Study Questions on The Portable Karl Marx.
Please note that there is a Reader's Guide at the back of the book, which helps explain terms that might be unfamiliar.
Introduction (pp. xi-xiv):
does Kamenka think that studying Marx is important?
the major turning points in Marx's life and be
prepared to "chart" them on the blackboard.
says that Marx combined German philosophy, French
politics, and English economics.
what this means.
Marx's criticism of capitalism--according to
Marx the Man: Documents, Letters, Reminiscences (pp. 5-71):
What were Marx's main personality traits?
What sort of person was he, and what did he seem to value? (Think about how his personality compares to that of J. S. Mill.)
Be prepared to explain in detail your
to this "biographical" material.
The Formation of a Young Radical: Early Writings, 1841-44 (pp. 75-124):
Consider the "Correspondence of 1843" (pp. 92-95):
what was Marx's
of German intellectual life in 1843?
the Introduction to "Contribution to
the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right
why did Marx call religion "the opium of the
what was the main point of Marx's criticism of Hegel?
was Marx's main criticism of German
philosophy in 1844?
did Marx say Germany had to do to "join" the modern
for Marx was the proletariat the only class that could bring "human
Philosophy to Communism, Political Economy, and the Materialist Conception of
History: Transitional Writings, 1844-47 (pp. 125-195)
Consider the manuscript fragment "Alienated Labour" (from Economico-Philosphical Manuscripts of 1844, pp. 131-146).
What did Marx say was wrong with "political economy"?
is labor a commodity? Why is the
product of a worker's labor an
did Marx mean by "the relationship of the worker to
to Marx, why is the "fact" that man is alienated in the process of
labor and from labor's products both dehumanizing and socially
to Marx, what is the relationship of "the capitalist" to labor,
and how is this relationship connected to
private property is based on
Consider these selections from
The German Ideology, vol. 1 (pp. 162-195)
In the section "The Materialist Conception of History" (163-171).
What does Marx
mean by "mode of production"?
How does the division of labor "determine" the nature of society?
the "mode of production" in tribal society; ancient
(slave) society; and feudal society.
does Marx link the mode of production in a given
historical epoch to the system of political power in that
How does Marx explain the relationship between culture (law, religion, philosophy, etc.--what he often refers to in later work as "superstructure") and the "mode of production"?
is his view "materialist"?
In the section "On History" (pp. 171-173)
What does Marx say that we must take as our starting
point in studying history and why?
What does he call "the first historical act" and why?
is the "third aspect" of historical/social
for Marx, what do we look at to understand human history?
In the the section "Consciousness and the Division of Labour" (173-183).
Why does Marx say
that consciousness is a
does this section tell us about Marx's understanding of
the nature of history and historical change?
In the the section "Law and the Materialist Conception of History" (pp. 183-186).
How does Marx
explain the purpose and the nature of the
state in capitalist society?
does Marx relate law to the development of private
property? What for Marx is
the purpose of Law?
In the section "The Role of Violence in History" (pp. 186-188).
Does Marx consider violence
and war the driving force of history?
In the section "Communism as the End of History" (pp. 189-195).
What did Marx mean by communism, and why would it be "the
end of history"?
did Marx consider abolition of classes necessary for
real human freedom?
and Counter-Revolution: Political Writings, 1848-1852(pp. 197-323).
Based upon The Manifesto of the Communist Party:
what Marx and Engels meant by the
statement that "the history of all hitherto existing
society is the history of class struggles."
to Marx and Engels, what are the classes of capitalist society and why do they
do Marx and Engels say that previously the bourgeoisie had played "a most
revolutionary part" in history?
do Marx and Engels call the bourgeoisie "its own grave digger"?
to Marx and Engels, how
had industrialization "created" a proletariat, and why
was the working class a revolutionary force?
to the Manifesto, what were the Communists'
aims in 1848? Why did they
want to abolish "bourgeois" private property?
Liberals considered the right to personal property as critical to the protection of all individual liberties--did Marx and Engels agree?
did Marx and Engels say was necessary to have real freedom?
does the Manifesto say about the nature of the "bourgeois" family, marriage, and nationality?
the "platform" points on pp. 227-28.
What was Marx and Engels' main criticism of the utopian socialists, and what did they consider useful in utopian ideas?
OK, now let's connect this to our earlier readings and discussions:
1) What elements in Marx's methodology and in his basic ideas are clearly rooted in the traditions and ideas of the Enlightenment?
2) What aspects of Marx's ideas appear to be rooted in (or at least resonate with) Romanticism?
3) In what ways were Marx's views a response to the internal political contradictions in European society highlighted by the French revolution?
4) In what sense were Marx's views a response to the internal social contradictions in European society highlighted by the industrial revolution?
5) Compare and contrast Marx's analytical methods and conclusions to those of Mill.
we do not have time to discuss it in class, for an outstanding example of Marx
as "contemporary historian," read the selections from The
Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (pp. 287-323).
works that we have discussed represent the approach that is sometimes described
as the "Young Marx." In his "mature"
(later) work, Marx focused brilliantly on the history and political economy of
capitalism, most famously in a three volume work entitled Capital.
For representative excerpts of "Late Marx" see
pp. 325-328, 369-374, 394-432, 465-493, 505-507.