In this video, starting at 5:36, Stephen Hicks claims that there are three central "social science" Marxist predictions, which I would sum up as follows:

Over time, in any capitalist society,

  1. The share of the population in the lower class will increase,
  2. The share of the population in the middle class will go to zero,
  3. The number of people in the upper class will converge towards a very small number.

He then goes on to say

" ... even in Marx's lifetime, and certainly in the succeeding generations of Marxists, by the time we get to 1900, right, 1920, and so forth ... all three of those predictions failed - it's not just that they failed by a little bit or that the data was mixed, but that all of the data is showing that the exact opposite is coming to pass. [...] Social science stands on its predictions as measured by the data, and by every measure, Marxist social science failed to fit the data, in fact the data was the exact opposite. And this caused a crisis not only by people who are not sympathetic to Marxism ... but a crisis within Marxism. What you find when you read the Marxists of each succeeding generation is that they are aware of the data: we predicted this, but now the data says that."

Now I believe that the above is likely to inspire a lot of politically motivated debate, so I'd like to clarify the scope of my question: In the 20th century, did Marxists acknowledge that the social predictions of Marxism had failed and that the predictions did not fit the data?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 17, 2018 at 4:13
  • To clarify, I'm not asking whether or not these predictions came true or not. I'm asking whether it is true that a number of 20th century Marxists believed that they were wrong.
    – user159517
    Jul 13, 2022 at 11:11
  • 2
    We have a Politics site where this would be a better fit. Jul 13, 2022 at 13:05
  • 1
    @user159517: Questions about the beliefs of specific people and small groups are off-topic here, because they can never be empirically answered. For large groups, we can potentially answer via surveys and the like (e.g. 27% of Americans believe in Astrology). "Twentieth Century Marxists" is a vague category, and we cannot expect them all to hold an identical position. I do not believe you will ever get an high-quality answer here.
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 15, 2022 at 15:36
  • It's a fair question with a fair answer but I find the assertion that Marx actually made such a prediction a bit questionable itself. Hicks is clearly referring to Marx's "General Law", but what Marx understood to be a "law" is not so simple, mathematical and predictive as presented here.
    – Brian Z
    Jul 16, 2022 at 18:29

3 Answers 3


Yes, of course they saw it. Marxism lost ground in Germany to the Catholic Centre Party and later National Socialism. At the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt Max Horkheimer lead group of researcher known later as Frankfurt School whose aim was to keep Marxist goal, but define a new way to achieve them.

The new Marxists focused on Marx's early writings such as Paris Manuscript which was discovered in 1932. They borrowed idea of Sexual Revolution from Wilhelm Reich arguing to suppression of sexual desire leads to authoritarian personality. Herbert Marcuse in his book Eros and Civilization attempted to synthesize Marxist and psychoanalytic theory by Wilhelm Reich.

The new Marxists ignored the class struggle and argued that soon the automation will liberate people from the need of work. Everyone could go back and live close to human nature. In the Origin of family, private property and the state published after Marx dies, but based on his notes to Lewis Morgan book on primitive societies, Engels proposed that capitalism enslaved women and created family through the bourgeois marriage.

In general the new marxism is anticultural and sees culture as source of oppression.

  • 3
    This is about what I thought when reading the question as well. But it seems that the question is much narrower focused on the three listed supposed central Marxist predictions, so this doesn't really answer the question.
    – tim
    Jul 27, 2018 at 11:29
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    The question is too broad, so I understand why you don't go into too much depth, but without some quotation, just stating that it is 'anticultural' doesn't seem right. Criticizing specific aspects of a culture, or the entirety of a specific culture, isn't necessarily anticultural.
    – tim
    Jul 27, 2018 at 12:30

I asked the same question on the Philosophy Stack Exchange, and Geoffrey Thomas gave a great answer there. He references Max Horkheimer in the beginning because of the video Max Horkheimer on Critical Theory in which Horkheimer claims that one of Marx's ideas is wrong. In this 1969 recording, he says

... Marx hatte das Ideal der Gesellschaft freier Menschen. Er glaubte, dass diese kapitalistische Gesellschaft notwendig über die durch das steigende Elend der Arbeiter bedingte Solidarität (überwunden) sein müsse. Diese Idee ist falsch. Diese Gesellschaft, in der wir leben, verelendet nicht die Arbeiter, sondern hilft ihnen zu einem besseren Dasein.

The English translation from the video:

...Marx had an ideal of a free society of human beings. He believed that this capitalist society would necessarily have to be overcome by the solidarity spelled by the increasing immiseration of the working class. This idea is wrong. This society in which we live does not immiserate the workers but helps them to build a better life.

This is not very clearly related to the three predictions that are listed in the question, but it establishes that a prominent 20th-century Marxist such as Horkheimer believed that one of the (in his own words "sociological") ideas of Marx' theory was wrong. Together with the references given in Geoffrey Thomas' answer, I believe the answer to my question is indeed yes.


Why would they acknowledge something that isn't true?

  • The share of the population in the lower class will increase,
  • The share of the population in the middle class will go to zero,
  • The number of people in the upper class will converge towards a very small number.

What is the basis of the claim that these predictions were wrong?

Recent reports suggest otherwise:

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    You are not measuring from the time of Marx's writing. The middle class in "developed" countries burgeoned in the 19th century and early 20th. And it is growing globally very quickly now. Jul 13, 2022 at 23:42
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    see brookings.edu/research/… Jul 14, 2022 at 0:06
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    As you don't represent all Marxists from 1900-2018, your opinion on whether Marxism made accurate predictions isn't relevant. This doesn't answer the question, which is about what Marxists as a group have been saying. (As such, it is very difficult to answer.)
    – Oddthinking
    Jul 14, 2022 at 16:08

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