Social Scientist. v 11, no. 118 (March 1983) p. 83.


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NOTE

Marx, Sue, Realism

THE HOLY FAMILY, or The Critique of Critical Criticism (1845), the first book Marx and Engels jointly published, contains the most detailed and systematic piece of literary criticism that was to emerge from Marx's pen. The deep and life-long interest that Marx and Engels took in literature and culture is well known. Both had written poetry and drama in their youth and their collected works and letters contain a wealth of comment and analyses on literature which continue to remain the basis for materialist literary theory and practice.

The Holy Family is an essential stage in Marx's and Engels's joint critique of Hegel and post-Hegelian philosophy which waste culminate in The German Ideology (1846) and The Poverty of Philosophy (1847). In a letter to Engels (April 24, 1857) Marx wrote: 6< I was pleasantly surprised to find that we do not need to be ashamed of our work, although the cult of Feuerbach strikes one as very amusing." Though Feuerbachian in tone. The Holy Family contains a materialist critique of the ideological position of the "Critical Critics", a group of Young Hegelians around Bruno Bauer, who in the pages of the Allgemeine Literaturzeitzmg were offering a critique of contemporary society from the standpoint of subjective idealism.

As Engels and Marx wrote in their joint foreword, the "Critical Critics" replaced real individual human beings by self-consciousness or spirit. But this was at a level below that already achieved by Theory in Germany. "Speculation reproducing itself as caricature" in this form was an "enemy of real Humanism". In the course of their polemics, Marx and Engels formulated essential features of historical materialism. In contrast to Bauer's elitism which elevated Ideas to the moving force of history and rejected the "corrupting" influence of the masses, Marx and Engels emphasised the importance of masses as the real creators of history ("the activity of man pursuing his own objectives") and the role of the proletariat which in liberating itself liberates society.1

1 This and subsequent refrences are from Marx-Engels-Werke. Vol 2. Chap V and VIII are devoted to the Sue-Szeliga polemic. See also S S Prawer, Karl Marx and World Literature, Oxford University Press, 1976, for a presentation of the Sue critique. Prawer is not however interested in ideological problems.



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