Subjective Factor

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Subjective Factor


in history, the activity of a subject—be it mass, class, party, or individual activity—taking place at any level and in any form (ideological, political, organizational) and directed toward changing, developing, or preserving objective social conditions. The category of the subjective factor is coextensive with that of the objective factor or objective conditions. The precept of historical materialism, holding that people, nations, and classes create history, is manifested in the interaction of objective and subjective factors.

The subjective factor always functions within the framework of objective relationships and conditions, which to a considerable extent are crystallized forms of previous human activity. Objective conditions determine the overall nature, structure, and direction of the subjective factor. “In his practical activity, man is confronted with the objective world, is dependent on it, and determines his activity by it” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch, 5th ed., vol. 29, pp. 169–70). If it acts in disregard of objective conditions and of the laws governing them, the subjective factor will come into conflict with life and reality. However, it is incorrect to deduce all the varied aspects, forms, and features of the subjective factor directly from objective conditions, since the subjective factor develops in relative independence.

As a category, the concept of subjective factor serves to convey the method by which people affect objective conditions; it illuminates the moving forces of history and the significance of actual practice in changing reality and explains the reverse effect of superstructura!, ideological, and psychological phenomena on the material base. In practical activity, the objective and subjective aspects of the historical process emerge as interpenetrating and interacting facets of a single phenomenon.

The subjective factor’s growing role in history is an extremely important aspect of the historical process. In periods of major historical change, the subjective factor can become decisive in the transformation of social relationships if it coincides with developing objective conditions. The success of a rebellion or revolution, given the presence of its objective prerequisites, is conditioned by the subjective factor, expressed in such forms as political consciousness and maturity, decisiveness, will, degree of organization, and the ability of the class in question to carry out bold decisions and actions under revolutionary party leadership.

There are periods in history when the objective situation is ripe for radical social changes but when the progressive classes lack sufficient forces to bring about these changes—in which case society, in Lenin’s words, decays (see V. I. Lenin, ibid., vol. 11, p. 367). The conservative and reactionary classes, too, act as a brake on social development.

During the socialist revolution and since its victory, the significance of the subjective factor in history rose sharply. The communist social formation arises and develops as a result of the conscious and creative activity of the masses guided by the Marxist-Leninist Party, whose leadership is an important component of the subjective factor. Socialism effects a radical change in the correlation between consciousness and spontaneity. “Communism differs from all previous movements in that it overturns the basis of all earlier relations of production and intercourse and for the first time consciously treats all naturally evolved premises as the creations of hitherto existing men, strips them of their natural character, and subjugates them to the power of united individuals” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 3, pp. 70–71).


Chagin, B. A. Lenin o roli sub”ektivnogo faktora v istorii. [Leningrad] 1967.
Chagin, B. A. Sub”ektivnyi faktor: Struktura i zakonomernosti. Moscow, 1968.
Bronskii, N., and A. Kesarev. Ob”ektivnyi i sub”ektivnyi faktory istorii. [Cheliabinsk] 1965.
Pripisnov, V. I. Problema sub”ektivnogo faktora v istoricheskom materializme. Dushanbe, 1966.
Antonian, M. O. Sootnoshenie ob”ektivnykh uslovii i sub”ektivnogo faktora pri sotsializme. Yerevan, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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