[Marxism] Engels on 'relative autonomy'

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Sat Apr 22 06:14:36 MDT 2006

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jim Farmelant" <farmelantj at juno.com>
To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Saturday, April 22, 2006 12:57 PM
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Engels on 'relative autonomy'

> On Sat, 22 Apr 2006 12:00:37 +0100 "Ian Pace" <ian at ianpace.com> writes:
>> I have been looking through lots of Engels' late letters on the
>> question of the relative autonomy of art (and science, philosophy,
>> etc.). Plenty of information here on this dialectical formation
>> (arguably made more so by 20th century Western Marxists - Adorno,
>> Gramsci, Althusser, etc.). But I can't find the specific phrase
>> 'relative autonomy' - can anyone direct me to the specific
>> letter/text where Engels uses this phrase, if indeed he does (and
>> point out the German original, if he was writing in German at the
>> time)?
> I don't think that Engels ever used that specific phrase.
> I think that you are confusing Althusser with Engels
> (more about that below).
> What I think that you have in mind is Engels' 1890 letter
> to J. Bloch, where he wrote:
> www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1890/letters/90_09_21.htm
> --------------------------------------
> Louis Althusser in his 1962 essay, "Contradiction and Overdetermination,"
> (www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/works/formarx/althuss2.htm)
> referred to Engels' letter to Boch, in order to support his case
> concerning relative autonomy.
Thanks, I know that letter to Bloch - I just recalled actually seeing that 
phrase attributed to Engels somewhere, but probably that was a 
misattribution, wanted check. So is the word 'autonomy' (or rather Autonomie 
or some other German term) ever used in Marx or Engels' work to indicate 
such a thing? If not, when did the concept first originate - obviously I 
know of Adorno and Althusser, but wondered if there were earlier precedents?


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