a term traditionally applied to any sociological theory that attempts to attribute changes in a society to the influence of some phenomenon regarded as the sole factor determining the changes.
The history of social thought contains many examples of this type of explanation for the mechanism of development of a society. Thus, attempts have been made at theories based, for example, on geographic, demographic, psychological, and, in the late 19th century, technological determinism. Every such attempt, however, led to what G. V. Plekhanov called a vicious circle of interaction: the phenomenon used as a factor was a consequence of some other factor or factors before it became a cause (see On the Question of the Development of the Monistic View of History, ch. 2).
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a number of bourgeois sociologists, such as M. Weber and M. M. Kovalevskii, improperly portrayed Marxism as a single-factor theory based on economic determinism. In place of Marxism, as they saw it, these sociologists offered various multiple-factor theories, according to which the development of a society is determined by the simultaneous action of, for example, economic, demographic, religious, and psychological factors. Such a position leads to eclecticism and the mechanical joining of various factors.
K. Marx, F. Engels, and V. I. Lenin rejected the branding of Marxism as economic determinism. In their view, to represent Marxism in this way is to vulgarize it. Marxism regards society as a developing system and describes the entire process “in its totality (and therefore, too, the reciprocal action of its various sides on one another)” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 3, p. 37). In this process of development the mode of production plays a decisive role.