What is Historical Materialism

Historical materialism refers to the doctrine of Marx and Engels according to which changes in the “spirit” of society, expressed in the superstructure, derive from the economic relations of production and not the other way around.

That is, historical materialism perceives historical-cultural changes as a result of the material conditions of life and class struggle. In this way he opposes the Hegelian conception, according to which history is determined by the spirit.

The foundations of historical materialism are found in the approaches of Marx and Engels, although the term was coined by Gueorgui Plejánov.

For historical materialism, social transformations are demarcated by two essential factors: the modes of production and the class struggle, but not by ideas.

From this point of view, the outcome of history depends on the economic activity of society. This implies that the modes of production determine the product, that is, they condition the political, social and spiritual processes.

For historical materialism, political-economic organization systems, such as capitalism, do not obey a natural evolution but rather a historical-social construction and, therefore, can be questioned and channeled into other models.

A determining factor in this will be class consciousness and control of the means of production as a resource to question and combat the established order.

It is then understood that historical materialism is at odds both with the models of thought that naturalize social differences, called by them “bourgeois ideologies”, and with abstract socialism.

See also: Karl Marx and Marxism.

Characteristics of historical materialism

  • Understands the economy as the basis of social history.
  • It starts from the principle that the ideology, values ​​and culture of a society are determined by the production model.
  • Understand that socioeconomic changes do not depend on individual determination.
  • The historical transformation of societies is conceived as a consequence of the forces of production.
You may be interested:  The Second Spanish Republic

Elements of historical materialism

Historical materialism studies the evolution of societies based on the following elements:

  1. The structuremade up of the productive forces, modes and relations of production.
  2. the superstructuremade up of the institutions and the body of legal and ideological regulations that express the social spirit: State, religion, artistic-cultural apparatus, laws, etc.

From the relationship between these two sectors, historical transformations are produced, moved by the tension inherent in the class struggle.

See also: Materialism and Class struggle.