I'm interested to study works about historical materialism. Can someone suggest some references about this subject with a couple of words commenting on them. I'm interested in basic ideas of historical materialism and not about Marxism in general. Works after Marx and Engels. Is this strait of thought obsolete?

  • My guess is that the reason for downvote was that you do not describe what you are looking for more specifically, and there are some references even at the bottom of the Wikipedia article you link, more here marxmail.org/faq/historical_materialism.htm Related thread philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/26754/… – Conifold Oct 11 '15 at 21:50
  • It is a vast subject starting with Lenin onward, do you want orthodox works, revisionist works, critical works? Wikipedia mentions many in the text, with comments. – Conifold Oct 11 '15 at 22:01
  • I have also read Lenin and Trotsky. I'm interested in more philosophical approaches not from politicians but from political scientists or philosophers. – John Am Oct 11 '15 at 22:03
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    Engels may be more useful than Lenin and Trotsky. I up voted simply because I too was interested in this and kind of forgot about it. Philosophy of history is very difficult, I think, and defining "materialism" makes it even worse. "History" assumes some human "free agency," while "materialism" implies strict causality within some sort of monism. In general, any history that gives priority to "modes of production" over "mental acts" might qualify. Almost any "neo-marxist" fits, as might any "scientific" historian, from Foucault to pure statistical historians. Will think on it. – Nelson Alexander Oct 12 '15 at 0:55

Perhaps the most original contribution to historical materialism after Marx is Đilas's New Class, that analyzes the communist system itself from the point of view of historical materialism. The new class is the privileged ruling class of bureaucrats in "communist" autocracies, which Đilas identifies as being state capitalist. This is clearly revisionist of Marx but rather faithful to his methodology. The socialism/capitalism convergence theory is similarly revisionist of Marx, see e.g. Galbraith's New Industrial State. Lukac's History and Class Consciousness develops young Marx's ideas on alienation and the fetishism of commodities in capitalist societies. Cohen's Karl Marx’s Theory of History is a defense of more orthodox historical materialism.

In 1955 book Eros and Civilization Marcuse attempts to synthesize social theories of Marx and Freud to develop a "non-repressive society". Althusser's fuses historical materialism and structuralism in his Reading Capital, and a number of essays. Both were influential in 1970s. On structural Marxism, see also Offe's Structural Problems of the Capitalist State.

In a more diffused way historical materialism ideas (influence of environment and economics on social structure and culture) show up in the schools of technological determinism, e.g. Ayers's Theory of Economic Progress (1944), and geographic determinism founded by Huntington. One example of the latter is Adams's Energy and Structure (1975), another is recently popular Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel.

  • Thanks, i have read Eros and Civilization and i liked it much. I'll look the other – John Am Oct 12 '15 at 6:45
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    @John Am If you liked Marcuse you should check out other authors of the Frankfurt school of social theory, which was deeply influenced by Marx en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt_School – Conifold Oct 12 '15 at 20:51
  • Thanks, i have read Marcuze, Adorno, Horchaimer, Benjamin, Habermas. I'm mostly interest for more modern reactions. By the way is the Frankfurt school still active? – John Am Oct 12 '15 at 21:00
  • @John Am SEP writes "in facing the challenges of new social facts, Critical Theory [Frankfurt school] remains a vital philosophical tradition in normative disciplines of social and political philosophy", they also have a bibliography with entries as recent as 2003. plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/#6 I also found Galbraith's New Industrial State interesting, although Marxists consider socialism/capitalism convergence theory revisionism. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Conifold Oct 12 '15 at 23:45
  • fascinating answer. wouldn't call althusser "post marxist" just cos i thought it was applied to anti CP theorists. @JohnAm think they call the new school for social research "the new school", these days; it is definitely active, tho it would i suppose consider itself avant garde rather than mainstream philosophy – user6917 Jul 28 '16 at 7:45

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