A report on Historical materialism

A caricature drawn by Engels of Max Stirner, whose 1844 work The Unique and its Property prompted Marx and Engels to theorize a scientific approach to the study of history which they first laid out in The German Ideology (1845) along with a lengthy rebuttal of Stirner's own critique of socialism
Scenes from the tomb of Nakht depicting an agricultural division of labour in Ancient Egypt, painted in the 15th century B

Karl Marx's theory of history.

- Historical materialism
A caricature drawn by Engels of Max Stirner, whose 1844 work The Unique and its Property prompted Marx and Engels to theorize a scientific approach to the study of history which they first laid out in The German Ideology (1845) along with a lengthy rebuttal of Stirner's own critique of socialism

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Photograph of Marx taken by John Mayall in 1875

Karl Marx

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German philosopher, critic of political economy, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

German philosopher, critic of political economy, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

Photograph of Marx taken by John Mayall in 1875
Marx's birthplace, now Brückenstraße 10, in Trier. The family occupied two rooms on the ground floor and three on the first floor. Purchased by the Social Democratic Party of Germany in 1928, it now houses a museum devoted to him.
Jenny von Westphalen in the 1830s
Friedrich Engels, whom Marx met in 1844; the two became lifelong friends and collaborators.
The first edition of The Manifesto of the Communist Party, published in German in 1848
Marx with his daughters and Engels
Marx and Engels in the printing house of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. E. Capiro, 1895.
The first volume of Das Kapital
Marx photographed by John Mayall, 1875
Marx in 1882
Jenny Carolina and Jenny Laura Marx (1869): all the Marx daughters were named Jenny in honour of their mother, Jenny von Westphalen.
Tomb of Karl Marx, East Highgate Cemetery, London
A monument dedicated to Marx and Engels in Shanghai, China
Outside a factory in Oldham. Marx believed that industrial workers (the proletariat) would rise up around the world.
Karl Marx Monument in Chemnitz (known as Karl-Marx-Stadt from 1953 to 1990)
CPI(M) mural in Kerala, India
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels monument in Marx-Engels Forum, Berlin-Mitte, Germany
Karl Marx statue in Trier, Germany
Map of countries that declared themselves to be socialist states under the Marxist–Leninist or Maoist definition between 1979 and 1983, which marked the greatest territorial extent of socialist states

Employing a critical approach known as historical materialism, Marx predicted that capitalism produced internal tensions like previous socioeconomic systems and that those would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system known as the socialist mode of production.

Mode of production

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Inherently in conflict with the progressive development of the productive capabilities of human beings.

Inherently in conflict with the progressive development of the productive capabilities of human beings.

This comprises what Marx termed the materialist conception of history (see also materialism) and is in contrast to an idealist analysis, (such as that criticised by Marx in Proudhon), which states that the fundamental driving force behind socioeconomic change are the ideas of enlightened individuals.

Relations of production

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Relations of production (Produktionsverhältnisse) is a concept frequently used by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their theory of historical materialism and in Das Kapital.

Means of production

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Term which can encompass anything which can be used to produce products (such as: goods or services); however, it can also be used with narrower meanings, such as anything that is used to produce products.

Term which can encompass anything which can be used to produce products (such as: goods or services); however, it can also be used with narrower meanings, such as anything that is used to produce products.

To the question of why classes exist in human societies in the first place, Karl Marx offered a historical and scientific explanation that it was the cultural practice of ownership of the means of production that gives rise to them.

Productive forces

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Productive forces, productive powers, or forces of production (German: Produktivkräfte) is a central idea in Marxism and historical materialism.

Ludwig Feuerbach

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German anthropologist and philosopher, best known for his book The Essence of Christianity, which provided a critique of Christianity that strongly influenced generations of later thinkers, including Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Engels, Richard Wagner, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

German anthropologist and philosopher, best known for his book The Essence of Christianity, which provided a critique of Christianity that strongly influenced generations of later thinkers, including Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Engels, Richard Wagner, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Ludwig Feuerbach

His thought was influential in the development of historical materialism, where he is often recognized as a bridge between Hegel and Marx.

The Pyramid of Capitalist System is a simple visualization of class conflict.

Class conflict

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Political tension and economic antagonism that exists in society because of socio-economic competition among the social classes or between rich and poor.

Political tension and economic antagonism that exists in society because of socio-economic competition among the social classes or between rich and poor.

The Pyramid of Capitalist System is a simple visualization of class conflict.
Truck drivers fight the police in the course of the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934
Heads of aristocrats on pikes
Farmer confronting landlord during Mao Zedong's mass purging of landlords
This 6th century Athenian black-figure urn, in the British Museum, depicts the olive harvest. Many farmers, enslaved for debt, would have worked on large estates for their creditors.
Tiberius Gracchus
Coriolanus, Act V, Scene III. Engraved by James Caldwell from a painting by Gavin Hamilton
The Secession of the People to the Mons Sacer, engraving by B. Barloccini, 1849
Rousseau by Maurice Quentin de La Tour, 1753
Karl Marx, 1875
Noam Chomsky, 2004
Jobless black workers in the heat of the Philadelphia summer, 1973
The rebellion of György Dózsa in 1514 spread like lightning in the Kingdom of Hungary where hundreds of manor-houses and castles were burnt and thousands of the gentry killed.

Marx's theory of history proposes that class conflict is decisive in the history of economic systems organized by hierarchies of social class such as capitalism and feudalism.

Slave beating in ancient Egypt

Social class

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Set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification that occur in a class society, in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.

Set of concepts in the social sciences and political theory centered on models of social stratification that occur in a class society, in which people are grouped into a set of hierarchical social categories, the most common being the upper, middle and lower classes.

Slave beating in ancient Egypt
Burmese nobles and servants
Nigerian warriors armed with spears in the retinue of a mounted war chief. The Earth and Its Inhabitants, 1892
A symbolic image of three orders of feudal society in Europe prior to the French Revolution, which shows the rural third estate carrying the clergy and the nobility
In the United States the lowest stratum of the working class, the underclass, often lives in urban areas with low-quality civil services
Equestrian portrait of Empress Elizabeth of Russia with a Moor servant

Within academia, two broad schools of definitions emerge: those aligned with 20th-century sociological stratum models of class society and those aligned with the 19th-century historical materialist economic models of the Marxists and anarchists.

Cover of the first edition

Karl Marx's Theory of History

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Cover of the first edition
Cover of the first edition

Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defence is a 1978 book by the philosopher G. A. Cohen, the culmination of his attempts to reformulate Karl Marx's doctrines of alienation, exploitation, and historical materialism.

1988 Prometheus Book edition

The German Ideology

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Originally a set of manuscripts written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels around April or early May 1846.

Originally a set of manuscripts written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels around April or early May 1846.

1988 Prometheus Book edition
The first page of the manuscript

The first part of the book is an exposition of Marx's "materialist conception of history", though recent research for the new Marx Engels Gesamtausgabe (MEGA) indicates that much of the 'system' in this part was created afterwards by the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow in the 1930s, from the set of manuscripts written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.