Marx's notebooks on the history of technology

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Karl Marx wrote a number of notebooks on the history of technology which so far remain unpublished. Their whereabouts were for a long time unknown but in the past they were read and discussed by Marxist writers.

History[edit]

Engels lists Marx's collection of material on technology as one of Marx's "specialisms" in correspondence outlining their mutual division of intellectual labour.[1]

Marx directly refers to the notebooks in his letter to Engels of January 28, 1863 where he says

… I have re-read my notebooks (extracts) on technology, and am attending a practical (only experimental) course for workers on the same by Professor Willis (in Jermyn Street, the Institute for Geology, where Huxley also gave his lectures)… While re-reading the technological-historical excerpts, I came to the conclusion that , apart from the invention of gun-powder, the compass and printing - these necessary pre-requisites for bourgeois development - from the 16th to the mid-18th centuries, i.e. the period of the development of manufacture from craftsmanship until really large-scale industry, the two material foundations on which were based the preparations for mechanised industry within manufacturing were the clock and the mill … [1]:82-84

Across his writing Marx makes frequent reference to his interest in technological developments, and these mentions are complemented by generic statements such as the need for a critical history of technology in the major footnote at the beginning of the chapter on "Machinery and Large Scale Industry" in Capital, Volume I.[2]

Commentary[edit]

György Lukács studied these notebooks while they existed in the archives in Moscow, and appears to refer to them in a 1925 article later published in English translation in the New Left Review criticizing what he saw as Bukharin's undue technicism.[3] Lukács added a commentary on the methodological importance of this critique to the preface to the new edition (1967) of the English Merlin 1971 translation of History and Class Consciousness.[4]

Nathan Rosenberg published an essay on "Marx as a student of technology" published in his Inside the Black Box and Amy E. Wendling published a book on the notebooks entitled Karl Marx on Technology and Alienation (2009).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich (1983). Letters on 'Capital. New Park. 
  2. ^ Marx, Karl (1971), "Machinery and Large Scale Industry", in Marx, Karl, Capital, London: Penguin, p. 493-494 
  3. ^ Brewster, Ben (September–October 1966). "Introduction to Lukács on Bukharin". New Left Review. New Left Review. I (39). 
  4. ^ Lukács, György (1971), "Preface", in Lukács, György, History and Class Consciousness, London: Merlin, p. xxxiii