Liberal Ideology and the Politics of the Revolution
The difficulty Marxists have had in explaining the French Revolution is only symptomatic of a more general theoretical problem. While Marxists have made seminal contributions to history -- as historians -- the historical process itself, and its class dynamics in pre-capitalist societies, have so far eluded the practice of Marxist theory. It is only for specifically capitalist societies that a convincing Marxist analysis has been put forward -- and Marx himself provided the analysis.
The problem, as we have seen, is that Marxists have looked to Marx's limited and unsystematic historical observations as a guide to his historical materialism. They are not -- they are qualitatively different from the fully developed social analysis of capitalism in Capital, as is most clearly demonstrated in the case of the French Revolution. Marx's remarks on pre-capitalist history are not merely based upon liberal histories, but they incorporate a significant amount of uncriticized liberal historical ideology. In fact, much of what has been taken to be fundamental to Marx's thought has instead been drawn from an off- shoot -- an offshoot which, unlike his essential historical materialist thought, is directly based on liberal ideological conceptions.
In the chapters which follow, an effort will be made to distinguish between these two contradictory lines of thought in Marx's work; to clarify that it is the criticism of liberal ideology that is central to historical materialism; and finally to elaborate an actual method of historical materialist analysis. Virtually all of
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Publication information: Book title: Rethinking the French Revolution:Marxism and the Revisionist Challenge. Contributors: George C. Comninel - Author. Publisher: Verso. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 104.
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