Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 (also referred to as The Paris Manuscripts) are a series of notes written between April and August 1844 by Karl Marx. Not published by Marx during his lifetime, they were first released in 1927 by researchers in the Soviet Union.

The notebooks are an early expression of Marx's analysis of economics and critique of G.W.F. Hegel. The notes cover a wide range of topics including private property, communism, and money. They are best known for their early expression of Marx's argument that the conditions of modern industrial societies result in the estrangement (or alienation) of wage-workers from their own life.

Because the 1844 manuscripts show Marx's thought at the time of its early genesis, their publication has profoundly affected recent scholarship on Marx and Marxism, particularly regarding the relation of Marxism to earlier work in German Idealism. The young Marx had been ignored until recently, because his early works were considered more "philosophical" and not enough "scientific", that is, "economic" as in Das Kapital. However, Marxist humanists regard this book as one of the most important books of Marx and crucial for understanding his thought, and Marxians also refer to it.

In the first manuscript, Marx exposes his theory of alienation, which he adapted from Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity (1841). He explains how, under capitalism, more and more people rely on "labour" to live. That is, before people could rely in part on Nature itself for its "natural needs"; in modern society, if one wants to eat, one must work: it is only through money that one may survive. Thus, if the alienation of the worker consists in being a "slave toward its object", the worker is doubly alienated: "first, he receives an object of labour, that is he finds work [as one says: 'I finally found work!'], and second, he receives means of subsistence. He thereby owes it [to labour] the possibility to exist first as a worker, second as a physical subject. The last straw of this servitude [or serfdom] is that it is only his quality as a worker that permits him to continue to conserve himself as a physical subject, and it is only as a physical subject that he can be a worker". In other words, the worker relies on labour to find money to be able to live; but he doesn't simply live, he actually only survives, as a worker. Labour is only used to create more wealth, instead of achieving the fulfillment of "human nature". This intervention of the concept of "human nature" has also been one of the long-standing factors in this text's being largely ignored, as it seemed too "humanist" and therefore akin to liberalism and bourgeois philosophy (in a literal sense: a philosophy founded on the bourgeois rights of Man proclaimed in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen).

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