Engels, Friedrich

Engels, Friedrich frēˈdrĭkh ĕngˈəls [key], 1820–95, German socialist; with Karl Marx, one of the founders of modern Communism (see communism). The son of a wealthy Rhenish textile manufacturer, Engels took (1842) a position in a factory near Manchester, England, in which his father had an interest, where he saw child labor and other examples of the exploitation of workers. In 1844, while passing through Paris, he met Marx, and their lifelong association began. His experiences in Manchester led to Engels's first major book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 (1845, tr. 1887), which attracted wide attention. From 1845 to 1850 he was active in Germany, France, and Belgium, organizing revolutionary movements and collaborating with Marx on several works, notably the Communist Manifesto (1848). The failure of the revolutions of 1848 caused his return (1850) to England, where he lived the rest of his life. He was a successful businessman, and from his income he enabled Marx to devote his life to research and writing.

Engels played a leading role in the First International and the Second International. After Marx's death, Engels edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital from Marx's drafts and notes. The intimate intellectual relationship between Marx and Engels leaves little doubt that there was complete harmony of thought between them, although critics have sometimes questioned their full agreement. Marx's personality has overshadowed that of Engels, but the influence of Engels on the theories of Marxism, and particularly on the elaboration of dialectical materialism, can scarcely be overestimated. Engels's Anti-Dühring (1878, tr. 1934) and The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884, tr. 1902) rank among the fundamental books in Communist literature and profoundly influenced Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Among his other works is The Peasant War in Germany (tr. 1926).

See selected correspondence with Marx, ed. by D. Torr (1942); the collected works of Marx and Engels (50 vol., 1975–); his Socialism, Utopian and Scientific (1883, tr. 1892) and Dialectics of Nature (1925, tr. 1940); R. C. Tucker, ed., The Marx-Engels Reader (1972); biographies by G. Mayer (1936, repr. 1969) and T. Hunt (2009); S. Marcus, Engels, Manchester and the Working Class (1974); J. Sayers et al., ed., Engels Revisited: New Feminist Perspectives (1987); W. O. Henderson, Marx and Engels and the English Workers and Other Essays (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Political Science: Biographies