By: Joseph Riley
POS 2041- American Federal Government
Research Project Paper
There are many people that influenced our system of government; Karl Marx and Cesare Beccaria happens to be two influential theorists who have done just that. Karl Marx and Cesare Beccaria were two theorists who basically believed that the system of the government was not healthy for the society and both created their own vision on how people were being treated by the government. Karl Marx created the (World Book Encyclopedia 237 M) which is of him expressing within his political essays in his bitter view that the economy is oppressing human beings and his belief that political action “revolution” is a necessary part of philosophy, including all of its flaws and etc. Cesare Beccaria and with help of his friends “academy of fists” created Treatise on “Crimes and Punishments” which was published in 1764. It discussed the rights of humanity within the most logical arguments. Both men was the creator of these essays or writings that changed our system of government and went down in history.
Karl Marx was a great political philosopher and a humanitarian. Karl Marx was born May 5, 1818 at 2:00 AM, the life of the greatest political philosopher began. He was born in the Rhine province of Prussia, and was born to Henriette and Hirschel Marx (Payne 17). Hirschel Marx was a rich lawyer and was also a Jew (World Book Encyclopedia 236M). On August 26, 1824 Karl and his whole family was baptized, so his family turned away from its traditional Jewish teachings to Protestant Christianity (Payne 21). At age twelve Karl entered the Friedrich Wilhiem Gymnasium. He stayed there for four years excelling in foreign languages, but not really caring about mathematics and history (Payne 23). Karl attended University of Bonn to study law (World Book Encyclopedia 236M). Karl became an active member of the poetry clubs while studying at the University. Marx only stayed at the University for two semesters. Karl then went on to attend the University of Berlin where he grew more distant from his father (Payne 52). Marx’s father died on May 10, 1838 at age fifty-six. Marx didn’t attend his father’s funeral because he was too busy and the trip was too far (Payne 55). Marx attended the University of Berlin for five years.
Initially, one of the greatest influences in Karl’s life was a woman named Jenny von Westphalia, born February 12, 1814 (Peters 1). Karl’s older sister Sophie introduced Karl to Jenny (Peters 14). They both had fallen in love with one another and continued the romance even after Marx was at the University of Berlin, and while there he sent her love letters and poems (Payne 47). The wedding of them both took place June 19, 1843 (Peters 41). And another great influence on Marx was Jenny’s father the Baron Westphalen. Baron von Westphalen found in Karl a formidable intelligence, and a fierce determination to know and understand everything (Payne 28). They would spend whole mornings trampling over hills and through the woods discussing philosophy, science, and the art of government. These long walks with Baron were an essential part of Marx’s education (Payne 28).
One of the people that usually don’t associate with Karl Marx is a man named G.W.F Hegel. Hegel was a German philosopher that argued in order to understand any aspect of human culture, we must retrace and understand its history (World Book Encyclopedia 165H). Hegel was a professor of philosophy at the University of Berlin from 1818 until his death, which means that Karl Marx must have taken a class with Hegel. Hegel inspired Marx, and if Marx hadn’t taken his class some of Marx’s best known work would not have been written, because majority of his work is written on account of the past. Marx had a variety of essays range from fifteen pages long to a seven-hundred page book (World Book Encyclopedia 237M). Eagleton states that the basic themes of these philosophical essays include Marx’s bitter view that the economy is oppressing human beings and his belief that political action “revolution” is a necessary part of philosophy (4). The communist Manifesto was a pamphlet written jointly with Engels on the eve of German revolution. The communist Manifesto considers history to be a series of conflicts between classes. It predicts that the ruling middle class will be overthrown by the working class, and the product will be a working classless society (World Book Encyclopedia 237M). Das Kapital was Karl Marx’s major work. He spend about thirty years writing it (World Book Encyclopedia 237M). In Das Kapital, Marx described the free enterprise system as he saw it. He also claims to have seen many flaws of the system that would destroy it through periods of inflation and depression (World Book Encyclopedia 237M). The most serious flaw is that the free enterprise system accumulates more and more wealth, but becomes less and less capable of using this wisely (Eagleton 41). Through all of his works three key ideas prevail. Production and society is the first idea. The process of production according to Marx is a collective effort, not an individual one (385). The second idea is that there is a class struggle. According to Marx all of history there has been a struggle between the ruling and the working classes. Marx believed that private ownership was at the heart of the class system. For people to be truly free, means of production must be publicly owned (World Book Encyclopedia 237M). His final idea was that to achieve all of his philosophies there must be a revolution (Payne 158). Karl Marx’s way of writing changed the way of how we take in and look at the government system and how people are being treated by it today was a big influence from Karl Marx.
Cesare Beccaria was born on March 15, 1738 into an Aristocratic family in Milan Italy. He received a Jesuit education, and achieved his degree in 1758. In 1761, he married Teresa di Blasco against his parent’s wishes. At this time he also had two very close friends, Pietro, and Alessandro Verri, and they together formed a society later known as the “academy of fists”. This group was “dedicated to waging relentless war against economic disorder, bureaucratic petty tyranny, religious narrow- mindedness, and intellectual pedantry” (Paolucci, pg.xii). With the encouragement of the “academy of fists” , Beccaria started to read the enlightened authors of France and England, and while he said very little, he did write essays that his friends assigned him. His first publication was “On Remedies for the Monetary Disorders of Milan in the year 1762”.
Beccaria’s most noted essay, “On Crimes and Punishments” was written with help of his friends in the “academy of fists”. When Beccaria wrote the treatise, his friends recommended topic, gave him the information, elaborated on the subject matter and arranged his written words together into a readable work. While the treatise concerned the criminal justice system, Beccaria had no experience or knowledge of that system, but once again his friends helped him out. The treatise “On Crimes and Punishments” was published in 1764, but since Beccaria feared a political backlash, he published it anonymously. Only after it was received and accepted by the government, did Beccaria have it published under his name. Many people had a hard time believing that this quiet, unknown man wrote the work, but once again his friends came to his rescue and affirmed that the essay was Beccaria’s own writings. The success of the treatise is explained by the author Maestro who stated, “Moreover, the great merit of Baccaira’s book, which explains its great success and the practical impact that it would soon have in many countries lies in fact that for the first time the principles of a penal reform were expressed in a systematic and concise way, and the rights of humanity were defended in the clearest terms, with the most logical arguments.” (Maestro, pg 34). It was published in many languages all over the world and was influential in the creation and reform of penal systems across the globe. The treatise discussed issues, government (crime and human rights) that were being widely expressed at that time, and was written in a manner that was both to the point and clearly understood.
The French intellectuals warmly welcomed Beccaria’s treatise, “On Crimes and punishments”, and he was subsequently invited to go to Paris. Upon arriving in Paris, it was clear that Beccaria did not fit in with the other enlightened intellectuals. They thought of his as “childish imbecile without backbone and unable of living away from his mother (Paoucci, pg xv). Beccaria left Paris without finishing his trip. After Paris he distanced himself from his friends also leaving “academy of fists” and went to Austria where he was not well known and worked quietly for the Austrian government. Away from the support of his friends, he never wrote anything else that was worthy of publication. Beccaria died in 1794. After his death his legend in France and England grew. Many people at that time thought that Beccaria was silenced by the suppression of a tyrannical government. They did not care to know or admit that he brought the silence upon himself. Beccaria is still remembered today as a father of classical criminal theory, and as a literally champion of the cause of humanity. His treatise, “On Crimes and punishments” had a large and lasting impact on the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights and our criminal justice system. So while he only wrote one worthy, published essay, his influence is still felt today.
In Conclusion, Karl Marx and Cesare Beccaria both were believers of a better system. They wrote these powerful essays and incredible works and made a difference in the society in which we still remember and go by till this very day. They were both influential theorists that influenced our government.
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Beccaria, Cesare. “On Crimes and Punishments.” Trans. Henry Paolucci. Englewood Beccaria, Cesare. “On Crimes and Punishments and other Writings. “ Ed. Richard Bellamy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
ILA Research & Information Division Fact Sheet. “America’s Founding Fathers: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. “Cesare Beccaria”.
Meatro, Marcello. Cesare Beccaria and the Origins of Penal Reform. Philadelphis: Paolucci, Henry. Introduction. “On Crimes and Punishments”. By: Cesare Beccaria. Trans. Henry Paolucci. Englewood, New Jersey: Pretice Hall, 1963. Roshier, Bob. Controlling Crime: The Classical Perspective in Criminology. Philadelphia: Open University Press. 1989.