Divergent Paths: Hegel in Marxism and Engelsism

Divergent Paths is the first volume of a planned forthcoming three-volume work. Its purpose is to explore the relationship between Hegel and Marx; to define the relationship between Hegel and Engels; and to distinguish between the theories of Marxism and Engelsism. Marx used Feuerbach towards the critique and ultimate transformation of Hegel’s phenomenology and humanism. This transformation, which cut out Hegel’s idealism by identifying the environment in which people produced their sustenance as the subject of history, marks the genesis of historical materialism. Marx continued to use Hegel’s logical categories.

In chapter three of Divergent Paths, Norman Levine conducts an in depth study of Marx’s 1841 doctoral dissertation, The Difference Between Democritus’ and Epicurus’ Philosophy of Nature. It is the center of gravity and controversy of Levine’s study. Placed alongside Hegel’s Philosophy of History, Levine isolates the categories Marx appropriated from Hegel to show, conclusively, that Marx was not a dialectical materialist. Levine then claims that Engels totally distorted the Hegelian legacy, and this debasement is enshrined in his 1887 essay “Ludwig Feuerbach and The End of Classical German Philosophy“. Levine proceeds to locate Marxism as the theory of Marx, and Engelsism the theory of Engels. According to Levine, both embodied a separate view of history and society, and their contradictions are expressive, in part, of their divergent receptions of Hegel.

Divergent Paths updates and further develops intellectual issues first raised in The Tragic Deception (1975) and Dialogue Within the Dialectic (1984). The present volume approaches these issues through close reading of the relationship to Hegel not only of Marx and Engels, but of major 20th century Marxists or theorists of Marxism from Lukacs to Roemer. Levine seeks once again to “de-Hegelianize” Marxism by placing history and human activity at the center of Marxist theory and politics. The issues of philosophy and method he takes up are abstract, but nevertheless provide a necessary point of departure for any effort to confront the contemporary crisis of Marxism.

—Arif Dirlik, University of Oregon

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