Historical materialism  

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"This doctrine is often called "historical materialism," or the "materialistic interpretation of history." Such terms are, however, lacking in precision. If by materialism is meant the tracing of all changes to material causes, the biological view of history is also materialistic. Again, the theory which ascribes all changes in society to the influence of climate or to the character of the fauna and flora is materialistic, and yet has little in common with the doctrine here discussed. The doctrine we have to deal with is not only materialistic, but also economic in character; and the better phrase is not the "materialistic interpretation," but the "economic interpretation" of history. "--Edwin R. A. Seligman

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Historical materialism is the methodological approach of Marxist historiography that focuses on human societies and their development over time, claiming that they follow a number of observable tendencies. This was first articulated by Karl Marx (1818–1883) as the materialist conception of history. It is principally a theory of history according to which the material conditions of a society's way of producing and reproducing the means of human existence or, in Marxist terms, the union of its technological and productive capacity and social relations of production, fundamentally determine society's organization and development.

Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans collectively produce the necessities of life. It posits that social classes and the relationship between them, along with the political structures and ways of thinking in society, are founded on and reflect contemporary economic activity.

Since Marx's time, the theory has been modified and expanded by Marxist writers. It now has many Marxist and non-Marxist variants. Marxists contend that historical materialism is a scientific approach to the study of history.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Historical materialism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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