Materialist Conceptions.

“Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.”
Friedrich Engels’ at the Grave of Karl Marx
Highgate Cemetery, London. March 1883

I’m fortunate to have studied cultural anthropology in the early 1980s when the third floor of UConn’s Manchester Hall doubled as a hideout for the editorial committee of the journal Dialectical Anthropology. Professor’s Chance, Cook, Faris, and Magubane competed with each other to offer courses with titles like “The Materialist Conception of… just about everything.”

base-superstructureFriedrich Engels was one of the first anthropologists of the new urban industrial modernity. He authored his Condition of the Working Class in England (1844) as a participant-observer of his family factories in Manchester. Forty years later, soon after the death of his friend Marx, he published The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884). This book began by using notes Marx had taken from American ethnologist Lewis H. Morgan’s classic work on kinship Ancient Society (1877). Engels extended the work of both by theorizing the matrilineal clan, not the patriarchal family, as the original domestic institution in human society. “Daddy Knows Best” was born on the hip of private property in land. [see: mode of production; productive forces and relations of production].

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