Social Scientist. v 10, no. 112 (Sept 1982) p. 3.


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DEBIPRASAD CHATTOPADHYAYA

Dialectics of Social Evolution:

Morgan, Marx and Engels

IT is possible for us today to identify three main stages of the general evolution of human society. These are the primitive pre-class society, class society and the classless society taking shape before us over a large area of the world. Such a broad division of social evolution is not intended, of course, to overlook the fact of uneven development of different peoples. Nor is it meant to ignore the sub-stages of the pre-class society and more particularly those of the class society. What nevertheless needs to be emphasised is that we are liable to miss something of basic significance about human history if we do not begin with these main stages of social evolution,

Notwithstanding the grave anxiety caused these days by the development of the thermo-nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction, the normal expectation of human survival on the earth— and, therefore, also of the classless society of the future—is for an immeasurable period of time. While looking back at the past, we have a somewhat similar impression. The period covered by the primitive pre-class society was immeasurably longer than the career of class society. On a rough estimate the latter "is at best one hundredth part of the time during which men have been active on our planet.'51

In the time-scale, therefore, compared to the primitive pre-class society of the past and compared also to the classless society of the future, the life of class society is rather trifling, howsoever spectacular the human achievements may be during this comparatively insignificant period and vastly complicated though the contemporary problem is of man's march forward to the classless society.

That, historically speaking, the class society is only a transitory phenomenon was emphasised over a hundred years back by Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-81), to whose masterpiece of field anthropology Marx and Engles owed their first full knowledge of the primitive pre-class society. While lifting the veil on the past, Morgan revealed also an inspiring vision of the future. Here is bis judgment on private property and class society:

"Since the advent of civilization, the outgrowth of property



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