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The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto (1844)

by Karl Marx, Frederick Engels

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9521222,067 (3.98)5
Communism as a political movement attained global importance after the Bolsheviks toppled the Russian Czar in 1917. After that time the works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, especially the influential Communist Manifesto (1848), enjoyed an international audience. The world was to learn a new political vocabulary peppered with "socialism," "capitalism," "the working class," "the bourgeoisie," "labor theory of value," "alienation," "economic determinism," "dialectical materialism," and "historical materialism." Marx's economic analysis of history has been a powerful legacy, the effects of which continue to be felt world-wide. Serving as the foundation for Marx's indictment of capitalism is his extraordinary work titled Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, written in 1844 but published nearly a century later. Here Marx offers his theory of human nature and an analysis of emerging capitalism's degenerative impact on man's sense of self and his creative potential. What is man's true nature? How did capitalism gain such a foothold on Western society? What is alienation and how does it threaten to undermine the proletariat? These and other vital questions are addressed as the youthful Marx sets forth his first detailed assessment of the human condition.… (more)
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» See also 5 mentions

1/19/23
  laplantelibrary | Jan 19, 2023 |
1/19/23
  laplantelibrary | Jan 19, 2023 |
Taking the Economic-Philosophical MSS (1844) (but not published until 1931-2), the Holy Family (1845), the Theses on Feuerbach (1845) and the German Ideology (1845-6) as a whole, one can say that they combine a fully developed philosophy of history with a rudimentary sociology -- the latter for the most part derived from the French Encyclopaedists and their nineteenth-century successors: the Saint-Simonians and the other schools of French socialism.

What Marx obtained from Hegel on philosophy of history was the notion that history is a progressive self-creation of man, a process whose motor is practical social activity -- i.e., in the last resort, human labor. Man produces both himself and his world, and he does so through practical activity which modifies his own nature, at the same time that it transforms external nature. Thus, however scientific and empirical in intention and its methodical treatment of problems, Marx’s sociology rests ultimately upon a view of human nature which is philosophical. The Marxian critique of society is motivated by society’s failure to realize man’s potentialities.

As laid out in the Manuscripts, the motor of this development is labor, which so far from being merely an economic category is the “existential activity” of man, his “free conscious activity,” and his principal means of developing all the potentialities of his “universal nature.” Now man cannot develop fully unless he is free, but this must not be done at the expense of others, as in classical Antiquity where work was performed by slaves. Freedom, to be genuine, must be universal, hence the individual is free only if all other men are free and able to develop as “universal beings.” Only when this condition has been attained will the existence of individual men realize the potentialities inherent in the species.

Man is truly himself insofar as he is able to recognize himself in the man-made universe which surrounds him. The failure to attain this self-realization is defined as alienation (once more a concept Marx derived from Hegel, who in turn had borrowed it from Rousseau), and the ultimate goal of the historical process which “realizes” all the potentialities of man’s nature is described as the overcoming of alienation. There are two comments to be made on this: first, the notion of such a consummation is metaphysical, and indeed ultimately religious: it represents the utopian element in Marxist thought, transmitted to him both via Hegel’s philosophy of reason and Feuerbach’s conception of human nature. Secondly, it evidently forms the counterpart of the Marxian “union of theory and practice.” The latter is required to bring about that total revolution in human affairs which philosophy by itself cannot provide, because being an intellectual activity in a world not really ruled by the intellect, it must of necessity come to terms with reality as it is.

For Marx, political economy, though ostensibly concerned with abstractions such as capital, labor, or land, has for its real (though unacknowledged) subject the relationship of man to the man-made world of objects within which he moves and which reflects his essence as a generic being. It is the nature of man to surround himself with a man-made universe. In so doing he loses himself. This loss can become so extreme as to involve the annihilation of the creator, i.e., the worker loses reality to the point of starving to death. The individual becomes estranged from his own creation. Political economy, far from clarifying this state of affairs, obscures it by treating capital, labor etc., as independent realities, instead of recognizing them as manifestations of human activity. The alienation of man from his own product involves his estrangement from other men. In this resides the germ of class division. Private property in the means of production, and class rule by a propertied and privileged minority, are historically connected; they represent two sides of the same coin. Private property subordinates the producer to the non-producer (and incidentally turns women into the slave of man). Communism, by simultaneously abolishing class rule and human exploitation, thus appears as the “positive transcendence of private property and of human self-alienation.” Communism represents not a mere ideal, but an actual process inherent in the nature of things. Private property -- as a form of self-alienation -- produces communism as its necessary antithesis. Its supersession therefore signifies the ending of social conflict and the restoration of man’s harmony with his own nature. A society in which men are no longer estranged from themselves is also the first that can be described as truly human. [1961]
  GLArnold | Aug 29, 2020 |
The Communist Manifesto is not really a grand work, but functions more like promotional material for the revolutionary proletariat, but it is also a fundamental part of twentieth century thought. It is also prophetic in some ways as you can see many of the things Marx predicted coming to pass today. It is to bad that so many nations have hijacked real communism to serve their own misguided agendas, because there are many very important issues raised by Marx and Engles and should serve as a warning as we enter a period of unparalleled economic imperialism. ( )
  uh8myzen | Apr 17, 2011 |
Classics, all of them. ( )
  BlueLinchpin | Nov 26, 2008 |
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Engels, Frederickmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Communism as a political movement attained global importance after the Bolsheviks toppled the Russian Czar in 1917. After that time the works of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, especially the influential Communist Manifesto (1848), enjoyed an international audience. The world was to learn a new political vocabulary peppered with "socialism," "capitalism," "the working class," "the bourgeoisie," "labor theory of value," "alienation," "economic determinism," "dialectical materialism," and "historical materialism." Marx's economic analysis of history has been a powerful legacy, the effects of which continue to be felt world-wide. Serving as the foundation for Marx's indictment of capitalism is his extraordinary work titled Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, written in 1844 but published nearly a century later. Here Marx offers his theory of human nature and an analysis of emerging capitalism's degenerative impact on man's sense of self and his creative potential. What is man's true nature? How did capitalism gain such a foothold on Western society? What is alienation and how does it threaten to undermine the proletariat? These and other vital questions are addressed as the youthful Marx sets forth his first detailed assessment of the human condition.

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