Was Joseph Needham a Marxist?

The short answer is that he was influenced by Marxist theory and ideals but did not allow this to influence his scientific objectivity. He said that he had been an “equalitarian socialist” long before he read any Marxist classics, and reaffirmed that he had adhered to the Christian Socialism of his youth for the rest of his life.

He agreed that he had been influenced by colleagues who embraced a dialectical materialist philosophy, such as J. B. S.Haldane, J. D. Bernal and Roy Pascal. But Needham maintained an independent, “personal non-exclusive” style of thinking. He wrote of his “world view of faith… I combine Marxist thought with the revolutionary Christianity of Rudolph Otto and R. G. Collingwood, and the emergent evolutionism of Lloyd Morgan and Samuel Alexander. Teilhard de Chardin I came to know and admire only after the second world war” (Notes written in 1967).

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