Sociology Index


Historical materialism is the central concept of social analysis in the work of Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels. The core idea of 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 piecemeal. They are modes of production. Historical materialism does not deny the individual’s free will, make choices concerning his existence according to his individual passions, his interests as he understands them. What historical materialism does state is that these choices are predetermined by the social framework and that the outcome of the different passions and options is essentially a phenomenon of social logic and not of individual psychology or individual pathology.

Historical materialism elevates the principle of the dialectical (dialectics) relationship between the particular and the general, to the theoretical foundation of the dialectical understanding of history. – Leo Kofler, Geschichte und Dialektik.

For historical materialism, 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
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. That Marx's synchronic materialism maintains that the superstructure supervene naturally on the economic structure. That diachronic materialism maintains that the relations of production supervene naturally on the forces of production. 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.
With the imminent revival of the corporate merger and acquisition cycle, legal scholars and practitioners will surely be turning their attention to the broader legal conditions that can facilitate and frustrate corporate consolidations.

Historical Materialism and the repudiation of subjectivism, Paul Cockshott
I will present some observations on the Historical Materialism of Marx, from an engineers viewpoint, the materialism of a Watt, Shannon and Turing.

Marxist philosophy, especially historical materialism, brightened the Chinese intellectuals and drew them to such a common understanding that only Marxism can save China.

Although dialectical materialism and historical materialism thrived, the rest didn’t achieve suitable attention.

Retrospection and Perspective of the Studies of the Controversy on the Social Nature in China - By Tan Qunyu
From the end of 1920s to 1930s, with the influence of the historical materialism, a controversy on the social nature took place in China. During the controversy, different factions included The New Life, The New Ideological Trend, The Motive Force, The Chinese County, and so on.