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Friedrich Engels: A Reinterpretation of His Life and Thought Hardcover – 28 Jun 1991

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1st Edition edition (28 Jun. 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300049234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300049237
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 16 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,892,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
In fact, comparable to Gustav Mayer's immense work on biography and theory of the grand man, Friedrich Engels. Hunley wrote this apparently as a "Deputy Command Historian" in the USAF; I have no idea what that is, but his affiliation with the US military has in any case in no way prevented him from writing an excellent and balanced analysis of Engels' works and, of course, his relation to Marx.

Engels has been much maligned by Marxists of all sorts, something eagerly adopted by non-Marxist historians looking for an easy explanation for the degeneration of socialism in the first half of the 20th Century. Even otherwise competent people like Terrell Carver and Shlomo Avineri have gone along with this tendency. Fortunately for those of a more critical mind, in comes J.D. Hunley, according to his own political statement something of a libertarian, to set the record straight. And that he does with excellence in both style and substance.

Hunley starts by giving a rapid but effective overview of Engels' life, dividing it into an early and a mature period. He shows the way Engels abandoned his faith, the influence of the Young Hegelians, and the development of the extreme width and depth of Engels' knowledge and erudition over the years. He succesfully refutes the view of Stedman-Jones that Engels' character was that of a disappointed believer looking for a new faith; on the contrary, Engels is shown as a critical and consistently materialist thinker.

In the middle part of the book, probably the most important and by now unfortunately dreadfully necessary, Hunley refutes all the negative stereotypes attributed to Engels over the decades, particularly those by Marxist analists and biographers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x918d3714) out of 5 stars 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91864de0) out of 5 stars Probably the best English-language work on Engels 28 Oct. 2006
By M. A. Krul - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In fact, comparable to Gustav Mayer's immense work on biography and theory of the grand man, Friedrich Engels. Hunley wrote this apparently as a "Deputy Command Historian" in the USAF; I have no idea what that is, but his affiliation with the US military has in any case in no way prevented him from writing an excellent and balanced analysis of Engels' works and, of course, his relation to Marx.

Engels has been much maligned by Marxists of all sorts, something eagerly adopted by non-Marxist historians looking for an easy explanation for the degeneration of socialism in the first half of the 20th Century. Even otherwise competent people like Terrell Carver and Shlomo Avineri have gone along with this tendency. Fortunately for those of a more critical mind, in comes J.D. Hunley, according to his own political statement something of a libertarian, to set the record straight. And that he does with excellence in both style and substance.

Hunley starts by giving a rapid but effective overview of Engels' life, dividing it into an early and a mature period. He shows the way Engels abandoned his faith, the influence of the Young Hegelians, and the development of the extreme width and depth of Engels' knowledge and erudition over the years. He succesfully refutes the view of Stedman-Jones that Engels' character was that of a disappointed believer looking for a new faith; on the contrary, Engels is shown as a critical and consistently materialist thinker.

In the middle part of the book, probably the most important and by now unfortunately dreadfully necessary, Hunley refutes all the negative stereotypes attributed to Engels over the decades, particularly those by Marxist analists and biographers. He goes into the "dichotomist" view, which sees the theories of Engels and of Marx as very different, and shows the degree to which this is untenable. Delightful here are the sections where he subtly shows how the authors arguing this dichotomy contradict themselves, for example praising Marx and blaming Engels when saying the exact same thing. One of the authors involved even praises Marx' clearly superior view, not realizing the quote involved was written by Engels!

Hunley also goes into the view of Engels as being more technologically determinist or positivist in the natural sciences than Marx, showing that the former is untenable since every determinist phrase used by Engels can be shown to have been used or agreed to by Marx as well. The latter point is addressed quite extensively by showing how the use of concepts like "laws of nature" is the same with both Marx and Engels.

The final dichotomy Hunley rejects is that of Engels as father of social-democrat reformism. The (in)famous statement where the SPD in Germany is praised for its use of the ballot instead of the barricades is put into the context of military strategy, and is besides shown to have been heavily censored into a reformist view by Liebknecht et al., something Engels got very angry about. Hunley also compares Engels' "Principles of Communism" with the "Communist Manifesto", largely written by Marx, and shows that they say essentially the same things on every significant point. Finally, Engels is established to have been just as 'humanist' as Marx, in asserting the primacy of humans as actors in history in an equal manner (and sometimes stronger) as Marx.

Hunley ends with a chapter on the intellectual partnership between Marx and Engels, and while never saying this, quite correctly leaves no other conclusion possible than to view Marx and Engels as people who worked at an equal level of intellectual competence and who generally agreed on all matters of socialist theory, but at the same time different people with very different characters and temperament. One can go on blaming Engels for everything in a rather silly attempt to 'save' Marx from the errors of his followers, but Hunley shows what they both actually wrote about the controversial issues: and, to paraphrase Harry Truman, the buck stops there.
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