[OPE-L:2556] the evolution of the meaning of "critique"

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Sun Mar 19 2000 - 08:52:47 EST

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I have some questions regarding the historical evolution of the concept of
"critique". My questions do not concern the critique of any particular
subject (e.g. Hegel; political economy) but rather how the term "critique"
itself has changed in the period before and during Marx's lifetime. I
leave aside for now how the meaning of "critique" has changed in the 20th

1) What is the origin of the term "critique", as distinct from
   "criticism" (or a simple attack), in the history of philosophy (and

   Has it always meant something like "An examination or analysis that
   probes for what is incorrect and what is correct in an object of
   study"? If not, then what was the source of the changing meaning of

2) What was the role of "critique" in Hegel's theory? He appears not to
   have used the term often despite lengthy critical examinations
   ("critiques"?) of certain subjects, e.g. his _Lectures on the History
   of Philosophy_. Curiously, his followers seemed to use the expression
   "critique" far more than Hegel himself (see below).

3) The "Young Hegelians" seem to have made "critique" central to their
   method. Thus, publications by Feuerbach ("Towards a Critique of
   Hegelian Philosophy"), Ruge ("A Self-Critique of Liberalism"), and
   Bauer ("The Struggle for Critique with Church and State"), all included
   "critique" in their titles. Critique seems also to have been employed
   Straus and von Criszkowski, among others. How is the understanding of
   the "Young Hegelians" different from that of Hegel and Marx-Engels?
   It should be noted in this connection that Marx and Engels ridiculed
   the notion of "critical critique" and "pure criticism" in their first
   book, _The Holy Family_ (1845) -- a work which was mostly directed
   against Bruno Bauer, one of the "Young Hegelians".

   (many of the articles by Young Hegelians are collected in the volume:
   Lawrence S. Stepelevich ed. _The Young Hegelians: An Anthology_,
   Cambridge University Press, 1983).

4) Already by 1843, Engels ("Outline of a Critique of Political
   Economy") and Marx ("A Contribution to a Critique of Hegel's
   'Philosophy of Right'") were using "critique" in the title of their
   publications. In this early period, was their conception of "critique"
   different from the rest of the Young Hegelians? How did Marx's
   understanding of -- and use of -- critique evolve, deepen, and change
   over the years?

   How does "critique" in Marx's understanding transcend simple criticism
   or rejection of previous conceptions? How does this fit in with his
   revolutionary politics and "scientific" world-view? E.g. do other
   "sciences" self-consciously advance by means of critique?

5) To what extent did "political economy" *also* employ the method of
   critique? E.g. what role did "critique" have in classical political
   economy? How was that role for critique different from the role within
   Marx's theory?

In solidarity, Jerry

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