|In his own Words:
"The first historical act is. . . the production of material
life itself. This is indeed a historical act, a fundamental
condition of all of history" (1964, p. 60)
"By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at
the same time changes his own nature (Capital, vol. 1, p. 174).
"Legal relations as well as form of state are to be grasped
neither from themselves nor from the so-called general
development of the human mind, but rather have their roots in
the material conditions of life, the sum total of which Hegel .
. . combines under the name of 'civil society.' . . . The
anatomy of civil society is to be sought in political economy"
(1962, vol. 1, p. 362).
"The political, legal, philosophical, literary, and artistic
development rests on the economic. But they all react upon one
another and upon the economic base. It is not the case that the
economic situation is the sole active cause and that everything
else is merely a passive effect. There is, rather, a
reciprocity within a field of economic necessity which in the
last instance always asserts itself" (1962, vol. 2, p. 304).
"In the social production which men carry on as they enter
into definite relations that are indispensable and independent
of their will; these relations of production correspond to a
definite stage of development of their material powers of
production. The totality of these relations of production
constitutes the economic structure of society--the real
foundation, on which legal and political superstructures arise
and to which definite forms of social consciousness correspond.
The mode of production of material life determines the general
character of the social, political and spiritual processes of
life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their
being, but, on the contrary, their social being determines their
consciousness" (1964, p. 51).
"According to the materialist conception of history, the
ultimately determinant element in history is the production and
reproduction of real life. . . . Hence if somebody twists this
into saying that the economic element is the only determining
one, he transforms that proposition into a meaningless, abstract
and senseless phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but
the various elements of the superstructure. . . also exercise
their influence upon the course of the historical struggle and
in many cases preponderate in determining their form" (1962, II,
"M. Proudhon the economist understands very well that men
make cloth, linen or silk materials in definite relations of
production. But what he has not understood is that these
definite social relations are just as much produced by men as
linen, flax, etc. Social relations are closely bound up with
productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men
change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of
production, in changing the way of earning their living, they
change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you
society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the
industrial capitalist" (The Poverty of Philosophy, p. 92).
"The ideas of the ruling class are, in every age, the ruling
ideas: i.e., the class which is the dominant material force in
society is at the same time its dominant intellectual force.
The class which has the means of production at its disposal, has
control at the same time over the means of mental production"
(1964, p. 78).
[We go astray] "if . . . we detach the ideas of the ruling
class from the ruling class itself and attribute to them an
independent existence, if we confine ourselves to saying that in
a particular age these or those ideas were dominant, without
paying attention to the conditions of production and the
producers of these ideas, and if we thus ignore the individuals
and the world conditions which are the source of these ideas"
(1964, p.p. 79-80).
On social evolution:
"The economic structure of capitalist society has grown out
of the economic structure of feudal society. The dissolution of
the latter sets free the elements of the former" (1964, p.
"No social order ever disappears before all the productive
forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and
new higher relations of production never appear before the
material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb
of the old society" (1964, p. 52).
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various
ways; the point however is to change it." (1845).
"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history
of class struggles" (1962, vol 1, p. 34).
"The separate individuals form a class only in so far as they
have to carry on a common battle against another class;
otherwise they are on hostile terms with each other as
competitors" (1930, pp. 48-49).
[The major modern classes are] "the owners merely of
labor-power, owners of capital, and landowners, whose respective
sources of income are wages, profit and ground rent" (1964, p.
"The State is the form in which the individuals of a ruling
class assert their common interests" (1964, p. 78).
"Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but
your chains." (1848).
“The greater the social wealth,
the functioning capital, the extent and energy of its growth,
and therefore also the greater the absolute mass of the
proletariat and the productivity of its labor, the greater is
the industrial reserve army….But the greater this reserve army
in proportion to the active labour army, the greater is the mass
of a consolidated surplus population, whose misery is in inverse
ration to the amount of torture it has to undergo in the form of
labour. The more extensive, finally, the pauperized sections of
the working class and the industrial reserve army, the greater
is official pauperism. This is the absolute general law of
capitalist accumulation. Like all other laws, it is modified in
its working by many circumstances, the analysis of which does
not concern us here” (Capital, vol. 1, p. 798).
On alienation and religion:
"Objectification is the practice of alienation. Just as man,
so long as he is engrossed in religion, can only objectify his
essence by an alien and fantastic being; so under the sway of
egoistic need, he can only affirm himself and produce objects in
practice by subordinating his products and his own activity to
the domination of an alien entity, and by attributing to them
the significance of an alien entity, namely money" (1964b, p.
"The commodity form and the value relation between the
products of labor which stamps them as commodities, have
absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with
the material relations arising there from. It is simply a
definite relationship between men, that assumes in their eyes
the fantastic form of a relations between things. To find an
analogy, we must have recourse to the nebulous regions of the
religious world. In that world the productions of the human
brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and
entering into relation both with one another and with the human
race. So it is in the world of commodities, with the products
of men's hands. This I call the fetishism which attaches itself
tot he products of labor, as soon as they are produced as
commodities" (1964, pp. 175-176).
"Religious distress is at the same time the expression of
real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is
the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless
world, just as it is the spirit of an unspiritual situation. It
is the opium of the people" (1959, p. 263).
On the sanctity of work:
"We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive
forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal. We
pre-suppose labour in a from that stamps it as exclusively
human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a
weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the
construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst
architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect
raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in
reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result
that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its
commencement. He not only effects a change of form in the
material on which he works, but he also realizes a purpose of
his own that gives the law to his modus operandi, and to which
he must subordinate his will" (Capital, vol. I, p. 174).
"The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put
an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has
pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to
his "natural superiors", and has left no other nexus between
people than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment".
It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious
fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism,
in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved
personal worth into
exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible
chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable
freedom -- Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by
religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked,
shameless, direct, brutal exploitation (1846/1954)
"The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation
hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has
converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the
man of science, into its paid wage laborers (1848/1954).
“Even the need for fresh air
ceases to be a need for the worker. Man reverts once more to
living in a cave, but the cave is now polluted by the mephitic
and pestilential breath of civilization. Moreover, the worker
has no more than a precarious right to live in it, for it is for
him an alien power that can be daily withdrawn and from which,
should he fail to pay, he can be evicted at any time. He
actually has to pay for this mortuary. A dwelling in the light,
which Prometheus describes in Aeschylus as one of the great
gifts through which he transformed savages into men, ceases to
exist for the worker. Light, air, etc.—the simple animal
cleanliness—ceases to be a need for man. Dirt—this pollution and
putrefacation of man, the sewage (this word is to be understood
in its literal sense) of civilization—becomes an element of life
for him. Universal unnatural neglect, putrefied nature, becomes
an element of life for him” (Marx’s Early Writing, 359-360).
On science and technology:
The machine proper is therefore a mechanism that, after being
set in motion, performs with its tools the same operations that
were formerly done by the workman with similar tools. Whether
the motive power is derived from man, or from some other
machine, makes no difference in this respect. From the moment
that the tool proper is taken from man, and fitted into a
mechanism, a machine takes the place of a mere implement. The
difference strikes one at once, even in those cases where man
himself continues to be the prime mover" (Capital, vol. I, pp.
"Every kind of capitalist production, in so far as it is not
only a labour-process, but also a process of creating
surplus-value, has this in common, that it is not the workman
that employs the instruments of labour, but the instruments of
labour that employ the workman. But it is only in the factory
system that this inversion for the first time acquires technical
and palpable reality. By means of its conversion into an
automaton, the instrument of labour confront the labourer,
during the labour-process, in the shape of capital, of dead
labour, that dominates and pumps dry, living labour-power. The
separation of the intellectual powers of production from the
manual labour, and the conversion of those powers into the might
of capital over labour, is, as we have already shown, finally
completed by modern industry erected on the foundation of
machinery. the special skill of each individual insignificant
factory operative vanishes as an infinitesimal quantity before
the science, the gigantic physical forces, and the mass of
labour that are embodied in the factory mechanism and, together
with that mechanism, constitute the power of the 'master'"
(Capital, vol. I, pp. 393-394)
"Modern Industry rent the veil that concealed from men their
own social process of production, and that turned the various,
spontaneously divided branches of production into so many
riddles, not only to outsiders, but even to the. initiated. The
principle which it pursued, of resolving each process into its
constituent movements, without any regard to their possible
execution by the hand of man, created the new modern science of
technology. The varied, apparently unconnected, and petrified
forms of the industrial processes now resolved themselves into
so many conscious and systematic applications of natural science
to the attainment of given useful effects" (Capital, vol. I, pp.
"Money is the alienated essence of man's work and existence;
the essence dominates him and he worships it" (1964b, p. 37).
"The state is the intermediary between men and human
liberty. Just as Christ is the intermediary to whom man
attributes all his own divinity and all his religious bonds, so
the state is the intermediary to which man confides all his non
divinity and human freedom" (1964b, p. II).
"Religious alienation as such occurs only in the sphere of
consciousness, in the inner life of man, but economic alienation
is that of real life. . . . It therefore affects both aspects"
(1964b, p. 156).
"The object produced by labor, its product, now stands
opposed to it as an alien being, as a power independent of the
producer. . . . The more the worker expends himself in work the
more powerful becomes the world of objects which he creates in
face of himself, the poorer he becomes in his inner life, and
the less he belongs to himself" (1964b, p. 122).
"However, alienation appears not merely in the result but
also in the process of production, within productive activity
itself. . . . If the product of labor is alienation, production
itself must be active alienation. . . . The alienation of the
object of labor merely summarizes the alienation in the work
activity itself" (1964b, p. 124).
"Work is external to the worker. . . . It is not part of his
nature; consequently he does not fulfill himself in his work but
denies himself. . . . The worker therefore feels himself at home
only during his leisure time, whereas at work he feels
homeless" (1964b, pp. 124-125).
"This is the relationship of the worker to his own activity
as something alien, not belonging to him, activity as suffering
(passivity), strength as powerlessness, creation as
emasculation, the personal physical and mental energy of the
worker, his personal life. . . . as an activity which is
directed against himself, independent of him and not belonging
to him" (1964b, p. 125).
"What is true of man's relationship to his work, to the
product of his work and to himself, is also true of his
relationship to other men. . . . Each man is alienated from
others . . .each of the others is likewise alienated from human
life" (1964b, p. 129).
"The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its
sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation into a
mere money relation" (1848/1954).
“The discovery of gold and silver in America, the
extirpation, enslavement and entombment in mines of the
indigenous population of that continent, the beginnings of the
conquest and plunder of India, and the conversion of Africa into
a preserve for the commercial hunting of blackskins, are all
things which characterize the dawn of the era of capitalist
production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of
primitive accumulation. On their heels treads the commercial war
of the European nations, with the globe for a theatre” (Capital,
vol. 1, p. 915)
“Accumulate, accumulate! That
is Moses and the Prophets!” (Capital, vol. 1, chapter 24,
But if a surplus labouring population is a necessary product
of accumulation or of the development of wealth on a capitalist
basis, this surplus-population becomes, conversely, the lever of
capitalistic accumulation, nay, a condition of existence of the
capitalist mode of production. It forms a disposable industrial
reserve army, that belongs to capital quite as absolutely as if
the latter had bred it at its own cost. Independently of the
limits of the actual increase of population, it creates, for the
changing needs of the self-expansion of capital, a mass of human
material always ready for exploitation (Capital, vol. I, pp.
With accumulation, and the development of the productiveness
of labour that accompanies it, the power of sudden expansion of
capital grows also....The mass of social wealth, overflowing
with the advance of accumulation, and transformable into
additional capital, thrusts itself frantically into old branches
of production, whose market suddenly expands, or into newly
formed branches....In all such cases, there must be the
possibility of throwing great masses of men suddenly on the
decisive points without injury to the scale of production in
other spheres....This increase is effected by the simple process
that constantly 'sets free' a part of the labourers; by methods
which lessen the number of labourers employed to the increased
production. The whole form of the movement of modern industry
depends, therefore, upon the constant transformation of a part
of the labouring population into unemployed or half-employed
hands" (Capital, vol. I, pp. 592-593).
"The more extensive, finally, the lazarus-layers of the
working class and the industrial reserve army, the greater is
official pauperism" (Capital, vol. 1, p. 611)
"A service is nothing more than the useful effect of a
use-value, be it of a commodity, or be it of labour" (Capital,
vol. 1, p. 187).
“The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years,
has created more massive and more colossal productive forces
than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of
Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to
industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric
telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation,
canalization of rivers, while population conjured out of the
ground. What earlier century had even a presentiment that such
productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor”
(Communist Manifesto, p. 10).
On Capitalist Agriculture:
“Large landed property reduces
the agricultural population to an ever decreasing minimum and
confronts it with an ever growing industrial population crammed
together in large towns; in this way it produces conditions that
provoke an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of
social metabolism, a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws
of life itself. The result of this is a squandering of the
vitality of the soil, which is carried by trade far beyond the
bounds of a single country” (Marx and Engels, Collected Works,
vol. 42, p. 227).
“Large-scale industry and industrially
pursued large-scale agriculture have the same effect. If they
are originally distinguished by the fact that the former lays
waste and ruins labour-power and thus the natural power of man,
whereas the latter does the same to the natural power of the
soil, they link up in the later course of development, since the
industrial system applied to agriculture also enervates the
workers there, while industry and trade for their part provide
agriculture with the means of exhausting the soil” (Capital,
vol. 1, p. 638).
“Capitalist production collects the
population together in great centres, and causes the urban
population to achieve an ever-growing preponderance. This has
two results. On the one hand, it disturbs the metabolic
interaction between man and the earth, i.e. it prevents the
return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man
in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation
of the eternal condition for the lasting fertility of the
soil….But by destroying the circumstances surrounding that
metabolism…it compels its systematic restoration as a regulative
law of social production, and in a form adequate to the full
development of the human race….[A]ll progress in capitalist
agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the
worker but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the
fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress toward
ruining the more long-lasting sources of that
fertility….Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the
technique and the degree of combination of the social process of
production by simultaneously undermining the sources of all
wealth—the soil and the worker (Capital, vol. 1. pp. 637-638)
(Foster, 2000, pp. 155-156).
“Freedom in this sphere [the
realm of natural necessity] can consist only in this, that
socialized man, the associated producers, govern the human
metabolism with nature in a rational way, bringing it under
their own collective control instead of being dominated by it as
a blind power; accomplishing it with the least expenditure of
energy and in conditions most worthy and appropriate for their
human nature” (Capital, vol. 3, p. 959).
“The way that the cultivation of particular
crops depends on fluctuations in market prices and the constant
changes in cultivation with these price fluctuations—the entire
spirit of capitalist production, which is oriented towards the
most immediate monetary profits—stands in contradiction to
agriculture, which has to concern itself with the whole gamut of
permanent conditions of life required by the chain of human
generations” (Capital, vol. 3, p. 754) (Foster, 2000, p. 164).
“From the standpoint of a higher
socio-economic formation, the private property of particular
individuals in the earth will appear just as absurd as the
private property of one man in other men. Even an entire
society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies
taken together, are not the owners of the earth. They are simply
its possessor, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an
improved state to succeeding generations as boni patres
familias” [good heads of household] (Capital, vol. 3, p. 911).
“The moral of the tale is that the
capitalist system runs counter to a rational agriculture, or
that a rational agriculture is incompatible with the capitalist
system (even if the latter promotes technical development in
agriculture) and needs either small farmers working for
themselves or the control of associated producers” (Capital,
vol. 3, p. 216).
“The universality of man
manifests itself in practice in the universality which makes the
whole of nature as his inorganic body, (1) as a direct means of
life and (2) as the matter, the object and tool of his activity.
Nature is man’s inorganic body, that is to say, nature is so far
as it is not the human body. Man lives from nature, i.e. nature
is his body, and he must maintain a continuing dialogue with it
if he is not to die. To say that man’s physical and mental life
is linked to nature simply means that nature is linked to
itself, for man is a part of nature” (Early Writings, p. 328).
“For the first time nature becomes purely an object for
humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be recognized
as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its
autonomous laws appears merely as a ruse so as to subject it
under human needs, whether as an object of consumption or as a
means of production” (Grundrisse,
New York: Vintage, pp. 409-410).
“It is not the unity of living
and active humanity with the natural, inorganic conditions of
their metabolic exchange with nature, and hence their
appropriation of nature, which requires explanation or is the
result of a historic process, but rather the separation between
these inorganic conditions of human existence and this active
existence, a separation which is completely posited only in the
relation of wage labor and capital” (Grundrisse, New York:
Vintage, p. 489).
“Freedom in this sphere [the realm of natural necessity] can
consist only in this, that socialized man, the associated
producers, govern the human metabolism with nature in a rational
way, bring it under their collective control instead of being
dominated by it as a blind power, accomplishing it with the
least expenditure of energy and in conditions most worthy and
appropriate for their human nature” (Capital, vol. 1, p. 638).
[The] "conscious and rational treatment of the land as
permanent communal property [is] the inalienable condition for
the existence and reproduction of the chain of human
generations" (Capital, vol. 3, pp. 948-949).
"From the standpoint of a higher socio-economic formation,
the private property of particular individuals in the earth will
appear just as absurd as the private property of one man in
other men. Even an entire society, a nation, or all
simultaneously existing societies taken together, are not owners
of the earth, they are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries,
and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding
generations, as boni patres familias [good heads of household]
(Capital, vol. 3, p. 911).
“The first premise of all human
existence and, therefore, of all history…that men must be in a
position to live in order to be able to ‘make history.’ But life
involves before everything else eating and drinking, housing,
clothing, and various other things. The first historical act is
thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the
production of material life itself. And indeed this is an
historical act, a fundamental condition of all history, which
today, as thousands of years ago, must daily and hourly be
fulfilled merely in order to sustain human life…the production
of life, both of one’s own in labour and of fresh life in
procreation…appears as a twofold relation: on the one hand as a
natural, on the other hand as a social relation” (Marx and
Engels Collected Works, vol. 5, pp. 41-43).
“Labour is, first of all, a process between
man and nature, a process by which man, through his own actions,
mediates, regulates and controls the metabolism between himself
and nature. He confronts the material of nature as a force of
nature. He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to his
own body, his arms, legs, head and hands, in order to
appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted to his own
needs. Through this movement he acts upon external nature and
changes it, and in this way he simultaneously changes his own
nature” (Capital, vol. 1. p. 283).
“It [the labor process] is the universal
condition for the metabolic interaction [Stoffwechsel] between
man and nature, the everlasting nature-imposed condition of
human existence” (Capital, vol. 1. p. 290).
[Spartacus was] "the most splendid fellow
that all ancient history has to show; great general, noble
character, real representative of the ancient proletariat."
From Engles' Eulogy (1883)
Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic
nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human
history; he discovered the simple fact...that mankind must first
of all eat and drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can
pursue politics, science, religion, art, etc., and that
therefore the production of the immediate material means of
subsistence and consequently the degree of economic development
attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the
foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal
conceptions, the art and even the religious ideas of the people
concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which these
things must therefore be explained.
Marx, Karl. 1848/1954. The Communist Manifesto. Henry
Reginery Company: Chicago.
Marx, Karl. 1964. Selected Writings in Sociology and Social
Philosophy. (translated by T.B. Bottomore). London:
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels, 1962. Selected Works, 2
vols. Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House.
Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels, 1930. The German Ideology.
New York: International Publishers.
Marx, Karl. 1964b. Early Writings. translated and edited by
T. B. Bottomore. New york: McGraw-Hill.
Marx, Karl. 1959. Toward the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy
of right, in Marx and Engels, Basic Writings, Lewis S. Feuer
(ed). New York: Doubleday & Co., Anchor Books.
Marx, Karl. 1845. Eleven Theses on Feurback.
Marx, Karl, 1973, Grundrisse. New York: Vintage.