Engels, Friedrich

Engels, Friedrich

Bio: (1820-1895) German-British philosopher, economist, and sociologist. Friedrich Engels was born in Prussia and after serving his military service he went to Cologne in 1842, where he began a lifelong collaboration with Karl Marx, writing articles for the Rheinische Zeitung (Rhine Newspaper), edited by Marx. In the same year, Engels went to Manchester, Great Britain, where he worked in a factory partially owned by his father. After a few years in Britain, Engels spent several years in France, Belgium, and Prussia, before returning to Manchester and continuing to work for the same company until 1870. After that, until his death, he lived in London. Engels did not have a formal university education and never had any academic function. However, he had a huge influence on many sciences - sociology, economics, anthropology - as well as philosophy.

Engels is best known as the closest collaborator of Karl Marx, with whom he co-authored several works: German Ideology (1845b), The Holy Family (1845c), The Communist Manifesto (1848); and besides that, after Marx's death, he edited and prepared for publication, based on Marx's manuscripts, the second and third volumes of Marx's book Capital (1885, 1894). Engels is also the independent author of several books and articles in which he made a great contribution to the development of Marxist thought. In this article, we will deal only with works written by Engels alone. There are many editions of Marx's and Engels' works, so the dates of publication of all books, essays, and articles discussed in this article will be that of the original publication in the German language.

                                 Critique of Political Economy

One of Engels' earliest texts is the essay Outlines of a Critique of Political Economy (1844), which forms the basis for all future economic analyzes of Marxism. In this essay, Engels emphasizes the importance of periodic crises for the functioning of the capitalist economy. Economic activity in capitalism constantly oscillates and goes through states of equilibrium and disequilibrium. There is a constant tendency of the economy to bring supply and demand into a state of equilibrium, but this state is almost never achieved in practice. While liberal economists believed that there was a "law" that regulated the equilibrium of supply and demand spontaneously in the free market, so supply could never exceed demand, Engles believed that trade crises occurred regularly, between five and seven years apart. In addition, he believes that these crises are becoming more pronounced and universal over time and that each new crisis brings a new decline of small capitalists and an increase in the proletariat.

In his opinion, there will be an increasing concentration of capital and property in the future, because large industrialists, landowners, and traders have many advantages over their smaller competitors. Economic crises only increase these advantages, which will result in a situation in which the large capitalist will erode the small capitalist, which will lead to the disappearance of the middle class. Unlike other economists, Engels paid great attention to the development of science and technology and their impact on economic development. He believed that Robert Malthus' fear of excessive demographic expansion was unrealistic because both the population and the technology of food and other goods production were growing exponentially.

                                   Working Class Condition

Engels used his stay in Manchester to conduct research that resulted in the book The Condition of the Working Class in England (1885, in German 1845a). For research purposes, Engels used several different methods of data collection: he conducted a survey of working households in Manchester, used official statistics, studied the reports of parliamentary commissions, interviewed factory inspectors, etc. The period of the middle of the nineteenth century in England was marked by rapid industrialization and a sharp increase in the number of industrial workers, which was especially evident in large industrial cities such as Manchester. The housing situation in that period was very bad in Manchester, and it was especially pronounced among a large number of Irish immigrants. Engels notes that the new industrial cities were built by industrial and financial speculators, with the sole goal of creating as much profit as possible, regardless of the living conditions of those who work and live in those cities.

Engels' research showed that due to industrialization, there was a huge deterioration in the living conditions of workers. Housing conditions were so poor that most working families lived in only one room, in very poor-quality buildings; their clothing and food were in extremely dire condition, and the mortality of children and adults was several times higher than that of the rest of the population; diseases and infections were very widespread; workers did not have access to even the most basic health and educational resources; the average working day lasted twelve hours; even the children did the hardest jobs. Engels noted that industrialization had led to the creation of, what he called, a "reserve army of labor" made up of unemployed workers. This reserve army of labor grows during periods of economic crisis and decreases during periods of economic growth. The reserve army of labor enables employers to easily find workers in periods when the economy is working well and to easily fire workers when there is a period of crisis. Engels' data indicate that in that period there were over a million and a half people who belong to the reserve army of labor, who, in order to survive, do the dirtiest jobs (e.g. collecting horse dung on the streets) or begging. Workers also differ from the bourgeoisie in cultural features: they have different dialects, different values ​​, and different social and political attitudes.

                                  Principles of Communism

The Communist Manifesto (1848), co-written by Marx and Engels, is one of the most famous political pamphlets in history, but a year earlier Engels, alone, had written a similar pamphlet named The Principles of Communism (1847). This pamphlet remained almost unknown for several decades and therefore did not achieve nearly as significant an impact as The Communist Manifesto. In the essay The Principles of Communism, Engels asks the 25 most important questions about communism and then gives answers to them. In his opinion, communism is an ideology focused on the conditions for the liberation of the proletariat. The proletariat is a class made up of individuals whose survival depends entirely on their ability to sell their own labor to capitalists. The proletariat did not always exist but appeared with the industrial revolution in the second half of the eighteenth century.

The development of capitalist competition and the race for profit, the rise of industrial machines, and the associated division of labor, have led to a state in which workers have lost all of the already small autonomy they previously had. Many strata are falling into the proletariat - manufacturing workers, agricultural workers, petty bourgeois, craftsmen, etc. The whole society is divided into two great classes - the proletarians who own only their labor and the great capitalists who own almost all the means of production. The capitalists pay for the work of the proletariat only as much as is sufficient to achieve the minimum of the physical survival of the proletariat. Engels analyzes the key consequences of the development of industrial capitalism. The industrialization and development of international capitalism have led to the fact that the entire planet is connected economically, so the events in the most developed countries have great consequences for all other countries.

The industrial capitalists managed to become the dominant class in the most developed countries, replacing the aristocracy and large landowners from the top. The capitalists secured their power by introducing parliamentary democracy (in which they control parliament), legal equality, and free market principles. The proletarian revolution cannot happen in only one developed capitalist country but must happen in all of them at the same time. As the main instruments by which communism will be realized, Engels singles out: the restriction of private property through high taxes and the prohibition of inheritance; gradual expropriation of private capital; abolition of private banks and centralization of control over money and credit; free education for all children, etc.

Engels later became even more famous thanks to the book Anti-Düring (1878), in which he critically analyzed the views of Eugen Dühring and his version of socialism. Three chapters of this book were later published under the title Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880).

                             Evolution of Family and the State

Engels's book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (2010, in German 1884) is the most important for extending the Marxist perspective to the field of anthropology. In this book Engels uses anthropological and archaeological research, primarily that of Lewis H. Morgan and his book Ancient Society (1877), to study the historical conditions of marriage, family, private property, and the economy, as well as political relations and states. Engels takes over Morgan's division of prehistoric stages of cultural development, according to which human society went through three stages - savagery, barbarism, and civilization - of which the first two are further divided into the lower, middle, and higher levels of development. Engels also takes over the evolutionary classification of marriages and family types created by Morgan.

In the beginning, there was group marriage, which was followed by a  „consanguine“ type of marriage and family, after that came the "punalua" family (marriage between brothers from one family and sisters from another family), then a „pairing family“ developed, and finally, a monogamous family was formed. In group marriage, there were no rules prohibiting incest, and sexual intercourse was allowed even between close relatives. With the termination of group marriage, the first form of family is formed - the family of blood kinship or consanguine family, where sexual intercourse was restricted to members of the same generation. In the punalua family, there is a ban on marriages between siblings, so for the first time, there is a difference in classification between cousins ​​on the mother's side and relatives on the father's side. Since the lines of kinship were distinguished at this stage, this caused the appearance of "gentes", that is, kinship lines. Since kinship can be determined with certainty only through the mother's line, the matrilineal calculation of kinship and matriarchy was formed.

Gradually, there was a ban on marriages with all relatives on the maternal line, which was the basis for the formation of matrilineal gentes. Due to the expansion of the rules according to which marriages can be concluded, a pairing family  (family of couples) appears, in which, most often, one man and one woman marry, although some men could have more than one wife or mistress, while women were required to be strictly faithful to one man. However, even in this type of marriage, the marital relationship status could be easily broken, and the children still belonged only to the mother. In this type of marriage, the purchase and abduction of women for the sake of marriage also occur. Women do most of the work in these families, but their social position is also high. Due to poorly developed production, private ownership is rare, and communist relations prevail in the household.

With the advent of animal husbandry, there is a sharp jump in the level of economic production, and this leads to the emergence of slavery, because, for the first time in history, defeated members of another tribe can be of economic benefit to the victor, as slave labor. With cattle breeding comes the greater economic role of men, so they also become owners of cattle and slaves. This also leads to changes in family relations, as it causes patrilineal calculation of kinship and to right of inheritance of property only through the paternal line, which, in the end, leads to the fall of matriarchy and the arrival of patriarchy to power. Engels believes that the fall of matriarchy is "a historic defeat for women of world proportions". Men came to power, while women became subordinate to male autocracy, and their purpose became only to serve and give birth to children. Patriarchy, unlike matriarchy, where relations between the sexes would be more equal, introduces the autocracy of men as the heads of the family, not only over women but also over children and family slaves. To ensure that children born in wedlock are the direct biological descendants of the father, complete control over the movement and behavior of the woman is introduced. Although polygamy was reserved only for men, it was rare and a privilege only for richer men.

With the advent of animal husbandry and later agriculture, economic development and technological discoveries took place. This paves the way for the emergence of crafts and the division of labor into agriculture and crafts. Craft production leads to the creation of products intended for exchange, therefore, comes the advent of commodity production and trade. With economic growth comes increasing economic stratification, while land ownership shifts from local communities to full private ownership. All this leads to an increase in population density and the creation of large alliances of tribes, formed to wage wars of conquest and defense, and headed by military leaders. By transforming the leadership from the occasional military leader into a permanent and formal position of power, a hereditary monarchy is formed. The division of individuals from the same gentes into poor and rich landowners leads to the disintegration of the genetic order of society, and the creation of classes and hereditary nobility. The disintegration of the gentile organization into a class organization led to the formation of the first state and civilization. Thus the state emerges as a political expression and organ of power for the economically dominant class of large landowners and slaveholders. The formation of the state leads to the further development of trade, which in turn led to the creation of a separate mercantile class, metal money, money market, lending of money and interest payments, and loan-sharing. The formation of the state also leads to the creation of a state bureaucracy that serves to organize the army and collect taxes.

With the emergence of civilization and the formation of the state, there is the development of a monogamous family. Monogamous marriage is characterized by the greatest strength of the marital relationship, the woman is completely separated from the public sphere and her role is only to maintain the household and give birth to children. Although marriage is very difficult to resolve, men are allowed to have sexual intercourse outside of marriage, primarily in the form of prostitution or sexual exploitation of slaves. In this sense, monogamy, and prostitution, although seemingly in opposition, are inextricably linked and caused by the same socio-economic circumstances. With the emergence of the state and the disintegration of kinship gentes, marriage ceases to be controlled by complex kinship ties but begins to be based only on the material and class interests of the fathers of future newlyweds. With the development of industrial capitalism in the modern age, family control over marriage declined, and the freedom of choice of marital partners grew, but class origin was still crucial for the choice of marital partners. In civil law, the marriage begins to be treated like any other contractual relationship, which has its own precisely defined economic obligations and duties.

Engels believes that proletarian marriages no longer fall into the category of monogamous marriages because proletarians left the domestic sphere and entered the public sphere by being employed in factories. In an envisioned communist society, the patriarchal monogamous family will disintegrate, and all women will participate in the economy, which will give them political and economic equality, and men's concern about leaving an inheritance to direct biological descendants will disappear, because all means of production will be socially owned. The care and upbringing of children will become a public thing because society will take care of its children, whether they were born in or out of wedlock. Instead of double moral standards of sexual behavior for men and women, there will be a free expression of sexual behavior, unlimited by hypocritical moral scruples. Marriages will be concluded completely freely, without any class or other restrictions, and the marriage itself will last only as long as both parties want it, otherwise, it will be easily resolved.

Main works

Umrisse zu einer Kritik der Nationalökonomie (1844);

Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England (1845a);

Die deutsche Ideologie (1845b);

Die heilige Familie oder Kritik der Kritischen Kritik (1845c);

Grundsätze des Kommunismus (1847);

Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848);

Der deutsche Bauernkrieg (1850);                                     

Herrn Eugen Dühringś Umwälzung der Wissenschaft. Philosophie, politische Oekonomie, Sozialismus (1878);

Die Entwicklung des Sozialismus von der Utopie zur Wissenschaft (1880);

Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats (1884);

Zur Geschichte des Bundes der Kommunisten (1885);

Ludwig Feuerbach und der Ausgang der klassischen deutschen Philosophie (1886);

Dialektik der Natur (1925);

Works translated into English:

The Condition of the Working Class in England (1885, in German 1845a);

Essential Writings of Friedrich Engels: Socialism, Utopian and Scientific; The Principles of Communism; And Others (2011, in German 1880, 1847, 1886, 1884); 

The Principles of Communism (2019, in German 1847);

The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (2010, in German 1884);

Anti-Dühring (2020, in German 1878).

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