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Peet_marxist_and_neomarxist_theories_of_ - Chapter 4...

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MARXIST AND NEO-MARXIST THEORIES OF DEVELOPMENT M arxism is far more than radical politics: it is a materialist philos- ophy of social existence and a dialectical theory of human devel- opment. Writing in the mid-nineteenth century, the founders of this school of thought, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, were enlighten- ment modernists who believed in social progress and the perfectability of humankind, in the transformative potential of science, and in the mate- rial plentitude made possible by technological advance in Western societ- ies. Yet they thought differently than most modernists. They saw modern processes of production as emancipation but also as alienation from nature; as a process of human self-creation, but one directed by a few powerful people; and as progress in material life, but driven by a main- spring motivated by socially and environmentally irrational drives. Marxian analytics thus became not the scholastic pursuit of truth for its own sake, and certainly not legitimation theory for the rich and famous, but a guide to radical political practice aimed at changing society so that it met the needs of the working class. Marx and Engels came to liberate modernism, not to praise it. Idealism and Materialism Chapter 4 We should first counterpose historical materialism, the philosophy of Marxism, with its opposite, Hegelian idealism. In idealism, reason is the source of material progress. This "reason" can be human reason, in the form of logical thought; transcendental Reason, in the form of Spirit; or some combination of the two. In the late Enlightenment, the German 91
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92 THEORIES OF DEVELOPMENT philosopher G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) connected the individual's rational consciousness with a collective and transcendent World Spirit, or Absolute Idea, a kind of Rationality inherent in the world (Hegel cap- italized the first letter of transcendent terms and we will follow him in this usage). Rather than believing that people think and then act on their thoughts in a rational way, Hegel believed that movements of Spirit pre- cede both human thought and material events, in some way causing both. In idealism, development of the World Spirit is the Transcendent Force behind all things (Hegel 1967 ed.). In their youths, Marx (1818-1883) and Engels (1820-1895) adhered to a radical, material version of German (Hegelian) idealism. As their thinking matured, they developed an alternative, indeed contrary, conception of social existence. In opposition to idealism, they called this conception "historical materialism." As they put it at the time: In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as nar- rated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes
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Peet_marxist_and_neomarxist_theories_of_ - Chapter 4...

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