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Sunday, January 18, 2015

the instituted day dream

Because Marx’s opium metaphor has been seen as implying either that religion is simply an hallucination or a supplement to heal the pain of daily life, his more extended idea of the function of religion, and indeed its genesis, has been cast in the shadow. There are those who have picked up in Marx a certain complicating tendency that changes this story – notably, Ernst Bloch. Bloch, in The Principle of Hope, emphasized the fact that ordinary thinking is often not the kind of closeted reflection we find in philosophy: it is, instead, day dreaming. One could say that, religion, for Marx, in as much as it stems from a vulgar, popular impulse, is day dreaming writ large. It deals, as ordinary calculative thought does not, with the real media in which human life takes its shape and movement:
“Man, that is to say, the world of persons, state, society. This state, this society produces religion, an inverted book of world consciousness, because it is an inverted world. Region is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritualized point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its holiday expansion, its general grounds of comfort and justification. It is the fantasmatic realization of the human essense, because the human essence possesses no true reality.”
These terms give us a much larger field to work with in relation to religion. If religion is the inverted world, the secret critique of the real world, it is also frozen forever in that position. This is the meaning of the fact that the fantasmagoric realization of the human essence is the realization of the human essence because the human essence possesses no true reality.
In order, however, to accomplish the work of disenchantment that Marx – all too hastily – thinks is the necessary accompaniment to abolishing a set of circumstances that make illusion necessary – that make happiness dependent on illusion – one has to turn to history, and in particular, that part of human history which describes the transition from the pre-modern to the modern. It is this theme in the critique that bears reflection, because what Marx says here both about the modern and the pre-modern has not lost its relevance because we have twisted the knobs and produced the post-modern.   

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