Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Marx As the "Darwin of History"



In his 1888 Preface to The Communist Manifesto, Frederick Engels attributes to Marx a “proposition which, in my opinion, is destined to do for history what Darwin’s theory has done for biology[.]” This proposition is as follows:
[I]n every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiters and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes; that the history of these class struggles forms a series of evolutions in which, nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class -– the proletariat –- cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class –- the bourgeoisie -– without, at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions and class struggles.

7 comments:

- D.Z. - said...

Amazing proposition, and I do agree it will be one such significantly etched in history, what with all the contributions these men made towards the theoretical and analytical arenas of society and politics. Presence of systems concerning class and racial ideologies within our American culture has always unbalanced standards of equity, and ways of reform always seem difficult to contemplate. Each system always has its pros and cons, praises and criticisms. Nevertheless, Marx and Engels provided some great insight for people from all backgrounds to dwell over, especially the incoming generations.

Kerri Chen said...

The notion that there must always be a 'winner' and a 'loser' in a society is one that is accepted in many forms.To propose that this is a never-ending cycle in the capitalist system is quite reasonable; the very premise of competition is based upon "survival of the fittest". How does this proposition make its mark on the history of history in a way that is comparable to that of Darwin's contribution to biology? I would propose that it simply draws attention to the proposed fact that capitalism is an uninterrupted cycle of class struggles- which in turn warns against the efficiency of such a system. The proposition also says that the proletariat cannot emancipate itself without "emancipating society at large from all exploitation..." which I interpret as Marx stating there will always be a 'loser' unless the system provides for every individual equally.

Eric Gentry said...

To rid ourselves from conserism and capitalism, we must destroy all that is. We cannot pass laws banning guns, and rid ourselves of all government and military's in the state of which we live. We (USA) have done so much destruction across the globe that we alone cannot undo by ridding our 'police'from power. The global exploited must overthrow the ruling powers of the world to save ourselves from the destruction from tyranny and global dictatorship.

Leah Daoud said...

@Kerri, I'm so glad you mentioned survival of the fittest! After reading more of Marx's works for this class, I haven't been able to shake the idea that capitalism is the natural progression of evolution. Humans are inherently selfish and it would seem to me that the accumulation of wealth, no matter how unethically it is done, is a necessary step to becoming the most attractive mate/alpha dog - which is absolutely characteristic of evolution.

If so, wouldn't that make communism entirely unnatural?

AC said...

@Leah Hate to open a can of worms, but where do you draw the line between self-interest and "selfishness/greed"? There are plenty of people who would say the evolution is devoid of morality (right vs. wrong) - actions are/were performed as a matter of biological need. I do see the similarities between capitalism and evolution, but for some reason the former seems to carry a bit of a moral/ethical weight to it, especially in light of all these theories about it (e.g. companies lie to consumers and it is implied that this is bad and probably should not happen) Just think it's something interesting to think about!

Kerri Chen said...

@Leah and @AC, these are interesting points! It's interesting that when we think of nature in terms of evolution, we do not apply moral or emotional attachment, but once we deal with humans, squashing our neighbors in our conquest for dominance suddenly becomes disgusting.

Kerri Chen said...
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