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The political and social theory of the young Marx

Gallop, Geoff (1977) The political and social theory of the young Marx. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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My thesis analyses Marx's writings from the time he became a convert to Hegelianism (1837) to his expulsion from Paris in 1845. I have focused on three major issues in his political and social theory:

1. His definition of the contemporary situation.
2. His conception of the end of history (towards which the contemporary world was thought to be moving).
3. His conception of the process by which such an end would emerge (the dialectical process).

It is argued in the thesis that an 'Hegelian' approach to history, together with a 'Young Hegelian problematic' are the foundations of his early works. My thesis is that there are definite 'stages' in the development of his political and social theory. In terms of the three issues outlined above, these are:

1. From defining the contemporary situation chiefly, but not wholly, in philosophical and political terms (1837 to 1842), he moved on to stress that the study of history must begin with a study of social relations. Following Hegel, Marx defined contemporary society as 'civil society' (1843). From this he developed a class definition of the contemporary world, focusing on the social relationships that exist within the sphere of labour.

2. From arguing that history will end with a radically functioning liberal and social democracy (1842) Marx moved on to take up the cause of communism in 1843 - defined as a community of equals co-operating to plan their social and economic life in a stateless and private property-less society. On reducing his study of the human condition to the study of the labour process, he defined the truly human society as a community of producers, each producing under conditions of freedom (1844).

3. The movement towards the rational state is first conceived of as involving an alliance between the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie and the Young Hegelian philosophers. Marx argued it would be a step-by-step process of reform. In 1843 he took up the cause of revolution, firstly, in terms of an alliance between philosophy and the 'people' and, secondly, in terms of an alliance between philosophy and the proletariat. In 1844 he developed more fully his conception of the revolutionary process, outlining a much more historical account of the formation of proletarian consciousness and the process of proletarian se1femancipation.

My general thesis is that Marx's political and social theory must be viewed in terms of what has been called his 'primitive ethic', this being built from his critique of religion and developed from his study of contemporary history and the ideas of those who reflect upon its meaning those who reflected upon its meaning.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Supervisor(s): Kipp, David and Hooper, John
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