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Karl Marx- Dialectical materialism and the class struggle

Theories of Karl Marx Exploring Dialectical Materialism and its Role in the Class Struggle This post dives deep into Karl Marx's philosophies to provide you with a better understanding of his views. 

Karl Marx's political theory espoused the concept of socialism as an alternative to capitalism. He viewed socialism as a potential solution to the class struggle and an end to the divided society he saw created by the alienation of labour and the exploitation of those in poverty. Communism, for Marx, was a way to create a stateless, classless society where everyone shared equally in what they produced. This idea was meant to provide a system that could guarantee economic and social justice, while allowing individuals to develop fully and freely.

Was Karl marx an atheist ?

Yes, Karl marx was an atheist from his childhood and remained such for the whole of the rest of life.


Karl Marx philosopher 

The events of his life in part account for this complexity. He was born in 1818, at Prussia , like Saint Ambrose. Prussia  (Trèves) had been profoundly influenced by the French during the revolutionary and Napoleonic era, and was much more cosmopolitan in outlook than most parts of Germany. His ancestors had been rabbis, but his parents became Christian when he was a child. He married a gentile aristocrat, to whom he remained devoted throughout his life. At the university he was influenced by the still prevalent Hegelianism, as also by Feuerbach's revolt against Hegel towards materialism. 

Karl Marx was a philosopher, economist, sociologist, and journalist. He was born in Prussia and studied law in Bonn and Berlin. 

He tried journalism, but the Rheinische Zeitung, which he edited, was suppressed by the authorities for its radicalism. After this, in 1843, he went to France to study Socialism. There he met Engels, who was the manager of a factory in Manchester. Through him he came to know English labour conditions and English economics. He thus acquired, before the revolutions of 1848, an unusually international culture. So far as Western Europe was concerned, he showed no national bias. This cannot be said of Eastern Europe, for he always despised the Slavs. 

He took part in both the French and the German revolutions of 1848, but the reaction compelled him to seek refuge in England in 1849. He spent the rest of his life, with a few brief intervals, in London, troubled by poverty, illness, and the deaths of children, but nevertheless indefatigably writing and amassing knowledge. The stimulus to his work was always the hope of the social revolution, if not in his lifetime, then in some not very distant future. 

Marx, like Bentham and James Mill, will have nothing to do with romanticism; it is always his intention to be scientific. His economics is an outcome of British classical economics, changing only the motive force. Classical economists, consciously or unconsciously, aimed at the welfare of the capitalist, as opposed both to the landowner and to the wage-earner; Marx, on the contrary, set to work to represent the interest of the wage-earner. He had in youth as appears in the Communist Manifesto of 1848 the fire and passion appropriate to a new revolutionary movement, as liberalism had had in the time of Milton. But he was always anxious to appeal to evidence, and never relied upon any extra-scientific intuition.

What is Karl Marx best known for?

Karl Marx is perhaps best known as the father of communism, but his writings also had tremendous influence on social and political philosophy of all kinds. Marx used his economic analysis to dissect the supposed “natural” order of exploitation that he saw prevailing in modern society, theorizing that this structure was artificially maintained by the privileged classes or “Bourgeoisie” to accumulate more power and wealth at the expense of workers. Through his theories on class struggle and capitalism, Marx proposed sweeping revolutionary changes to the system that would ensure a more equitable outcome for everyone.

What were the main ideas of Karl Marx ?  

Karl Marx main ideas are Marxist terminology Value form Contributions to dialectics and the Marxism critique of political economy Class conflict Alienation and exploitation of the worker Materialist conception of history.

What book did Karl Marx write

  • The Communist Manifesto 
  • Capital (German: Das Kapital )
  • Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 
  • Grundrisse 
  • Selected Writings 
  • The German Ideology 
  • Wage Labour and Capital 
  • A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy 
  • The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte 
  • The Poverty of Philosophy 

Dialectical Materialism

What is Dialectical Materialism?

Dialectical materialism is a major philosophical doctrine of Marxism. It is an application of the dialectical method to the study of nature and society. The underlying principle is that the physical world, including human society, arises from an underlying material structure and that change over time is caused by conflicts between growing material forces. In this way, dialectical materialism serves as a tool for understanding how social institutions arise from social forces throughout history.

Dialectical materialism Marx

Marxism is a method of socioeconomic analysis that uses a materialist interpretation of historical development, better known as historical materialism, to understand class relations and social conflict as well as a dialectical perspective to view social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxism, a body of doctrine developed by Karl Marx and, to a lesser extent, by Friedrich Engels in the mid-19th century. a philosophical anthropology, a theory of history, and an economic and political program.   It originally consisted of three related ideas : There is also Marxism as it has been understood and practiced by the various socialist movements, particularly before  1914.

The key principles of dialectical materialism are that all reality is dynamic and in motion, of contradictory nature, and based on the process of negation. Consequently, the material world must be understood from a developmental point of view where reality is fundamentally interconnected. For example, social institutions arise from economic forces and cultural beliefs can shape economic systems. These relationships are ongoing and influence change over time by causing struggles between adversaries.


Developed by Karl Marx in the 19th century
Marx and Engels wrote the famous “Communist Manifesto” in 1846
Marx developed the political system known as Communism.

Marxism ideology

Marxism as a codified body of thought only came into existence after Marx's death in 1883. It was the product of the attempt, notably by Marx's lifelong collaborator, Engels , the German socialist Leader Karl Kautsky and the Russian theortician Georgi Plekhanov (1857-1918). The purpose was to condense Marx's ideas and theories into a systematic and comprehensive world view that suited the needs of the growing socialist movement. Engels' Anti-Duhring, written in 1876, while Marx was still alive, is sometimes seen as the first work of Marxist orthodoxy, emphasizing the need for adherence to an authoritative interpretation of Marx's work.

 Karl Marx materialism

Karl Marx was a materialist, meaning he believed that the physical world and its forces drove change, rather than ideas or abstract theories. He theorized that individuals’ behavior and actions could be best understood in terms of their economic relationships to the resources around them. He proposed that these economic relationships determined their social position in class struggles, furthering the divide between the working class and the middle or ruling classes.

Marxism materialism - Marxism uses a materialist methodology, referred by Marx and Engels as the materialist conception of history and later better known as historical materialism, to analyze the underlying causes of societal development and change from the perspective of the collective ways in which humans make their living. All constituent features of a society (social classes, political pyramid and ideologies) are assumed to stem from economic activity, forming what is considered as the base and superstructure. The base and superstructure metaphor describes the totality of social relations by which humans produce and re-produce their social existence.

Two types of materialism were identified . One materialism was defensive and anxiety-driven, the second - offensive and bold. The different types of materialism were associated with different attitudes to money. Consumption preferences varied in association with types of materialism.

Marx and Engels did not deny the reality of mental or spiritual processes but affirmed that ideas could arise, therefore, only as products and reflections of material conditions. 

Marxism dialectical materialism

He called himself a materialist, but not of the eighteenth-century sort. His sort, which, under Hegelian influence, he called "dialectical," differed in an important way from traditional materialism, and was more akin to what is now called instrumentalism. The older materialism, he said, mistakenly regarded sensation as passive, and thus attributed activity primarily to the object. In Marx's view, all sensation or perception is an interaction between subject and object; the bare object, apart from the activity of the percipient, is a mere raw material, which is transformed in the process of becoming known. 

Knowledge in the old sense of passive contemplation is an unreal abstraction; the process that really takes place is one of handling things. "The question whether objective truth belongs to human thinking is not a question of theory, but a practical question," he says. "The truth, i.e., the reality and power, of thought must be demonstrated in practice. The contest as to the reality or non-reality of a thought which is isolated from practice, is a purely scholastic question. . . . Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, but the real task is to alter it." 

  I think we may interpret Marx as meaning that the process which philosophers have called the pursuit of knowledge is not, as has been thought, one in which the object is constant while all the adaptation is on the part of the knower. On the contrary, both subject and object, both the knower and the thing known, are in a continual process of mutual adaptation. He calls the process "dialectical" because it is never fully completed. 

It is essential to this theory to deny the reality of "sensation" as conceived by British empiricists. What happens, when it is most nearly what they mean by "sensation," would be better called "noticing," which implies activity. In fact so Marx would contend--we only notice things as part of the process of acting with reference to them, and any theory which leaves out action is a misleading abstraction. 

So far as I know, Marx was the first philosopher who criticized the notion of "truth" from this activist point of view. In him this criticism was not much emphasized. 

Marx and Hegel Dialectic

Marx's philosophy of history is a blend of Hegel and British economics. Like Hegel, he thinks that the world develops according to a dialectical formula, but he totally disagrees with Hegel as to the motive force of this development. Hegel believed in a mystical entity called "Spirit," which causes human history to develop according to the stages of the dialectic as set forth in Hegel's Logic. Why Spirit has to go through these stages is not clear. One is tempted to suppose that Spirit is trying to understand Hegel, and at each stage rashly objectifies what it has been reading. Marx's dialectic has none of this quality except a certain inevitableness . For Marx, matter, not spirit, is the driving force. But it is matter in the peculiar sense that we have been considering, not the wholly dehumanized matter of the atomists. This means that, for Marx, the driving force is really man's relation to matter, of which the most important part is his mode of production. In this way Marx's materialism, in practice, becomes economics.

External links

Aristotle political 

Plato political 

Dark ages philosophy

Classes struggle 

 Key Concepts of Marxism

Marxism is most famous for its key concepts such as ‘class struggle’, ‘alienation’ and the idea of an ideally ‘classless’ society, but it also incorporates ideas about human nature, the relationship between labour and capital, economic theories and moral philosophy. Its core belief is that all societies progress through a series of classes - feudalism, capitalism, then socialism - which eventually produces a classless society where social restrictions dissipate and true equality is achieved.

Karl Marx social classes

When considering Marxist theory it is useful to remember Karl Marx social class.
the 3 Cs;
These provide a “baseline” to Marxist theory

Social structure 

 Karl Marx's theory of history

Marx famously believed that history was driven by the class struggle between the haves and have-nots. He believed that class struggles resulted in a revolution of the working class against the ruling classes, leading to a more equal society. He argued that this continuous struggle between classes was an inevitable part of history and social change, as it showed how the actions of one class drove another to act in response.

According to Marx, "the sum total of the forces of production accessible to men determines the condition of society" and forms a society's economic base. The base includes the material forces of production such as the labour, means of production and relations of production, i.e. the social and political arrangements that regulate production and distribution. From this base rises a superstructure of legal and political "forms of social consciousness" that derive from the economic base that conditions both the superstructure and the dominant ideology of a society. Conflict between the development of material productive forces and the relations of production provokes social revolutions, whereby changes to the economic base leads to the social transformation of the superstructure.

The history of all till now existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

society according to Karl Marx was Class struggle.Marx considered recurring class conflicts as the driving force of human history as such conflicts have manifested themselves as distinct transitional stages of development in Western Europe. Accordingly, Marx designated human history as encompassing four stages of development in relations of production:

Stages of Marxism

Society according to Karl Marx was materialism, societies pass through six stages -primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and finally global, stateless communism.

In the German ideology Marx identified four such stages.

1. Primitive communism or tribal society, in which scarcity provided the principal source of conflict.

2. Slavery, covering classical or ancient societies and characterized by conflict between master and slave.

3. Feudalism, marked by antagonism between land owners and serfs. 

4. Capitalism, dominated by the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

Marx history of class struggle 

Human history had therefore been a long struggle between the oppressed the oppressors , the exploited and the exploiter. While historical materialism has been referred to as a materialist theory of history, Marx does not claim to have produced a master-key to history and that the materialist conception of history is not "an historical-philosophic theory of the marche generale , imposed by fate upon every people, whatever the historic circumstances in which it finds itself".

Marx believed that the capitalist bourgeoisie and their economists were promoting what he saw as the lie that "the interests of the capitalist and of the worker are  one and the same". Thus, he believed that they did this by purporting the concept that "the fastest possible growth of productive capital" was best not only for the wealthy capitalists but also for the workers because it provided them with employment.

Exploitation is a matter of surplus labour—the amount of labour performed beyond what is received in goods. Exploitation has been a socioeconomic feature of every class society and is one of the principal features distinguishing the social classes. The power of one social class to control the means of production enables its exploitation of other classes. Under capitalism, the labour theory of value is the operative concern, whereby the value of a commodity equals the socially necessary labour time required to produce it. Under such condition, surplus value— the difference between the value produced and the value received by a labourer—is synonymous with the term surplus labour and capitalist exploitation is thus realised as deriving surplus value from the worker.

Alienation is the estrangement of people from their humanity, and a systematic result of capitalism. Under capitalism, the fruits of production belong to employers, who expropriate the surplus created by others and so generate alienated labourers. In Marx's view, alienation is an objective characterization of the worker's situation in capitalism—his or her self-awareness of this condition is not prerequisite.

Marx distinguishes social classes on the basis of two criteria, i.e. ownership of means of production and control over the labour power of others. Following this criterion of class based on property relations, Marx identified the social stratification of the capitalist mode of production with the following social groups:

Marx social class theory 

 The basis of Marxist theory. 
  • Marx was concerned by the inequalities between social classes
  • A very small proportion of wealthy people owned huge amounts of land and factories
  • Marx called these people the BOURGEOISIE and the land or factories they owned the MEANS OF PRODUCTION
  • Most of the people worked for the Bourgeoisie as waged labourers The basis of Marxist theory
  • These waged labourers were named the PROLETARIAT and were exploited, claimed Marx, by the bourgeoisie as they earned only enough money to survive.
  •  All the Proletariat owned was their labour and thus had no control over their working lives and no share in the profits
  • Factory production lines meant they became “alienated” from their craft

how does Marx define social class

Proletariat: "The class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live". The capitalist mode of production establishes the conditions that enable the bourgeoisie to exploit the proletariat as the worker's labour generates a surplus value greater than the worker's wage.
Lumpenproletariat: the outcasts of society, such as the criminals, vagabonds, beggars, or prostitutes, without any political or class consciousness. Having no interest in national, let alone international, economic affairs, Marx claimed that this specific sub- division of the proletariat would play no part in the eventual social revolution.

Bourgeoisie: those who "own the means of production" and buy labour power from the proletariat, thus exploiting the proletariat. They subdivide as bourgeoisie and the petite bourgeoisie.

Petite bourgeoisie: those who work and can afford to buy little labour power (i.e. small business owners, peasants landlords and trade workers). Marxism predicts that the continual reinvention of the means of production eventually would destroy the petite bourgeoisie, degrading them from the middle class to the proletariat.

Landlords: a historically important social class who retain some wealth and power.

Peasantry and farmers: a scattered class incapable of organizing and effecting socio- economic change, most of whom would enter the proletariat while some would become landlords.

Class, conflict and capitalism

  •  The differences between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat demonstrate a wide class division.
  • According to Marx, the interests of the bourgeoisie or ruling class were protected and promoted.
  • The ensuing social inequalities caused conflict in society.
  • Capitalism also causes conflict of interest between the classes.
  • The need for the bourgeoisie to make profits is in conflict with the need of the proletariat to earn enough money to have decent living standards.
  • Profits certainly came first during the Industrial Revolution.
  • The bourgeoisie became extremely wealthy while the proletariat worked long hours for little pay and lived in squalor.

Marx on class consciousness

Class consciousness denotes the awareness—of itself and the social world—that a social class possesses as well as its capacity to rationally act in their best interests. Class consciousness is required before a social class can affect a successful revolution and thus the dictatorship of the proletariat. According to Engels Without defining ideology, Marx used the term to describe the production of images of social reality.

Because the ruling class controls the society's means of production, the superstructure of society (i.e. the ruling social ideas), are determined by the best interests of the ruling class. In The German Ideology, Marx says that "the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is, at the same time, its ruling intellectual force". The term political economy initially referred to the study of the material conditions of economic production in the capitalist system. In Marxism, political economy is the study of the means of production, specifically of capital and how that manifests as economic activity.

Karl Marx philosophy summary

This new way of thinking was invented because socialists believed that common ownership of the means of production (i.e. the industries, land, wealth of nature, trade apparatus and wealth of the society) would abolish the exploitative working conditions experienced under capitalism.

Through working class revolution, the state (which Marxists saw as a weapon for the subjugation of one class by another) is seized and used to suppress the hitherto ruling class of capitalists and (by implementing a commonly owned, democratically controlled workplace) create the society of communism which Marxists see as true democracy. An economy based on co-operation on human need and social betterment, rather than competition for profit of many independently acting profit seekers, would also be the end of class society, which Marx saw as the fundamental division of all hitherto existing history.

Marx saw work, the effort by humans to transform the environment for their needs, as a fundamental feature of human kind. Capitalism, in which the product of the worker's labour is taken from them and sold at market rather than being part of the worker's life, is therefore alienating to the worker. Additionally, the worker is compelled by various means (some nicer than others) to work harder, faster and for longer hours. While this is happening, the employer is constantly trying to save on labour costs by paying the workers less and figuring out how to use cheaper equipment. This allows the employer to extract the largest amount of work and therefore potential wealth from their workers. The fundamental nature of capitalist society is no different from that of slave society, in that one small group of society exploiting the larger group.

Through common ownership of the means of production, the profit motive is eliminated and the motive of furthering human flourishing is introduced. Because the surplus produced by the workers is the property of the society as a whole, there are no classes of producers and appropriators. Additionally, as the state has its origins in the bands of retainers hired by the first ruling classes to protect their economic privilege, it will wither away as its conditions of existence have disappeared.

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