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Political Theory: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary and Classic Terms
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Adams, John. Revolutionary Writings of John Adams, ed. C. Bradley Thompson. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000. administration of things Writing in his Anti-Duhring ¨ (1878), part of which was later republished in 1880 as Die Entwicklung des Sozialismus von der Utopie zur Wissenschaft (Socialism: Utopian and Scientific), Friedrich Engels (1820–1895) indicted traditional politics—par- ticularly in the form of the state and attendant legal and governmental institutions—as instru- ments of oppression stemming from deeper subjugation resulting from class conflict over the means of production. The state is but a tool of oppression, wielded on behalf of the ruling eco- nomic class and employed merely as an expres- sion of power. Come the revolution, however, and the resolution of class conflict through the reconciliation of the ownership and the opera- tion of the means of production, and the histori- cal forces of power— namely, political things such as the state—will no longer be necessary and thus rendered obsolete. In reference to uto- pian socialist Claude Henri de St. Simon (1760– 1825), Engels describes a postrevolutionary con- dition wherein ‘‘political rule over men’’ will be converted ‘‘into an administration of things,’’ which amounts to, in Engels’s view, the ‘‘abolition of the state.’’ Later, in the same piece, he writesfamously, ‘‘Assoonas there is nolonger any social class held in subjection.. . .State inter- ference in social relations becomes. . .superflu- ous, and dies out of itself the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of pro- duction. The state is not ‘abolished.’ It dies out.’’ This phrase is also referred to as the ‘‘with- ering away of the state,’’ the state no longer pro- vided with its coercive function, becomes a relic or ‘‘antique’’ of the past, for human beings will no longer need to be ‘‘governed ’’ all that will require our attention is the simple administration of the things that we need to gratify our material needs. The St. Simonian connection is of interest here. St. Simon, an idiosyncratic figure who envisioned a reconstituted human society pat- terned after the industrial factory, was regarded by Engels in Anti-Duhring ¨ as an expansive thinker well ahead of his time, whose encyclo- pedic understanding of humanity exceeded that of his contemporaries, matching even Hegel’s. With St. Simon, according to Engels, we encounter a forthright identification of politics with production, and the foretelling of a ‘‘com- plete absorption of politics by economics’’—a state regarded by Engels to be the end of class antagonism. Engels’s ssociation of his no- tion of the administration of things with St. Simon’s techno-industrial collective reveals a decidedly different concept of social direc- tion, one in which politics is not simply stream- lined and rendered more efficient and responsive to the community, as in the case of public administration, but rather a notion of control that closely reflects the factory image. Such a vision is poised against the ancient notion, stemming from Plato and Aristotle, that political governance is a singular kind of rule, unlike and in most respects superior to direc- tion and management in other endeavors (such as one finds in the household, market, or battle- field). For Engels, political rule is by necessity but an extension of and preservative for class oppression, and thus needs to ‘‘wither away’’ so that a more rational and mechanistic process of administration of resources will be brought forward. Thus, for Engels, the demise of the state and the various aspects of politics and government will usher a new age of rational direction, modeled after the organization of mass industry, and reconciling the production of things with their fair distribution. Hence, the administration of things, in Engels’s estima- tion, will rightly provide a more intelligent and efficient reorganization of society along the lines of a new scientific socialism. Related Entry positivism Suggested Reading Engels, Friedrich. ‘‘Socialism: Utopian and Scien- tific,’’ in Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels, Basic ADMINISTRATION OF THINGS 5