Friedrich Engels Biography Friedrich Engels Term Paper

Length: 20 pages Sources: 20 Subject: Sociology Type: Term Paper Paper: #64371288 Related Topics: Biography, Materialism, Karl Marx, Industrial Sociology
Excerpt from Term Paper :

This does not suggest that one assimilate the ideas of another without having first contemplated those ideas at length, rounded them with individual ideas, expectations, experiences and theories before adopting those ideas and holding the originator of the ideas as a source of ideological guidance.

Engels is described by social researcher Dudley Knowles (2002) as a "Hegelian (20)." As mentioned earlier, Engels took a position in favor of Hegel when the philosopher was coming under fire from the university philosophy professor where Engels attended university. As has been previously mentioned, again, and from the positions Engels took and his manner of expressing his positions that were counter authority and anti-authority in nature, it leaves open to speculation Engels' motivation in backing Hegel; was it sincere agreement in philosophy, or his tendency to follow his young and somewhat immature tendencies to thwart the sitting authority? Given that Engels took a journalistic pseudonym in order to disguise his own family background, again, suggesting an immaturity in not understanding how to reconcile his family heritage with his philosophy; to agree that Engels was Hegelian is speculation without further study of Engels' own writings and comparison with the philosophy of Hegel. However, by way of lending the philosopher his support, regardless of the early motivation for so doing, Hegel historically stands as someone that Knowles can point to as an individual who inspired Engels; regardless of the direction of the inspiration.

Having made that investigation, Knowles says:

Much ink has been spilled in the investigation of the intellectual relationships between Marx and Engels and Hegel and most of it has been devoted to investigating Marx's 'inversion' of the Hegelian system (20)."

It is, of course, a logical course that flows in the minds of most researchers that Engels, as a collaborator with Marx, who admired Hegel, might conclude that Engels was likewise a Hegelian. Knowles finds Hegel's historical materialism sound, while he finds Marx's writings on historical materialism unintelligible (20). It is interesting that Knowles uses Marx and Engels somewhat synonymously, but elaborates only on Marx's perspective in comparing Marx and Hegel. This suggests in some way that Engels subordinated himself to the greater personas and philosophies of Marx and Hegel. Also, as noted by Carver, Marx and Engels were collaborators, and the extent to which Marx was expressing his own ideas and the ideas of Engels tends to be obscure at times (2003:1).

Marx himself acknowledged a considerable debt to some of Engels's own works, and there are, of course, the famous works written by Engels jointly with Marx. I shall be discussing Engels's contribution to them, in so far as it can be determined (1)."

Roman Szporluk talks about the "collaboration," saying this:

The "List Critique" is important both in the intellectual biography of Marx and as his theoretical statement on nation and nationalism, on which, it is commonly alleged, he failed to speak clearly and comprehensively. In fact, the "List Critique" is more explicit than anything Marx ever wrote on nationalism (1991; 1)."

However, at this juncture we are looking at the influences in Engels' life, and we know that Marx and Hegel were influences.

Jon Stewart discusses the relationship between Kierkegaard and Hegel, and in so doing notes:

According to this interpretation, there is opposed to this tradition with its insistence on reason, lucidity, transparency, and truth, another to which Kierkegaard is thought to belong. This tradition features a supposedly more colorful sequence of thinkers, such as Schopenhauer, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Freud, Sartre, and Derrida, who are characterized by their deep suspicion and often violent criticism of reason. These thinkers, often regarded as irrationalists, immoralists, nihilists, and iconoclasts, have often been classified primarily as existentialists or, in their most recent incarnations, as post-structuralists or post-modernists. In contrast to the neo-Hegelian rationalists, thinkers of this so-called irrationalist tradition are thought to have an entirely disabused conception of reason. Their theories of the irrational or shadowy side of human nature purportedly correct Hegel's exuberant excesses on this score (2002:620)."

These thinkers did not have any great influence on Engels, or at least they are not listed as having done in Carver's (2003) book on Engels. In fact, there are few mentioned as having an influence on Engels' theories and philosophies, other than Marx and Hegel. To the extent that one attempts to discern the influences in Engels' thinking, it would sadly be limited to Hegel and Marx (again denoting a lack of experience). However, the influence of Marx and Engels on one another was mutual in formulating philosophy;...


Carver writes:

Following once again the method of the German Ideology and the Manifesto, Engels approached Marx's achievements by way of German economic history -- the failure, after the Reformation and the peasant wars, to develop the bourgeois conditions of production visible in Holland, England and France. The science of political economy in Germany consequently made little progress, and contemporary German writing on the subject was dismissed by Engels as 'a mush consisting of all sorts of extraneous matter, with a spattering of eclectic-economic sauce, such as would be useful knowledge for a state-employed law school graduate preparing for his final state board examination'. When the German proletarian party appeared on the scene (in the 1840s), scientific German economics was born. The new economics, he wrote, was 'grounded essentially upon the materialist conception of history' applicable to 'all historical sciences'. In 'our materialist thesis', wrote Engels, 'it is demonstrated in each particular case how every time the action originated from direct material impulses, and not from the phrases that accompanied the action' (i. 366, 367, 368, 369). Engels's phrase 'the materialist conception of history' brought Marxism into existence (2003:47)."

Engels' Writings

Engels wrote independently and, or, collaborated with Marx on subjects like sociology, history, politics and, deferring to Marx, economics - although Marx's economics proves weak. When Engels first Marx, Marx was working on a theory of political economy (Raddatz, F., (ed), 1981: 1). If anything provides understand of these two collaborators, it is the exchange of ideas between them and others with whom they corresponded.

In a letter from Engels to Marx dated October 1844, Engels speaks of his sister's engagement to the "London Communist," Emil Blank (6). However, there is no mistaking the tone of the remark in that regard, Engels does not find camaraderie with Blank (6). Engels laments the fact that he will not be able to return to Paris for at least six months, and must "knock around Germany" for that period of time (6). Here we gain a sense of Engels' elitism, that he travels with ease and at will from place to place as the wealthy elite might do; and rightly so, because he is, after all, wealthy and elite. However, the sense of his wealth is conveyed in the manner of communicating with Marx. His remarks about Blank convey a sense not of interest in socialism or communism, but snobbery of the most reprehensibly elitist kind. The more that is understood about Engels through his own communications, the more it would seem that Engels wore his anti-establishment politics like a fashionable coat; although there was no denying that he held Marx in high esteem, and remained a life-long loyal friend to Marx (6).

A spent three days in Cologne and was amazed at the colossal propaganda we have made there. The people are very active, but the lack of a proper support is nevertheless very perceptible. Until the principles have been logically and historically developed from the previous way of looking at things and from past history and portrayed as their necessary continuation in some essays, everything is bound to be a sort of day-dreaming and, for most people, a blind groping about. Afterwards I was in Dusseldorf, where we also have a few good chaps (Raddatz: 6)."

However, Engels remarks to Marx that in the police commission, Barmen, he finds a "communist," and it is conveyed that Barmen is a person with whom Engels is able to experience some level of camaraderie. He identifies, too, a former school friend, Gustav Wurm, as a communist, too, but it is clear that Engels is not impressed with either of these men in the way that he stands in awe of Marx. Rather, it is easy to read the letter and come away with the sense that Barmen and Wurm should stand in awe of Engels. Engels mentions to Marx, too, that they must be careful of what they discuss or risk being "picked up (7)." However, Engels assures Marx, so long as they keep quiet, that risk is minimal - and you have to wonder if there was a risk at all since by this time everyone would have been…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Carver, Terrell. 2003. Engels. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. Book online. Available from Questia, Accessed 15 April 2008.

Engels, Frederick. 1902. The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State. Translated by Untermann, Ernest. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr. Book online. Available from Questia, Accessed 15 April 2008.

Engels, Frederich. 1926. The Peasant War in Germany. New York: International publishers. Book online. Available from Questia, Accessed 15 April 2008.

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