Meaning of Historical Materialism

What is Historical Materialism:

Historical materialism refers to the doctrine of Marx and Engels according to which changes in the "spirit" of society, expressed in the superstructure, derive from the economic relations of production and not vice versa.

That is, historical materialism perceives historical-cultural changes as a result of the material conditions of life and the class struggle. In this way he opposes the Hegelian conception, according to which history is determined by the spirit.

The foundations of historical materialism are found in the approaches of Marx and Engels, although the term was coined by George Plekhanov.

For historical materialism, social transformations are demarcated by two essential factors: the modes of production and the class struggle, not by ideas.

From this point of view, the outcome of history depends on the economic activity of society. This implies that the modes of production determine the product, that is, they condition political, social and spiritual processes.

For historical materialism, political-economic organization systems, such as capitalism, do not obey a natural evolution but rather a historical-social construction and, therefore, can be questioned and channeled into other models.

Class consciousness and control of the means of production as a resource to question and combat the established order will be a determining factor in this.

It is understood then that historical materialism is at odds both with the models of thought that naturalize social differences, called by them "bourgeois ideologies", and with abstract socialism.

See also:

  • Marxism.
  • Class struggle.
  • Karl Marx.

Characteristics of historical materialism

  • Understand the economy as the basis of social history.
  • Part of the principle that the ideology, values ​​and culture of a society are determined by the production model.
  • Understand that socioeconomic changes do not depend on individual determination.
  • The historical transformation of societies is conceived as a consequence of the forces of production.

Elements of historical materialism

Historical materialism studies the evolution of societies from the following elements:

  1. The structure, made up of the productive forces, the modes and the relations of production.
  2. The superstructure, made up of the institutions and the body of legal and ideological regulations that express the social spirit: State, religion, artistic-cultural apparatus, laws, etc.

From the relationship between these two sectors, historical transformations take place, driven by the tension inherent in the class struggle.

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