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Created: September 6, 2002
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Site Teaching Modules Marx's Early Allegiance to Hegel

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, September 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

Marx and Hegel: Latoya's question on Marx's early allegiance and later rejection of Hegel.

Marx's Early Allegiance to Hegel

Start by looking at Essays in Memory of Tom Kemp from History, Economic History and the Future of Marxism, Hegel, Economics, and Marx’s Capital.

"I believe that anyone who clings to these ideas, whether critic of Marx or would-be supporter, is forever precluded from understanding anything significant about Capital. The Karl Marx who wrote Capital was a communist. He struggled to uncover the possibility of a way of living which he called ‘truly human’, a ‘free association’ of producers who could consciously create a community ‘worthy of their human nature’. He took the work of the Utopians very seriously, appreciating their efforts to envision a new world. But, unlike them, he did not seek its construction according to a plan of his devising. Rather, he sought to reveal the development of humanity within and in opposition to the inhuman way of living which he saw around him, to show how this inhumanity reproduced and hid itself, and to find the way its power would be broken. So his aim was not to ‘explain capitalism’ (a word he never used) but to comprehend how humanity could free itself from the grip of that deadly, exploitative, atomising social power he called ‘capital’. This aim permeates every sentence of Capital."
You'll find this paragraph about half an inch down the file.

. . .

"Each of them was engaged in a struggle of universal social and human importance: to grasp the meaning of the powerful upheavals which had transformed European and world society during the previous few centuries. Their conclusions

"So I assert that neither Hegel nor Marx had a method which can be separated from the question: how do people live? This was the problem which drove the theology student Hegel to turn unwillingly to philosophical work, and which diverted Marx so far from his aim of becoming a professor in the history of Greek philosophy that he ended up as an exiled revolutionary communist."
Scroll about two inches down the file for this piece.

" In what Steuart and Ferguson had called ‘civil society’, Hegel found, at its sharpest, the antagonism between individual wills, and between each individual and the universal. His main problem was always this: how are Ethical Life (Sittlichkeit), or Community (Gemeinde), to be reconciled with private property, which sets individuals and classes against each other? Just as civil society is the field of conflict in which the private interest of each individual comes up against that of everyone else, so we here encounter the conflict between private interests and particular concerns of the community, and between both of these together and the higher viewpoints and ordinances of the state."
Scroll about three inches down to find this piece.

" Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ guided the universal as it emerged from the actions of self-interested private citizens. He attributed this mechanism to the wisdom of a benevolent Providence, who had the foresight to give us just the right mixture of self-interest and sympathy. (Hegel, despite repeated references to the Almighty, knew that He was no longer available to explain anything.) Political economy showed how the working of civil society had to be grasped as the work of Spirit. Individuals do their own thing, but accomplish the Good despite themselves. Subjective selfishness turns into a contribution towards the satisfaction of the needs of everyone else. By a dialectical movement, the particular is mediated by the universal so that each individual, in earning, producing and enjoying on his own account (für sich), thereby earns and produces for the enjoyment of others.

"Hegel could not conceive of material labour as the free, self-creating activity of humanity. Rather, he sees in the entire historical movement the free activity of Spirit, and this includes within it the unfree activities of wage-labour, the life-activity of human beings enslaved by market forces. His task was to reconcile these opposites, preserving their conflict within this resolution. Marx’s task was the direct opposite: to sharpen the opposition to the point of conflict."
Scroll down just a little further for this piece.

This would account for some of the differences and similarities between Marx and Hegel. More tomorrow. jeanne

Hegel Source Page
Contemporary Deconstructions and Reconstructions of Western Subjectivity and its Neoplatonic Origins a lecture for the College of the Humanitiesof Carleton University, Ottawa, January 21, 2000 at 1:00 p.m. By Wayne J. Hankey. Backup.