In scholarship on Karl Marx it is a commonplace to draw a distinction between the “early Marx” or “young Marx” on one hand, and the “late Marx” (or “mature Marx”) on the other. There is considerable debate about whether Marx changed his opinions from the early phase or the late phase; many argue that they were constant. But there is little doubt that he changed his emphasis. The young Marx – the Marx of the Paris Manuscripts and Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right – writes a great deal about Hegelian philosophy and the criticism of “religion”. For whatever reason, the late Marx – the Marx of Capital – largely leaves that topic behind, at least in what he says explicitly. He turns his attention instead to economics and politics, to the details of capitalism’s functioning.
Readers of this blog will not be surprised to find that I much prefer the writings of the young Marx. (It is humbling to realize that I am now older than he was.) And indeed I recently had a chance to go further: to the works of the very young Marx. Continue reading