W. G. Runciman

in Marxist History-writing for the Twenty-first Century

Published by British Academy

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780197264034
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734601 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers


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There have been claims that the Marxist approaches to the history are no longer tenable. This idea that Marx has lost such relevance to historiography is due to the failure of his prophesies, including the three particular assumptions: the anti-universalism, the neglect of cultural representation and discourses, and the success of capitalism. Anti-universalism claims that no history can ever be written, except from the historian's own point of view and the interests and values which come with it. In the case of Marx, whose main interest in history is the discovery of the path of man to communism, any claim to universal validity made him compromised from the outset by the local provenance of his and Engel's experience of capitalism and the intensity of their disapproval. The second assumption is Marx's neglect of cultural representations and discourses. By neglecting the sufferings and aspirations of the people who were the victims of capitalist exploitation, Marx missed the opportunity to give his moral denunciation of capitalism added perlocutionary force. The third assumption is the success of capitalism in beating the Marxists. On this view, Marx failed to allow the possibility that when the time came for the capitalist and socialist modes of production to compete directly with one another, it would be the capitalist modes of production that would be stronger between the two. Nevertheless, despite the failure of some of the Marxist prophesies and theories, it is nonetheless significant in the writing of history, which needs explanation. Marxism still has much to offer in the structural analysis of the development of history.

Keywords: Marxist approaches; history; Marx; historiography; anti-universalism; cultural representation; capitalism; Marxists; capitalist; socialist

Chapter.  6191 words. 

Subjects: Theory, Methods, and Historiography

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