Germany: a third world tale

Michael Loewy calls the Critique “pre-Marxist” because it was written before Marx had absorbed the lesson of the French socialists that class struggle was the fulcrum of society. I can see Loewy’s point, but the essay not only carries the essential voice of Marx – his way of mixing the prophetic and the sarcastic in his most characteristic rhetorical ploy, inverting relations – but it also expresses  Marx’s concern about the place of modernity in universal history – a history that he tried to write in the Grundrisse.  For us, one of the great interests in the piece is that Marx treats Germany as a ‘pre-modern’ country – essentially as a piece of the third world. Marx is the spirit that haunts all post-colonial discourse for good reason – he founded it. Or at least, he was one of the people who gave it shape.
There’s a historical school that claims that Germany’s history did not travel the path of modernity like other European countries. The Sonderweg school is associated with the right, but there is some truth in it for the left as well. At least for Marx, Germany was a lesson in underdevelopment.  Unlike the Sonderweg historians, Marx doesn’t take Germany to be more “authentic” in its struggle with modernity – rather, he takes it to be politically and culturally half-made in an interesting way: one can see, in the forces that fail to synthesis into civil society and industrial capitalism in Germany, the forces that are in operation in the so-called “modern” societies. For Marx, these societies have not come to rest in modernity; they, too, are fractured. The ancien regime might have been overturned, Marx says, but it exists in the unconscious as a trauma with multiple effects on everyday life.

It is in this situation that Marx wants us to think about religion. 


Anonymous said…

I just want to say, I hope you do continue with the posts on Marx and religion and that I really liked your post on Charlie Hebdo. I say so also because your posts have no comments while so many websites and posts that are so thoughtless and quick to state uninformed opinions as facts have innumerable comments.
I say so as a teenager who has a lot to learn and unlearn. Among which, is the very serious issue of racism, and the frivolous nature of cartoons. So frivolous they get one killed.
A person who taught me or tried to make me think of such things was a friend of yours i think; my aunt who I love and wish I could have talked to today and during the march in Paris this past January 11.
Among other things, she told me so many times, don't be intimidated and get sucked into piss poor polemics, have the the breath of a long-distance runner when it comes to that, without losing an acute sense of the present.
Marx, racism, Charlie Hebdo...

Roger Gathman said…
Sophie, I dearly dearly miss your aunt! I'm so happy to hear from you. I do wonder what she would say. And I am also happy about your comment, because it is a long distance runner's view we need right now!