Theory & Struggle

Marxism and historical materialism: The Roman Republic and the Spartacus War

A very concise defence of Marx’s dialectical method and class struggle analysis

Theory & Struggle (2018), 119, (1), 36–46.


Marxist approaches to the Spartacus War (73–71 BCE) and Roman society more widely have regularly been criticised by ancient historians on anachronistic and dogmatic grounds. This article attempts to go against the grain and demonstrate how, when used dialectically — as Marx himself advocated — class and class struggle are exceptionally useful concepts for investigating and explaining both process and crisis in the Roman world. The Spartacus War is no exception, even if we are inclined to accept Aldo Schiavone’s recent reworking of the event, if not his Weberian-influenced rejection of class analysis.

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Author details

McFarlane, Paul