46 SOCIAL SCIENTIST
and political spheres, which are very important especially in the epoch of imperialism, will not be dealt with except in passing reference. Because of the stress on theory, the discussion will tend to be somewhat 'abstract9. Obviously considerable care must be taken when it comes to applying the theoretical concepts and arguments to a concrete historical situation.
It is not suggested that the exposition can proceed without even a cursory discussion of Marxism as a totality. At least a preliminary statement is required of historical materialism, and of Marx's general method of political economy.
Historical materialism views social and historical development in terms of the relationship of human beings with nature, and of the concomitant relationships among human beings. The basic premise is that man's fundamental activity is production. To quote Marx and Engels, "men begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence.5'2 Thus members of human society necessarily engage in material, productive activity to reproduce themselves. In the act of production, we appropriate nature, and thus transform it. Equally important, we transform ourselves by the process of material production. Most crucially, we learn. Through productive activity we acquire some control over our environment. Human knowledge evolves through material practice. Marx and Engels put it in these terms: "life involves before everything else, eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things. The first historical act is thus of the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself.9'8
Also, "as individuals express their life, so they are. What they are therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of indviduals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production."4
Production of course is never carried out in isolation by an individual. It occurs in and through society, that is, production is necessarily social production. Thus production in society is to be seen "as a double relationship: on the one hand as a natural, on the other as a social relationship.5'5
Since production is social, involving the cooperation of many individuals, such social production always involves social relationships among the members of society. In the process of production and reproduction of society, people enter into specific social relationships with one another.
In the study of a human society^ one must thus examine two aspects: first, the methods of production of material life, which are the results of all past and current material practice, the sum total of theoretical and practical knowledge and control over our natural environment expressed through specific social forms, past and present; and secondly,