As we all know the philosophy of Karl Marx, who is the renowned founder of the Marxist or Communist school of thought. Karl Marx is a thinker who insisted that philosophy should not be a mere theoretical exercise. Instead, it should make changes in the way people live by abolishing exploitation, disparities and social inequalities. To present his view he proposed a conception of history, the materialist conception, which primarily addressed the problem of human alienation and sought to find solutions to the problem. He conceived human history as a history of class conflicts and proposed a classless society, where the conflicts would be ultimately resolved along with all the fundamental philosophical problems human beings encounter. In order to overcome the problem of human alienation, Marx proposes to change the world and identifies ways to materialize this. The materialist conception of history outlines the fundamental problematic and the way out.
For Marx, it is important to understand that human reality is essentially historical and is driven by material forces. Historical materialism is an attempt to explain the origin and development of the society from a materialistic perspective. It deals with the most general laws of social development, where it identifies material forces playing crucial roles in the formation and evolution of human societies. The most important aspect of social reality is the economic structure of a particular society; the ways in which different groups of people are related to economic resources of the society and their respective production relationships.
The materialistic conception of history opposes the idealistic understanding of history and endeavours replacing it with a scientific and materialist understanding.
After understanding this, I have both sides of the concept. The historical materialism asserts that economic forces are the primary forces that propel man through history as social classes interact. Economic interactions are how man relates to the material world. He has to labour in order to survive. Labour physically changes the world, causing the economic forces to develop as man is able to gain more and more control over his environment. For example, farmers at one point used animal-driven plows to plant crops in order to make a living. Eventually, tractors that performed the same task as animals, but much more efficiently, were developed and gave farmers greater control of their environment. The tractor was simply a development in the economic forces. As economic forces develop, class struggles become more intense. Class struggles provide the contradiction that causes the dialectical process to work in Marx’s theory. Two classes, ruling and lower, struggle against each other until one eventually wins and becomes the new ruling class. From this new ruling class, another lower class will develop, continuing the process. Marx and Engels clearly declare the importance of classes in history with the first sentence of the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles”
Classes develop due to the conflict between the productive forces and productive relations. The productive forces and productive relations do not have a dialectical contradiction. The contradiction is only present between the ruling and lower classes. Between the productive forces and relations of production exists only a conflict and the presence of conflict does not mean the presence of contradiction by the dialectical definition. The conflict between the productive forces and the relations of production only provide the basis by which classes develop.
The productive forces are always changing and improving. As man labours in the world, the division of labour grows and man finds new and better ways to master his environment. This improvement will benefit the lower class because with greater control of the environment comes a greater capability of obtaining beneficial resources. The ruling class, however, is in an advantageous position and would like the status quo to remain. The current relations of production and superstructure of the society exist to serve the will of the ruling class. The ruling class determines the distribution of goods within the society and they have no desire to change the relations of production.
The lower class, on the other hand, is not content with the current situation and would like to take advantage of the ever-improving productive forces. The ruling class prevents this from happening. This contradiction of classes culminates in social revolution. The lower class overthrows the ruling class and forms new relations of production that are better suited to work with the productive forces. The superstructure changes with the relations of production and the new relations of production and superstructure serve the interests of the new ruling class. The new thesis will stay in existence until the productive relations and productive forces are again no longer compatible. The incompatibility will cause another lower class to form in contradiction to the upper class, beginning the antagonism all over again. Within every mode of production lies its own downfall.
In contrast, I would also disagree with fully supporting this theory. First of all, it only explains in simpler terms about the implication in which money is the root cause of all the problems. Yes, it is a major problem but not to be blamed entirely. Secondly, Marx and Engels have stated the facts only from a proletariat point of view, which majorly is the reason why the implication is not successful and based on this, Utilitarianism is formed (considering that the greatest good for the majority of people), leaving behind the minority. Materialistic implication of history has gone through phases of production like Asiatic, ancient, feudal and capitalist, whereby money has mattered but also there has been development in the living conditions of individuals. They do not face serious issues like the proletariat during Marx’s time.
Therefore, productive forces have gradually improved and as they have improved, a shift in the general outline of society has occurred in order to better suit the productive forces. Whether this flow will end in communism or whether class antagonisms underlie all historical struggles is irrelevant. The presence of a flow based on developing productive forces is what matters and what gives historical materialism its validity.
Even though historical materialism has taken its shots, it still remains a solid theory due to its ability to explain the overall flow and outline of the past. The transitions from one mode of production to another are evident. Each mode has built upon the previous and man has slowly drifted toward a better way of creating a livelihood. Historical materialism cannot be considered literally. It cannot explain all of history. It can only explain the general outline. If this moves historical materialism into the realm of dogma as some have argued, then so be it. That does not take away the strengths of the theory when considered as a general guideline for studying the past.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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