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From theology to sociology: Bruno Bauer and Karl Marx on the question of Jewish emancipation

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My key argument will be that by shifting the debate over Jewish emancipation from the plane of theology, where it had been traditionally fought, to the plane of sociology, Marx was able to circumvent one of Bauer's main arguments against emancipating the Jews. Bauer had contended that as a religion of law, not of faith, Judaism was by its very nature a public creed. It was incompatible, therefore, with life in a free state, where religion could only be a private matter. Marx chose to ignore this argument, treat Judaism as no different from Christianity, and focus his discussion on the nature of the state on the one hand and on the role played by the Jews in civil society on the other. This was less than a satisfactory response to Bauer's argument, but it enabled Marx to present a powerful case for emancipation while, at the same time, launching his critique of economic alienation. Thus, the philosophical advances made by Marx in On the Jewish Question were necessitated by, and integrally related to, his commitment to Jewish emancipation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Tel Aviv University.

Publication date: 01 March 1992

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