Marxist Criticism Essay
Marxist literary criticism is based upon the political and economic theories of the German philosopher Karl Marx. In works like The German Ideology and The Communist Manifesto, written with Frederick Engels , Marx proposes a model of history in which economic and political conditions determine social conditions. Marx and Engels were responding to social hardships stemming from the rise of capitalism. Appropriately, their theories are formulated specifically to analyze how society functions in a state of upheaval and constant change.
A materialist view of history
Using Hegel's theory of dialectic , which suggests that history progresses through the resolution of contradictions within a …show more content…
Marx believes that because the superstructure is determined by the base, it inevitably supports the ideologies of the base. Ideologies are the changing ideas, values, and feelings through which individuals experience their societies. They present the dominant ideas and values as the beliefs of society as a whole, thus preventing individuals from seeing how society actually functions. Literature, as a cultural production, is a form of ideology, one that legitimizes the power of the ruling class. In the eighteenth century, for example, literature was used by the English upper classes both to express and transmit the dominant value systems to the lower classes.
Georg Lukacs and the Social Realists
There is a great deal of difference in opinion among Marxist literary critics concerning the relationship between ideology and literature. Since Marx's own writing, theorists such as the Soviet social realists, Georg Lukacs, and Louis Althusser have gradually modified or expanded on Marx's original concepts. The Soviet socialist realists believe that because ideology is part of the superstructure, it must correspond to the economic base of society. In their view,