Young Marx

The correct place of Karl Marx's early writings within his system as a whole has been a matter of great controversy. Some believe there is a break in Marx's development that divides his thought into two periods: the "Young Marx" is said to be a thinker who deals with the problem of alienation, while the "Mature Marx" is said to aspire to a scientific socialism.[1]

Karl Marx in 1861

The debate centers on the reasons for Marx's transition from philosophy to the analysis of modern capitalist society. It arose with the posthumous publication of the works that Marx wrote before 1845[2] — particularly the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844[1] — which had been unavailable to the first generation of Marxist theorists.[3] These writings, first published between 1927 and 1932,[4] provide a philosophical background to the economic, historical and political works that Marx had hitherto been known for.[5] Orthodox Marxism follows a positivist reading that sees Marx as having made a progressive change towards scientific socialism. Marxist humanism, on the other hand, denies there is a break in Marx's development, seeing continuity between the Hegelian philosophical humanism of the early Marx and the work of the later Marx.[6]