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Christopher Caudwell, Raymond Williams and Terry Eagleton 1985

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PRINCIPLES OF LITERARY EVALUATION IN ENGLISH MARXIST CRITICISM: CHRISTOPHER CAUDWELL, RAYMOND WILLIAMS AND TERRY EAGLETON by KALYAN DAS GUPTA B.A. (Hons.), Calcutta University, 1975 M.A., The University of Saskatchewan, 1978 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of English) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE^IVEftSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA MAY 1985 (S) Kalyan/JDas Gupta, 1985 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make i t freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It i s understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of  E n g l i s h The University of British Columbia 1956 Main Mall Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Y3 D a t e  26 April 1985 -6 C3/81) Abstract Principles of Literary Evaluation in English Marxist Criticism: Christopher Caudwell, Raymond Williams and Terry Eagleton Supervisor: Dr. Graham Good This dissertation p o l i t i c a l l y analyses the principles of literary evaluation (here called "axiology") argued and applied by the English c r i t i c s Christopher Caudwell, Raymond Williams, and Terry Eagleton. The paradoxical fact that a l l three claim to be working within a Marxist framework while producing mutually divergent rationales for literary evaluation prompts a detailed examination of Marx and Engels. Moreover, since Caudwell and Eagleton acknowledge Leninism to be Marxism, and, further, since Eagleton and I both in our own ways argue that Trotskyism—as opposed to Stalinism--is the continuator of Leninism, the evaluative methods of Lenin and Trotsky also become relevant. Examined in light of that revolutionary tradition, however, and in view of the (English) c r i t i c s ' high p o l i t i c a l self-consciousness, the latter's principles of "literary" evaluation reveal definitive p o l i t i c a l differences between each other and with Marxism i t s e l f , centrally over the question of organised action. Thus, each of the chapters on the English c r i t i c s begins with an examination of the chosen c r i t i c ' s purely p o l i t i c a l profile and its relationship to his general theory of literature. Next, I show how the contradictions of his "axiology" express those of his p o l i t i c s . F i n a l l y , with Hardy as a focus, I show the influence of each c r i t i c ' s p o l i t i c a l logic on his particular "literary" assessment of individual authors and texts. The heterogeneity of these c r i t i c s ' evaluations of Hardy, the close correspondence of each c r i t i c ' s general evaluative principles to his p o l i t i c a l beliefs, and the non-Marxist nature of those beliefs themselves a l l concretely suggest that none of the three English c r i t i c s is sljLctly a Marxist. I do not know whether a genuinely Marxist axiology is inevitable; however, I do admit such a phenomenon as a logical possibility. In any case, I argue, this possibility w i l l never be realised unless aspiring Marxist axiologists seek to match their usually extensive knowledge of literature with an active interest in making international proletarian revolution happen. And, since i t can only happen i f i t is organised, the "Marxist" axiologist without such an orientation w i l l be merely an axiologist without Marxism. i i Contents Abstract of Dissertation i i Table of Contents i i i List of Abbreviations iv Acknowledgments x Introduction 1 Nature, Purpose, and Methodology of the Project 1 A Brief Survey of Literary Axiology from the Past to the Present . 10 Marx and Engels: Base-Superstructure, Class, and Partisanship . . 36 Lenin and the Party Question 81 Trotsky and the Defence of the First Workers' State 91 Notes 114 Christopher Caudwell 131 Caudwell's Politics and His General Theory of Literature 131 Caudwell's Principles of Literary Evaluation 153 Caudwell's Evaluation of Hardy 179 Notes 194 Raymond Williams 203 Williams' Politics and His General Theory of Literature 203 Williams' Principles of Literary Evaluation 225 Williams' Evaluation of Hardy 274 Notes • ' 299 Terry Eagleton 310 Eagleton's Politics and His General Theory of Literature 310 Eagleton's Principles of Literary Evaluation 331 Eagleton's Evaluation of Hardy . 355 Notes 366 Conclusion 371 Notes 380 Bibliography 381 Appendixes 401 Appendix A 401 Appendix B 403 Appendix C 406 i i i List of Abbreviations and Short Titles Note: Some frequently-used t i t l e s have been abbreviated in two different ways. Within a sentence, they have been written as a short t i t l e ; outside a sentence, or when used parenthetically at any point, they have been written in the form of a letter-abbreviation. Anatomy "Archetypes" Bate "Beauty" Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays, by Northrop Frye. "The Archetypes of Literature," by Northrop Frye. Walter Jackson Bate, ed., Criticism: The Major Texts. "Beauty: A Study in Bourgeois Aesthetics," by Christopher Caudwell. In FS. BJA British Journal of Aesthetics. 'Breath of Discontent' "The Breath of Discontent: A Study in Bourgeois Religion," by Christopher Caudwell. In FS. CA Capital CC Class and Art: Problems of Culture under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, by Leon Trotsky. Capital: A C r i t i c a l Analysis of Capitalist Production, Vol. I, by Karl Marx. Same abbreviation used for the book as a separate publication and for excerpts from the book in Marx/Engels. The Country and the City, by Raymond Williams. 'Celine" CI "Celine and Poincar€: Novelist and Politician," by Leon Trotsky. Criticism and Ideology: A Study in Marxist Literary Theory, by Terry Eagleton. Class and Art Same as CA. iv V "Consciousness" CPGB Criticism and Ideology CS "Culture" Culture and Society Demetz "D.H. Lawrence" DIB Doyle Draper EN Fischer Fokkema and Kunne-Ibsch FS The Function of Criticism "Consciousness: A Study i n Bourgeois Psychology," by Christopher Caudwell. In FS. The Communist Party of Great Britain. Same as CI. Culture and Society: 1780-1950, by Raymond Williams. "Culture and the Soviet Bureaucracy," by Leon Trotsky. Same as CS. Peter Demetz, Marx, Engels, and the Poets: Origins of Marxist Literary Criticism. "D.H. Lawrence: A Study of the Bourgeois Artist," by Christopher Caudwell. In _S. Drama from Ibsen to Brecht, by Raymond Williams. Brian Doyle, "The Necessity of Illusion: The Writings of Christopher Caudwell." Michael Draper, "Christopher Caudwell's Illusions." The English Novel from Dickens to Lawrence, by Raymond Williams. Michael Fischer, "The Literary Importance of E.P. Thompson's Marxism." D.W. Fokkema and Elrud Kunne-Ibsch, Theories of Literature in the Twentieth Century: Structuralism, Marxism, Aesthetics of Reception, Semiotics. Further Studies in a Dying Culture, by Christopher Caudwell. The Function of Criticism: From The Spectator to Post-Structuralism, by Terry Eagleton. Furbank P.N. Furbank, ed., Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy. Introd. Terry Eagleton. v i Hess Hyman Illusion and Reality Introduction IR JAAC Lenin "Les Javanais" Lifshitz Literary Theory Long R LR LT Manifesto Margolies Marx/Engels "Mayakovsky" "Men and Nature" Hans Hess, "Is There a Theory of Art i n Marx?" Stanley Edgar Hyman, "Christopher Caudwell and Marxist Criticism." Illusion and Reality: A Study of the Sources of Poetry, by Christopher Caudwell. Introduction to Economic Manuscripts of 1857-58: A Contribution to the Critique of P o l i t i c a l Economy, by Karl Marx. Illusion and Reality Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Lenin on Literature and Art. "A Masterly First Novel: Jean Malaquais's Les Javanais," by Leon Trotsky. Mikhail L i f s h i t z , The Philosophy of Art of Karl Marx. Literary Theory: An Introduction, by Terry Eagleton. The Long Revolution, by Raymond Williams. Literature and Revolution, by Leon Trotsky. Literary Theory. The Manifesto of the Communist Party, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. David N. Margolies, The Function of Literature: A Study of Christopher Caudwell's Aesthetics. Marx/Engels on Literature and Art. "The Suicide of Vladimir Mayakovsky," by Leon Trotsky. "Men and Nature: A Study i n Bourgeois History," by Christopher Caudwell. In FS. v i i "Mirror" ML MLC Morawski "Leo Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution," by V.I. Lenin. Marxism and Literature, by Raymond Williams. Marxism and Literary Criticism, by Terry Eagleton. Stefan Morawski, Introd. to Marx and Engels on Literature and Art: A Selection of Writings, ed. Lee Baxandall and Stefan Morawski. MT NLH "Pacifism and Violence" "Party Literature" PL 'Poet and Rebel' P o l i t i c a l Unconscious Poverty of Theory Prawer Preface The Prophet Unarmed "Reality" Modern Tragedy, by Raymond Williams. New Literary History. "Pacifism and Violence: A Study in Bourgeois Ethics," by Christopher Caudwell. In S. "Party Organisation and Party Literature," by V.I. Lenin. Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review, by Raymond Williams. "Tolstoy: Poet and Rebel," by Leon Trotsky. The P o l i t i c a l Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act, by Fredric Jameson. The Poverty of Theory and Other Essays, by E.P. Thompson. S.S. Prawer, Karl Marx and World Literature. Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of P o l i t i c a l Economy, by Karl Marx. The Prophet Unarmed: Trotsky: 1921-29, by Isaac Deutscher. "Reality: A Study in Bourgeois Philosophy," by Christopher Caudwell. In FS. v i i i Romance and Realism Romance and Realism: A Study in English Bourgeois Literature, by Christopher Caudwell. RR RSDLP _S Schiff "Shaw" Slaughter Romance and Realism. Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Studies in a Dying Culture, by Christopher Caudwell. "Marxist Literary Criticism," by Terry Eagleton. In Hilda Schiff, ed., Contemporary Approaches to English Studies. "George Bernard Shaw: A Study of the Bourgeois Superman," by Christopher Caudwell. In JS. C l i f f Slaughter, Marxism, Ideology and Literature. Solomon SSFR State and Revolution "The Strangled Revolution' The Stubborn Structure "Tolstoy" "Tolstoy and Labour" Maynard Solomon, ed., Marxism and Art: Essays Classic and Contemporary. Reply to the Guardian: The Stalin School of Falsification Revisited. Spartacus Youth League pamphlet. The State and Revolution: The Marxist Theory of the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution, by V.I. Lenin "The Strangled Revolution: Andre Malraux's The Conquerors," by Leon Trotsky. The Stubborn Structure: Essays on Criticism and Society, by Northrop Frye. "L.N. Tolstoy," by V.I. Lenin. "L.N. Tolstoy and the Modern Labour Movement," by V.I. Lenin. Trotsky Leon Trotsky on Literature and Art. Tucker Robert C. Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. , 1978. ix Walter Benjamin WB Wellek "Wells" Walter Benjamin or Towards a Revolutionary Criticism, by Terry Eagleton. Walter Benjamin. Rene Wellek, "Marx and Engels." "H.G. Wells: A Study in Utopianism," by Christopher Caudwell. In S. WR Women and Revolution. Acknowle dgment s Dr. Graham Good, my supervisor, and Dr. Herbert Rosengarten, a professor not always directly involved in my particular project, provided many-sided support throughout my programme. Dr. John Doheny and Dr. Fred Stockholder commented usefully on the various drafts. Two friends, Cheryl and Peter, early offered some invaluable advice and joined several other friends in providing crucial material and moral support. And my secretary-friends in the department, especially Ingrid Kuklinski and Rosemary Leach, helped me through many rough times. Finally, I would like to thank my mother for everything by dedicating this dissertation to her, Urmila Das Gupta. x - 1 - Introduction Nature, Purpose, and Methodology of the Project This dissertation is intended as a contribution to the Marxist debate on how to judge literature. It attempts to analyse and systematise, from a Marxist viewpoint, the literary-evaluative principles theorised by certain self-described Marxists i n England. The examination here focuses on a number of contradictory p o l i t i c a l tendencies and conclusions in their work. These are viewed in light of decisive historical lessons, drawn from the tradition of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky. My purpose is to show—I believe for the f i r s t time in synthetic form—the p o l i t i c a l implications of these contradictions for a Marxist theory of literary value. (For economy, I have extensively used the term "axiology" to refer to the theory of literary and other values.) My dominant presentational strategy is negative and theoretical: I offer what is mainly a critique of the methods of (chiefly) Christopher Caudwell, Raymond Williams, and Terry Eagleton. In part, this is a limited attempt to redress, from a Marxist perspective, a long-standing general academic imbalance. This imbalance was noted even quite recently by, for instance, a prominent non-Marxist c r i t i c : "Very l i t t l e has been done to study the actual process by which great c r i t i c s have arrived at their valuations of specific works of art."* The overall tenor of this work is polemical, not expository. I make no attempt to trace in detail the development of the various Marxist literary and c r i t i c a l theories across the world through history, but merely use 2 specific concepts from them. - 2 - My focus on (ostensible) Marxists and on (their) theory is important to understand. I aim to verify the claimed Marxism of Caudwell, Williams, and Eagleton, primarily as expressed in the theoretical formulations within the specifically axiological parts of their work. These theoretical formulations are found in two forms: (1) as attitudinal qualifiers implicitly colouring judgments on particular works or authors and (2) as generalisations about literary value ex p l i c i t l y presented as position statements. I examine the internal consistency of these formulations, the overall relationship of each c r i t i c ' s formulations to the experience and logic of revolutionary Marxism from Marx to Trotsky, and the relationship of each c r i t i c ' s axiological formulations to his own p o l i t i c a l views and logic. That last'enterprise offer's one'way"of • verifying the claimed Marxism of these c r i t i c s , both p o l i t i c a l l y and axiologically. Though this is not a task of decisive importance to the broader task of social, economic, and p o l i t i c a l revolution, i t is a relevant one: the class struggle does not leave the realm of ideology unaffected, nor does the ex p l i c i t l y p o l i t i c a l motive of so-called Marxist criticism make i t possible for the broader struggle to remain insulated from that ideological realm. Many c r i t i c s themselves make a p o l i t i c a l issue out of Marxist "litera r y " theory and largely articulate their own evaluative principles in terms of i t . Williams and Eagleton are two examples of such c r i t i c s . When Marxist method thus becomes a p o l i t i c a l issue in such a polemical activity as literary criticism, p o l i t i c a l c l a r i f i c a t i o n acquires a relevance substantially greater than what most "literary" criticism is routinely accustomed to. My motivating premise here has been that,in such e x p l i c i t l y p o l i t i c a l debates, be they conducted within the "cultural" realm or elsewhere, the Marxist method has the right to be defended against distortions—above a l l against those perpetrated by self-professed Marxists--before being judged. My immediate objective in this p o l i t i c a l c l a r i f i c a t i o n is therefore to verify the consistency of particular c r i t i c s who claim, in one way or another, to be working within the framework of Marxism; in the course of this examination, however, and through i t , I also hope to re-confirm the relevance of Marxism to the social struggle for proletarian revolution in general,and to "literary" evaluation in particular. One c r i t i c who attacks Marxism on the basis of distorted interpretations and avowedly un-Marxist representatives is F.R. Leavis. - 3 - After having sarcastically pleaded "guilty to the familiar charge—I have not minutely studied the Bible," Leavis proceeds to dismember the liberal Edmund Wilson as a "good index" of a Marxist c r i t i c . He then continues the quixotic massacre, of everyone from A.L. Morton and Granville Hicks (both apologists for Stalinism, a politics inimical to Marxism) to Prince Mirsky: "We have no i l l u s i o n s . There is a choice; we must speak or die: Stalin or the King by Divine Right?"^ "What are these 'classes,'" he rhetorically asks, challenging a basic analytical tool used by Marxism. And he answers: "Class of the kind that can justify talk about 'class culture' has long been extinct."^ Yet, as one veteran specialist on precisely such questions—E.P. Thompson—has correctly remarked, "As the world changes, we must learn to change our language and our terms. But we should never change these without r e a s o n . I have argued that Marxists have no reason to reject Marx and Engels' use of the category of and specific observations about "class." In defining my task, I have merely sought to extend to a specific theoretical area (axiology) a particular -analytical method geared to specific p o l i t i c a l interests (Marxism). However, within literary theory, a general connection between "literature" and "politics" has long been recognised. "For to insist that literary criticism i s , or should be, a specific discipline of intelligence," says one c r i t i c , " i s not to suggest that a certain interest in literature can confine i t s e l f . t o the kind of intensive local analysis associated with 'practical c r i t i c i s m ' — t o the scrutiny of the 'words on the page' in their minute relations, their effects of imagery, and so on: a real literary interest is an interest in man, society, and c i v i l i s a t i o n , and i t s boundaries cannot be drawn; the adjective is not a circumscribing one." - 4 - Elsewhere the same c r i t i c observes, "The more seriously one is concerned for literary criticism, the less possible does one find i t to be concerned for that alone . . .; special duties are not ultimately served by neglect of the more general." If the reader is shocked to learn that this firm advocate of "social" criticism is the same person as our recent derider of class analyses, I can only point out that the apparent contradiction is not mine but that of F.R. Leavis and the particular class—the petit bourgeoisie—he speaks for.^ And, in part, that is precisely the contradiction that, as I hope to show, a l l three principal objects of this study exhibit as well. At about the same time that Leavis was pinning the liberal Wilson with the latter's own logic, announcing, "There ±s_, then, a point of 7 v x view above classes,"' the Prague semiotician Jan Mukarovsky was stating, "above a l l the c r i t i c is always either the spokesman or conversely the antagonist or even a dissident from some social formation (class, environment, etc.)."^ I believe that the implications of that observation have been scrutinised most thoroughly by Terry Eagleton. From his f i r s t major theoretical work, Criticism and Ideology, to his latest, The Function of Criticism, Eagleton has consistently and persuasively argued that "fc]riticism is not an innocent discipline, and never has been"^: "[t] he difference between a ' p o l i t i c a l ' and 'non- p o l i t i c a l ' criticism is just the difference between the prime minister and the monarch: the latter furthers certain p o l i t i c a l ends by pretending not to, while the former makes no bones about i t . . . . It is a distinction between different forms of p o l i t i c s . . . ." Consequently, he points out, "£t]here is no way of settling the question of which politics is preferable in literary c r i t i c a l terms. You simply - 5 - have to argue about politics."10 Specifically, this means that "[tjhe problem of a 'Marxist aesthetics' is above a l l the problem of a Marxist pol i t i c s . " 11 Mark Roberts, in The Fundamentals of Literary Criticism (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974, p. 69), has "extended" the above argument's validity from interpretation to evaluation. I place "extended" i n quotes, however, not only because Roberts' book pre-dates Eagleton's Criticism and Ideology but also because his conception of evaluative relativism remains abstractly philosophical: i t largely ignores the existence—not to mention importance—of actual social and p o l i t i c a l interests. Nevertheless, he phrases one logical implication of Eagle- ton's argument simply and well: "If my view of the world, its nature and constitution, i s radically different from yours, shall I not place a different value from you upon works of literature that deal particularly with those matters upon which our views most noticeably differ?" This dissertation is an attempt to invest this relativism with the specific p o l i t i c a l dynamic of Marxism, always—implicitly or e x p l i c i t l y — i n effective combat with libe r a l humanism. For, as Fredric Jameson has observed, "the bankruptcy of the liberal tradition is as plain on the philosophical level as i t is on the p o l i t i c a l : which does not mean that i t has lost i t s prestige or ideological potency. On the contrary: the anti-speculative bias of that tradition, its emphasis on the individual fact or item at the expense of the network of relation- ships i n which that item may be embedded, continue to encourage submission to what is by preventing i t s followers from making connections, and in particular from drawing the otherwise unavoidable conclusions on the p o l i t i c a l level."12 - 6 - In setting myself this f a i r l y delimited task, I have obviously rejected, for various reasons, numerous other, related tasks. Of these, perhaps the two most likely to engender dissatisfaction are my refusal here to substantially "apply" my own theory to actual "literary" texts and my principled refusal to negate the logic of my own argument by attempting to posit a more detailed "alternative" axiological model than I deem historically possible at the moment. The refusal to posit a detailed alternative is argued out and defended in the body of my dissertation, especially in the Introduction. The refusal to be a "practical c r i t i c " here is motivated partly by space considerations, but also partly by ideological and historical ones, outlined below. I believe that, in general, "pure" theory, within conjuncturally determinate bounds of reason and potential v e r i f i a b i l i t y , can prove rewarding. It can allow one to step back from the frequently hypnotic power of individual words, passages, or texts, to ponder broad structural, ideological, and historical relationships and significances. And i t can enable even the "practical c r i t i c " to then resume his or her specialty with a qualitatively enriched, more comparative approach. Besides, while I grant the complete legitimacy and importance of empirical projects, I also note that the heyday of "practical c r i t i c i s m " — i n the mode of I.A. Richards, F.R. Leavis, and the American New Critics—seems at least for the nonce to be over and to be giving way to generally more theoretical enterprises, even among non-Marxists. Witness, for instance, the rise to eminence of structuralism, phenomenology, semiotics, and deconstruction. Moreover, the work of Terry Eagleton in particular shows that, these days, even so specialised a f i e l d as Marxist literary axiology has reached - 7 - sophisticated self-consciousness. The very emergence of that f i e l d thereby i t s e l f provides grounds for being discussed theoretically—that i s , for being discussed at its own level and in i t s own terms. Finally, with Eagleton, I am convinced that at this point in time, the expected aim of Marxist criticism "to subvert the very ideological apparatuses of class-society . . . w i l l not be greatly furthered by yet another Marxist interpretation of George E l i o t " h e n c e my self-restriction here to theory. Within this s e l f - r e s t r i c t i o n , moreover, projects other than my particular one are and were possible but remained unincorporated. These, too, should be adumbrated here, for their deliberate exclusion defines the limits of my actual exercise's goals. As explained above, my aim is to examine the principles of literary evaluation in Marxist c r i t i c a l theory. This means, among other things, that mine is not a "general" theory of any general literary or c r i t i c a l theory or practice as a whole, Marxist or otherwise. It does depend for its self- definition and elaboration, however, on general theories (Marxist and non-Marxist) of literature, criticism, and literary value. Mine is also not a (Marxist) theory of p o l i t i c a l l y heterogeneous evaluations of actual literary texts: I have not set out to judge the empirical validity of the particular judgments on particular authors or texts made, for instance, by Caudwell, Williams, and Eagleton. Though such a concern is valid and even crucial, I have instead concentrated on the p o l i t i c a l logic of these c r i t i c s ' value theories and judgments, finding that p o l i t i c a l l y more revealing (and formally more manageable) than a primarily factual verification. Of course, certain factual formulations are, in their bias or their error, p o l i t i c a l l y revealing too; but I have - 8 - allowed such . empirical. mechanisms to retain, a subordinate role _in my endeavour, which, in its conscious emphasis remains a theoretical and p o l i t i c a l one. Fi n a l l y , I have throughout stressed certain connections between axiological c r i t e r i a and p o l i t i c a l values and have recommended a conscious alignment, at an historically unprecedented l e v e l , of active Marxist politics and professional Marxist literary evaluation. The basis for my claim to originality, i f any, thus lies in my insistence on linking two simple but academically all-too-often oversimplified and ignored distinctions. The f i r s t distinction is the p o l i t i c a l difference between purely discursive protestations of l e f t i s t sympathy passing for "commitment," on the one hand, and actively organised revolutionary class-struggle (and the committed orientation stemming from i t ) , on the other. The second distinction is the functional difference between "literary" writing (directly concerned with " l i f e " ) and "critical/evaluative" writing (directly concerned with "literature"). Granting the relativity of the l a t t e r , post-Romantic conventional distinction (between "literature" and "criticism"), I nevertheless believe that its terms capture, however inadequately, a real distinction within modern discursive practice. Consequently, I have argued that any counter-productive limitations that an active, organised partisanship may conceivably be felt to impose on "literary" activity do not . logically betoken an identical effect on " c r i t i c a l " analysis and evaluation. Most "literature" (novels, plays, poems, some kinds of essays) advances no explicit claim to be p o l i t i c a l : the social attitudes endorsed in i t are correspondingly unsystematised, relatively devoid of any unified programme for social change. But quite the - 9 - opposite conditions and tendencies obtain, I would argue, for any considered "criticism" of_ that "iiterature." And this is doubly true of theories whose subject is "criticism" i t s e l f and which, moreover, overtly profess allegiance to a definite p o l i t i c a l framework of interests and methods. Such "metacriticism" cannot evade the imputation of self-consciousness, and any individual "metacritic" has the right to interrogate i t accordingly. For axiologists claiming to be Marxist, therefore, their actual attitude towards and active role ( i f any) in the organised struggle for workers' revolution acquires a decisive centrality. Their authenticity as Marxist specialists is put to the ultimate test over what they say and do about that key p o l i t i c a l question: over what they p o l i t i c a l l y avow and whether they practice what they profess. Incidentally, self-described Marxist c r i t i c s themselves invite such testing by explicitly and just i f i a b l y broaching the relevance of their p o l i t i c a l views to the operations of their c r i t i c a l analyses, evaluations, and theories. My main concern here, however, is not with the formal credibility of the "Marxist" axiologists' o f f i c i a l self-image. In the f i r s t place, my concern is with the internal, substantive genuineness—the p o l i t i c a l credentials of the assumptions, methods, and conclusions—of the axiology i t s e l f . But my point also is that objectively, formal participation in organised struggle is naturally constitutive of and indispensable to any genuinely Marxist credentials. It is d i f f i c u l t enough to remain, in one's theories, unvaryingly true to one's real experiences and impulses. But the task of theorising becomes practically impossible i f one has to "guess" what these experiences and impulses might be, from a position exterior and hostile to them. One - 10 - cannot even interpret—much less evaluate or decisively shape—literary phenomena in the declared interests of a collective p o l i t i c a l goal, i f one spurns the organised struggle central to i t s achievement. I f , therefore, particular axiologists wish to insist that they are Marxists, they must clearly seek and demonstrate p o l i t i c a l consistency, in chiefly two respects: (1) in respect of their ability to analyse and evaluate reality in light of historical lessons, through the framework of interests articulated by Marx and Engels, and (2) in respect of their willingness to act concertedly to change reality in accordance with those interests, analyses, and evaluations. And such consistency, I have argued, is inconceivable today without the shaping and irreplaceable experience of working in an organisation that functions as the collective memory and practical leader of the revolutionary working class. This emphasis on an organised Marxist orientation is what I believe constitutes my specific contribution to the current debate within Marxist literary axiology. A Brief Survey of Literary Axiology from the Past to the Present At least since the advent of Aristotle's Poetics (fourth century B.C.), Western literary and c r i t i c a l theory has always treated, explicitly or im p l i c i t l y , the issue of literary value and evaluation as an organic part of its general aesthetic discussion.^ However, over the centuries, the treatment has changed in it s form, definition, and emphasis, in general acquiring increasing self-consciousness as well as social and p o l i t i c a l consciousness. To simplify history only a l i t t l e , one might f a i r l y suggest that p o l i t i c a l literary axiology in i t s present - 11 - self-conscious form does not really emerge in conventional c r i t i c a l theory t i l l Matthew Arnold's "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time" (1864) and Culture and Anarchy (1869). Both Aristotle's Poetics and Horace's Art of Poetry (f i r s t century B.C.) deal primarily with the internal structure and ingredients of a work of art. The authors do not equally address the problems of literary evaluation, though they do propose individual components of particular genres as bearers of literary value. Thus, Aristotle proposes the concept of a cathartic effect as one index of the genuineness of tragedy. Horace's emphasis on simplicity and unity suggests other indices, incidentally also found in Aristotle. But Horace's work addresses a technical problem in the writing (or "production") of poetry more than i t proposes a set of c r i t e r i a for judging i t . Longinus' treatise On the Sublime ( f i r s t century A.D.) deals more extensively than Aristotle's or Horace's with the emotional components of rhetoric and hence, by association and implication, with the emotional dynamics of literary response. However, his emphasis f a l l s on questions of style and morality, two very limited though important components of evaluation; and his pedagogical aim resembles Horace's. Moreover, his definitions of the sublime are clearly too dependent on the idealist notion of "the soul" to be directly appropriable by dialectical and historical materialism (Marxism). If we pass over what are mostly restatements of these "classical" problematics by the Renaissance c r i t i c s (such as Philip Sidney and Pierre Corneille) and variations of them by the Neoclassicists (such as John Dryden, Alexander Pope, David Hume, and Joshua Reynolds), we arrive at the Romantics and, with them, at the beginnings of axiological - 12 - problematics as they predominantly define themselves in our era. This is to say simply that many of the individual axiological issues and c r i t e r i a raised by Western criticism in previous centuries become, in the Romantic period, explicitly politicised within a framework that continues to define Western society and thought to this day. The shift in axiological self-consciousness and analytical approach can be observed in some of the formulations as well as the t i t l e of an essay such as William Hazlitt's "Why the Arts Are Not Progressive" (1814): contrast, for instance, Joseph Addison's "The Pleasures of the Imagination" from a century earlier (Bate, pp. 184-87). By the time of S.T. Coleridge, we notice that the self-consciousness of "criticism" signalled in Pope's An Essay on Criticism (1711) is beginning to consolidate i t s e l f . One of Coleridge's early essays is entitled "On the Principles of Genial Criticism Concerning the Fine Arts" (1814). In i t he asserts the notion, common even today, that " Qfj he Good . . . is always discursive" and "[tQ he Beautiful . . . is always intuitive" (Bate, p. 375). Clearly, increasing self-consciousness does not automatically entail a materialist philosophy. Thus, on the one hand, the self-consciousness of a Hazlitt produces the materialist distinction between the "earliest stages of the arts, when the f i r s t mechanical d i f f i c u l t i e s had been got over, and the language as i t were acquired" and the later stages when "they rose by clusters and in constellations, never to rise again" (Bate, p. 293). On the other hand, the self-consciousness of a Coleridge produces a more subjective, purely idealist counterpart of Hazlitt's distinction, remaining preoccupied with disinterested intellectual contemplation and intuition (Bate, p. 373). Yet both these tendencies—an interest in the actual behaviour - 13 - of art and criticism and an urge to deny the usefulness of that material interest and experience at least to some—combine, though only selec- tiv e l y , in the c r i t i c a l theory of Matthew Arnold. Arnold is an early and not entirely misplaced testimony to the fact that, just as c r i t i c a l self-consciousness does not guarantee materialism, so " p o l i t i c a l " self-consciousness does not guarantee Marxism. The particular politics informing Arnold's literary axiology is liberal humanism, a politics that to one degree or another has defined most Western non-Marxist schools of criticism and c r i t i c a l theory since his time.I-* One important difference between Arnold and his ideological peers, however, is the fact that he i s , as Eagleton puts i t , "refreshingly unhypocritical" (LT, p. 24). In Arnold's c r i t i c a l ruminations, one may observe in their virtually unconcealed form a l l the p o l i t i c a l assumptions, interests, and values that mould a l i b e r a l humanist's pronouncements on "literary" value. It is this virtual transparency of motive that, as we shall see, worries that other prominent, latter-day lib e r a l humanist c r i t i c , Northrop Frye. Liberal humanism is a p o l i t i c a l characteristic of much post-nineteenth century criticism; methodologically, however, i t is neither homogeneous nor all-inclusive. One c r i t i c a l methodology i t partly straddles and partly excludes is that commonly and loosely known as "sociological" criticism. Among the early "sociological" c r i t i c s may be found names such as Mme. de Stael (1766-1817), Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-69), and Hippolyte-Adolphe Taine (1828-93). The characterisation of these c r i t i c s ' works as "sociological" is a loose one because here again we find each individual c r i t i c emphasising different sets of social factors, in keeping with his or her general - 14 - outlook and interest in the world. However, one point at which, even i f only in a rough sense, the passive "sociological" method intersects an active h i s t o r i c a l , d i a l e c t i c a l , and materialist engagement with the world is the mature works of Karl Marx (1818-83) and Friedrich Engels (1820-95). The earliest source of my p o l i t i c a l argument is traceable to the mature thought and practice of these two nineteenth-century revolutionaries. It is their works that are wittingly or unwittingly invoked by the multiplicity of modern c r i t i c a l theorists claiming to be Marxist. And, as such, they wi l l be (selectively) examined in some detail l a t e r . As I suggested earlier, p o l i t i c a l literary axiology in it s present form is a relatively recent phenomenon, virtually non-existent before Matthew Arnold. Moreover, a certain spread s t i l l exists—narrower among the Marxists, wider among non-Marxist literary theorists—with regard to attitudes towards the possibility, usefulness, and correct mechanics of literary evaluation and value theory. In this Introduction, I have concentrated in general on those modern c r i t i c s who view axiology as both possible and useful; and, in particular, I have focused on those who address Marxist theory as well. An entire range of chiefly non-Marxist c r i t i c s argues, with varying mutual consistency, that a l l systematic evaluation is ultimately pointless and that theorists should simply accept, without analysis or criticism, the plurality of spontaneous evaluative responses induced in them when they read literature. This body of cr i t i c s ranges p o l i t i c a l l y from conservatives such as Harold Osborne, through liberals such as Northrop Frye, effective social democrats such as Raymond Williams, and ostensible Marxists such as Tony Bennett, to anarchists such as Roger - 15 - B. Rollin.16 while their reasons for advocating abstention from systematisation in evaluation vary, the majority of these c r i t i c s seem to share a paradoxical conception of literature and criticism as at once decisive and peripheral to society's existence.^ Their dismissal of "extrinsic" judgment goes hand in hand with an exclusive concentration on the "literary" as the vortex of cultural l i f e . This effective underestimation of material social factors reveals their distance from the Marxist conception of the limited self-generating power and social potency of literature and criticism. Perhaps the best-known non-Marxist spokesman for judgmental agnosticism today is Northrop Frye, and his chapter "On Value-Judgment," in The Stubborn Structure (pp. 66-73), is a concise statement of his position.18 s t r i c t l y , Frye's views on evaluation are inseparable from his general theory of literature, which is in turn an organic part of his idealist philosophy and his aggressively anti-Marxist, l i b e r a l - humanist p o l i t i c a l stance.1^ Frye's general outlook, however, does produce certain flat self-contradictions in his statements on literary value i t s e l f which are relatively discrete and hence capable of separate analysis. In its most explicit form, Frye's treatment of the merits or demerits of evaluation is f a c i l e , both in methodology and in formulation. Thus, in The Stubborn Structure, he equates a l l value-judgements with so-called "stock responses," unceremoniously dismissing both (p. 72). Apart from the questionable logic of dismissing any response merely because i t is "stock," regardless of whether or not i t thereby recognises a certain relatively stable truth about reality, Frye's method leads to a series of similarly dubious - 16 - equations of value-judgment with "the rejection of knowledge" (p. 72) and "anti-intellectualism" (p. 73). Frye's dismissiveness is vividly captured in his statement that " [t] he only value-judgment which is consistently and invariably useful to the scholarly c r i t i c is the judgment that his own writings, like the morals of a whore, are no better than they should be" (p. 69). Frye later explicitly acknowledges the phenomenological premise of this statement when he claims that "a writer's value-sense can never be logically a part of a c r i t i c a l discussion: i t can only be psychologically and rhetorically related to that discussion. The value-sense i s , as the phenomenological people say, pre—predicative" (p. 70). This position in turn merely expresses axiologically Frye's functionalist conception of ideal, disinterested criticism in general: "One of the tasks of criticism is that of the recovery of function, not of course the restoration of an original function, which is out of the question, but the recreation of function in a new context."20 Frye rejects Arnold's particular absolutist method of evaluation, one which judges literary works by measuring them against arbitrary "touchstones." But he does so not because of Arnold's aristocratic, explicitly anti-working-class touchstones, which he merely notes, but because of Arnold's introduction, into his judgment, of any extra-"literary," "social" and class considerations whatsoever: "Arnold's 'high seriousness' evidently is closely connected with the view that epic and tragedy, because they deal with ruling-class figures and require the high style of decorum, are the aristocrats of literary forms. . . . We begin to suspect that the literary value-judgments are projections of social ones. . . . [A*jnd criticism, i f i t is not to - 17 - reject half the facts of literary experience, obviously has to look at art from the standpoint of an ideally classless society" (Anatomy, pp. 21-22). The rejection of Arnold's particular (upper-class) c r i t e r i a therefore leads Frye to adopt the "standpoint" not of what Marxists regard as an historically more progressive class—the working class—but of a "classless society" admitted to be entirely ungrounded in present r e a l i t y . This purely imaginary transcendence of existng class-society can only be characterised by Marxists as an evasion of reality. It offers no concrete method of engaging with the existing, class-induced qualities of literature today. And i t is certainly not the same as the Marxists' own orientation towards a classless society through the social resolution—not evasion—of class conflict. Marxists would argue that Frye's "standpoint" of a "classless society" bespeaks not a programmatic orientation towards achieving such a society, through changing class-reality, but a mental escape from i t . Indeed, they might further argue that the charge of "reject [ing]" the "facts" of "experience" assumes dubious connotations when i t issues from him: Marxists, too, "reject" many "facts" of their experience, in the sense of striving to better people's existing conditions of living; but Frye here is clearly attributing to a l l principled evaluation a w i l l f u l blindness towards reality that is perhaps more properly applicable to his own method. This is the only characterisation I can make of his even-handed and contemptuous rejection of a l l class-perspectives as "perverted culture" and of a l l revolutionary action as anti-cultural, precisely in the declared interests of an abstract, Arnoldian liberalism: The social energy which maintains the class structure produces perverted culture in its three chief forms: mere upper-class - 18 - culture, or ostentation, mere middle-class culture, or vulgarity, and mere lower-class culture, or squalor. . . . Revolutionary action, of whatever kind, leads to the dictatorship of one class, and the record of history seems clear that there is no quicker way of destroying the benefits of culture. . . . It seems better to try to get clear of a l l such conflicts, attaching ourselves to Arnold's other axiom that 'culture seeks to do away with classes.' The ethical purpose of a liberal education is to liberate, which can only mean to make one capable of conceiving society as free, classless, and urbane. No such society exists, which is one reason why a liberal education must be deeply concerned with works of imagination. (Anatomy, p. 347) Frye obviously believes that this exclusive focus on works of "imagination" inhabiting an utterly non-existent realm does not constitute a blatant rejection of "half the facts of literary experience." This is the familiar, one-sided view and universalist rhetoric of bourgeois, l i b e r a l humanism, a combination historically counterposed to the open partisanship of Marxism. Of course, Frye's enjoinments to c r i t i c a l theorists to abstain from partisan evaluation and to reject more than half the facts of class- experience contradict his own practice. Not only does he repeatedly valorise or downgrade particular authors and specific values; the firm absolutism of his personal choices and their arbitrary rationalisations exactly reify in practice the logic of his Utopian, idealist theory. Thus, on the one hand, Frye argues in Anatomy that "[tjhere are no definite positions to be taken in chemistry or philology and i f there are any to be taken in criticism, criticism is not a fi e l d of genuine learning" (p. 19). He finds "comparisons of greatness" "odious," recommending that they be "left to take care of themselves" (p.27): "criticism has no business to react against things, but should show a steady advance toward undiscriminating catholicity" (p. 25). He - 19 - declares "[tfjhe goal of ethical criticism" to be " trans valuation, the ability to look at contemporary social values with the detachment of one who is able to compare them in some degree with the infinite vision of possibilities presented by culture" (p. 348). On the other hand, proceeding from his abstract and questionable concept of a "pure" literature—which, "like pure mathematics, contains i t s own meaning" (p. 351) and whose "central myth . . . in i t s narrative aspect . . . [ i s j . . . the quest-myth" ("The Archetypes of Literature," in Bate, p. 607)—Frye freely counterposes "mediocre works of art" to "the profound masterpiece" ("Archetypes," Bate, p. 604). He contrasts "popular literature which appeals to the inertia of the untrained mind" to "a sophisticated attempt to disrupt the connection between the poet and his environment," such as in Joyce ("Archetypes," Bate, p. 607). And he counterposes "redeemable" to "irredeemable art" (Anatomy, p. 25). He openly states that " [t] he real concern of the evaluating c r i t i c is with positive value, with the goodness, or perhaps the genuiness of the poem . . ." (Anatomy, p. 27), and confidently asserts that "[Y]he c r i t i c w i l l find soon, and constantly," that Milton simply "is a more rewarding and suggestive poet to work with than [sir RichardJ Blackmore" (Anatomy, p. 25). In a similarly absolutist vein, Frye also asserts that "the poet makes changes not because he likes them better but because they are better" ("Archetypes," Bate, p. 603) .21 Frye is thus caught in the contradiction between his appeals for "undiscriminating catholicity" and his actual practice of selecting particular authors and evaluative c r i t e r i a on a class-specific—that i s , on a consistently bourgeois-elitist—basis. Yet, Frye himself occasionally shows an awareness of his practical absolutism, for - 20 - instance acknowledging that his Anatomy "takes certain literary values for granted, as fully established by c r i t i c a l experience" (Anatomy, p. 20). And indeed, at one point, perceiving the frequently unfeasible outcome of his functionalist logic in practice, yet unable to spell out the methodological alternative to that dead-end, Frye l i t e r a l l y leaves his contradiction hanging, between a negation and an uncertainty: "To bring my own view that criticism as knowledge should constantly progress and reject nothing into direct experience would mean that the latter should progress toward a general stupor of satisfaction with everything written, which is not quite what I have in mind" (Anatomy, p. 28). Not surprisingly, we never find out what alternative he does quite have in mind. Yet the example of Frye i s , for Marxists, more productive than that of most of his co-thinkers; for, unlike them, he spells out the self-defeating circularity of his own non-Marxist logic. Marxists would neither profess or advocate "undiscriminating catholicity" nor wish to ignore bourgeois society's rea l , definitive class-polarities in practice. Consequently, even though this would and does ultimately entail d i f f i c u l t practical decisions about revolutionary commitment to class-struggle, Marxists would at least aspire to that crucial seriousness of conviction and consistency of logic that seems to be lacking from Frye's flippant dismissal of a l l "revolutionary actions." Yet, even in self-contradiction, Frye is superior to most of his co-thinkers. For he recognises and acknowledges—however imprecisely, c l i n i c a l l y , and minimisingly—precisely that unity of idea and action that forms the backbone of Marxism (which he dismissively lumps together with Nietzscheanism and certain "rationalisations of oligarchic values"). Thus, there can be few more tel l i n g recommendations to abandon Frye himself than his own involuntary tribute to that same object of his contempt—Marxism: If we cut through history at any point, including our own, and study a cross-section of i t , we get a class structure. Culture may be employed by a social or intellectual class to increase its prestige; and in general, moral censors, selectors of great traditions, apologists of religious or p o l i t i c a l causes, aesthetes, radicals, codifiers of great books, and the l i k e , are expressions of such class tensions. We soon realise, in studying their pronouncements, that the only really consistent moral criticism of this type would be the kind which is harnessed to an all-round philosophy of society, such as we find not only in Marxism but in Nietzsche and in some of the rationalisations of oligarchic values in nineteenth-century Britain and twentieth-century America. In a l l these culture is treated as a human productive power which in the past has been, like other productive powers, exploited by other ruling classes and is now to be revalued in terms of a better society. But as this ideal society exists only in the future, the present valuation of culture is in terms of i t s interim revolutionary effectiveness. This revolutionary way of looking at culture is also as old as Plato. . . . (Anatomy, p. 346) In contrast to the non-Marxist faction discouraging value theory, typified by Frye, we find a substantial non-Marxist grouping and a smaller pool of self-declared Marxists who favour such theorising. The non-Marxist axiologists are extremely heterogeneous; they range from narrow particularists, discussing the possibility of various single c r i t e r i a of value, to mere describers of the abstract dynamics of evaluation. Some of them, however, even share much of their empirical observations and logic with the Marxists. Nevertheless, none of them manages to generalise these observations to the point of questioning their own overall, usually rationalist theoretical framework. Even the most sophisticated of these theorists thus remains on a course parallel to or—at best—converging on Marxism.22 - 22 - By far the most thorough, wide-ranging, and cogent statement from this group of non-Marxist axiologists is Barbara Herrnstein Smith's anti-Frye polemic, "Fixed Marks and Variable Constancies: A Parable of Literary Value," in Poetics Today, 1, Nos. 1-2 (Autumn 1979), 7-22. In so far as class-riven society could ever yield a general, trans-class algebra of evaluation, Smith's work offers us a glimpse of i t . Indeed, Marxists could well harness, with advantage, Smith's formulations to their own method: they need merely subordinate them to a Marxist overview, crucially by inserting the class-differential as a modification. Smith provides a useful general history, sociology, and psychology of evaluative dynamics in its various forms—implicit and e x p l i c i t , personal and institutional. She vividly sketches the various situational factors contributing to a text's perceived value, the real principles as well as the external range and internal patterning of a l l evaluation, and the numerous variables shaping the specific forms of a l l the (relative) "constancies" of value. While she commences with an account of the complexity and slipperiness of a l l evaluation, Smith actually concludes with a positive recommendation for cautious evaluation, in explicit opposition to Frye's theoretical agnosticism and i t s obverse, empirical absolutism. Indeed, the logic of her argument seems ultimately to indicate Marxism as the only productive way forward, and she herself seems far from hostile to that option.23 Thus, Smith begins by pointing out that, in a sense, evaluation is "always compromised, impure, contingent; . . . always Time's fool" (p. 8). Evaluation starts with the writer's own acts of creation, alteration, rejection, and approval (p. 8); this is followed by "an - 23 - intermediary history of valuings, also variable, also contingent": "publishing, printing, purchasing and preserving" (p. 9). Acts of suppression (as with the Quarto edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets) and of selection (as with a l l anthologists) are also implicit acts of evaluation, and so are the acts of teaching, scholarly analysis,and even informal quotation (pp. 9-10, 15). Yet value remains impure; evaluation remains contingent (p. 9). And perhaps nothing illustrates this fact more vividly than the history of a l l the negative responses to Shakespeare's Sonnets evoked through the centuries, from c r i t i c s whom Smith respects as "men of education and discrimination": Dr. Johnson, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Hazlitt, Byron, Hallam, John Crowe Ransom, Yvor Winters (p. 10). This is why, to emphasise her theoretical point, Smith herself refuses to offer "her own" practical evaluation of the Sonnets. 2 4 But the conclusion that Smith draws from these observations is neither subjectivist-empiricist nor abstractly absolutist. For she firmly rejects "the well-known social parochialism of academic c r i t i c s " (p. 15); "experience," she notes, is double-edged: i t "not only deepens and broadens us; i t also batters, scars, individualises and specialises us; experience is a provincialism of it s own, separating us from our fellow creatures" (p. 11). On the other hand, equally out of the ques- tion for her is the possibility of absolute—what she calls "object- ive"—value (p. 17). Thus, "nothing hits the spot a l l the time, because the spot is always different" (p. 14); also, perception of value largely depends on "the nature and potency of our own assumptions, expectations, capacities and interests" (p. 16); literary value is thus "radically relative and therefore 'constantly variable'" and contingent (p. 17). - 24 - But, Smith firmly c l a r i f i e s , "none of the terms here—contingent, relative or v a r i a b l e — i s equivalent to 'subjective' . . ." (p.17). Rejecting both traditional "dead-end conclusions" of subjectivist axiology—"either de gustibus non disputandum est . . . or the conviction that there exists . . . objective value"—Smith argues instead that "the variables in question are limited and 'regular'": that i s , "they occur within ranges" and "they exhibit patterns and principles"; and "in that sense, but only in that sense, we may speak of 'constancies' of literary value" (p. 17). Thus, these variable constants "should be distinguished from other kinds and conceptions of invariance that are associated with theories of literary value. . . . ^Tjhe constancies are not equivalent to what are sometimes referred to as the 'universals' of human nature" (p. 20). As Smith moves towards her conclusion, she more and more reveals the inadequacies of her seemingly purely rationalist framework. Thus, most crucially, she adds an algebraic corollary that finds no particular, concrete illustration within her a r t i c l e , but which poses her logical problem in such a way as to clearly indicate a concrete, class-defined solution. (And today, as always, i t is not the liberal c r i t i c s of the Frye school but Marxists who stand to gain most by advancing their solution from their own, openly class-partisan point of view). Research, Smith points out, "does not conclude with the discovery of va r i a b i l i t y : we must seek to account for the variabilities themselves. . . ." And invoking "basic [biologicalJ mechanisms of human perception and cognition" is not enough, for they " w i l l always operate differentially in different environments and interact with a broad range of other variables ( h i s t o r i c a l , cultural, situational, etc.) . . ." - 25 - (p. 20). Similarly, " [t]he attempt to locate invariance in the nature (or, l a t t e r l y , the structure) of the works themselves" is "misguided," for two reasons: "different features or properties w i l l be valued dif- ferently by different audiences, etc., but, more significantly . . . £,] the very perception of those presumed properties w i l l vary" (p. 21). Thus, Smith concludes—echoing the phenomenological argument, though never denying the reality and importance of a l l the relative, contributing factors—that, like a l l value, literary value is not the property of an object _or of a subject, but, rather, the product of the dynamics of a system. As readers and c r i t i c s of literature, we are within that system; and, because we are neither omniscient nor immortal and do have particular interests, we w i l l , at any given moment, be viewing i t from some perspective. It is from such a perspective that we experience the value of a work and also from such a perspective that we estimate its potential value for others. There is nothing illusory in the experience, however, or necessarily inaccurate in the estimate. From that r e a l — i f limited—perspective, at that r e a l — i f transient—moment, our experience of the value of the work JLS_ its value. Or, in the terms I should prefer: our experience of "the value of the work" is equivalent to our experience of the work in relation to the total economy of our existence. And the reason our estimates of i t s potential value for other people may be quite accurate is that the total economy of their existence may, in fact, be quite similar to that of our own. (P. 21) Smith's above formulations, essentially pointing to the "system" and the evaluator's "perspective" as decisive factors, seem to me to confirm—in their limited, indirect, and negative way—Marx and Engels' thesis that the history of a l l hitherto existing society since the advent of written records is the history of class-struggle. For, Smith's abstract rejection of subjectivism and absolutism implicitly and'futile-ly begs a concrete resolution, one that can posit a real "variable constancy" in present society. It is here, I believe, that - 26 - the Marxist perceptions about "class" can provide the missing real factor to resolve the dilemma of Smith's abstract algebra. With an article such as Robert Weimann's "'Reception Aesthetics' and the Crisis in Literary History," in C l i o , 5 , No. 1 ( 1 9 7 5 ) , 3 - 3 5 , the pro-evaluation discussion begins to shade over into the Marxist sideof the spectrum. Weimann's article is a te l l i n g pro-Marxist critique of limitless relativism, especially as exemplified by the "reception aesthetics" of Hans Robert Jauss. Yet, I categorise Weimann's art i c l e as "pro-Marxist" rather than Marxist, and I do this for a reason. Undoubtedly, his expose? of Jauss's bourgeois-reformist p o l i t i c a l assumptions employs negative arguments that Marxists themselves would find indispensable; and his concise characterisation of "tradition," for instance, reveals his easy grasp of the general Marxist method of dialectical-historical materialism ("As an historical category, 'tradition' . . . applies to objective relationships in the literature of the past, but i t also applies to a necessary relationship of the literary historian to the past" [p. 1 6 J ) . However, he never emerges witha positive methodological class-alternative to Jauss's bourgeois-reformism: and his entire polemic lacks this alternative class-axis, so that even his generally materialist discussions of "tradition" sometimes reveal traces of absolutism (as in his sanguine tone in referring to past "masterpieces" [p. 2 8 ] ) . Nevertheless, Weimann's article does provide useful ammunition for the argument that "the dialectic between structure and function, between the history of genesis and the history of effect deserves to be at the centre of a new methodological conception of literary history" (pp. 2 0 - 2 1 ) . While one might question the centrality of this particular dialectic as Weimann - 27 - describes i t , depending on one's overall theoretical project, Weimann's attempt to historicise the entire problematic of literary production and consumption is one wholly compatible with and in the interests of Marxism. In its current spate and form, the discussion of literary value among self-declared Marxists almost certainly dates from Terry Eagleton's chapter "Marxism and Aesthetic Value," in Criticism and Ideology (pp. 162-87). We shall examine Eagleton's argument in detail i n Chapter 4. Here, we may merely note that he deplores a certain "theoretical prudery . . . in vogue within Marxist aesthetics" which, "£a] t its simplest level . . . appears as an egalitarian unease about the 'elitism' of assigning certain works to second-class status" and, " [i] n  i - t s m o r e  sophisticated form . . . presents i t s e l f as a rigorous s c i e n t i f i c i t y hostile to the idealism of 'normative' judgment"; "evaluation," he observes, "is thus evacuated from the realm of literary science, to be furtively cultivated, perhaps, as a private pleasure" (CI, pp. 162-3). Peter Widdowson's "'Literary Value' and the Reconstruction of Criticism," in Literature and History, 6, No. 2 (Autumn 1980), 138-50, offers a thoughtful and suggestive response to Eagleton (as well as to Tony Bennett), outlining certain "pragmatic" empirical projects compatible with Eagleton's theory and salvable from Bennett's extreme conjuncturalism (pp. 139-40). The projects constitute, within the realm of discourse, a virtual emergency programme to stop further bourgeois ravagement of culture (pp. 143-44, 147-48). At the same time,Widdowson acknowledges the overall limits of such purely discursive measures and the need for "a radical restructuring of the education - 28 - system and of the society which sustains i t " as the only long-term solution (p. 147). Widdowson's seven broadly-categorised exercises urge more detailed analyses of commonly-discussed literary "traditions" and their individual authors. They c a l l for historical demystification of the institutions of "literature" and "criticism" themselves, for renewed emphasis on the details of literary production (as opposed to Bennett's emphasis on consumption, or response), and for explanations of "the way the 'major' authors of the past are 'produced' (and valued) in our own age" (pp. 147-49). It is a proposition deserving careful consideration. Yet, Widdowson's obvious abil i t y to link the ideal to the real remains within the overall framework of the very academic discourse that he himself acknowledges to be self-defeating. In that sense, he ultimately writes as a c r i t i c f i r s t , and as a Marxist later, thus succumbing in reality to the same reversed priorities that handicap virtually a l l non-revolutionary intellectuals formally sympathetic to Marxism. While the present axiological debate within ostensible Marxism seems to date from Eagleton's key chapter in Criticism and Ideology, i t s immediate pre-history reaches back to the rise of Stalinist ideology, commonly associated with the "thirties" and, in Britain, with such cri t i c s as Christopher Caudwell, Alick West, and George Thomson. I shall discuss Caudwell in the next chapter, but a glance at a sample- piece on literary value by West would be useful for introducing that entire mode of c r i t i c a l theory. In his chapter on "The Relativity of Literary Value," in Crisis and Criticism,25 Alick West makes the class-connection between values - 29 - and evaluation that non-Marxists ignore or minimise, though his positive programme is the contradictory, so-called "socialist humanism" of Stalin and his literary co-thinkers, the later Gorky and A.A. Zhdanov. West's formulations on the question are not always self-consistent or clear; but, in fact, they are more sharply focussed than those of his mentor and peer, Caudwell. West proceeds from the materialist premise that the priorities and experiences of l i f e — e s p e c i a l l y of p o l i t i c a l life—determine literary theory and evaluative c r i t e r i a , not vice versa: If we realise in our own lives that we have to contribute to making society, we like the literature which embodies that creation. If we are content to exploit society, we have no possibility of interest in literature. . . . But criticism does not decide whether we were stirred by emotion; our lives do that. (P. 102) As he puts i t earlier in the chapter, "We value literature as we value our l i v e s , for i t is a part of our lives" (p. 101). Further, West completes the logic of his albeit flawed Marxist orientation by explicitly asserting that "the most creative movement in our society" i s none other than "socialism" (as he understands that concept). And from this self-avowedly socialist perspective flows his c r i t i c a l manifesto: "{jr]he criticism of our l i v e s , by the test of whether we are helping forward the most creative movement in our society, is the only effective foundation of the criticism of literature" (p. 102). Thus, " |V]he social organism to which literature has to be related, is humanity i n i t s advance to socialism. The function of criticism is to judge literature, both content and form, as a part of this movement. It can only f u l f i l l this function i f i t takes part in this movement i t s e l f on - 30 - the side of the workers of the world" (p. 103). But West is far from employing that manifesto, in its abstraction, as a catch-all. He wants to explain reality by recognising i t , not explain i t away by reducing its complexity. Abstract theory, for West, must thus await refinement or face rejection i f i t cannot explain, in its given form, a l l the facts of one's literary experience: It should perhaps be pointed out that the analysis of value given here cannot be used as a touch-stone. The theory of value depending on the expression of the alternations i n fundamental social experience does not enable us to read a poem with a blank mind, note the alternations, and then pass judgment. The heightening of social energy [which is literature's valuable effect] has to be felt before the means by which i t was aroused can be studied. The s t i r of emotion is prior to analysis, and the condition of i t . . . . But criticism does not decide whether we were stirred; our lives do that. And i f they are such that we are stirred by what is bad, no c r i t i c a l theory is proof against being twisted into s e l f - j u s t i f i c a t i o n . (P. 102) Against any such a r t i f i c i a l s e l f - j u s t i f i c a t i o n , West counterposes as the criterion of value "the test of whether we are helping forward the most creative movement in our society" (p.102). "The value of literature," he says, paralleling Caudwell, "springs from the fact that i t continues and changes the organisation of social energy" (p. 101). Debatable though this criterion might be, to West i t obviously appears to have the "advantage" (over many equivalent but abstract ones) of being practically verifiable. Thus, for West, the dialectics of evaluation are both concrete and complex. They preclude not only absolutism and extreme (subjective) relativism, both of which deny the real but transitory nature of literary experience; they also preclude any view of the work that might deny the ingredients of the work i t s e l f by invoking what i t presumes to - 31 - be the completely dissimilar and unrelated response of different social classes to i t . Hence, says West, "our judgments are not only temporary class prejudices, but contain truth" (p. 101); and "the beauty of literature is the felt truth that we live through organised productive activity" (p. 101). Therefore, the "undertone of scepticism, that we cannot trust our taste, denies the experience of valuing. . . . To discuss the relativity of value from the standpoint that we have no reason whatever for believing in ourselves, is useless metaphysics; for we do believe in ourselves" (p. 101). Nevertheless, West admits, "we may be, and often are, wrong," and therefore must evaluate literature through the objective criterion of i t s impact on "the organisation of social energy" (p. 101). With the "thirties'" school of Marxists, as exemplified by West, we touch contentious claims to and interpretations of Marxism that form a major area of concern in the rest of my dissertation.^6 These conflicts are best illuminated and resolved by reexamining the theories and practical histories of the c l a s s i c a l , revolutionary Marxists themselves—Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky. Certain important similarities as well as differences mark a l l the chief figures who are the objects of this study, including the revolutionaries. Thus, Marx and Engels' specific concerns are "different" from Lenin's and Trotsky's, in so far as they are separated by a world-historic event: the only successful and healthy workers' revolution in history—the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. Furthermore, the chiefly p o l i t i c a l concerns of these four active revolutionaries are in turn distinct from the primarily cultural preoccupations of Caudwell, Williams, and Eagleton. And f i n a l l y , - 32 - Caudwell and Eagleton both openly claim to accept and even advocate Marxist theory, whereas Williams tries to maintain an e x p l i c i t , sceptical distance from i t . Yet I have compacted a l l seven of the above individuals in a single dissertation. My main basis for doing this is their common theoretical engagement with Marxism, shown in the seriousness of their attempts to examine the relevance of that theory to literary phenomena. Of course, I also note the fact that a l l three English c r i t i c s claim to be working, with varying consistency, within the framework of Marxism. The revolutionaries from Marx to Trotsky constitute, in my view, an historically-vindicated p o l i t i c a l gauge for assessing the claimed Marxism of the professional c r i t i c s . And Caudwell, Williams, and Eagleton out-qualify an obviously larger galaxy of similarly oriented professionals simply by being B r i t i s h , mutually near- contemporaneous, and well-known—decisive delimiting credentials for a study this size. The common engagement of these seven c r i t i c s with Marxism has tended to reveal and clarify a central problem in Marxist axiology: the nature of revolutionary commitment, or the determining effect of building (or rejecting) the revolutionary workers' party on Marxist c r i t i c s ' c r i t e r i a for judging literature. It seems to me that a damaging hiatus has long existed between two areas of ostensible Marxist commitment—the directly p o l i t i c a l and the cultural (the latter including, of course, the literary and the c r i t i c a l ) . Marxist p o l i t i c a l commitment i s , logica l l y , incremental, concentric, and (ultimately) comprehensive; and i t presupposes consistency. Thus, a committed Marxist cannot seriously fight imperialism on the battlefield and simultaneously write sincere paeans to i t in the press. Yet, with the - 33 - general exception of the revolutionary Marxists, this is almost precisely the anomaly characterising much ostensibly Marxist c r i t i c a l theory. This is not to say that, as in my above, self-evidently absurd example, everyone from Marx to Eagleton at some point or other practises in culture the exact opposite of what he preaches in pol i t i c s ; the problem is a l i t t l e more complex, as we shall see in the section on Lenin in this Introduction. Put simply, however, i t reduces i t s e l f to the question of the changing Marxist notion and practice of what has often loosely been termed "commitment."27 After Lenin, I have argued, a Marxist c r i t i c ' s commitment to revolution can only be ultimately tested and confirmed by his or her seriousness about building a revolutionary workers' party. One measure of seriousness would be the general priority that is accorded to this task; another measure would be the orientation, even within one's own sphere of specialisation, resulting from such commitment: that i s , one's seriousness as a Marxist c r i t i c would ultimately depend on whether one approached Marxism primarily from the point of view of literary and c r i t i c a l interests, or whether one approached every particular sphere of a c t i v i t y , including literary criticism, primarily from the standpoint of a revolutionary, organisation-oriented Marxist.28 T have maintained that the latter approach is a logical prerequisite—though never a guarantee—for any further, consistently Marxist advancement of literary axiology. Yet, in much so-called Marxist aesthetics, a virtual p o l i t i c a l indifferentism pervades attitudes towards evaluation. "Culture" is somehow deemed close enough to " l i f e " to benefit from radical glossing but too far from "politics" to be affected by the organisational - 34 - question. To a large extent, such a dichotomy between Marxist politics and "Marxist" aesthetics has been historically inevitable, for the socio-political revolution today logically constitutes a much more urgent, fundamental, and demanding task than its cultural consolidation. But this "dichotomy" between politics and culture is more a question of immediate practical priorities than of a strategic ideological orientation. This is why I see no reason why self-avowed Marxist " c r i t i c s , " whose specialty is literature, should have to be blind to the need for sharing with other Marxists the p o l i t i c a l direction of the revolution, in particular as streamlined through the revolutionary workers' organisation. The mere objects of one's special professional interest need not, by their sheer existential variety, impose a correspondingly inconsistent and directionless evaluative approach to them—least so among people claiming to be conscious Marxists. Instead, I have argued, Marxist c r i t i c s should begin the struggle for genuine revolutionary consistency. That i s , they should tackle, in its concrete complexity, the problem of squaring the production and appreciation of literature with the overall needs of the socio-political revolution, at a steady though cautious pace. This has been my principal theme in this dissertation. It suggests that, for Marxists, the conditions for a dialectical resolution of the anomaly between systematised politics and arbitrary literary assessments can only be provided by the interpenetration resulting from synchronised activities in a workers' revolutionary organisation. The surrealist Andr£ Breton, though speaking here chiefly about art and not criticism, put the matter well: "From where we stand, we maintain that the activity of - 35 - interpreting the world must continue to be linked with the activity of changing the world. . . . 'Transform the world,' Marx said; 'change l i f e , ' Rimbaud said. These two watchwords are one for us." 2 9 We now return to the areas of controversy mentioned earlier. I w i l l f i r s t explain my pro-Marx position on the categories of "base" and "superstructure," "class," and "partisanship"—categories arousing much controversy, especially among the p o l i t i c a l theoreticians of the so-called New Left. I shall then explain my pro-Lenin stance on the related question of the revolutionary workers' ("vanguard") party, distinguishing it from both modern social democracy and Stalinist bureaucratism and seeing its continuity in the programme of Trotsky's presently-defunct Fourth International. In a suggestive comment on a l l class societies, Marx and Engels noted in The Manifesto of the Communist Party that "the social consciousness of past ages, despite a l l the multiplicity and variety i t displays, moves within certain common forms, or general ideas, which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms."30 More than half a century later, another Marxist, Rosa Luxemburg, amplified that cryptic observation: We are often told that our movement lacks the persons of talent who might be capable of further elaborating Marx's theories. . . . It is pure illusion to suppose that the working class, i n its upward striving, can of its own accord become immeasurably creative in the theoretical domain. . . . [XJctive participation of the workers in the march of science is subject to the fulfilment of very definite social conditions. The utmost i t can do today is to safeguard bourgeois culture from the vandalism of the bourgeois reaction, and create the social conditions required for a free cultural development. . . . Not until the working class has been liberated from i t s present conditions of existence w i l l the Marxist method of - 36 - research be socialised in conjunction with other means of production, so that i t can be fu l l y utilised for the benefit of humanity-at-large, and so that i t can be developed to the f u l l measure of its functional capacity.31 The argument in this dissertation has been advanced in view of the above paradox, and yet precisely with the intent of f a c i l i t a t i n g i t s eventual methodological resolution. Marx and Engels: Base-Superstructure, Class, and Partisanship From the well-known fact that Marx left no coherent and comprehensive treatise on literary theory, ostensibly Marxist c r i t i c a l specialists have drawn one of two seemingly opposed conclusions: (1) either that "the views of Marx on art and i t s function" can be "deduced" exclusively from his "numerous internally connected statements" or (2) that " [i]t is the materialist method of the Grundrisse and Capital, not hints gleaned from the 'literary criticism,' which must form the basis of anything worthy of the t i t l e of a 'Marxist criticism.'"32 This is a false counterposition that damagingly ignores the real unity of Marx's developing theory with his changing revolutionary practice. It is crucial for Marxists to remember that Marx (like Engels) wrought his theories in close connection with his practical revolutionary a c t i v i t i e s , f i r s t as a radical-democratic disciple of the Jacobin communists (such as Babeuf and Blanqui) and then as a pioneering organiser of the modern proletariat and its early leadership, the First International.33 Now, scholars have long established that, in aesthetic matters, Marx was "a creature of his own age";34  t h e m a - j o r  philosophical components of his aesthetic theory are usually recognised to be German (Hegelian) classicism and the broader, European Romanticism, in the tradition of Rousseau.^5 But i t would be a mistake to explain Marx's views on literary and a r t i s t i c value merely in light of his philosophico-cultural training, ignoring their proven imbrication with his economic analysis and p o l i t i c a l values and practice. After a l l , as Marx and Engels themselves pointed out as early as The German Ideology (written i n 1845-46) , "not criticism but revolution is the driving force of history, also of religion, of philosophy and a l l other types of theory."36 It is this view of the objective dynamic of history that doubtless confirmed Marx in his famous thesis that while philosophers have only interpreted the world, the problem is how to change i t . The materialist premise of this programme was the analytical model of "base" and "superstructure," f i r s t elaborated by Marx in his 1859 Preface to _A Contribut ion to the Critique of P o l i t i c a l Economy (henceforth cited as Preface): In the social production of their l i f e , men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their w i l l , relations of production which correspond to a definite state of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and p o l i t i c a l superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material l i f e conditions the social, p o l i t i c a l and intellectual l i f e process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or—what is but a legal expression for the same thing—with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive - 38 - forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, p o l i t i c a l , religious, aesthetic or philosophic—in short ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight i t out. Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material l i f e , from the relations of production. No social order ever perishes before a l l productive forces for which there is room in i t have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society i t s e l f . (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow: Progress, 1973, pp. 503-504; excerpted i n Marx/Engels, pp. 41-42) Marx here is attempting to capture a complex relation between structure and process, both of which he sees as also being internally complex. The positive aim of the description is to suggest a genuinely dialectical and materialist model of social l i f e which w i l l be concrete enough to counter the idealism of Hegel but general enough to marginalise the particularities of national, cultural, and other variants. The social structure i t s e l f is regarded as internally differentiated between two main realms: the "real foundation" and the "superstructure." The foundation consists, in its turn, of two chief components: the "material productive forces" and the social "relations of production"; the superstructure consists of "legal, p o l i t i c a l , religious, aesthetic or philosophic—in short ideological forms." These different components interlock, and even interpenetrate, in a changing relationship, as the social structure as a whole passes through various - 39 - "transformations," from birth to death. Now, some of these components and realms are subordinate in overall power, and secondary in the chronological order of their appearance, to others. Thus, the social relations of production are "definite," "indispensable," and "independent" of people's " w i l l " : but they in turn merely "correspond to a definite state of development of their material productive forces." Together, however, these mutually complementary productive forces and relations constitute "the economic structure of society, the real foundation. . . ." The superstructure, on the other hand, "rises" on these foundations, and "definite forms of social consciousness" "correspond" to i t . In this sense, the economic infrastructure, or base, "conditions" the ideological superstructure; existence "determines" consciousness and i t s products and cohabitants. But a l l this determination, correspondence, construction, domination, and subordination operates within a (changing) relationship. The f i r s t phase of any overall structural change witnesses a "conflict" within the base, between the economic relations and the economic forces. This is a contradiction primarily of "material" l i f e . However, this primarily infrastructural, material contradiction induces a corresponding superstructural change as well, though the overall appearance of the latter can only follow the overall appearance of the former, and may do so "more or less rapidly." I should emphasise here that Marx suggests not only that the superstructural change is contingent on the economic, but also that the superstructure is necessarily transformed. Obversely, he does not set a time-limit on this conditional but (given the pre-condition) ultimately - 40 - inevitable superstructural change. And while he voluntarily admits the relative d i f f i c u l t y of "determining!" a revolutionary transformation in that sphere, he does not make such determining the test of the transformation's reality or of its dependence on the economic contradictions. (This is clearly the point behind Marx's quip that "Don Quixote long ago paid the penalty for wrongly imagining that knight errantry was compatible with a l l economic forms of society" fCapital: A Critique of P o l i t i c a l Economy, Vol. I, ed. Frederick Engels, t r . Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling (1867; t r . 1887; rpt. New York: International Publishers, 1967); cited in Marx/Engels, p. 265].) Finally , we may note t h a t — f o r good reasons (as he explains at length in Capital)—Marx does not specify the exact economic relations, forces, or products that may be considered indispensable to any one society at any given point in time: for, the model of "base-superstructure" expresses an algebraic relationship, whose actual quantities w i l l reveal wide fluctuations internationally and periodically while confirming in each individual case the validity of that same configuration. Now, as the p o l i t i c a l revisionists t e s t i f y , this view and interpretation has its opponents. Jameson perceptively describes the general p o l i t i c a l psychology of revisionism as "the act of making a theory comfortable and palatable by leaving out whatever calls for praxis or change, whatever is likely to be painful for the purely contemplative intellectual consumption of a middle-class public" (Marxism and Form, p. xv). Certainly, in its incidental characterisation of the objective p o l i t i c a l effect of revisionism, Jameson's primarily psychological description seems to f i t both the - 41 - early revisionists, such as Eduard Bernstein, and the New Left revisionists, such as Herbert Marcuse, as well as their literary- c r i t i c a l co-thinkers, such as Peter Demetz and Raymond Williams. The specific terms of the debate currently centring on "base" and "superstructure" are rightly associated with Marxism. But one.component of i t — t h e debate over the relationship between "matter" and "consciousness" in general—goes at least as far back (in the West) as Plato and Democritus, known in philosophy as the proponents of idealism and materialism, respectively. In i t s philosophical aspect, Marxism is the modern continuator of Democritus' materialism: i t believes that, i n the objective scheme of existence, matter is primary and consciousness secondary. E.P. Thompson provides a simplistic but vivid i l l u s t r a t i o n of this materialistic view when he observes that "the wood cannot determine what is made, nor whether i t is made well or badly, but i t can certainly determine what can not be made . . . " (Poverty of Theory, p. 18). But Marxism is more than just a philosophy: i t is also a guide to social change. And the "base-superstructure" model is one that addresses the complex dynamics of general social change, without, relegating a l l matter to the base and a l l consciousness to the. superstructure alone. This is why the concept of modes, forces,.and relations of production together as constituents of the base becomes crucial to an understanding of Marx's model. The revisionists are unable to grasp this difference between mere "matter" and Marx's economic "base," which latter requires for its own perpetuation a complementary—though dist i n c t , often deformed, and contingent— consciousness. While a detailed refutation of the revisionists belongs more - 42 - properly to another subject and project, certain key points can be discussed here. Eduard Bernstein (1850-1932), the German Social Democrat, was the major initiator of theoretical revisionism, but even he did not chiefly attack the "base-superstructure" model (or, for that matter, the concepts of "class" and "partisanship"). More centrally, he began to advocate, after Engels' death, the programme of gradualism, or slow, evolutionary, reformist "growth" into socialism.^ The so-called New Left revisionism, stemming from the nineteen-fifties, is much more thoroughgoing. A random but typical example of a New Left revision of Marx's "base-superstructure" model would be Ellen Meiksins Wood's "The Separation of the Economic and the P o l i t i c a l i n Capitalism."38 Wood simultaneously acknowledges a "differentiation" between economics and politics in practical l i f e and attacks a certain conceptual "separation" between them which she misattributes to Marx (and Engels). In self- imagined opposition to those theorists, she argues that the (capitalist) economy is indeed affected by p o l i t i c a l decisions. But in thus stressing their obvious interaction, Wood denies the decisive centrality of economic power in relation to i t s matching p o l i t i c a l ideas and practices. She analyses the relationship between economics and politics as a s t a t i c , unhistoricised, co-equal, conjunctural intersection, thereby misrepresenting their existential simultaneity as a balance of determining power. In attacking Marx and Engels on this question, therefore, she not only brings against them charges that are factually misplaced; she commits a category-mistake, missing the exclusively interventionist perspective motivating Marx and Engels' particular analytical methods. (The divergence in aim and method between the - 43 - Marxists and Wood becomes especially clear i f we compare her definition of the state to Engels 1  or Lenin's.) Nor is Wood alone in thus revising and attacking Marx. Indeed, more germanely, an entire school of literary c r i t i c s , including ostensible Marxists as well as explicit anti-Marxists, misreads Marx's Preface and indulges in similar, misdirected criticism. One of the most concise and forthrightly hostile of such criticisms issues from Rene Wellek. Wellek, a c r i t i c not particularly concerned with Marxism, dismisses Marx's view of social change as "rigid economic determination" that has been decisively, "totally belied by history."39 Falsely charging that Marx and Engels "deny that ideology has any history or development" (Wellek, p. 234), Wellek quotes and then tries to parody what he misconstrues to be Marx's idea of a communist society: "'In a communist society there w i l l not be any painters, but at the most men who, among other things, also paint' (men apparently like Churchill and Eisenhower)" (Wellek, p.235). Wellek obviously and wrongly believes that history has ended. Similarly, Fokkema and Kunne-Ibsch (p. 87) claim that, in his 1857 draft of the Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of P o l i t i c a l Economy (to be discussed below), "Marx departs from the deterministic concept that developments in the superstructure, notably in the realm of aesthetics, must necessarily follow from changes in the economic basis." Their basis for this claim is merely that, i n the Introduction, he "emphasises that there may be an unbalanced development of a r t i s t i c and material production." And from this distorted construction, these c r i t i c s conclude that " i f Marx's theory of unbalanced development is applied to modern times, i t follows that a socialist society does not necessarily give rise to a superior - 44 - literature." Again and again, at the hands of most revisionists, Marx's model is vulgarised: his careful qualification about the "more or less" rapid transformation of the superstructure is ignored, as is the never- denied though contingent role of conscious activity in ensuring that the superstructure is necessarily transformed. "Necessarily" is symptoma- t i c a l l y misread as "automatically" and "immediately," and the. self-centredness and passivity of much academic speculation and hindsight are falsely projected onto the distinctively interventionist and active nature of Marxism. Marx's Preface is its own best standing defence against the. distortions of revisionists and anti-Marxists. But even e a r l i e r , in their German Ideology, Marx and Engels had acknowledged that "ft]he production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at f i r s t directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men—the language of real l i f e , " although " [i]t is not consciousness that determines l i f e , but l i f e that determines conscious- ness" (Marx/Engels, pp. 42-43). Moreover, effective clarifications and defences on the question have existed at least since the later Engels and appear frequently today.^ My own interpretation of Marx's Preface is obviously another such undertaking, carried out in the belief.that his model, when accurately and sympathetically understood, argues.its own continuing v a l i d i t y . For, though the logic of the revisionists and idealists of various kinds may imply otherwise, i t remains impossible to write novels while freezing to death in the open on an empty stomach. And, in one sense, Marx's Preface merely elaborates this practical bottom-line. Of the many clarification offered since Marx's publication of his - 45 - views on "base" and "superstructure," one particular set may be singled out because of the authority behind them: Engels'. In at least three letters to different correspondents (see Appendix A), Engels sufficiently c l a r i f i e d the implications of Marx's model to obviate charges such as Wellek's. In one particular letter (to Conrad Schmidt), Engels wrote, "The ultimate supremacy of economic development is for me an established fact in these philosophical and literary spheres too, but it operates within the terms laid down by the particular sphere i t s e l f . . . Here economy creates nothing new, but i t determines the way in which the thought material found in existence is altered and further developed and that too for the most part indirectly, for i t is the p o l i t i c a l , legal and moral reflexes which exert the greatest direct influence on philosophy" (Marx/Engels, p. 60). It then seems perfectly logical to assume, as well, that "exceptional" intellectual forays by individuals are at least partly and i n d i r e c t l y — i f not wholly and directly—made possible by their own, specific material circumstances. For, Marx in his Preface speaks not of some mythical homogeneous material base but of the real "contradictions" of material l i f e , which include the "matur [ing]" of the "new" relations of production and their material conditions of existence "in the womb" of the older social (economic and cultural) order. "When people speak of ideas that revolutionise society," observe Marx and Engels in their Manifesto, "they do but express the fact, that within the old society, the elements of a new one have been created, and that the dissolution of the old ideas keeps even pace with the dissolution of the old conditions of existence" (Marx/Engels, p. 73). In an abstract way, this Marxist position w i l l long remain a - 46 - subject of debate, precisely since its conclusion (like that of its critics) is generically incapable of empirical verification under controlled, laboratory conditions; i t is a conclusion operationally inseparable from particular socio-political interests. But also precisely because this is so, this not entirely abstract question w i l l be concretely resolved i f and when the working class captures state power and the means of production globally, long before the world is able to glimpse anything resembling even the shoots of socialist culture. Meanwhile, revisionists and anti-Marxists might ponder the fact that i t was not Marx but Freud who stated, "The motive of human society is in the last resort an economic one" (Introductory Lectures on P sychoanalysis y.f^ But, one may s t i l l ask, what is the relevance of the Marxist concepts of "base" and "superstructure" to the problems of Marxist literary axiology? The short answer is that both Marxist social analysis and Marxist literary evaluation ostensibly aim to change society in the same direction and that the latter e x p l i c i t l y professes allegiance to the former. Therefore, they can i l l - a f f o r d a self-contradictory world-view and programme that would imply mutually counterposed values, p r i o r i t i e s , and methods of analysis and evaluation. This debate is thus part of the struggle for all-round consis- tency within Marxism. And the contradiction of the New Left is that i t claims to be Marxist while revising some of Marxism's most cr u c i a l , definitive perceptions, representing hard-won historical lessons, sometimes paid for by the working class with their l i v e s . Related to his concept of a distinction-cum-interaction between the ultimately determining economic base and the ideological superstructure is Marx's awareness that a l l subject-object interaction (and, hence, a l l - 47 - evaluation) is both real and relative. Value in general, therefore (and Marx speaks of "economic" value only as his immediate concern, not his only one) , is value both for somebody and _in something outside the mind of the perceiver, at a particular conjuncture. Thus, in an early characterisation of the social dialectic involved in aesthetic evaluation, Marx suggests that " [tj he object of art, as well as any other product, creates an a r t i s t i c and beauty-enjoying public. Production thus produces not only an object for the individual, but also an individual for the object" (Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of P o l i t i c a l Economy, in Marx/Engels, p. 129; this key piece is henceforth cited as Introduction). From this, i t follows that the c r i t e r i a of evaluation can only be historically and socially relative. And in Marx and Engels, the explicit term that is used as an index for these relative c r i t e r i a is the historical/temporal "period." Thus Engels, in a letter to Lassalle (18 May 1859), notes his own varying responses to "things of inferior value" between the " f i r s t reading" and any subsequent ones (Marx/Engels, p. 102). More generally, Marx notes in his Introduction the temporal continuities and discontinuities of specific "elements" of social "production," presumably with their attendant values (Solomon, p. 34); and, as we have seen, Marx and Engels note the lag in "the social consciousness of past ages, . . . which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms" (Marx/Engels, p. 74).^2 The general temporal and consumptional continuity and discontinuity of values are thus both real. But, as that last quotation clearly suggests, their socio-historical patterns s t i l l cannot be easily explained or predicted through a simply "temporal" but "classless" - 48 - sociology. A more precise tool of analysis is called for. This tool is the notion—not originating i n Marxism but merely finding a permanent place in i t s analytical method—of "class." One non-Marxist c r i t i c working with a philosophical approach to literary evaluation has simplistically but tellingly complained that the "search for cr i t e r i a has been going on for a long time, but without any results that a l l sides agree to be successful."^3 Marxists have an explanation for that. As the decreasingly Marxist historian E.P. Thompson concedes in the course of warning against any "improperly hardened" use of "a category as generous as 'the working class,'" that "without the (elastic) category of class—an expectation justified by evidence—I could not have practised [writing history] at a l l " (Poverty of Theory, p. 57). I believe that the same law obtains for Marxist literary axiology. If the temporal category of "period" explicitly dominates the evaluative terminology of Marx and Engels, the socio-economic criterion of "class" at least implicitly underlies their entire view of modern history and society. "The history of a l l hitherto existing society," wrote Marx and Engels in 1847, "is the history of class struggles." Explaining the sub-heading of this section ("Bourgeois and Proletarians," referring to the two modern classes), Engels wrote, "By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern Capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage-labour. By proletariat, the class of modern wage-labourers who, having no means of producti on of their own, are reduced to selling their labour—power in order to live" (English ed. of Manifesto [i.888], in Tucker, p. 473, n. 5). The specific relation of dominance and subordination between - 49 - these two classes within the superstructure was early indicated by Marx and Engels in their comments on "the ruling ideas" in any given society. In The German Ideology, they pointed out that " [t]he ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society is at the same time i t s ruling intellectual force . . ., so that the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subject to i t " (Marx/Engels, p. 70). Here, the general, temporal category of the "epoch" clearly undergoes an internal class-differentiation; and the differentiation is a sophistication of the analytical model, not a negation. Hence i t is actually able to prefigure the writers' later comment, in the Manifesto, about the dependence of lagging "social consciousness" on "class antagonisms" and "the old conditions of existence." , With the appearance of the proletariat as a self-conscious class, bourgeois society is decisively polarised; the dominant bourgeois values face an increasingly systematised challenge; and the question of the writers' and c r i t i c s ' class-allegiance is explicitly posed. Marx and Engels themselves intersected this conjuncture and allied themselves with the working class and i t s historic interests. It is from this position—a position of partisanship for the proletariat—that they addressed a l l questions of value, literary or otherwise. Thus Marx and Engels warned the bourgeoisie in their Manifesto: "don't wrangle with us so long as you apply, to our intended abolition of bourgeois , property, the standard of your bourgeois notions of freedom, culture, law, etc." (Solomon, p. 49). And Engels, in his 26 November 1885 letter to Minna Kautsky, noted the dilemma of trying to write a "socialist problem novel" for an audience composed predominantly of "readers from - 50 - bourgeois circles," in the process coming up with an explicit (though negatively conceived) criterion of literary value: "under our conditions novels are mostly addressed to readers from bourgeois c i r c l e s , i.e., circles which are not directly ours. Thus the socialist problem novel in my opinion fully carries out i t s mission i f by a faithful portrayal of the real conditions i t dispels the dominant conventional illusions concerning them, shakes the optimism of the bourgeois world, and inevitably i n s t i l s doubt as to the eternal validity of that which exists . . ." (Marx/Engels, p. 88). Clearly, Engels here speaks from a particular class point of view—that of a proletarian ("anti-bourgeois") s o c i a l i s t . ^ But i t is not only that. Once the question of a writer's merely passive class "sympathies" is settled i n favour of the proletariat, the issue of active partisanship in literature—"tendenzpoesie" i n Marx and Engels and (in a different context, discussed below) "partiinost" in L e n i n — i s logically posed. For, the proof of one's sympathies lie s in one's willingness to fight actively and effectively for one's side. Now revisionists, non-, and anti-Marxists usually challenge this conclusion, often falsely pitting Lenin—and even Marx—against Engels.^ yet the two key letters by Engels (to Minna Kautsky, 26 November 1885, and to Margaret Harkness, April 1888 fMarx/Engels, pp.87-92]) that they usually quote from themselves provide t e l l i n g proof of Engels' sympathy for partisanship in literature. This is true despite the fact that these letters are primarily c r i t i c a l and cautionary notes (addressed to acknowledged fellow-socialists); for i t is those novelists' apparent technical unsubtlety, and not "obvious p o l i t i c a l bias," that in this case worries E n g e l s . j j o r should this be - 51 - taken to mean that Engels values "technique" separately from and above content. The revisionists' case against bias per se, then, has no basis in Engels (or in any other revolutionary Marxist); and the following quotation from Engels strongly confirms that interpretation: You obviously felt a desire to take a public stand in your book, to testify to your convictions before the entire world. This has now been done. . . . I am by no means opposed to partisan poetry as such. Both Aeschylus, the father of tragedy, and Aristophanes, the father of comedy, were highly partisan poets, Dante and Cervantes were so no less, and the best thing that can be said about Schiller's Kabale und Liebe is that i t represents the f i r s t German p o l i t i c a l problem drama. The modern Russians and Norwegians, who produce excellent novels, a l l write with a purpose. (Letter to Minna Kautsky, 26 November 1885, i n Marx/Engels, p. 88) As for Marx's admonition to Lassalle, in his letter of 18 April 1859, that "I regard as your gravest shortcoming the fact that a l a Schiller you transform individuals into mere mouthpieces of the sp i r i t of the time" (quoted approvingly by Wellek, p. 236; see Appendix B for fuller text of l e t t e r ) , we should note that Marx is objecting to propagandising at the expense of individualisation of character, and not to propagandising as such. Marx and Engels' general evaluative c r i t e r i a thus remain historically relative and class-partisan, for the proletariat and for socialism. This l a s t , positive and active orientation towards socialism (however indirect or negative some of i t s incidental formulations) crucially determines a number of Marx and Engels' specific authorial preferences. Most relevantly, i t explains Marx's evident preference of the perceived social orientation of a Shelley to the historically retrogressive orientation of a Carlyle. Nevertheless, a certain formal - 52 - contradiction does exist between Marx and Engels' methodological stress on proletarian progress as a positive value and their actual choice of historical example or analogy to illustrate and explain that criterion. The single most quoted and misinterpreted source of confusion on i this count is Marx's passage, in his Introduction, on the continuing ("eternal") "charm" of Greek art.^8 i n  a curious way, i t presents what might superficially seem merely like an odd combination of Classical tastes and Romantic cr i t e r i a ; but this would be to mistake the sheer form for the idea, which is complex and sketchy but nevertheless merits a closer look. Here is the passage in question: As regards art, i t is well known that some of its peaks by no means correspond to the general development of society; nor do they therefore to the material substructure. . . . The d i f f i c u l t y we are confronted with is not, however, that of understanding how Greek art and epic poetry are associated with certain forms of social development. The d i f f i c u l t y is that they s t i l l give us aesthetic pleasure and are in certain respects regarded as a standard and unattainable ideal. An adult cannot become a child again, or he becomes childish. But does the naivete of the child not give him pleasure, and does not he himself endeavour to reproduce the child's veracity on a higher level? Does not the child in every epoch represent the character of the period in its natural veracity? Why should not the historical childhood of humanity, where i t attained i t s most beautiful form, exert an eternal charm because i t is a stage that wi l l never recur? There are rude children and precocious children. Many of the ancient peoples belong to this category. The Greeks were normal children. The charm their art has for us does not conflict with the immature stage of the society in which i t originated. On the contrary i t s charm is a consequence of this and is inseparably linked with the fact that the immature social conditions which gave r i s e , and which alone could give r i s e , to this art cannot recur. (Marx/Engels, pp. 82, 84) In this early passage, one which i t is important to know he withheld from publication, Marx introduces a concern we have not yet encountered in our discussion of him: what are the laws of aesthetic - 53 - response and of the continuity of perceived value across long stretches of time? This is his main concern in the passage as I have quoted i t . But note, even here, how he actually foreshadows the "base- superstructure" analytical model of his published 1859 Preface, thereby pre-confirming i t s status within his overall scheme (Greek art and poetry clearly "are associated" with certain forms of social development). Significantly, therefore, he characterises his question as a " d i f f i c u l t y , " not as an insoluble contradiction, and attempts to answer i t as a materialist. The passage i t s e l f is a combination of two main parts: the statement of the problem ("the d i f f i c u l t y " ) and the positing of a series of mutually related answers, half of them in the form of rhetorical questions. The " d i f f i c u l t y , " as Marx puts i t , is that "some of . . . (art's]. . . peaks by no means correspond to the general development of society." Thus, ancient Greek art and epic poetry " s t i l l give us aesthetic pleasure and are in certain respects regarded as a standard and unattainable ideal"; they "exert an eternal charm." Marx's strongly suggested explanation is that, in the case of ancient Greek art, this continuing potency results from two characteristics. One is Greek art's truthful portrayal of the external reality of the time ("veracity" about the objectively "immature social conditions"). The other is the less e x p l i c i t , more self-revealing, truthful effect of Greek art's own, child-like mode of perception, applied to and arising from that early history. The connecting thread is truthfulness—a representational "veracity" and a perceptual "naivete." And this indicates to Marx that, as modern society's historical predecessors, "ft]he Greeks" were neither "rude" nor "precocious" but simply, in terms of their objectively - 54 - ordained limitations, "normal children" corresponding to the overall conditions of their l i f e . Now i t is true that, especially when quoted out of context in the above fashion, Marx's passage reveals certain inadequacies from the point of view of consistent dialectical-historical materialism. Thus, traces of idealist absolutism exist in formulations such as "most beautiful form" ("peaks") and "eternal charm," as well as in the lack of class-differentiation within "us" and "ft] he Greeks"; and they also exist in the assumption of a unanimous aesthetic response flowing from such homogeneity ("they s t i l l give us aesthetic pleasure" and, in certain respects, universally and undeniably "are regarded" as an ideal). A l l this may well indicate the legacy of Schiller and resemble the "Golden Age" conceptions of Freud and Proust, as Hans Robert Jauss claims.^ Moreover, the representational "veracity" is le f t undifferentiated from the perceptual "naivete," and, consequently, these and other words such as "charm" and "normal" seem to convey both psychological modalities and behavioural expressions and effects. Finally, Marx's attempted answer addresses—albeit m a t e r i a l i s t i c a l l y — chiefly his personal love for ancient Greek art: i t s materialism is empirical. Thus, the general, theoretical question posed at the beginning of the passage may well be regarded by some as unanswered. But such a view can be challenged, and clarifications appended, as I shall try to do below. However, even within the quoted passage i t s e l f , there are many signs that should make cr i t i c s pause before they, try, on the basis of i t , to dismiss the argument about economic base and ideological superstructure in Marx's 1859 Preface. Here, the qualifying, - 55 - speculative, and cautiously "negative" thrust of Marx's formulations is crucial. The reasons why ancient Greek art continues to charm people in the nineteenth century are not incomprehensible, merely d i f f i c u l t to understand. Greek art and poetry are a standard ideal, but they are so only "in certain respects" and are, moreover, "regarded" as such by possibly—but not necessarily—everyone. In fact, one presumes, the undefined subject must be culturally and p o l i t i c a l l y akin to "us"—a definable and almost certainly non-inclusive group, of whom Marx himself i s one. Moreover, Marx's notion of "our" pleasure in ancient Greek art does not claim the status of a permanent prescriptive dictate to a l l people for a l l times but rather presents i t s e l f as a mere observation of r e a l i t y , one at least personally verifiable by Marx himself. And f i n a l l y , the alleged charm results from the negative fact that the effective impression created by the ancient Greek artists "does not conflict" with the evaluator's knowledge of i t s social conditions of production and from the certainty that those primitive but intriguing precursors of the modern age "cannot recur." In positive terms, then, for the Marx of 1857, classical Greek art seems valuable chiefly for i t s truthfulness. This truthfulness consists, in the f i r s t place, in that art's very choice of object—a real though irrecoverable society (slave-holding Athenian democracy) which, despite i t s historical limitations, affords us a glimpse of the possible future, i t s subject being "the historical childhood of humanity." In the second place, this truthfulness consists i n Greek art's and a r t i s t s ' very mode of perception, resembling (for Marx) a child's naivety. Finally, i t might be interesting to speculate about whether or not Marx also sees the truthfulness manifesting i t s e l f in the - 56 - a r t i s t s ' mimetic mode of depicting the "natural veracity" of that historical "child" ("reproduce . . . on a higher level" [my emphasis]). If i t does, especially in an absolute way, Marx here might conceivably be accused, by some, of "f a i l i n g " to anticipate the problematic, twentieth-century unfolding of the fate of "realism." But we shall return to this issue later. Marx's above-quoted passage from the Introduction thus attempts simultaneously to address three different aesthetic phenomena: (1) the (socio-)economic determination of art, (2) the assimilation and elevation of "certain" perceived aspects of art in one era to the aesthetic ideals of another, and (3) the response of some people to these perceived qualities across a span of centuries. As we know, the general problematics relevant to these concerns seem to have been roughly anticipated in the Manifesto's remark about lagging social consciousness in class-societies (Marx/Engels, p. 74). Marx's passage in the Introduction thus suggests an abiding theoretical concern on his part and constitutes a theoretical cornerstone that cannot be ignored and should not be facilely distorted. Yet, this is precisely what happens when, disregarding Marx's actual formulations, Hans Hess (for instance) pronounces that "what he fMarx] calls 'charm' i s really prestige" (Hess, p. 11). Interestingly, however, Marx in his Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations anticipates and obviates Hess's superficial conjecture, clarifying the relativity and partialness of the classical world's "charm" for him. " [l]n one way," he admits, "the childlike world of the ancients appears to be superior; and this is so, in so far as we seek for closed shape, form and estab- lished limitation"; but, he adds, " [t] he ancients provide a narrow - 57 - satisfaction, whereas the modern world leaves us unsatisfied, mean" (Solomon, p. 57; also quoted in Prawer p. 288n). That i s , the ancients are not perfect, though the modern world is positively bad. Indeed, early in his career, Marx satirised the anti-historicist conservatism of Emperor Julian and "the Alexandrine school, . . . which believed that i t could make the newly developing spirit of the times disappear by keeping i t s eyes closed so as not to see i t , " thus striving "to prove by force the 'eternal truth' of Greek mythology and its complete agreement 'with the results of scien t i f i c research.'"^0 Moreover, as Lifshitz significantly observes about the "left-Hegelians" (of whom, of course, Marx was one), the "new barbarism of capitalist Germany is identified [by them] with the barbarism of old [as in the Old Testament]," while the "defence of Greek art was at the same time an attempt to restore the [egalitarian, radical] ideals of the French Revolution"(Lifshitz, pp. 34, 49). Any misreading of Marx on this question, therefore, must necessarily ignore the concrete p o l i t i c a l programme in whose ultimate service he was, as a Jacobin-derived communist, trying to answer i t . The result w i l l tend to become vulgar-materialist or metaphysical, not dialetical-materialist and h i s t o r i c a l . Since Marx's passage in his Introduction has, for various reasons, come to signify different things to different people, a brief c r i t i c a l reckoning with four f a i r l y symptomatic readings of i t would be useful here. Roughly, the f i r s t one represents a f l a t l y anti-Marxist approach, the second a "history of ideas" approach, the third a simplistic, "vulgar materialist" approach, and the fourth a dialectical-materialist and historical (Marxist) approach, in so far as one exists on this question. Of course, these approaches sometimes overlap; and, moreover, - 58 - a l l of them often have valid insights to offer. Hans Robert Jauss in "The Idealist Embarrassment" asks some useful questions about when exactly the famous "alienation" (described by the young Marx as the omnipresent bane of l i f e under capitalism) is supposed to enter into the actual process of production. For, from that moment on, "beauty" must surely become more and more d i f f i c u l t to ensure, in the face of increasingly commodity-oriented market demands (p. 198). Moreover, by selecting some straw men for his false counterpositions and illustrations of "Marxism," Jauss is easily able to demonstrate that some ostensibly Marxist c r i t i c s underestimate the role of the reader, that i s , of reception dynamics (pp. 204-05).^1 However, the wording of his article's t i t l e , his use of conventional anti-Marxist codewords and epithets ,̂ 2  a n c j his claim that the distinction between idealism and materialism is not valid "in the f i e l d of aesthetics" (p. 207) a l l bespeak a qualitative dearth of p o l i t i c a l understanding and a distinct unfriendliness of intent issuing from the right. Jauss's thesis is that "a materialist aesthetic . . . cannot get along without a central core of idealism" (p. 192), that Marx believes that "we scarcely know how standards arise," unless they do so through sheer ideas (p. 203). To prove his thesis, Jauss must largely restrict himself to the young, Hegelian Marx and then misrepresent some of Marx's key positions into the bargain. Thus, for instance, Jauss early makes the claim that "Marx's high esteem for Greek art . . . breaches the principle of the prior economic determination of a l l a r t i s t i c production and confers on the relation of substructure and superstructure a nonsimultaneity of the necessarily simultaneous . . ." (p. 192). But where did Jauss find in Marx the proposition that "the relation of - 59 - substructure and superstructure" is "necessarily simultaneous"? Certainly in our own scrutiny of Marx's Preface, we found "simultaneity" to be explicitly precluded by the "more or less" rapid transformation of the superstructure (following economic change); and, much earlier, even the Manifesto talks about historic lags in social consciousness and views "the dissolution of old ideas" as being contingent on "the dissolution of the old conditions of existence." Yet, while egregious in its misrepresentations of Marx, Jauss's article remains indispensable for one pedagogical purpose: to show how the debate over "base" and "superstructure" impinges directly on literary axiology and how idealism as a philosophical trend, when allowed free rein, readily places i t s e l f at the service of unabashed anti-Marxism. Relatively subsidiary inaccuracies, self-contradictions, and questionable interpretative methods abound.-̂ 3 one could dissect a sentence such as the following, for instance, to reveal the same shallowness of Jauss's critique as we have seen above: "And i t makes i t impossible to overlook the embarrassment that in sum the art of a slave-owning society should also s t i l l rank as a 'standard and model beyond attainment' for an emancipated mankind" (p. 102). Merely at a factual l e v e l , we might pose to Jauss certain questions: where "in sum" does Marx view the problem in terms of a classless "art" of a slave- owning "society" and i t s reception by an equally classless "mankind"? Where "in sum" does Marx state or imply that "us" represents "emancipated" mankind? Where "in sum" does Marx revise his view that ancient Greek art s t i l l constitutes an ideal model only "in certain respects" and not "in sum"? Where, even "in sum," does Marx pose the - 60 - perceived residual power of aspects of ancient Greek art as a question of moralistic or psychological "embarrassment"? If ("in sum") Jauss's use of that word is not meant ethically but only methodologically, to point to the above extension in a r t i s t i c e f f e c t i v i t y , how does he rationalise his application of "embarrassment" to the obvious fact that i t was Marx himself who f i r s t noticed the extension (and the apparent dislocation between economic base and a r t i s t i c peaks) and attempted to address it? Further, i f his thesis is that "base" is irrelevant to "superstructure," why does Jauss deflect the relevant and crucial comparison of the two economies (ancient Greek and modern) into the primarily p o l i t i c a l question of slavery and emancipation, thus forefeiting an opportunity to debunk Marx on his own terms? Beyond the quoted sentence i t s e l f , one could pose many equally germane questions: in their Manifesto, Marx and Engels welcomed the positive achievements of the bourgeoisie in their historically progressive phase;-^ why, then, in view of the authors' professed proletarianism, does Jauss not regard that as an "embarrassment" as well? Lenin repeatedly insisted that socialists must intelligently assimilate and build on the contradictory cultural heritage of the bourgeois past;^^«why, then, in view of Jauss's hazy but correct perception of Leninism's claim to Marxism, does that c r i t i c not regard Lenin's advice as another such "embarrassment"? "In sum," provided he is held accountable for the authenticity of every paraphrase he offers of Marx or Engels or Lenin, Jauss simply cannot pretend to have an answer. The next two commentators on this issue are less overtly contrary. They are also more generalist in their approach. Michael McKeon, in "The Origins of Aesthetic Value," Telos, No. 57 (Fall 1983), 63-82, - 61 - usefully lays bare in Aristotle the likely historical roots of the idea of "aesthetic value" and argues its differential implementation among literary consumers. The overall effect is one of destroying any absolute notions of aesthetic value or valuation. McKeon articulately insists that the issue of value is distinct from the issue of sub- and superstructural relationships (p. 64) and that, moreover, economic "exchange"-value in Marx is a quantitative concept, having l i t t l e to do with general "use"-value, which is a qualitative concept directly relating to society's physical and mental needs (pp. 69-70). Marx's "d i f f i c u l t y " in the Introduction, then, McKeon implies, arises not from Marx or from his model of base and superstructure but from the arbitrary and conventional notions of "aesthetic value" and "aesthetic pleasure" through which Marx uncritically views Greek art and i t s effect on him (pp. 63-64, 65). Instead of applying to these notions his usual array of demystificatory, historical analyses, observes McKeon, Marx naturalises them in the prevalent manner of his contemporaneous aestheticians (p. 66). Marx thus becomes inconsistent in terms of his own methodology, though this empirical incongruity naturally does not theoretically undermine the ignored methodology i t s e l f . The solution remains, according to McKeon, the "dialectical" one of uniting the continual re-production of the non-absolute text with the continual re-evaluation of its varied and changing effects on different consumers (p. 82). "Aesthetic value" thus stands revealed as an historically- produced, arbitrary construct—as a "mode" or "counterpart" of exchange- value (pp. 80, 91)—that can be circumvented with the aid of historical consciousness. In i t s historicising and relativising thrust, McKeon's argument can - 62 - be generally valuable for a Marxist axiology. However, in i t s specific manner of applying these methods to axiology, McKeon's article tends to disappear the problem rather than solve i t . Chiefly, a l l the problems with his argument may usefully be traced to one particular philosophical characteristic: McKeon's premises are those of idealism, and his method of analysing and solving the practical problem of evaluation is largely restricted to that of a "history of ideas." Thus, for instance, McKeon typically asserts that not only were "aesthetic value" and "poetry" .each "a mental category . . . conceived in the Greek Enlightenment" but that "'capitalism' i t s e l f emerged as a mental category during the European Enlightenment, coinciding with the re-emergence of poetry and aesthetic value as abstract universals, now to be embraced as widely and as enthusiastically as the ideology of capitalism would be" (p. 79). In the beginning—as well as in the middle and at the end—was the Idea. Thus, claims McKeon, Aristotle's "abstraction of 'poetry' as an autonomous category two thousand years before the rest of Western culture was interested in listening . . . is an . . . individual anomaly, testimony to the w i l l of a supreme intellect to pursue, i n , solitude, the logic of a radically innovative method as far as i t would go" (p. 80). Obversely, Marx's failure to historicise the problem of "eternal charm" is merely "testimony, perhaps, to the formidable power of received mental categories . . . to resist the s e l f - c r i t i c a l act of understanding by which they may be transformed from natural 'things' into historical products" (p. 81). To axiologists seeking a purely, psychological explanation and solution, McKeon's argument may seem self-sufficient. To Marxists, however, i t is not. McKeon, as a professed Marxist scholar, is aware of this. He - 63 - therefore elaborates, as his main hypothesis, Marx's suggestive speculations (in the Introduction) about the relation of specific literary genres to specific technological forces of production.-*6 A S i n Marx's Introduction, this line of enquiry yields some of McKeon's most detailed "materialist" results. Briefly, McKeon argues that although Marx's comments "direct our attention to the typographical revolution of the Renaissance, the more pertinent• technological change must be the revolution which transformed the o r a l , 'archaic' culture of Homeric antiquity into the literate culture of the Greek Enlightenment. . . . [ l ] t is to this great historic transformation that we owe . . . the invention of that mental category of aesthetic value under which Marx himself occasionally, as here, may be seen to labour" (p. 66). McKeon identifies in Aristotle's theory of "catharsis" (the latter's putative index of a genuinely unified plot in tragic "poetry") the f i r s t conceptualisation of an autonomous "aesthetic pleasure" (pp. 72, 74, 76). Yet, for a l l the technological history and analysis, two key questions keep nagging a Marxist: is "technology" a l l there is to the Marxist concept of economic base? And what are the material reasons for such apparently abstract and arbitrary concepts as "aesthetic pleasure" and "aesthetic value" taking hold in a mind as self-reflexive and c r i t i c a l as Marx's? Other, related questions soon follow. If "aesthetic pleasure is nothing but the dissolution of pleasure through its indeterminate expansion, the temporal expression of which is perpetuity" (p. 81), is this dissolution self-generating and uniform across classes, cultures, and ages? If i t i s , how would McKeon's model accommodate and explain dissenting evaluations such as those advanced by - 64 - the string of c r i t i c s of Shakespeare's Sonnets that Barbara Herrnstein Smith mentions? Furthermore, what is Marxist about limiting one's social categories to "individual" and "trans-individual," as McKeon does (e.g. p. 82), i f one is at the same time discussing the "capitalist age" (p. 82)? F i n a l l y , does not McKeon's attempt to explain "aesthetic value" almost exclusively through an incremental "analogy between economic and cultural production" suggest a fundamental distrust in any real and active inter-relation between those two spheres? These questions, and the answers already encoded in McKeon's a r t i c l e , lead one to appropriate his contribution to Marxist axiology with caution. In many ways, Marc Shell's tack in The Economy of Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1978) closely resembles that of McKeon's. Both attempt to read r e a l , material connections into what are i n i t i a l l y presented as mere analogies (McKeon with "culture" and "economy," Shell with "language" and "money"); both concentrate on a history of ( c l a s s i c a l , especially Greek) ideas; both pay substantial attention to the young Marx; and neither evinces much sense of the shaping influence of active social struggle on the consciousness embodied in art. However, Shell exemplifies, more than does McKeon, the empirical literalism (otherwise known in Marxist philosophy as vulgar materialism) that is the obverse of McKeon's type of abstract idealism. If McKeon traces the origin of the present problematic of "aesthetic value" back to the "literacy" revolution and the Greek Enlightenment, only to deny then that i t is a real problematic at a l l , Shell's particular fixation is "numismatic semiology" (p. 68), seeking "to understand dialectically the relationship between thought and matter by looking from the formal similarities between linguistic and economic - 65 - symbolisation and production to the p o l i t i c a l economy as a whole" (p. 152). "The economics of thought, set down by Greek dialecticians at the origin of c r i t i c a l thinking," he claims, "has not ceased to influence us" (p. 62). His advice is that coins "should be studied as semata at once artful and economic. In this sense, numismatics not only counts coins but also accounts for the significance of and the relationship between economic and aesthetic signs" (p. 88). However, the decisive relevance of Greek ideas about money—an item that is an imperfect quantitative general index of (economic) exchange-value—to the qualitative cr i t e r i a of literary evaluation remains, even after a hundred-and-fifty-odd pages of exposition, perfectly obscure. Quite simply, Shell's methodology uncritically accepts an artifact's projection of its own "value." This attitudinal impressionism is then aggravated by a conceptual blurring. Shell does not adequately distinguish between kinds of value—centrally, between (real) use-value (measured solely by cr i t e r i a of felt social needs) and (ostensible) economic value in a capitalist market (measured ultimately by the relation of the profit-oriented terms of exchange to the conditions of production, and inconsistently expressed through pricing, usually in the "language" of currency, or money). Thus Shell is able to endorse Nietzsche's argument in The Genealogy of Morals that "the price-making of early man was not so different from our own" and that "[mjodern man returns to Greek philosophy with nostalgia, but he finds therein described only the origin or discovery of himself" (p. 62). Differing from Melville in his attitude towards the symbolism of the doubloon i n Moby Dick, Shell asks, rhetorically, "is one kind of exchange (economic), like the other (aesthetic), endlessly tropic and - 66 - i n f i n i t e l y hermeneutic?" (p. 85). His implied answer, which actually challenges Melville's apparent separation of the two kinds of roles, is in the affirmative: "Melville's numismatic semiology is a biting theory of language and economics in which the ontological status of the world i t s e l f is threatened with annihilation" (p. 85). This is a philosophical way of saying that the difference does not matter. For dialectical historical materialists, however, i t does. For, i t is precisely arguments such as Shell's that, by collapsing discourse into "money," allow impressionistic anti-Marxists to lump vulgar and dialectical materialists together, to be the better able, then, to accuse the latter (Marxists) of "reductionism." That vulgar materialists such as Shell routinely swear by dialectics does not, of course, simplify matters in this regard. It is therefore unfortunate that Shell blurs the line separating him from Marxism by situating his project in the context of "chang ("ing] the tyranny of our world" (p. 10) and even goes on to offer an unexceptionably "orthodox"—if meaningless—tautology: "Artistic production, perhaps, is a superstructure, and material production a substructure. If so, however, they correspond to each other not mimetically but dialectically" (p. 149). To help us see through that terminological formalism and grasp the narrowness of Shell's numismatic interest, a sentence such as the following, praising Rousseau, is more instructive: "He does, however, exemplify how p o l i t i c a l and ideological theory must study money and discourse together, whether or not they are structurally similar The most one might say in defence of Shell's thesis, then, is that components of society" (p. 126; emphasis and remark added). - 67 - some people may indeed be enticed by a book's price or the self- advertising blurb on its cover to buy and read i t ; indeed, their evaluation of i t may well be decisively shaped in i t s favour by these machinations of numismatic semiology. But these are hardly the kind of readers serious Marxists would hope to work with consistently as either data or forces particularly central to literary axiology or to the socialist cultural revolution. And these are certainly not the kind of readers whose evaluative psychology would help illuminate Marx's broad, considered remarks on the relative dislocation of a r t i s t i c "peaks" from their matching base. Superficially, Max Raphael's critique of Marx's Introduction, in The Demands of Art,5 7  may appear identical to Jauss's. But a closer look reveals their diametric opposition. Both c r i t i c s focus on the apparent contradiction between Marx's sociological model and his concept of "eternal charm." Moreover, Raphael is indeed much more direct and relentless in his criticism than is Jauss. Yet, Raphael's purpose is exactly counterposed to that of Jauss. For, whereas Jauss seeks to use Marx's supposed "embarrassment" to generalise his assault on Marxism, Raphael deplores the perceived problem as an instance of Marx's failure to extend the valid logic of his a c t i v i s t , interventionist general motto to the particular sphere of aesthetics. Here is a graphic contrast between constructive, Marxist and destructive, anti-Marxist p o l i t i c a l motivation in c r i t i c a l theory: while Jauss seeks to use the occasion to drive a wedge through a commonly-perceived gap, Raphael seeks to close that gap in the face of its enemies.. Marx's answer