Emancipation in Marx’s Early Work

  • George C. Comninel
Part of the Marx, Engels, and Marxisms book series (MAENMA)


This chapter focuses on the way in which Marx’s early concern with the need for both political freedom and social emancipation was transformed through his exposure to the ideas of political economy. It was Friedrich Engels—who worked at (and later inherited) his father’s cotton mill in Manchester—who first introduced Marx to these ideas, in “Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy”, written for the Deutsch-Französische Jarhbücher that Marx was editing in 1843. Although Engels first articulated a number of important ideas that he and Marx came to share—including that the contradictions of the capitalist system of production would lead to a radical social revolution—it was Marx’s critique in his 1844 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts that situated the capitalist alienation of labour in relation to the entire historical development of property relations, and the achievement of true human emancipation in the form of communist society. This marked his definitive break with philosophy as an agency for revolutionary transformation. Instead, he recognized that the historical realization of communism as the transcendence of human alienation “finds both its empirical and its theoretical basis in the movement of private property – more precisely in that of the economy”.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • George C. Comninel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PoliticsYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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