Marx and engels historical materialism

Essay by the24hrpartyzoneA+, February 2004

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Throughout the course of human history massive changes have occurred which have permanently altered the then status quo. To make sense of these developments, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels attempt to construct an orderly form to the evolution of society. By dividing human history into specific epochs, Marx and Engels wish to develop a meta-theory concerning the whole of society?s past and of society?s future by linking these epochs together by a common thread. This common thread is dialectical materialism , a process of growth through the conflict of opposing classes.

But can this attempt at defining the whole of society?s history be genuinely achieved? What is to mark the end of one epoch and the beginning of a new? While Marx and Engels present valid examples to define each of their stages, and their grand theme of the evolutionary process fits their construct, its examples are not without their limitations, and its projections for the future are not without their contradictions.

I shall follow with an examination of their epochs as they have occurred chronologically, citing the social facts and the inconsistencies in their arguments. What will be presented is my support for their focal theory of dialectical materialism, but I will retain my criticism of their belief in the ideal existence of any certain epoch and the evolution through these ideal epochs towards a future utopian society.

To begin, we start with a paradox, because it is a paradox of the beginning. In Origins of the Family Private Property and the State Friedrich Engels divides history into the stages of savagery, barbarism, and civilization. Using various research, primarily that of Lewis Henry Morgan, Engels first attempts to prove the existence of communism at the initial stage of savagery- whereas, there is no state, no private property, no formal...