Lecture 11 - Marx's Theory of Historical Materialism (cont.)

author: Iván Szelényi, Yale University
recorded by: Yale University
published: June 24, 2012,   recorded: October 2009,   views: 2315
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)

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Today we cover the transition from the young Marx, with his emphasis on change and action, to the mature Marx who turns toward positivist science and determinism, arguing that capitalism will have to fail. Through a closer look at Marx's "Theses on Feuerbach," we discuss different theories of truth with attention to the questions of where truth resides (in the subject, in the object, or some combination), how we know it, and how we know when we know it. Arguing for his conception of materialism, Marx argues that truth is not simply the reflection of the object in the mind of the subject; we must access truth through our senses and through activity. And we discuss two of Marx's historical materialist claims: life determines consciousness and the ruling class always determines the ruling ideas of a people.

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 3, 2014 at 8:12 p.m.:

Another powerfully-good lecture by professor Szelényi, and, in my opinion, the best of the course so far.

I've left a couple quibbling comments on two of the earlier lectures about his lecture style, but I think that style was a product of the content: he was doing almost entirely biographical lectures. (This was one of my complaints, because he even acknowledges that he's received negative feedback when leaning too biographical.) Now it feels like he's arrived at the meat of the course, so to speak; with Marx and Weber being the two thinkers to which the most lectures are dedicated, Szelényi shows his grasp of the material by diving deep into its importance, and does so elegantly and clearly.

This lecture has taught me more about Marx's ideas & theories than I'd known up to this point. And while I don't know nearly enough to consider myself a Marxist by any stretch, my appetite for more has been whetted and I'm glad there are two more remaining lectures on Marx.

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