The determinism of historical materialism is materialistic and dialectical
To illustrate that historical determinism is not antithetical to the possibility of changing the world, it is necessaiy not only to affirm that historical materialism is a historical determinism, but also to explain what kind of determinism is the determinism of historical materialism.
Determinism is a complex multifaceted concept. In terms of the basic nature of philosophy, there is a determinism of materialism and a determinism of idealism; from the perspective of existence, there is a natural determinism and a historical determinism; from the perspective of the forms of science, there is a strict determinism and a statistical determinism (or univocal determinism and probabilistic determinism); from the forms of history, there is an ancient naive determinism, a medieval theological determinism, a modern mechanical determinism, and Hegel's idealistic and dialectical determinism, and a Marxist materialistic and dialectical determinism (many scholars in China have labeled the materialistic and dialectical determinism as system determinism in recent years). The historical determinism of historical materialism is a materialistic and dialectical determinism. There are many existing studies and discussions in China on various forms of determinism, so no further discussion on them will be offered here. Only the
Historical determinism, subjective choice 53 dialectical materialist determinism of historical materialism will be discussed here. As already mentioned, the determinism of historical materialism is a theory that recognizes that the development of society has objective regularity, necessity, and causal constraints. It is a determinism based on materialism and dialectics, unlike the mechanical determinism and the determinism of idealism. In fact, the determinism of historical materialism believes that the development of society has an objective regularity impervious to the subjective will of men. This determinism also opposes the historical fatalism and historical pre-formationism that people are powerless in the face of objective laws. It is an agency determinism based on the practical activities of men as the subjects of history. The determinism of historical materialism does not deny or reject the role of humans’ active and history-making activities, and even considers them as the premise for historical determinism. If the determinism of historical materialism loses this premise, the practical activities of men as the subjects of history cannot be carried out. Judging from the determinism of historical materialism, the understanding and revealing of the objective regularity of the development of history open up a vast world for exploring the history-making and active activities of men as the subjects of history, so that human agency can enjoy more freedom and employ initiative, thus creating history with greater consciousness and compliance with objective laws.
In order to illustrate that the determinism of historical materialism is dialectical and materialistic, it is necessary to illustrate that historical determinism and the possibility of changing the world are not contradictory to but interconnected with each other. Several issues await clarification here: First, the relation between historical determinism and human agency; second, the relation between univocal determinism and probabilistic determinism; third, the relation between historical determinism and subjective choice; fourth, the relation between freedom and necessity. Each receives its discussion below.