Science, Society, and Life
Extract from "Private Property and Communism"
from the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts of Karl Marx (1844)

Just as through the movement of private property and its wealth and poverty—or material and spiritual wealth and poverty—the developing society finds the formation of all material things; in the same way the developed society produces man in this total wealth of his nature, the rich and profoundly sensitive man as its permanent actuality.

We can see how subjectivism and objectivism, spiritualism and materialism, activity and passivity, first lose their character as opposites under social conditions, and therefore their existence as such opposites. We can see how the solution of theoretical oppositions is only possible in a practical way, only through the practical energy of man. Their resolution is therefore by no means a project for knowledge but a project of actual living. Philosophy cannot solve them precisely because philosophy grasps them only as theoretical problems.

We can see how the history of industry and the objectively developed existence of industry are the opened book of human capacities, which is human psychology sensuously considered. Up to now industry has not been regarded in connection with the essence of man but has always been regarded only in terms of external relations of utility. That is because, moving within the framework of alienation, we have only known how to conceive as the actuality of human essential capacities and as acts of the human species the universal existence of man, religion, or history in its abstractly universal essence, politics, art, literature, etc. We have been confronted with the objectified essential capacities of man under the form of sensuous, alien, useful objects in ordinary material industry (which we can regard as a part of the former universal movement, just as we can regard this movement itself as a special part of industry, since all human activity up to now has been labor and thus industry has been alienated activity). A psychology to which this book, precisely the sensuously most concrete, most accessible part of history, is closed, cannot become a really profound and genuine science. In general, what should we think of a science which presumptuously abstracts from this enormous section of human labor and does not feel its own inadequacy? What, should we think of a science as long as such an extensive realm of human activity says no more to it than what can be said in one word: "Need, common need."

The natural sciences have developed an enormous activity and have appropriated for themselves a constantly expanding subject matter. Philosophy has remained alien to them to the same extent that they remain alien to philosophy. Their momentary reconciliation was only a fantastic illusion. The will was there but not the capacity. Historical writing itself pays the natural sciences only cursory consideration, as moments of enlightenment, of utility, of individually great discoveries. But the more practical has been the invasion of human living by natural science, through industry transforming it and preparing human emancipation, the more directly it had to complete the dehumanization. Industry is the actual historical relationship of nature to man and therefore of the natural sciences to man. If it is regarded therefore as the exoteric unfolding of human essential capacities, the human essence of nature and the natural essence of man is also understood. Then natural science loses its abstract materialistic or rather idealistic direction and becomes the basis for human science. Today, it has already become—although in an alienated form—the basis of actual human life. To have one basis for life and another for science is apriori a lie.

Nature developing in human history—the birth of human society—is the actual nature of man. Therefore, nature as it develops through industry, even if in alienated form, is real anthropological nature.

Sensuousness (see Feuerbach) must be the basis of all science. Science is real only when it proceeds from sensuousness in the dual aspect both of sensuous consciousness and sensuous needs, in other words only when science proceeds from nature. All of history is the history of preparation for "man" becoming the object of sensuous consciousness, and the need of "man as man" becoming the basis of needs. Such a history is an actual part of the history of nature, of nature's development into man. Later natural science will become the science of man, just as the science of man subsumes natural science under it. It will be a science.


SOURCE: Essays by Karl Marx Selected from the Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts, translated by Ria Stone [pseudonym of Grace Lee Boggs]. New York: Martin Harvey, 7 August 1947. 40 pp. pamphlet. This extract is from pages 22-23. The last sentence in all other translations reads: "there will be one science", which conveys something quite different from what you find above. Boldface in text added by me.

Note: This pamphlet was the very first English translation of any of Marx's 1844 manuscripts, long before they became completely translated, disseminated, and widely known in the English-speaking world. This was the work of the Johnson-Forest Tendency (a faction within the American Trotskyist movement), named after the pseudonyms of its founders, C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya.


Another Translation
Excerpt from the Third Manuscript:

"Private Property and Communism"

Just as through the movement of private property, of its wealth as well as its poverty — of its material and spiritual wealth and poverty — the budding society finds at hand all the material for this development, so established society produces man in this entire richness of his being produces the rich man profoundly endowed with all the senses — as its enduring reality.

We see how subjectivity and objectivity, spirituality and materiality, activity and suffering, lose their antithetical character, and — thus their existence as such antitheses only within the framework of society; <we see how the resolution of the theoretical antitheses is only possible in a practical way, by virtue of the practical energy of man. Their resolution is therefore by no means merely a problem of understanding, but a real problem of life, which philosophy could not solve precisely because it conceived this problem as merely a theoretical one.

We see how the history of industry and the established objective existence of industry are the open book of man's essential powers, the perceptibly existing human psychology. Hitherto this was not conceived in its connection with man's essential being, but only in an external relation of utility, because, moving in the realm of estrangement, people could only think of man's general mode of being — religion or history in its abstract — general character as politics, art, literature, etc. — as the reality of man's essential powers and man's species-activity. We have before us the objectified essential powers of man in the form of sensuous, alien, useful objects, in the form of estrangement, displayed in ordinary material industry (which can be conceived either as a part of that general movement, or that movement can be conceived as a particular part of industry, since all human activity hitherto has been labour — that is, industry — activity estranged from itself.

A psychology for which this book, the part of history existing in the most perceptible and accessible form, remains a closed book, cannot become a genuine, comprehensive and real science. What indeed are we to think of a science which airily abstracts from this large part of human labour and which fails to feel its own incompleteness, while such a wealth of human endeavour, unfolded before it, means nothing more to it than, perhaps, what can be expressed in one word — "need", "vulgar need"?

The natural sciences have developed an enormous activity and have accumulated an ever-growing mass of material. Philosophy, however, has remained just as alien to them as they remain to philosophy. Their momentary unity was only a chimerical illusion. The will was there, but the power was lacking. Historiography itself pays regard to natural science only occasionally, as a factor of enlightenment, utility, and of some special great discoveries. But natural science has invaded and transformed human life all the more practically through the medium of industry; and has prepared human emancipation, although its immediate effect had to be the furthering of the dehumanisation of man. Industry is the actual, historical relationship of nature, and therefore of natural science, to man. If, therefore, industry is conceived as the exoteric revelation of man's essential powers, we also gain an understanding of the human essence of nature or the natural essence of man. In consequence, natural science will lose its abstractly material — or rather, its idealistic — tendency, and will become the basis of human science, as it has already become — albeit in an estranged form — the basis of actual human life, and to assume one basis for life and a different basis for science is as a matter of course a lie. <The nature which develops in human history — the genesis of human society — is man's real nature; hence nature as it develops through industry, even though in an estranged form, is true anthropological nature.>

Sense-perception (see Feuerbach) must be the basis of all science. Only when it proceeds from sense-perception in the two-fold form of sensuous consciousness and sensuous need — is it true science. All history is the history of preparing and developing "man" to become the object of sensuous consciousness, and turning the requirements of "man as man" into his needs. History itself is a real part of natural history of nature developing into man. Natural science will in time incorporate into itself the science of man, just as the science of man will incorporate into itself natural science: there will be one science.


SOURCE: "Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844", in: Marx-Engels Collected Works. Volume 3. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975. English translation made in 1959 by Martin Milligan of Progress Publishers. Ms written between April and August 1844. First published, in the original German: 1932. Available online through Maxists Internet Archive.


A Third Translation
Excerpt from the Third Manuscript:

"Private Property and Communism"

Just as in its initial stages society is presented with all the material for this cultural development through the movement of private property, and of its wealth and poverty—both material and intellectual wealth and poverty—so the society that is fully developed produces man in all the richness of his being, the rich man who is profoundly and abundantly endowed with all the senses, as its constant reality. It can be seen how subjectiveness and objectivism, spiritualism and materialism, activity and passivity [Leiden], lose their antithetical character, and hence their existence as such antithesis, only in the social condition; it can be seen how the resolution of the theoretical antitheses themselves is possible only in a practical way, only through the practical energy of man, and how their resolution is for that reason by no means only a problem of knowledge, but a real problem of life, a problem which philosophy was unable to solve precisely because it treated it as a purely theoretical problem.

It can be seen how the history of industry and the objective existence of industry as it has developed is the open book of the essential powers of man, man's psychology present in tangible form; up to now this history has not been grasped in its connection with the nature of man, but only in an external utilitarian aspect, for man, moving in the realm of estrangement, was only capable of conceiving the general existence of man—religion, or history in its abstract and universal form of politics, art, literature, etc.—as the reality of man's essential powers and as man's species-activity. In everyday, material industry (which can just as easily be considered as a part of that general development as that general development itself can be considered as a particular part of industry, since all human activity up to now has been labor—i.e., industry, self-estranged activity) we find ourselves confronted with the objectified powers of the human essence, in the form of sensuous, alien, useful objects, in the form of estrangement. A psychology for which this book, the most tangible and accessible part of history, is closed, can never become a real science with a genuine content. What indeed should we think of a science which primly abstracts from this large area of human labor, and fails to sense its own inadequacy, even though such an extended wealth of human activity says nothing more to it perhaps than what can be said in one word—"need", "common need"?

The natural sciences have been prolifically active and have gathered together an ever growing mass of material. But philosophy has remained just as alien to them as they have remained alien to philosophy. Their momentary union was only a fantastic illusion. The will was there, but not the means. Even historiography only incidentally takes account of natural science, which it sees as contributing to enlightenment, utility and a few great discoveries. But natural science has intervened in and transformed human life all the more practically through industry and has prepared the conditions for human emancipation, however much its immediate effect was to complete the process was to complete the process of dehumanization. Industry is the real historical relationship of nature, and hence of natural science, to man. If it is then conceived as the exoteric revelation of man's essential powers, the human essence of nature or the natural essence of man can also be understood. Hence natural science will lose its abstractly material, or rather idealist, orientation and become the basis of a human science, just as it has already become—though in an estranged form—the basis of actual human life. The idea of one basis for life and another for science is from the very outset a lie. Nature as it comes into being in human history—in the act of creation of human society—is the true nature of man; hence nature as it comes into being through industry, though in an estranged form, is true anthropological nature.

Sense perception (see Feuerbach) must be the basis of all science. Only when science starts out from sense perception in the dual form of sensuous consciousness and sensuous need— i.e., only when science starts out from nature—is it real science. The whole of history is a preparation, a development, for "man" to become the object of sensuous consciousness and for the needs of "man as man" to become [sensuous] needs. History itself is a real part of natural history and of nature's becoming man. Natural science will, in time, subsume the science of man, just as the science of man will subsume natural science: there will be one science.


SOURCE: "The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts" by Karl Marx, translated by Gregor Benton, 1974. Available via the Marxists Internet Archive.


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See section Marx's Third Way

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