Marx theses on feuerbach thesis 11 (1845)

Thomas points to several aspects of Marx's work which have been taken as indicative of positivism and shows how such an assessment is based on misunderstanding and misconstrual. There are many notions of positivism, but all seem to include the following:. The procedures of natural science are applicable to the social world, i. Social science should be value free. Marx is 'accused' of being a positivist for various reasons:.

However Marx is fundamentally opposed to positivism and his methodology and theory of knowledge production are in no way positivistic: Marx never used the term 'scientific socialism'. Marx did not adopt Engels 'dialectics of nature' and its rigid intrinsic determinism. Marx did not use the term 'dialectics' in relation to his own thought but rather adopted a dialectical method. Determinism has been applied to Marx, not extracted from his work. Marx saw no inevitability of progress to socialism : a function only of praxis 'men make own history but don't have control over it'.

marx theses on feuerbach thesis 11 1845

Marx was a communist not a socialist. Marx was opposed to 'scientism' , as it fails to reach essentials. Marx was opposed to Comte, regarded positivism as naive: if the world is really is as it appears then no need of science. Positivism fails to distinguish the difference between essential and the given. See also Harvey Review of Ruben For Marx, ideology is the instrument by which the contradictory social reality is made bearable.

Marx's materialist, dialectical analysis emphasised that history is a social product. However, history is not simply made by the will of the people.

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Rather, social conditions mediate history. The conscious reflective activities of people their praxis produces social conditions that become independent of their will. This results in a constitution of social reality as a contradictory reality. Ideology serves to make this contradictory reality acceptable.

There are two important point here. First, contradictions in reality do not arise simply as a result of human practice inevitably crystallising itself into objective social relations and structures. Contradictions arise because of the lack of control that people have over the objective power that is forged by the creation of these social constructs. Instead of people controlling the structures, the structures end up controlling people. Ideology provides distorted solutions in the mind to the problems created by the contradictory reality and which cannot be solved in practice.

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Ideology is, therefore, the necessary projection in consciousness of peoples' practical inabilities. Second, this does not mean that Marx regarded ideology as false consciousness. The idealist notion that ideology was nothing more than a distorting invention that resided entirely in ideas was anathama to Marx. Marx insisted that ideas are embedded in social relations and thus in material conditions.

Ideology cannot simply be 'thought away'.

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Ideology negates and conceals contradictions that are not overcome in practice, ideology thus inverts reality. Hiowever, this is not simply an arbitrary inversion produced by consciousness nor is it a propogandistic device designed to distort and thereby legitimate social relations. Ideology may be illusory but is grounded in practical activity, notably the relations of production. Ideology then, for Marx, does not deceive a passive consciousness but arises from practice and can only be overcome by changes in the social relations that give rise to it.

In short, Marx has a negative view of ideology. Ideology serves the interests of the dominant class, it is not only the result of the division of labour but also a condition for the functioning and reproduction of the system of class domination. Ideology, by concealing class relations, legitimises the class structure. Marx's historical materialist methodology.

Marx's historical materialist methodology is both historical diachronic and structural synchronic. Marx saw science as the basis for the understanding of the social world arrived at through a process of deconstruction and reconstruction , in which the part is dialectically related to the whole. Marx's methodology was to 'appropriate the material in detail, analyse its different forms and development, and trace their inner link'. This methodology is distinct from a positivistic notion of science.

It is unrestricted by ontological assumptions about 'matter' and the nature of 'matter'. It differs too, from phenomenological approaches in relating its essentialist analysis to the social totality. History was an essential aspect of Marx's work and he characterised his work as the 'conscious product of historical movement'.

Eleven Theses on Feuerbach by Karl Marx

However, this does not mean that knowledge simply coincides with history as constructed, nor does it mean that knowledge can be uncovered by merely chronologically tracing its historical process. Marx does not simply provide an analysis based on narrative history, rather he uses a constructed history. Marx constructs history as follows. He uses dialectical analysis which involves a totalistic approach.

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The dialectical process developed by Marx involves two essential elements, the grounding of a generalised theory in material history and the exposure of the essential nature of structural relations which manifest themselves historically. Thus, in order to comprehend the nature of capitalist relations of production it was necessary for Marx to get at the essential nature of capital, rather than simply present its historical origin. The essential nature is manifested structurally, which requires a totalistic perspective. In doing history, Marx was not concerned with rational reconstruction per se.

The aim was not an internalist history but rather to locate historical detail in the context of social and economic relations. This involved an analysis of ideological forms and the impact of social structural relations on the development of knowledge. Essentially, Marx starts out from an analysis of structure, critically deconstructs it, examines it to assess its ideological underpinnings, and then 'logically' constructs the history from the totalistic perspective.

This dyachronic analysis tends to concentrate on the evolution of specific concepts within the structural whole, the way certain elements develop their relations with other elements, rather than on the complex totality per se. Thus Marx is concerned, for example, to show how the division of labour has manifested itself diachronically, rather than how bourgeois economy emerged from feudalism. This diachronic analysis, however, is constructed using highly generalised material.


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Marx is not concerned with the particular detail of narrative history. He discounts the need to embrace an inductivist approach to theorising from historical instance. Indeed, he accepts that such inductivism is unlikely to generate a useful theory. First, because such historical analysis is too specific and ungeneralisable, and second, because inductivism lacks an adeqate theoretical base, grounded as it is in a perspective which assumes the validity of the observational base. Inductivism ignores the theory laden nature of observation , Marx, on the other hand, was well aware of the superficiality of 'reality', its ideological manifestations, and the consequent mediation of history.

Marx approach to history was to focus on immanent developments, shelving particular details which may have served to clutter the analysis.


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The logic of the essential frame that resulted from the analysis of the structure is primary in the historical reconstruction. Marx's approach to history is one that resembles a Weltanschauung historicism ; but one mediated by a synchronic analysis of the structural whole to which the history ultimately pertains, i. The approach requires, as Marx argues, that the present be grasped and the past interpreted on the basis of it.

He is, therefore, clearly not interested in historicalist mediation but similarly he disassociates himself from Weltanschauung, especially utopian, historicism. Marx is able to do this because he denies a pre-formed Weltanschauung, the present structure to which his historicism is aimed is dialectically constituted through a synchronic analysis of an historically specific system. There is considerable debate as to the extent to which Marx proposes a historical materialist or dialectical materialist approach. There is, however, growing support for the view that Marx adopted a method that was both structural-analytic and historical-genetic.

However, there is disagreement on the relative importance of each and this has been reflected in the historicist versus structuralist debate in Marxism concerning the role and nature of Marx's historical materialism. In a critique of historical materialism, Giddens , in arguing that historical materialism cannot be adequately reconstituted for the twentieth century as some Marxists would like, proposed that historical materialism is fundamental to Marxism and that its evident contemporary inadequacies requires that Marxism be rethought.

Ashley , in addressing this question goes further than Giddens to argue that social evolutionism is essential to Marxism and to historical materialism, such that if it were removed 'what is left is so mutilated as to be almost unrecognisable'. Ashley, , p. In this respect Ashley reflects earlier concerns of Lukacs, Gramsci and Goldman. Hirst, on the contrary, disagrees and, following an Althusserian line of debate, sees historical materialism bound up in the earlier work of Marx which 'matured' into the dialectical materialism of Capital.

Shaw attempted an analysis of Marx's historical materialism from a position that tried to avoid identity with either side. He argued that historical materialism is one aspect of Marx's conceptual cabinet which has received little critical evaluation and analysis. Shaw placed it alongside other elements of Marx's thought his economics, dialectics, theory of alienation and makes no claims that it is central to Marxian theory.

Dialectical materialism, for example, is regarded as another important element, but one which has been widely discussed. Historical materialism, for Shaw, is a pseudo-scientific theory of history and is evaluated, by him, on that basis. This, Shaw argued, is how Marx saw it and would expect it to be evaluated. Curiously, however, Shaw takes no note of how Marx saw science and proceeds to evaluate Marx's historical materialism as an internalist critique of science ,which is a conflation of Kuhnian paradigm analysis and Lakatosian research programmes.

The result is that historical materialism is shown to fail the test of being a scientific theory even by 'Lakatos' relaxed standards', but nonetheless, it endures because there is 'no real rival theory of history' and one is in the 'predicament of being stuck with this apparently deteriorating paradigm'.