After promising to talk about my reactions to the MANIFESTO, it occurred to me that some of my students might be reading this blog [stranger things have been known to happen], and I do not want to tip my hand, as it were, so I shall reserve most of my thoughts until after my lecture. One thing that struck me powerfully is that the MANIFESTO is very much the work of a young man. It is full of conceptual flip-flops and linguistic inversions that come directly out of the Hegelian tradition in which Marx was raised, philosophically speaking. Phrases like "the worker is at home when he is not at work and when he is at work he is not at home," or "the more powerful become the products of his labor, the weaker the worker becomes," and so on. Some of these turns of phrase actually articulate important ideas -- he is Karl Marx, after all. But when Marx wrote the MANIFESTO, he did not yet have the deep knowledge of the details of capitalism that fill Volume One of CAPITAL. He was at this point enchanted with the play of ideas.
Another striking characteristic of the MANIFESTO, of course, is its irrepressible optimism. Europe was on fire when Marx wrote, and he and his comrades were confident that a revolutionary change was at hand. By the time he emigrated to England a year later, those hopes had been dashed. In reaction, Marx carried through a complete transformation of his understanding of capitalism, with the most profound and far-reaching theoretical implications. I plan to spend some time at the end of the lecture explicating some of that transformation.