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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: January ::
Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0151  Monday, 24 January 2000.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Jan 2000 10:59:51 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0133 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Jan 2000 16:42:54 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0133 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

[3]     From:   Abdulla Al-Dabbagh <
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        Date:   Saturday, 22 Jan 2000 07:06:06 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0123 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility



[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Jan 2000 10:59:51 -0800
Subject: 11.0133 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0133 Re: Marx, Religion, and Nobility

Patrick Dolar writes:

>We ought to be careful about saying that looking at Shakespeare through
>any particular ideology is out of court because that ideology wasn't
>invented then. After all, he wrote before Darwin, Vatican II, the
>industrial revolution, the enlightenment and any of a number of events
>and considerations that have radically changed the nature of
>Christianity over the last four centuries. A Christianity that doesn't
>countenance burning heretics, gutting Jesuits or intimate contact
>between Church and state provides an anachronistic lens as well.

Of course.  But as with material conditions, there are continuities.  If
we can pick up on the parallels between (say) witchcraft trials and
McCarthyism or violence against women, then we should also be able to
find parallels between Cranmer's opposition to the established forms of
authority, and Tutu's.  In any case, we should recognize the reality of
spiritual motivations, just as we recognize the reality of material
necessity in both contexts, and the continuity between them.  Note that
this isn't the same thing as believing the basis of such motivations.  I
don't have to be a Lollard to understand why they might be willing to be
burned rather than recant.  It strikes me as profoundly wrong, however,
to describe them as simply driven by economic forces.  It is, to use one
of your parallels, at least as wrong as seeing them driven by daemonic
forces (which, BTW, doesn't seem to be how Thomas Cranmer approached
them).  The simple martyrs weren't so simple as all that.

>The claim that human spiritual nature hasn't changed over time strikes
>me as just as unfalsifiable as the claim that it's all material
>(whatever you mean by material) or that class struggle is the basis of
>all human social reality (all three "vulgar," I know, but I'm in a
>hurry).

This makes all such lenses equal, which seems to be the claim that
Marx's dictum at least appears to be avoiding.  Moreover, the fact that
spiritual nature is unchanged strikes me as a more modest suggestion
than that class struggle is the basis of all human social reality, and
on par with the (widely accepted) notion that the materiality of the
material is continuous.

>I know Thomas More pretty well. In his hands, especially after Henry's
>divorce, Roman Catholicism was a totalizing discourse. (Take a look at
>Dialogue of Comfort for the palatable version. Any of the writings
>against heresy will provide the unpalatable version.) He wasn't the only
>one. His version no more makes religion ineluctably totalizing than
>Lenin and Stalin make Marxism so.

Of course not.  But the claim that Marxism is totalizing isn't based on
empirical evidence, but on logical necessity.  Conversely, the fact that
Marxism seems (at least) to lead necessarily to a totalizing discourse
doesn't mean that individual Marxist thinkers can't escape this trap, in
various ways.

Robin Hamilton's examples, by the way, struck me as very good ones.  In
the case of Richard with his prayer book, the implication isn't that all
prayer is deceit for something else; if it were, there would be no irony
in Richard's self-presentation.  Similarly, while Machiavelli recognizes
that religion has a certain weight in the world of politics, he doesn't
exhaustively desanctify religion.  He's reputed to have received extreme
unction, in fact.  Seeing the period as religious doesn't mean that we
don't recognize its tie with materiality, only that we don't make
materiality exhaustive.

Cheers,
Se

 

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