Karl Marx, historian of social times and spaces

Garcia Quesada, George Ivan (2017) Karl Marx, historian of social times and spaces. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This thesis systematizes the role of the categories of social space and social time in the diverse phases of Karl MArx's philosophy of history, emphasizing his decisive rupture with the Enlightenment evolutionist conception of World-History in and after his 1856 'Grundrisse'. Marx's conception of social forms, rather than stages, as historical totalizations enables him to clarify essential spatio-temporal issues for his theory of history, such as multilinearity as well as combined and uneven development, thus contributing to the explanation of concrete socio-historical problems. This argument is framed by a critical engagement with Paul Ricoeur's philosophy of history, as elaborated in his 'Memory, history, forgetting'. Hence after the first chapter problematizes current Marxist and post-Marxist scholarship on the categories of socio-historical space and time, the second chapter investigates the Marxian ontological foundations of history, which in turn direct us towards the historical ontology of capitalism. The final three chapters draw on the critical realist philosophies of Roy Bhaskar, Andrew Collier and Andrew Sayer, in order to reveal Marx's understanding of the epistemological phases of history. The third chapter looks at Marx's theory of hsitory, which constructs historical explanations by mediating between concepts at an abstract level and empirical evidence at a more concrete level. The role of abstraction is fundamental to this phase, as it differentiates between 'modes of production' and 'social formations'. The fourth chapter examines Marx's archive and his use of source material, analyzing his critical method, his treatment of biases in his archive, and how his explanations stand up against recent investigations using other sources. The fifth and final chapter discusses the problems of spatio-temporalizing the literary form of historiographical presentation ('Darstellung'). Here the elaboration of Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of the 'chronotope' through Ricoeur's concept of emplotment and Hayden White's theory of tropes enriches the analysis of Marx's strategies of presentation. This is evident at the level of both a mode of production and actual social formation, namely their respective roles in relation to historical knowledge and politics. The analysis of the different phases of Marx's philosophy of history in this thesis thus possesses a normative dimension: it has the potential to spatio-temporalize the philosophy of history in general and social scientific methodology in particular - although this is not systematically developed in Marx's historiographical narratives.

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