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Marx, Engels and ‘Marxist history’. Does the study of history need Marx and Engels?

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Presentation on theme: "Marx, Engels and ‘Marxist history’. Does the study of history need Marx and Engels?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Marx, Engels and ‘Marxist history’

2 Does the study of history need Marx and Engels?

3 Lecture structure 1. Biographies 2. Ideas: early writing 3. Ideas about history, economics, politics 4. Uses of Marx’s ideas: politics, history writing

4 Marx the man One of the most influential thinkers of all time German (1818-1883), but… Bourgeois background PhD 1841 on Epicurus- Democritus Radically critical in his journalism - newspapers banned Political exile in Belgium and France, then London from 1849 until death

5 Engels the man Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) German, lived England Marx and Engels met Paris 1844 Life-long friends, political comrades Engels contributed to Marx’s support Marx with his wife Jenny, daughters Laura and Eleanor, and Engels When Engels died in 1895 he left a large portion of his estate to Marx’s two daughters back left

6 Marx’ ideas: early writing Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, 1844 German Ideology, 1845 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts Unpublished by Marx Alienation Human nature Communism: provides solution to alienated labour; can allow true individuality to flourish ‘In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic’ – German Ideology, 1845

7 Ideas about history Found in wide variety of his writings, e.g.: Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts, 1844 The German Ideology, 1845 The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852 Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, 1859 Capital, Vol. 1, 1867 ‘Materialist conception of history’ – aka ‘historical materialism’ or ‘dialectical materialism’ Central understanding of human history gained from studying productive activities: ‘the relations of production’

8 Economic base – relations of production – primary motor in society. Superstructure - all ideas, politics, culture determined by ‘base’ ‘It is not consciousness that determines existence, but social existence that determines consciousness’ – Marx & Engels, The German Ideology, 1845 Class - basic social groups with shared relationship to the means of production – class relations fundamental to historical change ‘The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles’ – Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848

9 History the creation of labouring people: ‘Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past’ – The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852

10 The phases of history 1.Primitive communism 2.Slave society 3.Feudalism 4.Capitalism Surplus value which provided the capitalist’s profits The immiseration thesis 5. Socialism 6. Communism Industrial Workers of the World poster (1911)

11 Political ideas Revolution - needed to abolish class and the state When and where dependent on historical circumstances Democratic bourgeois revolution against anti-capitalist forces necessary for development of proletariat and eventual revolution – capitalism a necessary phase Proletarian revolution would transform politics, economics and society Communist Manifesto, 1848 – only proletariat could make revolution 1882 preface to Russian edition of Communist Manifesto - considered possibility that Russian peasant society might go directly to revolution without Capitalist phase Violence not inevitable; should be used when needed Post revolutionary society?

12 Marx applied: politics Growth of later 19thc socialist parties Russian Revolution 1905 Russian Revolution 1917, Lenin and Trotsky Chinese Revolution 1949, Mao 20th century and the influence of the great divide It’s the economy, stupid’

13 So… Do historians need Marx?

14 Marx applied: history Marxist ideas based on scientific certainty. Marxist historians base their approach to history on historical materialism; nb role of political engagement. Example: Georges Lefebvre (1874-1959) on the French Revolution Coined the term ‘history from below’ The Coming of the French Revolution (1939, English Trans 1947) – widely recognized in English- speaking world; repressed by Vichy régime La Révolution Française (revised en 1951) – published in English in 2 volumes 1962-64 The Great Fear of 1789, 1932, English translation 1973

15 British Marxist School Maurice Dobb (1900-1976) – transition from feudalism to capitalism Rodney Hilton (1916-2002) – class struggle, feudalism and the peasantry Christopher Hill (1912-2003) – the 17thc English Revolution as a bourgeois revolution and a defeated democratic revolution Eric Hobsbawm (1917 - ) – workers, peasants, class struggle and world history E. P. Thompson (1924-1993) – class consciousness and the making of the English working class See: Harvey J. Kaye (1984, 1995) The British Marxist Historians, Basingstoke: Macmillan

16 The case against… Follow-up reading – Tosh 5 th edn. pp. 226- 240: ‘The case against Marxist history’.

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