Marx's Historical Materialism Essay

2286 Words Mar 31st, 2008 10 Pages
Karl Marx is considered to be one of the most influential thinkers of our age. Born in Germany in 1818, he was greatly influenced by philosophers such as Hegel, Feuerbach & St. Simon. He made an immense contribution to the different areas of sociology- definition of the field of study, analysis of the economic structure and its relations with other parts of the social structure, theory of social classes, study of religion, theory of ideology, analysis of the capitalist system etc. In this essay, we will deal with his contribution to the study of social development or the materialist conception of history.

Marx put forward his conception of historical materialism for the first time in German Ideology in 1845-6. He believed that it was
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Due to the need for centralized irrigation, there existed a strong central government. He commented on the fact that oriental societies were highly resistant to change because of the self-sufficient nature of the village community, while the political scenario was relatively unstable. This hindered the growth of cities, and therefore the division of labour. Inspite of the well-developed state administration, Marx considered it to be a pre-class system because the village had communal ownership of property. The only link with the ruler was through the payment of taxes, and the subjects' relationship with him was largely symbolic and religious. However, Marx's data in this case, provided by missionaries and colonial officials, was inaccurate. Indian scholars such as Srinivas have pointed out that the village community was not entirely self-sustaining & there were opportunities for mobility in the social structure. Another argument advanced by Wittfogel is that the agro-managerial bureaucracy constituted the ruling class in these societies.
The union of several tribes, by agreement or conquest, into a city, results in the formation of ancient society. Marx focuses on the example of ancient Rome, where the class system first came into being due to the ownership of private property by the ruling class. The cities were organized around the military and had an expansionist character because of

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