chapter  11
22 Pages

Karl Kautsky’s Social History of Christianity: The Communitarian Church

ByConstance L. Benson

After Friedrich Engels's death in 1895, the mantle of leading intellectual in the Socialist International passed to Karl Kautsky. From 1883 until 1917 Kautsky served as editor of Neue Zeit and wrote the theoretical section of the Erfurt Program of the Social Democratic Party. In his historical work Kautsky reconstructs the social history of the Christian churches, using the methods of social historiography that were frowned upon by Meinecke and most other German intellectuals. According to Kautsky, the social origins of the Christian community were almost exclusively proletarian, in the broad sense that its constituency was without property or a high level of education. In response to the problem of poverty both the Essene and Christian communities tried to adopt a fully communistic lifestyle. In the Foundations, Kautsky also adds that with the renewed emphasis on the traditional family there was a conservative backlash against women's relative emancipation in the first Christian communities.