The evolutionary theories of Marx and Engels

Stephen K. Sanderson

Research output: Working paperAcademic

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Controversy continues to rage over the type of explanatory logic basic to
the evolutionary theories developed by Marx and Engels.. Thinkers such as
G.A. Cohen and Jon Elster have presented Marx as a thinker who conceived of
historical change as resulting from the operation of transcendent,
teleological processes. disagreed and have given us a Marx who interpreted directional trends in
Others, such as Maurice Mandelbaum, have strongly
history as the cumulative result of the operation of particular conditions
at particular times and places.
This paper strongly criticizes the
teleological interpretation of Marx and defends the view of historical
materialism adumbrated by Mandelbaum.
It also suggests that, despite
certain important differences between the evolutionary theories of Marx and Engels, these theories were not markedly different in the type of explanatory logic on which they relied. Although Engels's grandiose statements about the operation of dialectics in history imply that he was a strong believer in transcendent laws that guide historical changes through fixed stages toward an ultimate goal, it is suggested that these abstract statements are highly misleading. Engels, like Marx, attempted to explain
historical changes in ordinary causal terms.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1988
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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