Karl Marx is regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of the 19th century. He was born and raised in Prussia and got influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach amongst other radical Hegelians. Though he subscribed to the Hegelian belief regarding the dialectical structure and the historical inevitability, Karl Marx believed that the fundamental reality was to be found in the material base of the economy as opposed to the conceptual ideal found in philosophy. Marx graduated with a doctoral degree at Jena in the year 1841 after writing about the materialism and atheism of Greek atomists.
He later moved to Koln where he established a radical newspaper known as Rheinische Zeitung becoming its editor. He later moved to France and Belgium where he practiced some journalism before he finally settled in England in the year 1849 (Kemerling, para 1). Here he lived in poor conditions and engaged in the study and development of his theories that cut across politics and economy. Karl Marx was of the belief that philosophy should be practical in order to change the world.
This paper shall discuss the philosophical works of Karl Marx and how his work was regarded in the capitalistic society of the time.
Karl Marx’s Philosophy Karl Marx’s work was primarily based on the economy. In his work that was published in 1844 entitled ‘Economic and Political Manuscripts of 1844’, Marx presents an argument that the circumstances of the current industrial societies usually leads to workers being alienated from their own labor. He reviewed a book by Bruno Baier, ‘On the Jewish Question’ and concluded that religion had great influence on the political situation in Europe at the time. He was of the view that Europe needed restructuring that could only be brought about through revolutionary activities.
Marx went further to elaborate on his economic theories in subsequent works that included the ‘Capital’ of 1867-95 and ‘Theory of surplus value’ of 1862 (Kemerling, para 2). Karl Marx in conjunction with his colleague Friedrich Engels published their work entitled ‘The Communist Manifesto’ in the year 1848 which was aimed at initiating social revolution. In this work, the two focused on the struggles that are experienced between the social classes of the proletariats and bourgeoisies.
It also elaborates on the distinction between the communism and other forms of socialist movements. This piece of work also proposes the various social reforms and encourages the laborers to revolt against the incumbent regimes (Kemerling, para 3). Karl Marx and the Historical Materialism Karl Marx’s take on the historical materialism was greatly influenced by Hegel’s argument that human history should be viewed based on the dialectical aspect. Karl Marx developed a link between the Hegelian dialect and the materialism of his time.
To Marx, human history was influenced by economics. He argued that from the beginning of times, humans have never been motivated by ideologies but instead, they have usually been motivated by material concerns. This includes the need to eat and to continue to exist. This forms the basis for the historical materialism as propounded by Marx (Tucker, p 12). Marx observes that, initially humans used to work together and in unity, however, the development of agriculture and the issue of private property ownership spoilt the collective style of living.
Agriculture and private ownership of property gave rise to the division of labor and differentiation in the society leading to different classes that were based on power and wealth. Eventually, all this led to social conflicts which are characterizing the capitalistic society in which we live (Tucker, p 15). Capitalism has worsened the situation by increasing the disparities between the haves and have-nots. Karl Marx postulated that the class struggles are inevitable given the historical forces which can not be controlled by individuals.
He also claimed that capitalism came up with a new misery which he termed as “exploitation of surplus value” (German, para 18). Marx agitated for an economy that would involve the exchanging of value in commensurate measures. In this regard, Marx argued that the value of the laborers could be determined simply by their labor input in production of goods and services. Capitalism was seen as exploitative as it driven by profit motives and Marx argued that the profits originate from the surplus value that is produced by the laborers.
Capitalism therefore was seen as having the desire to produce an unbalanced exchange system where they exchange less for greater value (Tucker, p 25). The communist manifesto This was compiled following a combined effort of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and published in 1848. The Communist Manifesto is regarded as one of the most influential political work to have ever been published. The writing of the Manifesto was commissioned by the Communist League and written by the two respected figures Marx and Engels and it provided the League with purpose and program of their duties.
In this work, analysis of class struggles and problems associated with capitalism are well elaborated (German, para 6). The manifesto explains that historically, human society has been characterized by class struggles. These struggles become essential in determining the reorganization of work and way of life in general through a revolutionary means. In their view, Marx and Engels observed that in case the struggles fail to have a breakthrough, then the society is doomed to slide backwards instead of leaping forward.
Historically, the society had been shaped with such struggles as observed in England in 1640s and France in the late 18th century where the bourgeoisies prevailed over feudalism. Engels and Marx theorized that the bourgeoisie’s revolutions were to spread in other parts of Europe hence ushering in a rapid growth in the forces of production. In return, there will be rapid growth of the working class which will in turn precipitate the proletariat revolution (Marx, Engels & Jones, p 45). Karl Marx and Engels believed that capitalism was in the process of establishing itself and causing destruction to the feudalism that had preceded it.
The two believed that capitalism would later create the prerequisite conditions for the establishment of socialism. They believed that this was going to happen since capitalism was aimed at creating mass production and a revolutionary working class. The Communist Manifesto provides a sketch of capitalism development which is marked by the rise of towns during the Middle Ages, voyages that gave rise to merchant capitalism, and the growth of manufacturing sector that was meant to address the new market demands (Marx, Engels & Jones, p 48).
The working class is described by Karl Marx and Engels as those who do not own the means of production. They thus earn their living through laboring for those with the means of production. They become enslaved to the machinery and their lives are dominated by exploitative processes. The workers then shall become collectively organized through trade unions and political organizations. The perennial struggle between the classes leads to solidarity and Marx and Engels believe that this class is the sure revolutionary class based on the position they occupy in the workplace.
Since they hold the potential to run the production of wealth in the society, the working class is seen to be potential leaders of the revolution. The revolution that Marx and Engels anticipated was to result in a classless society as opposed to the previous revolutions that had only managed to lead to ruling classes being replaced by a small group of individuals. The revolution by the working class would abolish the stratified society to emancipate all the dispossessed (German, para 11). Conclusion According to Marx, individuals are born into the world in which they do not have much control.
They are supposed to follow the conventional rules like everyone else. He however proposed a breakthrough to the predetermined nature of life by offering an alternative in the name of communism. Marx called for the overthrow of the bourgeoisies through the revolutionary activities of the proletariats or the laborers. The working class was called upon to unite and revolt against what he termed as oppressive capitalist regime. However, it can be argued that this utopian view of society was unachievable since naturally, the human society gets divided into the leaders and the followers.
Even if the working class was to overthrow the bourgeoisie, there was going to be very little change in the social structuring contrary to what Karl Marx had believed. The laborers are bound to categorize themselves into different groups and the exploitation would continue to be felt amongst the different classes. Nevertheless, Karl Marx gave us a political philosophy which would later contribute immensely to the shaping of the world politics as communism remains a significant force in world politics.
Work Cited German, Lindsey. Reflections on the Communist Manifesto. Retrieved on 6th May 2010 from; http://pubs. socialistreviewindex. org. uk/isj79/german. htm. Kemerling, Garth. Karl Marx (1818-1883). 2006. Retrieved on 6th May 2010 from; http://www. philosophypages. com/ph/marx. htm. Marx, Karl; Friedrich Engels & Gareth Stedman Jones. The communist manifesto. 2002. London: Penguin. Tucker, Robert C. Philosophy & myth in Karl Marx. 2000. New Brunswick, N. J. : Transaction.
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