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Karl Marx and Marxism
Karl Marx set the wheels of modern Communism and Socialism in motion
with his writings in the late nineteenth century. In collaboration with his
friend, Heinrich Engels, he produced the The Communist Manifesto, written in
1848. Many failed countries' political and socio-economic structures have been
based on Marx's theories, for example the USSR, East Germany etc. Many people
believe that Marxism is not applicable to today's society, as Karl Marx put
forward his ideas not anticipating the type of society we have today. The
welfare state system has effectively nullified Marx's arguments, and made them
Karl Marx, born on May 5, 1818, died on March 14, 1883, was a German
economist, philosopher and revolutionist whose writings form the basis of the
body of ideas known as Marxism. In his youth he was deeply affected by the
philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel, and joined a rebel group called the Young Hegelians,
which contributed ideas towards the movement against organized religion and the
Prussian Autocracy. Later on in life, he was influenced by the writings of
Ludwig Feuerbach, who wrote that God was invented by humans as a projection of
their own ideals, and that in creating such a 'perfect' being, in contrast to
themselves, mankind lowered themselves to lowly, evil creatures who needed
guidance from the church and government. He said that, in creating God in their
own image, humans had 'alienated themselves from themselves.'
Karl Marx applied this alienation theory to private property, which he
said caused humans to work only for themselves, not for the good of their
species. The idea is further explained in the following sentences. The people
who do the work in a capitalistic society own none of the means of production,
(ie. machines, raw produce etc.) that they use in their work. These are owned
by the capitalists, to whom the workers must sell their 'labour power', or
ability to do work, in return for a wage. The capitalists, owning the factories,
automatically have ownership rights to everything produced by it, and can do
with it what the will. Because of this, the worker is alienated from the
product of their labours, having no control over what is made, or what becomes
Karl Marx was very concerned with the class system in Prussia. He was
an avid campaigner against a system where one group of people flourish at the
expense of another class, in this case the working. He believed that all things
should be equal, and that sharing should abound, with no-one person owning
everything, all belonging to the state. Marx believed that once most workers
recognized their interests and became 'class conscious', the overthrow of
capitalism would proceed as quickly and democratically as the nature of the
capitalist opposition allowed. The socialist society that would emerge out of
the revolution would develop the full productive potential inherited from
capitalism through democratic planning on behalf of social needs. The final
goal, towards which socialist society would constantly build, is the human one
of abolishing alienation. Marx called the attainment of this goal Communism.
Marxism in its various forms has affected the world greatly throughout
time. Both world wars have involved communist countries to a great extent.
Communism has gone wrong in many countries, with the state turning into an
authoritarian one, with a few people at the top abusing their power for their
own personal gain, at the expense of the other members of the public.
In conclusion, I believe that Marx's theories would be beneficial up to
a point. I agree that there should be no class distinctions, and that everyone
should have a fair go to succeed in life. Sharing should be greater, as
capitalism has risen to knew heights of greed and power lust. A communist state,
however, would never work, as it is in the human nature to compete against one
another, which rules out any social equality one could gain by abolishing
Kenny, S., (1994) Developing Communities for the Future : Community Development
in Australia, Thomas Nelson Australia.
Miliband, R., (1977) Marxism and Politics, Herron Publishing Inc., New York.
Ollman, B., (1995) Grolier's Encyclopaedia - Karl Marx and Marxism, Grolier
Electronic Publishing Inc.
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Marxist theory, Karl Marx, Socialism, Materialism, Economic ideologies, Marxism, Friedrich Engels, Communism, The Communist Manifesto, Communist society, Influences on Karl Marx, Classical Marxism
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