Angel Hernandez criticizes my Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx on three essential points. He contends that: 1. in Marx’s mature writings, ‘alienation’ becomes synonymous with capitalist exploitation, as these writings have only one single object: an analysis of the capitalist mode of production; 2. it is therefore wrong to present the mature Marx as still sharing the position of The German Ideology that alienation of labour is linked to the social division of labour and
I agree with Angel Hernandez that the analysis of the capitalist mode of production was the essential object of Marx’s Capital. But the dialectical method used by Marx made it impossible to analyse capitalism without analysing its origins. footnote3 Therefore, the mature writings of Marx and Engels in their totality cannot be reduced to an analysis of the capitalist mode of production only.
Marx himself insists upon the links between capitalism and commodity production. He stresses that commodity production contains potentially
all the elements which lead to its own generalization, i.e. capitalist commodity production. It follows that all the patches of analysis concerning the origins and the disappearance of commodity production dispersed in Marx’s mature works, could and should be systematically organized and developed. In the course of such a systematization, one has of course to take into consideration that under pre- and post-capitalist conditions, the dominant mode of production has first to be
It remains unassailable, nevertheless, that all Marx’s theses concerning commodity fetichism, reification of human relations and alienation of labour, apply to commodity production in general and not only to capitalist commodity production. In fact, the first chapter of volume I of Capital explicitly deals with commodity production in general. To deny that the mature Marx considered labour to be alienated under simple commodity production, or that he considered human relations to be reified under precapitalist commodity production, flies in the face not only of the whole logic of Marx’s writings, but of explicit statements of Marx himself. footnote6
In the same way one cannot close one’s eyes to the evidence that the mature Marx and Engels kept unchanged the conviction, dating from their youth, that, together with commodity production, the social division of labour was the key source of alienated labour. Specific statements by Engels can be quoted. footnote7 Important passages of the Grundrisse deal at length with the need to develop the ‘rich individuality’, with an all-sided development of all its capacities—a development which implies transcending the social division of labour. footnote8 But the Critique of the Gotha Programme, a programmatic document written by the mature Marx, is as explicit as one could ask for: ‘In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished. . .’ footnote9