Wealth of Nations
Bk. I, ch. 1-5, 7, 8
Bk. II, ch. 3
Bk III, ch. 1
Bk. IV, ch. 2
Bk. V, ch. 1 pt. 2, ch. 3
Karl Marx. The German Ideology. 1845
First Premises of Materialist Method
The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from
which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are the real individuals, their
activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already
existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely
The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals.
Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their
consequent relation to the rest of nature. Of course, we cannot here go either into the actual
physical nature of man, or into the natural conditions in which man finds himself – geological,
hydrographical, climatic and so on. The writing of history must always set out from these natural
bases and their modification in the course of history through the action of men.
Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like.
They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce
their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation. By
producing their means of subsistence men are indirectly producing their actual material life.
The way in which men produce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of
the actual means of subsistence they find in existence and have to reproduce. This mode of
production must not be considered simply as being the production of the physical existence of
the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of
expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so
they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce
and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions