Archive for February, 2015

The Fear of Death

February 23, 2015

February 23, 2015

The Fear of Death
Death frightens all of us. But it frightens some more than the others. At least, a true atheist dies mentally at ease, without worrying about the punishments that await him/her after the death or gloating over some imaginary delights in Hades.
~Nasir Khan

A further remark: How people look at death is very much conditioned by their social customs and traditions. The part played by religions in depicting death and after-life have impacted humanity deeply. For some people the process of life and death is an eternal wheel that keeps on turning and is unstoppable until some big intervention or karma happens that puts an end to it thus releasing the eternal soul from the cycles of birth and rebirth, incarnations and reincarnations. However, our consciousness of death or lack of our understanding of what death is does not change the reality of death. By the reality of death I mean the inevitability of the event.
In common parlance we assume the death to be an outside factor that takes place at some time and thus puts an end to life. But is it like this? It is not a question of our different opinions about it but our realisation of the process of life, as a living organism, that ceases at some point in time and that is called death. In other words, this event is part of the process of life. How individuals reflect upon life and death in general and how they see their own lives and their inevitalbe demise is part of that multi-faceted landscape they see and experience. Finally, many readers and commentators may come up with their views and perspectives on the issues raised here, which is quite natural.


The bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalm in 1946

February 21, 2015
July 2, 1946: The King David Hotel in Jerusalem was bombed. Killing 91 people
Menachem Begin planned the destruction of the King David Hotel and the massacre of Deir Yassin. Ex prime minister, Shamir, was originally a member of the Jewish “terrorist” gang called Irgun, which was headed by none other than Menachem Begin. Shamir later moved over to the even more radical “Stern Gang,” which committed many vicious atrocities.      Shamir himself has defended the various assassinations committed by the Irgun and Stern gangs on the grounds that “it was the only way we could operate, because we were so small. So it was more efficient and more moral to go for selected targets.” The selected moral targets in those early days of the founding of the state of Israel included bombing of the King David Hotel and the massacre of Deir Yassin.

      April 9, 1948: A combined force of Irgun and Stern Gangs committed a brutal massacre of 260 Arab residents of the village of Deir Yassin. Most of whom were women and children. The Israeli hordes even attacked the dead to satisfy their bestial tendencies. In April, 1954, during Holy Week, and on the eve of Easter, The Christian cemeteries in Haifa were invaded, crosses broken down and trampled under the feet of these miscreants, and the tombs desecrated. The Israeli military conquest, therefore was made against a defenseless people, who had been softened up by such earlier massacres as Deir Yasin {250 Arabs; men, women and children were massacred there}.

Continues >>

A Preface to Marx on Alienation

February 6, 2015



by Professor Dag Østerberg

The writings of Marx occupy a paramount position within the history of ideas, not only because of their momentous impact upon the historical process, but also owing to their intrinsic value and truth.
Marx’s activity as a scientific and philosophical writer persisted during four decades – from the youthful, first attempts to come to grips with social and political reality to the gigantic enterprise of his maturity; from his partly unpublished writings to found a new doctrine of History to the masterly exposition of the capitalist mode of production and the concomitant critique of prevailing political economy. In the course of this time span, Marx, like most thinkers, changed in many ways, and this fact raises the question of continuity. To what extent is the work of Marx a unified whole? To what extent does it fall apart in to several different, even mutually exclusive, doctrines? These are not merely the questions of concern to the historian and the biographer; they direct our attention to our understanding of essential features of our society, such as, for instance, the proper relationship between politics and technics, or between individual personality and sociality.
Nasir Khan has devoted himself to the study of some of Marx’s early writings, with special reference to his treatment of man’s alienation. The notion of alienation came into the foreground after the publication in the ‘thirties of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, where it plays a decisive rôle. Since then, Marx’s use of the alienation concept has been a permanent topic of investigation and discussion, bearing on the sense of Marx’s humanist stance, and its relation to a positivist conception of science.
Nasir Khan’s monograph is another contribution to this field of research. His study is not intended as an introduction to the problematic, but rather addresses the advanced reader, who has already acquired a basic knowledge of Marx and Engels’ ‘materialist conception of history’ in  general, their main works, the history of Marxist thought and practice, and the concept of alienation as an aspect of human subjugation and suffering.
The author deals with this subject matter in a thoroughly scholarly manner. His work is based upon a close scrutiny of the original texts, and displays an impressive command of the enormous literature commenting on what Marx wrote. He himself purports, not to revolutionise the current interpretations, but to restate them a little more clearly than the preceding authors, by utilising what they have said in their texts. In this way, the present work makes a specialised contribution within the world-wide research activity.
The field of inquiry is strictly limited, concentrating on what Marx wrote on alienation within an interval of 17-18 months, between March 1843 and August 1844. This narrow scope permits a very detailed account, following the sinuosities of Marx’s itinerary as he strives for clarity, passing from the critique of politics to that of private property, and arriving at an understanding of alienated human existence, founded upon a conception of what a truly rich human existence would be. To participate in the discussion about whether the notion of alienation is essential merely in Marx’s early writings is not the main purpose of Nasir Khan. He does however make his standpoint clear, stating, and in my opinion rightly, that the concept and doctrine of alienation are fundamental to Marx’s thought from the beginning to the end.
The ‘death’ of Marxism has been proclaimed over and over again, and today, in the wake of the rapid political changes in Eastern Europe, this proclamation is perhaps made more triumphantly than ever before. But it is clear that the perishing of these regimes cannot disprove the truth of Marx’s doctrines. For one thing, the strong revival and renewal of the Marxist movement in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies took place rather in spite of, and not because of, the achievements of these regimes. Hence, their dismantling changes little or nothing on the scientific level, even if it may serve as a pretext for those who for other reasons want to break with Marxist thought. Moreover, the economic and social conditions in Western Europe nowadays do not at all warrant any en bloc rejection of Marxian conceptions. Governmental policies based upon ‘the general theory of employment’ no longer ensure approximately full employment, with the consequence that new social strata resembling Marx’s ‘reserve army’ of wage labourers have appeared. The ‘welfare state’, the declared function of which is to guarantee certain basic rights and thus to make the class struggle less urgent, shows alarming signs of weakness. All experts agree that socio-economic inequality has increased and that class cleavages have become sharpened contrary to the optimistic perspectives on our future some decades ago.

Yet, the validity of Marxian conceptions does not, to my mind, ultimately depend upon such events and trends. Rather, the basic conceptions of Marxian thought, such as that of human alienation, should be understood as an internal critique of the basic Liberal notions of the Individual, the Market, and the State. These notions are constitutive of a social order, the hypocrisy and insufficiency of which are uncovered by Marxist thought. This Liberal order and its capitalist mode of production are still expanding throughout the world. For this reason, the Marxian critique is still ‘alive’ and indispensable for the understanding of the human world, and this holds both for the critique of political economy and the critique of human alienation, the theme of the present study.

Oslo, June 1991

Dag Österberg
Professor of Sociology
University of Oslo

For downloading the book, click on the following:

Dr Nasir Khan. Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings March 1843 to August 1844 (1995)

The role of Henry Kissisnger

February 3, 2015

Nasir Khan, Feb. 3, 2015

Do you recognise the elderly man with the glasses in the photo? Do you also remember what he did when he was called ‘magical doctor’ by warmongers, reactionaries and their media? Do you remember what he did in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia? But there is no need to use abusive words to describe him and his role as an architect of genocidal wars. His historic role is closely associated with the actual role of US imperialism and its policies. He is just the visible face of that brutal power that has been ravaging different parts of the globe for so long. Those who have followed him as US secrataries of state have also done the same. Do you remember Condi Rice and what she did? Do you remember . . .

CODEPINK Attempts to “Arrest” Henry Kissinger for War Crimes in Vietnam, Laos, Chile an

                                                   Video Interview

Activists from the antiwar group CodePink attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger when he testified on global security challenges at a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on Thursday. Kissinger served as secretary of state and national security adviser during the Vietnam War under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain lashed out at the protesters and called on the Capitol Hill Police to remove them.

Karl Marx on Alienation: Introduction, Part 2

February 3, 2015

(Suitable reading for researchers and students of philosophy, history of ideas, Marxism)

By Nasir Khan

Second, Marx’s critique of contemporary world is seen through the human perspective, in which alienation of labour obstructs the emergence of any true human community (Gemeinschaft) and thwarts the individual fulfilling his human potentialities. Man is reduced to a dehumanised existence. The individual and his social role form the nucleus of Marx’s thinking. Fritz Pappenheim rightly says: ‘This is the plight of the “dehumanised human being”, of the alienated man, which was Marx’s deepest concern and which became the central theme even of those of his writings which on the surface seem to deal exclusively with problems of economic history or economic theory’ (Pappenheim 1968, 83). Here the problem of man in Marx should not be seen in the narrow, factionalist discussion of ‘humanist Marx’ with another equally one-sided and illusory ‘scientism’ of some neo-Marxist writings. In my exposition, the humanistic concern of Marx is unmistakably emphasised. If we can pinpoint one theme which shows the continuity in Marx’s thought as a whole, then that is his concern for the human being, explicit or implicit, as the primary presupposition of his early, middle or mature age. I emphasise this point in the final chapter of this study as well.

Another aim of this study is to offer an adequate background to Marx’s immediate intellectual environment. First and foremost, it is the Hegelian heritage which forms the philosophical milieu of Marx’s early development. Of course, that does not rule out other influences. Merely due to the fact that Marx’s first systematic work is a critical commentary on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, I have thought it best to present Hegel’s political philosophy in Part 1 of chapter 3, followed by Marx’s exposition in Part 2. A good grasp of Hegelian ideas is indispensable for a critical appreciation of Marx even at this early stage. Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Phenomenology and the conception of alienation therein is analysed in chapter 7.

But between Marx and Hegel stands Feuerbach. At the early formative stage of Marx, Marx’s critical approach to Hegel is mediated through Feuerbach’s philosophy. Marx regards Feuerbach as the pulveriser of the Hegelian speculative philosophy; the liberator from the Hegelian ‘system’. I have considered it worthwhile to present Feuerbach’s philosophical views on religious alienation, man as Gattungswesen and his other views in some detail. Feuerbach in the history of ideas deserves a prominent place in his own right, being not merely as a secondary figure to supplement Marx. I have tried to redress the balance by offering an outline of his main theories in chapter 2. The impact of Feuerbachian views on Marx, no doubt, is substantial. For instance, Marx’s critique of Hegel takes place only under the Feuerbachian ‘transformational method’. Marx’s ideas on the question of religious alienation, his theory of man and his discussion of human nature, which form the bulk of this study, are closely related to Feuerbach’s philosophy. Even though Feuerbach is not accorded the importance, which, in the opinion of some writers he deserves (e.g. Wartofsky 1977), he continues to be of interest in our age for his critique of religion philosophically, despite its theological language. The humanist tradition has begun to see the relevance of Feuerbach in the cultural history of the present age. The theologians of established religions and of the divine mysteries meet in Feuerbach the theologian of man, who by any means happens to be a formidable figure to reckon with.

Of all the early works of Marx, the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts present most difficulties with what Istvan Meszaros calls, their ‘deceptive simplicity’ (Meszaros 1970, 12; for the difficulties of interpretation, see ibid., 12-2 0). For Louis Dumont, and with some justification, they are the ‘formless draft’ as the y were written by Marx for his own use, and were not meant for publication; nevertheless, he emphasises their importance ‘as precious evidence relating to the question of how Marx became Marx, of how, in particular, he built up his basic presuppositions regarding the place of economic phenomena among social phenomena in general’ (Dumont 1977, 113). Chapters 5 and 6 are devoted to Marx’s critique of political economy and the problem of the alienation of labour. I give considerable space to the discussion of Marx’s concept of human nature which Marx outlines in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. Chapter 7 exclusively deals with Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Phenomenology and the problem of alienation in this work. In chapter 8, I conclude the study with an appraisal of the theory of alienation within the specified area and period.

Finally, a few words about the procedure. Except for a limited number of cases, the citations from Marx for the period March 1843–August 1844, are from Marx and Engels, Collected Works, vol. 3 (CW3) and the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (translated by Milligan). Beside these, I have used other translations of Marx’s early works for comparison and evaluation of translations. In places the translations of McLellan and Bottomore are more effective and easy to understand, but I have opted to use the translations from Moscow to avoid any terminological confusion: the terminology used in various translations, as I have shown in 1.2. is varied. A few quotations from the German have been used to assist the clarification or emphasise some point. All references from the secondary sources are included in the text.

I have not thought it necessary to provide any exhaustive lists of the possible reading material, because in the form of presentation I chose, too many references would have made the text cumbersome in form. But there are other standard works with a different method of presentation having detailed references and footnotes, which should also be consulted. The range of secondary sources used in the work is quite wide, and is also of unequal character. Alongside some prominent philosophers and scholars a few writers of research articles have also been included. All the italics represent italics or underlinings in the original or the secondary sources unless otherwise stated. The abbreviations used are shown on a separate list.

(To be continued )

For downloading the book, click on the following:

Dr Nasir Khan. Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings March 1843 to August 1844 (1995)

Karl Marx on Alienation: Introduction, Part I

February 1, 2015


(Suitable reading for students of philosophy,  history of ideas, Marxism)

By Nasir Khan

Notwithstanding all the controversies surrounding Karl Marx and his legacy, one thing which can be said with certainty is that no other figure looms so large in the intellectual and political landscape of world history in this century as he does. His social theory, a synthesis of ideas from philosophy, history and the new social sciences is a unique theoretical construct in the history of nineteenth century. His theoretical work was intended to have a practical effect on the course of social developments in the capitalist society. Sheldon Wolin comments: ‘He founded a new conception of politics, revolutionary in intent, proletarian in concern, and international in scope and organisation’ (quoted in Thomas 1985, 13). Marxist ideas were introduced in various European countries. For instance, in Russia, by the mid-1880s his ideas were advanced by Plekhanov, Vera Zasulich and Akselrod. By the end of 1880s Marxist conceptions had become quite popular with university students and intelligentsia in St. Petersburg. The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party founded in 1898 was Marxist. The Marxist ideas had made inroads into the socialist movement in the 1870s in France. In Germany, soon after Marx’s death, the SDP as an explicitly Marxist party came into existence. The emergence of social democratic parties, originally all being Marxists, in Belgium (1885), Austria (1889), Hungary (1890), Bulgaria (1891), Poland (1892), Romania (1892-1900), Holland (1894), etc. show the impact of Marxist thought. In fact, ‘by the 1890s it was no longer possible to dismiss him as just another proletarian agitator: the size of the political parties that recognised him as their prophet and the seriousness of the economic investigations that he had initiated had made him a massive force that demanded to be related in some way or other to the major traditions of European thought. As the decade wore on, a number of “bourgeois” economists and social thinkers of the most varying intellectual orientations found themselves compelled to come to grips with his doctrines’ (Hughes 1977, 67).
For evaluating the Marxian legacy in our time, it is important to ascertain, and draw the line between what Marx stood for and what he is made out to be by the one-party, authoritarian states. In this context the cleavage we meet is enormous, as Flöistad remarks that ‘when we see for what Marx and Marxism are being used and misused by the totalitarian states world-over’ (Flöistad 1983, 359). We have witnessed during the last few years the collapse of bureaucratic-socialism, the system of nomenklatura in Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the USSR. The
colossal changes which have occurred so far constitute one of the major turning points in this epoch. One of the far-reaching implications relates to the question of Marxism’s responsibility for the ills of the collapsed regimes. However, the aim of this book precludes any discussion of these momentous contemporary development. My overriding concern here is to explore the rich heritage of Marx’s thought on the problem of alienation in his early writings over a limited period as part of research work in philosophy and the history of ideas.
One fertile ground of research in Marx studies, and a major attraction for Marx scholars, has been the question whether or not Marx’s works can be regarded as forming a continuous whole ever since the publication of the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 in 1932. Most of the writers have defended or expounded the continuity problematic in one form or the other. One notable exception in this debate was the eminent Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. He intervened as a matter of political necessity to combat the French revisionists and their views on the status of Marxism. His refutation of the continuity thesis, therefore, has to be seen in its political context. His writings polemicised the problematic intensely, with the result that it added to an enlivened interest in Marxist philosophy in the European academic world. Alex Callinicos is correct to assess him so highly: ‘It is to Louis Althusser more than to any other individual or group that we owe the current renaissance of Marxist philosophy’ (Callinicos 1985, ‘Preface’, v). The Althusserian school emerged, defending and elaborating the scientific character of Marxism. Among the well-known writers who have defended the continuity thesis are Avineri, Cornu, Garaudy, Howard, Hyppolite, Kamenka, Korsch, McLellan, Maguire, Mandel, Meszaros, Plamenatz, Ollman, Tucker, Lewis, Kolakowski and Cornforth. Whereas the Althusserian school advocates an ‘epistemological break’ in Marx’s writings, the concept of alienation is viewed as falling under the pre-scientific, early period. I mention this only to highlight the proliferation of literature around this controversy. However, in the present work this controversy is only of peripheral interest and there does not seem to be any need to enter into any lengthy discourse on the topic.
My treatment of Marx is essentially devoid of any attempts at mythicising him. There is no need for that. An over-zealous supporter or opponent of a political, social or religious cause may be a big asset for his respective group, organisation or denomination. But this sort of activity intrinsically is inimical to any meaningful discourse in philosophy or science. What Bacon calls ‘idols’, the idols of the tribe, cave, market and theatre, stand opposed to human reason and mind. Marxism in this respect can specially be singled out. It has and continues to arouse deep passions of devotion and loyalty in some or down-right rejection (and this very often with scanty knowledge of Marxism) and animosity in others. I have tried to present Marx’s views on alienation as dispassionately as possible and have
not let my own likes or dislikes dictate the inquiry. In this matter, I have found Bacon’s advice a sound one: ‘Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider’ (Bacon 1972, 150).
In a number of ways, this study has its own particular features. First of all, I reject any dogmatic approach to Marxism; and instead view Marx ism as a living and developing theory in view of social practice. Marx had articulated the practical requirements of the labour movement in its struggle for emancipation in his lifetime. I have aimed at explaining, analysing and noting the development of Marx’s ideas regarding alienation in religious, political and economic spheres up to 1844, and in this process have taken notice of any shift in the meanings as we pass from one article or essay to the other. Marx presents a comprehensive theory of alienation only in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. I have compared the positions which Marx had previously held against the one he espoused in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts. By comparing and contrasting these positions I have en deavoured to show the developmental stages of the concept of alienation in Marx. A concept is regarded as a mental construct. What defines he status of a concept is the nature of essence or content it comes to embody. By comparing and contrasting I have shown how the religious concept of alienation received a definite content and theoretical form in Marx.

In view of the result, it becomes easy to approach the question of continuity or break in Marx from a new angle. This, while setting aside the either/or positions, focuses on Marx’s ideas as various and interactive phases of his intellectual development. I have maintained that Marx’s ideas regarding humanist perspective and the question of alienation show continuity, but with important differences in the content and form of the concept and theory of alienation in the period under review. This approach enables us to see the vigour and vitality of Marxism as a living theory and not as a collection of sacrosanct dogmas of a closed system.
Marx, above all, advocated the Aufhebung of the existing alienation which shows its dichotomous character in separating between ‘doing and thinking’, between ‘being and having’, ‘between public life and private life’, and between ‘theory and practice’. This dichotomy was to be overcome by a unified ‘science of man’, in place of the reified science and philosophy as Marx suggested in the Manuscripts. This task was achieved by Marx and Engels in formulating the fundamentals of ‘historical materialism’. As Maurice Cornforth writes: ‘Once the scientific intention of Marxism is grasped, the theory of mankind and society, which itself presupposes scientific theory about nature, becomes the premise for which philosophical theory about thinking — about, in Engels’ own phrases, “thought and its laws” and “the relation of thinking and being” — takes off, rather than the conclusion drawn from prior philosophical theory’ (Cornforth 1980, 45). Marx’s contribution in the matter of a scientific theory of man and society ‘marks a new departure in relation to all previous sciences. … It completes the establishment of fundamental theory for the scientific investigation of the whole of living nature, including mankind, it inaugurates a stage in which science be comes equipped to treat scientifically of everything which concerns us in life — not only of “external” nature, but of ourselves and our entire activity in which we each sustain and live a n individual life and relate ourselves with one another and with “nature” ‘ (ibid., 144; see also 145-53).
Marx deals with the same problems which had occupied earlier philosophers in metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, etc. But at the same time there is an important difference which we should not lose sight of. Flöistad points to it thus: ‘In many ways, he breaks with [that] tradition and infuses something new. Philosophy should not merely be theory but first and foremost it should be a philosophy of action. And as a philosophy of action philosophy should intervene and change the world’ (Flöistad 1983, 359). Thus the old problem of theory and practice achieves a totally new dimension in Marx. From now on, philosophy of action comes to epitomise Marxian programme in its multi-dimensional aspects signifying the unity of theory and practice. The ground work for this view was laid in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts.

(To be continued)

Nasir Khan. Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings March 1843 to August 1844 (1995)

This book can be downloaded here:

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