Karl Marx and Frederick Engels
A Critique of the German Ideology

Abstract of Chapter 3

[Idealist mistakes & Materialist corrections]

Idealist misconceptions

On Hierachy
On Religion
Consciousness throughout history
An idealist conception of Humans
On Language & Idealism

Individuality according to Materialism

Individualism created
Individualism in a class perspective
Relation of individual to class interests
The role of will in the desires of an individual
Individuality in thought and desire
Needs being the vocation of all human beings
Role of individual will in foundation of the state
Individuals and their relationships


The Family
Consciousness changing with development of society
Freeing labor
Communists on Selfishness and Selflessnes
Alienation due to private property
Relation of the bourgeois to the capitalist state
On Competition
Personal Competition
The monetary crisis

The German ideology was never published in Marx or Engels lifetime. When the manuscript was discovered, tattered and worn down, the full book was published by the Institute of Marxism in the USSR. Since its publication, the first chapter received enormous popularity as an excellent overview of the materialist conception of history, while at the same time, the second and third chapter received unanimous notoriety for being drastically less helpful to all but the most dedicated scholars of Marxism.

While Chapters 2 & 3 are easy to neglect, there are portions of material where Marx and Engels were explaining their theory instead of critiquing others. The only criteria used for selecting material for this collection was simply that information where Marx and Engels explained their own theories.

If you would like to read their critique of Saint Max and Saint Bruno then read the full book; about a quarter of Chapters 2 & 3 are dedicated solely to a critique. Nearly the entire remainder of the book is a repetition of Saint Max and Saint Bruno's writings, very meticulously and thoroughly reproduced.

Paragraphs have been introduced to the selected passages for easier reading, and section headers have been inserted. Information abstracted by Brian Baggins, 2000.



" Hierarchy is the domination of thought , the domination of the spirit.... Hierarchy is the supreme domination of spirit ."

In the foregoing presentation Jacques le bonhomme conceives history merely as the product of abstract thoughts — or, rather, of his notions of abstract thoughts — as governed by these notions, which, in the final analysis, are all resolved into the "holy". This domination of the "holy", of thought, of the Hegelian absolute idea over the incurable world he further betrays as a historical relation existing at the present time, as the domination of the holy ones, the ideologies, over the vulgar world — as a hierarchy. In this hierarchy, what previously appeared consecutively exists side-by-side, so that one of the two co-existing forms of development rules over the other...

The outcome, of course, is bound to be that the domination which the "world of thoughts" exercises from the outset in history is at the end of the latter also presented as the real, actually existing domination of the thinkers — and, as we shall see, in the final analysis, as the domination of the speculative philosophers — over the world of things, so that Saint Max has only to fight against thoughts and ideas of the ideologies and to overcome them, in order to make himself "possessor of the world of things in the world of thoughts".

p. 186 [MECW p. 172]

As for the actual hierarchy of the Middle Ages, we shall merely note here that it did not exist for the people, for the great mass of human beings. For the great mass only feudalism existed, and hierarchy only existed insofar as it was itself either feudal or anti-feudal (within the framework of feudalism). Feudalism itself had entirely empirical relations as its basis. Hierarchy and struggle against feudalism (the struggle of the ideologies of a class against the class itself) are only the ideological expression of feudalism and of the struggles developing within feudalism itself — which include also the struggles of the feudally organized nations among themselves. Hierarchy is the ideal form of feudalism; feudalism is a political form of the medieval relations of production and intercourse. Consequently, the struggle of feudalism against hierarchy can only be explained by elucidating these practical material relations. This elucidation of itself puts an end to the previous conception of history which took the illusions of the Middle Ages on trust, in particular those illusions which the Emperor and the Pope brought to bear in their struggle against each other.

p. 190 [MECW p. 176]

We now come to present-day hierarchy, to the domination of the idea in ordinary life.... Since the middle class demand love for their kingdom, their regime, they want, according to Jacques le bonhomme, to "establish the kingdom of love on earth". (p. 98) Since they demand respect for their domination and for the conditions in which it is exercised, and therefore want to usurp domination over respect, they demand, according to this worthy man [Jacques le bonhomme], the domination of respect as such, their attitude towards respect is the same as towards the holy spirit dwelling within them. (p. 95) Jacques le bonhomme, with his faith that can move mountains, takes as the actual, earthly basis of the bourgeois world the distorted form in which the sanctimonious and hypocritical ideology of the bourgeoisie voices their particular interests as universal interests. Why this ideological delusion assumes precisely this form for our Saint, we shall see in connection with "political liberalism".

p. 193-4 [MECW p. 176]

On Religion

In religion people make their empirical world into an entity that is only conceived, imagined, that confronts them as something foreign. This again is by no means to be explained from other concepts, from "self-consciousness" and similar nonsense, but from the entire hitherto existing mode of production and intercourse, which is just as independent of the pure concept as the invention of the self-acting mule and the use of railways are independent of Hegelian philosophy. If he wants to speak of an "essence" of religion, i.e., of a material basis of this inessentiality, then he should look for it neither in the "essence of man", nor in the predicate of God, but in the material world which each stage of religious development finds in existence.

p. 172 [MECW p. 160]

The only reason why Christianity wanted to free us from the domination of the flesh and "desires as a driving force" was because it regarded our flesh, our desires as something foreign to us; it wanted to free us from determination by nature only because it regarded our own nature as not belonging to us.

For if I myself am not nature, if my natural desires, my whole natural character, do not belong to myself — and this is the doctrine of Christianity — then all determination by nature — whether due to my own natural character or to what is known as external nature — seems to me a determination by something foreign, a fetter, compulsion used against me, heteronomy as opposed to autonomy of the spirit .

Incidentally, Christianity has indeed never succeeded in freeing us from the domination of desires.

p. 272 [MECW p. 254]

Consciousness throughout history

[In ancient times] the ideas and thoughts of people were, of course, ideas and thoughts about themselves and their relationships, their consciousness of themselves and of people in general — for it was the consciousness not merely of a single individual but of the individual in his interconnection with the whole of society and about the whole of the society in which they live.

The conditions, independent of them, in which they produce their life, the necessary forms of intercourse connected herewith, and the personal and social relations thereby given, had to take the form — insofar as they were expressed in thoughts — of ideal conditions and necessary relations, i.e., they had to be expressed in consciousness as determinations arising from the concept of man as such , from human essence, from the nature of man, from man as such . What people were, what their relations were, appeared in consciousness as ideas of man as such , of his modes of existence or of his immediate conceptual determinations.

So, after the ideologists had assumed that ideas and thoughts had dominated history up to now, that the history of these ideas and thoughts constitutes all history up to now, after they had imagined that real conditions had conformed to man as such and his ideal conditions, i.e., to conceptual determinations, after they had made the history of people's consciousness of themselves the basis of their actual history, after all this, nothing was easier than to call the history of consciousness, of ideas, of the holy, of established concepts — the history of "man" and to put it in the place of real history.

p. 198 [MECW p. 183]

An idealist conception of Humans

Sancho raises the important question:

"But how to curb the inhuman being who dwells in each individual? How can one manage not to set free the inhuman being along with the human being?.... At the side of the human being there's always the inhuman being, that egoist, the individual. State, society, mankind cannot master this devil."

In the form in which Sancho understands it, the question again becomes sheer nonsense. He imagines that people up to now have always formed a concept of man, and then won freedom for themselves to the extent that was necessary to realize this concept; that the measure of freedom that they achieved was determined each time by their idea of the ideal of man at the time; it was thus unavoidable that in each individual there remained a residue which did not correspond to this ideal and, hence, since it was "inhuman", was either not set free or only freed malgre eux .

In reality, of course, what happened was that people won freedom for themselves each time to the extent that was dictated and permitted not by their ideal of man, but by the existing productive forces. All emancipation carried through hitherto has been based, however, on unrestricted productive forces. The production which these productive forces could provide was insufficient for the whole of society and made development possible only if some persons satisfied their needs at the expense of others, and therefore some — the minority — obtained the monopoly of development, while others — the majority — owing to the constant struggle to satisfy their most essential needs, were for the time being (i.e., until the creation of new revolutionary productive forces) excluded from any development.

Thus, society has hitherto always developed within the framework of a contradiction — in antiquity the contradiction between freemen and slaves, in the Middle Ages that between nobility and serfs, in modern times that between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This explains, on the one hand, the abnormal, "inhuman" way in which the oppressed class satisfies its needs, and, on the other hand, the narrow limits within which intercourse, and with it the whole ruling class, develops. And this restricted character of development consists not only in the exclusion of one class from development, but also in the narrowmindedness of the excluding class, and the "inhuman" is to be found also within the ruling class.

This so-called "inhuman" is just as much a product of present-day relations as the "human" is; it is their native aspect, the rebellion — which is not based on any new revolutionary productive force — against the prevailing relations brought about by the existing productive forces, and against the way of satisfying needs that correspond to these relations. The positive expression "human" corresponds to the definite relations predominate at a certain stage of production in the way of satisfying needs determined by them, just as the negative expression "inhuman" corresponds to the attempt to negate these predominate relations in the way of satisfying needs prevailing under them without changing the existing mode of production, an attempt that this stage of production daily engenders afresh.

p. 457 [MECW p. 431]

On Language & Idealism

One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. This is a secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content. The problem of descending from the world of thoughts to the actual world is turned into the problem of descending from language to life.

We have shown [in Chapter 1] that thoughts and ideas acquire an independent existence in consequence of the personal circumstances and relations of individuals acquiring independent existence. We have shown that exclusive, systematic occupation with these thoughts on the part of ideologists and philosophers, and hence the systemization of these thoughts, is a consequence of division of labour, and that, in particular, German philosophy is a consequence of German petty-bourgeois conditions. The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognize it as the distorted language of the actual world and to realize that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life.

p. 472-3 MECW p. 446

We have seen that the whole problem of the transition from thought to reality, hence from language to life, exists only in philosophical illusion, i.e., it is justified only for philosophical consciousness, which cannot possibly be clear about the nature and origin of its apparent separation from life. This great problem, insofar as it at all entered the minds of our ideologists, was bound, of course, to result of finely in one of these knights-errant setting out in search of a word which, as a word , formed the transition in question, which, as a word, ceases to be simply a word, and which, as a word, in a mysterious super linguistic manner, points from within the language to the actual object it denotes; which, in short, plays among words the same role as the Redeeming God-Man plays among people in Christian fantasy. The emptiest, shallowest brain among the philosophers had to "end" philosophy by proclaiming his lack of thought to be the end of philosophy and thus the triumphant entry into "corporal" life. His philosophizing mental vacuity was already in itself the end of philosophy just as his unspeakable language was the end of all language.

p. 475 [MECW p. 449]





Critique: "humans create themselves out of nothing"

Far from it being true that "out of nothing" I make myself, for example, a "[public] speaker", the nothing which forms the basis here is a very manifold something, the real individual, his speech organs, a definite stage of physical development, an existing language and dialects, ears capable of hearing and a human environment from which it is possible to hear something, etc., etc. therefore, in the development of a property something is created by something out of something, and by no means comes, as in Hegel's Logic, from nothing, through nothing to nothing. [Th. I. Abt. 2 of Hegel]

p. 162 [MECW p. 150]

Individualism in a class perspective

When the narrow-minded bourgeois says to the Communists: by abolishing property, i.e., my existence as a capitalist, as a landed proprietor, as a factory owner, and your existence as workers, you abolished my individuality and your own; by making it impossible for me to exploit you, the workers, to rake in my profit, interest or rent, you make it impossible for me to exist as an individual.

When, therefore, the bourgeois tells the Communists: by abolishing my existence as the bourgeois , you abolish my existence as an individual ; when thus he identifies himself as a bourgeois with himself as an individual, one must, at least, recognize his frankness and shamelessness. For the bourgeois it is actually the case, he believes himself to be an individual only in so far as he is a bourgeois.

But when the theoreticians of the bourgeoisie come forward and give a general expression to this assertion, when they equate the bourgeois's property with individuality in theory as well and want to give a logical justification for this equation, then this nonsense begins to become solemn and holy.

p. 246 [MECW p. 229]

The relation of individual interests to class interests

[Sancho asks:] How is it that personal interests always develop, against the will of individuals, into class interests, into common interests which acquire independent existence in relation to the individual persons, and in their independence assume the form of general interests? How is it that as such they come into contradiction with the actual individuals and in this contradiction, by which they are defined as general interests, they can be conceived by consciousness as ideal and even as religious, holy interests? How is it that in this process of private interests acquiring independent existence as class interests the personal behavior of the individual is bound to be objectified [sich versachlichen], estranged [sich entfremden], and at the same time exists as a power independent of him and without him, created by intercourse, and is transformed into social relations, into a series of powers which determined and subordinate the individual, in which, therefore, appear in the imagination as "holy" powers?

Had Sancho understood the fact that within the framework of definite modes of production , which, of course, are not dependent on the will, alien practical forces, which are independent not only of isolated individuals but even of all of them together, always come to stand above people — then he could be fairly indifferent as to whether this fact is preserved in the religious form or distorted in the fancy of the egoist, above whom everything is placed in imagination, in such a way that he places nothing above himself. Sancho would then have descended from the realm of speculation into the realm of reality, from what people fancy to what they actually are, from what they imagine to how they act and are bound to act in definite circumstances. What seems to him a product of thought , he would have understood to be a product of life . He would not then have arrived at the absurdity worthy of him — of explaining the division between personal and general interests by saying that people imagine this division also in a religious way and seem to themselves to be such and such, which is, however, only another word for "imagining".

Incidentally, even in the banal, petty-bourgeois German form in which Sancho perceives contradiction of personal and general interests, he should realize that individuals have always started out from themselves, and could not do otherwise, and that therefore the two aspects he noted are aspects of the personal development of individuals; both are equally engendered by the empirical conditions under which the individuals live, both are only expressions of one and the same personal development of people and are therefore only in seeming contradiction to each other.

p. 262-3 [MECW p. 245]

The role of will in the desires of an individual

Whether a desire becomes fixed or not, i.e., whether it obtains exclusive [power over us] — which, however, does [not] exclude [further progress] — depends on whether material circumstances, "bad" mundane conditions permit the normal satisfaction of this desire and, on the other hand, the development of a totality of desires. This latter depends, in turn, on whether we live in circumstances that allow all-round activity and thereby the full development of all our potentialities. On the actual conditions, and the possibility of development they give each individual, depends also whether thoughts become fixed or not — just as, for example, the fixed ideas of the German philosophers, these "victims of society", qui nous font pitie [for whom we feel pity], are inseparable from the German conditions.

An avaricious person is not an owner, but a servant, and he can do nothing for his own sake without at the same time doing it for the sake of his master."

No one can do anything without at the same time doing it for the sake of one or other of his needs and for the sake of the organ of this need — for Stirner this means that this need and its organ are made into a master over him, just as earlier he made the means for satisfying a need into a master over him. Stirner cannot eat without at the same time eating for the sake of his stomach. If the worldly conditions prevent him from satisfying his stomach, then his stomach becomes a master over him, the desire to eat becomes a fixed desire, and the thought of eating becomes a fixed idea — which at the same time gives him an example of the influence of world conditions and fixing his desires and ideas. Sancho's "revolt" against the fixation of desires and thoughts is thus reduced to an impotent moral injunction about self-control and provides new evidence that he merely gives an ideologically high sounding expression to the most trivial sentiments of the petty-bourgeois.

[The following two paragraphs are crossed out in the manuscript (brackets are used for words that were illegible)]:

Since they attack the material basis on which the hitherto inevitable fixedness of desires and ideas depended, the Communists are the only people through whose historical activity the liquefaction of the fixed desires and ideas is in fact brought about and ceases to be an impotent moral injunction, as it was up to now with all moralists "down to" Stirner. Communist organization has a twofold effect on the desires produced in the individual by present-day relations; some of these desires — namely desires which exist under all relations, and only change their form and direction under different social relations — are merely altered by the Communist social system, for they are given the opportunity to develop normally; but others — namely those originating solely in a particular society, under particular conditions of [production] and intercourse — are totally deprived of their conditions of existence. Which [of the desires] will be merely changed and [which eliminated] in a Communist [society] can [only occur in a practical] way, by [changing the real], actual [conditions of production and intercourse.]

A desire is already by its mere existence something "fixed", and it can occur only to St. Max and his like not to allow his sex instinct, for instance, to become "fixed"; it is that already and will cease to be fixed only as a result of castration or impotence. Each need, which forms the basis of a "desire", is likewise something "fixed", and try as he may St. Max cannot abolish this "fixedness" and for example contrive to free himself from the necessity of eating within "fixed" periods of time. The Communists have no intention of abolishing the fixedness of their desires and needs, an intention which Stirner, immersed in his world of fancy, ascribes to them and all other men; they only strive to achieve an organization of production and intercourse which will make possible the normal satisfaction of all needs, i.e., a satisfaction which is limited only by the needs themselves.

p. 272-3 [MECW p 255]

Individuality in thought and desire

It depends not on consciousness , but on being ; not on thought, but on life; it depends on the individual's empirical development and manifestation of life, which in turn depends on the conditions existing in the world.

If the circumstances in which the individual lives allow him only the [one]-sided development of one quality at the expense of all the rest, [if] they give him the material and time to develop only that one quality, then this individual achieves only a one-sided, crippled development. No moral preaching avails here. And the manner in which this one, preeminently favored quality develops depends again, on the one hand, on the material available for its development and, on the other hand, on the degree and manner in which the other qualities are suppressed.

Precisely because thought, for example, is the thought of a particular, definite individual, it remains his definite thought, determined by his individuality in the conditions in which he lives. The thinking individual therefore has no need to resort to prolonged reflection about thought as such in order to declare that his thought is his own thought, his property; from the outset it is his own, peculiarly determined thought and it was precisely his peculiarity which [in the case of St.] Sancho [was found to be] the "opposite" of this, the peculiarity which is peculiar " as such ".

In the case of an individual, for example, whose life embraces a wide circle of varied activities and practical relations to the world, and who, therefore, lives a many-sided life, thought has the same character of universality as every other manifestation of his life. Consequently, it neither becomes fixed in the form of abstract thought nor does it need complicated tricks of reflection when the individual passes from thought to some other manifestation of life. From the outset it is always a factor in the total life of the individual, one which disappears and is reproduced as required .

In the case of a parochial Berlin schoolmaster or author, however, whose activity is restricted to arduous work on the one hand and the pleasure of thought on the other, whose world extends from [the small confines of their city], whose relations to this world are reduced to a minimum by his pitiful position in life, when such an individual experiences the need to think, it is indeed inevitable that his thought becomes just as abstract as he himself and his life, and that thought confronts him, who is quite incapable of resistance, in the form of a fixed power, whose activity offers the individual the possibility of a momentary escape from his "bad world", of a momentary pleasure.

In the case of such an individual the few remaining desires, which arise not so much from intercourse with a world as from the constitution of the human body, expressed themselves only through repercussion , i.e., they assume their narrow development the same one-sided and crude character as does his thought, they appear only along intervals, stimulated by the excessive development of the predominant desire (fortified by immediate physical causes, e.g., [stomach] spasm) and are manifested turbulently and forcibly, with the most brutal suppression of the ordinary, [natural] desire [— this leads to further] domination over [thought.] As a matter of course, the schoolmaster's [thinking reflects on and speculates about] is empirical [fact in a school] masterly fashion.

p. 280-1 [MECW p. 262]

Needs being the vocation of all human beings

For St. Sancho vocation has a double form; firstly as a vocation which others choose for me — examples of which we have already had above in the case of newspapers that are full of politics and the prisons that our Saint mistook for houses of moral correction. Afterward vocation appears also as a vocation in which the individual himself believes.

If the ego is divorced from all its empirical conditions of life, it's activity, the conditions of its existence, if it is separated from the world that forms its basis and from its own body, then, of course, it has no other vocation and no other designation than that of representing the human being of the logical proposition and to assist St. Sancho in arriving at the equations given above.

In the real world, on the other hand, where individuals have needs, they thereby already have a vocation and task ; and at the outset it is still immaterial whether they make this their vocation in their imagination as well. It is clear, however, that because the individuals possess consciousness they form an idea of this vocation which their empirical existence has given them and, thus, furnish St. Sancho with the opportunity of seizing on the word vocation, that is, on the mental expression of their actual conditions of life, and of leading out of account these conditions of life themselves.

The proletarian, for example, who like every human being has the vocation of satisfying his needs and who is not in a position to satisfy even the needs that he has in common with all human beings, the proletarian whom the necessity to work a 14 hour day debases to the level of the beast of burden, whom competition degrades to a mere thing, an article of trade, who from his position as a mere productive force, the sole position left to him, is squeezed out by other, more powerful productive forces — this proletarian is, if only for these reasons, confronted with the real task of revolutionizing his conditions. He can, of course, imagine this to be his "vocation", he can also, if he likes to engage in propaganda, express his "vocation" by saying that to do this or that is the human vocation of the proletarian, the more so since his position does not even allow him to satisfy the needs arising directly from his human nature. St. Sancho does not concern himself with the reality underlining this idea, with the practical name of this proletarian — he clings to the word "vocation" and declares it to be the holy, and the proletarian to be a servant of the holy — the easiest way of considering himself superior and "proceeding further".

Particularly in the relations that have existed hitherto, when one class always ruled, when the conditions of life of an individual always coincided with the conditions of life of a class, when, therefore, the practical task of each newly emerging class was bound to appear to each of its members as a universal task, and when each class could actually overthrow its predecessor only by liberating the individuals of all classes from certain chains which had hitherto fettered them — under these circumstances it was essential that the task of the individual members of a class striving for domination should be described as a universal human task.

Incidentally, when for example the bourgeois tells the proletarian that his, the proletarian's, human task is to work 14 hours a day, the proletarian is quite justified in replying in the same language that, on the contrary, his task is to overthrow the entire bourgeois system.

p. 305-7 [MECW p. 288]

"Vocation, designation, task, ideal" are either:

1. The idea of the revolutionary tasks laid down for an oppressed class by the material conditions; or

2. Mere idealistic paraphrases, or also the conscious expression of the individuals' modes of activity which owing to the division of labour have assumed independent existence as various professions; or

3. The conscious expression of the necessity which at every moment confronts individuals, classes and nations to assert their position through some quite definite activity; or

4. The conditions of existence of the ruling class (as determined by the preceding development of production), ideally expressed in law, morality, etc., to which [conditions] the ideologists of that class more or less consciously gave a sort of theoretical independence; they can be conceived by separate individuals of that class as vocation, etc., and are held up as a standard of life to the individuals of the oppressed class, partly as an intelligent or recognition of domination, partly as the moral means for this domination. It is to be noted here, as in general with ideologists, that they inevitably put a thing upside-down and regard their ideology both as the creative force and as the aim of all social relations, whereas it is only an expression and symptom of these relations.

p. 444 [MECW p. 419]

The role of individual will in the foundation of the state

In actual history, those theoreticians who regarded might as the basis of right were in direct contradiction to those who looked on will as the basis of right... If power is taken as the basis of right, as Hobbes, etc., do, then right, law, etc., are merely the symptom, the expression of other relations upon which state power rests.

The material life of individuals, which by no means depends merely on their "will", their mode of production and form of intercourse, which mutually determined each other — this is the real basis of the state and remained so at all the stages at which division of labor and private property are still necessary, quite independently of the will of individuals. These actual relations are in no way created by the state power; on the contrary they are the power creating it.

The individuals who rule in these conditions — leaving aside the fact that their power must assume the form of the state — have to give their will, which is determined by these definite conditions, a universal expression as the will of the state, as law, an expression whose content is always determined by the relations of this class, as the civil and criminal law demonstrates in the clearest possible way. Just as the weight of their bodies does not depend on there idealistic will or on their arbitrary decision, so also the fact that they enforce their own will in the form of law, and at the same time to make it independent of the personal arbitrariness of each individual among them, does not depend on there idealistic will.

Their personal rule must at the same time assume the form of average rule. Their personal power is based on conditions of life which as they develop are common to many individuals, and the continuance of which they, as ruling individuals, have to maintain against others and, at the same time, to maintain that they are holding good for everybody. The expression of this will, which is determined by their common interests, is the law.

It is precisely because individuals who are independent of one another assert themselves and their own will, and because on this basis their attitude to one another is bound to be egoistical, that self-denial is made necessary in law and right, self-denial in the exceptional case, in self-assertion of their interests in the average case (which, therefore, not they , but only the "egoist in agreement with himself" regards as self-denial). The same applies to the classes which are ruled, whose will plays just as small a part in determining the existence of law and the state.

For example, so long as the productive forces are still insufficiently developed to make competition superfluous, and therefore would give rise to competition over and over again, for so long the classes which are ruled would be wanting to be impossible if they had the "will" to abolish competition and with it the state and the law. Incidentally, too, it is only in the imagination of the ideologists that this "will" arises before relations have developed far enough to make the emergence of such a will possible. After relations have developed sufficiently to produce it, the ideologist is able to imagine this will as being purely arbitrary and therefore as conceivable at all times and under all circumstances.

Like right, so crime, i.e., the struggle of the isolated individual against the predominant relations, is not the result of pure arbitrariness. On the contrary, it depends on the same conditions as that domination. The same visionaries who see in right and law the domination of some independently existing general will see in crime the mere violation of right and along. Hence the state does not exist owing to the dominant will, but the state, which arises from the material mode of life of individuals, has also the form of a dominant will. If the latter loses its domination, it means that not only the will has changed but also the material existence and life of individuals, and only for that reason has their will changed. It is possible for rights and laws to be "inherited", but in that case they are no longer dominant, but nominal, of which striking examples are furnished by the history of ancient Roman law and English law.

We saw earlier how a theory and history of pure thought could arise among philosophers owning to the separation of ideas from the individuals and empirical relations which serve as the basis of these ideas. In the same way, here too one can separate right from its real basis, whereby one obtains a "dominant will" which in different eras undergoes various modifications and has its own, independent history in its creations, the laws. On this account, political and civil history becomes ideologically merged in a history of the domination of successive laws.... The most superficial examination of legislation, e.g., for laws and all countries, shows how far the rulers got when they imagined that they could achieve something by means of their "dominant will" alone, i.e., simply by exercising their will.

p. 348-50 [MECW p. 329]

Individuals and their relationships

Even that which constitutes the advantage of an individual as such over other individuals, is in our day at the same time a product of society and in its realization is bound to assert itself as privilege, as we have already shown Sancho in connection with competition. Further, the individual as such, regarded by himself, is subordinated to division of labour, which makes him one-sided, cripples and determines him.

Individuals have always and in all circumstances "proceeded from themselves ", but since they were not unique in the sense of not needing any connections with one another, and since their needs , consequently their nature, and the method of satisfying their needs, connected them with one another (relations between the sexes, exchange, division of labour), they had to enter into relations with one another. Moreover, since they entered into intercourse with one another not as pure egos, but as individuals at a definite stage of development of their productive forces and requirements, and since this intercourse, in its turn, determined production and needs, it was, therefore, precisely the personal, individual behavior of individuals, their behavior to one another as individuals, that created the existing relations and daily reproduces them anew. They entered into intercourse with one another as what they were, they proceeded "from themselves", as they were, irrespective of their "outlook onlife".

This "outlook on life" — even the warped one of the [idealist] philosophers — could, of course, only be determined by their actual life. Hence it certainly follows that the development of an individual is determined by the development of all the others with whom he is directly or indirectly associative, and that the different generations of individuals entering into relations with one another are connected with one another, that the physical existence of the latter generations is determined by that of their predecessors, and that these later generations inherit the productive forces and forms of intercourse accumulated by their predecessors, their own mutual relations being determined thereby. In short, it is clear that development takes place and that the history of the single individual cannot possibly be separated from the history of preceding or contemporary individuals, but is determined by this history.

The transformation of the individual relationship into its opposite, a purely material relationship, the distinction of individuality and fortuity by the individuals themselves is a historical process, as we have already shown ( Chapter 1, Part IV, § 6 ), and at different stages of development it assumes different, ever sharper and more universal forms.

In the present epoch, the domination of material relations over individuals, and the suppression of individuality by fortuitous circumstances, has assumed its sharpest and most universal form, thereby setting existing individuals a very definite task. It has set them the task of replacing the domination of circumstances and a chance over individuals by the domination of individuals over chance and circumstances. It has not, as Sancho imagines, put forward the demand that "I should develop myself", which up to now every individual has done without Sancho's good advice; it has on the contrary called for liberation from a quite definite mode of development. This task, dictated by present-day relations, coincides with the task of organizing society in the Communist way.

We have already shown above that the abolition of a state of affairs in which relations become independent of individuals, in which individuality is subservient to chance and the personal relations of individuals are subordinated to general class relations, etc. — that the abolition of this state of affairs is determined in the final analysis by the abolition of division of labour. We also shown that the abolition of division of labour is determined by the development of intercourse and productive forces to such a degree of universality that private property and division of labour becomes fetters on them. We have further shown that private property can be abolished only on condition of an all-around development of individuals, precisely because the existing form of intercourse and the existing productive forces are all embracing and only individuals that are developing in an all-around fashion can appropriate them, i.e., can turn them into free manifestations of their lives. We have shown that at the present time individuals must abolish private property, because the productive forces and forms of intercourse have developed so far that, under the domination of private property, they have become destructive forces, and because the contradiction between the classes has reached its extreme limit. Finally, we have shown that the abolition of private property in the division of labour is itself the association of individuals on the basis created by modern productive forces and world's intercourse. [See Chapter One]

Within Communist society, the only society in which the genuine and free development of individuals ceases to be a mere phrase, this development is determined precisely by the connection of individuals, a connection which consists partly in the economic prerequisites and partly in the necessary solidarity of the free development of all, and finally, in the universal character of the activity of individuals on the basis of the existing productive forces. We are, therefore, here concerned with individuals at a definite historical stage of development and by no means merely with individuals chosen at random, even disregarding the indispensable Communist revolution, which itself is a general condition for their free development. The individuals' consciousness of their mutual relations will, of course, likewise be completely changed, and, therefore, will no more be the "principal of love" or devoument than it will be egoism.

p. 463-5 [MECW p. 437]





The Family

[In the family] entirely empirical relations dominate. The attitude of the bourgeois to the institutions of his regime is like that of the Jew to the law; he evades them whenever it is possible to do so in each individual case, but he wants everyone else to observe them. If the entire bourgeoisie, in a mass and at one time, were to evade bourgeois institutions, it would cease to be bourgeois — a conduct which, of course, never occurs to the bourgeois and by no means depends on their willing or running [i.e., it is dictated by historical conditions]. The dissolute bourgeois evades marriage and secretly commits adultery; the merchant evades the institution of property by depriving others of property by speculation, bankruptcy, etc.; the young bourgeois makes himself independent of his family, if he can by in fact abolishing the family as far as he is concerned.

But marriage, property, the family remain untouched in theory, because they are the practical basis on which the bourgeoisie has directed its domination, and because in their bourgeois form they are the conditions which make the bourgeois a bourgeois, just as the constantly evaded law makes the religious Jew a religious Jew. This attitude of the bourgeois to the conditions of his existence acquires one of its universal forms in bourgeois mentality. One cannot speak at all of the family " as such ". Historically the bourgeois gives the family the character of the bourgeois family, in which boredom and money are the binding link, in which also includes the bourgeois dissolution of the family, which does not prevent the family itself from always continuing to exist. It's dirty existence as its counterpart in the holy concept of it in official phraseology and universal hypocrisy.

Where the family is actually abolished, as with the proletariat, just the opposite of what "Stirner" thinks takes place. Then the concept of the family does not exist at all, but here and there family affection based on extremely real relations is certainly to be found.

In the 18th-century the concept of the [feudal] family was abolished by the philosophers, because the actual family was already in the process of dissolution at the highest pinnacles of civilization. The internal family bond, the separate components constituting the concept of the family were dissolved, for example, obedience, piety, fidelity in marriage, etc.; but the real body the family, the property relation, the exclusive attitude in relation to their families, forced cohabitation — relations determined by the existence of children, the structure of modern towns, the formation of capital, etc. — all these were preserved, along with numerous violations, because the existence of the family is made necessary by its connection with the mode of production, which exists independently of the will of bourgeois society.

That it was impossible to do without it was demonstrated in the most striking way during the French Revolution, when for a moment the family was as good as legally abolished. The family continues to exist even in the 19th-century, only the process of its dissolution has become more general, not on account of the concept, but because of the higher development of industry and competition; the family still exists although its dissolution was long ago proclaimed by French and English Socialists and this has at last penetrated also to the German church fathers, by way of French novels.[A]

p. 194-5 [MECW p. 180]

[A] The sarcasm of Marx and Engels may not be retained in this shortened form; this statement is saracastic. Marx and Engels are explaining that ideas and novels alone cannot change the fact; only real changes in the relations of production, i.e. only through the establishment of communism, will the family actually be abolished.

Consciousness changing with the development of society

The more the normal form of intercourse of society, and with it the conditions of the ruling class, develop their contradiction to the advanced productive forces, and the greater the consequent discord within the ruling class itself as well as between it and the class ruled by it, the more fictitious, of course, becomes the consciousness which originally corresponded to this form of intercourse (i.e., it ceases to be the consciousness corresponding to this form of intercourse), and the more do the old traditional ideas of these relations of intercourse, in which actual private interests, etc., etc., are expressed as universal interests, descend to the level of mere idealizing phrases, conscious illusion, deliberate hypocrisy. But the more their falsity is exposed by life, and the less meaning they have to consciousness itself, the more resolutely are they asserted, the more hypocritical, moral and holy becomes the language of this normal society.

p. 310 [MECW p. 293]

Freeing labor

The modern state, the rule of the bourgeoisie, is based on freedom of labour .... Freedom of Labour is free competition of the workers among themselves.... Labor is free in all civilized countries; it is not a matter of freeing labor but of abolishing it.

p. 220-221 [MECW p. 205]

Free activity for the Communists is the creative manifestation of life arising from the free development of all abilities of the whole person.

p. 242 [MECW p. 225]

Communists on selfishness and selflessness

Communists do not oppose egoism to selflessness or selflessness to egoism, nor do they express this contradiction theoretically either in its sentimental or in its highflown ideological form; they rather demonstrate its material source, with which it disappears of itself. The Communists do not preach morality at all.

They do not put to people the moral demand: love one another, do not be egoists, etc.; on the contrary, they are very well aware that egoism, just as much selflessness, is in definite circumstances a necessary form of the self-assertion of individuals. Hence, the Communists by no means want to do away with the "private individual" for the sake of the "general", selfless man. That is a statement of the imagination.

Communist theoreticians, the only Communists who have time to devote to the study of history, are distinguished precisely by the fact that they alone have discovered that throughout history the "general interest" is created by individuals who are defined as "private persons". They know that this contradiction is only a seeming one because one side of it, what is called the "general interest", is constantly being produced by the other side, private interest, and in relation to the latter is by no means an independent force with an independent history — so that this contradiction is in practice constantly destroyed and reproduced. Hence it is not a question of the Hegelian "negative unity" of two sides of the contradiction, but of the materially determined destruction of the preceding materially determined mode of life of individuals, with the disappearance of which this contradiction together with its unity also disappears.

p. 264-5 [MECW p. 247]

Alienation due to private property

Private property alienates the individuality not only of people but also of things. Land has nothing to do with rent of land, the machine has nothing to do with profit. For the landed proprietor, land has the significance only of rent of land; he leases his plots of land and receives rent; this is a feature which land can lose without losing a single one of its inherent features, without, for example, losing any part of its fertility; it is a feature the extent and even the existence of which depends on social relations which are created and destroyed without the assistance of individual landed proprietors. It is the same with machines. How little connection there is between money, the most general form of property, and personal peculiarity, how much they are directly opposed to each other was already known to Shakespeare better than to our theorizing petty-bourgeois:

Thus much of this will make black, white; foul, fair;
Wrong, right; base, noble; old, young; coward, valiant.
This yellow slave...
Will make the hoar leprosy adored...

This it is
That makes the wappened widow wed again;
She, whom the spittle-house and ulcerous sores
Would cast the gorge at, this embalms and spices
To th' April day again...

Thou visible god,
That solder'st close impossibilities,
And makest them kiss!

[William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens , Act IV, Scene III.]

In a word, rent of land, profit, etc., these forms of existence of private property, are social relations corresponding to a definite stage of production, and they are "individual" only so long as they have not become fetters on the existing productive forces.

p. 247-8 [MECW p. 231]

The relation of the bourgeois to the capitalist state

With the development and accumulation of bourgeois property, i.e., with the development of commerce and industry, individuals grew richer and richer while the state fell ever more deeply into debt.

It is therefore obvious that as soon as the bourgeoisie has accumulated money, the state has to beg from the bourgeoisie and in the end it is actually bought up by the latter. This takes place in the period in which the bourgeoisie is still confronted by another class, and consequently the state can retain some appearance of independence in relation to both of them. Even after the state has been bought up [by special trusts, interest groups, lobbying, bribes, etc.], it still needs money and, therefore, continues to be dependent on the bourgeoisie; nevertheless, when the interests of the bourgeoisie demanded, the state can have had its disposal more funds then states which are less developed and, therefore, less burdened with debts.

p. 382 [MECW p. 361]

On Competition

Those relations brought about by competition: the abolition of local narrowness, the establishment of means of communication, highly developed division of Labour, world intercourse, the proletariat, machinery, the relation between supply and demand, etc. *

As for the proletarians, they — at any rate in the modern form — first arose out of competition; they have already repeatedly set up collected enterprises which, however, always perish because they were unable to compete with the "contending" private bankers, butchers, etc., and because for proletarians — owing to the frequent opposition of interests among them arising out of the division of labour — no other "agreement" is possible than a political one directed against the whole present system. Where the development of competition enables the proletarians to "come to an understanding", they reach an understanding not about public bakeries but about quite different matters [,i.e. the overthrow of the bourgeois system for a proletarian one.].

p. 392-3 [MECW p. 371]
* A minor grammatical alteration of the text

Personal Competition

Incidentally, competition certainly began as a "competition of persons" possessing "personal means". The liberation of the feudal serfs, the first condition of competition, and the first accumulation of "things" were purely "personal" acts.

If one person, thanks to good food, careful education and physical exercise, has acquired well-developed bodily powers and skill, while another, owing to inadequate and unhealthy food and consequent poor digestion, and as the result of neglect in childhood and overexertion, has never been able to acquire the "things" necessary for developing his muscles — not to mention acquiring mastery over them — within the "personal power" of the first in relation to the second is a purely material one. It was not "through personal power" that he gained the "means that were lacking"; on the contrary, he owes his "personal power" to the material means already existing.

Incidentally, the transformation of personal means into material means and of material means into personal means is only an aspect of competition and quite inseparable from it. The demand that competition should be conducted not with material means but with personal means amounts to the moral postulate that competition and the relations on which it depends should have consequences other than those inevitably arising from them.

p. 397-8 [MECW p. 374]

The monetary crisis

The power of money, the fact that the universal means of exchange becomes independent in relation both to society and to individuals, reveals most clearly that the relations of production and intercourse as a whole assume an independent existence....

The material power of money, which is strikingly revealed in monetary crisis and which, in the form of a prominent scarcity of money, oppresses the petty-bourgeois who is "inclined to make purchases", is likewise a highly unpleasant fact for that egoist [a reference to Sancho] in agreement with himself. He gets rid of the difficulty by reversing the ordinary idea of the petty-bourgeois, thus making it appear that the attitude of individuals to the power of money is something that depends solely on their personal willing or running. This fortunate turn of thought then gives him the chance of reading a moral lecture, buttressed by synonymy, etymology and vowel mutation, to the astounded petty-bourgeois already disheartening by lack of money, and thus debarring in advance all inconvenient questions about the causes of the pecuniary embarrassment.

The monetary crisis consist primarily in the fact that all "wealth" [vermogen] suddenly becomes depreciated in relation to the means of exchange and loses its "power" [vermogen] over money. A crisis is in existence precisely when one can no longer pay with one's "wealth"[vermogen], but must pay with money. And this again does not happen because of a shortage of money, as is imagined by the petty-bourgeois who judges the crisis by his personal difficulties, but because the specific difference becomes fixed between money and as the universal commodity, the "marketable property and property in circulation", and all the other, particular commodities, which suddenly ceased to be marketable property.

p. 419-20 [MECW p. 396]