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Author Topic: The Political Philosophy of Karl Marx  (Read 7498 times)
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« on: June 06, 2011, 03:20:15 pm »
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Given the recent excitement over the President's supposed 'Marxism', I thought it would be enlightening to go through each of Marx's books and pick out the core themes of each work and try to contextualize them. All of Marx's works are in the public domain, and I am indebted to the Marxist Internet Archives for access to all of his books. I will probably self-publish the results of this survey (at a loss), and will be happy to mail the completed book to anyone looking to arrive at a greater understanding of Marxism.

This should not be read as an endorsement of Marx. While I think he said many things worth saying, I question the approach he took in appropriating Hegelianism for himself. But I think we do ourselves a disservice when we render an entire subsection of philosophy, and especially one so important to recent history, off-limits.

My intent is to cover all of the major works, which, to my mind, constitute the following:

The Young Marx (this is more a collection of early articles and essays written while Marx was still labouring under Hegelian Idealism)
The Holy Family
The German Ideology
The Poverty of Philosophy
Grundrisse
Writings on the U.S. Civil War

Capital (all three volumes)

Some might object to my leaving out the Eighteenth Brumaire, but I'm not familiar enough with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France to comment on many of the references there. I will attempt to distinguish Marx the historian from Marx the political philosopher; while it's virtually impossible to completely divorce the two in Marx's thought, I will make an effort to limit the necessity of the former to my elucidation of the latter.

Feel free to stop and ask me questions as I continue this thread. I'll probably finish one book a week until I hit Grundrisse, which will take some time to slough through.
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2011, 03:29:05 pm »
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I.

The Young Marx, Part I - Marx The Liberal




http://www.archive.org/details/ThisGodlessCommunism

The popular mythology surrounding Karl Marx in the post-Cold War world has him springing fully formed from the heads of rationalist thinkers like Hegel and Feuerbach, and being even as a young boy some sort of opponent of organized religion. A brief examination of his earliest writings, however, will demonstrate that in his youth Marx inherited much of the vaguely deist terminology then in favor with the Prussian petit-bourgeois from which he was born. The earliest poem attributed to him in the collection I linked above, 1835's Reflections Of A Young Man On The Choice Of A Profession, demonstrates as much, as well as his early pre-occupation with place of rank in society:

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Nature herself has determined the sphere of activity in which the animal should move, and it peacefully moves within that sphere, without attempting to go beyond it, without even an inkling of any other. To man, too, the Deity gave a general aim, that of ennobling mankind and himself, but he left it to man to seek the means by which this aim can be achieved; he left it to him to choose the position in society most suited to him, from which he can best uplift himself and society.

Marx's deism left him with his college years, but his youthful rationalism remained with him for much of his early career, when, as a young liberal (in the traditional, European sense), he came to butt heads with a censorious regime endorsed by the Prussian government against its newspapers that prohibited explicitly anti-monarchical or pro-democratic sentiments from appearing therein. Writing in the Rheinische Zeitung on the 5th of May 1842, Marx, disguised simply as "a Rhinelander", lambasted the government's policy by arguing thusly:

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The first essential condition for freedom... is self-knowledge, and self-knowledge is an impossibility without self-confession.

Hence one should firmly keep in mind that the Preussische Staats-Zeitung (Prussian State-Newspaper) has written self-confessions; one should never forget that we see here the first awakening to self-consciousness of a semi-official press-child, and then all riddles will be solved. One will be convinced that the Preussische Staats-Zeitung "utters with composure many a great word", and will only remain undecided whether one should admire more the composure of its greatness or the greatness of its composure.

Hardly had the censorship instruction appeared, hardly had the Staats-Zeitung recovered from this blow, before it came out with the question: "What use has the greater freedom from censorship been to you Prussian newspapers?"

Obviously, what it means to say by this is: What use have the many years of strict observance of the censorship been to me? What have I become, in spite of the most scrupulous and thoroughgoing supervision and tutelage? And what should now become of me? I have not learnt to walk and a sensation-loving public is expecting entrechats from one who has a dislocated hip-joint. So will it be for you, too, my sisters! Let us confess our weaknesses to the Prussian people, but let us be diplomatic in our confession. We shall not tell them outright that we are uninteresting for their newspapers.

We shall tell them that if the Prussian newspapers are uninteresting for the Prussian people, the Prussian state is uninteresting for the newspapers.

Thus we see that Marx's earliest political allegiance was not to socialism - as it was then called, for only with Marx's maturity was 'socialism' distinguished from 'Communism' or 'Diggerism' or 'leveling' - but with the same Enlightenment -era liberalism that flourished at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. Three days later Marx would continue his assault upon the Prussian newspaper policy, and by doing so re-affirm his allegiance to the liberal tradition:

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The liberal opposition shows us the level of a political assembly, just as the opposition in general shows the level of development that a society has reached. A time in which it is philosophical audacity to doubt the existence of ghosts, in which it is regarded as a paradox to oppose witch trials, is the time in which ghosts and witch trials are legitimate. A country which, like ancient Athens, regards lickspittles, parasites and flatterers as exceptions to the good sense of the people, as fools among the people, is a country of independence and self-reliance. But a people which, like all peoples of the good old times, claims the right to think and utter the truth only for court-jesters, can only be a people without independence or personality... (t)he liberal opposition shows us what the liberal position has become, to what extent freedom is embodied in man.

Therefore, if we have remarked that the defenders of freedom of the press in the Assembly of the Estates are by no means equal to their task, this applies still more to the Provincial Assembly as a whole.

Nevertheless, we begin our account of the Assembly proceedings at this point, not merely out of a special interest in freedom of the press, but equally out of a general interest in the Assembly. For we find the specific estate spirit nowhere more clearly, decisively and fully expressed than in the debates on the press. This holds good especially of the opposition to freedom of the press, just as in general it is in opposition to a general freedom that the spirit of a definite sphere in society, the individual interest of a particular estate and its natural one-sidedness of character are expressed most bluntly and recklessly and, as it were, show their teeth.

The debates provide us with a polemic of the princely social estate against freedom of the press, a polemic of the knightly estate, and a polemic of the urban estate, so that it is not the individual, but the social estate that conducts the polemic. What mirror, therefore, could reflect the inner nature of the Assembly better than the debates on the press?

We begin with the opponents of a free press, and, as is only fair, with a speaker from the princely estate.

We shall not deal with the content of the first part of his speech, to the effect "that freedom of the press and censorship are both evils, etc.", for this theme is more thoroughly expounded by another speaker. But we must not pass over his characteristic method of argument.

"Censorship," he said, "is a lesser evil than excesses on the part of the press." "This conviction has gradually so taken root in our Germany" (the question is: which part of Germany that is) "that the Federation too, issued laws on the subject, which Prussia joined in approving and observing."

The Assembly discusses liberation of the press from its bonds. These bonds themselves, proclaims the speaker, the fetters with which the press is shackled, prove that it is not destined for free activity. Its fettered existence testifies against its essential nature. The laws against freedom of the press are a refutation of freedom of the press.

This is a diplomatic argument against all reform, one which most decisively expresses the classical theory of a certain party.

Every restriction of freedom is a factual, irrefutable proof that at one time those who held power were convinced that freedom must be restricted, and this conviction then serves as a guiding principle for later views.

And so we see that Marx's portrayal as an impertinent, impious brat above is little more than a caricature. While Marx was given over to radical politics from the earliest days of his intellectual maturity, that 'radicalism' shared little more than a historical connection to the philosophy Marx was later to lend his name to - in fact, Marx's earliest liberalism is little distinguishable from the sort of 'classical liberalism' now in fashion among certain segments of the American voting populace, except that it was far more radical in its day, and so open in its discussion of class distinctions.

Tracing the development of Marx the liberal humanist to Marx the 'Marxist' is nearly an impossible task. What the comic above does get right is that the transition began to take root around the time of Marx's introduction to Professor George W.F. Hegel at the University of Berlin. However, what the comic portrays as an immediate conversion to Hegelianism, Marx himself represents as an epistemological break, first between Marx and Enlightenment rationalism, then between Marx and Hegel himself. Marx in fact loathed Hegel's philosophy, saying of it that

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this darling child of mine, nurtured in moonshine, bears me like a false-hearted siren into the clutches of the enemy.
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2011, 03:36:41 pm »
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The Young Marx, Part II - Marx The Hegelian



Marx first became acquainted with the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel while attending classes on philosophy at the University of Berlin in the late 1830s, and found himself fascinated - if disturbed - by the man whose then-novel approach to the philosophy of history had already deeply divided the campus into warring factions of intellectuals. Hegel, whom his fellow professor Arthur Schopenhauer derided as "a commonplace, inane, loathsome, repulsive and ignorant charlatan, who with unparalleled effrontery compiled a system of crazy nonsense that was trumpeted abroad as immortal wisdom by his mercenary followers", had revived and modified the ancient Greek practice of dialectics: that is, philosophy as process, in which Truth is derived from the reconciliation of contradictory propositions. While Hegel was the first to systematize the concept of the dialectic into an overarching framework, the basic concept stretches as far back as Heraclitus of Ephesus, who wrote five hundred years before the birth of Christ.

Hegel explains the basic concept of his philosophy thusly in the introduction to his Lectures on the subject, which can be found here:

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It is the concrete spirit of a people which we have distinctly to recognize, and since it is Spirit it can only be comprehended spiritually, that is, by thought. It is this alone which takes the lead in all the deeds and tendencies of that people, and which is occupied in realizing itself – in satisfying its ideal and becoming self-conscious – for its great business is self-production. But for spirit, the highest attainment is self-knowledge; an advance not only to the intuition, but to the thought – the clear conception of itself. This it must and is also destined to accomplish; but the accomplishment is at the same time its dissolution, and the rise of another spirit, another world-historical people, another epoch of Universal History....

History in general is therefore the development of Spirit in Time, as Nature is the development of the Idea in Space. If then we cast a glance over the World’s-History generally, we see a vast picture of changes and transactions; of infinitely manifold forms of peoples, states, individuals, in unresting succession. Everything that can enter into and interest the soul of man – all our sensibility to goodness, beauty, and greatness – is called into play. On every hand aims are adopted and pursued, which we recognize, whose accomplishment we desire – we hope and fear for them. In all these occurrences and changes we behold human action and suffering predominant; everywhere something akin to ourselves, and therefore everywhere something that excites our interest for or against. Sometimes it attracts us by beauty, freedom, and rich variety, sometimes by energy such as enables even vice to make itself interesting. Sometimes we see the more comprehensive mass of some general interest advancing with comparative slowness, and subsequently sacrificed to an infinite complication of trifling circumstances, and so dissipated into atoms....

The very essence of Spirit is activity; it realizes its potentiality – makes itself its own deed, its own work – and thus it becomes an object to itself; contemplates itself as an objective existence. Thus is it with the Spirit of a people: it is a Spirit having strictly defined characteristics, which erects itself into an objective world, that exists and persists in a particular religious form of worship, customs, constitution, and political laws – in the whole complex of its institutions – in the events and transactions that make up its history. That is its work – that is what this particular Nation is. Nations are what their deeds are. Every Englishman will say: We are the men who navigate the ocean, and have the commerce of the world; to whom the East Indies belong and their riches; who have a parliament, juries, etc. – The relation of the individual to that Spirit is that he appropriates to himself this substantial existence; that it becomes his character and capability, enabling him to have a definite place in the world – to be something. For he finds the being of the people to which he belongs an already established, firm world – objectively present to him – with which he has to incorporate himself. In this its work, therefore – its world – the Spirit of the people enjoys its existence and finds its satisfaction. – A Nation is moral – virtuous – vigorous – while it is engaged in realizing its grand objects, and defends its work against external violence during the process of giving to its purposes an objective existence. The contradiction between its potential, subjective being – its inner aim and life – and its actual being is removed; it has attained full reality, has itself objectively present to it.

While Hegel is notorious for being a convoluted writer, the basic elements of his philosophy are not hard at all to grasp: the 'Spirit' of a people (the Geist) realizes itself through transformations in its temporal place (its Zeit - combined, one has the now-commonplace phrase Geist) in its process of constant self-realization through the dialectical process. Hegel's example of the Englishman who says "(he is the man) who navigate(s) the ocean, and ha(s) the commerce of the world" is a prime example: for Hegel, the English Spirit is determined by its geographical location as the product of an island nation; the contradictions which arise from this - easy access to the ocean, but poor access to mainland goods - thus resolve themselves in the establishment of the maritime English empire. In other words, life is the intersection of time and circumstance.

The comic I reference above implies that, because Hegel denied the concept of free will, he consequentially denied God; the truth is quite the opposite. Hegel was quite religious, ascribing all of human society to the Ideal of providence. Thus, for Hegel, the dialectical resolution of the contradictions of society was, in effect, society being 'thought' into being by the Creator:

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The truth, then, that a Providence (that of God) presides over the events of the World – consorts with the proposition in question; for Divine Providence is Wisdom, endowed with an infinite Power, which realizes its aim, viz., the absolute rational design of the World. Reason is Thought conditioning itself with perfect freedom.

It was this theological implication of the Hegelian philosophy that cleaved Hegel's devotees into two nebulous factions, today usually (and possibly wrongly) identified by the monikers of 'Left' and 'Right' Hegelians. Hegel himself was a political conservative who strongly supported German unification under the kaiser and who viewed the Kaiserreich as the highest achievement of the Deutsch Geist. Many of his students, however, viewed the 'idealistic' trend of Hegel's thought as nonsense, while holding nevertheless to the view that dialectics itself could go a long way to explaining the nature of man.

The shining star of these 'Left' Hegelians was Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach. A student of anthropology, Feuerbach was an atheist who nevertheless accepted Hegel's dialectic as a satisfactory explanation of man and his society, while arguing that it implicitly undermined the traditional role of Christianity within it. Nevertheless, Feuerbach embraced the Christian ethos, explaining in the appendix of his Essence of Christianity that

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Man has his highest being, his God, in himself; not in himself as an individual, but in his essential nature, his species. No individual is an adequate representation of his species, but only the human individual is conscious of the distinction between the species and the individual; in the sense of this distinction lies the root of religion. The yearning of man after something above himself is nothing less than the yearning after the perfect type of his nature, of the yearning to be free from himself, i.e. from the limits and defects of his individuality.


For Feuerbach, then, ever the dialectician, the value of religion was in its role as the summit of a dialectical triad between man-as-individual and humanity at large: in God, and only in God, could man find harmony between the natural demands of a self-propagating species and the desires of an individual to escape the blighted role of living organism. Here Feuerbach stopped: it was enough for him to endorse the trappings of religion and religious morality.

It was not, however, enough for Marx, who found little to love in Feuerbach's idealism. Marx's first major work, Theses on Feuerbach, while continuing in the Hegelian tradition from which he would soon break, undertook to totally level Feuerbach's bio-religious conception of dialectics and place it on a more materialist footing. The entire work may be read here.

The essence of Marx's objection to Feuerbach is as follows:

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Feuerbach starts off from the fact of religious self-estrangement , of the duplication of the world into a religious, imaginary world, and a secular one. His work consists in resolving the religious world into its secular basis. He overlooks the fact that after completing this work, the chief thing still remains to be done. For the fact that the secular basis lifts off from itself and establishes itself in the clouds as an independent realm can only be explained by the inner strife and intrinsic contradictoriness of this secular basis. The latter must itself be understood in its contradiction and then, by the removal of the contradiction, revolutionised. Thus, for instance, once the earthly family is discovered to be the secret of the holy family, the former must itself be annihilated theoretically and practically.


It was in this heady atmosphere that Marx would begin his life-long struggle with the dialectical approach in philosophy.
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« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2011, 03:42:22 pm »
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The Young Marx, Part III - Marx the Dialectician and the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right Part I




Marx's rupture with Feuerbach was not unprecedented. A fellow 'Young' or 'Left' Hegelian by the name of Johann Kaspar Schmidt (known to posterity as 'Max Stirner') had long been on the warpath against Feuerbach's 'secular Christianity'; unlike Marx, however, he would find respite from it not in economic collectivism, but in the most radical elucidation of individualism to have ever been handed to us by philosophy. Marx's reaction to Stirner will be dealt with later, however; for the moment, suffice it to say that the 'Hegelian' circle at the University of Berlin had been permanently ruptured, with large amounts of the student body lifting the dialectic method of analysis from Hegel while completely rejecting his pan-Germanic, Statist conclusions.

Marx completed his break with Hegel in 1843 by penning a tome called A Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. In it Marx attempted a subtle maneuver: to refute by means of Hegel's own dialectical process Hegelian philosophy itself. Marx justified this break by ascribing to Hegel blame for Prussian aspirations to war glory and nationalism disguised as pan-Germanism. From the Introduction to that work:

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Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked. Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics... (i)f we were to begin with the German status quo itself, the result – even if we were to do it in the only appropriate way, i.e., negatively – would still be an anachronism. Even the negation of our present political situation is a dusty fact in the historical junk room of modern nations. If I negate powdered pigtails, I am still left with unpowdered pigtails. If I negate the situation in Germany in 1843, then according to the French calendar I have barely reached 1789, much less the vital centre of our present age.

Indeed, German history prides itself on having travelled a road which no other nation in the whole of history has ever travelled before, or ever will again. We have shared the restorations of modern nations without ever having shared their revolutions. We have been restored, firstly, because other nations dared to make revolutions, and, secondly, because other nations suffered counter-revolutions; on the one hand, because our masters were afraid, and, on the other, because they were not afraid. With our shepherds to the fore, we only once kept company with freedom, on the day of its internment.


With these rather bombastic declarations at the opening of the book, Marx makes clear a theme which both he and many other Hegelian writers would start to flesh out: Hegel himself was cast as a Hegelian villain in his own world-historical play; by co-opting Hegel's phrases like "self-estrangement" and "negation" and applying them to Hegel's nationalistic dialectic, the Left Hegelians hoped to show that pan-Germanism, and Prussianism more generally were, rather than the hopeful expressions of the Spirit of a people realized in Time, instead had become the chains with which those people were enslaved.

Marx opens his book (not all of which remains to us today) by quoting from the Third Book of Hegel's Philosophy of Right on the proper place of the State:

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§ 261. In contrast with the spheres of private rights and private welfare (the family and civil society), the state is from one point of view an external necessity and their higher authority; its nature is such that their laws and interests are subordinate to it and dependent on it. On the other hand, however, it is the end immanent within them, and its strength lies in the unity of its own universal end and aim with the particular interest of individuals, in the fact that individuals have duties to the state in proportion as they have rights against it (see § 155).

The foregoing paragraph advises us that concrete freedom consists in the identity (as it is supposed to be, two-sided) of the system of particular interest (the family and civil society) with the system of general interest (the state). The relation of these spheres must now be determined more precisely.

From one point of view the state is contrasted with the spheres of family and civil society as an external necessity, an authority, relative to which the laws and interests of family and civil society are subordinate and dependent. That the state, in contrast with the family and civil society, is an external necessity was implied partly in the category of ‘transition’ (Übergangs) and partly in the conscious relationship of the family and civil society to the state. Further, subordination under the state corresponds perfectly with the relation of external necessity. But what Hegel understands by ‘dependence’ is shown by the following sentence from the Remark to this paragraph:

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§ 261.... It was Montesquieu above all who, in his famous work L’Esprit des Lois, kept in sight and tried to work out in detail both the thought of the dependence of laws in particular, laws concerning the rights of persons - on the specific character of the state, and also the philosophic notion of always treating the part in its relation to the whole.

Thus Hegel is speaking here of internal dependence, or the essential determination of private rights, etc., by the state. At the same time, however, he subsumes this dependence under the relationship of external necessity and opposes it, as another aspect, to that relationship wherein family and civil society relate to the state as to their immanent end.

‘External necessity’ can only be understood to mean that the laws and interests of the family and civil society must give way in case of collision with the laws and interests of the state, that they are subordinate to it, that their existence is dependent on it, or again that its will and its law appear to their will and their laws as a necessity!

In this Marx criticizes Hegel on grounds which may surprise a reader familiar only with the 'Big-Brother' concept of Marxism omnipresent in modern society: on the grounds that Hegel seeks to make individuals subservient to - and their rights dependent upon - the State. We shall later learn of Marx's ambivalence towards the government in more detail; suffice it to say that at least in this period of his life he identified what would today be dismissed as "big-government politics" with autocratic conservatism.


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« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2011, 03:46:41 pm »
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Marx continues in this vein:

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In truth, Hegel has done nothing but resolve the constitution of the state into the universal, abstract idea of the organism; but in appearance and in his own opinion he has developed the determinate reality out of the universal Idea. He has made the subject of the idea into a product and predicate of the Idea. He does not develop his thought out of what is objective, but what is objective in accordance with a ready-made thought which has its origin in the abstract sphere of logic. It is not a question of developing the determinate idea of the political constitution, but of giving the political constitution a relation to the abstract Idea, of classifying it as a member of its (the idea’s) life history. This is an obvious mystification.

Marx here hits upon something which scores of later readers of Hegel have often overlooked: the rather arbitrary assumption that the Geist of the German peoples ought to be realized in the form of a Reich, or, indeed, a "German government" whatsoever. Hegel does this, Marx claims, by a trick of linguistic sophistry: by identifying the subject 'people' with the predicate 'Germanic' in his discussion of the German dialectic - as if the dialectic were limited to mere discussions of nationalities.

Marx further assails Hegel's statism by calling into question his views on the related issues of constitutionalism and monarchy. The first quotes are Hegel's, the second Marx's:

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I. THE CONSTITUTION (on its internal side only)
§ 272. The constitution is rational in so far as the state inwardly differentiates and determines its activity in accordance with the nature of the concept. The result of this is that each of these powers is in itself the totality of the constitution, because each contains the other moments and has them effective in itself, and because the moments, being expressions of the differentiation of the concept, simply abide in their ideality and constitute nothing but a single individual whole.


Thus the constitution is rational in so far as its moments can be reduced to abstract logical moments. The state has to differentiate and determine its activity not in accordance with its specific nature, but in accordance with the nature of the Concept, which is the mystified mobile of abstract thought. The reason of the constitution is thus abstract logic and not the concept of the state. In place of the concept of the constitution we get the constitution of the Concept. Thought is not conformed to the nature of the state, but the state to a ready made system of thought.

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§ 275. The power of the crown contains in itself the three moments of the whole (see 5 :272) viz. [a] the universality of the constitution and the laws; [ b] counsel, which refers the particular to the universal; and [c] the moment of ultimate decision, as the self-determination to which everything else reverts and from which everything else derives the beginning of its actuality. This absolute self-determination constitutes the distinctive principle of the power of the crown as such, and with this principle our exposition is to begin.

All the first part of this paragraph says is that both the universality of the constitution and the laws and counsel, or the reference of the particular to the universal, are the crown. The crown does not stand outside the universality of the constitution and the laws once the crown is understood to be the crown of the (constitutional) monarch.

What Hegel really wants, however, is nothing other than that the universality of the constitution and the laws is the crown, the sovereignty of the state. So it is wrong to make the crown the subject and, inasmuch as the power of the sovereign can also be understood by the crown, to make it appear as if the sovereign, were the master and subject of this moment. Let us first turn to what Hegel declares to be the distinctive principle of the power of the crown as such, and we find that it is 'the moment of ultimate decision, as the self-determination to which everything else reverts and from which everything else derives the beginning of its actuality', in other words this 'absolute self-determination'.

Here Hegel is really saying that the actual, i.e., individual will is the power of the crown. § 12 says it this way:

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When ... the will gives itself the form of individuality..., this constitutes the resolution of the will, and it is only in so far as it resolves that the will is an actual will at all.

In so far as this moment of ultimate decision or absolute self-determination is divorced from the universality of content [i.e., the constitution and laws,] and the particularity of counsel it is actual will as arbitrary choice. In other words: arbitrary choice's the power of the crown, or the power of the crown is arbitrary choice.


Here Marx objects to Hegel's conflation of "constitution" and "crown", or monarchy: Hegel does not distinguish between the two, as virtually every nation in the Western world has since the dawn of the nineteenth century, and he certainly does not oppose the two powers, one to the other. In typical Hegelian fashion, however, he holds that the constitution and the crown are inseparable , positing a joint-identity between them which is indivisible. And Marx, true to his fashion, looks to show that this is the opposite of the dialectical mode of thought - that it posits a unity, a totality, where there ought to be conflicting theses.

Marx ends the first part of his attack on Hegel by musing the contradictions between democracy and monarchism in a dialectical manner, defending the former against the latter:

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Democracy is the truth of monarchy, monarchy is not the truth of democracy. Monarchy is necessarily democracy in contradiction with itself, whereas the monarchial moment is no contradiction within democracy. Monarchy cannot, while democracy can be understood in terms of itself. In democracy none of the moments obtains a significance other than what befits it. Each is really only a moment of the whole Demos. In monarchy one part determines the character of the whole; the entire constitution must be modified according to the immutable head. Democracy is the generic constitution; monarchy is a species, and indeed a poor one. Democracy is content and form; monarchy should be only form, but it adulterates the content.

In monarchy the whole, the people, is subsumed under one of its modes of existence, the political constitution; in democracy the constitution itself appears only as one determination, and indeed as the self-determination of the people. In monarchy we have the people of the constitution, in democracy the constitution of the people. Democracy is the resolved mystery of all constitutions. Here the constitution not only in itself, according to essence, but according to existence and actuality is returned to its real ground, actual man, the actual people, and established as its own work. The constitution appears as what it is, the free product of men. One could say that this also applies in a certain respect to constitutional monarchy; only the specific difference of democracy is that here the constitution is in general only one moment of the people's existence, that is to say the political constitution does not form the state for itself.

Hegel proceeds from the state and makes man into the subjectified state; democracy starts with man and makes the state objectified man. Just as it is not religion that creates man but man who creates religion, so it is not the constitution that creates the people but the people which creates the constitution. In a certain respect democracy is to all other forms of the state what Christianity is to all other religions. Christianity is the religion kat exohin, the essence of religion, deified man under the form of a particular religion. In the same way democracy is the essence of every political constitution, socialised man under the form of a particular constitution of the state. It stands related to other constitutions as the genus to its species; only here the genus itself appears as an existent, and therefore opposed as a particular species to those existents which do not conform to the essence. Democracy relates to all other forms of the state as their Old Testament. Man does not exist because of the law but rather the law exists for the good of man. Democracy is human existence, while in the other political forms man has only legal existence. That is the fundamental difference of democracy.


The Young Marx was highly libertarian.
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« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2011, 03:49:43 pm »
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The Young Marx, Part III - Marx the Dialectician and the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right Part II

As we have seen, part of Marx's initial break came over Hegel's attempt to weld the dialectical method to the aspirations of the fledgling unification movement in the then-confederated German States, and, through this, to the concept of a Germanic State itself. Marx was perhaps more prescient than many modern commentators who see in Hegel's philosophy of the State an underground that would one day emerge and contribute to the creation of the National Socialist government in Germany.

Marx's issues with his former mentor were, however, much deeper than the temporal concerns of Germany. Indeed, Marx took issue with Hegel's rather enthusiastic construction of Executive (in this context, Imperial) authority altogether. As before, the first quotes are those of Hegel in the Third Book of his Philosophy of Right, the second from Marx's Critique:

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(b) The Executive
§ 287. There is a distinction between the monarch's decisions and their execution and application, or in general between his decisions and the continued execution or maintenance of past decisions, existing laws, regulations, organisations for the securing of common ends, and so forth. This task of ... subsuming the particular under the universal is comprised in the executive power, which also includes the powers of the judiciary and the police. The latter have a more immediate bearing on the particular concerns of civil society and they make the universal interest authoritative over its particular aims.

This is the usual interpretation of the executive. The only thing which can be mentioned as original with Hegel is that he coordinates executive, police, and judiciary, where as a rule the administrative and judiciary powers are treated as opposed.

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§ 288. Particular interests which are common to everyone fall within civil society and lie outside the absolutely universal interest of the state proper (see § 256). The administration of these is in the hands of Corporations (see § 251), commercial and professional as well as municipal, and their officials, directors, managers, and the like. It is the business of these officials to manage the private property and interests of these particular spheres and, from that point of view, their authority rests on the confidence of their commonalties and professional equals. On the other hand, however, these circles of particular interests must be subordinated to the higher interests of the state, and hence the filling of positions of responsibility in Corporations, etc., will generally be effected by a mixture of popular election by those interested with appointment and ratification by higher authority.

This is a simple description of the empirical situation in some countries.

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§ 289. The maintenance of the state's universal interest, and of legality, in this sphere of particular rights, and the work of bringing these rights back to the universal, require to be superintended by holders of the executive power, by (a) the executive civil servants and (b) the higher advisory officials (who are organised into committees). These converge in their supreme heads who are in direct contact with the monarch.

Hegel has not developed the executive. But given this, he has not demonstrated that it is anything more than a function, a determination of the citizen in general. By viewing the particular interests of civil society as such, as interests which lie outside the absolutely universal interest of the state, he has only deduced the executive as a particular, separate power.

What Hegel here is arguing for, and what Marx is assailing him for doing, is assuming a broad view - in a very real sense, a modern one comparable to current theories in the United States of a 'unitary executive' - of the powers of a head-of-state. Marx furthers this line of argument henceforth.

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Marx's basic point of contention in this section is Hegel's championing of the burgeoning Prussian authoritarian State. He extends this critique to Hegel's interpretation of the German civil code, as the following rather lengthy excerpts show. As before, the interior quote comes from Hegel, the exterior from Marx's reaction to it:

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§ 294. Once an individual has been appointed to his official position by the sovereign's act (see § 292), the tenure of his post is conditional on his fulfilling his duties. Such fulfilment is the very essence of his appointment, and it is only consequential that he finds in his office his livelihood and the assured satisfaction of his particular interests (see § 294), and further that his external circumstances and his official work are freed from other kinds of subjective dependence and influence.

What the service of the state ... requires, it says in the Remark, is that men shall forgo the selfish and capricious satisfaction of their subjective ends; by this very sacrifice, they acquire the right to find their satisfaction in, but only in, the dutiful discharge of their public functions. In this fact, so far as public business is concerned, there lies the link between universal and particular interests which constitutes both the concept of the state and its inner stability (see § 260) ... The assured satisfaction of particular needs removes the external compulsion which may tempt a man to seek ways and means of satisfying them at the expense of his official duties. Those who are entrusted with affairs of state find in its universal power the protection they need against another subjective phenomenon, namely the personal passions of the governed, whose primitive interests, etc., suffer injury as the universal interest of the state is made to prevail against them.

§ 295. The security of the state and its subjects against the misuse of power by ministers and their officials lies directly in their hierarchical organisation and their answerability; but it lies too in the authority given to societies and Corporations, because in itself this is a barrier against the intrusion of subjective caprice into the power entrusted to a civil servant, and it completes from below the state control which does not reach down as far as the conduct of individuals.

§ 296. But the fact that a dispassionate, upright, and polite demeanour becomes customary [in civil servants], is (i) partly a result of direct education in thought and ethical conduct. Such an education is a mental counterpoise to the mechanical and semi-mechanical activity involved in acquiring the so-called 'sciences' of matters connected with administration, in the requisite business training, in the actual work done, etc. (ii) The size of the state, however, is an important factor in producing this result, since it diminishes the stress of family and other personal ties, and also makes less potent and so less keen such passions as hatred, revenge, etc. In those who are busy with the important questions arising in a great state, these subjective interests automatically disappear, and the habit is generated of adopting universal interests, points of view, and activities.

§ 297. Civil servants and the members of the executive constitute the greater part of the middle class, the class in which the consciousness of right and the developed intelligence of the mass of the people is found. The sovereign working on the middle class at the top, and Corporation-rights working on it at the bottom, are the institutions which effectively prevent it from acquiring the isolated position of an aristocracy and using its education and skill as means to an arbitrary tyranny.

Addition to § 297. The middle class, to which civil servants belong, is politically conscious and the one in which education is most prominent. ... It is a prime concern of the state that a middle class should be developed, but this can be done only if the state is an organic unity like the one described here, i.e., it can be done only by giving authority to spheres of particular interests, which are relatively independent, and by appointing an army of officials whose personal arbitrariness is broken against such authorised bodies. Action in accordance with everyone's rights, and the habit of such action, is a consequence of the counterpoise to officialdom which independent and self-subsistent bodies create.

What Hegel says about 'the Executive' does not merit the name of a philosophical development. Most of the paragraphs could be found verbatim in the Prussian Landrecht. Yet the administration proper is the most difficult point of the development.

Because Hegel has already claimed the police and the judiciary to be spheres of civil society, the executive is nothing but the administration, which he develops as the bureaucracy.

First of all, the 'Corporations', as the self-government of civil society, presuppose the bureaucracy. The sole determination arrived at is that the choice of the administrators and their officials, etc., is a mixed choice originating from the members of civil society and ratified by the proper authority (or as Hegel says, 'higher authority').

Over this sphere, for the maintenance of the state's universal interest and of legality, stand holders of the executive power, the executive civil servants and the advisory officials, which converge into the monarch.

A division of labour occurs in the business of the executive. Individuals must prove their capability for executive functions, i.e., they must sit for examinations. The choice of the determinate individual for civil service appointment is the prerogative of the royal authority. The distribution of these functions is given in the nature of the thing. The official function is the duty and the life's work of the civil servants. Accordingly they must be paid by the state. The guarantee against malpractice by the bureaucracy is partly its hierarchy and answerability, and on the other hand the authority of the societies and Corporations; its humaneness is a result partly of direct education in thought and ethical conduct and partly of the size of the state. The civil servants form the greater part of the middle class. The safeguard against its becoming like an aristocracy and tyranny is partly the sovereign at the top and partly Corporation-rights at the bottom. The middle class is the class of education. Voila tout! Hegel gives us an empirical description of the bureaucracy, partly as it actually is, and partly according to the opinion which it has of itself And with that the difficult chapter on 'the Executive' is brought to a close.

This requires some parsing, which I will now attempt to do:

Most striking is Marx's comparison to Hegel's conceptualization of executive power as comparable to that found in the Landrecht - this ought to be utterly unsurprising, as, despite his pretensions to having invented a universal system explaining all societies everywhere, Hegel had adopted the attitude of a German patriot.

The Allgemeines Landrecht was the German civil service law established by Frederick II of Prussia in 1794. The Tenth Part of the Second Section of the code describes the role of the Prussian bureaucracy thusly:

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§. 1. A civil servant or military man, destined for excellency, help to promote and maintain the security, good order, and prosperity of the State.

§. 2. They, in addition to the general duties of a subject, owe the head of the State peculiar loyalty and obedience.

§. 3. Everyone represents the nature of his office, and the contents of its execution, and to the special services thereby guaranteed by oath and by duty.

The Landrecht continues in this fashion when laying out the very hierarchical nature of the Prussian civil service. Several such examples are as follows:

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§. 90. Supervisors who, by proper attention to disciplining their subordinates could prevent damages are neglect, are responsible for the damage caused to both State and private individuals by such sufferings.

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§. 132. The responsibility of the supervisors to have prevented an accident by a neglectful subordinate( § 90.) is incumbent on him by virtue of his duties.

§. 133. The other members are only liable, both at work and absent, only so far as peculiar laws mandate their compulsory transaction with the neglectful servant.

Thus we see that the Prussian executive practiced as sort of collective punishment quite in keeping with the order of rank both they and Hegel embraced. In a roundabout way, by deriding Hegel's views as being first an unhistorical (and consequentially undialectical) expansion of the authoritarian Prussian bureaucracy, he simultaneously overturns Hegel's conception of dialectics while assailing him for substituting German Statism for the truth - an irony an observer a century and a half on can only marvel. It likewise completely falsifies the modern view, in light of the historical circumstances surrounding the establishment and maintenance of the Soviet Union, that Marx was a mere worshiper at the altar of the State. In his earliest years, at least, Marx blended a liberal's distrust of State authority with a class-based conceptualization of that State's constitution.
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The Young Marx, Part III - Marx the Dialectician and the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right Part III

Concluding his tirade against the Hegelian conception of the State as the synthesis of a national dialectic, Marx takes special aim at the concept of a bureaucracy, seeing in it the embodiment of Hegel's thinking on the subject of the government. In what is perhaps the most ironic bit of writing to be found in his youthful output when considered against the bureaucracy-choked experience that was 20th century Marxism, the author here vents his spleen against the civil service:

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Hegel proceeds from the separation of the state and civil society, the separation of the particular interests and the absolutely universal; and indeed the bureaucracy is founded on this separation. Hegel proceeds from the presuppositon of the Corporations; and indeed the bureaucracy presupposes the Corporations, in any event the 'corporation mind'. Hegel develops no content of the bureaucracy, but merely some general indications of its formal organisation; and indeed the bureaucracy is merely the formalism of a content which lies outside the bureaucracy itself...

The bureaucracy is the state formalism of civil society. It is the state's consciousness, the state's will, the state's power, as a Corporation. (The universal interest can behave vis-a-vis the particular only as a particular so long as the particular behaves vis-a vis the universal as a universal. The bureaucracy must thus defend the imaginary universality of particular interest, i.e., the Corporation mind, in order to defend the imaginary particularity of the universal interests, i.e., its own mind. The state must be Corporation so long as the Corporation wishes to be state.) Being the state's consciousness, will, and power as a Corporation, the bureaucracy is thus a particular, closed society within the state. The bureaucracy wills the Corporation as an imaginary power. To be sure, the individual Corporation also has this will for its particular interest in opposition to the bureaucracy, but it wills the bureaucracy against the other Corporation, against the other particular interest. The bureaucracy as the completed Corporation therefore wins the day over the Corporation which is like incomplete bureaucracy. It reduces the Corporation to an appearance, or wishes to do so, but wishes this appearance to I exist and to believe in its own existence. The Corporation is civil society's attempt to become state; but the bureaucracy is the state which has really made itself into civil society.

The state formalism, which the bureaucracy is, is the state as formalism, and Hegel has described it precisely as such a formalism. Because this state formalism constitutes itself as a real power and becomes itself its own material content, it is evident that the bureaucracy is a tissue of practical illusion, or the illusion of the state. The bureaucratic mind is through and through a Jesuitical, theological mind. The bureaucrats are the Jesuits and theologians of the state. The bureaucracy is la république prêtre.

What Marx refers to as "the separation of the state and civil society" will become part-and-parcel of his criticism of the capitalist State in future writings, insofar as Marx conceives of it as obscuring the 'real' - economic - activity of a people through the mystification of the political process, positing a division where Marx saw only unity. This theme would be expanded upon in the future by Marxist thinkers like Antonio Gramsci; for the purpose of this writing, however, Marx saw fit to adopt a more humanistic attitude towards the problem of this division, adopting a democratic attitude in contrast to the explicitly authoritarian tendencies of his mentor:

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Hegel presents himself with the dilemma: either civil society (the Many, the multitude) shares through deputies in deliberating and deciding on political matters of general concern or all [as] individuals do this. This is no opposition of essence, as Hegel subsequently tries to present it, but of existence, and indeed of the most external existence, quantity. Thus, the basis which Hegel himself designated as external - the multiplicity of members - remains the best reason against the direct participation of all. The question of whether civil society should participate in the legislature either by entering it through deputies or by the direct participation of all as individuals is itself a question within the abstraction of the political state or within the abstract political state; it is an abstract political question.

And so we see that Marx's ultimate break with Hegel came not upon his 'discovery' of materialist dialectics, but rather from and through his opposition to Hegel's conservative-Statist tendencies, which surely offended Marx's then-liberal sensibilities as much as they do those of so many modern readers today. In a very real way, then, one can say that it was Marx's liberalism which, by leading to his break with Hegel, opened space for the rise of Marxism as a self-contained ideological orientation.

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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part I


Having secured his independence from Hegelian thought with the publication of Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, Marx had also turned himself into a sensation in the parlours of Berlin. Never before had anyone sought to refute Hegel's philosophy 'from within'; while other authors had objected to it upon the basis of their own principles - most famously the Danish proto-existentialist Søren Kierkegaard and the German pedagogue Arthur Schopenhauer - none other had thought to turn to the dialectic method in order to show up the old man.

And so, having demonstrated both his own intellectual fortitude and the ability to apply it with wit, Marx expanded his vision, deciding to take aim at the whole of 'Left' or 'Young' Hegelianism, those disciples of Hegel's who, though they applied his method towards the end of social justice, nevertheless employed the means and language of Hegelian idealism to get there. Before he could undertake this endeavor, however, he moved from Germany to Paris in order to oversee the public of the radical newspaper Die Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (The German-French Chronicles). It was here that he met Friedrich Engels in August of 1844, a man who would forever be indelibly linked (perhaps to the detriment of his own legacy) to Karl Marx.

It wasn't the first time they'd been introduced. Engels, like Marx, had been a student of Hegel's philosophy, his first exposure to it coming from a stay in Berlin while stationed there as an artilleryman in the Austrian Army, and he brought home with him the conviction in favor of social justice that was common among the students of Hegel. Wanting to purge this new influence from Engels' mind, his family sent him to work at a mill in Britain; en route, he'd stopped at a printer's where Marx had been employed. The two had taken up correspondence, and Marx was impressed enough with Engels' understanding of Hegelian philosophy to invite him to work on a book refuting what had then been considered its furthest development.

The Holy Family was the product of their joint venture. Its subtitle, A Critique of Critical Criticism, portends the line of argument it advances and the biting, sarcastic tone it will take; the opening sentence, written by Engels, brings that line into focus:

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Real humanism has no more dangerous enemy in Germany than spiritualism or speculative idealism, which substitutes "self-consciousness" or the ''spirit" for the real individual man and with the evangelist teaches: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing."

This sentence might be seen to represent a symbolic lengthening of the point-of-view of Marx's prior book, the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. If before Marx had seen fit to leave questions of ontology at the door and accept prima facie Hegel's idealistic philosophical structure, only attempting to refute it 'from within', he has here with Engels advanced beyond Hegelian idealism, embracing what will soon come to be a hard materialist vantage point against the 'spiritualistic' conceptions of even the most left-winged of Hegel's disciples.

Engels continues, and clarifies the chief target against which their combined arrows will be notched:

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Our exposition deals first and foremost with Bruno Bauer's Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (General Literary Gazette) -- the first eight numbers are here before us -- because in it Bauer's criticism, and with it the nonsense of German speculation in general, has reached its peak. The more completely Critical Criticism (the criticism of the Literatur-Zeitung) distorts reality into an obvious comedy through philosophy, the more instructive it is.-- For examples see Faucher and Szeliga. -- The Literatur-Zeitung offers material by which even the broad public can be enlightened on the illusions of speculative philosophy. That is the aim of our book.

Bruno Bauer, even more than Feuerbach, had been a leading champion of the Left Hegelian tendency. Bauer had sought to show that Christianity, far from being of primarily Judaic derivation, had in fact been a Judaization of essentially Greek philosophical impulses cloaked in the garb of the 'common faith' and employed to assimilate the first-century Jews into the Empire. Bauer had switched positions on the issue, writing first to defend the narrative of the Gospel account as it was portrayed within the New Testament, only later to commit to a volte face and seek to undermine it through a peculiar adaptation of Hegelian philosophy to philology. This would later influence Bauer's associate, Friedrich Nietzsche, who would continue Bauer's line of Biblical exegesis while ditching the underpinning Hegelian methodology. Bauer had later taken to attacking Hegel from an ironic position, as an ultraconservative looking to 'expose' Hegel's conservatism and piety as a disguise for a revolutionary philosophy - the real purpose of which was to convert conservative Hegelians to a leftist position. These views he published in the General Literary Gazette, at first to Marx's approval, but, as Bauer became increasingly moralistic in his approach and idealistic in his philosophy, Marx became convinced that Bauer still harbored conservative Hegelian tendencies. Exposing these tendencies and advancing a materialistic point-of-view became his and Engels' aim in writing The Holy Family.
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« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2011, 04:28:22 pm »
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part II


Marx and Engels divided up the writing of The Holy Family between them, with Engels taking the first three chapters solo, Marx the eighth and ninth (and final) chapters, and the rest being split evenly between them. Engels opens the book proper with a torrent of caustic irony:

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Critical Criticism, however superior to the mass it deems itself, nevertheless has boundless pity for the mass. And Criticism so loved the mass that it sent its only begotten son, that all who believe in him may not be lost, but may have Critical life. Criticism was made mass and dwells amongst us and we behold its glory, the glory of the only begotten son of the father. In other words, Criticism becomes socialistic and speaks of "works on pauperism"....And who will reproach it for using "the huge heap of unintelligible foreign words'' when it repeatedly proves that it does not understand those words itself, Here are a few samples:

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"That is why the institutions of mendicancy inspire them with horror."
"A doctrine of responsibility in which every motion of human thought becomes an image of Lot's wife."
"On the keystone of this really profound edifice of art."
"This is the main content of Stein's political testament, which the great statesman handed in even before
retiring from the active service of the government and from all its transactions."
"This people had not yet any dimensions at that time for such extensive freedom."
"By palavering with fair assurance at the end of his publicistic work that only confidence was still
lacking."
"To the manly state-elevating understanding, rising above routine and pusillanimous fear, reared on history and nurtured with a live perception of foreign public state system."
"The education of general national welfare."
"Freedom lay dead in the breast of the Prussian national mission under the control of the authorities."
"Popular-organic publicism."
"The people to whom even Mr. Brüggemann delivers the baptismal certificate of its adulthood."
"A rather glaring contradiction to the other certitudes which are expressed in the work on the professional capacities of the people."
"Wretched self-interest quickly dispels all the chimeras of the national will."
"Passion for great gains, etc., was the spirit that pervaded the whole of the Restoration period and which, with a fair quantity of indifference, adhered to the new age."
"The obscure idea of political significance to be found in the Prussian countrymanship nationality rests on the memory of a great history."
"The antipathy disappeared and turned into a completely exalted condition."
"In this wonderful transition each one in his own way still put forward in prospect his own special wish."
"A catechism with unctuous Solomon-like language the words of which rise gently like a dove -- chirp!
chirp! -- to the regions of pathos and thunder-like aspects."
"All the dilettantism of thirty-five years of neglect."
"The too sharp thundering at the citizens by one of their former town authorities could have been suffered with the calmness of mind characteristic of our representatives if Benda's view of the Town Charter of 1808 had not laboured under a Mussulman conceptual affliction with regard to the essence and the application of the Town Charter."

In Mr. Reichardt*, the audacity of style always corresponds to the audacity of the thought. He makes transitions like the following:

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"Mr. Brüggemann ... 1843 ... state theory ... every upright man ... the great modesty of our Socialists ... natural marvels ... demands to be made on Germany ... supernatural marvels ... Abraham ... Philadelphia ... manna ... baker ... but since we are speaking of marvels, Napoleon brought,"

etc. After these samples it is no wonder that Critical Criticism gives us a further "explanation" of a sentence which it itself describes as expressed in "popular language", for it "arms its eyes with organic power to penetrate chaos". And here it must be said that then even "popular language" cannot remain unintelligible to Critical Criticism. It is aware that the way of the writer must necessarily be a crooked one if the individual who sets out on it is not strong enough to make it straight; and therefore it naturally ascribes "mathematical operations" to the author.

(* Mr. Reichardt was the publisher of the General Literary Gazette, as well as its sometimes-contributor)

Engels' criticism here is likely not to make much sense with anyone not familiar with the writings of Bruno Bauer and his associates, but at its core is this: that they had made an art of sophistry, using an imaginary language to refer to imaginary ideals which at no point were in contact with the physical reality of the subject of their discussions. Despite the claims of the Left-Hegelians to speak from the throat of the vox populi, Marx and Engels believed them to have become completely detached from the material conditions of those for whom they claimed the right to speak, not the least cause of which was their continued loyalty to Hegel's philosophical idealism. Indeed, Engels closes out the first brief chapter with a statement saying as much:

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It is self-evident -- and history, which proves everything which is self-evident, also proves this -- that Criticism does not become mass in order to remain mass, but in order to redeem the mass from its mass-like mass nature, that is, to raise the popular language of the mass to the critical language of Critical Criticism. It is the lowest grade of degradation for Criticism to learn the popular language of the mass and transfigure that vulgar jargon into the high-flown intricacy of the dialectics of Critical Criticism.

In this Engels would anticipate the long-standing conflict which even then was germinating between liberalism and, later, 'social democracy', both so often predicated upon moralistic sentimentality and lofty idealism while remaining utterly divorced from the concerns that concerned them, and Marxism, which attempted to ground itself, as much as possible, upon the class whose interests it aspired to champion.



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« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2011, 04:33:57 pm »
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part III


Engels' second chapter continued and extends this line of argumentation further:

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After rendering most substantial services to self-consciousness by humiliating itself to the extent of nonsense in foreign languages, and thereby at the same time freeing the world from pauperism, Criticism still further humiliates itself to the extent of nonsense in practice and history... Criticism, which is self-sufficient, and complete and perfect in itself, naturally cannot recognise history as it really took place, for that would mean recognising the base mass in all its mass-like mass nature, whereas the problem is precisely to redeem the mass from its mass nature. History is therefore freed from its mass nature, and Criticism, which has a free attitude to its object, calls to history: "You ought to have happened in such and such a way!"

What Engels means here is simple, but in its simplicity stands as resolute a condemnation of idealistic leftism as has ever existed: refusing to acknowledge the facts of historical change as they have occurred, the idealistic (the 'Critic') instead falsifies history in order to fit his picturesque, placid view of man and society. We see this process at work all the time, even today, among American Great Society revanchists who will profess to the heavens that "Lyndon Johnson died for our sins" while pining for a return to the political structures he established, strike-breaking and all.

Engels then continues to point out several very real historical flaws in the arguments of the Left-Hegelians:

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In mass-type history there were no factory towns before there were factories; but in Critical history, in which, as already in Hegel, the son begets his father, Manchester, Bolton and Preston were flourishing factory towns before factories were even thought of. In real history the cotton industry was founded mainly on Hargreaves' jenny and Arkwright's throstle, Crompton's mule being only an improvement of the spinning jenny according to the new principle discovered by Arkwright. But Critical history knows how to make distinctions: it scorns the one-sidedness of the jenny and the throstle, and gives the crown to the mule as the speculative identity of the extremes. In reality, the invention of the throstle and the mule immediately made possible the application of water-power to those machines, but Critical Criticism sorts out the principles lumped together by crude history and makes this application come only later, as something quite special. In reality the invention of the steam-engine preceded all the above-mentioned inventions; according to Criticism it is the crown of them all and the last.

One might today apply Engels' line of argumentation here to the man who sees capitalism in the slave system by which the Pharaohs constructed their pyramids and rationed out wheat to the workers from centralized graineries, or who understands the Roman plantation as standing unchanged through to the Spanish hacienda. "We have always been at war with Eastasia" says the Critic.

Engels' criticism of the Critical conception of history extends past their understanding of the dawn of industrialized society, expanding to include their notions of the recent Corn Laws controversy in England:

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But that is still nothing at all. Criticism cannot be content with the mass-type parties in England; it creates new ones, including a "factory party", for which history may be thankful to it. On the other hand, it lumps together the factory-owners and the factory workers in one massive heap -- why bother about such trifles! -- and decrees that the factory workers refused to contribute to the Anti-Corn-Law Leagues not out of ill-will or because of Chartism, as the stupid factory-owners maintain, but merely because they were poor. It further decrees that with the repeal of the English Corn Laws agricultural labourers will have to put up with a lowering of wages, in regard to which, however, we must most submissively remark that that destitute class cannot be deprived of another penny without being reduced to absolute starvation.

What is here meant is the lack of understanding on the part of the 'Critics' to why the industrial workers of England did not immediately join in with their peasant brothers in pushing for the repeal of the protectionist measures created by the Tory government of 1815. Bauer and his idealists seemed to Engels to be incapable of comprehending the real distinctions between rural agricultural workers and labourers; the Corn Laws drove up industrial wages by keeping food prices high and farmers on their farms. It was only with the proposition of a Ten Hour Bill limiting the amount of time worked in a day that labourers as a class finally joined in for the push for repeal.

It was in their opposition to this latter measure that Engels sees a lingering conservatism on the part of the 'Left'-Hegelians:


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Criticism decrees that Lord Ashley's Ten Hour Bill is a half-hearted juste-milieu measure and Lord Ashley himself "a true illustration of constitutional action", while the factory-owners, the Chartists, the landowners -- in short, all that makes up the mass nature of England -- have so far considered this measure as an expression, the mildest possible one admittedly, of a downright radical principle, since it would lay the axe at the root of foreign trade and thereby at the root of the factory system -- nay, not merely lay the axe to it, but cut deeply into it.

The working class of England happily embraced the Ten Hour Bill, not merely because it would ease their working conditions but also, and even primarily, because it meant for them less exposure to the pressures of cheap foreign trade; conversely, the factory operators and their rentiers opposed it for just this reason. This conservatism quickly becomes the focal point of Engels' extended criticism:

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But Criticism only becomes truly magnificent in its fabrication of stupidities when it discovers that the English workers -- who in April and May held meeting after meeting, drew up petition after petition, and all for the Ten Hour Bill, and displayed more agitation throughout the factory districts than at any time during the past two years -- that those workers take only a "partial interest" in this question, although it is evident that "legislation limiting the working day has also occupied their attention" Criticism is truly magnificent when it finally makes the great, the glorious, the unheard-of discovery that

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the apparently more immediate help from the repeal of the Corn Laws absorbs most of the wishes of the workers and will do so until no longer doubtful realisation of those wishes practically proves the futility of the repeal --

proves it to workers who drag Anti-Corn-Law agitators down from the platform at every public meeting, who have seen to it that the Anti-Corn-Law League no longer dares to hold a public meeting in any English industrial town, who consider the League to be their only enemy and who, during the debate of the Ten Hour Bill -- as nearly always before in similar matters -- had the support of the Tories.

The issue at hand, finally, was the conflation of what Engels calls 'Criticism' of farmer and worker, lumped together under the nomenclature of "the poor" with no distinct interest apart from the amelioration of their poverty. Towards this end they falsified history, exploding the support of the workers for the repeal of the Corn Law beyond all measure and underplaying their desire for a Ten Hour Bill to the point of non-existence. This conservative trend of the 'Leftists' will be the dominant theme of The Holy Family.
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part IV


The third chapter of The Holy Family begins with a consideration of the political activities of Dr. Karl Nauwerck, a radical teacher at the University of Bonn who was dismissed from his post for disseminating Left-Hegelian concepts to his students, and whose work has gone largely untranslated (and unread) today. Engels begins by mocking the overly-complicated explanation the Left-Hegelians would give to answer Nauwerck's situation:

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Criticism cannot ignore Mr. Nauwerck's infinitely important dispute with the Berlin Faculty of Philosophy. It has indeed had a similar experience and it must take Mr. Nauwerck's fate as a background in order to put its own dismissal from Bonn in sharper relief. Criticism, being accustomed to considering the Bonn affair as the event of the century, and having already written the "philosophy of the deposition of criticism", could be expected to give a similar detailed philosophical construction of the Berlin "collision". Criticism proves a priori that everything had to happen in such a way and no other. It proves

1) Why the Faculty of Philosophy was bound to come into "collision" not with a logician or metaphysician, but with a philosopher of the state;

2) Why that collision could not be so sharp and decisive as Criticism's conflict with theology in Bonn;

3) Why that collision was, properly speaking, a stupid business, since Criticism had already concentrated all principles and all content in its Bonn collision, so that world history could only become a plagiarist of Criticism;

4) Why the Faculty of Philosophy considered attacks on the works of Mr. Nauwerck as attacks on itself;

5) Why no other course remained for Mr. N, but to retire of his own accord;

6) Why the Faculty had to defend Mr. N. if it did not want to disavow itself;

7) Why the "inner split in the Faculty had necessarily to manifest itself in such a way" that the Faculty declared both N. and the Government right and wrong at the same time;

8 ) Why the Faculty finds in N.'s works no reason for dismissing him;

9) What determined the lack of clarity of the whole verdict;

10) Why the Faculty "deems itself (!) entitled (!) as a scientific authority (!) to examine the essence of the matter", and finally;

11) Why, nevertheless, the Faculty does not want to write in the same way as Mr. N.


The controversy Engels discusses here was the reaction of the Faculty of Philosophy to Nauwerck's dismissal: reliant upon the State for funds, they could not therefore come out and champion his radical cause to all the world, but nevertheless felt it necessary for the sake of professional camaraderie to defend him from the charges resulting in his canning. Implied herein is that the Left-Hegelians inflated not only their own personal importance, but could not even admit to a far simpler explanation for the firing: that Nauwerck's propagandizing ran afoul of the class interests of the proprietors of the University of Bonn. Where the Hegelians saw all manner of idealistic irony in the disputation between a teacher of their own persuasions and the university which rejected those convictions, Engels and Marx saw an ideological squabble between employee and employer. This, of course, might also be seen to serve as a retroactive indictment of the deterministic 'dialectical materialism' of the Soviet Union.

Engels concludes this third chapter, and the last of his own hand, with this insightful paragraphs:

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Criticism disposes of these important questions with rare thoroughness in four pages, proving by means of Hegel's logic why everything had to happen as it did and why no god could have prevented it. In another place Criticism says that there has not yet been full knowledge of a single epoch in history; modesty prevents it from saying that it has full knowledge of at least its own collision and Nauwerck's, which, although they are not epochs, appear to Criticism to be epoch-making.

Having "abolished" in itself the "element" of thoroughness, Critical Criticism becomes "the tranquillity of knowledge".

This is the essence of Engels' critique: that because 'Critical Criticism' is idealistic in nature and "radical" in politics, it often falls into the trap of setting itself at the center of all goings-on; it sees itself as the sun around which the rest of human history revolves. Of course, it is not merely Left-Hegelianism that falls into this trap, but many forms of left-winged discourse, and Marxism through the years has been no exception, often losing sight of the working class in favor of itself as a 'vanguard party' of revolutionaries with force of will enough to compel the workers into revolution. It might be instructive for any Marxist to read these lines and substitute the phrase 'Critical Criticism' with the word 'Leninism', and the whole remains just as intelligible as before.

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« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2011, 04:45:11 pm »
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part V


Engels concludes his individual writing in the first section of the fourth chapter of The Holy Family. In it, he briefly considers two works by two different authors, each of whom argued from a broadly 'Left'-Hegelian perspective but in favor of different means: the first an excerpt from a piece by Edgar Bauer, the younger brother of Bruno who at one point had been an associate of Marx's; the second, a singular work by a Frenchwoman, Flora Tristan, titled Union Ouvrière (The Workers Union) and published in 1843, a year before The Holy Family was released. The complete text can be read here. In it, Mrs. Tristan made an effort to link Left-Hegelian philosophy with the burgeoning feminist movement of the day, considering the plight of workers and women to be inseparable. In the course of this noble task, however, she made the mistake of minimizing the importance of the worker in the composition of society, saying that

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Woman is everything in the life of the workers. She is their sole providence If she fails them, everything fails them. Consequently it is said: "It is the woman who makes or unmakes the household, " and this is the exact truth; that is why a proverb has been made of it.

Likewise Bruno Bauer made the same mistake, and the first portion of the chapter is dedicated to correcting it. As always, the first quote is from the subject in question (in this case, Edgar Bauer) and the second the author of the piece (Engels):

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To be able to create everything, a stronger consciousness is needed than that of the worker. Only the opposite of the above proposition would be true: the worker makes nothing, therefore he has nothing; but the reason why he makes nothing is that his work is always individual, having as its object his most personal needs, and is everyday work.

Here Criticism achieves a height of abstraction in which it regards only the creations of its own thought and generalities which contradict all reality as "something", indeed as "everything", The worker creates nothing because he creates only "individual", that is, perceptible, palpable, spiritless and un-Critical objects, which are an abomination in the eyes of pure Criticism. Everything that is real and living is un-Critical, of a mass nature, and therefore "nothing"; only the ideal, fantastic creatures of Critical Criticism are "everything".

The worker creates nothing, because his work remains individual, having only his individual needs as its object, that is, because in the present world system the individual interconnected branches of labour are separated from, and even opposed to, one another; in short, because labour is not organized.


Far from considering the problem from the standpoint of 'consciousness', as the idealist Bauer seems to, Engels attacks the problem head-on, finding in the worker's inability to create "everything" (or, rather, a world of their own) a symptom of their social disorganization and displacement as a result of economic specialization; rather than a class who acts cohesively in their class interests, they are apt to fight amongst one another more often than they fight with the bosses, seeing the illusion of specialization for the reality of their constitution as a class. Engels furthers this in his assault upon Tristan:

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Flora Tristan, in an assessment of whose work this great proposition appears, puts forward the same demand and is treated en canaille for her insolence in anticipating Critical Criticism. Anyhow, the proposition that the worker creates nothing is absolutely crazy except in the sense that the individual worker produces nothing whole, which is tautology. Critical Criticism creates nothing, the worker creates everything; and so much so that even his intellectual creations put the whole of Criticism to shame; the English and the French workers provide proof of this. The worker creates even man; the critic will never he anything but sub-human though on the other hand, of course, he has the satisfaction of being a Critical critic.

What Engels has argued against these past few chapters is any vaguely 'left-wing' point which sets the workers and the worker's movement aside in favor of some abstraction into principle, or into morality, or into 'social justice', or into the brotherhood of man: while such things certainly concerned him and it would be a mistake to paint Engels as a mere producerist, he certainly conceived of the working class as the axis about which the wheel of social change rotated, seeing in that class the means by which to establish the conditions necessary for the fulfillment of other concerns. Everything else to him was mere idealism.
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part VI


Picking up where Engels left off, Marx continues in the rest of the third chapter of The Holy Family to attack the writings of the younger Bauer brother, Edgar, this time taking offense at a concept of 'love' Bauer inherited in largely unmodified form from the German romantics: the subject of consideration are the novels of Henriette von Paalzow, a German author of radically-oriented romances.

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In order to complete its transformation into the ''tranquillity of knowledge", Critical Criticism must first seek to dispose of love. Love is a passion, and nothing is more dangerous for the tranquillity of knowledge than passion. That is why, speaking of Madame von Paalzow's novels, which, he assures us, he has "thoroughly studied". Herr Edgar is amazed at "a childish thing like so-called love". It is a horror and abomination and excites the wrath of Critical Criticism, makes it almost as bitter as gall, indeed, insane.

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"Love ... is a cruel goddess, and like every deity she wishes to possess the whole of man and is not satisfied until he has surrendered to her not merely his soul, but his physical self. The worship of love is suffering, the peak of this worship is self-immolation, suicide."

In order to change love into "Moloch", the devil incarnate, Herr Edgar first changes it into a goddess. When love has become a goddess, i.e., a theological object, it is of course submitted to theological criticism; moreover, it is known that god and the devil are not far apart. Herr Edgar changes love into a "goddess", a, "cruel goddess" at that, by changing man who loves, the love of man, into a man of love; by making "love" a being apart, separate from man and as such independent. By this simple process, by changing the predicate into the subject, all the attributes and manifestations of human nature can be Critically transformed into their negation and into alienations of human nature.

Marx's critique might seem pedantic, relying as it does on the semantics by which Bauer chose to express his opinion of 'love', but when understood properly it makes logical sense: Bauer treats love as an object in itself, idealized and completely independent of the man who feels it. Even in their conceptions of basic human emotion, Marx finds the 'Left-Hegelians' to have put the cart before the horse, the idea before the man who holds it.

Marx continues his attack along these lines, looking to demonstrate by semantics the abstractive fallacy he saw in Edgar Bauer:

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The passion of love is incapable of having an interest in internal development because it cannot be construed a priori, because its development is a real one which takes place in the world of the senses and between real individuals. But the main interest of speculative construction is the "Whence" and the "Whither". The "Whence" is the "necessity of a concept, its proof and deduction" (Hegel). The "Whither" is the determination "by which each individual link of the speculative circular course, as the animated content of the method, is at the same time the beginning of a new link" (Hegel). Hence, only if its "Whence" and its "Whither" could be construed a priori would love deserve the "interest" of speculative Criticism.

What Critical Criticism combats here is not merely love but everything living, everything which is immediate, every sensuous experience, any and every real experience, the "Whence" and the "Whither" of which one never knows beforehand.

Marx's statements on this matter might find an odd bedfellow in Friedrich Nietzsche's criticism of religious love as an abstraction from the real and sensuous world, and, consequentially, as a denial - a devaluation - of that world. In both cases, the romantic and the religious view of 'love', the emotion is held to a higher moral standard than the mind which produces it: the lover is a Platonic shadow of his love. By exploring the ontological structure of love - which requires an object for its subject - Marx hoped to refute this entire line of thinking.
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« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2011, 05:00:24 pm »
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part VI


The subject of the fourth chapter of The Holy Family may come as a surprise to anyone who, for whatever reason, is familiar with the broad history of Karl Marx's life and work but who nevertheless has not read any of his writings - a spirited defense (or, perhaps, appropriation) of the life's work of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a man often considered a founding father of anarchism.

Often in popular discourse on the subject Proudhon and Marx are presented as opposites: Proudhon as an anarchic libertine, Marx as a studious family man of sorts. The overt hostility that Marx would show against the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin in the International Working Men's Association two decades later is sometimes transferred over to Marx's relations with Proudhon. In point of fact, nothing could be further from the truth - in a letter from Marx to Proudhon dated May 1846, and thus a year and a half after the publication of The Holy Family, Marx closes by telling the recipient of "the deep respect your writings have inspired in me", and, indeed, there's reason to believe that it was Proudhon who first demonstrated to Marx the 'necessity' of abolishing private property.

At any rate, Marx was not the only German follower of the French anarchist: Edgar Bauer, the focus of the bulk of The Holy Family's ire, had undertaken to publish a translation of Proudhon's famous What Is Property? in the pages of his brother's paper. It is towards this translation that Marx directs his animosity:

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It was not Proudhon himself, but "Proudhon's point of view", Critical Criticism informs us, that wrote Qu'est-ce que la propriété? (What Is Property?)

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I begin my exposition of Proudhon's point of view by characterizing its" (the point of view's) "work, "What Is Property?"

As only the works of the Critical point of view possess a character of their own, the Critical characterization necessarily begins by giving a character to Proudhon's work. Mr. Edgar gives this work a character by translating it. He naturally gives it a bad character, for he turns it into an object of "Criticism".

The first example of Edgar Bauer's mistranslation that Marx offers is comes from the opening paragraphs of What Is Property?. In it, Proudhon makes the radical assertion that

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Nevertheless, I build no system. I ask an end to privilege, the abolition of slavery, equality of rights, and the reign of law. Justice, nothing else; that is the alpha and omega of my argument: to others I leave the business of governing the world.

Marx finds Bauer's translation of this sentiment rather watered down:

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[
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'I do not wish to give any system of the new; I wish for nothing but the abolition of privilege, the abolition of slavery.... Justice, nothing but justice, that is what I mean.

The characterized Proudhon confines himself to will and opinion, because "good will" and unscientific "opinion" are characteristic attributes of the un-Critical Mass. The characterized Proudhon behaves with the humility that is fitting for the mass and subordinates what he wishes to what he does not wish... A writer who begins his book by saying that he does not wish to give any system of the new, should then tell us what he does wish to give: whether it is a systematised old or an unsystematised new. But does the characterized Proudhon, who does not wish to give any system of the new, wish to give the abolition of privilege? No. He just wishes it.

Marx then juxtaposes the "Critically-translated" Proudhon against the man he takes to be the real one:

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The real Proudhon says: "Je ne fais pas de système; je demande la fin du privilège," etc. I make no system, I demand, etc., that is to say, the real Proudhon declares that he does not pursue any abstract scientific aims, but makes immediately practical demands on society. And the demand he makes is not an arbitrary one. It is motivated and justified by his whole argument and is the summary of that argument for, he says, "justice, rien que justice; tel est le resumé' de mon discours."[/i]

The literary implication herein is simple to grasp: Proudhon realized over the course of his studies that mankind had no knowledge of the meaning of the words behind the slogan. Bauer's translation inverts the vague timeline Proudhon established and, by doing so, its very meaning:

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The characterized Proudhon, who speaks and thinks otherwise than the mass-type one, necessarily went through quite a different course of education. He "questioned the masters of science, read hundreds of volumes of philosophy and law, etc., and at last" he "realised that we have never yet grasped the meaning of the words Justice, Equity, Freedom". The real Proudhon thought he had realised at first (je crus d'abord reconnaître) what the Critical Proudhon realised only "at last". The Critical alteration of d'abord (at first) into enfin (in the end) is necessary because the mass may not think it realises anything "at first". The mass-type Proudhon tells explicitly how he was staggered by the unexpected result of his studies and distrusted it. Hence he decided to carry out a "countertest" and asked himself: "Is it possible that mankind has so long and so universally been mistaken over the principles of the application of morals? How and why was it mistaken?" etc. He made the correctness of his observations dependent on the solution of these questions. He found that in morals, as in all other branches of knowledge, errors "are stages of science". The Critical Proudhon, on the other hand, immediately trusted the first impression that his studies of political economy, law and the like made upon him. Needless to say, the mass cannot proceed in any thorough way; it is bound to raise the first results of its investigations to the level of indisputable truths...

The Left-Hegelian Bauer thereby attempted to turn the decidedly un-Hegelian Proudhon into one of his own, assuming that Proudhon understood 'a priori' that those liberal phrases had no meaning. What's more, Bauer assumes that Proudhon shared with the 'Left'-Hegelians a mode of study that might today be considered "ivory tower", because, taken at face value, it may have seemed impossible to him that a member of the "rabble" might have undertaken a thorough study of political theory. What seems at first hand to be an egalitarian attempt to translate a radical author into a language not his own is exposed as a conservative attempt to water that author down to suit the social tastes of his new audience; what to a layman seems a mere semantical battle over language differences shows itself as important in grasping the essentials of an author's work.

Marx picks out numerous other examples of what he considers to be mistranslations on the part of Bauer in this chapter; several more will be considered in a later section. This 'un-translation' constitutes the bulk of the rest of the book.
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part VI, Continued


Marx's assault continues with an attack upon Edgar Bauer's characterization of the following paragraph from the first chapter of Proudhon's What Is Property?, concerning professional politicians and their proposed cures for the ills of society:

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But if we question the doctors as to this law, said to be engraved upon the heart of man, we shall immediately see that they dispute about a matter of which they know nothing; that, concerning the most important questions, there are almost as many opinions as authors; that we find no two agreeing as to the best form of government, the principle of authority, and the nature of right; that all sail hap-hazard upon a shoreless and bottomless sea, abandoned to the guidance of their private opinions which they modestly take to be right reason. And, in view of this medley of contradictory opinions, we say: “The object of our investigations is the law, the determination of the social principle. Now, the politicians, that is, the social scientists, do not understand each other; then the error lies in themselves; and, as every error has a reality for its object, we must look in their books to find the truth which they have unconsciously deposited there.”

Bauer's translation of the above paragraph is, as given by Marx, partially as follows:

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The object of our investigation is the law, the definition of the social principle. Now the politicians, i.e., the men of social science, are a prey to complete lack of clarity...; but as there is a reality at the basis of every error, in their books we shall find the truth, which they have brought into the world without knowing it.

Marx, on the other hand, renders the quotation thusly:

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"The politicians do not understand one another (ne s'entendent pas); their error is therefore a subjective one, having its origin in them (donc c'est en eux qu'est l'erreur)." Their mutual misunderstanding proves their one-sidedness. They confuse "their private opinion with common sense", and "as", according to the previous deduction, "every error has a true reality as its object, their books must contain the truth, which they unconsciously have put there" -- i.e., in their books -- "but have not brought into the world" (dans leurs livres doit se trouver la vérité qu' à leur insu its y auront mise)

Bauer's Proudhon attributes the discord in politics to a 'mere' misunderstand of men among men; Marx's Proudhon, sees the root of political error as resulting of a self-misunderstanding of politicians among themselves, that is, as a class. Bauer gives a relatively conservative tilt to what the quotation actually suggests, and Marx is as eagle-eyed as ever in detecting it and then calling Bauer out on it:

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The Critical Proudhon has a most fantastic way of reasoning. From the fact that the politicians are ignorant and unclear, he goes on in the most arbitrary fashion to say that a reality lies at the basis of every error, which can all the less he doubted as there is a reality at the basis of every error -- in the person of the one who errs. From the fact that a reality lies at the basis of every error he goes on to conclude that truth is to be found in the books of politicians. And finally he even makes out that the politicians have brought this truth into the world. Had they brought it into the world we should not need to look for it in their books.

Even in their interpretation of history - always a central concern to the Left as it then existed - Bauer's Proudhon and Marx's Proudhon are widely divergent. The former states that he

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seeks to prove by the experience of history... (that) if the idea that we have of what is just and right is false, evidently all its applications in law must be bad, all our institutions must be defective.

In this rendition of the phrase, the possibility that what has historically been considered "just and right" may be false would mean nothing more if it were found to be correct than opening the possibility that the applications of those systems of morality in law may be in error. This is quite a conservative approach, maintaining the possibility - as evinced by the use of the word "evidently" - that institutions founded on wrong principles may nevertheless execute the right methods. Marx's Proudhon, however, is far more straightforward:

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"If the idea that we have of what is just and right were badly defined, if it were incomplete or even false, it is evident that all our legislative applications would be bad...

With this reading, Marx's Proudhon makes the positive assertion that, if "what is just and right were badly defined", it would consequently be evident that any applications of "just" and "right" must be "bad" - that is, that good institutions cannot come from bad principles. This is, as always, a far more radical rendition than that of the 'radical' Bauer's. But it is not with Bauer's interpretation of Proudhon's interpretation of history that Marx mainly concerns himself, but with his (tenuous) grasp of Proudhon's political philosophy - a subject to be covered in the next section
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« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2011, 05:17:56 pm »
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part VI, Continued



One of the most valuable sections in the whole of The Holy Family is Marx's given interpretation of Proudhon's What Is Property?. Unlike Edgar Bauer, who considered Proudhon an ethicist, Marx treats his writings the way he considered them: as a 'scientific' study of property rights which, when prescription is made at all, at least attempts to ground that prescription on some form of material analysis.

Proudhon himself desired to reconcile the 'moral world' with the 'material world' in his analysis, as he says in the opening chapter of What Is Property?:

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Whatever theory we embrace in regard to the shape of the earth and the cause of its weight, the physics of the globe does not suffer; and, as for us, our social economy can derive therefrom neither profit nor damage. But it is in us and through us that the laws of our moral nature work; now, these laws cannot be executed without our deliberate aid, and, consequently, unless we know them. If, then, our science of moral laws is false, it is evident that, while desiring our own good, we are accomplishing our own evil; if it is only incomplete, it may suffice for a time for our social progress, but in the long run it will lead us into a wrong road, and will finally precipitate us into an abyss of calamities.

Thus there is in Proudhon's writings no distinction between the 'ought' and the 'is' (or, more properly, the 'ought' and the 'can be'); in Proudhon's volunteerist conception of morality, actors can change the material conditions of their world to bring it more in accord with their moral values.

Marx's focus is on Proudhon's analysis, as he states in its opening paragraphs:

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As the first criticism of any science is necessarily influenced by the premises of the science it is fighting against, so Proudhon's treatise What Is Property? is the criticism of political economy from the standpoint of political economy. -- We need not go more deeply into the juridical part of the book, which criticizes law from the standpoint of law, for our main interest is the criticism of political economy...

It is therefore to the material character of What Is Property? that Marx looks for the basis of his analysis, and the first thing Marx notes is Proudhon's rejection of the category of 'private property':

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All treatises on political economy take private property for granted. This basic premise is for them an incontestable fact to which they devote no further investigation, indeed a fact which is spoken about only "accidentellement'', as Say naively admits. But Proudhon makes a critical investigation -- the first resolute, ruthless, and at the same time scientific investigation -- of the basis of political economy, private property. This is the great scientific advance he made, an advance which revolutionizes political economy and for the first time makes a real science of political economy possible....

Proudhon certainly seems to have adopted this 'scientific' mode of discourse for himself, beginning with the second chapter of his book in which he undertakes to examine (I) the legal basis of modern notions of private property (he finds it in the constitution of the Roman Empire) and (II) the implicit distinction, under the law, between 'possession' and 'proprietorship', or between what Proudhon calls, borrowing his terms from the Roman legal system, jus in re and jus ad rem.

Following this discussion of the basis of Proudhon's system of analysis, Marx records what is one of the earliest fully-realized discussions of his critique of 'political economy':

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Accepting the relationships of private property as human and rational, political economy operates in permanent contradiction to its basic premise, private property, a contradiction analogous to that of the theologian who continually gives a human interpretation to religious conceptions, and by that very fact comes into constant conflict with his basic premise, the superhuman character of religion. Thus in political economy wages appear at the beginning as the proportional share of the product due to labour. Wages and profit on capital stand in the most friendly, mutually stimulating, apparently most human relationship to each other. Afterwards it turns out that they stand in the most hostile relationship, in inverse proportion to each other. Value is determined at the beginning in an apparently rational way, by the cost of production of an object and by its social usefulness. Later it turns out that value is determined quite fortuitously and that it does not need to bear any relation to either the cost of production or social usefulness. The size of wages is determined at the beginning by free agreement between the free worker and the free capitalist. Later it turns out that the worker is compelled to allow the capitalist to determine it, just as the capitalist is compelled to fix it as low as possible. Freedom of the contracting parties has been supplanted by compulsion. The same holds good of trade and-all other economic relationships. The economists themselves occasionally feel these contradictions, the development of which is the main content of the conflict between them.

Proudhon was certainly well-acquainted with what Marx takes to be a (dialectical) contradiction between the object of capitalism and the mode of its operation, and not merely on the basis of contractual (wage) 'freedom', writing that

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It is the same with the right of security. Society promises its members no half-way protection, no sham defence; it binds itself to them as they bind themselves to it. It does not say to them, “I will shield you, provided it costs me nothing; I will protect you, if I run no risks thereby.” It says, “I will defend you against everybody; I will save and avenge you, or perish myself.” The whole strength of the State is at the service of each citizen; the obligation which binds them together is absolute.

How different with property! Worshipped by all, it is acknowledged by none: laws, morals, customs, public and private conscience, all plot its death and ruin.

To meet the expenses of government, which has armies to support, tasks to perform, and officers to pay, taxes are needed. Let all contribute to these expenses: nothing more just. But why should the rich pay more than the poor? That is just, they say, because they possess more. I confess that such justice is beyond my comprehension.

Why are taxes paid? To protect all in the exercise of their natural rights — liberty, equality, security, and property; to maintain order in the State; to furnish the public with useful and pleasant conveniences.

Now, does it cost more to defend the rich man’s life and liberty than the poor man’s? Who, in time of invasion, famine, or plague, causes more trouble, — the large proprietor who escapes the evil without the assistance of the State, or the laborer who sits in his cottage unprotected from danger?

Is public order endangered more by the worthy citizen, or by the artisan and journeyman? Why, the police have more to fear from a few hundred laborers, out of work, than from two hundred thousand electors!

Does the man of large income appreciate more keenly than the poor man national festivities, clean streets, and beautiful monuments? Why, he prefers his country-seat to all the popular pleasures; and when he wants to enjoy himself, he does not wait for the greased pole!

One of two things is true: either the proportional tax affords greater security to the larger tax-payers, or else it is a wrong.

For both Proudhon and Marx, the whole of capitalist society (and not merely the relation between wage-labourers and capitalists, as is often assumed) was racked with internal contradictions. One such contradiction they saw was the eagerness with which economists who supported capitalist economics attacked some forms of private property:

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When, however, the economists become conscious of these contradictions, they themselves attack private property in one or other particular form as the falsifier of what is in itself (i.e., in their imagination) rational wages, in itself rational value, in itself rational trade. Adam Smith, for instance, occasionally polemises against the capitalists, Destutt de Tracy against the money-changers, Simonde de Sismondi against the factory system, Ricardo against landed property, and nearly all modern economists against the non-industrial capitalists, among whom property appears as a mere consumer.

Today we might see reflections of this sort of behavior among liberal 'luminaries' such as Paul Krugman, who lend their services to every conceivable cause under the sun where they conflict with the rights of property - except to the cause of the abolition of property as a whole in itself. Even Ralph Nader, beloved of middle-class liberals as he is, is quick to reaffirm his attachment to private property and to capitalism as a whole: especially to those 'green industries' he champions on the public stage.

Marx continues on this subject:

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Thus, as an exception -- when they attack some special abuse -- the economists occasionally stress the semblance of humanity in economic relations, but sometimes, and as a rule, they take these relations precisely in their clearly pronounced difference from the human, in their strictly economic sense. They stagger about within this contradiction completely unaware of it.

Now Proudhon has put an end to this unconsciousness once for all. He takes the human semblance of the economic relations seriously and sharply opposes it to their inhuman reality. He forces them to be in reality what they imagine themselves to be, or rather to give up their own idea of themselves and confess their real inhumanity. He therefore consistently depicts as the falsifier of economic relations not this or that particular kind of private property, as other economists do, but private property as such and in its entirety...

We will examine this 'inhuman reality' in greater detail in the next section.
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part VI, Continued


Marx continues by criticizing Bauer's construction of Proudhon's philosophy of wealth, beginning with a rather odd circumlocution of Bauer's:

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"The fact of misery, of poverty, makes Proudhon one-sided in his considerations; he sees in it a contradiction to equality and justice; it provides him with a weapon. Hence this fact becomes for him absolute and justified, whereas the fact of property becomes unjustified."

The tranquillity of knowledge tells us that Proudhon sees in the fact of poverty a contradiction to justice, that is to say, finds it unjustified; yet in the same breath it assures us that this fact becomes for him absolute and justified.

Taken at face value, Bauer's misstatement here would mean that Proudhon found "the fact of (misery)... absolute and justified", something that neither Proudhon nor Edgar Bauer himself likely believed. More substantial is Marx's criticism of Bauer's comprehension of political economy. The internal quotation is Edgar Bauer's.

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Hitherto political economy proceeded from wealth, which the movement of private property supposedly creates for the nations, to its considerations which are an apology for private property. Proudhon proceeds from the opposite side, which political economy sophistically conceals, from the poverty bred by the movement of private property to his considerations which negate private property...

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"Criticism, on the other hand, joins the two facts, poverty and property, in a single unity, grasps the inner link between them and makes them a single whole, which it investigates as such to find the preconditions for its existence."

Criticism, which has hitherto understood nothing of the facts of property and of poverty, uses, "on the other hand", the deed which it has accomplished in its imagination as an argument against Proudhon' s real deed. It unites the two facts in a single one, and having made one out of two, grasps the inner link between the two. Criticism cannot deny that Proudhon, too, is aware of an inner link between the facts of poverty and of property, since because of that very link he abolishes property in order to abolish poverty. Proudhon did even more. He proved in detail how the movement of capital produces poverty. But Critical Criticism does not bother with such trifles. It recognizes that poverty and private property are opposites -- a rather widespread recognition. It makes poverty and wealth a single whole, which it "investigates as such to find the preconditions for its existence" an investigation which is all the more superfluous since it has just made "the whole as such" and therefore its making is in itself the precondition for the existence of this whole.

Grasping the distinction Marx draws here between Bauer's understanding of the question of property and Proudhon's is essential for understanding differences between Marxist theories of wealth and those of other left-winged (yet non-Marxist) ideologies. Bauer's tautological understanding of poverty - poverty is the absence of property; property is the presence of wealth - is simplistic, and, if taken to its logical conclusion, leads to mere re-distributive welfare programmes; after all, if poverty can be got rid of by merely transferring property from the 'haves' to the 'have nots', it would make sense to endorse such a policy.

But this neglects an understanding of capitalism as a process, which creates wealth and poverty together. As Marx says later in the chapter:

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Proletariat and wealth are opposites; as such they form a single whole. They are both creations of the world of private property. The question is exactly what place each occupies in the antithesis. It is not sufficient to declare them two sides of a single whole.

Private property as private property, as wealth, is compelled to maintain itself, and thereby its opposite, the proletariat, in existence. That is the positive side of the antithesis, self-satisfied private property. The proletariat, on the contrary, is compelled as proletariat to abolish itself and thereby its opposite, private property, which determines its existence, and which makes it proletariat. It is the negative side of the antithesis, its restlessness within its very self, dissolved and self-dissolving private property.

No clearer a statement of his dialectical understanding of wealth and capitalism can be found in Marx's early writings, and emphasis ought to be placed on what he takes to be the self-negating aspect of the proletariat: contrary to the popular understanding of Marxism, it is insufficient for the proletariat merely to 'destroy' the bourgeoisie; they must, in turn, destroy themselves and their historically determined composition as a class before their dialectical role in history may be dissolved.

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« Reply #18 on: June 06, 2011, 05:36:42 pm »
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part VI, Continued


This dialectical conception of history has a tremendous implication for any interpretation of Marx's thought. Marx himself seems not to have thought it possible for the destructive activity of the working class to occur before capitalism had fully formed as a global economic system; moreover, he held that it was the activities of capitalism itself that would lead to its own dissolution:

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Indeed private property drives itself in its economic movement towards its own dissolution, but only through a development which does not depend on it, which is unconscious and which takes place against the will of private property by the very nature of things, only inasmuch as it produces the proletariat as proletariat, poverty which is conscious of its spiritual and physical poverty, dehumanization which is conscious of its dehumanization, and therefore self-abolishing. The proletariat executes the sentence that private property pronounces on itself by producing the proletariat, just as it executes the sentence that wage-labour pronounces on itself by producing wealth for others and poverty for itself. When the proletariat is victorious, it by no means becomes the absolute side of society, for it is victorious only by abolishing itself and its opposite. Then the proletariat disappears as well as the opposite which determines it, private property.

What this means in 'plain English' is simply that, through capitalism's own activity, the means are created by which capitalism may someday be overcome; a certain on-line file sharing community to which I belong exemplifies this, using computers created and sold for profit to upload media also intended to turn a profit, for no material recompense. This logic may be extended to the whole of society, and to the whole of the economic system upon which that society is founded. If in their haste to mechanize their factories and so obviate the need for wage labour, what have the capitalists done except destroy the social category of 'wage labour' itself?

Marx further clarifies his understanding of 'the proletariat' in the next paragraph:

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When socialist writers ascribe this world-historic role to the proletariat, it is not at all, as Critical Criticism pretends to believe, because they regard the proletarians as gods. Rather the contrary. Since in the fully-formed proletariat the abstraction of all humanity, even of the semblance of humanity, is practically completesince the conditions of life of the proletariat sum up all the conditions of life of society today in their most inhuman form; since man has lost himself in the proletariat, yet at the same time has not only gained theoretical consciousness of that loss, but through urgent, no longer removable, no longer disguisable, absolutely imperative need... Not in vain does it go through the stern but steeling school of labour. It is not a question of what this or that proletarian, or even the whole proletariat, at the moment regards as its aim. It is a question of what the proletariat is, and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do. Its aim and historical action is visibly and irrevocably foreshadowed in its own life situation as well as in the whole organization of bourgeois society today.

Thus, unlike earlier socialist writers, Marx claims not to have based his views upon any romanticized vision of the working classes; he sees them for what they are, in all of their dirty, scruffy glory, not only fallible because of their humanity but especially fallible because of the poor conditions which condition them. It is upon these 'ragamuffins' that he privileges as the spokes upon which the wheel of history will turn. The vaguely left-winged proscriptions of the Left-Hegelians pale in comparison.

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"Critical Criticism" can all the less admit this since it has proclaimed itself the exclusive creative element in history. To it belong the historical antitheses, to it belongs the task of abolishing them. That is why it issues the following notification through its incarnation, Edgar:

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"Education and lack of education, property and absence of property, these antitheses, if they are not to be desecrated, must be wholly and entirely the concern of Criticism."

Property and absence of property have received metaphysical consecration as Critical speculative antitheses. That is why only the hand of Critical Criticism can touch them without committing a sacrilege. Capitalists and workers must not interfere in their mutual relationship.

Marx's issue with Edgar Bauer here is the latter's typical liberal elitism; what today has become a rallying point of the populist Right was, at one point, a real concern of genuine leftist and people's movements the world over. The liberal academician, haughty in his knowledge, believes the solution to all the world's ills is for those suffering them to 'get like him' - to become a cosmopolitan buffoon whose 'refined' tastes are serviced by a 'refined' capitalism.
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« Reply #19 on: June 06, 2011, 05:42:27 pm »
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part VI Continued



The liberal is capital's velvet glove, the conservative its gauntleted fist: one is courageous enough to signal his blows to the working class, the other hits below the belt. This is the message Marx relates to us in The Holy Family, and, indeed, his separation from and hostility towards the Left-Hegelians will be a defining theme throughout the course of his career.

The disputation between Karl Marx and Edgar Bauer over the appropriate interpretation of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's political philosophy, which has until now taken on the tones of high-spirited philosophical debate, now resolves itself in Chapter Four in a far more material concern: the nature of paid wage labour under the capitalist system.

Proudhon argues thusly in the third chapter of What Is Property?:

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Divide et impera — divide, and you shall command; divide, and you shall grow rich; divide, and you shall deceive men, you shall daze their minds, you shall mock at justice! Separate laborers from each other, perhaps each one’s daily wage exceeds the value of each individual’s product; but that is not the question under consideration. A force of one thousand men working twenty days has been paid the same wages that one would be paid for working fifty-five years; but this force of one thousand has done in twenty days what a single man could not have accomplished, though he had labored for a million centuries. Is the exchange an equitable one? Once more, no; when you have paid all the individual forces, the collective force still remains to be paid. Consequently, there remains always a right of collective property which you have not acquired, and which you enjoy unjustly.

The essence of Proudhon's argument is so simple that a child could grasp it: through the process of the division of labour, the capitalist class has managed to defraud the working classes of appropriate compensation for its efforts as an amalgamate; where individual workers may be well-compensated, and even over-compensated for the work that they do, as a whole they are grossly underpaid, because unlike the private artesan, the working class works as a whole. Regardless of whether or not one accepts this logic, this is the clearly intended meaning of the paragraph above.

I can find in it no commonalities with Edgar Bauer's interpretation of Proudhon's theory of wages, which Marx hands down to us in this quotation by him:

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The modern worker thinks only of himself, i.e., he allows himself to be paid only for his own person. It is he himself who fails to take into account the enormous, the immeasurable power which arises from his co-operation with other powers.

What Bauer here suggests is that Proudhon attributes this act of mass defrauding to a basic error in the intellectual thought process of individual workers. Marx - rightly, in this author's opinion - corrects him on the matter:

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According to Critical Criticism, the whole evil lies only in the workers' "thinking". It is true that the English and French workers have formed associations in which they exchange opinions not only on their immediate needs as workers, but on their needs as human beings. In their associations, moreover, they show a very thorough and comprehensive consciousness of the "enormous" and "immeasurable" power which arises from their co-operation. But these mass-minded, communist workers, employed, for instance, in the Manchester or Lyons workshops, do not believe that by "pure thinking" they will be able to argue away their industrial masters and their own practical debasement. They are most painfully aware of the difference between being and thinking, between consciousness and life.

In short and in sum, Marx attributes Bauer's errors of translation to a fundamental flaw in his philosophical temperament: idealism. And this temperament has implications on Bauer's proscriptions for society: by finding the fault to lie with the workers and their 'consciousness', rather than with their "industrial masters" and the economic functions thereof, Bauer has implicitly adopted a conservative and conservatizing stance - he blames the workers for their own situation, for their own status in life, and, despite his protestations to the contrary, has therefore conceded to the owning class that they are innocent in the matter.

Marx concludes this fourth chapter of The Holy Family with this argument:

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Critical Criticism, on the contrary, teaches them that they cease in reality to be wage-workers if in thinking they abolish the thought of wage-labour; if in thinking they cease to regard themselves as wage-workers and, in accordance with that extravagant notion, no longer let themselves be paid for their person. As absolute idealists, as ethereal beings, they will then naturally be able to live on the ether of pure thought.

We who have lived in the early 21st century might, with the benefit of hindsight, see shades of this 'Bauerian' thinking in both the Russian Revolution (as focused as it was on vanguardism and 'class consciousness') and in the 'New Left' phenomenon of the 1960s, which abandoned material reality to conservatism to take a trip into the celestial reaches of the feel-good. Marx's own words might have proven most instructive to these 'Marxists' - had they bothered with them.

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« Reply #20 on: June 06, 2011, 05:54:52 pm »
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part VII


The fifth and final chapter of The Holy Family marks the end of its authors consideration of Edgar Bauer's interpretation of Proudhon, and embarks instead upon a destruction of the literary and artistic pretenses of the Left-Hegelians, in the form of a response to a review. The subject of that review was Frenchman Joseph Eugéne Sue's inflammatory novel Les Mystères de Paris (The Mysteries of Paris); its reviewer was Zychlin von Zychlinski (writing under the nom de plume Szeliga), then an adjutant in the Prussian military and a long-standing associate of Bruno Bauer. The subject of The Mysteries of Paris - which this author has not read, and therefore must base his opinion of on other reviewers - involves a member of the nobility who has taken leave of his office to live among the common man, a veritable Christ among the desolate. Zychlinski's review is not available to us, and so we must take Marx at his word on its content. I do not at any rate intend to give much space to it, except to select a few choice excerpts from Marx's review of a review which I believe give broader insight into his thought processes at the time of its writing.

The first stems from a statement of Marx's that offers insight into the mind of a reactionary consumed by fears of social 'decadence':

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If Eugene Sue depicts the taverns, hide-outs and language of criminals, Mr. Szeliga discloses the "mystery" that what the "author" wanted was not to depict that language or those hide-outs, but

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"to teach us the mystery of the mainsprings of evil, etc." "It is precisely in the most crowded places ... that criminals feel at home."

What would a natural scientist say if one were to prove to him that the bee's cell does not interest him as a bee's cell, that it has no mystery for one who has not studied it, because the bee "feels at home precisely" in the open air and on the flower?... For Parisians in general and even for the Paris police the hide-outs of criminals are such a "mystery" that at this very moment broad light streets are being laid out in the Cité to give the police access to them.

Marx's intent with this statement seems two-fold: first, to reinforce the notion that the concerns of social classes should not be romanticized (as any modern criminal will happily admit, the 'criminal mystique', which today takes the form of 'gangstaism' in America and 'chavism' in England, is mostly cultivated intentionally for 'professional' purposes); and, also, that by ceding any credibility to this mystique, Szeliga has unconsciously buttressed the rhetoric by which the policy make their wanton assaults upon the working class, who live and die in the midst of the great cities of the world.

It is not merely on the subject of criminals and criminality that Marx finds Szeliga to be mystified:

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The mystery of the Critical presentation of the Mystéres de Paris is the mystery of speculative, of Hegelian construction. Once Mr. Szeliga has proclaimed that "degeneracy within civilisation" and rightlessness in the state are "mysteries", i.e., has dissolved them in the category "mystery", he lets "mystery" begin its speculative career...

Marx sets out to undermine the philosophically idealist origins of this mystification:

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If from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds I form the general idea "Fruit", if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea "Fruit", derived from real fruit, is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the pear, the apple, etc., then in the language of speculative philosophy -- I am declaring that "Fruit" is the "Substance" of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be a pear is not essential to the pear, that to be an apple is not essential to the apple; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence that I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea -- "Fruit"... Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence is "the substance" -- "Fruit".

The process of abstraction which the author attacks here is not limited to Hegelian idealism; this particular fruit tree has far older roots, appearing in modified form, for instance, in Kant's ontological justification for his categorical imperative. If one were so inclined, it could be traced through Christianity directly to neo-Platonism and its falsification of material reality. But it is only beginning with Hegel that the process of abstraction from reality, rather than the results of that abstraction itself, becomes enshrined as a triumph in the intellectual history of humankind.

Marx points out the obvious flaw with this line of thinking in the subsequent paragraph:

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By this method one attains no particular wealth of definition. The mineralogist whose whole science was limited to the statement that all minerals are really "the Mineral" would be a mineralogist only in his imagination. For every mineral the speculative mineralogist Says "the Mineral", and his science is reduced to repeating this word as many times as there are real minerals.

Implicit in Marx's denunciation of abstraction is a philosophical commitment to nominalism, or the conceit that words, concepts, and categorical groupings do not define the objects they reference. But the Hegelian philosophy should not be confused with mere Platonism; they are wiser, and had invented a workaround this particular problem:

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If apples, pears, almonds and strawberries are really nothing but "the Substance", "the Fruit", the question arises: Why does "the Fruit" manifest itself to me sometimes as an apple, sometimes as a pear, sometimes as an almond? Why this semblance of diversity which so obviously contradicts my speculative conception of Unity, "the Substance", "the Fruit"?

This, answers the speculative philosopher, is because "the Fruit" is not dead, undifferentiated, motionless, but a living, self-differentiating, moving essence. The diversity of the ordinary fruits is significant not only for my sensuous understanding, but also for "the Fruit" itself and for speculative reason. The different ordinary fruits are different manifestations of the life of the "one Fruit"; they are crystallisations of "the Fruit" itself. Thus in the apple "the Fruit" gives itself an apple-like existence, in the pear a pear-like existence. We must therefore no longer say, as one might from the standpoint of the Substance: a pear is "the Fruit", an apple is "the Fruit", an almond is "the Fruit", but rather "the Fruit" presents itself as a pear, "the Fruit" presents itself as an apple, "the Fruit" presents itself as an almond; and the differences which distinguish apples, pears and almonds from one another are the self-differentiations of "the Fruit"... In every member of that series "the Fruit" gives itself a more developed, more explicit existence, until finally, as the "summary" of all fruits, it is at the same time the living unity which contains all those fruits dissolved in itself just as it produces them from within itself, just as, for instance, all the limbs of the body are constantly dissolved in and constantly produced out of the blood.

The philosophical system Marx explains here is, in broad strokes, a simplified version of that held by all Hegelians, left and right. As in Plato (they hold) there exists an analogue to a Form, a perfect Idea of any given object; but this Form manifests itself to our senses through a dialectical process which provides for the differentiation and diversification of things into sets or groups. Marx believes this mode of thought to be a form of supreme egoism; perhaps, even, solipsism:

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The ordinary man does not think he is saying anything extraordinary when he states that there are apples and pears. But when the philosopher expresses their existence in the speculative way he says something extraordinary. He performs a miracle by producing the real natural objects, the apple, the pear, etc., out of the unreal creation of the mind "the Fruit", i.e., by creating those fruits out of his own abstract reason, which he considers as an Absolute Subject outside himself, represented here as "the Fruit". And in regard to every object the existence of which he expresses, he accomplishes an act of creation.

We will look more at Marx's objection to this line of philosophizing in a future segment.
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« Reply #21 on: June 06, 2011, 06:00:05 pm »
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The Holy Family: Karl Marx At The Altar, Part VII, Continued


The final chapter of The Holy Family concludes, as noted, with a critique of von Zychlinski's review of The Mysteries of Paris. Insofar as this constitutes an examination of a literary source, it need not be considered but in brief, which is relieving to this author, as I've not bothered to read it. The focus of this work is on Marx's political philosophy, and only a few more things can be taken on the subject from this chapter.

Most important here is probably Marx's statements on sensuality and sensualism, comparing and contrasting the approach on the subject taken by 'Speculative Philosophy' - that is, again, the vaguely left-winged philosophy in fashion with liberal Hegelians of the age - and Christianity. Marx finds a surprising amount of common ground between the two on the subject, by means of the analysis of a sermon given by a fictional pastor in the work in quesion:

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“It is true we do not like to admit,” the reverend gentleman argues, “the power of sensuality; but it has such tremendous power over us only because we cast it out of us and will not recognise it as our own nature, which we should then be in a position to dominate if it tried to assert itself at the expense of reason, of true love and of will-power.”

The parson advises us, after the fashion of speculative theology, to recognise sensuality as our own nature, in order afterwards to be able to dominate it, i.e., to retract recognition of it. True, he wishes to dominate it only when it tries to assert itself at the expense of Reason – will-power and love as opposed to sensuality are only the will-power and love of Reason. The unspeculative Christian also recognises sensuality as long as it does not assert itself at the expense of true reason, i.e., of faith, of true love, i.e., of love of God, of true will-power, i.e., of will in Christ.

The parson immediately betrays his real meaning when he continues:

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“If then love ceases to be the essential element of marriage and of morality in general, sensuality becomes the mystery of love, of morality, of educated society – sensuality both in its narrow meaning, in which it is a trembling in the nerves and a burning stream in the veins, and in the broader meaning, in which it is elevated to a semblance of spiritual power, to lust for power, ambition, craving for glory...."

The parson hits the nail on the head. To overcome sensuality he must first of all overcome the nerve currents and the quick circulation of the blood.– Herr Szeliga believes in the “narrow” meaning that greater warmth in the body comes from the heat of the blood in the veins; he does not know that warm-blooded animals are so called because the temperature of their blood, apart from slight modifications, always remams at a constant level.– As soon as there is no more nerve current and the blood in the veins is no longer hot, the sinful body, this seat of sensual lust, becomes a corpse and the souls can converse unhindered about “general reason”, “true love”, and “pure morals”.

This point might be taken as mere pedantism on Marx's part, digressing as it does from the discussion of the political root and biases of abstractive left-winged philosophy, but it is important to the topic by way of comparison. Just as Eugéne Sue's reverend distinguishes the physiological reactions of a man in heat from the more idealized conception of love, and in the process of doing so devalues the former in favor of the latter - what is natural is in the parson made sinful - so too does the 'speculative philosopher' regard the material activities of individuals and classes as a pale reflection of their idealistic role within speculative philosophy.

This, in so many words, is the 'meaning' of The Holy Family: by idealizing and abstracting the lower classes they claim to champion, non-materialist leftists often find themselves in the service of the forces they nominally oppose. This critique stands at the heart of the next book we will consider, The German Ideology.
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« Reply #22 on: June 06, 2011, 06:02:23 pm »
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Two down, five to go. I'll start in on The German Ideology sometime next week. Until then, I'm here to take any questions about Marx you may have or complains with my interpretation of him you might dream up.
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