Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Marx's Perception of History in The German Ideology: dialectics and capitalism

Marx's Perception of History in The German Ideology: dialectics and capitalism

Karl Marx conceives history as a dialectical progression. This is not a new idea even in Marx's times and it was preceded especially by Hegel who saw history as a course where a thesis meets it antithesis to create a synthesis. But Marx's "The German Ideology" is to a large extent a rebellion against Hegel and his followers. Where Hegel thought that the historical dialectics takes place in human consciousness and in the realm of ideas, Marx thought that shifts in the manner in which people perceive their existence is the result of material, not mental, changes.

According to Marx in The German Ideology, material historical dialectics takes on the form of constant class conflict. Marx argues that human history is the history of the development of means of production and the relations of production subsequently formed. History progresses according to Marx through class conflict, contradictions and clashes which have a dialectical shape. This dialectics dictates human progression to the present time of capitalism.

According to Marx in The German Ideology capitalism is different from any epoch that preceded it in that that it is the final conflicted phase of the historical dialectics. In capitalism, for the first time in history, salaried employs are the central form of relation of production and the worker is no longer the property of the ruling class. Capitalism according to Marx is also new in being global, a fact that will aid it in constantly developing new means of production which will intensify the contradictions that are at the base of capitalism. These contradictions between the new means of production and the old relations of production will eventually bring about a revolution which will abolish classes and private property.

It should be noted that although Marx's philosophy in The German Ideology is highly "social", what in fact he is talking about is individual liberation which according to Marx is only possible is a classless society.

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