx’ Vogue in Postwar France

As the Second World War gave way to a sense of profound anguish resulting from the barbarities of Nazism and fascism, the theme of the condition and destiny of the individual in society acquired great prominence.[50] A growing philosophical interest in Marx was apparent everywhere in Europe, especially in France, where the study of his early writings was the most widespread.[51] As Henri Lefebvre put it, their assimilation was ‘the decisive philosophical event [of] the period’. [52] In this variegated process stretching into the Sixties, a number of writers from different cultural and political backgrounds sought to accomplish a philosophical synthesis of Marxism, Hegelianism, existentialism and Christian thought. The debate generated a lot of shoddy writing and, on more occasions than one, distorted Marx’s texts to fit the ideological convictions of those taking part.

In a work of 1948 entitled Sense and Non-sense, Maurice Merleau-Ponty stated that Marx’s early thought had been ‘existentialist’. [53] After reading the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], and under the influence of Kojève, he became convinced that genuine Marxism was a radical humanism completely unlike dogmatic Soviet economism, and that it was possible to reconstruct its basic premises from Marx’s writings of the early 1840s. A number of existentialist philosophers engaged in a similar reading, limiting themselves to that minor (and never finished) part of Marx’s intellectual output and often omitting almost entirely a study of Capital. [54]

The texts used to create the misleading image of a ‘philosophical Marx’ served others for the even less wieldy construction of a ‘theological Marx’. For the Jesuit writers Pierre Bigo and Jean-Yves Calvez, Marx’s thought had the features of an ethic very similar to the message of social justice contained in the most democratic and progressive strands of Catholicism. Indeed, some of their assertions are stupefying in their superficiality and confusion. In Marxism and Humanism, for example, Bigo wrote: ‘Marx is not an economist; he made no contribution to political economy. […] When he is indirectly led into considerations on such themes, he is strangely vague and self-contradictory.’[55] And Calvez could write in The Thought of Karl Marx, published in 1956, that although Marx ‘did not publish the work today called the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, what we now know of it allows us to say that he had already acquired the basic principles that he would develop in the later works.’[56] In this context, Roger Garaudy too claimed to have recognized the central importance of the humanist influences in Marx’s early writings, expressing himself in favour of dialogue between Marxism and other (especially Christian) cultures.[57]

Raymond Aron developed a pungent critique of such tendencies. Thus, in his book on ‘imaginary Marxisms’ published in 1969, he wrote of ‘jesuitical priests’ and ‘Parisian para-Marxists’ who, amid the success of phenomenological-existential philosophy, ‘interpreted the works of [Marx’s] maturity in the light of [an earlier] philosophical utopianism’ and even ‘subordinated Capital to his youthful writings (particularly the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844), whose obscurity, incompleteness and sometimes contradictory character were a source of fascination for readers instructed by A. Kojève and Father Fessard.’[58] What such writers failed to understand was that ‘if Marx had not had the hope and intention to ground the coming of communism with scientific rigour, he would not have needed to work for thirty years on Capital (still without finishing it). A few weeks and a few pages would have been enough.’ [59]

Pierre Naville took a very different line in relation to existentialist and Christian thinkers, arguing that Marx changed his ideas significantly in the course of his development, passing ‘from philosophy to science’.[60] Thus in 1954, in the first volume of his Le nouveau Léviathan, Naville took issue both with those who passed over ‘the Hegelian origins of Marx’s thought’ and with those who failed to understand that Marx ‘had had to move away from them in order to reach the analyses of Capital’. [61] And in a new preface written in 1967, Naville pointed out that Marx ‘gave up a number of seductive and fascinating concepts such as alienation’, which he ‘consigned to the museum of philosophy and replaced with a much more rigorous analysis of the relations of expropriation and exploitation’.[62]

Originally this had also been the view of Auguste Cornu, whose doctoral thesis Karl Marx – the Man and the Work,[63] first published in 1934 as the embryo of his four-volume magnum opus Marx and Engels, [64] had situated the [Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844] within the Soviet interpretive grid initiated by Adoratskii.[65] Later, however, in the third volume entitled Marx in Paris, which many consider the most complete intellectual biography of the early Marx, Cornu avoided comparing the youthful writings with the later critique of political economy and offered a more restrained assessment of the text of 1844.

In 1955, in his widely read Studies on Marx and Hegel, Jean Hyppolite emphasized the importance of Hegel for a rigorous analysis of the link between Marx’s early and mature writings. Pointing out that ‘Marx’s work presupposes an underlying philosophy whose various elements are not easily reconstructed’, he insisted that ‘it is not possible to understand Marx’s basic work, Capital, without a knowledge of the principal works which contributed to the formation and development of his thought, The Phenomenology of Spirit, the Logic, and the Philosophy of Right .’[66]

Maximilien Rubel too believed there was a theoretical continuum between the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] and Marx’s later writings. In his book Karl Marx: Essai de biographie intellectuelle, published in 1957, he argued that the category of alienated labour in theManuscripts was ‘the key to all the subsequent work of [Marx] the economist and sociologist’, and that it ‘anticipated the central thesis of Capital’. So, one of the major Marxologists of the twentieth century also saw an ‘evident basic identity’ between ‘Marx’s positions in his first critique of private property and in his later analysis of the capitalist economy’.[67] In Alienation, Praxis and Technē in the Thought of Karl Marx (1961), Kostas Axelos went even further, claiming that the 1844 manuscripts ‘have been and remain the richest in ideas of all Marxian and Marxist writings’.[68]

Henri Lefebvre was among the few writers who adopted a more balanced approach to the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], always analysing their content in light of the fact that they were not a finished work. In his Critique of Everyday Life, first published in 1958, he wrote:

In his early writings, particularly in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscript of 1844, Marx had not yet fully developed his thought. It is there, however, germinating, growing, becoming. [...] My view is that historical and dialectical materialism developed. It did not come into being abruptly, with an absolute discontinuity, after a break, at x moment, in the works of Marx (and in the history of humanity), and to think that it did produces false problems. To begin with, Marxism is made to appear like a system, a dogma. [...] Any radical newness must be born, must grow and take shape, precisely because it is a new reality. [...] The thesis which put a date on Marxism, or tries to, seriously runs the risk of dissecting it, and of interpreting it in a one-sided way. [...] The mistake, the false option which must be avoided, is to overestimate or else tounderestimate Marx’s early writings. They already contain Marxism, but as a potential, and certainly not all Marxism. [69]

The writer who insisted more than any other on an ‘absolute discontinuity’ in Marx’s work was Louis Althusser. His collection of essays For Marx triggered numerous reactions and polemics following its publication in 1965, becoming the most widely discussed text on Marx’s early writings. Althusser’s position was that the [Theses on Feuerbach] and [The German Ideology] marked a clear ‘epistemological break’ (coupure épistemologique), ‘a critique of his [Marx’s] erstwhile philosophical (ideological) conscience’,[70] and that his work may thus be divided into ‘two long essential periods: the ‘ideological' period before, and the scientific period after, the break in 1845’.[71] The relationship between Hegel and Marx had been of major importance, but only in relation to the [ Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] and hence for Marx’s ‘ideological-philosophical’ period.

[T]he Young Marx was never strictly speaking a Hegelian, …; rather, he was first a Kantian Fichtean, then a Feuerbachian. So the thesis that the Young Marx was a Hegelian, though widely believed today, is in general a myth. On the contrary, it seems that Marx’s one and only resort to Hegel in his youth, on the eve of his rupture with his ‘erstwhile philosophical conscience’, produced the prodigious ‘abreaction’ indispensable to the liquidation of his ‘disordered’ consciousness.[72]

Althusser therefore regarded the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] as pardoxically ‘the text the furthest removed from the day that is about to dawn’:[73]

[T] he Marx furthest from Marx is this Marx, the Marx on the brink, on the eve, on the threshold – as if, before the break, in order to achieve it, he had to give philosophy every chance, its last, this absolute empire over its opposite, this boundless theoretical triumph, that is, its defeat. [74]

Althusser’s curious conclusion was that ‘we cannot say absolutely that “Marx's youth is part of Marxism”’. The Althusserian school made this one of the cardinal points of its interpretation of the split in Marx: there was the pre-1845 Marx, still tied to Feuerbach’s philosophical anthropology, and there was the Marx of [The German Ideology] and beyond, the scientific founder of a new theory of history. As for Jacques Rancière, his essay ‘The Concept of “Critique” and the “Critique of Political Economy” (from the 1844 Manuscript to Capital)’ – which appeared in the first French edition of Reading Capital and was one of the first and most important contributions in this connection – he believed that one of the main obstacles to a correct understanding of Marx was that ‘he never made a critique of his own vocabulary’. Thus, in Rancière’s judgement, ‘although we can identify in Marx’s theoretical practice the break that he did no more than assert, […] he never really grasped and theorized the difference’. Sometimes, as with alienation or fetishism, ‘the same words serve to express the anthropological concepts and the concepts of Capital, [… and] because Marx does not meet the demand for rigour the first figuration always threatens to gain entry where it no longer has a place’. [75]

Althusser always remained convinced that there were ‘two Marxes’. In his ‘Reply to John Lewis’, a response to the British Communist philosopher published in 1972 in Marxism Today, he reviewed self-critically some of the formulations in For Marx:

In my first essays, I suggested that after the ‘epistemological break’ of 1845 (after the discovery by which Marx founded the science of history) the philosophical categories of alienation and the negation of the negation (among others) disappear. John Lewis replies that this is not true. And he is right. You certainly do find these concepts (directly or indirectly) in The German Ideology, in the Grundrisse (two texts which Marx never published) and also, though more rarely (alienation) or much more rarely (negation of the negation: only one explicit appearance) in Capital.[76]

Despite this admission, however, he reaffirms the idea of a watershed in Marx’s theoretical development:

If you look at the whole of Marx’s work, there is no doubt that there does exist a ‘break’ of some kind in 1845. Marx says so himself. […] The whole work of Marx shows him to be right on this point. […] The epistemological break is a point of no return. […] It is true that Marx several times uses the term ‘alienation’. But all that disappears in Marx’s later texts and in Lenin. Completely. We could therefore simply say: what is important is the tendency: and Marx’s scientific work does tend to get rid of these philosophical categories. […] But that is not sufficient. And here is my self- criticism. […] I identified the ‘epistemological’ (= scientific) break with Marx’s philosophical revolution. More precisely, I did not separate Marx’s philosophical revolution from the ‘epistemological break’. […] That was a mistake. […] Since that time, I have begun to ‘put things right’. […] 1. It is impossible to reduce philosophy to science, and it is impossible to reduce Marx’s philosophical revolution to the ‘epistemological break’. 2. Marx’s philosophical revolution preceded Marx’s ‘epistemological break’. It made the break possible.[77]

In his revised thesis, Althusser now adds that 1845 there was a kind of ‘intermittent survival of categories like alienation’.

For alongside their tendency to disappear in Marx’s work, considered as a whole, there is a strange phenomenon which must be accounted for: their total disappearance in certain works, then their subsequent reappearance. […] For example, […] there are many references to alienation in the Grundrisse (preparatory notes made by Marx in the years 1857-58, and which he did not publish). [78]

According to Althusser, Marx came to use this category again only because he ‘had “by chance” re-read Hegel’s Logic in 1858 and had been fascinated by it’.[79] But this explanation is unconvincing, since in the Grundrisse he probably had recourse to the concept also in the parts written before he had re-read Hegel’s Logic. In any event, Marx’s treatment of alienation is very different from Hegel’s. Whereas, for Althusser, it is a ‘philosophical category’ that ‘Marx’s scientific work tended to get rid of’, the truth is that, not only in the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], but also in the [Grundrisse], Capital and its preparatory manuscripts, it plays an important role in characterizing labour and social relations in the capitalist system of economy and production. [80]

Contrary to Althusser’s claims, Marx never wrote of or hinted at the presence of a ‘break’ in his work. Even less is it possible to establish a theoretical or political continuum between the thought of Marx and Lenin in this regard, or to invoke Lenin’s failure to mention alienation as proof of an ‘epistemological break’ on Marx’s part.

In the end, the weightiest objections to the Althusserian account arise from a philological analysis of Marx’s actual writings: for, although the [Grundrisse] are ‘notes made by Marx in the years 1857-58 […] which he did not publish’, [81] it should be borne in mind that [The German Ideology] was also left unfinished, and that even its so-called First Chapter on Feuerbach, on which Althusser rests much of his case for an ‘epistemological break’, was assigned that position only when the MEGA editors published the manuscript in 1932 as if it constituted an almost complete work.[82] The point is not to deny that Marx’s thought underwent huge changes as it matured and grappled with the critique of political economy – that is evident enough, as it is for countless other authors – but to contest Althusser’s theorization of a rigid break according to which the [ Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] and the other writings prior to the [Grundrisse] are extraneous to Marxism rather than an integral part of its development.

Althusser did not modify his position on this even in the later Essays in Self-Criticism. He did point out, rightly, that in the [ German Ideology] manuscripts ‘fundamental theoretical concepts’ appear that one would look for in vain ‘in Marx’s earlier texts’ (‘mode of production, relations of production, productive forces’, etc.), but he still made the mistake of excluding ‘alienated labour’ from this process of development, attaching to it the label of a merely philosophical notion. For Althusser, the Marx of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] ‘does not modify’ the concepts of political economy and, ‘when he criticizes them, he does so “philosophically”, therefore from the outside.’ [83] The Marx of [The German Ideology], however, is considered the originator of an ‘unprecedented’ and ‘irreversible’ event: the opening up of the ‘continent of history’ – as if that event were something so utterly fixed that it had happened in the space of a few weeks.

One critic of this account was Ernest Mandel, who in his Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx (1967) traced Althusser’s error back to his attempt ‘to present the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts as a work with a finished ideology, “forming a whole”.’ In his view, Althusser

is right to oppose the analytico-teleological method which examines the work of a young writer exclusively in order to see how close it comes to the “goal”, meaning the writer’s mature work. But he is wrong to set against a method that arbitrarily cuts up into ideologically coherent slices the successive phases in a writer’s evolution, on the pretext of regarding every ideology as a whole.

To the question of whether Marx, in the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], ‘rid himself of all the philosophical slag from a way of thinking that thenceforth became rigorously social and economic’, Mandel answered in the negative. For the [ Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], mark

the transition of the young Marx from Hegelian and Feuerbachian philosophy to the working out of historical materialism. In this transition, elements from the past are inevitably combined with elements belonging to the future. Marx combines in his own way – that is, by profoundly modifying them – the dialectics of Hegel, the materialism of Feuerbach, and the social facts established by political economy. This combination is not a coherent one; it does not create a new ‘system’, a new ‘ideology’. It presents us with scattered fragments which contain many contradictions. [84]

In France, then, existentialists treated the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] as a highly stimulating text while Jesuits held them up as the banner of humanism; others scorned them as a youthful philosophical leftover or passed them over as a doubtful part of ‘Marxism’; and others still acclaimed them as the key text containing the philosophical premises of Marx’s later economic works. What is beyond doubt is that they captured huge attention, not only in Marxist circles, and were among the most widely sold philosophical works for more than two decades. In the postwar period, they informed French theoretical debate and helped to ensure that Marx was seen in a new way. To be sure, he thereby became less sharp in his features and more moralistic in tone, but he also appeared as an author more alert to the unease of the solitary individual generated by the social context. All this enabled him to speak to a wider audience.

6. The [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] in the ‘Socialist Bloc’ and the English-Speaking Countries

For many years, the most accredited Marxists in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe or in the orthodox Communist parties either ignored the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] or gave a shallow, restricted interpretation of them. Stalinist ideology, with Stakhanovism as one of its banners, remained deeply hostile to the concept of alienation that figured so prominently in the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], and so Marx’s early writings, which commanded ever greater attention in ‘Western Marxism’ from the 1930s on, took a very long time to gain ground there [85].

The Development of Karl Marx from Revolutionary Democrat to Communist , a book by the GDR author Georg Mende, is a clear case in point. Neither the first edition of 1954 nor the second of 1955 gave any account of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], simply referring to them as ‘preparations for a major work’. [86] Only in 1960, when it was no longer possible to keep silent, did Mende decide to revise some parts of his book for a third edition.

Every other commentator displayed the same mixture of underestimation and aversion in the Forties and Fifties, but things began gradually to change from the late Fifties on. Even in the ‘socialist countries’, study of the manuscripts now got under way and resulted in accounts at a higher level such as D. I. Rosenberg’s Development of the Economic Theory of Marx and Engels in the 1840s, first published in 1958. [87]

In 1961 a special issue of Recherches Internationales à la Lumière du Marxisme entitled ‘The Young Marx’ published for the first time in a European language various essays by Soviet academics on the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844]. Along with articles by Soviet authors O. Bakouradze, Nikolai Lapin, Vladimir Brouchlinski, Leonid Pajitnov and A. Outbo, the volume contained work by the Polish researcher Adam Schaff, the Germans Wolfgang Jahn and Joachim Hoeppner, and the general secretary of the Italian Communist Party, Palmiro Togliatti. [88] Though reflecting the ideological approach of the time, these contributions were a first attempt on the Communist side to grapple with the problem of ‘the young Marx’ and to challenge the interpretive monopoly of ‘Western Marxists’. Some essays also offered food for thought about a possible non-systematic reading of Marx’s text. Pajitnov, for example, argued that in the [ Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844]:

Marx’s fundamental ideas are still taking shape, and, together with noteworthy formulations in which the new worldview is present in nuce, there are very often unripe thoughts that bear the mark of the theoretical sources that served as material for Marx’s reflection, and which he took as his starting point for the elaboration of his doctrine.[89]

However, the stance of many authors in the collection was rather problematic. Unlike the interpretations in vogue at the time in France, which sought to rethink the concepts of Capital through the categories of the early works, the Soviet researchers generally made the opposite mistake: they analysed the early works on the basis of Marx’s later theoretical development. As Althusser saw in his review of this volume, also entitled ‘The Young Marx’ and later republished as a chapter in For Marx, they read the early works through the filter of the texts of his maturity. [90] This kind of anticipation of Marx’s thought prevented them from fully understanding the significance of his theoretical analyses in his earlier period:

Of course, we now know that the Young Marx did become Marx, but we should not want to live faster than he did, we should not want to live in his place, reject for him or discover for him. We shall not be waiting for him at the end of the course to throw round him as round a runner the mantle of repose, for at last it is over, he has arrived.[91]

Quite different in nature was the work of Walter Tuchscheerer. In fact, his book Before Capital, published posthumously in 1968, was the best of the studies of the economic thought of the young Marx to appear in the Eastern bloc countries, critically examining for the first time the Paris notebooks of extracts alongside the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844].[92]

While the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] made slow headway in the canons of dialectical materialism (‘Diamat’ in Soviet parlance), and only after facing a great deal of ideological and political resistance, their reception in the English-speaking countries experienced a similar delay. In fact, the first translation to arouse a discreet interest appeared only in 1961, in the United States. The cultural and political climate of the times, still marked by the oppressive wave of MacCarthyism, probably influenced the publisher’s decision to feature the name of Erich Fromm in the title and to print the text only after his long introductory essay presenting it as ‘Marx’s main philosophical work’[93] and arguing that ‘the concept of alienation was and remained the focal point in the thinking of the young Marx who wrote the Economical and Philosophical Manuscripts, and the “old” Marx who wrote Capital.’[94] Numerous studies repeating this position appeared over a short period in the United States, invariably stressing Marx’s intellectual debt to Hegel. [95] But there were also discordant voices which, sometimes in order to challenge the excessive emphasis on the 1844 sketches, went too far in the opposite direction. Daniel Bell, for example, argued that the insistent twinning of Marx and Hegel was ‘only further myth-making’, since, ‘having found the answer to the “mysteries” of Hegel in political economy, Marx promptly forgot all about philosophy.’ [96]

One of the main books in this connection was Robert Tucker’s Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx (1961), which argued that there was ‘a continuity of [Marx’s] thought from the early writings to Capital’[97] and a ‘centrality of the alienation theme throughout’.[98] So sure was he of this that he could write:

The explicit philosophy of alienation presented in the early writings was Marx’s final contribution to the subject. … the development of Marx’s thought from the early philosophical to the later mythic stage was prefigured in the manuscripts of 1844 themselves. Capital was the logical fruition of all his thought from the beginning.[99]

In the Sixties and Seventies, most of the Anglo-American interpreters of Marx leaned toward this thesis. Thus, although there was no link between the early Paris notes of a young researcher barely twenty-six years old and the magnum opus published a quarter of a century later, David McLellan felt able to state in Marx before Marxism (1970) that ‘during the summer of 1844, Marx began to compose a critique of political economy that was, in effect, the first of several drafts preceding Capital in 1867’.[100] And he concluded that ‘the early writings contain all the subsequent themes of Marx’s thought and show them in the making’.[101]

Bertell Ollman’s Alienation, published in 1971 and destined to be one of the most influential writings in the ‘Young Marx’ debate, also adopted a favourable attitude to the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844]. He wrote: ‘I do not emphasize alterations in Marx’s thinking because I do not see many there, especially when compared to the essential unity in Marxism from 1844 on.[102] […] Even in the published version of Capital, there is much more of Marx’s “earlier” ideas and concepts than is generally recognized.’ [103]

This thesis became very widely accepted everywhere, except among those under the hegemony of the Althusserian school. A version of it may be found in the work of the West German author Iring Fetscher, for example. One of the arguments of his book Marx and Marxism (1967) is:

The critical categories that Marx developed in the Philosophic and Economic Manuscripts and in his notebooks of the mid-forties […] are still the basis of the critique of political economy in the Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie (1857-1858) as well as in Capital (1867) and were never disavowed by the old Marx. In other words [… not only does] an interpretation of the early writings help us to recognize the motives which led Marx to write a critique of political economy (Capital); but […] the critique of political economy implicitly and, in part, even explicitly, still contains that same critique of alienation and reification which was the very topic of his early writings. [104]

In 1968 the Israeli scholar Shlomo Avineri brought out his The Political and Social Thought of Karl Marx, which opposed ‘the totally unacceptable attitude sometimes taken by those who write off – according to preference – either the “young” or the “old” Marx as wholly irrelevant’. [105] And two years later István Mészáros, a pupil of Lukács who had left Hungary to teach in England, also argued for the essential unity of Marx’s thought. One of his merits was to insist that ‘the rejection of the “young Marx versus mature Marx” dichotomy does not mean the denial of Marx’s intellectual development. What is turned down is the dramatized idea of a radical reversal of his position in the aftermath of the Manuscripts of 1844.’[106] However, Mészáros fell into a twofold error. The first was to consider the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] as ‘a coherent system of ideas’, as ‘Marx’s first comprehensive system’. [107] Instead of suggesting to him something preliminary and incomplete, the fragmentary character of Marx’s Paris manuscripts seemed to mark it out as ‘one of the most complex and difficult works of philosophical literature’.[108] Indeed, according to Mészáros, ‘as Marx proceeds with his critical inquiry in theParis Manuscripts, the depth of his insight and the unparalleled coherence of his ideas become more and more evident’. [109] They seem to him to have ‘adequately anticipated the later Marx’, so that the ‘concept of “transcendence (Aufhebung) of labour’s self-alienation” provides the essential link with the totality of Marx’s work, including the last works of the so-called “mature Marx”.’[110] And he concludes:

With the elaboration of [... the] concepts [of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 - MM], Marx’s system in statu nascendi is virtually brought to its accomplishment. His radical ideas concerning the world of alienation and the conditions of its supersession are now coherently synthesized within the general outlines of a monumental, comprehensive vision. [...] All further concretizations and modifications of Marx’s conception – including some major discoveries of the older Marx – are realized on the conceptual basis of the great philosophical achievements so clearly in evidence in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.[111]

Adam Schaff, one of the most influential Marxists in the ‘socialist camp’ to address Marx’s early writings with intense interest and an open mind, committed a similar mistake. In his Alienation as a Social Phenomenon, published in 1977, he correctly opposed ‘the various attempts to construct a theory of “two Marxes”, ’[112] but, while underlining that only the [Grundrisse] finally grasped the ‘distinction between objectification and alienation [...] in their historical conditioning’, he wrongly asserted that ‘an embryo even of the concept of commodity fetishism [...] is to be found in the Manuscripts’.[113]

The dissemination of the [Grundrisse], beginning in Germany in 1953[114] and spreading to the rest of Europe and North America in the late Sixties, shifted the attention of researchers and political militants from Marx’s early writings to this ‘new’ unpublished text. In the Eighties and Nineties, however, when work on Marx’s thought became much rarer, a few studies did appear on the Hegel-Marx relationship that stressed the importance of the Paris manuscripts.[115] And more recently, proving that their fascination is still alive, new studies have appeared that again take up the work of interpreting those theoretically dazzling pages from 1844. [116]

7. Superiority, Break or Continuity?

Whatever their academic discipline or political affiliation, interpreters of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] may be divided into three groups. The first consists of all those who, in counterposing the Paris manuscripts to Capital, stress the theoretical pre-eminence of the former work. A second group attaches little significance in general to the manuscripts, while a third tends toward the thesis that there is a theoretical continuum between them and Capital.[117]

Those who assumed a split between the ‘young’ and the ‘mature’ Marx, argued for the greater theoretical richness of the former, presented the [ Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] as his most valuable text and sharply differentiated it from his later works. In particular, they tended to marginalize Capital often without studying it in any depth - a book altogether more demanding than the twenty odd pages on alienated labour in the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], about which almost all advanced various philosophical cogitations. The originators of this line of interpretation were Landshut and Meyer, shortly followed by Henri de Man. In casting Marx’s thought as an ethical-humanist doctrine, these authors pursued the political objective of opposing the rigid orthodoxy of 1930s Soviet Marxism and contesting its hegemony within the workers’ movement. This theoretical offensive resulted in something very different, tending to enlarge the potential field of Marxist theory. [118] Though the formulations were often hazy and generic, Marxism was no longer considered merely as an economic determinist theory and began to exert a greater attraction for large numbers of intellectuals and young people.

This approach began to make headway soon after the publication in 1932 of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] and continued to win converts until the late 1950s, partly thanks to the explosive effect of a new text so unlike the dominant canon of Marxism. Its main sponsors were a motley group of heterodox Marxists, progressive Christians and existentialist philosophers,[119] who interpreted Marx’s economic writings as a step back from what they saw as the centrality of the human person in his early theories. After the Second World War, the main figures were Thier, Poppitz and Hommes in Germany and - although they did not clearly endorse the claim to superiority of the 1844 manuscripts - Merleau-Ponty, Bigo, Calvez and Axelos in France, and Fromm in the United States. Raymond Aron, who in 1968 took sharp issue with those who saw the manuscripts as the centre of gravity of Marxism, perfectly summed up their most striking paradox: ‘Twenty years ago, Latin Quarter orthodoxy regarded the Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 as the last word in Marxist philosophy, even though, if one sticks to the texts, Marx himself ridiculed the language and types of analysis he had adopted in his early works.’[120]

The second group of interpreters, who regarded the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] as a transitional text of no special significance in the development of Marx’s thought. Since Adoratskii’s preface to the 1932 MEGA edition, this was the most widely read account in the Soviet Union and its later satellite countries. The failure of the manuscripts to mention the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, together with the presence of themes such as human alienation and the exploitation of labour that highlighted some of the most glaring contradictions of ‘actually existing socialism’, led to their ostracization at the top of the ruling Communist parties. Not by chance were they excluded from editions of the works of Marx and Engels in various countries of the ‘socialist bloc’.[121] Moreover, many of the authors in question wholly endorsed Lenin’s definition of the stages in the development of Marx’s thought – an approach later canonized by Marxism-Leninism, which, apart from being in many respects theoretically and politically questionable, made it impossible to account for Marx’s important work newly published for the first time eight years after the death of the Bolshevik leader.

As the influence of the Althusserian school grew in the 1960s, this reading also became popular in France and elsewhere in Western Europe. But, although its basic tenets are generally attributed to Althusser alone, the seeds were already there in Naville: that is, the belief that Marxism was a science and that Marx’s early works, still imbued with the language and preoccupations of Left Hegelianism, marked a stage prior to the birth of a ‘new science’ inCapital.[122] For Althusser, as we have seen, the [ Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] represented the Marx most distant from Marxism.

A philologically unfounded counterposition of Marx’s early writings to the critique of political economy is shared by dissident or ‘revisionist’ Marxists eager to prioritize the former and by orthodox Communists focused on the ‘mature Marx’. Between them, they contributed to one of the principal misunderstandings in the history of Marxism: the myth of the ‘Young Marx’.[123]

The third and last group of interpreters of the [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] consists of those who, from different political and theoretical standpoints, identify a substantive continuity in Marx’s work. Going back to Marcuse or Lukács in German and Hyppolite or Rubel in French, this approach became hegemonic in the English-speaking world through the work of Tucker, McLellan and Ollman, then spread to most other parts of the world more widely from the late Sixties on, as the writings of Fetscher, Avineri, Mészáros and Schaff testify. The idea of an essential Marxian continuum, as opposed to a sharp theoretical break that completely discarded all that came before, was the inspiration for some of the best interpretations of the [ Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844], such as the non-dogmatic works of Lefebvre and Mandel that could appreciate its value with all its contradictions and incompleteness. Even then, however, there were a number of errors of interpretation – most notably, in certain authors, an underestimation of Marx’s huge advances of the 1850s and 1860s in the field of political economy. This went together with a diffuse tendency to reconstruct Marx’s thought through collections of quotations, without taking any account of the different periods in which the source texts had been written. All too often, the result was an author assembled out of pieces corresponding to the interpreter’s particular vision, passing backwards and forwards from [Economic-Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844] to Capital, as if Marx’s work were a single timeless and undifferentiated text. [124]

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