The German Ideology
The German Ideology
• The younger, more humanist and "philosophical" Marx
• He offers early versions of key themes of his theory, previewing some arguments in the
◦ We will focus on his concepts of
▪ Materialism and Ideology
▪ Alienation (vs. Freedom)
▪ Dialectical and Materialist Theory of History
• But, he and Engels couldn't find a publisher for this during his lifetime
The "Young Marx" and his critique of philosophy
• "The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways: the point, however,
is to change it." - Marx, these on Feuerbach
◦ This is Marx's starting point of the German Ideology: Philosophy should become
political, materialist revolutionary
◦ It should cease to be"philosophy"
• "Political theory [involves] a kind of meeting ground . . . [where we find] philosophers
who turned to politics out of despair about the unbearability of certain historical
experiences. Such was the case of Plato . . . And we find finally the philosopher who
out of despair of philosophy thorns to politics. This is the case of Marx . . . " - Arendt,
The 19th Century German Idealism and its Ideology vs. Marx's New Materialism
• Marx rejects dominant 19th century philosophy of "idealism," which treated human
consciousness and ideas as creating and transforming reality.
• He introduces a theory of materialism that argues the reverse:
◦ Material conditions -- economic circumstances, labor, class -- are what creat
human consciousness and ideas
• Marx wasn't the firs materialist, but ti's the foundation of this theory.
◦ For Marx, it's not enough that other philosophers (Feuerbach) are beginning to
argue that people create their ideas, such as religion, based on actual
◦ He says we must recognize the role of specific material conditions in shaping
ideas, consciousness, belief systems, and ideologies:
▪ Mode of production
▪ Relations of production
▪ Division of labor
Living in Marx's Materialist World?
• "Mode of Production" -- economic system and its means/components: human labor,
type of property ownership, technology, raw materials, etc -- also the economic system
(capitalism, etc. )
• "Relations of Production" -- socioeconomic relations (such as modern workers and
• "Division of Labor" -- progressive specialization: 1) town v. country, 2) production v.
commerce/merchants, 3) rise of manufacture, 4) large scale industry (our
understanding of division of labor)
Marx's Superstructure and the Economic Base
• Economic Base (shapes the superstructure): relations of production (bourgeoisie
exploits the proletariat), means of production (the things you need to produce machines, factories, land, materials (owned by bourgeoisie))
• Superstructure (matins and legitimizes the base): education, family, religion, politics,
Marx's critique of bourgeois families:
"The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family relationship its sentimental veil and has
reduced it to a mere money relationship"
Marx's critique of "modern" social ills:
He blamed the bourgeoisie and capitalism for women's oppression, exploitation of children,
prostitution, and exploitation of women and girls in factories
Marx's Concept of Ideology: A "Camera Obscura"
• Marx conceptualizes ideology as a "camera obscura" which turns the image of reality
upside down: ideology reflects an inverted image of social reality, which is distorted
• For Marx, all ideas are socially constructed and depend on society's material
conditions. But "ideology" -- dominant sets of ideas or belief systems, such as
democracy -- is its function of distorting and inverting our image of reality.
Ideology as a