Marx on Historical Materialism

Gale Research Philosophy Series 1 and 2 (Internet Library Reference Database) ( (2017)
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Marx’s theory of historical materialism seeks to explain human history and development on the basis of the material conditions underlying all human existence. For Marx, the most important of all human activities is the activity of production by means of labor. With his focus on production through labor, Marx argues that it is possible to provide a materialistic explanation of how human beings not only transform the world (by applying the “forces of production” to it) but also transform themselves in transforming the world (by entering into “relations of production” with one another). For Marx, the productive labor of human beings – and the resulting interplay between the forces and relations of production – function together as the engine which drives all historical change and development. By understanding how the productive activities of human beings give rise to the division of labor and class conflict, it becomes possible, according to Marx, to understand how different historical epochs succeed one another, and how the trajectory of human history points towards a communist society within which the division of labor and class conflict will be abolished.

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Michael Baur
Fordham University


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