Karl Marx's Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts


I have already given notice in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, the critique of jurisprudence and political science in the form of a critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right. In the course of elaboration for publication, the intermingling of criticism directed only against speculation with criticism of the various subjects themselves proved utterly unsuitable, hampering the development of the argument and rendering comprehension difficult. Moreover the wealth and diversity of the subjects to be treated, could have been compressed into one work only in a purely aphoristic style; while an aphoristic presentation of this kind, for its part, would have given the impression of arbitrary systemizing. I shall therefore issue the critique of law, ethics, politics, etc., in a series of distinct, independent pamphlets, and at the end try in a special work to present them again as a connected whole showing the interrelationship of the separate parts, and finally, shall make a critique of the speculative elaboration of that material. For this reason it will be found that the interconnection between political economy and the state, law, ethics, civil life, etc., is touched on in the present work only to the extent to which political economy itself ex professo touches on these subjects.

It is hardly necessary to assure the reader conversant with political economy that my results have been won by means of a wholly empirical analysis based on a conscientious critical study of political economy.

Whereas the uninformed reviewer who tries to hide his complete ignorance and intellectual poverty by hurling the "utopian phrase" at the positive critic's head, or again such phrases as "pure, resolute, utterly critical criticism," the "not merely legal but social – utterly social – society," the "compact, massy mass," the "oratorical orators of the massy mass," this reviewer has yet to furnish the first proof that besides his theological family-affairs he has anything to contribute to a discussion of worldly matters.

It goes without saying that besides the French and English Socialists I have made use of German Socialist works as well. The only original German works of substance in this science, however – other than Weitling's writings – are the essays by Hess published in Einundzwanzig Bogen, and Engels's Umrisse zu einer Kritik der Nationalökonomie in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, where, likewise, I indicated in a very general way the basic elements of this work.

Besides being indebted to these authors who have given critical attention to political economy, positive criticism as a whole – and therefore also German positive criticism of political economy – owes its true foundation to the discoveries of Feuerbach, against whose Philosophie der Zukunft and Thesen zur Reform der Philosophie in the Anecdotis, despite the tacit use that is made of them, the petty envy of some and the veritable wrath of others seem to have instigated a regular conspiracy of silence.

It is only with Feuerbach that positive, humanistic and naturalistic criticism begins. The less noise they make, the more certain, profound, widespread and enduring is the effect of Feuerbach's writings, the only writings since Hegel's Phänomenologie and Logik to contain a real theoretical revolution.

In contrast to the critical theologians of our day, I have deemed the concluding chapter of the present work – the settling of accounts with Hegelian dialectic and Hegelian philosophy as a whole – to be absolutely necessary, a task not yet performed. This lack of thoroughness is not accidental, since even the critical theologian remains a theologian. Hence, either he had to start from certain presuppositions of philosophy accepted as authoritative; or if in the process of criticism and as a result of other people's discoveries doubts about these philosophical presuppositions have arisen in him, he abandons them without vindication and in a cowardly fashion, abstracts from them showing his servile dependence merely in a negative, unconscious and sophistical manner.

In this connection the critical theologian is either forever repeating assurances about the purity of his own criticism, or tries to make it seem as though all that was left for criticism to deal with now was some other immature form of criticism outside itself – say eighteenth-century criticism – and the backwardness of the masses, in order to divert the observer's attention as well as his own from the necessary task of settling accounts between criticism and its point of origin – Hegelian dialectic and German philosophy as a whole – from this necessary raising of modern criticism above its own limitation and crudity. Eventually, however, whenever discoveries (such as Feuerbach's) are made about the nature of his own philosophic presuppositions, the critical theologian partly makes it appear as if he were the one who had accomplished this, producing that appearance by taking the results of these discoveries and, without being able to develop them, hurling them in the form of catch-phrases at writers still caught in the confines of philosophy; partly he even manages to acquire a sense of his own superiority to such discoveries by covertly asserting in a veiled, malicious and skeptical fashion elements of the Hegelian dialectic which he still finds lacking in the criticism of that dialectic (which have not yet been critically served up to him for his use) against such criticism – not having tried to bring such elements into their proper relation or having been capable of doing so, asserting, say, the category of mediating proof against the category of positive, self-originating truth, etc., in a way peculiar to Hegelian dialectic. For to the theological critic it seems quite natural that everything has to be done by philosophy, so that he can chatter away about purity, resoluteness, and utterly critical criticism; and he fancies himself the true conqueror of philosophy whenever he happens to feel some "moment" in Hegel to be lacking in Feuerbach – for however much he practices the spiritual idolatry of "self-consciousness" and "mind" the theological critic does not get beyond feeling to consciousness.

On close inspection theological criticism – genuinely progressive though is was at the inception of the movement – is seen in the final analysis to be nothing but the culmination and consequence of the old philosophical, and especially the Hegelian, transcendentalism, twisted into a theological caricature. This interesting example of the justice in history, which now assigns to theology, ever philosophy's spot of infection, the further role of portraying in itself the negative dissolution of philosophy – i.e., the process of its decay – this historical nemesis I shall demonstrate on another occasion.

How far, on the other hand, Feuerbach's discoveries about the nature of philosophy required still, for their proof at least, a critical settling of accounts with philosophical dialectic will be seen from my exposition itself.

Transcribed for the Internet by Patrick Beherec


Contents | 1st manuscript | 2nd manuscript | 3rd manuscript