Note on the Poverty of Philosophy

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Author(s) Karl Marx
Written April 1880

Written in late March or early April 1880

Printed according to the manuscript, checked with the newspaper

First published in L'Egalité, No. 12, April 7, 1880

Published in Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 24
Collection(s): L'Egalité

Note from MECW :

Marx probably wrote this “Note” at the request of L’Egalité’s editorial board in late March or early April 1880 as the editorial introduction to his work to be published by the newspaper (it published only the foreword and § 1 of Chapter I).

The Introduction was published in English for the first time in: Marx, Engels, Lenin, On Scientific Communism, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972, p. 34.

The Poverty of Philosophy by Karl Marx appeared in 1847[1] shortly after the Economic Contradictions by Proudhon[2], which bore the sub-title Philosophy of Poverty. What prompted us to reprint this book, the first edition of which is out of print, was the fact that it contains the seeds of the theory developed after twenty years’ work in Capital Reading the Poverty of Philosophy and the Manifesto of the Communist Party, published by Marx and Engels in 1848, might thus serve as an introduction to the study of Capital and the works of other modern socialists who, like Lassalle, have derived their ideas from them. By authorising this republication in our journal, Marx wished to give us a token of his sympathy.

We must say a few more words about the drastic tone of this polemic against Proudhon. On the one hand, Proudhon, while attacking the official economists such as Dunoyer, Blanqui the Academician and the whole clique around the Journal des Économistes[3], knew how to appeal to their vanity at the same time as he heaped coarse insults on the Utopian socialists and communists whom Marx honoured as the forebears[4] of modern socialism. On the other hand, to prepare the way for the critical and materialist socialism which alone can render the real, historical development of social production intelligible, it was necessary to break abruptly with the ideological economics of which Proudhon was unwittingly the last incarnation.

Besides, in an article published in the Berlin Social-Demokrat[5] on the death of Proudhon, Marx did justice to this fighter’s great qualities, to his manly attitude after the days of June 1848,[6] and to his talent as a political writer.

  1. K. Marx, Misère de la philosophie. Réponse à la philosophie de la misère de M. Proudhon, Paris, Brussels, 1847.— Ed
  2. P. J. Proudhon, Système des contradictions économiques, ou philosophie de la misère, Vols. 1-2, Paris, 1846.— Ed.
  3. Léon Faucher, Charles Duchâtel, Louis François Benoiston de Châteauneuf, Maurice Rubichon, and Edelestand Duméril.— Ed
  4. L'Egalité has here: "initiators".— Ed
  5. K. Marx, "On Proudhon", Der Social-Demokrat, Nos. 16-18, February 1, 3 and 5, 1865.— Ed
  6. Marx is referring, above all, to Proudhon’s speech in the French National Assembly on July 31, 1848 (see Compte rendu des séances de l’Assemblée nationale, Vol. II, Paris, 1849, pp. 770-82). Marx devoted a special article to it entitled “Proudhon’s Speech against Thiers” which was published in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, No. 66, August 5, 1848.