Karl Marx Research Paper

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Karl Marx was hailed at his death as a ‘man of science’ who had made two great discoveries in but one lifetime: ‘the law of development of human history,’ and ‘the special law of motion governing the presentday capitalist mode of production’ (Engels 1980a, p. 429). In this graveside eulogy Marx’s longtime friend and sometime co-author Friedrich Engels (1820–95) likened the first of these great discoveries, previously christened ‘the materialist interpretation of history’ (Engels 1980b, p. 470), to the formulation by Darwin (1809–82) of ‘the law of development of organic nature’ (Engels 1980a, p. 429). In other overviews of Marx’s work, Engels linked Marx’s critical work on political economy and capitalist society with a ‘dialectical’ method in science derived, so he said, from the philosopher Hegel (1770–1831). Engels wrote that ‘Marx was … the only one who could undertake the work of extracting from the Hegelian logic the kernel which comprises Hegel’s real discoveries’ (Engels 1980b, pp. 474–5). Moreover for Engels, science as conceived by Marx was fully compatible with, and indeed an integral part of, a revolutionary political outlook and practice: ‘Science was for Marx a historically dynamic, revolutionary force. … His real mission in life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow of capitalist society’ (Engels 1980b, p. 475).

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Famously Marx himself denied that he was a ‘Marxist’ (Engels 1992, p. 356), whatever that may have meant to himself, and to his friends and enemies while he was alive. While the origins of Marxism lie in Engels’s accounts of Marx’s life and works from 1859 onwards, and in Marx’s own published works and manuscripts, Marxism as a science and as a political movement dates from the years after Marx’s death in 1883. For over a century it has been an intellectual and political force to be reckoned with, though the initial presumption of methodological and doctrinal unity, implied in the reference to an origin in one man and his works, inevitably began to break down. On both the intellectual and political fronts, the current age is one of post-Marxism.

In another influential overview of Marx’s intellectual career, V. I. Lenin (1870–1924) suggested that Marx combined German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism and revolutionary doctrines in a unique way (Lenin 1964, p. 50). Most intellectual biographies proceed chronologically and thematically through this list. However, in setting out what distinguishes Marx as a social scientist, and what contributions Marxism has made to social science, it is more productive to take the direct approach and to outline the characteristics of the Marxian synthesis. This will necessitate some contextual discussion of what science and philosophy meant in Marx’s time and milieu, and what sort of political strategies and actions were possible for a committed socialist when even constitutional politics was radical and subversive.

1. Science and Philosophy

Marx was born on May 5, 1818 in Trier in the Rhineland. His family were converted or at least nonpracticing Jews, and he had a classical and liberal education. This took him to the faculties of law and philosophy at Bonn and Berlin universities in the mid-1830s to the early 1840s, preparing him, rather inadvertently, for a career as a progressive journalist and political radical. This was a time of political reaction in the German states when liberals, especially students, resisted the authoritarian doctrines and practices of self-styled autocrats. Liberals argued instead for representative and responsible government that would protect individual rights to free expression and institute a socioeconomic system favorable to individual mobility. While this may sound familiar enough to present-day readers, the political dialogue of Marx’s time now seems laden with obscure philosophical and religious issues. This was partly the result of heavy government censorship imposed on overtly political pronouncements, and partly the result of the requirements of the debate: what facts and arguments would sustain a doctrine of popular sovereignty against the reigning doctrines of absolutist rule by divine right?

The Hegelian idealist philosophy within which these coded political debates took place was itself controversial in relation to the Trinitarian truths of the Christian confession, and this had indeed been recently and notoriously explored by the historian D. F. Strauss (1808–74) in his Life of Jesus (1835), and by the philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72) in his Essence of Christianity (1841, 2nd edn., 1843). Marx was swift to draw the radical conclusion of atheism from these writings, and to align himself with a ‘new’ materialism rooted in human experience, which he defined as materially productive and historically changing. In the 1830s and 1840s, and particularly in the German-speaking world, ‘science’ as Wissenschaft referred to knowledge in the broadest sense systematically presented. Moreover the tradition of natural philosophy was central to this conception of science, which did not readily admit any great distinction in method between natural and human subjects of study. Science as Wissenschaft relied on scholastic concepts and commonsensical observation, rather than on mathematical abstraction and testable hypotheses.

Hegelian idealist philosophy was in any case utterly hostile to a materialist ontology of matter-in-motion and an empiricist epistemology through which truth is assigned to concepts in so far as they coincide with the material world. The later nineteenth century saw the rise of materialist accounts of the natural sciences as empirical modes of study. Subsequently the development in the early twentieth century of the modern social and behavioral sciences was modeled on these scientific presuppositions and practices. In any case English-language philosophy has been hostile to philosophical idealism, and very closely aligned with philosophical empiricism, since the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It follows that Marx’s early works, and the overarching conception of science extending through his later works, can be quite difficult to understand from a later vantage point in the twentyfirst century. Certainly the reader must be very careful in noting any claims in Marx about what ‘science’ is supposed to be, so that his thought can be understood without anachronism.

In so far as Marx’s notions of science have been influential, a conception of science rooted in idealist Wissenschaft has thus survived and flourished. This conception may not cover all conceptions of science within Marxism, nor is it necessarily exactly aligned with those that claim to be Hegelian in origin. Rather it is distinguished by these features:

(a) a focus on human ideas as the medium through which science itself exists, rather than a view that knowledge about humanity must in some sense mirror knowledge of the physical world;

(b) a presumption that throughout history the human focus on what is true and meaningful will change, rather than a presumption that truths are fixed by realities outside of human experience;

(c) a view of science as a form of practical knowledge developed for, and incorporated within, a comprehensive range of human activities, rather than as a realm of abstract truth sought for its own sake by objective observers and politically neutral scientists; and

(d) a political presumption that a critical evaluation of present practice, including practices of power and politics, is a necessary condition for productive science, rather than a presumption that proper science is necessarily unconcerned with its own political context, or a view that it simply does not have one worthy of notice.

2. Natural Science and Social Science

For Marx science was itself a unity, and natural science was an activity within, rather than a model for, the human social world. The master science, in his view, was political economy, precisely because it dealt with industry (including technology and natural science) and society as a system of productive relationships and regular interactions. However, what he had in mind was a highly reformed version of the works of political economy that he had available at the time, and a version informed by his political project, which was to promote the interests of wage-workers and others in material need.

These ideas and concerns surfaced in Marx’s early journalism, published when Prussian censorship was comparatively relaxed in 1842, and in his notebooks and manuscripts from the following two years, during which time his newspaper was closed down, and as he says, he ‘retired into his study.’ Marx had only limited contact at this time with the social science of political economy, and in common with other German readers, he viewed writers such as Adam Smith (1723–90), Adam Ferguson (1723–1816), and Sir James Steuart (1712–80) through the medium of Hegel’s synthetic and critical philosophizing on this subject, particularly in the Philosophy of Right (1821). This work was subjected to a lengthy critique in 1843, unpublished by Marx in his lifetime, and by 1844 he had also completed a set of ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts,’ again unpublished until the 1930s. While there is of course controversy over the relationship between these works and those that Marx wrote later in life, there are demonstrable continuities in terms of text and project that confirm the early 1840s as the period when Marx’s critique of the economic categories was truly launched.

Politically the young Marx aimed to produce a critique of political economy informed by his own version of some of the principles of socialism and communism that were then current. These were mostly French in origin, and derived from the writings of Henri Saint-Simon (1760–1825), Charles Fourier (1772–1837), Etienne Cabet (1788–1856). Marx was also influenced by more contemporary writers such as Moses Hess (1812–75), who identified (rather hopefully) the newly emerging industrial poor as prime movers in socialist politics. At this juncture the relationship between socialism as a political doctrine, and social science as the pursuit of knowledge about society, may seem tenuous. However, in the intellectual and political context of the time the very notion that ‘society’ needed a scientific investigation was itself subversive and ‘socialistic.’ The established monarchical order was content by contrast to rely on Biblical fundamentalism, commonsensical conservatism, and vigorous repression of any ‘free thinking’ that might stir up issues concerning social class and political power. This ‘free thinking’ was exactly what both liberalism and socialism were about, and the two constituted a potent alliance at the time, albeit with many in-built tensions around social class, political participation, and economic systems.

After the revolutionary events of 1848–9 Marx went into exile in England, and during the remainder of his life, his political involvements were necessarily rather problematic in that context. As he himself noted, London was an excellent center for studying both the social science of political economy and the industrial and commercial life that it theorized. While the English tradition in political economy (actually more Scottish than English) was empiricist in its assumptions and methods (rather than idealist, as was German tradition), it was at this stage not rigorously mathematical nor deductive, as it became in the 1870s after the work of William Stanley Jevons (1835–82) and other pioneers of the ‘marginalist’ revolution. Central to Marx’s critique was the work of David Ricardo (1772–1823), whose On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817, 3rd edn., 1821) is classically descriptive and deductive in a mode of natural philosophy not far removed from Aristotelian conceptions. Ricardo defined and explicated the origins of wealth in terms of commercial value, relating this to the human labor involved in manufacture, and assuming the distribution of wages, profit and rent to the ‘three great classes’ that necessarily constitute modern societies. Marx’s critique of this influential view was both political, arguing that class-divided societies are but a transitional phenomenon, and technical, arguing that Ricardo’s concept of labor could not account for the accumulation of profit through the exchange of value. This critique was published in stages, most notably Capital, Vol. 1 (1867) and has been subsequently enlarged with edited versions of manuscripts for succeeding volumes and studies.

Marx died on March 14, 1883 in London of natural causes, after 35 years of exile from his native Rhenish Prussia. While other ‘’48 ers’ managed to settle their differences with the regime and to regain their civil rights, Marx made only infrequent nonpolitical visits to Germany, and was resolved to maintain his family home in England. He had married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843, and by 1855 they had three surviving daughters, having lost two sons and another daughter (Franziska) to childhood illnesses, certainly exacerbated by harsh financial circumstances. Since 1962 it has been claimed that Marx was the father of Frederick Demuth, the illegitimate son of the family housemaid, but the alleged evidence for this is highly suspect. Marx’s wife and daughter (Jenny) both predeceased him by some months, and his two surviving daughters (Laura and Eleanor) both took their own lives some decades later. Against the obvious gloom and despair of family life in the political wilderness, there are memoirs and recollections extant of a happy and cultivated family life, of Marx’s evident and loving affection for his wife and daughters, and his intense grief at the death of his two sons, Edgar and Guido.

3. Marx and Engels

Any interpretation of Marx is complicated by the fact that from 1844 until the end of his life he worked closely with Friedrich Engels. Though they wrote only three major works together, they engaged in an extensive and well-preserved correspondence (over 7,000 letters between them are currently extant). They also worked in tandem with political groups, particularly those promoting international co-operation among socialists, such as the International Working Men’s Association (1864–76). Engels was a very considerable author and publicist before he met Marx, and was at that time the more famous of the two. He was also an autodidact, having availed himself of lectures and student discussions at Berlin University while he was in the army on Prussian national service. Engels was already a participant in the coded politics of post-Hegelian philosophy, and in the German appropriation of ‘English’ political economy, publishing an outline ‘Critique’ in 1844 that influenced Marx significantly. Engels also published an analytical and descriptive account of industrial poverty in The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), based on published sources and the testimony of his own eyes in Manchester.

As indicated above Engels was a notable publicist and popularizer in connection with Marx’s work, and the biographical, intellectual, and political context developed in his accounts from 1859 onwards set a profound though not unquestioned model for interpreting Marx. By the later 1860s it is evident from Engels’s own works that he himself was increasingly influenced by the development of chemistry and physics as rigorous and mathematically precise sciences, closely linked with industrial processes and with the formulation of a philosophy of science. This eventually flowered as positivism, the view that truth of any kind can only follow from the presuppositions and protocols of a singular scientific method, and that the archetypes for this were physics and chemistry as they progressed to increasingly elegant and powerful theorizations and applications.

Engels’s grand project in the 1870s was pursued in his own published works until his death in 1895. This was a synthesis of Hegelian ‘dialectics,’ which he admired for its ability to cope with change and contradiction, with the natural scientific materialism, on a positivist model, that was proving so successful in the laboratory and the factory. Engels formulated three laws of ‘dialectics’: unity of opposites, negation of the negation, transformation of quantity into quality (Engels 1987, pp. 111–32). His view was that the discoveries of the natural sciences could be decoupled from the logical atomism and reductionism that empiricism usually implied, and linked instead to unifying ‘dialectical’ laws of nature, history, and logic itself. This then would unify and transcend materialism and idealism, science and philosophy, practical truth and logical judgment.

The extent to which Marx came to endorse this system, or even to lean in this direction at all, is keenly debated, and the evidence—textual and biographical—is deeply ambiguous. One of the chief difficulties here is achieving an understanding of Marx and his work that is not already deeply influenced by the canons of interpretation set by Engels, as only in that way could these questions be resolved. Moreover Engels was not only Marx’s first biographer, but also the biographer of their relationship, as well as legatee and editor of Marx’s manuscripts, and authoritative voice on ‘Marx.’ Engels was the founder of what was becoming, largely through his own efforts at popularizing and developing Marx’s ideas, a body of ‘dialectical’ thought and socialist practice known as ‘Marxism.’ Chief amongst the terms he used to promote these views was ‘scientific socialism,’ coined during the late 1870s and widely publicized.

4. Engels and Marxism

Science from Engels’s perspective was far more influential within socialist practice, and also within the developing social sciences, than any conception of science based on a fresh reading of Marx’s works. This is unsurprising, given the biographical and political circumstances, and the philosophies of science and social science current from the 1890s through the 1920s. Engels coined the term ‘materialist interpretation of history’ (later denominated ‘historical materialism’) and also the notion of ‘materialist dialectics’ (later reformulated by one of his intellectual successors, Georgii Plekhanov (1856–1918), as ‘dialectical materialism’).

In this way Marxism was generally expounded as an outlook that integrated philosophical truth and political practice. This was done by presenting history, that is human society in a developmental sequence, as an instance of scientific knowledge. This scientific knowledge, in turn, was said to be consistent with unifying ‘dialectical’ laws of nature and logic. Those laws were themselves reflections of the only cosmic reality, that of matter-in-motion, as studied by natural scientists. In that way for Engels, as for Marxists, social science was but a branch of the natural sciences and of philosophical logic, provided that these systems of knowledge were properly understood as unified by a ‘great basic process’ that was itself dialectical, and so properly captured in Engels’s three laws.

In practice Marxist social science was typically organized by the notion that ‘history is the history of class struggles’, laid out by Marx and Engels in their Communist Manifesto of 1848, and illustrated in the abbreviated account of history as successive ‘modes of production’ offered by Marx in his Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859), briefly footnoted in Capital, Vol. 1. Marxists defined contemporary political struggle as necessarily and profoundly a struggle between the owners of capital (the bourgeoisie or commercial classes) and the proletarians or workers (those who have nothing to sell but their labor), so their methodology was not merely historical but immediately strategic.

Tactically there were of course numerous difficulties in identifying classes and class-fractions and in finding or rejecting coalition partners for working-class interests. Indeed it was also difficult to define the short and longer-term interests of the any group of workers at all, particularly with respect to religion, nationalism, and numerous other political expressions of identity and purpose. However, in terms of social science there is no doubt that Marxists were amongst the leaders in studying and publicizing industrial poverty, class divisions in society, and social protest and revolution. While pre-Marxist political economy was not entirely devoid of a concern for industrial workers as human beings and as political agents, it was not at all comfortable with the idea of any ‘more or less veiled civil war’ (Marx and Engels 1976, p. 495). Marxist social science inverted the rather functionalist assumptions of traditional political economy and declared that such warfare was an inevitable stage on the way to human emancipation.

Under communism greater wealth would be produced and distributed in ways far more humane than any money-system of commercial exchange could ever allow. While communism was not itself theorized in any detail, either by Marx or Engels or by subsequent Marxists, the class struggle was itself documented and pursued with single-minded thoroughness. Despite the claims of a dialectical unity of all the social, natural, and logical sciences, this work was persuasive and respected to the extent that it was empirical and evidential. Any claim that Marxism genuinely established a social science different in principles and character from ‘bourgeois’ science founders on a point of incommensurability (i.e., conventional social scientists did not regard it as science at all because of the ‘dialectical’ claims, whatever the results) or on a point of disjunction (i.e., the ‘dialectical’ claims about social science were not the basis of the science that Marxists actually did, whatever their protestations). In practice self-avowed Marxists focused on class division in industrial societies and characteristically did a social science that claimed to be both scientific and political; conversely any social science preoccupied with working-class poverty was often suspected of Marxist political intent that would bias any scientific results. Clearly, different conceptions of science, and of its relationship with politics, have been operative within the social sciences; Marxist social science highlights and largely constitutes this area of debate.

5. Orthodoxies and Revisionisms

Marxism became an orthodoxy once it had been challenged, most notably by ‘revisionists’ in the later 1890s. While this was initially a political challenge concerning the nature and timing of socialist revolution, further doubts were raised concerning the dialectical philosophy of the sciences espoused by Engels and the specific propositions of Marx’s critique of political economy. By the 1920s Gyorgy Lukacs could write that orthodoxy in Marxism refers exclusively to method. This position reflected the success of the marginalist revolution in economics, which isolated Marx’s critique of political economy as irrelevant, given that traditional political economy had been effectively superseded. It also reflected the success of more sympathetic attempts to adapt Marx’s economic work on capitalism to a form of economics that would at least be intelligible to the mainstream. And most of all it reflected a process of rethinking Marx that was just beginning.

This process was aided by the first attempts to produce Marx’s published and unpublished works in accessible form (the Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe of the 1920s and 1930s, edited initially by D. B. Ryanzanov). Engels was of course in the edition as well, and the production of his works alongside Marx’s inevitably led to comparisons and questions concerning the consistency of their views, particularly with regard to Engels’s claims concerning dialectics and science. These questions of interpretation could be answered either way, but most readers were encouraged to see a coincidence of views between the two and to keep the assumptions of orthodoxy intact. This was unsurprising given the political impetus to unity, and to validating a Marxist tradition, that successive scholarly and popular editions of ‘Marx and Engels’ reinforced. Engels himself, in his foundational 1859 review of Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, stressed the uniqueness and power of Marx’s method even at that early date, suggesting that Marx used both a historical and logical method, and that the two were consistent and coincident.

As the working-class uprisings of the 1920s were suppressed, and as the vacuity of Stalinist thought became evident, ‘western’ Marxism became more theoretical, more concerned with philosophical and methodological issues, more focused on intellectuals than political leaders, and more academically situated in universities and research institutes, most famously the Institute for Social Research at Frankfurt (in the 1930s, and then in a post-Nazi Diaspora). The grander claims of Engelsian synthesis were dropped in favor of multidisciplinary inquiry (taking in psychoanalysis, popular culture, imperialism, ethics, and morality, for example). Explanatory reductionism to class (meaning a person’s relationship to the means of production) was replaced by a multifactor approach to causation, and an interpretative turn towards diagnosis and persuasion. This latter took place within a ‘reHegelianizing’ of Marx, levering him out of an Engelsian frame of scientific causation, explanation and prediction, and emphasizing his work in conceptualizing long-term phenomena and overarching structures in social development.

This signals an adaptive process whereby Marx has been successively reinterpreted for the social sciences as the intellectual climate, particularly in philosophy of science, has changed. Engels cast Marx in the shadow of Darwin’s ‘discoveries’ and of a positivist account of natural science (doing considerable violence to Hegel in the process). Later Marxists reinterpreted Marx in the light of neo-Kantian epistemologies and ethical doctrines, and in the light of the burgeoning empirical social sciences. After World War II Marxists such as Louis Althusser (1918–90) adapted Marx to structuralism, producing an account of history and social development that reduced human agency to a mere effect of economically driven and only partly predictable large-scale social forces. Althusser proposed to distinguish a nonscientific Marx from a scientist, and Marx was said to have attained this by making an epistemological ‘break’ and so expunging any trace of Hegelian idealism. Althusser’s project was never satisfactorily completed and is noteworthy for its method, that of an intense and large-scale rereading of Marx, always attempting to fit his ideas into a binarized frame, e.g., nonscience versus science, humanist versus materialist.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the contrary reading, that the apparently Hegelian, ‘humanist’ Marx of the early works is the valuable one, gathered strength at about the same time. Marx’s ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts’ of 1844 were published for the first time in French and English in the late 1950s, and attracted considerable attention from scholars and readers who were intellectually or temperamentally repelled by the aridities of orthodox dialectics. Any social science presupposes various facts or truths about human beings (or ‘man,’ as he appeared in those days before feminist critique). The ‘humanist’ Marx was also a reflection of dissatisfaction with behaviorist models that pictured humans as reactive systems, responding to stimuli in predictable ways. The 1844 manuscripts could be read in isolation from any other works by Marx, and frequently were. They appeared to be selfcontained meditations on human nature and history, delineating a story of necessary and progressive interactions with nature leading ultimately to the high productivity of modern industry and the discoveries in the natural sciences that made this possible.

Marx’s early manuscripts present ‘man’ as an inherently social being, necessarily engaged in a sensuous ‘metabolism’ with nature, which is effectively an external but essential part of the body. Labor, in Marx’s view, is not merely a vital activity for satisfying needs (as with animals), but rather in the case of humans a ‘free conscious’ activity that takes human life itself to be an object and fashions things ‘according to the laws of beauty.’ Humans produce even when free from physical need, and only truly produce when production is freely undertaken. This claim is meant to have descriptive force, distinguishing self-conscious and self-reflexive activity undertaken by humans from the life-activities undertaken by animals, said by Marx to be merely self-identical with what they do. Humans, in his view, produce themselves in different ways, as different kinds of people (intellectually and physically) in different productive cultures. Communism, in this scheme, is a way of making this self-constructing process more explicit in terms of egalitarian decision making in society.

The inverse of communism that Marx portrays in his manuscripts is the contemporary world of ‘alienated’ labor, in which the worker is estranged in terms of possession and power from the products of labor, other workers, nature, society at large, and from the quintessential human species-activity, namely creative work. This philosophical analysis sets a context for the consideration of private property as the contemporary system through which production and exchange takes place, and Marx offers his account of ‘man’ as an alternative to the schemes developed in classic texts of political economy, most notably the highly individualized yet commercially minded hunters and fishermen portrayed in the work of Adam Smith (1723–90). ‘Alienation’ is used as a general term by Marx for detailing the specifics of class division in commercial societies, and in the early manuscripts he endeavored to spell these out with respect to workers, and also to nonworkers (though he spent little time on this). The thrust of Marx’s argument was towards the overthrow of capitalist society as in no one’s interest as a human being. This was precisely because material and psychological deprivation contradicted the inherent potential of the human species-being. Notwithstanding the political and metaphysical tinge to Marx’s exposition, alienation functioned in the 1960s and 1970s as an empirical catchall concept for sociological and psychological research into and evaluation of modern industrial processes.

Perhaps the most significant development in Marxist social science in the later twentieth century has been the discovery and appropriation of the work of Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), a communist trade union activist imprisoned by the Fascist government from 1926 to 1935. During his years in prison he composed a lengthy set of political notebooks, which gradually became available after World War II. His views have a distinct affinity with those of the early Lukacs and other ‘Hegelian’ Marxists, at least to the extent that he departed decisively from the supposed certainties and mechanistic models of dialectical materialism. While he did not have access to Marx’s early manuscripts, again there is an affinity with the style of thought and political thrust of these works.

Gramsci was in any case facing the problem that a proletarian revolution, declared inevitable by orthodox Marxism, did not seem to be happening in a steady historical development. Far from class position translating easily into political radicalism, his analysis revealed that cultural conservatism was deeply ingrained in peasts and workers, and that inculcating class-conscious political activism would necessitate an ideological counteroffensive to this already existing ‘hegemony.’ His work inspired a Marxist social science deeply concerned with tracing the flow of power in society into channels that were not reducible, or not directly reducible, to class position and economic circumstances. Ideas, ideologies, and institutions all became much more important in constructing an analysis of contemporary class politics and a set of political strategies and tactics. While this may have seemed to de-emphasize Marx’s lifelong project—a critique of the economic categories—it actually mirrored the methodology and content of his writings on contemporary politics, notably The Class Struggles in France (1850) and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852). This Gramscian reading of Marx, then, is another way that he has been reread and reinterpreted, taking a fresh look at which of his texts is most relevant to the times.

For the social sciences Marx and Marxism offer a rich and varied tradition of inquiry and debate, posing difficult questions about objectivity and neutrality in a social science, about what sort of knowledge counts as scientific, and about what sort of intellectual and practical activity science as a whole actually is. These questions may be answered in terms of contextualized readings of Marx, of Engels, of Marxism, and of later interpreters. How directly those contextualizations map onto current circumstances is very much a matter of judgment by those interested in the social and behavioral sciences today, but there is no doubt that many would set a positive value on what a rereading of this tradition can contribute in the present. Indeed it is likely that most educators would count at least a knowledge of this tradition to be essential for any social scientist, whatever their interests. This itself is a tribute to the wide-ranging and as we would say today ‘interdisciplinary’ value of the legacy left by Marx.

Marx’s major works, including the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, The German Ideology, the Communist Manifesto, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, the Grundrisse, the three volumes of Capital, and the three volumes of Theories of Surplus Value, have all been published in numerous editions and translations and are widely available in English.

The definitive edition of the complete works of Marx and Engels published in their original languages is the renewed Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe (known as MEGA). This was begun in 1975 under communist party sponsorship and published by Dietz Verlag in East Berlin. It is now being continued by an international consortium (IMES) based in Amsterdam and is being published by Akademie Verlag (Berlin). The series includes all published and unpublished works, manuscripts, letters to and from Marx and Engels, and third parties, and considerable bibliographical and contextual background in the notes and apparatus. Current plans are to complete the series in approximately 122 volumes in the next decades.

A vast and scholarly selection from the Marx–Engels materials is published in English in a set of approximately 50 volumes, begun in 1975 and now near completion. This is the Collected Works from Lawrence and Wishart (London).


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