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The Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie (German, Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy) is a lengthy, unfinished manuscript by the German philosopher Karl Marx. Left aside by Marx in 1858, it remained unpublished until 1939. The Grundrisse is very wide-ranging in subject matter and covers all six sections of Marx's economics (of which only one, the first volume of Das Kapital, ever reached a final form). It is often described as the rough draft of Das Kapital, although there is considerable disagreement about the exact relationship between the two texts, particularly around the issue of methodology.
Due to its breadth and its incorporation of themes from Marx's earlier writings, the Grundrisse is central to Marx's body of work. Its subject matter includes production, distribution, exchange, alienation, value, labor, capitalism, the rise of technology and automation, pre-capitalist forms of social organization, and the preconditions for a communist revolution. Scholars have noted major differences between Marx's earlier writings, such as The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto, and the late ones, Das Kapital and Grundrisse., suggesting that Marx's views evolved, though the main themes remained the same.
As Martin Nicolaus and others have argued, the Grundrisse is crucial for understanding Marx’s mature analysis of capitalism, even though, historically, it has been far less influential in the development of the various strands of Marxist theory than earlier texts such as the Manifesto, the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, and The German Ideology. Towards the end of his life, Marx, according to Nicolaus, viewed the latter “with a scepticism bordering on rejection.” The Grundrisse, on the other hand, was one of the few texts which Marx spoke of “with a tone of achievement and a sense of accomplishment.” If this is true, possibly the main reason is that the more substantive first part of The German Ideology was largely written by Friedrich Engels while the subsequent parts, satirizing the linguistic apostasies and word-mongering of Left-Hegelian philosophers, were written by Marx himself.
French philosopher Louis Althusser wrote that Marx's thought has been misunderstood and underestimated. He condemns various interpretations of Marx --such as historicism, idealism, economism-- on the grounds that they fail to realise that with the "science of history" (historical materialism) Marx constructed a revolutionary view of social change. Althusser believes this error results from the notion that Marx's work forms a coherent whole, though Marx's thought contains a radical "epistemological break" that can be seen by comparing the unpublished Grundrisse and Das Kapital.
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