English 2200F/G Lecture Notes - Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
English 2200 Lecture on Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
November 16, 2011
Karl Marx: 1818-1883
Friedrich Engels: 1820-1895
-The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
-translated to english and published in 1932
-primarily Marx work
-The German Ideology
-Primarily Engels work
-Both philosopher’s were German, like Nietzsche
-Communism was a really easy philosophy for dictators to assume: “This is how it is,
and if you’re not with us, you’re dead”
-Marx was student of Hegel’s philosophy, but starts to question Hegel when he meets
Engels. Engels studied economy, Marx philosophy. They both influenced each other
-Hegel wants to talk about our spirit -- Marx doesn’t believe in doing that. Everyone
can’t “be an artist” like Hegel said because of our ideologies, cultures, the way we were
-Everything is materialistic for Marx and Engel. Not concerned with any spiritual,
-When people say “Oh, this is a Marxist reading” they mean that it focuses on the
material conditions of whatever they’re talking about.
-A 5 dollar bill is labour. It is a promise that someone will labour the amount of 5 dollars
for the person who owns the bill to give it to them.
-Problem? Rule 1 of Capitalism: You can’t pay workers what they’re worth,
because then you wouldn’t have a profit margin.
-An economy really doesn’t have much to do with money. It means: interrelated
elements in a system
-Global economy: interrelated elements in a global system
-Global crises are material. There is something that we did to cause everything, it
doesn’t just ‘happen’.
-If we get away from Nietzsche’s Apollonian, we can start to change things. If
everything’s left up to us, we have the power to make change, according to Marx.
-Reification: Atheist Ludwig Feuerback wrote “Essence of Christianity” which was
controversial. He argues that humanity created God, but after generations have gone by
God become reified. Now God is seen as looking down on humanity, as creating
humanity. God somehow become bigger than us, even though we created him. Over
generations, we forget this.
-Feuerback wants us to stop living our lives according solely to God
-Marx agrees with him, but applies his ideas to more than just God. Christianity is an
illusion. He sees the economy as the same illusion. The economy was created by
humans, but not it’s become so big. It now seems bigger than us and impossible to
change. Economy has become reified. It remains reified because we are all complicit: if
we weren’t, we’d all be in jail.
-Marx’s biggest issue is that the world is in a crisis of alienation.
-what do we think about when we hear this word? apart from collective,
xenophobia (fear of foreigners), distanced, a feeling/fear, Affective idea.
-To Marx, suffering and pain are material. People suffering (alienation, starving) is just
as material as the job you go to every day.
-Marx believed that things that belong together are being alienated from each other.
-The essence and existence of humans aren’t matching up the way he thinks
they should be. The ideal way we could live is not the way that the world is now.
The way we want to live is not what’s happening.
-We’ve gone through an alienation of labour.
-p.653: “The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the
more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an
ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. With the increasing
value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion the devaluation of the
world of men. Labour produces not only commodities; it produces itself and the
worker as a commodity -- and does so in the proportion in which it produces
-From here, he says that under capitalist labour we can be bought and sold: how
else can we explain the wages we earn?
-Marx believes that we are alienated in 4 ways:
-Alienation from THE PRODUCT (of our labour and time)
-we make something at work, and it is immediately taken from us and sold. It’s
like planting a garden and then one day someone comes and digs it up.
Products reappear to us in an alienated way also. At McDonald’s, you know
what you’re getting. You’re going there for a standardized, alienated food form.
Commodities we produce aren’t about the people who made them. We don’t go
to a fast food restaurant because we know the chef and want his food or
-We confront the world as though we are strangers/alien to it.
-A projector in the class: It was made, assembled, invented, and installed by
people that we don’t know, yet we use it.
-Alienation from PRODUCTIVE ACTIVITY
-We work in standardized jobs where you do the same thing over and over again
(eg. Ford Assembly Line). Our labour is segmented, we don’t get pleasure from
making something; there is no more team work.
-This method of production is effective, but the workers are reducing themselves
to a machine by working this way.
-Alienation from SPECIES ESSENCE
-Marx believes that humans are different from animals because we have our own
essence. Humans have creativity which distinguishes us from animals.
-By being dreamers and creators we can get the best experience out of our lives.
-Nietzsche said that creativity is communal, that’s why Marx calls it the species
-In our lives we have repressed our creative sides. We’ve been alienated,
bogged down by work and school. Since creativity was what distinguished us
from animals, without it we are reduced to the same level as them.
-The goal of Marx and Engels was to destabilize the workplace. They wanted
change, they wanted revolution. They thought that philosopher’s up til them had
only described the world as it is; they wanted to change the world through their
-What should make us feel most alive (creativity) is being pushed away.
-We cannot pursue the species essence if we are owned by Capitalism
-Alienation from OTHERS
-We’re not on a team with coworkers. We are separated, which creates
competition between us.
-Though some would say competition helps companies create better products,
Marx doesn’t care about that.
-p.652: “The only wheels which political economy sets in motion are avarice and
the war amongst the avarice -- competition”
-Marx’s ideas can still be applied today
-Some crossover with Nietzsche, like in his sublimation theory. Marx thins that social
constructs have been sublimated into our lives; they have been naturalized.