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History refers to past events and the study of them, with modern times being a product of it while also actually becoming it. Historical materialism is a view of history that posits its events as being primarily based in physical, material things, rather than ideologies and other subjective ideas, which historical materialism says mostly come from material bases rather than being spontaneously thought up by individuals. Thus, things like the wealth and values of a society are determined by other things like what minerals a society has access to, whether it has plenty of water routes, whether the soil is rich and what natural borders there are, etc.


Since ancient times, people started to believe that history has a certain pattern of development. Many thinkers believed that it was circular; that societies arise, mature, then die, and new societies begin on the ashes of the old, this view informed in part by the way in which people themselves live and die. Some believed in a strict version of circular development, where there was no real development in history and that everything eventually returns to its starting point, repeatedly — Pythagoras (6th century BC) and his disciples, for one, created a theory where the world restarted at the same point every 7,600,000 years. Plato and Aristotle (4th century BC) had similar ideas, believing the world goes through the same stages in a circuit. Ancient Chinese philosopher Dong Zhongshu (179–104 BC) thought likewise, reasoning that both the heavens and the Tao — the supreme principle and order of the universe — were unchangeable. This form of thought persisted all the way to 17th century Italian thinker Giambattista Vico, who suggested that at the end of every society was a crisis that led to decay, after which a new cycle began primitively.

Others believed history was retrogressing, degrading from a "Golden Age", as held ancient Greek poet Hesiod (c. 700 BC) and Roman philosopher Seneca (c. 4 BC–65 AD). This is believed by some even in the modern age, like English astronomer James Jeans (1877–1946) who wrote that all of life, society, and the universe in general are going to their doom. While indeed history does observe temporary retrogressions, such as in Nazi Germany and other reactionary regimes which try to reverse the course of history, the success of such is short-lived and inherently bound for collapse due to their inherent contradictions, especially when interacting with the world.

An accumulation of historical knowledge gave rise in modern times to a dialectical view of history as conceived by Hegel (1770–1831) and later developed by other figures like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and later Vladimir Lenin and such who improved the model of history given contemporary developments — which in fact were appearing for the first time ever. This view recognized the annihilation of past elements in history like previous philosophers had, but saw also that each stage held the basis for the next, thus manifesting the principle of dialectical negation — as opposed to many earlier thinkers who believed that past societies were virtually entirely destroyed and their developments thusly lost. Given the dialectical worldview, history is seen as in fact progressing in quite a particular way, unlike even the linear model — like a spiral, moving upwards with a slight wobble and with increasingly greater circles; more lively contradictions, approximating the path of previous circles below but rarely dipping into them before being sent back up by the upward force of historical materialism.[1]


  1. What Is Philosophy?. Galina Kirilenko, Lydia Korshunova. 1985. pages 136–143.