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Marx and Engels on the Scottish highlands

Davidson, Neil (2001) Marx and Engels on the Scottish highlands. Science and Society, 65 (3). pp. 286-326. ISSN 0036-8237

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Abstract

Marx's and Engels' writings on the Scottish Highlands are of interest both in their own right and as an index of their changing positions on progress in societies faced with capitalist development. Marx and Engels tend to be either blamed for an economic determinism which retrospectively makes them complicit in the Clearances, or praised for adopting a political voluntarism in which Highland clan society could have been the basis for the transition to socialism. Neither interpretation accurately reflects their actual position and both draw a false distinction between Marx and Engels. In fact, discrepancies between the two men only occur because they were dealing with different epochs in Highland history, between which class relations had fundamentally changed. Although their writings on the Highlands are marred by empirical errors concerning the nature of clan society and (initially) by use of the flawed category of ?non-historic peoples,? overall they display powerful understanding of the contradictory impact of bourgeois society on the last precapitalist region of Britain.