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Friedrich Engels : An Historical Materialist Approach Essay

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In the excerpt from Anti-Dühring titled “Theoretical” Friedrich Engels criticizes capitalism through an historical materialist approach. Through declaration of a fundamental contradiction within the capitalist mode of production, Engels characterizes a cascade of economic conflicts that inevitably paralyze capitalist society. Following critique of contemporary capitalist thought, Engels envisions a future for capitalism in which the fundamental contradiction will lead to a revolution in capitalism. To understand Engels’ declaration of the fundamental contradiction in capitalism, one must understand the lens through which he views society. Engels views society through a lens of historical materialism, which in his words is that “the ultimate causes of all social changes and political revolutions are … changes in the mode of production and exchange” (292). He argues that society’s progress is not driven by the evolution of human insight, but rather the economic conditions of the era in question. Engels also emphasizes that classifies social hierarchy and overall structure as dictated by the distribution of the means of distribution and exchange.
In medieval society, the modes of production were chiefly controlled by the peasantry and craftspeople; small units based around individuals that produced enough goods for the survival of their families, along with small amounts of surplus that could be traded for goods or services. Especially within the system of feudalism, such
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