(Sample Material) UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit "Socio Political Philosophy (Historical Materialism)"

Sample Material of UPSC Mains Philosophy (Optional) Study Kit

Topic: Socio Political Philosophy (Historical Materialism)

Economic Determinism

Historical materialism is a implementation of dialectical materialism of philosophy in the field of social development.

1) It is also called economic determinism because it belives that economic factors are the base for all development.

2) The main hypothesis of historical materialism is that mode of production plays a decisive role in social development.

  • Means of production are those tools through which production carried out like factories tractor.
  • Forces of production means – means of production + labour power.

3) Relations of Production: During production process the persons involved in production developed certain relationships, these relationship are based on class. In simple words it means the relationship between the classes.

4) Mode of production – is nothing but the combined form of forces of production and relations of productions. In layman’s word, it means the economic system of the state.

Click Here for UPSC Mains Philosophy Study Material

Basic Hypothesis

Economic system plays decisive role in social development.

Mode of production is a sub structure (basic) other structures, like state, legal system, morality, ideology, Religion are the part of super structure.

Super structure is dependent on sub-structure.

Therefore, whenever change in mode of production take place, every other thing including state, religion, morality etc. automatically change.

History of development of society is a history of changes in mode of production. According to Marx “All the social, political, intellectual relations. All religion and legal systems all theoretical outlooks which emerge in course of history are derived from material conditions of life.

In every mode of production there are contradiction due to these contradiction one mode of production is replaced by other mode of production and in this way society progress.”

On the basis of economic determinism Mars divided Social development into 5 stages:

1) Primitive communism
2) Slavery
3) Feudalism
4) Capitalism
5) Socialism

i) Dictatorship of proletariat
ii) Ideal communist society

1) Primitive communalism : No private property stateless, classless No institution of marriage & family.
2) Slavery Masters Slaves
3) Feudalism Feudal lords Serfs.
4) Capitalism Capitalist Proletariat
5) Socialism Dictatorship Capitalist Of proletariat proletariat

Ideal communist society

Feature – No private property stateless, classless. No institution of marriage and family.

Why ideal communism better than primitive communism?

  • No development of factors of production Development stage of civilization.
  • Idea communism – stage of prosperity primitive communism – state of scarcity.


1) It gives overemphasis to economic factors but all historical events can not be explained purely on the economic basis. e.g. Palestine – Isreal conflict partition of India can not be explained on basis of economic factors only.
2) It is a form of determinism therefore it neglects role of accidental factors and leadership.
3) Economic determinism undermines the role of state. (State affect – economy).
4) Economic power is not the only basis for all forms of power. e.g. Power of Pope : Power of Brahman in Indian Varna system was not based on their economic status.

Class Struggle

  • Class struggle is the core of Marxism. In communist manifesto (1848). Marx and Engels declared that – “History and hitherto existing society is history of class struggle”.
  • According to Marx. : Class is a group of people who have same place in the mode of production’ this place is determint on the basis of their relationship with forces of means of production.
  • Class division in society is a outcome of private property.

If there is institution of private property then some individuals are related to means to production as owners and some other are related as sellers of labour. They have different place in the mode of production.

First group constitute the ruling class e.g. capitalist in capitalism feudal lord in feudalism

Other group constitute the ruled class e.g. proletariat / worker in capitalism serf in feudalism (personal property – House for residence, Private property – House for renting) — Tool for exploitation of ruled class need is criteria to have personal property.

According to Marx, there are 2 stages of formation.

1) Class in itself
2) Class for itself

1) Class in itself : is based on class origin and its basis of objective awareness
2) Class for itself : is based on class consciousness & its basis is subjective awareness.

Objectively, labourers always constitute a class in the form of class in itself but when they develop class consciousness & subjective awareness about their membership of a particular class then they become class for itself.

(Objective – true in itself irrespective of space & time) Subjective – depends on perspective.

1) due to place in means of production due to birth / by birth.
2) Consciousness for common interest common obstacles.

Revolution takes place when class in itself. Converts into class for itself’ (class in itself + class consciousness — class for itself).

According to Marx, due to many reasons the conversion of ‘class in itself’ into ‘class for itself’ takes place.

i) Appropriation of surplus value.
ii) In capitalism, due to concentration of industries at fewer places large number of workers come into contact with each other and communication takes place among them.
iii) Pauperization of Proletariat

Capitalism works on principle of Iron law of wages due to which labourer is given that minimum wage which is essential for survival.

iv) Crisis of capitalism e.g. crisis of over production and crisis of under production are inherent in the system and all these crisis worst affect the labour class. (Over production – demand — depression – industries closed.)
Under production – demand – inflation seeds of own destruction – contradiction).

With growing class consciousness in a working class, class struggle will intensity which ultimately lead to revolution.

In the words of Marx – “Its fall and victory of proletariat both are inevitable.

Therefore, Marx declared – “Workers of world unite, you have nothing to loose except your chains but you have world to win”.

Features of class struggle

1) Class struggle is motor for social change (engine guiting to vehicle).
2) Class struggle is all inclusive, finally all members of society will participate in it.
3) The success of revolution depends upon the intensity of class struggle.


1) According to philosophers like Gandhi whole society has main element of social harmony.
2) Marx had ignored the role of middle class.
3) History has clearly shown that a nationalism is more important than class struggle. This is the reason during WW-I and WW-II, workers and capitalist of various countries fought together.
4) It is not certain that the working class will ultimately win the class struggle as Marx claim.


Today it is not the universally accepted theory. Even neo-marxism does not emphasise on it.

Surplus Value

According to Marx, surplus value is the difference between 2 values which the labourer creates and which he gets. Theory of surplus value is based on labour theory of value, according to which labour creates value.
Marx believed that the exchange value of any object is determined by the amount of labour used to create the object but the labourer is deprived of his fruits of labour in the form of surplus value. According to Marx, appropriation of surplus value which legitimately belongs to labour by capitalist is theft.

The main reason for appropriation of surplus value by capitalist is the institution of private property.

Labour theory of value – Labour creates value – supported by

Negliberal Adam Smith, Riccardo – income of Feudal lord – land lend – earnmony

1) Why do labour creates value? Labour is common to all product use value – exchange value – depends on labour
2) Why do capitalist can appropriate? By property private – tool to exploitation.


1) Marx wrongly believed that only labour creates value, capital invested by capital invested by capitalist is managerial skill, risk covered by him all are responsible for value addition.
2) According to M.N. Roy, no system can sustain without snatching some amount of value from labourer because money is needed for infrastructure development, research and technological upgradation etc.

Therefore theory of surplus value is not a scientific and logical theory but its significance lies in the fact that Marx used it as the main tool or instrument to criticize capitalism.

Max Beer declared – described this theory as merely a social & political slogan’.


According to Marx, revolution means complete overthrow of one mode of production and establishment of new mode of production.

Marx believed mode of production is a substructure and other structures like state, legal system etc. constitute super structure.

Super structure dependent on sub structure therefore change in substructure i.e. mode of production changes every other thing.

Therefore, Marx did not consider French revolution as true revolution because it only changed the state which is a part of superstructure but mode of production was intact.

For Marx, real example for revolution are replacement of slavery by feudalism or replacement of feudalism by capitalism.

Causes of Revolution

According to dialectical materialism, every stage of history has some contradictions in it, which ultimately destroys it. Therefore, capitalism will also collapse under the burden of its own contradictions. Main contradictions are-

1) Apparition of surplus value
2) Pauperization of proletariat
3) Crisis of capitalism
4) Communication at concentrated industries.

But, according to Marx the most important contradiction which leads to revolution is the contradiction between forces of production and relations of production.

Forces of production are dynamic whereas relations of production are static. Therefore, time come when static relations of production become like chains for the dynamic force of production which Marx called ‘Forces Fetters’ This contradiction ultimately leads to revolution.

e.g. Feudalism – mode of production of production – feudal lord & slave. Feudal lord control life of slave. Agriculture – land chain for development. Time changes plough — Tractor Industries established – where do labour come? Feudalism Vs Capitalism (expansion its) capitalism destroys feudalism.

Role of Violence in Revolution

According to Marx- “Force is the mid-wife for every old society, pregnant with new one.”

Marx supported role of force / violence with 2 reasons.

1. According to Marx, in every society ultimately there are 2 classes and interest of these 2 classes are antagonistic because profit of one is the loss of other and vice versa. No reconciliation is possible.
2. According to third law of dialectical materialism qualitative change takes place from quantities form, but if some hurdle is in its ways then that hurdle is removed through forces.

Through Marx supports force or violence but he rejects terror.

Force should be used only to change the mode of production and not to terrorise people.

After revolution dictatorship of proletariat will be established.


1) According to Gandhi, non violent change is the real change because it is permanent and stable.
2) In those countries where violence is accepted as a means of change, it gets accepted in the society also (like USSR China).
3) According to Karl Popper (who criticized Plato’s for theory of justice) incremental change is always better than revolution (gradual changes through reforms & stages).

Dictatorship of Proletariat

Dictatorship of proletariat is a transition stage which comes into existence after revolution, this is also a class rule but different from earlier because it is rule of majority class.

According to Lenin and others, this is real democracy. In this stage also state is a class instrument but it is different because now it promotes the interest of majority.

Guiding slogan of this stage is “from each according to his ability to each according to his work” (There will be no appropriation of surplus value) State will perform 3 functions-

1) Protective – To maintain law and order in society

  • To protect socialist revolution from counter attack of capitalist.

2) Development – State abolishing itself socialization of means of production and other development work like education, healtalh etc. and related for workers.
3) Educative – Expansion of socialist ideas, values in society.


1) According to Marx, it was to be a transition stage but in former USSR and China, it has become permanent.
2) Dictatorship of proletariat will lead to the ideal communist society but it never happened in History.
3) According to critics like M.N. Roy dictatorship of proletarial degenerated in dictatorship over proletariat.

Class of party leader and supporter

2 classes of DOP Proletariat

Click Here for UPSC Mains Philosophy Study Material

<< Go Back to Main Page