- Historical Materialism Series -
This original and comprehensive study explores the formation, development and later 20th century enrichments on Marx's historical materialism theories. It innovatively interprets its formation period between 1835-1845 which has always been the object of heated discussions. The author gives special attention on the thoughts Marx and Engels had similarities and even agreement with their contemporaries especially Feuerbach and followers of Hegel. Naturally each philosopher has his own specific formation which applies for Marx, and his unique differences with his contemporaries at the certain point of time rapidly led him to establish the materialist concept of history. Recently we see a revival of interest in the nature and utility of this discovery by Marx. Debate amongst historians and philosophers on Marx's assertions on the role of man as the subject of history also the relations between Marx's practice view and historical materialism is an important focus of the book which has an impressive record three editions within ten years.
Chen Xianda passionately argues, "Social science can fully become as accurate as natural science. To do this, the first thing is to determine its nature accurately, that is, to have a scientific understanding of the macroscopic laws of history. Different from living organisms, the social organism has its unique laws. The various systems in society with their special structures and functions are interrelated and constitute an indivisible whole. It is impossible to understand society without grasping the laws of social development and without analyzing the nature and complex causality in social phenomena. However, human understanding of society cannot rest on the qualitative analysis, and quantitative analysis should be conducted wherever it is possible. With the emergence of world-wide technological revolutions, the spread of the system theories, control/simulation theory, information theory and even mathematical methods being applied into social sciences provides conditions for the accurate grasp of the quantitative determination of social phenomena. The mutual permeation between natural science and social science is a progressive tendency, and Marxist philosophy researchers should face the world and the contemporary era, and summarize the new achievements in those technological revolutions. The achievements in natural science enrich and affirm instead of reducing the scientific character of the materialist conception of history. No methods offered by natural science can replace the materialist conception of history, and history has proved that the methods of positivism and empiricism were unsuitable."
The author is among the leading researchers of history and theories of Marxism in China, who greatly influenced several important debates in the Chinese academia in the last three decades, including those on Marxist humanism, the role of superstructure, ontology and practical materialism. The generous appendix part of the book with six of his famous articles, contains author's important direct contributions to these debates, including his ideas on the present issues of Marxist philosophy in China and the world.