Russia: Methods of Analysis
In his article (DISSENT, Summer 1954) Mr. Deutscher asks whether a higher level of civilization corresponds to a higher level of economic development and whether a mass increase in literacy induces progress toward democracy. To such general questions, general answers may be given. But they are bound to be either arbitrary or skeptical in tone, and in both cases sterile. As against such generalizations, which were the pet prejudices of bourgeois liberalism in the nineteenth century, Marx —I turn to him since Mr. Deutscher speaks in his name—stressed the need to describe historical movements in their specific contexts. What Marx looked for was not generalities about capital formation, but an historical analysis of primitive accumulation as the path by which in Western Europe the capitalist order of economy emerged from the feudal. And he took special care never to “metamorphose” such an “historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into an historico-philosophical theory of the marche generale imposed by fate upon every people whatever the historical circumstances in which it finds itself in order that it may ultimately arrive a...
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