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date: 04 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Marx’s theory of history is often misrepresented as a mechanically deterministic and fatalistic theory of change in which the complexity of the real world is reduced to simple, unconvincing abstractions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though Stalin attempted to transform Marxism into something akin to this caricature to justify Russia’s state-capitalist industrialization after 1928, neither Marx nor his most perceptive followers understood historical materialism in this way. This chapter shows that Marx’s theory of history, once unpicked from its misrepresentations, allows us to comprehend social reality as a non-reductive, synthetic, and historical totality. This approach is alive to the complexity of the social world without succumbing to the descriptive eclecticism characteristic of non-Marxist historiography. And by escaping the limits of merely descriptive history, Marxism offers the possibility of a scientific approach to revolutionary practice as the flipside to comprehending the present, as Georg Lukács put it, as a historical problem.

Keywords: historical materialism, dialectics, totality, history, Marx, Engels

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