Originally published as Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science, Anti-Dühring is yet another of Engels’s classic defenses of the Marxist method intended to equip the working class with clear ideas. In it, he patiently but sharply took on Eugen Dühring’s pompous and confusing philosophical system, which exemplified the growing pressure of alien class ideas on the German workers’ movement. Although he had no desire to take on this polemic—which he likened to a “sour apple” and took two years of his valuable time to write—we can be most grateful that he did. Because Anti-Dühring is about as close as one can get to an expository “handbook” of the basics of Marxist philosophy, economics, and historical analysis, and deserves to be read in full by all class-conscious workers and youth. A selection from this work was later excerpted and published separately as Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, one of the most successful and essential pamphlets ever produced by the socialist movement. We present here selections focusing on the most fundamental laws of dialectics, which serve as an outstanding primer on the concepts of the transformation of quantity into quality (and vice versa) and the negation of the negation.
I had not expected that a new edition of this book would have to be published. The subject matter of its criticism is now practically forgotten; the work itself was not only available to many thousands of readers in the form of a series of articles published in the Leipzig Vorwärts in 1877 and 1878, but also appeared in its entirety as a separate book, of which a large edition was printed. How, then, can anyone still be interested in what I had to say about Herr Dühring years ago?
I think that I owe this, in the first place, to the fact that this book, as in general almost all my works that were still current at the time, was prohibited within the German Empire immediately after the Anti-Socialist Law was promulgated. To anyone whose brain has not been ossified by the hereditary bureaucratic prejudices of the countries of the Holy Alliance, the effect of this measure must have been self-evident: a doubled and trebled sale of the prohibited books, and the exposure of the impotence of the gentlemen in Berlin who issue prohibitions and are unable to enforce them. Indeed, the kindness of the Imperial Government has brought me more new editions of my minor works than I could really cope with; I have had no time to make a proper revision of the text, and, in most cases, have been obliged simply to allow it to be reprinted as it stood.
But there was also another factor. The “system” of Herr Dühring, which is criticized in this book, ranges over a very wide theoretical domain; and I was compelled to follow him wherever he went and to oppose my conceptions to his. As a result, my negative criticism became positive; the polemic was transformed into a more or less connected exposition of the dialectical method and of the communist world outlook championed by Marx and myself—an exposition covering a fairly comprehensive range of subjects. After its first presentation to the world in Marx’s The Poverty of Philosophy and in The Communist Manifesto, this mode of outlook of ours, having passed through an incubation period of fully twenty years before the publication of Capital, has been more and more rapidly extending its influence among ever widening circles, and now finds recognition and support far beyond the boundaries of Europe, in every country which contains on the one hand proletarians and on the other undaunted scientific theoreticians. It seems, therefore, that there is a public whose interest in the subject is great enough for them to take into the bargain the polemic against the Dühring tenets merely for the sake of the positive conceptions developed alongside this polemic, in spite of the fact that the latter has now largely lost its point.
I must note in passing that inasmuch as the mode of outlook expounded in this book was founded and developed in far greater measure by Marx, and only to an insignificant degree by myself, it was self-understood between us that this exposition of mine should not be issued without his knowledge. I read the whole manuscript to him before it was printed, and the tenth chapter of the part on economics (“From Critical History”) was written by Marx but unfortunately had to be shortened somewhat by me for purely external reasons. As a matter of fact, we had always been accustomed to helping each other out in special subjects.
. . .
It goes without saying that my recapitulation of mathematics and the natural sciences was undertaken in order to convince myself, also in detail, of what, in general, I was not in doubt—that in nature, amid the welter of innumerable changes, the same dialectical laws of motion force their way through as those which in history govern the apparent fortuitousness of events; the same laws which similarly form the thread running through the history of the development of human thought and gradually rise to consciousness in thinking man; the laws which Hegel first developed in all-embracing but mystic form, and which we made it one of our aims to strip of this mystic form and to bring clearly before the mind in their complete simplicity and universality. It goes without saying that the old philosophy of nature—in spite of its real value and the many fruitful seeds it contained—was unable to satisfy us.
As is more fully brought out in this book, natural philosophy, particularly in the Hegelian form, erred because it did not concede to nature any development in time, any “succession,” but only “coexistence.” This was on the one hand grounded in the Hegelian system itself, which ascribed historical evolution only to the “spirit,” but on the other hand was also due to the whole state of the natural sciences in that period. In this, Hegel fell far behind Kant, whose nebular theory had already indicated the origin of the solar system, and whose discovery of the retardation of the earth’s rotation by the tides also had proclaimed the doom of that system. And finally, to me there could be no question of building the laws of dialectics into nature, but of discovering them in it and evolving them from it.
But to do this systematically and in each separate department, is a gigantic task. Not only is the domain to be mastered almost boundless; natural science in this entire domain is itself undergoing such a mighty process of being revolutionized that even people who can devote the whole of their spare time to it can hardly keep pace. Since Karl Marx’s death, however, my time has been requisitioned for more urgent duties, and I have therefore been compelled to lay aside my work. For the present, I must content myself with the indications given in this book, and must wait to find some later opportunity to put together and publish the results which I have arrived at, perhaps in conjunction with the extremely important mathematical manuscripts left by Marx.
Yet the advance of theoretical natural science may possibly make my work to a great extent or even altogether superfluous. For the revolution which is being forced on theoretical natural science by the mere need to set in order the purely empirical discoveries, great masses of which have been piled up, is of such a kind that it must bring the dialectical character of natural processes more and more to the consciousness even of those empiricists who are most opposed to it. The old rigid antagonisms, the sharp, impassable dividing lines are more and more disappearing. Since even the last “true” gases have been liquefied, and since it has been proved that a body can be brought into a condition in which the liquid and the gaseous forms are indistinguishable, the aggregate states have lost the last relics of their former absolute character. With the thesis of the kinetic theory of gases—that in perfect gases at equal temperatures the squares of the speeds with which the individual gas molecules move are in inverse ratio to their molecular weights—heat also takes its place directly among the forms of motion which can be immediately measured as such. Whereas only ten years ago the great basic law of motion, then recently discovered, was as yet conceived merely as a law of the conservation of energy, as the mere expression of the indestructibility and uncreatability of motion, that is, merely in its quantitative aspect, this narrow negative conception is being more and more supplanted by the positive idea of the transformation of energy, in which for the first time the qualitative content of the process comes into its own, and the last vestige of an extramundane creator is obliterated. That the quantity of motion (so-called energy) remains unaltered when it is transformed from kinetic energy (so-called mechanical force) into electricity, heat, potential energy, etc., and vice versa, no longer needs to be preached as something new; it serves as the already secured basis for the now much more pregnant investigation into the very process of transformation, the great basic process, knowledge of which comprises all knowledge of nature. And since biology has been pursued in the light of the theory of evolution, one rigid boundary line of classification after another has been swept away in the domain of organic nature. The almost unclassifiable intermediate links are growing daily more numerous, closer investigation throws organisms out of one class and into another, and distinguishing characteristics which almost became articles of faith are losing their absolute validity; we now have mammals that lay eggs, and, if the report is confirmed, also birds that walk on all fours. Years ago, Virchow was compelled, following the discovery of the cell, to dissolve the unity of the individual animal being into a federation of cell states—thus acting more progressively rather than scientifically and dialectically—and now the conception of animal (therefore also human) individuality is becoming far more complex owing to the discovery of the white blood corpuscles which creep about amoeba-like within the bodies of the higher animals. It is however precisely the polar antagonisms put forward as irreconcilable and insoluble, the forcibly fixed lines of demarcation and class distinctions, which have given modern theoretical natural science its restricted, metaphysical character. The recognition that these antagonisms and distinctions, though found in nature, are only of relative validity, and that on the other hand their imagined rigidity and absolute validity have been introduced into nature only by our reflective minds—this recognition is the kernel of the dialectical conception of nature. It is possible to arrive at this recognition because the accumulating facts of natural science compel us to do so; but one arrives at it more easily if one approaches the dialectical character of these facts equipped with an understanding of the laws of dialectical thought. In any case, natural science has now advanced so far that it can no longer escape dialectical generalization. However, it will make this process easier for itself if it does not lose sight of the fact that the results in which its experiences are summarized are concepts, that the art of working with concepts is not inborn and also is not given with ordinary everyday consciousness, but requires real thought, and that this thought similarly has a long empirical history, not more and not less than empirical natural science. Only by learning to assimilate the results of the development of philosophy during the past two and a half thousand years will it rid itself, on the one hand, of any natural philosophy standing apart from it, outside it, and above it, and, on the other hand, also of its own limited method of thought, which is its inheritance from English empiricism.
The first and most important principle of the basic logical properties of being refers to the exclusion of contradiction. Contradiction is a category which can only appertain to a combination of thoughts, but not to reality. There are no contradictions in things, or, to put it another way, contradiction accepted as reality is itself the apex of absurdity . . . The antagonism of forces measured against each other and moving in opposite directions is in fact the basic form of all actions in the life of the world and its creatures. But this opposition of the directions taken by the forces of elements and individuals does not in the slightest degree coincide with the idea of absurd contradictions . . . We can be content here with having cleared the fogs which generally rise from the supposed mysteries of logic by presenting a clear picture of the actual absurdity of contradictions in reality and with having shown the uselessness of the incense which has been burnt here and there in honor of the dialectics of contradiction—the very clumsily carved wooden doll which is substituted for the antagonistic world schematism.
This is practically all we are told about dialectics in [Dühring’s] Course of Philosophy. In his Critical History, on the other hand, the dialectics of contradiction, and with it particularly Hegel, is treated quite differently.
Contradiction, according to the Hegelian logic, or rather Logos doctrine, is objectively present not in thought, which by its nature can only be conceived as subjective and conscious, but in things and processes themselves and can be met with in so to speak corporeal form, so that absurdity does not remain an impossible combination of thought but becomes an actual force. The reality of the absurd is the first article of faith in the Hegelian unity of the logical and the illogical . . . The more contradictory a thing the truer it is, or in other words, the more absurd the more credible it is. This maxim, which is not even newly invented but is borrowed from the theology of the Revelation and from mysticism, is the naked expression of the so-called dialectical principle.
The thought content of the two passages cited can be summed up in the statement that contradiction = absurdity, and therefore cannot occur in the real world. People who in other respects show a fair degree of common sense may regard this statement as having the same self-evident validity as the statement that a straight line cannot be a curve and a curve cannot be straight. But, regardless of all protests made by common sense, the differential calculus under certain circumstances nevertheless equates straight lines and curves, and thus obtains results which common sense, insisting on the absurdity of straight lines being identical with curves, can never attain. And in view of the important role which the so-called dialectics of contradiction has played in philosophy from the time of the ancient Greeks up to the present, even a stronger opponent than Herr Dühring should have felt obliged to attack it with other arguments besides one assertion and a good many abusive epithets.
True, so long as we consider things as at rest and lifeless, each one by itself, alongside and after each other, we do not run up against any contradictions in them. We find certain qualities which are partly common to, partly different from, and even contradictory to each other, but which in the last-mentioned case are distributed among different objects and therefore contain no contradiction within. Inside the limits of this sphere of observation we can get along on the basis of the usual, metaphysical mode of thought. But the position is quite different as soon as we consider things in their motion, their change, their life, their reciprocal influence on one another. Then we immediately become involved in contradictions. Motion itself is a contradiction: even simple mechanical change of position can only come about through a body being at one and the same moment of time both in one place and in another place, being in one and the same place and also not in it. And the continuous origination and simultaneous solution of this contradiction is precisely what motion is.
Here, therefore, we have a contradiction which “is objectively present in things and processes themselves and can be met with in so to speak corporeal form.” And what has Herr Dühring to say about it? He asserts that up to the present there is absolutely “no bridge in rational mechanics from the strictly static to the dynamic.”
The reader can now at last see what is hidden behind this favorite phrase of Herr Dühring’s—it is nothing but this: the mind which thinks metaphysically is absolutely unable to pass from the idea of rest to the idea of motion, because the contradiction pointed out above blocks its path. To it, motion is simply incomprehensible because it is a contradiction. And in asserting the incomprehensibility of motion, it admits against its will the existence of this contradiction, and thus admits the objective presence, in things and processes themselves, of a contradiction which is moreover an actual force.
If simple mechanical change of position contains a contradiction, this is even more true of the higher forms of motion of matter, and especially of organic life and its development. We saw above that life consists precisely and primarily in this—that a being is at each moment itself and yet something else. Life is therefore also a contradiction which is present in things and processes themselves, and which constantly originates and resolves itself; and as soon as the contradiction ceases, life, too, comes to an end, and death steps in. We likewise saw that also in the sphere of thought we could not escape contradictions, and that for example the contradiction between man’s inherently unlimited capacity for knowledge and its actual presence only in men who are externally limited and possess limited cognition finds its solution in what is—at least practically, for us—an endless succession of generations, in infinite progress.
We have already noted that one of the basic principles of higher mathematics is the contradiction that in certain circumstances straight lines and curves may be the same. It also establishes this other contradiction: that lines which intersect each other before our eyes nevertheless, only five or six centimeters from their point of intersection, can be shown to be parallel, that is, that they will never meet even if extended to infinity. And yet, working with these and with even far greater contradictions, it attains results which are not only correct but also quite unattainable for lower mathematics.
But even lower mathematics teems with contradictions. It is for example a contradiction that a root of A should be a power of A, and yet A1/2 =. It is a contradiction that a negative quantity should be the square of anything, for every negative quantity multiplied by itself gives a positive square. The square root of minus one is therefore not only a contradiction, but even an absurd contradiction—a real absurdity. And yet is in many cases a necessary result of correct mathematical operations. Furthermore, where would mathematics—lower or higher—be, if it were prohibited from operation with ?
In its operations with variable quantities, mathematics itself enters the field of dialectics, and it is significant that it was a dialectical philosopher, Descartes, who introduced this advance. The relation between the mathematics of variable and the mathematics of constant quantities is in general the same as the relation of dialectical to metaphysical thought. But this does not prevent the great mass of mathematicians from recognizing dialectics only in the sphere of mathematics, and a good many of them from continuing to work in the old, limited, metaphysical way with methods that were obtained dialectically.
It would be possible to go more closely into Herr Dühring’s antagonism of forces and his antagonistic world schematism only if he had given us something more on this theme than the mere phrase. After accomplishing this feat, this antagonism is not even once shown to us at work, either in his world schematism or in his natural philosophy—the most convincing admission that Herr Dühring can do absolutely nothing of a positive character with his “basic form of all actions in the life of the world and its creatures.” When someone has in fact lowered Hegel’s “Doctrine of Essence” to the platitude of forces moving in opposite directions but not in contradictions, certainly the best thing he can do is to avoid any application of this commonplace.
Marx’s Capital furnishes Herr Dühring with another occasion for venting his anti-dialectical spleen.
The absence of natural and intelligible logic which characterizes these dialectical frills and mazes and conceptual arabesques . . . Even to the part that has already appeared we must apply the principle that in a certain respect and also in general [!], according to a well-known philosophical preconception, all is to be sought in each and each in all, and that therefore, according to this mixed and misconceived idea, it all amounts to one and the same thing in the end.
This insight into the well-known philosophical preconception also enables Herr Dühring to prophesy with assurance what will be the “end” of Marx’s economic philosophizing, that is, what the following volumes of Capital will contain, and this he does exactly seven lines after he has declared that “speaking in plain human language, it is really impossible to divine what is still to come in the two [final] volumes.”
This, however, is not the first time that Herr Dühring’s writings are revealed to us as belonging to the “things” in which “contradiction is objectively present and can be met with in so to speak corporeal form.” But this does not prevent him from going on victoriously as follows:
Yet sound logic will, in all probability, triumph over its caricature . . . This presence of superiority and this mysterious dialectical rubbish will tempt no one who has even a modicum of sound judgment left to have anything to do . . . with these deformities of thought and style. With the demise of the last relics of the dialectical follies this means of duping . . . will lose its deceptive influence, and no one will any longer believe that he has to torture himself in order to get behind some profound piece of wisdom where the husked kernel of the abstruse things reveals at best the features of ordinary theories if not of absolute commonplaces . . . It is quite impossible to reproduce the [Marxian] maze in accordance with the Logos doctrine without prostituting sound logic.
Marx’s method, according to Herr Dühring, consists in “performing dialectical miracles for his faithful followers,” and so on.
We are not in any way concerned here as yet with the correctness or incorrectness of the economic results of Marx’s researches, but only with the dialectical method used by Marx. But this much is certain: most readers of Capital will have learned for the first time from Herr Dühring what it is, in fact, that they have read. And among them will also be Herr Dühring himself, who in the year 1867 was still able to provide what for a thinker of his caliber was a relatively rational review of the book; and he did this without first being obliged as he now declares is indispensable, to translate the Marxian argument into Dühringian language. And though even then he committed the blunder of identifying Marxian dialectics with the Hegelian, he had not quite lost the capacity to distinguish between the method and the results obtained by using it, and to understand that the latter are not refuted in detail by lampooning the former in general.
At any rate, the most astonishing piece of information given by Herr Dühring is the statement that from the Marxian standpoint “it all amounts to one and the same thing in the end,” that therefore to Marx, for example, capitalists and wage workers, feudal, capitalist, and socialist modes of production are also “one and the same thing”—no doubt in the end even Marx and Herr Dühring are “one and the same thing.” Such utter nonsense can only be explained if we suppose that the mere mention of the word dialectics throws Herr Dühring into such a state of mental irresponsibility that, as a result of a certain mixed and misconceived idea, what he says and does is “one and the same thing” in the end.
We have here a sample of what Herr Dühring calls
my historical depiction in the grand style . . . [or] . . . the summary treatment which settles with genus and type, and does not condescend to honor what a Hume called the learned mob with an exposure in micrological detail; this treatment in a higher and nobler style is the only one compatible with the interests of complete truth and with one’s duty to the public which is free from the bonds of the guilds.
Historical depiction in the grand style and the summary settlement with genus and type is indeed very convenient for Herr Dühring, inasmuch as this method enables him to neglect all known facts as micrological and equate them to zero, so that instead of proving anything, he need only use general phrases, make assertions and thunder his denunciations. The method has the further advantage that it offers no real foothold to an opponent, who is consequently left with almost no other possibility of reply than to make similar summary assertions in the grand style, to resort to general phrases and finally thunder back denunciations at Herr Dühring—in a word, as they say, engage in a clanging match, which is not to everyone’s taste. We must therefore be grateful to Herr Dühring for occasionally, by way of exception, dropping the higher and nobler style, and giving us at least two examples of the unsound Marxian Logos doctrine.
How comical is the reference to the confused, hazy Hegelian notion that quantity changes into quality, and that therefore an advance, when it reaches a certain size, becomes capital by this quantitative increase alone.
In this “expurgated” presentation by Herr Dühring, that statement certainly seems curious enough. Let us see how it looks in the original, in Marx . . . On the basis of his previous examination of constant and variable capital and surplus value, Marx draws the conclusion that “not every sum of money, or of value, is at pleasure transformable into capital. To effect this transformation, in fact, a certain minimum of money or of exchange value must be presupposed in the hands of the individual possessor of money or commodities.” He takes as an example the case of a laborer in any branch of industry, who works daily eight hours for himself—that is, in producing the value of his wages—and the following four hours for the capitalist, in producing surplus value, which immediately flows into the pocket of the capitalist. In this case, one would have to have at his disposal a sum of values sufficient to enable one to provide two laborers with raw materials, instruments of labor and wages, in order to pocket enough surplus value every day to live on as well as one of his laborers. And as the aim of capitalist production is not mere subsistence but the increase of wealth, our man with his two laborers would still not be a capitalist. Now in order that he may live twice as well as an ordinary laborer, and turn half of the surplus value produced again into capital, he would have to be able to employ eight laborers, that is, he would have to possess four times the sum of values assumed above. And it is only after this, and in the course of still further explanations elucidating and substantiating the fact that not every petty sum of values is enough to be transformable into capital, but that in this respect each period of development and each branch of industry has its definite minimum sum, that Marx observes: “Here, as in natural science, is shown the correctness of the law discovered by Hegel in his Logic, that merely quantitative changes beyond a certain point pass into qualitative differences.”
And now let the reader admire the higher and nobler style, by virtue of which Herr Dühring attributes to Marx the opposite of what he really said. Marx says: The fact that a sum of values can be transformed into capital only when it has reached a certain size, varying according to the circumstances, but in each case, a definite, minimum size—this fact is a proof of the correctness of the Hegelian law. Herr Dühring makes him say: Because, according to the Hegelian law, quantity changes into quality, “therefore an advance, when it reaches a certain size, becomes capital.” That is to say, the very opposite.
In connection with Herr Dühring’s examination of the Darwin case, we have already got to know his habit, “in the interests of complete truth” and because of his “duty to the public which is free from the bonds of the guilds,” of quoting incorrectly. It becomes more and more evident that this habit is an inner necessity of the philosophy of reality, and it is certainly a very “summary treatment.” Not to mention the fact that Herr Dühring further makes Marx speak of any kind of “advance” whatsoever, whereas Marx only refers to an advance made in the form of raw materials, instruments of labor, and wages; and that in doing this Herr Dühring succeeds in making Marx speak pure nonsense. And then he has the cheek to describe as comic the nonsense which he himself has fabricated. Just as he built up a Darwin of his own fantasy in order to try out his strength against him, so here he builds up a fantastic Marx. “Historical depiction in the grand style,” indeed!
We have already seen earlier, in regard to world schematism, that in connection with this Hegelian nodal line of measurement relations—in which quantitative change suddenly passes at certain points into qualitative transformation—Herr Dühring had a little accident: in a weak moment he himself recognized and made use of this line. We gave there one of the best-known examples—that of the change of the aggregate states of water, which under normal atmospheric pressure changes at 0°C from the liquid into the solid state, and at 100°C from the liquid into the gaseous state, so that at both these turning points the merely quantitative change of temperature brings about a qualitative change in the condition of the water.
In proof of this law we might have cited hundreds of other similar facts from nature as well as from human society. Thus, for example, the whole of Part IV of Marx’s Capital—production of relative surplus value—deals, in the field of cooperation, division of labor and manufacture, machinery and modern industry, with innumerable cases in which quantitative change alters the quality, and also qualitative change alters the quantity, of the things under consideration; in which therefore, to use the expression so hated by Herr Dühring, quantity is transformed into quality and vice versa. As for example the fact that the cooperation of a number of people, the fusion of many forces into one single force, to use Marx’s phrase, creates a “new power,” which is essentially different from the sum of its individual powers.
Over and above this, in the passage which, in the interests of complete truth, Herr Dühring perverted into its opposite, Marx had added a footnote: “The molecular theory of modern chemistry first scientifically worked out by Laurent and Gerhardt rests on no other law.”
. . .
This historical sketch [of the genesis of the so-called primitive accumulation of capital in England] is relatively the best part of Marx’s book, and would be even better if it had not relied on dialectical crutches to help out its scholarly basis. The Hegelian negation of the negation, in default of anything better and clearer, has in fact to serve here as the midwife to deliver the future from the womb of the past. The abolition of “individual property,” which since the sixteenth century has been effected in the way indicated above, is the first negation. It will be followed by a second, which bears the character of a negation of the negation and hence of a restoration of “individual property,” but in a higher form, based on the common ownership of land and of the instruments of labor. Herr Marx calls this new “individual property” also “social property,” and in this there appears the Hegelian higher unity, in which the contradiction is supposed to be sublated, that is to say, in the Hegelian verbal jugglery, both overcome and preserved . . . According to this, the expropriation of the expropriators is, as it were, the automatic result of historical reality in its materially external relations . . . It would be difficult to convince a sensible man of the necessity of the common ownership of land and capital, on the basis of credence in Hegelian word juggling such as the negation of the negation . . . The nebulous hybrids of Marx’s conceptions will not however appear strange to anyone who realizes what nonsense can be concocted with Hegelian dialectics as the scientific basis, or rather what nonsense must necessarily spring from it. For the benefit of the reader who is not familiar with these artifices, it must be pointed out expressly that Hegel’s first negation is the catechismal idea of the fall from grace and his second is that of a higher unity leading to redemption. The logic of facts can hardly be based on this nonsensical analogy borrowed from the religious sphere . . . Herr Marx remains cheerfully in the nebulous world of his property which is at once both individual and social and leaves it to his adepts to solve for themselves this profound dialectical enigma.”
Thus far Herr Dühring.
So Marx has no other way of proving the necessity of the social revolution, of establishing the common ownership of land and of the means of production produced by labor, except by citing the Hegelian negation of the negation; and because he bases his socialist theory on these nonsensical analogies borrowed from religion, he arrives at the result that in the society of the future there will be dominant an ownership at once both individual and social, as Hegelian higher unity of the sublated contradiction.
But let the negation of the negation rest for the moment and let us have a look at the “ownership” which is “at once both individual and social.” Herr Dühring characterizes this as a “nebulous world,” and curiously enough he is really right on this point. Unfortunately, however, it is not Marx but again Herr Dühring himself who is in this nebulous world. Just as his dexterity in handling the Hegelian method of “delirious raving” enabled him without any difficulty to determine what the still unfinished volumes of Capital are sure to contain, so here, too, without any great effort he can put Marx right à la Hegel, by imputing to him the higher unity of a property, of which there is not a word in Marx. Marx says:
It is the negation of negation. This reestablishes individual property, but on the basis of the acquisitions of the capitalist era, i.e., on cooperation of free workers and their common ownership of the land and of the means of production produced by labor itself. The transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labor, into capitalist private property is, naturally, a process, incomparably more protracted, arduous, and difficult, than the transformation of capitalistic private property, already practically resting on socialized production, into socialized property.” (Marx, Capital)
That is all. The state of things brought about by the expropriation of the expropriators is therefore characterized as the reestablishment of individual property, but on the basis of the social ownership of the land and of the means of production produced by labor itself. To anyone who understands plain talk this means that social ownership extends to the land and the other means of production, and individual ownership to the products, that is, the articles of consumption. And in order to make the matter comprehensible even to children of six, Marx assumes “a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labor power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labor power of the community,” that is, a society organized on a socialist basis; and he continues: “The total product of our community is a social product. One portion serves as fresh means of production and remains social. But another portion is consumed by the members as means of subsistence. A distribution of this portion among them is consequently necessary.” And surely that is clear enough even for Herr Dühring, in spite of his having Hegel on his brain.
The property which is at once both individual and social, this confusing hybrid, this nonsense which necessarily springs from Hegelian dialectics, this nebulous world, this profound dialectical enigma, which Marx leaves his adepts to solve for themselves—is yet another free creation and imagination on the part of Herr Dühring. Marx, as an alleged Hegelian, is obliged to produce a real higher unity, as the outcome of the negation of the negation, and as Marx does not do this to Herr Dühring’s taste, the latter has to fall again into his higher and nobler style, and in the interests of complete truth impute to Marx things which are the products of Herr Dühring’s own manufacture. A man who is totally incapable of quoting correctly, even by way of exception, may well become morally indignant at the “Chinese erudition” of other people, who always quote correctly, but precisely by doing this “inadequately conceal their lack of insight into the totality of ideas of the various writers from whom they quote.” Herr Dühring is right. Long live historical depiction in the grand style!
Up to this point we have proceeded from the assumption that Herr Dühring’s persistent habit of misquoting is done at least in good faith, and arises either from his total incapacity to understand things or from a habit of quoting from memory—a habit which seems to be peculiar to historical depiction in the grand style, but is usually described as slovenly. But we seem to have reached the point at which, even with Herr Dühring, quantity is transformed into quality. For we must take into consideration in the first place that the passage in Marx is in itself perfectly clear and is moreover amplified in the same book by a further passage which leaves no room whatever for misunderstanding; secondly, that Herr Dühring had discovered the monstrosity of “property which is at once both individual and social” neither in the critique of Capital, in the Ergänzungsblätter, nor even in the critique contained in the first edition of his Critical History, but only in the second edition—that is, on his third reading of Capital; further, that in this second edition, which was rewritten in a socialist sense, it was deemed necessary by Herr Dühring to make Marx say the utmost possible nonsense about the future organization of society, in order to enable him, in contrast, to bring forward all the more triumphantly—as he in fact does—“the economic commune as described by me in economic and juridical outline in my Course”—when we take all this into consideration, we are almost forced to the conclusion that Herr Dühring has here deliberately made a “beneficent extension” of Marx’s idea—beneficent for Herr Dühring.
But what role does the negation of the negation play in Marx? [In Capital] he sets out the final conclusions which he draws from the preceding fifty pages of economic and historical investigation into the so-called primitive accumulation of capital. Before the capitalist era, petty industry existed, at least in England, on the basis of the private property of the laborer in his means of production. The so-called primitive accumulation of capital consisted there in the expropriation of these immediate producers, that is, in the dissolution of private property based on the labor of its owner. This became possible because the petty industry referred to above is compatible only with narrow and primitive bounds of production and society, and at a certain stage brings forth the material agencies for its own annihilation. This annihilation, the transformation of the individual and scattered means of production into socially concentrated ones, forms the prehistory of capital. As soon as the laborers are turned into proletarians, their conditions of labor into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, the further socialization of labor and further transformation of the land and other means of production, and therefore the further expropriation of private proprietors, takes a new form.
That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the laborer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many laborers. This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalist production itself, by the concentration of capital. One capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this concentration, or this expropriation of many capitalists by a few, develop, on an ever growing scale, the cooperative form of the labor process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical collective cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labor into instruments of labor only usable in common, and the economizing of all means of production by their use as the jointly owned means of production of combined, socialized labor. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, and exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, and organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. Capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Concentration of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.”
And now I ask the reader: where are the dialectical frills and mazes and conceptual arabesques; where the mixed and misconceived ideas according to which everything is all one and the same thing in the end; where the dialectical miracles for his faithful followers; where the mysterious dialectical rubbish and the maze in accordance with the Hegelian Logos doctrine, without which Marx, according to Herr Dühring, is unable to put his exposition into shape? Marx merely shows from history, and here states in a summarized form, that just as formerly petty industry by its very development necessarily created the conditions of its own annihilation, i.e., of the expropriation of the small proprietors, so now the capitalist mode of production has likewise itself created the material conditions from which it must perish. The process is a historical one, and if it is at the same time a dialectical process, this is not Marx’s fault, however annoying it may be to Herr Dühring.
It is only at this point, after Marx has completed his proof on the basis of historical and economic facts, that he proceeds:
The capitalist mode of production and appropriation, hence the capitalist private property, is the first negation of individual private property founded on the labor of the proprietor. Capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a process of nature, its own negation. It is the negation of the negation.
Thus, by characterizing the process as the negation of the negation, Marx does not intend to prove that the process was historically necessary. On the contrary: only after he has proved from history that in fact the process has partially already occurred, and partially must occur in the future, he additionally characterizes it as a process which develops in accordance with a definite dialectical law. That is all. It is therefore once again a pure distortion of the facts by Herr Dühring when he declares that the negation of the negation has to serve here as the midwife to deliver the future from the womb of the past, or that Marx wants anyone to be convinced of the necessity of the common ownership of land and capital (which is itself a Dühringian contradiction in corporeal form) on the basis of credence in the negation of the negation.
Herr Dühring’s total lack of understanding of the nature of dialectics is shown by the very fact that he regards it as a mere proof-producing instrument, as a limited mind might look upon formal logic or elementary mathematics. Even formal logic is primarily a method of arriving at new results, of advancing from the known to the unknown—and dialectics is the same, only much more eminently so; moreover, since it forces its way beyond the narrow horizon of formal logic, it contains the germ of a more comprehensive view of the world. The same correlation exists in mathematics. Elementary mathematics, the mathematics of constant quantities, moves within the confines of formal logic, at any rate taken as a whole; the mathematics of variable magnitudes, whose most important part is the infinitesimal calculus, is in essence nothing other than the application of dialectics to mathematical relations. In it, the simple question of proof is definitely pushed into the background, as compared with the manifold application of the method to new spheres of research. But almost all the proofs of higher mathematics, from the first—that of the differential calculus—on, are false, from the standpoint of elementary mathematics taken rigidly. And this is necessarily so, when, as happens in this case, an attempt is made to prove by formal logic results obtained in the field of dialectics. To attempt to prove anything by means of dialectics alone to a crass metaphysician like Herr Dühring would be as much a waste of time as was the attempt made by Leibniz and his pupils to prove the principles of the infinitesimal calculus to the mathematicians of their time. The differential gave them the same convulsions as Herr Dühring gets from the negation of the negation, in which, moreover, as we shall see, the differential also plays a certain role. Finally these gentlemen—or those of them who had not died in the interval—grudgingly gave way, not because they were convinced, but because it always came out right. Herr Dühring, as he himself tells us, is only in his forties, and if he attains old age, as we hope he may, perhaps his experience will be the same.
But what then is this fearful negation of the negation, which makes life so bitter for Herr Dühring and with him plays the same role of the unpardonable crime as the sin against the Holy Ghost does in Christianity? A very simple process which is taking place everywhere and every day, which any child can understand as soon as it is stripped of the veil of mystery in which it was enveloped by the old idealist philosophy and in which it is to the advantage of helpless metaphysicians of Herr Dühring’s caliber to keep it enveloped.
Let us take a grain of barley. Billions of such grains of barley are milled, boiled, and brewed and then consumed. But if such a grain of barley meets with conditions which are normal for it, if it falls on suitable soil, then under the influence of heat and moisture it undergoes a specific change, it germinates; the grain as such ceases to exist, it is negated, and in its place appears the plant which has arisen from it, the negation of the grain. But what is the normal life process of this plant? It grows, flowers, is fertilized and finally once more produces grains of barley, and as soon as these have ripened the stalk dies, is in its turn negated. As a result of this negation of the negation we have once again the original grain of barley, but not as a single unit, but ten-, twenty- or thirtyfold. Species of grain change extremely slowly, and so the barley of today is almost the same as it was a century ago. But if we take a trainable ornamental plant, for example a dahlia or an orchid, and treat the seed and the plant which grows from it according to the gardener’s art, we get as a result of this negation of the negation not only more seeds, but also qualitatively improved seeds, which produce more beautiful flowers, and each repetition of this process, each fresh negation of the negation, enhances this process of perfection.
With most insects, this process follows the same lines as in the case of the grain of barley. Butterflies, for example, spring from the egg by a negation of the egg, pass through certain transformations until they reach sexual maturity, pair and are in turn negated, dying as soon as the pairing process has been completed and the female has laid its numerous eggs. We are not concerned at the moment with the fact that with other plants and animals the process does not take such a simple form, that before they die they produce seeds, eggs, or offspring not once but many times; our purpose here is only to show that the negation of the negation really does take place in both kingdoms of the organic world.
Furthermore, the whole of geology is a series of negated negations, a series of successive chatterings of old and deposits of new rock formations. First the original earth crust brought into existence by the cooling of the liquid mass was broken up by oceanic, meteorological, and atmospheric chemical action, and these fragmented masses were stratified on the ocean bed. Local upheavals of the ocean bed above the surface of the sea subject portions of these first strata once more to the action of rain, the changing temperature of the seasons, and the oxygen and carbonic acid of the atmosphere. These same influences act on the molten masses of rock which issue from the interior of the earth, break through the strata, and subsequently cool off. In this way, in the course of millions of centuries, ever new strata are formed and in turn are for the most part destroyed, ever anew serving as material for the formation of new strata. But the result of this process has been a very positive one: the creation of a soil composed of the most varied chemical elements and mechanically fragmented, which makes possible the most abundant and diversified vegetation.
It is the same in mathematics. Let us take any arbitrary algebraic quantity: for example, a. If this is negated, we get −a (minus a). If we negate that negation, by multiplying −a by −a, we get +a², i.e., the original positive quantity, but at a higher degree, raised to its second power. In this case also it makes no difference that we can obtain the same a² by multiplying the positive a by itself, thus likewise getting a². For the negated negation is so securely entrenched in a² that the latter always has two square roots, namely, a and −a. And the fact that it is impossible to get rid of the negated negation, the negative root of the square, acquires very obvious significance as soon as we come to quadratic equations.
The negation of the negation is even more strikingly obvious in higher analysis, in those “summations of indefinitely small magnitudes” which Herr Dühring himself declares are the highest operations of mathematics, and in ordinary language are known as the differential and integral calculus. How are these forms of calculus used? In a given problem, for example, I have two variable magnitudes, x and y, neither of which can vary without the other also varying in a relation determined by the facts of the case. I differentiate x and y, i.e., I take x and y as so infinitely small that in comparison with any real quantity, however small, they disappear, so that nothing is left of x and y but their reciprocal relation without any, so to speak, material basis, a quantitative ratio in which there is no quantity. Therefore, dy/dx, the relation between the differentials of x and y, is equal to 0/0, but 0/0 taken as the expression of y/x. I only mention in passing that this relation between two magnitudes which have disappeared, caught at the moment of their disappearance, is a contradiction; but it cannot disturb us any more than it has disturbed the whole of mathematics for almost two hundred years. And yet, what have I done but negate x and y, though not in such a way that I need not bother about them any more, not in the way that metaphysics negates, but in the way that corresponds with the facts of the case? In place of x and y, therefore, I have their negation, dx and dy, in the formulas or equations before me. I continue then to operate with these formulas, treating dx and dy as quantities which are real, though subject to certain exceptional laws, and at a certain point I negate the negation, i.e., I integrate the differential formula, and in place of dx and dy again get the real quantities x and y, and am then not where I was at the beginning, but by using this method I have solved the problem on which ordinary geometry and algebra might perhaps have broken their teeth in vain.
It is the same in history, as well. All civilized peoples begin with the common ownership of the land. With all peoples who have passed a certain primitive stage, in the course of the development of agriculture this common ownership becomes a fetter on production. It is abolished—negated—and, after a longer or shorter series of intermediate stages, is transformed into private property. But at a higher stage of agricultural development, brought about by private property in land itself, private property conversely becomes a fetter on production, as is the case today both with small and large land ownership. The demand that it, too, should be negated, that it should once again be transformed into common property, necessarily arises. But this demand does not mean the restoration of the aboriginal common ownership, but the institution of a far higher and more developed form of possession in common which, far from being a hindrance to production, on the contrary for the first time will free production from all fetters and enable it to make full use of modern chemical discoveries and mechanical inventions.
Or let us take another example: The philosophy of antiquity was primitive, spontaneously evolved materialism. As such, it was incapable of clearing up the relation between mind and matter. But the need to get clarity on this question led to the doctrine of a soul separable from the body, then to the assertion of the immortality of this soul, and finally to monotheism. The old materialism was therefore negated by idealism. But in the course of the further development of philosophy, idealism, too, became untenable and was negated by modern materialism. This modern materialism, the negation of the negation, is not the mere reestablishment of the old, but adds to the permanent foundations of this old materialism the whole thought content of two thousand years of development of philosophy and natural science, as well as of the historical development of these two thousand years. It is in fact no longer a philosophy at all, but simply a world outlook which has to establish its validity and be applied not in a science of sciences standing apart, but in the real sciences. In this development, philosophy is therefore “sublated,” that is, “both overcome and preserved”; overcome as regards its form, and preserved as regards its real content. Thus, where Herr Dühring sees only “verbal jugglery,” closer inspection reveals an actual content.
Finally: Even the Rousseau doctrine of equality—of which Dühring’s is only a feeble and distorted echo—could not have seen the light but for the midwife’s services rendered by the Hegelian negation of the negation—though it was nearly twenty years before Hegel was born. And far from being ashamed of this, the doctrine in its first presentation bears almost ostentatiously the imprint of its dialectical origin. In the state of nature and savagery men were equal; and as Rousseau regards even language as a perversion of the state of nature, he is fully justified in extending the equality of animals within the limits of a single species also to the animal-men recently classified by Haeckel hypothetically as Alali: speechless. But these equal animal-men had one quality which gave them an advantage over the other animals: perfectibility, the capacity to develop further; and this became the cause of inequality. So Rousseau regards the rise of inequality as progress. But this progress contained an antagonism: it was at the same time retrogression.
All further progress [beyond the original state] meant so many steps seemingly towards the perfection of the individual man, but in reality towards the decay of the species . . . Metallurgy and agriculture were the two arts the discovery of which produced this great revolution [the transformation of the primeval forest into cultivated land, but along with this the introduction of poverty and slavery through property]. For the poet it is gold and silver, but for the philosopher iron and corn, which have civilized men and ruined the human race. [Emphasis by Engels]
Each new advance of civilization is at the same time a new advance of inequality. All institutions set up by the society which has arisen with civilization change into the opposite of their original purpose.
It is an incontestable fact, and the fundamental principle of all public law, that the peoples set up their chieftains to safeguard their liberty and not to enslave them.
And nevertheless the chiefs necessarily become the oppressors of the peoples, and intensify their oppression up to the point at which inequality, carried to the utmost extreme, again changes into its opposite, becomes the cause of equality: before the despot all are equal—equally ciphers.
Here we have the extreme measure of inequality, the final point which completes the circle and meets the point from which we set out: here all private individuals become equal once more, just because they are ciphers, and the subjects have no other law but their master’s will. [But the despot is only master so long as he is able to use force and therefore] when he is driven out [he cannot] complain of the use of force . . . Force alone maintained him in power, and force alone overthrows him; thus everything takes its natural course. [Emphasis by Engels]
And so inequality once more changes into equality; not, however, into the former naïve equality of speechless primitive men, but into the higher equality of the social contract. The oppressors are oppressed. It is the negation of the negation.
Already in Rousseau, therefore, we find not only a line of thought which corresponds exactly to the one developed in Marx’s Capital, but also, in details, a whole series of the same dialectical turns of speech as Marx used: processes which in their nature are antagonistic, contain a contradiction; transformation of one extreme into its opposite; and finally, as the kernel of the whole thing, the negation of the negation. And though in 1754 Rousseau was not yet able to use the Hegelian jargon, he was certainly, sixteen years before Hegel was born, deeply bitten with the Hegelian pestilence, dialectics of contradiction, Logos doctrine, theology, and so forth. And when Herr Dühring, in his shallow version of Rousseau’s theory of equality, begins to operate with his victorious two men, he himself is already on the slope down which he must slide helplessly into the arms of the negation of the negation. The state of things in which the equality of the two men flourished, which was also described as an ideal state, is characterized as the “primitive state.” This primitive state, however, according to [another] page, was necessarily sublated by the “robber system”—the first negation. But now, thanks to the philosophy of reality, we have gone so far as to abolish the robber system and establish in its stead the economic commune based on equality which has been discovered by Herr Dühring—negation of the negation, equality on a higher plane. What a delightful spectacle, and how beneficently it extends our range of vision: Herr Dühring’s eminent self committing the capital crime of the negation of the negation!
And so, what is the negation of the negation? An extremely general—and for this reason extremely comprehensive and important—law of development of nature, history, and thought; a law which, as we have seen, holds good in the animal and plant kingdoms, in geology, in mathematics, in history and in philosophy—a law which, in spite of all his stubborn resistance, even Herr Dühring, unwittingly and in his own way, has to follow. It is obvious that I do not say anything concerning the particular process of development of, for example, a grain of barley from germination to the death of the fruit-bearing plant, if I say it is a negation of the negation. For, as the integral calculus is also a negation of the negation, if I said anything of the sort I would only be making the nonsensical statement that the life-process of a barley plant was integral calculus or, for that matter, that it was socialism. That, however, is precisely what the metaphysicians are constantly imputing to dialectics. When I say that all these processes are a negation of the negation, I bring them all together under this one law of motion, and for this very reason I leave out of account the specific peculiarities of each individual process. Dialectics, however, is nothing more than the science of the general laws of motion and development of nature, human society and thought.
But someone may object: the negation that has taken place in this case is not a real negation: I negate a grain of barley also when I grind it, an insect when I crush it underfoot, or the positive magnitude a when I cancel it, and so on. Or I negate the sentence: the rose is a rose, when I say: the rose is not a rose; and what do I get if I then negate this negation and say: but after all the rose is a rose? These objections are in fact the chief arguments put forward by the metaphysicians against dialectics, and they are wholly worthy of the narrow-mindedness of this mode of thought. Negation in dialectics does not mean simply saying no, or declaring that something does not exist, or destroying it in any way one likes. Long ago Spinoza said: omnis determinatio est negatio—every limitation or determination is at the same time a negation. And further: the kind of negation is here determined, firstly, by the general and, secondly, by the particular nature of the process. I must not only negate, but also in turn sublate the negation. I must therefore arrange the first negation so that the second remains or becomes possible. How? This depends on the particular nature of each individual case. If I grind a grain of barley, or crush an insect, I have carried out the first part of the action, but have made the second part impossible. Every kind of thing therefore has a peculiar way of being negated in such manner that it gives rise to a development, and it is just the same with every kind of conception or idea. The infinitesimal calculus involves a form of negation which is different from that used in the formation of positive powers from negative roots. This has to be learned, like everything else. The bare knowledge that the barley plant and the infinitesimal calculus are both governed by negation of negation does not enable me either to grow barley successfully or to differentiate and integrate; just as little as the mere knowledge of the laws of the determination of sound by the thickness of strings enables me to play the violin.
But it is clear that from a negation of the negation which consists in the childish pastime of alternately writing and cancelling a, or in alternately declaring that a rose is a rose and that it is not a rose, nothing eventuates but the silliness of the person who adopts such a tedious procedure. And yet the metaphysicians try to make us believe that this is the right way to carry out a negation of the negation, if we ever should want to do such a thing.
Once again, therefore, it is no one but Herr Dühring who is mystifying us when he asserts that the negation of the negation is a stupid analogy invented by Hegel, borrowed from the sphere of religion and based on the story of the fall of man and his redemption. Men thought dialectically long before they knew what dialectics was, just as they spoke prose long before the term prose existed. [An allusion to Molière’s comedy Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme] The law of negation of the negation, which is unconsciously operative in nature and history and, until it has been recognized, also in our heads, was only first clearly formulated by Hegel. And if Herr Dühring wants to operate with it himself on the quiet and it is only that he cannot stand the name, then let him find a better name. But if his aim is to banish the process itself from thought, we must ask him to be so good as first to banish it from nature and history and to invent a mathematical system in which −a x −a is not +a² and in which differentiation and integration are prohibited under severe penalties.