H. M. Hyndman, E. B. Bax, and the Reception of Karl Marx’s Thought in Late-Nineteenth Century Britain, c. 1881-1893
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This thesis examines how the idea of Socialism was remade in Britain during the 1880s. It does so with reference to the two figures most receptive to the work of Karl Marx, H. M. Hyndman and E. B. Bax. It argues that, despite the progress made in others areas of the history of British Socialism, the historiography on Hyndman and Bax is still marred by the influence of Friedrich Engels. It demonstrates that the terms ‘Marxist’ and ‘Marxism’ are anachronisms. It shows that ‘Marxism’ was an invented intellectual tradition. It argues therefore that it is a mistake to take its existence for granted at the outset of the period. It shows instead how Hyndman and Bax interpreted Marx over time, with and without Engels’s mediation. It reveals, firstly, that Hyndman was not the Tory Radical of historical repute, and Bax, secondly, was one of the most serious internal critics of ‘Marxism’ of his generation, who did battle with Engels in print. The chapters on Hyndman reveal a fuller cast of characters than historians have usually been apt to acknowledge. For instance, Giuseppe Mazzini, Henry Fawcett, William Cunningham, John Morley, W. H. Mallock, and Arnold Toynbee all feature prominently. The chapters on Bax also reveal previously unacknowledged affinities: most importantly, perhaps, Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill. What also becomes apparent is the substantially different set of sources to those customarily proposed that at once both informed and facilitated the passage of modern British Socialist thought: briefly, the ‘culture of altruism’ that flourished among intellectuals from the 1850s to the 1880s, the rise of historical economics, the discourse of democratic Teutonism and the invention of primitive society, Comtian Positivism, and political economy in its post-Millian form.
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