This article offers a critical exegesis of an early and neglected text by Marx called “The Leading Article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung” (from 1842). It is of interest since it offers one of Marx's most sustained engagements with theology, especially in the context of the dominant theological mode of public debate in Germany at the time, a context which is outlined briefly. Here we find Marx responding to that debate and seeking to extract himself from its terms. Some of his formulations are problematic, such as the assumption that theology is purely other-worldly (leading him to argue for the separation of theology and philosophy in this light and for the separation of church and state). But others are full of promise, such as, (1) one of the first uses of his famous materialist inversion, here on the question of history and religion; (2) an introduction to the immensely fruitful idea of fetishism that would reverberate and mutate throughout his work until the well-known formulations in Capital; and (3) an argument to which this essay by Marx provides an initial glimmer, namely, that the secular state is the dialectical outcome of the Christian state and thereby no solution to the contradictions of the latter. Needless to say, the latter is extremely pertinent in today's geopolitical climate.
Religion and Theology Vol. 17, Issue 1-2, p. 83-103