Marx's Understanding of History

Socialism 2017

August 15, 2017
With Anton Ford

“History does nothing,” Marx and Engels wrote in The Holy Family. “It ‘possesses no immense wealth,’ it ‘wages no battles.’ It is man, real, living man who does all that, who possesses and fights; ‘History’ is not, as it were, a person apart, using man as a means to achieve its own aims; History is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims.” For Marx, history was neither the blind result of accident or a purely predictable law-governed process. This talk will examine a Marxist understanding of history, including the idea that, as Marx said, people make history, but not in conditions that they choose. The structure of any given society is determined by, to quote Engels, “what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in man's better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange.”

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