Karl Marx's concept of time : its validity for contemporary historical interpretation
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While Karl Marx's concept of time has not received the same attention as other elements of his work, it is nonetheless an important aspect of his idea about history. Of those studies which have dealt with this problem, three questions stand. First, to what degree does time contain transhistorical and historically specific elements? Secondly, to what extent does human agency or deterministic forces underpin the construction of historical time? Thirdly, what is the nature of the relationship between absolute and relative time? In attempting to answer these questions, this thesis argues that Marx saw each of these elements as playing an important role in the constitution of historical time.In particular, this thesis argues that Marx demonstrates that time is manifested in the material world through a process that expresses transhistorical features in the emanation of time through human creative activity, and historically specific elements in the socially constructed forms of time that reflect the material conditions of the particular society in which they appear. It suggests, moreover, that he shows how time is shaped by both human agency, in the form of class struggle over the appropriation and control of time, as well by deterministic forces as seen in the role of institutional structures and the movement and reproduction of capital. Again, it endeavours to show that Marx develops the notion that absolute time, which is an historically specific concept, plays a crucial role in capitalist society as a measure of exchange-value and labour time, and that it co-exists with relative time, which emanates through different production processes as multiple and discontinuous temporalities. It further argues that Marx saw capitalist society as giving rise to an historical time that is universal and directional, and that is changing in its nature in response to changes in methods and relations of production.More generally, this thesis attempts to demonstrate that Marx's ideas about historical time have the inherent ability to transcend their place and time to be relevant to contemporary historical interpretation. Such an approach, it suggests, can help historians to understand the operation of historical time in the different phases of the development of capitalist society, the nature and functioning of temporal logics of non-capitalist societies, and how changes in the forms of time occur within and between different social forms. Above all, it argues that his concept of time is highly relevant to the interpretation of history in the postmodern phase of capitalist development and that, indeed, his idea of time both shares a number of similarities with Michel Foucault's idea about time, as well as goes beyond such an explanation.
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