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An Evolutionist & a Revolutionist
Karl Marx's work in the field of social sciences cannot be ignored. The scientific importance of Marx's work is based on him following the theory of evolution, which was initially concerned with the evolution of mere organic plants and animals and then moved onto the evolution of human society. Marx has been generally considered as a revolutionary scientist who advocates the right side of sociology and his often criticized for that. However, if his work is observed closely, one can easily find similarities between his work and other evolutionary scientists as well. Hence, Marx was an evolutionary as well revolutionary thinker.
One of the most eminent scientists of evolutionary wing is Darwin. His most important work is his book, "The Origin of Species," in which he explained the relationships between various species of plants and animals. Before Darwin, the only explanation for this conformity was work of God and his supremacy. However, Darwin made us understand that there is a rationale for this descent: the adaptation of animals and plants to the circumstances they faced and those who were weak in adaptation were exterminated with the passage of time (Darwin, 1859).
Hence, it was Darwin's who showed us that new species evolve from the old ones. The theory of decent which was a mere hypothesis earlier finally had scientific evidence. This was the reason that the Darwin's theory gained dominance over other scientific studies.
Now if we look at Marx's work, an immediate conformity can be observed in their work. When Marx present his theory of social evolution in which he discovered the force causing social development, he was well-supported with Darwin's work. He didn't have to prove that such evolution was happening as the everyone knew that since ancient times, development was taking place in one way or another. Thus, there was an existence of primitive, of current social norms (Talbot, 2009).
While presenting his theory, Marx used the information he had in hand. At that time, the great European revolution was the best example used. Everyone was aware of the rationale of French revolution: the struggle of dominance and supremacy, which was started against royalty. This struggle resulted into development of new class. The war started in England where the capitalists involved in manufacturing revolted against the landowners who were earning profits without working. Similarly, the working sector also rebelled against the bourgeoisie. The reason how one sect was different from the other and why they rebelled against each other was a point to ponder. Marx explained that these classes were different from each other because of the function they performed in the process of production. It is the productive process which gives rise to these social classes and the very phenomenon defines to what class one relates to.
As per Marx, production is the process which defines the means through which individuals gain their means of survival from nature. It is the production of the material necessities of life that forms the main structure of society and that determines the political relations and social struggles (Pannekoek, 1912).
Darwin explained how the animals and plants fought their survival for the fittest and became better than their primitives. Similarly, Marx explained how the society evolutes. Where Marx considers process of production as the very basis of the society, he further explained that the society evaluated when the process of production became better (Runkle, 1961).
The methodologies used by Labor heavily depends on the tools and utensils used by the labor, and when these developed, the process of production became better where people became more skilled i.e. Evolutes. This is result why crude tools have evoluted into heavy but efficient machinery and feudalism has been replaced capitalism. This is also the reason why the locus of attention has shifted from feudal lords and bourgeoisie to proletarians (the working class) (Mercy, 2009).
It was the development of these machines / tools which were used by labor that acted as the causative agent of the social development. It is evident that people have put in their efforts in improvement of these tools so that process of production becomes more efficient and less laborious. Also the usage of these tools makes them more skilled causing further improvement. Due to this development, an advancement of technology and working techniques takes place. The pace of this advancement may vary in different forms. With this change, the social faces of the labor also show change. Hence, new classes, social institutions are formed. This will further leads to change in relationships between these classes. There is a higher possibility that this change isn't amiable and results into social struggle which may have a political aspect as well. The old schools, the older dominant social classes will try to restore and preserve the old structure of the society and process of production whereas the new class which is rising will opt for the new processes. If succeeded, the struggling class will discover a way for uninterrupted path of technology. Marx further explained that
"At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production, or (and this is simply a legal expression of the same thing), with the property relations within which they have operated up to that time. These relations change from forms of development of the productive forces into their fetters. There then begins an epoch of social revolution."
Hence, the theory of Marx presented the idea that there is an existence of propelling force which causes social development. Also, he managed to explain that society doesn't form because of sudden and haphazard events; rather it has a primitive history which gives it the shape it has. In fact, society doesn't go though a random change but there is a definite advancement in a particular direction. Hence, the evolution of the society doesn't stop as the technique of production keeps on developing.
Therefore, it was the work of Darwin which provided the basis for Marx's work and supported the theory of evolution in their respective fields.
However the work of Marx doesn't stops here. As it explains the evolution of society, he managed to explain the revolutions the society has gone through in various times. As a matter of fact, even Marx thinking about the revolution of society evolved due to various historic events of his times. Therefore, instead of referring to one of his writings, it is important to consider his entire work. The labor movement, which took place after 1848, made Marx a big advocate of revolution.
The most important writings of Marx will help us in understanding what Marx meant by Revolutions are The Communist Manifesto and the Civil War in France. It was the later which made Marx work more mature. The Communist Manifesto was written as a theoretical forecast of how revolutions would be, in the light of historic events (Sanderson, 1998). However, The Civil War in France represented Marx understanding of struggle started by a certain class which changed the preface of the whole society and ended up in introduction of a new institution called the commune.
No incisive scientist who is a theoretician had thought is coining the term commune before. In fact, this new state form - the world's first workers' government - developed in spite of the influence of Blanquist conspiratorial theories and Proudhonist anti-statist anarchist ideas. The Paris Commune developed spontaneously from the process of class struggle: the need for a new political form arose and the commune was created to address it (Callinicos, 1987). It was the Paris Commune which made Marx aware of the power of revolution.
"In view of the gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved and extended organization of the working class, in view of the practical experience gained, first in the February Revolution, and then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months, this programme has in some details been antiquated. One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., which "the working class cannot simply lay hold of ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes." (Marx, 1871)
Furthermore, Marx explained later that the working class has a tendency of changing the course of a society. Rather than just being an extension of its earlier form, it can take a whole new shape which may not necessarily be a positive or better than the last one. This was the reason why Paris Commune introduced a whole new form of government which was never found in the history (Dunayevskaya, 1971). Also, the importance of the right leadership is what we call the basic ingredient for a successful revolution (Trotsky, 1987). Marx further explained that a commune may not be a socialist but may develop itself in a socialist manner over the period of time. Marx in his work "The Civil War in France"…[continue]
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