Historical Materialism

Historical Materialism

Historical Materialism

Historical Materialism


An introduction to the mode of production, explains a social order's base and superstructure, people as decisive in social development, classes and class struggle, the state, revolutionary change, social consciousness.


Marx and Engels revealed the dialectical-materialist character of development not only of nature but also of society, creating thereby the only scientific theory of social development, historical materialism. We shall now explain what historical materialism is.

First of all, let us ascertain the nature of the revolution made by Marxism in social theories.

1. The Rise of Historical Materialism-- a Revolution in Social Theories

Thinkers long ago pondered over questions about society. How does human society develop? What are its driving forces? Are the changes in society accidental or are they dictated by necessity, by objective laws? If society's development is causally conditioned, what is the chief cause, the foundation of social life? It was natural that these and many similar questions arose. Man lives in society, is bound to it by countless threads, and cannot but take an interest in the fate of society, the ways in which it develops.

Many correct ideas about social development were expressed by scholars even before Marxism. The French 18th-century materialists, for example, asserted that man, his views and behaviour are a result of the influence of social environment. French bourgeois historians (Guizot, Thierry, Mignet) pointed to the existence of opposite classes and the class struggle in society. The British bourgeois economists (Smith and Ricardo) tried to find in economic life a basis for the existence of classes. The Utopian Socialists (Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen) anticipated individual features of future communist society.

A big contribution to the theory of social development was made by Belinsky, Herzen, Chernyshevsky and other Russian revolutionary democrats of the 19th century. Their ideas about the role of economic life in social development, about the people as the makers of history, the irreconcilability of the class interests of the exploited and the exploiters, the class character of philosophy, literature, art, and so on, were profound for their time.

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