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Political idolatry in action (Credit: Ido Nahari)

I love Jerusalem. I was born to the city and, as far I know, I am an eleventh generation to the city.  My spirituality and lyricism begin and end with feeling the pulse of Jerusalem in ways that defy secular logic, in ways that I believe would make people who read this piece puzzled for they themselves are secular and see that the new God is either money or the state. Pre-Israel, a Jewish majority in Jerusalem — which has been the case since the 1860s — was never achieved through national hostility towards the Palestinian residents, but through a religious persistence of the Jews that lived in Jerusalem and viewed it as a holy place. Of course, this does not suggest that “Jerusalem is Jewish”. This phrase is not only problematic to the ears of the non-Jewish residents of Jerusalem, but also to the rest of the Christian and Muslim world. Jerusalem is holy to all three Abrahamic religions. At many times I enjoyed living in the city, feeling and perceiving that said holiness in ways that I could not  explain to others. And because I hold Jerusalem to be a holy city, any conversation about its “ownership”, its “sovereignty”, or who it “belongs to” is absurd to me.

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On Wednesday, June 3, Professor Thomas Docherty opened a lecture on Karl Marx’s ideology by putting forward a provocative question: Are the days of Marxism really over? Or can we still expect a ‘revolution’? Although the question was not weighed down by a serious tone, the presentation and discussion explored the ways in which it remains pertinent.

In order to unfold Marx’s ideas and arguments, we turned to Hegel — or, more precisely, to his followers and his critics. Hegel offered perhaps the most influential philosophy of the working of the state, but both Old and Young Hegelians noted one central failing within it: his theory posits an ideal that the real state, in its everyday functioning, cannot live up to. From this problem derives one of Marx’s biggest concerns: what do we do with the discrepancy between the abstract concept of the state, expressed in words, and the experience of those who live within the framework it establishes? Marx describes the criticisms posed by the Young Hegelians as the mere juxtaposition of ‘phrases’ with ‘phrases’. There is a stark difference between things as they really are and the way we represent them (the saying of things). He asks why none of his contemporaries investigate the connection between German philosophy and German reality and thereby connect their criticism to their material context.

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Thomas Docherty

Thomas Docherty

On 28 April 2008, Professor Thomas Docherty came to ECLA to deliver a penetrating lecture on the German Ideology. Focusing on the elements of Marxist thought that was to have a determining influence on critical theory in the twentieth century, Docherty explained Marx’s views on theory, language and the materialist method.

In the German Ideology, Marx and Engels reacted to the Young Hegelians, a group of students and young professors who believed that Hegel misconceived the Prussian State as the end-point of his dialectical progress. For the Young Hegelians the actual state was not fulfilling the role assigned to it by Hegel’s ideas. They theorized how to reform the actual state, so as to continue Hegel’s dialectical movement to its proper conclusion. Marx and Engels criticized the Young Hegelians for disputing over mere phrases, failing to offer a true critique of Hegelian philosophy and remaining fully within its system. Implicitly, Marx and Engels also attacked Hegelian philosophy itself for being ‘totalitarian’ (as Baudrillard would later suggest) by reserving a place for criticism within philosophy, whereby the philosophical system appropriates to itself all criticism. Therefore, Marx and Engels argued, one cannot criticize the Hegelian philosophy with words but only with action and a language rooted in material reality, a ‘language of real life’. To change the world, one cannot use mere words, Marx and Engels contended.

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