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Michael Heinrich - Hegel's Influence on Marx - TV BOITEMPO Interview

Perhaps one of the most discussed philosophical issues regarding Marx is the relation between Marx’s theories and Hegel’s philosophy. There are very different opinions on this. Some say that only the early Marx was influenced by Hegel in a big way, and then Marx essentially split with Hegel’s philosophy. Others say Hegel had an influence until the late Marx. In all of these discussions, it is presupposed that we know what “Hegelian philosophy” means. But, this is not such an easy thing and certainly not something that can be put on 5 or 6 pages. Therefore, in my biography I decided not to give such a five-page abstract on the meaning of Hegel’s philosophy. I start (rather unconventionally) with a description of the famous portrait of Hegel painted by Jakob Schlesinger, who was a personal friend of Hegel. He painted this just a few months before Hegel died in 1831. Nearly everybody knows this picture. When you start to read a little bit about Hegel, or even look in an encyclopedia for an entry on Hegel, you will find this picture. Therefore, I think, in a non-rational way, this picture influenced nearly everybody who had some contact with Hegelian philosophy. Thus, I decided to start my discussion of Hegel with a detailed description of this picture and what ideas of Hegelian philosophy it conveys – that it is very hermetic, that Hegel is utterly devoted to this philosophy etc. I start with such an interpretation to render plausible that maybe a lot of judgments about Hegel’s philosophy are not really rational judgments, but just a kind of prejudice against Hegel’s philosophy.


Also, I decided that one cannot treat Hegel and Hegel’s philosophy only one time. In this biography, Hegel will appear several times. There are different periods where Marx learns a lot from Hegel. Then follows a critique of Hegel. Then comes (again) a period where Marx is closer to Hegel, and then comes (again) a new critique of Hegel. This new critique covers rather different dimensions of Hegel’s philosophy and accordingly, different works of Hegel play an important role for Marx. For example, for the very young Marx who wants to become a poet, Hegel’s lessons on aesthetic play an essential role. There, Marx learns a lot about the critique of romantic poetry Hegel gave.


Later, the Phenomenology of Spirit becomes important for Marx’s writings in and before 1844. Also, the Philosophy of Right was very important. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right was a very advanced analysis of the state and politics and was, in some respect, a guideline for Marx, when he worked at the Rheinische Zeitung (“Rhenish Newspaper”). After the newspaper was forbidden by the Prussian state and Marx also had to accept that some of his political ideas were proved wrong, what did he do? In Kreuznach, in 1843, he was sitting down on his honeymoon (after marrying Jenny) writing a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Then, as I already mentioned, Phenomenology of Spirit became important. Later, Hegel’s Logic became important when Marx was just working on Grundrisse. But what was most quoted in Capital was not Hegel’s Science of Logic, it was (again) Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.


So, in different parts of his life, different works of Hegel played a crucial role. Also, Marx did not always have the same approach to Hegel. Therefore, in my biography, the relation between Marx and Hegel is not a single theme, to be treated once in a particular volume, and then it’s done. No! It is one of the themes that will accompany us throughout the whole biography.



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