Marković, Svetozar (1846–1875)

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Svetozar Marković was a Serbian socialist, philosopher, and publicist. After prolonged uprisings between 1804 and 1815 had liberated Serbia from Turkey, a cultural revolution took place, led by the reformer of the Serbian language and orthography Vuk Karadžich (17871864), and socialist ideas began to spread. The first Serbian socialist writers were the economist and philosopher Živojin Žujović (18381870) and Svetozar Marković.

After technical studies in Belgrade, Marković continued his education in St. Petersburg, where he attended the lectures of Dmitri Pisarev and became acquainted with the ideas of the Russian revolutionary democrats. Marković went to France in 1869 and then to Zürich, where he became acquainted with the Western revolutionary workers' movement and with the works of Karl Marx. Marković became the correspondent for Serbia and the Balkans of the Marxist First International. In 1870 he returned to Serbia, where he gathered about himself a circle of young intellectuals and workers. He published Radenik (The Worker; 18711872), the first socialist newspaper in the Balkans, and later the newspapers Javnost (The Public) and Glas Javnosti (The Public Voice). After nine months' imprisonment for violating the press law, Marković, who had become seriously ill, was set free in 1875. He began publishing a new newspaper, Oslobodjenje (Liberation), but shortly afterward he died in Trieste.

The basic determinant of Marković's thought and activity was the Serbian social situation. The disoriented rural paupers and the small and unorganized urban proletariat had repudiated the patriarchal social order, but they disagreed on the means of improving their lot. In search of ways to solve the social problems of his countrymen, Marković developed a socialist ideology. This theory was greatly influenced by the Russian revolutionary democrats Nikolai Chernyshevskii, Nikolai Dobrolyubov, and Pisarev, and later by Marx, but its main sources were materialist philosophy and the natural sciencesFrench eighteenth-century materialism (particularly Baron d'Holbach, Denis Diderot, and Jean Le Rond d'Alembert); the vulgar materialism of Friedrich Büchner, Karl Vogt, and Jacob Moleschott; the positivism of Auguste Comte and John Stuart Mill; and the scientists Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, Wilhelm Wundt, and Ivan Mikhailovich Sechenov, the Russian physiologist. There are also traces in Marković's thought of the utopian socialists the Comte de Saint-Simon, François Marie Charles Fourier, and Étienne Cabet, as well as of other socialists such as Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Louis Blanc.

Atheism and Materialism

Lacking a deep and systematic philosophical and sociopolitical education, Marković did not intend to become a philosopher or a literary figure but strove to be the ideologist and spiritual leader of a new trend in science and lifea publicist and propagator of new ideas. Nevertheless, his theoretical outlook was relatively original and presented an integral whole.

Marković's ideology embraced first of all the general principles of scientific atheism and natural-philosophical materialism expressed in the study "Realni Pravac u Nauci Iživotu" (The Realistic Trend in Science and Life; in the journal Letopis Matice Srpske, 18711872) and other works. From Chernyshevskii and Marx he borrowed the notion of the need for building up a philosophical theory as the basis of sociopolitical knowledge and practice. He called his view "scientific materialism and realism." All phenomena, as well as the processes of nature, society, and spiritual life, were interpreted in terms of matter and its laws. Nature and society were integrally connected. Only by means of science was the people's economic and political revival possible. Marković, like Marx, contrasted his view with Bakunin's. In spite of certain elements of mechanism and agnosticism in his outlook, Marković advocated the idea of dialectical development and an evolutionistic-materialistic theory of knowledge as the basis of the social struggle of the socialist movement.

In his interpretation of man and society, Marković drew upon Darwin, Comte, the French materialists, Ludwig Feuerbach, and Chernyshevskii. Morals is founded on knowledge and science, and the development of morals is affected by the development of man's needs through the socialization of instincts. Moral feelings are not innate; man becomes individually moral and socially more morally minded as society develops. Only by constant labor can man raise himself to a height unreachable by any other organism. Marković condemned the morals of bourgeois society as being founded upon the exploitation of the lower classes. Because morality is the indispensable consequence of the social machine, only a socialist revolution can bring about a new socialist morality. Seeing the primary goal of the future socialist society as the morality of its members, Marković termed his ethical socialism "idealistic realism." He did not conceive of the idea as being determined by matter, but spoke of the idea as the primary motive force in the development of society.


Believing that a spiritual revolution must precede the political and economic revolutions, Marković held that the social revival had to be supported by literature and art. In "Pevanje i Mišljenje" (Songs and Thought; Matica, 1868), "Realnost u Poeziji" (Reality in Poetry; Matica, 1870), and many other works, Marković expounded a materialist aesthetic modeled upon that of Chernyshevskii. Literature should be realistic and rational, expressing the genuine life, needs, and interests of the people, and should have an effect upon the general social revival. Marković's views decisively affected the development of Serbian literature, turning it toward Russian and western European realism.

Sociopolitical Views

In his voluminous book Načelo Narodne Ekonomije (The principles of the national economy [Belgrade, 1874]), written in the vein of J. S. Mill and Chernyshevskii, Marković praised Marx for his discovery of the law of social development, but he held that these laws could not be applied to Russia, Serbia, and other economically undeveloped countries, which, in Marković's opinion, could bypass capitalism and move from patriarchal cooperatives directly to socialism. Marković's teachings on society, state, and revolution, in spite of some elements of utopianism and historical idealism, showed a high degree of accuracy. Although he gave too much weight to the roles of social consciousness, science, and philosophy, and consequently to the revolutionary intelligentsia, in the development of socialist society, his program was revolutionary and democratic. In a series of works, especially in his most original work, Srbija na Istoku (Serbia in the East [Novi Sad, 1872]), Marković defended the Paris Commune and criticized the capitalistic social system of western Europe and the narrowness of the bourgeois democracies. Marković was convinced that the transition to socialism was possible only by means of a revolution of the whole people against foreign invaders and native capitalist exploiters. He developed a fragmentary theory of the smashing of the bourgeois state in the socialist revolution and the withering away of the socialist state in the process of building communism. Like Marx, he held that only in conjunction with revolutionary practice could revolutionary theory solve the social problem. He perceived the significance of the class struggle in the West, but in backward Serbia he thought that the revolutionary intelligentsia could play a more decisive role than the proletariat. He advocated federation and self-government for the southern Slav nations. He also advocated a system of cooperatives.

Although Marković was more a revolutionary democrat than a Marxist, his teachings nevertheless united general Marxian principles concerning revolution with theories concerning the specific national character of Serbia. Moreover, they stressed the need for joint action on the part of the revolutionary intelligentsia, the peasantry, and the workers. Thus, Marković was the founder and leader of the Serbian socialist movement, as well as its theoretician, philosopher, aesthetician, and literary critic.

See also Aesthetics, History of; Aesthetics, Problems of; Alembert, Jean Le Rond d'; Atheism; Chernyshevskii, Nikolai Gavrilovich; Comte, Auguste; Darwin, Charles Robert; Diderot, Denis; Feuerbach, Ludwig Andreas; Fourier, François Marie Charles; Haeckel, Ernst Heinrich; Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d'; Marxist Philosophy; Marx, Karl; Materialism; Mill, John Stuart; Moleschott, Jacob; Pisarev, Dmitri Ivanovich; Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph; Realism; Saint-Simon, Claude-Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de; Socialism; Wundt, Wilhelm.


works by markoviĆ

Many of Marković's scientific and periodical papers are collected in Sabrani Spisi, 4 vols. (Belgrade, 19601965).

works on markoviĆ

For literature on Marković, see Slobodan Jovanović, Svetozar Marković (Belgrade, 1904). Jovan Skerlić, Svetozar Marković (Belgrade, 1910); Veselin Masleša, Svetozar Marković (Belgrade, 1947); Dušan Nedeljković. "Lik Svetozara Markovića," in the journal Glas SAN (3) (1951): 200207; Dimitrije Prodanović, Shvantanje Svetozara Markovića o državi (Belgrade, 1961).

additional sources

McClellan, Woodford. Svetozar Marković and the Origins of Balkan Socialism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964.

Stoianovich, Traian. "The Pattern of Serbian Intellectual Evolution." Comparative Studies in Society and History 1 (3) (1959): 242272.

Stokes, Gale. "Svetozar Marković in Russia." Slavic Review 31(3) (1972): 611625.

Andrija Stojković (1967)

Bibliography updated by Philip Reed (2005)

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Marković, Svetozar (1846–1875)

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