Skip to main content
Palgrave Macmillan

Friedrich Engels and the Dialectics of Nature

  • Book
  • © 2020


  • Provides a comprehensive overview of the century-long Engels debate
  • Includes text-analysis of Marx’s and Engels’ dialectical terminology
  • Develops a new theoretical practice of reading Engels’ dialectics

Part of the book series: Marx, Engels, and Marxisms (MAENMA)

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this book

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

eBook USD 79.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book USD 99.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Other ways to access

Licence this eBook for your library

Institutional subscriptions

About this book

Reading different or controversial intentions into Marx and Engels’ works has been a common but somewhat unquestioned practice in the history of Marxist scholarship. Engels’ Dialectics of Nature, a torso for some and a great book for others, is a case in point. The entire Engels debate separates into two opposite views: Engels the contaminator of Marx’s “new materialism” vs. Engels the self-educated genius of dialectical materialism. What Engels, unlike Marx, has not enjoyed so far is a critical reading that considers the relationship between different layers of this standard text: authorial, textual, editorial, and interpretational. Informed by a historical hermeneutic, this book questions the elements that structure the debate on the Dialectics of Nature. It analyzes different political and philosophical functions attached to Engels’ text, and relocates the meaning of the term “dialectics” into a more precise context. Arguing that Engels’ dialectics is less complete than we usually think it is but that he achieved more than most scholars would like to admit, this book fully documents and critically analyzes Engels’ intentions and concerns in the Dialectics of Nature, the process of writing, and its reception and edition history in order to reconstruct the solved and unsolved philosophical problems in this unfinished work.

Similar content being viewed by others


Table of contents (6 chapters)


“[This book] provides an extremely knowledgeable account of the debates around Hegel’s dialectics both before and immediately after Engels’s manuscripts were written (1873–86), as well as of the successive editions of Dialectics of Nature and the debates surrounding it since its initial publication in 1925.” (Daniel Gaido, Historical Materialism,, June 25, 2021)

“If we are to realize his aim of conceptualizing what Foster calls the ecological unity between humanity and our natural environment, we should aim to fill in the gaps in Engels’s work along the lines suggested by writers such as Collier, Sean Creaven, Foster, and Sean Sayers. Kangal has made an important contribution to this project and it behooves us to read his work to help overcome the remaining lacunae in Engels’s thought as part of the struggle for a coherent ecological alternative to capitalism’s destruction of our environment.” (Paul Blackledge, Monthly Review, April 1, 2021)

“Kaan Kangal’s new analysis of the creation and reception of Engels’ researches in the natural sciences is welcome. It helps to settle the most obvious misconceptions and false interpretations which have arisen around this posthumous work of Engels.” (Vesa Oittinen, Marx and Philosophy,, December 15, 2020)

“The challenge today remains to develop a theory of knowledge that makes it possible to understand and through practice, change the world in ways that take humanity forward beyond capitalism and the political system that sustains it. Despite its limitations, Kangal’s contribution is welcome as a challenge to develop the content and value of Engels’ work for revolutionary purposes.” (Corinna Lotz, Real Democracy Movement) 

“This book gives a detailed analysis of Engels’ Dialectics of Nature and the fullest and best account that I have seen of the controversies that have swirled around it and Engels’ philosophy more generally. It covers debates in the English, German and Russian literature. Remarkably comprehensive. A unique and invaluable resource.” (Sean Sayers, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Kent, UK)

“Why has a text on philosophy and the natural sciences written in the 19th century generated so much controversy for so many decades? Kaan Kangal surveys the battlefield in a thorough, lively and insightful way. He takes on those who have been there before him and puts forth his own fresh perspective on it all.” (Helena Sheehan, Emeritus Professor, Dublin City University, Ireland)

“Kaan Kangal’s book is an indispensable resource for understanding and evaluating Frederick Engels’ philosophy of nature, his views about dialectics, and their relation to Marx’s ideas. The heart of the book is a deep exploration of Engels’ intentions, arguments, ambiguities and contradictions, as expressed in his unfinished Dialectics of Nature, a ‘book’ assembled and reassembled by others. Especially valuable are Kangal’s account of Engels’ different, overlapping projects and his complex relationships with Hegel, Kant and Aristotle.” (Thomas Weston, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, San Diego State University, USA)


Authors and Affiliations

  • Nanjing University, Nanjing, China

    Kaan Kangal

About the author

Kaan Kangal is Associate Professor at the Center for Studies of Marxist Social Theory, Department of Philosophy, Nanjing University, China.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Friedrich Engels and the Dialectics of Nature

  • Authors: Kaan Kangal

  • Series Title: Marx, Engels, and Marxisms

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Religion and Philosophy, Philosophy and Religion (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-34334-7Published: 28 January 2020

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-34337-8Published: 28 January 2021

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-34335-4Published: 27 January 2020

  • Series ISSN: 2524-7123

  • Series E-ISSN: 2524-7131

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XVI, 213

  • Topics: Political Philosophy, Political Theory

Publish with us