Historical Reprints Philosophical Studies in Historic Materialism

Studies in Historic Materialism

Studies in Historic Materialism
Catalog # SKU1888
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.00 lbs
Author Name Max Beer


Studies in
Historic Materialism

Sir Max Beer

Marxism and Socialism defined a serious problem in society that still exists today. The movements attempted to address and correct such problems, and made great headway until the evils of greed they were fighting became the elements ruling over the movements.

The early movements attempted to solve the ills through political and governmental avenues, and once corrupted, became communism. However, the world owes a debt of gratitude to these early movements for 'trying' to eradicate greed and hunger, unlike the western world's approach of 'let them eat cake' and ignoring social problems and empowering greed through capitalism.

It can be stated with reasonable certainty that these social ills will not be solved politcally or governmentally - but only communally, and this was the failure of the early socialist movements. Their goal should have been to stop goverment from empowering greed, and then allow the local community to begin to solve the known problems.

This little reprint is a glimpse into the mindset of the early socialist (humanitarian) movements, and provides what they felt was justification for their goals.

Studies in Historic Materialism are three essays written by Max Beer between January 1908 and May 1909, published in those dates in the Socialist Democrat, a newspaper in England.


Historic materialism claims to be a sociological theory, and, by implication, a method of research, dealing with the dynamics, with the motor forces and causes of change, of human society. Its purpose is to do for history what Galileo, Bacon, and Darwin have done for natural science. It starts from the proposition that the mind is neither the centre of innate, supersensuous, and eternal ideas, nor a mirror that passively reflects the external world, but an active physiological organ capable of producing thought out of the materials received, through the senses, from the external world.

It does not inquire into the origin of mind and of the laws of thinking. It accepts the data of psychology and logic. Its inquiries begin with the question, How does the mind produce and fill itself with definite conceptions of religion, ethics, art, laws, politics, and economics? And why does the mind, at certain periods of social development, reject old-established truths, well-grounded ideas and accepted theories, and begin to work up new conceptions which in their translation into rules of conduct and institutions change in a radical, revolutionary manner our social system? To that question two replies only can be given.

One reply is: Through the enlightenment of the mind, acting through great men. The enlightenment may be effected through inspiration or through ratiocination. With inspiration we can have nothing to do; the theological stage is a thing of the past.

There remains only ratiocination, which means that the mind by its capacity of analysing, combining, and syllogising can discover the unsoundness of established conceptions and build up new ones that are more satisfactory to human reason. Historic materialism accepts the first halfof that reply, but rejects the other half. It unreservedly admits the capacity of the mind to ratiocinate and to carry certain conceptions, produced from given external material, to their logical conclusions, even if those conclusions are beyond the reach of empirical observation. But it denies the mind the capacity of arriving, by logical reasoning, at new conceptions without having received new sensations from the external world.

Since the time of Galileo, Bacon and Darwin it has become a commonplace in natural science that observation precedes ratiocination, and practice precedes theory. Why should it be different in historical science? Why should we subject the mind to the law of causation in natural science and elevate it to the role of a creator in historical science? On what ground are we justified in ascribing to the mind two contradictory qualities, viz., of being only the interpreter of nature, but the sovereign master of history?

Looking closely at the reply we are dealing with, it amounts to a deification of the human mind as manifested in the religious founder, lawgiver, empire-builder, and financier. It is, indeed, nothing but a remnant of the theological stage, which has not yet been overcome in the domain of history.

Softcover, 5¼" x 4, 100+ pages

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