Marx was an immensely influential German philosopher, political
economist, and revolutionary organizer of the International Workingmen's
Association. While Marx addressed a wide range of issues, he is
most famous for his analysis of history in terms of class struggles,
summed up in the opening line of the introduction to the Communist
Manifesto: "The history of all hitherto existing society is
the history of class struggle."
Karl Marx was born into a progressive and wealthy Jewish family
in Trier, Germany. His father Heinrich, who had descended from
a long line of rabbis, converted to Christianity, despite his
many deistic tendencies. Marx's father was actually born Herschel
Mordechai, but when the Prussian authorities would not allow him
to continue practicing law as a Jew, he joined the relatively
liberal Lutheran denomination. The Marx household hosted many
visiting intellectuals and artists during Karl's early life.
After graduating from the Trier Gymnasium, Marx enrolled in the
University of Bonn in 1835 at the age of 17 to study law, where
he joined the Trier Tavern Club and at one point served as its
president; his grades suffered as a result. Marx was interested
in studying philosophy and literature, but his father would not
allow it because he did not believe that Karl would be able to
comfortably support himself in the future as a scholar.
following year, his father forced him to transfer to the far more
serious and academically oriented Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität
in Berlin. During his stead, Marx wrote much poetry and essays
concerning life, using the theological language acquired from
his liberal, deistic father, such as "the Deity." It
was during this period that he absorbed the atheistic philosophy
of the left-Hegelians. Marx earned a doctorate in 1841 with a
thesis titled The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean
Philosophy of Nature.
The younger Karl Marx
and the Young Hegelians
In Berlin, Marx's interests turned to philosophy, and he joined
the circle of students and young professors known as the "Young
Hegelians". For many of them, the so-called left-Hegelians,
Hegel's dialectical method, separated from its theological content,
provided a powerful weapon for the critique of established religion
and politics. Some members of this circle drew an analogy between
post-Aristotelian philosophy and post-Hegelian philosophy.
Young Hegelian, Max Stirner, applied Hegelian criticism and argued
that stopping anywhere short of nihilistic egoism was mysticism.
His views were not accepted by most of his colleagues; nevertheless,
Stirner's book was the main reason Marx abandoned the Feuerbachian
view and developed the basic concept of historical materialism.
One of Marx's teachers was Baron Von Westphalen, father of Jenny
Von Westphalen, whom Karl Marx later married.
When his mentor, Bruno Bauer, was dismissed from Friedrich-Wilhelms'
philosophy faculty in 1842, Marx abandoned a university career
and moved into journalism. In October of 1842, he became editor
of the influential liberal newspaper Rheinische Zeitung located
in Cologne, Germany. The newspaper was shut down in 1843 by the
Prussian government, in part due to Marx's conflicts with government
censors. As a freelance journalist Marx continued his writing,
but with his philosophical views and turn towards political activism
he was soon forced to move.
life-long friend and collaborator Friedrich Engels.Marx left for
France, where he re-evaluated his relationship with Bauer and
the Young Hegelians, and wrote On the Jewish Question, mostly
a critique of current notions of civil rights and political emancipation
that also includes several critical references to Judaism and
Jewish culture from an atheistic standpoint. It was in Paris that
he met and began working with his life-long close friend and collaborator
Friedrich Engels, a committed communist, who kindled Marx's interest
in the situation of the working class and guided Marx's interest
was during his time in Paris that Marx became a communist and
set down his views in a series of writings known as the Economic
and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, which remained unpublished
until the 1930s. In the Manuscripts, Marx outlined a humanist
conception of Communism, influenced by the philosophy of Ludwig
Feuerbach and based on a contrast between the alienated nature
of labor under capitalism and a communist society in which human
beings freely developed their nature in cooperative production.
After he was forced to leave Paris for his writings, Marx and
Engels moved to Brussels, Belgium.
in Brussels Marx devoted himself to an intensive study of history
and elaborated what came to be known as the materialist conception
of history. He developed this in a manuscript (published posthumously
as The German Ideology), of which the basic thesis was that "the
nature of individuals depends on the material conditions determining
their production." Marx traced the history of the various
modes of production and predicted the collapse of the present
one -- industrial capitalism -- and its replacement by communism.
Marx wrote The Poverty of Philosophy (1847), a response to Pierre-Joseph
Proudhon's The Philosophy of Poverty and a critique of French
socialist thought. These works laid the foundation for Marx and
Engels' most famous work, The Communist Manifesto, first published
on February 21, 1848, which was commissioned by the Communist
League (formerly, the League of the Just), an organization of
German émigrés whom Marx had converted in London.
year Europe experienced revolutionary upheaval. Marx was arrested
and expelled from Belgium; in the meantime a working-class movement
had seized power from King Louis Philippe in France, and invited
Marx to return to Paris. Whilst in Paris, Marx, along with others,
helped four hundred unemployed Germans the same travel allowance
as the French legionaries, so that they too could return to Germany.
this government collapsed in 1849, Marx moved back to Cologne
and restarted the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. During its existence
he was on trial twice, on February 7, 1849 because of a press
misdemeanour, and on the 8th charged with incitement to armed
rebellion. Both times he was acquitted.
the paper had been suppressed Marx returned to Paris, but was
forced out again. He sought refuge in London in May 1849 to begin
the "long, sleepless night of exile" that was to last
for the rest of his life.
Settling in London, Marx was optimistic about the imminence of
a new revolutionary outbreak in Europe. He rejoined the Communist
League and wrote two lengthy pamphlets on the 1848 revolution
in France and its aftermath, The Class Struggles in France and
The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. He was soon convinced that
"a new revolution is possible only in consequence of a new
crisis" and then devoted himself to the study of political
economy in order to determine the causes and conditions of this
major work on political economy made slow progress. By 1857 he
had produced a gigantic 800 page manuscript on capital, landed
property, wage labor, the state, foreign trade and the world market.
The Grundrisse was not published until 1941. In the early 1860s
he broke off his work to compose three large volumes, Theories
of Surplus Value, which discussed the theoreticians of political
economy, particularly Adam Smith and David Ricardo.
was not until 1867 that Marx was able to publish the first results
of his work in volume 1 of Das Kapital, a work which analyzed
the capitalist process of production. In Capital, Marx elaborated
his version of the labor theory value and his conception of surplus
value and exploitation which he argued would ultimately lead to
a falling rate of profit in the collapse of industrial capitalism.
Volumes II and III were finished during the 1860s but Marx worked
on the manuscripts for the rest of his life and they were published
posthumously by Engels.
reason why Marx was so slow to publish Capital was that he was
devoting his time and energy to the First International, to whose
General Council he was elected at its inception in 1864. He was
particularly active in preparing for the annual Congresses of
the International and leading the struggle against the anarchist
wing led by Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876). Although Marx won this
contest, the transfer of the seat of the General Council from
London to New York in 1872, which Marx supported, led to the decline
of the International.
most important political event during the existence of the International
was the Paris Commune of 1871 when the citizens of Paris rebelled
against their government and held the city for two months. On
the bloody suppression of this rebellion, Marx wrote one of his
most famous pamphlets, The Civil War in France, an enthusiastic
defense of the Commune.
the last decade of his life, Marx's health declined and he was
incapable of the sustained effort that had characterized his previous
work. He did manage to comment substantially on contemporary politics,
particularly in Germany and Russia. In Germany, in his Critique
of the Gotha Programme, he opposed the tendency of his followers
Karl Liebknecht (1826-1900) and August Bebel (1840-1913) to compromise
with the state socialism of Lasalle in the interests of a united
socialist party. In his correspondence with Vera Zasulich, Marx
contemplated the possibility of Russia's bypassing the capitalist
stage of development and building communism on the basis of the
common ownership of land characteristic of the village mir.
Karl Marx's engagement to Jenny von Westphalen, an aristocrat,
was kept secret at first, and for several years was opposed by
both the Marxes and Westphalens. Karl and Jenny stayed in touch
throughout the former half of his life, when he was moving around
Europe. They had many children, several of whom died young. Their
daughter Eleanor (1855-1898), who was born in London, was a committed
socialist who helped edit her father's works.
the first half of the 1850s the Marx family lived in poverty in
a three room flat in the Soho quarter of London. Marx and Jenny
already had four children and two more were to follow. Of these
only three survived. Marx's major source of income at this time
was Engels who was drawing a steadily increasing income from the
family business in Manchester. This was supplemented by weekly
articles written as a foreign correspondent for the New York Daily
is a disputed rumour that Marx was the father of Frederick Demuth,
the son of Marx's housekeeper, Lenchen Demuth. The rumour lacks
any direct evidence - "the comments that do survive indicate
that everyone involved was on much the same terms as usual."
Marx was generally impoverished during the later period of his
life, depending on financial contributions from Engels. Following
the death of his wife Jenny in 1881, Marx's health worsened and
he died in 1883. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery, London. The
message carved on Marx's tombstone is: "Workers of all lands,
unite", the final line of "The Communist Manifesto".
The tombstone was a monument built in 1954 by the Communist Party
of Great Britain - Marx's original tomb was humbly adorned; only
eleven people were present at his funeral.
collaborator and close friend Friedrich Engels delivered the following
the 14th of March, at a quarter to three in the afternoon, the
greatest living thinker ceased to think. He had been left alone
for scarcely two minutes, and when we came back we found him in
his armchair, peacefully gone to sleep -- but for ever.
immeasurable loss has been sustained both by the militant proletariat
of Europe and America, and by historical science, in the death
of this man. The gap that has been left by the departure of this
mighty spirit will soon enough make itself felt.
as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature,
so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the
simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology,
that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing,
before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that
therefore the production of the immediate material means, and
consequently the degree of economic development attained by a
given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon
which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and
even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been
evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained,
instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.
that is not all. Marx also discovered the special law of motion
governing the present-day capitalist mode of production, and the
bourgeois society that this mode of production has created. The
discovery of surplus value suddenly threw light on the problem,
in trying to solve which all previous investigations, of both
bourgeois economists and socialist critics, had been groping in
such discoveries would be enough for one lifetime. Happy the man
to whom it is granted to make even one such discovery. But in
every single field which Marx investigated -- and he investigated
very many fields, none of them superficially -- in every field,
even in that of mathematics, he made independent discoveries.
was the man of science. But this was not even half the man. Science
was for Marx a historically dynamic, revolutionary force. However
great the joy with which he welcomed a new discovery in some theoretical
science whose practical application perhaps it was as yet quite
impossible to envisage, he experienced quite another kind of joy
when the discovery involved immediate revolutionary changes in
industry, and in historical development in general. For example,
he followed closely the development of the discoveries made in
the field of electricity and recently those of Marcel Deprez.
Marx was before all else a revolutionist. His real mission in
life was to contribute, in one way or another, to the overthrow
of capitalist society and of the state institutions which it had
brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the modern
proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own
position and its needs, conscious of the conditions of its emancipation.
was his element. And he fought with a passion, a tenacity and
a success such as few could rival. His work on the first Rheinische
Zeitung (1842), the Paris Vorwarts (1844), the Deutsche Brusseler
Zeitung (1847), the Neue Rheinische Zeitung (1848-49), the New
York Tribune (1852-61), and, in addition to these, a host of militant
pamphlets, work in organisations in Paris, Brussels and London,
and finally, crowning all, the formation of the great International
Working Men's Association -- this was indeed an achievement of
which its founder might well have been proud even if he had done
on Marx's thought
thought was strongly influenced by:
The dialectical method and historical orientation of Georg Wilhelm
2. The classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo;
3. French socialist and sociological thought, in particular the
thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
4. Marx believed that he could study history and society scientifically
and discern tendencies of history and the resulting outcome of
social conflicts. Some followers of Marx concluded, therefore,
that a communist revolution is inevitable. However, Marx famously
asserted in the eleventh of his Theses on Feuerbach that "philosophers
have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point however
is to change it", and he clearly dedicated himself to trying
to alter the world. Consequently, most followers of Marx are not
fatalists, but activists who believe that revolutionaries must
organize social change.
view of history, which came to be called the materialist conception
of history (and which was developed further as the philosophy
of dialectical materialism) is certainly influenced by Hegel's
claim that reality (and history) should be viewed dialectically.
Hegel believed that the direction of human history is characterized
in the movement from the fragmentary toward the complete and the
real (which was also a movement towards greater and greater rationality).
Hegel explained, this progressive unfolding of the Absolute involves
gradual, evolutionary accretion but at other times requires discontinuous,
revolutionary leaps — episodal upheavals against the existing
status quo. For example, Hegel strongly opposed the ancient institution
of legal slavery that was practiced in the United States during
his lifetime, and he envisioned a time when Christian nations
would radically eliminate it from their civilization.
Marx accepted this broad conception of history, Hegel was an idealist,
and Marx sought to rewrite dialectics in materialist terms. He
wrote that Hegelianism stood the movement of reality on its head,
and that it was necessary to set it upon its feet. (Hegel's philosophy
remained and remains in direct opposition to Marxism on this key
acceptance of this notion of materialist dialectics which rejected
Hegel's idealism was greatly influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach. In
The Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach argued that God is really
a creation of man and that the qualities people attribute to God
are really qualities of humanity. Accordingly, Marx argued that
it is the material world that is real and that our ideas of it
are consequences, not causes, of the world. Thus, like Hegel and
other philosophers, Marx distinguished between appearances and
reality. But he did not believe that the material world hides
from us the "real" world of the ideal; on the contrary,
he thought that historically and socially specific ideologies
prevented people from seeing the material conditions of their
other important contribution to Marx's revision of Hegelianism
was Engels' book, The Condition of the Working Class in England
in 1844, which led Marx to conceive of the historical dialectic
in terms of class conflict and to see the modern working class
as the most progressive force for revolution.
As the American Marx scholar Hal Draper remarked, there are few
thinkers in modern history whose thought has been so badly misrepresented,
by Marxists and anti-Marxists alike. Indeed, shortly before his
death, Marx himself said, in response to so-called 'marxists'
who supported reform instead of revolution, something to the effect
of "if that is Marxism, then I am not a Marxist".
the merger of Marxist thought with Leninism, forming the official
state ideology (Marxism-Leninism) of the Soviet bloc, arguably
departed further from Marx's own beliefs and analyses. However,
following the 1989-91 collapse of the Soviet bloc there has been
a return by non-Marxists to Marx's own writing, in particular
for insights in his analysis of capitalism that are still relevant
notion of labour is fundamental in Marx's thought. Basically,
Marx argued that it is human nature to transform nature, and he
calls this process of transformation "labour" and the
capacity to transform nature labour power. For Marx, this is a
natural capacity for a physical activity, but it is intimately
tied to the human mind and human imagination:
spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and
a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her
cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best
of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination
before he erects it in reality. (Capital, Vol. I, Chap. 7, Pt.
Marx inherits that Hegelian dialectic and, with it, a disdain
for the notion of an underlying invariant human nature. Sometimes
Marxists express their views by contrasting “nature”
with “history”. Sometimes they use the phrase “existence
precedes consciousness”. The point, in either case, is that
who a person is, is determined by where and when he is —
social context takes precedence over innate behavior; or, in other
words, one of the main features of human nature is adaptability.
did not believe that all people worked the same way, or that how
one works is entirely personal and individual. Instead, he argued
that work is a social activity and that the conditions and forms
under and through which people work are socially determined and
change over time.
analysis of history is based on his distinction between the means
/ forces of production, literally those things, such as land,
natural resources, and technology, that are necessary for the
production of material goods, and the relations of production,
in other words, the social and technical relationships people
enter into as they acquire and use the means of production.
these comprise the mode of production; Marx observed that within
any given society the mode of production changes, and that European
societies had progressed from a feudal mode of production to a
capitalist mode of production. In general, Marx believed that
the means of production change more rapidly than the relations
of production (for example, we develop a new technology, such
as the Internet, and only later do we develop laws to regulate
that technology). For Marx this mismatch between (economic) base
and (social) superstructure is a major source of social disruption
understood the "social relations of production" to comprise
not only relations among individuals, but between or among groups
of people, or classes. As a scientist and materialist, Marx did
not understand classes as purely subjective (in other words, groups
of people who consciously identified with one another). He sought
to define classes in terms of objective criteria, such as their
access to resources. For Marx, different classes have divergent
interests, which is another source of social disruption and conflict.
Conflict between social classes being something which is inherent
in all human history:
was especially concerned with how people relate to that most fundamental
resource of all, their own labour-power. Marx wrote extensively
about this in terms of the problem of alienation. As with the
dialectic, Marx began with a Hegelian notion of alienation but
developed a more materialist conception. For Marx, the possibility
that one may give up ownership of one's own labour — one's
capacity to transform the world — is tantamount to being
alienated from one's own nature; it is a spiritual loss.
described this loss in terms of commodity fetishism, in which
the things that people produce, commodities, appear to have a
life and movement of their own to which humans and their behavior
merely adapt. This disguises the fact that the exchange and circulation
of commodities really are the product and reflection of social
relationships among people. Under capitalism, social relationships
of production, such as among workers or between workers and capitalists,
are mediated through commodities, including labor, that are bought
and sold on the market.
fetishism is an example of what Engels called false consciousness,
which is closely related to the understanding of ideology. By
ideology they meant ideas that reflect the interests of a particular
class at a particular time in history, but which are presented
as universal and eternal. Marx and Engels' point was not only
that such beliefs are at best half-truths; they serve an important
another way, the control that one class exercises over the means
of production includes not only the production of food or manufactured
goods; it includes the production of ideas as well (this provides
one possible explanation for why members of a subordinate class
may hold ideas contrary to their own interests). Thus, while such
ideas may be false, they also reveal in coded form some truth
about political relations.
example, although the belief that the things people produce are
actually more productive than the people who produce them is literally
absurd, it does reflect the fact (according to Marx and Engels)
that people under capitalism are alienated from their own labour-power.
Another example of this sort of analysis is Marx's understanding
of religion, summed up in a passage from the preface to his 1843
Contribution to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right:
suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real
suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the
sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world,
and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
his Gymnasium senior thesis argued that the primary social function
of religion was to promote solidarity, here Marx sees the social
function as a way of expressing and coping with social inequality,
thereby maintaining the status quo.
Marx argued that this alienation of human work (and resulting
commodity fetishism) is precisely the defining feature of capitalism.
Prior to capitalism, markets existed in Europe where producers
and merchants bought and sold commodities. According to Marx,
a capitalist mode of production developed in Europe when labor
itself became a commodity — when peasants became free to
sell their own labor-power, and needed to do so because they no
longer possessed their own land or tools necessary to produce.
sell their labor-power when they accept compensation in return
for whatever work they do in a given period of time (in other
words, they are not selling the product of their labor, but their
capacity to work). In return for selling their labor power they
receive money, which allows them to survive. Those who must sell
their labor power to live are "proletarians."
person who buys the labor power, generally someone who does own
the land and technology to produce, is a "capitalist"
or "bourgeois." (Marx considered this an objective description
of capitalism, distinct from any one of a variety of ideological
claims of or about capitalism). The proletarians inevitably outnumber
distinguished industrial capitalists from merchant capitalists.
Merchants buy goods in one place and sell them in another; more
precisely, they buy things in one market and sell them in another.
Since the laws of supply and demand operate within given markets,
there is often a difference between the price of a commodity in
one market and another.
then, practice arbitrage, and hope to capture the difference between
these two markets. According to Marx, capitalists, on the other
hand, take advantage of the difference between the labor market
and the market for whatever commodity is produced by the capitalist.
Marx observed that in practically every successful industry input
unit-costs are lower than output unit-prices. Marx called the
difference "surplus value" and argued that this surplus
value had its source in surplus labour.
capitalist mode of production is capable of tremendous growth
because the capitalist can, and has an incentive to, reinvest
profits in new technologies. Marx considered the capitalist class
to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly
revolutionized the means of production. But Marx argued that capitalism
was prone to periodic crises. He suggested that over time, capitalists
would invest more and more in new technologies, and less and less
Marx believed that surplus value appropriated from labor is the
source of profits, he concluded that the rate of profit would
fall even as the economy grew. When the rate of profit falls below
a certain point, the result would be a recession or depression
in which certain sectors of the economy would collapse. Marx understood
that during such a crisis the price of labor would also fall,
and eventually make possible the investment in new technologies
and the growth of new sectors of the economy.
believed that this cycle of growth, collapse, and growth would
be punctuated by increasingly severe crises. Moreover, he believed
that the long-term consequence of this process was necessarily
the enrichment and empowerment of the capitalist class and the
impoverishment of the proletariat. He believed that were the proletariat
to seize the means of production, they would encourage social
relations that would benefit everyone equally, and a system of
production less vulnerable to periodic crises.
general, Marx thought that peaceful negotiation of this problem
was impracticable, and that a massive, well-organized and violent
revolution would in general be required, because the ruling class
would not give up power without violence. He theorized that to
establish the socialist system, a dictatorship of the proletariat
- a period where the needs of the working-class, not of capital,
will be the common deciding factor - must be created on a temporary
basis. As he wrote in his "Critique of the Gotha Program",
"between capitalist and communist society there lies the
period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the
other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period
in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship
of the proletariat."
of bourgeois democracy and of anti-Semitism
Some scholars have presented an alternative reading of Marx, primarily
based on his essay On the Jewish Question. Economist Tyler Cowen,
historian Marvin Perry, and political scientist Joshua Muravchik
have suggested that what they see as an intense hatred for the
"Jewish Class" was part of Marx's belief that if he
could convince his contemporaries and the public to hate Jewish
capitalists, the public would eventually come to dislike non-Jewish
capitalists as well.
scholars reject this claim for two reasons: first, it is based
on two short essays written in the 1840s, and ignores the bulk
of Marx's analysis of capitalism written in the following years.
Second, it distorts the argument of On the Jewish Question, in
which Marx deconstructs liberal notions of emancipation. During
the Enlightenment, philosophers and political theorists argued
that religious authority had been oppressing human beings, and
that religion must be separated from the functions of the state
for people to be truly free. Following the French Revolution,
many people were thus calling for the emancipation of the Jews.
the same time, many argued that Christianity is a more enlightened
and advanced religion than Judaism. For example, Marx's former
mentor, Bruno Bauer, allegedly argued that Christians need to
be emancipated only once (from Christianity), and Jews need to
be emancipated twice — first from Judaism (presumably, by
converting to Christianity), then from religion altogether.
rejects Bauer's argument as a form of Christian ethnocentrism,
if not anti-Semitic. Marx proceeds to turn Bauer's language, and
the rhetoric of anti-Semites, upside down to make a more progressive
argument. First, he points out that Bruno Bauer's argument is
too parochial because it considers Christianity to be more evolved
than Judaism, and because it narrowly defines the problem that
requires emancipation to be religion. Marx instead argues that
the issue is not religion, but capitalism. Pointing out that anti-Semitic
stereotypes of Jews are fundamentally anti-capitalist, Marx provides
a theory of anti-Semitism by suggesting that anti-Semites scapegoat
Jews for capitalism because too many non-Jews benefit from, or
are invested in capitalism, to attack capitalism directly.
also uses this rhetoric ironically to develop his critique of
bourgeois notions of emancipation. Marx points out that the bourgeois
notion of freedom is predicated on choice (in politics, through
elections; in the economy, through the market), but that this
form of freedom is anti-social and alienating. Although Bauer
and other liberals believe that emancipation means freedom to
choose, Marx argues that this is at best a very narrow notion
what Bauer believes would be the emancipation of the Jews is for
Marx actually alienation, not emancipation. After explaining that
he is not referring to real Jews or to the Jewish religion, Marx
appropriates this anti-Semitic rhetoric against itself (in a way
that parallels his Hegelian argument that capitalism contains
the seeds of its own destruction) by using "Judaism"
ironically as a metaphor for capitalism. In this sense, Marx states,
all Europeans are "Jewish".
is a pun on two levels. First, if the Jews must be emancipated,
Marx is saying that all Europeans must be emancipated.Second,
if by "Judaism" one really means "capitalism,"
then far from Jews needing to be emancipated from Christianity
(as Bauer called for), Christians need to be emancipated from
Judaism (meaning, bourgeois society). See: works by historian
Hal Draper and David McLellan.
]Marx and Engels' work covers a wide range of topics and presents
a complex analysis of history and society in terms of class relations.
Followers of Marx and Engels have drawn on this work to propose
a political and economic philosophy dubbed Marxism. Nevertheless,
there have been numerous debates among Marxists over how to interpret
Marx's writings and how to apply his concepts to current events
and conditions (and it is important to distinguish between "Marxism"
and "what Marx believed"; for example, shortly before
he died in 1883, Marx wrote a letter to the French workers' leader
Jules Guesde, and to Marx's son-in-law Paul Lafargue, accusing
them of "revolutionary phrase-mongering" and of denying
the value of reformist struggles; "if that is Marxism"
— paraphrasing what Marx wrote — "then I am not
people use the word "Marxist" to describe those who
rely on Marx's conceptual language (e.g. mode of production, class,
commodityism) to understand capitalist and other societies, or
to describe those who believe that a workers' revolution is the
only means to a communist society. The clash between Marx's own
theoretical framework and the umbrella term "Marxist"
is often misconstrued, a prime example being the bias placed against
studying Marx’s writings during the Cold War period in American
years after Marx's death, Engels and others founded the "Second
International" as a base for continued political activism.
This organization collapsed in 1914, in part because some members
turned to Edward Bernstein's "evolutionary" socialism,
and in part because of divisions precipitated by World War I.
War I also led to the Russian Revolution and the consequent ascendance
of Vladimir Lenin's leadership of the communist movement, embodied
in the "Third International." Lenin claimed to be both
the philosophical and political heir to Marx, and developed a
political program, called Leninism or Bolshevism, which called
for revolution organized and led by a centrally organized Communist
Lenin's death, the Secretary-General of the Communist Party of
the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, rose to a position of immense
power in the Party and state apparatus. He argued that before
a world-wide communist revolution would be possible, the Communist
Party of the Soviet Union had to dedicate itself to building communism
in its own country. It was Stalin's Soviet Union and its policies
that undermined the concept of Marxism in the Western world, where,
for many years, especially during the Cold War period, it was
popularly equated with the system in the USSR - which in turn
was understood as a political totalitarianism disregarding civil
1929, Leon Trotsky was expelled from the Soviet Union and in 1938
founded the competing "Fourth International." Some followers
of Trotsky argued that Stalin had created a bureaucratic state
rather than a socialist state.
believed that the communist revolution would take place in advanced
industrial societies such as France, Germany and England, but
Lenin argued that in the age of imperialism, and due to the "law
of uneven development", where Russia had on the one hand,
an antiquated agricultural society, but on the other hand, some
of the most up-to-date industrial concerns, the "chain"
might break at its weakest points, that is, in the so-called "backward"
China Mao Zedong also claimed to be an heir to Marx, but argued
that peasants and not just workers could play a leading role in
a Communist revolution. This was a departure from Marx and Lenin's
view of revolution, which maintained that the proletariat must
have the leading role. Marxism-Leninism as espoused by Mao came
to be internationally known as Maoism.
In the 1920s and '30s, a group of dissident Marxists founded the
Institute for Social Research in Germany, among them Max Horkheimer,
Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse. As a group,
these authors are often called the Frankfurt School. Their work
is known as Critical Theory, a type of Marxist philosophy and
cultural criticism heavily influenced by Hegel, Freud, Nietzsche,
and Max Weber.
Frankfurt School broke with earlier Marxists, including Lenin
and Bolshevism in several key ways. First, writing at the time
of the ascendance of Stalinism and Fascism, they had grave doubts
as to the traditional Marxist concept of proletarian class consciousness.
Second, unlike earlier Marxists, especially Lenin, they rejected
economic determinism. While highly influential, their work has
been criticized by both orthodox Marxists and some Marxists involved
in political practice for divorcing Marxist theory from practical
struggle and turning Marxism into a purely academic enterprise.
influential non-Bolshevik Marxists at that time include Georg
Lukacs, Walter Benjamin and Antonio Gramsci, who along with the
Frankfurt School are often known by the term Western Marxism.
Henryk Grossman, who elaborated the mathematical basis of Marx's
'law of capitalist breakdown', was another affiliate of the Frankfurt
School. Also prominent during this period was the Polish revolutionary
1949 Paul Sweezy and Leo Huberman founded Monthly Review, a journal
and press, to provide an outlet for Marxist thought in the United
States independent of the Communist Party.
1978, G. A. Cohen attempted to defend Marx's thought as a coherent
and scientific theory of history by reconstructing it through
the lens of analytic philosophy. This gave birth to Analytical
Marxism, an academic movement which also included Jon Elster,
Adam Przeworski and John Roemer. Bertell Ollman is another Anglophone
champion of Marx within the academy.
was ranked #27 on Michael H. Hart's list of the most influential
figures in history. In July 2005 Marx was the surprise winner
of the 'Greatest Philosopher of All Time' poll by listeners of
the BBC Radio 4 series In Our Time.
Many proponents of capitalism have argued that capitalism is a
more effective means of generating and redistributing wealth than
socialism or communism, or that the gulf between rich and poor
that concerned Marx and Engels was a temporary phenomenon. Some
suggest that self-interest and the need to acquire capital is
an inherent component of human behavior, and is not caused by
the adoption of capitalism or any other specific economic system
(although economic anthropologists have questioned this assertion)
and that different economic systems reflect different social responses
to this fact.
Austrian School of economics has criticized Marx's use of the
labor theory of value. In addition, the political repression and
economic problems of several historical Communist states have
done much to destroy Marx's reputation in the Western world, particularly
following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the
Soviet Union, as the Soviet bureaucracy often invoked him in their
propaganda. Although others argue that the former USSR was a varient
of state capitalism whose collapse does not affect the veracity
Marxism, but vindicates it.
has also been criticized from the Left. Democratic socialists
and social democrats reject the idea that socialism can be accomplished
only through class conflict and violent revolution. Others argue
that class is not the most fundamental inequality in history and
call attention to patriarchy or race. However, Marxists argue
that these inequalities are linked to class and therefore will
largely cease to exist after the formation of a classless society.
today question the theoretical and historical validity of "class"
as an analytic construct or as a political actor. In this line,
some question Marx's reliance on 19th century notions that linked
science with the idea of "progress" (see social evolution).
Many observe that capitalism has changed much since Marx's time,
and that class differences and relationships are much more complex
— citing as one example the fact that much corporate stock
in the United States is owned by workers through pension funds.
Critics of this analysis retort that the top 1% of wage earners
still own more than 50% of the nation's publicly traded company
others criticize Marx from the perspective of philosophy of science.
Karl Popper has criticized Marx's theories as he believed they
were not falsifiable, which he argued would render some particular
aspects of Marx’s historical and socio-political arguments
unscientific, although Popper's falsifiability standard has been
largely rejected. Primarily, this stems from Marx's assertion
that class revolt will be part of the process in overcoming capitalism.
The argument goes that the critic says "this will not happen"
to which the reply is "but it will." However it has
been argued that such statements show a simplistic understanding
or a deliberate misinterpretation, because the reply has no basis
in what Marx actually said.
common critique of Marx points out that the increasing class antagonisms
he predicted never actually developed in the Western world following
industrialization. While socioeconomic gaps between the bourgeoisie
and proletariat remained, industrialization in countries such
as the United States and Great Britain also saw the rise of a
middle class not inclined to violent revolution, and of a welfare
state that helped contain any revolutionary tendencies among the
the economic devastation of the Great Depression broadened the
appeal of Marxism in the developed world, future government safeguards
and economic recovery led to a decline in its influence. In contrast,
Marxism remained extremely influential in feudal and industrially
underdeveloped societies such as Czarist Russia, where the Bolshevik
Revolution was successful. This problem with classical Marxist
theory was known from the beginning of the 20th century, and much
of the work of Vladimir Lenin was dedicated to answering it.
essence, Lenin argued that, through imperialism, the bourgeoisie
of wealthy countries is exploiting the proletariat of underdeveloped
societies and sharing some of the profits with the working class
back home (in the wealthy countries) in order to appease it. Lenin's
interpretation of the Proletariat was rather different from Marx's
original definition as Marx's conception of the Proletariat was
very much concerned with the workers in industrialized nations
such as France, Great Britain and Germany. It has also been noted that violent class struggles
were part of the labor struggles within industrial countries like
the United States, much as Marx described.
political parties and movements have significantly declined since
the fall of the Soviet Union. Critics argue that the Soviet Union's
numerous internal failings and subsequent collapse were a direct
result of the practical failings of Marxism, but many past and
present Marxists, especially Trotskyists, respond to this by pointing
out that the Soviet Union's political system did not actually
resemble true socialism at all.
analyzed the world of his day and refused to draw up plans of
how a future socialist society should be run saying he did not
"write recipes...for cook-shops of the future." Outside
Europe and the United States, communism has generally been superseded
by anti-colonialist and nationalist struggles which sometimes
appeal to Marx for theoretical support. In India, the southern
province of Kerala was the first in the world to elect a coalition
of Communist parties (see Communist Party of India) to power at
the state level, in 1957. In the eastern state of West Bengal
a coalition of Communist parties led by the Communist Party of
India (Marxist) has been democratically elected to power at the
provincial level continuously since 1977.
supporters of Marx argue most generally that Marx was correct
that human behavior reflects historical and social conditions
(and is therefore changing and can not be understood in terms
of some universal "human nature"). More specifically,
they argue his analysis of social class and commodities is still
very useful, that his critique of capitalism can easily be applied
to the current global situation, and that alienation is still