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On the Jewish Question

On the Jewish Question

Overview
On the Jewish Question is a work by Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, written in 1843, and first published in Paris in 1844 under the German title Zur Judenfrage in the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher
Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher
The Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher was a journal published in Paris by Karl Marx and Arnold Ruge. This is where Marx had published his On The Jewish Question. It was created as a reaction to the censorship of the Rheinische Zeitung. Only one issue, a double number, appeared in February 1844...

.
It was one of Marx's first attempts to deal with categories that would later be called the materialist conception of history
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

.

The essay criticizes two studies by fellow Young Hegelian, Bruno Bauer
Bruno Bauer
Bruno Bauer was a German philosopher and historian. As a student of GWF Hegel, Bauer was a radical Rationalist in philosophy, politics and Biblical criticism...

 on the attempt by Jews to achieve political emancipation
Political emancipation
Emancipation is a broad term used to describe various efforts to obtain political rights or equality, often for a specifically disenfranchised group, or more generally in discussion of such matters...

 in Prussia. Bauer argued that Jews can achieve political emancipation only if they relinquish their particular religious consciousness, since political emancipation requires a secular state
Secular state
A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential...

, which he assumes does not leave any "space" for social identities such as religion.
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On the Jewish Question is a work by Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, written in 1843, and first published in Paris in 1844 under the German title Zur Judenfrage in the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher
Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher
The Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher was a journal published in Paris by Karl Marx and Arnold Ruge. This is where Marx had published his On The Jewish Question. It was created as a reaction to the censorship of the Rheinische Zeitung. Only one issue, a double number, appeared in February 1844...

.
It was one of Marx's first attempts to deal with categories that would later be called the materialist conception of history
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

.

The essay criticizes two studies by fellow Young Hegelian, Bruno Bauer
Bruno Bauer
Bruno Bauer was a German philosopher and historian. As a student of GWF Hegel, Bauer was a radical Rationalist in philosophy, politics and Biblical criticism...

 on the attempt by Jews to achieve political emancipation
Political emancipation
Emancipation is a broad term used to describe various efforts to obtain political rights or equality, often for a specifically disenfranchised group, or more generally in discussion of such matters...

 in Prussia. Bauer argued that Jews can achieve political emancipation only if they relinquish their particular religious consciousness, since political emancipation requires a secular state
Secular state
A secular state is a concept of secularism, whereby a state or country purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. A secular state also claims to treat all its citizens equally regardless of religion, and claims to avoid preferential...

, which he assumes does not leave any "space" for social identities such as religion. According to Bauer, such religious demands are incompatible with the idea of the "Rights of Man
Rights of Man
Rights of Man , a book by Thomas Paine, posits that popular political revolution is permissible when a government does not safeguard its people, their natural rights, and their national interests. Using these points as a base it defends the French Revolution against Edmund Burke's attack in...

." True political emancipation, for Bauer, requires the abolition of religion.

Marx uses Bauer's essay as an occasion for his own analysis of liberal rights. Marx argues that Bauer is mistaken in his assumption that in a "secular state" religion will no longer play a prominent role in social life, and, as an example refers to the pervasiveness of religion in the United States, which, unlike Prussia, had no state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

. In Marx's analysis, the "secular state" is not opposed to religion, but rather actually presupposes it. The removal of religious or property qualifications for citizens does not mean the abolition of religion or property, but only introduces a way of regarding individuals in abstraction from them.
On this note Marx moves beyond the question of religious freedom to his real concern with Bauer's analysis of "political emancipation." Marx concludes that while individuals can be 'spiritually' and 'politically' free in a secular state, they can still be bound to material constraints on freedom by economic inequality, an assumption that would later form the basis of his critiques of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

.

Some commentators regard On the Jewish Question, and in particular its second section, which addresses Bauer's work "The Capacity of Present-day Jews and Christians to Become Free", as anti-semitic.

Political and human emancipation


In Marx's view, Bauer fails to distinguish between political emancipation and human emancipation. As noted above, political emancipation in a modern state does not require the Jews (or, for that matter, the Christians) to renounce religion; only complete human emancipation would involve the disappearance of religion, but that is not yet possible "within the hitherto existing world order".

In the second part of the essay, Marx disputes Bauer's "theological" analysis of Judaism and its relation to Christianity. Bauer has stated that the renouncing of religion would be especially difficult for Jews, since Judaism is, in his view, a primitive stage in the development of Christianity. Hence, to achieve freedom by renouncing religion, the Christians would have to surmount only one stage, whereas the Jews would need to surmount two. In response to this, Marx argues that the Jewish religion need not be attached the significance it has in Bauer's analysis, because it is only a spiritual reflection of Jewish economic life. This is the starting point of a complex and somewhat metaphorical argument which draws on the stereotype of the Jew as a financially apt "huckster" and posits a special connection between Judaism as a religion and the economy of contemporary bourgeois society. Thus, the Jewish religion does not need to disappear in society, as Bauer argues, because is actually a natural part of it. Having thus figuratively equated "practical Judaism" and "huckstering", Marx concludes that "the Christians have become Jews"; and, ultimately, it is mankind (both Christians and Jews) that needs to emancipate itself from ("practical") Judaism.

Quotes from this part of the essay are frequently cited as proof of Marx' antisemitism. For analyses, see the Interpretations section.

Publications by Marx related to the essay


Zur Judenfrage was first published by Marx and Arnold Ruge
Arnold Ruge
Arnold Ruge was a German philosopher and political writer.-Studies in university and prison:Born in Bergen auf Rügen, he studied in Halle, Jena and Heidelberg. As an advocate of a free and united Germany he was jailed for five years in 1825 in the fortress of Kolberg, where he studied Plato and...

 in February 1844 in the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher
Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher
The Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher was a journal published in Paris by Karl Marx and Arnold Ruge. This is where Marx had published his On The Jewish Question. It was created as a reaction to the censorship of the Rheinische Zeitung. Only one issue, a double number, appeared in February 1844...

,
a journal
Magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

 which ran only one issue. From December 1843 to October 1844, Bruno Bauer published the monthly
Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (General Literary Gazette) in Charlottenburg
Charlottenburg
Charlottenburg is a locality of Berlin within the borough of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, named after Queen consort Sophia Charlotte...

 (now Berlin). In it, he responded to the critique of his own essays on the Jewish question by Marx and others. Then, in 1845, Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

 and Marx published a polemic critique of the Young Hegelians titled The Holy Family
The Holy Family (book)
The Holy Family was a book written by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels in November 1844. The book is a critique on the Young Hegelians and their trend of thought which was very popular in academic circles at the time. The title was a suggestion by the publisher and is meant as a sarcastic reference to...

. In parts of the book, Marx again presented his views dissenting from Bauer's on the Jewish question and on political and human emancipation.

A French translation appeared 1850 in Paris in Hermann Ewerbeck's book Qu'est-ce que la bible d'après la nouvelle philosophie allemande?.

In 1879, historian Heinrich von Treitschke
Heinrich von Treitschke
Heinrich Gotthard von Treitschke was a nationalist German historian and political writer during the time of the German Empire.-Early life and teaching career:...

 published an article Unsere Aussichten (Our Prospects), in which he demanded that the Jews should assimilate to German culture, and described Jewish immigrants as a danger for Germany. This article would stir a controversy, to which the newspaper Sozialdemokrat, edited by Eduard Bernstein
Eduard Bernstein
Eduard Bernstein was a German social democratic theoretician and politician, a member of the SPD, and the founder of evolutionary socialism and revisionism.- Life :...

, reacted by republishing almost the entire second part of Zur Judenfrage in June and July 1881.

The whole essay was republished in October 1890 in the Berliner Volksblatt, then edited by Wilhelm Liebknecht
Wilhelm Liebknecht
Wilhelm Martin Philipp Christian Ludwig Liebknecht was a German social democrat and a principal founder of the SPD. His political career was a pioneering project combining Marxist revolutionary theory with practical, legal political activity...

.

In 1926, a translation by H. J. Stenning into English language with the title On the Jewish Question appeared in a collection of essays by Marx.

A translation of Zur Judenfrage was published together with other articles of Marx in 1959 under the title "A World Without Jews".
The editor Dagobert D. Runes
Dagobert D. Runes
Dagobert David Runes was a philosopher and author. Born in Zastavna, Bukovina, Austro-Hungary , he emigrated to the United States in 1926. He had received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Vienna in 1924. In the U.S. he became editor of The Modern Thinker and later Current Digest...

 intended to show Marx's alleged anti-Semitism.
This edition has been criticized because the reader is not told that its title is not from Marx, and for
distortions in the text.

A manuscript of the essay has not been transmitted.

Interpretations


Hyam Maccoby
Hyam Maccoby
Hyam Maccoby was a British Jewish scholar and dramatist specializing in the study of the Jewish and Christian religious tradition. His grandfather and namesake was Rabbi Hyam Maccoby , better known as the "Kamenitzer Maggid," a passionate religious Zionist and advocate of vegetarianism and animal...

 has argued that "On the Jewish Question" is an example of what he considers to be Marx's "early anti-Semitism
Anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

." According to Maccoby, Marx argues in the essay that the modern commercialized world is the triumph of Judaism, a pseudo-religion whose god is money. Maccoby has suggested that Marx was embarrassed by his Jewish background and used the Jews as a "yardstick of evil." Maccoby writes that in later years, Marx limited what he considers to be antipathy towards Jews to private letters and conversations because of strong public identification with anti-Semitism by his political enemies both on the left (Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was a French politician, mutualist philosopher and socialist. He was a member of the French Parliament, and he was the first person to call himself an "anarchist". He is considered among the most influential theorists and organisers of anarchism...

 and Mikhail Bakunin
Mikhail Bakunin
Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin was a well-known Russian revolutionary and theorist of collectivist anarchism. He has also often been called the father of anarchist theory in general. Bakunin grew up near Moscow, where he moved to study philosophy and began to read the French Encyclopedists,...

) and on the right (aristocracy and the Church). Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis, FBA is a British-American historian, scholar in Oriental studies, and political commentator. He is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University...

 has described "On the Jewish Question" as "one of the classics of anti-Semitic propaganda." According to several scholars, for Marx Jews were the embodiment of capitalism and the representation of all its evils.

Abram Leon in his book The Jewish Question (published 1946)
examines Jewish history from a materialist outlook.
According to Leon, Marx's essay states that one “must not start with religion in order to explain Jewish history; on the contrary: the preservation of the Jewish religion or nationality can be explained only by the 'real Jew', that is to say, by the Jew in his economic and social role”.

Isaac Deutscher
Isaac Deutscher
Isaac Deutscher was a Polish-born Jewish Marxist writer, journalist and political activist who moved to the United Kingdom at the outbreak of World War II. He is best known as a biographer of Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin and as a commentator on Soviet affairs...

 (1959) compares Marx with Elisha ben Abuyah
Elisha ben Abuyah
Elisha ben Abuyah was a rabbi and Jewish religious authority born in Jerusalem sometime before 70 CE. After he adopted a worldview considered heretical by his fellow Tannaim and betrayed his people, the rabbis of the Talmud refrained from relating teachings in his name and referred to him as the...

, Baruch Spinoza
Baruch Spinoza
Baruch de Spinoza and later Benedict de Spinoza was a Dutch Jewish philosopher. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death...

, Heinrich Heine
Heinrich Heine
Christian Johann Heinrich Heine was one of the most significant German poets of the 19th century. He was also a journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is best known outside Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder by composers such as Robert Schumann...

, Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg was a Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and activist of Polish Jewish descent who became a naturalized German citizen...

, Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

, and Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

, all of whom he thinks of as heretics
Heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 who transcend Jewry, and yet still belong to a Jewish tradition. According to Deutscher, Marx's “idea of socialism and of the classless and stateless society” expressed in the essay is as universal as Spinoza's ethics and God.

Shlomo Avineri
Shlomo Avineri
Shlomo Avineri is an Israeli political scientist. He is Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem....

 (1964), while regarding Marx' antisemitism as a well-known fact, points out that Marx's philosophical criticism of Judaism has often overshadowed his forceful support for Jewish emancipation as an immediate political goal. Avineri notes that in Bauer's debates with a number of Jewish contemporary polemicists, Marx entirely endorsed the views of the Jewish writers against Bauer. In a letter to Arnold Ruge
Arnold Ruge
Arnold Ruge was a German philosopher and political writer.-Studies in university and prison:Born in Bergen auf Rügen, he studied in Halle, Jena and Heidelberg. As an advocate of a free and united Germany he was jailed for five years in 1825 in the fortress of Kolberg, where he studied Plato and...

, written March 1843, Marx
writes that he intended to support a petition of the Jews to the Provincial Assembly
Landtag
A Landtag is a representative assembly or parliament in German-speaking countries with some legislative authority.- Name :...

. He explains that with the fact that while he dislikes Judaism as a religion, he also remains unconvinced by Bauer's view (that the Jews shouldn't be emancipated before they abandon Judaism, see above).

In his book For Marx (1965), Louis Althusser
Louis Althusser
Louis Pierre Althusser was a French Marxist philosopher. He was born in Algeria and studied at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he eventually became Professor of Philosophy....

 claims that “in On the Jewish Question, Hegel’s Philosophy of the State
Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right
[Contribution to the] Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right is a manuscript written by German political philosopher Karl Marx in 1843....

, etc., and even usually in The Holy Family
The Holy Family (book)
The Holy Family was a book written by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels in November 1844. The book is a critique on the Young Hegelians and their trend of thought which was very popular in academic circles at the time. The title was a suggestion by the publisher and is meant as a sarcastic reference to...

(...) Marx was merely applying the theory of alienation, that is, Feuerbach’s theory of ‘human nature’, to politics and the concrete activity of man, before extending it (in large part) to political economy in the Manuscripts
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844
Economic & Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 are a series of notes written between April and August 1844 by Karl Marx. Not published by Marx during his lifetime, they were first released in 1927 by researchers in the Soviet Union.The notebooks are an early expression of Marx's analysis of...

”. He opposes a tendency according to which “Capital
Das Kapital
Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie , by Karl Marx, is a critical analysis of capitalism as political economy, meant to reveal the economic laws of the capitalist mode of production, and how it was the precursor of the socialist mode of production.- Themes :In Capital: Critique of...

is no longer read as On the Jewish Question, On the Jewish Question is read as Capital”. For Althusser, the essay “is a profoundly ‘ideological’ text”, “committed to the struggle for Communism”, but without being Marxist; “so it cannot, theoretically, be identified with the later texts which were to define historical materialism
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

”.

David McLellan, however, has argued that "On the Jewish Question" must be understood in terms of Marx's debates with Bruno Bauer over the nature of political emancipation in Germany. According to McLellan, Marx used the word "Judentum" in its colloquial sense of "commerce" to argue that Germans suffer, and must be emancipated from, capitalism. The second half of Marx's essay, McLellan concludes, should be read as "an extended pun at Bauer’s expense."

Hal Draper
Hal Draper
Hal Draper was an American socialist activist and author who played a significant role in the Berkeley, California, Free Speech Movement and is perhaps best known for his extensive scholarship on the history and meaning of the thought of Karl Marx.Draper was a lifelong advocate of what he called...

 (1977) observed that the language of Part II of On the Jewish Question followed the view of the Jews’ role given in Jewish socialist Moses Hess
Moses Hess
Moses Hess was a Jewish philosopher and socialist, and one of the founders of Labor Zionism.-Life:Hess was born in Bonn, which was under French rule at the time. In his French-language birth certificate, his name is given as "Moises"; he was named after his maternal grandfather...

' essay On the Money System.

Stephen Greenblatt
Stephen Greenblatt
Stephen Jay Greenblatt is a literary critic, theorist and scholar.Greenblatt is regarded by many as one of the founders of New Historicism, a set of critical practices that he often refers to as "cultural poetics"; his works have been influential since the early 1980s when he introduced the term...

 (1978) compares the essay with Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

's play The Jew of Malta
The Jew of Malta
The Jew of Malta is a play by Christopher Marlowe, probably written in 1589 or 1590. Its plot is an original story of religious conflict, intrigue, and revenge, set against a backdrop of the struggle for supremacy between Spain and the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean that takes place on the...

.
According to Greenblatt, “[b]oth writers hope to focus attention upon activity that is seen as at once alien and yet central to the life of the community and to direct against that activity the anti-Semitic feeling of the audience”.
Greenblatt is attributing Marx a “sharp, even hysterical, denial of his religious background”.

Yoav Peled (1992) sees Marx "shifting the debate over Jewish emancipation from the plane of theology ... to the plane of sociology", thereby circumventing one of Bauer's main arguments. In Peled's view, "this was less than a satisfactory response to Bauer, but it enabled Marx to present a powerful case for emancipation while, at the same time, launching his critique of economic alienation". He concludes that "the philosophical advances made by Marx in On the Jewish Question were necessitated by, and integrally related to, his commitment to Jewish emancipation".

Others argue that On the Jewish Question is primarily a critique of liberal rights, rather than a criticism of Judaism, and that apparently anti-Semitic passages such as "Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist." should be read in that context.

For sociologist Robert Fine
Robert Fine
Professor Robert Fine is a British sociologist. He is a leading European scholar on the history of social and political thought, cosmopolitan social theory, the social theory of Karl Marx and Hannah Arendt, the Holocaust and contemporary antisemitism, crimes against humanity and human rights...

 (2006) Bauer's essay “echoed the generally prejudicial representation of the Jew as ‘merchant’ and ‘moneyman’”, whereas “Marx’s aim was to defend the right of Jews to full civil and political emancipation (that is, to equal civil and political rights) alongside all other German citizens”. Fine argues that “(t)he line of attack Marx adopts is not to contrast Bauer’s crude stereotype of the Jews to the actual situation of Jews in Germany”, but “to reveal that Bauer has no inkling of the nature of modern democracy”.

While sociologist Larry Ray
Larry Ray
Larry Dale Ray is a former Major League Baseball player. Ray played for the Houston Astros in the 1982 season. In five games, Ray had one hit in six at-bats, with one RBI. He played Right Field, and batted left and threw right-handed. He was drafted by the Astros in the 4th round of the 1979...

 in his reply (2006) acknowledges Fine's reading of the essay as an ironic defence of Jewish emancipation, he points out the polyvalence of Marx's language. Ray translates a sentence of Zur Judenfrage and interprets it as an assimilationist position “in which there is no room within emancipated humanity for Jews as a separate ethnic or cultural identity”, and which advocates “a society where both cultural as well as economic difference is eliminated”. Here Ray sees Marx in a “strand of left thinking that has been unable to address forms of oppression not directly linked to class”.

The political-scientist Professor Iain Hamphsher-Monk wrote in his textbook: "This work [On The Jewish Question] has been cited as evidence for Marx's supposed anti-semitism, but only the most superficial reading of it could sustain such an interpretation." Also, McLellan and Francis Wheen
Francis Wheen
Francis James Baird Wheen is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster.-Early life and education:Wheen was born into an army family and educated at two independent schools: Copthorne Preparatory School near Crawley, West Sussex and Harrow School in north west London.-Life and career:Running...

 argue readers should interpret On the Jewish Question in the deeper context of Marx's debates with Bruno Bauer
Bruno Bauer
Bruno Bauer was a German philosopher and historian. As a student of GWF Hegel, Bauer was a radical Rationalist in philosophy, politics and Biblical criticism...

, author of The Jewish Question
The Jewish Question
The Jewish Question is an 1843 book by German historian and theologian Bruno Bauer, written and published in German ....

, about Jewish emancipation
Jewish Emancipation
Jewish emancipation was the external and internal process of freeing the Jewish people of Europe, including recognition of their rights as equal citizens, and the formal granting of citizenship as individuals; it occurred gradually between the late 18th century and the early 20th century...

 in Germany. Francis Wheen
Francis Wheen
Francis James Baird Wheen is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster.-Early life and education:Wheen was born into an army family and educated at two independent schools: Copthorne Preparatory School near Crawley, West Sussex and Harrow School in north west London.-Life and career:Running...

 says: "Those critics, who see this as a foretaste of 'Mein Kampf', overlook one, essential point: in spite of the clumsy phraseology and crude stereotyping, the essay was actually written as a defense of the Jews. It was a retort to Bruno Bauer, who had argued that Jews should not be granted full civic rights and freedoms unless they were baptised as Christians". According to McLellan, Marx used the word Judentum colloquially, as meaning commerce, arguing that Germans must be emancipated from the capitalist mode of production not Judaism or Jews in particular. McLellan concludes that readers should interpret the essay's second half as an extended pun at Bauer's expense. Jonathan Sacks
Jonathan Sacks
Jonathan Henry Sacks, Baron Sacks, Kt is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. His Hebrew name is Yaakov Zvi...

, Chief Rabbi
Chief Rabbi
Chief Rabbi is a title given in several countries to the recognized religious leader of that country's Jewish community, or to a rabbinic leader appointed by the local secular authorities...

 of the United Kingdom, regards application of the term "antisemitism" to Marx as an anachronism
Anachronism
An anachronism—from the Greek ανά and χρόνος — is an inconsistency in some chronological arrangement, especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other...

—because when Marx wrote On the Jewish Question, virtually all major philosophers had expressed similar views, and the word "antisemitism" had not yet been coined, let alone developed a racial component, and little awareness existed of the depths of European prejudice against Jews. Marx thus simply expressed the commonplace thinking of his era, according to Sacks.

Reference to Müntzer


In part II of the essay, Marx refers to Thomas Müntzer:

The view of nature attained under the domination of private property and money is a real contempt for, and practical debasement of, nature; in the Jewish religion, nature exists, it is true, but it exists only in imagination.

It is in this sense that [in a 1524 pamphlet] Thomas Münzer declares it intolerable

that all creatures have been turned into property, the fishes in the water, the birds in the air, the plants on the earth; the creatures, too, must become free.


In his Apology, in large parts an attack on Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

, Müntzer says:

Look ye! Our sovereign and rulers are at the bottom of all usury, thievery, and robbery; they take all created things into possession. The fish in the water, birds in the air, the products of the soil – all must be theirs (Isaiah v.)


The appreciation of Müntzer’s position has been interpreted as a sympathetic view of Marx towards animals.

See also


  • Dialectical materialism
    Dialectical materialism
    Dialectical materialism is a strand of Marxism synthesizing Hegel's dialectics. The idea was originally invented by Moses Hess and it was later developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels...

  • German idealism
    German idealism
    German idealism was a philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment...

  • Historical materialism
    Historical materialism
    Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

  • Materialism
    Materialism
    In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

  • Marxism
    Marxism
    Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

  • Marxist theory
  • Marxist philosophy
    Marxist philosophy
    Marxist philosophy or Marxist theory are terms that cover work in philosophy that is strongly influenced by Karl Marx's materialist approach to theory or that is written by Marxists...

  • Young Hegelians
    Young Hegelians
    The Young Hegelians, or Left Hegelians, were a group of Prussian intellectuals who in the decade or so after the death of Hegel in 1831, wrote and responded to his ambiguous legacy...


Further reading

  • Louis Althusser, For Marx, first published in 1965 as Pour Marx by François Maspero, S.A., Paris. In English in 1969 by Allen Lane, The Penguin Press

  • Karl Marx: Zur Judenfrage, first published in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher 1844. English translation used as a reference for quotations in this article: On The Jewish Question

  • Andrew Vincent, "Marx and Law", Journal of Law and Society, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Winter, 1993), pp. 371–397.

External links

  • On The Jewish Question - Works of Karl Marx 1844
  • Hal Draper
    Hal Draper
    Hal Draper was an American socialist activist and author who played a significant role in the Berkeley, California, Free Speech Movement and is perhaps best known for his extensive scholarship on the history and meaning of the thought of Karl Marx.Draper was a lifelong advocate of what he called...

    : Marx and the Economic-Jew Stereotype (1977)
  • Abram Leon: The Jewish Question, A Marxist Interpretation (French 1946, English 1950)
  • Jonathan Wolff: Karl Marx, 2.1 On the Jewish Question, in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
    The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a freely-accessible online encyclopedia of philosophy maintained by Stanford University. Each entry is written and maintained by an expert in the field, including professors from over 65 academic institutions worldwide...

    (26 Aug 2003)