Notes on Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Submitted by Gemma_S on 22 November, 2016 - 12:08

Engles' Socialism: Utopian and Scientific is an excerpt of his larger book Anti-Duhring. It contains chapters 1 and 2 from the introduction and chapter 2 from Part Three.

Below are notes from our Anti-Duhring study guide which can be used to help study Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

Chapter one
1. In what way was the French Revolution a turning-point in world history such as no previous overturn or change had been?
2. Engels describes two early sorts of socialists: the "utopians" and those such as Babeuf. What separated the two sorts, and what did they have in common?
3. How did it come about that "a kind of eclectic, average socialism... has up to the present time [1877] dominated the minds of most of the socialist workers in France and England"?
4. What's the shortcoming of those early sorts of socialism, and the later "averaging-out" of them?
5. Engels follows Hegel in defining "dialectics" as the contrary of "metaphysics". What is the difference, as Engels describes it, between these two ways of trying to understand reality?
6. Engels is explicit that "dialectics" was not a discovery of Hegel's, but an approach which had been used by ancient Greek philosophers, by Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Diderot, Rousseau, etc. What does he describe as special about Hegel's deployment of a "dialectical" approach?
7. Engels argues both that Hegel's philosophy was a "colossal miscarriage", and that it had "epoch-making merit". How?

Part three
Chapter 2
Under the bourgeoisie "productive forces [have] developed with a rapidity... unheard of before".
(Back in chapter 11 of part 1, Engels criticised Dühring's ideas about freedom on the grounds that they abstracted from the technical, material basis of freedom; and in chapter 10 of part 1, Dühring's ideas about equality, on the grounds that they ignored the fact that the doctrine of equality is a product of bourgeois society and not of nature).
Discussion point: So, in what sense is capitalism "progressive"?
Capitalism comes up against a "conflict between productive forces and modes of production", or a "contradiction between socialised production and capitalist appropriation".
Discussion point: What conflict?
"In... crises... the economic collision has reached its apogee".
Discussion point: How?
Capitalism moves towards monopolies and state capitalism. Here "the capitalist relation is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head. But, brought to a head, it toppies over".
Discussion point: Why does statisation bring us to the brink of socialist transformation? What qualifications to this idea does Engels add in a footnote?
Discussion point: How do the facts of large-scale privatisation and contracting-out over the last 30 years square with this argument? Do they mean that capitalism is moving backwards, away from readiness for socialism?
The answer: "the proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production in the first place into state property".
Discussion point: In the first place? And this is a matter of working class just taking over the existing state machine?
Engels again introduces an idea which had figured in the Critique of the Gotha Programme: the "ultimate scientific insufficiency" of the slogan "a free people's state".
Discussion point: Insufficient? Why?
Socialism "could become possible... only when the actual conditions for its realisation were there".
Discussion point: What conditions?
Engels concludes by defining what he sees as "the task of... scientific socialism". Not just to predict socialism as from above, not just to introduce an arbitrary "good idea" into political life, not just to urge on working-class discontent any old how, but...
Discussion point: But what?

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