Marx Study Questions
1 “F OR A R UTHLESS CRITICISM OF E VERYTHING E XISTING ”
What is Marx’s criticism of “the philosophers”? What does it mean to “find the new world
only through criticism of the old”?
Up until now the philosophers had the solution of all riddles lying in their lectern, and the
stupid uninitiated world had only to open its jaws to let the roast partridges of absolute
science fly into its mouth. Now philosophy has become worldly, and the most
incontrovertible evidence of this is that the philosophical consciousness has been drawn,
not only externally but internally, into the stress of battle.
What are the two senses of “ruthless criticism” that Marx identifies?
A ruthless criticism of everything existing, the criticism must not be afraid of its own
conclusions, nor conflict with the powers that be.
What does “dogmatism” mean?
Communism is a dogmatic abstraction. An actual communism in his mind that of Cabet,
Dezamy, Weitling. This type of communism is only a special manifestation of the humanistic
Why does Marx believe it is necessary to provide a critique of contemporary religion and
politics? What does Marx mean by “religion” and “politics” here?
We must not set up these two against some ready-made system such as the Voyage en
Religion is the catalogue of the theoretical struggles of mankind, the political state is the
catalogue of its practical struggles.
The political state expresses from the political point of view all social struggles, needs and
truths. The difference between the corporative and representative system, an object of
criticism. Corporative: (footnote) the system of representation by estates classes, as
opposed to the system of representation by individuals.
1 This question expresses in a political way the difference between the rule of man and th rule
of private property. There critic has almost a duty to go into these questions. To show the
superiority of the representative system over the corporative system the critic affects the
practical interests of a large party.
The most important point is that by elevating the representative system from its political
form to its general form thus bringing out tis true significance the critic is able to force the
system beyond its own confines, it’s a loss but a victory at the same time.
What does Marx mean when he says that “the work of our time” is a “matter of confession”?
Consciousness is something the world must acquire like it or not. The reform of
consciousness consists of enabling the world to clarify its consciousness, waking it from a
dream, explaining to it the meaning of its own actions. The whole task is to put religious and
political questions into self- conscious human form.
The motto: reform of consciousness not through dogmas, through analyzing mystical
consciousness, whether religious or political. It will then transpire that the world has been
dreaming of something that it can acquire if it is only conscious of it. That it isn’t about
drawing a line between the past and future but carrying the thoughts of the past. That
mankind begins no new work, consciously accomplishes its old work.
We must declare our sins to what they really are to have them forgiven.
2 “O N THE J EWISH Q UESTION ”
What does Marx mean by “political emancipation” here? Emancipation is defined as the act
of being free from any legal, social, political restrictions, it is liberation.
The German Jews seek emancipation, they wish for civic, political emancipation. Bruno
Bauer says: No one in Germany is emancipated. "We ourselves are not free". He says Jews
are egoists if they ask for special emancipation as Jews. They are advised to work as
Germans for the emancipation of Germany and as men for emancipation of mankind.
2 Why does Bauer believe that a Christian state cannot emancipate Jews?
The Christian state recognizes nothing but privileges, the Jew in this state has the privilege
of being a Jew. As a Jew he has possesses rights the Christians do not have. Why does the
Jew then want rights that he doesn’t have but the Christians enjoy.
To demand emancipation from the Christian state amounts to asking the Christian state to
abandon its religious prejudice. But would the Jew do that? Then does he have the right to
ask someone to forswear his religion?
It's said that the Christian state by its nature cannot emancipate the Jew. Bauer adds though
that by its very nature the Jew cannot be emancipated, as long as the state remains Christian
and the Jew a Jew they are equally incapable, one of conferring emancipation and the other
of receiving it.
The Christian state can only adopt the attitude of a Christian state to permit the Jew as a
matter of privilege to isolate himself from its other subjects.
The Jew can only adopt a Jewish attitude of a foreigner towards the state, he opposes his
illusory law to actual law, his illusory nationalist to actual nationality. Considers it a right to
separate himself from the rest of humanity, takes no part in the historical movement and
looks to a future of mankind as a whole. Regards himself of the Jewish people and of the
On the grounds that the Jew demands emancipation on account of their religion which is the
mortal enemy of the state, as citizens, no citizens in Germany, as men, not men anymore
than those to whom you appeal.
Bauer asks the nature of the Jew to be emancipated and the nature of the Christian state
which has to emancipate him. He critiques the Jewish religion, analyzes the opposition
between Judaism and Christianity and explains the essence of the Christian state.
What is Bauer’s solution to the religious and political opposition between Christians and
Jews? Why does he believe that “the political abolition of religion is the abolition of all
We have to emancipate ourselves before we emancipate others. The most stubborn form of
the opposition between Christians and Jews is religious opposition. Religious opposition is
made impossible by abolishing religion.
As soon as Christian and Jew come to see in their religions nothing more than 'stages in the
development of the human mind' they will find that they are no longer in religious
3 opposition rather in s purely critical, scientific and human relationship. Science will unite
them, scientific oppositions are resolved by science itself.
Get back to this! pg 29
What is Marx’s criticism of Bauer?
Bauer falls into contradictions, establishes conditions that are not based upon the nature of
political emancipation, raises irrelevant questions, thus solves irrelevant problems.
Bauer says of the opponents of the Jewish emancipation " their error was simply to assume
that the Christian state was the only true one, and not to subject it to the same crticism as
Judaism" Marx points out his error. He subjects only the Christian state, not the "state as
such" to criticism, he doesn't examine the relation between political emancipation and
human emancipation". Thus he poses conditions which are explicable by his lack of critical
sense in confusing political emancipation and universal human emancipation.
How are issues of religion and politics different in Germany, France, and North America?
It poses itself different according to the state. In Germany there is no political state, no state
as such the Jewish question is purely theological. The Jew finds himself in opposition to the
state which proclaims Christianity as its foundation. Criticism here is of theology.
In France, which is a constitutional state, the Jewish question is a question of
constitutionalism, of the incompleteness of political emancipation. Since the semblance of a
state religion is maintained in France, the relation of the Jews to the state also retains
semblance of religious, theological opposition.
It is only in the free states of North America or at least some of them that the Jewish
question loses its theological significance and becomes a truly secular question. only where
the state exists in its completely developed form can the relation of the Jew and of the
religious man in general to the political state appear in a pure form with its own
characteristics. The criticism of this relation ceases to be theological criticism when the
state ceases to maintain a theological attitude of a state i.e. political attitude.
What does it mean to “turn theological questions into secular questions”?
We do not turn secular questions into theological questions. Rather turn theological
question into secular ones. We explain the religious constraints upon the free citizens by the
4 secular constraints upon them. We do not claim that they must transcend in their religious
narrowness in order to get rid of their secular limitations. Far too long history has been
resolved into superstition, but now we resolve that. the question was of the relation
between political emancipation and religion but has now become the relation between
political emancipation and human emancipation. we criticize the relgiious failings of the
political state by criticizing the political state in its secular form, disregarding its religious
What is the difference between political emancipation and human anticipation? Why does
Marx believe that the former does not guarantee the latter?
The political emancipation of the Jew or Christian, of the religious man in general is the
emancipation of the state from Judaism, Christianity, and religion in general.
The state emancipates itself from religion in its own particular way, in a way that
corresponds to its nature, by emancipating from the state religion by giving no recognition
to any religion.
To be politically emancipated from religion is not to be finally and completely emancipated
from religion because political emancipation is not the final and absolute form of human
The limits of political emancipation: the state can liberate itself from a constraint without
man himself really being liberated, a state may be free without the man being free. Bauer
admits this and says political emancipation depends on: it would be necessary to abolish all
religious privileges, if some people wish to continue their practices they may do so but as a
A state may have emancipated itself from religion, though a majority of people may still be
religious. And the majority of people may not necessarily be religious in private.
Why, for Marx, is the political abolition of private property limited?
The state as a state abolishes private property when it abolishes the property qualification
for electors and representatives.
5 Political suppression of private property doesn’t only abolish private property also
presupposes its existence. The state abolishes after its fashion the distinctions established
by birth, social rank, education etc, I DON’T GET THIS HELP!
What does Marx mean by the “double existence” people live between the “political” and
Man lives in double existence, celestial and terrestrial. He lives in the political community
where he regards himself as a communal being, and in civil society where he acts simply as
a private individual. The political state in relation to the civil state is just as spiritual as
heaven in relation to earth. Stands in same opposition to civil society and overcomes it the
same way as religion overcomes the narrowness of the profane world, OMG IM TOO TIRED
Why does Marx believe that the notion of a Christian state is self-contradictory?
In the German- Christian state religion is an 'economic matter' just as 'economic matters'
are religion. In the German-Christian state the power of religion is the religion of power.
To separate the 'spirit of the bible' from the 'letter of the bible' is an irreligious act. The state
that expresses the bible in the letter of politics or any letter other than that of the Holy
Ghost commits sacrilege.
The state that acknowledges the Bible as its charter and Christianity as its rule must be
assessed according to the words of the Bible whose language is sacred. Such a state that is
based upon this human rubbish will find itself in a contradiction that is insoluble from a
Words of the Bible: "with which it does not conform and cannot conform unless it wishes to
dissolve itself entirely." The Christian state is an 'ought' whose realization is impossible.
There is total disorder of reality and illusion. This type of state can only escape its inner
torment by becoming the myrmidon of the Catholic Church which will assert that secular
power is entirely subordinate to its commands, state is powerless, powerless the secular
power which claims to be the rule of the religious spirit.
Alienation prevails in a Christian state, the only man that counts is the King, differentiated
from the rest and still religious, associated with heaven and with God. Relations are still
based on faith, religious spirit is still not secularized.
6 p. 39
What does it mean to say that the basis of the democratic state is “the human basis of
The religious state can only be realized if the stage of development of the human spirit
which it expresses in religious form, manifests and constitutes in secular form. This is what
happens in a democratic state. The basis of this state isn't Christianity but the human basis
of Christianity. Religion remains the ideal non secular consciousness of its members since
it’s the ideal form of the stage of human development which has been attained.
Political democracy is Christian in that every man is considered sovereign, but uneducated,
man just as he is in his fortuitous existence.
What is the “universal secular contradiction between the political state and civil society.”
The political emancipation from religion leaves it still existent, though the religion is no
In the perfect democracy, the religious and theological consciousness itself is in its own eyes
the more religious and the more theological because it is apparently without political
significance, without worldly aims, the concern of a disposition that shuns the world, the
expression of intellectual narrow-mindedness, the product of arbitrariness and fantasy, and
because it is a life that is really of the other world. Christianity attains, here, the practical
expression of its universal-religious significance in that the most diverse world outlooks are
grouped alongside one another in the form of Christianity and still more because it does not
require other people to profess Christianity, but only religion in general, any kind of religion
(cf. Beaumont’s work quoted above). The religious consciousness revels in the wealth of
religious contradictions and religious diversity.
We have, thus, shown that political emancipation from religion leaves religion in existence,
although not a privileged religion. The contradiction in which the adherent of a particular
religion finds himself involved in relation to his citizenship is only one aspect of the
universal secular contradiction between the political state and civil society.
7 What is the difference between the “rights of man” and the “rights of the citizen”?
The rights of man are the rights of a member of a civil society, that is of an egoistic man, of
man separated from other men and from the community. The most radical constitution
from 1783 says: Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, these rights are: natural
and imprescriptible: equality, liberty, security, property.
What does Marx mean by “civil society,” and why does he think it “separates man from
He wants political society to squeeze out civil society. When people are truly free, he says,
they will see themselves as citizens of the whole political community, not "decomposed"
into different, non-universal roles as a trader, a laborer, a Jew, a Protestant. Each person will
be "a communal being" united with all other citizens, and the state will no longer be seen as
an instrument to protect rights so that individuals can pursue their selfish ends but as the
entity through which everyone would achieve "the human essence [which] is the true
collectivity of man."
Explain, in your own words, Marx’s depiction of the relation between feudal society and
feudal politics. Why does Marx believe that, in feudalism, the state “necessarily appeared as
the private affair of a ruler and his servants.”
Political revolution is a revolution of civil society, the nature of the old society is feudalism.
the old society had a directly political character: the elements of political life i.e. property,
family and occupations that rose from the form of lordship, castle and guilds. this form of
national life didn’t constitute property and labour as social elements they were separated
from the body of the state making them distinct societies within society.
In the feudal sense the vital functions of society remained political.
8 Why did the democratic revolutions “abolish the political character of civil society”? Why
did the consummation of the state lead to “the materialism of civil society.”
The political revolution which overthrew the power of the ruler, made state affairs affairs of
the people, political state a matter of general concern, i.e. a real state, shattered everything
(estates, corporations, guilds) which expressed the separation of the people from
community life. The political revolution abolished the political character of civil society
dissolving civil society into its basic elements, on one hand individuals and on the other the
material and cultural elements that formed the life experience of these individuals.
Consummation of the idealism of the state was at the same time the consummation of the
materialism of civil society. the bonds that restrained the egoistic spirit of civil society was
removed. political emancipation was also emancipation from civil society. feudal society
was dissolved into a basic element, a man but an egoistic man as its foundation.
The link below isn't bad info I didn’t use it in my answer but it helped a bit.
What does the last paragraph of this page mean?
3 “T HESES ON F EUERBACH ”
Human emancipation is only achieved when man has absorbed into himself the abstract
citizen, when as an individual in his everyday life, work etc he has become a species being,
when he has recognized his (forces prospers) own powers as social powers and no longer
separates this power from himself as a political power.
Based partly on his vision of human nature, Marx asks how we should understand human
beings. The "Theses on Feuerbach" provides the beginning of an answer. In essence what
Marx says is that human beings are at once actors (subjects) and the objects of various
natural and social forces. Neither materialism (which conceives of humans as objects) nor
idealism (which treats subjectivity in the abstract) will do. Furthermore, human beings are
social creatures: they exist not in the abstract but in sets of social relationships. The key to
alleviating human suffering is not changing consciousness but changing society.
9 p. 143
What does Marx think is wrong with previous versions of materalism?
Materialism is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as
human sensuous activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence the active side, in
contradistinction to materialism was developed from idealism. Abstractly only because
idealism doesn’t know sensuous objects etc.
How does Marx think one proves that an idea is true?
The question of whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a
question of theory but a practical question. man must prove the truth. I DON’T KNOW
WHAT TO PUT HERE -.-
Re. Thesis IV: what is Marx’s critique of Feuerbach here? Why does he think Feuerbach
doesn’t go far enough?
Feuerbach starts from religious self-alienation, of the duplication of the world into a
religious imaginary world and a real one. he works to resolve the religious world into its
secular basis, overlooks that the main thing is still left. that the secular basis detaches itself
from itself and establishes as an independent realm can only be explained by contradictions
within it. That the latter shouldve been understood by its contradictions, then by its
removal and then revolutionalised in practise.
How does thesis XI follow from the previous theses?
Self explanatory check pg 145
4 “E CONOMIC AND P HILOSOPHICAL M ANUSCRIPTS ”
When Marx talks about “political economy,” he is basically talking about Adam Smith.
Explain his critique of political economy in your own words. Is it a fair critique, given what
you have read of Smith?
10 Marxist political economy, in contrast, starts from relations between people and classes,
and tries to understand the economy not as a perfect clockwork mechanism but as a
dynamic system full of contradictions and doomed to be replaced.
Political economy is not about the relationship between commodities, prices, supply and
demand: it is first and foremost about people and the social relationships between them –
about the owners of wealth and how they use it to exploit others; about what is produced
and how. In that sense economics is both political and social and historical. Marxists do not
agree with these artificial divisions in the academic world which tend to obscure how things
are really interconnected together.
From text: in political economy the worker sinks to the level of a commodity becoming the
most wretched of commodities. the wretchedness is in proportion to the power and
magnitude of his production. the whole of society must fall into two classes the property
owners and the propertyless workers.
Why does the worker become poorer the more he produces?
the more wealth he produces the more poor he becomes, the more his production increases
in power and range. the worker becomes a cheaper commodity the more he creates