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Jakubowski Historical Materialism Notes

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Franz Jakubowski - Ideology and Superstructure in Historical Materialism Introduction: Frank Furedi Restating the Problem
● Secondary literature on Marx tends to have a narrow focus: clarifying Marx's views in a particular sphere; textual analysis; attention to a few paragraphs
○ Marx's 'brief comments on method' in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy are regarded as a complete account of historical materialism
■ this paragraph does refer to some of the key relations of human history, but it should be understood as a statement of the conclusions or results of Marx's theory, rather than his whole theory of historical materialism
■ such attempts to isolate elements of Marx's theory lead to abstractions (e.g. What is included in the base?) that presuppose a fixed logic of Marx's theory, which does not exist
○ Both friends and enemies of Marx employ a similar procedure in explaining his theoretical approach. Both treat historical materialism as a fixed logic or model laid out in the Preface, and:
■ enemies bombard the theory with empirical facts that appear to refute it
■ friends obsess over the fragments alluded to in the Preface e.g. basesuperstructure debate, assuming fixed concepts
● the blindness is that the conclusions of the Preface came from a great deal of theorising, which is ignored in such an approach
■ Marx's critique is both materialist - he attempted to derive ideological and legal notions from economic relations - and historical - he attempted to explain how such notions evolved in modern society
● but those who interpret Marx ignore his critique, and simply isolate his conclusions.
○ 'Abstracted from their origins, they can be assigned any meaning and can be defined and re-defined according to the preoccupations of the author.'
○ The attempt to transform Marx's theory into a model with fixed definitions is antithetical to historical materialism
■ Marx critiqued the static nature of bourgeois social science - defining and classifying phenomena
● for Marx - society is in constant flux and particular phenomena can only be understood in their relation and interaction with other phenomena
● e.g. a capitalist is only a capitalist through establishing a particular relation (exploitation of workers) to others
● defining a social phenomena takes it out of history - thus neglecting the historical component of historical materialism
○ hence the importance of the concept of TOTALITY
● Marxist concepts develop through history
○ Marx attacked Proudhon and other 'utopia socialists' along similar lines - they attempted to derive a priori a formula for solving social questions, when such questions can only be answered historically

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