To Michael (29 February 1956)

From Karl Polanyi
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[23] Notes on Notes as a Hint on Big Subjects: your “M. of M.” is ingenious, precise and, in my view, correct. A conjuncture of the two passions of the modern age: science and morality makes Marxist dialectics auto-reinforcing. However, your formula merely shows why it can be so. In other words, you describe the double aspect of all effective faiths, not the specific effect of the Marxist one. Your problem has been to my knowledge solved by the Princeton (theologian Jewish), Taubes, author of Abendländische Eschatologie.[1] Speaking on an obscure West European Jewish antinomian ghetto sect of the 17th (?) cty he rightly linked salvational movements with antinomianism (Expectation of change of the world is necessarily disappointed; the religious soul - redeedem[2] - reacts by rejecting the unredeemed Law that has reasserted itself. This rejection differs only in degree, according to the depth of the basic salvational impact. I heard him speak in these terms at a Chicago conference on religion (sociologists plus theologians), End of November. In applying his insights (he used historical, literary - talmudic - and dogmatic material of hagiology), to my own life-experience, I recognized the universality of this. All reformers (revolutionaries) are bound to be antinomian, the important cases on record being the 16th cty Anabaptista and the Bolsheviks (the latter, perhaps the only non sexualistically antinomian ones). Now, to my own thoughts.

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In the Great Transformation (or Origin of our Times) in their later editions, I discourse not only on Robert Owen's peculiar rejection of Christianity, but also (at the very end) on the three revelations, the third of which came to our own time. The transcendance of the moralistic passion of the 18th-20th cties A.D. is achieved in the discovery of society, as I call it, - not therefore in a move towards “idealism”, but towards “realism”, as referred to in the phrase “reality of society”. Let us talk about that, if you feel like it, my dearest brother, K.

Editor's Note

  1. 1947
  2. Sic. Redeemed?

Letter Informations

KPA: 57/08, 23