On the Jewish Question Video Transciption


Hey comrades.

I want to talk about another piece of text from early Marx today, and it’s called On the Jewish Question.

And it’s kind of a criticism of a Young Hegelian called Bruno Bauer. And it’s a little bit anti-semitic, and I think the most anti-semitic stuff is in section two, or chapter two of it, when Marx basically says “the spirit of private property is due to Judaism”, and I think that second section was added in so that he could get it published in some – so he could look sufficiently racist in order to save face in German society.

But in any case we can read On the Jewish Question besides its anti-semitism or despite its anti-semitism. And this where Marx talks about the rigid separation that occurs between the political sphere and the “home life” or the “empirical sphere” of human life. And so Bruno Bauer says that we can’t “make Jews liberated or citizens in Germany until we destroy the bourgeois state or destroy the Christian state” because at the moment only Christians can be liberated under a Christian state and even Christians are slaves under the Christian state and so on and so forth.

But Marx says it’s possible to expunge the state out of any kind of religious – we can separate the church and the state but that’s still allows religion to happen anyway. And people still remain alienated despite how politically liberated they might be, because the liberation that you’re giving someone under the bourgeois state, or the liberal democratic state, is only political liberation.

So religion can even more perfect under a liberal democratic state because it no longer has to have any kind of disgusting muck – it doesn’t have to make any practical decisions anymore, it can kind of just move into the realm of theory and move into the realm of pure empirical life and preach people pretty nothings, because it doesn’t have to compromise anymore, it doesn’t have to make any kind of real practical interventions in people’s everyday lives anymore.

So if you think about it, the liberal democratic state is even MORE the perfection of religion, Marx says. So ultimately Marx says in order to liberate ourselves we need to reabsorb the abstract citizenship of the political state back into our empirical lives. We need to get rid of this rigid separation between the political person and the economic person.

Or the political person and the private person. Because this is alienating us. It’s alienating us in a dual sense. (1) You’re split down the middle between the liberated self and the self that’s in “a war against all”, like the Hobbesian state of nature, that’s the content, the civil part of our lives, which is in civil society. But also in civil society we’re alienated; (2) because in civil society we don’t have a true communal existence anymore, and this is our REAL existence.

So Marx develops a little bit of the beginnings of his historical materialism here by saying that the true existence of people’s lives is in civil society and political society at the moment, or the political realm, the realm of the state just merely represents or was revolutionised out of the revolution that happened in civil society. But it was revolution that stopped and didn’t go any further.

So Marx is still a liberal democrat here and he he’s not really a communist yet because he doesn’t point to how we can reabsorb the communal abstract part of our lives back into our “contentful” empirical lives anymore.

That’s what happens later in his introduction to his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

Alright comrades, I hope you enjoy this video, I’ll see you tomorrow.