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Marxist Social Theory

2. History and Social Change

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about Marx’s understanding of history and the evolution of societies. In particular, we focus on: (i) the base and superstructure model, and Marx’s belief that all societies can be characterised in terms of their economic base and ideological superstructure; (ii) the key features of the economic base of societies; (iii) Marx’s writings on some aspects of the ideological superstructure, such as religion and politics; (iv) his idea that societies develop through different modes of production, from the ancient slave-based mode, through feudalism, to capitalism.


In this course, Dr Ross Abbinnett (University of Birmingham) explores Karl Marx’s theory of society. In the first module, we consider Marx’s analysis of labour, its importance to humanity, and alienation from labour under capitalism. In the second, we look at how Marx approaches history and social change, particularly his base and superstructure model and his notion of modes of production. In the third and fourth modules, we think about Marx’s account of capitalism’s emergence and characteristics, and the political forces which lead society from capitalism to communism. In the final module, we consider efforts to bring communism about in the real world, such as those of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.


Dr Ross Abbinnett is Senior Lecturer in Social and Political Theory at the University of Birmingham. His recent publications include The Neoliberal Imagination: Politics, Aesthetics, and Economics in the Evolution of Hyper-Industrial Capitalism (2021), The Thought of Bernard Stiegler: Capitalism, Technology and the Politics of Spirit (2018) and Marxism After Modernity: Politics, Technology and Social Transformation (2006).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Abbinnett, R. (2021, August 31). Marxist Social Theory - History and Social Change [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Abbinnett, Ross. "Marxist Social Theory – History and Social Change." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 31 Aug 2021,

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