KARL MARX, On the Jewish
In: The Marx-Engels Reader. Edited by Robert Tucker, New York: Norton & Company, 1978. p. 26 - 46.
The German Jews seek emancipation. What kind of emancipation do they want? Civic, political emancipation.
Bruno Bauer replies to them: In Germany no one is politically emancipated. We ourselves are not free. How then could we liberate you? You Jews are egoists if you demand for yourselves, as Jews, a special emancipation. You should work, as Germans, for the political emancipation of Germany, and as men, for the emancipation of mankind. You should feel the particular kind of oppression and shame which you suffer, not as an exception to the rule but rather as a confirmation of the rule.
Or do the Jews want to be placed on a footing of equality with the Christian subjects? If they recognize the Christian state as legally established they also recognize the regime of general enslave-
ment. Why should their particular yoke be irksome when they accept the general yoke? Why should the German be interested in liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?
The Christian state recognizes nothing but privileges. The Jew himself, in this state, has the privilege of being a Jew. As a Jew he possesses rights which the Christians do not have. Why does he want rights which he does not have but which the Christians enjoy?
In demanding his emancipation from the Christian state he asks the Christian state to abandon its religious prejudice. But does he, the Jew, give up his religious prejudice? Has he then the right to insist that someone else should forswear his religion?
The Christian state, by its very nature, is incapable of emancipating the Jew. But, adds Bauer, the Jew, by his very nature, cannot be emancipated. As long as the state remains Christian, and is long as the Jew remains a Jew, they are equally incapable, the one of conferring emancipation, the other of receiving it.
With respect to the Jews the Christian state can only adopt the attitude of a Christian state. That is, it can permit the Jew, as a matter of privilege, to isolate himself from its other subjects; but it must then allow the pressures of all the other spheres of society to bear upon the Jew, and all the more heavily since be is in religious opposition to the dominant religion. But the Jew likewise can only adopt a Jewish attitude, i.e. that of a foreigner, towards the state, since he opposes his illusory nationality to actual nationality, his illusory law to actual law. He considers it his right to separate himself from the rest of humanity; as a matter of principle he takes no part in the historical movement and looks to a future which has nothing in common with the future of mankind as a whole. He regards himself as a member of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people as the chosen people.
On what grounds, then, do you Jews demand emancipation? On account of your religion? But it is the mortal enemy of the state religion. As citizens? But there are no citizens in Germany. As men? But you are not men any more than are those to whom you appeal.
Bauer, after criticizing earlier approaches and solutions, formulates the question of Jewish emancipation in a new way. What, he asks, is the nature of the Jew who is to be emancipated, and the nature of the Christian state which is to emancipate him? He replies by a critique of the Jewish religion, analyses the religious opposition between Judaism and Christianity, explains the essence of the Christian state; and does all this with dash, clarity, wit and profundity, in a style which is as precise as it is pithy and vigorous.
How then does Bauer resolve the Jewish question? What is the result? To formulate a question is to resolve it. The critical study of the Jewish question is the answer to the Jewish question. Here it is in brief: we have to emancipate ourselves before we can emancipate others.
The most stubborn form of the opposition between Jew and Christian is the religious opposition. How is an opposition resolved? By making it impossible. And how is religious opposition made impossible? By abolishing religion. As soon as Jew and Christian come to see in their respective religions nothing more than stages in the development of the human mindsnake skins which have been cast off by history, and man as the snake who clothed himself in themthey will no longer find themselves in religious opposition, but in a purely critical, scientific and human relationship. Science will then constitute their unity. But scientific oppositions are resolved by science itself.
The German Jew, in particular, suffers from the general lack of political freedom and the pronounced Christianity of the state. But in Bauer's sense the Jewish question has a general significance, independent of the specifically German conditions. It is the question of the relations between religion and the state, of the contradiction between religious prejudice and political emancipation. Emancipation from religion is posited as a condition, both for the Jew who wants political emancipation, and for the state which should emancipate him and itself be emancipated.
"Very well, it may be said (and the Jew himself says it) but the Jew should not be emancipated because he is a Jew, because be has such an excellent and universal moral creed; the Jew should take second place to the citizen, and he will be a citizen although he is and desires to remain a Jew. In other words, he is and remains a Jew, even though he is a citizen and as such lives in a universal human condition; his restricted Jewish nature always finally triumphs over his human and political obligations. The bias persists even though it is overcome by general principles. But if it persists, it would be truer to say that it overcomes all the rest." "It is only in a sophistical and superficial sense that the Jew could remain a Jew in political life. Consequently, if he wanted to remain a Jew, this would mean that the superficial became the essential and thus triumphed. In other words, his life in the state would be only a semblance, or a momentary exception to the essential and normal." [Bauer, "Die Fähigkeit der heutigen Juden und Christen, frei zu werden"; emphases added by Marx]
Let us see also how Bauer establishes the role of the state.
"France," he says, "has provided us recently, in connexion with
the Jewish question (and for that matter all other political questions), with the spectacle of a life which is free but which revokes its freedom by law and so declares it to be merely an appearance; and which, on the other hand, denies its free laws by its acts."
"In France, universal liberty is not yet established by law, nor is the Jewish question as yet resolved, because legal liberty, i.e. the equality of all citizens, is restricted in actual life, which is still dominated and fragmented by religious privileges, and because the lack of liberty in actual life influences law in its turn and obliges it to sanction the division of citizens who are by nature free into oppressors and oppressed."
When, therefore, would the Jewish question be resolved in France?
"The Jew would really have ceased to be Jewish, for example, if be did not allow his religious code to prevent his fulfilment of his duties towards the state and his fellow citizens; if be attended and took part in the public business of the Chamber of Deputies on the sabbath. It would be necessary, further, to abolish all religious privilege, including the monopoly of a privileged church. If, thereafter, some or many or even the overwhelming majority felt obliged to fulfil their religious duties, such practices should be left to them as an absolutely private matter." "There is no longer any religion when there is no longer a privileged religion. Take away from religion its power to excommunicate and it will no longer exist." "Mr. Martin du Nord has seen, in the suggestion to omit any mention of Sunday in the law, a proposal to declare that Christianity has ceased to exist. With equal right (and the right is well founded) the declaration that the law of the sabbath is no longer binding upon the Jew would amount to proclaiming the end of Judaism."
Thus Bauer demands, on the one hand, that the Jew should renounce Judaism, and in general that man should renounce religion, in order to be emancipated as a citizen. On the other hand, be considers, and this follows logically, that the political abolition of religion is the abolition of all religion. The state which presupposes religion is not yet a true or actual state. "Clearly, the religious idea gives some assurances to the state. But to what state? To what kind of state?"
At this point we see that the Jewish question is considered only from one aspect.
It was by no means sufficient to ask: who should emancipate? who should be emancipated? The critic should ask a third question:
what kind of emancipation is involved? What are the essential conditions of the emancipation which is demanded? The criticism of political emancipation itself was only the final criticism of the Jewish question and its genuine resolution into the "general question of the age."
Bauer, since he does not formulate the problem at this level, falls into contradictions. He establishes conditions which are not based upon the nature of political emancipation. He raises questions which are irrelevant to his problem, and he resolves problems which leave his question unanswered. When Bauer says of the opponents of Jewish emancipation that "Their error was simply to assume that the Christian state was the only true one, and not to subject it to the same criticism as Judaism," we see his own error in the fact that he subjects only the "Christian state," and not the "state as such" to criticism, that he does not examine the relation between political emancipation and human emancipation, and that he, therefore, poses conditions which are only explicable by his lack of critical sense in confusing political emancipation and universal human emancipation. Bauer asks the Jews: Have you, from your standpoint, the right to demand political emancipation? We ask the converse question: from the standpoint of political emancipation can the Jew be required to abolish Judaism, or man be asked to abolish religion?
The Jewish question presents itself differently according to the state in which the Jew resides. In Germany, where there is no political state, no state as such, the Jewish question is purely theological. The Jew finds himself in religious opposition to the state, which proclaims Christianity as its foundation. This state is a theologian ex professo. Criticism here is criticism of theology; a double-edged criticism, of Christian and of Jewish theology. And so we move always in the domain of theology, however critically we may move therein.
In France, which is a constitutional state, the Jewish question is a question of constitutionalism, of the incompleteness of political emancipation. Since the semblance of a state religion is maintained here, if only in the insignificant and self-contradictory formula of a religion of the majority, the relation of the Jews to the state also retains a semblance of religious, theological opposition.
It is only in the free states of North America, or at least in some of them, that the Jewish question loses its theological significance and becomes a truly secular question. Only where the state exists in its completely developed form can the relation of the Jew, and of the religious man in general, to the political state appear in a pure form, with its own characteristics. The criticism of this relation
ceases to be theological criticism when the state ceases to maintain a theological attitude towards religion, that is, when it adopts the attitude of a state, i.e. a political attitude. Criticism then becomes criticism of the political state. And at this point, where the question ceases to be theological, Bauer's criticism ceases to be critical.
"There is not, in the United States, either a state religion or a religion declared to be that of a majority, or a predominance of one religion over another. The state remains aloof from all religions." [de Beaumont] There are even some states in North America in which "the consititution does not impose any religious belief or practice as a condition of political rights." And yet, "no one in the United States believes that a man without religion can be an honest man." And North America is pre-eminently a country of religiosity, as Beaumont, Tocqueville and the Englishman, Hamilton, assure us in unison. However, the states of North America only serve as an example. The question is: what is the relation between complete political emancipation and religion? If we find in the country which has attained full political emancipation, that religion not only continues to exist but is fresh and vigorous, this is proof that the existence of religion is not at all opposed to the perfection of the state. But since the existence of religion is the existence of a defect, the source of this defect must be sought in the nature of the state itself. Religion no longer appears as the basis, but as the manifestation of secular narrowness. That is why we explain the religious constraints upon the free citizens by the secular constraints upon them. We do not claim that they must transcend their religious narrowness in order to get rid of their secular limitations. We claim that they will transcend their religious narrowness once they have overcome their secular limitations. We do not turn secular questions into theological questions; we turn theological questions into secular ones. History has for long enough been resolved into superstition; but we now resolve superstition into history. The question of the relation between political emancipation and religion becomes for us a question of the relation between political emancipation and human emancipation. We criticize the religious failings of the political state by criticizing the political state in its secular form, disregarding its religious failings. We express in human terms the contradiction between the state and a particular religion, for example Judaism, by showing the contradic-
tion between the state and particular secular elements, between the state and religion in general and between the state and its general presuppositions.
The political emancipation of the Jew or the Christianof the religious man in generalis the emancipation of the state from Judaism, Christianity, and religion in general. The state emancipates itself from religion in its own particular way, in the mode which corresponds to its nature, by emancipating itself from the state religion; that is to say, by giving recognition to no religion and affirming itself purely and simply as a state. To be politically emancipated from religion is not to be finally and completely emancipated from religion, because political emancipation is not the final and absolute form of human emancipation.
The limits of political emancipation appear at once in the fact that the state can liberate itself from a constraint without man himself being really liberated; that a state may be a free state without man himself being a free man. Bauer himself tacitly admits this when he makes political emancipation depend upon the following condition
"It would be necessary, moreover, to abolish all religious privileges, including the monopoly of a privileged church. If some people, or even the immense majority, still felt obliged to fulfil their religious duties, this practice should be left to them as a completely private matter." Thus the state may have emancipated itself from religion, even though the immense majority of people continue to be religious. And the immense majority do not cease to be religious by virtue of being religious in private.
The attitude of the state, especially the free state, towards religion is only the attitude towards religion of the individuals who compose the state. It follows that man frees himself from a constraint in a political way, through the state, when he transcends his limitations, in contradiction with himself, and in an abstract, narrow and partial way. Furthermore, by emancipating himself politically, man emancipates himself in a devious way, through an intermediary, however necessary this intermediary may be. Finally, even when be proclaims himself an atheist through the intermediary of the state, that is, when be declares the state to be an atheist, he is still engrossed in religion, because he only recognizes himself as an atheist in a roundabout way, through an intermediary. Religion is simply the recognition of man in a roundabout fashion; that is, through an intermediary. The state is the intermediary between man and human liberty. Just as Christ is the intermediary to whom man attributes all his own divinity and all his religious bonds, so the state is the intermediary to which man confides all his nondivinity and all his human freedom.
The political elevation of man above religion shares the weaknesses and merits of all such political measures. For example, the state as a state abolishes private property (i.e. man decrees by political means the abolition of private property) when it abolishes the property qualification for electors and representatives, as has been done in many of the North American States. Hamilton interprets this phenomenon quite correctly from the political standpoint: The masses have gained a victory over property owners and financial wealth. Is not private property ideally abolished when the nonowner comes to legislate for the owner of property? The property qualification is the last political form in which private property is recognized.
But the political suppression of private property not only does not abolish private property; it actually presupposes its existence. The state abolishes, after its fashion, the distinctions established by birth, social rank, education, occupation, when it decrees that birth, social rank, education, occupation are non-political distinctions; when it proclaims, without regard to these distinctions, that every member of society is an equal partner in popular sovereignty, and treats all the elements which compose the real life of the nation from the standpoint of the state. But the state, none the less, allows private property, education, occupation, to, act after their own fashion, namely as private property, education, occupation, and to manifest their particular nature. Far from abolishing these effective differences, it only exists so far as they are presupposed; it is conscious of being a political state and it manifests its universality only in opposition to these elements. Hegel, therefore, defines the relation of the political state to religion quite correctly when be says: "In order for the state to come in to existence as the selfknowing ethical actuality of spirit, it is essential that it should be distinct from the forms of authority and of faith. But this distinction emerges only in so far as divisions occur within the ecclesiastical sphere itself. It is only in this way that the state, above the particular churches, has attained to the universality of thoughtits formal principleand is bringing this universality into existence." To be sure! Only in this manner, above the particular elements, can the state constitute itself as universality.
The perfected political state is, by its nature, the species-life of
man as opposed to his material life. All the presuppositions of this egoistic life continue to exist in civil society outside the political sphere, as qualities of civil society. Where the political state has attained to its full development, man leads, not only in thought, in consciousness, but in reality, in life, a double existencecelestial and terrestrial. He lives in the political community, where he regards himself as a communal being, and in civil society where he acts simply as a private individual, treats other men as means, degrades himself to the role of a mere means, and becomes the plaything of alien powers. The political state, in relation to civil society, is just as spiritual as is heaven in relation to earth. It stands in the same opposition to civil society, and overcomes it in the same manner as religion overcomes the narrowness of the profane world; i.e. it has always to acknowledge it again, re-establisb it, and allow itself to be dominated by it. Man, in his most intimate reality, in civil society, is a profane being. Here, where he appears both to himself and to others as a real individual he is an illusory phenomenon. In the state, on the contrary, where he is regarded as a species-being, man is the imaginary member of an imaginary sovereignty, divested of his real, individual life, and infused with an unreal universality.
The conflict in which the individual, as the professor of a particular religion, finds himself involved with his own quality of citizenship and with other men as members of the community, may be resolved into the secular schism between the political state and civil society. For man as a bourgeois "life in the state is only an appearance or a fleeting exception to the normal and essential." It is true that the bourgeois, like the Jew, participates in political life only in a sophistical way, just as the citoyen [in French] is a Jew or a bourgeois only in a sophistical way. But this sophistry is not personal. It is the sophistry of the political state itself. The difference between the religious man and the citizen is the same as that between the shopkeeper and the citizens, between the day-labourer and the citizen, between the landed proprietor and the citizen, between the living individual and the citizen. The contradiction in which the religious man finds himself with the political man, is the same contradiction in which the bourgeois finds himself with the citizen, and the member of civil society with his political lion's skin.
This secular opposition, to which the Jewish question reduces itselfthe relation between the political state and its presuppositions, whether the latter are material elements such as private property, etc., or spiritual elements such as culture or religion, the conflict between the general interest and private interest, the schism between the political state and civil societythese profane contradictions, Bauer leaves intact, while he directs his polemic against their religious expression. "It is precisely this basisthat is, the needs which assure the existence of civil society and guarantee its necessitywhich exposes its existence to continual danger, maintains an element of uncertainty in civil society, produces this continually changing compound of wealth and poverty, of prosperity and distress, and above all generates change." Compare the whole section entitled "Civil Society," which follows closely the distinctive features of Hegel's philosophy of right. Civil society, in its opposition to this political state, is recognized as necessary because the political state is recognized as necessary.
Political emancipation certainly represents a great progress. It is not, indeed, the final form of human emancipation, but it is the final form of human emancipation within the framework of the prevailing social order. It goes without saying that we are speaking here of real, practical emancipation.
Man emancipates himself politically from religion by expelling it from the sphere of public law to that of private law. Religion is no longer the spirit of the state, in which man behaves, albeit in a specific and limited way and in a particular sphere, as species-being, in community with other men. It has become the spirit of civil society, of the sphere of egoism and of the bellum omnium contra omnes [war of all against all]. It is no longer the essence of community, but the essence of differentiation. It has become what it was at the beginning, an expression of the fact that man is separated from the community, from himself and from other men. It is now only the abstract avowal of an individual folly, a private whim or caprice. The infinite fragmentation of religion in North America, for example, already gives it the external form of a strictly private affair. It has been relegated among the numerous private interests and exiled from the life of the community as such. But one should have no illusions about the scope of political emancipation. The division of man into the public person and the private person, the displacement of religion from the state to civil societyall this is not a stage in political emancipation but its consummation. Thus political emancipation does not abolish, and does not even strive to abolish, man's real religiosity.
The decomposition of man into Jew and citizen, Protestant and citizen, religious man and citizen, is not a deception practised
against the political system nor yet an evasion of political emancipation. It is political emancipation itself, the political mode of emancipation from religion. Certainly, in periods when the political state as such comes violently to birth in civil society, and when men strive to liberate themselves through political emancipation, the state can, and must, proceed to abolish and destroy religion; but only in the same way as it proceeds to abolish private property, by declaring a maximum, by confiscation, or by progressive taxation, or in the same way as it proceeds to abolish life, by the guillotine. At those times when the state is most aware of itself, political life seeks to stifle its own prerequisitescivil society and its elementsand to establish itself as the genuine and harmonious species-life of man. But it can only achieve this end by setting itself in violent contradiction with its own conditions of existence, by declaring a permanent revolution. Thus the political drama ends necessarily with the restoration of religion, of private property, of all the elements of civil society, just as war ends with the conclusion of peace.
In fact, the perfected Christian state is not the so-called Christian state which acknowledges Christianity as its basis, as the state religion, and thus adopts an exclusive attitude towards other religions; it is, rather, the atheistic state, the democratic state, the state which relegates religion among the other elements of civil society. The state which is still theological, which still professes officially the Christian creed, and which has not yet dared to declare itself a state, has not yet succeeded in expressing in a human and secular form, in its political reality, the human basis of which Christianity is the transcendental expression. The so-called Christian state is simply a non-state; since it is not Christianity as a religion, but only the human core of the Christian religion which can realize itself in truly human creations.
The so-called Christian state is the Christian negation of the state, but not at all the political realization of Christianity. The state which professes Christianity as a religion does not yet profess it in a political form, because it still has a religious attitude towards religion. In other words, such a state is not the genuine realization of the human basis of religion, because it still accepts the unreal, imaginary form of this human core. The so-called Christian state is an imperfect state, for which the Christian religion serves as the supplement and sanctification of its imperfection. Thus religion becomes necessarily one of its means; and so it is the hypocritical state. There is a great difference between saying: (i) that the perfect state, owing to a deficiency in the general nature of the state, counts religion as one of its prerequisites, or (ii) that the imperfect
state, owing to a deficiency in its particular existence as an imperfect state, declares that religion is its basis. In the latter, religion becomes imperfect politics. In the former, the imperfection even of perfected politics is revealed in religion. The so-called Christian state needs the Christian religion in order to complete itself as a state. The democratic state, the real state, does not need religion for its political consummation. On the contrary, it can dispense with religion, because in this case the human core of religion is realized in a profane manner. The so-called Christian state, on the other hand, has apolitical attitude towards religion, and a religious attitude towards politics. It reduces political institutions and religion equally to mere appearances.
In order to make this contradiction clearer we shall examine Bauer's model of the Christian state, a model which is derived from his study of the German-Christian state.
"Quite recently," says Bauer, "in order to demonstrate the impossibility or the non-existence of a Christian state, those passages in the Bible have been frequently quoted with which the state does not conform and cannot conform unless it wishes to dissolve itself entirely."
"But the question is not so easily settled. What do these Biblical passages demand? Supernatural renunciation, submission to the authority of revelation, turning away from the state, the abolition of profane conditions. But the Christian state proclaims and accomplishes all these things. It has assimilated the spirit of the Bible, and if it does not reproduce it exactly in the terms which the Bible uses, that is simply because it expresses this spirit in political forms, in forms which are borrowed from the political system of this world but which, in the religious rebirth which they are obliged to undergo, are reduced to simple appearances. Man turns away from the state and by this means realizes and completes the political institutions."
Bauer continues by showing that the members of a Christian state no longer constitute a nation with a will of its own. The nation has its true existence in the leader to whom it is subjected, but this leader is, by his origin and nature, alien to it since be has been imposed by God without the people having any part in the matter. The laws of such a nation are not its own work, but are direct revelations. The supreme leader, in his relations with the real nation, the masses, requires privileged intermediaries; and the nation itself disintegrates into a multitude of distinct spheres which are formed and determined by chance, are differentiated from each other by their interests and their specific passions and preju-
dices, and acquire as a privilege the permission
to isolate themselves from each other, etc.
But Bauer himself says: "Politics, if it
is to be nothing more than religion, should not be politics; any more than the
scouring of pans, if it is treated as a religious matter, should be regarded
as ordinary bousekeeping." But in the German-Christian state religion is
an "economic matter" just as "economic matters" are religion.
In the German-Christian state the power of religion is the religion of power.
The separation of the "spirit of the Bible" from the "letter of the Bible" is an irreligious act. The state which expresses the Bible in the letter of politics, or in any letter other than that of the Holy Ghost, commits sacrilege, if not in the eyes of men at least in the eyes of its own religion. The state which acknowledges the Bible as its charter and Christianity as its supreme rule must be assessed according to the words of the Bible; for even the language of the Bible is sacred. Such a state, as well as the human rubbish upon which it is based, finds itself involved in a painful contradiction, which is insoluble from the standpoint of religious consciousness, when it is referred to those words of the Bible "with which it does not conform and cannot conform unless it wishes to dissolve itself entirely." And why does it not wish to dissolve itself entirely? The state itself cannot answer either itself or others. In its own consciousness the official Christian state is an "ought" whose realization is impossible. It cannot affirm the reality of its own existence without lying to itself, and so it remains always in its own eyes an object of doubt, an uncertain and problematic object. Criticism is, therefore, entirely within its rights in forcing the state, which supports itself upon the Bible, into a total disorder of thought in which it no longer knows whether it is illusion or reality; and in which the infamy of its profane ends (for which religion serves as a cloak) enter into an insoluble conflict with the probity of its religious consciousness (for which religion appears as the goal of the world). Such a state can only escape its inner torment by becoming the myrmidon of the Catholic Church. In the face of this Church, which asserts that secular power is entirely subordinate to its commands, the state is powerless; powerless the secular power which claims to be the rule of the religious spirit.
What prevails in the so-called Christian state is not man but alienation. The only man who countsthe Kingis specifically differentiated from other men and is still a religious being associated directly with heaven and with God. The relations which exist here are relations still based upon faith. The religious spirit is still not really secularized.
But the religious spirit cannot be really secularized. For what is it but the non-secular form of a stage in the development of the human spirit? The religious spirit can only be realized if the stage of development of the human spirit which it expresses in religious form, manifests and constitutes itself in its secular form. This is what happens in the democratic state. The basis of this state is not Christianity but the human basis of Christianity. Religion remains the ideal, non-secular consciousness of its members, because it is the ideal form of the stage of human development which has been attained.
The members of the political state are religious
because of the dualism between individual life and species-life, between the
life of civil society and political life. They are religious in the sense that
man treats political life, which is remote from his own individual existence,
as if it were his true life; and in the sense that religion is here the spirit
of civil society, and expresses the separation and withdrawal of man from man.
Political democracy is Christian in the sense that man, not merely one man but
every man, is there considered a sovereign being, a supreme being; but it is
uneducated, unsocial man, man just as be is in his fortuitous existence, man
as he has been corrupted, lost to himself, alienated, subjected to the rule
of inhuman conditions and elements, by the whole organization of our societyin
short man who is not yet a real species-being. Creations of fantasy,
dreams, the postulates of Christianity, the sovereignty of manbut of man
as an alien being distinguished from the real manall these become, in
democracy, the tangible and present reality, secular maxims.
In the perfected democracy, the religious and
theological consciousness appears to itself all the more religious and theological
in that it is apparently without any political significance or terrestrial aims,
is an affair of the heart withdrawn from the world, an expression of the limitations
of reason, a product of arbitrariness and fantasy, a veritable life in the beyond.
Christianity here attains the practical expression of its universal religious
significance, because the most varied views are brought together in the form
of Christianity, and still more because Christianity does not ask that anyone
should profess Christianity, but simply that he should have some kind of religion
(see Beaumont, op. cit.). The religious consciousness runs riot in a
wealth of contradictions and diversity.
We have shown, therefore, that political emancipation from religion leaves religion in existence, although this is no longer a privileged religion. The contradiction in which the adherent of a particular religion finds himself in relation to his citizenship is only one aspect of the universal secular contradiction between the political state and civil society. The consummation of the Christian state is
a state which acknowledges itself simply as
a state and ignores the religion of its members. The emancipation of the state
from religion is not the emancipation of the real man from religion.
We do not say to the Jews, therefore, as does
Bauer: you cannot be emancipated politically without emancipating yourselves
completely from Judaism. We say rather: it is because you can be emancipated
politically, without renouncing Judaism completely and absolutely, that political
emancipation itself is not human emancipation. If you want to be
politically emancipated, without emancipating yourselves humanly, the inadequacy
and the contradiction is not entirely in yourselves but in the nature
and the category of political emancipation. If you are preoccupied with
this category you share the general prejudice. Just as the state evangelizes
when, although it is a state, it adopts a Christian attitude towards the Jews,
the Jew acts politically when, though a Jew, he demands civil rights.
But if a man, though a Jew, can be emancipated
politically and acquire civil rights, can he claim and acquire what are called
the rights of man? Bauer denies it. "The question is whether the
Jew as such, that is the Jew who himself avows that he is constrained by his
true nature to live eternally separate from men, is able to acquire and to concede
to others the universal rights of man."
"The idea of the rights of man was only
discovered in the Christian world, in the last century. It is not an innate
idea; on the contrary, it is acquired in a struggle against the historical traditions
in which man has been educated up to the present time. The rights of man are
not, therefore, a gift of nature, nor a legacy from past history, but the reward
of a struggle against the accident of birth and against the privileges which
history has hitherto transmitted from generation to generation. They are the
results of culture, and only he can possess them who has merited and earned
"But can the Jew really take possession
of them? As long as he remains Jewish the limited nature which makes him a Jew
must prevail over the human nature which should associate him, as a man, with
other men; and it will isolate him from everyone who is not a Jew. He declares,
by this separation, that the particular nature which makes him Jewish is his
true and supreme nature, before which human nature has to efface itself."
"Similarly, the Christian as such cannot
grant the rights of man."
According to Bauer man has to sacrifice the "privilege of faith" in order to acquire the general rights of man. Let us consider for a moment the so-called rights of man; let us examine them in their most authentic form, that which they have among those who dis-
covered them, the North Americans and
the French! These rights of man are, in part, political rights, which
can only be exercised if one is a member of a community. Their content is participation
in the community life, in the political life of the community,
the life of the state. They fall in the category of political liberty,
of civil rights, which as we have seen do not at all presuppose the consistent
and positive abolition of religion; nor consequently, of Judaism. It remains
to consider the other part, namely the rights of man as distinct from
the rights of the citizen.
Among them is to be found the freedom of conscience,
the right to practise a chosen religion. The privilege of faith is expressly
recognized, either as a right of man or as a consequence of a right of
man, namely liberty. Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,
1791, Article 10: "No one is to be disturbed on account of his opinions,
even religious opinions." There is guaranteed, as one of the rights of
man, "the liberty of every man to practise the religion to which he adheres."
The Declaration of the Rights of Man,
etc. 1793, enumerates among the rights of man (Article 7): "The liberty
of religious observance." Moreover, it is even stated, with respect to
the right to express ideas and opinions, to hold meetings, to practise a religion,
that: "The necessity of enunciating these rights presupposes either
the existence or the recent memory of despotism." Compare the Constitution
of 1795, Section XII, Article 354.
Constitution of Pennsylvania, Article
9, #3: "All men have received from nature the imprescriptible right
to worship the Almighty according to the dictates of their conscience, and no
one can be legally compelled to follow, establish or support against his will
any religion or religious ministry. No human authority can, in any circumstances,
intervene in a matter of conscience or control the forces of the soul."
Constitution of New Hampshire, Articles
5 and 6: "Among these natural rights some are by nature inalienable since
nothing can replace them. The rights of conscience are among them.
The incompatibility between religion and the
rights of man is so little manifest in the concept of the rights of man that
the right to be religious, in one's own fashion, and to practise one's
own particular religion, is expressly included among the rights of man. The
privilege of faith is a universal right of man.
A distinction is made between the rights of man and the rights of the citizen. Who is this man distinct from the citizen? No one but the member of civil society. Why is the member of civil society called "man," simply man, and why are his rights called the "rights of man"? How is this fact to be explained? By the relation between
the political state and civil society, and by
the nature of political emancipation.
Let us notice first of all that the so-called
rights of man, as distinct from the rights of the citizen, are
simply the rights of a member of civil society, that is, of egoistic
man, of man separated from other men and from the community. The most radical
constitution, that of 1793, says: Declaration of the Rights of Man and of
the Citizen: Article 2. "These rights, etc. (the natural and imprescriptible
rights) are: equality, liberty, security, property.
What constitutes liberty?
Article 6. "Liberty is the power which
man has to do everything which does not harm the rights of others."
Liberty is, therefore, the right to do everything
which does not harm others. The limits within which each individual can act
without harming others are determined by law, just as the boundary between two
fields is marked by a stake. It is a question of the liberty of man regarded
as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself. Why, according to Bauer, is the
Jew not fitted to acquire the rights of man? "As long as he remains Jewish
the limited nature which makes him a Jew must prevail over the human nature
which should associate him, as a man, with other men; and it will isolate him
from everyone who is not a Jew." But liberty as a right of man is not founded
upon the relations between man and man, but rather upon the separation of man
from man. It is the right of such separation. The right of the circumscribed
individual, withdrawn into himself.
The practical application of the right of liberty
is the right of private property. What constitutes the right of private propert?
Article 16 (Constitution of 1793). "The
right of property is that which belongs to every citizen of enjoying
and disposing as he will of his goods and revenues, of the fruits of
his work and industry."
The right of property is, therefore, the right
to enjoy one's fortune and to dispose of it as one will; without regard for
other men and independently of society. It is the right of self-interest. This
individual liberty, and its application, form the basis of civil society. It
leads every man to see in other men, not the realization, but rather
the limitation of his own liberty. It declares above all the right "to
enjoy and to dispose as one will, one's goods and revenues, the fruits
of one's work and industry."
There remain the other rights of man, equality and security.
The term "equality" has here no political significance. It is only the equal right to liberty as defined above; namely that every man is equally regarded as a self-sufficient monad. The constitution of 1795 defines the concept of liberty in this sense.
Article 5 (Constitution of 1795). "Equality
consists in the fact that the law is the same for all, whether it protects or
Article 8 (Constitution of 1793)."Security
consists in the protection afforded by society to each of its members for the
preservation of his person, his rights, and his property."
Security is the supreme social concept
of civil society; the concept of the police. The whole society exists
only in order to guarantee for each of its members the preservation of his person,
his rights and his property. It is in this sense that Hegel calls civil society
"the state of need and of reason."
The concept of security is not enough to raise
civil society above its egoism. Security is, rather, the assurance of
None of the supposed rights of man, therefore,
go beyond the egoistic man, man as he is, as a member of civil society; that
is, an individual separated from the community, withdrawn into himself, wholly
preoccupied with his private interest and acting in accordance with his private
caprice. Man is far from being considered, in the rights of man, as a species-being;
on the contrary, species-life itselfsocietyappears as a system which
is external to the individual and as a limitation of his original independence.
The only bond between men is natural necessity, need and private interest, the
preservation of their property and their egoistic persons.
It is difficult enough to understand that a
nation which has just begun to liberate itself, to tear down all the barriers
between different sections of the people and to establish a political community,
should solemnly proclaim (Declaration of 1791) the rights of the egoistic
man, separated from his fellow men and from the community, and should renew
this proclamation at a moment when only the most heroic devotion can save the
nation (and is, therefore, urgently called for), and when the sacrifice of all
the interests of civil society is in question and egoism should be punished
as a crime. (Declaration of the Rights of Man, etc. 1793.). The matter
becomes still more incomprehensible when we observe that the political liberators
reduce citizenship, the political community, to a mere means for preserving
these so-called rights of man; and consequently, that the citizen is declared
to be the servant of egoistic "man," that the sphere in which man
functions as a species-being is degraded to a level below the sphere where he
functions as a partial being, and finally that it is man as a bourgeois and
not man as a citizen who is considered the true and authentic
"The end of every political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man." (Declaration of the Rights of Man, etc. 1791, Article 2.) "Government is instituted in
order to guarantee man's enjoyment of his natural
and imprescriptible rights." (Declaration, etc. 1793, Article 1)
Thus, even in the period of its youthful enthusiasm, which is raised to fever
pitch by the force of circumstances, political life declares itself to be only
a means, whose end is the life of civil society. It is true that its revolutionary
practice is in flagrant contradiction with its theory. While, for instance,
security is declared to be one of the rights of man, the violation of the privacy
of correspondence is openly considered. While the "unlimited freedom of
the Press" (Constitution of 1793, Article 122), as a corollary of
the right of individual liberty, is guaranteed, the freedom of the Press is
completely destroyed, since "the freedom of the Press should not be permitted
when it endangers public liberty." This amounts to saying: the right to
liberty ceases to be a right as soon as it comes into conflict with political
life, whereas in theory political life is no more than the guarantee of the
rights of manthe rights of the individual manand should, therefore,
be suspended as soon as it comes into contradiction with its end, these
rights of man. But practice is only the exception, while theory is the rule.
Even if one decided to regard revolutionary practice as the correct expression
of this relation, the problem would remain as to why it is that in the minds
of political liberators the relation is inverted, so that the end appears as
the means and the means as the end? This optical illusion of their consciousness
would always remain a problem, though a psychological and theoretical one.
But the problem is easily solved.
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 as a 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 activitythe
general political poweralso 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 everythingestates, corporations, guilds, privilegeswhich
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 civil
society 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 societynon-political
mannecessarily 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;] of 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 relationsbips,
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.