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Karl Marx on History - Dictionary of Arguments

Höffe I 368
History/Marx/Höffe: [Marx](1) begins with the analysis of commodity and money as the factual preconditions and formal elements. He concedes to capital the world-historical task of developing all productive forces of labor. On the other hand, however, it prevents what is indispensable for a truly humane economy: that work or the worker becomes the subject of social processes.
Determinism: Freely borrowing from Hegel's philosophy of history, Marx thinks deterministically. For in his view, the allegedly undeniable "impoverishment of the masses" follows a mechanism that inevitably leads to the self-absorption of capital. In his view, there is a growing concentration of capital, in the course of which more and more owners of capital are expropriated, which should have an obvious consequence: As misery grows, so does the indignation of an ever larger organized labor force.


1. K. Marx Das Kapital Vol. I 1867, Vol. II & II 1885 (= MEW 23-25)

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Gaus I 80
History/Marx/Levine, Andrew: Hegel’s philosophy of history was, of course, the immediate inspiration for Marx’s attempt to make sense of history as such. But Marx broke ranks with Hegel and the entire tradition that his work culminated in by rejecting teleology and, with it, the project of discovering what historical events mean. Marx retained Hegel’s sense of history’s intelligibility; he sought to provide an account of real historical structures and of the direction of historical change.
MarxVsHegel: But, for Marx, history is as meaningless as nature is. Like nature too, it has properties that are independent of investigators’ interests and that are in principle capable of being known. The philosophers of history, Hegel especially, had grasped aspects of real history, but through the distorting lens of their own teleological convictions. Marx set them right, without succumbing to the atheoreticism of contemporary historians.
History/MarxismVsMarx: Western Marxisms, for all their differences, were of one mind in distancing themselves from Marx’s theory of history. The historical materialist orthodoxy of the Second and Third Internationals was, in the eyes of Western Marxists, too fatalistic to pass muster. It failed to accord human agency its due. Its commitment to historical inevitability even seemed to render the very idea of politics otiose. If the end is already given, one can perhaps hasten its coming, but nothing can fundamentally change the ultimate outcome. This, it seemed to them, was a formula for quiescence, for passively awaiting the revolution. But the historical materialism Western Marxists faulted was not exactly the historical materialism Cohen defended. >History/Cohen.


Levine, Andrew 2004. A future for Marxism?“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Marx I
Karl Marx
Das Kapital, Kritik der politische Ökonomie Berlin 1957

Höffe I
Otfried Höffe
Geschichte des politischen Denkens München 2016

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-06-21
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