The aesthetics of non-objectivity. From the worker’s two bodies to cultural revolution

Daniel Hartley


This article carries out a detailed reading of Marx’s theory of sensual alienation in the Economic and philosophical manuscripts of 1844. Drawing on recent French scholarship arguing that alienation should be grasped as a loss of objectivity (rather than subjectivity), I show that Marx develops a curious aesthetics of non-objectiv-ity. By reading the Economic and philosophical manuscripts in light of later, related arguments in the Grundrisse and Capital, I challenge the widespread notion, pri-marily associated with Louis Althusser, that the 1844 Manuscripts are guilty of a humanist essentialism. The aesthetics of (non-)objectivity can be seen as a battle-ground between two opposing corporeal tendencies of the worker under capital-ism: the unaccommodated body, shorn of all objectivity, and the (utopian) “totally developed individual” referred to in Capital, vol. 1. Ultimately, I argue that the 1844 Manuscripts contain the rudiments of a theory of aesthetic education which, read through the lens of the Grundrisse and Capital, can be interpreted as an emergent theory of cultural revolution.


Aesthetics; Marx; Senses

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