Quotable Quotes from
The German Ideology by Marx & Engels

For an explanation of why and when these passages were selected, see The German Ideology After 150 Years.


 “Hitherto men have constantly made up for themselves false conceptions about themselves, about what they are and what they ought to be. They have arranged their relationships according to their ideas of God, of normal man, etc. The phantoms of their brains have got out of their hands. They, the creators, have bowed down before their creations ....”

 “The innocent and childlike fancies are the kernel of the modern Young-Hegelian philosophy, which not only is received by the German public with horror and awe, but is announced by our philosophic heroes with the solemn consciousness of its cataclysmic dangerousness and criminal ruthlessness. The first volume of the present publication has the aim of uncloaking these sheep, who take themselves and are taken for wolves; of showing how their bleating merely imitates in a philosophic form the conceptions of the German middle class; how the boasting of these philosophic commentators only mirrors the wretchedness of the real conditions in Germany. It is its aim to debunk and discredit the philosophic struggle with the shadows of reality, which appeals to the dreamy and muddled German nation.” [p. 23]

 “These high-falutin and haughty hucksters of ideas, who imagine themselves infinitely exalted above all national prejudices, are thus in practice far more national than the beer-quaffing philistines who dream of a united Germany.” [p. 54]

 “One has to "leave philosophy aside" ... one has to leap out of it and devote oneself like an ordinary man to the study of actuality, for which there exists also an enormous amount of literary material, unknown, of course, to the philosophers. ... Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relation to one another as onanism and sexual love.” [259]

 “... it is nevertheless a notorious fact that there do exist reflecting individuals, who imagine that in and through reflection they have risen above everything, while in actual fact they have never risen above reflection.” [285]

 “As for the content of himself as a creation, we see that nowhere does he create this content, these definite qualities, e.g., his thought, his zeal, etc., but only the reflective determination of this content as creation, the idea that these definite qualities are his creations. All his qualities are present in him and whence they come is all the same to him. He, therefore, neither needs to develop them -- for example, to learn to dance, in order to have mastery over his feet, or to exercise his thought on material which is not given to everyone, and is not procurable by everyone, in order to become the owner of his thought — nor does he need to worry about the conditions in the world which determine the extent to which an individual can really develop.” [p. 289-290]

 “It depends not on consciousness, but on being; not on thought, but on life; it depends on the empirical development and manifestation of life of the individual, which in turn depends on conditions in the world. If the circumstances in which the individual lives allow him only the one-sided development of a single quality at the expense of all the rest ... then this individual achieves only a one-sided, crippled development.” [290]

 “In the case of an individual, for example, whose life embraces a wide circle of varied activities and practical relations to the world, and who, therefore, lives a many-sided life, thought has the same character of universality as every other manifestation of his life.” [291]

 “In the case of a parochial Berlin school-master or author, however, whose activity is restricted to arduous work on the one hand and the pleasure of thought on the other .... whose relations to this world are reduced to a minimum by his pitiful position in life, in the case of such an individual, when he experiences the need to think, it is inevitable that his thought becomes just as abstract as this individual and his life itself ...” [291]

 “The extent to which these qualities develop on the local or universal scale, the extent to which they transcend local narrow-minded limitations or remain in the grip of the latter, depends not on Stirner, but on the development of world intercourse and on the part which he and the locality where he lives play in it. The fact that under favourable circumstances some individuals are able to rid themselves of their local narrow-mindedness is not at all because the individuals by their reflection imagine that they have got rid of, or intent to get rid of, this local narrow-mindedness, but because they, in their empirical reality, and owing to empirical needs, have been able to bring about world intercourse.” [292]

SOURCE: Marx, Karl; Engels, Frederick. The German Ideology. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1968.

More recent scholarship has determined that this “book” is really an artificial editorial concoction of various manuscripts. See:

«The German Ideology Never Took Place» by Terrell Carver

... and:

Terrell Carver, Daniel Blank; Marx and Engels’s “German Ideology” Manuscripts: Presentation and Analysis of the “Feuerbach Chapter”. Palgrave Macmillan US, 2014.

Terrell Carver, Daniel Blank; A Political History of the Editions of Marx and Engels’s “German Ideology Manuscripts”. Palgrave Macmillan US, 2014.

The German Ideology After 150 Years

Marx & Individualism Reconsidered: Selected Bibliography

The Unknown Karl Marx

Antonio Gramsci, Organic Intellectuals, & the Division of Labor

"Socialist Individualism?" by Magnus E. Marsdal

Philosophy and the Division of Labor: Selected Bibliography

Reflexivity & Situatedness Study Guide

Ideology Study Guide
(with links to the following and more:)

Bibliography: Ideology by David McLellan
"Ideology" by Jorge Larrain
Jeff Schmidt on Ideology and Professionals
Karl Marx vs. Cynical Reason: On Suppositions of Naked Self-Interest

Marx and Marxism Web Guide


"Reflexivity, Relationism, & Research:
Pierre Bourdieu and the Epistemic Conditions of Social Scientific Knowledge
by Karl Maton

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