Economic determinism, theory, first fully developed by Karl Marx in the mid-1800s, that a society's basis is determined by its economic structure. Fundamental changes in a society are produced not by educational or religious theories, but by alterations in that society's ability to manufacture and distribute goods. The ruling class of a society is that which controls material production. Only by changing its influence on the economic system is a class able to gain strength in the political system of a society.
See also: Marx, Karl.