Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Some Theses on Christo-Marxism

The following theses have been written only for the sake of self-clarification. They are part of an ongoing project which I hope will culminate one day in a more systematic and comprehensive presentation. Feel free to comment and criticize. Also see: Introducing Christo-Marxism

Vanishing mediator

The central principle of Christo-Marxism is the vanishing mediator, the medium that brings us together by vanishing between us, thereby establishing our “mediated immediacy” (Hegel).

Capitalism as accumulation of the mediator
What Christo-Marxism objects to in capitalism is that here the vanishing mediator – in its socio-economic form as money – is not allowed to vanish but is accumulated in capital. Thus the redemptive function of the vanishing mediatior (reconciliation) is frustrated: the mediator does not reconcile divergent interests but rather comes to stand between them as their stumbling block.

Liberal communism
The aim of Christo-Marxism is to re-start the redemptive process by enabling the vanishing mediator to vanish again. In the socio-economic register this implies the necessity of liberal-communist action: breaking the power of capital in order to re-establish the flow of money as vanishing mediator. Christo-Marxism, then, is a form of liberal communism: free markets yes, capitalism no. Liberal communism maintains that the level playing field required by the free-market mechanism is incompatible with the inlimited accumulation of power. Hence the free-market mechanism must be protected against itself, ie. against its tendency to result in antagonism between 'winners' and 'losers'. In other words: a market can only function as truly free market (that is, with a level playing field) in a communist state, where the institution of the market is publicly owned as the common medium of our economic exchange. Money is an integral part of that institution.

From Catholicism to capitalism
In contrast to historical materialism, Christo-Marxism emphasizes the equal importance of 'spiritual' and 'material' factors in explaining historical change. Thus with respect to capitalism, Christo-Marxism emphasizes (in contrast to Weber) its continuity with the mind-set of Catholicism. The original perversion of Christianity in Catholicism – namely, the accumulation of Christ as Mediator in the hands of the Church – prefigured the perversion of money in capitalism, its accumulation in the hands of the capitalist. Weber was right in pointing to Protestantism as a spiritual force behind capitalism but only insofar as Protestantism shifted the Catholic attitude to the socio-economic realm. That is: Protestantism dis-intermediated the self-enriching priesthood but only to re-install its perversion (the accumulation of the vanishing mediator) in secular life. Protestantism, then, was not a real break with the mind-set of Catholicism but only its deflection onto another terrain.

Radicalizing the Protestant revolution
Christo-Marxism therefore proposes a radicalization of the Protestant revolution, which – although it dis-intermediated the priesthood – did not proceed to the logical conclusion of Christianity itself: the dis-intermediation of God as such. The unique contribution of Christianity is the conception of God as vanishing mediator – or alternatively: of the vanishing mediator as God. Christianity is the religion where God Himself – incarnated in Christ – dies in order to open up op the Holy Spirit as the reconciled community. God as Christ, in other words, is the vanishing mediator of the Holy Spirit. Christo-Marxism aims to take this “Death of God” to its logical extreme, up to the point of atheism. It sees modern atheism – and in particular Marxist atheism – as the logical culmination of Christianity. This atheism, then, is not opposed to religion: it is religion in the mode of its self-negation, parallel to God's self-withdrawal from His creation. Thus the hyphen in Christo-Marxism can also be read as an arrow (ChristoMarxism) designating the historical culmination of Christianity in Marxism. Yet this historical transition is never complete: Marxism remains bound to Christianity as its vanishing mediator, just as every form of community remains bound to the vanishing mediator that establishes its “mediated immediacy”. The Death of God, then, must be understood as an ongoing process: God is not yet dead but eternally dying, eternally disappearing further away from us. It is precisely by thus withdrawing that He performs His divine function. To paraphrase Frank Zappa: God is not dead, He just smells funny.

The vanishing mediator as Heideggerian Being
Christo-Marxism maintains that God let's everything be precisely through His disappearance. For by thus disappearing, God forms the background of non-being or nothingness against the backdrop of which beings can first appear as beings. In that sense God is simply what Heidegger meant with “Being”. Where Heideger went wrong was in his rejection of onto-theology. To be sure, Heidegger was right in maintaining the ontological distinction, which emphasizes that Being is not a being. What he ignored, however, was the possibility of conceiving Being as an infinitesimal, a vanishing being on its way to nothingness. As an infinitesimal, the vanishing mediator does not violate the ontological distinction, for as such it is no longer a full-fledged being but rather an almost nothing, a nothing-to-come. Christo-Marxism, in other words, stresses the irreducible ontic trace – or the trace of the ontic – in the ontological: Being (qua Nothingness) is only thinkable as the (self-)negation of a primordial being, who
is nothing but this self-negation. It is in this way that Christo-Marxism aims to understand the personality or subject-hood of God: His “self” consists only in self-negation. This self-negation is intrinsic to God's nature as vanishing mediator. In short, Christo-Marxism maintains the compatabiliy of the onto-theology of the vanishing mediator (ie. Christianity) with Heideggerian ontology. 

The ego as vanishing mediator of the critical subject
The ethics of Christo-Marxism is an ethics of
imitatio Christo, the imitative following of Christ. Its main injunction is: become a vanishing mediator, sacrifice yourself as medium for the reconciliation of others. Not only is this the way to contribute to the Good of community, it's also the only way to become a subject (in more or less Badiou's sense of the term). By becoming a vanishing mediator, one approaches the pure self-hood of God. Critical freedom, qua independence from all immersion in natural positivity and substance, is only attained by withdrawing or subtracting oneself from the world. Yet this withdrawal is never fully completed in life but only in death. As long as the subject lives, then, he (or she or it) is still particularized by the ontic traces (like the ontic trace in the ontological) of his former, empirical ego. The ego is just an object in the world: it is an image, the product of the narcissistic mirroring with others (Lacan's imaginary). The subject is the self-negation of the ego, the empty place left behind as the ego vanishes. Yet, to repeat, this vanishing is never completed (only in death). Thus the subject is always conditioned by the ever vanishing contingency of the ego. This is what individualizes the subject.


  1. This is absolutely fascinating. What authors (other than those named, ie those authors found in the non-christian philosophical or Marxian canon) are you picking this up from?

    1. Hi there!

      Thanks for your comment. The central ideas are mainly my own, as they resulted from some years of reflection on the function of the vanishing mediator in reconciliation. I guess the philosophers I am closest to is Zizek, Hegel and Marx. I think there is a Christian subtext in Marx - owing to his debt to Hegel - which is still relatively unknown. Unfortunately, personal circumstances have more or less forced to stop doing philosophy, so I fear I won't be able to develop these ideas further in the future. I must say, however, that your nice comment does stimulate me to pick up philosophy again...

      Peter Sas

  2. It won't let me post as my blog for some reason. But this is still History of Capitalism.

    In any event, you shouldn't give up! Philosophy is important!

    And this is a very interesting idea/set of ideas. You are not the first to point out that Historical Materialism has always had an idealist undercurrent and has always needed a beating heart in the form of a messianic calling. As for positioning Historical Materialism as the study of the objective material conditions that prolematize/prohibit fundamental Christian imperatives/which lead us to but ultimately foreclose an ultimate intimacy, and which positions capitalism as the ultimate and (hopefully) final buildup/blockage of of these material conditions that stand in opposition to eschatological/soteriological callings is really very striking.