Marx’s work, for the unfamiliar, has been usually reduced to The Communist Manifesto and/or to some abridged versions of Capital. This, of course, makes impossible a serious analysis of his work. A great deal of Marx’s contribution is not only outside his most popular books, but in the evolution of his though, in his intellectual path, in the dialog between his ideas. In paying attention to that, we are giving Marx his real importance.
In this sense, it is crucial to describe and understand the context and the process which led to the development of Marx’s ideas, both in his earlier texts and in the later ones. In discussing and comparing the critique of philosophy given in texts like ‘Towards a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction’ (1844) and the critique of political economy showed in Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume 1 (1867), we will see the continuity of Marx’s thought in some aspects and the breaks and evolution in others. And using the very notion of critique and the implication that it has in both stages of his work, we will be able to understand how compatible those stages are.
2. The notion of critique as a first comparison point
2.1 Early Texts
The idea of critique is something that is present very strongly throughout Marx’s works; however, the way his critique changes its form and direction will give us the main comparison point to contrast his early and later texts.
In the works around 1843-1844 we can clearly identify criticism as the main weapon of Marx’s discourse. In ‘Towards a Critique’, a ruthless criticism is proposed as what according to Marx should be the principal task of philosophy, a criticism which, given the social circumstances, should deeply touch the fibers of the holy (religion) and then move to the unholy: “The criticism of heaven is thus transformed in the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics”. This vision of philosophy is highly influenced by Kant’s notion of Enlightenment, it is in a way an attempt to detach philosophy from any kind of prescriptive authority, it does not matter if it is political, religious, etc. The critical attitude is what allows the philosopher to think independently of the status quo and to construct a new discipline more in accordance with society’s needs. But which needs? For Marx, philosophy should emancipate the people from the oppressive and restrictive circumstances under which they were living, for him it was as it humanity was sleep, and philosophy, as he conceived it, was there to wake them up. In a letter to Ruge from 1843, Marx is quite emphatic about this: “The reform of consciousness consists solely in letting the world perceive its own consciousness by awaking it from dreaming about itself, in explaining to it its own actions. Our whole and only aim consists in putting down religious and political questions in a self-conscious,...