Passage from the German Ideology

HANLY at BrandonU.CA HANLY at BrandonU.CA
Wed Feb 21 19:21:05 MST 1996


KIt Gunn cites the following usage of "accident" in Marx:


A good example is in _The German Ideology_ (p. 84 in the
highly-abridged C. J. Arthur, International Publishers edition):

"In the estate...a nobleman always remains a nobleman, a commoner
always a commoner....  The division between the personal and the class
individual, the *accidental* nature of the conditions of life for the
individual, appears only with the emergence of the class, which is
itself a product of the bourgeoisie.  This *accidental* character is only
engendered and developed by the competition and the struggle of
individuals among themselves.  Thus, in imagination, individuals
seem freer under the dominance of the bourgeoisie than before,
because their conditions of life seem *accidental*;  in reality, of course,
they are less free, because they are more subjected to the violence
of things." [emphasis added]

Commment: I see Marx as saying (roughly) this:
    In the feudal system it was part of the essence of someone that if
they were born of noble parents they were noble, and of commoner parents
 that they were commoners. One was not free to change what was part of ones
essential nature. (At least that is how anyone properly socialized
 into the feudal ideology would see it). Only when bourgeois individualist
market relations free from feudal ideas emerge is it seen that conditions
of life for the individual, such that they are for example a worker or
capitalist, are  "accidental" or contingent features of life
that can be changed. (The old social mobility, Horatio Alger stuff! Anyone can
be a millionaire) The specific features or "accidental" features of life that
one is poor or rich, worker or capitalist
 emerge only from competition among individuals. Individuals
thus see themselves as free, and not as the people in feudal times saw
themselves as of necessity commoners, nobles, etc.
 The poor unemployed bloke only happens
to be poor and unemployed or a worker. In reality, individuals are freed
from the shackles of feudalism to be enslaved by wage labor and the market,
enslavement by things. Everything is seen as a commodity even
human beings. As Emerson put it: Things are in the saddle and ride
mankind (well I think it was Emerson).
          Cheers, Ken Hanly




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