ADVANTAGES

In this text Marx begins to make clear the distance between himselfand his radical liberal colleagues among the Young Hegelians; inparticular Bruno Bauer. Bauer had recently written against Jewishemancipation, from an atheist perspective, arguing that the religionof both Jews and Christians was a barrier to emancipation. Inresponding to Bauer, Marx makes one of the most enduring argumentsfrom his early writings, by means of introducing a distinction betweenpolitical emancipation — essentially the grant of liberal rightsand liberties — and human emancipation. Marx’s reply to Bauer isthat political emancipation is perfectly compatible with the continuedexistence of religion, as the contemporary example of the UnitedStates demonstrates. However, pushing matters deeper, in an argumentreinvented by innumerable critics of liberalism, Marx argues that notonly is political emancipation insufficient to bring about humanemancipation, it is in some sense also a barrier. Liberal rights andideas of justice are premised on the idea that each of us needsprotection from other human beings who are a threat to our liberty andsecurity. Therefore liberal rights are rights of separation, designedto protect us from such perceived threats. Freedom on such a view, isfreedom from interference. What this view overlooks is thepossibility — for Marx, the fact — that real freedom is tobe found positively in our relations with other people. It is to befound in human community, not in isolation. Accordingly, insisting ona regime of rights encourages us to view each other in ways thatundermine the possibility of the real freedom we may find in humanemancipation. Now we should be clear that Marx does not opposepolitical emancipation, for he sees that liberalism is a greatimprovement on the systems of feudalism and religious prejudice anddiscrimination which existed in the Germany of his day. Nevertheless,such politically emancipated liberalism must be transcended on theroute to genuine human emancipation. Unfortunately, Marx never tellsus what human emancipation is, although it is clear that it is closelyrelated to the idea of non-alienated labour, which we will explorebelow.

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