Marx and Engels: The German Ideology

The work with which Marxism was born? In this famous sequence of writings from 1845-46, Marx and Engels break with their former Young Hegelian colleagues and lay down the foundations of what became known as 'Marxism', in particular the materialist theory of history and the theory of ideology, as well as providing some of their most suggestive and controversial descriptions of communism.

We will consider the complicated history of the writing of The German Ideology, the involved polemical debates with Feuerbach, Stirner, Bauer and others, and how the text has become canonical within 'Marxism'. Particular focus will be given to the development of the theories of history and ideology, and how Marx and Engels envisage communism. The intriguing combination of collectivism and individualism which is at the core of their position will come in for special attention.

The course will make use of the most recent scholarship, especially that associated with and provoked by the new Karl Marx / Friedrich Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) edition.

The course will run entirely online. There will be two components: firstly, a pre-recorded one-hour lecture (using PowerPoint and webpages), which will be made available to students in advance; secondly, a one-hour live discussion session, which will take place between 8-9pm on the Monday evenings, starting the 28th September. The class will be restricted to eight students. The charge will be £125. If there is sufficient interest, I may run another session.

I am also teaching the same course via the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, with the live sessions taking place on Wednesday afternoon, 3:30-4:30pm, starting on the 30th September - see https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/marx-and-engels-the-german-ideology?code=O20P812PHW. The Oxford version of the course is somewhat more expensive, but allows for student to write and get feedback on assessments and gain CATS points, as well as being better presented and supported.

There is no need to have a copy of The German Ideology; all of the material we will be discussing is available at https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/index.htm. In any case, there is currently no suitable version available in English:

Course outline, by week:

  1. Introduction
  2. Marx and Engels in 1844
  3. Stirnerís challenge
  4. Marx and Engelsís response
  5. The theory of history #1
  6. The theory of history #2
  7. The theory of ideology
  8. Communism #1
  9. Communism #2
  10. The philosophy of The German Ideology
Meade McCloughan 31st August 2020