In his new book, Katz offers a new reading of Karl Marxs theory of history. The book re-examines two incompatible versions of historical materialism: one ascribes the primary cause of historical development to technological progress, the other to class struggle. Katz argues that these versions are inadequate, both as interpretations of Marxs theory and as explanations of the problems of historical change. His study distinguishes three different levels of analysis. The first level is Marxs own summaries of historical materialism, which typically award causal primacy to technology. The second level is Marxs historical studies of feudalism and the transition to capitalism, where class and class struggle play a central role. The third level is the modern debate on the transition from feudalism to capitalism. The history of this transition is chosen by Katz as an empirical test of Marxian theory because it is the principal source from which Marx developed the concepts for interpreting the dynamics of crisis in modes of production. By establishing a reciprocal movement between the respective explanatory roles of technology and class struggle on the one hand, and the historical record on the other, Katz evaluates their relative contributions to an understanding of the supersession of feudalism by capitalism. The result is a reconstruction of Marxs theory of radical social change, one which is historically and theoretically more tenable.
The books first two chapters develop and contrast the two dominant principles of historical causality in Marxs work: class struggle and the development of technology. Subsequent chapters explore the history of feudalisms decline and final disintegration, and its replacement by capitalism, providing a critical analysis of Marxs theory of history. From Feudalism to Capitalism is an important new scholarly source for students of Karl Marxs social and political thought, or students enrolled in social science programs.