IN 1842, August Cieszkowski remarked that "if one wanted to say that Bruno Bauer was not an important event, then this would, be like asserting that the Reformation was not an important event. . . Bruno Bauer shines on the horizon of knowledge." 1 His star set quickly, however. By 1844 he was already dated, his views increasingly conservative and increasingly ignored. Bauer's later work has some relevance to the history of nineteenth-century theology, but his relevance to the development of Marxist theory is in his brief period of radical notoriety in the early 1840s.
Writing about Bauer is difficult. To begin with, his thought evolved very quickly from one position (pre-1840), to a second inconsistent with the first ( 1840-43), and to a third inconsistent with the second (post-1843), but by no means a return to his starting point, all while maintaining important strands of conceptual continuity. 2 My focus is Bauer's second period, although slightly later texts will also be relevant in clarifying some aspects of his views.
There is no central text for the period 1840-43. Although Bauer's detailed critique of the Gospels is set out in two basic works ( Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte des Johannes and Kritik der evangelischen Geschichte der Synoptiker), his general critique of religion and his statement of the political role of "Self-consciousness" are developed episodically across a range of polemical and satirical writings. These are often filled with rhetorical devices designed to puncture prevailing conscious-