Social Scientist. v 12, no. 129 (Feb 1984) p. 66.

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Marxism and Social Sciences: A Synoptic View

KARAL MARX was a giant among social scientists. His intellectual heritage, multi-disciplinary academic epuipment, familiarity with contemporary political developments and involvement in revolutionary movements enabled him to develop a rare insight into the interconnection between diverse social science disciplines on the one hand and between theory and practice on the other. His father was an eminent lawyer. His mathematics teacher was a materialist and an atheist. Apart from art and languages, Marx was familiar with proscribed revolutionary literature. He was steeped in the teachings of German philosophers like Kant, Fichte, Hegel and Feuerbach as well as the classical political economy of England which provided the philosophic and theoretical basis for the emerging capitalism in Europe.1 He was also acquainted with the Utopian socialist ideas propounded by Saint Simon, Fourier and Proudhon who were concerned about the ruthless exploitation and glaring inequalities associated with the development of capitalism in Western Europe. Exposure to such multi-faceted developments in thought and action helped Marx a great deal in developing his laws of social development and revolutionary strategy to overthrow exploitative social systems.

Marx was a materialist but not a mechanical determinist. He used Hegelian dialectics but divested it of its idealist kernel. He was ^ devoted to the discovery of laws of motion of society but did not interpret historical developments in terms of dates and personalities. He unravelled the mysteries of capital accumulation but was deeply committed to end capitalist exploitation. He,was a socialist but not a Utopian divorced from social reality.

Historical Materialism as developed by Marx has tremendous methodological significance for social scientists. Marx and Engels employed this method to probe into the secrets of surplus value and the specific laws of capitalism. Explanations of the nature of transition of capitalism from feudalism had led them to the identification and analysis of socio-economic formations, the classic description of which is given

^Professor of Financial Administration, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi.

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