THE THEORY OF ALIENATION BY KARL MARX AND HIS CRITIQUE OF RELIGION: AN INTROSPECTION

Suman Ghosh

Abstract


Karl Marx found in religion the consequence of “Entausserung” or alienation created by the capitalist mode of production. For Max Weber, religion is an impetus for social change, while for Marx it is a force trying desperately to preserve the status quo. Refuting Adam Smith, Marx established that division of labour alienated the proletariat from their “essence”. Capitalism later developed a laissez-faire individualism that created fatal cleavage in the human consciousness. Marx revised the Hegelian idea of “Entausserung” that was earlier refuted by Feuerbach for being metaphysical. A minute observation of the language and imagery, Marx uses about religion, reveals comprehensive morphological, semantic and stylistic resonance of Feuerbach although Marx criticized Feuerbach as his theory ignored economic and social perspectives. 
This paper tries to analyse the language of different texts of Marx to decipher how he gradually relates his theory of alienation to his unique theory of religion in a dialectic complex process and finally establishes religion, not as an illusion, but to be an intrinsic part of the “superstructure”. Instead of simple abolition of religion, Marx demands extinction of that very vulnerable human psyche that receives religious “reflex of the real world” in “Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Volume I”. 
A close scrutiny the text of “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts” reveals that while discussing the different types of alienation, Marx, initially uses religion simply as an allegory, with gradual and conscious change of emphasis. Here Marx does not put religion in a direct causal relationship to alienation of labour; he just uses religion as an analogy, just to make his point clear. Significantly, Marx almost echoes the logical and linguistic pattern of Feuerbachian proposition. If we again compare minutely the language and imagery Marx uses, we find interesting and comprehensive morphological, semantic and stylistic resonance of Feuerbach. While discussing alienation from the ‘species-being’, Marx again refers to religion, not just as an illusion, here he refers to religion significantly to be consciously created by mankind. Marx makes his discrete critique on the history of religion and its developing relation with different modes of production. Moreover, we should observe the subtle terminology Marx uses very cautiously “The religious world is but the reflex of the real world”, “The religious reflex of the real world” he carefully selects the word “Reflex” not influence, inspiration or stimulus. That is why he takes religious issues so seriously, and a more minute understanding of the text will reveal that he is not at all bothered with abolition of religion, rather he wants extinction of the “religious reflex of the real world”, and to be more specific he wants abolition of that very vulnerable state of human mind that receives such “reflexes”. Moreover, here Marx first discovers Protestant reformation was the “most fitting form of religion” for bourgeois mode of production to develop. In “Capital” Marx is so much distressed with religion that is not hesitant to declare religion to be as devastating as war in terms of economic wastage. The developing pattern of the language, Marx uses, regarding religion is scrutinized in this paper.

 

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Keywords


Karl Marx, alienation; humanism; religion

References


“With this division of labor on the one hand and the accumulation of capital on the other, the worker becomes ever more exclusively dependent on labor, and on a particular, very one-sided, machine-like labor at that. Just as he is thus depressed spiritually and physically to the condition of a machine and from being a man becomes an abstract activity and a belly, so he also becomes ever more dependent on every fluctuation in market price, on the application of capital, and on the whim of the rich. Equally, the increase in the class of people wholly dependent on work intensifies competition among the workers, thus lowering their price. In the factory system this situation of the worker reaches its climax.” Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, Karl Marx, Aakar Books Classics, Page -24.

“This fact expresses merely that the object which labour produces – labour’s product – confronts it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labour is labour which has been embodied in an object, which has become material: it is the objectification of labour. Labour’s realization is its objectification.” Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, Karl Marx, Aakar Books Classics, Page -68.

“The raising of wages excites in the worker the capitalist’s mania to get rich, which he, however, can only satisfy by the sacrifice of his mind and body. The raising of wages presupposes and entails the accumulation of capital, and thus sets the product of labour against the worker as something ever more alien to him. Similarly, the division of labour renders him ever more one-sided and dependent, bringing with it the competition not only of men but also of machines. Since the worker has sunk to the level of a machine, he can be confronted by the machine as a competitor. Finally, as the amassing of capital increases the amount of industry and therefore the number of workers, it causes the same amount of industry to manufacture a larger amount of products, which leads to over-production and thus either ends by throwing a large section of workers out of work or by reducing their wages to the most miserable minimum.” Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, Karl Marx, Aakar Books Classics, Page -25.

“Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬”------ ‘Marx’s Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right’ (1843), Oxford University Press, 1970 Translated: Joseph O'Malley

“The beginning of religion, more precisely its content, is the concept of religion itself, that God is the absolute truth, the truth of all things, and subjectively that religion alone is the absolutely true knowledge.”

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: ‘Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion’: One-Volume Edition, The Lectures of 1827, Peter C. Hodgson, October 26, 2006, OUP Oxford.

‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Introduction’, published: in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 7 & 10 February 1844 in Paris https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique.../intro.htm

‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Introduction’, Karl Marx, Page- 75

“The more man alienates himself from Nature, the more subjective, i.e., supra-natural or antinatural, is his view of things, the greater the horror he has of Nature, or at least of those natural objects and processes which displease his imagination, which affect him disagreeably.”-----The Essence of Christianity Ludwig Feuerbach 1841.

‘Preface, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts’, 1844

‘Preface, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts’, 1844

‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Introduction’, published: in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 7 & 10 February 1844 in Paris

“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering.” ------- A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right: Introduction.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/df.../law-abs.htm

‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Introduction’, published: in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 7 & 10 February 1844 in Paris

‘Socialism and Religion, Novaya Zhizn’, No. 28, December 3, 1905. Signed: N. Lenin. Published according to the text in Novaya Zhizn.

Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 83-87. Translated: TranscriptionMarkup: B. Baggins .

State, Family, Education, Anti-Dühring ,Part III: Socialism’ by Frederick Engels 1877

“कर्मणयेवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि।” 2.47, Srimadbhagabatgita.

English translation of lines: “You have a right to perform your prescribed action, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results your activities, and never be associated to not doing your duty.” 2.47, Srimadbhagabatgita.

“Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.”---------- Engels, Speech at the Graveside of Karl Marx (1883).

In “The Protestant ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, Weber asserted that Reformed Protestantism, by nurturing stronger preferences for hard work and thriftiness had led to superior economic affluence.

‘Religion, Society, and the Individual, An Introduction to the Sociology of Religion’, 1957. by J. Milton Yinger (Macmillan. Translated into Italian, 1961, French, 1964, Spanish, 1968.)

“By religion, then, I understand a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct and control the course of nature and of human life. Thus defined, religion consists of two elements, a theoretical and a practical, namely, a belief in powers higher than man and an attempt to propitiate or please them. Of the two, belief clearly comes first, since we must believe in the existence of a divine being before we can attempt to please him. But unless the belief leads to a corresponding practice, it is not a religion but merely a theology; in the language of St. James, “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” In other words, no man is religious who does not govern his conduct in some measure by the fear or love of God. On the other hand, mere practice, divested of all religious belief, is also not religion. Two men may behave in exactly the same way, and yet one of them may be religious and the other not. If the one acts from the love or fear of God, he is religious; if the other acts from the love or fear of man, he is moral or immoral according as his behaviour comports or conflicts with the general good.” ― James George Frazer, The Golden Bough.

“However, psychoanalytic investigation of the individual teaches with especial emphasis that god is in every case modelled after the father and that our personal relation to god is dependent upon our relation to our physical, fluctuating and changing with him, and that god at bottom is nothing but an exalted father. Here also, as in the case of totemism, psychoanalysis advises us to believe the faithful, who call god father just as they called the totem their ancestor. If psychoanalysis deserves any consideration at all, then the share of the father in the idea of a god must be very important, quite aside from all the other origins and meanings of god upon which psychoanalysis can throw no light. But then the father would be represented twice in primitive sacrifice, first as god, and secondly as the totem-animal sacrifice, and we must ask, with all due regard for the limited number of solutions which psychoanalysis offers, whether this is possible and what the meaning of it may be..” – ‘Totem and Taboo: Resemblances between the Psychic Lives of Savages and Neurotics’ by Sigmund Freud, Translator: A. A. Brill, London George Routledge & Sons, Limited 1919.

“Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires.”- ‘New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis’, Sigmund Freud.

“Religious doctrines … are all illusions, they do not admit of proof, and no one can be compelled to consider them as true or to believe in them.” – ‘The Future of an Illusion’ by ― Sigmund Freud.

“For a long time it has been known that the first systems of representations with which men have pictured to themselves the world and themselves were of religious origin. There is no religion that is not a cosmology at the same time that it is a speculation upon divine things. If philosophy and the sciences were born of religion, it is because religion began by taking the place of the sciences and philosophy.” –The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912), by Émile Durkheim trans. J. W. Swain (2nd edition 1976).

‘A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Introduction’, published: in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 7 & 10 February 1844 in Paris

Interview with Karl Marx, Chicago Tribune, January 5 1879.

‘Comment on the Prussian Censorship Instruction’ - MEW, Karl Marx: Volume 1, page 116.

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A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,Introduction’, published: in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, 7 & 10 February 1844 in Paris

Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts,Karl Marx,Aakar Books Classics.

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Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 83-87. Translated: TranscriptionMarkup: B. Baggins .

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New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

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Speech at the Graveside of Karl Marx (1883), Engels.

‘ State, Family, Education, Anti-Dühring ,Part III: Socialism’ by Frederick Engels 1877

The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912), by Émile Durkheim trans. J. W. Swain (2nd edition 1976).

The Future of an Illusion by ― Sigmund Freud.

The Golden Bough,James George Frazer.

‘Totem and Taboo: Resemblances Between the Psychic Lives of Savages and Neurotics’ by Sigmund Freud, Translator: A. A. Brill, London George Routledge & Sons, Limited 1919.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.46827/ejsss.v0i0.75

Copyright (c) 2018 Suman Ghosh

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