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Explain the main features of Marx’ theory of history.

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Introduction

Explain the main features of Marx' theory of history The opening words of the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels read `the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles'. Marx believed he had discovered the fact that classes were linked to historical periods and the nature if production. He believed that a series of class struggles and revolutions would eventually lead to a classless society. According to A. Heywood, Marx' philosophy on history `outlines why capitalism is doomed and why socialism is destined to replace it'. Marx' theory of history goes further than this however, as Marx said; `the philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point however is to change it'. He therefore believed his work to be `scientific'. Engels declared that he had uncovered the `laws' of historical and social development in his theory of `historical materialism'. Historical materialism held that material circumstances were fundamental to all forms of social and historical development. It reflected the belief that the `means of production' were the most crucial of all human activity. Marx said that `what individuals are therefore, depends on the material conditions of their production'. ...read more.

Middle

Man having alienated himself from his creative essence, loses all sense of what it is to be human. What Marx did is combine Hegel's dialectic with his own historical materialism. Thus he `turned Hegel on his head', in Engels words, explaining historical change by reference to internal contradictions within each mode of production arising from the existence of private property. He regarded the conflicts in interest of the major social classes as being rooted in the basic economic structure and was the motor force of history. In Marx' theory he divided history into a series of stages, each characterised by its own economic structure, means of production and class system; firstly, the primitive and tribal society where material scarcity created conflict, secondly, slavery where conflict existed between the master and the slave, thirdly, feudalism where conflict existed between landowners and the peasants, and fourthly, capitalism where conflict existed between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. For Marx, all societies where the means of production was owned by a minority, the relations of production are exploitive, as the majority will be forced to work for subsistence pay, while the parasitic minority uses its economic power to appropriate the surplus. ...read more.

Conclusion

The inevitable final stage of history for Marx would be the socialist turning into the communist state, where all were equal and because private property would be removed there would be no need for conflict. The communist state would essentially become the synthesis of history. The transcendence of alienation is brought about by communism, the goal of history and recovery by man of his `natural essence'. People living under a system of communal property, would no longer feel estranged from their fellow citizens or sources of power. Communism would do away with private property in the means of production, as well as all the evils that it creates; class conflicts, inequality, religion, crime, and state repression. In conclusion, with Marx' theory of history nothing is permanent until the communist establishment. As societies productive forces develop, they clash with existing production, or property, which restrict their growth. This `contradiction' provokes a `class war' between those who want to maintain the old relations and those who seek a new order. This conflict is resolved in favour of progress, as new means of production emerge which better suit the development of society's material capacity. Suitable legal and political relationships then grow in response to the altered material situation. ...read more.

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