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Author: Paul Blackledge

The recent emergence of global anti-capitalist and anti-war movements have created a space within which Marxism can flourish in a way as it has not been able to for a generation. This book shows that by disassociating Marxism from the legacy of Stalinism, Marxist historiography need not retreat before the criticisms from theorists and historians. It also shows that, once rid of this incubus, Marx's theory of history can be shown to be sophisticated, powerful and vibrant. The book argues that Marxism offers a unique basis to carry out a historical research, one that differentiates it from the twin failures of the traditional empiricist and the post-modernist approaches to historiography. It outlines Marx and Engels' theory of history and some of their attempts to actualise that approach in their historical studies. The book also offers a critical survey of debates on the application of Marx's concepts of 'mode of production' and 'relations of production' in an attempt to periodise history. Marxist debates on the perennial issue of structure and agency are considered in the book. Finally, the book discusses competing Marxist attempts to periodise the contemporary post-modern conjuncture, paying attention to the suggestion that the post-modern world is one that is characterised by the defeat of the socialist alternative to capitalism.

Paul Blackledge

This chapter outlines Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's theory of history and its relationship to their revolutionary political practice. In opposition to both Gerry Cohen and Steve Rigby, the chapter follows Draper's argument of Marx's revolutionary method. If Marx's revolutionary method is judged as a totality, rather than by decontextualised statements, then a much more powerful interpretation of historical materialism is possible. At its heart, historical materialism is a theory of historical change through the evolving contradictions between the forces and relations of production of various modes of production. Marx's discussion of capitalist development in India can best be understood within the context of his broader analysis of the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Through this historical analysis of the rise of capitalism, Marx debunks one of the key myths of bourgeois economics: that consumers and producers meet in the marketplace as free and equal agents.

in Reflections on the Marxist theory of history