Engels and Anti-Duhring

Anti-Dühring Seminar
I said I would comment here on the Duhring issue, beside the youtube videos cited at marxmail. Anti-Duhring as the book by Engels shows something interesting about the Marx/Engels relationship: Marx was far too abstruse and produced very little that isn’t almost intolerably opaque, beyond the great Manifesto, which was I suspect reviewed by Engels. The strange reality is that Engels was a far better writer and with this book on Duhring created one of the key texts promoting Marxism. The left might have done better if Engels had had a real association with Marx beyond his pedantic theories which left even he paralyzed with a kind of writer’s block. The two might have produced a more effective literature in the decade after 1848 instead of the endless delays in Marx’s great opus as he struggled with Capital, and then left unfinished. But Engels was equally at risk in his thinking and his dialectical materialism is hardly a true advance.
Whatever the case the classic meme of utopian and scientific enters in the Engels later selections from Anti-Duhring as Socialism, Utopian and Scientific. The distinction apparently is that of Marx and is open to severe criticism. The problem is that if Marx’s theories are not scientific then what do you have. It seemed a kind of sure thing in the era of the rise of positivism in the wake of Hegel to produce a science of history based on economic logic. But it joined a host of post-Newtonian efforts to extend the sciences in the failure to really deal with the social sciences, psychology, history, and finally evolution which was captured by Darwinian delusions that misled many to think that if Darwin’s theory was science then the path to the social and biological sciences was open to reduction to science. All those efforts failed because physics reigned by itself (along with of course the related subjects of chemistry, biochemistry, etc…). The reason is that social sciences are a completely different universe of facts in the realm of values, etc, and such subjects can’t be reduced to causal laws. Marx fell into the trap along with dozens of others and his work never really got off the ground. But he created a cadre of fanatics who will create a dogmatic cult of the claims for science.
So the whole polemic of Utopian versus Scientific is false because there is no ‘scientific socialism’ of the type of ‘scientism’. So if science fails here, what is left? The charges against all else as ‘utopian’ is unfair and has stymied all later work in the false success of Marx and his ism as a successful ideology. The danger of utopian thinking is one thing, but to charge ‘constructive socialism as a path to its realization’ with being utopian was the great tragic flaw of Marxism and the danger realized itself in the era of the Second International when no one could figure out how to construct a socialist society and economy and were determined not to try as the effort was pre-pegged as utopian. And the attack by Mises at the exact moment when the effort of the Bolsheviks began is almost eerily depressing. The effort needs to survive Mises, and Marx and it is in fact a lot simpler in principle than the strange jargon (or the useful but misleading attack of Mises) of Marx might let it seem. So the issue is not utopian versus scientific, but practical/praxis/constructivist/experimental versus the wretched and barren scientism of the post Newtonian social sciences.
In a way the left might have done as well with Engels producing a path to socialism in the 1850’s with Marx in the background eschewing theory, historical materialism and reductionist scientist and producing a secular humanism for a culture exiting the Reformation into the Enlightenment and in need of a practical philosophical modernism. Marx was a victim of the Hegelian blitz, missed the Kantian core in his hatred of idealism, and tried to create a totalized philosophy based on materialism, a project that caused him endless struggle, caused Engels to tear his hair as he awaited the great Book, which finally fell in his lap at the end. The path to socialism didn’t have to be this way and could have been a robust humanism based on a fuller complement of the advances of the modern transition

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