Marxism and the Philosophy of Science

Marxism and the Philosophy of Science:A Critical History

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A masterful survey of the history of marxist philosophy of science. Now with a new afterword.

Skillfully deploying a large cast of characters, Sheehan retraces the development of Marxist philosophy of science through detailed and highly readable accounts of the debates that have characterized it. Approaching Marxism from the perspective of the philosophy of science, Sheehan shows how Marx's and Engel's ideas on the development and structure of natural science had a crucial impact on the work of early twentieth-century natural philosophers, historians of science, and natural scientists.

From the ideas of Marx and Engels, those of the Marxist theoreticians of the Second International to the debates within Russian Marxism up to World War II, Sheehan masterfully surveys the history of marxist philosophy of science, concluding with a close analysis of the development of the debate among non-Soviet Marxists, placing particular emphasis on the contributions of leading British Marxists in the 1930s.


  • A singular achievement. Sheehan is masterful in her presentation of the dialectics of nature debates, which begin with Engels and recur throughout the periods covered by this book.

    Science and Society
  • Sheehan’s history is a remarkably effective combination of solid scholarship and engaging writing. Any reader who is led by the title of this book to expect a ponderous study of a technical branch of Marxist philosophy is in for a pleasant surprise. For Sheehan’s prose is lively and full of feeling, and she approaches the philosophy of science not as a narrow specialty but as the key to understanding and appraising the many different turns taken by Marxist thinkers in the doctrine’s first hundred years.

    Slavic Review
  • Sheehan’s book remains the single best secondary analysis of the debates over Marxist philosophy of science from its creation in the late nineteenth century ... until the close of World War II. It is an indispensable reference to the polyglot efflorescence of dialectical materialist thought across Europe, with especial emphasis on writings in German, Russian, and English, though she impressively ventures even farther afield. It is essential reading for anyone interested in these questions.

    Marx & Philosophy