The Philosophy and Politics of Bruno Bauer

By Douglas Moggach | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION:
“THE FRIEND OF FREEDOM”

To understand Bauer, one must understand our time. What is our time? It is revolutionary. 1 Edgar Bauer, October 1842

Bruno Bauer has provoked intense controversies since the 1830s, yet his work remains inaccessible, his meaning elusive. 2 He is most familiar as the object of Marx's sharp polemical attacks in The Holy Family and The German Ideology, 3 though Albert Schweitzer, in his widely noted Quest of the Historical Jesus, gives him a receptive andsensitive reading. 4 He is far more complex a figure than the caricature that Marx's denunciations make of him. In the decisive political circumstances of the German Vormäarz, the prelude to the revolutions of March 1848, Bauer's is the voice of an original republicanism, inspired by Hegel. He is a theorist of revolution, of its causes and its failures. Analysing the emergent tendencies of modern society, he criticises both the old order and new ideological currents in the interests of a profound, republican liberation.

The literature on the Hegelian Left has depicted in diverse ways the revolution that Bauer theorises: as abstract-utopian posturing, 5 as a religious crisis, 6 or as a cultural degradation or mutation. 7 Recent commentators stress the political dimensions of the crisis and the interest of the Left Hegelians, Bauer foremost among them, in developing a theory of popular sovereignty and citizenship. 8 Important studies have linked them to the literary and political currents of their time 9 and traced the changing patterns of their relationships with early French socialism. 10 Others have demonstrated the affinity of their thought with Hellenistic theories of self-consciousness, 11 opening comparative perspectives on modern republican appropriations of Roman or neo-Roman themes. 12 These readings broaden the Left-Hegelian attack on religious estrangement to encompass the institutional and ideological expressions of the oldregime.

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