Marxism: A Positive Science of Capitalist Development

  • Alan Swingewood


Comte’s theory of historical change had emphasised the concept of determinate laws, that history necessarily moved through a succession of stages culminating in the scientific epoch of positivism. For Comte, as with Montesquieu, Smith and Ferguson social change was not a random process dependent on purely subjective and accidental elements, but the result of an underlying structure of forces — material and moral — that generated both direction and meaning. As was argued in the previous chapter, many of Comte’s fundamental ideas were derived from Saint-Simon, but in Comte’s reworking of Saint-Simon’s theories the concepts of industrialism, production, class formation and class conflict were stripped of their contradictory and negative aspects and integrated into an organismic, consensual model of society. But Saint-Simon’s writings contain both positivistic and socialist elements. The development of socialism as both an intellectual current and socio-political movement owed much to the influence of Saint-Simon’s followers. The Saint-Simonian school, in particular the writings of Enfantin and Bazard, argued that production must be socially organised, run by the producers themselves (not the parasitic ‘idlers’ and ‘unproductive classes’), and society develop from rule by government and military organisation to administrative and industrial rule.


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Copyright information

© Alan Swingewood 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Swingewood
    • 1
  1. 1.London School of EconomicsUK

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