top of page
socialism book cover.jpg

outline of Socialism: Utopian & Scientific by Friedrich Engels

INTRODUCTION - part 1: General Introduction and the History of Materialism (7 pgs)

Engels introduces the text and gives a brief history of how materialism has developed in Western philosophy


page 1

  • published in 1880 but part of larger work published in 1876 which was a polemic against Duhring, the professor who was anti-Marx and created his own version of socialism, a “sect” as Engels calls it. Marx was writing Capital at the time so Engels wrote a defense. 

  • Engels says “the systematic comprehensiveness of my opponent gave me the opportunity of developing, in opposition to him, and in a more connected form than had previously been done, the views held by Marx and myself on this great variety of subjects,” referring to Duhring’s system of philosophy, and of political economy and socialism

page 2

  • introduces economic terms which agree with those used in Marx’s Capital

    • "production of commodities": the economic stage where “articles are produced not only for the use of the producers, but also for the purpose of exchange; that is, as commodities, not as use values” 

      • this phase “attains its full development under capitalist production”

      • “capitalist production”: conditions where the capitalist (owner of the means of production) employs laborers (people deprived of all means of production except their own labor-power), pays them in wages and pockets the excess of the selling price of the products

      • 3 periods of history of industrial production since Middle Ages

        • handicraft: small master craftsman with a few apprentices, where each laborer produces a complete article

        • manufacture: greater numbers of workmen, grouped in one large establishment, produce the complete article on the principle of division of labor

        • modern industry: the product is produced by machinery driven by power, work of the laborer is limited to superintending and correcting the performance of the mechanical agent

    • this book uses “historical materialism” to describe the development of capitalism and the socialist theories that emerged concurrently, and to defend Marxist socialism (scientific socialism as opposed to utopian socialism)

page 3

    • the ancient Greek philosophers Anaxagoras and Democritus inspired the British philosopher Bacon (1561-1626), the creator of materialism

    • to Bacon, “natural philosophy is the only true philosophy” and by natural he means “physics based upon the experience of the senses”

    • Hobbes (1588–1679) systematizes Baconian materialism, saying there can be no ideas outside of us who think, only sensation that makes us think, but we can’t separate thought from matter, so I can’t prove God’s existence only my own. impulses are good. man and nature under same laws. he “shattered theistic prejudices of Baconian materialism”

page 4

    • Hobbes does not give proof for “Bacon's fundamental principle, the origin of all human knowledge from the world of sensation,” but Locke (1632-1704) does

    • thus Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke (all English) became fathers of French materialism of 18th century, while England remained with “religious bigotry and stupidity” in the middle-class (but working class/the uneducated actually “dared to use their own intellectual faculties with regard to religious matters” and formed socialist groups)

    • then in 19th century England became “civilized” — agnosticism while not as acceptable as the Church of England was pretty much on par with Baptism

page 5

    • Engels says agnosticism is “‘shamefaced’ materialism” — natural world is governed by law and excludes the intervention of any action outside, i.e. of a Supreme Being. especially “nowadays, in our evolutionary conception of the universe, there is absolutely no room for” a creator. 

    • a naturalistic worldview means there is no ruler outside of this world, and to have that worldview but still leave question of god as a “ya never know” is not only a contradiction but an “insult to the feelings of religious people”

    • however, an agnostic might ask: “how do we know that our senses give us correct representations of the objects we perceive through them?”

    • Engels responds: “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” that is, if we do a thing with object and it’s the thing we thought would happen then the object is what we thought it was. if that thing doesn’t happen we usually don’t think the object is still the thing we thought it was. we realize we made a mistake about what we thought it was, or we realize why it didn’t do the thing we thought it would.

    • Kant (1724-1804) said we can’t know a thing-in-itself (he says we only have pure reason and this limits us to know an object in itself) but Hegel (1770-1831) replied: “If you know all the qualities of a thing, you know the thing itself; nothing remains but the fact that the said thing exists without us” and when you realize that’s the only fact that remains then you’ve “grasped the last remnant of the thing-in-itself”

    • Engel adds to Hegel’s development that as time goes on we can grasp even more of what was once apparently unknowable… through science!

page 6

    • and when an agnostic speaks of science which is how he knows anything he speaks of, he is using a materialist worldview. when speaking of matters outside science, he says he knows nothing, and well then we guess he really he does know nothing about anything besides science!!! “he translates his ignorance into Greek and calls it agnosticism”

  • and so instead of being agnostic, Engels and Marx are “historical materialists” and write with that view!

  • historical materialism is: “that view of the course of history which seeks the ultimate cause and the great moving power of all important historic events in the economic development of society, in the changes in the modes of production and exchange, in the consequent division of society into distinct classes, and in the struggles of these classes against one another”

INTRODUCTION - part 2: History (the role of Religion) in the English middle-class (8 pgs)

Engels tells the history of feudalism to capitalism in England and France, recounting economic changes, revolts, and developments in materialist philosophy and religion

page 1

  • the Middle Ages in England used a feudal system which was not compatible with the middle-class (bourgeoisie) that began to rise in towns 

  • center of feudalism was Roman Catholic Church

  • the middle-class (bourgeoisie) had to work against the Church to work against feudalism but that does not mean they were not religious — both Luther and Calvin inspired major political revolts through their religious reformations

  • Lutheran was a symbol of the people, as his denial for ultimate authority which was really to the Church (he thought personal faith was more important than doing what the Church defined as good) but inadvertently inspired peasant rebellions. however ultimately Lutheranism was not politically liberating and was instead “well adapted to religious monarchy”

page 2

  • Calvinism: centered on “predestination doctrine” of religion, which translated to economics as the belief that commercial success or failure doesn’t depend on one’s “activity or cleverness” but instead on “mercy of unknown superior economic powers”

  • Calvinism inspired the “second great bourgeois upheaval” in England - the battle was thought by the bourgeois, fought by the working class

    • “Curiously enough, in all the three great bourgeois risings, the peasantry furnishes the army that has to do the fighting; and the peasantry is just the class that, the victory once gained, is most surely ruined by the economic consequences of that victory.”

    • feudals mostly died in war, and their descendants were “far more bourgeois than feudal” and “fully understood the value of money” - for example, they replaced farmers with sheep

    • the king also sold the Church lands and thus “created fresh bourgeois landlords by wholesale”

page 3

  • instead of limiting industry, the king just profited from it

  • once the economic interests of the financial, manufacturing, and commercial middle-class were sufficiently attended to (and those interests were powerful enough to determine national policy), the riches and political power was left to the great landowning families, which made up the the aristocratic oligarchy

  • so, bourgeoisie was a humble but still recognized part of ruling class in England. and all of the ruling class had common interest: maintain subjection of the great working class

  • the merchant/manufacturer was “master” (actually called “natural superior”) to his workers/domestic servants 

    • “His interest was to get as much and as good work out of them as he could; for this end, they had to be trained to proper submission.”

    • the “master” was religious, as were all bourgeoisie 

    • “the English bourgeoisie now had to take a part in keeping down the ‘lower orders’, the great producing mass of the nation, and one of the means employed for that purpose was the influence of religion.”

    • the rise of materialism (seen as aristocratic and only fit for scholars) shocked religious middle class. was regarded as “hateful to the middle-class both for its religious heresy and for its anti-bourgeois political connections”

    • Hobbes’ version of materialism (wherein all men are ruled by impulse, man and nature are under same laws, and ideas and the body are one not separate like in Christianity) “called upon absolute monarchy to keep down … the people” - so it defended “royal prerogative and omnipotence” 

    • “in opposition to the materialism and deism of the aristocracy, those Protestant sects  … continued to furnish the main strength of the progressive middle-class, and form even today the backbone of ‘the Great Liberal Party’.”

  • in France, another materialistic school of philosophy, a branch of Cartesianism, was at first also aristocratic but became revolutionary. this happened because French materialists applied their criticism not just to religion but all science and politics. so materialism and deism became the creed of all French youth

page 4

  • while in England pre- and post-revolutionary institutions were very similar (the compromise between landlord and capitalists basically relied on feudal judicial precedents), in France feudalism was completely gone and they made laws adapted from old Roman law (that almost perfect expression of the juridical relations corresponding to the economic stage called by Marx the production of commodities) into “modern capitalist conditions”

  • the English law that expresses “economic relations of capitalist society in that barbarous feudal language” is the same which passes to America, that of personal freedom and local self-government. however the Continent (Europe w/out Britain) instead has been lost to absolute monarchy

  • English bourgeois fought French revolution for opportunity to destroy French maritime commerce and annex French colonies. also, they liked the aristocracy, which “taught him manners”

  • the progressive minority of the British bourgeoise (less wealthy middle-class, didn’t like compromise) sympathized with French Revolution but was powerless in Parliament

  • “if materialism became the creed of the French Revolution, the God-fearing English bourgeois held all the faster to his religion” and the more “materialism and free thought generally became, on the Continent, the necessary qualifications of a cultivated man, the more stubbornly the English middle-class stuck to its manifold religious creeds.”

  • revolution ensured the political triumph of the bourgeoisie in France, but in England an industrial revolution started which completely shifted the centre of gravity of economic power

    • “wealth of the bourgeoisie increased considerably faster than that of the landed aristocracy” and within bourgeoisie the manufacturers became more prominent than the financially aristocracy/bankers

    • “The political power still left to the aristocracy, and used by them to resist the pretensions of the new industrial bourgeoisie, became incompatible with the new economic interests. A fresh struggle with the aristocracy was necessary; it could end only in a victory of the new economic power.”

page 5

  • 1830 “Reform Act” in France gave bourgeoisie powerful place in Parliament. then laws which moved toward free-trade made bourgeoisie supreme, especially manufacturers over the landed aristocracy. this was last victory gained only in its own interest, shared next triumphs with “manufacturing work-people” who were first allies then its rivals. that class and the manufacturing capitalists were the new classes created in industrial revolution

  • 1832 working class party was formed (“the Chartists”) in England and put forward demands which were “inadmissible from the point of view of capitalist society”

  • “If the British bourgeois had been convinced before of the necessity of maintaining the common people in a religious mood, how much more must he feel that necessity after all these experiences?” 

  • so, the bourgeois continued to evangelize lower orders, eventually using a kind of religion which “appeals to the poor as the elect, fights capitalism in a religious way, and thus fosters an element of early Christian class antagonism”

  • “It seems a law of historical development that the bourgeoisie can in no European country get hold of political power — at least for any length of time — in the same exclusive way in which the feudal aristocracy kept hold of it during the Middle Ages.”

  • “A durable reign of the bourgeoisie has been possible only in countries like America, where feudalism was unknown, and society at the very beginning started from a bourgeois basis.”

page 6

  • especially in England bourgeoisie never had full ruling power

  • English middle-class had learned (from the Chartists) what “the people” are capable of so they were included in their political power. however, even the victory of 1832 left the landed aristocracy in almost exclusive possession of all the leading Government offices

  • middle-class submitted to this because they had a sense of “social inferiority” to the aristocracy 

    • middle-class felt they did not deserve the best education

    • left “to the aristocracy those superior Government places where other qualifications were required than mere insular narrowness and insular conceit, seasoned by business sharpness”

    • they keep up an ”ornamental caste of drones to represent the nation worthily at all State functions; and they consider themselves highly honored whenever one of themselves is found worthy of admission into this select and privileged body, manufactured, after all, by themselves”

  • even though the middle-class was weak, the working-class was driven to dependency on the Liberal party, even after the Chartist movement, the Continental revolutions, and the “unparalleled extension of English trade from 1848-66 (ascribed vulgarly to Free Trade alone, but due far more to the colossal development of railways, ocean steamers, and means of intercourse generally)”

    • still, the working-class were given voting rights, so many constituencies now had majority working class voters

    • however, parliamentary government was basically capital school for teaching respect for tradition, and the representatives acted accordingly. the middle-class looked up to “old nobility” and working class looked up to middle-class. the bourgeoisie wanted to keep it that way, to maintain power, so they decided that “the people must be kept in order by moral means, and the first and foremost of all moral means of action upon the masses is and remains — religion.”

    • so, bourgeoisie increasingly taxed themselves more in order to support religious revivalism

page 7

  • “triumph of British respectability over the free thought and religious laxity of the Continental bourgeois” meant that the British bourgeoise valued religion and respectability and spread it, while Continental bourgeois valued free thought and religious laxity

  • and so “the workmen of France and Germany had become rebellious” and “were thoroughly infected with Socialism,” therefore the bourgeoisie actually got rid of their value of free thought, started to become religious, and spread religion in order to “save society”, as they “had come to grief with materialism”

  • however, Engels says neither steady British religion nor new Continental religion will “stem the rising Proletarian tide”

    • “religion will be no lasting safeguard to capitalist society. If our juridical, philosophical, and religious ideas are the more or less remote offshoots of the economical relations prevailing in a given society, such ideas cannot, in the long run, withstand the effects of a complete change in these relations.”

  • and so in England too the “working-people have begun to move again. They are, no doubt, shackled by traditions of various kinds. Bourgeois traditions, such as the widespread belief that there can be but two parties, Conservatives and Liberals, and that the working-class must work out its salvation by and through the great Liberal Party.” still, the English working-class is moving

  • “And if the pace of the movement is not up to the impatience of some people, let them not forget that it is the working-class which keeps alive the finest qualities of the English character, and that, if a step in advance is once gained in England, it is, as a rule, never lost afterwards. If the sons of the old Chartists, for reasons unexplained above, were not quite up to the mark, the grandsons bid fair to be worthy of their forefathers.”

  • and finally, “the triumph of the European working-class does not depend upon England alone. It can only be secured by the cooperation of, at least, England, France, and Germany.”

CHAPTER I: The Development of Utopian Socialism (10 pgs)


Engels describes the effects of new capitalism on each of the classes, including the changing nature of production, rearrangement of wealth and political power, and different social conditions, which all contribute to the early reactions to capitalism that are demonstrated in premature, and thus utopian, socialist theories.

page 1

  • modern socialism appeared first as extension of the 18th century French philosophy of materialism which “recognized no external authority of any kind” wherein “reason became the sole measure of everything”

  • it was thought that “superstition, injustice, privilege, oppression, were to be superseded by eternal truth, eternal Right, equality based on Nature and the inalienable rights of man” but “we know today that this kingdom of reason was nothing more than the idealized kingdom of the bourgeoisie”

page 2

  • “in every great bourgeois movement there were independent outbursts of that class which was the forerunner, more or less developed, of the modern proletariat” - their ideas were “theoretical enunciations, corresponding with these revolutionary uprisings of a class not yet developed”

  • first in the 16th and 17th centuries, there were “utopian pictures of ideal social conditions” and in the 18th century, “actual communistic theories”

  • “The demand for equality was no longer limited to political rights; it was extended also to the social conditions of individuals. It was not simply class privileges that were to be abolished, but class distinctions themselves.”

  • when real socialist theory started to form, it was utopian. Engels describes three great utopians socialists, but says:

    • “Not one of them appears as a representative of the interests of that proletariat which historical development had, in the meantime, produced. Like the French philosophers, they do not claim to emancipate a particular class to begin with, but all humanity at once. Like them, they wish to bring in the kingdom of reason and eternal justice, but this kingdom, as they see it, is as far as Heaven from Earth, from that of the French philosophers.”

  • all three base their principles on the materialist philosophy and thus find the bourgeois world irrational and unjust, they cast it away as was done with feudalism and all the earlier stages of society

  • they believe that if pure reason and justice have not yet ruled the world, it’s because we have not yet understood them. all we need is an individual genius. that he has now arisen is “not an inevitable event, following of necessity in the chains of historical development, but a mere happy accident” - as if the utopian socialist thinks he could have come along earlier and saved humanity from all this strife

  • the French Revolution tried to realize the rational society and government as imagined by 18th century French philosophers “but the new order of things, rational enough as compared with earlier conditions, turned out to be by no means absolutely rational” and the “state based upon reason completely collapsed” evident in the Reign of Terror

  • the bourgeoisie had lost confidence in their own political capacity and took refuge first in the corruption of government during Reign of Terror and then “under the wing of the Napoleonic despotism”

  • instead of eternal peace, there was endless war of conquest. the antagonism between rich and poor did not turn into general prosperity but rather intensified by

    • the removal of the guild

page 3

    • removal of the charitable institutions of the Church

    • “freedom of property” from feudal ownership turned out to be “freedom from property” as the small capitalists/peasant owners w/ property were “crushed under the overmastering competition of the large capitalists and landlords” and had to sell

    • “development of industry upon a capitalistic basis made poverty and misery of the working masses conditions of existence of society”

    • cash payment became increasingly “the sole nexus between man and man” (the only way people could connect)

    • crime increased

    • feudal vice thrust into background while bourgeois vices blossomed luxuriantly

    • trade became more and more just cheating

    • “fraternity” of revolution turned to competition

    • oppression by force was replaced by corruption

    • prostitution increased

    • “marriage itself remained, as before, the legally recognized form, the official cloak of prostitution, and, moreover, was supplemented by rich crops of adultery”

  • however, as Modern Industry develops the conflicts emerge which make absolutely necessary a revolution in the mode of production, and the doing away with its capitalistic character — conflicts not only between the classes capitalism created, but also between the very productive forces and the forms of exchange created by it

  • and in these very gigantic productive forces, also emerges the means of ending these conflicts

  • in 1800 this new form of economics, capitalism, was still in its early development, so when the working class “were able for a moment to gain the mastery” and win a revolution their domination could not last in those conditions, had “incapacity to help itself” 

  • this is because “to the crude conditions of capitalistic production and the crude class conditions correspond crude theories”

  • essentially, w/out a bad system developing to the full extent of the bad, it can’t offer the means for a change and the change itself (socialist theories) would be too abstract to be successfully implemented. only historical materialist analysis shows how things have been in order to see exactly how things should change.

  • Engels describes the three aforementioned utopian socialists:

1. Saint-Simon (spoke out about this from 1802-1816)

  • came at “a time in which Modern Industry in France and, with it, the chasm between bourgeoisie and proletariat was only just coming into existence”

  • it wasn't all of the “3rd estate” (people working in production/trade) that won the revolution against privileged nonworking class. it was that only the propertied “bourgeoisie” section of the working class had political power, no one else

  • other bourgeoisie were wealthy because they gained power during revolution when they took the lands from the nobility and church and put them up for sale 

  • the revolution already proved that the idlers (nobles and priests) “lost the capacity for intellectual leadership and political supremacy” but the Reign of Terror after the revolution showed that the working class didn’t have this capacity either

  • so who should lead? Saint Simon says science and industry, united by a religious bond. restore religion with this “new Christianity”

  • science meant scholars, and industry meant bourgeoisie (remember not the idle class which is nobles and priests). they should should turn into public officials which would still have more wealth and leadership than working class, but they could direct social production by regulation of credit

  • Saint-Simon wrote in 1802 (Engels calls it a “pregnant discovery”) that the French Revolution was a class war, “not simply one between nobility and bourgeoisie, but between nobility, bourgeoisie, and the non-possessors”

  • in 1816, he declared “politics is the science of production”

  • Engels says this “foretells the complete absorption of politics by economics. The knowledge that economic conditions are the basis of political institutions appears here only in embryo. Yet what is here already very plainly expressed is the idea of the future conversion of political rule over men into an administration of things and a direction of processes of production — that is to say, the ‘abolition of the state’”

page 6

2. Fourier (work appeared in 1808 but started writing about this in 1799)

  • is not only a critic but also a satirist, compares “material and moral misery of the bourgeois world” w/ their rose-colored language & the earlier philosophers’ visions of perfect society where reason reigns and happiness is universal

  • criticizes bourgeois relations between the sexes & was first to declare that “in any given society the degree of woman's emancipation is the natural measure of the general emancipation”

  • divides history of society into 4 stages of evolution: savagery, barbarism, the patriarchate, civilization

  • civilization=16th century/bourgeois

  • “‘the civilized stage raises every vice practiced by barbarism in a simple fashion into a form of existence, complex, ambiguous, equivocal, hypocritical’ — that civilization moves ‘in a vicious circle’, in contradictions which it constantly reproduces without being able to solve them; hence it constantly arrives at the very opposite to that which it wants to attain, or pretends to want to attain, so that, e.g., ‘under civilization poverty is born of superabundance itself’”

page 7

  • uses dialectic method like Hegel, every historical phase has period of ascent and descent, and whole human race will ultimately be destroyed

  • in France revolution was quick hurricane, but in England was slow starting but turned into storm: steam and tool-making machinery transformed modern industry, revolutionized the whole foundation of bourgeois society. 

  • “With constantly increasing swiftness the splitting-up into large capitalists and non-possessing proletarians went on.” — stable middle-class disappeared and there was only artisans and small shopkeepers who “now led a precarious existence”

  • the new mode of production was only at the beginning of its period of ascent, but “even then it was producing crying social abuses”:

    • herding together of a homeless population in the worst quarters of the large towns 

    • loosening of all traditional moral bonds, of patriarchal subordination, of family relations

    • overwork, especially of women and children

    • complete demoralization of the working-class, suddenly flung into altogether new conditions, from the country into the town, from agriculture into modern industry, from stable conditions of existence into insecure ones that change from day to day

page 8

3. Robert Owen

  • manufacturer, adopted the teaching of materialistic philosophers

  • “In the industrial revolution most of his class saw only chaos and confusion, and the opportunity of fishing in these troubled waters and making large fortunes quickly.” he instead sought to bring order out of chaos using his theory

  • success at Manchester factory of 500 workers, then began managing cotton mill in New Lanark, Scotland in 1800:

    • population of 2,500 of “diverse” and “demoralized elements” - turned into “model colony, in which drunkenness, police, magistrates, lawsuits, poor laws, charity, were unknown”

    • “all this simply by placing the people in conditions worthy of human beings, and especially by carefully bringing up the rising generation”

    • founder of infant schools which kids started at 2 and loved. his competitors had employees work 13-14hrs/day but in New Lanark the working way was 10.5hrs

    • “When a crisis in cotton stopped work for four months, his workers received their full wages all the time. And with all this the business more than doubled in value, and to the last yielded large profits to its proprietors.”

  • “The existence which he secured for his workers was, in his eyes, still far from being worthy of human beings. ‘The people were slaves at my mercy.’ The relatively favorable conditions in which he had placed them were still far from allowing a rational development of the character and of the intellect in all directions, much less of the free exercise of all their faculties.”

  • he asked what happened to the huge amount of wealth that they produced (240x the amount they would have produced 50 years earlier without machinery)

    • the answer was that they had to pay proprietors of the establishment 5% their capital produced and even more of their profit

    • all factories had to do this, so all working people made the wealth to fund those wars of Europe which supported the aristocratic principles of society

    • “To them, therefore, the fruits of this new power belonged. The newly-created gigantic productive forces, hitherto used only to enrich individuals and to enslave the masses, offered to Owen the foundations for a reconstruction of society; they were destined, as the common property of all, to be worked for the common good of all.”

page 9​​

  • he tried to spread this communism based on business (always with this “practical character”) elsewhere, made detailed planes complete with estimates of founding costs, yearly expenditure and revenue

  • “As long as he was simply a philanthropist, he was rewarded with nothing but wealth, applause, honor, and glory. He was the most popular man in Europe. Not only men of his own class, but statesmen and prince listened to him approvingly. But when he came out with his Communist theories that was quite another thing.

  • three great obstacles seemed to him especially to block the path to social reform: private property, religion, the present form of marriage

  • he knew if he attacked these he would face excommunication from society - he did and this happened. 

  • he did manage to pass the first law in England limiting hours of labor by women and children in factories, and he introduced transitional measures to the complete communistic organization of society which were cooperative societies for retail trade and production

    • Engels says these have “given practical proof that the merchant and the manufacturer are socially quite unnecessary” 

  • utopianism has governed socialist ideas of 19th century and still later - they all revolve around the idea that:

    • “...Socialism is the expression of absolute truth, reason and justice, and has only to be discovered to conquer all the world by virtue of its own power. And as an absolute truth is independent of time, space, and of the historical development of man, it is a mere accident when and where it is discovered. With all this, absolute truth, reason, and justice are different with the founder of each different school. And as each one's special kind of absolute truth, reason, and justice is again conditioned by his subjective understanding, his conditions of existence, the measure of his knowledge and his intellectual training, there is no other ending possible in this conflict of absolute truths than that they shall be mutually exclusive of one another.”

  • out of this, “nothing could come but a kind of eclectic, average Socialism, which, as a matter of fact, has up to the present time dominated the minds of most of the socialist workers in France and England”

  • as in, opinions are just averaged together to make an abstract theoretical solution

  • however, to instead “make a science of Socialism, it had first to be placed upon a real basis”

CHAPTER II: The Science of Dialectics (6 pgs)

Engels describes the different philosophical conceptions of nature, as ruled by metaphysics or by dialectics. Dialectics is proven with science but even before that is proven by history, specifically by class struggle.


page 1

  • dialectical reasoning was alive in the Greek philosophers, but newer philosophy (besides some exponents of dialectics like Descartes and Spinoza) became more fixed in metaphysical reasoning, esp. through English influence, which dominated 18th century French philosophy

  • “When we consider and reflect upon Nature at large, or the history of mankind, or our own intellectual activity, at first we see the picture of an endless entanglement of relations and reactions … in which nothing remains what, where and as it was, but everything moves, changes, comes into being and passes away. We see, therefore, at first the picture as a whole, with its individual parts still more or less kept in the background; we observe the movements, transitions, connections, rather than the things that move”

  • this “primitive, naive but intrinsically correct conception of the world” was first formulated by Heraclitus of ancient Greece: “everything is and is not, for everything is fluid, is constantly changing, constantly coming into being and passing away”

  • however to see the details of this picture, not just the whole, we “detach them from their natural” causes, collect using science and historical research then analyze and arrange

page 2

  • this “analysis of Nature into its individual parts” has been basis of huge strides in our knowledge of nature, but “this method of work has also left us as legacy the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, apart from their connection with the vast whole; of observing them in repose, not in motion; as constraints, not as essentially variables; in their death, not in their life”

  • Bacon and Locke took this from natural science to philosophy and it became the metaphysical mode of thought peculiar to 17th century

  • metaphysics: “things and their mental reflexes, ideas, are isolated, are to be be considered one after the other and apart from each other, are objects of investigation fixed, rigid, given once for all” - “a thing either exists or does not exist; a thing cannot at the same time be itself and something else. Positive and negative absolutely exclude on another; cause and effect stand in a rigid antithesis, one to the other”

  • however, “in the contemplation of individual things, it forgets the connection between them; in the contemplation of their existence, it forgets the beginning and end of that existence; of their repose, if forgets their motion. It cannot see the woods for the trees.”

  • these things are instead accounted for in dialectics, which “comprehends things and their representations, ideas, in their essential connection, concatenation, motion, origin and ending”

  • for example, every organized being is every moment the same and not the same, takes matter from outside and rids other matter, some cells of body die and other build themselves anew. is always itself and something other than itself

  • 2 poles like positive and negative are as inseparable as they are opposed, cause and effect make sense while isolated but consider with their connection to universe as a whole, there is an infinite web of action and reaction

page 3

  • Nature is the proof of dialectics - naturalists think dialectically

  • modern science daily provides more proof that Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically, she does not move in the eternal oneness of a perpetually recurring circle, but goes through a real historical evolution. Darwin took down metaphysical conception of nature with his proof of evolution

  • “This new German philosophy culminated in the Hegelian system. In this system — and herein is its great merit — for the first time the whole world, natural, historical, intellectual, is represented as a process — i.e., as in constant motion, change, transformation, development; and the attempt is made to trace out the internal connection that makes a continuous whole of all this movement and development. From this point of view, the history of mankind no longer appeared as a wild whirl of senseless deeds of violence, all equally condemnable at the judgment seat of mature philosophic reason and which are best forgotten as quickly as possible, but as the process of evolution of man himself.”

page 4

  • Hegel was limited to the extent of his own knowledge and that of his age. this, and because he was an idealist, means his philosophy creates a problem, an “internal and incurable contradiction”

  • Hegel’s idealism was the concept that our thoughts are not abstract pictures of actual things and processes but instead those things and their evolutions were only the realized pictures of the “Idea” which exists “somewhere from eternity before the world was.”

  • “Upon the one hand, its essential proposition was the conception that human history is a process of evolution, which, by its very nature, cannot find its intellectual final term in the discovery of any so-called absolute truth. But, on the other hand, it laid claim to being the very essence of this absolute truth. A system of natural and historical knowledge, embracing everything, and final for all time, is a contradiction to the fundamental law of dialectic reasoning.”

    • basically, with dialectics there can’t be an absolute truth, but with idealism all truth is actually eternal truth separate from us

  • however, dialectics does show how “the systematic knowledge of the external universe can make giant strides from age to age”

  • old materialism of 18th century saw previous history as “crude heap of irrationality and violence” while modern materialism is dialectic and thus sees in history the evolution of humanity and aims at discovering the laws which govern the process

page 5

  • history before science had already proved a change in conception of history: in 1831 first working-class rising took place in Lyon, France, and the English Chartist movement reached its height in 1838-1842

  • class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie became as important in advanced countries as development of modern industry and new political supremacy of bourgeoisie 

  • the old idealist conception of history knew nothing of class struggles based on economic interests and knew nothing of economic interests. production and all economic relations appeared only as incidental, subordinate elements in the "history of civilization"

  • however, new examination of all past history showed that all history besides primitive stages was “the history of class struggles” and “these warring classes of society are always the products of the modes of production and of exchange — in a word, of the economic conditions of their time; that the economic structure of society always furnishes the real basis, starting from which we can alone work out the ultimate explanation of the whole superstructure of juridical and political institutions as well as of the religious, philosophical, and other ideas of a given historical period. Hegel has freed history from metaphysics — he made it dialectic; but his conception of history was essentially idealistic. But now idealism was driven from its last refuge, the philosophy of history; now a materialistic treatment of history was propounded, and a method found of explaining man's "knowing" by his "being", instead of, as heretofore, his "being" by his "knowing".

  • “Socialism was no longer an accidental discovery of this or that ingenious brain, but the necessary outcome of the struggle between two historically developed classes — the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Its task was no longer to manufacture a system of society as perfect as possible, but to examine the historico-economic succession of events from which these classes and their antagonism had of necessity sprung, and to discover in the economic conditions thus created the means of ending the conflict.”

  • earlier socialism criticized capitalistic mode of production and its consequences, but could not explain them and, therefore, could not get the mastery of them. could only simply reject them as bad. 

  • the more strongly earlier socialism denounced the exploitations of the working-class, inevitable under capitalism, the less it could cleary show in what this exploitation consisted and how it arose. for this it was necessary:

    • to present the capitalistic mode of production in its historical connection and its inevitableness during a particular historical period, and therefore, also, to present its inevitable downfall; and

    • to lay bare its essential character, which was still a secret. This was done by the discovery of surplus-value.

  • what was then shown:

    • that the appropriation of unpaid labor is the basis of the capitalist mode of production and of the exploitation of the worker that occurs under it

    • that even if the capitalist buys the labor power of his laborer at its full value as a commodity on the market, he yet extracts more value from it than he paid for

    • that in the ultimate analysis, this surplus-value forms those sums of value from which are heaped up constantly increasing masses of capital in the hands of the possessing classes. 

    • and thus Marx explained (1) the genesis of capitalist production (via materialistic conception of history) and (2) the production of capital (by exposing the secret of capitalistic production through surplus-value)

    • “With these discoveries, Socialism became a science. The next thing was to work out all its details and relations.”

CHAPTER III: Historical Materialism (13 pgs)


using historical materialism, Engels outlines exactly how conflict develops under capitalism, specifically between working people and the means of production, working people and capitalists, and for all of society via boom and bust cycles. then, from this struggle emerges the means to end capitalism and replace it with socialism, specifically by seizing and socializing the means of production.


page 1

  • materialist conception of history:

    • all social change and political revolution is because of economics

    • the production of the means to support human life + the exchange of things produced = basis of all social structure 

    • “From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in men's better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch.”

  • as more people feel that the current social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, it just proves that the modes of production and exchange have CHANGED and that the social order is no longer working with the new state of the economic system

  • this also means that the way to get “rid of the incongruities that have been brought to light must also be present” within the changed modes of production themselves

  • the way to get rid of the incongruities are not “to be invented by deduction from fundamental principles” aka not derived from some abstract philosophy. instead they are to be discovered in the facts of the “existing system of production”

  • how did this system of production develop, and how did that aforementioned abstract philosophy (utopian socialism) emerge as first response?

    • “The bourgeoisie broke up the feudal system and built upon its ruins the capitalist order of society, the kingdom of free competition, of personal liberty, of the equality, before the law, of all commodity owners, of all the rest of the capitalist blessings.”

    • steam, machinery, and machines made by machinery transformed older manufacture to modern industry. under guidance of bourgeoisie, productive forces developed faster than ever

    • just as older manufacture and before that handicraft developed then collided with bounds of feudal guilds, modern industry in complete development met the bounds of capitalist mode of production

    • emerged conflict between productive forces (working people) and modes of production

    • this conflict is not “engendered in the mind of man, like that between original sin and divine justice” but rather exists “outside us, independently of the will and actions even of the men that have brought it on”

    • “modern socialism” (utopian) is the reflex in thought of this conflict, first by working-class that suffers it

page 2

  • what is the conflict between the workers and means of production?

    • in petty industry of Middle Ages, instruments of labor (of agriculture or handicraft) were adapted for the use of just one worker and so always belonged to the producer himself

    • the role of capitalist production and its upholder, bourgeoisie, was to concentrate these scattered means of productions and enlarge them

    • to do this, they had to turn means of production from individual into social, that is only workable by a collectivity of men—one article was joint product of many workers

    • in society like that of Middle Ages, the fundamental form of production is spontaneous division of labor which develops without preconceived plan, so “the products take on the form of commodities, whose mutual exchange, buying and selling, enable the individual producers to satisfy their manifold wants” 

      • for example, peasant sold to the artisan agricultural products and bought from him the products of handicraft

    • however in factory there is a preconceived plan of organized division of labor

    • they were sold in the same market at equal prices, but clearly the factories can produce far more cheaply

page 3

  • when producers were individual, there was no question about owner of product of labor, as it was all his own. others who helped like apprentices worked less for board/wages than for education (to also become master craftsmen)

  • then socialized means of production, socialized producers, and their products were still treated as means and products of individuals. the owner of the instruments appropriated to himself the product even though it was a product of the labor of others

  • “This contradiction, which gives to the new mode of production its capitalistic character, contains the germ of the whole of the social antagonisms of today.”

  • the more this new mode of production took over all the important fields and manufacturing countries, the more clear became the incompatibility of socialized production with capitalistic appropriation

  • before means of production was socialized, there was wage-labor but it was “exceptional, complementary, accessory, transitory wage-labor” meaning it was a stepping stone for a worker to then soon maintain the same position of his master

  • “The means of production, as well as the product, of the individual producer became more and more worthless; there was nothing left for him but to turn wage-worker under the capitalist”

    • they possessed nothing but their own labor-power now, many times remaining wage-worker for life.

  • thus, “the contradiction between socialized production and capitalistic appropriation manifested itself as the antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie”

page 4

  • anarchy reigns in socialized production:

    • in society of individual producers, the social bond was the exchange of their products

    • but in the developed capitalist society which is based upon the production of commodities, “the producers have lost control over their own social inter-relations”

    • in earlier society, one would produce with whatever means they had and to exchange for what they needed  but now “no one knows how much of his particular article is coming on the market, nor how much of it will be wanted,” “whether his individual product will meet an actual demand, whether he will be able to make good his costs of production or even to sell his commodity at all” thus “anarchy reigns in socialized production”

  • still, an inherent law of production works in and through this anarchy: “the product governs the producers”

  • in earlier society production was for self, family, or feudal lord. no exchange so products were not commodities. only when there was surplus production were commodities created and put in social exchange/sold

  • but with the production of commodities, and then the capitalist mode of production, the laws of commodity-production were open, because a lot could be produced even as “the production of society at large was ruled by absence of plan, by accident, by anarchy”

  • the capitalist mode of production intensified with increasing organization of production, even though such organization opposes the anarchy that drove production

  • thus the “field of labor became a battle-ground” and “the great geographical discoveries, and the colonization following them, multiplied markets and quickened the transformation of handicraft into manufacture”

page 5

  • modern industry and expanded world-market gave capitalism unheard-of virulence, but the struggle increased. chance or created conditions of productions could decide entire fate of capitalists or whole industries and countries.

  • “the conditions of existence natural to the animal appear as the final term of human development”: taking care of basic needs for life should be first and is for animal, but appears the least important in this mode of production

  • “the contradiction between socialized production and capitalistic appropriation now presents itself as an antagonism between the organization of production in the individual workshop and the anarchy of production in society generally.”

    • these two forms of antagonism are immanent to the capitalist mode of production from its very origin

  • “it is the compelling force of anarchy in the production of society at large that more and more completely turns the great majority of men into proletarians; and it is the masses of the proletariat again who will finally put an end to anarchy in production”

  • anarchy turns the limitless perfectibility of machinery under modern industry into a compulsory law by which every individual industrial capitalist must perfect his machinery more and more, under penalty of ruin.

    • but the perfecting of machinery is making human labor superfluous

    • thus soon there will be too many wage workers for the needs of capital, and will work when industry is booming but cast out when the inevitable crash comes

    • extra workers=”a constant dead weight upon the limbs of the working-class in its struggle for existence with capital, a regulator for keeping of wages down to the low level that suits the interests of capital”

  • as some overwork and some do not get work, modern industry hunts for new customers all over the world, driving consumption of the masses at home to a starvation minimum, destroying home market and social condition of mass

page 6

    • and so the “accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital” (Marx's Capital, p. 661)

  • boom and bust cycle:

    • “The extension of the markets cannot keep pace with the extension of production. The collision becomes inevitable, and as this cannot produce any real solution so long as it does not break in pieces the capitalist mode of production, the collisions become periodic. Capitalist production has begotten another ‘vicious circle’”

    • since 1825, there has been a crisis every 10 years: commerce at stand-still, products accumulate, factories close, cash disappears, bankruptcy. stagnation for years.

    • the reason for it is a paradox: “the mass of the workers are in want of the means of subsistence, because they have produced too much of the means of subsistence”

page 7

  • eventually the productive forces rebel, by turning against their quality as capital and commanding that their social character be recognized, forcing the capitalist class itself to treat them more as social productive forces (so far as this is possible under capitalist conditions)

  • what will happen then is the producers unite in a “trust”/union to regulate production. but when business becomes bad, worker trusts make them liable to break up, a fact which compels them to concentrate association

    • but then “the whole of a particular industry is turned into one gigantic joint-stock company; internal competition gives place to the internal monopoly of this one company” 

  • “No nation will put up with production conducted by trusts, with so barefaced an exploitation of the community by a small band of dividend-mongers,” but even without trusts, “the official representative of capitalist society — the state — will ultimately have to undertake the direction of production”

page 8

  • when the production/distribution giants are transformed into joint-stock companies, trusts, and State property, it shows how unnecessary the bourgeoisie are as owners. the capitalist’s social function is revealed to be just: “pocketing dividends, tearing off coupons, and gambling on the Stock Exchange, where the different capitalists despoil one another of their capital.”

  • but this transformation does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces, because “the modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine”

  • so, “state-ownership of the productive forces is not the solution of the conflict, but concealed within it are the technical conditions that form the elements of that solution”

  • instead the solution lies in further practical recognition of the social nature of the modern forces of production, which will not be social anarchy of production but rather “social regulation of production upon a definite plan, according to the needs of the community and of each individual”

page 9

  • “Whilst the capitalist mode of production more and more completely transforms the great majority of the population into proletarians, it creates the power which, under penalty of its own destruction, is forced to accomplish this revolution. … The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into State property. But, in doing this, it abolishes itself as proletariat, abolishes all class distinction and class antagonisms, abolishes also the State as State.”

    • the State was only ever the exploiting class:

      • in ancient times, the State of slaveowning citizens

      • in the Middle Ages, the feudal lords

      • in our own times, the bourgeoisie

    • “When, at last, [the state] becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary.”

    • “the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The State is not ‘abolished’. It dies out.”

page 10

  • the abolition of classes in society presupposes a certain historical evolution wherein “the development of production carried out to a degree at which appropriation of the means of production and of the products, and, with this, of political domination, of the monopoly of culture, and of intellectual leadership by a particular class of society, has become not only superfluous but economically, politically, intellectually, a hindrance to development.”

    • that point is now reached, the bourgeoisie has met political and intellectual bankruptcy, has had economic bankruptcy every 10 years, and all this indeed does hinder development

    • “the socialized appropriation of the means of production does away, not only with the present artificial restrictions upon production, but also with the positive waste and devastation of productive forces and products that are at the present time the inevitable concomitants of production, and that reach their height in the crises.”

    • it will also do away with “the senseless extravagance of the ruling classes of today, and their political representatives”

    • finally, “the possibility of securing for every member of society, by means of socialized production, an existence not only fully sufficient materially, and becoming day-by-day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all the free development and exercise of their physical and mental faculties — this possibility is now, for the first time, here.”

page 11

  • final summary of the historical evolution (reproduced verbatim):

I. Mediaeval Society — Individual production on a small scale. Means of production adapted for individual use; hence primitive, ungainly, petty, dwarfed in action. Production for immediate consumption, either of the producer himself or his feudal lord. Only where an excess of production over this consumption occurs is such excess offered for sale, enters into exchange. Production of commodities, therefore, only in its infancy. But already it contains within itself, in embryo, anarchy in the production of society at large.

II. Capitalist Revolution — transformation of industry, at first be means of simple cooperation and manufacture. Concentration of the means of production, hitherto scattered, into great workshops. As a consequence, their transformation from individual to social means of production — a transformation which does not, on the whole, affect the form of exchange. The old forms of appropriation remain in force. The capitalist appears. In his capacity as owner of the means of production, he also appropriates the products and turns them into commodities. Production has become a social act. Exchange and appropriation continue to be individual acts, the acts of individuals. The social product is appropriated by the individual capitalist. Fundamental contradiction, whence arise all the contradictions in which our present-day society moves, and which modern industry brings to light.

A. Severance of the producer from the means of production. Condemnation of the worker to wage-labor for life. Antagonism between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

B. Growing predominance and increasing effectiveness of the laws governing the production of commodities. Unbridled competition. Contradiction between socialized organization in the individual factory and social anarchy in the production as a whole.

C. On the one hand, perfecting of machinery, made by competition compulsory for each individual manufacturer, and complemented by a constantly growing displacement of laborers. Industrial reserve-army. On the other hand, unlimited extension of production, also compulsory under competition, for every manufacturer. On both sides, unheard-of development of productive forces, excess of supply over demand, over-production and products — excess there, of laborers, without employment and without means of existence. But these two levers of production and of social well-being are unable to work together, because the capitalist form of production prevents the productive forces from working and the products from circulating, unless they are first turned into capital — which their very superabundance prevents. The contradiction has grown into an absurdity. The mode of production rises in rebellion against the form of exchange.

D. Partial recognition of the social character of the productive forces forced upon the capitalists themselves. Taking over of the great institutions for production and communication, first by joint-stock companies, later in by trusts, then by the State. The bourgeoisie demonstrated to be a superfluous class. All its social functions are now performed by salaried employees.

III. Proletarian Revolution — Solution of the contradictions. The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the socialized means of production, slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property. By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital they have thus far borne, and gives their socialized character complete freedom to work itself out. Socialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible. The development of production makes the existence of different classes of society thenceforth an anachronism. In proportion as anarchy in social production vanishes, the political authority of the State dies out. Man, at last the master of his own form of social organization, becomes at the same time the lord over Nature, his own master — free.

  • To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and this the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed proletarian class a full knowledge of the conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific Socialism.

bottom of page