Introduction: The fate of marxism
Sheehan, Helena (1993) Introduction: The fate of marxism. In: Marxism and the philosophy of science: a critical history. Humanities Press International, Atlantic Highlands, NJ, USA, xiii-xvii. ISBN 0-391-03780-3
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Marxism and the philosophy of science: a critical history was first published in 1985 by Humanities Press International. This is the introduction to the 2nd edition published in 1993.
The book attempts to give a historical account of the development of marxism as a philosophy of science as well as a philosophical account of the issues involved. It encompasses the 1st 100 years of the existence of marxism, beginning with the mid-1840s when the philosophical ideas of Marx and Engels began to emerge in mature form, and ending with the mid-1940s with the dissolution of the Comintern and the end of WW2. It deals with both the mainstream of the marxist tradition in the development of dialectical materialism as a philosophy of science and with diverging currents advocating alternative philosophical positions. It shows the marxist tradition to be far more complex and differentiated than is usually imagined, characterised by sharp and lively controversies for contending paths of development at every step of the way. Essentially this work is about the shifting nexus of science, philosophy and politics within marxism. It examines the multiplicity of factors coming into play, including the impact of new scientific discoveries, new philosophical trends and new political formations upon the overall process. Among the most important philosophical issues arising are: the formation of world view vis-a-vis the process of scientific discovery; the relationship between dialectical materialism and communism; the notion of proletarian science; the concept of the dialectics of nature. As the work is unique, insofar as there is no other history of marxist philosophy of science covering the whole period in question, it abounds in original research and original conclusions. Where there is a body of secondary literature in existence, with respect to specific authors or specific periods, it surveys this literature and takes a specific interpretive position. On a number of matters of ongoing controversy, such as the Marx-Engels relationship and the relationship of the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis on the origin of life to marxist philosophy, a definite position is argued. The overall conclusion reached by the book is that this is a rich and significant history, rooted in the impulse to work out a philosophical world view grounded in the most advanced science of its day and integrally connected to the struggle to revolutionise its social matrix and to create a socialist social order. An audacious enterprise, it generated not only impressive achievements, but also tragic disasters. It is a history with a dark side as well as a bright one. An effort is made to see both in proper perspective.
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