Marx: Deconsecrate the State

From Miguel Abensour’s analysis of Marx in Democracy Against the State, pp. 32-33:

Marx denounces the repetition of religious alienation in a profane form, such that the product (the State) withdraws from its producers (human beings) and turns against them by establishing itself as a foreign power. Lodging itself in the place the criticism of religion left unoccupied (the place of theos) the State engenders a veritable self-idolatry. Reclaiming the human powers wasted in the heaven of politics; deconsecrating the State; reorienting emancipation with the help of the Copernican turn again, so that humankind no longer revolves around the illusory sun of the State and at last revolves around itself: these are the directions opened by this new phase of Marx’s criticism [beginning in 1843].


Abensour: Democracy Against the State

I am just embarking on a journey I have great hope for, a trip through Miguel Abensour’s Democracy Against the State. Abensour engages closely with the young Marx, and so he has already had the benefit of sending me back to (re-)read lots of Marx’s early work. So even if Abensour sucks, I still win. But I suspect he won’t, as suggested by this nugget from the introduction:

Marx was able to show as clearly as possible that the struggle against the State, as a form, is inscribed in the heart of democratic logic. Democracy is anti-statist or else it is not [democracy] (p. xxxiii).”

Abensour goes on to say that “contemporary thought…wrongly identifies democracy with representative government or the rule of law” (p. xxxiv), and so we must expose “the contradiction in terms that is the ‘democratic State’ ” (p. xxxiii).

The struggle against the State as a form. I like that part. Not the struggle against the bourgeois State, which implies that the State is a neutral container of power and is only a problem because the bourgeoisie currently controls it and uses it to maintain their class power. No. The State as a form creates political relations of oppression, of domination, of alienation, of hierarchy. Democracy must stand opposed to the State because it is opposed to those relations, or, better, because democracy relentlessly contructs political relations that are not oppressive, not dominating, not alienating, not hierarchical. Democratic politics are necessarily a struggle against the bourgeois State, sure, but they are also, equally necessarily, a struggle against the State as a form.