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Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Marxist approach to the study of history - Essay Example

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Strengths and Weaknesses Theory of History Historical Materialism When the common person thinks of history, images of struggle and adversity, triumph and conquest are called to the mind. The average person believes that the story of humanity is one of good versus evil, right against wrong…
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Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Marxist approach to the study of history
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Download file to see previous pages This created an idea which precluded the relevance of morality, created an inherent contradiction in history, and failed to answer the lasting question of humanity: Why does the world operate in the manner in which it does? However, this theory also holds an underlying hope for a utopian, egalitarian society which allows all to live in comfort and safety. The exploration of this theory has lasted throughout decades as the human search for the order of the universe continues. What is Historical Materialism? The basic premise is that we as human beings must labor in order to obtain daily necessities, food, shelter, and clothing. These are undeniable facts of life, Marx proclaims, and when the admission is made that this is true the entire idea of the way we live is turned around. G.A. Cohen in his book, “Karl Marx’s Theory of History”, maintained that the heart of historical materialism is the notion that through the process of history there is “a tendency towards growth of human productive power.” (Cohen, 1978, p 364). Societies and economic structures, said Cohen of the theories premise, rise and fall depending upon their promotion or impediment of that growth (1978). Marx believed, as evidenced in the infamous 1859 Preface to his book A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy that man’s consciousness is dependent upon “societal productions”. These “societal productions” are dependent upon the “modes of production” said Marx. The “modes of production” form the societal structures which are the ways in which all structures, political and economic, are formed. From the arising of these societal and class structures comes dissatisfaction and “the era of social revolution,” according to G.A. Cohen in his book Karl Marx’s Theory of History (1978, p. 364-365). Marx followers, in this manner, seek to disrupt the way in which the common man views change. Change, according to the theory does not arise because of a new “consciousness” but instead societal structures and the natural shift or, change, over time causes the new “consciousness”, and thus, societal upheaval—a revolution. In Cohen’s interpretation of the Marx Theory of History a picture is painted of the image of a cyclical pattern which governs the process of history. In the first stage, production is not powerful enough to produce a surplus, thus there is no basis by which a class system could be formed. There is a classless society, not, according to the theory, because there is some underlying vision of social justice, but because the present circumstances dictate primitive egalitarianism (Cohen, 1978, 364-65). In the second stage, productive power becomes such that there is enough surplus to create an exploiting class, but not enough for “capitalist accumulation”. Producers are not in contractual relationships but instead are submitted to slavery. In the third stage of the cycle, a large surplus occurs and a society turns to capitalism. However, the surplus will continue, according to the theory, until capitalism becomes unsustainable and a “non-primitive communism” emerges, “the modern classless society”. “This” said Cohen “is the story of humankind in my reading of the doctrine…” (Cohen, 1978, p. 364-365) Weaknesses of Historical Materialism This theory, and the implications which it bears, has certain weakness when examined. First, ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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