Marx’s concept of historical development is still presented, under the prevailing image, as following a single narrow path. That view, so it is asserted, derives from his best-known and most widely read work, the Communist Manifesto. That work, as everyone knows, was written for a practical purpose, in order to educate people. Yet the faithful who like to call themselves orthodox Marxists continue to vie with their opponents in reducing Marx’s views — with a zeal that could be better employed elsewhere — to the bare bones of the sacrosanct unilinear schema of five different types of society, following on from each other not only chronologically but logically, as ‘progressive’ stages in mankind’s historical development. These are: the classless primitive community, the slave-based society of classical times, the feudal society based on serfdom, the modern bourgeois society based on the capitalist mode of production, and lastly the classless society of the future, communist society, seen as the end to which all world history is progressing, particularly in those societies, from the Soviet Union to China, supposedly already in a state of transition, the so-called ‘socialist’ societies.
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