Chapter

Marx’s <i>Critique of Political Economy</i>: A Theory of History or a Theory of Communism?

Gareth Stedman Jones

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: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197264034.003.0006

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers

Marx’s Critique of Political Economy: A Theory of History or a Theory of Communism?

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This chapter examines the aim of Marx's theory and whether he succeeded in establishing what he was set out to prove. In 1883, at the graveside of Marx, Engels wrote of Marx's achievement as the discovery of ‘laws’ of history. Engel's depiction of Marx has been followed by Marx's disciples and opponents. After the First World War, Marx's writings were subjected to distorted views and interpretations that turned Marx into a remote and opaque figure. In the 1950s, attempts to capture the true thoughts of Marx were made. These attempts disclosed his difficulty in applying a socially determinist approach to the explanation of the republicanism and the constitutional character of the struggle between the elected president and the elected assembly. His basic assumption of the ‘forces of production’ as a means for the proletariat to advance and the bourgeoisie to rescind failed to interpret the transition from Second Empire to Third Republic. Forced to abandon this evolutionary scenario of capitalist development, Marx developed his Critique of Political Economy, wherein his prime objective was not to construct a theory of history, but to discover the path of man to communism.

Keywords: Marx's theory; Engels; socially determinist approach; republicanism; forces of production; Political Economy; theory of history; communism

Chapter.  8132 words. 

Subjects: Methods and Historiography

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