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The Lion's Skin of Politics: Marx on Republicanism


Author(s): Jeffrey C. Isaac
Source: Polity, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Spring, 1990), pp. 461-488
Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3234759
Accessed: 14-05-2015 12:45 UTC
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The Lion's Skinof Politics:


Marxon Republicanism
C. Isaac
Jeffrey

IndianaUniversity

to a "myth
Manypoliticaltheorists
arguethatKarlMarxsubscribed
and thusfailedto appreciate
theimportance
of individualism"
of
in themodernworld.Thisarticle
republicanism
faultsthat
and claimsinsteadthatMarx'stheory
andpracticeare
interpretation
is seenas a centralconcern.The
unlessrepublicanism
unintelligible
authorinsists
thatan examination
further
ofMarx'scritiqueof
butalso
is notmerely
republicanism
of historiographical
significance
lessonsforcontemporary
and
republican
yieldsimportant
theorists.
communitarian
C. Isaac is AssociateProfessor
ofPoliticalScienceat Indiana
Jeffrey
He is theauthorof Powerand MarxistTheory:A Realist
University.
View,as wellas of articlesin numerous
journalsofpoliticalscience
andpoliticaltheory.
in vogueamongpoliticaltheorists.
is currently
PrescripRepublicanism
andcommunity
tiverepublicans
invokethethemes
ofvirtue,
patriotism,
inpurported
ofcontemporary
criticism
socialandpoliticalarrangements
and communist
states.1
in bothcapitalist
democracies
Historiographical
seekto locatethesethemesin modernpoliticaldiscourse,
republicans
liberalsand
the so-calledWhiggishviewsof celebratory
subverting
1. On prescriptive
seeAlasdairMacIntyre,
republicanism,
(Indiana:UniAfterVirtue
of NotreDamePress,1981);MichaelSandel,Liberalism
and theLimitsofJustice
versity
(Cambridge:
Cambridge
University
Press,1982),and "The Procedural
Republicandthe
Unencumbered
Self." PoliticalTheory,12 (February
1984);CharlesTaylor,Hegeland
ModernSociety(Cambridge:
Press,1980);SheldonWolin,"The
Cambridge
University
1 (January
People'sTwo Bodies." democracy,
1981);BenjaminBarber,StrongDemocPoliticsina NewAge(Berkeley:
ofCalifornia
racy:Participatory
Press,1984);
University
RobertN. Bellah,etal., HabitsoftheHeart:Individualism
andCommitment
inAmerican
of California
Press,1985);and Sara M. Evansand HarryC.
Life(Berkeley:
University
Boyte,FreeSpaces: TheSourcesofDemocratic
ChangeinAmerica(NewYork:Harper
andRow,1986).

Polity

VolumeXXII, Number3

Spring1990

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462 Marxon Republicanism


critical
Marxists
alikeabouttheriseofliberalism
in themodernworld.2
Theseprojectsare interrelated
in manycomplexways,and one cannot
aboutthewayinwhichtheyrelateas regards
speakcategorically
anyparButthereis clearlysomething
between
ticularwriter.
the
complementary
evincesa vitalrepublican
historical
thatmodernity
tradition
argument
andthemoralargument
is a currently
desirable
thatsuchrepublicanism
option.3
Theinterpretation
of
inbothofthesedimensions
ofKarlMarxfigures
The historiographical
thesis,mostinfluentially
republicanism.
putforth
to a "mythofliberalism,"
byJ.G. A. Pocock,is thatMarxsubscribed
to whichtheemergence
of capitalism
led to theriseof bouraccording
an ideologyholdingthat"marketbehaviorwas all
geoisindividualism,
thatwas neededto makea humanbeinga humanbeing."4As Pocock
puts it, "Marxists,as is notorious,maintainthe ascendancyof
is
'bourgeois'valuesin and outof season."5Needlessto say,thismyth
to it, thenwe can only
naive,and, if Marxsubscribed
extraordinarily
inferthathisunderstanding
flawed.This
ofmodernpoliticswasseverely
viewleadsto thenormative
thesisthatMarxoperatedwitha distorted
viewof modernpoliticaldiscourseand, as a consequence,
soughtto
he so scornedwitha formof bureaucratic
replacethe individualism
In otherwords,Marxnotonlyfailedas an historian
statism.
to recognize
of republicanism
thevitality
in themodernworld;he also failedas a
to appreciate
itsvirtues.6
moralist
In thispaper,I willcriticize
bothoftheseclaims,butI willconcentrate
on thefirst,
fora simpleglanceat Marx'swritings
revealsitto
primarily
be false.Marxnotonlyrecognized
ofrepublican
thevitality
politicaldisin it,firstas a proponent
course,he spentmostof hislifeparticipating
and thenas a critic.An analysisof hisreasonsfordoingso is of more
thansimply
forit shedslighton thedeficieninterest,
historiographical
ciesofthesecondthesisas well.In short,Marx'ssocialistvisiondidnot
2. On republican
see particularly
J. G. A. Pocock,TheMachiavellian
historiography,
Moment(Princeton:
Princeton
and ManPress,1975),and "Virtues,Rights,
University
ners:A ModelforHistorians
ofPoliticalThought."PoliticalTheory,
9 (August1981);and
DonaldWinch,AdamSmith'sPolitics(Cambridge:
Press,1978).
Cambridge
University
3. See Don Herzog,"SomeQuestions
14(August
forRepublicans."
PoliticalTheory,
1986).
4. J. G. A. Pocock,"Authority
and Property:
The Questionof LiberalOrigins,"in
EssaysinHonorofJ.H. Hexter,ed. B. Malament
AftertheReformation:
(Philadelphia:
of Pennsylvania
Press,1980),p. 350.
University
5. J. G. A. Pocock,"The Machiavellian
MomentRevisited:
A Studyin History
and
53 (March1981),p. 70.
Ideology."JournalofModernHistory,
6. See LawrenceGoodwyn,
Democratic
Promise:ThePopulistMovement
inAmerica
(Oxford:OxfordUniversity
Press,1976),andAndrew
Fraser,"LegalAmnesia:Modernismvs. TheRepublican
inAmerican
Tradition
LegalTheory."Telos,60 (Summer
1984).

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C. Isaac 463
Jeffrey
inanysimplistic
sense,butitdidbreakradically
republicanism
repudiate
had assumedin theninefromthedominantformthatrepublicanism
The reasonsforthissuggestthecomplexity
teenthcentury.
of Marx's
ownpolitics,
whicharemoreoftenthannotgrossly
even
oversimplified,
theimportance
ofconbythose,likePocock,whootherwise
emphasize
textin interpretation.
Theyalso suggestthe dangersof an uncritical
recourse
to republicanism
inthecontemporary
world.It is worthunderthatthisarticleis notan attempt
to identify
thedemocratic
and
scoring
humanist
a taskablydischarged
originsof Marx'sthought,
longago by
bothWestern
andEasternMarxists.
Itis,rather,
an effort
toinsistonthe
criticalwayin whichMarxappropriated
theseidioms.The MarxI will
discussis nota republican
orcommunitarian
so muchas a vigorous
critic
of theformssuchorientations
havetakenin themodernworld.
is a termthatgoesundefined
Curiously,
"republicanism"
bymanyof
thosewhouseitmostvociferously,
insupport
orcriticism,
whether
andI
wanttobe clearas tomyunderstanding
ofit.Thetermrefers
toa viewof
fromthe classicalidealsof ancient
politicsthatdrawsits inspiration
Greeceand Romeand emphasizes
theprimacy
ofcivicvirtueand public
in social life. Republicanism
exalts,in the words of
participation
Pocock,"a wayof lifegivenoverto civicconcernsand theultimately
of citizenship."'7
As a consequence
of Pocock'spathpoliticalactivity
this
has cometo be associatedwitha
discourse
breaking
historiography,
virtualcanon thatincludesAristotle,Cicero,Polybius,Machiavelli,
Harrington,
Burgh,Rousseauand Jefferson.
Republicanideas have
an
and
roleinthehistory
clearlyplayed important, frequently
neglected,
of modernpoliticalthought
I
as
have
their
though,
arguedelsewhere,
with
liberalism
to
is
serious
disjuncture
open
questioning.8
I shouldnotealso at theoutsetthatthereis somejustification
forthe
that
Marx
saw
individualism
he
looked.
viewpoint
bourgeois
everywhere
This observation,
madecurrent
in ThePolitical
by C. B. Macpherson
Possessive
its
finds
most
notable
textualsupIndividualism,9
Theoryof
in
Marx's
in
assertion
The
Communist
port
oft-quoted
Manifesto:
... hasleftremaining
Thebourgeoisie
no othernexusbetween
man
andmanthannakedself-interest,
thancallous"cash payment."It
has drownedthe mostheavenlyecstaciesof religiousfervor,of
7. Pocock,TheMachiavellian
Moment,p. 56.
8. See my"Republicanism
vs. Liberalism?
A Reconsideration."
Historyof Political
IX (Summer,1988),and Ian Shapiro,"RepublicanProperty:
Thought,
Antibourgeois
Alternative?"
Critical
Review(forthcoming,
1990).
9. C. B. Macpherson,
ThePoliticalTheory
Individualism
(Oxford:Oxford
ofPossessive
University
Press,1959).

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464 MarxonRepublicanism
chivalrousenthusiasm,
of philistine
in the icy
sentimentalism,
waterof egotistical
calculation.
. . . In oneword,forexploitation,
and politicalillusions,ithas substituted
veiledbyreligious
naked,
. ... All fixed,fast-frozen
shameless,
direct,brutalexploitation.
withtheirtrainof ancientand venerable
and
relations,
prejudices
onesbecomeantiquated
opinions,aresweptaway,all new-formed
beforetheycanossify.
Allthatis solidmeltsintoair,all thatis holy
is profaned,
andmanis at lastcompelled
to facewithsobersenses,
hisrealconditions
of life,and hisrelations
withhiskind.10
In thistext,politicalideologiesseemnotevenepiphenomenal
illusions;
Marx'slanguageimpliesthatall illusionsaresweptawaybytheceaseless
and market
expansionof capital,leavingonlypossessiveindividualism
andrendering
suchrelationships
But
conflictive.
exchange
transparently
thisseemshardlylikely.First,sucha viewis dramatically
at oddswith
Marx'sownconception
its
ofhisproject:"enablingtheworldto clarify
toit
... waking
itfrom
consciousness
itsdreamaboutitself... explaining
themeaning
ofitsownactions.""'Second,itwouldbe a seriousmistake
totakeMarx'sboldstatement
aboutthebourgeois
ofall illudestruction
sionsat facevaluefor,ifPocockhastaughtus anything,
itis thatwecan
a textifwe can locateitscontext.
And Marx'scontext
onlyunderstand
a polemicalpamphlet
fortheComhereis clear.Politically,
heis writing
munist
formassdistribution,
on theeveofwidespread
League,designed
Marx'sdismissiveness
aboutillusionsand fixed
Europeanrevolutions.
andhisoptimism
aboutimminent
werewidely
revolution,
relationships,
sharedatthattime.Rhetorically,
Marxis sketching
outa grandhistorical
narrative
intended
to invokeHistory
and to evokesupportamongEurofora communist
about
peanworkers
politics.The placeof hisremarks
thesorts
the"cashnexus"inthetextis thusnotaccidential.
Preempting
moraldepravity,
of criticisms
aboutcommunist
anarchism,
etc.,which
an
wouldinvariably
be expressed
bythebourgeoisie
during anticipated
whichis revolutionary,
redscare,Marxassertsthatitis thebourgeoisie
whichholdsno respectfortradition,
religion,
politics,and thefamily,
ofMarx'sboldclaims,
is
force
This
the
andis themorally
dissolute
group.
After
whichare otherwise
incomprehensible. all, theManifestois not
itis a moralcriticism
ofcapitalism,
as well
a
narrative;
simply descriptive
as a critiqueof theillusionsplaguingthevariousEuropeandemocratic
wouldhardlyhavebeen
Suchan undertaking
and socialistgroupings.
10. KarlMarxand Frederick
Party,in The
of theCommunist
Engels,TheManifesto
C. Tucker(NewYork:Norton,1972),pp. 337-38.
Reader,1sted.,ed. Robert
Marx-Engels
11. KarlMarx,"For a Ruthless
Criticism
of Everything
Existing,"in Tucker,MarxEngelsReader,p. 10.

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C. Isaac 465
Jeffrey
of politicalideologies.1
had Marxbelievedin thesuperfluity
necessary
TextualsupportforPocock'sthesisalso comesfromanothersource,
Brumaireof Louis Bonaparte.Here,afterobMarx's TheEighteenth
that"theheroesas wellas thepartiesandthemassesoftheold
serving
thetaskof theirtimein Romancostume
FrenchRevolution,
performed
and withRomanphrases,thetaskof unchaining
and setting
up modern
bourgeoissociety,"Marxnotesthat.
Colossi
thenewsocialformation
onceestablished,
theantidiluvian
Romanity-theBrutuses,
disappearedand withthemresurrected
thesenators,
andCaeserhimself.
Gracchi,Publicolas,thetribunes,
its trueinterBourgeoissocietyin its soberrealityhas begotten
in the Says, Cousins,Royer-Collards,
pretersand mouthpieces
andGuizots.... WhollyabsorbedintheproBenjaminConstants
itno longer
ductionofwealthandin peacefulcompetitive
struggle
thatghostsfromthedaysof Romehad watched
comprehended
overitscradle.13
Hereideologyplaysa crucialrolebut,as Marxseemsto have it, the
anachronistic
politicalideology
necessarily
giveway
ghostsofrepublican
beforeclassicalpoliticaleconomyand theideologyof themarket.But
thiscan hardlyprovePocock's point,fortheRoman"costumesand
phrases"arethefocusofMarx'sanalysis,and ifso it can hardlyprove
theimportance
thatMarxfailedto recognize
of republican
ideology.
the
most
obvious
dismissed
Having
groundsforPocock'sclaim,I will
his
nowanalyzethreecontexts
in whichMarxaddressed
republicanism:
in
on
which
he
articulated
earlywritings democracy,
clearlyrepublican
and the capitalist
themes;his earlycritiqueof politicalemancipation
and
his
of
of
the
failure
the
of
revolutions
1848.Mypoint,
state;
analysis
was a livingand
once again,is to insistthatforMarxrepublicanism
of modernpolitics.
feature
problematic
I. Marx'sEarlyRepublicanism
Thereare twosensesin whichMarx'searliestpoliticalwritings
can be
construed
as republican.
themes:
First,theyarticulate
clearlyrepublican
12. See DavidMcLellan,KarlMarx:His Lifeand Thought
(NewYork:Harper,1973);
and Citizens(NewBrunswick,
NJ: Rutgers
Alan Gilbert,
Marx'sPolitics:Communists
aboutMarxandJustice."
Press,1981);andNormanGeras,"The Controversy
University
NewLeftReview,150(March-April
1985).
Brumaireof Louis Bonaparte,in Karl Marx and
13. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth
Frederick
MECW), vol. 11(NewYork:International
Engels,CollectedWorks(hereafter
Publishers,
1979),p. 104.

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466 MarxonRepublicanism
tomonarchy
andto established
whether
or
opposition
privilege,
religious
and advocacyof a universal
statebasedon thevirtues
ofracorporate,
As Marxputit,"everymodern
tionalparticipation.
personunderstands,
andcanunderstand,
toallhisfellow
bythestateonlythespherecommon
into
fall
the
of
tobe repubwhat
is
taken
Second,
they
range
citizens.'"14
licanbyhiscontemporaries.
As is wellknown,theyoungMarxwas an associateof "the Young
and
humanism,
Hegelians,"whosoughtto radicalizeHegel'srationalist
to executea radicalcritique
ofthereligious
andpolitical
establishment.'5
DavidMacLellancitesthedismissive
Leo, a conservopinionofHeinrich
ativeopponent,
thattheYoungHegelianswere"a neweditionoftheEnandtheheroesoftheFrenchRevolution."''16
Thegroupwas
cyclopaedists
to accepteither
aversion
to
Germanliberalism's
radical,unwilling
clearly
to settlefora constitutional
rebellionor its inclination
As
monarchy.
ArnoldRugeputit: "the Germanworldhas to adoptthenewwayof
which... makesfreementheprinciple
andthepeopletheobthinking
in
liberalism
into
of
its
it
has
to
transform
other
words
action,
ject
this
A
to
number
of
were
affixed
tendlabels
political
democracy.""'7
ency-"humanism,""democracy,""republicanism"and, by the
of these
as well.'8Theconflation
sometimes
"communism"
mid-1840s,
is
to
us
More
which
have
such
distinct
terms,
meanings, significant. imis
whichwas denoted,
the
though,
portant,
generalpoliticalviewpoint
which
forms
of particularism
in
Rousseau
criticized
all
one inspired
by
state.
thenameof humanism
and a universalist,
democratic
His first
Marxbeganhiscareeras a political
article,"Comjournalist.
was written
in
mentson theLatestPrussianCensorship
Instruction,"
Jahrbucher.
MacLellanquotes
1842forRuge'sDeutsche-Franzoesische
"It is a greatpity
theopinionofconservative
HegelianKarlRosenkranz:
butRugehas lethimself
aboutthisjournal,whichbeganso excellently;
to radicaltendencies.
. . . The Jahrbucher
succumbcompletely
have
is acceptedunlessitis written
in
cometo thepointwhereno contribution
a brusque,dictatorial,
andrepublican
tone."19Marx'sessay,a
atheistic,
strident
decreeof 1841,satisfies
polemicagainstthePrussiancensorship
all of theseadjectives.
andtheAugsburg
14. KarlMarx,"Communism
Allgemeine
Zeitung,"inMECW,vol.
1, p. 220.
15.SeeSidenyHook,FromHegeltoMarx(NewYork:Humanities
Press,1950);George
Marxism:An Historicaland CriticalStudy(NewYork:Praeger,1971);and
Lichtheim,
DavidMcLellan,The YoungHegeliansandKarlMarx(London:Macmillan,
1969).
16. McLellan,The YoungHegelians,p. 24.
17. Ibid., p. 25.

18. Ibid.,p. 34.


19. Ibid.,p. 29.

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C. Isaac 467
Jeffrey
of restricEchoingLocke,Marxobjectsthat,dueto thearbitrariness
is undersuspicion,
of ideas,"myexistence
tionson thefreedom
myinin
insists
a
constiHe
nermost
that,
individuality."
properly
my
being,
enterthe
tutedstate,"only insofaras I manifest
myselfexternally,
Apartfrom
sphereof theactual,do I enterthesphereof thelegislator.
forthelaw,am no objectforit.'"20Premyactions,I haveno existence
of a situationwhere"every
Mill,he pointsout theabsurdity
figuring
withan inexhaustible
play
dropof dewon whichthesunshinesglistens
ofcolours,butthespiritual
sun,however
manythepersonsandwhatever
mustproduceonlythe official
the objectsin whichit is refracted,
Marx
oftheYoungHegelians,
colour."'21
atheism
Drawingonthecritical
of thecensorship
decreeto simultaneously
criticizes
theeffort
prohibit
and "thefanatical
conservatism,
ideas,a nodto religious
anti-religious
ofreligious
offaithintopolitics,"a nodto German
articles
transference
a religious
statewhich
between
liberalism.
Drivinghomethedistinction
artiandfanaticism,
certain
ofnecessity
privileging
producesintolerance
cles of faithto theexclusionof others,and a disestablished
state,he
writes,"Hence eitherforbidreligionto be introducedat all into
politics-butyoudon'twantthat,foryouwantto basethestatenoton
freereason,buton faith,religion
beingforyouthegeneralsanction
for
of religioninto
whatexists-or allow also thefanaticalintroduction
politics.'"22
more
areall characteristically
Thesethemes
liberal,thoughapparently
wont
to
admost
of
the
were
so
than
German
liberals
time
consistently
withcharacteristimit.Butwhatis interesting
is theireasyconjunction
themes.
callyrepublican
EchoingRousseau,Marxclaimsthatcensorship
the
common
good,and "is nota law of thestatepromulgated
damages
foritscitizens,
butthelaw of onepartyagainstanother
party.The law
on theLatestPrussianCensorship
20. KarlMarx,"Comments
MECW,
Instruction,"
extoois an actbywhichI "manifest
vol. 1,p. 120.It is truethatforMarxwriting
myself
a consummately
andinthissensewriting,
act,"entersthesphereofthe
political
ternally,"
toarguethat,however
AndyetitisalsoclearthatMarxwishes
publican activilegislator."
shouldnotbesubjecttothesphereofthelegislator,
i.e.,thestate.Thiscouldbe
ty,writing
toleration
to thewayin whichLockejustifies
similar
religious
arguedin Lockeanterms,
in his"LetterConcerning
and private
Toleration,"
i.e., thatthepropertaskof
property
ofcertain
thefreeexercise
orcoercively
butnotdetermine
thestateis to guarantee,
affect,
in consequential
It couldalso be justified
socialalbeitproperly
terms,
privateactivities.
ofothers,
on therights
my
theyareproperly
i.e., untilmyownactivities
palpablyinfringe
becausethepolitical
inRousseauean
itcouldbejustified
own.Finally,
i.e., precisely
terms,
is constituted
myviews
myequalrightto express
bytheequalityof citizens,
community
of whichI am a part.Marx,of course,doesnotso
mustbe sustained
bythecommunity
Buttheintenarticulated
as invokepreviously
muchprovide
arguments.
precisearguments
violatesa certainsphereofprivacy.
tionof thistextis clear-censorship
21. Ibid.,p. 126.
22. Ibid.,p. 118.

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468 Marxon Republicanism


whichpunishes
abolishestheequalityofthecitizens
beforethe
tendency
law.It is a lawwhichdivides,andall lawswhichdividearereactionary."
withthe"moral
ofthecitizenry
thismistrust
He continues
bycontrasting
to havetheframeof mindof the
state,"which"assumesitsmembers
to an organofthestate,againstthe
state,eveniftheyactin opposition
" The censorship
is thusneither
thelangovernment.
simplyirrational,
nor unlawful,
the languageof
guageof Young Hegelianphilosophy,
whichis
recht.Instead,it breedsprivilege,
and dissension,
corruption,
It is therefore
notsimplyunjust;it is,
thelanguageof republicanism.
Marxinsists,"an insultto thehonourof thecitizen,a vexatiouslaw
whichthreatens
myexistence.''23
is also
This same conjunction
of liberaland republican
arguments
foundin Marx'sfirstarticlefortheRheinische
Zeitungin 1842,entitled
betweena "press
"Debateson Freedomof thePress." Distinguishing
he writes,echoingLocke,that
law" regarding
libel,and censorship,
measuresagainstfreedom,
"laws are in no wayrepressive
anymore
thanthelaw of gravity
is a repressive
measureagainstmotion,because
it governstheeternalmotionsof the
while,as thelaw of gravitation,
itkillsmeifI violateitandwantto
celestialbodies,as thelawof falling
dancein theair. Laws are ratherthepositive,clear,universal
normsin
whichfreedomhas acquiredan impersonal,
intheoretical
existence
ofthearbitrariness
oftheindividual."He proceeds,
however,
dependent
withoutskippinga beat, in a republicanvein,referring
now not to
individualbehaviorbut to indivisibly
universalrulesgoverning
com"A statutebookis a people'sbibleof freedom.'"24
munalinterests:
aniIn fact,theRousseaueannotionofa self-legislating
publicclearly
withthefearfulness
matesthearticle.Drawinga contrast
ofthePrussian
state,Marxnotesthat"a country
which,likeancientAthens,regards
to thegood senseof
as exceptions
lickspittles,
parasites,and flatterers
ofindependence
and
thepeople,asfoolsamongthepeople,is a country
25And he adds that"the popularcharacter
of thefree
self-reliance.'"
press .

. .

of the freepress,whichmakesit the


the historicindividuality

to the
of its specificpopularspirit,[is] repugnant
specificexpression
of
the
estate,"insisting
that,unlike member
speakerfromtheprincely
not
to
do
"the
does
want
to
have
themedievalestate,
citizen
anything
withrightas privilege."''26

thattheconEvenrepresentative
he pointsout,requires
government,

23. Ibid.,p. 120.


24. KarlMarx,"Debateson FreedomofthePress,"MECW,vol. 1, p. 162.
25. Ibid., p. 137.

26. Ibid.,pp. 143-46.

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Jeffrey
C. Isaac 469
cernsof thepublicand thedebatesof itslegislators
"be converted
into
thepubliclyaudiblevoiceof thecountry."Otherwise
is
representation
as "a representation
whichis divorcedfromtheconsimplya fiction,
sciousnessof those whom it representsis no representation
. . . it is a

that my self-activity
senselesscontradiction
should consistof acts
unknown
to meand donebyanother."27
And so, Marxconcludes,
centhebodypolitic:
sorshipsuffocates
politicallifeand corrupts
fromitis themostpowerful
andfrom
vice,hypocrisy,
Inseparable
whichlackeventhe
this,itsbasicvice,comeall itsotherdefects,
ofvirtue,
anditsviceofpassivity,
rudiments
loathsome
evenfrom
the aestheticpointof view.The government
hearsonlyits own
voice,itknowsthatithearsonlyitsownvoice,yetitharborstheillusionthatithearsthevoiceofthepeople,anditdemandsthatthe
people,too, shoulditselfharbourthisillusion.For itspart,therefore,thepeoplesinkspartlyintopoliticalsuperstition,
partlyinto
or,completely
politicaldisbelief,
awayfrompoliticallife,
turning
becomesa rabbleofprivateindividuals.28
Marx's1843Contribution
toa CritiqueofHegel'sPhilosophy
ofLaw
On onelevelit
to republicanism.
evincesa moreambiguous
relationship
of Marx'sdemocratic
a continuation
republican
posiclearlyrepresents
thatHegelinverts
Marx'sargument
need
to
rehearse
is
no
There
tion.
the subjectand the predicate,treatingman as the predicateof a
stateratherthanthe stateas a predicateof man. What
hypostatized
followsfromthisforMarxis thatHegelmystifies
andthus
actualhistory
failsto appreciatethespecificity
of themodernstate.He therefore
is
of
"the
worst
kind
of
and
for
rationales
a
guilty
syncretism,"29 provides
numberof practices
whichMarxbelievesirrational
and obsolete.30
that"thusat the
EchoingThomasPaine,Marxwritesof monarchy
summit
of
the
instead
the
wouldbe
of
very
state,
reason, merely
physical
decisive.Birthwoulddetermine
thequalityof themonarch,
as it deterAndheobserves
minesthequalityofcattle.'"31
oftheestatessystem
that
27. Ibid.,pp. 148-49.
28. Ibid.,pp. 167-68.
to theCritique
29. KarlMarx,Contribution
ofLaw, inMECW,
ofHegel'sPhilosophy
vol. 3, p. 95.
in theMarxiancritique
of Hegel'spolitical
30. On thissee R. N. Berki,"Perspectives
ed. Z. A.
philosophy,"in Hegel's PoliticalPhilosophy:Problemsand Perspectives,
Press,1971),and K. -H. Ilting,"Hegel's
University
Pelczynski
Cambridge
(Cambridge:
conceptofthestateandMarx'searlycritique,"in TheStateandCivilSociety:Studiesin
ed. Z. A. Pelczynski
University
Cambridge
(Cambridge:
Hegel'sPoliticalPhilosophy,
Press,1984).
"Government
on hereditary
31.MECW,vol.3, p. 33. As Painewrites
ought
monarchy:
toallthe
as tobe superior
Itoughttobeso constructed
tobe a thing
alwaysinfullmaturity.

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470 Marxon Republicanism


thanthefactthattheappointment
Nothingis moreridiculous
by
"birth"oflegislators,
ofthecitizens,
shouldbe oprepresentatives
ofelecby"thefortuitousness
posedbyHegeltotheirappointment
tions."As if election,theconsciousproductof civilconfidence,
did not standin a verydifferent,
connection
withthe
necessary
politicalpurposethanthephysicalaccidentof birth.. . . In this
creates
produceskings,directly
[Hegel's]systemnaturedirectly
toseeas
peers,etc.,justas itmakeseyesandnoses.Itis astonishing
ofthe
a direct
ofthephysical
product
specieswhatis onlya product
is zoology.32
self-conscious
species.. . . The secretof thenobility
that"theearthbelongsto theliving,"he
insistence
EchoingJefferson's
and entailthat"the 'inalienability'
writesof primogeniture
ofprivate
ofwilland
ofthegeneralfreedom
is onewiththe'alienability'
property
thehumanbeing.
... Thesubjectis thethingandthepredicate
morality.
"thecrass
of theproperty,"
The willbecomestheproperty
contrasting
ofmodern
withthefreedom
of medievalfixedlandproperty
stupidity"
in whose"qualitiesthebeatof thehumanheart,that
privateproperty,
of
of manon man,soundsright... ."33His critique
is, thedependence
echoestheviewsof
of thelegislature
Hegel'slimitson thesovereignty
he
whatotherwise
"if manis to do consciously
RousseauandJefferson:
is forcedto do withoutconsciousness
by the natureof the thing,it
thatadvance,
oftheconstitution,
thatthemovement
becomesnecessary
thereal
and thattherefore
be made theprincipleof theconstitution,
oftheconthepeople,be madetheprinciple
beareroftheconstitution,
and to its
And hisobjectionsto thePrussianbureaucracy
stitution."34
to Rousseaubut
hearkenbacknotsimply
claimsof privileged
expertise
to Aristotle:
towhichindividual
manis subject;andtherefore,
accidents
succession,
hereditary
bybeing
ofallthesystems
ofgovernment
andimperfect
...
subjecttothemall,is themostirregular
butas animals."TheRightsofMan (London:
Kingssucceedeachother,notas rationals,
Penguin,1969),pp. 194-95.
32. MECW, vol. 3, pp. 105-06.
"The EarthBelongsto theLiving,"in
33. Ibid.,pp. 101-106.See ThomasJefferson,
ed. AdrienneKoch (New York: Braziller,1965),pp.
The AmericanEnlightenment,
that"I am contending
fortherights
of theliving,
and
329-330.See also Paine'sremark
and contracted
for,by themanuscript
againsttheirbeingwilledaway,and controlled
ofthedead," TheRightsofMan,p. 64. OnthisseealsoMarx'scritique
assumedauthority
Manifesto
of the
of the GermanBurkeans,Leo and Savigny,in "The Philosophical
Historical
Schoolof Law," MECW, vol. 1, pp. 203-210.
nowand
fullstatement
was: "I holdthata littlerebellion
34. Ibid.,p. 57. Jefferson's
inthepolitical
worldas storm
inthephysical
andas necessary
... It
againis a goodthing,
in Koch, TheAmerican
forthesoundhealthof government,"
is a medicine
necessary
pp. 314-15.
Enlightenment,

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C. Isaac 471
Jeffrey
In a rationalstate,to sitan examination
shouldbe demanded
ofa
shoemaker
ratherthanan executive
civilservant.For shoemaking
is a skillwithout
whichone can be a good citizenof thestateand
socialhumanbeing;whereasthenecessary
"politicalknowledge"
whicha personin thestatelivesoutside
is a requirement
without
fromtheair.The "examination"
is
thestate,cutofffromhimself,
buta Masonicright,
thelegalrecognition
ofcitizenship
as
nothing
a privilege.35
ButMarxdoesnotsimply
fromthepercriticize
Hegel'sanachronisms
forHegel's
moderndemocratic
of a consistently
republicanism,
spective
does notsimplyupholdtheresiduesof thepast.He also
"syncretism"
criticizes
ofthemodernstateparexcellence,
Hegelforbeingthetheorist
notfor"depicting
thenatureofthemodern
stateas itis,
tobe challenged
thatwhichis as thenatureof thestate."36 In this
but forpresenting
by Marxto have isolatedthecentral
respect,Hegel is acknowledged
ofstateandcivilsociety,
ofmodernpolitics,
feature
i.e., theseparation
and the dualismof bourgeoisand citizen."In modernstates,as in
ofmatters
oflaw,theconscious,
thetrueactuality
of
Hegel'sphilosophy
formal,or, onlywhatisformalis an actual
generalconcernis merely
"37 All ofHegel'sdifficulties
matter
andhistortuous
ofgeneralconcern.
to rato invokeextinct
stemfromhiseffort
politicalpractices
attempts
Marx
"has
the
tionalizethisstateof affairs.Hegel,
argues
presupposed
and
the
state
modern
of
civil
political
society
separation
condition],
[a
itas a necessary
element
andexpounded
oftheidea,as absoluterational
truth."38
thatthemodernstateis a greatadvance.For thefirst
Marxcontends
theequalityof thespeciesand thecommunal
timein humanhistory,
The modernrepresentative
state
natureof manis generally
recognized.
with
of
monarch
the
of
the
the
the
sovereignty peoreplaces sovereignty
andis thusdefective,
"a merely
particuple.Butitdoesso onlyformally
ofuniversality.
Underthe
thanthetruecontent
larformofstate"rather
is whatrules,
politicalrepublic,"the state,the law, the constitution
of
without
thecontent
without
reallyruling-i.e.,
materially
permeating
39
of
a
form
This
as
Paul
Thomas
has
theremaining
it,
is,
put
spheres.""
"the
In truedemocracy,
Marx
"alien politics."40
contrast,
insists,
by
35. Ibid.,p. 51.
36. Ibid.,p. 63.
37. Ibid.
38. Ibid.,p. 73.
39. Ibid.,p. 75, 28, 30-32.
40. See Paul Thomas,KarlMarxandtheAnarchists
& KeganPaul,
(London:Routledge
1980),pp. 56-122,and "AlienPolitics,"inAfterMarx,ed. TerenceBall andJamesFarr
Press,1984).
(Cambridge:
Cambridge
University

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472 Marxon Republicanism


thelaw,thestateitself,insofaras itis a politicalconstituconstitution,
the
is
of thepeople,and a particular
contion, only self-determination
tentofthepeople."Theconstitution
"is established
as thepeople'sown
work.''41

notas a republiAs ShlomoAvinerihas noted,hereMarxis speaking


ofcivil
canbutas a criticofrepublicanism,
bothofitspassiveacceptance
the
and
of
its
scholastic
and
to
incarnate
society,
religious
pretensions
in
of
man.
While
Marx
his
universality
prioressays
regardedpolitical
as theanswerto thesuperstitions
bycensorship
democracy
engendered
hereaspectsofthepoliticalrepublic
areregarded
as
andrepression,
itself
In
this
on
the
marks
an
sense,
step
Critique
important
superstitious.
It is, however,
ofrepublicanism.
Marx'sroadtowarda socialistcritique
intheCritiqueis
to contendthatMarx'sargument
quiteanothermatter
and that"theCommunist
in the
is immanent
"communist,"
Manifesto
ofRight."42
CritiqueofHegel'sPhilosophy
inMarx'sthought
Avineri
wishesto emphasize
thecontinuities
rightly
hisearlyadvocacyof "truedemocandtheorganicconnection
between
these
racy" and his laterespousalof socialism.But we can recognize
in an unprobthatMarx'sthought
proceeded
pointswithout
supposing
lematicspiralof dialectical
Thereis no reasonto supposethat
progress.
or "communist
thecommunal
essence"ofwhichMarxspeaksincriticizthatMarxadvocatesin hislaterwritingHegelis thesamecommunism
to figure
forthe
hereas a generalsynonym
ings.Thenotionseemsrather
Marx's
universalequalityand "speciesbeing" of men.Furthermore,
critique of political republicanismitself bears the traces of
It is truethathe viewsuniversal
hereas boththe
suffrage
republicanism.
oftheabstraction
ofthemodernstateand "at thesametime
completion
oftheabstraction."43
thetranscendence
However,Marxdisplaysan opof politicalemancipation
timism
aboutthestructural
significance
quite
of hislaterwritings
on thesubremovedfromthemorecritical
insights
of
thefoundation
ject.44And theconceptsof classand class struggle,
A
not
in
mature
theoretical
at
all
the
Marx's
edifice,figure
argument.
the
Marx
criticized
after
written
the
French
revoluyear
Critique,
having
forfailing
to identify
thestateas thesourceofsocial
tionary
republicans
of
the
Instead
connections
betweenstateand civil
problems.
analyzing
in
saw
and
wealth
society,
"they
onlyan obstacleto
greatpoverty great
41. MECW, vol. 3, pp. 30-31,20.
42. ShlomoAvineri,
KarlMarx'sSocialandPoliticalThought
(Cambridge:
Cambridge
Press,1968),p. 34.
University
43. MECW, vol. 3, p. 121.
44. Gilbert,
Marx'sPolitics,makesthispointon pp. 163-64.

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C. Isaac 473
Jeffrey
seemsliableto thesameobjection.
"s Marx'sCritique
puredemocracy.
Whileitclearly
criticizes
themodern
ofstateandcivilsociety,
separation
it does so in thenameof thefullrealizationof politicalreasonand
ratherthanin thenameof proletarian
socialism.It is thus
citizenship
hardtoagreewithAvineri's
assertion
that"Marx'sdemandforuniversal
does notdrawitsarguments
froma democratic
or republican
suffrage
towardtheabandonment
ofmodern
radicalism.''46WhileMarxgestures
theRousseaueanarguments
he exploitsin hiscritique
of
republicanism,
overintohiscritique
seemcarried
ofHegel'smodHegel'sanachronisms
ernisms
as well.In anycase,however
oneinterprets
theCritique,
itclearMarx'searlyrepublicanism
and prefigures
hislater
ly bothpunctuates
critiqueof it.
II. Marx'sCritiqueof PoliticalReason
Marx's1843essay,"On The Jewish
Question,"marksa decisivebreak
withrepublicanism.
Theimmediate
purposeofthisessaywastocriticize
BrunoBauer'sanalysisof Jewishemancipation,
butthemoregeneral
to
was
a
of
purpose
provide critique politicalemancipation-the
of all socialdifferences
fromthesphereof thestatedisestablishment
thatpoliticalstandpoint
andtocriticize
whichconflates
thiswithgenuine
In thisessay,Marxrecapitulates
humanemancipation.
manyofthearguinthecritique
ofHegel,buthealso deepenshiscritique
mentsdeveloped
of republicanism.
of
Bauer,Marx claims,believesthatthe politicaldisestablishment
to
the
abolition
of
leads
This
he
suffers
continues,
view,
religion
religion.
fromtwo basic flaws.The firstis broadlyphilosophical,
namelythe
beliefthatthe task of philosophyis theologicalcriticism,
i.e., the
criticism
of religion.Thissecularhumanist
wascharacteristic
viewpoint
oftheYoungHegelians,according
to whomthedestruction
ofreligious
wouldbringin its traintheruleof humanreasonand its
superstition
thepoliticalrepublic.47
Againstthisview,
properpoliticalincarnation,

that"we do notturnsecularquestions
intotheological
Marxasserts
intosecular
weturntheological
questions
questions;
ones.'"48In other
tothe
ofreligion
thetaskoftheory
istogobeyond
thecriticism
words,
or
andsociety
criticism
ofpolitics
as such,andtheexistence
of"defects"
Noteson theArticle
45. KarlMarx,"CriticalMarginal
bya Prussian,"inMECW,vol.
3, p. 199.
KarlMarx'sThought,
46. Avineri,
p. 37.
47. See McLellan,The YoungHegelians,
pp. 6-33.
48. KarlMarx,"On theJewish
Reader,p. 29.
Question,"in Tucker,Marx-Engels

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474 Marxon Republicanism


"irrationalities"
shouldbe soughtnot in intellectual
errorbut in the
ofsociety.
Marxishereforeshadowing
theargument
ofThe
organization
GermanIdeology,namelythatideas are causallyrelatedto material
In short,Marx
and thatcritique
mustextendto theserealities.
realities,
ofreligion
andreasoncharacteristic
ofEnlightenrejectsthepolarization
mentthinking
andinsists
thatmodern
formsofreasoncanthemselves
be
ideologicaland distorted.
Butthismethodological
flawis forMarxinextricably
tiedto a broader
state
politicalmistake:the belief that the modernrepresentative
manifests
an authentic
anduniversality,
andthatitsconstiturationality
of respublica-is
tiveprinciple-political
thegenerality
emancipation,
Marxinsiststhatthisis notso:
trulysovereign.
Thestateabolishes,
afteritsfashion,
thedistinctions
established
by
birth,social rank,education,occupation,whenit decreesthat
that
birth,socialrank,occupationare non-political
distinctions,
ofsociety
is an equalpartner
inpopularsovereignty.
everymember
... But thestate,none theless,allows privateproperty,
education,

to actaftertheirownfashion,
as private
occupation,
namely,
property,education,occupation,and to manifesttheirparticular
nature.Far fromabolishing
theseeffective
it onlyexdifferences,
istsso faras theyare presupposed.
..49
The "politicalstandpoint"
of democratic
is thuslimited
republicanism
A number
ofimportant
andillusory.
follow
from
Marx'spoint.
insights
The firstis that,contrary
to theviewof theCritique,universal
sufa
of
nineteenth
democratic
frage, majorobjective
century
republicans,
oftruedemocracy
doesnotconstitute
thevictory
andthetriumph
ofthe
commonmanoverwealthand privilege:
"The stateas a stateabolishes
(i.e., mandecreesbypoliticalmeanstheabolitionof
privateproperty
whenitabolishestheproperty
forelectors
private
property)
qualification
and representatives,
as has beendonein manyof theNorthAmerican
States."It is truethatfromthepoliticalstandpoint
"the masseshave
a
over
owners
and
... Butthe
wealth.
gained victory property
financial
of
not
does
not
abolish
politicalsuppression privateproperty only
it
its
existence."50
This
is
a more
privateproperty; actuallypresupposes
of stateand civilsocietythanthatofradicalcritiqueof theseparation
feredin theCritique,becausehereuniversal
is viewedas consuffrage
stitutive
of thisseparation.
49. Ibid., p. 31.
50. Ibid.

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C. Isaac 475
Jeffrey
ThisleadstoMarx'ssecondinsight,
thatrepublicanism
andtheexaltationof moderncitizenship
is notsimply
a cognitive
errorbuta causally
illusion.In short,
Marxengagesina critique
efficacious
ofrepublicanism
of
as ideology,
that
notions
andcommuinsisting republican
citizenship
of
are
constitutive
at
the
same
that
time
misdescribe
nity
reality
they
it."5
ForMarxthishasbothan historical
anda structural
dimension.
Historically,republican
ideologywas an indispensible
weaponin thestruggle
forpoliticalemancipation:
The politicalrevolution
whichoverthrew
thispowerof theruler,
theaffairs
ofthepeople,andthepolitical
whichmadestateaffairs
statea matter
ofgeneralconcern,
shati.e., a realstate,necessarily
teredeverything-estates,
corporations,
guilds,privileges-which
life. . . [It]
expressedtheseparationof thepeople fromcommunity

thepoliticalspiritfromitsconnexionwithcivillifeand
liberated
made of it the community
sphere,the generalconcernof the
people.
"theconsummation
oftheidealismofthestate
But,as Marxcontinues,
ofcivilsocieofthematerialism
wasat thesametimetheconsummation
thispoint,thatpoliticalemancipation
liberates
ty.'52 To demonstrate
boththelanguageof civicvirtueand thelanguageof individual
rights,
Marxexamines
theFrenchDeclaration
oftheRightsofMan and Citizen
of Pennsylvania
and NewHampand theAmericanstateconstitutions
of modernpolitics.Thesetexts,he argues,
shireas centraldocuments
normsof modernpoliticallifeare
thattheconstitutive
clearlyillustrate
in substance.
thelatterin form,theformer
liberaland republican,
as
of citizenship,
The formalism
however,shouldnot be construed
incivilsociety.
is determined
somehowunrealsimply
becauseitscontent
Marxintoitsfulldevelopment,"
"Wherethepoliticalstatehasattained
in
... butinreality, life,a double
sists,"manleads,notonlyinthought
He livesin thepoliticalcommunity,
and terrestrial.
existence-celestial
wherehe regardshimselfas a communalbeing,and in civilsociety,
" Politicalparticipation
is
wherehe actssimplyas a privateindividual.
It
is
the
is
not
"but
this
of
sophistry
personal.
"sophistical,"
sophistry
of YoungHegelian
thepoliticalstateitself."Mockingtherationalism
Marxassertsthatcitizensof thedemocratic
republicare
republicanism,
religious
ed.
51. Fora discussion
ofMarx'sconcept
ofideology,
seeIssuesinMarxist
Philosophy,
JohnMephamand David Hillel-Ruben,
3 vols. (AtlanticHighlands,NJ: Humanities,
1979).
52. Marx,"On theJewish
Reader,p. 43.
Question,"in Tucker,Marx-Engels

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476 MarxonRepublicanism
in thesensethatmantreatspoliticallife,whichis remotefromhis
own individualexistence,
as if it werehis truelife. . . Political
is Christian
in thesensethatman,notmerely
oneman
democracy
but everyman,is thereconsidered
a sovereign
being,a supreme
man
existence,
being;butitis ... manjustas heis inhisfortuitous
as hehasbeencorrupted,
losttohimself,
tothe
alienated,
subjected
and elements,
ruleof inhumanconditions
bythewholeorganizationof our society-inshort,manwhois notyeta realspeciesoffantasy,
ofChristianity,
dreams,thepostulates
being.Creations
thesovereignty
of man . . . all thesebecome,in democracy,
the
secularmaxims.53
reality,
tangibleand present
intheconstitutional
embodied
is thusa vitaldiscourse,
Republicanism
conand in theeveryday
and statutory
laws,in thepoliticalrhetoric,
ofthemodernstate.Man's communal
ofthecitizens
sciousness
identity
callshis"politicallion'sskin,"coexists
as citizen,
whatMarxfacetiously
of
as member
in an uneasybutstabletensionwithhisprivateidentity
of thebellum
as an ideologicallegitimation
civilsociety.It functions
forthe
civilsociety,
omnescontraomneswhichconstitutes
compensating
thealienatedmanto
lifebyelevating
of ordinary
practicaldebasement
It
the statusof species-being.
This elevationis, of course,fictitious.
doesnotmeanrealand effective
equality,nordoesitentailthegenuine
of socialexistence.
Marx'sadvocacyofhumanemancipahumanization
is well known.But it is less widely
his argument
tionin concluding
thatMarxis also arguingthatit is in thenatureof the
acknowledged
to confuseitselfwith
i.e., republicanism,
"merely
politicalstandpoint,"
is toexA majorintention
ofhispoliticalwritings
humanemancipation.
ofillusions,
fortheabandonment
posethisillusionandto callnotsimply
thatrequireillusions.54
of socialinstitutions
butfortheabandonment
Marx thusproceededto the critiqueof politicaleconomy,a road
andended,
whichbeganwithhisEconomicandPhilosophic
Manuscripts
withthewriting
of Capital,butthecriticalanalysisof civil
unfinished,
in repubinterest
witha continued
societywas in no wayincompatible
the
In
insofar
as
civilsocietypresupposes state,Marx's
licanism. fact,
it.
economicconcerns
required Marx's1844"CriticalMarginalNoteson
subItsostensible
theArticlebya Prussian"is inthisregardsignificant.
uses
Marx
of
but
June
weavers'
was
the
Silesian
4-6, 1844,
uprising
ject
of his former
associate
thisoccasionto breakwiththerepublicanism
on classstruggle.
Rugeand to offersomegeneralreflections
53. Ibid.,p. 32, 37.
to
inhis"Contribution
54. I amhere,ofcourse,paraphrasing
statements
Marx'sringing
theCritique
ofHegel'sPhilosophy
inMECW,vol.3, pp. 175-187.
ofLaw: Introduction,"

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C. Isaac 477
Jeffrey
It wasRuge'sviewthattheworkers'
rebellion
wasa graveerror,
reprethe
of
a
interests
social
senting partial
particular
groupandsymptomatic
of thepoliticalbackwardness
of Prussia."It is impossible,"he wrote,
"to makesuchan unpolitical
as Germany
country
regardthepartial
distress
ofthefactory
as a matter
ofgeneralconcern.'"5
workers
Theimi.e., thevictory
plicationis that,givensufficient
politicaldevelopment,
of democratic
thedistressof theworkerscouldbe adrepublicanism,
dressedas a matter
ofpublicinterest.
ForMarx,thisis simply
inanother
stanceoftheillusions
ofthepolitical
mind.He pointsoutthatneither
the
ConvenEnglishPoor Laws, thedecreesof theFrenchRevolutionary
on theincieffect
tion,northedecreesofNapoleanhadanyappreciable
denceof poverty
and proletarian
distress.The state,Marxinsists,has
to affecttheissuesubstantially,
provenitselfto be powerless
ultimately
on eithercharity
or meageradministrative
measures."Fromthe
relying
politicalpointof view,"he argues,"thestateand thesystem
ofsociety
Thestateis thesystem
arenottwodifferent
ofsociety."Thestate
things.
is thusincapableofrecognizing
thesystem
ofsociety
inwhichitis implicatedas thesourceof socialills:
The contradiction
betweenthe purposeand goodwillof the
on theonehand,anditsmeansandpossibilities,
on
administration,
theotherhand,cannotbe abolishedbythestatewithout
thelatter
abolishingitself,foritis based on thiscontradiction.. . . Hence the

administration
has to confine
itselfto a formalandnegative
activfor
where
civil
life
and
its
labour
there
the
of
ity,
begin,
power administration
ends.... Ifthemodern
statewantedtoabolishtheimit wouldhaveto abolishtheprivate
potenceof itsadministration,
of
life today.56
withinthe
The politicalmind,in Marx's view,thinksexclusively
ofpoliticsandstateactionandis incapableofunderstanding
framework
socialillsandofacknowledging
theconstraints
underwhichpoliticalacNo
for
instance
demonstrates
this
Marxmorethanthat
tivity
operates.
of Frenchrepublicanism:
The classicperiodof politicalintellect
is theFrenchRevolution.
Far fromseeingthesourceof socialshortcomings
in theprinciple
of thestate,theheroesof theFrenchRevolution
insteadsaw in
socialdefects
thesourceofpoliticalevils.ThusRobespierre
sawin
andgreatwealthonlyan obstacletopuredemocracy.
greatpoverty
55. MECW. vol. 3, p. 192.

56. Ibid.,pp. 197-98.

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478 Marxon Republicanism


he wishedto establish
a universal
The
Therefore
Spartanfrugality.
is
the
of
principle politics
will.57
withdelusions
TheJacobins
aboutthepowerofpolitwereintoxicated
ical willand civicvirtue.Marxpursuesthisthemein TheHolyFamily,
in a mannerwhichcouldonlymakecontemporary
quotingRobespierre
or
of democratic
blush:"Whatis thefundamental
republicans
principle
It is virtue,I meanpublicvirtue,whichworked
populargovernment?
ones
in GreeceandRomeandwhichwillworkstillgreater
suchmiracles
in republican
butloveof one's country
France;virtuewhichis nothing
had ultiand itslaws.""58
But,invokevirtueas theymay,republicans
matelyto deal withthe realitiesof modernsociety.The effortto
in a burstofterror
ancientvirtueand frugality
reproduce
onlyresulted
oftheir
The Jacobins
werethevictims
followed
bypoliticalexhaustion.
ownpoliticalillusions:
Saint-Just
and theirpartyfellbecausetheyconfused
Robespierre,
commonwealbased upon real
the ancient,realistic-democratic
representative
slaverywiththe modernspiritualistic-democratic
state,whichis based on emancipated
slavery,bourgeoissociety.
inthe
Whata terrible
illusionitis to havetorecognize
andsanction
of
man
of
modern
the
bouregois
society, society industry,
rights
of
its
of
interest
universal
freely
competition, private
pursuing aims,
naturaland spiritualindividuality,
of anarchy,of self-estranged
to annulthemanifestaand at thesametimeto wantafterwards
individuals
and simultionsof thelifeof thissocietyin particular
inthe
of
to
model
the
head
that
to
want
society
political
taneously
mannerof antiquity.59
of Jacobinrepublicanism
Marxdoes not claimthattheextravagances
that
normal
form
of
the
bourgeois
politics.Buthedoessuggest
represent
is a
of whichJacobinism
was theextreme
therepublicanism
expression
of
modern
feature
politics.
pervasive
of
The "CriticalMarginalNotes" is not,however,simplya critique
thecritique
thepoliticalmind.Rather,forthefirst
time,Marxexecutes
of working
fromtheperspective
classsocialism.Conof republicanism
classradicalto Ruge,Marxarguesthatthegreatdefectofworking
trary
The more
ismis notits lack butitsexcessof politicalunderstanding.
he maintains,
the
of theworkers,
developedthepoliticalunderstanding
57. Ibid.,p. 199.
58. KarlMarxand Frederick
Engels,TheHolyFamily,inMECW,vol.4, p. 121.
59. Ibid.,p. 122.

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C. Isaac 479
Jeffrey
moretheylocatethesourceof theirproblemsin thestateand itswill,
throwingtheir weightsenselesslyagainst political authorityand
theirpowerin revoltsoften"drownedwithblood." Politisquandering
inthestateis simply
ofmembership
a
cal struggle
basedon theassertion
"who believedthat
dangerousillusion,as witnesstheLyonsworkers,
theywereonlypursuing
politicalaims,thattheywereonlysoldiersofthe
republic,whereasactuallytheyweresoldiersof socialism."Marxthus
insiststhat:
thecommunity
fromwhichtheworkeris isolatedis a community
therealcharacter
andscopeofwhichis quitedifferent
fromthatof
Thecommunity
fromwhichtheworker
is
thepoliticalcommunity.
isolatedby his ownlabouris lifeitself,physicaland mentallife,
humanmorality,
humanactivity,
humanenjoyment,
humannature
...

Hence, too, theabolitionof thisisolation-and even a partial

reactionto it,an uprising


againstit-is justas muchmoreinfinite
as manis moreinfinite
thanthecitizen,and humanlifemoreinfinite
thanpoliticallife.
in GerHe concludesthen,by advocating
a genuinesocialrevolution
but
it
would
be
aimed
at
the
which
insofar
as
was
state,
many,
political
socialinsofaras ithadnotsimply
politicallife,buttherevolutionization
of social life,as its end. As he putsit, "whereits organizing
activity
begins,whereitsproperobject,itssoul,comesto thefore,theresocialismthrowsoffthepoliticalcloak.60
and theFailureof Revolution
III. 1848:Republicanism
washighly
nuanced
As AlanGilbert
hasargued,Marx'spoliticalthought
It is thusimportant
to emphasize
and contextualized.61
that,despitehis
Marxwasintheforefront
ofthe
ofdemocratic
criticisms
republicanism,
struggleto achievethis limited,"partialemancipation"throughout
to assert,as Avineri
does,that"Marxdoes
Europe.It is thusmisleading
not see any fundamental
difference
betweena monarchyand a
Evenin "On theJewish
againstthe
republic."62
Question"Marxinsists,
essentialists
ofhisownday,that"politicalemancipation
certainly
repreIt is not,indeed,thefinalformofhumanemancisentsa greatprogress.
within
theframepation,butitis thefinalformofhumanemancipation
the
workof theprevailing
socialorder.. ."6 But,moreimportantly,
60. MECW, vol. 3, pp. 204-06.
Marx'sPolitics,pp. 3-19,256-76.
61. Gilbert,
62. Avineri,
KarlMarx'sThought,
p. 37.
63. Marx,"On theJewish
Reader,pp. 33,44.
Question,"in Tucker,Marx-Engels

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480 Marxon Republicanism


and politicalpracticeunintelclaimmakesMarx'sstrategic
arguments
on
a
as
were
cross-class
allianceto achieverepubligible,premised they
to
licanismas a necessary
socialism.64
prelude
In "MoralisingCriticism
and CriticalMorality,"forexample,Marx
KarlHeinzen,whoreproaches
thesocialistpreoccupation
with
criticizes
and advocatesa formof federalrepublicanism
classstruggle
basedon
theUnitedStates.ForHeinzen,itis themonarchy
whichis thesourceof
socialills. He "dividesGermanhumanity
intoprincesand subjects,"
Marxobserves,
and insiststhata republic,
the"interests
of
incarnating
humanity,"is the appropriatesolution.Marx, as we mightexpect,
counters
that"themoreadvancedthissocietyis . . . themoreglaringly
doesthesocialquestionobtrudeitself. .. in a republicmoreglaringly
thanina constitutional
While"forHerrHeinzenall classes
monarchy."
" forMarxitis "the
meltawaybeforethesolemnconceptof'humanity,'
socialdifference
betweenclasses"whichlies at theheartof thesocial
to Marx,Heinzen'sviewis a dangerous
question.According
"bourgeois
doesnotlead
illusion,"onenotsharedbytheproletariat.
This,however,
himto simply
dismissHeinzen'srepublicanism.
Theworkers,
heinsists,
revolution
as a precondition
forthe
"can andmustacceptthebourgeois
workers'revolution.
However,theycannotfora momentregardit as
theirultimate
whoalliedwith
goal." For Marx,theEnglishChartists,
about
bourgeoisradicalism
againsttheCornLaws butheldno illusions
thetransitory
natureof thisalliance,exemplify
thisposition.65
in the
This strategic
was mostoptimistically
articulated
perspective
Communist
And
as
have
the
manycommentators observed,
Manifesto.
defeatoftherevolutions
of 1848,whileitdidnotcauseMarxto abandon
thenotionof an alliancewiththebourgeoisie,
did causehimto become
moreskeptical
aboutsuchan allianceandto inclinetowarda moreindeMarx's reconsiderapendentworkingclass politics.66
Unsurprisingly,
tionsinvolvedonceagainthecritiqueof republicanism,
whichforhim,
in 1848,wasa crucialobstacletorevolutionary
as
success, therepublican
illusionsof theFebruary
revoltagainstLouis Phillipegavewayto the
ofclassstruggle
harshrealities
andbourgeois
As heobserved
repression.
inhisfamous1848NeueRheinische
"The
JuneRevoZeitungeditorial,
brotherhood
of
the
the
"the
lution,"
fraternit6,
opposingclasses,of
in February,
in
whichtheoneexploitstheother. .. proclaimed
written
Marx'sPolitics,and Hal Draper,KarlMarx's
is madebyGilbert,
64. Thisargument
of theProletariat"(NewYork:
Theoryof Revolution,Volume3: The "Dictatorship
ReviewPress,1985).
Monthly
inMECW,vol.6, p. 323,
andCritical
65. KarlMarx,"Moralizing
Criticism
Morality,"
330-31,333.
66. See Draper,KarlMarx'sThought,
pp. 145-227.

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C. Isaac 481
Jeffrey
on thefaceofParis,on every
bigredletters
jail andon everybarrackscivilwar. . warof
has foritstrue,unadulterated,
prosaicexpression
laboragainstcapital.Thisbrotherhood
flamedfromall thewindowsof
ofJune25,illuminating
theParisofthebourgeoisie
Parison theevening
whiletheParisoftheproletariat
burned,bledandmoaned."ForMarx,
thedefeatoftheworkers,
andtheriseofpoliticalreaction,
was
however,
notin vain,forit servedto lay barethe"hazy,blueskyof republican
ofthe"opiumof 'patriotic'
effects
ideology"and revealthestupefying
feelings.''67
Marxextendsthiscritiquein hisclassicTheEighteenth
Brumaireof
LouisBonaparte(1852),whichprovidesa complexanalysisoftheshiftinFebruary
oftheFrenchrepublic
ingpoliticalalliancesfromthevictory
1848to itsdemisewiththecoupof LouisBonapartein December1851.
forourpurposesis thatforMarxat thecenter
Whatis significant
ofthe
narrative
illusions.Marxbeginswithreferliesthe"farce"ofrepublican
andphrasesof thefirstFrenchRevolution
enceto theRomancostumes
of 1789-94.As he observes,
As unheroicas bourgeoissocietyis, it nevertheless
tookheroism,
civilwar,and battlesof peoplesto bringit into
terror,
sacrifice,
of the Roman
being.And in the classicallyausteretraditions
foundtheidealsandtheartforms,
theselfRepublicitsgladiators
the
thattheyneededinorderto concealfromthemselves
deceptions
ofthecontent
oftheirstruggles
andto mainlimitations
bourgeois
taintheirpassionon thehighplaneof greathistorical
tragedy.68
ofbourgeois
illusionis, again,a constitutive
feature
revoluRepublican
tion.Butif in 1789this"borrowedlanguage"of republicanism
served
thecause of progress
and greatness,
in 1848,ghostlike
and farcical,it
servedthecauseof reaction.
Marxdepictshowtheheterogeneous
movement
revolutionary
against
thebourgeoismonarchy
of February1848givesriseto thebourgeois
sectionofthebourgeoisie
ruledinthename
republic:"whereasa limited
of theking,thewholeof thebourgeoisie
willnowruleon behalfof the
people." The bourgeoischaracterof the stateis punctuatedby the
workers'revoltof Juneand its suppression,revealing"that here
of one class over
theunlimited
bourgeoisrepublicsignifies
despotism
to pointoutthat,thoughforMarxthis
otherclasses."69It is important
thecoercive
natureofpoliticalpower,thenotionof
incident
highlighted
67. Quoted in Gilbert,Marx's Politics,pp. 140, 142.
68. MECW, vol. 11, pp. 104-05.
69. Ibid., pp. 110-11.

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482 Marxon Republicanism


neednotbe takentoimplya viewofthestateas pure"classdespotism"
Rather,it means,as Marx put it, that "the present
ly repressive.
relations
are 'maintained'
bourgeoisproperty
bythestatepowerwhich
the bourgeoisiehas organizedfor the protectionof its property
In otherwords,the institutions
of thestate,legislative,
relations."70
as
well
as
the
coercive,
juridical,
support systemof bourgeoisprivate
its
and
relations
of
class
domination.
Marxmakesthisclearin
property
his discussionof thebourgeoisrepublicaftertheJunerepression.
He
a set of freedoms--"'personal
pointsout thatthe republicestablished
ofthepress,ofspeech,ofassociation,
freedom
ofassembly,
of
freedom,
that
educationand of religion,
"each
of
these
freedoms
is
etc."--and
" Therepublic,
as theabsoluteright
oftheFrenchcitoyen.
in
proclaimed
ofuniversality.
otherwords,incarnates
theprinciple
ButMarxaddsthat
thisfreedom
is thenqualified,"so faras it is notlimited
bythe 'equal
to
rights
ofothersandthepublicsafety,'orby'laws'whichareintended
mediatejustthisharmony
of individual
freedoms
withone another
and
thepublicsafety.""
Thisqualification
iseminently
andfromtheperspective
of
reasonable,
no specialprivileges.
thestateit appliesequallyto all, establishing
But
Marxpointsoutthatthecontent
andapplication
ofsuchqualifications
is
a different
matter
entirely:
intobeingbythefriends
Later,all theseorganiclawswerebrought
in sucha matter
oforderand all thosefreedoms
thatthe
regulated
in itsenjoyment
ofthemfindsitselfunhindered
bythe
bourgeoisie
of "public
equal rightsof the otherclasses. . . in theinterest
" thatis, thesafetyof thebourgeoisie,
as theConstitution
safety,
72
prescribes.

of thisexaltation
of bourgeois
One particularly
important
consequence
orderis thenegative
rolerepublicanism
accordstolaborunions.Marxon
morethanone occasionpointedthisout, criticizing
forinstancethe
Laws"
of
made
"theinciteFrenchrepublican
which
1830,
"September
mentofvariousclassesofthenationagainsteachother"a seriouspolitiandthisissuewasonewhichdistinguished
Marx'ssocialism
cal offence,
frombothbourgeois
and
the
various
forms
of "true"and
republicanism
Marx
socialism
which
scorned.73
utopian
consistently
70. MECW, vol. 6, p. 319.
71. MECW, vol. 11,pp. 114-15.
72. Ibid.
73. ForMarx'sviewsontheSeptember
laws,seeMECW,vol.6, p. 331,andHal Draper,
KarlMarx'sTheory
Volume2: ThePoliticsofSocialClasses(NewYork:
ofRevolution,
ReviewPress,1978).
Monthly

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C. Isaac 483
Jeffrey
totheexposure
ButMarx'sanalysisis notconfined
ofthehypocrisy
of
in
thebourgeoisie,
foritis theupshotofhisanalysisthatrepublicanism,
all of theforceswhichhad struggled
one formor another,mystified
Monofthepetty-bourgeois
democratic
He writes
againstthemonarchy.
the
'eternal
of
man'
that
it
limited
itself
to
rights
"defending
taigneparty
as everyso-calledpeople'spartyhas done,moreor less,fora century
Andhe
anda half,"a posturewhichservesto "veil" theclassstruggle.74
considers"Social-Democracy,"the more inclusivetendencywhich
withsocialists
unitedpettybourgeois
democrats
andworking
classorganizations,to be equallymystified
by the illusionsof merelypolitical
of Social-Democracy,"
he writes,"is
reason."The peculiarcharacter
institutions
are
epitomisedby the fact that democratic-republican
two extremes,
demandedas a means,not of superceding
capitaland
itinto
theirantagonism
andtransforming
wagelabour,butofweakening
with
associatesthisperspective
harmony."Marxsomewhat
reductively
ofthepettybourgeoisie,
butmoreimportant
for
theeconomicinterests
ourpurposesis hiscriticism,
that
the democrat.

..

imagineshimselfto be elevatedabove class an-

The democrats
concedethata privileged
class
tagonism
generally.
confines
them,butthey,alongwithall therestofthenation,form
thepeople. Whattheyrepresent
is thepeople's rights;whatinwhena struggle
terests
themis thepeople'sinterests.
Accordingly,
is impending,
and positheydo notneedto examinetheinterests
tionsof thedifferent
to givethesignal
classes.Theyhavemerely
willfallupon
and thepeople,withall itsinexhaustible
resources,
theoppressors.
to thesameillusionsaboutthe
Thesocialdemocrat,
in short,subscribes
He thus
communal
natureofthestateas doesthebourgeois
republican.
of parfailsto "distinguish
thelanguageand theimaginary
aspirations
of
andtheirrealinterests,
tiesfromtheirrealorganism
theirconception
fromtheirreality."75
themselves
Whatfollowsfromthisis an inflated
senseof politicalpower,and a
at stakein
failureto recognizeboththereal issuesand antagonisms
in
of
conflict
and
the
substantial
obstacles
the
way a genuine
political
of thesocialworld.Suchillusionsdebilitate
humanization
anyserious
forsocialism.ThusMarxinsiststhattheproletarian
movemovement
of
the
mentmustbreakwiththerepublican
ideologies
past:
74. MECW, vol. 11, p. 127.
75. Ibid., pp. 133, 128.

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484 Marxon Republicanism


of thenineteenth
cannotdrawits
The social revolution
century
It cannotbeginwith
fromthepast,butonlyfromthefuture.
poetry
about thepast.
itselfbeforeit has strippedoffall superstition
of pastworldhistory
in
Earlierrevolutions
requiredrecollections
to theirowncontent.
In orderto arriveat
orderto dullthemselves
itsowncontent,
of thenineteenth
mustlet
therevolution
century
thedeadburytheirdead.Therethewordswentbeyondthecontent;
herethecontent
goesbeyondthewords.76
. .. criticize
Marx'sexpectation
revolutions
themselves
that"proletarian
in theirown course. . .
themselves
continually
constantly,
interrupt
theinadequacies,
and
deridewithunmerciful
weaknesses
thoroughness
of theirfirstattempts"
paltriness
mayitselfhaveproventragic,if not
in thetwentieth
of howone interprets
farcical,
But,regardless
century.
thehistory
ofMarxiansocialism,
thisinjunction
tocriticize
politicalilluand
to
create
a
new
and
a
soul"
new"poetry,"has
sions,
"revolutionary
itsrelevance
lostneither
noritspotency.
theIllusionsof RepublicanPolitics
IV. On Criticizing
It shouldnowbe clearthattheidea thatMarxsubscribed
to a mythof
is misleading
in theextreme.
liberalism
It maybe truethatMarxdiscernedinmodern
theascendancy
ofbourgeois
values,
politicaldiscourse
disthis
should
be
the
fact
that
he certainly
though
unsurprising
given
in
ofbourgeois
that
cernedtheascendancy
But
it
is
false
society.
simply
If
hisviewbourgeois
valueswereexhausted
individualism.
bypossessive
of
his
him
to
Marx's
own
led
else,
nothing
understanding
past
recognize
of republicanism
in themodernworld,a recognition
which
thevitality
of it a centralconcernof hispoliticalwriting
madevociferous
criticism
as a socialist.Marxbelievedthatthelanguageofrepublicanandactivity
intothediscourseof capitalist
that
ismhad beenincorporated
society,
ideothe"politicallion'sskin"ofthebourgeois
citizenwasan operative
to be understood
and combatted.
logicalreality
it is important
to issueseveralqualificaHavingsaid this,however,
tions.The firsthas alreadybeenraisedabove,butit bearsrepetition:
Marxbothrecognized
thehistorically
character
of modern
progressive
his careeras a
republicanideas and activelysupported,throughout
movements
thevariousrepublican
whichsoughtto advancethe
socialist,
at thesametimethatherecognized
their
causeofpoliticalemancipation,
ofIrishrepublicanism
andof
limitations.
He wasthusan avidsupporter
76. Ibid., p. 106.

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C. Isaac 485
Jeffrey
Polishindependence."
And it shouldnotbe surprising
to learnthata
of AbrahamLincoln,"the single-minded
son of theworking
portrait
theAmericlass," hungin theMarxlivingroom,or thathe considered
can CivilWar to be "the firstgrandwarof contemporary
history[in
formof popularself-government
tillnowrealizedis
which]thehighest
andmostshameless
formofman'senslaving
givingbattletothemeanest
recorded
in theannalsof history."78
Marxviewednotsimply
bourgeois
butthepolitically
forcesofproduction,
state,as
emancipated
bourgeois
a necessary
of humanemancipation."
hispolitics
condition
Moreover,
ofalwaysseeking
outbroaddemocratic
this.It would
alliancesreflected
be a mistaketo overestimate,
as Avineridoes,thedegreeof continuity
betweenpoliticaldemocracy
forMarx,butto
and socialistdemocracy
it wouldbe likewise
underestimate
mistaken.
Notonlyis itthecasethatMarx'sattitude
towardpoliticalrepublicanismwasoneofcritical
itis alsothecasethatMarx'sownundersupport,
ifitdidnot"drawuponthepoetryofthepast,"
of socialism,
standing
soundedseveralof its republican
themes.Thus theviewsof
certainly
manas "not merely
a gregarious
but
animal, an animalwhichcan individuateitselfonlyin the midstof society,"and of socialismas a
"naturalized
humanism"whereindividual
talentand interest
(virtue?)
draw
social
their
fromAristotle.80
existence,
govern
clearly
inspiration
class "social republic"of theParis ComThe outlineof theworking
fromRousseau.The conceptofthedictatormunedrawsitsinspiration
itself,muchmisunderstood
ship of the proletariat
by contemporary
its
has
of ancientRome;and the
theorists,
lineagein thephraseology
martialimagery
on whichit draws-of sacrifice,
solidarityvigilance,
moment"whichPocockhasdoneso muchto
evokesthe"Machiavellian
in Capitalis linkedto
delineate.81Even Marx'stheoryof exploitation
77. See Gilbert,
Marx'sPolitics,p. 139-58.
78. KarlMarx,OnAmerica
andtheCivilWar,ed. SaulK. Padover(NewYork,1972),p.
85.
79. This pointis madeemphatically
in MichaelHarrington's
Socialism(New York:
Bantam,1972).
80. Theseideasare,of course,developedby Marxin hisEconomicand Philosophic
of 1844,in MECW, vol. 3, pp. 230-346,and his Grundrisse,
tr. Martin
Manuscripts
Nicolaus(NewYork:Vintage,1973).On this,see CarolGould,Marx'sSocial Ontology
MA: MIT Press,1980).AlanGilbert
has delineated
theAristotelian
rootsof
(Cambridge,
Marx'smoraltheory
in hisMarx'sPolitics,pp. 3-45,and his"Marx'sMoralRealism:
Eudaimonism
and Moral Progress,"in Ball and Farr,AfterMarx;. See also Nancy
Schwartz,"The DistinctionBetweenPublic and Private: Marx on the ZOON
POLITIKON," PoliticalTheory
(May 1979).
81. See Draper,KarlMarx's Thought,
vol. 3; FredericBender,"The Ambiguity
of
Marx'sConcepts
of'Proletarian
and'Transition
toCommunism,'
Dictatorship'
" History
2 (Winter
Leninism
and Western
Marxism
ofPoliticalThought,
1981);andRoyMedvedev,
(London:Verso,1979).

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486 Marxon Republicanism


republican
imagery,
capitalbeingdepictedas a blood-sucking
vampire
whotaxestheindustry
and compromises
theindependence
and skillof
in thisregardthatMarxdescribes
the
theworker.And it is interesting
in muchthesamewayas he describes
thecorrupt
of
officials
capitalist
the Frenchstatein his manifestly
republicandiscussionof theComthe notary,advocate,executor,and other
mune-' 'blood-suckers,
into
judicialvampires[whichtheCommunewouldhavetransformed]
to [theworkers
salariedcommunalagents,electedby,and responsible
and peasants].' 82

inthelightofcurAndyetitwouldbe a graveerror,
however
tempting
toviewMarxas simply
a warmed-over
Aristotle
rentintellectual
fashion,
or Rousseau.Fordespitehisincorporation
ofrepublican
hewas
themes,
in
of
a
radical
critic
the
which
these
themes
were
ultimately
ideology
of his day,
embeddedin themodernworld.Unliketherepublicanism
hissocialism,
involved
a revoMarx's"red" or "socialrepublicanism,"
of
foundational
of
modern
the
lutionary
critique
principle
bourgeois
of stateand
politics-politicalemancipation-andof the institutions
servedto legitimate.
Marxdidnotseekto
economywhichthisprinciple
institutional
ofa
simply
judgeexisting
arrangements
againstthestandard
and
communitarianism.
He
to
vague
sought analyze scientifically
of capitalist
its
and
criticize
thestructure
manifest
latent
society,
antagonismsanditsfuture
He didnotdrawfromhisanalysisof
possibilities.
thedefectsof sociallifetheconclusion
thattheirsolutionlayin a more
a propersenseof
more
of
state,
perfected
political
capable inculcating
civicvirtue.Rather,theconclusionof his analysiswas themoraland
of creating
whichwould
a revolutionary
movement
practicalnecessity
theverystructure
of thecapitalist
state.
challenge
I beganthisarticlebysuggesting
thata critiqueof thecontemporary
historical
thesiscouldshedlighton thelimitations
of their
republicans'
thesis.In short,theirfailureto understand
prescriptive
adequately
of earlymodernrepublicanism
has led themto ignore
Marx'scriticisms
thechallenge
posedto theirownbeliefsbyMarx'scritique.Thisis not
ofMarx'swritings
orofMarxism.
theplaceto assessthegeneralvalidity
eventsin Eastern
and,if current
Indeed,thereis muchhereto criticize
is a
Europeareanyguide,itmaywellbe thatsomekindofrepublicanism
Butdespitethis,
to theshortcomings
ofMarxism.83
corrective
necessary
82. KarlMarx,"The CivilWarin France,"in Tucker,Marx-Engels
Reader,p. 559.
83. On theselimitsof Marxism,
see myPowerand MarxistTheory:A RealistView
Press,1987),pp. 192-213;"Arendt,
(Ithaca:CornellUniversity
Camus,andPostmodern
9 (Apriland July,1989),and "One StepSideways,
One
Politics,"PraxisInternational,
Postmarxism
and itsCritics,"Theory,
and Society(in press,
Culture,
StepBackwards:
1990).

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C. Isaac 487
Jeffrey
itis clearthatMarxhadgoodreasonsforcriticizing
modernrepublicanism,and we can learnseverallessonsfromthem.
The firstis thenecessity
thedistinction
of maintaining
betweenapin politicaltheory,
ofdistinguishing
"thelanguage
pearanceand reality
and theimaginary
of partiesfromtheirreal organism
and
aspirations
theirrealinterests."
Marxmakesclearthatmodernrepublicanism
is a
idealism-thatit suffers
froman exaggerated
speciesof philosophical
ofideasandoftheroleofpoliticalwill,
senseoftheindependent
potency
notionof community
thatit operateswitha reified
as publicsentiment
and virtue,
andthatitis blindto thestructural
andcondeterminations
straints
whichoperatein politicallife.Marxinsiststhatwe mustnot
ofcommunity
takeexisting
beliefsandunderstandings
as a given,
simply
butratherwe shouldinvestigate
thestructural
causesand consequences
ofbeliefswhichmaybe opaqueto thosewhoholdthem.Contemporary
who writeabout "embodiedselves"and "publicvircommunitarians
ourexisting
tues"andinviteus to cultivate
communal
attachments
have
to learnfromthis.Forwhattheirarguments
lackis
something
frequently
dimensions
of our political
precisely
any diagnosisof the structural
insteadgeneralappealsto thecommongood. In
malaise,substituting
thisregard,communitarianism
can be viewedas a variation
on themore
generalthemeof interpretative
sociology,replacingthe institutional
hascalledthe"exorbitaanalysisofsociallifewithwhatPerryAnderson
in publicvirtuewillnot
tionof language."84As Marxsaw, believing
to the
solve our publicproblems.Whatwill solve themis attention
and
relations
of
which
cause
them.85
material
practices
power
The secondis, quite simply,thatrepublicandiscoursehas served
as an absolutely
crucialideologicalsupportfortheinstituhistorically
tionsof capitalist
This
does notmeanthatall republican
ideas,
society.
or ideasofrepublican
aretherefore
tiedto the
inspiration,
ideologically
and
statusquo. But it does meanthatthe historical,
constitutional,
rhetorical
discoursesof capitalistsocietyare suffused
withrepublican
Thisclearlyhas an historical
It is no
dimension.
languageand imagery.
mistakethatthe mostinfluential
liberalrevolutions
of the modern
world-Englandin 1642,Americain 1776and 1861,Francein 1789and
1848-wereanimatedin largepartby republican
themeswhichcan be
tracedthroughout
thesubsequent
of
these
nations.
Butitalsohas
history
84. SeeAnthony
NewRulesofSociological
Method.A Critique
Giddens,
ofInterpretativeSociology(NewYork:Basic Books,1976),and PerryAnderson,
In The Tracksof
Historical
Materialism
of
(Chicago:University ChicagoPress,1984).
85. Fora discussion
ofsomeoftheseissues,seemyPowerandMarxistTheory,
andIan
of California
Shapiro,PoliticalCriticism
(Berkeley:
University
Press,forthcoming
1990).

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488 Marxon Republicanism


I referherenotsimply
to
a profoundly
enduring
ideologicaldimension.
the "commercial
republican"espousalof "bourgeoisvirtue"so ably
documented
butalsothespecifibyJoyceAppelbyandIsaac Kramnick,
rhetoric
virtue,vigilance,
callypoliticalpowerof republican
regarding
and thedangersof corruption.
SuchMachiavellian
themes,inconjunctionwiththeabove-mentioned
therhetorical
economicidiom,constitute
foundationsof the authoritarian
populismof Ronald Reagan and
MargaretThatcher,whoserepublicanism
hardlyrendersthemantithis
Criticsof politicallifemustthusbe waryof invoking
capitalist.86
whichordinarily
sustainsillusionratherthanillanguageand imagery,
of thenatureof a genuinely
illumination
democratic
society.Samuel
is thelastrefugeof thescoundrel,"
Johnson'squip, that"patriotism
It may,however,
notbea bad maximforconmaynotquitebe a truism.
whomightdo better
to investigate
therelations
socialcritics,
temporary
whichconstitute
stateand civilsociety,and thedangers
of domination
whichnationalegoismposesinthecontemporary
world,thantowaxeloof publicvirtue.
quentaboutthevirtues
us tothinkinterms
ofourexisting
Republicanism
political
encourages
conventions
and communal
andto invokethemin orderto
attachments
distribution
ofpowerandinterests.
reconcile
andharmonize
theexisting
Marx'scritique
ofrepublicanism
us
to
encourages
analyzetheseconventionsandattachments
to
and
the
critically
challenge powersandinterests
whichtheysupport.In urging
us to "shedthecloak" ofrepublicanism,
he enjoinsus to articulate
a critiqueof thepresentand a visionof the
future
so as to educate,mobilize,
and organizeoppressed
groupsintheir
to
insists
and
not
But
he
that
onlystruggle,
appeals thecommon
struggle.
of
andgroups.Sucha
the
interests
dominant
classes
can
challenge
good,
ofpolitical
democvisiondoesnotrequireus todiscardtheachievements
it
and
to
And
but
us
to
them.
extend
deepen
suggests
racy, encourages
thatonlyif we shedour "politicallion's skin" can we everhopeto
realizein practicethe visionof human,ratherthanmerelypolitical,
freedom.
in
Marxistpoliticaltheorists
86. Nicos Poulantzaswas uniqueamongcontemporary
of thecapitalist
character
state.
this,whichhe calledthe"national-popular"
recognizing
Hisworkhasbeenan important
fortheargument
ofthispaper.SeehisPolitical
inspiration
Powerand SocialClasses(London:NewLeftBooks,1973),andState,Power,Socialism
NicosPoulantzas:
MarxistTheory
andPoliti(London:Verso,1978).SeealsoBobJessop,
cal Strategy
(NewYork:St. Martin's,1985),andStuartHall,"Authoritarian
Populism,"
NewLeftReview,151(May-June
1985).

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