Marxism and the Philosophy of Science:

A Critical History

by Helena Sheehan

1st edition 1985 ISBN 0-391-02998-3  
2nd edition 1993 ISBN 0-391-03780-3

Humanities Press International    (456 pages)

The entire book is now available in scanned pdf files below.
Selected sections are in htm files below.
This book has been digitised by google books and it is searchable at

Contents: pdf

Introduction to 1st edition (1985)  pdf

Introduction to 2nd edition (1993)  pdf

Chapter 1 THE FOUNDERS: Engels, Marx & the Dialectics of Nature   pdf

Chapter 2 THE NEW GENERATION: The Marxism of the 2nd International   pdf

Chapter 3 THE SHIFT EASTWARD: Russian Marxism & Pre-Revolutionary Debates  pdf

Chapter 4 THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION: Marxism in Power  pdf
                                            introduction to chapter  Early Years of the Revolution
                                            section on  Lysenko and Lysenkoism
                                            conclusion to chapter Soviet Intellectual Life and the Purges

Chapter 5 THE COMINTERN PERIOD: The Dialectics of Nature Debate  pdf1  pdf2
                                            introduction to chapter  Formation of the Communist International
                                            sections on JD Bernal   JBS Haldane  and  Christopher Caudwell
                                            conclusion to chapter  Fate of the Comintern

Index  pdf

Dedication & acknowledgements  pdf

This book attempts to give a historical account of the development of marxism as a philosophy of science as well as a philosophical account of the issues involved.  It encompasses the 1st 100 years of the existence of marxism, beginning with the mid-1840s when the philosophical ideas of Marx and Engels began to emerge in mature form, and ending with the mid-1940s with the dissolution of the Comintern and the end of WW2.

Marx-Engels-Forum in Berlin

It deals with both the mainstream of the marxist tradition in the development of dialectical materialism as a philosophy of science and with diverging currents advocating alternative philosophical positions.  It shows the marxist tradition to be far more complex and differentiated than is usually imagined, characterised by sharp and lively controversies for contending paths of development at every step of the way.

Essentially this work is about the shifting nexus of science, philosophy and politics within marxism.  It examines the multiplicity of factors coming into play, including the impact of new scientific discoveries, new philosophical trends and new political formations upon the overall process.

Among the most important philosophical issues arising are:  the formation of world view vis-a-vis the process of scientific discovery; the relationship between dialectical materialism and communism; the notion of proletarian science; the concept of the dialectics of nature.

As the work is unique, insofar as there is no other history of marxist philosophy of science covering the whole period in question, it abounds in original research and original conclusions.  Where there is a body of secondary literarature in existence, with respect to specific authors or specific periods, it surveys this literature and takes a specific interpretive position.  On a number of matters of ongoing controvery, such as the Marx-Engels relationship and the relationship of the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis on the origin of life to marxist philosophy, a definite position is argued.

The overall conclusion reached by the book is that this is a rich and significant history, rooted in the impulse to work out a philosophical world view grounded in the most advanced science of its day and integrally connected to the struggle to revolutionise its social matrix and to create a socialist social order.

An audacious enterprise, it generated not only impressive achievements, but also tragic disasters.  It is a history with a dark side as well as a bright one.  An effort is made to see both in proper perspective.

(From the dust jacket of the 1st edition)

jacket of 2nd edition pdf

Marxism and the Philosophy of Science won a Choice award for best academic books of 1985.

To buy this book online, go to: Marxism and the Philosophy of Science : A Critical History : The First Hundred Years

                home page of  Helena Sheehan

                                     Portrait of a Marxist as a young nun
                                     Has the red flag fallen ?
                                     European socialism: a blind alley or a long and winding road ?

Grand narratives then and now: can we still conceptualise history ? 150 years after the Communist Manifesto

Some marxist websites (leading to lots of other marxist websites): E-mail: