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Darwin, Marx, Wagner

Nature volume 150, pages 7273 (18 July 1942) | Download Citation



MR. BARZUN is a historian who is especially interested in the political effects of theories of race and class conflicts. He has already published works on “The French Race”(1932), “Race: A Study in Modern Superstition”(1937), and “Human Freedom”(1939). His researches have convinced him that the terrible predicament in which mankind now finds itself is mainly the result of the influence of certain ideas set in motion by three men in the second half of the nineteenth century-including under 'influence' also reactions against them. The three thinkers in question were Darwin, Marx and Wagner. At first sight this may seem a curious combination. The author may appear to have been impressed unduly by his observation that it was in the same year (1859) that Darwin published “The Origin of Species”, Marx his “Critique of Political Economy”, and Wagner completed “Tristan and Isolde”. Whether this was or was not a mere coincidence, Mr. Barzun makes out a plausible case for his view that, in spite of their obvious differences, the three authors expressed and popularized one and the same philosophy, namely, that of mechanistic materialism. Darwin did so in the field of natural science, Marx in that of sociology, Wagner in that of art.

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