Email this review


A short, bone-dry overview of Marxist attitudes towards Christianity, by a well-known British Marxist scholar. McLellan (Karl Marx; Marxism After Marx) has once again chosen a fascinating topic, and chosen to treat it in a rather narrow way. Beginning with the ambiguities surrounding Marx's well-known statement that religion ""is the opiate of the people,"" McLellan reviews Marx's other writings on religion to show that the statement is really not ambiguous, that Marx did consider religion ""misguided"" and continued to press for its disappearance as (in McLellan's words) ""the necessary precondition for any radical amelioration of social conditions."" The next chapter, on Engels' switch from youthful pietism to belief in the supreme power of economics, shows more plainly the strengths and weaknesses of McLellan's skeletal method. Everything is carefully arranged, numbered and outlined; pertinent biographical and intellectual influences are discussed--but there is neither breadth nor depth; only a flat, straightforward exposition of Engels' intellectual influences and a rehash of his writings. The four chapters that follow--on the German Social Democrats (Kautsky, Bernstein, etc.), Soviet Marxism, Gramsci and the Frankfurt School, and contemporary Marxist views of Christianity in Europe and Latin America--cover well-known territory in a relatively hasty way. ""This book is (I hope) academic,"" McLellan begins. It certainly is. But even if its appeal does not go beyond the highly specialized discussions of experts, it does succeed within the tight boundaries McLellan has set for it.

Pub Date: Nov. 18th, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row