Problems of The German Ideology
This chapter considers the significant implications of recent work by Terrell Carver and Daniel Blank that argues powerfully that Marx and Engels never produced anything like a coherent manuscript that could be published in the form of a book called The German Ideology. What was published in that form by David Ryazanov in 1921 was a pastiche of fragmented writings put together on the basis of his own conviction that he could discern in them an account of Marx and Engels’s method of historical analysis. It is, however, striking to what extent this supposed work of theirs incorporates ideas taken directly and uncritically from liberal historians and economists. When it is recognized that the point of the core passages was a specifically political polemic against German philosophers, as Carver and Blank argue, it can be seen that the point of Marx and Engels was to contrast the vacuous and idealist politics of these supposedly radical philosophers with the profoundly concrete and practical considerations evident in the work of mainstream liberals in France and Britain. Far from a statement of Marx and Engels’s method, these passages made clear how “backward” the philosophers were in comparison even to liberals.