<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Reading Hegel and Marx


Discussion, February 27, 2008

Here are a couple issues to consider about Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts.

  1. Because these so-called “Paris Manuscripts” (1844) were not published during Marx’s life time and then circulated in incomplete form for decades thereafter,  scholars spilled a lot of ink (especially in the late 1960s and 1970s) about whether they represented the true Marx.  Some held that they were the “young Marx,” in contrast to the supposed more seasoned “old Marx” who would come later.  Furthermore, the first was the more philosophical Marx; the second, the practical Marx.  In contrast, others held that the divide was not that substantial.  I have always found the latter position to be the  most persuasive, not only because there are key elements of Marx’s thought that run throughout his writings but also because Marx was consistently at pains to resolve what he considered to be the pseudo-divide between the philosophical and the practical.
  1. As you know, I also want you to think carefully about both the differences and the similarities between Hegel and Marx.  Marx goes out of his way to emphasize the differences.  Indeed, subsequent generations of scholars have identified differences that either aren’t there or can only be characterized as parodies.  Of course, it is more difficult to identify the similarities.  But in this case, I would like for you to search for them all the more intensely.  After all, Marx could have focused on other philosophers of the past century (e.g., Kant), but instead he chose Hegel.  So, why Hegel?  If you look closely, you will see that there are certain elements of Marx’s agenda that can only be addressed through a “Hegelian” lens.  What are these elements?  The clue, as I have suggested throughout this seminar, is to look not only for what Marx says but also for what he is trying to do.

While we are talking about Marx, it is worthwhile to consider the similarities between his understanding of “historical change” and Hegel’s.  I have previously glossed over Hegel’s concept of Aufhebung.  This term is translated in some of your readings with an awful word, “sublation.”  I propose an alternative phrase, though it is far from perfect: “throwing off and upward.”  If you look at p. 32, you’ll get a sense for Hegel’s understanding of the concept.  This is what he says in reference to the conjunction between “death” and “new life”:

The Spirit too rises up again, not only rejuvenated but also enhanced and transfigured.  Admittedly, it becomes divided against itself, but in so doing, it rises up to a new stage of development.

I can’t recall whether Hegel specifically refers to Aufhebung in these sentences, but he does use the term later (pp. 49, 61).

To what extent does Marx see history developing in the same way?