The Dialectic of Structure and History: An Introduction

The investigation of the dialectical relationship between structure and history is essential for a proper understanding of the nature and the defining characteristics of any social formation in which sustainable solutions are being sought to the encountered problems.

By Istvan Meszaros

This is particularly important in the case of capital’s social formation, with its inexorable tendency toward an all-embracing, structurally embedded determination of all aspects of societal reproduction and the—feasible for the first time ever—global domination implicit in that form of development. It is therefore by no means accidental that, in the interest of the required structural change, Marx had to focus critical attention on the concept ofsocial structure, in the historical period of crises and revolutionary explosions of the 1840s when he articulated his own—radically new—conception of history.

In his first great synthesizing work, the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Marx put into relief that, in the course of modern historical development, natural science, through its close integration with the material practices of capitalist industrial production, had become in an alienated form the basis of social life; a circumstance considered by Marx “a priori a lie.”1 In his view this had to be rectified by extricating science itself from its alienating integument. At the same time science had to be retained, in a qualitatively modified form, remade as “the science of man”2—in its inseparability from “the science of history”—the enriching and gratifying basis of actual human life. But to achieve this fundamental transformation, it was absolutely necessary to understand and lay bare the deep-seated structural determinations through which the creative potentiality of human labor, including the scientific endeavor of the social individuals, had been subjugated by the alienating imperatives of fetishistic/uncontrollable capital-expansion and accumulation.

Read further on Monthly Review