Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings

By Karl Marx; Max Eastman | Go to book overview

PART II
ANALYSIS OF THE MATERIALS

A. THE THEORY OF HISTORY

1. From "The German Ideology"

THE first premise of all human history is of course the existence of living human individuals. The first matter of fact to be established is therefore the bodily organization of these individuals and their relation thus given to the rest of nature. We cannot here, of course, go into the physical constitution of men themselves nor into the natural conditions found by them--the geologic, oro-hydrographic, climatic and other conditions. All historical writing must set out from these natural bases, and their modification in the course of history by the action of men.

We can distinguish men from animals by consciousness, religion, or whatever we like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce the means of life, a step which is conditioned by their bodily organization. In producing their means of life, men indirectly produce their material life itself.

The manner in which men produce their means of life depends first of all upon the nature of the means which they have found and have to reproduce.

The mode of production is not to be considered as being merely a reproduction of the physical existence of the individuals. It is much rather a definite kind of activity of these individuals, a definite way in which they express their lives, one of their definite modes of living. As individuals express their lives, so are they. Therefore what they are coincides with their production, both in the sense of what they produce and how they produce it. Thus what individuals are, depends upon the material conditions of their production. . . .

-8-

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