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The living Karl Marx was a dismal failure. He passed most of his life in poverty, dependent on the charity of the capitalist Friedrich Engels. His writings were never sufficiently in demand to earn a living. He had great difficulty in finishing anything, and the bulk of what he wrote he never saw in print. His revolutionary activities ‘came to nothing, and capitalist Europe was more tranquil and stable when he left the scene than when he came on it. The radical organizations with which he was associated broke up in a few years, or he broke them up in disgust. He quarreled violently with virtually all the leaders of the socialist and revolutionary movements of his day. The working class of England, where he lived in exile, paid him little -heed and soon forgot him. Engels prepared a flattering eulogy for his burial, but only nine persons were there to hear it. The dead Marx has come into unexampled success. Marxism is the basis of official ideologies governing about a third of the world’s population, and millions of people in non-Marxist countries voluntarily subscribe to political parties and to an ideology supported by Marxist (or Marxist-Leninist) states. Marxism-Leninism is the only worldwide political movement, with Communist parties in all countries where not suppressed by force. Even more remarkable than this political success has been Marxism’s appeal to other millions who accept no party discipline, who are under no compulsion, and who do not stand to gain materially by accepting a Marxist outlook. A large part of the world’s intelligentsia and university students, especially outside the English-speaking countries look on Karl Marx as a towering authority, a super genius. Indeed, in recent years, the stature and importance of non-Communist Marxism have grown, especially in Europe. This enormous gap between contemporary and latter-day appraisal badly needs explanation.

In an important chapter on “Socialist Humanism,” the Marxist philosopher Maurice Cornforth has defined Marxist humanism, and it indicates the totality of the commitment to man (in opposition to God) in Marxist thought: “Humanism takes the view which Plato objected to so strongly when it was first put forward by Protagoras, that ‘man is the measure of all things’. Everything else is to be judged in accordance with how it affects men and can be used by men. Everything men do is to be done for the sake of men and to be judged by its effects on men. Men are not to regard themselves as existing for the service of anything else. Men were not created to serve God, but their purpose is to make other things serve men.”[1]

Creation Marx’s humanistic theology necessarily excludes the Christian conception of creation, one of the fundamental pillars of the Christian philosophy of history.27 Man must be his own creator in the Marxist framework, and Marx made this quite clear: 6A being only considers himself independent when he stands on his own feet; and he only stands on his own feet when he owes his existence to himself A man who lives by the grace of another regards himself as a dependent being. “28 Marx understood perfectly the implications of the Christian conception of creation and the necessity of divine grace as a sustaining power in the universe; he understood it and rejected it: “But I live completely by the grace of another if I owe him not only the maintenance of my life, but if he has, moreover, created my life – if he is the source of my life. When it is not of my own creation, my life has necessarily a source of this kind outside of it. The Creation is therefore an idea very difficult to dislodge from popular consciousness. The fact that nature and man exist in their own account is incomprehensible to it, because it contradicts everything tangible in practical life.[2]

Creation

Marx’s humanistic theology necessarily excludes the Christian conception of creation, one of the fundamental pillars of the Christian philosophy of history. Man must be his own creator in the Marxist framework, and Marx made this quite clear: 6A being only considers himself independent when he stands on his own feet; and he only stands on his own feet when he owes his existence to himself. A man who lives by the grace of another regards himself as a dependent being. “Marx understood perfectly the implications of the Christian conception of creation and the necessity of divine grace as a sustaining power in the universe; he understood it and rejected it: “But I live completely by the grace of another if I owe him not only the maintenance of my life, but if he has, moreover, created my life – if he is the source of my life. When it is not of my own creation, my life has necessarily a source of this kind outside of it. The Creation is therefore an idea very difficult to dislodge from popular consciousness. The fact that nature and man exist in their own account is incomprehensible to it, because it contradicts everything tangible in practical life.”

You Must Not Ask Such a Question.

Man therefore cannot legitimately ask where the first man came from, in much the same way that the Christian philosopher cannot question the fact that God created the universe. To question one’s philosophical presuppositions is self-contradictory; neither Marx nor the consistent Christian thinker can do this. One cannot challenge one’s god, and man is Marx’s god: “Who begot the first man, and nature as a whole? I can only answer you: Your question is itself a product of abstraction.”

In the passage following this last section, Marx set forth some incredibly obscure arguments which were to show that the whole issue of human origin is illegitimate. Then he made this point: “Since, however, for socialist man, the whole of what is called world history is nothing but the creation of man by human labour, and the emergence of nature for man, he, therefore, has the evident and irrefutable proof of his self-creation, of his own origin . . . . [T]he quest for an alien being, a being above man and nature (a quest which is an avowal of the unreality of man and nature) becomes impossible in practice. Atheism, as a denial of this unreality, is no longer meaningful, for atheism is a negation of God and seeks to assert by this negation the existence of man. Socialism no longer requires such a roundabout method; it begins from the theoretical and practical sense perception of man and nature as essential beings.”[3]

Socialist man does not even need to assert his own being by denying God; he just ignores God from the start. One Stands on one’s own two feet; how the feet got there or how the foundation upon which the feet are resting got there, one never bothers to ask. In fact, one should not ask it; the question is a ‘product of abstraction. One who has been forced to read the fantastically abstract discussions found throughout Marx’s writings can only wonder why, at this particular point, Marx shied away from abstract thinking.

Karl Marx always prided himself on remaining on “neutral” ground philosophically. He always asserted that he was rigorously empirical and scientific. As he wrote in German Ideology (1845-46): “The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. . . . These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way.” Socialism begins, however, with the presupposition that God’s existence is not a valid philosophical issue; if he did exist then man and nature could not exist, since they would owe their origin to God, and by definition man and nature are autonomous! Marx always began with empirical premises only in the sense that he assumed, a Priori, that all concrete, visible phenomena are self-sustaining, self-creative, and totally autonomous.

In this perspective, the whole of man’s existence is interpreted as a part of this single sphere, Production: “Religion, family, state, law, morality, science, art, etc., are only particular modes of production, and fall under its general law. “Meyer has pinpointed the source of this element of Marx’s thought: “Marx has appropriated for his system a Promethean image of man the creator, man the provider, man the tamer of his environment. He has identified himself with a glorification of material achievements which, before him, had been an essential part of revolutionary liberalism, part of the ideology of the rising bourgeoisie. ”37 Marx, in spite of his emotional attacks against bourgeois ideals, could not escape the influence of the presuppositions of the Enlightenment.

In contrast to Hegel, who conceived of human alienation as a spiritual-intellectual problem, Marx saw it as a social and productivity phenomenon. It is human material labor, not intellectual labor, which is alienated, and the cure for the problem should not be sought in the realm of thought.39 Marx absolutized the sphere of human labor, and it is not surprising that he should have found the solution to the alienation question in that same sphere.

In brief the thesis of this study is quite simple: Marx’s concept of human alienation was used by him as a substitute for the Christian doctrine of the fall of man. He used the idea in at least two different ways: first, to show the “externalization” of one’s life (through the sale of one’s labor power); second, in the sense of social estrangement, or the detaching of oneself from other men (interpersonal alienation).

In contrast to this Enlightenment view of the division of labor stands the traditional Christian view of man and society. The Christian perspective reverses the Marxian outlook. Men have individual callings precisely because the fall of man has resulted in human depravity; the curse on the earth has limited its productivity drastically, making necessary asocial order based upon the specialization of labor. Such specialization is required if productivity is to be increased; if men wish to have more material goods and greater personal services, they, must choose callings in which they can become efficient producers. The Christian concept of the calling supports social harmony; the division of labor forces men to restrain their hostilities against each other if they wish to increase their material wealth. In this perspective, the division of labor is an aid to social unity. In the Christian view, as in the very early Marxian, social alienation and social conflict stem from within man himself (Jas. 4:1); given this fact, the division of labor can be seen as a blessing rather than a burden. Without it, men would destroy themselves with even greater ferocity than they have previously demonstrated. Scarcity, which has its origin in the curse of the ground (Gen. 3: 17- 19), makes social collaboration a necessity. In short, the cause of economic scarcity is not in “deformed human institutions” as all socialists have always claimed; it is basic to the human condition.  While this does not sanction total specialization of production (since man, in the Christian framework, is more than a machine), it does demand that the division of labor be accepted as a positive social benefit.[4]

Marx, however, was utterly hostile to the Christian idea of the calling “In a communist society there are no painters but at most people who engage in painting among other activities. The division of labor is personified for Marx in the distinction between mental and physical labor: “Division of labor only becomes truly such from the moment when a division of material and mental labor appears.” Since private property and human alienation are reciprocal, we find that the division of labor and private property are also reciprocal: “Division of labor and private property are, moreover, identical expressions. Man alienation, private property, and the division all aspects of the same detestable condition of man society.[5]

Dialectics: Rationalism vs. Irrationalism

Van Til has argued that total rationalism must always have total irrationalism as a corollary. lf man, on the presuppositions of rationalistic, autonomous human thought, can claim to know anything, he must claim to know everything. If all facts are related to all others, then exhaustive knowledge must be a requirement for true knowledge. If something is not known, the thinker cannot be sure that the unknown factor is not somehow influencing the behavior or the nature of the known. Thus, on man’s presupposition of autonomy, to know anything truly requires that one must know everything exhaustively. The possibility of exhaustive knowledge, however, is not open to man (not even with the aid of computers); the result is total irrationalism: nothing can be known with certainty. Man loses control of his universe; chance reasserts itself. All of this knowledge may be an illusion; man cannot be sure. All that secular man can do is to retreat into faith, and in today’s world the brand of faith most popular is pragmatism; if something works, it is acceptable as knowledge. Of course, the idea of “it works” implies permanent standards of proper functioning, and this again introduces the original problem: how can we discover such standards? Do they really exist, and can they be applied to this world? Marx, no less than other autonomous thinkers, could not resolve this issue. The answer to the question is found in the revelation of God to man, but Marx and his fellow humanists reject this possibility. Rushdoony, following Van Til, explains why the revelation of God in the Bible is basic to all understanding: “All knowledge becomes possible because God is absolute, autonomous and self-contained. Because He is the source of knowledge of Himself and the basic principle of interpretation for all creation, we do not need to have an exhaustive knowledge of God to have reliable knowledge, nor do we need to know all created facts to have valid knowledge of the universe. Man cannot comprehend all facts with his knowledge, and he therefore cannot know God or creation exhaustively. lf it is brute factuality that he deals with, then he has no reliable knowledge, since unrevealed possibilities still remain. But since God has no unrealized potentialities, and since God has created all things in terms of His plan and decree, our knowledge can be reliable and valid. The incomprehensibility of God is thus the basis of man’s knowledge.”[6]

God’s eternal decree is the absolute standard, and He has revealed Himself to man. Thus, men have a standard by which they can evaluate the created facts of the universe. Man does not need to claim omniscience in order to justify his knowledge. Thus, he need not become involved in the irrationalism of all secular thought; the fact that he cannot know all things does not doom his thought to chaos. Marx was no fool; he saw the contradiction involved in this indeterminism, and he returned almost immediately to his determinist scheme: “What is society, whatever its form may be? The product of men’s reciprocal activity, Are men free to choose this or that form” of society themselves? By no means. . . . It is superfluous to add that men are not free to choose their productive forces — which are the basis of all their history — for every productive force is an acquired force, the product of former activity. The productive forces are therefore the result of practical human energy; but this energy is itself conditioned by the circumstances in which men find themselves, by the productive forces already won, by the social form which exists before they do, which they do not create, which is the product of the former generation.[7]

Was Marx primarily a scientist, or was he a religious prophet? This debate has divided scholars for over half a century, and it is unlikely that it will be resolved in the near future. T. B. Bottomore, a sociologist whose works are in the Marxist tradition, is one of those who think that Marx is best understood as a scientist; naturally, the Soviet Marxists agree with this evaluation. Robert C. Tucker, Louis J. Halle, Erich Fromm, Karl Lowith, and many others see him as a semi-religious figure, especially as an Old Testament prophet type. Lowith’s description is typical: “He was Jew of Old Testament stature, though an emancipated Jew of the nineteenth century who felt strongly antireligious and even anti-Semitic. It is the old Jewish messianism and prophetism — unaltered by two thousand years of economic history from handicraft to large-scale industry — and Jewish insistence on absolute righteousness which explain the idealistic basis of Marx’s materialism. Unquestionably, there is a religious element in Marxism. But to classify him as an Old Testament prophetic figure is to miss the essential nature of the Marxist message. What Marxism represents is a secular throwback to the chaos cults of the ancient world, and not a modern school of the prophets.

Marxism and Ancient Paganism

Whatever modifications Marx later made on his original conspiratorial formulations, there can be little question that the framework of his theory of revolution was based upon ‘an ancient cosmology of nature which has had a long history in Western (and Eastern) civilization. Eliade has seen this close relation between Marx and the ancient world: “Yet Marxism preserves a meaning to history. For Marxism, events are not a succession of arbitrary accidents; they exhibit a coherent structure and, above all, they lead to a definite end – final elimination of the terror of history, ‘salvation.’ Thus, at the end of the Marxist philosophy of history, lies the age of gold of the archaic eschatologies. In this sense it is correct to say not only that Marx ‘brought Hegel’s philosophy back to earth’ but also that he reconfirmed, upon an exclusively human level, the value of the primitive myth of the age of gold, with the difference that he puts the age of gold only at the end of history, instead of putting it at the beginning too. Here, for the militant Marxist, lies the secret of the remedy for the terror of history: just as the contemporaries of a ‘dark age’ consoled themselves for their increasing sufferings by the thought that the aggravation of evil hastens final deliverance, so the militant Marxist of our day reads, in the drama provoked by the pressure of history, a necessary evil, the premonitory symptom of the approaching victory that will put an end forever to all historical ‘evil.’

The Language of Salvation

The transition between capitalism and the first stage of communism would be heralded by the Revolution, and there is no question that Marx used explicitly soteriological language in describing the coming conflagration. In his essay extolling the Paris Commune of 1871, Marx wrote of a “France, whose salvation from ruin, and whose regeneration were impossible, without the revolutionary overthrow of the political and social conditions that had engendered the Second Empire [of Napoleon III], and, under its fostering care, matured into utter rottenness. ” 1~ Marx did not really understand the Commune, but the use he made of it demonstrates that he saw it in terms of poutical and social regeneration – collective salvation.

Dialectics: Ethics us. Metaphysics

It was pointed out earlier that Marx’s doctrine of alienation was a substitute for the Christian doctrine of the fall of man. In spite of this apparent affinity for a Christian cosmology, Marx’s system must be linked more, with pagan ancient religion than with Old Testament messianism. This is not really contradictory, since the cosmologies of the ancients were equally substitutes for the idea of the fall. The similarities and distinctions between the pagan and Hebrew-Christian views have already been hinted at previously. The ancients believed in a metaphysical fall from chaos into the bondage of order and law. Marx asserted (or so his language indicates) that the fall was originally psychological but that man’s alienation became reciprocal with private property at a later date. By changing the environment, man would regain his pre-alienation state, but with his modern technology intact. The Christian view is that the fall was ethical the universe, including man, was cursed as a result of the fall — the alienation between man and the Creator – but the fall itself was ethical. Because man is alienated from God, he is also alienated from his fellow men, since they are made in God’s image. The restoration of man and his civilization is not to be accomplished, therefore, by a flight from law, but by a return to covenant obedience in terms of Biblical law. Regeneration is to come through faith in Christ’s sacrificial atonement on the cross; this is God’s grace to the individual. All earlier societies have been merely “prehistoric.” We may call our era “history,” but that is a misnomer. What we call history must be abolished if man is to survive. Marx, therefore, appealed to revolutionary chaos to bring an end to this era and to inaugurate true human history. Man must accomplish this, for man is Marx’s only god. Eschatology for Marx is the restoration of the society free from alienation and brought into being by man; the escape from the bondage of present history will be achieved. And this brings us to how Marx viewed religion. When we think about Marx and religion the first thing that comes to mind is his famous statement, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” That is, we tend of think that Marx had a monolithically negative view of religion. But that is not the case. Immediately preceding this language of the “opiate” we find the following: “Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions.”[8]

Twice before an anthology of the writings of Karl Marx on religion has been published in North America. They appeared ten years apart, in 1964 and 1974. They are Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels on Religion (Schocken Books, 1964), with an introduction by Reinhold Neibuhr, and On Religion: Karl Marx (McGraw-Hill, 1974), edited by Saul K. Padover. Padover slants his selections toward the question of anti-Semitism in Marx. My interests are quite different. Neibuhr, who was my teacher, was mostly critical of Marx, accusing him of an unrealistic utopianism that a better grasp of the Christian doctrine of sin could have corrected. In contrast to that position, it is my judgment that Marx is less a poorly informed critic of religion than an important friend and dialogue partner. In this new century the values Marx fought for in terms of the dignity and destiny of human work may find their most effective advocate in world religions. But if world religions are to take up that task, they will have to undergo a fundamental self-examination. When confronted by the crisis caused by continuing world poverty compounded by environmental limits to endless economic growth, religion may be tempted to retreat into enclaves of otherworldly hope. If so, then Marx will have been proved correct in his judgment that religion suffers from an irremediable “inverted consciousness”—a consciousness that looks upon the world but sees it upside down. On the other hand, evidence from Christian liberation theology and from liberation theologies being developed by Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist scholars and activists indicates a movement toward positive engagement. Only time will tell whether world religions can come home to planet Earth—a place that may or may not have been given birth by the gods, but most assuredly gave birth to a creature which, time and again and in all its varied ways, poses to itself the question of God. But how religion should deploy its power cannot be understood without a critical analysis of how the new global “means of production” have transformed, and are powerfully transforming, the new global “relations of production.” Our most fundamental dependencies—the everyday world we rely upon and take for granted, a world where we feel safe and have a measure of control—are changing dramatically. This poses the question, in whose hands will religion decide to be a tool? To answer that question religion will need to look at what Marx calls the social powers of production.

Lenin and Religion:

Lenin’s vision on religion is not basically dissimilar from Marx’s. But he has explained it in a larger perspective. He has said that religion is enormously a private affair and it must not be the business of the state to interfere in any form with the religion. He further observes that in a true socialist society there cannot be any place of religion. In an article published on 5th December 1905, he made the above and following observations. In this article he said “Religion must be no concern to the state, and religious societies must have no connection with the governmental authority. Everyone must be absolutely free to profess any religion he pleases or no religion whatever that is to be an atheist, who every socialist is, as a rule”.

The point of emphasis is that, in a socialist state, the authority shall have no relation with religion or religious societies. The state will neither oppose nor support any religion which is private. The most important thing about a socialist is he may be a believer of any religious faith or he may not be. He is above all an atheist. It means that a socialist is indifferent to religion. Even if he professes any religious faith he cannot be expected to be dogmatic. Orthodox attitude to religion is not expected from a socialist. In socialism there shall be complete separation between state and church. If there is no such separation, Lenin says, proletarians will demand the separation. This is because in the name of religion some persons exploit the working Class and in a socialist state there is no place of exploitation. Emancipation is the aim of socialism and if there is religion emancipation is not possible. Communist party is the vanguard of workers and peasants and its members are highly self-conscious and class-conscious.

The members of the communist party, Lenin claims, are not the victims of ignorance and obscurantism in the shape of religious faith. He has further maintained that if church and other religious organizations are allowed to continue their normal functions that will before long contaminate the mind of the working class. For this reason he has demanded “complete disestablishment of church, so as to be able to combat the religious fog with purely ideological and solely ideological weapons.” According to Lenin the yoke of religion is merely a product and reflection of the economic yoke. Communist party will launch propaganda to enlighten the mind of people regarding the true nature of the religious fog.Party will propagate that members must cultivate atheism. Once a man becomes a victim of religion he will not be able to come out of it. If people are not atheist, establishment of socialism will be a very difficult task.

Lenin concludes the essay with the following remark:

“The revolutionary proletariat will succeed in making religion a really private affair, so far as the state is concerned. And in this political system, cleansed of medieval mildew, the proletariate will wage a broad and open struggle for the elimination of economic slavery, the true source of the religious humbugging of mankind.”

Criticism of Marx’s Theory of Religion:

Marx’s theory of religion is faced with few criticisms. First of all, it is true that with the progress of science the influence of religion will disappear. Science and technology in the twenty-first century have reached a stage of unprecedented growth, but still there is influence of religion. It is true that today’s people are not orthodox in their attitude to religion, but they are not absolutely unreligious or atheists. There is a fear of God or feeling of religion, more or less, in the mind of many people. So we can ‘say that progress of science and religion coexist peacefully. It is not true that science contradicts religion. The fields of the two are different.

In the second place, the former Russian leaders claimed that they had succeeded in achieving socialism, but it is also true that they had not been able to banish religion. Religion became a completely private affair, but there was religion. We, therefore, see that Lenin’s estimation that in socialism there cannot be religion is not true. If in former Soviet Union there were religion there were no socialism, or vice versa. Thirdly, it is not right to hold that religion is the fantasy of alienated man. In our previous analysis we have said that even the privileged and educated people of sophisticated societies practice religion, but how are these people alienated? If these people are alienated then the concept requires to be redefined. There is no such scope.

Few more words may be said in support of Marx. While Marx was writing about religion the position and influence of religion of Middle Ages was highly active in his mind. The students of Western political thought are quite aware of the all pervading influence of Christianity in general and church in particular over all sections of society. Even the powerful emperors were not free from the influence. The pope could dictate the kings in their day-to-day activities. There was nobody to challenge the authority of the pope. It was the religion which was responsible for the economic backwardness of medieval Europe. It is also true that there was a time when religion acted as opium. Religion reduced the consciousness of people to the minimum. In medieval society religion was so powerful that people failed to consider their own interests. They were forced to think about the other world which had no physical existence.

Today the orthodox aspect of religion has declined remarkably. There are several reasons behind this and the most important are the progress of science and the development of consciousness. Religion has not vanished and will not fade away as Marx predicted. However, the educated people have developed a sort of indifference towards religion. There is today less orthodoxy, less fanfare and very less humbugging. There is religion in miniature form. Lenin is not correct when he says that a socialist must be atheist. Many socialist minded people have been found to practice religious principles and faiths. This is because we are interpreting religion in a liberal way.

Karl Marx is often misunderstood and even more frequently, misrepresented even as the world observes his bicentenary. As we examine the bicentenary of Marx’s birth, we are being ruled in India by a bunch of the most bigoted and obscurantist rulers who seek to address ideological debates through hate, lies and violence.  Clearly, it is not about the origin of the idea, but the idea itself which is the real bone of contention. All who stand and fight for equality and justice, liberty and fraternity will always feel inspired by Marx while the enemies of equality will always remain mortally afraid of this revolutionary giant. More power to the ideas and legacy of Marx.

Critical Theory said very little about religion per se. Its primary focus was the rise of Fascism, and following WWII, mass society, mass culture and the demise of emancipatory reason in “one dimensional” society. But as I have argued, not only are there many underlying psycho-cultural similarities between Fascism and fundamentalism, but certain authors use the very term “clerical fascism”.60 The fundamental theoretical premise of this analysis has argued that fascisms and fundamentalisms in general are both responses to alienation and ways that would assuage that alienation. A long tradition of alienation theory and research has noted that there can be other material bases to alienation, not the least of which can be political domination, which itself often sustains economic domination, deprivation and immiseration. Fundamentalism has been a growing response to the adversities of the now globalized world. Its demands for submission to its absolutist and simplistic world views and compliance with its essentialist codes of gender hierarchy and rigid morality promise moral renewal and social regeneration. As was noted, submission to authority, rigid social hierarchies, moralism and simplification of reality, offer solace and comfort in world seemingly out of control. Neither Weber nor the Frankfurt School said much about Islam in general, let alone Islamism and its extreme forms of martyrdom/terrorism. Nevertheless, the Critical Theory tradition provides a framework for theorizing the rise and I would argue imminent demise of Islam and, in turn, the move to fundamentalism. As was noted, we need to begin with the critique of political economy and simply note that throughout the world fundamentalism began to flourish at the same time as globalization began to create a unified world market. But while globalization created enormous wealth, for the few, it did not bring benefits to the multitudes buffeted by the winds of social change as many established forms of commerce and employment waned while new products and methods of doing business came forth as well as new political realities Not only did many people suffer economic losses, but the basis of their status and dignity were lost as well. Globalization and all that has gone with it has undermined traditional anchors of self, community and meaning. The ties of community were attenuated, traditional values assaulted, while a mass mediated youth culture of self indulgent hedonism spread throughout the world. In sum, with globalization came new forms of alienation.

Political grievances that are often quite legitimate become articulated through religious discourses. Moreover, there are times when fundamentalists actually take over the State such as in Taliban Afghanistan, Khomeini’s Iran or Bush’s United States. But governance based on religion and scripture cannot govern very well in a globalized world dependent on advanced technologies. Fundamentalisms, while responses to economic and/or political deprivations cannot foster the rational policies that produce wealth within and promote co-operation with other States. Such forms of governance will either implode or lose legitimacy. To embrace fundamentalism, whatever its short term gratifications may be, is a very irrational choice. But this contradiction is only evident to those whose dialectical understanding of society was informed by the Frankfurt School.

Various scenarios suggest that the foreseeable future portend nothing but endless war and conflict between the West and Islamic jihadi for several generations. But the analysis presented suggests that while Islamisms are likely to continue in the short run, and the jihadis power will grow, at some point, between their growing numbers and sheer violence, they and their issues will force recognition and acknowledgement. I would suggest that just as the Chinese communists and British colonizers of India played key roles in fostering Indian and Chinese modernities, so too will Islamisms wane and foster Islamic modernities (See Langman and Morris 2002). Fundamentalisms can never address their basic contradictions; their anti-modernity exacerbates the very problems they would seek to ameliorate (Cf. Roy 1994). Critical

Theory suggests that if Islamisms actually attain political power and voice, that will lead to their demise. With power comes a need to produce wealth, secure legitimacy and to negotiate with other States. But if and when they get to run schools, health care systems and hospitals, postal systems, public works, etc, most often on limited budgets, violence tends to wane, indeed if not in rhetoric. To overcome the conditions they would ameliorate, they will need to incorporate the very purposive rationality which they so much abhor. That is the central insight of history. But Reason should become the basis of freedom and emancipation, not the source of domination. That is the central insight of Critical Theory.

References

  1. Frederick Engels, Herr Eugen Diihringk Revolution in Science [Anti-DiihnngJ (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1934), p. 348. This was published originally in 1877-78 in Pbzuiirh, a German radical publication, [Collected Works, 25, p. 302.]
  2. Marx, “Private Property and Communism,” EPM, p. 144. [Collected Works, 3, p. 304.]
  3. Here I am using the Bottomore translation of EPM, in Marx, Early Writings, pp. 166-67. The passage appears in the Struik edition, p. 145. [Collected Works, 3, pp. 305-6.]
  4. One of the most profound descriptions of the division of labor is found in St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 12. In it, he describes the distribution of spiritual gifts to the Christian church in terms of a body: there are hands and fret, eyes and ears, and each has its special function. [Cfl Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (rev. cd.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), chaps. 8, 10.]
  5. “Meaning of Human Requirements,” EPM, p. 159. [Collected Works, 3, p. 317.]
  6. R. J. Rushdoony, By What Standard? (Philadelphia Presbyterian and Reformed, 1958), p. 161. [Reprinted by Thobum Press, Tyler, Texas, in 1983.]
  7. Marx to P. V. Annenkov, 28 Dec. 1846 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Correspondence, 1846-1895, edited by Dona Tom (New York International Publishers, 1935), p. 7. [Selected Works, 1, p. 518. Collected Works, 38, p. 96.] Cf. the opening lines of Marx’s Eighteenth Br-umaire of Louis Bonapsarte (1852): “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” Selected Works, 1, p. 398. [Collected Works, 11, p. 103.]
  8. Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” p. 171

 

Author Bio

I Pravat Ranjan Sethi completed my studies from Centre for Historical Studies, JNU, New Delhi, at present teaching at Amity University. My area of interest is Modern History especially Nationalism, Political History, Critical Theory and Gender Studies.

[1]  Frederick Engels, Herr Eugen Diihringk Revolution in Science [Anti-DiihnngJ (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1934), p. 348. This was published originally in 1877-78 in Pbzuiirh, a German radical publication, [Collected Works, 25, p. 302.]

[2]  Marx, “Private Property and Communism,” EPM, p. 144. [Collected Works, 3, p. 304.]

[3]  Here I am using the Bottomore translation of EPM, in Marx, Early Writings, pp. 166-67. The passage appears in the Struik edition, p. 145. [Collected Works, 3, pp. 305-6.]

[4]  One of the most profound descriptions of the division of labor is found in St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 12. In it, he describes the distribution of spiritual gifts to the Christian church in terms of a body: there are hands and fret, eyes and ears, and each has its special function. [Cfl Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (rev. cd.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), chaps. 8, 10.]

[5] . “Meaning of Human Requirements,” EPM, p. 159. [Collected Works, 3, p. 317.]

[6] R. J. Rushdoony, By What Standard? (Philadelphia Presbyterian and Reformed, 1958), p. 161. [Reprinted by Thobum Press, Tyler, Texas, in 1983.]

[7] Marx to P. V. Annenkov, 28 Dec. 1846 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Correspondence, 1846-1895, edited by Dona Tom (New York International Publishers, 1935), p. 7. [Selected Works, 1, p. 518. Collected Works, 38, p. 96.] Cf. the opening lines of Marx’s Eighteenth Br-umaire of Louis Bonapsarte (1852): “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.” Selected Works, 1, p. 398. [Collected Works, 11, p. 103.]

[8] Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,” p. 171

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2 Comments

  1. A must-read pamphlet that explains the materialist explanation of religion

    https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlet/socialism-and-religion/

  2. Farooque Chowdhury says:

    It’s Iran, not Iraq, as the article writes “Khomeini’s Iraq” in para 7 of the section “Criticism of Marx’s Theory of Religion”. Please, check a few other facts/arguments/statements including “With power comes a need to produce wealth” in the last para. What the bourgeoisie did: power, then wealth, or, wealth, then power? What shall the exploited people do after securing political power: Shall they go for wealth?
    The article says: “just as the Chinese communists and British colonizers of India played key roles in fostering Indian and Chinese modernities …” Are the two — the Chinese communists and the British colonizers — same? And were their roles in modernities same? Please, check the fact: after the British colonizers fostered “modernity”, as the article claims, in India, the level and type of practices in the areas of rights/divisions/hatred/culture and practices of feudal and/or slave owning society in the land. In China, feudalism/semi-feudalism was assaulted, imperialism was assaulted. In India sub-continent, feudalism/semi-feudalism/compradors was restructured/fed/fostered/created by the imperialists. Please, look at the May 4th Movement in China, at the role played by Sun Yat-sen’s politics/political movement, at the alliance between Sun and the communists.
    The article uses a term “Islamic modernities”. Then, tomorrow, shall the article innovate terms like “Brahmin modernity”, “Christian modernity”, “Buddhism modernity”? The article should be careful about “Brahmin modernity”, if it creates such term, as that crushing “modernity” will be difficult to bear by others. Already others are groaning with whatever is there. Then, shouldn’t modernity be defined?
    The article says: “so too will Islamisms wane and foster Islamic modernities”. Can a waning, as the article says, power or ideology foster, as the article says, modernity?