Karl Marx (1818–1883) was a German Marxist philosopher. Author of Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto (with Engels) Marx argued that a Communist revolution to overthrow Capitalist society was an inevitable consequence of historical progress. Indeed, Karl Marx wrote some of the most revolutionary philosophical content ever produced.
Upon arriving in London, Marx took up work with fellow German Friedrich Engels. Together, they devised an assessment of class, society, and power dynamics that revealed deep inequalities, and exposed the economic prerogatives for state-sponsored violence, oppression, and war. Marx predicted that the inequalities and violence inherent in capitalism would ultimately lead to its collapse. From its ashes would rise a new socialist system, a classless society where all participants (as opposed to just wealthy private owners) have access to the means for production. What made the Marxist system of thought so impactful though was its innate call to action, couched in Marx’s advocacy for a working class revolution aimed at overthrowing an unequal system. The philosophy underlying Marxism, and his revolutionary fervor, would ripple throughout the world, ultimately transforming entire spheres of thought in places like Soviet Russia, Eastern Europe, and Red China. In many ways, Karl Marx presided over a philosophical revolution that continues in the present day in myriad forms of communism, socialism, socialized democracy, and grassroots political organization.
Marx’s Big Ideas
- Advocated a view called historical materialism, arguing for the demystification of thought and idealism in favor of closer acknowledgement of the physical and material actions shaping the world;
- Argued that societies develop through class struggle, and that this would ultimately lead to the dismantling of capitalism;
- Characterized capitalism as a production system in which there are inherent conflicts of interest between the bourgeoisie (the ruling class), and the proletariat (the working class), and that these conflicts are couched in the idea that the latter must sell their labor to the former for wages that offer no stake in production.