On the Jewish Question (November 15) – One-Page Paper Due
[Note: this is a difficult essay because in addition to presenting his own ideas, Marx (especially in the first ten pages or so) is engaged in a polemic versus someone called Bruno Bauer. You are not responsible for understanding Bauer’s ideas and try not to get bogged down in Marx’s critique of him personally. Focus on Marx’s larger critique of capitalism and liberalism as such.]
1. Why does Marx speak of Jews at all? What does he say are their characteristics? What do they represent? (pp. 48-52)
2. What according to Marx is the difference between political emancipation and human emancipation? How does he define each?
3. What are the differences between “the rights of man” and “the rights of the citizen”? (pp. 40-46)
4. What does Marx mean by the phrase “species being”? (46)
5. Overall, what are Marx’s problems with liberalism as we understand it?
Answer any one of those questions in this format:
Individual Freedom v. Authority
Guide to Writing the Weekly Papers
Topics. Sometimes topics will be suggested, other times not. Unless specified otherwise, you are free to write on anything that interests you (and is relevant to the course). Papers should, however, be rooted in and an analysis of text. Possibilities include analyzing a theme, concept, or contradiction, or a comparison to an author previously discussed. You might explore a paradox, follow out the implications of a claim, or compare/contrast the author’s view to something today. You may choose to confront the central issue of a text or merely be provoked by something in passing. But when choosing your topic, choose something with important or interesting implications. Show why the reader should care about your discussion. Show what hinges on your analysis. If what you say is correct, but nothing is at stake, the paper will seem pointless or trivial.
Content. Each paper should have a thesis and an argument. Do not simply summarize the text. While a short summary may be useful or necessary, it is not sufficient to receive a good grade. Probe the author’s view. What assumptions does he make? Is his argument valid? Does it contradict itself or something that he says elsewhere? What are the implications of his claims? Any ONE of these questions could be the basis for a paper. In short, analyze and assess some portion of the text. A good paper might weigh the diverse statements on some issue in order to show how they relate and, therefore, what the author’s final view on the topic must be. Another possibility is to explore the implications of an author’s view. For example, if Tocqueville is right in asserting X, then our society is wrong in believing Y. You might then reflect on the relative merits and limits of X and Y. However, be circumspect when making accusations against our authors. They are some of the smartest people who have ever written. If an objection is obvious to you, it probably was obvious to them, too. Think about how the author would respond to your objection; it is probably addressed somewhere in the text. By creating a dialogue between yourself and the author, you might realize that your objection might not be about the claim that first captured your attention, but that it is based on a deeper, underlying issue. If you make criticisms that the author acknowledges elsewhere, it shows either that you anticipated well or read sloppily, depending on where the author acknowledges the point. In conclusion, the aim is to think, not to regurgitate. A tip: whether you find the author’s views compelling or troubling, it is easier to write on something about which you care.
Structure. Because the papers are only one page, you must be direct and concise. There is little, if any, space for biographical or historical background. Nor is there room for fuzzy thinking. It may seem easier to write your thoughts in five pages, but concision is part of the exercise. Careful editing, sharp thinking, and clear structure are necessary to write short papers well. You have to get right to the root of the problem. The best papers state the thesis in the very first sentence.
Bad thesis statement: Plato is a great thinker who lived in ancient Greece.
This is true, but probably has little to do with your analysis.
Mediocre thesis statement: Plato discusses “x”
This is true, but what about “x” do you want to say? This is a topic, not a thesis.
Good thesis statement: In discussing “x,” Plato assumes “y” (or implies “y”).
This sets up your problematic. Is “y” a valid assumption? Why or why not?
If “y” proves troublesome, what does this imply about the original claim “x”?
Or explore the ramifications of “x” implying “y.” What important consequences does this
have? If “x” implies “y,” does this make you accept or reject “x”? Explain.
Good thesis statement: If Plato is right in thinking “x,” then we Americans are wrong about “y.”
This sets up a nice confrontation. Explain why Plato thinks “x” is true and how this
implies some current opinion/view/policy/institution is wrong. Then, take a stand. Upon
reflection, who, in your view, is correct: us or Plato?