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Week 2—What does emancipation mean?

Week 2—What does emancipation mean?

Main reading: Marx ([1843] 1978)

This week, we read an early essay by Marx that foreshadows important elements of his critical perspective, and has had influence on many later social and political thinkers. This includes Antonio Gramsci, who is a Marxist political theorist who is probably most closely associated with one version of the concept “civil society.” For Gramsci, “civil society” is synonymous with “hegemony” (see Gramsci, 2009 [1930–1932]).

I would like us to encounter Marx on his own terms, and work on deriving a shared understanding of his position and his perspective based on a close reading of this single text.

To begin, let’s start with a few assumptions and see how far we can sustain them:

  • Everything Marx is saying about people and their relationship to the state is applicable in a general way to the present, although not in the exact details.
  • Marx is not talking about something specific, and his essay is not simply a window onto a period in European history. He is actually making an argument about politics and rights in the abstract.

To prepare for class, reflect on how far you have gotten on these rather large questions:

  • What is Marx’s main claim?
  • What would Marx say about each of our relationships to the Australian state?
  • What is Marx’s attitude toward the people describes as “the everyday Jew”? What is your response?


Gramsci, Antonio. 2009 [1930–1932]. “State and Civil Society.” In The Anthropology of the State: A Reader, edited by Aradhana Sharma and Akhil Gupta, 71–85. Malden, Mass.: John Wiley & Sons.

Marx, Karl. (1843) 1978. “On the Jewish question.” In The Marx-Engels reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 26–52. New York: Norton. http://archive.org/details/marxengelsreader00tuck.

6901/2024/2.txt · Last modified: 2024/01/30 22:03 by Ryan Schram (admin)