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Marx's historical theory - Essay Example

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This paper illustrates that in the groundbreaking book, The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels begin with the assertion that class struggles are integral in defining the existing society. This forms the basis of understanding Marx’s concept of history. According to Marx, the outline of history has two dimensions of linear chain events: a consistent progress in class division, created and overthrown in subsequent order, until it reaches a utopian endpoint, or communism. In the book, Marx argues that the history of humans occurs in a teleological order, unfolding to a distinct series of stages, each subsequent to the other. Ultimately, these stages lead to a certain utopian endpoint, which marks the end of the changes and an end to history. In his perception, Marx believed that these scientific laws could allow the prediction of these stages, as the scientific laws governs the progress of history. Class struggle, in Marx’s perception, determines human history. Therefore, the primary reason for historical changes is class animosity. Accordingly, societies are based on antagonism of the oppressed and oppressing classes. Thus, history is definable at any one time by the relationship between the different classes. In other words, the theory seeks to establish the premise of the materialistic methods in relation to humans’ production to satisfy material needs. The satisfaction of human needs give rise to new needs of social and materialistic nature, forming a society that corresponds to the forces of human production development. (Shimp, 2009:7). In this regard therefore, material life determines or conditions social life, thus social explanations emanate from materialism to social forms, and ultimately to forms of consciousness. As production means develops, economic structures or production modes rise and fall. According to Marx, communism may possibly become real as the workers become aware of alternatives, motivating them to initiate reforms. In his reinterpretation of the theory of history by Marx, Gerald Cohen created the development thesis, which states that production forces develop, becoming stronger over time. However, the thesis clarifies that the development is not absolute, but rather a tendency. Together with productively applicable technology and knowledge, these forces are production means(Cohen, 2000:176). The primacy thesis is Cohen’s next thesis. The latter has two important aspects: first, the productive forces level of development may explain the nature of the structure of the economy, and second, the nature of the structure of the economy explains the nature of the superstructure. From these observations, it is evident that Marx believes that the economic structure of a society may explain the nature of societal ideology, such as moral, artistic, philosophical, and religious beliefs within the confines of the society. It is indeed possible for various activities to combine aspects of ideology and superstructure simultaneously. A prime example is religion, which combines both a set of beliefs and institutions. Scholars argue that revolutionary changes occur naturally from the failure of further development of productive forces. At the revolution point, the development of productive forces is fettered. Drawing from the theory, once development fetters in an economic structure, another structure will eventually replace it. It is reasonable that human productivity develops over time, and also that structures of economy only exist insofar as they develop the forces of production, but are ultimately replaced when they fail their duty of development(Stanford). Nonetheless, Marx’s theory of history has come under criticism, primarily for its incoherence, as well as lack of projection and empirical evidence. Criticism There are various forms of criticism against Marx’s theory of history, including claims of incoherence, lack of evidence and projection. These three categories result from the fact that the ...Show more


This research is being carried out to evaluate and present various forms of criticism against Marx’s theory of history, including claims of incoherence, lack of evidence and projection. The paper also explored the arguments put forth by Cohen to defend Marx’s theory of history…
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Marxs historical theory
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