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Economic Determinism

J. I. (Hans) Bakker

Subject Economics
Sociology » Economic Sociology, Sociological and Social Theory

Key-Topics Marxism

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The concept of economic determinism refers to monocausal determinism by material, economic factors. The idea is often associated with Karl Marx's “historical materialism,” but it is not clear that Marx himself was a strict economic determinist, or even a materialist ( Gouldner 1980 ; Simmel 1990 [1900]; Landry 2000 ). The Romantic strain in the work of the early Marx did not disappear entirely, which is evident in terms of his view of species being and the teleology of communism. Some commentators differentiate between economic determinism and dialectical materialism, where dialectical materialism allows for more flexibility and may even include a feedback mechanism. Rigid versions of economic determinism are often associated with Marxist-Leninism and Stalinism. In Marxist parlance, the forces of production determine the relations of production in any mode of production. Sometimes that statement is modified to include the disclaimer that such economic determinism is only true in the final analysis. But precisely what “in the final analysis” means is rarely specified exactly. Closely related is the concept of economic reductionism ( Robertson & White 2005 : 355–7), where emphasis is placed on the idea that the economy is closely intertwined with all forms of the culture of consumerism. Thus, for example, advertising images can be viewed as ideological constructs that are the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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