Lecture 10 - Marx's Theory of Historical Materialism

author: Iván Szelényi, Yale University
recorded by: Yale University
published: June 24, 2012,   recorded: October 2009,   views: 2644
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)

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We review Marx's theory of alienation and pick up with the transition from the young Marx to the mature Marx who breaks with Hegelian thought and the Young Hegelians. Reflecting on the disappointed hopes of the French Revolution, Hegel wrote that the civil servants in France represent the universal class. In direct contrast, Marx writes that the state only appears to be the universal class. He then goes about writing his theory of exploitation to argue that the workers, as the only fully alienated class, represent the universal position. He responds to Feuerbach with his eleven theses arguing for his own brand of historical materialism. Many of his "Theses on Feuerbach" remain very famous and widely-associated with Marx's oeuvre, including the last thesis, thesis eleven: the point of philosophy is not only to understand the world, but to change it.

Reading assignment:

Marx, Collected Works, "Theses on Feuerbach" vol. 5. pp. 6-8

Marx, Collected Works, "The German ideology" vol. 5. pp. 27-37; 59-62

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Reviews and comments:

Comment1 Dominick, August 2, 2014 at 8:33 p.m.:

This lecture is the best of the course so far, and especially interesting that it starts with an apology from professor Szelényi. After admitting he had failed to do an adequate job in the previous discussion section, Szelényi goes into a strong explanation of alienation, both from Hegelian origins until Marx's take on the subject. He does this after leaving the lectern to be nearer the students, and for this time delivers focused thoughts on the importance of differentiating the two different "Marxes."

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