“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Marx and paradise

In  volume 41 of the old Marx Engels Werke, which gathers together Marx’s scraps and trivia (the stuff he carved on his school desk, the limerick he made about a fellow gymnasium student, the boxtops he sent off for a secret decoder ring, etc.)  there is a passage in a gloss on Schelling which concerns the existence of God. This is one of the rare times Marx explicitly talks about old Noboddaddy.  He does so in the most bored manner possible, showing briefly why no proof for the existence of God has ever or will ever work, with all the passion of a page out of Atheism for Dummies.
So: God is not very important in Marx’s critique of religion. Nor, surprisingly, is the church, or priestcraft. If it as if this, too, which had an urgency in the French revolution, is all settled now. Or at least it isn’t primary.
What is primary is paradise.
Marx is fascinated by the anthropological fact that societies have dreamed up an image of utopia which is the exact negative of society as it is lived. I think it is interesting to contrast Marx, here,  with Nietzsche, who tread on the same territory forty some years later. Nietzsche as far as I know never read Marx, but he shares a vocabulary with the Critique. He also shares an interest in eschatology – but he emphasizes the exactly opposite anthropological fact, which is the popular dream of hell. For Nietzsche, hell reveals the true secret of slave morality, its cosmic resentment. For Marx, paradise reveals the secret of what the vast majority of society, the laboring obscure, thought of the society they supported with their labor: that it would be good only if it was utterly changed.
It is this aspect of Marx’s critique that is obscured by the opium wisecrack, which casts too great a shadow over this essay, which begins on the anthropological note:
For Germany, the critique of religion is essentially over, and the critic of religion is the presupposition of all critique.
After is heavenly oratio pro aris et focis is contradicted, the profane existence of the error is compromised. Man, who, seeking the Overman in the fantasmal reality of heaven has found only the reflection (widerschein) of himself, will no longer be inclined to to find only the semblence (Schein) of himself, the Un-person, where he is seeking, and must be seeking, his real circumstances.”

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