Friedrich Engels: biography of this revolutionary philosopher

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) was the German philosopher and politician who founded modern communism with Karl Marx. Some authors consider that the key to understanding Friedrich Engels’ thought is precisely his biography, because it is his youth that has marked much of his work.

So we go a brief review of the biography of Friedrich Engels, And we recall some of his main works and contributions to the philosophical, political and economic thought of the twentieth century.

    Friedrich Engels, biography of a revolutionary

    Friedrich Engels was born on November 28, 1820. He was the oldest of eight siblings and belonged to a family that owned mills in Barmen, in northern Prussia which is now part of Germany, and which had a major industrial development at this time.

    Son of a textile manufacturer, Engels he soon became concerned with the general conditions of the manufacturing industries and the situation of the working class. As an adult, he practiced in this industry, which prompted him to start writing some of his major works.

    Although he was educated in a Protestant family, Engels approached atheistic beliefs. The latter caused him some conflicts with his parents and especially with his mother.

    The same thing happened when he had to drop out of school and his father sent him to work as a clerk in a commercial house. His mother and father expected him to pursue a career in business, just as they had. However, Engels was already developing activities considered revolutionary and encouraging collective organization, Which again disappointed his parents.

    In 1844, he met Karl Marx in Paris, just before settling in England after some failures of the revolutions of the same decade. In fact, during his stay in England, Engels he worked for the textile industry where his father was a shareholder. The latter considered that if Engels worked in this industry, it would perhaps serve to appease the radical teachings which he had received at school.

    Engels continue to work with Marx several years later, Even helped him finance the first volume of his major work: Capital (Das Kapital), in 1867 and provided him with support, as Marx had serious difficulties living independently due to the gamble imposed on him. by large families in power over the economy and politics.

      Most important works and intellectual contributions

      There is a lot of debate about Engels’ relationship with Hegelian philosophy pre-1850, as well as his relations with his working-class capitalist family. He even signed some of his works under the pseudonym Friedrich Oswald, to avoid linking his Protestant and business family to the provocation of his writings.

      Among other things, Friedrich Engels provided very important discussions on certain notions of nationality, military and scientific affairs, industrial operations. And maybe two of his big ones the contributions to the philosophical tradition of the West are historical materialism and dialectical materialism.

      Engels also took a stand against the institution of marriage because he considered it unnatural and unjust. This belief kept her going despite her long relationship with Mary Burns, who also helped her enter the working class of England.

      Several of the observations and notes he made on the British working class provided key information about the terrible working conditions they are going through. From there he also became involved with politicians and journalists with whom he shared radical thoughts for the time.

      It was not until 1845, when he began to formulate with Marx a materialist interpretation of history, in which he proposed the possible consolidation of a communist society. It spread through different groups, mainly the working class, in Germany, France and England.

      Eventually, the Communist Congress in London adopted several of his ideas and allowed him to begin sketching out the principles of communism. Thus the first part of the Communist Manifesto (The Manifest der kommunistischen Partei) was published on February 21, 1848. This text is mainly written by Marx, but includes many Engels definitions of communism.

        Other key texts and important books by Engels

        The first work published by Engels was not an academic text, but a poem titled The Bedouin, which was included in the 1838 edition of Bremisches Conversationblastt.

        His most popular work began in the 1840s, with La Sainte Famille (1844), which was a critique of “young Hegelians”, Which was a very popular academic circle obviously influenced by the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel Hegel. He then published The Situation of the Working Class in England (1845), which contains many of the beginnings of socialism and its development, making it one of the classic texts.

        He later published From Utopian Socialism to Scientific Socialism (1880), in which he criticized socialist utopias and offers an explanation of capitalism of development and social and economic progression understood by historical materialism.

        Finally, he published The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884), in which he contextualized capitalism with the institution of the family. This work was developed in the stage which is considered to be the pinnacle of Engels’ intellectual development, and contains a powerful historical view of the family in relation to the subject of class, gender and private property.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Craver, T. (1990). Friedrich Engels: his life and his thoughts. Macmillan: United States.
        • New World Encyclopedia. (2017). Friedrich Engels. Accessed May 17, 2018. Available at

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