The Influence of Adam Smith on Marx's Theory of Alienation
by Margaret Fay (Devon 1944, Bavaria 1979)

The following article by Margaret Fay consists of an Introduction and Part I of a longer work: parts II and III and the Conclusion are not extant.

The article, though incomplete, out
lines in full in its relatively few pages the central arguments and research results of a years-long research project, a project that had its beginnings in Oxford, England, and Syracuse, New York; it took its structural shape in Berkeley, California; found its evidence in Amsterdam; and was fully researched in Munich and Starnberg, Bavaria. In May 1979, the author submitted her arguments and evidence in the form of a 400-page dissertation to the University of California at Berkeley. One month later Margaret died. (Her doctorate was awarded posthumously by the University of California.)

How 'Science & Society' became involved in this research project is reported in the preface to the dissertation:

"I was first alerted to a way of thinking quite different from the liberal, middle-class, Quakerly tradition in which I had been raised [in Belfast, Northern Ireland], when I was a student of Social and Public Administration in Oxford (1967-1969). My 'conversion' was the result of reading Herbert Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man, for what I found in this book was a secular analysis of contemporary social conditions, whose results seemed to converge completely with the religious concerns that had hitherto shaped my life. Soon after my entry to Syracuse University in 1969 to study for an M.A. in sociology, I read for the first time Marx's 1844 manuscripts, and discovered the source of Marcuse's inspiration. However, it was not until I began preparing for my dissertation proposal at the University of California at Berkeley that I first appreciated, thanks to the guidance and encouragement of Professor Gertrude Lenzer (who was visiting professor at Berkeley, 1973-1975 to what extent Marx had drawn on Adam Smith. However, almost as soon as I had submitted my dissertation proposal in May 1974, I was beset by doubts. I dutifully began making a bibliography of the secondary-literature: how could I possibly master all the discussion that had already been devoted to interpreting Marx's 1844 manuscripts? How could I submit a dissertation without doing this? I attended lectures and seminars on Hegel: how could I possibly grasp Hegel's complex philosophical system? How could I possibly begin my analysis of Marx without such a grasp? In August, under a grant from the University of California, I travelled to Amsterdam to visit the International Institute of Social History where these manuscripts are kept. There I learned of the eccentric pagination, the page division and other physical aspects of Marx's manuscripts that gave me the idea of approaching Marx's text by exploring these unknown features of the original manuscripts.

On my return to Berkeley, however, in the fall of 1974, I found myself unable to piece together the information about the physical features of Marx's original manuscripts into a coherent approach to understanding the text. I went into complete despair and like so many students gave up the dissertation I had undertaken and searched around for another.

"A year later, I had the opportunity of team-teaching an introductory course on Marx and Socialism entitled "Who was Marx? What is Socialism?" at the East Bay Socialist School in Oakland, California. This was a most rewarding experience which made me realize that my academic concerns could be put into political practice through the medium of exposing people to Marx's thought as clearly and as undogmaticallv as possible. Furthermore, my consistent tendency to go back to Adam Smith to clarify Marx served the function of fastening Marx's thought on to concepts and categories that students were already familiar with, ideas that they had already encountered through their education and the liberal American press. I was sufficiently encouraged to turn my thoughts once again to my proposal. In May 1976, I presented a paper at the Adam Smith Bicentennial [in Chicago], a very crude and shortened version of the main evidence and argument presented in this dissertation, and did not find the academic response at all encouraging.

"In the summer of 1976 I left Berkeley to take up a job in Germany with the primary intention of developing the linguistic skills necessary to read Marx in the original. I enrolled as a student in the Philosophy Department of the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich and expanded my knowledge of Hegel and Feuerbach by attending university seminars and lectures. Early in 1977, I received an offer from Science & Society to publish the paper that I had delivered at the Adam Smith Bicentennial. My rewriting of this paper for publication brought increasing doubts about my hypothesis and in the end I did not submit it for publication.

"The dissertation that I am now submitting expresses these doubts. The earlier chapters present new information about the physical aspects of Marx's original manuscripts and express the conviction that any interpretation of Marx's text must take into account these aspects. The later chapters offer my own interpretation that does take into account the physical aspects of Marx's First Manuscript, but I myself find this interpretation unsatisfactory. After six years of struggle I realize, however, that I, as a single individual, can go no further with the new evidence. I am submitting my dissertation at a time when my doubts are greater than my convictions."

Since Margaret's death her dissertation has been read by European, African, and American friends with enthusiasm. This enthusiasm led a group of Margaret's colleagues in Munich to translate her dissertation into German and to request Science & Society to publish this article in its original form. The editing work done in the process of translation has been taken into account in the following pages, which meant, however, only a small number of minor changes. The translators and editors of the German presentation of the research are now--together with English-speaking friends of Margaret--preparing her dissertation manuscript for publication in English.

At the moment the original dissertation is available at the University of California library in Berkeley and from the University Microfilms service. We have indicated in the text what parts of the dissertation contain fuller discussion and presentation of evidence cited and arguments presented.




ONE OF THE TURNING-POINTS in the recent history of Marxist scholarship was the publication in the Western European languages of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (also known as Marx's Paris Manuscripts, taking this name from the city where they were written).1 In these manuscripts, the 26-year-old Karl Marx presented and elaborated a concept of alienation, alienated labor, which he used to transform and replace the central concept in Hegel's analysis of human development, the concept of alienated spirit. However, despite the massive body of secondary literature, research and speculation generated by Marx's theory of alienation,2 no scholar to my knowledge has yet taken the trouble to anchor his or her interpretation in the surviving physical evidence, namely, the original manuscripts penned by Marx in Paris in 1844, and now housed in the archives of the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam.3

The extant manuscripts of 1844 consist of two notebooks (the first and third manuscripts), one single double-folio sheet that was sewn into the center of the third manuscript (the fourth manuscript),4 and two separate pages, carrying a continuous text (the second manuscript). The focus of this paper will be the first notebook, for it is here that Marx develops and elaborates his concept of alienated labor.

The most striking feature of this notebook is the division of each page into three columns (with the exception of four pages that are divided into two columns only), and on every page (including the two-column pages) at the top of each column appears an underlined column heading, taken directly from Adam Smith's analysis in The Wealth of Nations5 of the threefold division of the exchange value of the commodity.6 Thus the question immediately arises: why did Marx choose to develop and elaborate his own concept of alienation on pages of a notebook that were divided into Adam Smith's classical categories of the three components of commodity price, "Wages of Labour," "Profit of Capital," and "Rent of Land"? Moreover, a careful comparison between Smith's Wealth of Nations, especially chapters 6, 8, 9, and 11 of Volume I, entitled respectively "Of the Component Parts of the Price of Commodities," "Of the Wages of Labour," "Of the Profits of Stock," and "Of the Rent of Land," and the first sixteen pages of Marx's notebook (Marx 69-113) reveals that the contents of the latter rely on direct quotations, close paraphrases and critical summaries of passages from the former to a far greater extent than either Marx himself, or his later editors, indicate in their bibliographic references.

Marx's unreferenced citations from Smith's Wealth of Nations can be readily located with the help of an earlier notebook, in which Marx recorded his first studies of Smith's work, using an 1807 French translation of the original 1776 English edition. Unfortunately this earlier notebook has never been translated into English.7 It consists of straightforward reading notes, mainly direct quotations (in both French and German) taken word-for-word from Smith's text, and only occasionally does Marx paraphrase or summarize the original. Apart from a few marginal comments, there is little evidence here of Marx attempting any sort of critical analysis; rather Marx's earlier notebook represents a careful and conscientious effort to record for his own understanding precisely what Adam Smith had written.

Marx's selection and presentation of these same citations, propositions and arguments from the Wealth of Nations is in the first sixteen pages of his 1844 manuscript reveal, in contrast to his earlier reading notes, a consistent attempt to reorganize his source material and to draw conclusions implicit in Smith's work which Smith himself did not draw and which point beyond and contradict the analysis which Smith himself explicitly developed. In the latter part of his notebook, where he introduces and elaborates the concept of alienated labor, Marx explicitly recapitulates these conclusions as the starting-point and basis of his own concept of alienation. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that Marx's 1844 concept of alienation was indeed the direct outcome of his immersion in, and critique of, Adam Smith's (not Hegel's) analysis of human development, an analysis which focused on the expansion and improvement of the productive powers of labor.

Nevertheless the path which led Marx from the Wealth of Nations to the concept of alienated labor is undeniably the dialectical method of study developed by Hegel. Here again the physical evidence of the extant notebook provides an important clue to the overall structure of Marx's argument. Part I of this paper documents this evidence and concludes with a brief account of Hegel's dialectical method, illustrated by Marx's application of it to the Wea1th of Nations. Marx's 1844 notebook provides valuable material for a case-study of the practical operations demanded by the dialectical method in both its negative and positive aspects, a method which is usually discussed in rather abstract terms of theoretical and epistemological principles.

In Part II, "The Core-Notebook: Marx's Immanent Critique" [see Chapters VI and VII of the dissertation], I shall examine the contents of the first sixteen pages of Marx's notebook to reconstruct in detail Marx's method of "immanent critique" (the negative aspect of the dialectical method). I shall focus, on the one hand, on page VII, which contains a concentrated list of the contradictions in Smith's concept of labor, and on the other hand, on the last pages of the core-notebook (XIII-XVI), which are divided into two columns only, so that one of the three components of commodity price, "Rent of Land," disappears. Thus Marx's immanent critique reveals that one of Smith's categories, "Wages of Labour," is based on a self-contradictory concept, while the other two categories, "Profit of Capital" and "Rent of Land" are not independent categories, but two different manifestations (or more accurately, two successive historical stages in the development) of the more basic category, private property.

Part III, "The Outer Sheets: Marx's Theory of Alienation" [See Chapters VII I, IX, X of the dissertation], examines the contents of the latter part of Marx's notebook (pp. XVII-XXVII) and shows how Marx built on the results of his immanent critique to reanalyze and reorder the contents, categories and contradictions in the Wea/th of Nations on the basis of two interrelated concepts, "the movement of private property" and "the alienation of labor." In this part of his notebook, Marx applies the positive aspect of the dialectical method in order to construct a new perspective for examining the social reality of economic development. Marx's new perspective focuses on the dynamic of the labor-process itself as the hidden unity of capitalist society, rather than on the market-mechanism which distributes the f products of labor. Smith's account of the tripartite division of the price of the commodity, the commodity being the result of the labor-process, provides the key to this dynamic: the separation of labor (the "private property" of the working class) from its means of production (the private property of the capitalist and landowning classes). [See Sections 10.5.1 to 10.5.4. of the dissertation.]

In my conclusion I will argue that the inspiration for Marx's own theory of the development of human society came from his intensive critical analysis of Smith's Wealth Nations, and that he elaborated his concept of alienation in deliberately-chosen Hegelian terms in order to carry out, in the second half of his third 1844 manuscript, a refutation of Hegel's epistemology and philosophy of history. This refutation of Hegel's idealism allowed Marx to demystify8 the dialectical method and to transform it into a tool for demonstrating how the classical liberal economics of Smith, Ricardo, etc., unwittingly reveals the abominations imposed upon the evolution of the human species by the capitalist mode of production. This demystification was a project that Marx first undertook in his 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts and that found its most systematic and sophisticated development in Capital, Vols. I to III.

Hence my basic hypothesis is that the controversy over the origins, method and structure of Marx's 1844 theory of alienation, and its relationship to Marx's later works, notably Capital, can be resolved if, and only if, we are prepared to go back to Adam Smith's Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and to treat it as seriously as the 26-year-old Marx did. Afterwards we can worry about Hegel.



[This essay was first published in "Science & Society: An Independent Journal of Marxism" Volume XLVII, number 2, Summer 1983, and is presented here with their kind permission; the only alterations that have been made are with the diagrams, which here are substituted by text hyperlinks to the hypertextualized pages themselves. Note references within the text refer to Fay's Notes which are at the end of this document. The themes described by her doctoral dissertation are taken up in my essay. I read Margaret's thesis on microfiche at the British Library and elaborated upon what she first expounded there. Plans mentioned in the preliminary remarks to publish her dissertation do not seem to have come to fruition. Thanks must be extended to Johannes Hengstenberg for giving me additional information about Margaret's life and work.
Gary Tedman, 2001.]

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The Hypertext Manuscripts of Karl Marx, Paris 1844
Copyright Gary Tedman 2001
last modified: 10/8/01 10:51:46 PM