Dialectics of Labour: Appendix

Dialectics of Labour: Marx and his Relation to Hegel
by C. J. Arthur
first published, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1986

Problems of Translation

Entäusserung (and Entfremdung)

According to Lukács there is nothing novel about these terms: they are simply German translations of the English word ‘alienation’. ‘Alienation’ itself, he points out, was used in political theory to refer to the renunciation of natural liberty implicit in the social contract. He says that Entäusserung was first used in philosophy by Fichte. [1]

We translate Entfremdung by ‘estrangement’ (but fremd as ‘alien’), and Entäusserung nearly always by ‘alienation’. As a matter of fact Entäusserung is a rather unusual German word. An illustration of this is that Cassell’s Dictionary (12th ed., 1968) does not give it in the English section as an equivalent for those English words given under the entry for Entäusserung in the German section, preferring a more usual form, namely Veräusserung. Possible translations of Entäusserung include ‘alienation’, ‘renunciation’, ‘parting with’, ‘relinquishment’, ‘externalization’, ‘divestiture’, ‘surrender’. Where alienation of property is concerned one can use Entäusserung but not Entfremdung, the latter is restricted to cases of interpersonal estrangement. There is indeed no reason not to use ‘estrangement’ to render Entfremdung, thus leaving ‘alienation’ free to render Entäusserung.

The closest translation of Entäusserung from a purely etymological point of view is ‘externalization’. It is the usual choice of Miller in his translation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. The root ‘äusserung‘ means manifestation (from äusser-‘outer’) and the prefix ‘Ent‘ indicates establishment of or entry into a new state or relinquishment of an old state; thus, in combination, the sense is that something is manifested in such a way as to change its state. Whereas Veräusserung – a more common equivalent of alienation, especially when it just means ‘sale’ – is a fairly neutral word, it is clear that Marx means Entäusserung to have a negative connotation.

The sense of relinquishment comes out strongly when Marx contrasts the root and its modification in connection with life: he says of private property that in it man’s ‘expression of life {Lebensäusserung} is his alienation/loss of life {Lebensentäusserung}’. [2] In other places Marx contrasts similarly ‘Ver‘ forms with ‘Ent‘ forms: ‘In these economic conditions this realization {Verwirklichung} of labour appears as a loss of reality {Entwirklichung} for the worker.’ [3] Again: ‘Hegel conceives objectification {Vergegenständlichung} as loss of object {Entgegenständlichung}.’ [4]

Before the investigation in the 1844 Manuscripts the aspect of alienation that had most impressed Marx was the universalization of market relations with the consequent reification of the human world. He says: ‘Selling is the practice of alienation’ (‘Die Veräusserung ist die Praxis der Entäusserung‘). This is because man can ‘produce objects only by making his products and his activity subordinate to an alien substance and giving them the significance of an alien substance – money’. [5] Because Marx carefully distinguishes between Vergegenständlichung (‘objectification’) and Entäusserung, to translate the latter as ‘externalization’ creates a risk of confusion.

The question arises as to whether Entfremdung and Entäusserung are one concept or two. As we have already explained, Entfremdung is of narrower application, in that it could not be used with reference to transfer of property. Furthermore, it seems to have a less active connotation than Entäusserung. With Hegel’s Phenomenology it is tempting to suggest that Entfremdung stands to Entäusserung as phenomenological result to the active process of spirit’s positing of itself in otherness. This would conform with Marx’s gloss: ‘Entfremdung . . . constitutes the real interest of this Entäusserung‘. [6] Clearly this is not meant as a tautology, so Marx must be observing some distinction in Hegel. Richard Schacht [7] makes this point in criticism of T.B. Bottomore, who usually translates both terms as alienation on the grounds that ‘Marx (unlike Hegel) does not make a systematic distinction between them’. [8] But, since Marx is here referring precisely to Hegel, it is still possible that Bottomore is right. However, in order not to prejudge the question, they should certainly be distinguished in English translation.

As I explain in the text, Hegel finds something ‘positive’ in Entäusserung: this could hardly be so with Entfremdung, which is precisely the negative aspect of the movement. Probably Marx uses Entäusserung when he has in mind that man loses something of himself through alienation, and Entfremdung to mark its appearance as something other than himself.

As far as my own commentary is concerned, I use both ‘estrangement’ and ‘alienation’, not only for stylistic variation, but sometimes also to indicate a distinction between a state (estrangement) and a process (alienation).

A table of translations of Entfremdung and Entäusserung in Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts and Hegel’s Phenomenology is given below.

Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts

M. Milligan: Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Moscow 1960, and also, revised by D. Struik, in Marx-Engels Collected Works Volume 3, London 1975.
Entfremdung = estrangement.
Entäusserung = alienation (or externalization)
T.B. Bottomore: Karl Marx Early Writings, London, 1963.
Entfremdung and Entäusserung = alienation (or estrangement)
L.D. Easton and K. H. Guddat: Writings of the Young Marx, New York, 1967.
Entäusserung = externalization
Entfremdung = alienation.
G. Benton: Karl Marx Early Writings, Harmondsworth, 1974.
Entfremdung = estrangement.
Entäusserung = alienation (or externalization)
D. McLellan: Karl Marx Early Texts, Oxford, 1971.
Entfremdung = alienation.
Entäusserung = externalization

Hegel’s Phenomenology

A.V. Miller: Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Oxford, 1977.
Entfremdung = alienation.
Entäusserung = externalization. Miller warns that he ‘departs from a rigid consistency in rendering . . .’. This is so: he has ‘externalization’ for Entäusserung in para. 804, but in para. 805 he has ‘alienation’, while in para. 806 he switches back.
J.B. Baillie: Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind, London, revised 2nd ed. 1949.
Entfremdung = estrangement.
Entäusserung = various, he often resorts to a bracketed alternative, e.g. ‘relinquishes (externalizes)’. (He also gives as an alternative to ‘unhappy consciousness’ the phrase ‘alienated soul’, which does not appear in the German (p. 251).)

Das Moment (moment)

This term of art Hegel generalizes from mechanics. With reference to the resultant force exerted by a lever, weight and the distance from the point of application, are called its moments. It is clear from this that it has nothing to do with a moment in time. In German Hegel can distinguish between das Moment (as an aspect of a dialectically structured whole or process) and der Moment (of time).


Hegel tells us in his Science of Logic that ‘aufheben‘ is one of the most important notions in philosophy. He says that it is not a question of reducing something to nothingness but of disposing of it as a result of mediation. He points out that in ordinary language aufheben means both ‘to abolish’ and ‘to preserve’ and that he intends to take advantage of this double meaning. [9]

According to W.T. Harris ‘reduce to a moment’ is the ‘exact signification’ of aufheben (although he uses ‘cancel’ himself). [10] In some ways this would be a good translation were it not for the implication of elevation in the term. I use ‘supersede’ when the stress is more on abolition, and when the stress is on preservation I use the slightly ‘technical’ term ‘sublate’, which was the choice of the Logic’s early translator J. H. Stirling (The Secret of Hegel). The dictionary definition of ‘sublate’ is ‘to resolve in a higher unity’.

Der Mensch

Although this refers to human beings in general it is standardly translated as ‘man’. But German also has ‘der Mann‘ where the male of the species is meant. Unfortunately, because English uses ‘human’ as an adjective it is not available as a noun. I have therefore followed standard practice in using ‘man’ as a generic both in the quotations and my own commentary. However, it should be noted that Marx’s German is not as sexist as English translations make it appear. Where Marx discusses the relationship of man to woman each term is employed in its separate sense. Thus: ‘The relation of Mannes to woman is the most natural relation of Menschen to Menschen.’ [11]

Setzen (posit)

‘To posit’ is to put in place, set up, or establish. In an intellectual context it refers to the assertion or proof of some truth. However, Hegel and Marx use it in wider contexts, wherever something is brought into a specific place or relation. Thus the antithesis of property and propertylessness is ‘posited by private property itself’ when there is a real causal relationship between them – that one has property just because the other has not. [12]

Werke 8, 658; The Young Hegel, trans. Rodney Livingstone, London, 1975,
p. 538.

C.W.3, 299.

C.W.3, 272.

4 C.W.3, 332-3.

‘On the Jewish Question II’, E.W., 241.

Werke Eb., 572; C.W.3, 331.

Schacht, Alienation, London, 1971, p. 72 n.7.

Karl Marx, Early Writings, trans. T.B. Bottomore, London, 1963, p. xix.

Wissenschaft der Logik, Hamburg, 1955, pp. 93-5; Hegel’s Science of
, trans. A.V. Miller, London, 1969. pp. 106-8.

In Hegel Selections, ed. J. Loewenberg, New York, 1929, esp. p. 102n.

Werke Eb., 536; C.W.3, 296.

Werke Eb., 534; C.W.3, 294.

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