Notes on Social Theory: Gendered Language in Marx Translation

If you compare the commonly used English translation of Marx’s 18th Brumaire with the German original there is one glaring difference.

In the English we read the familiar and cherished phrase: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

One assumes that the gendered language came from the original. But if you check the German edition Marx in fact used the universal and gender-neutral “Mensch”.

“Die Menschen machen ihre eigene Geschichte, aber sie machen sie nicht aus freien Stücken, nicht unter selbstgewählten, sondern unter unmittelbar vorgefundenen, gegebenen und überlieferten Umständen.”

i.e. people/humans/we make history.

Why this difference? Has anyone done work on the gendered language of Marx translation?

“Happy” 18th Brumaire.

related posts