Some Notes on Karl Marx’s “The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844”



  • Political economy has “language and laws” that is embodied in the concept of “private property, the separation of labour, capital and land, and of wages, profit of capital and rent of land –“likewise division, competition, the concept of exchange-value, etc”
  • “…the worker sinks to the levels of a commodity and becomes indeed the most wretched of commodities; that the wretchedness of the worker is in inverse proportion to the power and magnitude of his production; that the necessary result of competition is the accumulation of capital in a few hands, and thus the restoration of monopoly in a more terrible form; that finally the distinction between capitalist and land-rentier, like that between the tiller of the soil and the factory-worker, disappear and that the whole of society must fall apart into the two classes –the property-owner and the propertyless workers.”
  • Political economy proceeds from the fact of private property…it expresses in general, abstract formulae the material process through which private property actually passes, and these formulae it then takes for laws.
  • Competition comes in everywhere…from external circumstances
  • …the doctrine of competition to the doctrine of monopoly, the doctrine of craft-liberty to the doctrine of the corporation, the doctrine of the division of landed property to the doctrine of the big estate.
  • The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increase in power and range.
  • The product of labour is labour which has been congealed in an object, which has become material: it is the “objectification” of labour…this realization of labor appears as “loss of reality” for the workers; objectification as “loss of the object” and “object-bondage”…
  • …labour itself becomes an object which he can get hold of only with the greatest effect and with the most irregular interruptions.
  • …the worker is related to the “product of his labour” as to an “alien” object.
  • The alienation of the worker in his product means not only that his labour becomes an object, an external existence, but that it exists outside him, independently, as something alien to him, and that it becomes a power of its own confronting him; it means that the life, which he has conferred on the object confronts him as something hostile and alien.
  • The worker can create nothing without nature, without the “sensuous external world.”
  • …just as nature provides labor with the “means of life” in the sense that labour cannot live without object on which to operate, on the other hand, it also provide the “means of life” in the most restricted sense…the means for the physical subsistence of the worker himself.
  • …the more the worker by his labour appropriates the external world, sensuous nature, the more he deprives himself of “means of life” in the double respect.
  • …the worker becomes a slave of his object, first, in that he receives an object…in that he receives work, and secondly, in that he receives means of subsistence. Therefore, it enables him to exist, first, as a worker, and second, as a physical subject.
  • Political economy conceals the estrangement inherent in the nature of labour by not considering the direct relationship between the worker and production.
  • The direct relationship of labour to its produce is the relationship of the worker to the objects of his production.
  • …what is the essential relationship of labour we are asking about the relationship of the worker to production.
  • …estrangement is manifested not only in the result but in the act of production –within the producing activity itself.

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