Tedman contd/...

Perhaps the nearest a critical theorist has come to explaining the necessity from a Marxist perspective for this kind of methodology (for it must be said that Marx does not provide us with a transparent theory of what he is doing artistically, except by his practice of doing it), has been Walter Benjamin. This is in his short essay 'The Author as Producer' (in Understanding Brecht 1983). Here he provides us with the beginnings of a theory of formal quality as a prerequisite for a correct analysis and evaluation of a progressive political tendency in a work of literature. We can now see that Marx more-or-less endorses Benjamin's critical approach in a quite profound, and perhaps, unexpected, way. In fact it would be possible to go further and say that he actually lays the foundations for the possibility of this critical approach.

To take Benjamin's cue by subjecting the EPM to the investigative techniques of cultural production, the design of the EPM can now be situated with regard to the history of the techniques of book page layout and publishing technology, which has of course been tied up with the history of the great religions (the religious Ideological State Apparatuses). Tschichold's research (1991) unearthing the Christian medieval canon of correlation between book page and type area, shows how proportions, structure and even the sequence of pages, in the sense of a underlying telos in western books, are defined historically by the aesthetic values associated with ruling aesthetics and ideology, as well as the necessary principles of efficiency for purpose.

While it may be true that Marx's design was never intended for publication in the form that he wrote it, for he probably would not have expected traditional publishers to set up their entire print process differently, it is evidently also true that he must have felt the need to create the Notebooks in the form they take. The important thing for Marx at this time must have been the value of the conceptual structure that he was putting to work, and part of the importance of this effort was its formal design. Does it matter whether or not Marx himself, as a personality, either wanted to publish this text in this form or intended it to function artistically? Clearly it would matter only to a humanist framework of interpretation, one that has already prejudged the outcome and decided to sweep under the carpet the sensual aspects of the physical design.

It seems that for Marx in 1844 a radical new form was felt to be required for the 'new content'. But it was not that this new form was dictated by a content that 'spoke about it' as if from some 'outside position', rather this form was born simultaneous with the new content, for, in another sense, this content could not exist without this new form, or at least the embryonic vestiges of this new form. This is what Marx meant by saying that the point was to practice rather than interpret the world. Good practice was always for Marx artful.


The online version of Marx's EPM is based on a reconstruction of the original spatial design and page layout following the original notebooks as far as possible. The text written in black denotes quotations by Marx of other authors works, most notably Adam Smith, this is to point up the use of the many juxtaposed quotations, paraphrases and free translation by Marx. Text in pointed brackets denotes paragraphs that were crossed out with a vertical line by Marx. Quotations from French sources by Marx or translated by him into German are given in English. Emphasis in quotations is marked by italics and usually belongs to Marx. The online hypertext EPM remains, of course, different from the original paper based, hand written, hand-sewed version. I make no extra-special claims for computer based hypertext systems, which certainly have their own drawbacks, but which nevertheless, in combination with the Internet, appear to be very useful for this particular task (although it is hard to read from a computer screen). Much has been voiced about the 'revolutionary' potential of such hypertext systems, but most of this seems to be of the kind that emphasizes not only the 'death of the author' but also the death of sense too. It is perhaps refreshing that Marx is ahead of us in this too.

In English the EPM was first published in 1959 by the Foreign Languages Publishing House (Progress Publishers), Moscow, translated by Martin Milligan. In the above online edition two translated versions were used. An online edition was referred to, taken from the 1974 Gregor Benton translation, first transcribed for the Internet by zodiac@interlog.com autumn 1993, and compared with the 1977 Progress Publishers text translated by Milligan. These were themselves compared with the German publication of Marx/Engels Werke in order to see where changes in style and sense may have been made so as to fit the traditional publishing book format and customary interpretation. Some alterations and re-translations have been carried out in accordance with the findings that become apparent when the text is read in the correct pagination sequence and with the original juxtaposition of columns.

This research work is by no means over of course, and the EPM still contains some mysterious features that I, for one, do not yet (or perhaps ever will) understand, such as peculiar 'twists' in the orientation of the pagination, so the current online version also has some problems and lacunas that still need to be resolved.

Gary Tedman; essay written over 1981-2001


Benjamin, Walter 1983. Understanding Brecht trans. Anna Bostock, intro. Stanley Mitchell, London, Verso.
Fay, Margaret 1979. The 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of Karl Marx: A Critical Commentary and Interpretation Doctoral Thesis, Berkeley University, California.
Fay, Margaret 1983. The Influence of Adam Smith on Marxs Theory of Alienation Science & Society Journal Vol. XLVII No. 2. Summer 1983.
Feuerbach, Ludwig 1957. The Essence of Christianity trans. George Eliot, intro. Karl Barth, Harper and Bros.
Hegel, G.W.F. 1993. Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics trans. Bernard Bosanquet, ed. intro. Michael Inwood, Penguin.
Rose, Margaret A. 1984. Marx's Lost Aesthetic Cambridge University Press.
Marx, Karl 1981. The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 Lawrence & Wishart.
Marx/Engels 1990. Werke 40, Dietz Verlag Berlin, Schriften und Briefe November 1837 - August 1844: Okonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844 p. 465.
Smith, Adam 1986. The Wealth of Nations Books I-III intro. Andrew Skinner, Penguin.
Singh, Iona 1984. Syntax & Semiology, Portsmouth Polytechnic Fine Art dept. degree thesis.
Tedman, Gary 1999. 'Ideology, The State, and the Aesthetic Level of Practice', Rethinking Marxism 4/11.
Tedman, Gary 2000 Marx's 1844 Hypertext Manuscripts (online edition), http://home.freeuk.com/lemmaesthetics/index.htm.
Tedman, Gary 2001. 'Subjectless Aesthetics', forthcoming.
Tschichold, Jan 1991. The Form of the Book; Essays on the Morality of Good Design Lund Humphries.
Wheen, Francis 2000. Karl Marx London, Fourth Estate.


1 http://home.freeuk.com/lemmaesthetics/index.htm

2 The curator at the IISH, Jurgen Rojahn's theoretical contributions are, to my knowledge, not currently available in English translation. He kindly sent me his essay some years ago, which unfortunately Ive been unable to read due to the language barrier, but the IISH has since been no further help to me and have ignored my requests for photocopies of the EPM. Notwithstanding lest there be any injustice it must be noted that Fay's work in some respects may have relied on Rojahn's own studies of the original MS.

3 However, Margaret Fay is mentioned in Francis Wheen's biography 'Karl Marx' (2000, p367) as having solved the problem of the supposed rejection by Darwin of Marx's proposed dedication of 'Capital' by some remarkable detective work.

4 According to Dr. Johannes D. Hengstenberg, who was a friend of Margaret's, she suffered from endogenous depression. A German edition of Margaret's text "Der Einfluß von Adam Smith auf Karl Marx Theorie der Entfremdung", was published in 1985 (or thereabouts) by CAMPUS Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, edited by Johannes D. Hengstenberg, Verena Blaum, Karl Benz and Maria Furtner Kalmünzer.

5 An argument based on the idea that alienation should be understood in Marx not as spiritual, but as sensual or felt, is carried through in my essays 'Ideology, the State, and the Aesthetic level of Practice', and 'Subjectless Aesthetics' (see bibliography).

6 Usually translations have 'sensuous' and 'sensuousness' in the EPM, but it seems to fit better with the materialist spirit of Marx's text for such terms to be rendered as 'sensual' and 'sensuality'.


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The Hypertext Manuscripts of Karl Marx, Paris 1844
Copyright Gary Tedman 2001
last modified: 10/8/01 10:53:13 PM