Back to: Literary Theory in English Literature
As the eldest son and an heir to his father’s textile business in England and Germany, Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher and businessman. He was an author as well as a co-author of communist credo with Karl Marx. Engels and Marx were actively engaged with the philosophical group Young Hegelians.
However, conflict of ideas between Marx-Engels and other members of Young Hegelians led them to disassociate from the group. Beginning their collaboration in 1884, they wrote a joint work The Holy Family. One of Engels’ major works is The Condition of Working Class in England which he wrote on the basis of his personal experiences and his study of the cities in England.
Engels with Marx propounded ideas such as alienation theory and the materialist conception of history. The theory of alienation concerns with the distancing (estrangement) of people from their own self and from humanity.
The alienation from the self ceases people’s thoughts to direct their own actions. This condition happens because of living in a capitalistic society that compels people to direct their labor rather to mechanical processes of life than themselves.
The materialist conception of history holds the view that history is the result of not an individual’s consciousness and philosophical ideals but the material conditions. Thus, this approach towards the perception of reality is that reality is material creation. On the other hand idealist conception of history views that reality is immaterial that’s human reality is a mental creation.
Another concept that is considered to be the cornerstone of Marxism is the exploitation of labor. Under the purview of socialism and communism, there are principles for the distribution of welfare to each person according to their needs and work.
The Marxian idea of such distribution is for the development of each individual as the development of all. When society does not function on these principles, the exploitation of labor happens. It is the working class which is exploited. They are exploited because the amount of labor they put forth does not equate their wages.
On the other hand, it is the bourgeois class or the ruling class which exploits the working class (proletariat). The bourgeois class exploits in the way that it puts forth less labor but is benefitted more than the proletariat class.
Talking of the class struggle between the dominated and dominating class, Engels in his Preface to German Edition (1883) of Communist Manifesto writes:
“this struggle… has now reached a stage where the exploited and oppressed class (the proletariat) can no longer emancipate itself from the class which exploits and oppresses it (the bourgeoisie), without at the same time ever freeing the whole society from exploitation, oppression and class struggle.”Friedrich Engels
However, Engels ascribes the development of basic Marxist thought to Marx, “the basic thought belongs solely and exclusively to Marx.”