CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

One of the weapons that Marx and Engels used to attack their adversaries consisted in their contemptuous criticism of utopianism. Nevertheless, some passages in their works seem to describe an ideal future society, thereby raising quite a few problems for those who study their thought. An outstanding case is a rather famous and quoted passage of the project which was later labelled The German Ideology, famous precisely because it seems to fit ill with the rest of their theory. In a day in communist society as outlined here, an individual might hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, and criticise after dinner at will, without becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.
This well-known passage seems to lapse into utopianism, painting a preindustrial pastoral idyll, totally at odds with the technical development of capitalist society that met, however, with the approbation of Marx and Engels (Avineri 1968, p. 231–232; Althusser 1969, p. 36–37; McLellan 1969, p. 462–463; Coby 1986; Arthur 1986, p. 137). How these bucolic occupations can serve as models for the abolition of the division of labour in «a sophisticated, industrial society» seems to remain unanswered «in this or in any other of Marx’s writings» (Avineri 1968, p. 231–2). Strangely enough, this illustration «maps pretty well» the working days Fourier outlined in his «Utopian scheme» that Marx criticized already in his manuscripts of 1844 (Arthur 1986, p. 137).T. Carver sought to put an end to debate on interpretation of this passage, arguing that it should be read with a sense of irony (Carver 1988, p…


There seems little doubts about Marx’s and Engels’ criticism of so-called utopian descriptions of the ideal society replacing capitalism. However, a passage in The German Ideology seems to describe a typical day in the future communist society. Relying on recent studies preparatory to the MEGA2 edition, this paper argues that this famous passage can be read as confirmation of Engels’ and in particular Marx’s anti-utopianism and, therefore, that it should not be read with a sense of irony, as instead stated. Taken seriosusly, this passage can be linked to Marx’s assertion that private property is not the cause of alienation, but a product of it. In this way, the article aims to put in evidence Marx’s idea of communism as emancipation of all human senses underlying a troubling concept of never definitively accomplished self-developing humanity.

  • Marx
  • utopia
  • communism
  • emancipation
  • self-development
Michele Bee
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
You still have to read 98% of this article
Purchase full-text 5,00€ 37 pages, electronic only
(html and pdf)
add_shopping_cart Add to cart
Other option
Member of a subscribed institution ? business Authenticate
Uploaded on on 30/11/-0001
Distribution électronique pour Hermann © Hermann. Tous droits réservés pour tous pays. Il est interdit, sauf accord préalable et écrit de l’éditeur, de reproduire (notamment par photocopie) partiellement ou totalement le présent article, de le stocker dans une banque de données ou de le communiquer au public sous quelque forme et de quelque manière que ce soit.
Loading... Please wait