Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #6: Marx and History

"History is a tragedy, but not a meaningless tragedy. Nor are we mere spectators: we have our parts in the action." -- Christopher Hill, "Marxism and History" (1948), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 87.

"Marx's influence on historians, and not only Marxist historians, is nevertheless based both upon his general theory (the materialist conception of history), with its sketches of, or hints at, the general shape of human historical development from primitive communalism to capitalism, and upon his concrete observations relating to particular aspects, periods and problems of the past." -- E. J. Hobsbawm, "Marx and History" (1984), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 93.

"It is also perfectly clear from the beginning that, since human beings have consciousness, the materialist conception of history is the basis of historical explanation, but is not historical explanation itself. History is not like ecology: human beings decide and think about what happens." -- E. J. Hobsbawm, "Marx and History" (1984), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 95.

"American historians, especially the most harshly anti-Marxian, generally confuse the two [Marxism with economic determinism] and then, since economic determinism is easy to refute, dismiss Marxism as being of no value. This game would prove entertaining, were it not that these same historians so often retreat into banal economic explanations to suit their convenience." -- Eugene Genovese, "Marxian Interpretations of the Slave South" (1968), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 101.

"It would be wonderful fun to list the respected and influential historians who have protected their jobs and families by eschewing the Marxist label while writing from a Marxian viewpoint and even greater fun to recount the multitude of ways in which the profession has misunderstood what they are in fact doing and saying." -- Eugene Genovese, "Marxian Interpretations of the Slave South" (1968), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 102.

2 comments:

Geschichte Grad said...

Excellent bits; thanks for the tips. I'm always looking for ways to explain the power of Marx's approach to history without getting bogged down in debates about economic determinism.

mralarm said...

Wait, history is tragedy? I thought it was farce!