A German philosopher, sociologist, economist, and journalist, born on May 5th, 1818, Karl Marx was one of the nine sons of a man named Heinrich Marx and a woman named Henriette Presburg Marx.
Heinrich Marx who was a successful lawyer wanted Karl to follow in his footsteps to become a lawyer. Karl studied at the University of Bonn in October of 1835 and later transferred to the University of Berlin. This was where he discovered that his passion and interests lay more in becoming a philosopher than a lawyer.
After many years of studying at different universities, Marx settled in the University of Jena where he was later presented with his doctorate in philosophy in the year of 1843.
Marx continued his journey after university to expand and develop his knowledge and moved to Paris.
Introduced to new social theories and unconventional thinkers, Karl Marx met a man named Friedrich Engels. Marx and Engels became close friends and soon collaborated to write a book whilst in Paris called “The Communist Manifesto” in 1848.
The two authors wrote in detail information about the capitalist system and they then became two of the most well-known philosophers in history. Marx disagreed with the capitalist system and predicted that one day, the proletariats would rise up to the power that they deserved. “Let the ruling classes tremble at the communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win” (Marx & Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1843). On the 21st February 1848, the book was published and became one of the most celebrated pieces of work by the two men as their theories are still used to this day.
Marx was later sent out of Paris by the French government because of his work, they saw him as a threat towards the bourgeoisie.
At the age of 64 on March 14th, 1883 Karl Marx passed away however his work had an everlasting impact on sociology and philosophy and his legacy still lives on.
Marx came up with many ideas as a philosopher during the creation of the Marxism theory and he dedicated his life to the work that he produced. Marx believed in putting equality of society before all laws of the government and he disagreed with the exploitation of workers and how the bourgeoisie would deskill their workers making inequality in fairness across the workplace.
The theory is intertwined with labor, capitalism, and social classes and is based around the people of society, their role of work, how much they give back to society, and how much they earn in wages. Marx’s view was that whatever social class an individual belongs to, automatically has a direct influence on their life experiences.
Marx describes a “conflict theory” between the social classes due to the means of production – how much they earn and how they are treated. Marx explained “A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirements for a residence. Let there arise next to the little house a palace and the little house shrinks to a hut” (Karl Marx, Wage, Labour, and Capital, 1847). He created terminology to describe the three main different class types in society. The bourgeoisie – these people were at the top of the social class as they owned land, companies, and factories as well as the goods that are produced within them. The proletariat – these people owned nothing but their own labor as they were common workers who earned a wage for their families, they worked in factories and used supplies to create goods and provide services, they don’t own the means of production and did not earn a profit from the product or service that they were providing. They were often exploited by the bourgeoisie. The lumpenproletariat. – these people were ranked the lowest of the social class as they were seen as petty criminals and the outcasts of society.
Marx discovered some differences in social classes and saw that society was split due to the suppressing of the powerless in order for the bourgeoisie to control institutions. Within the manifesto, Marx stated “… Society as a whole is more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes…” (Marx & Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1843). These three specific social classes determine the character of the individual and they affect the person’s personality, actions, and their beliefs.
Capitalism took place and was then exploited by the bourgeoisie by not paying laborers enough of what they should be getting paid. This is called wage labor and those who own the businesses make a profit from the products or services that have been sold.
Marx believes that all class societies can be broken down into two other groups called the “economic base” and “superstructure”. Societies’ superstructure is always created by the economic base. Marx describes that the way society organizes the means of production is through a system of a base and the non-economic activities are organized through a structure. The primary foundation that makes up the base is things that are needed to produce factories such as land, minerals, machines, etc, and the structure is made up of education, family, religion, etc.
In terms of strengths, the Marxist theory could have a lot of positive impacts on the way individuals think and could encourage inspiration within society. His ideas could provide practical strategies and techniques in how people can change the way they live their lives.
Marx gives society the knowledge and may pass on unknown information to the proletariat about their unfair treatment within society in comparison to the bourgeoisie. Marx also gives people of lower social class confidence and hope in trying to overthrow capitalism by standing up for their human rights.
He believed in putting equality of society before all laws of the government which would include the equality of gender, social status, healthcare, education and roles in the workplace. This is seen as a positive impact of Marxism as it gives everyone in society an equal chance and opportunity for a better life. This would mean that there would no longer only be a dominant gender role within the workplace, but it would also give women an equal chance and opportunity to work the roles that males would normally do.
In terms of critiques of the Marxism theory, the solutions that Marx produced within his work could have many negative impacts on society as a whole. His work could cause verbal or physical conflict within society against the different social classes.
As Marx heavily disagreed with religion, he suggested that religion could have a deeper impact on an individual’s rights in the workplace. Within his work Marx begins to explain his thoughts: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions…” (Marx & Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1843) Marx believed that the government was using religion in order to control the actions and happiness of society “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is a demand for their real happiness” (Marx & Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1843) therefore Marx wanted to abolish religion. This could be seen as a negative aspect of Marxism because this rule doesn’t allow individuals to live their lives freely, therefore goes against the act of human rights and contradicts the theory of Marxism.
Another idea that impacted on society negatively was to end private businesses and ownership of private property. He believed that everyone in society was equal and thus, everyone should have access to things equally depending on their individual needs. The private business gives members of society the chance to become more successful, they also can provide a feeling of motivation to want to pursue more work and enhance their business.
As a radical thinker, Marx didn’t agree with the system of society and believed that it was unfair that the proletariats would never gain profit from their hard work. They would only live to work in order to survive and eventually become poor over time. This would then rob them of their life experiences and opportunities.
Marx could be perceived as an inspiration yet a major threat at the same time as his ideas were so fundamental. They inspired many revolutionists as they longed to change the way things were in society, but he was also a threat to the government and those of a higher status and power within the social class.
Overall, with having observed the roots of the Marxist theory, although the actions behind his work were mainly good intentions, his work was extreme and unfortunately multiplies more issues within society than resolving them.
List of References:
- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (1843), Book, Communist Manifesto (3rd November 2018) http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-39021
- Karl Marx, (January 2007) The communist manifesto quotes, the website from a book, Goodreads (26th November 2018) https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2205479-manifest-der-kommunistischen-partei
- Jennifer Angiwot, (6th December 2008) Marxism, Presentation, SlideShare, (2nd December 2018) https://www.slideshare.net/hakaray/marxism-presentation
- Jacqueline C (2nd march 2013), Comparison of functionalism and Marxism, Blog, Get revising, (29th November 2018) https://getrevising.co.uk/grids/comparison_of_marxism_and_functionalism
- Biography.com editors (2nd April 2014), Karl Marx Biography, Website, The Biography.com( 6th November 2018) https://www.biography.com/people/karl-marx-9401219
- Hobsbawm E, (28th May 2015), Marx, Karl Henrich, Website, Revolutionary and thinker (18th November 2018) http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-39021
- Cynical Marxist Club (23rd November 2015), Base and Superstructure, Online video clip, YouTube (4th December 2018) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGyA0MtKDuA
- Crash Course (17th April 2017) Karl Marx and Conflict Theory: Crash Course Sociology #6, Online video clip, YouTube (8th December 2018) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR3igiwaeyc&t=356s
- Ashley Crossman (24th September 2018), Understanding Conflict Theory, Blog, ThoughtCo, https://www.thoughtco.com/conflict-theory-3026622
- Lewis S. Feuer and David T. McLellan (November 22nd, 2017) Karl Marx German Philosopher, Article, Britannica (30th November 2018) https://www.britannica.com/biography/Karl-Marx