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Historical Inevitability and Human Agency in Marxism [and Discussion]

G. A. Cohen, R. Veryard, D. H. Mellor, A. G. M. Last, Randolph Quirk and John Mason
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Mathematical and Physical Sciences
Vol. 407, No. 1832, Predictability in Science and Society (Sep. 8, 1986), pp. 65-87
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2397783
Page Count: 23
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Historical Inevitability and Human Agency in Marxism [and Discussion]
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Abstract

Marx and Engels believed that the advent of a socialist society was inevitable. How was that belief compatible with their advocacy of political activity to bring about socialism? I reply that Marx and Engels thought socialism was inevitable, not whatever people might do, but because of what people, being rational, were bound, predictably, to do. It is therefore no more irrational for Marxists to struggle for the goal they regard as inevitable than it is for an army of overwhelming strength to fight and thereby achieve its inevitable victory. That answer to the stated question raises problems about the relations among human rationality, human freedom, probability and predictability, which I proceed to explore. Because non-Marxist politicians often devote a lot of energy to the attempt to realize goals that they say are bound to come, the problems have a general interest that transcends the parochial Marxist context in which they most famously arise.

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