Karl Marx

Political emancipation is also the dissolution of the old society, on which the sovereign power, the alienated political life of the people, rests.  The political revolution is the revolution of civil society.  What was the character of the old society?  One word describes it.  Feudalism.  The old civil society had a directly political character, i.e., the elements of civil life, such as property or the family or the mode or manner of working, e.g., were made into elements of political life in the form of landlordism, estates and corporations. In this form they determine the relationship of the particular individual to the state as a whole, i.e., they determine his political relationship, his separation and exclusion from other component parts of society.  For the feudal organization of the life of the people did not raise property or labor to the level of social elements; it rather completed their separation from the totality of the state and established them as particular societies within society.  The functions and conditions of life in civil society thus always remained political, but political in the feudal sense.  They excluded the individual, i.e., from the totality of the state, they transformed the particular relation between his corporation and the state totality into his universal relation to the life of the people, just as they transformed his specific civil activity and situation into his general activity and situation.  As a consequence of such organization-- the unity of the state and the consciousness-- the general power of the state, the activity of this unity, will appear as the particular business of a ruler and his servants, separated from the people.

The political revolution which overthrew this power of the rulers and made affairs of state affairs of the people, i.e., which made it a true state, necessarily smashed all estates, corporations, guilds and privileges as just so many expressions of the separation of the people from its communal life.  The political revolution thereby abolished the political character of civil society.  It shattered civil society into its simple constituents: on the one hand, individuals, on the other, the material and spiritual elements which constitute the life-content, the social situation, of these individuals.  It released the political spirit, which had been broken up, fragmented, and lost in the various culs-de-sac of feudal society.  It gathered it up where it lay scattered, liberated it from its entanglement with civil life and constituted t into the sphere of the common communal life [Gemeinwesen], the sphere of universal public affairs separated in idea, from the particular elements of civil life.   The specific activity and situation in life sank to merely individual significance.   They no longer formed the general relationship of the individual to the state as a totality.  Public affairs as such became the general affairs of every individual and the political function became his general function.

This consummation of the idealism of the state, however, was at the same time the consummation of the materialism of civil society.  Throwing off the political yoke meant at the same time throwing off those bonds which had held fast the egoistic spirit of civil society.  Political emancipation was at the same time the emancipation of civil society from politics, from the appearance even of a universal content.

Feudal society was dissolved into its basic element, into man, but into man in the form in which he really was its basic element, into egoistic man.

This man, the member of civil society, is now the basis and presupposition of the political state.  The political state recognizes him as such in the rights of man.

The freedom of egoistic man and the recognition of this freedom is rather the recognition of the unbridled move-ment of the spiritual and material elements which form the content of his life.

Man was therefore not freed from religion; he received religious freedom.  He was not freed from property.  He received freedom of property.  He was not freed from the egoism of trade, but received freedom to trade.

The constitution of the political state and the dissolution of civil society into independent individuals (the relationship between these individuals is law just as the relationship between men belonging to estates and guilds was privilege) is accomplished in one and the same act.  But man as a member of civil society, as the non-political man, necessarily appears to be natural man.  The rights of man appear as natural rights, because self-conscious activity has concentrated on the political act.  The egoistic man is the passive datum that results from the dissolved society, an object of direct certainty and hence a natural object.  The political revolution dissolves civil life into its constituent elements without revolutionizing the elements and subjecting them to criticism.  It treats civil society-- the realm of needs, labor, private interests, and private right--- as the foundation of its existence, as a presupposition needing no further justification, and therefore as its natural basis.  Finally, man as a member of civil society is regarded as the authentic man, as man distinguished from the citizen, since he is man in his sensuous, individual, and most intimate existence while political man is only the abstract, artificial man, man as an allegorical moral person. Man as he actually is is recognized only in the form of the egoistic individual, true man only in the form of an abstract citizen.  This abstraction of political man was correctly portrayed by Rousseau:
 

Whoever dares to undertake the founding of a nation must feel himself capable of changing, so to speak, human nature and of transforming each individual who is in himself a complete but isolated whole into a part of something greater than himself from which he somehow derives his life and existence, substituting a limited and moral existence for a physical and independent existence, Man must be deprived of his own powers and given alien powers which he cannot use without the aid of others. (The Social Contract Book II, London, 1782, p. 67-- Marx’s italics.)
All emancipation is the leading back of the human world and of human relationships and conditions, to man himself.

Political emancipation is the reduction of man to a member of civil society, to an egoistic independent individual, on the one hand and to a citizen, a moral person, on the other.  Only when actual, individual man has taken back into himself the abstract citizen and has become a species-being in his everyday life, in his individual work and his individual circumstances, only when he has recognized and organized his own powers as social powers so that social power is no longer separated from him as political power, only then is human emancipation complete.
 

                                  --Karl Marx
                                    conclusion to ‘On the Jewish Question’
                                    1844
 
 

"Anytime I want I got a right to vote, no matter what they say."

                                  --Iggy Pop
                                     opening to I Got A Right
                                     1973
 

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