What are some examples of Hegelian thesis, antithesis and synthesis in history?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the best examples of the historical dialectic that Hegel articulated can be seen in the works of his student, Karl Marx.  Hegel argued that the dialectics of history reveal a progression in which there is a definite end.  Consciousness is the gradual recognition of this.  Hegelian dialectics were very organic, moments in which an incremental understanding of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis were present.  Hegel likened it to the emergence, blooming, and shedding of a flower.  

Marx took this idea and applied it to the realm of historical progression.  In doing so, Marx's dialectics are much more distinct and "harsher" than the natural flow of Hegel's vision.  For Marx, historical dialectics that Hegel articulated are rooted in materialism. Throughout history, the thesis of wealth accumulation has collided with the antithesis that lacks wealth accumulation.  This has progressed to the 19th Century, what he considered "modern."  In this condition, the reality of industrialization through capitalism is the thesis that collides with its antithesis, the presence of worker exploitation.  This historical reality is one in which owners who make money and workers who are denied it are pitted against one another.  Marx believes that the resulting synthesis will be a new form of Communism that will lead to Socialism.  The historical period of Industrialization can be seen through Hegel's dialectics as envisioned by Marx.

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