THE STRUCTURE AND METHOD OF MARX'S
The point of departure for my investigation into the influence
of Adam Smith on the evolution of Marx's theory of alienation is
the physical evidence of the original manuscript in which Marx wrote
down his theory. [See Section 1.2.3 of the dissertation and the
Appendix to this article.] This notebook (the first of the 1844
manuscripts) is evidently home-made. It consists of nine double
sheets (36 pages), folded in two and sewn together in the middle
with a rough thread. The folded edge, which is sewn into the spine,
forms the top of each page, so that the pages of this notebook "flip"
over, in contrast to most books today with "turn-over"
pages, the sides of which are sewn into the spine. The first nine
pages of the notebook are unnumbered and seven of them are blank.
On the first (the outermost) page is written Hefi I (Notebook I);
the reverse side is blank. The third page carries a list of 29 bibliographical
items, which was clearly a later addition since the date of publication
which Marx gives for the first item is 1845.9 The last
27 pages of the notebook are all written on and carry a Roman numeral
in the left-hand corner of the edge sewn into the spine.10
The written text follows the numbered sequence, but the numbered
sequence is not the physical sequence which we find as we turn the
pages of the notebook. The pagination of Marx's original manuscript
can only be explained on the assumption that it originally existed
as two self-contained notebooks: the four center double-folio sheets
containing pages I through XVI, which we will term the core-notebook,
and the five outer sheets which contain the unnumbered pages, and
the pages numbered XVII through XXVII." The importance of the
distinction between the core-notebook and the outer sheets will
become evident in the section below on Marx's dialectical method.
1. The Structure of Marx's Pages
This section is devoted to a detailed description of the format
of the 27 numbered pages that carry Marx's written text, because
it is this format that provides the most immediate and striking
evidence of the persistent influence of Adam Smith on Marx's thought-processes
as Marx was developing his own concept of alienation.
(i) The Core-Notebook. [See Section 3.4 of the dissertation.]
The first twelve pages of the core-notebook (I-XII) are divided
into three columns by two roughly-drawn vertical lines. On every
page appear the same three column-headings12 (underlined)
in the same order at the top of each column: "Wages of Labour,"
"Profit of Capital," and "Rent of Land." These
were the categories originally developed by Adam Smith to analyze
the exchange-value of a commodity. Adam Smith applied this three-category
analysis to the concept of national wealth, itself an agglomeration
of commodites,13 and asserted that the tripartite structure
of the total national product revealed the social structure of the
nation's population.14 Thus each of Marx's pages represents,
on the one hand, the commodity as a whole, and each column represents
a constituent part of its value: wages, profit and rent. On the
other hand, each page represents the society as a whole and each
column represents a socioeconomic class: workers, capitalists, and
landlords.15 The framework within which Marx is working
and developing his critique of political economy is unambiguously
that of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.
The three-column division of the pages bears a readily understandable
relationship to the page content (most of which is excerpted from
the Wealth of Nations). That is to say, the "Wages"
column contains passages that describe the conditions of the laborers
both at home and at work, and the fluctuations of their wage-packet;
the "Profit" column carries excerpts explaining the source
of profit and the ways in which capital is accumulated and deployed;
the "Rent" column examines the relationship between tenant
and landlord and the conditions that determine the size of the rent.
Thus Marx brings together on the same page hypotheses and observations
some of which appear in Smith's three separate chapters on wages,
profit and rent in the first volume of his work while most of the
rest are to be found scattered throughout all five volumes of the
Wealth of Nations.
Diagram 1. goes here
Format of pages I-VI, VIII-XII
Page VII, however, differs from the other eleven pages in that the
text to "Wages" continues into the "Profit"
and "Rent" columns (hence the text to the latter two columns
goes straight from page VI to the respective columns on page VIII).
Diagram 2. goes here
Format of pages VII,
(page XXVI is a slight exception)
The significance of the format of page VII for understanding pages
XXII-XXVII, the contents of which are published as the text of a
separate (fourth) chapter, "Alienated Labour," and the
form of which is identical to page VII, will be discussed in our
next section on the discrepancies between the original manuscript
and its published forms.
The remaining four pages of the core-notebook (XIII-XVI) differ
from the first twelve pages in that they are divided into two columns
only: on pages XIII-XIV, the left-hand half carries the title "Wages
of Labour" and the right-hand half is headed "Profit of
Diagram 3. goes here
Format of pages XIII and XIV
On page XV, the left-hand column repeats the title "Wages of
Labour" and most of it is blank, because the written text to
"Wages" breaks off at the top of the page. The right-hand
side carries the title "Rent of Land"; this seems to have
been an oversight on Marx's part, because the written contents of
this column clearly follow on from the "Profit" column
of the previous page, and therefore belong to the text on "Profit."
Diagram 4. goes here
Format of page XV
On the next page (XVI), the last of the core pages, we find that
the title "Wages of Labour" has been crossed out and replaced
with the heading "Rent of Land." The contents of this
column continue the "Rent" text from the "Rent"
column on page XII, the last three-column page. The right-hand column
on page XVI is headed "Profit of Capital," and the bottom
half of the column is blank, because the text to "Profit"
ends in the middle of this page.
Diagram 5. goes here
Format of page XVI
(ii) The Outer Sheets.
The outer sheets Consist of nine unnumbered pages (already described
above) and eleven written and numbered pages (XVII through XXVII).
All of the numbered pages are, like the first twelve pages of the
core-notebook, divided into three columns, with the same three headings.
But pages XVII to XXI are unique in that only one column contains
a written text. On these pages "Rent of Land" occupies
the center column (unlike all the other three-column pages, with
the sole exception of page XXVI, where "Profit of Capital"
occupies the center). The outer two columns, "Wages of Labour"
on the left and "Profit of Capital" on the right, contain
no written text apart from the underlined heading; they are significantly
narrower than the "Rent" column. The middle column takes
up the text of "Rent of Land" from page XVI and continues
it to the bottom of page XXI. This text will be discussed in Part
III, Section 1, "The Alienation of Land."
Diagram 6. goes here
Format of pages XVII-XXI
The last six pages of the outer sheets, which are also the last
six pages of Marx's notebook as a whole, repeat the format of page
VII (described in the previous section). These pages are divided
into three columns with the same headings and in the same order
as the first twelve pages of the core-notebook.16 The text to "Wages"
fills every column of pages XXII to XXVI (as it did on page VII)
and comes to an end at the top of the "Wages" column on
page XXVII, leaving most of that column and the other two columns
blank. The contents of these pages will be discussed in Part III,
section 2, "The Alienation of Labor: The Movement of Private
2. Discrepancies between Marx's Original Notebook and its Published
Forms [See Section 184.108.40.206. and Chapter II of the dissertation.]
The contents of the three columns on the core pages of Marx's notebook17
are presented in the published versions of the 1844 manuscripts
as three successive chapters with the titles, "Wages of Labour,"
"Profit of Capital" and "Rent of Land."18
Marx's own division of the pages into columns has been treated as
an insignificant datum on the alleged ground that Marx himself ignored
them.19 The contents of the first four pages of the outer
sheets (XVII-XXI inclusive) appear as the continuation of the third
chapter, "Rent of Land," and the contents of the last
six pages are published as a fourth chapter with the title, "Alienated
Labour," which was inserted by the first editors of Marx's
notebook, on the grounds that Marx here began to write on "a
It is true that pages XXII-XXVII differ from the pages in the rest
of the notebook in that the text now flows from one column to the
next column of the same page, whereas previously the text flowed
from one column to the respective column of the next page. However,
we have already noted that page VII, where the text to "Wages"
continues into the other two columns of this same page, is an exception.
Its format is identical to that of pages XXII to XXVII and indicates
the continuity between the core-pages of the notebook, which draw
so heavily on the Wealth of Nations for their content, and
these last six outer pages on alienated labor. The identity of the
format of page VII and the last six pages of Marx's notebook have
not only been ignored but also misrepresented by the editors of
the original text. In reproducing the contents of all three columns
of page VII as the content of the chapter on "Wages of Labour,"
they implicitly acknowledge that the text of this column usurps
the space allocated in the notebook to "Profit" and "Rent."
But on pages XXII-XXVII, they deny any relationship between the
columnar format of the notebook and its written content, and attribute
to Marx a change of direction for which there is no evidence.
There is, however, an obvious and significant difference in the
style of the core-notebook and the outer sheets. The contents of
the core-pages are mostly quotations from other writers, in particular,
Adam Smith. The contents of the outer pages (XVII-XXVII), in contrast,
are Marx's work, without any quotations or paraphrases from other
writers. Marx's theory of alienation in fact begins on page XVII,
the first of the outer pages, with an analysis of the alienation
of land, and not (as the four-chapter division of the published
versions of this manuscript, and the posthumously-added title of
the fourth chapter, "Alienated Labour," suggest) with
the alienation of labor on page XXII. Page XVII therefore marks
the significant change of direction that the editors have attributed
to page XXII, but only in the sense that Marx moves to a different
way of presenting his argument.21 He no longer relies
on the documented evidence of other writers (in particular, Smith
himself) to reveal the internal contradictions in the founding work
of classical political economy, The Wealth of Nations. From page
XVII onwards, Marx is involved in the task of developing his own
analytical concepts and interpretive framework within which he can
reorder the contents of political economy.
In the core-notebook, where most of the pages are structured strictly
in accordance with Adam Smith's tripartite division of the commodity,
the few pages that diverge from this pattern of three simultaneous
texts (i.e., page VII and pages XIII-XVI) indicate that at these
points already, Marx is attempting to go beyond Smith, and as such
they form the vital link between Marx's critical analysis of the
Wealth of Nations and his own emerging theory.
Given the editorial consensus that 1) the core of Marx's notebook
consists of random working notes and 2) that Marx's discussion of
"alienated labor" is a different topic from the rest of
the notebook, ,t is small wonder that the secondary literature and
research carried out on the basis of the published texts have ignored
the influence of Adam Smith. My own assertion of this influence
is. on the contrary, based on an examination of Marx's original
manuscript. This examination points to the opposite premises: 1)
that Marx's reorganization of his source material in his core-notebook
is consistently based on the methodological principle of 'immanent
critique"; and 2) that Marx, in the outer sheets, began to
develop explicitly the argument implicit in the core of his notebook.
3. Marx's Use of the Dialectical Method [See Section 4.1 of the
In order to understand the continuity between the contents of the
core-notebook (Marx's critique of the Wealth of Nations)
and the theory of alienation developed in the outer sheets, it will
be necessary to explain the dialectical method, in both its negative
(or critical) and positive (or reconstructive) aspects.22
The first stage of the dialectical method, its negative aspect,
is the process of immanent critique. The object of such a critique
is never the social reality itself (in this case the production
of a nation's wealth), but the effort by a human being to understand
and interpret that reality (in this case, the Wealth of Nations,
authored by Adam Smith). Thus, the "raw-materials" which
the dialectical critic will work over are (in Hegel's terms) the
products of the human mind at the "Level of Understanding."23
The process of immanent critique means the total immersion of the
critic (in this case Marx) in the contents of the object of her/his24
critical analysis (the Wealth of Nations) in order to extract
the ambiguities, inconsistencies, and contradictions internal to
(or immanent in) that object (the product of Smith's intellect).
The fact that these contradictions are internal means that they
can be demonstrated simply by bringing together and quoting, word-for-word,
the contradictory passages. This is precisely what Marx did in 1844
and consequently the contents of his core-notebook, which have been
dismissed by unwary editors as random worknotes, consist mainly
of quotations and accurate paraphrases from the Wealth of Nations,
selected and arranged in such a way that the contradictions become
The task of the critic does not end here. The transition from the
negative to the positive aspect of the dialectical method is made
when the critic examines these internal contradictions for a common
theme. On page VII, the page which anticipates the format of the
"Alienated Labor" pages, Marx takes the first step towards
this transition. Here we find a list of self-contradictions in Smith
which Marx has uncovered and documented in the first six pages of
his notebook. His final comment on this page (at this stage still
a rather cryptic comment) is: "In political economy labour
appears only in the form of acquisitive activity" (Marx 77,
The inconsistencies and ambiguities in the intellectual prodnent
critique are not accidental. Rather the very method of the "Level
of Understanding," in its attempt to analyze and interpret
social reality, seeks to separate and codify aspects of a process
that is, in Hegel's words, a "concrete totality,"25
and to classify these aspects into fixed and semi-independent categories.26
On page XXII, Marx lists the fixed concepts of political economy
that separate and decompose the organic unity of the production-process
as a whole.
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The Hypertext Manuscripts of Karl Marx, Paris 1844
Copyright Gary Tedman 2001
last modified: 10/8/01 10:51:57 PM