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historical determinism


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1. A belief that historical processes have a certain inevitability, based on some fundamental factor. Its application ranges from a pessimistic fatalism which denies human free will (which ‘soft determinism’ permits) to the far looser optimistic Enlightenment notion of progress as inevitable. Benjamin refers to this evolutionist faith in the irresistible progress of humankind as historicism (contrasting it with historical materialism). Some, such as the Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper (1902–94), point to historical determinism in classical Marxism; others (e.g. Althusser) reject this.

2. (historical relativism) The view that our ideas are determined by our historical situation.

Subjects: Media studies


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