Friedrich Engels and Modern Social and Political Theory

By Paul Blackledge

Subjects: Political Theory, Marxism, Political Philosophy, Sociology, European History
Hardcover : 9781438476872, 278 pages, December 2019
Paperback : 9781438476889, 278 pages, July 2020

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Table of contents


Introduction: Marx, Engels, Marxism

1. Discovering the Working Class

2. Mapping the English Working Class

3. A New Theoretical Foundation: The German Ideology

4. The Communist Manifesto: A Strategy for the Left

5. 1848: War, Revolution, and the National Question

6. 1848: Intervening in the Revolution

7. Learning Lessons from Defeat

8. Military Critic: Confronting the Prospect of War

9. Revolutionary Continuity

10. Method and Value: (Mis)Understanding Capital

11. Philosophy and Revolution: Anti-Dühring

12. Toward a Unitary Theory of Women’s Oppression

13. Beyond 1848: Engels’s “Testament”

14. Legacy


Offers a powerful new interpretation of Engels’s contributions to modern social and political theory.


In this comprehensive overview of Friedrich Engels's writings, Paul Blackledge critically explores Engels's contributions to modern social and political theory generally and Marxism specifically. Through a careful examination both of Engels's role in the forging of Marxism in the 1840s, and his contributions to the further deepening and expansion of this worldview over the next half century, Blackledge offers a closely argued and balanced assessment of his thought. This book challenges the long-standing attempt among academic Marxologists to denigrate Engels as Marx's greatest mistake, and concludes that Engels was a profound thinker whose ideas continue to resonate to this day.

Paul Blackledge teaches at Shanxi University. He is the author of Marxism and Ethics: Freedom, Desire, and Revolution, also published by SUNY Press; Reflections on the Marxist Theory of History; and Perry Anderson, Marxism and the New Left.


"A comprehensive exploration of Engels's contributions to Marxism, rebutting academic criticisms of his work and claims that he and Marx disagreed." — Climate & Capitalism

"[Paul Blackledge evidences] Engels's work as fundamental to thinking about the relationship between capitalism and ecology." — Left Voice

"This is a masterful piece of Marxist scholarship, and a clear and comprehensive introduction to Friedrich Engels's thought." — Michael Löwy, Science and Society

"The major study for the [Engels] bicentenary, in anglophone terms, is Paul Blackledge's Friedrich Engels and Modern Social and Political Theory." — Terrell Carver, from the Introduction to The Life and Thought of Friedrich Engels: Thirtieth Anniversary Edition

"…Blackledge's book proves a very useful source of reference for the students of Engels. Blackledge clearly shows that there are still many fields to be explored and various questions to be answered, from political economy and philosophical dialectics to women's oppression and morality. In this regard, Engels rightfully earned a place for himself in the timeline of socialist theory and practice." — Marx & Philosophy Review of Books

"This is an excellent intellectual and political biography, which provides a highly readable account of its subject and a vigorous defense of his ideas. It is likely to become a standard work on Engels's ideas and politics." — Sean Sayers, author of Marx and Alienation: Essays on Hegelian Themes

"Paul Blackledge's new book has no equal as a contemporary assessment of Engels's political thought. It provides a strong refutation of the 'divergence thesis,' whereby Engels is said to have systematically diverged from Marx's analysis. Appearing on the 200th anniversary of Engels's birth, it should be widely read." — John Bellamy Foster, author of Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature

"Clear, balanced, and comprehensive, Blackledge's book is the best introduction to Engels that I know. It does full justice to the many areas in which Engels displayed his prodigious talents." — David McLellan, author of Karl Marx: A Biography

"Paul Blackledge has brought us a remarkable political and intellectual portrait of Friedrich Engels. This book is a masterful tour, taking the reader through Engels's contributions to philosophy, dialectics, political economy, revolution, reform, strategy and tactics, military theory and history, the origins of women's oppression and the state, natural science, and more. All of the great controversies are here; you will find all of the rich traditions of classical Marxism compiled together, plus a few surprises even for the most seasoned reader." — David Laibman, editor, Science & Society