Bourgeois Revolutions and Historical Materialism

“The force of circumstances perhaps leads us to results we had not thought of” – B/W photograph, 100×70 cm, 2016

“No freedom for the enemies of freedom” – B/W photograph, 100×70 cm, 2016

“La fin est proche” – B/W photograph, 100×70 cm, 2016

“How could liberty ever establish itself amongst us? Apart from a few tragic scenes, the revolution has been nothing but a web of farcical scenes” – B/W photograph, 100×70 cm, 2016

“Elegance is refusal” – B/W photograph, 100×70 cm, 2016

“Death before dishonour” – B/W photograph, 100×70 cm, 2016

In the preface to the second edition of The Eighteenth Brumaire, Marx stated that the purpose of this essay was to “demonstrate how the class struggle in France created circumstances and relationships that made it possible for a grotesque mediocrity to play a hero’s part.”


This essay contains the most famous formulation of Marx’s view of the role of the individual in history, often translated to something like: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” Unfortunately this translation obscures the meaning of his line, which should be read more like “People (die Menschen) make their own history, but they do not make it however they want, not under self-selected circumstances, but out of the actual given and transmitted situation. The traditions of all the dead generations burden, like a nightmare, the minds of the living.”


The Eighteenth Brumaire catalogs the mass of the bourgeoisie, which Marx says impounded the republic like its property, as composed of: the large landowners, the aristocrats of finance and big industrialists, the high dignitaries of the army, the university, the church, the bar, the academy, and the press. It also shows more criticism of the proletariat than is typical of his other works, referring to the bureaucracy as a “giant parasitic body” and describing widespread perceptions of the proletariat as a “party of anarchy, socialism, and communism,” a party paradoxically established on precepts of an oppositional “party of order.”
– The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon

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