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Objectification and Alienation in Marx and Hegel


Crucially, linguists do not agree.

Mounin, G., Clefs pOUY’ la linguistique, Seghers, Paris, 1971, p.ll.

See above, ‘Process Three – The Oedipus Complex, the Father and Social
Rules’ .

Identified by, amongst others, E.P. Thompson.

Turkle, S., Psychoanalytic Politics, Burnett Books, New York, 1979.

For example, Freud, S., ‘The Question of Lay Analysis’, StandaY’d Edition,
Vol. 2.

Turkle, S., op.cit., pp.125-37.

For example, Freud, S., PY’e-Psychoanalytic Publications, Standard Edition,

For example, Freud, S., The InteY’pY’etation of Dr>eams, Standard Edition,

For example, Freud, S., The Ego and the Id, Standard Edition, Vol.19.

The relevant dates and works are as follows (all by Freud): The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), Standard Edition, Vols. 4-5; Instincts and their

Vicissitudes (1915), StandaY’d Edition, Vol.14; The Unconscious (1915),
StandaY’d Edition, VOl.14; Some Additional Notes on DY’eam InterpY’etation as
a Whole (1925), Standard Edition, VOl.19; The Ego and the Id (1923),
Standard Edition, Vol.19. A unity between so-called phases 2 and 3 is
provided by NeuY’osis and Psychosis, Standard Edition, Vol.19, where the

neuroses are classified in terms of the relationship between id, ego, superego and the external world.

As contained in Freud, S., The PY’oject foY’ a Scientific Psychology, in
Bonaparte, tl. (ed.), The Origins of PsychoanaZysis, 1954, Imago.

Sulloway, F., op.cit., pp.4l9 and 488. To reject the biology is, it is
clear, to abandon a great deal of Freud’s ‘non-adaptationist’ work.

Collier, A., ‘Lacan, Psychoanalysis and the Left’, in InternationaZ
Socialism, 1980, 2:7, pp.5l-71.

Lacan, quoted in Turkle, S., op.cit., p.1l9.

Jameson, F., The PY’ison House of Language, Princeton University Press, 1972.

Bowie, H., op.cit., p.l3l.

Objec:tific:ation and Alienation
in Marx and Hegel
Chris Arthur

Hegel sees … se1f-objectification in the
form of self-alienation and self-estrangement as … the final expression of human
life which … has attained its own
essential nature.

(Marx 1844)

The object of this paper is to reassess the relationship between Marx and Hege1 as it is exemplified in
Marx’s 1844 manuscripts which include a brilliant
series of jottings on Hegel’s Phenomenology of
Spirit. In particular I want to investigate the
claim, first made by Luk~cs, that Marx’s criticism of
Hege1 amounts to the charge that Hege1 equates alienation with objectification [1]. I endorse this
point of view but I explain that the matter is by no
means as simple as it might appear. A subsidiary
section of this paper will take up another common
theme in the literature, namely the claim that the
central site of the discussion of objectification,
or of alienation, or of both, is Hege1’s discussion
of ‘Lordship and Bondage’, and that this discussion
profoundly influenced Marx in his theory of alienation [2]. This latter claim I will argue is entirely
groundless; the famous Master-Slave dialectic is of
no importance to Marx, either in his praise of Hegel
(which is considerable) or his criticism (which is


Before we can assess the significance of these
claims it is necessary to remind ourselves of how the
various categories are introduced in the texts in
question. I will first summarize the central section
of Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts – that on ‘estranged
labour’. After a recapitulation (very schematic) of
Hege1’s Phenomenology, I will then turn to the last
section of the Manuscripts, in which Marx makes his
assessment of Hege1’s dialectic on the basis of it,
and try to explain what I take to be Marx’s meaning.

Along the way it will be necessary to give the
results of certain philological investigations I was
forced to take up.

Marx’s Theory of Alienation
‘Objectification’ (Vergegenst~ndlichung) is an
important category for Marx because in and through
its objectification in the world humanity comes to be
what it essentially is. This process is, of course,
for Marx, primarily a question of labour, of material
production, and its result is a product. ‘The product of labour’ says Marx, ‘is the objectification
of labour.’ [3] Through this process the labourer
realizes his potential as a producer; but it is
important to stress here (because we will have to
come back to it when we make a comuarison with
Hege1) that this is possible because there exists
external material with which to work. Marx says:

‘the worker can create nothing without nature, with-

out the sensuous external world.’ [4] It is the
material in which his labour realizes itself and, in
the absence of any distortion of the relationship,
this material production is the mediation in which
the unity of man with nature is established. ‘It is
therefore in his fashioning of the objective world
that man really proves himself’ says Marx. ‘Through
it nature appears as his work and his reality
and he can therefore contemplate himself in a world
he himself created.’ [5]
However, this happy result is hardly the lot of
the modern wage-labourer. In the conditions dealt
with by political economy – that is to say where
labour is separated (through ‘second order mediations’ [6]) from its objective conditions of realization (the material and the instruments of production)
– the objectification of labour is accomplished
through its alienation, and the outcome is the
estrangement of the worker from his product, his
work, and his world, that is, from the material basis
of his existence and life-activity [7].

The wage-labourer is related to his labour-power
as to an external object. He is forced to alienate
it to the capitalist simply to maintain himself as
a labourer.

Hence the worker feels himself only when he
is not working; when he is working he does
not feel himself. He is at home when he is
not working, and not at home when he is
working. His labour is therefore not voluntary but forced, it is forced labour …. In it
he belongs not to himself but to another.

Since, for Marx, human labour is the central
determinant of human being (for ‘as individuals
express their life, so they are’ [9]), the subjection
of labour to the dictates of capital (an alien power
labour itself sustains) adds up to nothing less than

Overcoming estrangement through communism means
the reappropriation of the ontological essence of
humanity [10] which has constituted itself, through
the mediation of private property, objectively as an
external alien power. Marx stresses that this
estrangement is, nevertheless, a historically
necessary stage [11].

, Terminological Problems
It is necessary to say something about the terminology Marx employs when he speaks of alienation – for
, there are two German words which are commonly rendered in translations by ‘alienation’: ‘Entfremdung’

(which is equivalent to the English ‘estrangement’

and is rendered as such in the two Marx translations
to which references are given in this paper) and
‘Entausserung’ (sometimes translated, by those who
prefer ‘alienation’ for ‘Entfremdung’, as ‘externalization’ – this last being understood as distinct
from ‘objectification’ presumably).

In Lukacs’s masterly work The Young Hegel, the
crucial last chapter is entitled.”‘Entltusserung’ as
the central philosophical concept of The Phenomenology of Spirit” [12]. Livingstone’s English translation prefers ‘externalization’ for this term in
spite of the fact that Lukacs writes:

In themselves there is nothing novel about
the terms ‘EntC1usserung’ and ‘Entfremdung’.

They are simply German translations of
the English word ‘alienation’. This was
used in works of economic theory to betoken
the sale of a commodity, and in works on
natural law to ref~r to the loss of an aboriginal freedom, the handing-over or
alienation of freedom to the society which
came into being as a result of a social
contract. Philosophically, the term

‘Entltusserung’ was first used, to the best
of my knowledge, by Fichte for whom it meant
both that the positing of an object implied
an externalization or alienation of the subject and that the object was to be thought
of as an ‘externalized’ act of reason.

The important thing, as we shall see, is that Marx
distinguishes objectification (Vergegenstandlichung)
from alienation (Entausserung). The difference,
broadly, is that, while ‘Entausserung’ carries the
sense of ‘posited as objective’, it also connotes
relinquishment, such that an alienated objectivity
is created from which the subject is estranged. (For
further philological information, and a comparison of
translations, see Note 14.)

HegeI’s ‘Phenomenology’

Let us turn now to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

The Phenomenology attempts to by-pass the dilemma of
epistemology [15] by situating all the forms of consciousness, within which claims to knowledge are made,
in a logical progression. Validity appears in this
context, not as conformity to an external criterion,
but as immanent in the phenomena of knowledge itself.

In the Phenomenology the crucial problem is that of
objectivity. However, this is a problem primarily
because of the way Hegel construes the relationship
of knowledge to its object; more particularly the
problem is: how can consciousness claim to know its
object when the latter is posited as other than it?

As the phenomenological dialectic proceeds the solution emerges: consciousness becomes more and more
aware that it is its own activity that constitutes
the object as an object of knowledge. The very distinction between knowledge and its object is drawn
from the point,’of view of consciousness and is hence
to be construed as a distinction falling withfun consciousness itself [16], So, if Hegel b”egins with a
situation in which the knowing self takes it that
what stands over against it is objectivity, he overcomes this opposition through showing that every
higher shape of consciousness posits the form of
knowledge, and the object as it is now known, as more
adequate to each other. The upshot is Absolute
Knowing – in which Knowing knows that what appears
to it as its object is only itself.

Since the activity of consciousness itself in knowing becomes more and more prominent in the development, it is clear that self-consciousness becomes
centrally involved. Moreover, if the self is to make
itself an object of consciousness, it can only do so
(i.e. become known to itself as what it really is)
through its own activity, its self-realization.

Hence Hegel’s discussion imperceptibly slides into
terrain unknown to epistemology. The progress of
critical reflection upon the adequacy of knowledge
to its object becomes a progress in the history of
Geist (spirit or mind). Geist learns what it truly
is and its relationship to the world of objectivity,
at the same time, and in exact proportion, as it
becomes what it truly is through manifesting itself
in objective form (in morality, in bourgeois life,
in the state, in religion), and in so doing it
eventually ends its estrangement from its world
through identifying itself in it. The relationship
of this history to real history is an extremely
difficult and controversial topic in Hegelian
scholarship; nevertheless, it is clear from the
wealth of obvious allusions that Hegel wishes us to
bear this connection in mind. The last chapter, on
Absolute Knowing, contains a compressed history of
modern philosophy, for example.

In this way Hegel equates his own philosophy with
fully-developed ‘Absolute Knowledge’ – knowledge as
science. This knowledge comprehends that ‘object-


ivity’, standing over against a ‘subjectivity’

estranged from it, is brought forth only within the
self-alienating movement of Geist. Lukacs is quite
correct, therefore, to see Ent~usserung (alienation)
as the central philosophical concept of the
Phenomenology. Marx points us to the following
crucial passage from the last chapter, in which
Hegel employs this term in summarizing his conclusions:

Surmounting the object of consciousness is
not to be taken one-sidedly to mean that the
object showed itself as returning into the
self … but rather than it is the alienation [Ent~usserung] of self-consciousness
that posits thinghood [die Dingheit] and
that this alienation has not merely a negative but a positive meaning … for selfconsciousness … because it posits itself
as object, or the object as itself …. This
positing at the same time contains the other
moment that self-consciousness has equally
sublated [aufgeheben][17] this alienation
and objectivity too … so that it is at
home with itself in its otherness as such
[in seinem Andersseyn als solchem bey sich


does self-consciousness surmount the object
of consciousness and take it back into itself?- Very
schematically, one could say that, in collecting
together the various determinations taken on by the
object of consciousness as it is experienced throughout the path traversed by spirit, the totality of
these determinations is graspec by spirit as its own
self-determination. This comprehension Hegel characterizes as a recollection (Erinnerung); and here we
must return to our philological apparatus again,
because the second time this term occurs in the final
paragraph of the Phenomenology Hegel takes the opportunity to bring out the etymological possibility of
characterizing this as an inwardizing movement – ‘Aber
die Er-Innerung hat sie aufbewahrt …. ‘ (‘But the
internalization … has preserved it …. ‘) – the
appropriate counter-movement to an ‘externalization’

(one of the meanings of ‘Ent~usserung’) [19].

Luk~cs thinks this passage is so important he
quotes it three times [20]. He points out that the
standpoint of Absolute Knowledge does not give us
any new content:

According to Hegel, spirit has created the
real objects of the world in the process
of ‘En~usserung’. It is only logical for
the reverse process of ‘Er-Innerung’ to be
not”hing other than the sublation of the
forms of objective reality so created, and
their reintegration into the subject … .

It is consistent with this concept … that
no new content should emerge at this point ….

All the contents available … to philosophy
arise not from philosophy itself, but from
… the historical process of the selfpositing of spirit … now … illuminated
by the light of absolute knowledge.



It follows from this that the estranged forms
taken on by Geist when it posits itself as object
remain as they are. The novelty consists solely in
the reconciliation philosophy affords whereby spirit
can feel at home, notwithstanding this estrangement,
because in it it is in its own other.

For an idealist to take offence at the existence
of objective realities and to deny their independence
would not in itself have any interest. What strikes
Marx as very interesting [22], and serves as the
point of departure for both his praise and his criticism of Hegel, is that Hegel’s definition of alienation has a positive connotation just insofar as it


creates objectivity. We have seen in the passage
quoted above Hegel saying that the alienation of selfconsciousness has a positive significance in that it
posits the self as an object. Later on Hegel reemphasizes that there is no need to be afraid of
such objectification.

Spirit is this movement of the self which
empties [ent~ussert] itself of itself and
sinks into its substance, and also, as
subject, has gone out of that substance
into itself … the pure I …. Neither
has the I to cling to itself in the form of
self-consciousness as against the form of substantiality and objectivity, as if it were
afraid of alienating [Ent~usserung] itself;
the power of spirit lies rather in remaining
the self-same spirit in its externalization
[Ent~usserung] and … in making its beingfor-itself no less merely a moment than its

Thus, because spirit must posit itself in objective form, the objectivity consciousness opposes to
itself cannot merely be subsumed away through the
inwardizing movement of recollection; its problematical character must be resolved by comprehending it
in all the immediacy of its otherness but at the
same time as self-alienation; while, because spirit
must achieve sE’lf-objectification only in this mode,
it is always equally self-alienation. The solution
to estrangement involves both the annulment and the
preservation of alienation. Of great service to
Hegel in this is his dialectical category of
‘Aufhebung’ (sublation). In his Logic Hegel tells us
that the sublated is the mediated – but in fact it
is more specific than that. He points out that in
ordinary language ‘aufheben’ means both to abolish,
and to preserve, and that he intends to take advantage of this double meaning [24]. In his criticism of
Hegel, Marx comments on the ‘peculiar role’ [25]
played by ‘the act of sublating’ throughout Hegel’s
system. Let us now turn to Marx.

Marx’s Assessment of Hegel
Let us begin with Marx’s praise of Hegel. It is
rather complex:

The great thing in Hegel’s Phenomenology
and its final result – the dialectic of
negativity as the moving and producing
principle – is that Hegel conceives the
self-creation of man as a process, objectification [Vergegenstlindlichung] as loss
of object [Entgegenstandlichung], as
alienation [Entliusserung] and as sublation
[Aufhebung] of this alienation; that he
therefore grasps the nature of labour and
conceives objective man … as the result
of his own labour … which is at first only
possible in the form of estrangement
[Entfremdung] .


Let us consider first of all the principle of
negativity. Marx is impressed by the dialectic of
spirit’s actualization of itself through positing
itself in the form of objectivity as the negative of
itself and then negating this negation. Marx sees in
this the hypostatization of the abstract reflection
in philosophy of man’s objectification through his
own labour, which process, Marx concurs with Hegel,
must pass through a phase of alienation. With regard
to this last point, one should note particularly that
he praises Hegel for grasping objectification as
alienation. Since it is indeed the historical experience of mankind that is reflected here, Hegel’s
greatness consists precisely in his granting it full
recognition instead of ignoring it, and Marx gener-

ously credits Hegel with working out the elements of
criticism of entire spheres, such as religion, the
state, civil society, and so forth – even if in a
mystified form [27].

One aspect of the mystified form of Hegel’s
presentation is the idealist character of his dialectic of negativity. In presenting this as the generating principle Hegel has discovered only the abstract
speculative expression of the movement of history
[28]. Marx says:

The inexhaustible, vital, sensuous, concrete activity of self-objectification is
therefore reduced to its mere abstraction,
absolute negativity, an abstraction which
is then given permanent form as such and
conceived as activity itself. Since this
so-called negativity is nothing more than
the abstract empty form of that real living
act, its content can only be created by
abstraction from all content.

Since absolute negativity is the essential
character of the activity of absolute spirit, Hegel’s
critical apparatus is quite unable to cope with the
specific historical origins of capitalist alienation.

In effect, he endorses the moment of estrangement as
an ontological necessity, instead of grasping the
negation of itself that labour brings forth for
specific material reasons in the history of mankind’s
emergence [30] as subject to a radical abolition
through a second negation (itself the outcome of
particular historical conditions) [31]. Hegel has
ho solution to offer other than that pseudo-movement
which preserves the realm of estrangement as a momen~.

As he puts it, spirit is ‘at home in its otherness as
such’. Simultaneously, spirit overcomes its estrangement from its world through knowing it as its own
work, while preserving that world of estrangement in
the immediacy of its otherness. Marx is pretty
bitter about this neat trick:

So reason is at home in unreason as unreason.

Man who has understood that in law, politics,
etc., he leads ail alienated life, leads his
true human life in this alienated life as
such …. Therefore there can no longer be
any question about a compromise on Hegel’s
part with religion, the state, etc., since
this lie is the lie of his principle.

This false principle arises because, when Hegel
presents the whole development as the ‘labour’ of
spirit, he does not, of course, have in mind material
labour (as might be thought by taking too literally
Marx’s praise quoted at the beginning of this section); he knows, Marx points out, only ‘abstract
mental labour’ [33], that is – the philosophical
reflection of real labour and real alienation.

Despite the wealth of content in the Phenomenology
everything is treated under the form of consciousness
or self-consciousness. This makes a big difference.

It is entirely to be expected that a …

being … endowed with objective, i.e.

material, essential powers should of its
essence have real natural objects, and that
its self-alienation should lead to the positing of a real objective world, but under the
form of externality [~usserlichkeit], an overwhelming world not belonging to its essential

Marx goes on:

But it is equally clear that a self-consciousness, through its alienation, can posit only
thingness [Dingheit], i.e. an abstract thing,
a thing of abstraction, and not a real thing.

A natural being endowed with material powers works
upon real objects and in its alienation produces in
this process a real world of estrangement. But a
self-consciousness, through its alienation, establishes ‘thingness’, an abstraction, a mere postulate
of self-consciousness. It is clear that ‘thingness’

has no independent being and as a postulate of con-sciousness is at the mercy of a retraction by the
self-consciousness that postulated it. Hence a
change in attitude abolishes the consciousness of
estrangement because estrangement itself is understood only as an attitude taken up by self-consciousness. This ‘recollection’, as Hegel calls it, leaves
things as they are [35].

When … Hegel conceives wealth, the power
of the state, etc” as entities estranged
from the being of man, he conceives them
only in their thought form. The appropriation of man’s objectified and estranged
essential powers is therefore only an
appropriation which takes place in consciousness, in pure thought, i.e. in abstraction.


That overcoming estrangement is achieved, for Hegel,
by a change in attitude is, for Marx, the root of
Hegel’s ‘merely apparent criticism’ [37].

In the Phenomenology, therefore, despite
the thoroughly negative and critical appearance and despite the fact that its criticism
is genuine and often well ahead of its time,
the uncritical positivism and equally uncritical idealism of Hegel’s later works, the
philosophical dissolution and restoration of
the empirical world, is already to be found
in latent form …•
In Hegel’s later works, like The Philosophy of
Right, after he dismisses historical positivism with
the injunction that everything must account for itself
at the court of reason, his critical last judgement
restores everything to its original place, and reconciles him to reality. This is ‘the reconciliation
which philosophy affords … ‘ he advertizes [39].

We have seen that Marx is prepared to give credit
to Hegel for giving philosophical expression in his
formula ‘negation of the negation’ to the historical
movement of human labour in its self-alienation; but
it is equally important to see the difference that
Hegel’s idealist problematic imposes with respect to
the overcoming of estrangement. In Marx’s 1844
manuscripts communism is presented as the negation of
the negation but as such is burdened with its opposite, private property; socialism positively grounded
on itself succeeds the communist revolution historically such that private property ceases to have any
continuing effectivity [40]. Revolutionary practice
reconstitutes reality by an objective reappropriation
of the estranged object, thereby producing a new
objectivity free of estrangement from its producers.


In Hegel the world of estrangement is posited as overcome, not through historical practice but through a
philosophical reinterpretation of this world which
can only result as the sublation of its otherness
through the recognition of this otherness in spirit’s
own other, and its reconciliation with private property, the state, religion, etc. Hegel uses his dialectical concepts of sublation and negation of the
negation to have his cake and eat it.

The Question of Objectivity
What now becomes of objectivity? For Marx objectivity as such is unproblematical; it is only an objectivity established through reification, or pervaded by
alienation, that requires supersession. As far as
Hegel is concerned, Marx argues that Hegel interprets
the standpoint of Absolute Knowledge to be that the
object is comprehended only as an objectified selfconsciousness, that it is therefore a matter for
Hegel of sublating objectivity itself insofar as the
relationship to objectivity on the part of a selfconsciousness can only be to view it as an other than
itself; thus, if spirit requires the sublation of a
relationship of estrangement between self-consciousness and the objectivity posited as its other, in
effect it requires the sublation of objectivity as
such [41].

Marx then takes up the Feuerbachian theme that
objectivity is an essential framework for the existence and activity of a natural being and, however
much Hegel might go on about self-consciousness, man
is a natural being, that is to say, an objective

An objectiv€ being acts objectively and it
would not act objectively if objectivity
were not an inherent part of its essential
nature. It creates and establishes only
objects because it is established by objects,
because it is fundamentally nature …. To
say that man is a corporeal, living, real,
sensuous, objective being with natural powers
means that he has real, sensuous objects as
the object of his being … or that he can
only express his life in real sensuous
objects. To be objective, natural and
sensuou~ and to have object, nature and
sense outside oneself, or to be oneself
object, nature and sense for a third person
is one and the same thing.

Marx brings home his polemic against Hegel by arguing,
in the light of this, that without objective relationships’to objects outside itself a being has no objective existence; hence to construe the surmounting of
estrangement as the sublation of objectivity implies
the lack of objective being of consciousness itself,
and a ‘non-objective being is a non-being’ [43].

It is clear that Marx takes objectivity to have
reference to the realm of nature and he equates
objectification with material labour. It follows
for him that Hegel’s idealism must therefore reduce
objectivity to the abstraction ‘thingness’, the mere
negative of consciousness posited as such within
consciousness itself and therefore easily put in its
place by a second negation occurring purely within
consciousness. He argues that it follows that spirit
is an equally non-objective being, and to become
objective to itself it must become something other
than spirit, i.e. through a movement of externalization self-alienation ensues. sublated by an inwardizing movement of self-consciousness through which
spirit finds itself ‘at home in its other-being as
such’, while preserving the objective forms of
estrangement intact.

However, the matter is by no means so simple if
objectivity and objectification are not taken in a


materialist way. Just now, we quoted Marx on the
proof of the objective being of man lying in his
objective relationships. Hegel is capable of saying!

the same thing. He says: ‘Existence as determinant
being is in essence being for another’ [44]. Furthermore, without thinking it necessary to give particular notice, Hegel introduces at the beginning of the
section on self-consciousness, the assumption that
two consciousnesses exist, for it is part of his
argument that achievement of self-consciousness
necessarily requires recognition by another selfconsciousness.

Abstractly one might imagine that the universe
consisted of a realm of spirits standing in objective
relationships to one another such that, for example,
it makes sense for Bishop Berkeley to posit that it
is God who puts ideas into his mind (not his head of

As far as I can see, Hegel rejects this sort of
notion of a world of finite spirits only, for two
deep-seated methodological reasons (which are difficult to maintain at once). For one thing he rejects
subjective idealism. He recognizes that a philosophical enterprise which is worth anything must do
full justice to the world of objectivity as we know
it, i.e. as nature, social structure, historical
laws, etc.; at this level he is capable of speaking
quite materialistically. Secondly he believes that
philosophy must be an absolute science. All finite
spirits and spiritual forms of life must be brought
back to the infinite. Thus all determinate being
must be grasped ultimately as the work of selfpositing absolute spirit. Thus the human agents of
spiritual progress in history are subsumed into
Weltgeist as its representatives. It is a universal
reason and purpose that is at work.

As I shall argue in a moment, Hegel recognizes
that absolute spirit must become objective to itself
if it is to actualize its idea. It is because there
can be nothing outside such an absolute that there
is a problem about this. Spirit requires another in
which to find its being reflected, while at the same
time requiring that there be nothing that is not it.

Hence the ambivalence, in this absolute science,
towards objectivity and objective relationships.

(Incidentally, with respect to the dialectic of
negativity, one can see here how the difference in
content must make a difference to the general form of
working of the dialectic when we stand it on its feet
through grounding it materialistically. It is the
irreducible distinction between man and the objective
basis of his activity, however intermediated through
labour and industry, that allows us to grasp the
dialectic of human practice as historical and openended. In Hegel, the unity of opposites collapses to
an identity, pure self-distinction, as we have seen;
this allows the negation of the negation to effect a
closure and reduces historical time to an organon of
absolute teleology.)



Objectification and Alienation in Hegel
We are now in a better position to assess the merits
of Luk~cs’s claim that Hegel equates alienation/
estrangement and objectification, and that this is the’

burden of Marx’s criticism [45]. The best statement
of Marx’s position I have found in the text is the

Hegel sees … self-objectification [Selbstvergegens~ndlichens] in the form of selfalienation and self-estrangement [Selbsen~usserung und Selbstentfremdung] as the
absolute, and hence final, expression of
human life [menschliche Lebens~usserung]
which •.. has attained its own essential


(Marx recognizes, it should be noted, that selfestrangement, for Hegel, is not a fate to be avoided,
or simply negated, but that it is necessary if human
life is to attain its adequate expression.)
Accepting that Marx’s commentary on Hegel’s
Phenomenology revolves around these concepts and
their relationship, and we wish to assess its merit,
we find.ourselves with a problem: in not one line of
one page of all the 765 pages of the Phenomenology
d’oes Hegel use the term ‘objectification’ [47]. It
seems then that in providing an exegesis of the
dictum ‘Heg~l equates alienation and objectification’,
the textual controls are indeterminate, to say the
least. We are used to arguments over the meanings of
terms used by philosophers but in this case we propose to discuss the meaning of a term never actually
employed in the text! Nonetheless, I intend to
press ahead with this somewhat ‘notional’ enterprise
on the ground that we are already in a position to
understand why it is not there and now its absence
is significant in relation to Hegel’s strengths and

What we do find in a central place in the
Phenomenology, as we have seen, is the term
‘Entaussepung’. I would argue that when Marx
complains t”lat obj ectification is conceived by Hegel
only as alienation, he is implicitly pointing to an
absence of his concept of the necessity of ‘objectification’ – in the affirmative sense of the establishment by an objective being of its essential relationships in, and through labour upon, an objective
world – and its replacement in Hegel’s problematic
by a significantly different term, ‘Ent~usserung’

which, like ‘objectification’, has connotations of
‘positing as objective’ but carries also a sense of
loss, relinquishment, renunciation, of what is manifested, thus constituting the latter’s actualization
as an alienation. According to Marx, Hegel cannot
conceive of objectification except as resulting in
estrangement; hence the replacement of the category
‘objectification’ (‘Vergegens~ndlichung’) with that
of ‘alienation’ (‘Entausserung’). As Marx says:

‘Estrangement [Entfremdung] … constitutes the real
interest of this alienation [En~ussepung]’ [48].

At the same time, this identification of objectifica_ tion with estrangement allows Hegel to interpret
actual estrangement as arising exclusively from
objectification in general and not a particular
, historically conditioned mode of objectification.

Consequently, instead of real historical solutions
we can be provided with a displacement of the problem
into general philosophical reflection issuing in a
solution posed exclusively within philosophy.

This is perhaps a good place to recall that Hegel
sets out his phenomenological problematic in response
to the epistemological contra-position of thought to
its object, and it concludes by presenting the object
posited by consciousness as its own other but still
‘lost’ to it insofar as there remains the irreduci’bility of the moment of objectivity. Marx complains:

It is not the fact that the human essence
objectifies itself in an inhuman way, in
opposition to itself, but that it objectifies
itself in distinction from and in opposition
to abstract thought, which constitutes the
essence of estrangement as it exists and as
it is to be superseded.

For Marx the realization of human essence involves
‘objective appropriation of the ‘other’, namely the
object of labour, through working it up and ‘making it
part of a humanized world. This dialectic of objectification passes through a phase of alienation but
Marx’s analysis culminates in the call for the
practical overthrow of estrangement and the repappropriation of the estranged essence.

For Hegel the human essence is self-consciousness

and Marx argues that, since something comes to exist
for consciousness insofar as it knows that something,
its only objective relationship is knowing [50]; what
absolute knowing realizes is that its ‘other’ is
posited as such only through self-alienation, and it
is reappropriated through an inwardizing movement of
thought, which is forced to preserve estrangement as
a moment of consciousness (and of course the consciousness of estrangement is all this problematic
knows!) in so far as consciousness must have an
object. In the middle part of the Phenomenology
masses of concrete historical material, involving
actual estranged spheres of existence, are brought
within this framework, and the practical problems
are provided with a pseudo-solution when philOSOphy reconciles itself, both with objectivity in
general, and with historically created objective
estrangement in particular.

We are now in a position to refute certain simpleminded views on the whole matter. In a moment I will
turn to those views which reduce the whole question
to the Master-Slave dialectic in the Phenomenology.

First, I want to tie up the problematic of objectification in Hegel.

The Problematic of Objectification in Hegel
As should be abundantly obvious by now Marx does not
mean to say that Hegel is opposed to objectification
on the grounds that it leads to estrangement. Hegel
certainly thinks that it does lead to estrangement;
but this does not mean that he thinks spirit should
rest content in itself and avoid the misfortune of
estrangement from itself in its objectification,
because he sees it as necessary to spirit’s actualization of itself. One must understand the
Phenomenology not merely as spirit’s struggle to
negate an alien objectivity, but also as the, story
of its gaining an objective existence – a story
understood as such by spirit itseZf only in recollection when it achieves absolute knowledge – but a
story whose meaning is understood by Hegel and ourselves (who ‘look on’ [51] this development precisely
from that standpoint) from the outset.

The objective shapes given in consciousness as it
moves towards self-consciousness and absolute knowing
are to be understood as shapes of the existence of
spirit itself and hence its positive achievement.

This explains why Hegel says that alienation has a
positive meaning for self-consciousness insofar as
it posits itself as objective, and becomes beingfor-itself. This explains also that, whether one
looks at the Phenomenology or the Encyclopaedia,
one finds that Objective Spirit always occupies a
higher place than Subjective Spirit. In both these
systematic works the creation of a wealth of spiritual forms, e.g. the state, religion, etc., is seen as
a positive achievement of spirit as well as entang-


ling it in estrangement. The sublation of estrangement consists in stripping them of their ‘external’

character, not abolishing them, that is to say, in
recognizing them precisely as spirit’s own work.

Not only does Marx not claim that Hegel rejects
objectification, he actually praises him for
grasping history as objectification in the form of
self-estrangement. This is the same view of history
as Marx himself has. The difference, and the necessity for Marx to criticise Hegel, arises from their
diagnosis and prognosis. Marx, rooting his understanding of the problematic of alienation in wagelabour, envisages an historical stage beyond estrange
ment. Hegel sublates estrangement by declaring it
nothing other than spirit’s interior diremption; it
is necessary that this moment of estrangement be
preserved as such because spirit does not inhabit an
objective world, thus to become objective it must
posit itself as such on its own account – which can
be done only in and through its self-alienation. In
order to know itself as what it is, spirit must
express itself in a medium other than itself – hence
it must posit itself in the fo~ of othePness. This
negation of itself is subsequently negated in its
turn, when spirit recognizes itself in these objective shapes, but this cycle of negations is eternally
necessary. Spirit can come to itself only as the
negation of the negation. Thus Marx can say correctly that Hegel sees self-objectification in the form
of self-alienation as the final outcome. In this
way, so far from being nullified, estrangement is
absolutized, while at the same time no genuine
objectification is achieved. In a famous passage
in the ‘Preface’ Hegel says that everything turns
on grasping ‘Substance as Subject’ [52] and he speaks
of ‘the life ~f God and divine cognition’ as ‘a disporting of love with itself’ [53]. Spirit mediates
itself with itself. In the movement of the
Phenomenology we see spirit playing with itself,
so to speak, not human objective natural intercourse
with the rest of nature [54].

But one must stress once again that this idea is
inadequate if it suggests that Hegel thinks spirit
can retreat into the freedom of subjectivity ‘for
which otherness and estrangement, and the overcoming
of estrangement, are not serious matters’; ‘if it
lacks’, as he puts it, ‘the seriousness, the suffering, the patience, the labour of the negative’ [55].

Let us now turn to a group of misconceptions of
Hegel, and of Marx’s relationship to Hegel, associated with that particular section of the Phenomenology
known as the Master-Slave.

The Master-Slave Dialectic
We have pointed out that Hegel does not actually use
the term ‘objectification’; and we have seen that for
Marx it is identified fundamentally with material
labour. Some people, therefore, look in the
Phenomenology for a discussion of material labour
when they want to see what Hegel has on objectification, encouraged to do so insofar as Marx acknowledges that the great thing in the Phenomenology is
that Hegel grasps man as the result of his own

Often it is asserted in the secondary literature
[56] that Marx was influenced in this judgement
above all by the section of the Phenomenology on
‘Lordship and Bondage’ (‘Herrschaft und Knechtschaft’)
– where there is indeed a discussion of the importance of material labour. Furthermore, the fact that
this labour is in the service of another, and that
this relationship is seen by Hegel as at the origin
of social life, leads some commentators to make the
more extravagant claim that in his theory of alienation Marx draws on this same section. Herbert
Marcuse, for example, says:


In 1844, Marx sharvened the basic concepts
of his own theory through a critical analysis
of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind. He described the ‘alienation’ of labour in the
terms of Hegel’s discussion of master and

The only difficulty with these presuppositions of
the secondary literature is that Marx never refers
to this section of the PhenomenoZogy – never mind
giving it any importance! – when, in his 1844 manuscripts, he embarks on a ‘critique of Hegel’s
dialectics’. He discusses the Phenomenology as a
whole and draws attention more especially to its last
chapter; he singles out three other sections for
special praise; but not one of them is that on the
master-servant dialectic [58].

Furthermore, after the above-mentioned praise of
Hegel, Marx qualifies it by complaining that ‘the
only labour Hegel knows and recognizes is abstract
mentaZ labour’ [59]. This remark seems to show that
Marx has forgotten all about the servant’s labour which is material enough (although, as I hope to show,
Hegel’s interest in it is not!).

It is my view that the ~aster-servant section is
unimportant to Marx; but because such a fuss has
been made of it I will provide an exegesis of it in
the course of explaining why it is a misunderstanding
to think either that it influenced Marx, or that it
is the reason for his praise of Hegel, or that it is
relevant to the charge he lays against him of equating alienation and objectification.

This section occurs early in the Phenomenology
at the point where consciousness is to turn into
self-consciousness. Hegel believes that the self
can become conscious of itself only in and through
the mediation of another self-consciousness. For
reasons which need not detain us here the first
stable social relationship that emerges in Hegel’s
dialectical development of this topic “is ‘that of
Lordship and Bondage. The master is acknowledged as
such by his servant, and he achieves immediate
satisfaction of his desires through goods and services provided by the servant’s labour. The dialectic moves forward precisely through the servant,
however, because ‘through work … the bondsman
becomes conscious of what he truly is’. Work forms
and shapes the thing; and through this formative
activity the consciousness of the servant now, in
the work outside it, acquires ‘an element of permanence’; for it comes to see in the independent being
of the object ‘its own independence’ [60]. ‘The
shape does not become something other than ‘himself
through being made external to him’, says Hegel,
‘for it is precisely this shape that is his pure

He concludes: ‘through this rediscovery of himself by himself, the bondsman
realises that it is precisely in his work wherein he
seemed to live only the life of a stranger [fremder
Sinn] that he acquires a sense of himself feigner
Sinn] , [61]. Let us now examine some misconceptions
related to these passages.

(a) Does Marx, as Marcuse claims, follow in his
theory of alienation the terms of this master-servant
relationship? These terms are superficially comparable in that both Hegel and Marx see work not merely
in its utilitarian aspect but as a vehicle of selfrealization; thus they see the servant rather than
the master as the locus of a more developed human
existence. Both Hegel and Marx see that service to
the master constitutes immediately an alien relation
between the worker and his product, appropriated as
it is by the lord of labour. Fundamental differences
between Marx and Hegel become obvious when we notice
that, whereas Marx holds that only a change in the
mode of production recovers for the worker his sense
of self and its fulfilment, Hegel thinks, not only


that the educative effect of work, even within an
exploitative relation of production, is sUfficient
for the worker to manifest to himself his own ‘meaning’ in his product, but also that fear and service
are necessary to this end, that is, to the servant’s
becoming objective to himself [62]. Hege1’s argument
for this is rather strained, as we shall see, but I
stress that this is a long way from Marx’s critical
perspective, even though Marx believes that for
historical reasons objectification builds up initially
a realm of estrangement [63]. Hegel could hardly be
the source of Marx’s criticism of the existing labour
process, albeit that his dialectic too moves forward
through the side of the worker. It is rather the
case that,Marx’s empirical observations, his critique
of political economy, and his socialist perspective,
allow him to criticise Hege1’s version of history
[64] .

Even more telling against Marcuse’s interpretation
is Marx’s complaint that Hege1 sees only the positive
and not the negative side of labour in the existing

Hege1 adopts the standpoint of modern
political economy …. He sees only the
positive and not the negative side of labour.

Labour is man’s coming to be for himself
u.,ithin alienation or as alienated man.

That is to say, Hege1, in common with modern
political economy, grasps labour as the essence of
human development but neither of them sees how the
specific form of labour in capitalist society is the
negation of humanity, because, if one operates within
the framework of an inability to transcend these
conditions through a genuine historical negation of
the negation, they become the horizon which blocks
off the possibility of a critical standpoint. In
fact, these conditions which twist and distort the
objectification of man in and through labour, are
endorsed as the necessary groundwork within which
the coming to be of man for himself must occur. The
world of estrangement is presented as labour’s
absolute self-expression.

(b) It is obvious from what is said in the
‘Lordship and Bondage’ section that immediately
material labour is not, as such, a problem for Hege1,
and this therefore refutes the vulgar assumption that
it is because it is so that objectification i.e.

material labour, involves (just because it is material) estrangement for him. For example Ernest Mandel
says baldly that Hege1 defines labour as alienating
‘because labour is, by its nature, the externalizing
(VerCtusserung) of a human capacity, which means that
man loses something that previously belonged to
him …. ‘ [66].

In the ‘Lordship and Bondage’ section we see that
Hege1 views labour as a means whereby the servant
recognizes himself in his work. It has for him this
affirmative significance which makes it one step
(although an early and subordinate one) in Geist’s
overcoming its estrangement from the world of objectivity. We have seen that even alienation has an
affirmative character for Hege1 (just because it is
the only way in which he can conceive Geist’s
objectification as occurring), as Marx points out.

It is true that in this section Hege1 presents
objectification through labour in the context of
class oppression, and he nowhere shows any understanding of an alternative mode of production, but
this does not stop him (though perhaps it should
have) from seeing labouring, even in the service of
another, as affirming for the self of the labourer
and as a gain rather than a loss of human capacity.

(c) One can also see why it is tempting to look
to this section for the reason Marx praises Hege1
for having grasped man as the result of his own
labour. Nevertheless, I deny that Marx meant liter-

ally that Hege1 thought man the outcome of material
labour, such as that of the servant, as Mande1, for
instance, imagines. Mandel says baldly: ‘Marx found
it all the easier to reduce society and social man
to labour because Hegel had already described labour
as the essential core of human praxis’ [67].

Let us look again at the ‘Lordship and Bondage’

dialectic. Hege1 defines work as ‘desire held in
check’ [68], that is to say, it involves putting a
distance between the immediate impulses of self-will
and formative activity grounded in objective
principles. If you like, it is really the master
who is a slave because his object is the ‘unal10yed
feeling of self-satisfaction’, that is to say, he
is a slave to his appetites, but his satisfactions
are ‘only fleeting’, lacking the permanence of objectivity [69]. The servant, on the other hand, in the
work he creates, achieves mastery of his craft; it is
he who rises to the level of universal human reason
[70] .

However, Hegel introduces the notion that ‘fear
and service’ are necessary to induce the check to
desire and to ensure that consciousness rises above
self-centred goals to the freedom that comes from a
consciousness of the ‘universal power’ of human
creative activity [71]. Quite arbitrarily, apparently, Hege1 assumes everyone must undergo breaking of
self-will through subjection to an alien power before
being capable of rational freedom [72]. So in Hege1,
material labour appears only in the context of alienation and not as self-determined human fulfilment.

As he admits:

Servile obedience forms only the beginning
of freedom, because that to which the
natural individuality of self-consciousness
subjects itself is not the truly universal
rational will which is in and for itself,
but the single, contingent will of another

The reason why ‘service’ can be posited as necessary rather than as an obstacle becomes clear when we
realize that Hege1 is not primarily interested in the
material realization of human powers effected in, for
example, material labour. The advance achieved
through the labour of servitude is supposed to be an
advance in self-consciousness. This does not have
much in common with Marx’s interest in the realization of a material being in forming the material
world, but it is of a piece with the project of
Phenomenology as a whole. It is a spiritual odyssey,
but it is quite wrong to place special stress on the
moment of material labour as is the case with overly
‘Marxist’ readings (Marcuse, Koj~ve). So far from
being the crucial breakthrough in the realization of
self-consciousness this moment of material labour is
presented at an early stage in the development; it is
a less ‘concrete’ moment for Hegel than later cultural achievements such as the state, art, religion and
philosophy. This point follows naturally from the
fact that Hege1’s subject of activity is not a
material objective being but Geist confronting
various shapes that its consciousness takes on.

In this general framework the labour of servitude
is a recuperating moment but because of Hegel’s idealism labour cannot be given its Marxian value (and
hence the alienation of the product is not a problem,
only the subordination of the will to contingency is
a problem). Its value lies only in making selfconsciousness objective to itself and for this the
occurrence of labour under conditions of alienation
is acceptable and even necessary. Thus in my view
this is not a place where Hegel gives Marx a hint.

Rather it is thoroughly obscurantist and just as
much in need of a materialist transformation as the
whole of the Phenomenology.

It is indeed my view that it was the whole of the


Phenomenology that influenced Marx, both positively
and negatively. When Marx says Hegel grasps labour
as the essence, he is not talking about what Hegel
actually says about material labour (hence the lack
of reference to ‘Lordship and Bondage’), but about
the esoteric significance of the dialectic of
negativity in spirit’s entire self-positing movement
as it is ‘recollected’ in the last chapter. In spite
of the fact that Hegel shows a good deal more insight
into the nature of material labour than any of his
contemporaries it is not of particular significance
to him, as it is to be for Marx; rather spirit’s
activity is a generalized, and idealized,’ activity,
most properly characterized as the abstract movement
of logical forms, notwithstanding Hegel’s insistence
that the Absolute comprehends, besides Logic, Nature
and History as well.

Let us now sum up our results. Hegel’s greatness as
a philosopher is that he is sensitive to the complexities of the system of alienation in which we live,
and, albeit in a mystified way, he understood it must
be the result of the manner in which human selfobjectification has been actualized. His misfortune
is that he is unable to see the possibility of a
historical reappropriation by man of his alienated
powers. Instead the historically conditioned problem
is interpreted by him as a general ontological problem of existence. Hence to posit the possibility of
a solution, the fatal option for idealism was taken
up, whereby the world of real objective estrangement
was grasped only from the point of view of the consciousness of it as other than consciousness, i.e.

objectivity, and hence a solution could be posited at
that level insofar as reason could penetrate ~bject­
ivity. In this way the positive achievement of
history hidden within estrangement is equated with

Acknowledgements to Phil Slater for showing me stimulating unpublished papers
by him. Thanks, for useful comments on earlier drafts, to G. Savran, M. Eldred,
R. Edgley; thanks also, for discussions to terminology, to T.B. Bottomore,
I. ME!sutros, and J. McCarney.

Refepences to Marx’ s 1844 manuscripts are given in every case to the English
translation in Eapl.y Wpitings (Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1975) by G. Benton.

For comparison, and especially where we vary from Eapl.y Wpitings (hereafter
‘EW’), references may al so be given to: Marx-Engel s Wepke Epganzungsband Sahpiftenbis 1844 Erstep Teil. (Dietz- Verlag, Berlin, 1968); and to Marx-Engels
CoUeated Wopks Vol.ume 3 (‘CW3’) (Lawrence & Wishart, London, 1975).





It is stated baldly by Benton in the Glossary to his translation of Marx’ s
EaPl.y Writings, p.429. For Luk!ics see The Young Begel. (1938) English
translation by R. Livingstone (London, 1975), p.551.

H. Marcuse may have been the first to say this. See, for example, his
Reason and Revol.ution (1941, 1954 edition, London), p.1l5, from which we
quote later.

EW, p.324.

VH, p.325.

EW, p.329; Wepke, p.517. It is a unity in struggle of course: see Marx’s
discussion in the German Ideol.ogy Part 1.

I take this happy expression from 1. M~sz!iros, Mapx’s TheoPy of AUenation
(London, 1970).


Wepke, p.514; EW, p.326; CW3, p.276.

Marx-Engels, CoUeated Wopks Voz.. 5 (London, 1976), pp.31-32.

EW, p.348.

EW, p.386.

It is hard for us now to realize how original Lukacs was in raising the
question – albeit with the· benefit of Marx’s 1844 Manuscript in front of
him – as long ago as 1938. WaIter Kaufmann points out that ‘Hermann
Glockner did not list .;. Entfpemdung and Entllusse-pung in his four-volume
Begel.-Lexikon (1935-39), and Johannes Hoffmeister did not include them
ei ther in the index of his scholarly edition of the Phlinomenol.ogie (1952)
or in his … Wtjpterbuah dep phil.osophisahen Begpiffe (2nd edition, 1955).’

(‘Introduction’ p.xv, to Al.ienation by R. Schacht, London, 1971).

G. Luk!ics, The Young Begel., trans. R. Livingstone, London, 1975, p.538.

As a matter of fact ‘Entausse1’Ung’ is a rather unusual German word. An
illustration of this is that CasseU~s DiationaPy (First Edition, London,
1957, Twelfth Edition 1968) does not give it in the English section – not
even as an equivalent for those English words given under the entry for
‘Entausser~’ in the German section; for both ‘alienation’ and ‘externalization’ Cas’sell’ s prefers a different – more usual – form, namely
‘VeI’itUssepung’. Possible translations of ‘Entl:!ussepung’ include ‘alienation’ (of property); ‘renunciation’; ‘parting with’; ‘relinquishment’;
‘externalization’; ‘divestiture’; ‘surrender’. The alternative to
‘alienation’ which is of particular interest to us, and liable to lead to
some conflusion, is ‘externalization’, which is the closest translation
from a purely etymological point of view, and is the usual choice of Miller

that estrangement itself. Objectification and
alienation are one.

Hegel appears as a radical critic of all objectivity, charging it with being estrangement, but he
ends by accepting uncritically both the genuine and
reified objectivities insofar as their character as
objective is granted the necessity of a moment in
spirit’s self-positing movement through its other,
its estranged self. Insofar as Hegel accepts the
necessity for theprocess of objectification he
becomes uncritical of the sphere of estrangement
brought to life within that development. In a way,
it is precisely Hegel’s inability to see historically
alienated material labour as the root of all alienation that leads him to understand objectification as
such as the problem requiring sublation, and ultimately to pass over the real estrangement of material

The labour of servitude is a moment in overcoming
the estrangement inherent in consciousness’s opposition to objectivity, but because it is precisely
objectivity that is perceived as a problem the
importance of this moment of material labour is not
that of Marxian objectification through productive
work but as stimulating an advance in self-consciousness leading ultimately to the sublation of objectivity itself in Absolute Knowledge.

Hegel’s tragedy is that, though objectification
and alienation are conceptually distinct, and are so
distinguished brilliantly by Marx, Hegel cannot grasp
this possibility, for it depends upon an historical
potential beyond the limits of his-bourgeois standpoint. Thus he collapses them together such that the
necessity of spirit’s odyssey of self-objectification
becomes at the same time its self-estrangement, and
scientific criticism is powerless to do more than
point to the content hidden behind the forms of
estrangement and pass off this insight as their
su~lation; but, as Marx mercilessly demonstrates,
this still leaves real objective estrangement intact.

in his recent translation of Begel.’s Phenomenol.ogy of Spirit (to which
references will be given in this paper). One should note here that the
root ‘itusserung’ means manifestation (from ‘ltusser’ – outer) and that the
prefix ‘ent’ indicates establishment of or entry into a new state or relinquishment of an old state; thus, in combination, we see that the sense is
that something is manifested in such a way as to change its state. Whereas
‘Verltusse1’Ung’ – a more common equivalent of ‘alienation’ – is a fairly
neutral word, it is clear that Marx means ‘Entltusse-pung’ to have a negative
connotation. The sense of relinquishment comes out strongly when Marx
makes a contrast between the root and its modification in connection with
life, when he says of private property that in it man’s ‘expression of life
[Lebensltussepung] is his alienation/loss of life [Lebensentltusserung].’

(EW, p.35l; CW3, p.299). In other places Marx contrasts similarly ‘Vel”
forms with ‘Ent’ forms: ‘In the sphere of political economy this realization
[VerwirkUahung] of labour appears as a loss of reality [EnthlirkUchung] for
the worker’ (Werke, p.5l2; EW, p.324). ‘Hegel conceives objectification
[Vergegenstl:!ndUahung] as loss of object [Entgegenstl:!ndUchung] ‘ (W, p.386)
Before the investigation in the 1844 Manuscripts the aspect of alienation
that had most impressed Marx was the universalization of market relations
with the consequent reification of the human world. He says: ‘Selling is
the practice of alienation [Die VeRtussepung ist d1-e Praxis del’ Entl:!usserung]’. This is because man can ‘produce objects only by making his products
and his activity subordinate to an alien substance and giving them the
significance of an alien substance – money’. (‘On the Jewish Question II’

in EW, p.241). 1. M~sz!iros, whose Marx’s TheoPy of AUenation is the best
commentary, is unfortunately rather confusing in his treatment of the terminology, in spite of the fact that he too wishes to stress that there is an
important distinction in Marx’ s work between obj ectification and alienation.

The difficulty arises principally because he takes it for granted that
‘Entl:!usse1’Ung’ means alienation solely; consequently he is not afraid to use
‘externalization’ as a synonym for ‘objectification’ (pp .90, 91, 169). It
follows that a reader studying Marx or Hegel in an English translation which
renders ‘Entl:!usse1’Ung’ as ‘externalization’ (e.g. Miller, McLellan,
Livingstone) will be confused when he comes to M~sz4ros. ME!sz4ros may
justly blame the same translators for this, but he himself does the same
thing on one point in one of his translations from Marx’ s G1’Undrisse (see
p.329 – where, moreover, ‘Entl:!ussertsein’ is contraposed by Marx to
‘Vergegenstl:!ndUahtsein’) . His note on the terminology is unclear at this

In German the terms ‘Entltusse1’Ung’, and ‘Entfremdung’, and ‘VeRtussepung’

are used to render ‘al ienation’ or ‘estrangement’…. Both’ Entl:!usse1’Ung’

and ‘Entfremdung’ have a threefold conceptual function: (1) referring
to a general. principl.e; (2) expressing a given state of affairs; and
(3) designating a proaess which leads to that state. When the accent
is on ‘externalization’ or ‘objectification’ , Marx uses the term
‘Entltusse-pung’ (or terms like ‘Vergegenstl:!ndUchung’), whereas ‘Entfremdung’ is used when the author’S intention is to emphasize the fact that
man is being opposed by a hostil.e power of his own making, so that he
defeats his own purpose.

Here MI!sz4ros not only equates ‘externalization’ and ‘objectification’ but
‘Entl:!usserung’ and ‘Vergegenstl:!ndUchung’ (contrary to his Luk4csian inter-

pretation of Marx) as if ‘Entltusser-ung’ were not used as a critical concept
like ‘Entj’remdung’, whereas, generally, as noted above, Hl!szllros renders
‘Entltusserung’ as ‘alienation’.

I have taken up elsewhere the problem of
these terms in Marx and suggested that the ambiguity of ‘Entltusser-ung’

should lead us to distinguish the moments: externalization, alienation, and
estrangement. (See RadicaZ Philosophy 26, 1980: ‘Personality and the
dialectic of Labour and Property – Locke, Hegel, Marx’). A Table of
translations is provided below. Here we will try to make translations
uniform by rendering ‘Entfremdung’ as ‘estrangement’ and ‘Entltusser-ung’ as
‘alienation’ – but with respect to the latter the above discussion should
be borne in mind and we will have to make explicit reference to ‘externalization’ in discussing Hegel’s PhenomenoZogy.

Milligan (Economic and PhilosophicaZ Manuscripts of 1844, Moscow, n.d. and
also – revised Struik – in Marx-EngeZs CoUected Works VoZ • .3, London,
Entj’remdung = Estrangement
Entltusserung = Alienation (or externalization)
Bottomore (Karl Marx Early Writings, London, 1963)
Entfremdung and Entltusserung = Alienation (or estrangement) ‘since Marx
(unl ike, Hegel) does not make a systematic distinction between them’

Easton & Guddat (Writings of the Young Marx, New York, 1967)
Entfremdung = Alienation
Entliusserung = Externalization
McLellan (Karl Marx Early Texts, Oxford, 1971)
Entfremdung = Alienation
Ent1iusserung – Externalization
Benton (Karl Marx Early Writings, Harmondsworth, Middx., 1974)
Entfremdung = Estrangement
Entl:t.usserung = Alienation (or externalization)
Livingstone (The Young Hegel by G. Luk:ics, London, 1975)
Entfremdung = Alienation
Entiiusserung = ‘One of the words for “alienation”.

have preferred to
translate it as “externalization”, since in Hegel’ s usage it has a
broader application.’ (Without particular notice Livingstone changes
the Milligan translation of Harx he uses, in the above sense.)
~Iiller (Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford, 1977)
Entfremdung = Al ienation
Entl:t.usserung = Externalization (Miller warns that he ‘departs from a
~ rigid consistency in rendering … ‘

This is so: he has ‘externalization’

for ‘Entltusserung’ in para. 804, but in para. 80S he has ‘alienation’,
while in para.806 he switches back.) Baillie’s translation of this same
text is very variable and often resorts to a bracketed alternative, e.g.

‘relinquishes (externalizes)’.

IS An excellent exposition of this way of situating the PhenomenoZogy is illChapter 1 of Hegel’s Phenomenology – A Philosophical Introduction (London,
1976) by Richard Norman.

16 Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (Oxford, 1977), trans. A.V. Miller (hereafter ‘Phenomenology’), Preface, para. 36.

17 On this term see note 24.

18 Ph/:t.nomeno logie des Giestes G. W. F. Hege 1, Gesarrme l te r.erke, Band 9, [Meiner,
Hamburg, 1980](hereafter ‘GW9’), p.422; Phenomenology, para.788; J.B.

Bail lie , s translation (The Phenomenology of Mind, 2nd edition, London, 1949).

pp.789-90. For Marx’s discussion of this, see EW, 387-93.

19 GW9, p.433; Phenomenology, para.808. See note (14) on terminology.

20 The Young Hegel, pp.508, 515, 546.

21 ibid, pp.515 and 508 (modified).

22 EW, p.395.

23 GW9, p.43l; Phenomenology, para.804; Baillie trans. p.804.

24 Hegel’s Science Of Logic, trans. A.V. Hiller (London, 1969), p.l07. In the
Logic he also connects the concept with that of ‘Moment’ such that the
sublated exists ideally as a moment. (This last term – itself another
technical term – Hegel generalizes from mechanics; weight and the distance
from the point of application are called, with reference to the lever, its
moments. According to Wm. T. Harris ‘reduce to moments’ is the ‘exact
signification’ of ‘aufheben’ (al though he uses ‘cancel’ himself).

(Loewenberg’s Hegel Selections, New York, 1920, p.102n). In some ways
thi.s would be a good translation were it not for the implication of
elevation in the term – which leads to the dictionary definition: ‘resolve
into a higher unity’. Current translations – where it does not merely mean
‘abolish’ – are ‘supersede’, ‘transcend’, ‘suspend’; these are not quite
right it seems to me, and do not alert the reader to the special significance of the term in dialectics. No ordinary word comprehends the
complexi ties of this concept so a technical one is appropriate. In my
view, therefore, the best translation of ‘aufheben’ is ‘sublate’, which was
the choice of the Logic’s early translator J.H. Stirling (The Secret of
Hegel) .

25 EW, p.393; Werke , p.581.

26 EW, pp.385-86; CW.3, pp.332-33; Werke, p.574.

27 EW, p.385.

28 EW, p.382.

29 EW, p.396.

30 EW, p.382.

31 EW, p. 395.

32 EW, p.393; Werke, p.581; CW.3, p.339.

33 Ery, p.386.

34 EW, p.389; Werke, p.577; CW.3, p.335.

35 This reduction of al ienation to a state of consciousness is still common:

‘ … alienation is the process by which man forgets that the world he lives
in has been produced by himself.’ P. Berger and S. Pullberg, ‘Reification
and the Sociological Critique of Consciousness’, New Left Review .35, 1966,

36 EW, p. 384.

37 EW, p.393.

38 EW, pp. 384-85.

39 In the ‘Preface’ to The Philosophy of Right (p .12 of Knox’ s translation,
Oxford, 1952). See Marx’ s ‘Critique of Hegel’ s Doctrine of the State’

(in EW and CW.3).

40 EW, p.358, p.395. One sees the reason for Marx’s enthusiasm for Feuerbach
who ‘opposed to the negation of the negation, which claims to be the
absolute positive, the self-supporting positive, positively grounded in
itself’ (EW, p.38l). However, Lukllcs is right (The Young HegeZ, 548 and 559)
to set Hegel far above Feuerbach, because in the materialist alignment we
miss Hegel’ s great insight into the dialectical movement of history.

Feuerbach’s one-sided positivism knows nothing of the reality Hegel is trying
to theorise.

41 EW, p. 386-87.

42 EW, pp.389-90.

43 EW, p.390.

44 Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, para. 71.

45 With respect to the terminological problem, it is worth pointing out that,
al though Lukllc’ s chapter heading refers to ‘Entltusser-ung’ and most of his
discussion is in terms of it, he makes this criticism of Hegel with reference to ‘Entfremdung’ and all three quotations from Marx that he deploys at













this point do indeed contain discussions in terms of ‘Entj’rumdung’. None
of these quotations actually says in so many words that Hegel equates
objectification and estrangement. (The Young Hegel, p.551. I have not
checked the German so I am relying here on consistency in the translation.)
EW, p.396; Werke, p.584; CW.3, p.342.

It is true that Baillie’s translation uses the term, once in the ‘Preface’

(but Baillie is being excessively free in his translation at that point and
the German term ‘Vergegenstltndlichung’ does not occur in Hegel’s text there)
and also at the beginning of the last chapter (but this is a mistake for
‘objectivity’ – ‘Gegenstltndlichkeit’): HegeZ: The PhenomenoZogy of the Mind,
p.86, p.790. P. Slater says (unpublished paper) the term is absent from
Joseph Gauvin’s exhaustive Wortindex zu HegeZs Ph/:t.nomenologie des Geistes,
Bonn, 1977.

EW, p.384, R. Schacht points out against T.B. Bottomore that this is not a
mere tautology (Alienation, London, 1971, p.72, n7). Bottomore says ‘Marx
(unlike Hegel) does not make a systematic distinction between these terms’

(Karl Marx: Early Writings, London, 1963, p.xix). It is certainly true that,
whereas Marx frequently uses both terms in the same sentence, in Hegel’s
Phenomenology there is a greater distinction in that EntltussePUng has pride
of place in the summarizing chapter, while there is a partiauZar chapter on
‘Der sich entfremdte Geist’. Incidentally, with respect to ‘EntltuesePUng’

and ‘Entfremdung’ it would be hard to give the latter an affirmative connotation. The former term has a more active connotation than the latter and we
can understand it as establishing the realm in which spirit feelS (passively)
estranged. ‘Entltusserung’ brings out the dynamic of the process in which
Hegel is interested, rather than the phenomenological result. Since estrange
ment is a bi-polar notion, for self-estrangement to occur there must be a
prior parting within the self, i. e. an Entl:t.usserung.

EW, p.384.

EW, p.392.

Phenomenology, Introduction, para.85. The text itself can actually be
divided according to the point of view in question – see the Appendix to
Introduction to the Reading of HegeZ by A. Koj~ve (English translation,
New York, 1969).

PhenomenoZogy, para. 17 .

Phenomenology, para. 19.

Not surprisingly, Marx complains of German Ideology: ‘Philosophy and the
study of the actual world have the same relation to one another as onanism
and sexual love.’ (Marx-Engels CoUected Works Vol.5, p.236). As far as
Hegel’s account of Nature is concerned, Marx is trenchant on the transition
from the Logic to the Philosophy of Nature (as obscure as the introduction
of Nature at the end of the Phenomenology) :

The absolute idea … ‘resolves to let the moment of its •.• otherbring, the immediate idea, as its reflection, issue j’reeZy from
itself as nature’, this whole idea, which conducts itself in such
a strange and baroque fashion, and which has caused the Hegelians
such terrible headaches, is purely and simply … abstraction
which, taught by experience and enlightened as to its own truth,
resolves … to relinquish itself and … in place of its selfpervasion [Beisichsein), to 1 et nature, which it conceal ed
within itself as a mere abstraction, as a thing of thought,
issue freely from itself, 1. e …. to engage in intuiting ….

The mystical feeling which drives the philosopher from abstract
thinking to intuition is boredom, the longing for a content.

(EW, pp.398-98)
Note the use of ‘Beisichsein’ here which recalls Hegel’ s use of the term
earlier quoted: ‘in seinem Anderseyn als solchem bey sich ist’.

Phenomenology, para.19.

J. Israel (The Language of Dialectics and the Dialectics of Language,
Brighton, 1979) sees the outcome of the master-slave ‘i,nversion’ in this
way (p.122):

The slave through his active participation in the process of
production … has been able to transform himself into a human
being. One understands why Harx wrote: ‘The great thing in
Hegel ‘s Phenomenology and its final result – the dialectics of
negativity as the moving and producing principle – is once and for
all that Hegel grasps the self-creation of man as a process … that
he grasps the essence of work and comprehends … man … as the
product of his own work. ‘

Richard Norman (Hegel’s Phenomenology) follows his discussion of the ‘Master
and Slave’ ‘turning point’ in the Phenomenology with the comment (p.53):

Self-consciousness … requires that he actively produces
himsel f. . . . This is a theme which runs right through the
PhenomenoZogy. It greatly influenced Marx, who says, with
considerable justification: ‘The outstanding achievement of
Hegel’s Phenomenology … [etc etc).’

However, notice that Norman refers us al so to the whole of the work. This
is ambiguous. It is true that the theme of self-realization runs through
~he rest of the Phenomenology but it is not true that work, material labour:,
1S central to it in the bulk of Hegel’ s Bildungsroman, notwithstanding his
occasional insights into practice of this kind. (Norman also cites a
passage from the Aesthetics which is reminiscent of Marx’ s earlier quoted
remarks on the ontological significance of labour. But with Marx this is
central whereas with Hegel such moments are subordinate ones as we shall
see below.)
Reason and Revolution, p.1l5. To be fair one should acknowledge that, like
Lukllcs, Marcuse was a pathbreaker in this field.

EW, p.385. In a widely used edition of the 1844 manuscripts, the editor
D. Struik says ‘the relationship between Lord and servant, to which Marx
refers in his manuscripts … ‘ (Economic and PhilosophicaZ Manuscripts of
1844, New York, 1964, p. 36) . But he does not tell us where!

EW, p.386.

Phenomeno logy, para. 195.

Phenomenology, para.196 (modified).


It is far too gl ib to read this passage in a ‘Marxist’ way. After such a
reading Norman owns up that it cannot be ‘what Hegel really meant’ .

(HegeZ’s Phenomenology, p. SS) .

LuUcs stresses this (The Young Hegel, p. 548) .

EW, p.386. This refers to the whole PhenomenoZogy in fact.

Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx (London, 1971), p.155.

Incidentally, ‘Entl:t.usserung’ is Hegel’s term, as we have seen; it is not
clear why Mandel cites ‘Ver1iusser-ung’. P. Slater (‘Objectification,
alienation and labour: notes on Hegel, Marx and Marcuse’, unpublished mimeo,
1980) makes this same obj ection to the identification of Hegel’ s problem
about objectification with material labour processes, and he cites as an
illustration of the mistake The Marxist Theory of Alienation by E. Mandel
and G. Novack, 2nd edition, New York, 1973, p.16 (lst edition, 1970, pp.


Formation, p.29; the references he gives later (around p.155) make it clear
that he is thinking of passages where Hegel touches on material labour.

Phenomeno Zogy, para .195.

Phenomeno logy, para .195.

One must assume this background to understand the reference in the
Philosophy of Right to ‘the moment of liberation intrinsic to work’ (para.

194, Remark). For Hegel’ s distinction between slavery and wage-labour, and



his endorsement of the latter as opposed to the former see PhiLosophy of
Right, para.67, and also my discussion in the earlier noted article in
Radical, PhiLosophy 26.

Phenomeno Logy, para. 196 .

This is clearer in the discussion in the EnayaZopaedia: BegeL’s PhiLosophy

What’ 5


of Mind, trans. lVallace and Findlay (Oxford, 1971), paras.433-3S.

EncycLopaedia, para.43S Zusatz. Norman’s discussion is good on the
necessity to avoid a ‘happy~endinR’ interpretation of the slave’s mode of
self-realization and to move the dialectic forward (BegeZ’s PhenomenoLogy,
pp.SS-60) .



about Adam Smith?

Noel Parker

One of Milton Friedman’s colleagues in Chicago
(George Stigler) said at a conference in Glasgow in
1976 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of The Wealth of Nations: ‘I bring you greetings from Adam Smith, who is alive and well and
living in Chicago’ [1]. Thus the Right, ‘New’ and
invigorated, claims proprietorial rights over the
heritage of Adam Smith. Rumour has it for example
that Sir Keith Joseph, on going to the Ministry for
Industry, gave civil servants a reading list of
monetarist texts plus The Wealth of Nations. Again,
Milton Friedman’s television series ‘Free to Choose’,
which was broadcast in 1980 in the US and in Britain,
and likewise the book that went with the series,
began by proclaiming that America was the incarnation
of two sets of ideas: those of Jefferson and those of
Smith, and later credited the great ages of Britain
and the US to the realisation of the true principles
of Smith (35) [2]. Yet this heritage is not everything the Right would have us believe.

By simplifying him, the New Right claims to
derive its broad political attitudes from Smith. If
their descent from Smith is granted, the Right has
two assets that make a powerful ideological weapon:

simplicity combined with authority. But recent academic work on Smith reveals, in my view, how, as
against the pseudo-Smithian simplicities of the Right,
Smith belongs to a progressive tradition in which the
thinking of the Left has a natural home. This essay
is designed to undermine the force that the New Right
derives from a parody of Smith’s thought and the
development of European thought in general, and some
conceptual sleight of hand they perform in the

There are two themes that the Right sees in Smith’s
work. First, they see in it a classic account of the
effectiveness of the market, as a means by which selfinterested actions on the part of individuals allocate resources for maximum productivity and optimum


distribution of wealth. Secondly, they find in it a
scepticism about the outcome of social action in
achieving its original goals. These two themes
complement each other beautifully; if action is always ineffective we do not need to worry because the
market will do a perfectly good job anyway. The Left
is wrong-footed by the combination of these themes.

It appears to oppose – hopelessly, romantically or
viciously – a tide of self-interest which, since the
advent of the market, has in any case become benign.

You will notice that these two themes should have
altogether different logical statuses – one is an
analysis of a particular social reality, whereas the
other is a cautionary principle to guide action or
the investigation of social reality in general. The
second is, then, much more likely to be valid at any
time. As we shall see, the trick of the Right is to
treat both as timelessly valid, in part by uniting
them and transposing to the first the better claim of
the second to be atemporal.

Smith does put forward these two positions, but
not as one, and not on their own. Smith’s approach
is essentially historical, and his findings cannot be
separated from the historical dimension of his description of them. If these themes of the Right are
put back into that dimension, the story of the benign
working of Smith’s model would have to be re-examined
for any given historical period, and political movements would be free to adapt to new historical
circumstances with some hope (not, of course, certainty) of success. Smith, and the Left, then show up as
the realists, and the New Right position as pseudoSmithian, a vicious circle of idealism and scepticism.

I shall first draw together the general lessons of
Smith’s approach in his work, which do not, in my
view, favour the Right at all. Then I will explore
the New Right position and its use of Smith more
thoroughly. Finally, I shall comment on some philosophical distinctions which are confused to shore up

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