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Karl Marx

Oct 08, 1999 1349 Words


This paper will be about the main elements of Karl Marx's work, which includes the Paris Manuscripts, which will focus on alienation. The Communist Manifesto, which will focus on Marx's political and economic theories and Capital Vol. 1., Marx's final work about how profits are made by the capitalist.

Karl Marx was a liberal reformist who believed that capitalism could be reformed and inequality and exploitation of the working classes could be addressed and abolished. (Stones, p.22)

. In 1844 Karl Marx wrote and published "The economic and philosophic manuscripts of 1844", better known as "The Paris Manuscripts." This was Karl Marx's first work, where he writes a study about alienation of workers. (Hughes p.27) What does one mean by alienation? Karl Marx states that the alienated person feels a lack of meaning in his life, or a lack of self-realization. (Hughes p.27) "One must understand, he argues, that there are three types of alienation. The first type of alienation is alienation from oneself. The second type of alienation is alienation from his fellow human beings. The third type of alienation is alienation from the world as a whole. These three forms of alienation are interconnected, and Karl Marx describes the connections between them. This is the core of his approach to the problem of alienation (Monthly Review, 2000, p.36-53). An example of alienation does not have to stem from the workplace, however. For example, I know many persons who attend the same church as I do, but attend it for completely different reasons. I go to church to pray, to continue the family tradition, and to enjoy in the church functions. People go to church for a variety of reasons. People who attend the church only to be seen there and be superficially perceived as believers, are soon discovered and identified as such, and are usually alienated from the congregation.

In 1844 Karl Marx met Fredrick Engels, another intellectual, and they became good friends and collaborators for life.

The Communist Manifesto was Karl Marx's best-known work. The Communist Manifesto was intended to be a book easy to read and understand by the working class. (Manning, Lecture Notes) Karl Marx believed that if everyone understood what the bourgeoisie was doing in order to exploit the worker, the proletariat would unite and stage a revolution against the bourgeoisie. The Communist Manifesto was published in 1848, just before practically all of Europe became engulfed in revolution. Europe did not go through the revolution because of the Communist Manifesto. Although, industrialism and Capitalism were deeply rooted in England, England was one of the few countries that revolution did not engulf and where Karl Marx was living at that time.

Karl Marx describes two theories in the Communist Manifesto. One is his political theory and the other his economic theory. His political theory is about class struggle. Most of the class struggle encompasses his ideas of oneself in the workplace and life in general. Karl Marx believed that class struggle would be the seed for revolution. (Hughes p.35) He thought that as long as there was competition between capitalists, capitalism was bound to fail. He believed that if members of the working class work together, and believe in the same ideals, they can definitely bring about significant social changes. (Communist Manifesto) If the working class realizes that it is being exploited, the seeds of revolution will begin to grow. What needs to be done is to transform the working class in itself to a working class for itself. In other words, the working class in itself is actually working for the capitalist, while the working class of itself works for itself and gives more meaning to its job. (Manning, Lecture Notes)

Karl Marx economic theory was based on the labor theory of Value. Labor theory of Value was wildly accepted by economic scholars of his time. Basically, the formula for the labor theory of value was: Profit = Surplus Value / Constant Capital + Variable Capital. Karl Marx was arguing that if there were competition in the marketplace, profit would not be as high as one could anticipate. (Hughes) The ideal condition for a Capitalist would be a monopoly of a commodity, where the Capitalist would have full discretion as to what the price of that commodity would be. As competition comes into play, profits decline, and it is inevitable for the Capitalist to be destroyed. This is called Marx's "declining rate of profit thesis. (Manning, Lecture Notes) Karl Marx argues in the Communist Manifesto that, "Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other "Bourgeoisie and proletariat"(Communist Manifesto p.10). Marx further argues that the "conditions of bourgeoisie society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones"(Communist Manifesto, p. 16) Hence, Capitalists forge the weapons which will surely bring about death to itself. In the end the final passage in the Manifesto reads: "The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!"(Communist Manifesto, p.46)

From this time until his death in 1883, Marx was more interested in social theories, then with action and revolution. Also, at this time, Karl Marx was at the prime of his life. He had adequate amounts of money and he traveled a lot. In 1867 he published volume one of "Capital". (Manning, Lecture Notes) Volume two and three were published after his death. Fredrick Engels completed volumes two and three and had them published. According to Karl Marx, "Capital" was the book that will change the world. He wrote "Capital" so that it would be easy to read and understood by the working class, same as the Communist Manifesto. "Capital" was written to demonstrate to the working class how profits are made. Karl Marx argues that if the proletariat understood how profits are made, they would rebel against the Capitalists. Karl Marx states: "The composition of capital is to be understood in a two-fold sense. On the side of value, it is determined by the proportion in which it is divided into constant capital of value of the means of production, and variable capital or value of labor-power, the sum total of wages. On the other side of material, as it functions in the process of production, all capital is divided into means of production and living labor-power. I call the former value composition, the latter the technical composition (Capital vol.1 chapter 25). If one were to analyze logically, one can determine what Karl Marx had in mind about the working class and the death of capitalism. One of many Karl Marx's theories was "The Law of Capitalist Production", that is at the bottom of the "Natural Law of Population", and simply reduces itself to the following: "the correlation between the unpaid labor transformed into capital, and the additional paid labor necessary for the setting in motion of this additional capital"(Capital vol.1 chapter 25). What Karl Marx is stating is very interesting and in some cases very true. Nevertheless, Capitalism is alive and well, and still thriving.


Bender, L. Frederic, Karl Marx: Essential Writings, (Harper & Row 1972)

Cole, G.D.H., What Marx really meant, (New York Alfred A. Knopf 1937)

Hughes, Martin, Sharrock, Understanding Classical Sociology, (Sage Publications)

Kautsky, Karl The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx, (The Macmillan Company 1936)

Manning, Philip, Lecture Notes, 2000

Marx and Engles, The Communist Manifesto, (Appelton-Century-Crofts, Inc 1955)

Marx and Engles, Capital Volume 1 selections from chapter 25 (Appelton-Century-Crofts, inc. 1955)

Pappenheim, Fritz, Alienation in American Society, Monthly Review (New York, N.Y.)

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