“According to Marx, history unfolded in a grand series of stages, each defined by its dominant mode of economic production and each specifically arising to replace the one that preceded it. “In broad outlines,” he wrote in the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, “ancient, feudal, and modern bourgeois modes of production can be designated as progressive epochs in the economic formation of society.” Capitalism, in other words, was a historically necessary step in human progress.
The great revolutionary forces unleashed by capitalism, Marx thought, would in turn form and shape a self-aware proletariat class that would ultimately lead humanity into a glorious communist future. But that would happen only after capitalism had worked its magic. “No social order ever perishes,” Marx maintained, “before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed.””
“Marx not only welcomed capitalism’s creative destruction of feudalism and slavery; he recognized and even championed capitalism’s essential role in human advancement. With free labor on the march, Marx argued in his 1861 essay “The North American Civil War,” the peculiar institution faced ultimate extinction “according to economic law.””