The Concept of Nature in Marx / Response

Alfred Schmidt was a German philosopher belonging to the second generation of the Frankfurt School whose doctoral thesis, The Concept of Nature in Marx, supervised by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, would appear as a book in 1962, becoming possibly the most influential text on the subject until the end of the twentieth century. Schmidt’s work contributed enormously and positively to awakening a hitherto marginal field of Marx studies, and established a number of weighty ideas on the subject. However, strongly influenced by the critical theory of the Frankfurt School, Schmidt’s book maintained a pessimistic view on the mature Marx’s political economy – differentiated from the young humanist Marx – in his relation to the tendency to the “mastery of nature” intrinsic to Enlightenment’s modernity, while rejecting the contributions of the later Engels. Despite the philological advances in Marxist studies – developed largely thanks to the publication of unpublished texts of Marx and Engels by the MEGA2 project –, the reading of Schmidt’s work today remains essential to situate the complexity of the ecomarxist debate. To complement his reading, we also recommend Paul Burkett’s critical review of the book 25 years after its publication.