1943 Sc 770-771 Karl Marx Scott 903-904


1943 year. Karl Marx. Scott cat 903-904, Standart Collection cat 770-771

Karl Marx Bio

Karl Marx, an influential political philosopher, was born 1818 in Trier, Germany and died 1883 in London, England.


He enrolled in the University of Bonn in 1835 to study Law, but transfered to the University of Berlin the following year. There his interestes turned to philosophy and he joined the circle of the “Young Hegelians led by Bruno Bauer. Some members of this circle saw drew an analogy between post- Aristotelian phiosolphy and post-Hegelian philosophy, and Marx defended his doctoral dissertation comparing the atomiic theories of Democritus and Epicurus in 1841.


When his mentor Bauer was dismissed from the philosophy faculty in 1842, Marx abandoned philosophy for journalism and went on to edit the Rheinische Zeitung, a radical German newspaper. After the newspaper was later shut in 1843, in part due to Marx’s conflicts with government censors, Marx returned to philosophy, turned to political activism, and worked as a free-lance journalist.

Marx first moved to France re-evaluated his relationship withe Bauer and the Young Hegelians, and wrote “On the Jewish Question,” mostly a critique of current notions of civil-rights and political emancipation. It was in Paris that he met and began working with his life-long collaborator Friedrich Engels, who called Marx’s attention to the situation of the working-classes, and guided Marx’s interest in economics. After he was forced to leave Paris for his writings, he and Engels moved to Brussels. There they co-wrote The German Ideology, a critique of Hegelian and Young Hegelian philosophy, and then Marx wrote The Poverty of Philosophy, a critique of French socialist thought. These works lay the foundation for Marx and Engels’ most famous work, The Communist Manifesto, writtein in 1848, which was commissioned by the Communist League, and organization of German emigrĂ©s whom Marx had met in London. That year Europe experienced revolutionary upheaval; a working-class movement seized power from king Louis Philippe in France and invited Marx to return to Paris. When this government collapsed in 1849, Marx moved to London. In 1864 Marx organized the International Workingmen’s Association, later called the First International, as a base for continued political activism. This organization collapsed in 1872 in part because of the fall of the Paris Commune, and in part because many members turned to Bakhunin’s anarchism. In London Marx also dedicated himself to historical and theoretical works, the most famous of which is the multivolume Das Kapital, the first volume of which was published in 1967.


The body of work of Marx and of Marx and Engels 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 (although before he died Marx declared that he was not a “Marxist”). Six years after Marx’s death, Engels and other founded the Second International as a base for continued political activism. This organization collapsed in 1914, in part because some mebers turned to Edward Bernstein’s “evolutionary” socialism, and in part because the of divisions precipitated by World War I.

World War I also led to the Russian Revolution and the consequent ascendence 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 Party. After Lenin’s death, the Secretary-General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, seized power of the Party and State apparatus (at this time, Leon Trotsky left the Soviet Union and in 1934 founded the competing Fourth International). In China Mao Zedong also claimed to be an hair to Marx, but argued that peasants and not just workers could play a leading role in a communist revolution. In the 1920s and ’30s, a group of dissident Marxists at the Frankfurt School in Germany, espoused critical theory, which offered a non-Bolshevist critique of contemporary capitalism.


In general, Marx’s thought has been influenced by two often contradictory elements: determinism and activism. On the one hand, Marx believed that he could study history and society scientifically, and derive laws the explain and predict the course of history and the outcome of social conflicts. Consequently, some followers of Marx conclude that a communist revolution is inevitable. On the other hand, Marx famously asserted that “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it,” and dedicated himself to trying to change the world. Consequently, some followers of Marx conclude that dedicated revolutionaries must organize social change.

Marx’s theory, sometimes called “scientific socialism” or “dialectical materialism” or “historical materialism” is based on Hegel’s claim that history occurs through a dialectic, or clash, of opposing forces. Hegel was a philosophical idealist who believed that we live in a world of appearances, and true reality is an ideal. Marx accepted this notion of the dialectic, but was influenced by Ludwig Feuerbach. In The Essence ot Christianity 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 effects, of the world. The other important contribution to Marz’s revision of Hegelianism was Engels’ book, The Condition of the English Working Class, 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.

Marx’s analysis of history is based on his distinction between the “means of production,” literally those things, like land and natural resources, labor, and technology, that are necessary for the production of material goods, and the “social relations of production,” in other words, the social relationships people enter into as they acquire and use the means of production. Together 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, and only later do we develop laws to regulate that technology). For Marx this lag is a major source of conflict.

Another major aspect of Marx’s thought is his notion of “alienation.” As with the dialectic, Marx began with a [[Hegel | Hegelian} notion of alienation but developed a more materialist conception. Basically, Marx argued that it is human nature to transform nature, and he calls this process of transformation “labor” and the capacity to transform nature “labor power. For Marx, this is a natural capacity for a physical activity, but it is intimately tied to the human mind and human imagination:

A 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.
For Marx, the possibility that one may give up one’s capaity to transform the world is tantamount to being alienated from one’s own nature; it is a spiritual loss.

Marx argues that this is precisely the defining feature of capitalism. According to him, a capitalist mode of production occured in Europe when peasants became free to sell their own labor-power, and needed to sell their own labor because they no longer possessed their own land or tools necessary to produce. A person sells 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. The person who must sell their labor power to live is a “proletarian.” The person who buys the labor power, generally someone who does own the land and technology to produce, is a “capitalist” or “bourgeois.”

Marx distinguished capitalists from merchants. Merchants buy goods in one place and sell it in another; more precisely, they buy things in one market and sell it in another. Since the laws of supply and demand operate within given markets, their is often a difference between the price of a commodity in one market and another. Merchants 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 the price for labor was lower than the price of the manufactured good. Marx called this difference “surplus value” and argued that this surplus value was in fact the source of a capitalist’s profit.

The capitalist mode of production is capable of tremendous growth because the capitalsit can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies. Marx considered the capitslist class to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly revolutionized the means of production. But Marx believed that the consequence of this process was necessarily the empowerment of the capitalist class and the impoverishment of the proletariate. Finally, he believed that were the proletariate to seize the means of production, they would encourage social relations that would benefit everyone equally.

Marxian theory has been criticized from numerous points of view. Economists generally reject his “labor theory of value,” although such critics generally overlook Marx’s distinction between value and price. Evolutionary Socialists reject his claim 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. Some 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 diffferences 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.

Outside of Europe and the United States, communism has generally been superseded by anti-colonialist and nationalist struggles (although they sometimes appeal to Marx for theoretical support).

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