The Role of the Individual in History

Just finished reading The Role of the Individual in History by Georgi V. Plekhanov.

In summary, social and economic trends are inevitable, due to the social relations and economic production at the given time, and there’s nothing a single individual can do to stop these trends.

The historical role of the individual (the hero) is exaggerated, simply because he is elevated to that position out of the necessity that those trends call forth, and if that individual were not available to fill that position, another individual, more or less qualified, would take their place.

But that does not discount the role of the individual. His role is necessary and vital nonetheless, simply because the forces command it.

An individual cannot derail the inevitability of the trends, and no individual can “make history”, because these trends are determined by the whole of productive forces within social relations.

The individual plays a role in facilitating that inevitability, but there are men who can do more than others to facilitate the solutions to the problems.

“A great man is precisely a beginner because he sees further than others. He solves the scientific problems brought up by the preceding process of intellectual development of society; he points to the new social needs created by the preceding development of social relationships; he takes the unitive in satisfying these needs.”

Any individual who is sufficiently embedded within the social relations who “have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to love their neighbors” can actively engage in facilitating these trends, and become the hero.

“But he is not a hero in the sense that he can stop, or change, the natural course of things, but in the sense that his activities are the conscious and free expression of this inevitable and unconscious course.”

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