The German Ideology presents Marx’s theory of history: dialectical materialism or historical materialism. Inspired by the German philosopher, Hegel, Marx sees history as a dialectical process driven by opposing forces. The video below, “Intro to Dialectics from the film, Half Nelson (2006),” does a wonderful job of bringing this very abstract notion down to earth (and it features Ryan Gosling;)).
But Marx departs from Hegel in an important way. Whereas Hegel saw ideas as the driving force of history, Marx sees material experience – namely, the social relations of production – as pivotal. He claims it is experience that determines consciousness, not the other way around, as Hegel saw it. This leads to Marx’s famous proclamation that “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.” As you read, think about this statement in relation to the ideas of freedom and equality that prevail in our time. To what extent do they serve the interests of the “ruling class,” as Marx suggests?