A materialist view leads directly to the realization that people's material standing, their economic standing, is their primary source of motivation. From there, one can begin to understand the complicated developments of history and the present. From an idealistic (non-material) framework, only confusion can result.

Marxists know that our material circumstances are the basis of our thinking. In fact, it's easy to think of examples of people whose point of view changed dramatically after their situation changed. Consider, for example, a worker in a shop who is suddenly promoted to management. Although he often tells his former friends that he is still their pal, his loyalty has been transferred to management's side. His former friends soon learn to stop trusting him, and they may joke that his new necktie and white shirt are choking off the blood to his brain.

The bosses may honestly believe that low wages are good for workers. The workers honestly believe that low wages are bad for workers. The bosses tend to believe that unions are bad; the workers tend to believe that they are good. Their situation determines their point of view.

Stories abound about people who suddenly learn humility after their fall from power. Former aristocrats claim new insights after they have been poor for a while. When the foreman is transferred back to ordinary shop work, his point of view changes as well.

While "being determines consciousness" is a reliable rule in general, it should not be rigidly applied. Individuals may hold contradictory thoughts and opinions. When we are considered in general terms, though, our situations dominate our point of view.

It is important to grasp this fundamental materialist fact, because it is the basis of understanding class society.

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You can go through these little modules in any order you like, but now that you have finished What determines our attitudes? then Materialists Have a Better Understanding of History is recommended next.