Friedrich Engels Term Paper

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Friedrich Engels Biography

Friedrich Engels is described by Terrell Carver (2003) as a man involved in one of the most famous intellectual collaborations of all time (p. 1). That collaboration, as we now know, was the political ideology of socialism. This essay explores the life of Friedrich Engels, his relationship with Karl Marx, his ideas, some of which Carver suggests were actually incorporated into the thinking and work of his partner, Karl Marx, and Carter attempts to sort and separate the ideas with the man. Engels did carry the greater political clout, Carver says, through his "popularizations" of Marx's ideas. Carter says, too, that Engels had original ideas, and that is the subject of this paper. While we know that Engels popularized Marx's ideas, this paper attempts to understand Friedrich Engels as a person, and as the man of original ideas that were compatible with those espoused by Karl Marx.

This exploration begins with a brief review of Engels' early life; where did he come from, who were his influences, and other facets of a young man's life that might influence and help shape his philosophical and political ideologies. This understanding will serve as segue into the deeper and more complex thoughts of the man: economics, ecology, government, citizenship, and other facets of life and liberties about which Engels is known to have had passionate and adamant ideas about.

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There is a vast wealth of writing and information from Engels, and through that we will be able to gain insight into his relationship with Karl Marx. It will, of course, be an interesting challenge to interpret the writings of Engels in relationship to Marx, and to attempt to detect what influence, if any, Engels might have had on Marx.

Young Friedrich Engels

TOPIC: Term Paper on Friedrich Engels Assignment

Born November 28, 1820, Friedrich Engels entered the world during an era of change. Technology gave rise to an emerging world economy that meant massive movements in capital, foreign trade, and migration from and to various geographical locals around the world to accomplish the building of the necessary infrastructure to support the expanding financial infrastructure (Kenwood, a.G. And Lougheed, 1999: 9). For those businesses and entrepreneurs well positioned in 1820, the expansion of opportunity through world trade would serve to create massive wealth, but at the same time there remained the middle class who performed the drudgery and muscle work that drove the expansion of business and around whom new technology was developed in order to continually improve and increase productivity (9). Just as it created wealth, it had an equally reverse impact on some industries (9) a.G. Kenwood and a.L. Lougheed analyze the trends of the early 19th century, commenting this way:

Taken generally, however, technical progress in the nineteenth century tended to be pro-trade biased. Innovation was widespread, and the opportunities for trade multiplied accordingly. Before 1870, the important innovating industries were textiles (especially cotton) and iron, with steam the new source of power. After 1870 the focus of technical change began to shift, as increasing emphasis came to be placed on the production of steel, machine tools, electrical engineering products, and chemicals. Electricity emerged as a new form of energy and the internal combustion engine as the basis of a new means of transport. The outcome of all these developments was a flood of new goods, including railway equipment, steamships, steel and electrical products, plant and machinery of all kinds, and a growing variety of other manufactured products. In addition, many of the articles already traded internationally became cheaper, especially cotton cloth. The result was a rapid expansion in foreign trade in manufactures (10)."

The Engels family is described by Terrell Carver as "well-to-do" mill owners (2003:3). Wealth was a personal condition with which Engels was not comfortable, because by the time he was 18, having been published as a poet by 17, he was a journalist, but he took on a pseudonym in order that his journalistic endeavors not be overshadowed by his personal wealth (3). Carver says that Engels was an observer, and he paid close attention to his environment (3). When he put into journalistic prose that which he observed about the area of the Wuppertal, where he lived in Germany; he was very critical of manufacturers and the relationship between the wealthy and the middle class workers (3).

Engels used his own eyes and ears to good effect, and his portrayal of the physical and social circumstances of a small but intensely industrialized community was very sharp indeed. Pollution of the river Wupper by dye-works and of the inhabitants by drink set a scene of visual and cultural shabbiness: a Catholic church 'built very badly by a very inexperienced architect from a very good plan'; the columns 'Egyptian at the bottom, Doric in the middle, and Ionic at the top' that flank the ex-museum, now a casino. 'There is no trace here of the wholesome, vigorous life of the people that exists almost everywhere in Germany', Engels wrote, and the reason was factory work (4)."

The impressions made upon Engels in his observances of factor owners and their employees served to form the basis for Engels' early thoughts about economics, society, religion, and education all of which Engels found lacking, especially religion (4).

Carter says that many of Engels early ideas were shaped by his industrialist family, and he developed a hostility towards education early on when forced to go to school (5). Other impressions concerning the middle class and their industrialist employers were in part shaped by Engels' observations of the havoc industry wreaked on the environment (5). In the early years of industrialization there, of course, no restrictions put on manufacturers as to the release of harmful by-products discharged into the air and water systems; and the result was that, by the 1960s, the environment was responding to the lack of concern on the part of industry, succumbing to harmful by-products of the manufacturing processes. The impact of the manufacturing on the environment is something that any nature loving young man would notice and resent. Engels was critical of industrialists, and, as a result, Engels attracted his own critics (5). Here, in the exchange between Engels, industrialists and others in society and his critics is the evolution of the ideology that would emerge as compatible with Karl Marx. This is especially remarkable in the exchanges when he responded to his critics (5).

Replying in an open letter to a critic of his articles, Engels noted that he had 'throughout acknowledged competence in individual cases', but that 'in general I was unable to find any purely bright sides'. As an attack on provincial hypocrisy, obscurantism, pretentiousness and bad taste the 'Letters from Wuppertal' were extraordinarily vivid. An eyewitness account of early industrialization was firmly at the basis of Engels's view, and this turned the work into something even more interesting, and prescient (5)."

Over time, Engels became as much a political pundit as he was a journalist, and he reviewed books; but he also socialized and behaved in a way that belied his wealth. Yet he touched base with the middle and lower middle classes on a ship bound for America (p. 7). Carver cites Engels remarking on this experience.

A row of berths... where men, women and children are packed next to one another like paving stones in the street'. Here were the people, Engels remarked, 'to whom nobody raises a hat'; they made a sad spectacle. What must it be like 'when a prolonged storm throws everything into confusion (7)!'

It would not be long into the future when Engels would contemplate the plight of the lower classes would in a more mature and sophisticated way, wrapping it around his political ideology. At this point, however, we hear in Engel's remarks an immaturity in his description of the middle class as if he is himself somewhat awkward with that condition, which is, of course, because he had until at least that point led a life of privilege. Later, Carver mentions, Engels would go into debt (7). By going into debt he might have, at least to the extent that he could at that time, perceived his indebtedness as an indoctrination of sorts into the middle class.

Carver reports, too, that while attending the university from 1841-1842, Engels defended the philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel; though it is not clear from Carver's discussion as to whether or not it was because Engels was himself impressed with Hegel, or because Hegel was at that time an opposite view of the university's professor of philosophy, Friedrich von Schelling (7).

While it is clear that Engels' political, economic, environmental and social observations lead him to conclusions that were reflective of at least a conscientious concern for the world around him; what Carver has written about him conveys in some sense the defiance of a child born to the elite. However, this raised conscience would remain a characteristic that defined Engels in later life, although in a more sophisticated and mature way.

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