My name is Marc Mulholland. I am a Fellow (lecturer and tutor) in the History Faculty of Oxford University. My College is St Catherine's. I come from Ireland.

This is a blog relating to my book published in 2012 by Oxford University Press, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservativism.
Now on sale here and here. If you want 20 per cent off the price, I can arrange that! Send me a message or leave a comment, and I'll tell you how.

The thesis my book is examining was rather pithily summarised by Leon Trotsky in 1939: "Wherever the proletariat appeared as an independent force, the bourgeoisie shifted to the camp of the counter-revolution. The bolder the struggle of the masses, the quicker the reactionary transformation of liberalism." [Context is here]

However, my book isn't a defence of Trotskyism, or indeed any particular ideology. It's a study of an idea that took shape in Left, Right, and Centre variations.

This blog has tid-bits not included in the book, and other thoughts that occur.

You can see book details at the
OUP website.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Marx: Don't Bother with the New Atheists, Read the Jewish Prophets!

Max Beer, historian and socialist activist, knew Eleanor Marx in London, where he lived for a time after 1894, and they often talked. She told him that her dead father, Karl, "took no interest in Jewish affairs and had no contact with the London Jewry." (Marx, of course, had plenty of the anti-Jewish prejudices of the time, even if he favoured their emancipation and deprecated anti-Semitism. Renewed plebeian Jewish immigration to London only really began in 1881, just a couple of years before Karl died: before that time, 'London Jewry' was a pretty bourgeois culture: impressive in itself, of course, but not Marx's natural kin).

Marx's indifference to the local Jewish community is as one might expect. However, there's a further interesting recollection about his attitude to Charles Bradlaugh, the atheist proselytiser of the age:

Eleanor [Marx] ... told me also that her father hardly ever spoke about religion; neither for nor against. Her mother and elder sister attended sometimes Mr. Bradlaugh’s [atheist] Sunday services, but father dissuaded them from doing so. He told mother if she wanted edification or satisfaction of her metaphysical needs she should find them in the Jewish prophets rather than in Mr. Bradlaugh’s shallow reasoning.
[Max Beer, Fifty Years of International Socialism (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1935), pp. 73, 74.]

Marx in the 1840s, of course, had abandoned the Young Hegelian focus on critiquing religion as the necessary prerequisite to political modernization.  "The criticism of religion has been essentially completed", he wrote, and now one should seek to transform society so as to do away with the social basis of religious obscurantism:

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. ... The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

With the collapse of the transformative socialist project by the early 1990s, some Marxists made the return journey back to Young Hegelianism. If bourgeois society could not be challenged, religion could. In this 'New Atheism', no doubt, there was a good deal of sublimated revolutionary millenarianism. Still, it's hard not to agree with Marx that there's something a bit unsatisfying about anti-God polemic for its own sake.

Here's a picture of Max Beer. It would be great to see his memoirs re-published:


  1. Excellent post. I'm going through some of these issues as well..

    Feel free to visit my weblog ... Cheap Louis Vuitton Handbags

  2. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much
    about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this
    is great blog. An excellent read. I'll definitely be back.

    Also visit my page; Michael Kors Bags

  3. Good day! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are
    you using for this website? I'm getting fed up of Wordpress because I've had problems with hackers and I'm looking at options for another platform. I would be great if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    Feel free to visit my web site: Oakley Frogskins

  4. I visited various web pages except the audio quality for audio songs
    current at this site is actually wonderful.

    Also visit my website; Casque Beats Pas Cher (

  5. Saved as a favorite, I really like your web site!

    Also visit my webpage Boutique Guess