Study Guide for Marx and Engels

Revised: March 26, 2004

Instructor: Jan Garrett

From the Preface to Marx's Critique of Political Economy (1859)

In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations which are indispensable and independent of their will; . . . the sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society--the real foundation, on which rise legal and political superstructures and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness.

At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come into conflict with the existing relations of production, or--what is but a legal expression for the same thing--with the property relations within which they had been at work. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into fetters. Then comes the period of the social revolution. . . . No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed, and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society.

Study Questions on the Preceding Passage

1. What is the "foundation" (basis) of society? the superstructure? Which determines which? Explain. Where do philosophies come from?

2. What brings about a social revolution?