Chapter Thirteen: Final Exercises

Final Exercise #9: “Changing the History of Change”

Changing the History of Change


Most of humanity has been living under capitalism for centuries now. Our subjectivities -or identities-have been formed through this mode of production for a long time. This long term engagement with a certain way of living and producing our lives leads us to believe that capitalism is the natural, expected consequence of humanity evolving from medieval ages with its kings and lords, to our modern world with elected presidents and elites that rule us. The concept that explains this process is“naturalization,” that is, acceptance of capitalism and its way of life without questioning the origins of this formation.

Naturalization makes it difficult for us to understand that all social formations are historical, that is, they were different in the past, and they will probably be different in the future. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx fights against this naturalization process and attempts to demystify capitalism and its origins. We are often led to believe that capitalism developed naturally out of mercantilism and humanity’s natural penchant for trade, but Marx argues that what separates social epochs is not a peaceful, gradual transition but rather a violent, revolutionary upheaval.

Prompts for Final Exercise. Please address all items.

Using the Manifesto and the “Basic Definitions of Marxist Terminology”on Moodle, examine and explain Marx’s conception of history (historical materialism). In doing so, address all of the following prompts/questions:

      1. Using the following quote, explain how is Marx’s conception of history (historical materialism) different from the conception of history which maintains historical change is driven by ‘great ideas’ (idealism)? How does this difference impact our way of understanding society?

        “Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class.

        A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer whois no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity —the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industryand commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.”

      2. Explain how, historically, class struggle has factored into the change of different modes of production and such as ancient slavery, feudalism and capitalism. Explain also how each of these modes of productionare distinct from one another. Use the Marxian concept of mode of production for this.
      3. In what ways was capitalism ‘revolutionary’ in Marx’s times? How and why have class antagonisms changed under capitalism, and what are the implication of such changes?
      4. Marx thinks that class struggle explains change and progress in history. In his view, change does not stem from ideas alone. Has examining Marx’s historical materialism changed the way you think about history and change? If so, how? If it has not change, why not?

Steps to create the Final Exercise. Pleaes follow all of these steps.

  1. Re-read PowerPoint “Marx,” Moodle, Class 3.
  2. Look at your notes and your underlined texts of “The Communist Manifesto”
  3. Look up terms such as “class struggle,” “mode of production,” and other Marxist terms in “Basic Definitions of Marxist Terminology” –Class 3, “Workers of the World Unite!” in Moodle.
  4. Have an awesome discussion
  5. Make an eleven-minute long presentation in any of the formats suggested below
  6. Title every submission and include teammates names. The title needs to include your table number.
  7. At the end of class today, please upload your notes, texts, PPs, Spoken Word written text, script for Skits, and notes, images and videos to the Final Project folder in Moodle. Everything needs to be titled (including table number) and include the names of teammates.

Possible Presentation Formats

Spoken Word, Skits, Video and image analysis, Power Point                                                                                                                            Other creative formats might also be accepted, previous consultation with facilitators

Presentation Guidelines

Your presentation needs to have an introduction, a body where you draw your argument and present evidence or examples, and a conclusion. We need to hear from all the students in your group.


Thoroughly explain the concepts that will help you present your vision.


Be creative! Here is where you can use pictures, videos, poems, spoken word, or other forms to illustrate, analyze, and share your thoughts. Remember to tie your examples with your author’s concepts or ideas.


Bring it all together. Briefly recap concepts and examples or illustrations to explain how all of the above ties in with your life and vision for a better world.

Grading Rubric

Group Graded: Total
Beginning Developing Accomplished Exemplary
Quotes from text No quotes used Quotes with little analysis Quotes with some analysis Quotes with full analysis
Clarity of ideas Almost impossible to understand Difficult to understand Failry easy to understand Clear and easy to understand
Quality of Presentation Poor use of resources, boring. Few students present Some use of resources, somewhat boring. Some students present Good use of resources, entertaining. Many students present Great use of resources, impressive. Most to all students present
Length of Presentation Shorter 3 mins, longer 11 mins Between 3-5 mins Between 5-6 Between 6-11



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