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Afarx's heo 0f

Alienation

by

Istvan Meszaros

MERLIN PRESS
LONDON
3 Manchestr Road, London E.14
The Merlin Prss Ltd

First Published May 1970


Scond dition No\"mber 1970
Third edition Janurary 1972
Fourth dition January 1975
Rprimed May 1978
Contents
Page
Rprinted January 1979

PREFAct.S
1982
Rprinted March 1986
Rprinted January
9
INTRODUCTION 11

PAllTt

ORIGINS AND STRUCTURE OF THE MARXIAN THEORY

Chapler
Origins of th Concept of Alinatjon 27

l. The Judeo-Christian Approach 28


2. Alienation as "Universal Saleability" 33
3. Historicity and the Rise of Anthropology 36
4. The End of "Uncritical Positivism" 48

British Library Cataloguing in Publicalion Dala

Meszaros, Istvan n Genesis of Marx's Thory of Alienation 66


Marx's theory ofalienation.-4th ed.
1. Marx's Doctoral Thesis and His Critique of the

2.
I. Marx, Karl./8/8-/883
Modem State 66
Alienation (Social psychology)
2.
302.5'441Q924
I. Title The Jewish Question and the Problem of German
83305.M74 Emancipation 70
3. Marx's Encounter with Political Economy 76
4. Monistic Materialism 84
5. The Transformation of Hegel's Idea of "Activity" 87

Oi Conceptual Structure of Marx's Theory of Alienation 93

1. Foundations of the Marxian System 93


Printed in Great Britain by
Whitstable Litho Ltd., Whitstable, Kent 2. Conceptual Framework of Marx's Theory of
Alienation 99

3, Alienation and Teleology 114


,
6 CONTENTS CONTENTS 7

PART II PART 1ft

ASPECTS OF ALIENATION CONTEMPORARY SIGNIFICANCE OF

Chdpf., Pill'
MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION

IV Economic Asputs 123 Chapter Pdf'


1. Marx's Critique of Political Economy 123 VIIl The Controversy about Marx 217
2. From Partial to tInivecsal Alienation 130 1. "Young Marx" versw "Mature Marx" 217
3. From Political to Economic A1ienation 136 2. "Philosophy" versus "Political Economy" 227
4. Division and Alienation of Labour; Competition 3. Marx's Intellectual Development 232
and Reification 14{) 4. Theory of Alienation and Philosophy of History 241
5. Alienated Labour and "Human Nature" 146

IX Individual and Society 254


V Political Aspects 151 1. Capitalist Development and the Cult of the
I. Property Relations 151 Individual 254

2. Capitalistic Objectification and Freedom 154 2. Individual and Collectivity 267

3. Political "Negation of the Negation" and 3. Self-mediation of the Social Individual 276
Emancipation 159
x Alienation and the Crisis of Education 289
1. Educational Utopias 290
VI Ontological and Moral Aspects 162
2. The Crisis of Education 299
1. 162
NOTES
The "Sel .mediating Being or Nature"
2. 165 313
BIBUOORAPHY
The Limits of Freedom
3. Human Attributes 168 343
APPENDIX 351
4. 113
"'0'"
The Alienation of Human Powers
5. Means and Ends, Necessity and Freedom: the 353
Practical Programme of Human Emancipation 180
6. Legality, Morality and Education 186

VII Aesthetic Aspects 190

1. Meaning, Value and Need: an Anthropomorphic


Framework of Evaluation 190
2. Marx's Concept of Realism 195
3. The "Emancipation of the Human SenSt:s" 200
4. Production and Consumption and Their Relation to
t 205
5. The Significance of Aesthetic Education 210

,
Preface
I am indebted to friends and colleagues who offered helpful
suggestions many of which have been incofJXlrated in SOllle Ionn
in the final draft.
Particular thanks are due to my friends, Arnold HauStt and
Cesare Cases whose criticism and encouragement proved inva luable.
Mygreatest indebtedness is to myoId teacher and friend, George
Lukacs, who influenced in more ways than one my triode of
thinking.

Sussex University I.M .


May 1969

Preface to the Second Edition


I took the opportunity of this new edition (or providing English
translation-in an Appendix at the end of the volume-for some
quotation s which appeared in the first edition, on pages 61, 243--4
and 259, in Gennan or French only. In addition, I have also cor
rected a few printing errors. Otherwise the new edition is unchanged.

I.M.

Preface to the Third Edition


The need for a third edition, eighteen months after the publication
of the first, is gratifying to any author. More important is, hO.....
ever
that the interest readers have shown in this work helps to confirm th
suggestion made in the introduction: namely that "the criti
que of
,
alienation seems to have acquired a new historical urgency" Recent .

events-from the collapse of the long cherished politics of blockading


China to the dollar crisis, and from the eruption of major contradic
tions of interest among the leading capitalist countries to the revealing
necessity of invoking Court Orders and other special masures against
Introduction
defiant strikers with increasing frequency even in the United States of
America: the very land of the allegedly "integrated" working c!ass
THE problems of alienation have be n dba .ted for a long time but
have all dramatically underlined the intensification of the global .
. terest in them is by no means dunmishmg. On the contrary:
the 1'deoIoglca
. I onenta-
.
m
structural crisis of capital. It is precisely in relation to such crisis that
. dging by some recent historical events and
af alienatIon searul
JU .
the Marxian cri tiqu e of alination maintains its vital socio-historical . .
tion of many of their participants, the CritIque
relevance today more than ever before.
As to our volume itself, friends and critics have made the point that
to have acquired a new historicaTurgency. , .
Much discussion has been centred around Marx s Economtc and
some of the major issues of present.day rocial-economic development
Philosophic Manuscripts of J844 in the last foy ean. The first
-discussed especially in the last chapters-would require a somewhat
though incomplete---cdition appeared in RUSSIan
1927 and was
more systematic analysis. While I believe that the framework of
followed' in 1932, by complete Gennan, RuSSian and French
Marx's Theory r Alienaliop did not allow for much more than a rather
editions which made possible their diffusion in philosophical and
summary treatment of these topical issues, my agreement with the
literary circles all over the world. The key concept of these
substance of the criticism could not be fuller. In fact I have been
Manuscripts is the concept of alier.ation.
working now for a number of years on a detailed investigation of such .
The number of books and articles written about, or refernng to,
are
topics-a smdy I hope to complete and publish before long. In the
the Manuscripts of J844 is countless. They unquestionably the
meantime I can o nl y point to two partial results belonging to this
most talked about philosophical work in this century. In the
complex of problems: TI,e ..NtceJsity of Social Conlrol (Isaac Deutscher
Memorial Lecture, Merlin Press, 1971) and a contribution to the
discussions, however, it is often not realized that they a
happen
to be one of the most comple.x and difficult works of phIlosophical
volume: Asptcts oj His/ory and Class Consciousness (Routledge & Kegan
literature.
Paul, 1971) on Contingent and Necessary Class Consciousness.
Their difficulties are by no means obvious at first sight. The

Sussex University I. M. enormous complexity of the closely interrelated theoretical levels
Brighton, Nove mber 1971 is often hidden by fonnulations which look deceivingly simple .
Paradoxically enough, Marx's great powers of expression-his
almost unparalleled ability to fonnulate his ideas in a graphic style;
his unique gift of producing "quotable" (but in fact ultidim
sional) aphorisms, etc.-make an adequate understandmg of thIS

Preface to the Fourth Edition work more rather than less, difficult For it is tempting to abstract,
as many .
mmentat.ors do, from the compli.cate interconnecti ns
in order to concentrate on the apparent sunpliclty . of the pomt
Apart from minor corrections, the fourth edition remains unchanged.

:
most sharply in focus. However, unless the aphoristic fonnulations
Brighton I.M. .
;
are grasped in their manifold philosophical inter onnec ons, he

August 1914 dangers of misinterpretation are acute. The narrow , literal readmg
of isolated passages (not to speak of the ideologically motivated
misreadingsl of similarly isolated aphorisms and passages) can nly
produce theories-like the "radically new Marx" of many wntmgs
.

II
12 '
MARX S TEORY OF ALIENATION INTRODUCTION 13

that onesidedly concentrated on certain passages of the Paris speaking countries--by various trends of positivistic empiricism and
Manuscripts, taken out of context and opposed to the rest of Marx's formalism. Consequently, numerous concepts used by Marx
monumental work-based on the methodology of turning isolated perhaps most of his key concepts-must sound extremely odd, if
quotations into sensationalistic slogans. not altogether meaningless or. self-contradictory, to all those who
Marx's youthful works have been fittingly described as "enig arc used to the misleading "common-sense simplicity" of positivistic
matically clearJ>. In point of fact Marx has no youthful work to empiricism or to the neat schematic straightforwardness of philo
which this description could better apply than the Manuscripts 0/ i m, or both. The difficulties of understanding, due
s
sophical formal
1844. The reader who wants to get beyond the deceptive simplicity, to this condition, cannot be sufficiently stressed. For, in view of the
in order to achieve a deeper understanding of this "enigmatic fact that the whole structure of Marx's theory is dialectical, his key
clarity", has to wrestle with several difficulties. Let us have a brief concepts simply cannot be understood at all except in their dialectical
look at them. -and often apparently self-contradictory-interrelatedness. "Trans
cendcnce", for instance, is not a transference into another realm,
1.Fragmentariness. As is well known, this work is incomplete.
nor is it either "suppression" or "preservation" alone, but both at
The Manuscripts of 1844 range from extracts from books, with
the same time. Or, to take another example: in contradistinction
brief comments on them, through loosely connected notes and
reflections on various topics, to a more or less comprehenSive assess
to so many philosophical conceptions, in Marx's view man is neither
"human" nor "natural" alone but both: i.e: "humanly natural"
ment of the Hegelian philosophy. While it is relatively easy to
an "naturally human" at the same time. Or again, at a higher
understand the particular texts and passages, it is by no means easy
level of abstraction, "specific" and "universal" are not opposites to
to see the guiding line of the work as a whole. The particular
each other, but they constitute a dialectical unity. That is to say:
passages, however, only acquire their full meaning in relation to
man is the "universal being of nature" only because he is the
the general significance of the work as a whole.
"specific being of nature" whose unique specificity consists precisely
2. Language and terminology. Here three kinds of problems arise in its unique universality as opposed to the limited partiality of all the
of which the first does not apply, of course, to the Gennan original: other beings of nature. At the level of both empiricism and formalism
(a) Complexities ot translation'. Some r)f the key tenns- the notion of a unity of such opposites is self-contradictory. Only at
-:- ave very different connotations in the original
e.g. "Aufhebung"----h the dialectical level of discourse can these notions acquire their full
text. Thus "Aufhebung" in German means simultaneously; "trans meaning without which it is impossible to understand the central
cendence", "suppression", "preserving", and "overcoming (or ideas of Marx's theory of alienation. This is ..,hy the reader must
superseding) by raising it to a higher level". Clearly, no translator constantly remember the fact that he is dealing with the complexities
can solve difficulties of this kind in a completely satisfactory way. of a dialectical framework of discourse and not with the neat one
Even at the price of sounding extremely clumsy, he cannot couple dimensionality of philosophical formalism, nor with the artificial
up more than two, or at the most three, of these complementary simplicity of commonplace-mongering nea-empiricism.
meanings, and in the vast majority of cases he mUst rely on selecting (c) Terminological ambiguity. A relatively simple problem, pro
one term only. An ideal of conceptual accuracy which linguistically vided the previous two points are kept in mind. Here the issue is
violates the text is self-defeating. All that one can hope to achieve that Marx, in his efforts to enter into a dialogue with his radical
is a reasonable approximation to the original. However, the reader philosophical contemporaries like. Feuerbach, has retained certain
himself can do something more. He can complete the reading of terms of their discourse which were at times in conflict with his own
"transcendence" or "supersession", etc. with those missing ramifica meaning. An example is "self-estrangement" which in Marx's
tions of the original term which, for linguistic reasons, had to be Manuscripts stands for a greatly modified content that would call
left out. for an accordingly modified terminology, with more concrete
(b) Inadequacy of conceptual framework. For the past few pressions in specific contexts. An even more striking example is
decades philosophy has been dominated---especially in English human essence". N; we shall see later, Marx categorically rejected
14 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION rNTRODUCnON 15

the idea of a "human essence", Yet he kept the term, [ra.nsforming a l i e n to him, into a m e a n s to his i n d i v i d u a l e x i s t e n c e.
its original meaning beyond recognition. In this case his aim It estranges man's own body from him, as it does external nature
not simply to add new dimensions to an important concept (like and his spiritual existence, his h u m a n being" (76).*
"self-estrangement") but to demonstrate the emptiness of this philo The third characteristic is implied in the first two, being an
sophical term, in its traditional sense. And yet, in the course of such e.xpr ession of them in teons of human relations, and so is the fourth
demonstration he used the same term himself, mostly without characteristic mentioned above. But whereas in formulating the
polemical references, although with a radically different meaning. third characteristic Marx has taken into account the effects of
An attentive reading of the contexts in which such boITOwed terms alienation of labour-both as "estrangement of the thing" and "self
occur can, however, clear out of the way this (This remedy estrangement"-with respect to the relation of man 10 mankind
applies not only to "human essence" and ' in general (i.e. the alienation of "humanness" in the course of its
mentioned above, but also to terms like "humanism", debasement through capitalistic processes), in the fourth he is
humanism", "sell-mediation", "species-being", etc.) considering them as regards man's relationship to otheT men. As
Marx puts the latter: "An immediate consequence of the fact that
3. Complexity of key concept: alienation,- This probltm represents man is estranged from the product of his labour, from his life
O' ne of the greatest difficultie8. Marx's concept of alienation h<t5 four activity, from his species being is the e s t r a n g e m e n t of m a n
main <t5pccts which are <t5 follows: f r o m n,an. If a man is confronted by himself, he is confronted
(a) man is alienated from nature; by the o t h e r man. What applies to man's relation to .his work,
(b) he is alienated from himself (fTOm his own activity); to the product of his labour and to himself, also holds of man's
(c) from his "species-being" (from his being <t5 a member of the relation to the other man, and to the other man's labour and object
human species); of labour. In fact, the proposition that man's species nature is
(d) man is alienated from man (from other men). estranged from him means that one man is estranged from the
The first of these four characteristics of "alienated labour" other, as each of them is from man's essential nature" (77).
expresses the relation 9f the worker to the product of his labour, Thus Marx's concept of alienation embraces the manifestations
of "man's estrangement from. nature and from himself" on the one
hand, and the expressions of this process in the relationship of
which is at the same time, according to Marx, his relation to the
sensuous external world, to the objects of nature.
The second, on the other hand, is the expression of labour's man-mankind'and man and man on the other.
relation to the act of production within the labour process, that is 4.
to say the worker's relation to his own activity as alien activity
Structure of Paris Manuscripts. Despite the modest length-only
about 50,(X)() words-the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts
which does not ofTer satisfaction to him in and by itself, but only
by the act of selling it to someone else. (This means that it is not
of 1844 are a great work of synthesis, of a particular kind: a
synthesis in statu nascendi (more about that in a moment), We are
activity itself which brings satisfaction to him, but an abstract witnessing in them the emergence of this unique synthesis as we
property of it: its saleability under certain conditions.) Marx also follow the outlines of a vast, comprehensive conception of human
calls the first characteristic "estrangement of the thing", whereas experience in all its manifestations; more comprehensive in fact than
the second: "self-estrangement". anything before it, including the grandiose Hegelian vision. Marx
The third aspect-man's alienation from his species-being-is sketches in the Paris Manuscripts lile main features of a revolu
related to the conception according to which the object of labour tiona ry new "human science"-<lpposed by him to the alienated
Numbers if! brackets refer to page numbers of Mane's E,onomic and
is the objectification of man's species life, for man "duplicates himself
PhIlosoPhic Mantlrcriptr af 1844, translated by Martin Milligan Lawrence
'
and Wishart Ltd., London, 1959..
not only, as in consciousness, intdlectually, but also activel)\, in
reality, and therefore he contemplates himself in a world that he
has created". Alienated labour, however, turns "M a n ' s s p e c i cs
.
ant's stresscs are indicated by spaced lettering, my own are italicized.
SIm,]arly with other quotalioM. Spaced and also italidzed lettering indicates
b e i n g, both nature and his spiritual species property, into a being ttresse s both by the authors concerned and by mY5elf.
16 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION INTROllUCTION 17
universality of abstract philosophy on the onc hand a'nd the stat e of affairs, the prevailing system of alienations, from the
fragmentariness and partiality of "natural science" on the otl,er
estr angements manifest in everyday life to the alienated conceptions
from the viewpoint of a great synthesizing idea: "the alienation
of philosophy. Or, expressed in a positive form: how is it possible
labour" as the root cause of the whole complex of alienations. to achieve the unity of oppositeJ in place of the antagonistic

:;:;;
Nobody should be deceived by the first impression of reading, oppositions that characterize alienation. (The opposition between

Z
addition to extracts from books, fragmentary marks, s "doing and thinking", betwttn "being and having", between "means
hints and paradoxical forrnuljations, expressed in an a and end", between "public life and private life", between "produc
style. For a more attentive took would reveal that tion and consumption", between "Philosophy and Science",
Manuscripts are much more closely argued than the first im,pression between "Theory and Practice" etc.) The ideal of a "human
would suggest. As has been mentioned, the particular idea of science", in place of alienated science and philosophy, (not to be
Manuscripts only acquire their full ,meaning i n rdaliar. to confused with the vague and woolly notion of an "anthropological
general significance of the work as a whole. To put it in anoli'er philosophy" or "humanist Marxism", nor with the equally vague
way, the points made by Marx on widely ranging issues cannot
fully understood except as closely interrelated parts of a colnco"ent . and illusory "scientism" of some nco-Marxist writings) is a concrete
formulation of this task of "transcendence" in the field of theory
JYJtem of ideas. The ManwcriptJ of 1844 constitute Marx's while the aunity of theory and practice" is the most general and
comprehensive system. In this system every particular point comprehensive expression of the Marxian programme.
"multidimensional": it links -up with all the other points of It goes without saying that the first set of questions is unthinkable
Marxian system of ideas; it implies them just as much as it without the second that animates and structures (or articulates) the
implied by them. (The problem of the relationship between aliena former. Thus the problems of "transcendence" represent the
tion and conJciousneJJ, for instance, is never considered in isolation hi.ibergreifendes Moment" ("overriding factor")--to usc Marx's
but-in sharp contrast to other philosophical approaches to the expression-in this dialectical interrelationship of the two sets of
problem-as something occupying a determinate place within the questions. If there is an ultimately "irreducible" element in the
system of human activities; as based upon the socio-econoinic basis philosophical discourse, it is the philosopher's "prise de position"
and being in constant interplay with it.) to the supersession of the contradictions he perceives. But of course
No system is conceivable, of course, without an internal structure "irreducible" only ultimately, or "in the last analysis" (Engels),
of its own. It will be the task of Part I to go into the details of this i.e. in the dialectical sense of a relative priority within a recipl"9Cal
problem. Here we can only indicate, very brieAy, those character detennination. This means that while the philosopher's approach
istics which are essential for understanding the complex structure to "Aufhebung" certainly determines the limits of his insight into
of Marx's first great work of synthesis. the nature of the contradictions of his age, it is also determined, in
In the Economic and PhiloJophic ManuJcriptJ of 1844 Marx ask.! its concrete articulation, by the latter, Le. by the sensitivity and
two-complementary-sets of questions. The first set investigates depth of the philosopher's insight into the complex problematics
why is there an antagonistic contradiction (or "hostile opposition", of the world in which he lives.
as sometimes he puts it): Marx was by no means the first philosopher to raise some of the
between different philosophical trends (of the same age as well as questions mentioneq. above. (The greatest of his immediate pre
of different ages); decessorn, Hegel, was in fact the originator of the concept of
between "Philosophy" and "science"; "Aufhebung" as a "unity of opposites".) But he was the firnt to
between "Philosophy" (Ethi cs) and "Political Economy"; raise the whole range of questions we have seen, while his pre
between the theoretical and the practical sphere (Le. between decessors, unable to formulate the aim of unifying theory and
Theory and Practice). practice, abandoned their inquiry at the crucial point. The abstract
The second set is concerned with the question of "transcendence" ness of their conception of "Aufhcbung" kept their questioning
(Aufhebung), by asking how is it possible to supersede the existing within very narrow conceptual limits. Their diagnosis of problems
I
16 MARX' S THEORY OF ALIENATION INTRODUCTION 17

universality of abstract philosophy on the one hand and the, stale of affairs, the prevailing system of alienations, from the
fragmentariness and partiality of "natural science" on the 0 cst.rangements manifest in everyday life to the alienated conceptions
from the viewpoint of a great synthesizing idea: "the alienation of philosophy. Or, expressed in a positive fonn: how is it possible
labour" as the root cause of the whole complex of alienations. to achieve the unity 01 opposites in place of the antagonistic
Nobody should be deceived by the first impression of reading, oppositions that characterize alienation. (The opposition between
addition to extracts from books, fragmentary remarks,

hints and paradoxical formu tions, expressed in an a
style. For a more attentive too k would reveal that
';:;;:,zll "doing and thinking", between "being and having", between "means
and end", between "public life and private life", between "produc

ManU5CTiptJ are much more closely argued than the first u


np>",';,>n . tion and consumption", between "Philosophy
betwe en "Theory and Practice" etc.) The ideal of a "human
and Science",

would suggest. As has been mentioned, the particular idea of science", in place of alienated science and philosophy, (not to be

.
Manuscn'pts only acquire their full .meaning in relation. to confused with the vague and woolly notion of an "anthropological
general significance of the work as a whole. To put it in anolt,er philosophy" or "humanist Marxism", nor with the equally vague
way, the points made by Marx on widely ranging issues cannot and illusory "scientism" of some nco-Marxist writings) is a concrete
fully understood except as closdy interrelated parts of a fom1Ulation of this task of "transcendence" in the field of theory
system of ideas. The Manuscripts of /844 constitute Marx's while the "unity of theory and practice" is the most general and
comprehensive system. In this system every particular point comprehensive expression of the Marxian programme.
"multidimensiOn
' al": it links up with all the other points of It goes without saying that the first sct of questions is unthinkable
Marxian system of ideas; it implies them just as much as it without thc second that animates and structures (or articulates) the
implied by them. (The problem of the relationship between aliena former. Thus the problems of "tra'rlSCcndence" represent the
tion and consciousness, for instance, is nevee considered in isolation "iibergreifendes Moment" ("overriding factor"}-to usc Marx's
but-in sharp contrast to other philosophical approaches to the expression-in this dialectical interrelationship of the two sets of
problem-as something occupying a detenninate place within questions. If there is an ultimately "irreducible" element in the
system of human activities; as based upon the socio-econoinic basis philosophical discourse, it is the philosopher's "prise de position"
and being in constant interplay with it.)
No system is conceivable, of course, without an internal ,,,,,,,(urc l to the supersession of the contradictions he perceives. But of course
"irreducible" only ultimately, or "in the last analysis" (Engels),
of its own. It will be the task of Part I to go into the details of this i.e. in the dialectical sense of a relative priority within a recip'"9cal
problem. Here we can only indicate, very briefly, those character detennination. This means that while the philosopher's approach
istics which are essential for understanding the complex to "Aufhebung" certainly determines the limits of his insight into
of Marx's first great work of synthesis. the nature of the contradictions of his age, it is also determined, i n
In the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx asks its concrete articulation, b y the latter, i.e. b y the sensitivity and
two----<:omplementary-sets of questions. The first set investigates depth of the philosopher's insight into the complex problematics
why is there an antagonistic contradiction (or "hostile opposition" of the world in which he lives.
as sometimes he puts it): Marx was by no means the first philosopher to raise some of the
between different philosophical trends (of the same age as well questions mentioned above. (The greatest of his immediate prc
of different ages); decessors, Hegel, as in fact the originator of the concept of
be tween Philosophy and "science";
" "
"Aufhebung" as a "unity of opposites".) But he was the first to
between "Philosophy" (Ethics) and "Political Economy"; raise the whole range of questions we havc seen, while his pre
between the theoretical and the practical sphere (i.e. decess ors, unable to fonnulate the aim of unifying theory and

. :::;;
Theory and Practice). pract ice, abandoned their inquiry at the crucial point. The abstract
The second set is concerned with the question of ness of their conception of "Aufhebung" kept their questioning
(Aufhebung), by asking how is it possible to supersede the within very narrow conceptual limits. Their diagnosis of problems
18 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION INTRODUCTION 19

was vitiated by the-merely conceptual---so!utions they could (142-171 ). Thanks to the concept of "labour's self-alienation" the
envisage to them. Hegelian philosophy is set into its proper perspectives: both its great
Fo Marx, by contrast, the question of "transcendence" was historical achievements and limitations are revealed and made to
starting with the earliest formulations of his philosophical outlook seem se1fevident in the light of Marx's fundamental synthesizing
inseparable from the programme of achieving the "unity of theory idea. Once in possession of this key that opens the doors of the
and practice". PriOJ: to the Manuscripts of 1844, however, Hegelian system as a whole, exposing to a comprehensive social
principle remained rather abstract because Marx could not identify criticism all its "secrets" and "mystifications", the laboriously
the "Archimedean point" through which it would be possible to detailed analysis of particular fields of this philosophy----e.g. the
translate the programme. into reality. The introduction of the earlier attempted "Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right"
concept of "alienated labour" into Marx's thought has funda becomes superfluous. (At any rate uninteresting for Marx, for it
mentally changed all this. As we shall see later, as soon as the could now merely exemplify a general point towards which his
problem of transcendence has been concretized-in the ManUJcripts earlier critical investigations of the Hegelian philosophy were
of 1844-as the negation and supersession of "labour's self striving.) In fact Marx never resumed his interrupted work on the
alienation", Marx's system was born. Hegelian Philosophy of Right and his later projects concerning
In this sense can we call the Paris
Manuscripts a system in statu Hegel's thought-an investigation of his works on Logic and
nascendi. For it is in these Manuscripts that Marx systematically Aesthetic in particular-aimed at summarizing Hegel's achieve
explores for the first time the faNeaching implications of his ments as well as sketching Marx's own ideas in these fields, rather
synthesizing idea-"thc alienation of labour"-in every sphere of than at a systematic criticism of the Hegelian philosophy as a whole.
human activity. The discovery of the "missing link" of his earlier As far as the latter was concerned, Marx has done his reckoning
reflections throws new light on all his ideas and particular points of with it for good, in the form of "a critical settling of accounts" (20),
criticism-some of them already formulated years before 1844- in the Manuscripts of 1844.
which now naturally fit together into an conception. To sum up then, the core of the Paris Manuscripls that structures
As Marx proceeds with his critical inquiry in the Paris the whole work is the concept of the "transcendence of labour's
the depth of his insight and the unparalleled coherence of his seU-alienation". This Marxian system in statu nascendi is simul
become more and more evident. There is an air of excitement about taneously a kind of "stocktaking" as well a s the fonnulation of a
the whole entt;rprise-manifest also in the greatly heightened, often monumental programme for future investigations. While rethinking
solemn, style of exposition-as Marx repeatedly spells out his great all the major problems that occupied him prior to the sketching of
historical discovery, namely that the most varied forms of alienation the Manuscripts of 1844 Marx tries out his synthesizing idea in
which he surveys can be brought to a common denominator, in the many directions, becoming fully aware of both the necessity of
field of social practice, through the tangibly concrete and strategic venturing into the most varied fields and of the difficulties and
ally crucial concept of ,"alienated labour": the common focus of dangers involved in such an enterprise. This is why he writes in his
both sets of questions, Le. both "why" (diagnosis) and "how" Preface to the Paris Manuscripts (though, not surprisingly, only
(transcendence). after the completion of the rest of the Manuscripts) : "the wealth
In this context it is worth comparing Marx's criticisms of Hegel and diversity of the subjects to be treated, could have been com
before and after the introduction of this synthesizing concept into pressed into o n e work only in a purely aphoristic style; whilst
his thought. Prior to its appearance, his critique of the Hegelian an aphoristic presentation of this kind, for its part would have

philosophy, however meticulous, remained partial, although the given the i m p r e s s i o n of arbitrary systematizing. I shall there
intent was, from the earliest stage of Marx's philosophical develop fore issue the critique of law, ethics, politics, etc., in a series of
ment, unmistakably that of a frontal attack on the Hegelian system distinct, independent pamphlets, and at the end try in a special
as a whole. In the Manuscripts of 1844, however, we find a Work to present them again as a connected whole showing the inter
"Critique of the Hegelian Dialectic and Philosophy as a Whole" relat ionship of the separate parts, and finally, shall make a critique
'
20 MARX S THEORY OF ALIENATION INTRonUCTION 21
of the speculative elaboration of that material. For this reason it no concept can be elucidated by itself-and in many cases with
will be found that the interconnection between political
grave distortions of M arx's system as a whole. ) The concept ?f
"Aufhcbung" must be III the centre of our attention for three main
.
and the state, law, ethics, civil life, etc., is touched on in the present
work only to the extent to which political economy itself u
reasons :
[particularly] touches on these subjects" (15). Thus in the course (I) it is, as we have seen, crucial for the understanding of the
Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts 0/ 1844
a
writing the Paris M nuscripts Marx realizes the immensity of whOSe analysis
.
undertaking as he beco.nes aware of the fact that his constitutes the major part of this study;
general approach, unike
l the method of aphoristic summariness (2) this concept of the "transcendence (Aufhebung) of labour's
also practised to some extent, must proceed everywhere "by l ation" provides the essential link with the totality of Marx's
seU.aien
of a wholly empirical analysis" (16), by submitting to the strict_", work, including the last works of the so-called "mature Marx";
scrutiny even the smallest details. It is not surprising, therefore, (3) in the development of Marxism after the death of its founders
the programme of issuing "the critique of law, ethics, politics, etc," the issue was greatly neglected and, for understandable historical
took him a lifetime to accomplish and that this work had to reasons, Marxism was given a more directly instrumental orientation.
no form ....ery
. different indeed from the originally projected "indepen In the present phase of socia-historical development, however, when
dent pamphlelS". For even the latter method would have been for the first time in history capitalism is being shaken to ilS founda
too " aphoristic" and unjustifiably summary. The Manuscripts tions as a world-system (whereas all the past crises of capitalism, no
1844 had to be left unfinished-it could not be otherwise with matter how spectacular, were partial and localizable), the "trans
flexible and open system in statu nascendi which should not cendence of labour's self-alienation" s
i "on the order of the day".
confused with some premature youthful synthesis. But their signifi That is, in the contemporary worldsituation it is no longer possible
cance, despite their fragmentary character, is enormous, both to conceive even the immediate tasks of socialist movements in terms
terms of what they have actually achieved and as regards the of the political conquest of power-not as when the world-historical
and mode of inquiry they have opened up. Far from re<luiri g ;; task was the breaking of the first and "weakest link of the chain"
subsequent major reversals or revisions, the Manwcripts but in terms of strategic socio-economical alternatives, with far

;:::ned
have adequately anticipated the later Marx by reaching global implications. This is why interest in certain aspects
synthetic unity the problematics of a comprehensive, of Marx's conception whieh must have seemed rather remote to the
radical reassesent
sm of aU facets of human experience "by working class movement at the turn of the century has been revived
of a wholly empirical analysis based on a conscientious critic,'] in the postwar period and attracts increasingly more attention over
study of political economy" (16). a widening range of the social spectrum, rather than being confined,
as sectarian dogmatislS would have it, to "isolated intellectuals" .

This phenomenon of revival is all the more significant because the
In accordance with the central characteristics of Marx's problems at stake, as mentioned above, have global implications,
the ordering principle of the present study must be the focusing inVOlving all existing social systems, even if in very different
atlention on the various aspeclS and implications of Marx's co,,"Pt ways. Precisely because the realization of these aspeclS of Marx's
of "Aufhebung" as they arise in the framework of his theory original programme could only be envisaged in a global frame
alienation. In other words the key to understanding Marx's work, the concept of the "positive transcendence of labour's self
of alienation is his concept of "Aufhcbung", and not the other way alienation" had to be pushed into the background at a time when
round. (This reversal of the structural relationship of concepts in Marxism embarked on the journey of its practical realization in
assessing Marx's system has led astray all those commentators the fonn of partial (national) socia-political movements, i.e. when
tried to elucidate the Marxist world-view starting from the Marxism. was being turned from a global theory into organized
r-.rarx's concept of alienation as their ultimate point oC reference : movements which, for a long historical period-for the whole era
at best they ended up with some moralizing tautology-for clearly of the defence
of hardly won positions-had to remain partial and
22 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION INTRODUCTION 23
limited. By contrast the self-evidently global character of the socio own as its point of departure and fundamental organizing centre.
economical crisis of our time requires global remedie s : i.e. tht: This does not mean of course, that the question of objectivity must
"positive transcendence of labour's self-alienation" in all its many be dismissed and replaced by some fonn of relativism. For the
sidedly conditioning complexity. It is not suggested, of course, that criteria of the objective validity oC interpretations are given in the
in the prescnt world-situation the problems first diagnosed affinity of the different "irreducible elements" on one hand and in
could be solved overnight; far from it. Nor was indeed M,c,', their practical historical relevance on the other. In other words the
theory of alienation ever meant as a recipe for "Messianic so :,:: object of interpretation cannot be reached unless the approach is
as we shall see later. The point is that in our age it made on the basis of an objective affinity of values relevant to the
historically possible-:-and increasingly more necessary as w,:ll--t< given historical situation. This is why Marx's bourgeois interpreters
tackle the everyday issues facing socialist movements all over and opponents-whether "neutral Marxologues" or conservative
world in their proper perspectives : as directly or indirectly political propagandists-are bound to miss their target. The
to the fundamental task of "the positive transcendence of laibm,,', "irreducible element" (i.e. the open or hidden valuecommitment)
self-alienation" . that motivates both the programmatically "neutral Marxology"
related to matters which necessarily exclude all pretences of
* * *
"detached neutrality"--and the less bashful forms of opposition to
In discussing Marx's theory of alienation the centre of ao"lllS;' Marxism may at times yield partial insights and results but
must be, needless to say, the Economic and Philosophic Manu""'J'" notoriously fail to comprehend the coherently interrelated system
of 1844. Accordingly, the bulk of the present study is dedicated of Marxist ideas as a whole, because of the hostile clash between
.
a close scrutiny of the various aspects of Marx's theory of the reciprocally exclusive approaches to the crucial problems of the
as they appear in the Paris Manuscripts. At the same time it given sociohistorical reality, and in particular to the issue of
be emphasized that no attempt is made here at re,em","cuctio.g "Aufhebung". If an account of the limits of validity of rival inter
Marx's work on the basis of the Manuscripts 0/ /844. On pretations on these or similar lines does not satisfy those who would
contrary, the framework of interpretation and evaluation of not settle for anything short of a final "scientific objectivity"
latter is the totality of Marx's work without which accounts of (advocating in fact a fetishism of natural science), that cannot be
first synthesis can amount to no more than a caricature, ho,wever helped. In favour of our account, however, it should be remarked

::
unintended. Not oruy because the "enigmatic remarks" that at least it does not require the introduction of false polarities
'
aphoristic hints of the Paris Manuscripts cannot be d n
i to Marx's system, such as the presumed opposition between his
without reference to his later works but mainly because : "scientific concepts" and his alleged "ideological concepts" ; nor
the concept of alienation exclusively to the youthful period does it require the expurgation of the latter from Marx's philo-
falsifies the "mature Marx"-as we shall see saphical conception as a whole. Without these allcged "ideological
the unity and ni ternal coherence of his thought. (That in some concepts" Marx's conception could appear, maybe, more "scien
this may be a conscious design is beside the point; the result is tific" ; but it would be incomparably poorer and far less in agree
same.) ment with our needs. To us there seems to be no real alternative to
All analysis and interpretation necessarily involves some recognizing and accepting the limitations of relating the meaning of
struction from a determinate temporal position which is in,:vi'tab,l) Marx's theory of alienation to OUf own historical predk..ament in
different from that of its object. To deny this simple fact tenus of which it must be read and understood.
condemn us to the acceptance of the illusions of "scientism". The present study aims in the first place at representing the
"irreducible element" oC a philosopher's general genesis and internal development of Marx's theory of alienation,

round to his main ideas but, above all, on the inner dynamism of
mentioned above, does not-and cannot---coincide with that of fOCusing attention not only on the historical and intellectual back
counterparts which lie at the core of later interpretations. And
interpretation is conceivable without an "irreducible element" of 15 structure of thought as a whole. In the framework of such a
'
24 MARX S THEORV OF ALIENATION

preliminary general assesm


s ent-in Part I-the subsequent chapters
attempt a detailed analysis of the various aspects of the cornp'lex :
problema.tics of alienation, from the economic aspects to
ontological and moral ones, and from the political to the .c.heti"
aspects. These chapters-from IV to VII-are relatively PART I
contained", not only in order to facilitate the understanding
Man's often very complicated a'od "dispersed" arguments but ORIGINS AND STRUCTURE
because some of the much disputed points can be more easily ,k.",d
OF THE MARXIAN THEORr
up by organizing the material around the focal points of the
mentioned above. However, two notts of warning are ne,cessary
here. The first is that the method followed in Part 1I
unfortunately unavoidable the repetition of some ::
i portant passages in different contexts for which the I
m
indulgence is sought. More imponant is the second point, n.m('I ,
that such a "self-contained", relatively independent discussion

::
the various aspects of Marx's theory of alienation requires
separation of the partial complexes of problems from their m :
dialectical interconnections. Although the problematics of
theory of alienation is discussed in its totality in the cOI.cluding
chapters, for an adequate understanding of the separate aspects it
necessary to read them in close conjunction with each other,
standy keeping in mind their fundamental structural intenxlfilOec-
tions.
On the basis of the detailed account of Marx's views on alienation
in Parts I and II, in Part III it becomes possible to embark on
discussion of the main co'ntroversies surrounding this subject,
out entering too much into the more tedious details of polemics.
(Throughout the manuscript the less central or more
points are discussed in the notes, in order to avoid
and overcompJicating the main body of analysis.) The final
aim at relating Marx's theory of alienation 'as a whole to
porary problems by means of the common key issue of the "positive
transcendence of alienation" : Marx's concept of "education".
it is our strongly felt conviction that only the Marxian concept
education-which, in sharp contrast to currently
narrowly institution-centred conceptions, embraces the totality
both individual and social processes-a-c n offer a way out of
contemporary social crisis which is becoming increasipgly
acute not least in the field of institutionalized education itself.
I . Origins of the COllcept of Alienatioll

If man's feelings, passions, etc., are not merely As is well known, Feuerbach, Hegel and English Political Economy
phenomena in the narrowu sense, but truly ontological
.r:S1=
of esse'nlial being (of nature), and if they are only really
because their object exists for them as an object of sense, then it
exercised the most direct influence on the formation of Marx's
theory of alienation. But we are concerned here with much more
than simple intellectual influences. The concept of alienation belongs
dear : to a vast and complex problematics, with a long history of its own.
(l) That they have by no means merely one mode of affi,nnati,,, Preoccupations with this problematics-in forms ranging from the
but rather that the distinctive character of their existence, of Bible to literary works as well as treatises on Law, Economy and
life, is constituted by the distinctive mode of their affiration. Philosophy-reflect objective trends of European development,
.
what manner the object exists for them, is the charactcnslic from slavery to the age of transition from capitalism to socialism.

::
of their gratification. Intellectual influences, revealing important continuities across the
(2) Wherever the sensuous affirmation is the direct a transfonnations of social structures, acquire their real significance
of the object in its independent form (as in eating, drinking,: only if they are considered in this objective framework of develop
up of the object, etc.), this is the affirmation of the object. ment. If so assesd se , their importance-far from being exhausted
(3) In SO far as man, and hence also his feelings, etc., are hl'm" in mere historical curiosity---cannot be stressed enough : precisely
the affirmation of the object by another is likewise his because they indicate the deep-rootedness of certain problematics
enjoyment. as well as the relative autonomy of the forms of thought in which
(4) Only through developed industry-i.e. through the m"di,,, they are reflected.'
of private property-does the ontological essence of hum!ln It must be made equally clear, however, that such influences are
come to be: both in its totality and in its humanity; the sciw,:e exercised in the dialectical sense of "continuity n i discontinuity".
man is therefore itself a product of man's establishment of Whether the element of continuity predominates ovcr discontinuity
by practical activity. or the other way round, and in what precise fonn and correlation,
(5) The meaning of private property-liberated from its ,es"anll" is a matter for concrete historical analysis. As we shall sec, in the
case of Marx's thought in its relation to antecedent theories
ment-is the existence of essential objects for man, both as
of enjoyment and as objects of activity. discontinuity is the "iibergreifendes Moment", but some elemenlS
-Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of of continuity are also very important.
Some of the principal themes of modern theories of alienation
appeared in European thought, in one form or another, many
centuries ago. To fcillow their developmenl in detail would require
copious volumes. In the few pages at our disposal we cannot
attempt more than an outline of the general trends of this develop
ment, describing their main characteristics insofar as they link up
.
With Marx's theory of alienation and help to throw light on it.

27
'
28 MARX S THEORY OF ALlEN....TION ORJGlNS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 29

Judaism in its "crude" realism reflects with a much greater


i mediacy the actual state of affairs, advocating a virtually endless
m
1. The Judeo-Christian Approach
continuation of the extension of its worldly powers--i.e. settling for
The first aspect we have to consider is the lament about a "quasi-messianic" solution on earth : this is why it is in no hurry
"alienated trom God" (or having "fallen from Grace") whatsoeVer about the arrival of its Messiah-in the form of two,
belongs to the common heritage of Judeo-Christian mythology. complementary, postulates :
ns<If
,
divine order, it is said, has been violated; man has alienatd hi (1) the softening of internal class conflicts, in the interest of the
from "the ways of God", whether simply by "the fall of man" cohesion of the national community in its confrontation with the
later by "the dark idolatries of alienated
Judah",l or later again outside world of the "strangers" : "For the poor shall never cease
the behaviour of "Christians alienated from the life of God",' out of the land : therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt
messianic mission consists in rescuing man from. this state of open thy hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy,
alienation which he had brought upon himself. in thy land.!l
But this is as far as the similarities go in the (2) the promise of readmis'Jion into the grace of God is partly
problematics; and far-reaching differences prevail in other fulfilled in the form of granting the power of domination over the
For the form in which the messianic transcendence of "strangers" to Judah : "And strangers shall stand and feed your
envisaged is not a matter of indifference. "Remember"-says flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your
the Apostle-Uthat ye were without Christ, being aliens from vinedressers."11
commonwealth of Israel, and_<>trangers from the covenant of pn)mise The formidable practical vehicle of this expanding domination
having no hope, and without God in the world : But now in was the weapon of "usury" which needed, however, in order to
Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood become really effective, its suitable counterpart which offered an
Christ. . . . Now therefore ye are no more strangers and unlimited outlet for the power of this weapon : i .e. the metamor
but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the phosis of Judaism into Christianity. For "Judaism attains its apogee
are built upon the foundation of the apostles and with the perfection of civil society; but civil society only reaches
Christ himself being the chief comer stone ; In whom all the auua",! perfection in the C h r i s t i a n world. Only under the sway of
fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord : Christianity, which 0 b j e c t i f i e s a I I national, natural, moral and
whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God woul!1 th!":orctical relationships, could civil society separate itself com
the Spirit."9 Christianity thus, in its universality, announces pletely from the life of the state, sever all the species-bonds of man,
imaginary solution of human self-alienation in the form of establish egoism and selfish need in their place, and dissolve the
mystery of Christ".'o This mystery postulates the r!":conciliation human world into a world of atomistic, antagonistic individuals."'4
the contradictions which mad!": groups of people oppose each The ethos of Judaism which stimulated this development was not
as "strangers", "fordgners", "enemies". This is not only a reflwtio. confined to the general assertion of the God.willed superiority of
of a specific form of social struggle but at the same time also e "chn people" in its confrontation with the world of strangers,
.
mystical "resolution" which induced Marx to write : "It was ul'ng In commands like this : "Ye shall not cat any thing that
in appearance that Christianity overcame real Judaism. It was dleth of itsel f : tho.u shalt give it unto the st'anger that is in thy
r e f i n e d, too spiritual to eliminate the crudeness of gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien : for
need except by raising it into the ethereal realm. thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God.l Far morc impor
sublime thought of Judaism. Judaism is the vulgar tant was in the practical sense the absolute prohibition imposed on
application of Christianity. But this practical application could the exploitation of the sons of Judah through usury : "If thou lend
mon
become universal when Christianity as perfected religion to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be
to him an usurer, neither shah thou lay upon him usury."a Usury
Was only
accomplished, in a t h e o r e t i c a l fashion, the alienation of
from himself and from nature."n allowed in dealings with strangers, but not with "brethren".
30 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 31
Christianity, by contrast, which refused to retain the discrimination monopoly : the condition of suce(!';S of "competition" is the negation
between "any of my people" and "strangers" (or "aliens") postulat of monopoly just as for monopoly the condition of extending its
ing in its place the "universal brotherhood of manki"nd", not
; power is the suppression of competition. The partiality of Judaism :
deprived itself of the powerful weapon of "usury" (i.e. of ".oIe''''t ' the "chi m e r i c a l nationality of the Jew is the nationality of the
and the accumulation of capital coupled with it) as the most impor_ trader, and above aU of the financier"U-writes Marx, repeatedly
tant vehicle of early economic expansion but at the same time also emphasizing that "the s o c i a l emancipation of the Jew is the
e m a n c i p a t i o n o f s o c i e t y f r o m J u d ai s m"/i i.e. from the

;;:
became an easy prey to the triumphant advance of the "spirit
Judaism". The "crude and vulgar practical principle of Judaism" partiality of the financier's "nationality", or, expressed in more
cussed by Marx-i.c. the effectively self-centred, internallY ; general terms, from "the Jewish narroWfle&<; of society".2o "Jewish
practical-empirical partiality-could easily triumph over the narrownC$" could triumph in "civil society" because the latter
theoretical universality of Christianity established as a set of required the dynamism of the " supremely practical Jewish spirit" for
f o r m a I rites with which the world of self-interest encircles '''elf'' " its full development. The metamorphosis of Judaism into Christi
(On the importance of "usury" and the controversies related to anity carried with it a later metamorphosis of Christianity into a
at the time of the rise of early capitalism, see p. 132.) more evolved, less crudely partial form of-secularized-Judaism :

:
It is very important to emphasize here that the issue at stake "The Jew has emancipated himself in a Jewish manner, not only by
not simply the empirical reality of Jewish communities lin ' acquiring the power of money, but also because m o n e y had be
but "the spirit of Judaism" ; i.e. the internal principle of I u , come, through him and also apart Irom him, a world power, while
social developments culminating in the emerge'nce and ",.b;];za t;on the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit 01 the

::;;
of capitalistic society. "The spirit of Judaism", therefore, Christian nations. The Jews have emancipated themselves in so far
understood, in the last analysis, to mean "the SPiritt of I as the Christians have become Jews."u Protcsta'nt modifications of
For an early realization of the latter Judaism as an e. p earlier cstablished Christianity, in various national settings, had
only provided a suitable vehicle. Ignoring this distinction, for accomplished a relatively early metamorphosis of "abstract-theo
reason or another, could lead-as it did throughout the a,es-". retical" Christianity into "practical-Christian-Judaism" as a signifi
scapegoat-hunting anti-semitisffi. The objective C:;::.'d: cant step in the direction of the complete secularization of the whole
European social development, from the dissolution of problematics of alienation. Parallel to the expanding domination of
society to the universal triumph of capitalism over feudalism, the spirit of capitalism in the practical sphere, the ideological forms
be assessed in their comprehensive complexity of which Judaism have become more ' and more secular as well; from the various
a sociological phenomenon is a part o'nly, however important a versions of "deism" through "humanistic atheism" to the famous
it may have been at certain stages of this development. declaration stating that "God is dead". By the time of the latter
Judaism and Christianity are complementary aspects of so"ie'Y" ven the illusions of "universality" (with which "the world of self
efforts to cope with its internal contradictions. They both mterest encircles itseU"}-retained and at times even intensified by
attempts at an imaginary transcendence of these deism and humanistic atheism-have become acutely embarrassing
an illusory "reappropriation" of the "human essence" for the bourgeoisie and a sudden, often cynical, transition had to be
tious supersession of the state of alienation. Judaism and made to the open cult of partiality.

:;: : :: :;;
express the contradictions of "partiality versus universality" As has been mentioned, under the conditions of class society
"competition versus monopoly" : i.e. internal C?tc , o eause of the inherent contradiction between the "part" and the
has become known as "the spirit of capitalism". In this f e WhOle", due to the fact that partial interest dominates the whole
the success of partiality can only be conceived in contradiction of SOCiety-the principle of partiality stands in an insoluble con
and at the expense of univcrsality-just as this "universality" tradiction to that of universality. Consequently it is the crude
.
relatIO
only prcvail on the basis of the suppression of partiality-and n of forces that elevates the prevailing fonn of partiality into
versa. Similarly with the relationship between competition a bogus universality, whereas the ideal-oriented negation of this
32 MARX' S THEORY OF ALIENATION ORlCINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 33
.
partiality-e.g. the abstract-th o etical uni e
before 'its metamorphosis into '
:,: ;:

remain illurory, fictitious, impotent. For


; ;
. y
:

lt o
. i
"
" :Y
; ::
:{ :
,
I: and
:
to grasp
toriness
cendenc e
the problematics of capitalist society in its full contradic
and
of
to fonnulate the programme of a practical trans
alienation by means of a genuinely universalizing fusion
ality" in their reciprocal opposition to other are two facets of ideal and reality, theory and practice.
the same, alienated, ,state of affairs. Egoistic partiality muSt Also, we have to emphasize in this context that Marx had
elevated to "universality" for its fulfilment : the underlying nothing to do with abstract "humanism" because he opposed right
eeo'nomic dynamism is both "self-centred" and "ou",,c l;';
,cted" from the outset-as we have seen in the quotations taken from
"nationalist" and "cosmopolitan", "protectionist-isolationist" On the Jewish Question, written in 1843-the illusions of abstract
"imperialist" at the same time. This is why there can be no universality as a mere postulate, an impotent "ought", a fictitious
for genuine universality. only for the universalization of "reappropriation of non-alienated humanness", There is no trace,
crudest partiality, coupled with an therefore, of what might be termed "ideological concepts" in the
postulate of universality as the-merely thought of the young Marx who writcs On the Jewish Question, let
effective, practically prevailing partiality. Thus the alone in the socio-economically far more concrete reflections con
nationality of the Jew" is all the more chimerical tained in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.
as it is "the nationality of the trader and of the financier" -it is
reality the only effective universality : partiality turned .
operative universality, into the fundamental organizi.
ng
i .
2. Alienation as Universal Saleability"
of the society in question. (The mystifications of a ; .: The secularization of the religious concept of alienation had been
become obvious if one realizes that it turns against ithe accomplished in the concrete assertions concerning "saleability". In
sociological phenomenon of Jewish partiality, and not against the first place this secularization progressed within the religious
Jewish narrowness of society"; it attacks partiality in its shell. Nothing could withstand this trend of converting everything
immediacy, and thus not only does it not face the real problem into a saleable object, no matter how "sacred" it may have been
the partiality of capitalist selfinterest turned into the considered at some stage in its "inalienability" sanctioned by an
universal principle of society, but actively supports its own alleged divine command, (Balzac's Melmoth is a masterfully ironical
of attack by means' of this disorienting mystification.) reflection on the state of a totally secularized society in which "even
For Marx, in his reflections on the Judeo-Christian approach the Holy Spirit has its quotation on the Stock Exchange",) Even
the problems of alienation, the matter of central concern was the doctrine of the "fall of man" had to be challenged-as it had
find a solution that could indicate a way out of the ap'pa"dl been done by Luther, for instance-in the name of man's "liberty".n
perennial impasse : the rehewed reproduction, in different This advocacy of "liberty", however, in reality turned out to be
of the same contradiction between partiality and universality nothing more than the religious glorification of the secular principle
characterized the entire historical development and its id'Q1c'gi, : of "universal saleability". It was this latter which found its-however
" utopian-adversary in Thomas Munzer who complained in his
reflections. His answer was not simply the double negatioh of
partiality and abstract universality. Such a solution would pamphlet against Luther, saying that it was intolerable "that every
remained an abstract conceptual opposition and no more. creature should be transformed into property--the fishes
in the
historical noelty of Marx's solution consisted in defining Wter, the birds of the air, the plants of the earth".23 Insights like
problem in terms of the concrete dialectical concept of hlS, no matter how profoundly and truthfully
they reflected the
prevailing as universality", in opposition to genuine u;:;;::: Inner nature of the transformatio
ns in course, had to remain mere
which alone could embrace the manifold interests of society as utopias, ineffective protests
conceived from the perspective of a
whole and of man as a "species-being" (Gattungswcsen-i.e. hoeless anticipation
of a possible future negation of commodity
liberated from the domination of crude, individualistic seII'"t,,,,,,,) SOciety. At the time of the
triumphant emergence of capitalism the
prevalent
It was this specific, socially concrete concept which enabled ideological conceptions had to be those which assumed
34 MARX'S THEORY OF AUENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ....LIENATION 35
an affinnative attitude towards the objective trends of this dc',e1o!>, mastered by its new owner. Reified in the same sense of
. could be
contemporary Wieland uses
ment.
: crdingen" in which Kant's younger
In the conditions of feudal society the hindrances which ,,"'..,; ;e word in translating a line from Homer's Odyssey : "Fremdling,
the advance of "the spirit of capitalism" were, for instance, iUst du dich wohl bei mir .tum Kntchte verdingen?"; "Stranger,
"the vassal could not alienate without the consent of his sUi'C'rio,' Will you become my thing, my servant ?" (The current English
(Adam Smith),U or that "the bourgeois cannot alienate :a nslation, by contrast, characteristically reads like this : "Stranger,"
work for me if I took you on as
of the community without the permission of the king" (thi<t'e,,,t, b he said, "I wonder how you'd like to
century).u The supreme ideal was that everyone should be able my man, somewhere on an upland farm, at a proper wage of
"l)
give and to alienate that which belongs to him" (tit ',,I.,:nlh
, course,
century).2& Obviousiy, however, the social order which confined The principal function of the much glorified "contract" was,
"Tnt: Lord" the power to "sell his Servant, or alienate him therefore, the introduction-in place of the rigidly fixed feudal
Testament" (Hobbes)2J fell hopelessly short of the requirements relations---of a new form of "fixity" which guaranteed the right of
"/ree alienability" of everything-including one's person-by the new master to manipulate the allegedly "free" human beings as
of some contractual arrangement to which the person cOlleemc:cl things, as objects without will, once they have "freely elected" to
would be a party. Land too, one of the sacred pillars of the enter into the contract in question by "alienating at will that which
dated social order, had to become alienable" so that the belonged to them".
development of commodity society should go on unhampered, Thus human alienation was accomplished through turning every
That alienation as universal saleability involved reification thing "into a I i e n a b I e, saleable objects in thrall to egoistic need
been recognized well before the whole social order which O :: and huckstering, Selling is the practice of alienation. Just as man,
on this basis could be subjected to a radical and effective so long as he is engrossed in religion, can only objectify his essence
The mystifying glorification of "liberty" as "contractually by an a l i e n and fantastic being ; so under the sway of egoistic
guarded freedom" (in fact the contractuaJ abdication of need, 'he can only affirm himseU and produce objects in practice
freedom) played an important part in delaying the by subordinating his products and his own activity to the domina
the underlying contradictions, Saying this does not alter, tion of an alien entity, and by attributing to them the significance
of an alicn entity, namely money, n Reification of one's person and
,,
the fact that the connection between alienation and reification
been recognized-even though in an uncritical form-by thus the "freely chOSC?l" acceptance of a new servitude--in place
philosophers 'who far from quotioning the contractual fOlm,i'I.i m,,; of the old feudal, politically established and regulated form of
of society idealiud it, Kant, for instance, made the point that servitude----u-co ld advance on the basis of a "civil society" character
a contract is not a mere reification [or "conversion n
i to a tlti'n.," i ed by the rule of money that opened the floodgates for the universal
z
Verdingung] but the transference-by means of hiring it oU'I-oI "servitude to egoistic need" (Knechtschaft des egoistischen
one's person into the property of the Lord of the house",2' Bediirfnisses).II
object, a piece of dead property could be simply alienated from Alienation is therefore characterized by the universal extension
original owner and transferred into the property of someone of "saleability" (i.e. the transformation of everything into com
without undue complications : "the transference of one's Dn oo<
"'V,
to someone else is its alienation" (Kant),'O (The C, ):.:a:c
an earlier stage, were of an "external", political nature,
rnodity) ; by the conversion of human beings into "things" so that
they could appear as commodities on the market (in other words :
the "reification" of human relations); and by the fragmentation of
in the taboos and prohibitions of feudal society which declared the social body into "isolated individuals" (vcreinzelte Einzelnen)
certain things to be "inalienable"; with the successful abolition who pursued their own limited, particularistic aims "in servitude
to egoistic need", making a virtue out of their selfishness in their
such taboos the complication<; vanished automatically,) The
cult of privacy,U No wonder that Goethe protested : "alles
person, however, first had to be reified-eonverted into a
vcreinzclte ist verwerAich", "all isolated particularity is to be
a mere piece of property for the duration of the conl,acI-.beJm'e
36 '
MARX S THEORY Of ALIENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 37
rejected",ss advocating in opposition to "selfish isolationism" "gnificant in view of the fact that the point holds the other way
51
form of "community with others like oneself" in order to be well : namely those philosophers succeeded in elaborating
(Ouod as
to make a common "front against the world".1t Equally no wo.nd;., rical" approach to the problems of philosophy who wefe aware
a histo
that in the circumstances Goethe's recommendations had to


f the problcmatics of alienation, and to the extent to which they
utopian postulates. For the social order of "civil society" vcrc so. (It is by no means accidental that the greatest representative
sustain itself only on the basis of the conversion of the various of the Scottish
"historical school", Adam FergusonlT had at the
of human experience into "saleable commodities", and it cen tre of his thought the concept of "civil society" which was
follow rdatively undisturbed its course of development lutely crucial for a socia-historically concrete understanding of
as this universal marketing of all facets of human life,
absO
the proble matics of alienation.) The ontological detenninants of this
the most private ones, did not reach its point of saturation. jntellectua interrelationship need to retain our attention here for
a moment.
3. Historicity and the Rise of Anthropology It goes without saying, the development in question is by no
means a simple linear one. At certain points of crisis in history
"Alienation" is an eminently historical concept. If man when the possible socia-historical alternatives are still relatively

: ::
"alienated", he must be alienated Irom something, as a result open-a relative openness which creates a temporary "ideological
certain causes-the interplay of events and circumstances "
in vacuum" that favours the appearance of utopian ideologies-it is
to man as the subject of this alienation-which manifest tJ c relatively easier to identify the objective characteristics of the
in a historical framework. Similarly, the "transcendence of
tion" is an inherently historical concept wnich envisages the. : emerging social order than at a later stage by which time the needs
that bri'ng into life in the field of ideology the "uncritical positivism"
Cui accomplishment of a process leading to a qualitatively d we are all too familiar with have produced a sell-perpetuating
state of affairs. uniformity. We have seen the profound but hopelessly "premature"
Needless to say, the historical character of certain concepts is insights of a Thomas Munzer into the nature of developments hardly
guarantee whatsoever that the intellectual edifices which make perceivable on the horizon, and he did not stand alone, of course,

:
of them are historical. Often, as a matter of fact, mystifications in this respect. Similarly, at a much earlier age, Aristotle gave a
in at one stage or another of the analysis. Indeed, if the concept surprisingly concrete historical analysis of the inherent interconnec
alienation is abstracted fonn the concrete socio-economica tion between religious beliefs and politica-social as well as family
a mere semblance of historicity may be substituted for a
understanding of the complex factors involved in the
process. (It is an essential function of mythologies to transfer
E relations : "The family is the association established by nature for
the supply of man's every day wants, and the members of it are
called by Charondas 'companions of the cupboard', and by
fundamental socia-historical problems of human development Epimenides the Cretan, 'companions of the manger'. But when
an atemporal plane, and the Judea-Christian treatment of several families are united, and the association aims at something
problematics of alienation is no exception to the general more than the supply of daily needs, the first society to be fanned is
Ideologically more topical is the case of some twentieth the village. And the most natural fonn of the village appears to be
theories of alienation in which concepts like "worldalienation" that of a colony from the family, composed of the children and
the function of negating the genuine historical categories and grandChildren, who are said to be 'sucked with the same milk'. And
replacing them by sheer mystification.)
t is is the reason why Hellenic states were originally governed by
Nevertheless it is an important characteristic of kmgs; because the Hellenes were under royal rule bdore they came
history that those philosophers achieved the greatest results together, as the barbarians still are. Every family is ruled by the
eldest and therefore in the colonies of the family the kingly form
grasping the manifold complexities of alienation-before Marx
Hegel above aU the others-who approached this problema tics government prevailed because they were of the same blood. As
an adequate historical manner. This correlation is even orner says : 'Each one gives law to his children and to his wives.'
38 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 39
For they lived dispersedly, as was the manner in ancient in "size" and "complexity" of the communities analysed by Aristotle,
Where/ore men say that the Gods have a king, because tkey and changes in both "size" and "complexity" are circumscribed by
selves either art or were in ancient times under the rule 0/ a the concepts of "freedom by nature" and "slavery by nature",
For they imagine, not only the forms at the Gods, but their ways postulated apriori neassity of reproducing the same
i.e. by the
life to be like tf!eir own."" ,strUctu re of society. Thus the insoluble social contradictions of his
Many hundreds of yean had to pass by before philosophers days lead even a great philosopher like AristotJe to operate with
reach again a similar degree of concreteness and historical i"';gllt self.contradictory concepts like "freedom by nature", imposed on
And yet, Aristotle's insight remained an isolated one : it could him by the entirely fictitious concept of "slavery by nature", in
become the cornerstone of a coherent philosophy of history. direct agreement with the prevailing ideological need. And when
Aristotle's thought the concrete historical insights were embedded he makes a further attempt at rescuing the historicity of the sphere
a thoroughly ahistorical gener.ll conception. The main reason of "freedom by nature", declaring that the slave is not a man but
this was an overriding ideological need which prevented A,
.;to' a mere thing, a "talking tool", he finds himseU right in the middle
from applying a historical principle to the analysis of society as of another contradiction : for the tools of man have a historical
whole. In accordance with this ideological need it had to character, and certainly not one fixed by nature. Because of the
"proved" that slavery was a social order in complete COnf()rnli partiality of his position, the dynamic, dialectically changing laws

:
with nature itself. Such a conception-formulated by Aristotle of social totality must remain a mystery to Aristotle. His postulate
opposition to those who challenged the established social rcl ' ; of a natural "duality"-directly rooted, as we have seen, in the
carried with it bogus concepts like "freedom by nature" andi ' I: ideological need of turning partiality into universality-make it
by nature". For, according to Aristotle, "there is a great durertno impossible for him to perceive the manifold varieties of social
between the rule over freemen and the rule over slaves, as there phenomena as scific manifestations of an inherently mtercon
between slavery by nature and freedom by nature" .'. nected, dynamically changing socia-historical totality.
The introduction of the concept of "slavery by nature" has The interrelationship between an awareness of alienation and
reaching coquences for Aristotle's philosophy. History in it the historicity of a philosopher's conception is a necessary one
confined to the sphere of "freedom" which is, however,
.
because a fundamental ontological question : the "nature of man"
by the concept of "freedom by nature". Indeed, since slavery ("human essence", etc.) is the common point of reference of both.
be: fixed etefllally-a need adequately reflected in the concept This fundamental ontological question is: what is in agreement
.
"slavery by nature"-there can be no question of a genuine with "human nature" and what constitutes an "alienation" from
conception. The concept of "slavery by nature" carries with it the "human essence" ? Such a question cannot be answered
counterpart: "freedom by nature", and thus the fiction of ahistorically without being turned into an irrational mystification of
detennined by nature destroys the historicity of the sphere of ' SOme kind. On the other hand, a historical approach to the question
dom" as well. The partiality of the ruling class prevails, p"'''u;lati of "human nature" inevitably carries with it some diagnosis of
its own rule as a hierarchialstructural suriority determined
"al enation" or "reification", related to he standard or "ideal"
by
sanctioned) by nature. (The partiality of Judaism-the m\'th"I" which the whole issue is being asd sesse .
of the "chosen prople" etc.--expreMeS the same kind of negation The point of central importance is, however, whether or not the
history as regards the fundamental structural relations of questi?n of "human nature" is assesd se within an implicitly or
.
expliC
society.) The principle of historicity is therefore inevitably itly "egalitarian" framework of explanation. If for some reason
into pseudo--historicity. The model of a repetitive cycle is the fundamental equality of all
men is not recognized, that is ipso
facto tantamount to negating historicity, for in that case it becomes
necessary to
upon society as a whole : no matter what happens, the
structural relations--determmed by "nature"--are said to be
reproduced, not as a matter of empirical fact, but as that of
nceptions, "divine
rely on the magic device of "nature" (or, in religious
order" etc.) in the philosopher's explanation of
apriori necessity. Movement, accordingly, is confined to an in<"'''' lStoncally established inequalities.
(This issue is quite distinct from
40 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION

the question of the ideological justification of exi.sting:


The lattcr is essential for explaining the socio-historical
:;: rgiOll":
;
ORlGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION

reigion
assesment
s
l was conceived as a historical phenomenon and
41

of its nature was subordated to the question of the


. .
of a philosopher's system but quite irrelevant to the
hi {oricity of man. In such a conception It became posSIble to
necessary interrdatioruhip of a set of concepts of a particular sys;tern.
cn
Svisage the 5uper5e55ion of religion insofar as mythology and
.
Here we are dealing with the structural relations of concepts ligion \Vere assigned only to a parhcuIar 5tag e-.u Llough a necessary
.


prevail

cannot be reduced into one another---except by


:
: :
within the general framework of a system already in
twec. This is why the "structural" and the "hist ricaI"



o e-Of the universal history of mankind, conceived on the model


f man progressing from childhood to maturity. Vico distinguished
ree stages in the development of humanity (of humanity making
constitute a dialectical unity.} The philosopher's its own history) : (I) the age of Gods; (2) the age of heroes; and
to the problem of equality, the particular limitations and (3) "the age of men in which all men recognized themselves as
comings of his concept of "human nature". determine the inl.enty equal in human nature".u Herder, at a later stage, defined mytho
of his historical conception as well as the character of his logy as "personified nature or dressed-up wisdom"u and spoke of
into the real nature of alienation. This goes not only for the " childhood", "adolescence" and "manhood" of mankind,
thinkers who-for reasons already seen-failed to produce limiting even in poetry the possibilities of myth-creation under the
cant achievements in this regard but also for positive ex"m'pl, circumstances of the third stage. U
from the representatives of the Scottish "historical school" to But it was Diderot whD spelled out the socia-political secret of
and Feuerbach. the whole trend by emphasizing that once man succeeded in his
"Anthropological orientation" without genuine critique of "the majesty Df heaven" he will not shy away for long
well as the necessary conditions of the latter, of from an assault on the other oppressor of mankind : "the worldly
to nothing more than mystification, whatever sovereignty", for these two stand or fall together.H And it was by
determinants might have brought it into existence. The no means accidcntal that it was Diderot who reached this degree
conception of society, for instance, according to which of clarity in political radicalism. For he did not stop at Vico's
element of the social complex must fulfil its "proper l;::;:;; remarkable but rather abstract statement according to which "all
i.e. a function predetermined by "nature" or by "divine p: men are equal in human nature". He went on asserting, with the
in accordance with some rigid hierarchial a highest degree of social radicalism known among the great figures
ahistorical and inverted projection of the characteristics of French Enlightenment, that "if the day-worker i5 muerable, the
established social order upon an alleged "organism" (the h nation ;5 miseTable".u Not surprisingly, therefore, it was Diderot
:
body, for i nstance) which is supposed to be the "natural n
l who succeeded to the highest degree in grasping the problematics
of all society. (A great deal of modem "functionalism" is, m"tat'i.\ of alienation, well ahead of his contemporaries, indicating as basic
mutandis, an attempt at liquidating historicity. But we cannot contradictions " the distinction of y o u r s and m i n e" ("distinction
here into the discussion of that matter.) In this regard it is du t i e n et duo m i e n"), the opposition between "one's own
significant that in the development of modem thought the colICepi particular utility ,and the general good" ("ton utilite particuliere
of alienation acquired an increasing importance palallel to the et Ie bien general") and the subordination of the "general good to
of a genuine, historically founded philosophical anthropology. One's O\Vn particular good" ("Ie bien general au bien particulier").u
the o'ne hand this trend represented a radical oPF JSition to And he went even further, emphasizing that these contradictions
mystifications of medieval pseudanthropology, and un the ,ult in the production of "5uperfiuous want5" ("besoins superflus"),
it provided the positive organizing centre of an incomparably Imaginary gOOd5" ("biens imaginaires") and "artificial need5"
dynamic understanding of the social processes than had been possll,lc "besoms facticcs")"-almost the same terms as those used by Marx
before. lfldescribing the "artificial need5 and imaginary appetites" pro
Well before Feuerbach recognized the distinction between '
dued by capitalism. The fundamental difference was, however, that
that is anthropological and false: that is theological essence While Marx could refer to a specific social movement as the
42 MARX' S TIlEORY OF AUENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 43
"material force" behind his phi
l osophical programme, Diderot the whole the pitfall of dissolving
hicai approach avoided on
to content himself-because of his "premature situatkm"-with OIOgy within anthropology. Consequently Hegel anticipated to
SO
on
viewpoint of a far-away utopian community in which such l11uch greater extent than Feuerbach the Maneian grasp of
tradictions as well as their coquences are unknown. And, istory, although even Hegel could only find "the a b s t r a c t,
course, in accordance with his utopian standpoint related to
lo g i c a l,
s p e c u l a t i v e expression for the movement of history"
wretched working conditions of his day, Diderot could not see
(146).
solution except the limitation of needs which should enable man In contrast to both the Hegelian abstractness and the Feuer
liberate himself from the crippling tedium 0/ work, allowing him bachian retrogression in historicity Marx discovered the dialectical
stop ("de s'arrrler"), to Test ("reposer" ) and to finish relationship between materialist ontology and anthropology,
("quand finirons-nous de travailler"}.u Thus an appeal is made emphasizing that "man's f e e l i ngs, passions, etc., are not merly
the utopian fiction of a "natural" limitation of wants because anthroPological phenomena in the [narrower] sense, but truly
type of labour which predominates in the given {ann of society o n t o l o g i c a l affinnations of essential being (of natur). . . .
inherently anti-human, and "fulfilment" ("jouissance") a
:::;
Only through developed industry i.e. through the medium of private
an absence of activity, not as enriched and enriching, property--d the ontologial essence o human assion come t:,
be both in Its totality and 10 Its humanity; the sCience of man IS
. .
fulfilling activity, not as seU-fulfilment in activity. That which
supposed to be "natural" and "human" appears as something therefore itself a product of man's establishment of himself by
and fixed (by nature) and consequently as something to bte
:
:: practical activity. The meaning of private property-liberated from
protected against corruption from "outside", under the el , t its estrangement-is the e x i s t e n c e o f e s s e n t i a l o b j e c t s for
guidance of "reason". Since the "material force" that man, bvll as objects of enjoyment and as objects of activity" (136-
theory into social practice is missing, theory must convert 137). We shall discuss some aspects of this complex of problems later
into its own solution : into an utopian advocacy of the n
i this chapter, as well as in chapter IV, VI, and VU. What is
reason. At this point we can clearly see that even a Di<lero' particularly important to stress at this point is that the specific
remedy is a far cry from the solutions advocated and envisaged anthropological factor ("humanity") cannot be grasped n i its
Mane. dialectical historicity unless it is conceived on the basis of the
Mane's radical superiority to all who preceded him is evident historically developing ontological totality ("nature") to which it
the coherent . dialectical historicity of his theory, in contrast to ultimately belongs. A failure to identify the adequate dialectical
weaknesses of his predecessors who at one point or another were relationship between ontological totality and anthropological
forced to abandon the actual ground of history for the sake of specificity carries with it imoluble contradictions. In the fust place
imaginary solution to the contradictions they may have pe,,,;,, it leads to postulating some fixed "human essence" as the philo
but could not master ideologically and intellectually. In sopher's "original datum", and consequently to the ultimate liquida
Marx's profound insight into the true relationship between tion of aU historicity (from Feuerbach to some recent theories of
pology and ontology is of the greatest importance. For there is "structuralism"). Equally damaging is another contradiction which
way only of producing an all-embracing and in every means that pseudo-historical and "anthropological" considerations
consistent historical theory, namely by positively situating are applied to the analysis of certain social phenomena whose
pology within an adequate general ontological framework. comprehension would require a non-anthropomorphic-but of
however, ontology is subsumed under anthropology-as course dialectical--concept of causality. To give an example : no
happened not only in the distant past but in our own time as conceivable "anthropological hypothesis" could in the least help to
in that case one-sidedly grasped anthropological principles understand the "natural laws" which govern the productive pro
should be historically explained become self-sustaining axioms e of capitalism in their long historical development; on the
the system in question and undennine its historicity. In this Contrary, they could only lead to sheer mystifications. It might
Feuerbach represents a retrogression in relation to Hegel w,o.: ploil< to be inconsistent with Marx's historical materialism when we
MARX' S THEORY OF ALIENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT Of " LlENATION 45
are told inCapital that "The nature of capital is the same in
onIy the fundamental laws of SoJcial ontology can explain how it is
gi' en "nature" ( t
, ,
develofed as in is undeveloped form".u (Some people might
poSSI'bl,c, that under certain conditiOns a V
hc nature
use tillS passage m support of their interpretatio
n of Marx's as should unfold and fully realiz e its e lf-in accordance with
of capI aI)
"structuralist" thinker.) A more careful reading
would, ho'we',. by followmg Its
. ,
own mner I
aws
. oh'Jective nature-
' of develop-
reveal that, far from being inconsistent, Marx lts
indicates here from its undeveloped form to Its
' fonn af matunt ' y, Wit' hout
ontological ground of a coherent rustorical theory ment, .
. A later cal hypot eses, no matter how
h
any Tl'gard to man", Anthropologi "
respect. Equal Iy, a Sl.lIlple
in which he analyses capitalist production, makes
this clearer : apriori rters to thIS
sob(Ie, are non-sta
ke 15
.
l lOrical pothesis is
hy of no usc. F or th e
ISSue at sta
"The principle which it [capitalism] pursued, SOCl.o-h's
0
of resolving to
process into its constituent movements, without . Iy to explain what lies at the roots f hIS
nca l d evelopme nt
precl5C , . d thereIore Il
any regard to would be
possible execution by the hand 01 man, created the n
ew . - , ultimate ground of determmauon., an . .
,hec
h IStonca I arcums tances
e circulari
science of technology. The varied, apparently unconnected, ty to indicate the changm g
0
.
ent f capIta I U
: everything
petrified forms of the industrial processes now resolved ,h"m, the fundamental cause of developm Itsc , CapItal,
I.
in to so many conscious and systematic applica
tions of natural else in existence, has-it g w.ithot saying its

to the attainment of given useful effects, Technology also di,a",," historical dimension. But this historical dmtenJ10n IS categonally
te (w main I ndamental lorms 01 motion, which, different from an ontological JubJtance .
despite
dIverSIty of the lIlstruments used, are necessarily taken
u. ,
by What is absolutely essential is not to cnfoun ontological con
productive action 01 the human body. . . ."3G .
tinuity with sOme imaginary anthropological, fixlY, ,!,he ultate
ground of persistence of thc pr.oblematics ?f ahenuon m the hIstOry
As ve can scc, the whole issue turns on understandi:n ,
g the of ideas, from its Judea-Christian begin'rungs t? Its formultlons by
bans (the general laws of causality, etc.) of specifically Marx's immediate predecessors, is the relt1ve ontological co
historicity. Without an adequate grasp of this natura , ,
linu ity inherent i n the unfolding of capItal m accordance WIth
;;
l basis Its
"science of man" is simply inconceivable because inner laws of growth from its "undevelod" to i "developed f
e:?
ultimately dissolved into relativism, The "anthropolog cal . . ".
ii :P To turn this relative ontological continUity mto me fictitIous
therefore, must be put in its proper place, within the general ,
characteristic of "human nature" means that an elUCIdatIon of the
work of a comprehensive historical ontology, In more
precise actual processes which underlie these developments is apriori
any such principle must be transcended in the directio
n of a mi possible, If, however one realizes that the ontological cO'ntinuity
dialectical social ontology. in question concerns th "nature of capital", it becomes pD$ible to
If this is not achieved-if, that is, the anthropologic
al I:nvisage a Iran5Cendence (Au fhebung) of ali<:nation, provide that
remains narrowly anthropological-there can be
no hope the issue is formulated as a radical ontologICal transformation of
soecr of understanding a process, for instance, which the social
is ";,'e"m; structure as a whole, and not confined to the partial
by lis own laws of movement and imposes on human
beings its r
ml:asu e of a political expropriation of capital ("'hich is simply a
nec
ry first step in the direction of the. annan transcendecc
pattms of productive procedure "without any
regard to
poSSIble execution by the hand of man", Simila of ahenati ). O
rly, nothing can on nly if some basic condlllons o an ontological
understood about the alienating "nature of capita
l" in terms ranscendence are satisfied and to the extent to which they are so-
the fictitious postulates of an "egoistic human nature . . i sofa
" so dear 1 1: n r as there is an effective break in the objective ontological
the heart of the political economists. For the
"sameness" of COntinu ity of capital in its broadest Marxian sensc--can we speak of
in both its "undeveloped" and "developed form"--
which applies only to its "nature" and not to
a sa,ne," qualit lively
? new phase of developmen : the beinning of the
true h
its fonn and mode LStory of mankind". Without thIS ontological frame of
referencc there can be no consistent historical theory ;--only some
existence-must be explained in terms of the
most eomf,reh"ui'
laws of a historical ontology founded on
nature. fonm of h deVOl d 0f an 0bJeet!ve

LStorical relativism instead, measure
dominating role of capital in modern history of ad . .
is self-evident. vance and consequently prone to subJ ecll.vum and voIuntansm,
46 MARX'S THEORV Ot' ALIENATION' ORlCINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 47

to the formulation of "Messianic programmes" coupled comes to the fore : "It was not difficult to foresee the
COn
v i
ser at sm
fell
uencCS [of the general as$3.ult on the old order] : down

arbitrary anticipation of their realization in the form of ;d,,,U,,
coose man now

postulates. ole fabric, the with the And
the
sound parts infirm.
Here we can clearly 5((: the historical importance of the curr enlly at the absurd notions of their forefathers, without
l g
Marx's discovery concerning the dialectical relationship ;t king either of being patriots, or of being good subjects."$! So
ontology and anthropology: it opened up the road to the U1 as much as one's own selfishness had to be distinguished from
st
J
tion of Marx's great theoretical synthesis and to the p",ct; e "purely selfIsh" and "entirely selfish" behaviour of one's
t ponents, now the "legitimately" used criterion of "absurdity"
realization of the revolutionary programmes based on it. has
decessors, as a rule, turned their limited
. op
opposed to its "abuse" by those who carry it "too far".
to be
endange
elements of a curious mixture of ring the "sound parts" of the "social fabric". "Reason" is

:Y.
preaching. Henry Home (Lord Kames), for instance-not rned into a blank cheque, valid not only retrospectively but time
negligible figure but one of the greatest representatives of sustaining the partial interest of its bearers., and destroying
Scottish historical school of Enlightenment-wrote the lollo';, insoluble dilemma of the
the earlier historical achievements. The
lines ; "Activity is essential to a social being : to a selfish being whole movement of the Enlightenme nt is expressed in this mode
of no use, after procuring the means of living. A selfish man, of arguing, well before it assumes a dramatic political form in
by his opulence has all the luxuries of life at command, Burke's vioknt attacks on the French Revolution in the name of the
dependents without number, has no occasion for activity. H"nce ' continuity of the "sound social fabric". A dilemma determined by
may fairly be inferred. that were man destined by providence to the objective contradiction of subordinating the general interest to
entirely selfish, he would be disposed by his constitution to :st. the partial interest of a social class.
never would be active when he could avoid it. The natural Thus no sooner are the achievements of the Enlightenment
of man, therefore, is to me evidence, that his Maker did not realized than they are liquidated. Everything must fIt the narrowly
him to be purely a selfish being."' Since the social grounds of and .ambiguously defined model of "Rational Man". Only those
criticism cannot be spelled out--because of the c n ;: aspects of alienation are recognized which can be classified as "alien
inherent in it, i.e. because of the "selfishness" necessari
ly to Reason", with all the actual and potential arbitrariness involved
with the social class represented by Henry Homverything in such an abstract criterion. Historicity reaches only as far as is
remain abstra,ct-anthropological ; worse : even this abstract critic;" compatible with the social position that requires these vague and
in the end must be watered down by the terms ''','n/,,,'''y'' abstract criteria as itS ground of criticism, for the acknowledgement
"purely selfish". A new form of conservatism appears on the of human equality is, on the whole, confined to the abstract kgal
to take the place of the old one, appealing to the antlu'opolc'g;o sphere. The same goes for the achievements in anthropology: old
model of "Enlightened Man" : this "natural" realization taboos are successfully attacked in the name of reason, but the
phant Reason. "Even those who are most prone to t: : understanding of the objective laws of movement, situating the
begin to hesitate. Reason, resuming her sovereign a : spc:cifically human factor within a dialectically grasped comprehen
banish it [i.e. persecution] altogether . . . within the next sive natural framework, is ham ered by the preconceived ideas
it will be thought strange, that persecution should have p""ail<
p
expre&<;ed in the self-idealizing model of "Rational Man".
among social beings. It will perhaps even be doubted, wl,etl,er . The reasons for this ultimate failure were very complex. Its
ever was seriously put into practice."SI And again : "Reason at Ideological determinants, rooted in a social position dense with social
prevailed, after much opposition : the absurdity of a whole COntradictions that had to remain veiled from the thinkers con
being slaves to a weak mortal. remarkable perhaps for no yaluabl Qmed. have been mentioned already. Equally important was the
qualification, became apparent to all."" But the unhistorical fa t that
the underlying economic trends were still far from their
categorical criteria of "rational" v. "absurd" rebound on POlnt of maturity, which made it virtually impossible to gain an
approach when it has to face some new problems. This is when adequate
insight into their real nature. (Marx could conceive his
48 MARx\, THEORY 01' ALIENATION' URlClNS 0.' TilE CONCU'T OJ.' ALIENATION 49

Sl'dcd
theory from the position of a qualitatively highee historical positivism could not be maintained, however, once the

c
point.) But the crucial point was that the philosophers of ip plin g effects of the capitalistic mode of production-based on
Enlightenment could only take-at best----60me tentative first general diffusion o alienation-started to erup also in the fOffil


.
in the direction of the elaboration of a dialectical method but f social unrest that did not shy away from the violent destruCtion
unable to grasp the fundamental laws of a materialist di"le(:ti f the much glorified and idealized "ratiOllat" machinery of
their social and historical position prevented them from doing increasingly larger scale manufacture.
(On the other hand Hegel succeeded later in identifying the The crisis in the middle of the eighteenth century which brought
concepts of dialectics, but in an "abstract, speculative, intO Jife the various critical theories was not, it gocs without saying,
fashion".) This meant that they could not solve the dilemma an internal crisis of rising cap'italism. It was, rather, a social crisis
in historicized anthropology and anthropologically oriented caused by a drastic transition from the antiquated feudal-artisan
For, paradoxically, history and anthropology helped one mode of production to a new one which was very far indeed from
up to a point, but turned into fetters for each other beyond reaching the limits of its productive capabilities. This explains the
critical point. Only a materialist dialectic could have shown a ntially uncritical attitude towards the central categories of the
out of the impasse of this rigid oppositition. For the want of new economic system even in the writings of those who criticized
dialectic, however, the historical principle was either dissolved the social and cultural aspects of capitalistic alienation. Later on,
the pseudo-historicity of some repetitive cycle, or tended when the inherent connection between the social and cultural
its own absolutization in the form of historical relativism. The manifestations of alienation and the economic system became more
possible solution which could have transcended both the ' evident, criticism tended to diminish, instead of being intensiCied. The
pological principle" and relativistic "historicism" would have bourgeoisie which in the writings of its best representatives subjected
a synthesis of history and anthropology in the form of a comf>ceh. some vital aspects of its own society to a devastating criticism, could
sive, materialist, dialectical ontology-having the concept Of not go, of course, as far as extending this criticism to the totality of
developing human labour" (or "man's establishment of himseU capitalistic society. The social standpoint of criticism had to be
practical activity" ( l36)) for its crntre of reference. The radically changed first for that and, as we all know, a century had
tionizing idea of such a synthesis, however, did not appear in to elapse before this radical reorientation of social criticism could
history of human thought before the sketching of Marx's E","o'," be accomplished.
dnd Philosophic Manuscripts 0/ /844. There is no space here for a detailed systematic survcy of the risc
of social criticism. Our attention, again, must be confined to a few
central figures who played an important role in identifying the
4. The End 0/ "Uncritical Positivism" problematics of alic'nation before Man. We have already seen
The middle of the eighteenth century marked a turning Didcrot's achievements in this respect. His contemporary, Rousseau
the various approaches to the problems of alienation. was equally important, though in a very different way. Rousseau's

contradictions of the emerging new society scarted to become ystem is dense with contradictions, more so perhaps than any other
In the
visible, the earlier "uncritical positivism" that characterized whole _movement of the Enlightenment. He himself warns us
only the school of "Natural Law" but also the first classics okn enough that we should not draw premature conclusions from
Political Economy, ran into insurmountable difficulties. In hIS statements, before carefully considering, that is, all the facets
previous period the concept of alienation has been used in of his complex arguments. Indeed an aUe'ntive reading amply con
l
to socio-economic and poitical phenomena in a thoroughly firms that hc did not exaggerate about the complexities. But this is
sense, insisting on the desirability of the alienation of land, nt the full story. His complaints about being systematically
power, etc., on the positivity of "profit upon alienation", on rnnderstood were only partially justified. One-sided though his
crlth,;s may have been in their reading of his texts (concaining as
rightfulness of procuring interest without alienating capital,
the)' did numerous qualifications that were often ignored), the fact
selling one's labour, on reifying one's person, and so on. This
50 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ORIGINS OF TilE CONCEPT OF ALlENA1'IO:-; 51
s greater i n proportion a s there i s morc need fur it. 'No thing
IS alway
remams that no reading whatsoever, however careful

:
.

CO;l
:
es out of nothing', is as true of life as in physics money
sympathetic, could eliminate the inherent contradictions of is the
system. (Needless to say; we are not talking about log
ica see of money, and the first gui nea is sometimes more difficult to

formal consistency of Rousseau's thought is as


"een these two estates of man may be summed
lions. The uire tha n the second million . . . . The terms of the social compact

as that of any great philosopher's, considering the


up in a few words :
and you are poor. We
me, because I am rich
'You have need of
to an agreement. I will permit you to have the
character of his terms of analysis. The contradictions aTC in
social substance of his thought, as we shall sec in a moment. In

re come
on condition t at you bestow on me the little
'11 therefo
r of servi n g me,
for the pams I shall take to command
Ilou .
words, they arc necessary contradictions, inherent in the very
u have left, m return

yo
of a great philosopher's socially and historically limited sta,ndlpo>inl
rou,' ''
There are very few philosophers before Marx who would
a comparison with Rousseau in social radicalism. He writes in If this is the case, it cannot be surprising that the menacing
Discourse on Political Economy---in a passage he later shadow of an inevitable revolution appears in Rousse.lU's thought ;

"Most peoples, like most men, are docile only in youth ; as they grow
stressing its central imporlance, in one of his Dialogues--that
advantages of the "social confederacy" are heavily weighed
old they become incorrigible. When once customs have become
on the side of the rich, against the poor : established and prejudices inveterate, it is dangerous and useless to
attempt their reformation ; the people, like the foolish and cowardly
"for this [the social confederacy] provides a powerful protection patients who rave at sight of the doctor, can no longer bear that
the immense possessions of the rich, and hardly leaves the any one should lay hands on its faults to remedy them. There are
man in quiet possession of the cottage he builds with his own
v::
:
indeed times in the history of States when, just as some kinds of
AIe not all the advantages of society (or the rich ann d illness turn men's heads and make them furget the past, periods of
Are not all lucrative posts in their hands? AIe not all D,
.
violence and revolutions do to people what these crises do to
exemptions reserved for them alone? Is not the individuals : horror of the past takes the place of forgetfulness, and
the State, set on fire by civil wars, is born again, so to speak, from
.
always on their side? If a man of eminence robs creditors, or
gui l ty of other knaveries, is he not always assured of impunity? its ashes, and takes on anew, fresh from the jaws of death, the
not the assaults, acts of violence, assassinations, and even vigour of youth. . . . The empire of Russia will aspire to conquer
committed by the great, matters that are hushed up in a few Europe, and will itself be conquered. TIle Tartars, its subjects or
and of which nothing more is thought ? But if a great man neighbours, wil1 beme its masters and ours, by a revolution which
is robbed or insulted, the whole police force is immediately in I regard as inevitable. Indeed, all the kings of Europe arc working
and woe even to innocent persons who chance to be suspected. in concert to hasten its coming."u
he has to pass through any dangerous road, the count ry is

arms to escort him. If the axle-tree of his chaise breaks, v" 'Ybo.i Yet the same Rousseau also asserts, talking about himself, in his
flies to his assistance. If there is a noise at his door, he speaks Third Dialogue, that "he always insisted on the preservation of the
word, and all is silent. . . . Yet all this respect COSts him not existing institutions"." And when he sets out the tenns of his
farthing : it is the rich man's right, and not what he buys with
educational e.xperiment, he writes : "The poor man has no need
wealth. How different is the case of the poor man ! The 01 educa tion. The education of his own station is forced upon him,
human/I) owes him, Ihe more society denies him . . . he always he can have no other; the education received by the rich man from
the burden which his richer neighbour has influence enough to his own station is least fitted for himself and for society. Moreover,
exempted from . . . all gratuitous assistance is denied to the a natural
education should fit a man for any position . . . ' Let us
when they need it, just because they cannot pay for it. I look
ehoasc Our scholar among the rich; we shall at least have made
any poor man as totally undone, if he has the misfortune to
another
an honest heart, a fine daughter and a powerful neighbour. Nmth. man; the poor may come to manhood without our help."8
no less important fact is that the losses of the poor are much (Accordn i gly, in the utopian community of his Nouvelle Heloise
then: is no
to repair than these of the rich, and that the difficulty of a<q",;sitio education for the poor.) The idealization of nature thus,
52 MARX' S THEORY 01' ALiENATlO ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALiENATION 53

paradoxically, turned into an idealization of the poor liberty" ; on the contrary, he gains "civil liberty and the
"natural
wretched conditions : the established order is left unchallenged ; rietorship of all he possesses".02 Furthennore, man also "acquires
poor man's subjection to the wcll-ta-do L'S maintained, eve"n if b
fn ( e c ivil state, moral liberty, which alone makes him truly masler
ro
mode of "commanding" becomes morc "enlightened". Thus in
,
himself; for tIle mere lmpu 0 Isc 0f appetite IS sIavery, whOI
0 0 I e

cnd Rousseau is justified in his assertion about his insistence o dience 10 a law which we prescribe to ourselvcs is liberty".n) As
o e
the preservation of the existing institutions", i e can see, the argument progresses from reality to morality. By the
statements about social injustice a'nd on the inevitability of a ,;, 1e \'e reach the point of the Social Contract, we arc confronted
revolution. iJl the shape of the much idealized "assembly"-with a moral
But this idealization of nature is not some intellectual "ori.i.. l "slruclion.Gi The collective "moral body", its "unity and common

philosopher himself, carrying with it a stalemate, a static cO: i


cause", It is the expression of a contradiction unknown dentity" etc., are moral postulates of a would-be legitimization of
necessa
he bourgt'Ois system. The moral construction of the "assembly" is
ry precisely because Rousseau cannot envisage any real
in the last analysis : a purely imaginary transference of the ;
perceived in society onto the plane of the moral "ought" (i. e" effective material) solution to the underlying contradictions,
envisages their solution in terms of a "moral education" of apart from appealing to the idea of an "obedience to a law which
The fundamental contradiction in Rousseau's thought lies in we prescribe to ourselves" in the general political framework of
incommcnsurably sharp perception of the phenomena of aH,, ",,';. the "ass embly" which radically transcends, in an ideal fashion, the
and the glorification of their ultimate calise. This is what turns "bad reality" of the established order while leaving it intact in
philosophy in the end into a mO'numental moral sermon reality.
reconciles all contradictions in the ideality of the moral (2) A corollary of the previous point is the insistence on the
(Indeed the more drastic the cleavage between ideality and inalienability and indivisibility of Sovereignty. According to
the more evident it becomes to the philosopher that moral "ourrlh. Rousseau Sovereignty "being nothing less than the exercise of the
is the only way of coping with it. In this respect-as in so general will, ca"n never be alienated, and the Sovereign, who is no
others as well-Rousseau exercises the greatest influence on less than a collective being, cannot be represented except by
anticipating, not in words but in general conception, Kant's p,inc"pl himseU".8' Again it is clear that we are confronted with a moraL
of the "primacy of Practical Reason".) postulate generated in ROUS\("3U'S system by the recognition th:1I
Rousseau denounces alienation in many of its manifestations : "Ihe particular will tends, by its very nature, to partiali!)', while tllO.:
(1) he insists-in opposition to the traditional approaches to general will tends to equality".s8 and by the philosopher's inability
"Social Contract"-that man cannot alienate his freedom. For to envisage a solution in any other tenns than those of a moral
alienate is to give or to sell . . but for what does a people "ought". For while the particular will's tendency towards partiality
itself? . . Even if each man could alienate himself, he could is an ontological reality, the "ge"neral will's tendency to equality"
alienate his children : they are born man and free; their is, in the given historical situation, a mere postulate. And only a
belo'ngs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it. further moral postulate can "transcend" the contradiction between
(iV[oreover, he qualifies this statement by adding that there can he actual, otologjcal "is" and the moral "ought" of an equality
only one rightful way of disposing of one's inalienable right Inherent in the "general will". (Of course in Rouau's structure
liberty : "each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself of thought this insoluble contradiction is hidden beneath the self
nobody"GG and therefore "in place of the individual personality evidence of a dual tautology, namely that "the particular will is
each contracting party, this act of association creates a moral partial" and "the general will is universal". Rousseau's greatness,
collective body, composed of as many members as the ":::;
contains voters, and receiving from this act its unity, its c
however, breaks through the crust of this dual tautology para
dOXically by defining "universality"-in an apparently inconsistent
identity, its life, and its will".U Which means, in Rousseau's form_as "equality". The same "inconsistency" is retained by Kant,
that the individual has not lost anything by contracting out mUla lis mutandis, in his criterion of moral universality.)
52 MARX'S TH"ORY 01" ALiENATION ORIGINS OF TIfE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 53

liberty"; on the contrary, he gains "civil liberty and the

o
paradoxicnlly, turned into an idealization of the poor
" atural
wretched conditions : the established order s
i left unchallenged ; prie lor5hiP of all he ??SSCSSCS" .'. Furthermore, ma also "acquires
poor man's subjection to the wcllto-do iii maintained, even if fI the civil state, moral liberty, whICh alone makes hun truly master
mode of "commanding" becomes more "enlightened". Thus in , himself; for the mere impulse of appetite is slavery, while
cnd Rous,'i<:au is justified in his assertion about his insistence obediencc to a law which we prescribe to ourselves is liberty".U) As

:
e
can see, the argument progresses from reality to morality. By the
the preservation of the existing institutions".
statements about social n
i justice and on the inevitability of a me we reach the point of the Social Contract, we are confronted
of the much idealized "assembly"-with a moral
revolution. in the shape
But this idealization of nature is not some intellectual "ori,';ru construction.G. The collective "moral body", its "unity and common
cause". It is the expression of a contradiction unknown identity" etc., arc marai postuLates of a wouldbe legitimization of
philosopher himself, carrying with it a stalemate, a static the bourgeois system. The moral construction of the "assembly" is
in the last analysis : a purely imaginary transference of the necessary precisely because Rousseau cannot envisage any real
perceived in society onto the plane of the moral (i.e. effective material) solution to the underlying contradictions,
cnviS<1.gcs their solution in terms of a "moral education" apart from appealing to the idea of an "obedience to a law which
The fundamental contradiction in Rousseau's thought lies in we prescribe to ourselves" in the general political framework of
incommensurably sharp perception of the phenomena of ah',",,/;, the "assembly" which radically transcends, in an ideal fashion, the
and the glorification of their ultimate cause. This is what turns "bad reality" of the established order while leaving it intact in
philosophy in the end into a mO'numental moral sermon reality.
reconciles all contradictions in the ideality of the moral (2) A corollary of the previous point is the insiste'nce on the
(Indeed the more drastic the cleavage between ideality and inalienability and indivisibility 01 Sovereignty. According to
the more evident it becomes to the philosopher that moral Rousscau Sovereignty "being nothing less than the exercise of the
is the only way of coping with it. In this respect-as in so general will, can never be alienated, and the Sovereign, who is no
others as well-Rousseau exercises the greatest inAuence on less than a collective being, cannot be represented except by
anticipating, not in words but in general conception, Kant's p,;nc;p himseJf".n Again it is clear that we arc confronted with a moral
of the "primacy of Practical Reason".) postulate generated in Rotl.'i'Waus system by the recognition th;'!t
Rousseau denounces alienation in many of its manifestations : "the particuLar will tends, by its very nature, to partialit), while tht:
(I) he insists-in opposition to the traditional approaches to general will tends to equality",et and by the philosopher's inabihty
"Social Contract"-that man cannot alienate his freedom. For to envisage a solution in any other terms than those of a moral
alienate is to give or to sell . but for what does a people :'ought". For while the particular will's tendency towards partiality
itself? . . . Even if each man could alienate himself, he could n ontological reality, the "ge-neral will's tendency to equality"
alienate his children : they are bom man and free; their IS, m the given historical situation, a mere postulate. And only a
belongs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it. further moral postulate can "transcend" the contradiction between
(Moreover, he qualifies this statement by adding that there can he actual, otological "is" and the moral "ought" of an equality

of thought this insoluble contradiction is hidden beneath the self


only one rightful way of disposing of one's inalienable right Inherent in the "general will". (Of course in Rousseau's structure
liberty : "each man, in giving himself to all, gives himself

h
nobody" and therefore "in place of the individual personality evid nce of
a dual tautology, namely that "the particular will is
moral
d ;evcr ,
each contracting party, this act of association creates a art lal" and
collective body, composed of as many members as the ":,, : "the general will is universal". Rousseau's greatness,

breaks hro gh the rust f this dual tautlogy para
contains voters, and receiving from this act its
identity,
unity, its
its life, and its will".61 Which means, in Rousseau's
c, f . .
lcally by definmg ulllversahty"-
attn_as
m an apparently mconslstent
"equality". The same "inconsistency" is retained by Kant,
that thc individual has not lost anything by contracting out of
mUlatis mutandis, in his criterion of moral universality.)
54 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 55

(3) A constantly recurring theme of Rousseau's thought is


shall
return to the complex determinants of this approach in a
aliellation from natllTt. This s
i a fundamental synthesizing idea
fIlom ent.
Rousseau's system, a focal point of his social criticism, and has (4) In his denunciation of the roots of alienation, Rousseau
aspects. Let us briefly sum up its crucial points.
3 ttributes to money and wealth the principal responsibility "in this
(0) "Everything is good when it leaves the hands of the calculators".H He insists that one should not alienate
'entury 01
of things; cvcl)'lhing degenerates in the hands of man'''''-,w,n. nestll by selling onesell, because this means turning the human
ROlsscali in the opening sentence of Emile. It is civilization o rson into
;',';;i/ k
a mercenary.T We have already seen that according to
corrupts man. separating him from nature, and ousseau "to alienate is to give or to sell". Under certain special
"from outside" all the vices which are "alie'l to man's c conditions--c.g. in a patriotic war when one is involved in defending
The resuh is the destruction of the "original goodneH one's own country-it is permissible to alienate oneself in the fonn
1nOnn.n of giving one's life for a noble purpose, but it is absolutely forbidden
(b) In this development-away from nalUrc by means to alienate oneself in the fonn of selling oneself : "for all the victories
vehicle of civilization-we can see a "rapid march t ';; of the early Romans. like those of Alexander, had been won by
brave citizens, who were ready, at need, t og ille their blood in the
,
perfection of society and towards the dea:rioration of the
i.e. this alienated form of development s
i characterized by the service of their country. but would never sell it."" In accordance
contradiction between society and the human species. with this principle Rousseau insists that the first and absolute
(c) Man is dominated by his inslilll/iolls to such an extent condition of an adequate fonn of education is that the laws of the
the sort of life he leads under the conditions of in',tiluliormii"," market should not apply to it. The good tutor is someone who is
cannot be called by any other name than slavery : "Civilized "not a man lor sale" and he is opposed to the prevailing practice
s
i born into slavery and he lives and dies in it : . . he s
i that assigns the vitally important function of education "to
chains 01 our inslitulions."'u mercenaries".1T Human relations at aU levels, including the inter
(d) Vice and evil Aourish in large towns and the only cour of nations with each other, are subordinated to the only
antidote to this alienation, country life, is increasingly criterion of deriving profit from the other. and consequent1y they
dominion of the big towns : "industry and commerce draw all
money from the country into the capitals . .. the richer the
poorer the COl;ntry."n Thus the dynamic vehicles of cap,'al.
. are impoverished beyond recognition : "Once they know the profit
they can derive from each other, what else would they be interested
in ?""
alienation-industry and commerce-bring under their
and country lire, ever intensifying the contradiction between As we can see even from this inevitably summary account,
and cOlmlry. Rousseau's eye for the manifold phenomena of alienation and
(e) The acquisition of artificial needs and the forced growth dehumanization is as sharp as no one else's before Marx. The same
"useless desires" characterizes the life of both the individuals cannot be said, however. of his understanding of the causes of
the modern State. "If we ask how the needs of a State grow, alienation. In order to explain this paradox we have now to tum
shall find they generally arise, like the wants of individuals, OUr attention. to questions that directly concern the historical novelty
from any real necessity than from the increase 01 useless d";,,,_ of his philosophical answers as well as their limitations. In other
Corruption in this sense starts at an early age. The natural WorcIs, we have to ask what made possible Rousseau's great positive
and passions of the child are suppressed and replaced by .
ach ievements and which factors detennined the illusory character
modes of behaviour. The result is the production of an ",r/,.O of many of
his answers and suggestions.
being"n in place of the natural, "original" human being. k. we have seen in the previous section, the philosophers' con
As we can sec, in all these points the penetrating diagnosL'I
prevailing social trends is mi:I(ed with an idealization of nalm'e
Pt of equality was indicative, in the age of the Enlightenment, of
e measure of their achievements as regards both a greater historical
the necessary premise of the Rousseauian foml of criticism. concreten
es<> and a more adequate understanding of the problem-
56
'
MARX S THEORY OF ALiENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 57

aties of alienation. The validity of this general point IS aIsO far


from being egalitarian) carries with it the abstract and often
displayed in Rousseau's writing. His concept of equality is u""ompn t character of his denunciation of alienation. Thus we can
he orical
r c that while his grasp of the necessity of equality enables him to

:
misingly radical for his age. He writes in a footnote to The
Contract : "Under bad governments, this equality is only appa". pen many a door that .remained dod before him, the limitations
f his concept of equality prevent him from pursuing his enquiry
o
and illusory; it serves only to keep the pauper in his po""" y
Ihe rich man in the position he has usurped. In fact, laws are a conclusion that would carry with it the most radical social
of use to those who possess and hannful to those who have nothiing gation of . the whole system of inequalities and dehumanizing
ons, m place of the abstract moral radicalism expressed in
ne
from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to nati
only when all have something and none 100 much.''' Since,
alie
his postu lates,
ever, the actual social relatio'os stand, as Rousseau himself 'e<,ogn;, The same point applies to the role of anthropological references
in a hostile opposition to his principle of equality, the latter in Rousseau's system. As we have seen, his conception of "healthy
be turned into a mere moral postulate "on which the whole man" as a model of social development enables him to treat
system should (doit) rcst". In a categorical opfX'sition to the revolution as the only possible "reinvigorating force" of society
state of affairs Rousseau stipulates that "the fundamental coml" under certain conditions. But such an idea is totally inadequate to
substitutes, for such physical inequality as nature may have set explain the complexities of the historical situations in which
between men, an equality that is moral and legitimate, and revolutions occur. This we can see from the continuation of
men, who may be unequal in strength or intelligence, become Rousseau's analysis of revolutions: "But such events are rare; they
one equal by convention and legal right".Bo Thus the terms are exceptions, the cause of which is always to be found in the
.
transce'ndence are abstract. There docs not appear on the particular constitution of the State concerned. They cannot even
a material force capable of superseding the relations in which happen twice to the same people, for it can make itself free as long
pauper is kept "in his fX'verty and the rich man in the position as it remains barbarous, but not when the civic impulse has lost its
has usurped". Only a vague reference is made to the desirability vigour. Then disturbances may destroy it, but revolutions cannot
a system in which "all have something and none too much", mend it: it ne.:ds a master, not a liberator, Free peoples, be mindjul
Rousseau has no idea how it could be brought into being. This oC this maxim : 'Liberty may be gained, but can never be
why everything must be left to the fX'wer of ideas, to "',ducati,on,"" recovered'."S2 The anthropological model, therefore, paradoxically
above all : "moral education"-and to the advocacy of a helps to nullify Rousseau's insight into the nature of social develop
system which presupposes in fact the effective dilffu,ic'n 'of Rt'"'''''''u ment, by confining revolutions.---on the analogy of man's cycle of
moral ideals. And when Rousseau, being the great ph l osopher life--to a nonrepeatable historical phase. Again it is clear that
who docs not evade the fundamental issues even if they underline the ultimate reference is to the sphere of the moral "ought" : the
problematic character of his whole approach, asks the question whole fX'int about violence and revolutions is made in order to
can one adequately educate the educator", he confesses in shake men out of their callous indifference so that (by becoming
sinccrity that he docs not know the answer. But he emphasizes "mindful of his maxim") they can save themselves from the fate of
the characteristics of the good educator ought to be detennined "disturbanc and destruction",'
the nature of the functions he ollght to fulfiL81 Thus, But all"this docs not quite explain Rousseau's system of ideas. It
again, Rousseau's analysis turns out to be an un.com]pct,mi,i' Simply shows why-given his concept of equality as well as his
reassertion of his radical moral postulates. anth ropological model of social development-Rousseau cannot go
beyond a certain point in his understanding of the problematics
01 alienation. The ultimate premises of his system are : his assump
However uncompromising s i Rosseau's moral radicalism, the
.
that his concept oC equality is basically a moral-legal concept,
of references to a clearly identifiable system of social relations as tion of private property as the sacred foundation of civil society on
material counterpart (the vision of a system in which "all the one hand, and the "middle condition" as the. only adequate
something and none too much" is not only hopelessly vague form oj distribution of property on the other. He writes : "It is
58 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 59

are identified by Rousseau, the answer is to be sought in the specific


certain that the right 0/ property is the most sacred 0/ all the
of citizenship, and even more important n i some respects
form of private property he idealizes.
liberty itself; . . . property is the true foundation of civil Thus he denounces, for instance, the corruption, dehumanization,
and the real guarantee of the undertakings of citizens : for if P"'p':t'1 alienation involved in the cult of money and wealth, but he
and
were not answerable for personal actions, nothing would
graSpS only the subjective side of the problem. He insists, rather
than to evade duties and laugh at the iaws."u And again :
general administration is established only to secure .::: naively, that the wealth which is being produced is "ap/)aTent and
illusory; a lot of money and little effect".oo Thus he displays no real
property, which is antecedent to it."H As to the ' middle c'
understanding of the immense objective power of money in the
according to Rousseau it "constitutes the genume strength of "civil society" of expanding capitalism. His dissent from the
State".u (Also, we ought to remember in this canne<:lion alienated manifestations of this power is confined to noticing its
insistence that "all ought to have something and none too
as well as his thundering against the "big towns" which u ,;:::
.
subjective effects which he believes to be able to neutralize or
counteract by means of the moral education he passionately
the type of property relations he idealizes in many of his advocatC5. The same goes for his conception of the "social contract".
His justification for maintaining this type of private property is He repeatcdly stresses the importance of offering a "fair exchange,?j,
"nothing is more fatal to morality and to the Republic than and an "advantageous exchange'XU to the people involved. The
continual shifting of rank and fortune among the citizens : fact that human relations in a society based on the institution of
changes are both the proof and the source of a thousand di>o"l "exchange" canoot conceivably be "fair" and "advantageous" to
and overturn and confound everything; for those who were all, must remain hidden from Rousseau. In the end what is ':00-
up to one thing find themselves destined for another"." And sidered to be "fair" is the maintenance of a hierarchical system, a
dismisses in a most passionate tone of voice the very ;d,,. c.f a.bol;,}l social order 'in which every person being equal to his occupation"
"mine" and "yours" : "Must meum and tuum be annihilated, the rulers rule and the ruled ones "will animate the zeal of their
must we rttum again to the forests to live among bears? This desc.:ning rulers, by sho\\'ing them, without flallcr), or fear. the
deduction in the manner of my adversaries, which I would as importance of their office and the severity of their duty."
anticipate as let them have the shame of drawing."" What Rousseau opposes is not the alienating power of money
These ultimate premises of Rousseau's thought determine and property as such, but a particular mode of their realization in
concrete articulation of his system and set the limits to his the fonn of the concentration of wealth and all that goes with social
standing of tlie problematics of alienation. He recognizes that mobility produced by the dynamism of expanding and concen
is made for the protection of private property and that ev"rythB ating capital. He rejects the effects but gives his full support, even
else in the order of "civil society"-including "civil hb,ectv"-"" if unknowingly, to their causes. Since his discourse, because of the
on such foundation. Since, however, he cannot go beyond ultimate premises oC his system, must be confined
horizon of this idealized civil society, he must maintain not
to the sphere of
effects and manifestations, it must become
sentimental, rhetorical
that law is made for the benefit of private property but also and, above all, moralizing. The various manifestatio
private property is made for the benefit of the law as its he perceives must be opposed n
ns or alienation
i such a discourse-which necessarily
guarantee." Thus the circle is irrevocably closed; there can be abstracts from the investigation
of the ultimate causal determinants
escape from it. Only those features of alienation can be -at the level of mere moral
postulates : the acceptance of the
which are in agreement with the ultimate premises of Rc,ua' system of
"meum and tuum" together with its corollaries leaves no


system. Since private property is taken for granted as the alternative to
this. And precisely because he is operating from the
condition of civilized fe,
il only its form of distribution is ndpoint of the same laterial

base o society whose manifestations
to be queried, the complex problematics of alienation cannot denounces--the SOCial order of private
manifestations. As
property and "fair and
grasped at its roots but only in some of its dvantageous exchange"-t
he terms of his social criticism must be
the question : which of the multifarious manifestations of 01;"",,,. Intensely
and abstractly moralizing. Capitalistic alienation
as
60 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT at: ALIENATION 61

perceived by Rousseau in its particular manifestations-those, facets of the problematies of alienation and for the great influenc!
ws on subsequent thinkers Rousseau's historical importance
is, which are hannful to the "middle condition"-is considered of his vie
him contingent, not necessary, and his radical moral discourse can not be sufficiently stressed.
supposed to provide the non-contingent alternative so that
people, enlightened by his unmasking of all that is merely :r;:,:
'"
There si no space here to follow in any detail the intellectual
of the concept of alienation after Rousseau." We must
and illusory", would tum their back on the artificial and history
practices of social life. confin e ourselves to a very brief survey of the main phases of
These moralizing illusions of Rousseau's system, rooted developmcnt leading to Manc.
idealization of a way of life allegedly appropriate to the '"m;ddJ The hislorical succession of these phases can be described as
condition" in opposition to the actuality y: ;
Of r;; :; follows;
(1) The fonnulation of a critique of alienation within the frame
and universally alienating large-scale c ; :
necessary illusions. l
: or if the critical enquiry is confined to I.,.ork of general moral postulates (from Rousseau to Schiller).
alternatives to the dehumanizing effects of a of p
;: (2) The a&<;Crtion of a necessary supersession of capitalistic
tion while leaving its basic premises there alienation, accomplished speculatively ("Aufhebung" = "a sccond
nothing but the weapon of a alienation of human existence = an alienation of alienated exist
to individuals. Such an appeal directly them to oppose ence", i.c. a merely imagi'nary transcendence of alienation), main
trends denounced, to resist "corruption", to give up , taining an uncritical attitude towards the actual material foundations
to show "moderation", to resist the temptations of "illusory of society (Hegel),
to follow the "natural course", to restrict their "useless (3) The assertion of the historical supersession of capitalism by
to stop "chasing profit", to refuse "selling themselves", etc., socialism expressed in the fonn of moral postulates intermingled
Whether or not tbey can do all this, is a different matter; in with clements of a realistic critical a&<;Cssment of the specific
case they ought to do it. (Kant is truer to the spirit (
O
f .
: contradictions of the established social order (the Utopian Socialists).
The moralizing approach to the dehumanizing effects of aliena
tion seen in Rousseau persists, all the whole, throughout the
philosophy than anyone else whe-n he "resolves" irs c n o
by asserting with abstr;lct lout bold moral radicalism : "ought
,
can".) To free the critiC]lIc of al'cnation from its abstract eighteenth century. Rousseau's idea of "moral education" is taken
"oughtridden" character, to grasp these trends in th ' : !i:
e; up by Kant and is carried, with great co'nsistency, to its logical
" .
ontological reality and not merely in their subjective r . e; ; : conclUSIOn and to its highest point of generalization. Towards the
end of the century, however, the sharpening of social contradictions,
the psychology of individuals, would have required a new
standpoint : one free from the paralysing weight of :::. coupled with the irres.istible advancement of capitalistic "ration
ality", bring out into the open the problematic character of a direct
ultimate prcmises. Such a radically new socio--historical s
appeal to the "voice of conscience" advocated by the propounders
was, however, clearly unthinkable in Rousseau's time.
of "moral education", Schiller's efforts at formulating his principles
But no mattcr how problematic are Rousseau's solutions,
of an "aesthetic education"-which is supposed to be more effective
as
approach dramatically announces the inevitable end of the
a floodgate against the rising tide of alienation than a direct
gcnerally prevailing "uncritical positivism". Helped by his


m.oral ap al-reflect this new situation, with its ever intensifying
uman cmlS, (We shall return to a discussion of Schiller's idea of an
point rooted in the rapidly disintegrating "middle condition" at
.
aesthetic education" in Chapter x.)
time of great historical transfonnation, he powerfully
thc various manifestations of capitalistic alienation, raising
. Hegel represents a qualitatively different approach, insofar as
about their extension over all spheres of human life, even if he he
lslays a profound insight into the fundamental
unable to identify thcir causes. Those who come after him laws of capitalistic
Iet . $ e shall duss Hegel's philosophy and
arx s achievements III vanous
ignore or sidestep his diagnoses, though their attitude is often its relation to
.
different from his. Both for his own achievements in grasping contexts. At this point let us brieRy
62 MARX'S THEORY 01; ALIENATION ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 63

deal with the centra! paradox of the Hegelian approach. N"meJy as critics of capitalistic alienation try to reassess the relation of forces
that while an understanding of the necessity of a supersession of from a viewpoint which allows them to take into account the
capitalistic processes is in the foreground of Hegel's thought, eXistence of this new social force. And yet, their approach objectively
finds it imperative to condemn his "uncritical positivism", with remains, on the whole, within the limits of the bourgeois horizon,

justification, needless to say. The moralizing criticism of ali'e",,'it,. though of course subjectively the representatives of Utopian
is fully superseded in Hegel. He approaches the question of Socialism negate some essential features of capitalism. They can
transcendence of alienation not as a matter of moral "ought" only project a supersession of the established order of society by a
as that of an inner necessity. In oilier words the idea of sociaist
l system of relations in the form of a largely imaginary
"Aufhebung" of alienation ceases to be a moral postulate : it model, or as a moral postulate, rather than an ontological necessity
considered as a necessity inherent in the dialectical process as inherent in the contradictions' of the existing structure of society.
(In accordance with this feature of Hegel's philosophy we find (Characteristically enough ; educational utopias, oriented towards
his conception of cquali.:y has for its centre of rclerence the the "workman". fonn an essential part of the conception of Utopian
of "is". not that of a moral-legal "ought". His "eIPtenooJogicai Socialists.) What makes their work of an enonnous value is the fact
that their criticism is directed towards clearly identifiable material

;:;
demccratism"-i.e. his assertion according to
actually capable of achieving true knowledge, provided that
approach the task in terms of the categories of the Hegclia
-is an essential constituent of his inherently historical
'
:
factors of social life. Although they do not have a
assesm
comprehensive
s ent of the established social structures, their criticism of some
vitally important social phenomena-from a critique of the modern'
of philosophy. No wonder, therefore, that later the State to the analysis of commodity production and of the role of
ahistorical Kierkegaard denounces, with aristocratic contempt, money--greatly contributes to a radical reorientation of the critique
"omnibus" of a philosophical understanding of the historical of alienation. This criticism, however, remains partial. Even when
cesses.) However, since the socio-economic contradictions it is oriented towards the "workman", the proletarian social position
arc turned by Hegel into "thought-entities", the appears in it only as a directly given sociological immediacy and
"Aufhebung" of the contradictions manifest in the as a mere negation. Thus the Utopian critique of capitalist alienation
process is in the last analysis nothing but a merely remains-however paradoxical this may sound-within the orbit of
("abstract, logical, speculative") supersession of these capitalistic partiality which it negates from a partial standpoint.
which leaves the actuality of capitalist alienatiO"n Because of the inescapable partiality of the critical standpoint the
challenged. This is why Marx has to speak of Hegel's element of "ought"," again, assumes the function of constructing
positivism". Hegel's standpoint always remains a bourgeois "totalities" both negatively-i.e. by producing the overall object
point. But it is far from being an unproblematical one. On of criticism in want of an adequate comprehension of the structures
contrary, the Hegelian philosophy as a whole displays in the of capitalism-and positively, by providing the utopian counter
graphic way the gravely problematic character of the world examples to the negative denunciations.
which the philosopher himself belongs. The contradictions of
world transpire through his categories, despite their "abstract, And this is the point where we come to Marx. For the central
speculative" character, and the message of the neceHity of a feature of Marx's theory of alienation is the assertion of the
cendence counteracts the illusory tcrms in which such a tran.:en histOrically necessary supersession of capitalism by socialism freed
dence is envisaged by Hegel himself. In this sense his philosophy from all the abstract moral postulates which we can find in the
.
a whole is a vital step in the direction of a proper wrilings of his immediate predecessors. The ground of his assertion
of the roots of capitalistic alienation. Was not simply the recognition of the unbearable dehumanizing
In the writings of the Utopian Socialists there is an attempt effects of alienation-though of course subjectively that played a
changing the social standpoint of criticism. With the ' Very important part in the foonation of Marx's thought-but the
a new social force appears on the horizon and the Utopian profound understanding of the objective ontological foundation of
ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ALIENATION 65
64 MARX'S THEORY OF AUENATION

the processes that remained veiled from his predecessors.


"secret" of this elaboration of the Marxian theory O'f
;
:: ; " SoUen" (ought), but those of neceuity ("is") inherent in the
objective ontological fou dations of human life ;
(2) its point of vIew IS not that of some utopIan
. . . .

partlabty but
was spelled out by Marx himself when he wrote in his ( , , ,
the universality of the critically adopted standpoint of labour;
"this process of objectification appears in fact as a process
(3) its framework of criticism is not some abstract (Hegelian)
alienation from the ltandpoint of labour and as appropriation
"speculative totality", but the concrete totality of dynamically
alien labour from the Jtandpoint 0/ capital.""
developing society perceived from tllt: material basis of the proletariat
The fundamental determinants of capitalistic alienation, then, as a necessarily selftranscending ("universal") historical forcr.
to remain hidden from all those who associated
knowingly or unconsciously, in one form or in another-with
standpoint of capital".
A radical shift of the standpoint of social criticism was a
sary condition of success in this respect. Such a shift involved
critical adoption of the standpoint of labour from which
capitalistic process of objectification could appear as a process
alienation. (In the writings of thinkers before Marx, by

):;:
"objectification" and "alienation" remained hopelessly CI

::
with one another.)
But it is vitally important to stress that this adoption of l
standpoint had to be a critical one. For a simple, uncritical i( :
cation with the standpoint of labour--one that saw alienation
ignoring both the objectification involved in it, as well as the
that this fonn of alienatingobjectification was a necessary phase
the historical development of the objective ontological conditions
labour-would have meant hopeless subjectivity and partiality.
The univeTStzlily of Marx's vision became possible because
succeeded in identifying the problematics of alienation, from


critically adopted standpoint of labour, in its complex, ):
totality characterized by the terms "objectification", ": i i
and "appropriation". This critical adoption of the standpoint
labour meant a conccption of the proletariat not simply as a
logical force diametrically opposed to the standpo'iint Io;:f,:;:::;;;;
and thus remaining in the latter's orbit-but as a s.;.
historical force which cannot he1p superseding
historically given form of objectification) in the process off
its own immediate ends that happen to coincide with the "
;::=::i
alienation (i.e.

priation of the human essence".


Thus the historical novelty of Marx's theory of alienation
relation to the conceptions of his predecessors can be summed
in a preliminary w:\y as follows :
( 1 ) the tenns of reference of his theory are not the categories of
'
64 MARX S THEORY OF ALiENATlON ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT O F ALJENATIO:-; 65

::
the processes that remained veiled from his predecessors. "Sollen" (ought), but those of necessity ("is") inherent Ul the
"secret" of this elaboration of the Marxian theory O
'f
f objective ontological foundations of human life ;
was spelled out by Marx himseU when he wrote in his G;, (2) its point of view is not that of some utopian partiality but
"this process of objectification appears in fact as a process the universality of the critically adopted standpoi'nt of labour;
alienation from the standpoint 0/ labour and as appropriation (3) its framework of criticism is not some abstract (Hegelian)
alien labour from the standpoint of capital."' "speculative totality", but the concrete totality of dynamically
developing society perceived from the material basis of the proletariat
The fundamental dctenninants of capitalistic alienation, then, as a necessarily self-transcending ("universal") historical force.
to remain hidden from all those who associated
knowingly or unconsciously, in one form or in another-with
standpoint of capital".
A radical shift of the standpoint of social criticism was a
sary condition of success in this respect. Such a shift involved
critical adoption of the standpoint of labour from which
capitalistic process of objectification could appear as a process
alienation. (In the writings of thinker.! before Mane, by' :;::
"objectification" and "alienation" remained hopelessly e
with one another.)
But it is vitally important to stress that this adoption of lat>ou,
standpoint had to be a critical one. For a simple, uncritical ;d"ntifi
cation with the standpoint of labour-one that saw alienation
ignoring both the objectification involved in it, as well as the
that th.is fonn of alienating-objectification was a necessary phase
the historical development of the objective ontological conditions
labourwould have meant hopeless subjectivity and partiality.
The universality of Mane's vision became possible because
succeeded in identifying the problematics of alienation, from
critically adopted standpoint of labour, in its complex, :::::';;
totality characterized by the tenns "objectification", "
and "appropriation". This critical adoption of the standpoint

Io:!f,:;:::;.
labour meant a conception of the proletariat not simply as a
logical force diametrically opposed to the standpo)iinI :
and thus remaining in the latter's orbit-but as a Sl;_
historical force which cannot help superstding alienation (i.e.
historically given form of objectification) in the process off ;:::::
its own immediate ends that happen to coincide with the "
priation of the human essence",
Thus the historical novelty of Marx's theory of alienation
relation to the conceptions of his predecessor.! can be summed
in a preliminary w:ty as follows:
(I) the tenns of reference of his theory are not the categories
GENESIS OF MARX'S THEORY OF AUENATIO:\, 67

as a proof of his bellum omnium con Ira omnes.


Heel, n whose

hc
s truction our true socialist depends, actually perceIVes in nature
on
cleavage, the dissolute period of the absolute idea and even
calls the animal the cO'ncrele anguish or God."u
I I . Genesis of Marx's Theory of Alienation The contradictory character of the world is already in the centre
of !vlarx's attention when he - analyses the Epicurean philosophy.

l . Marx's Doctoral Thesis and His Critique 0/ the Modern Stale


He emphasizes that Epicurus is principally interested in contradic
tion, that he determines the nature of the atom as inherently
ALREADY in his Doctoral Thesis Marx tackled some of the pnDbllen,,, contradictory. And this is how the concept of alienation appears in
of alienation, though in a quite peculiar form, analysing Marx's philosophYI stressing the contradiction between "existence
Epicurean philosophy as an expression of a historical alienated from its essence" : "Durch die Qualitaten erhalt das Atom
dominated by the "privatization of life" (Privatisierung des Lebcns). cine Existenz, die seinem Begriff widerspricht, wird es als

CI:
The "isolated individuality" (die isolicrtl;: IndividuaJitat) is nJ t ii u ss e r t es, von seinem \V e s e n u nterschiedenes
sentativc of such a historical stage, and philosophy is c:: Dasein gesetzt." iI And again : "Erstcns macht Epikur den

! 2r.
by the simile of the "moth" that seeks "the lamplight of the Widcrspruch zwischen ]lIlaterie und Form zum Charakter der
rcalm" (das Lampenlicht des Privaten) after the universa crscheinenden Natur, die so das Gegenbild der wcsentlichen, des
These limes which are also characterized by a particular ' Atoms, wird. Dies geschieht, indem dem Raum die Zeit, der passiven

:;i
of a "hostile schism [estrangement] of philosophy from the : Form der Erscheinung die aktive entgegengesetzt wird. Zweitens
(feindJiche Diremption def Philosophic mit der Welt) arc, h wird erst bei Epikur die Erscheinung als Erscheinung aurgelasst,
"Titanic" (Titanenartig) because the cleavage within the sl , ; d. h. als eine Enl/remdung des Wesens, die sich :;elbst in ihrer
of the given historical stage is tremendous ("riescnhaft ist
Zwiespalt"). From Ihis viewpoint Lucretius-the Epicurean poet-
Wirklichkeit aLs solche Ent/remdung betiitigt "l Marx also . ()o
emphasizes that this "externalization" and "alienation" is a
must be considered, according to Marx, the true heroic "Verselbststandigung", i.e. an independent, autonomous mode of
Rome. A poet who "celebrates in song the substance of the Rc)man existence, and that the "absolute principle" of Epicurus' atomism
Spirit; in place of Homer's joyful, robust, total characters here -this "n a t u r a l science of s e l f - c o n s c i o u s n e ss"-is
have hard, impenetrably armoured heroes lacking in all "abstract individuality" . 101
quaities;
l the war of all against all (bellum omnium contra on..,.).
the rigid foml of being-for-itself, nature that lost its god and Marx's next step towards a more concrete formulation of the
who lost its world"." problematics of alienation was closely connected with his enquiries
As we can sec, Marx's analysis serves to throw into relief into the nature of the modern state. The historical tendency
principle---b
- eUum omnium contra omnes-which has a described earlier by ,Marx in its generic form with the tern-IS "isolated
mental bearing on alienation. Laler on, in connection with the individuality" and " abstract individuality" appeared now not in
.
Hobbesian philosophy, he refers to the same principle, in its negativity but as a positive force (positive as synonymous with
to the romantic and mystifying approach of his contemporaries, "rcal" and "necessary", and not as predicative of moral approval).
the "true socialists" : "The true socialist proceeds from the thought This historical tendency is said to give rise to the "self-centred"
that the dichotomy of life and happiness (der Zwiespalt von Leben modern state, in contradistinction to the polis-state in which the
und GlUck) must cease. To prove this thesis, he summons the aid "isolate d individuality" is an u'nknown phenomenon. Such a modern
of nature and assumes that in it this dichotomy docs not exis t; from state, whose "centre of gravity" was discovered by modern phi l o
this he deduces that since man, too, is a natural body and pos.ses.sd sophers "within the state itself", is thus the natural condition or this
all the general properties of such a body, no dichotomy should exist " isolated individuality".
for him either. Hobbes had much better reasons for invoking nature Viewed from the standpoint of this "selfcentred" modern stale
fi6
68 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION GENESIS OF MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION 69
the principle of bellum omnium contra omnes can the
"The present condition of society displays its difference from
as if it possessed the elemental force, eternal V::ill : earlier state of civil society in that-in contrastto the pastit does
universality of the laws of nature. It is significant that in {a a y
not integrate the individual within its community. It depends p rtl
discussion of the "Copernican law" of the modern state the name on chance, partly on the individual's effort e . t c whether or not he
of Hobbes apars again in company of those philosophers who holds on to his estate; to an e s t which,
a t e again, determines
greatly contributed to the elaboration of the problematics of aliena. the individual merely e x t e rna y. I I For his station is not inherent
tion. "Immediately before and after the time of Copernicus's great in the individual's labour, nor does it relate itself to him as an

discoveries on the true solar system the law of gravitation of objective community, organized in accordance with constant laws
a
and maintaining permanent relat on i ship to him. . . i il . The pr nc p e
state was discovered : the centre of gravity of the state was of the bourgeois estate---or of o geoi society-is e j o y m e n t
b ur s n
within the state itself. As various European governments tried and the a b i l i t yto enjoy. In a political sense the member of
apply this result with the initial superficiality of practice to the bourgeois society detaches himself from his estate, his real private
system of equilibrium of states, similarly Macchiavelli ?'Jsition; it is only here that his characteristic of being human
Campanella began before them and Hobbes, Spinoza, and assumes its significance, or that his eterm nati
d i on as a member of
Grotius afterwards down to Rousseau, Fichte and Hegel, to an estate, as a communal being, appears as his h u rna n deter
sider the state with the eyc of man and to develop its natural laws mination. For all his other determinations a p pea r in bourgeo si
from rcaron and cxperience, not from theology, any more society as i n e s s e n t i a l for man, for the ndiv dua
i i l, as merely
Copernicus let himself be influenced by Joshua's supposed command e x t e r n I determinations which may be necessary for his existence
a
to the suri to stand still over Gideon and the moon over the vale of in the whole-i.e. as a tie with the whole-but they constitute a tic
which he can just as well cast away. (The present bourgeois society
is the consistent realization of the pr c p
Ajalon.",o2 in i le of in d v d a i i u I ism;
In this period of his development Marx's attention is individual existence is the ultimate end; activity, labour, content etc.
primarily on the problcms of the state. His early evaluation of are o n l y means.)1l16 . . . The r e a l m a n is r va the p i te
nature and function of religion appears in this connection. C,"itie;,, in di v id u a I of present-day political constitution. . . . Not only
ing those who held the view according to which the downfall of the i vis
is the e s t a t e founded on the d i o n of society as its ruling
old religions brought with it the decadence of the States of C'ee<:e law, it also divorces man from his universal being; it turns him
and Rome, Marx emphasizes that on the contrary it was the do,w,, d c
into an animal that ire Iiy coincides with his determination. The
fall these states that caused the dissolution of their '<l;pc,etive
of Middle Ages constitute the history of mankind,
animal its
religions.101 This kind of assessm ent of religion has, of course, Zoology. The modern age, our iv l a c i i z t i o n commits the
predecessors, but it reaches its climax in Marx's theory of aIienatiolL opposite error. It divorces from man his as
o b j e c t i v e being
At the time of writing the article just referred to, Marx's sphere I and material."'o.
something merely e x t e r n a
reference is still confined to politics. Nevertheles<> his radical ,.,,<,..u As we can see, many elements of Marx's theory of alienation,
of his opponents' approach-which he calls "history upside down""'; developed in a systematic form in the Manuscripts of 1844, are
- a major step in the direction of a comprehensive
is a rea
l dy present in this Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right.
conception of the complex totality of capitalist alie'nation.
The most important for the understanding of the develoF" , Even if Marx does not use in this passage the terms "Entfremdung",
work
ment of Marx's theory of alienation up to the Autumn of "Entausserung", and "Verausserung", his insistcnce on the
his Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right. We shall di,,:u," "division of society" ("Trennung der Sozietat") and on the
merely "external determination of the individual" ("ausser
later in a more detailed form Marx's criticism of the Hegelian
of alienation. At point, is necessary to quote a lic h e Bestimmung des Individuums"), with their direct rcference
this however, i t
important passage from this work, in order to show some eh,",aetel to the "divorce of man from his objective being" ("Sie trennt
das
age gegenstandliche Wesen des Menschen von ihm") in the
istic features this phase of Marx's intellectual development.
of
reads as follows: of " civilization"-i.e. in modem capitalistic society
take him to basic concept of his later analysis.
near the
70 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION GENESIS OF MARX'S THEORY Of ALIENATION 71
Moreover, we can note in our quotation a reference to the being social outcasts, they could assume an intellectual standpoint
"externality of labour" as regards the individual ("Tiitigkeit, paT exccllence which enabled them, from Spinoza to Marx, to
Inhalt etc. sind n il T Mittel" etc.) : an ide.1. that some ten month accomplish some of the most fundamental philosophical symheses
later s i going to occupy a central place in Marx's in history. (This characteristic becomes even more strikin ; if one
alienation. Here, however, this phenomenon is considered basicallJ compares the significance of these theoretical achievements with
from a legal-institutional standpoint. Accordingly, capitaism l the artistic products of jewish painters and musicians, sculptors
characterized as "the consistent realization of the principle and writers. The outsider's viewpoint that was an advantage in
i n d i v i d u a l i s m" ("das durchgcfiihrte Prinzip des In,di';idual theoretical efforts became a drawback in the, arts, because of the
ismus"), whereas in Marx's later conception this "principle inherently national character of the latter. A drawback resulting
individualism" is put in its proper perspective : it is analysed as apart from a very few exceptions, such as the quite peculiar,
manllestatiO'n determined by the alienation 0/ labour, as one intellectualistic-ironical, poems of Heine-in somewhat rootless
the principal aspects of labour's self-alienation. works, lacking in the suggestivenes<3 of representational qualities and
therefore generally confined to the secondary range of artistic
achievements. In the twemieth century, of course, the situation
2. The Jewish Question and the Problem of German E,nanco'pa,;o,
greatly changes. Partly because of a much greater-though never
The Autumn of 1843 brought certain changes in Marx's ori",,, complete-national integration of the particular jewish communities
tion. By that time he was already residing in Paris, surrounded accomplished by this time thanks to the general realization of the
a mOfe stimulating intellectual environment which helped him social tre'nd described by Marx as the "reabsorption of Christianity
draw the most radical conclusions from his analysis of r::,:; into judaism".'Q7 More important is, however, the fact that parallel
society. He was able to assess the social and political to the advance of this process of "reabsorption"-i.e. parallel to
of Germany from a real basis of criticism (i.e. he could perceive the triumph of capitalistic alienation in all spheres of life--art
contradictions of his own country from the perspective of the as'lumes a more abstract and "cosmopolitan" character than ever
situation of a historically more advanced European state) and before and the experience of rootlessness becomes an all-pervasive
merely from the standpoint of a rather abstract ideality theme of modem art. Thus, paradoxically, the earlier drawback
characterized German philosophical criticism, including, up turns into an advantage and we witness the appearance of some
point, the ca,r1ier Marx himself. great Jewish writers-from Proust to Kafka-in the forefront of
Philosophical generalizations always require some sort of world literature.)
(or "outsider-position") of the philosopher from the The outsider position of the great Jewish philosophers was doubly
situation upon which he bases his generalizations. This , accentuated. In the first place, they were standing in a necessary
the case in the history of philosophy (rom Socrates to opposition to their discriminatory and particularistic national com
Bruno, who had to die for being radical outsiders. But even munities which rejected the idea of Jewish emancipation. (e.g.'''The
"outsiders" played an extraordinary part in the development G e r m a n Jew, in particular, suffers from the general lack of
philosophy : the SCOts with respect to the economically much political freedom and the pronounced Christianity of the state."lO*)
advanced England; the philosophers of the backward Naples But, in the second place, they had to emancipate themselves also
Vico to Benedetto Croce) in relation to the capitalistically rom judaism in order not to paralyse themselves by getting involved
developed Northern Jta:Jy; and similar examples can be found In the same contradictions at a different level, i.e. in order to

other countries as well. A great number of philosophers belong escape from the particularistic and parochial positions of Jewry
this category of outsiders, from Rousseau and Kierkegaard differing only in some respects but not in substance from the
to Wittgenstein and Lukacs in our century. object of their first opposition. Only those Jewish philosophers could
To jewish philosophers a particular place is to be assi.gned achieve the comprehensiveness and degree of universality that
this context. Owing to the position forced upon them by virtue characterize the systems of both Spinoza and Marx who were able
72 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION GEESIS OF MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION 73

:
to grasp the issue of Jewish emancipation in its paradoxical duali,,,, conomic as well as political problems, and only the notion of
as inextricably intertwined with the historical development of lienation could assume such a role with i his conceptual frame

c
kind. Many others, from Moses Hess to Martin Buber, becallSl! (We shall return to a more detailed analysis of the conceptual
the particularistic character of their perspectives---r,-o
'"ork.
in ucture of Marx's theory of alienation in the next chapter.)
sr
words, because of their inability to emancipate themselves In his articles On the Jewish Question Marx's starting point is,
"Jewish narrowness"-formulated their views in tenns of

i:V;;:
again, the principle of bellum omnium contra omnes as realized
rate, provincialistic Utopias.
It is highly significant that in Marx's intellectual
in bourgeois society ("biirgerliche Gcsellschaft") that splits man into
a public citizen and a private individual, and separates man from
a most important turning point, in the Autumn of 1843,
his "communal being" (Gemeinwesen), from himself, and from
with a philosophical prise de conscience with regard to
other men. But then Marx goes on to extend these considerations to
His articles On the Jewish Question/Of written during the virtually every aspect of this extremely complex "biirgerliche
months of 1843 and in January 1844, sharply criticized not Gesellschaft" ; from the interconnections between religion and the
Gennan backwardness and JX>litical anachronism that rejeCl." , Slate-finding a common denominator precisely in a mutual
Jewish emancipation, but at the same time also the structure
reference to alienation-to the economic, political and family
capitalistic society in general as well as the role of Judaism in
relations which manifest themselves, without exception, in some
development of capitalism. form of alienation.
The structure oC modem bourgeois society in relation to J udai...
He uses a great variety of teons to designate the various aspects
was analysed by Marx on both the social and political plane in
oC alienated bourgeois society, such as "Trennung" (divorce or
teons which would have been unthinkable on the basis of aequa"
. separation), "Spaitung" (division or cleavage), "Absonderung"
tance with the German-by no means typical-situation
(separation or withdrawal), "verderben" (spoil, corrupt), "sich selbst
During the last months of 1842 Marx had already studied
verlieren, veraussem" (lose and alienate oneself), "sich isolieren und
writings of French Utopian Socialist;,; e.g. Fourier, tienne C.,bet.
auf sich zuriickziehen" (isolate and withdraw oneself into oneself),
Pierrt Leroux and Pierre Considerant. ]n Paris, however, he
"ausserlich machen" (externalize, alienate), "aile Gattungsbande
the opportunity of closely observing the social and political si"Jation '
des Menschen zerreissen" (destroy or disintegrate all the ties of man
of France and to some extent even getting personally involved
with his species), "die Menschenwelt in cine Welt atomistischer
it. He was introduced to the leaders of the democratic and socialist
lndividuen auRosen" (dissolve the world of man into a world of
opposition and often frequented the meetings of the secret so,,",,i,,
atomistic individuals), and so on. And all these tenns are discussed
of workers. Moreover, he intensively studied the history in specific contexts which establish their close interconnections with
of the
"Ent.aussenmg", "Entfremdung", and "Vediusserung".110
French Revolution of 1 789 because he wanted to write a history
of
the Convention. All this helped him to become extreme
ly weU
acquainted with the most important aspects of the French
situation Another important study from this period of Marx's intellectual
which he was trying to integrate, together with his knowled
ge and development, written simultaneously with the articles On the Jewish
experience of Germany, into a general historical concept
ion. The Question, is entitled : Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right.
contrast he drew, from the "outsider's" viewpoint, betwee
n the Introduction.''' In this work the primary task of philosophy is
German situation and French society-against the backgro
und of defined as a radical criticism of the "non-sacred" forms and
modem historical development as a whole-proved fruitful
not manifestations of self-alienation, in contrast to the views of Marx's
only for realistically tackling the Jewish question but
in general for Contemporaries-including Feuerbach-who confined their atten
the elaboration of his well-known historical method. tion to the critique of religious alienation. Marx insists, with great
Only in this framework could the concept of alienat
ion-an passion, that philosophy should transIonn itself in this spirit. "It is
eminently historical concept, as we have seen-assume the t a s k of h i s t o ry, therefore once the o t h e r - w o r l d o f
a central
place in Marx's thought, as the converging point of
manifold socio- t r u t h has vanished, to establish the t r u t h o f t h i s w o r l d.
74 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION GENESIS OF '
MARX S THEOItY OF ALIENATION 75
The immediate ( a s k o f p h i l o s o p h y, which is In the
lOgically-insofar as they offer a key . to. uderstanding th: natu.re
of Utopianism as the inflation of pa /willy mo pswdo-unwersa lty
of history, is to unmask human self-o.lienalion in its s e c r !
f o r m now that it has been unmasked in its s a c r e d f o r m . --but also practically. For Marx clearly reahzes that the practical
the criticism of heaven is transformed into the criticism of persession of alienation is inconceivable in tenns of politics alone,
u

social processes, no matter how cemrally important it rna)' be in


the c r i t i c i s m DC r e l ig i -o n into the c r i t i c i s m o f view of the fact that polities is only a partial aspect of the totality
and the c r i t i c i s m o f t h e o l o g y into the c r i t i c i s m

specific histor cal situatins (.g. lat eighteent century Franc .


p o l i t i c s."llI

its are also m eVidence m these articles. The OppoSItion
In this study one cannot fail to perceive the "outsid
er's" But the lim
point in relation to the German situation. Marx
points out between "partiality" and "universality" is grasped in its rather
merely opposing and negating Gennan politica
l ci,curns.,.,leO abstract generality and only one of its aspects is concretized,
tvould amount to nothing more than an anachr
onism, because negatively, in Marx's rejection of "political prtiality" as a possible
the enormous gap that separates Germany from .
the candidate for bringing about the supersession of ahenauon. Its
nations of Europe. "If one were to begin with
the status quo positive cunterpart remains unspecified as a gen ral pO tuLate of

;,
ill Germany, even in the most appropriate way, i.e.
negatively, "universality" and thus assumes the character of a Sollen (ought).
result ':'lIld still be an a n a c h r o n i sm. Even
the negation The identification of "universality" with the ontologically funda
our pohtlcal present IS ,
already a dusty fact in the historical mental sphere of economics is a later achievement in Marx's thought.
rm of odern nations. I may negate powde
red wigs, but I At this stage his references to political economy are still rather
still left wuh unpowdered wigs. If I negate
of 1843 I have, according to French chrono
the German s
logy, hardly
;,,: vague and generic. Although he sees intuitively that "the relation
of industry, of the world of wealth in general, to the political world
is a major problem of modem times",l1' his assesment s
the year 1 789, and still less the vital centre
of the present d3v. ' .... of the
The contrast between Gennan anachronism
"up-to-date nations" of Europe points, in Marx'
and the h;. "" cail,j, specific contradictions of capitalism is still rather unrealistic : "While
s view, towards in France and England," he writes, "the problem is put in the form :
solution that with respect to Germany is rather
more of a p o l i t i c a l e c o n o m y or the r u l e o f s o c i e t y o v e r w e a l t h ;
in Germany it is put in the form : n a t i o n a l e c o n o m y or the
gorical imperative" than an actuality : the
proletariat that has
to develop itself beyond the Rhine.l" r u l e o f p r i v a t e p r o p e r t y o v e r n a t i o n a l i t y . Thus, in
In co":,plete agreement with the line of thoug
ht ;;;. England and Frant;e it is a question of abolishing monopoly, which
I
of the artIcles On the Jewish Question-in which
Marx has developed to its final consequences; while in Germany it is a
:u
we ave see , that the complete emancipatio
? n of Judaism q estion of proceeding to the final consequences of monopoly."Hf
mconcelVable without the universal emancipatio u
n of mankn i d from It is, therefore, not surprising that the element of "ought"in
the ci cumstances of lf-alienation-he repeat
. edly stresses the point want of a concrete demonstration of the fundamental economic
that The e m a n c I p a t I. o n o f t h e G e r m a n trends and contradictions which objectively point to the necessary
coincides with
the e m a n c i p a t i o n o f m a n".m Moreo
ver, he emphasizes supersession of alienation-plays such an important part in Marx's
that "It is not r a d i c a l revolution,
u ni ve r s a l h u m a n thought at this stage of his development. In 1843 Marx is still

emanc pation which is a Utopian dream for
Germany, but rather forced to conclude that the critiquc of religion ends "with the
a at:al. merely political revolution which
leaves the pillars of the categorical imperative t o o v e r t h r o w a l l t h o s e c o n
buildmg standing" 1l6 and that "In Germ
any complete [universal] d i t i o n s in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned,
Contemptible being",m and his first assesment
s
emancipation is a conditio sine qua non
for any partial emancipa of the role of the
tio' ' 1 1 1 The same applies to the Jewish Quest
: proletariat is in full agreement with this vision. In the Economic
ion; for no degree of
poldlcal emancipation can be considered an answer when and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, however, Marx makes a
"the
Jewish narrowness of society" is at stake.
crucial step forward, radically superseding the "political partiality"
The importance of these insights is enorm
ous, not only methodo- of his own orientation and the limitations of a conceptual frame-
76 MARX'S THEORY OF AUF.NATION GENESIS OF MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION 77

work that characterized his development in its phase of Iso presupposed the intense moral passion and unshakeable
a "
tionary democratism". character 0f someone who was prepared to announce a w a r by
eans"J .. on the "conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved,
aU m
ban doned, contemptible being" ; someone who could envisage his
3. Marx's Encounter with Political Economy a
personal . fulfilment, the .ralization .of his itellectual aims, in e
The Economic and Philosophic Manu.scripts 0/ 1844 arc evidellth "realizatIon through abohuon" of phliosophy m the course of fightmg
the work of a genius; considering the monumentality that \\'ar. The simultaneous fulfilment of all these conditions and
synthesis and the depth of its insights it is almost unbelievable prerequisites was necessary indeed for the Marxian elaboration of
they were written by a young man of 26. There may appear to the concept of "labour's self-alienation"-at a time when the
a contradiction here, between acknowledging the "work of conditions were "ripe for it".
genius" and the Marxist principle according to which great
just as much as great ideas, arise in history "when the time is It is well known that Marx started to study the classics of political
for them", In fact "Dr. Marx's genius" was noticed by Moses economy at the end of 1843, but they only served to give, in both
and others well before the publication of any of his great works. On the Jewish Question and his Introduction to a Critique of the
Hegelian Philosophy of Right, a background lacking in definition

:!:i
And yet, we are not involved in any contradiction
On the contrary, Marx's own development confirms the to a primarily political exposition, in the spirit ofhis programmatic
principle of Marxism. For "genius" is but an abstract utterance according to which the criticism of religion and theology
before it is articulated in relation to some specific content must be turned into the criticism of law and politics.
response to the objective requirements of a historically In accomplishing the transformation of Marx's thought mentioned
situation. In the abstract sense-as "phenomenal bo,rrl-poy,el'" above, the influence of a work entitled Outlines of a Critique of
-"genius" is always "around", but it is wasted, unrealized, Political Economy (Umrisse zu einer Kritik der Nationalokonomie;
whittled away in activities and products which leave no written by the young Engels in December 1843 and January 1844
behind them. The unrealized "genius" of Dr. Marx that m"rrlerize, and sent to Marx in January for publication in Deutsch
Moses Hess is a mere historical curiosity as compared with its Franzosischen Jahrbuchern) was very important. Even in 1859
realization in Marx's immense works which not only did Marx wrote about these Outlines in terms of the highest praise.
the least impress the same Moses Hess but succeeded only in .elm,ing Alienation, according to this early work of Engels, is due to a
his narrow-minded hostility. particular mode of production which "turns all natural and rational
In the concrete realization of the potentiality of Marx's relations upside-down". It can be called, therefore, the "unconscious

;;:;::
his grasp of the concept of "labour's self-alienation" represented condition of mankind". Engels' alternative to this mode of produc
crucial element : the "Archimedean point" of his grea
" t lion is formulated in the concrete programme of socializing private
The elaboration of this concept in its complex, Marxian c property : "If we abandon private property, then all these unnatural
sivenC$-as the philosophical synthesizing point of the dynamism divisions disappear. The difference between interest and profit
of human development-was simply inconceivable prior to a certain disappears ; capital is nothing without labour, without movement.
time, i.e. prior to the relative maturation of the social contradictions The significance of profit is reduced to the weight which capital
reflected in it. Its conception also required the perfection of the carries in the determination of the costs of production; and profit
intellectual tools and instruments-primarily through the elabora thus remains inherent in capital, in the same way as capital itself
tion of the categories of dialectics-which were necessary for an reverts to its original unity with labour.ln
adequate philosophical grasp of the mystifying phenomena of The solution conceived in these terms would also show a way
alienation, as well as, of course, the intellectual power of an Out from the contradictions of the "unconscious conditions of
individual who could turn to a proper use these instruments. And mankind", defined in this connection as economic crises : "Produce
last, but not least, the appearance of this "Archimedean concept" \vith consciousness as human beings-not as dispersed atoms with-
78 MARX S THEORY 0.' ALIENATIOS
'
OF
'
GENESIS MARX S THEORY OF AUENATION 79
out COllsciousntiS1 0/ your species-and you arc beyond , critique of alienation is thus formulated as a rejection of
";
aU'
artificial and untenable antitheses. But as long as you s
produce in the present unconscious, thou
co."., MarX . "
'
d ations It is vitally "Unportant to stress in this connection
ghtle&5 manner these t i.S rejection does not unply ill any way a negatIon '
that .
mercy 0/ chance-for JUSt as long trade crises at of aU
will remain'" this
",,,
n. On the contrary : is the first truly dialectical grasp
JfI <
Stimulated by this work of the chaU o . .
young Engels, Marx .
his study of the classics of politica ;n'e comp lex relationship between med lat.J.on and Imme
. d'lacy m
l economy. (A few mo of th
we hlStOry of philosophy, including the by no means negligible
he also et Engels who was nths
just returning from Eng
, land and l
recall hiS observatIOns in the industrially mo I crnents of Hege .
h'cv
st advanced aCA reJ'cction of all mediation would be dangerously near to sheer
he outcome of Marx's
intensive study of politic '
I enltty 0f Sub'
hIS great work known al economy . . m in its idealization of the "'d Ject and Ob'lect" .
by the title Economic ITl ),StlC lS
What I"l F--- .

A and "Iant opnn as al ienation not me dl' "


atlon In generaI but a
. .
anuscripts 0/ 1844. They show IS
a fundamental affinity of
with the work of the you set 0f S
,cond order medlatlons ( ,
ng Engels but their sco .
PRIVATE PROPERTY-EX CHANGE-

broader. They embra pe is . ) a "mediation of the me d'


latiOll "
.
, I.C. a
ce and relate all the DIVISION OF LABOUR
' .
huloTl'Co. //y ,pwfic mediatIOn of the ontologlcally fundamenia"/ seIf-
.

problems to the [act of basic ,

labour's self-alienation, d"


medlaU'On of man with nature. This "second order me latloo can
freed m to that of the fro m the '
meaning of life (see CHA

genesis of modern society onIY arise on the basis of the ontologlcally necessary "first order

PTER

medlaUon"-as the specific, alienated form


to the relationship betwee
n ;', d: of the latter. But the
.
and man's "communa '

l being", from the pro ;


of ' :
duc tion
. . .
appetitcs" to the "alien
ation of the senses", and "first order mediation" itself-productive actllty as such-IS an
of the nature and fun from an ""<sm s e absolute ontological factor of the huan predlcaent. (We han
ction of Philosophy, Art
return '0 this problematics under both Its aspects--I.e. both as . first
to the problems of a poss , Religion and
ible "reintegration of hum . .. . . ..
real world, by mea"ns
of a "positive transcend
an life" in order mediation" and as ahenated mediatIon 0f the medlatlon -
merely conceptual "Aufh
ebung" of alienation.
enc e" instead of in a moment.)
Labour (productive activity) is the one and only absolute factor
The co verging point in the whole complcx :
of the heterogeneous asp
LABOUR-DIVISION OF LABOUR-PRIVATE
. ects of .b,:n.,'"
IS the otlon f "lab (Absolute because the human mode of
our " (Arbeit). In the Ma
PROPERTY-EXCHANGE.
nuscripts of
labour IS considered
both in general-as existence is inconceivable without the transformations of nature
"productive .",iv,i'y'"
the fundamental ontolo accomplished by puctive activit.) nsequ<:-"t1y anr attempt
. gical detcnnination of
shhches Dasein''' i.e rea "humanness ' at overcoming alienation mut define Itself In relation to thIS bsolute
lly hum an mode of
as opposed to its manifestation in an ahenated form . But In orer
. . . existence}-and .
part.J.c lar, as havmg
. the fonn of capitalisti
to formulate the question of a positive transcendenc of ahenatJon
. c "division of 1.1,01,," .
! t IS m" (IS latter foml--capitaiisti .
in the actual world one must realize, from the carher mentioned
,labour cally structured .ct;v;'
of all alienation.
IS the ground
ythat
"Activity" (Tatigkeit) standpoint of the "outsider", that e iven form of labour ( ACE
, "division of labour"
LABOUR) is related to human acllVlt
.
"exchange" (Austausc
h) and "private proper
der r \,'bit) l
genera as the p tcular
to the universal. If this is not seen, If productive act.J.vlty 15 not
ty" (P, ;v. . . ;
are the key concepts of I<';g,oo'.un\
. this approach to the pro
. .
lion The Ideal of a blema tics differentiated into its radically different aspects, if the ontologically
"positive transcendenc
e" of alienation absolute factor is not distinguished from the historically specific
rm lat.ed as a necessa
ry socio-historical sup
ersession of fonn, if, that is, activity is conceived-because of the absolu z
medIatIOns" : PRI VATE FROPERT'r"-EXCH i ation
LABOUR which interpose thems
ANGE_ DIVISION of a particular form of activity-as a homogeneus ntlty, the
elves between man and
and prevent him fro his ac';v;,y question of an actual (practical) transcendence of alienatIOn annot
m finding fulfilment
exercJsc . o his produc in his labour
tive (creative) abilitie ' POSSibly arise. If PRIVATE PROPERTY and EXCHANGE are consIdered
appropnatlon of the pro s, and in the h"m.n absolute-in some way "inherent in human nature"-then OtVISION
ducts of his activity.
OF LABOUR, the capitalistic form of productive activity as WAGE
uo IARX' S. THEORY OF ALIENATION .... 1j 1
GENESIS OF MARX,S THEORY OF L1EN....TIO:'>l
LABOUR must also appear ,
as absolute, for they reciprocaUy baek
mode of cxlStence, ensuring that he does not fall
Ii human
each other. Thus the second orde
r meda i tion app=ars as a tim disso
l himsel f ' hIn
Wit ' Ihe "obJ'eet"' "Man
meda intO nature, does ,ot , ve
I ', v e s on nature ) wntes Marx) " "_m
i tion, i e. an absolute ontologic s
. al factor. Consequently eans that nature is h
tions of this mediation
negation of the alienated manifesta ' se If
.
b od y, with which h e must remaI O m con tmu ous intercour
assume the form of nostalgic mora ,
lizing postulates (e g. R')u, . , That man's physlcal and spm,ua[ life is linked to
h is no t to die "
The study of political economy . e ,
nalure means simply that nature is Imke
provided Marx with a ' d to itself, for ma n is a
detailed analysis of the nature
and functioning of the ca.P""'"
form of productive activity. His paTt of naure" (7)
negation of alienation in h", : , and
P''''v productive actIVity IS hence the source of consciousness
writings was centred, as we have
" '" IS the reRectIon 0
seen, on the critique of the , ' f I'
a lena te d activity or of
institutions and legal-JX litical relat "alienated consciousness .
" ' '
the ahenatlOn of activity, I,e, 0f Iabour's, 5(:1faIlenaHon
' ions and "labour" appeared ,
negatively, as a missing determination of
the individual's positioq Marx uses t he expressIOn ' : ''man's Inorgam'c body.., which is not
"bUrgerliche GeseJlschaft". In othe
r words ; it appeared as an " given by nature" but the concrete expression

simply that wh'ch I IS
of a society in which the political
and social spheres are dh,id,,d
, and embodiment of a historicaJlr gl stage and structure of
such a way that the individual'
Producllve activity In the form of ,IS PIVUuCtS, from
s position in society is not ' , , , ' material goods
" natlon 0f Iabour, "man's
in his labour, Before the Manuscripts of
1844 the economic to works of art, As a resuI t 0f the ahe
rnaI 0 h'1m and therefore
appeared only as a vaguely defin .
ed aspect of sociopolitical ,dal
i,,,, inorganic body" appears to be merel y exte I
Even the author of the articles
it can be turned IOta a commod'Lty, Ever h"109 LS "rei'fied", and
. the
On the Jewish Question yt
the Hegelian Philosophy of Righ
ontological importance of the
t did not realize the fo ; ;: f unda
,
mental ontological relation ' s are turne
,
d UPSI
'
'de down
'
The
ities).
sphere of production which individual is confronted with mere objects (thgs, commod
in his writings in the fonn of
rather generic references to ure an d extern alized
once hIS . "morganlc
. . bodY"-"worked-up nat
(Bcdurfnisse) in general. Consequ . ,
ently Marx was unable to productive power-h as been alienated from h1m, ' He has no
a comprehensive way the com , , <lG
plex hierarchy of the various
consciousness of being a "species bemg " (A a ttungswc sen"-
and forms of human activity :
a structured whole,
their reciprocal interrelations i,e, a being that has the consciousness ( h
t e spe 'es to which it

belongs, or, to put it in another way a bemg h OSC nc does not


All this is very different in the . ,
Manuscripts 0/ 1844, In this comcide dIrectIy . h I In
It . dlVIduahty Man IS the only being that
Marx's ontological starting poin ": '
t is the self.evident fact that , sness 'cctively, in his
can have such a ' SpecIes-consciou
. ''-both sub
'

2
a specific part of nature (i,e, a
being with physical needs hislo,ical
li COnsciOUS awareness 0f the speCIcs to whlch hC uc , "_Ion J gs, and in the
prior to all others) must produce ,
in order to sustain himself, in obJectlfied forms 0f t h'IS "speCI.. ' _-conscIO
.., usness" , from industry to
. h only "species
to satisfy these needs, However . "
k 0f arl-and thus he LS t e
) he can only satisfy th inStitutiOns and to wor's

E
needs by necessarily creating,
in the course of their being" ,) ,
"
through his productive activity, ,
a complex hierarchy of Productive activity in the form domma ted by capita hstlc ISOlatI'On
needs which thus become nece ,
ssary conditions for the -when "men produce as d'iSpersed atoms Without coJ}5ciousness of
Ihelr
of his original physical needs
as well, Human activities and ' SpeCie ' s"-cannot adequalely fulfil the functiOn ' of mediating
of a "spiritual" kind thus have . ' ....
their ultimate ontological fo,,"cla,i. man With nature b,ecause It , "rei'ties" man and hIS ...latio'ns and
in the sphere of material prod ,
uction as specific expressions of reduces him to the state of ammal nature In Place of man's
interchange with nature, med
" find a cu It 0f pn
" .
iated in complex ways and fonn
s, conSCIOusness af h IS ' SpeCie ,
s" we
' 'vacy and an
Marx puts it : "the e n t i r e ,
Idealization of the , identi fying the
soca
l l e d h is t o r y 0/ the w o abstract mdlvldual , Thus b Y
human essence With
is nothing but the begetting 0/ man thro I ...',.1 nature is
ugh human labour, " mere md"!VIduality, man's bloog
confounded with his proper, SpeCI'fiC3Ily human naIu.'e, For
but the coming-to-be [Werden] 0/ natu
, ' ,
re for man" (1 13), mere

, y reqUIr'
activity is, therefore, the med
I JUbSlStclIU" bu I I
,
es only 1/It'ans to '15
iator in the "subject-object Indlvlduaht ' lo!sp ecifica lly
lS
ship" between ma'n and natu
re, A mediator that enables man hu an forn
to m -humanly-natural and naturally-human, I.e, social
-
82 '
MARX S THEORY OF ALiENATION
'
GENESIS OF MARX S THEORY OF ALiENATION U3
of self*(ulfilmcnl which are at the same time also adequate mani. The second order mediations mentioned above (institutionalized
festations of the life-activity of a "Gattungsweseh", a "species in the fonn of capitalistic DIVISION OF LAIlOUR-PRIVATE PROPERTY
being". "Nan is a 5pecies being not only because in practice and in _EXCHANGE) disrupt this relationship and subordinate productive
theory he adopts the species as his object (his own as well as those activity itself, under the rule of a blind "natural law", to the
of other things) but-and this is only another way of expressing it_ rcquirements of commodity-production destined to ensure the
but also because he treats himself as the actual, living species; reproduction of the isolated and reified individual who is but an
because he treats himself as a u n i v e r s a l and therefore a free appe'ndage of this system of "economic detenninations".
being" (74). The mystifying cult of the abstract individual, by Man's productive activity cannot bring him fulfilment because
contrast, indicates as man's nature an attribute-mere individu_ the institutionalized second order mediations interpose themselves
ality-which is a universal category of nature in general, and by between man and his activity, between man and nature, and
no means something specifically human. (See Marx's praise of between man and man. (The last two are already implied in the
Hobbes for having recognized in nature the dominance of individu.. first, i.e. in the interposition of capitalistic second order mediations
ality in his principle of bellum omnium contra omnes.) between man and his activity, in the subordination of productive
Productive activity is, then, alienated activity when it departs activity to these mediations. For if man's self-mediation is further
.
from its proper function of humanly mediating in the mediated by the capitalistically institutionalized fonn of productive
relationship between man and nature, and tends, to activity, then nature cannot mediate itself with nature and man
the si olated and reified individual to be reabsorbed by cannot mediate himself with man. On the contrary, man is con
This can happen even at a highly developed stage of civilization fronted by nature in a hostile fashion, under the rule of a "natural
man is subjected, as the young Engels says, to "a natural law law" blindly prevailing through the mechanisms of the market
on the unwnsciousness of the participants" (195). (Marx (EXCHANGE) and, on the other hand, man is confronted by man in
integrated this idea of the young Engels into his own system a hostile fashion in the antagonism between CAPITAL and LAIlOUR.
more than once referred to this "natural law" of capitalism not The odginal interrelationship of man with nature is transformed
in the Manuscripts of 1844 but in his Capital as well.123) into the relationship between WAGE LABOUR and CAPITAL, and as
Thus Marx's protest against alienation, privatization far as the individual worker is concerned, the aim of his activity is
reification does not involve him in the contradictions of an id,,,,li.a necessarily confined to his self-reproduction as a mere individual,
tion of some kind of a "natural state". There is no trace in his physical being, Thus means become ultimate C'nds while
'
sentimental or romantic nrn;talgia for nature in his conception. human ends are turned into mcre means subordinated to the
programme, in the critical references to "artificial appetites" reified ends of this institutionalized system of f>:Ccond order
does not advocate a return to "nature", to a natural" set mediations.)
primitive, or "simple" , needs but the "full realization of An adequate negation of alienation is, therefore, inseparable from
nature" through an adequately self-mediating human acl:ivilY. the radical negation of capitalistic second order mediations. If,
"Man's nature" (his "specific being") means precisely di;tj,,,,jv,,.,'" however, they are taken for granted-as for instance in the writings
from nature in general. The relationship of man with nature is of political economists as well as of Hegel (and even in Rousseau's
mediating" in a twofold sense. First, because it is nature conception as a whole}-the critique of the various manifestations
mediates itself with itself in man. And secondly, because of alienation is bound to remain partial or illusory, or both. The
mediating activity itself is nothing but man's attribute, located in "uncritical positivism" of political economists needs no further
specific part of nature. Thus in productive activity, under the comment, only the remark that its contradictions greatly helped
of its dual ontological,aspects, nature mediates itself with ""lUre, Marx in his attempts at clarifying his own position. Rousseau,
and, under its second ontological aspect-in virtue of the fact despite his radical opposition to certain phenomena of alienation,
productive activity is inherently social activity-man mediates could not break out from a vkious circle because he reversed the
self with man. actual ontological relationships, assigning priority to the second
MARX'S
'
!oIARX S THEORY OF ALIENATION
CENESIS OF THEORY OF AUENATION

order mediations over the first. Thus he fOlt'nd himself trapped by


only in the realm of c o n s c i o u s n e s s, of man:s inner life, but
an insoluble contradiction of his own making : the idealization of . e ; Its transcendence
economic estrangement is that of r e a l I d
a fictitious "fair exchange" opjX>sed, sentimentally, to the onto
therefore embraces both aspects" ( 1 03). Feuebach '!'anted to tacke
the problems of alienation in terms of real hfe (hiS programmtlC
logically fundamental first order mediations, i.e. in Rousseau's

affinity explains Marx's attachment to Feuerbach I a certal penod


terminology, to "civilization". As far as Hegel is concerned, he .
identified "objectification" and "alienation" partly because he was
far too great a realist to indulge in a romantic nega on of the
of his development), in opposition to the Hegehan solution, but
because of the abstractness of his viewjX>rnt : idealized "man"
ontolooically fundamental self-mediation (and self-genesiS) of man
(,'human essence" taken generically, and nt as "the esemble of
Ihrollg!l his activity (on the contrary, he was the first to grasp thils . .
social relations"'''), his position remained basically dualistic, offenng
o:ltological relationship, although in an "abstract, speculative"
nO real solution to the analysed problems.
manner), and partly because, in virtue of his social standjX>int, he
The main imjX>rtance of the classics of political economy lor
could not oppose the capitalistic form of second order mediations.
Marx's intellectual development was that by throwing light on the
Consequently he fused the two sets of mediations in the concept of
palpable sphere of economi:s (analyscd by them, as regards the
" objectifying alienation" and "alienating objectification" : a concept .
capitalistic slage of production, III the most concrete terms) they
that apriori excluded from his system the possibility of envisaging .
helped him to concentrate on the "perceptibly alienated e.xprCSSlons
an actual (practical) supersessio-n of alienation.
of human activity" ( 1 34). His awareness of the importance of
I t was Marx's great historical achievement to cut the "Gordian .
knot" of these mystifyingly complex sets of mediations, by asserting
productive activity enabled Marx I?identify, with utmo claltr,
.
.
the contradictions of a non-mediated, undJalectlcal, dualistic
the absolute validity of the ontologically fundamental first order
materiaism"
l .
mediation (in opposition to romantic and Utopian advocates of a
It is significant that Marx's intense study of jX>litical economy
direct unity) against its alienation in the form of capitalistic DIVISION .
sharpened his criticism of Feuerbach and, at the same tlle, pushd
OF LABOUR- PRIVATE PROPERTY and EXCHANCE. This great
into the foreground the affinities of Marxian thought With cert.am
theoretical discovcry opened up the road to a "scientific demystifica
characteristics of the Hegelian philosophy. It may seem paradOXical
tion" as well as an actual, practical negation of the capitalistic
at first that, in spite of the materialistic conception shared by
mode of production.
both Marx and Feuerbac"h, and in spite of the much closer
political affinity between them than between Marx and Hegl,
4-. Monistic Materialism the relationship of the historical materialist Marx and the Idealut .
Hegel is incomparably more deeply rooted than that between Marx
In elaborating a solution to the complex issues of alienation much
and Feuerbach. The first embraces the totality of Marx's develop
depends on the "Archimedean point" or common denominator r
ment whereas the second is confined to an early, and transitory,
the particular philosophical system. For Marx, in his EconomIC
stage.
and Philosophic ManuscriplJ of /844 this common denominator . . .
The reason is to be found in the basically monu/lc character of
was, as already mentioned, the concept of a capitalistic "alienation
the Hegelian philosophy in contrast to Fuerbah's dulism. I n the
of labour" . He emphasized its importance as follows : "The .
examination of d i v i s i o n o f l a b o u r and e x c h a n g e is of
famous passage in which Marx distingUishes hiS PO1I10 rom the
extreme intercst, because these are p e r c e p t i b l y a l i e n a t e d

Hegelian dialectic he also emp asizes lhe

p affimt, llStmg . o

the necessity of turning "right Side up agam that which n Heel s
expressions of human a c t i v i t y and of e s s e n t i a l h u m a n
philosophy is "standing on its head",'"' But it would be ImpoSSible
p o w e r as a s p e c i e s activity and power" ( 1 34).
to tum the Hegelian conception "right side up again",. in order o
If, however, one's centre of reference is "religious alienation",
incorporate its "rational kernel" into Marx's system, If there did
as in Feuerbach's case, nothing follows from it as regards actual,
not lie at the basis of their "opposite" philosophical approaches the
practical alienation. For "Religious estrangement as such occurs
common characteristics of two-ideologically different, indeed
nG MARX 'S TIlf.ORY OF ALIENATION GENESIS OF MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION 87

opposite-monistic conceptions. for dualism remains dualism even system can be monistic without conceptually mastering, in one form
if it is turned " the other way round". or another, the complex dialectical interrelationsl:tip between
By . contrast, we can sec in Marx's Theses on Feuerbach his mediation and totality. It goes without saying, this applies-mulatif
complete rejection or Feucrbach's ontological and epistemologicaJ mutandis-to the Hegelian philosophy as wdl. Hegers idealistic
dualism : "The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism monism has for its centre of reference his concept of "activity" as
that of Fcucrbnch included-is that the thing (Gegenstand), rc=ality, "mediator between Subject and Object". But, of course, the Hegelian
sensuousness is conceived only in the form of the 0 b j e c t (Objckt) concept of "activity" is "abstract mental activity" which can
or of contemplation (Anschauung), but not as h u m a n mediate only "thought-entities". ("Object", in Hegel's philosophy
sensuous a c t i v i ty,
p.r a c t i c e, not subjectively. Hence it is "alienated Subject", "externalized World Spirit" etc., i.e. in the
happened that the a c t i v e side, in contradistinction to materialism, last analysis it is a pseudo-object.) In this characteristic of the
was developed by idealism-but only abstractly, since of course, Hegelian philosophy the inner contradictions of its concept of
idealism docs not know real, sensuous activity as such. Fcuerbach mediation come to the fore. For Hegel is not a "mystifier" because
wants sensuous objects, really differentiated from thought-objects, "he is an idealist" : to say this would amount to hardly more than
but he does not conceive human activity itself as o b j e c t i v e an unrewarding tautology. Rather, he is an idealist mystifier because
(gegenstandliche) activity. Hence, in the Euence of Chriftianity, he of the inherently contradictory character of his concept of mediation,
regards the theoretical attitude as the only genuinely human i.e. because of the taboos he imposes upon himself as regards the
attitude, while practice is conceived and fixed only in its dirty. second order mediations while he is absolutizing these-historically
judaical form of appcarance." 11& specific-fonns of capitalistic "mediation of the mediation". The
This reference to "practice" is very similar to Goethe's principle philosophical repercussions of such a step are far-reaching, affecting
concerning Experiment as Mediator between Object and Subject all his main categories, from the assumed identity of "alienation"
(Der Versuch als Vermittlcr von Objekt und Subjckt),U1 and the and "objectification" to the ultimate identity of "subject" and
second thesis on Feucrbach emphasizes this similarity even more "object", as well as to the conception of "Aufhebung" as a merely
strongly. Now the lack of such mediator in Feuerbach's philosophy conceptual "reconciliation" of the subject with itself. (Even the
means that its dualism cannot be overcome. On the contrary, it "nostalgia" for the original direct unity appears-though in an
assumes at the level of social theory the sharpest possible form : "abstract, speculative, logical fonn"-in the conceptual opposition
"The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances between "Ent-iiussenmg", alienation, and "Er-innerung", i.e. turn
and upbringing, forgets that it is men that change circumstances ing "inwards", remembering a past necessarily gone for ever.)
and that the educator himself needs educating. Hence this doctrine Only in Marx's monistic materialism can we find a coherent
necessarily arrives at dividing society into two parts, of which one comprehension of "objeclil1e totality" as "sensuous reality", and a
is superior to society."u, This is why Feuerbach's system, in spite correspondingly valid differentiation between subject and object,
of the philosopher's materialistic approach, and in spite of his thanks to his concept of mediation as ontologicaUy fundamental
starting out "from the fact of religious self-alienation",u cannot productive activity, and thanks to his grasp of the historically
be in a lasting agreement with the Marxian philosophy. For a kind specific, second order mediations through which the ontological
of "materialistic dualism" is manifest in Feuerbach's philosophy foundation of human existence is alienated from man in the capitalist
at every level, with all the contradictions involved in it. (Cr. "abstract order of society.
thinking" v. "intuition", "contemplation", "Anschauung" ; "isolated
individual" v. "human essence" j "abstract individual" v. "human
5. The Transformation of Hegel's Idea of "Adivity"
species", and so on.)
The secret of Marx's success in radically transcending the limita Activity appeared in the writings of the classics of political
tions of dualistic, contemplative materialism is his unparallelled economy as something concrete, belonging to the palpable manifesta
dialectical grasp of the category of mediation. For no philosophical tions of real life. It was, however, confined in their conception to a
!\IARX 'S THEORY OF ALIENATION GENESIS OF MARX'S THEORY OF AUENATION 89
/mrliclllnr s/I/!rrl' : that of manufacture and commerce, considered political economy and thus he was cnabled to work out certain
completely ahistorically. It was Hegel's great theoretical achie\'e objective implications of the latter which could not be realized by
ment to make universal the philosophical importance of activity, the IX'litical economists themselves because of the partial and
even if he 'did this in an abstract fonn, for reasons mentioned unhistorical character of their approach. We can see this clearly
already. expressed in the following words of Marx : "To assert that
Mnrx writes in his Manuscripts of 1844 about the magnitude as d i v i s i o n o f l a b o u r and e x c h a n g e rest on p r i v a t e
wdl as the limitations of the Hegelian achievements : "Hegel's p r o p e r t y is nothing short of asserting that l a b o u r is the
standpoinl is that of modern political economy. He grasps I a b o u r essence of private property-an assertion which the IX'litical
as the e s s e n c e of man- man's essence in the act of proving economist cannot prove and which we wish to prove for him.
itsclf : he sees only the positive, not the negative side of labour. Precisely in the fact that d i v i s i o n o f l a b o u r and e x c h a n g e
Labour is man's c o m i n g - t o - b e f o r h i m s e l f within are embodiments of private property lies the twofold proof, o n the
a l i e n a t ion, or as a l i e n a t e d man. The only labour which one ha'nd that h u m a n life required p r i v a t e p r o p e r t y for
Hegel knows and recognizes is a b s t r a c t I y m e n t a I labour" its realization, and on the other hand that it now requires the
(152). Thus with Hegel "activity" becomes a term of crucial supersession of private property" (134). Thus political economy
importance, meant to explain human genesis and development in cannot go to the roots of the matter. It conceives a particular form
general. But the Hegelian concept of "activity" acquires this of activity (capitalistic division of labour) as the universal and
universal character at the price of losing the sensuous form "labour" absolute fonn of productive activity. Consequently in thc reasoning
had in political economy. (That the IX'litical economist conception of political economists the ultimate IX'int of refertnce cannot be
of "labour" was one-sided, partial, and ahiswrical, does not concem activity itself in view of the fact that a particular form of activity
us here where the IX'int at stake is the relative historical significance the historically established socia-economic practice of capitalism-is
of this conception.) absolutized by them.
Marx's concept of "activity" as practice or "productive activity" Political economy evidently could not assume as its ultimate point
-identified both in its positive sense (as human objectification and of reference activity in general (i.e. productive activity as such :
"self-development", as man's necessary self-mediation with naturt) this absolute condition of human existence) because such a step
and in its negative nse (as alienation or second order mediation}- would have made impossible the absolutization of a particular form
resembles the political economist's conception in that it is conceived of activity. The only type of "absolute" which enabled them to draw
in a sensuous form. Its theoretical function is, however, radically the desired conclusions was a circular one : namely the assumption
different. For Marx realizes that the non-alienated foundation of of the basic characteristics of the specific form of activity whose
that which is reAected in an alienated fonn in IX'litical economy as absoluteness they wanted to demonstrate as being neceHarily
a particular sphere is the fundamental ontological spheTe of human inherent in "humo.n nature". Thus the historical /act of capitalistic
existence and therefore it is the ultimate foundation of all kinds and EXCHANGE appeared in an idealized form on the absolute plane
forms of activity. Thus labour, in its "sensuous form", assumes its of "human nature" as a "propensity to exchange and barter" (Adam
universal significance in Marx's philosophY. It becomes not only Smith) from which it could be easily deduced that the "commercial"
the key to understanding the determinations inherent in all forms form of society, based on the capitalistic division of labour, is also
of alienation but also the centre of reference of his practical strategy the "natural" fonn o(society.
aimed at the actual supersession of capitalistic alienation. If the absolute factor is identified with private property (or with
To accomplish the Marxian formulation of the central issues of some fictitious "propemity to exchange and barter", which is only
alienation, a critical incorporation of Hegel's achievements into another way of saying the same thing), then we are confronted with
Marx's thought was of the greatest importance. By becoming awart an insoluble contradiction between natural and human, even if this
of the universal philosophical significance of productive activity contradiction is hidden beneath the rhetorical assumption of a
Marx made a decisive step forward with respect to the writings of harmonious relationship between "human nature" and capitalistic
90 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION GENESIS OF MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION 91

mode of production. For if one assumes a fixed human nature of alienation. (It goes without saying that a form, or some form of
(e.g. a "propensity to exchange and barter"), then the really naturlll. tXlernalizalion-i.e. objectification itself-is as absolute a condition
and absolte necessity (expressed in the self-evident truth of the of development as activity itself : a non-externalized, non-objectified
words: "man must produce if he is not to die") is subordinated to activity is a non-activity. In this sense some kind of mediation of
a pseudo-natural order. (The proposition equivalent to the Marxian the absolute ontological condition of man's interchange with nature
self-evident truth, according to the alJegtd "natural order" of is an equally absolute necessity. The question is, however, whether
" human nature". should read : "man must exchange and baTter if this mediation is in agrument with the objective ontological
he is not to die", which is by no means true, let alone self-evidently character of productive activity as the fundamental condition of
true.) Thus the ontologically fundamental dimension of human human existence or alien to it, as in the case of capitalistic second
existence is displaced from its natural and absolute status to a order mediations.)
secondary one. This is, of course, reflected in the scale of values of
the society which takes as its ultimate point of reference the system. Marx draws the conceptual line of demarcation between LABOUR
of exchange and barter : if the capitalistic order of things iI as "L e b e n s ii u u t T u n g" (manifestation of life) and as
challenged, this appears to the "political economists" as though the "L e b e n s e n t ii u s J e T u n g" (alienation of life). LABOUR is "Lebens
very existence of mankind is endangered. This is why the super. entii.usserung" when "1 work i n o r d e r to l i v e, in order to
session of alienation cannot conceivably be included in the pro produce a m e ans to living, but my work itself i s n o t living",
gramme of political economists, except perhaps in the fonn of i.e. my activity is forced upcm me "by an e x t e rnal necessity"
illusorily advocating the cure of some partial effects of the capitalistic instead of being motivated by a need corresponding to an "i n n e r
alienation of labour which is idealized by them, as a system, as n e c e s s i ty".111
man's "necessary" and "natural" mode of existence.1I1I And this is In the same way, Marx makes the distinction between an
why the attitude of political economists to alienation must remain. adequate mediation of man with man on the one hand and
on the whole, one that cannot be caUed other than "uncritical "alienated mediation" of human activity through the intermediary
positivism". of things on the other hand. In the second type of mediation-"in
Hegel supersedes, to some extent, this contradiction of political the alienation of the mediating activity itself' (indem der Mensch
economy, by conceiving activity in general as the absolute condition diese vermilteLnde Tiiligkeit ulbst entaussert}-man is active as a
of historical genesis. Paradoxically, however, he destroys his own "dehumanized man." (entmenschter Mensch). Thus human pro
achievementS, reproducing the contradictions of political economy ductive activity is under the rule of "an a l i e n m e d i a l o r"
at another level. Insofar as he considers "activity" as the absolute (f r e m d e r M i t t i e r}-"instead of man himJelf being the
condition of historical genesis, logically prior to the fonn of mediator for man" (slatt dass der Mensch selbst der Mittler CUr
extemalization, he can-indeed he must-raise the question of an den Menschen sein sollte) and consequently labour assumes the
"Aufhebung" of alienation; for the latter arises in opposition to form of an "a l i e n a t e d m e d i a t i o n" (entausserte Vermittlung)
the original direct unity of the "Absolute:" with itself. Since, how of human productive activity.ul
ever, he cannot distinguish, as we have seen, between the "external Formulated in these terms, the question of "Aufhebung" ceases
z
i ed" form of activity and its "alienated" manifestations, and since to be an imaginary act of the "Subject" and becomes a concrete,
it is inconceivable to negate "externalization" without negating the practical issue for real man. This conception envisages the super
absolute condition : activity itself, his concept of "Aufhebung" session of alienation through the abolition of "alienated mediation"
cannot be other than an abstract, imaginary negation of alienation (i.e. of capitalistically institutionalized second order mediation),
as objectification. Thus Hegel, in the end, assigns the same through the liberation of labour from its reified subjection to the
characteristic of untranscendable absoluteness and universality to power of things, to "external necessity", and through the conscious
the alienated form of objectification as to activity itself and there enhancing of man's "'inner need" for being humanly active and
fore he conceptually nullifies the possibility of an actual supersession finding fulfilment for the powers inherent in him in his productive
92 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION
activity itself as well as in the human enjoyment of the non-alienated
products of his activity. In
With th.e elaboration of these concepts-which fully master the
mystifying complexity of alienation that defeated no less a dialecti_
cian than Hegel himself-Marx's system in statu nascendi is III. Conceptual Structure of Marx's
virtually brought to its accomplislunent. His radical ideas concerning
the world of alienation and the conditions of its supersession a now Theory of Alienation
cOherently synthesized within the general outlines of a monumental,
I . Foundations o/ the Marxian System
comprehensive vision. Much remains, of course, to be further
elaborated in aU its complexity, for the task undertaken is
"Titanenartig". But all further concretizations an.d modifications of LEGENDS are easily invented and difficult to dispose of. An empty
Marx's conception-including some major discoveries of the older balloon (sheer ignorance of all the relevant evidence) and a lot of
Marx-are realized on the conceptual basis of the great philosophical hot air (mere wishful thinking) is enough to get them off the ground,
achievements so clearly in evidence n i the Economic and Philosophic while the persistence of wishful thinking amply supplies the necessary
Manuscripts 0/ 1844. fuel of propulsion for their fanciful flight. We shall discuss at SOme
length, in the chapter which deals with The Controversy about
Marx, the main legends a&5OCiated with the Economic and Philo_
sophic ManUJcripls 0/ N344. At this point, however, we have to deal,
briefly, with a legend that occupies a less prominent place in the
various interpretations in an explicit fonn, but which has, none
the less, a major theoretical importance for an adequate assesent sm
of Marx's work as a whole.
The Manuscripts 0/ 1844, as we have seen, lay down the
foundations of the Marxian system, centred on the concept of
alienation. Now the legend in question claims that Lenin had no
awareness of this concept and that it played no part in the elabora_
tion of his own theories. (In the eyes of many dogmatists this alleged
fact itself is, of course, ample justification for labelling the concept
of alienation "idealist".)
If Lenin had really missed out Marx's critique of capitalistic
alienation and reification-his analysis of "alienation of labour"
and its necessary corollaries-he would have missed out the core
of Marx's theory : the basic idea of the Marxian system.
Needless to say, nothing could be further from the truth than
this alleged fact. Indeed the very opposite is the case : for in Lenin's
development a<; a Marxist his grasp of the conccpt of alienation in
its true significance played a vital role.
It is an irrefutable fact that all of Lenin's important theoretical
works-including his critique of Economic Romanticism as weU as
his book on The Development of Capitalism in Russia-postdate
his detailed Conspectus 0/ The Holy Family, written in 1895. The
"
9+ MARX'S THEORY 01' ALIENATION CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE OF ARX'S THEORY OF ALiENATIOS 95
central ideas e.'l:presscd in this Conspectus in the Conn of comments and therefore itself still an alienated expreJsion for the principle that
the o b j e c t as b e i n g f o r m a n, as the o b j e c t i v e b e i :lg o f
m a n' is at the same time the e x i s t e n ce o f m a n f o r o t h e r
remained in the centre of Lenin's ideas in his subsequent writings.
Unfortunately there is no space here to follow the development
m e n hi.l h u m a n r e l a t i o n t o o t h e r m e n, t h e s o c i a l b e
of Lenin's' thought in any detaiL We must content ourselves with
focusing attention on a few poin ts which arc directly relevant to the
i
h a v o u r of m a n i n r e l a t i o n t o m a n. Proudhon bolishes
political-economic estrangement w i th i n political-economic
e.ltrangement,"III
subject of discussion.
It is of the greatest signi ficance in this connection that in his
Conspectus of The Holy Family Lenin quotes a long passage from Those who are sufficiently acquainted with the Economic and Philo
this early work and comme)1ts upon it as follows : Jophic Manuscripts of 1844 will not fail to recognize that these ideas
come from the Paris Manuscripts, In fact not only these pages but
"This passage is highly characteristic, for it shows how Marx
approached the basic idea 0/ his entire 'system', sit venia verbo, man y more in addition to them had been transferred by Marx from
namely the concept 0/ the social relations of pToductioTl" .'. his 1844 ManuJcriptJ into The Holy Family. The Russian Com
.
mittee in charge of publishing the coUected works of Marx, Engels
Little matters whether or not one puts, halCapologetically, in in.
and Lenin-the same Committee which finds "idealist" the Manu
verted commas the word "system". (Lenin, understandably, had to
$tripts of 1844-acknowledged in a note to Lenin's Conspectm of
do this because oC the customary polemical references to "system.
building", associated, in Marxist literature, with the Hegelian
The Holy Family that Marx "considerably increased the initially
conceived size of the book by incorporating in his chapters parts of
philosophy. Besides, he was writing the Conspectus of a book highly
his economic and philosophical manuscripts on which he had worked
critical of the Hegelian system and of the uses to which it had been
during the spring and summer of 1844" .111 Lenin could not read, of
put by the members of "The Holy Family".) What is vitally im
course, Marx's Manuscn'pts of 1844, but in his Con.lpectw of The
portant in this connection is the fact that "the basic idea of Marx's
Holy Family he quoted a number of important passages, in addition
entire systcm"-"the concept of the social relations of production"
is precisely his concept of alienation , i.e. the Marxian critical
to the one on Proudhon, which originated in the Economit and

demystification of the system of "labour's self-alienation", of "human


PhiLo.lophic ManuJcripu of 1844 and which deal with the prob
111

self-alien ation ", of "the practically alienated relation of man to his


lematics of alienation.
If, then, Marx's Manuscripts of 1844 are idealistic, so must be
objective essence", etc., as Lenin correctly recognized it. This we can
clearly see if we read the passage [Q which Lenin's comment refers :
Lenin's praise of their central concept-incorporated from them into
The Holy Family-aS "the basic idea of Marx's entire system", And
"Proudhon's desire to abolish non-owning and the old form of owning this is not the worst part of the story yet. For Lenin goes on praising
is exactly identical to his desire to abolish the prattically alienated this work (see his article on Engels) not only for containing the
relation of maTi to his o b j e t t i v e e .l J e n ce, to abolish the foundations of revolutionary materialist socialism" but also for
p o l i t i c a l - e c o n o m i c expression of h u man self-alienation.
Since, however, his criticism of political economy IS still bound
being wriuen "in the name of a real, human person".lIa Thus Lenin

by the premises of political economy, the reappropriation of the


seems to "capitulate" not only to "idealism", confounding it with

objective world is still conceived in the political-economic form of


"revolutionary materialist socialism", but-horribile dictu-to
"humanism" as well.
p o s s e s s i o n. Proudhon indeed does not oppose owning to non-own
ing, as C ritical Criticism makes him do, but p o s s e s s i o n to the old
Needless to say, this "humanism" of writing "in the name of a

form of owning, to p r i v a t e p r o p c r t y. He declares possession to


real, human person" is simply the expression of the "standpoint of
be a 's o c i a l f u n c t i o n'. In a function, 'interest' is not directed labour" that characterizes the ManuJeTipts of /844. It expresses
however toward the 'exclusion' of another, but toward setting into in explicit polemics against the fictitious entities of idealist philosophy
operation and realizing my own powers, the powers of my being. -the critically adopted standpoint of "the worker, trampled down
Proudhon did not succeed in giving this thought appropriate develop by the ruling classes and the state";lI' the standpoint of the pro
ment. The concept of 'eq u a I possession' is a political-economic one letariat in its opposition to the "propertied class" which "feels happy
96 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE OF MARX'S THEORY OF ALlENATION 97
and confimlcd in this selfalienation, it recognizes a s i t s o w n internal contradictions--had been closed and ossified by Hegel him
p o w e r", whereas "the class of the proletariat feels annihilated in self, whereas the Marxian system remains open-ended. We shalJ
its sc:1falienation ; it sees in it its own powerlessness and the Teality return to the discussion of this vitalJy important difference between
0/ all inhuman existence". 140 This is what Lenin, and Marx, had in a closed and an open system in the last section of this chapter. But
mind when they spoke of the "real, human person". However, no first we have to consider the structure of the Marxian system as a
amount of te.xtual evidence is likely to make an impression on those whole, in order to gain a dearer understanding of its manifold
who, instead of really "reading Marx" (or Lenin, for that matter), complexities.
prefer reading into the classics of Marxist thought their own legends, On the face of it, the Economic a71d Philosophical Ma71lHcripts
representing-under the veil of a high-sounding verbal radicalism 0/ 1844 are critical comme'ntaries on Hegel and on the theories of
-the sterile dogmatism of bureaucratic-conservative wishful think political economists. A closer look, however, reveals much more
mg. than that. For the critique of these theories is a vehicle for develop
ing Marx's own ideas on a great variety of closely interconnected
As Lenin had brilliantly perceived, the central idea of Marx's problems.
system is his critique of the capitalistic reification of the social As has been mentioned, the system we can perceive in the
relations of production, the alienation of labour through the reified Eco'lOmic a71d Philosophic Manuscripts 0/ 1844 is a system in statu
mediations of WAGE LABOUR, PRIVATE PROPERTY and EXCHANGE. nascendi. This can be recognized, above all, in the fact that the
Indeed Marx's general conception of the historical genesis and basic ontological dimension of labour's self-alienation does not
alienation of the social relations of production, together with his appear in its universality until the very end of this work, i.e. in the
analysis of the objective ontological conditions of a necessary super section on money. As a matter of fact this section had been written
session of alienation and reification, constitute a system in the best alter Marx's critical examination of the Hegelian philosophy in the
sense of the teon. This system s i not less but more rigorous than the same manuscript, although in the published versions the latter is put
philosophical systems of his predecesc;oTS, including Hegel; which to the end (in accordance with Marx's wishes). And this is by no
means that any omission of even one of its constituent parts is bound means a negligible point of chronological detail. Indeed Marx's pro
fo distort the whole picture, not just one particular aspect of it. Also, found assesment
s of the Hegelian philosophy as a whole-made
the Marxian system is not less but far more complex than the Hege possible by his analysis of political economy which enabled him to
lian one; for it is one thing ingeniously to invent the logically appro recognize that "Hegel's standpoint is that of modem political
priate "mediations" between "thought-entities", but quite another economy" (152)-puts into Marx's hands the key to unlocking the
to identify in reality the complex intennediary links of the multifar ultimate ontological secret of the "money-system", thus enabling
ious social phenomena, to find the laws that govern their institution him to embark on a comprehensive elaboration of a materialist
alizations and transformations into one another, the laws that dialectical theory of value. (Compare this part of the Manuscripts
determine their relative "fixity" as well as their "dynamic changes", 0/ 1844, in concreteness as well as in comprehensiveness notwith
to demonstrate all this in reality, at aU levels and spheres of human standing its limited size, with a work that tackles the same problema
activity. Consequently any attempt at reading Marx not in terms tics : Marx's Comments on James Mill's Elements 0/ Political
of his own system but in accordance with some preconceived, plati Economy, written shortly before his Cntique 0/ the Hegelian Dia
tudinous "scientific model" fashionable in our own days, deprives lectic and Philosophy as a Whole, probably in Mayor June 1844.'U)
the Marxian .system of its revolutionary meaning and CO'nverts it It is by no means accidental that a substantial part of these pages on
into a .dead butterfly-collection of useless pseudo-scientific concepts. The Power 0/ Money had been subsequently incorporated by Marx
It goes without saying that Marx's system is radically different in his Capital.
from the Hegelian one. Not dnly as regards the opposition between But even if this general ontological dimension of labour's self
the actual social phenomena, depicted by Marx, and the Hegelian alienation is not rendered explicit until the very end of the Economic
"thought-entities", but also in that the Hegelian system--due to its and Philosophic Manuscripts 0/ 1844, it is implicitly there, though
' '
98 MARX S THEORY OF ALIENATION CONCEPTUAL STRUCTIJRE OF MARX S THEORY OF ALiENATJON 99
of course at a .Iower level of generalization, almost right from the the necessary intennediaries involved in its necessary self-alienation
beginning. At first it is present in this system in statu nascendi only and reification at a detemlinate stage (or stages) of its process of
as a vague intuition and, accordingly, Marx's method of analysis is self-realization.
more reactive than positive and self-sustaining : he lets his hand be
guided by the problematics of the immediate subject of his criticism,
2. COIzccptual Framework of Marx's Theory of Alienation
namely the writings of political economists.
As his insights accumulate (through his gradual realization that The difficulties of Marx's discourse in his ManUJCTiptJ of 1844
the partial aspects : "worker as a commodity", "abstract labour", are not due merely to the fact that this is a system in statu nascendi
"one-sided, machine-like labour", "earth estranged from man", in which the same problems are taken up over and over again, at
"stored-up human labour = dead capital", etc. point in the same an increasingly higher level of complexity, in accordance with the
directio'n) the originany adopted framework proves to be hopelessly emergence and growing concretization of tvlarx's vision as a whole
narrow and Marx casts it aside. though of course this is one of the main reasons why people often
From the discussion of Estranged Labour (67) onwards Marx find this work prohibitively complicated. Some of its major diffi
follows a different plan : the centre of reference of every single cuilies, however, are innerent in Marx's method in general and in
issue is now the concept of "alienated labour" as the "essential the objective characteristics of his subject of analysis.
connection" between the whole range of estrangements "and the Marx investigates both the historical and the systematic-slruc/ural
m 0 n e y-system" (68). And yet, although this programme is there 3spects of the problematics of alienation in relation to the dual
in the last section of the first manuscript, it is not fully realized complexities of "real life" and its "reflections" in the various fonns
until the very end of the third manuscript. In this latter Man.: is of thought. Thus he analyses :
able at last to demystify the " money-system"-this ultimate mediator (1) the manifestations of labour's self-alienation in reality, together
of all alienated mediations, this "p i m p between man's need and with the various institutionalizations, reifications and mediations
the object, between his life and his means of life" (1 37), this "visible involved in such a practical self-alienation, i.e. WAGE. LABOUR,
divinity" (139}-as "the alienated a b i l i t y o f m a n k i nd" (1 39), PRIVATE PROPERTY, E.XCHANGE., MONEY, RENT, PROFIT, VALUE, etc.,
as "the external, common m e d i u m and f a c u i t y of turning an etc. ;
i m a g e into r e a l i t y and r e a l i t y into a mere i m a g e (a (2) the rdlections of these alienations through religion, philosophy,
faculty not springing from man as man or from human society as law, political economy art, "abstractly material" science, etc.;
society)" (140), as "the existing and active concept of value . . . the
(3) the interchanges and reciprocities between (1) and (2); for
general c o n f o u n d i n g and c o m p o u n di n g of all things
"the gods i n t h e b e g i n n i n g arc not the cause but the effect
the world upside down . . . the fraternization of impossibilities"
which "makes contradictions embrace" (141). And all this in the
of man's intellectual confusion. Late!" this relationship becomes
context of explaining the "truly 0 n I 0 l o g i c a l affinnations of
reciprocal" (80);
essential being (of nature)" ( 136), "the ontological essence of human (4) the inner dynamism of any particular phenomenon, or field
passion" (136), and "the e x i s t e n c e o f essen t i a l o b j e c t s of enquiry, in its development from a lesser to a higher complexity ;
for man, both as objects of enjoyment and as objects of activity" (5) the structural interrelations of the various social phenomena
( 137). with each other (of which the reciprocity between (1) and (2) is only
Thus Marx's system in statu nascendi is accomplished when he a specific type) as well as the historical genesis and renewed
clearly realizes that although the money-system reaches its climax. dialectical transfonnation of this whole system of manifold inter
with the capitalistic mode of production, its innennost nature relations;
cannot be understood in a limited historical context but in the (6) a further complication is that Marx analyses the particular
broadest ontological framework of man's development through his theories themselves in their concrete historical embeddedness, in
labour, i.e. through the ontological self-development of labour via addition to investigating their structural relations to each other at
100 MARX'S THEORY OF AUENATION CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE OF MARX' S THEORY OF ALIENATION 101
a particular lime (e.g. Adam Smith the political economist compared consummate dehumanization. I n d u s tr y is the actual historical
to Adam Smith the moral philosopher; at the same time the types relation of nature, and therefore of natural science, to man. If, there
of answers given by Adam Smith--both as an economist and as a fore, industry is conceived as the e x o t e r i c revelation of man's
moralist-are situated historically, in relation to the development e s s e n t i a I p o w e r s, we also gain an understanding of the hum an
of capitalism in general). essence of nature or the n a t u r a I essence of man. In consequence,

As we can see, then, the main difficulties we experience in natural science will lose its abstractly material-<>r rather, its

reading the Economic and Philo50phic AIanuscripts 01 1844, with idealistic - tendency, and will become the basis 0/ h u m a n science,
as it has already become the basis of actual human life, albeit in an
the exception of th due to their bei'ng a system in statu nascendi.
estranged form. O n e basis for life and another basis for s c i e n c e
are expressions of Marx's efforts directed at adequately dealing
with the mystifying complexities of his subject of analysis on the
is a priori a lie. The nature which comes to be in human history
the genesis of human society-is man's r e a l nature ; hence nature
basis of concrete empirical enquiry in place of mere philosophical as it comes to be through industry, even though in an e s t r a n g e d
abstraction. form, is true a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l nature" (110-111).

In the course of his analysis of the various theoretical reflections From this quotation it becomes clear that in his criticism of philo
of actual human self-alienation Marx makes the general point that : sophy Marx is not led by some misconceived ideal of remodelling
philosophy on natural science. Indeed he sharply criticizes both
"It stems from the very nature of estrangement that each sphere
philosophy and the natural sciences. The first for being "speculative"
applies to me a different and opposite yardst ick-ethics one and
political economy another; for each is a specific estrangement of and the latter for being "abstractly material" and "idealistic". In
man and focuses attention on a particular round of estranged essential Marx's view both philosophy and the natural sciences are mani
activity, and each stands in an estranged relation to the other. Thus festations of the same estrangement. (The terms "abstractly
M. Michel Chevalier reproaches Ricardo with having abstracted material" and "idealistic" indicate that natural science is now "in
from ethics. But Ricardo is allowing political economy to speak its an estranged form" the basis of "actual human lile", because of
own language, and if it does not speak ethically, this is not Ricardo's the fact that it is necessarily interconnected with an alienated form
fault" (121). of industry, corresponding to an alienated mode of production, to
an alienated form of productive activity.) This is why i\ofarx opposes
Thus he emphasizes that the contradictions we encounter in these
to bot h "speculative philosophy" and to "abstractly material,
idealistic natural science" his ideal of a "h u m a n science".
fields are necessarily inherent in the structural relation of the various
disciplines of thought to each other and to a common determinant
What Marx means by "h u m a n science" is a science of
which paradoxically makes them oppose each other. But how is
concrete synthesis, integrated with real life. Its standpoint is the
such a paradoxical relationship possible? How doo this double
ideal of non-alienated man whose actual human-as opposed to
alienation come about?
both "speculatively invented" and to practically dehumanized,
Before we can make an attempt at elucidating Marx's enigmatic "abstractly material"-needs determine the line of research in every
answers to these far from easy questions, we have to embark on a
particular field. The achievements of the particular fields-guided
journey back to some fU'ndamentals of Marx's discourst:.
Marx's immediate problem is : why is there such a gulf between
right from the beginning by the common frame of reference of a
non-fragmented "human science" -are then brought together into
philosophy and the natural sciences? Why docs philosophy remain
a higher synthesis which in its tum determines the subsequent lines
as alien and hostile to them as they remain to philosophy? This
of investigations in the various fields.
opposition is absurd because :
This conception of "human science", in its opposition to
"natural science has invaded and transformed human life all the "abstractly material and idealistic" natural science, is obviously
more p r a c t i c a l l y through the medium of industry; and has pre directed against the fragmentation and "unconscious", alienated
pared human emancipation, however directly and much it had to determination of science. Many instances of the history of scie'nce
102 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE OF MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION 103
testify that the extent to which certain fundamental lines of research ends. As a radical separation from all other modes of activity
are carried out are greatly determined by factors which lie, strictly philosophy appears to its representatives as the only form of
speaking, far beyond the boundaries of natural science ilSelf. (To "species-activity", i.e. as the only form of activity worthy of man
take a topical example : there can be no doubt whatever that as a "universal being". Thus instead of being a universal dimeruion
automation is at least as fundamentally a social problem as a of all activity, integrated in practice and in its various reflections, it
scientific one.) The lines of research actually followed through in functions as an independent ("verselbstandigt") "alienated univer
any particular age are necessarily finite whereas the lines of possible sality", displaying the absurdity of this whole system of aienations
l
research are always virtually infinite. The role of social needs and by the fact that this fictitious "univefflality" is realized as the
preferences in scaling down the infinite to the finite is extremely most esoteric of all esoteric speciLzlities, strictly reserved for the
important. However-and this is the point Marx is making-in an alienated "high priests" (the "Eingeweihten") of this intellectual
alienated society the process of scaling down itself, since it is trade.
"unconsciously" determined by a set of alienated needs, is bound If the "abstractly material" character of the particular natural
to produce further alienation : the subjection of man to increasingly sciences is linked to a productive activity fragmented and devoid
more powerful instruments of his own making. of perspectives, the "abstractly contemplative" character of philo
The structure of scientific production is basically the same as sophy expresses the radical divorce of theory and practice in its
that of fundamental productive activity in general (all the more alienated universality. They represem two sides of the same coin :
because the two merge into one another to a considerable extent) : labour's self-alienation manifest in a mode of production
a lack of control of the productive process as a whole; an characterized by Marx and Engels as "the unconscious condition of
"unconscious" and fragmented mode of activity determined by the mankind".
inertia of the institutionalized framework of the capitalistic mode This takes us back to our original problem. Why is it that the
of production; the functioning of "abstractly material" scie"nce as different theoretical spheres apply "a different and opposite yard
a mere means to predetennined, external, alienated ends. Such an stickn to man? How is it possible that though both philosophy and
alienated natural science finds itself betwee'n the Scylla and political economy express the same alienation, their "language" is
Charibdis of its "autonomy" (i.e. the idealization of its "uncon so different that they cannot communicate with each other?
scious", fragmentary character) and its subordination as a mere In order to simplify these matters to some extent, let us try and
means to c;xtemal, alien ends (i.e. gigantic military and quasi illustrate, however sc.ttematically, the structural interrelationship of
miitary
l programmes, such as lunar flights). Needless 10 say, the the principal concepts involved in Marx's theory of alienation.
subjection of natural science as a mere means to alien ends is by (Schematic illustrations of this kind are always problematical
no means accidental but necessarily connected with its fragmented, because they have to express in a fixed, "twcrdimensional" form
"autonomous" character, and, of course, with the structure of the complexity of dynamic interchanges. It must be stressed, there
alienated productive activity in general. Since science develops n i fore, that they are not meant to be substitutes (or an adequate
a fragmented, compartme"ntalized framework, it cannot conceivably conceptual understanding but merely a visual aid towards it.)
have overall aims which, therefore, have to be imposed on it from The fundamental terms of reference in Marx's theory of alienation
outside. are "man" (M), "nature" (N), and "industry" or "productive
Philosophy, on the other hand, expresses a twofold alienation of activity" (I). For an understanding of "the h u m a n essence of
the sphere of speculative thinking (I) from all practice-including nature or the n a t u r a l essence of man" (I IO) the concept of
the, however alienated, practice of natural science-and (2) from "productive activity" (or "industry"-used from now on for the
other theoretical fields, like political economy, for instance. In its sake of brevity) is of a crucial importance. "Industry" is both the
speculative "universality" philosophy becomes an "end in itself' cause of the growing complexity of human society (by creating new
and "for itself", fictitiously opposed to the realm of means : an needs while satisfying old ones : "the first historical act is the
abstract reflection of the institutionalized alienation of means from production of new needs"lU) and the means of asserting the
104 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION COl'CEPTIJAL STRUCTURE OF MARX' S THEORY OF ALIENATION 105
supremacy of man-as "universal being" who is at the same time a r e a l nature"as opposed to man's biological or animal nature-is
unique "specific being"----over nature. In considering Marx's views meant to embrace both aspects and thus to derine human nature in
we have to remember that when he applies the term "actual" terms of a necessarily threefold relationship of dialectical reciprocity.
(wirklich) to man he either equates it with "historical" (110), or Man's biological or animal nature, by contrast, can only be defined
simply implies historicity as a necessary condition of the human in terms of a twofold relationship, or, to put it the other way round,
predicament. He wants to account for every aspect of the analysed picturing the basic ontological situation merely in terms of a two
phenome'na in inherently historical terms, which means that nothing fold relationship, between "Man" and "Nature", would only
can be taken for granted and simply assumed as an ultimate datum. account for the characteristics of man's biologicalanimal nature.
On the contrary, the whole theory hinges on the proof of the For human consciousness implies already a specific human relation
historical genesis of all its basic constituents. Accordingly, Marx to "industry" (taken in its most general sense as "productive
pictures the relationship between "man" (M), "nature" (N), and activity"). One of the basic contradictions of theories which idealize
"industry" (I) in the fonn of a three/old interaction between its the unmediated reciprocity between "Man" and "Nature" is that
constituent parts. This can be illustrated as follows : they get themselves into the impasse of this animal relationship from
which not a single feature of the dynamism of human history can
be derived. Then, in an attempt to get rid of this contradiction-in
M '------!' N order to be able to account for the specifically human character
istics-they are forced to assume a "readymadc human nature",
with all the apriorism and theological teleologism that necessarily
go with wch a conception of philosophy.
Rousseau's conception, mutatis mutandis, belongs to the latter
category, though in a paradoxical way. For in the most generic
terms Rousseau is aware of the ludicrous character of idealizing
nature. He stresses that : "he who wants to preserve, in civil society,
the primacy of natural feelings, has no idea of what he wants.

As we can see, here we have a dialectical reciprocity (indicated by


Always standing in contradiction to himself, always oscillating

the doubleended arrows) between all three members of this


between his inclinations and his duties, he will be neither a man
nor a citoyen; he will be good neither for himself nor for others. He
relationship which means that "man" is not only the creator of will be one of those people of our age ; a Frenchman, an English.
industry but also its product. (Similarly, of course, he is both product man, a bourgeois : a nothing.lU And yet, this insight never induces
and creator of "truly anthropological nature" -above all in him
Rousseau to elaborate a genuinely historical account of man and his
self, but also outside him insofar as he leaves his mari. on nature.
,
relationships. On the contrary, despite his insights he continues to
A.nd since man's relation to nature is mediated through an alienated operate with the fictitious notion of "preserving man's original
form of productive activity, "anthrop:>logical nature" outside man
bears the marks of this alienation in an everextending form,
constitution".'" (It must be emphasized that his idealization of
a-hierarchical-family as the anthropological model of "natural"
graphically demonstrated by the intensity of pollution that menaces relations--opposed to the system which produces an "artificial
the very existence of mankind.) being"-proves to be a major drawback in his analyses.) Even if he
Talking about this process of reciprocal interaction, Marx calls recognizes the irrevocable remoteness of the "original" direct unity
it the "genesis of human society". At the same time he designates in Hegelian terms the inherently past character of "Erinnerutlg" as
the two main aspects of industry's fundamental (first order) opposed to the present actuality of "Entiiusserung"he continues,
mediating function by the expressions "n a t u r a I essence of man"
unlike Hegel, to postulate it, often in a negative form, in his senti
and "h u m a n essence of nature" (1 10). His expression: "man's mental negation of "civilization". In Rousseau's conception
--

106 '
MARX S THEORY OF ALIENATION
'
CONCEPTIJAL STRUCTIJRE OF MARX S THEORY OF ALIENATION 107
"industry" (civilization) exercizes an essentially disruptive function, to education up to I do not know which point. Otherwise how could
by putting an end to a "natural" relationship. Such an interpreta_ one expect the proper education of a child from someone who
tion may enable the philosopher to grasp certain contradictions of himself had not been properly educated? Is it impossible to find
a given stage of society, but it does not allow him to indicate a such a rare mortal? [An adequately educated educator.} I do not
solution that could stand the test of actual historical development. know. In this age of moral decadence who knows the height of
"Industry" (civilization) comes into the picture as something "evil", virtue of which the human soul is still capable? But let us assume
even if Rousseau recognize!!, nostalgically, that it cannot be done that we have found this prodigy. From considering what he ought
away with. Thus his system, at its very foundations, is profoundly to do we can find out what he ought 10 be like."I<
ahiston'cal. It can be illustrated in contrast to Marx's conception Being is-thus derived from ought in order to serve as the pivotal
as follows : point of this whole system of postulates opposed to the actuality of
"civilization". Since the foundation of all historicity-which s i also
the only possible ground of an "education of the educator"-is
M ====.
.
;- __ N negated, the educator must be fictitiously assumed and assigned the
unreal function of protecting the "natural being" from the tempta
tjons of civilization, money, sophistication, etc" thus educationally
rescuing him from the perspectives of becoming a'O "artificial
being". The tragic utopianism of this whole approach is manifest
in the all-per..:asive contradiction that while Rousseau negales the
ontologically fundamental mediation of man a'nd nature through
"industry" (not only in his explicit polemics against "civilization"
but primarily by postulating "natural man") he positively affirms
As wt: can see, there is a kind of "short circuit" in this account,
the alienated mediations of this mediation (1) by idealizing the
and the one-sided interaction between man and industry results in
alleged anthropological primacy of a rigidly hierarchical family;
the tragic negativity of divorcing or alienating man from nature. (It
(2) by postulating an----q -<: ually hierarchical-system of education
would be interesting to inquire into the relationship between
in which "the servant is educated for the master", and "everyone is
Rousseau's conception of man and nature and the Kanlian nOlion
of "das Bose"-"evil"-and in general the Kantian philosophy of educated for his own station" etc., and in which the educator is
history, its tragic vision of man.) Since the fundamental ontological miraculously "set above" the rest of society; and (3) by asserting the
rdations are pictured by Rousseau in these teons, his educational atemporal nature and ideal necessity of the capitalistically
ideal of preserving the "original" substance of humanness by institutionalized second order mediations--"fair and advantageous
cultivating the "naturally good" in man, is bound to remain not exchange", the eternal permanence of "meum" and "tuum", etc.
only utopian but also tragically hopeless. The "short-circuit" pro as we have seen already. No wonder, therefore, that the overall
duces a "vicious circle" which cannot be broken except by the impression of Rousseau's conception is a stalic one, adequately
unwarranted assumption of a "ready-made" educator. Rousseau expressed in the tragic pathos of a revolt condemned to inertia
himself is conscious of the problematic character of such a construc and impotence. A pathos expressing the unfavourable configura
tion but, given his fundamental concepts, he cannot do anything tion of a set of contradictions, perceived and depicted from a
against it. "The more we reflect the more we recognize the growing specific socio-historical standpoint by this great philosopher and
difficulties. For the educator ought to have been educated [or hi! writer.
pupil; the servants ought to have been educated for their masters, Marx's approach is radically different. He is not talking simply
so that all those who are in the pupil's vicinity would communicate about man's aienation
l from "nature" as such, but about man's
to him the right things; one should go backwards from education alienation from his own nature, from "anthropological nature"
108 M....RX' S THEORY OF AUENATION CONCEPl1JAL STRUCTIJRE OF MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION 109

(both within and outside man). This very concept of "man's own (3) the original (M) +-+ (I) (N) reciprocity is transformed into
nature" necessarily implies the ontologically fundamental seU. the alienated interrelationships between :
mediation of man with nature through his own productive (and (a) (p) - (AI)'" (AN) and
If-producing) activity. Consequently "industry" (or "productive (b) (L) '" (AI)'" (AN).
activity") as such, acquires an essentially positive connotation in
the Marxian conception, rescuing man from the theological dilemma Furthermore, since now everything is subordinated to the basic
of "the fall of man". antagonism between (P) and (L), we have the additional alienated
interrelations of :
If such an essetially positive role is assigned to "industry" in the
Marxian conception, how then can we explain "alienation" as (4) (P)'" (L) - (AI) and
.

(P) - (L) - (AN).


"
"self-alienation", i.e. as the "alienation of labour", as the "aliena (5)
tion of human powers from man through his own productive
activity" . In these sets of relationships in which the second order mediations
To anticipate, briefly, the central topic of the next chapter insofar of (P) and (L) have taken the place of "man" (M), the concepts of
is necessary in this connection, let us draw up a comparative "man" and "mankind" may appear to be mere philosophical
diagram. Let (M) stand for "man", (P) for "private property abstractions to all those who cannal see beyond the direct immediacy
and its owner", (L) for "wage labour and the worker" (AN) for of the given alienated relations. (And they are indeed abstractions
"alienated nature", 10e and (AI) for "alienated industry" or
'
if they are not considered in terms of the socio-historically concrete
"alienated productive activity", then we can illustrate the changed forms of alienatio'n which they as;ume.) The disappearance of
relationships as follows : "man" from the picture, his practical suppression through the
second order mediations of (P) and (L)--(we had to omit the other
institutionalized second order mediations, e.g. EXCHANGE, MO:-'EY,
etc., partly because they are already implied in (P) and (L), and
partly in order to simplify the basic interrelations as far as possible)
AN -means not only that there is a split now at every link of these
aJienated relationships but also that LAnOUR can be considered as a
mere "material fact", instead of being appreciated as the human
agency of production.

The problem of the reAection of this "reification" in the various


thcoretical fields is inseparable from this double mediation, i.e. from
lhe "mediation of the mediation", The political economist gives a
"rcified", "fetishistic" account of the actual social relations of
production when, from the standpoi'nt of idealized PRIVATE
Here, as a result of " Iabour's self-alienation"-the objectification of PROPERTY (P) he treats LABOUR (LJ as a mere material fact of
?
productive c vi y in the form of "alienated labour" (or "estranged
. ,
production and fails to relate both (P) and (L) to "man" (M). (When
essential activity , to use another of Marx's expressions)--we have Adam Smith, as Marx observes, starts to take "man" into account,
a multiplicity of basic interrelations : he leaves immediately the ground of political economy and shifts to
the speculative viewpoint of ethics.)
(I) (M) is split into (P) and (L); Now we are in a better position for understanding Marx's
;'l.SSCrtion according to which ( ach theoretical sphere applies a
(2) (P) and (L) antagonistically oppose each other;
CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE O F MARX S THEORY 01' AU,.:NATION
'
1 10 '
MARX S THEORY OJ.' ALIENATION III
different, indeed opposite yardstick to man, and "each stands in an their central points of reference are far from being the same. to;
estranged relation to the other", For if the foundation of theoretical Political Economy's points of reference arc (P) H (AN) H (L) and
generalizations is not the fundamental ontological relationship of (P) H (AI) <H (AN), whereas Ethies (and, mutatis mutandis, specula
(M) ..... (I) +-+ (N) but its alienated form : the reified "mediation of tive philosophy in general) has for its centre of reference abstract
the mediation"-i.e. (1.1) +-+ (P) (-'jo (L) +-+ (AI) +-+ (AN}-then "Man" (or its even more abstract versions, like "World Spirit" etc.),
political economy, for instance, which directly identifies itself with depicted in his relations with "Nature" and "Industry" or "Civiliza
the standpoint of private property, is bound to formulate its dis lion" more often than not in a Rousseaulike fashion, with all the
course in terms of (P) and (L), whereas ethics, in accordance with apriorism and transcender.talism involved ill it. (The points of
its own position which coincides only indirectly with "the stand reference of the Natural Sciences are, of course, (AN) and (AI), in
point of political economy" (i.e. the standpoint of private property), their dual orientation towards nature, or "basic research", on the
will speculatively oppose the abstract concept of "Man" to (P) and one hand, and towards productive technology, or "applied science",
(L). The fact that both disciplines approach, from difTercnt on the other. Intensified "alienation of nature"--e.g. pollution-is
though only methodologically, not socially different-points of view, unthinkable without the most active participation of the Natural
the same complex phenomenon, remains hidden from the represcnta Sciences in this process. They receive their tasks from "alienated
lives of both speculative, moralizing philosophy and empiricist industry", in the fonn of capitalistic "targets of production"
political economy. i.e. targets subordinated to the " blind natural laws" of the market
We could illustrate the respective positions of Ethics, Political irrespective of the ulti.nate human implications and repercus.ions
Economy, and the "abstractly material" Natural Sciences in relation of the realization of such tasks.)
to the alienated and reified social relations of production like Moreover, as M<),rx emphasizes, the idealization of abstract
this : "Man" is nothing but an alienated, speculative expression of the
(P) <H (L) relationship. The nature of the actual relationships is such
that adequately to comprehend them it is necessary to assume a
Ethics radically critical attitude towards the system of alienations which

L- - - - l
/political Economy "externalizes" (or "objectifies") man in the fonn of "alienated
labour" and "reified private property". "Real man"-the "real,
human person"----o ----d es not actually exist in a c."lpitalist society except

(M - - Ali. N)
in the alienated and reified fonn in which we encounter him as

/
-- _

"
"Labour" and "Capital" (Private Property) antagonistically
opposing each other. Consequently the "affirmation" of "man"
must proceed via the negation of the alienated social relaLions of

: //\
production. Speculative philosophy, however, docs not negate the
(P) <H (L) <H (AI) <H (AN) relationship but merely abstracts from
it. And through its abstract concept of "Man" which ignores the
"AI I / Natural Sciences basic antago-nism of society : the actuality of (P) H (L), speculative
philosophy depicts the alienated social relations of production-in
(1) / accordance with its own specific ideological function-in a
"sublimated" fashion, transforming the "palpable reality" of actual
social contradictions into a fictitious, and apriori insoluble, opposi.
As we can see, the "language" of Political Economy and Ethics tion between the "realm of here and now" and its "transcendental"
not to mention the Natural Sciences-cannot be common because counterpart.
112 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION COSCEPTUAL STRUCllJRE 01-" MARX'S THEORY 01' ALIENATION J 13
It is clear from the Marxian account that the various theoretical At the same time Marx cmphasizes the negative aspect as wcll.
spheres reAect-in a necessarily alienated form, corresponding to Thf': latter is directly displayed in the social contradiction between
a set of specific alienated needs-the actual alienation and rcification PRIVATE PROPERTY and LACOUR : a contradiction which, howc,cr,
of the social relations of production. They all fOCllS attention "on a cannot be perceived from the standpoint of private property, nor
particular round of estranged essential activity" (Le. political from that of a spontaneous identification with labour in its partiality,
economy on the reproduction of the economic cycle of production; but only from the critically adopted standpoint of labour in its
speculative philosophy on "spiritual activity" and on the norms self-transcending universality. In Marx's eyes the increasing evidence
regulating human behaviour, in its most general terms; and the of an irreconcilable social antagonism between private property and
"abstractly material" natural sciences on the conditions of a direct labour is a proof of the fact that the ontologicaUy necessary phase
interchange between man and nature) and they stand "in an of labour's self-alienation and reificd self-mediation-"through the
estranged relation to each other". mcdium of private property" etc.-is drawing to its close. The
Since neither political economy nor speculative philosophy have intensification of the social antagonism between private property and
a real awareness of the social dynamism inherent in the antagonism labour demonstrates the innennost contradiction of the givcn
between private property and labour-and precisely because they productive system and greatly contributes to its disi'ntegration. Thus
cannot pM>ibly recognize the objective character of this antagonism human selC-objectification in the fonn of self-alienation loses its
as one "hastening to its annulment"-their systems must remain relative historical justification and becomes an indefensible social
static, corresponding to the necessarily ahistorical .standpoint of anachronism.
private property which they represent, directly or indirectly. Ontological necessity cannot be realistically opposed except by
Viewed from such a standpoint they can only perceive-at best another ontological necessity. Marx's line of reasoning-in stressing
the subjective aspect of this basic contradiction : the direct clash of the relative (historical) necessity of self-alienation as well as the
individuals over "goods" or "property", but they cannot grasp the disruptive social anachronism of self-objectification as self-a'lienation
social necessity of such clashes. Instead they either interpret them at a later stage of development-establishes "Aufhebung" (the
as manifestatio-ns of "egoistic human nature -which amounts to
"
transcendence of alienation) as a concept denoting ontological
an actual defence of the position of private property under the necessity. Marx argues that what is at stake is the necessity of an
semblance of a "moral condemnation" of "human egoism"--or,
actual supersession of the earlier indispensable but by now in
more recently, treat these clashes as problems of a " lack of com
creasingly more paralysing (therefore historically untenable)
munication", as tasks for a "human engineering", aiming at devising
reification of the social relations of production. In this respect, too,
methods for a minimization of "conflicts about property", in order
his theory brings a radical break with the views of his predecessors
to ensure the continued existence of the alienated social relations of
who could picture "transcendence" either as a mere moral postulate
production.
Marx, by contrast, grasps this whole complexity of interrelated (a "Sollen") or as an abstract logical requirement of a speculative
concepts at their strategic centre : the objective social dynamism of scheme devoid of practical relevance.
the contradiction between PROPERTY and LABOUR. He rccognizes As to the transcendence of alienation in the theoretical ficlds, it
that "human life rcquired private property for its realization" (134) must be clear from what has been said so far that Marx's ideal of
because "only through developed industry-i.e. through the medium a "human science" is not meant to be a programme of remodelling
of private property-does the ontological essence of human passion philosophy and the humanities on the natural sciences. Not only
come to be both in its totality and in its humanity" (136). Aliena because the latter are also specific forms of alienation but, above all,
tion, reification, and their alienated reflections are therefore because we are concerned here with a practical, not with a
socio-historically necessary fonns of expression of a fundamental theoretical i!::sue. For whatever model we may have in mind as our
ontological relationship. This is the "positive aspect" of labour'S ideal of philosophical activity, its applicability will depend on the
self-alienation. totality of social practice which generates, in any particular socia-
MARX S THEORY aI' AUENATION
'
1 14 CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE OF MAHX 'S THEORY Ol" ALn:NATlON 115
historical situation, the practicable intellectual needs not la'l than determines, mechanically, cvery aspeet of development. Such
the material oncs. The realization of Marx's ideal of a "human accusations, needless to say, cannot bc taken seriously, For-as has
science" prcsupposes, therefore, the "self-sustaining" ("positive") been mentioned already-in Marx's view the first historical act of
existence of slich-non-alienated-needs in the social body as a man is the creation of his first new necd, and no mechanical
whole. Marx's fonnulation of the ideal itself, by contrast, corres determination can conceivably account for that. In Marx's
ponds to the needs of negating-under their theoretical aspects- dialectical conception the key concept is "human productive
the totality of the existing social relations of production. "Human activity" which never means simply "economic production", Right
science", therefore, becomes a reality to the extent to which from the beginning it is much more complex than that, as Marx's
alienation is practically superseded and thus the totality of social references to ontology in fact indicate. We arc concerncd here with
practice loses its fragmented character. (In this fragmentation an extremely complicated structure and Marx's assertions about the
theory is opposed 10 practice and the particular fields of "estranged ontological significance of economics become meaningflll only if
essential activity"-both theoretical and practical-opJXISe each we are able to grasp the Marxian idea of manifold !'.p<'cific
otheL) In other words, in order to realize "human science" philo mediations, in the most varied fields of human activity, which arc
sophy, political economy, the "abstractly material" natural sciences, not simply " built upon" an economic basis but also actively struClure
etc., must be reciprocally integrated among themselves, as well as the latter through the immensely intricate and relatively autonomous
with the totality of a social practice no longer characterized by the structure of their own. Only if we succeed in dial"ctically grasping
alienation and reification of the social relations of production. For this multiplicity of specific mediations can we really understand the
"human science" is precisely this
dual integration-in transcendence Marxian notion of economics. For jf economics is the "ultimate
of the earlier seen dual alienation--of the particular theoretical determinant", it is also a "determined determinant" ; it docs not
fields (I) among themselves and (2) with the totality of a non exist outside the always concrete, hislOrically changing complex of
alienated social practice, concrete mediations, including the most "spiritual" ones. If the
The "iibergreifendes Moment" (overriding factor) of this complex "demystification" of capitalistic society, because of the "fctish
is, of course, the supersession of alienation in social practice itself. character" of its mode of production and exchange, has to start
Since, however, alienated social practice is already integrated, in an from the analysis of economics, this does not mean in the least that
"inverted" and alienated form, with "abstractly material" science the results of such economic enquiry can be simply transferred to
and speculative philosophy, the actual transcendence of alienation other spheres and levels: Even as regards the culture, politics, Jaw,
in social practice is inconceivable without superseding at the same religion, art, ethics, etc. of capitalistic society one has stiJi to find
time the alienations of the theoretical fields as well. Thus Marx those complex mediations, at various levels of historico-philosophical
conceives the actual procn<; of "Aufhebung" as a dialutica( inter generalization, which enable one to reach reliable concIusio'ns both
change between these two polc.s--the theoretical and the practical about the specific ideological forms in question and about the given,
in the course of their reciprocal reintegration. historically concrete fonn of capitalistic society as a whole. And
this is even more evident if one tries to transfer the enquiry to a
more general levcl, as becomes in fact necessary in the course of
3. Alienation and Teleology
the structural analysis of any particular form of society, or of any
As we have seen, both "alienation" and its "Aufhebung" denote specific form of human activity. One cannot grasp the "specific"
an ontological necessity in tile Marxian system. What we have to without idemifying its manifold interconnections with a given
consider now is the kind of teleology which is at work in the develop system of complex mediations. In other words ; one must be able to
ments depicted by Marx. see the "atemporal" (systematic) elements in temporality, and the
Marx is often accused of "economic dt:tenninism". He is temporal elements in the systematic factors.
supposed to holJ the nalve idea according to which economy "Economic determinism", it goes without saying, negates the
OF ALlH,'ATION 117
116 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE OF MARX'S THEORY
g it into an alleged
dialectical interrelationship between temporality and atemJXIrality, -standpoint for granted and by turnin
discontinuity and continuity, history and structure. J t opposes to the "permanent structure", ,
He,el s , aehlr:vements
'

Marxian dialectical conception a mechanical model in which an At this P int the aradoxical character of
atemporal structure of detenninations prevails. (Some go.called O
J
proves to be pa cularly instructive. Ll:kacs,
m hIS ssay
s tremendous mtel-
"structuralist Marxists", with their anti-dialectical rejection of on II I cs that
'{oses Hess, emplaslZ " ' "He gel
he made theory and
"historicism", arc representativcs of "vulgar economic detenninism", lectual contribution consisted in the fact that
dressed in a culturally fashionable "structuralist" doth. It was this other , grasped tem in a
history diaiecticaliy relative to each
ely, howev er, hiS attempt
old trend of "vulgar economic dctcnninism" which made Marx say dialectical reciprocal penetration, Ultimat
as he genu ine unity, of
a long time ago : "I am not a Marxist".) The concept of complex was a faiiure, He could never get as far
e ther to
mediatioru is missing from the vision of economic determinists who theory and practice; aU that he could do as I
the Loglal
,
fill
maten al, or
sequence of the categories with rich histoncal
, alize
-however unconsciously---capitulate to "blind economic necessity" ratIOn
s, stmctural changes,
which seems to prevail through the: fetish-character of capitalism, history in the shape of a succession of fonn
through the alienation and reification of the social rdations of :
epochs etc., which he raised to the level of
categories by sublimating
, ,
production under capitalism. (The Geisteswissenschaftcn ["sciences and abstracting them,"'" ,
of the Spirit"] and-mutatis mutandis-their modem structuralist the time of wntm g
What Lukacs could not see at
HISto ry and
versions are, as regards their fundamental conceptual structure, a that the Hege li ,an hstor cal
Class-Consciousness was the fact
the nec nly ah iS oncal
conception as a whole-conceived from

mystified form of economic determinism "upside down", insofar as
,
car:le With It the
the crucial concept of media/ion s
i missing [rom them. They mirror "standpoint of political economy" which,
,
ct catJOn --:-had to be
the immediacy of capitalistic reification, even f
i in an n
i verted identification of "alienation" and "obje Jli ,
ly, udhtoflcal. For no
fashion, asserting the same kind of direct mechanical determinations thoroughly ahistorical or, more exact , ,
s particular hiStoncal
under "spiritualized" namcs. Consequently they either display a matter how fine and sensitive were Hegel
. " bjectifia
rigid negation of all historicity, or invent a pseudo-history of the insights, because of his ahistorical assump -i.e .
tio
te hiS tO ry m I ts totahty
" Spirit", devoid of the objective di.t!ectical
.. transitions and media tion" "alienation" etc.-he had to nega
an ri "goal': ,
=

with
liom which characterize a genuine historical account. Significantly by assigning to it an'''end''. in accordance
aprio
order to complete hIS
enough some "Marxist structuralists" can switch with the greatest It was not the case therefore that-in
d of ,his histo,rical con
case to and fro between the categories of the Geisteswissenschaften system-Hegel incon;istently lef the groun
p n was mhercntly
and their own pseudo-Marxist-i,e. vulgar economic determinist ception but right from the beginning his conce iO
te wlt,h the method of
concepts,) ahistorical. This is why he had to opera
logIcal sequence of
Since both "alienation" and "Aufhebung" must be understood, rationalizing history and relativizing the
ce" a sublima ted uman
according to \'Iarx, in terms of ontological necessity, a correct categories, And this is why he had to "dedu ,
(ory 1rom the ca(egoncs 01 thought"
instead of e1ucldatmg the
historical conception depends on the interpretation of such necessity. his
lt of a "humaly
latter in terms of the fonner. (The recogO JO?
'

Economic determinism as a historical hypothesis is a contradiction of hlStor y-nt:cessan!y


natural and naturally human" agent
ill terms because it implies the ultimate negation of history. If history can only be grasped 10
carrying witli. it a specific objectivity whic h
,
means anything at all, it must be "open-ended", An adequate
terms of a dialectical social ontology -wo uld have prev nted him
historical conception must be, therefore, open to the idea of a break at th OJnt of t?e
from conveniently putting an end to histo:>, .
oC the chain of-"reified", "fetishistic", "blind", etc.-economic Wi th capltaitsllc reah,ty
"reconciliation of the World Spirit"
determinations. (Indeed a transcendence of alienation is incon e very moment of ts
anticipated by the Hegelian system from t
ceivable without the break of this chain,) Such an idea is, needless my esplte
conception,) Thus-however paradoxical , thlS und--d
to say, inadmissible from the view point of economic determinism "unm dl
cy Hegel ened
his (abstract) programmatic criticism of ,
which must therefore negate history, by taking its own-ahistorical fetIShISm of capHalwn
up by idealizing the immdiacy of the
-

'
liB '
MARX S THEORY OF ALIENATION CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE OF MARX S THEORY Of" ALiENATIO 119
manifest in the historically determinate identity of capitalistic human actions to the crude simplicilY of mechanical determina
objectification and capitalistic alienation. tions. Nor can there be a point in history at which we could say :
Human actions arc not intelligible outside their socio--historicai "now the human substance has been fully realized". For such a fixing
framework. But human history in its tum is far from being would deprive the human being of his essential attribute : his power
intelligible without a teleology of some kind. If, however, the latter of " sclf-mediation" and "sclf-development".uo
is of a "closed", apriori.stic kind-i.e. all varieties of theolo.E:ical
teleology-the philosophical system which makes use of such a
conception of teleology must be itself a "closed system".
The Manda'n system, by contrast, is organized in terms of an
inherently historical-"open"-teleology which cannot admit
"fixity" at any stage whatsoever. This we can illustrate, brieAy
anticipating some main points of the subsequent chapters, with
reference to two Marxian assertions in particular :
(I) According to Marx all necessity is "hiJtoricai necessity",
namely "a disappearing necessity" ("cine verschwindende Notwen
digkeit"'U). This concept not only makes intelligible the multiple
transformations and transitions of social phenomena in terms of
historical necessity but at the same time it leaves the doors wide
open as regards the future development of human society. (More
about this in CHAPTER vm.)
(2) The "goal" of human history is defined by Marx in terms
of the immanence of human development (as opposed to the apriori
transcendentalism of theological teleology). namely as the realization
of the "human essence", of "humanness", of the "specifically
human" element, of the "universality and freedom of man", etc.
through "man's establishment of himself by practical activity" (136)
first in an alIenated foml, and later in a positive, self-sustaining form
of life-activity established as an "inner need". Man as the "self
mediating being of nature" must develop--through the objective
dialectics of an increasingly higher complexity of human needs and
aims-in accordance with the most fundamental objective laws oC
ontology of which-and this is vitally important-man's own active
mediatory role is an essential part. Thus the Marxian system remains
ope'n because in this account the very "goal" of history is defined
in inherently historical terms, and not as a fixed target. In Marx's
accollnt history remains open in accordance with the specific r
ontological necessity of which self-mediating human teleology is an
integral part : for there can be no way of predeterndning the forms
and modalities of human "self-mediation" (whose complex tcleo
logical conditions can o'nly be satisfied in the course of this self
mediation irsclf) cxcept by arbitrarily reducing the complexity of

,
PART II

ASPECTS OF ALIENA TION


IV. Economic Aspects
But the exercise of labour power, labour, is the worker's own life
activity, the manifestatiofl of his own life. And this life-activity he
1 . Marx'; Critique 0/ Political Economy
sells to another person in order to secure the necessary means of THE general character of a .work is determined by its writer's
subsistence. Thus his life-activity is for him only a means to enable standpoint. It is important to ask, therefore, what is Marx's stand
him to exist. He works in order to live. He does not even reckon point when he analyses the various aspects of alienation. It is
labour as part of his life, it is rather a sacrifice of his life. It is a relevant here, that Marx had reproached Proudhon with having
commodity which he has made over to another. Hence, also, the criticized political economy from the standpoint of political economy,
product of his activity is not the object of his activity. What he thus ending up with the contradiction of abolishing political
produces for himself is not the silk that he weaves, not the gold economic estrangement within political-economic estrangement.HI
that he draws from the mine, not the palace that he builds. What Likewise Marx characterized Hegel as having the standpoint of
he produces for himself is wages, and silk, gold, palace resolve modern political economy ( 1 54).
themselves for him into a definite quantity of the means of The problem of the philosopher's standpoint, as regards aliena
subsistence, perhaps into a cotton jacket, some copper coins and a tion, is identical, in the final analysis, to the problem of his attitude
lodging in a cellar. And the worker, who for twelve hours weaves, towards the supersession (Aufhebung) of alienation. To share "the
spins, drills, turns, builds, shovels, breaks stones, carries loads, etc. stan9point of political economy" means to be unable to work out
does he consider this twelve hours' weaving, spinning, drilling, in concrete terms the conditions of an actual supersession. And to
turning, building, shovelling, stone-breaking as a manifestation of supersede alienation "w i t h i n political-economic alienation" means
his life, as life ? On the contrary, life begins for him where this not to supersede it at all.
activity ceas, at table, in the public house, in bed. The twelve When Marx writes about alienation, he is careful to distinguish
hours' labour, on the other hand, has no meaning for him as his position from the utopian criticism of political economy. In fact
weaving, spinning, drilling, etc., but as earnings, which bring him he had criticized Proudhon as early as the eighteen forties for his
to the table, to the public house, into bed. If the silk worm were to inability to detach himself from the utopian approach to the category
spin in order to continue its e:'tistence as a caterpillar, it would be a of property of the French socialists like Saint-Simon and Fourier.u1
complete wage-worker. We shall soon sec the concrete economic problems involved in
Proudhon's utopianism as criticized in Marx's Manuscripts 0/ 1844.
-Wage-Labour and Capital It was Proudhon's inability to solve these problems that made him

dopt contradictorily, in spite of his explicit programmatic inten


tIOns, the standpoint of political economy "in a roundabout way".In

Why had Marx to oppose the standpoint of political economy ?


Basically because it was in CO"ntradiction to the historical approach
that could envisage the supersession of alienation.
Marx characterizes the position of political economy as one based
on a "fictitious primordial condition". This fictitious primordial
condition is a fallacious line of reasoning: in this case it exhibits
'"
124 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 125

the characteristic of a petitio principii, The political economist activity", "essential life-activity". In this sense the concept of
"assumes in the form of fact, of an event, what he is supposed to i logically (and historically) prior to the concept
activity (labour) s
deduce-namely the necessary relationship between two things of man. But tills priority is, of course, a relative one, for all three
between, for example, divisio'n of labour and exchange. Theology members of this dialectical relationship belong to the same complex
in the same way explains the origin of evil by the fall of man; that whole, and none of them can be abstracted from it without destroy
is, it assumes as a laci, in historical fonn, what has to be explained" ing this specific relationship as such.
(69). Fallacies of this kind pervade the history of thought. Their
varieties are determined by th particular character of the dis Marx opposes to the approach of the political economist,'H which
regarded concrete historical interconnections. (Some neglect or has at its point of departur.e the logical structure of a petitio
ignore the existing relations; others assert nonexisting connections; principii, a method of proceeding "from an a c t u a 1 economic fact".
others again reverse the order of the actual interrelations, etc.) And this fact is that "Labour produces not only commodities: it
Here we see a good example of a basic characteristic of Marxian produces itself and the worker as a c o m m o d i t y--a'nd does so
thought; namely that the historical approach to everything is at the in the proportion in which it produces commodities gencraUy" (69).
same time a substantiation of the categories of logic in concrete, This point about labour producing itself and the worker as a
historical tenns. In this sense petitio principii is nothing but a commodity is of the utmost importance for the understanding of
relational determination which excludes the question of the concrete Marx's position on the question of supersession. Since the very
historical becoming (Werden) by assuming an a priori being (Sein), foundation of human existence and of all human attributes is the
in order to explain away the difficulties and contradictions of a purposive productive activity which has, as we have seen, a relative
determinate being (bestimmtes Dasein). priority over the concept of man, if one cannot present labour in
On this account no relation or social fact-which is, by definition, a historical framework, showing the actual process in which
a relation-<:an be accepted as given. Everything specific, every purposive productive activity becomes wage-labour (or "alienated
thing that has a fonn (since every particular fonn expresses a labour"), one has no ground for envisaging a supersession.
specific relation to its content) must be explained in tenns of Marx formulates this poi'nt very clearly in Capital when he
becoming, and so no primordial condition can be assumed. This is writes : "It is clear that capital presupposes labour as wage-labour.
why Marx starts out by defining the historically primary relation But it is just as clear that if labour as wage-Jabour is taken as the
ship between man and nature as nature's relation to itself, on the point of departure, so that the identity of labour in general with
grounds that man is a specific part of nature. Even as regards nature wage-labour appears to be self..cvident, then capital and mono
itself, without a concrete historical reference nothing more can be polized land must also appear as the natural fonn of the conditions
asserted than that it is identical with itself, whereas the assertion of of labour in relation to labour in general. To be capital, then,
the part-whole relationship (man as a specific part of the totality appears as the natural form of the means of labour and thereby as
of nature) requires an inherently historical conception. the purely real character arising from their function in the labour
In order to define man as a specific part of nature, one must process in general. Capital and produced means of production thus
have not only a comprehensive historical conception of nature itself, become identical terms. . . . Labour as such, in its simple capacity
which accounts for the possibility, indeed necessity, of differentiation as purposive productive activity, relates to the means of production,
within nature (a necessity dependent on the generation of conditions not in theiT social determinate form, but rather in their concrete
incompatible with the previous state of affairs), but also a particular substance, as material and means of labour; . . . "IU
factor which necessitates a peculiar form of differentiation that As we sec, Marx's concept of "alienated labour" (or wage-labour)
results in the intrinsic man-nature relationship. is inseparable from his idea that the social determinate farm of the
The factor that involves this peculiar fonn of differentiation (that productive activity which obtains the "i n c r e a s i n g v a l u e of
is the one which refonnulates the part-whole relationship in this the world of things" at the price of the "d e v a l u a t i o n of the
way : man, a specific part of nature) is "industry", "purposive world of men" is one that can be superseded.
'
126 MARX S THEORY OF ALIENATION ECONOM.tC ASPECTS 127
Marx's interest in problems of political economy is direcdy rdated action, but of a political one. He is interested in problems of
to this question of supersession. He emphasizes that "the entire economy only insofar as they reveal the complex hierarchy of the
revolutionary movement necessarily finds both ils empirical and its structure that he wanU to sec positively transcended. He wants to
theoretical bass
i in the movement of p r i v a t e p r o p e r t y--in unveil not the "weak" points of the capitalist system (which were
that of economy, to be precise" (102), and most of the criticism the anyway quite obvious, because of their striking human repercussions,
young Marx directs against his political comrades concerns their to many moralist critics well before Marx), but its strong oncs.
relation to the problem of a practical transcendence of human Those which converge into the outcome he calls "movable property's
alienation. civilized victory" (91) i.e. the victory of early capitalism over
One of the most important passages on this point, in the Manu feudalism.
scripts oj 1844, reads as follows : "This m a t e r i al, immediately Marx's economic investigations helped him to discover the
s e n s u o u s private property is the material sensuous expression internal contradictions of the economic force that resulted in this
of estranged human life. Its movement-production and "civilized victory", and so to open up the field for action of a quite
consumption-is the s c o s U Oll S revelation of the movement of all different kind. Different, because an economic action could only
production hitherto--i.e. the realization or the reality of man. alleviate the contradictions of a dynamic force-the one behind
Religion, family, state, law, morality, science, art, etc., are only movable property's civilized victory-which is itself economic in
p a r t i c u I a r modes of production, and fall under its general character.
law. The positive transcendence of p r i v a t e p r o p e r t y as the This is why Marx objects so strongly, already in the Manu.script
appropriation of h u m a n life is, therefore, the positive trans of 1844, to Proudhon's approach to the matter. He writes : "The
cendence of all estrangement-that is to say, the return of man diminution in the interest on money, which Proudhon regards as
from religion, family, state, etc., to his h u m a n , i.e. s o c i a l the annulling of capital and as the tendency to socialize capital,
mode of existence. Religious estrangement as such occurs only in the is really and immediately . . . only a symptom of the victory of
realm of c o n s c i o u s n ess, of man's inner life, but economic working capital over extravagant wealth-i.e. the transformation
estrangement is that of r e a l l i f e ; its transcendence therefore of all private property into industrial capital. It is a total victory
embraces both aspects" (102-103). of private property over all those of its qualities which are still in
It is self-evident Ihat one cannot fight estrangement of real lile a p p e a r a n c e human, and the complete subjection of the owner
that is, econoic estrangement-without mastering in theory the of private property to ,the csscnce of private property-I a b o u r. . . .
complex cconomico-social problems involved in it. But the kind of The decrease in the interestrate is therefore a symptom of the
economic investigations that Marx envisages make no sense whatso annulment of capital only inasmuch as it is a symptom of the rule
ever unless one's attitude to the question of "practice" is essentially of capital in the process of perlecting itself-of the estrangement
the same as his. Thus Marx's criticism here is directed not only in the process of becoming fullydeveloped and therefore of hastening
against the representatives of speculative philosophy, but also agaiost to its annulment. This is indeed the only way in which that which
those who, like Feuerbach, are only capable of conceiving practice exists affirms its opposite" (127-128).
in its "dirtyjudaical form of appearance".no As we see, the standpoint of this economic analysis is not an
On the other hand the attempts of the "piecemeal reformers" {3) economic but a political one, and everything culminates in the
at formulating their views in economico-institutional form is also reference to the "process of becoming fully.developcd", interpreted
condemned to futi
l ity, because the reformer aims at an improve as a hastening of estrangement to the point at which it is
ment within the given structure, and by the meaos of the same annulled.
structure, and is therefore subject to the very contradictions which Indeed the question of a positive transcendence can only be put
he intends to counteract or neutralize. in political terms SO long as the society which is thought of as an
To Marx, in contradistinction to the rdonner, economic actllai supersession of the one criticized is still to be born. It is a
investigations do not serve as theoretical grounds of an econonllC characteristic of politics (and, naturally, of aesthetics, ethics, etc.,)
-

128 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 129


to m.tlCfpate (and thus to further) future social and economic (2) a negativity (i.e. that "association" is a guarantee against
developments. Politics could be defined as the mediation (and, with economic crises).
its institutions, as a means of this mediation) between the present It is through the rderences to political and moral issues that the
and future states of society. Its categories, accordingly, exhibit the category of "association" acquires its Marxian meaning-in sharp
character appropriate to this mediating function, and references to contrast to the possible corporative interpretation and application
the future are therefore an integral part of its categories. (Con of the term-which makes it suitable to become the basic principle
l
sCTvative poitics exhibits just as much as radical politics the of socialist economics. (This is one of the main reasons behind the
characteristics of this mediating function. Only its categories aTC less Marxian method of analysis which closely relates the economic
explicit and the positive stress is, of course, on defining its relation issues to the political, moral, etc., ones. Even the aesthetic problems,
to the present. The conservative kind of political mediation tries as we shall see in Chapter VII, are analysed in a manner that puts
to maximize the element of continuity in its attempts at linking the into relief their interconnections with the most general economic
present with the future whereas radical politics, of course, lays the and political issues, and thus help to substantiate the specifically
emphasis on discontinuity.) socialist character of the solutions envisaged to these general
Economics, by contrast, has no such function of mediation and formulations.) However if one disrupts the link between the political,
therefore cannot operate with categories of the future. If it does, moral and economical aspects of these issues then in view of the
it necessarily becomes utopian politics (or utopian social philosophy) above-mentioned reasons they lose their Marxian socialist character,
disguised as political economy. and their relevance to a positive transcendence of alienation becomes
From this it follows that "supersession" cannot be envisaged in extremely doubtful.
purely economic terms but in politically, morally. aesthetically, etc.
qualified categories. Marx's treatment of the subject is by no means Marx's procedure is, thus, to start out from an economic analysis
an exception in this respect. He can only use economic categories conceived as the theoretical basis of an envisaged political a ction.
when he analyses the existing social form of productive activity. This does not mean, however, that he identifies "transcendence"
When it com to the question of "positive transcendence", "super with this political action. On the contrary, he often emphasizes that
session" etc., he uses expressions like "the complete e m a n c i p a t i 0 n the alienation of productive activity can only be ultimately over
of all human senscs and attributes" (106). We can note not only come in the sphere of production. Political action can only create
that the point has very strong moral overtones, but also the fact the general conditions which are not identical with, but are a
that the key word-emancipation-underlined by Marx himself, is necessary prerequisite to the actual supersession of alienation. The
a specifically political term. concrete process of supersession itself lies in the future, well ahead
The term---applied by Marx to characterize "supersession" of the period of political action that establishes the conditions which
which comes the nearest to the categories of economics is are necessary for the process of positive transcendence to get started.
"association" (63-64). But precisely because of its comprehensive, How far that process l:o::S in tht: future, cannot be said, because it
all-embracing character, it cannot be other than a general political depends upon so many conditions, including that of scientific
principle envisaged as the centre of reference of a future socialist deve1opment. Anyway there can be little doubt about it that the old
economy. And to defi'ne its character as a socialist economic principle Marx located this process of positive transcendence in an even more
it must be related to specifically political and moral issues. (Such distant future than the young one.I01
as "equality", "emancipation of all human senses and attributes", If we compare this conception to that of Proudhon, it becomes
"earth as personal property of man" etc.) "Association" can be of clear that what is missing from the latter is the intermediary link
various kinds and in its economic references, as used by Marx necessary to create the prerequisites of a positive transcendence.
indicates only: The utopian character of Proudhon's philosophy is determined by
(I) something that already belongs to the eXlStmg economic the lack of this intermediary link, just as the theological character
structure (e.g. "ecollOmic advantage of large-scale landed property"); of Rousseau's concept of man is determined by his negative attitude
130 MARX'S THEORY 01; ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 131
to the necessary mediation (Industry, or " civilization") between praises the merits of classical political economy, because he sees in it
man and nature, that is, by the lack of this mediating link in his a successful attempt at investigating the actual relations of produc
concept of the "natural state". tion in modem society. In Capital, Marx calls the categories of
proudhon envisages a direct economic measure to tackle the political economy "forms of thought expressing with social validity
negative aspects of the given situation, and thus in the final analysis the conditions and relations of a definite, historically determined
he dissolves politics into utopian economics. Because of this mode of production, viz., the production of commodities",UI and
identification of politics with economic action he must locate the this judgment is in complete agreement with his assesesm nt of
process of supersession in the present or immediate future, and also political economy in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts
must operate with the categories of political economy. of 1844.
This is what Marx calls "abolishing political-economic estrange The point about movable property's civilized victory refers both
ment w i t h i n political-economic estrangement". Since in the wages to the actual socia-economic deve10pment and to political economy,
of labour "labour does not appear as an end in itsdf but as the as conceptualizing the laws of this development. According to Marx
servant of the wage", Proudhon's idea of "forcing-up of wages", tllC important achievement was to treat human labour as "the
Mane argues, solves nothing. For "even the e q u a l i t y o f w a g e s source of wealth" (91). He describes the development of political
demanded by Proudhon only transforms the relationship of the economy in terms of its degree of awareness of the fact that labour
present-day worker to his labour into the relationship of all men to is the source of wealth. In this sense he distinguishes four stages in
labour. Society is then conceived as an abstract capitalist. Wages the development of political economy, the first two of which are
are a direct consequence of estranged labour, and estranged very closely connected :
labour is the direct cause of private property. The downfall
(1) monetary system;
of the one aspect must therefore mean the downfall of the other" (2) mercantile system;
(81). (3). physiocracy;
This whole criticism leads later to the conclusion that the (4) liberal political economy.
appropriation of capital by the community does not mean an end
to alienation. For even if the community owns capital and the Following the young Engels, he calls Adam Smith the Luther of
principle of equality of wages is carried through, insofar as the Political Economy (93-94) and, in contradistinction, the adherents
community is no more than a community of labour (that is, wage of the monetary and mercantile system are caUed "i d o l a t o rs,
labour), the whole relation of estrangement survives in a different f e t i s h i s ts, C a t h o l i c s" (93), and elsewhere "fetish-worshippers
form. In this new form, labour is raised to an "im a g i n e d of metal-money" (123). Physiocracy provides a link between the
univelity" (100), but does not conquer the human status and first two and the fourth stage in the development of political
dignity, "does not appear as an end in itself", because it is con economy, insofar as it achieves "the dlution of feudal property
fronted by another imagined universality: "the c o m m u n i t y in p o l i t i c a l e c o n o m y" , while at the same time it accomplishes
as the universal capitalist". Only if this relation of being confronted feudal property's "m e t a m o r p h o s i s and restoration in
by a power outside oneself, which is the same thing as not being p o l i t i c a l e c o n o m y, save that now its language s i no longer
an end in oneself, is superseded, may one speak of a positive feudal but economic" (95-96).
transcendence of alienation. The fourth stage, identified in the first place with the work of
Adam Smith, not only unveils the fetishism of the monetary and
mercantile system, but also supersedes the inconsistencies and the
2. From Partial to Universal Alienation
one-sidedness of physiocracy, by extending to the entire field of
As we have already mentioned, the young Marx wants to find out economy the principle of labour as the universal source of WC:lIth.
the secret of "movable property's civilized victory". Political To use Marx's words in characterizing the achievement of liberal
economy guides him in this enterprise. He often acknowledges and political eco"nomy as contrasted with physiocracy, "labour appears
132 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 133
at first only as a g r i c u l t u r a l labour; but then asserts itseU as economy when this appearance of absoluteness is quioned as
1 a b o u r in general" (97). regards both sides of the relationship. Human activity is considered
What does aU this mean with respect to alienation? as the source of wealth, for it is recognized that land has no value in
The answer is given at once when we consider that one cannot and by itself but only in connection with human labour. (This is
even discuss alienation if one remains in the realm of fetishism. \."hat is meant by the rather obscure Marxian expression that "the
Fetishism, in Marx's use of the term, means in this connection subjective essence of wealth has already been transferred to labour"
simply to view wealth as something outside man and independent (96).) On the other hand activity is defined in concrete terms, as
of him : as something that possesses the character of absolute agriculture, and only in this specific fonn is acknowledged as the
objectivity. source of value.
If it does possess this character of absolute objectivity, then it is However in a definition of weahhprorlucing activity in this
of course "sacrosanct", It is important to remember in this context specific form, as Marx says, "labour is not yet grasped in its
that the first great controversial issues, connected with alienation, generality and abstraction : it is still bound to a particular
t the cnd ?f the Middle Ages, were "alienability of land" and n a t u r a l e l e m e n t as i t s m a t t e r, and it is therefore only
Interest obtamed through lending money without the "alienation of recognized in a p a r t i c u l a r m o d e o f e x i s t e n c e d e t e r
capital". If the source of wealth-in this case land-poses sess such m i n e d b y n a t u r e. It is therefore still only a s p e c i f i c,
absolute objectivity, then obviously it cannot be alienated And particular alienatjon of man, just as its product s i conceived only
"movable property's civilized victory" could not become real without as a specific form of wealth, due more to nature than to labour
defeating this view. On the other hand movable property also itself. The land is here still recognized as a phenomenon of nature
needed a kind of stability, although an entirely different one from independent of man-not yet as capital, i.e. as an aspect of labour
the "non.alienability of land". This new kind of dynamic stability itself. Labour appears, rather, as an aspect of the I a n d. But
was rted by pressing for the legitimacy of profit "without the since the fetishism of the old external wealth, of wealth existing
alienation of capital" : a'n essential condition of accumulation. As only as an object, has been reduced to a very simple natural element,
a consequence, many heretics were condemned, or even burned by and since--even if only partially and in a particular form-its
the Catholic Church for maintaining that profit upon lending with essence has been recognized within its subjective existence, there is
ot alienation of eapital was not a sin, let alone a capital sin. the necessary step forward in that the g e n e ra l n a t u r e of
.
SJg?fiantly enough a representative of physiocracy, the French wealth has been revealed and that l a b o u r has therefore in its
p?ltt
man and economist Turgot, as late as the sixties of the total absoluteness (i.e. its abstraction) been raised and established
eighteenth century, had to defend the adherents of this "heretical" as the p r i n c i p l e" (96).
view.lt This revelation of the general nature of wealth and the establish
To consider wealth only as an external object, and not as a ing of labour "in its total absoluteness and abstraction" (that is to
specic manifestation of human relations, means that the problem S:l.y, irrespective of its specific forms within the given mode of
of alienation cannot even be raised beyond the generality-and at production) as the universal principle of production and develop
the same time the absoluteness-f--o "the fall of man". And it is only ment, nevertheless, has not been accomplished by the rtprescntatives
apropriate that once wealth (the product of human efforts) acquires
of physiocracy, but by those of the next stage : liberal political
thIS character of absolute objectivity, then the other side of the economy.
relationship-human nature as manifest in the various kinds of Physiocracy could not realize that agriculture, as the particular
human activity--also appears under the aspect of absoluteness and
[arm, has to be subsumed under the universal one : industry (that
metaphysical eternity. This is graphically expressed in the concept
is, productive activity in general), and its comprehensive manifesta
of the fall of man, often implicitly assumed as the foundation of
tion at the given historical stage, wage-labour. This is why
theoretical explanations related to this matter. physiocracy, unlike liberal political economy, could not completely
Physiocracy represents a stage in the development of political detach itself from the old fetishism.
ECONOMIC ASPECTS 135
1 3.f MARX'S THEORY OF AUENATION
it, although in a different form. They affirmed and sustained the
Obviously the fact that the major representatives of physiocracy
principle of alienation and alienability in a universal fonn, extending
are to be found in France, and not in England, is inseparable from
its realm over every aspect of human life, including "sel/
the gene1 state of French economy in the eighteenth century,
characterized by the young Marx as the economy of a "not yet
alienation" and "sel/-alienability". And this they did in the name of
fully developed money-nation". And here we can see again a con "man" .
This universalization of the principle of alienation and alien
crete instance of Marx's method of grasping in a unity the socio
ability carries with it, naturally, the notion of equality, in the sense
historical and systematic-structural dements.
that follows.
It is in the comext of fetishism-taken as an example to iIluSlratc

We have to remember here that according to Marx the original


a general point-that Marx emphasizes the intimate interrelation
tendency inherent in the division of land is equality (64). And
etween theory and social practice. After contrasting a France
. elsewhere he says that "The political economist reduces everything
sull dazzled by the sensuous splendour of precious metals" with
(just as does politics in its Rights of Man) to man i.e. to the
individual whom he strips of aU determinateness so as to class him
the fully developed mo'ney-nation, England, he writts that "the
extent to which the solution of theoretical riddles is the task of
as capitalist or worker" (1 29). This concept of man, in its political
practice just as true practice is the condition of a real and positive
or economic fonn, is, of course, not short of asserting, even if only
heory, IS shown, for example, in fetishism" ( 1 23). And he analyses
abstractly, the principle of equality. Land is alienable because we
In the same spirit the previous stages of socio-economical and
aU belong to the general class of "man", and in this sense we are
theoretical development
all equal. (If, however, possession of land were of divine ascendancy,
i
Alie'nation, in his account, s already inherent in feudal relations,
nobody could advocate its alienability. Nor could they challenge
for landed property is the basis of the dominion of private property.
the social hierarchy that goes with the dogma of non-alienability
Feudal landed property is considered as a particular manifestation
of land.)
se by a few great
of alienation because the fact that land is possesd
Yet no sooner is this equality asserted, it is already denied,
lords means that earth is estranged from man in general and
because the concept of alienation and alienability implies exclusion.
Jn fact the form in which land can be alienated is necessarily one
confronts him as an alien power.
Once lad is monopolized then, from the point of view of
. that transfers the rights 0/ possession-though not in principle, as
developmg mdustry, the great issue is obviously the alienability of
land. But in this general sense in which earth is the first condition in feudal ideology, but de facto-to a limited number of people.
At the same time-again not in principle, but in a practice neces
of man's existence, land is, of course, absolutely inalienable from
man. In fact feudal ideology (contemporary to conditions in which sarily implied in the notion of alienability-the rest of the popula
tion is excluded from the possesis on of land.
land is already alienated by a group of men), could not assert its
standpoint in terms of "man", but only in tenos of its own partiality. Thus the concrete form in which the principle of equality is
realized is formal-legalistic : the possession of equal rights to have
This panility th had to be elevated above the rest of society,
by th claim of dJ VI
ascendancy. The claimed divine ascendancy
the Rights of Man. That is to say, if the idea of equality is related

gave It a fonn of legitimacy, even if a fictitious one. Since however


right of possession it is necessarily transformed into the_
f
to the

abstract formal principle of possession 0,1 rights. In other words : it

rlia ,ition, tere was no need for an appeal to the concept


the claim of divine ascendancy directly justified the absol te rule o
is deprived of its content.
a
The abstractness and formal-legalistic character of "The Rights
of man In feudal Ideology. Nor was there any room for it.
of Man" is determined by the irreconcilable contradiction between
The concept of ."mn" was popula?zed by those who fought
feudal power and Its Idealogy. What IS paradoxical however is
an
content and form : the new partiality of motivating content and

hat in the writings of these anti-feudal thinkers the co cept of
the formal universality of ideological appeal. This is not a con
lS
ceptual abstractness that could be removed or improved upon. It
not put forward to negate alienation, but to affirm and sustain
MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 135

Obviously the fact that the major represcntatives of physiocracy it, although in a different form. They affinned and sustained the
are to be fou'nd in France, and not in England, is inseparable from principle of alienation and alienability in a universal form, extending
the general state of French economy in the eighteenth century, its realm over every aspect of human life, including "self
characterized by the young Marx as the economy of a "not yet alienation" and "selflienability". And this they did in the name of
fully developed moneynation". And here we can see again a con "man".
crete instance of Marx's method of grasping in a unity the socia. This universalization of the principle of alienation and alien
historical and systematicstructural elements. ability carries with it, naturally, the notion of equality, in the sense
It is in the context of fetishism-taken as an example to illustrate that follows.
a general point-that Marx emphasizes the intimate interrelation We have to remember here that according to Marx the original
between theory and social practice. After contrasting a France tendency inherent in the division of land is equality (64). And
"still dazzled by the sensuous splendour of precious metals" with elsewhere he says that "The JXllitical economist reduces everything
the fully developed moneynation, England, he writes that "the (just as does politics in its Rights of Man) to man i.e. to the
extent to which the solution of theoretical riddles is the task of individual whom he strips of all determinateness so as to class him
practice, just as true practice is the condition of a real and positive as capitalist or worker" (129). This concept of man, in its political
theory, is shown, for example, in fetishism" ( 123). And he analyses or economic form, is, of course, not short of asserting, even if only
in the same spirit the previous stages of soci().economical and abstractly, the principle of equality. Land is alienable because we
theoretical development. all belong to the general clas<> of "man", and in this sense we arc
Alie'nation, in his account, is already inherent in feudal relations, all equal. (If, however, possesis on of land were of divine ascendancy,
for landed property is the basis of the dominion of private property. nobody could advocate its alienability. Nor could they challenge
Feudal landed property is considered as a particular manifestation the social hierarchy that goes with the dogma of nonalienability
of alienation because the fact that land is lXlSSessed by a few great of land.)
lords means that earth is estranged from man in general and Yet no sooner is this equality asserted, it is already denied,
confronts him as an alien power. because the concept of alienation and alienability implies exclusion.
Once land is monopolized then, from the point of view of In fact the form in which land can be alienated is necessari l y one
developing industry, the great issue is obviously the alienability of that transfers the Tights 0/ possession-though not in principle, as
land. But in this general sense in which earth is the first condition in feudal ideology, but de facto-to a limited number of people.
of man's existence, land is, of course, absolutely inalienable from At the same time-again not in principle, but in a practice neces
man. In fact feudal ideology (contemporary to conditions in which sarily implied in the notion of alienability-the Test of the popula
land is already alienated by a group of men), could not assert its tion is excluded from the poMCSSion of land.
standpoint in terms of "man", but only in terms of its own partiality. Thus the concrete form in which the principle of equality is
This partiality then had to be elevated above the rest of society, realized is fonnal1egalistic : the possession of equal rights to have
by the claim of divine ascendancy. The claimed divine ascendancy the Rights of Man. That is to say, if the idea of equality is related
gave it a form of legitimacy, even if a fictitious one. Since, however, to the Tight of possession it is necessarily transfonned into the
the claim of divine ascendancy directly justified the absolute rule of abstract fonnal principle of possession 0/ rights. In other words : it
a partial position, there was no need for an appeal to the concept is deprived of its content.
of "man" in feudal ideology. Nor was there any room for it. The abstractness and formal.legalistic character of "The Rights
The concept of "man" was popularized by those who fought of Man" is detennined by the irreconcilable contradiction between
feudal power and its ideology. What is paradoxical, however, is content and fonn : the new partiality of motivating content and
hat in the writings of these antifeudal thinkers the concept of man the lonnal universality of ideological appeal. This is not a con
13 nOl put forward to negate alienation, but to affirm and sustain ceptuat abstractness that could be removed or improved upon. It
136 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION
ECONOMIC ASPECTS 137
is an objectively necessary abstractness, determined by the internal
cosmopolitan one. Mercantilism has still a predominantly national
contradictions of a concrete historical situation. It is quite impossible character. Liberal political eco'nomy, however, makes amply clear
to "demystify" this abstract structure without exposing the contra that its most general laws know no frontiers, and are subject to
diction between actual partial content and fonnally universal no limitations.
ideological appeal. BUI to do this one needs a socia-historical stand In this development from partiality to universality, from
point very different from that of the original champions of "The personification to impersonaization,
l from JXlliti1 limitations nd
Rights of Man". .
mediations to economic frecdom and immediateness, pohtlcal
This is why the assertion of equality as a content (that is, a theory economy gradually supersedes the old fetishism and clearly
that wants to go bcyo'nd the point marked by the abstract formalism fonnulates the conditions of unhampered alitnation. Thus the
of the Rights of Man) must set out from denying alienation and development from political partiality to economic u iversality mea
alienability. And for the same reason, Ihis assertion of equality that particular or "specific" alienation is turned lOto one that IS
must also oppose all forms of individualistic possesis on that may universal.
imply exciusio'n. At the beginning of this development we find feudal property,
which conceals the fact that the original unity : Man (M) had split
3 . From Political to Economic Alienation in the course of historical development into Property (P) and
Labour (L). Feudal property relations conceal this split by means of
In feudal landed property the ties between land and its a political mediation. This political mediation creates the false
proprietor are not yet reduced to the status of mere material wealth. appearance of a unity that historically disappeartd ages ago. .
As Marx puts it, "The estate is individualized with its lord : it has
his rank, is baronial or ducal with him, has his privileges, his
Marx, after analysing feudal n i dividualization and persomfica
tion' as opposed to the later state when "a man is bound to his land,
jurisdiction, his political position, etc. It appears as the inorganic
not by his character, but only by his purse-strings", says that it is
body of its lord. Hence the proverb nuUe terre sam maitre, which
necessary that the false appearance of unity be abolished, "that
expresses the fusion of nobility and landed proper\y. Similarly the
landed property, the root of private property, be dragged completely
rule of landed property does not appear directly as the rule of mere into the movement of private property and that it become a
capital. For those belonging to it, the estate is more like their commodity; that the rule of the proprietor appear as the n
fatherland. It is a constricted sorl of nationality" (61). .
disguised rule of private property, of capital. freed of all poldlcal
This kind of individualization and personification also means that tincture" (62).
the relation between the owner of land and those working on the
When this is accomplished, the medieval proverb nulle terre san.J
estate-his serfs-is predominantly political. Consequently its
maitre automatiqllly loses its validity, and thus the basic relations
negation must also first take an essentially political fonn. Accord
become! characterized, as Marx says, by the ntwly adopted proverb :
ingly, at the beginning of its development, modern economic thought
l'argent n'a pas de maitre. It is quite obvio that e pr?veb
is still an integral part of politics. Only later, when feudal landed
nulle terre sans mailre expresses a directly politlcai relationship, m
property is defeated and the new mode of production well
contradistinction to the later stage when the relationship between
established, does economic thought acquire the fonn of an indepen
(P) and (L) is an essentially economic one. It is free not only of all
dent science. Then it finds a specifically economic equivalent to .
political tincture, but also of all remnants of persoruficahon.
what was politically formulated in the manifestos of the Right!! of
However, at the beginning of these developments the facts, on
Man.
one hand, that land is individualized and, on the other, that the
The development of political economy, in its reference to the
serf (L) belongs to the feudal lord (P), make it appear as if there
concept of man, takes the course of negating this "constricted sort
existed a unity.of the two. But this "unity" is only an external ?e.
of nationality". It becomes increasingly clear that political economy
It is not kept alive by an internal cohesive force of a positive
aims at a universality, first on a national scale, and then on a
economic nature, but by the strength of a political institution, and
138 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 139
by the absence (or weakness) of an economic force that could. As we see, Marx's analysis sets out from defining private property
effectively challenge it. as capital, and from this standpoint contrasts one form of private
Later, when this economic force becomes stronger within the property (landed property) to another (movable property or
feudal system, the split appears more and more marked, and the industrial capital). Only if industrial capital is grasped as the "pure
relatively short distance of (P) and (L) from the "political axis" that expression" of capital, can private property be defined as capital,
originally created the impression of a real unity, increases con and landed property-in its conrast to industrial capital-as
siderably. This could be illustrated as follows : "capital not yet fully-developed". Here, again, we can note that the
degrees of logical complexity and abstraction (from the limited
validity of the locally affected form to the universal validity
of the "pure expression") correspond to degrees of historical
Feud,l
t-'T
{Ph";' ' ' /"P
S",.m /'V\
Mercantile S.'" I
maturity.
But why does the development of capital (private property)
follow this course, characterized by the well-known contradiction
\
/""Y \
between movable and landed property that eventually leads to
C.pitllistic Liberal P. E. movable property's civilized victory? What makes necessary the

/':::f}
development of labour as alienated labour in this form ?
We would seek in vain (or an answer to this question in the
PolitiCiI litis Manuscripts of 1844. The key to an answer, nevertheless, can be
found in a passage of Capital, where Marx says that all production
of surplus-value has for its natural basis the productiveness of
The more this distance increases, the more the old politics loses its agricuitural iabou.r.'M
mediating power and leaves this function to money. Or, to put it It Is self-evident, that no society of even limited complexity can
in another way : the more money overtakes the mediating function come into existence without the production of basic foodstuffs that
of politics, the more evident becomes the split between property nd exceed the individual requirements of the labourers. But it is equally
labour, and the more the power and range of direct politiCS self-evident that the existence of agricultural surplus-product does
decreases. (0 course we are talking about a trend, and therefore it not contain any economic determination as to the manner of its
must be emphasized that direct politics never loses completely its appropriation. It can be appropriated by a limited group of people,
mediating power and function.) but it can also be distributed on the basis of the strictest equality.
In this process of transferring the mediating power of politics to Now the point is that the most elementary requirements of the
an economic factor landed property is opposed by movable private capitalistic mode of production (competition, growth, accumula
property, and the liberation of the labourer from his political bonds tion, etc.,) prescribe by-economic necessity a fixed rdation between
is accomplished by an alliance between labour and industrial
capital. When Marx makes this point, he also points out that the
production and appropriation (i.e. private ownership).
To render stable the relation between production and appre>
opposition between landed and movable property is not a basic '
priation when agricultural surplus-product first becomes ava
ilable,
opposition, because they belong to the same category. Landed
property in its continuing opposition to capital is nothing but
and to secure in this way the accumulation of wealth as well as to
increase the power of the given society, one must have a political
"private property-capitaL-still afflicted with l o c a l and political
determination as the fundamental regulative principle of the society
in question. What brings this political determination into existence
prejudices; it is capital which has not yet regained itself from its
entanglement with the world-capital not yet f u l l y d e v e l o p e d.
It must in
may be, of course, enormously varied, from an outside challenge
the course of its w o r l d - w i d e d e v e l o p m e n t
menacing the life of the community to a favourable geographical
achieve its abstract, that is its p u r e expression" (91).
110 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 14 1
location furthering a speedier accumulation of wealth, and its
s'ag' 01 polilical
discussion does not belong here. What matters in this connection Corrnponding lIs spherll of

01 labour
Dominant form Dominant form ufllunCl and i,s
is : of p.oper,y economy villw on JIIrplus-
(1) that the first stage in the development of the alienation of v"lutl

Circulalion ;
labour must have a political form;
1.anded properl)' SlIr/dom Monllla.y
(2) that an absolute prerequisite of the genesis of a capitalistic that has reached synem has no definite
a relatively !>igh view on surplus-
society based on an inherent economic principle is the previous degree of accumu- value
existence of a politically fixed relation between property and labour, Jation of wealth
regulating the distribution or allocation of all surplus-product and CommeTiully Feudally }.fettanlile Cirn,lu';on ;
making accumulation possible. (Without the existence of such
and col nilllly
interested bound lubour, system surplus-value is
o
surplus-money, Ihll
a relation-as in the case of egalitarian natural societies-there can making the first identified with
expanding- steps towards a
be no accumulation and the society is bound to remain a stagnating therefore nalion- political balunCl/ of Irude
one.) In other words : . an essential prerequisite of universal consciolls- us
landed propllrly
mancipation surpl
(economic) alienation is the realization of specific (politically
affected) alienation. Universal alienation logically implies partial By the advance- YJiocruy
production;
Agricultural Ph Ag.iul'utal

capital and by surplus-value b


alienation, and as we see, also historically alienation first must be ment of commercial labo"r, stili
submittcd to
political-partial before becoming economic-universal. the accomplish- political gruped u the
ments of the determinations product of
manufacture IIg.ieullu.al labou.,
4. Division and Alienation 0/ Labour, Competition and Reification system deeply set in motion by
affe.::ted, rllnt-yielding
The question of alienation is directly related to the issue of modernized landed property
p.aperty
surplus-product and surplus-valoc, and the various phases in the
development of political economy are characterized by Marx InduJlrial apilal, Poitically
l l
Liberal poli jal Produdion in
freed of all emancipated "conamy general; surplus-
according to their positions as regards the origin and nature of political and induJlrial labour value is defined
surplus-value. Here is a comparative table to illustrate their inter natural (day-labour, as being produced
u
gllneral, set in
relations and devdopment : determinations wage-labour) by l baur in

[SEE OPPOSITE PAGE] motion by capilal

Thus the development of political economy from the monetary


system to liberal political economy corresponds to the historical (3) it develops sharply and consistently-however one-sidedly
development from feudal landed property to industrial capital, and the idea that labour is the sole essence of wealth (95);
from labour's complete political dependence (serfdom) to politically (4) it demolishes the mysticism attacho!d to rent;'"
emancipated industrial labour.
(5) it proves that the governing power of modern society is not
As we can see, liberal political economy is the culmination of
this development. its superiority is recognized by Marx on the
political, but economic : the purchasing power oC capital (37-38);
and finally :
ground of the following considerations:
(I) it defines capital as "s t o r e d - u p l a b o u r" (38); (6) it establishes itselC as the sole politics and sole universality,
making plain its own cosmopolitan character (94-95).
(2) it points out that the accumulation of capital mounts with the
division of labour and that the division of labour increases with Needless to say that in all the above characteristics the problem
the accumulation of capital (131); uf the alienation of labour, directly or indirectly, is involved.
142 MARX'S THEORY OF ALiENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 143
But now we come to a turning-point in the analysis. of the division of labour. As things stand, however, division of
We have already seen that liberal political economy detaches labour makes the conditions and powers of life become independent
itself from the old fetishism. However, according to Marx, it of man and rule over him.IU
becomes powerless when facing fetishism in a new form, called the The genesis of the division of labour, as conceived by the political
fetishism of commodities. This is the point where the historical economists, could be illustrated as follows :
limitations of liberal political economy come to light.
The main problems we have to consider in this context concern
the division of labour and its relation to private propc::rty, money Egoism - Self-interest -Private Property

I
system and the form of value, competition and monopoly.
Marx's principal objection to liberal political economy is that it
is unable to prove the assertion that the essence of private property Selling
is labour (134). And this question is -inseparably connected with
the assesm s ent of the nature of the division of labour. The correct
-,
":
Ex
",
c,-,
h"a!!
n,,
g e --
7-

I
assesm s ent is vital to the whole issue of alienation. This is why Buying
Marx dedicates so much time to the analysis of the division of
bbour.
According to Marx the political economists are all in agreement
Division of Labour
not only in asserting the mutual interrelation between division of
labour and accumulation of capital, but also in pointing out that
only liberated private property could accomplish a really com
prchensive and economically rewarding division of labour. The In this view egoism is an absolute condition, not a historical product.
weakness, however, lies in their attempts at founding the division It is also identified with private property.IU At the same time, the
of labour in hu.man natu.re ("propensity to exchange and barter" mutual interplay is confined to the sphere of ex9tange and the
Adam Smith). At this point they contradict each other,ln although division of labour. It is recognized that' value is produced in the
in the final analysis all of them maintain that division of labour, sphere of this mutual interaction, but egoism (private property) is
based on exchange, is absolutely indispensable to a civilized conceived as the aQsolute condition, indispensable to set in motion
society. the other two.
Marx cannot accept this kind of assesm s ent of the relationship By contrast, Marx's conception could be schematized like this :
of private property-exchange--division of labour, for an accept
ance would amount to admitting that alienation cannot be super
seded in reality. He defines division of labour as an economic Division of Labour


expression that only applies to the conditions of alienation. In
Marx's view the political economists confuse "the social character Private Property
of labour" (129}--an absolute condition of society-with the division
of labour. One can think of superseding alienation precisely because
it is possible to oppose the social character of labour to the alienating
historical condition of the division of labour. According to Marx, Exchange
_..!E",g",oi",s",m,--_
once lifeactivity ceases to be regulated on the basis of private

15
property and exchange, it will acquire the character of activity of
man as a species-being. In other words : the social character of Here we have a threeway interaction, and egoism rather the
labour will manifest itself directly, without the alienating mediation outcome of the interplay than the cause of it.
144 MARX'S THEORY 01'" ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS
One of the most important categories of liberal political economy course, it s i the result of the division of labour under conditions of
is competition, in its radical opposition to monopoly. The young competition. Marx deFmes the factory-system as "the essence of
Marx and Engels, however, point out that this opposition is hollow. i n d u s t r y--of labour-brought to its maturity" (97). But the
It is hollow because competition presupposes monopoly : the basic price of this maturity s i the "reduction of the greater part of man
monopoly of private property. On the other hand they also show kind to abstract labour" (30), because the conditions of competition
that only one side of the coin is that competition presupposes under whieh this maturity is accomplished are alienating. Competi
monopoly. The other is that monopoly breeds competition and tion carries with it a rationalization of the production process-in
competition turns into monopoly. They distinguish two kinds of the sense of breaking up complex processes into their simplest
competition. Subjective competition is between workers and workt:rs elements so that they can be easily executed through competitively
on onc hand, and capitalists and capitalists on the other. Objective advantageous large-scale production-irrespective of its human
or fundamental competition is between workers and property consequences. The outcome is the duffusion of industrial machinery
owners. a"nd the mechanization of human Jabour.lu For the worker this
Competition based on the monopoly of private propertylU goes means not only that he finds no human satisfaction in his labour
with a mode of production that appears to be govemed by a natural because he is "depressed spiritually and physically to the condition
law, not the will of the people involved. In this characteristic can of a machine and from being a man becomes an abstract activity
one recognize the new type of fetishism. (The term fetishism is used and a stomach" (25), but also that, since he has "sunk to the lcvel of
in the same sense as before, meaning that the phenomenon in the machine he can be confronted by the machine as a competitor"
question appears as something outside man, confronting him as an (26). Paradoxically, the greatcr the bargaining-power of labour and
alien power.) the higher its price is, the more deeply is it affected by the competi
The most important aspects of this mode of production directly tive power of the machine. In the diffusion of automation this is
relevant to our problem are "reification", "abstract labour", and just as important as the technological virtues of the scientific
"imaginary appetites". discoveries that made automation possible. Although this last point
is not made by Marx, dearly it offers a topical support to his idea
Marx quotes with approval the following words of E. Buret, the
that it is impossible to supersede "political-economic alienation
French economist : "Poverty is not so much caused by men as by
within political-economic alienation", i.e. by simply improving the
the power of things" (49). But the power of things to cause poverty
is only one aspect of reification. The most important of them is that
competitive power of labour, by "forcing-up wages", etc.
The question of "imaginary appetites" is, of course, vcry closely
the worker is made into a commodity (69). Marx also points out
connected with the previous two. For, if everything is subordinated
that the law of supply and demand governs the production of men
to the need of the accumulation of wealth, it is irrelevant whether
just as much as of every other commodity (22), and that the worker
lhe needs thus created arc properly human, or indifferent, or even
as a "1 i v i n g Capital" is a special sort of commodity that has dehumanizing needs. Marx writes that "every person speculates on
the misfortune to be "a capital w i t h n e e ds". But, as a result creating a n e w need in another, so as to drive him to a fresh
of the hw of supply and demand, the worker's "human qualities sacrifice, to place him in a new dependence" and that "the extension
only exist in so far as they e."{ist for capital a l i e n to him" (84). of products and needs falls into c o n t r i v i n g and ever
This means that human needs can only be gratified to the extent c a I c u i a t i n g subServience to inhuman, refined, unnatural Olnd
to which they contribute to the accumulation of wealth. The i m a g i n a ry appetites" (1 15-1 16).
labourer is a commodity because he is reproduced only as a worker, So, division of labour turns into the opposite of its original sense
and it is in accordance with the needs of private property-needs and function. Instead of liberating man from his dependence on
asserted in the form of the above-mentioned "natural law"-that nature, it continues to create new and artificial, unnecessary limita
this reproduction takes place. tions. Thus, paradoxically, becausc of the "natural law ba.c;cd on
Abstract labour L'i one-sided, machine-like labour, and, of the unconsciousness of the participants", the more private property
146 MARX'S THEORY Oi; ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 147
--obcyilg the law of compctition---extends its power and realm,
supplying commodity-man with a great abundance of commodities, Division of Labour
the more everything becomes subjected to a power outside man.
And, to make the contradiction even sharper, this applies not
only to the worker but also to the owner of private property
( 126).
Worker as a
machine
/
/ Worker as a
commodity

5. Alicl!aled Labour and "Human Nature"


The whole economic argument culminates in a new concept of
man. For, in discussing the crucial problems of the division of Accumulation of Capital
labour, Marx radically challenges the account of human nature
given by the political economists. they confine their attention to the division of labour-accumulation
We may remember that he praised liberal political economy for of capital relationship. Similarly, they do not consider that labour
having abstracted from the individual appearances of human inter does not simply produce commodities and value, but also produces
relations, for having developed sharply and consistently, though itse.lf as a commodity (84-85), as well as the devaluation of the
one-sidedly, the idea of labour as the sole essence of wealth, and for world of men (69).
having incorporated private property in man himself. He praised This abstraction from the human side of these interrelations
them because in these achievements they have effectively overcome follows from the basic conception of political economy that assumes
the limitations of "idolators, fetishists, Catholics". However, these private property as an essential attribute of human nature. Con
achievements have another side too. Abstracting consistently from sequently, political economy cannot "grasp the essential connection
the individual appearances carried with it a further estrangement between private property, avarice, and the separation of labour,
from man. And incorporating private property in man himself capital and la'nded property; between exchange and competition,
amounted to bringing man within the orbit of private property and value and the devaluation of men, monopoly and competition, etc.;
alienation (94). the connection between this whole estrangement and the m 0 n e y
Marx is passionately opposed to the attitude of political economy system" (68).
which does not consider the worker "when he is 'not working, as a Marx indicates alienated labour as the essential connection
human being; but leaves such consideration to criminal law, to between the whole estrangement and the money-system. Private
doctors, to religion, to the statistical tables, to politics and to the property is considered only as the product, the necessary conse
workhouse beadle" (30). He objects to the acceptance of reification quence of alienated labour, that is, "of the external relation of the
by political economy under the fonn of considering labour "in the worker to nature and to himself" (80).
abstract as a thing" (34). He objects to the practice of carrying to This conclusion is reached on the ground that the worker could
the extremes a virtue which first resulted in the supersession of the not come to face the product of his own activity as a stranger if he
old fetishism, but then necessarily implied a submission to a new were not alienating himself from himself in the very act 0/ produc
type of fetishism : to fetishism brought to its m::t.turity in its highest, tion. Activity cannot be unalienated activity if its product is
most abstract and universal fonn (95). alienation; for the product is nothing but the sum of activity, of
The political economists often emphasize that there is a mutual production (72).
interaction between the division of labour and the accumulation Political economy cannot reach this conclusion. From the stand
of capital. However, since they are not interested in the worker as a point of economics as a special science what matters is, of course,
human being, they are unable to grasp this interrelation in its not the assessment of the human implications of an objective
complc..xity. Instead of considering all of its main aspects : economic process, but the analysis of the necessary conditions of an
146 MARX'S THEORY Oi; ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 117
---obcyilg the law of compctition--extends its power and rm.
supplying commodity.man with a great abundance of com Q{hlies, Division of Labour
the more everything becomes subjected to a power outside man.
And' to make the contradiction even sharper, this applies not
only to the worker but also to the owner of private property
(1 26).
Worker as a
machine
/
/ Worker as .
commodity

5. Aliena/cd LAbour and "Human Nalure"


The whole economic argument culminates in a new concept of
man. For, in discussing the crucial problems of the division of Accumulation of Capital
labour, Marx radically challenges the account of human nature
given by the political economists. they confine their attention 10 lhe division of labour.accumulation
We may remember that he praised liberal political econoy for of capital relationship. Similarly, they do not consider that labour
havina abstracted from the individual appearances of human mter does not simply produce commodities and value, but also produces
reJati;'ns, for having developed sharply and consistently, though itself as a commodity (84-85), as well as the devaluation of the
one-sidedly, the idea of labour as the sole essence of wealth, and for world of men (69).
having incorporated private property in man himself. He praised This abstraction from the human side of these intcrrelations
them because in these achievements they have effectively overcome follows from the basic conception of political economy that assumes
the limitations of "idolators, fetishists, Catholics". However, these private property as an essential attribute of human naturc. Con
achievements have another side too. Abstracting consistently from sequently, political economy cannot "grasp the essential connection
the individual appearances carried with it a further estrangement between private property, avarice, and the separation of labour,
from man. And incorporating private property in man himself capital and landed property; between exchange and competition,
amounted to bringing man within the orbit of private property and value and the devaluation of men, monopoly and competition, etc.;
alienation (94). the connection between this whole estrangement and the m 0 n e y
Marx is ionately opposed to the attitude of political economy system" (68).
which does not consider the worker "when he is not working, as a Marx indicates alienated labour as the essential connection
human being; but leaves such consideration to criminal law, to between the whole estrangement and the money-system. Private
doctors, to religion, to the statistical tables, to politics and to the property is considered only as the product, the necC$3.ry conse
workhouse beadle" (30). He objects to the acceptance of reifiaition quence of alienated labour, that is, "of the external relation of the
by political economy under the form of considering labour "in the worker to nature and to himself" (80).
abstract as a thing (34). He objects to the practice of carrying to
"
This conclusion is reached on the ground that the worker could
the extremes a virtue which first resulted in the supersession of the not come to face the product of his own activity as a stranger if he
old fetishism, but then necessarily implied a submission to a new were not alienating him.self from himself in the very act oj produc
type of fetishism : to fetishism brought to its m'lturity in its highest, tion. Activity cantlol be unalienated activity if its product is
most abstract and universal form (95). alienation; for the product is nothing but the sum of activity, of
The political economists often emphasize that there is a mutual production (72).
interaction between the division of labour and the accumulation Political economy cannot reach this conclusion. From the stand
of capital. However, since lhey are not interested in the worker as a point of economics as a special science what matters is, of course,
human being, they are unable to grasp this interrelation in its not the assesesm nt of the human implications of an objective
complexity. Instead of considering all of its main aspects : economic process, but the analysis of the necessary conditions of an
143 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ECONOMIC ASPECTS 149
undisturbed functioning and reproduction of the given process. This of course, {jrst voiced by Marx. His approach was directly influenced
is why the political economist is interested in the conditions of the by the Utopian Socialists, and by Proudhon and Moses Hess. But
worker only ill so far as these conditions are necessary to production with him what is new is a coherent insistence on the ultimate
in genr:ral, that is to say, in so far as they are the conditions of the foundations of human interrelations, developing in detail the
worker. The political economist, therefore, is only interested in implications of an approach first attempted by the }'oung Engels in
social rdorms either because they are necessary to the undisturbed
functioning of the cycle of reproduction, or because, as Adam
his Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy.IGT
This approach-whose centre of rderence is productive activity
or ptaxs -< rrics with it that what emerges as the "essence of
Smith for instance does in some of his works, he writes from the i ----a
standpoint of moral philosophy, provided it does not cooRicl with human nature" is not egoism, but socialily. (i.e. "the ensemble of
the standpoint of economics. (The idea that egoism is the ultimately social relations", as Marx puts it in his sixth thesis on Feuerbaeh.)
decisive factor in human interactions is obviously common to liberal "Sociality" as the defining characteristic of human nature is radically
political economy and the=: leading trend of moral philosophy of the different from those criticized by Marx. Unlike "egoism", it cannot
epoch.) be an abstract quality inherent in the single individual. It can only
i\I;trx's whole approach is characterized by a constant reference exist in the relations of individuals with each other.
to man as opposed to wage-labourer. This is made possibl only By implication, the adequate fulfilment of human nature cannot
becausc his approach is based on a conception of human nature be competitio n-this "unconscious condition of mankind" that
r;tdically opposed to that of political economy. He denies that man corresponds to egoism and to the Hobbesian bellum omnium contra
is an essentially egoistic being, for he docs not accept such a thing omnes-but conscious association. "Activity and consumption"
as a fixcd human nature (or, indeed, a fixed anything). In Marx's writes Marx-"both in their content and in their m o d e o f
view man is by nature neither egoistic nor altruistic. He is made, e x i s t e n ce, are s o c i a l : s o c i a l activity and s o c i a l consump
by his own activit}', into what he is at any given time. And so, if tion; the h u m a n essence of nature first exists only for s o c i a l
this activity is transformed, today's egoistic human nature will man; for only here docs nature exist for him as a b o n d with
change in due course. m an-as his existence for the other and the other's existence for
And here we can sec how crucially important is the fact that in him-as the life-element of the human world; only here docs
Marx's thcory there is no static clement. The complex manifesta nature e.xist as the f o u n d a t i o n of his own h u m a n existence.
tions of human life, including their objectified and institutional Only here has what is to him his n a t u r a I existence bt'Come his
forms, are explained in an ultimate reference to a dynamic principle: h u m a n existence, and nature become man for him. Thus
activity itself. This is in sharp contrast to the conceptions that tried s o c i e t y is the consummated oneness in substance of man and
to dcduce the various characteristics of the given form of society, nature-the true resurrection of nature-the naturalism of man and
including private property, from an arbitrarily assumed static the humanism of nature both brought to fulfilment" (103-104).
conception of a fixed human nature. In Marx's view private Thus it is expected that human nature ("sociality") liberated
property and its human consequences have to be historically from institutionalized egoism (the negation of sociality) will super
explained, not assumed or deduced from an assumption. According sede "reification", "abstract labour", and "imaginary appetites".
to Marx private property is called into existence by alienated It is not difficult to see that so long as competition is the governing
activity, and then in its tum it does, of course, profoundly power of production, or in other words, so long as "cost-effective
affect human aspirations. As Marx writes : "Private property made ness" is the overriding principle of productive activit}', it is quite
us so stupid and one-sided that an objcct is only o u r s when we impossible to consider the worker as a man at the various stagc's
have it-when it exists for us as capital, or when it is directly and phases of the cycle of production. Hum;tn activity under the
possessed, eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc.in short, when it is conditions of competition is bound to remain wage-labour, a
utilized by us" (106). commodity submitted to the "natural law" of the objective, indepeil
This condemnation of "ha\"ing", as opposed to "being", was not, dent needs of competition. Similarly, it is easy to see the relevance
150 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION
of the supersession of competition to the achievement of the human
requirements of self-fulfilling activity (as opposed to "abstract
labour", the negation of sociality), and to the elimination of
"imaginary appetites".
At this point several problems could be raised as regards the
nature of the developments envisaged by Marx. Since, however, V. Political Aspects
the moral and political as well as the at:sthetic aspects of Marx's
theory of alienation have to be systematically explored before we
can tackle such problems, their analysis must be left to later chapters. I. Property Relations

As we have seen in the previous chapter the first stage in the


devdopme'nt of the alienation of labour had to have a political form,
because the existence of an agricultural surplus-product does not
contain any economic detennination as to the manner of its
appropriation. An economic principle of appropriation and redistri
bution can only operate at a fairly high level of development and
it presupposes a relation, already fixed, politically, between produc
tion and appropriation.
The question arises : if the surplus-product is not distributed on
the basis of the strictest equality, what kind of measures ought to
be taken in order to ensure the normal runctioning of the given
society? Two conditions have to be kept in mind :
(1) The smaller the amount of surplus-product, the more
exclusive the appropriating group or class must be if the purpose
of accumulatio n is to be reached, that is if the society is to be saved
from being a stagnating one, like the egalitarian natural societies.
(2) If, for similar reasons, one wants to avoid violent conflicts
(and the waste of goods necessarily associated with them) in deter
mining which group is going to appropriate the available surplus
product on any particular occasion, one must find a regulative
principle or institution capable of establishing and safeguarding
continuity.
But where can one find such a regulative principle? If it were
only to safeguard continuity on an established basis one could
immediately enumerate a number of possible candidates. But the
fundamental question is : how is this continuity estabfi.thed in the
first place? The point of departure must be discriminative appro
priation itself. Any other approach would prcsuppose some kind
of totally unjustified, ahistorical assumption. To set out from
discriminative appropriation itself does not involve unwarranted
assumptions. Yet it can provide a framework of explanation. For
the original appropriation of a givcn surplus-product, under the
151
'
MARX " THEORY 01' M.IENATIO:-J pOLITICAL ASPECTS 153

conditions it gC'nrratcs, is bound to function as a self-asserting and how does man emancipate himself from being subjected to the
sdf-pcYjlCluatillg powcr. blind forces of natural necessity ? The answer : "by his productive
l\nd yct, .th question reaincd unanswered : how did the change activity" directly involves propcrtyrc1ations. For, by necessity, all
tlat rcsllted III the estabhshment of a politically fixed appropria production-primitive and feudal, capitalistic and socialistic alike
tlOn-pnv;J.te property-occur? We could only show that there is must be regulated in the framework of specific property.rclations.
;J. ncccs s..'
lry relationship betwee'n original appropriation and the later Thus the original problem of freedom-man's relation to nature-
politically fixed, continuous appropriation. is modified. Now one has to ask : in what way and to what extent
Obviously, the answer to our question can only be provided by does a specific form of property impose limitations upon human
the most detailed historical analysis, which is greatly handicapped freedom ? A further complication is that these limitations may or
b the scarcity of available data. What we are, however, concerned may not also appear as direct political-legal restrictions. Therefore
wlth here IS that nc :annot simply assume a stereotyped original
.
the problem of freedom has to be discussed in a threefold relation :
.
pnvate property, m view of the fact that historical research has
(1) The degree of freedom from natural necessity achieved by a
r(!corded a great variety of forms. given stage of human development. Property-relations must be
. Every form of original private property is sui generis and there evaluated here in respect of their contribution to this achievement.
IS no reson to prupposc that this specific character has nothing (2) Forms of property are expressions of detenninate human
o do With the specific form of the previous properly on whose basis relations. Therefore the question must arise : how is the amount

It had originated. Differentiations in later stages of development of freedom achieved in sense ( l )--i.e. freedom from natural
.
arc tcrmmed, at least to some extent, by the particular set of
necessity-distributed among the various groups brought together
com iItlons that characterize the earlier stages. This means that we in the existing property.relations ? Under certain conditions it may
have to dismiss the naive idea of an idyllic and homogeneous original be the case that the condition of any degree of freedom in sense ( 1 )
communal property. Communal property itself must be conceived
deprives the vast majority of the population from any enjoyment
as of very differenl types. This will help to explain the specific of it, which is reselVcd to small sections of the society. Freedom in
charater of the original private property which grew out 6'f it.le
this essentially negative sense, as contrasted to the positive character
of sense (I), does not refer directly to the relationship between man
ThIS, of course, docs not solve the problem of how the various
forms of primitive. communal property originated. It is indeed
and nature but between man and man. It is freedom from the
doubtful whether such problems can ever be solved. For our
interfering power of other men, (One must, however, emphasize
purpose it is sufficient to emphasize the specific character of aU
that there is an inherent interrelationship between the negative and
property-relations, whether communal or private.
positive senses of freedom. Thus already sens.e (2}--this essentially
This applies not only to the remote past but also to the present
negative sense--of freedom has a positive aspect, insofar as it
and future. To posit a homogeneous communal property as the
necessarily contains a reference to sense ( 1 ).)
sure.rseion of the alienating capitalistic property-relations is
(3) The third relation concerns "freedom to exercise man's
unhlSt?f1cal. ': Prorty.relat!ons" is obviously a key-concept in the
essential powers". It is positive in character, and therefore it needs
aalysls of alienation; but It would be naive to suppose that the
something other than legal sanctions for its realization. (It goes
direct cgation of thOse specific property-relations will not produce
. without saying that 'O'ne cannot legislate about freedom in sense ( l ).)
somethmg cqually specific. Thus the question of alienation is not
In fact legality is completely powerless beyond the point of pro
settld once and for all by simply negating the capitalistic property
viding a favourable framework for positive developments. One can
rclatJo)s. We sould not forget that we are dealing with a complex
only legislate about the essentially negative sense (2), to remove
set of mterrclatlOns of which "propcrtyrclations" is a part only.
anachronisms and to put up safeguards against their re-erection.
. All the me, .the a.nalysis of property-relations is very important
m connection With alienation becausc the fundamental problems of Even if freedom is realized in sense (2}--i.e. if it is legally
human {radonI are closely related to thcm. Marx asks the question : distributed according to the principle of equality-the question
154 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION POLr.nCAL ASPECTS 155
rt:mains : how far is man free in the positive sense? Marx described reveals an advancement in sense (I), if, that is, we find that as a
this sense as freedom to exerc man's "essential powers". Political result of the productive JXlwers inherent in these relations man is
legal restrition can obviously interfere with this free exercise of less dependent upon natural necessity than before, this carries with
man's essential powers. Bllt even if this interference is removed, it positive implications both for senses (2) and (3). Equally : the
positive freedom is not brought to its fulfilment so long as there may extension of freedom in sense (2) liberates some human powers
be other factors to interfere with it. Nor can one hope for a legislative and energies which were previously subjugated and hich now
solution to the problem : the difficulties inherent in positive freedom contribute to the advancement of freedom as man's relation to
must be solved at the level where they arise. Property-relations in nature. So it is not difficult to see that the unhampered exercise
this respect are to be evaluated according to the criterion of how of man's e&<;ential powers for Marx must also mean that the problem
much (or little) they promote the free e.'tcrcise of man's essential of freedom in senses (1) and (2) is solved adequately to the high
powers. degr of development of the society in question.
Thus the political aspects of Marx's theory of alienation can be This stage can only be postulated by Marx. Talking about the
summed up in this threefold relation of freedom to the existing future, he defines it as the "p o J i t i v e transcendence 0/ private
property-relations. The central question is then : how much does a property", as "fully developed naturalism", and "fully developed
given form of property-relations contribute to render man more humanism". This stage of development where man's essentiaJ powers
free : arefully exercised-this is why it is called "fully developed human

(I)
ism"-is described as "the genuine resolution of the strife between
from natural necessity;
existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation,
(2) from the n
i terfering power of other men; and
between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the
species" (102). All this needs two qualifications :
(3) in relation to a fuller exercise of his own essential powers.

The question of alienation, in this context, concerns a process that 1 . Man's freedom from natural necessity must always remain a
negatively affects freedom in this threefold relations of man to relative achievement, however high a degree it may reach.
nature, to the "other man", and "to hirruelf', i.e. to his own essen 2. By implication, man's essential powers can only be exercised
tial powers. In other terms : aJienation in this respect is the negation insofar as it is made possible by the greater or lesser extent of
of human freedom in its negative and positive senses. limitations imposed by the given degree of human freedom in rela
tion to nature.
The various aspects of freedom are elements of a dialectical
reciprocity. Therefore, to return to the originaJ question, if the
2. Capitalistic Objectification and Freedom
Marx's answer to the question : do capitalistic property-relations analysis of capitalistic propeny-relations shows that man cannot
render man more free n
i the above senses, is a historically qualified exercise his essential powers, the restrictions and limitations of this
and substantiated No. kind are bound to have their negative repercussions on the degree
At first glance it might seem as if his answer as regards the first of freedom achieved by capitalistic society in senses (1) and (2).
two aspects were Yes, whereas with respect to man's relation to his And this goes for aU three members of this reciprocity in relation to
own essential powers a categorical No. However, a closer look each other.
reveals that this cannot be so. Marx conceives these three aspects Thus if we consider the first aspect of freedom, in contrasting
as inseparable from one another. Inseparable not only in a con capitalistic property-relations to feudal ones, it becomes obvious
ceptual sense in which negative characteristics cannot be defined that the tremendous increase in society'S productive powers poten
without some reference to the positive ones. Rather : this conceptual tially advances human freedom to a very great extent. And yet,
inseparability is interpreted as a reflection of their necessary inter Marx argues, this great positive potentiality is counteracted by two
relatedness in reality. major factors :
Consequently if the analysis of capitalistic property-relations First: the ever increasing productive forces are not governed by
pOLnnCAL ASPECTS 157
1.\6 MARX' S THEORY OF ALIENATION
politically-legally sanctioned lack of freedom in this sense directly
the principle of "conscious association", but they are subjected to a ifcsts itself as "the antithesis of p r o p e r t y l e s s n e s s and
"natural law" which blindly prevails over the individuals involved. Ill;l:p e r ty" (98). Marx goes, however, further than this. He
Secondly: while the increasing productive forces could indeed ;phasizes that so long as this antithis ot comprehened
;Ill
satisfy the 'real human m:eds, because of the irrational character of .
antagonism between labour nd apllal, t remams an anuth
the process as a whole (termed by the young Engels "the unconscioUS .
f indifference, not grasped III Its a c t t v e c o n n e c t IO n , Its
condition of mankind"), partial needs of private property-the
, n t e r n a l relation-an antithesis not yet grasped as a c o n t r a
abstract needs of expanding production and gain-prevail over real
di c t i o n" (98).
human needs. To give Marx's own words : "The n i crease in the
quantity of objects is accotnpanied by an extension of the rcabn of This latter consideration brings us to the third, most complex
the alien pOwers to which man is subjected, and every new product ;t5PCCl of freedom. ut before star:in to discuss it, we have to
represents a n e w p o t e n c y of mutual swindling and mutual mg to Marx Wlthm the general framework of
ention that accord
plundering" (1 15). e capitalistic State and legal system human activity . is carried
t
So the pOtential liberating force of the new productive powers n as an "alien, a coerced acivity" (78), as "f 0 r c e d la b 0 u r" (72),
is frittered away. The realm of alien powers to which man is sub :5 an activity which is "under the domination, the coercion and the
jected, as Marx puts it, is extended instead of being reduced. oke of another man" (79). Thus although the fundamental govern
ing principle
.
Already in the Kantian philosophy of history the question of the new society economic (as oppose to the
appeared : what is the relationship between satisfying h uman eeds .
sscntially political regulative prinCiple of feudal socIety), It cannot
and morality, and the moral tone of Marx's analysis is scIfevldent. e divorced from the political framework in whieh it operates.
We shall deal in the next chapter with the moral aspects of these Therefore the task of "universal human emancipation" must be
problems. What we have to underline here is that because of e
formulated "in the p o L i t i c a l form of the e m a n c i p a t i o n
artificiality of a large number of needs created by capitalisuc o f t h e w o r k e rs" (82), which implies a "practically critical
propertyrelations the question whether man advanced his freedom
attitude" towards the state. In other words" n a radical transforma
in relation to nature had to be answered by Marx in the negative.
tion, and ultimate abolition, of the state is an essential condition
of the realization of the Marxian programme.
As regards the second aspect of freedom, the paradoxical result
of capitalistic developments was already mentioned in the previouS The third aspect of freedom may be described as the synthesis
chapter, in connection with Marx's criticism of the "Rights of of the first two. For man's relation to his own essential powers is at
.
the same time his relation to nature and to the "other man" .
ran". We have seen that freedom from political bonds and restflC
tions of a certain kind was an elementary condition of the new social The first question is then : what are man's "essential powers" ?
development : both in the sense of setting free aU men to enable Only after answering this question can one ask the second, which
them to enter into contractual relations, and as regards the "alien
is specifically related to capitalistic property.reIations : how does
ability of land" and the legitimacy of profit without the "alienation
alienation affect the exercise of man's essential powers ?
of capital". But as soon as the right of equality has been applied to In Marx's view man's essential powers are the specifically human
acquisition and possesis on, it has necessarily become abstract pOwers and characteristics, i.e . those which distinguish man from
(equality as mere possession of rights), because it is impossible both to
other parts of nature.
possess something individualistically (exclusively) and at the same "Labour is man's activ property" (28), and as such it is supposed
time also to share it in the same respect with someone else.
to be an internal property that should manifest itself in a "spontanc
On this account as soon as negative freedom (o'n the ruins of
otiS activity" (73). Labour is thus specific in man as a free activity
and s i contrasted with the "animal functions--eating, drinking,
feudal legality) is achieved, the new legal system has to start legis
lating in order to codify actual inequalities, maintaining its flexibility
procreating" (73) which belong to the realm of necessity.
only at the above-mentioned abstract level.
158 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION POLr.MCAL ASPECTS 159
The power of man to objectify hirnseU through his labour is also becomes animal" (72-77). To make things worse, even this alienated
a specifically human power. Again, it is supposed to manifest itself form of activity-necessary though for mere survival-is often
as the "objectification of man's specific life" : objectification bearing denied to the worker because "labour itself becomes an object which
the inherently human characteristics insofar as it enables man to he can get hold of only with the greatest effort and with the most
"contemplate himseU in a world that he has created" (76) and not irregular interruptions" (69). (To remedy this, in socialist constitu
only in thought. tions there is a clause which legally entitles man to work. This may
Marx describes man as "a u n i ve rs a l and therefore a free seem to contradict the point I made that one cannot realize by
being" (74), and the power which enables man to be such a being legislative means the positive criteria of freedom. However, this
is derived from sociality. This means that there is a direct connec socialist right can only refer to work as external to man and as a
tion between freedom as man's universality, and sociality. As we means to his existence. Legislation could never make labour into an
know, according to Marx "The h u m a n essence of nature first internal need of man. Positive social-and moral-processes are
exists only for social man" (103), and he addS that true individu necessary to achieve this result.)
ality cannot be grasped in abst,raction from sociality. Not even if Objectification under conditions when labour becomes external
the form of individuality one has in mind is scientific,110 or indeed to man assumes the form of an alien power that confronts man
artistic, creative activity. in a hostile manner. This external power, private property, is "the
No doubt, Hegel is right in saying that it is an essential power product, the result, the necessary consequence, of a l i e n a t e d
of man to "duplicate himself intellectually". But in Marx's view I a b o u r, of the external relation of the worker to nature and to
this can only arise on the basis of the previously mentioned essential himself" (80). Thus if the result of this kind of objectification is
human powers. This second-intellectual---duplication is closely the production of a hostile power, then man cannot "contemplate
related to the human powers objectified in reality, whether the himself in a world that he has created", in reality, but, subjected
individual concerned is conscious of this interrelation or not. to an external power and deprived of the sense of his own activity,
The common denominator of all thoe human powers is sociality. he invents an unreal world, he subjects himself to it, and thus he
Even our five senses arc not simply part of our animal heritage. restricts even further his own freedom.
They are humanly devdoped and refined as a result of social pro If man is alienated from other men and from nature then the
cesses and activities. Therefore the crucial question is: do the new powers that belong to him as a "universal being" obviously cannot
property-reltlons further or hinder the advancement of sociality be exercised. Univelity is abstracted from man and transformed
as the basis of all specifically human powers? into an impersonal power which confronts him in the fonn of
The young E"ngels answers this question with an emphatic No in money; this "bond of all b o n d s", "the universal a g e n t of
these words : "private property isolates everyone in his own crude d i v o r c e", "the true b i n d i n g agent-the universal g a l v a n o
solitariness",UI and Marx's answer is an equally emphatic No. c h e m i c a I power of Society" (139).
Labour that should be an internal, active property of man as a
result of capitalistic alienation becomes external to the worker
3. Political "Negation of the Negation" and Emancipation
("labour is e x t e r n a l to the worker, i.e. it does not belong to
his essential being; . . . The worker therefore only feels himself out The picture that emerges from the details of Marx's criticism is
side his work, and in his work feels outside himself."-72). Not that of a fragmented society and of an impoverished individual.
"life-activity'.' , in which man " affirms himself" , but mere " m e a o s How could such a state of affairs be positively transcended? This
to his i n d i v i d u a l e x i s t e n ce", self-denial which "mortifies is a question which must underlie Marx's analysis. For without
his body and ruins his mind". Alienation transforms spontaneous attempting to give an answer to it the criticism itself would remain
activity into "coerced labour", an activity which is a mere means at least hopelessly abstract, if not altogether devoid of meaning.
to obtain essentially animal ends (eating, drinking, procreating), Would the destruction of the capitalistic State and the elimination
and thus "what is animal becomes human and what is human of the legal restrictions imposed by it solve the problem? Obviously
160 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION POUTICAL ASPECTS 161
not, because according to Marx even the annulment 0/ the SttJte The most important passage of the Manuscripts relevant to this
(of any State) would stil1 leave parts of the task unsolved {lOll. point reads as follows: " . . . atheism is humanism mediated with
To conceive the task of transcendence simply in political terms itself through the annulment of religion, whilst communism is
could result in "the re-establishing of 'Society' as an abstraction humanism mediated with itself through the annulment of private
ViNi-vis the individual" (104), against which Marx gave his warn property. Only through the annuLment oj this mediation which is
ing. And this would ie-establish alienation in a different Conn. itself, however, a necessary premise--does positively self-deriving
The great difficulty lies in this, that positive transcendence must humanism, p os i t i v e h u m a n i s m come into being" (164).
start with political measures because in an alienated society there Now how could this "humanism mediated with itself" be a
are no social agencies which could effectively restrict, let alone "necessary premise of positively self-deriving humanism", i.e. some
supersede, alienation. thing highly objective, if it were "crude egalitarian communism",
H, however, the process starts with a political agency which must which is a subjective, voluntaristic image ? This interpretation
establish the preconditions of transcendence, its success will depend obviously cannot be maintained without contradicting Marx.
on the self-consciousness of this agency. In other words, if this When communism transforms itself into "positively self-deriving
agency, for one reason or another, cannot recognize its own limits humanism" it necessarily ceases to be politics. The crucial Marxian
and at the same time restrict its own actions to these limits, then distinction is that between communism as a political movement
the dangers of "re-establishing 'Society' as an abstraction vis-a-vis which is confined to a particular historical stage of human develop
the individual" will be acute. ment-and communism as comprehensive social practice. This
Politics in this sense must be conceived as an activity whose second sense s
i referred to when Marx writes that "this communism,
ultimate end is its own annulment by means of fulfilling its deter as fully-developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully
minate function as a necessary stage in the complex process of developed humanism equals naturalism" (102).
positive transcendence. This is how Marx describes communism All politics is bound to a greater or lesser extent to partiality.
as a political principle. He emphasizes its function as the negation This is clearly implied by Marx when he says that the emancipation
oj the negation, and therefore confines it to the "next stage of of society from private property is expressed in the political form
historical development", calling it "the dynamic principle of the of the emancipation 0/ the worker (82). To expect, therefore, from
immediate Juture" (1 14). partiality to accomplish the universality of positive transcendence
According to some interpreters, "l'vlarx here means crude, would be as a practical attitude at least naive and as a theory self
equalitarian communism, such as that propounded by Babeuf and contradictory.
his followers" (1 14). But this interpretation is not at all convincing. Positive transcendence thus simply cannot be envisaged as the
Not only because Marx speaks with approval of this "crude "negation of the negation", i.e. in merely political terms. Its
equalitarian communism", but mainly because we can find several realization can only be conceived in the universality of social practice
other places in the Paris Manuscripts where Marx, in different as a whole. At the same time, however, it ought to be emphasized
contexts (98-99, 101, 103, 123-124, 16'), makes the same point. that as a necessary intermediary link the role of a politics conscious
His position is that communism "of a political nature" (101) is of its limits as well as of its strategi c functions in the totality of
still affected by the estrangement of man. & a negation of private social practice, is crucial for the success of a socialist transfonnation
properly, it is a form of mediation. (That is, it sustains a position of society.
by means of" negating its opposite. And it is a "negation of a
negation" because it negates private property which is itself a
"negation of human essence" .) It si not a "self-originating position
but rather a position originating from private property" (124),
which means that so long as this mediation remains, some kind of
alienation goes with it.
ONTOLOGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 163
cendental ideal is superimposed. i.e. the conception of man who is
by nature egoistic. In Marx's view this kind of superimposition is
only possible because we live in an alienated society where man is
de facto egoistic. To identify the egoistic (alienated) man of a given
historical situation with man in general and thus conclude that man
VI. Ontological and Moral Aspects is by nature egoistic is to commit the "ideological fallacy" of
unhistoricaUy equating the part (Le. that which corresponds to a
1. The "Self-mediating Being 0/ Nature" partial interest) with the whoLe. The outcome is, inevitably, a
fictitious man who readily lends himself to this transcendental
The central theme of Marx's moral tht:ory is : how to realize superimposition.
human freedom. This means that he has to investigate not only Thus a criticism of moral transcendentalism in Marx's view makes
the man-made-Le. seU-imposed-obstacles to freedom in the given sense only if it is coupled with the demolition of the conception
form of society, but also the general question of the nature and according to which "man is by nature egoistic". If this is not
limitations of freedom as human freedom. The problem of freedom accomplished, transcendentalism-or some other form of ethical
arises in the form of practical tasks in the course of human develop dualism-necessarily reappears in the system of the philosopher who
ment and only later, in fact much later, can philosophers make an is unable to grasp "egoism" historically, in the contradictions of a
abstraction out of it. situatio"n that produces alienated "commodity man". The criticism
So the real issue is human freedom, not an abstract principJe <?f transcendentalism must reveal lhe interdependence of the two
called "freedom", And since the specific character of everything fold distortion which consists in inventing abstract ideals for man
is at the same time both the "essence" (power, potential, function) while depriving him not only of aU ideality but of aU humanness
of that given thing and its limit, so it will be found that human too. It must show that what disappears in this juxtaposition of the
freedom is not the transcendence of the limitations (specific realms of "is" and "ought" (in the opposition of man reduced to
character) of human nature but a coincidence with them. In other a state of beast and an abstract spiritual being, or in the opposition
words : human freedom is not the negation of the specifically of man's "lower self" to his "higher self") is precisely the real human
natural in the human being-a negation for the sake of what appears being.
to be a transcendental ideal-but. on the contrary, its affirmation.
Transcendental ideals-in the sense in which traIlSC(:ndental This real human being for Marx exists both as aCluality
means the supersession of inherently human limitations---have no (alienated "commodity man") and potentiality (what Marx calls :
place in Marx's system. He explains their appearance in earlier "the rich human being"). And thus we can see that tlle rejection
philosophical systems as a result of a socially motivated unhistorical of transcendentalism and ethical dualism does not cany with it the
assumption of certain absolutes. To take an example : if the dismissal of idealily without which no moral system worthy of this
eighteenthcentury political economist founds his theories on name is conceivable. This rejection implies, however, that a natural
"human nature", identified with egoism, his moral philosopher basis must be found for all ideality.
counterpart (who, as in the case of Adam Smith, may be the same Marx's ontological starting point is that man is a specific part
person) will complete the picture by superimposing on this "egoist of nature and therefore he cannol be identified with something
man" the image of a transcendental ideal. It is not without signifi abstractly spiritual. "A be i n g only considers himself independent
cance that Kant was influenced by Adam Smith. (See Kant's essay when he stands on his own feet; and he only stands on his own
On Perpetual Peace in which "Handelsgeist"-"commercial spirit" feet when he owes his e x i s t e n c e to himself" (I 12}-writes Marx.
-is a key concept.) The ontological question of existence and its origin is a traditional
Criticizing this kind of approach Marx does not only object to question of both theology and philosophy. The framework in which
transcendentalism. He also rejects the picture on which the tra"ns MaO' raises it-i.e. the definition of man as a specific part of
"2
164 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ONTOLOGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 165
nature, as "the lf-mediated being of nature" ( 1 1 2}--radically it does not matter which side is assumed by a particular moral
transforms this question. philosopher in his definition of human nature as inherently egoistic
When it is formulated in a theological framework, assuming a
wholly spiritual being as the creator of man, this brings with it a
and malevolent or altruistic and benevolent : he will necessarily
end up with a thoroughly dualistic system of philosophy. One
set of moral ideals (and corresponding rules) which aim at liberating cannot avoid this unless one denies that either side of these opposites
man from his "animal nature", Thus human dignity is conceived is inherent in human nature itself.
as the negation of human nature, inspired by the duty (associated
with a feeling of gratitude etc.) towards the being to whom man
owes his own existence. And since freedom in this framework is 2. The Limits of Freedom
divorced, by definition, from anything natural-nature apptars Does this mean that we should regard these opposites as worthless
only as an obstacle-and since man, equally by definitio"n, cannot abstractions to get rid of by means of a conceptual rtclassification?
separate himself from nature, human frlXdom cannot possibly Certainly not. For they are not only abstractions but, unlike "free
appear as human, but only in the form of an abstract generality will", also facts of human life as we have known it so far. If the
("free will"1l2 etc.), as a mysterious or fictitious entity. This kind of "self-mediating" being can turn himself into what he is under
freedom, needless to say, only exists by the grace of the transcen detenninate circumstances and in accordance with them, and if we
dental being. find that egoism is just as much a fact of human life as benevolence,
In Marx's fonnulation what exists by the grace of another being then the task is to find out : what are the reasons why man made
(what l owe him) is not freedom, but the denial of it. Only an himself become a being who behaves egoistically.
"indepe'ndent being" can be called a free being, and ties of "owing" The practical aim of such an investigation is, of course, to see in
necessarily imply dependence, i.e. the negation of freedom. If, what way the process that results in the creation of egoistic human
however, man "owes" nature and himself (which is ultimately the beings could be reversed. To insist that man is "by nature" egoistic
same thing : this is what Marx rather obscurely calls "the self necessarily implies the rejection of such an aim, whatever the
mediated being of nature and of man") his own existence, he owes
nobody anything. In this Marxian sense "owing his existence"
motivation behind this negative attitude might be. To insist, on the
other hand, that man is "by nature" benevolent amounts to
simply means that "there is a particular causal relation in virtue attributing nothing less than mythical powers to "evil infIuences"
of which man is a specific part of nature". Thus "owing" in the
other sense-the one that carries with it the abstract idea of duty
whether identified with the theological image of "evil" or with the
alleged "irrationality of man", etc., in order to be able to account
is rejected. And with this rejection the abstract ideals and duties for the morally condemned deeds of men. This latter approach puts
that could be externally imposed on man are excluded from Marx's its holders, from the outset, in a position of defeat, even if this is
moral system. not clear to the holders themselves, and even if they veil defeat as
The Marxian "self-mediated being of nature and of man"-man victory under the cloak of utopian wishful thinking. (Dualism is
who is not the animal counterpart of a set of abstract moral ideals transparent in utopian conceptions; the idealized solution is rigidly
is by nature neither good, nor evil; neither benevolent nor male opposed to the rejected reality. And since ideality and reality are
volent ; neither altruistic nor egoistic; neither sublime nor a beast ; not grasped as members of a dialectical interrelation, the abyss of
etc., but simply a natural being whose attribute is : "self-mediating". dualistic, undialectical opposition has to be bridged by some
This means that he can make himself become what he is at any arbitrary assumption, such as, for instance, the presumed benevolent
given time-in accordance with the prevailing circumstances nature of man.)
whether egoistic or otherwise. The only way to avoid transcendentalism and dualism (regarded
Tenns like malevolence, egoism, evil, etc., cannot stand on their by Marx as abdications of human freedom) is to take man, without
own, witham, that is, their positive counterpart. But this is equally prejudicial assumptions, simply as a natural being who is not dyed
true about the positive terms of these pairs of opposites. Therefore either pink or black by the various systems of moral philosophy.
166 MARX'S TIlEORY OF ALIENATION ONTOLOGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 167
This way Mane can also get rid of the notion of "original sin" by trying to transcend them for the sake of a fiction. Thus if man is a
saying that man never lost his "innocence" simply because he never natural being with a multiplicity of needs, human fulfilment-the
had it. Nor was he "guilty" to start with. Guilt and innocence are realization of human freedom---cannot be conceived as an abnega
relative and historical terms that can only be applied under certain tion or subjugation of these needs, but only as their properly human
conditions and from a specific point of view, i.e. their assesesm nt is gratification. The only proviso is that they must bt: inherent1y
subject to change. human needs.
Marx derides the theologian-. who try to explain the origin of On the other hand if man as a part of nature must work "if he is
evil by the fall of man (69), i.e. in the form of an ahistorical assump not to die", and thus he is in this respeet under the spell of neces
tion. He also scorns the moral philosophers who do not explain the sity, human freedom cannot be realized by turning one's back on
known characteristics of human behaviour in their historical genesis the realities of this situation. Transcendental references will be of
but simply attribute them to human nature, which means that what no help whatsoever because they only transfer the problem to a
they are unable to account for they asmme as apriori given and different plane, assigning at the same lime an inferior status to the
fixed. Marx could negatively describe "natural man" in a polemic "realm of necessity" (or "phenomenal world" as opposed to the
against this practice of 3.$umptions as man who has not bt:en "noumenal world", etc.).
misrepresented by moral philosophers. Again, the solution lies in affirming this limitation as the source
Positively though man must be described in terms of his needs of human freedom. Productive activity, imposed upon man by
and powers. And both are, equally, subject to change and develop natural necessity, as the fundamental condition of human survival
ment. Consequently there can be nothing fixed about him, except and development thus becomes identical to human fulfilment,
what necessarily follows from his detennination as a natural being, i.e. the realization of human freedom. Fulfilment, by logical neces
namely that he is a being with needs---otherwise he could not be sity, implies limitations, for only that which is limited in some way
called a natural being-and powers for their gratification without or ways can be fulfilled. If a philosopher adopts a different view
which a natural being could not possibly survive. in this regard, he must end up with something like the Kantian
The problem of freedom can only bt: fonnulated in these notion of fulfilment in a transcendental infinity, i.e. he must end up
contexts, which means that there can be no other than human fonn with a theological structure of morality, whether he wants it or
of freedom. 1 we attribute, in religious alienation, absolute freedom not.Ut
to a bt:ing, we only project on a metaphysical plane and in an These problems indicate why it was necessary for Marx to intro
duce strong anti-theological polemics into his assesment
s
.
inverted fonn our own attribute : naturally and socially limited of morality.
human freedom. In other words : by positing a non-natural being The anti-theological references in Marx's philosophical works can
with absolute freedom we blind ourselves to the fact that freedom not be explained by pointing to the unquestionably significant
is rooted in nature. "Absolute freedom" is the absolute negation impact of Feuerbach's Essence of Christianity on the radical young
of freedom and can only be conceived as absolute chaos. To escape Hegelians. (The less so because Marx very soon became aware of
the contradictions involved in the concept of absolute freedom that the gap that separated him from Feuerbach.) The main reason why
manifests itself in the fonn of a strict order, theology either takes Marx had to dedicate so much effort to anti-theological polemir..s
refuge in mysticism, or adds further human attributes to the image was that if he wanted to describe man as an "independent being",
of the absolutc--e.g. goodness and love for man-<:ontradictorily as the "seU-mediated being of nature and of man", or in other
detennining thus the being who by definition cannot have deter words if he wanted to produce a coherent system of morality, based
minations without being deprived of his absolute freedom.1U on a monistic ontology, he could not possibly avoid challenging
the dualistic theological picture which is the direct negation of what
The "return from religious alienation" in Marx's view is only he calls the "essentiality" and "universality" of man.
possible if we recognize the fictitious character of "absolute freedom" It is necessary to emphasize, however, that this antitheological
and if we affirm the specific human limitations, instead of vainly affinnation of human limitations, in order to derive from it the
168 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION OTOLOGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 169
picture of man as an "essential" and "universal" being is a "nega o b j e c ts, indispensable to the manifestation and confirmation of
tion of the negation". And since the negation of the negation is still his essential powers" (156). Marx goes on to say that the concept
dependent on what it negates, one cannot speak of a truly natural, of an objective being necessarily implies allother being which is the
positive morality while theological references form an integral part object of that objective being. This relation is, however, by no
of it. There is a parallel situation here with the negation of private means one-sided : the object in its turn has the objective being for
property. (See section 3. of the previous chapter.) Both theology and its object. "As soon as I have an object, this object has me for an
private property are defined as negations of the essentiality of man object" (157). That is to say, I am affected by this object, or in other
in his "self-mediating" relation to nature. To define man as an words, I am in some specific way subjected to it. Considered at this
essential being by negating theology and private property, i.c. n i level, my rclation to my objects is the same as that between non
terms of anti-capitalist and anti-theological references, is a negation human natural objects. "The sun is the o b j e c t of the plant
of the negation. Such a negation of the negation is by no means an indispensable object to it, confirming its life-just as the plant
"self-mediating", because it asserts the essentiality and universality is an object of the sun, of the sun's a b j e c t i v e essential
of man through negating its negation by both theology and private power" (157).
property. Thus the self-mediating relationship between man and But Marx carries this line of thought even further and' emphasizes
nature is not reestablished, as both private property and theology that every natural being has its nature outside itself : "A being
remain in the picture, even if in a negated form. Consequently one which does not have its nature outside itself is not a n a t u r a l
cannot envisage in reality a truly natural morality before all refer being and plays no part in the system of nature. A being which has
ences to theology and private property-including the negative no object outside itself is not an objective being. A being which is not
references-have disappeared from the definition of man as an itself an object for some third being has no being for its o b j e c t;
essential and universal being. i.e. it is nOl objectively related. Its be-ing is not objective. An un
objective being js a n u II i t y-an u 11 - b ei ng" (157). From this two
important conelusioos follow :
3. Human Attributes
( 1 ) that the "nature" of any objective being is not some mysteri
As we have seen, in drawing the picture of the moral agent one ously hidden "essence", but something that naturally defines itself
cannot assume any human characteristics (like " egoism", etc.) as as the necessary relation of the objective being to its objects, i.e. it
apriori given without committing oneself at the same time to a dual is a specific objective relation; (only " un-beings" or "nullities" need
istic system of morality. One cannot take for granted anything more be "defined" in mystifying references to mysterious essences);
than the fact that man is a part of nature, and only on this basis (2) that "having one's nature outside oneself" is the necessary
may one ask the question : what is specific about man as part of mode of existence of every natural being, and is by no means specific
nature. In this context two important questioos have to be asked : about man. Thus if someone wants to identify externalization with
1 . What are the general characteristics of a natural being ? human alienation (as Hegel did, for instance), he can only do this
2. What are the specific characteristics of a human natural being. by confounding the whole with one specific part of it. Consequently
"lvf a n"-writes Marx-"is directly a n a t u r a l b e i ng". "As "objectification" and "externalization" are relevant to alienation
a natural being and as a living natural being he is on the one hand only insofar as they take place in an inhuman form. (As if the sun's
furnished with n a t u r a l p o w e r s o f l i f e-he is an a c t i v e "life-awakening power" turned against the sun under conditions
natural being. These forces exist in him as tendencies and abilities when the sun could in principle prevent this from happening.)
as i m p u I ses. On the other hand, as a natural, corporeal, ensu As regards man's status as a specific part of nature, Marx writes :
ous, objective being he is a s u f f e r i n g, conditioned and limited "But man is not merely a natural being, he is a h u m a n natural
creature, like animals and plants. That is to say, the o b j e c t s being. That s i to say, he i.'I a being for himself. Therefore he is a
of his impulses exist outside him, as o b j e c t s independent of s p e c i e s b e i n g, and has to confirm and manifest himself as
him; yet these objects are o b j e c t s of his n e e d--essential such both in his being and in his knowing. Therefore, h u m a n
170 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ONTOLOGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 171
objects are not natural objects as they immediately present them there is no-inherently historical-alternative, there is no room
selves, and neither is h u m a n s e n s e as it immediately i s as it for either art or morality.) Therefore in only one sense may one
is objectivdy-h u m a n sensibility, human objectivity. Neither speak of "human nature" : in the sense whose centre of reference is
nature objectively nor nature subjectively is directly given in a fonn historical change and its foundation, human society. 1n Marx's
adequate to the h u m a n being. And as everything natural has to words : "The nature which comes to be in human history-the
have its b e g i n n i ng, m a n too has his act of commg-Io-be genesis of human society-is man's r e a l nature ; hence nature
h i s t o r y-which, however, is for him a known history, and hence as it comes to be through industry, even though in an estranged
as an act of coming-la-be it is a conscious self-transcending ad of fonn, is true a n t h r o p o l o g i c a I nature" ( ! l l).
coming-to--be. History is the true natural history of man" (158). Putting into relief the specifically human about aU the natural
To render clearer this passage let us contrast the views expressed nds oC man, does not, oC course, mean arguing Cor a new kind
in it with Hume's rtion according to which "An affectation of "higher self" to sit in judgment over these natural needs. There
betwixt the sexes is a passion evidently implanted in human is nothing wrong with man's natural appetites, provided they are
nature" .m This assertion, even if it claims to have the truth-value stilled in a human way. This human way for satisfying one's natural
of self-evidence, is nothing more than an unhistorical assumption appetites-which, as needs and appetites, are transfonned in the
that, on closer inspection, tums out to be false on two counts : process of "seU-transcendence" and "scU-mediation"-wili depend
(I) insofar as this passion is "implanted in nature", it is not con on the actual degree of civilization, and tHe social practice that
fined to human beings, i.e. it is not a human passion; corresponds to it, to which one belongs.176 And when one says that
(2) insofar as it is a specificaUy human passion, it is not at all the primitive natural needs and appetites have become human,
"implanted in human nature", but it is a human achievement. The this is ooly to stress that they are now specifically natural.
essential characteristic of this passion as a human passion is that it This is why human fulfilment cannot be conceived in abstraction
is inseparable from the consciousness of the "other sex" being a from, or in opposition to, nature. To divorce onU from "anthro
particular human being and at the same time it is also inseparable pological nature" in order to find fulfilment in the realm of abstract
from the consciousness of the self as that of a humanly passionate ideas and ideals is just as inhuman as living one's life in blind sub
being. This human achievement is what Marx calls, rather obscurely, mission to crude natural needs. It is by no means accidental that
"a conscious self-transcending act of coming-to-be" in which nature so many of the worst immoralities throughout the history of man
transcends itself (or "mediates itself with itself') and becomes man, kind were committed in the name of high-sounding moral ideals
remaining in this "seU-transcendence", of course, a natural being. utterly divorced from the reality of man.iTT
Nothing is therefore "implanted in human nature". Human In the same way, the fact that "self-consciousness" is an essential
nature is not something fixed by nature, but, on the contrary, a feature of human gratification can"not mean that self-consciousness
"nature" which is made by man in his acts of "seU-transcendence" alone may be opposed to the "world of estrangement", which hap
as a natural being. It goes without saying that human beings-due pens to be the world of objects. "Self-consciousness" that divorces
to their natural-biological constitution-have appetites and various itself from tht world of objects (i.e. a consciousness whose centre of
natural propensities. But in the "conscious seU-transcending act of reference is the object-less abstract self) does not oppose alienation
coming-to-be" they must become human appetites and propensities. but, on the contrary, confirms it. This is why Marx scorns the
fundamentally changing their character by being transformed into abstract philosopher who "sets up himself (that is, one who is him
something inherently historical. (Without this transformation both self an abstract form 0/ estranged man) as the m e a s u r i n g - r o d
art and morality would be unknown to man : they are only possible for the estranged world" ( 1 49). The objectivity of this philosopher
because man is the creator of his human appetites. And both art is false objectivity, because he deprives himself of all real
and morality-both inherently historical-are concerned with the objects.
properly human appetites and propensities of man and not with We are not free to choose our self-consciousness. Human self
l
the direct, unalterable determinations of the natura being. Where consciousness-the
- consciousness of a specific natural being-must
ONTOLOGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 173
172 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION
be "sensuous consciousness", because it is the consciousness of a
so far carried with it estranged human relations. By contrast, an
adequate form of human objectification would produce social
sensuous (sensible) natural being. However, "s e n s u o u s con
objectivity as objectified but non-alienated human relations.
sciousness is not the a b s t r a c t l y sensuous consciousness but a
h u rn a n I y sensuous consciousness"(150).
(4) From the previous points it must follow that the "superses
And since the activities
sion" of alienation has to be envisaged in tenns of the actual social
i.e. as a transcendence of alienation in social practice as
of this specific natural being are necessarily displayed in a social
framework, true self-consciousness of this being must be his con
reality,
opposed to mere imagination.
sciousness of being a social being. Any abstraction from these basic
characteristics could only result in an alienated self-consciousness.
Here we can see, why Marx had to correct the Hegelian ideas 4. The Alienation of Human Powers
he incorporated in his picture of man the way he did :
The foregoing considerations are essential to decide "what is
(l) Starting from the fact that man is a specific part of nature,
human" and what should be rejected as alienation. They not only
he could not confine labour-in his attempt to account for human
turn down the "measuring-rod" provided by the abstract philosopher,
genesis-to "abstractly mental labour". What is abstractly mental
characterizing it as a particular embodiment of alienated activity,
cannot generate on its own something inherently natural, whereas
but also offer a new measure by saying that there can be no other
on the natural basis of reality one can account for the genesis of
measure of humanness than man himself.
"abstractly mental labour".
It would be no use to try and answer the question that arises at
(2) For the same reason he could not accept the identification of
this point, namely : "which man", by saying : "non-alienated
"o?jectifying" with "alienation". In relation to an objective natural
man". Such an answer would amount to reasoning in a circle. What
bemg what is called "objectification" cannot be simply declared
"alienation" (or "estrangement"), because this objectification is its
we are after is, precisely, to find out what is "non-alienated". The
facts that one may refer to, as elements and stages of a possible
natural and necessary mode of existence. On the other hand if we
definition, are :
co?ceive an "abstractly spiritual being" whose adequate mode of
extence would be of course merely spiritual, in relation to this
(1) man is a nat ural being ;
bemg "objectification" and "estrangement" become identical. How
(2) as a natural being he has natural needs and natural powers
for their gratification;
ever, apart from this case-in which both "natural" and "objective"
are excluded from the definition of this merely spiritual being
(3) he is a being who lives in a society and produces the conditions
necessary Cor his existence in an inherently social way;
only two possibilities are open to the philosopher :
(a) to give up the objectivity of the naiural being (in order to
(4) as a productive social being he acquires new needs ("needs
created through social partnership"I7B) and new powers for their
accept the necessity of alienation) and thus to end up with a contra
gratification;
diction in tenus;
i the only possible mode of exist
objectification s (5)
!
as a productive social being, he transfonns the world around
(b) to insist that
him in a specific way, leaving his mark on it; nature thus becomes
nce r a natal being (as we have seen, the sun too "objectifies
,
Itself m the hvmg plant; of course the sun cannot think of itself
"anthropological nature" ( I l l ) in this man-nature relationship ;
everything now becomes at least potentially, a part of human rela
b t. this is no reason for depriving it of its objective self-"life
glvmg power", etc.-and for denying its objectification), but some tions; (nature in these relations appears in a great variety of Conns
ranging from material elements of utility to objects of scientific
forms of objectification are inadequate to the "essence" = "nature
hypothesis and of aesthetic pleasure);
outside it" = "SOCial o?e of existence" of the human being.
Consequently : if It 15 the madequacy of some fonus of objec
. . (6) by establishing on a natural basis his own conditions of life
(3)
. .
tification that may properly be called alienation, it is not true that in the fonu of social-economic institutions and their products, man

objectivity equals 'est.rnged uan relations", although it may


"duplicates himseU" practically, thus laying the foundations of
"wnlemplaling himself in a world that he has created";
be true that the objectiVity of CIVIlized society as we have known it
174
'
MARX S THEORY OF ALIENATION ONTOLOGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 175

(7) by means of his new powers which are, just as his new needs. network of needs which are all together the product of socially active
"created through social partnership" and interaction, and on the man. To abstract therefore from this aspect of man in the cult of
basis of the "practical duplication" just referred to, he also dupli the self as opposed to social man amounts to the cult of an over
cates himself intellectually". simplified alienated self, because the true self of the human being
Considering these characteristics not in isolation, but in their is necessarily a social self, whose "nature is outside itself", i.e. it
manifold interrelatedness, it will be seen that the gratification of defines itself in tenus of specific and immensely complex interper
human needs takes place in an alienated fann if this means either sonal, social relations. Even the potentialities of the individual can
a submission to the crude natural appetites, or the cult of the self only be defined in terms of relations of which the individual is but
whether this self is described as a creature who is by nature selfish a part. For someone to be a "potentially great piano player" not
or as an abstract self-consciousness. only the existence of a-socially produced-musical instrument is
The abstract philosopher's approach to the problem of alienation necessary, but even more so the highly complex social activity of
is itself an alienated onc. Not only because it confines itself to man's discriminative musical enjoyment.
ability to "duplicate himself intellectually", ignoring that only the
conditions enumerated in points 1 to 6. make this duplication In all these cases alienation appears as divorcing the individual
possible. And not only because he does not distinguish between from the social, the natural from the self-conscious. By contraposi
alienated and true intellectual self-duplication, but also because tion it follows that in a non-alienated human relation individual
he opposes an alienated intellectual sell-duplication as true self and social, natural and self-conscious must belong together-and
confirmation to those conditions (i.e. the objectified social reality) form a complex unity. And this brings us to another important
without which no sell-confirmation is conceivable for a human question : what is the connection between alienation and those
(social) natural being. needs and powers which are the outcome of social intercourse, i.e.
On the other hand, the submission to the crude naturalness of the product of society ?
a given appetite is alienation because it opposes itself, even if un Here we have first to distinguish between two senses of both
consciously, to human dcvelopment.m It negates (practically or natural and artificial as used by Marx. In sense one, natural means
theoretically) the social changes by virtue of which the originally simply "that which is a direct product of nature" ; and in opposition
merely natural needs too arc now mediated in a complex way, so to it artificial means "man-made". In sense two, however, what is
that they have lost their primitive character. It is by no means a not a direct produt of nature but is generated through a so ca
i l
mere historical coincidence that the century that has achieved the intermediary is "natural" insofar as it is identical with man's
highest degree ofsophistication in evcry sphere has also produced "second nature", i.e. his nature as created through the functioning
the most remarkable cult of the primitive,UO from philosophical and of sociality. (It is important to distinguish between "sociality" and
psychological theories to social and artistic practices. "society". The latter, as contrasted with the "sensuous" (sensible)
When we come to consider "privatization" in the light of the immediateness of the particular individuals, is an abstraction : to
formerly enumerated characteristics, its alienated nature becomes grasp it one must transcend this immediateness of the individuals.
transparent, because "privatization" means abstracting (in practice) "Sociality", however, is actually inherent in every single individual.
from the social side of human activity. If, however, the social activity This is why a society may never be justifiably called "natural",
of production is an elementary condition for the hUTTUln cxiste'nce whereas sociality is rightly defined as man's second nature.) The
of the individual (with his increasingly complex and socially opposite to this second sense of natural is clearly not "man-made"
embedded needs), this act of abstracting-whatever form it might it is man-made-but "that which opposes itself to human nature as
take-is necessarily alienation, because it confines the individual sociality". Only this second sense of "artificial" is morally relevant.
to his "crude solitariness". Society is man's "second nature", in the Man-made needs and appetites are not artificial in the second
sense in which the original natural needs arc transformed by it, se'nse provided they are in harmony with the functioning of man
and at the same time integratcd into an enormously more extensive as a social natural being. If, however, they are in disharmony with
....

176 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ONTOLOGICAL ANU MORAL ASPECTS 177


it, or may even carry it to a point of break-down, they must be only sense in which one may properly speak of a problem of scarcity,
rejected as artificial needs. i simply a correlation bctween the existing actual human nceds
it s
It is worth comparing the Marxian view with Hume's classifi and the available powers, goods, etc., for their gratification. But
cation of human needs and powers : "There are three different species this is, of course, a historically changing contingcnt relation, and
of goods which we are possessed of; the internal satisfaction of our not a matter of some aprion necessity on whose ground one may
minds; the eXlernal advantages of our body; and the enjoyment of erect a Bumean or even Kantian structure of morality. 'B2
such possessions as we have acquired by our industry and good As we see Hume, paradoxically, helps to confirm Marx's conten
fortune. We are perfectly secure in the enjoyment of the first. The tion that the "need of possession" s i an abstract and artificial need.
second may be ravished from us, hut can be of no advantage to Every abstract need-since it abstracts from man-is, by implica
him who deprives us of them. The last only are both exposed to the tion, artificial. And thus "abstract", "artificial" and "alicnated"
violence of others, and may be transferred without suffering any become equivalent, in relation to both needs and powers. The reason
loss or alteration; while at the same time there is not a sufficient why this is so is because abstract (artificial) needs cannot generate
qu.antity of them to supply every one's desires and necessities. As the powers that correspond to the essential (social) nature of man. They
improvement, therefore, of these goods is the chief advantage of can only generate abstract powers which are divorced from the
society, so the i n s t a b i l i t y of their possession, along with their human being and even set up against him. Or the other way round :
s c a r c i t y, is the chief impediment".l81 abstract powers can only generate abstract, artificial needs.
One should notice first of all that while Hume attaches the adjec
tives internal to class one, and external to class two, he is unable to According to Marx in the course of self-alienation man "becomes
attach any qualifying adjective to class three. And no wonder : an abstract activity and a stomach" (25). His natural functions :
beyond the "internal" and "external" there is only the realm of eating, drinking, procreating-which are "genuinely human func
abstraction. To "abstract enjoyment" only an abstract need can tio ns
"- now become animal, because "in the abstraction which
correspond, e.g. the need of abstracting from the fact that what is separates them from the sphere of all other human activity and
for me only an abstract need of possession, in no connection with my turns them into sole and ultimate ends, they are animal" (73). Or,
actual human needs, to other people may well be essentials ("neces to express this contradiction in stronger terms, as a result of alien
cities") to the gratification of their actual human needs. (This con ation "man (the worker) no longer feels himself to br. frcely active
sideration presents, if nothing else, a pnma facie case for tackling in any but his animal fimctions . . . and in his human functions
the problem of justice and injustice on lines opposed to those of he no longer feels himself to be anything but animal. What is animal
Hume.) becomes human and what is human becomes animal". (73-The
Furthennore, the question of necessary scarcity here arises only fact that Marx here-because of the particular context-names
in relation to my abstract need of possession. Actual human needs the worker only does not mean, of course, that this alienation only
and appetites, whether internal or external, can, in fact, be stilled, affects the worker and not the owner of capital. He often emphasizes
whereas there is nothing to limit an abstract need--e.g. if the objects that they are two sides to the same human alienation. Labour s i

of my appetite are not food or poetry, but the multiplication of my "objectless subject, whereas capital is "subject/ess objcct".)
money-except the scarcity of the objects to which it is related. The " ab s t r a c t existence of man as a mere w o r k m a n" (86)
However, abstract appetites are inherently insatiable-i.e. there is means, however, that even if labour remains a "subject", it cannot
nothing in their nature to limit them "from the inside", in con- be the "human subject" because no "objectless subject" can be
trast to my mental and bodily appetites-therefore their objects are called properly human. (As we have seen, the "essence" or "nature"
just as "scarce" in relation to one person as to any number of them. of the human being cannot be found within the subject, but outside
In other words scarcity is no argument in favour of excluding other it, in its objectified relations.) This "objectless subject", therefore,
people from possession, let alone for establishing "natural justice" insofar as it is a natural being with real needs, can only be a
on the grounds of such an exclusion. All the less so, because in the "p h y s i c a l s u b j e c t" : "The extremity of this bondage is that
173 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ONTOLOCICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 179

it is only as a w 0 r k e r that he continues to maintain himself as The enrichment of the physical subject only, is the enrichment
a p h y s i c a l s u b j e ct, and that it is only as a p h y s i c a l of "c o m m o d i t y - m a n" who is a "s p i r i t u a l l y and physically
s u b j e c t that he s
i a w o r k e r" (71). d e h u m a h i z e d being" (85). The fight against alienation in Marx's
On the olher hand "the production of the object of human activ eyes is, therefore, a struggle for rescuing man from a state where
ity as c a p i t a I-in which all the natural and social determinate " the extension of products and needs falls into c o n t r i v i n g and
ness of the object is e x t i n g u i s h e d ; in which private property ever-c a l c u l a t i n g subservience to inhuman, refined, unnatural
has lost its natural and social quality" (86--i.e. it has lost its "sub and i m a g i n a r y appetites" ( 1 16). This alienated state which
jective essence" or subject) is at the same time the production of a is characterized not only by the artificial "refinement of needs" but
need, however abstract it may be. This need is "The need for also by "their artificially produced crudeness" ( 1 22), makes a
money .. the true need produced by the modern economic system,
. mockery of man's desires to extend his powers in order to enable
and it is the only IICed which the latter produces" ( 1 16). This s
i a himself to realize human fulfilment, because this increase of power
very mi portant observation because it indicates that if one merely amounts to the "extension of the realm of the alien powers to which
displaces the existing capitalists and transforms society into what m:l.Il is subjected" (1 15). Thus man defeats his own purpose.
Marx calls the "universal capitalist", no basic change has taken place What happened in this process of alienation to the genuinely
as regards the substance of alienation. A society where this alien human needs and senses? Marx's answer is that their place has been
ated "need for money" manifests itself in the aim of increasing taken by the "sheer estrangement" of all physical and mental
"public wealth" can be another form of alienated society, as com sc'nses,-by "the sense of h a. v i ng" (lOG). This alienated sense finds
pared to that in which this aim is confined to "private wealth". a universal ('mbodiment in money : this "alienated a b i i i t Y 0 f
There si nothing inherently human about the accumulation of ma n k i n d" ( 1 39), which means that man's "s p e c i e s - n a t u r e"
wealth. The aim should be, according to Marx, the "enrichment of now manifests itself in an alienated form : as the universality of
the huma'n being", of his "illner wealth" ( 1 06), and not simply mO'ney.
the enrichment of the "physical subject". Money, thanks to the domination of the sense of having over
Needless to say, this does not mean that the problem of material everything else, sets itself between man and his object. "By p0ssess
well-being should be ignored, but that it should not be formulatcd ing the p r o p e r t y of buying everything, by possesis ng the property
in abstraction from the real illdividual. The principle of "accumu of appropriating all objects, m 0 n e y is thus the 0 b j e c t of emin
lation of pul;>lic wealth first", among other things, provides the ent possesis on. The .universality of its p ro p e r t y is the omnipo
politician with an excuse for postponing measures aimed at meeting tence of its being. It therefore functions as the almighty being.
important human needs. Besides : if the abstract need of "having" Money is the p i m p between man's nced and the object, between
is to be blamed, to a great extent, for alienation, the reformulation his life and his means of life" (137). In this mediation money re
of this principle of "having" ca'nnot achieve the programme of places the real object and dominates the subject. In it needs and
superseding alienation. What it may, however, achieve, is the un powers coincide in an abstract way : only those needs are recog
wanted transfonnation of an alienated practice into an alienated nized as real needs by an alienated society which can be bought
aspiration. But even il a much larger slice of the public wealth by money, i.e. which are within the reach and power of money.
is distributcd among individuals, this is beside the point. The real Under these conditions the personal characteristics and qualities
aim is "inner wealth" which is not a kind of abstract contemplation, of the individual are secondary. "The extent of the power of money
but self-confirmation in the fullness of one's lile-activity. That is to is the extent of my power. Money's properties are my properties
say, it is the whole structure of life-activity that needs transforma and essential powers-the properties and powers of its possessor.
tion-from everyday work to a real participation in the highest Thus, what I a m and a m c a p a b l e of is by no means deter
levels of the policy-making that has a bearing on one's life mined by my individuality"(138). Through its power of being the
and not merely the output-potential of a country's material produc common measure of everything, it can "exchange every property
tion. lor every other, even contradictory, property and objec t : it is the
180 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ONTOLOGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 181
fraternization of impossibilitics."m "It transfonns fidelity into in edlJ.cator. On a mechanistic account of causality if men, as products
fidelity, love into hate, hate into love, virtue into vice, vice into of an alienated society, need educating, lhis cannot be done except
virtlle, servant into master, master into serva'nt, idiocy into intelli by lhilSC who stand "outside alienated society". But those who stand
gence, and intelligence into idiocy" (141)_ "outside alienated society" or "outside alienation" stand nowhere.
What stale of affairs could be more immoral than these conditions In this sense the much publicised "outsider" is really an unintended
of an alienated society? In such conditions what a labour of caricature of the Feuerbachian "educator".
Sisyphus s i that of the abstract philosopher who confines his aUen Thus if one tackles the problem of human selfalienation, one
tion to the "ambiguities" of the concepts of "vice" and "virtue", not should not start with the self-defeating assumption that alienation
realizing that the difficulties do not arise from thought but from is a homogeneous inert totality. If one pictures reality (or "being")
the practical "overturning power" of money. Before one can finish as a homogeneous inert totality, the only thing one can oppose to
the self-imposed task DC finding exemplifications for one's own this conceptual nightmare is an equally nightmarish "movement"
definition of virtue, it is turned in practice into its opposite, and and "negation" as "nothingness". This description of reality as
countless contradictory e>:amplcs can be found to refute any such "inert totality", in whatever form it may be expressed, is coumer
definition. Nothing, in these matters, is solved by definitions only. productive. It arises from the assumption of abstract and rigid
The task, as Marx sees it, is practical : it consists in establishing a dualistic oppositC--sueh as "absolute necessity" and "absolute frec
society in which the human powers are not aienated l from man, dom"-which, by their very definition, cannot possibly communi
and consequently they cannot turn themselves against him. cate or interact with each other. There is no genuine possibility of
movement in such a picture of reality.
5. Means and l:,'nds, Necessity and Freedom: the Practical Pro Were society an "inert totality of alienation", nothing could
possibly be done about it. Nor could there be any problem of alien
ation, or awareness of it, for if consciousness were the consciousness
gramme of HlJ.man Emancipation.
Since the task is practical, the solutions must be envisaged in of this "inert totality" it would be one with alienation. In other
practical terms, indicating, that is, a practical power capable of words : it would be simply the "consciousness of inert totality"
facing up to the task. When Kant wishfully appealed to "natural if there could be such a thing (strictly speaking : "the consciousness
scarcity" in envisaging the realization of his transcendental ideal of of inert totality" is a contradiction in terms}-and not the "con
morality, he was expecting a miracle from nature, although specu sciousness of inen totality being alienation", i.e. not a consciousnes;
latively he was, of course, well aware of the "chain of natural which reveals and opposes-in however abstract a fonn-the
causality". Thus, if one wants to avoid a similar contradiction, one alienated nature of this inert totality.
must realize that the only power capable of practically ("positively") Alienation is an inherently dynamic concept : a concept that
superseding the alienation of human activity is self-conscious human necessarily implies change. Alienated activity not only produces
activity itself. "alienated consciousness", but also the "consciousness of being
This may seem a vicious circle. If "alienation of seU-conscious alienated". This consciousness of alienation, in however alienated
ness" is due to alienated activity ("alienation of labour"), how can a fonn it might appear-e.g. envisaging sc.lfconfirmation in "being
O"ne expect the supersession of alienated activity by means of "self at home in unreason as unreason" {161}-not only contradicts the
conscious human activity", which is the "end in itself" and not idea of an alienated inert totality, but also indicates the appearance
simply a "means to an end" ? The contradiction is obvious and yet of a need for the supersession of alienation.
only <lpp<lrent. It <lrises from a rigid and mechanistic conception Needs produce powers just as much as powers produce needs.
of the relations between "means and ends", and from an equally Even if in the mind of the abstract philosopher this genuine human
mechanistic view of causality as mere succession. need is reflected, as it must be, in an alienated form, this does not
This prnblem is in more than one respect similar to the dilemma
c"'pr(":-iSC.'d in one OJ rvIarx's theses on fcuerbach: how to edlJ.cate the
<liter the fact that the need itself is genuinely human in the sense
that it is TOOted in changing reality. The "educator", who also needs
r

lB2 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ONTOWOiCAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 183


educating, is just as much a part of the alienated society as any in a specific relation to alienation (as its negation) which is missing
body else. His activity, consisting of a more or Jess adequate concep from the first. True self-consciousness of such a society cannot
tualization of an actual process, is not "non-alienated activity" by pos;ibly be then its consciousness as that of a "non-alienated society",
virtue of the fact that he is in his way aware of alienation. Insofar but simply the consciousness of a "human society". That is to say,
as he is a part of alienation he too, is, in need of being educated. this consciousness is not the consciousness of a negation--conditioned
Yet he is not an inert piece in an inert totality, but a human being, by its negated object-but a consciousness of positivity. If therefore
i mensely complex and inherently dynamic
a specific part of an m one conceives a society in which alienation is totally superseded,
interpersonal totality, however much or little alienated his seH there is no plac for Marx in it. It would be, of course, in absolutely
consciousness may be. Hegel is not merely an "alienated educator" , no need of "educators". To anticipate a totally non-alienated society
which he certainly is, no less than Fcuerbach-but he is at the same as a final achievement would be, however, rather problematic. The
time also an "anti-alienation educator" (i.e. a practical, and not sm
framework of the right assesent of this problem of human develop
merely a conceptual, negator of alienation), even if this effct of his ment must be the dialectical conception of the relationship between
activity, realized through Fuerbach, Man and others, is not an continuity and discontinuity-i.e. "discontinuity in continuity" and
intended one. (On the contrary, it presupposed the direct negatio" "continuity in discontinuity"----even if the strongest possible emphasis
of his solutions.) is put on the qualitative differences between the contrasted stages.
These considerations apply, mutatis mutandis, also to Man. As
Man himself says, if I have an object the object has me for an The supersession of alienated activity through self-conscious
object. Consequently if I have an alienated object, this latter has human practice is not a static relation of a means to an end, with
me for an object, and thus I am necessarily subject to alienation. no possibility of interplay. Nor is it a mechanistic causal chain pre
Man as an educator is both product and negator of an alienated supposing ready-made parts that could not pos'libly be altered in
society : his teaching xprcsses a specific relation to a specific, his the relation,--only their respective position is subject to change,
torically concrte alienated object. The proposition according to as that of two billiard balls after their collision. Just as much as
which "an alienated reAection of self-alienation, is not scJf-eonscious alienation is not a single act (whether a mysterious "fall" or a
ness, but alienated self-consciousness" implies its extrapolation : "a mechanistic result), its opposite, the supersession of alienated activity
true reAection of self-alienation, however true, is not the self-con through self-conscious enterprise, can only be conceived as a com
sciousness of a. non-alienated being, but true self-consciousness oC a plex process of intera.ction that produces structural changes in all
being in alienation". This is why Marx, being a specific part of th parts of th human totality.
complex web of an alie-nated society, must define himself as a Activity is alienated activity when it takes the fonn of a schism
practical being in practical opposition to the actual trends of alien or opposition between "means" and "end", between "public life"
ation in the existing society. As a non-alienated man, he is "true and "private life", between "being" and "having", and between
self-consciousness as a practical programme" of the supersessio'n "doing" and "thinking". In this alienated opposition "public life",
of the historically concrete content and fonn of alienation. But this "being" and "doing" become subordinated as a mere means to the
programme should not be confused with non-alienated reality. It is alienated end of "private life" ("private enjoyment"), "having".
in fact a "true reAection of an alienated reality". (One should not and "thinking".'s, Human self-consciousness, instead of attaining
fo=-get Marx's view on the "negation of the negation".) When the the level of true "species-consciousness", in this relation-where
programme becomes reality, in the process of practical supersession, public life (the life-activity of man as a species-being) is subordin
it ceases to be a programme, a reflection of a specific historical rela ated, as a means to an end, to mere private existence-becomes an
tion, i.e. it ceases to be attached to the Marxian framework of nega atomistic consciousness, the abstract-alienated consciousness of mere
tion of the negation. "True self-consciousness" of a reality from "having" as identified with private enjoyment. And in this way,
which alienation has entirely disappeared, should not be confused since the mark of free activity that distinguishes man from the
with Marx's original programme, because the latter defined itself animal world is the practical (non-abstract) consciousness of man as
IB4 MARX'S THEORY 01' ALIENATION ONTOLOGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 185
a " self-mediating" (i.e. creative, not just passively "enjoying") o t h e r person as a person has become for him a need-the extent
human Ixing.' lhe realization of human freedom as man's purpose to which he in his individual existence is at the same time a social
becomes impossible because its groundman's life-activity-has being" (101). Consequently if the other person is merely a cook,
Uecome a mere means to an abstract end. a maid and a whore for man, their relation only satisfies his
For a solution ont does not have to go to the rcalm of abstrac dehumanized animal needs.
tion, because it is given as a potential Teality--an actual poten The same criterion of humanness-as inner need of a totality
tiality-in the potential unity of the members of this practical opposi of life-activities-will decide what kind of relationships ought to be
tion or contradiction. Thus the negation of alienation s i not an morally rejected and practically opposed. The tone of moral in
"absolute" (empty) negativity, but, on the contrary, the positive dignation is very strong whe Marx speaks about capital as the
(Iuertion of a relation of unity whose members really exist in an "g o v e r n i n g p o w e r over labour" . Yet its ground is not an
aClual op/)osition to each other. abstract appeal to an abstract concept of "justice", but a rderence
From this it follows that if someone tries to get rid of only ont to the fact that "the capitalist possesses this power, not on account
side of the opposition, his "solution" must remain fictitious and of his personal or human qualities, but inasmuch as he is an
alienated. And this applies, of course, to both sides taken separately. o w n e r of capital. His power is the p u r c h as i n g power of his
The mere abolition of the "private" is just as artificial and alienated capital, which nothing can withstand." la,
as the "fragmentation", "atomization", "privatization" of the What is in question here is not the Humetypc (or "political
"public". The absolutization of anyone of the two sides means either economist") treatment of justice (although the contrast is self
that man is deprived of his individuality and becomes an abstract evident), but morality in general. In Marx's view nothing is worthy
"public producer", or that he is deprived of his JOciality and is trans of moral approval unless it helps the realization of human life
formed into an equally abstract "private consumer". They are both activity as internal need. If, therefore, gratification is divorced from
"commodity men", with the difference that while one defines his own activity, and thus the individual qualities of man lose their signifi
c..s,sence as "commodity-producer", the other finds self-confirmation cance, the obvious verdict is moral condemnation. This principle
in being a sdf-contained "commodity-consumer" . remains valid even if there is not a single capitalist to point at. If
When Marx speaks of man's "inner wealth" in opposition to it is position that determines the importance (or significance) of the
alienation, he refers to the "r i c h human being" and to "rich individual and not the other way round, the rdationship is of an
h u m a n n e e d". This being is rich because he is "the human alienated character and consequently it is to be opposed.
being i n n e e d 0 ( a totality of human life-activities-the man in Human gratification is inconceivable in abstraction from the real
whom his own realization exisls as an inner nuessity, as need" ( 1 1 1- individual. In other words : "human sensuous appropriation" or
1 1 2). This is the criterion that should be applied to the moral assess "self-confinnation" is inconceivable without human individual
ment of every human relation and there arc no other criteria enjoyment. Only the real human individual is capable of realizing
beside it. Any addition could only be of an "external" kind, the unity of opposites (public life-private life; production--mn
i.e. abstractly superimposed on the real man. Thus if one wants sumption; doing-thinking; means---ends;) without which it is un
10 find out whether or not a particular form of the relation between justifiable to speak of the supersession of alienation. This unity means
man and woman is "moral" (human), Marx will answer him : not only that private life has to acquire the practical consciousness
"In this relationship . . is sensuously m a n i f e s t ed, of its social embeddedness, but also that public life has to be per
reduced to an observable fa c t, the extent to which the sonalized, i.e. become the natural mode of existence of the real
human essence has become nature to man, or to which nature has individual; not only that passive consumption must change into
to him become the human essence of man. From this relationship creative (productive, man-enriching) consumption, but also that
one can therefore judge man's whole level of development. . . . In production must become enjoyment; not only that subjectleS'i
the extent to which man's n e e d
this relationship is rcvealed, too, abstract "having" must acquire a concrete being, but also that the
has buome a human need; the extent to which, therdore, the "physical subject" or being cannot transform itself into a real human
186 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION ONTOWGICAL AND MORAL ASPECTS 187
being without "having", without acquiring the "non-alienated hibitions, but a positive function of the society of the real individuals.
ability of mankind" JUT not only that thinking from abstraction must "Legality" is tailored to fit the "average man", i.e. the abstractly
change into practical thinking, directly related to the real-and not "public man", morality the particular social individual. Both corres
imaginary or alienated-netds of man, but also that doing must pond to specific needs of human society, and neither can fulfil the
lose its unconscious coercive character and become self-conscious other's functions as we know them now.
free activity. Institutionalized legality can only externally relate itself to man
All this directly leads to the question of the resolution of the as abstractly public man, but never internally to the real individual.
contradiction between means and ends, betw(';cn necenity and free Its function is fulfilled in :
dom, as Engels puts it, "the reconciliation of mankind with nature (I) formulating certain requirementJ (e.g. educational) in con
and with itselr'. It is obvious that when human life-activity is only nection with established positions and thus regulating the activities
a means to an end, onc cannot speak of freedom, because the human of the individual in a merely institutional framework (i.e. the in
powers that manifest thern.selves in this kind of activity are domin dividual as employee, taxpayer, etc.);
ated by a need external to them. This contradiction cannot be over (2) enforcing the rules and norms laid down for the nonnal
come unless work-which is a mere means in the present re1ation functioning of the existing social institutions by means of punitive
becomes an end in itself. In other words : only if labour becomes sanctions. But legality does not make its own norms, it merely
an internal need for man, only Clen may one refer to work as "free codifies them, and thus it is in an external relation even to its own
activity". content. Legality may therefore be defined as the codification and
This is what Marx means when he speaks of the "rich human enforcement of previously established nonns. (This definition does
being" for whom "his own realization exists as an inner neceHity, not conflict with the ability of legality to extrapolate from some
as n e e d". -His definition of freedom as an "inner necessity" docs basic nonns and thus to fonnulate on its own their corollaries, as
not call for an abstract conceptual "recognition of necessity",U' well as to eliminate, within limits well marked by these basic norms,
but for a positive need. Only if this positive need as an inner neces existing inconsistencies.)
sity for work exists, only then will labour be able to lose its character Th!! norms themselves aist, well before any legal codification,
as a necessity external to man. as needs essential for the functioning of the society. Were they
Since only as positive need, as inner necessity is labour enjoy "inner needs" of man, there would be no need whatsoever for
ment, therefore self-realization, human fulfilment is inseparable from enforcing them externally (if all men happily paid their taxes-
the emergence of this positive need. Freedom is thus the realization because of an "inner need" which should not be confused with an
of man's own pUT]X)SC : self-fulfilment in the self-determined and abstract appeal to the externally superimposed idea of a "moral
externally unhindered exercue of human POWC1's. As self-deter duty" to do so--there would be no need for laws against tax
mination, the ground of this free-exercise of man's powers is not an evasion, etc.). The existence of legality is thus the practical proof of
abstract "categorical imperative" that remains external to the real the impotence of P10rality in this respect. It proves that the social
human being, but an actually existing positive need of self-realizing needs of man as a particular member of society have not become
human labour. Thus means (labour) and ends (need) in this P,oceJJ internal needs for the real individual, but remained external to him
of humanization mutually transform each other into truly human as "needs of the society". (The notion of "moral duty", as used in
activity as enjoyment and self-realization, whereby power and pur the various forms of " Individualethik", is an abstract and alienated
pose, and means and ends appear in a natural (human) unity. expression of this contradiction.) But the continued existence of
,legality is at the same time also a proof of its own impotence n
i this
fundamental respect : it is totally incapable of transforming these
6. Legality, Morality and Education
external "needs of the society" into internal needs of tbe real in
In all this the importance of morality is central. Morality in the dividual. (Legality cannot create even "artificial needs" in man,
Marxian sense is not a collection of abstract prescriptions and pro- like that of "keeping up with the Joness". Advertising fulfils this
ONTOLOGICAL AND MORAL AS PEeTS 189
188 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION
mere institutional changes in these matters, because the abolition
l
function by apal ng to an aienated "status-morality", creating
of existing institutions leaves behind a void that must be filled some
thus the new aruficlal need by associating it with already established
how; and it is certainly not filled by the legal establishment of new
ones.)
institutions which are in themselves only an empty framework in
Yet this reciprocally conditioning irn)XIlcnce should not lead us
need of a content. In formalized institutional change there is no
to dr:a\: pessimistic conclusions. On the contrary : it only shows
guarantee whatsoever against. th rproduction, in a new fonn,
that It IS absurd to expect from any one of the two what it cannot
of the contradictions of the old mstltutJons.
No formalized institution can achieve the ideal of man "for whom
do, and thus it makes us mOTe aware of the real potentialities of
i a constant challenge to morality to
both: The cxistenc of legality s
. his own realization exists as <In inner necessity, as n e e d", because
get nd of Its own Impotence. Morality can never achieve this in an
this would imply the contradi ction of making external to man his
absolute sense without completely abolishing itself, On the other
own realization. Such a task which, to be self-realization in fact,
had, just as oraJity completely divorced from legality is deprived
of Jts challengmg real task and reduced into a dusty abstraction of
cannot conceivably be external, but only internal. This task can
not be done for man except by man himself. Morality is a positive
sophical books, so is legality separated from morality completely
phila.
function of society : of man struggling with the task of his own
deVOid of content and justification, and thus at least potentially an
realization. Morality, therefore, is not external to man only if, and
to the extent to which, it is related to this task, but immediately
easy tool of the most arbitrary determinations. It is not enough to
pin.point in legality the "reilled" appearance of those "moral ideals"
becomes external to man when it abstracts from him. (Dualistic
?
whic have become practical possibilities, through the complCox
. superimpositions.)
The organ of morality as man's self-mediation in his struggle
woklng of hc manifold organs of morality, for the valt majority of
society-which makes possible their codification. One must also
for self-realization is educatio n. And education is the only possible
underline that thif "fixing", however reified, enables morality not
organ of human self-mediation, because education-not in a narrow
institutional sense--embraces all activities that can become an internal
to start again from point zero, but set out from beyond the codified
.werage as its new starting point.
need for man from the most natural human functions to the most

T ere could be no human advancement without this mutually
. . . i
sophisticated ntellectual ones Education is an inherently personal,
internal matter : nobody can educate us without our own active
ondl lonng Interplay of the .two. While morality without legality
QUixOtl wis hful inking. o an abstract transcendental assump-
tlOn, legality Without Its dynamiC content is only an arbitrary frame.
. participation in the process. The good educator is someone who
inspires sel/-edu.cating. Only in this relation can one conceive the
work that enables the substitution of voluntaristic, partial needs for
i to be opposed is not the legal
those of l e existing scx:iety. What s
supersession of mere externality in the totality of life-activities of man,
-incJudi'ng not the total abolition, but the increasing transcen
safeguardmg of a certam level of moral attainment, but its divorce
dence of external legality. But this supersession, beeause of the
from man which results in a reified form of "fixing". (There ma.y
conditions necessary to it, C<lnnot be conceived simply as a static
be many forms of legal institutions whose potentialities should be
point in history beyond which starts the "golden age", but only as

c?nslantly explored ith an increasing humanization of legality in
VI
ne suc form IS wht is called "direct democracy" : virtually
a continuing procesl, with qualitatively different achievements at its
: various stageS.
a vlrglO land , for theoretical and practical rfforts of this kind.)
Those who advocate the abolition of all nonns and sanctions
confuse "measure" with external measure. They forget about the
natu?l-humn and thus internal measure : man himself. Only in
relatIOn to thiS 1';:!lSUre can one define human progrell as a never
nugh decrease in external legality and a corresponding increase
III Internal self-determination or morality proper.

One cannot repat frequently enough ; nothing is achieved by


AESTHETIC ASPECTS 191
importance, but something of the greatest human and thus also
theoretical significance.
Needless to say, just as it is not possible to appreciate Marx's
economic thought and ignore his views on art, it is equally impossible
VII. Aesthetic Aspects to grasp the meaning of his utterances on aesthetic matters without
consantly keepg in mind the economic interconnections. But they
rphic Framework
1 . Meaning, Value and Need: an Anthropomo are interconnectIOns and not one-sided mechanistic determinaliolls.
0/ Evaluation Th comon frame Of reference is man as a naturaL being who is
actv: 10 order to saUsry his needs, not only economically, but
.
ALiENATlON deeply affected, and continues (0 affect, both artistic
crea lion and aesthetic enjoymenl. There arC ery ew art.ISts todaY artlSucally too. Consequently, what we have to discuss first of aU
who would not acknowledge this, even if ClI" .
attItudes towar It is Marx's conception of anthropology.
may greatly differ. Marx's contemporary Influence aong wnters
is closely linked with this fact. He was the first. to ralSt: the l rm Aesthetic judgments are linked-directly or indirectly, expliciLly

about artistic alienation in his powerful analysiS oC te conditions or by implication--with the crucial evaluative question of "ought" .
which cno-uJ{ the artist. He focused attention on certam character But how does one justify value-assertions? If one wants to avoid
istics of cpitalistic development which fOf tcntieth-entury artists arbitrariness and its pscudjustification by an equally arbitrary
are inescapable facts of life, and he did thlS t a 11IT\C when the assumption-i.e. by a categorical reference to the alleged dichotomy
signs of the underlying trend were hardly nou:eabl . To transfer and unbridgeable rift between "is" and "ought"--one must find
the assesent sm
,
of this trend from the "Urn ebel (pnmreval fog) of some basis for the asserted values.
philosophical abstraction into the broad daylght of concrete social In Marx's view this basis is man himself. Every single concept
analysis, elaborating at the same time a practical programme for Its . belongs to an anthropocentric system. This fact is often veiled by
.

reversa was one of Marx's great achievements dificrent patterns and grades of mediation by virtue of which in
nd eg -had Irey strumental concepts may appear altogether free from anthropo
Others before him---especiaUy Schiller a.
na m of capitalIstic centric links and determinations. On the other hand concepts like
discussed the oppositio'n between the "rauo hs
. Y Schill er wanted to liminae "omnipotence", "omniscience", etc., must seem meaningless or self
society and the requirements of art et
means of an , aesthetiC contradictory if not considered in an anthropocentric framework.
the negative effects of this opposition by
onal appeal confined to And there are, of course, innumerable concepts whose anthropocen
education of. mankind" as a mere educati
-and Hegel, while avoiding tric character is directly obvious. However mediated their links to
the consciousness of the individuals
tr
Schiller's illusions, accepted this end as neC ily inherent in the human reality, all concepts acquire their meaning ultimately through
(world sPlTlt) . these links.
historical development of "Weltgeist" .
Marx raised the issue n i a qualitatively diff
erent .war He rpre There is, however, a further connection which we have to keep
ent of capitalIsm, cnvJS3.g in mind : the interconnection between meaning and value. To
scnted this anti-artistic trend as an indictm
of society -by means of understand it, one needs, again, an anthropocentric framework of
ing measures-a radical transformation
reference. The structure of meaning, with all its patterns and degrees
which it should be brought to a halt.
ortant place in Marxs of mediation, is closely linked to the human structure of values,
Aesthetic considerations occupy a very imp
th other aspects of hls which in its tum is founded on the constitution of man as a useif_
theory. They are so closely intertwined Wi
thought that it is impossible adequately
to un etand even hi.S mediating" (seU-constituting) natural being.
the lc .lmks. This may Thus the values we assert, with a simple gesture or by means of
economic conception without grasping its a
ta a m. For Marx, complicated philosophical arguments, have their ultimate founda
sound odd to ears tuned to the key of uuh n Ols
ht to be assigned to the tion and natural basis in human needs. There can be no values
however, art is not the sort of thing that oug .
, If any, philosophical without corresponding needs. Even an alienated value must be based
idle realm of "leisure" and therefore of little
190

n
AESTHETIC ASPECTS 191
importance, but something of the greatest human and thus also
theoretical significance.
Needless to say, just as it is not possible to appreciate Marx's
VII. Aesthetic Aspects economic thought and ignore his views on art, it is equally impossible
to grasp the meaning of his utterances on aesthetic matters without
constantly keeping in mind the economic interconnections. But they
I. Meaning, Value and Need: an Anthropomorphic Framework are interconnections and not one-sided mechanistic determinations.
of Evaluation The common frame of reference is man as a natural being who is
ALIENATION deeply affected, and continues to affect, both artistic active in order to satisfy his needs, not only economicaUy, but
creation and aesthetic enjoyment. There are very few artists today artistically too. Consequently, what we have to discuss first of all
who would not acknowledge this, even if their attitudes towards it is Marx's conception of anthropology.
may greatly differ. Marx's contemporary influence among writers
is closely linked with this fact. He was the first to raise the alarm Aesthetic judgments are linked-directly or n
i directly, explicitly
about artistic alicnatio'n in his powerful analysis of the conditions or by implication-with the crucial evaluative question of "ought".
which engulf the artist. He focused attention on certain character But how does one justify value-assertions ? If one wants to avoid
istics of capitalistic development which for twentieth-century anists arbitrariness and its pseudo-justification by an equally arbitrary
are inescapable facts of life, and he did this at a time when the assumption-i.e. by a categorical reference to the alleged dichotomy
signs of the underlying trend were hardly noticeable. To transfer and unbridgeable rift between "is" and "ought"-one must find
the assesm
s ent of this trend from the "Urnebel" (primreval fog) of some basis for the asserted values.
philosophical abstraction into the broad daylight of concrete social In Marx's view this basis is man himself. Every single concept
analysis, elaborating at the same time a practical programme for its btlongs to an anthropocentric system. This fact is often veiled by
reversa was one of Marx's great achievements. different patterns and grades of mediation by virtue of which in
Others before him-especiaUy Schiller and Hegel-had already strumental concepts may appear altogether free from anthropo
discussed the opposition between the "rationalism" of capitalistic centric links and detenninations. On the other hand concepts like
society and the requirements of art. Yet Schiller wanted to eliminate "omnipotence", "omniscience", etc., must seem meaningless or self
the negative effects of this opposition by means of an "aesthetic contradictory if not considered in an a'nthrop:x:entric framework.
education of mankind" as a mere educational appeal confined to And there are, of course, innumerable concepts whose anthropocen
the consciousness of the individuals-and Hegel, while avoiding tric character is directly obvious. However mediated their links to
Schiller's illusions, accepted this trend as necessarily inherent in the human reality, aU concepts acquire their meaning ultimately through
historical development of "Weltgeist" (world spirit). these links.
Marx raised the issue in a qualitatively different way. He reprc There is, however, a further connection which we have to keep
sented this anti-artistic trend as an indictment of capitalism, envisag in mind : the interconnection between meaning and value. To
ing measures-a radical transfonnation of society-by means of understand it, one needs, again, an anthropocentric framework of
which it should be brought to a halt. reference. The structure of meaning, with all its patterns and degrees
Aesthetic considerations occupy a very important place in Marx's of mediation, is closely linked to the human structure of values,
theory. They are so closely intertwined with other aspects of his which in its tum is founded on the constitution of man as a "self
thought that it is impossible adequately to understand even his mediating" (self-constituting) natural being.
economic conception without grasping its aesthetic links. This may Thus the values we assert, with a simple gesture or by means of
sound odd to ears tuned to the key of utilitarianism. For Marx, complicated philosophical arguments, have their ultimate founda
however, art is not the sort of thing that ought to be assigned to the tion and natural basis in human needs. There can be no values
idle realm of "leisure" and therefore of little, if any, philosophical without corresponding needs. Even an alie-nated value must be based
190
192 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION AESTHETIC ASPECTS 193
on a-correspondingly alienated-need. Gold is a worthless metal stitution" too : a "self-mediatingly natural" or "naturally self
without the need that transforms it into something greatly appreci mediating self-constitution" of man. "Self-constitution" exists
ated. The same consideratio'o applies to all kinds and forms of value. simultaneously as need ("is" ) and value ("ought") in man. (It also
Art, too, represents value only insofar as there is a human need that exists of course, as an observable fact, linked to the complex laws of
finds fulfilment in the creation and enjoyment of works of art. nature and human history.) Self-constituting self-realization of man
Values are therefore necessarily linked to beings who have needs, in the course of his historical confrontation with nature and with
and the nature of these needs determines the character of the values. himself, is both man's need and value : and there can be no value
The values of a natural being, however sophisticated they may be, whatsoever beyond it. All values and disvalues which were produced
must be rooted in nature. The so-called spiritual values of man are in i the historical development of mankind are both derivative and
n
fact aspects of the full realization of his personality asa natural being. constitutive of this fundamental value of humanness. Value is an
The dialectical interconnection between meaning, value and inseparable dimension of reality ("is", "fact"), but-it goes without
need-which will be discuSied later under a different aspect saying---only of human reality. And the potentialities of man
can only be grasped in the inherently historical concept of the "self both for "good" and for "evil", i.e. for self-realization and self
mediating self-constitution" of the human natural being. Such a destruction-cannot be projected back to some "original state",
conception, by accounting for the genesis of human values, dissolves because human potentialities, too, are constituted in the unending
the false dichotomy of "is" and "ought". To put it in another way : course of humanly "self-mediating self-constitution".
this dichotomy has to be postulated by abstract philosophers be It must be emphasized, however, that this self-constitution is
cause of their historcally conditioned inability to account for the inherently conditioned by nature. Man is free only insofar as the
genesis of human values. They simply assume the values, in a meta conditions of development are the result of self-constitution itself.
physical form, and run away from the challenge of justification by This does not mean, however, that freedom can be opposed to nature
postulating a dichotomy as well as a dualistic structure of reality that in man. It would be a mistake to share the position adopted by
necessarily goes with it. Thus they "remedy" petitio principij by many philosophers that freedom and value are not dimensions of
begging the question. nature. According to Marx they are ; but they must be grasped as
By contrast, Marx's approach which explains the emergence of dimensions of "humanly self-mediating nature". One must always
values by the historical development of human needs, is free from return to the natural basis of human development, otherwise one
assumptions and arbitrary postulates. It sets out from an irrefutable gets lost in the clouds of philosophical abstraction and relativism.
fact : man's constitution as a natural being. But Marx grasps this If there are ages in which philosophy postulates an opposition
fact in its dialectical complexity, and therefore he does not have to between nature and freedom, fact and value, "is" and "ought", the
end up with the contradiction of a dualistic superimposition. appearance of such oppositions must be explained in terms of con
Mechanistically considered, there is nothing of "ought" about the crete historical analysis which reaches down to the roots of these
fact that man, a natural being, has needs. The dialectical concep dichotomies. As we shall see, the Marxian principle that asserts the
tion, however,-which identifies man as a specific part of nature : natural foundation of human self-realization is crucially important
the "self-mediating natural being"-brings out into the open the for the understanding of the nature of artistic experience-as
genesis of value as human "sel/-constitution". The primitive con regards both the artist and his public-and its increasing alienation
stitution of man is a "brute natural fact", and as such it has nothing with the advance of capitalism.
to do with value. But this "as such" is a mere abstraction, linked to
either a transcendental assumption (e.g. the Kantian "primacy of Characteristically, parallel to the extension of "rationalism" in
practical reason") or to a mechanistic disregard for the specific herent in capitalistic development---or, to describe it more precisely,
in nature as man, or indeed to both. For the so-called "brute natural the growing abstraction from human needs in favour of the "needs"
facticity" in the primitive constitution of man is at the same time of the market-"nature" and "realism" become pejorative terms
at any stage of human development, a constitution as "self-con: in every sphere. First-when this trend is not yet overpowering-
194 MARX'S THEORY o.F ALiENATlO!'J AESTHETIC ....SPECTS 195
" nature" s
i taken up as a romantic ideal and it is opposed to the of the "qualities of pleasure" expressed in the contemptuous motto :
humanly impoverishing "rationalism of civilization" (Rousseau, "better a Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied", can be a surprise
Schiller). Later the once criticized trend is accepted and evell only to those who are unable to understand the underlying trend
idealized. While Adam Smith was still aware of the human impover oC dehumanization.
s
i hment involved in the advantageous system of capitalistic "ration On the other hand, the "anti-naturalistic" crilicisrns of utilitari
alization", his followers lose in the end all sensitivity for this side of anism are not one whit better. What they oppose is not nature in
lhe question. The more industry develops, the more one-sidedly the man, but an alienated conception of nature-without the slightest
political economists describe the reduction of human activity to awareness of this distinction, of course. Their criticism that "one can
mechanical motion as the ideal state of things. Marx quotes in his not derive values from natural characteristics" applies only to a con
Manuscripts 0/ 1844 a significant passage from James Mill's ception of "natural" which is divorced from the specifically natural,
Elements 0/ Political Economy which reads as follows : "The agency i.e. human. The framework of such a discourse is riddled with
of man can be traced to very simple elements. He can, in fact, do arbitrary assumptions and intuitionistic assertions and declarations.
nothing morc than produce motion. He can move things towards one And the structure is, again, characterized by a dualistic super
another, and he can separate them from one anothcr: the proper/iI'S imposition of arbitrarily assumed "intrinsic values" over the crude
of maller per/arm all the rest. . . . As men in general cannot per naturalness of the world of man. Thus "naturalistic" a'nd "anti
form ma11Y operations with the same quickness and dexterity with naturalistic" trends of philosophy-<iiffering only in form from
which they can by practice learn to perform a few, it is always an each other-arc equally alienated expressions of the growing de
advantage to limit as much as possible the number of operations humanization. They are, both, unable to grasp the specifically
imposed upon each. For dividing labour, and distributing the natural as the human foundation of the asserted values.
powers of man and machinery, to the greatest advantage, it is in
most cases necessary to operate upon a large scale; in other words
2. Marx's Concept 0/ Realism
to produce the commodities in greater masses. It is this advantage
which gives existence to the great manufactories" (132). It does not In art we witness similar developments. ]f utilitarianism is a trivial
even occur to James Mill that "advantage" could-and should and shallow philosophy, its artistic counterpart, "naturaism",
l s
i a
mean something else beside the competitive advantage of large-scale graphic embodiment of disconnected triviality and utter shallowness.
capitalistic f2:ctories for the market. An advantage which is, in fact, This is so because nature depicted by naturalistic anists, often in
whittled away by the "natural law" of blind competition, leaving the most tediously dtailed "faithful" manner, is dehumanized
behind a maximized dehumanization inherent in the maximization nature.
of "rationalizing" (i.e. irrational, uncontrolled) mechanization and There is but one sense in which "faithfulness" is relevant to art:
fragmentation. it is a faithfulness in representing the reality of man. Insofar as
By then the "rationality" of capitalism has got the upper hand, nature matters, it is already comprehended in the reality of man.
suppressing the awareness of man's inherent links to nature. No Man's reality, however, is not given in a direct natural (phenomenal)
wonder, therefore, that the nature to be fitted into this revised picture immediacy, but only in an immensely complex dialectically struc
s
i degraded, dehumanized nature. Utilitarianism that philosophic tured, human totality. Consequently, there is a world of difference
ally renects this state of affairs operates, characteristically, with the between the faithfulness of shallow naturalism and that of realism
concept of "pleasure" as its central category : it tries to explain which aims at the comprehension of this dialectical totality of man.
human morality with reference to a phenomenon which is far from In the realist work of art every represented natural or man-made
being specifically human. Thus the "naturalism" of the utilitarians object must be humanized, i.e. the attention must be focused on
expresses a conception of nature which is divorced and alienated its human significance from a historically and socially specific point
from man. That such a conception must lead to a dualistic super of view. (Van Gogh's chair is oC great artistic significance precisely
impositio'n, in the form of an aristocratic and arbitrary classification because of the artist's powerful humanization of an otherwise in-
196 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION AESTHETIC ASPECTS 197

significant everyday object.) Reaism,


l with regard to its means, abstract fonn. They defeat themselves by accepting the false alterna
methods, formal and stylistic elements, is necessarily subject to tive of abstraction versus naturalism as the only possible opposi
change, because it reRects a constantly changing, and not a static, tion. Thus, ironically, they capitulate before the artistic alienation
reality. which they had t out to oppose.
What remains unchanged in realism and thus enables us to apply It would be an error to say that these trends oppose realism.
this general term to the athetjc evaluation of works of many ages Yet, it would be worse not to see that, often even programmatically,
is this : realism reveals, with artistic adequacy, those fundamental they oppose themselves to what they assume to be realism. Their
trends and necessary connections which are often deeply hidden common denominator is in fact this indirect, or explicit, opposition.
beneath deceptive appearances, but which arc of a vital importance (Explicit in names like "surrealism", "constructivism", etc.). They
for a real understanding of the human motivations and actions of 3$ume to be realism what suits their need to establish their own
the various historical situations. Th.i5 is why mere means and identity through the adoption of purely formal and stylistic char
stylistic aptitudes could never make someone become a realist artist. acteristics. In such a frame of rererence realism is arbitrarily identi
For all such means, etc., change according to the general require fied with a collection of rather pedestrian fonnal and stylistic features
ments and characteristics of the particular age, and in accordance which, in fact, amount to nothing more than superficial naturalism.
with the concrete needs of the given subject-matter, moulded by (Significantly, the investigation of the fundamental differences .be
the artist in a concrete situation. What will determine whether he is .
tween realism and naturalism cannot find a place m theoretical
a realist or not is what he selects from a mass of particular experi writings which sympathize with the fonnalistic conception of both
ences to sta'nd for the given, historically and socially specific, reality. realism and "avantguard" as opposed to each other.) And pointing
If he is not able to select humanly significant particulars which out the highly anachronistic character of this pedestrian "realism"
reveal the fundamental trends and characteristics of the changing strves to establish the "avantguard" character of their own efforts.
human reality, but-for one reason or another-satisfies himself This artistic crisis is deeply rooted in the all-embracing power of
with depicting reality as it appears to him in its immediacy, no alienation. As this power intensifies, the artist is increasingly denied
"faithfulness of detail" will raise him above the level of superficial the possibility of identifying himself with the fundamental trends
naturalism. of the historically given human reality. And what could be more
What is wrong with naturalism is precisely its reproduction of damaging for art than this? For, as Keats wrote, "A poet is the
deceiving appearance."!. Naturalism takes it for granted that the human most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Iden
meaning of reality is given in the immediacy of the appearances, tity-he is continually filling some other Body. The Sun, the Moon,
while it is in fact always, and in particular in an age so tom by the Sea and Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are
contradictions a s ours, concealed by pseudo-values and non-lasting poetical and havc about them an unchangeable attribute-the poet
stabilities. The violent rejectio'n of the natura1istic picture by so has none; no Identity-he is certainly the most unpoetical of all
many modem artists is therefore quite understandable. But in the God's creatures."'" Since true artistic character is born from the
various other "isms" we find a fonnally different adoption of the relationship between the poet of "no Identity" and reality of "per
practice of taking things in their immediacy, only now associated manent attributes"-pennanent of course only in the dialectical
with the strong suggestion that the reality of man is devoid of any sense of "continuity in discontinuity"-the progressive weaken
meanmg. ing of this relationship makes increasingly more problematic the
Thus the various "isms" (imagism, expressionism, dadaism, ana artistic character and value of modern works of art. Artists become
lytic and synthetic cubism, futurism, surrealism, constructivism, etc.), more and more I..ntangled ni abstract formal preoccupations. In their
just like the anti-naturalistic philosophical schools, do not make the contradictory attempt to find a formal remedy to their difficulties,
situation one whit better. They fail to distinguish between humanized they only aggravate the situation, themselves contributing to the
and dehumanized nature and thus reject nature altogether, only to further weakening and ultimate break-up of the relationship which
be compelled in the end to readapt it in an equally dehumanized is the sole force that can confer value on a work of art.
198 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION AESTHETIC ASPCTS 199

As the artist's isolation intc'nsifies, so multiply the difficulties of Marx's view of realism implies that :
effective protest against it. Since the difficulties of establishing artistic ( 1 ) there is something significant-with characteristics of its
identity through an intimate relationship with the given, however own - to be depicted, and failure to grasp those characteristics
complex, human reality arc enanncus, (i.e. the difficulties of crut through the specific patentialities and means of art counts as mis
ing one's identity through a socially significant content) many artists representation or distortion, and as such is aesthetically unaccept
desperately attempt to solve this problem by opposing the "tradi able;
tional" form of artistic self-identification (tradition in the end (2) one must be able to apply certain standards to the organs of
becomes a dirty word) and confine themselves to external' fonnal depiction, otherwise it would be impossible to raise the question of
characteristics. But through defining their own identity in purely misrepresentation and distortion j
formal terms they become their own jailers, imposing upon every (3) similarly, one must be able to apply certain standards to the
panicular experience the same abstract scheme. Their prison is organs of aesthetic experience, othenvise there could be no aesthetic
crtctcd {rom self-imposed and often extremely ccrebralized formal judgment;
rules and stylistic patterns. Only the greatest of them are able to (4) the standards of creative depiction, aesthetic experience and
break out of this selferected prison for whom, as for Picasso, belong critical judgment must have some common denominator, othenvise
ing to an "ism" is never more than a transitory stage on the road there s
i no guarantee against internal contradiction that would
of great realistic achievements. inevitably make vacuous the concept of realism.
In other words : both the object of depiction and the artistic
Realism is the central notion of Marxian aesthetics, as has been form in which it appears, just as much as the aesthetic experience
made clear in more than one of Lukacs' writings.ltO And no wonder itself under its various aspects, must have objective criteria of
that this concept occupies such a key position. It could not be other assesment.
s

wise, seeing that for Marx realism is not just one among the in
numerable artistic trends, confined to one period or another (like But why depiction? The simple answer is : because man, as a
"romanticism", "imagism", etc.), but the only mode of reflection natural, "sensuous" being, is constituted the way he is. As Marx
of reality which is adequate to the specific powers and means at the puts it : "To be sensuous is to s u f f e r. Man as an objective,
disposal of the artist. The inimitable masters of Greek art are great sensuous being is therefore a s u f f e r i n g being-and because he
realists, and .so is Bab.ac. There is absolutely nothing stylistically feels what he suffers, a p a s s i o n a t e being. Passion is the essential
common to them. But despite the centuries, social, cultural, linguistic force of man energetically bent on its object" (158-In Gennan :
barriers, etc., that separate them, they can be brought to a com "Sinnlich scin ist l e i d e n d scin.")
mon denominator because, in accordance with the specific traits Here we have the whole dialectic of "mimesis", identified as
of their historical situations, they achieve an artistically adequate anthropomorphically rooted in the objective constitution of man.
depiction of the fundamental human relations of their times. It is in As a natural being man "suffers" (senses) his own constitution (needs
virtue of this that they may be called great realists. and powers in their interrtlations) as well as the manifold effects
Thus "realism" is equivalent to "artistic adequacy", that is the of nature and society on his social-individual being. Thus-to con
artistically proper depiction of the manifold and constantly chang tinue a point earlier discussed-all meaning is "value.bound", be
ing rclations in which man finds himself. Consequently, any fonn cause it originates through this complex suffering relationship of the
of "anti.realism"-whether a programmatic effort or simply an un human subject to its objects. But this relationship is qualitatively
conscious practice-is necessarily an expression of alienation. (The different from passive registering. This iatter is a mechanical process
fonnerly mentioned "rationalism" and "abstraction" of capitalistic and is absolutely unable to originate any meaning whatsoever. Mean
society nbviously nourish these antirealistic trends and efforts ing is only pos;ible because "man feels what he suffers" (or senses),
Characteristically enough, the artistic headlines of our century are unlike a photographic plate which is totally indifferent towards the
captured by such trends.) objects whose reflections affect it.
200 MARX'S THEORY OF ALlENATION A.ESTHETIC A.SPECTS 201
In this "feeling what man senses" are established the primitive adjective human, which throws new light on the endlessly debated
values of man, and every single object that affects him, no matter philosophical question of what place does and ought the sensuous
in what way and form, occupies a definite place in the human to occupy on the human scale of valutS. This question is, needless
system of values in which meaning and value are inseparably inter to say, crucial also for the assesent sm of the significance of art. It
related. Thus "suffering" as discussed by Mane is value-creating, is enough to think of the views of numerous philosophers, from Plato
and therefore active,-paradoxicai as it might seem to some. There to Hegel and beyond, to see the importance of this question.
is no "suffering" without feeling, only mechanical registration. And Marx strongly opposes the idealist tradition that assigns an in
also, there is no "feeling" without "passion", in its rvlarxian sense, ferior place to the sensuous, and consequently also to art. "To the
because man, to be in relation at all with his objects, must be e ye"-he writes-Clan object comtS to be other than it is to the
"energetically bent on them". which implies the presence of e a r. The peculiarity of each essential power is precisely its
passion-although of various intensity-in all human relations, in p e c u i i ar e s s e n c e, and therefore also the peculiar mode of
cluding the most mediated ones. its objectification, of its 0 b j e c t i v e I y a c t u a I living b e i ng. Thus
Suffering, feeling and passion, therefore, constitute a dialectical man is affirmed in the objective world not only in the act of thinking,
unity which is inhtrenlly active. Utilitarianism fails to grasp this but with a I I his senses" (108).1tI
unity and ends up with idtntifying human gratification with the As we can see the task of emancipation of all human senses and
passive enjoyment of "pleasure". The real situation is far more attributtS in philosophical terms is first of all a rehabilitation of the
complex, "for suffering, apprehended humanly, is an enjoyment 0/ senses and their rescue from the inferior place assigned to them by
sell in man" (106). Enjoyment is, therefore, the individual's appre idealist bias. It can be done because they are not just senses, but
hension of the human adequacy of its powers to their objects, even human se"nses. "It is obvious that the h u m a n eye gratifitS itself
though this relation in many cases assume the fonn of intense suffer in a way different from the crude, non-human eye; the human
ing. This view enables Marx to avoid the circularity of utilitarianism e a r different from the crude, non-human ear, etc." (107) "The
which explains pleasure in terms of enjoyment and enjoyment in s e n s e caught up in crude practical need has only a r e s t r i c t e d
tenus of pleasure. sense. For the starving man it is not the human form of food that
The inherently active character of the relationship between suffer exists, but only its abstract being Qj food; it could just as well be
ing, feeling a'nd passion makes the objections levelled against there in its crudest fonn, and it would be impossible to say wherein
mimesis-which in fact confuse it with passive registration-grossly this feeding-activity differs from that of a n i m a ls. The care
misplaced. Artistically specific and adequate mimesis is a condition burdened man in need has no sense lor the finest play; the dealer
sine qua non for art, because through it alone can works of art in minerals sees only the mercantile value but not the beauty and
acquire a meaning. (Those who reject mimesis must at the same the unique nature of the mineral : he has no mineralogical sense.
time also opt for the meaninglessness of art.) And the above-men Thus, the objectification of the human essence both in its theoretical
tioned dialectical unity of suffering-feeling-passion ensures the active, and practical aspects is required to 'f1Ulke man's s e n s e h u rn a n,
creative character of artistically proper mimens. This, again, shows as well as to create the h u m a n s e n s e corresponding to the entirt
that the alttrnative between naturalistic dehumanization 0/ mimesis wealth of human and natural substance"(108-109).
and meaningless abstractionism is a false alternative, brought into Thus, human senses cannot be considered as simply given by
being by the advance of alienation in the field of art. nature. What is specifically human in them is a creation by man
himself. As the world of nature becomes humanized-showing the
3. The "Emancipation 01 the Human Senses". marks of human activity--so do the senses, related to humanly
more and more affected objects, become specifically human and in
Marx speaks of "the complete e m a n c i p a t i o n 01 all human creasingly more refined.In
senses and attributes" (lOG) and this sums up perhaps better than This historical process of the refinement and humanization of
anything else his philosophical programme. The accent is on the the senses is an inherently social process. "The eye has become a
202 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION AESTHETIC ASPECTS 203

h u m a n eye, just as its o b j e c t has become a social, h u m a n their utilitarian sides only (e.g. commercial value and not minera
o bject an object emanating from man for man. The s e n s e s
- logical beauty), and this utility is not of human-social-but of
have therefore become directly in their practice t h e 0 r e t i c i a n s. narrowly individual use. Thus need and enjoyment, in a direct
They relate themselves to the t h i n g for the sake of the thing. reversal of the original process of selfmediating humanization,
but the thing is an 0 b j e c t i v e h u m a n relation to itself and to acquire a new "egoistical nature" in the world of capitalistic frag
man, and vice versa. Need and enjoyment have consequently lost mentation. And since the senses can onl' be called "theoreticians"
their e g o i s t i c a l nature, and nature has lost its mere utility by in virtue of their "distance" from the immediacy of naturalanimal
use becoming h Ii m a n use" (106-107). need-i.e. in virtue of the fact that the primitive need has become
Human senses, therefore, are of an immense variety and richness. a "selfmediated need" ; a humanly mediated, humanly tra'nsforrned
They are innumerable : their number corresponds to the infinite need-seeing that now the human mediation of need is being sup
wealth of objects to which human senses relate themselves. Examples pressed in the process of egoistic privatization and fragmentation,
like "musical ear", "mineralogical sense" indicate the manifold the senses lose their "theoretician" character.
character of the objects to which they refer. The same object dis "Human enjoyment" implies a higher than narrowly individual
plays many features--e.g. the beauty of the mineral as contrasted level of gratification in the sfXmtaneity of experience. Such level is
with its exploi'table physical properties or its mercantile value attainable only because the humanly gratified sense is interrelated
which become real for the individual only if he possese
s s the with all the other human senses and powers in the very act of
sensitivity (i.e. "mineralogical sense", "musical ear", etc.) to grasp enjoyment itself. (The foundation of this interrelatedness- is the his
them. torical genesis-i.e. self.mediating socialization and humanization
The truly human senses are characterized by the highest complex of these senses and powers.) If, therefore, the complex social inter
ity. The possesis on of eyes is not enough for grasping visual beauty. relatedness of the particular senses is disrupted by the "crude solitari
One must possess for that the sense of beauty. Human senses are ness" of egoistic selfgratification, this means n
i evitably that enjoy
intertwined not only among themselves but, also, every one of them ment itself loses its general human significancf--(;ea5es to be human
with all the other human powers, including of course the powcr of enjoyment, by becoming mere selfsatisfaction of the isolated in
reasoning. Only in virtue of these interconnections is the sense of dividual-and its level sinks into crude immediacy to which no
beauty possible. "Man appropriates his total essence in a total man standard can apply.
ncr, that is to. say, as a whole man" (1 06). Separating senser-which Significantly enough : this development goes hand in hand with
have become "directly in their practice theoreticians"-from reason a general crisis of aesthetic values and standards. And no wonder.
ing, in order to subordinate the former to the latter is, therefore, for if the general significance of human enjoyment s
i replaced by the
artificial and arbitrary. This is why the idealist picture of the senses crude immediacy of private self-gratification, there can be no com
must be rejected. mon measure or standard of evaluation. Its place is taken either by
Yet the task of "emancipating all human senses and attributes" is a superficial description of the mechanical constitutents and re
far from being solved by the right apprehension of the complex inter sponses of the given process, or by a pretentious and ofte'n irration
relations of human powers. The problem is, as Marx sees it, that alistic monologue of introspection concerning one's own isolated
ma'n, because of alienation, does not appropriate "his total essence "aesthetic experience". They are both astronomical distances away
as a whole man", but confines his attention to the sphere of mere eve'n from the preconditions of aesthetic evaluation.
utility. This carries with it an extreme impoverishment of the human The two observed phenomena-the m
i poverishment of the senses
senses. and of their gratification on one hand, and the endless attacks on the
If "the h u m a n es<>ence of nature first exists only for s o c i a I objectivity of aesthetic standards and values on the other--are thus
man" (103), privatization inherent in capitalistic development must closely interlinked. Such attacks, in their sheer negativity and repeti
mean that nature loses its humanized character, becomes alien to man. tiousness, become a substitute for aesthetic thinking, defending or
Objects that confront the isolated individual appear to him with even glorifying the types of aesthetic experience that characterize
204 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION AESTH.ETIC ASPECTS 205

the conditions of privatization, fragmentation, "crude solitariness" pervasive commercialization than the artist, which makes the latter's
and egoistic selfgratification. task doubly difficult.
All this is summed up in saying that the place of all physical and (2) The artist has become free to choose in every respect the
subject-matter of his works, but at the price of having to put up
sense of h a v i n g" ( lO6). Needs that are devel
mental senses has been occupied by "the sheer estrangement of
a II the senses-the with constant doubts about their relevance. One of the central
oped in these conditions are those that directly correspond to themes of modern art is in Cact the problematic character of works
the immediacy of private utility and private appropriation. The that are created in a situation in which the artist is "the omega and
general outcome is human impoverishment on a massive scale the alpha"-and "measures himself willi himself". Thus, ironically,
running parallel to the material enrichment of the isolated the freedom of the artist to choooe the subject-matter of his work
turns out to be an extreme restriction that brings with it endlessly
recurring themes and problems. And to make the situation worse,
individual.
As we can see the real situation amazingly resembles its idealistic
depiction which was passionately rejected by Marx. The vital the "prosaic" character of everyday experience induces many artists
difference. however, which made his rejection necessary, will be to look for artifices of all kinds, from the sJogan of "l'art pour
evident if we remind ourselves that while the idealists described l'art'>IU to various forms of "abstract art". This, again, makes the
those objectionable features as being inherent in the senses them modern artist's thematic freedom appear an extremely problematic
selves---excluding therefore the possibility of significant changes attainment, a Pyrrhic victory indeed.
Marx emphasized that we are dealing with a historical phenomenon: (3) As to the public, the main effect of alienation in this regard
a dehumanized state of affairs due to capitalistic alienation. In this is the appearance of a "public" which is barred from participating
concrete historical definition of the problem he was able not only in the processes of artistic creation. The "Cree" modern artist presents
this public with a ready-made product-a saleable commodity in
fact. All that is left to the public is to assume the role of a passive
to assert the possibility of transcending the capitalistic dehumaniza
tion of the senses but also, positively, to identify in the "complete
emancipation of a II human senses and attributes" the raison consumer. In this impersonal relation-where the recipient "Public"
d'2tre of socialism. is an abstract entity-there can be only one measure of approval
and success : money. The term "bestseller" revealingly expresses the
The negative effects on art of the fonnerly described develop relationship from which ' personality-<>n both sides-has totally
ment have to be considered in relation to : ( I ) the artist himself; disappeared. All that is left behind is an empty "value-word" which
(2) the subject-matter of his work; (3) the "public" of modern art. can equally apply to the work of great artistic genius and the clever
(I) With the advance of alienation the artist's isolation increases. gimmick-seller. The depersonalization of this relationship thus
He has been set free from all the bonds against which the ineYitably carries with it the disappearance of aesthetic value, whose
Renaissance artists had to fight, but only at the price of submitting place is taken over by pseudo-values of the "bestseller" type.
himself to the impersonal power of the art market. Artists n i pre
capitalist societies were, on the whole, integrated with the social 4. Production and Consumption and Their Relation to Art
As we have already seen Marx criticizes private property because
body to which they belonged. By contrast, artists under capitalism
have to experience the fate of being "outsiders" or even "outcasts".
And the fact that the "universal galvano-chemical power oC society" it has made us "so stupid and one-sided that an object is only
(money) rules over his work, means that the latter loses its direct o u r s when we have it-when it exists for us as capital, or when
setlSe and, subjected to the general laws of commercialization, it is directly possesd se , eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc.-in short
becomes a mere means to an alien end. To reconquer the sense when it is u t i l i z e d by us" ( 1 06). Elsewhere he makes the point
of his work the artist has to break through the paralysing inter that "wherever the sensuous affirmation is the direct annulment of
the object in its independent form (as in eating, drinking, working
up the object, etc.), this is the affirmation of the object" (136).
mediary of the art market and establish an inherently artistic
relation with his public. The public itself is no less affected by all-
206 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION AESTHETIC ASPECTS 207

s
These points are very important for the assesment of alienation scarcity". Human relations of the first attitude are characterized

in art. Art, just as much as any other activity, involves consumption, by the paralysing flood of impersopwiization, and of the second :

and the nature of every particular form of consumption reveals the by bureaucratization and direct admillistrative interference with all
specific character of the activity in question. If, therefore, a work bodies and processes of decision-making. And a common feature is

of art is consumed as a mere object of utility, this shows that there a tremendous waste of creative human energies that can be activated

is something wrong with its specific being as a work of art. Iv;, only be means of grasping the proper relationship between consump

Marx says, "conJumption creates the dn'lJe for production".1U This tion and production in all spheres of human activity, from economy
puts into relief a relationsh.ip of interaction which is ohen forgonen. to art.
In view of such interaction it is clear that if the work of art is Consumption is neither merely individualistic, nor passive, even
consumed as a commercial object, the "drive for production" which if this false appearance may be created by the temporary success of

is created by this kind of consumption is one that produces com the above-mentioned efforts oC manipulation. (The consequences

mercial objects (i.e. commodity production). of such efforts are Car-reaching and, of course, self-perpetuating :

In this context it is vital to keep in mind the enormous com i.e. they make the adoption oC the correct approach increasingly

plexity of the problem of consumption, and oppose it to the one more difficult.) The individual aspect oC consumption is stressed by

sided views we encounter. It is customary to treat consumption as Marx in this way : "in consumption the product; become objects
something passive and merely individualistic. In this picture man is of pleasure, of individual appropriation."lU There would be no
represented as an isolated individual who confronts the ready-made production without the need for consumption. (This need is related

objects of his consumption, whether on trees or in the baskets of both to the existing products and to the powers and vital energies
supermarkets. Two different, but equally harmful practical attitudes of man-a being of nature. The powers of man can only be
follow from this conception. experienced in the self-producing, self-consuming and self-repro
The first subordinates all major functions of society-from ducing act of production. Thus the need for consumption is at the
industrial production to education and art-to the task of filling same time also a need for production, and conversely the need for
thooe baskets, ignoring the anti-human effects of this process. The production is simultaneously also a need for consumption.)
much advertised "individual" of this relationship is "commodity One must, furthermore, emphasize that production is also a fomI
of social consumption in the course of which man is "consumed" as
a mere individual . (the powers given to him by nature) and
man" who is a slave of his consumption, and of the intricate
institutions tht enable him to be a passive commodity-man.
By contrast, the second practical attitude minimizes the reproduced as a social individual, with all the powers that enable
importance of individual consumption and creates institutions him to be engaged in a human form of production and consump
capable of enforcing the laws that regulate the functioning of a tion. Thus the social and individual factors are closely intertwined
system of production with restricted individual consumption. But, in both consumption and production. And it is precisely this

ironically, this approach of restricted individual consumption trans dialectical interrelationship that saves consumption from being
passivc and makes it become something creative, even if-to take
the extreme case-what is produced is an alienated system of human
forms the view formerly critical of alienated commodity-man into
his (unintended) idealization. (Cf. the problematic measure of
socialist achievements ; "overtaking the leading capitalist country activities. One should not forget that together with such a system
in per capita production".) its conditions of supersession are also created.

The contradictions of both approaches derive from a common The more production is conceived a'nd carried on as subordinated
source : the neglect of the profound structural implications of to individual consumption, the poorer it is bound to become
treating consumption as a passive entity to be manipulated. (The (moving in the narrow circle of, maybe, half a dozen "mass
historical causes of such neglect are, of course, very different in the consumer-goods"). On the other hand the poorer production becomes
two cases). In the first case the contradictions become manifest in he greater is human impoverishment which, in its tum, has its
the form of "chronic affluence", in the second : of "chronic Impoverishing effect again on production-and so on.
,.

20B MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION AESTHETIC ASPECTS 2U9


There seems to be no way out of this vicious circle, because of of a work of art merely as one's private property IS a pseudo
the extremely complex interaction of cause and effect in this consumption ;
dialectical interrelationship. One cannot introduce improvements on (3) in the course of artistic creation the natural object itself which
the production side without at the same time enriching (though is reflected in the work of art is not changed; there is no "working
not simply in terms of money) the individual consumer. But how up" of the object as a natural object;
can one succeed in this latter task without carrying out structural (4) as consumers of the basic objects of utility we arc motivated
changes (not merely legal-institutional chang) in the whole complex by direct natural needs (need for food and shelter, etc.). By contrast,
of production? it is a pre-condition of art that man should achieve a certain
Obviously neither side can be simply subordinated to the other distance (freedom) from his direct natural needs. "Admiuedly"
without distortions to both, with the inevitable waste of creative writes Marx-"animals also produce. They build themselves nests,
human energies already mentioned. And this is the point where dwellings, like the bees, beavers, ants, etc. But an animal only
we can clearly see the overriding importance of ideals in efforts produces what it immediately needs for itself or its young. It
that aim at improving a given state of affairs. Since onc cannot produces oneJidedly, whilst man produces universally. It produces
rely for a dynamic change in the structure of production on the only under the dominion of immediate physical need, whilst man
impoverished needs of alienated commodity.man, one must turn produces even when he is free from physical need and only truly
to the ideal of a "rich social individual" (Marx) whose needs are produces in freedom therefrom. . . . An animal forms things in
capable of providing a new scope for production. But such an ideal accordance with the standard and the need of the species to which
must be firmly rooted in reality-unlike the "positive hero" of it belongs, whilst man knows how to produce in accordance with
"revolutionary romanticism" whose distinctive feature is not a rich the standard of every species, and knows how to apply everywhere
range of human needs but a fictitious overcoming of the needs of the inherent Jtandard to the object. Man therefore also forms things
individual consumption-otherwise it remains an abstraction as in accordance with the laws of beauty" (75-76). Thus, since the
incapable of solving the problems at stake as the easily manipulated consumption of the work of art cannot be motivated by a direct
"consumerindividual". Not only needs create ideals ; ideals also natural need, artistic consumption will take place only if there is a
create needs. But only those ideals have a chance of succeeding in need of some other kind ;
this which are latent in the given human relationships, namely (5) after consumption the work of art remains as it was bcfore
which already exist potentially. Only from the realization of these but only in its physical being ; its aesthetic substance is constantly
ideals may one hope for a solution of the contradiction between recreated in the activity of conJumption. The work of art has no
production and consumption. strictly "independent" aesthetic being. Poison remains poison-in
virtue of the testable effects of its chemical composition--even if
The case of art is particularly illuminating in this respect. The no one is prepared to take it. But the work of art becomes a mere
work of art, because of its specific character, requires a specific natural or utilitarian object if there is no artistically adequate
mode of consumption. The main reason why art suffers in capitalistic consumer for it.
society is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to secure in the pre
vailing circumstances the necessary conditions for the mode of Considering points (1) and (2) it becomes clear that in the
consumption adequate to the true nature of the work of art. We have circumstances when an object is only ours "when it is directly
to keep in mind that : possessed, eaten, drunk, worn, inhabited, etc., in short when it is
(1) the work of art cannot be consumed simply as an object of u t i l i z e d by us" , the work of art cannot be consumed as a work
utility, even if as a natural object it may serve a useful purpose of art, but only as an object of utility. The proper human relation
(e.g. architecture, pottery, etc.); ship underlying artistic production is thus disrupted, and the artist
(2) the possession of a work of art as one's exclusive property is is forced to think of himself as the "omega and alpha"--or
completely irrelevant to its aesthetic consumption : the appropriation producer and collJumer-of his own work.
210 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION AESTHETIC ASPECTS 211
This situation is further aggravated by the characteristics men to which they can directly serve that one-sided gratification. In
tioned in points (3), (4) and (5). The fact that in artistic production other words : impoverishment means both the narrowing down oC
there is no "working up" of the reflected natural objects may the range of human objects of enjoyment and the loss of particular
create-u'oder certain circumstances : when the artist is socially richness and intt!nsity of the retained narrow range of objects_
isolated-the illusion that the artist's relationship to the outside It is not difficult to see that art particularly suffers as a result of
world is confined to. stone, metal, wood, paint, sound and word, these developments, because works of art are not suitable for one
whereas in every other respect the artist is absolutely free to do sided gratification. The damage inflicted on art amounts to more
whatever he wants. From here can issue both the contempt for than simply cancelling one item from the list of objects of
mimesis and the excessive .preoccupation with the manipulation of gratification. Range and intensity--or, in other words, "extensive
dead matter. That "nature fixed in isolation from man is n o t h i n g and intensive totality"-are dialectically interrelated concepts. The
lor man" (169) remains a truth n o matter how high a price the narrower the range the poorer will be the intensity of gratification,
gimmicky nothing-dead matter fixed in its" immediacy and which in its turn results in a further narrowing down of the range.
isolation from man-will fetch on the art-market. Thus the lack of adequate aesthetic consumption is rl!veal
The crucial question in this context concerns the organ of artistic ing about human impoverishment in general, which manifests
consumption. Nature takes care of the reproduction of our need for itself in the extreml! povl!rty of gratification confined to the one
food, shelter, etc. When this fails to occur, we call the doctor or the sidedly appropriated narrow range of objects of enjoyment.
psychiatril. But. we cannot resort to such help when the need for Aesthetic education is crucial for changing this situation : for
artistic consumption is absent, or, worse, when it is replaced by a turning the narrow and one-sided gratification into thl! self-fulfilling
need for the production of works of art as commercial objects : enjoyment of the "extl!nsive and intensive totality" of the human
marketable commodities. And, of course, in the absence of the need world. Without aesthetic education there can be no real consumer
for artistic consumption the necessary recreation of the work of art only commercial agent-for works of art. And since the work of art
in its aesthetic being-referred to in point (5}---cannot take place. cannot properly exist without being constantly recreated in the
activity of consumption-the awart:ness of which must be embodied
in the creation it.sel--aesthetic education, as the creator of the
5. Tnt! SignificanCt! 01 At!stnt!tic Education
organ of aesthetic consumption, is a vital condition for the dcvdop
The solution is hinted at when Marx writes : "music alone ment of art in generl.
awakt!1tS in man tht! $t!nse 01 music . . the most beautiful music
.

has no sense for the unmusical ear-is no object for it, because Artistic creation, under suitable circumstances, is considered by
my object can only be the confirmation of one of my essential Marx as free activity, as an adequate fulfilment of the rich human
powers and can therefore only be so for me as my essential power being. Only in relation to a natural bei'ng can the question of
i present for itself as a subjective capacity, because tnt! sense 01 an
s freedom be raised as fulfilment which s i in harmony with this
object lor me goes only so lar as m y senses go" (108). This points being's inner determination, and only in this relation can freedom
to the great importance of "aesthetic -education" without which be defined in positive terms.
one cannot create the organ of artistic consumption in man. Art, in this sense} is an "I!nd in itself" and 'not a means to an end
As we have already seen Marx objected to "direct, one-sided external to it. But art, conceived in such terms, is not one of the
gratification", to mere "having" as abstract "possession", because specialities among the many, preserved for the fortunate few, but
in it man's manifold relations with his objects are impoverished in an es5emial dimension of human life in general. In the form in
a twofold sense : which we know it, art is deeply affected by alienation, because the
(I) only those relations are retained which are suitable to serve "exclusive concentration of artistic talent in some" is inseparably
this kind of gratification; bound up with "its supprc<;sion in the masses :tS a result of the
(2) even these restricted relations are retained only to the extent division of labour". As Marx puts it : "as soon as labour is distri-
212 MARX'S THEORY OF ALlENATION
AESTHETIC ASPECTS 213
buled, each ma'n has a particular, exclusive sphere of actiily, which master even a small proportion of activities that characterize
is forced upon him and from which he cannot pe. J:ie a hunter, 1$
contemporary society, let alone all of them. And it is by no means
a shephen;l, or a critical critic, and must raln so If h does. not self-evident why the exercise of half a dozen or so functions should
want to lose his means of livelihood; while . In commUnIst SOCiety,
where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can be in itself inherently more rewarding than that of a smaller number
become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates of them.
If as is obvious, one cannot aim in this regard at the realization
the general production and thus makes it possile for me t do one of "xlcnsive totality", other criteria than just numbers must be
thing to-day and another to-morrow, to .hunt l . te momm, fish found for displaying the qualitative superiority of one system over
in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evenmg, cntlClZe after dmner, the other. What Marx repeatedly emphasized was the necessity
just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fishennan,
.Ite
to liberate one's life-activities--no matter how many or how few
shepherd or critic"
as It IS negatively
. ' from the iron laws of capitalistic economy which affected art just
What matters here is to point out that art, msofar as much as anything else. The limitation manifest in the numerical
affected by the division of labour, must be superseded. Since aspects of this issue-i.e. the exclusivistic distribution of functions :
"Religion, family, state, law, morality, science, art, etc., ar.e dny art for a privileged few and degrading mechanical work for the
p a r t i c u l a r modes of productio", and se productlon m vast majority-is simply the form in which a basic contradiction of
general is under the spell of alienation, the positive transcendence commodity-producing society appeared, but not the cause itself. It
of human self-estra'ngement can only be realized by means of a se----c
is the cau ommodity-production itself-that must be done away
"return of man from religion, family, state, etc., to his h u m a n, with, because it dehumanizes every activity-including, of course,
i.c. social mode of existence". (102-103; "etc." here clearly artistic activity-degrading it to the status of mere means sub
includes art that occurred in the previous enumeration to which this ordinated to the ends of capitalistic market economy.
latter one refers.) Thus the utopian advocacy of a "redistribution" of the activities
This paMage does not mean that art, science etc. ought to be and functions recognizable in capitalistic society could not be further
abolished-although this impression may be created by the references removed from the real issue which is the critical recognition of the
to rtligion, state and law. It goes without saying that in Marx's inherent meaninglessness of every activity that accommodates itself
view mankind without art and science would be an enormously to the narrow limits of commodity-production. And "job-diversifica
impoverished humanity, if coneeivable at all i concrete historical tion" cum prefabricated "hobbies"-subordinated to the needs of
.
terms. But just as he insisted that alienated sCience must be trans capitalism in general and to "leisure-industry" in particular
formed into a "human science", so he insists that art too must lose would only intensify the sense of meaninglessness people experience
its alienated character. already. The true development of one's abilities and inclinations
The issue is, therefore, not that of "job-diversification". Even a in a social framework freed from the paralysing requirements of
capitalist society ought to be able to produce . the latter, on an commodity-production which apriori detennine the numbers
incomparably larger scale than we have expenenced so far. .(Of admissible for the exercise of any particular activity, oppressing the
course under capitalism such programmes can only be reallZed human demand in favour of the commercial need-necessarily
within the narrow limits of the given social structure; i.e. by further implies an inherent meani1Jg to all functions and activities of the
extending the profitable operations of "leisure industry" to cover all individual concerned. Why should he, otherwise, wish to enlarge
the so-called "artistic activities" that arc suitable for being marketed the list of his activities? It is precisely this problematics of the
in some conveniently assembled kit-form.) Needless to say, what meaningfulness of human activities-their liberation from being
Marx had in mind has nothing to do with this kind of approach.
What he was after was not a more extensive collection of hier mere means to alienated enrls-which is at stake in Marx's con
demnation of the hierarchical social division of labour.
archically arranged functions in place of their presently more limited As far as art is directly concerned, Marx's message means thai
number. For it is simply inconceivable that the individuals could artistic creation has ultimately to be tTansfonned into an activity
214 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION
the social individuals as readily engage in as in the production of
the goods necessary for the reproduction of the conditions of their
life. It mp.ns above all that the existing-alienated-rdationship
betwct:n production and consumption must be radicaUy changed. PART III
so that the creative aspect of consumption enhances and intensifies
the inhere'ot creatiity of artistic production. The only form in'
CONTEMPORARr SIGNIFICA NCE OF
which this can happen is a reciprocal participation of both sides in
the various processes of artistic production and consumption. MARX'S THEORr OF A LIENA TION
Such a transformation of artistic creation and enjoyment-which
implies. of course, a radical cha'nge in all human relations-is not
conceivable without an aesthetic education of man. (Also it goes
without saying that the problems of acsthetic education are
inseparable from the various other aspects of education.) Marx's
conception of art aims at adding a new dimension to human life,
in order to transform it in its totality through the fusion of this
new dimension with all the other human life-activities. In this
conception artistic production and consumption become inseparable
aspects of the same life-activity which can also be described as the
practical aesthetic self-education of man.
VIII. The Controversy about Marx
The realm of freedom actually begins only where labour which
i. I. "Young Marx" versus "Mature Marx"
determined by necessity and mundane considerations ceases; thus
IT is m
i possible to deal with the various interpretations of Marx's
theory of alienation in a systematic way within the confines of this
in the very nature of things it lies beyond the sphert of actual
material production. Just as the savage must wrestle with Nature
study. All we can do is to choose a few characteristic points which
to satisfy his wants, to maintain and reproduce life so must civilized
help to clarify some questions of importance, and thus carry a step
fonvard the main arguments of this enquiry.
man, and he must do so in all social formations and under all
possible modes of production. With his development this realm of
One of the most controversial issues is : what place ought to he
physical necessity expands as a result of his wants ; but, at the same
assigned to the early works of Marx in his system as a whole ?
time, the forces of production which satisfy these wants also
increase. Freedom in this field can only consist in socialized man,
Ever since the publication of the Economic and Philosophic
the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with
Manuscripts of 1844 many philosophers have maintained that the

Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being


young Marx ought to be treated separately, because thert is a break
between the thinker who deals with problems of alienation and the
ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature ; and achieving this
"mature Marx" who aspires to a scientific socialism. And, strangely
with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most
enough, the holders of this view Ionged to politically opposite
favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature. But it nonetheless
still remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development m. Their differences amounted to this, that while the one camp
ldeahzed the young Marx and opposed his early manuscripts to his
of human energy which is an end in itself, the true realm of freedom,
later works, the other only accepted these latter, and dismissed his
which, however, can blossom forth only with this realm of necessity
earlier writings as idealistic.
as its basis. The shortening of the working.day is its basic
prerequisite.
In his study of The Early Development of Marx's Thought John
Macurray characterized these approaches in lhis way : "Com
munlSts art ralher liable to misinterpret this early stage even if they
-Capital
do ot entirely discount it. They are naturally apt to read these
. .
wlJngs In order to find in them the reflection of their own theory
as It stands today, and, thercivic, to dismiss as youthful aberrations
those elements which do not square with the final outcome. This is,
of corse, highly undialectical. It would equally be a misunder.
stadmg of Marx to separate the early stages of his thought from
their conclusion, though not to the same extent. For lhey a r e
earlier stages, and though they can only be fully understood in
ter of the theory which is their final outcome, they are historically
earlier and the conclusion was not explicitly in lhe mind of Marx
When his earlier works were written.mIT
These words were published as far back as 1935' but the highly
undialectical separation of the young Marx from the later Marx
217
213
ru: O( disappeared in the years that separate us from the early
MARX'S THEORY OF ALIENATION
THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT MARX 219
thJrtlCS. On the contrary, (he assertion of a to rescue its achievements, which remained. hidden to the political
, IS themselves, as weU as to cn.tlcl . U them 10
become aq accepted commonplacc in a conssupp osed break has ' their , own
current philcphical literature. idera ble amount of cconorntS
He adopted exactly the samc approach towards ldeall'llJc . I: .
tes.
Is it true, as is often affirmed, that the noti Ph.. Io>O Phy. This is why he could never "drop" the concept of alien-
"drops out" (rom th later writings of Marx; inde on of alienation it would have amounted to depflvmg " h'tmseII 0I a Te01
aUO? '. ment
it ironically, thus detaching himself from his ed, that he treats achieve (i. e. the "rational kernel" of the Hegelian philosophy)
past? Two references are usually given in suppown philosophical ',hstanding its mystifying settmg.
. In the d'!Sputed passage Ma. ex

one to The German Ideology and the other ort of this thesis : sunpI'l wants to point out-as he does 0 numerous .' 10
notwl
, n OCcasiOns .
to the Communist ris Manuscripts -that the language 0I "estrangement .. JS
Manifesto. The question is, however,
are the passages in question the P a
.
rightly interpreted? mysu'{ying wilhout the necessary references to sociaI practICe. '
As to the second quotation a more careful reading will make It
.
Undoubtedly there are ironical sentences in
which contain the words "estrangement" orThe German Ideology "
sellestrangement". The relevant passa
lea that it has nothing to do WIth the rejection " 0l the term 0I
There are actually two of them. The first says "self-estrangemcnt" . ge reads as follows : "The
ment' (to use a term which will be compreh that "This 'estrange. . . 'duals who are no longer subj.ect to the d'IVlSlOn
mdlvl
" 0l laboU',
phers) can, of course, only be abolished give ensible to the philoso been conceived by the phiJosop h ers as an I
'd ea 1, under the
have
prem."I" And the second adds : "The whon two p r a c t j c a I name 'man'. They have conceived the w h oi e process '
which we Ilave
conceIved as a process of the sclf-estrangemen le process was thus O ( r cd as the evolutionary process aI 'man', so th at at every
JJ1. al stage 'man' was substituted for the individuals and shown
t of 1
1$ The
translator and Editor, Roy Pascal, commen 'ma ."
n' histone
ts in his
passaes : ':In The German Ideology Marx makes hisnotes on these as th' motive force of history. The whoIe process was thus conceiVe ' d
final reckon
as a prV'-"'"CSS oC the self-estrangement 0I ' man ', an d t 15 was essentlaIly
h' '
ng With this concept of 'sclf-estrangement'." This "final reck
15 supposed to be in shar
oning" due to the fact that the . average indlV " Id ua I of the later stage was
p contrast to the earlier Manuscripts 0/
!84 10 which Marx still "unestles with this conc
d
.I-Ys foisted on to the earlier stage, an the cOllSClousnCSS of a
.
It With a new content."ZOII ept, and charges Iater age on to the individuals of an ear 1 I'er. Th rough t 15" inversIOn,
h '

his contraposition is highly misleading. whoch from the first is an abstract image 0 the actual cond'IllOns,
I '
lowmg the previous "wresting" sounds pn:t"Final reckoning" fol it was possible to. transform the whole 0I h"LStOry mto an evoIutlOnary '
keeping with the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute ty dramatic and is in process 0r consclOusess. "'01
.
o The German Ideology. This prelace 's preface to the edition As we can see, there is nothmg that ven vuely resembles a
greatly exaggerates
differences of tillS .
latter from the earlier writings and claimsthe final reckoning, but only an argument qUl.te famillar .to us from the
radical innovations points that had, in fact, as M" uscrip" of 1844. What Marx is iromcal about not the con
" IS

ManuCTipts 0/ 1844, or even earlier.


been wor ked out in the cept of self-estrangement, but philosophiI abstractJon " m h'ICh
truth IS that there is neither a "final reck the simple, undramatic
Yet substitutes for the Teal (historically and SOCIally concrete) zndlmdual .
Ideology, nor so e kind of a "wr
.
oning" in The GeTman
estling" in the Paris Manuscripts
the idealistic image of abstract man, n us mystifies the ctu
estrangement of Teal man (the social mdlVldual) by n:pre.senung I

which could be mterpreted as lagging behind
reckonm . g. Indeed the posi the presumed mature as the estrangement of consciou.sness. In other words, what he
tion criticizing the idealistic philosophers
our first quotation-and referring the objects to is the identification of the concept of man with abstract,
practice, had been n:ached by Marx
matter of alienation to generic consciousness. This objection, wel kno to us also from
well be/oTe the ManWcTipts his earlier writings. does not make the notion of the self-estrange
/ 1844 (see especially his Introductio
. n to the Critique 0/ the Heg
lian PhIlosophy 0/ Righi). e ment of real man" obsolete in the least.
Marx made it explicit more than once in his The reference to the Communist Manifesto is '00 more convincing.
Manuscripts of 1844 This is the passage in question : "It is well known how the monks
that he sets out from the language of poli
tical economy in order wrote silly lives of Catholic Saints o v e r the manuscn.pts on
220 MARX'S THEORY OF ALIEN....TION THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT MARX 221

which the classical works of ancient heathendom had been written. Germans t h o u g h t what other nations d i d."; "no class in civil
The German l i t e r a t i reversed this process with the profane iety has any need or capacity for general emancipation until
French literature. They wrote their philosophical nonsense beneath it is forced by its i m m e d i a t e condition, by m a t e r i a l neces
the French original. For instance, beneath the French criticism of ity, by its v e r y c h a i n s . Where, then, is the p o s i t i v e possi
the economic {unctiol}S of money, they wrote 'Alienation of Human bility of a German emancipation? A n s w e r : In the formation
it)", and beneath the French criticism of the bourgeois state they of a clas; with r a d i c a l c h a i n s, a class of civil society which
is not a class of civil society, an estate which is the dissolution of all
. This dissolution of society as a particular estate is the
wrote 'Dethronement 0/ the Category of the General', and so forth.
estates, . .

p r o I e 1 a r i a t."201 In reading these passages, should not one be


The introduction of these philosophical phrases at the back of
French rustorical criticisrri they dubbed 'Philosophy of Action',
'True Socialism', 'German Science of Socialism', 'Phil<>S:)phical struck by the basic identity of the early Marx's approach with that
Foundations of Socialism', and so on. The French Socialist and of his later work?
Communist literature was thus completely emasculated. And, since Nothing could be further removed from the truth than to assert
it ceased in the hands of the German to express the struggle of one no matter from which political point of view-that from 1845
class with the other, he felt conscious of having overcome 'French onwards Marx is no longer interested in man and his alienation,
one-sidedness' and of representing, not true requirements, but the because his critical attention is then diverted in another direction by
requirements of Truth; not the interests of the proletariat, but the the introduction of the concepts of "the classes" and "the prole
interests of Human Nature, of Man in general, who belongs to no tariat". As we have seen, these concepts had acquired a crucial
class, has no reality, who exists only in the misty realm of philo importance in his thought already in 1843. We must emphasize that
sophical phantasy."202 if by "man" one means, as Marx's opponents did, "abstract man"
Again, we can see, the criticism is not directed against the con or "Man in general" who is "abstracted from all social determina
cept of alienation, but the idealist use of it, because such a use tions", the-n this is completely beside the point. He was, in fact,
"completely emasculates" it, deprives it of its concrete social content never interested in this "Man", not even before 1843, let alone at
and power of practical criticism. Equally, what is attacked here is the time of writing the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of
not the notion of man defined by Marx in 1844 as the social in 1844. On the other hand "real man", the "self-mediating being of
dividual, but the abstraction "Human Nature" and "Man in nature", the "social individual" never disappeared from his horizon.
genera'" as used by his opponents, because these only exist in the Even towards the end of his life when he was working on the third
"misty realm of philosophical phantasy". Quite the opposite of a vlme of Capital, Marx advocated for human beings the "con
break : the most remarkable continuity. Every single point made in ditIOns most favourable to, and worthy of, their human natuTe."u,
this passage can easily be found even in Marx's Introduction to the Thus his concern with classes and the proletariat in particular always
remalOed to him identical with the concern for "the g e n e r a I