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Marx and Nietzsche's critique of religion and Deleuze's critique of dialectics


In this paper we will try to indicate how a complementary reading of Marx and Nietzsche is possible and can enhance both thinker’s arguments. We will use two examples: their respective critiques of religion, and Deleuze’s, Nietzsche-inspired critique of dialectics in his book ‘Nietzsche and Philosophy’


On the first example we will develop a twofold argument:

  • that Nietzsche’s critique of religion fulfills Marx’s criterion for a sufficient critique of religion;
  • that Nietzsche’s critique of the ascetic ideal applies to Marx too: Marx’s own atheism and his certainty that he had discovered the laws of motion of history are expressions of the ascetic ideal.

Marx believed that with the ‘incontestable outcome’ of Feuerbach’s critique of religion, which showed God to be an alienating projection in the heavens of man’s own self, and religion ‘a shell surrounding the earthly kernel of human world’, critique of religion was brought to a close (Lowith, 1991:352). From then on every critique of religion that does not ask ‘why is this kernel surrounded by an alien shell’ is for Marx insufficient. In his own investigation took the socio-historical route to answer this question and showed how the people’s living conditions create the need for God and religion.

Nietzsche’s critique of religion, on the other, hand, in order to answer this very question, takes the psychologico-historical/genealogical route and uncovers the nature of that layer of religion that Feuerbach had glimpsed was expressing something of the ‘essence’ of man, and Marx, standing on the same crossroad with Nietzsche, had dismissed as idealistic remnant. This layer of religion Nietzsche uncovers in his ‘On the Genealogy of Morals’ and especially in his critique of the ‘ascetic ideal’ as the need for absolutely certain knowledge (that is: faith) to which atheism partakes as much as does the belief in God’s existence.


On the second example we will concentrate on Deleuze’s two main arguments against dialectics:

  • that the case of Max Stirner reveals ‘nihilism as the truth of the dialectic’ (Deleuze, 2005:161): Deleuze dismisses Marx’s critique of Stirner, a critique which takes the form of Marx’s theory of the ‘conditioned ego’, with insufficient, in our view, qualifications. Our argument here will be that Marx’s critique of Stirner is not only valid but also complementary to Nietzsche’s own conception of how one becomes what one is.
  • the claim that ‘the dialectic is the movement of activity as such and it too is essentially failed and fails essentially. The movement of reappropriations, dialectical activity, is nothing more or less than the becoming-reactive of man in man’ (Deleuze, 2005:168). Against this claim our argument will be that what Deleuze describes as the essential failure of dialectics can be explained from a Marxian standpoint as the necessary re-action to an oppressive and alienating reality; if such an explanation does not prove to be consistent with Nietzsche’s and Deleuze’s meaning of ‘becoming reactive’ then we cannot but accuse them for being apologists of the existing order of things.



Nektarios Kastrinakis