“The problem of form and content in social reality, though it occurs on a different level and under much more complex conditions than in organic or inorganic nature, is fundamentally the same. The content of society is the production and reproduction of life, ranging from the simple fact that human beings must eat, drink, and be housed and clothed, to the vast array of modern tools, machines, and productive forces: it is the deliberate adaptation of the outside world to the growing material and spiritual needs of ‘Homo sapiens’. The forms in which this process takes place – social organization, institutions, laws, ideas, prejudices – are highly varied. For a certain time they correspond to the state of the forces of production, then they come into conflict with those forces, become rigid and out of date, and must be renewed again and again. Karl Marx pointed out in the preface to ‘The Critique of Political Economy’: “At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come into conflict with the existing relations of production, or – what is but a legal expression for the same thing – with the property relations within they had been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into their fetters. Then comes the period of social revolution”. Marx and Engels both warned against dogmatic and mechanistic over-simplifications of their fundamental thesis. In a letter to Joseph Bloch, Engels wrote: “According to the materialist view of history, production and reproduction of real life are, ‘in the last instance’, the determining factor in history. Neither Marx nor I have asserted more than that. If anybody twists this into a claim that the economic factor is the ‘only’ determining one, he transforms our statement into a meaningless, abstract, absurd phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but all the factors of the superstructure – political forms of the class struggle and its results, constitutions adopted by the victorious class after winning a battle, forms of law, and, more than that, the reflections of all these real struggles in the minds of the people involved, political, legal, and philosophical theories, religious views both in their early and their more developed, dogmatic form – all these factors also influence the course of historical struggles and in many cases play the dominant role in determining their ‘form'”. And again, in a letter to Starkenburg: “Political, juridical, philosophical, religious, literary, and artistic developments, etc., are based on economic development. But, in addition, they react upon one another and also on the economic basis. The economic situation is not an ‘original cause’ which alone is active while all else is merely passive effect. There is, rather, mutual action on the basis of economic necessity, which always proves the determining factor ‘in the last instance'”” [Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art. A Marxist Approach, 1964]

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