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Marx on Historical Change & Capitalism

The focal problem for Marx and his followers has been the analysis of capitalism. Marx wanted to penetrate the surface of the system and to discover its concealed essence. Marx determined that the concealed essence of capitalism could be found in its history, and that this essence and history were then preserved in disguise within its existing institutions and beliefs. History thus was the entry point for the study of capitalism. This is the materialist interpretation of history, based on the view that what gives history its meaning is material life, meaning economic forces. From this standpoint, Marx was studying classical political economy, but the method he selected is what married this study to Hegelian philosophy. The dialectical element, derived from Hegel, emerged from the realization that there is extreme tension caused by the unequal relations between the superior and inferior classes within society. The main driving force of historical change is thus seen to be the class struggle, and this is associated with a dialectical view because it reveals a contradiction located within all modes of production, a contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production.

In The Grundrisse, Marx sets forth his views on the method of political economy as a study of material production, and he refers here to individuals producing in society and not to the isolated hunter or fisherman. The further back we go in history, the more the individual appears as dependent, as belonging to a greater whole. Production, he says, is always a reference to production at a definite stage of social development, meaning production by social individuals (222-223). The method of political economy, states Marx, is to conceive of economic categories in terms of their relation to one another in modern bourgeois society, seeing them in a Hegelian tension rather than in the order in which they were historically decisive...

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Marx on Historical Change & Capitalism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:03, February 21, 2024, from