The course will examine some of the most important writings of the major German authors of the first half of the Nineteenth Century, who transformed irreversibly the philosophical and the political thought. The first part of the seminar will focus on two of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s main works: the Phenomenology of the Spirit and the Elements of the Philosophy of Right, which will also be considered in relation to the most important Marxist secondary literature on Hegel written in German (Herbert Marcuse, György Lukács and Ernst Bloch) and writings that played a big role in the French controversy on the relation between Hegel and Karl Marx ( Alexandre Kojève and Jean Hyppolite).
The course will then concentrate on some of the key members of the Left Hegelian school, in particular Bruno Bauer, Ludwig Feuerbach, Marx and Max Stirner, through the analysis of their most influential works (among them Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity and Principles of Philosophy of the Future; Marx’s Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and The German Ideology – written with Engels; and Stirner’s The Ego and Its Own). In addition one will take up some of the debates of the time, like those on the critique of Christianity, the critique of the speculative thought, the overturning of Hegelian philosophy, materialism, atheism, and the role of the individual.
The main aim of the seminar will be reconstructing the elaboration of Marx’s thought in its early stages. The path “from Hegel to Marx” will be investigated not solely philosophically but through an inter-disciplinary approach, i.e., analyzing the philosophical writings of the time, but vis-à-vis with Marx’s discovery of political economy and Socialism. Therefore, besides philosophical and political themes like species-being, human emancipation, and the relation between State and civil society, one will discuss other significant theoretical acquisitions by Marx, like the critique of alienated labour, the understanding of the revolutionary role of the proletariat, the adhesion to Communism, and the development of a materialist conception of history. This will be facilitated by highlighting Marx’s decisive encounter with political economy – first through the writings of Friedrich Engels, Moses Hess and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and then Adam Smith and David Ricardo -, and by examining the influence that the early Socialists Henri de Saint Simon, Charles Fourier and Robert Owen had on the development of his ideas.
The final class of the course will look critically at the most influential Marxist writings published in the 1960s and 1970s on the “young Marx” versus “mature Marx” debate, revealing some of their textual limitations and interpretative mystifications. This will be pursued by through attention to the latest philological acquisitions related to Marx’s works (the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and The German Ideology will be reconsidered on the basis of their new editions) and the most recent secondary literature on the Left Hegelians.