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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Chapter 3 - Modern politics


In the Kritik, Marx not only commends Hegel's empirical acumen, he also articulates his own nascent understanding of the ‘atomism’ and ‘abstraction’ of the modern social world. Marx's characterisation of modernity in terms of this double separation – of individuals from each other, and of individuals from the state – is elaborated and developed throughout the early writings. In this chapter, I am interested primarily in the second of those separations, that is, the abstraction of modern political life. More precisely, I examine the young Marx's portrayal of the modern state, outlining his understanding of the achievements and limitations of what he calls political emancipation.

The focus of the present chapter is provided by the young Marx's polemical attacks on Bruno Bauer. In particular, it is Marx's two-part article ‘Zur Judenfrage’ that forms its textual centre of gravity. (The article was written in the autumn of 1843. It was probably started at Kreuznach but may have been completed in Paris. It was published in the first and only edition of the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher in February 1844.) ‘Zur Judenfrage’ is a briefer, more polished work than the Kritik, and has occasioned a considerable volume of comment and criticism. Yet whilst there is little need to press its claims to the attention of commentators, there remains considerable room for clarification and questioning of both the central argument and dominant interpretation of this short, rich, and ‘notoriously obscure’ text.

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