Ideology, Fetishism, Apophaticism: Marxist Criticism and Christianity

I am very pleased to share my first article published in an academic journal, “Ideology, Fetishism, Apophaticism: Marxist Criticism and Christianity,” which is forthcoming in New Blackfriars and can be read online in full here. (Note: if the token has expired on this link, see below for a draft version.) Publication in this journal is especially significant for me, as the Christian-Marxist dialogue that was conducted in its pages (by the likes of Denys Turner and others) has been a strong influence on my intellectual and political development.

Abstract

This paper explores Christianity’s ambiguous relationship to capitalism by engaging Marx’s notion of the fetishism of commodities as a way of rethinking the Marxist critique of religion from the standpoint of political economy. Following Etienne Balibar’s distinction between the theory of ideology and Capital’s theory of fetishism, I examine how the later Marx conceived of religion as socially conditioned by the society of commodity production, which takes on religious dimensions. Commodities are the basis for a concept of fetishism which commands total subjection, alienating human beings under capitalism. This critical focus also reveals Christianity in its totalizing role as a symbolic structure shaped by the inescapable logic of exchange‐value, money, and universal equivalents.

Nonetheless, Christianity retains the impetus to anti‐fetishism, provided it unites with the Marxist science of critical perception. This anti‐fetishistic union focuses on the transparent and revolutionized social relations of real presence as the nonalienated reverse of fetishism’s false presence. A critical apophaticism, tempered by the materialist amendments of Marika Rose and Slavoj Žižek, offers the bridge to such a union and highlights the anti‐fetishistic avenues of failure and utopia.

Read the full draft version of the paper here.

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