Ideologues in Search of a Faith

by Louis Dup

I was distressed to read about myself in Lee Congdon’s review of my book Marx’s Social Critique of Culture: “He is typical too in his substitution of secular utopianism for Christian hope” (CC, October 1984, p. 7). My work intends to show the ultimate failure of Marx’s theory of culture and to be a decisive critique of his secular utopianism. Belloc’s claim with which Congdon starts his review—the West must return to Christianity if it is to survive as a civilization—runs as a theme through virtually all my writings.  My latest book and the one immediately preceding the Marx critique (The Deeper Life [1981], The Common Life [1984]) both deal with Christian mysticism and were written from precisely this point of view. I am decidedly not “and ideologue in search of a faith”: I already have a faith, and it is not Marxist in any form. 

Mr. Congdon’s concern with his version of “Christian hope” makes him lose sight of Christian charity. The innuendo about Yale University Press’s uncritically receptive attitude toward Yale faculty is an undeserved slur. If your reviewer had informed himself about YUP policy, he would have found this to be untrue. It is a critic’s duty to point out what he perceives as defects; it is his right to express disagreements of any kind; but it is his obligation to maintain minimal standards of fairness, especially with respect to factual reporting. Such is particularly the case if he writes in defense of Christian values.

Prof. Congdon Replies

I regret very much any distress I may have caused Professor Dup. All the more so in view of his manifestly sincere protestation that elsewhere he has argued vigorously for a revitalization of Christian civilization. That being said, I think he would agree that my lack of familiarity with his work as a whole does not constitute proof of any dereliction of duty. My responsibility was to read and to offer a reasoned consideration of one book—Marx’s Social Critique of Cul­ture. Having reread my essay, I do not think that anything I wrote contradicts Professor Dup‘s insistence that he intended to show the ultimate failure of Marx’s theory. On the contrary, after pointing out that he was “too intelligent and scrupulous to ignore Marx’s manifest lapses and contradictions,” I went on to identify three of his specific criticisms. 

Professor Dupré and I do differ, however, with respect to what he describes as his “decisive critique” of secular utopianism. This is not, in my judgment, a fair description of his book’s concluding pages (287-88). Having cri­ticized Marx’s theory, he felt “compelled to write a final word in defense of the vision behind it,” the vision, that is, of a “reintegration of all human activity.” That vision may well be utopian, “but then, we may wonder whether Marx himself has not truncated his own theory by prematurely dismissing the utopian element which it unquestionably con­tains and which continues to give it its greatest appeal.” The “idea of a fully integrated culture, however utopian it must appear to us today, deserves serious consideration, , independent of the distorting context in which Marx conceived it.” I find nothing in all this concerning Christian hope, however one might elect to characterize it; nor am I able to see how these declarations add up to a critique of secular utopianism.

I should like, finally, to say that the title of my essay was not of my choosing; I had suggested to the editors of “Marxism and the Clercs.”