Marx, Lenin and the Concept of Materialism



Marx’s preoccupation with materialism of some sort dates back at least to his choice of a topic for a doctoral dissertation, namely, the difference between the philosophies of nature of Democritus and of Epicurus (1841). His serious study of the contemporary materialist Feuerbach is evident in his critique of the sections on the state in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, written in 1843, and in the writings published much later as the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. These are in the spirit of Feuerbach, using his ‘transformative method’, though the word ‘materialism’ is scarcely used. This occurs decisively for the first time in The Holy Family (written in the autumn of 1844), which contains indeed a brief history of materialism. In this still very Feuerbachian work we read of ‘materialism, which has now been perfected by the work of speculation itself and coincides with humanism’ (CW 4:125). But only a short time later, in the ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ (spring 1845), Marx contrasted ‘all previous materialism (Feuerbach’s included)’, ‘the old materialism’, with ‘the new (materialism)’ (CW 5:3,5); and the first and theoretically main part of the path-breaking joint work with Engels, The German Ideology (written November 1845-August 1846) is subtitled: ‘Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlooks’.


Historical Materialism Economic Materialism Philosophical Materialism Idealist Philosophy German Ideology 
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Notes and References

Chapter 2 Marx, Lenin and the Concept of Materialism

  1. Cf. Ian Hacking, Representing and Intervening (Cambridge University Press, 1983) esp. ch. 16.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© W. A. Suchting 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of General PhilosophyUniversity of SydneyAustralia

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