Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844
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Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

Karl Marx

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eBook - ePub

Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

Karl Marx

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Written in 1844 as a series of notes, Marx's posthumously published critiques on the conditions of modern industrialist societies forms the foundation of the author's denunciation of capitalism. Combining elements of psychology, sociology, and anthropology, it is a profound examination of the human condition rooted in a philosophy of economics.
In this concise treatise, Marx presents an indictment of capitalism and its threat to the working man, his sense of self, and his ultimate potential. With a focus on `Marxist Humanism,` he describes the alienation of laborers in a capitalist system: since the results of their work belong to someone else, they are estranged from their own labor and can never function as freely productive beings. Through a powerful mixture of history and economics, Marx explores the degenerative effect of capitalism on the proletariat and his true human nature.
Regarded as one of his most important books, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 is a first glimpse at Marx's fascinating transition from philosophy to economics. Accessible and influential, it is an important predecessor to the Communist Manifesto and essential to an understanding of Marxist theory.

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Year
2012
ISBN
9780486113203

APPENDIX

OUTLINES OF A CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY106

BY FREDERICK ENGELS

Political economy came into being as a natural result of the expansion of trade, and with its appearance elementary, unscientific swindling was replaced by a developed system of licensed fraud—a complete get-rich economy.
This political economy or science of enrichment born of the merchants’ mutual envy and greed, bears on its brow the mark of the most loathsome selfishness. People still lived in the naive belief that gold and silver were wealth, and considered nothing more urgent than the prohibition everywhere of the export of the “precious” metals. The nations faced each other like misers, each clasping to himself with both arms his precious money-bag, eyeing his neighbours with envy and distrust. Every conceivable means was employed to lure from the nations with whom one had commerce as much ready cash as possible, and to retain snugly within the customs-boundary all which had happily been gathered in.
A rigorously consistent pursuit of this principle would have killed trade. People therefore began to go beyond this first stage. They came to appreciate that capital locked up in a chest was dead capital, while capital in circulation multiplied itself continuously. They then became more philanthropic, sent off their ducats as call-birds to bring others back with them, and recognised that there is no harm in paying A too much for his commodity so long as it can be disposed of to B at a higher price.
On this basis the mercantile system was built. The avaricious character of trade was to some extent already beginning to be hidden. The nations drew slightly nearer to one another, concluded trade and friendship agreements, did business with one another and, for the sake of larger profits, treated one another with all possible love and kindness. But basically there was still the old rage for money and selfishness which from time to time erupted in wars, which in that day were all based on trade jealousy. In these wars it also became evident that trade, like robbery, is based on the law of the strong hand. No scruples whatever were felt about exacting by cunning or violence such treaties as were held to be the most advantageous.
The cardinal point in the whole mercantile system is the theory of the balance of trade. For as they still subscribed to the dictum that gold and silver were wealth, only such transactions as would finally bring ready cash into the country were considered profitable. To ascertain this, exports were compared with imports. When more had been exported than imported, it was believed that the difference had come into the country in ready cash, and that the country was richer by that difference. The art of the economists, therefore, consisted in ensuring that at the end of each year exports should show a favourable balance over imports; and for the sake of this ridiculous illusion thousands of men have been slaughtered! Trade, too, has had its crusades and inquisitions.
The eighteenth century, the century of revolution, also revolutionised economics. But just as all the revolutions of this century were one-sided and bogged down in antitheses—just as abstract materialism was set in opposition to abstract spiritualism, the republic to monarchy, the social contract to divine right—likewise the economic revolution did not get beyond antithesis. The premises remained everywhere in force: materialism did not contend with the Christian contempt for and humiliation of Man, and merely posited Nature instead of the Christian God as the Absolute facing Man. In politics no one dreamt of examining the premises of the State as such. It did not occur to economics to question the validity of private property. Therefore, the new economics was only half an advance. It was obliged to betray and to disavow its own premises, to have recourse to sophistry and hypocrisy so as to cover up the contradictions in which it became entangled, so as to reach the conclusions to which it was driven not by its premises but by the humane spirit of the century. Thus economics took on a philanthropic character. It withdrew its favour from the producers and bestowed it on the consumers. It affected a solemn abhorrence of the bloody terror of the mercantile system, and proclaimed trade to be a bond of friendship and union among nations as among individuals. All was pure splendour and magnificence—yet the premises reasserted themselves soon enough, and in contrast to this sham philanthropy produced the Malthusian population theory—the crudest, most barbarous theory that ever existed, a system of despair which struck down all those beautiful phrases about love of neighbour and world citizenship. The premises begot and reared the factory-system and modern slavery, which yields nothing in inhumanity and cruelty to ancient slavery. Modern economics—the system of free trade based on Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations—reveals itself to be that same hypocrisy, inconsistency and immorality which now confront free humanity in every sphere.
But was Smith’s system, then, not an advance? Of course it was, and a necessary advance at that. It was necessary to overthrow the mercantile system with its monopolies and hindrances to trade, so that the true consequences of private property could come to light. It was necessary for all these petty, local and national considerations to recede into the background, so that the struggle of our time could become a universal human struggle. It was necessary for the theory of private property to leave the purely empirical path of merely objective enquiry and to acquire a more scientific character which would also make it responsible for the consequences, and thus transfer the matter to a universally human sphere. It was necessary to carry the immorality contained in the old economics to its highest pitch, by attempting to deny it and by veiling it in hypocrisy (a necessary result of that attempt). All this lay in the nature of the matter.
We gladly concede that it is only thanks to the establishment and development of free trade that we were placed in a position from which we can go beyond the economics of private property; but we must at the same time have the right to demonstrate the utter theoretical and practical nullity of this free trade.
The nearer to our time the economists whom we have to judge, the more severe must our judgement become. For while Smith and Malthus only had scattered fragments to go by, the modern economists had the whole system complete before them: the consequences had all been drawn; the contradictions came clearly enough to light; yet they did not come to examining the premises—and still undertook the responsibility for the whole system. The nearer the economists come to the present time, the further they depart from honesty. With every advance of time, sophistry necessarily increases, so as to prevent economics from lagging behind the times. This is why Ricardo, for instance, is more guilty than Adam Smith, and MacCulloch and Mill more guilty than Ricardo.
Modern economics cannot even judge the mercantile system correctly, since it is itself one-sided and as yet fenced in by that very system’s premises. Only that view which rises above the opposition of the two systems, which criticises the premises common to both and proceeds from a purely human, universal basis, can assign to both their proper position.
It will become evident that the protagonists of free trade are more inveterate monopolists than the old mercantilists themselves. It will become evident that the sham humanity of the modern economists hides a barbarism of which their predecessors knew nothing; that the predecessors’ conceptual confusion is simple and consistent compared with the double-tongued logic of their attackers, and that neither of the two can reproach the other with anything which would not recoil upon himself.
This is why modern liberal economics cannot comprehend the restoration of the mercantile system by List,107 whilst for us the matter is quite simple. The inconsistency and two-sidedness of liberal economics must of necessity dissolve again into its basic components. Just as theology must either regress to blind faith or progress towards free philosophy, free trade must produce the restoration of monopolies on the one hand and the abolition of private property on the other.
The only positive advance which liberal economics has made is the unfolding of the laws of private property. These are contained in it, at any rate, although not yet fully unfolded and clearly expressed. It follows that on all points where it is a question of deciding which is the shortest road to wealth—i.e., in all strictly economic controversies—the protagonists of free trade have right on their side. That is, needless to say, in controversies with the monopolists—not with the opponents of private property, for the English Socialists have long since proved both practically and theoretically that the latter are in a position to settle economic questions more correctly even from an economic point of view.
In the critique of political economy, therefore, we shall examine the basic categories, uncover the contradiction introduced by the free-trade system, and bring out the consequences of both sides of the contradiction.

The term “national wealth” has only arisen as a result of the liberal economists’ passion for generalisation. As long as private property exists, this term has no meaning. The “national wealth” of the English is very great and yet they are the poorest people under the sun. One either dismisses this term completely, or one accepts such premises as give it meaning. Similarly with the terms “national economy” and “political or public economy.” In the present circumstances that science ought to be called private economy, for its public connections exist only for the sake of private property.

The immediate consequence of private property is trade—exchange of reciprocal demand—buying and selling. This trade, like every activity, must under the dominion of private property become a direct source of gain for the trader; i.e., each must seek to sell as dear as possible and buy as cheap as possible. In every purchase and sale, therefore, two men with diametrically opposed interests confront each other. The confrontation is decidedly antagonistic, for each knows the intentions of the other—knows that they are opposed to his own. Therefore, the first consequence is mutual mistrust, on the one hand, and the justification of this mistrust—the application of immoral means to attain an immoral end—on the other. Thus, the first maxim in trade is “discretion”—the concealment of everything which might reduce the value of the article in question. The result is that in trade it is permitted to take the utmost advantage of the ignorance, the trust, of the opposing party, and likewise to bestow qualities on one’s commodity which it does not possess. In a word, trade is legalised fraud. Any merchant who wants to give truth its due can bear me witness that actual practice conforms with this theory.
The mercantile system still had a certain artless Catholic candour and did not in the least conceal the immoral nature of trade. We have seen how it openly paraded its mean avarice. The mutually hostile attitude of the nations in the eighteenth century, loathsome envy and trade jealousy, were the logical consequences of trade as such. Public opinion had not yet become humanised. Why, therefore, conceal things which resulted from the inhuman, hostile nature of trade itself?
But when the economic Luther, Adam Smith, criticised past economics things had changed considerably. The century had been humanised; reason had asserted itself; morality began to claim its eternal right. The extorted trade treaties, the commercial wars, the surly isolation of the nations, offended too greatly against advanced consciousn...

Table of contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright Page
  3. Table of Contents
  4. INTRODUCTION
  5. TRANSLATOR’S NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY
  6. PREFACE
  7. WAGES OF LABOUR
  8. PROFIT OF CAPITAL
  9. RENT OF LAND
  10. [ESTRANGED LABOUR]
  11. [ANTITHESIS OF CAPITAL AND LABOUR. LANDED PROPERTY AND CAPITAL]
  12. [PRIVATE PROPERTY AND LABOUR. VIEWS OF THE MERCANTILE SYSTEM AND PHYSIOCRACY, ADAM SMITH, RICARDO AND HIS SCHOOL]
  13. [PRIVATE PROPERTY AND COMMUNISM. VARIOUS STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT OF COMMUNIST VIEWS. CRUDE, EQUALITARIAN COMMUNISM AND COMMUNISM AS SOCIALISM COINCIDING WITH HUMANENESS]
  14. [THE MEANING OF HUMAN REQUIREMENTS WHERE THERE IS PRIVATE PROPERTY AND UNDER SOCIALISM. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EXTRAVAGANT WEALTH AND INDUSTRIAL WEALTH. DIVISION OF LABOUR IN BOURGEOIS SOCIETY]
  15. [THE POWER OF MONEY IN BOURGEOIS SOCIETY]
  16. [CRITIQUE OF THE HEGELIAN DIALECTIC AND PHILOSOPHY AS A WHOLE]
  17. APPENDIX - OUTLINES OF A CRITIQUE OF POLITICAL ECONOMY