What exactly is Marxism? To put it simply, Marxism is an economic and political theory that posits that all societies progress through history by way of class struggle. And that capitalism itself will inevitably lead to the end of capitalism. Because it creates its own gravediggers in the form of the proletariat or industrial working class. It will ultimately rise up against the capitalist system and overthrow it to create a new socialist society in which their interests are more equally exist. But how did this idea come about? What are its main tenets? Is this theory still relevant today?
Marxism is a doctrine based on a class struggle and dialectical materialism. It focuses on society as being in the conflict between two main classes: The Bourgeoisie and The Proletariat. Within each of these classes, there are sub-groups (such as The Capitalist Class and The Working Class). There are other groups in society that also exist. Such as those labeled as superior or inferior, but these two main classes are at odds with one another, according to Marxism. These two groups represent conflicting viewpoints, strategies, methods, etc.; you might think of them as being at an impasse with one another because neither side will budge or compromise.
Who was Karl Marx?
Karl Marx was a German economist, philosopher, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. Born in Prussia (nowadays part of Germany), he finds Marxist theory together with Friedrich Engels and for a time its association with the Young Hegelians. His work in economics laid the basis for much of subsequent economic thought.
He published numerous books during his lifetime, most notably Das Kapital. The Communist Manifesto ( by Marx) remains his most popular work. It outlines his theory of historical materialism and predicts that capitalism can replace by socialism ultimately leading to communism. During his life, he also makes significant contributions to contemporary political ideology as well as what is to refer to as cultural studies.
Concept of Marxism
While Karl Marx had many concepts in mind when writing his theories, today’s common use of Marxist theory refers to just one. It entails three components. A class struggle (wherein two parties fight for power). An economic system that focuses on controlling the production and distribution of goods and services. And a belief that all property owners should hold by those who produce its value. Because capitalism relies on private ownership of means of production. While providing its members with employment (which can lead to inequality between workers), true freedom is never achievable, according to socialists such as Marx. In other words, until there is equality among all people, true democracy cannot exist. Marx’s writing about communism reflects some of these concepts as well.
The Communist Manifesto
Karl Marx’s seminal work of social theory outlines his view of history and ideas for a revolutionary movement. He hoped would bring about socio-economic change. The Manifesto was co-written with Friedrich Engels and published in 1848. It contains an extremely critical analysis of capitalism, pointing out how it will inevitably lead to conflict between social classes.
In particular, Marx believed that worker exploitation would lead to socialist uprisings across Europe. The manifesto also included a brief outline of Marx’s ideas for achieving global communism (through what has become known as a proletarian revolution), as well as his theories on how society might operate under such an arrangement (e.g., disestablishment of private property).
The foundation of Marxist thought lies in historical materialism, which presents itself as an extension of Karl Marx’s labor theory of value. To summarize, economic determinism holds that economic factors largely determine societal development. In Marxist terms, economic actors (such as workers) drive by a need to improve their standard of living and acquire money for survival.
If he or she cannot make enough income to survive, he or she will suppose to find another job elsewhere—or die. Because jobs are scarce (and always will be), workers can demand higher wages; once those demands are met, they want even more because they have a taste for luxuries like cars and homes beyond their station in life.
Marx believes that human creation is not equal. He noted that there was a class system in every society. For example, he analyzed societies like Ancient Greece and Rome, which had slaves as well as free citizens. By his definition, dialectical materialism described how humans had to make sense of their physical world and its natural resources. This included everything from a person’s basic needs for food and shelter to more advanced needs like transportation, clothing, and communication. Every society has a unique way of producing these goods (from hunting animals to producing technology). Each method of production is then assignes a role within the economy, either to satisfy another need or luxury or to create value for profit.
To Marx, class conflict was fundamental to understanding society. He divides history into different epochs based on which class held power. For example, in ancient times a feudal lord had control over peasants and workers; therefore, he determined their fate. During feudalism (the Middle Ages), aristocrats controlled people. When capitalism came about—the last stage of historical development—workers seized power from capitalists and became rulers themselves because they produced everything. Thus, it is fundamentally wrong for an elite few to have all of society’s wealth and resources when everyone else has nothing.
The idea behind communism is a classless society where people share everything. Karl Marx argued that class systems inevitably create tensions, which he called class struggle. These clashes between rich and poor are at the heart of capitalism, he claimed. He also argued that economic growth under capitalism leads to overproduction. Since people only need to meet their basic needs for food and shelter, manufacturers produce more than society needs.
The solution for Marx was a new form of social organization—communism—that would eventually replace capitalism. Under communism, state ownership and central planning would replace private ownership and free markets. Communism would be an economy with no waste; everyone in society could contribute according to his or her ability and consume according to his or her need.
Disadvantage of Marxism
Though Marx’s analysis of capitalism was thorough and powerful, it had some flaws that limited its usefulness. One was his concept of history—he believed in predestined stages through which societies moved toward capitalism and then toward socialism. His ideas were heavily influenced by European history, but Western Europe was not typical.
Socialists who based their programs on Marx had to update his theories to fit different social and economic structures across various parts of Europe (where there often were distinct peasant cultures) as well as Asia, Africa, and Latin America (where no capitalist phase had ever occurred). And Marx thought revolution could be accomplished relatively quickly. He didn’t anticipate how long it would take workers in developed countries to win rights that are taken for granted today.
Karl Marx was a German political philosopher, economist, sociologist, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. He developed a communist theory as an extension of his attempt to overthrow capitalism and its valorization of material gain by analyzing historical processes and social relations in terms of class struggle.
He believed that class antagonisms under capitalism between the ruling classes (bourgeoisie) who own and control production and workers would escalate to civil war, which would be supplanted by the proletarian revolution. His theories about society and economics are collectively known as Marxism. The son of a well-to-do lawyer who became an accomplished violinist, Marx studied law and philosophy at university while supporting himself through freelance journalism.
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