The principle of economic determination entails that economic phenomena explain (or determine) non-economic phenomena. The reach of economic determination within Marxist theory may be clarified by distinguishing between the claims of Marxist sociology and the theory of history.1 The sociology does not claim that all non-economic phenomena are explained in economic terms, but it does claim that they are (or may be) so explained in their ‘broad lines’ (Cohen, 1988, p. 177). The theory of history, understood as a ‘restricted’ doctrine, is more limited in scope. This is because a restricted range of non-economic phenomena is functionally explained by the nature of the economic structure. In other words the theory of history restricts itself to explanation of only those non-economic phenomena that are ‘economically relevant’ in the sense of meeting some functional requirement or ‘system need’ of the economic structure. It is only these non-economic phenomena that are included in the ‘legal and political superstructure’. In general terms the function of the superstructure is to ‘stabilise’ the economic structure.2
KeywordsSocial Force Economic Structure Functional Explanation Explanatory Primacy Relative Autonomy
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