The German Ideology by Marx and Engels
Chapter Three: Saint Max
The philosophy which preaches enjoyment is as old in Europe as the Cyrenaic school.  just as in antiquity it was the Greeks who were the protagonists of this philosophy, so in modern times it is the French, and indeed for the same reason, because their temperament and their society made them most capable of enjoyment. The philosophy of enjoyment was never anything but the clever language of certain social circles who had the privilege of enjoyment. Apart from the fact that the manner and content of their enjoyment was always determined by the whole structure of the rest of society and suffered from all its contradictions, this philosophy became a mere phrase as soon as it began to lay claim to a universal character and proclaimed itself the outlook on life of society as a whole. It sank then to the level of edifying moralising, to a sophistical palliation of existing society, or it was transformed into its opposite, by declaring compulsory asceticism to be enjoyment.
In modern times the philosophy of enjoyment arose with the decline of feudalism and with the transformation of the feudal landed nobility into the pleasure-loving and extravagant nobles of the court under the absolute monarchy. Among these nobles this philosophy still has largely the form of a direct, naive outlook on life which finds expression in memoirs, poems, novels, etc. It only becomes a real philosophy in the hands of a few writers of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, who, on the one hand, participated in the culture and mode of life of the court nobility and, on the other hand, shared the more general outlook of the bourgeoisie, based on the more general conditions of existence of this class. This philosophy was, therefore, accepted by both classes, although from totally different points of view. Whereas among the nobility this language was restricted exclusively to its estate and to the conditions of life of this estate, it was given a generalised character by the bourgeoisie and addressed to every individual without distinction. The conditions of life of these individuals were thus disregarded and the theory of enjoyment thereby transformed into an insipid and hypocritical moral doctrine. When, in the course of further development, the nobility was overthrown and the bourgeoisie brought into conflict with its opposite, the proletariat, the nobility became devoutly religious, and the bourgeoisie solemnly moral and strict in its theories, or else succumbed to the above-mentioned hypocrisy, although the nobility in practice by no means renounced enjoyment, while among the bourgeoisie enjoyment even assumed an official, economic form — that of luxury.
[The following passage is crossed out in the manuscript:] In the Middle Ages the pleasures were strictly classified; each estate had its own distinct forms of pleasure and its distinct manner of enjoyment. The nobility was the estate privileged to devote itself exclusively to pleasure, while the separation of work and enjoyment already existed for the bourgeoisie and pleasure was subordinated to work. The serfs, the class destined exclusively to labour, had only extremely few and restricted. pleasures, which came their way mostly by chance, depended on the whim of their masters and other contingencies, and are hardly worth considering.
Under the rule of the bourgeoisie the nature of the pleasures depended on the classes of society. The pleasures of the bourgeoisie are determined by the material brought forth by this class at various stages of its development and they have acquired the tedious character which they still retain from the individuals and from the continuous subordination of pleasure to money-making. The present crude form of proletarian pleasure is due, on the one hand, to the long working hours, which led to the utmost intensification of the need for enjoyment, and, on the other hand, to the restriction -both qualitative and quantitative – of the means of pleasure accessible to the proletarian.
In general, the pleasures of all hitherto existing estates and classes had to be either childish, exhausting or crude, because they were always completely divorced from the vital activity, the real content of the life of the individuals. and more or less reduced to imparting an illusory content to a meaningless activity. The hitherto existing forms of enjoyment could, of course, only be criticised when the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat had developed to such an extent that the existing mode of production and intercourse could be criticised as well.
It was only possible to discover the connection between the kinds of enjoyment open to individuals at any particular time and the class relations in which they live, and the conditions of production and intercourse which give rise to these relations, the narrowness of the hitherto existing forms of enjoyment, which were outside the actual content of the life of people and in contradiction to it, the connection between every philosophy of enjoyment and the enjoyment actually present and the hypocrisy of such a philosophy which treated all individuals without distinction — it was, of course, only possible to discover all this when it became possible to criticise the conditions of production and intercourse in the hitherto existing world, i.e., when the contradiction between t — he bourgeoisie and the proletariat had given rise to communist and socialist views. That shattered the basis of all morality, whether the morality of asceticism or of enjoyment.
Our insipid, moralising Sancho believes, of course, as his whole book shows, that it is merely a matter of a different morality, of what appears to him a new outlook on life, of “getting out of one’s head” a few “fixed ideas”, to make everyone happy and able to enjoy life. Hence the chapter on self-enjoyment could at most reproduce under a new label the same phrases and maxims which he had already so frequently had the “self-enjoyment” of preaching to us. This chapter has only one original feature, namely that he deifies and turns into philosophical German all enjoyment, by giving it the name “self-enjoyment”. While the French philosophy of enjoyment of the eighteenth century at least gave a witty description of the gay and audacious mode of life that then existed, Sancho’s whole frivolity is limited to such expressions as “consuming” and “squandering”, to images such as the “light” (it should read a candle) and to natural-scientific recollections which amount either to belletristic nonsense such as that the plant “imbibes the air of the ether” and that “song-birds swallow beetles”, or else to wrong statements, for example, that a candle burns itself. On the other hand, here we again enjoy all the solemn seriousness of the statements against “the holy”, which, we are told, in the guise of “vocation — designation — task” and “ideal” has hitherto spoiled people’s self-enjoyment.
For the rest, without dwelling on the more or less dirty forms in which the “self” in “self-enjoyment” can be more than a mere phrase, we must once more as briefly as possible outline for the reader Sancho’s machinations against the holy, with the insignificant modulations occurring in this chapter.
To recapitulate briefly, “vocation, designation, task, ideal” are either
1) the idea of the revolutionary tasks laid down for an oppressed class by the material conditions; or
2) mere idealistic paraphrases, or also the apt conscious expression of the individuals’ modes of activity which owing to division of labour have assumed independent existence as various professions; or
3) the conscious expression of the necessity which at every moment confronts individuals, classes and nations to assert their position through some quite definite activity; or
4) the conditions of existence of the ruling class (as determined by the preceding development of production), ideally expressed in law, morality, etc., to which [conditions] the ideologists of that class more or less consciously give a sort of theoretical independence; they can be conceived by separate individuals of that class as vocation, etc., and are held up as a standard of life to the individuals of the oppressed class, partly as an embellishment or recognition of domination, partly as a moral means for this domination. It is to be noted here, as in general with ideologists, that they inevitably put the thing upside-down and regard their ideology both as the creative force and as the aim of all social relations, whereas it is only an expression and symptom of these relations.
As for our Sancho, we know that he has the most ineradicable faith in the illusions of these ideologists. Because people, depending on their various conditions of life, construct various notions about themselves, that is about man, Sancho imagines that the various ideas created the various conditions of life and thus the wholesale manufacturers of these ideas, i.e., the ideologists, have dominated the world. Cf. page 433.
“Thinkers rule in the world”, “thought rules the world”; priests or school-masters” “stuff their heads with all sorts of trash”, “they imagine a human ideal” which other people have to take as a guide (p. 442).
Sancho even knows exactly the conclusion by virtue of which people were subjected to the fancies of the school-masters and owing to their stupidity subjected themselves to these fancies:
“Because it is conceivable for me” (the school-master), “it is possible for people; because it is possible for people, it means that they ought to be such, it was their vocation; and, finally, it is only according to this vocation, only as persons having a vocation, that one must judge human beings. And the further conclusion? It is not the individual who is man, but it is a thought, an ideal, that is man (p. 441). — species — mankind”
All collisions in which, owing to their actual conditions of life, human beings become involved with themselves or with others appear to our school-master Sancho as collisions between people and their ideas about the life of “Man”, ideas which they either have put themselves into their heads or have allowed school-masters to put into their heads. If they managed to get these ideas out of their heads “how happily” “these unfortunate beings could live”, what “capers” they could cut, whereas now they have to “dance to the pipe of the school-masters and bear-leaders"! (p. 435). (The lowest of these “bear-leaders” is Sancho, for it is only himself whom he leads by the nose.) If, for example, people almost always and almost everywhere — in China as well as in France — did not get it into their heads that they suffer from over-population, what an overflowing abundance of the means of existence would these “unfortunate beings” suddenly have at their disposal.
Under the pretext of writing a treatise on possibility and reality, Sancho here once more attempts to put forward his old story of the rule of the holy in the world. For him everything a school-master gets into his head about me is possible, and then Sancho can easily prove that this possibility has no reality except in his head. His solemn assertion that “behind the word possible lay concealed the most momentous misunderstanding of thousands of years” (p. 441) is sufficient proof that it is impossible for him to conceal behind word s the consequences of his abundant misunderstanding of thousands of years.
This treatise on the “coincidence of possibility and reality” (p. 439), on what people have the ability to be and what they are, a treatise that harmonises so well with his earlier insistent exhortations that one should bring all one’s abilities into play, etc., leads him, however, to a few more digressions on the materialist theory of circumstances, which we shall presently deal with in more detail. But first, one more example of his ideological distortion. On page 428 he makes the question “how can one acquire life” identical with the question how is one to “create in oneself the true ego” (or “life”). According to the same page, “worrying about life” ceases with his new moral philosophy and the “squandering” of life begins. Our Solomon expresses still more “eloquently” the miraculous power of his allegedly new moral philosophy in the following saying:
“Regard yourself as more powerful than others say You are, then you will have more power: value yourself more and you will have more” (p. 483).
See above, in the section on the “union”, Sancho’s method of acquiring property.
Now for his theory of circumstances.
“Man has no vocation. but he has powers which manifest themselves where they exist, because their being consists solely in their manifestation, and they cannot remain inactive any more than life itself.... Everyone at each instant uses as much power as he has” (“increase your value, follow the example of the courageous man, let each of you become an omnipotent ego”, etc. — Sancho said above). ... One’s powers can indeed be intensified and multiplied, particularly by hostile resistance or friendly support; but where their application is missing one can be sure that they are absent. It is possible to strike fire from a stone, but without striking it, nothing comes out; similarly man needs an impulse. Since powers always prove to be operative of themselves, the injunction to use them would be superfluous and senseless.... Power is merely a simpler word for manifestation of power” (pp. 436, 437).
“Egoism in agreement with itself”, which just as it pleases brings or does not bring its powers or abilities into play and which applies the jus utendi et abutendi to them, here suddenly and unexpectedly comes to grief. Once they are present, the forces here all of a sudden act autonomously, without caring about Sancho’s “pleasure”, they act like chemical or mechanical forces, independently of the individual who possesses them. We learn further that a force is not present if its manifestation is missing; the correction being made that power requires an impulse for its manifestation. We do not learn, however, how Sancho will decide whether it is the impulse or the power that is lacking when the manifestation of power is deficient. On the other hand, our unique investigator of nature teaches us that “it is possible to strike fire from a stone”, and, as is always the case with Sancho, he could not have chosen a more unfortunate example. Sancho, like a simple village school-master, believes that the fire he strikes in this way comes from the stone, where it was previously latent. But any fourth-form schoolboy could tell him that in this method of obtaining fire, a method long forgotten in all civilised countries, by the friction of steel and stone, particles which become red-hot owing to this friction are separated from the steel, and not from the stone; that, consequently, the “fire”, which for Sancho is not a definite relation, at a definite temperature, of certain bodies to certain other bodies, in particular oxygen, but is an independent thing, an “element”, a fixed idea, “the holy" — that this fire does not come either from the stone or from the steel. Sancho might just as well have said: one can make bleached linen from chlorine, but if the “impulse”, viz., the unbleached linen, is lacking, then “nothing comes out”. We shall take this opportunity, for Sancho’s “self-enjoyment”, of noting an earlier fact of “unique” natural science. In the ode on crime it is stated:
“Is there not a distant peal of thunder
And do you not see how the sky
Filled with foreboding is silent and overcast?” (p. 319 of “the book”),
It thunders and the sky is silent. Hence Sancho knows of some other place than the sky from which thunder comes. Further, Sancho notices the silence of the sky by means of his organ of sight— a feat which no one will be able to imitate. Or perhaps Sancho hears thunder and sees silence, so that the two phenomena can take place simultaneously. We saw how Sancho in dealing with “apparitions” made mountains represent the “spirit of loftiness” . Here the silent sky represents for him the spirit of foreboding.
Incidentally, it is not clear why Sancho here rails against the “injunction to us c one’s powers”. This injunction, after all, could possibly be the missing “impulse”, which, it is true, fails to have effect in the case of a stone, but the efficacy of which Sancho could observe during the exercises of any battalion. That the “injunction” is an “impulse” even for his feeble powers follows also from the fact that for him it turns out to be a “stumbling block”. [anstoss — impulse, shock, scandal, offence; Stein des Anstosses — stumbling block]
Consciousness is also a power which, according to the doctrine which has just been enunciated, “always proves to be operative of itself”. In accordance with this, therefore, Sancho ought not to have set out to change consciousness, but at most the “impulse” which affects consciousness; consequently Sancho would have written his whole book in vain. But in this case, of course, he regards his moral preaching and “injunctions” as a sufficient “impulse”.
“What an individual can become he will become. A born poet may be prevented, owing to unfavourable circumstances, from being abreast of the times and creating great works of art, for which much study is indispensable; but he will compose poetry whether he is an agricultural labourer or has the good fortune to live at the Weimar Court. A born musician will occupy himself with music, no matter whether on all instruments” (he found this fantasy about “all instruments” in Proudhon. See “Communism”) “or only on a shepherd’s reed” (Virgil’s Eclogues, of course, again come into the mind of our school-master). “A born philosophical intellect can prove its worth either as a university philosopher or a village philosopher. Finally, a born dunce always remains a blockhead. Indeed, innate limited intellects undoubtedly form the most numerous class of mankind. And why should not the same differences occur in the human species as are unmistakably seen in every species of animate” (p. 434).
Sancho has again chosen his example with his usual lack of skill. If all his nonsense about born poets, musicians and philosophers is accepted, then this example only proves, on the one hand, that a born poet, etc., remains what he is from birth — namely a poet, etc.; and, on the other hand, that the born poet, etc., in so far as he becomes, develops, may, ,owing to unfavourable circumstances”, not become what he could become. His example, therefore, on the one hand, proves nothing at all, and, on the other hand, proves the opposite of what it was intended to prove; and taking both aspects together it proves that either from birth or owing to circumstances, Sancho belongs to “the most numerous class of mankind”. However, he shares the consolation of being a unique “blockhead” with this class and with his own blockheadedness.
Here Sancho experiences the adventure with the magic potion which Don Quixote brewed from rosemary, wine, olive oil and salt. As Cervantes relates in the seventeenth chapter, after Sancho had drunk this mixture he spent two hours in sweats and convulsions pouring it out from both channels of his body. The materialist potion which our valiant armour-bearer imbibed’ for his self-enjoyment purges him of all his egoism in the extraordinary sense. We saw above that Sancho suddenly lost all his solemnity when confronted with the “impulse”, and renounced his “ability”, like of yore the Egyptian magicians when confronted with the lice of Moses. Now we observe two new attacks of faint-heartedness, in which he also gives way “to unfavourable circumstances” and finally even admits that his original physical organisation is something that becomes crippled without co-operation from him. What is left now to our bankrupt egoist? He has no power over his original physical organisation; nor can he control the “circumstances” and the “impulse” under the influence of which this organisation develops; “what he is at every instant” is not “his own creation”, but something created by the interaction between his innate potentialities and the circumstances acting on them — all this Sancho concedes. Unfortunate “creator”! Most unfortunate “creation”!
But the greatest calamity comes at the end. Sancho, not satisfied that already long ago he received the full count of the tres mil azotes y trecientos en ambas sus valientes posaderas [three thousand acid three burial lashes upon his ample buttocks] finally delivers himself another and mighty blow by proclaiming himself a believer in species. And what a believer in species! Firstly, he attributes division of labour to species by making it responsible for the fact that some people are poets, others musicians, and still others school-masters. Secondly, he ascribes to species the existing physical and intellectual defects of “the most numerous class of mankind” and makes it responsible for the fact that under the rule of the bourgeoisie the majority of individuals are like himself. According to his views on innate limited intellects, one would have to explain the present spread of scrofula from the fact that “the species” finds a special satisfaction in making innate scrofulous constitutions form “the most numerous class of mankind”. Even the most ordinary materialists and medical men had got beyond such naive views long before the egoist in agreement with himself was “called” upon by “the species”, “unfavourable circumstances” and the “impulse” to make his début before the German public. just as previously Sancho explained all crippling of individuals, and hence of their relations, by means of the fixed ideas of school-masters, without worrying about the origin of these ideas, so now he explains this crippling as merely due to the natural process of generation. He has not the slightest idea that the ability of children to develop depends on the development of their parents and that all this crippling under existing social relations has arisen historically, and in the same way can be abolished again in the course of historical development. Even naturally evolved differences within the species, such as racial differences, etc., which Sancho does not mention at all, can and must be abolished in the course of historical development. Sancho — who in this connection casts a stealthy glance at zoology and so makes the discovery that “innate limited intellects” form the most numerous class not only among sheep and oxen, but also among polyps and infusoria, which have no heads at all — has perhaps heard that it is possible to improve races of animals and by cross-breeding to create entirely new, more perfect varieties both for human enjoyment and for their own self-enjoyment.. “Why should not” Sancho be able to draw a conclusion from this in relation to people as well?
We shall take this opportunity to “introduce episodically” Sancho’s “transformations” in relation to species. We shall see that his attitude to species is exactly the same as to the holy: the more he blusters against it, the more he believes in it.
No. I. We have already seen that species engenders division of labour and the crippling that takes place under existing social circumstances and indeed in such a way that the species together with its products is regarded as something immutable under all circumstances, as outside the control of people.
No. II. “Species is already realised owing to inherent constitution; on the other hand, what you make of this constitution” (according to what was said above, this ought to be: what “circumstances” make of it) “is the realisation of you. Your hand is fully realised in the sense of species, otherwise it would not be a hand but, let us sav, a paw.... You make of it what and how you wish it to be and what you can make of it” (Wigand, pp. 184, 185).
Here Sancho repeats in a different form what was already said in No. I.
We have seen, therefore, from what has been said so far that species, independently of control by individuals and the stage of their historical development, brings into the world all physical and spiritual potentialities, the immediate existence of individuals and, in embryo, division of labour.
No. III. Species remains as “impulse”, which is only a general term for the “circumstances” that determine the development of the original individual, again engendered by species. For Sancho species is here precisely the same mysterious force which other bourgeois call the nature of things and which they make responsible for all relationships that are independent of them as bourgeois, and whose interconnection, therefore, they do not understand.
No. IV. Species taken as “what is possible for man” and “required by man” forms the basis of the organisation of labour in “Stirner’s union”, where likewise what is possible for all and required by all is regarded as a product of species.
No. V. We have already heard about the role that agreement plays in the union.
Page 462: “If it is a matter of coming to an agreement or communicating with one another, then, of course, I can only make use of the human means that are at my disposal because I am at the same time a man” (i.e., a specimen of the species).
Here, therefore, language is regarded as a product of the species. That Sancho speaks German and not French, however, is something he in no way owes to the species, but to circumstances. Incidentally, in every modern developed language, partly as a result of the historical development of the language from pre-existing material, as in the Romance and Germanic languages, partly owing to the crossing and mixing of nations, as in the English language, and partly as a result of the concentration of the dialects within a single nation brought about by economic and political concentration, the spontaneously evolved speech has been turned into a national language. As a matter of course, the individuals at some time will take completely under their control this product of the species as well. In the union, language as such will be spoken, holy language, the language of the holy — Hebrew, and indeed the Aramaic dialect spoken by that “corporeal essence”, Christ. This “occurred” to us here “against the expectation” of Sancho, and “indeed exclusively because it seems to us that it could help to clarify the remainder”.
No. VI. On pages 277, 278, we learn that “the species reveals itself in nations, towns, estates, diverse corporations” and, finally, “in the family”; hence it is perfectly logical that up to now it has “made history”. Thus, here all preceding history, up to the unfortunate history of the unique, becomes a product of the “species” and, indeed, for the sufficient reason that this history has sometimes been summed up under the title of the history of mankind, i. e., of the species.
No. VII. In what has been said so far Sancho has attributed to the species more than any mortal had ever done before him, and he now sums it up in the following proposition:
“Species is nothing ... species is only a conception” (spirit, spectre, etc.) (p. 239).
Ultimately, then, this “nothing” of Sancho’s, which is identical with a “conception”, means nothing, for Sancho himself is ‘,the creative nothing”, and the species, as we have seen, creates a great deal, and in doing so it can therefore very well be “nothing”. Moreover Sancho tells us on page 456:
“Being justifies nothing at all; something imagined exists just as well as something not imagined.”
Starting with page 448, Sancho spins out a yarn lasting thirty pages in order to strike “fire” out of thought and criticism of the egoist in agreement with himself. We have already experienced too many expressions of his thought and criticism to give the reader further “offence ,a with Sancho’s beggar’s broth. One spoonful of it will suffice.
“Do you believe that thoughts fly about freely for the taking, so that anyone can capture some of them and then put them forward against me as his inviolable property? Everything that flies about, all of it is — mine” (p. 457).
Here Sancho poaches snipe existing only in the mind. We have seen how many of the thoughts flying about he has captured for himself. He fancied that he could catch them as soon as he put the salt of the holy on their tails. This colossal contradiction between his actual property in regard to thoughts and his illusions on that score may serve as a classic and striking example of his entire property in the extraordinary sense. It is precisely this contrast that constitutes his self-enjoyment.
Cease man of Troy, and cease thou sage of Greece,
To boast of Navigations great ye made;
Let the high Fame of Alexander cease,
And Trajan’s Banners in the East display'd:
Cease All, whose Actions ancient Bards exprest:
A brighter Valour arises in the West.
And you (my Spree Nymphs)...
[Marx and Engels substituted “Spree” — the river on which Berlin stands — for Tagus]
Give me a mighty Fury, Nor rude Reeds
Or rustic Bag-Pipes sound, But such as War’s
Lowd Instrument (the noble Trumpet) breeds,
Which fires the Breast, and stirs the blood to jars.
[This and the following quotations are from Luis de Camões, Lusiada]
give me, o nymphs of the Spree, a song worthy of the heroes who fight on your banks against Substance and Man, a song that will spread over the whole world and will be sung in all lands — for it is a matter here of the man whose deeds are
Beyond what strength of human nature here,
greater than mere “human” power can perform, the man who
A modern Scepter which to Heaven aspired
who has founded a new kingdom among a far-off people, viz., the “union" — it is a matter here of being a
... fair and tender Blossom of that Tree
Belov'd by Him, who dy’d on one for Man
of the tender and young blossoming shoot of a tree especially loved by Christ, a tree which is nothing less than
. ... certain Hope t'extend the Pale,
One day, of narrow Christianitie.
the surest hope of growth for faint-hearted Christianity — in a word, it is a matter of something “unprecedented”, the “unique”.
Everything that is to be found in this unprecedented song of songs about the unique was in existence earlier in the “book”. We mention this chapter only for the sake of good order; so that we should be able to do it properly we have left the examination of some points until now and we shall briefly recapitulate others.