[Editor's Note: This essay, a prescient blast at the then growing problem of Marxism in literary criticism, was published as an appendix in Henry Hazlitt's 1933 book The Anatomy of Criticism: A Trialogue. The same arguments, of course, apply to claims used in criticism that certain literature is worthless because it supports "the patriarchy" or other modern stand-ins for "the bourgeoisie."]
The astonishingly rapid spread, in the last two or three years, of the application of so-called social standards in literary criticism, and particularly of so-called Marxian standards, makes it desirable that these standards should be submitted to a critical examination. In undertaking such an examination, one is confronted at the very beginning by a formidable difficulty.
One feels that few of the writers whose theories are being examined will trouble to weigh on their merits any of the specific objections offered. For most of the nouveau-Marxists know all the answers in advance. They know that any critic who questions any item in the Marxian ideology is a "bourgeois" critic, and that his objections are "bourgeois" criticisms, and from that terrible and crushing adjective there is no appeal. For the bourgeois critic, if I understand the nouveau-Marxists rightly, has less free will than a parrot. He is a mere phonograph, who can only repeat the phrases and opinions with which he has been stuffed from his reading of bourgeois literature and his contacts with bourgeois science and bourgeois art. All these make up bourgeois culture, which is a mere class culture, i.e., an elaborate and colossal system of apologetics; worse, an instrument for class dominance and class oppression.
The bourgeois critic, in brief, is a mere automaton, incapable of surmounting or of escaping from the bourgeois ideology in which he is imprisoned; and the poor fool's delusion that he is capable of seeing any problem with relative objectivity and disinterestedness is simply one...