Contemporary Sociology. A journal of reviews

When Eric Hobsbawm in 1964 edited and introduced Jack Cohen’s translation of a 53- page fragment of Marx’s mighty Grundrisse in his Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations (International Publishers), even committed readers did not notice its importance to Marxology, just as they had failed to register N. I. Stone’s 1904 translation of the Grundrisse’s introduction (overseen by Karl Kautsky) as the vital clarification, the ‘‘missing link,’’ of Capital that it was later claimed to be.

How do we now know this? Because Marcello Musto (of Naples) persuaded Christopher Arthur (of Sussex, UK) to tell the improbable story of the Grundrisse’s career in English (pp. 249-56), just as he corralled 19 additional scholars to do the same for their countries (from Germany to Japan, from Cuba to Turkey). Musto consumed 1500 emails, many letters and phone calls, help from 200 specialists, and the patience of 31 authors to assemble this estimable volume, which all serious Marxologists will find compelling reading, and everyone outside this circle will not find at all. It is a work of wonderful scholarly madness, a labor of deep devotion to the memory of a great thinker and his single most misunderstood document, and Musto and his collaborators deserve far more credit than they will likely receive in the current ideological environment.

The story of Grundrisse (literally outline, sketch, floorplan) began to become widely evident to the anglophone Marxist world in March 1968, when the young American, Martin Nicolaus, youth of the 60s (now a lawyer in Oakland), announced he had dis- covered ‘‘The Unknown Marx’’ in the New Left Review, a British journal vigorously stud- ied in the United States at the time. He was persuaded by enthusiastic mates to translate all 830 pages of the Grundrisse into English, and the result was published by Penguin Books in 1973, to wide acclaim among the devoted Left—which at that time was large and vocal. A flurry of articles appeared within a few years. From the humanist left, the book was greeted as a great, Hegelian searchlight into Marx’s true, sociological portrait of capitalist dynamics, while the Althusserian structuralists discounted it as a mere warm-up to Capital, and too philo- sophically speculative to qualify as Marxist ‘‘science.’’ Later evaluations punctured exaggerations from both sides, but by that time, in the 80s, the bloom was off the Marx- ist rose, and reaction had set in, so that the whole debate seemed quaint and provincial. Musto and his colleagues—including Iring Fetscher, Moishe Postone, Terrell Carver, John Bellamy Foster, plus a forward by Hobsbawm—have breathed new life into the document, not so much by claiming that it can illuminate the current capitalist crisis, but by firmly locating Marx’s terrific labors of 1857-58 in their proper historical and conceptual context.

Journal Articles

Revisiting Marx’s Concept of Alienation

I. Introduction
Alienation was one of the most important and widely debated themes of the 20th century, and Marx’s theorization played a key role in the discussions. Yet, contrary to what one might imagine, the concept itself did not develop in a linear manner, and the publication of previously unknown texts containing Marx’s reflections on alienation defined significant moments in the transformation and dissemination of the theory.

The meaning of the term changed several times over the centuries. In theological discourse it referred to the distance between man and God; in social contract theories, to loss of the individual’s original liberty; and in English political economy, to the transfer of property ownership. The first systematic philosophical account of alienation was in the work of G.W.F. Hegel, who in The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) adopted the terms Entäusserung (literally self-externalization or renunciation) and Entfremdung (estrangement) to denote Spirit’s becoming other than itself in the realm of objectivity. The whole question still featured prominently in the writings of the Hegelian Left, and Ludwig Feuerbach’s theory of religious alienation – that is, of man’s projection of his own essence onto an imaginary deity (in The Essence of Christianity [1841]) – contributed significantly to the development of the concept. Alienation subsequently disappeared from philosophical reflection, and none of the major thinkers of the second half of the 19th century paid it any great attention. Even Marx rarely used the term in the works published during his lifetime, and it was entirely absent from the Marxism of the Second International (1889-1914).

During this period, however, several thinkers developed concepts that were later associated with alienation. In his Division of Labour (1893) and Suicide (1897), Émile Durkheim introduced the term ‘anomie’ to indicate a set of phenomena whereby the norms guaranteeing social cohesion enter into crisis following a major extension of the division of labour. Social trends concomitant with huge changes in the production process also lay at the basis of the thinking of German sociologists: Georg Simmel, in The Philosophy of Money (1900), paid great attention to the dominance of social institutions over individuals and to the growing impersonality of human relations; while Max Weber, in Economy and Society (1922), dwelled on the phenomena of ‘bureaucratization’ in society and ‘rational calculation’ in human relations, considering them to be the essence of capitalism. But these authors thought they were describing unstoppable tendencies, and their reflections were often guided by a wish to improve the existing social and political order – certainly not to replace it with a different one.

II. The rediscovery of alienation
The rediscovery of the theory of alienation occurred thanks to György Lukács, who in History and Class Consciousness (1923) referred to certain passages in Marx’s Capital (1867) – especially the section on ‘commodity fetishism’ (Der Fetischcharakter der Ware) – and introduced the term ‘reification’ (Verdinglichung, Versachlichung) to describe the phenomenon whereby labour activity confronts human beings as something objective and independent, dominating them through external autonomous laws. In essence, however, Lukács’s theory was still similar to Hegel’s, since he conceived of reification as a structural given. Much later, after the appearance of a French translation [1] had given this work a wide resonance among students and left-wing activists, Lukács decided to republish it together with a long self-critical preface (1967), in which he explained that ‘History and Class Consciousness follows Hegel in that it too equates alienation with objectification’.[2]

Another author who focused on this theme in the 1920s was Isaak Rubin, whose Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value (1928) argued that the theory of commodity fetishism was ‘the basis of Marx’s entire economic system, and in particular of his theory of value’. [3] In the view of this Russian author, the reification of social relations was ‘a real fact of the commodity-capitalist economy.’[4] It involved ‘”materialization” of production relations and not only “mystification” or illusion. This is one of the characteristics of the economic structure of contemporary society…. Fetishism is not only a phenomenon of social consciousness, but of social being.’[5]

Despite these insights – prescient if we consider the period in which they were written – Rubin’s work did not promote a greater familiarity with the theory of alienation; its reception in the West began only with its translation into English in 1972 (and from English into other languages).

The decisive event that finally revolutionized the diffusion of the concept of alienation was the appearance in 1932 of the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, a previously unpublished text from Marx’s youth. It rapidly became one of the most widely translated, circulated and discussed philosophical writings of the 20th century, revealing the central role that Marx had given to the theory of alienation during an important period for the formation of his economic thought: the discovery of political economy.[6] For, with his category of alienated labour (entfremdete Arbeit),[7] Marx not only widened the problem of alienation from the philosophical, religious and political sphere to the economic sphere of material production; he also showed that the economic sphere was essential to understanding and overcoming alienation in the other spheres. In the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, alienation is presented as the phenomenon through which the labour product confronts labour ‘as something alien, as a power independentof the producer’. For Marx,

‘the externalization [Entäusserung] of the worker in his product means not only that his labour becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently of him and alien to him, and begins to confront him as an autonomous power; that the life which he has bestowed on the object confronts him as hostile and alien.’[8]

Alongside this general definition, Marx listed four ways in which the worker is alienated in bourgeois society: 1) from the product of his labour, which becomes ‘an alien object that has power over him’; 2) in his working activity, which he perceives as ‘directed against himself’, as if it ‘does not belong to him’;[9] 3) from ‘man’s species-being’, which is transformed into ‘a being alien to him’; and 4) from other human beings, and in relation to their labour and the object of their labour.[10]

For Marx, in contrast to Hegel, alienation was not coterminous with objectification as such, but rather with a particular phenomenon within a precise form of economy: that is, wage labour and the transformation of labour products into objects standing opposed to producers. The political difference between these two positions is enormous. Whereas Hegel presented alienation as an ontological manifestation of labour, Marx conceived it as characteristic of a particular, capitalist, epoch of production, and thought it would be possible to overcome it through ‘the emancipation of society from private property’.[11] He would make similar points in the notebooks containing extracts from James Mill’s Elements of Political Economy:

‘Labour would be the free expression and hence the enjoyment of life. In the framework of private property it is the alienation of life since I work in order to live, in order to procure for myself the means of life. My labour is not life. Moreover, in my labour the specific character of my individuality would be affirmed because it would be my individual life. Labour would be authentic, active, property. In the framework of private property my individuality has been alienated to the point where I loathe this activity, it is torture for me. It is in fact no more than the appearance of activity and for that reason it is only a forced labour imposed on me not through an inner necessity but through an external arbitrary need.’ [12]

So, even in these fragmentary and sometimes hesitant early writings, Marx always discussed alienation from a historical, not a natural, point of view.

III. Non-Marxist conceptions of alienation
Much time would elapse, however, before a historical, non-ontological, conception of alienation could take hold. In the early 20th century, most authors who addressed the phenomenon considered it a universal aspect of human existence. In Being and Time (1927), for instance, Martin Heidegger approached it in purely philosophical terms. The category he used for his phenomenology of alienation was ‘fallenness’ (Verfallen): that is, the tendency of Being-There (Dasein – ontologically constituted human existence) to lose itself in the inauthenticity and conformism of the surrounding world. For Heidegger, ‘fallenness into the world means an absorption in Being-with-one-another, in so far as the latter is guided by idle talk, curiosity, and ambiguity’ – something truly quite different from the condition of the factory worker, which was at the centre of Marx’s theoretical preoccupations. Moreover, Heidegger did not regard this ‘fallenness’ as a ‘bad and deplorable ontical property of which, perhaps, more advanced stages of human culture might be able to rid themselves’, but rather as an ontological characteristic, ‘an existential mode of Being-in-the-world’. [13]

Herbert Marcuse, who, unlike Heidegger, knew Marx’s work well, identified alienation with objectification as such, not with its manifestation in capitalist relations of production. In an essay he published in 1933, he argued that ‘the burdensome character of labor’ [14] could not be attributed merely to ‘specific conditions in the performance of labor, to the social-technical structuring of labor’[15], but should be considered as one of its fundamental traits:

‘In laboring, the laborer is always “with the thing”: whether one stands by a machine, draws technical plans, is concerned with organizational measures, researches scientific problems, instructs people, etc. In his activity he allows himself to be directed by the thing, subjects himself and obeys its laws, even when he dominates his object…. In each case he is not “with himself” … he is with an “Other than himself” – even when this doing fulfils his own freely assumed life. This externalization and alienation of human existence … is ineliminable in principle.’ [16]

For Marcuse, there was a ‘primordial negativity of laboring activity’ that belonged to the ‘very essence of human existence’. [17] The critique of alienation therefore became a critique of technology and labour in general, and its supersession was considered possible only in the moment of play, when people could attain a freedom denied them in productive activity: ‘In a single toss of a ball, the player achieves an infinitely greater triumph of human freedom over objectification than in the most powerful accomplishment of technical labor.’[18]

In Eros and Civilization (1955), Marcuse took an equally clear distance from Marx’s conception, arguing that human emancipation could be achieved only through the abolition of labour and the affirmation of the libido and play in social relations. He discarded any possibility that a society based on common ownership of the means of production might overcome alienation, on the grounds that labour in general, not only wage labour, was

‘work for an apparatus which they [the vast majority of the population] do not control, which operates as an independent power to which individuals must submit if they want to live. And it becomes the more alien the more specialized the division of labor becomes…. They work … in alienation [… in the] absence of gratification [and in] negation of the pleasure principle.’[19]

The cardinal norm against which people should rebel was the ‘performance principle’ imposed by society. For, in Marcuse’s eyes,

‘the conflict between sexuality and civilization unfolds with this development of domination. Under the rule of the performance principle, body and mind are made into instruments of alienated labor; they can function as such instruments only if they renounce the freedom of the libidinal subject-object which the human organism primarily is and desires…. Man exists … as an instrument of alienated performance.’ [20]

Hence, even if material production is organized equitably and rationally, ‘it can never be a realm of freedom and gratification…. It is the sphere outside labor which defines freedom and fulfilment.’[21] Marcuse’s alternative was to abandon the Promethean myth so dear to Marx and to draw closer to a Dionysian perspective: the ‘liberation of eros’. [22] In contrast to Freud, who had maintained in Civilization and Its Discontents (1929) that a non-repressive organization of society would entail a dangerous regression from the level of civilization attained in human relations, Marcuse was convinced that, if the liberation of the instincts took place in a technologically advanced ‘free society’ [23] in the service of humanity, it would not only favour the march of progress but create ‘new and durable work relations’.[24] But his indications about how the new society might come about were rather vague and utopian. He ended up opposing technological domination in general, so that his critique of alienation was no longer directed against capitalist relations of production, and his reflections on social change were so pessimistic as to include the working class among the subjects that operated in defence of the system.

The two leading figures in the Frankfurt School, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, also developed a theory of generalized estrangement resulting from invasive social control and the manipulation of needs by the mass media. In Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) they argued that ‘a technological rationale is the rationale of domination itself. It is the coercive nature of society alienated from itself.’ [25] This meant that, in contemporary capitalism, even the sphere of leisure time – free and outside of work – was absorbed into the mechanisms reproducing consensus.

After World War II, the concept of alienation also found its way into psychoanalysis. Those who took it up started from Freud’s theory that man is forced to choose between nature and culture, and that, to enjoy the securities of civilization, he must necessarily renounce his impulses. [26] Some psychologists linked alienation with the psychoses that appeared in certain individuals as a result of this conflict-ridden choice, thereby reducing the whole vast problematic of alienation to a merely subjective phenomenon.

The author who dealt most with alienation from within psychoanalysis was Erich Fromm. Unlike most of his colleagues, he never separated its manifestations from the capitalist historical context; indeed, his books The Sane Society (1955) and Marx’s Concept of Man (1961) used the concept to try to build a bridge between psychoanalysis and Marxism. Yet Fromm likewise always put the main emphasis on subjectivity, and his concept of alienation, which he summarized as ‘a mode of experience in which the individual experiences himself as alien’, [27] remained too narrowly focused on the individual. Moreover, his account of Marx’s concept based itself only on the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and showed a deep lack of understanding of the specificity and centrality of alienated labour in Marx’s thought. This lacuna prevented Fromm from giving due weight to objective alienation (that of the worker in the labour process and in relation to the labour product) and led him to advance positions that appear disingenuous in their neglect of the underlying structural relations.

‘Marx believed that the working class was the most alienated class…. [He] did not foresee the extent to which alienation was to become the fate of the vast majority of people…. If anything, the clerk, the salesman, the executive, are even more alienated today than the skilled manual worker. The latter’s functioning still depends on the expression of certain personal qualities like skill, reliability, etc., and he is not forced to sell his “personality”, his smile, his opinions in the bargain.’[28]

One of the principal non-Marxist theories of alienation is that associated with Jean-Paul Sartre and the French existentialists. Indeed, in the 1940s, marked by the horrors of war and the ensuing crise de conscience, the phenomenon of alienation – partly under the influence of Alexandre Kojève’s neo-Hegelianism[29] – became a recurrent reference both in philosophy and in narrative literature. Once again, however, the concept is much more generic than in Marx’s thought, becoming identified with a diffuse discontent of man in society, a split between human individuality and the world of experience, and an insurmountable condition humaine. The existentialist philosophers did not propose a social origin for alienation, but saw it as inevitably bound up with all ‘facticity’ (no doubt the failure of the Soviet experience favoured such a view) and human otherness. In 1955, Jean Hippolyte set out this position in one of the most significant works in this tendency:

‘[alienation] does not seem to be reducible solely to the concept of the alienation of man under capitalism, as Marx understands it. The latter is only a particular case of a more universal problem of human self-consciousness which, being unable to conceive itself as an isolated cogito, can only recognize itself in a word which it constructs, in the other selves which it recognizes and by whom it is occasionally disowned. But this manner of self-discovery through the Other, this objectification, is always more or less an alienation, a loss of self and a simultaneous self-discovery. Thus objectification and alienation are inseparable, and their union is simply the expression of a dialectical tension observed in the very movement of history.’[30]

Marx helped to develop a critique of human subjugation, basing himself on opposition to capitalist relations of production. The existentialists followed an opposite trajectory, trying to absorb those parts of Marx’s work that they thought useful for their own approach, in a merely philosophical discussion devoid of a specific historical critique.[31]

IV. The debate on Marx’s early writings about alienation
The alienation debate that developed in France frequently drew upon Marx’s theories. Often, however, it referred only to the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844; not even the sections of Capital that Lukács had used to construct his theory of reification were taken into consideration. Moreover, some sentences from the 1844 Manuscripts were taken out of context and transformed into sensational quotes supposedly proving the existence of a radically different ‘new Marx’, saturated with philosophy and free of the economic determinism that critics attributed to Capital (often without having read it). Again on the basis of the 1844 texts, the French existentialists laid by far the greatest emphasis on the concept of self-alienation (Selbstentfremdung), that is, the alienation of the worker from the human species and from others like himself – a phenomenon that Marx did discuss in his early writings, but always in connection with objective alienation.

The same glaring error appears in a leading figure of postwar political theory, Hannah Arendt. In her The Human Condition (1958), she built her account of Marx’s concept of alienation around the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, even then isolating out only one of the types mentioned there by Marx: subjective alienation. This allowed her to claim:

‘expropriation and world alienation coincide, and the modern age, very much against the intentions of all the actors in the play, began by alienating certain strata of the population from the world. […] World alienation, and not self-alienation as Marx thought, has been the hallmark of the modern age.’ [32]

Evidence of her scant familiarity with Marx’s mature work is the fact that, in conceding that Marx ‘was not altogether unaware of the implications of world alienation in capitalist economy’, she referred only to a few lines in his very early journalistic piece, ‘The Debates on the Wood Theft Laws’ (1842), not to the dozens of much more important pages in Capital and the preparatory manuscripts leading up to it. Her surprising conclusion was: ‘such occasional considerations play[ed] a minor role in his work, which remained firmly rooted in the modern age’s extreme subjectivism’. [33] Where and how Marx prioritized ‘self-alienation’ in his analysis of capitalist society remains a mystery that Arendt never elucidated in her writings.

In the 1960s, the theory of alienation in the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 became the major bone of contention in the wider interpretation of Marx’s work. It was argued that a sharp distinction should be drawn between an ‘early Marx’ and a ‘mature Marx’ – an arbitrary and artificial opposition favoured both by those who preferred the early philosophical work and those for whom the only real Marx was the Marx of Capital (among them Louis Althusser and the Russian scholars). Whereas the former considered the theory of alienation in the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 to be the most significant part of Marx’s social critique, the latter often exhibited a veritable ‘phobia of alienation’ and tried at first to downplay its relevance[34]; or, when this strategy was no longer possible, the whole theme of alienation was written off as ‘a youthful peccadillo, a residue of Hegelianism’ [35] that Marx later abandoned. Scholars in the first camp retorted that the 1844 manuscripts were written by a man of twenty-six just embarking on his major studies; but those in the second camp still refused to accept the importance of Marx’s theory of alienation, even when the publication of new texts made it clear that he never lost interest in it and that it occupied an important position in the main stages of his life’s work.

To argue, as so many did, that the theory of alienation in the 1844 Manuscripts was the central theme of Marx’s thought was so obviously wrong that it demonstrated no more than ignorance of his work.[36] On the other hand, when Marx again became the most frequently discussed and quoted author in world philosophical literature because of his newly published pages on alienation, the silence from the Soviet Union on this whole topic, and on the controversies associated with it, provided a striking example of the instrumental use made of his writings in that country. For the existence of alienation in the Soviet Union and its satellites was dismissed out of hand, and any texts relating to the question were treated with suspicion. As Henri Lefebvre put it, ‘in Soviet society, alienation could and must no longer be an issue. By order from above, for reasons of State, the concept had to disappear.’[37] Therefore, until the 1970s, very few authors in the ‘socialist camp’ paid any attention to the works in question.

A number of well-known Western authors also played down the complexity of the phenomenon. Lucien Goldmann, for instance, thought it possible to overcome alienation in the social-economic conditions of the time, and in his Recherches dialectiques (1959) argued that it would disappear, or recede, under the mere impact of planning. ‘Reification,’ he wrote, ‘is in fact a phenomenon closely bound up with the absence of planning and with production for the market’; Soviet socialism in the East and Keynesian policies in the West were resulting ‘in the first case in the elimination of reification, and in the second case in its progressive weakening’.[38] History has demonstrated the faultiness of his predictions.

V. The irresistible fascination of the theory of alienation
In the 1960s a real vogue began for theories of alienation, and hundreds of books and articles were published on it around the world. It was the age of alienation tout court. Authors from various political backgrounds and academic disciplines identified its causes as commodification, overspecialization, anomie, bureaucratization, conformism, consumerism, loss of a sense of self amid new technologies, even personal isolation, apathy, social or ethnic marginalization, and environmental pollution.

The concept of alienation seemed to express the spirit of the age to perfection, and indeed, in its critique of capitalist society, it became a meeting ground for anti-Soviet philosophical Marxism and the most democratic and progressive currents in the Catholic world. However, the popularity of the concept, and its indiscriminate application, created a profound terminological ambiguity.[39] Within the space of a few years, alienation thus became an empty formula ranging right across the spectrum of human unhappiness – so all-encompassing that it generated the belief that it could never be modified.[40]

With Guy Debord’s book The Society of the Spectacle, which became soon after its first publication in 1967 a veritable manifesto for the generation of students in revolt against the system, alienation theory linked up with the critique of immaterial production. Building on the theses of Horkheimer and Adorno, according to which the manufacturing of consent to the social order had spread to the leisure industry, Debord argued that the sphere of non-labour could no longer be considered separate from productive activity:

‘Whereas during the primitive stage of capitalist accumulation “political economy considers the proletarian only as a worker”, who only needs to be allotted the indispensable minimum for maintaining his labour power, and never considers him “in his leisure and humanity”, this ruling-class perspective is revised as soon as commodity abundance reaches a level that requires an additional collaboration from him. Once his workday is over, the worker is suddenly redeemed from the total contempt toward him that is so clearly implied by every aspect of the organization and surveillance of production, and finds himself seemingly treated like a grownup, with a great show of politeness, in his new role as a consumer. At this point the humanism of the commodity takes charge of the worker’s “leisure and humanity” simply because political economy now can and must dominate those spheres.’[41]

For Debord, then, whereas the domination of the economy over social life initially took the form of a ‘degradation of being into having’, in the ‘present stage’ there had been a ‘general shift from having to appearing’.[42] This idea led him to place the world of spectacle at the centre of his analysis: ‘The spectacle’s social function is the concrete manufacture of alienation’,[43] the phenomenon through which ‘the fetishism of the commodity … attains its ultimate fulfilment’.[44] In these circumstances, alienation asserted itself to such a degree that it actually became an exciting experience for individuals, a new opium of the people that led them to consume and ‘identify with the dominant images’, [45] taking them ever further from their own desires and real existence:

‘the spectacle is the stage at which the commodity has succeeded in totally colonizing social life…. Modern economic production extends its dictatorship both extensively and intensively. […] With the “second industrial revolution”, alienated consumption has become just as much a duty for the masses as alienated production.’[46]

In the wake of Debord, Jean Baudrillard has also used the concept of alienation to interpret critically the social changes that have appeared with mature capitalism. In The Consumer Society (1970), distancing himself from the Marxist focus on the centrality of production, he identified consumption as the primary factor in modern society. The ‘age of consumption’, in which advertising and opinion polls create spurious needs and mass consensus, was also ‘the age of radical alienation’.

‘Commodity logic has become generalized and today governs not only labour processes and material products, but the whole of culture, sexuality, and human relations, including even fantasies and individual drives…. Everything is spectacularized or, in other words, evoked, provoked and orchestrated into images, signs, consumable models.’[47]

Baudrillard’s political conclusions, however, were rather confused and pessimistic. Faced with social ferment on a mass scale, he thought ‘the rebels of May 1968’ had fallen into the trap of ‘reifying objects and consumption excessively by according them diabolic value’; and he criticized ‘all the disquisitions on “alienation”, and all the derisive force of pop and anti-art’ as a mere ‘indictment [that] is part of the game: it is the critical mirage, the anti-fable which rounds off the fable’.[48] Now a long way from Marxism, for which the working class is the social reference point for changing the world, he ended his book with a messianic appeal, as generic as it was ephemeral: ‘We shall await the violent irruptions and sudden disintegrations which will come, just as unforeseeably and as certainly as May 1968, to wreck this white Mass.’ [49]

VI. Alienation theory in North American sociology
In the 1950s, the concept of alienation also entered the vocabulary of North American sociology, but the approach to the subject there was quite different from the one prevailing in Europe at the time. Mainstream sociology treated alienation as a problem of the individual human being, not of social relations, [50] and the search for solutions centred on the capacity of individuals to adjust to the existing order, not on collective practices to change society.[51]

Here, too, there was a long period of uncertainty before a clear and shared definition took shape. Some authors considered alienation to be a positive phenomenon, a means of expressing creativity, which was inherent in the human condition in general.[52] Another common view was that it sprang from the fissure between individual and society;[53] Seymour Melman, for instance, traced alienation to the split between the formulation and execution of decisions, and considered that it affected workers and managers alike.[54] In ‘A Measure of Alienation’ (1957), which inaugurated a debate on the concept in the American Sociological Review, Gwynn Nettler used an opinion survey as a way of trying to establish a definition. But, in sharp contrast to the rigorous labour-movement tradition of investigations into working conditions, his questionnaire seemed to draw its inspiration more from the McCarthyite canons of the time than from those of scientific research.[55] For in effect he identified alienation with a rejection of the conservative principles of American society: ‘consistent maintenance of unpopular and averse attitudes toward familism, the mass media and mass taste, current events, popular education, conventional religion and the telic view of life, nationalism, and the voting process’. [56]

The conceptual narrowness of the American sociological panorama changed after the publication of Melvin Seeman’s short article ‘On the Meaning of Alienation’ (1959), which soon became an obligatory reference for all scholars in the field. His list of the five main types of alientation – powerlessness, meaninglessness (that is, the inability to understand the events in which one is inserted), normlessness, isolation and self-estrangement [57] – showed that he too approached the phenomenon in a primarily subjective perspective. Robert Blauner, in his book Alienation and Freedom (1964), similarly defined alienation as ‘a quality of personal experience which results from specific kinds of social arrangements’ [58] , even if his copious research led him to trace its causes to ‘employment in the large-scale organizations and impersonal bureaucracies that pervade all industrial societies’. [59]

American sociology, then, generally saw alienation as a problem linked to the system of industrial production, whether capitalist or socialist, and mainly affecting human consciousness. [60] This major shift of approach ultimately downgraded, or even excluded, analysis of the historical-social factors that determine alienation, producing a kind of hyper-psychologization that treated it not as a social problem but as a pathological symptom of individuals, curable at the individual level. [61] Whereas in the Marxist tradition the concept of alienation had contributed to some of the sharpest criticisms of the capitalist mode of production, its institutionalization in the realm of sociology reduced it to a phenomenon of individual maladjustment to social norms. In the same way, the critical dimension that the concept had had in philosophy (even for authors who thought it a horizon that could never be transcended) now gave way to an illusory neutrality. [62]

Another effect of this metamorphosis was the theoretical impoverishment of the concept. From a complex phenomenon related to man’s work activity and social and intellectual existence, alienation became a partial category divided up in accordance with academic research specializations. [63] American sociologists argued that this methodological choice enabled them to free the study of alienation from any political connotations and to confer on it scientific objectivity. But, in reality, this a-political ‘turn’ had evident ideological implications, since support for the dominant values and social order lay hidden behind the banner of de-ideologization and value-neutrality.

So, the difference between Marxist and American sociological conceptions of alienation was not that the former were political and the latter scientific. Rather, Marxist theorists were bearers of values opposed to the hegemonic ones in American society, whereas the US sociologists upheld the values of the existing social order, skillfully dressed up as eternal values of the human species. [64] In the American academic context, the concept of alienation underwent a veritable distortion and ended up being used by defenders of the very social classes against which it had for so long been directed. [65]

VII. Alienation in Capital and the preparatory manuscripts
Marx’s own writings played an important role for those seeking to counter this situation. The initial focus on the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 tended to shift after the publication of new texts, making it possible to reconstruct the development of his thought more accurately.

In the second half of the 1840s, Marx no longer made frequent use of the term ‘alienation’; the main exceptions were his first book, The Holy Family (1845), jointly authored with Engels, where it appears in some polemics against Bruno and Edgar Bauer, and one passage in The German Ideology (1845-6), also written with Engels. Once he had abandoned the idea of publishing The German Ideology, he returned to the theory of alienation in Wage Labour and Capital, a collection of articles based on lectures he gave to the German Workers’ League in Brussels in 1847, but the term itself does not appear in them, because it would have had too abstract a ring for his intended audience. In these texts, he wrote that wage labour does not enter into the worker’s ‘own life activity’ but represents a ‘sacrifice of his life’. Labour-power is a commodity that the worker is forced to sell ‘in order to live’, and ‘the product of his activity [is] not the object of his activity’: [66]

‘the worker, who for twelve hours weaves, spins, drills, turns, builds, shovels, breaks stones, carries loads, etc. – does he consider this twelve hours’ weaving, spinning, drilling, turning, building, shovelling, stone-breaking as a manifestation of his life, as life? On the contrary, life begins for him where these activities cease, at table, in the public house, in bed. The twelve hours’ labour, on the other hand, have no meaning for him as weaving, spinning, drilling, etc. but as earnings, which bring him to the table, to the public house, into bed. If the silkworm were to spin in order to continue its existence as a caterpillar, it would be a complete wage-worker.’[67]

Until the late 1850s there were no more references to the theory of alienation in Marx’s work. Following the defeat of the 1848 revolutions, he was forced to go into exile in London; once there, he concentrated all his energies on the study of political economy and, apart from a few short works with a historical theme,[68] did not publish another book. When he began to write about economics again, however, in the Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (better known as the Grundrisse), he more than once used the term ‘alienation’. This text recalled in many respects the analyses of the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, although nearly a decade of studies in the British Library had allowed him to make them considerably more profound:

‘The social character of activity, as well as the social form of the product, and the share of individuals in production here appear as something alien and objective, confronting the individuals, not as their relation to one another, but as their subordination to relations which subsist independently of them and which arise out of collisions between mutually indifferent individuals. The general exchange of activities and products, which has become a vital condition for each individual – their mutual interconnection – here appears as something alien to them, autonomous, as a thing. In exchange value, the social connection between persons is transformed into a social relation between things; personal capacity into objective wealth.’ [69]

The account of alienation in the Grundrisse, then, is enriched by a greater understanding of economic categories and by more rigorous social analysis. The link it establishes between alienation and exchange-value is an important aspect of this. And, in one of the most dazzling passages on this phenomenon of modern society, Marx links alienation to the opposition between capital and ‘living labour-power’:

‘The objective conditions of living labour appear as separated, independent values opposite living labour capacity as subjective being…. The objective conditions of living labour capacity are presupposed as having an existence independent of it, as the objectivity of a subject distinct from living labour capacity and standing independently over against it; the reproduction and realization, i.e. the expansion of these objective conditions, is therefore at the same time their own reproduction and new production as the wealth of an alien subject indifferently and independently standing over against labour capacity. What is reproduced and produced anew is not only the presence of these objective conditions of living labour, but also their presence as independent values, i.e. values belonging to an alien subject, confronting this living labour capacity. The objective conditions of labour attain a subjective existence vis-à-vis living labour capacity – capital turns into capitalist.’ [70]

The Grundrisse was not the only text of Marx’s maturity to feature an account of alienation. Five years after it was composed, the ‘Results of the Immediate Process of Production’ – also known as ‘Capital, Volume One: Book 1, Chapter VI, unpublished’ (1863-4) – brought the economic and political analyses of alienation more closely together. ‘The rule of the capitalist over the worker,’ Marx wrote, ‘is the rule of things over man, of dead labour over the living, of the product over the producer.’[71] In capitalist society, by virtue of ‘the transposition of the social productivity of labour into the material attributes of capital’,[72] there is a veritable ‘personification of things and reification of persons’, creating the appearance that ‘the material conditions of labour are not subject to the worker, but he to them’.[73] In reality, he argued:

‘Capital is not a thing, any more than money is a thing. In capital, as in money, certain specific social relations of production between people appear as relations of things to people, or else certain social relations appear as the natural properties of things in society. Without a class dependent on wages, the moment individuals confront each other as free persons, there can be no production of surplus-value; without the production of surplus-value there can be no capitalist production, and hence no capital and no capitalist! Capital and wage-labour (it is thus we designate the labour of the worker who sells his own labour-power) only express two aspects of the self-same relationship. Money cannot become capital unless it is exchanged for labour-power, a commodity sold by the worker himself. Conversely, work can only be wage-labour when its own material conditions confront it as autonomous powers, alien property, value existing for itself and maintaining itself, in short as capital. If capital in its material aspects, i.e. in the use-values in which it has its being, must depend for its existence on the material conditions of labour, these material conditions must equally, on the formal side, confront labour as alien, autonomous powers, as value – objectified labour – which treats living labour as a mere means whereby to maintain and increase itself.’[74]

In the capitalist mode of production, human labour becomes an instrument of the valorization process of capital, which, ‘by incorporating living labour-power into the material constituents of capital,… becomes an animated monster and … starts to act “as if consumed by love”.’ [75] This mechanism keeps expanding in scale, until co-operation in the production process, scientific discoveries and the deployment of machinery – all of them social processes belonging to the collective – become forces of capital that appear as its natural properties, confronting the workers in the shape of the capitalist order:

‘The productive forces … developed [by] social labour … appear as the productive forces of capitalism. […] Collective unity in co-operation, combination in the division of labour, the use of the forces of nature and the sciences, of the products of labour, as machinery – all these confront the individual workers as something alien, objective, ready-made, existing without their intervention, and frequently even hostile to them. They all appear quite simply as the prevailing forms of the instruments of labour. As objects they are independent of the workers whom they dominate. Though the workshop is to a degree the product of the workers’ combination, its entire intelligence and will seem to be incorporated in the capitalist or his understrappers, and the workers find themselves confronted by the functions of the capital that lives in the capitalist.’ [76]

Through this process capital becomes something ‘highly mysterious’. ‘The conditions of labour pile up in front of the worker as social forces, and they assume a capitalized form.’[77] Beginning in the 1960s, the diffusion of ‘Capital, Volume One: Book 1, Chapter VI, unpublished’ and, above all, of the Grundrisse paved the way for a conception of alienation different from the one then hegemonic in sociology and psychology. It was a conception geared to the overcoming of alienation in practice – to the political action of social movements, parties and trade unions to change the working and living conditions of the working class.The publication of what (after the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 in the 1930s) may be thought of as the ‘second generation’ of Marx’s writings on alienation therefore provided not only a coherent theoretical basis for new studies of alienation, but above all an anti-capitalist ideological platform for the extraordinary political and social movement that exploded in the world during those years. Alienation left the books of philosophers and the lecture halls of universities, took to the streets and the space of workers’ struggles, and became a critique of bourgeois society in general.

VIII. Commodity fetishism and de-alienation
One of Marx’s best accounts of alienation is contained in the famous section of Capital on ‘The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret’, where he shows that, in capitalist society, people are dominated by the products they have created. Here, the relations among them appear not ‘as direct social relations between persons…, but rather as material relations between persons and social relations between things’: [78]

‘The mysterious character of the commodity-form consists … in the fact that the commodity reflects the social characteristics of men’s own labour as objective characteristics of the products of labour themselves, as the socio-natural properties of these things. Hence it also reflects the social relation of the producers to the sum total of labour as a social relation between objects, a relation which exists apart from and outside the producers. Through this substitution, the products of labour become commodities, sensuous things which are at the same time supra-sensible or social. […] It is nothing but the definite social relation between men themselves which assumes here, for them, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy we must take flight into the misty realm of religion. There the products of the human brain appear as autonomous figures endowed with a life of their own, which enter into relations both with each other and with the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. I call this the fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour as soon as they are produced as commodities, and is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.’[79]

Two elements in this definition mark a clear dividing line between Marx’s conception of alienation and the one held by most of the other authors we have been discussing. First, Marx conceives of fetishism not as an individual problem but as a social phenomenon, not as an affair of the mind but as a real power, a particular form of domination, which establishes itself in market economy as a result of the transformation of objects into subjects. For this reason, his analysis of alienation does not confine itself to the disquiet of individual women and men, but extends to the social processes and productive activities underlying it. Second, for Marx fetishism manifests itself in a precise historical reality of production, the reality of wage labour; it is not part of the relation between people and things as such, but rather of the relation between man and a particular kind of objectivity: the commodity form.

In bourgeois society, human qualities and relations turn into qualities and relations among things. This theory of what Lukács would call reification illustrated alienation from the point of view of human relations, while the concept of fetishism treated it in relation to commodities. Pace those who deny that a theory of alienation is present in Marx’s mature work, we should stress that commodity fetishism did not replace alienation but was only one aspect of it.[80]

The theoretical advance from the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 to Capital and its related materials does not, however, consist only in the greater precision of his account of alienation. There is also a reformulation of the measures that Marx considers necessary for it to be overcome. Whereas in 1844 he had argued that human beings would eliminate alienation by abolishing private production and the division of labour, the path to a society free of alienation was much more complicated in Capital and its preparatory manuscripts. Marx held that capitalism was a system in which the workers were subject to capital and the conditions it imposed. Nevertheless, it had created the foundations for a more advanced society, and by generalizing its benefits humanity would be able to progress along the faster road of social development that it had opened up. According to Marx, a system that produced an enormous accumulation of wealth for the few and deprivation and exploitation for the general mass of workers must be replaced with ‘an association of free men, working with the means of production held in common, and expending their many different forms of labour-power in full self-awareness as one single social labour force’.[81] This type of production would differ from wage labour because it would place its determining factors under collective governance, take on an immediately general character and convert labour into a truly social activity. This was a conception of society at the opposite pole from Hobbes’s “war of all against all”; and its creation did not require a merely political process, but would necessarily involve transformation of the sphere of production. But such a change in the labour process had its limits:

‘Freedom, in this sphere, can consist only in this, that socialized man, the associated producers, govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under their collective control instead of being dominated by it as a blind power; accomplishing it with the least expenditure of energy and in conditions most worthy and appropriate for their human nature.’[82]

This post-capitalist system of production, together with scientific-technological progress and a consequent reduction of the working day, creates the possibility for a new social formation in which the coercive, alienated labour imposed by capital and subject to its laws is gradually replaced with conscious, creative activity beyond the yoke of necessity, and in which complete social relations take the place of random, undifferentiated exchange dictated by the laws of commodities and money.[83] It is no longer the realm of freedom for capital but the realm of genuine human freedom.

1. Histoire et conscience de classe, trans. Kostas Axelos and Jacqueline Bois, Paris: Minuit, 1960.
2. Georg Lukács, History and Class Consciousness, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1971, xxiv.
3. Isaak Illich Rubin, Essays on Marx’s Theory of Value, Detroit: Black & Red, 1972, 5.
4. Ibid., 28 (trans. mod.).
5. Ibid., 59.
6. In fact, Marx had already used the concept of alienation before he wrote the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. In one text he published in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (February 1844) he wrote: ‘It is […] 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.’ Karl Marx, ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction’, in Karl Marx, Early Writings, London: Penguin, 1992, 244-5.
7. In Marx’s writings one finds the term Entfremdung (‘estrangement’) as well as Entäusserung. These had different meanings in Hegel, but Marx uses them synonymously. See Marcella D’Abbiero, Alienazione in Hegel. Usi e significati di Entäusserung, Entfremdung Veräusserung, Rome: Edizioni dell’Ateneo, 1970, 25-7.
8. Karl Marx, ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)’, in Early Writings, 324.
9. Ibid., 327.
10. Ibid., 330. For an account of Marx’s four-part typology of alienation, see Bertell Ollman, Alienation, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1971, 136-52.
11. Karl Marx, ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844)’, 333.
12. Karl Marx, ‘Excerpts from James Mill’s Elements of Political Economy’, in Early Writings, 278.
13. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, San Francisco: Harper, 1962, 220-1. In the 1967 preface to his republished History and Class Consciousness, Lukács observed that in Heidegger alienation became a politically innocuous concept that ‘sublimated a critique of society into a purely philosophical problem’ (Lukács, xxiv). Heidegger also tried to distort the meaning of Marx’s concept of alienation: in his ‘Letter on Humanism’ (1946), he noted approvingly that, ‘by experiencing alienation, [Marx] attains an essential dimension of history’ (Martin Heidegger, ‘Letter on Humanism’, in Basic Writings, London: Routledge, 1993, 243) – a misleading formulation which has no basis in Marx’s writings.
14. Herbert Marcuse, ‘On the Philosophical Foundation of the Concept of Labor in Economics’, Telos 16 (Summer 1973), 25.
15. Ibid., 16-17.
16. Ibid., 25.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid., 14-15.
19. Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization, Boston: Beacon Press, 1966, 45.
20. Ibid., 46-7. Georges Friedmann was of the same view, arguing in The Anatomy of Work (New York: Glencoe Press, 1964) that the overcoming of alienation was possible only after liberation from work.
21. Marcuse, Eros and Civilization, 156.
22. Ibid., 155.
23. Ibid., 198.
24. Ibid., 155. Cf. the evocation of a ‘libidinal rationality which is not only compatible with but even promotes progress toward higher forms of civilized freedom’ (199). On the relationship between technology and progress, see Kostas Axelos, Alienation, Praxis, and Techné in the Thought of Karl Marx, Austin/London: University of Texas Press, 1976.
25. Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment, New York: Seabury Press, 1972, 121.
26. See Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, New York: Norton, 1962, 62.
27. Erich Fromm, The Sane Society, New York: Fawcett, 1965, 111.
28. Erich Fromm, Marx’s Concept of Man, New York: Frederick Ungar, 1961, 56-7. This failure to understand the specific character of alienated labour recurs in his writings on alienation in the 1960s. In an essay published in 1965 he wrote: ‘One has to examine the phenomenon of alienation in its relation to narcissism, depression, fanaticism, and idolatry to understand it fully.’ ‘The Application of Humanist Psychoanalysis to Marx’s Theory’, in Erich Fromm, ed., Socialist Humanism, New York: Doubleday, 1965, 221.
29. See Alexandre Kojeve, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980.
30. Jean Hyppolite, Studies on Marx and Hegel, New York/London: Basic Books, 1969, 88.
31. Cf.István Mészáros, Marx’s Theory of Alienation, London: Merlin Press, 1970, 241 ff.
32. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958, 253-4.
33. Ibid., 254.
34. The directors of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism in Berlin even managed to exclude the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 from the numbered volumes of the canonical Marx-Engels Werke, relegating them to a supplementary volume with a smaller print run.
35. Adam Schaff, Alienation as a Social Phenomenon, Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1980, 100.
36. Cf. Daniel Bell, ‘The Rediscovery of Alienation: Some notes along the quest for the historical Marx’, Journal of Philosophy, vol. LVI, 24 (November 1959), 933-52, which concludes: ‘while one may be sympathetic to the idea of alienation, it is only further myth-making to read this concept back as the central theme of Marx’, 935.
37. Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life, London: Verso, 1991, 53.
38. Lucien Goldmann, Recherches dialectiques, Paris: Gallimard, 1959, 101.
39. Thus Richard Schacht (Alienation, Garden City: Doubleday, 1970) noted that ‘there is almost no aspect of contemporary life which has not been discussed in terms of “alienation”’ (lix); while Peter C. Ludz (‘Alienation as a Concept in the Social Sciences’, reprinted in Felix Geyer and David Schweitzer, eds., Theories of Alienation, Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976) remarked that ‘the popularity of the concept serves to increase existing terminological ambiguity’ (3).
40. Cf. David Schweitzer, ‘Alienation, De-alienation, and Change: A critical overview of current perspectives in philosophy and the social sciences’, in Giora Shoham, ed., Alienation and Anomie Revisited, Tel Aviv: Ramot, 1982, for whom ‘the very meaning of alienation is often diluted to the point of virtual meaninglessness’ (57).
41. Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, Canberra: Hobgoblin 2002, 13.
42. Ibid., 9.
43. Ibid., 11.
44. Ibid., 12.
45. Ibid., 11.
46. Ibid., 13.
47. Jean Baudrillard, The Consumer Society, London: Sage, 1998, 191.
48. Ibid., 195-6.
49. Ibid., 196.
50. See for example John Clark, ‘Measuring alienation within a social system’, American Sociological Review, vol. 24, n. 6 (December 1959), 849-52.
51. See Schweitzer, ‘Alienation, De-alienation, and Change’ (note 40), 36-7.
52. A good example of this position is Walter Kaufman’s ‘The Inevitability of Alienation’, his introduction to Schacht’s previously quoted volume, Alienation. For Kaufman, ‘life without estrangement is scarcely worth living; what matters is to increase men’s capacity to cope with alienation’ (lvi).
53. Schacht, Alienation, 155.
54. Seymour Melman, Decision-making and Productivity, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1958, 18, 165-6.
55. Among the questions that Nettler put to a sample considered susceptible to ‘alien orientation’ were: ‘Do you enjoy TV? What do you think of the new model of American automobiles? Do you read Reader’s Digest? … Do you like to participate in church activities? Do national spectator-sports (football, baseball) interest you?’ (‘A measure of alienation’, American Sociological Review, vol. 22, no. 6 (December 1957), 675). He concluded that negative answers were evidence of alienation: ‘there seems little doubt that this scale measures a dimension of estrangement from our society.’
56. Ibid., 674. To prove his point, Nettler noted that ‘to the question, “Would you just as soon live under another form of government as under our present one?” all responded with some indication of possibility and none with rejection’ (674). He even went so far as to claim ‘that alienation is related to creativity. It is hypothesized that creative scientists and artists … are alienated individuals … that alienation is related to altruism [and] that their estrangement leads to criminal behavior’ (676-7).
57. Melvin Seeman, ‘On the Meaning of Alienation’, American Sociological Review, vol. 24, no. 6 (December 1959), 783-91. In 1972 he added a sixth type to the list: ‘cultural estrangement’. (See Melvin Seeman, ‘Alienation and Engagement’, in Angus Campbell and Philip E. Converse, eds., The Human Meaning of Social Change, New York: Russell Sage, 1972, 467-527.)
58. Robert Blauner, Alienation and Freedom, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964, 15.
59. Ibid., 3.
60. Cf. Walter R. Heinz, ‘Changes in the Methodology of Alienation Research’, in Felix Geyer and Walter R. Heinz, Alienation, Society and the Individual, New Brunswick/London: Transaction, 1992, 217.
61. See Felix Geyer and David Schweitzer, ‘Introduction’, in idem, eds., Theories of Alienation (note 39), xxi-xxii, and Felix Geyer, ‘A General Systems Approach to Psychiatric and Sociological De-alienation’, in Giora Shoham, ed. (note 40), 141.
62. See Geyer and Schweitzer, ‘Introduction’, xx-xxi.
63. David Schweitzer, ‘Fetishization of Alienation: Unpacking a Problem of Science, Knowledge, and Reified Practices in the Workplace’, in Felix Geyer, ed., Alienation, Ethnicity, and Postmodernism, Westport, Connecticut/London: Greenwood Press, 1996, 23.
64. Cf. John Horton, ‘The Dehumanization of Anomie and Alienation: a problem in the ideology of sociology’, The British Journal of Sociology, vol. XV, no. 4 (1964), 283-300, and David Schweitzer, ‘Fetishization of Alienation’, 23.
65. See Horton, ‘Dehumanization’. This thesis is proudly championed by Irving Louis Horowitz in ‘The Strange Career of Alienation: how a concept is transformed without permission of its founders’, in Felix Geyer, ed. (note 63), 17-19. According to Horowitz, ‘alienation is now part of the tradition in the social sciences rather than social protest. This change came about with a broadening realization that terms like being alienated are no more and no less value-laden than being integrated.’ The concept of alienation thus ‘became enveloped with notions of the human condition – … a positive rather than a negative force. Rather than view alienation as framed by “estrangement” from a human being’s essential nature as a result of a cruel set of industrial-capitalist demands, alienation becomes an inalienable right, a source of creative energy for some and an expression of personal eccentricity for others’ (18).
66. Karl Marx, ‘Wage Labour and Capital’, in Marx-Engels Collected Works, vol. 9, New York: International Publishers, 1977, 202.
67. Ibid., 203.
68. The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Revelations concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne and Revelations of the Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century.
69. Karl Marx, Grundrisse, London: Penguin, 1993, 157. In another passage on alienation (158), we read: ‘Rob the thing of this social power and you must give it to persons to exercise over persons.’
70. Ibid., 461-2.
71. Karl Marx, ‘Results of the Immediate Process of Production’, in idem, Capital, Volume 1, London: Penguin, 1976, 990.
72. Ibid., 1058.
73. Ibid., 1054.
74. Ibid., 1005-6 (emphasis in the original).
75. Ibid., 1007.
76. Ibid., 1054 (emphasis in the original)
77. Ibid., 1056.
78. Karl Marx, Capital,Volume 1, 166.
79. Ibid., 164-5.
80. Cf. Schaff, Alienation as a Social Phenomenon, 81.
81. Capital, Volume 1, 171.
82. Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 3, London: Penguin, 1981, 959.
83. For reasons of space, a consideration of the unfinished and partly contradictory nature of Marx’s sketch of a non-alienated society will have to be left to a future study.

Journal Articles


Returns to Marx
Owing to theoretical disputes or political events, interest in Marx’s work has fluctuated over time and has gone through indisputable periods of decline. From the early 20th-century ‘crisis of Marxism’ in Italy and France to the dissolution of the Second International; from debates over the contradictions of Marx’s economic theory to the tragedy of Soviet communism, criticism of the ideas of Marx seemed persistently to point beyond the conceptual horizon of Marxism. Yet there has always been a ‘return to Marx’.

A new need develops to refer to his work – whether the critique of political economy, the formulations on alienation, or the brilliant pages of political polemic – and it has continued to exercise an irresistible fascination to both followers and opponents. Pronounced dead at the end of the 20th century, Marx has now suddenly reappeared on the stage of history: there is a rekindling of interest in his thought, and the dust is ever more frequently brushed off his books in the libraries of Europe, America and Asia.

The rediscovery of Marx is based on his continuing capacity to explain the present; indeed, his thought remains an indispensable instrument with which to understand and transform it. In face of the crisis of capitalist society and the profound contradictions that traverse it, this author who was overhastily dismissed after 1989 is once more being taken up and interrogated. Thus, Jacques Derrida’s assertion that ‘it will always be a mistake not to read and reread and discuss Marx’ [1] – which only a few years ago seemed an isolated provocation – has found increasing approval. Since the late 1990s, newspapers, periodicals and TV or radio programs have repeatedly discussed Marx as being the most relevant thinker for our times. The first article of this kind that had a certain resonance was ‘The Return of Karl Marx’, published in The New Yorker. [2] Then it was the turn of the BBC, which cited Marx as the greatest thinker of the millennium. A few years later, the weekly Nouvel Observateur devoted a whole issue to the theme Karl Marx – le penseur du troisième millénaire? (thinker of the third millennium?). [3] Soon after, Germany paid its tribute to the man it once forced into a 40-year exile: in 2004, more than 500,000 viewers of the national television station ZDF voted Marx the third most important German personality of all time (he was first in the category of ‘contemporary relevance’), and during the national elections of 2005 the mass-circulation magazine Der Spiegel carried his image on the cover, giving the victory sign, under the titleEin Gespenst kehrt zurück (A spectre is back). [4] Completing this curious collection, a poll conducted in 2005 by the radio station BBC4 gave Marx the accolade of the philosopher most admired by its listeners.

Furthermore, the literature dealing with Marx, which all but dried up 15 years ago, is showing signs of revival in many countries, both in the form of new studies and in booklets in various languages with titles such as Why Read Marx Today? [5] Journals are increasingly open to contributions on Marx and Marxism, just as there are now many international conferences, university courses and seminars on the theme. Finally, although timid and often confused in form, a new demand for Marx is also making itself felt in politics – from Latin America to Europe, passing through the alternative globalization movement. In particular, since the onset of the international economic crisis in mid-2007, academics and economic theorists from various political and cultural backgrounds have again been drawn to Marx’s analysis of the inherent instability of capitalism, whose self-generated cyclical crises have grave effects on political and social life. In all parts of the world, leading daily and weekly papers have been discussing the contemporary relevance of Marx’s thought.

In this context of what some commentators have described as a ‘Marx renaissance’, the aim of the present special issue of Socialism and Democracy is to make a close study of Marx’s principal writings in relation to some of the major problems of our own time, and to show how and why some of his theories constitute a precious tool for the understanding and critique of the 21st-century world.

Marx and the analysis of contemporary capitalism
Of course, the writings that Marx composed a century and a half ago do not contain a precise description of the world today. It should be stressed, however, that the focus of Capital was not on 19th-century capitalism either, but rather – as he put it in the third volume of this work, his magnum opus – on the ‘organization of the capitalist mode of production, in its ideal average’, and hence in its most complete and most general form. When he was writing Capital , capitalism had developed only in England and a few other European industrial centres. Yet he foresaw that it would expand on a global scale, and formulated his theories on that basis. This is why Capital is not only a great classic of economic and political thought, but still provides today, despite all the profound transformations that have intervened, a rich array of tools with which to understand the nature of capitalist development.

The truth of this has been all the more apparent since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the spread of the capitalist mode of production to new areas of the planet like China. Capitalism has become a truly worldwide system, and some of Marx’s analyses – not others, of course, which gave rise to mistaken predictions – have revealed their significance even more clearly than in his own time. [6] As this geographical expansion has taken place, the internal contradictions of capitalism have asserted themselves with greater stringency. Marx has probed the logic of the system more deeply than has any other modern political thinker. If his analysis is updated and applied to the most recent developments, it can help explain many problems that did not manifest themselves fully until the 20th century. One thinks, for instance, of the role of finance in capitalist accumulation – a widely debated issue today, which Marx already made the object of a penetrating analysis.

Themes and objectives of this issue
Despite the new interest in Marx, few recent studies of his ideas have gone beyond generic formulas – such as ‘Marx, the prophet of capitalist globalization’ – to discuss in a theoretically effective, textually rigorous manner the ways in which a rereading of his work can help to explain the political, economic and social phenomena of today. The present collection attempts to address this task, without adopting an apologetic approach to Marx’s work or indeed neglecting to demonstrate some of its contradictions. The aim is to bring together varied reflections on the Marxian oeuvre, drawing on different perspectives and fields.

Marx’s analysis of capitalism was not merely an economic investigation but was also relevant to the understanding of power structures and social relations. With the extension of capitalism into most aspects of human life, Marx’s thought turns out to have been extraordinarily prescient in many fields not addressed by 20th-century orthodox Marxism. One of these is certainly the transformations brought about by so-called economic globalization; others that we address in this collection encompass the full complexity of present-day politics, including issues of ethnicity, nationalism, freedom and democracy. In each dimension, we see how Marx even today has an invaluable contribution to make. The essays in the second part of this collection show how these varying insights have emerged in a wide range of national settings.

Why Marx again?
After years of postmodern manifestos, solemn talk of the ‘end of history’ and infatuation with vacuous ‘biopolitical’ ideas, the value of Marx’s theories is again becoming more and more widely recognized.

What remains of Marx today? How useful is his thought to the workers’ struggle for freedom? What part of his work is most fertile for stimulating the critique of our times? These are some of the questions that receive widely varying answers. If the contemporary Marx renaissance has a certainty, it lies in a rejection of the orthodoxies that have dominated and profoundly conditioned the interpretation of this philosopher. Even though marked by evident limits and the risk of syncretism, a period has arrived that is characterized by many theoretical incarnations of Marx. After the age of dogmatisms, perhapsit could not have happened in any other way. The task of responding to this new situation is therefore up to the research, theoretical and practical, of an emerging generation of scholars and political activists.

Among the “Marxes” that remain indispensable, at least two can be identified. One is the critic of the capitalist mode of production: the tireless researcher who intuited and analysed this development on a global scale and described bourgeois society better than anyone else. This is the thinker who refused to conceive of capitalism and the regime of private property as immutable scenarios intrinsic to human nature and who still offers crucial suggestions to those who want to realize alternatives to capitalism. The other Marx to whom great attention should be paid, is the theoretician of socialism: the author who repudiated the idea of state socialism, already propagated in his time by Lassalle and Rodbertus; the thinker who understood socialism as the possible complete transformation of productive and social relations, and not as a set of bland palliatives for the problems of capitalist society.

Without Marx we will be condemned to a critical aphasia. The cause of human emancipation will therefore continue to need him. His ‘spectre’ is destined to haunt the world and shake humanity for a good while to come.


1. Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx, London: Routledge, 1994, 13.
2. John Cassidy, ‘The Return of Karl Marx’, The New Yorker, October 20/27 1997, 248-59.
3. Le Nouvel Observateur , October/November 2003.
4. Der Spiegel , 22 August 2005.
5. One of the most significant examples of this new interest in Marx’s writings is the continuation of the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA 2), the historico-critical edition of his complete works, which resumed in 1998 after the interruption that followed the collapse of the socialist countries. See Marcello Musto, ‘The rediscovery of Karl Marx’, International Review of Social History, 2007, no. 52/3, 477-98.
6. See Ellen Meiksins Wood, Democracy against capitalism, London: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Journal Articles

The Formation of Marx’s Critique of Political Economy

I. Introduction
Despite the predictions that consigned it to eternal oblivion, Marx’s work has returned to the historical stage in recent years and a number of his texts have reappeared on bookshop shelves in many parts of the world. The rediscovery of Marx is based on the explanatory capacity still present in his writings. Faced with a new and deep crisis of capitalism, many are again looking to an author who in the past was often wrongly associated with the Soviet Union, and who was too hastily dismissed after 1989.

This renewed political focus was preceded by a revival of historical studies of his work. After the waning of interest in the 1980s, and the “conspiracy of silence” in the 1990s, new or republished editions of his work became available almost everywhere (except in Russia and Eastern Europe, where the disasters of “actually existing socialism” are still too recent for a Marx revival to be on the cards), and these have produced important and innovative results in many of the fields in which they blossomed.[1]

Of particular significance for an exhaustive reinterpretation is the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA²), the critical historical edition of the complete works of Marx and Engels, which resumed serial publication in 1998.[2] This brought into print Marx’s books of excerpts and all his preparatory manuscripts for the second and third volumes of Capital. The former include not only material from the books he read but also the reflections they stimulated in him; they reveal the workshop of his critical theory, the whole trajectory of his thought, the sources on which he drew in developing his own ideas. The publication of all the Capital manuscripts, and all the editorial revisions made by Engels,[3] will enable a reliable critical evaluation to be made of the state of Marx’s originals and the extent of Engels’s input into the published editions of Volumes Two and Three. For these texts reveal the unfinished state of Marx’s magnum opus and will serve as the basis for any future rigorous study of it.

Using this new research material, the present work aims to reconstruct all the stages of Marx’s critique of political economy in the light of the philological acquisitions of MEGA², and hence to offer a more exhaustive account of the formation of Marx’s thought than those that were made in the past. In fact, the great majority of researchers in this area have considered only certain periods in Marx’s development, often jumping straight from the [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844][4] to the [Grundrisse] (1857-58) and from there to the first volume of Capital (1867), or, at best, examining only two other texts: The Poverty of Philosophy (1847) and [Theories of Surplus Value] (1862-63).[5]

The study of priceless manuscripts, and of interesting interim results, has remained the preserve of a narrow circle of scholars capable of reading the German-language volumes of MEGA². Thus, in order to make these texts known more widely, and to revive debate, in the light of the new material, on the genesis and unfinished character of Marx’s work,[6] the present study has been divided into two parts. The first, corresponding to the article presented here, examines Marx’s research on political economy and some of his theoretical breakthroughs in this field, from the early studies of 1843 to the composition of the [Grundrisse] (1857-58), the bulky preparatory manuscripts for the short work entitled A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859) that is generally regarded as the first draft of Capital. The second article, to be published in the near future, will look at the making of Capital through the various drafts, from the [Grundrisse] to the final manuscripts of 1882 before Marx’s death.

The present article first seeks to reconstruct the studies in political economy that Marx conducted in Paris, Manchester and Brussels between 1843 and 1847, which culminated in the publication of The Poverty of Philosophy (§ II and III), and to consider Marx’s political and personal fortunes during the revolutions of 1848 and the first period of his subsequent exile in London (§ IV and V). During this time, he wrote on political economy for the two journals he founded and directed: from 1848 to 1849 the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Organ der Demokratie, and in 1850 the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue. The conviction gradually formed in him that a new revolution could develop only in the wake of a world economic crisis. Section VI focuses on the 26 notebooks of excerpts that he compiled from 1850 to 1853, known as the [London Notebooks] . These bear the traces of his immersion in dozens of works of political economy, and they make it possible to reconstruct an important phase in Marx’s thought that few interpreters have investigated until now.

Finally, after a discussion of the trial of Communists in 1853 (§ VII) – a significant event that Marx spent much energy combating – Sections VIII and IX review the development of his position in the articles he wrote for the New York Tribune on the possibility of an economic crisis in the 1850s. The outbreak of such a crisis eventually coincided with his initial work on the [Grundrisse], in which he dealt with the money-value relationship and the process of the production and circulation of capital, introduced the concept of surplus-value for the first time, and critically reworked the profound studies of political economy that had absorbed him in the preceding years. A table, printed as an appendix, sets out the chronological order of the notebooks of excerpts, the manuscripts and the works on political economy from the 1843-1858 period.

II. The Encounter with Political Economy
Political economy was not Karl Marx’s first intellectual passion: it was only just emerging as a discipline in Germany during his youth, and he encountered it only after various other subjects. Born in Trier in 1818, to a family of Jewish origin, he began by studying law in 1835 at the universities of Bonn and Berlin, then switched to philosophy (especially the dominant Hegelianism) and graduated from Jena University in 1841 with a thesis on The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature. He would then have liked to take up an academic career, but Hegel’s philosophy fell out of official favour when Friedrich Wilhelm IV came to the throne in Prussia, and Marx, having been a member of the Young Hegelians, was obliged to change his plans. Between 1842 and 1843 he devoted himself to journalism, covering current affairs, and worked on the Rheinische Zeitung, the Cologne daily paper, of which he soon became the very youthful chief editor. However, shortly after he took on the position and began to publish articles of his own on economic questions (albeit only legal and political aspects), [7] the censorship struck at the paper and caused him to end the experience, ‘to withdraw from the public stage to my study’.[8] So he continued his studies of the state and legal relations, in which Hegel was a leading authority, and in 1843 wrote the manuscript that was posthumously published as [A Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right]. Having developed the conviction that civil society was the real foundation of the political state, he here set out his earliest views on the importance of the economic factors in the accounting for the totality of social relations.

Marx embarked on ‘a conscientious critical study of political economy'[9] only after he moved to Paris, where in 1844 he founded and jointly edited the Deutsch–französische Jahrbücher. [10] From that moment his own enquiries, which had previously been of a mainly philosophical, historical and political character, turned to the new discipline that would be the fulcrum of his future research. He did a huge amount of reading in Paris, filling nine books of notes and extracts. In fact, he had acquired at university the lifelong habit of compiling summaries of works, often interspersed with reflections that they suggested to him.[11] The so-called [Paris Manuscripts] are especially interesting for their lengthy compendia from Jean-Baptiste Say’s Traité d’économie politique and Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations,[12] from which Marx acquired his basic knowledge of political economy, and David Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation and James Mill’s Elements of Political Economy, [13] which enabled him to make his first appraisals of the concepts of value and price and to launch a critique of money as the domination of estranged things over man.

In parallel with these studies, Marx wrote another three notebooks that were posthumously published as [Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844][14], in which he devoted special attention to the concept of alienated labour (entäusserte Arbeit). Contrary to the major economists and G.W. F. Hegel, this phenomenon, through which the worker’s product stands opposed to him ‘as something alien, as a power independent of the producer'[15], is not considered to be a natural, hence immutable, condition, but to be characteristic of a particular structure of social production relations: the modern bourgeois society and wage labour.

Some of Marx’s visitors attested to his intense work during this period. The radical journalist Heinrich Bürgers said of him in late 1844: ‘Marx had begun profound investigations in the field of political economy and nurtured the project of writing a critical work that would refound economic science.’ [16] Friedrich Engels, too, who first met Marx in the summer of 1844 and forged a friendship and theoretical-political solidarity with him that would last the rest of their lives, was driven by hopes of an imminent social upheaval to urge Marx in the first letter of their forty-year correspondence to publish as quickly as possible: ‘See to it that the material you’ve collected is soon launched into the world. It’s high time, heaven knows!’ [17] Marx’s sense of the inadequacy of his knowledge held him back from completing and publishing the manuscripts. But he did write, together with Engels,[18] The Holy Family, or Critique of Critical Criticism: Against Bruno Bauer and Company, a polemical broadside against Bauer and other figures in the Left Hegelian movement from which Marx had distanced himself in 1842, on grounds that it operated in speculative isolation and was geared exclusively to sterile conceptual battles.

With this behind them, Engels wrote again in early 1845 urging his friend to complete the work in preparation:

Do try and finish your political economy book, even if there’s much in it that you yourself are still dissatisfied with, it doesn’t really matter; minds are ripe and we must strike while the iron is hot. … now it is high time. So try and finish before April, do as I do, set a date by which you will definitely have finished, and make sure it gets into print quickly.[19]

But these entreaties were of little avail. Marx still felt the need to continue his studies before trying to give a finished form to the drafts he had written. In any event, he was sustained by the conviction that he would soon be able to publish, and on 1 February 1845 – after he had been ordered to leave France because of his collaboration with the German-language workers’ bi-weekly Vorwärts! – he signed a contract with the Darmstadt publisher Karl Wilhelm Leske for a two-volume work to be entitled ‘Critique of Politics and Political Economy’. [20]

III. Continuing the Study of Economics
In February 1845 Marx moved to Brussels, where he was allowed residence on condition that he ‘did not publish anything on current politics’, [21] and where he remained until March 1848 with his wife Jenny von Westphalen and their first daughter Jenny, born in Paris in 1844. During these three years, and particularly in 1845, he pressed on fruitfully with his studies of political economy. In March 1845 he worked on a critique – which he never managed to complete – of the German economist Friedrich List’s book on the ‘national system of political economy’.[22] Between February and July, moreover, he filled six notebooks with extracts, the so-called[Brussels Notebooks], which mainly concern the basic concepts of political economy, with special attention to Sismonde de Sismondi’s Études sur l’économie politique, Henri Storch’s Cours d’économie politique and Pellegrino Rossi’s Cours d’Économie politique. At the same time, Marx delved into questions associated with machinery and large-scale industry, copying out a number of pages from Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers by Charles Babbage.[23] He was also planning with Engels to organize the German translation of a ‘library of the best foreign socialist writers’.[24] But, being short of time and unable to secure funding from a publisher, the two had to abandon the project and concentrated instead on their own work.

Marx spent July and August in Manchester examining the vast English-language economic literature – an essential task for the book he had in mind. He compiled another nine books of extracts, the [Manchester Notebooks], and again the ones that featured most were manuals of political economy and books on economic history, such as Lectures on the Elements of Political Economy by Thomas Cooper,History of Prices and of the State of Circulation by Thomas Tooke, The Literature of Political Economy by John Ramsay McCulloch and Essays on Some Unsettled Problems of Political Economy by John Stuart Mill.[25] Marx also took great interest in social questions and gathered extracts from some of the main volumes of English-language socialist literature, particularlyLabour’s Wrongs and Labour’s Remedy by John Francis Bray and Essay on the Formation of Human Characterand Book of the New Moral World by Robert Owen.[26] Similar arguments were put forward in Friedrich Engels’s first work, The Condition of the Working Class in England, which was actually published in June 1845.
In the Belgian capital, in addition to his economic studies, Marx worked on another project that he considered necessary, given the political circumstances.

In November 1845 he conceived the idea of writing, along with Engels, Joseph Weydemeyer and Moses Hess, a ‘critique of modern German philosophy as expounded by its representatives Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer and Stirner, and of German socialism as expounded by its various prophets’. [27] The resulting text, posthumously published under the title [The German Ideology], had a dual aim: to combat the latest forms of neo-Hegelianism in Germany (Max Stirner’s The Ego and His Own had come out in October 1844), and then, as Marx wrote to the publisher Leske, ‘to prepare the public for the viewpoint adopted in my Economy (Oekonomie), which is diametrically opposed to German scholarship past and present’.[28] This text, on which he worked right up to June 1846, was never completed, but it helped him to elaborate more clearly than before, though still not in a definitive form, what Engels defined for the wider public forty years later as ‘the materialist conception of history’.[29]

To track the progress of the ‘Economy’ in 1846, it is again necessary to look at Marx’s letters to Leske. In August he informed the publisher that ‘the all but completed manuscript of the first volume’ had been available ‘for so long’, but that he would not ‘have it published without revising it yet again, both as regards matter and style. It goes without saying that a writer who works continuously cannot, at the end of 6 months, publish word for word what he wrote 6 months earlier.’ Nevertheless, he undertook to wrap the book up in the near future: ‘The revised version of the first volume will he ready for publication at the end of November. The 2nd volume, of a more historical nature, will be able to follow soon after it.’ [30] But these reports did not correspond to the real state of his labours, since none of his manuscripts could have been defined as ‘all but completed’; when the publisher had still not received even one by the beginning of 1847, so he decided to revoke the contract.

These constant delays should not be attributed to any lack of zeal on Marx’s part. He never gave up political activity during those years, and in the spring of 1846 he promoted the work of the ‘Communist Correspondence Committee’, whose mission was to organize a link-up among the various labour leagues in Europe. Yet theoretical work always remained his priority, as may be seen from the testimony of those who regularly visited him. The German poet Georg Weerth, for instance, wrote in November 1846:

Marx is regarded in a sense as the head of the communist party. Many self-styled communists and socialists would be astonished, however, if they knew just how much this man actually does. Marx works day and night to clear the minds of the workers of America, France, Germany, etc. of the peculiar systems that obscure them. … He works like a madman on his history of political economy. For many years this man has not slept more than four hours a night. [31]

Marx’s own study notes and published writings are further proof of his diligence. Between autumn 1846 and September 1847 he filled three large books of extracts, mainly relating to economic history, from the Geschichtliche Darstellung des Handels, der Gewerbe und des Ackerbaus der bedeutendsten handeltreibenden Staaten unsrer Zeit by Gustav von Gülich, one of the leading German economists of the day.[32] In December 1846, having read Pierre-Joseph Proudhon’s Système des contradictions économiques ou Philosophie de la misère and found it ‘very poor’,[33] Marx decided to write a critique. He did this directly in French, so that his opponent – who did not read German – would be able to understand it; the text was completed in April 1847 and published in July as Misère de la philosophie: Réponse à la Philosophie de la misère de M. Proudhon . It was Marx’s first published writing on political economy, which set out his ideas on the theory of value, the proper methodological approach to an understanding of social reality, and the historically transient character of modes of production.

The failure to complete the planned book – a critique of political economy – was not therefore due to lack of application on Marx’s part, but rather to the difficulty of the task he had taken on. The subject matter for critical examination was so vast that it would take many more years to address it with his characteristic seriousness and critical conscience. In the late 1840s, even though he was not aware of it, Marx was still only at the beginning of his exertions.

IV. 1848 and the Outbreak of Revolution
As the social ferment intensified in the second half of 1847, Marx’s political involvement became more time-consuming. In June the Communist League, an association of German workers and artisans with international branches, was founded in London; in August Marx and Engels established a German Workers’ Association in Brussels; and in November Marx became vice-president of the Brussels Democratic Association, which incorporated a revolutionary wing as well as a more moderate democratic component. At the end of the year, the Communist League gave Marx and Engels the job of writing a political programme, and shortly afterwards, in February 1848, this was sent to press as the Manifesto of the Communist Party . Its opening words – ‘A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of communism’ – were destined to become famous throughout the world. So too was one of its essential theses: ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.'[34]

The publication of the Manifesto could not have been more timely. Immediately afterwards, a revolutionary movement of unprecedented scope and intensity plunged the political and social order of continental Europe into crisis. The governments in place took all possible counter-measures to put an end to the insurrections, and in March 1848 Marx was expelled from Belgium to France, where a republic had just been proclaimed. He now naturally set aside his studies of political economy and took up journalistic activity in support of the revolution, helping to chart a recommended political course. In April he moved to the Rhineland, economically the most developed and politically the most liberal region in Germany, and in June he began editing the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Organ der Demokratie that had meanwhile been founded in Cologne. Although his own articles were mostly chronicles of political events, in April 1849 he published a series of editorials on the critique of political economy, since he thought that the time had come ‘to deal more closely with the relations themselves on which the existence of the bourgeoisie and its class rule, as well as the slavery of the workers, are founded’.[35] Five articles based on lectures he had given in December 1847 to the German Workers’ Association in Brussels appeared under the title Wage Labour and Capital, in which Marx presented to the public, more extensively than in the past and in a language as intelligible as possible to workers, his conception of how wage labour was exploited by capital.

The revolutionary movement that rose up throughout Europe in 1848 was however defeated within a short space of time. Among the reasons for the authoritarian conservative victory were: the recovery of the economy; the weakness of the working class, which in some countries scarcely had an organized structure; and the withdrawal of middle classes support for reforms, as they drew closer to the aristocracy in order to prevent a lurch towards excessive radicalism. All this allowed reactionary political forces to regain a firm grip on the reins of government.

After a period of intense political activity, in May 1848 Marx received an expulsion order from Prussia too and set off again for France. But when the revolution was defeated in Paris, the authorities ordered him to move to Morbihan, then a desolate, malaria-infested region of Brittany. Faced with this ‘veiled attempt on my life’, he decided to leave France for London, where he thought that there was ‘a positive prospect of being able to start a German newspaper’.[36] He would remain in England, an exile and stateless person, for the whole of the rest of his life, but European reaction could not have confined him in a better place to write his critique of political economy. At that time, London was the world’s leading economic and financial centre, the ‘demiurge of the bourgeois cosmos’,[37] and therefore the most favourable location from which to observe the latest economic developments and to resume his studies of capitalist society.

V. In London waiting for the crisis
Marx reached England in summer 1849 at the age of thirty-one. His life in the capital city was far from tranquil. The Marx family, numbering six with the birth of Laura in 1845, Edgar in 1847 and Guido soon after their arrival in 1849, had to live for a long time in great poverty in Soho, one of London’s poorest and most run-down districts. In addition to family problems, Marx was involved in a relief committee for German émigrés, which he sponsored through the Communist League, and whose mission was to assist the numerous political refugees in London.

Despite the adverse conditions, Marx managed to achieve his aim of starting a new publishing venture. In March 1850 he ran the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-okonomische Revue, a monthly that he planned as the locus for ‘comprehensive and scientific investigation of the economic conditions which form the foundation of the whole political movement’. He believed that ‘a time of apparent calm such as the present must be employed precisely for the purpose of elucidating the period of revolution just experienced, the character of the conflicting parties, and the social conditions which determine the existence and the struggle of these parties’.[38]

Marx was convinced, wrongly, that the situation would prove to be a brief interlude between the revolution concluded shortly before and another one lying just ahead. In December 1849 he wrote to his friend Weydemeyer: ‘I have little doubt that by the time three, or maybe two, monthly issues [of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung – MM] have appeared, a world conflagration will intervene and the opportunity of temporarily finishing with political economy will be gone.’ A ‘mighty industrial, agricultural and commercial crisis’ was surely imminent,[39] and he took it for granted that a new revolutionary movement would emerge – though only after the outbreak of the crisis, since industrial and commercial prosperity weakened the resolve of the proletarian masses. Subsequently, in The Class Struggles in France, which appeared as a series of articles in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, he asserted that ‘a real revolution … is only possible in periods when … the modern forces of production and the bourgeois forms of production come in collision with each other. …A new revolution is possible only in consequence of a new crisis. It is, however, just as certain as this crisis.’ [40] Marx did not change his view even as economic prosperity began to spread, and in the first ( January-February) issue of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung he wrote that the upturn would not last long because the markets of the East Indies were ‘already almost saturated’ and those of North and South America and Australia would soon be, too.


with the first news of this glut‘panic’ will break out simultaneously in speculation and production simultaneously – perhaps as soon as towards the end of spring, in July or August at the latest. This crisis, however, since it is bound to coincide with great collisions on the Continent, will bring forth results quite different from those of all previous crises. Whereas every crisis hitherto has been the signal for a new advance, a new victory of the industrial bourgeoisie over landed property and the finance bourgeoisie, this crisis will mark the beginning of the modern English revolution.[41]

In the next issue, too, dated March-April 1850, Marx argued that the positive economic conjuncture represented no more than a temporary improvement, while overproduction and the excesses of speculation in the state railways sector were bringing on a crisis whose effects would be:

more significant than those of any crisis hitherto. It coincides with the agricultural crisis… . This double crisis in England is being hastened and extended, and made more inflammable by the simultaneously impending convulsions on the Continent; and the continental revolutions will assume an incomparably more pronounced socialist character through the recoil of the English crisis on the world market. [42]

Marx’s scenario, then, was very optimistic for the cause of the workers’ movement and took in both the European and the North American markets. In his view, ‘following the entry of America into the recession brought about by overproduction, we may expect the crisis to develop rather more rapidly in the coming month than hitherto’. His conclusion was therefore enthusiastic: ‘The coincidence of trade crisis and revolution … is becoming more and more certain. Que les destins s’accomplissent!'[43]

During the summer Marx deepened his economic analysis begun before 1848, and in the May-October 1850 issue of the review – the last before lack of funds and Prussian police harassment forced its closure – he reached the important conclusion that ‘the commercial crisis contributed infinitely more to the revolutions of 1848 than the revolution to the commercial crisis’.[44] Through these new studies, economic crisis would from now on be fundamental to his thought, not only economically but also sociologically and politically. Moreover, in analysing the processes of rampant speculation and overproduction, he ventured to predict that, ‘if the new cycle of industrial development which began in 1848 follows the same course as that of 1843-47, the crisis would break out in 1852’. The future crisis, he stressed, would also erupt in the countryside, and ‘for the first time the industrial and commercial crisis [would] coincide with a crisis in agriculture’.[45]

Marx’s forecasts over this period of more than a year proved to be mistaken. Yet, even at moments when he was most convinced that a revolutionary wave was imminent, his ideas were very different from those of other European political leaders exiled in London. Although he was wrong about how the economic situation would shape up, he considered it indispensable to study the current state of economic and political relations for the purposes of political activity. By contrast, most of the democratic and communist leaders of the time, whom he characterized as ‘alchemists of the revolution’, thought that the only prerequisite for a victorious revolution was ‘adequate preparation of their conspiracy’.[46] One example of this was the manifesto ‘To the Nations’, issued by the ‘European Democratic Central Committee’, which Giuseppe Mazzini, Alexandre Ledru-Rollin and Arnold Ruge had founded in London in 1850. According to Marx, this group were implying ‘that the revolution failed because of the ambition and jealousy of the individual leaders and the mutually hostile views of the various popular educators’. Also ‘stupefying’ was the way in which these leaders conceived of ‘social organization’: ‘a mass gathering in the streets, a riot, a hand-clasp, and it’s all over. In their view indeed revolution consists merely in the overthrow of the existing government; once this aim has been achieved, “the victory” has been won.’ [47]

Unlike those who expected another revolution to appear out of the blue, by the autumn of 1850 Marx was convinced that one could not ripen without a new world economic crisis. From then on, he distanced himself from false hopes in an imminent revolution[48] and lived ‘in complete retirement’.[49] This is confirmed by the testimony of Wilhelm Pieper, a member of the Communist League, who wrote in January 1851 that ‘Marx leads a very retired life’ and added ironically: ‘his only friends [are] John Stuart Mill and Loyd, and whenever one goes to see him one is welcomed with economic categories in lieu of greetings.'[50] In the following years, Marx did indeed see very few friends in London, and he kept in close touch only with Engels, who had meanwhile settled in Manchester. In February 1851 Marx wrote to Engels: ‘I am greatly pleased by the public, authentic isolation in which we two, you and I, now find ourselves. It is wholly in accord with our attitude and our principles.'[51] Engels, for his part, replied: ‘This is the position we can and must adopt on the next occasion: … merciless criticism of everyone.’ The ‘main thing’ was ‘to find some way of getting our things published; either in a quarterly in which we make a frontal attack and consolidate our position so far as persons are concerned, or in fat books’. In short, he concluded with a certain optimism, ‘what price all the tittle-tattle the entire émigré crowd can muster against you, when you answer it with your political economy?'[52] The challenge thus became one of predicting the outbreak of crisis. For Marx, who now had an additional political motive, the time had come again to devote himself entirely to the study of political economy.

VI. The research notes of 1850-53
During the three years when Marx had interrupted his study of political economy, there were a succession of economic events – from the crisis of 1847 to the discovery of gold in California and Australia – which he thought so important that he had to undertake further research, as well as to look back over his old notes and try to give them a finished form.[53] His further reading was synthesized in 26 books of extracts, 24 of which (also containing texts from other disciplines) he compiled between September 1850 and August 1853 and numbered among the so-called [London Notebooks]. This study material is extremely interesting, as it documents a period of significant development in Marx’s critique, when he not only summarized knowledge that he had already gained but, by studying dozens of new (especially English-language) books in depth at the British Museum library, he was also acquiring other important ideas for the work that he was intending to write[54].

The [London Notebooks] may be divided into three groups. In the first seven notebooks (I-VII), written between September 1850 and March 1851, some of the numerous works that Marx read and excerpted were: A History of Prices by Thomas Tooke, A View of the Money System of England by James Taylor, Histoire de la Monnaie by Germain Garnier, the Sämtliche Schriften über Banken und Münzwesen by Johann Georg Büsch,An Enquiry into the Nature and Effects of the Paper Credit of Great Britain by Henry Thornton, and The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. [55] Marx concentrated, in particular, on the history and theories of economic crises, paying close attention to the money-form and credit in his attempt to understand their origins. Unlike other socialists of the time such as Proudhon – who were convinced that economic crises could be avoided through a reform of the money and credit system – Marx came to the conclusion that, since the credit system was one of the underlying conditions, crises could at most be aggravated or mitigated by the correct or incorrect use of monetary circulation; the true causes of crises were to be sought, rather, in the contradictions of production.[56]

At the end of this first group of extracts, Marx summed up his own knowledge in two notebooks that he did not number as part of the main series and were entitled [Bullion: the Perfect Monetary System].[57] In this manuscript, which he wrote in the spring of 1851, Marx copied out from the main works of political economy – sometimes accompanying them with comments of his own – what he regarded as the most important passages on the theory of money. Divided into ninety-one sections, one for each book under consideration, [Bullion] was not merely a collection of quotations but may be thought of as Marx’s first autonomous formulation of the theory of money and circulation, [58] to be used in the writing of the book that he had been planning for many years.

In this same period, although Marx had to face terrible personal moments (especially around the death of his son Guido in 1850), and although his economic circumstances were so serious that he was forced to put out to nurse his last daughter Franziska, born in March 1851, he not only managed to pursue his own work but remained hopeful that it would soon be concluded. On 2 April 1851 he wrote to Engels:

I am so far advanced that I will have finished with all this economic crap in five weeks’ time. Et cela fait I shall complete the Economy at home and apply myself to another branch of learning at the [British – MM] Museum. Ça commence à m’ennuyer. Au fond, this science has made no progress since A. Smith and D. Ricardo, however much has been done in the way of individual research, often extremely discerning. … Fairly soon I shall be bringing out two volumes of sixty sheets.[59]

Engels received the news with great joy: ‘I’m glad that you’ve at long last finished with political economy. The thing has really been dragging on far too long, and so long as you have in front of you an unread book which you believe to be important, you won’t be able to settle down to writing.’ [60] But Marx’s letter reflected his optimism about the work’s completion more than it did the real state of things. Apart from all the books of excerpts, and with the exception of [Bullion], itself by no means a printer-ready draft, Marx had not yet produced a single manuscript. No doubt he had conducted his research with great intensity, but he had still not fully mastered the economic materials, and, for all his resolve and his conviction that he would eventually succeed, his scrupulousness prevented him from going beyond compendia or critical comments and finally writing his own book. Moreover, there was no publisher in the wings urging him to be more concise in his studies. The ‘Economy’ was a long way from being ready ‘fairly soon’.

So, Marx again turned to studying of the classics of political economy, and between April and November 1851 he wrote what may be seen as the second group (VIII-XVI) of the [London Notebooks]. Notebook VIII was devoted almost entirely to extracts from James Steuart’sInquiry into the Principles of Political Economy, which he had begun to study in 1847, and from Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. The excerpts from Ricardo, in fact, compiled while he was writing [Bullion], constitute the most important part of the [London Notebooks], as numerous critical comments and personal reflections accompany them. [61] Until the end of the 1840s Marx had essentially accepted Ricardo’s theories, whereas from now on, through a new and deeper study of ground rent and value, he moved beyond them in certain respects.[62] In this way, Marx revised some of his earlier views on these fundamental questions and thus expanded the radius of his knowledge and went on to examine still more authors. Notebooks IX and X, from May-July 1851, centred on economists who had dealt with the contradictions in Ricardo’s theory, and who, on certain points, had improved on his conceptions. Thus, a large number of extracts from all these books came from:A History of the Past and Present State of the Labouring Population by John Debell Tuckett, Popular Political Economy by Thomas Hodgskin,On Political Economy by Thomas Chalmers, An Essay on the Distribution of Wealth by Richard Jones, and Principles of Political Economy by Henry Charles Carey[63].

Despite the expanded scope of his research and the accumulation of theoretical questions to be resolved, Marx remained optimistic about the completion of his writing project. In late June 1851 he wrote to the devoted Weydemeyer:

I am usually at the British Museum from 9 in the morning until 7 in the evening. The material I am working on is so damnably involved that, no matter how I exert myself, I shall not finish for another 6-8 weeks. There are, moreover, constant interruptions of a practical kind, inevitable in the wretched circumstances in which we are vegetating here. But, for all that, the thing is rapidly approaching completion. [64]

Evidently Marx thought that he could write his book within two months, drawing on the vast quantity of extracts and critical notes he had already gathered. Once again, however, not only did he fail to reach the hoped-for ‘conclusion’, he did not even manage to begin the manuscript ‘fair copy’ that was to be sent to the printers. This time the main reason for the missed deadline was his dire economic straits. Lacking a steady income, and worn out by his own physical condition, he wrote to Engels at the end of July 1851:

It is impossible to go on living like this. … I should have finished at the library long ago. But there have been too many interruptions and disturbances and at home everything’s always in a state of siege. For nights on end, I am set on edge and infuriated by floods of tears. So I cannot of course do very much.[65]

To improve his financial position, Marx decided to resume journalistic activity and looked around for a newspaper. In August 1851 he became a correspondent for the New-York Tribune, the paper with the largest circulation in the United States of America, and he wrote hundreds of pages for it during a stint that lasted until February 1862.[66] He dealt with the main political and diplomatic events of the age, as well as one economic and financial issue after another, so that within a few years he became a journalists of note.

Marx’s critical study of political economy nevertheless continued through the summer of 1851. In August, Marx read Proudhon’s Idée générale de la Révolution au XIXe siècle and entertained the project (which he later set aside) of writing a critique of it together with Engels.[67] In addition, he continued to compile extracts from his reading: Notebook XI is on texts dealing with the condition of the working class; and Notebooks XII and XIII cover his researches in agrarian chemistry. Understanding the importance of this latter discipline for the study of ground rent, he took copious notes fromDie organische Chemie in ihrer Anwendung auf Agricultur und Physiologie by Justus Liebig and Elements of Agricultural Chemistry and Geology by James F.W. Johnston. In Notebook XIV, Marx turned once more to the debate on Thomas Robert Malthus’s theory of population, especially The Principles of Population by his opponent Archibald Alison; to precapitalist modes of production, as the extracts from Adolphe Dureau de la Malle’s Économie politique des Romains and William H. Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Mexico and History of the Conquest of Peru demonstrate; and to colonialism, particularly through Herman Merivale’s Lectures on Colonization and Colonies.[68]

Finally, between September and November 1851, he extended his field of research to technology, devoting considerable space in Notebook XV to Johann H.M. Poppe’s history of technology and in Notebook XVI to miscellaneous questions of political economy.[69] As a letter to Engels from mid-October 1851 shows, Marx was then ‘in the throes of working out the Economy’, ‘delving mainly into technology, the history thereof, and agronomy’, so that he might ‘form at least some sort of an opinion of the stuff’.[70]

At the end of 1851, the Löwenthal publishing house in Frankfurt expressed an interest in Marx’s ever more extensive work. From the correspondence with Engels and Lassalle,[71] it may be inferred that Marx was then working on a project in three volumes: the first would set forth his own conception, while the second would offer a critique of other socialisms, and the third a history of political economy. At first, however, the publisher was interested only in the third volume, while retaining the option to print the others if the project proved successful. Engels tried to persuade Marx to accept the change of plan and to sign an agreement: it was necessary ‘to strike while the iron is hot’ and ‘absolutely essential to break the spell created by your prolonged absence from the German book market and, later, by funk on the part of the book dealers’ [72] – but the publisher’s interest evaporated, and nothing ever came of it all. After two months, Marx turned again to the devoted Weydemeyer in the United States of America and asked him whether it might be possible ‘to find a publisher there for [his] Economy’.[73]

Despite these obstacles on the publishing front, Marx did not lose his optimism concerning the imminence of an economic crisis. At the end of 1851 he wrote to the famous poet Ferdinand Freiligrath, an old friend of his: ‘The crisis, held in check by all kinds of factors…, must blow up at the latest next autumn. And, après les derniers événements je suis plus convaincu que jamais, qu’il n’y aura pas de révolution sérieuse sans crise commerciale.’ [74]

Meanwhile Marx got on with other work. From December 1851 to March 1852, he wrote The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, but because of the state censorship of his writings in Prussia he had to have it published in New York, in Weydemeyer’s tiny-circulation journal Die Revolution. In this connection he remarked in late 1852 to an acquaintance, Gustav Zerffi: ‘no book dealer in Germany now dares to publish anything of mine.’ [75] Between May and June 1852, he then wrote with Engels the polemical Great Men of the Exile, a gallery of caricatured portraits of leading figures in the German political emigration in London (Johann Gottfried Kinkel, Ruge, Karl Heinzen and Gustav von Struve). However, the vain search for a publisher made his efforts pointless: the manuscript was in fact given to the Hungarian János Bangya to take to Germany, but he turned out to be a police agent who, instead of delivering it to the publisher, handed it over to the authorities. The text therefore remained unpublished during the lifetime of its two authors.

From April 1852 to August 1853, Marx resumed the compilation of extracts and wrote the third and last group (XVII-XXIV) of the [London Notebooks]. [76] These mainly concern the various stages in the development of human society, much of his research having been on historical disputes about the Middle Ages and the history of literature, culture and customs. He took a particular interest in India, about which he was simultaneously writing articles for the New-York Tribune.

As this wide range of research demonstrates, Marx was by no means ‘taking a rest’. The barriers to his projects again had to do with the poverty with which he had to wrestle during those years. Despite constant support from Engels, who in 1851 began to send him five pounds sterling a month, and the income from the New-York Tribune, which paid two pounds sterling per article, Marx lived in truly desperate conditions. Not only did he have to face the loss of his daughter, Franziska, in April 1852, his daily life was becoming one long battle. In September 1852 he wrote to Engels:

For the past 8-10 days I have been feeding the family solely on bread and potatoes, but whether I shall be able to get hold of any today is doubtful. … The best and most desirable thing that could happen would be for the landlady to throw me out. Then at least I would be quit of the sum of £22 … On top of that, debts are still outstanding to the baker, the milkman, the tea chap, the greengrocer, the butcher. How am I to get out of this infernal mess? Finally … [but this was] essential if we were not to kick the bucket, I have, over the last 8-10 days, touched some German types for a few shillings and pence.[77]
All this took a heavy toll on Marx’s work and time: ‘[I] often have to waste an entire day for a shilling. I assure you that, when I consider my wife’s sufferings and my own powerlessness, I feel like consigning everything to the devil.'[78] Sometimes the situation became quite unbearable, as when he wrote to Engels in October 1852: ‘Yesterday I pawned a coat dating back to my Liverpool days in order to buy writing paper.'[79]

Yet the storms in the financial market continued to keep Marx’s morale high, and he wrote about them in letters to all his closest friends. With great self-irony, he declared to Lassalle in February 1852: ‘The financial crisis has finally reached a level comparable only to the commercial crisis now making itself felt in New York and London. Unlike the gentlemen of commerce, I cannot, alas, even have recourse to bankruptcy.’ [80] In April he told Weydemeyer that, owing to extraordinary circumstances such as the discovery of new gold deposits in California and Australia and English commercial penetration of India, ‘it may well be that the crisis will be postponed until 1853. But then its eruption will be appalling. And until that time there can be no thought of revolutionary convulsions.’ [81] And in August, immediately after the speculative collapses in the United States of America, he triumphantly wrote to Engels: ‘Is that not approaching crisis? The revolution may come sooner than we would like.’ [82]

Marx did not keep such assessments only for his correspondence but also wrote of them in the New-York Tribune. In an article of November 1852 on ‘Pauperism and Free Trade’, he predicted: ‘The crisis … will take a far more dangerous character than in 1847, when it was more commercial and monetary than industrial’, since the more surplus capital concentrates itself in industrial production, … the more extensive, the more lasting, the more direct will the crisis fall upon the working masses.'[83] In short, it might be necessary to wait a little longer, but he was convinced – more out of impatience to see a new season of social upheavals than from rigorous analysis of economic events – that sooner or later the hour of revolution would sound.

VII. The trial of the communists and personal hardships
In October 1852 the Prussian government initiated a trial of members of the Communist League who had been arrested the previous year. The charge was that they had participated in an international organization of conspirators led by Marx against the Prussian monarchy. From October to December, in order to demonstrate that the accusations were baseless, he got down ‘to work for the party against the government’s machinations’ [84] and composed Revelations Concerning the Communist Trial in Cologne. Published anonymously in Switzerland in January 1853, this short work did not have the desired effect, since a large part of the print-run was confiscated by the Prussian police and it circulated only in the United States of America among a small readership, where it first appeared in instalments in the Neu-England-Zeitung in Boston, and then as an independent booklet. Marx was understandably disheartened by this publishing failure after so many others: ‘It’s enough to put one off writing altogether. This constant toil pour le roi de Prusse!’ [85]

Contrary to the claims orchestrated by Prussian government ministers, Marx was politically very isolated during this period. The dissolution of the Communist League – having effectively taken place in 1851, then becaming official at the end of 1852 – greatly reduced the number of his political contacts. What the various police forces and political opponents defined as the ‘Marx party'[86] had very few committed supporters. In England, apart from Engels, the only men who could have been considered ‘Marxian’ [87] were Pieper, Wilhelm Wolff, Wilhelm Liebknecht, Peter Imandt, Ferdinand Wolff and Ernst Dronke. And in other countries, where most of the political exiles had taken refuge, Marx had close relations only with Weydemeyer and Cluss in the United States of America, Richard Reinhardt in Paris and Lassalle in Prussia. He was well aware that, although these contacts allowed a network to be kept going in quite difficult times, this ‘doesn’t add up to a party’. [88]

Besides, even this narrow circle had difficulty understanding some of Marx’s political and theoretical positions, and indeed his allies often brought him more disadvantages than benefits. On such occasions he could let off steam with no one besides Engels: ‘Of the many disagreeable experiences during my years here, the greatest have consistently been provided by so-called party friends… I propose at the next opportunity to declare publicly that I have nothing whatever to do with any party .’ [89] Unlike other leaders of the political emigration, Marx had always refused to join the existing international committees, which spent their time fantasizing about the imminent revolution; and the only member of other organizations with whom he maintained relations was Ernest Charles Jones, the main representative of the left wing of the Chartist movement.

The recruitment of new active supporters, and especially the involvement of workers in his ideas, was therefore an important and complicated matter, and the work Marx had under way was meant to serve that purpose, too. Recruitment was a necessity both theoretically and politically. In March 1853 Engels wrote to him:

You ought to finish your Economy; later on, as soon as we have a newspaper, we could bring it out in weekly numbers, and what the populus could not understand, the discipuli would expound tant bien que mal, mais cependant non sans effet. This would provide all our by then restored associations with a basis for debate.[90]

Marx had previously written to Engels that he hoped to spend a few days with him ‘in April’ and to ‘chat undisturbed about present conditions, which in [his] view must soon lead to an earthquake’. [91] But Marx did not manage to concentrate on his writing because of the poverty that tormented him. In 1853 Soho was the epicentre of another cholera epidemic, and the circumstances of the Marx family became more and more desperate. In August he wrote to Engels that ‘sundry creditors’ were ‘laying siege to the house’, and that ‘three-quarters of [his] time were taken up chasing after pennies’. [92] In order to survive, he and his wife Jenny were forced to have frequent recourse to the pawn shop, pledging the few clothes or objects of value left in a house that lacked ‘the wherewithal even for les choses les plus nécessaires ‘. [93] The income from journalistic articles became more and more indispensable, although they took up precious time. At the end of the year, he complained to his friend Cluss:

I had always hoped that … I might somehow contrive to withdraw into solitude for a few months and work at my Economy. It seems that this isn’t to be. I find perpetual hackwork for the newspapers tiresome. It is time-consuming, distracting and, in the end, amounts to very little. However independent one may think oneself, one is tied to the newspaper and its readers, especially when, like myself, one is paid in cash. Purely learned work is something totally different.[94]

When Marx had no choice but to heed the necessities of life, his thinking thus remained firmly anchored in the ‘Economy’.

VIII. The articles on the crisis for the New-York Tribune
In this period, too, economic crisis was a constant theme in Marx’s articles for the New-York Tribune. In ‘Revolution in China and Europe’, from June 1853, where he connected the anti-feudal Chinese revolution that began in 1851 to the general economic situation, Marx again expressed his conviction that there would soon come ‘a moment when the extension of the markets is unable to keep pace with the extension of British manufactures, and this disproportion must bring about a new crisis with the same certainty as it has done in the past’.[95] In his view, in the aftermath of revolution, an unforeseen contraction of the great Chinese market would ‘throw the spark into the overloaded mine of the present industrial system and cause the explosion of the long-prepared general crisis, which, spreading abroad, will be closely followed by political revolutions on the Continent’.[96] Of course, Marx did not look upon the revolutionary process in a determinist manner, but he was sure that crisis was an indispensable prerequisite for its fulfilment:

Since the commencement of the eighteenth century there has been no serious revolution in Europe which had not been preceded by a commercial and financial crisis. This applies no less to the revolution of 1789 than to that of 1848. … Neither wars nor revolutions are likely to put Europe by the ears, unless in consequence of a general commercial and industrial crisis, the signal of which has, as usual, to be given by England, the representative of European industry in the market of the world.[97]

The point was underlined in late September 1853, in the article ‘Political Movements: Scarcity of Bread in Europe’:

neither the declamation of the demagogues, nor the twaddle of the diplomats will drive matters to a crisis, but … there are approaching economical disasters and social convulsions which must be the sure forerunners of European revolution. Since 1849 commercial and industrial prosperity has stretched the lounge on which the counter-revolution has slept in safety.[98]

Traces of the optimism with which Marx awaited events may be found in the correspondence with Engels. In one letter, for example, also from September 1853, he wrote: ‘Les choses marchent merveilleusement. All h[ell] will be let loose in France when the financial bubble bursts.’ [99] But still the crisis did not come, and he concentrated his energies on other journalistic activity so as not to forego the only source of income.

Between October and December 1853, Marx penned a series of articles entitled Lord Palmerston, in which he criticized the foreign policy of Henry John Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston, the long-time foreign secretary and future prime minister of Britain. These appeared both in the New-York Tribune and in The People’s Paper published by the English Chartists. Between August and November 1854, following the Spanish civilian and military uprising in June, he wrote another series, The Revolution in Spain, in which he summarized and analyzed on the main events of the previous decade in Spain. He took these labours very seriously, as we can gauge from the nine large books of extracts that he compiled between September 1853 and January 1855, the first four of which, centred on diplomatic history, provided a basis for Lord Palmerston, while the other five, on Spanish political, social and cultural history, included research for the Revolution in Spain articles. [100]

Finally, at some point between late 1854 and early 1855, Marx resumed his studies of political economy. After the three-year break, however, he decided to re-read his old manuscripts before pressing on. In mid-February 1855 he wrote to Engels:

For the past 4-5 days I have been prevented from writing … by a severe inflammation of the eyes … My eye trouble was brought on by reading through my own notebooks on economics, the intention being, not so much to elaborate the thing, as at any rate to master the material and get it ready to work on. [101]

This review gave rise to twenty pages of fresh notes, to which Marx gave the title [Quotations. Essence of money, essence of credit, crises]; they were further extracts from extracts he had already made in recent years. Returning to books by writers such as Tooke, John Stuart Mill and Steuart, and to articles from The Economist, he further summarized the theories of the major political economists on money, credit and crisis, which he had begun to study in 1850.[102]

At the same time, Marx produced more articles on the recession for the New-York Tribune. In January 1855, in ‘The Commercial Crisis in Britain’, he wrote with satisfaction: ‘The English commercial crisis, whose premonitory symptoms were long ago chronicled in our columns, is a fact now loudly proclaimed by the highest authorities in this matter.'[103] And, two months later, in ‘The Crisis in England’:

A few months more and the crisis will be at a height which it has not reached in England since 1846, perhaps not since 1842. When its effects begin to be fully felt among the working classes, then will that political movement begin again, which has been dormant for six years. … Then will the two real contending parties in that country stand face to face – the middle class and the working classes, the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. [104]

Yet, just as Marx seemed on the point of restarting work on the ‘Economy’, personal difficulties once more caused a change of plan. In April 1855 he was profoundly shaken by the death of his eight-year-old son Edgar, confiding to Engels:

I’ve already had my share of bad luck but only now do I know what real unhappiness is. … Amid all the fearful torments I have recently had to endure, the thought of you and your friendship has always sustained me, as has the hope that there is something sensible for us to do together in the world. [105]

Marx’s health and economic circumstances remained disastrous throughout 1855, and his family increased again in size with Eleanor’s birth in January. He often complained to Engels of problems with his eyes and teeth and a terrible cough, and he felt that ‘the physical staleness also stultifie[d his] brain’. [106] A further complication was a law suit that Freund, the family doctor, had brought against him for non-payment of bills. To get away from this, Marx had to spend some time from mid-September to early December living with Engels in Manchester, and to remain hidden at home for a couple of weeks after his return. A solution came only thanks to a ‘very happy event’: an inheritance of £100 following the death of Jenny’s ninety-year-old uncle.[107]

Thus, Marx was able to start work again on political economy only in June 1856, writing some articles for The People’s Paper on Crédit Mobilier, the main French commercial bank, which he considered ‘one of the most curious economical phenomena of our epoch’. [108] After the family’s circumstances improved for a while in autumn 1856, allowing them to leave their Soho lodgings for a better flat in North London, Marx wrote again on the crisis for the New-York Tribune. He argued in ‘The Monetary Crisis in Europe’, published on 3 October 1856, that ‘a movement in the European money markets analogous to the panic of 1847’ was under way. [109] And in ‘The European Crisis’, which appeared in November, at a time when all the columnists were confidently predicting that the worst was over, he maintained:

The indications brought from Europe … certainly seem to postpone to a future day the final collapse of speculation and stock-jobbing, which men on both sides of the sea instinctively anticipate as with a fearful looking forward to some inevitable doom. That collapse is none the less sure from this postponement; indeed, the chronic character assumed by the existing financial crisis only forebodes for it a more violent and destructive end. The longer the crisis lasts the worse the ultimate reckoning.[110]

The events also gave Marx the opportunity to attack his political opponents. In ‘The Monetary Crisis in Europe’, he wrote:

If we place side by side the effects of this short monetary panic and the effect of Mazzinian and other proclamations, the whole history since 1849 of the delusions of the official revolutionists is at once deprived of its mysteries. They know nothing of the economical life of peoples, they know nothing of the real conditions of historical movement, and when the new revolution shall break out they will have a better right than Pilate to wash their hands and protest that they are innocent of the blood shed.[111]

In the first half of 1857, however, absolute calm prevailed on the international markets. Until March Marx worked on the Revelations of the Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century, a group of articles published in The Free Press, a paper run by the anti-Palmerston Conservative David Urquhart. These pieces were meant to be only the first part of a work on the history of diplomacy, which Marx had planned at the beginning of 1856 during the Crimean war, but which he would never complete. In this case too, he made a profound study of the materials, and between January 1856 and March 1857 he compiled seven books of extracts on international politics in the eighteenth century. [112]

Finally, in July, Marx wrote some brief but interesting critical remarks on Harmonies Économiques by Frédéric Bastiat and Principles of Political Economy by Carey, which he had already studied and excerpted in 1851. In these notes, posthumously published under the title [Bastiat and Carey], he pointed up the naivety of the two economists (the first a champion of free trade, the second of protectionism), who, in their writings, had strained to demonstrate ‘the harmony of the relations of production'[113] and thus of bourgeois society as a whole.

IX. The financial crisis of 1857 and the [Grundrisse]
This time, unlike in past crises, the economic storm began not in Europe but in the United States of America. During the first few months of 1857, the New York banks stepped up their volume of loans, despite the decline in deposits. The resulting growth in speculative activity worsened the general economic conditions, and, after the New York branch of the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company became insolvent, the prevailing panic led to numerous bankruptcies. Loss of confidence in the banking system then produced a contraction of credit, a drying up of deposits and the suspension of money payments.

Sensing the extraordinary nature of these events, Marx immediately got back to work. On 23 August 1857 – the very day before the Ohio Life collapse that sowed panic in public opinion – he began to write the [Introduction] to his ‘Economy’; the explosive onset of crisis had given him an additional motive that had been absent in previous years. After the defeat of 1848, Marx had faced a whole decade of political setbacks and deep personal isolation. But, with the outbreak of the crisis, he glimpsed the possibility of taking part in a new round of social revolts and considered that his most urgent task was to analyse the economic phenomena that would be so important for the beginning of a revolution. This meant writing and publishing, as quickly as possible, the work he had been planning for so long.

From New York the crisis rapidly spread to the rest of the United States of America and, within a few weeks, to all the centres of the world market in Europe, South America and the East, becoming the first international financial crisis in history. News of these developments generated great euphoria in Marx and fuelled a huge explosion of intellectual productivity. The period between summer 1857 and spring 1858 was one of the most prolific in his life: he managed to write more in a few months than in the preceding years. In December 1857 he wrote to Engels: ‘I am working like mad all night and every night collating my economic studies, so that I might at least get the outlines [Grundrisse] clear before the deluge.’ He also took the opportunity to point out that his predictions that a crisis was inevitable had not been so ill-founded, since ‘Saturday’s Economist maintains that, during the final months of 1853, throughout 1854, the autumn of 1855 and the sudden changes of 1856, Europe has never had more than a hair-breadth escape from the impending crisis’.[114]

Marx’s work was now remarkable and wide-ranging. From August 1857 to May 1858 he filled the eight notebooks known as the [Grundrisse], [115] while as New-York Tribune correspondent, he wrote dozens of articles on, among other things, the development of the crisis in Europe. Driven by the need to improve his economic circumstances, he also agreed to compose a number of entries for The New American Cyclopædia. Lastly, from October 1857 to February 1858, he compiled three books of extracts, called the [Crisis Notebooks].[116] Unlike the extracts he had made before, these were not compendia from the works of economists but consisted of a large quantity of notes, gleaned from various daily newspapers, about major developments in the crisis, stock market trends, trade exchange fluctuations and important bankruptcies in Europe, the United States of America and other parts of the world. A letter he wrote to Engels in December indicates how intense his activity was:

I am working enormously, as a rule until 4 o’clock in the morning. I am engaged on a twofold task: 1. Elaborating the outlines of political economy. (For the benefit of the public it is absolutely essential to go into the matter au fond, as it is is for my own, individually, to get rid of this nightmare.) 2. The present crisis. Apart from the articles for the [New-York – MM] Tribune, all I do is keep records of it, which, however, takes up a considerable amount of time. I think that, somewhere about the spring, we ought to do a pamphlet together about the affair as a reminder to the German public that we are still there as always, and always the same.[117]

As far as the [Grundrisse] are concerned, in the last week of August Marx drafted a notebook ‘M’ that was meant to serve as the [Introduction] to the work; and then, in mid-October, he pressed on with another seven notebooks (I-VII). In the first of these and in part of the second, he wrote the so-called [Chapter on Money], which deals with money and value, while in the remaining notebooks he wrote the so-called [Chapter on Capital]. In this he allocates hundreds of pages to the process of production and circulation of capital and takes up some of the most important themes in the whole manuscript, such as the concept of surplus-value and the economic formations which preceded the capitalist mode of production. This immense effort did not, however, allow him to complete the work. In late February 1858 he wrote to Lassalle:

I have in fact been at work on the final stages for some months. But the thing is proceeding very slowly because no sooner does one set about finally disposing of subjects to which one has devoted years of study than they start revealing new aspects and demand to be thought out further. … The work I am presently concerned with is a Critique of Economic Categories or, if you like, a critical exposé of the system of the bourgeois economy. It is at once an exposé and, by the same token, a critique of the system. I have very little idea how many sheets the whole thing will amount to. … Now that I am at last ready to set to work after 15 years of study, I have an uncomfortable feeling that turbulent movements from without will probably interfere after all.[118]

In reality, however, there was no sign of the long-awaited revolutionary movement that was supposed to spring up along with the crisis, and this time, too, another reason for Marx’s failure to complete the manuscript was his awareness that he was still far from a full critical mastery of the material. The [Grundrisse] therefore remained only a rough draft. After he had carefully worked up the [Chapter on Money] between August and October 1858 into the manuscript [Original Text of the Second and the Beginning of the Third Chapter of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy], he published in 1859 a short book that had no public resonance: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Another eight years of feverish study and enormous intellectual efforts would pass before the publication of Volume One of Capital.

X. Conclusions
The [Grundrisse] remained only a draft. After reworking the [Chapter on Money] between August and October 1858 into a manuscript[Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie. Urtext], he published a short book in 1859 under the title A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, which had no resonance. From then until the publication of Volume One of Capital in 1867, he spent another eight years of feverish study and enormous intellectual effort.
If we bear in kind not only the well-known works translated into English, but also the manuscripts and books of extracts in MEGA², the immensity and richness of Marx’s theoretical project appear in a clearer light. These notebooks show the huge limitations of the Marxist-Leninist account – an ideology that often depicted Marx’s conception as something separate from the studies he conducted, as if it had been magically present in his head from birth – but also of the debate in Europe in the 1960s about whether there was an epistemological break in his thought or a basic continuity with the philosophy of Hegel. In fact, the participants in that debate only considered a few of Marx’s texts, and even some of these they treated as thoroughly finished works when that was far from being the case.

Marx’s researches between the period of the [Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844] and [The German Ideology] and the period of the [Grundrisse], and then between the [Grundrisse] and the various drafts of Capital, have finally become accessible to scholars through the volumes of MEGA². This has made it possible to follow the many intermediate stages in the evolution of his ideas, both in the 1850s and after publication of Volume One of Capital, which suggest a more critical and open interpretation of his theory. The picture that emerges from MEGA² is of an author who left a large part of his writings unfinished, in order to engage until his death in further studies that would verify the correctness of his theses.

At a time when Marx’s ideas have finally been liberated from the chains of Soviet ideology, and when they are again being investigated for the sake of analysing the contemporary world, a more faithful account of the genesis of his thought may not be without important implications for the future – not only for Marx studies, but for the refounding of a critical thought that aims to transform the present.

XI. Appendix: Chronological Table of Notebooks of Excerpts, Manuscripts, Articles and Books on Political Economy from the 1843–58 Period

Year Title Description
1843-45 [Paris Notebooks] 9 notebooks of excerpts forming Marx’s earliest studies of political economy.
1844 [Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844] Unfinished manuscript composed in parallel with [Paris Notebooks].
1845 [Draft of an Article on Friedrich List’s book: Das Nationale System der Politischen Oekonomie ] Unfinished manuscript of an article against the German economist List.
1845 [Brussels Notebooks] 6 notebooks of excerpts concerning the basic concepts of political economy.
1845 [Manchester Notebooks] 9 notebooks of excerpts concerning economic problems, economic history and British socialist literature.
1846-47 Excerpts from von Gülich’s Historical Account of Commerce 3 notebooks of excerpts concerning economic history.
1847 The Poverty of Philosophy Polemical text against Proudhon’s System of Economic Contradictions.
1849 Wage-Labour and Capital 5 articles published in Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Organ der Demokratie.
1850 Articles for Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-okonomische Revue Articles concerning the economic situation.
1850-53 [London Notebooks] 24 notebooks of excerpts focused mainly on political economy (in particular: history and theory of crises, money, some classics of political economy, condition of the working class, and technology).
1851 [Bullion. The Perfect Monetary System] 2 notebooks of excerpts compiled during the drafting of the [London Notebooks], including quotations from the most important theories of money and circulation.
1851-62 Articles for the New-York Tribune Approx. 70 articles on political economy, out of 487 published in this paper.
1855 [Quotations. Essence of money, essence of credit, crises] 1 notebook of excerpts summarizing the theories of the main economists on money, credit and crises.
1857 [Introduction] Manuscript containing Marx’s most extensive considerations on method.
1857-58 [Notebooks on the crisis] 3 notebooks with reports on the financial crisis events of 1857.
1857-58 [Grundrisse] Preparatory manuscript for the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859).

Translated by Patrick Camiller

1. Moishe Poistone’s Time, Labour and Social Domination, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, was published unseasonably in 1993 and has been reprinted several times. Like this text, Terrell Carver’s The Postmodern Marx, Manchester University Press, Manchester (1998) and Michael A. Lebowitz’s Beyond Capital, Palgrave, London (2003, 2nd edn) were also marked by an innovative overall interpretation of Marx’s thought. On his early writings mention should be made of David Leopold’s The Young Karl Marx: German Philosophy, Modern Politics, and Human Flourishing, CUP, Cambridge (2007), while on the Grundrisse see the recent collection, Marcello Musto (ed.), Karl Marx’s Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 150 Years Later, Routledge, London/New York, 2008. In addition, John Bellamy Foster, Marx’s Ecology, Monthly Review Press, New York (2000), and Paul Burkett, Marxism and Ecological Economics, Brill, Boston (2006) are noteworthy for having related Marx to the environmental question. Finally, evidence of the widespread interest around the world are the English translation of the main works of the Latin American thinker Enrique Dussel: Towards an Unknown Marx, Routledge, London (2001); several studies from Japan collected by Hiroshi Uchida in Marx for the 21st century, Routledge, London (2006); and the theoretical developments of a new generation of Chinese researchers that is increasingly familiar with Western languages and further away from the tradition of dogmatic Marxism. For a more comprehensive survey of Marxist studies in the past twenty years, see Göran Therborn, “After dialectics. Radical social theory in a post-communist world”, New Left Review 43 (Jan. – Feb. 2007), pp. 63-114.
2. Cf. Marcello Musto, ‘The Rediscovery of Karl Marx’, International Review of Social History, vol. 52 part 3 (2007): 477-98.
3. The second section of MEGA², Das Kapital und Vorarbeiten, which will contain this material, is expected for the year 2010, coinciding with the publication of Volume II/4.3 Manuskripte 1883-1867. Teil 3, the last remaining batch of manuscripts from the 1863-67 period.
4. In this essay, the editorially assigned titles of Marx’s incomplete manuscripts are inserted between square brackets.
5. Of the few authors who, with the sources available at the time, really made an effort to interpret the less well-known phases of the genesis of Marx’s thought, special mention should be made of the articles by Maximilien Rubel, ‘Les cahiers de lecture de Karl Marx. I. 1840-1853’ and ‘II. 1853-1856’, first published in 1957 and 1960 in the International Review of Social History and subsequently reprinted inMarx critique du marxisme, Payot, Paris 1974, pp. 301-59. See also Vitalii Vygodskii,Istoria odnogo velikogo otkrytiia Karla Marksa, Mysl, Moscow 1965; Ernest Mandel, La formation de la pensée économique de Karl Marx de 1843 jusqu’à la rédaction du “Capital”. Etude génétique, Maspero, Paris 1967; and Walter Tuchscheerer, Bevor “Das Kapital” entstand, Akademie, Berlin 1968. In the English-speaking countries, research on these themes began to appear only fifteen years later, with three books by Allen Oakley: The Making of Marx’s Critical Theory, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1983; Marx’s Critique of Political Economy. Intellectual Sources and Evolution. Volume I: 1844 to 1860, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1984; and Marx’s Critique of Political Economy. Intellectual Sources and Evolution. Volume II: 1861 to 1863, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1985.
6. Sometimes this debate has been based on highly superficial interpretations. For a recent (bad) example of this kind, see Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital. A Biography, Atlantic Books, London 2006.
7. See Karl Marx, ‘Proceedings of the Sixth Rhine Province Assembly. Third Article. Debates on the Law on Thefts of Wood’ and ‘Justification of the Correspondent from the Mosel’, in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works (hereafter MECW), London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1975-2005, vol. 1, pp. 224-63 and pp. 332-58; ‘Verhandlungen des 6. Rheinischen Landtags. Dritter Artikel: Debatten über das Holzdiebstahlsgesetz’ and ‘Rechtfertigung des ††-Korrespondenten von der Mosel’, MEGA² I/1, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1975, pp. 199-236 and 296-323.
8. Karl Marx, ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. Part One’, in MECW 29, p. 263; Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. Erstes Heft, MEGA² II/2, Berlin: Dietz, 1980, p. 100.
9. Karl Marx, ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844′, MECW 3, p. 231; Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte, MEGA² I/2, Berlin: Dietz, 1982, p. 325.
10. The censorship, as well as dissension between Marx and the other director, Arnold Ruge, dealt a severe blow to this publication, which appeared only once, in February 1844.
11. The Marx Nachlass contains some two hundred notebooks of summaries, which are essential for an understanding of the genesis of his theory and of parts of it that he never had an opportunity to develop as he would have wished. The surviving extracts, stretching all the way from 1838 to 1882, are written in eight languages (German, ancient Greek, Latin, French, English, Italian, Spanish and Russian) and pertain to the most varied disciplines. They were gathered from texts of philosophy, art, religion, politics, law, literature, history, political economy, international relations, technology, mathematics, physiology, geology, mineralogy, agronomy, ethnology, chemistry and physics, as well as from articles in newspapers and journals, parliamentary proceedings, and official government statistics, reports and publications.
12. As Marx did not yet know the English language in 1844, the English-language books he read at that time were in French translation.
13. These extracts are contained in the volumes Karl Marx, Exzerpte und Notizen. 1843 bis Januar 1845, MEGA² IV/2, Berlin: Dietz, 1981 and Karl Marx, Exzerpte und Notizen. Sommer 1844 bis Anfang 1847, MEGA² IV/3, Berlin: Akademie, 1998. The only parts translated into English are ‘Comments on James Mill, “Élémens d’économie politique”‘, MECW 3, pp. 211-28.
14. On the relationship between the [Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844] and the [Paris Manuscripts],see Marcello Musto, ‘Marx in Paris. Manuscripts and Notebooks of 1844’, Science & Society, vol. 73, n. 3 (July 2009), pp. 386-402.
15. ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844’, MECW 3, p. 272; Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte, MEGA² I/2, Berlin: Dietz, 1982, pp. 364-5.
16. ‘Heinrich Bürgers, Autumn 1844 – Winter 1845’, in Hans Magnus Enzensberger, ed., Gespräche mit Marx und Engels, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1973, p. 46.
17. ‘Engels to Marx, Beginning of October 1844’, MECW 38, p. 6.
18. In reality, Engels contributed only ten or so pages to the text.
19. Engels to Marx, 20 January 1845, MECW 38, p. 17-18.
20. Marx Engels, Werke, vol. 27, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1963, p. 669, n. 365.
21. ‘Marx’s Undertaking Not to Publish Anything in Belgium on Current Politics’, MECW 4, p. 677.
22. Karl Marx, ‘Draft of an Article on Friedrich List’s Book Das Nationale System der Politischen Oekonomie’, MECW 4, pp. 265-93.
23. All these extracts may be found in Karl Marx, Exzerpte und Notizen. Sommer 1844 bis Anfang 1847, op. cit.
24. See ‘Plan of the “Library of the Best Foreign Socialist Writers”‘, MECW 4, p. 667.
25. These extracts are contained in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Exzerpte und Notizen. Juli bis August 1845, MEGA² IV/4, which also includes the first [Manchester Notebooks]. It was during this period that Marx began to read directly in English.
26. These still unpublished extracts, forming part of the [Manchester Notebooks] VI-IX, are due to appear in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Exzerpte und Notizen. August 1845 bis Dezember 1850, MEGA² IV/5.
27. Karl Marx, ‘Declaration against Karl Grün’, MECW 6, p. 72; MEW 4, Berlin: Dietz, 1959, p. 38.
28. Karl Marx to Carl Wilhelm Julius Leske, 1 August 1846, in MECW 38, p. 50; MEGA² III/2, Berlin: Dietz, 1979, p. 22.
29. Friedrich Engels, ‘Preface to the Pamphlet Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy’, MECW 26, p. 519; Ludwig Feuerbach und der Ausgang der klassischen deutschen Philosophie, MEW 21, p. 263. In fact Engels already used this expression in 1859, in his review of Marx’s book A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, but the article had no resonance and the term began to circulate only after the publication of Ludwig Feuerbach.
30. Karl Marx to Carl Wilhelm Julius Leske, 1 August 1846, in MECW 38, p. 51; MEGA² III/2, Berlin: Dietz, 1979, p. 24.
31. Georg Weerth to Wilhelm Weerth, 18 November 1846, in Enzensberger (ed.), Gespräche mit Marx und Engels, pp. 68-9.
32. These extracts constitute the volume Karl Marx, Exzerpte und Notizen. September 1846 bis Dezember 1847, MEGA² IV/6, Berlin: Dietz, 1983.
33. ‘Letter from Marx to Pavel Vasilyevich Annenkov’, 28 December 1846, in MECW 38, p. 95; MEGA² III/2, p. 70.
34. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ‘The Manifesto of the Communist Party’, MECW 6, pp. 481, 482.
35. Karl Marx, ‘Wage Labour and Capital’, MECW 9, p. 198; Lohnarbeit und Kapital, MEW 6, p. 398.
36. Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels, 23 August 1849, MECW 38, p. 213; MEGA² III/3, p. 44.
37. Karl Marx, ‘The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850’, MECW 10, p. 134; Die Klassenkämpfe in Frankreich 1848 bis 1850, MEW 7, p. 97.
38. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ‘Announcement of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-okonomische Revue’, MECW 10, p. 5; ‘Ankündigung der Neuen Rheinischen Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue’, MEGA² I/10, p. 17.
39. Karl Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer, 19 December 1849, MECW 38, p. 220.
40. ‘The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850’, MECW 10, p. 135; Die Klassenkämpfe in Frankreich 1848 bis 1850, MEW 7, pp. 98-9.
41. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ‘Review: January-February 1850’, MECW 10, pp. 264-5; ‘Revue. Januar/Februar 1850’, MEGA² I/10, p. 218.
42. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ‘Review: March-April 1850’, MECW 10, p. 340; ‘Revue.März/April 1850’, MEGA² I/10, pp. 302-3.
43. Ibid., p. 341; ibid., p. 304.
44. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ‘Review: May-October 1850’, MECW 10, p. 497; ‘Revue.Mai bis Oktober 1850’, MEGA² I/10, p. 455.
45. Ibid., p. 503; ibid., pp. 459-60.
46. ‘Reviews from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung Revue No.4’, MECW 10, p. 318; ‘Rezensionen aus Heft 4 der Neuen Rheinischen Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue’, MEGA² I/10, p. 283.
47. Marx and Engels, ‘Review: May-October 1850’, MECW 10, pp. 529-30; ‘Revue.Mai bis Oktober 1850’, MEGA² I/10, pp. 485-6.
48. ‘The vulgar democrats expected sparks to fly again any day; we declared as early as autumn 1850 that at least the first chapter of the revolutionary period was closed and that nothing was to be expected until the outbreak of a new world economic crisis. For which reason we were excommunicated, as traitors to the revolution, by the very people who later, almost without exception, made their peace with Bismarck.’ Friedrich Engels, ‘Introduction to Karl Marx’s The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850, MECW 27, p. 510; ‘Einleitung zu Karl Marx’ Die Klassenkämpfe in Frankreich 1848 bis 1850’, MEW 22, p. 513.
49. Marx to Engels, 11 February 1851, MECW 38, p. 286; MEGA² III/4, p. 38.
50. Marx to Engels [postscript by Wilhelm Pieper], 27 January 1851, MECW 38, pp. 269-70; MEGA² III/4, p. 17.
51. Marx to Engels, 11 February 1851, MECW 38, p. 286; MEGA² III/4, p. 37.
52. Engels to Marx, 13 February 1851, MECW 38, pp. 290-1; MEGA² III/4, pp. 42-3.
53. See Walter Tuchscheerer, Bevor ‘Das Kapital’ enstand, Berlin: Akademie, 1973, p. 318.
54. For an appraisal of the importance of the [London Notebooks] see the spezial issue – n. 7 (1979) – of the journalArbeitsblätter zur Marx-Engelsforschung: Wolfgang Jahn – Dietrich Noske (eds), Fragen der Entwicklung der Forschungsmethode von Karl Marx in den Londoner Exzerptheften von 1850–1853.
55. Except for the material from Adam Smith, which is in the volume Karl Marx, Exzerpte und Notizen. März bis Juni 1851, MEGA² IV/8, Berlin: Dietz, 1986, all the excerpts in question may be found in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Exzerpte und Notizen. September 1849 bis Februar 1851, Berlin: Dietz, 1983, MEGA² IV/7. Smith’s Wealth of Nations (Notebook VII) and Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (Notebooks IV, VII and VIII), which Marx had read in French during his stay in Paris in 1844, were now studied in the original English.
56. See Marx to Engels, 3 February 1851, MECW 38, p. 275; MEGA² III/4, Dietz, Berlin 1984, p. 27.
57. ‘Bullion. Das vollendete Geldsystem’, MEGA² IV/8, op. cit., pp. 3-85. The second of these unnumbered notebooks also contains other extracts, most notably from John Fullarton’s On the Regulation of Currencies.
58. Another brief exposition of Marx’s theories on money, credit and crisis is contained in Notebook VII, in the fragmentary ‘Reflections’, MECW 10, pp. 584-92; MEGA² IV/8, pp. 227-34.
59. Marx to Engels, 2 April 1851, MECW 38, p. 325; MEGA² III/4, p. 85. Translation modified.
60. Engels to Marx, 3 April 1851, MECW 38, p. 330; MEGA² III/4, op. cit., p. 90.
61. See Karl Marx, Exzerpte aus David Ricardo: On the principles of political economy, MEGA² IV/8, pp. 326-31, 350-72, 381-95, 402-4, 409-26. Proof of the importance of these pages is the fact that the extracts, together with others by the same author contained in Notebooks IV and VII, were published in 1941, in the second volume of the first edition of the [Grundrisse].
62. In this crucial phase of new theoretical acquisitions, Marx’s relationship with Engels was of the greatest importance: for example, some of his letters to him summarize his critical views on Ricardo’s theory of ground rent (Marx to Engels, 7 January 1851, MECW 38, pp. 258-63; MEGA² III/4, pp. 6-10) and monetary circulation (Marx to Engels, 3 February 1851, MECW 38, pp. 273-8; MEGA² III/4, pp. 24-30).
63. In this same period, Max turned his attention to industry and machinery. See Hans-Peter Müller, Karl Marx über Maschinerie, Kapital und industrielle Revolution, Westdeutscher, Opladen 1992.
64. Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer, 27 June 1851, MECW 38, p. 377; MEGA² III/4, op. cit., p. 140.
65. Marx to Engels, 31 July 1851, MECW 38, p. 398; MEGA² III/4, pp. 159-60.
66. At the time, the New-York Tribune appeared in three different editions (New-York Daily Tribune,New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune and New-York Weekly Tribune), each of which carried many articles by Marx. To be precise, the New-York Daily Tribune published 487 articles, more than half of which were reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune and more than a quarter in the New-York Weekly Tribune (and to these should be added a few others that he sent to the paper but which were rejected by the editor, Charles Dana). Of the articles published in the New-York Daily Tribune, more than two hundred appeared as unsigned editorials. It should finally be mentioned that, to allow Marx more time for his studies of political economy, roughly a half of these articles were actually written by Engels. The submissions to the New-York Tribune always aroused great interest, as we can see, for example, from an editorial statement in the issue of 7 April 1853: ‘Mr Marx has very decided opinions of his own, … but those who do not read his letters neglect one of the most instructive sources of information on the great questions of current European politics.’ Quoted in Marx to Engels, 26 April 1853, MECW 39, p. 315; MEGA² III/6, Berlin: Dietz, 1987, p. 100.
67. See Friedrich Engels, ‘Critical Review of Proudhon’s Book Idée générale de la Révolution au XIXe siècle’, MECW 11, pp. 545-70.
68. The extracts from these books are contained in Karl Marx, Exzerpte und Notizen. Juli bis September 1851, MEGA² vol. IV/9, Berlin: Dietz, 1991.
69. These notebooks have not yet been published in MEGA², but Notebook XV featured in Hans Peter Müller’s collection: Karl Marx,Die technologisch-historischen Exzerpte, Frankfurt/Main: Ullstein, 1982. See the recent study by Amy E. Wendling, Karl Marx on Technology and Alienation, Palgrave, New York/Houndmills 2009.
70. Marx to Engels, 13 October 1851, MECW 38, p. 476; MEGA² III/4, p. 232.
71. See esp. Ferdinand Lassalle to Karl Marx, 12 May 1851, MEGA² III/4, pp. 377-8; Marx to Engels, 24 November 1851, MECW 38, pp. 490-2 (MEGA² III/4, pp. 247-8); and Engels to Marx, 27 November 1851, MECW 38, pp. 493-5 (MEGA² III/4, pp. 249-51).
72. Engels to Marx, 27 November 1851, MECW 38, p. 494, translation modified; MEGA² III/4, p. 250.
73. Karl Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer, 30 January 1852, MECW 39, p. 26; MEGA² IV/5, Berlin: Dietz, 1987, p. 31.
74. Marx to Ferdinand Freiligrath, 27 December 1851, MECW 38, p. 520; MEGA² III/4, p. 279.
75. Marx to Gustav Zerffi, 28 December 1852, MECW 39, p. 270; MEGA² III/6, p. 113.
76. These notebooks have not yet been published.
77. Marx to Engels, 8 September 1852, MECW 39, pp. 181-2; MEGA² III/6, pp. 11-12.
78. Marx to Engels, 25 October 1852, MECW 39, p. 216, translation modified; MEGA² III/6, p. 50.
79. Marx to Engels, 27 October 1852, MECW 39, p. 221; MEGA² III/6, p. 55.
80. Marx to Ferdinand Lassalle, 23 February 1852, MECW 39, p. 46; MEGA² III/5, p. 56.
81. Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer, 30 April 1852, MECW 39, p. 96; MEGA² III/5, p. 110.
82. Marx to Engels, 19 August 1852, MECW 39, p. 163; MEGA² III/5, p. 183.
83. Karl Marx, ‘Pauperism and Free Trade – The Approaching Commercial Crisis’, MECW 11, p. 361; MEGA² I/11, Berlin: Dietz, 1985, p. 347.
84. Marx to Adolf Cluss, 7 December 1852, MECW 39, p. 259; MEGA² III/6, p. 103.
85. Marx to Engels, 10 March 1853, MECW 39, p. 288; MEGA² IV/6, p. 133.
86. This expression was used for the first time in 1846, with regard to the differences between Marx and the German communist Wilhelm Weitling. It was subsequently employed also in the trial proceedings at Cologne. See Maximilien Rubel, Marx, critique du marxisme, op. cit., p. 26, n. 2.
87. This term appeared for the first time in 1854. See Georges Haupt, ‘From Marx to Marxism’, in idem, Aspects of International Socialism, 1871-1914, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986, p. 2.
88. Marx to Engels, 10 March 1853, MECW 39, p. 290; MEGA² III/6, p. 134.
89. Marx to Engels, 8 October 1853, MECW 39, p. 386, translation modified; MEGA² III/7, pp. 31-2.
90. Engels to Marx, 11 March 1853, MECW 39, p. 293; MEGA² III/6, p. 138.
91. Marx to Engels, 10 March 1853, MECW 39, p. 289; MEGA² IV/6, p. 134.
92. Marx to Engels, 18 August 1853, MECW 39, p. 356; MEGA² III/6, p. 208.
93. Marx to Engels, 8 July 1853, MECW 39, p. 352; MEGA² III/6, p. 203.
94. Marx to Adolf Cluss, 15 September 1853, MECW 39, p. 367; MEGA² III/7, pp. 11-12.
95. Karl Marx, ‘Revolution in China and Europe’, MECW 12, pp. 95-6; MEGA² I/12, p. 149.
96. Ibid., p. 98; ibid., p. 151.
97. Ibid., p. 99; ibid., pp. 152-3.
98. Karl Marx, ‘Political Movements. – Scarcity of Bread in Europe’, MECW 12, p. 308; MEGA² I/12, p. 332.
99. Marx to Engels, 28 September 1853, MECW 39, p. 372; MEGA² III/7, p. 18.
100. These notebooks of extracts have recently been published in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Exzerpte und Notizen. September 1853 bis Januar 1855, Berlin: Akademie, 2007.
101. Marx to Engels, 13 February 1855, MECW 39, p. 522; MEGA² III/7, p. 180.
102. See Fred E. Schrader, Restauration und Revolution, Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 1980, p. 99.
103. Karl Marx, ‘The Commercial Crisis in Britain’, MECW 13, p. 585; MEGA² I/14, p. 37.
104. Karl Marx, ‘The Crisis in England’, MECW 14, p. 61; MEGA² I/14, p. 168.
105. Marx to Engels, 12 April 1855, MECW 39, p. 533; MEGA² III/7, p. 189.
106. Marx to Engels, 3 March 1855, MECW 39, p. 525; MEGA² III/7, p. 182.
107. Marx to Engels, 8 March 1855, MECW 39, p. 526; MEGA² III/7, p. 183.
108. Karl Marx, ‘The French Crédit Mobilier’, MECW 15, p. 10.
109. Karl Marx, ‘The Monetary Crisis in Europe’, MECW 15, p. 113.
110. Karl Marx, ‘The European Crisis’, MECW 15, p. 136.
111. Karl Marx, ‘The Monetary Crisis in Europe’, MECW 15, p. 115.
112. These notebooks of extracts are still unpublished.
113. Karl Marx, Ökonomische Manuskripte 1857/58, in MEGA², II/1.1, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1976, p. 4; ‘Bastiat and Carey’, in Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Draft), London: Penguin Books, 1993, p. 886. Like the extracts from Ricardo, the [Bastiat and Carey] fragment was included in volume two of the first edition of the [Grundrisse].
114. Marx to Engels, 8 December 1857, MECW 40, p. 217; MEGA², III/8, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1990, p. 210.
115. Apart from Notebooks M and VII, which are kept at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, these are all at the Russian State Archive for Socio-Political History in Moscow. With regard to dates, it should be stressed that the first part of Notebook I, which contains Marx’s critical analysis of De la réforme des banques by Alfred Darimon, was written in the months of January and February 1857, not (as the editors of the [Grundrisse] thought) in October. See Inna Ossobowa, ‘Über einige Probleme der ökonomischen Srudien von Marx im Jahre 1857 vom Standpunkt des Historikers’, Beiträge zur Marx-Engels-Forschung 29, 1990, pp. 147-61.
116. These notebooks have not yet been published. Cf. Michael Krätke, ‘Marx’s “books of crisis” of 1857-8’, in Marcello Musto (ed.), Karl Marx’s Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 150 Years Later, op. cit., pp. 169-75.
117. Marx to Engels, 18 December 1857, MECW 40, p. 224; MEGA², III/8, p. 221. A few days later, Marx communicated his plans to Lassalle: ‘The present commercial crisis has impelled me to set to work seriously on my outlines of political economy, and also to prepare something on the present crisis.’ (Marx to Ferdinand Lassalle, 21 December 1857, MECW 40, p. 226; MEGA², III/8, p. 223.)
118. Marx to Ferdinand Lassalle, 22 February 1858, MECW 40, pp. 270-1; MEGA², III/9, Berlin:Akademie, 2003, p. 239.


Alex Marshall, Critique. Journal of Socialist Theory

Blessed with an elegant introduction by Eric Hobsbawm, this substantial collection of essays to commemorate the anniversary of the writing of Karl Marx’s groundbreaking 1857–58 notebooks on political economy—the core from which Capital subsequently emerged—represents a highly interesting and ambitious project.

The collection itself is divided into three sections: critical interpretations of the text, three chapters on Marx’s own life at the time of writing of the Grundrisse, and 21 short expositions on the text’s reception upon publication in a variety of countries across the globe, ranging from Brazil, Portugal and South Korea, to Japan, China, Poland and Iran. Of these three sections, the first and second are by far the most interesting and satisfactory, whilst the two-page summaries that comprise the bulk of the third section add relatively little of analytical weight, though being not entirely devoid of interest for tracking the time lag in the work’s global dissemination (the Grundrisse was published in Portuguese only in 2008, whilst a Korean edition was released in South Korea only in 2000, and a Farsi text in Iran only in 1985–87).

The relationship of the Grundrisse to the three volumes of Capital continues to form the centre of most analysis; particularly as the Grundrisse itself sketches out a wider field of study than Capital itself ever ended up managing to cover. The delayed publication of the notebooks themselves (first published in German in 1939–41, in a now-rare Soviet edition, then republished in the GDR in 1953) meant that the Grundrisse ended up forming a keystone text in Western re-analysis of Marxism during the 1960s and 1970s, when the publication of the majority of Marx’s earlier writings for the first time was leading to a more general wave of reassessment of his legacy and true intent. This ‘first wave’ of exposure produced the 1973 English translation of the Grundrisse still available as a Penguin Classic today. Though Marx used the seven notebooks of the Grundrisse to organise his thoughts, and clearly never foresaw them becoming an independent publication (the work itself, as Marcello Musto notes in the second section of this volume, being written amidst circumstances of the utmost personal misery, and impoverishment), most commentators, including this volume’s contributors, have predominantly sought to re-interpret the unfinished Capital in light of the broader field of insight offered by the preliminary notes of the Grundrisse.

Marcello Musto opens the book by providing a stimulating overview of perhaps the single most complex and controversial part of the Grundrisse, namely the ‘Introduction’, which contains ‘the most extensive and detailed pronouncement that Marx ever made on epistemological questions’ (p. 3). This provides a useful reminder that Marx’s profound critique of political economy, and that which continues to distinguish him most clearly from even contemporary political economists, relates to his view of capital as historically contingent, rather than a natural and eternal form; a view that thereby continues to render him an effective antidote to the kind of vulgarised analysis which has informed even the most recent financial crisis.11For example: Samuel Brittan, ‘A Catechism for a System That Endures’, The Financial Times, 30 April 2009.View all notes This opening chapter also makes an extremely useful accompanying text for beginning to read the Grundrisse itself. Joachim Bischoff and Christoph Lieber go on to provide a stimulating study of the relationship between money and capital in the Grundrisse, whilst Terrell Carver delves into the difficult concept of ‘alienation’. Taking on David McLellan’s argument that alienation is ‘fundamental’ to the Grundrisse, Carver argues that the text represents a transition between the philosophical interpretation of the concept that suffuses theEconomic and Political Manuscripts and the later writing style of Capital, but also dismisses the idea that the difference in tone might carry deeper implications, or reflect ‘tendentious dichotomies between philosophy and science’ (p. 61)—stark dismissal of the very debates that once generated such passion in Marxist scholarship in the late 20th century (Althusser vs. Marcuse and Bloch, for example).

Continuing the explanatory theme unveiled in Musto’s opening chapter, Enrique Dussel revisits Marx’s exposition of surplus value as labour time, re-entering that ‘river of ideas where Marx slowly constructs his categories with all its ebbs and flows’ (p. 68). E.M. Wood meanwhile boldly takes up the earlier work of Eric Hobsbawm to re-examine historical materialism, pointing to errors in Marx and Engel’s typology of pre-capitalist modes of production in the light of subsequent archaeological evidence, but convincingly defending the enduring achievement of Marx’s liberation of history from Enlightenment conceptions of unilinear development, due to his very personal emphasis on the specificity of every mode of production ‘and of capitalism in particular’ (p. 91). John Bellamy Foster provides an ecological interpretation of the Grundrisse, whilst Iring Fetscher deals with one of the most harshly criticized areas of Marxist thought—Marx’s own vision of a post-capitalist society, and of labour evolving to become ‘self-realization’. Moishe Postone then provides a potentially controversial, but thoroughly satisfying, conclusion to the analytical essays contained in part one, by re-analysing Capital in the light of the Grundrisse, arguing that Marx’s notion of the structural contradiction in capitalism should not be assumed to correspond directly to class conflict.

This is an unusually well thought through and carefully edited set of essays, which avoids the pitfalls of most works of this type by being both consistently stimulating and provocative, as well as always clearly focused. The provision of biographical material on Marx himself, complemented by photographs of Marx and actual pages from the 1857–58 notebooks themselves, also makes this a handsome companion volume to the Grundrisse for both scholar and student alike, one which both communities could repeatedly turn and consult for years to come with much mutual benefit.


[1] For example: Samuel Brittan, ‘A Catechism for a System That Endures’, The Financial Times, 30 April 2009.

Journal Articles

Marx is Back

From the new edition of his works emerges a misunderstood author of great topicality for the critique of the present. Contrary to the forecasts that predicted his definitive fall into oblivion, in the last few years Marx has returned to the attention of international scholars. His continuing ability to explain today’s world confirms the validity of his theory and more and more often his texts are revisited in Europe, the United States and Japan. The most significant illustration of this rediscovery is the resumption of the publication of his works. In fact, despite the enormous diffusion of Marx’s thought in the twentieth century, there is still no unabridged and scientific edition of his works to date. Of the greatest thinkers of humanity this fate fell exclusively to him.

To understand how this was possible, one needs to consider the varied vicissitudes of the working class movement that too often obstructed rather than facilitated the publication of his texts. After Marx and Engels died, conflicts within the German Social Democratic Party led to great negligence of the authors’ literary heritage. The first attempt to publish their complete works, the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA), was made in the Soviet Union only in the 1920s but in the early 1930s the Stalinist purges, that also hit the main scholars engaged in the project, and the advent of Nazism in Germany abruptly interrupted the works on this edition. In 1975 the next attempt to reproduce the whole of the thinkers’ writings, the so-called MEGA², began but was suspended too, this time as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In 1990, the International Marx-Engels Foundation (Imes) was created with the aim of completing this edition, bringing together scholars from three different continents. The project is extremely important, especially because a large amount of Marxian manuscripts still remains unpublished, and such cyclopean undertaking will be used as the basis for all new translations of Marx’s and Engels’s works in all languages. The MEGA² is composed of the following four sections: all of their works; their correspondence; Capital and its several drafts; and over two hundred notebooks on the most varied topics in eight languages, the building site of Marx’s development. To date 53 of the planned 114 volumes have been published, 13 of which came out after the project was resumed in 1998. Each volume comprises two large tomes: one for the text, the other for apparatus criticus (for more information, visit

What sort of Marx arises out of this new historical and critical edition? Definitely a different one from that depicted by his enemies and followers for a long time. However paradoxical it may seem, Karl Marx is a misunderstood author. The epigones’ systematic treatment of his critical theory, the theoretical impoverishment that accompanied its dissemination, the manipulation and censorship of his writings and their utilisation for reasons instrumental to the dictates of politics, have contributed to making him the victim of a deep and repeated misjudgement. The rediscovery of his work demonstrates the difference between Marx and ‘Marxism’, between the wealth of a problematic and polymorphous framework still to be explored, and a doctrine that altered its original conception to the extent of becoming its manifest negation. Those statues with stony profiles, that stood in the public squares of many illiberal regimes of Eastern Europe and depicted Marx as a prophet with dogmatic certainties about the future, can now be substituted by the image of an author who, until his death, left a large part of his writings uncompleted so as to dedicate himself to further research to verify the strength of his theses.

There are two examples of this: one is the fragmentary character that was restored to The German Ideology in its latest edition, evidence of the ‘Marxist-Leninist’ interpretative falsification that had turned these manuscripts into an exhaustive exposition of ‘historical materialism’ (an expression Marx never used). Far from being confinable to epitaphs, Marx’s concept of history needs to be retraced in the totality of his oeuvre. The other example is the publication of the second and third book of Capital, which brought to light over five thousand editorial interventions by Engels and demonstrated that, far from espousing a conclusive economic theory, these were by and large provisional notes under development. The imminent completion of the publication of all of the original works left to us by Marx is finally going to permit a reliable assessment.

What has already been ascertained is the value of Marx’s relentless intellectual efforts. However uncompleted, they are still the genial efforts and present us with a wealth of piercing analyses of the contemporary world. Faced with the current contradictions and crisis of capitalist society, in these volumes we go back to interrogating the same Marx whom we too hastily put aside after 1989. Having cleared the terrain of the self-professed custodians of his thought, it is hoped that this time we will hear it from the man himself.

Journal Articles

Marx in Paris

I. Introduction
The [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844][1] are one of Marx’s best-known works all around the world. Yet, although they are so often discussed and are so important for overall interpretations of their author’s thought, little attention has been paid to the philological problems that they present. This fact, together with the theorical and political disputes that began with publication of the first edition in 1932, has helped to fuel a misinterpretation of what many commentators regard as the most significant text of Marx’s youth.

After a brief description of the intellectual climate at the time of Marx’s stay in the French capital (§ II) and of the economic studies that he began there (§ III), this article examines the close connection between the [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844] and the parallel notebooks of excerpts that Marx compiled from the writings of political economists (§ IV) as well as the greater philosophical and political maturity that he achieved in this major period of his development (§ V-VI). Finally, a table reconstructs the chronological order of the manuscripts and notebooks of excerpts that Marx composed in Paris between the autumn of 1843 and January 1845.

II. Paris: capital of the new world
Paris is a ‘monstrous miracle, an astounding assemblage of movements, machines and ideas, the city of a thousand different romances, the world’s thinking-box’ (Balzac, 1972, 33). This is how Balzac described in one of his tales the effect of the metropolis on those who did not know it thoroughly.

During the years before the 1848 revolution, the city was inhabited by artisans and workers in constant political agitation. From its colonies of exiles, revolutionaries, writers and artists and the general social ferment, it had acquired an intensity found in few other epochs. Men and women with the most varied intellectual gifts were publishing books, journals and newspapers, writing poetry, speaking at meetings, and discussing endlessly in cafés, in the street and on public benches. Their close proximity meant that they exercised a continual influence on one another (cf. Berlin 1963, 81f.).

Bakunin, having decided to cross the Rhine, suddenly found himself ‘amid those new elements which have not yet been born in Germany … [in a climate where] political ideas circulate among all strata of society’ (Bakunin, 1982, 482). Von Stein wrote that ‘life in the populace itself was beginning to create new associations and to conceive of new revolutions’ (von Stein 1848, 509). Ruge was of the view that ‘in Paris we shall live our victories and our defeats’ (Ruge 1975, 59). In short, it was the place to be at that particular moment in history.

For Balzac ‘the streets of Paris have human qualities and such a physiognomy as leaves us with impressions against which we can put up no resistance’ (Balzac 1972, 31). Many of these impressions also struck Karl Marx, who at the age of twenty-five had moved there in October 1843; they profoundly marked his intellectual evolution, which matured decisively during his time in Paris.

Following the journalistic experience on the Rheinische Zeitung, Marx’s abandonment of the conceptual horizon of the Hegelian rational state and an associated democratic radicalism meant that he had arrived in the French capital with a certain theoretical disponibilité. But this was now shaken by the tangible vision of the proletariat. The uncertainty generated by the problematic atmosphere of the times, which saw the rapid consolidation of a new social-economic reality, was dissipated once he made contact, both theoretically and experientially, with the Parisian working class and its living and working conditions.

The discovery of the proletariat and, through it, of revolution; the new commitment to communism, still unclearly defined and semi-utopian; the critique of Hegel’s speculative philosophy and the Hegelian Left; the first outline of the materialist conception of history and the beginnings of his critique of political economy: these were the set of fundamental themes that Marx would develop during this period.

The following notes, which deliberately forego a critical interpretation of Marx’s famous early text, the so-called [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts] written during his stay in Paris, mainly focus on philological issues regarding it.

III. Settling on political economy
When he had been working with the Rheinische Zeitung, Marx had already grappled with particular economic questions, but always from a legal or political viewpoint. Subsequently, in the ideas he developed at Kreuznach in 1843 – the source for [Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right], in which civil society is conceived as the real foundation of the political state – he had formulated for the first time the importance of the economic factor in social relations. But it was only in Paris that Marx made a start on a ‘conscientious critical study of political economy’ (Marx 1975d, 231), having received a crucial impetus from contradictions in law and politics that could not be solved within their own sphere and from the inability of either to furnish solutions to social problems. Engels’s ‘Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy’ (one of his two articles to appear in the first and only volume of the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher) also made a decisive impact on Marx at this time. From that point his studies, hitherto mainly philosophical, political and historical, turned to the new discipline that would become the fulcrum of his scientific concerns and mark out a new horizon he would never abandon (cf. Rubel, 1968, liv-lv).

Under the influence of Moses Hess’s Essence of Money and his transposition of the concept of alienation from a speculative to a social-economic plane, Marx first concentrated on a critique of the economic mediation of money as an obstacle to the realization of the human essence. In a polemic against Bruno Bauer’s ‘On the Jewish Question’, he considered the Jewish question to be a social problem that represented the philosophical and social-historical presupposition of capitalist civilization as a whole. The Jew was the metaphor and the historical vanguard for the relations it produced, a worldly figure that became synonymous with capitalism tout court (cf. Tuchscheerer 1968, 56).

Immediately afterwards Marx began massive reading in a new field of study, and his critical comments, as a few illustrations will demonstrate, punctuate the manuscripts and notebooks of excerpts and notes that he compiled, as usual, from the reading material. The guiding thread of his work was the need to unveil and oppose the greatest mystification of political economy: the idea that its categories were valid at all times and in all places. Marx was deeply affected by this blindness and lack of historical sense on the part of the economists, who thereby tried to conceal and justify the inhumanity of the economic conditions of their time by presenting them as a fact of nature. In a comment on a text by Say, he noted that ‘private property is a fact whose constitution does not concern political economy yet which is its foundation. … The whole of political economy is therefore based on a fact devoid of necessity’ (Marx 1981, 316). Similar observations recur in the [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts], where Marx emphasizes that ‘political economy starts with the fact of private property; it does not explain it to us’. ‘The economist assumes in the form of a fact, of an event, what he is supposed to deduce’ (Marx 1975d, 270-1).

Political economy, then, takes the regime of private property, the associated mode of production and the corresponding economic categories as immutable for all eternity. The man of bourgeois society appears as if he were natural man. In short, ‘when one speaks of private property, one thinks of dealing with something external to man’ (Marx 1975d, 281). Marx’s rejection of this ontological switch could not have been clearer.

His deep and wide study of history had given him a first key to read the temporal evolution of social structures, and he had also taken over what he regarded as Proudhon’s best insights, including his critique of the idea of private property as a natural right (Proudhon 1890, 44f.). With these supports, Marx was able to achieve the central cognitive grasp of the provisional character of history. The bourgeois economists presented laws of the capitalist mode of production as eternal laws of human society. Marx, by contrast, made his exclusive and distinctive object of study the specific relations of his time, ‘the ruptured world of industry’ (Marx 1975d, 292); he underlined its transitoriness as one stage produced by history, and set out to investigate the contradictions that capitalism generates which are leading to its supersession.

This different way of understanding social relations had important consequences, chief of which were undoubtedly those concerning the concept of alienated labour. Unlike the economists, or Hegel himself, for whom it was a natural and immutable condition of society, Marx set out on the path that would lead him to reject the anthropological dimension of alienation in favour of a conception that rooted it historically in a certain structure of production and social relations: man’s estrangement amid the conditions of industrial labour.

The notes accompanying Marx’s excerpts from James Mill highlight how ‘political economy defines the estranged form of social intercourse [ die entfremdete Form des geselligen Verkehrs] as the essential and original form corresponding to man’s nature’. Far from being a constant condition of objectification, of the worker’s production, alienated labour is for Marx the expression of the social character of labour within the limits of the present division of labour, which turns man into ‘a machine tool … and transforms him into a spiritual and physical monster’ (Marx 1975c, 217, 220).

In the individual’s working activity is affirmed his specificity, the activation of a need peculiar to himself. But ‘this realization of labour appears as a derealization [Entwirklichung] for the worker’ (Marx 1975d, 272). Labour could be human affirmation, free creative activity, but, ‘presupposing private property, my individuality is alienated to such a degree that this activity is indeed hateful to me, a torment, and rather a semblance of an activity. Hence, too, it is only a forced activity [erzwungene Thätigkeit] and one imposed on me only through an external fortuitous need’ (Marx 1975c, 228).

Marx reached these conclusions by collecting the forceful theories of economic science, criticizing their constitutive elements and inverting their results. This involved him in the most intense and unremitting effort. The Parisian Marx is ravenous for reading material and devotes day and night to it. He is a man filled with enthusiasms and projects, who draws up work plans so huge that he could never have seen them through, and who studies every document relevant to the object of investigation; he is absorbed in the lightning advance of his knowledge and the shifting interests that for a time carry him towards new horizons, further resolutions and still more areas of research.[2]

On the Left Bank of the Seine he planned the draft of a critique of Hegel’s philosophy of law, embarked on studies of the French Revolution in order to write a history of the Convention, and mooted a critique of existing socialist and communist doctrines. Then he threw himself like a madman into political economy, which suddenly took priority over the task of finally clearing the terrain in Germany of the transcendental criticism of Bauer et al., but he interrupted this to write his first finished work: The holy Family. Then another hundred projects: if there was a critique to be done, it passed through his head and through his pen. Yet the most prolific young man in the Hegelian Left had still published less than many of the others. The incompleteness that would characterize all his work was already present in the labours of his year in Paris. There was something incredible about his meticulousness, as he refused to write a sentence unless he could prove it in ten different ways.[3] Marx’s belief that his information was insufficient and his judgments immature prevented him from publishing a large part of the work on which he embarked; it therefore remained in the form of outlines and fragments. His notes are thus extremely precious. They allow us to gauge the scope of his research, contain some reflections of his own, and should be considered an integral part of his oeuvre. This is also true of the Parisian period, when his manuscripts and reading notes testify to the close and indissoluble link between what he wrote and the comments he made on the work of others. [4]

IV. Manuscripts and notebooks of excerpts: the papers of 1844
Despite the incomplete and fragmentary character of the [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts] of 1844, nearly all readings of them have either ignored or treated as unimportant the philological problems they present (cf. Rojahn 1983, 20). They were first published in their entirety only in 1932 – in two separate editions, moreover. In the collection put together by the Social Democrat scholars Landshut and Mayer, entitledDer historische Materialismus, they appeared under the title ‘Nationalökonomie und Philosophie’ (Marx 1932a, 283-375), while in the Marx Engels Gesamtausgabe they are ‘Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844’ (Marx 1932b, 29-172). Not only the name but also the content varies between the two, and there are major differences in the order of the sections.

The Lanshut-Mayer edition, teeming with errors because of poor deciphering of the original manuscript, failed to include the first group of papers, the so-called First Manuscript, and misattributed directly to Marx a fourth manuscript that was actually a resumé of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Nevertheless,too little consideration has been paid to the fact that the editors of the first MEGA too, in choosing their name for the manuscripts, in placing the preface at the beginning – when in reality it is part of the third manuscript – and in organizing the whole set of papers in the way they did, made one think that Marx’s intention had always been to write a critique of political economy and that everything had originally been divided into chapters (cf. Rojahn 2002, 33).

It was further wrongly assumed that Marx wrote these texts only after he had read and compiled excerpts from the works of political economy, [5] whereas in reality the process of composition alternated among different groups of manuscripts, and the corresponding excerpts were spaced out through the whole of his Parisian period, from the articles for the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher to The Holy Family.

Despite these evident problems of form, despite confusion following the publication of different versions and, above all, the knowledge that much of the second manuscript (the most important but scattered one) was missing from the set, none of the critical interpreters or compilers of new editions undertook a re-examination of the originals. Yet this was especially necessary for the text that weighed so heavily in debates among the various interpretations of Marx.

Written between May and August, the [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts] are not a work that develops in a systematic or prearranged manner. All the attributions to it of a settled direction – both those that detect the full completeness of Marx’s thought and those that see a definite conception opposed to his scientific maturity[6] – are refuted by a careful philological examination. Not homogeneous or even closely interconnected between their parts, the manuscripts are an evident expression of a position in movement. Scrutiny of the nine notebooks that have come down to us, with more than 200 pages of excerpts and comments, shows us Marx’s way of assimilating and using the reading material that fuelled them.

The Paris notebooks record the traces of Marx’s encounter with political economy and the formative process of his earliest elaborations of economic theory. A comparison of them with his writings of the period, published or unpublished, decisively demonstrates the importance of his reading for the development of his ideas. A list of excerpts from political economists alone would include texts by Say, Schüz, List, Osiander, Smith, Skarbek, Ricardo, James Mill, MacCulloch, Prevost, Destutt de Tracy, Buret, de Boisguillebert, Law and Lauderdale.[7] In the [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts] and Marx’s articles and correspondence of the time, one also finds references to Proudhon, Schulz, Pecquer, Loudon, Sismondi, Ganihl, Chevalier, Malthus, de Pompery and Bentham.

Marx made his first excerpts from Say’s Traité d’économie politique, transcribing whole sections as he acquired his knowledge of the fundamentals of economics. The only note was added later, on the right side of the sheet in question, which was the place he usually kept for this purpose. His subsequent compilation from Adam Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations served a similar goal of familiarizing him with basic economic concepts. In fact, although these are the most extensive excerpts, they contain virtually no comments. Yet Marx’s thought stands out clearly from his montage of passages and, as it often happened elsewhere, from his way of setting alongside one another the divergent theses of several economists. The picture changes, however, in the case of Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, where the first observations of his own make their appearance, especially in relation to the concepts of value and price that were still conceived as perfectly identical. This equation of commodity value and price is located in Marx’s initial conception, which conferred reality only on the exchange-value produced by competition and consigned natural price to the realm of abstraction as a pure chimera. As these studies advanced, his critical notes were no longer sporadic but punctuated his summaries and expanded with his knowledge as he moved from author to author. There were individual sentences, then longer remarks, and finally – apropos of James Mill’s Elements of Political Economy – a sustained critical comment on the mediation of money as representing the complete domination of things over human beings; here the relationship between excerpts and Marx’s own text is completely reversed, so that it is the former that are spaced out through the latter.

To underline once more the importance of the excerpts, it should be pointed out just how useful these notes were to him both when he made them and subsequently. In 1844 some of them were published in Vorwärts!, the bi-weekly of German émigrés in Paris, as a contribution to the intellectual education of its readers (see Grandjonc, 1974, 61-2). Above all, given that Marx was in the habit of re-reading his notes at a distance of time, he was able to use these exhaustive materials in the [Grundrisse], as well as in the economic manuscripts of 1861-3, better known as Theories of Surplus-Value, and the first volume of Capital.

To conclude: Marx developed his ideas both in the [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts] and in the notebooks of excerpts from his reading. The manuscripts are filled with quotations, the first being almost a straightforward collection, and the notebooks of compilations, though largely centred on the texts he was reading at the time, are accompanied with his comments. The contents of both, the formal division of the sheets into columns, the pagination and the time of their composition confirm that the [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts] are not a work that stands by itself but part of Marx’s critical production, which then consisted of excerpts from texts he was studying, critical reflections on that material, and drafts that he put on paper, either in one go or in a more thought-out form. To separate these manuscripts from the rest, to extrapolate them from their context, may therefore lead to errors of interpretation.

Only these notes taken as a whole, together with a historical reconstruction of how they ripened in Marx’s mind, really show the itinerary and the complexity of his thought during the highly intense year of work in Paris (cf. Rojahn, 2002, 45).

V. Critique of philosophy and critique of politics
The setting in which Marx’s ideas developed, and the influence they exercised at a theoretical and practical level, merit a last brief remark. Those were times of profound economic and social transformation, and especially of a huge increase in the numbers of the proletariat. With his discovery of the proletariat Marx was able to break up into class terms the Hegelian concept of civil society. He also gained an awareness that the proletariat was a new class, different from ‘the poor’, since its poverty derived from its conditions of work. The task was to demonstrate one of the main contradictions of bourgeois society: ‘The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and size’ (Marx 1975d, 271-2).

The revolt of the Silesian weavers in June 1844 afforded Marx a last opportunity to develop his thinking. In the ‘Critical Marginal Notes on the Article “The King of Prussia and Social Reform. By a Prussian”’, published in Vorwärts!, he used a critique of Ruge, and of a previous article of his that had seen the revolt as lacking in political spirit, to take his distance from Hegel’s conception that made the state the only representative of the general interest and relegated any movement of civil society to the private sphere of partial interests (cf. Löwy, 2003, 29-30). For Marx, on the contrary, ‘a social revolution is found to have the point of view of the whole’ (Marx 1975c, 205), and under the stimulus of the Silesian events, with their considerable and explicitly revolutionary character, he underlined the gross error of those who sought the root of social ills ‘not in the essential nature of the state but in a definite state form’ (Marx 1975c, 197).

More generally, Marx considered that those who advocated the reform of society (the objective of socialist doctrines at the time), wage equality and a reorganization of work within the capitalist system were still prisoners of the assumptions they combated (Proudhon) or, above all, did not understand the true relationship between private property and alienated labour. For, ‘though private property appears to be the reason, the cause of alienated labour [ entäusserten Arbeit], it is rather its consequence’; ‘private property is the product, the result, the necessary consequence of alienated labour’ (Marx 1975d, 279). In opposition to the theories of the socialists, Marx proposed a radical transformation of the economic system – a project for which it is ‘capital which is to be annulled “as such” ’ (Marx 1975d, 294).

The closer Marx felt socialist doctrines to be to his own thought, the more strongly he felt the need for clarity and the more sharply he was critical of them. The working out of his own conception led him into constant comparisons between the ideas around him and the results of his ongoing studies. The speed with which he was maturing made this a necessity. The same fate lay in store for the Hegelian Left. Indeed, his judgements of its main exponents were the most severe, since they also represented self-criticism of his own past. The Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, the monthly edited by Bruno Bauer, peremptorily declared from its pages: ‘The critic refrains from involving himself in the sufferings or joys of society … he dissects majestically in solitude’ (Bauer 1844, 32).

For Marx, by contrast, ‘criticism is no passion of the head, … it is not a lancet, it is a weapon. Its object is its enemy, which it wants not to refute but to exterminate. … Criticism appears no longer as an end in itself, but only as a means’ (Marx 1975a, 177). Against the solipsism of ‘critical criticism’,[8] which started from an abstract conviction that to recognize estrangement was already to overcome it, Marx had clearly realized that ‘material force must be overthrown by material force’, and that social being could be changed only by means of human practice. To discover and become conscious of man’s alienated condition meant at the same time to work for its actual elimination. Between philosophy closed in speculative isolation, which produces only sterile battles of concepts, and the criticism of philosophy, which is ‘criticism in hand-to-hand combat’ (Marx 1975a, 182 and 178), there was a difference that could scarcely be greater. It was the gulf separating the quest for free self-consciousness from the quest for free labour.

VI. Conclusions
Marx’s thought underwent a decisive evolution during his year in Paris. He was now certain that the transformation of the world was a practical question, ‘which philosophy could not solve precisely because it conceived this problem as merely a theoretical one’ (Marx 1975d, 302). He bid farewell forever to philosophy that had not reached this awareness and achieved its necessary conversion into philosophy of praxis. From now on, his own analysis took its starting-point not from the category of alienated labour but from the reality of the workers’ wretched existence. His conclusions were not speculative but directed towards revolutionary action (cf. Mandel 1971, 210).

His conception of politics itself changed profoundly. Without adopting any of the narrow socialist or communist doctrines of the time, indeed while taking his distance from them, he achieved a full awareness that economic relations weave the connecting web of society and that ‘religion, family, state, law, morality, science, art, etc. are only particular modes of production, and fall under its general law’ (Marx 1975d, 302). The state has here lost the primary position it had in Hegel’s political philosophy; absorbed into society, it is conceived as a sphere determined by, rather than determining, relations among human beings. According to Marx, ‘only political superstition still imagines today that civil life must be held together by the state, whereas in reality, on the contrary, the state is held together by civil life’ (Marx and Engels, 1975, 121).

Marx’s conceptual framework also changes fundamentally with regard to the revolutionary subject. From an initial reference to ‘suffering humanity’ (Marx 1982, 479), he moves to a specific identification of the proletariat, considering it first as an abstract concept based on dialectical antitheses – the ‘passive element’ (Marx 1975a, 183) of theory –, then, after his first social-economic analysis, as the active element in its own liberation, the only class endowed with revolutionary potential in the capitalist social order.

So, a somewhat vague critique of the political mediation of the state and the economic mediation of money, conceived as obstacles to the realization of a Feuerbachian common human essence, gives way to the critique of a historical relation in which material production begins to appear as the basis for any analysis and transformation of the present: ‘the whole of human servitude [menschliche Knechtschaft] is involved in the relation of the worker to production, and all relations of servitude are but modifications and consequences of this relation’ (Marx 1975d, 280). What Marx proposes is no longer a generic demand for emancipation but a radical transformation of the real process of production.

As he came to these conclusions, Marx was planning various other investigations. After The Holy Family he continued with the studies and excerpts of political economy, outlined a critique of Stirner, drew up a sketch for a work on the state, wrote a series of notes on Hegel, and prepared to draft a critique of the German economist Friedrich List that he went on to complete shortly afterwards. He was unstoppable. Engels begged him to launch his material for the public, because ‘it’s high time, heaven knows!’ (Marx and Engels, 1982, E – Marx Beginning of October 1844, 6). [9] And, before Marx was expelled from Paris,[10] he signed a contract with the Leske publishing house for a two-volume work to be entitled ‘Critique of Politics and Political Economy’. It was necessary to wait fifteen years, however, until 1859, for the first part of his work, the Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy, to see the light of day.

The [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts] and the books of excerpts and notes convey the direction he took in the first steps of this enterprise. His writings are filled with theoretical elements derived from predecessors and contemporaries. None of the outlines or works from this period can be classified under a single discipline: there are no texts that are purely philosophical, essentially economic or solely political. What emerges from them is not a new system, a homogeneous whole, but a critical theory.

The Marx of 1844 has the capacity to combine experiences of Parisian proletarians with studies of the French Revolution, readings of Adam Smith with the insights of Proudhon, the Silesian weavers’ revolt with a critique of Hegel’s conception of the state, and Buret’s analyses of poverty with communism. He is a Marx who knows how to gather these different fields of knowledge and experience and, by weaving them together, to give birth to a revolutionary theory.

His ideas, and particularly the economic observations that began to develop during his stay in Paris, were not the fruit of a sudden fulmination but the result of a process. The Marxist-Leninist hagiography that held sway for so long used to attribute an impossible immediacy and an instrumental final goal to Marx’s thought, thereby presenting a distorted and highly impoverished account of his path to knowledge. The aim should instead be to reconstruct the genesis, the intellectual debts and the theoretical achievements of Marx’s labours, and to highlight the complexity and richness of a work that still speaks to any critical theory of the present.

Appendix: Chronological table of notebooks containing Marx’s excerpts and manuscripts during his time in Paris

Late 1843 to early 1844 R. Levasseur, Mémoires MH The excerpts are contained in pages divided into two columns.
Late 1843 to early 1844 J. B. Say, Traité d’économie politique B 19 Large-format notebook consisting of pages with excerpts in two columns: on the left from Say’s Traité, on the right (drafted after the composition of B 24) from Skarbek and Say’s Cours complet.
Late 1843 to early 1844 C. W. C. Schüz, Grundsätze der National-Ökonomie B 24 Large-format notebook with pages in two columns.

Late 1843 to early 1844


F. List, Das nationale System der politischen Ökonomie B 24
Late 1843 to early 1844 H. F. Osiander, Enttäuschung des Publikums über die Interessen des Handels, der Industrie und der Landwirtschaft B 24
Late 1843 to early 1844 H. F. Osiander, Über den Handelsverkehr der Völker B 24
Spring 1844 F. Skarbek, Théorie des richesses sociales B 19
Spring 1844 J. B. Say, Cours complet d’ économie politique pratique B 19
May-June 1844 A. Smith, Recherches sur la nature et les causes de la richesse des nations B 20 Small-format notebook with normal paging.
Late May to June 1844 1844 K. Marx, Arbeitslohn; Gewinn des Capitals; Grundrente; [Entfremdete Arbeit und Privateigentum] A 7 Large-format notebook with pages in three and two columns. The material consists of quotations from Say, Smith,Die Bewegung der Production by Schulz, Théorie nouvelle d’économie sociale et politique by Pecqueur, Solution du problème de la population et de la substance by Loudon and Buret.
June-July 1844 J. R. MacCulloch, Discours sur l’origine, les progrès, les objets particuliers, et l’importance de l’économie politique B 21 Small-format notebook with pages in two columns. Exception is page 11, which contains a prospectus of Engels’s article.
June-July 1844 G. Prévost, Reflections du traducteur sur le système de Ricardo B 21
June-July 1844 F. Engels, Umrisse zu einer Kritik der National-ökonomie B 21
June-July 1844 A. L. C. Destutt de Tracy, Elémens d’Idéologie B 21
At latest July 1844 K. Marx, [Das Verhältnis des Privateigentums] A 8 Text written on large-format sheets in two columns.
Between July & August 1844 G. W. F., Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes A 9 (Hegel) Sheet later put together with A 9.
August 1844 K. Marx, [Privateigentum und Arbeit]; [Privateigentum und Kommunismus];[Kritik der Hegelschen Dialektik und Philosophie überhaupt]; [Privateigentum und Bedürfnisse]; [Zusätze]; [Teilung der Arbeit]; [Vorrede]; [Geld]. A 9 Large-format notebook consisting of quotations from Das entdeckte Christentum by Bauer, from Smith, Destutt de Tracy, Skarbek, J. Mill, Goethe’s Faust, Shakespeare’s Timon von Athen, plus various articles by Bauer from the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. There are also indirect references to: Engels, Say, Ricardo, Quesnay, Proudhon, Cabet, Villegardelle, Owen, Hess, Lauderdale, Malthus, Chevalier, Strauss, Feuerbach, Hegel and Weitling.
September 1844 D. Ricardo, Des principes de l’économie politique et de l’impôt B 23 Large-format notebook with pages in two or rarely three columns. First two pages, with excerpts from Senofonte, are not divided into columns.
September 1844 J. Mill, Elémens d’économie politique B 23
Summer 1844 to January 1845 E. Buret, De la misère des classes laborieuses en Angleterre et en France B 25 Small-format notebook with normal paging.
Mid-September 1844 to January 1845 P. de Boisguillebert, Le détail de la France B 26 Large-format notebook with excerpts from Boisguillebert. Normal paging, except for a few pages in two columns.
Mid-September 1844 to January 1845 P. de Boisguillebert, Dissertation sur la nature des richesses, de l’argent et des tributs B 26
Mid-September 1844 to January 1845 P. de Boisguillebert, Traité de la nature, culture, commerce et intérêt des grains B 26
Mid-September 1844 to January 1845 J. Law, Considération sur le numéraire et le commerce B 26

Mid-September 1844 to January 1845


J. Lauderdale, Recherches sur la nature et l’origine de la richesse pubblique B 22 Large-format notebook with pages in two columns[11]

1. In this essay the titles of Marx’s incomplete manuscripts, published in various editions, have been placed between square brackets.
2. See the first-hand testimony of Arnold Ruge: ‘He reads a lot, works with uncommon intensity … but does not see anything through to the end, always leaves things halfway to plunge headlong into an endless sea of books’; he works ‘until it almost makes him ill, not going to bed night after night until three or four’. (A. Ruge to L. Feuerbach, 15 May 1844, quoted and translated from Enzensberger, 1973, pp. 23-4.) ‘If Marx does not kill himself with his intemperance, pride and quite desperate work, and if communist extravagance does not annul in him any sensitivity to the simplicity and nobility of form , something should be expected to come of his endless reading and even his dialectic without a conscience. … He always wants to write about the things he has just finished reading, but then he always starts reading and taking notes again. Sooner or later, however, I think he will succeed in completing a very long and abstruse work, in which he will pour forth all the material he has heaped together’ (A. Ruge to M. Duncker, 29 August 1844, in ibid., p. 28).
3. See Paul Lafargue’s report of what Engels said about Autumn 1844: ‘Engels and Marx got into the habit of working together. Engels, who was himself extremely precise, lost patience more than once with Marx’s meticulous attitude and refusal to write a sentence if he was unable to prove it in ten different ways’ (quoted and translated from Enzensberger, 1973, p. 29.
4. On this complex relationship, see Ryazanov 1929, p. xix, which for the first time pointed out how difficult it is to establish a precise boundary between the simple books of excerpts and the notebooks that should be considered true preparatory work.
5. David McLellan, for example, is guilty of this error in McLellan 1972, pp. 210-11.
6. Although they in no way exhaust the never-ending debate on Marx’s text, the reader is referred to two of the most important works that advance these respective positions. Landshut and Mayer were the first to read it as ‘in a sense Marx’s central work … the nodal point in his entire conceptual development’, which ‘in nuce already points ahead to Capital’ (Marx 1932a, pp. xiii and v.); while the second approach is present in Althusser’s famous thesis of an ‘epistemological break’ (Althusser, 1969, pp. 33f.)
7. During this period Marx still read the British economists in French translation.
8. Marx used the epithet in The Holy Family to designate and deride Bruno Bauer and other Young Hegelians working with the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung.
9. Cf. Engels to Marx, 20 January 1845: ‘Do try and finish your political economy book, even if there’s much in it that you yourself are still dissatisfied with, it doesn’t really matter; minds are ripe and we must strike while the iron is hot’ (Marx and Engels, 1982, E—Marx 20/1/1845, p. 17).
10. On pressure from the Prussian government, the French authorities issued an expulsion order against various people around Vorwärts! Marx was forced to leave Paris on 1 February 1845.
11. The chronology includes all the study notebooks that Marx wrote during his stay in Paris from 1843 to 1845. As the exact date of composition of the notebooks is often uncertain, it has in many cases been necessary to indicate the presumed time span, with the chronological order determined by the initial point in the time span. Moreover, Marx did not compile the notebooks one after another, but in writing sometimes alternated between them (e.g., B 19 and B 24). For this reason, it has been preferable to arrange the material on the basis of the different parts of the notebooks. The notebooks containing the so-called [Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts] of 1844 (A 7, A 8 and A 9) directly indicate Marx as the author and include in square brackets the section headings not chosen by him but allocated to the text by later editors. Finally, when the fourth column (Features of Notebooks) does not specify the titles of author’s works quoted by Marx, these always correspond to the ones already mentioned in the second column (Content of Notebooks). With the exception of MH, which is held at Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsial’no-politicheskoi istorii (RGASPI) in Moscow, under the heading ‘RGASPI f1, op. 1, d. 124’, all the notebooks from this period are kept at the Internationaal Instituut voor Sociale Geschiedenis (IISG) in Amsterdam, under the heading indicated in the third column (Nachlaß) of the table.

Althusser, Louis. 1969. For Marx, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Bakunin, Michail. 1982. Ein Briefwechsel von 1843, MEGA², vol. I/2, Berlin: Dietz.
Balzac, Honoré de. 1972. The History of the Thirteen. Ferragus, Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Bauer, Bruno (ed.). 1844. Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, vol. 6, Charlottenburg: Verlag von Egbert Bauer.
Berlin, Isaiah. 1963. Karl Marx, 3rd edn., London: Oxford University Press.
Enzensberger, Hans Magnus (ed.). 1973. Gespräche mit Marx und Engels, Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.
Grandjonc, Jacques. 1974. Marx et les communistes allemands à Paris 1844, Paris: Maspero.
Löwy, Michael. 2003. The Theory of Revolution in the Young Marx, Boston: Brill, 2003.
Mandel, Ernest. 1971. The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx, London: New Left Books.
Marx, Karl. 1932a. Der historische Materialismus. Die Frühschriften. ed. by Siegfried Landshut and Jacob Peter Mayer, Leipzig: Alfred Kröner.
Marx, Karl. 1932b. Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844, MEGA I/3, Berlin: Marx-Engels-Verlag.
Marx, Karl. 1975a. ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law. Introduction’, MECW 3, Moscow: Lawrence & Wishart, pp. 3-129.
Marx, Karl. 1975b. ‘Critical Marginal Notes on the Article “The King of Prussia and Social Reform. By a Prussian”’, MECW 3, Moscow: Lawrence & Wishart, pp. 189-206.
Marx, Karl. 1975c. ‘Comments on James Mill, Élémens d’économie politique’, MECW 3, Moscow: Lawrence & Wishart, pp. 211-228.
Marx, Karl. 1975d. ‘Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844’, MECW 3, Moscow: Lawrence & Wishart, pp. 229-346.
Marx, Karl. 1981. ‘Exzerpte aus Jean Baptiste Say: Traité d’économie politique’, MEGA² IV/2, Berlin: Dietz.
Marx, Karl. 1982. ‘Ein Briefwechsel von 1843’, MEGA² vol. I/2, Berlin: Dietz.
Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich. 1975. ‘The Holy Family’, MECW 4, Moscow: Lawrence & Wishart, 1975, pp. 3-235.
Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich. 1982. Letters. October 1844 – December 1851, MECW 38, Moscow: Lawrence & Wishart.
McLellan, David. 1972 Marx before Marxism, rev. edn., Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972.
Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph. 1890. What is Property?, Humboldt Publishing Company.
Rojahn, Jürgen. 1983. ‘Marxismus – Marx – Geschichtswissenschaft. Der Fall der sog. “Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844”’, International Review of Social History, vol. XXVIII, Part 1.
Rojahn, Jürgen. 2002. ‘The Emergence of a Theory: The Importance of Marx’s Notebooks Exemplified by Those from 1844’, Rethinking Marxism, vol. 14, no. 4.
Rubel, Maximilien. 1968. ‘Introduction’ to Karl Marx, Œuvres. Economie II, Paris: Gallimard.
Ruge, Arnold. 1975. Zwei Jahre in Paris. Etudien und erinnerungen, Leipzig: Zentralantiquariat der DDR.
Ryazanov, David. 1929. ‘Einleitung’ to MEGA I/1.2, Berlin: Marx-Engels-Verlag.
Tuchscheerer, Walter. 1968. Bevor “Das Kapital” entstand, Berlin: Dietz.
von Stein, Lorenz. 1848. Der Socialismus und Communismus des heutigen Frankreichs. Ein Beitrag zur Zeitgeschichte, Leipzig: Otto Wigand.

Journal Articles

Karl Marx

In the last few years, there has been a resurgence of interest on the part of international scholars about a misunderstood author: Karl Marx. His thought, while apparently old-fashioned, in fact still remains indispensable for understanding our present moment and has finally returned to open fields of knowledge. His work, at last freed from the odious function of instrumentum regni which had served as a purposive instrument in the past, becomes the focus of a renewed interest.

The publications of the Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA²), which resumed in 1998 after the interruption that followed the collapse of the socialist countries, the reorganization of the ongoing edition of his writings, and the transfer of MEGA² headquarters to the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, are the most significant examples of this renewed interest in Marx’s work.1 Recently the important target of the publication of the fiftieth volume – the tenth from resumption of publication out of some 114 (each one being made of two books, text and critical apparatus) – was attained.

Many of the latest philological insights of the new historical-critical edition highlight a peculiar feature of Marx’s work: incompleteness. Marx left many more manuscripts than printed writings. This was also the case for Capital, whose entire publication, including all the preparatory works from 1857 onwards, will only finally be brought to its accomplishment in the second section of MEGA2 in 2009.

After Marx’s death, Engels was the first to tackle the challenging enterprise – given the dispersion of the materials, the oddity of Marx’s language, and the illegibility of his handwriting – of publishing the fragmentary Nachlass of his friend. This series of difficulties is especially apparent in the third book of Capital,2 the only one to which Marx was unable, even roughly, to provide a definitive form. The intense editing activity on which Engels focused his efforts in the period between 1885–1894 resulted in a transition from a very rough text, mainly comprising “thoughts recorded in statu nascendi” and preliminary notes, to an organic text of a systematic economic theory. Not surprisingly, this resulted in many errors of interpretation.

Of greater interest, in this respect, is the preceding volume.3 In fact, it contains Marx’s last six manuscripts, spread over the period 1871 – 1882, for the third book of Capital. The most important of these manuscripts is the voluminous Mehrwertrate und Profitrate mathematisch behandelt of 1875, as well as the texts added by Engels in his editorial capacity. These particular manuscripts depict, with unequivocal exactitude, the course traversed by them up to their published version and, throwing into sharp relief the number of interventions in the text – far greater than had till now been hypothesized – they allow us to understand the strengths and weaknesses of Engels in his role as editor. As additional confirmation of the value of this book, it is worth emphasizing that 45 of the 51 texts in this book are published here for the first time.

Philological research of the MEGA2 has also produced important results for the first section, which includes the writings, the articles, and the drafts of Marx and Engels (the texts are presented in the original language as written by the two authors). Two volumes were published recently. The first4 includes two hundred articles and drafts, drawn up by the two authors in 1855 for the New York Tribune and the Neue Oder-Zeitung of Breslau. Various supplementary studies have made it possible to add another 21 texts (which had not been attributed to the two authors as they were published anonymously in the important American Daily), hence as belonging to their most famous writings on European politics and diplomacy, on the international economic crisis, and on the Crimean War; the second volume5 presents some of Engels’s later writings.

The volume contains projects and notes, including the manuscript Rolle der Gewalt in der Geschichte, but without the comments of Bernstein, who had been its first editor; addresses to the organization of the workers’ movement; and a series of prefaces to reprints of writings and articles already published. Among these latter, of particular interest are Die auswärtige Politik des russischen Zarentums, the history of two centuries of Russian foreign politics published in Die Neue Zeit but then forbidden by Stalin in 1934, and Juristen-Sozialismus, written with Kautsky, whose paternity of individual parts is, for the first time, recognized with certainty.

There are also interesting developments in the third section of the new historical-critical edition, which contains the correspondence. The main theme in a recently published volume6 is Marx’s political activity within the International Working Men’s Association, which was set up in London on September 28, 1864. The letters document Marx’s activity in the first years of life of the association, in which he rapidly took on an ever-growing role, and attest to his attempt to combine his public commitment – that after 16 years saw him again on the front lines – with his scientific work. Among the issues debated: the role of trade unions whose importance Marx emphasized by pitting himself, at once, against Lassalle and his proposal to set up cooperatives funded by the Prussian State: “the working class is either revolutionary or nothing”; the polemic against the Owenist Weston, that resulted in the cycle of lectures which were to be collected in 1898, after his death, in Value, Price and Profit; the remarks on the Civil War in the United States; Engels’s booklet The Prussian Military Question and the German Workers’ Party.

The other recent volume of correspondence7 has as its background the economic recession of 1857. This crisis sparked Marx’s hope for a resumption of the revolutionary movement after the stalemate following from the defeat of 1848: “the crisis has been burrowing away like the good old mole it is.” This expectation resulted in a resurgence of Marx’s intellectual productivity and pushed him to delineate the contours of his economic theory “before the déluge,” for which he hoped, but which was again unrealized. It was just in this period that Marx composed the last notebooks of his Grundrisse8 – a privileged standpoint from which to observe the evolution of the conception of the author – and decided to publish his work in instalments, the first of which, Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, appeared in June 1859.

From a personal point of view this phase was marked by a “gangrened misery”: “I don’t suppose anyone has ever written about ‘money’ when so short of the stuff.” We see Marx fighting desperately despite his precarious situation to complete his “Economics”: “I have got to pursue my object through thick and thin and not allow bourgeois society to turn me into a money-making machine.” Nevertheless, though dedicated to completing the second instalment, Marx was never able to bring it to an end and the first book of Capital was only published in 1867. The remain- ing part of his immense project, despite the systematic character it is often given, would only be realized in part and it would remain extraordinarily full of abandoned manuscripts, provisional drafts, and unaccomplished projects.

Faithful companion and damnation of the entire literary production of Marx, this incompleteness is naturally also evident in his early works. The first number of the new series of “Marx-Engels-Jahrbuch,”9 which is entirely devoted to The German Ideology, proves this irrefutably. This book – which anticipates volume I/5 of MEGA2, whose publication is expected in 2008 – contains parts of the manuscript rightly attributed to Moses Hess and, unlike the publications issued so far, will include the papers of Marx and Engels just as they were left by their authors, i.e. without any attempt at reconstruction.

The parts included in the yearbook correspond to “chapters”1 Feuerbach and 2 Sankt Bruno. The seven manuscripts that survived the “gnawing criticism of the mice” are collected as independent texts and put in chronological order. The uneven nature of this text is readily inferred from this edition. In particular, the chapter on Feuerbach is far from complete. Yet on the whole, this volume helps to establish reliable bases for further research on the elaboration of Marx’s thought. The German Ideology, which is sometimes even considered as an exhaustive presentation of Marx’s materialistic conception, has now been put back to its original fragmentary character.

Finally, always as far as the young Marx is concerned, it is worthwhile signalling the re-edition of the collection of Marx’s early works by the social democratic scholars Landshut and Mayer.10 This edition, published in 1932 at the same time as the “first” MEGA, provided the dissemination of the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and the German Ideology, till then unpublished, despite a number of errors regarding the content and the arrangement of the different parts of the texts and a bad deciphering of the original version.

After many seasons marked by deep and reiterated incomprehension of Marx, resulting from the attempted systematization of his critical theory – given its originally incomplete and non-systematic character– by the conceptual impoverishment which has accompanied its popularization, by the manipulation and censorship of his writings, and the instrumental use of the same for political purposes, the incompleteness of his work stands out with an indiscrete charm, unobstructed by the interpretations which had earlier deformed it, even manifestly becoming its negation.

From this incompleteness re-emerges the richness of a problematic and polymorphous thought and of a horizon whose distance the Marx Forschung (the research on Marx) has still so many paths to travel.


John Hoffman, Science and Society

Each day brings speculation as to whether the economic crisis sweeping the globe will plunge society into the depths of a depression comparable to that of 1929-31. It is ironic that, since the collapse of the Communist Party states almost 20 years ago, Marxism has been largely cast aside and yet today we face an economic crisis of epic proportions.

All this makes the publication of a volume on the Grundrisse extremely
timely. As Eric Hobsbawm (who did much to popularize parts of the Grundrisse) comments in his foreword, this volume appears at a time when the world appears to demonstrate the perspicacity of Marx’s insight into the capitalist system (xxiii).
The Grundrisse was unknown to Marxists for over half a century after
 Marx’s death (xx). The original German edition was published in 1939 – 41

The Grundrisse provides a guide to the full range of the treatise of which Capital is only a fraction. It is the only text which deals with the communist future. Hobsbawm endorses the description that this is “Marx’s thought at
its richest” (xxiii)
This collection marks the 150th anniversary of its composition.

Marx’s “Introduction” (the part of the Grundrisse is better known than the rest) is justly famed for its stress upon the individual as a social being and for its exposition
of abstraction, both in its negative and positive senses. Capitalism, Marx
stresses is historically specific: it is not natural or eternal. Marcello Musto examines Marx’s famous method of moving from the abstract to the concrete (17): the historical, he comments, is decisive for the understanding
of reality, while the logical makes it possible to conceive history as something other than a flat chronology of events (21).Terrell Carver addresses the 
debate about alienation (remember Althusser and his attack on humanism), while Ellen Meiksins Wood talks about the problems posed by more recent scholarship for Marx’s discussion of the “forms which precede capitalist production” (77).

John Bellamy Foster convincingly shows how the Grundrisse
is full of acknowledgements of nature’s limits (96), and Moishe Postone
argues that the Grundrisse could provide a point of departure for “a reinvigorated critical analysis,” given the weaknesses of post-Marxist discourses
like postmodernism and poststructuralism (121).

Musto depicts graphically the grim social circumstances in which the
 Grundrisse written, with poverty, disease and childhood deaths afficating
 the Marx household (153). The book was spurred on by the world economic
 crisis of 1857-8 which started with a banking crisis in New York. Michael R. Kratke looks at Marx’s unpublished notebooks on the crisis (171). It is likely
 that Engels himself had never read the Grundrisse: it was discovered by Ryazanov of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow in 1923.

1. Few of the 3,000 copies published in 1939 crossed the Soviet frontiers.
 Martin Nicolaus declared in his translation in 1973 that the work “challenges and puts to the test every serious interpretation of Marx yet conceived” (183). He also argued that it was the only text to give a complete account of Marx’s theory, providing (unlike Capital) a theory of breakdown (250).
 The book contains detailed accounts of the reception of the Grundrisse in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Russia and the Soviet Union, Japan, China, France, Italy, Cuba, Argentina, Spain and Mexico, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Britain, the USA, Australia and Canada, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Iran. Poland, Finland, Greece, Turkey. South Korea, Brazil and Portugal. 
Not all the commentaries are entirely reliable. For example, Horoschi
Uchida argues that the Grundrisse overcame “determinist misconceptions of his [Marx’s] theory” (213), and one could well object to the use of the term “determinism” to mean a mechanistic rather than a dialectical approach. But in general, this is a very worthwhile book – full of astute comments that help to refresh and revive Marxist theory in difficult days.


Feiyi Zhang, International Socialism

The current global financial meltdown highlights the need to both grasp and apply Karl Marx’s analysis of the crisis-prone and exploitative capitalist economy.

The Grundrisse is a manuscript in which Marx elaborated his plan for his major work, Capital, and developed his understanding of the central characteristics of capitalism.

This collection of essays, edited by Marcello Musto, reappraises the Grundrisse and considers some of the questions that Marx himself explored, such as the relationship between the “financial” and “real” economy, the development of capitalism as a global system and the resulting possibility of global crisis.

The first such global economic crisis, in 1857_8, inspired Marx to write the Grundrisse. As Michael R Krätke writes, “This time, the crisis was no longer a local affair but was bound to affect the whole world market; this time, the crisis was to become an industrial crisis exceeding all preceding crises in scale and scope.” Marx understood the imperative that drove the capitalist system to spread to all corners of the globe in search of markets and, along with that, the propensity for crises to spread across the globe.

Krätke sets out Marx’s explanation of the interaction between the different aspects of the crisis: “While the monetary crisis in London was easing off, the commercial and industrial crisis was gaining momentum and led to ‘an industrial breakdown in the manufacturing districts’ without precedence. All the export markets for British industry were now heavily overstocked, the commercial crisis, the ever growing number of failures and bankruptcies among the merchants and bankers began to hit back upon the industrial producers and the financial and monetary crisis was spreading from one of the financial centres of the capitalist world to the other.”

The relationship between finance and the core of the system is critical to understanding the current crisis. Marx’s criticism of the failures of mainstream economists in 1857 is just as apt today: “Experts had failed to disclose the laws which rule the crises of the world market and had ignored its periodical and cyclical character…[by allowing] particular features of this new crisis to overshadow those elements that all crises of the capitalist world economy have in common they have failed to grasp both”. Krätke argues that financial crisis must be studied through an analysis of the dynamics of the system as a whole.

An issue that could have been further developed in the collection is Marx’s analysis of the role of credit. This has added relevance today because the recent collapse of the US housing bubble occurred in the wake of over a decade of speculative bubbles fuelled by cheap credit.

In the Grundrisse Marx argued that circulation is intimately linked to the production process itself, as a product’s value can only be realised when it is a commodity on the market. However, it is down to chance whether the different processes within the circuit of capital interrelate smoothly to realise profit for capital and enable renewal of the capital accumulation cycle.

Here credit plays a contradictory role. It can temporarily extend the possibilities for capital to expand by allowing capitalists to borrow more money than they could individually accumulate. Yet the recent surge in financial speculation shows how this can worsen the crisis precisely because it spreads it across both the financial and productive sectors of the economy. This can directly limit the productive process itself, as is currently taking place.

Marx’s view that credit facilitates capitalism, and also potentially delays the onset of deeper crisis, runs counter to an argument by Iring Fetscher in this collection. Fetscher argues, “Globalised capitalism has succeeded in counteracting ‘the tendential decline in the profit rate’ over so long a term that its effects have to all intents and purposes been neutralised.” However, the Grundrisse itself is an argument about the applicability, indeed the centrality, of the law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Slow growth in profit rates since the mid-1980s has been achieved largely by holding down workers’ wages and recently by achieving profits through cheap credit and financial speculation. However, as we can see now, such speculation only delays the onset of even deeper crisis.

The current economic crisis has been driven by the core dynamic of capitalism—competition for profit. The tendency for the rate of profit to fall explains why this process is itself contradictory. Competition between individual capitalists results in increasing investment in constant capital, such as machinery, rather than value_adding human labour, decreasing the general rate of profit over time.

Joachim Bischoff and Christoph Lieber relate Marx’s understanding of competition in the Grundrisse to contemporary neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is a contemporary manifestation of the idea that capitalism provides individual freedom through competition. Yet in reality, instead of individuals being set free, neoliberalism seeks to break down any barriers to profit, extolling unregulated competition between capitalists and attempting to justify increased exploitation of wage labour. The political contradictions of the neoliberal form of capitalism, exposed in the crisis, provide arguments against a system based on the need to intensify exploitation.

This collection also considers how, in many areas of the world from the US to Italy to Australia, the translation, publication and interest in the Grundrisse in the 1970s was fuelled by a thirst for radical knowledge to understand a divided world in crisis. Marx’s work is best appreciated not only as a thorough explanation of our system but also as the means by which to develop arguments for struggle against it. As recession once again spreads across the global economy, this re-evaluation of the Grundrisse is a useful contribution to develop and consolidate arguments for a socialist society, free from the contradictions and exploitation that Marx demonstrated are fundamental features of capitalism.

Journal Articles

Dissemination and Reception of the Manifesto of the Communist Party in Italy

I. Prologue
Owing to theoretical disputes or political events, interest in Marx’s work has never been consistent and has experienced indisputable periods of decline. From the ‘crisis of Marxism’ to the dissolution of the Second International, from the discussions about the limits of the theory of surplus value to the tragedy of Soviet communism, criticism of the ideas of Marx always seemed to point beyond the conceptual horizon of Marxism.

Yet there has always been a ‘return to Marx’. A new need develops to refer to his work, whether the critique of political economy or the formulations on alienation or the brilliant pages of political polemic, and it continues to exercise an irresistible fascination on both followers and opponents. Pronounced dead at the end of the twentieth century, Marx has now suddenly reappeared on the stage of history: there is a rekindling of interest in his thought, and the dust is ever more frequently brushed off his books in the libraries of Europe, the United States and Japan.

The rediscovery of Marx [1] is based on his continuing capacity to explain the present; indeed, his thought remains an indispensable instrument with which to understand and transform it. In face of the crisis of capitalist society and the profound contradictions that traverse it, an author overhastily dismissed after 1989 is once more being taken up and interrogated. Thus, Jacques Derrida’s assertion that ‘it will always be a fault not to read and reread and discuss Marx’ [2] – which only a few years ago seemed an isolated provocation – has found increasing approval. Since the late 1990s, newspapers, periodicals and TV or radio programmes have repeatedly discussed Marx as being the most relevant thinker for our times. The first article of this kind that had a certain resonance was ‘The Return of Karl Marx’, published in The New Yorker. [3] Then it was the turn of the BBC, which conferred on him the crown of the greatest thinker of the millennium. A few years later, the weekly Nouvel Observateur devoted a whole issue to the theme Karl Marx – le penseur du troisième millénaire? (Karl Marx – the thinker of the third millennium). [4] Soon after, Germany paid its tribute to the man once forced into exile for 40 years: in 2004, more than 500,000 viewers of the national television station ZDF voted Marx the third most important German personality of all time (he was first in the category of ‘contemporary relevance’), and during the last national elections the famous magazine Der Spiegel carried his image on the cover, giving the victory sign, under the title Ein Gespenst kehrt zurück (A spectre is back). [5] Completing this curious collection, a poll conducted in 2005 by the radio station BBC4 gave Marx the accolade of the philosopher most admired by its British listeners.

Furthermore, the literature dealing with Marx, which all but dried up 15 years ago, is showing signs of revival in many countries, both in the form of new studies and in booklets in various languages with titles such as Why Read Marx Today? Journals are increasingly open to contributions on Marx and Marxism, just as there are now international conferences, university courses and seminars on the theme. Finally, although timid and often confused in form, a new demand for Marx is also making itself felt in politics – from Latin America to Europe, passing through the alternative globalization movement.

Once again the text of Marx’s that commands the greatest attention among readers and commentators is the Manifesto of the Communist Party, printed in dozens of new editions in every corner of the planet, even after 1989, and celebrated not only as the most widely read political text in history but also as the most prescient analysis of the tendencies of capitalism. [6] For this reason, on this hundred and sixtieth anniversary of its composition in 1848, it may be of interest to trace the vicissitudes of its early dissemination in one of the countries where it has known the greatest success: Italy.

II. Karl Marx: The Italian misunderstanding
In Italy Marx’s theories have enjoyed extraordinary popularity. Inspiring parties, trade unions and social movements, they have influenced like no other the transformation of national political life. Circulating in every field of science and culture, they have irreversibly altered their direction and their very vocabulary. Contributing to a new self-awareness on the part of subaltern classes, they have been the main theoretical instrument in the process of emancipation of millions of men and women.

The level of dissemination that they attained in Italy has parallels in few other countries. It is therefore essential to enquire into the reasons for this. When did people talk for the first time of ‘Carlo Marx’? When did this name appear in journals beneath the first translated texts? When did his reputation spread in the collective imagination of socialist workers and militants? And, above all, in which ways and in which circumstances did his thought establish a presence in Italy?

The very first translations of Marx – who was almost completely unknown during the revolutionary upheavals of 1848 – appeared only in the second half of the 1860s. But they were few and far between, and related only to the ‘Address’ and the ‘Statutes’ of the International Working Men’s Association. This lag was partly due to the isolation of Marx and Engels in Italy, since, despite their fascination for its history and culture and their demonstrations of interest in its contemporary reality, they had no correspondents there until 1860, and no real political relations until 1870.

The first signs of interest in the figure of Marx appeared in connection with the revolutionary experience of the Paris Commune. Within just a few weeks the national press, as well as the myriad working-class newssheets in existence, published biographical sketches of the ‘founder and general leader of the International’[7] as well as extracts from letters and political resolutions (including The Civil War in France). Even then, however, the list of published writings – which, together with those by Engels, reached a total of 85 in 1871-72 alone – exclusively concerned documents of the International; the focus of attention was initially political and only subsequently theoretical. [8] Some papers also printed fantasy descriptions that served to confer on him a mythical aura: ‘Karl Marx is an astute and courageous man in every test and trial. Lightning trips from one country to another, with continual changes of disguise, allow him to escape the surveillance of all the police spies of Europe.’ [9]

The authority that began to surround his name was as great as it was indefinite. [10] For, during this period, propaganda manuals disseminated images of Marx – or what they took to be Marx – along with those of Darwin and Spencer. [11] His thought was considered synonymous with legalism or positivism. [12] It was implausibly synthesized together with such polar opposites as the theories of Fourier, Mazzini and Bastiat. Or, in various other misunderstandings, his figure was compared to those of Garibaldi[13] or Schäffle. [14]

Nor did this rough acquaintance with Marx express itself in a rallying to his political positions. Italian supporters of the International sided almost unanimously with Bakunin against Marx, whose formulations remained virtually unknown, and the conflict within the International was perceived more as a personal dispute between the two men than as a theoretical contest. [15]

It was easy for anarchist ideas to establish hegemony over the following decade, in a country marked by the absence of modern industrial capitalism, a low density of workers in the population and a lively tradition of conspiracy bound up with the recent revolution. Thus, Marx’s theoretical analyses only slowly asserted themselves in the ranks of the workers’ movement. Paradoxically they first became more widespread through the anarchists themselves, who fully shared the theories of class struggle and workers’ self-emancipation contained in the ‘Statutes’ and ‘Addresses’ of the International. In this way they continued to publish Marx, often in polemics with a verbally revolutionary, but in practice legalistic and ‘revisionist’ socialism. The most important initiative was certainly the publication in 1879 of a compendium from Volume One of Capital, put together by Carlo Cafiero. It was the first time that Marx’s major theoretical concepts began to circulate in Italy, albeit in a popularized form.

III. The Eighties and ‘Marxism’ without Marx
Marx’s writings were not translated during the 1880s either. With the exception of a few articles in the Socialist press, all that appeared were two works by Engels (Socialism, Utopian and Scientific in 1883 and The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State in 1885); and even these were in tiny editions, reliant on the stubborn and virtuous work of the Socialist from Benevento, Pasquale Martignetti. On the other hand, major parts of the official culture began to take an interest in Marx, showing fewer inhibitions in this respect than their counterparts in Germany. On the initiative of top publishers and academics, the highly prestigious Biblioteca dell’Economista – which Marx had consulted several times in his research at the British Museum – published the first volume of Capital in instalments between 1882 and 1884, and then as a single volume in 1886. One indication of the vacuity of the Italian Socialist movement is that this initiative, the sole translation of the work until after the Second World War, became known to Marx only two months before his death – and to Engels only in 1893!

For all the many limitations, as briefly described above, ‘Marxism’ did begin to circulate during this period. Yet, because of the tiny number of translations of Marx and the difficulty of tracking them down, the dissemination almost never took place on the basis of original sources, but rather through indirect references, second-hand quotations, or compendia hastily assembled and published by a host of epigones and ostensible continuators. [16]

A veritable cultural osmosis developed during these years, involving not only the various conceptions of socialism present in Italy but also ideologies that had nothing in common with socialism. Researchers, political agitators and journalists created their own hybrids by crossing socialism with all manner of theoretical ideas at their disposal. [17] And, if ‘Marxism’ rapidly asserted itself over other doctrines, partly owing to the lack of an indigenous Italian socialism, the outcome of this cultural homogenization was the birth of an impoverished and deformed Marxism. A passe-partout Marxism. Above all, a ‘Marxism’ ignorant of Marx, given that the Italian socialists who had read any of his original texts could still be counted on the fingers of one hand. [18]

Though elementary and impure, determinist and functionally tied to the political circumstances of the time, this ‘Marxism’ was still able to confer an identity on the labour movement, to assert itself within the Partito dei Lavoratori Italiani [Italian Workers’ Party] founded in 1892, and eventually to establish an hegemony within Italian culture and scholarship.

As to the Manifesto of the Communist Party, there was still no trace of it until the end of the 1880s. Yet together with its main interpreter, Antonio Labriola, it would come to play an important role in the break from the adulterated Marxism that had characterized the situation in Italy. Before turning to this , however, it is necessary to take a step back.

IV. The first editions of the Manifesto in Italy
The original preface to the Manifesto of the Communist Party in 1848 announced that it would be published in ‘English, French, German, Italian, Flemish and Danish’. [19] In reality, this ambition was not fulfilled. Or, better said, the Manifesto became one of the most widely disseminated texts in the history of humanity, but not in accordance with the plans of its two authors.

The first attempt to ‘have the Manifesto translatedinto Italian and Spanish’ was undertaken in Paris by Hermann Ewerbeck, a leading member of the League of Communists in the French capital. [20] But, despite Marx’s mistaken reference some years later in Herr Vogt to the existence of an Italian edition, the project never came to fruition. [21] The only planned translation that was actually executed was the English one of 1850, which had been preceded by the Swedish one of 1848. Subsequently, following the defeat of the revolutions of 1848-49, the Manifesto sank into oblivion. The only new editions were in German (two in the 1850s, three in the 1860s), and it was necessary to wait twenty years for new translations to appear. A Russian version went to the printers in 1869, and a Serbian in 1871, while the first American edition came out in New York in 1871 and the first French translation in 1872. The first Spanish translation also appeared in 1872, followed the next year by a Portuguese version of the same. [22]

During that period the Manifesto was still unknown in Italy. The first brief exposition, consisting of summaries and extracts of the text, saw the light of day only in 1875, in Vito Cusumano’s work Le scuole economiche della Germania in rapporto alla questione sociale (The economic schools of Germany with regard to the social question). Here we read that, ‘from the point of view of the proletariat, this programme is as important as the Déclaration des droits des homme is for the bourgeoisie: it is one of the most important events of the nineteenth century, one of those that characterize a century, giving it a name and a direction’. [23] There were few references to the Manifesto in the following years – although in 1883 it was quoted in a number of articles reporting Marx’s death. The socialist broadsheet La Plebe spoke of it asone ‘of the fundamental documents of contemporary socialism … a symbol of the majority of the socialist proletariat in the West and North America’. [24] The bourgeois daily Gazzetta Piemontese, for its part, presented Marx as author of the ‘famous Manifesto of the Communists, which became the banner of militant socialism, the catechism of the dispossessed, the gospel by which the German workers and a majority of English workers voted, swore and fought.’ [25] Notwithstanding such appreciations, however, it was still necessary to wait for an Italian edition.

In 1885, after receiving a copy of the Manifesto from Engels, Martignetti completed a translation of the work – but lack of money meant that it was never published. The first translation finally appeared, forty years late, only in 1889, by which time there had already been 21 editions in German, 12 in Russian, 11 in French, 8 in English, 4 in Spanish, 3 in Danish (the first in 1884), 2 in Swedish, and 1 each in Portuguese, Czech (1882), Polish (1883), Norwegian (1886) and Yiddish (1889). The Italian text was printed with the title Manifesto dei socialisti redatto da Marx e Engels (Manifesto of the Socialists, written by Marx and Engels), in ten instalments between August and November in the Cremona-based democratic paper L’Eco del popolo . But the quality of this version was very poor; the prefaces by Marx and Engels were missing, as was the third section (‘Socialist and communist literature’), and various other parts were either omitted or summarized. Leonida Bissolati’s translation, which used the German edition of 1883 but also drew on Laura Lafargue’s French version of 1885, simplified the most complicated expressions. Altogether, then, it was not so much a translation as a popularization of the text, with only a number of passages actually rendered into Italian. [26].

The second Italian edition, and the first to appear in brochure form, arrived in 1891. The translation (based on the French version of 1885 published in Paris by Le Socialiste) and the preface were the work of the anarchist Pietro Gori. But the text lacked the preamble and had a number of egregious errors. The publisher, Flaminio Fantuzzi, who was also close to anarchist positions, presented Engels with a fait accompli, and Engels, in a letter to Martignetti, expressed his particular annoyance at the ‘prefatory remarks by the unknown character Gori’. [27]

The third Italian translation came out in 1892, as a supplement to the Milan magazine Lotta di classe. Presenting itself as the ‘first and only translation of the Manifesto that is not a betrayal’, [28] it was based by Pompeo Bettini on the German edition of 1883. It too contained mistakes and simplified a number of passages, but it established its definite superiority over other versions and was republished many times in the years until 1926; it thus started the process of shaping Marxist terminology in Italy. In 1893 it appeared as a brochure in a thousand copies, with a number of corrections and stylistic improvements and an indication that ‘the complete version [had been] made on the basis of the 5th German edition (Berlin 1891)’. [29] In 1896 this was reprinted in two thousand copies. The text contained the prefaces of 1872, 1883 and 1890, translated by Filippo Turati, director of Critica Sociale (then the main journal of Italian socialism), as well as a special notice ‘To the Italian reader’ that he had managed to secure from Engels so that it could be differentiated from previous versions. This Italian preface was the last to be written by either of the Manifesto ’s two authors.

Two further editions that appeared in the following years based themselves decisively on Bettini’s version, though without acknowledging the translator. The first, which lacked the preface and the third section, was designed to make the Manifesto available in a cheap popular edition. Promoted by the Era Nuova journal for the 1st of May 1897, it appeared in Diano Marina (in Liguria) in eight thousand copies. The second, stripped of the prefaces, came out in Florence in 1901 at the Nerbini publishing house.

V. The Manifesto between the end of the Nineteenth Century and the fascist period
In the 1890s the dissemination of the writings of Marx and Engels experienced a major advance. A consolidation of editorial structures in what had become the Partito Socialista Italiano (Italian Socialist Party), together with the work of numerous journals and smaller publishing houses and the cooperation of Engels with Critica Sociale, were all circumstances favouring greater knowledge of Marx’s writings. But this was not enough to stem the process of distortion that went together with it. Attempts to combine Marx’s ideas with the most disparate theories were common to both ‘academic socialism’ (Kathedersozialismus) and the workers’ movement, whose theoretical contributions, though by now of significant dimensions, were still marked by a perfunctory acquaintance with Marx’s texts.

Marx’s reputation was beyond dispute, but he was still not regarded as primus inter pares among the mass of socialists at the time. Above all, he had had very poor interpreters of his thought, a good example of them all being Achille Loria, ‘the most socialist, most Marxist of the Italian economists’,[30] who corrected and perfected a Marx with whom no one was sufficiently familiar to say in what way he had been corrected or perfected. As Loria is well known from Engels’s description of him in his preface to Volume Three of Capital – ‘unlimited impudence, combined with an eel-like flair for slipping out of impossible situations; heroic contempt for kicks received, hasty appropriation of other people’s achievements…’ [31] – an anecdote that Benedetto Croce told of him in 1896 may serve to give a better idea of the falsification suffered by Marx. In 1867, in Naples, on the occasion of the founding of the first Italian section of the International, an unknown foreign individual, ‘very tall and very blond, with the manners of the old conspirators and a mysterious way of speaking’, intervened to confirm the birth of the circle. Many years later, a Neapolitan lawyer who had been present at the meeting was still convinced that ‘the tall blond man had been Karl Marx’, [32] and it took a lot of effort to convince him of the contrary. Since many Marxian concepts were introduced into Italy by the ‘illustrious Loria’, [33] it may be concluded that the one who first became known was a distorted Marx, a Marx who was also ‘tall and blond’! [34]

This state of affairs changed only through the work of Antonio Labriola, who was the first genuinely to introduce Marx’s thought in Italy, rather than interpreting, updating or ‘completing’ it with the help of other authors. [35] The key text here was the Saggi sulla concezione materialistica della storia [Essays on the materialist conception of history], published by Labriola between 1895 and 1897, of which the first, ‘In memoria del Manifesto dei comunisti’, focused precisely on the genesis of the Manifesto; Engels’s endorsement of it, shortly before his death, [36] meant that it became the most important commentary and official interpretation from the ‘Marxist’ side.

Many of Italy’s limitations could be confronted in this way. According to Labriola, the revolution ‘cannot originate in the uprising of a mass leda few, but it must be, and will be, the work of the proletarians themselves’. [37] ‘Critical communism’ – which, for the Neapolitan philosopher, was the best term to describe the theories of Marx and Engels – ‘does not manufacture revolutions, it does not prepare insurrections, it does not furnish arms for revolts…. In a word it is not a seminary in which superior officers of the proletarian revolution are trained, but it is neither more nor less than the consciousness of this revolution.’[38] TheManifesto, then, is not ‘the handbook of the proletarian revolution’, [39] but rather the instrument to expose the ingenuousness of a socialism that thinks itself possible ‘without revolution, that is to say, without a fundamental change in the general elementary structure of society’. [40]

In Labriola the Italian workers’ movement finally had a theoretician who, at one and the same time, could bestow scientific dignity on socialism, penetrate and reinvigorate the national culture, and compete at the same level with the summits of European philosophy and Marxism. Yet the rigour of his Marxism, problematic with regard to immediate political circumstances and critical of theoretical compromises, also gave it a non-topical character.

At the cusp of the two centuries, the publication of Giovanne Gentile’s La filosofia di Marx (a book which, Lenin later wrote, ‘deserves attention’[41]), Croce’s writings announcing the ‘death of socialism’ [42] and the militant political texts of Francesco Saverio Merlino and Antonio Graziadei caused the wind of the ‘crisis of Marxism’ to blow in Italy too. Unlike in Germany, however, there was no ‘orthodox’ Marxist current in the Italian Socialist Party: the battle was fought out between two ‘revisionisms’, one reformist, the other revolutionary-syndicalist. [43]

In this same period, from 1899 to 1902, a new burst of translations gave Italian readers access to much of the work of Marx and Engels that was then available. This was the context in which a new translation of the Manifesto appeared as an appendix to the third edition of Labriola’s ‘In memoria del Manifesto dei comunisti’; it would be the last version in Italy until the end of the Second World War. Attributed by some to Labriola himself and by others to his wife, Rosalia Carolina De Sprenger, it presented a number of inaccuracies and omissions and was not used in many other editions of the text.

Bettini’s version was thus the one most widely used until the late 1940s. It was reprinted numerous times from 1910, many editions being under the auspices of the ‘Società editrice Avanti’, the Socialist Party’s main vehicle for its propaganda; particularly worthy of note were two that appeared in 1914, the second of which also contained Engels’s Foundations of Communism. Between 1914 and 1916 (and again in 1921-22) it found its way into the first volume of Opere (Works) by Marx and Engels – a collection which, in a touch confirming the widespread confusion of the time, included as in Germany various writings by Lassalle. There followed one edition in 1917, two in 1918 with an appendix containing the 14 points of the Kienthal Conference and the Manifesto of the Zimmerwald Conference, another in 1920 (reprinted twice in 1922) in a revised translation by Gustavo Sacerdote, and a final one in 1925. In addition to these Avanti editions, seven reprintings were issued between 1920 and 1926 by smaller publishing houses.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Marxism was dismissed from the everyday practice of the Italian Socialist Party. In a famous parliamentary debate in 1911, Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti could state: ‘The Socialist Party has moderated its programme quite a lot. Karl Marx has been put away in the attic.’[44] The commentaries on Marx’s writings that shortly before had flooded the book market now dried up. And, apart from the ‘return to Marx’ in Rodolfo Mondolfo’s philosophical studies and a few other exceptions, the same trend continued in the 1910s. Meanwhile, in other quarters, the bourgeois camp had been celebrating the ‘disintegration of Marxism’, while in the Catholic church condemnations reeking of prejudice had for a very long time prevailed over attempts at analysis.

In 1922 fascist barbarism burst onto the arena, and by the following year all copies of the Manifesto were removed from public and university libraries. In 1924 all of Marx’s publications and everything associated with the workers’ movement were put on the black list. Finally, the ‘ultra-fascist’ laws of 1926 decreed the dissolution of the opposition parties and inaugurated the most tragic period of modern Italian history.

Aside from a handful of illegal typed or cyclostyled editions, the few writings by Marx published in Italian between 1926 and 1943 appeared abroad; among these were two versions of the Manifesto in France, in 1931 and 1939, and another in Moscow in 1944, in a new translation by Palmiro Togliatti. However, three separate editions of the Manifesto of the Communist Party were exceptions to the conspiracy of silence. Two of these, ‘for the use of scholars’ on advance request, came out in 1934: the first in a volume Politica ed economia edited by Robert Michels (who personally revised Bettini’s translation [45]) that also contained texts by Labriola, Loria, Pareto, Weber and Simmel; the second in Florence, in Labriola’s version, in another collective work, Le carte dei diritti, volume one of the ‘Classics of Liberalism and Socialism’ series. The third appeared in 1938, again in Labriola’s version but this time edited by Croce, as an appendix to Labriola’s essays on The Materialist Conception of History. The volume also contained Croce’s subsequently famous essay with its most explicit title: Come nacque e come morì il marxismo teorico in Italia (1895-1900) [How theoretical Marxism was born and died in Italy (1895-1900)]. But the idealist philosopher was mistaken. Italian ‘Marxism’ was not dead but only confined in Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks, which were soon to reveal all their theoretical and political value.

The liberation from fascism brought with it various new editions of the Manifesto. Provincial organizations of the Italian Communist Party, already promoting small individual publishing houses in liberated areas of southern Italy, gave a new lease of life to the text by Marx and Engels, bringing out three editions in 1943 and eight in 1944. And the phenomenon continued in the next few years, from the nine in 1945 at the end of the war to the tour de force in 1948, on its hundredth anniversary.

VI. Conclusion
This historical review clearly demonstrates how much Italy lagged behind in the publishing of the Communist Manifesto. Whereas in many countries it was the first work by Marx and Engels to appear in translation, here it came out only after a number of other writings. [46] It had a modest political influence and never directly shaped the major documents of the workers’ movement; nor was it decisive in forming the political consciousness of socialist leaders. Nevertheless, it was hugely important for scholars (the case of Labriola has been mentioned), and through its various editions it came to play an important role among the rank and file and eventually became their leading theoretical reference.

One hundred and sixty years after its first publication, studied by countless exponents, opponents and followers of Marx, the Manifesto has passed through the most diverse phases and been read in the most various ways: as a milestone of ‘scientific socialism’ or a plagiarism of Victor Considerant’s Manifeste de la démocratie; as an incendiary text guilty of fomenting class hatred in the world or a symbol of liberation for the international workers’ movement; as a classic from the past or a work looking ahead to today’s reality of ‘capitalist globalization’. Whichever interpretation one favours, one thing is certain: very few other writings in history can lay claim to such vitality and such a wide dissemination. For the Manifesto continues to be printed and talked about, in Latin America and Japan, in the United States and the whole of Europe. If the eternal youth of a text consists in its knowing how to grow old, or in being ever capable of stimulating new ideas, then it may be said that the Manifesto most certainly possesses this virtue.

1. See Marcello Musto, ‘The rediscovery of Karl Marx’, International Review of Social History, 2007, no. 52/3, pp. 477-498.
2. Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx, London : Routledge, 1994, p. 13.
3. John Cassidy, ‘The Return of Karl Marx’, The New Yorker, October 20/27 1997, pp. 248-59.
4. Le Nouvel Observateur , October/November 2003.
5. Der Spiegel , 22 August 2005.
6. See, in particular, Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Introduction’ to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, London: Verso, 1998.
7. ‘Carlo Marx capo supremo dell’Internazionale’, Il proletario Italiano (Turin), 27 July 1871.
8. See Roberto Michels, Storia del marxismo in Italia, Luigi Mongini Editore, Roma 1909, p. 15, which emphasizes that ‘at first it was the political Marx who gradually impelled Italians to occupy themselves with the scientific Marx too’.
9. ‘Carlo Marx capo supremo dell’Internazionale’, op. cit.
10. Cf. Renato Zangheri, Storia del socialismo italiano, vol. 1, Turin: Einaudi, 1993, p. 338.
11. One example is the manual by Oddino Morgari, L’arte della propaganda socialista, Florence: Libr. Editr. Luigi Contigli, 1908 (2nd edn.), p. 15. This suggested that Party propagandists should use a method of instruction in which the reading of a summary of Darwin and Spencer first gave students a general idea of modern thought, and Marx then joined the ‘magnificent triad’ that worthily completed the ‘gospel of contemporary socialists’. See Roberto Michels, Storia del marxismo in Italia, op. cit., p. 102.
12. See the widely read book by Enrico Ferri, Socialism and Positive Science (Darwin – Spencer – Marx), London: Independent Labour Party, 1905 [1894]. In the preface the author writes: ‘I intend to prove how Marxist socialism … is nothing but the fruitful practical completion, in social life, of the modern scientific revolution … brought about and given an orderly form by Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer’ (p. xi; translation modified).
13. See, for example, the letter from the ‘Democratic Association of Macerata’ to Marx, 22 December 1871. This organization proposed Marx as an ‘honorary triumvir together with Citizens Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe Mazzini’: in Del Bo (ed.), op. cit., p. 166. In reporting this to Wilhelm Liebknecht, on 2 January 1872, Engels wrote: ‘A society in Macerata, in the Romagna, has nominated as its three honorary presidents: Garibaldi, Marx and Mazzini. Only Bakunin’s name is needed and the mess is complete.’ Marx Engels Collected Works [hereafter MECW], vol. 44, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1989, p. 289; Marx-Engels Werke [hereafterMEW] 33, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1966, p. 368.
14. See Roberto Michels, Storia del marxismo in Italia, op. cit., p. 101, which states that ‘ín many people’s eyes Schäffle counted as the most genuine of all the Marxists’.
15. Cf. Paolo Favilli, Storia del marxismo italiano. Dalle origini alla grande guerra, Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2000 (1996), p. 50.
16. Cf. Roberto Michels, Storia critica del movimento socialista italiano. Dagli inizi fino al 1911, op. cit., p. 135, which asserts that in Italy Marxism, ‘in the case of nearly all its followers, sprang not from profound knowledge of the master’s scientific works but from scattered contact with some of his minor political writings and some compendium of economics, often – which is the worst – via his epigones in German Social Democracy’.
17. Cf. Antonio Labriola, Socialism and Philosophy, St. Louis: Telos Press, 1980, p. 120: ‘Many [in Italy] who claimed that in Italy ‘many of those who embrace socialism, and not merely as simple agitators, lecturers and candidates, feel that it is impossible to accept it as a scientific conviction, unless it can be combined in some way with the rest of that genetic conception of things, which lies more or less at the bottom of all other sciences. This accounts for the mania of many to bring within the scope of socialism all the rest of science which is at their disposal.’
18. Cf. Roberto Michels, Storia del marxismo in Italia, op. cit., p. 99.
19. Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, Manifesto of the Communist Party, MECW 6, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1976, p. 481; MEW 4, p. 461.
20. See Friedrich Engels to Karl Marx, 25 April 1848, MECW 38, London: Lawrence & Wishart, p. 1982, p. 173; MEGA² III/2, p. 153.
21. See Karl Marx, Herr Vogt, MECW 17, London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1981, p. 80; MEGA² I/18, p. 107.
22. On the bibliography and publishing history of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, see the indispensable Bert Andréas, Le Manifeste Communiste de Marx et Engels, Milan: Feltrinelli, 1963.
23. Vito Cusumano, Le scuole economiche della Germania in rapporto alla questione sociale, Giuseppe Marghieri Editore, Prato 1875, p. 278.
24. La Plebe (Milan), April 1883, No. 4.
25. Dall’Enza, ‘Carlo Marx e il socialismo scientifico e razionale’, Gazzetta Piemontese (Turin), 22 March 1883.
26. Cf. Bert Andréas, op. cit., p. 145.
27. Friedrich Engels to Pasquale Martignetti, 2 April 1891, in MEW 38, p. 72.
28. Lotta di classe ( Milan), I/8, 17-18 September 1892.
29. Carlo Marx/Friedrich Engels, Il Manifesto del Partito Comunista, Milan: Uffici della Critica Sociale, 1893, p. 2.
30. Filippo Turati to Achille Loria, 26 December 1890, in ‘Appendice’ to Paolo Favilli, Il socialismo italiano e la teoria economica di Marx (1892-1902), Naples: Bibliopolis, 1980, pp. 181-2.
31. Friedrich Engels, ‘Preface’ to Karl Marx, Capital Volume 3, London: Penguin/NLR, 1981, p. 109.
32. Benedetto Croce, Materialismo storico ed economia marxistica, Naples: Bibliopolis, 2001, p. 65.
33. Friedrich Engels, ‘Preface’, p. 109.
34. Benedetto Croce, Materialismo storico ed economia marxistica, p. 65.
35. See ‘Antonio Labriola a Benedetto Croce, 25-V-1895’, in Benedetto Croce, Materialismo storico ed economia marxistica, op. cit., p. 269.
36. ‘All very good, just a few little factual errors and, in the early part, a style that is slightly too erudite. I am very curious to see the rest.’ Friedrich Engels to Antonio Labriola, 8 July 1895, MEW 39, Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1968, p. 498.
37. Antonio Labriola, ‘In Memory of the Communist Manifesto’, in idem, Essays on the Materialistic Conception of History (1903), reissued New York: Monthly Review Press, 1966, p. 59. Translation modified.
38. Ibid., 53.
39. Ibid., p. 40.
40. Ibid., p. 84.
41. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, ‘Karl Marx: A Brief Biographical Sketch with an Exposition of Marxism – Bibliography’, Collected Works, vol. 21, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980, p. 88.
42. In this connection see Croce’s essay Come nacque e come morì il marxismo teorico in Italia (1895-1900), in Materialismo storico ed economia marxistica, op. cit., pp. 265-305.
43. Cf. Roberto Michels, Storia del marxismo in Italia, op. cit., p. 120.
44. The phrase was spoken by Giolitti in parliament, on 8 April 1911.
45. The changes to Bettini’s version contained in this new edition marked a real attempt to distort and suppress certain parts of the text, so that it would be less threatening and more in line with fascist ideology.
46. The publishing chronology in Italian of the main works of Marx and Engels up to the Manifesto of the Communist Party is as follows: 1871. Karl Marx, La guerra civile in Francia [The Civil War in France]; 1873. Friedrich Engels, Dell’autorità [On Authority]; 1873. Karl Marx, Dell’indifferenza in materia politica [On Political Indifferentism]; 1879. Carlo Cafiero, Il capitale di Carlo Marx brevemente compendiato da Carlo Cafiero [Karl Marx’s Capital abridged by Carlo Cafiero]; 1882-84. Karl Marx, Il capitale; 1883. Friedrich Engels, L’evoluzione del socialismo dall’utopia alla scienza [Socialism, Utopian and Scientific]; 1885. Friedrich Engels, L’origine della famiglia, della proprietà privata e dello Stato [Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State]; 1889. Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, Manifesto del partito comunista (Bissolati translation); 1891. Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, Manifesto del partito comunista (Gori translation); 1892. Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels, Manifesto del partito comunista (Bettini translation).


One Hundred and Fifty Years of Marx’s Grundrisse: Incomplete, Complex and Prophetic

In 1857 — as 150 years later, with the crisis triggered by ‘subprime’ loans — the United States was the theatre for the outbreak of a great international economic crisis, the first in history. The events aroused huge excitement in one of their most attentive observers: Karl Marx.

After 1848 Marx had repeatedly argued that a new revolution would occur only in the wake of such a crisis. And when it arrived he made the decision, tormented though he was by poverty and health problems, to resume the intense studies he had begun in 1850 in the «British Museum» with a view to a critique of political economy. The result of these labours was eight large notebooks that he filled between August 1857 and May 1858: the Grundrisse, the first draft of Capital.

1858-1953: One Hundred Years of Solitude

It then became one more of Marx’s many unfinished works, probably unread even by Friedrich Engels. After Engels’s death, the manuscripts were entrusted to the archives of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), where they were treated with great neglect; the only section that came to light in this period was the ‘Introduction’, which Karl Kautsky published in 1903. This extract — the most detailed pronouncement that Marx ever made on methodological issues — attracted considerable interest and was soon translated into a number of languages. It is among the works of Marx on which most has subsequently been written.

While fortune smiled on the ‘Introduction’, however, the Grundrisseremained unknown for a long time. Its existence was made public only in 1923, when David Ryazanov, director of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, found it among Marx’s literary bequest in Berlin. It was photographed on the spot, and a team of experts back in Moscow deciphered its contents and converted it to a typewritten form. When it was finally published in Moscow (in two volumes, in 1939 and 1941), it became the last of Marx’s major manuscripts to see the light of day. Yet the circumstances of the Second World War meant that this went virtually unnoticed at the time; the three thousand copies soon became very hard to find, and only a few managed to cross the Soviet frontiers. It had to wait until 1953 before it was finally republished in East Berlin, in a print run of thirty thousand. Written in 1857-8, it only then became available to read all over the world — after a hundred years of solitude.

Five Hundred Thousand Copies Circulating in the World

It was another extract, after the ‘Introduction’, which first generated widespread interest in the Grundrisse: namely, the ‘Forms Which Precede Capitalist Production’. This was translated into various languages in the 1950s, and Eric Hobsbawm, the editor of the English edition, added a preface that helped to underline its importance: it was, he wrote, Marx’s ‘most systematic attempt to grapple with the problem of historical evolution’, and ‘it can be said without hesitation that any Marxist historical discussion which does not take [it] into account . . . must be reconsidered in its light’.

The dissemination of the Grundrisse as a whole was a slow yet inexorable process, which eventually permitted a more thorough, and in some respects different, appreciation of Marx’s oeuvre. The first versions in other languages appeared in Japan (1958-65) and China (1962-78), while an edition in Russian came out only in 1968-9.

In the late 1960s the Grundrisse also began to circulate in Western Europe. The first translations here were in France (1967-8) and Italy (1968-70), the initiative in both cases significantly coming from a publisher independent of the Communist Party. Separate Spanish editions came out in Cuba (1970-1) and Argentina (1971-6), and later also in Mexico and Spain. A full English translation arrived only in 1973, with a preface by its translator, Martin Nicolaus, that presented it as ‘the only outline of Marx’s full political-economic project, which puts to the test every serious interpretation of Marx yet conceived’.

The 1970s were also the crucial decade for East European languages: Czechoslovakia (1971-7 in Czech, 1974-5 in Slovak), Hungary (1972), Romania (1972-4) and Yugoslavia (1979). Editions appeared in Denmark (1974-8) and Iran (1985-7), while the Slovenian version dates from 1985, and the Polish and Finnish from 1986. After 1989 and the end of ‘actually existing socialism’, the Grundrisse continued its journey to other parts of the world: Greece (1989-92), Turkey (1999-2003), South Korea (2000) and Brazil (forthcoming 2009), so that today it has been published in full in 22 languages and in a total of more than 500,000 copies. These figures would greatly surprise the man who wrote it only to summarize, with the greatest of haste, the economic studies he had undertaken up to that point.

Readers and Interpreters

Roman Rosdolsky’s Making of Marx’s Capital, published in German in 1968, was the first monograph devoted to the Grundrisse. In the same year, Marx’s text won over some of the leading actors in the student revolt, who were excited by the radical and explosive content as they worked their way through its pages. The fascination was irresistible especially among those in the New Left who were committed to overturn the interpretation of Marx provided by Marxism-Leninism.

But the times were changing in the East too. After an initial period in which the Grundrisse was regarded rather warily, the authoritative Russian scholar Vitalii Vygodskii defined it as a ‘work of genius’ requiring close attention. In the space of just a few years, it thus became a fundamental text with which any serious student of Marx had to come to grips.

With various nuances, interpreters of the Grundrisse divided between those who considered it an autonomous work conceptually complete in itself and those who saw it as an early manuscript that had merely paved the way for Capital. The ideological background to discussions of the Grundrisse — the core of the dispute was the legitimacy or illegitimacy of approaches to Marx, with their huge political repercussions — favoured the development of inadequate and what seem today ludicrous interpretations. Some of the most zealous commentators even argued that the Grundrisse was theoretically superior to Capital, despite the additional ten years of intense research that went into the composition of the latter. Similarly, some of the main detractors claimed that, despite the important sections for our understanding of Marx’s relationship with Hegel and despite the significant passages on alienation, the Grundrisse did not add anything to what was already known about Marx. Not only were there opposing readings, there were also non-readings — the most striking and representative example being that of Louis Althusser, who drew his hotly debated division between Marx’s early and mature works without taking cognizance of the Grundrisse.

From the mid-1970s on, however, the Grundrisse won an ever larger number of readers and interpreters. Various researchers saw it as the key text for one of the most widely debated issues concerning Marx’s work: his intellectual debt to Hegel. Others were fascinated by his prophetic statements in the fragments on machinery and automation.

Today, 150 years after its composition (see the volume Karl Marx’s Grundrisse. Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy 150 Years Later), the Grundrisse demonstrates Marx’s enduring capacity to explain the capitalist mode of production. Its insightful analysis of the great historical role of capitalism, or of the creation of an ever more cosmopolitan society than the one that preceded it, goes together with a critique of the obstacles and internal contradictions that capitalism places in the way of a more complete development of society and the individual. The Grundrisse is also exceptionally valuable for the many observations, such as those on communist society, which Marx was never able to develop elsewhere in his incomplete oeuvre. It seems highly likely that new generations approaching Marx’s work will experience for themselves the fascination of these manuscripts. They are certainly indispensable today for anyone who wishes seriously to consider the fate of the Left and the transformation of the world around us.

Journal Articles

Marx in the Years of Herr Vogt

I. Herr Vogt
In 1860, Marx was forced again to interrupt his work of political economy. The reason of this new suspension was the violent conflict with Carl Vogt. Representative of the left in the National Assembly of Frankfurt during 1848–1849, Carl Vogt was, at the time, professor of natural sciences in Geneva, where he lived in exile. In the spring of 1859, he published the pamphlet Studien zur gegenwärtigen Lage Europas (Studies on the Present Situation in Europe), which articulated a Bonapartist foreign-policy outlook.

In June of the same year, an anonymous flyer appeared, which denounced the intrigues of Vogt in favor of Napoleon III, especially his attempts to bribe some journalists to furnish philo-Bonapartist versions of contemporary political events. The accusation – which was later shown to be the work of Karl Blind, German journalist and writer who had emigrated to London – was taken up by the weekly Das Volk, which counted Marx and Engels among its contributors, and by the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung. This induced Vogt to file a lawsuit against the German daily, which could not rebut the charge due to the anonymity in which Blind wished to remain. Although the libel suit failed, Vogt was the moral victor in the whole affair. Thus, in publishing his account of the events – Mein Prozess gegen die Allgemeine Zeitung (My Case Against the Allgemeine Zeitung) – he accused Marx of having inspired the plot against him as well as of being leader of a band that lived from blackmailing those who had participated in the revolutionary uprisings of 1848, specifically threatening to reveal the names of those who had not paid them to be silent. [1]

Besides having an echo in France and England, Vogt’s published account was quite successful in Germany and created a sensation in liberal newspapers: “the jubilation of the bourgeois press of course knows no bounds” (M–E1/31/1860, 16). Berlin’s National-Zeitung published a summary in two long editorials in January 1860, and Marx consequently sued the newspaper for libel. However, the Royal Prussian High Tribunal rejected the complaint, declaring that the articles did not exceed the limits of allowed criticism and did not constitute an offense. Marx’s sarcastic comment on the judgment was: “like the Turk who cut off the Greek’s head without intending to hurt him” (Marx, Herr Vogt; MECW 17, 272).

Vogt’s text skillfully mixed real events with others wholly invented, so as to plant doubts regarding the real history of emigration among those who were not acquainted with all the events. In order to protect his own reputation, Marx therefore felt obliged to organize his defense, and so he began, at the end of February 1860, to gather material for a book against Vogt. He adopted two paths. Above all he wrote dozens of letters to militants with whom he had political relationships during and after 1848 with the aim of obtaining from them all possible documents regarding Vogt. [2] Beyond this, in order better to illustrate the politics of the principal European states and to reveal the reactionary role played by Bonaparte, he carried out vast studies on the political and diplomatic history of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. [3]

The latter is doubtless the most interesting part of the work and – along with the section reconstructing the history of the Communist League – the only part that still has value for the contemporary reader [4] . At any rate, as was always the case with Marx, his studies greatly increased the size of the book, which “grew in my hands” (M–E12/6/1860, 225). Moreover, the time needed to complete the work kept increasing. In fact, although Engels urged him – “for once be at least a little superficial so that you can finish in time” (E–M6/29/1860, 170) – and wrote to Jenny Marx: “we always do the most stupendous things but we always do them in such a way that they never get published in time and it all winds up being in vain…implore you to do everything possible so that something gets done, but immediately, in order to find a publisher and finally have the work ready” (E–Jenny Marx8/15/1860, 179) – Marx decided to finish it only in September.
Marx had wanted to entitle the book Dâ-Dâ-Vogt (Cf. M–E9/25/1860, 197-8) to evoke the similarity of views between Vogt and the Bonapartist Arab journalist Dâ-Dâ-Roschaid, a contemporary. The latter, in translating Bonapartist pamphlets into Arabic on order of the Algerian authorities, had defined emperor Napoleon III as “the sun of beneficence, the glory of the firmament” (cf. Marx, Herr Vogt, ME17, 182-3) and to Marx nothing appeared more appropriate for Vogt than the epithet of “German Dâ-Dâ” (ibid.). However, Engels convinced him to opt for the more comprehensible Herr Vogt.

Further problems involved the book’s place of publication. Engels strongly urged publishing the book in Germany: “at all costs we have to avoid printing your work in London…We have a lot of experience with emigré literature, always without success, always money thrown away and then we get angry” (E–M9/15/1860, 191). Nevertheless, since no German publisher became available, Marx had the book published in London by Petsch, and, what is more, this was only made possible by a collection made to pay its expense. Engels commented that it would have been “preferable to print it in Germany and we would absolutely have to succeed in doing so[:] a German publisher . . . is much more able to put an end to the cospiration du silence” (E-M10/5/1860, 204-5).

Rebutting Vogt’s accusations occupied Marx for an entire year, obliging him completely to neglect his economic studies which, according to his contract with the Berlin publishing house of Duncker, would have had to continue with the sequel to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, published in 1859. Before that the undertaking started, Engels understood its “dangerousness”. In January 1860 he had tried to convince Marx to concentrate exclusively on his work, which – in his opinion – would have been the only real instrument to defeat the opponents of the time and make anti-capitalist theory advance:

“I believe that if, despite Vogt and Co., we are to keep our end upso far as the public is concerned, we shall to do it through our scientific work. […] In Germany itself direct political and polemic action, as our party understands it, is a sheer impossibility. So, what remains? Either we hold toungues or we make efforts that are known only to the immigration and the American Germans but not to anyone in Germany, or else we go on as we have begun, you in your first instalment [A contribution to the Critique of Political Economy – MM] and I in Po and Rhine. […] The early appearance of your 2nd instalment is obviously of paramount importance in this connection and I hope that you won’t let the Vogt affair stop you from getting on with it. Do try for once to be a little less conscientious with regard to your own stuff; it is, in any case, far too good for the wretched public. The main thing is that it should be written and published; the shortcomings that catch your eye certainly won’t be apparent to the jackasses; and, when time become turbolent, what will it avail you to have broken the whole thing before you have even finished the section on capital in general? I am very well aware of all the other interruptions that crop up, but I also know that the delay is due mainly to your own scruples. Come to that, it’s surely better that the thing should appear, rather than that doubts like these should prevent its appearing at all” (Engels-M 1/31/1860, 13-14).

Nevertheless these strong recommendations, the frenzy that drove Marx during this affair also infected those who were closest to him. His wife Jenny found Herr Vogt a source of “endless pleasure and delight”; Engels declared the work to be “certainly the best polemical work [he had] written up to that point” (E–M12/19/1860, 231); Ferdinand Lassalle greeted the text as “a magisterial thing in every way” (Lassalle–M5/19/1861, MEGA2III/11, 321); finally, Wilhelm Wolff said “it is a masterpiece from beginning to end” (Wolff–M12/27/1860, ibid., 283).

In reality, in order to be understood today with all of its references and allusions, Herr Vogt requires ample commentary. Further, Marx’s principal biographers unanimously consider this work to have been a notable waste of time and energy. Recalling how various acquaintances of Marx had tried to dissuade him from undertaking this work, Franz Mehring affirmed how “one would have hoped that he would have listened to these voices, [since] it blocked . . . his great life’s work . . . due to the costly waste of energy and time without any real gain” (Mehring, 1972, 295). Of the same mind, Karl Vorländer wrote: “today, two generations later, it is reasonable to doubt if, in this miserable affair which lasted a year, it was worth the effort to waste so much spiritual labor and so much money to write a small work of 191 pages crafted with so much wit, with sayings and quotations from all of world literature (Fischart, Calderón, Shakespeare, Dante, Pope, Cicero, Boiardo, Sterne, and from Middle-High-German literature), to hurl against the hated adversary” (Vorlander, 1948, 209–210).

Nikolaevsky and Maenchen-Helfen also reproached him:

“Marx had employed more than a year to defend himself, by way of a libel suit, against the attempt to put an end to his political life…only toward the end of 1861 was he able to resume his work on economics” (Nikolaevskii and Maenchen-Helfen, 1969, 284). And for David McLellan the polemic against Carl Vogt “was a clear example of [Marx’s] ability to spend a great deal of energy on topics of very little importance and to waste his talent on invective” (McLellan, 1976, 317).

Francis Wheen asks:

“to respond to the slander published in the Swiss press by an obscure politician like Carl Vogt, was it really necessary to write a 200-page book?” And he noted that “the economic notebooks lay closed on his writing desk while their owner distracted himself with a spectacular but unnecessary quarrel . . . a violent riposte which, in its length as well as its enraged tone, surpassed by far the original libel to which it intended to reply” (Wheen, 2000, 145, 204, 207).

The most striking aspect of this writing is the massive use Marx makes of literary references in his arguments. Alongside the authors already mentioned by Vorländer, Marx fills the stage of this work with, among others, Virgil, various figures from the Bible in Luther’s translation, Schiller, Byron, Hugo and, of course, his beloved Cervantes, Voltaire, Goethe, Heine and Balzac. [5] However, these citations – and the precious time employed to insert them into the text – did not simply respond to Marx’s wish to demonstrate the superiority of his culture as against that of Vogt, nor to an attempt to make the pamphlet more enjoyable to the readers through satire. They reflect two essential characteristics of Marx’s personality.

The first is the great importance he attributed throughout his life to style and structure in his works, even in the minor or merely polemical ones, such as Herr Vogt. The mediocrity of the great bulk of the writings with which he clashed in so many battles, their inferior form, their uncertain and ungrammatical construction, their illogical formulations and the presence of many errors always aroused his indignation. [6] Thus, alongside the conflict over content, he inveighed against the intrinsic vulgarity and lack of quality in his adversaries’ works and wanted to show them not only the correctness of what he wrote but also the best way of doing it. The second typical characteristic, evidenced throughout the imposing preparatory work for Herr Vogt, is the aggressivity and unrestrained virulence which he directed at his primary adversaries.

Whether they were philosophers, economists or political militants, and whether they were called Bauer, Stirner, Proudhon, Vogt, Lassalle or Bakunin, Marx wanted in essence to destroy them, demonstrate in every way possible the groundlessness of their concepts, compel them to surrender by making it impossible for them to object to his assertions. Thus, under this impulse, he was tempted to bury his antagonists under mountains of critical arguments, and when he was seized by this fury to the point of making him lose sight even of his project of critique of political economy, then he no longer contented himself “only” with Hegel, Ricardo or with citing historical events, but made use of Aeschylus, Dante, Shakespeare and Lessing. Herr Vogt was a kind of fateful coincidence of these two components of his character. A short circuit caused by one of the most glaring examples of the literary slovenliness so loathed by Marx, and by his will to destroy the enemy who, through lies, had threatened his credibility and attempted to sully his political history.

With this book Marx hoped to create a sensation and did everything to get the German press to speak of it. However, the newspapers and Vogt himself paid absolutely no attention: “the dogs . . . want to kill the thing with silence” (M–E1/22/1861, 249). Also, “the publishing of a French reworking of it, very abridged, which was being printed” (M-E5/16/1861, 290) was blocked when the volume was the target of censorship and included in the list of prohibited books. During the lifetimes of Marx and Engels no other edition of Herr Vogt appeared, and only short selected passages were reprinted.

2. Fighting misery and diseases
Contributing to the delay of Marx’s work and terribly complicating his personal situation were his two eternal sworn enemies: poverty and illness. This period, in fact, was one in which Marx’s economic situation became truly desperate. Besieged by the claims of his many creditors and with the constant shadow of injunctions by the broker, the judicial official, on his door, he complained to Engels: “I don’t know how I will be able to get out of this, because taxes, schools, my house, the grocer, the butcher, God and the devil do not want to give me a moment’s respite” (M–E1/29/1861, 252).

At the end of 1861 the situation became even more desperate, and to survive, aside from being able to count on the constant help of his friend – to whom he showed immense gratitude “for the extraordinary acts of friendship” (M–E2/27/1861, 266) – Marx was obliged to pawn “everything except the walls of the house” (M–E10/30/1861, 324). To his friend, as always, he wrote: “how my soul might rejoice at the fiasco of the Decembrist financial system, so long and often predicted by me in the Tribune, if I were free of this meanness and could see my family not overwhelmed by all this misery!” (M–E11/18/1861, 328). And when, at the end of December, he sent him his New Year’s greetings, he said, “if this [year] is the same as the one just ending, for my part I’d rather be in hell” (M–E12/27/1861, 338).

The disheartening financial problems were promptly accompanied by health problems, to which the former contributed. The deep depression which affected Marx’s wife Jenny for many weeks, made her more vulnerable to contracting smallpox with which she was taken ill at the end of 1860, with serious risk to her life. Throughout the whole illness and convalescence of his companion, Marx was constantly at her bedside and only resumed his own activities when Jenny was out of danger. During this period, as he wrote Engels, work was completely out of the question: “the only activity which can allow me some tranquillity is mathematics” (M–E11/23/1860, 216), one of the great intellectual passions of his life. Moreover, a few days later he added that a circumstance that had “greatly helped [was] a severe toothache.” After extracting a tooth, the dentist had by mistake left a chip in his mouth, which gave him a face that was “swollen and painful along with a half-closed throat.” And how did this help him? Well, this is how.

Marx in fact said stoically: “this physical discomfort greatly stimulates the capacity for thinking and abstraction, since, as Hegel said, pure thought or pure being or nothing are the same thing” (M–E11/28/1860, 220). Despite these problems, these weeks afforded him the opportunity to read many books, among them Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, printed just one year previously. The comment in the letter Marx sent to Engels was destined to provoke discussions among armies of scholars and socialist militants: “although carried out in a grossly English way, here is the book which contains the historical–natural foundations of our way of seeing things” (M–E12/19/1860, 232) [7] .

Following this period, that is to say at the beginning of 1861, Marx’s condition worsened due to an inflammation of the liver which had affected him in the preceding summer: “I am being tormented like Job, though I am not God-fearing” (M–E1/18/1861, 247). In particular, being bent over caused him great pain and he was forbidden to write. Thus, to overcome the “appalling condition which made [him] incapable of working” (M–E1/22/1861, 250), he took refuge again in literature:

“in the evening for relief [I read] Appian’s Civil Wars in the original Greek. A highly valuable book…Spartacus appears in it as the most superb fellow in ancient history. A great general (not a Garibaldi), of noble character, a real representative of the ancient proletariat” (ME2/27/1861, 265).

3. And in the meantime “Economics” waits…
Having recuperated from his illness by the end of February 1861, Marx repaired to Zalt-Bommel in Holland to seek a solution to his own financial difficulties. There he received help from his uncle Lion Philips, businessman and brother of the father of the future founder of the lamp factory, the ancestor of one of the world’s most important producers of electrical equipment, who agreed to advance him 160 pounds sterling from his future maternal inheritance. From here, Marx clandestinely went to Germany where for four weeks he was Lassalle’s guest in Berlin.

The latter had repeatedly urged him to promote, together with him, the founding of a “party” organ, and now, with the decreeing of amnesty in January 1861, the conditions were present for Marx to get Prussian citizenship, which had been annulled after his 1849 expulsion, and to move to Berlin. However, Marx’s skepticism about Lassalle prevented the project from ever being seriously considered. [8] Back home from his journey, he described to Engels the German intellectual and militant in these terms: “Lassalle, blinded by the esteem he enjoys in certain learned circles for his Heraclitus, and in another circle of spongers for his good wine and food, naturally does not realize that he is discredited among the broader public.

And then there is his arrogance, his ensnarement in the ‘speculative concept’ (the young man even dreams of wanting to write a new Hegelian philosophy squared), his being infected by the old French liberalism, his prolix pen, his importunity, his tactlessness, etc. Lassalle, if kept under strict discipline, could be useful as one of the editors. Otherwise he will only jeopardize things” (M–E5/7/1861, 281). Engels’ judgment was no less sharp when he criticized him: “this man is incorrigible” (E–M2/6/1861, 257). In any case, Marx’s request for citizenship was quickly rejected, and since he never had himself naturalized in England, he remained stateless for the rest of his life.

Marx’s correspondence supplies entertaining accounts of this German sojourn, which helps us to understand his character. His hosts, Lassalle and his companion Countess Sophie von Hatzfeldt, did their utmost to organize for him a series of activities, which only his letters show how deeply he detested. From a brief account of the first days spent in the city, we see him up against high society. On Tuesday evening he was among the audience at a “Berlin comedy full of Prussian self-congratulation, all in all a loathsome business.” On Wednesday he was obliged to be present at three hours of ballet at the opera – “a really mortally boring thing” – and, what is more, “horribile dictu” (M–Antionette Philips3/24/1861, 271), “in a box very near to ‘good Wilhelm’s’” (M–E5/10/1861, 288), the King in person.

Thursday Lassalle gave a luncheon in his honor, at which some “celebrities” were present. Anything but cheered by the occasion, by way of example of the regard in which he held his co-diners, Marx gave this description of his neighbor at table, the literary editor Ludmilla Assing: “she is the most ugly creature I have ever seen in my life, with a brutal Jewish physiognomy, a thin rather protruding nose, eternally smiling and tittering, always speaking a poetic prose, continually trying to say something extraordinary, feigning enthusiasm and spraying saliva on her listeners during her spasms of ecstasy” (M–Antoinette Philips3/24/1861, 271).

He wrote to Carl Siebel, Rhenish poet and distant relative of Engels: “I’m being bored to death here. I am being treated like a kind of salon lion and am obliged to see many gentlemen and ladies ‘of genius.’ It is terrible” (M–Siebel2/ l4/1861, 273). Later he wrote to Engels: “Even Berlin is nothing more than a big village,” and he could not deny to Lassalle that for him cosmopolitan London exerted “an extraordinary attraction,” although he admitted that he lived “like a hermit in this gigantic hole” (M–Lassalle5/8/18661, 284). And thus, after having passed through Elberfeld, Bremen, Cologne, his own Trier, and then again through Holland, he arrived home at the end of April. Awaiting him was his “Economics.”

As we recalled, in June 1859, Marx had published the first instalment of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy and was intending to follow it with a second instalment as soon as possible. Notwithstanding the optimistic announcements he was accustomed to issuing on this subject – in November 1860 he wrote to Lassalle: “I think the second part can appear by Easter” (M–Lassalle9/15/1860, 193) – due to the events recounted here two years were to pass before he was able to return to his studies.

Besides, he was profoundly frustrated by his situation and complained to Engels in July: “I am not going forward as quickly as I would like, because I have many domestic problems” (M–E7/20/1861, 315); and again in December: “my writing proceeds, but slowly. In fact, it was not possible quickly to resolve such theoretical questions in the midst of such circumstances. And consequently it will turn out to be much more popular and the method much more concealed than in the first part” (M–Lassalle12/9/1861, 333). In any case, in August 1861 he resumed work on his book with great diligence.

Up to June 1863, he wrote the 23 notebooks – 1,472 pages in quarto – that made up the Theories of Surplus Value. The first of the three phases of this new version of the ‘Economics’ [9] , that corresponding to the first five notebooks of this group, runs from August 1861 to March 1862. These treat the transformation of money into capital, a topic dealt with in the first volume of Capital. Unlike the Theories of Surplus Value, published by Kautsky from 1905 to 1910, albeit in a revised edition often departing considerably from the originals, these notebooks were ignored for more than a century. They were published for the first time only in 1973, in Russian translation, as a supplementary volume (number 47) of the Sochineniya. The version in the original language, for its part, only appeared in 1976 in (Cf. Karl Marx, Manuskript 1861-1863, in MEGA² II/3.1, Dietz, Berlin 1976).

4. Journalism and international politics
The last phase of 1861 is also that during which Marx resumed his collaboration with the New York Tribune and wrote for the Viennese liberal daily Die Presse. Most of his correspondence in this period centered around the Civil War in the United States. In this war, according to Marx, “the struggle played out between the highest form of popular self-government ever realized up to now and the most abject form of human slavery known to history” (Marx, The London Times and Lord Palmerston) [10] . This interpretation makes clear, more than anything else can, the abyss that separated him from Garibaldi who had refused the offer from the U. S. Union government to take up a command post in the army, because he felt that the war was only a power conflict and did not have to do with the emancipation of the slaves.

Regarding this viewpoint and the attempted initiative at reconciliation between the two sides, Marx commented to Engels: “that ass of a Garibaldi made himself ridiculous with his letter to the yankees on a concord” (M–E6/10/1861, 293). In his articles, moreover, Marx analyzed the economic impact of the American conflict on England, specifically examining the development of commerce, the financial situation, as well as the opinions running through English society. As regards this point, an interesting reference is also contained in a letter to Lassalle: “of course all the official English press is for the slaveholders. These are exactly the same people who bored the world with their philanthropism directed against the slave trade. But: cotton, cotton!” (M–Lassalle5/29/1861, 291).

Finally, as always in the letters to Lassalle, Marx developed various reflections regarding one of the political themes on which he lavished his greatest attention in those days: the violent opposition to Russia and its allies Henry Palmerston and Louis Bonaparte. In particular, Marx made an effort to clarify to Lassalle the legitimacy of the convergence in this battle between their “party” and that of David Urquhart, a Tory politician with romantic views. Concerning the latter, who had the audacity to republish, for anti-Russian and anti-Whig purposes, Marx’s articles against Palmerston, which had been published by the official organ of the English Chartists, he wrote: “he is certainly a reactionary from the subjective point of view…which does not at all prevent the foreign-policy movement he leads from being objectively revolutionary…just as to you, it makes no difference to me if, for example in a war against Russia, your neighbor fires on Russians for nationalist or revolutionary reasons” (M–Lassalle6/1 or 2/1860, 152-3) [11] . And again: “for the rest it goes without saying that in foreign policy phrases like ‘reactionary’ and ‘revolutionary’ are not helpful” (M–Lassalle6/1 or 2/ 1860, 154).

Finally, the first known photograph of Marx dates back to 1861. [12] The image shows him standing with hands leaning on a chair in front of him. His thick hair is already white, while his dense beard is jet black. His resolute look does not betray the bitterness of the defeats he suffered and the many difficulties that gripped him, but rather the steadfastness that characterized him throughout his life. And yet, unease and melancholy touched even him who wrote in the same period the photograph was taken: “in order to mitigate the deep discontent caused by my situation, which is uncertain in every sense, I am reading Thucydides. At least these ancients always remain new” (M–Lassalle5/29/1861, 292). Even restricting ourselves to his letters, how can we today help from feeling the same way about that great classic of modernity, Karl Marx?

Translated from the Italian by Eric Canepa

1. In 1870, among the documents in the French archives published by the republican government after the end of the Second Empire, proof was found that Vogt was on the payroll of Napoleon III. The latter, in fact, remitted 40,000 francs from his secret fund to Vogt in August 1859. See Papiers, 1871, 161.
2. On the importance of these letters as a means of political communication between the revolutionary militants of 1848–1849, and to comprehend the conflict between Marx and Vogt from a general perspective – that is, not only from Marx’s own point of view, which is the main purpose of the present essay – see Jansen, 2002, which examines the political motivations behind Vogt’s support for Bonaparte II. The essay also includes an appendix, consisting of letters written by Vogt as well as others addressed to him. Likewise interesting, since they are free of the conventional and often doctrinal interpretation by Marxists, are the writings of Grandjonc and Pelger, 1990; Lommels, 1990; and also Lommels,Les implicationes de l’affaire Marx-Vogt, in Jean-Claude Pont – Daniele Bui – Françoise Dubosson – Jan Lacki (éd.), Carl Vogt (1817-1895). Science, philosophie et politique, Georg, Chêne-Bourg 1998, pp. 67-92.
3. This research resulted in the six notebooks containing passages from books, journals and newspapers of widely varying orientations. This material – designated Vogtiana – showing the way in which Marx used the results of his studies in his own writing, is still unedited and will be published in volume IV/16 of MEGA².
4. Cf. Terrell Carver, Marx and the politics of sarcasm, in Marcello Musto (ed.), Marx for Today, London/New York: Routledge 2012, 117-33.
5. In this connection, see the reflections of Prawer (1978, 263): “In Herr Vogt Marx is incapable of treating any political or social phenomenon without referring to a work of world literature”; and his indication that this text can be studied as “an anthology of the various methods adopted by Marx to incorporate literary allusions and quotations into his polemics” (260). Cf. also Ludovico Silva, Lo stile letterario di Marx, Bompiani, Milano 1973.
6. On this point, see once again the brilliant observations of Prawer, 1978, 264.
7. The debate on Marx and Darwin has been for long time wrongly conditioned by the myth of the fact that Marx wanted to dedicate Capital to the English naturalist. In order to reconstruct correctly this affair see Lewis S. Feuer, Is the “Darwin-Marx correspondence” authentic?, in “Annals of Science”, vol. 32 (1975), n. 1, pp. 1-12; Margaret A. Fay, Did Marx offer to dedicate Capital to Darwin? A reassessment of the evidence, in “Journal of the History of Ideas”, vol. 39 (1978), pp. 133-46; ed a Ralph Colp Jr., The myth of the Darwin-Marx letter, in “History of Political Economy”, vol. 14 (1982), n. 4, pp. 461-82.
8. For more information on Marx’s stay in Berlin, see the recent article by Rolf Dlubek (Dlubek, 2005).
9. Among the books and articles written, in the last years, on the long process of making Capital see Michael Heinrich, Die Wissenschaft vom Wert, Westfälisches Dampfboot, Münster 1999; Alan Bihr, La reproduction du capital, 2 voll., Editions Page deux, Lausanne 2001; Michael Krätke, »Hier bricht das Manuskript ab.« (Engels) Hat das ‘Kapital’ einen Schluss? Teil I, in “Beiträge zur Marx-Engels-Forschung. Neue Folge”, vol. 2001, pp. 7-43; Michael Krätke, »Hier bricht das Manuskript ab.« (Engels) Hat das ‘Kapital’ einen Schluss? Teil II, in “Beiträge zur Marx-Engels-Forschung. Neue Folge”, vol. 2002, pp. 211-61; Michael A. Lebowitz, Beyond Capital, Palgrave, Basingstoke 2003; Michael Kräetke, L’ultimo Marx e Il capitale, in “Critica Marxista”, vol. 2005, n. 6, pp. 42-51.
10. On Marx’s conception of slavery cf. Wilhelm Backhaus, Marx, Engels und die Sklaverei, Schwann, Düsseldorf 1974.
11. Among the numerous studies dedicated to Marx’s political conception of Russia see David Rjazanov, Karl Marx sull’origine del predominio della Russia in Europa, in Karl Marx, Storia diplomatica segreta del 18° secolo, La Pietra, Milano 1978, pp. 95-182; Bernd Rabehl, La controversia all’interno del marxismo russo e sulle origini occidentali o asiatiche della società, del capitalismo e dello Stato zarista in Russia , in Id., in particolare pp. 192-203; Bruno Bongiovanni, Le repliche della storia, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 1989, in particolare pp. 171-89.
12. This is datable to the month of April; see MEGA2III/11, 465.