Marx's Hopes for Individuation
He insisted on the social medium of existence, the public dimension of self-expression, the objective elements of human agency; he analyzed the conventional weight of institutions, the laws of economic exchange, and the cumulative momentum of history. And yet Karl Marx, in striving for a science of society, remained equally preoccupied throughout his life with the individual—not, it is true, as a self-seeking egoist, nor as spiritual avatar, but instead the individual as a sociable and objective being, rich in vocations and values, multifaceted in wants and talents, gifted with free time and a sense of wholeness.
A utopian prospect? Perhaps. But also an index of human possibilities: the "social individual" as the telos of a history rendered rational, not only via the political emancipation of the individual, but also, and more importantly, through the conscious appropriation, by associated individuals, of their collective powers and institutions. This, at least, was Marx's vision.
It is a vision that incorporates individuation as one of its central elements. Indeed, Marx maintained an interest in individuation throughout his life, an interest evinced in Capital as well as his earliest essays. To be sure, Marx's understanding of individuation as an historical accomplishment evolved as he developed his broader theory; yet while he abandoned the philosophical anthropology of his youth, he never ceased to value individuation as one of the most progressive and desirable tendencies of history. Rather than merely repudiating the modern ideal of individuality, Marx radicalized it: communism would complete the process of individual emancipation pressed forward by capitalism and liberalism.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, European liberals sought, and in some areas helped accomplish, the emancipation of
the individual from the authority of monarchial and ecclesiastical institutions. In so doing, the liberal movement in politics furthered a process initiated by the rise of Protestantism, the growth of trade and industry, and the subsequent mass migration of people from the countryside to the burgeoning cities of Europe. During the Middle Ages, man had been conceived primarily in relation to a larger religious and communal order: this social and spiritual realm supplied the individual with a raison d'être and assigned him his station in life. The view of the individual which emerged during the modern period by contrast upheld as its ideal the autonomous personality, independent of the ties of religious and political hierarchy. Many of the leading philosophers and social theorists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had anticipated the main themes of the new view: Descartes's theory of the self, like the economic man portrayed in classical political economy, could be used to support a novel vision of the individual as an essentially free agent.
The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen provided the classic political statement of European liberalism and its central tenets. Men were born and remained free and equal in rights; these rights included liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression. Liberty, defined as the freedom to do anything that did not infringe on another person's freedom, was established by public law, before which all individuals were treated as equals, without regard to social position. Sovereignty resided in a people and nation, not a monarch or privileged estate.
A broadly defined image of the individual emerged from liberal thought. Autonomous and self-reliant, the individual also appeared acquisitive and self-interested. On the positive side, individuals were valued for developing their special capacities and perfecting their particular personality. But in any case, the individual was portrayed in contrast to the community; the liberal state was primarily to assume a negative role, mediating the interaction of individuals, since, without a minimum of public regulation, the utopia of monadic individualism threatened to degenerate into a nightmare of selfish egos competing for scarce resources.
Liberal ideas and institutions did not undergo a uniform development throughout Europe, however. In some countries, such as Germany, a more traditional view of the state persisted well into the nineteenth century; there, individual freedoms were often secured
through concessions from the established authorities, a situation which reinforced the customary connection between duty and liberty. In this context, individual rights could be regarded as an attribute of a properly constituted sovereign, rather than a critical protection against the sovereign. Moreover, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a number of German theorists advocated enlightened despotism, an approach which continued to influence political thought in the nineteenth century.
After the July Days of 1830, demands for liberal reforms grew throughout Germany. But the chief response was increased repression and censorship; as a result the liberal movement was forced to operate without adequate public representation and under a suffocating set of restrictions on meetings and publications. The popular basis for a liberal politics seemed questionable, too. Throughout the first half of the nineteenth century, Germany remained a backward and predominantly agricultural country, even though peasants and artisans were being uprooted by the slow decline of older sectors of the economy. While these conditions forced the social question to the fore, political circumstances made articulating what popular discontent did exist difficult; liberalism consequently remained the creed of relatively isolated groups of intellectuals.
In the 1830s, the German liberal movement united around issues of anticlericalism and a cosmopolitan hostility to Prussian domination. At least in principle, most liberals claimed to represent "the people": in addition to constitutional reforms and freedom of the press, the liberals sought an end to economic privilege and restrictions on trade. But the movement was divided over how to attain these goals. One group appealed to established authorities for reform, while another hesitated between such appeals and autonomous claims in terms of popular rights. A radical group, finally, advocated uncompromising popular sovereignty, and a total break with the existing regimes.
For philosophical as well as strategic reasons, various factions split before 1848. The philosophy of Hegel, in particular, became a source of contention. Hegel himself had asserted the necessity of an hierarchical sovereign state which could impose common aims and ideals on the competing particular interests within civil society; as a result, his philosophy was commonly regarded as a justification of the Prussian monarchy, even though Hegel himself had proposed
critical changes in the Prussian constitution. But some young Hegelians declared their mentor's apparent reconciliation of particular and universal interests premature. In their eyes, the arbitrary authoritarianism of Prussian politics thwarted human freedom, the avowed object of the Hegelian philosophy. A radical faction grouped around a militant reading of Hegel and demanded that political policies actually conform to the dictates of Reason as deciphered by a dialectical philosophy committed to a free state. More cautious liberals, by contrast, argued that contemporary institutions carried at least the promise of rationality within them already. For such liberals, reform could be accomplished within the bounds of established law.
The Individual in the Bourgeois State
Although Marx came to criticize liberalism and its understanding of individual emancipation, his earliest writings take their bearings from this context of political theory. In his dissertation, completed in 1841, Marx had defended the liberal party as the only German movement that adhered to the "concept" of Hegelian philosophy, with its demands for a rational state. While positive philosophy exalted the existing state as rational, an authentically Hegelian and negative philosophy would demand, in the name of its unactualized concept, that the state be transformed so as to accord with rational norms. By remaining true to the concept of rational politics, and by seeing political rationality as a task yet to be accomplished, the liberal party could make progress: it could be "conscious in general of principle and aim."
In his first journalistic writings for the Deutsche Jahrbücher and the Rheinische Zeitung , Marx brought such theoretical preoccupations to bear on the current issues of the day, among them the introduction of representative government, freedom of the press, and the social question posed by the unincorporated poor, who belonged to no guild or estate and yet constituted as much as half the population in some areas of Germany. An article in 1842 attacking press censorship used the Hegelian premise of an ethical state to argue against Hegel's own conclusions. Marx agreed with Hegel that the state should embody an ethical community, publicly incarnating
that "universal human nature" and rationality inherent in each individual; he also insisted that an "ethical state presupposes that its members" already have in mind "the view of the state ." While laws without objective norms would be "laws of terrorism," a free state would avoid setting itself against its subjects; instead, it educated men to become "part of the state, by transforming the aims of the individual into universal aims." Only then might the individual find his satisfaction in the life of the state. Marx here sustained a democratic version of Hegel's political philosophy: in a truly representative state, each man, by obeying the laws of his own reason, would also obey the laws of the state, that "great organism."
The problems impeding the realization of such a truly representative state, however, were by no means negligible. In several articles on the plight of the impoverished, Marx protested the exclusion of the propertyless—in the new parlance of the day, sometimes called the "proletariat"—from full citizenship. Such an exclusion contravened the universality of a truly rational state. Moreover, the recent increases in the unincorporated poor suggested to Marx that the problem lay not with the poor but rather with the constitution, which refused even to recognize the problem. Marx thus placed the question of poverty at the center of his thinking about politics.
It was not until 1843, however, that he found the time to clarify the theoretical implications of his observations as a journalist. After reading books on the American and French revolutions, as well as Machiavelli, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, Marx turned his attention again to Hegel, to criticize The Philosophy of Right , a central text in the political polemics of the day. By mid-1843, he had drafted a section-by-section commentary on the book's later paragraphs. Although he published an introduction to this material, the main manuscript only appeared posthumously, as the Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right ."
This Critique bore the imprint of Ludwig Feuerbach's "transformative" method. As Feuerbach himself had explained it, "We only have to make [Hegel's] predicate the subject, and likewise the subject the object and principle—therefore we only have to invert speculative philosophy—in order to have the undisguised, pure and clear truth." Feuerbach's example was instrumental in turning Marx's attention to the individual, both as the particular this , the tangible and perceptible "something" that founded all abstract
thought, and as the conscious human being who conceived all philosophy, religion, and politics in the first place, according to Feuerbach's self-styled materialism.
In the Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right ," Marx juxtaposed methodological and substantive criticisms: Hegel's proclivity to hypostatized abstractions abetted an antidemocratic politics. Hegel consistently divorced such human "predicates" as the state from their "real independence, their subject." Because of his consistent inversion of real relationships, Hegel severed the state from its actual basis, interacting individuals, while transforming the family and civil society into predicates of the state through its "selfpositing" activity. In Hegel's topsy-turvy world, the state itself becomes the creating subject, while the human subjects "become unreal, and take on the different meaning of objective moments of the Idea." Thanks to his starting point, Hegel ended by making the monarch the embodied subjectivity of the state, and the true animating impulse of society.
Marx, like Feuerbach, proposed a new, more concrete foundation for political philosophy: "One has to start from the real subject and examine its objectification."' The subject was man; his real activity, his "objectification," was his outward creativity, in the form of ideas (like religion) as well as institutions (like those of politics). The methodological entreaty to return to the actual subject implied a political corollary: "The state is an abstraction; the people alone is the concrete." With his transformative critique of Hegel, Marx thus definitively abandoned neo-Hegelian liberalism in favor of what he called "true democracy," a populist halfway house between liberalism and communism.
Yet Marx in 1843 was still willing to grant Hegel's social analysis a relative validity, since the ethical form of the Hegelian state at least responded to the fragmented form of life within civil society. Hegel had been appalled by the atomism of that society; left to their own devices, he felt that the people were only "the Many, as units . . . a formless mass whose commotion and activity could therefore only be elementary, irrational, barbarous and frightful." Hegel hoped the modern state could provide civil society with a binding ethical order to combat this social disorder.
But Marx, while sympathetic with the Hegelian critique of civil society, by 1843 had also come to feel that any purely political
accommodation missed the point. Even republicanism was denied Marx's blessing, since the political republic, as a mere constitutional form, provided democracy only within "the abstract form of the state." A political solution left the social bases of an atomized civil society intact and failed to solve the problem of poverty; as a result, the state, divorced from and set opposite the concrete forms of interaction within civil society, assumed the abstract form of rights and laws governing man qua citizen. Man qua man, on the other hand, pursued life in civil society as before.
As a consequence, the extent of individual emancipation within the modern state proved problematical. While bourgeois civil society represented the "accomplished principle of individualism," for most men that individualism remained partial and one-sided, rooted in the isolated struggle for survival. Where survival became the end, the individual's objective power of shaping the world, his labor, became a mere means. The bourgeois state ratified this inversion by vesting the individual's acknowledged universality in legal rights, where "man's content"—his practical pursuit of everyday life within civil society—"is not taken to be his true actuality."
True democracy, by contrast, would reconcile the social and political realms, rather than merely counterpose them. As Marx portrayed it, democracy abolished the separation of the state from a civil society by transforming the latter, and making everyday life itself the basis of ethics. The preconditions for such a metamorphosis in social existence included the restructuring of property relations, the amelioration of poverty, and the establishment of universal suffrage. With the realization of popular sovereignty and the abolition of primogeniture, the state could disappear, while the legislature, by truly representing the will of the people, could shed its opposition to civil society. Institutions could then be treated as vessels of individual activity, rather than as mysteriously self-positing Ideas, à la Hegel. True democracy thus marked the "first true unity of the universal and particular." The subjects of such a democracy might be acknowledged for what they were, rather than valued only as legal citizens. To the extent that civic and political life at last transparently stood forth as the "free product of men," the individual became the active subject rather than passive object of communal life.
By repudiating liberalism in favor of his own radical populism,
Marx posed the question of individual emancipation on a new and universal level: freedom and a decent existence were now claimed as rights for all men, regardless of their estate. Marx also began elaborating his own philosophical anthropology, which treated man as a practical and sociable being, rather than the acquisitive and insular entity classical liberalism had found in civil society. Moreover, by 1843 Marx had come to view the practical project of individual emancipation as a social as well as political issue: any purely political program such as liberalism proposed would leave man's everyday existence intact, and thus sustain the contradiction between the privatized, self-seeking individual and the public-minded citizen of the ideal political community—an ideal that liberalism continued to profess without extending it to civil society.
The Alienation of Labor
In 1844, Marx published two articles in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher . One, "On the Jewish Question," restated many of the points raised in the longer Hegel manuscript; the other, intended as an introduction to that manuscript, signaled an important departure. Reflecting Marx's growing interest in socialism and communism, "Toward the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction" attempted to identify a collective agent that might historically embody philosophical ideals and seek to realize them: "It is not enough that thought should seek its actualization: actuality must itself strive toward thought." Although an agent that could realize universal freedom at first appeared to be lacking in Germany, Marx asserted that a deeper examination of the social question revealed the proletariat as the incarnation of philosophy. "As philosophy finds its material weapons in the proletariat, the proletariat finds its intellectual weapons in philosophy."
Moreover, as Marx made clear in a third article published in 1844, the protest of the proletariat against oppressive conditions, passing beyond inherently limited plans to seize political power, embodied a plea that social relations be transformed, that everyday existence become humane. "A social revolution, even though it be limited to a single industrial district, affects the totality, because it is a human protest against a dehumanized life, because it starts from
the standpoint of the single, real individual, because the collectivity against whose separation from himself the individual reacts is the true collectivity of man, the human essence." A merely political revolution, by contrast, aimed only at winning institutional influence and power, and thus took as its standpoint neither the real individual nor the transformed collectivity, but instead the institutions of state, "an abstract whole that only exists through a separation from real life."
Given this analysis of the social question and its feasible resolution, Marx logically turned his critical energies from political philosophy to political economy—that young science which claimed to show the anatomy of civil society. Where the 1843 manuscripts had examined the political disunity of modern society, Marx's posthumously published 1844 manuscripts concentrated on the economic factors underlying that disunity. This time, he developed his argument primarily through a critical reading of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations .
Following such classical economists as Smith and David Ricardo, Marx described modern society (and organized his notes) in terms of a tripartite division into capital, landed property, and labor, a separation which he saw as reducing to a confrontation between capital (incorporating landed property) and labor. For the most part, he confined himself to pointing out the contradictory consequences and evasions of political economy, that dismal science which recognized labor as the chief source of human wealth, yet justified denying the laborer a full share in his own product. But he also charged the economists with failing to analyze scientifically the "subjective essence of private property, labor ."
Marx sought to rectify this omission through an analysis of the alienation of labor, one that enriched his understanding of individuation under modern economic conditions. He started from the central economic relationship discussed by classical political economy, that of the worker to the process of production. The failure of the laborer to acquire a full share of his own product represented the estrangement of labor from its product. More fundamentally, the initial separation of labor and capital necessitated the alienation of the laborer from the act of production; the modern worker lacked the tools and machines essential to his very life activity. As the object of labor was alienated from the laborer, both in the act of labor and
its product, so also was the complete activity of labor disrupted, by the disjunction of its essential elements.
This economic alienation had wide implications. Just as labor appeared a salable commodity external to the worker himself, the ultimate material of labor, nature, likewise seemed hostile and indifferent to the modern laborer. Yet the individual not only needed to labor to survive: his self-assertion also required objectifying activity, of which labor for Marx constituted the paradigmatic instance. The alienation of labor from the laborer thus entailed the alienation of the individual from himself. Instead of seeing his own objective activity publicly recognized as enriching the community, the worker competed with other individuals to sell his power of labor, and with it, his power of self-assertion. Estranged from himself and any public affirmation, the laborer became an abstract monad, depending on work merely to sustain an isolated existence. For the laborer, individuation necessarily occurred as alienation from social existence. Man was alienated from man.
The capitalist, by purchasing labor, had expropriated the individual's objective essence. Yet once lodged within the capital-labor relationship, the worker could only reproduce this relationship, in the very act of reproducing himself through labor. The only escape lay in an overthrow of the economic conditions which fractured social life. The liberation of the individual (bourgeois as well as proletarian), which Marx had previously shown to depend on a social transformation, now was seen to require specifically the emancipation of the working class. This emancipation proceeded through the struggle between capitalist and laborer which unavoidably developed within the capitalist mode of production.
Individual and Species:
Man as Social Being
Although Marx devoted most of his attention in the 1844 manuscripts to political economy, his argument often hinged on an implicit vision of man. As the manuscripts amply attest, he had borrowed more from Feuerbach than a methodology; he had also acquired a philosophical anthropology which depicted man as inherently a "species being."
Feuerbach, in his introduction to The Essence of Christianity ,
had equated knowledge of the human species with science; he had also attributed genuine consciousness only to those beings capable of making their species an object of thought. That man could consciously reason signified for Feuerbach that the human "I" transcended its individuality in the very process of thinking; the highest expression of this transcendence was the infinity of God posited by religious thought, an infinity in truth representing the idea of the perfected species-essence of mankind.
When Marx applied Feuerbach's anthropology to social life, he emphasized his own neo-Hegelian conception of man as a practical and objective being. For Marx, the highest expression of man's "species-being" came not in the consciousness of the infinite, as for Feuerbach, but in objective human activity. Man was the "subjectivity of objective essential powers, whose action, therefore, must also be something objective ."
Labor comprised the principal medium of man's objective being. Through labor, man's restless power of objective action transformed the world and appropriated it as his reality: humanity as a whole proved itself in work, if only by facilitating the survival of the species. The object of labor therefore represented the "objectification of man's species-life." Although Hegel had grasped the genesis of humanity as the progressive real objectification of the human spirit, Marx criticized Hegel for equating objectification with alienation, thus insuring that the transcendence of alienation appeared either as an impossibility or an absurdity.
The manuscripts insisted on man as a social being as well as a species-being. Human production had historically always proceeded in cooperation with others, either in the family, the guild or the factory; once exchange of goods had been instituted, the individual also depended on the others for material sustenance. But even on a philosophical level, man as an objective being implied man as a social being: for Marx, as for Hegel and Feuerbach, only another human being, by encountering the individual subject as an active object, could confirm this subject qua objective being, through the public recognition of is objectifications. In 1844, Marx thus praised Feuerbach for making the relationship of man to man the guiding principle of his materialism.
In truth, man could not humanly exist outside society. "Men, through the activation of their nature create and produce a human
common life , a social essence which is no abstractly universal power opposed to the single individual, but is the essence or nature of every single individual, his own activity, his own life, his own spirit, his own wealth." The most cultivated and human projects of the individual were both universal and social; even the isolated scientist, in formulating observable laws and acquiring verifiable results, was active as a man and engaged in an indirectly communal enterprise, as part of the community of scientific reason.
Communal social life did not arise initially through any conscious agreement or reflection among contracting men, but rather sprang directly from individual "need and egoism," neither of which could be confirmed or satisfied apart from society. Yet the individual's activity, even as inherently social activity, rarely occurred within the form of some directly communal activity, as the case of the scientist illustrated. Despite the implications of the phrase, the social being of the individual did not mean that his human being was to be identified with society, or even a particular social role; Marx's anthropology instead evoked an objectifying agent, open to a variety of social relations, but only mediately related to the larger community.
The individual indeed remained irrevocably particular for Marx: "It is precisely his particularity which makes him an individual, and a real individual social being." To be sure, the individual, precisely as an objective being, was characterized not by some ineffable, interiorized particularity, but by a "totalizing" particularity, that, in activity and thought, engaged in objective projects pointing beyond the individual, toward the universal and social community of man. In this sense, while the individual could never be subsumed under the universal for Marx, the individual could and did participate in the whole of social life, as the "subjective existence of society thought and experienced for itself."
In the 1844 manuscripts, as in the 1843 Hegel critique, a philosophical anthropology anchored Marx's approach by specifying what essence modern man was alienated from. The notion of the social individual also allowed Marx to erect a universalistic social theory without relying on Hegelian abstractions, or a cult of renascent community; it let Marx reconcile the individual, as a concrete, particular person, with the individual as the vessel of human universality and species-being—a reconciliation expressed in the admonition that "above all, we must avoid postulating 'Society' again as an abstraction vis-à-vis the individual."
Yet Marx's defense of the social individual remained ambiguous. It also in a sense begged the question of how the individual was integrated within a social community by simply asserting that the individual was, by essence, sociable. Marx later modulated his position to claim as a matter of observable fact (rather than philosophic essence) that the individual had become an intrinsically social being in the course of history. But he continued to emphasize the objective and social dimensions of human existence by focusing on the durable works created for humanity through the labor of individuals. As empirical science as well as prospective utopia, Marxist thought thus relied on the ability of the concrete individual to unite, in his own person, a concern for the universal as well as the particular.
A Vision of Free Individuality
The ultimate reconciliation of the individual with the social world awaited the conscious reappropriation, by individuals in society, of the objective world they had collectively created. Within bourgeois society, the individual's "nature, objectification and realization" were alienated precisely to the extent that "my means of life belongs to someone else , that my desire is the inaccessible possession of another ," that my objectification in labor was simultaneously my loss of the object. The more the worker produced, the less belonged "to him as his own"; the activity of the individual consequently appeared "independent of him and not belonging to him." Individual appropriation came to seem a matter of mere possession, rather than a process of sensing, feeling, thinking, acting, and loving, as well as possessing. Things themselves had lost the significance of being human property: "We ourselves are excluded from true property because our property excludes the other human being."
If the abstract equality imposed by money expressed the "general overturning of individualities" within bourgeois society, then that society could be opposed by the demand that "everyone of your relations to man and nature must be a specific expression , corresponding to the object of your will, of your real individual life." In communism, Marx saw the radical incarnation of this demand. He carefully distinguished his own concept of communism from earlier and more primitive notions, which involved a crude leveling of individ-
ual capabilities to a dull equality; Marx by contrast described communism as the fulfillment of individual capabilities, and the cultivation of a rich, "subjective human sensibility."
Through a revolutionary transformation of the social world, communism would transcend the contradictions between subject and object, spirit and matter, activity and passivity; it would resolve the antagonisms between "existence and essence, objectification and self-confirmation, freedom and necessity, the individual and the species." In the end, the human individual might stand forth in his essential nature.
Suppose we had produced things as human beings: in his production each of us would have twice affirmed himself and the other. (1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality and its particularity , and in the course of the activity I would have enjoyed an individual life ; in viewing the object, I would have experienced the individual joy of knowing my personality as an objective, sensuously perceptible , and indubitable power. (2) In your satisfaction and use of the product I would have had direct and conscious satisfaction that my work satisfied a human need, that it objectified human nature, and that it created an object appropriate to the need of another human being. (3) I would have been the mediator between you and the species, and you would have experienced me as a reintegration of your own nature and a necessary part of your self; I would have been affirmed in your thought as well as your love. (4) In my individual life I would have directly created your life; in my individual activity I would have immediately confirmed and realized my true human and social nature. Our production would be so many mirrors reflecting our nature."
While communism represented the "necessary form and dynamic principle of the immediate future," it was "not itself the goal of human development." Instead, the individual's emancipation, from alienating social conditions, to unalienated social life, formed the ultimate aim. "Labor would then be true, active property ," affirming one's "individual life." It was a vision that would animate Marx's thought long after he had discarded the philosophical anthropology behind its initial formulations.
In 1845, Marx and Engels published their first joint work, The Holy
Family , a polemic aimed at the German philosophical radicals. Although they allied themselves with materialism, Marx and Engels, like Feuerbach, persisted in deploying notions such as the "true nature" of man. Throughout The Holy Family , Marx retained the essentialistic language of Feuerbach-cum-Hegel most fully elaborated in the 1844 manuscripts. Retrospective nature as well as prospective norm, the concept of a human essence enabled the "Idea" of man to appear within the "real itself," as Marx had once specified in his adolescence; idealism could hence be accommodated to materialism. Yet the essence or nature disclosed by philosophical anthropology, no matter how materialistic its claims, remained a static substance outside of time, discernible primarily through its absence within empirical reality. Such essentialism, by juxtaposing essential human nature with its empirical alienation, covertly sustained the dualism of "is" and "ought"' which Marx had hoped to overcome.
The manuscripts comprising The German Ideology , dating from 1845–1846, represented a crucial break with this philosophical anthropology and its essentialism. After an abortive attempt to have the book published, Marx and Engels consigned it to "the stinging criticism of the mice." Yet in this work, as Marx acknowledged fifteen years later, he and Engels settled their accounts with their former "philosophic conscience." To be sure, many of the key concepts Marx had developed earlier retained a position within his transformed problematic: the conspicuous shift in language in The German Ideology and after was often purely a surface phenomenon, a strategic move even, devised in part to avoid the willful philosophical misreading Marx felt his articles for the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher had suffered.
But if many concepts, like alienation, remained, Marx's rejection of philosophical anthropology enabled him to elaborate his ideas in new areas, and to pose them on a new basis. The objective man of 1844 became productive man; the foundation of all higher production was laid by man's production of his means of subsistence. In producing his means of subsistence, the activity of man constituted a "mode of production," a characteristic structure on the basis of which human possibilities were elaborated. "As individuals express their life, so they are." To be sure, Marx's earlier usage of concepts like "human nature" and "species-being" had never simply coincided with Feuerbach's; moreover, any view that described the
essence of man as activity and objectification was by intent dynamic and historical, and militated against the hypostatization implicit in the anthropological question, "What is man's nature?"—as if there were self-evidently one. Nevertheless, with the new empirical emphasis of The German Ideology , any misunderstanding or reification of the notions "nature" and "essence" became virtually impossible. In this setting, the nature of man became variable, with as many possible meanings as modes of production and forms of life. The essence of man was explicitly linked to the historical conditions under which he produced and expressed himself."
While Marx in effect subjected his own earlier views to scrutiny in The German Ideology , he reserved his most caustic jibes for former left-Hegelian colleagues, regardless of their materialist or spiritualist orientation. "Man" had remained an abstraction for neo-Hegelian philosophy; in it, the "human essence," somehow mysteriously incarnate in single individuals, became the conceptual motive force of history, while history itself became the story of the self-estrangement of "Man." But Marx now argued that a philosophically derived essence of man could not be set before the actual relations of men, for it was these latter which sustained all higher human expression, including philosophy. On the other hand, the materialist neo-Feuerbachians, by simply equating essence and existence, equally misunderstood "existing reality " Here Marx argued that the actual relations of men traced out potential avenues for further human fulfillment and expression—but these possibilities were disclosed through historical rather than philosophical understanding.
Marx thus claimed that any social order, when closely studied, revealed a series of repressed or undeveloped possibilities for social and personal development. For example, the existent wealth of wants under capitalism, at least for the ruling class, indicated the objective possibility of a wealth of wants for all men within a society differently structured; or again, the factories and industries that housed the wage laborers of today could be seen as the home of man's communal mastery of nature tomorrow. Every social fact was thus more than it seemed, taken in isolation. When historically grasped, in relation to a wider constellation of other phenomena, a given datum could be interpreted as a negation, privation, or restriction: those conditions currently decried as inhuman suggested a future condition of humanity consequent on their transformation.
Thus "the positive expression 'human' corresponds to the definite conditions predominant at a certain stage of production and to the way of satisfying wants determined by them, just as the negative expression 'inhuman' corresponds to the attempt, within the existing mode of production, to negate these predominant conditions and the way of satisfying wants prevailing under them, an attempt that this stage of production daily engenders afresh." The young Hegelians had approached the matter upside-down. Existence could not be deduced from essence: yet the reverse path, from existence to essence, was not only conceivable, but was actually espoused by Marx. Critically comprehended, reality of itself, through the protests of individuals dissatisfied with that reality, pointed beyond the one-dimensional confines of the purely present. As a result, transcendental philosophy had been rendered superfluous: "When reality is depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence."
This new accent on reality obviously had significant ramifications for Marx's theory of individual emancipation. Criticism now became tied to the social relations and norms immanent to a given epoch; communism, previously a social ideal deciphered by philosophy, now became an expression of "the real movement which abolishes the present state of affairs." The social dimension of human existence could similarly be conceived historically, instead of being hypostatized as man's "social being." The development of the individual's social inclinations no longer needed to appear as man's teleological perfection: instead the claims of individuation and communism were both deduced (in theory at least) from the real development of society.
In The German Ideology , Marx and Engels thus reposed the question of individual emancipation, on the basis of a new understanding of "materialism." Previous materialists had emphasized the primary reality of physical matter, and the derivation of ideas from sense-data. Marx's novel version of materialism by contrast signified the primacy of "real individuals," not simply as conscious species-beings, but specifically as laboring creatures, producing to satisfy wants, and interacting within historically determinate social relations. For Marx in 1845, the history of productive forces circumscribed the "history of the development of the forces of the individuals themselves." The hitherto incomplete development of humanity
and its productive capacities thus helped explain the unavoidable shortcomings of all earlier "conquests of freedom." The communist revolution, however, presupposed a global penetration of advanced productive forces, the merging of local history into world history, and the nullification of parochial barriers to communication and exchange. Modern capitalism had laid the basis for this revolution by placing individuals in "practical connection" with the "material and intellectual production of the whole world"; on this expanding basis of global interdependence, associated individuals, through communal control, might consciously master their powers of production.
To the extent that these productive forces had become global and universal, their appropriation had to be collective and social; any other mode of appropriation would fail to master rationally the historically developed resources. "Modern universal intercourse can be controlled by individuals, therefore, only when controlled by all." Yet the end of such collective action remained individuation. The "reality which communism is creating" was "precisely the true basis for rendering it impossible that anything should exist independently of individuals, insofar as reality is only a product of the preceding intercourse of individuals themselves." The transformation of the capitalist mode of production, through the abolition of private property and the division of labor, formed the material prerequisite for the emergence of fully developed men and women, able to command existent productive forces as "free manifestations of their lives." Particular personal relationships would no longer be subordinated to general class relationships. Beyond the one-sided specialization compelled by the division of labor, a man could "hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner . . . without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic."
Marx went so far as to describe a communist form of society as "the only society in which the original and free development of individuals ceases to be a mere phrase." The full range of men's possibilities could thus only be elaborated in the future: for the present, Marx merely affirmed that the individual and his relations would be transformed under communism, that "the individuals' consciousness of their mutual relations will, of course, likewise become something quite different, and, therefore, will no more be 'the principle of love' or dévouement , than it will be egoism."
Egoism, indeed, received a good deal of attention in The German Ideology : well over half the book was devoted to a critique of Max Stirner, the self-styled egoist and author of The Ego and His Own . For Stirner, the ego, which he called a "creative nothing," was the source of all concepts and normative evaluations, although most men, rather than realizing their unique creativity, became "possessed" by commonplace ideals and religious "spooks." Moral conscience hobbled the individual's will: Stirner complained that "the hard fist of morality treats the noble nature of egoism altogether without compassion." He was no less appalled by liberalism; the secular religion of the state dissolved the "bodily, personal, egoistic interests" of each individual in the name of a mythic "general interest of all." By contrast, Stirner's egoist recognized only himself: "All freedom is essentially . . . self-liberation. . . . I can have as much freedom as I procure for myself by my ownness." To realize "ownness" in Stirner's terms was to take willful possession of one's fate, and to shape an individualized destiny: "I am my own only when I am master of myself, instead of being mastered either by sensuality, or by anything else (God, Man, authority, law, State, Church) ." Stirner welcomed the nihilistic implications of his radical egocentrism: "If I found my affair on myself, the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, who consumes himself, and I may say: I have founded my affair on nothing ."
Since Stirner's theory resembles a primitive brand of existentialism, the commentary by Marx and Engels assumes an added interest. Some of their arguments were predictable: for example, they charged that Stirner's "unique" individual only ideally appropriated the world as his own, while really accepting the world as it already existed. They similarly criticized Stirner for slighting the social and material context that formed the setting for all subjective pursuits, a context that defined the possible forms individuation could take.
Yet Marx and Engles also granted Stirner's egoistic perspective a qualified validity. Engels, who was more enthusiastic on this score than Marx, praised Stirner's book in a letter he wrote Marx in 1844: any effective commitment to social change, remarked Engels, depended on making that cause our "own, egoistic cause." In agreement with Stirner, he argued that the communist desire of returning individuals to their human and social being had, "quite apart from
any material expectation," to be interiorized in the desire of the individual ego. While Marx urged Engels to temper his enthusiasm, he could agree with him and Stirner that true freedom entailed "self-liberation." Moreover, while Marx and Engels in The German Ideology denied that even bourgeois individuals were the heartless, self-centered egoists that Stirner lauded, they themselves claimed to bring "practical egoism to perfection, precisely by denying the phraseology of egoism—we who are concerned with realising real egoistical interests, not the holy interest of egoism." The communists by no means wanted "to do away with the 'private individual' for the sake of the 'general.' self sacrificing man."
The trouble with Stirner, then, was not his obsession with individuation, but his one-sided abstraction of the individual from physical and social life. The satisfaction of the individual, however, depended "not on consciousness, but on being; not on thought, but on life." If the individual was to be liberated from heavenly ideals and alien authority, the world which "stimulated" his development had to be modified and placed under the control of the individuals themselves. That is why, for Marx and Engels, "the changing of oneself" coincides with "the changing of circumstances."
The Logic of Capital and the Loss of Agency
As 1848 approached, Marx increasingly devoted his time to political organizing, in conjunction with the Communist League, a London-based federation of exiled German workers. With the outbreak of continental revolution in 1848, Marx returned first to Paris, and then to Cologne, where he assumed editorial responsibilities for the Neue Rheinische Zeitung . Throughout the next year, he published a host of journalistic articles, representative of a vocation he pursued intermittently over the next decade, primarily in the New York Daily Tribune after 1853. in 1849, with the revolutionaries acrosss Europe in retreat, he was expelled from Cologne; after a brief stay in Paris, he was forced into exile in London, where he set to work on a critique of political economy.
The writings from this period bear witness to Marx's abiding interest in many of the themes first elaborated in earlier manuscripts, "Wage Labor and Capital." for example, described the
estrangement under capital of the worker's own "life-activity," which became degraded to an odious means of mere subsistence. Indeed, the modern world appeared, from one perspective, as the alienation of agency, a loss of control. Capitalist society, remarked Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto , was "like the sorcerer, who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world which he has called up by his spells." Marx used similar imagery in a speech delivered in 1856: "At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or to his own infamy. Even the pure light of science seems unable to shine but on a dark background of ignorance. All our inventions and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life, and in stultifying human life into a material force."
Although Marx did not publish any results of his economic studies until the appearance in 1859 of his little book, Critique of Political Economy , his extensive study notes for this precursor to Capital have been preserved. Marx had originally envisaged a large six-part work on political economy treating (in order) capital, landed property, wage labor, the state, foreign trade, and the world market: within this plan, the extant four volumes of Capital (including Theories of Surplus Value ) would have constituted only one-sixth of the projected work. Yet in the preface to the Critique , Marx claimed that the "entire material lies before me," written "for the purpose of cleaning up these questions to myself." In 1939 and 1941, almost a thousand pages of this work were published in Moscow under the title Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (Rohentwurf ). An examination of these manuscripts confirms the fundamental continuity of Marx's work, especially with regard to the question of individual emancipation.
The Grundrisse resurrected the Hegelian terms of Marx's 1844 reflections; yet the dialectic of objectification and alienation recurred on a new level, the terrain of his mature comprehension of economics. By focusing on the "logic" of capital, Marx sharply posed the problem of labor as the loss of human agency.
This logic dictated that capital and labor exist as mutually exclusive antitheses. Abstractly considered, capital, objectified wealth, was only capital as nonlabor, while labor, subjective activity, was only labor as noncapital, as the exclusion of objectified wealth. Within the capital-labor relationship, labor found itself divorced
from the raw materials, instruments, tools and products necessary for its action—in short, from all the relevant objectivity. Labor as noncapital thus was reduced to its subjective moment: labor not as objective self-expression but rather as the pure potential for objectifying activity. It was this potential that the laborer sold to the capitalist.
Despite the circumstance that labor, within the capital-labor relation, represented "absolute poverty, not as lack, but as complete exclusion of objective wealth," and was thus devalued, it nonetheless constituted the source of all economic value. Through its separation from capital, it became the abstract, perpetual possibility of activity as the realization of value. Yet this possibility only existed within the production process itself, which temporarily united the otherwise sundered elements of (subjective) labor and (objective) capital. Within the capital-labor relation, this unification of labor with its raw materials and instruments occurred on capital's terms: to the extent that labor entered into its unity, it simultaneously reproduced the disunity, of objectified labor (tools, raw materials), on the one hand, and living labor on the other.
Labor conserved existent value at the same time as it objectified new, or surplus, value for the capitalist. In return for his effort, the laborer received wages, while the capitalist retained a profit; and yet the only productive factor in the capital/labor equation was labor. Just as the substance of value was generally objectified labor, so most components of capital, as products, represented previously objectified labor. The analysis of the capital-labor relation revealed the lopsided contribution of labor, which capital proceeded to usurp. Since labor alone animated the production process, capital could be considered the product of labor, as well as an instrument for labor and a raw material used by it; "we can truly say that capital is not productive."
In modern society, the capital-labor relation, which comprised both a confrontation and exchange between its two elements, had established itself as a force independent of the individual producer. Labor ceased to exist for the worker as "the productive force of wealth," since capital appropriated that force, eventually to counterpose its objectified products to the worker as a hostile power.  Worse still, since the laborer produced new or surplus value for capital, he unwittingly reinforced the objective conditions for extracting more such value.
Labor necessarily emerged from the production process poorer than when it entered; its objectified power of creating new value returned to labor, through capital, as its objective powerlessness. "The more labor objectifies itself, the greater will be the objective world of values that faces it in the form of alien property." The past appropriation of labor thus served as the basis for fresh appropriation. Through the production process, labor found itself perpetually alienated from its own proper reality; its objectified traces became a "mere entity of others, or other entity," while its active objectification founded "its own non-being" or "the being of its non-being—of capital."
The laborer consequently faced alienation from his very "manifestation of life," his human agency, which had been ceded to capital in exchange for dead, objectified labor in the form of money. The content of work itself was transformed into an alien object, chosen by the capitalist rather than the laborer. To the extent that the collective power of labor was assembled through capital, this power appeared to the worker as yet another independent force, foreign to his own activity.
The apparently free exchange between labor and capital was thus revealed by Marx as an exchange entailing the alienation and exploitation of labor. The most acute manifestation of this estrangement came in the worker's relation to the machine. By reducing the living activity of labor to a mechanical gesture, the machine reaped the ultimate victory of dead over living labor; rather than labor dominating its own creation, the machine dominated labor. With the machine, capitalist civilization occurred as a nightmare. The continual rise in the productive power of labor itself, the increasing penetration of scientific knowledge into the labor process—all this progress in civilization did not in the first instance enrich labor, but only capital.
History and Individuation
Marx's early drafts for his critique of political economy contained an abundance of historical illustrations and references. By inserting a lengthy discussion of precapitalist economic formations, he underlined the transience of capitalism itself. Indeed, capitalism was "revolutionary, while all other modes of production were essentially
conservative," Marx wrote in Capital . Through historical understanding, capitalism could be seen in terms of the foundations it already provided for another, more humane form of life.
Capitalism represented a definite progression over previous economic forms. To be sure, at first glance the regime of capital seemed merely to abolish the old feudal ties to land and lord, only to erect a new, economic dependence. But capitalism also sought the complete development of productive forces; by driving labor beyond the limits of its natural and traditional wants, it laid the basis for a "rich individuality." While capital fostered a competitive individualism, pitting man against man, the very differentiation of the individuals thus isolated compelled them to enter into relations with one another as individuals . Not only that: through the exchange of goods satisfying reciprocal wants, these individuals "stand not only in an equal, but also in a social relation to one another." In the marketplace and before the law, capitalism thus in principle established, on the ground of individuation, the abstract equality of all subjects and also their freedom—achievements anticipated by the untrammeled circulation of money. Echoing the indifference of money to personal distinction, exchange encouraged the unfettered movement of self-seeking egoistical interest. Marx went so far as to describe the exchange of commodities as the "productive, real basis of all equality and freedom ."
This account confirmed Marx's materialist approach, in The German Ideology , to individual emancipation. In the early writings, the emergence of the social individual, the "whole man" of 1844, had marked man's elevation to his essential nature. From this perspective, individuation had appeared not so much an accomplishment as a given datum of human existence—although the extent and efficacy of the individual's real power naturally varied with his situation.
But Marx in the Grundrisse clearly and unequivocally affirmed that "man is individualized through the process of history." While man's appearance across history displayed certain constants, these could only be confirmed through a comparative historical inquiry, which provisionally determined the nature of man by specifying the heretofore stable traits shared by all, while anticipating possibilities for their modification. Man was alienated in modern society, not from an essence, but from real possibilities for a better form of life—
one that might overcome the dissatisfying disjunction between the constraints imposed by capitalism and the ideals professed by modern culture. Individuation now appeared as one of the foremost progressive achievements—and promises—of modern society.
Capitalism had accumulated wealth, promoted universal exchange, and established a thorough interdependence among producing and consuming individuals. This universal exchange and expanded wealth tended to produce the individual in its own image. He formed the locus of freedom in trade and was guaranteed a certain equality before the law. Any individual might (in theory) develop his labor-power to any end, independently of guild restrictions. Yet ultimately such universality, freedom, and equality encountered immanent barriers to their economic and social elaboration. The freedom of the individual within commodity exchange simultaneously represented a strict limitation or even complete suppression of his actual liberty, insofar as social conditions, such as the division of society into capital and labor, took the form of alien, allpowerful forces governing his life activity. Equality under capitalist conditions of exchange likewise remained a formal endowment confined to the realm of law, or appeared as money, which established its equivalence value only by leveling all distinctions among things and men.
The material liberation of the individual thus required the abolition of capitalist relations of production, even though capitalism itself in large part supplied the social and economic basis to support universal individuation. Through collective production, the associated individuals might consciously appropriate, on a harmonious basis, the extensive productive forces already developed by capital and subordinate them to their own particular aims. Material production would then disappear as an alien compulsion confronting the laboring individual and become instead an objective expression of individual desires satisfied through collective labor.
In broad outline, the Grundrisse sketched the stages of human development. The earliest forms of society were marked by restricted relationships of personal dependency. The second form of society by contrast witnessed the establishment of general social intercourse and the expansion of productivity; as a consequence, far-reaching social relations developed among men, individual wants became differentiated, and variable, universal skills in labor
were encouraged. Nevertheless, this second form of society, which liberated capital, simultaneously subjected the producers to the caprice of capital; the new independence was confined within a new dependence. The third form of society surpassed such limitations. Marx called this stage, established on the economic basis provided by capitalism, "free individuality." The first form of society explicitly to incorporate individuality as its guiding aim and principle, it was directed toward the further "universal development of individuals and the domination of their communal and social productivity, which has become their social power."
The social individual liberated within Marx's "third form" of society arose as a possibility through the process of history. As Marx remarked in the Critique of Political Economy , "We do not proceed from the labor of individuals as social labor, but, on the contrary, from the special labor of private individuals, which appears as universal social labor only by divesting itself of its original character in the process of exchange. Universal social labor is, therefore, no ready-made assumption, but a growing result." Marx now called man a "zoon politikon ," not because he was sociable by nature, but rather because he was "an animal which can develop into an individual only in society."
The Social Individual Liberated
Throughout his later published writings, Marx maintained his interest in individual emancipation. The upshot of world history in Capital , as in the Grundrisse , was the full development of the particular individual. Modern industry, by the very unstable character of the employment it offered labor, forced the laborer to vary his skills: it replaced the "detail worker of today" with the "fully developed individual, fit for a variety of labor . . . to whom the different social functions he performs are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural and acquired powers." In cooperative labor, moreover, the individual "strips off the fetters" of his isolated "individuality and develops the capabilities of his species." Marx indeed was more sanguine about the effects of capitalism on individuality in 1867 than he had been in 1844. The rise of capitalism had definitively shattered the limited economic bases of earlier economic
forms, which could only support "the immature development of man individually." The individual in communist society would thus reappropriate "individual property based on the acquisitions of the capitalist era, i.e., on cooperation and the possession in common of the land, and the means of production." The "ruling principle" of communist production was acknowledged as "the full and free development of every individual."
Marx's critique of the Gotha program in 1875 confirmed his commitment to individual emancipation:
In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
Capital and his later writings thus sustained Marx's youthful vision of a society where every individual's capabilities might be freely developed. But Marx had come to view such an emancipation historically rather than philosophically: the social individual was no anthropological a priori, but instead an emergent result of historical tendencies. The institution of communism liberated the individual fostered by the complex of social interdependencies characterizing advanced capitalism. Such men were already social beings in the most profound sense: they could not pursue their lives apart from society. But they were also individuals with livelihoods and identities founded on the elaboration of specialized and particular talents.
The emergence of labor as an abstract, universal, and exploitable potential suggested its liberation as a vehicle of personal expression. The end of individuation then entailed not simply equality before the law, or the bourgeois privilege of eccentricity, but rather the foundation of a society in which, as Theodor Adorno once put it, "people could be different without fear," The material basis of individuation lay in the wealth accumulated by capitalism: upon such a basis, men might be able to objectify themselves with a minimum of material constraints. By placing machinery at the service of
the producers and reducing necessary labor time to a minimum, the arena for free human expression could be enlarged.
As free time became available to all, it transformed "anyone who enjoys it into a different person, and it is this different person who then enters the direct process of production." Work, while not becoming play, might then reclaim a lost dimension of creative expression for the individual. The continued progress of productive forces in turn prompted the full development of a wealth of socially acquired wants. Collective production encouraged a "rich individuality, just as universal in production as consumption. . . . [Its] labor thus itself appears not to be labor anymore, but a full development of activity, in which the natural necessity has disappeared in its direct form, since the place of natural needs has been taken by needs that are historically produced."
The social individual represented a possible future concealed at the heart of a congealed present.
When the narrow bourgeois form has been peeled away, what is wealth, if not the universality of needs, capacities, enjoyments, productive powers, etc., of individuals, produced in universal exchange? What, if not the full development of human control over the forces of nature—those of his own nature as well as those of so-called "nature"? What, if not the absolute elaboration of his creative dispositions, without any preconditions other than antecedent historical evolution which makes the totality of this evolution—i.e., the evolution of all human powers as such, unmeasured by any previously established yardstick—an end in itself? What is this, if not a situation where man does not reproduce himself in any determined form, but produces his totality? Where he does not seek to remain something formed by the past, but is in the absolute movement of becoming?
Throughout his life, Marx thus affirmed the end of individual emancipation. Beyond the primarily political and formal emancipation envisaged by liberalism, beyond the purely technical reform of society proposed by utopian socialists like Saint-Simon, beyond the abstractly inward moral metamorphosis espoused by various strains of romanticism, Marx anticipated social conditions that might enable men to become whole, to unite in intention and act, implement and result the reality of their own, particular purposes. Restored to his vital objectivity, the individual might finally begin to elaborate his own world freely, in the inalienable certitude of his
acts. Communism would then spell the end of estranged self-expression, as surely as it inaugurated an equitable distribution of wealth. By submitting social institutions to the control of the individuals comprising them, communism returned the individual to society, as its real subject and proper object.
The plausibility of this vision has yet to be demonstrated in practice. Although Marx himself forecast the reconciliation of particular desire and universal interest within a new form of social life, modern history has yet to confirm such expectations. Instead, the emergence of an economy premised on constant growth and geared to the virtually unlimited proliferation of "needs" has called into question Marx's optimistic assessment of the "rich individuality" engendered by capitalism. If Marx's paradigm was the individual as producer, our contemporary problem is the individual as consumer, the object of advertising and market research. Similarly, the rise of a form of life stamped by mass production has tended to liquidate rather than reconcile the distinction between the individual and society: today's social individual increasingly wears the mask of cheerful conformism, while the outsider and solitary thinker, by taking exception to the blandishments of immediate social existence, preserve the possibility of a reconciliation that respects human differences. Marx critically depicted the process of individual emancipation, but he scarcely foresaw the full range of difficulties impeding its realization.
The "Real Individual" and Marx's Method
Marx did not limit his interest in individuals to a concern for their emancipation. In fact, throughout his early works he frequently referred to "real individuals" as the basis of social theory. This individualistic accent in Marxian theory strikes an odd contrast to his more familiar social realism, with its emphasis on the command of social and historical conditions over human action; indeed, Marx's talk of real individuals receded in his later works. But it never vanished completely, continuing to play an auxiliary role in his economic theory: The emphasis on individuals served as a reminder that social relations and economic concepts were not static, but developed historically, through the agency of human beings.
The Individual Basis of Theory:
Feuerbach and Marx
Marx formed his early methodological perspectives under the influence of Ludwig Feuerbach. In his critique of Hegel, Feuerbach had called for the return of philosophy from the "realm of 'departed souls'" to the "realm of embodied and living souls." Such a return would show the truth of materialism—not the "obtuse" materialism of previous thinkers who had denied the intellect any reality at all, but rather a post-Hegelian materialism that grasped consciousness through an understanding premised on the primacy of sentient human beings and the perceptible world they lived in. According to Feuerbach, Hegel, like all previous rationalists, remained a prisoner of theological abstractions: concepts like "Spirit" were groundless, corresponding to no perceptible or human reality. In his critique of Hegel's Phenomenology , Feuerbach traced this groundlessness back
to what he took to be Hegel's transcendence of sense-certainty. For Feuerbach, by contrast, sensuous intuition (Anschauung ) founded all abstract concepts: "Only the intuition of things and beings in their objective reality makes man free, liberated from all prejudices." The highest manifestation of such sensuous intuition of the particular, according to Feuerbach, occurred in loving another human being. In love, the concrete "this" of a specific person acquired an absolute value which could not be conjured away by some dialectical sleight of hand—one reason why Feuerbach called love the "proof" of being.
Despite his unorthodox emphasis on love, the irreducibility of consciousness, and the centrality of the single human being, Feuerbach's doctrine paralleled the materialism of Enlightenment thinkers such as Holbach, who argued that all ideas were based on sentiments and sense-data; like them, Feuerbach attributed reality only to feelings, intuitions, and the consciousness of particular individuals. Similarly, the concomitant of this materialism was a variant on nominalism, the view that concepts represent no objective entities, but instead remain mere names. But Feuerbach's nominalism, like his materialism, harbored ambiguities. According to him, religion formed an essential repository of the self-image of humanity, inverted to be sure, but nonetheless essentially accurate after its materialist reinterpretation. As the metaphors of religion implied, the essence of the human individual was contained in his unity with a community, in the relationship between man and man; in his communal perfection, the individual developed the highest capabilities of the species. He was then no solitary soul, but instead potentially embodied the universal and infinite, which Hegel had mystified as the attribute exclusively of "Spirit" or God. While Feuerbach insisted that the individual could never be transcended (by God or by Hegel), he equally insisted that the individual could shed the limitations of his singularity, most critically in the sensuous, loving relationship linking "I" and "Thou." If for Hegel the universal contained the particular, for Feuerbach the particular contained (at least potentially) the universal; to this extent, the universal (such as religious images of God) had a measure of reality.
When Marx came to criticize Hegel in 1843, he adapted Feuerbach's nominalistic method, its ambiguity intact, to his own purposes. Hegel had committed a compound error in his Philosophy of
Right , charged Marx: he had abstracted man from his actual life activities and then established the state as the supposedly concrete locus of man's social existence. But the individual, as grasped by neo-Feuerbachian materialism, already, by essential nature, manifested sociable inclinations: the true foundation of politics was not a putatively universal entity, the state, but the individual men whose interaction actually constituted society. In a reasonable society, political institutions would embody nothing but the "modes of existence and operation of the social qualities of men." In his 1844 manuscripts, Marx followed a similar line of argument. Since society consisted of nothing but sociable individuals, there was no need for it to confront the individual as an alien entity. In a communist society, every individual's relations would become an immediate, specific manifestation of "real individual life."
Marx in his early writings thus followed Feuerbach in endorsing a form of social nominalism—the view that social groups and institutions have no existence apart from the individuals comprising them. Moreover, Marx in The Holy Family also followed Feuerbach in offering nominalist arguments to criticize Hegel's use of concepts. "The main interest for the speculative philosopher is . . . to produce the existence of . . . real ordinary fruits and to say in some mysterious way that . . . the apples, pears, almonds and raisins that we rediscover in the speculative world are nothing but semblances . . . for they are moments in the life of 'the Fruit,' this abstract creation of the mind , and therefore themselves abstract creations of the mind ." Elsewhere in the same work, Marx sympathetically described nominalism as the "first expression of materialism."
The nominalist position proved a useful starting point for the criticism of the left-Hegelians. The greatest enemy of socialism, wrote Marx in 1844, is "speculative idealism, which substitutes 'self-consciousness' or the 'spirit' for the real individual man." Such an idealism construed history as a self-activating train of events, although in fact history was "nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims." Yet Marx's nominalism, like Feuerbach's, remained equivocal. Talk of a human essence and species-being indeed seemed contradictory to the spirit of a thoroughgoing nominalism. And, as subsequent works would make clear, Marx by no means intended to deny the reality of social institutions and relations.
Between Social Nominalism and Social Realism
The German Ideology represented the apotheosis of Marx's early neo-Feuerbachian nominalist tendencies, coupled, paradoxically, not only with a critique of Feuerbachian materialism, but also with a growing insistence on the virtually autonomous reality of modern society vis-à-vis any particular individual. Nonetheless, "real individuals" appear prominently throughout the work: "The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can be made only in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing, and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way." Social theory did not take for granted any philosophical a prioris, humanistic or otherwise; instead, the theorist started from men and the activities they pursued within a specific material and social setting. The emphasis on circumstance and activity underlined the dynamic and intrinsically historical nature of the object the theory described: the individuals it faced underwent a "perceptible process of development" under definite historical conditions.
Yet while Marx here expressed the premises of his materialism in an individualistic fashion, he also emphasized the reality of social classes, and the social origin of religion and philosophy. Typically (in the American sociology inspired by George Herbert Mead, for instance) social nominalism and "methodological individualism" have gone hand in hand with "psychological realism" and a corresponding denial of social reality and "societal facts." But Marx's social-nominalist tendencies consisted only in taking individual acts as the ultimate source of social reality. He nowhere denied the reality of the social realm resulting from the totality of individual acts; he simply denied its independence from human action. Indeed, Marx often insisted that individual beliefs and behavior were critically shaped by such immediately irreducible social phenomena as the rules of exchange and the roles typically assumed within a given social class. Such social objects as class and the division of labor were indubitably real, to the point indeed where they could appear as an
independent imposition on the individuals ultimately comprising them.
To be sure, such social structures as class Marx held to be historically reducible to the "individual behavior of individuals" at a certain stage of material and social development; it was individuals who "created the existing conditions and daily reproduce them anew." The virtual independence of social relations from the individuals ultimately producing them arose initially from the historical sedimentation of previous human acts, which confronted succeeding individuals as a fait accompli; acts which had once assumed a vital meaning for men left to posterity merely their petrified traces and unintended consequences. Capitalist relations of exchange ratified this reification by vesting control of such institutions as the state and means of production in the hands of a few. A laborer therefore confronted institutions such as the division of labor as alien and rigid, quasi-natural objectivities limiting his own life and its possibilities. Although society consisted only of active individuals who comprised the social order through their relations and practices, the eventual outcome and final totality of these practices and relations eluded the control of any one individual.
While Marx acknowledged the relative autonomy of many humanly created social institutions and relations from the persons entering into and reproducing them, he simultaneously used the "individualistic" premises of his materialism to protest such fixed social relations. By placing social production under the control of the associated producers, communism would facilitate the return of social institutions and relations to the command of the individuals who in fact comprised them. In this sense, the real individual as a theoretical premise helped demystify the social order, Marx's theory then yielded an historical account of the genesis of social relations and institutions, and bore within itself a mandate for the conscious production of history and society by those individuals who had hitherto produced themselves, their society, and their history largely unconsciously.
Comprehending Social Relations
An emphasis on the activity and intercourse of individuals as the
real foundation of society remained characteristic of Marx's thought; yet the later economic works modified his earlier individualism by restricting its role in his social theory. Society had never been for Marx a mere sum of individual acts, but rather a "totality" of interacting individuals, facing one another in various relationships. His later economic works focused precisely on that totality and the economic and social relations which defined it. Modern society did not present a series of simply human relations of man to man, but instead an array of historically specific social and economic relations, such as those of capitalist to worker and landlord to tenant. Such relationships among men appeared determinant only from the standpoint of society; no man was a wage laborer as such. Rather, he could be a wage laborer only "within society and because of it" by entering into a social relation with another individual, in this case a capitalist in search of labor. Modern society embodied "social relations based on the antagonism of classes. These relations are, not the relations of individual to individual, but of workman to capitalist, of farmer to landlord, etc. Efface these relations and you have extinguished the whole of society. . . . "
The individual thus faced a previously established set of social relations outside of his particular control. To this extent, persons entering into them remained unfree. "The social relation of individuals to each other, which has made itself into an autonomous power over them, whether it is presented as a power of nature, an accident or anything else you like, is the necessary result of the fact that the starting point is not the free social individual." In consequence, most men were forced to take on constraining social roles. But "just as it is . . . childish to consider these economic bourgeois roles of buyer and seller as eternal social forms of human individuality, so it is on the other hand preposterous to lament in them the extinction of individuality. They are the necessary manifestations of individuality at a certain stage of the social system of production."
The social interaction of individuals had hitherto occurred within an hypostatized framework that remained virtually independent of the persons involved. Men made their own history—"but they do not make it just as they please, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past." If society was the historical product of individual acts, and a reality virtually independent of such acts, the question of method and the approach of social
theory to its object became acute. Narrative history might emphasize the concatenation of particular actions against a backdrop of given circumstance; yet political economy approached the backdrop of given economic circumstance beyond specific individual acts. How?
Through his study of political economy, Marx came to revise his earlier neo-Feuerbachian presentation of the methodology and procedures appropriate to social theory. In the process, Marx, while insisting on the ontological primacy of interacting individuals, disavowed any form of epistemological nominalism. Where Feuerbach and the early Marx had called the tangible and particular the "concrete," the later Marx followed Hegel in viewing concreteness as an attribute of theory, a result of a theory's comprehensiveness.
His polemic against Proudhon in The Poverty of Philosophy had previously indicated the course of his development. There he had unambiguously presented social relations as the object of economic theory. Economic categories merely expressed these relations; to this end, the categories necessarily ignored particular individuals, just as any specific social relation qua relation represented something more than and different from the individuals involved.
Marx's introduction to the Gundrisse sketched out in more detail his mature approach to social relations. As before, the observable world of individuals producing in society remained the ground of social theory external to theory itself. But concreteness was now presented as the result and accomplishment of thought itself, "a combination of many determinations, therefore the unity of diverse elements." Such theoretical concreteness led to the conceptual "reproduction" of the observable social world "in the course of reasoning"; but for the first time, it constituted this world as an object of knowledge by ordering it conceptually.
Marx set out by criticizing previous political economy. He therefore already had a body of abstract concepts before him as his object. The classical concepts required reformulation because of internal theoretical contradictions, as well as discrepancies between the theory and the economic reality ostensibly depicted. For example, Adam Smith had predicted that the free play of self-interest would generate wealth for all; yet the widespread squalor and poverty endured by the nineteenth-century British worker, documented at great length in Capital , tended to discredit Smith's hypothesis.
The significance of the basic economic concepts lay in their relationship to one another. Fundamental categories like capital remained virtually meaningless without reference to other categories such as labor, value, money, and so on. The increasingly complex articulation of such conceptual relations enabled theory to approximate the real complexity of economic relations, only now comprehended by defined concepts. Capital thus moved from abstract notions such as labor, value, and capital toward a presentation of such phenomena as the state and world market. The whole process could be summarized as a movement from real empirical complexity through conceptual simplicity to a conceptually comprehended complexity, a movement which provided the theoretical tools for grasping the initial complexity in its economic dimensions.
Moreover, Marx now implied that the real abstractness and complexity of a phenomenon like the commodity refuted any strictly nominalist perspective. In the first edition of Capital , Hegel's logic, for all its absurd inversions, was implicitly vindicated as the method appropriate to an absurdly inverted social reality. In a remarkable reversal of his nominalist critique of "the Fruit" in 1845, Marx remarked how, when one commodity, such as gold, functions as a universal equivalent in exchange, "it is as if, above and beyond lions, tigers, hares and all other actual animals which group to form the various kinds, species, subspecies, families, etc., of the animal kingdom, there also existed the animal , the individual incarnation of the entire animal kingdom. Such an individual, which includes within itself all actually existing species as the same thing, is a universal , like animal , god , etc." Yet Marx still preserved a critical distance from Hegel. That he makes his point sarcastically confirms his continuing commitment to demystify apparently abstract social relations, and, ultimately, to return control of society to the individual agency of the associated producers: after all, for Marx in 1867 as in 1845, it was the individual producers who actually created the social wealth abstractly expressed by money.
Marx also differed from Hegel in his historical understanding of the categories of political economy. For him, the map of universal categories and social relations produced by theory in no way replaced the historical world that the theorist started from. The existence of capital, wrote Marx in one of his later notebooks, "is the result of a protracted process in the economic formation of society."
He emphatically added: "At this point it is determined how the dialectical form of representation is only correct when it knows its limits." The historical world of real individuals standing toward each other in specific relations remained independent of theory insofar as the latter did not actively penetrate and transform the world. Marx thus rebuked Hegel for mistaking "the movement of categories for the real act of production."
History entered into economic theory on two levels. First, the social world comprehended by theory remained an historical one, open to modification through human action: theory did not confront a static structure as its ultimate object. On this level, history always posed the possibility of outstripping theory and rendering its key concepts obsolete. Second, social theory had to interpret itself as an historical creation, situated in a particular epoch.
For Marx, the ability to order economic concepts abstractly was itself an historical result. A developed economic system that viewed objectified labor in general as the meaning of wealth comprised the sine qua non for conceiving labor abstractly, i.e., in general and without further differentiations. "Indifference as to the particular kind of labor implies the existence of a highly developed totality of different species of concrete labor, none of which is any longer the predominant one." The simple concept of labor thus arose in the most complex social order, where the particularity of work could appear indifferent to the individual undertaking it.
A similar historical perspective modified Marx's insistence that social theory be premised on individuals producing in society. The possibility of such a premise itself appeared now as an historical acquisition. Bourgeois society presented both social interrelations and individual independence at a high stage of development; this historical situation legitimated starting from "individuals producing in society, thus the socially determined production of individuals." Despite its historical genesis, such a formula (like the simple concepts of labor, capital, and so forth) had in retrospect universal validity, thanks precisely to its abstract generality. Human production was always "production at a certain stage of social development, or production by social individuals." Insofar as its elements—man on the one side, nature on the other—remained constant throughout history, "production" could be defined as the "appropriation of nature by the individual within and through a definite form of society."
But the aim of economic theory was not the producing individuals as such, qua their particularity. Rather, theory focused on the social relations that "individuals in the process of reproducing their life" entered into, "under definite material conditions." Although such relations derived from human acts, the problem was precisely to grasp these relations in their reified existence as a second nature, above and beyond the intentions of individual capitalists and laborers. Marx had once defined domination as the "appropriation of another's will"; in this sense, Capital sought to unravel the economic forms dominating individual life.
To this end, Marx consistently abstracted from individuals in his economic theory. "Here individuals are dealt with only in so far as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class-relations and class-interests." As the object of theory, the capitalist and laborer were defined strictly by their position within the relations of production; merely as an owner of a factory, the capitalist exercised a definite power over labor, whether he willed it or not. Economic theory construed society as "the sum of connections and relationships in which individuals find themselves"; for theory, "society does not consist of individuals."
Marx had justified such a procedure as early as The German Ideology . "The communists in practice treat the conditions created up to now by production and intercourse as inorganic conditions, without, however . . . believing that these conditions were inorganic for the individuals creating them." In the Grundrisse , Marx amplified this position. Society, approached as a totality of relationships, as a social process, arises, "it is true, from the mutual influence of conscious individuals on one another"; however, this totality appears to the individuals as an alien and natural objectivity, "neither located in their consciousness, nor subsumed under them as a whole."
Thus despite his methodological abstraction from individuals as such, Marx in his later economic theory maintained his youthful imperatives, as well as the (ontological) premise of (conscious) individuals producing in society. While social relations became the primary focus of his theory, he remained cognizant of his original starting point. As the Grundrisse put it, even the "simplest economic category" presupposed a population of real individuals, "producing in specific relations." Any category, like any isolated relation, "can never exist other than as an abstract, one-sided relation within an
already given, concrete, living whole." The "only subjects" of production are "individuals, but individuals in mutual relationships, which they equally reproduce and produce anew."
The point of conceptual abstraction and theoretical concreteness remained the practical dissipation of reined social relations. "Communism differs from all previous movements in that it overturns the basis of all earlier relations of production and intercourse, and for the first time consciously treats all natural premises as the creatures of men, strips them of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of the united individuals." Long after he had abandoned Feuerbach's nominalist methodology, Marx therefore retained the "real individual" as the critical premise—and ultimate promise—of social theory.
Marx's Concept of Labor
We have seen the importance Marx attributed to individual emancipation, and the methodological role he assigned to the "real individual"; but the essential capabilities he ascribed to these individuals remain to be elaborated. Questions, indeed, are raised by some of his most famous aphorisms. For example, in his preface to the Critique of Political Economy , he stated that "it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary their social existence that determines their consciousness." Such statements seemed to portend a materialist theory of the objective determination of consciousness, portraying an individual's mind as the passive object of causal processes purely external to consciousness as such. Similar problems were raised by the theory developed in The German Ideology , where Marx and Engels argued that the leading ideas of an epoch were "phantoms," mere "sublimates" of empirically verifiable material premises. This approach to ideology and consciousness implied that the individual's ideas at best submissively reflected the given reality.
Such an account of consciousness in turn raised doubts about the possible autonomy of the individual: could human beings be emancipated from capitalism only by molding their minds according to some constellation of external imperatives? Could the intentions of an individual, even in principle, ever contribute creatively to this emancipatory process?
These doubts, specifically about the possible importance of consciousness and individual intentions, can be provisionally settled through an examination of Marx's understanding of labor. For when he spoke of the determinant force of "social existence," he had in mind that being which objectifies itself through labor. Even after abandoning philosophical anthropology as an acceptable basis for
social theory, he continued to maintain a relatively consistent empirical anthropology, focusing on homo faber —man as a practical animal. Man was inherently active, engaged in shaping a world, and labor became Marx's paradigm for this practical being. By insisting on the teleological element in labor, the projection of an idea to be worked up through the mastery of natural materials, Marx in principle invested individuals, through their intentional agency, with a margin of conscious creativity, a margin which not only separated men from productive animals, but also helped sustain Marx's hopes for communism. That this practically oriented human being anchored consciousness hardly entailed an eclipse of individual autonomy. As Ernst Bloch said of Marx's practical orientation, "The concrete idea has never been more highly valued, for here it becomes the illumination for the act; nor has the act ever been more highly valued, for here it becomes the crown of truth."
Practice and Materialism
Marxist materialism has frequently been distinguished from previous materialist doctrines by its introduction of practice, and, with it, history, into the concept. Auguste Cornu, Marx's biographer, sees this practical perspective as the key to Marx's break with Feuerbach, and his subsequent elaboration of a distinctive theoretical outlook. Yet even before this break, Marx had developed, largely in the 1844 manuscripts, his own concept of labor, derived in part from his critique of Hegel, in part from his readings in political economy.
Marx praised Hegel for making the "dialectic of negativity . . . the moving and generating principle" of his Phenomenology . Because Hegel conceives "the self-creation of man as a process, conceives objectification as loss of the object, as alienation and as transcendence of this alienation," Hegel grasps "the essence of labor and comprehends objective man—true, because real man—as the outcome of man's own labor ." For Marx as well, "The entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labor, nothing but the emergence of nature for man. . . . "
Labor comprised the "life-activity" peculiar to the human species. Since Marx defined the "whole character of a species" by the
character of its life activity, the role Marx assigned labor set his interpretation of such Feuerbachian concepts as "species-being" apart from Feuerbach's own. In The German Ideology Marx wrote that "men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce . . . . " But what was unique to man, according to Marx in the 1844 manuscripts, was not mere production, since "admittedly animals also produce"; rather, human production was "conscious life-activity," which "distinguished man immediately from animal life-activity." Only "in creating a world of objects , by his practical activity, in his work upon inorganic nature" did man prove himself "a conscious species-being."
In short, man effectively distinguished himself as a conscious being through production. A purely interiorized consciousness remained nothing, unless it was communicated or cast outside of itself, into the objective world. Labor for Marx represented the primary medium of this crystallization of consciousness, an externalization that simultaneously bore witness to its objective existence. When he asserted that "free, conscious activity is man's species character," Marx both offered an abstract description of individual labor as a necessary condition for human survival and proposed a norm of labor as it potentially could appear under unalienated conditions of free and conscious social production.
Because man had a capacity to shape the products of his life activity with a consciousness and a will, men, unlike animals, were capable of producing an infinite variety of objects. An animal produced only what it immediately needed; it reproduced only itself; its products belonged immediately to its body; it formed things only "in accordance with the standard and the need of the species to which it belongs." Man by contrast produced objects even when free from physical need; he produced articles that other men could use; and he produced tools for carrying out production, implements that could be used again. He was capable of reproducing entire aspects of nature; he freely faced the products of his own hand as independent objects; and he could form the world according to an endless variety of standards, including the peculiarly human standard of beauty. Labor as such, considered in abstraction from historically specific social relations, thus in principle comprised a unity of mind
and body and creatively realized, by altering the world, the aims, not only of the laboring individual but also, indirectly, of the species. The labor process and its products represented the objective existence of subjectivity and the subjective self-formation of the species: man, by working within the world, "subjectified" the world, by subjecting it to his own ends.
This presentation of labor as a potentially free, conscious, and purposeful activity affected Marx's understanding of human history. If history was the story of humanity's self-genesis through labor, it was also the story of this genesis as "consciously self-transcending." History, like labor itself, never simply unfolded as a one-dimensional succession of happenings, but, additionally, as a series of ideal projects—ones that may not yet have been accomplished. "The entire movement of history is therefore both its actual genesis—the birth of its empirical existence—and also for its thinking consciousness the comprehended and known process of its becoming. . . . " Marx insisted not only on the moment of conscious projection in the labor process: he also defended the intentional projects of men as an essential element of history. In 1844, he even hinted that the aims the communists sought to actualize had their current basis in just such intentions—even more than in the objective reality those intentions, to be effective, had to reckon with.
To be sure, by stressing labor as the paradigmatic medium for realizing human intentions, Marx also stressed the importance of anchoring effective agency in an objective understanding of the world, in contrast to the Young Hegelians, who preferred to emphasize "pure critique" and the "pure act" to implement it: for Marx, there could be no "pure act," no "pure will." On the other hand, his respect for purposeful as well as effective agency served to distinguish his thinking from the materialism of Feuerbach as well as the idealism of the Young Hegelians. In his "Theses on Feuerbach," Marx made explicit his departures from previous versions of materialism.
One of Marx's central objections to Feuerbach concerned his passive portrayal of subjectivity. "The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism (that of Feuerbach included) is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation , but not as sensuous human activity , practice , not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active
side was developed abstractly by idealism—which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such." This active side entailed for Marx, as for idealism, the conscious assertion of aim. Earlier materialist doctrines had postulated a one-way determinism of circumstances impinging on the individual; but Marx argued classical materialism "forgets that circumstances are changed by men. . . . The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and human activity or self-changing can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice ."
The touchstone of man's objective existence thus became the practical realization of his intentions through labor. The emphasis of course fell on practice, not consciousness in itself: to the extent that thought was detached from reality, it had not yet even gained the element of its effective existence. "The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question . Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice."
Marx's analysis of practice in 1844 and the "Theses on Feuerbach" transfigured his materialism in two important respects. The agent discussed was not the solitary cogito of contemplative philosophy; instead, through practice, other individuals were experienced, not as objects of thought, but rather as partners in action. As Lucien Goldmann put it, other subjects become "beings with whom I act in common . They are no longer on the object side but on the subject side of knowledge and action." As a consequence, Marx viewed society itself as a collective subject. But this was no transcendental subject whose inert essence would by nature unite the individuals comprising society through a bond of universality; rather the "essence" of man presented an historical accomplishment and objective possibility delimited by the structure of the social whole.
His analysis of practice also enabled Marx to penetrate the circle of passivity erected by previous materialisms. Practice, before actually transforming the world, projected a goal to be realized; to this extent, the cycle of practices was always a cycle of teleological transcendence. The standpoint of materialism incorporating practice was therefore not limited to the immediately given reality, but encompassed as well feasible projects for rationally reforming this reality. Translated into social terms, "the standpoint of the old materi-
alism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity." This transcending perspective catapulted materialist theory out of the merely contemplative realm: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." Feuerbach had wished "merely to produce a correct consciousness about an existing fact: whereas for the real communist it is a question of overthrowing the existing state of things."
Excursus on Hegel's Concept of Practice
Marx's estimation of the labor process and human practice remained a key element in his theory as it evolved into Capital . This is not to suggest that no differences exist between Capital and the earlier works in their depiction of the labor process. Indeed, the differences might be said (with some exaggeration) to recall those between Hegel's Phenomenology and Science of Logic . In any event, both of these exercised a considerable influence on Marx's understanding of the labor process. A discussion of Hegel's views on practice can therefore help clarify the status Marx assigned labor.
In the Phenomenology , Hegel had described how individuality became actual "in and for itself," through accomplishing works. As he put it, "An individual cannot know what he is till he has made himself real by action." In action, man dissipated the objective situation or original nature he confronted in order to establish a reality formed after his own design. Such action comprised three "moments" or elements in Hegel's account. In the first instance, action presented itself to the individual as a "purpose, and thus opposed to a given reality." In the second, this purpose found its "process of actualization" in a "means," which produced the act's third instance: an object incarnating the original purpose as "brought to light and established as something other than, and external to the acting subject."
On Hegel's account, the means of action recognized, exploited, and finally transcended objective circumstances, adapting them to purposive ends. Man thus came to treat nature as the objective material for actualizing subjective aims. In this sense, the means represented a "unity of inner and outer." Insofar as the essence of the act lay in this unity of the subjective (purpose) and objective (cir-
cumstances), the individual's effective act, far from being arbitrary, contained within itself a certain "necessity," which "consists in this, that purpose is directly related to actuality, and the unity of these is the very notion of action. . . . " Hegel valued such action highly for, through work, consciousness learned "the lack of correspondence between idea and reality, which lies in its essence. . . . In work, therefore, consciousness becomes aware of itself as it in truth is, and its empty notion of itself disappears." At this stage of the Phenomenology , as Jean Hyppolite has pointed out, "the objective world and conscious individuality comprise but one concrete reality, and this reality is that of the act."
The convergence of this account with Marx's own is hard to miss; yet even more striking is the correspondence between his analysis of the labor process in Capital and Hegel's discussion of teleology and causality in the Science of Logic . If there are any important differences to be drawn between Marx's earlier and later works, they would probably involve the relatively greater concern he shows in Capital for the objective world and the laws governing it. Hegel's discussion of the act in the Science of Logic shared this concern. "Right action is placed in the adherence to objective laws which have no subjective origin and admit no caprice and no treatment which might overthrow their necessity." In this section of the Logic , Hegel defined the teleological end as "the subjective notion [considered] as essential tendency and impulse toward external selfpositing." To the ends a person pursued were counterposed "Mechanism" and "Chemism," as Hegel referred to the principles of determinism and causality governing the natural world. An activity guided by a purpose or end was related to the Mechanical and Chemical world of nature as "something already given." On this objective basis, man, through teleological (i. e., purposive) action, attempted to transform the natural world and "to posit the object as determined through the [subjective] notion." By realizing his subjective ends, man rendered them objective. The means to the end had necessarily to acknowledge the law-governed objectivity of nature. Through the "means"—the tools and applied knowledge that made work possible—the notion came to have "objectivity as such in itself; indeed, through the means, the end ceased being merely impulse and tendency, and became activity. There was thus a certain dignity conferred upon the means which a purely utili-
tarian end might lack: "in his tools man possesses power over external nature, even though, according to his end he frequently is subjected to it."
Hegel's presentation of the intimate relation of the teleological end to law-governed determinism enabled him to overcome the rigid dichotomy subjective idealists like Fichte had established between the human world of voluntary purposive action and the natural world of involuntary causal processes. Hegel, to be sure, had praised the subjective idealists for "giving a correct expression to the nature of all consciousness. The tendency of all man's endeavors is to understand the world, to appropriate and subdue it to himself: and to this end the positive reality of the world must be as it were crushed and pounded, in other words, idealised." But according to Hegel, and Marx after him, human ends governed the laws of nature only as their complement, never as their arbitrary master. The efficacy of subjective purposes rested on a recognition of natural objectivity and its immanent order, distinct from man. To this extent, "mechanical causality" informed effective ends, and eliminated the possibility of arbitrary action, at least where the real transformation of the world was at stake. That Hegel's description of teleological action and Marx's account of the labor process shared an appreciation of freedom within and through necessity is probably not coincidental.
The Labor Process in Marx's Later Works
Marx's mature discussion of the labor process can be found in the Grundrisse as well as in Capital . In both, the labor process is accorded a central position: the concept of labor clarified the origin of wealth and provided a paradigm of effective human agency. In Capital , Marx described labor as a "natural" condition of all human existence, "a condition of the exchange of matter between man and nature." To the extent that labor was useful, it comprised an "eternal nature-imposed necessity"; by useful labor, Marx meant "productive activity of a definite kind and exercised with a definite aim."
Marx throughout presupposed labor "in a form that stamps it as exclusively human." The labor of men had consequently to be dis-
tinguished from the instinctual activity of animals. Here Marx recapitulated the comments on conscious life activity he had first made in the 1844 manuscripts: "a spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality."
The teleological project that framed the goal of labor itself achieved the dignity of a law in Marx's account—a law that the laborer himself gave to his modus operandi and to which he freely subordinated his will. Marx's description of the labor process in Capital left no doubt about the purposive agency of subjectivity; it was precisely by means of this capacity that the individual could effect a change of form in the material on which he worked. "At the end of the labor process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the laborer at its commencement." Projective consciousness enabled labor to exist as purposeful activity. When resolved into its "simple and abstract moments," the labor process then appeared as "purposive activity for the production of use values, appropriation of the natural for human needs, the general condition of the metabolism of material between man and nature, and the eternal natural condition of human life, therefore independent of any form of this life, or rather common to all its social forms."
At the same time, Marx's description of the labor process recalled Hegel's discussion of teleology and causation in the Science of Logic . Marx, like Hegel, now emphasized the lawfulness of nature as the precondition for effective labor: the worker "makes use of the mechanical, physical and chemical properties of some things in order to set them to work on other things as instruments of his power, in accordance with his purposes." Marx also followed Hegel in dividing the act into three elements: the material worked on (the raw material), the means utilized in work (the instruments of labor), and living labor itself. These elements combined within the labor process to create the product. Labor's object was then twofold: "raw materials , i.e., the formless material for the forming, purposive activity of labor, and the instruments of labor , the objective means through which subjective activity inserts, between itself and the object, an object as its conductor."
The essence of human labor, however, remained its formative power. Labor existed "only as the form external to the material, or it exists itself only materially." The fate of objectified labor was bound to its formed object through a frail and accidental tie, inasmuch as the form of a table, for example, was not the inherent shape of the substance of wood. However, the possibility of the disintegration of the formed object equally signaled the possibility of the mutability of substances for a range of human purposes: "The transitoriness of things is used in order to establish their utility." Marx here confirmed man's creative intervention in the material world of things. "Labor is the living fire that shapes the pattern; it is the transitoriness of things, their temporality, their transformation by living time."
By providing Marx with a criterion of effective agency, the concept of labor fulfilled a critical function throughout Capital . In the later chapters of the book, for example, Marx was at pains to refute the individualistic premises and optimistic conclusions of the classical political economists. He discredited their premises by documenting at length the cooperative character of production under capitalism, and the "creation of a new power, namely the collective power of the masses." At the same time, by starting from his own individualized paradigm of labor, which we have just examined, Marx was able to underline to what extent the expansion of productive powers feasible through cooperation benefited, not the worker, but the capitalist: what ought to have been an augmentation of the individual's effective agency appeared instead as an augmentation of the power of others—both men and machines. What he worked on, the pace he worked at, the kinds of tools he used, the variety of tasks he performed—all this was removed from the control of the individuals in cooperative production; "hence the connection existing between their various labors appears to them, ideally, in the shape of a preconceived plan of the capitalist, and practically in the shape of the authority of the same capitalist, in the shape of a powerful alien will, which subjects their activity to its aims." Within capitalist relations of exchange, labor forfeited its effective agency. As Marx put the point in The Communist Manifesto , "In bourgeois society, capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality."
In this context, Marx's "labor theory of value" appears as an asser-
tion of historic right as much as a statement of scientific fact. Inherent in the simple concept of labor as it has developed under capitalism is a claim to effective agency, a claim that each person be enabled to direct his own labor freely and consciously and to benefit fully from it. To deny the value of labor is not merely to condone exploitation, then, but also to disinherit living human agency. For Marx, the integrity of labor became the index of human dignity and true individuality.
Marx's discussion of labor thus supports the interpretation offered in Georg Lukács's last work: "In labor, with the projection of the goal and its means, through a self-guided act, i.e., through teleological projection, consciousness sets out to surpass mere adaptation to the environment . . . by effecting changes in nature which could not originate in nature. When realization becomes a transforming and innovating principle of nature, in contributing impulse and direction, consciousness can no longer exist as an epiphenomenon. This conclusion reveals the distinction between dialectical and mechanical materialism." For Marx, Hegel's restless self-consciousness became restless labor; for both thinkers, reality contained within itself the traces of realized purposes. The human constitution of the world, which Hegel had founded on the achievements of spirit, Marx approached through the accomplishments of labor. While Hegel sublimated actual practice as a formative moment in the self-realization of the Idea through self-consciousness, Marx incorporated consciousness as a formative moment in the self-realization of humanity through labor. He thus viewed each individual as a potentially purposeful and autonomous participant in the transformation of both nature and social relations.
Reason, Interest, and the Necessity of History:
The Ambiguities of Marx's Legacy
Despite Marx's appreciation of the labor process, his hopes for individuation, and his insistence that social theory be premised on real individuals producing in society—despite all these elements in his own theory, Marxism has nonetheless been predominantly interpreted as a global determinism, a world view potentially inimical to subjectivity and individuality, and minimizing the role of self-conscious human agency.
It is not an accidental interpretation. In Capital , Marx himself spoke of natural laws and an inevitable crisis of capitalism. Given such statements, there seems scant room for the voluntary and creative intervention of men in history. History instead appears as an automatic process, governed by immanent laws, moving inexorably forward. Could it be that what he acknowledged as a goal and preserved as a premise—the human individual—vanished or became immaterial within the larger drama of historical development?
In what follows, I will argue that while Marx advocated a deterministic science, as well as a notion of historical necessity, he did not maintain either at the expense of subjectivity, or the subject's creative volition. A closer examination of his treatment of historical necessity and class struggle reveals important nuances in his general conception; taken together with his methodological writings and his treatment of labor, his actual approach to analyzing contemporary history prevents any one-sided reading of Marx as founding a purely objective science. Indeed, I will contend that his outlook on subjectivity, by focusing on the purposive response to circumstances affecting the proletariat, helped found his hopes for a science of society: because men pursued rational projects in their collective interest, a
vision of the emergent meaning of history became feasible. Far from crushing subjectivity, necessity in both political economy and history operated only through the rational and purposive acts of men.
As a result, Marx's theory more closely approximates the rationalism of Hegel than the positivism of Comte. Subjectivity, rather than contradicting science, helped establish it. Unfortunately, later Marxists would see the relationship differently, or misunderstand it entirely. By tracing the vicissitudes of the Marxian theory, caught between professions of science and the premise of rational social action, the ambiguities and tensions in Marx's legacy may be clarified.
As he elaborated the leading tenets of his thought, Marx moved away from ethical entreaty toward historical science. The a prioris of philosophical anthropology still represented (however covertly) a set of universal moral imperatives; the image of the whole man fueled a denunciation of all social situations in which men led a degraded and marginal existence. But Marx persistently strove to harness such indignation with the insight into objective circumstances only science seemed to afford. In place of universal imperatives arose an historically specific sense of real possibilities for a better way of life.
But this development had disquieting implications. Having shunned philosophical reason incarnate in history as an adequate basis for anticipating socialism, Marx swung to another extreme, by seeming to declare social individuation within communism the preordained outcome of economic and technical development. In the Grundrisse and Capital , history was occasionally portrayed as a movement wherein individuals did not (actively) emancipate themselves, but instead were (passively) emancipated. Historical necessity threatened to liquidate human freedom.
Indicative of the ambiguity in Marx's position on this point was the status of social and economic "contradictions" in his model of capitalist crisis. Most of the contradictions analyzed in Capital and the Grundrisse can be called "logical": confronting the values pro-
fessed by classical political economy with the social reality he faced, Marx was able to counterpose claims of equal exchange with the fundamental inequality represented by surplus value. Other contradictions unfolded between socialized production and private ownership, increasing wealth and chronic poverty, between the possibility of expanding free time and the reality of "necessary" labor time. Yet however vividly these logical contradictions illustrated the irrationality and inconsistency of capitalism, they by no means entailed its collapse—even if they did commend its abolition to right-thinking victims of the system.
But at least one dilemma in capitalism appeared to transcend the status of a logical contradiction: Marx's celebrated formulation of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. His analysis appeared in the third volume of Capital , published posthumously by Engels. This account, if correct, indicated an immanent contradiction within the movement of capital: increasing productivity led, of itself, to decreasing profitability; the possibilities for economic crisis would forever mount. Marx in the Grundrisse had described capital as a "contradiction in action," but in volume three of Capital he for the first time analyzed these contradictions as inherently self-destructive. Independently of any human agency, the "law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall" seemed to guarantee the collapse of capitalism: "The real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself." Such formulations implied that human agency was incidental to the crisis of capitalism, at most able to intervene and transform the tempo of historical development, without fundamentally affecting its direction.
Similar ambiguities plagued the abstraction from real individuals Marx executed in Capital . It made sense that the subject, considered merely as a personified economic category, should be stripped of responsibility and initiative; yet Marx seemed to extend that exoneration to real individuals: "My standpoint, " he wrote in the introduction to Capital , "from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them."
Throughout Capital , Marx constantly emphasized necessity and natural laws in a way which suggested he had given an adequate account of a predetermined reality. In his afterword to the second
edition, he referred to a "striking and generous" review that described his accomplishment as treating "the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence." In Capital he had elaborated a series of economic formulations that penetrated below surface appearances and intentions; the apparently free exchange of labor for wages turned out to mask the exploitation of labor by capital. The crucial problem was the status he accorded his reconstruction of capitalist relations. Did this reconstruction supplant all subjective accounts, and depict, for the first time, social reality , with its specific laws, secretly determining all individual acts? Or was Capital a theoretic clarification, achieved through a critique of previous political economy and its categories and hence only indirectly related to social reality?
At times, Marx endorsed the latter interpretation. Rather than simply dismissing surface appearances as a pure illusion, he was concerned that his model should eventually approximate surface appearances and account for the consciousness of economic production and circulation they fostered. "The various forms of capital, as evolved in this book, thus approach step by step the form which they assume on the surface of society, in the action of the different capitals upon one another, in competition, and in the ordinary consciousness of the agents of production themselves." Similarly, Marx maintained a distinction between theory and the reality it comprehended. Even as a more or less concrete representation of nineteenth-century capitalism, Marx's model could be applied to actual economic situations only with qualifications and emendations. Such classical Marxian "laws" as the falling rate of profit thus became "tendencies" when transferred from the realm of theory to economic reality. The difficulties in applying the economic model to the reality underlined a critical distinction between the two.
Yet Marx himself sometimes blurred that distinction, particularly in his most polemical and prophetic statements. He then claimed that his critique of political economy yielded a system of economic laws governing the development of society. He was not averse to viewing his model as a pure reflection of capitalist realities, offering a causal and comprehensive account—despite the fact that Capital contained precious few specific laws. This tendency in turn reinforced Marx's rhetorical penchant for describing the coming col-
lapse of capitalism as ineluctable. Dispossessed of initiative by its bondage to existent economic formations, subjectivity appeared then to become a mere plaything of objective historical forces.
Class Struggle and the Collapse of Capitalism
There can be no doubt that Marx viewed the demise of capitalism as necessary, and indeed all but inevitable; but an examination of his views on class struggle suggests that he rested this contention in large part on a practical assumption: that the politically organized proletariat would force the issue and deliver the final blow. If the emancipation of the individual were an automatic gift of history, then his historical relevance would remain marginal, as the ultimate benefactor of the independent motion of history. On the other hand, if a rational outcome of history required the conscious intervention of the proletariat, then individuals, through their purposive action, had an essential role to play in instituting communism.
Marx believed that the political movement of the proletariat provided the foundations for his science, and distinguished his communism from utopianism:
So long as the proletariat is not yet sufficiently developed to constitute itself as a class, and consequently so long as the very struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie has not yet assumed a political character, and the productive forces are not yet sufficiently developed in the bosom of the bourgeoisie itself to enable us to catch a glimpse of the material conditions necessary for the emancipation of the proletariat and for the formation of a new society, these theoreticians are merely Utopians who, to meet the wants of the oppressed classes, improvise systems and go in search of a regenerating science. But in the measure that history moves forward, and with it the struggle of the proletariat assumes clearer outlines, they no longer need to seek science in their minds; they have only to take note of what is happening before their eyes and to become its mouthpiece.
A militant class, conscious of its historic vocation and deliberately acting on it, thus appeared a decisive element, both for transcending given social relations and for providing a scientific standpoint for their analysis. In the context of historical development, it seemed transparent that "of all the instruments of production, the greatest
productive power is the revolutionary class itself." As a result, Marx devoted himself not only to deciphering the economic laws behind capitalist crises, but also to fostering a militant proletarian movement.
Marx's account of the proletariat and its rise, in The Communist Manifesto and elsewhere, underlined the importance he attached to a self-conscious class committed to revolutionary change. Initially, individual laborers had carried on isolated struggles against machinery, the most tangible manifestation of industrial oppression; at this stage, the working-class movement remained parochial, hampered by a nostalgia for the status medieval society had accorded the skilled craftsman. Laborers frequently found themselves in competition with other laborers; and the common causes that might unite them were usually provided by the bourgeoisie, looking for allies in its struggle against the monarchy and feudal institutions.
The proletariat, originally an "incoherent mass scattered over the whole country," only gradually coalesced into a cohesive social grouping. The development of industry altered the circumstances workers lived amid. As the working class grew in numerical extent, it became increasingly concentrated in urban centers, in accordance with the organizational requirements of modern industry. Factory labor became ever more standardized, and distinctions within the proletariat correspondingly declined. Centralized urban areas came to house laborers who increasingly shared the same conditions of life.
Meanwhile, heightened competition among the bourgeoisie rendered the livelihood of the workers ever more precarious. Wages unpredictably fluctuated. Common economic interests began to make their way into the consciousness of the laborers. In short, bourgeois relations of production created social and economic conditions that facilitated the conscious organization of the proletariat as a class militantly pursuing its interests: the rational response to the unstable and oppressive conditions of capital was the political union of the workers. As such combinations arose, and sporadically engaged in disputes, they encouraged imitation and the "ever-expanding union of the workers."
The Holy Family had already forcefully linked the proletariat to the revolutionary breakdown of capitalism. The expansion of capitalist means of production and wealth produced as its antithesis the proletariat, "that dehumanization conscious of its dehumanization,
and thus transcending itself." A product of antecedent circumstances, yet already anticipating a more human social setting, the proletariat "executes the sentence" inscribed in the mute contradictions and inhumanity of capitalist relations of production and exchange. The consciousness accompanying this execution was no pre-ordained gift of historical development, but rather a hard-won result, forged through a practical process of struggle. "For the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew."
Clearly, Marx in such passages assigned a central role to the intentional agency of the proletarians and, implicitly, their teleological anticipation of communist society; without these "subjective" factors, the conflict between labor and capital remained necessarily latent.
Moreover, Marx insisted on the element of self-emancipation involved in establishing the subjective conditions of revolution. He maintained a faith in the ability of individual workers to educate themselves, a faith reflected in his circular letter to the German Social Democratic Party, written in 1879.
For almost forty years we have stressed the class struggle as the immediate driving power of history, and in particular the class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat as the great lever of the modern social revolution; it is, therefore, impossible for us to cooperate with people who wish to expunge this class struggle from the movement. When the International was formed we expressly formulated the battle cry: The emancipation of the working classes must be won by the working classes themselves. We therefore cannot cooperate with people who openly state that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must be freed from above by philanthropic big bourgeois and petty bourgeois.
In his earlier writings, Marx had spoken of the need to arouse "freedom, the feeling of man's dignity. . . . Only this feeling . . . can again transform society into a community of men to achieve their
highest purposes. . . . " He also recognized the barrier to arousing such feeling erected by the internalization of bourgeois ideologies. "If Protestantism was not the true solution, it was the true formulation of the problem. The question was no longer the struggle of the layman against the priest external to him , but of his struggle against his own inner priest , his priestly nature ." Marx in his later writings continued to stress the contribution each individual had to make to the emancipatory struggle, a contribution that could not be replaced by the self-conscious agency of a more agile and expert party elite. "Here [in Germany] where the worker's life is regulated from childhood on by bureaucracy, and he himself believes in the authorities, in the bodies appointed over him, he must be taught before all else to walk by himself ."
Once a critical consciousness became widespread among the oppressed, their awareness transformed the social situation they faced. Such a teleological and practically oriented awareness helped delineate clearly the social and material conditions which formed a shared way of life: that is why Marx hailed the arrival of class consciousness among the oppressed as a "death knell" for the ruling order.
Nevertheless, his account of class struggle often enough remained equivocal. On the one hand, he granted human agency and class consciousness a pivotal role; on the other, he portrayed them as produced by prior circumstances. Indeed Marx once noted in passing that "objective and subjective conditions" were merely "two different forms of the same conditions." In the Grundrisse , Marx observed that "when the worker recognizes the products [of his labor] as being his own and condemns the separation of the conditions of his realization as an intolerable imposition, it will be an enormous progress in consciousness, itself the product of the method of production based on capital, and a death-knell of capital in the same way that once the slaves became aware that they were persons . . . the continued existence of slavery could only vegetate on as an artificial thing. . . . "
In this passage, two elements of Marx's account of human agency and class consciousness intersect. The individual's conscious will is produced by the social relations and mode of production it is situated within; and true consciousness as such comprises a powerful incentive to act, thus promoting the practical dissolution of given con-
ditions. Conscious agency is dynamic, creative, a driving force of social transformation—and such agency is determinate, finite, rooted in a preconstituted social world. This is the authentic Marxian antinomy—one which Marx himself resolved in the dialectic of historical development, conceived as a necessary process.
Marx and the Concept of Interest
In his hopes for a communist future, Marx reconciled a doctrine of historical necessity with a notion of active subjectivity: indeed, he held that purposeful human agency at crucial moments promoted historical necessity, as his remarks on class struggle and class consciousness show. These two elements in his theory, which have often been considered contradictory, he saw as complementary. But what aspects of human agency enabled it to figure significantly in a history distinguished by its necessity?
We have already gotten a partial answer to this question through an examination of Marx's concept of labor. Yet as we have also seen, his use of labor as a paradigm of agency served to highlight the very lack of purposeful mastery under contemporary conditions of production: in other words, the self-constitution of the human species through labor has hitherto largely proceeded unconsciously. The political struggle of the proletariat to emancipate labor, on the other hand, has a different cast to it: here Marx emphasized the contemporary centrality of conscious human agency—and indeed self-emancipation—yet linked it closely to the unfolding of historical necessity. How can these various parts of the Marxist theory be reconciled, and what do they tell us about the sense of subjectivity in Marx?
In what follows, it is argued that Marx's theory rests on the assumption of an abiding rationality in social action. Because men pursued their material concerns rationally, social interaction and, ultimately, historical development could be expected to exhibit a forseeable coherence: the calculated and steadfast response of individuals, and classes, to circumstances, as well as the purposeful mastery that grew naturally out of this response, facilitated a predictive outlook toward human behavior, although that behavior remained voluntary.
In addition to labor, the key concept here is interest . If labor supplied the paradigm of effective agency within the world of natural objects, where men mastered material conditions, interest supplied the paradigm of effective agency within the world of human "pre-history," where material conditions still mastered men. Since its importance has not yet been adequately appreciated, the concept of interest in Marx merits an extended discussion.
The term itself is multivalent. In English, interest originally denoted a legal entitlement to something. But in the modern era, it has also come to signify, first, a personal relationship of being concerned or curious about something; second, a preoccupation with one's own well-being (as in "self-interest"); and third, the relationship of a group to matters of common concern (as in the "common interest," the "public interest," or "class interest"). The concept of interest has figured prominently in political thought since the Renaissance, generally as an unclarified and tacit category. Although by the eighteenth century interest had become associated with selfishness, the term was sufficiently elastic to enable Helvetius to proclaim that "as the physical world is ruled by the laws of movement so is the moral universe ruled by laws of interest." In an essay on the rise of interest as a new paradigm of human behavior, Albert O. Hirschman has assessed its importance for the social theorists of the Enlightenment:
Once passion was deemed destructive and reason ineffectual, the view that human action could be exhaustively described by attribution to either one or the other meant an exceedingly somber outlook for humanity. A message of hope was therefore conveyed by the wedging of interest in between the two traditional categories of human motivation. Interest was seen to partake in effect of the better nature of each, as the passion of self-love upgraded and contained by reason, and as reason given direction and force by that passion. The resulting hybrid form of human action was considered exempt from both the destructiveness of passion and the ineffectuality of reason.
Marx was well acquainted with the concept of interest. He would have encountered it, for example, in the Philosophy of Right , where Hegel makes interest the telos of individuals in civil society: "Individuals in their capacity as burghers in this state are private persons whose end is their own interest." In Adam Ferguson's Essay on the
History of Civil Society , which both Hegel and Marx had read, interest is defined in "its most common acceptation" to express "those objects of care which refer to our external condition, and the preservation of our animal nature." Interest is thus implicated in the material conditions of life and the satisfaction of needs; yet as Ferguson added, in man the instinct for survival is "sooner or later combined with reflection and foresight," and it is these rational faculties which "give rise to his apprehensions on the subject of property, and make him acquainted with that object of care which he calls his interest." Once linked to property, as in Ferguson's remark, the category of interest was easily extended from individuals to groups, to denote the concerns common to the owners of similar kinds of property. Adam Smith thus distinguished the interests of the various social orders, and Hegel insisted that "these circles of particular interests must be subordinated to the higher interests of the state."
In Marx's earliest essays, interest was used to describe the behavior of both individuals and social groups. During his investigations of poverty in 1842, he had become perplexed by the relation between private interests in civil society and the presumed universal interest of the state. As he recalled in his 1859 preface to the Critique of Political Economy , unraveling the problems posed by these "so-called material interests" gave him "the first impulse to take up the study of economic questions." The centrality of interest for Marx during this period can also be gauged by the fact that his critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right is framed in terms of the problem. Citing Hegel's definition of "concrete freedom" as the identity of particular and universal interest, Marx disputed whether the form of government defended by Hegel could fulfill this definition. A key issue was the role of the executive administration, which Hegel had identified as the "universal estate" responsible for maintaining the state's "universal interest." But Marx mocked Hegel's claim, remarking the dependence of the administration on the monarch, and the emergence of the bureaucracy as a parasitic caste pursuing its own narrow interests. State officials, "commissioned as representatives of general concerns . . . actually represent particular concerns." A year later, in his 1844 manuscripts, Marx would similarly describe the "contradiction" in the science of political economy as "the motivation of society by unsocial, particular interests."
The Interest of the Proletariat
Through this path of questioning, Marx had arrived at one of the key problems in modern social thought, a problem explored by Rousseau, Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and Adam Smith, as well as Hegel: the problem of reconciling universal and particular interests, or of demonstrating how the pursuit of private interests conduced to the public benefit. In 1842, Marx had proposed that a free press might serve as an impartial mediator, able to combine reason with a feeling for human suffering, and thus able to evaluate the competing claims of various private interests within society. But he soon dropped this idea, a decision no doubt hastened by censorship of the article in which it appeared. The possibility of a disinterested onlooker, moreover, seemed increasingly incredible, and not only to Marx. In Democracy in America , Tocqueville had remarked that since the "period of disinterested patriotism is gone by forever," modern politics had no choice but to "go forward and accelerate the union of private with public interests." While Marx shared Tocqueville's diagnosis, he disputed what form the remedy should take. Where Tocqueville and liberals like John Stuart Mill hoped that increased participation in government would promote a rebirth of civic spirit, Marx looked instead for a social class which already united "private with public interests."
In 1842, he had found such a union in the case of the impoverished: "Private persons who have observed the real poverty of others in the full extent of its development," can see, he wrote, "that the private interest they defend is equally a state interest." Perhaps inspired by Hegel's treatment of the executive administration, Marx now explored the possibility that a truly "universal estate" in fact existed, if not where Hegel had thought. The criteria for identifying any such class crucially involved its social and material circumstances. If civil society was rent by contradictory particular interests, it seemed desirable that a universal class somehow be in civil society but not "of" it; or, as Marx had put it in 1842 while defending the objectivity of a free press, an element was needed "which would be of a civil nature without being bound up with private interests." Similarly, if property defined the character of private interests, it seemed plausible that a class without property would also be without narrowly defined interests; again Marx had anticipated the implica-
tions of this possibility in 1842, when he described the impoverished and their interests as the "interests of those whose property consists of life, freedom, humanity, and citizenship of the state, who own nothing but themselves."
Indeed, once Marx had abandoned all hope of a disinterested mediation between the conflicting private interests within civil society, he had before him, in his writings on the problem of poverty from 1842, and in his criticism of Hegel's Philosophy of Right , virtually all the ingredients necessary for his designation, late in 1843, of the proletariat as a universal class, "a class in civil society but not of civil society, an estate which is the dissolution of all estates, a sphere which has a universal character by its universal suffering and claims no particular right because no particular wrong but wrong generally is perpetrated against it." Moreover, when he turned to study The Wealth of Nations , he would find his perception of the proletariat at least partially vindicated. According to Adam Smith, "the interest of the second order, that of those who live by wages, is . . . strictly connected with the interest of the society," since there is no order that "suffers so cruelly" from an economic decline—an assessment Marx favorably noted in his 1844 manuscripts.
Thus far, Marx's concept of interest can be seen to have a twofold importance, as a prescriptive as well as an analytic category. It was an essential concept for analyzing the modern state, "based on the unhampered development of bourgeois society, on the free movement of private interest." Interest was similarly a key category for interpreting ideologies: "Law, morality, religion, are to [the proletarian] so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests." Finally, interest figured as an important human faculty binding men together: as Marx wrote in The Holy Family, "natural necessity ," in the form of needs, "the essential human properties ," such as sociability, "however estranged they may seem to be, and interest . . . hold the members of civil society together."
At the same time, however, interest functioned as a prescriptive category, shaping the ideal of a decent society as well as the practice of the proletarian class that would realize it. The analytic and prescriptive aspects of the category were connected, for "if correctly understood interest is the principle of all morality, man's private interest must be made to coincide with the interest of humanity." Moreover, the discovery of this coincidence within a contemporary
class proved a practical precondition for revolutionary transcendence as well: the "subsuming of individuals under definite classes cannot be abolished until a class has evolved which has no longer any particular class interest to assert against a ruling class." Because it anticipated in its own concerns the unity between particular and universal interest, the proletariat could overcome the divisions between countries as well as within nations: "For the peoples to be able truly to unite, they must have common interests. And in order that their interests may become common, the existing property relations must be done away with . . . the abolition of existing property relations is the concern only of the proletariat."
In the present context, it is worth stressing that Marx believed common interests would unite a group without abrogating the particularity of each individual: thus in 1845, he approvingly quoted Bentham's assertion that "individual interests are the only real interests." That is why, on principle, there could be no contradiction, in a properly ordered society, between the general and the individual interest. Unfortunately, the "general interest" has hitherto been defined by a few individuals, to protect privileges which they enjoy in private. "Communist theoreticians," remarked Marx and Engels in The German Ideology , "are distinguished precisely by the fact that they alone have discovered that throughout history the 'general interest' is created by individuals who are defined as 'private persons.'" The problem with previous theoreticians, including Bentham, was that they either ignored selfish individual interests or treated this characteristic of civil society as a fixed facet of human nature. In contrast, Marx anticipated the day when communist society would free individuals from the private pursuit of narrow self-interest as well as those interests common, on the average, to a class, and instead enable them to cultivate their particular concerns as a publicly acknowledged good, in the universal interest.
Interest as an Attribute of Individuality
The category of interest was thus central to Marx's theory on many levels; it provided insight into present conditions and into their transcendence. In his critique of political economy, to be sure, the category played only a subsidiary role, but in his coverage of contemporary events, interest frequently functioned as an analytic category
specifying the motives of actors. Once installed at the heart of the Marxian enterprise as a kind of tacit concept, interest could be invoked whenever the fundamental premises of Marx's theory were at stake.
Proof of the continuing importance of the category for Marx can be found relatively late, in his 1881 notebooks on Henry Sumner Maine's Lectures on the Early History of Institutions . At one point in these lectures, Maine rebuked the analytical jurists such as Bentham for treating sovereignty as a question of pure will, rather than acknowledging the limits imposed by "the vast mass of influences, which we may call for shortness moral." Marx transcribed Maine's criticism, only to comment acidly that Maine could not see the economic influences behind moral phenomena. Then, in a remarkable passage, Marx attacked the analytical viewpoint of Bentham as well as the conventionalism of Maine. Both missed
the many levels: that the apparent supremely independent existence of the state is only apparent , that in all its forms it is an excrescence of society; as its appearance occurs first on a given stage of development, subsequently fading again, as soon as society has reached a hitherto unattained stage. The first separation of individuality not originally from despotic shackles (as blockhead Maine understands it), but from satisfying and sociable bonds, the primitive community—therewith the one-sided elaboration of individuality. The true content of the latter is shown when we analyze the contents of the "latter"—interests . We find then that interests have become common to social groups, that their characteristic interests have become class-interests and thus that this individuality is itself class-etc. individuality, in the last instance having economic conditions for a basis. The state is built on this foundation, and presupposes it.
Several aspects of this passage are noteworthy. Marx here underlined the historical specificity of interest, by linking it to the individuality which emerges within civil society after the disintegration of the "primitive community." More important for our purposes, though, is the explicit connection thus drawn between individuality and interest. But what does it mean to call interest the "true content" of individuality? What distinguished interest from other human faculties? Since Marx never explicitly defined the term, we will have to reconstruct his answer from a variety of sources.
We can start with a criticism of Kantian idealism in The German Ideology . There Marx and Engels accused Kant of failing to notice
that "theoretical ideas . . . had as their basis material interests and a will that was conditioned and determined by the material relations of production." The locus of interest that emerges from this statement is indicative: situated between ideas and material circumstances, and tied to a will "conditioned and determined" by social relations, it appears implicitly as an aspect of the individual animated by wants, practically oriented toward satisfying these wants, and rational—even enlisting "theoretical ideas"—in pursuing their satisfaction. That interest transcended the mere instinct for survival was commonly taken for granted: as Ferguson had put it, the interested individual pursued wants with "reflection and foresight." That Marx himself shared this understanding is confirmed by several comments in an 1842 article, where interest was characterized as "crafty" and "keen-sighted," amoral but practical, absorbed in worldly affairs. As Marx summarized his early understanding, "interest has no memory, for it thinks only of itself. And the one thing about which it is concerned, itself, it never forgets. But it is not concerned about contradictions, for it never comes into contradiction with itself. It is a constant improviser, for it has no system, only expedients."
While Marx was here condemning that "self-seeking interest which brings nothing of a higher order to realization," it is not impossible to amend this early account with later fragments, and to piece together a description of how the faculty of interest might contribute to the emancipatory process: for it seems only natural that the cooperative pursuit of a social transformation in the universal interest would, in turn, transform the individual faculty of interest. The proletarian, in pursuing his class interest, might then evolve a fraternal solidarity beyond selfish concerns and an abiding rationality beyond expedient cunning. Marx himself held such hopes for the labor movement: "When communist artisans form associations, education and propaganda are their first aims. But the very act of associating creates a new need—the need for society—and what appeared to be a means has become an end." In modern society, however, the preconditions for such a rational solidarity could be found only among the proletarians, who stood to gain "life, freedom, humanity" from pursuing their interests in common. For, as Marx put it in Capital , to explain "why capitalists form a veritable freemason society vis-à-vis the whole working class, while there is little love lost between them in competition among themselves," the
common interest "is appreciated by each only so long as he gains more by it than without it." In sharp contrast to individual capitalists, all proletarians "have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win."
Materialist Pedagogy and the Enlightenment of Interest
Marx in any case did not use the notion of interest to denote a static characteristic of human beings and social classes. Indeed, the faculty of interest fulfilled a far from self-evident function even in the case of the proletariat. In Capital , Marx himself described "the intellectual desolation . . . artificially produced by converting immature human beings into mere machines for the fabrication of surplus-value." On the basis of similar observations, Adam Smith drew the conclusion that "though the interest of the labourer is strictly connected with that of society, he is incapable either of comprehending that interest, or of understanding its connexion with his own."
Yet for a variety of reasons, Marx maintained a far greater confidence than Smith in the ability of the worker to grasp his situation. One critical factor, certainly, was the inherent reasoning power he ascribed to the faculty of interest: for Marx, unlike Smith, assumed that interest provided a steadfast motive for accurately calculating advantages. (Smith, by contrast, tended to conflate interest with the passions, thus depriving the faculty of any intrinsic link with rationality. In addition, Marx assumed the importance of consciously cultivating an accurate understanding of social concerns. Although the faculty of interest inherently mediated between circumstances and consciousness, its power as an historical force derived from the ability of the interested individuals to perceive common concerns, to act together for mutual benefits, and to acquire an understanding of social relations lucid enough to make such action effective. While Marx believed such an understanding often spontaneously arose in response to circumstances, he also believed such native knowledge could be refined and elucidated through education: this would be the task of a materialist pedagogy aimed at the cultivation of interest.
In The Holy Family , Marx had quoted with evident approval several passages from Helvétius and Holbach, both of whom grasped the importance for social change of clearly comprehending one's material interest—unlike the left-Hegelians, who portrayed socialism as an ideal of pure reason independent of reality. "As, according, to Helvétius, it is education, by which he means . . . not only education in the ordinary sense but the totality of the individual's conditions of life, which forms man, if a reform is necessary to abolish the contradiction between particular interests and those of society, so, on the other hand, a transformation of consciousness is necessary to carry out such a reform." Hegel had similarly linked interest and education. In the Philosophy of Right , after remarking that the "end" of individuals in civil society is "their own interest," Hegel added that "Individuals can attain their ends only in so far as they themselves determine their knowing, willing and acting in a universal way and make themselves links in this chain of social connexions. In these circumstances, the interest of the Idea—an interest of which these members of civil society are as such unconscious—lies in the process whereby their singularity and their natural condition are raised, as a result of the necessities imposed by nature as well as by arbitrary [i.e., socially generated] needs, to formal freedom and formal universality of knowing and willing—the process whereby their particularity is educated up to subjectivity." For Hegel, "The final purpose of education . . . is liberation and the struggle for a higher liberation still. . . . In the individual subject, this liberation is the hard struggle . . . against the immediacy of desire, against the empty subjectivity of feeling and the caprice of inclination; but it is through this educational struggle that the subjective will itself attains objectivity within. . . . "
For Marx, as for Helvétius and Hegel, the formation process of subjectivity in society was prompted by the "natural" necessity of primary needs, the "arbitrary" necessity of socially acquired needs, and the individual's inherent interest in bettering his condition; moreover, for Marx as for Helvétius, education included "the totality of the individual's conditions of life." The specific shape taken by the educational process, however, depended on the individual's location within society, and the specific social connections he was drawn into and could draw upon.
The situation of the proletarian, for example, facilitated a rough
and ready understanding of contemporary social relations and their essentially inequitable nature. According to Engels in The Condition of the Working Class m England , an early work that much impressed Marx, "The English working man who can scarcely read and still less write nevertheless has a shrewd notion of where his own interest and that of his nation lies. He knows, too, what the selfish interest of the bourgeoisie is, and what he has to expect of that bourgeoisie." That Marx himself shared this high estimate of the proletariat and its native understanding is confirmed by an article he published in 1844, criticizing the Young Hegelian Arnold Ruge. In an earlier article, Ruge had described the Silesian weavers' revolt of 1844 as the futile gesture of ignorant and desperate men; he recommended that the Young Hegelians help point out the political principles at stake, and impress upon the king the need for reform. Marx, by contrast, praised the "theoretical and conscious character" of the uprising, citing as evidence the "song of the weavers," a popular anthem described by him as a "bold call to struggle" which clearly proclaimed "its opposition to the society of private property." In such mundane cultural artifacts—political almanacs and songbooks circulated widely during the popular uprisings of the early nineteenth century—Marx found the rudiments of a civic education. He also saw an eager audience: the German proletariat, argued Marx, had an "educational level or capacity for education" (Bildungsfähigkeit ) far surpassing that of the timid and narrow-minded German bourgeoisie. Nor did these workers require tutoring in political principles by Young Hegelians like Ruge; indeed, the weavers demonstrated a more realistic understanding of social forces than the latter, with his hopes for benevolent monarchial reform. In this situation, what was needed, according to Marx, was not a patronizing philosophical defense, but instead a clear and accurate description of the Silesian weavers' revolt itself, and an analysis of its context and consequences: "Confronted with the first outbreak of the Silesian workers' uprising, the sole task of one who thinks and loves the truth consisted not in playing the role of school-master in relation to this event, but instead of studying its specific character."
Marx, like Engels, thus assumed that the proletarians of nineteenth-century Europe were uniquely situated to acquire a dear and lucid understanding of modern social relations; indeed, their per-
sonal experience of poverty and exploitation made such an understanding all but imperative. In the words of The German Ideology , "The contradiction between the individuality of each separate proletarian and labor, the conditions of life forced upon him, becomes evident to him, for he is sacrified from youth onwards. . . . "
As The Communist Manifesto added, the interests of the proletariat were also shaped by the "elements of political and general education" (Bildungselemente ) bequeathed by the bourgeoisie to the proletariat to enlist its aid in the bourgeois revolutions; as sections of the ruling class subsequently came to defend the interests of the proletariat, they supplied it as well "with fresh elements of enlightenment and progress," and further helped cultivate its interests beyond "the immediacy of desire," to a level of shared insight into historical development and the objective possibilities for freedom it harbored. Thus, as Marx summarized the process in The Poverty of Philosophy , economic conditions in themselves helped transform "the mass of the people in the country into workers. The domination of capital had created for this mass a common situation, common interests," but the workers were not immediately aware, either that they shared common interests, or that these interests were implicated in a social system which dominated them all: "This mass is thus already a class as against capital, but not yet for itself." However, the native understanding of the worker and the crowded urban conditions of factory labor, coupled with the political education provided by the bourgeois revolutions, gradually brought the workers to the point where they could collectively protest the social conditions of an existence they perceived as unjust. The political struggle which followed forced each party to clarify publicly its aims and principles: and it was only in and through this increasingly conscious struggle that the proletariat finally became "united and constitutes itself as a class for itself."
The proletariat's political organization had a critical role to play in this pedagogical process: for if the objective "identity of interests" within a social group generated "no community, no national bond, and no political organization," then this group could prove "incapable of enforcing their class interests in their own name." A political party represented a forum where workers could become aware of common concerns, while party leaders could help transform "the aims of the individual into universal aims." To this end, the new
science of society needed to be conveyed to the workers. On the one hand, science, by associating itself with the proletariat, "ceased to be doctrinaire," and became revolutionary; on the other, the proletariat, by equipping itself with a scientific understanding of the laws governing society, ceased to be the passive product of circumstances, and instead became their effective master. It was thus one of Marx's constant concerns to present his scientific findings in a popular form, through speeches and pamphlets like "Wage Labor and Capital." By demonstrating the systemic exploitation of labor under capitalism, he hoped to make clear the reasons why a revolutionary transformation was necessary, as well as why such a revolution was in the interest of the workers. However, the ultimate success of this pedagogical task depended on the willingness of workers to educate themselves: "They themselves," declared Marx and Engels in 1850, "must do the utmost for their final victory by clarifying their minds as to what their class interests are," a clarification facilitated "by taking up their position as an independent party as soon as possible."
In the course of the class struggle thus consciously articulated, the proletarians came to understand the discrepancy between reality and the ideals inculcated during the bourgeois revolutions. Moreover, they came to understand this discrepancy as unnecessary and irrational: the technical and economic means for the emancipation of labor and the realization of true liberty and equality existed, as did the cooperative power of the working class necessary to effect such a transformation in their mutual interest. While rooted in the individual and his needs, enlightened interest thus provided a real motive for actualizing such norms as freedom and justice—norms in no way reducible either to the economic demands of trade unionists or to the categorical imperative of the philosphers. Dedicated to making the possibility of communism manifest in just such discrepancies between professed norms and a contradictory reality, the party leaders wanted "the workers to leave the old society alone, the better to be able to enter the new society which they have prepared for them with so much foresight." Yet since the primary role of the party was educational—to form an awareness among workers of the objective possibilities for simultaneously bettering their condition and launching a revolution in the general interest—the party on Marx's account could never assume a "vanguard" role in Lenin's
sense, since the success of the party was measured only in terms of the workers it enabled to initiate cooperative action, as well as the enlightened standpoint they took. "It is the business of the International Working Men's Association to combine and generalise the spontaneous movements of the working classes, but not to dictate or impose any doctrinary system whatever." Instead, a materialist pedagogy of interest sought to transform the isolated gestures of the "I want" into the effective, organized, and self-conscious agency of the "We need, can and must"—that is, to transform the isolated struggle of the worker for survival into the self-constitution of the proletariat as a class "for itself," practically comprehending the "historical movement as a whole."
The universal interest in Marx, then, was not spontaneously generated through an unintentional "harmony" of interest, as in Smith, nor was it deciphered and imposed from above by a fair-minded elite, as in Hegel's theory of the bureaucracy. Rather, the universal interest in Marx was to be realized through a collective political struggle which simultaneously engendered solidarity among the workers, and, by making them aware of their common interest in a revolutionary transformation, made them aware of their "great historical mission," the emancipation of "the downtrodden millions."
The peculiar features Marx ascribed to interest as a subjective faculty played an essential role in his understanding of this process. As we have seen, Marx, like several theorists before him, portrayed interest as occupying an intermediate region within the panoply of human faculties, partaking of the cunning of reason and the forcefulness of passion, channeling the pressing nature of needs in a rational direction. Individuals could thus be counted on to pursue their interests with some degree of foresight and calculation as well as with steadfastness and perseverance—and it was this constant basis that a materialist pedagogy could build upon.
Let us summarize our findings, then. In Marx's understanding of human prehistory, it was enlightened interest , and not consciousness per se, or labor per se, which was the essential aspect of effective human agency. Interest was that critical subjective faculty in Marx's theory that mediated material needs and formative ideals, social conditions and self-conscious historical development, the immanent and the transcendent, the individual and the universal. The class interest of the proletariat within civil society transcended
civil society, for the proletariat, in coming to pursue its interests self-consciously, discovered that its particular emancipation entailed universal emancipation: for where all previous political movements were of minorities, "in the interest of minorities," the proletarian movement, in the familiar words of The Communist Manifesto , "is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority."
Hegel, Smith, and Marx:
The Necessity of Reason
In Marx's theory, only the native rationality of interested human action assured the scientific coherence of social interaction and historical development: an interested calculation heedful of material conditions, like the purposeful mastery of natural means exemplified in free labor, generated forseeable patterns of behavior, and thus facilitated a deterministic and predictive approach to analyzing it. Yet this reconciliation, within Marx's own theory, of a rationally active subjectivity with a scientifically depicted social objectivity marked by necessity was vulnerable to subsequent positivist distortions—a mistaken reading of Marx, to be avoided by reintegrating his work within a tradition of Enlightenment rationalism which includes Smith's political economy as well as Hegel's philosophy. Like Smith and Hegel, Marx depicted a social and historical process marked by necessity, yet incorporating conscious human agency as a causal element in its own right.
In Hegel, necessity had taken the shape of rational dialectic, the "moving soul of scientific progress." Dialectic constituted the principle "through which alone immanent connection and necessity enters into the content of science." For Hegel, "the philosophical approach to history has no other intention than to eliminate the accidental," and, implicitly, present only the necessary.
Hegel's notion of the necessary was unusual, however. In the Science of Logic , he argued that "the absolutely necessary is only because it is, and has otherwise neither condition nor ground. But equally it is pure essence; its Being is simple reflection into itself; it is because it is." Such an equation of actuality with necessity disarmed the notion of any predictive element: Hegel comprehended necessity retrospectively.
Yet necessity also arose for Hegel in the present, as a sort of "compulsion" exercised by reason itself. In a sense, it could then be considered prospectively as well as retrospectively. In the case of retrospective necessity, knowledge disengaged the essential from the past; in the case of prospective necessity, relative rationality, or reason showing itself in history, actually propelled history forward. In the Phenomenology , reason confronted, mediated, and overcame contradictions, such as those between a normative system of beliefs and actual social practices. To the extent that Hegel believed that the rational became actual, the transition from one set of beliefs to another had a certain inevitability conferred upon it; given a contradiction, he frequently spoke as if there were but one rational way to transcend it. As a consequence, sublimation of contradiction appeared in Hegel as a necessary progress in rationality founded on reason itself.
Throughout his works, he proposed a close interrelation between reason, freedom, subjectivity, and necessity. In the Logic , he portrayed subjectivity as passive as well as active. As passive, subjectivity subjected itself to "determinate causality," the empirical, natural sequence of causes and effects; as active, subjectivity posited its own identity through a new causality, which represented the subject's own manifestation: "Active substance is manifested in action as cause or original substantiality; and action means that it posits itself as its own opposite, which is also the transcendence of its presupposed otherness, of passive substance."
In the course of action, man employed understanding and concepts, faculties which enabled him to comprehend the natural relations of causality he confronted in the surrounding world. By consciously positing his ends via a rational means, man mastered external causality, and shaped himself, as well as circumstances: he attained freedom within and through necessity. Man gave himself his own end "by virtue of the divine in him—that which we designated at the outset as Reason , or, insofar as it has activity and power of self-determination, as Freedom ." For Hegel necessity accommodated free subjectivity, while subjectivity simultaneously transcended and preserved necessity in its creative acts.
Adam Smith's incorporation of free subjectivity within a necessary social whole not only anticipated but indeed influenced Hegel's philosophy of spirit: the "invisible hand" and the "cunning of reason" are not so dissimilar as might at first appear. In Smith's politi-
cal economy, atomistic individualism gave rise to a rational and harmonious distribution of economic wealth, beyond the selfish intentions of the acquisitive individuals populating Smith's social world. Free individuality thus participated in a socioeconomic order governed by lawlike regularities.
It was a result facilitated by Smith's assumptions concerning the nature of "economic man." At the foundation of economic order, he placed "the propensity to truck, barter and exchange," which he took as "a necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and speech." According to Smith, self-love and self-interest motivated this propensity, which in the aggregate helped maximize the material goods available to all individuals. The public interest in wealth was served by private avarice; each, by egoistically striving to promote his own material security, unwittingly rendered "the annual revenue of society as great as he can."
But this argument contained as its hidden premise the view that individuals behaved rationally in calculating their interests and undertaking economic ventures. While Smith in The Wealth of Nations portrayed avarice as beneficial for the economy, he never argued that private economic folly would lead to public wealth: indeed the economic cunning of reason depended ultimately on the reasoned exercise of cunning, at least in conducting economic affairs. Smith here joined Hegel in affirming (and presuming) the power of reason to order the world, both intentionally and unintentionally. What on a microcosmic level appeared as an anarchic confrontation of interested egos, on the macrocosmic level appeared as a law-governed whole which necessarily satisfied the demand for a reasonable economic order.
Both Smith and Hegel assumed that rationality structured human affairs on both an objective and subjective level. For both, a collective social reason emerged beyond the intentions of the individuals involved; but for both, the exercise by individuals of their reasoning capacity insured, however unintentionally, this reasonable outcome. Both viewed the exercise and outcome of reason as necessary—as necessary as reason itself.
Marx inherited this approach to the problems of necessity and rationality. Like Hegel and Smith, he emphasized the rational outcome of the social and historical process, and he also followed Hegel and Smith in basing this result, however unintended, on the funda-
mental rationality of human action. Marx of course did not believe men incapable of irrational, shortsighted, or emotional behavior. But he also believed that men were able to calculate their interests, and, at least potentially and in the long run, that they were able to evaluate normative disputes. A history devoid of such forms of rationality could hardly issue in communism; Marx in fact based his hopes for the future on a merger of reasoned class interests (the Smithian heritage) with reasoned progress in superseding obsolete social forms (the Hegelian heritage). The site of this merger, and the contemporary vehicle for progress in rationality, would be the proletariat. Without the rational intervention of the latter, the necessity of history, deciphered by Marx's critical science of political economy, would come to naught.
In short, the hidden premise animating Marxian science was Marx's presumption of the (potential and likely) rationality of social action. His conception of theory could therefore hardly exclude subjective factors, since predictability and hence lawfulness in social theory rested on the anticipation of rational behavior. His science indeed relied on this vision of man. By following Hegel and Smith in linking objective necessity with subjective rationality, Marx was able to integrate the "real individual," his potential for conscious agency intact, into a determinate and necessary social universe.
Marx in any case did not elaborate a simple concept of necessity. As in Hegel and Smith before him, at least three different usages of necessity can be distinguished, each having a different bearing on the sense of subjectivity.
In the first place, Marx tried to establish a "necessity of events," closely related to the natural scientific concept of determinism. Necessity here defines a result which flows in a predictable manner, independently of human intentions, from antecedent circumstances. Smith believed in this sense that the wealth of nations would be a necessary outcome of free trade, just as Marx believed in this sense that increasing exploitation was the necessary outcome of capitalist relations of production.
Second, a "necessity of means" can be discerned. This necessity represents a method or procedure requisite to attain a desired end and expresses an aspect of instrumental rationality. In this sense, Marx and Hegel both insisted that a mastery of the chemical and mechanical laws governing external nature was necessary to the free
exercise of human labor. Engels's description of freedom as insight into necessity bears on this usage.
Finally, there is in Marx a "necessity of ends," where certain norms are deemed essential to being fully human. Freedom could be called a necessity in this sense, as could such other norms as equality and dignity. Indeed, to the extent that they had become universal and apparently self-evident, such values informed the intentional structure of individual action, and thus could be considered practically effective as well as historically specific. Faced with any such "necessity of ends," subjectivity assumed an essentially active role, since it was only through its intentional agency that such "normative necessity" was expressed and fulfilled.
Marx felt communism was necessary in all three senses of the word: the logic of economic events pointed toward and in some sense caused it, the end of rational social planning required it, and, to the extent they desired freedom, men themselves demanded it. Marx's notion of necessity had further affinities with Smith's and Hegel's.
Like Hegel, Marx held that contradictions between a normative set of shared beliefs and social practices would sooner rather than later lead to the establishment of a new set of beliefs concordant with actual practices, or to the transformation of practices to accord with a given normative standard. Such a transcendence of contradiction appeared for both Marx and Hegel as a progress in reason that proceeded with necessity; for both, enlightened subjectivity—in the case of Marx, the class-conscious proletariat—furthered this progress in reason. Marx consequently anticipated the realignment of consciousness during the era of proletarian revolution in a direction favorable to the universalizing social practice already characteristic of capitalism. (Marx and Hegel did not, however, view progress as a unilinear process; on the contrary, for both, reason only emerged in the course of a dialectic marked by setbacks and turnabouts. As the young Marx put it, "Reason has always existed, but not always in a rational form.")
Like Smith, Marx felt confident that individuals and classes were motivated by material interests, and, as Smith put it, a desire for bettering their condition—"a desire which, though generally calm and dispassionate, comes with us from the womb and never leaves us till we go into the grave." Just as Smith's assumption helped him
elaborate a deterministic theory founded on free individual acts, so Marx's similar premises enabled him to set the free action of the proletariat within a global historic necessity: the rationality and abiding passion involved in the pursuit of interest facilitated the predictability of social action, as the classical political economists had been quick to appreciate. What Marx basically accomplished in this regard was the replacement of Smith's conception of harmonious egoistic interests with his own notion of conflicting class interests. In both cases, though, interest made possible an ultimately rational and hence necessary social development.
By extending the thesis of interest-governed behavior from individuals to classes, and by combining it with the Hegelian thesis of the enlightenment of consciousness through conflict, Marx was even able to extend the domain of predictability to historical development. But the proletarian on this account was by no means a passive product of history; rather, as a materially interested and increasingly self-conscious participant in history, the proletarian was expected to intervene and transform the direction as well as the tempo of historical development in forseeable ways, through the cooperative pursuit of aims he held in common with others, and through an enlightened understanding of the contradictory forces governing the circumstances he faced.
The role of interest for Marx indeed recalls Hegel's passage on the cunning of reason: "Reason is as cunning as she is powerful . Her cunning consists principally in her mediating activity, which by causing objects to act and react on each other in accordance with their own nature, in this way, without any direct interference in the process, carries out reason's own intentions. With this explanation, Divine Providence may be said to stand to the world and its processes in the capacity of absolute cunning. God lets men do as they please with their particular passions and interests; but the result is the accomplishment of—not their plans, but His." Lacking faith in divine intercession, a materialist pedagogy by contrast sought intentionally to attune the "particular passions and interests" of enslaved men to their true end and the proper end of history—freedom. But it did so merely by eliciting the interest in universal freedom implicit in the particular interests of each worker and by creating situations where these workers could become aware of their common interest in a revolutionary transformation of society. Without any "direct
interference" in the process of historical development, and merely by causing the conflicting classes within civil society "to act and react on each other in accordance with their own nature," the political party of the proletariat helped organize and educate new men consciously dedicated to surmounting the contradictions of capitalism in a more reasonable society. Or, as Marx himself expressed it:
This antagonism between modern industry and science on the one hand, modern misery and dissolution on the other hand; this antagonism between the productive powers, and the social relations of our epoch is a fact, palpable, overwhelming, and not to be controverted. Some parties may wail over it; others may wish to get rid of modern arts, in order to get rid of modern conflicts. . . . On our part, we do not mistake the shape of the shrewd spirit [cf. Hegel's cunning Reason] that continues to mark all these contradictions. We know that to work well the new-fangled forces of society, they only want to be mastered by new-fangled men—and such are the working men. They are as much the invention of modern times as machinery itself. . . . The English working men are the first born sons of modern industry. They will then, certainly, not be the last in aiding the social revolution produced by that industry, a revolution which means the emancipation of their own class all over the world, which is as universal as capital-rule and wages-slavery.
As should be apparent by now, Marx, like Adam Smith and Hegel, was a rationalist and one of the last radical champions of universal enlightenment. Of course, he was not a rationalist in the sense of a philosopher deducing an a priori metaphysic or regulative ideals of reason; nor did he have much sympathy for the classical rationalism formulated by Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz. Instead, Marx was an Enlightenment rationalist in the mold of such materialists as Helvétius, Holbach, and Diderot. These thinkers combined a rejection of innate ideas with a generalizing science of man and were concerned both with the systematic study of society and the enunciation of universal principles of right and justice. As the historian Elie Halévy described him, this type of rationalist "believes in the allpowerfulness of science. . . . Just as science guarantees to man the power to transform physical nature at will and without limits, so
also, if it be true to its word, it should guarantee him the possibility of transforming human nature without limits. . . . Education has the faculty of transforming the human character to an unlimited extent, of making all men intellectually equal, and therefore worthy of possessing equal wealth."
Marx, to be sure, would not have recognized himself in this portrait: he was too much the historical realist to place much confidence in universal principles, unarmed science, or educational reforms isolated from the broader context of social development. But within this context, in his expectation of capitalist collapse, he anticipated the enlightened practice of new men—politicized proletarians—as surely as his science dissected the destructive laws governing capitalist relations of exchange. At the root of his expectations, moreover, stood an essentially optimistic outlook on the prospects for transforming human character: once the "downtrodden millions" became aware of their stake in changing an exploitative social order, they would surely rise up to act on such rational impulses. To the extent it appeared reasonable, finally, individual and collective action also appeared predictable and hence amenable to scientific treatment.
The extent of Marx's rationalist optimism becomes dear through a comparison with Rousseau. Both Rousseau and Marx felt a legitimate society would be ordered around common interests: as Rousseau put the point in The Social Contract , "Unless there were some point in which all interests agree, no society could exist. Now, it is solely with regard to this common interest that the society should be governed." But if Rousseau and Marx agreed about the proper end of association, they disagreed on the means for realizing this end. For Rousseau, the issue was one of properly denaturing men, through a legitimate form of association, which would embody, not just in law, but also in customs and mores, a real commonality of interest; only on this basis might individuals be reconstituted as moral agents and free social beings. The difficulty was that men had already been socialized by the "bad contract" of civil society, which promoted avarice, deceit, and the pursuit of selfish interests. To surmount this substantial difficulty, Rousseau resorted to the fabulous figure of the "Great Legislator," a semidivine public tutor who bestowed just laws and shaped, through a civil religion, the customs and mores of a people; for those used to the luxury and egoism of
civil society, there was no other device capable of making them "bear submissively the yoke of the public welfare."
To Marx, by contrast, no such unlikely and drastic device for denaturing men seemed necessary, for the proletariat already implicitly embodied a real commonality of interest. Civil society, rather than being only an obstacle, instead contained many of the elements required for reconstituting individuals as free social beings; what was needed was not a mythic religion to yoke particular interests, but rather a thoroughgoing social science that would clarify the interests defended by the different classes within civil society, and demonstrate the interest of the proletariat in creating a classless society. In this way, Marx's "historical realism" actually reinforced his rationalist optimism.
Marx also believed that the normative elements essential to a good society were already at hand; freedom and equality seemed ideals vouchsafed by the political and economic achievements of the era. As Marx put it in an early essay, "As far as actual life is concerned, the political state especially contains in all its modern forms the demands of reason," even if these demands remained abstract ideals. Marx made an analogous point in Capital , when he remarked that "the notion of human equality has already acquired the fixity of a popular prejudice." The social critic, in short, could count on certain constellations of belief, such as Jacobin liberalism, classical political economy, and Hegelian philosophy, to help orient his practical and theoretical work. And if Marx by no means shared the ahistorical bias of the natural-law theorists of the French and American Revolutions, he did share their view that certain truths were self-evident—even if these were historically developed. It was in this spirit that he could exclaim, in a remarkably concise formulation of his rationalist optimism, "History is the judge—its executioner, the proletariat."
As it affected his understanding of individuality, Marx's own rationalist disposition emerged in his assumption that human beings tended to respond rationally to circumstances and to evaluate shrewdly the advantages afforded by different courses of action. The concept of interest implied a tacit convergence between needs and insight, the passions and reason. Indeed, by taking this convergence for granted, the category of interest minimized the potency of blind inertia, and the possibility of a stubborn discrepancy between
understanding and the will to act, between having concerns in the world and caring enough about that world to risk changing it. The concept of labor similarly reinforced Marx's rationalist assumptions. As Marx analyzed it, the labor process resembled a calculated form of instrumental activity, where the materials of nature were modified for coherent ends with insight into the appropriate means. By applying this model of human action to practice in general—by making labor his paradigm of effective human agency—Marx was able to avoid tackling other aspects of human behavior less amenable to rationalist explanation.
Rationalism indeed offered an immanent assurance that Marx's interpretation of history and its ultimate sense would be fulfilled. In his "Toward the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction," Marx had aligned the proletariat with (Hegelian) philosophy: the proletariat became the social agent of Reason in history. Although Marx eventually abandoned this essentialist, neo-Hegelian conception, he continued to depict the proletariat as a class driven by rational needs and interests. As Marx's economic works added, the proletariat was also propelled into the foreground of history by the logic of events and institutions; the reign of capital sharpened class polarities and increased the exploitation of labor. Yet even in the later works, subjective needs and interests joined objective events in pushing the proletariat to the point where it had no rational alternative but to revolt: to do otherwise would be an abdication of reason.
As a consequence, capitalism could appear to Marx as a predictable sequence of social situations that necessitated individual actions, in the sense that these situations warranted a foreseeable rational response. The proletariat as a class found itself under the sign of such a compulsion: "The question is what the proletariat is , and what, consequent on that being , it will be compelled to do."
To be sure, the proletariat had to become aware of its own objective interests, just as the full flowering of man's rational freedom awaited the emancipation of labor. But because Marx held the view that civil society was already held together and driven forward by "natural necessity, essential human properties" and "interest," there was never any serious doubt in his mind that the proletariat would become so enlightened. Indeed, sooner or later it had to, since to remain ignorant of its real interests would be irrational. Marx's
rationalist assumptions thus helped guarantee that history would play out the meaningful drama he had deciphered. Within modern history, the proletariat embodied the necessity of reason—a necessity that conferred upon history a teleological coherence.
The removal of the domination of nature over man and of man over man, combined with the dissipation of ideological illusions in the comprehension of a "general mind" employing science, thus seemed to assure human emancipation. The subjective conditions for a proletarian revolution arose necessarily from the proper objective conditions: once the proletariat had entered into an intractable conflict with the bourgeoisie, once traditional ideologies had been dissolved by the advance of capitalist production itself, once a workers' party had indicated to the proletariat where its authentic interests lay, there was little question for Marx that the proletariat would obviously and inevitably act rationally and seek to achieve its authentic class interests with a clear consciousness devoid of ideological contamination. The whole chain leading Marx to anticipate the collapse of capitalism would be unthinkable without the rational response of the vast majority to the rational initiatives of the enlightened organizers of the workers' party.
The rationalist dimension to Marxian theory nonetheless sharply distinguished Marx's outlook on historical necessity from that held by positivism, Comte's in particular. While both Marx and Comte attempted, by analyzing social phenomena, to disclose the laws governing these phenomena, Comte saw society as the ultimate reality and the individual as a mere abstraction. Unlike Marx, who balanced his social realism with an insistence on the ontological primacy of interacting individuals, Comte viewed society as an infinitely greater whole; he claimed that individuals owed their entire development to the larger social organism. The individual for Comte represented a vanishing moment in the forward march of humanity, which, as the higher being of a new positive religion, should be accordingly worshiped. Individuals, stripped of creative will, became the mere objects of the factual investigations and verdicts of positive science.
While Marx's materialism also aimed at a scientific and empirical analysis of social conditions, it did not eliminate the human individual as a factor and force in history. Unlike Comte, Marx incorporated the human subject within the scientifically determinate social
object. Indeed, in Marx, it was only the rationality of the social subject which set the final stamp of necessity on the social object.
The corpus of Marx's writings represents a synthesis of individualist aims and presuppositions with a scientific and deterministic account of objective social conditions and their historical development. At the heart of this synthesis lay his comprehension of subjectivity as rationally directed interest and causally efficacious labor. It was a synthesis that would eventually collapse under the theoretical pressure of positivism and the practical pressure of revolutionary setbacks and gradualist achievements within the social democratic movement.
Despite Marx's own distance from Comte's positivism, his most "necessitarian" statements came to support a neopositivist orthodoxy within Marxism . Indeed, the focus of Marx's published work on the abstract theory of capital facilitated misunderstanding: by reading into the crisis model of Capital a straightforwardly natural scientific concept of determinism, orthodox Marxism relegated his teleological account of the labor process to the margins of the theory. In so doing, orthodoxy obscured the central concepts of reification, alienation, and objectification, none of which could be properly understood apart from his comprehension of labor. Orthodoxy also abandoned Marx's hopes for an indigenous and militant labor movement, its will formed through enlightening the interest in emancipation inherent in each oppressed worker.
Marx himself had envisioned a combination of spontaneous proletarian development and coordinating conscious organization as the twin keys to social revolution. But to the degree that the spontaneous workers' movement failed to meet his original expectations, the emphasis was shifted to organizational questions. Several options were available. German social democracy by the turn of the century had created a huge bureaucratic party structure that could be viewed as paternalistically safeguarding the interests of the proletariat while conditions "ripened." The failure of Marx's original expectations here resulted in accommodation to a political reality seemingly barren of self-generating revolutionary activity.
But a militant wing within the international socialist movement viewed the situation differently. They saw the low level of proletarian militancy as a dangerous sign of bourgeois ideological hegemony and believed the situation could best be corrected by a dedicated cadre of enlightened revolutionaries counterposing themselves to the worker as his true consciousness. The immanent logic of this position pointed in the direction of an elite, possibly conspiratorial party organization; such a party would attempt to wrench the working class into an adequate awareness of its historical mission as defined by Marxian theory.
The most rarely advocated strategic position professed a continuing faith in the spontaneous capacities of the proletariat. This position was generally coupled with an organizational program aimed at encouraging in a revolutionary direction whatever spontaneous workers' movements did arise. Ironically, it was a strategy frequently confused with some heretical variant of anarcho-syndicalism, so complete was the disenchantment of orthodoxy with indigenous working-class activity. Indeed, the widespread preoccupation with organizational issues as a corrective for proletarian lassitude concealed an inability to launch a fundamental reexamination of the subjective premises of the Marxian theory. Marx's assumptions concerning the subjective conditions for revolutions remained a largely unquestioned adjunct to the larger economic edifice.
But the dilemmas and uncertainties surrounding practical questions could not leave the subjective aspects of Marxism unaffected. In fact, in Marx's own formulation, his theory depended to a crucial extent on rational social action if its forecasts were to stand. Marx's understanding of revolutionary possibilities and aims was thus intimately linked with his perception of subjectivity. As a result, the shifting comprehension of practice by Marxists was accompanied by a largely unacknowledged revision of Marx's own comprehension of subjectivity.
Insofar as Marx's optimism concerning the rational capacity of the individuals comprising the proletariat to initiate revolutionary action remained unconfirmed by events, Marxism as a doctrinal system was confronted with several possibilities for reinterpreting or revising Marx's outlook on man. One was simply to hold fast to the rationalist view of man, usually as an unexamined premise, in the face of all historical adversity. In varying degrees, Eduard Bernstein
and Rosa Luxemburg, as well as such later neo-Hegelians as Lukács, may be said to have taken this course, which gained some additional credibility with the success of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution.
A second possibility was implicitly or explicitly to empty subjectivity and consciousness of any autonomous force, in favor of a purely objective determinism, that, while externally guaranteeing the validity of Marxism , more resembled a positivistic variant of mechanical materialism than it did Marx's original doctrine. This route was widely traveled in the years after Marx's death; Engels inaugurated the exodus from historical dialectic to positive science as the systematic setting for "dialectical materialism."
Finally, a third possibility lay in the critical reexamination of rationalism as well as positivism. While an altered comprehension of subjectivity would have wide implications for the whole Marxian theory, it might be possible to insert a modified image of subjectivity at the base of Marxism , even if it meant abandoning the primacy of rational interest and labor, and, as a consequence, the necessity of history that Marx had postulated. This infrequently broached possibility was explored at some length in the "existential Marxism " of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre.
On the whole however, Marxism has oscillated between the first and second alternatives, between a rationalism based on enlightened subjectivity and a positivism stripped of any reference to subjectivity. In Marx's own case, his tacit commitment to a rationalist view of man, and the degree to which his understanding of history depended on it, was greater before 1848 than after. It is almost as if, after the disappointment of 1848, Marx, whether consciously or not, sought to develop a more objective outlook on history, by focusing on the economic laws which defined the possibilities for social development. To this extent—and despite the fact that Marx never abandoned either an essentially rationalist image of subjectivity, or his insistence that subjectivity must actively participate in fulfilling the meaning of history—the basis for the subsequent elaboration of Marxism as a purely objective positive science was latently contained in his own move beyond the ratio of Hegelian Spirit, to economic laws as a principal guarantee of a rational history.
He thus bequeathed to his heirs a legacy charged with ambiguity. Although he himself had insisted on individual emancipation as a
cardinal goal of socialism, and valued highly the creative potential of human practice, the understanding he originally elaborated came to be interpreted as a scientific world view of ironclad objective laws. In practice, the goal of individual emancipation faded from view, while in theory, subjectivity and consciousness became epiphenomena of objective material conditions. In Marxism after Marx, the sense of subjectivity was transformed.