Reading ‘Opium of the People’: Expression, Protest and the Dialectics of Religion

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Marx's phrase `opium of the people' is one of the most frequently quoted lines he ever wrote; perhaps because of that, it has been just as frequently misunderstood. By returning to the various meanings of opium in the mid-19th century, I revisit Marx's analysis, offering a way of reading the metaphor that is more consistent with Marx's dialectical method. The paper provides a revised analysis of Marx's “Towards a Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right: Introduction”, as well as suggestions about how this new more open-ended reading can contribute to Marxian analyses of religious beliefs and practices in late capitalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-38
Number of pages24
JournalCritical Sociology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005


  • Marx
  • religion
  • opium


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