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Marx, Engels and the administration of nature

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After viewing the various criticisms of Engels and the attempts to separate him from Marx, one is left with the suspicion that in the texts of Marx there is a close connection rather than a consistent separation among the terms positivism, naturalism, Prometheanism and praxis. Thomas's attempt to separate them on a different axis only leads him to a softening of the supposedly precise distinctions existing among them. While Thomas's views largely typify the New Orthodoxy among Engels critics, his departures from that orthodoxy serve more to illuminate its problems than to solve them.

In what follows I argue that Thomas, along with Kolakowski, Schmidt, Carver, Ball and the various Engels critics, despite their differences, have all been unconvincing in their attempts to show consistent distinctions among the four terms in the Marxian texts. Put another way, Marx's references to nature cannot be read as giving precise twentieth-century definitions to the four terms. On the contrary, in Marx's (and Engels') texts, these terms have an ambiguity which leads us to interpret Marx as linking the four terms as much as separating them.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of California, Riverside.

Publication date: 1991-04-01

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