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Explain Marx's General Account of Social and Political Change, Illustrate It with Examples Drawn from the Transition Between Particular Historical Epochs Ð'- E.G the Change from Feudalism to Capitalism or from Capitalism to Socialism

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In this essay, I intend to address how Marx's ideas were formulated, after which I will move onto an outline of his theory of historical materialism which in turn relates to his theory of history, the focus of this work, starting with the idea of feudalism then moving onto the change to capitalism (and a critique thereof) and eventually the future move towards communism.

Karl Marx, son of lawyer Heinrich, was born and educated in Prussia, Germany. He was educated at the University of Bonn where he studied Law, later moving on to the University of Berlin, upon the request of his father. It was in Berlin, that Marx became involved with a group known as the Ð''Young Hegelians' and Bruno Bauer under who's influence, Marx "seized on orthodox religion as the chief illusion standing in the way of human self-understanding."

From this, Marx and the other Young Hegelians formed a critique of religion based on Hegel's ideas in the Ð''Phenomenology', although they came to somewhat more radical conclusions, "to criticise religion and show human beings that God is their own creation, thus ending the subordination of humanity to God and the alienation of human beings from their own true nature." This critique was seen as an attempt to combat organised religion and to liberate humanity.

1841 saw the publication of Ð''The Essence of Christianity', a work by Ludwig Feuerbach who argued that God is the creation of man (the essence of the human species) and that God's qualities including wisdom, love and benevolence are in fact, attributes of humanity, yet we attribute them to God. So by creating God in our image, humanity had alienated itself from itself, (leaving humanity as a lower, lesser version of the image of God) what we believe of God is really true of ourselves and humanity can regain what religion has forced out of us.

It was Feuerbach's later works, particularly his critique of Hegel, that interested Marx the most, "Hegel had taken Mind as the moving force in history, and humans as manifestations of Mind. This locates the essence of humanity outside human beings and thus, like religion, serves to alienate humanity from itself".

Marx's earlier work focused on human freedom and alienation but concerning Marx's account of social and political change in history, it is not possible to cite one source as "Marx never spelt out his theory in full" , it was implied however in a number of his works, including the preface of Ð''A Critique of Political Economy' (1859) and Ð''The German Ideology'. (1846)

Rejecting Hegel's idea that we live in a world of appearances, with true reality only an ideal, Marx took onboard this idea and suggested that rather than the material world hiding us from the Ð''real' world of the ideal, that "historically and socially specific ideologies prevented people from seeing the material conditions of their lives clearly" .

According to Marx, "we human beings differ from animals in that we act upon nature to produce the things we want and need" , that is to say, we control the development of the means of production. But these productive powers appear alien and hostile to man and are therefore hinder, rather than serve human beings. This statement is backed up by the following "The materialist conception of history tells us that human beings are totally subject to forces they do not understand and cannot control" . Marx states "it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness" .

Marx made the claim that society is divided into three elements, productive forces, relations of production and economic structure. These three in turn, contribute to the development of a superstructure, the cultural and institutional features of a society. "the productive forces give rise to relations of production, and it is these relations Ð'-not the forces themselves- which constitute the economic structure of society" . Specifically, productive forces are the things used to produce including labour power or for example "a miller uses a handmill to grind wheat into flour, the handmill is a productive force" . The relations of production refers to the relationships between persons and/or between people and things.

Offering a similar view, Wolff argues that "at the most basic, providing society's foundations, are the Ð''productive forces'; what we have so far called human productive power. At the next level up we have the economic structure, and, above that, the legal and political superstructure" .

This historical materialism does not however, offer any details concerning Marx's theory of history, and it is this that I will focus the next part of the essay on.

Marx argues that the relationship between the productive forces and the relations of production creates the foundation of the ideals that become the structure of society. For example, the creation of a feudal society depends on the productive forces being developed to the stage of manual power where the relations of production are that of Ð''lord and serf', this in turn, creates the superstructure that goes with it, "an authoritarian religion, and a morality based on concepts of loyalty, obedience and fulfilling the duties of one's station in life" .

The feudal system came about at this particular time because of the technology of the productive forces (eg. Handmill) but this is an ongoing process and are constantly being developed as is seen with the creation of the steam mill, an invention that revolutionised society.

The feudal system can only work on the basis of the lord and serf, that is the minority lord and a number of serfs, tied down to the land, with the steam mill however, we see a trend towards large factories that involve a number of concentrated labourers, a complete contradiction of the feudal way of life. This supports the notion that the economic structures (ie. feudalism) are relative and only relevant "as they further or impede human productive power" suggesting again that they are inevitably succeptible to change and this is indeed inherent in them because at some point, the economic structure will fall behind human capability and begin to hinder production.

The steam mill has broken down the relations of production between lord and serf and is to be replaced with the notion of capitalist and employee, beautifully summed up by Marx in this statement "The handmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam

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