In the beginning was Karl Marx, with his vision of how the Industrial Revolution would transform everything and be followed by a Great Communist Social Revolution—greater than the political French Revolution—that would wash us up on the shores of Utopia.
The mature Marx saw the economy as the key to history: every forecast and historical interpretation must be based on the economy's logic of development. This project as carried forward by others ran dry. Sometimes--as in, say, Eric Hobsbawm's books on the history of the nineteenth century--this works relatively well. But sometimes it led nowhere. The writing of western European history as the rise, fall, and succession of ancient, feudal, and bourgeois modes of production is a fascinating project. But the only person to try it seriously soon throws the Marxist apparatus over the side, where it splashes and sinks to the bottom of the sea. Perry Anderson's Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism and Lineages of the Absolutist State are great and fascinating books, but they are not "Marxist". They are Weberian. The key processes in Anderson's books concern not “modes of production” but rather “modes of domination.”