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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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