Sociology Index


Historical materialism elevates the principle of the dialectical relationship between the particular and the general, which reveals the essence of phenomena, to the theoretical foundation of the dialectical understanding of history. – Leo Kofler, Geschichte und Dialektik. Historical materialism is the central concept of social analysis in the work of Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels. The core idea historical materialism is that the political and intellectual history of human societies is shaped most importantly by the social and technical organization of economic production and exchange.

This view of historical materialism suggests that it is not principally intellectual ideas and knowledge that shape the structure and cultural values of social life, but rather the shape of social life, especially in the social organization of economic production, that chiefly shapes intellectual ideas and knowledge. Historical materialism posits that relations of production which become stabilised and reproduce themselves are structures which can no longer be changed gradually, piecemeal. They are modes of production.

Historical materialism does not deny the individual’s free will, his attempts to make choices concerning his existence according to his individual passions, his interests as he understands them, his convictions, his moral options etc. What historical materialism does state is: (1) that these choices are strongly predetermined by the social framework; (2) that the outcome of the collision of millions of different passions, interests and options is essentially a phenomenon of social logic and not of individual psychology or individual pathology.

"For historical materialism, there exist no eternal, unchangeable forms in any social phenomena. For historical materialism, the “being” of each social phenomenon can only be recognized and understood in and through its “becoming”. - Ernest Mandel

Historical Materialism and Supervenience
COLIN FARRELLY, University of Waterloo - Department of Political Science 
Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Forthcoming
Abstract: In this paper, I put forth a new interpretation of historical materialism entitled the supervenient interpretation. Drawing on the insights of Analytical Marxism and utilizing the concept of supervenience, I advance two claims. Firstly, that Marx's synchronic materialism maintains that the superstructure supervene naturally on the economic structure. Secondly, that diachronic materialism maintains that the relations of production supervene naturally on the forces of production. Taken together, these two theses help bring to the fore the central tenets of historical materialism.

Mergers, Taxes, and Historical Materialism
AJAY K. MEHROTRA, Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington - June 2006
Abstract: With the imminent revival of the corporate merger and acquisition (M&A) cycle, legal scholars and practitioners will surely be turning their attention to the broader legal conditions that can facilitate and frustrate corporate consolidations. Among the most salient legal issues, the tax treatment of corporate M&A transactions is one topic that is certain to garner increased consideration. More specifically, legal and financial professionals, as well as academics, will be concentrating on the economically significant tax benefits provided for specific types of corporate reorganizations.

Historical Materialism and the repudiation of subjectivism, Paul Cockshott.
I am an engineer, so I was naturally pleased when the leading materialist philosopher of today, Daniel Dennet came out in defence of the significance of the engineering viewpoint to philosophy. In what follows I will present some observations on the Historical Materialism of Marx, from an engineers viewpoint - the materialism of a Watt, Shannon and Turing.

The politicizing of soviet philosophy led to academic hegemony and discrimination, which resulted in the abnormal development of Marxist philosophy in the soviet era. Although dialectical materialism and historical materialism thrived, the rest subjects didn't achieve suitable attention, such as historical philosophy, cultural philosophy, philosophy of law, ethical philosophy, scientific philosophy, economic philosophy, administrating philosophy, political philosophy, social philosophy. - Li Shangde

Retrospection and Perspective of the Studies of the Controversy on the Social Nature in China
By Tan Qunyu
Abstract: From the end of 1920s to 1930s, with the influence of the historical materialism, a controversy on the social nature took place in China. It was the result of thought conflicts on the past and the present of China and the quality of the Chinese rural society, among many people and groups with different political and academic backgrounds. During the controversy, different factions included The New Life, The New Ideological Trend, The Motive Force, The Chinese County, and so on. According to different sociological theories at home and abroad, they gave various understandings about the social nature of China and reflected their dissimilar standpoints on the social future of China. The controversy offers us plenty of thought resources.