Social Scientist. v 11, no. 118 (March 1983) p. 90.


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BOOK REVIEW

TREVOR LING, KARL MARX AND RELIGION IN EUROPE AND INDIA, The Macmillan Press Ltd, London and Basingstoke, 1980, pp vii "t- 168.

TREVOR LING, who teaches comparative religion at the University of Manchester has written a short, readable book on Marx and Religion. Why he has done so, however, does not emerge quite clearly right through the book. What is a religion? Ling does not quite handle this question except towards the end of the book (see particularly pp 154-155) and there too he plays with descriptions of religion -in such a manner that any movement based on systematic thinking can be described as religion. He has three paragraphs (or more) describing Islam without, of course, using the word "Islam". He then poses the question whether the movement meeting the description would qualify for the title religion. If you answer in the negative prompt comes Ling's retort: "There you are; what was described above was Islam. And don't you correct yourself! For if you did you will have to concede that Marxism is religion too because that was the description of classical German Marxism as well/*

This kind of jugglery with words is not limited to religion. A whole chapter goes into exploring the commonalities between Hippie culture, Krishna Consciousness, Counter-culture and Marxism. Marxism is thus everything. Marxism is religion according to Karl Popper and Adam B Ulam who are rather innocently described as "non-marxist" thinkers. These "non-marx-isf thinkers make a firm declamatory statement saying that Marxism is a religion and that is enough. A point asserted is a point made!

But these are not the only problems with this book. Marx wrote some pieces on 'Indian religion' in the nineteenth century. Now after a century and a half it is possible to say that most of what he said was perhaps not based on full knowledge of India's history of religion. In fact Kosambi said this is 1956 and Ling quotes him (p 75). The question is not whether what he wrote was right or wrong. Precisely because Marxism is not a religion it is possible for a Marxist like Kosambi to question the validity of what Marx had to say about Indian religion. But then Ling forgets Kosambi when he turns to proving Marxism to be a religion. Equally inexplicably he describes Max Waber's analysis of Indian religion as a "possibly Marxist analysis" (p 78). One is at a loss to understand what



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