Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Frederick Engels
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific
Frederick Engels
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Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is a short book first published in 1880 by German-born socialist Friedrich Engels. The work was primarily extracted from a longer polemic work published in 1876, Anti-Dühring. It first appeared in the French language. The title Socialism: Utopian and Scientific was adopted for the first English edition — the tenth language in which the book appeared. Intended as a popularization of Marxist ideas for a working class readership, the book was one of the fundamental publications of the international socialist movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, selling tens of thousands of copies.

Utopian and Scientific

Frederick Engels

Translated by Edward Aveling

Portrait of Friedrich EngelsPortrait of Friedrich Engels


The present little book is, originally, a part of a larger whole. About 1875, Dr. E. Dühring, privatdocent at Berlin University, suddenly and rather clamorously announced his conversion to Socialism, and presented the German public not only with an elaborate Socialist theory, but also with a complete practical plan for the reorganization of society. As a matter of course, he fell foul of his predecessors; above all, he honored Marx by pouring out upon him the full vials of his wrath.

This took place about the time when the two sections of the Socialist party in Germany — Eisenachers and Lassallians — had just effected their fusion, and thus obtained not only an immense increase of strength, but, what was more, the faculty of employing the whole of this strength against the common enemy. The Socialist party in Germany was fast becoming a power. But to make it a power, the first condition was that the newly-conquered unity should not be imperiled. And Dr. Dühring openly proceeded to form around himself a sect, the nucleus of a future separate party. It thus became necessary to take up the gauntlet thrown down to us, and to fight out the struggle whether we liked it or not.

This, however, though it might not be an over difficult, was evidently a long-winded, business. As is well known, we Germans are of a terribly ponderous Gründlichkeit, radical profundity or profound radicality, whatever you may like to call it. Whenever anyone of us expounds what he considers a new doctrine, he has first to elaborate it into an all-comprising system. He has to prove that both the first principles of logic and the fundamental laws of the universe had existed from all eternity for no other purpose than to ultimately lead to this newly-discovered, crowning theory. And Dr. Dühring, in this respect, was quite up to the national mark. Nothing less than a complete “System of Philosophy,” mental, moral, natural, and historical; a complete “System of Political Economy and Socialism”; and, finally, a “Critical History of Political Economy” — three big volumes in octavo, heavy extrinsically and intrinsically, three army-corps of arguments mobilized against all previous philosophers and economists in general, and against Marx in particular — in fact, an attempt at a complete “revolution in science” — these were what I should have to tackle. I had to treat of all and every possible subject, from the concepts of time and space to Bimetallism; from the eternity of matter and motion to the perishable nature of moral ideas; from Darwin’s natural selection to the education of youth in a future society. Anyhow, 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. And that was the principal reason which made me undertake this otherwise ungrateful task.

My reply was first published in a series of articles in the Leipzig “Vorwärts,” the chief organ of the Socialist party, and later on as a book: “Herrn Eugen Dühring’s Umwälzung der Wissenschaft” (Mr. E. Dühring’s “Revolution in Science”), a second edition of which appeared in Zürich, 1886.

At the request of my friend, Paul Lafargue, now representative of Lille in the French Chamber of Deputies, I arranged three chapters of this book as a pamphlet, which he translated and published in 1880, under the title: “Socialisme utopique et Socialisme scientifique.”From this French text a Polish and a Spanish edition were prepared. In 1883, our German friends brought out the pamphlet in the original language. Italian, Russian, Danish, Dutch, and Roumanian translations, based upon the German text, have since been published. Thus, with the present English edition, this little book circulates in ten languages. I am not aware that any other Socialist work, not even our “Communist Manifesto” of 1848 or Marx’s “Capital,” has been so often translated. In Germany it has had four editions of about 20,000 copies in all.

The economic terms used in this work, as far as they are new, agree with those used in the English edition of Marx’s “Capital.” We call “production of commodities” that economic phase where articles are produced not only for the use of the producers, but also for purposes of exchange; that is, as commodities, not as use-values. This phase extends from the first beginnings of production for exchange down to our present time; it attains its full development under capitalist production only, that is, under conditions where the capitalist, the owner of the means of production, employs, for wages, laborers, people deprived of all means of production except their own labor-power, and pockets the excess of the selling price of the products over his outlay. We divide the history of industrial production since the Middle Ages into three periods: (1) handicraft, small master craftsmen with a few journeymen and apprentices, where each laborer produces the complete article; (2) manufacture, where greater numbers of workmen, grouped in one large establishment, produce the complete article on the principle of division of labor, each workman performing only one partial operation, so that the product is complete only after having passed successively through the hands of all; (3) modern industry, where the product is produced by machinery driven by power, and where the work of the laborer is limited to superintending and correcting the performances of the mechanical agent.

I am perfectly aware that the contents of this work will meet with objection from a considerable portion of the British public. But if we Continentals had taken the slightest notice of the prejudices of British “respectability,” we should be even worse off than we are. This book defends what we call “historical materialism,” and the word materialism grates upon the ears of the immense majority of British readers. “Agnosticism” might be tolerated, but materialism is utterly inadmissible.

And yet the original home of all modern materialism, from the seventeenth century onwards, is England.

“Materialism is the natural-born son of Great Britain. Already the British schoolman, Duns Scotus, asked, ‘whether it was impossible for matter to think?’

“In order to effect this miracle, he took refuge in God’s omnipotence, i.e., he made theology preach materialism. Moreover, he was a nominalist. Nominalism, the first form of materialism, is chiefly found among the English schoolmen.

“The real progenitor of English materialism is Bacon. To him natural philosophy is the only true philosophy, and physics based upon the experience of the senses is the chiefest part of natural philosophy. Anaxagoras and his homoiomeriæ, Democritus and his atoms, he often quotes as his authorities. According to him the senses are infallible and the source of all knowledge. All science is based on experience, and consists in subjecting the data furnished by the senses to a rational method of investigation. Induction, analysis, comparison, observation, experiment, are the principal forms of such a rational method. Among the qualities inherent in matter, motion is the first and foremost, not only in the form of mechanical and mathematical motion, but chiefly in the form of an impulse, a vital spirit, a tension — or a ‘qual,’ to use a term of Jacob Böhme’s — of matter.

“In Bacon, its first creator, materialism still occludes within itself the germs of a many-sided development. On the one hand, matter, surrounded by a sensuous, poetic glamour, seems to attract man’s whole entity by winning smiles. On the other, the aphoristically formulated doctrine pullulates with inconsistencies imported from theology.

“In its further evolution, materialism becomes one-sided. Hobbes is the man who systematizes Baconian materialism. Knowledge based upon the senses loses its poetic blossom, it passes into the abstract experience of the mathematician; geometry is proclaimed as the queen of sciences. Materialism takes to misanthropy. If it is to overcome its opponent, misanthropic, fleshless spiritualism, and that on the latter’s own ground, materialism has to chastise its own flesh and turn ascetic. Thus, from a sensual, it passes into an intellectual, entity; but thus, too, it evolves all the consistency, regardless of consequences, characteristic of the intellect.

“Hobbes, as Bacon’s continuator, argues thus: if all human knowledge is furnished by the senses, then our concepts and ideas are but the phantoms, divested of their sensual forms, of the real world. Philosophy can but give names to these phantoms. One name may be applied to more than one of them. There may even be names of names. It would imply a contradiction if, on the one hand, we maintained that all ideas had their origin in the world of sensation, and, on the other, that a word was more than a word; that besides the beings known to us by our senses, beings which are one and all individuals, there existed also beings of a general, not individual, nature. An unbodily substance is the same absurdity as an unbodily body. Body, being, substance, are but different terms for the same reality. It is impossible to separate thought from matter that thinks. This matter is the substratum of all changes going on in the world. The word infinite is meaningless, unless it states that our mind is capable of performing an endless process of addition. Only material things being perceptible to us, we cannot know anything about the existence of God. My own existence alone is certain. Every human passion is a mechanical movement which has a beginning and an end. The objects of impulse are what we call good. Man is subject to the same laws as nature. Power and freedom are identical.

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