Marx's theory of history
The Marxist theory of historical materialism claims society as fundamentally determined by the material conditions at any given time - this means the relationships which people enter into with one another in order to fulfill their basic needs, for instance to feed and clothe themselves and their families. In general Marx and Engels claimed to have identified five successive stages of the development of these material conditions in Western Europe. Marx saw history as a series of "inevitable" stages:
First man lived in primitive communist family groups, then a slave society developed - with strong leaders, next came feudalism, then capitalism - Imperialism, he thought was the highest stage of capitalism, next socialism -where all the means of production are owned by the state, and the state works on behalf of the workers, and finally he thought that communism would emerge - this is where there is no longer the need for a state, and all economic and political differences have disappeared. The transition form one stage to the next, he argued, was marked by crises, which caused the collapse of the old order and the emergence of the new. He thought that, even though the stages were inevitable, some countries may begin a new stage of history, and then external factors could stifle their development and they could be put back to the previous stage. Very roughly, cognate with Hegel's schema of the way thought progresses. According to this, an existing paradigm or pattern of thought (the thesis) is challenged by a different interpretation (antithesis). As a resultant of this clash, a new paradigm, more valid than either (the synthesis) emerges. Marx applied this to political and social systems. An existing system was challenged by a revolutionary movement: as a result of the conflict, a new system emerges.
An example: the feudal system (with power held by the landholding and military caste) was challenged by revolutionary movements and revolts of the lower/middle classes. The result was a transfer of power between classes (serfdom died, the commercial classes gained hugely in power and influence) and the development of a mercantilist system followed. In its turn this was challenged . . . and so on, at each stage the development being catalysed by a struggle between classes.
Marx claimed that this pattern was inevitable, and had predictive as well as analytic power. He claimed to be able to foretell future syntheses, in order, until at last there would be a society with no distinction of class, no economic inequality, and hence no incentive for anyone to struggle against it. Perfect equality worldwide would imply the end of politics and of history.
This theory claimed to be scientific, and (Marx thought) would be confirmed by the march of history. Like many other scientific hypotheses, it has been falsified by events. Things do not work so simply. Dialectical
Dialectical materialism is a broad concept usually used to describe the economic and social theories of Karl Marx. It is generally interpreted to mean the history of struggle and conflict for control over material things ("the means of production" in some of Marx's work) among humans. This struggle results in the concentration of economic and social control in the hands of the few (the "bourgeoisie") at the expense of the many (the "proletariat"). Dialectical materialism is the philosophical expression of Marxism and Marxism-Leninism. The name refers to the notion that Marxism is a materialist worldview with a dialectical method. It was developed by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in the mid-late eighteenth century and further elaborated by later Marxist theorists. Dialectical materialism holds that the world, including human beings, is "matter in motion" and that progress occurs through struggle. It follows the Hegelian principle of the philosophy of history, namely the development of the thesis into its antithesis, which is in...
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