Anti-Dühring by Frederick Engels 1877
Part III: Socialism

V. State, Family, Education

With the two last chapters we have about exhausted the economic content of Herr Dühring’s “new socialitarian system” {D. Ph. 295}. The only point we might add is that his “universal range of historical survey” {D. K. G. 2} does not in the least prevent him from safeguarding his own special interests, even apart from the moderate surplus consumption referred to above. As the old division of labour continues to exist in the socialitarian system, the economic commune will have to reckon not only with architects and porters {500}, but also with professional writers, and the question will then arise how authors’ rights are to be dealt with. This question is one which occupies Herr Dühring’s attention more than any other. Everywhere, for example, in connection with Louis Blanc and Proudhon {D. C. 302; D. K. G. 482-83}, the reader stumbles across the question of authors’ rights, until it is finally brought safely into the haven of “sociality”, after a circumstantial discussion occupying nine full pages of the Cursus, in the form of a mysterious “remuneration of labour” {D. C. 307} — whether with or without moderate surplus consumption, is not stated. A chapter on the position of fleas in the natural system of society would have been just as appropriate and in any case far less tedious.

The Philosophie gives detailed prescriptions for the organisation of the state of the future. Here Rousseau, although “the sole important forerunner” {D. Ph. 264} of Herr Dühring, nevertheless did not lay the foundations deep enough; his more profound successor puts this right by completely watering down Rousseau and mixing in remnants of the Hegelian philosophy of right, also reduced to a watery mess. “The sovereignty of the individual” {268} forms the basis of the Dühringian state of the future; it is not to be suppressed by the rule of the majority, but to find its real culmination in it. How does this work? Very simply.

“If one presupposes agreements between each individual and every other individual in all directions, and if the object of these agreements is mutual aid against unjust offences — then the power required for the maintenance of right is only strengthened, and right is not deduced from the more superior strength of the many against the individual or of the majority against the minority” {268}.

Such is the ease with which the living force of the hocus-pocus of the philosophy of reality surmounts the most impassable obstacles; and if the reader thinks that after that he is no wiser than he was before, Herr Dühring replies that he really must not think it is such a simple matter, for

“the slightest error in the conception of the role of the collective will would destroy the sovereignty of the individual, and this sovereignty is the only thing” (!) “conducive to the deduction of real rights” {268}.

Herr Dühring treats his public as it deserves, when he makes game of it. He could have laid it on much thicker; the students of the philosophy of reality would not have noticed it anyhow.

Now the sovereignty of the individual consists essentially in that

“the individual is subject to absolute compulsion by the state”; this compulsion, however, can only be justified in so far as it “really serves natural justice” {271}. With this end in view there will be “legislative and judicial authority”, which, however, “must remain in the hands of the community” {272}; and there will also be an alliance for defence, which will find expression in “joint action in the army or in an executive section for the maintenance of internal security” {273},

that is to say, there will also be army, police, gendarmerie. Herr Dühring has many times already shown that he is a good Prussian; here he proves himself a peer of that model Prussian, who, as the late Minister von Rochow put it, “carries his gendarme in his breast”. This gendarmerie of the future, however, will not be so dangerous as the police thugs [125] of the present day. Whatever the sovereign individual may suffer at their hands, he will always have one consolation:

“the right or wrong which, according to the circumstances, may then be dealt to him by free society can never be any worse than that which the state of nature would have brought with it” {D. Ph. 274}!

And then, after Herr Dühring has once more tripped us up on those authors’ rights of his which are always getting in the way, he assures us that in his world of the future

there will be, “of course, an absolutely free Bar available to all” {279}.

“The free society, as it is conceived today” {304}, gets steadily more and more mixed. Architects, porters, professional writers, gendarmes, and now also barristers! This “world of sober and critical thought” {D. C. 556-57} and the various heavenly kingdoms of the different religions, in which the believer always finds in transfigured form the things which have sweetened his earthly existence, are as like as two peas. And Herr Dühring is a citizen of the state where “everyone can be happy in his own way”. [126] What more do we want?

But it does not matter what we want. What matters is what Herr Dühring wants. And he differs from Frederick II in this, that in the Dühringian future state certainly not everyone will be able to be happy in his own way. The constitution of this future state provides:

“In the free society there can be no religious worship; for every member of it has got beyond the primitive childish superstition that there are beings, behind nature or above it, who can be influenced by sacrifices or prayers” {D. Ph. 286}. A “socialitarian system, rightly conceived, has therefore ... to abolish all the paraphernalia of religious magic, and therewith all the essential elements of religious worship” {D. C. 345}.

Religion is being prohibited.

All religion, however, is nothing but the fantastic reflection in men’s minds of those external forces which control their daily life, a reflection in which the terrestrial forces assume the form of supernatural forces. In the beginnings of history it was the forces of nature which were first so reflected, and which in the course of further evolution underwent the most manifold and varied personifications among the various peoples. This early process has been traced back by comparative mythology, at least in the case of the Indo-European peoples, to its origin in the Indian Vedas, and in its further evolution it has been demonstrated in detail among the Indians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Germans and, so far as material is available, also among the Celts, Lithuanians and Slavs. But it is not long before, side by side with the forces of nature, social forces begin to be active — forces which confront man as equally alien and at first equally inexplicable, dominating him with the same apparent natural necessity as the forces of nature themselves. The fantastic figures, which at first only reflected the mysterious forces of nature, at this point acquire social attributes, become representatives of the forces of history. *16 At a still further stage of evolution, all the natural and social attributes of the numerous gods are transferred to one almighty god, who is but a reflection of the abstract man. Such was the origin of monotheism, which was historically the last product of the vulgarised philosophy of the later Greeks and found its incarnation in the exclusively national god of the Jews, Jehovah. In this convenient, handy and universally adaptable form, religion can continue to exist as the immediate, that is, the sentimental form of men's relation to the alien, natural and social, forces which dominate them, so long as men remain under the control of these forces. However, we have seen repeatedly that in existing bourgeois society men are dominated by the economic conditions created by themselves, by the means of production which they themselves have produced, as if by an alien force. The actual basis of the religious reflective activity therefore continues to exist, and with it the religious reflection itself. And although bourgeois political economy has given a certain insight into the causal connection of this alien domination, this makes no essential difference. Bourgeois economics can neither prevent crises in general, nor protect the individual capitalists from losses, bad debts and bankruptcy, nor secure the individual workers against unemployment and destitution. It is still true that man proposes and God (that is, the alien domination of the capitalist mode of production) disposes. Mere knowledge, even if it went much further and deeper than that of bourgeois economic science, is not enough to bring social forces under the domination of society. What is above all necessary for this, is a social act. And when this act has been accomplished, when society, by taking possession of all means of production and using them on a planned basis, has freed itself and all its members from the bondage in which they are now held by these means of production which they themselves have produced but which confront them as an irresistible alien force, when therefore man no longer merely proposes, but also disposes — only then will the last alien force which is still reflected in religion vanish; and with it will also vanish the religious reflection itself, for the simple reason that then there will be nothing left to reflect.

Herr Dühring, however, cannot wait until religion dies this, its natural, death. He proceeds in more deep-rooted fashion. He out-Bismarcks Bismarck; he decrees sharper May laws [127] not merely against Catholicism, but against all religion whatsoever; he incites his gendarmes of the future against religion, and thereby helps it to martyrdom and a prolonged lease of life. Wherever we turn, we find specifically Prussian socialism.

After Herr Dühring has thus happily destroyed religion,

“man, made to rely solely on himself and nature, and matured in the knowledge of his collective powers, can intrepidly enter on all the roads which the course of events and his own being open to him” {D. Ph. 407}.

Let us now consider for a change what “course of events” the man made to rely on himself can intrepidly enter on, led by Herr Dühring.

The first course of events whereby man is made to rely on himself is: being born. Then,

for the period of natural minority, he remains committed to the “natural tutor of children”, his mother. “This period may last, as in ancient Roman law, until puberty, that is to say, until about the fourteenth year.” Only when badly brought up older boys do not pay proper respect to their mother’s authority will recourse be had to paternal assistance, and particularly to the public educational regulations to remedy this. At puberty the child becomes subject to “the natural guardianship of his father”, if there is such a one “of real and uncontested paternity” {293, 294}; otherwise the community appoints a guardian.

Just as Herr Dühring at an earlier point imagined that the capitalist mode of production could be replaced by the social without transforming production itself, so now he fancies that the modern bourgeois family can be torn from its whole economic foundations without changing its entire form. To him, this form is so immutable that he even makes “ancient Roman law” {293}, though in a somewhat “ennobled” form, govern the family for all time; and he can conceive a family only as a “bequeathing” {D. C. 291}, which means a possessing, unit. Here the utopians are far in advance of Herr Dühring. They considered that the socialisation of youth education and, with this, real freedom in the mutual relations between members of a family, would directly follow from the free association of men and the transformation of private domestic work into a public industry. Moreover, Marx has already shown (Capital, {Vol. I,} p. 515 et seqq.) that “modern industry, by assigning as it does an important part in the socially organised process of production, outside the domestic sphere, to women, to young persons, and to children of both sexes, creates a new economic foundation for a higher form of the family and of the relations between the sexes”.

“Every dreamer of social reforms,” says Herr Dühring, “naturally has ready a pedagogy corresponding to his new social life” {D. K. G. 295}.

If we are to judge by this thesis, Herr Dühring is “a veritable monster” {261} among the dreamers of social reforms. For the school of the future occupies his attention at the very least as much as the author’s rights, and this is really saying a great deal. He has his curricula for school and university all ready and complete, not only for the whole “foreseeable future” {D. Ph. 1} but also for the transition period. But we will confine ourselves to what will be taught to the young people of both sexes in the final and ultimate socialitarian system.

The universal people’s school will provide

“everything which by itself and in principle can have any attraction for man”, and therefore in particular the “foundations and main conclusions of all sciences touching on the understanding of the world and of life” {284}. In the first place, therefore, it teaches mathematics, and indeed to such effect that the field of all fundamental concepts and methods, from simple numeration and addition to the integral calculus, is “completely compassed” {418}.

But this does not mean that in this school anyone will really differentiate or integrate. On the contrary. What is to be taught there will be, rather, entirely new elements of general mathematics, which contain in embryo both ordinary elementary and higher mathematics. And although Herr Dühring asserts that

he already has in his mind “schematically, in their main outlines”, “the contents of the textbooks” {415} which the school of the future will use,

he has unfortunately not as yet succeeded in discovering these

“elements of general mathematics”;

and what he cannot achieve

“can only really be expected from the free and enhanced forces of the new social order” {D. Ph. 418}.

But if the grapes of the mathematics of the future are still very sour, future astronomy, mechanics and physics will present all the less difficulty and will

“provide the kernel of all schooling”, while “the science of plants and animals, which, in spite of all theories, is mainly of a descriptive character” will serve “rather as topics for light conversation” {416-17}.

There it is, in black and white, in the Philosophie, page 417. Even to the present day Herr Dühring knows no other botany and zoology than those which are mainly descriptive. The whole of organic morphology, which embraces the comparative anatomy, embryology, and palaeontology of the organic world, is entirely unknown to him even by name. While in the sphere of biology totally new sciences are springing up, almost by the dozen, behind his back, his puerile spirit still goes to Raff’s Naturgeschichte fur Kinder for “the eminently modern educative elements provided by the natural-scientific mode of thought” {D. K.G. 504}, and this constitution of the organic world he decrees likewise for the whole “foreseeable future”. Here, too, as is his wont, he entirely forgets chemistry.

As for the aesthetic side of education, Herr Dühring will have to fashion it all anew. The poetry of the past is worthless for this purpose. Where all religion is prohibited, it goes without saying that the “mythological or other religious trimmings” characteristic of poets up to now cannot be tolerated in this school. “Poetic mysticism”, too, “such as, for example, Goethe practiced so extensively”, is to be condemned. Herr Dühring will therefore have to make up his mind to produce for us those poetic masterpieces which “are in accord with the higher claims of an imagination reconciled with reason”, and represent the genuine ideal, which “denotes the consummation of the world” {D. Ph. 423}. Let him not tarry with it! The economic commune can achieve its conquest of the world only when it moves along at the Alexandrine double, reconciled with reason.

The adolescent citizen of the future will not be much troubled with philology.

“The dead languages will be entirely discarded ... the foreign living languages, however, ... will remain of secondary importance.” Only where intercourse between nations extends to the movement of the masses of the peoples themselves would these languages be made accessible, according to needs and in an easy form. “Really educative study of language” will be provided by a kind of general grammar, and particularly by study of the “substance and form of one’s own language” {426-27}.

The national narrow-mindedness of modern man is still much too cosmopolitan for Herr Dühring. He wants also to do away with the two levers which in the world as it is today give at least the opportunity of rising above the narrow national standpoint: knowledge of the ancient languages, which opens a wider common horizon at least to those people of various nationalities who have had a classical education; and knowledge of modern languages, through the medium of which alone the people of different nations can make themselves understood by one another and acquaint themselves with what is happening beyond their own borders. On the contrary, the grammar of the mother tongue is to be thoroughly drilled in. “Substance and form of one’s own language”, however, become intelligible only when its origin and gradual evolution are traced, and this cannot be done without taking into account, first, its own extinct forms, and secondly, cognate languages, both living and dead. But this brings us back again to territory which has been expressly forbidden. If Herr Dühring strikes out of his curriculum all modern historical grammar, there is nothing left for his language studies but the old-fashioned technical grammar, cut to the old classical philological pattern, with all its casuistry and arbitrariness, based on the lack of any historical basis. His hatred of the old philology makes him elevate the very worst product of the old philology to “the central point of the really educative study of language” {427}. It is clear that we have before us a linguist who has never heard a word of the tremendous and successful development of the historical science of language which took place during the last sixty years, and who therefore seeks “the eminently modern educative elements” {D. K. G. 504} of linguistics, not in Bopp, Grimm and Diez, but in Heyse and Becker of blessed memory.

But all this would still fall far short of making the young citizen of the future “rely on himself”. To achieve this, it is necessary here again to lay a deeper foundation, by means of

“the assimilation of the latest philosophical principles”. “Such a deepening of the foundation, however, will not be... at all a gigantic task”, now that Herr Dühring has cleared the path. In fact, “if one purges of the spurious, scholastic excrescences those few strictly scientific truths of which the general schematics of being can boast, and determines to admit as valid only the reality authenticated” by Herr Dühring, elementary philosophy becomes perfectly accessible also to the youth of the future. “Recall to your mind the extremely simple methods by which we helped forward the concepts of infinity and their critique to a hitherto unknown import” — and then “you will not be able to see at all why the elements of the universal conception of space and time, which have been given such simple form by the deepening and sharpening now effected, should not eventually pass into the ranks of the elementary studies... The most deep-rooted ideas” of Herr Dühring “should play no secondary role in the universal educational scheme of the new society” {D. Ph. 427-28}. The self-equal state of matter and the counted uncountable are on the contrary destined “not merely to put man on his own feet but also to make him realise of himself that he has the so-called absolute underfoot”.

The people’s school of the future, as one can see, is nothing but a somewhat “ennobled” Prussian grammar school in which Greek and Latin are replaced by a little more pure and applied mathematics and in particular by the elements of the philosophy of reality, and the teaching of German is brought back to Becker, of blessed memory, that is, down to about a fourth-form level. And in fact, now that we have demonstrated Herr Dühring’s mere schoolboy “knowledge” in all the spheres on which he has touched, the reader will “not be able to see at all” why it, or rather, such of it as is left after our preliminary thorough “purging”, should not all and sundry “eventually pass into the ranks of the elementary studies” — inasmuch as in reality it has never left these ranks. True, Herr Dühring has heard something about the combination of work and instruction in socialist society, which is to ensure an all-round technical education as well as a practical foundation for scientific training; and this point, too is therefore brought in, in his usual way, to help the socialitarian scheme {284, 414}. But because, as we have seen, the old division of labour, in its essentials, is to remain undisturbed in the Dühringian production of the future, this technical training at school is deprived of any practical application later on, or any significance for production itself; it has a purpose only within the school: it is to replace gymnastics, which our deep-rooted revolutioniser wants to ignore altogether. He can therefore offer us only a few phrases, as for example,

“young and old will work, in the serious sense of the word” {D. C. 328}.

This spineless and meaningless ranting is really pitiful when one compares it with the passage in Capital, pages 508 to 515, in which Marx develops the thesis that “from the Factory system budded, as Robert Owen has shown us in detail, the germ of the education of the future, an education that will, in the case of every child over a given age, combine productive labour with instruction and gymnastics, not only as one of the methods of adding to the efficiency of production, but as the only method of producing fully developed human beings”.

We must skip the university of the future, in which the philosophy of reality will be the kernel of all knowledge, and where, alongside the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Law will continue in full bloom; we must also omit the “special training institutions”, about which all we learn is that they will be only “for a few subjects”. Let us assume that the young citizen of the future has passed all his educational courses and has at last been “made to rely upon himself” sufficiently to be able to look about for a wife. What is the course of events which Herr Dühring offers him in this sphere?

“In view of the importance of propagation for the conservation, elimination, blending, and even new creative development of qualities, the ultimate roots of the human and unhuman must to a great extent be sought in sexual union and selection, and furthermore in the care taken for or against the ensuring of certain birth results. We must leave it practically to a later epoch to judge the brutality and stupidity now rife in this sphere. Nevertheless we must at least make clear from the outset, even in spite of the weight of prejudice, that far more important than the number of births is surely whether nature or human circumspection succeeded or failed in regard to their quality. It is true that at all times and under all legal systems monstrosities have been destroyed; but there is a wide range of degrees between the normal human being and deformities which lack all resemblance to the human being... It is obviously an advantage to prevent the birth of a human being who would only be a defective creature” {D. Ph. 246}.

Another passage runs:

“Philosophic thought can find no difficulty ... in comprehending the right of the unborn world to the best possible composition... Conception and, if need be, also birth offer the opportunity for preventive, or in exceptional cases selective, care in this connection” {395-96}.


“Grecian art — the idealisation of man in marble — will not be able to retain its historical importance when the less artistic, and therefore, from the standpoint of the fate of the millions, far more important task of perfecting the human form in flesh and blood is taken in hand. This form of art does not merely deal with stone, and its aesthetics is not concerned with the contemplation of dead forms” {256} — and so on.

Our budding citizen of the future is brought to earth again. Even without Herr Dühring's help he certainly knew that marriage is not an art which merely deals with stone, or even with the contemplation of dead forms; but after all, Herr Dühring had promised him that he would be able to strike out along all roads which the course of events and his own nature opened to him, in order to discover a sympathetic female heart together with the body belonging to it. Nothing of the kind — the “deeper and stricter morality” {D. Ph. 396} thunders at him. The first thing that he must do is to cast off the brutality and stupidity now rife in the sphere of sexual union and selection, and bear in mind the right of ‘the new-born world to the best possible composition‘. At this solemn moment it is to him a matter of perfecting the human form in flesh and blood, of becoming a Phidias, so to speak, in flesh and blood. How is he to set about it? Herr Dühring’s mysterious utterances quoted above give him not the slightest indication, although Herr Dühring himself says it is an “art”. Has Herr Dühring perhaps “in his mind’s eye, schematically”, a textbook also on this subject — of the kind of which, in sealed wrappers, German bookshops are now so full? Indeed, we are no longer in socialitarian society, but rather in the Magic Flute [128] — the only difference being that Sarastro, the stout Masonic priest, would hardly rank as a “priest of the second order” {460} in comparison with our deeper and stricter moralist. The tests ~ to which Sarastro put his couple of love’s adepts are mere child's play compared with the terrifying examination through which Herr Dühring puts his two sovereign individuals before he permits them to enter the state of “free and ethical marriage” {296}. And so it may happen that our “made-to-be-self-reliant” Tamino of the future may indeed have the so-called absolute underfoot, but one of his feet may be a couple of rungs short of what it should be, so that evil tongues call him a club-foot. It is also within the realm of the possible that his best-beloved Pamina of the future does not hold herself quite straight on the above-said absolute, owing to a slight deviation in the direction of her right shoulder which jealous tongues might even call a little hump. What then? Will our deeper and stricter Sarastro forbid them to practice the art of perfecting humanity, in flesh and blood; will he exercise his “preventive care” at “conception”, or his “selective care” at “birth” {396}? Ten to one, things will happen otherwise; the pair of lovers will leave Sarastro-Dühring where he stands and go off to the registry office.

Hold on there! Herr Dühring cries. This is not at all what was meant. Give me a chance to explain!

If the “higher, genuinely human motives of wholesome sexual unions... the humanly ennobled form of sexual excitement, which in its intense manifestation is passionate love, when reciprocated is the best guarantee of a union which will be acceptable also in its result... it is only an effect of the second order that from a relation which in itself is harmonious a symphoniously composed product should result. From this in turn it follows that any compulsion must have harmful effects” {247} — and so on.

And thus all ends the very best way in the best of all possible socialitarian worlds: club-foot and hunchback love each other passionately, and therefore in their reciprocal relation offer the best guarantee for a harmonious “effect of the second order”; it is all just like a novel — they love each other, they get each other, and all the deeper and stricter morality {396} turns out as usual to be harmonious twaddle.

Herr Dühring’s noble ideas about the female sex in general can be gathered from the following indictment of existing society:

“In a society of oppression based on the sale of human being to human being, prostitution is accepted as the natural complement of compulsory marriage ties in the men's favour, and it is one of the most comprehensible but also most significant facts that nothing of the kind is possible for the women” {291-92}.

I would not care, for anything in the world, to have the thanks which might accrue to Herr Dühring from the women for this compliment. But has Herr Dühring really never heard of the form of income known as a petticoat-pension {Schurzenstipendien}, which is now no longer quite an exceptional thing? Herr Dühring himself was once a referendary [129] and he lives in Berlin, where even in my day, thirty-six years ago, to say nothing of lieutenants Referendarius was used often enough to rhyme with Schurzenstipendarius!

* * *

May the reader permit us to take leave of our subject, which has often been dry and gloomy enough, on a note of facetiousness and reconciliation. So long as we had to deal with the separate issues raised, our judgment was bound by the objective, incontrovertible facts, and on the basis of these facts it was often enough necessarily sharp and even hard. Now when philosophy, economics and socialitarian system all lie behind us; when we have before us the picture of the author as a whole, which we had previously to judge in detail — now human considerations can come into the foreground; at this point we shall be permitted to trace back to personal causes many otherwise incomprehensible scientific errors and conceits, and to sum up our verdict against Herr Dühring in the words: mental incompetence due to megalomania.