Lange, Friedrich Albert (1828–75)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC048-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved March 02, 2024, from

3. Political ideas

Lange’s major political writing is Die Arberiterfrage [The Question of the Worker] (1865a). The common theme between Lange’s theory of knowledge and his political ideas is the will to regards humans as biological and physiological beings, while also preserving their self-determination. For Lange, like every other living being, humans are subjected to Malthus’ law (according to which population can only grow until it reaches the limit of sustainability set by the means of subsistence), and therefore to the struggle for existence, in the Darwinian sense. Nevertheless, unlike other living beings, humans are aware of their condition and hence they can act in such a way to reduce and even overcome the harm caused by the struggle for existence.

For Lange, the problems of the working class in the industrialised world are the modern, economic version of this struggle. Therefore, he criticises the representatives of different political schools for failing to acknowledge the Malthusian–Darwinian relation between means of subsistence and population as the core problem behind all social issues. At the same time, he refuses to sketch the functioning of an ideal future society where the struggle of existence will be completely overcome, since he believes that societies are so complex that they cannot be designed at will. We do not know what the future will be like, but our ability to posit the dignity of human life in the face of a natural selection that requires the death of countless individuals is what fuels progress.

Rather than imagining a utopian society, Lange makes some concrete proposals for the improvement of the working-class condition, such as: the workers must take the lead of the labour movement; they must form associations and cooperatives; they must get involved in the state legislation and administration; they must demand free universal education.

See also: Herbart, Johann Friedrich (1776–1841); Helmholtz, Hermann von (1821–94); Democritus (mid-fifth–fourth century BC); Materialism; Kant, Immanuel (1724–1804); Darwin, Charles Robert (1809–82); Mechanism, in modern philosophy.

Citing this article:
Russo Krauss, Chiara. Political ideas. Lange, Friedrich Albert (1828–75), 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC048-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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