This article provides information about the Marxian approach to development:
Karl Marx was the most influential socialist thinker on development in the 19th and 20th centuries. Of late, against the backdrop of the collapse of the socialist economy, Marxian thought has been a subject of critical review.
Around half of the world population followed his suggested path of restructuring the social and political organisation and economic development. His contribution to the theory of development is simply unparalleled and path- breaking. After his death on 14th March, 1883, his life time collaborator and close friend, Friedrich Engels, wrote in his obituary:
Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that, therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.
The development of human society through various stages, development and change in the material condition, existence, development of capitalism, and the corresponding change in the class relationship and transformation in the mode of production were the major concerns of Karl Marx. Marx had a profound philosophical vision of the development of human society which may be understood in terms of the material condition of existence and the dialectic, i.e., contradiction inbuilt in the material condition of existence.
Though he has not denied the significance of non-material forces in the process of development of human society through various stages, he emphasised that material forces and their contradiction provided the very basic and fundamental condition of development and change in human society. Marx’s idea of development is best understood in terms of his analysis and interpretation of the capitalist society, its evolution, and structure and functioning. As a prolific writer, Karl Marx has touched upon all these issues in several of his writings, especially in the Communist Manifesto, in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy and The Capital.
According to Karl Marx, all the legal relations, politics, forms of the states, etc. are to be understood, not in terms of development of human mind but in terms of the material condition of life. To him, in the process of development of human society human being has emerged to be a producing animal and thereby tied with several production relations. To quote him: In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces.
The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general.
He was very categorical to mention that with the change in the economic foundation the inter superstructure, that is the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophical, get transferred. In the process of such transformation individual consciousness is determined not by what he thinks but by the contradiction of material life that is the conflict between the social productive forces and relation of production.
Consciousness is a part of development in human society. To him, it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence but on the contrary their material condition of existence that determines this consciousness. As pointed out earlier antagonistic production relation is the key factor for change and development to Marx.
He points out that at a certain stage of development “the material productive forces come in conflict with the existing relation of production, with the property relation within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of productive forces this relations turn into their fetters then begins an epoch of revolution”. To him the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and capitalist are the progressive epochs in the economic formation of society. The capitalist relation of production to him is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production. There have been specific forms of class struggles.