Saturday, August 25, 2007

Marxism and History

An overview of the Ideas and Variants of the Marxist School of History

The Marxist school within history is a major current within the twentieth century. Following the analysis of twentieth century historiography by German Historian Raphael, one can identify two main currents of Marxism within the discipline: the Soviet variant and the Western one.

Historians who adhered to the Soviet Marxist outlook eschewed traditional economic determinism and other doctrines and served as a mouthpiece for the Communist Party leadership within the Soviet Bloc; this history, according to the author, was rejected by all but the most dedicated of historians.

The other variant, a western-developed Marxism that very much was a reaction to the orthodox and corrupt Soviet philosophy, came to play a vital role in developing an anti-capitalist critique as attested to by E.P. Thompson's work in Britain as well as earlier thinkers like Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci.

Georg Iggers, in reviewing Raphael's synthesis of recent historiographical work, argues that "cultural Marxism played an important role in the critique of the positivistic scientism" and while these Marxists also criticized the same positivism that was present in other Marxist works, the group of scholars that later united under the Subaltern Studies Group argued that this critique in fact did not go too far; scholars like Guha and others were Marxists who became disenfranchised and sought alternatives.

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