Crucifixion Eclipse The Large Gizāh  Pyramid : Nostradamus’ Birthdate at Central Axis of Giza Pyramid :

Book of Life  Index   Apocalypse Book of Revelations Internets Journal Directory photo gallery XLXXII  ARMAGEDON  gamma index Michael Report[Contact, Search]

Foundations in Hegel and Marx

For study purposes only, relating to class.


[Note bold marking in text are mine, as well as highlights of sentences and phrases.]

The state does not exist for the citizens; on the contrary, one could say that the state is the end and they are its means. . . . All the value man
has, all spiritual reality, he has only through the state.
. . . Society and the state are the very
conditions in which freedom is realized.1

Chapter II. A. James Gregor


Much of the intellectual substance of contemporary radical ideologies finds its first full expression in the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Forbidding in its complexity, obscure in its cryptic prose, Hegel’s philosophy has been the well-spring for many of the philosophical and doctrinal ideas expressed in the ideologies that have revolutionized our time. In this sense Hegel is father to the series of revolutions that have characterized the twentieth century. An attempt will be made to trace his influence through classical Marxism to Leninism, fascism, and National Socialism and from these to the ideologies of the socialist, communitarian, and racist revolutions of the countries outside the complex of Western nations. In ideologies that have developed through protracted intellectual elaboration, specifically Leninism and fascism, the dependency is relatively clear. In ideologies that remained immature, such as National Socialism, or are still immature, such as the various forms of African socialism, the relationship to Hegelianism is more obscure. Historically, almost all contemporary radical ideologies are rooted in Hegelianism; philosophically, all have tacitly or explicitly accepted its view of man and society. This is not to suggest that Hegelianism was the first philosophical system to articulate such a view, for much the same conception was explicitly formulated as early as Plato. The contention here is simply that Hegelianism provides the immediate point of origin of contemporary radicalism.

The brief and inadequate outline of Hegel’s social and political philosophy presented here is an illustration of the kinds of justificatory arguments that appear and reappear in the radical collectivisms with which we shall be concerned. Hegel offers what shall be referred to as a “normic conception of man,” an account of man and society that permits emotive terms like freedom, self-development, right, and obligation to take on specific conceptual content. The dynamic quality of such expressions permits a licit transition from descriptive propositions to moral imperatives. The emotive force of expressions such as freedom remains constant while the conceptual meaning undergoes significant change. What results is a paradigm argument in social and political philosophy—and a social and political conception radically different from that of classical liberalism.


• Hegel’s prose, it is true, leaves much to be desired: His treatments are prolix, pedantic, and all too frequently mystifying, and the bulk of his writing is patently, in the most pejorative sense, metaphysical. But for all that, Hegel was intensely preoccupied with the political events of his time, a time of revolution. In 1819, in a letter to G. F. Creuzer, Hegel said that of his fifty years, thirty had been fraught with profound social disorder. He had lived through the French Revolution, the Napoleonic period, the Restoration, and the subsequent dislocations. In his essay on the English Reform Bill, written just before his death in 1831, he said that there were forces in operation which would one day precipitate not reform, but revolution. “We find ourselves,” Hegel contended, “in a significant epoch, a turning point, in which the spirit is in movement, in which it has transcended its previous form and advances to another. All previous ideas, concepts, the ligaments of the world, have been dissolved and fall away as a dream. A new forward movement of the spirit prepares itself.”2 It was a period that began with the “glorious mental dawn” of the French Revolution, a dawn that augured the birth of the Idea of Freedom.3 “All thinking beings [shared] in the jubilation of this epoch.” It is the epoch in which we live: the age of secular ideology.

The central problem for political philosophy was posed by the French Revolution, in which the principle that animated an age made its appearance. That principle was freedom and the problem posed, but unresolved by that revolution, was: “How is the political realization of freedom to be achieved?”4

Hegel’s entire political philosophy (if not his entire philosophical enterprise) was concerned with the realization of the individual’s freedom and its relationship to community life, “Recht,” inadequately rendered in English by “Right,” or “Law” meant for Hegel not only codified law, but also morality, ethical life, and world history. In Hegelianism “the system of right is the realm of freedom made actual ....“ Political freedom was to find its expression in a “community of persons seen not as a reduction of the true freedom of the individual but as its amplification.”6 Even in his early theological writings, Hegel advanced the concept that the individual’s freedom could not contradict the ultimate freedom of the whole but would be fulfilled only within and through the whole. This conception was advanced as an answer to Rousseau’s search for a “method of associating” that would defend and protect the individual, but in which the individual would still obey only himself and re- main as free as before.

All the elements of Hegel’s mature political philosophy are found in these early works, written before he was thirty years of age. They contain a conception of the individual in which


…. a human being is an individual life insofar as he is to be distinguished from all the elements and from the infinity of individual beings outside himself. But he is only an individual life insofar as he is at one with all the elements, with the infinity of lives outside himself. He exists only inasmuch as the totality of life is divided into parts, he himself being one part and all the rest the other part; and again he exists only inasmuch as he is no part at all and inasmuch as nothing is separated from him.7


It is this conception that animates Hegel’s analysis of knowledge (truth “is the whole; the union of the particular and the universal”), 8 love (“In love the separate does still remain, but as something united and no longer as something separate ),9 and the true community (where “personal individuality and its particular interests not only achieve their complete development and gain explicit recognition for their right . . . but, they also pass over of their own accord into the interest of the universal… )1O

This central conviction, the unity of the individual and the collectivity, characterizes Hegel’s entire conception of the individual and society. As early as the “Fragment of a System” (1800) he contended that living beings must be thought of as “organizations.” “True independence consists alone in the unity and in the interpenetration of both the individuality and the universality with each other.”1’ The true being of living individuals is determined not only by their real relations but is actually constituted by relations with other things and other persons. The individual becomes an entity by being brought into opposition with other things, and he becomes a conscious human being by entering into relationships with other human beings.’2

To explicate Hegel’s system adequately would involve an elaborate inquiry into his metaphysics, an inquiry not warranted for this discussion—nor possible in the space provided. For our purposes an adequate appreciation can be obtained by a consideration of those activities that exemplify “self-consciousness in its immediate actuality”: language and labor. Language, for Hegel, is that element in which the “complete isolation of independent self-existent selves is at once fluent continuity and universally communicated unity of the many selves It is “the perfect element in which the inwardness is as external as the externality is inward It is the express unity of the individual with the universal. “Language is both subjective and objective. It is the objective medium in which subjective minds can meet.”8

Perhaps it is possible to make Hegel’s point in less Hegellan terms. In considering the nature of language, one realizes that speaking necessarily involves establishing criteria for correct usage. That is, in order to speak clearly and meaningfully to others, language must be intersubjective or “universal.”4 Speech must obey the rules of correct usage. It is only in terms of a given rule that one can attach a specific sense to words. Without such a regulative one remains confined by subjectivism, which “is private and not communicable . - . [in] abstraction from community.” 15 The individual who uses language follows the rules, and to say that he follows a rule is to say that he undertakes an appropriate act on appropriate occasions. Rule-following language behavior entails the possibility of making a mistake, and it does not make sense to contend that an individual in complete isolation from other individuals can significantly charge himself with error. To say of someone that he is following a rule means that one can ask whether he is doing what he does correctly or not. Otherwise there is no place in his behavior in which the notion of a rule can find a foothold. There is, consequently, no sense in describing his behavior in such a fashion since anything he might do is as good as anything else, whereas the point of the concept rule is that it should permit us to evaluate what is being done.


For an individual in complete isolation, then, an evaluative procedure seems at least psychologically impossible. The isolated individual who claimed to be following a rule, that is, appropriately employing language, would have to specify for himself the conditions that could count as correct or incorrect usage. When a word is used referentially, for example, we learn the rules of its usage by having others indicate examples or by observing others employ it and then performing before their scrutiny. They confirm our use when it is correct and rebut it when it is incorrect. For the isolated individual this procedure seems impossible. His only appeal, it would seem, is to veridical memory states. But to say that we have correct memory states requires that we can say that what seems correct to us is, in fact, correct. That is, we have some technique for distinguishing right from wrong other than memory itself. If all we have is the impression that our memory seems right and we cannot certify that memory by some external criterion, it seems that the concepts right and wrong, correct and incorrect, cannot apply. The distinction between seeming to be correct and actually being so is lost for the isolated individual, and no standard for describing language behavior as rule-following can be forthcoming. A mistake is a contravention of what is established as correct, and as such it must be recognizable as a contravention. Others must be in a position to indicate the error. If this is not so,, one can perform as one likes, and no external check obtains; that is, neither correct nor incorrect usage is established. Establishing a standard is not the sort of activity that it makes sense to ascribe to any individual in complete isolation from other individuals. It is contact with others that makes possible the intersubjective check on one’s actions that is inseparable from an established standard.

Any conceivable external check on language usage would in volve, for the isolated individual, antecedent knowledge of the meaning of concepts such as meaning, language, use, and words. The development of a private language would, in effect, require an antecedent, and established, language.

The analysis of referential terms undertaken by Hegel in The Phenomenology of Mind illustrates the social character of language as he conceived it. His analysis indicates that the uses of language necessarily entail the point of view and interests of other persons involved in the “language-game” and suggests that conscious life tends to move in the direction of rigorous inter- subjective rules. To assign the name “Spirit” to this rule-governed association of thinking subjects is to do no more than call our attention to the fact that language is a highly developed and objective expression of symbolic communication within a social group. It is a complex symbol system that, when internalized, constitutes the thinking of the individual subject. Thinking, in this view, is implicit speech, the internalized employment of symbols standardized by the rules for correct usage. Since the employment of rules entails a social situation, sociality constitutes not only the ultimate necessary condition for, but the very development of self-conscious individual personality itself.

It is clear that Hegel intends an acknowledgment of the dependence of man’s true humanity on his involvement with others. To acknowledge the role of interpersonal collaboration in establishing rules and accrediting the rule-following behavior that makes the self-centered animal creature that man is upon his entry into this world a truly human being is to recognize the necessary unity of men under law and in Spirit.


Only in an environment of other persons, who freely acknowledge us as we acknowledge them, can we be finally freed, not merely from outside pressures, but also from the restrictions of our particular personality. It is this acknowledgement, however dim and confused, which is for Hegel the foundation of Reason, Reason being a subjectivity which is intersubjective and therefore objective. Quite obviously the realms of meaning, of scientific verity, of well-conceived planning and execution, are all realms which have a public as well as a private status, which are inseparable from that use of language to which Hegel is to give so important a place. Phenomenology therefore passes over into Psychology, the study of the individual functioning in a way which presupposes a social setting and experience.’6

Hegel’s discussion of labor has essentially the same implications. Labor commences with an effort to satisfy individual needs. But it immediately becomes obvious that the satisfaction of human needs, which are distinct from animal needs in that they can multiply without limits, inevitably comes to involve others. In the effort to satisfy his needs the individual man is compelled to enter into a law-governed association with others. To this extent everything private becomes something social. Hegel describes such associations in the following fashion:

Particular spheres of action fall into groups, influence others, and are helped or hindered by others. The most remarkable thing here is this mutual interlocking of particulars, which is what one would least expect because at first sight everything seems to be given over to the arbitrariness of the individual, and it has a parallel in the solar system, which displays to the eye only irregular movements, though its laws may nonetheless be ascertained.17

The entire labor process is concerned with the self-development of man. In his activity, mediated through the instrument of labor, the individual defines himself against an objective world. He projects himself into the object and suffuses the object with himself. The object of his labor becomes in a significant sense an extension of himself. Yet even the most primitive labor is shared labor, labor that is inextricably bound to a community. Every commodity embodies a social relationship. Thus in every instance of concrete labor a general social principle finds expressionsion. Evidence of the sociality of labor reveals itself in the immediate labor process, in the division of labor and its increasing rationalization, in the rules governing the ownership of property and in commodity exchange. The labor process involves the intersubjective elements of appropriate techniques; the division of labor is an embodiment of rational productivity; the ownership of property necessitates a reciprocity of rights and obligations; and commodity exchange requires an assessment of exchange value governed by rule. If man is to proceed with self-development, he must become increasingly involved in the community of labor, in the real rule-governed relations established by a working society.’8

To enter into such real relations in a concrete community, to speak a language, and to engage in productive labor is not to diminish “freedom.” This entry is the first moment in the dialectical development of real freedom. Only an entirely abstract conception of man could conceive him as free outside the real relations that constitute the determinations making him a person. Such an abstract notion entails a notion of man in which every relation is understood to constitute a constraint, every rule a restriction.’9 Only in such an abstract system would the state and society be conceived as antagonistic to the “self” or “true individuality” of man. The theoreticians of these abstract systems contend that every law is a constraint and every constraint a moral infraction. At best, the result of such a conviction is a speculative and pious anarchism. At worst, it is the fanatic and destructive anarchism that brought terror to individuals and destruction to institutions during the French Revolution.20


The idea which people most commonly have of freedom is that it is arbitrariness—the mean, chosen by abstract reflection, between the will wholly determined by natural impulses, and the will free absolutely. If we hear it said that the definition of freedom is ability to do what we please, such an idea can only be taken to reveal an utter immaturity of thought, for it contains not even an inkling of the absolutely free will, of right, ethical life, and so forth.21


But the caprice of the individual is not freedom. In fact, the theoreticians of “negative freedom”—in particular Rousseau— have always posited a minimum of social constraint, embodied in the notion of the social contract, as the necessary condition of any significant or effective freedom. For the state of nature, which is conceived as the state of perfect freedom, is in fact “the state of injustice, violence, untamed natural impulses, of inhuman deeds and emotions” in which no effective freedom is found. The restraints that constitute the necessary preconditions for effective freedom are the laws of nature, which in effect means “reason” For only within the confines of reason could man make the transition that substitutes justice for instinct as the controlling factor in his behavior and transforms “a stupid and dull-witted animal [into] an intelligent being and a man.”22

In order that reason may function in this critical fashion language is necessary, and language, in turn, necessitates the antecedent existence of a rule-governed association of men. Reason and law could not be the consequence of a contract, for the very possibility of a contract presupposes the possession of reason on the part of the contracting parties. The notion of a social contract is a pernicious fiction because the idea that individuals can collectively opt to enter into a society implies the antecedent exercises of reason, which is itself predicated upon the existence of society.23 The very idea of reason, the only context in which freedom can be spoken of without manifest contradiction, implies virtual law and morality. Correct language usage implies rule-following behavior, and the concept of following rules implies a disposition to accept the judgment of others as our equals at least in principle. The procedural canons of rule-following behavior imply a readiness to prescind from caprice and willfulness and to accept the judgment of others unless significant reasons can be mustered against it. Significance cannot characterize subjective whimsy or arbitrary preference, or privilege. When the question at issue is correct usage, it is inappropriate to make determinations of correctness or incorrectness rest on personal preference. Judgment requires that one assume a rigorous neutrality, abjuring personal privilege which is not warranted by relevant and accredited superiority. One must be prepared to admit one’s fallibility and to accede to one’s opponent when relevant reasons so require. Conscious life tends to move in the direction of impersonal, intersubjective rules that entail a virtual morality. If these are “limitations,” they are limitations that produce “the consciousness of and the desire for freedom in its true, that is, rational and ideal form. . . . Thus the limitation of impulse, desire, passion—pertaining merely to the particular individual as such—of caprice and willfulness, . . . is the very condition leading to liberation; and society and the state are the very conditions in which freedom is realized.”24

The paradigm of association for Hegel is membership in a language group. Being a member of a body politic, or a language community, is not the result of a contract. Being politically related is like sharing common language rules. Both the body politic and language are logically prior to their component members. The unit of analysis is something general, collective. One does not understand society or language by studying the individual; the individual becomes comprehensible only within the context of a collectivity. Both language and society have a history that transcends the confines of empirical individuality. The individual who seeks to reconstitute language from his own perspective or to generate a private language of his own has missed the point of language. Language grows out of and exemplifies the historical experience of a given community. Only when the individual has come to a mature awareness of this and has made a historical language of his own can he begin to conceive of a change in its elements. Such change must respect the historic and objective conditions that determine both the form and content of language and make it the matrix within which effective thought takes place.

The state, in the comprehensive sense in which it is understood by Hegel, also has a determinate history. It is the concrete form

…under which everything that is, is subsumed—is that which constitutes the culture of a nation. . . . This spiritual content is something definite, firm, solid, completely exempt from caprice, the particularities, the whims of individuality, of chance. . . . This spiritual content then constitutes the essence of the individual as well as that of the people. It is the holy bond that ties the men, the spirits together. It is one life in all, a grand object, a great purpose and content on which depend all individual happiness and all private decisions.25


It is this content of the state that gives determinate being to the empirical individual—and this content is governed by rules either in the form of habit or codified law. Social institutions, originally extrinsic to the individual, appear as constraints only to the immature consciousness innocent of the knowledge that the communal will provides the substance of thinking and acting effectively26 and that the web of rule-governed associations provides the essence of meaningful individuality. The necessary connections among persons, organized into morality and law, exemplify their fundamental spiritual freedom in “reason.”

Recht, for Hegel, means an intersubjective order that is the necessary expansion of freedom. The collective reasonable will utilizes the contingencies of individual impulse and passion as the material for its own organizing activities. Organized will is reasonable since it must conform to the procedural requirements of intersubjective order. In other words, it must meet the minimal requirements of publicity and neutrality and be raised above what is merely personal and finite. The organized will is expressed in the categories and canons of science and logic, the rules of legal and moral conduct and esthetic taste. Only upon assimilating all that the state contains, by recognizing in the existing order the essential elements of himself as a person, is the individual in a position to operate as a rational human being in full and conscious freedom. “The rational, like the substantial, is necessary. We are free when we recognize it as law and follow it as the substance of our own being.” Only the will that obeys the law is free, for it obeys reason, which is the very substance of man. All true laws are the embodiment of reason. Thus the collective will expressed in codified law in the state is a matter of trained intelligence. It is the absolutely rational element in the will. Existing law-governed states, of course, only approximate (and often most inadequately) the Idea of the State. Thus, the system of laws prevailing in pre-Revolutionary France presented a “confused mass of privileges altogether contravening thought and reason—an utterly irrational state of things, and one with which the greatest corruption of morals, of Spirit was associated 27 Realization of this “shameless destitution of right” manifested itself in revolution. World historical individuals, those who serve the World Spirit, undertook to restore reason to the state. But these individuals were successful, could only be successful, insofar as they themselves embodied reason. Their will was not their subjective will but the substantial will of their historic community. They acted to bring to pass that which the times required. No act, no law can be imposed that violates that will, a will that is “still hidden beneath the surface but already knocking against the outer world as against a shell. …28

The reason to which Hegel appeals is historical. Reason (as the creator of world history), in its self-articulation, traverses stages in its development. Thus, language, a manifestation of reason, was not the product of abstract reasoning. Language arose from historical need through a dialectical development. Similarly, society and the state are not the product of abstract reason. They develop dialectically. Community satisfies need. In satisfying those needs both language and the state conformed to the historic peculiarities of the constituent community—determinations of race,2 geographic circumstances, and economic conditions. The well-spring of action is need; man makes himself in activity. But activity takes place only within a determinate situation. Every age has conditions of its own and is an individual situation; decisions must and can be made only within, and in accordance with, the age itself.30

Hegel’s reasonings constitute a justificatory argument attempting to support a presumption in favor of a rule-governed collectivity over the empirical individual. His argument is that unless man is understood essentially as a unity in diversity, as a derivative of a prior collectivity, one is driven into paradox. Any alternative definition of man makes the use of words like freedom bizarre. The isolated man, the social atom of the contract theorists, has freedom—but in order to have freedom in society, the individual submits to restraint. This conception of freedom is self-contradictory, for freedom is acquired only by compromising the individual’s freedom in the social contract. Further. more, the atomistic conception of the individual and his freedom renders certain social phenomena incomprehensible. If the state is understood to be the consequence of a contract that an individual enters into to enhance his personal well-being, that is, in order to protect his life and property, then the state’s demand for sacrifice, even to the extent of risking property and life in war, becomes incomprehensible. The security of life and property cannot reasonably be understood to be based on their own sacrifice.8’

Hegel has therefore proposed a redefinition of the concept “man.” Man is a “communal being” (a “Gemeinwesen”), a being that finds fulfillment only in a superindividual whole (em Aligemeines), the totality of the historical life experiences of a people.82 This A ilgemeines is a complex interrelationship of custom, rules, and laws. It is the vehicle for the transmission of the spiritual patrimony of a people. It is the necessary ground of language morality, art, and religion. The individual man becomes a person only within such a system. “All the value man has, all spiritual reality, he has only through the state,” for the state is the ethical will of the national community, the form into which national culture is cast.83


All these arguments are mustered to support the proposed definition of man, which in turn entails an initial presumption in favor of the rule-governed community. This is manifest in Hegel’s claim that “the actual world is as it ought to be” and that “rational insight . . . reconciles us to the actual From this initial presumption we can derive a procedural maxim: Nonconformity, qua nonconformity, is an evil,” for Hegel’s conception of man requires that nonconformity, the violation of established customs and rules, requires justification. It is non- conformity, rather than conformity, that requires an explanation.


The redefinition of man proposed by Hegel is vindicated, like stipulative redefinitions in general, by arguments illustrating its utility, economy, and theoretical fruitfulness. The arguments that support the redefinition are not formal. They are attempts to vindicate the proposed use. Once the redefinition is vindicated, its use involves assuming a normative position: Man is essentially a social animal. Everything we value in man presupposes his membership in a rule-governed association of virtual equals. In this sense the model, even though couched in descriptive language, has a normative character. Deceptively descriptive, it implicitly recommends. The consequence of such a recommendation is the subversion of the liberal maxim: “Restraint, qua restraint, is an evil.” Conformity to rule, for Hegel, is not conceived as restraint but as fulfillment. Association in the “tranquility of law” is not the loss of freedom; it is not only its necessary precondition, but its fulfillment as well. The model society was one in which the individual found in


 …the idea of his country or of his state . . . the invisible and higher reality for which he strove, which impelled him to effort. . . the final end of his world or in his eyes the final end of the world, an end which he found manifested in the realities of his daily life or which he himself co-operated in manifesting and maintaining. Confronted by this idea, his own individuality vanished; it was only this idea’s maintenance, life, and persistence that he asked for, and these things which he himself could make realities.34



A general theoretical bias follows from these conceptions. If the bias is formulated as a proposition about the essential sociality of man and conjoined with descriptive propositions, it will deliver the normative assessments that we have identified as peculiar to social and political philosophy. It permits Hegel to talk of a “living union” of individuals in association, “happy and beautiful associations” in which the individual realizes the “fulfillment of his nature.”35 The state, the confines within which all these associations are effected, can be spoken of as a living, organic unity, which “as the mind of a nation, is both the law permeating all relationships . . . and also at the same time the xnanners and consciousness of its citizens.”36 All these propositions are advanced with emphatic commendatory force.

This conception of man, in which the collectivity is understood to constitute the true essence of the individual, was conjoined by Hegel with the conviction that an elite minority, possibly a single “world historical individual,” could intuit the course of history. They could anticipate the requirements of the immediate future and their will was the true and ultimate will of the community. Against the immediate interests of the men of their times, such men represented the real will of history— and history was their sole vindication.

If the individual was nothing more than the particular expression of his historical community, those individuals who could anticipate its progressive unfolding were authorized to speak in the name of each individual’s most profound interest. The ordinary individual lives a life in conformity to rule and custom; the world historical individual, as the motor of history, stands outside the confines of common rule and law. He speaks in the name of what man, in the unfolding logic of history, must be.

Hegel had seen “the World Spirit on horseback” when Napoleon rode through Jena. Napoleon was but the first of the Hegelian world historical individuals that modern times would see. Since his time they have appeared with surprising regularity. To vindicate their role, they have often made appeal to arguments not unlike those made popular by Hegel at the beginning of the nineteenth century.


• Hegelianism exercised its most profound influence in Germany during the period of Karl Marx’s sojourn at the University of Berlin The social and political philosophy of classical Marxism bore the imprint of that influence, for whatever theoretical modifications Marx made in the Hegelianism he inherited, he never substantially altered Hegel’s normic conception of man and society. Of course, Marx was never a Hegelian in the strict sense, but in the sense important for the present discussion he remained a Hegelian in orientation.

As early as 1837 Marx, then nineteen years of age, gave himself over to dialectical idealism; in 1839, he was still engaged in a passionate defense of Hegel.87 More significant for our purposes is the evidence of the persistent influence of Hegelian normic concepts in Marx’s work throughout the formative years immediately preceding the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848. Not that elements of Hegelianism ceased to influence the theoretical bias of Marx after that date, but Marx from that point on makes a conscious effort to avoid the language of the neo-Hegelianism of his formative period. Why such a change took place will be discussed later.


[ Karl Marx’s Communistic Roots from Hegelian “communal reality”]

Marx’s writings of 1841 to 1845 include all the elements of Hegel’s conception of man, society, and the state. The central notion is that man is not to be conceived as an “atom,” but rather as a “communal being” (a “Gemeinwesen”) who attains true humanity only insofar as he establishes real relations with other men in a community. “The individual is the social being. His life . . . is . . . an expression and confirmation of social life. Man’s individual and species life (Gattungsleben) are not different. . . . Man, much as he may therefore be a particular individual . . . is just as much the totality. 38 These notions were common to all the left-wing Hegelians. Moses Hess, a left-wing Hegelian himself and a mentor of both Marx and Engels, identified these conceptions as the species traits of modern German philosophy. According to Hess, “The individual. . . according to contemporary German philosophy, is the species, the All. Every man . . is the state, humanity. Every man is the species, the totality, humanity Social life, then, is the medium in which, man establishes real relations with his equals and thereby realizes himself as a human being. “Only as a social being,” Hess contended, “is the human being truly and really alive.”40

[ Common understanding of Left-Wing Hegelian Thought and Society in Germany]

This essentially Hegelian conception of man and society was all but universal among the young Hegelians who were the companions of the young Marx. Once Marx’s conception of man is understood, the normative commitments that characterized all his subsequent work become comprehensible. For the young Marx it was the task of philosophy to foster the realization of “rational freedom.” The state or society that failed to foster that rational freedom was understood to be a bad state or society. “Philosophy,” Marx contended, “interprets the rights of humanity and demands that the state constitute itself a state of human nature.” The state is to be the instrument of human freedom, human realization. Whatever force Marx’s subsequent ethical injunctions possess is derived from this commitment, for Marx held that the accession to rational freedom could only be the consequence of a correct appraisal of the nature of man—and the conformity of the state and society to that appraisal. For Marx, human nature to which the good state must conform was not to be understood as a pervasive universal form or abstract essence in which particular human beings participate; nor was it to be understood as a mere aggregate composed of “monads” or the “irreducible ultimates” of metaphysics. The individual man is neither an abstract essence nor a particular thing; he is rather an existence that is social activity, a variable in an interactive context.

A good state would be one that rested on the full awareness that the nature of man is that of a social being, a “real species being.” The true state would be the “essence of the community” 41 and, consequently, would fully reflect the essence of man. “. . . [C]ontemporary philosophy,” Marx contended in 1842, “constructs the state out of the idea of the totality (Idee des Ganzen). It conceives the state as a great organism in which legal, moral and political freedom attain their realization and the individual citizen obeys in the laws of the state only his own reason, human reason.”42 This is simply a modest reformulation of Hegel’s conception of society and the state. “Hegel’s social ideal is the free state, the state whose citizens accede to the general will which finds expression in law because it is the ‘spirit of their spirit,’ because they rediscover in its laws their own rational (and general) will.”


[ Note the great organism of state from some intellectuals of the Meiji Restoration and era, which made up a large part of their ideological concepts of government during the Meiji Era, mjm]

This formic conception of man, the state, and society generated all the imperatives that characterized Marx’s political and philosophical writing of the early period. The normative ideal that Marx entertained during this period was “human emancipation,” and human emancipation meant that “at those times when the state is most aware of itself, political life seeks.
to establish itself as the genuine and harmonious species-life of man.” This is a transliteration of the Hegelian ideal in which through “reconciliation of the atom [that is, the ego] and its othernesses individuals are what we call happy, for happy is he who is in harmony with himself.”44

Marx’s normic conception was originally a very vague model of social man. The model provided a descriptive frame of reference, simpler than the being it was understood to model and calculated to resolve paradox and facilitate insight into the more complex and elusive real being. His contention was essentially that valued traits of individual members of the species man were not explicable and analyzable in meaningful terms if the proffered explanation and analysis restricted itself to the individual’s personal traits and the individual’s environment exclusive of other members of the species. The model Marx advanced was conceived as (1) intuitively more tenable than the atomistic model of liberal political theorists; (2) having specific empirical referents; and (3) being more useful in the articulation of systematic social theories.

Thus the liberal model of man and society leaves us with a conception in which the individual is withdrawn into his private interests and separated from the community. Society appears to act as a continual restraint on the individual, as a limit to his putative original independence. Moreover, the notion of man as a self-subsistent atom is incorrigibly abstract and inherently nonempirical.


[Liberalism’s identity of an autonomous self, represented in Hegelianism, as a analogy to the reality of an atom]


The specific property of the atom is that it has no properties and is therefore not connected with being outside it. . . . The atom has no needs, it is self-sufficient; the world outside it is absolute vacuum, i.e., it is contentless, senseless, meaningless, just because the atom has all its fullness in itself. The egotistic individual in civil society may in his non-sensuous imagination and lifeless abstraction inflate himself to the size of an atom, i.e., to an unrelated, self-sufficient, wantless, absolutely full, blessed being. . . . [but] every activity and property of his being, every one of his vital urges becomes a need, a necessity, which his self- seeking transforms into seeking for other things and human beings outside him.45

On the basis of these objections Marx maintained that the real science of society could only be established by making “the social relationship ‘of man to man’ the basic principle of theory.”46 Even though one recognizes the general vagueness of the young Marx’s redefinition of man, it can still be considered a conceptual model and assimilated into the scientific enterprise. As such it would have nothing of the normative features that characterize social and political philosophies.

Positive social science tends to assimilate normative elements into the category of contributing conditions or to treat them as derived. Its task is the formulation and issuance of “if-then” or “theoretical” propositions, descriptive or explanatory accounts systematically relating recurrent phenomena for purposes of prediction and control. The issuance of imperatives, or the identification of ideals toward which men should aspire, are, not among the legitimate obligations of social science. Marx’s analysis, on the other hand, leads to the conclusion that “the doctrine that man is the supreme being for man . . . ends, therefore, with the categorical imperative to overthrow all those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being...”47

Much of Marx’s prose of this period is charged with imperative. “Man is the highest being for man,” a value, is conjoined with the injunction, “One must rekindle in the hearts of men their human self-consciousness, freedom. Only this sentiment. . . can make out of a society a community of men devoted to their supreme ends. •“ Marx’s model of man supported normative propositions as well as purely descriptive ones.

The theoretical and normative bias of the young Marx offers striking insight into the Hegelian genesis of Marx’s thinking about society. Marx remains convinced that man is and should be what Hegel had argued he is and should be. Man, for Marx, is “the human world, the state, society.” The human essence is “the ensemble of social relations.”49 The distinction between Hegelianism and Marxism was largely the consequence of Marx’s attempt to eliminate Hegel’s mysticism, which, Marx felt, was the result of Hegel’s abuse of the language. Hegel had reified predicates and made them subjects. Man’s consciousness was shorn of all determinations and elevated to the status of Consciousness—an immanent subject that somehow logically precedes individual consciousness. Consciousness, Spirit, the Idea become the true subjects of history; and individual, empirical men are only “moments” in a mystic self-generating life process. Marx identified this inversion of subjects and predicates as the secret of Hegelian mystification.


For Hegel the essence of man—man—equals self-consciousness. [lt} is not real Man . . . who as such is made the subject, but only the abstraction of man--self-consciousness. . . Real man and real nature become mere predicates—symbols of this esoteric, unreal man and of this unreal nature. Subject and predicate are, therefore, related to each other in an absolute inversion. . .


Marx’s procedure here is not radically different from the conceptual analysis undertaken by empirical science. In their assessment of experimental concepts scientists use the measure of falsifiability of a concept as a rough standard of meaningfulness. In empirical science a concept is more informative when it is open to more occasions in which it might be falsified. That is, a concept which in principle is subject to more empirical tests is intrinsically more informative. Marx argued, in effect, that Hegel’s mistake was to conceive of his conceptual model in terms of essences—to think that behind the world of testable things and processes there was a permanent essence which should itself be the object of inquiry but which was forever insulated from empirical test. Marx presented his conceptual model of man with its essentially Hegelian structure in descriptive or empirical terms. His position seems to have been quite nominalistic. He argued that “it would be a contradiction to say, on the one hand, that all ideas have their origin in the world of the senses and to maintain, on the other hand, that a word is more than a word, that besides the beings represented, which are always individual, there also exist general beings.” Marx suggested that Hegelian essentialism argued “from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds [to] the general idea ‘Fruit,’ [which is conceived as the] true essence of the pear, the apple, etc., . . . what is essential to these things is not their real being, perceptible to the senses, but the essence . . . extracted from them and then foisted on them. . . . Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence is the ‘Substance’—’Fruit.’ “ What results is an empty abstraction that pretends to account for all conceivable events but is subject to no known test of verification, is unfalsifiable in principle, and, consequently, could not be considered informative in any serious sense of the word.

Marx held that general terms like “consciousness,” “reason,” or “history” were names that covered a set of related things or processes; [mjm – i.e. the Marxist progressions of states in history]  they were not something to be studied independently of the things to which they refer. He objected to the Hegelian and neo-Hegelian philosophy of his time because it reified general terms into substantive essences. History, Marx argued, has become for speculative philosophy “a metaphysical subject of which real human individuals are but the bearers.” But, he continued, “history does nothing, it ‘possesses no immense wealth,’ it ‘wages no battles.’ It is man, real living man, that does all that, that possesses and fights; ‘history’ is not a person apart, using man as a means for its own particular aims; history is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims.”52 Unless this is understood, history remains a transcendent subject whose progress can only be pursued through logical categories—and categories, rather than offering explanations, must themselves be explained.

Marx offered a conceptual model of man that provided a set of descriptive sentences which could be taken as premises for the formulation of a comprehensive empirical theory. The premises that serve as underived postulates for the theoretical system are broad empirical generalizations that generate theorems of increasing specificity. The latter are subject to empirical confirmation or disconfirmation. Thus Marx maintained that the


 …premises from which we begin are . . . real premises . . . which can be verified in a purely empirical way. . The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human be- ings. . . [who] must be in a position to live in order to be able to “make history.” . . . The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself. . . . The first necessity therefore in any theory of history is to observe this fundamental fact in all its significance and all its implica- tions and to accord it its due importance... . The second fundamental point is that as soon as a need is satisfied (which implies the action of satisfying, and the acquisition of an instrument), new needs are made. . 53


 The third premise states that men must enter into a special procreative relationship in order to reproduce their own kind.


All these premises presuppose that individuals interact with one another and describe social activities. “Social” is defined as “the cooperation of several individuals, no matter under what conditions, in what manner and to what end.” In satisfying their needs individuals produce their means of subsistence, an activity that distinguishes men from animals. (Marx equates production with the acquisition of an instrument and consequently defines man as a tool-making animal.)54 “The way in which men pro- duce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of the actual means they find in existence and have to repro- duce. . . . [It] is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life
on their part.” Marx follows this contention with a proposition of far-reaching theoretical implication: “As individuals express their life, so they are”—by which he means, “What they are . . . coincides with their production both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production” Thus Marx “set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process [demonstrated] the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. The phantoms formed in the human brain are . . . necessarily sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence.”05 In his maturity Marx formulated these propositions in the following order:


(1) In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will. (2) [These] relations of production . . . correspond to a definite state of development of their material productive forces. (3) The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society. . . . (4) [This is) the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.50


Marx gave these propositions greater specificity by formulating a set of theoretical statements that related variables in a specified or specifiable way. He contended that each new productive force brought about a development of the division of labor. The division of labor, in turn, determined the development of economic classes. Membership in a specific class conditioned and determined the personality of the individual. In the Poverty of Philosophy, written in 1847, this chain of propositions is expressed in this sequence:


In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist. The same men who establish their social relations in conformity with their material productivity, produce also principles, ideas and categories, in conformity with their social relations. 57


Elsewhere the relationship between variables is telescoped into the following elliptical proposition: “The fundamental form of activity is, of course, material, from which depend all other forms—mental, political, religious, etc.”58 The direction in which the several variates influence each other is obvious. The sequence makes the new productive force or instrument of production a cause or determinant, the division of labor is its proximate effect and the appearance of classes, which subsequently deter- mine personality, is the ultimate effect.


The unit of analysis remains a collectivity, a structured totality of some sort. It is the dynamic constancy and structural properties of some collectivity that provide an account of the empirical properties of its components. Thus, for Marx, the observed behavioral traits of given individuals are accounted for by subsuming them under specific social classes.


[I]ndividuals are dealt with only insofar as they are the personifications of economic categories, embodiments of particular class relations and class interests. My standpoint, 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. . . . [T]he capitalist is merely capital personified. . . .59


The surface events of history are explained as a struggle between classes. Individuals represent, consciously or unconsciously, interests of their respective classes. These interests—the “great driving forces” of history—are, in turn, simply the reflections of developments within the economic base of society.6D Within the material substructure of society, when the productive forces find their development restricted by the confines of productive relations (property relations, developed to accommodate earlier productive forces), the entire social structure is subject to severe internal stress. A period of social revolution ensues with classes representing the now-divergent elements of the material base of society. Individuals represent the contending classes. They are the active agents of historical development, but in pursuing what they conceive to be their private interests, they serve what Hegel called the “cunning of history.” Historical events are “always governed by inner, hidden laws and it is only a matter of discovering these laws.”°1 Changes in the productive forces generate changes in the division of labor in society, and this change entails alterations in property or productive relations. (Marx contends that the “division of labor and private property are . . identical expressions . ,“ and property relations are “but a legal expression for the same thing.”)62 Existing relations of production find their advocates in the members of the economic class that profits from them. As productive forces develop, they generate change in the division of labor that becomes incompatible with the existing order of production handed down by history and sanctified by law. The tensions produced are expressed in the restiveness of a revolutionary class which represents the new forces. When those who defend the established relations of production resist the changes necessitated by the developments in the productive forces, social revolution bursts the now confining fetters of the old order to permit the growth of the new. This whole sequence is sometimes telescoped by the founders of classical Marxism into locutions like “the productive forces are in rebellion against the mode of production which they have outgrown.” This elliptical rendering can only mean that changes in the productive forces (apparently technological changes) generate changes in the division of labor which, in turn, find expression in class differences that condition and determine the material life interests of individual agents. The sentimental, philosophical, religious, and political attachments of individuals are explained as dependent variables that are the consequences of a chain of complex interdependency relationships determined ultimately by ordered development of the productive forces.64

The structure of the analysis remains Hegelian. The individual is to be understood only as an element in a specific collectivity. The collectivity has determinate character at any time only because it functions as an element in some dynamic, dialectical “whole,” in this case, history. The surface features of events, the whimsies, rational choices, and accidents in history, really have a “logic” and an upward progression, what Engels on at least one occasion called “the chain of mankind’s universal progress.”65 The ultimate end of that progression is “universal human emancipation’ ‘—personal freedom—a value that both Marx and Engels harbored throughout their maturity and to which Marx referred in his last manuscript as the realm of freedom. In the four decades that separated the writing of the German Ideology and Capital, this value did not change for Marx. The ultimate end of the entire prehistory of man was the freedom to be found “only in community with others. . . . In the real community the individuals obtain their freedom in and through their association.”66


[difference between the Hegelian and the Marxist analysis]

The difference between the Hegelian and the Marxist analysis turns upon the nature of the relations that bind the individual to a collectivity and a particular collectivity to the whole. For Hegel, the ultimate unifying substance is ethical; the true community in which men find fulfillment is the “actuality of the ethical Idea.”67 For Marx, that which unites men in community is the historically developed material need and the economic relations that need fosters. Hegel’s analysis refers to ethical significance and Marx’s to empirical regularities. Hegel’s avowed concerns are normative; Marx’s concerns are essentially scientific. Hegel analyzes the ethical significance of the Oriental political form; Marx seeks to explain it. For Hegel, Oriental despotism meant that only the despot could be ethically free; his subjects were ruled by law and maxim, and social caste was imposed upon them. For Marx, Oriental despotism was explained by the fact that because of climatic and territorial conditions artificial irrigation by canals and waterworks were the necessary basis of Oriental agriculture. Because of the low population density and the vast territorial extent of the irrigation system a highly centralized despotism was necessary to maintain a viable productive system.68

[ Much of China’s history dealt with despotism (during the dynastic periods) forcing the masses to build vast artificial tributaries, dams, rivers and lakes—for irrigation and water supplies; many Chinese were forced into slave labor, although, some steps to implement all people from all economic division become involved in these massive efforts to signify unity and spirit for a monumental necessity – China is situated on a vast geographic territory.]

This does not mean that Hegel could not give plausible explanations of historical development. He realized that men were motivated by need to form communities; he argued that the decline of the Greek communities of antiquity was to be explained by an increase in material wealth and an increasing divergence of class interest. [mjm- I hold this theory as well]  He was equally aware of the fact that constitutional law was frequently nothing but private property exalted into statutes.69 Hegel also knew that when man’s real relations with his fellow man were obstructed, they often sought a fictive, compensatory fulfillment in religion; this offered them in dream that which they did not possess in fact. Thus in his youth he spoke of Christianity as the “realization of a moral ideal [that] could no longer be willed but only wished for . . . a fantasy - . - a consolation.” Later he spoke of the followers of Jesus having sundered their living relationship with their community and having snapped “one important bond of association, . . . they . . . lost one part of freedom . . - a number of active relationships and living ties.”70 The result was that their nature could not be fulfilled and they sought restoration in the ideal world. Elsewhere he argued that where the community does not provide the individual with a sense of participation, of belonging to a higher and more inclusive reality, the church might.71 A generation later Marx argued essentially the same thesis. Religion offered man the “fantastic realization” of the humanity that the degraded community in which he found himself denied him.72 What Marx went on to argue was that Hegelian notions of fulfillment in the family, civil society, and the state were equally false. Marx and Engels claimed ultimate fulfillment can come only in a community of men

openly and directly taking possession of the productive forces which have outgrown all control except that of society as a whole. The social anarchy of production gives place to a social regulation of production upon a definite plan, according to the needs of the community and of each individual. . . . Only from that time will man himself, with full consciousness make his own history. . . It is the ascent of man from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom. . . . [This act of] universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat.73


To reiterate, because the “fundamental form of activity is . . . material, from which depend all other forms—mental, political, religious, etc.,” man’s fulfillment can only be forthcoming in a rationally organized productive community. For Marx, ethics was a by-product of the organization of the productive community. Again Marx is not concerned with the significance of historical codes of ethics; he is concerned with their explanation. “We maintain,” Engels wrote, “that all moral theories have been hitherto the product, in the last analysis, of the economic conditions of society obtaining at the time.”74


[ Note that for Marx, Ethics was a by-product of (social and political) organization; remember he saw religion as part of the “superstructure,” a unneeded facet in the final stage of bliss – Communism!]

Marx’s focus on explanation and Hegel’s concern with significance should not obscure the fact that some of the essential conclusions reached by the two social and political philosophers remain the same. Man is essentially a denizen of a collectivity. To treat the individual as something apart from his group is to court paradox and error. The individual undertakes activity motivated by his own immediate interests but, in fact, is responding to objective forces that operate below the surface phenomena. Freedom is not in any sense understood to mean freedom from constraint; it means behavior in conformity to law. Engels recognizes his definition of freedom to be Hegelian. To be free means to obey the law—the laws that govern nature and social development. Behavior that does not conform to law is not freedom—it is caprice. Similarly, the “laws” of morality reflect the particular phase of historical development of a particular community. For both Hegel and Marx obedience to these laws constitutes morality. Slavery in antiquity was “moral” because it reflected a necessary moment in the historical development of mankind. Thus, for Hegel, although slavery was a perversion of the principle of freedom, philosophy could comprehend and so justify the circumstance, since it was not so much from slavery as through slavery that humanity was emancipated.75 Engels could similarly argue that slavery was not in accord with contemporary moral sentiments; yet he maintained that

without slavery, no Greek state, no Greek art and science; without slavery, no Roman Empire. But without the basis laid by Grecian culture, and the Roman Empire, also no modern Europe. We should never forget that our whole economic, political and intellectual development presupposes a state of things in which slavery was as necessary as it was universally recognized. In this sense we are entitled to say: Without the slavery of antiquity [there is] no modern socialism. . 76

Hence, without slavery in antiquity, there could be no modern emancipation of man. At the end of his life Engels could thus contend, “There is no great historical evil without a compensating historical progress.”77

Morality follows a historically determined course. At certain critical nodal points special individuals must stand outside the morals of their time in order to effect the higher purposes of history. When the community enters a period of crisis, these world historical individuals are driven to act in order to bring about that which the times require. Hegel maintained that these men were heroes, since they did not derive their sanction from the existing order but from a more profound source:

[A source] whose content is still hidden and has not yet broken through into existence. The source of their actions is the inner spirit, still hidden beneath the surface but already knocking against the outer world as against a shell, in order, finally, to burst forth and break it into pieces. . . . They see the very truth of their age and their world, the next genus, so to speak, which is already formed in the womb of time. . . . [In effecting their purpose] such men may treat other great and even sacred interests inconsiderately—a conduct which indeed subjects them to moral reprehension. But so mighty a figure must trample down many an innocent flower, crush to pieces many things in its path. . . . [The] so-called prosperity or misfortune of this or that isolated individual cannot be regarded as an essential element in the rational order of the universe. . . . For the history of the world occupies a higherground than that on which morality has properly its position. . . . What the absolute aim of Spirit requires and accomplishes— what Providence does—transcends the obligations, and the liability to imputation and the ascription of good or bad motives, which attach to individuality in virtue of its social relations. . . It is irrelevant and inappropriate from that point of view to raise moral claims against world-historical act and agents. They stand outside of morality.78

The interests they serve are the interests of the Spirit, whose aim is freedom.

The founders of classical Marxism articulated essentially the same argument. The underlying substructure of society, its mode of production, necessitates a supporting superstructure, the ethical components of which are morality and codified law. [mjm—so I may be wrong that Marx wanted to do away with the superstructure, maybe it was the neo-Marxists? We will see, lets figure this out?] Forms of conduct are good or bad at different stages of historical development insofar as they support or impair the viability of a specific economic substructure. In ethics as well as law, a system of values provides the norms of conduct, and this system reflects the ideas and interests of the controlling economic class, which itself represents the needs of the economic system of which it is an embodiment. Communists, therefore, do not preach morality. The personal virtues of individuals correspond to positive norms of conduct established to satisfy demands leveled by the economic conditions prevailing in a specific historic context. As long as an economic system is viable, morality means conformity to established norms. When a new historical period commences, there is a “growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, that reason has become unreason and right wrong....”79 As a consequence of this conception of morality, individual morality is treated as though it belonged to a subordinate order of real existence. It is sacrificed in the conflict of economic forces. G. D. H. Cole 80 recognizes that this disposition to so conceive individual morality is a consequence of Marx’s (and Engels’) commitment to a quasi-Hegelian conception of man as an essentially social being. The ultimate moral justification of behavior is its conformity to the “hidden laws” of social development, for, as Engels argues, in the course of that development “there has on the whole been progress in morality. . . . A really human morality that stands above class antagonisms and above any recollection of them becomes possible only at a stage of society which has not only overcome class antagonisms but has even forgotten them in practical life.”8’ The really human morality is realized only in that society defined as the association of free producers in which man as man will be fulfilled. Marxian morality, like Hegelian morality, finds the ultimate standard of justification in history itself: in the final historic fulfillment of man as man, in a community of men, for community is the essence of man.

[ Here is the feeling part, the emotions, of why Revolution was a forgone conclusion for Marx]

Thus, neither Marx nor Engels ever lost sight of the ultimate normative character of history. They never invoked moral sentiments because they understood such sentiments to be nothing but by-products of the forces governing the essentially moral process of history itself. Revolution was not inevitable because moral sentiments were aroused against the order of things—rather, moral sentiments were aroused because the order of things was involved in insoluble contradictions and made revolution inevitable. The historical action of the revolutionary proletariat was not the outcome of what this or that proletariat or the entire proletariat itself considered the good life—rather revolution would be the consequence of what the proletariat was. The proletariat represented the next, and final, stage of historical development. It represented productive forces in rebellion against outmoded economic conditions of the present. But that the revolution was, in some ultimate sense, moral was implicit in everything they wrote. Marx speaks of “advance” in the conception of equality and deplores the “defects” in application of equal rights that will be unavoidable even in the earlier phases of communism. Engels speaks of the “really human morality” that communism will bring, and the “realm of freedom” was always the normative ideal of classical Marxism.


[ Gregor illustrates Marx’s motivation in his personal to public life]

The distinctions between Hegelianism and classical Marxism arise out of the endeavor on Marx’s part to produce a science of society. Marx attempted to lay the foundations of an empirical study of men in association. The paradigmatic model that he sought to emulate was one which was eminently successful in the natural sciences. As early as 1843, when he was twenty-five years of age, he announced his intention of studying the relations that obtained between individuals and groups in society with the same techniques that produced the theoretical propositions of chemistry; in his maturity, in his preface to Capital, he again indicated his intention of studying society in the same manner as the physicist studies physical phenomena. The result was the postulational system briefly outlined above. Out of the wealth of phenomena select variables were identified as primary and having determinate causal priority. The specific scientific merits of the attempt are not the present concern. Instead we have focused on the fact that classical Marxism, although it shares some of the essentials of the Hegelian analysis, entertains a much more confining conception of morality and ethics than that of Hegelianism.

Furthermore, because of its attempt at rigor, classical Marxism tended to assimilate into its system the concepts of race, people, nation, and state as dependent rather than independent determinates. These concepts could have no explanatory function in historical analysis, but instead they required explanation in terms of the economy of any specific period. Thus, although race is spoken of as a “factor,” and the Aryan and Semitic races are characterized as “superior,” race is understood to be determined, in the last analysis, by economic causes. The superiority of the gifted Aryans and Semites is explicable on the grounds of their plentiful meat and milk diet, and their virtues are the consequence of their economic organization.82 Such differences are induced and can be altered by historical, that is, economic, influences. The same analysis is pursued with respect to “dying” and “energetic” peoples. When Engels speaks of the Bohemian and South Slavonian people and the “mighty” Germans, he is not to be understood to be assigning causal efficacy to peoples as such.83 When he deprecates a people as a “phthisical body of men,” his judgment is based on their lack of economic viability. A “dying” or “retrograde” people is a people that does not possess the “very first conditions of national existence”; they are opposed to the “historical tendency” and can only be absorbed, subdued and assimilated by the “physical and intellectual power of the Germans.”84


Thus, the analysis of nationality and nationalism follows a similar and equally remorseless logic. Classical Marxism was ardently reductivist, monocausal, and unilinear. A primitive communist community was impelled by a qualitative improvement in productive forces to develop a larger territorial confine and the city-state was the consequence. When the economy matured and commerce increased, the city-state no longer remained an adequate vehicle, and the drive for empire began. The modern nation-state was the consequence of the rise of the bourgeoisie. Given the developments in the forces of production and the processes of exchange, the bourgeoisie required a large geographic base of operations protected by a strong state that maintained specific constitutional guarantees protecting individual property and enforcing contracts.85 The political structure of the productive community always provides an adequate vehicle for specific class interests. When society achieves that level of economic development required for the advent of socialism—the development of a world market, international trade, and the uniformity of the mode of production—national differences and antagonisms between peoples vanish. Knowing this, Communists have no national loyalties; they have no interests separate from those of the proletariat as a whole. They know no fatherland, Unlike other revolutionary socialists, the Marxists, as Marx understood them, bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. National sentiment, as such, is a bourgeois snare, although national liberation movements may be progressive in the sense that they move with the tendency of history. National sentiment is retrograde and reactionary when it attempts to retard historical development. Historical development means rapid industrial exploitation and expanding trade. Thus Engels, in discussing the

Mexican War in North America, considers American nationalism serving “the interests of civilization” by wresting California “from the lazy Mexicans who did not know what to do with it.” The “energetic Yankees have increased the medium of circulation, have concentrated in a few years a heavy population and an extensive trade on the most suitable part of the Pacific Coast, have built great cities, have opened up steamship lines, are laying railroads from New York to San Francisco. . . . Because of this the ‘independence’ of a few Spanish Californians and Texans may suffer, occasionally ‘Justice’ and other moralistic principles may be injured, but what do they count compared to such world historic events?”86 He went on to argue, “When it is a question of the existence, of the free development of all the resources of great nations, then . . . sentimentalities . . . will decide nothing.” It is a question of “trade, industry and profitable methods of agriculture, . . . [the] level of social development of the individual peoples, . . . [the] influence of the more highly developed nation on the undeveloped one.” It is the destiny of advanced industrial nations to bind “tiny, crippled, powerless little nations together in a great Empire, and thereby [enable] them to take part in an historical development which, if left to themselves, would [remain] entirely foreign to them! To be sure such a thing is not carried through without forcibly crushing many a delicate little national flower. But without force and without an iron ruthlessness nothing is accomplished in history. 87


Such national conquest is justified by history, since it promotes industrial development. The expansion of the productive forces strengthens the revolutionary proletariat, which, in turn, is destined to abolish classes and consequently nationalities and nationalism in universal emancipation.88 Nationalisms are licensed only by serving the interests of the international prole.. tariat. Those nationalisms that serve the proletarian interests are commended; those that do not are deplored. Nationalism, as such, has no value—its historic import is derived. The class- conscious proletariat recognize nationalism for what it is. They use it when it is in the international and historic interests of their class, but they themselves are immune to its contagion. In the Communist Manifesto nationalism among the proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries was declared already moribund, a residue of an earlier historic epoch that was about to dissipate itself forever.

[ Gregor’s definition of Marx’s definition of a state’s ultimate role]

Classical Marxism’s pronouncements on the state were equally unequivocal. The state, as such, was not an independent historical determinant. The state was a machine for class oppression generated by the productive forces of society. Increased production had riven society into mutually opposed classes, and the state was the instrument of ensuring internal stability.  


The state is . . . by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it “the reality of the ethical idea,” “the image and reality of reason,” as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it is cleft into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel.89

The state represents the class interests of the oppressors in a a state divided into the oppressed and their oppressors. Should a state come to represent the interests of society as a whole, it would become superfluous. It would render itself unnecessary. It would proceed to “wither away of itself.” When society organizes production on the basis of a free and equal association of producers the “whole machinery of state [will be put] where it will then belong: into the Museum of Antiquities, by the side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe.”90

Society thus far, based upon class antagonisms, had need of the state, that is, of an organization of the particular class, which was pro tempore the exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited classes in the condition of oppression corresponding with the given mode of production. . . . When at last it becomes the representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary. The first act by virtue of which the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society—the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society—this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then withers away of itself. . . . The state is not “abolished.” It withers away.91



In a society in which the productive relations are compatible with the fully matured productive forces, there is no material base for the existence of classes. Where there are no classes, there can be no state, for the state is a machine for oppression. Where there is no state, there is a free association of producers, a community of rational freedom, the fulfillment of man as man.

Classical Marxism constitutes perhaps the most ambitious attempt in the history of social and political philosophy to provide a justificatory argument for a specific organization of society. Its ultimate appeal is to a set of theoretical propositions supporting a special interpretation of history. That interpretation sees history impelled upon a dialectical course which necessarily culminates in an ideal society. That society is ideal because it is in accord with the very essence of man—it is his fulfillment. History is infused with moral purpose.
One final but critical difference distinguishes classical Marxism from Hegelianism. Both Marx and Engels were convinced that capitalism itself would produce a majority of men aware of the identity of their immediate interests with those of the collectivity that constituted their essence. Much of what Marx and Engels wrote supports the thesis that they were radical democrats, that they were convinced that the forces in operation in capitalist society would produce a majority of critically conscious human beings who would identify their person interests with the interests of their productive community. This consciousness would arise spontaneously. It would be an “efflux,” a “reflex” of prevailing material conditions. The tensions that transformed classical Marxism into Leninism center around this notion of a spontaneous, majoritarian revolution.





A. James Gregor, “Contemporary Radical Ideologies, ch. 2 (New York: Random House, 1968), pp. 24-58.

Copyright © 1999 - 2015 Michael Johnathan McDonald