A Documentary Study of Hendrik De Man, Socialist Critic of Marxism

A Documentary Study of Hendrik De Man, Socialist Critic of Marxism

Compiled, edited, and largely translated by Peter Dodge
Copyright Date: 1979
Pages: 362
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Documentary Study of Hendrik De Man, Socialist Critic of Marxism
    Book Description:

    In this collection of excerpts from the essential works of Hendrik de Man (1885-1953), Peter Dodge reinstates in historical consciousness this pioneer sociologist of the European socialist movement and of labor in industrial society. Regarded before World War II as pre-eminent among socialist theoreticians, comparable to Marx himself, de Man fell into obscurity when his equivocal neutralist stance during the Occupation of his native Belgium undermined his political legitimacy. Yet de Man's observations on the class order of capitalist society, on the difficulties of establishing effective industrial democracy, and on the nature of industrial society may be even more relevant today than they were in early twentieth-century Europe.

    While largely accepting the Marxist analysis of capitalism, de Man also drew attention to the unacknowledged collapse of many of its assumptions. Insofar as capitalism evolved in ways that Marx had not foreseen, de Man partially attributes the fate of socialism to the limitations of Marxism's nineteenth-century mode of analysis.

    Selecting from the seventeen books, forty-odd brochures, and some four hundred articles that comprise de Man's works, the editor chooses those passages that are of primary significance for dc Man's intellectual development and for his contribution to social analysis. In addition to explanatory headnotes and an Introduction to de Man's life, the volume contains a selective bibliography of primary and secondary material.

    Originally published in 1979.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6808-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    In June 1973 an International Colloquium on the Works of Hendrik de Man, sponsored by the law faculty of the University of Geneva,¹ broke the conspiracy of silence that had surrounded this Belgian socialist heretic, a figure who since his break with orthodox Marxism during World War I had been subject to the reproach addressed in earlier days to the revisionist Bernstein: “Eduard, you’re a fool! One does these things, but one does not say them!”² But in de Man’s case doctrinal heresy went far beyond revisionism to a critique of the philosophical presuppositions that Marxism shared with the utilitarian...

  4. 1 The Era of Democracy (1907)
    (pp. 23-33)

    In 1907, a twenty-two-year-old postulant at the Mecca of radical Marxism in Leipzig, where he contributed to theLeipziger Volkszeitungand attended the university as a doctoral student, de Man still maintained his contacts with the Flemish socialist youth organization in which he had already played a significant role. The pamphlet excerpted below, a fuller version of talks that he had recently given back in Flanders, is illustrative of his pre-World War I, unreconstructed faith. A number of issues that were to play a crucial role both in the history of the socialist movement in the decades to come, and...

  5. 2 The Operation of Bourgeois Democracy (1910)
    (pp. 34-47)

    While certainly evincing a deep skepticism as to the ultimate outcome of bourgeois manipulation of the political system, nevertheless in “The Era of Democracy” de Man, undoubtedly under the influence of the momentous 1905 revolution in Russia, had been content to advocate zealous if wary proletarian exploitation of the opportunities offered by bourgeois democracy. In the analysis he undertook in a series of “Socialist Travel Letters” from England in 1910 there is a significant shift of his position, presumably reflecting his Leipzig indoctrination, in the direction of assimilating all bourgeois parties. Precisely because of the fatal attractiveness of progressive politics...

  6. 3 The Singularity of the Belgian Labor Movement (1911)
    (pp. 48-56)

    In the fall of 1910, the young de Man received an invitation from the rising socialist leader Emile Vandervelde to head up a Belgian Labor party program of workers’ education. As secretary-general of the newly established Centrale d’Education Ouvriere, he found himself in a strategic position to participate in the training, both vocational and ideological, of the party cadres, an opportunity that he particarly welcomed as contributing to the creation of socialist class consciousness. On the basis of his ideological convictions, particularly as reinforced by his experience in Germany, he viewed the pragmatic, reformist stance of the Belgian party with...

  7. 4 The Lesson of the War (1919)
    (pp. 57-93)

    World War I presented de Man—by personal experience and passionate conviction saturated in internationalism and antimilitarism—with the agonizing necessity of rationalizing the decision he had taken, after participating in the abortive efforts of the International to stave off the war, to volunteer in the army of hapless Belgium invaded by the Germany he had idolized. The greater the horrors he encountered and committed in the trenches in Flanders, the greater was his necessity to persuade himself that these sacrifices, of conscience and of bodies, were not made in vain. This viewpoint made him vulnerable to the thesis of...

  8. 5 Letter from America (1920)
    (pp. 94-99)

    During the course of his pilgrimage to democratic America, de Man was to be sadly disappointed, for the United States of postwar reaction, with the Palmer raids, the exclusion of the five elected Socialists from the New York State House of Representatives, the labor defeats in the coal and steel strikes, and the flag waving of the American Legion, was not the America of Wilsonian idealism, seen in the image of the pioneer tradition, of social experimentation, and of generosity of spirit that he had come to admire during his wartime experience. He spent a full year in the New...

  9. 6 Workers’ Control (1921)
    (pp. 100-134)

    Unlike many ideologists, de Man spoke from an intimate knowledge of the workers’ life conditions and social psychology. Although his own family background had been distinctively nonproletarian and although he never worked in a factory himself, nevertheless his decades-long involvement with workers’ education in Belgium and in Germany, his commissioned investigation into the social consequences of mass-production techniques in America, and his lifelong preoccupation with the pragmatics of “socialization” made him a pioneer industrial sociologist. While his empirical investigations into the social context of industrialization were expressed inAu Pays du Taylorisme¹ andJoy in Work,² the ideological implications of...

  10. 7 The Psychology of Socialism (1926)
    (pp. 135-156)

    Deceived in the fervent hopes he had placed in the post-Wilsonian America of “back to normalcy” and in the post-Versailles Belgium of the occupation of the Ruhr, de Man returned in 1921 to Germany, where he first was active in workers’ education and later became professor of social psychology at the University of Frankfurt. With the publication in 1926 of his critique of Marxism entitledThe Psychology of Socialism, he became a figure of international import in Continental intellectual circles. At the same time he was regarded as a renegade by the socialist Old Guard and as such was effectively...

  11. 8 The Crisis of Socialism (1927)
    (pp. 157-179)

    With the critical success of thePsychology of Socialism—there were those who compared it in import toDas Kapital¹—de Man was enabled in his own mind and by virtue of his international authority to devote himself to active participation in efforts to resuscitate the ailing socialist parties, weakened by the Marxist disease he had diagnosed. For although he became a professor of social psychology at the University of Frankfurt and continued to produce scholarly works on relatively esoteric matters of ideology, his work always had as its goal the winning over of adherents to a new socialist policy...

  12. 9 Joy in Work (1927)
    (pp. 180-219)

    The one aspect of thePsychology of Socialismthat found nearly universal acclaim was the author’s realistic and knowledgeable characterization of the European worker. While there was spirited dispute as to the causes and consequences of the blighted and naive state of the proletariat that was so sympathetically sketched, the concreteness of de Man’s presentation appeared in sharp contrast to the crudity with which left-wing polemicists customarily viewed their favored instrument for the overthrow of the historical order.

    In fact de Man’s analysis was also informed by ideological coloration, namely by that rejection of utilitarianism he had adopted by virtue...

  13. 10 Embourgeoisement of the Proletariat (1930)
    (pp. 220-237)

    “When I became aware how impossible it is for the working masses to attain more prosperity without undergoing embourgeoisement, I suffered one of the most grievous disappointments of my life.”¹ This statement of 1926 reveals as much about Hendrik de Man as it does about the experience of the European labor movement within its twentieth-century capitalist environment. For to de Man the socialist movement, sustained by its providential instrument, the proletariat, represented salvation from what he experienced as the sordid, grasping, vulgar world of capitalist efflorescence, and he was ever on the alert to detect signs of contamination in the...

  14. 11 Capitalism and Socialism (1931)
    (pp. 238-270)

    De Man held that the philosophical limitations of Marxism, diagnosed and criticized in thePsychology of Socialism, were paralleled by its empirical inadequacy to account for the rise of the socialist movement in the West. This fact had been, however, disguised by the perspicacity with which Marx had unmasked the play of interests heretofore screened by the self-serving sentimental rationalizations of ruling classes, especially in his brilliant and insightful analysis of the historical flowering of capitalism in nineteenth-century Europe. But this very narrowing of focus to what was regarded as a universally valid model of historical development enabled Marx to...

  15. 12 The Socialist Idea (1933)
    (pp. 271-288)

    A positive formulation of both a conceptual basis for the understanding of social action and the nature of and tasks before the socialist movement, was provided by de Man in hisSozialistische Idee, published in Germany just before the Nazi seizure of power. Indeed his book was to be banned and burned, and he himself to return to Belgium, where he entered upon an entirely new political phase of his career. In the new historical circumstances of the time, and in view of the fact that the book did not appear in French translation until 1935, the work did not...

  16. 13 The Plan du Travail (1933)
    (pp. 289-299)

    Despite the fact that he had won his international reputation as a socialist’s intellectual, de Man’s major preoccupation was never the splitting of ideological hairs but rather the resuscitation of the élan of the movement, which stood in sad contrast to the heroic days of socialism, when it was necessary “to be a hero, an apostle, in order to be a socialist.”¹ With the onset of the depression and the rise of rightist totalitarianism, the plight and the morale of the remaining Western socialist parties were worse than ever, all the more in view of the fact that, out of...

  17. 14 The Theses of Pontigny (1934)
    (pp. 300-305)

    The ideological rationale of thePlanwas most graphically set out in a series of propositions put forth by de Man at an international conference called to considerplanismein 1934 at the Abbey of Pontigny in France. Here are found the economic and political parameters of thePlan, establishing the minimum and maximum dimensions of the program of “structural reforms” to be followed, and later there is an explicit rejection ofouvriérisme, or the cultivation of the industrial proletariat as the only feasible basis for the achievement of socialist objectives. Another familiar element of de Man’s thought is represented...

  18. 15 Must One Sacrifice Peace to Freedom? (1938)
    (pp. 306-312)

    De Man’s participation in World War I was to be fateful in more ways than one. As we have seen, the intellectual and moral necessity of rationalizing his wartime commitment had precipitated the reformulation of socialist ideology, and thereby of the underlying conceptualization of social action, with which he came to make his distinctive contribution in writing of sociological as well as of socialist import. Of course, other elements of his historical setting and experience also deeply influenced his ideas and his conduct. But that searing experience of war remained as a primordial referent for his adoption of basic policy,...

  19. 16 Democracy and the Frustration of Socialism (1939)
    (pp. 313-323)

    The tragic climax of de Man’s political life was compounded essentially of two ingredients: his fidelity to a pacifist stance rendered absolute by virtue of his experience of World War I and its aftermath; and a growing conviction, emergent from his political experience in Belgium, that a socialist breakthrough could come, not through the devious and irresolute procedures of the parliamentary democracy with which he was tediously familiar, but only through determined and autonomous leadership by a responsible political elite operating within a refurbished constitutional framework. He had now arrived at the reversal of the conclusion, the validation of which...

  20. 17 The Manifesto (1940)
    (pp. 324-328)

    The intellectual and political significance of de Man’s reformulation of socialist ideology has been completely obscured by the sensational and impolitic “Manifesto to the Members of the Belgian Labor Party” that appeared in the public press shortly after the Nazi conquest of the Low Countries and France. It was followed by other, equally damaging wartime writings, in which he urged a policy of strict neutralism while expressing contempt for pluto-democratic regimes. But German policy, especially after the invasion of Russia, was not content with such a reserved stance, and gradually he became convinced of the hopelessness of his endeavor to...

  21. 18 The Age of Doom (1950)
    (pp. 329-354)

    From his haven in Switzerland de Man contemplated the postwar world with rueful pessimism and profound chagrin. Just as the insupportable moral burden of his engagement in World War I had necessitated, first, recognition that different outcomes of the conflict would be historically significant, and, second, with thegrande désillusionof Versailles, an adamant resolve never to be taken in again by such propaganda, so the burden of his disengagement in World War II prohibited acknowledgment that he had made a dreadful, culpable error of judgment. He fought bitterly and vainly against his conviction, and a pervasive dejection suffuses the...

  22. Selective Bibliography
    (pp. 355-358)
  23. Index
    (pp. 359-362)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 363-363)