Historical materialism or the materialist interpretation of history implies that all phenomenon of history are dependent on economic factors.
According to Marx, production is the most fundamental of all human activities. Society is the outcome of men’s cooperation to produce for the satisfaction of human needs. But, changing needs, defective mode of production and limited knowledge continue to put strain on any given system of production.
Marx in his “Preface of the contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” holds that “In the social production of their life men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces.
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The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure, the real basis on which rises a legal and political structure”.
Marx adds that, “at a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with existing relations of production.
Every society contains the seeds of its own destruction. The contradictions between forces of production and relations of production lead to breakdown of the existing mode of production and its superstructure.”
Stages of Historical Development:
It is through this logic that Marx identified five stages in historical development:
(1) Primitive Communism
(2) Ancient Society
(3) Feudal Society
(4) Capitalist Society
(5) Communist Society
The communist society is the final epoch in historical development. It would be a society without distinctions of social class and a true beginning of history as a record of full human self- realization.
Marx’s analysis is noteworthy for highlighting the role of economic factors in shaping other aspects, mainly politics. But, he has been accused of crude economic determinism for, he neglects the autonomy of politics and impact of culture, ideology etc. in mushrooming politics and institution. Moreover, his vision of communist society as perfect one has failed to live up to expectations.