The Materialist Conception of History: A Critical Analysis

The Materialist Conception of History: A Critical Analysis

The Materialist Conception of History: A Critical Analysis

The Materialist Conception of History: A Critical Analysis

Excerpt

Of the numerous theories which, in the course of history, have been put forth to explain the development of mankind and the causal links between the single historical events and changes, one, in our time, has had a greater success than all others. This is the theory enunciated by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, accepted and further developed by their followers. It is commonly called the materialist theory of history or historical materialism, though the name is misleading, and Engels himself proposed to call it the economic theory of history.

According to this theory, economic phenomena and, in the first place, economic production are assumed to be fundamental, while all that we call culture, religion, politics, social and intellectual life are considered as secondary phenomena, determined by the mode of production and the social conditions which are its immediate consequence. It is not the only theory in which the phenomena of man's life and history are traced back to a single group, declared to be basic. Gobineau and his adherents consider race and racial qualities to be the fundamental agency in history; they believe that the destinies of nations as well as those of individuals are in the last resort determined by racial disposition and by the mixture of races, and they are of opinion that this is the only way to understand and to explain the history of man. Hippolyte Taine believed that all individual . . .

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