Scientific socialism

   One of the preferred terms of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to describe the form of socialism they put forward. This term was particularly used to distinguish Marx’s socialism from the unscientific, utopian socialism of Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and Henri Saint-Simon and their followers. Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (1880) set out this distinction, arguing that the earlier socialists had made the error of conjuring up a vision of socialism in their imaginations and believing that it could be achieved by a moral critique of existing society and an appeal to the good sense and reason of rulers and people without any recognition of the class struggle and the role of the proletariat in the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. Marxism, according to Marx and Engels, involved a rigorous analysis of capitalism, identifying its inherent contradictions and necessary tendencies, from which its inevitable collapse and the possibility of socialism were derived. There is some tension between Marx the scientist and Marx the revolutionary, the critiques of the former seeming to fall into outraged moral condemnations and calls for revolution under the influence of the latter.
   The scientific status of Marxism has been taken seriously by a great many Marxists including Karl Kautsky, Eduard Bernstein, Georgii Plekhanov, Vladimir Ilich Lenin, Nicholai Bukharin, Josef Stalin, Leon Trotsky, Soviet Marxism, Austro-Marxism and Louis Althusser. The exact nature of Marx’s approach has been disputed, and other important Marxists have rejected the scientific label entirely, including Georgii Lukács, Herbert Marcuse, and JeanPaul Sartre.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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