The German ideology
|New York: International Publishers. 1970  (full text).|
The Old Hegelians had comprehended everything as soon as it was reduced to an Hegelian logical category. The Young Hegelians criticized everything by attributing to it a religious conceptions or by pronouncing it a theological matter... Since, according to their fantasy, the relationships of men, all their doings, their chains and their limitations are products of their consciousness, the Young Hegelians logically put to men the moral postulate of exchanging their present consciousness for human, critical or egoistic consciousness, and thus removing their limitations... They forget that to the phrases they are fighting they themselves are only opposing other phrases, and that they are in no way combating the real existing world when they are merely combatting the phrases of this world.
The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first act to be established is the physical organization of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature... Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence.
The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. Empirical observation must in each separate instance bring out empirically, and without any mystification and speculation, the connection of the social and political structure with production. The social structure and the State are continually evolving out of the life process of definite individuals, but of individuals, not as they may appear in their own or other people"s imagination, but as they really are; i.e. as they operate, produce materially, and hence as they work under definite limits, presuppositions and conditions independent of their will.
Conceiving, thinking, the metal intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behavior. The same applies to metal productions expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc. of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc.--real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these.... Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this real existence their thinking and the products of their thinking. Life is not determined by consciousness but consciousness by life.
Life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things. The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself.
The satisfaction of the first need (the action of satisfying and the instrument of satisfaction which has been acquired) leads to new needs; and this production of new needs is the first historical act... The third circumstance which, from the very outset enters into historical development is that men, who daily remake their own life, begin to make other men, to propagate their kind.
By social we mean the cooperation of several individuals, no matter under what conditions, in what manner and to what end. It follows that a certain mode of production or industrial stage, is always combined with a certain mode of cooperation and this mode of cooperation is itself a "productive force."
Language is as old as consciousness, language is practical consciousness that exist for other men, and for that reason alone it really exists for me personally as well; language, like consciousness, only arises form the need of intercourse with other men... Consciousness is, therefore, from the very beginning a social product, and remains so as long as men exist at all.
Once a division of material and metal labour has appeared/ consciousness can really flatter itself that it is something other than consciousness of existing practice without representing something real... But even if this theory comes into contradiction with the existing relations, this can only occur because existing social relations have come into contradiction with existing forces of production.
With the division of labor in which all these contradictions are implicit...is given simultaneously the distribution and indeed the unequal distribution both quantitative and qualitative, of labor and its products, hence property: the nucleus, the first form, of which lies in the family where wife and children are the slaves of the husband. This latent slavery in the family is the first property.
The division of labor implies the contradiction between the interest of the individual or the individual family and the communal interest of all individuals who have intercourse with one another. And indeed this communal interest does not exist merely in the imagination as the "general interest," but first of all in reality as the mutual interdependence of the individual among whom the labor is divided. And finally the division of labor offers us the first example of how, as long as man remains in natural society, that is as long as a cleavage exists between the particular and the common interest as long therefore, as activity is not voluntary, but naturally, divided, man"s own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which enslaves him instead of being controlled by him.