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This book constitutes a critical intervention in the theoretical discussion over the political relationship between democracy and communism. Shedding light on the philosophical origins of the democracy debate, it draws a clear demarcation line between liberalism and republicanism, arguing that after rejecting the former and supporting the latter, the young Marx endorsed 'true democracy' as a prelude to his forthcoming theory of communism. To this end, while following the dynamics of the Marxian history of political ideas and pre-communist theory of the state, the book takes into account the thought of a vast range of philosophers and political theorists, starting from the Ancient times (Aristotle), passing through the Age of Enlightenment (Spinoza, Rousseau), the German Idealist tradition (Hegel) the Young Hegelians’ Republicanism (Bauer, Ruge, Feuerbach), and reaching our own times (Arendt, Colletti, MacPherson, Castoriadis, Poulantzas). It will be of interest to students and scholars interested in the history of political thought, theories of democracy, and Marxism.



Chapter 1. Themes and Methodological Delimitations

The introductory chapter refers to the main questions and methodology of the book, setting ‘True Democracy’ as a Prelude to Communism within the theoretical debate that has been developed over many decades throughout Europe. Introducing my research interest as being defined by the relationship between the Marx of democracy and the Marx of communism, I oppose the Althusserian theory of the epistemological break or rupture between the young and the mature Marx, adopting dialectics/transcendence as the most fruitful way in which to approach Marx’s theory of the state in general and his own theory of democracy in particular.
Alexandros Chrysis

Chapter 2. The Philosophical ‘Moment’ of Marx’s Theory of Democracy: From the Metaphysics of Law to the Critique of Politics

This chapter focuses on Marx as a university student. Starting from Marx’s letter to his father (10 November 1837), I follow his journey from what he defined as the ‘metaphysics of law’ to his critique of the state. I consider both Marx’s readings of ancient Greek philosophy and his extracts from Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise. Moving within the frame of the philosophical conflict between the Historical School of Law, as represented especially by Savigny, and the Hegelian Philosophy of Right, as defended by Gans, I draw attention to the impact this conflict exerted on the young Marx’s theory of politics. Finally, taking into account Bruno Bauer’s ‘Der christliche Staat und unsere Zeit’ as a crucial document for the intellectual relation between Bauer and Marx, I conclude that, although Marx was not yet ready to compose a theory of democracy, he was already able to conceive the philosophical principle of autonomy, not as an a priori/normative Idea, but in close connection with the social and political milieu of his time.
Alexandros Chrysis

Chapter 3. The Republican ‘Moment’ of Marx’s Theory of Democracy: From the Critique of Politics to the Theory of the Rational State

This chapter relates to the republican ‘moment’ of Marx’s theory of democracy and covers the period in which Marx developed his theoretical activity as the editor of Rheinische Zeitung (1842–43). I support the argument that Marx’s articles in Rheinische Zeitung constitute elements of Marx’s portrait, not as a liberal but as a republican theorist of democracy. Considering the influence exerted on the republican Marx by the writings of Bauer, Ruge and Feuerbach, I draw the conclusion that the ‘republican moment’ of the Marxian theory of democracy denoted a crucial step towards the socialisation of politics as the equivalent of the demos’ self-determination. Thus, I conclude, Marx was preparing the ground for his defence of ‘true democracy’, the most radical expression of his pre-communist theory of democracy, as conceived in his Critique of Hegel’s Theory of Right.
Alexandros Chrysis

Chapter 4. The Dialectical ‘Moment’ of Marx’s Theory of Democracy: From the Theory of the Rational State to ‘True Democracy’

This chapter deals with Marx’s Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right as a theoretical attempt to deconstruct the Hegelian theory and to contribute to a democratic theory of the state. Stressing the influence of Feuerbach’s and Ruge’s writings on Marx’s political theory, and taking special notice of the fact that Marx passionately studied the works of Machiavelli, Montesquieu and Rousseau during this period, I analyse Marx as the radical thinker who grounded his theory of politics on the historical datum that the ‘political states’ of his time served and protected the material interests of the rich. Furthermore, pointing to the dissolution of the political state, I argue that the pre-communist Marxian theory of democracy reached its dialectical ‘moment’ in terms of a ‘true democracy’ as a philosophical and political prelude to communism.
Alexandros Chrysis

Chapter 5. The Sovereignty of the Demos as ‘True Democracy’

This chapter focuses on democracy–and ‘true democracy’ in particular—as the ‘self-determination of the people’ and the ‘solved riddle of all constitutions’. In this sense, sovereignty of the demos is presented as the (self-)legislative process par excellence, through which the Marx of democracy moved towards the ‘land’ of communism as the ‘riddle of history solved’. Dealing with the sovereignty of the demos as the nucleus of ‘true democracy’ and raising issues such as Marx’s critique of bureaucracy and the Marxian conception of ‘universal suffrage’, in this part of the book I aim at a further elaboration of ‘true democracy’ as a pre-communist version of a society without a (political) state.
Alexandros Chrysis

Chapter 6. Theoretical Conclusions and Political Perspectives

The concluding chapter sums up the theoretical outcome and the political effects of the pre-communist Marxian theory of democracy. I confirm the hypothesis that the young ‘citizen Marx’ did not confuse the end of the state with the end of politics, while admitting the influence on Marx’s theory of democracy exerted by the ‘paradigm’ of the Athenian polis or the Rousseauist model of the participatory or anti-parliamentarian republic, and taking into account the works of major political thinkers of our time such as Arendt and Castoriadis. Applying the Aristotelian distinction between ‘poiesis’ and ‘praxis’, I conclude that Marxian politics goes far beyond the horizon of the state. In the context of Marx’s ‘true democracy’, politics is a life process and is an end in itself, leading to the formation of a society in which, as the communist Marx would soon argue, ‘the free development of each’ will not be a limit to but ‘the condition for the free development of all’.
Alexandros Chrysis


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