Against Sovereignty: Karl Marx's Critique of Political Theology

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In Karl Marx’s preparatory notes for his unfinished *Critique of Hegel’s Doctrine of State*, he identified G.W.F. Hegel’s political philosophy as an expression of “political theology,” which was to be the subject of his projected critique. However, the manuscript was never finished nor published during his lifetime. The aim of this paper is to reconstruct Marx’s incomplete critique of political theology. The paper takes political theology to refer to the fundamentally religious conception of the state as a sovereign subject that transcends and determines society from without. A conception, which, in spite of its descriptive limitations and normative implications, remains predominant within political theory. The paper argues that the contradiction between state and society that derives from the implicit transcendent-theological lineage and structure of contemporary conceptions of the state, can be overcome via the (post-)Hegelian resources of Karl Marx’s unfinished manuscript. Marx’s resolution emphasises
the primacy of civil society (and its contradictions) in regards to the state, without therefore resorting to abstract negation, as most prior critiques have done. Rather he suggests that it is the social significance of the idea of
political theology and concomitant practices that constitute the earthly existence of the modern state.
Publikationsdato12 nov. 2022
StatusUdgivet - 12 nov. 2022
BegivenhedHistorical Materialism London 2022: 'Facing the Abyss: An Epoch of Permanent War and Counterrevolution' - School of Oriental and African Studies, London, Storbritannien
Varighed: 10 nov. 202213 nov. 2022


KonferenceHistorical Materialism London 2022
LokationSchool of Oriental and African Studies
AndetNineteenth annual Conference


  • Sovereignty
  • Marx
  • Marxism
  • Political theology

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