Already in his first systematic work, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx unmasks the hypocrisy that lies behind Hegel’s defense of the then “modern” German State. The famous Marxist “inversion theory” first appears here. Marx thinks that Hegel inverts the relationship between the predicate and the subject. He makes the ‘mystical Idea’ (Geist) his subject and, consequently, regards the ‘real subjects’ (historical events and peoples) as mere instances of that mystical Spirit. In the political level, Marx criticizes Hegel for making the State and its sovereignty take priority over real human beings. In concrete, civil servants who represent the State and are said to belong to and who also proclaim themselves the universal class are unmasked as representing particular interests. Think of our present politicians who claim to be the “representatives” of the people’s interests!
The first journal which Marx edited – Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (1843) – contains three contributions from Marx: his letters to Ruge, “On the Jewish Question” (which was an extensive review of Bauer’s book), and “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction.” The same political indignation against the actual situation is present in Marx’s letters. He criticizes the politics of the Prussian State as ‘the principle of a dehumanized world’ where ‘rule and exploitation are identical concepts’.
It is in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844), however, where he made a systematic presentation of ‘alienation’. Turning from the criticism of politics to the criticism of economics, Marx took political economists to task for taking the concept of private property for granted – that economic institution which is the source of ‘alienated labor’. The later analysis of the predominance of the “base” over “superstructure” which proves central to Marx’s thought first makes its hint in this work.
In his view, all other forms of alienation previously criticized (e.g., religious or political) can be better analyzed from the perspective of this central concept. In the context of the capitalist system where private property is held sacrosanct, there are three manifestations and consequences of an ‘alienated labor’.
If we read Marx today, one can still feel his words very much alive in our midst.
First, the worker is alienated from the product of his labor. It is an economic fact, Marx observes, that the more wealth a worker produces, the poorer s/he becomes. Think of cooks and waiters who could not even eat the food they cook and serve (instead, have to go to a nearby carinderia to eat one’s meal in a hurry); or the factory worker who could not even wear the shoes he made and have to content oneself with rubber slippers.
“The more the worker exerts himself in his work, the more powerful the alien, objective world becomes which he brings into being over against himself, the poorer he and his inner world become, and the less they belong to him.”
The present situation of contractual workers (or the migrant workers) is a stark image of what Marx could have been thinking long time ago: one who is willing to shed sweat and tears just to have work, which in the end is still denied to him/her after five months! Never mind the happiness of working; one can even sacrifice that just to get work. Still to no avail! This bring us to greatest alienation of all - self-alienation.
Third, the worker is also alienated from his/her own self, from his/her own being. For Marx, human labor should be a free activity productive of life itself. We are different from animals because we work freely. Labor is in effect an eminent expression of one’s species-being (Gattungswesen). And when a laborer is estranged from his/her product and from work itself, s/he is also alienated from his/her own humanness – not only from one’s own body, from nature, from one’s spiritual and human essence but from other humans as well.
If there is any concept of praxis in Marx’s early writings, it is therefore the activity of human emancipation in order to overcome all forms of alienation (praxis) and to inaugurate a complete ‘return’ to a life where our being human can be fully enjoyed.
Thus, in Marx, praxis is not merely engaged in order to redress the injustice committed against the workers or to alleviate their miserable conditions, though this is a first step. Marx’s vision is more metaphysical: to make the whole society more conducive to the practice of our being human (i.e., our social nature).
Against the situation of alienated labor, he proposes a vision of a communist society, to be achieved by human praxis, where private property is superseded and the true human essence appropriated.
“It is the complete restoration of the human to himself or herself as a social, that is, a human being.”
This is Marxist humanism at its best.
St Vincent SchoolofTheology - Adamson University
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 K. Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right  in K. Marx, Early Writings, trans. R. Livingstone (New York: Vintage Books, 1975), 57-198.
 Ibid., 80.
 Ibid., 142, 194.
 K. Marx, “Letter to Ruge” [Cologne, May 1843], in idem, Early Writings, 200-206.
 K. Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844), in idem, Early Writings, 279-400.
 Ibid., 324.
 Ibid., 326-27.
 K. Marx, Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (1844), in idem, Early Writings, 348.