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Zeitlin - Chapter 13:
The Philosophical Orientations of Karl Marx (1818-1883)
Comte’s positive philosophy was a conscious attempt to discredit and repudiate what he had
termed ―negative‖ philosophy
The negative-critical philosophy that emerged and took shape with the Enlightenment had
prove itself a formidable weapon in the hands of the rising bourgeoisie in its struggle against
the older classes of theological-feudal order
With the establishment of the bourgeois order, Comte believed negative philosophy, the
legacy of the Enlightenment, had outlived its usefulness
Negative philosophy led only to divisiveness, conflict and disorder
Prolateriat: citizen of lower/ working class
It stirred the imagination and hopes of the proletariat and encouraged class conflict
Each stage in the evolution of the new organic society was viewed by him as a necessary
one; therefore, the working class must adjust to the present stage
Revolution- that is, a total transformation of the social system was out of the question and
could only have negative consequences; it would only shatter the existing order without
bringing in its wake any fundamental change in the condition of the vast majority of the
Progress was best assured not by criticism, class conflict, and revolutionary activity, but by
reconciling the conflicting tendencies and classes;
o by educating all classes of society to take their proper place in the new,
hierarchically organized society and to resign themselves to their condition
Chief function of new positive science--to achieve an organic and conflict-free social order
With Comte, there is a complete renunciation of the legacy of the Enlightenment, Marx
restores and skilfully employs the very philosophical premises Comte so intensely detested
Marx had a conception of ―natural man‖ – the individual human being, his needs, and his
potential for development -- Man, Marx believed, is infinitely perfectible
Man’s essential powers are unlimited in their capacity for development
o He can attain the highest forms of creativity, thought and action
Latent creative powers were stifled and repressed under the social conditions of all class
The existing system, capitalism, was not only preventing the fulfillment of his potential, it
was depriving him of his natural needs fresh air, food, sex and so on
Marx thus condemned the capitalist system for its effect on individual human beings
Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
It offended Marx’s conception of man that the capitalist-industrial system had reduced him to
an animal laborans, ―a beast reduced to the strictest bodily needs‖
Marx had an image of man as he could be and hence ought to be, and what he saw and
described was a far cry from that image
o Instead of developing his essential human powers, man was being debased and
deformed and thus becoming something less than an animal
o The dehumanization of man was viewed by Marx as a consequence of alienation
Alienation for Hegel was exclusively a phenomenon of the mind
o Ludwig Feuerbach elaborated the Enlightenment view of religion as an ―illusion‖
o The Essence of Christianity presented a view of religion quite similar to that of the
God is a creation of the human imagination
The Divine is a symbolic expression of humanity’s unfulfilled promises and
social alienation humanity has be divided against itself by the social-class cleavages of
o It is the domination, oppression, and exploitation of man by man that has given rise
to religion
Religious ideas are an expression of human suffering and a protest against it as well
Marx concluded that, by itself, a demonstration of the illusory character of religion was no likely to have
liberating effects
So as long as oppression and sharp inequalities prevail, people will continued to create comforting illusions
Religion is an ―opium‖ because it so often leads people to seek meaning and happiness not in
the human world but in the divine hereafter
There are several senses in which Marx employed the term alienation, and the meanings he
assigned to the concept may best be grasped from the two German words he used to
describe the phenomenon
Entaussern (verb) to part with, to give up, to deprive one’s self of
Entausserung (noun) alienation (of property)
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Entfremden (verb), Entfremdung (noun) ―to alienate,‖ connotes primarily two people becoming
estranged from each other
o process begins with the separation of men from their means of production and
o Men are alienated from their property and therefore compelled, if they are to avoid
starving and becoming vagabonds, to sell their labour power to capitalist system
o The two parties (capitalist and labourer) enter into an essentially instrumental
relationship with each other
o Forming that relation is and remains an act of expediency, and the two parties
remain estranged from each other because the relationship is based on conflicting
interests and different conditions of life
o The worker begins to consume his energies in the production of things; his labour
power becomes objectified in commodities over which he has no control the more
he produces, the poorer he becomes
The worker has no control over the process of production or its results; his labour is an
alienating activity, not only because he loses the product in which he has reified a part or
himself, but because the whole productive process is external to him and his human needs
o He experiences the process of production as an oppressive activity, as a loss of
Man, as worker, has become something less than human, because he is separated from his
potential human qualities
The animal, Marx says, is immediately identical with its life activity; man has the ability to
make his life activity the object of his will and consciousness
The animal produces only when dominated by his immediate physical needs; man can
produce ―even when he is free from physical need and only truly produces in freedom
It is not the worker alone, but the nonworker as well who is subject to the condition of
Everything ―… which appears in the worker as an activity of alienation, of estrangement,
appears in the nonworker as a state of alienation, of estrangement”
If men were to develop their essential human powers, if they were to perfect themselves,
they had first of all to abolish the conditions of their present malaise
Therefore, the establishment of what Marx called ―communism‖ was not an end but a means
to man’s greater freedom and hence to man’s greater humanity
o ―Communism,‖ wrote Marx in German Ideology, ―is for us not a stable state which is
to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. We call
communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things…‖
o Communism is no static utopia toward which men should strive; it is a critical and
revolutionary movement
Marx had a conception of what the human individual could become and that this was his
measure of the existing social system
Man’s creative powers, his capacity for self-perfection and self-realization, are practically
Man is a creature of the very social conditions he himself has created, but he need not
remain a prisoner of those conditions
To understand how, in Marx’s view, men could make their history more consciously than ever
before, we must examine another aspect of the Enlightenment legacy negative-critical
thinking the dialectical form of which Marx learned directly from Hegel but fundamentally
ZEITLIN CHAPTER 14- Marx’s Relation to Hegel and Feuerbach
Hegel & Marx
o Reason embraced the total universeinorganic and organic- nature and society
governed by Idea and its dialectical logic
o Rational structure of being could be comprehended by the human mind and that
was a necessary condition of freedom—―Truth‖ not merely a function of formal
o Hegel believed that the form in which something first appears is not its true form
first you’ll see negative condition and not the real potential
Something because true ―only in the process of overcoming this negativity,
so that the birth of the truth requires the death of the given state of being‖
o Revolutionary side to Hegel’s philosophy
o Thoughts can be traced to Aristotle and pre Socratic philosophers who were highly
influenced by Marx’s thinking about social phenomena
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o One cannot comprehend the existing order, let alone free its potentialities, unless it
is critically opposed and ultimately transcended
o This approach is directly opposed to positivism (which treats facts in their
immediately given form as truth)
o Marx (like Hegel)was always conscious of the transient character of any given
facts, which are but negative moments in a ceaseless historical process
Existing order capitalismshould be studied carefully if only to learn how
to negate (overrule/counteract) it
Possibility of revolutions rested on certain objective economic and political
conditions could be grasped through analysis of the strucute and
tendencies of capitalism
Marxdeveloped a theory to guide the revolutionary action of the working class
o Relations of production‖ tend to determine the character of men, including their
consciousness—man’s alienated condition
o Materialistic nature of prevailing order in which relations of production are
fundamental in forming and deforming human relations and in divesting man of his
human character
Marxcritical approach- emphasizes that materialistic starting point is forced upon him by
the materialistic quality of the society he analyzes
Need to leave the domain of ―necessity‖ and enter domain of ―freedom‖
Viewed socialism and/ or communism not as ends in themselves
o abolition of private property and the socialization of the mean of production are the
first steps in the abolition of alienated labour
o Everything will depend on what men do with socialized resourcesif they do not
utilize those resources to fulfill their human needs and to further their human
development, then the socialization of the mean of production has merely
substituted one form of suppression for another
Marx condemns any society that imposes a division of labor without considering the need for
the well-being and for maximum self-realization of each and every individual
o Main criticism of class society—situation in which individual’s entire fate tends to be
determined by class position and function assigned to him in system of production
o ―divided, man’s own need becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves
him instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as labor is distributed, each
man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity which is forced upon him and he
cannot escape
Marx views the entire capitalist system as resting on conflicting principles and tendencies
Marx’s thought is different order of truth from Hegel’s
o In direction opposition to Hegel’s idealistic conception of that relationship—Marx
worked on his own theory of relationship between social existence and social
o He believed that dialectical thinking suffered from mystification in Hegel’s hands
o Marx dissociated himself from metaphysical premises of Hegel’s philosophy—in
which thinking was separate from the life process
o Rejected prevailing form of materialism
Opposed mechanistic and reductionist standpoints according to man’s
mental activity was nothing more than mere motion
Locus classicus—of Marx’s critique of mechanistic materialism is his famous ―These on
o Rejects any doctrine that ignores the active, creative, and determining side of man
o External world is molded and changed by means of man’s theoretical-practical
activityman creates the world In the sense that he produces his tools, and
external object with the materials of nature
Marx developed his own distinctive view in opposition to idealism and materialism
Marx’s theory and method—―materialist conception of history‖—he described as ―dialectical‖
because it took into account both the active and the passive sides
Dialectical debate or discussion
Chapter 15- Marx’s Historical Sociology
―Marxism‖—came to stand for a theory in which economic and other ―material‖ factors
explained the structure of society and the course of history
Marx’s theory focuses on connections between economic development and social-class
formation was reduced to a form of technological determinism
Both economic and technological determinism came to be regarded as one sided and
misleading—―vulgar Marxism‖—basic distortions of founder’s ideas
o Marxism came to be regarded as ―open‖ non-dogmatic theoretical approach
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