Alienation and Emancipation

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The theme of economic alienation was broached in a separate concluding section of the article. Here he offered a trenchant formulation of the idea that the economic life in the ‘state of egoism’ is a practical religion of money-worship. He gave the religious analogy a special new twist and emphasis by calling the practical religion ‘Judaism’. This may have been prompted by Hess’ reference to the ‘Christian merchants and Jewish Christians’. It capitalized upon the fact that the German term ‘Judaism’ (Judentum ) had the secondary connotation of ‘commerce’. So Marx describes Judaism or commerce as a religion in which money is the god: ‘What is the worldly cult of the Jew Huckstering. Who is his worldly god Money. ‘ And further: ‘Money is the jealous one God of Israel, beside which no other God may stand. Money dethrones all the gods of man and turns them into a commodity. Money is the universal, independently constituted value of all things. It has, therefore, deprived the whole world, both the world of man and nature, of its own value. Money is the alienated essence of man’s work and his being. This alien being rules over him and he worships it.’ (Karl Marx’s, 1959).
Following Hess, Marx conceives the practical religion as a material form of self- alienation corresponding to the spiritual form as analyzed by Feuerbach: ‘Selling is the praxis of externalization. Just as man, so long as he is engrossed in religion, can only objectify his nature by turning it into an alien creature of the fantasy, so, under the domination of egoistic need, he can act in a practical way, create objects practically, only by subordinating these products as well as his activity to the power of an alien being and bestowing upon them the significance of an alien being money.’ On this basis Marx argues that the modern commercial world, where man is universally dominated by egoistic need, is practically speaking a world of Judaism: ‘The Christian was from the beginning the theorizing Jew. the Jew therefore the practical Christian, and the practical Christian has once more become Jew. . . . Christianity is the sublime thought of Judaism. Judaism is the lowly application of Christianity, but this application could only become universal after Christianity, as fully developed religion, had theoretically completed the alienation of man from himself and from nature.’ The reasoning turns wholly on Hess’ thesis, summarized above, that Christianity and commerce are respectively the theoretical and practical forms of egoistic man’s self- alienation. It brings Marx to the conclusion that the emancipation of Jew and nonJew alike depends upon the ’emancipation of humanity from Judaism’. This, he writes, would mean the organization of society in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of ‘huckstering’. (Karl Marx’s, 1959).
Karl Marx’s, 1959. A World Without Jews (Philosophical Library, New York)