Friday, March 30, 2018
KARL MARX, “On the Jewish Question” (1843) In: The Marx-Engels Reader. Edited by Robert Tucker, New York: Norton & Company, 1978. p. 26 - 46.
Political emancipation is at the same time the dissolution of the old society, upon which the sovereign power, the alienated political life of the people,rests. Political revolution is a revolution of civil society. What was the nature of the old society? It can be characterized in one word: feudalism. The Old civil society had a directly political character; that is, the elements of civil life such as property, the family, and types of occupation had been raised, in the form of lordship, caste and guilds, to elements of political life. They determined, in this form, the relation of the individual to the state asa whole; that is, his political situation, or in other words, his separation and exclusion from the other elements of society. For this organization of national life did not constitute property and labour as social elements; it rather succeeded in separating them from the body of the state, and made them distinct societies within society. Nevertheless, at least in the feudal sense, the vital functions and conditions of civil society remained political. They Excluded the individual from the body of the state, and transformed the particular relation which existed between his corpora-tion and the state into a general relation between the individual and social life, just as they transformed his specific civil activity and situation into a general activity and situation. As a result of this organization, the state as a whole and its consciousness, will and activity—the general political power—also necessarily appeared as the private affair of a ruler and his servants, separated from the people.The political revolution which overthrew this power of the ruler, which made state affairs the affairs of the people, and the political state a matter of general concern, i.e. a real state, necessarily shattered everything—estates, corporations, guilds, privileges—which expressed the separation of the people from community life. The political revolution therefore abolished the political character of civil society. It dissolved civil society into its basic elements, on the one hand individuals, and on the other hand the material and cultural elements which formed the life experience and the civil situation of these individuals. It set free the political spirit which had, so to speak, been dissolved, fragmented and lost in the various culs-de-sac of feudal society; it reassembled these scattered fragments, liberated the political spirit from its connexion with civil life and made of it the community sphere,the general concern of the people, in principle independent of these particular elements of civil life. A specific activity and situation in life no longer had any but an individual significance. They no longer constituted the general relation between the individual and the state as a whole. Public affairs as such became the general affair of each individual, and political functions became general functions.But the consummation of the idealism of the state was at the same time the consummation of the materialism of civil society. The bonds which had restrained the egoistic spirit of civil society were removed along with the political yoke. Political emancipation was at the same time an emancipation of civil society from politics and from even the semblance of a general content.Feudal society was dissolved into its basic element, man; but into egoistic man who was its real foundation.Man in this aspect, the member of civil society, is now the foundation and presupposition of the political state. He is recognized as such in the rights of man.But the liberty of egoistic man, and the recognition of this liberty, is rather the recognition of the frenzied movement of the cultural and material elements which form the content of his life.Thus man was not liberated from religion; he received religious liberty. He was not liberated from property; he received the liberty to own property. He Was not liberated from the egoism of business; he received the liberty to engage in business.The formation of the political state, and the dissolution of civilsociety into independent individuals whose relations are regulated by law, as the relations between men in the corporations and guilds were regulated by privilege, are accomplished by one and the same act. Man as a member of civil society—non-political man—necessarily appears as the natural man. Tle rights of man appear as natural rights because conscious activity is concentrated upon political action. Egoistic man is the passive, given result of the dissolution of society, an object of direct apprehension and consequently a natural object. The political revolution dissolves civil society into its elements without revolutionizing these elements themselves or subjecting them to criticism. This revolution regards civil society, the sphere of human needs, labour, private interests and civil law, as the basis of its own existence, as a self-subsistent precondition, and thus as its natural basis.Finally, man as a member of civil society is identified with authentic man, man as distinct from citizen, because he is man in his sensuous, individual and immediate existence, whereas political man is only abstract, artificial man, man as an allegorical, moral person. Thus man as he really is, is seen only in the form of egoistic man, and man in his true nature only in the form of the abstract citizen.The abstract notion of political man is well formulated by Rousseau: "Whoever dares undertake to establish a people's institutions must feel himself capable of changing, as it were, human nature itself, of transforming each individual who, in isolation, is a complete but solitary whole, into a part of something greater than himself, from which in a sense, he derives his life and his being; [of changing man's nature in order to strengthen it;] if substituting a limited and moral existence for the physical and independent life [with which all of us are endowed by nature]. His task, in short, is to take from a man his own powers, and to give him in exchange alien powers which he can only employ with the help of other men."Every emancipation is a restoration of the human world and of human relationships to man himself.Political emancipation is a reduction of man, on the one band to a member of civil society, an independent and egoistic individual, and on the other hand, to a citizen, to a moral person.Human emancipation will only be complete when the real, individual man has absorbed into himself the abstract citizen; when as an individual man, in his everyday life, in his work, and in his relationships, be has become a species-being; and when he has recognized and organized his own powers(forces propres) as social powers so that he no longer separates this social power from himself as political power