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Reading Marx in the original context:

| 2013-03-19
  Center for Marx-Engels Literature Research opened at Tsinghua Marxist philosophy in China has recently been particularly focused on understanding Marxist texts and early commentary in the context of those authors’ time. In this spirit, the inauguration of the Center for Marx and Engels Literature Research was held on November 10, at Tsinghua University. Dozens of experts and scholars, both Chinese and foreign, attended to exchange ideas around the  theme “Textual Context and the new Die Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe.” Die Marx-Engels-Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) is currently the most authoritative compilation of the complete Works of Marx and Engels. Han Lixin, director of the Center for the Study of Marx-Engels Literature and professor of philosophy at Tsinghua University, noted that in contrast to its Russian-derived predecessor Marx Engels Werke (MEW), MEGA contains many documents not previously published in MEW, but also a host of supplementary material not available in MEW. In particular, MEGA includes Marx and Engels’ drafts, notes, deletions, and insertions, and shows underlines, marks and other edits during various stages of draft. Altogether, MEGA completely documents the entire amendment process of their manuscripts.    Observing that text is the most objective and external form of ideology and theory, Wu Xiaoming, director of the Center for Marxist Research at Fudan Univeristy, stressed the importance of faithful texts in interpreting authorial context and ideological intention. Hirako Tomonaga, professor of Social Sciences at Hitotsubashi University of Japan, noted that the publication of MEGA marks the beginning of a new chapter in the world-wide study of Marxism. Moving forward, he urged that scholars of Marxism should integrate study of the newly available primary sources to better shed light on the 19th century intellectual framework from which Marx’s theories emerged, and their positionality vis-à-vis this framework. “Prior to 1990, editing and interpretation of Marx and Engels’ manuscripts was mostly conducted in the Soviet Union and East Germany,”  Han Lixin told reporters. With the establishment of Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung (IMES) and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the editing and publication of MEGA became an increasingly international collaboration and drew more academic participation. For instance, Japanese researchers were responsible for editing 8 volumes of MEGA, including a copy of the original manuscript for Das Kapital.  Currently, a substantial portion of research and publishing in Marxism is carried out in Japan; a team of more than 30 researchers worked to identify and edit MEGA, notably exceeding any concentration of Marx-Engels experts in Europe. In China, with the study of Marxist philosophy deepening across institutions, the academic community is increasingly aware of the importance of interpretation of Marxist literature, as well as the cultivation of the next generation of Marxist scholars. Wu Xiaoming added that the foundation of the center will provide a key platform for these goals. Sun Zhengyu, a professor of philosophy and social studies at Jilin University, commented that Marxist philosophy is never rigid dogma. Sun maintained that along with time-changing, the Chinese study of Marxist philosophy has evolved, both in content and in overall paradigm.  Wang Nanshi, professor of School of Philosophy of Nankai University also said that the research paradigm of Marxist philosophy in China has changed significantly. He observed that Chinese scholars of Marxism at first merely gave consideration to foreign research interests in their scholarship, but recently they have begun developing independent ideas about Marxism. Further, he believes that deeper focus on Marx and Engels is a natural extension of this trend.  Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 378, Oct. 12.2012. (Translated by Yang Lu)