Marxist historians
in The houses of history
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This chapter outlines the materialist conception of history, commonly known as historical materialism, first developed by Karl Marx. It focuses upon three important dimensions of historical materialism in the work of Marxist historians: the dialectical model at the basis of Marx's grand narrative of human history; the adaptations of Marxist theory in Latin America; and the enduring question of class consciousness. The driving forces in Marx's conception of history are social classes, which arise from different economic roles in the productive process. In order to overthrow the dominant class, subordinate people must become aware of their oppression, and consequently the concept of human agency is critical to Marx's conceptual framework. Marx's theory, therefore, contains a kind of paradox: the dialectic of productive transformation (a consequence of the inner contradictions within the production process itself) is, nonetheless, dependent upon the consciousness and actions of men and women.

The houses of history

A critical reader in history and theory, second edition


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