Karl Marx

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Karl Marx is best known, not as a philosopher, but as a revolutionary communist whose works inspired the foundation of many communist regimes in the twentieth century. It is hard to think of many who have had as much influence in the creation of the modern world. Trained as a philosopher, Marx turned away from philosophy in his mid-twenties, towards economics and politics. his later writings have many points of contact with contemporary philosophical debates, especially in the philosophy of history and the social sciences, and in moral and political philosophy. Historical materialism — Marx's theory of history — is centered around the idea that forms of society rise and fall as they further and then impede the development of human productive power. Marx sees the historical process as proceeding through a necessary series of modes of production, characterized by class struggle, culminating in communism. Marx's economic analysis of capitalism is based on his version of the labor theory of value, and includes the analysis of capitalist profit as the extraction of surplus value from the exploited proletariat. The analysis of history and economics come together in Marx's prediction of the inevitable economic breakdown of capitalism, to be replaced by communism. However Marx refused to speculate in detail about the nature of communism, arguing that it would arise through historical processes, and was not the realization of a pre-determined moral ideal.

Marx's view of history, which came to be called the materialist conception of history and was later called the philosophy of dialectical materialism, is certainly influenced by G. W. F. Hegel's claim that reality and history should be viewed dialectically. Hegel believed that the direction of human history is characterized in the movement of things from fragments toward being complete and the real. Sometimes, Hegel explained, this progressive unfolding of the Absolute involves gradual, evolutionary accretion but at other times requires discontinuous, revolutionary leaps - episodal upheavals against the existing status quo. For example, Hegel strongly opposed the ancient institution of legal slavery that was practiced in the United States during his lifetime, and he envisioned a time when Christian nations would radically eliminate it from their civilization. While Marx accepted this broad conception of history, Hegel was an idealist, and Marx sought to rewrite dialectics in materialist terms. He wrote that Hegelianism stood the movement of reality on its head, and that it was necessary to set it upon its feet. (Hegel's philosophy remained and remains in direct opposition to Marxism on this key point.)

The latter part of the nineteenth century was teeming with evolved social and economical ideas. These views of the social structure of urban society came about through the development of ideas taken from past revolutions and the present clash of individuals and organized assemblies. As the Industrial Revolution steamed ahead paving the way for growing commerce, so did the widening gap between the class structure. The development of a capitalist society was a very favorable goal in the eyes of the bourgeoisie. Using advancing methods of production within a system of free trade, the ruling middle class were strategically able to earn a substantial surplus of funds and maintain their present class of life. With the advancement of industry and the bourgeoisie's gain of wealth, a counter-action was undoubtably taking place. The result was the degradation of the working class who provided labor to the middle class only to be exploited in doing so. The persecution of one class by another has historically, and unfortunately, allowed the advancement of mankind to continue. These clashes, whether ending with positive or negative results, allow us to evolve as a species, defining us within the social structure of nature.

At this time in history, mankind was moving forward very rapidly,...
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