Philosopher, Sociologist, Journalist, Economist (1818-1883)
Karl Marx is one of the most important figures in all of human history; the impact of his work will forever resonate through the economic, social and political realms until the end of human existence. He should be remembered as the father of modern sociology and as a Classical economist because of his views on capitalism creating its own self-destruction.
Marxism posits that that human societies develop through class struggle. This refers to a conflict between the ruling classes (the bourgeoisie) who control the means of production and the and the working class (the proletariat) who work by selling their labour for wages. Through his theories of alienation and surplus value, Marx asserted that capitalism facilitated social relations through the exploitation of labour.
Marx goes on to argue that states are run in the interest of the ruling class but represented as being in favour of all. Moreover, he asserted that capitalism produced internal tensions which would ultimately lead to its own downfall and replacement by socialism. For Marx, class antagonisms under capitalism would cause the working class to develop class consciousness and lead them to their conquest of political power and the establishment of a classless communist society. Marx encouraged the working class to engage in revolutionary action to destroy the capitalist system.
He disagreed with capitalism because it is profit motivated and leads to an uneven exchange of lesser value for greater value. Alternatively, he posited that exchanges should be of equal value so that the amount of work put into whatever is being produced is the determinant of value. This lead Marx to develop his labour theory of value; this essentially contends that the value of a good can be objectively measured by the average number of labour hours required to produce that good.
Marx believed that economics was the root factor determining human lives and history. Economics generates the division of labour, class struggle and all the social institutions that maintain the status quo. Marx referred to these social institutions as the superstructure. All of these institutions (such as marriage, church, the government and arts etc) can only be understood when examined in relation to economic forces.
Marx’s work and ideologies paved the way for the 1848 political pamphlet titled ‘The Communist Manifesto’. This manifesto called for the abolition of capitalist society and advocated it to be replaced with socialism. The Russian revolution, which Marx instigated, reached its apex when the Marxist Bolsheviks won the Russian October Revolution. Afterwards, different theoretical variants of communism began branching out from Marxism including Stalinism, Trotskyism and Leninism.
“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people.”
“Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.”
“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.”
“Revolutions are the locomotives of history.”
“Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
– Karl Marx