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Emancipation by Karl Marx

Emancipation is the provision of freedom to an individual or a group of people so that they can control their affairs. According to Thomas[1] “all emancipation is restoration of the human world and the relationships of men themselves and political emancipation is a reduction of man to a member of the civil society, to an egoistic independent individual and to a citizen.” Generally, people are emancipated when they are delivered from any form of control. Karl Marx explained political emancipation as the freedom gained by people when they become aware of their political rights and freedom. He opined that politics cannot be separated from the social, economic, religious systems of a people but people must integrate all forces properly to create independence in the society[2]. In this paper, the author discuses the concepts of emancipation with a clear focus on political, economic, social and religious emancipation. More emphasis has been placed on how political emancipation has influenced the society.
Emancipations according to Karl Marx
Political emancipation has been explained as the process of dissolving the old society and creating a new system with new structures. This involves political revolution such that the civil society becomes active in maintaining the sovereign power of the people. Marx explained that the traditional civil society portrayed the characteristics of direct political system. For example, property was socially owned, families were communal but after the political emancipation, people were given the freedom to own property individually and controlled their private lives without interference from the state[3].
According to Thomas[4] “political emancipation frees property from political restraint without freeing men from property itself.” The quantity or kind of property owned by an individual is politically irrelevant. Property has no mean beyond the value attached to it and cannot be used to achieve political emancipation. Marx compared religion to property when he explained that religion cannot be used as a yardstick to measure the degree of political emancipation that people have. He opined that emancipating the state from religion is not important because it does not solve any problem. Similarly, emancipating the state from property does not achieve political emancipation. Religion is supposed to be non-political for it to achieve its goals[5].
Karl Marx developed the idea of laissez faire such that he suggested that even though the state may grant political emancipation, there are limits to the level of independence and freedom. There are matters of the state which cannot be allowed to be controlled by the common people. The state cannot offer total freedom to such issues because they are vital to the security of the country. Marx concluded that political emancipation brought to an end the personal power that people had. The rights of the people were developed to protect their independence and to ensure that the state is responsible to protect its people. The civil society plays the role of ensuring that the state protects its people. As such, a laissez faire system cannot operate in any country today because there are controls put in place o ensure people adhere to the laws and orders of a state. Protecting the rights of the people requires that people should respect the rights of others[6].
Religious emancipation was explained by Karl Marx to be the deliverance of the Jews from discrimination by the Christians. During the 19th century the Jews were being discriminated against by Christians in Europe. Jews were being regarded to be unequal to the Christians and there was need to liberate them from the social, religious and political discrimination which they were experiencing during those days. Prior to emancipation, Jews were not allowed to vote and they were supposed to distinguish themselves from the Christians. For example, Jews were required to wear yellow badges which represented the Star of David. Jews were fighting for the freedom to participate in all activities. When they were provided with the emancipation, Jews were allowed to engage in civil society activities and they could exercise their religious rights freely[7].
Karl Marx developed his concept of emancipation when he discussed about the Jews in Prussia on how they attempted to achieve freedom. Karl Marx was criticizing the works of Young Hegelian and Bruno Bauer. Bruno Bauer opined that to achieve political emancipation, people should abolish their religious principles. However, Marx explained that religion does not play an exclusive role in achieving emancipation because some regions are neutral and have no dominant religion that dominates the social lives of the people. Therefore, social freedom can be said to be independent from religion. Marx argued that the Jewish culture was dominated by religious powers and this was the reason why emancipation was based on religious freedom. On the contrary, countries like the United States are neutral in terms of religion and emancipation cannot be said to be based on religion[8].
Bruno was of the opinion that the only way to acquire Jewish emancipation was to encourage Jews renounce their religious believes. He suggested that Jews had to give up their religion for them to be granted political emancipation. The Jews could not be granted their political rights because of their religion. Marx perceived that the problems being encountered by the Jews was a social issue but it did not relate to their political or religious affiliations[9]. This indicates that emancipation is a complex process which entails different aspects. To achieve success in political emancipation, the state should combine social, religious, economic aspects. Therefore, the concepts developed by Bruno were criticized by Karl Marx because Bruno explained emancipation as a religion driven concept rather than embracing different aspects which may affect the people. Karl Marx explained that emancipation is made up of different aspects such as politics, economics, religion and others[10].
The interpretation of these theories is that the government has the obligation of protecting the rights of the citizens. It should also maintain law and order in the country so that the citizens can enjoy their independence. The civil society has the duty to encourage the government to maintain law and order in a country and to ensure that all the social systems are functioning properly.
Karl Marx explained that people acquire economic, political, social and religious freedom through emancipation. It is through emancipation that people are given the freedom to do their activities. The state has the obligation of ensuring that the rights of the people of a nation are protected. Political emancipation has brought about political revolution and this has created a lot of progress in many modern states. Government leaders have the obligation to maintain law and order and to ensure that the rights of the people are protected. Political emancipation should be used as a tool to carry out economic, social and religious emancipation. The concepts developed by Karl Marx about emancipation are very important in bringing about change in modern states. Governments should learn from these concepts to ensure they protect the rights of their people.

[1] Thomas, Paul. Karl Marx and the Anarchists. Routledge, 1990. p. 63. ISBN 0710206852, 9780710206855.
[2] Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey (eds.) History of Political Philosophy. Third Edition, London, University of Chicago Press, 1987 , p. 231. ISBN 9780226777108.
[3] Strauss & Cropsey, p. 82
[4] Thomas, p. 231
[5] Marx, Karl and Joseph J. O’Malley. Marx: early political writings. Cambridge University Press, 1994, p. 63. ISBN 052134994X, 9780521349949.
[6] Strauss & Cropsey. P. 94
[7] Thomas, p. 245
[8] Strauss & Cropsey. P. 95
[9] Strauss & Cropsey. P. 95
[10] Marx & O’Malley, p. 176

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