This seems to fit Marx’s obsession with practical circumstances as the “driver” and ideas and subjective states of mind as secondary or even derivative. For Marx, culture and consciousness are “epiphenomena” like the foam on a wave.
In a different way, modern philosophers have their own versions of this:
- For Wittgenstein, “forms of life” come first before all else.
- For Husserl, “the life-world” comes before theory.
- For Heidegger, “being-in-the-world” comes before theory.
We do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. Their material life-process dominates.
The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence.Karl Marx with Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, page 47