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10 - The Basis of the State in the Marx of 1842

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2009

Douglas Moggach
Affiliation:
University of Ottawa
Andrew Chitty
Affiliation:
Lecturer in philosophy, University of Sussex
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Summary

In his 1837 “letter to his father,” Marx famously describes how he became a Hegelian:

From the idealism which, by the way, I had compared and nourished with the idealism of Kant and Fichte, I arrived at the point of seeking the Idea in the actual itself [im Wirklichen selbst]. If previously the gods had dwelt above the earth, now they became its centre. … I had read fragments of Hegel's philosophy, the grotesque craggy melody of which did not appeal to me. Once more I wanted to dive into the sea, but with the definite intention of finding that spiritual nature [die geistige Natur] is just as necessary, concrete and firmly based as physical nature [die körperliche] …

In his first notebook on Epicurean philosophy of 1839, Marx tersely identifies “spiritual nature” with the state, and in fact Hegel himself in the Philosophy of Right describes the system of right, which provides the institutional structure of the state, as a “second nature,” a nature grounded in spirit in the same way that physical nature is grounded in the Idea: “The system of right is the realm of actualised freedom, the world of spirit produced from within itself as a second nature.” Thus in 1837 Marx was setting himself the project of showing that the state is “firmly based” in some underlying essence of which it is the realisation or actualisation, just as for Hegel physical nature is the realisation of the Idea.

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The New Hegelians
Politics and Philosophy in the Hegelian School
, pp. 220 - 241
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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