Marx’s Historicism

  • Leszek Nowak
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 139)


‘Historicism’ has been characterized by K. R. Popper as follows: historicism is a view of social sciences which assumes that their principal aim is a social prognosis, and that this aim can be achieved by analysing the ‘rhythms’ or ‘patterns’, ‘laws’ or ‘trends’ which the evolution of history undergoes (Popper (2), p. 107). So conceived historicism is represented first of all by Marxism. The basic argument against historicism is that the aim which it puts before itself is impossible to achieve with the means at its disposal. Marx’s theorems are not the laws of the type of those formulated in natural sciences since they are descriptions of specific, individual trends. They have, then, the same status as the historical sentence ‘Darwin and Galton had a grandfather in common’. This is why because the evolution of life or of human societies is the single, historical process which develops itself according to causal laws but its description is not a law: it is a singular historical sentence (ibid., p. 108). Since it is impossible to explain or predict the facts on the basis of singular statements, the conclusion is that no historical prognosis can be made on the basis of the sentences about historical trends. The illusion, Popper continues, that one can predict on the basis of Marx’s theorems is created by his failure of understanding of the nature of scientific predictions (e.g., those made by astronomy, physics, etc.).


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1980

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  • Leszek Nowak

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