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What is Historical Materialism?

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Jemma Smith 200238427 Criminology and Sociology What is Historical Materialism? Historical materialism can be defined by using certain key elements. These elements include the concept of dialectics, class, base and superstructure. Historical materialism is how the former relate to one another. Dialectics refers to the idea that things are always changing. A thesis is stated, to which there is usually an opposition, therefore and an antithesis is formed. A compromise is then reached known as the synthesis, which in turn becomes the brand new thesis. This continues further, so it can be said that things change and evolve in a spiral. Historical materialism is the theory of dialectics applied to society. Marx's states that in order to survive, humans must have food and shelter- these two elements must be present before a person can survive and progress. To obtain things like food and clothing, according to the way that our society functions, people have to work for them. This is where class distinctions start to arise. ...read more.


2003). Technology develops due to the fact that human needs are never really satisfied. As it advances, the modes of production also change- if for example a job once took six men to complete, the introduction of machinery may mean that only 2 men are needed to complete the same job. This leads to a more efficient economy and therefore a more efficient society. It also leads to a need to redefine class. Marx believes the development of technology directly relates to social organisation- the more advanced technology is, the more advanced society is. "The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society." (Marx, 1859:38, cited in Hughes et al. 2003). This could explain why in the time of Marx there were two clear groups, the bourgeois and the proletariat whereas now class distinctions are not as obvious. Whereas Hegel would have said that humans think independently, Marx says that this is untrue as social class effects how people think. ...read more.


This revolution took place shortly before Marx and Engels were born and could be used to explain much or their theories and beliefs. "What, after all, would Marx and Engels have been had it not been for the French Revolution?" (Kreis, 2000). The Transition form capitalism to communism would occur when the working-class realise that the amount they are paid does not relate to the amount the bourgeois gain in profits from their skills. They find that the money the are given is no longer enough to sustain themselves in the way they were able to previously. Capitalists become greedy as their wealth increases and focus on investing new technology rather than in labour. The working-class would form unions and strike in order to gain higher wages and/or shorter hours. These strikes tend to be ineffective and make very little difference but Marx argues that as the working classes far out number the capitalists, they will unite forming socialist groups and over throw them. In short historical materialism is Marx's development of Hegel's theory of history, dialectics, applied to society to describe the way in which it changes over time. ...read more.

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