Marx’s “Theses on Feuerbach” #7
“Feuerbach consequently does not see that the ‘religious sentiment’ is itself a social product, and that the abstract individual that he analyses belongs in reality to a particular form of society.”
Marx’s seventh thesis provides the final assessment of Feuerbach’s religious work and functions as a brief summary of Marx’s critique thereof. As we have now twice noted, in our engagement with the fourth and sixth theses, Marx’s critique rests upon an accusation that Feuerbach was unable (or unwilling) to turn his critique of religion upon his own project and European society in general, particularly that region of society that Marx will later denominate “the bourgeoisie.”
For Marx, the critique leveled against religion by Feuerbach must be turned against Feuerbach’s own societal/philosophic presuppositions precisely because it is from out of this societal/philosophical world that modern European religion emerged. That is to say, the “religious sentiment” is merely a single representative, a manifestation, of this more general “form of society.” To strike at this religious sentiment is, therefore, to miss the primary entity–society, the genesis of alienation in comparison to which “religious alienation” is a mere epiphenomenon.
It is in light of this structure that Marx’s reference to the “abstract individual” can be understood. By reducing religion to anthropology, specifically to the “abstract individual,” Feuerbach normalized his “particular form of society”; he (seemingly subconsciously) erected “man” out of entierly 19th century German material. Yet, as Marx seems to indicate, this constructive project fails, because it falls victim to the very abstraction which it sought to overcome, the abstraction of the irreal concept. As we previously discussed, in our analysis of the sixth thesis, just as Hegel conceived of the objectified Idea, History, Knowing, and (most importantly for Feuerbach) God, Feuerbach’s “man” is abstracted from the sensuous reality of concrete individual life; it is a mere projection, a mere “product,” of its society.