Episode Seven: Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts

Alex explains the development from feudalism to capitalism, Louis gets otters and beavers confused, and the subject-object divide in Western philosophy is finally overcome.

Today on the podcast, we discuss Karl Marx’s infamous Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. The Manuscripts were written in 1844, but not published until 1932. This is important because many academics often make a distinction between ‘early Marx’ and ‘late Marx’. Early Marx, the Marx present in the Manuscripts, is very much a humanist thinker, concerned with individual wellbeing and human flourishing. One could be forgiven for thinking, as Erich Fromm argued, that it represented the “full realisation of individualism”.

The Manuscripts were a challenge to the Leninist interpretations of Marxism dominant at the time. They also forcefully challenged the lazy argument often made that Marxism was synonymous with cruel, oppressive dictatorship, in which the collective violently subdued the individual. Their most enduring contribution however, is Marx’s articulation of alienation. Alienation is the chief psychological and moral ailment of humanity under capitalism. Understanding what Marx thought about alienation is crucial to understanding the full force of his later critiques of capitalism.

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