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Karl Marx

Malwe Da Sher

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Fateh all

" Marx accused religious individuals of being idealistic and claimed his own theory was ground in scientific facts, yet his theory of the emancipation does not seem too far off from the concept of heaven or the promise of a ‘better place’ made by pioneers of mainstream religion. Just as Hobbes removed the concept of God and attempted to replace it with the all powerful Leviathan, Marx denounced heaven yet replaced it with is own ideas of the “promised land”. "

- above is from an essay im currently doing.

I believe Marx's theories provide a analytical tool for looking at the nature of comtemporary capitalism and not much else, His theory on the revolution and more so on communism seem a bit hopeful to say the least. Although i think his analysis from a materialistic perspective is accurate, his theory on the emergence of communism seems very idealistic, inaccurate and full of faults.

Any discussion on this appreciated. thanks :D

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I personally wouldn't put it like that.

I agree that Marx was against idealism, particularly the German Idealism as a philosophical movement and the Hegelian idea of 'Geist' or 'spirit'. Remember also that he was raised a nominal Lutherian although from Jewish decent, that his thinking thus represented the attack on christian-moral worldview at that time (it was the done thing of the day for young rude boys). I don't doubt that he would have been just as scathing of any religion but as you say on ideological and materialistic terms. It is unquestionnable that in western europe generally the church has existed as a hierarchical reactionary supporter of feudal and capitalist regimes...although there is a nice line in Christian Marxist groups, the famous marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton initially belonging to one, and the obvious example of south american liberation theology which is a marriage of the two.

But you need to understand that Marx's view is built on a line of prior conclusions and philosophical assumptions. To begin, the Enlightenment establishes the grounds for what was later formalised into positivism (i.e. empiricism/hard science). Kant applies reason to religion and creates and leaves us a real 'crisis' philosophically speaking. In a sense, much of philosophy from here onwards whether Hegel, Marx or Derrida is trying to find a resolution to this crisis. Marx looks at capitalism as the source of this, and communism then is less a 'heavenly' utopia, more a resolution to Kant's crisis, while others like Nietzsche resolve the crisis with eternal recurrence, Hegel with spirit, Heidegger with being etc.

On the issue of science, as I've suggested, it was less empirical determinst positivism. In fact in the German, the word 'science' has a broader meaning along the lines of 'particular knowledge', hence Sigmund Freud claiming psychoanalysis to be equally scientific without empirical evidence.

On the issue of his own understanding of revolution, you should recognise that socialism/communism could only arise when capitalism would feed in on itself so much that it brings the necessity of revolution, a stage in which the 'petty bourgeoisie' '(middle classes) are forced into either side. Thus only certain countries in western europe were seen as potential s for it. Thats the way things looked back then, but then Keynesian capitalism came along and maybe changed the ball game a little. Considering the nature and extent of corporations (that 'The Corporation' DVD is simply superb on this one) Marx quite accurately describes the present state of affairs, but in my opinion it has to be taken to a global level, much in line with postcolonialist theorists like Frantz Fanon and Che Guevera (yes not just a fashion icon, but a strong thinker on 'international proletariatism'). Try and get an overview of Antonio Negri's work (a condensed reading of 'Empire' for example) to see how he adjusts Marx to fit the times of the global free market and the fallout of colonialism. It certainly explains the rise of socialist movements in south america for example.

Try also to read of Louis Althusser's explanation of what Marx's epistemological break was and the application of Marx into a structuralist understanding of modern society. His work on Ideological State Apparatuses is quite superb, and again demonstrates the role of religious authority in maintaining the status quo. All this avoids making the mistake of assuming Marx was a full-on positivist.

My own admittedly 'still learning' view on this is that out of his view of the dialectical nature of history, rather than Hegel who held that society had reached its pinnacle in liberal democracy, Marx still clinged to the notion that religion/superstition was a phase since passed in human evolution. BUT his use of the term 'mysticism' is at odds with say William James or Bodhidharma. It seems to me his denial of this capacity within human existence was necessary not only out of his philosophical antecendents but also as the required prioritisation of the material enslavement over all else. It kind of links into the Lenin's view on freedom, divided into actual and formal. Formal freedom is having a free will, but in the context society creates (i.e. I am free to do whatever I want, but it costs money in a capitalist society which requires signing up to it as a ) compared to actual freedom which is to be able to choose to reject that imposed context. Again Althusser is very good on this, in that not only do we not exercise actual freedom, we've been conditioned into reinforcing the context that denies it through most of our waking conscious life through films, stories, friendships, etc. There is still a debate about to what extent Marx and Engels' base-superstructure of society is material determinism. Engels later on argued that such a view was a misinterpretation. Likewise Marx and Engels elsewhere agree that is potentially possible within a society to have original thought outside of the superstructure. If this is the case, then I feel mystical experience can be adjoined with such a view since if it is outside of the superstructure, cannot be expressed in terms that reinforce the superstructure. I think Guru Maharaj's recommendation of grihsthi jeevan is the correct in which one does not nihilistically deny the validity of human experience and society.

This a long way off the point, but this is why I feel it (and it is only my reading) is an oversimplification to conclude that he was proposing a heavenly utopia, that he supported his theory as 'scientific fact' as we know and understand it today and that he was inherently set against 'religion' per se.

Hope that is useful!

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