THIS BOOK BEGINS with Ludwig Feuerbach The Essence of Christianity ( 1841) and Principles of the Philosophy of the Future ( 1843), moves to the journalistic and polemical works of Bruno Bauer in 1841- 43, on to Karl Marx's 1844 writings, and up through his Theses on Feuerbach ( 1845) and The German Ideology ( 1845-46). It is about the transmutations of a set of ideas. These ideas concern human nature, the good life for human beings, and the human relation to the world and to other human beings. They concern how one ends up with false beliefs about these matters, and whether one can--in a capitalist society-- know the truth about them; they also concern the critique of capitalism that would flow from knowing the truth.
This five-year stretch in the Germany of the 1840s is a hot-house period, a time of ferment in which positions are staked out, attacked, defended, and changed at a breakneck pace. The Zeitgeist is thought to be in rapid flux. "A work which in 1841 was a noteworthy phenomenon," Bauer declares, cannot in 1845 "still have value" for the age ( CLF 126). In this period one finds the most important works of Feuerbach, and the works of his and of Bauer's that most importantly influence Marx, as well as Marx's own works most central to his different normative visions and to the different critiques of capitalism based on them.
A more exhaustive account would start further back, with David Friedrich Strauss's Life of Jesus ( 1835) and Bauer Kritik der evangelischenGeschichte der Synoptiker