Bakunin on Materialism & Idealism

from God and the State

by Mikhail Bakunin

Every development, I have said, implies the negation of its point of departure. The basis or point of departure, according to the materialistic school, being material, the negation must be necessarily ideal. Starting from the totality of the real world, or from what is abstractly called matter, it logically arrives at the real idealisation — that is, at the humanisation, at the full and complete emancipation of society. Per contra and for the same reason, the basis and point of departure of the idealistic school being ideal, it arrives necessarily at the materialisation of society, at the organization of a brutal despotism and an iniquitous and ignoble exploitation, under the form of Church and State. The historical development of man according to the materialistic school, is a progressive ascension; in the idealistic system it can be nothing but a continuous fall.

Whatever human question we may desire to consider, we always find this same essential contradiction between the two schools. Thus, as I have already observed, materialism starts from animality to establish humanity; idealism starts from divinity to establish slavery and condemn the masses to an endless animality. Materialism denies free will and ends in the establishment of liberty; idealism, in the name of human dignity, proclaims free will, and on the ruins of every liberty founds authority. Materialism rejects the principle of authority, because it rightly considers it as the corollary of animality, and because, on the contrary, the triumph of humanity, the object and chief significance of history, can be realised only through liberty. In a word, you will always find the idealists in the very act of practical materialism, while you will see the materialists pursuing and realising the most grandly ideal aspirations and thoughts.


"God or Labor: The Two Camps" by M. Bakunin

El Dio kaj la Ŝtato, Esperanto translation by R. Dumain

Negation: Bakunin and Bauer by Paul McLaughlin

Natural Order and the 'Divine Legislator' (according to Bakunin) by Paul McLaughlin

Bakunin and Feuerbach: On Religion, Philosophy, & Naturalism by Paul McLaughlin

"When God Was a Woman" by Bob Black

Ludwig Feuerbach: A Bibliography

The Young Hegelians: Selected Bibliography

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Bakunin's God and the State

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