The holy family, or critique of critical criticism - Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

The holy family, or critique of critical criticism - Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

Marx and Engels' 1844 critique of the Young Hegelians and their ideas which were very popular in academia at the time.

"When I visited Marx in Paris in the summer of 1844, our complete agreement in all theoretical fields became evident and our joint work dates from that time."
Frederick Engels

During Engels' short stay in Paris in 1844, Marx suggested the two of them should write a critique of the rage of their day, the Young Hegelians. In the doing was born the first joint writing project between the two men -- and a life-long association that would change the world.

At the end of August, 1844, Engels passed through Paris, en route to his employment in Manchester, England, from visiting his family in Barmen (Germany). During 10 days in the French capital, he met Marx (for the second time).

After talking, they began drawing up plans for a book about the Young Hegelian trend of thought very popular in academic circles. Agreeing to co-author the Foreword, they divided up the other sections. Engels finished his assigned chapters before leaving Paris. Marx had the larger share of work, and he completed it by the end of November 1844. (Marx would draw from his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, on which he'd been working the spring and summer of 1844.)

The foremost title line -- "The Holy Family" -- was added at the suggestion of the book publisher Lowenthal. It's a sarcastic reference to the Bauer brothers and their supporters.

The book made something of a splash in the newspapers. One paper noted, that it expressed socialist views since it criticised the "inadequacy of any half-measures directed at eliminating the social ailments of our time." The conservative press immediately recognized the radical elements inherent in its many arguments. One paper wrote that, in The Holy Family, "every line preaches revolt... against the state, the church, the family, legality, religion and property." It also noted that "prominence is given to the most radical and the most open communism, and this is all the more dangerous as Mr. Marx cannot be denied either extremely broad knowledge or the ability to make use of the polemical arsenal of Hegel's logic, what is customarily called 'iron logic.'"

Bruno Bauer attempted to rebut the book in the article "Charakteristik Ludwig Feuerbachs" -- which was published in Wigand's Vierteljahrsschrift, Leipzig 1845. Bauer essentially claimed that Marx and Engels misunderstood what he was really saying. Marx would reply to that article with his own article -- published in the journal Gesellschaftsspiegel, Elberfeld, January 1846. And the matter was also discussed in chapter 2 of The German Ideology.

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ONLINE EDITION: Written between September and November 1844, this book was first published in February 1845, Frankfurt am Main. The work was never translated into English in either man's lifetime. This 1956 English translation is by Richard Dixon and Clement Dutts and is taken from the 1845 German edition. It is transcribed for the MEIA by Peter Byrne, 1997.

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Feb 5 2010 11:12

Hey, I've been hunting around for a reference to Proudhon's "What is Property?" in here, and it's supposed to be in Chapter 4, the same one that's missing. Any idea what that is?

Feb 5 2010 12:08
Feb 5 2010 13:02

Thanks. I'm really confused about the formulation of this piece, though. What do they mean by "Critical Criticism as X"?

Felix Frost
Feb 5 2010 15:11

With "critical criticism" Marx and Engels means the Hegelian ideas popular among intellectuals at the time. So "Critical Criticism as Herr Bruno" would mean these ideas as expressed by Bruno Bauer.

Chapter 4 is basically Marx criticizing Edgar Bauer for misrepresenting and mistranslating Proudhon.

Feb 5 2010 17:52

Thanks. Kind of funny that he'd go to all that trouble, only to attack Proudhon later with a whole polemic, though, isn't it?