Karl Marx, Demonic Genius

"The criticism of religion ends with the doctrine that man is the supreme being for man. It ends, therefore, with the categorical imperative to overthrow all those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being." -- Marx, quoted in Bertell Ollman, Alienation, p. 48

The above, of course, is pretty much the exact position Satan is depicted as adopting in Paradise Lost: he cannot stand the fact that he himself is not God, and decides it is "Better to reign in hell, than serve in heav’n."

Even from a materialist perspective, Marx's position makes little sense: shouldn't we instead recognize that we are "just another animal," "a small bit of a vast universe," and not a "supreme being"? If materialism were true, making a god of man is surely an absurd proposition!

Marx is, indeed, a genius, full of keen insights into social situations and historical developments. And this explains his lasting appeal! It is worth our while to pay attention to and learn from him. But in doing so we needn't be taken in by his central deception: man is not the supreme being, we cannot create the kingdom of heaven on earth by "appropriating the appropriators," and Karl Marx is not the Messiah.

7 comments:

  1. Pull out a few more quotes like that, and you can make a quiz. "Who said it? Karl Marx or Ayn Rand?"

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    1. I usually groan over comparisons between Marx and Rand because they feel like clichés that are trying to hard, but I can see how the first sentence sounds like Rand.

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  2. There are a couple of reasons why anthropocentrism might not be vitiated by Marxian materialism. First, the matter-made beings that are discussing this question happen to be human beings, and they are inclined to see things in human terms for the same reason that the bourgeoisie see things in bourgeois terms and the proletariat come to see things in proletarian terms. So even if Marxism did not propose a historical telos, it might still be anthropocentric. But of course, Marxism does propose such a telos, and Marxian materialism is materialism with a purpose: matter itself aims at an end state, and man's happiness is that end state. Why should it be so? One can try to answer that, but for the most part it suffices merely to observe that it is so: this is how we see history materially developing; man does get freer and happier by stages, and just as some thinkers recognized stages to come amid earlier stages, so the Marxist recognizes the communist stage that is replacing our own. He has lots of things to say to convince you that what he scientifically foresees is true.

    You can answer back that there's a lot of non-materialism here for a supposedly materialistic theory, but then, a materialist might say that there's an awful lot of materialism being taken for granted by the idealist who can kick a rock. The narrowest possible definitions, or caricatures, of "materialism" and "idealism" are not really important; what counts is how the thinkers expounding a given theory understand it. They might not use language the way one would wish, but that doesn't mean they're talking nonsense.

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    1. No, I certainly don't think Marx is talking nonsense! I think he is talking Satanic seduction!

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  3. I know a Christian communist, so how do you fit him in with this?

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    1. Ha! I just saw this answer as I had forgotten to check back here for a response, so I hope you're still taking comments for this post.

      In what way is he confused? His position was that communism need not be hostile to religion and that it could be made to accept it just like liberalism did. Are you talking about that aspect, the history of communist persecution of religion or the materialist aspects of Marxism?

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