Materialism is the basis of his sociological thought because for Marx material conditions or economic factors affect the structure and development of society. His theory is that material conditions essentially comprise technological means of production and human society is formed by the forces and relations of production. It is historical because Marx has traced the evolution of human societies from one stage to another.
Key ideas[ edit ] Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand.
From any given vantage point, a river looks much the same day after day. But actually it is constantly flowing and changing, crumbling its banks, widening and deepening its channel. The water seen one day is never the same as that seen the next.
Some of it is constantly being evaporated and drawn up, to return as rain. From year to year these changes may be scarcely perceptible.
But one day, when the banks are thoroughly weakened and the rains long and heavy, the river floods, bursts its banks, and may take a new course. Hubert Kay, Life Historical materialism builds upon the idea of historical progress that became popular in philosophy during the Enlightenmentwhich contends that the development of human society has progressed through a series of stages, from hunting and gatheringthrough pastoralism and cultivation, to commercial society.
Marx built on this foundation with the assertion that economic processes form the material base of society upon which institutions and ideas rest and from which they derive. Thus, there is the idea that in the capitalist mode of production the behaviour of actors in the market economy means of production, distribution and exchange, the relations of production plays the major role in configuring society.
Historical materialism springs from a fundamental underlying reality of Marxs historical materialism existence: However, production does not get carried out in the Marxs historical materialism, or by entering into arbitrary or random relations chosen at will.
How this is accomplished depends on the type of society. Production is carried out through very definite relations between people. And, in turn, these production relations are determined by the level and character of the productive forces that are present at any given time in history.
For Marx, productive forces refer to the means of production such as the tools, instruments, technology, land, raw materials, and human knowledge and abilities in terms of using these means of production. Writers who identify with historical materialism usually postulate that society has moved through a number of types or modes of production.
That is, the character of the production relations is determined by the character of the productive forces; these could be the simple tools and instruments of early human existence, or the more developed machinery and technology of present age. The main modes of production Marx identified generally include primitive communism or tribal society a prehistoric stageancient societyfeudalismand capitalism.
In each of these social stages, people interact with nature and produce their living in different ways. Any surplus from that production is allotted in different ways. Ancient society was based on a ruling class of slave owners and a class of slaves; feudalism was based on landowners and serfs ; and capitalism based on the capitalist class and the working class.
The capitalist class privately owns the means of production, distribution and exchange e. Marx identified the production relations of society arising on the basis of given productive forces as the economic base of society.
He also explained that on the foundation of the economic base there arise certain political institutions, laws, customs, culture, etc. This superstructure not only has its origin in the economic base, but its features also ultimately correspond to the character and development of that economic base, i.
It is precisely because the superstructure strongly affects the base that the base selects that superstructure. As Charles Taylor puts it, "These two directions of influence are so far from being rivals that they are actually complementary.
The functional explanation requires that the secondary factor tend to have a causal effect on the primary, for this dispositional fact is the key feature of the explanation. According to Marxist theorists[ which? Humans are inevitably involved in productive relations roughly speaking, economic relationships or institutionswhich constitute our most decisive social relations.
These relations progress with the development of the productive forces. They are largely determined by the division of laborwhich in turn tends to determine social class. Relations of production help determine the degree and types of the development of the forces of production, also known as the mode of production.
For example, capitalism tends to increase the rate at which the forces develop and stresses the accumulation of capital. The superstructure —the cultural and institutional features of a society, its ideological materials—is ultimately an expression of the mode of production which combines both the forces and relations of production on which the society is founded.
Every type of state is a powerful institution of the ruling class; the state is an instrument which one class uses to secure its rule and enforce its preferred production relations and its exploitation onto society. State power is usually only transferred from one class to another by social and political upheaval.
The actual historical process is not predetermined but depends on the class struggle, especially the organization and consciousness of the working class. Key implications in the study and understanding of history[ edit ] Many writers note that historical materialism represented a revolution in human thought, and a break from previous ways of understanding the underlying basis of change within various human societies.
As Marx puts it, "a coherence arises in human history"  because each generation inherits the productive forces developed previously and in turn further develops them before passing them on to the next generation. Further, this coherence increasingly involves more of humanity the more the productive forces develop and expand to bind people together in production and exchange.
This understanding counters the notion that human history is simply a series of accidents, either without any underlying cause or caused by supernatural beings or forces exerting their will on society.
Historical materialism posits that history is made as a result of struggle between different social classes rooted in the underlying economic base. In historical explanation, the overall primacy of the productive forces can be understood in terms of two key theses:Historical materialism is the methodological approach of Marxist historiography that focuses on human societies and their development over time, claiming that they follow a number of observable tendencies.
Historical materialism only describes the movement of alienated, life, but Marx views the whole of history as a process of overcoming alienation, and that, for him, is the point of studying it. Relationships of personal dependence (which originally arise quite spontaneously) are the first forms of society.
Dialectical materialism is a philosophy of science and nature developed in Europe and based on the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. At the base of historical materialism and of Marx's view of history is the concept of the "material productive forces." These "forces" are the driving power that creates all historical events and changes.
Marx and historical materialism on MR Online | Karl Marx was a materialist – more than that, he was a historical materialist.
Marxists, in order to establish Karl Marx was a materialist – more than that, he was a historical materialist. Historical Materialism. Central to Marx’s thought is his theory of historical materialism, which argued that human societies and their cultural institutions (like religion, law, morality, etc.) were the outgrowth of collective economic activity.
Marx’s theory was heavily influenced by Hegel’s dialectical method.