Marxist Interpretation of History: The 1950s saw the emergence of a new way of understanding history – the Marxist interpretation history – which went on to play an extremely influential role in the construction of Indian history. Marxist historians are those who follow Karl Marx’s ideology about society being divided into two parts: with one end of the spectrum being the bourgeoisie (the rich upper class which owned the means of production) and the other end, the proletariat (the poor class of workers and peasants).
He further theorized that a relationship of exploitation existed between these two classes with the rich bourgeoisie exploiting the labor of the poor proletariat and living a decadent life off the surplus produced by them. Supporters of the Marxist interpretation history seek to speak for the lower class with a focus on the amount of exploitation which occurred during a certain period.
Marxist Interpretation of History – Contribution
One of the major long-run achievements of the Marxist Historians was to change historiography from an event-centered form dominated by the political narrative to the delineation of social and economic structures and processes, especially those related to class stratification and agrarian relations.
The earlier schools of historians focused on the political and social events which revolved around the ruling class and the elites, while the common people were seen only as tools to improve their lives. Their relationship with the state was not given much – if at all -importance. The Marxist interpretation of history also contributed towards uncovering the history of non-elite groups who had suffered centuries of subordination and marginalization.
While making these valuable interventions and contributions, writings by followers of the Marxist interpretation of history often tend to work with unilinear historical models derived from Western historical writings and anthropological writings. This basically meant that Indian history was seen and critiqued from a Western point of view which led to excessive condemnation by some historians.
Texts were sometimes read uncritically with insufficient attention paid to their problematic chronology and peculiarities of different genres, it was believed everything written in the texts was practiced by everyone around the subcontinent with no exceptions and things were taken at face value. Archaeological data was included but the basic framework remained text-centric.
They mainly focused on the class division based on the economic difference. Whereas this could be applied in the Western countries, where the division between the society was mostly economic, in a country like India where there are more bases of division than class (caste and gender differences, etc.) this system was not particularly effective. Religion and culture of the people were not given their due importance and were often sidelined or mechanically presented as reflections of socio-economic structures by the Marxist interpretation of history.