Jul 6, 2012

Marx explains German philosophical prose

"German literature, too, labored under the influence of the political excitement into which all Europe had been thrown by the events of 1830.... It became more and more the habit, particularly of the inferior sorts of literati, to make up for the want of cleverness in their productions, by political allusions which were sure to attract attention. Poetry, novels, reviews, the edrama, every literar production teemed with what was called 'tendency,' that is with more or less timid exhibitions of an anti-governmental spirit. In order to complete the confusion of ideas reigning after 1830 in Germany, with these elements of political opposition there were mixed up ill-digested university-recollections of German philosophy, and misunderstood gleanings from French Socialism, and particularly Saint-Simonism; and the clique of writers who expatiated upon this heterogeneous conglomerate of ideas, presumptuously called themselves 'Young Germans,' or 'the Modern School.' They have since repented their youthful sins, but not improved their style of writing.
"Lastly, German philosophy, that most complicated, but at the same time most sure thermometer of the development of the German mind, had declared for the middle class, when Hegel in his 'Philosophy of Law,' pronounced the Constitutional Monarchy to be the final and most perfect form of government. In other words, he proclaimed the approaching advent of the middle classes of the country to political power. His school, after his death, did not stop here .... [They] brought forward bolder political principles than hitherto it had been the fate of German ears to hear expounded, and attempted to restore to glory the memory of the heroes of the first French Revolution. The abtuse philosophical language in which these ideas were clothed, if it obscured the mind of both the writer and the reader, equally blinded the eyes of the censor, and thus it was that the 'young Hegelians' writers enjoyed a liberty of the Press unkown in every other branch of literature."
-- Karl Marx, in Revolution and Counter-Revolution; or, Germany in 1848, giving a historical account of the obtuse and turgid style of philosophical German prose.