Tedman contd/...

Feuerbach, whom until now we have not considered but whose doctrine casts a third shadow prominently throughout the EPM, is actually the key to how Marx is able to synthesize his unspoken assault on Kant's previous, purely philosophical, attempt at a 'grand synthesis', i.e., the Critiques of 'Pure Reason' and 'Judgement'. Marx refers to the achievement of Feuerbach in proving: 1) that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought, as another estrangement of the 'essence of man', hence 'equally to be condemned'. 2) For establishing materialism as a real science by making the social relations of human subjects the founding principle of the theory. 3) For demonstrating the falsity of Hegel's negation of the negation as the 'absolute positive' by contrasting to this the self-supporting positive. If Marx halted at this point it might indeed be justifiable to label him in his early guise as a radical socialist humanist. But through working with these theorems and setting this philosophy in the light of Smith's political economy, Marx realizes that Feuerbach conceives the negation of the negation, the opposing of religion as the estrangement of the human essence, only as a contradiction of philosophy with itself. Conceive it only 'as the philosophy which affirms theology' (the transcendent, etc.) after having denied it, and which it therefore affirms 'in opposition to itself'. For Marx therefore Feuerbach's position is simply a materialism that is not yet sure of itself. This is then contrasted to his own exclusive, fully-fledged, materialist position of 'sense-certainty based on itself'. Hence for Marx it is to the profane economic conditions that we must look, to the kind that Smith theoretically exposes, but not yet fully, and that make up the necessary thought-material that allows us to locate where notions of transcendence have their origins, i.e. in the actual material conditions that affect human sense and feeling. Marx criticizes at this point Feuerbach precisely for halting at humanism, and his postulates are embraced but then taken a step further by Marx into the basis for a secular and sensual aesthetic.

This is one of the single most occluded aspects of (the undivided) Marx's thought, chiefly because its attack on Philosophy and humanism is from an essentially non-philosophical, and therefore non-academic institutional (ruling class State Apparatus) position.

In this sense Marx's idea of perception in the EPM is not one that grasps it as an abstractly mental phenomena but as a sensual process: I would add, is an aesthetic. This aesthetic is now capable of underpinning the critique and simultaneous usage of Hegelian and Smithian categories. It now lies at the epistemological foundations of Marx's new concept of productive labor and the alienation of that labor, and unveils the sensual6 and active nature of the human subject that is 'set to work' under such conditions. These latter being conditions that are felt by the worker (we must stress the word 'felt' here), a living, sensual being, to be alienating. So with Marx we can now perceive capitalist conditions that bring to life labor aware of its own estrangement, which is therefore a category of labor at once predisposed to seek its own abolition. This awareness need not be considered necessarily as consciousness in the sense of mental theoretical awareness, but is intuited by the worker at every stroke of productive activity, under such conditions.

In the final analysis, we may have been fortunate enough here to root out the actual affective motivation for Marx's entire later 'practical-critical' activity. For example, we can describe it thus: it begins with a 'practical-theoretical' overthrow of an estrangement in the activity of writing the EPM, these demonstrating through its original textual strategy that the writer was not disunited from the actual, formal and sensual, manufacture of the book. It is important to emphasize that this is much more than just a radically distinct, avant-garde style. What we are talking about is a unity between form and subject matter that has a lot to do with the old philosophical metaphor of the kernel and husk. It is probable that the first notebook, what Fay calls the 'core notebook' because it 'fits into' the other notebooks, represents the core of the problem having been inverted. The outside (exterior) of the notebooks, which is made up by the other notebooks and especially notebook three (notebook two, seems to deal with the transition from 3 to 1), are philosophical in nature (or concern this 'philosophicalness'), whereas the core or kernel (which 'wraps up upon itself' in that the pagination returns us to its starting point) is now a critical economics. Now, because up until this moment, up until this epistemological break (to use Althusser's famous notion that he placed later in time for Marx but which seems entirely appropriate at this point) the kernel problematic was seen as being philosophical, i.e. spiritual, Hegelian/Feuerbachian. But this is Marx's well known inversion of the Hegelian dialectic, which, as well as placing Hegel the right way up and so 'on his feet', simultaneously replaces the philosophical problem with an economic and political one.

Thus it is that what Marx is demonstrating through the Manuscript's design is this radical, topological inversion/substitution of the philosophical problem. This substitution, if this is correct, is not only a substitution but also an immanent deconstruction of the 'thing' (Economics) that is used to substitute philosophy. This is because by losing its central role and becoming exterior, philosophy is itself transformed. Its rational element, the dialectic method, is its rational residue, and it is now free to work within what newly constitutes the kernel: Political Economy. Hence, in what is now the core problematic Adam Smith and other prominent economists are subjected to a radical critique, but this immanent dialectical critique simply 'maps' the contradictions, almost allows them to develop and transform themselves in front of the readers eyes. And these are contradictions and syntheses that the reader is helped to witness in the making of direct internal theoretical comparisons between the concepts. Indeed, in comparing translations of the text with the German original it can be seen that the strategy in the core notebook especially, is, at almost every stage, to give an exposition of the method of dialectics at work, in this case on economic categories. This is therefore by default a text in which paraphrases and quotes are arranged, along with only a relatively small amount of his own writing, side-by-side in columns. This is so that a dialectical concatenation can be perceived by the reader through the clash of theoretical contradictions and syntheses, which occur often through the simple arrangement of theoretical material that is given, and already accepted as truths (and still are today), by the relevant authorities.

For example, on page XI in both of the two columns 'Wages of Labor' and 'Profit of Capital', there is mentioned the material activity of spinning cotton along with the factor of industrial mechanization. These are placed side-by side by using quotes from Wilhelm Schulz. But they are written about thematically from the perspective of these distinct conceptual categories, which proves that although one argument is that mechanization reduces monotonous tasks in labor, as accounted for in the column on 'Wages', the actual fact is that a greater amount of workers become engaged in such labor, as accounted for in the column on 'Profit'. So it is revealed that the proportion of monotonous work increases.

A central theme of Marx's EPM therefore resolves itself to the practical overthrow of the actual, secular conditions in the wider sphere of the social division of labor, but which then includes the division of mental from practical labor. Marx was of course an individual existing within these very same social relations and (as the online hypertext version proves), was attempting to restructure his own method of production in line with the results of his research. The suggestion is therefore that Marx did not want his text to function solely as an interpretative or narrative piece, as was traditional within previous 'grand' Philosophy and Criticism. He wanted it to have the quality, longevity, mystery and 'facture' of a work of art, a dialectical artwork, in fact, that aided the reader in a structured process towards comprehension, and thereby to a new, revolutionary position, through the form of the transaction (so there is an element of the postmodern in this).

The conception of the EPM as an artwork was in many ways confirmed by Marx's own subsequent attitude towards it. He apparently kept them with him throughout his life and would often refer to them for self-clarification. And of course we must not forget that they were written in Paris at a time of great artistic ferment. As a glance at the paintings of the Salon of 1844 will confirm, there are precursors and pre-antagonists to the later impressionist/post-impressionist movement exhibiting, and it could be expected that a kind of formal radicalism was 'in the air', at least of the intelligentsia. But the EPM is an artwork which, because of its radical and prescient nature, like many visual or musical artistic products of a similar radicalism (and whoever stated that Philosophy must only be written?), probably could not have been published during Marx's lifetime, and still represent a difficulty in this respect. Much of this tends to be hidden in the conventional publications and interpretations of the text (for instance McLelland's well known compilation version does not even refer to the pagination). However, one recent biographer of Marx who has noted his desire to produce his texts (also) as works of art, and who should be credited for this insight, is Francis Wheen (2000).


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The Hypertext Manuscripts of Karl Marx, Paris 1844
Copyright Gary Tedman 2001
last modified: 10/8/01 10:53:06 PM