KARL MARX AND FRIEDRICH ENGELS QUESTIONS

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Assigned: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (759-67); The German Ideology (767-69); Grundrisse (773-74); "Preface" to A Contribution... (774-76).

From Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 (1844)

1. What basic philosophical error does Marx say the Political Economists commit when they enunciate the laws of economics? (765)

2. What does Marx appear to mean by his term "alienation"? In what senses are workers alienated? Why, according to Marx, is this process of alienation inherent in capitalist production? (765-67)

3. How does Hegel's Master/Slave dialectic apply to Marx's commentary about workers' alienation? How, for example, does the capitalist relate to the worker and to commodified objects? How do workers relate to the commodified objects they produce and to their employers? (765-66, general question)

4. Why, by implication in Marx, is labor central to human existence? What fundamental assumption/s about human beings underlie Marx's theory of alienation and his comments about labor? (general question)

From The German Ideology (1845-46)

5. What is a camera obscura? What does this term imply about the possibility of arriving at true statements about human relations? Does the figure imply that we can actually perceive ourselves and the world directly? (768)

6. What basic philosophical error does Marx accuse German Idealists like Hegel and Kant of committing? (768)

7. Why is it that "Morality, religion, metaphysics, {and} all the rest of ideology ... have no history"? What constitutes real history, as Marx sees it? (768-69)

From Grundrisse (1857-58)

8. How does this selection demonstrate that Marx's status as an economic determinist (one who sees economic affairs as the direct basis for our ideas about the world and ourselves) is more complex than some of his "vulgar Marxist" followers?

9. What is the source of Greek myth, according to Marx? That is, what conditions and needs led to its development?

10. What, according to Marx, accounts for the fact that we can still enjoy Greek art even though we no longer believe in the Greeks' mythology? To what extent is he describing a kind of nostalgia for an irrevocably lost stage in human development?

11. Our Norton editors call this selection from Grundrisse a rather hasty formulation, not a truly thought-out formulation of the relationship between art (an amazingly sophisticated element of the "superstructure") and the material basis of life. Nonetheless, what suggestions does the selection hold for us regarding the task of literary criticism and theory?

From "Preface" to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)

12. What assumptions does Marx the "scientific socialist" make in this selection concerning the process of history and our ability to comprehend that process, describe it, and even make predictions on the basis of our understanding?

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 1st ed. New York: Norton, 2001. ISBN 0-393-97429-4.