One of the greatest debates of all time has been regarding the issue of the freedom of mankind. The one determining factor, for Marx, it that freedom is linked with class conflict. As a historian, Karl Marx traced the history of mankind by the ways in which the economy operated and the role of classes within the economy. For Marx, the biggest question that needed to be answered was "Who owns freedom?" With this in mind, Marx gives us a solution to both the issues of freedom and class conflict in his critique of capitalism and theory of communism, which is the ideal society for Marx. His theory of communism is based on the "ultimate end of human history" because there will be freedom for all humankind. Marx saw communism as the ideal society because it is "the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and man- the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence...between freedom and necessity" that capitalism fosters. Marx was also committed to the notion that theory and action go hand in hand. Marx dismissed earlier thinkers because they (philosophers) "have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it." He also stated "Ideas cannot carry out anything at all. In order to carry out ideas men are needed who can exert practical force". However, Marx would have been appalled by the way his theory of communism was misused. It can be said, though, that Marx's theory of communism was clearly open for interpretation because he failed to offer "principles or guidelines of even the most general kind" for how the system of communism was to be fully established. It was this opportunity for interpretation that made Marx's theory of communism doomed for failure when it was used in practice.
Marx's theory stems from the social conditions existing during his lifetime. This was when the industrial revolution was hitting its stride. Great technological advances were being made to the modes of production, especially in the areas of agriculture and textiles. This was the main factor that drove peasants from the countryside to find work in the cities. In addition, capitalism had emerged as the dominant form of economics. Marx contended that class is based upon the economic conditions of society. He identified class through the history of the changing modes of production. In a capitalist society there are five classes: the landed aristocracy, the bourgeoisie (large-scale capitalists), the petty bourgeoisie (small-scale capitalists), the proletariat (the masses of workers), and the lumpen proletariat (the social degenerates). Marx dismissed the relevance of all but two of these classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, because they didn't have any real impact on society as a whole. They weren't in a position to exploit labor. His theory focuses on the conflict and antagonism between those who owned the modes of production, the bourgeoisie, and those who were forced into selling their labor to them, the proletariat. As Marx saw it, "class is about the transfer of surplus (profit) from below and the exercise of power from above". The class with the means of material production also has the means of intellectual control. Those in charge have a political doctrine to control their interests, at whatever cost. This led to what Marx terms "brain colonization". The concept of ideology was used in the defense of capitalism. It was a strategy used to support the system and keep the workers concerns quieted. Liberalism was the ideology used by the bourgeoisie. Marx said, "Liberal ideology is used to blind the workers to the injustice of exploitation". It was an official veil to persuade the masses that they are free by extolling the myths of progress to them. They argued that since slavery was no longer used for labor, the workers were indeed free. The workers were also told to find happiness and freedom through religion for their material conditions were as they...
Bibliography: Bakunin: The Philosophy of Freedom, Brian Morris, Black Rose Books, 1993.
Marxism and Class Theory, Frank Parkin, Columbia University Press, 1979.
Marx: A Clear Guide, Edward Reiss, Pluto Press, 1997.
Revolution and Counter-revolution in Germany, Frederick Engels, Foreign Languages Press, 1977.
Capital, Karl Marx, Progress Publishers, 1971.
German Ideology, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, International Publishers, 1996.
European Democracies, Jurg Steiner, Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers Inc., 1998.
The Outlook: Worker-Capitalists of the World Unite, Jacob M. Schlesinger, The Wall Street Journal, Monday, November 15,1999.
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