Marx and Engels as anti-historicists

Ed George edgeorge at
Fri Dec 13 08:34:47 MST 2002

Jurriaan: 'Marx does claim to have revealed the "law of motion" of
capitalism, in the sense of discovering its necessary developmental
tendencies, within the European context. But this is not a claim about
history in general, it is a claim about the developmental trajectory of
a specific mode of production.'

Marx: 'The first work which I undertook to dispel the doubts assailing
me was a critical re-examination of the Hegelian philosophy of law; the
introduction to this work being published in the Deutsch-Franzosische
Jahrbucher issued in Paris in 1844. My inquiry led me to the conclusion
that neither legal relations nor political forms could be comprehended
whether by themselves or on the basis of a so-called general development
of the human mind, but that on the contrary they originate in the
material conditions of life, the totality of which Hegel, following the
example of English and French thinkers of the eighteenth century,
embraces within the term "civil society"; that the anatomy of this civil
society, however, has to be sought in political economy. [...] At a
certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society
come into conflict with the existing relations of production or - this
merely expresses the same thing in legal terms - with the property
relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto.
>From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn
into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. [...] In
broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes
of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the
economic development of society. The bourgeois mode of production is the
last antagonistic form of the social process of production -
antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an
antagonism that emanates from the individuals' social conditions of
existence - but the productive forces developing within bourgeois
society create also the material conditions for a solution of this
antagonism. The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this
social formation.'

'Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy'


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