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Domier 1 Braden Domier Philosophy Professor Burns 12/9/13 Hegelian Influences on Marx Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegels writings

forever changed the field of philosophy and directly influenced the generation of philosophers that came after him, one such philosopher was Karl Marx. Much of Marxs work is a reinterpretation of Hegels work put in a material and economic context. This essay will explore how Marxs body of work both supported and criticized the work of Hegel, whether or not Marxs materialism moved beyond Hegelian absolute idealism, and how Marxs ideas began in Hegel and ended in a political praxis. G.W.F. Hegels philosophy is characterized as absolute idealism. Hegel believe ideas naturally come to resolutions through the contradictions of previous ideas. Thus, ideas are the acting force behind future ideas. This process entails a thesis of unconsciousness and unity pitted against an antithesis of consciousness and separation in order to reach the synthesis of consciousness and unity. Marx adopts this Hegelian logic in order to explain his economic theory of how a society functions. In Marxs theory regarding understanding of our reality, he posits that there is a Base and a Superstructure which make up the world that we know. The Base is Marxs equivalent of the thesis (unconsciousness and unity). The Base therefore is the underlying economic and material conditions that support the superstructure, that which is unified but unknown to us. The Superstructure is Marxs equivalent of the antithesis (consciousness and separation). The Superstructure then is what we are aware of but is separated

Domier 2 from ultimate reality. The Superstructure entails essentially all of the institutions created or shaped by the base: politics, media, government, business, and religion. Just as the thesis and antithesis come together to produce a synthesis, the Base is the reason that the Superstructure is the way it is and the Superstructure affects the future Base. The Superstructure and the Base when considered together represent actuality or to put it in Hegelian terms, a synthesis. In this example, Marxs economic theory explaining society stems directly from Hegelian logic and philosophy. Neither Hegel nor Marx were static thinkers. Both believe in a natural progression leading from on ideal to another. Hegel, for his part, believed that there is an evolving human spirit which makes truth in metaphysics, ethics, and human knowledge relative to the time period in which they exist. Marx felt the same way as Hegel but in different terms. Marx applied this Hegelian logic to political and economic theory. If the human spirit evolves as Hegel says, Marx posits that so does the ideal state. Just as early societies turned from hunting and gathering to agrarian economies and then to capitalism, Marx thought that socialism was the inevitable next step once capitalism faced its own contradictions and was no longer sustainable, causing a revolution by the proletariat. This appropriation and expansion of Hegelian philosophy furthers the argument that Marx was a deeply Hegelian thinker with the main difference being that he applied Hegelian logic to economic and material conditions rather than purely systems of thought. In Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel posits his theory of self-consciousness. He argues that even consciousness itself among two or more people is a struggle because each will have to reconcile his knowledge of his own consciousness with his awareness that the other is self-conscious as well. Hegel acknowledges the necessity of mutually recognized self-

Domier 3 consciousness saying, Self-Consciousness is in and for itself in and through being in and for itself for another self-consciousness; that is, it is only as something acknowledged. (Hegel 912) It is for this reason that Hegels Master-Slave dialectic exists. The Master-Slave Dialectic refers to the contradiction inherent to unequal situations where an individual fails to recognize the consciousness of another or another fails to recognize his consciousness. In Reading Hegels Phenomenology, Quentin Lauer expands upon Hegels point saying, If the self is object to another consciousness not as a self but only as a thing, its very thinghood is a dependence which negates its independence. (Lauer 102) Just as in typical Hegelian dialectics, the situation is resolved in synthesis through a recognition of the contradiction and the realization that both parties hold self-consciousness. In the words of Hegel, They acknowledge one another as mutually acknowledging one another. (Hegel 913) In a much broader sense, Hegels selfconsciousness theory is revived in the alienation theory of Karl Marx. Marx theorizes that under the current capitalist state of the world economy we are alienated from ourselves, others, our humanity, and the products of our labor. When a man works long hours in a factory for minimum wage, he does so because his employer is failing to recognize his consciousness. This lack of a mutual recognition of consciousness causes alienation. The worker is alienated from the product of his labor because the focus of his life is dedicated to the production of a lifestyle that he cant enjoy himself. The worker is alienated from himself and his humanity because he is reduced to merely a production input and because he no longer has the time to experience the free and creative capabilities that make us human. All this, according to Marx, adds up to The alienation of man from man because When man confronts himself, he confronts other men. (Marx 994) Marx doesnt leave it at that, however. Marx believes the alienation can be fixed by spending less time and effort working and more time developing our humanity and our creative capacities.

Domier 4 Thus, the reader can see from Marxs explanation of the flaws of the capitalist political economy that his argument originates in the earlier self-consciousness theory of Hegel. Hegel thought that human history was a history of ideas and pushed forward by human thought. He argued that to look at human history was to look at a long and ongoing chain of syntheses by contradiction. This is where a serious disconnect develops between the philosophy of Hegel and the philosophy of Marx. Marx adopts a similar view as Hegel but replaces thought. Instead, Marx would say that economic and material conditions are what moves human history forward. He believes that the root of all of historical progress is motivated by the Base and the Superstructure, whether or not we recognize it. In his Manifesto of the Communist Party, Marx declares that The History of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. (Marx 998) Marxs view regarding the true engine of human history is one of his greatest departures from Hegels views and from idealism in general. This departure is so significant because this departure is one of the biggest ideas that separate Karl Marx from being a purely Hegelian thinker, but rather allow Marx to pave his own philosophic path. One of Marxs notable divergences from Hegel is that Marxs philosophy is one of praxis. Hegel focuses much of his philosophical work pondering theories of free will, existence, self-consciousness, and other abstract concepts. Marx spends far less time on these abstract subjects, choosing instead to accept most of Hegels positions on the basics. Marx instead writes most of his philosophy on praxis, the actual activity involved in bringing philosophy to practical situations. This praxis is why Marx is constantly blurring the line between economist and philosopher with his works on the political economy. His writing is less about theory and more about the ideals of a state and an economy. It is important to note that Marx never follows Platos example from The Republic in laying out step by step the perfect state, he even says

Domier 5 Let us not put ourselves in a fictitious primordial state like a political economist trying to clarify things. (Marx 990) That said, Marxs approach to philosophy is a fresh one compared to other historical philosophers preceding Marx. His praxis oriented philosophy means that his writings focus primarily on the active requirements necessary to establish a world economy where all of the humans involved are not alienated and are in touch with their creative capabilities and what makes them truly human. Hegelian philosophy and the work of those who came before typically focused on contemplation while Marxist philosophy gives some semblance of an answer to posed philosophical questions. In an unprecedented move, Marx lays out a list of ten main actions that states should take to develop a successful Communist state. This list includes Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes, Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state, Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of child factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production as well as other ways to effectively establish Communism in a country (Marx 1006). Marxs use of a list of practical considerations for state building is a steep departure from the much more ideal Hegel who spent his time pondering the abstract. Scholar Antony Cutler notes that Marx supports examining Four fundamental conditions of economic operation which can in some measure be determined by state policy: The supply of labour power, of money and credit, distribution of categories of income, the form and rights of possession of capital (Cutler 250-1) When the level of praxis is considered, Marxs materialism vastly diverges from Hegels idealism. While the root of Marxs ideas are often found in Hegels work, it is clear that he approaches the format in an entirely different manner.

Domier 6 One broader question worth considering is whether or not Marxs materialism is an advancement beyond Hegels idealism. Materialism for the most part is idealism that replaces the phrase thought moves history with the phrase material conditions move history. Materialism does move beyond idealism because Marx thought of what Hegel didnt. Marx knew that one basic truth is that we as human beings are shaped by our material and economic conditions. This consideration allows materialism to expand into a more logical explanation than idealism ever was. Viewing human history as ultimately a struggle for the wealth that makes up the base of a society allows a version of history to show up that hadnt been considered before. Under this branch of philosophy, the different choices made by people in varying socioeconomic conditions can be explained in a more logical way. Ultimately this approach to understanding adds qualifications to free will but explains disconnects in society as well as the long history of class warfare that humanity has observed throughout the ages. Marx truly is a philosopher in the Hegelian philosopher although he adds his own important contributions regarding economics and the progression of the human spirit. It can be clearly seen from Marxs ideas like his alienation theory which comes from Hegels MasterSlave Dialectic and his belief in the Base and Superstructure which stem from Hegels synthesis theory that materialism has its roots deep set in Hegels absolute idealism. While Hegel was a large influence on the writings of Karl Marx, Marxs work is more than just a restatement of Hegel. Rather, Marx uses Hegels absolute idealism in order to develop a sound economic theory explaining the workings of human history under the name of materialism. Word Count: 1849

Domier 7 Works Cited

Cutler, Antony. Marxs Capital and Capitalism Today. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977. 250-1. Print. Hegel, G.W.F. Phenomenology of Spirit. From Plato to Derrida. Ed. Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann. 5th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 1994. 912-7. Print. Lauer, Quentin. A Reading of Hegels Phenomenology of Spirit. New York: Fordham University Press, 1976. Print. Marx, Karl. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. From Plato to Derrida. Ed. Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann. 5th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 1994. 912-7. Print. Marx, Karl. Manifesto of the Communist Party. From Plato to Derrida. Ed. Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann. 5th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 1994. 998-1007. Print.